It is odd how we take for granted the most basic of our sensory capacities until life teaches us otherwise. Losing our sight is one that is common to most of us as we age. Although both my parents wore corrective lenses, I boasted perfect vision until suddenly, as I approached 50, small print became illegible. It was the first real wake-up call for what was coming and I must admit that I didn’t go willingly towards the declining capacity that before then, seemed like things that only happened to other people. Suddenly I started to pay attention to what I could see well and maybe even more attention to what I could no longer see. My attention alone made colors more vivid, gave the subtle textures of fabrics and plants more depth; and the tones of the gray overcast sky became more subtle.
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“Sex is… perfectly natural. It’s something that’s pleasurable. It’s enjoyable and it enhances a relationship. So why don’t we learn as much as we can about it and become comfortable with ourselves as sexual human beings because we are all sexual?” -Sue Johanson
There is something deep and primal about the sounds that come from sex. Whether you are with a new partner or with someone you’ve been with for a long time, bringing primordial sounds into your lovemaking is one of the quickest ways to push the boundaries in your sex life. Not only is it fun to hear the purrs, growls, and sighs that come out of us during sexual contact, but it connects us to one another, brings a new level of vulnerability, and also confirms the animal inside all of us. Don’t be afraid of the tiger that exists inside- release it and see how it brings your relationship to a new level of intimacy.
I witness the generation gap widening at home every day, regardless of my relentless efforts to get my teenagers to communicate. They still mostly pick up the phone when I call, because that was the agreement we made years ago when I said I would pay the bill, but they are short now and often miss my call, only to shoot me a short text of their whereabouts and time of arrival. They are part of a new generation of communicators and even though I have full text capability, I cannot keep up with their lightening speed on their keyboard and for me, when we text, there is always more that I want to know, to hear from them. I suppose this is precisely why they text. In part, I grew up with the phone as my lifeline. I have vivid memories of the stretched out curly cord, wrapped around the dining room entrance to have some privacy in my teen years. I remember waiting by the phone for it to ring. I remember the sadness of not getting the call, the frustration of busy signals, and the relief of finally hearing my friend or boyfriend’s voice on the other end.
It does no good to wonder about whether you are normal sexually, yet still this is the first and primary question that plagues millions of people and probably provokes them into believing in the heteronormative qualities of sexuality, which are often taken for granted as the Holy Grail of how sex works, or at least, should work. These classic beliefs of dominance and submission, pleasure and obligation that were long ago attached to specific genders is a throwback to the Masters and Johnson information, which defined normal sexual activity for generations. This hierarchy also explains how and why, in the mid-century, Kinsey sexual studies reflected and uncovered how the truly wide range of normative sexual behavior was suppressed. In any case, our capacity for passionate human sexual contact and the accompanying healing release of orgasm is hampered by our insistence on categorizing and qualifying what is normal, even if only for ourselves.
Tomorrow starts my tenth Natural Products Expo West show, and yesterday, as I was setting up my booth space I was overcome with both the sweet memories of the decade past and the recognition of the vast shift that has happened to this industry. I started out with many of the best-known national brands in their early stages. We had parties on rebuilt buses and caroused late into the night, sharing inspiring stories of product discoveries, marketing mistakes and miraculous sales opportunities. Brands then were individuals with a passion. Those days are mostly gone as venture capital and corporate takeovers have remolded the landscape and feel of the natural products space. Maybe it is because I am a late bloomer and am just now prepared to take the bold steps of capitalizing Good Clean Love that I am so keenly aware of this shift, or maybe it is the immensity of this expo circus that left me reeling. Whatever it was, I found myself in tears, lost to my sense of accomplishment and direction, coming up short to everything around me.
Everyone knows the power of makeup sex to sand down the remaining rough edges and offer a soothing balm of acceptance after painful breaks in relationships. Yet, rarely do we consider sexual intimacy as the transformative healing force in dealing with the overwhelming grief that comes with death. It hadn’t really occurred to me until recently when I was lost in the grievous regrets upon my father’s death and found myself reticent to tap into my own libido. Many of us are not skilled in the grieving process, and it can seem incompatible with sexual desire, even disrespectful of the loss itself. And yet, there is something deeply primeval in the connection between making love and death, as though all the procreative forces that have ever been contained in the act come together as a shield, protecting us from death’s promise while holding us firmly to the ground of life.
My father died last weekend, peacefully in his sleep. He was sick and unhappy for a very long time, so while his death was anticipated, the reality of it still surprised me. Even as I worked with hospice and caregivers daily over the last few weeks anticipating the moment, when death arrives, it turns things over on its head in ways you can’t anticipate. Finally, at the moment of his departure, all the years of trying to forgive him came clear. During all the efforts to forgive him and his persistent disrespectful and abusive ways, I never once looked at forgiving myself for not being able to love him. Going through his wallet now and finding photos of him on his driver’s license and one he had just gotten to carry a concealed weapon, I was at last able to see him beyond the anger, which was his primary interactive mode to keep people away. I could see into the grief and isolation that his photos showed. I wept for my own inability to love him more. My 17-year-old son, ever wise, said, “You loved him as much as he let you.”
If we could learn just two things about love that might just cure us of our broken relationships and dissatisfying sex it is this- that love does not come made to order and that we must be willing to ask for what we want. These two misunderstandings about the limits of relationships wreak havoc in the development and maturity of many long-term partnerships. Maybe it is all the romantic comedies or being brought up in a Disney culture of happily ever after, but the sad and happy truth of real and lasting loving relationships is that we don’t have control over how other people love us. Combined with the other persistent and unhelpful belief that other people should know what we feel or want from love without our telling them, and suddenly, the brokenness of our collective love lives comes clear. So here are three fixes for this useless cycle of love breakdowns that will cure your Valentine’s Day blues and carry you into a fertile new cycle of love this spring.
What we most love about someone, given enough time, we usually come to find repulsive. It is an odd but insistent phenomenon that moves through most all intimate relationships, usually at regular intervals. One useful way to think about this swinging attraction- rejection response is as an energy wave that can spark intrigue and curiosity, keeping your relationship alive and new. Moving beyond the black and white reactions that both sides of the wave create and looking for ways to hold these opposing forces side by side not only leads to cultivating a mature, evolving capacity for love but also contains the seed of passionate intimacy.
Ashley Madison founder, Noel Biderman once told me that the biggest day of his year is the day after Valentines day. More women sign up to cheat on their marriages on this day than any other, which is no small thing coming from a guy whose website generates $25K every hour of every average day. The Valentines effect is so potent and inspires so many break ups because the holiday shines a light of authentic, genuine connection that makes our disappointment and frustration in our lovers inescapable. Mind you, those feelings are often percolating for months, or even years, but it is not uncommon for cultural celebrations of love (Christmas and Mother’s Day are not far behind) to clarify and maybe even exaggerate what is broken between us. Many might argue that the Hallmarked and arguably unrealistic expectations for a single day to capture what needs to be done all the time doesn’t help. But the truth is that we all long for a gesture- a perfect gift or carefully penned card to heal the rifts that live between us; for all the many ways our acts of love go unappreciated, unrecognized or worse still unreciprocated day after day.