Friday, August 3, 2007

Time to Savor the Sensuous

by Cassondra Murray

Thursday, 4:37 pm. Home from work. Slumped in chair.

My hands are on the keyboard, but after sorting and delivering mail for 550 customers on an 80 mile route, I’m barely moving. Gotta do it again tomorrow, so I’ll be in bed by eight tonight. Dishes dirty. Cats hiding from giant dust bunnies—must vacuum. Pile of laundry. We’re out of groceries. The local farmers are eyeballing my lawn. Its almost tall enough to cut and bale. Bookshelf-painting project half done on the front porch. Oh, and rats! I forgot, we’re out of dog food!

Whew. Do you ever wish you could make it stop? Or even sloooooowwww waaaaaaay doooowwwn? Maybe an hour or two when you don’t have to think about all that needs to get done—when you’re not already half way into tomorrow and its plans? I call it “living ahead of myself.”

I have the sense that the world—and our lives--are not supposed to go by in a blur of “can’t-keep-up-itis”. Bad news. I can’t make it stop, or even slow down.

But I’ve found a secret. Maybe I’m the only one who didn’t know, but just in case, I’ll share. I have to make me stop. My secret is in the brief moments when I can savor the sensuous.

Now mind you, I’m from Kentucky—buckle of the Bible belt—and in my upbringin’, the word sensuous meant sin. For the record, Webster defines sensuous as “…gratification of the senses…having strong sensory appeal…” I was in my mid thirties before I figured out that God gave me these senses—and how healing it can be to simply stop for a moment and feel. Listen. Taste. Smell. Ever had a massage, or just savored a shampoo, cut and style when the stylist massages your scalp for a few minutes? Ahhhh.

Tonight mine will be a bubble bath—cool water with Sandalwood Rose scented oil, and one tea candle in a red cut-glass holder on the vanity. I’ll set the timer so I won’t linger too long, but for that half hour I’ll shut the door on the entire overwhelming world. I’ll close my eyes and smell the scents, lie back and listen and notice the smallest noise—how many birds can I hear tweet outside the window? The neighbor down the road calling his dogs. Now and then I’ll hear the candle flame spurt or fizz as it drips wax. Even the faint sound of the bubbles dissolving, if I focus on it, has the power to bring me into the moment. Into the now.

Sometimes my savoring is as simple as a glass of wine with dinner instead of the easier, quicker glass of water. Sometimes it’s stopping long enough to put Sinatra on the CD player rather than taking whatever the radio spits at me--including the screaming, ranting BUY YOUR NEW CAR HERE HURRY ads.

On nights when I don’t have to turn in early, I’ll have a glass of chilled chardonnay in the tub, maybe a little bowl of sweet cherries or seedless grapes (or chocolate truffles-mmm).

As a writer I live too often outside of myself anyhow. My body mows the lawn but my mind is with my heroine fighting for her life or hero struggling with his soul’s demons. When I smooth on yummy lotion and dig my toes into a thick alpaca rug ( I keep it on the towel rack just for this reason—because it’s decadent—silky against my skin) I won’t go there. I’ll focus totally on the moment. Coming to the present keeps me sane. I do it by indulging my senses in these small ways. It works for me.

How about you? How do you slow down and unwind? Do you have little rituals like mine, or moments that you steal to keep yourself going when the world is after your sanity?

(Hint: This weekend the visitors to the Bandita lair will get the opportunity to hear from a Regency Earl named Sebastian, and a Victorian Lord named Nicholas. I’m guessing—actually I’m certain-- they have their own ways of savoring the sensuous. Why don’t you stop by and ask them about it? (wink) )


Anna Campbell said...

Cassondra, what a wonderful post. And one that was very timely for me as I'm juggling getting ready for our local conference next week(I'm running a workshop with my dear friend and critique partner Annie West who writes for Harlequin Presents) with moving house and trying to work on my third book. I keep saying, "Stop the world, I wanna get off!" Not original but definitely heartfelt. I'm just about to go and have a bath - like you, there's something about a long soak that brings everything back into perspective. Then a nice glass of red. And I'm going to watch TV tonight instead of clean out make-up that I think I bought to wear at the Norman Invasion! Thank you, my friend!

