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  • Writer's pictureNicole Virtue


Earlier this month I had the honor and pleasure of seeing Jon Batiste perform live. I could taste the saltiness of my tears streaming down my grinning cheeks as I danced and watched others let loose in a way that only he and his New Orleans based band could get this PNW crowd to do. He radiated pure joy and tapped into everyone’s inner child, sprinkling in variations of “If You’re Happy and You Know It” and “You Are My Sunshine.”

Lately I have been thinking a lot about joy. Specifically, how hard it is for me to allow myself to share my joy with others. Not necessarily moments of joy, but joy I have created for myself and my life.

Suffering has always felt familiar and relatable. I’ve mentioned in a previous newsletter two opposing beliefs I carry from my past: “I have to suffer in order to belong” and “there’s no room for my suffering.”

As a kid and teenager I hid a lot of pain underneath the guise of a “go-with-the-flow” attitude… “I’m good with whatever… no issues here!” It was interesting though how I’d feel triggered if someone took that at face value and assumed I was doing okay based on how things looked on the outside. In those moments I could feel the hurting parts of me wanted to be defended, like, “No! I’m not actually okay.”

In my 20s-30s while working in hospitality, especially later in my managing years, there was a lot of unspoken ‘team culture’ around suffering. I worked very long hours, only came home to sleep, and it still never felt like I was putting in ‘enough’ time. This type of culture and martyrdom was celebrated.

When COVID jolted me out of this corporate life, I had a big wake up and an opportunity to get back to the roots of what I love to do. Helping others (who are suffering…)

This career transition also came with a massive slow down. It gave me a chance to reconnect with values such as spaciousness and balance. I also prioritized my mental health and wellbeing in a real committed way for the first time.

Now, four years later, I am in an interesting position… I have made massive shifts in my life that I am incredibly grateful for. I have a healthy supportive relationship, a career I love, and balance. I am more able to express my emotions vulnerably, speak up for what I need, and set boundaries. It’s easy for me to remind you that this will always be a work in progress, and I notice how hard it is for me to simply celebrate what I have created.

I notice a part of me that says, “nobody wants to hear about your happiness.” And another that says, “it probably won’t even be good for much longer.” And then I feel relief, like, “phew, at least I’ll be relatable when I’m suffering again.”

It’s a little painful to admit all of this out loud!

In a way, I’m calling myself out right now. I’m challenging myself to create some space and gentleness around my wiring and attachment to suffering. I want to give myself the opportunity to create new evidence that I can also connect with others in a space of joy. Even if that feels risky to the parts of me trying to keep me in the “familiar / safe” territory of suffering.

Making space for joy can feel increasingly difficult with deep suffering in our homes, neighborhoods, schools, country, and world. We have constant reminders of suffering at our fingertips.

Making space for joy amidst all of this is critical.

I’m going to be facilitating a workshop called Breathwork to Cultivate Joy on Thursday, June 20th at 5pm PT. This date coincides with summer solstice and the strawberry full moon - seems like a good excuse to dance, breathe, and find a glimmer of joy together!


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