The day I stopped having sex came a long time after my marriage ended.
To be exact, it was five years later and well into a string of worsening relationships. Before that day, I’d given abstinence a try (hypothetically speaking of course.)
At the beginning of the day, I would make it a goal to keep my legs closed and my clothes on. Then, when the moon rose, the music stopped and I had a last sip of whisky, timely phone calls would usually rescue me from going home to my own four walls. I would lose my will and often my panties.
After my last break-up and before my final relapse into steady one night stands, I had a moment of clarity. I ran into a free soul, a kindred spirit, and a traveler of the world who made my skin tingle from head to toe with just one touch.
He was beautiful, just as I remembered from years before: a blond ex-airman of sun kissed cheeks, lean and muscular from years of work and always with the most radiant smile. His eyes shone of wonders without boundaries, wonders that we explored. He asked nothing but to look into my eyes and see my soul. He saw and loved all of me, entirely, for the nights and times we shared.
It was with him that I realized there could be a connection to another that extended beyond the body’s pleasure with sex. In his open arms, I found I still had the ability to feel intensely, and that love does not need to be limited by requirements. And yet, he wasn’t my destination and I wasn’t his.
So I let go of him thinking I was ready for dating. He kissed me goodbye softly and kindly. We wished each other happiness in every way. I left flattered, without ego or jealousy and the space was opened again, for me to try to find my way, to trust the world. He knocked on the door of my heart and opened my universe a little more.
Soon after, I relapsed into the comfort of sleeping around. Once again it became routine practice to spend time in two or more different beds in the course of the week. Like it is common with any other addiction, I fell off the wagon a couple of times before I had even climbed onto it. I let myself be lured by the want of forgetting.
Until one Tuesday morning.
That morning reminds me of a scene out of Forrest Gump. Forrest runs and runs and suddenly halts without warning and walks away. The only difference between him and I is that I had to put my clothes on before I could walk away.
I awoke and let myself out of his house, gym bag in tow. I tied my shoes in the car, ready to go for a run at 5 a.m. and catch the sunrise from the top of a hill before I went to work. All of it was routine.
Except I liked him. I liked this particular someone because when I met him he asked if he was taking me to my house or his. He didn’t assume. I liked him more because he always had a well-stocked bar. He was a gentle man, the kind of man who held my hand the morning after that first night. He’s the kind of man who never took the covers when I stole them in my sleep even though I did it every time. I liked him best because he held me like he meant the embrace only for me. He touched me like we were lovers of old, partners who had promised each other more than nothing and who shared a long history written in skin and heart. He was uncorrupted, newly alone. I wanted to dream of love, but not to live love.
Altough in a different version of the world, or with different timing, perhaps we could have been more, he didn’t love me and I didn’t love him. Here, in this version of life we had clear and defined roles. Our boundaries only blurred themselves during the long nights of caresses, kisses and moans, before we gave fantasies time to exist and before we drifted into sleep.
That’s the intimacy that began to wake me up. It almost fit something. I was startled.
That last morning, I left with the end of the night and him soundly sleeping. As I drove away, I saw my emptiness came with me, heavier and more traveled than my gym bag. Right away she screamed that she wouldn’t go away anymore. She ranted on that while I slept in his bed, she’d grown stronger. I shushed her and for once, didn’t push her away. I nodded in agreement. Instead of real the intimacy felt rented now.
I glanced back, knowing I wouldn’t return.
That walkout, on a Tuesday morning before the sun rose on my regularly scheduled indiscretion, was the one that stuck. This time, I managed to stop the franticness and give my body time to breathe, and my brain a chance to accept this single reality.
Finally, I really paused.
The difference between failed attempts from before and now, was that the awareness of my longing was accompanied by the idea that the giving of my body, my time, and parts of my soul without due care was waste. I understood it only then because I had reached a point of full emptiness. Neither random embraces, nor common desires filled my empty. The fantasy didn’t cut it anymore. There was no higher dose. No more places to hide.
Suddenly, like an old skin, I shed them all: the depressed alcoholic; the guy who stared at porn while having sex with (himself, really) me, but was delightful to look at; the one who still lived with his mother, where I snuck in and out; the one with scary red flags for the kinds of abuse I had come to know well in my previous life, and also, my gentle musician.
I was alone.
The day I stepped off the sex train, even if a few stops too late, I reclaimed myself again. I began to fill the space, but this time, I took the gym bag and stuffed it with my emptiness. When I felt her crawl out, I ran faster, or longer, or with more determination.
I went to yoga.
Often, through it all, the fight went on inside.
I don’t regret the claim I vehemently made to my sexuality up until that Tuesday morning in July. I pleasured, and was pleasured with abandon and presence. I learned of fires and desires, of people’s quirks, of passionate kisses that seemed to have been bestowed that first time like it was the thousandth time, and of lust. I know what most men like and do in bed. I am more than comfortable in my own skin. I love that goddess part of me and the feminism it exudes. Finally, I know of boring, mechanical intercourse from when I encountered others who like me, have had a little too much.
Nowadays, I wait for my next journey and dwell in the company of friends and laughter. I go home and sit in bed. I sit with my empty and I find the stillness in my loneliness. No more escapes, no more avoidance. I think of my path and instead of burying the pain I aim to “be the person I want to fall in love with.”
Sometimes, when the moon rises and the music stops, I cry. Sometimes I pour myself a whisky and write. Above all, I do not forget that I am still working on staring back at my nakedness without anyone else covering it up. I am giving myself to me, for now. I’d lie if I say I don’t ever think of the one I haven’t met, yet; but at least now I also believe in that possibility again. I know I must love me or I can end where I began: letting the emptiness lead me to pick the wrong someone, again. I don’t have any more time for waste.
One day, when the clothes come off next, I hope to tremble with full rumbling emotions. I will awaken my goddess for someone who matters for who they are to me and who I am to them, in more than skin and bones. I hope to be, after the battle, a better version of who I am today. I know I already am a little more aware than yesterday.
If you’re struggling with something similar, always remember this:
I invite you to acknowledge your obstacles.
“Acknowledging that we are all churned up is the first and most difficult step in any practice.”
~ Pema Chodron, The Places that Scare You
“It’s a transformative experience to simply pause instead of immediately fill up the space.”
~ Pema Chodron, When Things Fall Apart
Rekindle the flame in your heart.
“When you begin to touch your heart or let your heart be touched, you begin to discover that its bottomless, that it doesn’t have any resolution, that this heart is huge, vast and limitless.” ~ Pema Chodron
Become your own hero.
“Every single obstacle prepares you for the battle. Then, after you’ve shed your fear something incredible happens: You become the hero.” ~ Elizabeth Gilbert
“Remember that interrupting our destructive habits and awakening our heart is the work of a lifetime.” ~ Pema Chodron, The Places that Scare You
Author: Marcy Valle
Editor: Travis May
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