Tag Archives: opening up

The Bucket List Shrinks

On Friday, I spoke at this year’s Northern Voice Blogging Conference at the University of British Columbia. I spoke on a panel Saturday, too, but that’s another story for another time.

The conference was great, but I’ll leave the recaps to others.

Speaking? Whew. I was fucking terrified of my speaking engagement.

Not because I think I can’t talk. I know I can. Just because I knew where it had to go.

In a nutshell?

I started “sex” blogging to discover where I really stood on my own sexuality. I went from 75 hits a day to 1,000 inside of my first three weeks, then as much as 5,000 within 7 months. I was getting raves all over the web in places most writers hope to get mentions — Nerve.com, Salon.com, Fleshbot, et al.

At the same time, in “real” life, in only a FOUR-MONTH period?

I ran out of unemployment insurance four months earlier than expected, came close to losing my home, started onto a birth control pill that would cause a massive chemical depression for two hard years and lead me to suicidal thoughts within 3 months of my blog’s peak, with a cry for help to a therapist when I thought I was gonna harm myself, lost a job for sex blogging, got laid off on my first day at another, had a relationship go horribly awry then end, and a few other little things.

I mentioned the whole going-completely-suicidally-nuts-with-chemically-induced-depression thing?

The gist of my talk?

Wanna write a blog and have people read your story as you figure out where your little blogging journey’s gonna take ya?

Careful what you wish for, honey. The worst thing that can happen to you is to have 30,000-plus people a week reading your figuring-shit-out journey every time you post something. Especially if you start the wrong meds a few months later and take a walk on the Dark Side.

What DIDN’T I get to say in the 30-minute speaking engagement?

That I would do it again — I’d walk away from a failing blog and say “Fuck it” and focus on my life. In a heartbeat.

I kept blogging, but I didn’t care about traffic, I didn’t try to get ads or advertising product, I stopped reading blogs so I wouldn’t be writing much about “hot-button issues” that might draw attention to me, I didn’t try to write great content or be relevant to any cause or way of life, I didn’t engage my audience anymore or even try to gain their loyalty.

I just… wrote. For me.

And I’d do that again. I’d walk and figure my shit out and use my writing for me and only me.

(But I’d share it still. We all need to do that more. We owe our truths to one another. Strength in numbers isn’t just a cliche.)

Know why I’d walk so casually again?

Because I wrote the content that made me a success in the first place. When I wrote that early content, my life was going much as it is now — fairly smoothly. I had time to write and a willingness to do so.

Now, though, I’m different. I don’t doubt I can write, I don’t doubt that was my “golden” period in writing. I don’t think I’m done for. I’m not really sure where I want this to go right now. I’m just… ready to give it a shot, ready to say something.

Ain’t worried at all. Because it’s about just being real, going where you need to go.

I have the guts to go there. It’s my THING. It’s what I DO. Truth is good. Knowledge is power. Like I said Friday, rip the fucking Band-aid off and just go.

I’m looking forward to the journey back into sometimes-sex-blogging. I know where I’m at in much of my life, and this is a path I’m willing to retake. It’ll be a fun ride. And I’m pretty confident my voice and what I have to say on the matter is relevant. I’ve got that part covered.

That’s one thing about having had the ticket to ride, getting that acclaim and that success so easily before — I know precisely how I got there. I think I can get there again. It’s about content. Period.

And how do I feel about my speech?

Fantastic. I’m loving how many people took the time to tell me how much they got out of it. I love that I got to talk to a lot of my audience over the two days, and how genuinely they seemed to dig what I had to contribute to the Northern Voice experience. People who pulled me aside to make  sure I heard what it meant to them really rocked my weekend, and I thank them for returning the sharing.

It was a big fear, getting up there and being raw and talking about my experience with mental illness and how it crushed my creative soul and killed my opportunity, and the price I paid to win that fight after I made all the horrendous decisions through which I killed my blog and walked away to quietly lick my wounds and return to figuring myself out.

I mean, that’s vulnerability, man.

“Hi. I’m a fuck-up who went a little nuts and wrote really hot shit about sex, got lauded in important publishing centres as an exciting new voice, and sorta became famous for five minutes and then pissed the opportunity away. LOVE ME. Hear me!”

For 30 minutes.

Ouch.

But I really, really, really wanted to go there.

