Posted by: gatheringwater | 2009/04/30

Choosing Pleasure


When, in the course of my day, I feel pressured and stressed, I often resort to planning to relax. (“Tonight, I will run a warm bath, stretch every muscle in my body, and listen to Sarah Vaughan.”) My feelings may have been hurt by one of my clients, all of whom seem to have lost the ability to refrain from making personal remarks about my appearance. Even if they can’t remember the day of the week, they still seem to be able to recall an endless store of fat jokes. (“Someday, I’m not going to do anything all afternoon but watch clouds build towers in the sky.”) Or perhaps I’m just confronting the limits of my abilities and having to acknowledge that even my best efforts weren’t good enough. (“I’ll take a thermos of tea to the beach and watch the sun come up tomorrow.”)

The problem is that I rarely get past the stage of imagining relaxation. I keep postponing the better parts of my life in order to…What? Grind along in grim gear because I can–for now–instead of because I want to. (And often just because I have to, whatever I want.) When I do try to compensate for stress, it is usually by treating myself to something I like to eat, which is no help at all (see fat jokes above). So I’m trying something new. To the extent that I can choose, I’m not postponing pleasure and relaxation. I’m on the lookout every day for ways to feel good now, not at some future time when I’ve got my life figured out.

Yesterday, I went crazy and bought a new pillow. I’ve been sleeping with the old scratchy one that sheds feathers and sticks in my craw and other places for years because…Oh, where to start? Because I’m tough enough to stand it. Because I don’t have money to waste on needless luxuries. Because if I’m going to purchase a pillow I should purchase only the best pillow, which is most likely to have been developed by NASA and far too expensive. Because I’ll just have to leave it behind the next time I’m homeless. I could go on, but the point is I’ve had a mindset that wouldn’t let me have a soft pillow. Well, that mindset helped me through some tough times and I’m grateful, but it isn’t so helpful right now.

Today, I stopped at a favorite spot on my way home from work. I didn’t have all afternoon to watch clouds, but I did have thirty minutes to watch shadows creep up a tree until the dark branches made a filigree pattern under the new bright leaves. I tried to take pictures to show you. And to have pleasure to remember, instead of just planning for it.




  1. Pleasures lie thickest where no pleasures seem; There’s not a leaf that falls upon the ground but holds some joy of silence or of sound, Some sprite begotten of a summer dream.

    Author: Laman Blanchard
    Source: Sonnet VII–Hidden Joys

  2. Thank you, Cheron, for sharing the lovely verse.

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