Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Lessons Learned from the 31-Day Joy Challenge

"I must write it all out, at any cost. Writing is thinking. It is more than living, for it's being conscience of living."
-- Anne Morrow Lindbergh

Without having a solid plan or expectations, I began the 31-day challenge on July first. I only knew that I had to write what was on my mind. I didn't want to preach or sell anything. I just hoped I could do my best and that my posts reached the right destinations. 


I also didn't want to offer on-the-nose inspiration. We all know about the virtues of dancing in the rain and making a scented linen closet. I wanted to offer thought provoking, even unsettling, notions. But I had doubts. Would anyone want to look into the abyss (and not the pretty linen closet)? 

July was a long month, and I caught pneumonia in the middle of it. During the first fifteen days, I learned as I went along, finding rhythm and method, figuring out how much to share and how much to leave behind the curtain. The second half of the month was just as hard, but I had more fun, despite being under the weather. 

Daily posts are difficult for the writer and reader-- it's hard to keep up and keep track. People are busier than ever. A post must be worth a reader's time, and yet, not all readers will react the same way to the same material. 
Writers know this, but they write anyway.
I struggled to find balance between hard hitting and upbeat posts. 
Early on I decided not share the challenge at link parties or on social media (with the exception of Instagram, which I enjoy, and my own link party). I wasn't looking for clicks, views, or attention. I was on a true journey of the soul, and my only wish was to help at least one person.

In my heart, I felt as if that person was surely out there, and I wrote to her.


Early in the month, I created a special link up just for the challenge so all of the posts would be in one spot, but I had to chuckle when spammers found it. This was easily fixed by moderating the collection. 

I ran into problems with my own link party, though. Foodie Friday runs from Thursday afternoon through Saturday, and my Friday challenges confused several people. I'd wanted to maintain a consistent posting schedule for the challenge, but when I posted on Friday mornings, several people were confused and couldn't find the link up. When I posted on Friday afternoons, I felt rushed, because another challenge was due on Saturday. 
I never found a satisfactory solution. 

By the end of the challenge, I'd taught myself a new way to look at the world, and I also remembered things I'd forgotten. I remembered that I could tap into the creative energy that surrounds us all, even when I was busy or when I did not feel inspired.

The challenge was meant to, well, be a challenge
And it was. In a marvelous way.

It challenged me to write things that I wouldn't have written. It challenged me to be accountable to readers and my blog. It challenged me to think in layers. 

Daily writing strengthened my work ethic and opened my life to more joy than I ever thought was possible. I'm not talking about giddy euphoria. I'm talking about a sweet, slow contentment that would take hold. You might say, The Force was with me.
As the month progressed, I found myself consciously choosing to be happy. I learned to make space for everyday moments, the simple things. I had already been doing this for many years, but now I took a moment to be grateful for these small pleasures. Minute by minute, I began to feel engaged and present. Of course, a positive outlook isn't automatic; it is a work in progress, requiring thought, effort, and patience. 
Daily bliss is not part of the human condition, but a foundation of joy, grace, and gratitude will help us find the calm, quiet center of our lives.


During the challenge, I became a student of kindness, gratitude, forgiveness, grace, and joy.
And I realized that joy was lovely, but I was far more in need of grace and gratitude. So, I began a journey within a journey. What's better than that?

The most exciting discovery lay ahead: I came to believe that joy is always present in our lives--in varying degrees--but it may not be accessible. Like a majestic castle on a hill, we see the turrets and crow-step roof line, but we cannot find the road that will take us to the castle. We have to forge a path.
Every single day.
Sometimes, we must forge the path moment by moment.
And what a priviledge to do that--to choose joy.

In September, I may try another challenge, but between now and then, I'm going to follow my heart and just keep writing.

Wishing you a slow, sweet, joyful and cozy day.










17 comments:

  1. Thank you for the journey we took with you this month. My journey this month started early in the month with my husband's pacemaker implant. Everyday I would read your post and be grateful my husband was still alive. I have learned to be more joyful and encourage my husband to think about living just for 24 hours at a time. Our children have visited from near and far this month to check on their dad. This month my husband was blessed to see his six granddaughters. They visited the last two weekends of July. Life is so precious and I learned many new lessons this month. Bless you.

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    1. I am so glad to hear that your husband is doing better. And what a blessing to see his 6 grands! A wise woman once told me that when we wake up in the morning, it is a gift and to give thanks. You do this with such grace! My DH was ill on Father's Day (ICU for septic pneumonia), and it was touch-and-go for a while. You are so right--life is so precious. Thank you for visiting me, for commenting, for sharing, and for being such an inspiration.

