A Year Without Sex

A Year Without Sex

You don’t realize how much energy we, as human beings, put into sex – thinking about having it, thinking about how to get it, the actual pursuit of it, and then the glorious seven minutes of actually experiencing it – until you’re not chasing it anymore.

I stopped chasing it one year ago this week.

*Cue Record Scratch* Wait – But Why?

I didn’t consciously tell myself, “I’m not going to have sex for a year.” It was more so that after my divorce and subsequent reintroduction to human mating rituals after seven years of being in a long term relationship, I was confronted with the stark reality of what it was like to be back in the dating pool.

I was initially excited about the prospect of being able to date again, but when older, wiser, and with a much healthier perspective on myself and where I was in life. Then I realized that while I had grown tremendously, both emotionally and spiritually since the last time I dated, the vast majority of single people on planet earth were, unfortunately, mostly the same unconscious neanderthals they were when I was 26.

I wanted a real man. A conscious man. One that wasn’t afraid of depth, but more importantly, one that wasn’t afraid of me, my scars, my mess, or my insatiable desire to know and express myself as authentically as possible.

I realized I had no inclination to engage in sex without the kind of deep emotional intimacy that I knew was possible, and deep emotional intimacy is not something readily available on the market.

New York City is a lot of things, but a place where people take the time to connect with one another, it is not. It isn’t just that, though – I’m a high-functioning intellectual individual. Intellectually stimulating conversation is easy to come by here. Everybody thinks they’re a sapiosexual. But I also have an extremely high emotional intelligence, and that is not something many people on the planet have, much less a steely place like New York City. The type of emotional and spiritual depth I require to feel satisfied is a rarity to find anywhere.

I stopped having sex because I became disillusioned with the inevitable disappointment of being starved for the kind of connection I needed by men who were too afraid to be vulnerable.

I decided that the Universe would find a way to bring me into the path of the right person, and I didn’t have to deal with an onslaught of frivolous Bumble and Tinder chats to find them. I wanted to be truly seen. I wanted to be felt. I wanted the deepest parts of myself to be known – but how can I show that to someone if I don’t even know it, myself?

I stopped going to bars. I stopped spending hours on dating apps. I stopped settling for surface level bullshit. I stopped seeking something from outside myself to fill a void within me. I quit. And instead, I took all of the energy I would have normally spent in the pursuit of sex and some “other” to validate my self-worth and existence, and put it to use in the pursuit of finding myself, my own inner-worth, and understanding how that changed the dynamic of the types of people I attracted into my life. Through that process, I became crystal clear about what I wanted out of an intimate relationship, what I valued, and most importantly – who I was and what I was worth.

The result was that I consciously chose to never be with another man who didn’t truly see me. Who couldn’t meet me on my level. Who couldn’t show up with intimacy and vulnerability that set my soul on fire – the same kind that I am capable of offering.

I would rather live the rest of my life alone than let one more person touch my body without touching my soul.

Your body is your temple. You don’t let just anyone inside. I finally grew spiritually mature enough to fully revere it with the respect it deserves.

The thought of having a one-night stand, or even sleeping with someone that I’ve only been on a couple of dates with used to be an afterthought, but it is utterly repulsive to me now. I’ve realized that sex feels like meaningless, barely-enjoyable, animalistic copulation without the spiritual component of genuine love and spiritual connection.

Most people on this planet completely miss the full breadth and depth of what sex can be. They connect on a purely physical level. The quality of sex is measured by the number of orgasms had, how many positions you tried, and how many orifices were penetrated.

Sex is not merely an avenue for physical pleasure and procreation, but rather, a doorway to the divine. A way to commune with our highest selves and the greater creative force of the universe, and I do not mean that metaphorically. Sex is a legitimate spiritual practice.

Followers of various sects of Eastern religions have practiced sex as a meditation for thousands of years. Sexual energy is considered to be the essence of our life force and maintaining a prolonged state of heightened sexual arousal can induce a state of heightened psychic awareness, bliss, and oneness with the Universe. Sex literally becomes a shared spiritual experience.

In yogic traditions, the energy that is responsible for this is called kundalini, or shakti. Kundalini awakenings can happen spontaneously or during meditation and result in all of the things I mentioned earlier. Ask me how I know!

I’ve experienced kundalini awakenings during meditation a handful of times. It feels like the universe is making love to you from the inside out.

Imagine connecting with your partner physically, emotionally, mentally, energetically, spiritually, and psychically in a state of total surrender while simultaneously experiencing the psychedelic highs of an LSD trip, merging so deeply that they intuitively know your every emotion and desire without you ever speaking a word, and your goal is not to orgasm, but rather, prolong that state as long as is humanly possible.

I think about what it would be like to experience that and – well, once you’ve had unicorn sex, everything else is just… vanilla.

Everything That’s Wrong With The Body And Sex Positivity Movements

Everything That’s Wrong With The Body And Sex Positivity Movements

I try not to write critiques anymore, and the reason is because instead of raging about what someone else is doing, I could be doing something constructive that helps myself, or writing something constructive that helps someone else. Promote what you love, don’t bash what you hate, and all that jazz.

