A few years ago, I was flipping through a celebrity magazine, and on one of the pages, they’d asked different celebs what their guilty pleasures were. Most gave the typical answers like wine, chocolate, or online shopping, but one person, I wish I remembered who, wrote: “I don’t have any because I never feel guilty about my pleasures.”
The perfection of this caught me off guard, and it had such an impact on me. I’ve actually seen it quoted by a few different people since then, but the origin isn’t important. What’s important is how profound and amazing a concept this is.
Living things are hardwired to seek pleasure and avoid pain. Obviously, right? It’s a survival mechanism, but also, what would be the point of living if it weren’t for pleasure? Somewhere along the way (many would blame organized religion, but that’s a whole other topic), the idea arose that pleasure was to be avoided and that to “indulge” in pleasure must require a healthy dose of guilt.
The message this sends is that we can’t be trusted around pleasure as if it will derail us, or something. In this scenario, guilt acts to protect us from ourselves and keep us “safe and in line.”
I’d like to propose though, that instead of only occasionally indulging in pleasure, while also feeling guilty about it, we just fully own it and make our lives as full of pleasure as possible. I think if we made pleasure (which translates to happiness) a priority, the world would be a much better place.
Because we’re so stingy with it, we’ve come to associate pleasure with selfishness or greed. But if we were more open with it, we’d see that it’s the exact opposite! Pleasure is like rocket fuel for our lives and the more we embrace pleasure, the happier and more loving and generous we can be.
How do you feel after a day of hard work, having also denied yourself delicious food, rest, or play? Are you full of energy and ready to help others? Or do you want to simultaneously cry, sleep, and eat a tub of ice cream? Now compare that to how you feel after a day of chatting with friends, eating delicious food, being outside, and having some great sex (or whatever it is that you find pleasurable). You probably feel happy, at peace, and more open to helping others.
Pleasure doesn’t have to be an expensive or lengthy process (i.e. it doesn’t need to involve a trip to the spa or a five-star resort). It can truly be as simple as taking a few deep breaths, making yourself some tea, or hugging someone you love. The beauty of pleasure is its simplicity. Pleasure means caring about yourself and offering yourself the love that you deserve.
While I write this, I keep pausing to check in on my breath and any tension in my body. The more I breathe and relax, the more pleasurable anything and everything feels. Practicing presence is practicing pleasure.
I also believe that we should be able to eat chocolate, drink champagne, take mid-day naps in the sun, go for 2-hour massage appointments, and buy ourselves beautiful things. We are spiritual beings living in a physical world, and the best way to celebrate this is by diving head first into the pleasures that this physical world can offer. We are here to have fun!
Most importantly, I think it’s important that we don’t see these as guilty pleasures that we only earn by putting in a hard day’s work. I want us to see pleasure as our prerogative, our birthright, and a celebration of what it means to be alive. I want us to know that pleasure doesn’t have to be earned.
I used to take life so seriously and having fun just didn’t seem overly important. But life changed for me, not all at once, but gradually, when I changed my perspective on pleasure. It got a whole lot more fun and a whole lot more amazing. I’ve made fun and pleasure my spiritual practice, and I am never looking back.
Dry January opened my eyes to how I’ve been comfortably numb, so this year I’m committing to feeling it and healing it, says Kate Atkinson.
‘Hello, is there anybody in there? Just nod if you can hear me.” Ringing an opiate bell in your psyche? If you’re a borderline millennial like me, you’re shamefully more likely to recall the Scissor Sisters version before the much more pleasant, sedate and, well, numbing, Pink Floyd original of the track “Comfortably Numb.”
But this song bears a special significance in my world right now. Having completed my first ever dry January I, like I suspect many Instagramming, Malbec-drinking, Bumble-ing, Happn-ing global citizens, have realized to what extent I’ve been moving through my life in a similarly cozy but numbed-out state.
The Oxford Dictionary defines “numb” as depriving us of the power of sensation. So to do so in any capacity means more or less living and feeling at a fraction of our capabilities. Or in Numi speak: “vibing at a lower frequency.” By CHOICE. How depressing is that?
And it’s not just the booze. NYC might be a cultural smorgasbord, but it also offers ready access to all the compulsions that can take you down a rabbit hole of distraction and, eventually, longing.
Rather than dealing with our shit, we drink. Opposed to being alone, we over engage on social media (no wonder “Digital Addiction” has become an actual “thing”). Others get high on the rush of success and pepped on promotion. There’s addiction to substances, of course – legal medications, essential oils, cocaine. Addiction to online dating. Addiction to people. Addiction to pizza. Addiction to tattoos. Addiction to solitude. Addiction to sex.
