The Sting of Rejection, the Birth of Desire

When they write the rejection letters, why can’t they just say “Thank you, we’ve chosen another proposal.”

There’s always the bit about how many awesome proposals they received, how it was excruciating painful to choose (as if I care) and how truly, truly amazing my proposal is.  How they look forward to seeing my work out in the world.  And in the really stellar rejection letters, they find a way to ask for my continued support for their project.

So far this year I’ve received ten rejection letters, for a variety of projects, including conference proposals, writing contests and performance proposals. Each proposal I’ve submitted has taken hours upon hours of work to conceive, articulate, edit, answer all of the questions, and gather submission materials.  Each one has been a dream, a calling forth of something important into being, only to let that dream slip away, perhaps to be reborn in a different form, or perhaps not.

The painful heart of rejection

With each rejection, the sting has been less. I won’t say it’s stopped.

I really, really wanted to create that performance piece about the circus freak show: the fat lady, the bearded lady, the half-man, half-woman, and the sexuality of each.  It would be a powerful reclaiming of the fetishized, for purposes of validating our own eroticism.

But. “When the Fat Bearded Lady Sings Subterfuge”  is not to be, at least not this summer.

With every proposal, and also with every rejection, I feel I stand at a bifurcation point: one path leading one way, another leading to a completely different destination.  Taking the path marked “Reject” leads somewhere, often to somewhere unexpected and enlivening.

Creating meaningful content is not a challenge for me.  I have ideas all day, every day.  The challenge is to curate the ideas, discern which ones will further not only my work, but the issues that I stand for. Faith seems to be the only means by which to understand the mystery of why this project, this idea, and why now. Or why not.  I am choosing to engage with the various selection committees as a divinatory process.  The Hand of God, tapping my creative efforts that best serve my people.

The generative force behind all of my ideas is erotic.

It is inarguably the tide of Eros, churning within the moving  rivers of my body. Each idea is a desire born of an embodied longing, bubbling up. These things, they want to be born, they yearn to manifest.  They crowd around, like impatient spirits waiting to reincarnate.

When I answer the call of a particular desire, the ebullient and effervescent delight which courses through my body is sublime. Merely putting the words onto paper is sometimes orgasmic. Letting them then go off into the world, to be petted and stroked and sometimes mauled by complete strangers is oddly liberating.  They are not mine alone, anymore.  They belong to us, to our species.  What is our medicine today, this week, this decade? What beauty, what insight do we need to ensure our collective survival?

Sometimes the desires are resilient. Tough, with bouncy edges.  Sometimes they are tender, and become easily cracked and disheartened.

Sometimes, when I send an especially beloved desire out into the world, it has the quality of reaching out to touch an achingly desired potential lover, for the very first time.

That moment when you don’t know if your touch will be welcomed.  That fragile, heartbreaking pause between your gesture, and their acceptance when the entirety of your self-esteem is up for grabs.

I’m practicing trust in my creative process, when I send those ones out, that the rejection I face will not damage me.  That the burn of Eros will be fed by the ashes of rejection, and honed into an ever-clearer flame of yearning and expression.

It is a terrible-wonderful thing, to put one’s heart on public display, time and time again, for critique and judgment. The not-good-enough trolls stand just at the edge of that autonomous zone, waiting for my transgressive heart to cross the border into the land called self-doubt.

But wait!  Ding, you’ve got mail! What’s this? A call for submissions for a new zine on fat acceptance? A film contest exploring marginalized sexuality?

Sorry trolls, not today.  I’ve got the work of desire, burning down the house.  

P.S. Geography of Pleasure: Embodiment for Trans Guys is happening 2/21-23 in San Francisco. 

Is this what I want? Adventures with Wanting, Yearning, and Craving

Is desire at the root of everything human?

(We all come from desire.)

I wake up today (everyday,) and not a full minute goes by before I’m thinking about what I want.  Coffee, return that phone call, text my crush…. and the list goes on.  Every moment of every day, thinking and feeling into what I want.  Sometimes getting what I want, sometimes not.  Sometimes able to ask for it, sometimes, the desire smoldering inside.  Doing all of these human dances, with desire as my constant partner.

