Because neurotic is the new black....

Ann Nichols

Ann Nichols
East Lansing, Michigan,
December 31
I write, I read, I clean up after people and I worry about things. I have a chronic insufficiency of ironic detachment. My birthday isn't really December 31; it's March 22 but it won't let me change it.


Ann Nichols's Links

MARCH 29, 2011 11:19AM


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I am daring to think of things that give me pleasure, that take me outside of the metes and bounds of intellect, to please my body and my soul. I struggle with knowing the things that really please me, rather than the things that I should like. I know the things that make other people smile, think well of me, and find me interesting. I close my eyes and float through sense memories to find those moments when I was fully alive, not in control, receiving without filter what makes me vibrate, spark and feel that whoosh of possibility. 

There is a moment in listening to music when it builds to a moment of ecstasy both holy and sensual. There is a moment in a movement of one of the Brahms symphonies where the sun breaks through the clouds, and it is impossible not to feel the presence of divinity. There are passages in Vaughn Williams’ “The Lark Ascending” when I can close my eyes and soar, without irony or self consciousness, like the lark herself. There is a time in Schoenberg’s “Transfigured Night” where the tension breaks, and with it all the closed things inside of me open wide to receive life again. It's all pleasure, real and powerful.

There are times when I get a response from a small child, or an animal, a creature untrained in pleasing and social quid pro quo, that fill me with a liquid kind of joy. Nothing is owed me, there is no calculation of my merit, it is a simple exchange of a funny face for a delighted smile, a purr for a well-placed scratch. They are free to walk away, these self-contained and unspoiled spirits, but if I give them pleasure, make them want to stay by my side, there is a perfect circle made. They choose me, and I feel warm, and bright and open. 

There are colors, the colors of vintage linens, boxes of crayons, rows of fabric, yarn or lipstick that make me unbearably happy. I am transported by lines in movies, the moment in “To Kill a Mockingbird” when somebody in the courtroom balcony, I think Calpurnia, says to Jem and Scout “stand up, your father’s passing." The scene  in “Four Weddings and a Funeral” when Hamish’s lover recites Auden, his voice breaking. The St. Crispian’s Day speech in Branagh’s “Henry V,” and the burial after the Battle of Agincourt. There is no irony in those things, nothing hip, nothing arch, and no detachment. They are life distilled, and my helpless and total absorption is a message from my true center to the brain that judges sentiment so very harshly. 

I am sometimes delighted to look down and remember that I painted my toenails a glittery, cerulean blue, and that there, at the ends of my own, lumpy white feet are jewels.
There is a moment when I am lying in bed with no serious plans, the sun is shining on me through the window, I am not looking at Facebook, reading a magazine or thinking about anything much, and I stretch luxuriously. I am wholly in my body, and pleased to float and muse. 

There are other things, the smell of fresh, good coffee, the kinetic energy of a tiny fiddlehead fern, the feeling of coming into a warm house after shoveling snow, lights on a Christmas tree, little girls in party dresses, a cool shower with peppermint soap on a hot day, getting a present in the mail, the release of a thunderstorm after a day of muggy moodiness, the smell when the curry spices hit the hot pan…it comes to me, this pleasure, unbidden, unearned, so often wadded up and thrown away in the course of sorting through what’s Real and Important.

Pleasure is Real and Important.

What’s your pleasure?

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Your pleasures are my pleasures - who doesn't love peppermint soap? funny tags
your pleasures
are the ones I have found
when I follow the tao
and open my eyes
gratitude arises
when I read
a post as full of love
as this one
rated with love
Oh Annie~ so many of your pleasures are mine as well. I might add...
Seeing my daughter's face as she gets off the plane, a certain amber perfume I cannot find *anywhere* anymore, the look and smell and feel of my garden, holding my friend's new baby, the spontaneous hugs from the kids in my class, friendships that endure, and the feeling that nothing is better than this moment. Thank you for this.
Larry sure is up early this morning.:) ~r
I'm going to have to think on this one and get back to you - my first pleasure would have to be taking the time to think this one over. Thanks for that. R
I love the smell of leather and horses, in that order. I love to bury my face in the warm, earthy side of a horse, especially in winter. I also love the smell of the cow barn after the mow has been filled with fresh, small bales of alfalfa hay. I love the smell of the earth when it is first opened in the spring for planting. I love my 2 sandhill cranes, who come back every year to raise their new brood and the way my little girl says, "mom! those are not YOUR cranes!" Of course they are not, they are wild and free. But I say, "yes they are." I love that top fine edge of a snow drift, infinitesimally fine, that hangs out daring gravity to take it down. Just a couple off the top of my head, I'm sure I could go on and on....
I like the big pleasure of sleeping with my boyfriend. I love the little pleasure of reading your posts every single time as each sentence is a work of art. You are truly full of wonderful energy and I thank you so much for it.
Saturday night, I was doing the Sunday Times crossword puzzle online while listening to Vampire Weekend on my headphones, and it felt like all of my senses had been heightened. Others off the top of my head:

