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Category: Personal Journey

Journal type entries about my personal life.

September Catch-up

Have you been following me on Twitter and Instagram? It’s where I’ve been most of the spring and summer. Online at least. That’s because I haven’t had time to dedicate to my writing beyond 140 characters. It was an experiment of sorts. Here is what happened.

Opportunity

In February/March I had the opportunity to apply for a job at Chez Stella – a local sex worker resource organization. Job opportunities are not something that come my way very often. One reason is that I have been self-employed and freelancing for close to 20 years. Another is that most of my work has been in and around the adult industry. I knew when I started in this business my options would be limited, but the reality of that has really hit me hard these past few years as I try to stay afloat in this era of free porn and tube sites. It has been a serious, depressing struggle.

Anyway, putting together a CV and letter of intent as part of a job application took a lot of time and energy. It was a challenge as it had to be in French and reflect more than a record of skills and accomplishments. It had to include my perspective on harm reduction and sex worker rights activism. It was a very detailed and through exercise for me. It was quite empowering to present a complete picture of myself. Not something I am able to do in any other professional exercise.

A few weeks after submitting my CV and letter of intent I was called in for an interview. It didn’t go as well as I would have liked. I haven’t had a job interview since the 1990s. I was a bit nervous and anxious. I am sure it showed. Also, the interview was held in French and I’m not as comfortable speaking on certain topics in French. For example, I misunderstood a question on Hepatitis C screening. That was awkward.

Another issue that came up was my sobriety. They asked about my comfort about being in bars. I was honest. While that is not an issue per say it made me think about being around people who are drunk and/or high as part of my work and that is not something I really want to be doing. Not because I would tempted. Being around boozed-up high people actually reinforces my choice, but it does exhaust me. Not an ideal frame of mind for doing demanding work with a vulnerable, marginalized population. Even more so than booze or drugs I knew I would likely have to deal with people who are armed and violent. I do not think I have the personality or the skill set to deal with these things.

In the end it was a relief that I did not get offered the job. I’m glad I had the opportunity to apply. Like I said, work outside of xxx performance is hard to come by for me. Having 2 degrees, webmaster skills, and project management experience cannot counteract the stigma and prejudice of having done the work.

This sucks.

A Second Chance

After the job interview I met with a friend who has a start up. He knows about my work as we have collaborated on burlesque productions together. He offered me a management job to help get things going. What timing! While it is in an area of business that is not in my passion zone it would take advantage of my organizational and leadership skills. Looking for some stability I took the job.

I spent all of this Spring and Summer working on this project. As most things it was not exactly as presented and not really a good fit. I did crazy 60 hour weeks and was not able to work on any of my projects (like my Seska blog), see my family or take care of my health. In August I hurt my back and I was unable to move or walk for a week.

As much as I believe in my friend’s project I knew I had to change things up. I took some time off and dealt with my back. I connected with an awesome osteopath that has brought me back to a much more mobile and flexible physical state. When I was ready to go back to work I cut back my hours and responsibilities. It was the right move.

Next Steps

Now I need to go back to where I was in February before this little adventure in employment began.

I am at my happiest, my most fulfilled, when I am creating and communicating, expressing and writing. I am my most engaged and inspired when I am learning, synthesizing what I learned and sharing it with others.

Productivity without passion makes me ever so unhappy. As time consuming as it was to learn this lesson it was worth it.

Now back to the drawing board!

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Why I Don’t Hide Or Deny My Past

OK, time for a super personal blog post about who I am and what I used to do for a living. Yes, I was some version of a porn star.

I do not hide or deny my past work because I think once you have done sex work you should be allowed the freedom and opportunity to do other work – without having to say you were a victim or a survivor if you do not identify as one.

I do not hide or deny this aspect of my life because this experience has brought me to where I am today. It has helped shape me into the woman I am today. I’m an empowered, hard-working, creative, generous and compassionate woman.

I do not hide or deny my past work because there is power in being OUT about it. My past is not a dirty little secret busy-body gossips can try to use against me. It belongs to me. While they can frame it however they want, I know the truth. So do my friends and loved ones.

I do not hide or deny my past work because I do not feel shame over finding pleasure in consensual sex and sharing the documentation of it.

I do not hide or deny my past work because other people are not comfortable with talking about sexuality in general or theirs in particular.

I know when it is appropriate to talk about sex and when it is better to be more discreet. I am a responsible and respectful adult. My friends actually find me prudish and too proper when it comes to public sex talk! I am an educator and believe in age and developmentally appropriate ways to discuss sexuality.

I do not hide or deny my past work because I know all online content (adult or otherwise, commercial or otherwise) is stolen and shared. It will live online as long as there is digital technology.

When I am 90 and in the old-folks-home some attendant will be taking care of me and then unknowingly view pics of a much younger me during their own private moments of pleasure. This type of thing happened to Bettie Page. It will happen to me. It will happen to you if you have ever taken a sexy selfie.

The Internet is forever for all of us.

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Public Declaration

Sharing this blog post is a bit scary for me. I am declaring what is important to me. This declaration is about me making a commitment to myself. It is about me sharing a vision of my life. It is about inviting others to share in my journey of exploration and wellness.

It’s also about making a list.

You see, I want to share some personal life goals and use this special space that is Love-Yourself Living to further document my journey toward wellbeing. I want to be accountable. I want to do what I say I am going to do.

I say all this knowing that I have publicly shared of myself in profound ways for many years. However, right now I feel so much more grounded and clear-headed. More than any other time in my life. It feels like a good time to be a little more specific and concrete with my goals.

I have laid the foundation with mindfulness work and discovering My Core Desired Feelings. Now I can set goals with soul as Danielle LaPorte says.

Sharing also makes me accountable. Not as pressure to live up to my goals. Not motivated out of fear of shame and guilt. More as a way to encourage me to check-in with myself and others.

It is about respecting the holistic. I’m relying on our interdependency. I’m a being that is part of a greater whole. I have a plan and sharing this plan with others helps me and it helps others.

So here it is – a list of definable actions inspired by My Core Desired Feelings of whimsy, full, purpose, radiance and poise.

