Friday, January 3, 2014

Under-Appreciated Pleasures

Lately I've been getting up at 4:30 (don't even ask how ridiculously early I go to bed), but this morning I stayed in bed until almost 6, luxuriating in a pleasure I formerly didn't fully appreciate.

Rolling over.

I burrowed deeper under the covers, shifting my position to get more comfortable. I decide to switch from my right side to my left, so I turned over to that side instead. The new position was delicious. To make it even more luxurious, I flipped the pillow over to the fresher, cooler side. In fact, it was so satisfying merely to be able to move around under the covers that I rolled back to my original side, and burrowed still deeper.


I didn't appreciate this particular pleasure until two weeks ago. My sister had shoulder surgery for a torn rotator cuff over Christmas, and during the period of her convalescence she isn't supposed to roll over in bed. In fact, she has been advised against even sleeping in a bed; it's safer just to sleep propped up in a recliner chair. My sister didn't tear her rotator cuff because of a sports injury; it happened just in the course of ordinary everyday living. I engage in ordinary everyday living, too. So a torn rotator cuff could happen to me. I had not one but two bad falls last summer, both for little or no reason at all. Either of those falls could have resulted in my breaking a bone or tearing a ligament. I could be the person told that for a certain time period I can no longer roll over in bed.

But right now I can. And I do. Noticing exactly how pleasurable that is.

A number of years ago I had a bout of vertigo where I was plunged into a terrifying whirling void if I turned my head a certain way, including turning my head to the side in bed. I could ease myself into a different sleeping position, but I couldn't flop around in bed willy-nilly.

Remembering this, in the wee hours of this morning, I flopped more vigorously, just because I could. Flop! Flop! There was nothing stopping me.

Toward the end of my mother's life, when I would visit her in the Kaiser rehab facility, I came to have new appreciation of the ability to walk briskly. I'd realize I had left something I needed back in the car. "I'll run and get it," I'd tell my mother. Sixty seconds later, I was at my car. Sixty seconds after that I was back in her room. The most arduous ordeal of the patients in rehab, placing one foot in front of the other, was easy-peasy for me. I learned to take new joy in easy-peasiness.

It's hard to sustain these new joys. I don't expect to spend every morning for the rest of my life staying in bed for an extra hour just to make sure I notice how deliriously happy I can be rolling over from my left side to my right. But every once in a while it's good to pay attention to these smallest of pleasures, appreciated most fully only when they are taken away: "Don't it always seem to go that you don't know what you've got till it's gone?"

My sister posts a different quote on Facebook every morning from some famous person born on that day. Today it was this from J. R. R. Tolkien: “All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.” I love this line so much. So today, with the time that was given me, I rolled over in bed. And I loved every minute of doing it.


  1. I have both of these problems. I tore my rotator cuff three times in the last two years. The last time I also tore my bicep. That time I required an anchor to hold everything in place. I wasn't told to sleep sitting up. The instructions from my surgeon were simple: If it hurts, don't do it.

    As for vertigo, I can't bend over nor can I sleep on my back. Both of those activities send me spinning. Not bending over doesn't hamper my life that much. I have children who can help and a grabber stick, but I long to lay on my back, to luxuriate in stretching out in a new direction.

    The simple pleasures in my life are vicarious. I watch my children growing into adults, and I marvel at the innocence they still contain. I try to remember what it felt like to hold hands with a boy for the first time or to drive a car even if it is only in the driveway. I listen to them whisper secrets to each other and wonder if I ever had anyone I could whisper secrets to. Then, I think of you.

  2. Roberta, this is so beautiful. How fondly I remember our secrets of girlhood shared together. I'm sorry you've had so many physical challenges, but it sounds as if you've responded to them with grace and gratitude of all the joys that still remain.

  3. I, too, had a rolling over morning! First in a long time. Lovely and dream-filled. Something about being past a super-moon, maybe? Thanks for another thoughtful, wise and wonderful blog post, Claudia. xo

  4. Now, I have a new way to describe these mornings: "rolling over mornings." Yes! And I wouldn't even have know about the super-moon if it weren't for you, dearest Elizabeth.

  5. Claudia, as a cat owner, maybe you are familiar with this terrible dilemma of pleasures: rolling over vs. purring cat on your chest. Rolling over would surely feel nice, but it would disturb the purring cat. The disturbed cat, thinking "How dare he presume the freedom to roll-over whenever he likes!", will express its anger by leaving the bed.

    For me, every morning this hedonistic dilemma somehow turns into a semi-conscious ethical dilemma during which I ask myself "Do I really have the right to disturb the cat simply to enjoy the pleasure of rolling over?".

    Can you provide any advice on how I should deal with this situation?

  6. Scott, I am so glad you asked this. The cardinal rule to keep in mind at all times is "Never dislodge a cat." In our family, all family members stand ready to be summoned at all hours of day or night to retrieve items or perform services needed by someone who has a cat comfortably situated on his or her lap. This means that one is not allowed to dislodge a cat merely to attain the pleasure of rolling over in bed. However, one is allowed to dislodge a cat to avoid excruciating discomfort- for example, if one's leg is trapped in a painful position - or to pursue mandatory activities such as getting up to go to work to generate income to keep the cat in comfort. I hope this helps.