Furry Friend

So. I’ve started a practice of “cataloging delights” as I make my way through Ross Gay’s marvelous collection of short essays (“essayettes”), The Book of Delights. I recommend this book, this practice, and the author’s interview on the On Being podcast. It is sweet medicine for the turmoil of our times. In the book, Gay describes how, a few years ago, he decided to write daily essays about “something delightful.” He’d write them every day for a year, starting and ending on his birthday. He’d write them quickly and by hand. What he found was that writing about his delights, and sharing them with others, made them grow.

What I love about Gay’s delights, beyond the wonderful, conversational style in which they’re presented, is that they mingle with his sorrows:

It astonishes me sometimes – no, often – how every person I get to know – everyone, regardless of everything, by which I mean everything – lives with some profound personal sorrow.

A moment of physical affection on an airplane leads to a commentary on racism. And so on, as though recognizing the sorrow amplifies the delight. The interaction between our sorrow and our delight is what Gay is getting at, which reminds me of yesterday’s delight, rereading Kindness by Naomi Shihab Nye, which examines the relationship between the two “deepest things inside” of us: sorrow and kindness. Maybe I’ll transcribe that delight here, too.

Anyway, if you do read the book, forgive me if my ramblings here mimic Gay’s prose at times. I had just been reading the book last night, falling deeply in love with his witty, lovingly self-deprecating, verbose stream of consciousness. And as a writer, I suppose I’m still in that impressionable phase of absorbing and remixing as I eke out my own voice. But these words are true, straight from my journal to this screen. On to today’s delight!

Continue reading “Furry Friend”

On Shame

I used to say, “I have anxiety.” Over time and with the support of some wonderful people, podcasts, and books and moments spent in sometimes very uncomfortable silence and meditation, I came to a deeper way to understand my difficult emotions: by recognizing that behind anxiety is most often shame. And everyone experiences shame, it’s so very human. But sometimes that shame feels really powerful. Sometimes it’s just so damn loud and its voice drowns out the voices of self-compassion, self-love, and kindness. What happens when instead of having a shouting match with our shame, instead of getting all teacher on our shame, we just sit with it and listen? What if we let shame scream its totally well-thought out, fact-driven ideas at us and then smile back, seeing shame as the sad, hurt little person it is – because our shame is us, but only one part of us – and then we say, “I hear you. That really sucks. I love you?” What would happen then? I don’t know for sure but on this long, quiet subway ride home, I’ll listen, and maybe later I’ll let you know.