How is your relationship with yourself?
I’m wrapping up my month focused on pleasure and I’ve learned a LOT over the past several weeks. My intention to bring pleasure to the forefront was spontaneous and I am so grateful I followed the internal nudge I felt to direct my energy toward that goal.
Part of what I loved about being pleasure-focused was that simply reminding myself of this intention created a sense of relaxation. If something wasn’t going well (and that happened many times during the month), I simply told myself that the most important aspect of those experience was how I felt about them, not the outcome. I have control over how I feel about something—I get to process that experience however I choose and seek out resources and support that will support me in integrating and moving forward. Choosing pleasure allowed me to direct my energy toward what I could change rather than what I couldn’t. Choosing pleasure in and of itself allowed me to feel more satisfied and content.
I also chose experiences that I knew would bring me joy. I don’t always make these choices. Sometimes I come up with excuses about why the joyful activity couldn’t happen or why it’s too much effort or even why I “shouldn’t” have it that day ("I wasn’t productive enough today so I should stay in tonight and finish that instead of spending time with a friend/going for a hike/having ice cream at the shop down the street”).
Why do we keep ourselves from having the experiences we want to have? Why do we question whether we are deserving? What are you doing right now in your life that is holding you back from your potential, your enjoyment, your pleasure? And how are you holding others back from theirs by imposing your negative self-beliefs on them?
That was another realization I had over the past several weeks. The times where I found myself in a funk, stuck in an old pattern and unwilling to get out of it (because that totally happens sometimes), I realized I was keeping others from their full pleasure potential because I was not only getting my own way, but I was bringing their energy down, too. Does that mean I should rework my pattern JUST because it’s impacting other people? Nope. But it gives me incentive because the last thing I want to do is keep someone else from living their fullest and most wonderful life because I’m holding myself back from experiencing joy. I want to be a cheerleader and supporter and participant in those experiences. And how about my life? How about the fact that I also get to have joyful experiences? That my friends and family would choose that for me, but I don’t choose it for myself?
This is where the real learning happened for me this month. I realized that the ways I was keeping myself from experiencing pleasure, having fun, and being joyful were happening more often than I thought.
In true vulnerable fashion, here’s the full disclosure: I have been known to be on the “uptight” end of the spectrum. Dutiful. Determined. I remember this since I was a child. Maybe it’s because I’m the oldest sibling in my family or maybe it’s just my personality. As Liz Gunn tells me during my regular readings with her, I have so much fixed energy in my astrological chart that without some kind of balance or play, the force of my will can be incredibly strong (which can be good and can also be exhausting for all involved). I was born with a mission—just ask my mom, who supported me in harnessing that energy and reminded me since I was a child that I would someday be my own boss.
I am proud of these qualities most of the time because they allow me to accomplish everything I set my mind to. They motivate me to complete what I start. Combined with integrity, they translate into showing up, being consistent, and prioritizing justice and healing. But the truth is that we can’t be in that fire all the time. Burn out is real. As much as our job is to address the many challenges in the world, we must pace ourselves. We must give one another breaks to recover and rest. We must allow for moments of pleasure in order to counter the pain of being awake to injustice. And once again, if you haven’t read Pleasure Activism by adrienne maree brown yet, please do—she explains these ideas more articulately than I ever could.
This month has reminded me that I am not always determined and focused—it’s not sustainable. And I don’t have to be! I am actually joyful, playful and fun when I allow my true nature to be present instead of constantly prioritizing productivity. And I can RELAX. I have been practicing relaxation for a long time because it doesn’t come to me naturally, and that’s okay. In these ways, I am still learning about myself. Learning about myself brings me pleasure. It may bring me more pleasure than learning about others—because I understand that my relationship with myself is my reference point for all of my other relationships. It’s the relationship that gives me the opportunity to have curiosity about others and their stories. When I am in alignment with my values, when I understand my emotional triggers, when I am gentle with myself, I can hold space for others with little effort and lots of care. It feels easy when my relationship with myself feels solid and secure. Removing the blocks that separate me from joy improves my relationship with me and everyone around me. This is the beauty of attachment work: every bit you do supports the other aspects of your life.
What have you been learning about yourself? Have you been setting aside time to deepen your understanding of who you are, what you need, and how you’ve changed? This is some of the most important work we can do in our lifetimes. If you are local to the Asheville area and are looking for an opportunity to do just this, I would love to see you at the afternoon gathering I am hosting with Liz Gunn and Monica Leblanc. We will be utilizing astrology, attachment theory, and the Enneagram to explore our relationships with ourselves and each other in a grounded, practical way. And if you aren’t local, I have two self-paced online courses that will support you in learning more about your relational patterns and how you show up in the world.
Thank you for being on this journey with me! I hope you experienced lots of pleasure over the past month and that you continue to prioritize it moving forward.