“Savoring” is trending right now as part of mindfulness work, meaning that if we can spend just a few more seconds each day really taking in and delighting in that which is pleasant – the sun on our face, laughing with a friend, a delicious meal – we are increasing our ability to feel joy and building up resilience to pain. I like this idea a lot, and part of my intention for 2017 is focusing even more on enjoying myself, enjoying life, and relishing the small pleasures. What else is there?
I used to rely quite heavily on extreme highs (or else guttural lows) to feel something. As an addict, I wanted to be obliterated, so close to death but still awake enough to feel a glittering euphoric numbness, and anything less than that was miserable. So I required copious amounts of liquor, pills, cocaine, weed, cigarettes, food, and sex in order to chase that high. Watching a sunset? Oh, please. Give me a break and pass the pipe.
Even in the earlier years of sobriety, I always needed something. Food issues galore, or else I’d start smoking again, or compulsively chew Nicorette, or constantly have a non-alcoholic beverage in hand, or eat little candies, or binge-watch shows, or online shop. And none of it was from a savoring place. It was compulsive, grabby and needy, all about trying to get a hit and not feel my present circumstances. It wasn’t very enjoyable, or else I just didn’t appreciate the goodness.
But since I am now cured and an enlightened guru (just kidding), I no longer grab compulsively for most things. I am far more comfortable letting things be, and I usually don’t need an external hit of anything. I am comfortable in my skin most of the time, and I eat, drink, spend, and live fairly moderately. I often joke that I don’t even care about food (and that is sort of true, unless I am really hungry.)
I mean, don’t get me wrong – I can still get obsessive, especially in my mind, but my behavior is very different. I attribute most of this to recovery and a spiritual path, and a lot of it, too, to allowing, making nothing (most things) forbidden. It’s not uncommon for people to restrict excessively and then later binge excessively on whatever it was they were restricting. This was the story of my life for many years, especially with food, but also in my early stages of alcoholism when I was really trying to control (to little avail) how much and how often I drank. Or else just being super ascetic in general. I think a lot of us, when we first stumble upon a spiritual path, think it has to be super serious and boring and martyr-ish. Then, thank the heavens, we find there’s a middle way.
I can’t safely drink alcohol anymore or use mind-altering drugs, but I obviously have to eat, and I still watch Netflix and shop and eat candy and even once in a while indulge in a cigarette (minimal inhalation, and we’re talking three times a year or whenever I travel to Paris.) But because I don’t have an obsession with any of these things I don’t restrict, and I do not then over do it. Sugar is probably the best example – I allow myself to have it whenever I want it, even every day, because I really enjoy it and it feels good in my body. I’m not eating five Snickers bars or a carton of ice cream – that would likely make me feel sick – but I’ll have a piece of chocolate or a few bites of dessert after dinner, a sweet with a coffee or tea. If I feel a need to cut it out for a week, fine. If I eat too much of it, I notice. But what I really try to do is savor it. Taste it and experience it. Then let it go.
I just had a coffee and a biscotti for breakfast, and there is something about it which makes me feel incredibly happy and satisfied. I don’t know if it’s because I love the small rush of caffeine and sugar, or because sweets are tasty, or because it represents the huge victory over years of restricted eating and health-obsession madness. But I liked it, and I did my best to experience the satisfaction, and I am probably going to do it again tomorrow (or maybe later today.)
I just had two friends in the past two days reach out to me to tell me how much they love my writing. I sat with that for a few minutes to feel how wonderful it felt, not only to be complimented, not only to know that people can relate to my words, but because they took the time to reach out and say so. What a thing to savor.
I ran around with my precious little nephews over the holidays playing pretend war and hide ‘n seek and helping them open their Christmas presents. My mom said, these are the moments you will always remember. She is right, and because I savored it, I think it sank even deeper into my system. I keep remembering it with such warmth.
I try to savor the blissful moments in yoga where it feels like graceful dancing. A really really really great kiss. A moment of feeling beautiful. Playing Apples to Apples with those I consider my second family. A friendly exchange with a stranger. Even, basic bitch that I am, a glorious sunset. (When you live in Los Angeles, it’s easy to be like, yeah yeah, another Michelangelo-level painting of the horizon, so what? But yes, of course I try to savor this. And if you’re on Instagram, you can see everyone else is trying to, too.) A delicious nap. (Anything bed and sleep-related, really.) A runner’s high. A great movie. A great shower. A clean room. Clean socks. Clean teeth! Anything can be savored, if we choose to pay attention. And it just makes it all better, all the time.
In the midst of suffering, it isn’t easy to stop and pause and focus on gratitude and enjoyment. I can default back to anger, impatience, fear, and frustration many times throughout my day. It’s the human condition to an extent, and it is also part of my wiring, and it is also perhaps because we live, I believe, in a culture that tries to move too fast. (Please stop tailgating me!) It is a practice, but we can get better at anything we practice enough. I think of gratitude and savoring as the antidote to negativity, and why not try each day, to make it all more positive? Default on positive and occasionally stumble on the negative. I’m going to savor that idea for a while.