"...the book was most helpful in approaching death because it describes in detail the deepening mental states through which the dying person passes and how to prepare for them... we pass through these states each and every day when we go to sleep or end a dream, as well as fainting, sneezing or orgasm." ~ Forward in 'Advice on Dying' by the Dalai Lama
I have spent the last few months making time to masterdate. You read that right. Earlier this month I took a weekend off of work to take myself on the perfect dates in honor of my favorite holiday, Dia de los Muertos. I grew up without holidays so I have no sentimental affinity for any holiday except this one because when I was experiencing the death and grieving process of the end of my marriage a beautiful Mexican friend introduced me to The Day of the Dead as it was her favorite holiday. Simply recalling the introduction to something I never knew before gives me chills. This resonated so deeply and I had yet to understand why. I didn't want to disrespect a tradition native to someone else's culture and not my own so I took my time getting to know it and understand it. There is a deep reverence and sacredness to this time period and I wanted to honor it with the respect it deserved. For now, I will explain what it has come to mean for me and my views of sex.
In years past, when experiencing heavy grief or numbing from trauma I would turn to sex in order to feel something again. Desire came from a space of lack. In grieving sex offered not only an escape but also a palpability to the pain of my experience. When numb it was the only thing that felt safe to feel. These experiences offered a sanctuary from my own emotions, my heart, my mind and my spirit. I couldn't process life when I felt as though all I knew was death, death of my self, my ideas, my dreams, even my realities. I remained in the darkness but the darkness wasn't scary when I had sex. I will expand on this more in the future...
Now here I am, years later, giggling with myself for calling my self care escapades "masterdating" (a Facebook friend deserves credit for that word) and feeling comfortable with feelings of discomfort. I have known various forms of death and as I rebuild my life on my own I find contentment in aloneness. There is a surrender required to truly heal and grow beyond your stories. So now I can be fascinated with the state of dying because I am not currently in that state (any more than any living creature anyway) but having known the closeness of it, having become intimate with it the fascination returns when I awake from a dream, when I catch myself falling into meditation or experiencing Yoga Nidra while riding the bus to work, but most of all I still experience that state in sex but much more so. When you release fear of death it becomes easier to drop into these states.
When you are not a victim to your own drama anymore your choices become much more conscious as do the people you choose to surround yourself with; the more intimate the relationship the more particular you become. This is because you are acutely aware of your own sacredness. You don't forget your humanness and you are by no means close to perfect but life is manageable. When a majority of people you see struggle to manage their life and their own feelings as they are easily swayed by anything that triggers them (other people, social media, politics, etc.) you must fall in love with aloneness for your own sanity.
This brings me back to sex. Now I can see so clearly when desire comes from a space of lack and not just sexual desire but any desire; decisions and choices are made from fear because the focus is on what one does not want and when I look into someone's eyes I can see it, it looks almost crazed to me and it's familiar because I know that space all too well. You see more of what you fear, more of what's "wrong" and less of what is a blessing, what has deeper purpose. When I am familiar with that empty feeling and can compare it to the feeling I have now after working so hard on myself so that I can be of service to others, those feelings I have of fulfillment and of gratitude, then how could I possibly invite that old fear into my space on any level, especially a sexual one?
It's easier to have a stronger internal boundary when you have been blessed to know men on an intimate level that set the standard, they are the standard as opposed to men you find yourself assessing to see if they meet "a" standard. If you have to think about it then they don't measure up; either they are the standard or they aren't and I for one, deserve no less. This is the man that joins with you from a space of equality eager to share a spiritual awakening through orgasm with you. He doesn't come to take from you something he is lacking within himself, instead he knows that the experience will challenge you both to go deeper within yourselves as well as one another and he has the courage to allow the experience to unfold as it's meant to. Fear is overcome with courage as you explore the states of consciousness that join death and orgasm. Old patterns of needing to attach meaning to this shared experience can be tempting but then you remind yourself that you are both safe and allowed to explore different realms of consciousness together because that shared moment is why you are together. It teaches you to remain more present and to give up the need to control anything by defining it because you know that will limit this one thing that is meant to help you both transcend those old limiting beliefs; those old unhealthy patterns.
