I’m halfway through Ross Gay’s essay collection, The Book of Delights, which has enlightened my gratitude practice. My practice, which I call “evening pages,” is a spin on creative guru Julia Cameron’s morning pages—three long-hand pages on any topic you want, done first thing in the morning. Instead of every morning, I do this at night to unwind.
Often as I write I find myself listing my delights: singing “Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah” to my giggly toddler, the first zesty spoonful of homemade marinara sauce, finishing a juicy book, starting a new one (or three), my dog curled up in my lap, 40 degree weather, budding pink tulips (#thegoodlist, ala Erin Loechner).
Gay, a poet, is teaching me there’s room to revel in small wonders while holding pain.
This isn’t a popular hashtag, but there’s a bad list too. You have one? Here, I’ll go first: when churning thoughts lead to sleepless nights, when doubt comes knocking, jealously too, when I’m tired.tired.tired of all the guns and hate and suffering in this world, when my heart’s so starved for good news no amount of praying or Scripture satisfies the craving.
In essay 14, Gay celebrates the tactile pleasure of a cakey, vegan donut while pondering the heavy reality of life and death, joy and sorrow. “It astonishes me sometimes—no, often—how every person I get to know—everyone, regardless of everything, by which I mean everything lives with profound personal sorrow,” he writes. “Is sorrow the true wild? And if it is—and if we join them—your wild to mine—what’s that?”
This idea, that we can carry each other through despair, softens my hunger pangs.
During Lent, the Christian church joins together in repentance while we march, with shaking hands, toward the cross. We mark our heads with ash, a symbol life is always on the cusp of slipping from our fingers. The older I get, the more I notice myself waffling between doubting Thomas and a religious zealot, desperate for the Easter story to be true.
Just when I think I’ve lost my way, hope springs forth in a neighbor’s kindness, in green shoots pushing up from the hardened earth, in the promise God’s making everything new.
Spring is coming, can you feel it?