#JOMO: it turns out there’s a name for my life

by Carolyn Thomas   ♥  @HeartSisters

You’ve likely heard of FOMO (the “fear of missing out”). Whenever you observe a group of friends or a family out spending time together, except every one of them is staring down at their phones – that’s a symptom of FOMO.  (What if something far more important than what I’m doing now is happening out there?!?)  But until recently, I hadn’t heard of the term JOMO – the joy of missing out. There’s actually a name for how I tend to live my life now.             .

The term JOMO is largely attributed to author Christina Crook and her 2015 book of the same name. In it, she cites the wise warning of Socrates: “Beware the barrenness of a busy life!” 

When I look back on well over three decades of my public relations career in corporate, government and non-profit sectors, FOMO was alive and well in my very busy work life long before I knew it was a thing, even before social media was a thing. In every workplace, I was a driven Type A workaholic from the moment I opened one eye in the morning to the moment when I’d finally crash into bed, exhausted. I lived my career and my family life as if I – and only I – could somehow keep everything running as required.

I like to illustrate this kind of misguided self-delusion by reviewing the months leading up to my heart attack in 2008. I went into my office almost every Sunday (ahem! my day off!) to create a huge website project that I simply couldn’t fit into my already-overwhelmed work week. I justified this weekend volunteer work by saying stupid things like:  “You know, I actually get so much more work done on Sundays because I have no meetings or phonecalls to distract me. . .”  What I seemed unable or unwilling to justify was that volunteering on weekends was an unacceptable and unhealthy employment standard.

But I could rarely say NO to any request or invitation – and there were so many of those!  When I worked in corporate PR, for example, I flew to out-of-town marketing meetings every Friday for years – meetings that weren’t relevant to my unique media relations role (and took me away from my desk for a full day – which meant hours of catch-up time later). But those meetings could be too “important” to miss. And besides, all the other senior staff might be there – so shouldn’t I show up,  too? What I was missing all those years, however, were all those Friday dinners with my own family after (yet another) fog-delayed flight home – a frequent airport reality when flying in and out of coastal cities.

In 2018,  journalist Elizabeth Buckingham wrote this in her opinion piece for the Philadelphia Inquirer:

“I’ve suffered from the fear of missing out since I was in seventh grade and my preteen heart was certain that the popular girls were living a life I knew nothing about, but wanted to know everything about. And though a love of writing initially drew me into journalism, it was the entrée into exclusive events like New York Fashion Week that kept me hustling. FOMO defined our anxiety that an exciting or interesting event may currently be happening elsewhere without us. I was living the FOMO life!”

My heart attack changed my life in so many ways – including an unplanned hard think about how FOMO had saturated my own choices for decades. Back then, learning to live with ongoing chronic symptoms of Coronary Microvascular Disease (MVD) became a powerfully convincing argument to consider the joy of missing out.  When a humiliating return-to-work trial after that MVD diagnosis ended early, I was crushed to realize that I was clearly no longer able to function at my demanding job. And I remember feeling a bit stunned as the months passed to accept that my longtime colleagues were somehow able to keep the place running beautifully – even without me!  See also: How to Tell if You’re as Indispensable as you Think

Over time, I have slowly morphed from feeling distraught that my hair-on-fire personality has changed to now feeling bemused that I ever viewed that person as who I wanted to be.  I used to be the last to leave a party, and the first to volunteer to host the next. I recall, for example, our wonderful themed dinner parties that were famous among friends and family (even when I was the Mum of a toddler – and a newborn!)  But just planning/prepping/cleaning/cooking for each deadline event left me an exhausted wreck (OF COURSE!) by the time the first of our dinner guests rang the doorbell. Yet this insanity continued for years because I somehow prided myself on throwing the “best” parties. So what was I trying to prove back then?

Compared to that time, I’ve had to learn the fine art of balance, and also the appreciation of many small moments throughout each day.  Because I’m now officially retired, I have the luxury of time to focus more on what I love doing (e.g. morning coffee with old friends, playing with my grandchildren, writing and speaking about women’s heart health, long chatty phonecalls with my sister Catherine,  puttering for hours out on my sunny balcony garden, creating art with beautiful papers, and of course my afternoon naps). Those elaborate themed dinner parties, especially thanks to COVID-19, are now but a dim memory – and what a joy and relief that has turned out to be!

