I had a hard time watching the animated movie Inside Out. I went to see the movie with my kids and, like most of my mommy friends, I cried in the dark theater. The movie reminded me of how many of my children’s memories are fading and dissolving in clouds of smoke – like how my son can’t remember the imaginary friend he had when he was really little or the sweet ceremony our family shared when our first cat died.
But what made me squirm in my seat was how Inside Out reminded me of times in my own life when my outside circumstances changed and wreaked havoc with my internal emotions, like when I let go of my massage therapy practice last year, when I lost a dear friend while in my 20s, when I shifted from being a mother of one to a mom of two.
Sometimes Joy disappears from my emotional headquarters, leaving in charge a confused muddle of Sadness, Fear, Anger, and Disgust. When Joy is absent, my husband reminds me of all of the goodness we share: healthy kids, work we love, a beautiful home. His words are a gentle shake of my shoulders as he tries to settle Joy back where she belongs.
But Joy has to find her own way home.
I try to help. I keep a gratitude journal to illuminate parts of the dark path for Joy to find her way back to my emotional control center. I build signposts for Joy by exercising regularly in my dance classes and heading outside for early morning walks. A healthy diet of good mood food, reminders to rest and play, and time with friends keep the path clear for Joy, too.
But waiting for Joy to return is mostly about being patient, trusting that she’ll find her place with the other emotions at the control panel and expertly turn up the happiness dial. I know Joy is back when happiness comes unexpectedly and unbidden, when I feel like I've stepped out of a dark movie theater after a summer matinée, blinking in quiet surprise at the forgotten brightness of the sun.
I'm a mother of two incredible boys, wife to Bill White of Happy Baby Signs, author of the books The Well-Crafted Mom and Signs of a Happy Baby, and an intuitive life coach. I like to blog about my adventures with my family and the life lessons I'm learning along the way. I hope you'll join me on this journey.
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