The Germans have a word for what I’m feeling right now.
Vorfreude (n): the joyful, intense anticipation that comes from imagining future pleasures.
I am immensely looking forward to the next few months. I’ll be making my way through America’s greatest roadside tourist attractions, building a life in an exciting new city, savoring holiday treats alongside one of the greatest sweet-toothed partners around (the Spectacled Heroine), witnessing the nuptials of beloved friends, and enjoying some unstructured, unscheduled time with family as I leave one side of the country for the other.
Anticipation doesn’t feel like a strong enough word for the feeling I have, sitting in my cubicle, trying to stay focused on the present moment as thoughts of the lovely Irish countryside creep into my thoughts.
Is it possible that this anticipation is even better than the actual event? This article from the New York Times supports the idea that people are actually happier before vacations, during the guidebook reading, Google-searching, Lonely Planet consulting phase of holiday travel. The pre-trip boost in happiness levels does not necessarily extend to the return to daily life. According to this, I should actually be thankful for the few weeks that I have to wrap things up at work, pack up the apartment, and research the wackiest of wacky tourist stops.
Right now, I don’t feel very thankful. I feel ready to get moving, already!
What are you looking forward to? For college students, maybe it is that moment that you finish your final term exam. For parents, maybe it is having all the kids (briefly) under one roof again. For teachers, I know it’s that last bell on the Friday that begins Christmas break.
How can we savor these happy moments, when they finally arrive? And furthermore, how can we stay in the present prior to the anticipated event, and not spend an inordinate amount of time fantasizing about that 5pm departur?
Here’s what I am going to try.
- Realize that the lead-up to your anticipated event is a vital component to its pleasure. The first half of a book leads up to a satisfying conclusion, just as an appetizer teases your palate for a tasty main course. Those tempting smells your bread makes as it bakes in the oven are key to that satiating first bite. By galloping through these anticipatory events, we lose out on some of the joy that the main occasion brings. Anyone who has burned their mouth by biting into a too-hot cookie knows exactly what I am talking about.
- Make an effort to savor the small indulgences. That gorgeous sunrise on my morning drive to work; those endorphins after my weekly 5K run, that hot cup of tea (prepared lovingly by the Hungry Hero). Life isn’t all fun trips and holiday parties; it’s important to find joy in the daily grind. It’s there, if you look for it.
- Plan some weekend or weeknight fun to look forward to, in the lead-up to your anticipated event. This week, it was a trip to an art-inspired bakery (complete with an Americano and a tasty blueberry scone), a new library book that I cannot put down (review to follow), and a much-needed phone catch-up with treasured friend. The Hungry Hero and I have a semi-fancy weeknight meal that we threw into the rotation for this work week. It’s embarrassingly easy, but for some reason, we both agree that it feels more special than a typical weeknight meal.