I haven’t felt the internal pull to write and share my innermost self with a wider audience in so long.Maybe I’ve felt too tender, maybe I needed the space, maybe I was fulfilled with sharing my innermost with the people closest to me and in the spaces I hold for clients. I’m not sure exactly the reason. Today though, I feel that pull.
Last year I lost my friend Brenda. She was in the deep, early stages of grieving her son Thomas who died by suicide just over a year before. We weren’t everyday friends, but I helped raise Thomas in my daycare, our boys had been best friends, we bonded over beers, laughed at how we both felt inferior to each other for being a “better” mother and in particular connected through the vulnerability of loss and grief. I loved Thomas too and throughout preschool and elementary, I wiped tears from his eyes, told him how wonderfully kind he was to be such a good friend to the younger children in my care and cuddled him when he was hurt. I was his emergency contact, and I’ll never forget how my heart stopped the moment the school called to tell me he died. I’ll never forget Brenda collapsing into me inside her back door, with Thomas’ shoes still lined up on the mat ready to be put on. I’ll never forget the pain in my children’s eyes and holding my daughter Selam up as she struggled to stay in her body at his funeral.
I checked in with Brenda regularly after Thomas died and connected her to a suicide support group for grieving parents. That wonderful group became an absolute lifeline for her and, in my view, was the one place where she felt 100% understood in her grief. Still, I worried about her a lot. Thomas was her only child and I didn’t know a mom who loved their child more than she did. Brenda loved seeing my son Mateyo, loved talking about the times she’d taken him and Thomas to the Exhibition, or to their farm and how happy they were together. When she hugged Mateyo, I could see in her closed eyes that her hands reaching up around the shoulders on his tall, lithe body reminded her of hugging Thomas. I could see how it hurt her to let go.
We found Brenda on the cold floor of her bathroom one day in May, after she hadn’t responded to texts for 48 hrs. She’d been there, still alive in body but not in soul, for nearly 2 days after suffering a brain aneurism. Sweet Brenda who had devoted her life to her only child Thomas for 17 years and who would do anything for anyone, was gone. I remember standing on her front lawn with the paramedics taking her away thinking how in this moment so many things that had seemed important, just didn’t matter at all. Facebook didn’t matter. What people think of me didn’t matter. Being successful didn’t matter……
The first weeks after her death, I thought I was going insane. I’d never felt like that before. I couldn’t handle what I felt. The injustice of it. The pain of seeing her like that. The reality of her being alone for hours and hours in that state. I wanted to rip my skin off. Slowly, the pain eased and, miraculously it seemed, I started to feel okay again. I was sad, but I could be in my skin, and I was okay. The image of her curled up and soiled on the bathroom floor didn’t leave me though. I couldn’t help but think that even if I kept on living the rest of my life in service to others — my clients, my children — that I could still end up alone, dying on a cold bathroom floor too. If so much doesn’t matter, then what does matter? Like a curious observer, I stepped back and took stock of my life. I saw that I’d been running for years since my divorce, working several jobs to both cover up my guilt at ending my marriage, and make enough money to support my kids on my own. I don’t know if working that much helped the guilt, but I could see that I was able to support them and I might not need to work so hard. What was the cost on me? Was it enough for me to end up on my bathroom floor alone too? Did I want to work this much?
Slowly I started making changes by cutting back my hours at my job as an ADHD Coach and creating space for my Counseling practice, which provided enough income that I didn’t need to run myself into the ground. Why hadn’t I done that before? I’d been too busy creating self suffering in an attempt to alleviate guilt. Wasn’t being a mom all about sacrificing yourself? I started setting really firm and clear boundaries with my clients, children, friends. I quickly realized that I no longer wanted to work that job at all and started making a plan to quit. I hired a Coach and went to therapy to help me unravel the strings of guilt and self-punishment that were so deeply ingrained in me. When I became a mother, I did so because I wanted children more than anything else in the world. AND, I was afraid of facing myself and the other things I wanted for my life. I didn’t know I could have both. Motherhood was the ultimate way to sacrifice myself.
