I’ve been on the hunt for peace and joy for a long time. In fact, in 2011, when I lived in Nashville, and I was at the height of my private practice days, I started to feel unsettled and discontent.
I hired a business coach. I had started to write my book Fearless Feeding, was writing for online outlets, and traveling quite a bit for speaking engagements, plus managing 20+ hours a week of private clients.
I found myself constantly juggling my work life with my four kids, their school schedule, their after-school activities, and our family life, not to mention my relationship with my husband.
I never felt like I was doing enough.
I wasn’t volunteering in school enough. I wasn’t marketing my business enough. I wasn’t writing enough. I wasn’t entertaining and socializing with friends enough.
I wasn’t enough.
This sense of not being enough has followed me throughout my motherhood and my career. And while it has pushed me to go further than I ever dreamed I could, both personally and professionally, it has also been a source of nagging guilt.
Not being enough was a killjoy.
I thought the answer to this feeling was to be smarter about the way I ran my business.
The answer was to do more, because obviously, I wasn’t doing enough.
I wasn’t efficient enough, smart enough, organized enough, or moving forward in my career fast enough. I wasn’t dedicated to my kids or their school and activities enough. I wasn’t sacrificing enough– my time, my talents, my self.
The Quest for Peace and Joy
I was, and wasn’t, the issue.
I was the issue because I was getting in the way—in other words, I was the obstacle in finding my peace and joy. Why? I believed that if I just did more– worked harder, sacrificed myself, and kept pushing– I would find it.
I would find that age-old, elusive dream of contentedness and happiness.
For me, peace and joy means having the time to enjoy the moments of every day. Feeling relaxed, not in a rush to fit in exercise, meet work deadlines, feed the family, get to school for the pickup on time, attend my kid’s events without stress or thoughts that I was cutting out something important (dinner!).
Rush, rush, rush. Never, ever feeling relaxed or peaceful.
Joyful? Yes, I have felt that. But there are times when I have had to look hard for the joy. The joy has often been clouded by trying to keep up. Get ahead. Push for the next great “thing”—the next level of my professional career.
It’s easy to lose sight of joy and peace when there’s so much turmoil, so many demands, and your brain is jumping ahead into the future all the time.
I Changed My Perspective
When my oldest daughter left for college this year, my perspective changed. I recognized that my time living with a growing family was short. This time was going to be up, quickly.
I didn’t want to get up in the morning and write my a** off any longer. I didn’t want to load my schedule with deadlines and contract obligations. I didn’t want to be tied to social media every waking moment. What I did want was to get up and sit at the counter with my coffee (in peace) until my kids came down for breakfast.
I just wanted to sit there, watch, and be with them. Morning and night—and whenever I could.
I didn’t want to skip out on their events because of an appointment, or a call. In fact I didn’t want to have a call at all when they were doing and experiencing something that I wanted to witness.
I recognize at this moment in time, there is nothing more pressing or important than this family of mine.
Nothing more important than my sense of peace and joy.
Once this was crystal clear, ironically, an enormous sense of peace came over me, and has remained.
The Balancing Act
One of the recurring questions I have received since returning to the workforce in 2009 is, “How do you balance it all?”
Sometimes that question would make me cry on the inside, and certainly made my gut lurch. Clearly, the world wondered how I was doing it all—working and raising a family. Truthfully, I often felt that I wasn’t doing a very good job of it. Not only did I feel I wasn’t enough, I was keenly aware of the sacrifices I was making, some of which were in conflict with my values.
I couldn’t say I’ve been “balanced,” but I have worked hard at “balancing” everything.
All that effort to “balance” my life squelched some of the peace and joy I could have felt.
How many balls can a juggler juggle anyway?! There will always be a limit and a sacrifice that comes with it.
The Get-Ahead Trap
The rat race is real, folks. I’ve learned that I don’t love the push to get ahead. Funny, I get the sense that a lot of people feel this way but are afraid to step away from this trap. I’ve been drawn into this vortex before, and I know it’s counter-productive to my peace and joy (and creativity, productivity, and on and on).
I know it’s the root of feeling like I’m not enough.
Chasing balance, peace and joy sent me down a path that led me to believe I was not enough. That I had to do more, and had to work hard to create what was dangling just outside my reach: balance, peace and joy.
The irony is this: pursuing a “balance” didn’t necessarily create peace and joy—it often created chaos, missed opportunities, stress and self-doubt.
Balance is a necessity. But, my peace and joy has been found in knowing that I am enough, in doing what I love (just the right amount) and loving what I do, and in surrounding myself with the things that matter most (and sorry, Facebook, it’s not how many likes you gave me today).
Where do you find your peace and joy?
P.S. This is not a pity party–rather, my wisdom– years in the making, which I hope might help you find your peace and joy if you are looking for it.