And it was a fucking awesome ride for me. Awesome audience!

I knew it’d be scary — the first real time I’d addressed a crowd since I was 20, in college, in 1993. More importantly? First time I’d ever talked in person to a crowd about sex blogging, why I do it, what I wanted, how I fucked up, or how nuts I kinda went.

And I barely scratched the surface, but that’s why I want to write the book, I guess. Whew. There’s a wild ride, baby.

My only goal?

I wanted to tell the truth and be honest and raw. I wanted to make no excuses and pull no punches. I didn’t want my shame to get in the way of what I had to say, I didn’t want to hide behind my pride at the expense of not teaching others what to learn from my mistakes.

I know it’s powerful when people tell the truth, and I really wanted to be genuine and honest.

I told my two best friends Mark and Jon on separate occasions that all I wanted was to be like I was in our quietest, most real conversations. I wanted that conversational and open tone, the snarky humour and the quiet vulnerability that I get when I’m with a really good person I trust.

I just wasn’t sure I could conjure that side of myself for an audience of 125, plus standees.

That I’m told I did conjure her just blows my mind and makes me so happy. I loved it. I’m thrilled I’ve given people food for thought, and I look forward to speaking more often and being a part of a new dialogue on both mental health and healthy sex.

My engagement was probably as cathartic for me as some people in the room tell me it was for them, too.

It’s a really, really, really great gift of an experience on a weekend that, for 10 years, has usually sucked. I hate Mother’s Day thanks to the Dead Mom Factor. I miss my mother a little today. But for the first time in a long time, I’m not sad this Mother’s Day and I’m not angry.

Getting the fear of opening up in public speaking off my back? What a gift.

I’ll probably be writing about things this weekend has stirred up for a while.

It might not be the kind of conversation and end product Northern Voices normally results in, but I think it’s true to the life of the conference — the belief each of us needs to not only find our voices but sound them out.

It’s a message I’ve been on for years.

Speak up. Being heard is a beautiful thing.

Own who you are, live out loud.

The video will be aired on the web someplace and soon, when it is, I’ll post some linkage for those who are curious and couldn’t be at the engagement. Thank you to everyone who wished me well.

The Fantasy Business

The guy is asleep, about four feet to my left. He looks so different when he’s sleeping.

We were talking the other night and I told him I would have to start getting up before him for awhile on weekends, so I could write, as it’s really important to me. He understood, naturally, and began narrating, suggesting the above opening line as an opening line. I had different ideas in mind, naturally, but hey… I’m in the fantasy-fulfilling business, you know.

And maybe you don’t know it, but you are, too.

I was reading a certain high-profile sex blog yesterday in which another blog was mentioned, in both a positive and negative manner.* The former blog included a negative mention of the latter’s recent dismissal of her lover’s desire to come on her tits sometimes. The latter told her man he was “acting like an idiot,” and apparently he apologized, saying he was “horrified” with his behaviour.

Yeah. Right. Both myself and the voice of the former blog state that any notion of this guy truly being “horrified” is more hilarious than it is likely.

What is likely, though, is that she managed to, in one simple, fell swoop, dissuade her man from being anything but truly honest with her in the future. She more than likely made him feel like an idiot, though. Shame’s a killer in a relationship, and she’s going to come to regret that, whether she wants to admit it or not. Somewhere down the road, she’s gonna wonder where it all changed. Well, that’s the fulcrum there, baby.

Sex takes all kinds. We’ve all got strange little fantasies, although his wasn’t all that strange, nor really out of the norm at all. Far be it for me to suggest you do anything you’re uncomfortable with, but as far as fantasies go, allowing your guy to shoot his load on your tits isn’t exactly all that invasive.

Personally, I’ve admitted before that I’m not really into the above. Would I shut a lover down for asking? Jesus, no!

Your job, as a lover, is to listen to your partner’s wishes, dreams, and desires. That means, if they have a d-i-r-t-y fantasy, you should be listening to it. Do you have to partake? Absolutely not. But I don’t care if you’re the goddamned Queen of England – you have NO right to ridicule them or mock them for their wishes. Don’t you EVER think otherwise.