It’s got me thinking, this desire thing.

What is it? It seems like every big religion’s got the word on Desire.  Recognize this one? “And the woman saw that the tree was good to eat, and it was desirous for the eyes, and the tree was lovely to behold.”

buddha_stars1Buddha teaches that attachment to desire is the root of suffering: The second noble truth the origin of suffering:  Within the context of the four noble truths, suffering (dukha) is commonly explained as craving.

  • Craving for sensory pleasure
  • Craving for Union (togetherness)
  • Craving to not feel painful feelings (not aloneness)

 

 

 

 

ChinnamastaShakta Tantra (the Hindu variety which I practice) resolves the fundamental dilemma presented by being human and having desires and those desires causing suffering by directing human desires towards liberation rather than repressing them. This philosophy argues that trying to deny certain desires only empowers them further. Rather than repress potentially harmful impulses, Tantra tries to harness them in service of setting ourselves free.

Of course, Christianity gives a narrow container for the expression of limited desires, and seeks to control through fear and punishment all desires that fall outside that purview.

Pagans seem to welcome desire and pleasure, and don’t fret too much (maybe not enough) about the impact on our spiritual development.

In my admittedly very limited knowledge of Islam, it seeks to provide a code for the expression of human desires, seeking balance between wanting and fulfillment of wanting.

Judaism prescribes a law-filled code for the fulfillment of desire as well, that at least includes pleasure.

None of these ways of engaging desire really work for me.  They seem like how it could be, or should be, or an idea…. but not personal enough. My own experience of desire is so complex.  It is often glorious, often painful. My desire ignores codes, rejects shoulds, and is often the antithesis of what is culturally conditioned.  I wonder if this is not the experience of most of us?

Every person I have ever worked with or discussed sexuality with has expressed their desire in completely unique, and specific-unto-them terms.  The only common thread is the liminal, and ever-changing nature of desire, and its insatiable quality.

I want permission for my desire.  This process you are reading is about me giving myself permission, and hopefully giving you permission.  Imagine, all of us, simply wanting what we want.

I desire things that I am not supposed to desire.  I desire much that my socialization tells me are taboo, wrong, disempowered, disgusting, shameful, abhorrent, too far from common decency, too powerful, too violent.  I notice my desire like hunger.

Last week, I noticed the gnawing in my belly.  I tried to fill it with too much Halloween candy. I tried to fill it with socializing, with sex. I tried to fill it, and then I stopped.

Just noticing the hunger, noticing the emptiness, is so hard. It is so terribly hard to just sit with it.  My mind clamors: Try a beer. Try some cuddling.  Try a bath.  Soothe it, dissipate it, quiet it.  Somehow lessen the ravenous void of its immense gaping maw.

Wanting is terrifying.  It is the rawest, most bloody form of nakedness that I know.  Wanting without a tether, without something at the end of the desire, is what lies at the root of the hungers we try to feed through addictions.

This is what I want, right now.

I want her. I want her precious, big-eyed vulnerability.  I want her tenderest tears and fragility. Her badass intellect. Her heartbreak. Her need.  I want to make her come and cry, and then wipe her tears with my hair. I want her to want to give her orgasm to me. I want to cut her heart wide open, and take it from her chest, licking the dripping blood off of it (this is a metaphor.) Or maybe I just want her to text me.

I want him. I want his fierce submission. I want his most vroom vroom passionate passion to have room to express.   I want him to have the flexibility to turn his crazy erotic energy up and turn it down, at will.  I want to see him naked, dancing, feeling completely free within his bondage.  I want the intensity of his James Dean eyes turned on me, his unfettered desire throbbing and thrumming as he awaits my instructions for the afternoon. I want him to serve me lunch.

I want to build a container (a world)  in which you never again question if you are wanted or desirable.

I want to be able to name my desires freely.  (Ironically, while writing this a dear one emails me.  In that moment, I find I want him, too, and write and say so.  Naming my desire is terrifying.)

