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A Woman Without Secrets

Part 1

Article by Erin Willett

Flowers by Marc Sardi

I don’t really know where to start. How does one introduce themselves and their relationship to their sexuality, their body, their capacity for intimacy? The real question I’m asking myself is, how do I introduce myself in a way that will allow me to control how you interpret me? How can I introduce all these pieces so you can see that I’m complex, so much more than can be expressed in this piece?

Maybe, instead of attempting to control this narrative, I can ask you for a favour. As you read my words (these and future ones), can you hold the truth that I am so much more than what you see on this page? Can you hold the truth that even as I write these words, my relationship with the topics and memories I’m sharing is evolving and shifting? Don’t hold me to the labels you give me. Don’t hold me to the labels I give myself. I need room to evolve or I’ll clam up.

Can you do that for me? Can I do that for me?

That said, here are two things you can hold as truth about me:

When someone asks me how I am, if my answer is a word, I’m lying. My feelings are multi-layered, always. As I’ve pondered how to tie together all the threads that impact and shape my relationship with myself, my body and my desires, I’ve found it virtually impossible to box this universe into a digestible thread. Truthfully, as I venture into these topics - ones I think and feel into often - even I find it difficult to see the bottom of The Well. Writing about something like Intimacy comes with a complex emotional cocktail and a whole spectrum of stories ranging from carnal lusts to childhood traumas to tales of needs unmet.

Here’s another thing you should know about me as we venture down these shares together: I’ve spent a devastating amount of energy hiding parts of myself, feeling shame for parts of my body, for parts of my personality - even for my emotional depth. I don’t have the energy to spare anymore. I aspire to be a woman unashamed. I aspire to be a woman without secrets.

So in an effort to share the emotional cocktail shamelessly and transparently, let’s begin.

I wanted for this first piece, to tell you the story of what I called My Pursuit of Pleasure in 2022. But as we know, every story begins long before it actually begins…

Covid was a fucked-up time (Captain Obvious?). Yada yada: isolation, vulnerability, overexposure to the people you live with while desperate to be seen by strangers, loss of self, therapy, therapy, therapy, countless “Who the fuck am I?” moments, discovery of self over and over. You get the vibe? Ok, so, in August of 2021 (just weeks before our second round of Quarantine Months) all in the span of 7 days: I found out I was pregnant, was in turmoil about the possibility of bearing a child and becoming a parent, flip-flopped a thousand times, decided to keep the baby and devastatingly miscarried on my way to a big cottage weekend with my extended family.

The whole experience was … a bumpy one, to say the least.

In many ways, I wasn’t ready to have a child and frankly, couldn’t visualize how I would fit one into my life. A large part of me didn’t believe I would ever venture down the path of having my own children. Because of these truths, I was taken aback by the pain that came from having lost the baby. Post-miscarriage, I was left deeply confused about what I wanted and overly conscious of my aging uterus. The loss sparked a period of deep contemplation about my life course and the impact of the decisions I had made and would continue to make. In the months that followed, it felt like a tortoise shell of anxiety had stationed itself and hardened around my womb. I tried to be compassionate with myself while cursing a diminishing libido, worrying I was losing touch with my ability to access the sensual. I attempted, in the ways that would have worked in the past, to reignite my connection to my physical form. Try as hard as I might with the Icicles No 2 and the showerhead, for the most part, my psyche was firmly planted from the neck up in my intellect (not the place I want to be when looking for a release). Any attempts at positive mirror affirmations would result in a wave of body dysmorphia and some pretty brutal internal monologue. My body felt like a distant, unfamiliar entity. Someone I once thought I knew, someone I realised I hadn’t known at all.

There were some dark winter months where I shared with my closests that I felt broken. Sounds dramatic but so much of my sense of self had been wrapped up in my connection to my body, in my ability to perform sensuality, to perform societally acceptable examples of womanhood. My grief had made it impossible to act out of integrity with myself. I was too raw to perform any way but The Truth. I needed to learn how to return to myself slowly, with tenderness, without the rush to cum or the pressure to be anything other than what I was, which was sad and confused and more than a little lost.

I slowly started learning during those dark months to tamper the urge to rush, feel into experiences and find myself in my body with care and compassion. This practice stands in stark contrast to how I would describe past chapters of my relationship with my body and my sexuality. Intellectualization is a good word to share when I speak of my sexual past. Performative is also a good word, as is Self-betrayal, unfortunately.

Sure, there were moments I felt connected, when I was safe to explore and expand and erupt. But that release was rarely a free-fall. I understand now that the connection I felt with partners was only as deep as I had been able to meet myself at the time. I could only relinquish control to the extent that trust had been built - first and foremost, with myself. The unfortunate truth is that I often felt most in connection with myself when I was alone, most seen when I was not being seen by others. (Oouf. It’s kinda harsh to see that written out in black and white.) This is a narrative I’m attempting to rewrite - in part, through these shares with Afterglo.

As I struggled to become reacquainted with my body post-miscarriage, “post”-Covid, having passed the mid-30s mark, some truths had become clear to me:

I was done with The Performative. I’m a terrible actor to begin with but coming out of the chapter I’d just lived, I didn’t have the stomach for any fake whatsoever. I was done with valuing The Attractive Facade. What I wanted, and what was begging to be recognized, was my desire for deep, truthful connection. I wanted messy, unfiltered. I wanted to be splayed, exposed. I wanted to be seen as honestly as possible.

Fundamentally, what became glaringly obvious was that my emotional truth was my path to my sexual, sensual, rawest expression. I could not think my way forward, I would need to feel my way through it. This is where my Pursuit of Pleasure really began…

And maybe that’s where I’ll pause this tale, for now; pace myself and challenge my usual urge to overshare during the first convo. 

Erin Willett

Erin believes we are all designers and that life is our artform. She sees self-expression through words, movement, dress, sound, smell and touch, as being the channel through which we heal ourselves and connect with others. She’s not defined by her work yet deeply passionate about her career which she hopes will contribute to meaningful steps towards equitable social change. She’s an artist, a feminist, emotional, intense, intentional and pro-aging. She’s always searching but never lost. And, most importantly, she is a guest on Indigenous Land.

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