I kept going. My grief fueled me to do hard inner work. The layers of exoskeleton that had been removed through the past 7 years of stepping into vulnerability, uncovered a deeper set of layers. Layers over my innermost self, the part of me that isn’t just interested in meeting the needs of others. The me that has dreams of my own. I realized I was tired of how much work Bodysex retreats were and that I no longer wanted to do them in such a laborious way. I LOVED the circle of sharing, I loved the weekends with women, I loved how I grew and felt seen from them and I loved sharing pleasure. I didn’t love all the work before and after though. Maybe it didn’t need to be so hard….. I stopped offering workshops in Saskatoon and continued in Quebec where I had support with all the marketing, advertising, retreat supplies and food. I quit my job and made the decision to only Counsel clients 3 days a week and devote the other 2 days to something my innermost self was passionate about — writing a book. My work blossomed. The moment I quit my job (and I mean literally the moment), I had more than enough clients to fill my days and then some. Since then I have created a daily practice centering around myself and my passions — self-care, connection, health, pleasure and my work which involves all of that!
My days include space in between sessions so that I can ground and centre and think of the next person coming before they pass through my door. I say no to working weekends. I devote 4 evenings a week to going to the gym and 2 days a week to pilates – because my body feels great when I create space for it. I eat really healthy food, I drink wine, I walk every morning, devote time to enjoying pleasure, laughing and connecting with people I love. I can’t bring myself to advertise my work when I already have enough and don’t want or need to be bigger, more well known, get more likes or have more followers. I’m deeply grateful for what I have, and I just want to live my life from the innermost part of myself. I’ve noticed that in the space I’ve created, I’m closer to my mom, my sisters, my children. I’m more generous because I’m not running on empty ready to crash the moment I stop. I have space throughout my day to pause and feel and enjoy the moments.
I often wish I could tell Brenda how much she inspired me. How much I saw myself in her, how much I think of her in all the work I do, how much of an impact she has made on my life. After Thomas died, she told me that she could see her own pain every time she looked in the eyes of the homeless. She made a point to always look at them and had plans to devote her time to working with the homeless. I wish I could tell her that I saw myself in her too. In her loving devotion to her son, her outward care of others and in how she died. I know that could be me too. That could be any of us. That reflection changed me, and I’m forever grateful to her for helping me create space in my life for what matters. Spending time with people I love, smelling the lilacs first bloom in Spring, allowing others to care for me, the space to be present and ME.
I woke up this morning in my quiet house with my children still sleeping. Drinking tea with the sun shining through the window onto my bare legs, this story — which had just been seen and felt in parts throughout the last year — flowed completely through me. I wish I could read it to you, so you could close your eyes (as I like to imagine you would) and with each word feel the river touching your legs and teasing you forward in it’s flow. But this will have to do.
I see myself floating down a river, the wind softly blowing my hair, sun on my neck, holding hands with someone I love. The flowing water is as clear as a mountain spring and under it are rocks which sometimes jut out, causing us to maneuver our bodies around them so we don’t get hurt as we float. The banks are high enough on the sides and I smile when I see animals have made houses in the dirt along the edge. There are branches sticking out from the banks — some worn smooth by the water that flows over them at times, and some so sharp that we need to duck at just the right times to not get hurt by them. There are some shallow sections in the river where we often stop to play, laying half in and half out of the water, feeling the slight lull of it flowing over our legs as the sun warms the rest of our bodies. Sometimes we choose to spend days in these parts of the river exploring and being with the flow but not moving very far at all. In these places — between fully floating and totally stuck — we often find the best treasures, difficult to explain to anyone after, but nevertheless treasures that deeply impact the way we float on.
Inevitably as we choose to continue on, the river changes again and we float together, until both of us get caught in a pile of branches that’s pooled along one side of the river. On my side the branches are less thick (this time) and I carry on with only minimal effort to free myself. The force of us getting caught though is enough to tear our hands apart and, while I notice the disconnect right away, it takes me a minute to stop because I’m still flowing along with the river. Stopping myself is difficult and it requires a great deal of energy to push backwards against the flowing river. I do it though, because I chose to float the river with this person and I’m not going to leave them behind just because they’re “stuck” in the branches. I want to keep floating with them. So I paddle against the current, breathing heavily as I slowly move back wards towards where they’re “stuck” in the branches. Once I get there I grab onto the pile and use it to pull me around closer to them and then, still unable to reach them in their pile, I choose to tread water alongside them while we try to figure a way to get them out.
I love being beside the people I love at all parts of the river – even if they or I am stuck in the branches. Yet at some point, often after days of trying to figure out how to get them unstuck, I feel a deep hole of fear in my belly and hear a little girls voice telling me that “I need to get them out, or I’ll lose them.” Already tired from days of treading water to stay in one place against the current, I franticly try thinking of other ways to “help” them. If I can just lift one arm out to grab the branches and toss them down the river maybe I can free them. So I try this, constantly being forced forward each time I lift an arm out to grab a branch, toss it and then swim back against the current to where I was treading water beside them. I do however manage to remove a few branches this way. Sometimes the branches are tangled up too much though and instead of the easier task of just grabbing and throwing them, I have to hold onto the pile and work to untangle them while fighting against the river seemingly wanting to pull my legs forward to see what’s around the next bend. The top half of my body is pulled backwards as I work to untangle branches and the bottom half is pulled forwards with the flowing river — I must appear to be in such conflict with myself. But “I’m not!” I tell myself in a strangely child like voice. “I’m simply “helping” this person, whom I love, become unstuck so we can once again float the river together.”