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  2. I do know that one of your destinations in your joy challenge was me, Michael Lee. I certainly relished reading your thoughts each day, and have been keeping a daily journal of my daily joys...simple things, to make me realize what I'm thankful for.
    Thank you for reaching out to us, even with your bout of pneumonia. Your writings are much appreciated, and I'm glad that you're going to keep them going. Love, hugs, grace, and joy are sent to you!

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    1. Well, you know, Kitty, I love you to pieces, girl. I'm so glad you're keeping a daily journal. I started a new notebook today. When I reread old diaries, I mark them with red ink. I'm able to see patterns. One pattern is to be a worry wart and a pessimist. I took Jasper to the vet today for his final two shots, and when the vet said to watch for a vaccine reaction (which could present quickly or up to 6 hours), I had to remind myself to be positive. On the way to the car, I literally whispered to myself a positive affirmation. They say it works; that we attract what we send out. But Jasper rolled those Scottie eyes (he weighs 10 pounds at 15 weeks, and he has to go on a diet), as if to say, "Oh, Mom. Give it a rest." :-)

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  3. I know now, more then ever that I was directed to come to your blog and to follow it. I was going to wait for the perfect words to come to me before I posted. Thank you doesn't seem like enough, you have changed my life so much and for the better. I have much to be thankful for, I am now in my fifth year cancer free, hubby had a 5 way by pass and is doing great. We found the perfect little spot to down size to. Until I followed and must say could hardly wait for your next post, I never thought about my blessing and now everyday I chose joy. Didn't mean to ramble on.
    Nonie

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    1. Dear Nonie, I feel blessed by your visits and your comments. You are a gift!

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  4. When I was a child I remember my dad teasing me when I cried by saying, "Don't you laugh. No... no... no laughing... don't you dare laugh..." Of course I couldn't hold that frown for long and we almost always wound up in a shared giggle. This series reminded me of that lesson ...not to remain in those low moments for long... to recognize I not only have the power to pull myself up and out and find the positive but I have the responsibility. It's been a powerful 31 days.....Thank you!

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    1. Your dad must have been a remarkable man--what a wonderful way to look at life!
      The best part of this challenge was hearing stories like yours. Thank you for journeying with me, Cindy!

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  5. I might add that I felt your ever-present self each day. You were so responsive to comments. I'm sorry to hear you contracted pneumonia, but the silver lining there may have been that it became the 'path' which allowed you that latter time frame to not even try to juggle still more than the challenge before you (like so many of us consistently try to do). Maybe it somehow allowed that ever-presence, the "more fun" for you to just slow simmer and cook a really good soup of writing. It was a privilege to journey along.

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    1. You are so uplifting, Rita. I think you're right--the "fun" did emerge when I was forced to stay home. I even got a little decorating done (well, started).
      Again, thank you for your kind, encouraging words. I'm so glad you were with me on the journey.

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  6. Oh dear, I fear I missed something REALLY good. Is there a way I can go back and see the posts? I would love to keep them to read as I can.

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    1. Sure! Just click on "Inspire" at the top of the page or go here: https://designsbygollum.blogspot.com/p/blog-page_20.html

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  7. Love you bearing your soul, I feel blessed ever day, I truly have a joyful life, my husband and I talk about it often. Everyday I still can pinch myself when I walk with my dogs on an ever changing beach, how can you not be happy living on the edge of the earth, it's humbling. On you personality test I was 5, observant, quiet, watching, appreciating life's little pleasures, all I need is wide open spaces, love, fur, garden, books and an abundance of sugar to keep me knee deep in happiness :-)

    I have always loved your writing, it's wonderful to have caught up with you again over this series, you have a talent that always shines coupled with great humor. I hope you are feeling well now after catching pneumonia.

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    1. I am so glad you are back! I keep up with yoi on Bloglovin.

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  8. Your writing did help me, helped point some ways to "forge a path." Each one brought me joy in a month that was filled to the brim with doctor visits and, more welcome, family visits.

    August continues to be filled with family events including my husband's 75th birthday and at the end of the month a son's wedding will be at our old farm that we sold to him when we downsized last year. And I have promised myself that this fall I will revisit each day's post to refresh my senior memory, so please don't take them down!

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    1. Dewena, thank you so much. I'm so happy the posts were of value. They are collected in the tabs[top of the page], under "Inspire".

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  9. I can't tell you how much I enjoyed this challenge Michael Lee, and although I read the daily posts in a timely fashion, I have been saving this final post for a time when I wasn't rushed and could leisurely absorb and remember the special words that inspired me on various days. I hope you consider making this into a book, I love the way you leave room for the reader to create their own personal interpretations, like a great novel...I hope you do it again soon!
    Jenna

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