I want reassurance that my desires are not too big, too disturbed, too insatiable.   

I want to feel poignant, intense feeling. I want to not be separate, insecure, alone.  I want erotic community.  I want magick and synchronicity.  I want clean underwear.

I. want. to. be. taken. care. of.

There are other desires, things named and unnamed, that I will probably never do or have.  I name them (and ask you to know that there are others I am not naming here) because I don’t want to offer you a diluted version of the truth of my desire.  I don’t want to give you lukewarm permission to be fully, completely in your base human desire.  So here is what I also want: I want to sell my body, to make them pay for it. I want to tear and bite with my teeth, rip with my blade.  I want to hurt.  I want to humiliate and I want to worship. I want to lay my body down and open, prostrate myself in front of the Divine, and offer the service of my meager life.

And it never, ever completely goes away, no matter how close, how intimate, how much power exchange, how much energy, how many orgasms.  The wanting remains.

I feel so humbled by the power of my desire.  I have spent years trying to quiet it.  Trying to feed it.  I have this big, fat body to show for it, all my wanting.  While there are certain standbys for bringing comfort and offering temporary satiation, I find that even they are growing old and cold and less effective, as I get closer to being able to express the heart of my desire.

What I am learning about desire, as I give myself full permission to want what I want, is that it almost never is what I expect it to be.  It is continually surprising and an elegant mysterious process of uncovering what I want in each moment.

Internally, my experience of my desire is sweetly familiar and freshly distinctive and exceptional.  I notice I can’t breathe deeply.  The best I can do in that moment is to say, “Sitting here, next to you on this couch, touching your hair, I am feeling desire.”

Of course, the next logical question is “What is your desire?” and it is here the breakdown and the loss and the grief occur.

I can only express around the edges of my desire.  It is not because I am shy, or inarticulate, or unable to tell you because of shame or repression.  It is because when I try to put my desire into words, there is something essential I cannot capture.  Using words, I cannot put my yearning into pure form.  There is something lost in translation.  And no matter how close I get to expressing what I truly want, when you give it to me, there is always another translation gap which I also grieve.

So many different, intricate dances with desire.  What I’ve never done is just stay open to it.  What is on the other side of this yearning?  What is it to not know the answer? What is it to wait, hungrily waiting?  What is it to acknowledge that the want in me is the want of the very universe, exploding itself into being?  What is it to allow feeling that power, to feel the hunger that will never, no matter what, stop?  And even as I contemplate, and practice, just sitting with the wanting, there is that within me that wants to want.

You ask me what I want.

But my dear, although I can never tell you, of course I want you. And I want you to want to be wanted by me.  I can’t tell you in words.   But my eyes, my eyes can tell you.  My eyes can tell you, without losing the pure raw brutal power of my lusting want, my aching need, my unadulterated desire.  I want you. Just look in my eyes.

Tell me what you Desire. 

To Know My Desire…

Working definition of Desire: The foundational current of energy in the body from which all acts of will and creation initiate.

Desire creates Life

So why bother? Why struggle to understand desire, to know its workings, to attempt to re-ignite it? Why fucking bother?

Well, what would life be like without Desire?  And I’m not talking only about sexual desire.  The sexuo-creative-lifeforce-Chi~prana-hungeryearning is what I’m naming.  It’s the flow of energy that moves through the body, inspires action and growth.  Without the flow of desire moving through the body like a river current, the internal space stagnates, becomes rigid and cement-like, and movement and growth are both impaired.

Who do you know who has tried for years to stifle and repress their Desire? And how did that work out for them?  Not so great, yah? Most likely, they are bitter or brittle, inflexible and stony.  And as much as they try to control it, the hunger leaks around the edges, yes? Desire repressed takes enormous energy to contain.

The essence of desire depends upon its movement and flow, so we are a conduit, not a container.  We can learn to hold desire as a river moving through its banks. Our bodies are the banks and edges.  Desire is the flowing water that erodes and changes us.  Indeed, set free desire has its way with us.  Dammed it does no one any good.  Let the waters run free again.

