Monday, February 26, 2007

The Unexpected

All day, I had to discipline myself not to hope for too much. Not to want too much. I pretty much expected that our plans would be cancelled. I also expected that, even if they weren’t, the whole experience would be a bit lacklustre. Really more for the sake of keeping that possibility open than for the experience itself.

I was wrong. And I don’t know why.

We were both feeling rather tired and uninspired. But we took off our clothes. We snuggled. We chatted. We kissed, tentatively. It was good. We kissed some more. We stroked, we caressed. As his hands ran down over the curve of my hip, I was surprised by how my flesh tingled and burned.

The Big Dude actually seemed a little interested. Tired, but interested. I went down on him for a while, something I consider to be my special talent. The secret, in my opinion, is to involve not just your lips, but your tongue and your hands. Start off gently and subtly, but don't be afraid to be quite firm once he is well warmed up. But most of all, really enjoy it and show that you are enjoying it. Feel free to make plenty of slurpy, happy noises. My boy lollipop. Yes, he was definitely interested.

To my surprise and pleasure, the Big Dude wanted to come inside. He did. It was… fantastic. The first orgasm was intense. So was the second. The third was a bonus and the fourth was a simultaneous climax with the Big Dude – something we have never done before.

I won’t pretend that it was a perfect performance from either of us. I was a little confused by the sudden return to mutuality. He was still not well and, by the third orgasm, he was tiring so much that he could hardly keep the movement going. There wasn’t any whipped cream.

But I didn't miss that whipped cream one bit. I can truly say that we had a great time together. Afterwards, I held him very tightly for a long time, just so delighted to have him back.

The next day, I asked him what had happened to make it different. He didn’t know. He said he started off feeling just as tired and sick as always, hardly up to anything at all, and he really didn’t know why it changed.

So I don’t know what caused this or how long it will last. Maybe it was a one-time-only cameo appearance by The Artist Formerly Known as My Favourite Sex God.

But I gave him a long, slow kiss this morning and he returned it. And, for now, I’m pretty damn happy. Bouncing around and downright joyous. I can honestly say that, if I died today, I would die happy.

Very unexpected.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Is That a Maybe?

Sometimes when a couple hasn't been sexual together for a long time, it all gets complicated. One or both of us starts to put things off. The other becomes increasingly uncertain that any advances will be accepted and stops making them.

Yes, I know. I shouldn't do that. But if you restrained yourself from asking for weeks or months at a time, and then finally gave in and asked and the answer was still no, well, you can see how that would become very discouraging. I don't ask any more. I feel so crappy when the answer is no over and over again that it seems better not to ask in the first place. Luckily, thanks to Thursday's Child, I know I am not alone in this.

A specifically sexual distance grows. We can be very emotionally close. We can be great friends. We can be great co-parents. But with any real possibility of sex put off over and over again, the sexual conection becomes very tenuous. The light flirtation that used to be a big feature of the relationship gradually disappears. If a mildly flirtatious or suggestive comment is greeted with a look of anxiety, it isn't fun any more. It's just "pressure", which apparently makes things worse and defers any possibilities even further into the distance.

Over time, it can be hard to maintain my own interest, at least in sex with him. It's hard to maintain an attraction to someone who seems so unattracted to me. It's just too unrewarding. I can love that person. But desire? Desire is a fickle emotion, anyway, flickering arbitrarily between people who are totally wrong for each other. It's not easily domesticated. And it's not easily summoned up at will, either.

And yet, if the situation is allowed to continue for too long, it is a major threat to the relationship. A person gets filled with resentment and melancholy and vulnerable to an affair.

Neither of us want the relationship to end and so it all becomes a delicate question of what to do.

Sex after a long break is actually a little wierd. Physically, I am hyper-responsive. By that stage, months and months of occasional arousal followed by little or no release means that the sense of relief is huge. But emotionally, it's quite strange. After a long period without sex, I go into myself. I become introspective. Those borders of myself that are open when we are both emotionally close and physically involved, slowly become sealed. To open them again feels like a wrench. Almost like an invasion.

The Big Dude has intimacy time planned for tonight. I wasn't sure if that included anything sexual, so I asked if there was anything he'd like to do. He said, "Get out the whipped cream". So we are probably on for tonight.

I am pleased. It's been lonely, being apparently the only one who cares about our sex life. But I'm a bit anxious, too.

