Giving Someone a Compliment (Today’s Simple Pleasure)

I am not a complimentary sort of person. My mind skews to pessimism and negativity, but I do not spend all my time criticizing others. Instead, I tend to lean towards validation and support rather than to positive comments. I see people’s pain more than I see their joy because I am more in touch with my own pain than I am my own joy.

Praising people feels manipulative as well in my worldview as I wonder, if people praise me, what they are trying to get from me. I take the compliments that fit my sense of myself and leave the others to the side. For today’s simple pleasure, I gave positive feedback to a friend online and will continue this practice in person for the next day or two. I tell myself that my praise has more meaning because it isn’t doled out like candy, but perhaps I need to be more willing to share in sweetness here and there. Are you someone who praises easily? If so, how do others react?

Drawing a Card (Today’s Simple Pleasure)

I use tarot and oracle cards as a way to (re)focus my vision as well as for clarity in situations that I find confusing. For today’s simple pleasure, I drew a card from a small hand-painted deck I made that contains one-word verbs to motivate change. The word I received was “cleanse,” which felt ironic, given that I’d just eaten an entire lunch filled with junk food and therefore feel gross. My stress level has been extremely high, so the card spoke to me about finding positive self-care behaviors in which I can engage rather than unhealthy coping mechanisms.

I also found a card stuck in between my books which referenced the Earth and how it provides all we need. I’ve gotten multiple messages recently about returning to Source and connecting with humanity, so this felt on target. With all that is going on domestically and abroad, it is easy for me to focus on dehumanization and evil. The cards I drew, collectively, are reminding me that there is goodness, gentleness, kindness and care in the world, if I pay attention to it.

Listening to Someone Inspiring (Today’s Simple Pleasure)

In honor of both today’s simple pleasure and National Podcast Day, I decided to listen to Gender Reveal by Molly Woodstock. The most recent episode tackles questions such as whether non-binary people can also be trans (answer is yes!) and what it means to be queer. Their podcast has been so helpful to me as a trans-masculine non-binary person, and I love that they elevate the voices of queer and trans people in each episode. What are your most inspiring podcasts?

Watching a Shadow (Today’s Simple Pleasure)

It is raining buckets outside, so today did not provide many outdoor viewing options for my observation. Instead, I used the light in my living room to notice the shadows. As I sat, I realized shadows imply form. They are created in the presence of both a source of light and an object. They focus our attention in a mystery or horror film because they give rise to the notion that something is there, something whose true nature cannot be fully discerned. They imply presence, but, in the absence of a direct view or a mirror, the presence remains without understanding.

I live with so many shadows of trauma in my life–they are cast long and in sharp relief, but the specifics of the events which laid them out are obscured in my memory. Snippets and feelings and pain are all that remain. Even if I am full of shadow, I live in light because I name the monsters. I let be known what I do know to be true.

What I cannot abide well are those who deny shadows, who pretend there are no monsters casting them and who seek to blot out any brightness that would illuminate their dark truths. When one of my abusers communicated their denial to me, they literally stated that there wasn’t even a “pinprick” of light that would show them what I was claiming happened had indeed happened. That metaphor kept at me for a long time, and, through today’s observation, I know why. Killing the light to deny the object to ignore the shadow, or vice versa is the modus operendi of evil and is anathema to what this world needs right now. Shine, stand and outline your truth.

Observing a Number (Today’s Simple Pleasure)

For today’s simple pleasure, I chose the number twelve and will be attending to when that number shows up in my daily life for the next few days. I expect the Baader-Meinhof phenomenon, also called the frequency illusion, to occur. This is when something stands out to you and it suddenly seems like it is everywhere.

I’ve met people at various stages of my life who operate from superstition, believing that the cognitive biases of their brains were in fact signs from a higher being telling them what to do. Now that I know why my mind is drawn in a particular direction, it takes most of the “fun” out of it, but it is still fascinating to observe how easily I can feel persuaded that maybe there is something to the pattern. I’ve already spotted a sushi dinner that I might purchase for a friend and I that just so happens to include twelve pieces of sashimi! Have you ever looked for a particular number to appear? Where was the most interesting place it showed up?

Meditating with Sacred Beads (Today’s Simple Pleasure)

Today I meditated using a string of sandlewood beads. I integrated my touch of each bead into a pattern of breathing in and out. The tactile nature of the task, combined with the wonderful aroma that the string carries, helped to ground and center me. I also liked that they were made of wood, as versions I’ve tried that were made from stone have felt colder and less connecting.