Ready! Set! Go!

Daily Practice

GRATITUDE

I am a thankful person. I appreciate what I have. Definitely a glass-half-full person. However, my mind can sneak in some scarcity thinking which totally throws me down a rabbit hole of assumptions, comparisons and resentment. Doing a gratitude exercise every night is the plan and so far so good. I do a count of ten things I am grateful for. I have not made it to ten each night. I have actually fallen asleep. So this exercise not only helps my soul, it helps my body and mind ease into sleep. Bonus!

LUNG SUPPORT

All my asthma attacks and allergies were really getting me down. I had trouble breathing 24/7. My previous apartment did not help (it had a mould problem), but my breathing problems go way back. I finally got myself a family doctor (they are hard to find in Quebec). He practices integrative medicine so he has me dealing with my asthma with a combination of prescription medications and natural methods. I take the medications consistently. Now time to be consistent with the natural methods to support my breathing.

  • gargle with salt water every morning
  • neti pot (Not before yoga! If you have neti potted you know what I’m talking about!)

YOGA

My hips are very tight. I have trouble sitting cross-legged. My back is also tight from sitting at my computer desk much of the day. Yoga has helped me loosen up and expand. It also helps me start the day feeling grounded and present in the moment. There isn’t a yoga class in walking distance from my apartment so I last year I started following Tara Stiles on YouTube. I especially liked her little routine for opening up.

NOURISHMENT

I want it to be plant-based most of the time. Moderate animal product consumption for when I visit family.

For the past 4 years I have totally been struggling with my veganism. I was vegetarian for 20 years and vegan for about 15 of that.  Then I began to cheat. Yes, it was cheating. Guilty and shameful cheating. The reason being because I started feeling trapped by the NO aspect of veganism instead of feeling expansive by the YES aspect of it. This Scarcity vs Abundance type thinking and living went beyond food, but that is for another entry.

It makes sense now. I was in the depth of the pain of my divorce and used food to numb the feelings. This made the trapped feeling worse. Over a few months I explored the feelings behind the cheat-eating and the numbing. I was very gentle with myself. No judging. Radical Acceptance all the way. I became more resilient to difficult feelings and the desire to cheat and numb began to lessen.

Now that the tide has changed and I am leaning back into veganism once again. All the reasons for choosing veganism are still there for me. The bottom line is I just do not feel good when I eat animals.

Please know, this is about me and my choices. I don’t care what you eat. It is such a personal thing. Sure, I wish for us humans to be kinder to animals, the planet and ourselves, but unless you ask for advice, it is all up to you and your choices.

I have to say yes to greens and fermented foods more often. I love greens. They are easy to make. Simply steamed! I need to eat more of them. Same thing with (low sugar, low sodium) fermented foods. They are kind of magical. They help with digestion and are correlated to over all improved health. Tempeh is already my soy of choice. Now I want to add sauerkraut to my nourishing mix. I have an acquaintance in the burlesque world who makes and sells it. Hey Lise V, I must get a jar from you!

In terms of supplements I want to add pro-biotics and cranberry extract. This is super practical and oh so important for my lady parts. They help keep my vaginal flora in balance and my urinary tract happy. I find things has been wacky since I gave up booze. Not sure exactly why. Perhaps just a readjustment. Time to get the tract on track.

So that is my list – my self-care declaration for 2015. Adding new things slowly but surely over the days, weeks and months to come. Building a Daily Practice requires time, but it is so worth it. It’s such an adventure in self-love!

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2014 An Interesting Year

2014 has been an interesting year, that is for sure. Pretty much a game changer for me.

Sobriety

The most interesting super big thing I did? I got sober. I won’t go into the details of what drinking was like for me because it still feels rather nuanced and personal, but what I can say is that ultimately I was very unhappy because of my drinking. My health, relationships and productivity all suffered because of it. I have had phases of sobriety these past few years and decided at the end of 2013 that it was time once and for all to go for it – take booze out of my life for good. Drinking alcohol, even one drop, just isn’t worth it.

Sobriety for me has been a most humbling and life empowering gift. It has also been a heck of a lot of time consuming work. Thankfully, I have been in therapy since 2010 and immersed in exploring life skills and philosophies that make sense to me (I am a huge fan of the work of Tara Brach and Danielle LaPorte). All of it has helped me get clear on my desires and set goals.

I have created for myself a toolbox of incredible strategies to deal with stress, anxiety, depression, anger, annoyance, resentment and fear. It is not that I do not feel these things. Wow, do I ever. Now though I know how to deal with these feelings in healthy, life affirming ways. Before, not so much. I was always in a panic. I was all freeze, fight and flight. I also lived in my stories. The stuff you tell yourself about yourself, others, the world. Some people call it the trance. I still go there. It is a human quality to do so. Now I am routinely aware of when it happens and I get out of the story trance much quicker than before.

Yes, I am in the NOW in a whole new way and my toolbox has come in very handy. There is more to my experiences (isn’t there always?), but I will leave it at that for now.

Taking time and energy for this process meant putting many work related things on the back burner. My bank account certainly has suffered and the credit card companies love me, but it was very necessary and thankfully very gratifying. Because without sobriety I don’t think I could have done these other great things (or rather, done them very well)…

Making Being an Aunt a Priority

I became an aunt for the second time. I now have a wonderful nephew along with an incredible niece. I spend quite a bit of time visiting them and nurturing our relationships. I feel really blessed to have them in my life and I hope to help enrich their lives with my presence and contributions (stability! mindfulness! joy!). I love them so much. Being an aunt has also brought me closer to my sister. I am so impressed by her as a mother. I admire her so much.

Embracing Simplicity

I did some major organizing of my apartment and my belongings. I gave away many items of clothing, costumes and household goods. Having a more minimalist approach to my everyday life has been very satisfying. I highly recommend it. If it is something that interests you check out Be More With Less. The blog is great as are Courtney’s mini courses. Zen Habits is great too.

My Professional Theatre Debut

Another amazing thing I did is make my professional theatre debut at the Segal Centre for the Performing Arts. A big thank you to all that helped make The Graduate such an amazing experience for me. Your belief in me was inspiring and invigorating.

