What’s your pleasure… and your power?

Standing on stage and staring into a crowd of faces, some I knew, most I did not, I realized I had no where else to go. 
I step off stage and carry that with me – relaxed yet energized, fully feeling the pleasure of the moment. I am both giving and receiving joy. And I want to carry this feeling with me, always.I am frozen. I look back at the drummer and he nods.  The bass guitarist next to me says, “Let’s go.”  As he starts to strum, automatically my brain shifts into counting the beats. I know this. I got this. I release the lyrics like taffy, pulling at the lines. I have not forgotten the crowd in front of me but they are no longer foreign, separate. They are now my co-conspirators. We are reliving our past, together, remembering that one love, obsession, that was so overwhelming, there was nothing on earth we wouldn’t do to keep it. I have relaxed into my voice. I am soaking up the energy of the crowd. I am feeling the warm buzz of pleasure radiating through my entire being, the emotion of it energizing me to give it my all and yet feeling completely at ease in the moment.

Where do you find pleasure?

Not the “my-kid-is-so-cute” moment or the “I-can’t-believe-she-said-that-in-her-outside-voice” moment… those are fun, for sure.  But I’m talking about the kind of pleasurable experience that zings through your entire body and leaves you both feeling physically spent and fully energized?

I’ve recently been listening to some interviews with coach Kristin Sweeting Morelli and hormone expert Dr. Sara Gottfried, in which they posit that for women, our power center is replenished through experiencing pleasure – so this life we lead of waking early to start the laundry, get the kids to school, go to work, manage the after-school carpool, squeeze in gym time, grocery shop, cook, clean, help with homework, do our own work, etc… the list of activity goes on… it depletes us and we need to find ways to replenish ourselves. When we don’t, we get addicted to the high level of stress – those super high cortisol levels that impact our mood, our mode of behavior and how we interact with the world – and we embrace the sense of martyrdom that goes with it.

Don’t think that’s you? When you insist that it is faster/easier/better if you just do it yourself… when you are annoyed that your husband or son didn’t clean the kitchen the way they know you like it to be cleaned… when you take on yet another volunteer project and then complain that you have no time for yourself…

Be honest, we all spend some time in martyrdom. And it’s not a pretty place. Not for us and not for the people around us.

According to Sweeting Morelli and Gottfried, to replenish our strength and our soul, to reclaim a sense of peace and put the harried harpy of the day to rest, women need to tap into pleasure. Our stress levels are high, whether self-induced or not, and have a direct, measurable impact on our health and our relationships. If we allow our cortisol levels (the stress hormone) to get out of whack, we’re in for a crash. And some drama. And undoubtedly more stress.

The shortest, surest route to replenishing a healthy balance? For women, it’s indulging in something pleasurable that releases oxytocin and raises serotonin levels. Sure, it can be that toe curling sexual pleasure (which is where your mind immediately went – come on, you know it did) and that one should be on everyone’s list, but it is really anything that feeds and energizes your soul.  And we all have different ways of reaching into to that well and pulling our pleasure – and our power – back out of it.

Think of the last time you had a lengthy conversation with a girlfriend – or a few friends.  Ones who really get you.  How did you feel coming away from that?  Exhausted or energized?

Or perhaps on your last shopping excursion, you snatched up a hot pair of Jimmy Choo’s at a bargain price… or if you’re like me, new Asics or Saucony’s.

Or maybe you finally attended that salsa dance class that you kept meaning to make time for… why hadn’t you done that sooner?

You can replenish your soul by going to church. By attending yoga class. By getting a massage.

Clearly, one of my pleasure zones is in singing – for an audience, for sure, but also alone in my car. I can get this high from running obstacle course races, from playing in the ocean, from writing… anything – my blog, a thank you note, an old fashioned love letter… the act of expressing myself on paper is pleasurable for me – and from reading a really good book. That may not sound exciting to you – and that’s ok, we all have our own pleasure zones – but it works for me. It brings me back to a place where I can be present with my every day life – working full time, raising three teenagers, managing a menagerie of pets and the myriad activities that come with that life.

Every spontaneous, joyful moment and irrepressible laugh should be cherished. That momentary respite brings pleasure into any given moment. But in addition to that, we ought to be cultivating a regular cadence of pleasure that replenishes our soul.

So back to my original question: where do you find your pleasure?

If you want to learn more about the idea of women’s power being centered in their ability to experience pleasure, and how our hormonal imbalances can dramatically affect our mood, our weight and our relationships, I strongly recommend reading Dr. Sara Gottfried’s books and blogs as well as Kristin Sweeting Morelli’s Red Tent Revival materials (she is no longer doing live events, which are phenomenal, fun and educational, but the recorded materials are available for purchase).

Natalie Hahn O’Flaherty is a principal at Dirty Girls Consulting, offering programs that support women moving into leadership roles. Women work differently, think differently, and it is up to us to develop this difference into  our strength. We explore breaking free of traditional standards, accomplishing professional and personal goals to create an authentic, fully loved life. Read more Dirty Girl Consulting blogs here. 

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