My friend Pamela Madsen, who is a sex educator, workshop facilitator, pleasure queen and author of Shameless: How I Ditched the Diet, Got Naked, Found True Pleasure…and Somehow Got Home in Time To Cook Dinner posed a thought-provoking set of questions on Facebook today.
“I had a friend say something very interesting to me yesterday. She said if you are happy with so little, it makes me want to give you less. I wonder about that. So many of us want to believe that we can be happy living with less in our lives. But does that include love and attention? In our hunger to be in relationship do we shrink our needs down to whatever is being offered? Is that like shrinking your stomach? Do you really want to shrink your heart or your sexuality? Is that truly satisfying? Or do you want to suck bones?”
My immediate response was:
“That is a strange paradox since when people demand less and are grateful for what they have, I want to give more. AND I have found it challenging to ask for what I truly want and instead, at times, ask for what I think the other person will say yes to, so there are moments when I do shrink in proportion to what I think is available.”
I consider myself a generous giver and those in my life would validate that perception. I’m usually available with a listening ear, loving touch, insights, healing, a treat or a hug. I call myself a “Cosmic Concierge” with a rolodex brain that I whirl through to come up with resources for whatever need arises. On the flip side, I sometimes have a great deal of difficulty receiving. It is an issue I have tussled with for many years as if it is an opponent in a rainbow Jell-o wrestling match. The wrestling ring is kind of fun and squishy, not a hard surface and no ropes to bounce off of but it does get exhausting after awhile and kind of messy and sticky. When I am unable to receive, it is as if my non-stick Teflon shield is up and the love, support, affection, attention, gifts and compliments slide off. I would do better to be a love sponge and soak up all of those things, in part, so I can wring it back out on others, but first, I need to absorb the nutrients myself.
Over the years, I have attracted generous friends and lovers who have invited me to be in receptivity mode and some who have quite insisted. One in particular who could tell when I had a challenging day would entice me with a belly rub. Not just for dogs and cats; people find the circular motion of hand on tummy to be soothing and purr-inducing. I have had many people in my life over the years who are ‘pleasure ho’s’ who have beckoned me with a wink and come hither and I endeavor to join that throng. I talk a good game about not having guilty pleasures and even teach about the importance of indulging in full sensory life experiences. Clearly, we teach what we need to learn.
What holds me back? It isn’t as overt as feeling like I don’t deserve it if is offered. What it comes down to is the belief I hold onto that holds on to me that if I ask, I might hear an answer I don’t want. In 2006, I became a certified facilitator of Cuddle Party which is a 3-1/2 hour communication, boundary-setting, safe, nurturing, non-sexual touch and relationship workshop. A mouthful way of describing something that needs to be experienced to be fully understood. Some of the rules that set the safe container for the event are about saying yes if you are a yes and saying no if you are a no to ANYTHING in your life, not just about touch. You are also encouraged to change your mind. Such a challenging set up for this Libra who has wanted to keep the peace by giving people what they want and even anticipating in advance what that could possibly be.
One of the examples we use is that of being a little kid on a brand new red tricycle who is riding around the neighborhood. She sees a friend on the corner and asks if that person wants to jump on board. The friend shakes his head and declines, so she says “OK” and keeps on pedaling until she spots another friend, makes the same offer and receives the same response. This continues and she is having so much fun that she really doesn’t care if she is riding solo. She doesn’t make it mean anything that her friends are turning down the ride; she doesn’t feel like they are turning her down. Sometimes people see that you are having such a good time that they want to ride with you. They do it for awhile and then, what if they want to get off of the tricycle and you don’t want them to? (Said with a pout.)
And what if you want them off and they don’t wanna? You get the point, I’m sure. I have been in all three positions… riding solo, having company and then back to being a lone rider and doing all the pedaling when someone won’t do their share or get the heck off.
Even after seven years of teaching these concepts, I still often stay just on the shoreline, so that the waves lap at my scarlet-pedicured toenails and I’m not too terribly risk-taking. If I don’t stand in line to be chosen for the team, I can’t possibly be the last one chosen. BUT if I don’t stand in line to be chosen, then I miss out on playing what could be a really fun game. More often lately, I am stepping up and asking for what I want, rather than waiting quietly to see if someone will offer. I am always at choice. I crave the juice at the bottom of the glass, so I slurp it up with the Silly Straw that is swimming in it. My heart may zip about a bit in anticipation, but usually, I receive what I request and if not in the form I desire, something equally or even more heart and soul satisfying shows up.
In conversation with Pamela recently, we were exploring this paradigm and she asked some thought-provoking questions, among them “What is in the way?” “What are my expectations around reciprocity in relationships?” She reminded me that if we are going to ask the important questions, we need to be prepared to receive answers that we may not want to hear. Nothing new for me. She asked what I was willing to risk by facing the scary stuff. Sure, I could stay at the plateau where I am right now or I could climb higher. For so long, I sleep walked through life, being laissez-faire; content to settle for less than what I deserved and desired. Not any longer content to do that, I am reaching, stretching, growing beyond those self-imposed limitations that I created in the service of pseudo-safety. I am willing to risk discomfort and being in the ‘in betwixt and between just don’t know’ stage until what needs to be revealed makes its entrance onto my life stage.
It is then that I remember the quote by Anais Nin: “Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one’s courage.” On this day, I am claiming my courage. I am eager to discover the life stretching opportunities that await!
This post was previously published on Huffpost.com.
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