Deep down inside, I’ve always had this ridiculously stupid fantasy of having sex in an anti-gravity chamber. Yeah, loverboy and I are cracking the code for NASA and taking a field-trip. Right. (Although there was reportedly a hotel in Paris that offered the services once upon a world, if I recall correctly.) Still, I’ve thought of it more than once. It’s there, on that list, “Things I’ll do if the chance arises.” Mental note made, long, long ago.

Fantasies are what they are, and everybody has the right to them. Shutting down your lover for their wishes is akin to telling your kid they’re too stupid to be an architect. Who in the HELL do you think you are?

Don’t like the idea? Just say no. Tell them you understand why it might get them off, but you’re uncomfortable with performing that act. They’re not insulted, and you’ve made your point known. Peachy.

But in a perfect world, you’d grow the hell up, and realize that most of these things aren’t going to kill you, but they might take your lover to a place they’ve never been before. Now you decide. Do you want to be a selfish person, and just say no all the time, or do you want to explain that it doesn’t do anything for you, but you’re willing to indulge their desires, if it makes them happy, once in a blue moon?

Consider it like one of those strange food cravings we’ve all had: pickles and ice cream, a bacon & peanut butter sandwich, liver and onions. It’s not a regular part of our diet, but once in a frickin’ while you just can’t help yourself. There’s almost this shame behind it. I’m eating bacon with peanut butter. Just like that fat fuck Elvis. Is there a dire future with a toilet in front of me? We’re secretive about it. Guilt, guilt, guilt, baby, but GOD, it feels good.

Now, imagine you’re sitting there, dreaming of this sandwich, and in comes your lover, who’s always stated it’d make him/her ill to have one. And there they are, holding the sandwich with bacon cooked just the way you like it, on the best bread, with the best peanut butter, and they made it themselves. Now, I guarantee you, apart from just satisfying a craving, it’s gonna be the best fucking sammich you ever sank your teeth in. It’s a gift, it’s thoughtful, and completely selfless.

Like fulfilling any fantasy can be.

And let me say another thing: If you lord it over them (“see how generous I am? You owe me, you know,”) then you’re still a lousy lover, don’t kid yourself. It’s not about power or debt or superiority. It’s about just being there in a way that makes your lover feel a little more validated by you.

Hmm. And you know? Mine really does look a little different while he’s sleeping, and it’s time I returned to him.

Listen to your lovers. Indulge them sometimes. Never judge them. Always respect them. Is it really so fucking hard?

*I’d rather not give publicity to her in a negative way. She’s already getting slammed, and if she reads this, she’ll know it’s her.

The Relationship Ride

When I was a little girl, I liked the “nice” rides at amusement parks. The Tilt-a-Whirl was a favourite. There’d be those moments when you’d spin wildly and you’d verge on nausea, and then it’d slow on down, and you’d settle back into an easy pace. It was unpredictable, but never dangerous, and never scary. The perfect combination, I always thought.

When I was eight, I went to Ontario to visit family, and my Evil Vixen cousin decided I needed to try a scarier experience. I was just tall enough to ride, and this was one of those big wheel-type thingies where everyone walks in, gets strapped against the wall, and the thing spins madly at wild speeds, first on a horizontal plane, but then it starts angling and elevating, until you hit absolute vertical – with every rotation, you go from facing skyward to staring at the ground from a height of a hundred feet or more. For an eight-year-old Steff, it was hellishly frightening. Throw in the blasting music and the screams and taunts of others, and there I was, out of control.

I was screaming, crying, and absolutely horrified. Tears poured down my face and I couldn’t stop wailing. They had to stop the ride and let me off. I was heaving and sobbing and needed my mommy, who was thousands of kilometers away.

To this day, there are times when I wish I could do the same with life. Stop the ride, man, let me off. Give me a blankie and a quiet night with reruns, I’m done like dinner.

The beginning of relationships, for me, are one of the most terrifying things I can experience. I’d like to jump in head-first, absolute abandon, and know it’s okay, it’s all right, I can do it. But I can’t. I start to, I throw my pennies in the wishing well and pray it’s all going to be all right, but then the evil What If? Monster starts whispering in my head.

What if I’m wrong? What if he comes to his senses? What if there’s some external factor I can’t control? What if I’m missing out on something better? What if the timing’s wrong?

