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Idiosyncratic Pleasures

Updated: Jun 28

By Taina Lyons

I’ve had a somewhat conflicted relationship with pleasure. Growing up Catholic, it wasn’t exactly morally advisable to feel too much pleasure. And I can feel pretty judgy about the culture of American pleasure seeking.  I cringe a little when I see ads for cruise ships, or a powerboat zooms by on a peaceful body of water (next to which I was contemplating some probably-very-important idea and I’m left wondering how my pleasure can co-exist with gaseous powerboats.)

I’m curious how often people are seduced by promises for pleasure that don’t deliver. It’s one thing to love adrenaline or a good thrill, which is actually the love for a certain emotional/sensory experience. No shame in that.  But it’s another thing to have pleasure sold to you when your embodied sensory experience is completely free.  Not to say we don’t sometimes pay for experiences - if you value experiences, you’ll probably prioritize using your money for experiences - a cup of coffee at that sweet cafe on the corner, live music, the rock climbing trip you’ve dreamed about for years, or whatever floats your boat (as long as it’s not a cruise ship, sorry/not sorry). 

The problem in our culture is not pleasure itself, but a disconnection from the magnificent experience of living in a body with exquisite sensory capacities. There’s an addiction to high stimulation experiences because we’ve often lost access to our subtle senses.

I recently posted a question on Facebook: What are some of your idiosyncratic or unusual pleasures? The responses I got were deeply satisfying and delightful to read. I suppose I discovered a new pleasure of mine, which is hearing about peoples unique pleasures.   

Here’s a curated list of some of the responses.  I invite you to read them and see if you share any of these joys, make a list of your own, and maybe even share it with someone.

-when weeding or harvesting roots and you get a good grip on the base of the leaves and pull the whole root out unbroken in one tug

-sitting outside on a warm summer day with milkweed stalks from the early spring and making cordage by rolling the threads on bare legs

-sticking objects into the ear canal

-sniffing the bellies of slumbering dogs, and also the cracks in between their paw-pads

-the feeling of validation when getting a sign from the universe, such as seeing a dragonfly or a hawk

-connecting someone to the person, group, or healing event they need 

-the feeling when a baked good (bundt cake or sweetbread) falls out perfectly when you turn it over and it thumps warmly on the kitchen island and the pleasure of eating it is still before you

-licking the plate after eating, especially if it is in public and in a restaurant where such behavior is just a little bit out of line 

-seeing things in process one usually wouldn't.  For example, instead of seeing a random balloon in the sky, catching a glimpse of it being detached from the person who was holding it as it happens, or watching someone in a cafe hand-writing specials on the windowpane 

-sitting in a massage chair at Planet Fitness

-working at a coffee shop and helping someone find their particular special coffee drink

-seeing a person with the light of the setting sun behind them when it’s close to the horizon, against cloud-dotted blue skies

-putting out a free pile and having most of the stuff taken 

-the feeling that one is in the right place at the right time

-the experience of thinking about a person and then running into them

-having a fragment of a memory that slowly reconstructs into a whole memory

-finishing leftovers 

-consolidating containers 

-traveling light 

-long hugs that co-regulate  

-cooking over a fire 

-biking as transportation 

-recycling pee with the Rich Earth Institute 

-finding someone’s lost item and returning it to them 

-plunging hands into sand, beans, seeds, rice, etc. 

-watching wind blow over tall grass

-the smell of skin that's been in sunshine

-when you hear a word as if for the first time and your brain breaks it down and tracks its roots 

-being someplace where you might not expect goth/very alternative people to show up, and (at least one) shows up

-the satisfaction of hanging laundry on the line, and seeing other people’s laundry on a line 

-having fun, as an adult, at a trampoline park

-after parking the car, standing outside of it to sing and dance when a really good song is on 

-sneaking into a self-serve buffet restaurants to jiggle a large pan of jello

-having exact change

-throwing and/or giving things away

-choosing the perfect size bowl for a portion

-bursting out with a liquidy dance move when passing by some good music, and then continuing to walk like nothing happened 

-being in the candle isle of a store

-watching an episode of Star Trek, then recording it in a custom-made spreadsheet and tracking progress towards seeing every episode

-grooming loved ones: carefully cleaning every crevice of a child’s ears with a q-tip, sucking the snot out of a baby’s nose, picking crusties out of eyes and nostrils, removing blackheads from a partner’s back with a special extractor tool

-watching pimple popping videos on YouTube 

-collecting tiny trinkets and shiny things

-finding the clearest quartz rocks by the river

-feeling the wind pick up as if in response to what one is thinking or speaking

-writing just the right phrase or explanation 

-witnessing someone react in a loving, patient way to someone who is upset and being difficult

-being in the car and finding loose hairs on clothing or from running fingers through your hair, and then rolling down the window to let them go knowing you will never interact with that hair again

-knowing that mushrooms exist 

-cold wind in a beard

-eyeballing the exact amount of water to make perfectly cooked rice 

-watching Cottonwood fluff drift in the breeze 

-licking water droplets off leaves 

-not shaving your legs for years at a time and then shaving them just for the experience of getting into a freshly made bed with nice sheets

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