However, I also recognize that on occasion, a righteous criticism is necessary to cut through the bullshit. That criticism is even more righteous when it’s meant to cut through chatter in my own industry and/or area of expertise, and especially when I’m ready to call bullshit for the sake of all the other people out there who may need to hear this perspective. In that regard, being critical is helpful.

I’ve done this previously with people who think you can only think positive thoughts and spiritual bypassing and I’m about to do it again on a wholly new topic which actually kind of relates back to spiritual bypassing in a roundabout way.

Spiritual Bypassing

A term coined by psychologist Robert Masters to describe the practice of empty spirituality devoid of real personal development. In spiritual bypassing, a person “acts” spiritual without actually doing the internal work to develop real spiritual understanding, often resulting in stunted spiritual growth, repressed emotions, inflated ideas about their own level of enlightenment, and a plethora of other detrimental activities and ideas.

Since this spring, I’ve really been working on my Instagram presence. Part of that means checking out what other people are doing and seeing how they’re using the platform. Throughout that process, I have observed a lot of conversation happening among influencers about body positivity, feminism, and owning your sexuality.

I’ve observed on Instagram that people seem to be able to create entire platforms off of these “positive” concepts, and yet the content they’re putting forth seems to still be rooted in the very thing that they claim to stand against  – and they don’t even realize it.  The end result being that they actually end up perpetuating the very thing they purport to oppose.

On Body Positivity…

I literally can’t scroll through an Instagram search feed without seeing butt cheeks, side boob, workout mirror selfies, and women in their underwear.  I honestly don’t have a problem with nude photos. I think the human body is beautiful. I think the female body is especially beautiful. I think photography is art, and these kinds of images can evoke emotion and important conversation when used in a skillful manner.

Posting 1,038 professional photos of yourself is not it, especially if your purpose is to make other people feel better about themselves, and I’m about to elaborate for you, in great detail, exactly why this is the case.

Let’s be honest. Most of us – dare I even say ALL OF US – women have struggled with our body image. Some of the most beautiful women I know have amazing bodies and the way they talk about themselves is heartbreaking. My best friend from college is 5’10” and athletic as fuck, and she talks about how gross she is all the time. Another friend just weighed herself for the first time in forever and realized she’d lost 40 pounds. She texted me a picture of herself at the pool a couple of days later and asked me if she looked fat.

Obviously, this comes from a deeper rooted issue of self worth, the physical body is simply an easy target. I know many men who deal with the same issues.

Some of us, however, have taken that self-loathing to whole other level and engaged in destructive eating and exercise habits in a failed attempt to try to feel worthy. I was one of those people.

Frankly, it’s a miracle that I didn’t develop a full blown eating disorder in my early 20s and I’m thankful that I didn’t, but that didn’t stop me from obsessively monitoring my 600 calorie-per-day diet while working out five days a week or abusing prescription diet pills.

I understand the importance of representing all types of bodies in the media. Everyone should be able to see someone like themselves represented. But I also recognize that body dysmorphia doesn’t fucking care about that.

Dysmorphia is when your perception of your physical body is skewed in a negative way, and you hyperfixate on one or more physical flaws – either real, or imagined. It exists on a spectrum and most people have dealt with it to some degree at some point, if not on a regular basis.

We like to think that the reason women hate their bodies is because marketing and advertising has bombarded us with images of photoshopped stick figures. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if it were that simple?

The real reason we have these issues to begin with is a bit more complex, and it’s because our culture has placed an inordinate amount of emphasis on our bodies as being synonymous with our beauty and our self esteem – it has it’s roots in patriarchy and the way women have been taught to perceive themselves, and that message has been beaten into us from the day we were born.

Let me restate that for emphasis in case it got lost in translation: It’s not (exclusively, or even mostly) the images we are being bombarded with on a daily basis that’s the problem, it’s the psychological connection that’s been forged between the physical body and our self-worth.

Unless you have a body type that is vastly different from the average human, it doesn’t matter how many pictures you post of your half naked thicker-than-the-average-runway-model body captioned with, “You don’t need to count calories #ilovemyself #ImBeautiful #BodyPositive,” because you still fit a societal beauty standard and you’re still placing an emphasis on physical appearance as a source of self-esteem. Regardless of how shitty you may feel about yourself, people are still going to look at you and feel shitty about themselves, and then they’re going to feel doubly so because “obviously” you’ve conquered your body issues and why they fuck can’t they?

You cannot tell someone with body issues not to obsess over their body or compare it to other people’s bodies while simultaneously shoving pictures of your body in their face. It just doesn’t work.

“What’s that, you say? You have body issues? You don’t need to compare yourself to other women! Now, behold this posed, professionally shot photo of me in my underwear. Not only that – that’s all I’m going to post. EVER. Follow me for more body positive deliciousness!”

It’s fairly absurd when you think of it that way, yes?

“I’m posting a no-makeup selfie today to let you know that you don’t need to wear makeup to feel beautiful. Nevermind the fact that I’m 22, perfectly tan, have no wrinkles or blemishes and most likely spend a ridiculous amount of money on skincare. I just wanted you to know that it’s ok for you not to wear makeup, too.” 

You’d might as well be Adriana Lima walking around with no makeup on saying, “Look, you can be like me!” No, I can’t, because even without makeup, you’re still a god damn supermodel. 

