Pleasure matters

By Caitlin Kelly

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I was struck recently by a social media post by someone I know who works in a demanding healthcare specialty. She had treated herself to a fantastic day trip to a nearby natural wonder and a gorgeous splurge of a breakfast.


What struck me most was the sense this was something, perhaps, to apologize for.

That taking —- making — time to care for herself and her soul was somehow suspect or self-indulgent.

I think being consistently kind to ourselves is essential and something too often overlooked or dismissed as silly, by others and worse, by ourselves. Women are so heavily socialized to take care of everyone else’s needs first and foremost that, when there’s a lack of time or money — and there often is — we get the short end of the stick.

I’m not someone who advocates self-indulgence or hedonism, (and who draws the line?) but I’m absolutely committed to what is now called self care.

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For me that’s everything from playing my beloved vinyl on a Sunday morning to making home-made meals I can enjoy during the week, with my husband and on my own.

I spend real money at our local florist, sometimes as much as $25 a week, to fill our apartment with blooms and greenery, whether fragrant eucalyptus or bright gerbera or the tiny purple orchids that come all the way from Thailand. To me, it’s an investment in daily joy and beauty.

I go to a spin class at the gym to burn calories, manage stress, to enjoy the music and see familiar faces. It offers me a low-key social life and human contact when I work alone at home, now 11 years into that isolating workstyle.

I make play dates with friends, meeting them face to face for a coffee or lunch or a concert or ballet performance, creating memories we can share years later. I went to a fantastic Iron & Wine concert this week at Town Hall with a dear pal and made her spit with laughter over Manhattans at the bar in Grand Central. Priceless!

I love to travel, so am always looking a few weeks and months ahead at where we might be able to afford to go, and for how long. It refreshes me, whether seeing old friends back in Toronto or meeting new ones, as I did this summer in Berlin and Zagreb.

I commit a few hours each week to my favorite television shows. (Poldark!)

And this year — for the first time in my life — I’m driving a brand-new car, a luxury vehicle we’ve leased. Despite my initial trepidation, it is sheer bliss: quiet, beautifully designed, with intelligent and helpful technology. Our other vehicle is 16 years old, dented and scraped and, no matter how much money we drop at the mechanic, always has the check engine light on; freedom from that anxiety alone is a form of self care for me now.


It can feel weird, even guilt-inducing, to put yourself first, to say no, firmly (and mean it!) to others’ demands on your limited time and energy.

But without adding even the smallest pleasures to our days, and to our lives, we can end up stewing in resentment and self-denial.

No one really benefits from that.

16 thoughts on “Pleasure matters

  1. It’s just a sensible thing to do. My sister buys lowers every other week or so even when she wasn’t working. I was about to mention this to her then I noticed how good she felt when she talks about those flowers. A bit of self care is vital.

  2. i so agree with this, caitlin. like you, it was/is a bit of a struggle at times, to take time for myself and make myself just as important as everyone else i support. over the years, it has become much easier for me, and i embrace these special experiences in everyday life, as well as at special times and places.

    1. I’m glad that you do! 🙂

      It’s a great impulse to be generous, but it can be harder (!?) to be as generous with oneself as we are with others. I think it gets easier with time because we’ve done a lot and time is shrinking in which to enjoy it.

  3. If I don’t take some time to watch goofy YouTube videos after work, I don’t feel right. If I don’t get to see a movie when it enters theaters, I feel down. And while I work hard on eating healthy, my two or three cheats per week keep me from going insane from sweet deprivation.
    Little pleasures in life are what make life bearable.

    On a totally unrelated note, I just got back from seeing Swan Lake with my mother, performed by the Russian Grand Ballet. Oh my God, so amazing! From the Black Swan’s fouettes, to the final battle, to just how expressive Rothbart’s dancer was, it was just an amazing show!
    Here’s hoping I can see Gisele in the spring when BalletMet puts on a performance.

    1. I think it’s so smart of you to know, and to live, in balance. I hate that word, but I love the idea of making sure we’re happy, not just “productive.”

      OMG!!! WHO knows fouettes?! I’m kvelling to see how much you love ballet. 🙂 I recently saw NYCB’s version of Swan Lake. I hadn’t seen it in years and was glad I renewed my acquaintance with it.

      1. The only reason I know the term is because I saw a video on the physics of the fouette on YouTube (there’s another one about the history of ballet that’s pretty interesting as well). But yeah, I am becoming a big fan. And I think I might blog about it after I see one more.

  4. Pingback: [BLOG] Some Saturday links | A Bit More Detail

  5. Good post. I think I have always been a bit of a hedonist, finding little ways to please my senses with candles and aromatherapy baths, playing hooky to hike lake trails, silk sheets, and, yes, vibrant flowers for no reason other than they bring a smile.

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