The Pleasure Principle

As can happen, a second word has found it’s way to me for the year.

I have been happily living through my deeply-felt word for 2019, which is CORE. (You can read about my Word for the Year practice here and my word for the year here.) Didn’t think or know anything was missing. I was perfectly content with CORE. CORE is a big ask! A truly great word for the year. I was content.

Until I was given an exercise by someone I am working with (a Desire Catalyst!) and I realized that yet another word had found it’s way into my life and demanded my attention. And that word is PLEASURE.

I was given a very simple task: make a list of ten things that create a experience of pleasure for me.

Let’s look at the definition of PLEASURE, according to the Oxford Dictionary:

definition: a feeling of happy satisfaction and enjoyment:
“she smiled with pleasure at being praised”
synonyms:
happiness, delight, joy, gladness, rapture, glee, satisfaction, gratification, fulfillment, contentment, contentedness, enjoyment, amusement, delectation
adjective 1. used or intended for entertainment rather than business:
“pleasure boats”
verb 1. give sexual enjoyment or satisfaction to:
“tell me what will pleasure you”

I totally get the definition. Yes, I know what that means. Sounds great!

Then I get to the synonyms. Whoa. Rapture? Glee? Gratification? Delectation?

Other than a few amazing culinary experiences and some lovely sexual activity that I have known on occasion, where I am finding that kind of PLEASURE in my life? In my day, even? And by finding I mean, where I am taking the time out of my day to seek experiences that are truly pleasurable? Uh oh.

Then I get to its use as an adjective. There’s a bit of a hint. How much do I allow myself to do out of a day that is not in some way associated with business. The business of acting. The business of the business of acting. The business of living. Of being. A lot of business and busi-ness in my life. 

Then I get to PLEASURE as a verb. Now, that is a whole other post for another day. Let’s just say, I am usually “too busy.” Or it becomes the business of being intimate. I mean, you can approach anything in a business-like way. Even sex. “Gotta fit it in.”  Not, I am going to take this hour and just play for pleasure. Nope, just another thing on my list of things to get done.

So what is up with that, I asked myself.

The good news is that I had no trouble creating a list.

That came pretty easy. Great! I have no trouble identifying things that give me pleasure.

The problem is that I have trouble giving myself the time and permission to actually let myself have or do them.

I had my list, and I looked at it, and realized that I rarely allowed myself the time to enjoy or do any of the things on my list. (And some of them were as simple as enjoying a glass of water!)

It turns out that I am fairly anorexic in the pleasure arena. I staunchly deprive myself of things that bring me pleasure. What does this mean exactly?

This Pleasure Practice idea seemed so simple.

Now I am realizing that I have a lot of unraveling to do. And simple does not always mean easy.

What comes up when I begin to give myself the time and space to choose one or two and commit to doing them for two weeks?

I was so overwhelmed at the thought of it! My Protestant forebears reeled back in rebuke. My Puritan roots bristled with disgust. A lifetime (and beyond) of judgement and condemnation rushed through my psyche, channelling all those familial, cultural, historical and societal influences that my ancestors lived through and that I was born into and surrounded by throughout childhood. Words flew across my mind like dark bats hitting the sides of a cave: glutton, whore, lazy, lowlife, no-gooder, disgusting, perverted.

You see, I come from people who believe that self-discipline and suffering are badges of moral merit. To live for pleasure — well, that would mean to be wasteful. My heart craved pleasure, but my cellular memory feared it.

So my Desire Catalyst suggested to just start with one thing on my list: I was to let myself enjoy one glass of water at 1 PM each day.

At the mere suggestion, something in me breaks, some dam inside that I had no idea was there, the dam holding back a thirst for pleasurable things. I cry a deep little cry as the realization follows that I have been living decades denying myself small simple pleasures in my quest for great things.

And then something else breaks through…and I know.

I have found my second word for the year. Or it has found me.

So here I go. 2019, the year of CORE and of PLEASURE. Just typing that makes butterflies in my belly. Who am I to want to have more PLEASURE in my life? I speak gently, but firmly to whomever asked that question within me: I am the person who is going to break this pattern of belief. I am the one who is going to blaze a new trail for all that came behind me. I am the one who is going to seek PLEASURE from my CORE.

I cannot wait to see where these two lead me.

#core #pleasure #wordfor20019

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Tropical Sense

When I was a young girl, someone gave me a very small solid of perfume.

I think that it might have been my great grandmother who brought it back from a trip to Hawaii.