Faulty logic aside, there’s a bigger problem with the story here. The well meaning message of “don’t compare yourself to others,” is actually a subliminal form of emotional invalidation.

Let’s say I’ve been comparing my body to other people’s bodies for years. It’s an ingrained part of my behavior. I’ve got 99 neural pathways that all lead to feeling like shit. Feeling like shit is basically like a drug for me at this point.

Then you come along and you say, “Don’t do the thing that you’ve been doing your entire life. It’s super easy. Look at me. I did it.” Then I try to not do the thing, and I fail. And I fail again. And I fail again. Then I start to feel like shit for feeling like shit because you’re telling me I shouldn’t feel like shit, and that starts a whole new shame cycle.

It’s basically telling people not to feel what they feel (emotional repression and invalidation) while simultaneously failing to give them the actual tools to work through and release the negative feelings and the beliefs that underly them on a psychological, emotional, and energetic level…most likely because the influencer in question hasn’t actually worked through their own issues, either, and their entire Instagram account is just pictures and posts of them trying to convince themselves to believe the things they’re telling everyone else to believe and their own self-image is just as distorted as everyone else’s.

Uh oh. Secret’s out.

Now, since I’m the type of person who says “Don’t bring me problems, bring me solutions,” I’m going to provide solutions.

If you want to be a body positivity role model and you want to do it in a less destructive way that people can actually connect with and heal with, here’s what you do:

Step 1: Stop posting professional photos of yourself 24/7. Not staged. Not posed. You think posting photos to the public dressed in sexy lingerie or sprawled out on a beach in a bikini is being vulnerable, except it’s not. Especially not when it’s retouched or posed with professional lighting, etc.

Post REAL pictures of yourself. That’s the whole point, right? To show what REAL women look like?

“But professional grade photography, that’s how we’re supposed to build our brand!”

If body positivity is your brand, then you’re telling the wrong story.

Branding is partly what got us here in the first place. You really want to change the game? Then stop playing it and GET REAL. What a radical thought.

Step 2: Show some real vulnerability. Don’t act like you’ve mastered shit that you haven’t. Be raw with your struggle. Own your story and stop sugarcoating it. Let people know that you’re in this, too. Of course, that first requires getting really fucking honest with yourself and that’s not something most people are willing to do. You’re definitely not being honest with yourself if you can barely bring yourself to post an authentic photo of your body.

The story is not “Look at what I’ve done! You can be just like me, let me show you how.” That’s your fucking ego talking. The story is “I am just. Like. You. We can do this together.”

Step 3: Don’t do it once it a blue moon. Do it all the fucking time. Balls to the wall. Walk the fucking walk. I’m so tired of influencers talking about how “authentic” they are when they clearly don’t even have the faintest inkling of what that really means.

Step 4: And here’s the most important solution. SHOW people that their worth is more than their body. SHOW them. Don’t just tell them. That MIGHT mean that you focus on other shit that isn’t your body, like who you are on the inside.

By most societal standards and outside opinions, I’m beautiful. People tell me that all the time and they have my entire life. But I do not always feel beautiful, and I’m not going to pretend that I do.

What does authenticity look like? It looks like this:

I remember the first time I recognized that I didn’t feel beautiful. I was in second grade. At eight years old, I was looking at myself in the mirror and wondering why other people thought I was pretty, because I didn’t. In my greatest moments of self loathing, I contemplated plastic surgery, and the dialogue in my mind always came down to, “Do I hate myself enough to carve up my own body?” The answer was no.

As much as I may have hated my body over the years, I have always been exceptionally aware of the fact that there are other people out there who would kill to look like me.

I once asked someone I loved if he liked my body. He said yes. I was curious to know how another person perceived my physical appearance and whether or not he’d find certain things I actually disliked to be attractive, so I asked, “Why? What do you like about it?” He said, “Because it’s yours.”

I’d never felt so seen or so loved as I did in that moment, to know that someone saw me as more than a body and valued me as more than an object.

That’s what we need to be pushing. That’s what creates self-acceptance. Not 30,000 photos of you talking about how you’ve (allegedly) accepted your comparatively mild case of cellulite.

Sometimes, I DO feel beautiful. Those days are becoming more frequent. I try to celebrate them, but I’m also going to be really honest about the fact that I didn’t always, and a lot of days I still don’t.

You know how many professional photos I’ve posted on my Instagram account? Exactly ONE, because I’m not trying to convince myself or anyone else that I’m pretty. The more I fall in love with the person inside me, the easier I am on the person in the mirror.

On Being “Sex Positive”…

The sex positive movement is a great thing. It’s helping our culture move out of this puritanical mindset that we have toward something that we all pretty much do and that a lot of people are really uncomfortable with. I once interacted with an adult male who could not even use the words penis or vagina because he carried so much fear and shame around sex – he called them a “p” and a “v.” We should all be comfortable enough to talk about sex openly in a serious manner in order to be able to have healthier attitudes toward it.

That being said, I don’t have any hangups, generally speaking, with the concept of sex or expressing sexuality. I’m pretty unattached to it, in that I’m not necessarily obsessed with sex but am also not averse to it in any way. I know a lot of people who carry around a lot of shame in regard to sex but I don’t believe I’m one of those people.

