A group of seven amazing women have joined me this Lent for a discussion of the book This Here Flesh by Cole Arthur Riley. If you haven’t yet read it, stop reading this blog, order it from a bookstore or library, and begin to savor it. The book is like chocolate mousse – rich and beautiful and something to be savored slowly, like mousse or a really good Cabernet.
Anyway, last night as we discussed the book our conversation wandered off a bit, as happens. We were talking about how someone so young – Arthur Riley is in her early thirties – can write with such depth of wisdom. Maybe she is an old soul. But we also talked about how the love her father and grandmother showed her affected her. And then we wandered off in our conversation.
I am the parent of a teenager. I am blessed – as is my daughter – to have known some of her friends since they were all kindergartners. I know and love their parents. I have enjoyed watching them grow up and navigate all sorts of things we navigate – the onset of periods, the waning and waxing of friendships, latent talents emerging or big talents fading away – and things I never had to navigate when I was a teenager – mobile phones, social media, climate change.
As I watch these friends and my own child thrive and struggle, I want to tell them that everything will be okay, even though I know that isn’t true. Sometimes things aren’t okay and never will be. Sometimes the person is killed by the cancer. Sometimes the breaks in the relationship are unmendable. Sometimes the wildfires can’t be stopped. So resiliency matters, being able to weather the storm, being able to get back on one’s feet, or at least get out of bed.
One of the women in the book discussion group is a pediatrician and knows better than I the things that kids face, and the need to develop resiliency. A key to that, in my opinion though I think she would agree, is knowing that someone delights in you.
Who delights you? What awkward tween delights you? What child waving hi brightens your day? Who makes you smile when you think of them? And have you told them that, in so many words? And when you tell them that, do you make sure they know that your delight in them is unconditional?
Here’s the thing about resiliency and delight: they go hand-in-hand. Resiliency isn’t about pulling oneself up by the bootstraps. Resiliency requires community, connection, knowing that you aren’t alone. Resiliency requires that you have cheerleaders, coaches, people who remind you of how delightful you are, even when you are in the midst of suffering or shame or grief.
Because we will all know suffering. We will all know shame. We will all know grief. That we all will know those things (if we haven’t already) is a bond we share. And maybe when you can’t get out of bed and all the colors look faded and nothing tastes good, you don’t want to hear that Auntie Jane adores you. But maybe Auntie Jane will show up with a bowl of Campbell’s chicken noodle soup, and bring it to you in bed, and listen to you, because she delights in you.
So please, please: if there is someone you delight in, tell them or show them, especially if they are going through a hard time. Especially if they are a child or teenager, because they have been through it with Covid in ways we’ll never understand. Especially if they are a human being.
You, by the way, are delightful. Thank you for reading this.