The list is endless, and the more you get to thinking about it, the more it feels like anything can become an obsession when you’d rather numb-out than feel…and deal. Then there’s the replacement of one addiction with another. Partying for yoga. Work for a relationship…and so it goes.
Without booze to cloud this revelation, I’ve only become more aware of back-to-back evenings of time wasting on Facebook; the getting obliterated after a bad day at work; the 18 nights a month I eat pizza. And many more obsessions I don’t care to list in a public forum.
And I’ve decided this is no way to live. Along with this newfound awareness, I’ve realized how sick I am of the “terrifying Tuesdays,” the hours spent staring at my phone, of saying I’ll do things I never do, and spending my precious hours on mind numbing, opposed to mind-expanding activities.
So what’s the alternative? Bottom line is it’s tough to to feel the full spectrum of your emotions. It is hard to stay at home and sit with your loneliness, when grappling with an overwhelming desire to put it all behind you, just for one night.
Personally, that social itch and need to be surrounded by others is a compulsive distraction, and when I obey it and ignore my calmer (and undoubtedly more vulnerable) intuition, generally the more disasters head my way. The thing with numbing is it becomes a cycle. Drink too much. Make bad dating decisions. Attack your liver again with Advil. Waste $40 on breakfast. And so it goes.
With this in mind, I’m accepting you have to “feel it to heal it” – which means, for now at least, I am committing to a time of being UN-NUMB. And what this will entail exactly I don’t know, since I’ve been living comfortably numb for well over a decade.
Nonetheless, I want to commit to it this year. I have no idea what I’m doing – and already I’m finding myself interested in activities I would have laughed at this time last year. So welcome to my blank canvas of withdrawal…which right now seems to be manifesting into this column.
Signing off until next time, with one of my favorite quotes from Anais Ninn:
“You live like this, sheltered, in a delicate world, and you believe you are living. Then you read a book…or you take a trip…and you discover that you are not living, that you are hibernating.
The symptoms of hibernating are easily detectable: first, restlessness. The second symptom (when hibernating becomes dangerous and might degenerate into death): absence of pleasure. That is all. It appears like an innocuous illness. Monotony, boredom, death.
Millions live like this (or die like this) without knowing it. They work in offices. They drive a car. They picnic with their families. They raise children. And then some shock treatment takes place, a person, a book, a song, and it awakens them and saves them from death. Some never awaken.”
In the first installment of her column Holy F*ck, Alexandra Roxo decides making amends with her exes is the next step on the path of awakening…Photo Credit:Louise Androlia
In the last nine months of being “single” I have done a LOT of work trying to figure out my love life/self/astro chart/addictions/blahblah. Some of that “work” was on Tinder but no need to get into that…yet. Anyway, I decided that in order to move on and clear the slate I would make amends with all my exes. I was having a John Cusack in High Fidelity moment where he’s like, “What’s wrong with me? Why did all my relationships ‘fail’? I should probably seek out and bother everyone I’ve ever dated in order to figure out what it is about me!” Which seems pretty narcissistic, I know.
But the way I saw it, this wasn’t about narcissism or figuring out what was wrong with me. I don’t believe in relationship ‘failure’ anyway. It was about wanting to neutralize our energy, so I wasn’t carrying around a bunch of ‘eugh’ and ‘agchk’ vibes towards a bunch of people that I once loved, had sex with, and maybe even told that I wanted to have their babies…Plus the fact that in order to really move on to new love, I feel it’s important to unpack any potential baggage that is weighing us down. Justin Bieber’s words “Is it too late now to say sorry?” kept echoing through my mind.
No one taught me how to do this and I was just going off intuition, though I had heard it was a part of AA and some program called Landmark that sounded trés culty. So I consulted my teachers. Marianne. Jesus. Marianne again. She says many things about making amends, but this stuck with me: “Forgiveness is the choice to see people as they are now. When we’re mad at people, we’re angry because of something they said or did before this moment. By letting go of the past we make room for miracles to replace our grievances.”
So at first I thought, should I write everybody a letter? Hmm, it felt kind of like a wimpy way out, like I could just get something off my chest without hearing their (potentially not so charitable) side of the story. So instead I reached out to what had been my biggest primary relationships individually, and suggested we sit down for a drink.
Now yes, it is a little tricky to suggest “just a drink” with an ex – I mean what happens if two vodkas in, the romance spontaneously rekindles itself and you find yourself making out?! #RiskyBusiness. I knew this was a possibility, and yet “coffee” seemed sooooo formal. I mean these are people that have held you at your darkest hour / made you cum many times. Wine, my friends. Wine.
