The love letter mirror

Love-LettersAll the world is a mirror for me. Whatever I see and react to mirrors something in my internal universe.

When I respond positively to something, I am seeing something that stimulates my internal universe in a positive way.

When I respond negatively to something, I am seeing something that does not fit into how I think the universe should be.

Despite the fact that I can make split-second decisions on what I like or dislike, it’s actually an amazingly complex procedure to describe.

For example, what do you think of Miley Cyrus? Rush Limbaugh? Barack Obama? Sarah Palin? No matter where you go in your thoughts with any of these people, you’re making all your judgments based on your internal universe and the data you have fed into it. Unless you know these people personally and intimately, you are getting all your data through filtered, mostly opinionated sources. You may make snap judgments on them without even thinking. It doesn’t matter whether they are heroic or demonic to you.

THEN THERE ARE LOVERS

In a more subtle way, my relationships with lovers over the years works similarly. What I see and experience in the external world is a reflection of my internal world.

Every time I interact with someone, I see mirror images of myself through that other person. This also includes all the people real or imagined who stimulate thoughts about love and sex. It could be the stranger across the room who doesn’t even see me or know me. It could be a fictional character in a novel or movie. All of the stimulation, good or bad, is really occurring inside my brain because that’s where everything gets interpreted.

So let’s say that I am gawking at somebody I find uber attractive. Really gawking. Thoroughly entranced with that person’s presence.

We are conditioned to think that it’s that other person who is so fabulously gorgeous (or whatever other quality you want to assign.) We are conditioned to think that the other person, by being so gorgeous, has power over us, as when we are bewitched, bothered, and bewildered. Many of us are conditioned to seek the approval of the people we see as gorgeous (or similarly attractive quality.) Our ultimate prize is to have them think we’re great.

THE BIG MIRROR

But here’s the thing: it’s not really that person! That person is holding up a psychological mirror for me. It’s me! It’s my brain chemistry. It’s my mental filtering system. It’s all subjective, and in that sense, it’s all imaginary.

Of course, our romantic traditions don’t conceive or portray it that way. Most depictions of romance show men and women swooning over someone. “You drive me crazy,” we’re conditioned to think. “You are so gorgeous!” “You make me feel so good.” Yadda, yadda, yadda.

This phenomenon has become more intriguing to me as I age and can reflect on my life experience. I see more and more of my existence as symbolic interaction. Visions I pick up outside of me, whether a photo, movie, or something else my eyes see, stimulates an inner part of my psyche. Much of the time it has nothing to do with the actual person and everything to do with my internal life.

LOVE LETTERS TO MYSELF

The act of writing a love letter is usually thought of as an attempt to woo, persuade, enchant or in some other way influence another person. Many people write love letters out of the hope that they will get something back, be it adoration, a sensual reward, praise, or “winning” someone’s heart.

Yet apart from all that is the reality that in writing a love letter, the writer is primarily playing with his or her own inner universe. The writer is playing with symbolic interaction and conditioning. It’s often an ego thing. We sing the praises of someone outside of ourselves, having decided that winning that person’s heart or gaining that person’s approval would boost our life, our esteem, even our status.

WHY IS THIS IMPORTANT?

Have you ever been in love and lost? Have you ever felt that your life was ruined because someone you adore doesn’t feel the same way about you? Have you ever felt really lousy because you feel empty and alone? Have you ever spent your life in what seems like an endless quest to win someone’s approval?

I’ve been through all these situations. They and many more could be soothed quite dramatically if I just stepped back from the drama and realized that most of it was coming from my own head. It’s coming from my own programming and conditioning. The best way to get my power back when I am feeling way out of balance is to remember how much of my reality I am creating.

Emotions charge like speeding locomotives. It’s like a trance. So when I feel myself swept away in a strong surge of negative emotion, I intervene with my intellect. I’ll say to myself something like, “OK, what’s going on here? Why am I so creeped out/pissed off/dejected and lonely?” When I slow down enough from the emotional flood to think clearly, I will recognize it as a story I am telling myself.

It is said that the outside world mirrors our inside world. If we tell ourselves stories, the external world will attempt to conform to that story. We see what we expect to see. That’s why if we expect to be hurt or betrayed, our external world will bend to help make that happen. Then we can say, “I knew I’d be hurt.”

SYMBOLIC INTERACTION?

If we expect to be hurt, for example, everything we see will appear to be evidence supporting the premise. Everything external will have a symbolic meaning inside.

Jealous lovers often look to their partner’s words, deeds, and activities to see signs of wrong-doing. They’ll look for the slightest reason to blame their lover for being flirtatious or inattentive. The last thing they will do is blame themselves for creating the reality they fear and acknowledge that their suspicious nature colors their every thought.

No, this does not mean that if someone cheats on you, you caused it. But it is to say that we have more control over our reality than we are led to believe. People seem to be much happier when they look to what’s good and right in their lives. Feeling grateful for what you like is the best way to invite more of the same.

