celebration · happiness

Pursue Your Happiness

For many, today is a time for cookouts and fireworks, a day of family and summer fun. And to be honest, the 4th of July should be filled with celebration. As Americans, we are fortunate to live in a country where we can express our beliefs, follow our dreams, and be our perfectly imperfect selves.

Declare your independence. Break free from whatever brings you down or holds you back. Pursue your happiness.

Happy 4th of July!


SUMMER HOURS: I am officially on break to spend time with my two favorite people – my husband and son. I will still post and answer emails or messages, but please be patient with any delays. #happysummer #grabeverymoment ~JL

gratitude · happiness · relationships

Find Your Person

I have been thinking a lot about comfort.

Even in the most routine of days there is enough to overwhelm, stress, push limits, or create unease. As a result, it is only natural to seek a balance, surround ourselves with whatever soothes, calms, and pampers. We have become wired (and encouraged) to search for things that make us feel good or reward our efforts. And we do this in a variety of ways – home, food, drink, shopping, entertainment, vacations, hobbies.

But have you ever thought about the people who bring comfort to your life?

Over a lifetime, there are countless people who fill an open or needful space in our hearts, providing solace and healing on a personal level. They appear in the form of spouses, children, family, friends, neighbors, co-workers, parishioners, teachers, and more.

It might be one individual. It might be many. But the important thing is to realize who is there for you.

Have you found your person? The…

LINK who connects you to others and maintains the bonds.
ADVENTURER who pushes you to do things you would never do on your own.
EMBRACER who lets you be yourself – never asks, expects, or wants you to change.
HAVEN who makes you feel secure and eases your fears.
ACCEPTER who will never judge, point out mistakes, or say told you so.
PARTNER who shares everything with you, knows everything about you, and loves you for it.
BELIEVER who has faith in you and your dreams even when you do not.
JOKER who makes you constantly laugh and smile.
COMPANION who is simply by your side, just because, whenever and wherever.
LIFER who has known you forever – witnessed your childhood, your past, your everything.
SOOTHER who calms you when the craziness of life becomes too much.
CHEERLEADER who supports and encourages you to take chances.
LIGHT who brightens your day – when the path seems dark, they shine the way.
REALIST who puts things in perspective and helps you see clearly.
GUIDE who gives great advice and whose opinion you value and trust.
LISTENER who really hears what you say and the meaning behind it.
SOCIALIZER who convinces you to go out, have fun, and let loose.
ROCK who stays strong when you are at your weakest – you fall down, they lift you up.
HELPER who always has a plan and if you have a problem, they seek to fix it.
CONSTANT who you rely on – when they give their word, you can depend on it.

It is important to note these are individuals who should bring positivity, inspiration, and joy to our lives. Leave no room for negativity or toxic, dysfunctional interactions.

Too often we overlook one of the most powerful healers – a caring and giving person – because for some, it is such a mainstay in life. Those who are fortunate enough to have fulfilling relationships tend to take them for granted or fail to acknowledge their value. We prefer to believe the people we depend on will always be there, that we will have ample time to express our love and appreciation.

If you have someone special in your life, take a moment. Think about how much comfort they give you.

Tell them. Thank them. Love them. And when the time comes, be their person.


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~Inspired ME, Joyful BE

discovery · happiness · learning · love

Learning To Love When The World Wants To Hate

There is a lot of negativity in this world. Ask anyone. We see it on the news, scroll through it on social media, encounter it in public. It surrounds us.

I have tried to embrace every day of my second chance at this crazy life but late last year, I felt something shift inside. I became increasingly angry, frustrated, and impatient. I felt hopeless. In my attempt to stay informed of current events and socialize online, I was inadvertently subjected to the comments of strangers – people who prefer to label, stereotype, name-call, demean, criticize, and spread hate.

Why? Why do so many waste energy and time – precious moments of this life – infecting others with their own personal hurt?

At first I thought the people who prefer to knock others down rather than lift them up were doing it out of spite, a pure hatred for complete strangers who were different or disagreed with their views. And to be honest, I believe a fair number of people are like this and will never change. Then I wondered if maybe there are just that many mean and uncaring people out there and that I was now in the minority.

