I was 34 when I first noticed the stirrings in my body that people call desire. I had just weaned my 5th child and my body seemed to sense that my time for nourishing babies was over. Like a magnet being pulled towards a force, my vulva felt ripe, charged and open. Up until this point sex had always been something I did for someone else’s pleasure, to be a good wife or girl friend, or to feel loved. I had never orgasmed during sex or been pleasured by anyone else to the point of orgasm. In fact, looking back, I’m not sure any man that I had been with had even tried to pleasure me. I masturbated in secret at times — just to get a quick fix — feeling awful shame and guilt that I was “cheating.”
These new feelings of desire excited me and brought awareness to my body and caring for it in ways I hadn’t thought of for 13 years — when all of my focus had been on supporting and raising others. I became more aware of how different foods made me feel and began to exercise and take dance classes. Curious about the near constant stirrings in my genitals, I sought out every book that I could find on desire, pleasure, orgasm and sex. I invited my then husband to read a book with me so that we could explore the activities in it together and he responded by suggesting that I read it and tell him what to do. I understood then that sharing pleasure with me wasn’t a priority for him.
Discouraged but not defeated I kept searching for a book that would help me learn, and in my search came across Betty Dodson’s book “Sex For One.” Finally I’d found a book about sex, pleasure, desire and orgasm that didn’t require having a willing partner to practice things with. With Betty’s help I began to practice masturbating using my hands and — with patience, persistence and the help of a timer — become orgasmic in this way for the first time! Being able to bring myself to orgasm with my hands also meant that I could orgasm during penetrative sex with my partner — as long as I was willing to help myself out. Sex changed for me once I knew what worked for my body and I celebrated the fact that I didn’t need to have pleasureless sex ever again. I loved Betty’s philosophy of taking ownership of your pleasure and not waiting on or blaming anyone else for a lack of it. I became epically good at pleasuring myself and my husband enjoyed the fact that I wanted sex everyday — until he wondered if I might be liking it too much.
When our marriage ended I continued pleasuring myself in soft and gentle ways that still included orgasm but were more focused on making love than sex. I made love to myself in front of a mirror keeping eye contact the whole time. I tried different positions, sounds, breathing patterns — exploring what felt good for me. Touching my body — in a way that I wished a lover would touch me — helped me through that time and also helped me begin to love and accept myself. Masturbation became so much more to me than a quick fix and I devoted hours of my time to it. Spending so much time intimately with myself helped me to recognize parts of my body that I hated (the ones I avoided touching) and provided me with opportunity to give those parts more love. I became my own lover, my own emotional support and my own source of pleasure. The self pleasure was good for my self esteem too as — realizing how good I felt to touch, I imagined my body would feel good to someone else too.
My “self skills” also helped me become more discerning with new partners because I knew how to have pleasure on my own and I no longer felt like sex was what I needed to do to feel loved. I remember one situation where I stopped right in the middle of making out with a guy and told him I was done. It was a one time encounter and it became clear to me that the only way I would have any pleasure with him would be if I did it myself — which I knew I could just as easily do after he was gone. He was shocked and asked if I would at least give him a blow job which of course I said no to. (Note that he didn’t ask if he could pleasure me) The high from choosing for myself and saying no instead of “enduring” unreciprocated pleasure, was like nothing else, and once again I was grateful that learning self pleasure meant learning to take care of myself in more ways than one. That night I had incredible sex with a partner who knew just what I liked and who loved me too — ME! After that I discovered that men were usually happy that I could bring myself to orgasm with some trying to pleasure me and others not bothering to. Some were intimidated by my relationship with myself and looking back I can see why, but I was so used to having to rely only on me that I knew no other way.
My path hasn’t been seamless and I’ve made many mistakes in an effort to untangle old patterns and beliefs around sex, worthiness and love — yet the whole time the one solid I’ve had through my journey is me. I’ve been there for myself in love and pleasure no matter what was happening or who I was with. Today I’m in a relationship with a man who’s as good at pleasuring me as I am, and I recognize it as a beautiful gift to have someone excited to explore and share with me. Having relied on myself for so long it isn’t always easy for me to receive from him and I still battle with fears of him not wanting to put in the time or effort for me. But he continues to — in non demanding and non expectant ways — and each time I respond by softening and trusting more. As good as I am at doing it alone, it’s wonderful to have someone who wants to do it with me.
