Birdsong in Winter (Today’s Simple Pleasure)

My day began by realizing I’d slept in until it was quite sunny outside. This made me happy as I felt I’d finally gotten a good night’s rest. As my dog and I walked outside in the rising sun, I heard birdsong cascading up and down the tree branches. There were at least two songbirds in chorus with one another. I felt my heart soaring and my inner well of strength filling; as I wrote recently, there is more beauty than pain in the world. For every dark moment, a candle burns, casting light beyond its wick into its surroundings.

My experiences in life have left me a vocal witness to suffering whenever I encounter it. I cannot look away and pretend all is well. But, in the same moment, I can find the flower peaking through the snow. I don’t need hope that things will get better. Rather, I need acknowledgement that, in the midst of despair, there is a space of honoring and being-with and a space of joy. When life completely devastates me, the trauma-voice in my head has one mantra “make it stop.” I don’t have the ability to end every negative encounter, but I do have the capacity to stand up for myself as I validate my own perceptions and to find the places where light streams through and the birds burst into song.

Watching a Shadow (Today’s Simple Pleasure)

It is raining buckets outside, so today did not provide many outdoor viewing options for my observation. Instead, I used the light in my living room to notice the shadows. As I sat, I realized shadows imply form. They are created in the presence of both a source of light and an object. They focus our attention in a mystery or horror film because they give rise to the notion that something is there, something whose true nature cannot be fully discerned. They imply presence, but, in the absence of a direct view or a mirror, the presence remains without understanding.

I live with so many shadows of trauma in my life–they are cast long and in sharp relief, but the specifics of the events which laid them out are obscured in my memory. Snippets and feelings and pain are all that remain. Even if I am full of shadow, I live in light because I name the monsters. I let be known what I do know to be true.

What I cannot abide well are those who deny shadows, who pretend there are no monsters casting them and who seek to blot out any brightness that would illuminate their dark truths. When one of my abusers communicated their denial to me, they literally stated that there wasn’t even a “pinprick” of light that would show them what I was claiming happened had indeed happened. That metaphor kept at me for a long time, and, through today’s observation, I know why. Killing the light to deny the object to ignore the shadow, or vice versa is the modus operendi of evil and is anathema to what this world needs right now. Shine, stand and outline your truth.

Creating a Goal*

Goal setting isn’t typically something that brings me pleasure, but I do enjoy the results of meeting a goal. I tend to follow ideas I’ve gathered from psychology in relation to goals, which include focusing mainly on healthy behaviors which I want to adopt, rather than on unhealthy ones I want to minimize. To that end, the goal I am creating today is to read a bit from a book on a social justice topic each day.

I absorb online media voraciously and know far too much about the happenings in many areas of discussion. The books I borrow or purchase, however, sit for long periods of time without me digging into them. The reason for this could not be more ridiculous; it is too dark in my house for me to see the pages.

Through a series of events with which I won’t bore you, I’ve learned that my PTSD and other mental health conditions are slightly more manageable if I have my windows covered entirely. It creates a “cave” environment that helps me feel warm and safe. My house, however, has very few light fixtures, so it is also hard to see. In order to meet my goal of reading each day from a book, I am going to bring a lamp I have at work that has gone unused home, so that my reading area is better illuminated.

As silly as it may seem, I think my situation mirrors so many cases where goals go unmet. An obstacle, which, through attention and slight changes could be altered, may get in the way of a plan we would otherwise be able to complete. Sometimes really thinking through what you wish to be doing and taking concrete steps to allow yourself to follow through as easily as possible is all it takes.

Finally, I am putting a reminder in my phone to make a short update post about what I’ve been reading and how it has gone six weeks from now, which should give me enough time to establish a routine.

*I decided to alter the name of each day’s post to include only the simple pleasure itself as I felt like it was becoming too repetitive.