While I was raised in a conservative Christian environment, I never really latched onto the “sex is a dirty, awful thing” mentality – maybe because my parents avoided the subject at all costs and left me to my own devices to learn about it from friends at school.

The only other potential influence was church and the one thing I remember being told there was that you should wait until you’re married. I didn’t personally put a lot of emphasis on that, myself. The thing that was important to me was that I wanted to be in love.

Unfortunately, initiating and maintaining a relationship with someone I actually loved proved to be difficult, due to having spent the majority of my life as an out-of-touch, emotionally stunted ice queen, which only served to reinforce my self-worth issues. I didn’t lose my virginity until I was 24.

This may seem uncomfortably personal, but oddly, it’s one area that I’ve never had any hangups about being completely transparent about, even as a teenager when all of my friends gave me hell about it since they’d all lost their virginity when they were 14. Nevertheless, it didn’t stop people from making things up and spreading rumors about me. I’m sure I wasn’t the world’s first virgin slut and I won’t be the last.

When I finally did lose my virginity, it was basically just to get it over with. I was tired of feeling like a freak. By that time, my self-worth had pretty much bottomed out. Even though I had only had four sexual partners until I got married, they were mostly one-night-stands or guys that I only dated for three or four weeks. Some of them were people that I’d completely lowered my standards for and my boundaries were so nonexistent that I allowed myself to be pressured into things that I wouldn’t have agreed to in a healthier frame of mind.

I vividly remember crying in the bathroom of my apartment after having sex with a guy I was kind of seeing that I didn’t even really like that much or want to even have sex with. He put a lot of pressure on me even though we’d only been dating for a short period of time. I finally gave in and waited for it to be over with. I cried because it was the fourth time I’d had sex and I still hated every minute of it. I thought I was never going to be able to enjoy it.

I can actually say, with total certainty, that was the rock bottom moment of my life.

As it would turn out, it was just him that I hated, not sex, though I never did find much fulfillment in a casual shag.

And so, to this day, I highly prioritize deep emotional connection over purely physical or surface level connection. Hence why I have a quality over quantity mentality, but I do believe that you can have short-lived, mutually respectful and even meaningful trysts that are experienced in a healthy way if that’s what you’re into.

That being said, like anything else, and maybe even more so than anything else, sexual energy can be twisted, compressed, and warped from something that’s beautiful, natural, and meaningful into something that keeps us chained to our lower consciousness. God damn, people love to fuck up a good thing.

I’m not talking about people with out of the ordinary sexual proclivities or fetishes, at least not directly. What you do in your bedroom among consenting adults is your business. What I do promote, however, is having an awareness of why those things have manifested the way that they have, especially if you feel an underlying sense of shame around it. And that’s what I’m talking about in this post.

Being a polyamorous empath, and interacting with more people in the poly community in New York, I am quickly realizing how many fall into the latter category. There’s so much toxic shame and self-loathing (manifesting as sexual confusion) masquerading as sex positivity, it’s utterly unreal.

Similarly to what I discussed about the body positive movement and how some people’s behavior is actually an overcompensation for their underlying sense of insecurity about their bodies (which is effectively a form of repression because they’re trying to force themselves to be positive when they actually don’t feel positive about their bodies at all), this same dynamic plays out in the realm of sex positivity.

If you’re engaging in behavior that makes you feel shameful, you have to explore the internal source of that shame. You cannot heal shame by ignoring it and jumping on a bandwagon that embraces the overlying behavior without any form of introspection.

I shared all of those very personal things earlier to show that I do have some experience in the realm of approval-seeking as it relates to sexuality and I can smell a self-esteem crisis from all the way across the internet, which leads me to my next soap box…

It’s one thing to embrace femininity and own your sexuality. That comes from a place of power and confidence. You own that. It lives within you. It initiates desire in others, it does not require it from them. It is self-sustaining.

It’s wholly another to hypersexualize yourself because you’ve mistaken your self-worth to be equivalent with how desired you are by others. That’s a gaping black hole inside your soul that sucks in any and all attention around it that it can possibly pull into it’s gravitational field. That comes from a place of emotional starvation and lack. It’s founded on a massive sense of insecurity, and it will ruin you.

Unfortunately, I see a lot of the latter dressing itself up as sex positivity on Instagram, and even female empowerment. And yet it’s the very antithesis of female empowerment, because it leaves your value completely beholden to how fuckable men on the internet think you are, and YOU WILLINGLY CHOOSE IT.

You know how to tell the difference between the two? 

A truly empowered woman has no need to call attention to her sexuality. Her essence commands it, regardless of how much or how little clothing she is wearing. She has presence. She glows. She doesn’t need to be, or try to be overtly sexual. She just is, by her very nature.

Her allure isn’t derived from primitive lust. Her sensuality resonates from within the depths of her soul, and it’s synonymous with kindness, grace and vulnerability. She’s a god damn goddess and she knows it.

Sex is a power play, in many cases. When you base your self-worth on being desired, you put your personal power in the hands of other people, and they can take it away at any moment. Your sexuality becomes a manipulative game of cat and mouse. An empowered woman knows her worth and she knows that it lies within her at all times.

You want to see an example of what sex positivity looks like when it’s done right? Check out Alexandra Roxo.

