While walking back through the cold backyard to the house, I noticed how I was thinking ahead to that warm cup of coffee I would make when I got inside. The next pleasant thing.
Years ago, when I was a heavy smoker, the first thought that came into my head when I woke up each morning was that first cigarette. The next pleasant thing.
I stopped in the backyard to give it some thought.
This was just a bit too much like “I’ll be happy when” thinking. I’ll be happy when I marry Prince Charming. I’ll be happy when I get a raise. I’ll be happy when I have that next smoke. If I put too much interest on “the next pleasant thing”, do I consign my happiness to that future time?
What about now?
I stopped thinking and looked around. It was barely dawn. I could hear Shadow, the golden retriever, barking on the farm next door. The sparrows were at the feeders; I could hear their voices quarrelling in descant harmony. The air felt cold on my cheeks. Snowflakes held their intricate shapes for a while on the sleeves of my fuzzy coat before they melted. In that moment, life was more than merely pleasant. It was a joy.
The anticipated pleasure of coffee still gave me a lift. But it was no longer occupying my attention. My good cheer didn’t depend on it. The pleasure of right now eclipsed the next pleasant thing.
Revised slightly from the story published in February 2010 in my free monthly email newsletter, Starry Night. Sign up here.