Path to happiness is paved with pleasures, large and small

I once heard a wise and spunky woman say flirting is the art of enjoying one’s self in the presence of another.

Now I’m no expert in the art of the coquette, but those words have always stuck with me. We don’t flirt to get something — attention, acknowledgment or any other goal — but to savor the pleasure of being fully alive and fully ourselves. And in the moment, we revel in how much fun that is.

The truth of those words was recently affirmed for me when my friend T and I spent a weekend in New York at an event geared toward celebrating the beauty, sisterhood and power of women. For two days, we shifted our focus from meeting the needs and expectations of others to exploring, among other things, what brings us joy and fulfillment. Luxuriating in a bath or nap or any other type of pampering, playing and dancing to our favorite music, savoring the connections in our intimate relationships, giving into those urges that seem too daring or fanciful — we were encouraged to pursue anything, big or small, that would bring more pleasure into our lives. And in tuning into those desires, we unleashed an infectious brand of magic.

From the cab driver who cut across the city to return T’s phone when she realized she’d lost it to the sumptuous meals that surprised us at restaurants we stumbled into to the men who engaged us in conversation everywhere we went, we wove a spell simply by being ourselves.

T and I, along with two of her friends, had dived into this adventure, making plans and arranging logistics with little guarantee of how anything would work out. Even committing to the event seemed a bold, and potentially risky, step.

But almost every moment unfolded with exhilarating ease. And while we certainly weren’t looking to attract male attention, what we experienced over and over was the alluring appeal of our joy. The taxi driver who chatted us up as he ferried us to day two of our event and appeared reluctant to have us leave his cab; the waiters at our restaurant in Little Italy who were so solicitous to please and lingered at our table, laughing and bantering with us — especially amusing was the one who saluted my hearty appetite with a high five and an enthusiastic “Now that’s the kind of woman I love”; the men on the train ride home who injected themselves into our conversations, eager to share in our giddy, good humor: We did nothing to invite their interest.

Instead, the more immersed we were in our own fun and pleasure, the more irresistible we became.
I needed that reminder — and not because I’m ready to date. Having just ended a long-term relationship, romance is the last thing on my mind. What I do need is time to heal. Then, when the days no longer begin and end and string together with thoughts of him and us, the possibility of anyone else stepping into that space won’t seem so unfathomable.

But what I took from all those moments is when I am ready, moving on won’t have to be a struggle.

Well-meaning friends have tried to buoy my spirits with all kinds of support in recent weeks, but when some of them tell me how difficult it will be to start dating again, how hard it is to find someone decent and how disappointing and frustrating the entire process can be, I want to turn and walk away. Perhaps that’s been their experience and I don’t want to discount that. But I’d rather not be daunted by their attitudes and beliefs.

I don’t expect dating to be a chore or a challenge, nor do I subscribe to the notion a good man is hard to find. If anything, my work as a wedding officiant has proven otherwise. Every time I’m with a couple who shares how they met — so often in a moment neither expected — and am gifted with a glimpse of the ways love has blessed and expanded their lives, I am reassured this is no elusive fantasy.

Even the relationship I’ve just ended serves as a reminder of the deep and satisfying love it’s possible to find when we give up the hungry, arduous search and commit, instead, to pursuing what lights us up. For he would often say it was how happy I looked dancing in my own world the night we met that drew him to my side.

I will grieve the loss of that partnership, and I know there will be days where sadness and longing are my only companions. But I will also be open to the magic life bestows and the joy that is a natural compass for steering me onward. Sometimes it feels like the only true armor against a world, cruel and chaotic and bent on convincing us we’d do better to settle for less.

– Life in LaLa Land, published in The Intelligencer and Bucks County Courier Times


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