I Don’t Have to Perform Anymore

BY JACKS

I grew up in a household that was abusive by the textbook definition.  My parents were both alcoholics and addicts. My father was gone much of the time; my mother was emotionally unavailable to anything other than her own pain. I went to a prestigious private school in San Diego, my hometown, but it was no refuge. I felt invisible and “less than” in that world.  My survival strategy at home and at school was the same: hide from everyone, even if it meant hiding in plain sight. I got to be very good at giving people what they wanted and showing them what they wanted to see.  I didn’t have another tool to use to keep myself safe.

By my early 20s, I was having regular panic attacks, and sudden little bursts of almost unexplainable rage. I felt like life was happening to me, and it wasn’t my own.  I couldn’t tell others that, though, because in the eyes of those around me, I was doing great.  I was thriving, studying towards an exciting career. I felt like I couldn’t complain about what was really happening on the inside, as no one would believe me.

I found OM just after I had broken up with a girlfriend.  It had been a very serious relationship, but it had fallen apart in part because she felt that I was often distant.  I could only have these rare moments of joy and intimacy, and trying to get closer to me eventually wore her out.  After this breakup, I was incredibly frustrated. I had no problem getting dates or meeting women, but I knew I was missing something – everything ended up being disappointing and hollow. The few times I felt real connection were incredibly precious, but they were always fleeting and I could never figure out how to get them back. I knew it wasn’t just that my expectations for intimacy were too high; my ex-girlfriend had the same expectations, and she broke up with me because I couldn’t meet them.  In a sense, she did me a favor: by making it clear that there was more out there for her than what I was offering, she gave me the hope that maybe there was more there for me, too. 

I can’t remember where I first heard about OM, but it seemed for a while that everyone was talking about it. I was curious, mostly because just the name alone seemed to promise that I might be able to get to a deeper place than I had been able to before.  I’d already been practicing yoga and meditation, and I knew that both could bring real help.  Combined with getting closer to women?  I was intrigued enough to sign up.

From my very first OM on, the “noticing” step had the greatest impact on me.  Part of always performing for others is thinking about how you look to them, and I’d always felt like I was playing a role when I was with a woman. To turn off that part of my brain and just observe and describe what I was seeing shifted something in me.  Even before I had started stroking for the first time, noticing and verbalizing what I had noticed made me feel more alive and present. The adjustments were almost as important. I didn’t have to overthink what the next thing to do was; I just had to respond to the communication I was getting.  It seems obvious now, but there’s a huge difference between doing what you think someone wants, and actually doing what you can hear them saying they want with their words and with their body.

The sharing of “frames” afterwards remains my favorite part of an OM, and it always reminds me of the difference between this practice and sex.  Before OM, I always felt like the talking after sex involved me taking a woman’s emotional temperature, trying awkwardly to figure out what this experience had meant to us.  What’s so amazing about the way we share after an OM is that there’s a deep intimacy that comes from structure and clarity.  That’s why they call it a “frame,” because it creates a way to capture something so intense. Understanding the frame means the less I have to worry about doing or saying the right thing. It means I get to be fully present with the other person, something that was so elusive before. 

A little while ago, I got out of another serious and intense relationship – my first since starting to practice OM.  A heartbreak is always a heartbreak. I always feel them intensely, and takes a while for me to get my feet planted back on earth after one happens. The difference this time was that I wasn’t destroyed by the breakup.  I’m still open, maybe even more so.  Instead of making me want to shut down, I take the lesson of this relationship and try to use it to expand myself and grow. For the first time, I’m able to be friends with an ex, and to keep the lines of communication open.  When you’ve been that close to someone, you still have a lot to learn from each other even after you’re no longer romantically involved.  OM gave me the tools to stay present with this woman, and to still love her even though we’re not together.

One of the things I love most about my life in OM is that I have a community of close female friends.  Creating and sustaining friendships with women had always been difficult.  Some of my best friends now are women that I’ve OMed with. The experience of coming together in this safe structure, without sexual or emotional expectations, is just wonderful. It’s shifted my whole understanding of what friendship can be.  These friends aren’t prospective romantic partners, they’re more like companions with whom you go through life. I can help them with their relationships, and they assist me with mine.  The way in which OM makes it possible for masculine and feminine to be friends is almost magical, except it isn’t really magic – it’s a practice that any of us can have.