The Unexpected Inspiration of Delight

For me, education, writing, and inspiration has required many hours with my butt in a seat – listening to lectures, staring at a computer screen, and reading page after page of text. Lately, this has not been enough for me. I realize it is because I am stuck at home recovering from a surgery and interacting less with the world outside these familiar walls. The sameness has resulted in a bland state of mind. In frustration yesterday, I left my writing station, put on a podcast, and began to make a lasagna.

The podcast I chose was “Tending to Joy and Practicing Delight,” an On Being interview with Ross Gay. When he turned 42 years old, Gay decided to write an essay a day on something that delighted him. It was an exercised that combined both the art of observation and the practice of gratitude. In an interview with The Common, Gay stated:

I think that sometimes I can neglect to attend to the things I love and adore and want to celebrate, want to preserve and share. I think the practice of writing these delights definitely gave me the opportunity to bring those things into focus. To be able to more precisely articulate, “Oh these are the things that I want to preserve: like public space, or common space, or the ways that people can be kind to each other.” These are the things that I want to exalt. I suspect that in realizing what the things are that I do want to exalt, that the whole time I was also realizing part of why I wanted to exalt them is because I’m aware of their absence. That’s part of the “theorizing”—I put that in quotation marks—I’m doing in the book: Why does that delight me, why is there a deficit of that in my life, or in anyone’s life? 

This lens delights me, the prioritizing of interactions and celebrations. The necessity of darkness to highlight the joy adds a deeper dimension, taking this from a simple self-help practice to a meaningful inquiry. His rumination made putting together the layers of a lasagna, a hearty meal on a brisk fall day, a meditation in caretaking. It was the meal my daughter had been requesting for the past week, but I put it off because it is time consuming. Her joy in receiving this dish I made for her was also a delight, for the food communicated, “I thought of you today. I heard you. I love you.” She took a picture of the meal and sent it to her grandma, my mother.

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While I do not foresee myself undertaking this as a year-long project, the mining for delight is something I will pin and return to, as needed. When a dull sheen falls on the ordinary days, I will return to this filter to revitalize my interactions and view.

To read the work of Ross Gay, visit here: https://www.rossgay.net/books

The New Challenge: 30 Minutes for 30 Days

If I were to ask myself, what is the biggest task I regretted not doing during a day, the answer would almost always be writing. For me, that is because I classify it as optional. Some may say this means I am not a true writer, for a true writer MUST write; it’s not optional. To those people, I say your hyperboles only serve to discourage those of us who, some days, only have the energy to dream.

For me, I cannot be present as a parent or as a teacher if my mind is on what I think I should be doing instead of coloring dinosaurs or grading essays. Time interacting with my children and mentoring developmental writers is valuable. Sitting on the couch watching television with my husband is sometimes a necessary bonding experience.

As of now, without money or a large audience, my writing is only for me. However, this does not mean I should abandon it. I just need to be practical about what I can do. Initially, I thought I would challenge myself to write 1,000 words a day. Based on my research, though, I have learned that small, achievable steps are the best place to begin a lifestyle change. I know I can complete 30 minutes of writing a day, and this firm belief is going to make me more likely to succeed.

Also, 30 minutes over a 1,000 words seems better because output is not a routine. The idea of a habit is that it breeds expectation. Most of us begin our days the same way — for me it is coffee and social media. Once a habit is established, it is much harder not to do something, than it is to do it. My plan is to add writing to my nighttime ritual, which always ends with reading. Even if I do not get to bed until 3 a.m., I have a hard time sleeping if I do not read first

When I was an adolescent, journaling was a habit for me. Reams and reams of hurt feelings, crushes, and pep talks took up the entire space beneath my bed. I had to write my feelings down; it felt like a must, essential. Hmmm… I seem to be rewriting my initial claim. Maybe the idea that “writing is a must” is not hyperbole for some because it is a habit.

Let’s see if I can turn a want into a must, an optional activity into a habit…