Rest, Relaxation, and What Trees Can Teach Us About Both with Emily Carter

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Emily Carter joins me to talk about rest, relaxation, time, and leisure. These topics often make for hot articles, but how often are they talked about through the lens of trees, bees, and nature? That’s where we’re going in today’s episode. 

Often, the distortion we feel around our time leads to burnout or a general sense of unfulfillment. In this episode, Emily and I dive into how our relationships with time, rest, and community influence how each of us feels daily and what we can do to feel more alive. 

One of my favorite things is turning back to nature because nature holds so much wisdom, and it’s right in front of our face (even though I live in the middle of a major city). Emily’s obsession with the pawpaw tree kicks us off, and my recent obsession with bees helps us go even deeper.

My orchid is also discussed because it seems I’m learning something weekly from watching it grow.

Tune in if you feel out of rhythm and want to get back to feeling in sync. Or if you find yourself wondering about time frequently like both Emily and I do.


Emily is a community builder, podcast host, and founder of Change Agent Studio. Her work and current curiosity centers around how our relationships with time, community, ourselves, and work influence how we experience life on the daily. She’s also in love with pawpaws (aka – the Indiana Banana). It’s a unique fruit, native to the Midwest, that’s a cross between bananas and mangos. Have you tried one? Let us know in the comments. 

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Alyssa Patmos 0:04
This is Make It Mentionable. I’m Alyssa Patmos and this is the show about being human in a world that encourages us to be robots. I invite you to join me as we journey through the mess, the magic and the mania in between. Because what we can talk about, we can manage. This honest conversation extravaganza includes free flowing conversations and high doses of vulnerability to remind you that you aren’t alone. No topic is off limits, and episodes are designed to leave you smarter, aka more self aware than when you came. I am so glad you’re here.

Hello, and welcome back to another episode of Make It Mentionable. I’m your host, Alyssa Patmos. And today, I am here with Emily Carter. And we’re going to talk about relaxation. But more than just, you know, the standard definition of relaxation, we’re going to go into what it takes to actually be able to relax because both of us have found that that can be a difficult thing to do. And on top of that, we’re also going to talk about pleasure, because so often we relate relaxation with leisure and pleasure, but then we don’t actually know how to step in and experience pleasure. And so these are both lessons that Emily and I have had to learn personally and journey through. And I am so excited to have you here for this conversation. Emily, thank you for joining me.

Emily Carter 1:42
Oh, Alyssa, thank you so much for having me here today. I cannot wait to have this conversation. So before we dive in, can you just tell people tuning in a little bit about you, who you are, what lights you up, etc? Yeah, so I am a business owner, I work for myself, it’s just me, I’m a solopreneur. And I teach people how to create a container for their work so that they can enjoy all the other stuff that life has to offer us. And I teach it because I need to learn it. I am a habitual over worker, I am totally, I have totally been consistently on the edge of burnout. I’m a self professed workaholic. And so a lot of what I pay attention to is all about how to drop into pleasure how to drop into relaxation, how to really rest what rest actually is. And I kind of obsess over it a little bit about how we experience time, and how we can make the most of it.

Alyssa Patmos 2:49
So two things I love that you said there right off the bat are about attention, because so much of this is about where our attention goes. And yet if we’re not in control of that, or if we’re not, if we’re not aware of what’s going on, it comes very difficult to know where our attention is flowing. But the second we can like become aware of something and redirect our attention, it becomes substantially easier, or at least more simple. Not always easier. But it becomes more simple to step into some of these things that we’re talking about.

Emily Carter 3:25
Absolutely, you nailed it. And then the second thing is the time and you mentioned time and time is just such a weird construct. I’ve constantly –

Alyssa Patmos 3:39
Really grappling with the fact that things are not linear, even though our human mind I’d love for them to be

Emily Carter 3:46
Oh my gosh, listen, I spent a summer really digging into time and the concept of time, it’s something I’ve always just really been drawn to like. I mean, you can you can look through my life and see notebooks and planners full of how I divide my time. And this obsession really kind of for me comes from like, wanting to be able to spend it well. And like never regret how I’ve spent my time, which is an impossible goal, by the way. So if you’re out there, and that’s your goal, just know that you might never achieve it. It’s a fine goal, though. So keep at it. And I describe it as like a time slinky. My son is he’s nine now but he had this slinky and it was broken. It was like it was a total catastrophe of a slinky. And in it you could see the spring it was like pulled apart and it was all kind of wonky. And I was like this is exactly how I experienced time because it’s cyclical and the fact that there are seasons that I continue to go through, they don’t always look the same. They don’t always line up very nicely. And yet when you pull it apart, you can see how it’s linear and the ways in which it’s linear. And when I think about time slinky it just reminds I need also to be a little bit playful with this time. Because if we’re so busy trying to fill it up with the right stuff, air quotes, we forget to actually like be in that moment. So part of it is like that presence that we get to have when we understand how we’re experiencing time.

Alyssa Patmos 5:21
Yes, yes, this whole episode could also be about time because it’s such a powerful, there’s so related in einer lives, especially when productivity enters the conversation where it’s like, who is determining how your time gets spent? And then if you generate more time, where do you give that time to? And the general narrative is that if you create more time, you’re the sole purpose of that is to create more time for work. And like –

Emily Carter 5:54
You can squeeze more productive hours in there. Listen, this is something as like I said, I’m a self professed workaholic. And I’m doing my best to try to navigate this in ways that don’t look back on my life and go, where did I spend my time? Why was it on building my business instead of being in relationship with my people, you know, because community is also something that’s really close to me. And, and I see it, I see communities as like, these super powered batteries that like, if you don’t have a community around you, you’re constantly losing energy without many ways to get it back. So when I talk about community, I’m not just talking about like your Facebook group, or like the PTA meetings that you go to, or like even your geographical location community. I’m also talking about like your family and your friends and the network of support that you’ve created around yourself, or maybe failed to create around yourself. Because I’ve definitely been in positions before where I failed to create a community of support around myself. In fact, when I my first job out of college was being a roadie, I would tour with bands, I would do video for them. And it was very, very cool, right? Sounds like the sexiest career ever. It is not that glamorous, in real life. But it was a great time. And when I decided to leave when I finally left it, I wanted to stay in Nashville because Nashville is such an amazing city. And I loved living in Nashville, it was full of live music, which is part of the reason that I wanted to get into touring in the first place was to be constantly surrounded by that vibe. And what I realized is I hadn’t built a community of support there. So all of my friends were also roadies, and when you come off the road, if you don’t have a community of support that isn’t on the road with you, then you don’t have anyone to turn to in real life when all your other friends are out touring. And so what I realized was like, Oh, I this probably isn’t gonna work out real well for me, and I don’t have the energy to like, start from scratch, build this, this community of support around myself here. So I actually ended up coming back home and it worked out, okay. But that’s what I mean by when I talk about community, it’s not just the things that we typically think of for community, it’s also all of these other pieces of how we connect with humans, other humans in our life, and the people that we care about.

