I’m not sure when I first learned of Suleika Jaouad and her pandemic project the “Isolation Journals,” it may have even been here during the March SOL blogging challenge, but I continue to receive her emails and store the gems she offers from a variety of creative souls in an email folder. When this Sunday letter arrives, I read it with amazement and some trepidation.
Suleika is, once again, going through cancer treatment recovery, as she was when I first “met” her and began the “…Journals” journey. When her memoir about survival and thrival, (I know it’s not a word, those red dots underscoring alert me, but if you know her, then survival definitely does not do her justice), Between Two Kingdoms finally was published in book form (the New York Times had been featuring her) I rushed to buy my copy.
In this week’s email subject line, “Reasons to Live through the Apocalypse,” she says, “…small joys have been my sustenance,” followed by, “I do want to make a distinction here between the practice of celebrating small joys and the culture of ‘toxic positivity,’ where we’re told to be ever-grateful, to always search for the silver linings, to put a positive spin on all experiences, even the profoundly tragic…” It’s difficult for me to reconcile what she does with her spirited, loving response to adversity and not view her as a paragon of—living.
This email features, prompt 192, features a poem from Nikita Gill, a list enumerating small joys, all in the dailiness of living, and stops me at every period. Each one takes leads me to a memory.
“Reasons to Live Through the Apocalypse” by Nikita Gill
Sunrises. People you have still to meet and laugh with. Songs about love, peace, anger, and revolution. Walks in the woods. The smile you exchange with a stranger when you experience beauty accidentally together. Butterflies. Seeing your grandparents again. The moon in all her forms, whether half or full. Dogs. Birthdays and half-birthdays. That feeling of floating in love. Watching birds eat from bird feeders. The waves of happiness that follow the end of sadness. Brown eyes. Watching a boat cross an empty sea. Sunsets. Dipping your feet in the river. Balconies. Cake. The wind in your face when you roll the car window down on an open highway. Falling asleep to the sound of a steady heartbeat. Warm cups of tea on cold days. Hugs. Night skies. Art museums. Books filled with everything you do not yet know. Long conversations. Long-lost friends. Poetry.”
Her list invites us to do the same. Where does it take you?
When next Tuesday arrives, National Poetry Month will have ended, but with luck, we will still be here, living, fingers-crossed. Thanks, Suleika, for the reminder.