A List of Brief and Wondrous Joys

I stand in a space of being almost out but not all the way through a situation. Survival fatigue wears on my spirit. You read it on my face. The haggard gravity runs rampant, and my being feels like a broken floodgate. Everything is gushing out. I try to hold it back with both hands and duct tape but nothing can. This has been a grueling year. I’m still here. Like I said, it is almost over. Relief soars over the present, guiding my toward an exhale.

Other years have been like this– an endless inferno I can only survive one foot in front of the other. The only way out is through. Rarely does relief come at once. We arrive there one foot in front of the other. There is no finish line. Here are a thousand tiny things to remember, to participate in so you, too, can survive a little easier. We’re all trudging our way through something. It can be less hard together. It can be less hard when we make our head spaces warmer climates.

  1. Bare feet against the dewy summer grass.
  2. The smell of fresh laundry — how it reminds us no matter how messy we get, we are just one cycle away from getting cleaned up.
  3. Crisp, fresh sheets when your skin hits them for a good night’s sleep.
  4. The way my mom signs “Love, Mom” on every letter and card.
  5. When a friend pulls me close enough to feel how palpable their affection for me is. There’s no agenda to that touch. It isn’t a prelude to anything more. The touch is everything. A quiet universe housed within two people.
  6. Fuzzy, warm socks.
  7. Remembering that today, someone could be falling in love, a first generation college student is making their dreams happen, a baby is taking their first steps, a physical therapy patient is walking again, a brace-clad teen is having their first kiss. There is a grandparent witnessing their grandchild realize their greatest dreams, and maybe I didn’t pull the winning lottery ticket today. Perhaps it was never my right to hoard all of the universe’s goodness. Rather, as a person, I hope to cheer on everyone else in my life and beyond. I revel in your victories as if they were my own. And when I remember that it isn’t just a good life, but a great life, the only thing that has caught me every time I’ve tried to leave it, I smile.
  8. Missing every red light on the way home from work.
  9. How sweet, refreshing, and delightful that first lick of ice cream is in the summer (Jeni’s and Grater’s– I’m coming for ya).
  10. The liberation of taking of your jeans and that judgmental waistband.
  11. Discovering a riveting and compelling podcast.
  12. Beyonce. Beyonce. Beyonce.
  13. Endless summer drives with the windows rolled down– warm brushing across my shoulders and thighs.
  14. Cancelling plans.
  15. Hot baths.
  16. Luxurious skin care. Yeah, I’m bougie, but ya know what? I feel like a damn queen after an overpriced skin scrub and some Clinique Moisture Surge intense. I’m so moisturized I’m literally human teflon and nothing can stick to meeeeee.
  17. Winter lights reflecting on the snow, the flakes glistening mid-air. Do I live in Ohio? Do I live in Narnia? Who knows?
  18. Terrible entertainment. Say what you want, there’s merit in escapism, in forgetting all the ways I’m falling to root for Kris Jenner’s inevitable world domination. I’m not sorry.
  19. Thirst traps- Yet again, I am not the pillar for morality. But, one day, I’ll look like a deflated football. That day is not today. Today, I am thick as a biscuit, spicy like a jalapeno. Likes are a temporary high. It isn’t a substitute for self-worth. But also, the world needs to know I’m a jalapeno biscuit.
  20. Donating to a charity. Even if it’s $5, I feel better. Donate clothes you don’t wear anymore, and imagine how excited someone is going to be to rock that!
  21. Reach out to people you find special. Remind people that they’re special. There’s no reward in this life for apathy. Be the caring, bleeding heart. We go out either way, and I have no intentions of leaving unspoken words in my mouth.
  22. Remembering that there are people who have witnessed the best and the worst of me and chosen both. I spent my pre-teens friendless. My life is not edified by friends, mentors, a chorus of support and encouragement. Even when life sours into an inflamed hellscape, your people are always your people. It’s a lesson I love learning over and over again.
  23. Naps.
  24. The intoxicating release bursting the first time you kiss someone you really like. Even the biggest cynic melts into that moment, how the anticipation was worth it. It’s one of the few times in life the anticipation is worth it.
  25. The opening riff to “Bittersweet Symphony”‘.
  26. Somewhere inside of me is all the women I’ve been before: the childhood tyrant, the adolescent outcast, the college scrapper, an early twenty-something with too much vigor and not enough wisdom. I want all of them to be proud of who I’m becoming. I don’t want all of my past efforts to be in vain. I don’t have to cure cancer or solve world hunger to do that. I just have to make it one moment longer.

I can’t shield you from suffering. You can’t save me either. But we can witness each other’s pain without trying to sanitize or perfect it. The list I provided is part memory part to-do. But its all a meditation on the good. It’s a reminder that the bad doesn’t last. There’s always an impending dawn, even if it doesn’t feel like it.

You don’t have to be hopeful for that. You don’t have to say you’re ok. Sometimes, it’s really not ok. But you have to make it. You have to survive in one piece. And the only way to do that is to take care of yourself. There may be times when the best part of the day is a refreshing sip of water you take. Cherish that. Hold it close. Collect good things as you fight to escape the bad. You are riding those brief and wondrous joys to higher ground.

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