Why bliss is different (and arguably more important) in adulthood

I’m a little embarrassed that a muffin and coffee can bring me bliss. I’m passionate about food, but is my life that small? Shouldn’t I have something better?

On the other hand: why not a muffin and coffee? Why should I need a better reason to feel bliss? And while that’s the word I’ve chosen, here’s the feeling more accurately:

Daily I ride a train in and out of D.C. When it starts into Union Station’s underbelly, all the windows go black. Yesterday I rode through the tunnel with the rare treat of a pumpkin muffin on my lap and vanilla hazelnut coffee in the seat holder. And I ate the two–bite and sip, bite and sip–with singular awareness, the tunnel pressing everything to texture, smell, taste.

For those minutes, nothing could make me more content.

And I realize now that what I call bliss is really mindfulness–that lack of thought for the past or the future. And damn, does adulthood make mindfulness a lot harder than as a kid.

Your Popsicle’s Melting by Auntie K, on Flickr

Image source

Fortune gave me only two real responsibilities as a child:

  1. Not to injure/maim/kill myself.
  2. To experience the world; to grow.

Both required mindfulness. So I felt no embarrassment about the euphoric happiness brought on by a cream-filled popsicle. Summers, nothing lay before or behind me except to sit in the hay loft of the horses’ barn and watch the straw float down. These things were allowed to have real importance, to be meaningful.

The moments when I had to think about the past or future beyond a few minutes’ or hours’ span (like, if I step in this gopher hole in the yard, I will likely twist my ankle and/or be attacked) were anomalies. Sometimes we were asked in school what we wanted to be; I made some quick determination–horse trainer; writer–and got back to being five or six or seven years old.

Today I’ve grown into different responsibilities; my memories spool out like film, and all the things I must do with myself–today, tomorrow, next week, next month and year–sit at the fore. And life has ironed out many of the “firsts,” the novel experiences. Mindfulness was easier when everything was new.

Those moments when I recapture bliss often come as surprises: switching between two guitar chords; the frisson of a powerful scene in a novel; hearing the chorus of that song; eating a muffin while drinking coffee on a train.

And as I near thirty, I can recognize that it’s different now: I’m more often blissful about things I’ve experienced many times.

Maybe this is how lovers of many years feel when they are very happy with each other. They may have loved months ago, and they may love months ahead, but all of that is not nearly as contenting–as engulfing–as loving now.

2 thoughts on “Why bliss is different (and arguably more important) in adulthood

  1. Really great post! I’ve never really thought of bliss as mindfulness, you’re spot on. It’s just being present and grateful for the now. Loved your line about mindfulness being easier when everything was new. New experiences seem to demand mindfulness. I think that’s probably why I love traveling so much, because it’s a trigger for this.

    1. Thanks, Alex! So glad you mentioned traveling, which is part of what inspired this post. Recently I talked with a Peace Corps volunteer who spoke basically of mindfulness. It’s a new culture, people, language, which makes it easy to be mindful when you’re functionally illiterate in a different country.

      And that was the point, he said. It got him really living.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s