I recently discovered it was time to take a look at what I’ll call, for the moment, the “monster” I’m feeding. The pandemic has been like Godzilla and King Kong combined, trampling through our lives these past 16 months. Scary, not fun, especially because the pandemic was and still is a real monster with huge teeth. It claims lives and continues to do so. Please know that this piece of writing is aimed at those of us here in the United States or elsewhere in the world where life as we know it is beginning to return to some semblance of normality, albeit altered forever.

In this new reality, I’m finding that I have a choice regarding which monster to feed.

I can feed the languishing, depressed part who’s afraid of touching a chair, door handle, or walking into a crowded-basically-anything-at-this-point-in-time place. That monster, or way of thinking, served a purpose for the past year, but now feels less and less useful as I re-enter the world. The other monster of sorts is the return to joy. The truth is it’s super tough to get happy again, or at the very least is taking a lot longer than I’d ever imagined. This returning to joy has been a monster process in my mind.

But why?

There’s definitely a little post-traumatic stress at play. We’ve been hauled up for over a year at this point, and so many of the little things in life that brought us joy and meaning were temporarily suspended. That wasn’t fun, to say the least, and I believe there was a real cost to our psychological state. And we will recover. We will return to celebrating birthdays, weddings and graduations. We will return to days at the beach, park, or wherever people like to hang out with one another, and we’ll return to evenings at the movies, or seeing live theater and going to our favorite concert venue to hear live music. These perks of life, the little things that bring us meaning and happiness, are slowly but surely coming back. And just in the nick of time for my taste.

As I step back out more and more into the world, and as the things I love return, including the people I haven’t been able to see, I find I’ve got this golden opportunity to embrace my joy.

There’s a bit of melancholy present, and I’m choosing, opportune word here, to focus on the happiness, excitement, joy, elation, and even the bit of grief I’m experiencing as I step into my new life. And I’m seeing I have to make a conscious choice about which monster I’m feeding. I’m choosing to feed joy. Okay, so joy might not really be a monster, but choosing it still takes my full attention and requires me to be fully present to attend to it. To focus on it. To allow it to fill my heart space. Again, it’s a process.

This seems like such a little side note to our lives right now, but I actually think choosing joy at this time is essential because what we focus on grows. We’ve been focused on a virus for the past year, so it’s time to begin shifting our gaze to something more positive and uplifting. And I know the coronavirus isn’t going away. I get that piece on the deepest level, but even deeper I now realize I have to put my energy into rebuilding my joy account. It was emptied out over the heaviest parts of the pandemic.

Good news, opportunities are starting to pop up that will re-connect you to your joy.

See the new film “In the Heights” written by Quiara Alegria Hudes and Lin-Manuel Miranda, and directed by Jon M. Chu as my favorite example. This film is brilliant, and a harbinger, I believe, of our societal return to joy. I laughed, cried, danced and sang my heart out, and all while seated in a dark AMC movie theater in Los Angeles’ San Fernando Valley. I cannot recommend this gem of joy more highly, and in large part because it helped me connect more deeply with the joy of life, the importance of family, and our collective purpose for living. Because, as I see it, we have to, it’s why we’re here. Joy to the world, and joy to you. You deserve some joy today. And if all else fails spread some joy. I find that almost always, the act of giving creates a positive transformation in the giver. By sharing joy there’s a return that occurs which is deep and rich, as well as incredibly uplifting.

Joy is a main ingredient for thriving in our lives, so let’s all aim for a return to joy knowing we’ll land somewhere in the vicinity, and somewhere that’s more aligned with the new lives we’re creating now. It’s okay, and it’s time.

Barry Alden Clark is a writer and professional life coach. His work is focused on helping people live their best lives by acting as a guide for them to connect more deeply with their internal life force where creativity, purpose, and true freedom reside, while using humor, compassion, and kindness as hallmarks for the process of personal evolution. Recently Barry published his first book, “Living Life Now: Ingredients for Thriving In The Modern World,” now available on Amazon, and launched his new podcast “Living Life Now,” available on iTunes, Spotify and Google Music. You can reach Barry at www.barryaldenclark.com.

Image courtesy of Kindel Media.