Think small. Shrink your desires. Belittle your dreams. Really? Rosie Green says pleasure doesn’t need to come from far flung holidays, designer shoes or a thousand likes, its better (and cheaper) to find it in the everyday stuff…
I remember thinking, in my A level English class, thank f*** I’m not a Jane Austen character. (I also remember thinking how kissable the boy in front of me was, but that’s another story).
Their world seemed so small, their moments of pleasure so fleeting. Endless, endless needlepoint, drizzly, windswept walks and piano practice with only a biannual ball to look forward to. And perhaps new trimming for their bonnet if God was smiling on them.
Having to take what pleasure they could in the reading, and rereading of books. In the wings of a butterfly.
Or the antics of their dogs.
Those poor women waited for years and years for chance encounters with the men who filled their dreams.
I didn’t want to wait five minutes for anything.
And lucky for me, and you, immediate gratification, is now the norm. And everything is bigger, better, faster, brighter. Dancing on tables with your girlfriends in Ibiza? Travelling to see Caribbean beaches and Moroccan souks?
All you need for these high-octane hits is time and money.
Everything has been supersized for our pleasure. Wine glasses, cupcakes, and television screens.
We are never bored. Never forced to people watch while we wait. Never hungry. Never hankering.
Swipe right for sexual pleasure. Click for that bag.
But somehow this has translated to, well for me anyway, a life spent in pursuit of pleasure. And not much enjoying it once you have it in your grasp. Why? Maybe because we load these big experiences and expensive possessions with so much expectation. Because the beds not comfortable enough, the beach not as scenic as it looked on the gram. The masseurs pressure too light. The eye shadaow too glittery.
We, well I, can’t switch of the wanting bigger, better, cooler switch . Never content with what’s on offer right now. Somehow unable to really feel the joy in the moment, because the present is always sullied by the thought that there’s something bigger and better round the corner.
‘the true secret of happiness lies in taking a genuine interest in all the details of daily life.’
William Morris, textile designer, novelist and visionary said ‘the true secret of happiness lies in taking a genuine interest in all the details of daily life.’ And Blake encouraged us to see ‘the world in a grain of sand.’ The School Of Life thinks this is a life enhancing skill too. Its book called Small Pleasures talks of the wonders of a beloved’s wrist. And kissing. And dawn.
So I’ve tried to shrink my pleasures down to the here and now. To what is right in front of me. Which is what those Jane Austen heroines had to do. But I/we might just need to do.
And here’s what gives me joy…
Everyday Joy Givers
Freshly washed. Sheets. Hair. Bodies. Though part of me rebels against the domesticity of it, the sight of white sheets on the line, dancing in the breeze, gives me a zing of pleasure every time. As does climbing into them that night. (Ironed would be beyond dreamy – but that is a step too far).
Clean hair is another bliss inducer. To catch the scent trail of it (my own or others) fires the feel good synapses in my brain every time.. To run my hands through the airy roots and smooth silky strands is next level pleasing.
And post showered bodies = blissful. In all kinds of ways. The innocence of damp skinned, pink cheeked toddlers smelling of baby wash. The sensuality of a freshly soaped man. The deep joy of touching your own scrubbed, sudded, sluiced and moisturized skin.
Light. Something so everyday and abundant (well kind of..) has the power to raise spirits exponentially. A shaft of sunlight hitting the kitchen table. Or breaking through the clouds on my morning run. The gentle rays of weak spring sunshine. The glittering reflection of it on an azure sea. The slow dawn as I sit at my desk writing. The flicker of a candle’s flame. The twinkle of fairy lights. All life enhancing.
Warmth. The comforting, cozy weight of a child (or dog) in your lap. The heavenly combination of a high tog duvet, a man’s warm chest to rest your head on and no alarm call. Climbing into a bed heated by a hot water bottle. The hot stones in a massage. The sun warmed window seat. An enveloping hug.
And my favourite? The deliciousness of hot, hot sun on limbs wet and cold from the pool. (This is preferably accompanied with a magazine, a glass of rose and three girlfriends to chat with). Heated car seats are beyond life enhancing (and not an option in my vehicle, aka the bin on wheels, but one day..). A steaming hot bat with essential oils.
And my favourite? The deliciousness of hot, hot sun on limbs wet and cold from the pool. (This is preferably accompanied with a magazine, a glass of rose and three girlfriends to chat with)
Unexpected bonus. Finding a chocolate in the bottom of your bag (maybe an ersatz Elizabeth Shaw from last night’s curry). Getting to the till and realizing there is an extra 10% off the shoes you were going to buy anyway. The surprisingly, gratifyingly good head massage by the junior at the hairdressers (who looked like they weren’t capable of putting their socks on let alone decreasing your cortisol levels by 50%). Someone giving you their car parking ticket with two hours still on it. Finding a tenner in the pocket of your jacket. A free coffee from Pret. Yes, yes, yes.
Self care. Catching sight of jewel-coloured, freshly pedicured toes always elicits a thrill at their beauty and at your own grooming prowess right? The joy of swishing hair that’s just been cut. The satisfying ache of your thighs from the class you did yesterday. Or that full, but not stuffed feeling, after you’ve slurped the soup you made from your new healthy recipe book. The feeling of your tongue on just polished teeth post hygienist. All make you feel in control, and attractive, which is a winning combination…
Bonding. The child’s hand that’s crept into hand in yours. The snorting with laughter at teenage memories with your oldest friends. The discovering of shared views (especially slightly naughty, controversial ones) with your newest. The stare between you and your partner that silently says ‘I love you.’
Nature. The first snowdrop after a long winter. The magnolia’s fragile petals in spring. The heavy, sultry smell of jasmine on a hot summer night. The views from a train, where the rich patchwork of lush greenery reminds you why you love your country. Buds filled with promise. Overblown roses, so exquisitely beautiful and voluptuous in their final throes.
Smells. The perfumes that fragrances your teenage years (Anais Anais, Impulse, Loulou, Kouros, Obsession, Polo). Other people’s washing powder (why does it smell so much better than your own?). The garage of your grandparents. Freshly laid tarmac. Creosote (is that just me?). Toast. Just cut grass. Molton Brown Orange & Bergamot hand wash. Sun lotion.
It seems weird now the world has opened up and so much is in our grasp, to downgrade our wants to more everyday things. But more and more it seems like that’s the key to happiness.
And looking at the sunset, relishing the chocolate found in the bottom of my bag, savouring the hug works. I feel happier. More content.
Maybe pleasure is like sugar? Best found naturally. Your body craves Auntie Annes’ pretzels and the cookie dough ice cream, but the sugar is toxic in its abundance. Instead it’s the juicy peach or your grandparents home grown tomato that truly nourishes the soul.