Messy Pleasures Remind Us of Our Humanity

“Get messy in life – at least you know you’re living.”
“The appreciation of pleasure can be an anchor of one’s humanity.”

The first quote was stated by Meryl Streep and Uma Thurman in the relatively disappointing romantic comedy Prime. The second is from Elizabeth Gilbert’s phenomenal bestseller, Eat Pray Love. They are both resonating with me right now.

If you’ve been taught to be good, to follow convention, and stifle your dreams to please others and avoid judgment, than perhaps getting messy and making some mistakes is exactly the calling to rock your boat. I’m kind of a mix of these, as I still embody the lessons to be good and avoid judgment, yet I’m comfortable dodging conventions and following my dreams. Nonetheless, I like the reminder to get messy. You know, although a somewhat literal interpretation of the quote, for years I avoided going under water in pools or in the ocean if my hair was clean, because the time needed to wash it and blow dry it again didn’t seem worth it. I did not realize what I was missing. Did you know that floating is the first pleasure we ever experience? According to Stella Resnick, Ph.D., in The Pleasure Zone, “Primal Pleasure begins with floating, cradled in a sac of warm fluid, connected to a source of complete nurturance without any sense of separation or boundary….The physical experience of bliss is fundamentally an experience of buoyancy: You literally feel like you’re soaring.” I was afraid to get messy, was prioritizing vanity, and consequently not appreciating the extreme pleasure of going with the flow with the freedom of my spirit.

The “messy” reference in the quote certainly means a lot more than physically getting dirty. It is emotionally and mentally and spiritually taking risks and entering new territory. Things are always messy and unclean and scary. But that’s how you know you’re on the right path, because you’re challenging yourself outside a little comfortable box. The pursuit of pleasure, when emanating from a pure drive for beauty, appreciation, and joy, gives us a taste of the best of humanity. And the experience of such pleasure requires the courage to be completely honest with ourselves.

I don’t care anymore if my hair is wild after a good dose of chlorine and salt water. Now I even leave it that way for a couple days. A simple pleasure that makes me smile.

Jennifer Gunsaullus, Ph.D.

Sex Therapy & Relationship Counseling in San Diego