These connections are what I wait for now. This has been a new layer of learning for my body who is used to getting what it wants when it wants. Now my mind, heart, spirit and body are beginning to have a mutual understanding and appreciation for what the sacredness of sex has the potential of being. Once you have this kind of shared experience with someone, just the presence of the other person has a profound effect on you, it can be unsettling but infinitely worth it. This is how a sexual experience can trigger the death of something you no longer need to hold on to in the healthiest of ways. Some deaths are welcomed.
Saying 'goodbye' to the past seems to have been a theme this past month. Sometimes we hold on to people because they helped us remember who we were, who we are, or who we long to become. Over time though as we recover, heal, grow and expand we realize that we have outgrown these people and they may have even outgrown us.
When I began to realize how far I've come and as I accepted where I really want to be, only then did I begin to truly feel the "letting go" of the connections I held on to for so long. I had held on to people from my past as a way of pacifying the struggles I was going through. At some point however, I realized I held on more out of fear than out of love. Some people had grown and began moving towards a different path, our work together coming to completion; but most people remained the same. Years have gone by now and still so many people had remained exactly the same. It began to feel so strange to me that for so long I clung to these people I loved as some sort of safety net, a way to cling to hope and an identity... an identity that I was working so hard at evolving in the first place! This was no longer love, this was desperation. Why continue to hold on to the past? Because it's familiar? Out of fear?
I am no longer desperate. I am no longer the person I was 30 years ago, 20 years ago, 10, last year, last month, yesterday... So why hang on to a fantasy, and a fantasy based on fear, pain, lack, emptiness...?
The one man that I knew had outgrown me is the one who loved most authentically. He showed me what it's like to love in the present. He showed me that there are men who choose to grow and evolve and are brave enough to be vulnerable, to be raw, to connect. We both outgrew the roles we were meant to play for one another along with the way our love was meant to be expressed for each other but a love that real, a connection that authentic is never outgrown, it expands, it invites others who are ready for that kind of love and who need that kind of companion who can share a vision and work to create that together. This kind of love is not what the above quote is referring to because that kind of love drops seeds everywhere it goes, even when lovers part ways. The quote is for the more common love, at least from my experience, the love born from pain, emptiness, loneliness, an aching need we hope someone else can fulfill.
Maybe it's the Saturn transit, maybe it's because the moon is in Cancer, maybe it's mere coincidence but this has been a month of acknowledging the harsh Winters of all the empty love that never offered any real connection. That flower has grown tired of the harsh conditions, constantly fighting to break through the impenetrable soil. Seeds have been dropped though, potent seeds filled with potential that will remain alive and vibrant until the perfect conditions arise for it to bloom and flourish creating a mutual and balanced experience, creating new life.
Life can be hard and confusing and when you're trying to get this life thing down people come along that you want to get to know which can make things even trickier. I found this article today, The Confusing and Horrible Rise of the Several-Night Stand and part of me felt defensive and part of me felt a little depressed. My biggest frustration though is that the internet seems to have forced us into labeling things to the point of picking them apart so much we forget how to be present, how to enjoy the moment and how to build unrealistic or unfair expectations because we're on the defense all the time. I mean, is any of this even new? Or are people just coming up with new terms or buzz words to get more clicks? Read the article and let me know what stands out to you most if you wish. Read on if you want a summary based on my experience and opinion.
Let's begin by saying the word "horrible" is used to shock you into reading the article (it worked for me) but the point of it all is communication. I can only truly speak for women since I have the most experience as a woman but if a woman can communicate well these arrangements don't have to be horrible. Sometimes two people are not in the position to commit to a full-blown relationship, or to be even more frank, they are interested in someone but don't quite feel they are ready to commit to that person yet (or maybe ever). If the conversation is being had and both people know where they stand and if they agree to discuss any feelings as they change (because odds are they will) then this doesn't have to be horrible or confusing.
If one of the parties does not feel comfortable with the potential of changing feelings or future conversations about the relationship (good or bad) then it's best to back away slowly and disengage to avoid future frustration. If you continue you are already basing your decisions on a fantasy, often the hope that the other person will become so enamored with you they will all of a sudden decide to communicate with you or always feel the way you want them to - a recipe for disaster.
