I haven't been able to get this passage from The Artist's Way out of my head:
My grandmother was gone before I learned the lesson her letters were teaching; survival lies in sanity, and sanity lies in paying attention. Yes, her letters said, Dad's cough is getting worse, we have lost the house, there is no money and no work, but the tiger lilies are blooming, the lizard has found that spot of sun, the roses are holding despite the heat.
My grandmother knew what a painful life had taught her: success or failure, the truth of a life really has little to do with its quality. The quality of life is in proportion, always, to the capacity for delight. The capacity for delight is the gift of paying attention.
My daughter teaches me that my capacity for delight has grown smaller in the process of growing up, because there is nothing like a child's capacity for joy and wonder. This is a glimpse from our morning:
Amelia, do you want to help clean your bathroom?
(Amelia starts jumping up and down.) Yeah, yeah, yeah! I'll get the spray! I'll get a towel!
It's my turn to do the brush, Mom. (She leans over the toilet bowl, shifting all her weight onto the brush.) See, Mom? You have to push it harrr-d, like this.
And then later, after our cleaning:
Amelia, do you want Lucy and me to come play with you in your bedroom?
(Eyes go to full-mast, voice breathless) Yes, let's do that! Thank you, Mommy! (Runs to room at top speed. Puts on a heart-felt puppet show.)
Capacity for delight indeed. Amelia knows how to pay attention to moments and tasks that have long ago become automatic for me. When I pay attention I remember that we love being together even when we're not executing great plans or fancy adventures. My grandparents told me the other day that they believe that if people want to be happy, they'll be happy wherever they are. Attaching your happiness to a set of circumstances or possessions seems like a recipe for misery and disappointment. The capacity for delight is the thing that connects us to the magic all around us, and my intention this year is to expand mine. Luckily I have a good teacher.