Alyssa Patmos 8:16
I love it, I think it brings an important point of conversation to again, attention. And so often, you know, anytime Geoff and I do a podcast together, we end up talking about how you get your needs met. Because in relationships, it’s so common to put, you know, all getting all of your needs met by one person. But the other thing that we do is we think that money is the only way to get our needs met. It’s like, okay, here’s my person, they’re gonna meet all my needs. And then like, here’s money, and any meet me that this doesn’t meet, money is going to make it and that’s fundamentally not true. It’s just completely and totally not true. But it’s the it’s an illusion that we live in, where it’s either like, okay, let’s put all of our eggs in, like the money basket, or like primary relationship basket. And that’s not good for us or for the people around us. And so, when you talk about community, it’s, it’s a way to understand yourself more because we understand ourselves in relationship to other people and to places into things. And so when we can build up that bigger support network, there are more ways to get our needs met, and that doesn’t have to feel like a threat, which I feel like it does for many people.

Emily Carter 9:42
Yeah, you know, I think that we are accustomed, especially as adults, I think we’re becoming more and more aware of how friendship kind of changes over time, so we have fewer friends, we get to see our friends less, right people have family, suddenly priorities shift a bit right around this really quickly. critical time in our lives, and it can be really easy to want to put all of that pressure on that one person. And I think it takes some like really active attention to and intention, right to create friendships outside of that one primary relationship. And it reminds me of, you know, I’m really fond of nature metaphors, I mean, I just cannot get enough of them. And if it involves a tree, I am here for it, because I’m obsessed with trees. So what I’ll tell you more about that later. But it reminds me of, of learning, you know, after Hurricane Katrina, I saw this, like shocking photograph of a tree of a tree lined street, it was all oak trees lining the street, they looked untouched, around everything else. And I just remember thinking what on earth is going on in this photograph, it’s confusing. And what I learned later, is that oak trees, roots are actually intertwined together. And that, and that is not beautiful. And that they actually because of that, intertwining had a different kind of strength, and, and that it made them more resilient in these super strong winds. And I just was like, that was the beginning, I think of my obsession with trees and how they can be metaphors for humans and model and reflect to us what’s really true about the lives that we’re living.

Alyssa Patmos 11:28
Okay, I am equally as ecstatic about nature metaphors. Anyone who has listened to probably more than two episodes of this show, might know the name of my orchid, her name is Olivia. And I name all the plants in my house. So I’m with you on on trees, and I got so excited for those of you who watch the video, like sometimes I have this very excited to actually things people are saying, the reason I got so excited is because I almost brought up root systems when you were talking about community, because trees are amazing, for those reasons that you said these interconnected roots that help build strength. And I think there’s a time plays into this too, because, you know, we we end up feeling like giving our time to different people can be a threat, because we feel like there’s not enough time. And so then it comes, what are we fearing? Like, are we fearing being abandoned? Or are we fearing, like, you know, being suffocated by our parents or father in law or something, you know, like, we get constricted in who we want to spend our time with, because of fears around how much time we have, which is like a conundrum. So do you have any tree metaphors for this piece? Um, because I love what you said about nature being a reflection of what is Yeah. And so often, like one thing that comes to my head, like so often, I think of the fact that my orchid grows so So, so slowly, where I, as I have this other plant named Ella, but I don’t actually know what kind of plant she is. And she grows so fast. She’s constantly sprouting new leaves. And so there’s something there is something in nature around time that we are definitely supposed to learn.

Emily Carter 13:26
Yes. So if you think about sempervirens, which is the really, really like the tallest of the tall trees on the West Coast, those giant redwoods they, they grow exceptionally slowly. So those trees that are so big, are literally hundreds of years old. And, and one of the things that we’re learning is that tree style trees actually communicate. And this is research. I have some notes on this. So I love this scientist, her name is Suzanne smart. And she’s a Canadian research scientist who discovered that trees are communicating to each other through these networks of fungi, they call them the micro Raizel network. Right. And, and this network, you know, some trees have created particular networks. So like in terms of thinking about, like, how we’re spending our time and who we’re spending our time with, kind of in that fear of, of having not enough time, and where that comes from. It kind of makes me think of that fear of death, right? And that like when we die, you know what happens? I even referenced this earlier, like, I don’t want to look back on my life and be like, What the hell did I spend my time on? And it makes me think of, of Douglas firs, because which kind of leads to this process around creating generational wealth and the legacy that we leave behind because Douglas fir trees when they’re dying actually send nutrients to their neighbors, but not just to other Douglas fir trees. They also send it to like birch trees and other And this research that that Suzanne smart has done. I mean, she did it, she, she’s been showing this work for like, like 30 years ago, she started this work. And by the way, she was completely shunned by the scientific community for sharing this initially. And she’s only it’s only been pretty recently, like, in the last like, five or six years, that she’s even gotten any acknowledgement at all for how freaking cool this research is. But it just makes me think, you know, like, people, humans are part of ecosystems just like these trees are. And we have these systems and, and personalities, right? So a friend of mine was asking me like, what kind of tree do you think this person is? And I was like, That is such a cool question, what kind of tree are you, but it just made me think, you know, in terms of like time, and the way things grow, in our experience of time, is kind of like, similar to having an old soul or the way we think about how we carry wisdom with us, and where we learn from and like our ancestors and these generations of, of learning that we get to inherit, right, whether we want it or not, sometimes that learning is traumatic, right. And we carry those those other wounds with us. But you know, just this idea that like, this is part of a much bigger picture, this experience of time, and the networks that we have, and the way that we’re interacting together. And how that’s tied to the way that we experience time is really part of a big ecosystem, right, that has those same cycles, even though it’s linear. So there’s always going to be cycles of life and death. So you have a seed and germinates and then it grows and flowers and fruits, and then eventually, it dies, right. And the process starts again with those seeds. And one of the things that I learned about seeds is that they require something, a lot of them require something called stratification. And stratification is really like the plant world version of like, an experience that has to happen before anything else can happen. Right? So so this is for me, I compare this to rest all the time, because my favorite tree is the Papa tree. And they have to go through cold, damp stratification over winter. And it just reminds me that like, rest is so important, like my favorite tree produces this amazing fruit. And it can’t happen unless that seed goes through that rest period. But there’s also stratification by fire. So out west, you’ll find that some seeds some tree seeds do require that forest fire in order to bloom. And so if the fire is the right kind of fire, you know, they’ve been experiencing some really intense one lately that are probably not fit for, for this kind of stratification. But they have to go through fire in order to bloom like how beautiful is that? How metaphorical is that? And how often have we referred to that difficult hard stuff that we have to go through in order for like the things that that things to bloom through us? You know?