Once again, I come bearing solutions, or at least a question to ponder:

What’s your motivation? Your REAL motivation?

But like I said earlier, to be able to truly answer that requires getting really fucking honest with yourself and that’s not something most people are willing to do.

Body and sex positivity are not specifically my platform – authenticity as a path to healing and self-love is. But body positivity and sex positivity are aspects of authenticity that do have to be examined and integrated before you can truly be free to be yourself. No matter how hard you try, you’re never be able to force yourself to feel positive about pieces of yourself that you’ve been hiding for years. There’s a process of self-examination, acceptance, and release involved that requires rigorous self-honesty. And this is where this post ties back into the concept of spiritual bypassing.

My goal with this piece is not to shame people or even judge them. We’re all on a healing path and sometimes we go down a few dead ends. What this was meant to do was pull back the curtain on the shiny exterior of Instagram branding and take a look at the dysfunction that lies underneath so that you don’t have to go down that road, too. But hey, we’re all a little dysfunctional underneath, everyone is on their own journey.

All I’m trying to say is, I would love it if people – especially those who are attempting to portray themselves as role models for other people or poster children for a positivity movement – were a little more honest with themselves and their audience about where they actually are in this process. But as is so often the case in the land of Instafame, what you see isn’t always what’s real.

[/end rant]
The Oxygen Mask Analogy

The Oxygen Mask Analogy

God knows I love a good fixer upper project. I’m the queen of the come up, and I’ll turn another man’s trash into treasure all day err’ day. My steps kids joked that Thrift Shop was my theme song. I have an entire Facebook album of shit I bought from Goodwill and upcycled. I decorated my entire wedding with stuff from Goodwill, and then at least half of my house.

This excellent, innovative ability to see untapped potential, revitalize and make use out of broken or unwanted things takes a turn for the worst in other parts of my personality, when I try to revitalize and make use out of broken people.

“But Ashley, isn’t that what a healer does?”

Helping people heal becomes problematic when you’re using it to avoid healing yourself.

That can look like a number of things. For me, it manifests as, “I’m the strong one. I don’t need help. I can take on your problems as well as my own, and we’re going to focus on yours first because mine aren’t dire.”

But there’s plenty of people in the world whose problems are more dire than your own, and you’re always going to be able to find one. The storage closet of projects not-yet-started in my basement proved that. In this analogy, it means you’re always going to be prioritizing other people’s dire problems ahead of your own, and that means you never actually fully focus on your own healing.

To use the oxygen mask analogy – it’s not just the equivalent of putting on someone else’s mask before your own. It’s trying to put oxygen masks on everyone else on the entire fucking plane before you put on your own. YOU’RE GOING TO DIE before you get to row seven.

You don’t realize you’re doing it and before you know it, you’re crying yourself to sleep at night, breaking down in the shower, your hair is falling out and your immune system crashes because you’ve been under a tremendous amount of emotional stress that’s built up over all the years you’ve gleefully ignored it while helping everyone else. You wake up one day and you’re entire fucking life fell apart while you were busy fixing other people’s problems. I’m speaking from personal experience here, obviously.

There will always be another project, so you’d might as well make yourself one.

Take it from me. I finally put on my oxygen mask. I can save a whole plane now instead of being that idiot who thinks that martyring myself sounds like a glorious way to die.

Cultivating Radical Vulnerability

Cultivating Radical Vulnerability

It’s taken me a very long time to get comfortable with vulnerability. I knew what it was as a concept a long time ago when I wrote my first post about it, but I hadn’t yet put it into practice.

In that post, I wrote:

The truth is, expressing one’s vulnerability is the epitome of strength and courage. It takes far more strength to be open and vulnerable than it does to be hard and emotionless.

Being vulnerable is absolutely the ultimate show of strength, because it requires fearlessness and being vulnerable is usually the thing we fear the most.

I’ve been cultivating that kind of vulnerability for about four years now. It began with me writing a few emails to an ex from college and being honest, for the first time, about what I was really going through, how I really felt, and the kind of impact our interactions had on me.

Funny story about that first email…I knew I had to write it. I could feel my guides pushing me to do it, if for no other reason than to be an exercise in vulnerability. So I wrote it and I held onto it. For a full week, I read it. I edited it. I read it again. I changed it again. I was buying myself time before detonating the bomb. One night, I was laying in bed once again rereading the message on my phone, just to be sure it was what I really wanted to say when my cat jumped into bed with me, got all up in my face, walked across the screen of my phone and landed her paw squarely on the send button.

“Oh god…”

First I laughed. Then I panicked. Then I laughed. Then I panicked. Then I dropped my phone on the floor and beat my face into the mattress for a solid 30 seconds (which lasts much longer than you would expect until your face is actually planted into one).

Divine intervention via furball was not how I thought I would go down.

Much to my surprise, impending doom never came. Four months went by with no response and when a message from him finally did land in my inbox on Christmas Eve, it was about four sentences in length, full of completely surface level niceties, and not a word was uttered about the email that had been sent four months earlier. And, mind you, this was the first time I’d heard from him in about three years.

