The place I called my sacred space, my sanctuary, my haven, has been destroyed.

It was a purposeful destruction.  A planned one.  A necessary one.  Even an anticipated one.  But all of those things doesn’t make the process of the destruction, nor the loss of what I had, any easier in the moment.  I miss it.  I want it back.

Our building was getting painted, and our deck, which was nearly 40 years old and slowly rotting away, needed replacing.  And it was our responsibility to do it.

Though the deck was decrepit and in need of great repair, it also was filled with my plants and my treasures.  

It was the place I’d go to write, to think, to meditate, to do yoga, to pray.  

It was the place I’d go to cry out my fear, frustration, and anger.  

It was the place I’d go to celebrate by myself or with my husband when we got good news.  

It was where I’d entertained people I love for nearly 15 years now.  

It was the place where I’d said goodbye to two beloved companion cats – and hello to two more beloved ones in their stead.

And in this past year, it was where I’d have Zoom meet-ups with my friends and family, a glass of wine in hand, as we talked via my laptop, or do group meditations online, the place I’d write in my journal, write these Mimosas, work on writing another book… or just listen to the silence of the world, and pray.

It was the place I usually found my joy

I know I will get it back – though not in it’s original form.  But that doesn’t necessarily make the transition any easier when I’m in the middle of it.

And yes, I am talking about more than just my home renovations here.  And I’m talking about more than just these past couple of months.  This isn’t really about my deck.  

It’s funny how life will present you with problems that represent a much larger picture with far greater lessons than just what is right in front of you in that moment.  

…Or perhaps sometimes not so much funny, as freaking frustrating.  But I digress.

Hopefully, when it is all rebuilt, it will be better and more beautiful than before.  Hopefully it will last a long time, long after I’ve moved on from this place.  Hopefully it will make me as happy as the prior space I loved so well.  Hopefully what we build into this new place retains the best of the old, while bringing an even better environment in which to grow for the new.  

Hopefully as it comes together and I am able to finally breathe and slowly relax into simply enjoying it once more, the painful process of the transition will fade into lessons learned that make me a better person than I was before. 

I believe all of these things to be true possibilities.  Now I just need to make them happen.

The demolition of what once was has caused a lot of stress.  And it’s pretty difficult to experience joy when you’re in the middle of stress.

Especially as what was supposed to be just a few weeks of renovations has been extended again and again as one problem after another is uncovered, one issue gets fixed and another raises up.  Every time we take a step forward into hope it feels like we’re pushed two steps back into despair and frustration and anger again.  

It feels as if my life is completely overcome and overrun by dealing with this because, well, it has been.  There’s no getting away from it.  I have no choice but to face it, and to acknowledge the time, energy, projects, and everything that has been lost to it. 

(Again, we’re talking about way more than my deck here.) 

There was not just the loss of the space (or “deck,” or “life,” or “time,” or “year,” or “peace of mind,” or …insert your word here) – but the loss of some of the things that went within that space

Some of them were precious to me but were broken or destroyed, some just had to be thrown out in order to make room for what is to come.  And some of them were living things that didn’t survive the transition.  And I grieved.

This process also caused me to neglect things I’d never neglected before.  For the first time since insidewink.com began, the first time in nearly three years, I missed a deadline.  I just wasn’t able to write a Morning Mimosa for May.  I felt too overwhelmed, not only by the deck process, but by other work responsibilities.  

And this made me feel terrible about myself.  I take pride in making deadlines and being responsible.  I take pride in being able to be relied upon to just get the job done, even if it takes longer than expected.  To not do so was embarrassing and upsetting to me.

(This mindset and emotional self-flagellation did not lend itself towards helping me relocate any joy, by the way.  So it’s an option I definitely do not recommend.)

So what do you do when your sacred space has been or is getting demolished around you, when building it all back is taking too long, and you’re having a really hard time finding any kind of joy, much less your own?

How do we hang onto our joy when the things that we once relied upon to bring it gets destroyed?

This is a question I’ve been asking myself ever since March of 2020. Because if ever there was a year where it was hard to hold onto joy, it was this last one.

And just because the new is coming, just because it is perhaps even here now, doesn’t necessarily mean our joy has automatically returned with it.  

In fact, if anything, the rebuilding process can be so long, drawn-out and difficult that by the time we walk onto and into the “new deck,” we are no longer excited by it.  Instead, we just want to finish getting it pulled together so we can simply sit down and relax for a minute.  Maybe take a nap.  Definitely have a drink.  Breathe.

There’s no real joy in that, just the exhalation and sigh as we succumb to exhaustion from holding it together for so long.