Alyssa Patmos 18:14
Yes, we talked about there’s been another episode of the show where my friend who’s actually um, she, she touched she directs like the firefighters on wildfires, where to get like, she’s a she’s a smoke doctor, like, I think that’s great. And so she was on and she was talking about like, the power of fire and smoldering and the regeneration that it’s actually meant to cause so I love that like, first time for some people like the fire is is the catalyst like it’s what’s needed. But then with your kind of treat, it’s a much different. It’s a much different process. And I think that’s something that we have to pay attention to. into today’s world in general. Like it’s so easy to say, this is what works for me so it’ll work for you when that’s very much not the case. Real quick I wanted to ask you is Suzanne, is it Suzanne or Susan?

Emily Carter 19:11
I think it’s Suzanne Simard –

Alyssa Patmos 19:13
Is she the one, did she write The Secret Life of Trees?

Emily Carter 19:18
Oh gosh, I’m not sure. Um, I came to her work through like this weird path. So my husband is a he’s a plant researcher, he studies diseases and plants. And he’s also really into fungi and mushrooms. And so I discovered it because he’s really into fungi and mushrooms. And all this research was coming out a few years ago, like into the like a more public you know, view all these scientists were like, oh, like it. This is Michael Raizel network. And so I came to I came to her work through him. But that is a really good question.

Alyssa Patmos 19:55
Yeah, I would need to look it up because I know I there was something about a friend who had Talk to me about some of the stuff after they read that book. And they were obsessed. And so I had known what you were saying about trees communicating. And I think it’s so so so powerful to remember that it is part of the collective ecosystem. And for me, this brings so much context to the world of bees. Because insects in general are very busy, they don’t live for very long, like their cycle is short, and they’re trying to reproduce. And in general, though, they’re working for the collective like ants and bees are both working for the collective for the continuation of the species. And I think sometimes we end up being life busy bees, but without understanding what the collective is, and what the collective is gold.

Emily Carter 20:50
I’m loving this so much. Yeah. So I’m a, I’m a hobby beekeeper.

Alyssa Patmos 20:58
Oh, amazing!

Emily Carter 20:58
And this is reminding me of so I’ve so many beautiful things. So one is that first, there’s this graphic novel called clan, a purpose, that anthropomorphize bees a lot. But it’s such a beautiful, wonderful story about their life cycle. It’s beautiful, I highly recommend it. And this idea is, so this is so funny, because it gets back to rest again, and what rest really is. So if he was really thinking about this on the walk yesterday, so this is so cool that you brought this up. So we have this understanding of we have this phrase busy as a bee, right? But these aren’t actually very busy. In fact, they don’t spend a whole lot of time doing much, right. And they go through long periods of not doing anything. So the lifecycle of a worker bee, they only spent the very last very end of their life in that space of like flying out and getting pollen and nectar. Because it’s the most dangerous thing you can do, right? Go out there into the world. And, but if you think about it, like what are they doing, they’re, they’re visiting beautiful flowers that they can’t help but like, want to snuggle up against right, and then coming home, I’d be like, Look what I found. And to communicate about it, they’re literally dancing. Like they are the happiest insect. So um, so just thinking about how they work in community. You know, we often in in our capitalist society, which I will talk a little bit about toxic capitalism. And so it’s like in the air that we breathe, and it gives us all of these weird messages about productivity and time and how to use it. We often think of it as like the queen is in charge of the hive. And that’s not wrong. It’s just also not the whole story. Because without while, it seems like any one of those workers wouldn’t be missed. They are like some some other bee when one bee dies, or disappears. Another bee has to take their spot in the hive, right, and they’re all sort of collectively working together towards this one goal, which is preparing to get through winter essentially, right. And as they’re, as they’re doing these jobs, the queen is communicating some things with her pheromones and whatnot. But all the bees are actually using pheromones to communicate and using all kinds of pathways to share what their experience is, so that the hive can adjust correctly. Because sometimes you have sometimes a hive has a not great queen. So a queen that is either not laying eggs properly, so it’s not going to support the hive, or there’s all kinds of things that can go terribly, terribly wrong for a queen. And when that happens, you can bet your butt that those worker bees are going to create a new queen. That’s their job. So what they’re in charge of creating a new queens at the hive can continue a queen a queen will live for a few years. And while worker bees have a much shorter lifetime, they are actually creating the next generation queen to serve the hive. So when it’s time for that queen to pass on, they have a new queen that will take over the nest and hopefully provide really good leadership for them on some level. And her main job is not necessarily as a leader, even though we in our capitalist society, really think about it that way. It is much less about a top down hierarchy and a lot more about this weaving of different roles into this really beautiful network.

