Yesterday, I listened to an episode of This American Life called “The Show of Delights.” Prefaced as being counterprogramming for all the crappiness in the world right now, the show was a mosaic of short stories about delightful things or people who focus on finding delight. From the poet who spent a year documenting what delighted him to the night zookeeper who took great delight in caring for the wild animals, it was a refreshing hour that left me focused on all things delightful.
I inherited a sense of delight from my mother, who died almost 18 years ago but whose penchant for being delighted lives on in myself and my daughters. My sister and I have many stories from childhood of being on family vacations and going on outings that might not have seemed delightful to us, but of hearing our mom’s catch phrase, spoken with breathless enthusiasm, “Isn’t this fun girls?!” You see, one of the best things about delight is that it begs to be shared. “Isn’t this fun girls?” was an invitation for us to see the fun, to be delighted by the wind in our hair and the simple fact of being alive. I am grateful to my mother for passing on this ability to notice the delightful and bask in it...to first open myself to the feeling and then reach out to others to share in it.
My mom used to tell the story of me during the first snow storm we experienced upon moving to Colorado when I was 8. I was sitting on a couch with my head bent close to the window. I was watching the snowflakes land and swirl. At one point, I burst out with delight, “They really are all different shapes! Come see!" Being delighted means noticing the uniqueness of each snowflake. It means seeing the little kids splashing in puddles and jumping in piles of leaves. It means taking a moment to pet dogs and notice how grateful they are for the attention. It means appreciating the first bite of your favorite food and the changing colors of a beautiful sunset. While delight can come from something grand, the beauty of delight is that you can find it in the smallest, most common things. I’ve been delighted by an ant carrying a large crumb. I’ve been delighted (many times) by watching my cats wrestle. I’ve been delighted by my daughters’ maturing sense of humor. I’ve been delighted by seeing an old couple holding hands. I’ve been delighted by the scent of a candle. Focusing on what is delightful is akin to keeping a gratitude journal. It’s putting on rose-colored glasses and seeing the world through a generous and enthusiastic gaze. And gratitude journals have many benefits to your well-being, so I assume that focusing on feeling delighted does too.
If you are not prone to delight, it doesn’t mean you can’t learn to be. You can train yourself. As always, it starts with awareness...being observant of the world around you and mindful of your thoughts about what you see.
Do you want to join me for a month of delight? Starting in March (you can start earlier if you need the practice), I will post a daily delight and encourage anyone else to do the same. At the very least, it’s a fun experiment. At best, it will change your outlook for the better and increase the joy in your days.