LOVE LETTERS TO PHOTOS

I like to play with my internal world. Sometimes I will see a photo of someone and I will become such an emotional softy from it that I want to write that person a mushy love letter. I may know the person but these days usually not. The love letter I want to write is based on the feelings and fantasies the photo brings up for me. The process of writing is my way of playing with those feelings. I am not attempting to make anything happen in real life outside of basking in the creative joy of letter writing.

It is also wonderful to know that when I do write love letters to people in photos, I am writing to an internal part of me that is reflected in the vision. It’s no different than if I were to write a love letter to a photo of a beautiful cloudscape or water scene. Hey, that’s a pretty good idea.

Dear Beautiful Cloud …

Martin Manley checks in then checks out

Martin Manley at 44

Martin Manley at 44

I didn’t know Martin Manley until after he’d died. Never heard of him when he was alive.

On August 16 I read in a Facebook group about a guy in Kansas who’d taken his life and left behind what amounted to a huge suicide note in the form of a website. Apparently he had been experiencing some serious memory issues and in looking at his future decided that he would rather end his life on his 60th birthday than degenerate. He chose to get out while the gettin’ out was good.

In his website he meticulously outlined his decision-making process about selecting his end game. It’s a fascinating read, not for any sensational reason, but because in it he discusses at length a topic that rarely gets discussed at all, which is controlling our own destiny about death. Can someone choose when to die?

As I was reading it I wondered why Martin had to present his story as he did — sneaking it onto the web just before he pulled the trigger. It meant, of course, that he deliberated his destiny alone. (I read that he’d worked on his site for a year before going live with it.) Why couldn’t he gather with a few folks in a  church or support group and discuss his thought process about ending his life?

The answer I came up with is that some well-meaning but in my opinion misguided person would have had him committed as a suicide risk. Then he likely would have been drugged. We’re not allowed to discuss topics like this — seriously contemplating our suicide — without someone judging us as already looney tunes.

I’m definitely not advocating suicide, and Martin wasn’t either, even though he took that route. However, I think we should be much more free about discussing life-and-death issues. Ultimately, conversations about suicide segue into a plethora of quality of life issues. For Martin, part of his apparently strong desire to die now was that he had no trust in or respect for the health care industry for seniors. He felt too alone and too vulnerable, as I read it. The frank discussion of his fears opens up many issues about how we mistreat and demoralize people through some of our social paradigms.

COME ONE, COME ALL

A friend of mine is in her early 60s and her husband is in his early 80s. She sometimes fantasizes about life without him and life for herself when she reaches his age. A few months ago we discussed whether or not society would ever become more supportive of voluntary choose-your-death options. She made the point that the Baby Boomers are entering retirement and by sheer numbers could eventually overwhelm the resources of the medical establishment.

Despite some well-entrenched social ideas — suicide is a ticket to hell, modern medicine creates miracle cures (despite the crippling costs it charges), life is precious and should be prolonged no matter what — my friend believes that bunches of people won’t want to tough it out in a lifestyle where they’re glued to walkers or bed or medical machinery.

Living into old age no matter what may not be some people’s idea of time well spent. This is especially true for those who have no family left or who don’t have a support community. The burden on society will be unprecedented. She believes that this situation may fuel a new look at end-of-life options, but that’s years off.

IRONIES

Way back in my twenties I had two ideas for works of literature. The first is eerily like Martin Manley’s website. I wanted to write a novel in which my main character explained his frustrations with a world devoted to hate, war-mongering, materialism, and highly conditional love. It would ultimately be a suicide note in book form. This was during a phase of my young writer’s life when I still felt — as do so many artists today — that we eventually get to what’s right by exposing all that’s wrong, often to the point of overkill. It was also before I understood that what I wrote affected my mood and outlook on life!

The other idea was a novel called Suicylum System. It was about a radical psychologist who created an assisted-suicide facility. They would guarantee to help put someone into a gentle death, but before that happened, the clients were required to participate in a support group program. During that time they were treated to unusual high amounts of pleasure of all kinds, a process intended to re-shape their outlook on life and change their minds about aborting their lives. For me this stemmed from my belief that many people who are suicidal do not fully know their options and would benefit from a radical shift of thinking.

Suicylum System was a positive telling of the book-length suicide note project. In the latter case, society was stepping up to the plate to deal with social unrest in a positive way.

LIFE (AND DEATH) CHOICES

I am exposed to many culturally unusual sources of input. For example, I like to attend local IANDS meetings where people gather who have had or who are interested in learning about near-death experiences. A ubiquitous belief among these people is that death is only physical. Consciousness is eternal. Our body dies, and we go on. Mainstream science has not pursued very seriously if this is true or not. Yet if it were ever proven so be so, I believe that it would have a profound impact on our cultural beliefs about choosing when to die.