Alyssa Patmos 24:36
I love that because I’ve been debating like so I’m not extensive into the research yet. But I have been very much operating on the surface of exploring this because of because I firmly believe that just like we need yours, from other people to teach us about ourselves. I firmly believe that nature is just a red flag. Have like certain things that are going on for us because we are a part of it. We are not as separate from nature as we would, as we think ourselves to be in this very individuated world. So but but for me, one of the things I have been questioning is the role of the of the Queen, because it’s so natural for us to think that the Queen is the leader in the hierarchy. And it’s why like third graders, you know, they learned the concept of Queen beat far too young. And they think of it as like being on top and like being the one that everyone serves and looks to. And that’s not the goal, that’s not the goal. When we can look at ourselves in much more of a collective view, we understand that people play different roles. And the difference here is that the lowest role lowest role isn’t even a thing in that world is just like it is because every role is important. And every role is valuable for what it does. And and so we get so distorted from the way that we view the main narrative. And like applied in other things, like logic is great. It’s absolutely wonderful. And at the same time, it’s limited by our language, it’s limited by the words that we can put into a form to communicate our experience we’re in that’s a very limiting thing. It’s why someone you know, like Suzanne’s marred, can be ostracized for years, because what she’s seeing, we have yet to put into language in a way that is, you know, respected among the mainstream. And, and, God, I just like, if I can make that make it, make the shows make it manageable, if I can make that mentionable every day, like, we are so limited by our current frames of logic, then I would feel like I’ve achieved my purpose.

Emily Carter 27:07
Preach! Yes. So this is so as you’re talking, I was thinking like, oh, man, you know, there are so many ways in which I think of nature as a mirror in terms of like how time is experienced, and also with pleasure, and, and downtime, because I think of like, when I think of nature, I really do think of like, that’s where I want to spend my downtime, right? Like I grew up, like hiking through the woods all day long, and not going home until it was dinner time, right? Like I love being out there. It feels like home to me. And I don’t currently live in a space like I have to drive somewhere to experience that now. And so my goal is to continually try to find ways to bring nature inside. So you talk about your orchid and I started bringing in houseplants I am not known to have a green thumb, like I do not have a green thumb at all. I cannot I let me rephrase this, I can grow plants, but I have to put my attention on them in order for them to grow. And I have traditionally not been very good at that. So so this this past January, I decided that if I couldn’t be outside because it was just real cold. I was going to find other ways to experience pleasure. One of them was to bring the the nature inside. And I’m happy to report that I brought in eight plants. Seven of them are still alive. .

Alyssa Patmos 28:33
Aw, yay! That’s an accomplishment.

Emily Carter 28:35
Yeah, I’m feeling pretty good. And, and I learned how to like propagate one. Because it’s a what you might call it is good. Plants over here. You can take a cutting of it and plant it and it will grow. Okay, great. That’s the word that that’s the definition. I’m looking for the word Yeah. And, and so it feels really good to be able to do that. Right, and to look at my plants and love on them. And I know that some people claim that seeing to their plants, helps them grow. I’m not there yet. But I think that part of the reason that it helps them grow is that you’re loving on them. And that like your attention is so focused on helping them thrive, as you’re singing to them that you can’t help but notice when something’s like not working for one of your plants, and you fix it for them, right? Yes. The other thing is that to aside from bringing in nature, to help myself through this, like what felt like just the longest winter ever, I decided that I would start like building a fire in our fireplace every day. Every day that it was like just wicked cold outside, so I could just work in front of a fire all day because I love I love how cozy that feels. And it feels really like regenerative to me to be like sitting in front have a fireplace and like feeling like, held by that space that the fire is creating for me.

Alyssa Patmos 30:07
I love that. I love that I talked to my parents, I don’t seem to them, but I talked to them, tell them hello in the morning, go around and say the names of each one of them and touch their leaves, I touch them. I’m like, I want you to feel like love. I love that. So, um, so Okay, so the concept of breast and pleasure is inextricably linked to our notions of time and what we think we have to do with time. So Geoff, and I just got back from Mexico, we were there for five days. And the thing about vacation is, is like, we try to carve out these containers and that that’s where that you use lot, but we try to carve out these containers for leisure, rather than trying to carve out containers for work. I think I’m asked backwards at times, um, what, but a train of thought, okay, here we go. Okay, so no, so containers, we try to carve out these containers for for vacation, and then we go there, and like we’re still ourselves. And sometimes reading books, that we do not have an on switch for relaxation at all times. It’s, it’s a state of being that I think we have to cultivate, because we’re not taught how to be in a relaxed state all the time, like even even triggers and traumas from our past, you know, influence our nervous system. And these things get stuck in our body, and prevents us from being able to relax. And so what are some things because this has been like a deeply personal journey for me of learning how to relax. I’ve done Neurofeedback most recently, to try and calm like my nervous systems day because it was just on edge constantly. And, and there are moments where I recognize Oh, this is relaxation. And right, it doesn’t happen instantly. When I get back all the time, like we’ve had an episode on flourishing. And my friend Sophia has a model for what self care actually is. And, and it can be hard, it can be hard to get into that that state of being at times, especially if it’s not something that we’ve that we’ve cultivated. So what have you learned along this journey?