Helen said...

I have the perfect bath for just that Cassondra head rest arm rests it is wonderful then I come out pick up a good book and turn off to everything that is going on around me and read, loose myself in the regency era usually. I always feel so much better afterwards I might just go and do that now thanks.
Have Fun

Keira Soleore said...

Thanks for the timely reminder, Cassondra. This is something that I don't do often enough.

In fact, I'm going to take your advice and go off to a matinee showing of "Becoming Jane" later today. Watching a movie on opening day. Can't remember when I did that last.

Foanna, all the best with your workshop preparation. Any ideas for bringing it to SF next July?

Helen, a tub with head and arm rests?? WOW! What luxury!

Anna Campbell said...

Actually, Keira, I'm trying to convince my partner in crime she needs to come to a US conference. But it's hard when you've got kids (you know!). It's about alpha heroes which I think is a subject of enduring interest. I hope YOU are coming to SF! It was so fantastic to run into you a few times in Dallas.

Caren Crane said...

Helen, I want your bath! *g*

Cassondra, this is something we all need to keep in mind. I am about to leave the relative sanity of summer behind and launch once more into the frenetic pace of the new school year.

And it's not just school. It's the time when clubs, sports, church activities and music all cranks into high gear. By Christmas I am a quivering wreck from keeping up with my teenagers' activities!

I take a few precious minutes each night to read before bed. That is sanity for me. I bought myself an iPod so I can listen to "my" music when forced to be somewhere I don't want to be (*cough*work*cough*). But it's hard to force myself to just step outside and feel the sun on my skin. To take time to sit on the deck and listen to the birds.

My mind is always whispering that there is something I need to be doing. Stupid mind! Maybe I'll light my favorite scented candle while I'm reading tonight. Wear the silky pajamas rather than cotton. Thanks for the reminder!

Kirsten said...

Cassondra, I love this post! I had a wonderful moment a couple of days ago when my son (he's almost seven) asked me to lie down on the grass and snuggle with him for a minute. He's a snuggly little boy, so this wasn't totally unusual. The unusual part was that I did it. I lay down under my favorite tree and he lay down in one arm and my little girl lay down in the other. And we sat like that for a while, just looking at the tree. It was soooo lovely.

I often feel like I'm running eight directions at once, but it's totally self-imposed. The truth is, I get bored and impatient sitting still. I feel like there's things to be done and why aren't I doing them? So I need to consciously work at taking these times outs to savor life.

Thanks for the reminder!

jo lewis-robertson said...

Beautiful post, Cassondra. I almost felt hypnotized reading the words! Love the "living ahead of myself" image. Most of us get so caught up in the mundane necessities of day-to-day living, that we forget to stop and enjoy life. I'm a type-A person and I have to force myself to do this. Hmmm, bubble baths and massages, glasses of wine -- oops make that Pepsi -- and silk sheets! Thanks for the "sensual" reminder.

Christie Kelley said...

Great post, Cassondra. For the past seven weeks it's been beyond hectic for me. I haven't had the chance to savory the moment on anything. All I do is rush to finish this task and hurry to finish that one. I need to remember to slow it down and turn off my cell phone now and then. Unfortunately in my business clients don't even think about the fact that I might need some time to myself or my family. So I need to take control of that.

Thanks for the reminder to slow it down and enjoy the bubbles. At least I'll a big soaker tub once we finish our remodel.

Jeanne (AKA The Duchesse) said...

Cassondra, loved the post. Thanks for the reminder. There is so much to appreciate in life, isn't there? Our children's moments, the feel of the wind on our faces, the sight of a storm brewing when we need rain. Love it! :> Enjoy the water! grins, Jeanne

Donna MacMeans said...