In actuality, I prefer to believe this: the anger directed at others is an outward expression of their internal pain, fears, and frustrations. They feel ignored and hope to be heard. They feel unappreciated and seek validation. They perceive the world as lacking in compassion for their plight and as such, refuse to give it to anyone else. They are tired (aren’t we all?) and unable to listen, consider another opinion, or try to understand. In their weary impatience, they choose the easy route – they lash out rather than look in.

What we need more of is looking in.

Whenever we are hurting, we should want to dig deep, stare into ourselves, and see what needs help. Yes, I know this sends many people outside of their comfort zone with a spiraling fear of what they might actually discover. But it needs to be done – by everyone.

Because although we may think we can turn away, somehow remain unaffected by the negativity, we cannot. It is contagious. Intolerance, rudeness, bias, and prejudice have a sneaky way about them. Hate compounds more readily than love and the more it is spread, the more it becomes entrenched in our society. We become immune to it. We begin to think it is normal. We accept it. And sadly, we do not see the breakdown until it is too late.

I saw the breakdown and did not like what the negativity was doing to me. I decided to look in.

I am not an expert at happiness. In fact, I fail way more than I succeed in its pursuit. But, I am a problem solver and when I ask myself a question, I become determined to find the answer.

The first step was to work on myself. In an effort to undo the damage, I began Inspired ME, Joyful BE with a simple mission: to spread a positive message and inspire everyday moments.

My original intent was to blog on a personal level and for self-improvement. I want to be a better person. I want to live a better life. My days here are numbered – cancer taught me that – and I want to be sure they are lived on my own terms. More importantly, I want to enjoy them.

I broke life into areas I perceived as important and these became the core topics. Some I hope to improve, others offer a simple reminder of what matters. I included the good and the bad because Life is not only lived on the bright and happy days but also the darkest and saddest, in every moment.

Choosing how to spend those moments is up to us. We can create our own inspiration. And when we do, we find joy.

Once the blog gained a little momentum, I realized something. There is a purpose. There is a desire. Not just for me but others. And although some may not know how to look in or refuse to do so, there is an inherent need for people to share what is good and encourage others to do the same.

I am not alone.

There are many of us who condemn the negative behavior. As such, we should not be ashamed of having the best of intentions and big hearts. Morals and values that advance society should be worn proudly. Despite an appearance of the opposite via news and social media, hope and love and tolerance and compassion are the majority.

It begins with one person. A looking in and shift within the self. Seeking and filling the days with more of what is good soon becomes a habit, something so familiar and welcome that when it is absent, we feel empty. As a result, we realize we are worthy of the joy. We deserve it. We demand it. We feed and nourish the soul with happiness to keep it content. And when we do, it spreads.

The more we embrace and share the good, the better chance we have to erase whatever is bad. Unlike hate which seeks to destroy a person, the virus of love is healing. It can be highly infectious – touching us first and then family, friends, neighbors, churches, schools, communities, cities, states, countries, and finally the world.

It is a slow process, requiring patience and diligence, but there is strength in numbers. Each of us holds the power to alter the course and restore a broken world. We can help the joy go viral. We are the cure.


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~Inspired ME, Joyful BE

daily life · happiness · self

A Beginner’s Guide To Happiness

No one true path to happiness exists. There are no step-by-step instructions or checklists to follow, no right or wrong ways to be happy. More importantly, it is not some hidden secret.

Happiness, pure happiness, is not a magical place only open to a lucky few. It welcomes everyone. But to be completely honest, achieving such joy does require effort.

Yes, we need to work to be happy. Everyone has their own definition of happiness and many people do attain it. It is not a place where anyone stays for very long, however. Life happens, stress and demands and troubles keep coming, and the counterpart of sadness (and any other emotion) is equally important to our well-being. The key is to find a healthy balance. If we cannot be perpetually happy, then let us at least be happy most of the time. The way to do this is simple, but the actual implementation is not.