Emily Carter 32:28
Oh, my gosh, I’m writing down some notes. Okay. So this is such a juicy question. I really love it. Because this is something that I have been trying to wrap my brain around. And I think that that’s the problem is that I’m trying to wrap my brain around it, instead of actually just like being in my body, I love to think I’m a huge thinker, I love thinking, I love being in my brain space, right. But when it comes to pleasure, you have to experience that in your body, and you have to be present for it. And so there are some so as as somebody who likes to be very thinkI it’s led me it’s led me to some to some weird places, in part because of what I call toxic capitalism. And when I talk about toxic capitalism, I’m talking about it as like, a kind of, it’s like the messaging that surrounds us so much that we’re like breathing it in all the time, we can’t even tell that it’s there, because it’s just so ever present all around us, we learned at such a young age. But toxic capitalism is really about, you know, do more and do it faster. And productivity is self worth. And success is a limited resource, and you have to fight for it. Like we’re all fighting over the same pieces of like success pie, which when you think of it that way is really wild, you know, stuff equals happiness, and all of that. So, to me, part of the problem was that I was surrounded by this messaging that didn’t have anything to do with pleasure and enjoyment. Right? And that and that pleasure and enjoyment came from like these weird places where it doesn’t actually come from pleasure comes from like, a whole body experience, right? Like you’re using your senses, you’re in your body, you’re fully present for what’s happening, emotions are flowing, like that is enjoyment. That is pleasure. And what I realized was that these messages had taught me to have a low pleasure tolerance. So if you’re familiar with pain tolerance, it’s this idea that like, you find ways of coping with higher and higher levels of pain, or finding ways of avoiding it, right. And for me, what I was doing because of some of this messaging that’s all around us. Is I was happy I have a low pleasure tolerance, which means which for me, was manifesting as it’s so much easier for me to do work, and like maybe like send off a work email than it is for me to have a really great conversation with a good friend. Right? Like it’s easier for For me like to move quickly through something that I would normally find really enjoyable, like, I’m really fond of taking really long walks, like exceptionally long walks, one of my favorite things to do. And I’ll cut it short, because I know I have to go to the post office or something, you know, and like, so like cutting short those experiences, because we’re trying to get more work done. And we’re trying to fit more into our day. And, and yeah, so a lot of what I do is I try to make the container for work, so that I can make it smaller. Right. And so that I can actually put my attention in other places that are pleasurable. And so some of the things that I’ve that I’ve done are things like bringing in the plants, things like doing things that seem a little bit indulgent. But that I’m trying to normalize as just part of what I do, like the fires everyday is like a pretty indulgent thing I think. And, and I insisted on doing it, because I was just really committed to figuring out how to increase my, my pleasure quotient, you know?

Alyssa Patmos 36:05
Yeah! Well. So in the episode on self care, I just want to bring this distinction because So Dr. Sylvia town, she’s the one who did this episode with me. And she talks about how indulgence is almost like something that feels good now, but it’s gonna feel bad later. And we can do that sometimes where it’s like, Okay, I’m going to do this now because I think I’m doing self care. But then later, it’s not going to feel good, like, Okay, I’m gonna go get a drink, because I friggin love espresso martinis. But then later, I’m like, Why did I do that? I feel like slightly shut off from things, which is not always the case, but just an example. But she talks about self care as being something that feels good now, and something that feels good later. And so in that way, it sounds like the fire his true self care, like it feels good now, and like there’s no repercussions later of it feeling bad?

Emily Carter 36:56
Absolutely. Absolutely. It just felt like something that was special that I had to earn, you know, and when you think of it in terms of I love, I love that she frames that as something that feels good now and later. And because I think that that really jives with thinking of it as something that care like actually cares for you actually cares for your mental health and your well being. And for me fires seemed indulgent. Not because they would cause me harm later. But seems like something I had earn, great privilege to have –

Alyssa Patmos 37:35
Yes! The toxic capitalism, I’m huge on with you, because there’s there is, I am by no mean it’s such a nuanced conversation when we talk about things as I am by no means saying that people should not have money. Money is a great tool money allows you to exchange your gifts with other people in a way where there’s a common denominator, like –

Emily Carter 38:00
Absolutely, there’s a reason that exists. Yeah, hugely helpful when used in this way for commerce, for trade.

Alyssa Patmos 38:08
Right? Right. And to be able to experience someone else’s gifts that they’re putting out in the world or to experience someone else’s creativity and to be able to pay for that, like, I love them. I think it’s magical money is great. And more of it does increase our choice. And so that is like the standard that I I live by, like those are two things I believe now we have all of these messages from capitalism, where we need more constantly, and where desire is never fulfilled. And we don’t know when is enough, and we have candy bars in a craft store as we’re just trying to check out. And it’s constantly like the human condition is a lot about hunger, nature, in general is about the food cycle. And I love what you said about having to be present to be able to, to enjoy and to experience pleasure. There was another episode we did with Julie Shane and we, through that conversation, I ended up coming to this conclusion that to enjoy something we have to be enjoy, which means we have to be like resident for the for the joy to come through. And you talked about you talked about the pleasure tolerance. For me that journey was trapped joy. We can have trapped creativity we can have trapped joy. Sometimes people have trapped sadness or trapped anger. For me joy has been one of the hardest ones to express. It has been significantly easier for me to express and be vulnerable in pain and substantially harder for me to express joy. I’m to the point where like I will if I’ve in feeling really happy. Like I’ll catch myself biting the inside of my cheeks to like, stop myself from smiling. Like how screwed up is that? And yeah, messages that, that we have to earn more we have to work hard or like if you’re enjoying, like, I think they literally told me in grad school if you’re enjoying yourself, like you’re doing something wrong, like it’s Yeah, absolutely hate it. And totally bonkers. It’s bonkers. It’s bonkers. So I’m with you on on what you were talking about with toxic capitalism, for sure. Because we get these messages where it’s constantly about more and more and more and more and more. And if you increase your needs, then like, you increase the need to have to do more. And it’s this. It’s this distortion of what do we really need? And then what do you desire? And what do you want? Because chasing desire is not a bad thing. There are times when is the desire truly rooted in you and your essence in what you want? Or is it this message given by society, because that could distort how you go after and how you feel when you get there. But like, so much of so much of this is why do we put our pleasure in the future? Mm hmm. Oh, yeah. Like, so we’re just gonna die.

