When times get tough, one of the first expenses cut is pleasure. In the face of all other considerations, it becomes frivolous and wasteful. And yet, without pleasure, life can look and feel very grim.
The other day I was watching one of a series of news reports by Geoff Thompson on Australia’s housing affordability crisis.
Kristie Hoskins, mother of four, whose income mostly goes on rent, put it this way;
We’re living to rent. That’s all we’re doing. Just living to have a house.
Her children’s choice of sporting activities is curtailed by cost – the ultimate choice was one that capped the participation cost at two children – four for the price of two. A significant saving.
Arou Akot, cleaner and single father of seven, was living in a tiny two-bedroom flat. A bedroom for the boys, one for the girls, and he and his eldest two on the floor in the lounge. But, he said
I have a small room, I’m happy and I have a job. That’s all. I’m happy.
The footage included his family sitting down to eat, and clearly, they were happy.
Chances are, however bad we think their conditions are, the Akot family finds them better than their previous arrangement.
It’s all a matter of perspective.
What is Pleasure?
As defined by the Oxford Learner’s Dictionaries, pleasure is
- a state of feeling or being happy or satisfied,
- the activity of enjoying yourself, especially in contrast to working,
- a thing that makes you happy or satisfied.
If you Google it, the first few pages relate almost exclusively to sex.
I learnt a lot.
It seems that pleasure may be the same kind of filth as self-care. Something no one wants to admit to enjoying for its own sake.
But I think it’s another form of self-care. Something along the lines of eating good food and getting enough sleep. Something that makes you a healthier and happier individual.
Why You Need It
Sounds a bit naughty, but I assure you it’s not.
Part of my thinking is influenced by recently reading Stillness is the Key. Holiday claims we all need a still and quiet place to recharge and think, to develop the discipline and focus we need to get back out there and get stuff done.
I certainly find that getting out of my usual routine helps change my perspective. It makes me grateful for what I’ve got, gives me ideas for my stories, and to an extent, trivialises my concerns.
How to “do” it
Like everything else in life, you can easily find someone that wants to sell you Pleasure.
But thinking about Kristie and Arou, and people like them, I want to reach out and say it doesn’t have to be something you buy. Though there may be some costs associated with it.
For example, some of my happiest dating memories are going to the laundromat with DB. We’d take a deck of cards and a couple of beers, buy some takeout chicken and spend a couple of hours playing gin while we did our laundry.
And later, we’d walk Sav (the dog) to the milkbar for a newspaper and eat icecreams on the way back.
Free and Cheap Activities
Take the train to the beach, a river or your local pool. Maybe you’ll pack a picnic (you should definitely pack some sunscreen). Maybe you can enjoy the sunset.
Play a mammoth game of monopoly or scrabble. Or learn some card games. Put a jigsaw puzzle together.
Keep track of open house and open garden days to look at places you wouldn’t normally get access to. Visit free museum and art gallery exhibitions. Look for discount days and events at zoos, museums and art galleries.
Track astronomical events, then go watch them. Some observatories also host events for amateurs.
Volunteer for a cause you believe in, (e.g., homeless shelter, aged care facility, or animal welfare) and make a difference in your local community. Learn more about the people you’re helping, or just get to know your neighbours.
Take a trip to the library and borrow some books. Join in an activity like a lecture or craft group.
Rent some videos (for free from the library) and have a movie marathon.
Find local amateur dramatics and music societies and watch a show. Maybe even join and act or participate backstage.
Declutter your house and rearrange the furniture. Donate your unwanted goods to charity.
If you find you’ve decluttered a little too hard, visit flea markets, car boot or garage sales and maybe buy some new stuff.
Instead of sending emails, sit down and write letters on actual paper with actual pens. Then put them in envelopes and post them.
When to Enjoy Pleasure
I would say always. If you have to do something, see if there’s a more pleasurable way to do it.
For example, instead of dragging yourself around the supermarket, find your local farmers market and buy your fresh produce there. Talk to the makers and find out more about how they live. Maybe even get some tips you can use in your own garden.
And you have to cook anyway, so why not try out new recipes instead of making the same things all the time.
Or, if you’re burning your garden waste (at the appropriate time of year), why not do it later in the day and toast marshmallows or sausages in the flames. And tell ghost stories as the fire dies down.
Plan activities to do on weekends or be like the Productive Woman Laura McClellan, and keep a list of things to do when you’ve got a few minutes to spare.
The Pleasure Mindset
Actively thinking about bringing pleasure into your life is an adjustment. You have to get over the idea there’s something wrong with enjoying pleasurable activities.
You have to learn to understand it in the context of it being as important as eating fresh fruit and vegetables and getting enough exercise.
And happily, it’s an attitude you can bring into activities like that.
All you have to do is change your perspective.