There comes a point where the very idea of trying to find our joy in the middle of the rebuilding process can itself cause us stress.

It’s like yet one more responsibility being placed upon us – not only do we have to have held it together through the demolition process, and then held it together through the rebuilding process, we are required to have somehow felt or found some sort of “joy” during it all which we can now fully express as the new unfolds before us.  

But maybe we really just want to sit down with that drink and exhale.

Maybe that’s where the joy really is.  Maybe it lies in that moment when we can finally fully relax.  The moment when we can let down every guard and just be at peace.  Maybe joy isn’t just a frilly feeling of fun, maybe it’s something deeper, something more profound.

Maybe joy doesn’t come with just those happy times in the middle of your beautiful garden.  Maybe it can come in the silence when your garden is hidden inside while you are in the middle of building a new one to reside in.   

Maybe it isn’t as robust as we think it is, but is actually vulnerable within is, something we must nurture in order for it to blossom.  Maybe we need to cultivate it, protect it, help it to grow.

I find it interesting that insidewink.com has the themes of Nurture for May and then Joy for June immediately after in 2021.  

Nurturing, by it’s nature, leads you directly into joy.

And so one of the first ways we can help ourselves to hang onto a tiny bit of joy in the midst of both the destruction and the rebuild process is by nurturing it – or rather, ourselves.

When anything or anyone is nurtured – cared for, seeded, planted, watered, given lots of love and light and good food – it tends to thrive and grow.  It tends to find satisfaction.  It tends to find joy in being alive.

In fact, nurturing anything inside of yourself, such as a desire to dance or to learn a craft or to care for yourself with exercise or do anything that sparks your interest – nearly always leads you into taking great pleasure in doing it.  It leads you into a state of joy while doing it.

And so having that space to nurture yourself – and your joy – is imperative to finding it.

This deck building process – which as I write this still is not complete – has led me to recognize five stages of vulnerability regarding my joy – and how to nurture it back to health.  

Five Steps To Nurture Your Joy

1. Set Up a Small Space to Sit With Your Joy

When everything is getting stripped away and your joy is in danger of going with it, how do you keep it intact?

At first, you start small.  

You do your best to hold onto whatever you can of the old things that brought you that joy.  You gather together a couple of things you can easily carry with you, and you carve out a little place for yourself in the middle of all of that chaos where you set up a sanctuary, surrounding yourself with beautiful things.   

You put down an old carpet, you grab a couple of cheap but brightly colored chairs, you leave a few of your favorite plants out, you get your cat and your cup of coffee and sit down in your newly formed, miniature place of joy.

You recreate your joy in miniature.

As the destruction around you gets greater, you may safely set aside and tuck away this tiny joyful space into smaller and smaller corners, trying to keep some semblance of your sacred space. 

Giving yourself that little, tiny bit of space to sit in your joy will help you get through the day

Holding onto some of those old things and keeping them close to you can help you adjust.  You can and will find beauty in it, even with destruction going on around you.  It’s all about what you choose to focus upon.  Are you looking at the life you managed to create around you?  Or out at the craziness of what is happening that you cannot control or stop?

By taking time to set up a space for yourself that is special, you allow yourself to refocus your attention on what matters to you.  And give yourself a break from all that may be going on around you, even for a moment.  And this, in itself, can bring you back into a place of joy.

And for awhile, that can work.

But then there may come a day where even that tiny bit of what you had must go.  There comes a day where everything has to be stripped down or taken away before you can really begin to rebuild anything.  What do you do then?  

Well, that leads to the second inspiration.

2. Peacefully Protect Your Joy

There may come a time where you have to make a decision.  You may have to put everything deep inside, to store it safely away for awhile as you work on things around you and deal with the chaos.

The garden that once was growing gloriously outside now has to go within, held in stasis as you go through your transformation.

It is a time where everything that is old has simply got to go.  It is time for a true transition that will usher in the new.  It is time to redefine and recreate what it is that truly brings you joy.

I won’t candy-coat it: this can be the most difficult part of the process.  

All of a sudden your garden is gone, your coffee is cold, and your cats have nowhere to play, stuck inside with you as what once was is completely destroyed around you.  

People are making tons of noise around you, disrupting the peace, disrupting your life.  Maybe they’re doing their job, it’s nothing personal, they’re just painting and drilling and whatever.  Or maybe it’s more than that and they are part of the crazy-making chaos, adding to the confusion and division in the world.

You’re unable to get outside because it’s raining or it’s Covid or it’s just plain scary out there.  Your normal support system is dealing with their own demolition and reconstruction in whatever form in their lives, none of you have the energy or time to talk, and you feel completely alone.  Your cats are either climbing across your desk while you try to work or hiding under the bed from the noise.  And your ability to focus is pretty much below zero.

