"Was that Satisfying?"


"What did you do all day?" Louisa asked.

There had been a time when Mirella liked Louisa's questions- what a gift, she'd once thought, to be with someone who was so interested, interested in everything she'd done all day, someone who cared enough to ask- but tonight it was an intrusion.

"Went for a walk. Did some laundry. Stared at Instagram, mostly." 

"Was that satisfying?"

"Of course not," Mirella said, a little sharper than she'd intended, and Louisa gave her a surprised look. 

Sea of Tranquility, Emily St. John Mandel (60)


Was that satisfying? 

Ever since finishing Sea of Tranquility  the other day I keep returning to this seemingly inconsequential line, which also tends to elicit humming of a certain Rolling Stones song, naturally. It also reminds me a little of Marie Kondo's nauseating phrase "does it spark joy?" (no Marie, my iron doesn't spark joy, but sometimes I need to remove the goddamn wrinkles from my shirt, so back the hell off). But, this is different. Was that satisfying?

Simply put "satisfying" means "giving fulfillment or the pleasure associated with this." I mean, that's really the basis for a happy life, right? Or at least contentment, being fulfilled and finding pleasure, both of which come in all shapes and sizes. 

Satisfaction is so personal and can vary within one person, dependent on the time, day, or phase in life. A satisfying weekend to me as a college student (cheap cookies, an afternoon binging illegally downloaded movies with my boyfriend, and news of a canceled class) is so drastically different from me now as a thirty-eight-year-old (slaying a long to-do list, a good meal, time with friends, time with family, a tough workout, and some sort of activity out of the house... clearly it takes a lot more now, haha). Satisfaction depends on what our goals and desires are, as well. I am satisfied when I feel productive, active, and involved, while others would feel the opposite. There's a billion different types of satisfaction, as well: emotional, physical, professional, personal, spiritual, gastronomical, creative, social, cultural, familial- the list goes on and on. It's more than just happiness, but it can be an integral part of what brings us joy in our lives. 

I think there's a difference between short term satisfaction and long-term, as well. This could be with healthy habits (maybe walking is satisfying today, but over time will it really support long-term fitness goals?), finances, careers, and who choose to spend our time with. 

More than anything, I found two points of importance in this phrase. The first is in regards to myself. Is what I am doing bringing satisfaction? I hate folding laundry, but the idea of clean clothes and being done with a tedious chore does in fact satisfy me. A work out? Definitely. Time spent playing with my son? Sure! And while I never sit down on the couch to watch TV alone, an hour  or two watching something with my husband satisfies the need to have time with just him (as opposed to conversation interrupted by a certain little kid, work emails, chores, the dog, etc...). This works the other way, too, though. This morning I found myself getting carried away with my Instagram scrolling- five minutes was a satisfying break from responsibilities, but the fifteen minutes I was approaching felt like a time suck, which was where the "was that satisfying?" question comes into play.

The second point of importance is a return to above when I remarked satisfaction being different for others. Sometimes I hear how others spend their time and I just... don't get it. But satisfaction is personal and after a long day at work or caring for kids a few hours binging crappy TV really is a satisfying release for them (just how I'd prefer ice cream to carrots). As my son CONSTANTLY reminds us, mostly when we're telling him he's incorrect, "different people like different things." 

While nothing is perfect,  this phrase is a good reminder to focus on what brings value to our lives but also the permission to slow down and enjoy what does bring us satisfaction. 

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