Part 1: Becoming Your Best Self & Creating Joy During a Pandemic by Andréa Fekete
Pre-2020, did you wonder why your life was stagnant or why you lacked joy? Maybe, like I was, you’re still stuck in the same kinds of jobs or keep repeating the same toxic romantic attachments over and over. Maybe you keep developing the same disappointing one-sided friendships. Maybe your life lacks luster, but you can't quite put your finger on why.
Due to pandemic, my world turned upside down. I won't bore you with details. 2020 is a stressful chapter for everyone: social distancing, COVID deaths, police brutality, riots, and an American president who daily shocks and appalls the world.
At first, I spun out into an existential crisis, which is normal. I drank more heavily than usual, halted serious artisitc pursuits, stopped self-care, and sank into despair and loneliness. I’m a content loner, so loneliness was new and painful territory for me.
I started looking for answers. I soon realized I had a choice. I could work toward transformation: creating joy, healing old wounds, and feeding my creativity or I could wallow in alcoholism, despair, and make a long list of excuses why that's not only okay, but not my fault.
In my search for answers, I’ve been listening to Deepok Chopra, interviews with Maya Angelou, Eckhart Tolle, even listening to Jim Carey and Oprah talk about life, and exploring the work of many types of master teachers from poets to scholars to actresses. I decided to share what I’ve learned here on this blog in a series of installments.
Most recently, I listened to an interview with an Auschwitz survivor named Edith Eger. She wrote a book about her experience called, “The Choice. “ I had moving realizations. I cried for her. Then, I cried for us all.
Edith teaches us our lives are in our control. Even when she was captive and stripped bare, literally and figuratively, she said we can find peace and goodness in humanity, in each other, and ourselves. Somehow, in Auschwitz, Edith found moments of joy. Yes we suffer, but the extent of our suffering is a choice, she insists.
”Auschwitz revealed people’s true characters. Who they really are. Takers or givers.“—Edith Eger
It’s during chaos and pain when real growth happens. It’s easy to be zen and cheerful when everything is going our way and you’re not in pain. Without all the external, your true character steps forth. You see yourself clearly. Do you like what you see? I didn’t, not entirely. So, I shifted. We can’t be creative or experience deep joy if our focus is always on the past or the future. This sounds obvious, but most people don’t experience life any other way.
Edith does have crippling PTSD, but she accepts and understands the ghosts. She still finds joy and beauty. She does not define her life by trauma, but by the lessons from it.
Acceptance is the only way to survive pain. Suffering intensifies when we become angry that the moment does not match what we imagine it should be or we are resentful people don’t behave how we’d like.
To find joy, we must spend as little time as we can ruminating and rehearsing past and future moments. We must spend less time lamenting our woes out loud or we risk becoming our ailments and our traumas, rather than just experiencing them.
“You can enjoy the moment or not enjoy the moment, but you do not have to be bound by it.”—Deepok Chopra
Edith said she knew her time there would someday pass. Her focus during her captivity is what got her through. She helped others in the camp. She spoke kind words. She was a giver. She focused on goodness. When we treat others with kindness, we create a kinder atmosphere.
I’ve become deeply inspired by her words and the stories of others. I hope to share these ideas with you and help you experience this stressful time with less suffering.
I’ve been posting memes like this to my Instagram at hollergirldotcom
Photo Credit: Misty Adkins Justice
Children experience joy constantly. Babies, filled with natural bliss, giggle at nothing.
We can all tap into natural joy, even if fleeting. Babies laugh because no one has yet taught them to worry or regret. Focusing on the way sand feels between your toes while walking the beach is more helpful than worrying about the pebble that may or may not be ahead.
I hope you choose a few moments today to observe without assigning judgement to them as “good or bad” and accept the experience as it is. By nonjudgmental observation, you witness yourself surviving. You learn you can survive anything aside from death itself, and even then, we return to the dust.
Americans are terrified of death. I choose to view it more like my Mexican relatives, as a natural transition. We go back to being atoms and stars, watched and breathed in by the same people we are so sad to leave.
I hope you find peace today, even if it is just as you enjoy a cup of coffee or a conversation with your grandson or you celebrate one line you wrote in a poem or you recognize you said the right words to a friend in need.
I am a poet and author. Thanks to the pandemic, I am a recovering adjunct English professor turned hybrid publisher and private creativity coach. You can find more of my writing at http://hollergirl.com and creators, don’t forget to ask what kind of coaching we can offer you at Guest Room Press. I’m really proud of what we’re doing with this company.
People might decide you are insensitive if you find happiness during a pandemic because there are people suffering in very real ways. I also have my own private story and serious reasons I suffer, but I’m choosing not to focus on that. I’m focusing on this part of my being, the part nothing and no one can reach.
“Your soul—water cannot wet it. Wind cannot dry it. Weapons cannot shatter it. Fire cannot burn it. Because it is ancient. It is unborn and it never dies.”—Deepok Chopra
Thank you so much for reading. Feel free to share!
You can reach me, Andréa Fekete, at email@example.com
Here’s a song that makes me feel Ok.
Andréa Fekete's literary novel of the historical coal mine wars, Waters Run Wild, (2018) explores women's & immigrant life in the coal camps of West Virginia. She has one poetry chapbook, I Held a Morning (2012). Her poetry & fiction appear in many journals & anthologies such as Chiron Review, Borderlands: Texas Poetry Review, The Kentucky Review, The Montucky Review, The Smithville Journal, The Adirondack Review, ABZ, and in anthologies such as Eyes Glowing at the Edge of the Woods: Fiction & Poetry from West Virginia, among others.
She & Lara Lillibridge co-curated Feminine Rising: Voices of Power & Invisibility (2019) a collection of poetry & essays from 70 award-winning & emerging women writers in 12 nations & every corner of the US. This year, the book took the Silver in Foreword's Indie Book Award of the Year in Women's Studies.
An excerpt from her newest unpublished novel Native Trees was a finalist in Still: The Journal's 2019 Fiction contest. In 2016, she was awarded a Fellowship from the Mid-Atlantic Foundation for the Arts to take residency at the internationally renowned Virginia Center for the Creative Arts.
She taught college English & writing for almost 15 years at multiple universities in West Virginia, Kentucky & Ohio where she was student-nominated for teaching excellence awards.
She is founder & CEO of Guest Room Press. In addition overseeing operations, she serves as manuscript consultant for adult commercial & literary fiction, offers private writing instruction, public speaking lessons, & creativity coaching.
Her newest chapbook, Dear Lovely will be released September, 2020.