If you don’t take time out to focus on what makes you happy, it is all too easy to get caught up in the day-to-day tedium of parenting alone. Washing, cleaning, cooking – admittedly I don’t do a huge amount of any of those things, but the responsibility is still mine, should I choose to accept it.
Sometimes I worry that the things I enjoy are rather dull. I don’t do any kind of extreme sports, or have a secret part-time job as a lion tamer. I don’t drive fast cars or jet off every weekend on exotic city mini-breaks – my life is much more acoustic folk than rock and roll. I did once jump out of a plane, but to be honest I found the whole free-falling thing quite boring – you just hang there after all, and not much else happens.
But do we really need all this high-tech, extreme-impact entertainment to make us happy? Exactly when is it that we become such discerning thrill seekers? As children, we could entertain ourselves for hours in the garden with a few sticks (I don’t actually remember how this works, but I’ve heard it’s true), so how come we forget this and become so demanding, desperately looking for more and more extravagant ways to escape the boredom and reach that elusive state of flow?
As a single parent, with time and money in short supply, being able to enjoy simple stick based pleasures is crucial. So, in a bid to capture that childlike sense of contentment, I have compiled the following list of little things I like to do that make me happy, even if it is only for half an hour:
- Eating and drinking – the more I thought about this, the more I realised how much of my life revolves around food. Things that make me happy: tea and biscuits, eating out, chocolate, gin… So in order to not sound like a complete glutton, I have forced myself to include this as just one category. I’ve often thought if I could have one wish it wouldn’t be anything worthy like world peace, it would be the ability to eat and drink whatever I wanted without ever feeling full, feeling guilty, putting on weight or doing serious liver damage. I particularly like it when I don’t have to do the preparation and cleaning up. One of the things I miss most about being in a couple is having someone bring you an unprompted cup of tea. Preferably in bed.
- Books – I love everything about them. I love buying them, looking at them, stroking them and of course reading them. I love the feeling you get when you get sucked in by a book – it’s like having an affair. You spend time thinking about the book when you should be concentrating on other things, imagining what it would be like to be somewhere else reading it, right now. Work and family get neglected because all you can think about is the next time you will be able to sneak of to be together. The latest book that has done this to me is David Nicholls’ One Day. Utterly brilliant and totally absorbing – I was in that book with them. I was Emma Morley.
- Being outdoors – I don’t think I could exactly call myself an outdoorsy person, but there are times when you just need to be somewhere bigger. Inside a building you can be too big, dominating the space, your thoughts bouncing off the walls. Sometimes I like to be somewhere where I feel smaller, to get a bit more perspective. I like it when I climb to the top of something and look out and everything seems OK.
- Television – this is a guilty pleasure, definitely one of the things I worry makes me boring. Watching TV isn’t something you’d put on a CV or a dating profile is it? I’m not saying I plan my days around Cash in the Attic or anything, but I do have programmes I like to watch for different moods that I know will make me feel better. Like The Inbetweeners – is there anything funnier? When my life seems a bit dull I comfort myself with the Peep Show – it could be worse, I could be Mark. When I’m looking for company I watch Friends, when I need to feel better about being single I watch Sex and the City. All horrible clichés I know, but there you go.
- Pottering – I like it when I can push the shoulds and musts out of my mind and just wander around the house, doing little jobs, watering the plants, hanging up pictures. I can potter in one place too – I get a big pile of magazines and I cut things out of them that I think are pretty or interesting, and sometimes I stick them up somewhere, but mostly I just make a new pile of the cut out things.
- Getting invited to parties – this doesn’t happen often enough for my liking.
- Sex – neither does this.
That’s enough for now I think. Although I just realised I didn’t include writing. I wonder if it really makes me happy all the time or if it is a bit more torturous than that? There is a lot of other stuff attached to writing. When I read a book I read it just for me, but when I write I usually know someone else is going to read it, and that isn’t always a great feeling.
So what are your simplest pleasures? What seemingly insignificant things make you smile? I’d love to know.
Photo credit: Bumblesweet