About the same time Elizabeth was writing in the Inquirer, Dr. Kristen Fuller was writing one of her regular Psychology Today columns on the same topic. As a physician whose first love is spending time outdoors in the Eastern Sierras of California, she has long embraced JOMO. Here’s how Dr. Fuller explained her own interpretation of the concept:

“JOMO (the joy of missing out) is the emotionally intelligent antidote to FOMO, and is essentially about being present and being content with where you are at in life. You do not need to compare your life to others but instead, practice tuning out the background noise of the ‘shoulds’, and learn to let go of worrying whether you are doing something wrong. JOMO allows us to live life in the slow lane, to appreciate human connections, to be intentional with our time, to practice saying “NO,” to give ourselves tech-free breaks, and to give us permission to acknowledge where we are and to feel our emotions, whether they are positive or negative.”

JOMO is essentially about finding the Goldilocks balance that truly works for us – not too busy, not too quiet, but just right – by choosing to do more of what we love doing with those we love spending time with – whenever we have that choice.  We can’t always be in charge of those choices, of course:  caring for elderly parents or sick children, a bad day of symptom flares, or living through pandemic realities – but we can certainly be more in charge of not buying into the pull of the  self-inflicted background noise of “shoulds”. Speaking of the pandemic, in its earliest days of 2020 staying at home was not really a hardship for me.  As I told my family: “I’m not stuck at home. I’m SAFE at home!”  JOMO was already sinking in.

Dr. Fuller also included a few tips in her Psychology Today essay for those who want more JOMO and less FOMO:

  • Be intentional with your time: Make YOUR time your priority instead of wasting time worrying about what other individuals are doing or thinking.
  • Give yourself permission to live in the present: If you are having a bad day, be easy on yourself and limit stressful plans when you can.
  • Embrace tech-free time: Unsubscribe from social media accounts and unfollow individuals who trigger your FOMO or cause you any type of negativity.
  • Experience real life (not social media life):  Instead of spending your free moments in the drama of social media/email/text messages, what if you chose to disconnect and instead do more of the real world things that you enjoy?
  • Slow down: Take time to think before you speak, embrace the quiet, use time driving in traffic or waiting in lines to sit with your thoughts or listen to a book.
  • Practice saying “NO”: You do not always have to go to that event or take that phone call. Self-care and self-love start by saying “NO.”
Image: Dirks24 at Pixabay

NOTE FROM CAROLYN:  I wrote more about women’s priorities – and how skewed priorities may put us at higher risk of heart disease – in my book  A Woman’s Guide to Living with Heart Disease“.  You can ask for it at bookstores (please support your local independent bookseller!) or order it online (paperback, hardcover or e-book) at Amazon, or order it directly from my publisher Johns Hopkins University Press (use their code HTWN to save 30% off the list price).

Q:  How have you discovered the Joy of Missing Out?


See also:

Are you a Priority in Your Own Life?

Should Heart Patients Make a ‘Bucket List’?

Could Goodism and Self-Sacrifice Be Linked to Women’s Heart Disease?

The Heart Patient’s Chronic Lament: “Excuse Me. I’m Sorry. I Don’t Mean to Be a Bother”

You Can’t Pace Yourself – Unless you Plan to Pace

In Praise of the Afternoon Nap

11 thoughts on “#JOMO: it turns out there’s a name for my life

  1. Wonderful and informative, Carolyn! I’d like to add, perhaps differently, to another reader’s comment that embracing either #FOMO or #JOMO is about practicing mindfulness regardless of power, privilege, or resources.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Dear Carolyn. . . I had to laugh when you mentioned “Themed Dinner parties”. Years ago I belonged to a dinner club where once a month one couple would host all the others for a dinner. Mine always had themes, the food, the music, the decorations.

    The last one I remember preparing was a New Orleans feast complete with beignets. LOL

    The Joy of being past those times is wonderful. I always felt like I was in some type of superwoman contest. It was the early days of “Women can have it all!” I worked as a nurse, I cooked, I cleaned, I was raising 2 small children, I was in PTO, I started girl scout troops, I volunteered AND of course had Themed Dinner Parties!

