“You Took My Joy, I Want it Back…” -Lucinda Williams
9/11 occurred on a Tuesday. That morning, I was driving to work which at the time was a psychiatrist’s private practice. Tuesdays were when we held “Clozaril Clinics.” Clozaril is a high-maintenance, designer drug to treat people suffering from Schizophrenia. I would see about eighty people with schizophrenia that day.
Schizophrenia is a diagnosis that almost always involves debilitating symptoms of paranoia.
On a day when the entire country was facing the traumatic realization of what had happened and dealing with their own feelings of fear and sadness, paranoia became normal among Americans and greatly exacerbated in those who found paranoia just a part of their every day living. It quickly became very apparent to me that these patients needed us more than ever before to help them process, understand and hopefully, begin to heal; even though I had no idea how I would personally would handle these emotions or how this would play out in my own life.
But it wasn’t about me. Or us. It was a Tuesday, so it was about them. I spent my morning, my day and some of my evening being as supportive, compassionate and comforting as I and all of the other staff could manage. This was all for the sake of a population that wouldn’t likely recover as quickly as the rest of the us in this traumatic time in our country’s history.
When I finally got home that night, I was able to see the horrific and now infamous scenes on TV. Thereafter, as I began to process my own feelings and fears regarding the whole ordeal, the scenes were played again and again and again…repeatedly re-exposing the world to the unbelievable reality before us.
It went on and on and on. I was hooked. I watched again and again and again.
Finally, I woke up…I actually said out loud, “Why am I doing this? What am I doing to myself?”
And, I turned. it. off.
I started breathing again. I hadn’t even noticed that I wasn’t breathing. I took my body and mind back. I could think clearer. I could begin healing.
I stopped breathing during the first presidential debate. I noticed that I almost had to pay attention to it, in order to keep from holding my breath. I didn’t turn it off. So, I couldn’t sleep that night. I just couldn’t enjoy my breath.
In the morning when my mom asked me if I had watched the debate, I said, “Yes.” What came out of my mouth thereafter actually shocked me. “I feel like less of person having watched it. I feel like my soul needs a shower. I feel like I’ve moved back a few rows in Heaven and I need to get my joyful self back.”
Now that we have social media pounding on our brains at every turn, it’s harder to turn it off. We fall victim to our ego that loves the gossip and the need to be right. We allow our amygdalas (the part of the brain that feeds on anxiety and fear and gives us the fight, flight or freeze response) to steer our emotions and behaviors. But, what about our hearts? Can we move our attention to our hearts? I truly think we can…we just need to let the light in and when we don’t see it, we may need to seek it out.
Since 9/11, I don’t watch the news. I encourage my clients to give it up, as well. We are passive consumers when we watch the news. We are victims of whatever they choose to show us. I invite you to hit the remote. Turn it off. Remove yourself.
I do read the news and encourage my clients to read their news, as well. This way, you can choose what you are exposed to and even if it’s just for a moment, you can resist looking at unpleasant images or stories. You can stop and ask yourself before you click that bait, “What will this feel like? Why am I doing this? What do I want from this?”
Sometimes someone will mention that they are nervous that they will miss something. And I wondered this too when I took the plunge. Then I heard, I think it was Wayne Dyer, say something like, “Don’t worry. Someone will always tell you. You’ll always find out what you need to know.” And, I have found this to be true.
We do long to understand, but how much do we need? How often do we need to hear what we already know?
Regarding the presidential election race, a close family member said to me the other day, “I just can’t look at it or read about it anymore. I started to get really angry and then I figured it out. These people have taken away my joy. I want my happiness back.”
I immediately thought of one of the best songs ever by Lucinda Williams called, “Joy,” where she laments, “You took my joy, I want it back…” The guitars alone are enough to give you the shivers but then the lyrics…they really nail it…the idea that one’s joy can be taken away if we allow it.
Lucinda proceeds to tell us where she might find her joy, “I’m gonna go to West Memphis and look my joy…maybe in Slidell I’ll find my joy…”
Although you may have sad, hard or even traumatic experiences in your life, where can you be the Commander-in-Chief and take control of what you can, get your joy back and ultimately be the gatekeeper to your soul?
What would it feel like to resist the temptation to seek out the negative and bombard yourself with unpleasant images, quotes or stories?
Try limiting the incoming. Think of yourself as a spam folder. Be choosy in what you allow in your “inbox.” Seek out your joy. You may find your happiness in the littlest things…the easiest ways.
“I’m gonna go to West Memphis…I’m gonna go to Slidell…”
Be the protector of your spirit and awaken your mind…go and get your joy back.
Much Love and Light to You,
Click here to listen to “Joy” by Lucinda Williams.
Coincidentally, my band has a song by the same title. Here, I sing about my own spiritual journey: “Joy” by 13 Stories.