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Friday, January 04, 2008

My search for pleasure

I'm not really sure what gives me pleasure anymore. But I'm not the only one who has this problem. I'm in the middle of reading Eat, Pray, Love, and Elizabeth Gilbert writes about her inability to "relax into sheer pleasure." When she is in Italy, she eventually comes to the realization that all she wants to do in Italy is "to eat beautiful good food and to speak as much beautiful Italian as possible."

At this point in my life, I don't have the luxury of going to on a trip by myself to figure out what I really want to do, to find out what makes me happy and gives me pleasure. I take yoga because it makes my mind and body feel good, but I'm not sure I'd describe all the stretching and all those shaking muscles as pleasurable. Any other free time I have is filled with tasks or chores. If it's not, I feel like I'm wasting time. That is probably why I have such a hard time just sitting in a comfortable chair and reading. Waste. Of. Time.

I used to gain pleasure out of walking in the Marin Headlands every morning with my dogs. It was my favorite part of the day. But I don't have dogs anymore. I don't have mornings to myself either. I used to gain pleasure out of backpacking with my spouse and sleeping in a tent. I don't have the luxury of going out of town sans children. I enjoy writing. Or I should say, I like the finished product, of feeling that I accomplished something. But I'm not sure I would describe the whole process as pleasurable.

Really pleasurable things probably don't have a purpose outside of being pleasurable. Eating chocolate. Sipping lattes. Soaking up the warm sun from a hammock. Sleeping late. I think I'll start brainstorming on how I can take more trips without kids, to explore pleasant things, and to do things for no other reason than they might be enjoyable.


  1. I recently heard somewhere that children who see their parents read for pleasure are more likely to grow up reading for pleasure themselves. I then reflected on the fact that my three year old almost never sees me reading a book -- the newspaper or a magazine, maybe, but not a book. This isn't because I don't read (though of course not as much as I'd like) but because when he's awake I'm usually too busy doing things with him to sit down with a book and hope to get through more than a paragraph. Somehow, though, since learning this alleged fact about reading in front of your child, I've been able to do it more often and have not felt guilty telling him that I couldn't do whatever he wanted right at that moment because I was "reading a book." I will have to leave for the moment the question of why it is easier for me to read for pleasure when it is intertwined with (again, allegedly) setting a good parental example, than when it is just for my own plain enjoyment.

  2. No, no no. Tasks and chores are the waste of time. Reading is never a waste of time! :^)

    I so want Mandy's theory to be right because my kids see me reading all of the time, and yet, so far, neither of them loves books or being read to - o.k. they are only 4 1/2 and 9 months - but I am so paranoid that I feel like they hate books.

    I have a friend who remembers her mom's nose always in a book growing up, and she now hates reading and has actually discussed with a therapist her hatred of books.

    What can we do . . . we're only human. Sigh . . .

  3. My boys are 7 and 4 and they see me reading all the time. Mostly books but some magazines and newspapers.
    My 7 year old loves to read. He is in 2nd grade and reads at a 5th grade level. He even asked for books for Christmas. It just warmed my heart.
    My four year old loves to have stories read to him. Could be he just enjoys the one on one time. They jury is still out.
    I have read to my kids since they were a few weeks old. I feel the most important thing is to read read read. No matter the ages just read to them.
    There is nothing better than a little one on one snuggled together with a good book.

  4. I'm sorry if I gave the impression that I don't read or that we don't read to our kids--both untrue. I read every night before I get too exhausted to focus on the words. It is just that during the *day* I have a hard time just sitting on the couch with a book when I can see all the other stuff around me that needs doing. As for my kids, they both love books too and we read to them every single day. My point was that while reading is great, I have a hard time just being still sometimes because when I'm sitting still, I'm not accomplishing more "meaningful" things.

  5. I didn't get the impression you didn't read or didn't read with the boys. I just completely related to your feeling that it's hard to make reading purely for pleasure a priority with so many other tasks that have tangible results. I am pleased to report that this discussion has led me to start reading more when my son's awake and I've already finished one book since the new year. Thanks for the inspiration.

  6. I was mostly responding to Peggy's comment... Anyway, I love the research that you heard Mandy, that suggests reading to our kids help turn our kids into readers. And I have to admit that I've been meaning to sit down and just read more in front of my kids as a result. Again, the key part of that is "meaning to..."