The relentless pursuit of pleasure

Darlene Cohen has been one of my guides on the path of pain. She’s not around anymore, but she wrote some excellent books. My favorite is Self-Care for Arthritis. In it she says a person in pain must dedicate themselves to the “relentless pursuit of pleasure.” I have found this both reassuring and depressing. Depressing because any kind of “relentless pursuit” stresses me out and increases my pain, and because any command to “dedicate myself” to something in order to heal just gives me a new way to fail (and so to feel crappy about myself). But reassuring when it’s a reminder that I don’t have to try so hard to figure out how to heal. I can just do what I enjoy. The way I feel when I am really enjoying myself feels deeply healing.

For example: Sometimes I swim. And sometimes when I swim, I am bad at it. Slow and ungainly and hippo-like. But do I need to swim good to have a good time? If I can’t swim good, can I enjoy swimming poorly? Sometimes I find that I can. And that’s a relief.  I may think I’m a total failure, but if I can enjoy failing, then the world feels a little less daunting.

So, I’d axe the “relentless pursuit” and change Darlene’s directive to something like: Just enjoy yourself. See if you can. See if, even with your painful body, there is anything, any small something you can enjoy, even for a moment. Reading a children’s book. Lying on the ground outside. Breathing this breath.

And if you can’t enjoy anything right now, love yourself anyway. In the words of Arinna Weisman: You are always deserving of love.

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