As it is now, suicide is something like those back room abortions from decades ago. You cannot check into a clinic and have a nice death. If you want to leave physical life, you have to find another way to do it, which is usually illegal and often messy. If we had a clear scientific idea that consciousness survived death, would we be more willing to let people go peacefully instead of how Martin went?

Among some of the books and speakers I have heard on after-death communication, there appears to be an emerging view that suicide is not universally or necessarily the fast pass ticket to hell as it is often portrayed. Circumstances vary widely, of course. Those who intent to inflict pain on those they leave behind (from suicide bombers to suicidal revenge) or to escape a life catastrophe they created (like the warden in Shawshank Redemption) fare worse than those who have health issues like depression, mental illness, or terminal diseases.

Spirits (as channeled through mediums) appear to have a much different perspective on suicide than flesh humans do. Even those who took their (physical) lives say that. For example, a spirit might witness a human “take their own life” in a manner that may not legally be considered suicide here, like through alcohol, drugs, smoking, malnutrition, ignoring physical health issues, voluntary violence, etc.

Meanwhile, an interesting possibility that some mystics discuss is a woo-woo form of life-termination. Here people through meditation could voluntarily separate from their bodies while in trance. While this may strike the rational mind as spiritual tall tale fodder, it does still bring up the philosophical question about if it could be done, would it legally be suicide?

I may have missed it, but I did not see any mention from Martin that he considered the possibility that he might have blown himself into another dimension — that he could kill his body but he couldn’t kill his consciousness.

FALLOUT

The response to Martin Manley’s end-of-life scenario, especially as expressed in various comments printed along with articles and blog posts, struck me as judgmental and short-sighted. Words like selfish, narcissistic, vile appeared frequently. People seemed to get juice out of ridiculing or condemning him.

Others judged him as not truly Christan. A “true Christian,” the logic goes, would trust more in God/Jesus to fix a life gone sour. A true Christian would not insult the deities by trashing life via suicide. What I saw in many posts was the sentiment, “I’m not going to be a bad ass like him because my faith in Jesus makes me superior.”

Others lamented what a sad, lonely man he must have been, often tacking on their own posthumous advice on what he should have done to wake up from his moral demise. I was saddened by the lack of compassion offered him in so many venues.

YAHOO CONTROVERSY

Martin Manley apparently contracted with Yahoo to have his site up for 5 years, the maximum a person could buy ahead. The day after Martin took his life and the day after his site went live, Yahoo apparently pulled the plug saying that it violated their terms of service, with no other details provided. By then, other mirror sites had been set up by other parties so the site has a life (and more publicity from some people’s disgust with Yahoo.)

Some people have applauded Yahoo’s decision to kill the site. They considered Manley a narcissist and felt that the site might encourage copycat suicides. They also felt it might be too painful for people to read — people who have either had a close brush with suicide or people suffering from depression.

I would prefer that we start facing what’s going on in our world and addressing why so many want to leave it.

Sexual dry spells

Dry-spellWhen I wrote a blog post about uninvited celibacy, it became freshly pressed and opened the floodgates on comments from men and women in similar situations.

A great time to think about the meaning of sex turns out to be when you aren’t distracted by having any! Whether celibacy is by choice or is a situational dry spell like the one I’m in, being sexually dormant offers an unusual window into what it means to be sexually engaged.

At least that’s what I tell myself. My dry spell is two years-old. After the death of my mother in 2011, I joined my elderly father 650 miles away from my house. My love life (and the rest of my life) has been in limbo ever since. I have intimate friendships but nothing physical. I suspect it’s like being an athlete sidelined by an injury. You want to get back into the game, but your situation is that you’re required to rest, so you spend hours thinking about your sport.

I’ve made some observations about sex during my dry spell:

MALE SEXUALITY’S GUTTER IMAGE

Male sexuality has taken a huge drubbing in our culture over the last few decades. It’s slumped in the gutter. Men are often depicted as jerks and losers whose primary interest is getting off. Sex is often portrayed as a mechanical romp without feeling or intimacy. It’s all about — and just about — bodies. Yawn.

There’s a serious shortage of truly interesting male lovers depicted in the media. Seriously. I can think of few examples of men who impress me as fabulously inspired lovers. Not just a hunky babe magnet, but someone who brings heightened consciousness to bed. A true love god. Men in porn are like bottom feeders. I cannot remember seeing one and thinking, “Wow, he’d make a great friend.”

As a man, I carry the legacy of my gender brothers. Being loverless ironically reminds me how lame the social blueprint of sex is. Our sexual standards are very low. Sex gets seriously dumbed down. We get just  a comic book version of its potential. I have heard women say something like, “When it comes to sex, men are like dogs.” When I look at how sex is portrayed in the media, I have to agree. Woof. That’s not the kind of sex I want.

Men have little sexual self-respect because it’s not something taught or nurtured in the culture. Men end up with very little pride in their contribution to making sexual magic. If men are perpetually depicted as using women for sex, that’s what men aspire to be unless through some personal miracle they learn a different way. Lacking positive male role models for sex, young men become robots. Dog robots.