It is in the middle of that chaos when it’s most important to hold onto the garden within, and be at peace.

By bringing it inside, you can care for it, water it, and watch over it.  

As you create an arboretum within, you’ll notice new things about each plant, about each blossom.   Because mine was moved inside at the end of April, all through May we had flowers surrounding us in our home.  Lilacs vied with Roses, Lavender and Jasmine scenting our entire home with heavenly fragrances and coloring our lives in vivid hues.

It turned the place within into something magical, with an archway of vines, leaves and flowers greeting anyone who walked in our front door, and we joked about renting it out for very small private weddings.

I loved having my sanctuary come within, where I was able to rest in comfort on my couch while having my entire garden grow directly around me, surrounded by beautiful blooms and gradients of green life.

Yet it can be hard to bring it all inside – it can consist of a lot.  Like, I mean, a LOT.  

It can take over your entire dining room, living room and part of your den.  It can grow all the way up to the top of your ceiling.  It can spill water all over your floors, possibly ruining them, despite putting tarps under everything to try to protect them.  It can require a few grow lights get installed in your dining room chandelier as the time the garden has to stay inside gets extended due to setbacks.  It can basically take over your life as you do your best to keep it safe and healthy.

It can feel overwhelming in fact, having all of that suddenly held inside.  It can get tiring caring for it and keeping it all inside.

What once brought you so much joy will crowd out everything else you used to have there, and can even begin to feel suffocating.  You may even come to resent it, and wonder why you have it there at all.  It had been your joy, but now it can feel only like a jungle.

But it’s there not only to be protected, it’s there so you can take a good look at all of it and decide if it’s still something you want to keep, or if it’s time to let some of it go for good.   As you protect it, you are also able to take a really good look at it and decide whether it still serves you or not.

As the garden being held and protected inside began to be more of a burden than a blessing for me, that’s when I recognized my third stage in caring for my joy.

3. Make Some Movement to Monitor Your Joy

After my second meltdown in the renovation process (which oddly enough occurred in conjunction with the tenth setback, funny how that works), I realized something: I hadn’t been out walking in over a month.

I’ve always been one that needs movement in order to feel fully healthy, not just in my body but in my mind and spirit.  I love to hike, camp, walk, swim, garden, play tennis, just play in general.  However, with my career requirements stealing all of my free time in the past, and then an accident that caused me a lot of back and hip pain several years ago, I began to neglect physical activity.  

One of the benefits of last year was that I got back into a routine of it.  I went camping with my husband when we were able to do so, went hiking locally nearly every weekend, and walking my neighborhood every day.  It felt good to get my body – and my spirit – back into regular activity.  

It became a mental and emotional lifesaver for both my husband and I.

But this reconstruction process had disrupted that completely.  I needed to get outside again.  So I grabbed my husband, and off we went.  It wasn’t far and it wasn’t for long, but when I got back, my entire frame of mind had been reset.  I was ready to face that tenth setback and figure out next steps.

When protecting the garden within begins to feel more suffocating than sensible, it’s time to take a break from it.

Find ways to get away from both it and the destruction around you, from all that is pulling at you for attention and creating a sense of overwhelm.

The movement you make helps you to monitor your joy by finding another way to approach it, sometimes literally as when I went for a walk.  But there’s other kinds of movement you can make to help you shift the energy and get unstuck.  

You can read a good book.  You can head to the beach for a day.  Walk your dog, or your neighbor’s dog.  Play with your cats, who probably need it as much as you do.  

Just DO something, anything, find a thing that you’ve been wanting to do for awhile and haven’t because you’ve been so busy protecting your garden, and do that.  It’ll help clear your mind, and whether you recognize it or not, it will help to bring you back into a place of quiet joy, or at least peace.

But sometimes the best thing you can do is nothing.

There may come a point where movement is helping.  Where you can’t seem to get over the emotions of all that is going on.  Where you feel overwhelmed because you’re not able to make any movement, and it frustrates you.

This is when I came into the fourth stage – learning to listen when the universe was telling me to just be still.  And know that all is well.

4. Rest, and Recover Your Joy

If this past year has shown me anything, it’s that it’s way too easy to get caught up in the chaos when I keep my eyes focused on it, especially through the internet or TV.

The only way to calm my mind and spirit at certain times has been to literally remove my attention from the news, from the world, from all of the voices shouting for my attention, and instead turn it all off and just relax into the silence.

