Saturday, August 14, 2010

Self-Indulgent Saturday

Last night Iris and I stopped to see our good friends Ronny and Janey (nudge, nudge, wink, wink, say no more, say more...). Janey is an amazing writer with an amassed arsenal of skills and experiences that would put the US and Russian missile systems to shame. Not only can she write, but she also has a lot to say. Over the years, Janey has used her skill and prowess to beautifully render the stories of others. Occasionally, just occasionally, she'll use them to tell her own. When she does, it's absolutely breathtaking; as I read Janey's stories, in addition to tearing and laughing, I literrally find myself needing to remind me to exhale.

In fact, the only thing "wrong" with Janey's autobiographical expository is that, well, she just doesn't do it enough. So, as we sat talking last night, we began exploring why.

Victim of Her Groove
One of the experiences shared among creative and athletic types is flow or groove. When you're in flow, when you've found your groove, you can do things in moments that normally take hours, or are completely impossible. You're present, you're focused, you're blissful. The world slows down allowing you to peruse a situation from all angles like the cameras panning around Neo as he leaned back impossibly to dodge bullets in the Matrix. You're so into your task that you're not at all concerned about your task.

Flow is incredibly addictive. The more you experience it, the more you want to experience it. However, flow can be quite elusive. It's magical. It comes. It goes. How? When? Why? We don't know.

So we try to conjure it up. We look for clues. What was I doing when it came? Was there music playing or was it completely silent? What did I eat that morning? Maybe I should go sit on a mountain? Maybe I should go sit in a subway car? A cup of coffee? A cup of tea? A cup of whisky?

Ask ten people who regularly experience flow how they find their groove and you'll get ten different recipes or spells. But almost invariably, the self-reported likelihood of the formula working is not anywhere near 100%.

As we talked last night about flow, Janey admitted that she was a binge-groover. She goes through long periods of sporadically and unsuccessfully trying enter flow succeeding only by escaping her day-to-day world for extended intervals of deep dives into long, uninterrupted groove. The problem is that extended intervals away are expensive, not financially, but in terms of maintaining all the other artifacts of life.

As a fellow groove-junky, I've done my share of being mystified by my inability to simply enter flow. In fact, at points I've been mystified by my inability to even recall entering flow. I finally convinced myself that elusiveness of flow is ephemeral. Flow, like happiness, is simply a choice. For me, the verb to flow is simply the active form of the verb to be happy.

OK, easier said than done, but what if it's true? What if you could enter flow instantly at any time in any situation regardless of your emotional or physical state? Suspend disbelief for just a moment. What if you could? Would that be a good thing or a bad thing?

I shared with Janey that over the past few months I've been remodeling myself installing hot and cold running flow with some degree of success. I shared a bit about what I do and how. Janey also shared with me that she's often been able to simply dive in to flow as she's written stories of others. However, there's something different about telling her on story, something that makes it more difficult. It's so... so... so self-indulgent.

Please Do Indulge
OK. At this point is was my turn to be mystified (again). If you've ever been blessed by one of Janey's autobiographical gems, the last thought that would ever come to mind is, "My gosh, how self-indulgent! Can you believe that someone would be so self-absorbed as to have written that!"

Janey has the ability to describe traumatic situations with the authenticity of someone who has indeed experienced them, the honesty of a sinner at a confessional, and the clarity and perspective of a third party who has no vested interest in the outcome. Her stories are vivid, not just because they're so well written, but because they're so, well... so Janey; they're real. They're necessarily selfish. And they're wonderful!

Anyway, I'm not sure if my jaw actually dropped as Janey described her writing as self-indulgent, but my first thought was not to argue it, but instead, to say, "If your writing is self-indulgent, then please do indulge."

It then occurred to me that we typically take a dim view of self-indulgence as though it were a bad thing. A typical response to Janey's assertion would buy into that judgment and would entail some line of reasoning designed to convince Janey that her writing was not self-indulgent. And it would likely be unsuccessful, primarily due to its roots in fiction.

Expressing yourself and your experiences clearly, deeply, honestly and without hesitation is luxuriously self-indulgent. Doing so regularly would probably add years to your life, and they'd be quality years at that. Moreover, doing so will enrich the lives of those with whom you share. It may even inspire them to so indulge. And as someone who has the clarity of expression that only comes with this type of self-indulgence, you'll be able to listen to them as clearly and without judgment as you do with yourself.

In fact, if you judge yourself in your expression of you, then there's no way that you're not going to do it with others. So, inspired by Janey's aversion to her wonderfully beneficial binges of decadent self-indulgence, I've decided to declare today, Self-Indulgent Saturday.

To join in the celebration all you need to do is find someone or some ones and share your stories. Share them big! Share them clear! Without hesitation. Without apology. Without regret. Without hiding. Share the important parts, the ones that really were significant to you, even if they seem like minor details. Make them vivid. Make them come alive. Indulge yourself and everyone around you with the best story of you you've ever told.

Happy Saturday!



  1. Teflon, you are one wise and wonderful and inspiring human being! Woke up at 4:00 a.m. this morning with the very clear feeling that it IS a choice, that flow is here, there, everywhere and that all of our perceived "obstacles" are really just smoke and mirrors - trying to lure us away from having a real conversation with ourselves and with the world - which may be the only "indulgence" that can truly transform our lives. Thank you, my friend, for the sage counsel and the sushi! xx

  2. Thank you QuinnMama. Can't wait for your next indulgence.

  3. I don't feel competent enough to comment on flow just yet... but regarding how we come to judge everything around us (like self-indulgence), it seems to me that we go around slapping red and green labels on everything, marking bad and good, or wrong and right, and pretty soon, all we see are those red and green labels, with the actual things being completely obscured from view. Labeling may save time, but at the expense of seeing things as they are. I experience that every time I try to explain stuff to Roshan (my 8-year-old) without using those 4 words - it takes way longer.


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