The River of Desire

Desire sources from our yearning to remember who we are and our purpose.   The very moment we allow the flow of desire to move through us unhindered is when our lives become the appropriate size for us. 

It is through our breath we come to know our Desire.  We quiet inside, and start to notice the gentle tugs on our attention that come through our senses.  I wrote yesterday of how our Desire is subjugated and we are force-fed the Desires the capitalist world would have us have.  Learning to reconnect with our own authentic desire that is less flashy than superbowl ads is challenging.

Can you feel it? Can you feel the yearning you have inside towards healing, towards wholeness, towards union, towards cooperation? Towards the Divine as you know it? Sometimes the pull is so quiet, so subtle.  So we practice.  We practice paying attention to Desire.  We practice noticing the places it is noticeable already in our lives.  We deliberately cultivate our relationship with Desire.  Most importantly, we give ourselves permission to feel Desire.

This is where Desire is fraught with challenge.  What happens if our Desire is not met, cannot be met?  What happens if we must sit with this intolerable yearning forever?  What happens if we desire something that the person whose job it is to meet our desire (a.k.a. our partner) can’t or won’t?  And also, what happens if we actually get what we say is our desire, and the hunger doesn’t abate? What about that gap between my internal experience of desire, what I am able to communicate in words, and whatever shows up to meet that desire? How about the grief I feel when I get almost the right thing, but it’s never quite it? It doesn’t stop the reoccurrence of desire?  Oh, complicated indeed.

Better, perhaps, to not give full permission to feel the desire, judging by all of the complexities that occur when I feel it.  But then, we’re right back to that repression, and blocking the flow of my want, my craving, even though it’s still there.  I asked you two weeks ago, and I ask you now.  Just for a moment today, can you let yourself be pulled by the sweet tug of your Desire?  Can you feed it one long, lovely breath? And what happens next? Yeah, you know I want you to comment.  And if you didn’t check out the Desire Worksheet I created, try it out and let me know what you think.

Stay tuned for more about Desire, libido, and lust.

So tell me what you want, what you really really want? Relearning Authentic Desire.

Most of us have an incredibly complex relationship with Desire.  

We come into this world as hedonists; pleasure- and comfort-seeking, pain- and discomfort-averse.  Soon, however, our education in overriding and subjugating our desires begins.  As toddlers, we get the lesson that just because we want that twenty-foot blue gorilla doesn’t mean we get it.  And if you’ve ever been around a two-year old as they are learning this hard lesson, they are pretty pissed off about it and really want you to know.   “I want what I want when I want it” could be their mantra.  A trip to the grocery store with the under-ten crowd is a solid reminder that children are completely aware of their desires and aversions.

Mommy! I want it!!

With further socialization, us human-types realize that the attention we receive when kicking and screaming maybe not the attention we’d like to get.  We learn to accept not getting what we want all the time.  We’re taught to ignore basic body desires like peeing or hungry, instead synchronizing our desires with the correct time for those on the elementary classroom clock.  Mid-morning bathroom break for all kindergarteners: this is when you have to pee.  12:30 Lunch time for the fifth grade: be hungry now.  Tick. Tick. Tick.

This body training begins the process of moving us away from our authentic desire.  Ironically (or not,) as we start to move away from our organic desire, the $255 billion ad industry begins to feed us a steady diet of easily fulfilled-through-three-low-payments-of-$19.99 desire.  Our desires are policed not only by what we are taught as socially sanctioned behavior, and adherence to a timetable and our parents’ control, but also by a mega-industry that exists for the sole purpose of making us hungry, of creating false desire within us.  We are offered a devil’s deal: quick, constant and cheap fulfillment of desire in exchange for real, (and perhaps delayed) deeply satsifying satiation.

Example #1: In order to fulfill our desire for human touch, we can trade the felicitous (yet inconstant and ephemeral) satiation of a parent’s hug  for the ever-present satisfying touch of a teddy bear, featuring a recorded echo of our absent mother’s heartbeat.

