I bought myself flowers tonight.
Not, “I bought the flowers myself.”
I bought flowers, intentionally, as a gift to myself. Because I wanted some. Because having fresh flowers in the house makes me happy. Because I fell in love with the smell of lilies when my florist put them in my Bridesmaid Luncheon centerpieces. Because they give me pleasure, with their smell and their creamy white petals and the memories they evoke.
During January, I heard something that resonated with me – it was an interview in which the speaker referred to herself living “a self-punishing existence” and having to train her mind to overcome that. To recognize that she was enough, and didn’t have to earn her own love for herself. I immediately saw myself in that description. Part of it was the way I was raised – Southern Baptist protestantism is suspicious of earthly pleasures – and part of it is the message that I have internalized over so many years – that I am undeserving, that nice things are for other people, that buying things for myself (and only myself) is frivolous, and I could do without.
When I read that my homework assignment was to “Choose a pleasurable experience, and intentionally give that experience to yourself, like a gift,” I hesitated. I’ve been trying to engage in better self-care, and my immediate thoughts went there. But self-care, although important and frequently pleasant, isn’t the same thing as picking a deliberately pleasurable experience. Also – what does it say about me that “self-care” and “pleasure” are both, linked in my mind, as something that I have to earn? Pleasure, to me, is something that you do simply for the enjoyment of it, not because it is the right way to treat yourself. The options I came up with were to get a pedicure, to go hiking alone, and to go to the art museum. Those are very similar experiences in that a) they are something I alone would enjoy b) they aren’t activities I do often and c) they all give me time to think without interruption. But they all also require me to find time alone, which is hard to do. And hiking – right now, in this uncommonly frigid winter – is a stupid idea. So when I had to stop by the grocery store tonight and saw the big display of lilies, I took the opportunity to be nice to myself and enjoy them.
This is a pleasure that I’ll get to enjoy for the next four or five days as they bloom out. It’s something that will remind me to enjoy the moment, to slow down and experience the joy associated with being in this body in this life.
And it’s a lesson to me that I have lots of work to do on self-acceptance.
Note: this post is a homework assignment from the Unencumbered: Fly Free class