The Return of Team Burlesque

Team Burlesque returned to the stage in November. There is something so powerful and delightful that happens when Elle Diabloe, Miss Sugarpuss and I collaborate. It is unique and rich with love, depth and sisterhood. I am so glad we are working together again. I think the Montreal burlesque scene is stronger and better for it.

Now I am thinking about what I want to accomplish in the next few months and years. What I have decided on is…

I am finally going to write a book. I have been scribbling away for two years and I have decided to get serious about it. The main issue is planning out my time so it gets done this year. I signed up for Your Big Beautiful Book Plan to help me. I am working with my friend who is an editor and writer herself. She gets me and my book. I am open to her critiques and suggestions. A good match I think!

I am also more formally taking all that I learned in my two careers (education and strategic thinking and doing + adult entertainment and sexuality) and creating workshops and other tools to help people navigate the often overwhelming world of sex, pleasure and wellness. Yes, it will be tied in with the book. So exciting!

The butterfly is emerging from her cocoon.

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Where Is Seska?

Wow! It has been a while since I have shared a personal blog entry. It is not that I have not had a personal life. I have. That is one reason I have not written a personal post in some time. I have been busy with living life that I haven’t had much time to write about it. What has been keeping me from writing?

Family

I have been spending A LOT of time with family and loving it so much. Being an aunt is awesome. It has opened me up to so much love that I feel like I might burst. It has also made me work hard on being engaged and present in a whole new way. I find that so rewarding. The downside is that it also involves travel as my niece is not in Montreal. When I am gone it means when I get home I have to play catch up on my different obligations and activities and some stuff has been at the bottom of the to do list. I have re-arranged some things and I should have a better schedule in 2014 once the holidays are over. Regular postings to come!!! Streamlining things!!!  Woo!!!

Burlesque

Speaking of streamlining, a bunch of that has been with regards to burlesque. I have combed through my costume collection a couple of times in the past year and focused my selection for my strongest numbers – ones that I can do at more upscale shows and for private events. This has been a smart move and for the past few months I have been getting more gigs and even making some decent money off of my burlesque activities (decent is subjective of course – in my case it means more money coming in than going out). I have also been hosting more which is something I very much want to pursue in 2014. I like helping to hold a show together and showcase other artists. It is a very good feeling to bring the community together.

Fear & Other Stuff

It also hasn’t been that pressing for me to write about the ups and downs in my life as it was before because there have been a lot less of ups and downs. After a few very tumultuous years things have settled down for me. All my personal work has paid off and I am feeling very grounded and focused. There have been some bumps in the road, but I have dealt with them with a new found sense of equanimity. Thank you three years of therapy and my Buddhist influenced personal development work (mindfulness practices saved my life – truly).

Though I would be really deceiving myself (and you, my readers) if I said I am not also dealing with some fears. Money has been an issue. Depression and anxiety kept me pretty much flat on the floor for many months (on and off) which made working and earning an income pretty inconsistent. I have had to take a hard look at my expenses and the meager ways I can earn in living with adult content these days and look at other streams of revenue.

Last summer things finally came to a head and I did some major emotional and physical housekeeping and have spent much of the past 18 months cutting things and people out of my life, tying up lose ends (filed for the divorce and ended that chapter of my life officially), and creating a new foundation for my life.

Then there is my love life. I have a better understanding of what I want, but I am lacking some confidence. The risk of dating is very real to me. I cannot go about it as discretely as I would like as I have lived a very publicly documented life since 1998. Online dating holds zero interest for me as having online profiles and dealing with emails and strangers reaching out to me is something I have done on a daily basis for many, many years. Playing it light and sleeping around also doesn’t hold much interest for me. You could say I am looking for something new which in this day and age of extensive social networking is not easy to find.

I am in the process of figuring out what it is. I expect I will know it or rather him or her – when I see it. I haven’t given up hope, but I am feeling cautious, even risk averse.  I want to make smart choices and right now being single and solo is all part of this new foundation of mine.

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Being Truthful – Feeling Whole

February was hard. Don’t get me wrong. There were many highlights during the shortest month of the year. It was my birthday at the beginning of the month and I had such meaningful happy moments with family and friends (including lots of aunt + niece time), but the month was also filled with a fair amount of travel, some illness (woo! gastro!) and a few interactions with toxic people (woo! emotional gastro!). There was also a walk down memory lane (woo! high school!) which had me feeling so disconnected.  I was unsure of how to be myself as I am now among people who knew me when. I behaved in such an awkward way and I didn’t feel like myself at all. I felt way more like how I felt in high school.

This is the deal. I have my tribe now. I can share all facets of my life with them. The fact that my work revolves around sexuality does not phase them. Remembering a time when I did not have that kind of openness and acceptance in my life is low on the enjoyable experience scale. Even lower is having to talk about myself with people who knew me as a child or adolescent, but not knowing how to express myself – my truth – without alienating those I care about.

I feel trapped in the sex work ghetto. I don’t want to feel like that forever.

This theme of what to reveal and how to reveal has been coming up quite a bit in my mind recently, but it is not a new thing. When I began my porn work it was easy. I would be super vague. I create websites, is what I told people. Never told them what kind of websites or that I was the star of the content – except with my nearest and dearest friends. Then there were those people from my hometown and who I went to high school – some lovely person outed me in a big dramatic way and it spread like wicked stomach flu (woo! 3rd gastro reference in one post!). Most people who found my website usually didn’t say anything to my face. Nope. They talked behind my back. It made (and still makes for) this disconnect between us. The elephant in the room. I hate it.

I kept doing my thing – making porn with friends, sharing so much of myself to a nameless (often demanding and insensitive public – the bad apples ruining in for the good ones), travelling to industry conferences, doing hour long webcam shows 5 days a week, more sharing, HTML coding and writing about sex.  I started to feel like the only thing that I had in my life was my site and the only way I interacted with people was through porn. I was feeling cloistered in the XXX world. I was ready for different experiences.

