What I want to learn is how to indulge myself while avoiding decadence, to find a way to allow myself to take pleasure in the things that are actually good for me, not just those that are actually damaging. It’s a difficult lesson to learn when you were never taught how to believe you deserve anything in childhood, when you were trained to feel guilty for everything you had, and that you didn’t have to earn something, you either deserved it or didn’t. Period.
This weekend I’ve been thinking a lot about the meaning of indulgence, and granting myself permission for shameless – healthy – self indulgence. I still have this mental block that makes it impossible to allow myself to indulge in things that are positive for me — exercise, volunteering, reading, even cleaning — and instead find it so much easier to indulge in avoidant behavior — shopping, sex and related activities, mindless television viewing, wasting time on the internet, etc.
Is there a certain type of parenting that makes a person able to seek out positive indulgences? The whole capitalistic world is built around indulgence, and in general humanity has a history of wanting the finer pleasures of life, from love to beauty.
On a recent trip back to New Jersey, where I grew up, my friend commented that I’m not at all a Jersey Girl. Why, I inquired. First off, I don’t spend a lot of time on my hair or makeup. Or care about nice things. And I wanted to say — not all Jersey girls are like that — but then I thought of my friends who were born in New Jersey and ultimately stayed in NJ, and most of them were more interested in purchasing Coach bags and Gucci sunglasses than anyone I ever met in NorCal, regardless of income level. A large part of this likely has to do with the fact that in NJ, most of the year it’s cold and miserable, so it’s easier to put higher value on designer clothing items and accessories versus the richness I experience in California just stepping outside my front door.
That’s not to say people in California, even northern California, are completely anti-materialistic. If that were the case, we wouldn’t have the Stanford Shopping Center or Valley Fair or Santana Row. I still see the real housewives of Palo Alto promenading around Bloomingdales with their tiny dogs on a leash barking at the latest pair of Louboutins on display. And these indulgences are no more valuable or “real” than the ones I speak of, it’s all in the perspective of what is meaningful for the individual who is seeking out the experience or purchasing the product.
I’m far lost from where I need to be in order to engage in a healthy lifestyle of shameless simple self indulgence. The healthy kind. The one that’s completely selfish in a way that becomes unselfish. Doing the things that are healthy for your heart, mind, body and soul. It all starts with water. Drinking water is something we’re all supposed to do — 8 glasses a day is the recommended amount — but I go day after day barely drinking any water. I know it’s good for me, but I can’t bring myself to allowing the indulgence of necessity to do something that is good for me on a routine basis. Water is free, it’s simple, and ultimately if I were to drink it more often I’d feel much better and be an all around happier person, despite having to make more frequent trips to the ladies room.
All these basic indulgences that most human beings can successfully enact and enjoy on a daily basis are the very things that I have had trouble maintaining over my life, and it’s not because of ADD, it’s because deep down I’d rather strive for something superficial vs. let myself fully comprehend that intrinsic lack of value in life beyond the simplest of luxuries — water, eating (healthy), exercise, sleeping, breathing. In a world where day and night we are preached to by the church of commercialism that we are not good enough unless we buy x, y or z (actually, x, y, and z) allowing myself to tune out a feeling of “not good enough” and instead focus on the only reason life is not good enough is because I’m constantly worrying I need something greater than what my life is now, versus appreciating the moment and injecting passion into every minute of my existence.
And passion can be as simple as allowing myself to indulge in enjoyment of the refreshing taste of sharp, cold water flooding my mouth, pouring down the back of my throat, and swirling around in my belly, turning it temporarily into a whirlpool off a melting glacier near the north pole. It can be somehow not feeling guilty for getting up in the morning to go outside for a 15 minute run and enjoying the pain that causes, laughing at how terrible it is that I’m so out of shape, without giving up. To not have my parents/relatives voice in my head every second I work out calling me fat, making me feel like the only reason I’m exercising is for them, so I fit in with society at 5’3 and 120lbs vs my current 160lbs.
There are so many of these little things that I must figure out in my life before I can actually live my life. Otherwise the only thing I have in my life is work — and while it’s good to enjoy work, it shouldn’t necessarily be an indulgence, let alone your only indulgence. It’s my challenge now to figure out how to find the time to indulge in healthy behaviors, and to avoid the lure of toxic distractions disguised as meaningful indulgences.