November 25, 2015 by Jean
I am generally a happy person. I lucked out in the personality sweepstakes and have the type of outlook described by aphorisms like “glass half full” and “when you have lemons, make lemonade.” I specialize in silver linings and am usually able to find the pleasure or beauty in just about any situation or setting.
There are times, however, when all the stars align and my sense of well-being rises above its usual pleasant state to a sense of bliss. My periods of bliss are not so much times of happy excitement as of serene joyfulness. They combine a delicious feeling of relaxation with heightened sensory pleasure in daily life. I have been enjoying this blissful state for the past week or so. My food tastes better, the colors of the natural world are more intense, and I have time to savor it all. Over the weekend, when the weather outside turned raw and cold, I happily curled up in a cozy chair and relaxed with a good novel.
I have long wondered what brings on these sudden and unexpected times of bliss. One explanation I have considered is that they occur when all four “legs” of my well-being – connection with nature, connection with self, connection with others, and meaningful work – are firmly in place (see Finding Balance). My current spell of euphoric well-being, the first such experience since my retirement eighteen months ago, began as my Senior College course ended. Retirement provided me with the time for connecting with nature, self, and others, but I was missing that sense of meaningful work. Teaching at Senior College provided a feeling of accomplishment (doing something that I am very good at) combined with the knowledge that I was contributing something to others. Both these feelings were particularly intense on the last day of class, and were then followed by that delicious sense of time opening up that I have long associated with the end of a teaching semester.
My period of bliss will not last much longer; sooner or later, the bubble of euphoria will be burst by some minor domestic crisis or a problem I need to address. But that’s okay. Bliss is not meant to last; its brevity and rarity are what make it special. Bliss arrives unannounced, like a welcome but unexpected guest, and departs just as suddenly, leaving behind a warm glow of memory. I also experience a sense of loss when my periods of bliss end, but I have confidence bliss will come again.