Sunday, October 05, 2008


(from here)

Lately, I have been thinking a lot about pleasure. Or, more accurately, the absence of it.

It hasn’t snuck up on me all at once. It’s been more like a slow fading, like the color slowly draining from a once vibrant dress washed over and over. It’s so easy to ignore; pretend the dress is still as new as ever. But, soon, you have to face reality. It’s a completely different dress.

I think I have belabored that poor metaphor enough.

The old pleasures no longer please, and new ones have not made an appearance.

The time has come to try something new. No discipline.

Now, usually, being too disciplined isn’t a problem; quite the opposite. And I recognize that enthusiasm tempered with discipline is the way to accomplish my goals. But…I don’t even know what those are anymore. This goes beyond my writing life—this has corroded every aspect of my day.

The other day I was forcing myself to slog through a book, because it was due at the library soon, because someone said it would be good for me. Like cod liver oil, or an enema. My mind was everywhere but on the page, and the Watcher voice cracked the whip, reminding me of my many failures and faults and attempting to drag my unwilling attention back to the words.

No dice.

In frustration and guilt, I put the book away, and snuck a longing look at what I really wanted to read. A book I had actually just bought, putting it much lower on the “to be read” list than a book I needed to return. No, this had to wait.

And then another, kinder voice asked me something that gave me pause.

Why did I have to march through a list of books in steel toed books just because I had to return them? Why, indeed, did I even have to finish a book just because I had started it? Why couldn’t I just read whatever I wanted?

I know it might sound like I am over dramatizing this moment, but it was one of those moments where something larger came into focus for me. Why do I turn things that should be pleasurable into work? Because I feel guilty that I am not working for money, and feel the need to account for my time? Because I should hurry up and get started on my “real” writing? I recognize now that part of the reason that life feels so drained lately is that only unpleasant tasks feel legitimate and worthy. If it’s fun, it’s immediately suspect and moved to the bottom of the pile.

Well, no more. Starting this weekend, I've allowed myself to read whatever I wanted, to start when I wanted to (within reason, I still have a boisterous Madam at home) and stop whenever I grew disinterested. I gave in to my natural inclination to have several books going at once, each one informing the others. I know this won’t work forever; eventually I’ll get some immersed in something that I won’t be able to rest until I finish it. And what a wonderful, familiar experience that will be!

I need to allow myself to play again, to find whatever gives my life vibrancy and pleasure, in order to stop running away from it (and by extension, my writing, which forces me to look deeply at my life).

And next, I’ll put my faded dress away and buy a new one. In fire engine red.



Blogger Deirdre said...

It took a looonng time, but I finally let myself stop reading a book that wasn't grabbing me. Once I got past the guilt it was so freeing. I'm glad you're following your inclination to what makes you alive and happy.

11:45 PM, October 06, 2008  
Blogger Melba said...

I really get this post because this summer I read the twilight series over and over again and I kind of hid it for a while because that wasn't the type of book I normally read...and then to be reading them more than once seemed a little crazy even to me. But the truth is I wanted to! Reading them brought me pleasure. It still does.
Find it where you can!

6:10 PM, October 09, 2008  
Blogger bella rum said...

"Like cod liver oil, or an enema."

You made me laugh.

An insightful post, it hit a soft spot with me. Lately I've been thinking about the word "joy" instead of the word "pleasure," but you get the idea. It's the same train of thought. I guess we need to listen to that inner voice and trust it. Thanks.

12:50 PM, November 17, 2008  

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