Art by Rachel Bennett: Washington DC

The Best Things in Life

By Sybil Ottenstein

Everything and everyone seemed to have a dark side.

A little while back, my friend Lauren and I set ourselves a mission: to identify the “best things in life.” If we could identify these things, then we would have a benchmark for all other less-best things. And that in and of itself is comforting.

The guidelines were simple: it must be the best, consistently. It cannot lead to ups and downs. There can be no good days or bad days. There cannot be even a minimal possibility of physical or emotional suffering associated with said thing.

Our first contender was the feeling of butterflies in your stomach after you meet someone you really like. We almost immediately had to cross this one off the list. Butterflies are, more often than not, followed by their less spoken about cousin, the evil-butterflies, which attack as you wait by the phone in anxious agony. We debated for hours, days and weeks on end, adding things to the list only to cross them off after realizing that they weren’t exactly right.

Finally, we formed our list:

  1. Clean sheets – there is nothing like the feeling of getting into a bed of clean sheets, fresh out of the dryer. Get your showered body in those sheets for a little summer afternoon nap and literally nothing can go wrong.
  2. Chapstick – When your lips are cracked, aching for moisture and you apply some of that sweet sweet goo, whatever your brand of choice, you are sure to be on a one-way train to pleasure town.
  3. Cold water – You wake up in the morning, and what’s the first thing your body craves? A delicious glass of cold water. You get home from a run, panting and parched. Only a glass of cold water can do the trick. Time and time again, there is nothing quite like cold water.

Disappointed that the list is comprised of material items? We were too. Until we realized that it was not the material aspects of these items that made them the “best,” but rather, the feeling that they deliver. They generate comfort, delight and quite simply: bliss. Whenever we’d be feeling down, we would remind ourselves of the list, and suddenly, rays of clarity would shine through.

Lauren is no longer with us. She passed away earlier this year. Today, when I think of my dear friend, I feel comfort, longing and love. Not exactly a material item and she also doesn’t perfectly fit the guidelines (Lauren and my relationship was filled with wonderful little ups and downs), I have still decided to add her to our list, as one of the best things in life.

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