8.1
Winner
November 12, 2021

Bare, Brave & Beautiful: What Love Does with Us.

I seem to be melting and glowing.

My massage therapist moves her skilled fingers across the place that gets tender on the back of my heart.

I wince and tears start to flow.

Tears, yes, but also a smile that lights me from head to toe and everywhere in between.

This seems to be happening quite a bit for me lately. My defenses are dissolving. I have no need for them. And yet, it feels strange. They have been there for so long I’m not entirely sure who I will be, and how I will move through the world without them.

Tears, smiles, and shudders of pleasure. This isn’t grief. It’s joy and relief that I am feeling.

It was amidst a flood of tears and beyond sweet confessions that I, not so suddenly, yet recently, find myself in a relationship. Legs wrapped around his waist, my joy and relief saturating his shirt, he asked, “Do you feel safe with me?”

I do and I want to offer him safety, too.

Sex with this man is stellar. From the first night we slipped between the sheets together, our bodies have craved each other and more than that. If it were just sex, I’d have been bored long ago. No. It’s the way we talk with each other. It’s the honesty, the awkward, the infinitely tender. It’s the way we feed each other, the way we have danced, moving closer then retreating. And now, it’s in the claiming of each other.

Maybe if we are honest, what we all want more than anything is to be truly seen by another human—to be genuinely naked and not only with our flesh, but to the bone.

My bones hum. They sing primal songs that only I can hear, guiding and nudging my every move, every swing of my hip. This song influences the way I see and hear the world, the things and people I yearn to touch. It pulses through my lovemaking as well as my writing.

As I lay on the massage table sobbing—my body shedding yet another layer of armor that I have no desire to wear any longer—a wave of fear washed through my system.

“What if—without this edge that has defined me for most of my remembered life—I won’t be able to write anymore?”

I have written through grief, through heartbreak, through disappointment, through outrage, through fear, and through hope. I have written about pain and trauma, about claiming myself as a wild-hearted woman. I have written about attachment and anxiety, addiction and abuse.

I have not yet written about love and I don’t know how.

I don’t know how to genuinely write about love anymore than I know how to live in it except breath by breath, moment by moment, hour into hours extending into days, weeks, years and hopefully forever. A forever love. Now wouldn’t that be something?

I hope this is my forever. And I hold that hope lightly. It scares me to say that, to write about it. I think I had given up on the idea or maybe I still held it like some distant dream. Sometimes waking up is even better than dreaming.

It is one thing to cultivate love in ourselves; it is something else entirely to share it with another.

We must share love or it withers and does not grow. Love is a shared state, reciprocal entwining, nurturing—devoted. Love is the ultimate balm and, simultaneously, holds within its scope total terror. What if it goes away and we are left as we were? We cannot be left as we were, and we cannot, actually, be left by love. We are changed in love and love changes us. And yes, that too, is scary.

I shook and cried as I lay on the massage table, energy pouring out of my body, not unlike I had recently done in my lover’s arms, gushing all over him and his sheets. Letting people see us, touch us, heal us, and love us can leave us shaking but it is also wildly freeing and deeply rewarding.

Life is orgasmic, or at least it can be. Pleasure is a pervasive possibility when we serve presence at the table—when we feast on it, fill our cups from its well and tend to our well-being alone and together.

With all the dress up, dress down, keep your masks on, and don’t let anyone know what you think, feel, need, or want, no wonder there is a deficit of intimacy. No, intimacy is not just about sex, but we most certainly hope that it will include it.

Intimacy is communication—clothed or naked.

There is a myth that is a sort of social virus that women do not like, or want, sex as much as men. However, rejection can come from either direction and it is equally as painful.

When it comes to sex, women are supposed to withhold, wait—keep themselves pure. We are conditioned to dole it out as reward for when we have gotten what we want from a man and to keep it under lock and key until he has delivered. Men, on the other hand, are supposed to pursue and conquer.

Using sex as reward or withholding sex as punishment disconnects us from our bodies and from desire. It also perpetuates objectification. It turns us into means to ends instead of ends, ourselves. It takes what can be raw, heartfelt experiences and creates agendas to be fulfilled.

Objectification is the antithesis of intimacy and nobody wants to be treated like a thing.

It’s no mystery to me why, especially when it comes to our bodies, women are defensive. As someone who has a long history of abuse and heartbreak, it has taken a long time for me to fully claim my body. And though abuse seems more commonly to happen among women, men experience it, too.

It’s not only the feminine body that is receptive; it’s human flesh and wild, sweet souls. We are tender beings and if we are brave enough to not have succumbed to the numb—full of feeling. An attentive woman knows this about her man. She knows that in the same way that he may physically be penetrating her, she, too, is a penetrative force to his psyche.

Presence, more than anything else, makes for great sex but more than that—a wholehearted life. Attentiveness, if not devotion, is the cornerstone of intimacy. If we are not present with ourselves and our partners, everyone misses out.

There is no love without safety. There is no intimacy without safety. In love, this is a shared responsibility but more than that—an honor.

Finally, fully, in all the ways I have yearned for longer than I can remember, I feel safe.

And I am sweetly, sanely, and happily in love.

~

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