REAL MEN HAVE REAL SEX

Real sex is so much more than, well, sex. It ‘s more than pornographic body play. It is a mixture of great treats for the mind and heart with sensual arousal. Great lovers know this instinctively. They know that it is all about connection, and they make love with ideas as much as they make love with kisses and caresses. They make mental and emotional connection with their mate. They are mindful more than habitual.

We’re taught in society to treat each other more as toys than as co-creators of a fabulous journey. This tendency we have to treat each other as roles and objects goes far beyond sex, of course, but in my world, lovemaking is one route out of being superficial. It is a gateway into the deep pool of intimacy. Sex puts me in touch with deep feelings, which makes it spiritually profound. A statement such as that sometimes brings up chuckles or a sarcastic retort, which I translate as another sign that we have trashed sex with our demeaning representations of it.

Many of us are taught to think that “I want you” really means “I want access to your flesh.” Many of us are not taught that it could mean, “I want to embrace your soul as you embrace mine.”

ENERGIZE

You don’t often hear it expressed this way, but I think that making love is about energy exchange. Thoughts and intentions you have express themselves in whatever you do physically. They flavor it like ingredients used in cooking. If you’re upset, stressed, resentful, or something like that, your lovemaking will feel much different than if you are happy, loving, giving, and truly excited.

You won’t truly understand “energy” until you are sensitized to feeling it for yourself. The only place I recall seeing this presented in any mainstream movie was in the 1997 film Bliss. The movie showed a maverick sex therapist who taught the bliss value of energy exchange over the habitual physical orgasm production that most of us are taught.

I have been fortunate enough to experience energy flow first hand. An overall feel-good sensation fills me. Moods swing up with heightened energy. Satisfaction pervades the spirit. With heightened energy, sensuous touch feels hotter and better leading to that swept-away feeling.

Grasping energy exchange changes everything. Even cuddling by itself can be surprisingly exquisite. The body feels incredible and the mind fills with juicy deliciousness. Sometimes I’ve experienced the energy pop being so intensely blissful that traditional sex paled by contrast. How is this so? Energy! Consciousness! I’ve never seen this described or depicted anywhere outside of my own life.

LETTING GO

Under the right conditions, sex provides the perfect climate for letting go emotionally like a wild wind storm. The freedom is incredible. When I am sexually free and spiritually naked, my mind fills with wonders — visions, memories, feelings, fantasies, the energy buzz. I can man up or boy down. I can make rational sense or with permission zone out into a creative wilderness.

Since I know how important this space is for me, I do everything I can to make sure my partner has the emotional freedom to let go, too. That could entail encouragement. It also includes not judging or criticizing, especially her fantasy life and turn-ons.

Giving good head is more than oral sex. Giving safe mind play is precious. More damage is done when the opposite happens, yet we’re taught in thousands of ways to keep people locked in boxes of controlled conformity, especially when it comes to sexual behavior.

THE GIFT OF GIVING

Having no lover reminds me how much I treasure giving intimate pleasure to someone special. Pleasure is a two-way street. I receive so much energy and joy from giving energy and joy. It is a palpable, primal connection when it happens naturally. Perhaps it is simply that I was raised to be a pleaser and support person, but I feel less fulfilled as a human when I cannot pursue this craving. I feel like a honey bee transported from a lush garden to a vast desert with no blooms in sight for miles.

My romanticizing is not about materialism — wining and dining, buying affection with gifts, artificially pumping up egos, seducing and deceiving. It is much more about spiritual romance, the God-rendered magic of mate attraction, natural (no drugs needed) ecstasy, and the compelling drive to know and be known.

So here I am stuck again in the paradox of today’s sexual consciousness. I yearn to deeply please a partner body, mind, heart, and soul … in a world where sex has become so devalued it is beheld with grave suspicion. “Men are dirty dogs. Of course they want sex. Woof.”

When I am without a lover, I find myself especially empathic to women who suffer from sexual neglect. They often feel hopeless and damaged. Loneliness is painful. Of course they mirror for me my limbo life. I project upon them my cravings for harmony and intimacy. I fantasize that I could touch them in a way beyond what they know. Not me doing them, not me having all the answers, but us opening to each other in a journey of mutually-supported exploration.

DRY SPELLS

We tell ourselves stories to make sense of our worlds. With the dry spell I tell myself stories about why I don’t pursue love, what my family obligations are, why past relationships dissolved and what I could have done differently. I wonder if at age 64 I am too old for new love, too old to sexually attract anyone, or too young to be thinking insipid thoughts like that.

Is loneliness society’s problem?

Lonely-girlIs loneliness a personal problem or a social problem? Should society make an effort to deal with the fact that so many people are lonely, or is this beyond the scope of social services?

I like to look at how a society could design itself to be more harmonious, cooperative, and loving. That’s my hobby. I like pondering the society I want to live in as opposed to the one we tolerate. For years I have considered loneliness to be among the most critical unaddressed social ills of our time.

