Saturday, June 2, 2012

Simple Pleasures

We do the big things seeking pleasure. We travel near and far to see things we've never seen only to realize they look like a dozen other places we've been. We plan outings to events looking for a thrill only to realize that even those outings begin to feel routine. We seek adventure to fill the empty spots in our lives. We risk our lives to feel exhilerated. We run from relationship to relationship searching for the high of new love that dies as the relationship progresses. We reach for the unachievable to keep ourselves motivated.

In the process, we forget the simple pleasures in life. We forget the joy of walking in nature or sitting by a body of water. We forget the satisfaction of sipping a cup of tea or enjoying an ice cream in a cone. We forget the smiles evoked by chatting with a caring friend or meeting someone new. We forget to enjoy the person sitting next to us while we dream about the perfect person we have yet to meet or that we left behind. We forget that joy doesn't have to be a big, memorable event.

When I look back at my photos, the ones that give me the biggest smiles are the ones that result from an everyday occurrence or some silliness during what was supposed to be an important event.

The photo of me sitting in a jet engine at an air show in Boise, Idaho reminds me of the fun more so than the more serious poses or the pictures of the planes in flight. I am back there with the wind and sun on my face. I hear the engines of the planes above. I laugh at the silly moments and yet the overall show is more or less a blur. There's another picture from that day when I'm being silly, but I'm not quite brave enough to share that one. Let's just say it involves a missile...


An incredibly enjoyable trip to Paris, France isn't highlighted in my memories by moments like seeing the Mona Lisa or the Eiffel Tower or even having a portrait drawn. I have no photos of my favorite memories. My favorite memories include sipping a hot chocolate in a little cafe while watching people walk by going about their daily lives, getting lost while walking back to the hotel from the Eiffel Tower, stopping on a bridge to watch the water of the Seine, and taking a walk at night for no particular reason.


Another photo that evokes a memory of a simple pleasure is of me holding my niece when she was a baby. I remember this day with a smile every time I see the photo. I'm tickling her nose with my finger. There's a sweetness to the photo that takes me back to that moment. Recently, while she and I sat having coffee and discussing her upcoming high school graduation (now over), I suddenly remembered that picture and that moment. And, then I took a photo of us with our faces pressed together. Pure joy in that moment very reminiscent of that earlier photo though I'm not sure the later photo captured it as well.


While sometimes a photo captures a moment, many of the most pleasurable moments actually live only in our memories. We pull them out when we need comforted or to feel connected. We indulge in them like fine wine and expensive chocolate savoring a moment in our hearts that no one can dispute because it's ours to remember. There are pleasurable moments that just can't be captured on film, and that's as it should be.

I spent way too much of my youth longing for the things I thought would make me happy only to discover those things have a way of feeling empty if you don't already enjoy life. If you enjoy the art of being, you don't need the big things to bring pleasure to life. You can find pleasure in every day moments. And, when you live in a state of pleasure truly seeing the good around you, those big things are that much more enriching and pleasurable. Dare I say, even more memorable.
As I practice embracing the idea that pleasure, joy, happiness, satisfaction, or whatever you want to call it is there for us to grasp every single day, I find myself enjoying life more and feeling more hopeful when things aren't what I'd like them to be. We just have to be open to it. A quiet conversation with someone who makes you laugh... A hot bath in a quiet room... Dancing in your living room to your favorite music, naked if you want... Spending time with someone who loves you and who you love just as much, whether it be friendship or romantic love... Listening to a favorite song over and over and over... Indulging in your favorite dessert... Or whatever brings a smile to your face, laughter to your lips, and joy to your heart. It really doesn't have to be a big thing.

I've travelled many places in the world and seen many things. I'm grateful for all those experiences, but I'm realizing more every day that the ones that matter are the ones we take for granted. But, in truth, we often lose sight of the simple pleasures because we become so caught up in the day to day of life that we don't stop to appreciate them. We lose sight of what we love about those in our lives because we forget to take a minute to listen when they speak. We lose sight of what we want out of life because we're trying so hard to create memories when in fact every single moment holds within it the potential to be memorable...

Those moments, both the large and small, are what fuel a writer's work. My next book of poetry, Memory in Silhouette, is about memory and how memory shapes us, guides us, informs us, and reminds us who we are and who we're meant to be. Sometimes those memories hurt and sometimes they heal, but they are instrumental in us becoming our best selves and in how we function in the world.  

I'm working on opening myself to the simple pleasures living all around me to build incredible moments every single day... How about you?

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