Yesterday, Loretta and I had lunch with two of our favorite clients at Lincoln Square Pancake House. There were four of us, and I arrived first and was able to snag the giant circular booth in the corner. I scooched across the booth to the middle, took my coat and scarf off, settled in, and texted Loretta to tell her where I was. Then, Jen and Whitney arrived, and before I knew it, we were visiting and ordering and enjoying our lunches. We were still visiting when we gathered our things and said goodbye. Jen and Whitney went back to their office, Loretta went to the restroom, and I paid the bill.
It wasn't until I got home around 4:45 pm yesterday that I realized I didn't have my scarf... and I suddenly remembered, I had taken it off when I settled into the booth, but I hadn't put it in my bag or around my neck when we left. I Googled Lincoln Square and then realized they close at 3:00 pm, so calling to see if anybody had found it would have to wait until morning.
Dear Reader, I'm a knitter, and this scarf isn't handknit. I earned an advanced degree that afforded me the opportunity to study lots of Buddhist psychology, so I know that clinging is directly related to dukkha, or suffering. And also, this scarf has kept my neck warm on many adventures and matches the hat and mittens I wear with my winter coat, all purchased together several years ago. Was I feeling a sense of loss as I was wondering about the whereabouts of my scarf instead of falling asleep last night? You betcha. I'm a human being who has studied Buddhist psychology, not one who has reached enlightenment.
This morning at about 7:30 am, I called Lincoln Square. The phone rang and rang, and then I was asked to hold. In a few moments, a very pleasant voice came onto the line and asked how they could help. "Hi, I'm calling to see if you have a lost and found. I think I left my scarf there yesterday." The very pleasant voice said, "What color is it?," to which I replied, "It's turquoise," and the very pleasant voice responded, "We've got it right here. When you come in the front door, look to your right on the coat rack, and you'll see it hanging there." At this point, I started talking very quickly and rambling "thank you" and "I'll be in to get it this morning," and likely other stuff, too.
I got off the phone, went busting into our bathroom, and told Mark, "They found my scarf!," which he was glad to hear because that meant we wouldn't spend several more days in lamentation over my losing this scarf.
It then dawned on me-- THIS IS A DELIGHT! This whole experience is chock full o' delight.
One day last July, feeling delighted and compelled to both wonder about and share that delight, I decided that it might feel nice, even useful, to write a daily essay about something delightful. I remember laughing to myself for how obvious it was. I could call it something like The Book of Delights.
I came up with a handful of rules: write a delight every day for a year; begin and end on my birthday, August 1; draft them quickly; and write them by hand. The rules made it a discipline for me. A practice. Spend time thinking and writing about delight every day. Because I was writing these essayettes pretty much daily (confession: I skipped some days), patterns and themes and concerns show up. For instance, I traveled quite a bit this year. I often write in cafes. My mother is often on my mind. Racism is often on my mind. Kindness is often on my mind. Politics. Pop music. Books. Dreams. Public space. My garden is often on my mind.
It didn't take me long to learn that the discipline or practice of writing these essays occasioned a kind of delight radar. Or maybe it was more like the development of a delight muscle. Something that implies that the more you study delight, the more delight there is to study. A month or two into this project delights were calling to me: Write about me! Write about me! Because it is rude not to acknowledge your delights, I'd tell them that though they might not become essayettes, they were still important, and I was grateful to them. Which is to say, I felt my life to be more full of delight. Not without sorrow or fear or pain or loss. But more full of delight. I also learned this year that my delight grows-- much like love and joy-- when I share it.
Over the years, I've played with the Delight practice, and if you've ever been in one of the ongoing groups I facilitate (or co-facilitate), you've likely been asked to try this practice on. As a writer, it's a nice prompt to get me writing. As a contemplative practice, it's accessible for me to note the delights. As a community builder (or sangha builder), I'm intrigued at the idea that sharing delights supports their growth.
Back to today's delight: found scarf. I left this scarf in a busy restaurant, where it could've easily been picked up by somebody else whose neck was cold, been discarded, or otherwise not recovered. It was not only recovered, but it was safeguarded on its very own hook at the front of the restaurant. When I walked in this morning, the person who settled the bill yesterday said, "Hello! You were here yesterday!," to which I replied, "Yes! I forgot my scarf, and when I called this morning, I learned it was here," to which they replied, "We found that in the big circular booth in the corner, and I said, 'Whoever left that is going to be back for it!'"
This delight is about more than a scarf. The scarf is really just the vehicle that helped me experience the kindness of other humans-- their care and concern for not only a scarf but for the person who lost it. Our human brains are wired to look for the bad, the dangerous, the stuff that could harm us, so my media stream is full of loads of terrible, horrible, unbelievable cruelty that humans inflict on other humans as well as our more-than-human kin. If I don't intentionally look for the good stuff, like kindness, it can be feel hard to remember that we're all interconnected, interdependent, and on this journey together.
I'm going to try a new practice on, starting January 1 through January 31, and I'm inviting you to join me. Each day, I am going to note a delight and share it on a thread in our Kitchen Forum. It may be a photo, short note, fuller note, essayette. I'm calling this practice #SharedDelightsGrow, and I would love for you to join me so we can test the theory that shared delights grow.
What's this going to look like? During the week of December 25, I'll email onboarding instructions to anybody who has completed this form, which lets me know they're interested in joining the January 2024 #SharedDelightsGrow practice.
Then, on January 1, we'll begin sharing our delights on the thread in the Kitchen Forum, and when February 1 rolls around, we'll trust what is (or isn't) emerging and decide if we'd like to continue or not.
Questions, concerns, comments? I hope you'll leave them in the comments! And please-- if this intrigues you AT ALL, fill out the form and try this practice on with me.