Sara Elise’s ‘A Recipe for More’ is a perfect read for Mental Health Awareness Month

New York-based pleasure doula Sara Elise chats with theGrio about mental health and her debut release, “A Recipe for More.”

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An abundant life, according to New York-based pleasure doula Sara Elise, is “the freedom to live beyond our survival.” As a Black, queer, neurodivergent person, she would know. Elise has gone from a life in investment banking where, she said, she hadn’t considered personal fulfillment to one as the founder of catering company Harvest & Revel — and a life with more authenticity and enjoyment. Achieving this, however, can elude most, which is why she’s done the work and written about her process in her debut book “A Recipe for More” (out now via Harper Collins).  

TheGrio recently caught up with Elise to discuss abundance, manifestation, and designing the life you want. We also asked her the million-dollar question: “What is the recipe for more?” 

New York-based pleasure doula Sara Elise
New York-based pleasure doula Sara Elise. (Photo by Ryann Holmes)

TheGrio: Tell me about your background.

Sara Elise: I was just kind of doing what I had been told to do and what was being communicated to me as the smartest path. Since [investment banking] was the smartest path to do, I was then just trying to be the best at that without really any consideration for anything else. So while I was working, after graduating and after working in investment banking for several years, I was then working in private wealth management, and I really just started to reconsider every aspect of my life that I knew to be true.

And it was in that reconsideration that I kind of created an entirely different life for myself. I think I was trying really hard to fit into this world that I had been told was the smartest and right path and right worlds for me to be in, and I was falling short in all of these ways. You know, which makes sense because the world wasn’t made for me. Instead of seeing that as some type of signal, I was internalizing it and thinking that it was something wrong with me. 

TG: And what led you to write “A Recipe for More”?

SE: in terms of writing the book — I talk about a lot of this in the book — but I never even really intended to write a book. I was speaking at an event one evening and someone from HarperCollins approached me after I spoke and was like, ‘Thanks so much for sharing your story. Have you ever considered writing a book?’ I don’t know if you have this skill as well, but I kind of imagine and think of different things that I potentially want to do, even if they’re not firmly in my current life path. I think it’s a skill set that has to do a lot with manifestation. 

So I had definitely, in the past, kind of dreamed or had these fantasy scenarios of like a book that I wrote one day being at a local bookstore that I passed or something; but I’ve never actually had any plans to put that into motion until talking to this person.

TG: Wow. That’s amazing. You basically manifested it without realizing that’s what you were doing.

SE: Isn’t that deep, though? Little thoughts that we’ll have just like that pop into our minds. It really shows the power of our thought space because we’re consuming things all the time. Even these small moments of consuming; a music video, or just having a little daydream. These are the things that could be changing the course of our lives. So it’s important to make sure that we’re telling ourselves nice things and consuming things that are aligned with the life that we want to bring in.

"A Recipe for More" (Photo credit: HarperCollins)
(Photo credit: HarperCollins)

TG: Who is your book for?

SE: It’s for people who were maybe at a new point of their lives or who are just looking to question their current lives and really switch up their perspective on what they thought they knew to be true. Everyone’s at a different place in their journey. So it’s for folks who are either looking to continue or even begin building a life for themselves that’s focused on abundance, ease, play; relationships that are filled with mutual respect, pleasure, rest, and more. 

It’s just for folks, mainly, who are looking to question things and shift things up to begin living a life that they feel more aligned with. It’s especially for folks like me who are in marginalized communities like Black and indigenous people, queer and gender non-conforming people, neurodivergent and autistic people; folks who have been told our entire lives that we’re not deserving of rest or pleasure or abundance. 

TG: What was your process for writing this book, if you can share?

SE: Just the other day, my friend Alex Bledsoe (owner of Breaktide Productions, a Bay Area, women-of-color-run media production company) had put something on her Instagram describing her preparation process for leading an upcoming workshop. And she was saying that “the process should match the aim of the work,” and I really loved that because the aim for my book, the aim for my work, was to have the book feeling clear and accessible and slow; for people to be reading it and to have a sense of comfort from it. Yes, it’s part art, self-help, but it’s also part memoir, and I want people to feel kind of like I’m sitting with them in their living room and we’re having tea. I want it to feel comfortable and accessible. 

My process really matched that, and I feel really good about that. I didn’t have a set schedule for writing. But instead, I’ve just gathered information and inspiration and then wrote whenever I felt called to write. It was a very slow process. I took a lot of care of myself the entire time. I really hope that the finished product people are now celebrating feels that way.

TG: We’ve talked a lot about pleasure and living an abundant life. How would you define that?

SE: An abundant life for me really feels like having the choice and also the privilege — because there is a level and a layer of privilege that makes the choice possible that everyone deserves to have. It’s having the choice and the privilege to live outside of our survival. When I think of an abundant life, I think of thriving in our lives. I think of feeling alive in our lives and not just living out the same routine every day that we’ve been told to.

TG: Now, obviously, readers will have to read the book for the complete version, but in a condensed version, what is your recipe for more?

SE: My recipe for more is my recipe of ingredients in my life that have helped me create this life of abundance and ease. The book is about [me] sharing mine. But the whole reason for me sharing mine is so other people can come up with their own recipes, since everyone’s different, and everyone has a different gift and offering to offer the world. 

I don’t want to spoil it, but it’s filling my life with pleasure. It’s really thinking about and managing the type of work that I want to focus on in my life and also how much I’m working on that work and making sure that there feels like a balance that makes sense for my rest schedules and my play schedules and thinking about how I want those to be balanced. 

It’s playing a lot. It’s having really connective, delicious sex. It’s really just allowing myself to push through the self-doubt, through the constant questioning of myself. It’s really allowing myself to show up — and trusting that the way that I’m showing up is enough.

My recipe includes a lot of deep and intense questioning.

TG: And just not being afraid to do that work? 

SE: Yeah, just accepting that things are always changing. And change is particularly difficult for me when I can’t plan for it, but just accepting the kind of freedom that comes with the fact that things are always changing, I think, is the other side of that. Just knowing that there’s always a choice even beyond what our boss tells us or what our parents expect of us, or what society has deemed appropriate for us. We always have a choice beyond that. And just keeping that in mind is a huge part of my recipe for more.

TG: What do you hope you know people gain from this book in the end? 

SE: Most importantly, I hope that after reading this book, that people feel a new freedom of choice; a permission to be themselves. I hope that my sharing of my story will give other people permission to let themselves be fully visible and to know that the way that they are showing up as themselves in the world is enough.

Kay Wicker is a lifestyle writer for theGrio covering health, wellness, travel, beauty, fashion, and the myriad ways Black people live and enjoy their lives. She has previously created content for magazines, newspapers, and digital brands. 

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