The climax of "Ode to Joy" gives me joy (I'd make a climax joke but I'm a modest man who doesn't work in a church).
The first bite of a home-cooked meal from my daughter.
Writing a sentence that you're sure can't be improved.
The trees in front of my home that bloom around the beginning of May (I think they're dogwoods, but I wouldn't swear to it).
The moment in Casablanca when Bogey lets Ilsa go.
The sun setting behind the hills on the opposite side of the Hudson River.
Seeing your logo pop up in my Updates.
As per my post last night, any picture of Dana Delany.
great writing, annie. reminds me of the one i wrote about falling in love with the dirt in my hand in sebastopol last year. i'm an unabashed hedonist or sensualist or whatever the damn label is. words are hard for me today. :( but not for you.
Lately I have been doing a lot of travel posting. I have needed the pleasure of remembering, and hoping to get out there and go again. I take pleasure in anything that sets me free, even for a little while. A book I can't put down, a memory suddenly rediscovered. Many things. Thanks Ann!
The pleasure of pleasure--even for modest women...
That moment you describe of lying in bed with the sun shining on you ... stretching ... being wholly within your body ... oh, yes, that is one for me too! And peppermint soap is one I think I might like to discover.
Beautiful writing, Ann. Wow.
One of my greatest pleasures is that moment when, after not seeing me for some weeks, my soon-to-be-3-year old grandson enthusiastically gets out of his mum's car and runs towards me with the biggest smile on his face and open arms ready to give me a hug. Yes ... that has to be my favourite pleasure at the moment.
Sometimes the things I think are always and perpetually on the list aren't as I remembered, or change. When I was a kid, blue Popsicles. Now, ewwww. The greatest pleasure though, by far, are the ones I don't see coming, just suddenly here they are. On my sunlight dappled walk this morning, a squirrel scolded me from about six feet away, and I hung my head in pleasure ;-)
Ah, what a wonderful post. A perfect afternoon respite from lots of unpleasurable work today.
Ahh, this was such a lovely repast on a cold afternoon. I loved particularly the reference to "Stand up, your father's passing" also one of my favorite lines in a favorite movie from a favorite book. Years ago I read a book that encouraged readers to think of at least three of these moments a day, either the memory or actually engaging in them. I've lived my life that way ever sense. Before I never stopped to smell the proverbial roses. You have given me one of those special moments for today in this beautiful writing. And for what it is worth, I feel the same about anything by JS Bach. He completely transforms me. RRRRR
Dr. Bronner's Peppermint soap I hope?
I luxuriate in things that have great complexity from a sensory point of view. Which, fair warning, can be dangerous.
Lovely post and a lovely question, because it brings such a feeling of positivity and, well, pleasure, to think of them. Mine are many, so I'll just choose a few:

the smell of Merle Norman lipstick, white and blue pastoral prints, the smell of books, reading in the bathtub, writing spontaneously in a sunny room, a brisk walk, chocolate, the moment you really connect with someone no matter what language or other barriers are around you, a real good laugh, when my bedroom is slightly chilly and I can pull up the covers and be warm without being hot, freshly laundered linens, when our cat sleeps beside me, an outfit I'm looking forward to putting together, sleeping in the rain and waking up to sunlight, back rubs, going to the movies, someone running their fingers through my hair.
My heart also swelled to such a huge, ripe, round ball of bliss at hearing those same words spoken on screen that I feared a transplant might be necessary. Auden is an 'all-time' love and Atticus Finch deserved every bit of that honor. In fact, the puppy I found in my garage last week has been named Boo Radley in honor of that particular masterpiece of both literature and film. Pound, pound, pound....:) Pleasures, indeed.......
Ann: this is so good: "those moments when I was fully alive, not in control, receiving without filter what makes me vibrate, spark and feel that whoosh of possibility" that it gives me pleasure just to read it--and not just this. Your post is filled, chocked full, brimming over with such beautifully realized images. And this: "this pleasure, unbidden, unearned, so often wadded up and thrown away in the course of sorting through what’s Real and Important"--well, there's a whole book of philosophy in those words.
I'm just so glad you used the word cerulean.
At the moment I can think of no pleasure greater than reading you - even, as Abby noted, the tags.
I had my toes done yesterday. A yearly ritual, the unveiling, in preparation for sandals and flip flops. I can only bring myself to pay for that luxury once a year...but I so look forward to it! That was my latest pleasure. Others would be -- the look of utter joy on my dog Bowie's face when I bounce the ball against the house for him; my husband haunting the stove when I'm cooking something he loves to eat and he's too excited to sit down and wait for it to hit the table; the love in my mom and dad's voices when they pick up the phone and realize it's me; an unexpected phone call from my own children -- which reminds me to call MY parents and give them that same thrill.
Like Willie sings in On the Road Again, one of the great pleasures of my life is "playing music with my friends:. The only pleasure that exceeds it is playing in concert with an enthusiastic audience.
The pleasure is all in the details, and noticing them. Even your tags on this post make me smile.

But, somehow, there's something here that gives me the feeling that your words flow from some wildly solemn place in the heart. Perhaps that's how you touch so many here. Lovely work...

This is such a pleasure in itself and a wonderful read. It was a very nice escape!
I am loving your posts lately! And just reading about that scene in To Kill A Mockingbird (it always makes me cry) gave me goosebumps all the way down to my (also) blue painted toenails. Big pleasures today: 4-year-old grandson, asleep on my lap, snoring, as the sun beamed through the window. The eight-year-old helping his grandpa shovel gravel into the ruts left by the rain. My daughters' smiles. Honey barbecue potato chips. A puppy charging through the yard. A purring cat. Business as usual. Thanks for reminding me to pay attention.
So many pleasures, so little time. Reading this post gave me great pleasure. Beautiful words. Thank you -R-
Loved reading this and all the comments.
This one got me thinking of diverting things in the middle of an insomnia attack. It was a gift. Thank you. r.
"They are life distilled, and my helpless and total absorption is a message from my true center to the brain that judges sentiment so very harshly." I think you live inside my head.

Ahhh....the pleasure of reading Ann Nichols. I don't think I have ever commented on your posts, but I never miss one...not a one. I am not a writer so I feel so helpless to create an appropiate response to the beauty of your words. Your recent posts have especially been captivating....the best I would be able to come up with if I were in your shoes is "I feel like shit", but damn woman!, to be able to express yourself in such mind-blowing prose is....well, mind-blowing.