We must seek happiness and continue to seek it as often as we can.

Negative thoughts are needy and possessive. They want us to dwell in the dark along with them. They are also smart and manipulative. Being down is effortless, easy, and because of this a tempting place to stay.

Express and acknowledge the low feelings, but do not linger in the shadows for long. Learn to recognize when the hurt, fear, frustration, or anger have overstayed their welcome. Some signs to watch for: irritability, outbursts, procrastination, avoidance, depression, intolerance, impatience. Recognizing the negativity seeping into daily life and interactions is the first step. The next step is to move toward a solution.

When life pulls you down, reach for whatever lifts you back up. If responsibilities or people push you way past your limitations, step away and fill the time with something you enjoy. And do it until you either forget what bothers you, find a solution, or realize the silliness of it all. In the grand scheme of life, most things are not a big deal. We give them importance because we a) put too much pressure on ourselves b) have pressure put upon us by someone else or c) create drama in an effort to avoid a real problem.

Quick ways to pull back the curtain and let the light in…

  • Take a break from negative news or social media.
  • Breathe in fresh air and soak up sunshine with a brisk walk.
  • Get down on the floor and play with a child.
  • Whip up something comforting in the kitchen.
  • Crank up the music and dance.
  • Take a nap.
  • Read a book.
  • Put your thoughts in a journal.
  • Watch a stupid, lighthearted movie.
  • Reach out to someone who always makes you smile.
  • Go screen free as a family and play board games.
  • Change the scenery – getaway for an hour, day, or weekend.
  • Have a coffee date with a friend.
  • Complete a long-overdue project.
  • Snuggle with a pet.
  • Pamper yourself.
  • Disconnect from toxic people or situations.
  • Solve a puzzle.
  • Engage in a favorite hobby.
  • Hug your partner and kids.
  • Tap into your artistic side and create.
  • Take a class on something you always wanted to learn.

There is no surefire solution and what works today may not work tomorrow. Be flexible. Mix it up. Try new things. Step outside your comfort zone. But above all, be patient and do not give up.

You will find joy. You deserve joy. Happiness is for everyone.


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daily life · discovery · happiness · learning

Love The World You Made

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I am not Pollyanna. I do not wake up smiling. It usually takes three cups of strong black coffee before I am remotely prepared to spread cheer and sometimes that is not even enough. Since I manage a website about joy, some people may think I have a ridiculously bright outlook or that I am faking happiness.

To be honest, it is a little bit of both.

Cancer opened my eyes – wide. The way I wasted time. The people I spent emotional energy on. The choices I made. I elected to stay positive in my fight so I could become well again. I vowed not only to win the battle but appreciate every healthy moment thereafter. At times, I wore a false smile. I had to. Some days were just too difficult, the journey too daunting. I allowed myself to fall down but more importantly, I sought to be picked up.

Even the gray days were beautiful. And now…

I have a ridiculously bright outlook … most of the time. I am determined to fill the bulk of my days with things I enjoy. I am unafraid to admit I have become extremely selfish. I am selective in how I direct my energy and with whom I spend my time. My focus is on activities and people who matter. If something does not fit into that plan, I say no. I refuse to over-commit or wade in excess.

I also love solitude and after years of believing I was an extrovert, realized I am actually introverted. I embrace it. I no longer hide behind a different label. I no longer pretend to be something or someone else. I am honest with others and unapologetic. Being alone is energizing, and those who know me understand I give whatever and whenever possible. The greatest source of  happiness comes from being true to self and that, in turn, creates a positive outlook.

Our days are limited. Be a little selfish. Focus on what matters. Be you.

I am faking happiness … some of the time. I try to find something good in each moment and when I cannot, I seek out others who might help. I avoid the trap of fake news and rude comments online by blocking or deleting the negativity. I keep my distance from people who choose to see the dark rather than the light. You know the person: the one who constantly complains and drains precious energy. I work to surround myself with all that is right in this world. And when times are really tough, I let the sadness in because I know the joy will soon return. After difficulty and illness and loss, it has always returned.

