I’m trying to recover the joy in the day to day. Somehow over the last ten years, the sediment of life has built high cliffs the likes of the ones I had to hike down to reach the Pacific when I lived in Guam. Cliffs over which lies the me who delighted daily, whose default was joy. Now there’s just a lot of work, some good, much futile. A busyness I’ve cultivated as the sediment solidified.
It’s a strange position to be in where you can look back at a decade past–you and see that you used to enjoy mini adventures; dates with yourself in a city you loved (and I still do, despite the ashes in my mouth now). I used to revel in the possibility of life. Where did past me find the time to woo myself with this glorious world (a conviction I still have: this is indeed a glorious world). What busyness did she let go of so that she could feed her soul? Where did she find the courage to say no to good things so she could say yes to better things?
Part of the busyness now is that my child is older, so present me spends more time facilitating his life (a decade ago, I was his best friend and we did everything together—now I write this at the Princess Pub waiting until I need to pick him up from his current activity), but that can’t really be what grew those cliffs. I made trade-offs; and while for the most part those trade-offs have resulted in a very good life, here I am. I’ve lost my delight. I hate to think that this is the consequence of adulting; that we all of a certain age are all now locked behind accumulated cliffs of isolated desperation. I refuse to think that.
Sometimes floods knock passages through limestone cliffs. Sometimes it’s the erosion of many drops of water over many years. Water is powerful that way.
I don’t think I’ll have a flood. But if slow accumulation has left me high and dry, then perhaps another type of accumulation can runnel me back to the spring of joy. I don’t like the slowness when I am weighed down right now. But a gentleness with myself to be here where I am as I direct drops of joy on my cliffs of isolation can have great effect . . . Over time. Patience is key. And to not lose sight of the blue sky of hope that there is an over, a through, the accumulation of sediment.
To this end, I am at the aforementioned Princess Pub, reading—a place I used to go to regularly, writing, trying to have a day with delight. An artist date as Julia Cameron calls it. There’s a fire here because the day is cloudy and cold. There’s tortilla soup as good as it was (though you have to ask for radishes now and the server does’t know I don’t want cheese). I’ve got Ross Gay’s The Book of Delights which is a delight to read (and has gems of speech in it, like the title of this essay) and sparks a bit of joy much like a match almost ignites when struck against a matchbook (so close, so you keep striking). Nothing revolutionary here. But a drip drip drip.
Smirk is one of my favorite words. It gets at the quirk of a sensation that holds conflicting emotions in the same space with a modicum of joy. Today I wear a smirk (drip) about how much I need gentleness with my stymied self (drip) and a hope for self–forgiveness (drip).