Desire throbs between my legs everyday and I know the source and abundance of it depend on me — in my love for myself…for pleasure….for life. Like any relationship worth keeping, I don’t take it for granted and make sure to devote time alone in pleasure and love with myself often. Soft lips that swell under my fingertips. Wetness. Curves. Stretch marks. Squishy tummy. Scars. Each time I touch my body I don’t have to imagine that it would feel good to someone else, I know — because it feels good to me.
I birthed this girl 19 years ago today.
And in birthing her,
a part of me was born too
I became Mama.
Mama knew right from the start that even though she had other dreams and plans for her life, nothing in the world mattered to her like growing her little girl did. Their connection was strong and mama learned to watch her little girls body for clues to tell her when she was hungry, scared, tired or just wanting some reassurance. Mama learned quickly how to meet each of these needs before the little girl had to loudly tell her, and this made others sometimes question what mama was doing. “You’re holding her too much,” “She needs to learn to sleep alone,” “Just let her cry.”
Mama wanted to do right by her little girl and so she listened to what others said but the feeling in her tummy told her that the little girl knew what she needed more than anyone else did, so mama kept listening to her. During the day mama’s body fed the little girl, held her, and showed her the stillness, peace and presence that comes from being in nature. At night they cuddled together face to face, the little girl teaching her mama that she can be comfortable with eye contact, the healing power of skin to skin contact, and what the reciprocity of true love feels like.
As she grew, the little girl taught mama many other things too. When mama tried to push her before she was ready to do something, the little girl would sit — steady as a rock — until she herself was ready — reminding mama that it’s okay to take time and do things slowly. As the girl grew bigger still and began to navigate the world without her mama at her side, they both struggled sometimes with the little girl learning that mama can’t be there for everything and mama learning it’s not all up to her to fix.
I birthed this little girl 19 years ago today.
Today she is a smart, strong, proud and beautiful woman that I look up to. We come to each other when we’re down or need advice. We talk about boys, love, attachment, body image, racism and the meaning of life. I’m her mama still, but we’re also friends.
Thank you Acacia for helping me to trust myself, love without limits, be the mama I want to be, and for being the birth place for me to learn presence, intuition, curiosity, stillness, connection, vulnerabilty, intimacy and holding space — foundations of all the work I do now as a woman. I love you lambs.
She’s a woman in her 50’s,
lying naked on my bed masturbating.
Never having orgasmed before she’s come asking for help.
Sitting beside her I watch her body move as she touches herself,
clearly enjoying the pleasure.
The skin on her chest starts to flush
telling me she’s close to orgasm.
I wish I could capture this moment so she could see how beautiful she looks,
but I stay still, not wanting to disturb her.
As the flush on her chest begins to climb to her neck I notice her crease her brow.
Leaning forward I softly touch her face, guiding her to soften too.
“I’m scared” she says. “I don’t know what it’s going to feel like.”
“I’m here with you” I say. “Your pleasure looks so beautiful on you.”
She starts to cry and continues to masturbate,
the flush on her neck now covering the lower half of her face.
The sounds of her orgasm fill my room, followed by the sounds of her sobbing.
Smiling through my tears I think “this is what half a century of release looks like” and I’m grateful for the honour of being there with her.
It’s not about feeling better, it’s about feeling more.
Sometimes I’m afraid to look
because I don’t want to see the
pain she holds tightly behind her eyes.
I fuss around her, caring for her in other ways
not quite trusting my own ability to cope with it.
Knowing that this isn’t right and that I can’t avoid it any longer,
I look — really look — feel her sadness, and begin to cry.
At the sight of my tears,
she turns away — not wanting to see my pain.
“We can do this. I know we can” I say to myself,
and I continue to look at her until she turns back to look at me.
Holding each other, we cry.
We are doing this.
It’s not about feeling better, it’s about feeling more.
She’s sitting across from me in the circle
beginning to tell the story of her past trauma and pain.
As the words fall out of her mouth,
her chest heaves then collapses while her eyes plead with me to rescue her.
The woman beside her looks at me as well
motioning with her own eyes for me to do something.
My eyes lock with the woman sharing and
I reassure her — without words —that I’m here,
she’s a survivor and she doesn’t need rescuing.
We’re holding space for her.
Taking a deep breath in, and then out,
I watch her body slowly land on her exhale.
Her chest lifts and she continues her story.
It’s not about feeling better, it’s about feeling more.
I’m on my back lying under him,
our bodies moving and breathing together,
like a circle, in and out, around and around.
His eyes don’t leave mine and I wonder, for a second, if he ever blinks.
