by Anne-Sharlene Murapa (she/her) | Edited by Janine Samuels (she/her)
Image via Luke Stackpoole
The biggest misconception I ever had was the belief that once I had healed from my trauma, I would intuitively live in the full embodiment of the work I had done. Although healing is a journey of a lifetime, there are significant breakthroughs in this journey that free us from the bondage of living submerged in our pain.
It is thus no surprise that even at my significantly best, I could not seem to access this joy that I had always aspired to. I had done the work. I had attended some sessions of therapy that I did not enjoy much, journaled it down, basically, my share of Solange’s Cranes in the Sky, but I still did not experience the joy I had expected to experience. I felt free yet incomplete.
I had long existed in my trauma that I had begun to define myself so much by it. Healing meant that I had been separated from an identity I had long held close to me. I was required, just as I had approached my healing with intention, to approach my joy and pleasure with the same intention. In the same way, I had learnt to cradle pain, I had to learn to embrace joy.
Pleasure is our biggest form of resistance because it bears testament to our ability to find life in places once rendered desolate. It is our bold refusal to continue to exist as shadows of our former selves when we have, within ourselves the ability to redefine who we are however we choose to, in ways that restore the power once violently taken from us.
"In touch with the erotic, I become less willing to accept powerlessness, or those other supplied states of being which are not native to me, such as resignation, despair, self-effacement, depression, self-denial."
Audre Lorde’s work has been key in my reclaiming the joy I am deserving of. She defines the erotic as “a sense of deep satisfaction…joy and fulfillment of a woman's being.”
We tend to leave the body behind when we go in search of our healing. We ignore its glory, in the same manner, those violating us do. We look at it and render it unimportant as if it is not the one that houses the pain that we buckled under. We seem to say to it, “you are undeserving of love and care.” But how do we expect to live in freedom when we leave parts of ourselves behind? Were we not told that “no one is free until we are all free”? So how then do we dare to proclaim to be free when a part of who we are has been left in the prison of the perpetrator's violence?
Every aspect of our being may “heal and forget” but as long as the body is forgotten, it will always remember.
As with most lessons I have learnt, YouTube queued an episode of For the Wild, in which adrienne maree brown was sharing on our birthright to pleasure. She asked a question I believe we should all ask ourselves,
“if we were not afraid of our pleasure, what would become possible?”
If we labour to have our pain understood, respected and acknowledged with the hopes that we will not have to experience it any longer, should we not then labour to amplify the possibilities that lie on the other side of that pain?
Audre Lorde has again taught us that when we have experienced this radical pleasure, it becomes impossible to want to live without it. That is why anyone looking to oppress you would deny you of the very thing that will liberate you. That is why the world has benefited from the system of ‘guilty pleasures’, where women are conditioned to believe that there is something inherently wrong with indulging in what makes you happy if the results of it would make everyone else around you uncomfortable.
Tom Holt was right, “pleasure is something you can easily lose the knack of, if you allow yourself to get out of practice.” Pleasure is a deliberate practice that one honours over time. As I schedule energy-draining work into my calendar because I want to get paid at the end of the month, I will schedule activities that bring me joy because I want to bask in the privilege of having access to pleasure. That is the practice of pleasure: Prioritising your joy with the same urgency you prioritise everything else that does not directly bring you joy.
It is unfair to continuously deny ourselves indulgences of delight. We deserve it. However, we define pleasure… Be it heart-racing raunchy sex, a new pair of Steve Madden stilettos, a good read, a trip to an exotic island or a hearty oxtail dish, whatever it is, we are fully deserving of this pleasure. It is our birthright and it is up to us to reclaim it. Otherwise, our healing remains unfulfilled.
Anne-Sharlene Murapa (she/her) is a curious creative constantly exploring how art can be used to cultivate better societies. She is currently pursuing self-defining pleasure and joy for herself, away from digital influence. Some of her work can be found here.