20 Days of Gratitude: Joy

"I'm intoxicated with joyful." 
I am. I am sloppy drunk and stumbling in all of my joy. The thing is though, I didn't always feel this way. While this is one of my favorite lines in the song, this didn't become my Truth until purpose and gratitude collided and were deeply woven into my life. I used to sing this lyric as passionately (and probably very off-key) as I could because I so desired to get to that place.

But I was drowning. And it wasn't in my own puddle of joy. 

A few days ago, I received a FaceTime call from a fellow Morganite who's been reading my posts. She wanted to affirm me and tell me what the posts have meant to her in her own life. What caught my attention most, though, was when she transparently told me that she felt jealous reading about my new life in Chicago. Then it hit me: I've been selling a dream without telling you how much it cost. 

When I first heard this song two years ago, it moved me to tears. Loyalty? Peace? Gratitude? These were all the things India talked about in her song and all the things I lacked. I was broken, and drowning in my brokenness. To tell you the truth, I probably cried enough tears to drown in those, too.

In 2014 and 2015, I had closeted depression. My vision of love had been shattered from every which way. In January of 2014, I had uncovered some skeletons living under the blankets of smiles and nods in the closet of someone near and dear to me. My core was devastated. My foundation, rocked. My identity, shattered. I wasn't the only one affected, though, so I "had" to be strong... because, well, that's what us black women embody: resiliency. This time, though, this one time, my misguided resiliency may have been the beginning of my spiral. I was being an anchor for those around me who were just as broken, if not more, by the news; Meanwhile, I was beginning to drown.

ssentially, I was a life guard who couldn't swim.

ut that wasn't just it: My time was divided between being a full-time life guard and being a full-time teacher and student. I was "Daniella Teacher" by day, and "Hak-saeng" by night (Korean professors and elders tend to refer to students as "Hak-saeng", rather than their name). I was making my second attempt at writing my thesis for my Public Health program. I was active in my Sorority and active in my church. I was a ministry leader for the mission trip in Thailand I was preparing for. When I found spare time, I grieved the loss of the person I thought I was; That one skeleton was enough for me to have a very real identity crisis. Nothing made sense anymore and I questioned everything. Every.Thing. Questions I could once answer about myself with confidence, were suddenly more difficult than the questions I was asked when defending my thesis. And only days after Mr. Skeleton crept out of his cob-webbed coffin, Cathexis and I had a melt down of our own. 

There was no time, though, for grieving Cathexis and our finicky relationship when my plate was already so full. In fact, I was so busy with helping others grieve and grieving other areas of my life, I think I genuinely forgot to grieve him. Nearly a year later, one text message forced me to do just that.

Again, I spiraled; this time, drowning. I was living with my Sorority Sister at the time, so I'd try to have my daily cry when she was gone or go into the bathroom and muffle my tears with the sound of the shower. Dreams were never dreams because I was haunted by Cathexis. In the day time, I was flooded by the pain of the overlap of my fickle relationship with Cathexis and the identity crisis I had been trying to deal with for the previous year. 

Some days, I could see the Light in a distance and would try to reach for it, but fell short every.single.time. For a while, I couldn't understand how people still saw Light in me when my world seemed so very dark. The Light I was seeing wasn't something I could reach out and grab. God was showing me a reflection of myself; a reflection of Her. Where I really needed to be reaching and grabbing, was within. The truth is, everything I needed was within. Here's a secret: It's always within. 

The Light so many of you see in me, is a Light that I choose to reach in and grab every day. There's a sticky note that lives on one of my mirrors that reads: BE LIGHT.

t's a choice; A joyous one.

I wasn't quite sure what to expect for days 11 to 20. Being grateful gave me my power back. Being grateful gave me a new and accurate identity and helped me shed myself of the person I was never meant to be. Being grateful forced me to become more present: open to every possibility where God may reveal Herself. Being grateful repositioned my heart and outpoured abundant love; love for myself, my coworkers, and even the guy who sold me my mattress. Being grateful gave me a platform of empowerment and welcomed in opportunities to minister to women in my circle. Being grateful helped me to smile bigger, laugh harder, and love deeper. Being grateful turned my Light on so bright, that even I couldn't mistake it as anything other than my own. With all of this, of course I have joy! I'm glowing. I'm growing. I'm shifting. 

And that's just it: "I am a ten-thousand petal flower unfolding in this moment."

Flowers don't just bloom. I'm unfolding, yes, but for a long time I was just a seed, being watered by my own tears.

Danielle Lyles Barton