Friday, February 19, 2010

Look for Pleasure in the Little Things

Our two-year-old has a severe peanut allergy, so we’ve had to call a moratorium on that staple of childhood, the PB&J. This has sent my two oldest children into a peanut butter withdrawal, of sorts. Recently, as the allergic one was off to the emergency room to get staples in a head wound (which is another story entirely), the others literally jumped with joy when I announced that they could have a peanut butter sandwich for dinner.

My three year old wiped away tears of concern for his brother and enthusiastically declared, “Mom, I’ve been dreaming about peanut butter.” He then bellied up to the counter and devoured two and half sandwiches with as much delight as peanut butter could ever bring anybody. (He probably would have eaten more, but we ran out of bread.)

My children often remind me how much joy I can find in the simplest things. They get giddy over press-on tattoos and mixing their own chocolate milk. A stick of gum and flavored lip balm elicit equal excitement. As I watched the boy who loves peanut butter eat his sandwich, I wondered when I lost the capacity for innately relishing small things.

It’s a gradual process, of course, fueled in part by a growing awareness of the world and the pressures and expectations that surround us. It’s also a result of being immersed in a consumer culture that proclaims material wealth and all of its trappings are a benchmark for success. We tend to ratchet up our expectations as our income increases. And somewhere along the way, I think this makes us less able to appreciate the little things,

Just because it takes effort to find pleasure in small things doesn’t mean you shouldn’t work at it. Try ending every day with the question, “What went well today?” Keep track of your answers in a small notebook; your entries don’t have to be any longer than a sentence. And every once in a while, review your list.

Stuff an envelope with $20 worth of $5 bills. Each week, take out a five spot and buy something that you enjoy. For me, this would include things such as an Americano and a truffle, supermarket flowers, or a new bottle of nail polish. My husband’s simple indulgences might include a DIY magazine and the biggest breakfast burrito he can find.

When you become purposeful with the way you spend this small amount of money, you’ll learn to anticipate good things. Holding the cash in your hands and thinking about where you’ll spend it can also help you to become more adept at making conscious spending decisions.

Joy also comes in paying attention to the things around you. It might be the sunset, streaked pink and purple across the sky, or maybe it’s getting up before the house is abuzz and sipping a cup of coffee in the morning light. Or if you’re like our second born, it’s in being ready to lick every last bit of peanut butter from your plate. Here’s to finding joy in your own version of PB&J.

Carey Denman

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