I found myself curious about how this type of meditation might function in situations that I find stressful that require sitting and waiting for something to happen, such as certain kinds of appointments. Other options I could explore include bringing to mind imagery or language with each turn of the bead. Have you used sacred/prayer beads, and, if so, how have you included them in your meditation practice?

Experimenting with Shading in a Drawing (Today’s Simple Pleasure)

I plan to continue my simple pleasures even after I’ve gone through all my cards one time, so I decided to “cheat” today by gathering resources instead of actually practicing the skill. I think I may have to use this approach with some of my prompts related to creativity as jumping right into doing them actually feels overwhelming and I give up before I even start. So, for today, I found a video, a website and specific art tools to help me with learning how to shade drawings.

A helpful website: https://www.wikihow.com/Shade-Drawings

Pencils designed for drawing and shading: https://www.staedtler.com/intl/en/products/pencils-and-accessories/graphite-pencils/mars-lumograph-100-drawing-pencil-61-100-c6/

If you enjoy shading in drawing and have techniques or tools you recommend, please share in the comments!

Expressing Gratitude through Journaling (Today’s Simple Pleasure)

I connect a push towards gratitude with invalidation and ignorance of injustice, especially when statements such as “well at least…” or “everything happens for a reason” come my way. It’s hard, therefore, for me to focus on that for which I am grateful in the midst of feeling grossly mistreated yesterday. If there is anything for which I feel appreciative, it is the experience of being fully present and settled in my body.

Present-moment awareness comes and goes for me as I contend with PTSD and dissociation. When I was younger, I lived for the future, thinking that if I changed my circumstances, I could change how I felt inside. Over time, I learned that the scars of my past would continue to ache, even if I left those who wounded me behind. My future seems as relentless as what as gone before: unknowable, uncontrollable and unlikely to make me happy on its own.

Where I find my solace now, when it happens, is in living awake instead of in slumber by connected to my body, my breath and the world around me directly through my senses. These are the moments for which I am grateful, when I am no longer lost in rumination or dread. I have to feel “safe enough” in order to turn my powers of perception from my inner mental world to the outer physical world; anyone or anything that enables me to do so is also an encounter I cherish.

Giving Myself Permission to Pause (Today’s Simple Pleasure)

When you’ve spent most of a Monday crying, your week is probably not off to a good start. I had to deal with blatant transphobia, mis-gendering and a dismissal of my past experiences of sexual abuse, all wrapped up in a high-pressure, high-stress situation this morning, and have been dissociating–going in and out of full presence of mind–ever since. When I get like this, I have no filter and overshare, so I also managed to come out to someone as trans who I perhaps should not have. (Their reply was “trans, what’s that?” so yeah it went not so well).

Time distortion occurs with dissociative disorders, and, for me at least, is accompanied by loss of planning and organizing skills. I will start taking incoherent actions without being able to follow one step to the next, as if my short-term memory is lost. Sometimes this includes aimlessly driving or wandering in circles. I can’t stop until I’ve done what I can to feel resolved for the day.

This time, I lost over four hours before I was able to slow down enough to complete my simple pleasure. I’m writing this post and listening to music not to “calm down” but to try to be here instead of in one hundred places, scattered across time, at once. I despise with every cell in my body the fact that people and situations still have the capacity to trigger me into this state of bewilderment. As I pause, I learn the same lesson I do whenever this happens, which is to do everything in my power that I can to not add to this kind of suffering in the world but rather to reduce it. I want to humanize and connect rather than alienated and de-person others. First, I have to gather myself back to my core. How have you paused today, and what did you find when you did?

Taking a Nap (Today’s Simple Pleasure)

I’m not a napper, but I might become one! I generally sleep or at least lay in my bed for at least eight hours a night, so naps aren’t necessarily something I need in order to make it through the day. However, as of late, since starting T, I’ve been battling bouts of insomnia wherein I am unable to fall asleep for several hours. In addition, as I age, I think mid-day rests might renew my energy and stamina.

For today’s simple pleasure, I lit several candles and cuddled with my dog in bed for about fifteen minutes. Initially, I found my mind wandering quite a bit but was eventually able to enjoy the warmth and softness of the ambiance I’d created as I drifted in and out of light sleep. Short naps have been shown to increase a person’s ability to focus and feel re-energized, so I plan to integrate them into my self-care “toolkit.” What are your thoughts and experiences with napping as a simple pleasure?