And I fucking hate the What If? Monster. I hate the ambivalence and apprehension that finds me when the only thing I should be finding is trust. I’m in that rare situation with a guy who’s opening all the trust doors first, so the fear’s a little less than it might normally be, but it’s still there, and I really, fucking hate that it is. I wish it wasn’t. This time, I really wish it wasn’t.

But it’s strange and weird because he has this, this massive decoder ring of mine. Not only do I have this blog, with more than 200 postings, but I have my other blog, with more than 500. I don’t know if I’m your standard blogger, because I try to really peel back my layers. Not for you, not for him, not for anyone but for myself.

Unfortunately, though, he gets to peel back my layers on his own time, by himself, without me seeing his reaction, and I’m left wondering, “What’s he really thinking?” Fortunately, he’s good enough at expressing himself that he often clues me in without my needing to ask. Still, I’m over-analytical, timid, worried, and scared. That’s just me, and it works better when I’m flying solo, because then I can sit around and ask all these grand questions that my readers can relate to. Now, though, I’m not flying solo, so I go and I air these fears, and he’s gonna know. Maybe a good thing, maybe not.

In my life, fear is the great component that I can never, ever shake. All this self-examination and illumination is generally done in the attempt to get past the fear of hurt and pain that has greatly coloured my life over these years. I’ve had, unquestionably, a hard life. I’ve been hurt six ways to Sunday in every arena of my life, no matter what walls I’ve put up or taken down. I’ve had adversity piled upon adversity, and the hardest thing I’ve ever had to learn is a) to love myself in the face of it all, and b) to allow others to love me.

And I’m nowhere near ready on the front of B. I’m having a hard, hard time getting past this fear and apprehension that comes with the beginning of a new relationship, but specifically, this one. There’s the reality that this relationship has begun with more abandon and less restraint than any I’ve ever had. It’s freaking the shit out of me, honestly. That was hard enough at the beginning, but then my bone-breaker had the misfortune of badly breaking his leg and needing surgery for the insertion of a metal plate and several screws. I feel so horribly for him, and because I’ve already come to care a good deal for the man, I really want to be there to be of assistance and comfort for him.

So I have. And today, oh, my GOD. I’ve woken up with The Fear. I hate The Fear. On the one hand, I’m screaming “Stop the ride, lemme off!” On the other, I’m thinking I like this feeling. I love how I feel when I’m around him, but when I’m not… all the niggling doubts squirm to the surface of my psyche and the Questioning begins anew, and quite needlessly, I suspect, given the time we’ve shared and the openness we seem to already have.

During one of our first nights together, we were lying on the bed, comparing notes about what we thought the other would be like versus what they had turned out to really be. He commented that he thought I’d be “more cerebral… no, more pensive.” I told him that I am, but that moods like pensiveness have no place in front of another person. (It’s rude, methinks.) I’m very, very pensive – always, really – but moreso when I’m alone. I do get very quiet, though, in those makeout sessions, lying there, occasionally holding each other’s gaze, and in those moments, it’s true, I’m not really thinking about anything in particular. But the wheel’s turning, and soon, the thoughts strike. Like now, the next morning.

And my question today is, am I my own worst enemy? Is my fear my great undoing? It probably is. But at least I confront it, I give it a voice, and maybe that’s the first step in moving past it. I know I feel this way, and I’ve tried to explain to The Guy that, for now, my actions need to speak much louder than my words, ‘cos baby, I ain’t got the words. Not yet. I try. But I can’t do.

I’m a good woman, a good lover, and a great friend. I know it, and I try to be each of those, but deep down inside, I’m also a scared little girl that wants the safety of the Tilt-a-Whirl. Too bad I’ve met the height requirement for the big fucking roller-coaster, and it’s the only ride operating.

Unleashing Your Vixen: Some Serious Thoughts

Do you ever have those moments when clarity comes up behind you with a baseball bat and beats the hell out of you?

You get up, groggy, woozy, disoriented, but shit, you know better now, man.

I’ve been avoiding getting into this Vixen thing. The problem with procrastination is that you avoid things so much that you fail to even become aware of why the avoidance is there in the first place.

But then clarity comes along with that fucking bat and, sooner or later, you clue the hell in. Like I did about 30 minutes ago. For some reason, today I feel like I’m Frodo walking across that marshland with all the corpses under the surface of the pondwater. I feel like I’m about to go under, like there’s some kinda tether wrapped around my heart and strung to the reeds below the surface, tugging me down and trying to seduce me into the dark.

