The Gift of Passion

IMG_8442I woke up at 5:10 am today, a Saturday morning, because of it. Lying there in bed telling myself I should just try to sleep in did not work. I figured I might as well just get up and do what I wanted to do. The several random thoughts floating about in my head since about 3:30 am were kind of interesting (or so my sleepy mind thought) and I did not want to lose them. And then it struck me how joyful it felt to be compelled to get out of bed because you want to do something that you enjoy so much. And after THAT I realized, even though it is not specifically about eating, food, weight, health and all that, I wanted to write about it. Because, in a way, it’s all inter-tangled.

I am no expert on “passion”, but I do recognize it in others. And, although I often take it for granted, I know I am blessed with feeling passionate about many things in my life, my work being just one of them. Many of my closest friends know just what I mean (probably why I was drawn to them in the first place). They all work, or have worked in jobs that were much more than a paycheck. A few of them were special ed teachers, now retired. Now that I work in a school with over a hundred special needs kids, I totally get it. Your body can be filled with joy just walking down the hallway, watching the interactions of the dedicated staff and the children who love them. One of my friends who is a retired teacher (and who worked with behaviorally challenged inner city teens) now volunteers in a prison, helping to teach incarcerated men in hopes that they will have a chance at a new life.  After many years of working, you would think she might want to sit around and relax awhile, but no. I am sure the gift of joy she gets when she leaves that prison far outweighs anything else. For some of my friends, caring for elder parents as well as being there for older children fills that need. And almost all of my friends have a passion for connecting and entertaining, sharing the joy of their homes and lives with each other.

Passion for some has nothing to do with their work (let’s face it, most of us tend to take jobs we may like, but also need to make ends meet). But, they find their joy in other ways. It could be creating the most amazing desserts in the world and watching the smiles on everyone’s face when they sink their teeth in. Or maybe it is renovating things, making old things new again. Creating things such as jewelry, playing an instrument, taking up a new sport, all of these things add a dimension to life that has nothing to do with making money. Gardening is a passion for many of my friends, myself included. Even when it is covered in a foot of snow, I still get that feeling when I look out at my garden with it’s angel statues and bird baths, ice covered pond and mini windmill spinning in the cold breeze. I know what’s under there and what will be popping up in just 60 days (but who’s counting?).

What happens when people don’t have a passion? We all know someone who tends to complain about everything. Or, maybe they just never seem too happy. Their lives may appear to be OK by typical standards. They have a good job, good relationship, health, a nice place to live, yet, something is “missing”. There is no feeling of joy present. Their energy does not fill you up, but instead tends to drain you. Of course, some people have big problems in life, and it definitely affect their happiness. That is not what I am talking about. It’s when everything in life is going smoothly, yet joy is still absent. What’s going on?

Could it be the absence of passion? I don’t believe it. I think we all have something we absolutely feel passionate about, but we ignore it. We are kind of brain-washed in our culture to do what it takes to be successful, make money, support yourself (unless that is just my experience or feeling, yours may be different). So we stop giving ourselves permission to act on our passions because they no longer are the priority in life. There’s no time.

Or, maybe we lose our passion because we just can’t accomplish it. We may have something we feel strongly about and want to share it with the world in our writing, or art or music. The reality hits that getting the word out on whatever it is that is so important to you may not go far. It’s easy to give up.

Maybe there is a way to reconnect with passion and add joy to life again. Ask yourself this question: what do I love to do? what makes me happy? Then, be honest about the first thing that comes to mind (“hula-hooping” popped into my mind….may have to go to the garage and drag it out). Or, is there something you have been working on because of your convictions, passion, beliefs? Have you started a novel, a painting, a cookbook, a small company but stopped because things aren’t moving as fast as you thought? Consider the way you feel when you are creating……isn’t it in the process that you feel that passion? Doesn’t that bring joy to life?

Making time for our passion is another story. Life is busy, yes, but if you are recording even one television show, then you have time (Beachfront Bargain, This Is Us, Walking Dead, I get it). Escaping with television, Facebook and YouTube might be relaxing, but making time for your passion, and finding joy in life is worth it.

So back to this morning and my tossing and turning and deciding to just get up. I was mentally working on a presentation I am doing (on a topic I happen to feel passionate about, Motivational Interviewing for Dietitians) specifically, how to use an empathetic counseling approach when it comes to helping children with weight issues. I came up with a few ideas for slides I did not want to forget. The second thing that was mixed up right in there with the slides was how to make a vegetarian lasagna for a gathering at my mom’s today. I literally was going through all of the ingredients I knew I had (fresh mozzarella, tomatoes, cauliflower, fresh basil, garlic, black beans, fresh Parmesan) and trying to decide if I need to run out to the store. Yes, cooking is another passion of mine, especially if I can be creative. And, one more thing jumbled up in there was figuring out my tasting for my nutrition class on Monday. Since another storm is brewing for Sunday, do I need to get to the store today? Another passion, making those kids happy.

One article in Psychology Today describes passion as “the last thing you think of before going to bed”, and “the first thing you think of when you wake up”. For some people with eating and body image issues, the obsessive thoughts about restricting, exercising, dieting, etc. do not represent healthy passion, and are anything but joyful. Maybe, getting reconnected with a healthy passion can add something positive to think about. Adding even one small happy thing to life is a step in the right direction. Plant a seed. Paint a picture. Volunteer at a soup kitchen. Take your grandmother out for ice cream. Make a new recipe.Sing a song. Jump rope, dance, and yes, hula hoop.

Find your passion. It’s all good.


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