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A Note from Jo on Delight

by Magnolia
Published on November 15, 2021

Illustration by Lida Ziruffo

Read Jo’s perspective on seeking moments of delight—whether it’s spontaneous, comes just where you expect it, or from something or someone that leads you to the best parts of who you are. In every way, delight is ours for the taking.

Ours for the Taking

When I think about it I still smile—the small gold stud I wore in my nose a few years ago. Getting a nose ring was way outside my comfort zone—I’ve always preferred the safe side of life. But my little sister, Mikey, has always been the opposite. She has the great ability to be spontaneous and lives by the parts of her personality that are wild and free.

Mikey had worn a nose ring for forever and she was so easy going about it, so clear that it was something she tried on a whim, loved, and then kept, and I found myself wanting in on the adventure. I think anyone else in my life would have been surprised if I told them I wanted to get my nose pierced. But Mikey didn’t ask questions or express doubt. She just said, “What are you waiting for? Let’s do it!” And five minutes later we were on our way.

I never thought I’d wear it for long, I just wanted to step out and try something completely new. But there’s a reason that now, years later, I still keep that little stud tucked away with my other jewelry. When I see it, I’m reminded of Mikey more than anything, and the way she called out my playful side that day.

While I would like to say that our relationship has always been that way, there was a time when I never would have followed Mikey’s lead in that way. She was born three years after me, and my earliest memory of being a big sister was looking at this new baby and realizing she was someone I needed to take care of. As we got older, and she would play with me and my friends, I never saw her as one of us, instead I viewed her only as a responsibility. Perhaps even—and it’s difficult to say this now—a tagalong. In my mind I had defined her as the baby sister, and that was the only space she could occupy.

I think our minds do this to us more than we even realize. We see people in our lives through the lens of one relationship— perhaps “work acquaintance”, or “neighbor”, or “mom”. And then that starts to define how we treat the person—how close we get, or how much vulnerability we might expose. It makes sense, in a world that can feel out of control it’s a way to give order. But in my own life, I’ve found this approach does nothing but hold me back. When my mind works hard to fit people into what I know, it keeps me from realizing the possibility of what I don’t know. It limits who everyone in the room—myself included—might be or become.

The turning point for me and Mikey came when we were both working in my dad’s shop. I did the books, and she ran errands. Mostly the days were filled. But when there was down time we would talk and goof around: raiding the vending machine, eating way too much chocolate, or prank calling other businesses in town, which of course always got us in trouble with our dad. I had always viewed her as a sister, but as we spent time together in these new ways, the relationship went way past that boundary. We became close friends.

Now I can’t imagine what my life would be like if we’d never given ourselves space to grow. It’s not just about the spontaneous moments Mikey has inspired in me. It’s also about the days when work and the world has me in knots and I know the only way to unwind is to go get some Mikey time. It’s mornings when we sit with lattes, talking about nothing and everything. It’s about having a soft place to land that has no expectations. The kind of space you can simply delight in. Oftentimes this is found in a relationship. But by no means is it limited to that. I think of favorite pastimes, books, gardens, hours spent with easels and paints—when we tuck away and become completely immersed in what we love.

By now, we are all too aware of how quickly the world around us can change. As we look toward the coming year, I think it’s more important than ever to find where each of us can turn for delight and claim it. Carve out that time and be intentional about making it what you want and need it to be. Then find a little part of it—perhaps a small gold stud—you can keep in a place you see often. A reminder that sometimes delight can be spontaneous, and other times it might come just where you expect it, from someone or something that leads you to the best parts of who you are. But more than anything, a reminder that delight is always there, and always ours for the taking.

This story was adapted for digital from the winter issue of Magnolia Journal.

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