So, I became a sex worker rights activist. I joined a community group and went to conferences and organized workshops for other sex workers. I got sick with an auto-immune disease and realized how fragile my life was because if my body wasn’t working I would lose my livelihood. I began running with a group of women my age. The kind that follow mommy blogs and drive minivans (didn’t out myself to them – we mostly talked running). I set running goals and met them. I did a 21K. I began doing burlesque and vaudeville. I created and produced shows and plays.

My world expanded and so did I.

Still, I kept a big part of me and my life away from these new experiences. I even thought after my separation that I could change my life all together and start a totally new career. Lots of trial and error and a bunch of reflection has led me to see that I don’t want to do that. I am passionate about sexuality and want to continue my work in the field AND I want to stop having such a major part of my life, a major part of who I am, hidden away. I have had enough of it.

It is funny because when it comes to my porn work I did my best to share so much more than sex with my fans and the members of my site. I wanted them to see me as more than a sex object. By talking about other aspects of my life – family, friends, my struggles, my dreams, etc – I think I accomplished that. But when it came to my non-porn life I didn’t know how to include sex work into the conversation. And I know why.

Fear of judgement and rejection. Experience has taught me that these fears are valid. It happened numerous times and put a huge burden on my relationships with my immediate family. The judgement, I know, says more about the person doing the judging than it does about me. Doesn’t mean I am not hurt by it. Oh, this sex negative, sex work stigmatized world, you don’t make things easy for anyone.

Note: I am fairly comfortable talking to new people about my work – blogging, sex education and even porn. I can even speak with confidence and clarity in these situations. This is not the case with family or connections from my past. In these situations I am bumbling mess filled with fears and angst. 

Over the past three years therapy has helped me come to terms with all of this. It has helped me bring the issues to the forefront. Before they were mixed up with all my other uncomfortable thoughts and feelings. Like a tangled mess of yarn.

Therapy has helped me get to know myself beyond the stories I had in my head and the more I accept myself the stronger I feel. I am now ready to bring all the areas of my life, all aspects of who I am and what I do, together. I am ready to stop saying I am a webmaster when people ask me what I do. I no longer need to be super vague – even lie – when they ask what sites I work on. I am ready to say the truth as it stands right now…

I am a writer.

If they ask what I write about I will say the truth – that I write about sexuality and relationships. If they want to know more I can say more. I am curious and passionate about the issues of body image, gender dynamics, sex entertainment and sex worker activism. I also am an educator and speak at universities, seminars and conferences. I am developing a series of sex-ed for adults workshops and working on an e-book.

I am ready to use the appropriate title and description for me – all of me as I am right now.

* When writing this blog post I took some inspiration from this training video from Marie Forleo about reinventing yourself. I really dig her and her work. You might too.

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I Fell in Love in 2012

I was at my weekly therapy session a couple of weeks ago. I was having a down week. I was feeling so anxious and spent. Like Holly Golightly in Breakfast at Tiffany’s, I was having The Mean Reds.

Holly Golightly: You know those days when you get the mean reds?
Paul Varjak: The mean reds, you mean like the blues?
Holly Golightly: No. The blues are because you’re getting fat and maybe it’s been raining too long, you’re just sad that’s all. The mean reds are horrible. Suddenly you’re afraid and you don’t know what you’re afraid of. Do you ever get that feeling?
Paul Varjak: Sure.

This was not the first time I have felt this way and I know it won’t be my last. I am not bi-polar, but I do have periods of time when I am productive and energetic and others when I am absolutely not. During the not times I experience a major dip in energy and inspiration and a spike in angst and fear. I used to think I was somehow defective and if only I was perfect (and that idea of perfect varied based on my age and who was in my life) I would feel content and accepted. Presto!

Ebbs and flows are part of nature and I finally realized that having strategic self-care helps me find my place and pace in them. Being perfect and being accepted is no longer on my to-do list. Now I know that the most important person who needs to accept me is me. It took me 41 years to figure that one out.

During my therapy session a few weeks back what helped with that acceptance was to look at the year that was. Oh, 2012, you were a heavy one and I have good reason for feeling stressed and spent at times. I dug deep and took some major action.

In terms of my home I moved out of my old place which was a bit of refuge during the early days of my separation, but it was also a physically toxic place. I think there was a mould issue. I had serious asthma and near constant colds. People who visited me had much the same experience. The building manager was also a very unpleasant man. The apartment stopped feeling safe for me. It cost me a fair bit to move and I am in even more debt than before, but it was worth it. I have felt so much better in my new place.

Then there is my work. I redeveloped my site and started working on associated projects based on what I learned in Marie Forleo’s B School. There is still a ways to go, but I am very inspired and pleased with the new direction I am heading in. I thought about shutting it all down and starting a whole new career, but I like the new twist I am giving to my online adult industry career.

As for my personal life, well, I finally ended my toxic rebound for good. I spent much of the fall hating on myself for it. Not for ending it but for how long it took me to end it. I was so humiliated with what I tolerated and what I kept going back for. It was not a matter of thinking I deserved this awfulness. I was not even settling. I thought that the mess was all that was available to me. Then I finally came to terms that being alone, totally alone, was better for me than that poison.

These were all big things.

The biggest thing that happened to me though was that I fell in love – but not how you think.

My niece was born at the end of August. When I saw her a few minutes after her birth I was astounded by how instantly I fell in love with her. My heart felt like it was exploding. I have never felt anything like it before.

Now, each time I think of her, see her photo, watch video of her laughing or have a visit with her the love deepens. I feel so blessed for having her in my life. Being an aunt is such a gift. I am thrilled each day thinking of my niece and I can’t wait to get to know her more and more.

So yes, many big LOVELY things happened in 2014.

 

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Transformative

On this night three years ago I voiced in confidence what I had decided to do. I was terribly lost and ever so afraid. The build up to the worst day of my life. Afterwards, one of the only things that made sense to me were sentimental songs. Their lyrics resonated as my heart broke and I feared that I was losing my mind.

I was cruising about on the net and found another sentimental song to bookend this experience. I am so satisfied by the transformation. I truthfully didn’t think it was possible.

It came to pass.
It did not come to stay.

