Saturday, 4 February 2012
Beauty, Balance and Delight has become my resolution for this year, and 'I Dare to Dwell in Beauty, Balance and Delight, I Dare to See with Clear Eyes and an Open Heart' has become my mantra.
In times of stress, in times of boredom, in times of uncertainty, and periodically during each day, I pull my attention back to the presence of Beauty, Balance and Delight and silently repeat my mantra. I dare to dwell in beauty, balance and delight, I dare to see with clear eyes and an open heart. Or at least I try.
It is a habit I need to cultivate. It feels like exercising a hitherto underused muscle. It seems like it should be easier; after all, who wouldn't want to dwell in beauty, balance and delight? On the other hand, I am noticing how often I substitute what is merely adequate for that which is beautiful, delightful, or even balanced, because it is easier, or cheaper, or quicker. Do I take the time to cook something fresh, tasty, nourishing and beautiful, or do I just grab a ready-made snack? I just grab the snack more often than I'd like, I'm afraid. Do I sleep in a beautifully decorated, serene and cosy bedroom, or is it more of a cluttered, clothes-strewn disaster area in dire need of a good turn out and some new wallpaper? Sadly, the latter. Do I make a delicious ritual of bathing, complete with scented bubbles, candles, soft music? Well, once in a blue moon. But more often than not it's more of a hasty soap-and-water splash before dashing out late for work because I've overslept.
And the beautiful, delightful things in my life tend to get rationed, kept for best, or not even used at all, in case they get spoilt, or lost, or broken. Of course, this touches a little on balance. I do believe that familiarity can breed contempt, and overuse of a luxury can rob it of its magic, as I wrote on Moonroot a few years back. Nevertheless, why keep wearing the slippers in which my feet are always cold when there are a luxurious sheepskin lined pair sitting unused under the bed being saved for 'best'? (who wears slipper for 'best' anyway?) I have a deliciously soft, cashmere jumper hidden away in a drawer. I never wear it in case it gets spoiled. And my favourite skirt (a swirly-hemmed bias-cut silk number that flutters prettily as I walk) rarely gets an outing for the same reason.
At Christmas, my sister told me she and her husband spent the morning in bed, opening their gifts and sipping champagne. And I thought, I would never do that. Or if I did, the champagne would have been substituted with a cheap bottle of fizz and I would have been tormented with guilt over the fact that I should have been doing the washing up or cleaning the bath instead...
...I think need to stop waiting for the day when it's OK to enjoy life and just start doing it.
Perhaps this is where the notion of DARING to dwell in beauty, balance and delight comes in. Our Protestant overculture and its infamous work ethic doesn't really encourage enjoyment of the sensual just for its own sake. As Elizabeth Gilbert says in 'Eat, Pray, Love', " ...Americans have an inability to relax into sheer pleasure. Ours is an entertainment-seeking nation, but not necessarily a pleasure-seeking one" [Elizabeth Gilbert, 'Eat, Pray, Love' chapter 21, p. 64], and "For me though, a major obstacle in my pursuit of pleasure is my ingrained Puritan guilt. Do I really deserve this pleasure? This is very American too - the insecurity about whether we have earned our happiness. Planet Advertising in America orbits completely around the need to convince the uncertain consumer that yes, you have actually warranted a special treat. This Bud's for You! You Deserve a Break Today! Because You're Worth It! You've Come a Long Way, Baby! And the insecure consumer thinks, Yeah! Thanks! I am gonna go buy a six-pack, damn it! Maybe even two six-packs! And then comes the reactionary binge. Followed by the remorse. Such advertising campaigns would probably not be as effective in the Italian culture, where people already know that they are entitled to enjoyment in this life. The reply in Italy to "You Deserve a Break Today" would probably be, Yeah, no duh." [ibid p.65]. Gilbert may be writing about Americans, but I think the above pretty much applies to us Brits too.
My friend Deborah, a psychotherapist, told me once of a client of hers who was making big changes in her life and declared, "This is NOT a mid-life crisis but a mid-course CORRECTION!". That, I believe, is where I am now. Taking stock of where the last 48 (gulp) years have got me, and choosing to adjust my course into the future. The last few years have been a steep learning curve (see past posts on Moonroot if you want the details), and now it is time to step forward in a new direction and explore the realms of Beauty, Balance and Delight.