I do not pretend to be happy if I am not. I simply make an effort to push the good feelings closer to the surface so they can emerge when ready. Do you remember the saying fake it until you make it? If I am stuck in a low place, I look for the person reaching a hand to lift me up. When I am unable to see beyond the bad, I read up on everything good. Gratitude and joy are highly contagious. They spread, infecting us and others. Seek to plant a small bit of positivity in your everyday. Tend it. Nurture it. Watch it thrive and grow.

Train yourself to be a more positive person.

ONE WEEK CHALLENGE: At the end of the day, quickly jot down everything that made you happy. Include even the littlest, seemingly most unimportant things. If it made you smile, add it. If you conquered some fear, add it. If it filled your heart, add it. There are no wrong answers – just do not include anything remotely negative on there. When the week is done, look back upon your list. Those things that made you feel powerful, brought joy, and carried goodness? DO MORE OF THEM.

When we fall, it is so easy to stay there. Frustration. Anger. Sadness. Fear. Hurt. They tempt us with their ability to release what has been bottled up inside. They want us to spew them into the air so they can harm and contaminate others. Misery spreads faster and easier than joy. Staying positive, on the other hand, requires concentrated effort. Do not push away your true emotions. Feel them, acknowledge them, but then release them. Make room for happy.

It is possible to learn a positive approach to life. Be aware it is a work in progress – a one-step-forward, two-steps-back kind of thing. It does not occur overnight and it is virtually impossible to master, but that is not the point. Simply capturing more of what is good is the goal.

Love more of life. Love the world you made. Love everything.


Something I love? ONE LINE A DAY Journals. I still have one from when I was a girl and have gifted them to others. They are a wonderful way to document highlights and provide a snapshot of daily life. Perfect for anyone looking to record simple memories for themselves or others. Parent, grandparent, new parent, student, newlywed, new homeowner, newly hired … help someone love the world they made!


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~Inspired ME, Joyful BE

acceptance · happiness · health · letting go

When Life Hands You Lemons

 

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February is an important month. On February 24th, 2012 at the age of 42, I was diagnosed with Stage IIB breast cancer. I won’t go into all the details of how I came to that point, but I will stress the importance of monthly self exams, following instinct, and being your own advocate during medical appointments.

I admit the first month after my diagnosis was the toughest on me mentally. As in I-never-want-to-go-through-that-ever-ever-again tough. Once further scans confirmed the cancer had not spread beyond my breast and lymph nodes, however, something switched inside me. My oncologist and I had a plan (rounds of intensive chemo, further testing, and of course major surgeries). I am good with a plan. Once I had that, I was ready.

Ready to fight. Ready to move forward. Ready to smile. Ready to laugh.

When facing a major challenge, whether it be health, relationship, financial, or personal loss, the power of laughter can change everything. No, it cannot erase the struggle itself, but it does possess some amazing healing magic.

The outlook. The plan of attack. The outcome. With a good sense of humor, coping becomes easier.

Dealing with the treatment, pain, and fear was not easy. It never is. But aside from the hurt I remember this: the ridiculousness of everything around me. The time and energy I wasted on stuff that did not matter became glaringly obvious. Television sitcoms were funnier when I was sick. Social media jokes made me laugh out loud – literally. Friends and family were vital during this time because they tried so hard to help, even when they felt helpless. Funny greeting cards arrived in the mail. Silly quotes and memes appeared in my newsfeed. Most days after chemo were unbearable to wade through but on the one week per month when I felt well enough to get dressed and out of the house, my friends would take me to a stupid movie. I had no hair, incisions that refused to heal, poison running through every ounce of my body, but we laughed. Together.

I was honest about my journey (probably too honest for some) but it was important for me to pull back the layers so those close to me could better understand. The fear. The pain. The fight. The ridiculousness of our worries. The reason I made jokes. I wanted them to know.

This was serious, heady, life-or-death stuff, and they showed their love and support by following my lead. They made jokes. Stupid, stupid, oh so stupid jokes.