The question you can ask before starting a "several-night stand" relationship needs to be:
Do you and the other person consider this as dating with the potential of growing into something more? Or not? If so, discuss what forms of intimacy are most important to you as you get to know one another so one person doesn't over-think not getting a 'goodnight' or 'good morning' text or any other possible faux-pas. Also, agree that if one of you begins to feel their feelings deepen they will bring it up and discuss any natural changes to the relationship at that time. Or, if one person begins to lose interest and doesn't want to hurt the other person then there will be no "ghosting" but they will be clear that they don't want any deeper attachment to grow. If feelings begin to deepen for either of you and you want to progress the relationship then it's time to have the "exclusivity" talk. This is not a topic that should be assumed by either party.
If you both agree that your time together is a mutual "use-use" situation, you don't consider it dating, you don't have ideas of a long-term future and neither of you have expectations of how often you communicate, or see each other then that's great but just like the previous scenario, you need to both agree to be open if and when anyone's feelings start to change. The good news is, in these situations, if the communication is up front and frequent enough no one will ever feel "ghosted" if things change because there was never an expectation to begin with. This is how lovers can remain friends and genuinely happy for someone when they move on with their life (or love life).
Or, you could keep trying to hook-up with people and be at their beck and call with the hopes that they may one day realize how amazing you are and want to commit and live with the constant state of internal drama that creates. The choice is always yours.
Also, stop reading things that make you feel bad about yourself or your decisions. Be honest with yourself first and read things that are helpful, close the tab on the depressing stuff that makes you question yourself. Most of all, remember that everything in life is temporary and there is great strength and courage in living the law of detachment.
The other day I found this article on The New York Times site, Our Mothers As We Never Saw Them and I thought it was brilliant so I decided to write something similar for Mother's Day. The above image of my mother at 16 is my personal favorite. She had told me that she took this image of her self and made a self-depreciating joke about her teenage angst quickly dismissing it. But I was in love. I would sneak a peek at this image whenever I saw the old box of photos or whenever I thought of it. I think on some level I worshiped her; her ability to remain so neutral. Of course I know better now, now that we have grown to be more realistic friends with one another and our relationship is, to my surprise, better than ever but back then I was this girl at 16...
When I looked at my mother before she had me and we were the same age I saw everything I wasn't. I saw a woman who already knew herself. She saw awkward teenage angst, her adult self judging how cool she once thought she was, but I saw how little she had changed and admired it. She took that coolness, that angst and became a successful artist, even teaching college courses by the time I was 16. I saw her dedication to her work, always knowing who she was and who she was always going to be. I looked in the mirror and saw a nervous, jittery, awkward loner type girl that dreamed of magic, not conjuring or spells but real life, everyday magic. I saw a girl who was just taking life one day at a time because I had no dreams of my future other than to be a good wife and maybe have kids.
Strange how I inherited my mother's imagination and father's wit but because it wasn't grounded it confused not only me but also my mother and I gave up on believing in magic and tried to learn how to be practical and fit into a box that had been defined for me, quickly married at 19 and becoming a mother six months later when I found out I was pregnant - because you are a mother the moment you become pregnant.
My life then became all about my son and I became determined to allow him to have life experiences I wasn't allowed when I was young so that his decisions could be based on awareness, knowledge and his own passions. As unhealthy as it may sound, at some point my son and I began learning about life together. I have recently started watching Gilmore Girls reruns because it helps me feel a little better about how I raised my son. It's ok, you can laugh.
The reason I share this is because now my son is married and I see how the generations after mine are waiting to have kids which I think is great but I also see how much they use technology and how temporary memories are becoming with apps like Snapchat. There is something to be said for documenting who you are, your own journey of self-discovery as you get older, your life lessons, your adventures. Even if you don't have children you will want (even need) to look back at your own progress and celebrate it. Life has a way of making us question our value, our worth, our purpose and having tangible things to reflect with helps. Document the fun but also document the pain.
Because of my mother's early selfie and other artists who paved the way to use their art to process pain, life experiences and reflect, Frida Kahlo and Salvador Dali for example, I found different ways to document my own experiences through self-portraits, selfies, writing and vlogging. Don't be afraid to be who you are and document the process of figuring out who that is and how it will shift and evolve. Those who surround you, especially your children will thank you for it and it will help them have the courage to do the same.
Now I'm curious about what you know of your mother before she became a mother. Share if you would like!
Micah's confessions and lessons that have helped with self-forgiveness, healing and acceptance.