In 2017 there was an interaction between Congresswoman Maxine Waters in which she coined a phrase, “reclaiming my time”, when she felt that her appointed period to speak was being wasted in idle trivialities with another sitting representative.
This memory surfaced during a therapy session in which I talked about the unrelenting grief I still stumbled under since my Mother died last June. My counselor advised me to take care of “me” and to give myself permission to enjoy some pleasures that made me happy, even if in seeking to reclaim my joy, I might have to let others shoulder the responsibility for their own happiness.
Those who are caregivers (or simply givers) know the struggle that this can be. One often feels guilty when any available time is not spent completing tasks that make life easier for others or if we waste precious minutes on our own personal needs. However, as Maxine was adept in noticing, there is only a designated appointed time in which we live and breathe. To waste any of this time (or allow others to squander that time) is a travesty, a perversion of all that life is and should be.
But, how does one reclaim joy?
First, allow yourself to feel sad. Set aside time to feel the pain of loss. Learn the things which trigger the feelings of despair. Set your alarm for a specified time to indulge yourself in a period of total selfish withdrawal. When the clock chimes, get up, get moving and congratulate yourself for making it through that anguish.
Secondly, make a list of the things that you love to do, things that make you happy. And, after your meltdown, reward yourself with something on that list. Listen to your favorite album. Watch a funny movie or listen to a truly hilarious comic. Read a chapter in a novel by an author you enjoy. Have one scoop of ice cream or 2 cookies. Try not to overdo with the eats, otherwise that creates an entirely different problem.
Thirdly, exercise. Walk around one block. or two. Jump rope. Get back on that bike. Pull out those skates. Watch others exercise on TV. I get the best laughs watching others sweating as they contort their bodies while I eat those 2 cookies.
Lastly, do something for someone else. Sometimes, extending random acts of kindness/compassion to others is what you need to help take your mind off your own troubles. Give a compliment and a hug. Both will be appreciated. The recipients will feel better and you will to.
Then, pray. Meditate on your blessings. No matter what has happened in this life, there is always something to be thankful for. I can not promise you that the pain of grief vanishes, only that over time the intensity wanes. I would be dishonest if I did not admit to being almost catatonic some days when I realize that my Mother is no longer alive. But, there is joy in knowing that she loved me and left a wonderful legacy of service.
Boomer wisdom knows it may take more than a little effort, but, reclaiming your joy is well worth the time. Sometimes, the best tribute we can provide to those we’ve lost, is the joyous life we live in their honor.
Blessings to you all.