Emily Carter 41:28
Like, yeah, so like, as grownups, you know, we have to walk this line between doing what needs to happen in this system, so that we can survive, and, and trying to find ways of, of like actually reaping the benefits of the work that we’re doing, you know, along the way, not Yeah, all along the way. Not at the end, don’t wait till the end, right. You know, a lot of what what I’ve learned and therefore, teach, I’ve actually learned because I had to figure out how to move through, like this inherent anxiety, of living inside this capitalist system, which, which is a system that inherently creates trauma for us, right? Big T and little t, because some people have to be at the bottom in order for it to work, right? They have to be at the bottom and the bottom is not just unpleasant. It literally kills people with poverty. Right? And, and there’s a lot of stress, when I think about, like, what keeps me up at night, I’m worried about like, am I going to be able to retire? Or am I going to have to work forever? Am I, you know, I’ve got children, and am I going to be able to, like, support them the way that I was supported by my parents, you know, going to school and, and even though they didn’t pay for my way forward, they helped a lot and had a lot of support for me. So just, you know, thinking about the things that keep me awake at night, is about security around money, right? And I’m sure that there are some people out there that will be like, That’s a money mindset thing. That’s cool, cool story. But this is the reality that we’re living in. And so there’s no winner in the system, right? And I mean, that like literally no one wins in this system. Because like you said, it’s constantly telling us what we need, without asking, without us really understanding what’s enough for us, like what does enough look like? And I’m not saying, you know, that we have to just like get by with what it takes to survive. That’s not what we’re talking about. I’m talking about, like, what’s enough to make a good life for you. And when I say that, nobody gets out of this unscathed. I really mean that because even within you know, you’ve there are studies out there that that show, people still feel financially insecure, even if they’re making millions of dollars. So I was talking to an an anti capitalist business coach, their name is Barry bear. And I highly recommend following bear on Instagram, if any of this stuff about anti capitalism and toxic capitalism is resonating with you, they are amazing to follow there. But they told me about this study where scientists were looking at these super high earners, were talking, like literally making millions of dollars and asked them how financially secure they felt. And the response was not very, they don’t feel secure, even making millions of dollars, which, you know, for me not making millions of dollars, I’m like $1 million, would feel so secure, right? And they were asked, you know, well, if you don’t feel secure, how much more would you need to make? And the answers were in like the 20 to 30% rage across the board, and not just for these super high earners, right, which is surprising because you’re like 30% More is like another couple million dollars. What are you even talking about? You know, like even even across the entire economic spectrum that holds true people say that they would feel much more secure. They made 20 to 30% more money. And so this is the this is the enoughness that I’m talking about. Like when you make that 20 or 30% More, are you really going to feel secure? Probably Probably not. So maybe the point isn’t to feel more secure, but to know what’s enough for you to make a good life and use that as your mile marker, as opposed to like your feelings of security around money, right? Because that can just wreak havoc on your physical and mental well being. And this system is, is, that’s what it’s meant to do, it’s meant to drive us to continue to get more stuff, make more money, and that’s, that’s fine. Except it’s also not always good for our physical mental health, it’s destroying our environment, it’s a really systemic problem of our own making. And we really have to be able to first cope with it as individuals, and then find ways of living and working inside it that begin to push the boundaries of the capitalism that we grew up with, and really lean into those new ways of living and working, that are beginning to emerge now.

Alyssa Patmos 46:03
Yeah, I think when you said anti capitalism, that’s a strong like, that’s a strong phrase. For me, I don’t think I’m an anti capitalist, because I think there’s there are some positive things about what it how it functions and what it’s meant to do. And it can be a strong driver in some areas that are positive. So for me, the the point that you made about the sense of security, and it being 20, to 30%, across the board, this really gets to the root of it, which is when we try to source our security from any outside means we are never going to feel secure. And so there’s a very real foundation of like needing shelter over our head and like, physical safety. But we are in such a system that we don’t recognize that, like we have those things, okay, like so granted, if you have those things, if you don’t, that’s an entirely different conversation. So I’m siloing this apart from that, because if you have those things, the physical needs, there are met, like if you have access to food and water, and you have a shelter over your head, those very basic physical needs are met. And so why don’t we feel safe? And that’s a really good question. And that comes down to partly the human condition where we’re wired, you know, evolutionarily to to be concerned about if there’s a tiger behind us. And so it’s like, okay, like, Am I safe right now. So like, fear is a very natural driver, it gets us to turn around, and it gets us to look behind us. In which case, if there’s a tiger we can respond, and if not, like the, the point is for that system to then come back down. But so many of us are living system where it’s not coming back down. And we think there’s a freaking Tiger right? At all times, which makes it borderline impossible to rest, which then screwed up our pleasure quotient. So, so for me –

Emily Carter 48:08
So yeah, it’s a lot of dominoes, isn’t it? Yeah,

Alyssa Patmos 48:10
Yeah. And so for me, a huge portion of this is, is understanding where we saw our safety from and looking at the things that make us truly human. And that’s why like, one of the lines with this show is how to be human in a world that encourages us to be robots. Because the capitalism message is like, be a robot, go to work, come home, feed your kids, like, have kids, because they’ll make you spend more money. And, you know, by all these extra things you don’t you’d like just live a very robotic way. They’d be happy if we did the proverbial day. The system would be happy if we just continued to operate according to how it’s been developed. But why has that been developed in the first place? And it’s because we don’t have a sense of safety within ourselves. And that constant hunger and that constant searching like pushes us to go to the next thing, which is great. It conspires and catalyzes evolution. But there’s a point where, again, what is our awareness of this? Because we can absolutely live in a broken system, if we have the awareness of where we need to push through and where we need to get attention. But if we don’t have awareness, then the system controls, controls us.

Emily Carter 49:33
Yeah, yeah. And it takes away our agency. It tastes play our choices, right? Yes. You know, I, when you were talking about our nervous system responses, it’s kind of like we need to learn how to put the lid back on that box. Right. We have a very itchy trigger for that for a really good reason, because it kept us safe and allowed our species to survive, right. But a lot of the things that cause that or to go off now aren’t actually dangerous to us, oh, we just perceive them as danger. And I wonder Do you have what do you do to kind of put the lid back on that box.

