For me, pleasure has always been a dirty word. Something to stamp out. Growing up I was taught bad girls like pleasure and that I was a good girl.
And pleasure was always tangled up with sex. And since sex was associated with shame, pleasure always seemed like a shameful thing.
So I avoided it. I ran away from pleasure. I tried to be “a good person” but I ended up just being “a tired person.” Someone who worked hard and then snapped at the people I loved. Someone who beat myself up for the mistakes I made. And someone who wore my hard work as a badge of honour. “I am such a hard worker,” I thought, “and that’s why I’m so tired and grumpy.” And about others I thought, “If you aren’t as grumpy or stressed as me that means you aren’t working hard enough.”
But I never completely exiled pleasure. I had friends that I loved and we went on adventures. I made time to go for walks in the forest. I found a kind of dance that made me feel alive. I played music with others.
And I started to realize, that yes, sex can be pleasurable but its not the only form. And that maybe this pleasure thing wasn’t as evil as I once thought.
What about feeling the sunshine on my skin? What about snuggling back into the covers when I realize it’s Saturday? What about a good cup of coffee?
And I realized that my world can be full of pleasure, if I pay attention.
This week at my contact improv dance class, I asked, “What if I lead with my pleasure?” Contact, as we call it, is an improvisation based dance and so I listened to my body and did the next dance move that felt good. I was dancing with a woman who I’ve danced with many times before but it felt different. It felt more natural. It felt less rushed. And although there were moments where we sprinted around the studio: we weren’t rushing, we were running with delight.
The lifts seemed to emerge effortlessly. Suddenly she was stretched out on my back or I was stretched out on hers. They felt expansive. And there were several times where I went from kneeling to standing with her on my shoulder. The movement up felt strong and beautiful. I stood tall and she stretched out. And then we moved on. Dancing. Giggling sometimes, quiet others. Fluid and expansive movement. I felt alive.
And looking back now, I realize, I was lifting a heavy weight on my shoulder and it felt easy and even pleasurable. This can be symbolic for my life. I can grunt and strain and lift the weights, or I can lead with my pleasure and lift effortlessly.
In the past, both literally and symbolically, I’ve been focused on looking cool and forced lifts when the timing or the set up weren’t right. And these are the moments where injuries happen. Sometimes it’s micro-injuries that heal in a week or two and sometimes it’s bigger like when I chipped my heel bone and got a black eye on the same day.
And it’s happened enough times that I ask myself, why did I get hurt?? What was I doing wrong? So for a long time, I thought, “Don’t show off. It’s when I show off that I get hurt.” So I would go to dance and think, “Don’t be a show off, don’t show off, don’t show off.” But it never really worked… And the problem was that I was telling myself what not to do, but wasn’t telling myself what to do instead.
Moving away from pain and moving towards pleasure are two completely different things. When you move away from pain, you can move in any number of directions. You can move towards a different kind of pain, you can move towards numbness, you can move to lying lifelessly on the floor.
You won’t get injured dancing if you lie lifelessly on the floor, but you won’t have any fun or get any exercise either.
Leading with my pleasure cut through my old habits of trying to look cool and allowed me to tune into how things felt, as opposed to how things looked. A beautiful dance emerged.
And in every area of my life I want to break the habit of trying to look cool and lead with my pleasure instead. I want to move towards what I’m drawn to. I want to say yes to what makes me feel good.
I’m excited. And this is scary to say on the internet but I’ll say it anyways: I’m making a plan for a life filled with pleasure.
I have white note cards and I’ve been writing down all the moments that I’ve felt alive and then sorting them into categories. Here are a couple of examples:
I’m learning about myself and as I sort through them, I start to think: which of these can I get paid for? Which of these can I make time for? How can I get my needs met? How can I build a life that feels good?
And I want you to have it too. I want you to build a life that feels good. I want you to have all of your pleasure.
There is so much pain in the world and I want us to remember: don’t just run away from the pain, move towards the life you want, move towards what feels good.
I hope you have a wonderful weekend. And that you take a moment to move towards your pleasure.