Sex Talk: The Virgin and Tampons

I spent this weekend with my niece who came up to visit me. We had an excellent time together, and you were right; because we have so much in common, some parts of it did feel like healing my teenager. There was one moment in particular. Yesterday I took her to the beach. While we were getting ready, she said she had just gotten her period and asked if I had stuff. I reached into my purse and handed her a tampon. She said she couldn’t use them. I asked why, thinking it was a personal preference. But then she said, “I’m not allowed.” “Why?” I asked. “Because I’m a virgin and using one would be like having sex.” I felt angry. “Who told you that?” “My mom.” She said.

My mom told me the same thing. So I, being the obedient daughter, followed what she said. Except I had this really embarrassing experience when I was on swim team. I had gotten my period and had to go to practice. I asked my mom what I should do. She had instructed me to safety pin my pad to my swimsuit. I’m pretty sure you can imagine what happened. A few laps in, the pad swelled like a diaper and I had this sagging bloody mess on my hands. I. Was. Mortified. I bought and wore tampons in secret the rest of my of college years.

But I didn’t want that for my niece. I said, “No disrespect to your mom, but that’s bullshit. Wearing tampons does not make you want have sex in any way, it doesn’t physically prepare you or emotionally prepare you for sex in any way. Now, if you don’t want to use one for your own reasons, that’s totally cool. But I just don’t want you to think that tampons are the gateway sex drug.” She thought it over and said she would like to try it out and see if it was less annoying than a pad. I talked her through how to use one, and she ended up saying she liked it better because she feels cleaner.

I felt warm that I was able to clear up some archaic view of tampons for her. I know for me personally, my mom’s weird concepts on certain things made me very scared to ask questions about sex and explore it in a healthy way.

Client Journal: Art Imitates Life

The past week I have been working on a scene (for acting) that mirrors my love life. In this particular scene, my character hooks up with a guy she ‘s interested in. The morning after, she’s searching for some reassurance that it meant something, that it means it’s the start of a relationship, but the guy is way too interested in getting high. In the scene he basically ignores her and my character feels extremely uncomfortable and awkward.

Rehearsing this scene over and over and over again is making me think about how I have been in that situation. Over and over again. I think about how I feel when I rehearse/perform this scene. I feel worthless, anxious and like a victim. And coincidentally, that is how my character acts. In real life, when I do this, sleep with a guy too soon, it brings up my self worth issues, my father issues and I feel like shit and then the cycle starts where I act all cold and tough to cover up how hurt I am feeling. I don’t want to be this way anymore! When I do this scene everything in my body feels tight and I don’t feel safe. Doing this scene made me realize and feel that sleeping with a guy too soon is also a safety issue for me. Because I don’t know where the other guy stands, if there is a genuine connection or not.

I mentioned in a couple emails about a guy I have been on a couple dates with. For the past month or so, he has been out of town working a lot (he’s a musician). While he has been out of town, he has been keeping in touch with me either calling, emailing or texting me a few times a week; which I like, it’s part of the reason why I am still interested. He comes back next week and it is likely we will go out on a date. The temptation to sleep with him is there. Definitely, But when I really think about it, feel it in my body, I feel anxious and I tighten up. I’m not ready. I don’t know him well enough yet. The emotional connection isn’t solid enough for me yet. I think this is the first time in my life where I am focused on building an emotional connection with a man versus trying to get some “Look! He’s my boyfriend! See! I did it!” result.

Client Journal: From Numb to Love

“Nietzsche was the one who did the job for me. At a certain moment in his life, the idea came to him of what he called ‘the love of your fate.’ Whatever your fate is, whatever the hell happens, you say, ‘This is what I need.’ It may look like a wreck, but go at it as though it were an opportunity, a challenge. If you bring love to that moment—not discouragement—you will find the strength is there.”

– From “A Joseph Campbell Companion: Reflections on the Art of Living.

