Thursday, January 1, 2015

2015: The Pleasures of the Flesh

i woke up this morning and, since it's the first cold sharp day of the new year, i made my bed, crisp and clean, and washed all the dishes and hung up my clothes from the night before.

as i stood in front of the white porcelain sink, my feet chilled by the wood floor, i was struck by the pleasure of the warm water on my hands and the steady balance of my legs. i picked up each tea cup one at a time and looked at how beautiful it was. it made me so happy that i stopped and took a deep breath and felt how easily and simply my lungs expanded.

all of sudden, i was filled with such overwhelming gratitude that my eyes filled with tears. not just for my body doing easily what i needed it to do, but for clean running water, for warm water, for the heat and light and space in my home, even for the softness and reliability of my ratty sweatshirt.

i felt so happy i could burst.

at our post-yoga dinner (yes! i did bikram yoga for new year's eve and it was my best new year's eve in years), i was talking with friends about the things i did to survive cancer. my friend susan avery reminded me how we met at a funeral of a friend. she had been going through her cancer at the same time that i was. at the funeral, i said to susan, "that could have been me."

i don't remember because when we think about our pasts, how we see them keeps changing depending on the present.

but this is not a post about being sick.

this morning, struck breathless and almost weeping with gratitude, i changed the water in the flowers on my dining table and i remembered one thing that saved me, that still saves me - impulse and hedonism - or the pleasures of the flesh.

one of the hardest things about a life-threatening illness is when you are in the hospital and your friends leave. because they get to walk out. they get to walk out and take a big breath of fresh air and feel the sun on the tops of their heads and go back to their everyday lives.

in the hospital system, you're increasingly cut off from any sensual pleasure. my senses registered pain and nausea from the needles, the drugs and the smells of rubbing alcohol and cleaning fluids. my tastebuds were numbed. my hearing was jumbled and incoherent. my memory was shot. my brain craved sedation.

i couldn't take another minute of it. i felt like i'd rather die than spend one more second looking through the window at life rather than living. (i am a dervish, so i am not scared of death. in my experience, death is liberating and bright.)

if i was going to be alive, i wanted to be immersed in every second of the material world.

so i walked out.

natural medicine gave me a chance to taste, to breathe, exercise, to feel - not that my way is the only way. just that that worked for me.

like most people whose lives are compromised, i learned to be immensely grateful for every pleasure my body and mind offered me.

all those things we do without thinking - letting your tongue roll over something complex and delicious, inhaling the fragile scent of flowers, reading and comprehending rich, intoxicating prose, listening to a song that makes you float, drinking, swimming, bathing, stretching, kissing.

all those things we have but we don't appreciate - clean water, quiet nights, heat, food in the refrigerator, shoes, clothes that protect our skin and keep us warm. a place to keep the objects and, even more importantly, the people we love safe and secure. the ability to pay our bills and keep our electricity and internet and cell phones running.

so for the beginning of 2015,  if you are reading this, i wish you so much love it feels your heart might burst. i wish your eyes, lips, tongue, skin, muscles, tissues, nerves to give you pleasure. i wish you prosperity and safety and security. i wish you a year of days so crystalline and pure in their beauty that you can barely let them end.

i wish you clean air and water and food and week after week where you don't have to worry about your health, your finances, your loved ones. i wish you clean sheets and a bed. i wish you the freedom of forgiving people who have hurt you and i apologize for any way i might have hurt you or made you feel less. i wish i could erase any pain you still carry.

i wish you gratitude and awe and wonder and serenity that life will unfold in a way that supports you and embraces you. i wish you to feel powerful and graceful.


i love you. i kiss you. i am so grateful for you.
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