I am sharing this because I know we all process and transform in our own ways, but music is often there for us, with us. I felt so alone and like with all things I discovered I never really am. We never are.

Here is a playlist for the past three years of my romantic – relationship life.

River http://youtu.be/xCov0TYXBp8
Landslide http://youtu.be/WM7-PYtXtJM
Because The Night http://youtu.be/zKh1ZRyrQXY
See You When You’re 40 http://youtu.be/BxxGIjqTM_Q
Brand New Me http://youtu.be/wOSv1TIa58M

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All About Eve – Young Ladies & Old Broads

Like many of you I putter around the Internet and during my puttering I visit the celebrity gossip site Lainey Gossip. The gal who runs it is Canadian and has a voice and perspective I enjoy. It helps me feel connected to current pop culture. This desire for this connection might have to do with the main topic of this post. I feel like in my 40s I’m drowning in a sea of 20-somethings and their priorities (or those of mommies in mini-vans). I am feeling a little lost in our differences.

Recently Lainey posted two articles about comments young female artists (Lena Dunham and Nicki Minaj) made about how much respect they have for older artists in their field. Go read them before continuing.

With Lena Dunham it was the other women nominated at the Golden Globes for best female performance in a TV series  – musical or comedy: Zooey Deschanel, Tina Fey, Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Amy Poheler.  I do not think Lena was making a dig at these actresses. In all her press she has been earnest. Extremely earnest. She also has spoken about how the show and it’s acclaim has given her validation and made her feel less alone. It has me wondering how little did she think of herself before if she needed an HBO show and Golden Globes to feel good about herself and belong. Very little, I guess. Or maybe very little yet thinks of herself often.

With Nicki it seems to be very snarky. She is a part of the TV show American Idol and it’s about nasty attitudes as much as it is about music. Nah, it’s more. I assume she and Mariah Carey have been instructed to bring the diva sides of their personalities to the show. People are expecting lots of snide comments during the live show and probably hoping for a cat fight or two with fistful of extensions flying everywhere. They are both over the top in their work, their marketing and their lifestyles so it makes sense that their feud would be vain caricature as well. I wish it was for the camp effect, but I think it isn’t. It’s too mean spirited.

Now, this is younger woman versus older woman thing is nothing new. The movie All About Eve comes to my mind. Margo Channing as portrayed by Bette Davis* is an aging Broadway Star and Anne Baxter plays Eve Harrington who is a young fan that threatens her career and relationships.

I suppose it is human nature to compare and compete. We need to make judgments about things to survive. Choosing between young and old – it must be part of our reproductive and survival mechanisms. We also have this looking out for number one mentality. Personally, I wish I could live without it all. I do not like the way we manage this comparative judgement in my culture. Especially between women (and dudes, you are not off the hook here – it doesn’t happen in an XX vacuum).

My mother has told me many times that every age has its pleasures. The older I get the more I can see that. I walk down the street and see young women with worried expressions. I am sure their concerns are similar to mine at their age – worried about appearances and acceptance in an often superficial world. I remember I was pretty consumed by it. Now I feel much more free from it.

When you are a 21 year old woman you can turn most any straight man’s head – 12 to 102. This can mess with you. You get attention for your appearance and not much else. I don’t turn heads like I used to.**

My similarly aged friends and I laugh about it. We were so hard on ourselves as young women. How little did we know how our bodies would change and that those bodies at 20 that we struggled with so much (even hated) would be bodies we now admire in many ways. However, we also appreciate being able to focus on other things – like work, family, interests, creativity, organization – well, life – in ways we couldn’t when we were younger. This is more than a pleasure of being in our 40s. It’s a true release.

I think when you are a younger women and speak to an older women’s accomplishments either in an earnest or snarky way this says a lot about the insecurity of being young and figuring out your place in the world. You are used to looks being the way you are valued. You are used to being accepted based upon them as way to define your self-esteem.

As you get older you (hopefully) do not take yourself so seriously. You stop caring so much what other people think. But it’s a shame that you have to go through those early times of comparison – or perhaps it’s not so necessary. I cannot change how I behaved in the past or what my thinking was, but I can look at myself now and figure out what thoughts and actions are encouraging this young versus old and you versus me thinking and its consequences and change them.

Thinking cap on. More to come…

PS – Men are not immune to this young versus old comparison, but the older men seem to come up on top more often. Lainey  wrote a post comparing the release of new material by Justin Timberlake and David Bowie.***

* Bette Davis was 42 when she was in All About Eve. I am turning 42 this February. Coincidence? Hmmm.

** Street harassment continues. It knows no age and it is vile. See this video for some ideas on how to handle it.

*** I adore the new song.

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RHH Live

RHH Live is a weekend conference created by Marie Forleo.

The conference began on Friday afternoon with a meet and greet. I chatted with a few of the women there (as you might have guessed RHH Live is geared towards women). This turned out to be key to the second part of my NYC adventure as the lovely Denise-Marie of Glitter The Globe helped me out in a BIG WAY when Hurricane Sandy hit and I was stranded in NYC for 5 extra days.

Josh Pais was our first speaker and he led us through very physical and emotional exercises that explored how to be present in our bodies without getting all caught up in our messy, racing minds. It’s something I have been working on and having some more tools in my toolbox is much appreciated. He has a free audio training about these strategies. Perfect for when I am lost in my thoughts. If you get lost in your thoughts – or as we say in French dans la lune it might be perfect for you too.

I had dinner Friday night at Prune in the East Village. I was lucky to get a seat because the place is small and fills up quickly. Understandably so because the food is damn good and service top notch. Reservations highly recommended. When I got back to my hotel I spent 90 minutes waiting on the phone to change my flight to Sunday at 8pm. I thought I was safe. Little did I know.

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Big Feelings

Today, I was debating if and how to write about my tendencies when it comes to sex, love and relationships. I have some new insights about them, but I am not quite ready to share them as sharing them is one of my tendencies. As I sat at my computer I was confused and hesitant (still am) so I decided to check out my Twitter feed to see what people were up to. There I found an article that piqued my interest and inspired me to write a sex-ed type commentary about it. Well, that then turned into a personal type post. I was back where I started, but looking in a different direction.