There is no shortage of lonely people out there. There are also different kinds of loneliness. The most classic is to be mateless or at a more basic level without someone to date. Yet it can also mean having no close friends with whom to share life’s peaks and valleys. Loneliness can manifest as being in a minority, whether it is racial, ethnic, philosophical, political, socio-economic, religious, sexual orientation, body characteristics, whatever. Plenty of situations make people feel lonely.

In this context, loneliness means feeling isolated or disenfranchised. It means functioning outside of the majority, often way outside the mainstream box. It frequently comes with the price tag of being constantly ridiculed or vilified, sometimes the victim of serious or even fatal abuse and attack.

I believe that chronic loneliness creates chronic problems that in turn are not healthy for society and cost us untold billions. For example, addictions are often ways in which people attempt to cope with their deep feelings of loneliness. It is that profound feeling of being unaccepted, unloved, and disrespected that drives them to coping mechanisms that are often unhealthy choices. Alcohol, drugs, gambling, promiscuity, porn, over-eating, and so on can all be traced to loneliness. Various crimes against society often follow those addictions. Loneliness also leads to disease and mental illness, and in turn, mental illness and disease lead to deeper loneliness.

BUT IS IT A SOCIAL PROBLEM?

Every now and then I post something on Facebook about loneliness and I get a mixed reaction. Some people think that loneliness is a personal problem and that society can’t help. No matter what society could do, they say, loneliness is an inner experience. We can feel lonely in a crowd. It’s not the state’s responsibility to fix personal problems, especially one as personal as loneliness.

My take comes from my own experience dealing with my own loneliness. One of the first steps I like to take is to surround myself with upbeat, inspiring media. Doing that puts me into a higher vibration, a friendlier, more outgoing mood. But I have noticed that it’s not that easy to find truly uplifting media. I have to search with pinpoint accuracy.

Much content on TV and in the movies is focused on downer themes and creepy people. It’s hard to watch the news or documentaries and feel good about humanity when most of them are about how shitty someone is. My own experience tells me that finding healthy mind food cannot be left to channel surfing because most mainstream media is a fear-based selling machine. Advertising is based on unnerving us enough to motivate a purchase.

When I am feeling lonely, a logical solution is to find places where people congregate — where single people congregate if I envision meeting someone for romance. However, many of the institutions created for this purpose are businesses like singles bars, dating services, even sex businesses. Other possibilities include churches, workshops and retreats, travel adventures, various clubs. Many of these solutions are where people go to meet people, but it is not the major reason why the entity exists. For example, bars exist to sell liquor, not to provide matchmaking services. Churches exist to sell a religious brand, not for pair-bonding, even though people often meet prospective partners in church.

Of course, one of the best ways to find inspiration is through like-minded friends, but of course that’s usually the problem. You are lonely because kindred spirits are neither around nor available. Finding good friends takes time and requires nurturing.

WHAT COULD SOCIETY DO?

I believe that if we made it a social priority to provide more resources for dealing with loneliness, it would make a major difference in our world. It could be government sponsored through grants. It could operate as a non-profit or be privately funded through philanthropy. Its purpose would be to provide resources to assist people to improve their life and deal with their loneliness issues.

Here are some services it could include:

A Resource Library. This would be a collection of materials both physical and digital that would provide people with the opportunity to access positive, helpful mind food. For example, if someone was having a particularly rough time, they could go to a website and find a collection of inspirational, solution-based videos and downloadable ebooks addressing various problems related to loneliness.

Curricula. Besides providing access to library materials, various online self-help programs could be created. Content would be specifically geared toward helping people deal with their particular brand of loneliness (which often expresses itself as being discriminated against or ostracized.) In-person classes could also be developed.

Support Group. Loneliness covers a wide rage of causes and manifestations. One of the best ways to turn corners is to talk it out, but support groups are often expensive or focused more on specific addictions like alcohol, drugs, sex/porn, or issues like grief, divorce, suicide, etc. Sponsored support groups could offer techniques and strategies for ending loneliness forever and provide personal networking opportunities.

Networking. Many commercial enterprises have long since used computer database technology to match people, yet because they are profit-driven, they often use questionable tactics that frustrate lonely users. Besides, they are often expensive to use, especially online dating services. An organization could create its own service. Since loneliness covers more territory than romantic, networking can focus on addressing different kinds of needs that different individuals experience.

Gathering Spot. Some facilities could include meeting places where people could gather to socialize. A focus would be on providing resources for dealing with loneliness. People could drop in for coffee and leave with new ideas and encouragement.

Advocacy. I believe that many lonely people feel that Society has told them, “You’re on your own.” And lonely people think, “Yeah, you got that right!” Advocacy would involve making recommendations for social change that would specifically address needs of people who find themselves marginalized, alienated, and discriminated against. Advocacy would also make it more socially viable to find the right kind of help for individual forms of loneliness.

