Day 174: Surprised by joy

Yesterday, I was in a negative mood, which I blogged about.  After finishing that post, I grabbed some food (my self-prescribed personal medicine) and decided to go for a walk.

When I’m feeling down, anxious, or negative, it’s difficult for me to leave the house, even when I KNOW that’s going to help me. (Whether it’s walking, listening to music, talking to people, or any of my other personal medicines, it’s tough to do any of those things when I’m feeling bad.  I hear similar things from people in my work, along with accompanying shame-based thoughts such as, “What is the matter with me? I know what will help …. why don’t I do those things?”)

There’s a DBT (Dialectical Behavior Therapy) skill called “Opposite to Emotion Action,” which is helpful in overcoming the resistance to doing helpful things.  Another way to remember that skill is this:

Just do it!

Easier said (or written) than done, right?  And it did take me a little while, yesterday morning, to get myself out of the house.  (I’m not sure what I’m afraid of, when I have trouble getting out. Maybe just the possibility of  something bad happening.)

So, feeling a little dread and resistance, but resolved to

 Just do it!

… I hunted for the things I needed for my walk. Finding my sneakers took several minutes and go-rounds through my place (see here for a post about losing things), but, finally, I was ready to go. I  had everything I needed:  (1) my sneakers, (2) my keys, and (3) my combination phone/camera/music-player/Starbucks-charge-card:


And I went out for my walk.

With every step, with every photo, I felt better. And I was surprised — and not surprised — by all that.

Photo essay time!

How I Spent My Saturday Morning

 by Ann

When it gets into summer, I am not as hyper-aware of the colors outside — compared to how I am when spring arrives after the long winters here.


But, if I look around, the colors are still there, for the noticing.

Very soon, on my walk, I noticed evidence of Boston’s involvement in the Stanley Cup hockey playoffs:


Even the trees are fans around here. When I saw this, it reminded me of another tree-related piece of whimsy that pleases me whenever I see it. I thought it was nearby, but wasn’t sure of the exact location. I turned down the next street, and voila!


Finding this so quickly made me ridiculously happy.  Already, I knew i was in a much better mood. I also noted that whoever is using that door, they’re not too focused on neatness or what the neighbors might think about their front yard.  This made me happy, too.

That’s not to say that I don’t appreciate people taking care of their front yards and gardens.  Whenever I see people working with flowers and plants, I recognize that as personal medicine, too.



I’m just glad I don’t have to take care of a lawn, myself.  That adds to my enjoyment of other people’s hard work.

(At this point, I’m reminded of a quote from Catch-22, by Joseph Heller:

… there were many officers’ clubs that Yossarian had not helped build, but he was proudest of the one on Pianosa … It was truly a splendid structure, and Yossarian throbbed with a mighty sense of accomplishment each time he gazed at it and reflected that none of the work that had gone into it was his.)

Back to the walk. Soon, I was near a surprising body of water.


I don’t know if this body of water is man-made. I haven’t stumbled upon anything similar in these parts.  But I’m always glad to see bodies of water, expected or not.


Next, I walked along a kind of “rail trail” —  a path that’s next to an active train track.


This is a pret-ty thin stretch of nature here, sandwiched between the active train track and suburban development. However, I found a lot there yesterday.

I saw parts that reminded me of piece of art I love very much:




There was some flora:



And some fauna:


That’s a wild turkey. I saw her moments after I had decided to give my phone-camera a rest. What you can’t see in that picture, because they are now in the deep grass, are the little baby turkeys that were following her.

Soon afterwards, two nice people walking by told me they had actually seen DEER on this path.

Another surprise.

End of Photo Essay

Before I end this post, on a beautiful Sunday morning, I just want to note some progress I’ve made from a year ago, around this same time.

Last night and early this morning,  we (and by “we” I mean inhabitants of Earth) were visited by the summer Supermoon.


(That’s an image I just grabbed off the internet, posted by CBS news.)

Now, I LOVE seeing the moon so big and beautiful. It’s one of the joys of my life.

Last year at this time, I had resolved to see the Summer Supermoon in all its glory. I needed to see it. I researched it on the web. I went out looking for it, in my car.  And I “failed.”  I couldn’t figure out a way to see it — in its most spectacular form. I drove around and looked for it, with a strategy that just didn’t work.  I saw it, eventually, but by that point it was high enough in the sky that it wasn’t all that spectacular.

And I felt bad. I had thoughts like this, “How could you screw THAT up? How could you look for, and not find, a friggin’ SUPERMOON?  What is the matter with you?”

Yesterday, I knew the Supermoon was coming. And I knew, approximately, when the best viewing times would be, last night and this morning.

But I resolved to take the idea of “success and failure” out of the experience this year.

And this is what I did last night: I went back to that same walk I’d taken that morning, this time  with my son and my bf.  We spent some great time together. I looked for the moon, but letting go of my investment in the outcome. I didn’t NEED to see it.

And we saw it. It wasn’t at the most spectacular moment — it didn’t look anywhere as amazingly huge as it does in the photos on the internet. But it was beautiful.

(Note that there are no pictures at this point in my blog post. I’m doing a non-photo-essay here, because I had decided not to take pictures last night. Instead, I just wanted to be in the moment with people I love.)

This morning, I got up in time for another viewing opportunity, according to what I had understood on the internet. I decided to go out, to see if I might encounter that Supermoon again, at its most spectacular.

Again, I had no investment in the outcome.

And I didn’t see it, this morning.

As a matter of fact, I drove around some of the same places I went last year, when I was feeling shame and thinking thoughts of failure. This year, however, was a totally different experience. I thought, “If I see the moon, I will be surprised by that joy.” And when I wasn’t seeing it, I was taking in the beauty of what I WAS seeing.  (No photos of that, either. I ‘d left my combination phone-camera-etc. at home.)

I guess this Year of Living Non-Judgmentally is making a difference for me.

Thanks to Joseph Heller, Yossarian, Elisa Tenenbaum (the artist of the pastel landscape), the Supermoon, fans, gardeners, walkers, and elves everywhere.  And thanks to you for reading, and for whatever surprises you were able to find here.

Categories: personal growth, photojournalism | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 14 Comments

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14 thoughts on “Day 174: Surprised by joy

  1. Gene Phillips

    The older I get, the more I love and value the plants, animals, and natural phenomena in the world.

  2. I can relate all to well to the difficulty of doing something you know will help when you’re in a funk. I need to keep reminding myself to “just do it” as well! Also, I think the concept of “personal medicine” is great. I may have to start using that phrase.

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