The thoughtful and wise friend who introduced me to the writings of Brian Doyle, recently gave me another wonderful, well-timed, and much appreciated book: The Book of Delights, by poet Ross Gay. This book was born out of his desire to write one essay each day for a year about something that delighted him each day.
Isn’t that lovely? What I appreciate most about this is the orientation towards the good in things, however simple. Because growth follows energy investment. What you attend to is what you make bigger. What you focus on is what you develop. And delight seems a worthy thing to focus on. Now more than ever. But, really, nearly always.
Gay eloquently shares what it meant to him to develop the practice of thinking about and writing about delight every day:
It didn’t take me long to learn that the discipline or practice of writing these essays occasioned a kind of delight radar. Or maybe it was more like the development of a delight muscle. Something that implies the more you study delight, the more delight there is to study. A month or two into this project delights were calling to me: Write about me! Write about me! I felt my life to be fuller of delight. Not without sorrow or fear or pain or loss. But more full of delight. I also learned that my delight grows – much like love and joy – when I share it.
This resonates. Like optimism or gratitude, laughter or grace, it can be nurtured. And seeking out delight is appealing. I’ve been trying to practice his philosophy, taking more time to notice delights. In the few weeks since I’ve read Gay’s book, a few of the delights I’ve reflected on:
• A prickly pear who has grown into a really good hugger, and is now the last to exit an embrace.
• The ability to simply accept a compliment graciously. And the generous giving of them.
• Observing an act of kindness, given without fanfare or expectation.
• High school girls surriptiously (and not so surriptiously) focusing more on their dance moves than their lay-ups during pre-game warms up. Their pre-game playlist. The introduction of their lineup -and the antics that go with it.
• High school boys who come to cheer them on. Their banter, their chants, their heckling: hilarious.
• A perfectly executed joke or story. Or the mangled one, when the teller cracks themselves up. Comedic timing. The full potential of a well-timed pause.
• Anyone trying to stifle their laughter, especially unsuccessfully. Belly laughs. Of course.
• Teachers, administrators and coaches – many who are decades into their jobs – who still genuinely love being around their students. And the students who recognize this and are grateful.
• The friend who always knows just the right time to check in. Intuitively. And sometimes before we know how much it was needed.
Some days it is easier to find delight than others, but it can almost always be found. Try it when you’re crabby or cross, disappointed with yourself or your fellow humans. When you can’t sleep well or you’re stuck on some unpleasantness. Try it when things are good and you want to double down. It doesn’t make everything okay. But it helps.
It is joyful. Give it a shot.
The Book of Delights, Ross Gay
Catalog of Unabashed Gratitude, Ross Gay
In the same spirit:
A Book of Uncommon Prayer, 100 Celebrations of the Miracle & Muddle of the Ordinary, Brian Doyle
Notes on Wonder: One long River of Song, Brian Doyle
Eight Whopping Lies and Other Stories of Bruised Grace, Brian Doyle