Friday, June 18, 2010

10 More Underrated Pleasures

A few weeks back I wrote a post on underrated pleasures of life. These are the little things that help me slow down and appreciate life, no matter how fast paced it may get. Soon, I began noticing many more.

With that, here are 10 more underrated pleasures for your enjoyment:

1. Hand washing the dishes. I have a dishwasher, but there are times when I'd rather plunge my hands into warm, soapy water and do them myself. I don't rush through it. Instead, I focus on each dish and spend extra time ensuring that it's completely clean in a way that the dishwasher can't manage. There's something about holding up a wine glass and watching it catch the light that brings pleasure like nothing else.

2.  Sitting with a cup of coffee. Mornings in general are an underrated pleasure. No matter what time we have to get to work, many of us cut it too close to be able enjoy a few moments of silent contemplation before plunging into the rush of the day. I once got a yoga tape that included a "coffee asana." This involved holding the cup in both hands, deeply inhaling the rich aromas. Now that's my kind of yoga!

3. Dinner conversation with family. I read a horrifying statistic recently that said that only 30% of families have a sit down dinner together more than once a week. When I was a kid, we had dinner (or actually "supper") as a family every single night without fail. I guess I'm in a time warp, as this is still how my husband and I do it. It's like a punctuation mark at the end of each day.

4. Grocery shopping. There's shopping--the one most of us know too well, involving rushing down the aisle of the local Safeway and grabbing all of our usual, tried-and-true items--and then there's shopping. This is the one where you stop and take note of what you are buying, testing the weight of a cantaloupe, chatting with the butcher about the best cut of beef, and taking the time to ensure you've found the freshest sourdough baguette in the basket. To me, the difference is like night and day.

5. Sorting the recycling. Another "chore" that gets short shrift. Where I live, there are raccoons about, which means we can't put the garbage out the night before the truck arrives. If we do, the next morning we see our entire week's worth of trash strewn along the pavement. Instead, we rise early on Monday mornings and put all of it out then. I used to hate it. The smelly, fishy cat food cans, the soggy papers, the dirty recycling bins. Then one day I noticed how incredibly crisp the air is at that early hour. Fog drifts onto the street and mingles with the first sun rays of sun, turning every tree branch and rooftop luminous.

6. Clicking "no" to an invite. If you're like me, you get invited to a lot of random events through Facebook. Flattered, I often click the "maybe" button in the hope that somehow I'll fit in that extra networking event, birthday party, product release, handcar regatta, wine tasting or other meetup that I know full well isn't going to fit into my already packed schedule. The word "no" seems so final. But that's exactly what's right about doing it. Taking this step requires bravery, but in doing so, our world settles down. No more penciled-in, half-assed dates on the calendar. The joy of simplicity.

7. Listening to stuff. It's so tempting to wrap oneself in a cocoon of "chosen" sounds. In the car, we blast music or news. As we walk down the street, Pandora pipes our favorite tunes through iPhone earphones. Steve Jobs hath bestowed upon us this magical ability. But once in awhile, I decide to go the opposite way and let it all in. There's something anarchic and wild in the cacophony of street sounds. So much of what we call "noise pollution" can be music if we listen without judgment: the motorcycle engine rev as it blasts past us in traffic, the baby crying in the airplane, the click-click of a turnstile, the vroom of the bus. Even the tinny sounds issuing from others' earphones can be an accompaniment to one's day.

8. Sour food. Why is it that everything we eat and drink nowadays is judged by its level of sweetness? Maybe because sugar is added to so many products. Or perhaps we're all stuck in a perpetual childhood. Whatever the reason, it's rare, in the U.S. at least, to hear someone extol the wondrous sourness of something they just ate. But sour is one of the most basic tastes; our taste buds were specially designed to recognize it. To me, there's almost nothing better than biting into a slice of Meyer lemon, eating a spoonful of homemade yogurt, sipping a lemony soup, or eating one of those salty, sour Umeboshi plums they sell in Asian markets.

9. Doing something you're bad at. There's all kinds of reasons to pursue activities we are good at doing. Oftentimes, this is the key to success. But I've found immense pleasure in attempting stuff I'm bad at. I can't draw. I'm not a good dancer. As much as I love doing them, I pretty much suck at New York Times crossword puzzles. If you know you're bad at something, this gives you freedom. You can fall on your face. Make an utter fool of yourself. And if anyone criticizes, you can just laugh it off--you knew you were bad at it in the first place!

10. Board games. OK OK I can hear you saying now that I'm turning this post into little more than a nostalgia trip into days gone by when the kids played Monopoly while the grownups drank cocktails, puffed on their pipes and played whist around a rickety, card table covered in cheap baize. But to me, there's something amazing about playing a game that requires absolutely no mobile phone, PC, Macbook or other electronic involvement. Picking up that metal car with one's hand and moving it around the squares without punching a single button. Heaven.

What are your underrated pleasures of life? I'd be very interested to hear, so please feel free to leave them in the comments field.


JB said...

You like doing dishes? You should absolutely come and visit sometime. :)

... and while I would never pick Monopoly as my board game of choice, there ARE many fine ones out there to wile away the time with.

Sunshine said...

Ah yes? What board game would that be? There are so many good ones. We have a game we play here called Rummikub. Not technically a board game. It's kind of like a combination of rummy and mah jong.

Steve Masover said...

Underrated pleasures ... my favorite, hands down, is a nap.

Sunshine said...

Excellent. Love it!