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

A Week of Photo Gratitude to Kick Off 2016

One constant tenet in positive psychology is gratitude. I have tried gratitude journals and the more enjoyable practice of having my family share their favorite moments of the day. This new year I have been approaching gratitude through my lens (thanks in part to a new DSLR from Santa). I stumbled upon this practice accidentally, as I tried to enjoy an endless game of hide and seek with my children. Children are by nature attention seekers, which can be emotionally draining, especially on what feels like day 100 of Christmas break. It’s easy to try to push back and isolate yourself in housework, a good book, or whatever it is you feel you “need to get done.” To appreciate the time, I pulled out my camera and began taking pictures. Immediately, I found myself smiling at their comically bad hiding places, at their antics upon discovery, and how they were getting along so well.

Today’s favorite picture: my hide and seek superstar.

A photo posted by Jen (@owlsandolives) on Jan 1, 2016 at 4:30pm PST

 

Once I began looking for new photo opportunities, I fell more in love with my environment. As an introvert, home is my recharge station. Like Batman, I have my own cave filled with gadgets of knowledge (i.e. books). One of my favorite book titles is for the prequel to Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood, Little Altars Everywhere. This is how I feel about my house, like it is filled with little altars and nests. In fact, I may like it all too much, as the winter break bred in me a deep contentment that has diminished my desire to socialize and explore. Next week, I am hoping the fresh snowfall will give a new canvas of inspiration.

Fostering a Positive Mindset

The father of positive psychology, Martin Seligman, recommends that individuals keep a reflective journal of three things that went well in their day to help create a more positive mindset. We do a modified version of this around the dinner table where we each discuss what our favorite part of the day was. My favorite part, of course, is hearing my little ones detail the moments that stood out to them the most. Today it was swimming at the lake, picking up a pizza, and going in the pool.