Media. Some advocacy could involve using media channels to more effectively create social awareness about various forms of prejudice, intolerance, and injustice —  and ways to overcome them. Beyond showing the problems as many documentaries might, entertainment could show people overcoming various aspects of loneliness. The film 42 about Jackie Robinson is an example of a movie that tackles the loneliness created by racial prejudice that Robinson dealt with.

PIE IN THE SKY

At this point my ideas seem even to me to be extremely idealistic. I know that. I envision the society I would like to live in.

A commonality I see in many documentaries about various social ills is how lonely people feel while dealing with their particular situation. It could be a gay person struggling to make ends meet with his or her spiritual hunger. It could be a fat person in high school dealing with mean-spirited peers. It could be someone feeling entrapped in a religious cult whose soul is screaming for liberation. It could be someone recently widowed or divorced or rejected who had taken pain to the core.

It would be grand if there were more places available where people could find healthy answers to their dilemmas.

MORE READING

Here is another post I wrote on loneliness.

Uninvited celibacy

Veggie-womanRelax, this is not a woe is me story. It’s more of a story of discovery of what it has been like to be loverless for the longest stretch in my life since I lost my virginity. (OK, I actually didn’t lose it. I know where it went.)

Not making love for so long has given me new insights about what the experience is all about.

Celibacy is more than not having sex, which is to say that not having sex is more than not engaging in sexual activity — which is to say that sexuality itself is more than mere orgasm production. It’s a cornucopia of body, mind, heart, and spirit.

SEX IS WHOLISTIC

Sex combines both physical/sensual and nonphysical ingredients. There are the words that flow before, during, and after. The tender words, the hottie words, the encouraging words, the silly words.

I dearly love my female platonic friends, but I have noticed that not being lovers limits communication to certain safe areas. Sexual relationships afford me a free pass to be more spontaneous. Being sexually uncensored appears to give me permission to be less controlled and sanitized in general. I don’t watch my words as carefully.

As Spock would say, “Fascinating.”

Many people raised in our culture of erotic cliches do not see sex as an energy exchange, but I do. I notice myself as being much more rigid, subdued, serious, and deliberate without the lover energy present. You could say I take on the persona of an English butler (too bad the domestic skill set doesn’t come with it.)

I have noted with some dismay that the removal of sex from my life has taken out a huge chunk of life’s fun. Sex frees us to be joyously undignified. We can let our emotions romp. We can soar out of the box. We do not have to be so unfucking appropriate. We can giggle, slobber, moan, coo, scream, cry, writhe, and in the most wondrous sense of the word, feel. We don’t have to be cooped up into our cages of conformity (unless that’s part of your schtick.)

I look at life as a flow of water from the spring to the river to the sea to the air. Being celibate is like the lazier section of the wide, slow-flowing river where nothing much happens. Sex is more like the grand rapids, the awesome waterfalls, even the happy babble of the nudge, nudge, wink, wink brook. I miss the wild water.

WHAT’S WRONG WITH YOU?

In our society with our social training, uninvited celibacy feels like a disease. It feels as if there must be something wrong with me. I feel abnormal. I harbor feelings of being rejected, even when I rationally know it’s not true. I feel less than complete, even broken. Part of the pain is the uncertainty about my future—is this it? Am I done?

Of course I have received friendly advice about being happy with myself, comfortable in being alone. I am my own best friend, companion, even lover. Then there is God and assorted cosmic buds. We are never truly alone, they say.

But I hate any idea that the answer to this drought is trying to find sexual opportunity, like popping aspirin for a headache. Sex to me is too precious a human experience to be downgraded as a commodity—as physical release, as it is often called.

I find a big irony here: if I just wanted to scratch an itch, it would be relatively easy to find physical release. The real full meal deal is more complex. It would require meeting a kindred spirit and a deeper conection.

SEEING WITH NEW EYES

Not having sex in so long has removed so many of the assumptions and habits of yesteryear. I have noticed within me a strange mixture of awe of sexual possibility and resignation of the passing years. Now everything seems so magical, starting with the most basic and usually taken-for-granted among sensual doings. Loving gazes seem magical. Kissing seems magical. Someone reaching for my hand seems magical. Petting seems magical.

Reminiscent of the trick parents of toddlers pull, simple erotic joys all seem hidden away in a shoebox stored on the top shelf of the closet, out of my reach. Like a little boy wondering what Santa will bring me for Christmas, I ponder and fantasize what lovemaking would be like if it ever shows up in my life again. Will I ever hear “I want you” again?

At the same time, as a social observer, I am saddened by the portrayals of sex I see in the media. It is so often mechanical, grim, rote, scarcely a shred of humanity in it. I often think, “if that’s what I am missing, I am not missing much.” I also concur with one of my favorite lines from It’s a Wonderful Life when the old guy on the front porch grumbles, “Aw, youth is wasted on the wrong people.”

