One of the best pieces of advice I ever heard was “Nothing fixes a bad day like a new pair of socks and a haircut.” Not because of the haircut part–that’s obviously dumb, who likes having hair clippings all over their clothes and skin?–but because new socks do feel incredible. And I’d never thought of experiencing it on purpose.
The point to me is that life is filled with all sorts of little, underrated pleasures, many of which are easily within our grasp. When stuff sucks, when we’re going through a hard time, when we’re pissed off, they are always there–always available.
In fact, to me some transcend the role of “pick-me-up” and are actually some of the best things in life, period. You can find great satisfaction in unexpected places–and yes, the cliche is true, many of them are free (or close to free). It’s just a matter of noticing and of course, appreciating them, as they happen.
Here are some of the ones I have noticed (feel free to suggest yours below…and I deliberately left out sex, drinking or illicit substances because that’s pretty obvious).
-Petting a dog and triggering its scratch reflex.
-The fluttering sound of your money when it comes out of an ATM. Fllttdtdtdtdtdtdtdtdtdtdtdtdtd…
-Swimming past the point where your cheeks get pins and needles.
-Freshies (garments you just ripped the tag off to wear for the first time).
-Running or working out hard enough that the sweat runs in rivulets down to your fingertips and flings off in all directions.
-A nice honk at someone doing something clearly wrong. Not one of those lame warning honks, but a clear and justified 4-5 second laying-on-the-horn honk.
-Pulling the emergency stop on a treadmill instead of ending your work out properly.
-A surprise fry in your order (that wasn’t fries).
-Deleting an angry email from someone that you deliberately didn’t read (is there a better way to undermine a person who is being a dick?).
-Getting so caught up in something that you forget that awful abstraction known as “what day of the week it is.”
–Historical or human wormholes–where you realize how short and recent human history really is
-Sitting down at a restaurant and being able to say “No need for menus, we already know what we want to order.”
-Holding a cigarette (not smoking it–that’s terrible). Just holding it, giving your hand something to do.
-Letting your facial hair grow for 3-4 days and getting a serious old school shave from a barber.
-Seeing a kid–like we’re talking 6 and under–who is way cooler and has way more swag than you ever will.
-An authoritative, “Hey, hey…HEY!” when someone is talking over or interrupting you endlessly.
-Buckstacy (this is what you feel when you find a dollar bill in your pocket you forgot about).
-Watching an asshole get pulled over. Or the red light or traffic cam go off when they clearly deserve it (that is, small reminders of justice or karma).
-The soft core center of cinnamon rolls. Forget the outside–that’s crust bullshit, throw it away.
-Steak fat. If you’re cutting this off and leaving it…well, you’re missing out on the best and in some ways the healthiest part. (only applies to high quality meat obviously).
-Planning a cheat day (actually doing it is never as good…mostly because of how you feel after).
-Falling asleep on airplane and waking up as it “begins our descent.”
-The satisfactory snapping closed of a nice thick hardcover.
-Biting into a rolled up tortilla. You’re piercing layers and layers effortlessly! I imagine this is what a shark or lion feels like biting into the flesh of a weaker animal–just awed at their own strength. Tortillas from Chipotle work best for this.
-The smell of rain on asphalt.
-Tearing up your To-Do list after you’ve crossed everything off of it.
-Telling a preposterous lie to a child and letting them believe it.
-A clean pull when you’re removing a sticker or a piece of tape.
-Listening to the same song over and over again until it flows seamlessly into itself.
-Leaving a big tip.
-Probably a million other pleasures I’m forgetting, but feel free to share your own.
These were the things Marcus Aurelius was thinking of when he admonished us to “remember Nature’s inadvertence how it has its own charm, its own attractiveness.” His list dates to 170 AD, but it’s not much different than mine–the way that loaves of bread split open in the oven, how fruit ripens, stalks of wheat bending under their own weight, the brow of the lion.
Our pleasures may be slightly more modern, but the truths beneath them (and their accidental or unintended beauty) remain the same. That happiness is being at home with the world around you.
There’s nothing better is there?
Tune in next week for “Hell is Other People and so are all these other things.”