So I sat down with my first ex. This was someone I’d only dated for about six months after having sex on her NFL sheets where she kept saying: “You’re such a dime” while she came. After that she wooed me with a Jaws movie night complete with steamed crab legs and champagne, and we fell in love. She was the kind of person who danced with me to Motown in the kitchen, ate gluten free because I did, and gave me orgasms where I legit saw rainbows of light. (FYI this is called “synethesia.”)
So it was real RUDE of me to ghost on her. When we sat down three years later to reconnect at a mediocre spot in Williamsburg, I apologized first, went into my spiel about being grateful for all of the wonderful things she did for me, all the ways she put up with my neuroses, and how much I’d grown up…while she gulped down some rosé, looked at me and said: “You really fucked me up.”
To which I replied: “I am NOT going to own that, because whatever expectations you put on the relationship are what made you feel that way. I PERSONALLY couldn’t make you feel that way.” But then I remembered this was not about patting myself on the back or being right.
So I said “I am really sorry for my actions. For yelling at you. Being mean. And for checking out when things got tough. I am truly sorry.” We walked through the park quietly after that and haven’t spoken since. She seems happy, I like her Instagram photos on the reg, and I’ll probably text her on her birthday. CHECK.
Next I saw the guy who was my last boyfriend before I somehow gave up men and dated women for six years. With him, I was a little bit nervous. I had dumped him in cold blood for my first girlfriend and…blamed it on the fact he wasn’t spiritual enough. He was an atheist, and I knew I couldn’t date an atheist or raise children with an atheist, so why bother, ya know?
We met at a dive bar. I was nervous, and he’s still hot. Even hotter now. I fondly remembered a time we had sex in the pool at my dad’s condo and the security people taped it and bribed my dad with it. Cut to my internal dialogue: “What if I’m not strong enough? Should I wear lace panties just in case? No. Don’t even shave. Ugggh. Okay. Fine.” When I told him, “Hey, I’m sorry for how much of a crazy diva I was,” he just gave me a cute smile and said: “Don’t worry mama” in that way that had always made me melt. Then he scooted off to help another ex gf move house. THIS IS EASY RIGHT? Hmm, not so fast…
Next was the hot, fast, love affair that happened the summer I was living very gypsy-like, i.e. out of a suitcase and on an air mattress. She showed up at 3am at the place I was house sitting with a bottle of tequila, told me she was dying, cried, fucked me, and I was like “SIGN ME UP!” Then things got really bad between us. She was going through some dark stuff, I was going through a rough patch with my family. I was also living in my creative partner’s office, trying to make art, struggling with addictions, chain smoking…
I recognized that I had to get it together which I thought meant cutting her out. When I told her “No mas!” she cried and told me she vomited for days and had to go to the doctor for an IV, and I basically couldn’t deal. So I blocked her. And from then on, anytime people said her name it was like horror film music started to play…
Needless to say I was VERY nervous to meet up with this one. But I did my energy protection ritual, marched in, drank only half a glass of wine for safety and told her I was sorry and that she caught me when I was in such a dark place. She smiled a really cute smile and was like “It’s okay. We both were.” And we proceeded to talk about our mutual friends and though I lustfully admired her long sinewy fingers I emerged from the bar thinking: “Oh. My. God…we’re friends, we’re friends!” But soon she started texting me and asking me out again to which I politely declined, repeatedly. Eventually she caught on.
The upshot of making amends this way, has been that I’ve realized it’s never too late to take responsibility for your actions, and create a different ending to your story with an ex. You might think: “Oh, what’s done is done is done is done.” But what if you could make something else, something better, the last thing that happened between you? It could even be something random like sending them a box of chocolates or a bottle of champagne, with a note like: “Sorry, I was awful.” No two making amends are alike.
I didn’t need to see my most recent ex (Yogi_Vegan_Lez Orian) since we made amends in semi-real time. It felt and still feels like a MIRACLE OF GOD. Painful, but evolved. We Facetime a lot, often while I’m driving in LA and while she’s on a toilet in Brooklyn. And when I came to NY last we karaoked our song “Islands in the Stream” from Youtube like old times.
I hope from here on out I can try as much as possible to make amends in real time. Which means a) not numbing out from feelings when the going gets tough (umm hi marijuana / alcohol / sugar) and b) Stepping up and taking responsibility for my actions quickly and not stuffing anything away.
When I think back on my exes now no more waves of darkness descend upon me, and no more sob stories about how they were assholes etc run through my mind. Now when I think of them I smile and imagine them saving the planet, curing cancer, etc etc.
Next making amends I’m doing is with myself – because it’s my longest and most important relationship, and arguably the one I need to forgive the most. But for now I’ll take Obama’s apology.