What does he see when he looks at me in my pleasure?
Is it okay? Am I okay?
I feel heat and energy rising from my vulva to my chest
and I breathe into it,
feeling full — over filled.
“I’m going to cry” I say embarrassed, “but it’s not bad.”
And I do. I cry through my pleasure while he holds me,
breathing in the air that I breathe out.
It’s not about feeling better, it’s about feeling more.
*based on conversations I’ve witnessed between clients and in my own life.
my insecurities make me selfish………..
i turn off the lights before sex so that you don’t see the parts of my body that disgust even me.
I thought maybe you wanted the lights off because I’ve gained weight this year and my abs aren’t defined.
i don’t give you head because I don’t think I’m good at it and I don’t want to disappoint you.
I thought you didn’t like my dick because it’s too small.
i don’t let you go down on me because I think my pussy is gross and you can’t possibly want to lick it.
I thought you just don’t like the way I lick you.
when I orgasm I put my face against a pillow because I don’t want you to see how weird I look.
It hurts me that in our most intimate moments you won’t look at me.
my favourite sex position is doggy style but I never want to do it because you might see the cellulite on my ass.
I thought you didn’t want to do it because my belly is too big.
i fake orgasms because I’m embarrassed by how long it takes me to actually have one.
I thought you faked because I’m no good at pleasuring you.
when you gave me the gift for my birthday and I complained about it being too expensive instead of thanking you, it was because I didn’t think I deserved something so special.
I thought “I’ve screwed up again.”
i stopped initiating sex because of that time when I lost my erection and I felt like I’d failed you.
I thought you stopped initiating because I’m no longer attractive to you.
i don’t talk to you at work because I think you’re way smarter than me and I don’t want to look stupid.
I thought you didn’t want to know me.
i didn’t ask you out on a date because I couldn’t face the rejection if you said no.
I thought you just didn’t like me.
i’ve never invited you into my home because I’m embarrassed of it.
I thought you don’t care about me.
i didn’t tell you that you look nice the other day — even though I thought you did — because I was scared you’d say it back to be polite and I know that I didn’t look nice.
I would have loved hearing you say that.
i never ask you to do anything with me, or say yes when you ask me, because I think I’m boring and no fun to be around -unlike you who’s so interesting!
I thought you must think I’m no fun to be around.
i wanted to bring you a meal when your mom died but I was scared I’d say the wrong thing so I avoided you.
I felt unsupported and unloved.
my insecurities make me selfish………….
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.
Last year at this time I was recovering from surgery to remove an inch long cancerous tumor that was growing on the right half of my thyroid. I was still in shock and very much feeling shame about what I must have done, or not done, to get it.
I’d be lying if I said that I don’t still carry some of that shame, or that it isn’t incredibly difficult for me to tell anyone that I’ve had cancer and have to see the look on their face in response. That by saying it out loud or having to put it on forms at the dentist’s office, I feel like a walking reminder of our mortality that no one wants to be reminded of. That I don’t dread having to share the story with a new lover or partner and wonder if they’ll still love me. That I don’t question what awful thing I did to deserve this, or wonder if I’m a complete fraud for talking about self love when I’m obviously failing at it or this wouldn’t have happened to me.
All of these stories are a part of the current layers of shame that I’m ever so gently peeling off these days, and yet what woke me at 4:30am this morning wasn’t shame, but rather gratitude.
Having cancer is THE best thing that has ever happened to me. I know it sounds cheesy but it’s like I’ve been shown the value of my life and now I get to really LIVE it.
I can live enthusiastically and wholeheartedly in all things that I do.
I can choose to care about what matters to me and not give a shit about what doesn’t.
I can walk naked in slow motion across a nude beach with a bunch of other naked people (at least 10 years older than me) laughing hysterically at the way our bodies jiggle when laughing hysterically.
I can expand my work to include men who also struggle with physical and sexual shame.
I can be the me that I am when I’m having sex alone – with a partner. Growling, laughing, crying, breathing like I’m giving birth.
I can go to Mexico on a week long date.
I can take my kids to visit Raffi.
I can facilitate Bodysex retreats in other places.
I can have the most difficult conversations of my life and come out feeling like I climbed Mt. Everest.
I can take most of the summer off so that my children get to experience living enthusiastically with me in the least expensive ways possible.
I can choose to be grateful for each day that I wake up knowing that I have the ability to chose my desires over my fears.
I can, I can, I can.
And I do. <3