That's the trouble with sexual anxiety. It's catching.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

The Good Girl

Well, the lovely Freebird has played me the compliment of thinking I am morally superior to people who are having affairs. Kind of her, but hmmmph! Morally superior is not something I have ever aspired to be.

Even in my recent attempts at greater spirituality, I like to think of myself as, not so much a saint, as an attempting-to-reform sinner. But am I really?

I was a bit of a brat when I was a kid - naughty, loud and attention-seeking. But as I went into my teens, I somehow became a Good Girl. It's hard to put my finger on why. Some of it was the churchgoing that I just seemed to take more seriously than the other kids. Some of it was a desire to please my parents and especially my father, who didn't seem to like me much. Some of it was a genuine pleasure in things like rules and order - we kids from chaotic homes, we like a little structure and discipline! Also, I was good at schoolwork and I enjoyed doing it. I know. It's embarrassing.

It came over me gradually. It seems like one year I was cheerfully shoplifting with my scaly little mates and being kicked out of class for being naughty and, only a short time later, I was dux of the school and- wait for it - teaching Sunday school.

In my teens, I tried to be a little bit cool. I wasn't very good at it. I could pretty much fake my way through the clothes and the music part, but really I was always too earnest and too responsible to be cool. I used to sit up the back of the class laughing and flirting with those boys, the ones that always disrupted the lessons, but it was just a gesture really. When the grades came out, I was always exposed for what I truly was.

My Big Dude, initially, was a kind of rebellion against all that. I had a nice Christian husband-to-be and I rejected all that to live in sin with my rock'n'roll sweetheart. It was a nice try. But you all know how that turned out.

Then I had another little period of rebellion. A bit of partying. A bit of fucking around. What I was looking for was... liberation. I wanted to be free. And in a way, I was free.

I even finally acquired a slightly cooler exterior - a liking for indie music, better clothes and, more importantly, a much thicker skin. A manner that could become, when required, just a little intimidating. I liked keeping people a little off-balance. I learned how to take my pleasures and not have to pay for them. Basically, it was about not giving a shit. It was about always being able to walk away. Some people, I knew, didn't like or approve of me. But they didn't cross me very often, either.

During that period, my favourite album was Liz Phair’s Exile in Guyville. I loved those dirty, explicit lyrics, that pared-down punk energy, that bravado. I saw myself as finally toughening up in a cold world and sometimes I hummed:

Its cold out there
And rough
And I kept standing 6'1"
Instead of 5'2"
And I loved my life
And I hated you.

I'm not quite sure when I realized this period was coming to an end. I remember saying to a friend, "My ego has been stroked but my heart is so empty". I missed my Big Dude and I slowly realized how much of all this was actually about our relationship. Too much love. Too much pain. No wonder I didn't want any more of either. Over time, I found myself humming a different song from that album:

I know that I don't always realize
How sleazy it is
Messing with these guys
But something about just being with you
Slapped me right in the face
Nearly broke me in two
It's a mark I've taken hard
And I know I will carry with me for a long long time.

Now I pretty much see my promiscuous phase as a kind of facade. Despite the sex involved, I'm not sure how much it really expressed my sexuality. I think what it really expressed was wanting to be free. Trying to escape love and pain and that whole Good Girl thing.

But now I do love my Big Dude again, undeniably, and somehow the Good Girl is back.

Not long ago, I talked about wanting to be a person of integrity. About feeling like I had wandered up to the attic and found my grandmother's wedding dress and been surprised by the desire to put it on.

Well, I think I can now report that if you put that dress on, what you get is a very uncomfortable dress that doesn’t fit very well. It's too tight. It's itchy. It chafes in all the wrong places. Sometimes I feel like I can't breathe.

And yet, there is something familiar about it. My inner Good Girl, a person I have always disliked and distrusted and thought I had successfully banished, seems to have been there all the time, quietly awaiting this opportunity. She quite likes her dress. It's just me who doesn't.

I have been sulking this week about lack of sex. And affairs. Quite honestly, it seems like all the people in blogland who are having affairs are having so much more fun than I am that I’m jealous.

I know it's not like that. I know that affairs, which can be full of passion and joy and love, are usually full of heartache and sadness and even hopelessness as well. But hey, I’m full of heartache and sadness and hopelessness and I’m not getting any of the fun stuff. My own suffering and whining and complaining is boring even me. Their form is suffering looks more interesting.

