I sit on the plane, clouds, mountains, snow below. The little girl in front of me turns around from time to time, checking me out, curiosity resting innocently on her round face in a way particular to young children. The world has yet to break her heart or steal her innocence. She’s felt disappointment, yes, and sadness, I’m sure. I wonder, has her mother let her feel these griefs? All the way in the marrow of in her bones? Or is she rushed through her experience because it’s inconvenient or unnecessary; told too quickly that everything will be okay.
I’m flying away from the home of one of my loves. This woman who feels like sister-mother-teacher-friend-mentor-family-elder-playmate in one breath. Who is so easy to be with, who invites more of me, demanding that the secret parts emerge from their hideouts to participate in this moment or that one. I let my guard down with her, speak without thinking or pre-meditation. As I fly back to the home I love, the grief sets in – I miss her already – and it’s inextricably linked to the deep pleasure of being with her. I wouldn’t feel the grief without the pleasure, or the pleasure without the grief.
No pleasure, no grief.
I sit still, quiet tears in my eyes, noticing that the grief doesn’t feel distinct from the pleasure. In fact, they are more similar than different. Two-sides of the same coin is too simple and trite. What I feel here is a zig-zagging, simultaneous back-and-forth, spiraling dance. They aren’t flipping and flopping; I’m not feeling one and then the other. Instead, a strand of grief winds intimately around one of pleasure forming a single indistinguishable thread that becomes a part of the fabric of my being.
Know pleasure, know grief.
Over the last few years in a deep dive into the myriad pleasures available through my body, what I’ve found to be true is this: learning to surrender into a deeper capacity for pleasure has dropped me into unfathomable reservoirs of grief. Inversely, falling into and swimming in this grief has led to greater capacity for pleasure. Grief and Pleasure are like different exercises that work the same muscle group, only they’re working on the non-locatable yet richly tangible muscles of the heart and soul. Exercising both rather than focusing solely on one at the expense of the other brings about quicker growth and strength.
In the work that I do with clients, teaching them about the pleasure in their bodies, the anatomy that makes that possible, and ways to increase it and harness it in their lives, inevitably, we tap into grief. Whether the grief contacted is tied to a story or not, it seems to be unleashed by deeper layers of pleasure, and the grief, if acknowledged and tended to, reciprocates with more pleasure. Together, we flex the muscle of grief-and-pleasure, recognizing them as not one, not two; not the same and also not different.
The little girl turns around again, shyly bringing her eyes up to meet mine. I long to impart to her something about all of this, something she can carry with her into her nascent life that will inform her experience of the wilds of grief and pleasure. I settle for a smile and a wink. She reciprocates generously.