It sounds really intense, but it’s not as bad as it sounds. Sure, it feels like that, but it’s a really surreal feeling, like there’s a bubble around me, like there’s all these dead little faces floating around me of people who think they’re alive, but really just aren’t. That I’m sitting around in utter silence on a freezing day in February might be adding to those Dali-esque proportions, so maybe I’ll just browse my iTunes here and stoke up a change of pace. When in doubt, go with the Butthole Surfers, that’s my policy.

This week, the week that follows Valentine’s Day, is the least favourite of my year. In a span of six days falls the anniversary of when the docs found a grapefruit-sized tumour in my mother’s belly and her birthday. Yes, that’s been on my mind. She has been on my mind an awful lot, particularly in relation to this topic. I, more than anything else in her life, am my mother’s legacy, and that’s not arrogance, that’s the admiration of a daughter who had a mother deserving of it. I am my mother’s daughter – in most ways.

If you met me in real life, you’d see a lot of similarities to the person on these pages. I’m boisterous, brazen, demure, open, scathing — whatever you want to call me, I’m an awful lot of those things. But my mother blazed that trail, baby. She was a model in her youth, she was hot when she died, didn’t look over 50. She had red hair, green eyes, and she was a risk-taker and a daredevil. She sold real estate, raced yachts, and wasn’t afraid of a fucking thing (most of the time).

She was never open about sex. I doubt she ever became a vixen. I bet she never trusted a man enough. I don’t think she ever got past the shame of what sex symbolized in her demented little worldview on the subject. My father and I were recently talking, musing about whether she had been sexually assaulted at age 12. My father grew up in her neighbourhood, they were friends all their lives, and he remembered when she changed, as if she just broke. He said something was never the same after she was 12, that day they came home to find her scantily clad, rocking barefoot under the farm’s kitchen table, shaking and sobbing.

This Vixen thing… it’s a personal mission for me, really. I’ve been the legacy of dysfunctional views on sex. I’ve seen what a loveless marriage does not only to the participants but the children involved. I’ve seen what happens to men (including my father) who get neglected and taken for granted, what happens to women forgotten by their lovers, and it all breaks my heart. It’s a really sad thing to behold, the loss of someone’s sexual side.

When I was young, I fell for that fascist Ayn Rand, and one quote stands out after all these years, that “avoiding death does not equal living life.” We’ve somehow fallen into this trap of “surviving” life. Yeah, you go right ahead. Survive. I’m gonna live, thanks.

And that’s the problem, most of us are content to merely survive our jobs, survive our relationships, whatever it takes to make it to the other side with the least resistance.

Being a vixen, or in the case of the men out there, an attentive, daring, open lover who’s receptive to his lover’s needs, takes guts. It doesn’t happen from just thinking it’d be nice to go there. It’s about actively pushing your fears and apprehensions. It’s about saying you’re not scared about being judged. But mostly, it’s about trusting this lover of yours you claim you trust. It’s about putting your money where your mouth is, baby.

It’s too late for my mother, and I caught the bus last decade, man, so I’m good, but there are a lot of folks out there who must learn how much more fun life is when they learn that being vulnerable doesn’t necessarily mean becoming hurt*, it means sucking the marrow out of life and taking the chances you’ve been resisting.

Mostly, though, it’s about really having great new experiences. So, you know, like they says, you better get busy livin’ or get busy dyin’, but make your fucking choices and stop just letting life happen to you. Being a dead fish is simply the personification of all those other little fears you have inside. Confront them.

Me, being a vixen underlies EVERYTHING I do in my life. I take chances, I go with the moment, and I may not have the fancy car and the retirement package some of my conservative friends have, but I’ve got experiences. Very cool experiences. So far, dying tomorrow, I’d have few, if any regrets, and knowing that is the greatest thing I can say about who I am.

*And even if you get hurt occasionally by becoming vulnerable, I’ve discovered firsthand that the richness of everyday experiences far outweighs those occasional bumps and bruises along the way. Like mountain biking or something, sometimes you fall, sure, but at least you’re out there having the experience most of the time… and hurts always heal. I take my lumps and go again.

Getting What You Ask For

Words hurt. What we say can hurt others. It can traumatize them. It can lead to unthinkable acts. Without a doubt, words can hurt.

