Until a few short weeks ago, I was involved in the opening of a new restaurant in New York City.
I was the wine director responsible for a 45-page wine list that boasted 750 references and over 3500 bottles in the cellar, plus a team of sommeliers.
It was the toughest reservation in town, people clamouring to get in, begging for a reservation to dine and be seen at such a hot spot.
Work on the restaurant began months before, but once it actually opened, my life was no longer my own: I was working seven days a week, often putting in fifteen-hour days. I was so busy that I barely saw my own dog: on one of my rare days off, I actually had to call his walker to find out what he ate because I had run out of his food. Needless to say, friends fell by the wayside, collateral damage for an over-achiever that I seem to have been all my life. Clawing one’s way up a ladder, no matter which industry you’re in, does not leave much room for balance that includes friendship, compassion or empathy.
But now, here I am: unemployed and with no idea of what role I’ll play when life goes back to normal. What will the restaurant world look like when the world at large reopens? Will I have a role in that world? And more importantly, do I even want to stay in it?
Nowadays, hours merge, days and nights flow into each other, thoughts ramble along with no compass…because there is none.
The only thing I know is that we have to navigate forward, because there is no other way.
I sat at the foot of a tree today in Central Park with Baxter, my faithful wheaten terrier, rolling around on the green grass a few feet away, I laughed…really laughed, perhaps the first time in months. Seeing him so happy, made me happy. I turned my face up to the sun and breathed deeply, taking in the Vitamin D and…enjoying the pleasure of being outdoors with my dog: no timetable, no schedule, no appointments…nothing, just the whole afternoon ahead of me. It was bliss.
Such a simple pleasure. I had forgotten what they were like.
As we continued our walk around the bridle path, with me masked and gloved and judiciously walking from one side to the other keeping myself within a 6 foot bubble, I began to think about simple pleasures. What are they?
Simple pleasures are experiences that are exactly as described: simple. They are everyday experiences that don’t take forever to plan or schedule, but mainly, they balance our life, allow the prism to shift from our mad, daily schedules to certain things that fill our souls and make us whole again.
Simple pleasures are highly personal: what is a simple pleasure for me may not be one for you.
Many years ago, I worked as a personal assistant to a very rich Park Avenue matron. She claimed that going shopping every day, buying the same dress in three sizes, two pairs of the same shoes and spending on average $30,000 a day on such things was a ‘simple pleasure.’
Mine, on the other hand, include: waking up to a beautiful day and knowing I don’t have a schedule to follow; staring at the ocean listening to its ebb and flow; lying on the grass staring up at the sky; a glass of wine at sunset; catching up with a friend on a lazy summer afternoon over a lunch of fresh tomatoes, mozzarella and avocado; cooking Sunday lunch for friends…my list is not one that costs a lot of money, all it requires is time…which in my case has been in very short supply, until now.
I’ve been reading a lot of accounts of people who lived through the Spanish flu pandemic just over a hundred years ago. It reads like history repeating itself, except in one, very important way. Technology.
In our enforced solitude, technology has allowed us to still be with one another. We have the luxury of virtual cocktails, virtual dinner parties, virtual gyms…not to mention Netflix and Amazon Prime. And we can get food and groceries delivered.
So whilst we all think we are alone, and a lot of us are, I can Facetime with friends, text them, call them and I know they’re there.
One of the things I hope drifts into the post-corona world is that we remember our friends and those we love and make time every day for the simple pleasures of life, no matter what they are for you.