She had lost her husband before I was born and traveled extensively in her later life. Quite an independent, adventuresome woman for her time. She had amazing style – dressed impeccably and decorated her Texas apartment with an elegance that was unique.

I was very young – maybe 5 years old. But I loved it. I was both a girlie girl and a Tomboy from day one, though I outwardly presented only as the former, and eventually, sadly, the Tomboy in me was abandoned by me in order to fit in/gain acceptance.

The perfume smelled like tropical smells – I think Gardenia was very much in the forefront.

It came in a small round plastic case the color if the Seafoam Green Crayon – remember that? I loved that too. That color only came in the 64 crayon size box – it seemed so luxurious, that crayon.

So it felt very grown up and special to have that perfume.

My grandmother was charismatic and quite the lady. I loved and feared her: she was very invested in etiquette and manners. She called me wiggle Worm. I guess I was naturally filled with vibrant impulses. She was the start of my socialization, and I learned to suppress that energy, to strive poise.

Eventually, the solid ran down until only the case was left, which eventually I lost.

But over the years, and to this day, I recall that smell. Intermittently, I have tried to find it again. I’ve longed for that scent, the exotic smell of far away tropical paradise.

I recently found a scent that is the closest I have come so far. It is not exact, but close.

I still hope to find the original again someday.

Perhaps I am looking to claim that half-girl, half-boy I was. To reclaim that vibrancy, those physical impulses.

Perhaps on a trip to Hawaii I will find it again? And those parts of myself? Wouldn’t that be amazing.

What has been a significant scent in your life? Why?

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On the Road Again

My husband and I are driving a Penske truck filled with furniture from our last apartment In the Bronx, NY to Texas. We’ve made this trip before.

Last time, we drove the opposite way with the same furniture from my parents’ home just after we were married 8 years ago, just after my Dad died, a year after my brother died and two years after my mother did.

I was so grateful for that furniture at the time. Newly married, making a home with someone for the first time, I was thrilled to have really nice things to bring to our shared space, a new apartment we’d chosen together.

Having lived in a tiny studio apartment in the West Village of NYC for 18 years prior to this big change, I had no furniture to speak of. My husband had some nice things to bring from his place, but not enough. We were stretching our budgets to get our apartment. New furniture was not in the plan. So my parents was a blessing.

It was amazing how perfectly the furniture all worked together. We chose rich colors for the walls off of the colors in the rugs, and somehow, it all had an eclectic warmth that just felt right. So “us,” somehow. The us we were becoming.

For the first years of our marriage, in those years after those huge losses in which I grieved and lived as best I could, that furniture surrounded me and held me and filled the empty gaping hole their deaths left.

I cherished it all. I had my father’s bronzed baby cowboy boots as book ends. A china cabinet held bluebirds, brown ware and silver pieces from my mother’s collections. We ate off of plates and used pans brought up from their kitchen. Put drinks on coasters from their den.

Our bedroom furniture was from my parents first house. The first expensive rug they bought, a now-worn but still lovely Oriental, sat under their gorgeous dark wood dining table and chairs.

But somewhere along year 6, something began to shift in me, and now, 18 months later, after a Konmari wave that washed away my clutter, a new apartment search, offer, and purchase, a renovation, putting an apartment on the market, a sale, a closing, a move, and a settling in, here I am. Day two of a three day journey to take much of that furniture to a new home.

My cousin, who my parents loved, who has a lovely wife and two young kids and a house, is happily taking the furniture off my hands. Whatever he did not take, others in NY needed and wanted.

Tomorrow we reach Austin, where the pieces will be put in their new home.

And I will let go. Of the grieving time. Of the me that has lived these 8 years in the after-shock, doing my best.

I feel such a mix of sadness and relief and excitement. Sadness because I still wish they were here instead of their things. Relief because something is done that I seem to have needed to do. Some job I unconsciously took on will soon be complete. And excitement is for this next part, whatever it will be.

Today I crave space. I want to be surrounded by things that resonate the me I am today. Our new home in no way resembles our last. And I love it with its new colors and furniture, and kickass river views.

I kept one chair out of it all. And reupholstered it. It looks wonderful there, surrounded by our new pieces, our new rugs.

At the end of the first day’s drive, we were treated to a blazing orange sky. Since my mother passed, I am convinced that beautiful sunsets are her way of letting me know she is there, loving me. It was clear that she, my Dad and brother, approve of this trip.

My parents and brother are still with me. But now they fill my heart space. I carry them wherever I go.