Sex in the movies so often misses simpler joys such as the rapture of cuddling. (Really? Rapture? That’s my point. It sounds foreign because it doesn’t get star treatment. Cuddling is frequently dismissed as dull compared to wild woo-hoo!)

WATCH WHAT YOU WATCH

The other day I watched Hope Springs, a story of a married couple played by Meryl Streep and Tommy Lee Jones. The Streep character was suffering dearly over her husband’s constant sexual neglect and denial of romantic affection. It was hard to watch as it reminded me of my own loneliness. Especially difficult is knowing that I would have treated her so much better, lavishing her with the love she craved, and yet the senior bad boy got the girl, not me. (OK, it’s just a movie. I get that. But we project ourselves into movies, and that’s what I was feeling.)

I also watched a BBC-produced documentary on grizzly bears. It had nothing to do with human love relationships. But watching these big male bears attempt to beat the crap out of each other to win mating rights (and mating rites) became an unintended reminder of my own nature. Involuntary celibacy is a stark reminder that some form of instinct and conditioning drive me into mate hunger.  Watching big bears growl and swipe at each other reminds me of the competition for love, and in scenes like this they usually show the beaten male limping and bloodied in retreat. Not helpful.

The Internet opens the door to insights and dialogues with strangers, and I have seen various blogs on the theme of sexless marriages. I have seen both sides. I have seen people express their deep sorrows and feelings of failure that uninvited celibacy brings. I have also seen people in sexless marriages ridiculed and demonized as shallow, needy, and immature, like if they simply pushed the right button everything would be fine. Sexual hunger is not taken seriously. Not helpful.

Regarding my own unexpected vacation from lovemaking, I like to say that it is what it is. It has given me new awareness and appreciation for what I had, and sometimes for what I took for granted. It has restored a sense of awe and wonder over the magic of it all. It is one of God’s greatest gifts — and someday we might treat it as such.

UPDATE

A subsequent post continues on this theme — Sexual Dry Spells.

She’s not my girlfriend

KinshipFor most of my life, my best friends have been females. This trend began early in childhood when my best buddy was the girl four doors up the street. I was three.

That trend continues to this day. I have spent a lifetime trying to figure it out. Some of the reasons are obvious. Most of my interests are things that the average dude shuns. And vice versa.

I am not a sports fan. I don’t like war or fighting. I have pathetic carpentry and mechanical skills. I am not a cutthroat businessman. I am not very competitive, especially for entertainment.

I am into emotions and feelings. I love sensuality. I have a passion for emotional intimacy and connection. I love wondering why we are here and how things could be better right here.

Generally speaking, and I wish this weren’t necessarily so, women get me more than men get me. Women look at me less strangely than men. I find myself shutting up less with women than with men.

GIRLFRIENDS

I have become aware of  the social assumption that if I am seen with a female, and especially if we are having a great time together, she must be my girlfriend. And girlfriend has a whole different connotation and level of expectation than friend and acquaintance do. Of course I know my truth within my soul, but sometimes the rest of the world wants to impose its social expectation on me.

This situation has different ramifications depending on my current relationship status — and hers.

When I am in a love relationship, my platonic girlfriends sometimes walk a fine line. They often feel they have to go out of their way to prove to my romantic partner that they are not threatening a hostile takeover or dealing in covert operations.

Other people who don’t know me well assume that if I have fun with a female not my romantic partner, I must — simply must — be plotting something naughty behind the barn.

Similarly, when my single platonic female friends enter love relationships, it often creates from them a very noticeable backing off from our friendship. Whoosh! Either they are worried about stressing out their new love’s feelings or their new love is clearly a jealous type.

When I am not seeing anyone romantically, I am still not free and clear. It seems it’s not common for a guy to have platonic female friends who are single. The biological potential of heterosexual mating attracts snarky remarks of the nudge, nudge, wink, wink variety. Like, “He says it’s platonic but just look at her. Yeah, right. Look at her!”

When I am not seeing someone romantically, my platonic friends sometimes back off, too. Perhaps they’re afraid I am not so platonic after all or they think they should signal to the world that I am truly available for dating. When they pull away I feel lonelier than ever.

SO WHAT?

I find this situation more than a personal inconvenience for me. I think it is a sad reflection on how fear of intimacy keeps us isolated and in-the-box. Somewhere along the line it may have been well-intentioned to keep the genders separate so that a married or “committed” person of one gender did not develop meaningful friendship with the other gender. But in my view of the universe, the creation of suspicion, guilt, shame, and mistrust to keep the genders apart only makes us weaker human beings.

Much of this segregation, I believe, is due to our culturally immature attitudes, stereotypes, and mythologies about sex. We’ve dumbed it down into a caraciture to sell in every which way possible.

One myth here is that attractive heterosexual friends cannot resist without great effort the urge to get naked and let nature take its course. It’s as if the sex urge is just too powerful. Barbie needs Ken, and Ken is always horny.

Sigh.

Embracing loneliness

Lonely-robinLoneliness. Yuck.

