The first time I picked up Eat, Pray, Love maybe 10 years ago, I just couldn’t get into it.
But recently, I’ve been listening to Elizabeth Gilbert’s podcast Magic Lessons, and I simply can’t get enough of her! So for whatever reason, I’ve decided to pick up that book again. And now I’m loving it.
Fiercely loving it.
(For the record, I have no idea why her book didn’t speak to me before.)
Anyway, I’m at the part of her book where she’s in Italy and claiming that Americans don’t know pleasure. And, I pretty much agree.
Case in point: I’m typing up this blog post in an app on my phone at this very moment because I can’t just enjoy reading her glorious book! No, I have to always be doing something “productive” while I’m enjoying life. There’s something about indulgence that seems to spark feelings of guilt in me.
So, my fingers type ferociously away on this dumb iPhone app in an effort to release whatever’s yearning to be released. Creativity or guilt? Perhaps a bit of both.
To paraphrase Gilbert (or Luca Spaghetti if your point of reference is the movie), Americans don’t know pleasure. We believe that we don’t deserve it – that we have to work for it.
This is a common theme for me. In addition to how I can’t just enjoy Gilbert’s book without stopping mid-chapter to compose a blog post, I’ve noticed that 95% of what I “pleasure read” is about personal or business development. While these are subjects I enjoy learning about, they aren’t genuinely pleasure-inducing. So what is?
Besides reading Eat, Pray, Love, what actually brings me genuine pleasure?
- Being barefoot in the grass
- Sitting in contemplation during the predawn hour, when the house is quiet and dark
- Meandering slowly around the nearby lagoons
- Spending time with trees
- Drinking vino in the dark…and not doing anything else
- Reading for true pleasure rather than personal growth
- Being embraced by my boyfriend
- Chilling on the couch with my daughter
- Being outside when the weather’s glorious
- Holding space with women
- Being in the company of my tribe
- Fires in the firepit
- The moon
- Sugar maples in the fall
- Magic mushrooms
- Large bodies of water
- Sunrises, sunsets, and twilight
- My guitar
And now, I have another question.
Am I capable of setting aside all competing “responsibilities” while I’m doing something pleasurable?
The answer is a big YES!…if I both (1) create the intention, and (2) remove potential distractions.
When I don’t do both, however, the answer changes to yes…for like 30 seconds. For example, my intention before I began composing this post was to simply enjoy reading Eat, Pray, Love. But, I set my phone on the end table next to my wine. And the result was predictable; I picked up my phone.
Not that there’s anything terrible about writing when inspiration hits. In fact, I guess I could argue that I chose pleasure when I began writing under these circumstances. But I also left the Diary app multiple times to check social media and email. And neither of those activities bring me pleasure.
So once again I’m hearing Liz Gilbert tell me that Americans don’t know pleasure. And if I’m the typical American, I agree that for the most part, she’s right.
But as I already established, it doesn’t have to be this way. So for next time…
I’m setting the intention to read a few more chapters in Eat, Pray, Love. I’m also setting the intention to give myself permission to stop reading and start writing if and only if doing so will increase my pleasure.
And to increase my chances for success, I’m going to (1) leave my phone in a drawer, and (2) set a journal and pen on the end table next to my vino to negate the need to compose a blog post using my phone.
It’s kind of unsettling to me just how much I have to do to allow myself to experience pleasure. I’m a work in progress, but I’m getting there.
So far this post has been about me. But now I’m challenging you to see how you may be avoiding pleasure in your own life, and how you can begin to change that dynamic.
Here are a few questions to get you thinking about how you may be avoiding pleasure:
- Do you practice escapism through substance use or social media scrolling or Netflix watching?
- Do you multitask rather than being fully present in an enjoyable experience?
- Do you find ways to distract yourself?
Now, consider what brings you pleasure or joy. I’m not talking about big ticket things; I’m talking about things or experiences that are easy to integrate into your day.
Do any of the following bring you pleasure? If you don’t know, why not test-drive them!
- Taking a short morning or post-dinner walk
- Watching squirrels employing crazy antics as they attempt to creatively acquire food from a bird feeder
- Taking an extra long shower or bath…just because
- Stealing a few moments to journal or just not do anything
- Baking something delicious
- Creating something beautiful with words, paint, or …
- Listening (without multitasking) to your favorite podcast
- Bringing cut flowers into your bedroom or office
- Savoring a single small square of the most decadent chocolate you can find
- Building a fire or turning on your fire place
- Appreciating the moon for a few moments
- Reading for pleasure
- Having one-on-one time with one of your girlfriends
- Snuggling on the couch with your significant other
- Lighting a candle or burning some incense and taking a few moments to just enjoy it
What else can you think of? And, can you incorporate at least one or two of these things into your day?
If this post resonates with you and you’d like my help in figuring out your own secret formula for experiencing more pleasure in life, click here. Ciao.