    Just thinking about it exhausts me. Luckily I had a great Aha! at 45 without having a heart attack! Studying and applying metaphysical and spiritual principles and explaining them to others has become a Joy and sustenance in my life.
    One way I did learn to celebrate the Joy in small things earlier in life was raising a special needs child. You can’t waste time wishing you or your child had a different life. You must see the beauty in who they are and celebrate every milestone. Very Present Moment.

    Right now in THIS moment, Sunday morning in my recliner with my coffee, reading your blog is my JOMO.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Jill – I laughed out loud at your own elaborately planned New Orleans Themed Dinner party. Of course you would have had to include the appropriate food (even homemade beignets!!), music, decorations – the more the better, right? Some of our parties also had themed after-dinner games, or dress-up requirement for the guests. Very Martha-Stewart-ish. Followed by a full day in a coma recuperating. Because unlike Martha, I had no staff. . .

      Thanks for bringing up the example of raising a child with special needs. Such parents must learn pretty quickly where their energy genuinely needs to go, while everything else can fall by the wayside for a while. Talk about living in the present moment. . .

      And if you were in a SuperWoman contest, you would have definitely made it into the finals!

      Take care, stay safe. . . ♥


  3. This is wonderful – JOMO! Just what I needed to hear today. Thank you, Carolyn.

    My only thought to add is that so many people, and maybe especially women, this is not a matter of choice. They do not have the resources or privileges that allow either FOMO or JOMO.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hello Jess – so glad you enjoyed this. And thanks for bringing up your important observation – both FOMO and JOMO are indeed unique to those of us fortunate enough to have some level of both resources and privilege. This means we can spend time thinking about an issue that less privileged people don’t have the luxury to entertain. We could also observe this demographic chasm during the height of COVID restrictions when people started bitterly complaining that, due to travel limitations, they had to cancel their annual cruises or ski resort holidays or winters in Arizona – a ‘problem’ that many of us simply didn’t have.

      Take care, and stay safe. . . ♥


  4. Wonderful post, Carolyn, thank you!

    I can’t say I ever had too much FOMO in my life, but the pandemic has helped me experience more JOMO. It’s made me realize that many of my pre-pandemic activities (eating out, movies) aren’t essential to my happiness and well-being. My happiness isn’t rooted in being a consumer — what I buy from Amazon, who brings me a restaurant meal, or who else I pay to entertain me. I have found a deep-seated joy knowing I can entertain myself through my hobbies and through a reassessment and reshuffling of what’s truly important to me. Given the Great Resignation here in the U.S., I’m pretty sure I’m not alone.

    Love your observation: “Over time, I have slowly morphed from feeling distraught that my hair-on-fire personality has changed to now bemusement that I ever viewed that person as who I wanted to be.”

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for sharing your perspective here, Denise. Your excellent point about rethinking pre-pandemic activities is so true for me, too.

      Cardiac symptoms had already prompted rethinking many of those things that had seemed to fill my calendar – one big example for me was speaking at evening events! I cringe now when I think of how I used to drag my sorry ass (plus heavy boxes of my WomenHeart handouts) out the door on cold rainy nights – when I was already completely exhausted after a long day. It took a particularly awful experience at one such talk to convince me to listen to my body instead of what was on my calendar. Now I only say YES to morning presentation invitations!

      But when COVID hit, it did force a fresh look at, as you say, what was essential to health and happiness. It was a surprise to me (even with my already quite restricted list of outings) that often not being able to _______ (fill in the blank with any given planned outing) left me feeling relieved, not upset.

      Take care, and stay safe . . . ♥


      1. Even though I really do not have to explain “Why” I’m saying “No” to something, I often find myself saying, especially to family members, “You know, my heart issues make me really tired sometimes. I think I need to pass on your request”

        Anyone else do this? Will I ever be able to just say “No, Thank You!” and leave it at that? LOL

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Ha! Good point, Jill! I usually reserve the “heart” card for people who don’t know me very well (my family already knows my “best before” daily schedule!) Recently, the phone rang at 7:30pm and my first reaction was shock: “Who would be calling me at THIS hour of the night?!” – since anybody I’d like to talk to already knows my crazy-early bedtime routine, so knows not to call me!

          My preferred response when saying NO is just to say that I “won’t be able to make it” – this seems generic enough; the implication is that I must have something else planned. Which I DO – usually taking care of my health, either physical or psychological! 🙂


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