Alyssa Patmos 50:13
So this has been a huge, huge part of my life. Because the nature of having OCD, if having obsessive compulsive disorder is like a heightened state of risk, you think things are riskier than they actually are, which leads to entire spirals of self doubt. And it’s, it’s truly are you able to live with uncertainty. And in so many ways, it’s OCD is one of the most painful things that I’ve experienced, because it’s very difficult when you want to be leaving the house, and you have to check the door five times, and it still doesn’t feel like enough, and you still don’t feel like there’s the certainty of, Did I lock the freaking door, did I turn the stove off, or flipping a page back and forth, or, you know, for a long time, like, I had stuff around, like not being able to wear the color blue, because I thought it meant something terrible was going to happen. And so your world gets smaller and smaller and smaller, the more that you give in to those obsessions, which are rooted in fear. But there’s also cognitive distortions around how to get out of it. And so one of the best players that I’ve worked with, wrote a book, and it’s called freedom from obsessive compulsive disorder, but the the subtitle is, I’m gonna butcher it. So I’m paraphrasing, but it’s basically how to live a life with uncertainty. And many of us have anxiety, um, anxiety is on a spectrum. OCD is on a higher end of that spectrum. But so my version of having to live with uncertainty, my attention is drawn to it in different ways. And my response to it is different because of the chemical nature and certain things with with learned mechanisms that were born as a result of it. But the fundamental underlying thing that I have to deal with every single human has to deal with, and that’s the nature of uncertainty. And so in some ways, for me having OCD, while it’s the most painful thing is also the most beautiful gift. Because I have been forced every day for 1516 years now, to explore my relationship with uncertainty. And because of that, I then, you know, I go through periods where it’s much harder than others, and I forget, but then there are other times where it’s like, no, you can do this. And so one of the best techniques for OCD psychiatrist and psychologist agree, which never happens, is exposure and response prevention. And so you expose, you have to expose yourself to the fear. And the goal is habituation, like you realize it’s not as much of a threat. But the initial question this therapist asked as beginning of book is, are you willing to live with uncertainty? Because for someone with OCD, who has thoughts flying in around like, Oh, my God, if I do this something terrible is going to happen to my brother? Or am I going to harm someone? Or? Or, you know, am I going to catch a disease by touching this public toilet? Handle? All of those questions, you have to be okay with the answer that like, yeah, if I do this, it might happen. And the same is true for every human. It’s just not as exacerbated. It’s not thrown in your face as much. And so when you start to expose yourself, every time you give into it, you’re teaching your brain you’re teaching your nervous system, that it’s, it’s a threat, you’re reinforcing that. So this therapist asked me that question and makes you go deep into it, like tears were coming to hell. But ultimately, yes, because I don’t want to live with it. So at one point, though, I was walking he I have one of mine is like a fear of contamination. And so he made me take a pair of heels that I had walked in downtown Austin at the time in the day before and rub them on my face, and put them on plates and rub them on my pillows. And that was the exposure because it’s like, are you willing to live with the uncertainty of what this might mean? Because chances are, it’s probably not going to happen. And for you, you’re thinking it’s going to happen all the time. So much so that you’re making your life smaller because you’re avoiding things that could be potential risks, and what is that doing to you and your loved ones and so like I was on zoom with him, screaming like I was screaming at him during that time. Why are you making me do this and you explicitly, but lately, it was one of the most beneficial things I’ve ever done in my life. And it’s consistent, I have to remember to do it all the time, you don’t get to do it once, and then, you know, it completely goes away, and new things come up at times. And it’s the nature of being human. But I think that’s why examining our fears. And what we fear happening as a result is one of the most powerful things that we can do. Because otherwise, we’re just looking to other people into systems to alleviate our fears, and to alleviate our sense of insecurity and to give us a certain answer, when they’re equally as damaged, they’re equally human, equally as damaged. And they’re just looking for certainty to we have to be able to source it from within ourselves. That was really long. But –

Emily Carter 55:53
Well, but I love I just I love this story, because the biggest fears that we do have are especially around the systems that we’re operating in, is uncertainty, right? That’s, that’s the root of a lot of anxiety and fear. It’s just the unknown, right? It’s my, it’s my little kids are afraid of the dark, right. And it just makes me think of, again, like coming back into your body. And trying to, you know, I think that there’s this thing that happens when your brain is going into that fear space, where like the cognitive part, the frontal cortex, where you can actually like, do self talk and talk yourself down is not online. So you can try the self talk. But it’s not communicating to the rest of your nervous system properly the way it would, if it was really truly online, right. So if you even get to this space, where you’re like, Okay, I need to do the self talk. If you’re too amped up in that fear space, still not really going to hit home for you, it’s not going to do the thing that that you want it to do. And so the idea of trying to find ways of sourcing that security within yourself is really calming your nervous system to the point where you can like logically walk yourself back from it a little bit. And I I’m just really fascinated by the interplay between those things, and how that manifests. And the way that you’ve explained it makes it really clear how that happen to me anyway, how that operates.

Alyssa Patmos 57:25
Yeah, and it’s interesting, because at times, you know, like, you want to fight it, like a natural instinct of many people with OCD or with anxiety in general is like, you want to fight it, like I am stronger than this, like, that’s the message we get a ton of times like willpower determination, I am stronger than this, I can beat it. Okay, no, I’m, I am not going to be fixed. In that way, I have not going to surrender into it and have it control my life. But I am choosing to accept that it is here. And it is a thing right now. Because otherwise, like, I’m just going to be exhausted. And so in those moments, where it’s like, okay, I’m checking the door to see if it’s locked. Like I can logically tell myself as many times as I want that I locked the door. But knowing that and then feeling it in your body on an emotional level is an entirely different thing. And I think that’s why so many times part of our suffering as humans as being victims of our mind being locked in our mind, but you talked about that at the beginning how you love thinking, and I do too, one of the greatest lessons I’ve had to learn is how to not be a victim of my mind, because I can literally come up with a what if or find a way to question everything. And a piece of that is OCD, but a piece of that is the human condition. And from there, it’s like stepping into, you know, the heart center and, and other ways of knowing our mind is not the only way that we know things. Our body is a very, very strong communicator, like a rash develops to tell us something, you know, pain develops to tell us something, and yet we try to numb it away with ibuprofen or Tylenol. But it’s a signal, and it’s a signal telling us where to pay attention to. And I think our pleasure is an equally important signal. And so we get distortions around what are our signals and which signal are we choosing to listen to more and society tends to want us to listen to the fear of no more than the pleasure signal that the pleasure thing no holds a wisdom and a way of knowing that is set in the body it’s more in the body than it is in the mind.