But what we don’t say can often hurt us every bit as much. Unfortunately, as you read this, lovers all over the world are having unnecessarily bad sex all because of words they’re not saying.

Words like, “Honey, not so hard.” Or perhaps, “Can you move a little to the left?” Or quite possibly the worst phrase of all to overlook, “I think we could use a little lube.”

I’m making light of it, to be sure, but honestly, I still feel the best way to dial up a sex life is through talk. I’m not suggesting getting into a discourse on the pros and cons of ratifying Kyoto or anything, but rather, an interactive discussion on whether things are working or not. But let’s come back to that.

I recently received a happy package in the mail from my Secret Santa. In it was a copy of the Better Sex Series on DVD. This was Volume One: Advanced Sexual techniques and Positions.

Now, personally, I didn’t find there was anything really new in the DVD, but I really was glad to watch it. I’ll be keeping it around. It may come in handy with a future lover. It’s a “how to” video that explains a whole lot about sex, and I think it’d probably be useful for any new or even intermediate couple. It echoes a lot of things I’ve always believed.

There was a lot of great information included, everything from how every person’s body will respond differently to stimulation, to the uniqueness of different cocks and vaginas, and a myriad of useful position and technique advice. Great stuff.

It also highlighted the necessity of communication. The program’s participants appear to be real couples who occasionally suck at acting (in that they’re just trying too hard to say the lines right) but they sure as hell have it going on in bed. The couples talk on-screen about aspects of their sex lives correlating to whatever topic might be showing at any given time, from cunnilingus to come, and then you see snippets of them getting it on in rather elegant, if sparse, and nicely lit surroundings, illustrating how hot their sex really is.

(An assumption one might draw if they excelled in naivety would be along the lines of, “Dude, they talked about it and then, whammo! They had frickin’ hot sex! Talking is HOT, dude!”)

There are scenes, though, that illustrate beautifully what kind of dialogue can be used to really spice up your relationship. How? It’ll give you a roadmap for your partner’s pleasure zones. Here’s some questions I think ought to be asked in these scenarios, and some are variations of ones asked in the DVD:

“How do you like having your clit rubbed?”
“What part of your cock is the most sensitive?”
“Is there something I don’t do that you wish I did?”
“What part of your body do you think needs more attention?”
“What do I do that you like the most?”
“What do you like the least?”
“When’s your favourite time to have sex?”
“Please tell me when I’m doing something that doesn’t feel right.”
“I wish we could keep doing this longer…”

You obviously can surmise that having information on any of the above questions would give you a little more insight into your lover. I mean, haven’t you ever had that experience where, when you were younger, you had certain beliefs (political, ethical, spiritual, philosophical, whatever) and you happened upon a book that somehow encapsulated everything you ever believed, and you suddenly just had this totally invigorated worldview?

Not everyone knows that feeling, but I do, and those that do, I bet they know what I’m saying here. If, say, you have an inkling that the way you tickle your lover’s anus when you’re making out, playing naked in bed, but it’s one of those sorta odd taboos you’ve never really spoken about, so it’s almost like a guilty little pleasure when you sneak a little tweak for kicks, right?

But let’s say it finally comes up in conversation. They somehow look up at you, all abashed, and guiltily confess, “I gotta say, I get so, so, so hot whenever you do that thing to my ass, but I’ve been too embarrassed to admit it… and I’d like a little more.”

One little statement, that’s all it takes. I couldn’t care less if assplay is a notion that gets you off or not, but you see my point. Confess your desires, inquire as to theirs, and start fulfilling them. What part of this is so hard to understand?

Not much, I gather. It’s just hard to do. At first. One day, you just come to realize that being vulnerable may get you a little more hurt more often, but wow, the dividends it pays in most of your life is frickin’ killer — especially when it comes to sex. You’ll find that the more you open up, the more you will be rewarded in kind. When that happens, a synergy starts to build between you. There’s something there, more tangible, more open, more adventurous. It’s like you’re finally receiving permission to act.

What’s more, it’ll start spilling out into other areas of your life. You’ll feel more comfortable being open. It takes a while to find the right people who are receptive to it, but once you do, then you need to find a way to get them talking.

And if you can’t get them talking, then at least try to get them to watch something like the Better Sex series. There is help out there, kids. It’s a matter of finding it.