Yep, I love how writing can do that.

I came across an article by Charlie Glickman about his experience with testosterone. It’s a great personal piece on this physical aspect of being biologically male, but I got more from it than just an appreciation for how testosterone can affect the body and the mind. He ends the piece with thoughts on managing impulses and feelings. This jumped out at me.

As an example, if I see someone I find attractive, it can feel like my impulse to look at them is beyond my control. It’s no wonder that so many cultures try to manage men’s sexualities by controlling women’s behavior. After all, if I can’t control myself, then external circumstances need to be controlled so I don’t get set off. The difference, of course, is that it can feel like things are beyond my control without that actually being true. We need to hold onto both of those pieces at the same time if we’re going to make any positive changes. We need to acknowledge how things feel AND the deeper truth that our feelings don’t always reflect what’s happening outside of our heads. When we can do that, we can support learning better tools with which to respond to our feelings.

I really appreciated this comment of his. It’s about recognizing certain realities about sexuality, but also the stories we tell ourselves about it, and responding with care and compassion – not control or suppression.

These past few years have mainly been for me about learning healthy strategic ways to respond to my big strong feelings. In the past I was an escape artist. Sometimes I would literally run away when things felt intense – even good feelings would have me do that because they brought about anxiety and fear of the unknown (like when I was falling for someone new).

Another favourite was to dull feelings with heavy carb meals. When I was  feeling overwhelmed I ate what I called my white diet – toast for breakfast, pancakes and syrup for lunch, and mashed potatoes and gravy for supper. This was comfort food gone extreme. I would end up cuddled in bed avoiding people, feelings – life.

Booze also was another part of my escape artistry. I can be very tightly wound up and booze helped me let go. I felt I deserved the alcohol induced release because I was so good at being a ‘good girl’ in my sober times. But the feeling of release was fake and short lived. When I am drunk often my emotions overwhelm me even more and this has led to unpleasant and destructive social consequences (saying things I do not truly mean, hurting friends’ feelings) – not every time but enough times to damage my image and some friendships. Part of me wishes I didn’t care but I do. I am human and I am a social creature and need to be connected to others. Plus, the negative physical stuff that happens the next day –  my body hates that I went beyond 2 drinks – have left me out of life’s activities in a different way.

It took me a while to come to terms on how all this escaping was only temporary. I would always be right back with uncomfortable feelings (inadequacy, anger, fear) plus some additional ones (shame, guilt and sadness). What an awesome cycle.

Now, being an escape artist is not my go-to strategy. Yes, my feelings are as intense as ever, but I am not so afraid of them. I can tolerate them. I can even explore them. I acknowledge them and look at them with a non-judgemental eye. By sitting with my feelings without reacting to them (even I just pause for a moment) I experience compassion for myself as well as others.

And consequently I don’t fuck things up as much as used to. definitely a much better strategy than being an escape artist.

As I was writing that last bit I took a break and checked my Twitter feed. I came across another great article from someone I follow. This time it is from a Buddhist perspective. It jumped at me because it was about the consequences of reactivity versus responsiveness. Oh! Convergence! Another thing that I love when it happens!

When we feel these negative feelings, it’s extremely difficult to respond to life because we are too busy reacting to our painful emotions. On the other hand, when we respond to life, we take the time to quiet our minds and silence the noise before we offer our words of wisdom.

Of course, we don’t set out to hurt others with our words, especially those whom we love. Hurtful words come from hurting hearts, and although we think it will feel better once it’s out, it never does.

The author of this article suggests taking a break when a strong negative emotion occurs, breathe very deeply and with the exhale letting out the all the noise and with the next inhale to replace it with a positive affirmation. I can see the beauty and power in this and I have used this kind of breathing before. However, recently I found something that seems to work even better for me. If you also deal with big strong feelings, maybe it will help you.

Its called Tonglen Meditation. I read about it in the book If the Buddha Dated: A Handbook for Finding Love on a Spiritual Path. Briefly, Tonglen Meditation is a breathing practice where as you inhale you take in suffering and as you exhale you breathe out compassion. When I have those big strong feelings I now use this breathing technique and it helps transform my feelings of anger, fear, anxiety, sadness and hurt into care, relaxation, clarity and comfort.

So, now let me bring this back to sexuality. :-)

Sexual feelings can be strong. We can feel overpowered by them. Not only the randy ‘I want to get it on’ feelings, but those that surround sexuality – like anxiety, shame, judgement, embarrassment, and fear. Taking a moment to feel those feelings can help you manage them and change them into something more positive and satisfying. Escaping them, hiding from them or pretending they do not exist will only make things worse.

I know this seems like common sense, but from my own experience and from those of many readers who share their stories with me, it’s all too easy to get stuck in the avoidance techniques rather than the recognition ones. I am not sure why we stick with the ones that make things worse rather than better. Maybe because we are taught the harmful ones rather than the healing ones. I find now that I am learning other ways of dealing with big strong feelings and impulses, I am rather at peace with myself. I still have desires and goals. I know not everything is as I wish it to be (not by a long shot), but I am inspired and empowered.

Mindfulness has me quite excited. I think looking at how it can play a role in a satisfying sex life is very intriguing.  If you have explored mindfulness as a part of your sexuality or in your life in general, I would love to hear from you in the comments. And if you have questions, let’s explore them together.

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Back Online

It’s Friday night. I’m in my new apartment. I’m using my computer and the Internet.

Finally.

I did enjoy my break from technology though it wasn’t a total one. I used up a bunch of data by using my iPhone excessively. Thankfully, I have a good package. But yeah, I wasn’t really as offline as I could of been. On the other hand, I was without cable so I didn’t watch TV at all. That was rather nice. I liked it mostly because the decrease in tech use allowed me to fully unpack and get settled into my new place. Not a box is left.

Such a relief.

I have been here since July 1st and it’s been amazing. I am so glad I moved. The new status? Me, Rufus and Martha. Happy as clams (Hey – why are we like clams when we are happy? Someone tell me. I need to know). I have been enjoying the quietude of my new space, the lack of renovations and no workmen knocking on my door at 730am. Not to mention no more rude building managers that made me ever so anxious.

