Grief, Finality, Joy, and Gardenias

kristen-macadams-M0jnYTeqTVg-unsplash, elaina avalos, elaina m. avalos, grief, letting go and holding on

As an artistic person and a writer that is emotional and often taken by romantic ideals and inspiration in odd places, I used to have this joy that would take hold of me at so many lovely moments in life. It was like this deeply flowing joy that bubbled up to the surface. Life wasn’t always what I expected (that’s for sure), but I could take a hike in the Croatan national forest, along the Neuse river, and be overwhelmed by inexplainable peace and joy. It could be the scent of the pine forest or the way the knobby tree roots were exposed in the sand and water. Or the way my dog would run with such abandon – happy as a clam. I don’t need a lot. I’m a lover of a truly simple life. I absolutely can be happy with the littlest of things in life. I chose joy. I chose joy more often than I didn’t.

The last couple of years have sapped so much of this from me. Yesterday seemed to be the finality I’ve been waiting for. But it was finality without closure if that makes sense. And in that finality, the grief of these two years overwhelmed me. Yesterday and long into the overnight hours, I was overcome. I haven’t recovered today. I woke up feeling hungover – with a headache and swollen eyes. It wasn’t a hangover at all. Except with the losses and finality of it all.

There are two random gardenia bushes in the breezeway near my apartment. It’s random because I’m not sure they’re anywhere else in the apartment complex. They’re in bloom right now. Gardenias are special to me. I adore them for their beauty and scent. But more than that, my grandparents used to grow them. And every time I would leave my grandparent’s house, my Grandpa Avalos would pick gardenias, roses, and other lovely flowers, for a tiny bouquet for me. He often made one for my mom too – though my parents had long been divorced by then. It was one of the things that was so sweet and special about him. This afternoon, as I walked the dog, a gust of wind blew through the breezeway. It filled the air with the scent of the gardenias. It was magical. But I still didn’t fully connect with the joy – with all of the emotion I would have – prior to these past two years. It made me sad. But the more I thought on this, the more convinced I became that it was a sign – straight out of heaven – that I may not be there yet, but I will get back to that place again.

It gave me a little push – a little reminder of what I’m fighting so hard for. I’m fighting hard for the life I’ve prayed for, for so very long. I’m fighting hard to get back to the me that would have been giddy with joy as the gardenia’s rich perfume overwhelmed me. So while I’m not there, even in the pain, I am getting there. Because now I remember what I’m fighting for.

Delight and Joy

delight, elaina avalos, the book of delights, ross gay

I have always been really good at finding joy in the little, simple things in life. When I was living in the desert of California, I read a book called One Thousand Gifts* by Ann Voskamp. She challenged readers to write down all of the big and small gifts you run into throughout your day. I started doing just that. And on the original version of this blog, I created a page where I shared these gifts as I encountered them.

I got out of the habit of doing this a few years ago. I know exactly when it happened. But that’s another story. I miss the me that is easily entertained {haha}, can find joy in random silly things, and finds peace from a hike in the woods or stopping long enough to listen to the wind blowing through pine trees. Recently, I caught an episode of This American Life on my phone. It was called The Show of Delights. It hit the spot. I literally needed to listen to that particular show.

The show was entirely about delight. And as they say in their intro, that’s a radical thing to talk about in these dark times. I smiled the whole way to work listening to the stories shared. I loved the episode so much, I listened to it twice. If you enjoy podcasts, I highly recommend This American Life, if you don’t have an NPR station locally that plays it. But I digress.

In “Act One,” Ross Gay, a poet, shares a few of the things he finds delight in. It all started with him recording whatever random delight he experienced each day, in his journal. The journal turned into “essayettes” that became The Book of Delight. One of the stories he shared was about the day he carried a tomato seedling through the airport and onto a flight. It was a sweet story that kept me smiling throughout. After listening to Ross talk about delight – and the other stories – including an adorable one about a four-year old boy riding the bus for the first time, I knew it was time to revive some of the delight & joy that used to be so easy for me to see and find.

joy, delight, elaina avalos

I ordered a journal that’s the perfect size to slip into my purse & take with me wherever I go. I made a commitment to myself that I would work harder at finding and recognizing the little flashes of delight that come across my path. Gay mentions within the podcast that essentially – acknowledging the delight – ensures you continue to see it. I’m out of practice and atrophied in that area. I hate admitting that. But it’s true. Life doesn’t look how I expected it to look. Unfortunately, for far too long, the pain of that has stuck around. Which also means that I haven’t been seeing these pops and flashes of delight that are all around us, all of the time.

So – that means I’m going to practice. If you could use a little more positivity in your life, especially in these dark times, a gratitude or delight journal just might be the thing for you, too. The more we look for it, the more we’ll see it. Getting back as much delight and joy in my life as possible, is exactly what I need. If you want to join me, let me know! I’d love to have some folks join me. I’ll share here as often as I can.

What’s one thing around you that brings you joy or delight, that other people might not notice?

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