So in case anyone who is having an affair is wondering - no, I am not feeling morally superior. Actually, I feel like a teenager again. Like I'm watching all the cool kids sneaking up to the treehouse for a cigarette, while I trudge grumpily off to Sunday school in my stupid Good Girl dress.

Sunday, February 11, 2007


You know, I have been feeling happier since my spiritual issues are being addressed. It's not just the recent, more mystical experiences. It's the whole picture.

But there is one problem that just never goes away. Yes, it's our sex life. Nothing has happened since November last year.

I know there are good reasons for this. My Big Dude's health has been terrible lately. It always is over December-January (sometimes into February) and the disruption and hard work of moving house hasn't helped. In fact, the Big Dude did make one effort. A few days before our move (mid-January), we scheduled some alone time and I know he intended something physical to happen. But shortly after we started, he was overcome with dizziness and faintness, which does happen sometimes, and we had to stop. So it became a naked cuddling session, which was nice, but also frankly very bloody frustrating. The whole cuddle session thing really only works if you know it's going to be like that from the beginning. As a substitute for what you were expecting (hoping for), it sucks.

But it all being very understandable and even there being plenty of good intentions only takes us so far. I am still a healthy adult woman who hardly ever has any sexual interraction with her partner. And it's very difficult.

I can go for days and sometimes even weeks just cruising along, a little sad about this eternal problem but mostly preoccupied with other things. Sexual impulses come and go and I mostly just sort of sit with them for a while and let them pass. I don't suppress them. I just kind of accept that nothing is going to happen - at least, nothing that involves another person.

But periodically, the problem just becomes almost unbearable. It becomes more and more difficult to go without. I try to help my Big Dude with any issues or tasks that are affecting his energy levels. I show him lots of affection. I try to prompt him without putting too much pressure on him. I hold his hand and kiss him and tell him how much I love him and how handsome he is (which is true). Nothing happens.

I have one of those days. My skin starts to tingle and then, with no touch, to ache. My thoughts, usually filled with stuff that needs to be done, my pleasure in my Little Dude, work issues or personal reflection, become increasingly preoccupied with sex. I look at men on the bus or at work and can't help thinking about how easy it would be to pick one of them up. I wonder why I don't just take a lover. It seems like most people in my situation ultimately do, and I don't think I'm morally superior to them, so why keep holding out against such an obvious solution? Sometimes I think I am just delaying the inevitable.

Actually, the more tempted I feel, the nicer I usually am to my Big Dude. There is nothing like guilt for motivating you to be a model partner at home. No wonder women whose husbands are having affairs usually don't suspect. He seems so romantic, he seems so affectionate, only last night he brought me flowers... Ha!

But then I get angry. I get angry with my Big Dude for being so... oblivious. I start feeling alone, isolated, neglected. Either I start snapping at him or I start feeling very down, almost like the joy is being sucked out of my life. And not just the joy - the energy, the life force. I feel like my spirit is fading away. I have been feeling happier, lately, but last night I started thinking about it all again and just cried with frustration.

I don't know what to do. I really don't. We've tried addressing as many of his health problems as can be addressed. He's been in counselling. I'm currently in counselling. We've talked about it probably hundreds of times over the last decade. We've scheduled sex dates, some of which go ahead and most of which don't. We've tried the tofu option, with mixed success. Sometimes it was pretty good. Sometimes it was pretty pathetic. We've explored sexual options that don't cause too many physical problems for him. But even that is starting to seem like a long time ago, now.

Some months ago, during one of those depressing "talks", I said I was inclined to think that, if the tofu option didn't work out, the only other option I could think of was sex therapy. Or counselling with a specific focus on sex. Recently, my counsellor said that maybe he should come in, too, for couples counselling. Personally, I think it would be a good idea, but the Big Dude greeted this prospect with all the enthusiasm he would give to the prospect of facing a firing squad. It wasn't even clear if he would agree to go - unless I threatened to leave him. And I really don't like ultimatums. Plus, I'm not sure if I would follow through on a threat to leave him. There is just too much at stake.

This issue seems to be unfixable, at least by me.

I can't make him want to have a sex life. I don't want to leave him. At the same time, the prospect of this being my sex life forever, well, it's possible that I can survive it, but I'm not sure I can survive it without periodic depression. And who needs that?