So this is what I found I had to do during this time when my deck was demolished but not yet getting repaired or rebuilt.  I had to turn everything and everyone off, and just rest.

The waiting period has been more difficult than the destruction part for me.  The space in time between the end of the demolition and the beginning of the rebuilding can feel like eternity.

It is frustrating.  It can make your head want to explode.  Because it’s leaving you in a state of stasis where you see no progress being made, yet all you want is to get it over with.  You want to get to the other side of it already, process be damned.  You feel you are in a numbing nothingness when all has been stilled to stagnation.

But the worst part is, it often is also the time when you can lose sight of the possibilities.

You forget your goals.  You get disheartened and can no longer see that there is going to be something new coming, and it’s going to be better.  All you can see is the emptiness the destruction of the old left behind, and it galls you.  It depresses you.  It frustrates the living hell out of you.

It was at this point that I began to get one message over and over from different sources:

“Let it go and just flow…”

To my surprise I found what I flowed into when I finally was able to do this was my joy.  

But that didn’t mean the current didn’t take me over a couple of waterfalls along the way.

I procrastinated completing this article.  My energy was focused entirely on the void that was my deck, and if it wasn’t on that it was on other immediate work that had to be completed at the time. 

As I mentioned, it distressed me not to complete a Mimosa for May, but I had to let that go in order to complete the tasks at hand, and deal with demolition.

Then, though I was anxious to get started rebuilding, I found I also had to let that go as first the painters had to finish, and then the contractor had to evaluate the project and purchase supplies, and we had to order fences and make about a thousand trips to the home improvement store, and… you get the idea.  

I had to wait, knowing there was nothing more I could do, and nothing more that could be done at the moment.  We were waiting on pieces, on people, on decisions, on things falling into place, on things that required us to wait.

I was exhausted from all I’d been doing.  I found myself heading to bed early (for me) but sleeping restlessly.  I wanted to rest, but my mind wouldn’t allow it.  I was still researching things we needed to get and needed to do, manically trying to make sure everything was in place and we were doing it all correctly, so when the time came to start working again, we could immediately.

Despite the time I had to wait, I was unable to focus enough to write, or edit, or do any other personal projects I’d been wanting to get done.  Yet I also felt a pressure and responsibility towards getting those things done, which caused me yet more stress.

I had to release the tensions of everything, I had to literally let it all go.  Breathe in, breathe out, relax.  Go with the flow.

Then, while in the waiting mode, I was given a little more professional paid work for a few weeks.  Had I not had that waiting period, I wouldn’t have had the time to do this job, but there it was.  Having this come my way right at that point helped me to reset my focus and release my anxiety.  After all, I had to, in order to get the job done.

I ended up participating in creating something fun for a worthy cause, which was in alignment with my own heart.  It brought me, yes, joy to work on it and with the people I was helping.  And it helped make the waiting period pass more swiftly.  

My cats kept me company while I did, purring at my feet and insisting on attention for play time, keeping my heart light.  Since they weren’t able to go out on their deck to play, they found ways to do it around my desk area instead.  And it made me laugh out loud on a daily basis.

It was a little gift of distraction from the universe.  Because of it, I was able to finally let everything else go for awhile.  I was able to rest.

And as a bonus, I got great satisfaction and gratification (and payment) from the other work that came my way during that time to distract me.  I worked on something that was doing some good in the world, and I made new friends.  

By releasing the place I thought I had to have in order to find my joy, I opened myself up to receiving new experiences.  And I discovered I could find my joy somewhere else entirely, if I just allowed it.

And that right there is part of the answer.

When there is literally nothing else you can do, this is a sign, a message, a calling.  It is time for you to leave this alone, and to do nothing. 

It is time to sleep.  To stop thinking about it.  To relax.  To read a book.  To take a vacation from it.  Or to focus your energy onto something else entirely.

It is time to let it all go.  And drift into a new place of joy.

Then, when the timing was finally right, I was able to turn my gaze back onto the deck.   The research I’d done and items I’d ordered proved to be helpful, the time spent on those things not wasted.

And as we installed the new lighting, stage five of my joy was revealed to me.

5. Validate and Value Your Vision of Joy

And now… the rebuilding commenced.  The first major part of it has been completed, though there is still a long ways to go.  

When our patio covers were finally built, and we put up new light fixtures on the walls, to my surprise I foun myself to once again begin visualizing the possible end result.  Something I thought I’d lost.  At one point I’d told my husband;

“I not only can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel, I’m starting to believe it doesn’t exist!”

But those light fixtures made me happy – they still make me happy.  They are beautiful and interesting and immediately brought a touch of class and elegance to the space, even with the rest of the deck in total disarray and filled with nothing but tools and fencing.

