On Feeling Delight
I’ve notice something. Or perhaps more accurately, I’ve given words to something I’ve been seeing for a while. There isn’t much room for delight in this world. That seems like a tragedy to me. I think that we’d all be much happier if more of us would give ourselves permission to feel it, to express it, and to share it.
We let children feel delight, although we also often commodify and control their experiences. And there are some gendered differences in how we let that happen- boys are more likely to be shamed for showing delight at an earlier age than girls, in my experience. But in the end, delight gets shamed out of most of us by the time we grow up, and that’s a pity.
Feeling and expressing delight is one of my favorite things. I’m truly fortunate that I don’t particularly care anymore that I don’t fit in the Act Like a Man Box. Once I learned to stop fighting the fact that I’m a rather dainty man, I began to give myself permission to notice delight. I also got some great role modeling from some of the people around me, including my partner, my friends, my lovers, and some of the tribes I move through.
The more I allowed myself to experience delight and to share it with other people, the more it came into my life. Some of that is simply that I noticed more events that inspire it. The act of opening my eyes let me see how many opportunities for delight are all around us. And some of it is that the more I let others see my delight, the more they’ve been able to share with me the kinds of things that result in it. It’s as if we were all waiting for someone else to be the first penguin in the water, just in case there are sea lions down there. Given how often people are shamed when they let their delight be seen, that’s not a surprise.
But even more than that, I’ve found that the more I let it into my life, the more my capacity for delight has grown. Like any other emotion, the more we feed delight and the the more we make room for it, the stronger it becomes. That gives me a lot of hope because it means that there’s the possibility for delight in more people’s lives.
Delight isn’t a cure for the hassles, pains, fears, and shames of life, and I’m certainly not suggesting a Pollyanna approach to it. But delight and joy are closely related and in my experience, the more we can integrate them into our lives, the more we can shift our baselines. Plus, even when I’m stuck in a shame spiral, there’s still a part of me that remembers the experience of joy. Or at least, it remembers that I have felt it and believes that I will feel it again. Cultivating delight has made that much easier to hold onto in those difficult moments.
“Sing like no one’s listening, love like you’ve never been hurt, dance like nobody’s watching, and live like its heaven on earth.”