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Fast-Forward

I reach forward through time

Caress my own face

Trace the worn rivulets

Heart-lines that reveal

The worries, the laughter

The life that I have lived

I tuck the silver hair behind my ear

I run my finger down the

Cords and veins on my hand

Touch the wedding ring

My pride, my true love, my joy

I whisper, “Rest now, my friend.

You did it. You survived.

And then you thrived.

And now, you can let go.”

I feel such love for her

The me I came to be

I come back into my present

Filled with love-swell and peace

And deep knowing

Nothing to fear at the end

Nothing to fear

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For Laura

I know some incredible women.

It is one of those women’s birthday today.

Some people just blow you away. Laura inspires me daily. She is an artist, a wife, a mother, a sister, a daughter, a friend. A leader. A teacher. An activist. A community contributor. An active citizen.

She lost her 20 year old brother to suicide in 2000. Rather than fall into despair, she has used her grief to create, educate, help and heal.

Read about one of her creations, Arts & Dreams, and the incredible work they do here.

Enjoy her art work here.

Laura reminds me to live creatively, lovingly, with ample doses of self-forgiveness.

I am so lucky she was born and that I know her.

She Is
Scarlet lips
Piercing chocolate eyes
Portals who see your soul
Lives in brush strokes
Of love and thoughtful heart
Colors rich with knowing
Midwife of self-love
Earth angel saving
wretched alone-hearts
One mantra at a time

For Me

A few years back, a teacher suggested to me the idea that when challenges happen in my life (“challenges” being a woke way of saying when bad shit happens) I ask the question “Why is this happening for me?” rather than “Why is this happening to me?”

That everything that is happening contains lessons that are designed to contribute to some necessary growth that ultimately will contribute to my living my greatest life.

It is a lovely idea. Unless, that is, you are in it. When it is feeling like the Universe is is just out to get you, the idea that things are happening for your highest good can seem, well, ridiculous.

In those moments, I tend to feel like a total victim. In my mind, I am sure that somewhere there are people whose lives are working out just great. That there are people to whom these shitty things do not happen.

I bemoan why these things must happen to me. Does the Universe think so little of me? Am I such a loser that I do not deserve good?

This response to difficult or bad things happening is learned. It comes from a wounding from long ago, at an age when I had no ways to cope. No way of understanding bad things happening other than to assume that it was my fault: that I was in some way not worthy of good.

This wound and the subsequent thinking and feeling habits that developed out of it seem to be getting kicked up again and again lately.

It’s this new apartment and the renovation and new furniture.

(I know, I know. These are luxury problems. It isn’t what they are. It’s what they kick up.)

Without realizing it, somehow, somewhere in my psyche some part of me, the wounded part, has loaded this new home with some kind of meaning that runs way deeper than up leveling to a newer, nicer home.

This new place and new things seem to represent something that is impossible to reach or maintain. Unbeknownst to me, some part of me needs this home to be perfect.

Things keep happening. A strange stain on the new velvet couch that I sweat was not there before. A little work spot on a new leather chair that I also swear was not there before. The furniture is not even in use yet! We’ve had it all covered as we’ve finally moved in.

I would almost believe there’s a sprite or gremlin playing tricks on me.

This all started weeks ago. First the new floor buckled in places. The very well-put-in floor. Then the AC leaked and caused a tiny bit of damage. Then the spot on the velvet couch I mentioned that was not there until it was: it can only be seen at an angle, but still. It was perfect. Now it is marred. Then the marks in the leather chair. How? When? Who?

Each new event sends me into this painful spin of confusion – disbelief, anger, hurt. Why? Why us? Why our new things? Can’t we have one month to enjoy this place before things become marred?

Am I such a loser that I do not deserve nice things?

Then I get enraged. Why do others get happy lives and my one chance at goodness is once again stripped away from me? Can’t I have just one beautiful thing for a moment?

Woah. I know this is all way too loaded for just this situation. I don’t remember ever feeling this way before about any place or thing. And yet here I am and it is deep. Things are being triggered here!

And I know, I know. These are total luxury problems.

I should be grateful for the abundance. And I am. But why are the gifts I get always dented?

It can feel so dark and sad.

I guess it is time to tend to that girl’s wound. The one who first decided that she was unworthy of good.

I see I have someone to get to know.

I breathe and try to trust that I will gain clarity at some point. I try to remember that this is happening for me. That there is an opportunity for me to heal something. I am just so murky and in it right now. I cannot see it. Yet.

But I will.

And I will grow through it, somehow.

And I will gain a new friend, if she’ll have me. The wounded girl.

Ah ha.

There is is…

Just “for me.”

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