As I sat gazing at them in the evening, watching them slowly brighten everything around them as the sky above us darkened into night, my husband asked me; 

“Is that light at the end a little brighter now?”  And I had to respond yes, indeed it was.  And a lot closer than I thought as well.

By bringing new light into our space, it illuminated the corners of the concept I’d originally had for our deck.

It rejuvenated my spirit.  It gave me hope.  It validated my vision and let me know I was on the right track.  It reminded me of the value of that vision and where it is leading.

It brought me joy.

I put some plants outside again, despite the work still going on.  Just a few, next to my two cheap plastic chairs and old rug, ones I can easily move back inside as we work.  

I love to sit out there in the evenings with my few plants and look at my new lights and plan what is to come.  I can see it more clearly once again, the hopeful future for this space, and that gives me renewed energy to do the work needed to make it there.  Doing something as simple as putting out new beautiful light did that.

My cats don’t care that the chairs are plastic, or there’s only a few plants, or the rug is beat up.  They play chase and roll around, swatting at bugs and lounge stretched out on the old rug like the royalty they know they are.  

I’m sitting out there now with a cup of warm Cacao in hand, answering them when they mewl at me, gazing at my new lights, contemplating my vision for it all, and waiting on the next steps.

It doesn’t mean that I’m not still going through the first four stages of this journey back into my joy over again – I am, in fact, right smack in the middle of stage four once more, in stasis for the moment as we try to resolve yet another issue which has reared up.  

But it’s giving me the time to finally finish this article.  And at last I’m able to relax and allow myself to focus enough to do it.

What it does mean is that each time I have to address one of these stages, I’m more aware of what it is and where I’m at, and I have more and better tools to deal with it than I did a couple of months ago – or a couple of years ago.

And that’s really the point.  

It isn’t that you don’t fall down those waterfalls as you go with the flow.  It’s your bounce-back time afterward.  How fast do you pop back up from inside those waters and float into your joy once more?  Are you even able to get back to that joy at all?

This past year has been all about the vulnerability of our joy

It has been one huge lesson for all of us on how to have patience, to find peace in the midst of chaos, to seek out a way to shelter in some beauty even while destruction commences around us.

And now it is a lesson in waiting, as we rebuild and reconnect.  Not everything will be as it was before, it cannot be, it is in the past now.  Some things – and so many lives – we’ve lost in the process, others we’ve had to give away, others we’ve had to remodel or restore.  

We are in the midst of the collective painting process now, or of looking for the pieces and equipment we need in order to rebuild.  We are planning how the new sanctuaries we build will look, and what we need for them.

This is the time when it’s most important to not just have a vision for what the future you are building will look like, but to validate it within yourself.  To remind yourself it is a vision worth having, and the work you’re doing now will pay off in great rewards down the road.

It is the time to look around at what has already been accomplished and be proud of all you’ve done, all we’ve done together.  Yes, there’ve been setbacks – but there’s also been progress.  

There’s been lights put up and shining in places that were once too dark.  There’s been fences built that needed to be secured, and others torn down that were no longer needed or were too old and dangerous.  There’s been cleaning and power-washing.   

There’s been a huge renovation of the consciousness of humanity, and it’s still going on.

We can’t give up in the middle of it.  We can’t let our frustration over what still has to be done and how far we have to go make us forget the vision we’ve had for what can be.  We need to validate and value that vision, remind ourselves all this work is worth it.

We need to remember our joy. 

Let’s find ways to create that joy around us, even if small.  

Let’s peacefully protect it within ourselves.  

Let’s move and monitor it so we keep it healthy.  

Let’s rest and relax and allow it to flow to us.  

Let’s value and validate our joy, in every moment of the day.  For it brings beautiful light into the corners of our creation.

What has been your deck, your home renovation project, this year?  

Where have you had to move your garden in order to keep it safe?  

And have you been able to find ways to still create that sacred space so your joy could flourish?  

Or to let everything go so joy could find you in another place unexpectedly?

If you are feeling overwhelmed with things, or are in stasis, or feeling stuck, or have lost your vision of what it can be… don’t worry.  

You can and will feel that joy again.  I promise.  

It’s just a stage you’re going through.

By JEANETTE DUBOIS

Jeanette is a film & tv editor, writer, director and producer who’s worked on Emmy & Telly Award winning shows, movies, and music videos for a variety of networks.  She’s also a trained operatic who mostly sings to her cats now, though sometimes she expands her audience to her family & friends.  She loves gardening, good books, good wine, and good conversations, preferably all at the same time.

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