Great post, Cassondra

THis time of year, a long walk by myself will do the trip. It's easier to soak in the ambience of the woods, or the fog, or the morning if one doesn't have to bother with conversation. In the winter, I love to cuddle under a warm blanket with a good book and get lost in someone else's world.

Keira Soleore said...

Absolutely! I'm going to be there at SF. I so wish National was every six months, but in the meantime, there's the Seattle con.

Joan said...

Sorry I'm late chiming in...I was out shopping for an alpaca rug! :-)

I agree that this was a very mesmerizing post. I've been thinking about this all day. I know a time when I feel sensuous is when I've got on a really cool, new outfit. That this new outfit fits me very nicely (because of losing 14 pounds). There is nothing like confidence in yourself with losing weight and having clothes that fit.

You feel good about how you look so you start to believe some of those male types might too. (The other day, I caught a guy looking at MY clevage. MINE! LOL. I liked it.)

The senses are wonderful things, aren't they.

PS Inara, I think it's sweet that you and your kids laid on the grass and were just "being". They will remember that all their lives.

Cassondra said...

Ah, so I see I'm not the only one!Good on you all for taking time for yourselves. Sometimes I can only squeeze in five or ten minutes, but even that's better than nothing.

Kirsten, I remember when I was a kid and LOVED lying in the grass. A couple of years ago I was outside on a perfect spring day. Warm, but before the bugs came out in swarms. There's a spot beside where my hyacinths come up that was just calling to me. And I did it! I lay right down there on the ground and just felt the earth with my whole body. I'm glad no neighbors appeared at that moment ;0)

Helen, your bath sounds heavenly. And Christie, your remodel reminds me of yet another thing to get done--our 158-year-old house has been under renovation/restoration for several years. There's always something unfinished.

Keira, so how was the matinee?

Cassondra said...

Oh, and Joan--got my alpaca rug for $12 at TJMaxx!

Joan said...

Hmmmmm....maybe I could make the alpaca rug into a nice outfit :-)

Suzanne Welsh said...

This week, after the great plumbing disaster of Sunday-Tuesday, I desperately needed some girl's only time. My good friend, author Jo Davis, and I met at the local Studio Movie Grill for lunch and a movie. We watched No Reservations. What a true Romance movie! I'm sure critics will call it predictable, but I still laughed and cried and it felt GREAT!

Suzanne Welsh said...

Caren, I too bought a Zen, think mini Ipod, to listen to my own music at work. My coworkers like either country or easy listening, while I prefer classic rock with the driving sounds of drums, guitars and voices like Janis and Aretha and John Fohgerty!

Needless to say, I'm the only one tapping my feet or shaking my head. But it's what I grew up on and it drowns out all the chatter or chaos. I also write to it at home, so I don't hear dh or kids!

Kirsten said...

Joan! Congratulations on your weight loss--that's such a huge accomplishment! And I know it's such an incredible feeling to look in the mirror and actually feel good about yourself. You enjoy every minute of it--you deserve it!!

Helen, your bath sounds just divine!! :-)

Keira, I love the idea of conference every six months. I'm hoping to be in Seattle, though not sure if I can make it.

Keira Soleore said...

Inara, woo-hoo! It would be fabulous to see you at the Emerald City conference. Loved that image of you all in the garden snuggling under a tree. It went in my idea book,'s going into my story.

Yup, I did it. The movie Becoming Jane was good. Anne Hathaway was surprisingly good (OK I was biased going in). James McAvoy was yummilicious and very good. The supporting cast was very good, too. I knew the movie would take literary license, and it did, but that didn't detract from the storytelling. They showed some scenes that before I had to only imagine, like changing of horses at inns for the coaches and household details. Excellent, at least to me, adherence to period culture and society. I did wish that the romance had been developed a bit more and the emotional tenor of the entire movie had been ratched up more. There were spots when they hit it just right and gave you that "aaah" feeling, like the final scene. Overall: recommended!

Cassondra said...