Letters From Esther #17 - Eroticism Suffered in 2020; Fantasy Thrived

by
Esther Perel

Shall We Begin?

Eroticism suffered in 2020. Fantasy thrived. I don’t mean sexually, per se, though that may also be the case. I define Eroticism as those qualities of vitality, curiosity, and spontaneity that makes us feel alive. It’s the unexpected yet welcomed touch on a great first date; running into a dear old friend and absconding together for a drink; traveling to a brand new place and experiencing it unfold before you. This type of Eroticism went into lockdown with us nearly ten months ago, when life’s delectable little mysteries were suddenly replaced by the great unknown. 
Ever since, we’ve found ourselves missing those moments of happenstance that knock our routines—a laugh shared with a stranger in line, a waiter’s recommendation, even the lengthy office commute which once provided perfect circumstance for falling deeply into a new podcast. For me, it’s the dinner parties. Before March 2020, I attended or hosted dinner parties weekly, reveling in the chance encounters a great dinner party brings. While I like to mix flavors in a dish, I especially delight in the concoction of people around the table. You never know whom you’ll sit next to, what great questions will be asked, what delicious meal will be served, or how long the evening will last. 
Now, my greatest source of mystery—aside from the pandemic itself—comes from throwing rocks into a nearby frozen lake. I’m never sure how each one will sound when it cracks the surface or what shapes the bubbles underneath the ice will make. Sometimes, I’ll video record it and send it to friends, wishing they were standing next to me. I think about how we’d run through the snow laughing, how we’d make a hot meal together and sit by a fire. I imagine what it will be like to hug them and what life will be like on the other side of all this. What will we do first? Where will we go?
This is what I mean when I say that where Eroticism has suffered, Fantasy has thrived. Over the last year, our imaginations have gone into overdrive—both good and bad. Unable to see our friends, we’ve had to get extremely creative. But that creativity has also extended to the scary things, too. How much time have we spent hypothesizing how bad it will get? We’ve fantasized a roller coaster of apocalyptic outcomes. If we pop our bubble, we’ll surely get sick and die. The economy is forever in smithers. New York City is never coming back. The housing market can’t recover. I’ll be unemployed forever. The kids will never return to school. We’re going to lose grandma. We’re going to lose everything. For so many, some of our deepest fears have come true. And so we wonder, what if they all do? 
I, myself, am prone to this kind of thinking. I don’t regret the time I spent fantasizing about what could go wrong. It kept me safe. But I’m enjoying fantasizing about what can go right in 2021. In this new year, I plan to use my overactive imagination for good, inspired by the children in my life. My niece recently sent me a video of her children in lockdown hopping from pillow to pillow, pretending they are rocks in a river. In another video, they pile those same pillows up to make their “cabin in the woods.” I envy their free range imagination and I want a little of it. They know the trick: freedom in confinement comes from our imaginations. We’re not out of the woods yet, but fantasy can take us anywhere. So what would you like to imagine?

Let’s Turn the Lens on You

  • Think back on the last year. 
  • Write down 3 things you have lost. 
  • Write down 3 things you have gained. 
  • What did you imagine when you were in your darkest place?
  • What did you survive?
  • What are 3 challenges you have mastered? 
  • What have been the consequences—good and bad? 
  • What was the kindest thing someone else did for you? 
  • What were some of your contributions to your community? 
  • Think about the year ahead. 
  • Write down 1 thing you need to release.
  • Write down 1 thing you’d like to develop.
  • What are you excited about?
  • What are you afraid of?
  • Revisit these answers every few months and record your progress.

More From Esther

Why Eroticism Should Be Part of your Self-Care Plan / a blog article
Tune into your body and let it teach you what you like, don’t like, and what you don’t know yet.
Where Should We Begin? Pod Club / on Instagram
Producer Jesse Baker and I discuss show notes from episode 4 of season 3: “A Romantic Revival”
Loneliness Around the Holidays / a blog and community resource list
We asked our community to share their strategies for coping with loneliness around the holidays and shared some of our own. The holidays may be over, but these strategies are still helpful in the new year.

Conversation Starters

A compendium of highly recommended sources of inspiration and information       
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