I was sitting down to have lunch with Andrea Scher at a cafe in Berkeley, California. “So what’s new with you?” she asked.
I leaned forward, a little giddy, feeling like I was about to tell a secret. “Well,” I began, “I’ve been really fucking happy, because I figured out this thing.”
“Oooooh, what’s that?” she asked.
“Pleasure, first!” I said, and then it all came out in a rush.
I Told Her
I told her about how I’d been starting my days with those most pleasurable activities, first, before I began to work.
I told her…
- How I’d never been happier in my entrepreneurial life, because pleasure first in the morning made every single aspect of my business, better.
- How I’d stopped checking email first thing, because it was a distraction from prioritizing my creative (pleasurable) work. Email is the linchpin!
- How I’d become wildly more productive in the afternoons, even though I was technically working fewer total hours.
- How I felt less resistance around taking care of those business and admin tasks that I’d always procrastinated on.
- How I looked forward to the start of each new day in a revitalized way.
- How I felt sexier and more sensual and feminine ever since I started writing fiction, again.
- How I felt more present as a wife and mother, less inclined to irritability when I had a lot going on.
- How I began to move forward on an idea that I’ve been turning over for a non-profit, after years of feeling tight and constricted around time, unable to bring any more to the table than I was already bringing. Pleasure was the doorway to feeling like I had ROOM to integrate more.
As I told her, I noticed myself trying to read her face, to see if she was happy for me or if she was feeling triggered by my happiness.
Being Andrea, she was happy for me. But the fact that I was trying to figure out her reaction and whether or not she was triggered by my declaration of sovereignty over my work, my art, my life, clued me in to the fear that I was holding under the surface.
What will people think if you are sovereign over your time?
What will people think if you aren’t seduced by the cult of busy?
What will people think if you’re not feeling run ragged by motherhood and you are finding time for your creative pursuits and you’re daring to make money doing work that you love?
Why People Don’t Prioritize Pleasure
We don’t prioritize our pleasure because we’re afraid of rejection when other people are triggered by our happiness–because your happiness is your power.
We don’t prioritize our pleasure because we don’t think pleasure is serious. If we did, we’d prioritize it.
Women in particular have trouble prioritizing pleasure, because the culture tells us that it’s trivial; because the culture is threatened by women who are fully in their power.
We, ourselves–not “the critics” that we like to blame for our hesitation to create pleasure in our lives–are the first people who demean pleasure, by not creating space for it.
We ask ourselves who we are to spend time on pleasure when there are so many “better” things to spend time on, so many people out there suffering. We forget that our happiness doesn’t cause others to suffer, but our personal suffering makes us tight and constricted and less open to help others.
We feel selfish for carving out time and space of our own. See above.
We immediately think of ten other competing priorities and then it’s hard to focus, so we give up and say, “What’s the point? I can’t even concentrate.”
We’re struggling to make ends meet or we’re navigating our way through a personal crisis–divorce, illness, death.
These are all reasons why people don’t prioritize their pleasure.
Some of them are hell. Being a being is hard. In particular, being a being who’s struggling to make ends meet or navigating a personal crisis, is really (really) tough. There will be times when you’re less able to reach for pleasure. Nonetheless, I think it’s what we need to do–for ourselves, for others, for our children, for a world that suffers.
You Are Sovereign Over Your Time
As I understand it, for most of human history, most women have not had as much power over their lives as they do, today (I say “most women” with full recognition that there are women who don’t have the kind of access that you and I do, reading this).
You are sovereign over your time. Your time is made up of your choices.
Make more of them.
Make more of them that bend your life gently in the direction of your pleasure.
These are not easy choices to make. They are threatening choices, to some. But I believe ardently that there is power in deciding to make any choice that steps in the direction of your power, your agency, your wholeness.
Pleasure is that unexpected choice that leads you to a happier life, and in turn gives you greater capacity to play a happier role in the lives of others.