Most faiths and secular paths alike encourage a mindful reflection back over the past year, usually coinciding with a sharp change of season.
In my religion, that mindful reflection occurs this month. It’s a time to take an honest stock of the emotional and physical “stores” of my life; a time to release behaviors that have outlived their usefulness, and to embrace new ones to improve it, as well as those that will enrich my interactions with others.
For millions around the world, this has become an annual tradition – even a Rite of sorts – to make New Year’s resolutions. For others, there is a time of “atonement” during the year specified within their individual religious/faith paths.
Whatever practice you follow, I would like to make a suggestion: When reflecting back over the year, don’t just think about how much money you made, or how much weight you gained and want to lose. But, take some time to really think about your life in terms of intimacy and sexuality.
Did you open yourself up, honestly and completely to your partner, or did you hold back and hold on to petty arguments that are festering and growing into what will become a hard shell of bitterness that will eventually enclose your heart? If you don’t have a partner, is that by conscious choice, or is there something within you that discourages that type of closeness – is it a fear of rejection, or a fear of acceptance?
When you take time to look inward, do so in private and without using a judgmental or critical eye. Do not be hard on yourself, or blame others, either. Just try really hard to “see” yourself in as unvarnished a way as possible. Think about what you believe, how you act, and how you want to improve your life. This is not an exercise in selfishness. See your life as linked to everyone else’s – how your behavior effects not just you, but everyone else around you, too.
One of the things that fascinates me about people in general, myself included, is our capacity to hold diametrically opposed values comfortably, without any cognitive dissonance whatsoever – we simply rationalize. We say that we are honest and declare that as a core value, but then act deceitfully or even treacherously in our private, and/or work lives. We allow ourselves these contradictory behaviors by saying our partner did something to deserve our withholding the truth for lies; or that we have to participate in backstabbing workplace “politics” or gossiping to further our careers, or to establish the financial security for our families.
But, does the end really justify the means when it comes to intimacy and sexuality? Is it acceptable to say anything to someone simply to get them into bed? Is it acceptable to withhold sex as a punishment in a domestic situation? Is it acceptable to have an abortion without involving the father in the decision, or even telling him about the pregnancy?
What about issues involving sexual identity. What does it do to your insides if you are bi-sexual, gay, lesbian or transgendered but are forced to live your life in the closet for fear of the emotional or physical reprisals if you disclose your true sexuality? If you are a parent, have you withdrawn your support, love and approval from your child, or even disowned them because of their sexual identity? You only have to go as far as the recent news headlines to know that homophobia has cut a swath of viciousness and hate crimes across the globe, as well as sparking suicides by victims of homophobic bullies.
Even our mainstream language reflects this growing anti-gay trend. The phrase, something’s “so gay” has been the ultimate damaging cut down, cop out and insult among teens and others in recent years, along with many others.
Science is sooo gay! Translation, "I find science boring." You are such a fag! Translation, "I think you are stupid." You queer! Translation, "You are crazy." The words gay, fag and queer fly between teenagers as insults and descriptors. However, this isn't innocent badgering, it's also building a hurtful bias of bigotry within our society that is potentially damaging self-esteem and destroying personal responsibility.
Breaking the prejudicial cycle requires immediate, intelligent parental reactions. It also requires sensitive adult reactions if you hear someone who should know better than repeat these anti-gay slurs.
A woman in Serbia commenting on the anti-gay rioting at a recent gay pride parade explained it best, "When you develop that mentality of us and them, and we hate them and we fight them, then in the end you always find somebody who is unlike you to fight."
How about you? If you are uncomfortable with a sexual identity that is not your own, can you admit that to yourself? If that level of discomfort has grown into real bigotry, can you admit that? Remember, this is not an exercise of blame, but of self-truth. No one but you will hear your answers, and no one but you can make changes if you are unhappy with them.
Then there’s sex. Are you good at giving and receiving pleasure? If not, can you tell your partner what you need, or ask them what they need and make these inquiries without recriminations or hurt feelings? It’s not about your inability or failure as a lover, it’s about honesty and achieving a level of comfort with your partner. To me, it’s about sharing your vulnerabilities, and giving each other heartfelt support.
In my experience, some women are able to give pleasure, but may have problems receiving it. It is difficult for them to let go and give themselves over completely to the sensations that their partners are creating within their bodies. If so, they may find it difficult to admit what’s going on to their partner, feeling there must be something wrong with them. As a result, the may fake orgasm, rather than talking about what’s really going on. If this is you, try to trust your partner enough to begin the discussion. And, if you are the partner hearing this issue for the first time, listen with compassion and without feeling that your love making skills are being criticized.
Some women may be unable to tell their partner what it is they like in bed, because they may not know themselves. If so, they might want to remedy that by experimenting with masturbation. Sadly, some women find masturbation even more uncomfortable to consider than being honest with their partners! I would encourage all women to explore their bodies, even if you’ve not masturbated and the mere thought of it makes you uncomfortable. If you do not know how your body works sexually, it is virtually impossible to be able to tell your partner. Masturbation would be a very positive resolution, indeed.
The lies I tell myself separate me from others, and interferes with deep, lasting intimacy with my partner. Begin your New Year with a closer relationship with everyone in your life – including yourself – by taking an unflinching look within.
— The Curator