Can I tell you what makes me damn near ecstatic about the January to February transition–besides the fact that we made it through January and are this much closer to Spring (go us!)?

To me, it represents a shift in thinking about how we can improve ourselves to focusing on how we can love–ourselves, each other, the world–and how we can show it, even in simplest perforated-paper ways.

Remember in elementary school, when Valentine’s Day was a big deal? You’d get your box of those cheap little perforated cards (like that rainbow pegasus up there?) and you’d write one to every person in your class? Maybe if you were feeling extra mile-y, you’d scotch tape a lollipop or some conversation hearts to each one? And then you’d get your cheap perforated Valentines in return. It was simpler time, the 90s.

I don’t know if kids still do this, or, if like everything else, it has gotten somewhat out of control and moms and dads spend the entire night before class Valentine’s Day creating elaborate personalized letterpress and lace cards to go along with their homemade artisanal quality caramels or whatever. (Parents, you’ll have to tell me.)

 I have a theory about the secret reason people hate Valentine’s Day.

And, no it’s not just about the commercialization of fundamental relationships, or the weirdly intense heteronormativity of jewelry ads, or the crushing expectations all of this creates for the perfect relationship, date, or present, or even the mad night before letterpress artisanal caramel rush. Though, check it, I am on board with how much those things suck, for sure.

I actually think it’s partly because we are trained to resist pleasure. And to turn opportunities for experiencing pleasure and love into opportunities for putting ourselves on trial, where we push ourselves to feel bad–why aren’t we more love-able, why do I feel so alone, why can’t this other person live up to my expectations–instead of allowing ourselves to feel good.

We know how to drive ourselves to succeed. We know how to criticize ourselves and our friends and family and lovers when they fall short. We know how to turn what should be a basic thing (telling the people you care about that you care about them) into some kind of weird contest that we pretzel and contort ourselves into “winning.” We know how to push ourselves, to push others, to push push push.

We know how to do this because the Tracy Flick that lives in all of us–the mouthy, smart, know-it-all achiever–is there to tell us, through gritted smiling teeth, that if we want something, we’d…better….make…it…work…dammit.

And the only way a lot of us know how to make it work, is to literally make it work. As in turn it into work–make it hard, make it serious, make it goal-y, make it something to be checked off on a list.

Because the alternative, admit it, sounds pretty damn naive to a lot us.

“Yeah, yeah, I know, I’m supposed to play around. I have things to do, woman, sell that nonsense to someone else who can afford it.”

I can’t tell you how many clients have admitted to me that, when it comes down to relaxing, to pleasure, to play, they are afraid. Afraid that if they let themselves actually relax and enjoy themselves, they won’t want to work at all/they’ll eat everything in sight/they’ll never get out of bed. Essentially, they believe that the only thing preventing them from turning into some kind of hedonist, Jabba the Hut, super-id is the pushing.

I used to believe this, too. I knew how to make it all work–I knew how to turn even the most enjoyable experience into work. I knew how to push and feel bad and derive some perverse sense of satisfaction from that. And when I was tired of that, I knew how to numb and distract and avoid.

What I didn’t know how to do was how to take on a day and actually enjoy it. I felt guilty, wracked by the ghosts of what could have been (how I could have spent the time better) or what should have been (what I should have done instead).

I’m using the past tense, but some combination of past and present tense is really appropriate here because the cupid’s honest truth is that I still struggle with this shit, y’all.

So, this Valentine’s/Friday the 13th weekend (what an awesome combo, right?), I am giving myself a break from the self-improvement train that I am almost always on (both by nature of personality and profession) to focus on feeling the love instead.

And by love I mean pleasure.

Okay. Deep breath. A lot of us have specific sexual associations with the word pleasure. When I say pleasure, I don’t just mean sexual pleasure. I mean the sensual kind. I mean the kind you feel with your senses.

 Pleasure is actually very simple:

1) figure out what makes you feel good, in your body, with your senses,

2) and do it.

For some of you, that’s an orgasm. For some of you, that’s a warm cup of a tea and snuggly blanket. For some of you that’s laughing so hard there are tears squeezing from your eyes. For some of you it’s a massage. For some of you, it’s driving in your car with your favorite song on and just letting go. For some of you, it’s just marveling in the modern miracle of hot showers.

The list goes on. If you are having a hard time thinking about what gives you pleasure, one of my favorite methods is to break down the senses and just think of what makes you feel good in each category. So, what smells make you feel good? What tastes? What physical sensations? What sights? What sounds?

If you are feeling all overachiever-y about this, then make a list of 5 things (smell, taste, touch, sight, and sound) that give you pleasure and then engineer an experience where you get to feel all of that at once. For some of you, this will work. Others, it will make squirmily uncomfortable. It’s okay, start with wherever you are.

Experiencing pleasure is a way of letting yourself know that you are alive. That you are loved. That you are here for more than just getting shit done.

Did you know that you are here for more than just getting shit done???

You are not a utility machine.

Amazing, right?

Happy Friday the 13th, lovers!

XO,

Lauren Signature

 

 

 

 

 

PS–Clothing and style is a huge source of pleasure for me. If you want it to be for you, too, check out Style School, a six week class I’m going to be teaching this Spring on cleaning out your closet + finding and loving your style.

In preparation for Style School, I’m teaching a free class, Spring Cleaning and Spring Closets: Stop Fighting Your Closet, on February 26th and March 4th–sign up to attend the call here:

 

Yes, I want to join the free Style School class!



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