The joy train

Yesterday afternoon I decided to put on some crimson-colored lipstick. Doing so was a statement for me because it was a stark contrast to the clear lip gloss I normally wear.

My husband looked at me like I had three heads when he saw it and rolled his eyes, making us both laugh. I didn’t let his reaction deter me though, because the lipstick made me feel bold, just like the color.

A few minutes later when our kids came traipsing over, the first words out of my son’s mouth were, “Mommy, I like your red lips.” My daughter repeated him, her eyes in awe, as they both looked at me curiously. I smiled, said thank you, and promptly stuck out my tongue at my husband. Later we had friends over and my girlfriend immediately complimented me on the lipstick. More validation that changing up my look is a good thing.

Just like all the latest developments in my brain lately, it is time for me to revamp my look and play around with style on the outside. Typically, I go for the classic look (when I am not in my yoga pants or bathrobe). I play it safe. I put minimal efforts into my look, often letting my thick hair air dry and slapping on a bit of make-up in two minutes or less.

Part of the haste in my appearance is due to limited time and my kids that are constantly underfoot, but oh, right, I am not blaming them for anything anymore. So a few weeks ago I bought a $26 (totally unlike me!!!!) hairbrush so I could start straightening my hair more often. I went through my make-up, resurfacing lipstick and eye shadow with more color. I’ve gotten my nails done a few times, and I find myself wandering around in the cosmetic store near my house. (Again, totally unlike me!!).

I don’t know if it’s getting older or clearing out all of the puzzling information out of my mind or what, but I find myself caring about my looks a little more lately. And it’s been fun! I feel better and I am more confidant, and in doing so it makes me think of something my teachers used to say in high school as graduation neared, “Dress for success.”

In addition to paying attention to my appearance outwardly, I am listening to my thoughts and nurturing myself inwardly. I continue to listen to Dear Sugar Radio with Cheryl Strayed and Steve Almond, though I must confess the beginning of the podcasts start by saying, “The universe has good news for the lost, lonely and heartsick. Dear Sugar is here, and speaking straight into your ears.” Makes me chuckle. Is that me? Guess so.

I listened to Episode 12: The Wounded Child Within yesterday and Cheryl Strayed laments on some of the hardships she faced by saying:

“I did what anyone in their life has had to do, and you sort of have to very slowly find a way to walk back in the direction that is going to be good for you. That isn’t about your sorrow and suffering, but it’s about your strength and your life and it’s about healing your wounds and not circling around them never-endingly.”

(Note: I transcribed this quote while listening, so it might not be exact, but it’s pretty damn close).

I love this quote as I walk backward into my past a little to make sense of it and heal, and even break the ties to the emotional prison I used to live in with my Dad. He put me though a lot during his affair, but I am an adult now and it’s time I stop blaming him for any emotional instability I still struggle with or challenges related to my bipolar disorder. I need to take ownership for my life and stand on my own two feet more than I have in the past. I will always value my relationship with my Dad — he’s a cool guy and I love him, but now at a distance.

In doing so, I have clarity about the world around me and internal power that I have never known. That’s not to say I can do anything I want and not take my husband or children into account – that is absolutely not true – but what I can do is take care of myself better.

I’ve laid off the booze (we’ll see how long it lasts… hehe), I have seen my doctors regularly, started talking to my family about mental illness, and I am  preparing to talk to a few of my friends over the next few weeks.

And as I work through all of this and write more, I am looking down at the drink coaster, next to my keyboard, that my son made at Christmas time and smile. He drew a train and wrote the word “JOY” on it. He mistakenly wrote the “J” backwards — and I immediately loved it before he even said, “It’s a joy train, Mommy.” Hell yeah, I thought. I am hopping on board.

Already, I am making intentional decisions about the direction I want my life to go in. I want to stop blaming externals factors and other people around me for why I haven’t done this yet or done that yet. I talked to my Dad last night on the phone — you know, the one I still love, but who doesn’t have control over me anymore? Yep that’s the one.

At some point during our conversation, and because I am delving into some of my past, we started talking about my first hospitalization. We reminisced about how leading up to it, I defaced public property, smoked a cigarette with a cop, and got handcuffed to a bed. We actually had… get this… a LAUGH about it. I mean, I was kind of a badass, right? He told me I am “his hero.” Ha!

More seriously, I told him that I was basically stripped of all my rights in the aftermath, and the only thing the doctors and nurses didn’t take away from me was my pen. I scrawled notes and bullshit all over styrofoam cups, tissue boxes, my hands — anything I could find. Telling him this gave me another “Aha!” moment — I am born to write and I have stories to tell and I need not be afraid to put them out into the universe. In my heart I have always known this, and the time has come for me to let ‘er rip on the page.

After listening to me chatter, my Dad asked me if I had ever heard the proverb, “The pen is mightier than the sword.” I had not, but I looked it up. Props to English author Edward Bulwer-Lytton for coining the term in 1839 in his play, Richelieu; Or the Conspiracy.

The pen is mightier than the sword.


On my journey down this new road, I learned that one of my favorite singer/songwriters since high school, Jewel, just announced that she is touring this spring, and I’ll be damned if I don’t make it to one of those concerts. Not only does she write her own songs, she sings them and performs them as she opens her soul up to the world. I admire the hell out of her.

Jewel - Picking up the pieces

Surely it’s not going to be convenient for me to go to one of her concerts, and I’ll have to figure out a travel plan and childcare.  And I’ll have to coerce my husband or a friend to take time off and go with me, but I am not going to let those factors get in my way.

I am going to continue along on the joy train, with self-awareness, toward self-fulfillment as I greet the good and bad that lies ahead in my life with pretty hair and crimson-colored lipstick. And I am going to remember that this newfound power inside my mind is even more appealing than what’s on the outside.


Note: For the WordPress knowledge seekers and narrative writer’s out there looking to improve your craft, allow me to direct you to Ben Huberman’s article on The Daily Post about escaping the first-person bubble. I found the article helpful because I have done a lot of introspective writing lately. Shout-out to him for, I hope, helping me not sound too egocentric. He says if you don’t want to appear, “narcissistic and self-involved on your blog, don’t change the topics you write about — change the mechanics of discussing them.” To strengthen my own voice in this post, through the use of quotes and dialogue, I turned to my husband, kids, teachers, friend, Dad, Cheryl Strayed, Edward Bulwer-Lytton, and Jewel.

6 thoughts on “The joy train

  1. I’m on the joy train too, but mine looks really different to yours and that’s okay! I think you are talking about vulnerability and the need to be who we really are and find out what brings us joy. Keep going with that. As long as you can do it I a joyful way it will work out well I think.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I am on the suicide train. I cannot wait until we make it to the station. The hope train already departed and no one was on it. The joy train broke and the faith in humanity train hasn’t run since 2000, or heck 1997 to be exact. Well, there’s the bell, so I must be going. Have a great life friend. We on the suicide train cannot get off. The train is speeding toward its destination and the brakes have been cut. Glad that it worked out for you. Stay around for your kids. Mine are one the scarred for life train.


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