Do other people get prescribed time in a rocking chair with a blanket and a cup of tea, or is it just me?
Not too long ago, as the holiday season was winding down and we were getting ready to shut down the bakery for a week, my therapist asked what I intended to do with my time off. I rattled off several writing projects, new daily exercise goals, travel to see my family… and my therapist asked “Ok, but are you going to rest?“
“Um… yeah? I mean, I intend to but there’s plenty I’ve been putting off because of the holidays and…”
“Matt, are you familiar with hygge?”
“Yeah, that’s something like ‘coziness’ right?”
“Yes, but intentionally. Find time to deliberately make yourself as comfortable as possible and be okay with doing nothing.”
Well… doctor’s orders.
Weird Word, Wonderful Feeling
“Hygge” (pronounced ‘hyoo-guh’) is a Scandinavian concept that is usually defined as “coziness” but goes beyond that in practice. It is a state- found alone or with friends- where one is not just cozy but satisfied, content, and enjoys a feeling of wellbeing. There is no thought or concern about upcoming deadlines, who’s doing what where and where I need to be in 2o minutes- more or less the mindset of a professional chef. Instead, one just feels here- present, happy, comfortable, enjoying the moment, and well taken care of.
This is not exactly the “20-minute vacation” I espoused on here- one can argue that trying to schedule hygge defeats the concept. One can only do the things and spend time in ways that make hygge more likely to happen than not. Here’s a few examples from my life where I felt that deep, warm glow of contentment- mental images of “my happy place.”
Back when I was in college, I would often drive the 4 hours between my home in New Jersey and my college in Connecticut. It was a long but usually pretty drive, I had just gotten into podcasts and audiobooks, and of course, I knew my favorite places to stop and eat.
Once I got started on the road back to Connecticut late. There had been some rain, but it broke into a full-on torrential downpour when I was somewhere just outside of New York with nothing but strip malls and a highway I could barely see. It was late, I was tired, and my wipers were doing precisely jack to keep the road visible. After a while, I said “screw this” and pulled into a mall parking lot. I parked beneath a streetlight just off of the highway, reclined my seat, and grabbed the knit blanket I kept in the back. I set a timer on my phone for 40 minutes and decided to just get some shut-eye and wait for the rain to let up. I had no classes the next morning, so coming in late wouldn’t be a big deal.
As I dozed off, the squeal of tires on the highway and the drumming rain on the car roof lulled me into the deepest, best sleep of my life. Since then, I have used any number of noise generators to find just the right mix of sound to replicate that… but that knit blanket, warm car, drumming rain, and no hurry has been irreplicable.
I love my wife, and I love sharing my life with her… but I also kind of like managing my own space. In our small apartment, it’s frankly a little hard to find one space that I can completely keep the way I like it- not always tidy exactly, but orderly in its own way.
I imagine that most men when their partners are gone might have something like a “guys night” or play video games/watch sports more than they normally would. The day I put my wife on a plane to go visit her mom for a few days, the first thing I did was clean the house. I scrubbed the kitchen, did all the dishes, organized the living room, and just put everything in order.
Then, when that was all done… I sat in my rocking chair with a glass of whiskey and a book. I put some jazz on, and my cat came to sit in my lap. It was the single most satisfying moment I’d ever felt doing nothing at all. All was well, and the biggest thing left on my to-do list was “go to bed eventually.”
No one can tell you what coziness means for you. I had as good a time relaxing in that rocking chair with a fantasy novel as I ever did in a dive bar.
As much as I enjoy my potent potables, I can count on one hand the number of times I have ever gone on a bar crawl or any kind of “bender.” I am absolutely one of those people who drink because they enjoy it- the flavors, the styles of beer and liquor, the culture, and the opportunity to see people open up is absolutely a turn-on for me. Getting drunk is an often unpleasant or annoying by-product of the experience for me because functioning then becomes a distraction.
Instead, I remember being at a cozy corner table at a bar talking beer with some fellow nerds. I remember rainy nights in Portland made better by Brians beer and heated awning. I remember excited conversations with fellow chefs and cooks, talking shop and sketching out ideas for future creations. The feeling of warmth, friendship, camaraderie, and that nothing was impossible but nothing was needed can’t be matched. The pandemic has put a serious damper on that, but I definitely will be inviting some folks around for just some beers and chat as soon as possible.
When was the last time you found hygge? What was it like, and have you tried to find it again? Tell me about it in the comments!
Stay Classy (AND Cozy,)