These past couple of years, I’ve become very acquainted with the gifts and limitations of my wounds and how to tell the difference between the two. Helping or loving anyone from a wounded place can result in support that is either unhelpful or damaging. As parents, healers, ministers, helpers, therapists or support persons we don’t need to be unwounded to help others — we just need to have an intimate and honest relationship with our wounds so that it’s clear to everyone involved, who we are trying to “help.” I compare this to getting to know a lover. Seeking to know them inside and out — their strengths, depths, triggers and potential go-to behaviours when they (or I) just. want. to. stop. the. bleeding.
While I learned about all of this through counselling classes and other trainings I’ve done, the greatest teacher for me has been through my intimate relationships. Nothing matters to me as much as my children, partner, family and friends do, and yet — no other area of my life touches my wounds as much as they do. Because of this, I’ve learned to recognize the dysregulation in my body when my wounds have opened, to slow down, pause and be present to what is actually real in the moment.
There are 2 memories that stand out as for me as vivid reminders of what my wounded vs. unwounded help looks and feels like. In one — I’m standing at my eldest sons door, trying to help him grieve and find a reason to keep going after losing his friend from suicide. He keeps saying “don’t yell at me” and I can’t understand why he’s saying this when I’m not raising my voice at all. Only later do I realize that what he was feeling, was that my support (while good intentioned) was from a desperate place of fear that I’m going to lose him too, rather than from a place of present listening to him and what he actually needed from me.
The second memory happened a year and a half later — I’m holding in my arms a friend and mother who lost her son to suicide only a few days earlier. As she sobs, I feel the bones in her spine under my fingers, smell the shampoo in her hair and see her sons’ shoes on the porch floor under our feet. The difference between the 2 memories of myself is: grasping, desperation vs. generous, loving presence.
Since then, I use these memories as a reminder that when I’m helping anyone, there are 2 choices I can make — like 2 doors to open in my heart.
There are 2 doors in my heart — each with a sign on them that says “helping.” Apart from the signs, the doors look very different.
One is like those old saloon doors that have no handle and swing open without warning or thought to who is on the other side. Beyond the swinging door, the ground drops away immediately so that as soon as I step in — as fast as the door swings open — I fall into a big pit of gooey tar. There is no bottom to the pit and once in it, I have to tread tar to stay up. The tar is sticky and heavy and I have to not only tread fast enough to stay up, but also to keep it from hardening around me. Glancing around the tar pit I notice what I hadn’t noticed before — that the person I was trying to help, is in here treading tar with me. It’s difficult to see them for who they truly are in here — someone hurting and needing support while also fully capable of surviving this pain. All I can see is both of us, desperately trying not to drown in the tar while their eyes plead with mine to save them. This door represents the wounded part of me that when triggered, can’t always tell my wound from another’s in this pit.
The other door in my heart is wooden with a large stain glass window in it and I can tell from the way the colours in the glass sparkle onto my face and chest that there is a lot of light on the other side. This door is made with such obvious care that I can almost imagine whomever made it, hand planing and sanding it until it was smooth to touch. The handle is one that needs to be turned in order to open the door and as I reach down to turn it I’m present to every sensory detail I see and feel. Being so well cared for, this door makes me feel present, loving and generous before I even open it. Turning the handle and gently easing the door forward, I can see the person on the other side standing on the grass with light glowing around them. I notice the deep pain in their eyes, the quiver in their lip and the dysregulation in their chest as they breathe. When I reach out to hug them I smell the faint scent of soap in their hair and feel the bones in their spine with my fingertips. I am as present as humanly possible to what they’re going through and, while I can absolutely feel their pain and imagine with every vein in my body how it feels, I never once see it as my own or as my responsibility to fix. I am simply there for them, in whatever way they need, on their journey of healing.
Before I help anyone, I take a breath, pause at the entry of these doors and ask myself which one I’m about to go through.
***In loving memory of Thomas Schorr and his loving mama.
Happy Valentines day from my cold ass to yours! I hope that we can all feel love within ourselves to have a day sprinkled with self compassion and grace for the journey we’ve travelled, the mistakes we’ve made, our wobbly parts and all things in between. Happy valentines day to me, to you, to life! (And all the warm naked beach days to come)
** photo by Justine Lustig
I took the first week in October off so that I could have some time and space alone. After 6 months of quarantine the idea of just staring at my walls — without anyone interrupting me — seemed incredibly enticing! During this time, I decided to print all the blogs I’d ever written and see if maybe collectively I’d find something in them resembling a common theme or story. I wasn’t sure what I was looking for but, feeling like I’m at a bit of a crossroads in life, it seemed like a good idea. While printing them off, I came upon a comment from Betty;
Using my honest I’s, or sharing in first person, has been something I’ve learned through Bodysex and is a commitment that Justine and I ask each woman in the circle to make when they share their stories. We don’t want to hear about their mothers, lovers, friends, partners or ex partners’ experiences. We want to know how they feel in “I’ statements.
Carrying Betty’s words with me into the retreat, I was so excited to meet the other women and see what the circle had to teach me. With Covid-19 increasing, I knew this was likely to be the last retreat for several months and I felt “itchy” at times to reach outwards for a man to soothe my feelings of loneliness.
