courage to embrace delight

It was the perfect, delightful Saturday. We drove through wine country back roads ten minutes from our house, the hills rolling and bleached gold in the late August heat. Twenty minutes later, we arrived at Point Reyes Station, California.

We took a stroll through town. We argued (briefly) about when to have lunch. Then we shrugged it off and chose a place. Afterwards, we walked a trail at a nearby park. Then we headed back towards Petaluma, our home, but not without a stop at a local cheese shop where we sat alongside a small pond.

That’s just “what happened.”
What’s more is that we were delighted.
(There is more to this story.)

People often talk about experiencing a lack of fulfillment. Jobs, television, paying bills, flossing, getting laundry done, running errands, getting the kids to and from school–whether because it’s overwhelming or because it’s mundane, it can wear on the soul. Add into that a minor family crisis, an illness, or an unexpected bill, and life can suddenly seem very, very hard.

In the midst of these experiences, we reclaim happiness not by having all of our problems disappear, but by reconnecting with delight.

That day, Point Reyes Station was alive. The farmer’s market was in full swing. Small children were pointing out details to parents, making the ordinary, extraordinary (one small girl walked past a restaurant and suddenly began shouting, “Food! Food! Food!” and doing a funny dance for her parents). Dogs on leashes waited patiently for their owners to exit a cafe, a bakery, a gardening store, and they wagged their tails and looked up at us, hopeful that we might pet them or release them, as we passed by. Outside of every cafe, birds waited patiently and then swooped in to pick up any crumbs that might fall off of someone’s scone. The air smelled absolutely magical–coastal air, clean air, air sweetened by the nearby trees.

All of this–free–and whether or not we enjoyed it depended utterly on whether or not we’d a.) notice, and b.) choose to embrace the delight of it.

The meal? When you savor your food, it does not disappoint: heirloom tomato soup with basil and a bit of chili oil; a stewed lamb dish paired with polenta and spinach; a Lagunitas IPA for him and a glass of Sauvignon Blanc, for me. Then we shared a salted caramel pudding, for dessert. We laughed and joked with our waiter.

We made toasts when our drinks arrived–as we do at most meals, even when all we have is water. We weren’t having an anniversary. It was no one’s birthday. “To living well,” I said, and we clinked our glasses. With every bite, we chewed slowly, trying to identify the ingredients and trading forkfuls from each other’s plates.

“That kind of meal takes money,” someone could (rightly) say. “I can’t do that.”

But I could have been just as happy as any number of people who were outside, enjoying a latte from local favorite Cowgirl Creamery, or a deli sandwich, all of which would have cost less than $10. It wasn’t about the money. It was about savoring the food.

When we took a walk after eating, my husband stopped to take photographs. The grass and weeds were tall on either side of the trail, expelling some kind of white, cottony fluff. We found a stream and dipped our feet in the cool water, holding one another up on the gravel bed. We walked more, and talked about cross-fit and yoga and resistance and family and what was happening with our careers.

As we were walking, at one point I said, “Walk like this!” and spread my arms out wide. We were in direct sun, but the coastal wind was cooling and when you walked with your arms outstretched, it felt like flying. He followed. At another point, he said, “Wait. Just be completely still.” Immediately, I stopped. We stood in silence, listening.

I didn’t need to ask “why” he had wanted me to stop. He didn’t need to ask me “why” I had gleefully suggested that we walk with our arms outstretched. We understand one another in that way.

The sunshine, the air, the birds that floated above us, the people walking their dogs along the path–all of it, free. All of it, right there for one’s enjoyment.

Embracing Delight

I used to hear people talk of an abundant world, a world where more was working for us than against us, and a world where happiness was a choice, and I’d think:

All well and good for them, but they have no idea what *my* life is like.
They have it easier than I do.
They have more money.
They have more time.

Now, I understand that it’s never about what anyone “has.” It’s about who they choose to be.

There’s delight, everywhere. A tomato costs a dollar at the store. Salt it a bit, perhaps spritz it with a bit of lemon juice. Pack it in tupperware. Grab a wine glass and some sparkling water (another dollar or two). Go to a nearby park (free) and people watch (free), and pour yourself the sparkling water in this wine glass, and take off your shoes, and put your toes in the grass.

Tilt your face up to the sun. Take a bite of that tomato and savor it on your tongue. Feel your throat constrict and relax as you swallow. Toast yourself.

Do it even if you’re plagued by bills.
Do it even if you’re worried.
Do it even if you’re nursing a broken heart.
Do it even if everything around you is falling apart (in fact, that’s the best time to do it).

It’s going to sound stupid on some level, right?–The salted tomato and sparkling water in a wine glass–but it’s something. It’s celebration. It’s embracing delight.

Beyond doing

It doesn’t really matter what you do: Forts under the dining room table with your kids, reading scary stories by flashlight and really going full-on with the monster voices; two back-to-back yoga classes because you’ve always wondered how it would feel to be utterly wrung out with stretching; buying fruits and vegetables from your local Safeway to prepare a new recipe for dinner.

Whatever you choose, go one level beyond “just doing it,” and embrace the delight. That’s going from “doing” to “being.”

Notice how your children squeal with excitement, and how today they are young enough to have that peculiar “little kid slightly sweaty smell” and how they are not yet too cool to hang out with mom. Notice how your yoga instructor delivers lines with such care, and how the incense in the studio smells, and grin openly and enthusiastically in every pose that you can do really well, because you feel like a badass. Notice the colors of everything when you buy those vegetables, and how cucumbers, celery, and basil have such interesting textures.

It’s courageous because it opens your heart, particularly if you’re doing it when life is rough.

Embrace delight. Hold the details of a world that has so much to offer you, close to your heart.

Click to tweet: Have the courage to embrace delight.