Dare to Enjoy
It is easy for me to notice when I am wronged as a woman, as an older person; it is much harder to notice my privilege. And when I do glimpse my privilege it can be difficult to remain in joy.
I am looking out the window of my study in the North Carolina woods. It’s sunrise and the light is blue and yellow behind the black outlines of leafy trees. A bird trills, alternating calls that sound like questions with calls that sound like answers. The scene looks and sounds like it did this time last year, before corona virus, and before our national awakening. In a way that is reassuring, but it also feels dissonant; because so much has changed.
As I’m writing this in the second week of June 2020, the protests about the death of George Floyd and the way he died have blossomed into protests about the state of our nation. The mood is shifting to intense determination. I am wary that the brave men and women on the streets may become the next wave of the viral pandemic. Calling out beneath their masks, they take a risk with every breath.
I don’t usually write about politics in this space, but the line between the personal and the political, if it ever existed, has vanished. We must each of us decide what we can do. Many of you who will read this are older women like me who are at greater risk from the pandemic. Many who will read this are also, like me, white women who benefit from a system that prefers us in a thousand ways. It is easy to notice when I am wronged as a woman, as an older person; it is much harder to notice my privilege. And when I do glimpse my privilege it can be a shock to the system. It can be difficult to remain in joy.
The sun is up now. The sky is blue and I can see the deep green of the summer trees. I hope that these trees and the calling birds will survive long past this troubled time. Not our troubled time, but theirs. Their death knell is the chain saw, their pandemic the rising tide of insects that spread with the warming of the earth. Yet in this moment they are here and live in gladness. For us, as for the trees and birds, “joy and woe are woven fine,” as William Blake wrote in his Auguries of Innocence.
I was planning to write about sex toys this week. I was going to talk about the logistics of giving ourselves pleasure as women after midlife. It is terribly important to make time for pleasure in the midst of this great crisis when our failures as a society have all caught up with us at once. But before writing about the nuts and bolts of solo sex, it seems important first to write about permission.
Permission to breathe deeply.
Permission to turn our faces to the sun.
Permission to include ourselves in the circle of care.
Permission to enjoy: to move, to eat, to laugh, to make love, including self-love.
Because all are worthy, including each of us. The poet Audre Lorde said that self-care is a political act. In this moment of all moments, it is clear that she is right.
Dare to Enjoy
Dare to breathe deeply. Dare to care about every person, not just the ones who look like you or me. Dare to take action. Dare to write. Write letters to the Editor. Write to your Senator, your Representative in Congress. Write to your Governor, write to your State representatives. Write erotica too, and dare to enjoy this day.
And then let us do everything we can, not from a spirit of shaming ourselves or others, nor from a place of guilt, but rather from compassion for every being now living. The ultimate privilege is to be alive. Not alive tomorrow, but alive today. The ultimate gift we can give is service. We can all find ways to serve others, whatever our situation. The ultimate lesson of the pandemic is not to defer joy. Let us remember to weave threads of joy into our days, including celebrating the good gifts that are our bodies. Let us celebrate with each breath, whether we are breathing under a mask or barefaced at home.
Next time, I’ll write about sex toys, and about daring to take pleasure in our bodies, minds, and spirits. But today I want to practice caring for myself and for others too. May all be safe, may all be well, may all know peace, may all be free.
I would like to hear from you about how you are caring for yourself in this challenging time. Please email me.