What My Body Tells Me

BY AMBER

Dread fills me as I'm walking down the street, and I see my mother's car parked up ahead at a gas station. She gets out of her car and stumbles towards me, hair in a tangle, eyes red and wild, hands wringing. A ghastly smile forces its way onto her face as she stops in front of me and asks me for money.

I know what she wants the money for. I don't want to give it to her because she'll use it to buy more meth. But I'm only 17. She's desperate, pleading with me, and she's my mother. How can I say no?

For years, I was haunted by the idea that life outside of my family trauma wasn't an option, that the pain of my parents' turmoil would always impact me. When I was a child, they gave me the impression that their lives were perfect. My mother sent me to a non-denominational church and set rules for me. “You will not drink.” “You will not have sex before marriage.” I didn't date anybody. My first kiss was the weekend after I graduated high school. If I ever had any sexual thoughts, I would turn them into romantic ideas. I was allowed to have crushes and desire boys, but getting to know my body or thinking about sex wasn't an option. When I was 13, my mom washed my mouth out with soap for saying the word “sex.”

I know she was trying to protect me. As a churchgoer, I would lecture my parents on how they shouldn't listen to secular music, and they shouldn't drink alcohol. My father drank too much, and I knew that there was a family tendency toward alcoholism because I was told it was not a good idea for me to drink. But until I was 16, when my parents divorced, I had no idea my mother had been using and dealing drugs for years, as well as cheating on my father.

I thought I knew who they were, and then suddenly I didn't. In my anger, I decided their rules no longer applied. I started drinking and having sex, letting myself go. But I crashed really hard. At one point, I was suicidal and went to a mental hospital.

At the age of 20, I married a man eight months after meeting him. We didn't know how to communicate. When I sensed he was upset with me, and I confronted him, he would say, “No, I'm not angry.” Instead of realizing, “Oh, he's afraid of his anger,” I would decide I was crazy for feeling like he was angry. We had four years of this roller coaster.

When we split, I told myself I probably needed therapy for the divorce, but I was going to party first. I went on dating apps and drank and partied my brains out. I approached dating with an attitude of “Let's see how many guys I can have sex with.” I liked asking for sex in someone's inbox on the dating website, throwing men off guard by being super direct and clear about what I wanted, instead of the stereotypical “When are you going to take me to dinner?” But inside I was feeling a deep loneliness. 

Then I met a man who told me about his OM practice. It was so out of left field, but clearly it was doing something for him because he was able to be present with me in a way I hadn't experienced before. Most of my interactions with men had consisted of either pining after them or having drunken sex, after which I may or may not remember the guy's name. But this man was different. I felt really seen by him. 

I learned to OM in a class and the whole experience had me feel more alive. I grew up religious, so to be in this room talking about sexuality openly was very exciting. I felt a sense of community after having such an intimate and vulnerable experience. I wanted more of that. 

As I continued to practice, I found safety in the OM container, the set-up that allows me to know what's going to happen. In that secure space, I learned to focus on what my body was feeling and just be with it. I learned a lot from the noticing step, when the stroker reports what he's seeing, and from the framing at the end, when we report to each other what happened. These communications kept me from taking the energy and romanticizing it, the way I had always done. I allowed the interaction to just be what it is.

During an OM, when my mind wandered, the part of me that wanted to be a good student said, “Okay, Amber, now you're thinking about something else. But what are you feeling in your body? Because you're going to have to give a frame, and we've got to get an A-plus with this frame.” It helped me develop that muscle to listen to my body. I was willing to look at my body and feel it and build a relationship with it.  

Once I was OMing, I decided to go into a 12-step program to deal with my drinking. For months, I continued to drink, but I remember the day when I decided to stop. It was because I could feel my body so acutely from OMing. The hangover was horrendous. That was the turning point.

I started dating another man who OMed, and I moved into his house. We went on a deep personal development journey together. The OM practice was a constant that anchored us as we and shed so many things together. I felt understood and loved by him. There was so much richness in that time, I will spend the rest of my life unpacking it.

The man I'm with now is someone I've never met in person, but we've been talking for two and a half years. The distance allows me to not attack him for loving me. I can experience him as an individual, not someone for me to acquire or conquer. He's a man who is flawed just like me, who has his own trauma, and our traumas happen to match up really well.

Sometimes I worry about not having met him in person yet.As long as my body tells me I feel safe in that framework, it doesn't matter what judgments my brain is making. Even if I stay with this man, and we never meet in person, and he's the only person I have for the rest of my life, if that's what my body says, if that's what my intuition says, then it's the right thing to do.

I don't worry so much about exterior rules any more. It's all about what I feel inside. I'm there for myself, no matter what rules I decide to break, no matter how much of a shock factor I have to face.

 My current partner is the only one I've had who loves my body completely and says it all the time. Other partners have always made some comment about my weight, which I think is actually just a reflection of me not loving my body. I think I provoked those remarks. And I had made a rule for myself that at 200 pounds, I was going to do something about my weight, which meant restricting and punishing myself. But my boyfriend said, “No, I don't want you to lose weight,” which became permission for me to just be myself. On my social media account, I post photos of myself, and I have thousands of people complimenting me daily. My mind wants to fight it every day, arguing that I shouldn’t love how my body looks or feels at this weight. I have enough positive reflection around me now that my mind doesn’t win that argument as often. I have started to make a practice of learning to love myself exactly as I am right now.