I knew I was facing this nightmare the correct way when I bid farewell to my oncologist. My family was moving out of state, and I was sad to leave my doctor. He and I were an odd pair. Him a young Nigerian who often did not get my sarcasm-laced comments. Me an almost-middle-age woman who faces life with an at-times unfair pragmatism. He was intelligent, confident, focused, and totally immersed in the medical side of my case. I was curious, scared, foggy, and unwilling to settle for status quo on information or treatment.

When we said goodbye, he looked me in the eye and admitted his worries about me in the beginning. My depressed outlook and sadness were pervasive, leaving him to become concerned about treating me and my ability to fight. But once I got past that, he became amazed. Amazed at my determination, my strength, my desire to do whatever necessary and never complain. He liked how I made jokes about the things most people fear. He appreciated the way I not only listened but heard him. I would be remembered as one of his favorite patients, he told me.

I was honored and emotional. Of course, I cried a bit. Thanks to cancer, everything makes me cry. And when I went to hug him and whisper a simple thank you, he seemed shocked. Believing I crossed a line, I immediately apologized. He brushed it off with a shy smile. No one has ever done that before, he told me. Countless had given heartfelt thanks but no one had hugged him? You should do it more often. Patient’s orders, I joked.

And with that, our final moment and memory together was filled with laughter.

Cancer itself is not funny, and it does not always end happily. My year of fighting and the battle scars sketched in my mind and on my body are permanent reminders of its brutality. I do not know if it will ever return. It might. It might not. The fear follows me – every moment, every day – but I do not allow it to linger. The only thing I can be sure of is the magic of positivity. The healing power of simple joy.

Even if the situation is not the one we want, it does no good to become lost and absorbed in negative thought or anger. Yes, these are normal reactions to dealing with a challenge but please do not stay there. Life is finite. We only have this moment.

When the opportunity comes to choose joy, take it.

Today, I am in full remission. July 2017 marks 5 years cancer-free for this girl. Every anniversary has been met with celebration but this one is big. Very big. But that is months away. I do not have time to dwell on something that has not happened yet. I have some laughing and loving and living to do – today.

Emptiness at sunset on the salton sea


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celebration · gratitude · happiness · love · relationships

Sometimes We Forget To Love

love-the-world-you-made

Sometimes we forget to love. Not in the sense that we don’t have the emotional feeling, but rather we forget to tell someone why we love them.

Whether it be a spouse, partner, relative, friend, or child, the very act of loving someone can become stale.

We might say I Love You a thousand times a day and of course we express our love in a myriad of non-verbal ways: caring for home and health and school and work needs, volunteering, attending an activity, cheering an event, listening to troubles, showering hugs and kisses. These are all important and vital expressions of love.

But do we ever stop to remember WHY we love someone?

Take a moment to think a little deeper, perhaps love a little more. Focus on the reasons you fell in love with your spouse or partner. Consider the benefits your extended family and close friends bring to your life. And of course, if you have a child or children, realize the amazing beauty in their very existence.

Everyone is worthy of love and deserves to be appreciated.

Tell someone why you love them. Let them know the reason they hold a special piece of your heart. Remind them – and yourself – of their value. If speaking the words is difficult, write them. The sentiment does not have to be flowery or poetic, it just needs to be genuine. A simple card or note works. Or if you like to make it a gift, some ideas are below.

Love with joy. Love with purpose. Love and be loved.


Knock Knock What I Love About You Fill In The Love Journal – simple yet sweet, this book works for anyone but there are specific versions, too: mom, dad, crush, us, bestie.

52 Simple Reasons Why I Love You – Why I Love You prompts are easy and fun to fill in.

Why I Love You: A Journal Of Us  – Fun prompts for documenting your own unique love story.

Letters To My Love: Write Now. Read Later. Treasure Forever. – An Oprah’s Favorite Things Pick 2015 and an awesome keepsake for any couple!

I Love You Because – Wall Hanging Memo Board – Simple yet beautiful way to remind someone of your love every day.


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~Inspired ME, Joyful BE