What’s not to love?

If you grew up in the kind of patriarchal environment I did, you were likely shamed for desiring to feel pleasure. It was as if it was something only sinners were allowed to enjoy. If you sought out pleasure, you were in some way bad. I wish someone had told me to hold on tight to that part who defaulted to pleasure before shame and guilt came home to roost. But I bought the lies and social conditioning, and set that part of me on the shelf in order to be accepted by my people.

The pleasure of writing. Photo by Kristina Islas

Like all good wounds, reclaiming it has been a huge part of the journey home to myself. Allowing myself to feel pleasure – let alone admit that I enjoy it so much – has been a fun surprise as I have landed back into the real me. It has also been fun discovering that it is my nature to be indulgent. I think that is true for all humans if we are willing to admit it. Pleasure is also one of the foundational joys for giving and receiving love, and what better time than Valentine’s Day to have a conversation about it?!

Before we go there, I think it bears mentioning that I’m not talking about sexual pleasure. At least not exclusively. What I’m talking about is the delight of enjoying life through love and beauty, through connection, through this now moment, and through connection to the Divine Source, whatever you choose to call it. 

The pleasure of play. Photos by Mo Saito

Most of the things I loved as a child I am relearning to enjoy as an adult. It takes some unwinding and a lot of self-inquiry to get there, but after all, this is my one precious life. Will I regret soaking up all the indulgence I could, when the day comes for me to release this human body and return to the light? Why would I be given a body if not to enjoy it as the musical instrument it is? To experience fully all the things it executes so effortlessly, like feeling, creating, giving, loving, and sharing. I want all of it full throttle, uninhibited, and for the sheer joy of feeling it. And I mean all of it: even the pain, the grief, and the heartbreak.

The pleasure of love and family. Photo by Laura Martin Bovard

My young self was never meant to sit in church pews with my hands folded just so, or at a desk chair memorizing times tables while fairies danced around outside in the grass calling my name, inviting me to twirl and tumble. Being forced to sit still and listen to a ranting man wasn’t nearly as pleasurable as playing outside. Adults always seemed to have a reason why we should work now and play later. Between age six, and about five years ago, I was mostly serious. Very, very serious.

The pleasure of curating. Photos by Laura Martin Bovard

I recall so vividly the quiet joy of laying in the grass and feeling absorbed into the cosmos any time I had the chance. As a child, my favorite pastimes were always things that had to do with being in nature, eating, creating, or playing with friends. It seems that the more I allow myself to enjoy these things now, the easier life flows.

The pleasure of nature. Photo by Laura Martin Bovard.

The pleasure of nature. Photo by Laura Martin BovardNot much has changed between what lit me up as a child to what I find pleasurable as an adult. I can still hear nature inviting me to set aside my responsible self. I have found that answering the call of a roaring ocean to surrender my broken heart and my tears to its salty mass, ultimately verges on ecstasy when I allow myself to go there.

I recall so many thrills as a child, including swinging dangerously high in our backyard on the rope swing hung from a monkey pod tree at our house on Oahu, rearranging my room for the thousandth time, and making a lei. I remember the love of writing in my journal, feeding morsels of my food creations to my dad, and eating a 50/50 bar with my ginger-haired friend Cheryl after finding a quarter on the street right as the ice cream truck rounded the corner. Such pleasure.

The pleasure of food. Photos by Laura Martin Bovard

I know this to be my true nature: to feel alive and at play. It doesn’t surprise me one bit that my work and play life now revolve around allowing, discovering, and curating pleasure for those in my orbit. After all, what is more pleasurable than creating beauty for others, whether it be through making food, hosting events, writing, or designing interiors?

The pleasure of sisterhood. Photo by Kristina Islas

This month I’m in all-out celebration of all that lights me up. The snapshots throughout this blog show notable moments when I allowed myself to surrender to some of the more hedonistic things in life. My goal is to dial up the joy, the love, AND the pleasure in this coming year. I hope you will consider dialing up or rediscovering whatever it is that turns you on to your true nature.

“All animals, except man, know that the principal business of life is to enjoy it.”  -Samuel Butler

Written by Laura Martin Bovard.