Okay, this is a call for suggestions. What would you do?

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Just Try Harder

I never thought I would say this, but I'm starting to feel sorry for George Bush.

Truthfully, the guy irritates me and always has. His rather silly, empty face. His undeserved privilege. I knew a lot of rich kids at uni, guys who rarely did any work but whose families always pulled them through. It's annoying. It really pissed me off when he started a reckless invasion, posed on an aircraft carrier and then cut entitlements for veterans. Plus, my Big Dude's PTSD got much worse when the Iraq war started and he really hasn't recovered since. Thanks for that, George.

But now, of course, I am feeling a bit sorry for him and all the haggling over his latest plan for Iraq.

My Big Dude can hardly restrain his bitter laughter about all the talk of simultaneously sending over more troops while relying more on Iraqi forces. American boys (and girls) shouldn't be doing what Iraqi boys ought to be doing? Somehow, he seems to have heard that song before.

But there is something that is stopping me from open and even bitter mockery. Something he is trying to do that secretly appeals to me. And not just because it really was a noble ideal to try to bring democracy to the Middle East, however many other motivations existed. Really believe in what you're doing? Staked everything you have on it? Still struggling and failing? Then try harder. Do more. You just haven't done enough.

Never mind how ill-conceived the whole thing was from the beginning. Never mind that trying harder is just throwing good money (and good lives, good money, good intentions, the welfare of your own nation) after bad.

There is something sort of dumb and well-meaning and hopeless about the whole thing. Something I recognise in myself. Something that is stopping me from gloating about his difficulties, no matter how much I would like to see him out of power and some sanity restored.

Poor guy. Sometimes I think I know how he must be feeling.

Was Iraq ever really a nation? A nation is, the theory goes, a kind of "imagined community". Most of us will never know most of the other people in our nation, but we perceive ourselves to be part of the group, based on commonalities like language and (often untrue) stories we tell about ourselves, our history and our culture. Can the people of Iraq, made out of communities forced together by the western powers and then by a tyranical megalomaniac, ever imagine themselves as one group? Do they really even want to?

Iraq is reminding me more and more of the former Yugoslavia: a federation held together by a military strongman, whose apparent unity obscures the reality that it only exists because one group is able to dominate the others. Take away that strongman, undermine that domination, however flawed, and what happens? Fragmentation. Neighbours slaughtering neighbours. Hating each other more because of that forced intimacy. No daydream of an imagined community. Just a nightmare.

It's also reminding me of that old joke about pessimists and optimists. The pessimist thinks that things are so bad, they can't get any worse. The optimist believes they can.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Plan B: Something Happened III

I think I said that more happened than I was able to write last time. That's true.

The more that happened was that, some time afterwards, I was in the kitchen doing the washing up and listening to Don McLean's American Pie album. This album is mostly known for its title song, an autobiographical reflection on the changes in pop music over the 1950s and 1960s and even for "Vincent (Starry, Starry Night)".

But there is a song on it called "Crossroads", which seems to be about a man's relationship with God and realizing that his life has come to a turning point.

I was just enjoying the music, when suddenly the words of this song seemed to float through my mind in a way I found utterly compelling:

I'm all tied up on the inside
No one knows quite what I've got
And I know that on the outside
What I used to be, I'm not

My mind started racing with thoughts about the past and present. Because the truth is that I am not who I was any more. Not the little kid stuck in that house any more. Not the young trainee preacher leading church groups. Not the woman who originally fell in love with the Big Dude. Not the university feminist buried deep in radical causes and fucking around. Not the workaholic manager. Not even the cheerful partner, carer and mother I was not long ago. Something about the song made me realize how many changes I have been through and that I am in another period of transformation.

You know I've heard about people like me,
But I never made the connection
They walk one road to set them free
And find they've gone the wrong direction

I have been haunted by the idea that somewhere I have gone deeply wrong. That somehow my life is a mistake. Each choice, which seemed like the right thing at the time, somehow took me down a path I have never wanted to go. I have been kicking and screaming as if those choices can be reversed and I can somehow go back to where it all started from. But that's impossible.

The song seemed to continue on, almost relentlessly. I can honestly say that I was struck to the heart. I knelt down in the kitchen and wept, saying nothing at all but just letting the song speak for me:

Can you remember who I was?
Can you still feel it?
Can you find my pain?
Can you heal it?