“Being numb was/is the biggest way I protect myself. My heart. But so many things go into that. In your email, you mentioned feeling my heart, my belly and my vagina. I think for this week, when I do this exercise I want to focus on my heart before I move into other areas of my body.When I was young, I had to train myself to be numb. At first I had to really fight hard to pretend. A memory that is coming up for me, was my middle school experience. Middle school sucked for me, it was borderline traumatic. I was the only black female most of the time in my honors classes, and because I lived in a middle/upper middle class area my mom had me do activities such as horseback riding, swimming and tennis. My dad would tease my mom about her slight southern accent (in an abusive way), so she became overly sensitive about the way she spoke. Because of this, my mom wanted to make sure that my brother, sister and I spoke eloquently. All of this translated to some of the other black kids at my school as me trying to “act white”. So for three years they teased me, called me names such as blackie, tar baby, Oreo, sellout, the list goes on. One girl even spat on me in gym class. They would knock over my books, do stuff to my locker and humiliate me in front of large groups of people. The teachers wouldn’t say anything or stop the behavior. And even though I knew I that what they were saying was stupid and ignorant, that I was/am proud of my heritage, that speaking proper English to me wasn’t a “white thing” but a “I want to get into a good college thing”. It still really hurt to experience such brutal racism especially from other black people. But, I was taught not to cry, never show weakness. So, I acted like it didn’t matter. My face would be like stone, expressionless and I would feel cold and like I wasn’t there while they were calling me all these names. I would checkout, daydream. Or fantasize about ways to kill them all. I was trying to protect my ego, my pride by acting like it didn’t matter. But it did, and it hurt. A lot. And I felt a lot (and still do when I really feel it) a lot of just pure rage about it! Eventually what happened then was one day I snapped at one of the girls who was picking on me and threw her into a locker really hard, yelled at her (I forgot what I said I just remember feeling the rage) and then spouted out a bunch of black history facts facts that I knew she didn’t know. I made her feel stupid. And it felt good!

Intelligence became another form of protection. After the locker incident, it got around that I had a short fuse. So when I got into high school, aside from the stupid comment made here or there, I wasn’t bullied. But I discovered that I could use my words in a way to make people feel really bad about themselves if I wanted to. Since I was kind of quiet and observant I would say really mean things when I felt threatened. Because being cold and “super witty” felt safer than saying,”I am really hurt. Or I am really angry you said that.” I didn’t want to be vulnerable. Because if I was vulnerable, that meant you really got to know me. And if you really got to know me, that meant you knew about all my traumas, my messed up parents and one day you could use those things to hurt me, betray me and reject me. And I would have rather felt nothing at all than feel rejection and betrayal. Because I felt rejected or hurt in some way everyday and I just didn’t want to feel more of it anymore!

When I got older, into my early 20’s, I tried on a different persona. I tried to be this badass hard as nails chick that no one could fuck with. I would still be numb, I would still use my intelligence, but I added more walls to it. I tried to “act strong”. Like the Angelina Joile characters in movies. Because that was what I so desperately wanted to be. I wanted to be strong. Tough. In control. Aggressive. I didn’t want to feel my pain. I didn’t want to express it. But at that point because shutting down and being numb was so second nature, I didn’t really know how to express my feelings. When I would try, I would go back to using my intelligence, either by trying to rationalize or by speaking in metaphors to describe what I was feeling. There was one point in my 20’s where I hadn’t cried for a really long time, like 5 or 6 years or something! I didn’t want to feel my weaknesses. I didn’t want to see them. And I didn’t trust anymore to see or feel them, but I guess also, I didn’t trust that anyone would love me and accept me in spite or because of my weaknesses. In my mind, the badass never got hurt. But I was wrong. Because I was still hurting. And hiding. I just started to delude myself that I wasn’t anymore.

