Life is a Playground; You Know How to PlayBY DRUCILLE WEST
I grew up being a good girl. I want to start with that because it defined who I was for so long, and it’s at the heart of what I’ve overcome.
For much of my life, I’ve been a dancer. Dance was my passion, and then it became my business. Dance is a tricky thing, because you fall in love with it for how it makes you feel, but it’s also so tied into what other people see. You have to have this deep knowledge of your own body, and learn to listen to it – but you also need to be thinking constantly about how it appears. I got really good at striking that balance. I thought of myself as an athlete as much as an artist. If you had known me, before OM, you’d have thought I was very strong.
All that physicality, though, wasn’t enough to make me feel powerful in my relationships. Over and over again, I put myself in abusive situations. I chose experiences that would put me down instead of letting me grow. I had this rather childlike view of romance. My friends who didn’t know me well saw me as empowered, witchy, and playful; the men I dated knew me to be needy and insecure. Men took advantage of me, but I absolutely own that I put myself in the position to be hurt. I was codependent to an extreme; I kept my feelings bottled up until they would explode. I was always walking on eggshells.
What shifted my life began with a series of small disasters. My business, which was based primarily in Europe, collapsed. My boyfriend and I broke up. The things I had counted on were suddenly gone, and I decided I had to buckle down and get into survival mode. I felt lonely and scared. I was in my 40s: I didn’t want to be starting over at this age, after all I had achieved. It was a really hard time. An ex-boyfriend, knowing what I was going through, recommended a book. This ex had always had a difficult relationship with food, and told me this book had changed everything for him. I borrowed it and started reading – and there I found a reference to the practice of Orgasmic Meditation in one of the chapters. The words jumped out at me, and I read everything I could about OM in the footnotes. Something told me this might be what I needed.
When I got back to the States, I signed up for an OM workshop. I was incredibly intrigued. The explanation sounded like it was on cutting edge of science, sexuality and psychology. It was full of the promise of pushing through to something better. I’d been an athlete my whole life: I knew all about pushing through. And when I had a front-row seat to see my first OM demonstration, I was electrified. I felt hot, not just with sexual desire, but with excitement, as if my whole body was anticipating what all this could mean. I had no reservations.
That initial excitement shifted to doubt the moment my own first OM began. I felt small, embarrassed, and ashamed. Just lying down in the nest brought up many feelings of inadequacy. I didn’t feel like the woman I’d seen being stroked. I just felt very sad. When the stroker put his finger on my clitoris, it hurt. It wasn’t that he needed to change the strokes; everything just felt sharp. I felt like I was being cut. I stayed with it, even though I felt like a terrified little rabbit stuck in a cage. If my body has learned one thing, it’s that discomfort is only momentary, and if you can stick with the Big Uncomfortable for just a little longer than you think, you’ll break through to the other side. There’s a sweetness waiting for you there. As sad and small and in pain as I was, I knew what was coming. I knew that I’d cross over, and I stayed with it – and then the sweetness came at last, literally and figuratively. And every subsequent time, the discomfort diminished, and I was able to get through to the sweetness more quickly.
Part of being a good girl had been having hyper-vigilance. For as long as I could remember, I was always waiting for something to go wrong, for the “other shoe to drop.” This was my pattern in relationships in particular. I was with a lot of abusive men, and I was always edgy, waiting for an alarm to go off. That kind of constant vigilance left me in a perpetual state of near-hysteria, just waiting for trouble to emerge. What OM did and does is help me to lower that armor, to stop that exhausting, tense, waiting and observing. I can let things in because they won’t overwhelm me the way I thought they would. I became more receptive because I became far more playful. I’m not a scared little rabbit waiting to be tormented; I’m a cat who plays on my terms and when I’m ready. The whole process of OM reconfigures how you see what’s around you so that life is a playground on which you instinctively know how to play.
Before OM, people often used to look at me with concern, and ask me what was wrong. My anxiety tended to show on my face, unless I was on stage. No one asks me that anymore. My friends say they see this calm in me, and they feel calmer just being around me. Before, I made everyone tense because I was so anxious. Now, I center them. It’s not that I’m serene all the time: part of that calm comes from being playful and experimental in a way that continually surprises me. I’m not holding onto my age: I don’t worry about what I’ve lost or that I’ve run out of time. I know my practice will keep me expanding to meet the world, and I’ll be ready to welcome in new things.
Life isn’t perfect. I still go through hard times. We’ve all gone through incredibly difficult years. Sometimes, I still cry in frustration and disappointment. But I never stay stuck there for long. Something new and interesting is always coming; it’s just on the other side, and I know how to get there.