Growth is so important. Learning, staying curious, following passions, setting goals, and seeking understanding all lead to a fuller and more content life. I believe that we must know our worthiness and strength in order to help and serve others. And that makes up the essence of who we are and what we are here to do on this earth. When all of us focus on caring for ourselves and show up as our best selves we love harder. We elevate humanity. 

I imagine by now you know that I believe in the vital importance of self awareness in order to accept and work from our strengths AND our flaws. To be able to navigate the hurt and heaviness of life with a spirit of hopefulness, a compassionate heart, and an open mind. To let feelings flow and to understand how our thoughts control our actions. 

Life has most certainly been heavy for the past year. Some of it felt like a ton of bricks quickly thrown onto our shoulders. Other matters have been simmering for many years, needing to boil to the surface in order to earn the attention and change needed. There hasn’t been much space or energy left for easy fun. 

This week I felt compelled to take a detour from the seriousness of that message and focus on the lighter side—on JOY. 

Life is meant to be fully lived. Don’t ignore or resist the bad. But don’t ever negate the joy. Times can be hard and life can be heavy. But you can still also have moments of joy. When you feel happiness surging through your body don’t be afraid to share it. Be excited. Love life. Laugh. Shine bright. Don’t rush out of it. Feel it.

Racing brings me joy. From the initial setting of the goal, signing up, the process of training, all the way to race day. The jitters and the rituals. The Zone Racing tent erected and the team gathering for pre-race hugs and high fives. The mental and physical battle in the open water. The adrenaline. The focus. The gratitude. The pain. The internal fight to continue to push and the external begging for relief. The smiles and thank yous to the generous volunteers and supportive spectators. The wave of emotion that crashes over you at the finish line. The post-race hugs and recap with friends and teammates. The chaffing and battle wounds. The most glorious feelings of accomplishment and satisfied exhaustion. 

So many emotions mixed into a moment and memory of joy

Most of my most joyful memories outside of racing include my family, friends, music, and/or travel. Often a mix of them all. Giving birth to my three kids in many ways echos the tumultuous yet amazing journey of racing. Marrying the most imperfect yet perfect man for me and renewing our vows with our “framily” 15 years later. A spontaneous local night jamming to Bryce Vine. A crowded, thumping Vegas club to hazy St. Lucian street party. Screaming at the never thought would happen Guns & Roses concert to drinking too many White Claws at the local beer tent. Laughing and dancing in the living room with the kids. 

Laughter. Being present. Joy, joy, joy. 

I have been afforded many memorable experiences and I would never want to use a blog to boast or brag about them all. I am writing and sharing these moments in order to encourage you to reflect on joy. And then be inspired to not miss your own moments of pure happiness. 

Joy is not only found on vacations, or in other alternate realities. Joy is found in small moments of daily gratitude. In noticing the amazing sunset or really taking the time to connect with your family, friends, or the strangers that provide your daily services. Joy is in smiling, taking a deep breath, and realizing you are still living this amazing life. Joy is found when you accept the contrast of life. When you know that the highs will most likely will not last forever, but you are okay with that. And you are happy to enjoy them, in the moment, while it does last. To feel it all. 

Joy is watching your loved ones experience unfiltered happiness. It is felt when you randomly see your best friend driving down the street. Laughing until your ab muscles hurt. Joy is the community coming together to serve those in need. Joy is smiling at amazing memories and feeling glad that they happened. 

I invite you to think of times that you can know you felt really big joy. There is a good chance you can still feel it as your face automatically turns up into a smile. Be present with those fond memories. 

Then open your mind and heart to allowing those feelings again. You might not be able to know exactly when they can happen and trying to over plan or control them almost never works. In my experience they creep into the moments of pure presence, those times where you let go of expectations and decide to live directly in the moment. Don’t seek, just be aware and open. 

Grateful. Joyful. Alive

Jamie and I value fun and adventure and so we seek it out often. In the midst of the pandemic this looked a little different but we still made so many memories. We found joy (and struggle) in having more time to get to know our three teens. We had fun riding hundreds of miles together in the summer. We created new traditions and rituals to support local businesses and create fun for our kids. One of my favorite memories of the past year was spontaneously ordering sushi with good friends and ended up singing and dancing on our deck. 

It is never always easy. Sometimes it is really hard. But don’t let that make you miss the simple moments of real life. 

Allow joy. Laugh. Smile. 

And guess what? You just connected with yourself and became more self aware. Growth doesn’t have to be a painful process. Life is so good and you are worthy right now of fully living in it. Go froward in gratitude and joy.