When I breathe into this, I feel sad. Really sad and hurt. Sad and hurt that I can be so mean to myself! When I ask my heart what it needs, It says that I need compassion. Compassion for myself. It also needs to trust. It needs to trust that my close friends wouldn’t betray me or hurt me just to hurt me out of sport. It’s also telling me that I need to take my time when getting to know people, not to tell too much too soon. That was a tactic I would sometimes use with men. I would try to create the intimacy and connection I really wanted by “putting all my shit out there”. Now I realize, I wasn’t respecting myself, or loving myself or honoring the trauma that I had been through. I would say, “hey I was molested.” they would feel uncomfortable, I would then shutdown and not express my feelings about it or my feelings about telling them, and then I would never hear from them again! I was traumatizing myself even more because I was forcing them to reject me and abandon me, the very things I was afraid of happening!

My heart also is telling me that I need a lot of reassurance and unconditional love. I am mainly familiar with conditional love. Yes, those are things I need from other people. But most importantly, those are things I need to start giving to myself.

Client Poem: I Breathe by Sonam Hajela

I breathe
In your presence, my breath is ignored, lost, forgotten
It skips, slows, speeds up
My heartbeat thunders, goes quiet
It drifts, it crashes
I breathe
In your presence, my breath never matters
It is an idle watcher on the sidelines
I chase it, come back I say
Come back.
I’ll hold still, I can manage, I can do it but I try
Grasping with my arms, it is lost to me.
I breathe
In your presence, I forget how. I forget why.
But even so
Even so
My breath running, running, hiding,
Losing, wandering –
Even then
My breath goes completely silent at the thought that yours, one day, will

You say you love
But do you even know what this word is?
You say you love
But do you know what this word does?
It is a shield for you
To hide behind
A safe place for you to draw weapons
To aim
To fire
Because love isn’t just a word you say
To appease
To mollify
To use
To defend
To hurt
It is standing with your nails dug in your open chest
Holding your heart in all its dripping frailty
With no cover.
It is no limbs, no skin, no bones
No eyes or hair
No sharp teeth, or nails
It is no I or you

It is raw openness
You need, I give
You touch, I take
You break, I fall
I hold
It is strength, it is power
Love is a fight you can’t turn away from
No matter how ugly the sides
Love is not saying “for now”
“until then” or “don’t push”
It is ugly, it is in the middle of the night screaming moments
Right before you bathe moments
Before I even wake up moments
It is standing up when the other can’t
So when you say you love
I don’t hear fight, or courage or truth
I hear cowardice, easy words
And a war lost.

Client Poem: Sirens’ Song by Peggy Bennett

What if Odysseus was a woman?
Would she have feared the sirens’ song
Or would she recognize that haunting melody as some deeper part of herself…
Calling out to her from some unrelenting and vengeful place
A place more ominous than any myth.

Alone and tied to the mast, would she cry out?
Would she wail and scream to venture through impassable reefs
To find her way back to those mermaids, to her home.
Or would she hear their song as one of bliss
And sail past their island, unscathed.
After all, the sirens were once handmaidens to Persephone
Sisters still, even though they failed her.
Would they wish her dead as all of the other sailors they have sung to?
Or would they recognize a kindred spirit
And sing her on her journey.

I hear the siren’s song
The melody resides in some deep place I cannot name
Seductive and beguiling
I hear the voice but I do not wail.
This song is sweet and I have known it since birth
It sings to me of my heart’s desire.
It leads me to a life that mirrors me and no one else.
I am lulled by warmth and lullabied by my own voice.
I am Ondine
The sea creature
I am my own siren
Singing myself to love.

Client Poem: Shame

What do you know of shame?
All these years I’ve cried
And I know your darkness deep inside
I ran from it
I run from it still

For you father,
For your blind eyes
For you sister,
For not thinking of anyone else
For you mother,
For your hate

Sometimes I feel the fear of uncertainty stinging clear
And I can’t help but ask myself how much I let the fear take the wheel and steer
It’s driven me before and it seems to have a vague haunting mass appeal
It’s the way that everyone else gets around
But lately I am beginning to find I should be the one behind the wheel

I’m sick of all your stories
Of my own story
They have gone stale

With open arms and open ears
I welcome
The tomorrows you made me fear
Whatever tomorrow brings
I’ll be there
But when I drive myself my light is found

Client Journal: Pieces of the Heart

Today I did an exercise that you had me do a while ago. When we first started working together, I remember you had me draw a silhouette of my body and write in the different emotions and where they were stored. I did the same thing, but with just my heart. (I will mail you the picture).