Then lay your hands upon me now
And cast this darkness from my soul
You alone can light my way
You alone can make me whole once again

I felt like God heard me. I kept feeling that unconditional love. I did confess my sins, because it seemed appropriate. But I really got the impression my sins were pretty irrelevent. I accepted that God had the right to judge me, but I didn't feel judged. I felt like only God knows who I really am. And I felt loved.

This is starting to seem like a fairly conventional Christian story where I confess that I have been wrong since my teens, I should have stuck with the fundamentalist Christianity of my youth, I should never have left, I should never have become involved with the Big Dude, come back to Jesus etc etc.

But the truth is, this experience has made me regret my choices less rather than more. I am not that person any more and I can't be. I see my life now, the person I am now, as arising from the choices I made. But, however painful the consequences have been at times, they were not necessarily the wrong choices.

There was a sermon a few weeks ago at the church I have been going to, which casually mentioned what a relative called her "Plan B theology": the idea that, while you might not have followed God's original plan for your life (Plan A), God can somehow incorporate those other choices you made and all their consequences and help you to construct a Plan B.

And this is where I see myself now: living in Plan B.

I feel like God knew about where I would go and somehow accommodated it. And I don't feel like Plan B is necessarily inferior to Plan A, which is less about what God might have wanted than about what I wanted for myself. Plan B is an alternative path. It's not wrong, it's just different. The love of God can somehow transcend and transform either and any path.

I feel like, if I keep opening my heart, God will help me with Plan B.

We've walked both sides of every street
Through all kinds of windy weather
But that was never our defeat
As long as we could walk together

So there's no need for turning back
`Cause all roads lead to where we stand.
And I believe we'll walk them all
No matter what we may have planned

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Something Happened II

Regular readers will know that, in the midst of a prolonged spiritual crisis, I have been trying to give God more of a chance in my life and even to give a local church a chance, too.

I had probably my most important spiritual experience in years a few days ago. Quite honestly, I'm not sure how to talk about it without sounding like a crazy person.

I have recently gone back to meditating with a meditation tape. This is something I used to do in 2003. I had been working way too much and drinking too much and generally doing my compulsiveness thing and I felt that I needed to calm down, so I took up meditating. But it kind of lapsed a few months after the immediate crisis was over.

One of these tapes is a New Age-type meditation, all about breathing in pink light, the mysteries of the universe and care for mother earth. Part of it is about unconditional love. Floating out into space and realizing the the universe is bathed in love and you are, too. I have always liked it, even though I usually end up smirking a bit through some of it because a lot of the actual words are complete gobbledygook psychobabble.

I was listening to the tape and it was leaving me a little cold. I was distracted. It was hard to get into it. But I thought it was a good discipline just to get in the habit of taking the 15 minutes it goes for as time to relax, so I finished it.

Some time later, the Big Dude had gone out, the Little Dude was asleep, and I was just quietly chilling out on the sofa. And I suddenly felt that God was there. Really there. Not ambiguous, not a light breeze that could be something and could be nothing. But something unmistakeable. And I felt something that I immediately recognised as the unconditional love of God.

I felt that God knew me, knew my situation, knew how I felt and was there. And loved me. Loved me regardless of the choices I've made, my flaws and limitations and even my attitude towards him. Suddenly I could really feel that love.

It's impossible to describe. It was like the universe suddenly opened up to show a different dimension. Or like my five senses were suddenly joined by a sixth sense that could perceive something very different.

I sat there for a long time, just resting quietly in the love of God. Then, for a little while, I prayed and hummed little hymns that I remember from a long time ago. For the first time in a long time, I actually wanted to worship God. And I thought of all the good things in my life and I thanked him and was grateful.

And since then, although that immediate feeling has gone away, it is still somehow with me.

There is a lot more to this story. More happened, both then and since, which I think will have to be the subject of another post because it would take too long.

I'm not sure in my own mind what happened. The sceptic in me says that a currently rather sad and isolated woman having a long dark night of the soul has somehow cooked up the whole experience for herself. Creating the experience out of her own longing for it and the half-baked ruminations of a meditation tape. And that's quite possibly true.

But I don't think so. I feel pretty normal. I just feel... better. More hopeful. More loved. Kinder to myself and to other people, too. More able to deal with what's going on around here.

Do you think I have finally completely lost it? Or do you think that God has finally turned up?