Embracing Joy

Last summer I learned that the act of mindfully seeking and embracing joy had a transformative effect on my state of mind. Now, I am passionate about sharing the approach that helped me with you, my professional colleagues, and also with my students.

I am part of a personal, aspirational data visualization quilting group (@nightquilter’s #QuiltYourLifeCrew on Instagram). In a later post I am going to share the strategic quilts I am making for work under its auspices. Last summer, however, the group experienced its first #SummerLovingSeaglassSAL (Sew-a-long), based on @Nightquilter’s tracking system and @ExhaustedOctopus’ method of sea glass quilting. One participant renamed the summer exercise “JoyFest2023” and the authenticity of the moniker caught on for all of us.

Example of a sea glass quilt, courtesy of @sewladybug.
Quilting method by @ExhaustedOctopus.

And a #JoyFest it was! The goal was to decide on categories of activities that provided personal joy, assign a color to each category, and “earn” a color-coordinated scrap of fabric — a “piece of sea glass” — for each time you engaged with that activity. (This summer, the sew-a-long has expended into paper craft, painting, and other methods that move each particular participant.)

Courtesey of @Nightquilter and @Exhaustedoctopus

At first, I laid out activities that make me happy, such as pleasure reading and playing boardgames, but when I attended the launch party and heard that someone was tracking sounds they hear because their windows were open in summer (sprinklers, birds, dogs barking….) and another person mentioned a category for drinking coffee outside, I realized that my great joy comes from something else entirely: napping. So, I started tracking where I napped (couch, hammock, bed, during a car ride, outdoors/not hammock). I also decided that, since my spouse and I planned to spend our first empty-nester summer traveling to see friends and family we had not seen in a long time, I would do a “Re/Connecting” quilt that tracked from what parts of my life the people I was spending time with came.

Tasha’s Re/Connecting quilt with category key

Another participant came up with the idea of having a “joy jar,” as a place to add sea glass pieces as they were earned. As a result, we could actually see our jars filling with joy.

Tasha’s “joy jars” from Summer, 2023.

It turns out that the process of considering the acts that bring me joy, and the subcategories contained, brought about a huge change in my state of wellness. It made joy accessible, and helped me realize all the small areas in my day that brought happiness. But then, the tracking: Noticing I was earning substantially less of one color than others and asking myself if that activity really brought me joy, if I wanted to make a concerted effort to partake, or if I wanted to drop it? So very healthy! Paying attention to how much happiness I was earning each day and getting the visceral feedback of dropping bits of fabric into my joy jars? Priceless!

Tasha’s “Overall joy” pieces earned by the end of the summer.

I wanted to share this method with you now. It is the perfect time to give it a try for a month. What joy do you aspire to have and record in July? Below, I am including a public post by another participant, @quilting_julia, to give you a concrete example and get you started. (Please note: I am only redacting one username, as I do not know the individual and have not gotten permission to share.)

Again, I really am advocating for introducing this method through advisory to each grade level at school. The administration is also excited by what this method has to offer. I think that individual definitions of, and attention to, daily joys could be a wonderful thing for the whole community.

Wishing you awareness of your small experiences of joy, and a rejuvenating summer.

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