The cats have settled in too. They have been enjoying the new sights and sounds.

Unfortunately, being offline computer-wise though has meant I am behind in B-School. Thankfully, the resources will always be available and I don’t think I have lost momentum. I am still inspired. I just have to figure out how to schedule some class time for myself. As I learned early on from Marie Forleo – if it’s not scheduled it’s not real.

And why am I unsure how to schedule my time?

I have a job.

I have worked for myself for so long – building websites, creating porn, producing shows and writing. It was always based on my needs and my schedule. Now I am no longer doing the at-home office thing. I am getting up early, taking a shower, putting on proper clothes (not staying in a housedress or PJs), packing a lunch and taking the Metro to the office. 9-5 is obviously pretty common place, but it is not something I have done in 15 years. This past week has been an adjustment.  A stimulating, exciting adjustment. Technically, I am still an independent contractor, but now I go elsewhere to work and I am working on someone else’s projects.

Super neat.

Indeed, these past two months have seen a lot of changes for me. I did a huge purge of papers and belongings, I moved to a new place,  I gave up some bad habits (I will blog about that in the future as it certainly is its own topic), I started B School and came up with a new vision for my websites (also a bit of a renewal of an old one)  that matches well with how I feel as I get further along in my forties. And I am helping others create a dream project.

I finally feel like I’m building a strong foundation for my life.

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Release & Embrace

Happy Monday everyone! It feels like a happy one for me. The sun is up. The sky is bright and blue. I made myself a cup of delicious coffee. I had to grind the beans myself because I forgot to do it yesterday at the awesome 100% organic shop near my place, but that’s OK. It’s also a happy Monday because I woke up to two cats inches from my face and their whiskers grazing my nose. Sure, I wanted to sleep some more. I had gone to bed the night before at 12:30AM and it was 6:43AM. More sleep was needed. However, it is a happy feeling to be needed and those cats need me.

Other happy things for me on this day is I followed up on some advice I got from a personalized reading with Ophira of www.astrostyle.com.  I ordered the book Astrology for the Soul by Jan Spiller which explores the North and South Nodes of the Moon in astrological charts. Now, if astrology is not for you, that’s fine. However, I think you should keep reading anyway because it brought be some great insights. You may not agree with the way in which I got them, but I think you might appreciate the insights themselves. I know I have.

So, during my reading Ophira explained to me what the North and South Nodes of the Moon represent in your astrological chart – something I was not familiar with. As soon as I had it explained to me I knew this was amazing information that could change my life. Really. And it is one that fits with all the other amazing, yet often painful, insights I have been having in my personal growth work, therapy and from the other resources I have been learning from.

As my regular readers know I have been in a state of flux. I ended my marriage in 2010, I had a very messy rebound relationship, and I have been at a loss regarding what to do professionally. My previous ways and ideas have not been working for me for a long time. Like a sweater that once fit but no longer does. I was in need of something new and sized for me as I am now. Yes, these old skills and thought processes may have served me well in the past, but not anymore. So what is up with that? Looking at the South and North Nodes of my astrological chart helped me see what was/is going.

The South Node reveals the gifts that you bring into this lifetime, your sweet spot, your comfort zone. You will be innately good in these areas of life, and may begin your early path based on your South Node leanings. While this can bring a sense of satisfaction, it is unlikely to elevate you to Blissville. There’s a sense of “been there, done that” in the field of South Node activities. And indeed you have: in many past lifetimes.
The North Node is the exact opposite. It illuminates the terrain that’s calling your name, but climbing to the peak of this mountain is like trekking up Mt. Everest. You’ll have to lighten up your baggage and enlist a proverbial Sherpa to get you up that hill. It’s your learning curve. North Node activities require you to stretch out of your comfort zone. Once you do, you’ll be amazed by how fulfilled you feel. It’s like the activation of your life’s mission. The sooner you align yourself with this path, the more purpose-driven your life will become.
Ophira and Tali of Astro Style

And for me specifically that means I need to release these traits:  attention-seeking, the desire for drama and materialism, and embrace these traits: team spiritedness, a sense of purpose and sustainable living.

Indeed! It all it makes sense!

I have explored with my therapist how easy it is for me to be a sexy superstar, how easy it is for me to get caught up in drama. It feeds me, but only on a furious, energetic ego driven level. It does not bring me happiness. It does not bring me a sense of calm. It brings me the exact opposite. It drives me bonkers. Still, getting out of my comfort zone feels to me much like the physical growing pains of adolescence, lots of ouch combined with its meant to be. It feels uncomfortable but it feels right.

Is it not interesting that I as struggled with what I find is easy but unfulfilling that I joined the board of directors for Head and Hands – a not profit organization that provides health, legal and social services for people 12-25? Is it not interesting that I have been trying to bring the burlesque community together and support emerging artists with projects like the Montreal Burlesque Social Club and Acme Burlesque? Is it not interesting that I felt stifled by limiting my online activities and created the more eros oriented site Seska for Lovers and the informative article based site Seskuality to broaden my horizons and those of my website visitors?

Indeed! It all it makes sense!

I am very much looking forward to getting the book. I want to learn more about this release and embrace. I know at my core I must continue doing it because when I do it I feel like I am wearing a cozy sweater that was made to order, made with lots of love too.  Ah, fashion as spiritual analogy. What fun!

Please leave a comment if any of this resonates with you. I share my struggles and my successes with you because I love the connection this wild world wide web offers us.  I love it when you share your experiences with me!

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Cuba Vacation

I was away! I went on vacation! I didn’t use a computer and I only texted to let my friends and family know I arrived safely (OK, I also sent a couple of friends some texts about my observations). But still it was quite a tech free time. Instead, I spent my days reading, writing and swimming. I spent my nights looking at the stars and sleeping (having such wild and vivid dreams).

