Bliss

14

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.

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14 thoughts on “Bliss

  1. Beautifully articulated Jean…it is important to note the sense of loss as well with bliss….I think the blissful moments are what memories are made of…when I think back to my happiest memories in these 58 years, they are those blissful moments. I have never defined mine but I do like how yours are defined when those 4 areas are balanced.

    • Jean says:

      Donna, I don’t want to overstate the sense of loss that comes at the end of a period of bliss. For me, it’s not a swing from high to low, but more of a gentle let-down.

  2. Dawn says:

    Cherish these moments of pure bliss, Jean! From one ‘silver linings’ gal to another, we both realize that there are many more times of bliss just around the corner! Sending warm Thanksgiving blessings from the Midwest! ♡

    • Jean says:

      Dawn, I do cherish my periods of bliss. Your warm blessings must have been powerful, because the warmth you haven’t been having in the Midwest seems to have settled down for a few days in northern New England. Portland, Maine tied its all-time high temperature for this date.

  3. Diana Studer says:

    from the outside looking in, I imagine it is blissful to be able to use your teaching skills in a freeer environment.

  4. Jean R says:

    One of the nicest parts getting older is we understand our ebbs and tides. Like Donna (above says) you articulate your bliss swings perfectly.

  5. Brenda says:

    Bliss (sweet, lovely bliss) episodes are more frequent and long-lasting for me now that I’m retired. Probably because my working life was so ridiculously busy, I find that having ample TIME for things is somewhat bliss-inducing all by itself.

    • Jean says:

      Brenda, I think the cycle of the academic calendar, with its workload that builds to a crescendo near the end of the semester and is then followed by a delicious period of relaxation, lent itself to periods of bliss during my working years. The construction on my house for most of the first year of my retirement was definitely not bliss-inducing! But now that the construction is done, I feel as though I’m finally making my retirement what I want it to be.

  6. Sue Tibs says:

    I love this! I especially love that you feel free to express your experience of bliss. In my experience, people say that they want that, but they don’t believe that they can experience it. Good for you, Jean!

    • Jean says:

      Sue, This is such an interesting point. For me, two things are essential for experiencing bliss: (1) understanding that it is an occasional and fleeting visitor, not a permanent state and (2) taking time to be still and open in order to welcome it.

      • Sue Tibs says:

        Yes!! Openness and not-clinging to bliss, those seem to be key, you’re right!

        I’ve been actively experimenting with those concepts for five years. It’s exciting … and also refreshing when other people “get it”.

        I’ve learned that it’s possible to increase the frequency and duration of bliss, while respecting that there will always be an ebb and flow. Life is SO much easier when we let it be a gentle ride (extending your metaphor).

        Thanks for sharing your contemplative adventures. In my prior life as a corporate citizen, I had to repress similar yearnings, but now I am free as a “semi-retired”, eclectic, big kid who loves to mix books and writing with physical adventures.

        Sue Tibs
        womanmyway.com

  7. […] Spring brought improvement on all fronts: I began new activities and met new people, I got away for a week’s vacation, and the construction finally got finished (in May, almost a year after this “three month project” had begun). Once the construction guys and all their stuff were gone and I could get some control over my space, I felt much better. I am an introvert with high needs for solitude so my emotional well-being depends on having time for solitary relaxation and having pleasant space to relax in. By November, I could report that all the emotional pieces had come together and I was experiencing something that had been absent from my post-retirement life, a period of Bliss. […]

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I am Jean Potuchek, a professional sociologist who has just stepped into the next phase of my life, retirement, after more than thirty years of college teaching. This blog is about my experience of that new phase of life.

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