The Courage to Embrace Joy in a World of Uncertainty and Impermanence (and what Princess Diaries, Battlestar Galactica, and Brené Brown teach us about today’s messy middle)

This week’s solocast is a follow up from my first exploration of defining the messy middle. You can find it in episode 267, which was the season opener for season 6. In the last week, we have seen a steady surge in the number of coronavirus cases in the US, and we’ve had an election. When we add in the other transitions around racial equality, economics, job stability, and the many other things that the pandemic has shifted for us, we’re really deep into a time of transition.

And in this episode, I’m looking at what it looks like to lean into courage, and embrace joy even when we’re out here in this messy middle. This is a challenge for me, and probably for you as well. Tune in to hear about

Our desire for things to remain constant vs the impermanence of life

Some of what I know about humans, is that there are two deep truths about most people:

People love to plan and feel like they can control what’s happening in their world.

People don’t don’t like the idea that things change or that things might be out of our control. 

If anything has been super true of this year, and my experience in any sort of project that I’ve led as a project manager, there are two deep truths about how things unfold in life. 

There’s not much we can truly control. Control is an illusion.

Impermanence and change are two of the only things we can count on.

And this all puts us squarely in the space of a lot of discomfort. We may find that we want two things at the same time that might not be possible at the same time:

  • Kids to go back to school, and everyone in the school system to remain safe
  • Not to wear a mask, but not to get sick
  • Things to go back to normal, but not knowing or really liking what normal looked like for many people 

Princess Diaries and Battlestar Galactica

Joy takes courage

The truth of our current situation is that we have nowhere to go but forward. One of my favorite quotes about courage is from Princess Diaries (be sure and tune in for that full story):

“Courage is not the absence of fear but rather the judgement that something is more important than fear; The brave may not live forever but the cautious do not live at all.” ― Meg Cabot, The Princess Diaries

And this applies to joy, too. We have to decide that joy is important, and we have to have courage to say yes to it. I know that in our current messy situation, this quote rings true on many levels. 

Joy can be hard sometimes. 

The truth of this is that sometimes to get through our own difficult situations, we have to do what General Adama in Battlestar Galactica refers to as “rolling the hard six.” Rolling the hard six is a term from the game craps. To roll a hard six, with two dice, both have to land on a three. There’s only one way to do it. And, it’s hard (happening only 3% of the time). You have to keep trying, you have to be consistent, and you have to stick with it.

Rolling the hard six here and now means you have to be present. There’s no other way to feel what you feel, or to choose joy without sitting with what is happening right here, and right now. And it’s uncomfortable and vulnerable to do that.

Joy is vulnerable and illuminating

The truth of our situation right now, in this weird and uncomfortable space is that it’s vulnerable to not know what may happen next. It’s hard to commit to something like joy because we are all out in the wilderness (something Brene Brown also talks about a lot).  This is the time that you need to own your own joy the most. This is the time when you learn more about yourself and what is important and what you need in our day to day lives than you’ve ever learned. Without the interaction with others, you may find that you are looking inward, and that is where you define joy and find your purpose. For many of us, this might be the first big event that puts us in this kind of a challenging spot. 

As Brené  Brown says, “Owning our story can be hard but not nearly as difficult as spending our lives running from it. Embracing our vulnerabilities is risky but not nearly as dangerous as giving up on love and belonging and joy—the experiences that make us the most vulnerable. Only when we are brave enough to explore the darkness will we discover the infinite power of our light.”

Let it settle 

Much of what you may have noticed at 8 months into this situation is that things are sliding into place, all on their own. I find that my own brain and heart are both getting used to what this messy middle feels like and also finding new patterns and thoughts that feel better they did in March. 

Is it acceptance of our reality? Maybe. 

Is it finding new things that match what we can do now, as we can continue to shelter in place? Maybe.

I think we also find our way into a new way of being when we let things be. And my brain and my heart and my person is finding that as the thoughts and ideas and even old ideas settle, things feel easier, clearer, sharper. And there’s a sense that we can not go back to where we were before March. That place no longer exists.

Inspiration leading to mindful action

With that, I think building a new way of being is what is next. Perhaps it is because I am past fighting the reality of what is, or that the pandemic has changed our lives completely. 

While I did not really plan this per se, I have found new energy around several things, and decided to take mindful action on them.And this is what joy often looks like for me; finding inspiration in something, intentionally moving forward with it, and setting myself into action to bring it into reality.

I invite you to look for those things that feel promising to you as well. 

What things hold new interest for you? 

How can you make a difference in this world?

What kinds of action might feel better to you?

Where can you see joy playing with the sidelines of your life?


Defining the Messy Middle / Episode 267

Princess Diaries on Amazon (the movie)

Battlestar Galactica on Amazon (the TV series)