Emily Carter 59:41
Mm hmm yes. 100% I love hearing you talk about this you know just it makes makes me think of eating Popeyes and how like an in the moment experience that is because so Popeyes are the only tropical fruit native to North America. There’s Like, old throwback, and they’re like, sort of like I said, they’re like a mix between eating a banana and the mango. And they’re kind of carmel-y tasting sometimes, depending on how right they are. And you can’t pick them too soon. Like, if they’re not squishy when you pick them, they aren’t going to have the right flavor that you’re looking for. And they kind of had this like, custard like, texture, which is just magical. And, you know, in terms of thinking about, like, re educating myself about pleasure and trying to figure out how do I bring more of that into my life. So when I think about eating that fruit, you know, there’s a few things that go on for me when I’m thinking about it. One is that it’s such a visceral sort of experience, like it’s so much about your body. So it’s like, the smell and the feel of it, and the flavor and be and knowing that it only happens at the certain time of year, like I can’t go out to the store out of season and buy Popeye’s, in fact, you won’t find hold Pawpaws in most grocery stores at all. And if you’re lucky, you’ll be able to visit a farmers market when they’re in season, you’ll be able to buy a few. But by and large, they aren’t in grocery stores. So they’re very like in the moment sort of experience. And the other thing that that it makes me think about is that it’s a, it takes a diversity of experiences. And, and for Pawpaw trees to create fruits, they actually need the pollen of other Popeye trees. So a paw paw tree can can grow from a seed, or it can grow from these runners that come out of the ground. So like if you have a Pawpaw tree, you’ll notice lots of little Pawpaw trees popping up around it. Those are almost never from seeds. Those are runners from the same root system. And so in that way, they’re kind of like they’re just a clone. So they can’t pollinate each other. And, and that means that you don’t get any fruit if you don’t have other Pawpaw trees around. So we actually actually I hand pollinate mine, because we don’t have another Pawpaw tree. So I go around, and I go to other countries and they steal your flowers. Like olive eat my by hand. Yes, it’s weird, but it’s because I want it because the experience is so pleasurable of having that fruit I insist on, like creating the diversity needed to have that experience. And I think the same is true of how we go about finding pleasure in our life. And how we go about really experiencing the world around us is that it’s more fun when it’s diverse. It’s more fun when it’s different all the time. And when we get to have more adventurous experiences, right?

Alyssa Patmos 1:02:38
Absolutely. And for me, that just brings up is it about the outcome? Or is it about the experience because like, your life will pass you by if you’re only looking towards outcomes, and we talk about that, and we talk about it, you know, borderline on nausea. But we haven’t gotten the message yet. We haven’t gotten that it’s moment by moment experiences that actually shape how we feel. And there’s there are elements of releasing the past and unwinding our wounds so that we’re not so constricted and not so tight. And that allows us to expand them to grow even more. But we need we if we if we only place the importance on the fruit, then like we miss over the entire wave. Getting fruit, like the fruit is not without the experiences leading up to that. And so for only focusing on that, like there’s a ton of disappointment, our expectation is totally distorted. It misses the value of the tree itself. And the fact that this tree can regenerate with runners by itself. And only places only places the value on the fruit when there’s there’s so much more that’s there to be experienced and to be cultivated and to grow from.

Emily Carter 1:04:02
Thank you for wrapping that up so sweetly with like a bow on top. Yes, yes. Oh my gosh, yes, absolutely. 110%.

Alyssa Patmos 1:04:12
So in terms of this conversation, I think rest and joy, you know, pleasure and play, pleasure and pain, dance together all the time, we have a tendency to forget that we want like one and not the other and then we don’t even know how to experience. So for me, the thing that I’m constantly working on doing is stepping into the vulnerability when it comes to exploring pleasure. And I think this can be a thing for relationships where like, you might be scared to talk about things you want in the bedroom, or like why normally brings you pleasure, you know, it might be are you willing to actually admit where your pleasure would come from at work? Or you know, even just like in your personal life, are you willing to admit what brings you joy? And I think in some of those moments, if we did more of that, we would actually learn how to rest because we would be learning how to relax into ourselves. And what a breath of fresh air that would be.

Emily Carter 1:05:20
That’s beautiful. Yes, absolutely. You know, I know that people put a lot of emphasis on things like sleep routines, and like setting the stage for good sleep, but rest is so much more than just sleep. It’s the stuff that fills you up, you know, and that’s to me why they’re, they’re inextricably linked, because I’m not, you know, I really enjoy those long walks, in part because they rejuvenate me, you know, like, the enjoyment is the rest part of that equation for me, and, and so when I realized that I have this pleasure, intolerance, that that was preventing me from actually experiencing that rest that way. So when I say I was rushing through or cutting short my walks, because I had to go to the post office, that is a real story. Like I really did that, for no good reason. Like, there was no good reason I just wanted to get the post office off my list, and decided that the best way to do that was to cut my walk short, even though I didn’t need to. That seemed easier than like, continuing the walk, and enjoying it and letting it rejuvenate me and then letting that be like a generative process. And, and so yes, absolutely. All of what you said, just really hits home for me there because that’s my lived experience with this low pleasure tolerance is like, yeah, and also, those pleasurable experiences aren’t just the cherry on top that we’ve all been taught to look at them as, those are actually the things that help us work through the harder stuff, and do our work more effectively be more efficient, right? When we can find those places of enjoyment and truly step into those fully, then suddenly, like we, we have more ease and a lot of other areas of our life. And we’re healthier for it to you know, like mentally and physically, we are healthier when we allow ourselves to fully enjoy those. And so yeah, I 100% Those two things are, are inextricably linked for me too.

Alyssa Patmos 1:07:28
I love that. And it just brings me to one last thing which we can leave people percolating on, which is the difference between wealth and prosperity, because what you just described was a prosperous life, where it’s not at the expense of your health, or it’s not at the expense of relationships, like prosperity functions in a holistic way. Whereas wealth is just one dimension of that. And I think that’s where some of our distortion can come from, as well. So as you are contemplating the type of life that you want, and what brings you joy, what lights you up, where you feel most relaxed. I think there’s also a question percolating in here around what does prosperity mean and look like to you? So Emily, thank you so, so much for being here today. I left this conversation, we scan we scan across time, and rest and joy and pleasure. And nature metaphors give me life. So I love that. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you for being here.

Emily Carter 1:08:43
Alyssa, thank you so much. I’ve had such a great time talking with you about these topics. That’s really, it fills me up to be able to have these conversations with you and to learn from your experience as well. So thank you for sharing that with me. And thank you for having me here.

Alyssa Patmos 1:09:00
You’ve just finished listening to another episode of Make It Mentionable with me, your host, Alyssa Patmos. If you’re looking for more in between episodes, then sign up for The Peel. It’s my free newsletter that gives tips for how to navigate whatever life dishes and it’s also the place where I share the juiciest of stories. To check it out, head on over to Thank you so much for tuning in, and I’ll see you next time.

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