March 17, 2015

Why I Give myself Permission to Indulge in Little Pleasures.

Gabriela Pinto/flickr

Little things matter.

Little things matter because little things are the first things we sacrifice when times get tough.

I don’t have, nor do I want, a luxurious life. As a child, I watched Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous. It was a treat for many reasons. Often, I was at my grandparents’ house, slurping up all of the TV and magazines and sugar-laden snacks I otherwise was not allowed.

These were little luxuries, time-limited and pleasurable, because, sooner or later, I returned home, where I had stuff to do, stuff that was no fun—chores and bedtimes, carrots and not cake, not even carrot cake.

I got a break from my routine, and, while I don’t espouse that sugar and media binges are preferred luxuries, they offered me respite when I was a kid. As a mom and a grown-up, I’m pretty adamant about the above “luxuries” not being so healthy.

But I needed breaks then as much as I do now, as does my daughter does, as much as we all do. At 9 years old, I was curious about champagne, and I wondered how caviar tasted. To be fair, I didn’t know what caviar was, and, when I found out, I wasn’t so sure that it was, indeed, a luxury.

With health scares, unexpected losses, routines and commitments, life can be monotonous and unglamorous, at the very least. Spontaneity dies off because it has to. Little luxuries are neglected because we need to make things work. The bare bones of thick calendars are lines crushed by anchor-weights.

We tell ourselves we have to do what it takes to get by.

We assume, with good logic, that survival and resourcefulness require us to work harder and do less and less nice stuff for ourselves. But aren’t little luxuries, treats here and there to reward us, or for no justifiable reason at all, crucial to our hard work?

When life is grueling and grim, we cut stuff out. There is fear that luxury is something we may never know again. We make reactive moves to go without. We buy food and pay bills, but we stave off our hunger for pleasure, little things, small experiences that make enormous differences in how we respond to stress and the unknown.

This is no prescription for blowing your savings or living outside your means. Reality is what we are given, like it or not, and, some realities are sexier than others. It’s the give and take of life, and we’re caught in it.

There is incredible freedom in owning that we have control over so little, if anything. The skies that twist and turn, the tides that come and go, the cycles of the moon and how the earth rotates—simply because it does and it will. Because it has. All of it has, and all of it does. And all of it will.

Terrifying and titular, we own the power to release our ideas about what should and should not be as we offer meaningful thought and feeling that there is a  through-line to the cosmos, and we have nothing to do with it.

We are cogs in what remains a largely undiscovered wheel, spinning and dying and living and spinning. Subjecting ourselves to the grind of work without pleasure, denying ourselves good experiences, small pleasures, little luxuries, is a symptom of a cultural illness.

I was taught, like many of you, that hard work was the ticket. I, like many of you, assumed that the “ticket” would come to me, somewhat easily, in an outpouring of fine Champagne and premium caviar. I believed this. I bought it. Like so many of you, then and now, hard work had an obvious cause and effect relationship to success and prosperity.

My justification to work harder and wait for pleasure seemed logical, and, maybe it takes some heartache a little earlier on in life to get that work isn’t everything, that money isn’t everything. In this way, it is easier to value the fragility of just being alive and being here and staying.

My shift to submerge my whole self, body, mind and spirit, asked me to seek truth and define prosperity as I understood it. I have that say, and I still do—not the swarthy dudes on TV that ask for money, nor my conditioned belief that investing my soul into helping people or situations that beg not to budge, isn’t the whole of my worth. It never was. It never will be.

There is so, so much more, and my happiness, a radiation of light I greet in others that ricochets back to me, is my prosperity.

And, for this reason, I give myself permission to be indulgent, within reason, within limits. It’s not a glut-fest I speak of, a demand of myself to lie and be delusional and do whatever the hell I want when I want.

This is me, real and bare before you, telling you what I learned so far and how, and admitting, in spades, that I have so much more to learn. This is how I define balance, prosperity and health, today, with the understanding that it can and will change; that not for one day do I ever stop defining, redefining, or reshaping what all of this means.

I stay curious, in the moment, because life is short, and I can release my abysmal fear of all the stuff far beyond my hardest work and most established beliefs.

I give myself permission to treat myself to pleasure, little luxuries, as rewards for work, and just because I can, and because, why not?


Author: Monica Stevens-Kirby

Editor: Emily Bartran

Photo: Gabriela Pinto/flickr

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