I didn’t attend the Women’s March this weekend though I went last year and it was a highlight of my life. My first March. Same weather. Snow overnight. Cold. Blustery. Invigorating. January. Days after the inauguration. I went alone though quickly enveloped in a crowd walking from my neighborhood to the gathering. A tribe. Of kinship. Signs and chanting and pink pussy hats. Planned Parenthood. Rainbow. Of community for a common cause. All those things I stand apart from on a daily basis. I was interviewed. Local news. A microphone shoved to my lips. Words come forth. Without time to ponder. They come from the heart. From momentum.
INSTEAD I sit before my computer trying to find my way. To articulation. I listen to Interfaith Voices on Sunday morning radio. My vintage Sony. This week an interview with a single devout Catholic lesbian who has taken (not a vow) but an intention of celibacy to explore other paths of loving. My ears perk up. A vow is more serious. Of the religious order. I find this on Wikipedia: Celibacy (from Latin, cælibatus”) is the state of voluntarily being unmarried, sexually abstinent, or both, usually for religious reasons.
In modern speak celibacy is often an interchangeable term for abstinence. In the interview her (not vow) of celibacy is part of her spiritual journey. A path to find kinship outside the norm of traditional coupledom. Her devotion to Catholicism. A way to love without intercourse. A deepening of connection. Of friendship love. Of finding a tribe. Of the love of God. Of comfort in solitude. Not necessarily an absence of touch. (I intended to share the interview but when I listen again I realize her words were simply a catalyst. I am selective. Taking them out of context to nurture my own ideas and questions).
I have experienced long bouts of “celibacy” over the past 20 years. I too exploring other kinds of love. Soul, self, style, creative, travel, friendship. Then came a knock at the door. A walk in the mountains turned into a one year relationship. It was temporary. Acknowledged from the beginning. Lots of discussion. Push and pull. Still when the ending came I was heartbroken. More attached to the idea of love and coupledom than the actual relationship. He emotionally unavailable. Me too, I suppose, though I didn’t know that at the time. So much fear in being vulnerable. So much shame.
The occasional sex that followed six months or three or seven years later not so much connection or release but happenstance. A moment of affection turns into something else. The occasional girlfriend. Just sex. Long distance. Short-lived. Not what I’m looking for. Not that I didn’t honor these moments or the men that showed up. I went willingly but not without doubt. Not without fear. Then I lost my voice. Again.
(I often tell friends “being single is under-rated” –especially if female and not actively pursuing a relationship. Often it feels defensive. And that’s always a red flag. As if I’m incapable of affection simply by not wanting to sign up for match.com. Like I’m a mutant.)
The absence of sex has not been an intention so much as a way to honor my own path. The slow route to finding my tribe. A kinship. Coupledom not the goal though an expectation so I work to open myself to that possibility yet it feels forced. Or fearful. Okay let’s be honest. I’m terrified!! One moment I’m excited –even fantasizing-and the next I’m committed to living an inward life. Sometimes I feel my richest gifts lie within that solitude.
My greatest desire (is) to be known. To be seen. To be understood. And my greatest fear (is) revealing this hidden/isolated self to another. The way I think. The strong opinions. The gravity age takes on a body.
I’m not sure I’m capable of being “me” in the intimate presence of another. How to go from the comfort of cooking, drinking wine, dipping my bread at the kitchen counter, dancing alone around the room, imaginary conversations with others to actually BEING with another in unbridled honesty in a sexual context. Naked. Sharing a bath. Candlelight. The interludes between sex and intimacy. Speaking up. Going slow or fast but not without communication. The ability to articulate. It is a skill not easy for everyone despite the “metoo movement. Despite the solidarity. Being heard. Understood. Not afraid of no or yes or not yet. To be vulnerable without fear of violation or ridicule.
I default to friendship love, while enriching, sometimes there is longing for touch. That beautiful touch written so eloquently by David Whyte. A myriad of transcendence from physical to metaphor. Or the words I love you sometimes difficult to say. . . even to friends and family. There is a weight in our hearts. A fear of rejection or misunderstanding. A longing.
These are things I notice over the weekend I did not attend the Women’s March:
- the book on my nightstand Prodigal Summer by Barbara Kingsolver. I pick it up and put it down. About coyotes and solitude and tumbling in the hay with a younger man and relationship and seeking ourselves in wilderness (so far –I’m only on Page 74).
- Touch – a poem by David Whyte I find on Facebook and share though no one reads it. Facebook is like that. You can read it here. I want to write like this from tangible to metaphor and back so eloquently. Beautiful. Sad. True. Thank you David Whyte.
- the movie: Call Me By Your Name My heart transported. So much love and understanding and brilliance. Exploration. Vulnerability. Heartache. Life and the gift of acting upon the moments given us.
- the sliver of new moon in the January sky. Before the clouds of snowfall.
- another poem in my inbox on Sunday morning. By Robert Hayden 1978 (American Journal) –I read it aloud to the empty room. To my own ears. Carefully every line break. The alien voice. The ugly American. All of it. Then. Now. So true. and still. Political. Beam me up Scotty.
The beauty of coincidence. The dream symbols. Overwhelming emotions. The gift of time. The art of surrender. Patience. The light returning. I am honored on a daily basis. Blessed. I am grateful. Still there is absence. It is (of) this I speak. The loneliness not filled by the simple presence of someone in the room, across the table or even sharing a bed –it is a deepening. A greater knowing. This I seek. Not God but god-like. Spiritual. A presence in not only being enough but believing it true.
Brenda is a Personal Assistant and artist currently in Santa Fe, NM. Her work investigates the texture of social/personal relationships through poetry, painting, photography and travel. Installations have focused on family secrets, feminism and the concept of democracy.