In much of my world, it’s not cool to admit to feeling lonely. It’s a different kind of scarlet letter. People perceive that admitting to being lonely is admitting to being a failure. Being lonely translates to being unwanted, and the obvious question becomes what’s wrong with you? Why are you lonely? You must be flawed.

For Law of Attraction followers, it’s a definite no-no to lament feeling lonely. They believe that feeling sorry for oneself sets the universal wheels in motion to attract more of the same. More loneliness. More yuck.

Yet to my way of thinking, to deny feelings of loneliness and the pain they bring is hiding. I feel lonely. I should admit it. So I tell myself.

EMBRACE THE YUCK

The way I look at it, we’re here in Earth School to learn about life and love. That means helpings of both the good and the bad. To me it seems healthy to say, “This sucks.” The first step for improving a situation, it seems to me, is to admit that there is a problem. That motivates finding a solution.

I also feel that by embracing the loneliness, I am gaining valuable insight into the human condition. I can be more sensitive to others who feel it. I can empathize with people feeling useless, unwanted, and a prisoner of decisions made that led to it. I can also empathize with the anger that erupts for the lonely — it is challenging in this competitive, materialistic society to find relief through meaningful connection.

Loneliness, I have discovered, covers a lot of territory. It can mean having no one to love romantically. It can mean having no one to talk to about stuff that really matters. It can mean feeling like an outsider, like trash, the wrong this or that. It can mean being the minority race or religion or personality type or age or physicality. It can mean feeling like a victim.

CONSCIOUS LONELINESS

I am going through a patch of fairly intense loneliness right now. I have been looking for various healthy media to fill my mind with positive, uplifting, solution-oriented material. I am astonished at how challenging this is.

I went to the PBS site and started watching some American Experience shows that are available for online viewing. I always thought of these as worthwhile programs about American history. But the more I watched, the more disgusted and then depressed I got. I found less and less to be proud of, as in proud to be an American, especially a white American. The show turned out to be more of a cavalcade of greed, corruption, violence, adversity, racial hatred, and war than of ingenuity, cooperation, redemption, and social evolution.

Don’t get me wrong. I still think it’s a great series! It’s just discouraging. For example, I watched an American Experience program featuring 19th Century corporate monopolies, and then went to Facebook and saw people posting about how that dastardly Monsanto, with US government collusion, is poisoning us with genetically modified yummies. Oh, and Hostess Cupcakes and Twinkies are coming back (did you seriously think they would disappear?)

Documentaries in general seem to focus much more on what is bleak about humanity. It’s as if they still want to shock us into social action by showing us how rotten people or big corporations or corrupt governments are. I end up getting outraged at the injustices and then feel lonelier than ever living in an increasingly more hostile environment. Monsanto is out to poison us, health care and big pharma are out to increase our suffering to add to their profits, big oil is out to destroy the environment for their own gain, and you get the idea. The definition of a documentary should be “an exposé about all the crap that shitty people do.”

Put another way, these programs show a lot of victims, and so often, these victims are lonely people. They’re lonely because they are somehow disenfranchised. They don’t belong. They’re ostracized. They’re oppressed. Often they’re conquered and displaced. When I watch a show on the Caucasian invasion of America or slave trading, for example, I’m sickened at what I see, and it makes me feel lonelier living in a world where such brutality occurs.

TURNING THIS AROUND

For years I have considered loneliness to be a major unaddressed social crisis of our time. I believe that it is a root cause of so many other social problems that plague us. People suffering from loneliness in its various forms are more likely to rebel in violent or self-destructive ways. I believe that much addictive behavior is caused by a response to feeling lonely, unloved, unwanted, and unwelcome. Would we be a society filled with such addictions if we had more of a supportive tribal consciousness — if we made it our life purpose to look out for each other?

When I am consciously lonely, I see so many forces in life that work to keep us stuck in various forms of loneliness. Why is that so? Just as more war creates great business opportunities for defense contractors, suffering is great for the economy. Is there a better way to create a happy marketplace for providers than to keep a populace lonely, addicted, mad, and sick? When people are desperate, they buy stuff. Cha-ching.

Of course, loneliness is a hugely complex social problem with a multitude of causes and issues, but when I am consciously lonely, I don’t see society stepping up to the plate with many easy solutions. I find this odd. Profit-making industries cater to lonely people and their addictions, but I find it ironic that our supposedly advanced society isn’t addressing loneliness with hope-and-change zeal.

With website technology, it should not be so hard to provide humanity with a library of self-help tools that would help fight discouragement and depression with positive, solution-based programming. Or there could be an organization like a Salvation Army set up to deal with loneliness and foster cooperation, harmony, and appreciation for diversity.

When I am lonely, I look for my own solutions. It’s not a mental lake I enjoy swimming in. I don’t deny that I am there, temporarily stuck, but I lament that solutions are much more difficult to come by than stuff that is bad for my physical and mental health.