That’s how the vast majority of my experiences with radical vulnerability have gone down ever since. It’s either me pitching the raw truth of myself into a black void of nothingness, or a complete and total inability to handle it and a quick shut down. Such is my experience with relationships. But with each outpouring of the real me, and with every lack of response or stalwart rejection, I’ve become less and less reliant on the approval of the other person, and more accepting of myself. Not even just accepting… I’ve started to actually LOVE the real me.

The qualities that I once thought were points of weakness or sources of shame, I slowly began to see in a different light.

I was once afraid to tell someone that I loved them for fear that they didn’t feel the same way. It felt shameful to me, somehow, to have that kind of feeling for someone who didn’t reciprocate it. And when I realized that I couldn’t make that feeling go away or shut it off, but I also couldn’t make the other person feel the same way, no matter how much of myself I gave away to try and fit whatever mold I thought they’d be more apt to accept, it left me trapped in a place of eternal suffering. For most of my life, this was the only way I had ever experienced love. It was synonymous with agony and I began to wonder if it was even possible to separate the two. Hence why my personal journal was titled, “La Douleur Exquise,” or, the exquisite pain.

Urban Dictionary:

la douleur exquise

The exquisite pain of wanting someone that you know you can never have, and knowing that you will still try to be with them. Has drug like effects.

Kate: So you’ll sleep with him and then you’ll hate him for sleeping with you and hate yourself for doing it?

Lauren: Yea. I’m psyched.

That just about sums it up. Codependency, in a nutshell.

For a while, I thought I was an emotional masochist. I couldn’t stop feeling what I felt and the shame of that drove me to hate myself. Or, as quoted from one of those emails I mentioned earlier, “At one point I thought, ‘This would be so much easier if I could just hate him.’ But I couldn’t. Not even remotely. So I hated me instead.”

I hated myself for not being ‘good enough’ for love. I hated myself for loving someone who didn’t love me back. I hated myself for my inability to control that emotion. And so, for the longest of times, I kept my heart locked away in a safe little metaphorical metal box where it would never have to bare the shame of being unworthy to receive the kind of love I was willing to give.

Then one day, I decided to face that fear head on. I imagined myself telling him that I loved him, and I made myself sit and imagine how it would feel to have him tell me that he didn’t love me. I nearly had a panic attack during the process, but, watching myself do this from almost a third person perspective, I kept saying to myself, “It’s ok. It’s ok. It’s ok.” In that moment, my perspective shifted and I saw love in a very different way. I was finally able to recognize that love – real, unconditional love – is not born from approval found outside of yourself. Real love is something that comes from inside of you, from a limitless source that you can’t imagine. It’s unconditional, and it’s the greatest gift that you have to give another human being, and to the world.

That kind of love is unearthed and embodied only through radical vulnerability.

People talk about oversharing as a red flag. Emotional vomit, it’s been termed. But that isn’t vulnerability. That comes from a place of need and manipulation. Real vulnerability comes from a place of self acceptance and raw authenticity.

Only as I’ve been practicing radical vulnerability in my daily life have I begun to notice just how out of touch with self the rest of the world is, and just how horrifying most people find the thought of it. Rejection hurts, certainly. All any of us really wants is to be seen, accepted, and loved regardless of who we are or were. But the more comfortable I become with who I was and who I am, the less it stings.

I’m solid with my beliefs. I enjoy my magick. And I even love how it feels and the way I express myself when I’m being vulnerable. I love that feeling. It used to terrify me. It felt like being naked in a room full of people. Now it feels amazing. Like being naked in a room full of people. 🙂 But being naked in a room full of people isn’t amazing for everyone, whether it’s you or them that’s been stripped down. And those are the people who are going to balk at how you stand tall and comfortable in your own vulnerability.

You’ll know you’ve reached that place of radical authenticity and vulnerability when they balk, and instead of giving them a middle finger up the left nostril like you used to back when you were an emotionally immature thundercunt, you respond from a place of peace, compassion, and understanding that they’re just not ready for someone like you yet, and that’s ok. Because you and your radically vulnerable self have a heart that is an endless well of love for all things, most importantly, you. And you even have enough to pass some of it on to the person who couldn’t handle the all of you, and that’s ok, too.

Why should we even care to be vulnerable in this way? Why would we not? It’s exhausting, constantly pretending to be someone else, hiding parts of yourself to make other people comfortable. Imagine all of the ridiculous manipulation and confusion you could eliminate out of your daily life if you were just HONEST about your thoughts, feelings, experiences, identity, and intentions? The efficiency freak in me loves to cut to the chase. My blunt south node revels in the idea of brute honesty. The old sage in me loves sharing experiences with a grain of wisdom. And my heart is married to the concept of just being myself.

One day, hopefully sooner rather than later, I’ll find a guy who, after seeing my most intimate and raw self, instead of balking or clamming up, will step back and say, “God damn. I want that.” He’ll be the only other naked person in the room. Until then, I’ll keep pitching love bombs into black holes, waiting to see if anything comes back from other side of the universe.

In case you are wondering, my personal journal title has since been updated to, “And Then She Flew” as of a few months ago. I decided it was time to put old ghosts to rest, and old beliefs out to pasture. Love and pain are not one and the same, and I’m no longer completely at the mercy of the latter. The former, however, she is not a cruel mistress. No, not at all. She’s a much finer muse than pain could ever hope to be.

