Funny how words trigger emotions. I read those two words — "Small Pleasures" — on the cover of the book pictured above and instantly I felt comforted. Soothed. In small pleasures are big satisfactions.
The book is being offered by The School of Life, Alain de Botton’s enterprise in helping us become better people. I trust de Botton. I value his devotion to exploring practical psychology. His books are short, boiled-down primers that feel like folk wisdom delivered by a kind uncle with a sense of humor.
Printed on the cover are these de Botton-esque wise words:
So often, we exhaust ourselves and the planet in a search for very large pleasures — while all around us lies a wealth of small pleasures, which - if only we paid more attention — could daily bring us solace and joy at little cost and effort. But we need some encouragement to focus our gaze.
One of the small pleasures in Small Pleasures is #36, “Pleasant Exhaustion After A Productive Day,” which includes this languorous stroll through familiar terrain:
You’re worn out. You had to make yourself stick at it — but now you’re glad you did. There’s a gentle ache in the middle of your back. You yawn and turn your neck from side to side; you stretch round and try to massage an awkward spot below your left shoulder blade. In a while you’ll need to head off to bed — but not just yet. It’s nice to linger and spin out the moment of repletion. It’s lovely to saunter about and make a cup of tea or let some wine gurgle from the bottle into a glass. You might flick indifferently through the newspaper. You can’t get engaged; your brain has done its work and shies away from further effort.
In post-work life, we have more time for small pleasures. They can be more readily seen, felt, appreciated and aggregated into a sizeable part of daily life.
In fact, they can be an aim in themselves:
"What are you doing in retirement?"
“I’m collecting small pleasures with the intention of weaving a comforter to be worn most every day.”
I think many of us instinctively know the emotional appeal of small pleasures at this stage of life. We yearn for that comforter. (What else explains the warmth that flowed to me from those two words?)
Here's another way of coming at it, from author and professor Brené Brown:
"I get so busy sometimes chasing the extraordinary moments that I don't pay attention to the ordinary moments. The moments that, if taken away, I would miss more than anything."
— from The Call to Courage, a Brené Brown special on Netflix