Adopted Family • Five Degrees of Joy Mirroring (Soul-knowing)

Breadcrumb Trail

I once stayed at an Airbnb in the city in South Africa. As I got to know my host's various family members, whenever they came and stayed in the apartment, I naturally felt a kinship with them. They poured on the love and generosity, like I've never known before.

They even organized road trips for me to see more of the neighbouring countries because I shared my wild, crazy idea of visiting every UN country in the world. They even adopted me and invited me to stay at their love-filled home in the countryside.

Every time I emerged out of my room, Mama Bear was somehow always there. Her eyes sparkled whenever she saw me walk toward her. She always pulled me in for a bear hug. She always greeted me with, "There's my sunshine!" And she'd sometimes add, "You. Are. A. Bringer. Of. Joy."

Man, I thought this lady was whack! She clearly didn't know the Everest of shame, grief, suffering, and Wounded Child Archetypes galore that I carried. Me, joy? As if.

Then her daughter came home to rest and recharge. She and I became insta-friends. Kindred spirits we were. Whenever we'd go for a drive or to a cafe, she'd look at me with the same sparkle in her mom's eyes that said, "You know... you feel like... pure joy."

I figured, maybe both mother and daughter are whack. Maybe it runs in the X chromosome. Then her brother drove up from the city. And by the end of that weekend, at the dinner table, he asked, "Are you this happy, all the time?"

Mirrors of Truth

That evening, as I sipped my tea in my room, I wondered two things:

  1. Was the entire family whack...? Don't they see the giant shame on two legs, who failed to become the best white man and ATM that she was expected to be?
  2. What is the difference between happiness and joy?

The following week, the brother's wife came home from a business trip. Since everyone else got busy, the family handed me over, like precious cargo, to sis-in-law. We drove around, chatting, running errands, laughing, eating. We became insta-family as well.

That evening, as sis-in-law helped clean the kitchen, I overheard her talking to Mama Bear, "I see it. The joy. The sunshine." She was referring to me.

The week after, sis-in-law met up with some old pals from university. She was soooooo sweet and generous to invite me along. We spent the night in such merriment, drinks, food, and stories of the good old days. It felt like I had gone to university with them too!

By end of night, as we hopped into our taxis, one of them hugged me so tight, as if we'd been childhood besties since 7. As she leaned into her cab, she turned to sis-in-law, pointing at me, "You were so right! The <insert gesture of radiating sunflower petals>. I love her!"

Distorted Self-image

As I sat on the taxi ride home, I wondered if the entire town was whack. Mama Bear, daughter, and brother, ok maybe it ran in the family. But sis-in-law and sis-in-law's friends whom I had only met for a few hours?

Hmm... maybe I was the one who was whack. Maybe the dense layers of self-hatred were blocking out these genuine acknowledgments.

Laying in bed that night, staring up at the ceiling, I wondered, "What if what they saw in me was truer than what I saw in myself?" They didn't see joy in me. They saw me as joy. Could it be? As soon as I asked that question, ostrich goosebumps flash flooded over my skin and met the rivers of tears streaming down my ears.

Through the love and generosity of an adopted family, in a country far, far, far away from my Family of Origin (FoO) and Culture of Origin (CoO), on another continent, in another hemisphere, I reclaimed a truth that I never knew: I AM Joy. 

Ah. So this is soul-knowing joy.

The Difference Between Happiness and Joy

I wanted to start with The 4 Types of Knowing for joy, because we are midway through a global pandemic that has set us back, grounded us, and/or prevented us from moving forward. We all need hope, laughter and reminders to tune into joy, even if like me you never even heard of such a thing called "joy".

Having reclaimed a full set of The 4 Types of Knowing for joy, I now know-know-know-know joy, am joy, do joy, and have joy. Who knew!?!

I also discerned the difference between happiness and joy. Happiness is outside in and comes from doing or having something / someone. So if the object of our happiness is taken away, our happiness plummets. Joy is inside out and comes from our being, who we are. It can't be taken away, it was always there to begin with.


But my life has NOT been rainbows, unicorns, and jazz hands. Far from it. My browser search history includes:

  • Am I bipolar?
  • Empath how to stand being around people?
  • Am I narcoleptic?
  • How to thrive as a gifted adult?
  • Surviving autism as an adult?
  • Signs of suicide ideation vs suicide
  • How to live with synesthesia?
  • Is dyslexia with numbers possible?
  • Entrepreneur with social anxiety
  • How do I make sure to never incarnate on Earth again?

I've suffered through everything listed in The 10 Types of Freedom. Yet, I have a feeling that the most joyful people on planet Earth are the ones who have known the deepest suffering. They somehow alchemized that suffering into service, meaning, purpose, fulfillment, and joy.

In the weeks to come, I will share with you all my alchemy stories of victim to victor, martyr to mystic and suffering to joy.

Live fierce and free,

xo, Ella


Do you soul-know that you are joy? Or do you think I'm whack for affirming you as joy?



Having navigated 131 countries, 87 emotions, 46.5 traumas, and 16 careers, Ellany Lea inspires and guides phoenixes, overachievers, entrepreneurs and wayshowers to live fierce, fulfilled and free.