Thursday, January 10, 2013

The Pleasure Principle

A lot of years ago, I briefly volunteered as a "reader" with the Canadian National Institute for the Blind.  Once a week I would visit, and read to, a 96 year old Hungarian woman named Helen.  For the first few weeks, I tried reading articles from the newspaper to her, and then passages from a book, but as it turns out, she was much more interested in asking me questions about my life, and telling me stories about hers.  That was fine with me, and I became privy to thoughts about men, work, and life in general, from an opinionated, interesting, and astonishingly independent woman. 

This is a photo of Helen, taken by a family member, around the time that I met her.  After about a year of semi-regular visits, there were some major changes in her life, and sadly, she died quite suddenly.  The only consolation was that it was on her own terms, in the same way that she had lived her life.  She gave some of the best advice I have ever received from another adult, and when I find myself sinking into a negative thought pattern about my life, I can still hear her voice in my head....

"Shelley, you must find a little pleasure in every day" (said with a thick Hungarian accent)

So, in honour of Helen, to whom I have always been grateful for allowing me into her life, here are the things I took pleasure in today

The furry rat tummy that greeted me this morning

Hair Flowers! Polka Dots!

The sun came out

and finally, these Want Want rice crackers that I purchased purely because of the name (if only there had been a second "e" in Shelly!) turned out to be really tasty.  Fred thought so too.

Helen also told me that a woman needs to have at least three men in her life - one for sex, one for friendship, and one to take you out.  Smart dame, Helen was.


  1. Shelley, this is exactly what I needed today. Well, this week to be exact. I've been so unfulfilled and plagued with unusual boredom. I know I need something in my life where I'm helping others, which I use to do many years ago but found myself unplugged from the fulfillment due to other life circumstances. Yesterday I was combing volunteer opportunities with seniors and am still wondering the best way to get involved in something satisfying like this.
    I love her face here so much. I can imagine the wonderful but short relationship you had with her and bet she gained much from you as well. I can see it in your face.
    I'm going to think about the small joys that came into my life today too. Thai food, Krista's package, a hand full of almonds. ;)
    Thank you Shelley!

    1. Joni...You voiced exactly what I've been experiencing lately too. Boredom...and there's no excuse for it from my end. There is so much to be done in the world, so many ways to make someone else's life better. And here I sit...bingeing...must be the time of year. I'd be interested to hear what sort of activity you take on to get out of YOUR funk...I could use some good inspiration or a shot in the seat of the pants!

  2. Oh, and Happy Birthday David Bowie (yesterday) !!!!

  3. Smart words. It's good to find that something good and take note rather than let it slip by as part of the scenery. And Want Want rice crackers with your name on them is pretty special!

  4. What an interesting pair you and Helen must have made! Plenty of wit, warmth and wisdom in those conversations of yours, I'm sure.
    I think I need to remember Helen's philosophy at the moment too - and I would add find a little humour along with the pleasure! Lovely to see the furry rat tummy, sunshine always helps, and I Want Want some of those crackers too!
    Three men, eh? Well, I guess some women are lucky enough to find the three functions all rolled into just one man, but if not, then your friend had a good point... I think I would have liked Helen very much too! xxxxxxx

  5. Oh wise woman, Helen!! It's lovely that you struck up a friendship like that. I too have received jaw-droppingly wonderful advice from some pretty amazing women of wisdom.
    I can't believe the name of that senbei! How yummy they look. They are one of my favourite snacks.

  6. Helen sounds utterly fantastic, you were so lucky to meet her. I love the furry rat tummy And you definitely had to buy those crackers xx

  7. Thank you for introducing us to Helen - I love her mischievous twinkle, polka dots, and double scoop, as well as her wisdom. :D Lovely moments of today's joys.

  8. Thanks for this inspiring post, Shelley! If I weren't happily married, I'd follow her advice on men!

  9. What a fabulous story! It really is about "the little things" in life...
    Sounds like Helen was beautiful inside AND outside! Thanks for sharing her words and story!


  10. Great post Shelley.
    Love your polkadot and flower inspiration.
    Enjoy your weekend.

  11. What a wonderful thing to do. More of us should do the same. So many elderly people are forgotten nowadays.

  12. Helen's words of wisdom live on! Thank you for sharing them.

  13. How great that Helen still remains a part of your life, Shelley. And nice to remember and celebrate those little daily things that make us happy (for me, these days, a cup of tea after a walk with my honey; feeling the baby kick; hearing my kitty purr like a chainsaw). Those crackers crack me up (oops didn't intend to pun!) and I would have snapped them up too. Thanks for this post, and thanks also for your kind wishes on my blog.
    P.S. Love the petticoat! xo

  14. O,smart dame indeed!
    Dammit, why do we only gain such wisdom with age?! Well, some of us, anyway!
    Helen sounds like she was a humdinger of a lady. And she has left her mark on your life, and now a few more lives! That's brillant!
    Furry tummy's are the BEES KNEES!

  15. Helen was a wise Lady indeed!
    Shelley i love this close up of you so fabulous
    You should do close up more often!
    I 'm lucky Mr D is the. 3 men
    He takes me out, he's my friend and my lover!
    So lucky!

    Ariane xxxx

  16. Your relationship with Helen is inspiring! As are her words of wisdom.

    The color of your hair flower with your hair leap off the screen and have made me smile on a Monday morning. Of course you wore the flower with polka dots. And sounds like bonding with Fred over 'Shelly rice crackers' brought the type of pleasure prescribed by Helen.

  17. What is not to love in this post? The wise and lovely Helen, a chubby little rat tummy, a sunny day, eponymous rice crackers, polka dots and shots of color! Merci beaucoup!

  18. My great aunty used to say that about three men!

    You are glorious in your hair flower and polka dots. I love the lovely rat tummy (just begging for a tickle) and RIP Helen - what an awesome dame (like you Want Want Shelley!)

    Sarah xxx

  19. Uuuuuu. Loovely, loovely, loovely, in my best imitation Cockney accent. Great idea for a post!

    not anonymous
    just can't always figure it out

  20. What a lovely sad story. Words to live by for sure.