My efforts feel fairly grand, so grand that at times I imagine that this is the point of the story (if there was one) where the narrator would describe me in heroic ways. Pausing to think of how heroic I am, I look at the person in the middle of the branches and see that they’re not sweating or panting at all. They’re merely sitting — what looks like – comfortably amongst the pile of branches. “But they can’t be content to stay here I tell myself,” feeling that awful hollow hole of fear in my belly. “They MUST want to come along. They always said they wanted to do this and when they got stuck they called for me to come back. They must still want it.” Conflicted by this I grab on tighter and watch them, waiting for a sign that they do want to come with me. In this pause I notice how deep the hole feels in my stomach and how hard the river is pulling my legs forward and how much I want to allow it. But “I can’t just leave them here” says the little girls voice in my head. “Good people don’t do that. Good people stay and fight no matter how hard the river is pulling them forward. It’s for them that I’m doing it!”
In this moment — the moment in the story where time stands still and the whole scene seems so perfectly clear — I feel the irony in my words and hear a woman’s voice speak over the little girls saying “Just as I have the choice to let the river carry me, they have the choice to stay. Both are choices and regardless of whether one is to stay and one is to go, it doesn’t mean anyone is leaving anyone.” Paused in time for a second while I contemplate what she is saying, I notice that the hole of fear in my belly is gone and……. just like that I let go. Like the most beautiful orgasm in the universe I’m carried forward, swept into the ebbs and flows of the current and the wind in my hair and sun on my neck. I look back for a second and see the person in the branches, right before I’m swept into another orgasmic current, smiling at me lovingly and experiencing life in the way they are choosing. I smile back at them with a smile full of absolute love, then close my eyes and float on with the life I am choosing carried forward with the sound of the woman’s voice whispering softly in my ear “It’s all choice. We all choose each day to flow or to stop flowing. The only way I will lose them is if I stop my own flow.”
**** Dedicated to one of the many partners on my river :Justine. Thank you for reminding me of my own choice and my own voice. <3
Ever since I started using guided touch meditations at retreats, women have been asking me to record one for them to listen to at home. For some reason this has felt VERY vulnerable for me to do and I kept putting it off. About a month ago I finally recorded one that I’ve been doing with myself lately. This one isn’t specifically a touch one, but more of a softening and opening meditation that helps my body relax and open to receive pleasure.
Softening and opening is important for pleasure – whether it be self pleasure or pleasure with a partner. Most of us hold so much tension, shame and trauma in our pelvic floor and this can inhibit our ability to feel pleasure fully, create issues with erectile disfunction, overly tight vaginal muscles, and cause pain. I remember a pivotal moment where I was working with a client to help him learn to relax and “land” in his body – so that he could experience an erection and orgasm with another person. As I guided him through this – I noticed my own body slowly landing – as if I was in an elevator travelling down to ground level. As I kept breathing with him, I could feel my body make more contact with the ground under me and with that came exquisite pleasure – even though I was not being touched at all. I realized that I was actually fully in my body for the first time. This experience showed me that even though I can orgasm easily anytime really, it didn’t necessarily mean that I am fully “landed” in my body. The more time I take to settle, to soften, to open, to let go of tension, the more pleasure I can feel.
Now that I have learned what “landed” feels like, I also know what it feels like to not be “landed.” And because I want to honour my body and allow it the time it needs to fully settle, I pay attention to this feeling and give myself time to land when I need it. For me, being “landed” feels like I’m giving my whole self the warmest, most loving hug and I’m being hugged back at the same time.
When you try this meditation please find a quiet place to lay down. It is ideal if you can be naked, or wear loose clothing so that the air you breathe can move with less restriction. You may notice the sounds of my breath during the meditation and that’s because I did the meditation while I recorded it. It isn’t authentic for me if I’m just saying it to you and not feeling it myself. Enjoy landing into your body and feeling how good it feels to be inside you. <3
**To be inclusive of all bodies, I included both feminine and masculine genitals in it.
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 tounder standyou 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.