The Healing Spiral

The Healing Spiral

Last August, when I was spending most of my days laying in bed staring at the ceiling and barely able to function, I asked my friend Teresa to do a reading for me (she’s awesome, by the way, and if you’re interested in booking a session with her, you can visit her website here. I built it 🙂 ). I needed some some serious guidance and I was in no condition to go and find it for myself.

A lot of great information came out of that reading, but most relevant to this blog post was that she told me I was processing and releasing a lot of old karmic energy, not just from this life, but from many. She said I was doing a lot of it subconsciously and while I slept (which was a lot) and that’s why I was so detached and ungrounded. She also told me it was going to last for about nine months. You can imagine the look on my face.

In my early attempts at networking last October, I met up with another woman here locally who does reiki and she, too, told me that I was going to be working through a lot of things all the way through April.

It’s now April, and we’re at just around the nine month mark. Healing is not a linear process, but rather, an upward spiral of sorts. You process things cyclically and each time it comes around, you peel back another layer and get closer to your core. That’s certainly been true for me over the last several months, and I do feel like I’m starting to reach the pinnacle of it all. Finally.

The last three weeks or so I’ve really focused on doing some crystal and energy healing on myself, which isn’t really something I’ve done much of in the past – at least not on my own. I’ve enlisted my friend Tara for some really powerful long-distance energy sessions here and there, which have helped greatly, but I’d never sincerely attempted to do much for myself, until now.

As things have progressed over the last few months, I’ve become so much more self aware, and as that’s happened, I’ve become a thousand times more energetically sensitive. I pay more attention now to what triggers me and I am better at figuring out where it comes from. I pay attention to where in my body I feel certain things – anxiety, fear, etc. – whether it’s coming from my heart, my upper stomach or lower stomach. I’m also more proactive about addressing it and working through it.

A lot of that proactivity has involved energy healing sessions over the last few weeks that have had really incredible results. Only recently have I actually been able to have emotional releases during a session. Usually they don’t happen until the day after, but these last few, I’ve have two to three every time.

The first one I did was focused on inner-child healing and trauma release. I knew this one was a big one for me – it is for just about everyone, and it’s often the root cause of a lot of our fears and self misconceptions later in life.

 

I struggle a lot with feeling secure in relationships and making deep connections with other people. Some of this is related to past life traumas, and some of it comes from childhood stuff. I can’t really pinpoint anything specific, but I know it because of some common themes that have come up in my dreams over the last couple of years about feeling alone and unwanted.

One in particular, I think the timing was pretty significant. It was the night of my birthday in 2016. My dad had forgotten my birthday for the second year in a row. My grandmother, who was one of the people who would never forget my birthday, died earlier that year. That night, I had this dream:

I was in this house with a woman and her daughter. The living room was covered in clutter, and it was all stuff that belonged to her little girl, but they were things her mother bought for her.

The mother asked me to pack things for the girl, or clean them up, I can’t remember. As I was looking through it all, I thought, “This is all completely useless. There’s nothing in here that she needs. Why would you even buy her this?”

Then the mother became overwhelmed by all of the useless shit that she’d bought her daughter and decided she wanted to get rid of her.

The little girl looked at me and asked, “Why does no one want me?” And I said, “It’s not your fault,” and I began to explain to her that her mother was upset about all the things she’d bought her and taking it out on her. Then I woke up.

While I was in the middle of this inner-child healing session, I saw the same little girl. I knew she was me, even back when I had the dream. But here she was again. I saw myself hugging her.

I posted on my Facebook page last week about being the person you needed when you were younger.

That’s a behavior that I’ve actively cultivated in myself over the last couple of years. It’s too easy to tear yourself down. That’s why we do it so frequently. It’s a lot harder to give yourself the kind of compassion you needed when you were young and vulnerable.

At the end of that session, I felt happy for the first time in a long time. But I wasn’t done yet.

A few days later, I did a couple more sessions that focused mostly on my sacral chakra and I was surprised at how many past life traumas came up (just like Teresa said). I did one on Tuesday and I saw myself being stabbed in the abdomen with a sword, and also having my stomach cut open to deliver a baby. I died both times.

A lot of times, I can feel that there’s something I need to work through I just don’t know what it is, exactly, so I’ll pull some oracle cards or tarot cards to help me pinpoint it. Even if they don’t make sense immediately, I’ll typically start to understand it once I start to focus.

For Tuesday’s session I drew cards about boundaries in relationships and the need to cleanse. Boundaries, of course, are related to the sacral chakra, and I already knew I had a lot of work to do there, anyway, so it made total sense.

Last night I drew several cards about seeing my true self and feminine energy. I seem to consistently injure myself on the left side – I almost cut the end of my finger off with a kitchen knife within three days of moving here. Left hand. My hip and lower back on the left side have been giving me a lot of trouble since early 2017 and I fell down icy stairs in front of my apartment, which severely aggravated it. And yesterday on my way home, my shoe somehow slipped on dry concrete and I fell and gashed my left knee open, and stabbed the same finger on my left hand that I cut on a chain link fence.