Example #2: We have an innate desire to explore the natural world.  Hunger to witness the wonder of the starry night sky and full moon is fulfilled not with a camping trip outdoors, but with Uncle Milton’s “Stars in My Room.”  Companies like Baby Einstein and LeapFrog Learning capitalize on exposing children to natural patterns and rhythms that were once learned outside.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, average children view 40,000 ads each year.  That’s a whole lotta being told what you want!  Is it surprising that we find it so hard to access our authentic Desire, when we’ve been force-fed our own desire for years??

Relearning authentic desire is a process.  My deep belief is that we do know what we really want and need, but must remember and relearn listening deeply for the truest voice of our Desire. 

Tomorrow I’ll be writing more about finding authentic desire within, and how to regain the absolute knowing we had as babies.  Until then, check out this worksheet on Finding your Desire http://www.emancipating-sexuality.com/resources.html that I created this morning.  Yeah, I’m a teacher, here’s your homo-work.  Let me know what you think in the comments below.

Let the sweet pull of your Desire…

No top ten lists.  No more helpful hints to drive your wo/man wild.  No superficial engagement with your sensual nature.

Today, just today, let the quiet tug of your Desire sway your course.

Notice the body’s subtle hunger for smell, texture, color.  And….Follow.

Can you remember how it is let your nose lead, your fingers, or your tongue?  

Can you give yourself permission to be drawn by beauty?

Desiring color and texture

The very moment we allow the flow of desire to move through us unhindered, our lives become the appropriate size for us.

If you want more Desire in your life, practice desire.  Just now, this beautiful October day, what happens if you let desire have its way with you for one small moment?  

 

What do you need for Intimacy?

I’ve been compiling a list of intimacy skills.  You know, all that stuff we learned in human sexuality class in school.  Yeah, right.  Anyway, what do you think?

Skills for Intimacy

  • Speak truth (gently and frankly.)
  • Know my desire (and be able to ask for what I want, even if you can’t give it to me.)
  • Listen compassionately (without being dismissive, moving to fix it or offering advice.)
  • Be responsible for my own emotional landscape (discerning what is mine, what is yours.)
  • Hold an open heart (work at it, know when it’s closed, breathe into it daily so it stays connected and available to you.)
  • Vulnerability (without expecting it to be reciprocated and without expectation that you will fix, save or rescue me.)
  • Boundaries (having good ones and maintaining them, as well as honoring yours.)
  • Energy (me noticing mine, and having some internal regulation and accountability about what I project.)
  • Saying yes to your desire (more often than not.)
  • Receptivity (being able to actually receive love, touch, care.)
  • Gratitude (being thankful for all the joy, support, as well as work.  Being grateful that you are such a good mirror for me.)
  • Awareness of differing needs (my needs are different than yours, and both are valid.)
  • Trust  (you care deeply about me and my best interests. You will tend your boundaries.  You will honor mine. Assuming good intent, even when I don’t understand your actions.)
  • Risk-taking (trust and vulnerability are required.  I have to let you have the ability to hurt me, and trust that you’ll try not to. Allowing you to see my shadow.)
  • Ability to let go of my story and of being “right” (and acknowledge that your story is true for you. This included forgiveness when you fuck up.)
  • Ability to hold space for your feelings. (No greater gift I can give you.)
  • Acknowledging when I fuck up. (Having empathy for the pain I inadvertently cause you.)
  • Cooperative, not competitive engagement with each other.  (I can depend on your care, support and well-wishes for my life.)
  • Generosity (well wishing for your life, being able to back-burner my own stuff when yours is more pressing, being available to make your life more wonderful.)

My dear H.R. Bremner ,(another fabulous somatic sex coach) and I are exploring these skills together.  We will be teaching “On Fire with Desire” on October 4.  Register here.  Getting in touch with, naming, asking for and receiving your deep desires are all skills we will work on!

Any glaring intimacy skills not on this list?  What level is your skill set at?