I stayed at a small resort. I think their maximum capacity is 80 people. There were about 40 when I went. Mostly seniors as well as a few younger couples and a handful of single men who expected a much more ‘fun’ resort. They approached me, not understanding that A) I was there alone B) that I wanted to be left alone and C) how to leave me alone. I had to be blunt. It was the only unpleasant thing about my trip. The rest was exactly as I wanted it to be.

I wanted to be away from the singles-on-vacation scene. I had no desire for bars, discos and shows. I wanted to get away so I could regroup, think, process.  I wanted to give my broken heart some respite. It was the perfect trip for that. I journalled A LOT. I will go through it and see if I can find some goodies to share. In the meantime here are some photos.

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New Photos – New Beginning

I did a photoshoot this weekend with Hausmann Photography. She specializes in pin-up, burlesque and boudoir photography. It was the first shoot in a long time where I felt truly comfortable in my own skin. An amazing experience.

seska lee - glamour 2012 -1055

It’s been 14 years since I created my personal website, 14 years of taking photos and videos and sharing them online. The experience has been ever changing. Technology has changed so much and I have changed too. So many ebbs and flows. I love having this documentation though at times I also struggle with it. It’s challenging to have over provocative 50k pics of yourself at so many stages of your adult life (from the age of 27 to 41), at different stages of fitness  (I was at my fittest when I ran a 21k [2006] and at my least fit when I was put on prednisone for my PCH [2002] and more recently when I was depressed and anxious post-separation) and at different stages of emotional well-being (I can look at a pic and know where I was in my head and heart at that point in my life – it’s wild) .

seska lee - glamour 2012 - tank top -1346

Now, I’m starting to get back to the body I feel is right for me. It’s determined by how clothes fit and how I carry myself on a day to day level. It’s one that is created by my own internal desire for health and vitality and not from an outside source of influence or someone ‘encouraging’ me to work out for a business goal. My personal website had my body be my tool for making my living (and someone else’s) and it caused me way too much turmoil. It was a consequence I did not see coming when I started my website. It was one I had to learn the hard way and one I’m still adjusting to as I figure who I am as an online personality, blogger, model, and performer.

I feel myself being pulled in a new direction. More to come.

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Endings Lead to New Beginnings and I Am Afraid

I have been trying to figure out where my malaise is coming from. I have been sleeping so much and having a deep desire to disappear. I have been experiencing some anxiety and physical discomfort, but mostly I have felt stuck, still, passive, inert – dead. The only desire I have had is the desire to fade far into my dreams and away from my reality.  I have felt like this for a number of weeks. I was feeling so on the ball, so focused and excited in January and part of February and then heighten emotion hit me and then I froze.

The truth of my situation came upon me and I am scared. That is what it is. I am feeling a sense of healing and closure coming with regards to the end of my marriage and I am seeing the trainwreck of my rebound relationship truly for what it was and coming to terms with that.

Now, an unknown future lies before me and I am terrified.

In my darkest moments I feel as if there is nothing good and true  ‘out there’ for me. I am not smart enough, quiet enough, calm enough, strong enough, assertive enough, balanced enough,  and most definitely good enough to deserve anything of value in my life.  These are my darkest moments and wow, did I ever have that one last night.

This morning the darkness lingered, but I decided to think of my new toolbox.

It’s an invisible one filled with thoughts and actions that bring me an understanding to the suffering that is life and provides me with radical acceptance and even if I am sad, lonely, or angry I feel something deep inside myself resonate with a sense of YES.

YES to everything.

I cannot forget my toolbox again.

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The Power of Hugs

I came across a short article on how to maintain a satisfying libido. Even if you are flying solo like me this is an important read. I truly believe if you don’t use it you lose it so staying physically and mentally healthy helps you keep that drive up.  You never know when you may need it. ;-)

One of the tips…

Hug Therapy

Love a good rub down? You’re not the only one. Some studies have shown that men need to be touched two to three times more frequently than women in order to maintain the same level of oxytocin, the sexy bonding hormone.

Without frequent touch, your brain’s circuits and receptors can feel starved for dopamine, the feel-good hormone. Hugging and cuddling feed and reinforce those connection circuits, ensuring lovey-dovey feelings and hot romps. Even if you’re not in the mood now, a sensual back rub or loving massage can get you there, pronto.

Have You Seen My Libido (Healthy Bitch Daily)
L. Lou Paget

Oxytocin has a complicated reputation, but even if you don’t take that particular hormone into consideration I think that the power of touch, hugs, cuddles and other kinds of close contact is pretty substantial.  I know I need hugs and now that I live alone and don’t go out frequently I am without them and I miss them. There is something so comforting about snuggling with someone you love. Yep, I definitely miss it. I cuddle with the cats, but that is its own thing and definitely doesn’t lead to happy sexy feelings.

I think though non-sexual, non-romantic hugs are important to one’s well-being and that good feeling you get from them can have sexual benefits – it can make you feel better about yourself. I find I go out of my way to ask for them when I am feeling blue or just in need of a good squeeze. These kinds of hugs are not about sex, but they are about comfort and that helps me stay positive and upbeat. I have a couple of guy friends who are tall and teddy bear like. They give great hugs. I love the felling of being held with such substance. One is my friend’s has a boyfriend who is an amazing hugger and I ask her permission first. It feels a bit silly, but she knows he gives good hugs and is happy to share it with her friends.  My girlfriends give good hugs too though they are wee hugs. ;-)

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Me with my friend Halcyon who runs a live broadcast called Hug Nation

Check out the article for more suggestions on how to feel good in general and how to specifically keep your sexual drive a-going.

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Forgiveness

How does one know if she has forgiven? You tend to feel sorrow over the circumstance instead of rage, you tend to feel sorry for the person rather than angry with him. You tend to have nothing left to say about it all.

Clarissa Pinkola Estes

I am getting there. I can feel it. Terribly interesting experience. Edging towards a dullness and seeing the ashes blowing away in the breeze.

He that cannot forgive others breaks the bridge over which he must pass himself; for every man has need to be forgiven.

Thomas Fuller

It is something I must do for myself. Even if forgiveness for my transgressions (perceived or otherwise) will never be given to me. I am realizing what belongs to me and what does not. And I need to let go of what doesn’t.

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