The left side of the body is considered the feminine side. My feminine side has had the shit beaten out of it, emotionally and physically, both by myself and by others over the years. And in more recent time, as I’ve learned to be more in-tune with that energy, I’ve given a lot of it away in my relationships, which is the kind of self-sacrificing behavior that is indicative of imbalance.

So, during last night’s session, I called all of my energy back to me from all of the people I’ve given too much of myself to over my lifetime. In some instances, it was hard to do. Some of them didn’t want to let go, and it was very emotional. In a sense, it was like giving myself a cord cutting (in case you aren’t familiar with cords, they are energetic attachments created between you and another person with whom you have an emotionally intimate relationship. Particularly when these relationships end badly, they can remain and cause confusion and emotional entanglement on a subconscious level).

After all of this releasing, it feels like I’m starting to reach the top of the spiral. I see myself more clearly and I have a healthier relationship with myself, most importantly. This cycle is finally wrapping up, and perhaps one day in the very near future, a new adventure can begin.

If You’re Feeling Like Shit, Then This Is Your Wakeup Call

If You’re Feeling Like Shit, Then This Is Your Wakeup Call

Iposed a question in my facebook group yesterday:

Do you think you ever truly get over certain issues, or do you just learn how to cope with them?

I asked because I’d been feeling a lot of old negative thought patterns creep up over the weekend – mostly feelings of unworthiness in relation to relationships and career. Both of those are things that I have really struggled with over the years and have only recently become fully aware of just how deep they go. I’ve also been doing a lot of work to release them.

I started applying for full time jobs over the weekend. I’m still trying to build up my consulting business in my free time, but I’m beginning to exhaust myself. If I’m working on both at the same time, something will eventually pan out, but I’ve noticed a lot of those negative thought patterns surfacing as I’m applying for jobs – that I’m not good enough, that people won’t recognize my talent, that I don’t really know what I’m doing. All of these thoughts are ridiculous, but I have them nevertheless.

The same thoughts occur around relationships – I’m not good enough. I do things or say things that drive people away from me. I’m not worthy enough of being loved.

These thoughts started to crop up mid-week last week and slowly gain momentum, coming to a head yesterday. And then suddenly, while I was in the shower last night, a switch flipped and they were gone. And I was back to being as determined, grounded, and centered in my self-worth as I ever have been.

I have learned so much about myself over the last year and a half. I have grown so much, particularly in the last two months.

The last six months were incredibly difficult – those of you who were here for it only know the half of it – and I don’t know how the fuck I’ve survived, but somehow I managed… and I feel so much stronger for it. I don’t feel like I’m being suffocated anymore. I don’t feel like I’m crumbling under the weight of everyone else’s expectations anymore. I don’t feel like I need to hide pieces of myself anymore, and most importantly, I no longer need another person’s love to validate me anymore. I’m done with being beholden to what everyone else wants me to be. I’m free. Truly free, for the first time in my life. And it feels incredible. Scary. But incredible.

I spent the entire month of July cauterizing the wounds that resulted from cutting away so much of the shit that was holding me down and squeezing the life out of me. I blocked my dad’s phone number shortly before my birthday so he can’t contact me anymore, because I’m done with one-sided relationships that do nothing but drain my energy. I have let go of people who can’t bare emotional responsibility for themselves, because I can’t bare the weight of it anymore. I have very clearly recognized that the people I’d surrounded myself with that I thought loved me, didn’t actually love me. I’ve cut ties with people and friends who want to shame me for my choices and dress it up as “giving me their perspective” (that I didn’t ask for). I have let go of people that I loved more than anything in the world because they couldn’t show up for me.

I now know and understand that I deserve a job where I’m not being emotionally abused or taken advantage of. I know that I’m smart and capable and worthy of being successful at what I do. I’m learning to fully accept myself and not try to people please during interviews and take a job out of desperation, which is what I’ve always done before. I have to remember that interviewing them and looking for a fit, deciding if they deserve ME as much as they are doing the same with me, and that is so important. I’ve worked in too many toxic environments to go back into one. I need to know what I’m getting up front, and they should know that I’m not there to be a worker bee. I’m there to lead.  No more bullshit.

I know, now, more than ever, what is important to me in a relationship and I am ready to have it. I want someone who knows me. I want someone strong enough to see the all of me, even the broken parts of me, and still look at me as though I were the most beautiful thing he’s ever laid eyes on. I want someone who can be there, and hold space for me, and protect me when I need to heal myself. I want someone who understands and accepts me just the way I am. I want someone who loves me intensely and completely, deeply and passionately, without attempting to own me. I want someone who has no expectations of me other than to be loved by me in kind. I want someone who is comfortable enough in themselves to “just be” with me.

I am through with being small. I’m through with taking care of everyone else to the detriment of myself. I’m through with allowing life to happen to me and waiting for it to throw me a fricken bone. I’m carving out my own path now and if people want to be a part of that – great. Get on board. If not, then get out of my fucking way. I need people in my life who will show up for me instead of running away, or choosing to remain oblivious to my needs.

So yeah. I’ve offloaded quite a bit of baggage and dead weight. The only person I’m responsible for anymore is me. And that feels good.

To answer my own question – I don’t know if our demons ever truly disappear. But I do know we can summon the strength to stare them in the face and tell them to shut the fuck up.

You are not a victim. You are a god damn warrior.

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