In our column Poetry Rx, readers write in with a specific emotion, and our resident poets—Sarah Kay, Kaveh Akbar, and Claire Schwartz—take turns prescribing the perfect poems to match. This week, Kaveh Akbar is on the line.
This year has been full of so many new experiences, in the best possible ways. It’s disorienting. How did I get to this place? How is everything so strange? Am I allowed to feel happy, to accept good things for myself? Even if it’s all so fleeting? I’m unfamiliar with the geography of joy. How might I learn to navigate this space?
Bewildered in the Best Way
The geography of joy! What a wonderful place to find yourself. When my life slowly started to improve after getting sober, I was mystified. I had familiar psychological algorithms for pain and desperation and loneliness and despair, but I didn’t know what to do with gratitude or contentment. Some of the labor of recovery, for me, has been working to allow new, good things into my life, even when my brain wants me to reject them in favor of the joyless desolation it knows so well.
For you, I offer Naomi Shihab Nye’s “So Much Happiness.” The bewilderment you speak of is the same bewilderment I have known, and it is the bewilderment Nye points to when she writes:
It is difficult to know what to do with so much happiness.
With sadness there is something to rub against,
a wound to tend with lotion and cloth.
Yet, as she says:
But happiness floats.
It doesn’t need you to hold it down.
It doesn’t need anything.
Happiness lands on the roof of the next house, singing,
and disappears when it wants to.
You are happy either way.
I hope that you discover a path into and through your new joy, one that will allow you to feel it fully, to be immersed in it, to “hold it, and share it, and in that way, be known.”
–KA Read More