A couple of weeks ago my coach (yes, I have a coach) told me my assignment for the next week was to seek pleasure. Uhhh, OK? I was a little surprised by this but then I soon realized the fact that I was surprised by it or resistant to it was the exact reason I needed to do my homework. How had I gotten so “grown up” that I didn’t automatically seek pleasure anymore? When did that happen?
Truly, this was not a philosophical question but a real need to know why or how or when … that may be my journalism background jumping in. Where had I lost the innate, natural, instinctive drive to seek pleasure? Then I started to question if I ever had it. First, I thought, well surely I did/do have it. Didn’t I?
My brain was a little jostled by all this and soon after my session I went back to work. That’s right, my friends, I went back to work. I know the bright kids in the class have already spotted the problem. For the rest of you, stay tuned. It took me a minute for 10,000 minutes, too.
I went back to work and yet this pleasure thing was running around like a gnat in the back in my mind. What did she mean, really? I enjoy good food. I like to read a good book. I was running all these thoughts in my head — while I worked. Yes, kids, I am a slow learner. I somewhat pride myself on being quasi-intelligent. Don’t give me a math problem or anything but write an essay, I am your girl. If it comes to learning a foreign language — yep, got that too. I know my way around the English language although this blog may not be a good representation of that.
Friday arrived and I finished up work early so I could go run. Now this is where I started to get the message. I went out to run nine miles on a Friday afternoon. I run. I like to run. I am a long distance runner. I like to challenge myself at ultra distances. But while running it occurred to me that you can enjoy something but it doesn’t necessarily give you pleasure. Let’s be honest, no matter how much you like to run, cycle, practice yoga, do Pilates, barre, strength train — it’s not pleasure per se. There’s a high that you get sometimes during and definitely after completing the task at hand but let’s call it what it is: work. It’s work to run. It’s work to cycle. It’s work to do Pilates.
And I don’t mean work as a negative but there is effort involved. Period.
The light bulb had finally turned on. I do things that I enjoy. And I often enjoy working hard. But I rarely, hardly ever, do anything for the simple pleasure of it.
I have found a way to make everything a job.
When I meditate, it’s aimed at a goal.
When I write, it’s almost always purposeful even though I enjoy it.
I cook because I am hungry.
I take a hot bath to soothe my sore muscles.
Uh oh! This felt so enlightening and defeating nearly at the same time. I finally got it and …ugh, I got it. I stopped having fun for the sake of fun. Lots of things that I do will naturally have moments of fun in them but I will do them even if there isn’t.
A few weeks ago, I sent Lowi the book entitled “Joyful” by Ingrid Fetell Lee. (Check our her Ted Talk) I had heard lots of good buzz about it and now after all this talk about pleasure, I figured I’d better get one for me, too. I figured joy and pleasure probably live in the same neighborhood, have the same friends, and eat at the same restaurants, right?
In the early pages of this book, the author talks about a lack of color in many of our lives and that’s a symptom of having a lack of joy. The whole time I read this book I am fascinated and horrified of how far I have somehow strayed. In all my efforts to — well I really don’t know what — I stopped being who I always was. I guess I got the idea that I needed to be more serious so I wouldn’t be dismissed. I was for a long time, a woman in a male-dominated job and I wanted to be respected and I wanted to have my voice heard. I internalized this idea (I imagine) that tamping down all my Angela-ness was the way to do that. I am guessing at this as I am trying to connect the dots. Our brains are funky little arenas.
Anyway, the other night while reading about color and the power of having whimsical environments, it dawned on me that I did, in fact, at one time know how to have fun! I had this quick flash of my childhood bedroom(s). One that I shared with my sister, Lisa, and then as I got older, my own bedroom. Even though I wouldn’t call myself artistic in the traditional sense I was drawn to the creative. I used to cover my entire wall (the one on my side of the room) with all these magazine clippings of clothing, scenery, bands whatever that I enjoyed. I hadn’t thought about that in years! How had I misplaced that instinct?
But things got really interesting, when I had my own bedroom. Soon the walls were painted with a beach scene, a flamingo (courtesy of none of my artistic skill, mind you) and I used puffy paint to emblazon (some might say deface) my favorite quotes on the back of my bedroom door (which my parents will surely have to replace if they ever sell their home). I had glow-in-the dark stars on my ceiling, beads hanging in the doorway, and all kinds of decorations tossed about. I had a papasan chair that I had begged for because they were the coolest.
I let out a sigh of relief! I did know how to be light-hearted. I have just forgotten!
I was (still am) the kid who thought being a hamster trainer was a viable employment option!! Yep, that was me.
I was relieved. I know this may sound dramatic but I was starting to panic a little. Part of the reason for this is it made me think of my work as a personal trainer. For clients who have a past history of exercise or sports, they know what it feels like to exercise. We are simply reawakening that part of them. We aren’t building it. Now, can you build it? Of course, you can but it’s tough. If you’ve never really raised your heart rate in exercise before, some folks are scared. They are sure they are dying because they’ve never experienced this before so it takes time for them to get the feel of it. I assume the same is true for learning to have fun and be playful but just like exercise it’s easier when you are simply remembering.
After all that, now what?
My first reaction was to start planning and scheduling my fun and pleasure. Then I realized that was already getting me right back into the problem. Grrr.
What I have landed on is setting aside time in my schedule for fun but that’s as far as the planning goes. And when that time arrives, no matter how much work, laundry, or whatever I think I need to do, I instead go do something fun. Even if it’s just sitting in my office chair spinning around in a circle until I am so dizzy I fall off.
Sunshine & Sarcasm,
Lowi & G