Sunday, May 1, 2016

On Leaning Into Joy

Two weeks ago, I applied to my #1 top-choice for grad school. And Thursday night, a letter came in the mail. Jeremy got this child-like grin on his face and said, "Open it, open it!" But I just shook my head and said, "Sweetie, there's no way" as I slowly opened the envelope.

Inside it said:
"Congratulations! We are pleased to inform you that you have been approved for enrollment in 2016 as a foundation year Master of Social Work student."

And I looked up at Jeremy and said flatly, "This is a terrible joke."

His smile faded. He looked at me questioningly.

I told him, "This can't be. This isn't real."

He peered at me with curiosity.

I insisted, "There must be some mistake."

Because I applied four months past the application deadline.
Because I filed my FAFSA two weeks late.
Because this was a "practice" application just because Carole wanted me to.
Because I was planning to apply for several years before I got accepted.
Because I'm certainly not qualified.
Because I'm not deserving.

For the past three days, I've been telling people that I don't know how to feel about it. Because I don't. Everyone is excited except for me. I'm surprised and shocked that this actually happened, but not necessarily excited.

And I realize now with an ounce of clarity, that I don't want to admit to excitement, because part of me doesn't believe this good thing can be good. I've been cautiously waiting for the other shoe to drop. I've been withholding the joy that I feel at having been accepted, for the chance that maybe this won't work out. That maybe something will happen that will prove my own self-doubt, like I can say, "See, I told you I wasn't good enough." Which is a TERRIBLE way to live.

And this is what Brene Brown calls foreboding joy: "If you ask me what's the most terrifying, difficult emotion we feel as humans, I would say joy." Because often the more you have of something, the more you fear it may all be taken away. She writes, "What we do in moments of joyfulness is we try to beat vulnerability to the punch."

Written. Like. A. Boss.

That's precisely what I've been doing.

I've worn this foreboding joy like armor. I've downplayed this good news to protect myself. But the problem with armor is that it keeps out vulnerability, but it also keeps out joy and love and kindness and gratitude and all the other positive things can make our lives better. We feel it all or we feel nothing. You can't have it both ways.

I've been treating joy like a bank account with limited funds. There's not enough to go around. Once you're out of joy, you're out joy. I've been clutching this piggy bank tightly to my chest in an attempt to make this less scary. But joy is a renewable resource. There's always more to go around, especially when you practice gratitude.

Ahhh, gratitude. 

I'm grateful because...
-I've been accepted to grad school
-I was given a $30,000 scholarship
-My hard work has paid off
-My husband--bless his heart--has whispered in my ear more times than I can count: "You've been approved. They want you."
-When I told Carole about my doubts, she said, "Honey, if you don't feel worthy even after being accepted to grad school, then I have to say that all that time and money you spent in therapy was wasted on you." God, I love her.
-I have a job
-We have some money in the bank
-My parents let us live with them, saving us a ton of money the past six months
-We are young and healthy and capable
-We can do this
-I have been approved
-I am wanted

I can lean into joy. Daily. By taking stock of all that is well. And letting that be enough.