Don’t put off pleasure in ‘10

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 30, 2009

We are on the edge of 2009 poised to sail into 2010. Well, some of us will sail into the New Year.

However, I’m more likely to stumble than to sail, so I decided to set an intention for the coming year. I didn’t say resolution; I said intention because that sounds less intimidating.

What do I intend for 2010? As I was pondering this, I stumbled (there is that word again) onto a story by John Tierney. He described a condition identified by psychologists and behavioral economists (not sure what a behavioral economist is, but it sounds impressive).

These experts call those with the condition “procrastinators of pleasure” and define it as putting off until tomorrow what you could enjoy today. Tierney lists things like not visiting local attractions or holding onto gift certificates until they expire.

Not enjoying things close to home, hit home. My backyard contains a lake but I rarely sit and enjoy the view. I always plan to since it brings me pleasure, but I never seem to get around to it.

Right now, I have a gift certificate that allows me to purchase something I enjoy — books. And there is a 50 percent off sale, but since I have so many books I’m not allowing myself the pleasure of collecting a few more — even though I’ll save money doing it now rather than later.

“Once you start procrastinating pleasure, it can become a self-perpetuating process if you fixate on some imagined nirvana,” Tierney writes. “The longer you wait to open that prize bottle of wine, the more special the occasion has to be.”

As I read, I thought about myself and about others I know and maybe Tierney is right. Perhaps we don’t allow ourselves to experience pleasure.

We head in the direction of fun but don’t realize to arrive sometimes we have to stop traveling and enjoy where we are. In my relaxation workshops I ask the question, “Where are we trying to get to?” Nobody seems to have an answer.

So, my intention for 2010 is to experience more pleasure, but how?…

Tierney invites readers to make suggestions about how to avoid the temptation to postpone pleasure. So, I made my suggestion list.

1. Smile more. Something about smiling invites pleasurable feelings.

2. Laugh more. This goes along with smiling since doing the first often leads to the second and laughing is fun.

3. Don’t take things so seriously. Sometimes I’m wound up about stuff that doesn’t amount (as my daddy said) to a hill of beans, and that is not pleasurable.

4. Ask, “Will I enjoy this activity,” before I commit to something that is not a necessity of life. If the answer is no, don’t do it.

5. Imagine I have a pleasure deadline. If I fail to enjoy my time, I lose the opportunity. In other words, don’t let my pleasure gift card expire with a balance on it.

6. Just do it! Walk to the water. Stop vacuuming and read the book that’s been sitting there calling my name. The dust isn’t going anywhere if I read for 30 minutes.

7. Be more childlike. Remember the simple pleasure of spinning around and around on a windy day or lying on the ground watching clouds.

8. Do at least one pleasurable thing every day — it can be small as savoring a piece of chocolate or holding a warm purring cat.

9. Make time to be fully present with those whose company I enjoy — like my husband and my children and my friends.

10. Finally, and this is probably all I need on my list — have fun now. I think if I do that, I’ll sail more than I’ll stumble in 2010.