I’m on a flight to Montreal for this weekend’s Bodysex Retreat, and across the aisle from me is a mama with her 4 month old baby girl. After laying contently on mama’s lap, the baby is starting to fuss and cry and, being a mama myself, I can tell from the tone of her cry that she’s used to mama meeting her needs. Her cry isn’t really upset, angry or scared, it just sounds like she’s saying “come on mama I want some of your milk now.” The mama, possibly feeling uncomfortable about breast feeding on a busy plane, is trying to soothe her daughter in other ways — rhythmically rocking her and making soft “shushing” sounds in her ear. The baby calms for a bit from this, but after a couple minutes starts to fuss again. Soon I hear the crying stop, followed by a big gulp and contented swallowing sounds. Smiling I’m not surprised at all that mama listened to her baby’s needs and she’s now nursing.
Babies cries are uniquely designed to elicit what they need from their caregivers. If this baby wasn’t used to her mama responding to her needs, she would have skipped fussing and started right away with a full blown angry cry — knowing from experience that gentler cues don’t get her attention. What’s really interesting about this though, is that full blown cries don’t often promote an empathetic response from the caregiver. This is because the tone of the cry is harsh and angry as opposed to slightly distressed and in need of something. It is normal in fact, upon hearing an angry cry, to want to get away from it.
Thinking of this now it occurs to me how much this relates to adults in relationships and that we have similar ways of behaving when we have a need that is not being met. This need might be something that’s lacking in our relationship or it may stem from something that happened elsewhere in our life. Regardless it’s a need and in loving relationships we can manage many potential conflicts by simply responding in the way the mama did with her baby. Noticing a change in the body language of our partner — maybe they seem frazzled, guarded, sad or tense — and putting our arms around them to express our support, smiling in reassurance, or making them a warm drink — can have the same soothing affect as this mama does with her baby on the plane. These little gestures can make the difference between a full blown fight and a moment of shared understanding, empathy and connection.
I see in my work how difficult it is for many of us to reach out and meet the needs of our partners before their unmet needs come out as a full blown crisis. Many of us didn’t have mamas, like this lady, who paid attention to the subtle signs of distress in us and responded before they turned into misbehaviour or fighting from us. On the surface it may seem like she’s just stopping her baby from crying, but the reciprocity of their relationship actually provides the baby with framework for all her future relationships. She’s learning that it’s okay to have needs in relationships, to ask for them in gentle ways, and that when people love us we can trust these needs will be met. The mother on the other hand, is learning the beauty in connection that extends beyond words, relying on non verbal cues and body language to meet the needs of another human being. What excites me the most about witnessing this interaction, is the reminder that it’s never too late to treat the important people in our lives the way this mama is treating her baby. <3
I haven’t been writing much lately — largely because I’ve been consciously trying to live my life fully, in both joy and sorrow, with the people closest to me. I’m not big on New Year’s but, combined with my birthday which also falls in early January, it always seem to make me pause and reassess my values. This pause feels to me like I’m standing in front of 2 open doors, making it possible for me to look both in front and behind myself at the same time. Through these doors I see struggles at times to pay bills and meet the daily needs of all of my children, as well as pride because I am actually doing it. I see hands on my skin — body wet from pleasure. I see falling in love and the joys and fears that go along with it. I see space held for my clients, naked circles and body sex sisters. I see vulnerability in the eyes of my friends, and in holding my children while they cry.
Looking in either direction reminds me that my values lie in the intimacy found through authentic, vulnerable connections. I’m happy to see alignment between my values and daily life and also find it ironic that the intimacy I seek for myself is what terrifies me the most. It’s never easy to allow others to see the deepest layers of who I am, nor is it easy to see theirs. I remind myself that intimacy is both something I do on my own and something done with others. It happens the moment I choose not to let my armour go up, or when I take the time needed for my body to be fully “landed” before I have sex. Sex for one or sex for two. Intimacy is found in difficult conversations, looking into another’s eyes, asking directly for and listening to another’s needs, holding and being held, touching myself and allowing myself to be touched.
Closing last years door I step into this years one choosing to continue moving forward into intimacy — knowing that sometimes I’ll be able to leap into it and other times I’ll have to manually lift my legs off the ground to make them move. Sometimes still, I may need someone else to carry me.
With love to all who have and do share intimacy with me. <3
I came upon these 3 questions in a book I was reading on a flight to Montreal last weekend. Without thinking of my answers I quickly scribbled them down in my book. Afterwards when I read them over, I felt very emotional, and have come back to reread them many times. At the end of the day – or of my life – this is what matters to me. <3
When I’m 80 years old, how will I answer these questions? How will you? Before you read my answers, I encourage you to answer the questions for yourself.
What was my life about? What did I care about? What do I want others to know that I did with my life?
What was my life about? My life was about love and connection — both inwards and outwards. With myself, my children, intimate partners, friends, circle sisters, clients and strangers. It was about everything that I could feel and know without seeing. Connection with myself for connection with the people around me. Connecting my inner layers with your inner layers. Seeking to under stand you as if you are me. Our circles converging.
What did I care about? I cared about connections with others. Expressing my love through touch, words and actions. Getting to know the people I love enough that I can love them in a way that feels loving to them. Understanding, knowing and accepting myself so that I could understand, know and accept others.
What do I want others to know that I did with my life? I want others to know that I did hard, painful work to know myself enough that I had something to offer me – and you – in my love. That it came from the deepest, innermost parts of me. To love in this way I had to be vulnerable and brave and honest with myself enough to know ME. This knowing became my lifes’ work. The more I was able to see me…. the more I was able to see you. To do this wasn’t easy, but it was worth it. To know me. To know you. To feel me. To feel you. And to love us.