These days, I seek antidotes to the despair I feel given our current political situation.
These days, I need ways to manage the rage and sorrow that erupts from near-constant assaults on truth and justice, the erosion of morality, the absence of courage and real leadership in the face of astounding criminality and bigotry, wrong-doing and wanton avarice and selfishness.
These days, I deliberately stop reading or listening so that I can pull myself back from the brink and remember to tend to my own nervous system so that I can (A) care for my one wild and precious self, (B) enjoy my one wild and precious life, and (C) stay in some sort of meaningful action that aligns with what matters to me in this one wild and precious world.
It’s work. Good work, worth it, to be sure, but work none the less. I can’t just tune things out nor can I be in a constant state of panic or outrage. One will dull me. The other will flatten me.
I need to laugh, to make things, to open to what’s beautiful and funny, inspiring and interesting, to what soothes me, to what brings me pleasure.
This word, pleasure, can get a bad rap. It can sound selfish, hedonistic, superficial, too focused on momentary satisfaction, like chasing the feel good.
First of all, there’s nothing wrong with wanting to feel good. (!!!) Our best guide is our body, how it feels when we think of doing certain things (or think of being with certain people).
The body is our compass. When we feel open, expansive, light that’s a yes. When we feel closed, constricted, and heavy that’s a no. It’s well and right for us to pay attention to this, which I would characterize not as chasing but FOLLOWING our feel good. (Chasing, to me, implies running from something we fear as much as running toward something we want.)
Listening to This American Life’s episode, The Show of Delights was an antidote to despair. I like this word, delight. Yes. That’s more precisely it, isn’t it?
The episode features poet Ross Gay’s and his book, The Book of Delight which came out of a year-long challenge he gave himself to pay attention to delight as a practice, to notice the things, people, and memories that bring delight, and then write about it.
Gay says it’s a kind of negligence to not pay attention to delight, to not notice and then share that with others. The noticing leads us to joy. The sharing spreads the joy.
“Come gasp with me,” he says, and isn’t that how feel less alone? When someone drags us outside to look at the rainbow?
Isn’t that how we remember the magic of this world that can too often become a dirge of laundry and shoveling and washing dishes and figuring out what the hell to make for dinner?
What delights you, Dear Reader?
I think it’s vital that we pay attention it, to the way the light hits these trees, the droplets that hang on branches like a row of jewels, the peels of a child’s laughter, the surprise of the fart sound that goes on and on and on forever getting thinner and quieter but never seeming to end.
It might be something in your immediate surroundings, the photo album on your shelf, the song from 30 years ago that you used to sing over and over, that ridiculous hat, the memory in a pocket of your mind.
If you have no idea what delights you, try not to panic like I sometimes do– MY GOD! ALL IS LOST! I’M A DRY WELL!! NOTHING BRINGS ME JOY!
Try getting gently curious. 🙂
A discovery is said to be an accident meeting a prepared mind, said a wise person once upon a time.
How do we prepare our minds if the whole thing feels too big?
Just carry the question.
And how do we do that?
Just do the next thing and know that if you’ve read this far, the question already lives inside you. Know that the question is already finding its answer.