I read a terrific article on the weekend in our local newspaper – yes of the paper variety, remember paper fibre? – entitled “Days of Decadence”. It centered around the question of whether indulging in pleasure for pleasure’s sake can be good for you.
It opened up with the statement that fun is what you do when you are in your twenties and that traditionally hedonistic behaviour – long lunches, late nights, drinking too much, taking drugs and sex – is not considered healthy. The article further states that whilst hedonism, defined in the Oxford Dictionary as the “pursuit of pleasure: sensual self-indulgence”, tends to be frowned upon and signifies a lack of self discipline, its pursuit may just have its place.
I am here to advocate for a little hedonism for those of us in midlife and to make it the new midlife black. Like that little black dress in the back of the closet that you put on every once in a while and which makes you feel like a million bucks when you wear it. The secret of course is to not wear it every day, but as a wonderful indulgence, even when there is no special occasion.
I absolutely refuse to concede that having fun is what you do only in your twenties. Fun is not the sole province of youth, fun is ageless and timeless and more importantly, it is a state of mind, much like age. Most things can be fun and pleasurable if you approach it with the right attitude (OK maybe not root canal or certain medical procedures, except if you are a health professional). Personally, my sense of fun has increased with age and probably has a lot to do with increased confidence and wisdom, loosening up, mellowing out and emerging from that intense stage of having young dependant children. The promise of new, exciting and challenging experiences is heady and every day has the possibility of adventure. There will be plenty of time to lie down when I am six feet under.
Does this mean I am not self disciplined? I am not buying that puppy. Hedonism does not need to be unplanned or extreme. It can be as simple as having a long lunch in the sun, swimming, eating at a fine restaurant, blogging, travelling to new destinations, dancing, listening to music, sleeping in or reading in bed. It is about a little piece of personal freedom and doing the things you love. I advocate ethical hedonism, hedonism without living a harmful life. The key as always is balance and common sense.
I always feel a little bemused when people make comments like “I wasted half a day, I didn’t get out of bed until midday.” To which my response is: “And the problem is……?” Fair enough, if you don’t get out of bed before midday as means of regularly shirking responsibility or avoiding reality. But really, what’s wrong with getting out of bed at midday on a weekend morning, particularly when it’s cold, dark and raining outside after you have been working all week or even if it’s not? What’s wrong with sitting around talking, sharing, reading and laughing whilst the dirty dishes from last night’s dinner are sitting in the sink? That hour or two of bonding is enough to keep you going for weeks and give you plenty of energy and motivation to tackle any amount of dirty dishes, dirty laundry and other associated housework. Why are we conditioned to think that every activity must produce a tangible, positive result or be progress towards a goal?
Engaging in ethical hedonism is not only permitted, but I suggest, should be mandatory. Those who think that life is solely about obligations and achievement are missing out. Life is also about pleasure, the dolce vita and we should not feel guilty about the occasional indulgence. Mothers please take note, you owe it to yourselves and those around you to indulge just a little.
Let us not wake up one morning and think that today is going to be THE day only to discover our health and abilities compromised. Tomorrow may never come and those of us at midlife need to balance out living for tomorrow with our capabilities of today. So come and join me and practice a little ethical hedonism every now and again. You never know, it may even give you a longer, happier life.
Viva La Ethical Hedonism Revolution!
Do you have any little indulgences that keep you going? Is blogging one of them? If so, please share them with us. Do you agree that a little ethical hedonism is essential to a happy life?