Over the weekend, I sat listening to the other women’s stories and admiring their beautiful and unique vulvas. As one middle aged woman opened her legs and looked at her vulva for the first time in her life, we all huddled around her, offering love, support and reverence as if she was birthing a new relationship with this life giving part of her body. The next day, after she brought herself to pleasure slowly and lovingly beside me, she burst into tears and I held her hand — imagining that she had finally consummated this new found relationship with her self. “For the first time in my life, my body got the permission to do what it needs to do.” There is nothing more beautiful and intimate than the tears that come with pleasure.
The weekend wasn’t all touching moments like these though — we also laughed, masturbated, shared dirty stories and farted — marvelling at the openness and freedom we felt in our bodies when there’s no holding back. I kept grabbing my note book to frantically jot down things the women said:
“I’ve unleashed a masturbating monster.”
“It’s a buffet of flesh. Different boobs and vaginas. Don’t go near the beef curtains at the flesh buffet. They’re laced with ecstasy!”
“I am enough. I can reach drug-like highs of pleasure all by myself. I can feel sensual and sexy and hot and desirable to myself.”
“I have never felt so comfortable in my own skin.”
“I experienced, for the first time, the complete ease that comes from not censoring myself or my body.”
“I feel like I’m home and I’ve never really felt that before.”
“I was able to build to the biggest explosion of an orgasm I have ever experienced! I did really really weird things with my body and I made sooooo much noise. Like a moose/bear fighting with a ballerina, who gave birth to a hyena…if that makes sense. But I felt no shame; I wasn’t embarrassed; no one made fun of me. I was celebrated.”
For myself, I took my time with my pleasure committing with my “honest I’s” to date myself and provide me with what I am really longing for in a partner. To be made love to, to ask for what I need and listen to my response. To love myself generously through touch, words and actions. Laying in the circle with the other women I took my time with my body — bringing it slowly and softly to pleasure with my fingers, never prodding or pushing it to respond in ways it wasn’t ready for.
Looking back on my blogs it’s not hard to see that the connection in all of them is my own honest I’s, which are always changing and evolving. When my life feels rushed and I rush myself through touch and pleasure, I lose sight of what my truths are. Coming back to this honest connection, rather than looking elsewhere for someone to fix it, always gives me the answers. This weekend felt like a renewal of vows to myself — a recommitment to nurturing this relationship, to giving myself the time and space I need as I need it. To continually come back to myself, my truths and my love — no matter who I’m in relationship with. These are my own honest I’s.
Thank you Turtle, Nelly, Hope, Froya, Rose, Cindy, Casey Jones, Peach, Harrietta and Bilquis.
I’ve just learned that Betty Dodson has passed away. She was an incredible teacher, artist, advocate for women, for pleasure and she was my friend. She was also controversial, irreverent, gut achingly hilarious and could equally love and scold me just like a mother would. I will miss her terribly and am grateful for her guidance in leading me towards the ultimate love affair – with my self.
On behalf of all the women who have sat in Bodysex circles, we love you Betty and dedicate our pleasure to you as you carry on your journey. <3
*** I will write more in depth as I take space to feel and grieve
I’m sitting in a farmer’s field about ten minutes from my home, naked, leaning against a hay bale.
The wind is blowing my hair in crazy directions, and I imagine myself as one of those women in books who looks wild and free and you can just tell by her wind blown hair that she had some great orgasms that day …… and every day.
My skin is brown from all the summer sunshine, and when I turn my legs towards it, I can see my blond thigh hair, shimmer like gold.
A tampon string dangles from my vulva and I take it out, happy that I don’t need to worry about staining any sheets in this field.
There are two tummy rolls at the bottom of my stomach and I place my hand over them, tracing the stretch marks that make a spiral pattern around my belly button. I think back to the words of the surgeon I went to years ago, who asked me why I wanted to change this part of my body. Closing my eyes and feeling the texture that the stretch marks offer my fingers, I give thanks that I didn’t —and imagine my beautiful children growing inside my belly — pushing and stretching my skin with their long limbs.
My eyes move down to my vulva and I see my lips like the petals of a flower blooming in the morning sun. Encouraging them to bloom some more, I move my hand towards the petals and feel their softness. Years back I used to feel ashamed of how fully I bloom. Today, I don’t think there is a part of my body as beautiful as my pussy, and I promise to give her thanks every day for the plentiful gifts she offers me.
I pleasure myself in this field — against the bail that I imagine the farmer put there just for me. A mom of 5 on her evening walk, with her dog who’s off chasing geese.
I laugh as I cum, and afterwards, stand up and put my clothes back on to go back to the city, my home and my family. Seeing the wet spot on the ground I think with a smile, of the abundant crop the farmer will be blessed with next year.
*****My orgasm and my words are dedicated with endless love, to Betty Dodson – my mama of pleasure on her 91st birthday today.
I’m super excited to be offering, for the first time, a couples/intimate partners OVERNIGHT workshop! The workshop will be held at a private acreage near Saskatoon. It will be intimate, sensual and hot!!! If you’re looking for something to help connect or reconnect in an intimate way – this may be the thing for you. For details and testimonials follow the link and as always I’m here to answer any questions/concerns you may have. https://natashasalaash.com/intimacy-in-sensuality/
I hope to see you there! <3