Looking at  the picture, I feel a lot of different things. The first area I colored on the  outside of my heart I called shutdown. It’s where I withhold, it’s where I don’t trust, it’s where I don’t want to let anyone in or near me. Underneath that layer I have anxiety, which is when my awkwardness comes out. Under anxiety I  have fear. I feel scared because I don’t want people to see what’s underneath, what’s in my heart.

I have my heart sectioned off. There is a piece that is rage. FUCK YOU!! I HATE YOU!! I DONT WANT TO DO THIS ON MY OWN WHY DON’T YOU VALIDATE ME?! I have a piece (a large piece) that is hurt/pain. Where I hold being molested, not being believed for being molested, for being ignored, not being supported or validated, for witnessing and experiencing emotional abuse, for being scared a lot of the time. It is also where my “why me?” lives. I have a piece that says frozen. Numb. I don’t feel anything and I don’t want to feel anything.

I have a piece that says “no love”. Where I feel worthless that I don’t love myself. Here I wrote that I people please, act perfect, I don’t set  boundaries because I don’t think I deserve them. I don’t honor myself from this place. I try to conform and be like “everybody else”. There is a piece where I have strength and passion. From here I give myself the “you can do it” pep talk.  I have a piece of compassion and empathy. But it is easier for me to give compassion or empathy than it is to receive it or give to myself, which I don’t like, and I think that is part of my “no love” piece.

Then I have a piece that has a ? mark. Because I don’t what to call it. I don’t know what it is. When I picture it, it’s a bright white light. Spirituality? Courage? Love? I  don’t know. All I know is I feel drawn to it and calm. But it’s a small piece in  comparison to all the other parts.

I feel sad when I look at the picture.  That I have so much pain. But I also feel a weird sense of calmness, like I am looking at a map that tells me who I am. Some I like, some I don’t like, some I want to change completely (like the “no love” part), some I want to modify and some I want to learn to accept and love no matter what (like the hurt and the pain parts). And there are parts I want to draw from more. Like from my strengths and passions.

Client Poem: Broken Mirrors and Hearts

I reach for you
In my sleep and
When I’m awake
It doesn’t matter how I try
To be with you
And have you be with me
The way I need
I can’t have it.

We come from the material, the same fibers
You gave birth to my pain and my spirit
My trauma and creation
My ugly thoughts and my beautiful eyes
My fear and my fire

I dread the day you’ll float away
Into the abyss

Because in this life
We have fought
And I have wailed and wailed
On the cold floor
And you have ignored
And tortured me
The day you disappear
I will still break.

Because you are frail and helpless to me
Though you have hit
And raged at me.
That day,
I will still fall to that cold floor
And wail.

Client Poem: Bluebeard

I run
Just like my mother
From the dark man in my dreams
In sunlight
In my fingertips
My knees far too weak
I didn’t trust my insides
“the hurt will go away…”
“it will change…”
“it’s just me…”
“I deserve nothing less…”
I just wanted to lay with you
Close my eyes, feel you forever
You and me
But I turned away from everything that
Was screaming
“this is wrong…”
and let you bleed me
you read the weakness
saw the holes in my heart
and plunged
my mother taught me
to ignore the blood
wipe it away
scour it down
and ignore it till
kingdom come
there was no one to say,
to hold me back,
to teach me otherwise
to show me another way
to face you…
so I drowned with you
because I never recognized the
sides of you I never knew,
the things you said that were
never true.

Client Poem: Untitled

I am the wild child kicking your insides awake.
Pounding to the rhythm of your hearts longing.
A mischievous smile that hides pain like candy.
I am alive with fire
dancing under a star filled sky
searching for my love in the darkness between.