A friend asked me, “What gives you pleasure?” At the time of her asking, I was gloomy because of yet another example of my inability to understand why people will stab each other in the back, throw each other under the bus, stir up shit. I felt like I was back in high school. My friend was, kindly, suggesting that I get out of the dumps and on with life.
Rather than immediately considering my pleasure index, I spent a few hours plotting clever revenge scenarios. When the fun of that wore off, I started trying to identify what pleases me, as my friend had suggested. It was harder than I expected to get started, but once the first brick tumbled, I was able to come up with a satisfactory list
I started looking at pleasure on Friday evening, while on a recumbent bike at the gym. Sheila was on the bike next to mine, beating herself at solitaire on her phone. I had the set called Favorites playing on my iPod. I realized I was enjoying myself as I listened to the Black Eyed Peas singing “Let’s Get It Started.” So maybe music was a pleasure for me. One style of music, though? No, the Favorites playlist includes George Gershwin, Jimi Hendrix, Bally Sagoo, Gary Clarke, Jr., and Gary Glitter among many, many others. So then I wondered why music makes me feel good. This led me to another discovery.
I like remembering the past and anticipating the future.
Music takes me back — to the first time I heard the song or, for songs I haven’t heard before, to a sense memory of how songs like that song make me feel. Rhythm is big for me. The strong beat in “Rumour Has It” turned me on to Adele last year. The insistent rise and fall of the clarinet in “Rhapsody in Blue” made me buy my first non-rock LP when I was 13. The piano coming in on the snare’s ride in Brubeck’s “Take Five” had me hanging out at the smokey, divey One Step Down on M Street when I was 18. So, music is transport to the past. And my past was generally pretty pleasant. Or, for those times when it wasn’t, I’ve made my peace with it.
Music doesn’t really figure in my thinking about the future. For me, there has always been music; there will always be music. What pleases me about the future is planning. Planning trips, planning gardens, planning parties, planning anything. I like figuring things out. I like planning more, usually, than I like doing. For travel, the destination is fine; getting there is a pain — scheduling, choosing, calculating is terrific. When I was much younger and had bouts of insomnia, I would put myself to sleep by planning a house I would build someday. Site selection and orientation, square footage, shortest possible drain runs, height of crawl space, pitch of roof, number of 2x4s! I could usually fall asleep counting 10d nails.
But, remembering the present tense in my friend’s question, I wonder what is giving me pleasure now?
I’ll head the list with music and planning. Then: moving my body, holding Sheila’s hand, improving clumsy sentences, entertaining my friends with stories, eating tomatoes I grew, petting my dogs and smelling their sun-warmed coats, and almost every minute of every day. Just the little things, the very consequential little things that really make up my life. Certainly not the stuff we think is big and important, like work, politics, economics. Those might be the outcome of life, but they aren’t the planning … or the music.