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  • Writer's pictureSarah Foley

TSS - 024 ~ fleeting connection + heart opening

Writing this, it's now been six weeks of sinking back into life in Melbourne. I already feel nostalgic for the careless and whole bodied experiences of lust and newness that came with being away. As I wrote about in my previous post, in my time away from Melbourne I propelled myself towards pleasure in a way that felt terrifying and extraordinary. In multiple avenues of my life, I let go of my white knuckled grip on everything. I just lived, and gained so much from doing this. In my surrendering to chaos, I opened my heart: softly, enthusiastically, frightfully, hopefully.

I am a SUCKER for love. If you've read any of this blog, you for sure know that by now. I am an undeniably gooey person. I love love. Not just my love, everyone's. I want to hear every intricate, minuscule detail of how it feels to be cradled and connected to the best parts of living. Love is my religion, my reason for existence, my kryptonite. I am my most true self when I am loving and being loved. I have a (nearly) permanently open heart, ready to wash the world in love, and while it doesn't always serve me well, it is inextricable from who I am.

One of the strangest parts of this breakup, has been the void of love within me. I have watched as my body has wept and ached through withdrawals for months, a gaping hole where enacting love had sat for years. I love being loved, but I feel even more purposeful loving. It was truly effortless loving this person, so detaching from the ease of loving him felt cruel, unnatural, restrained. I am still cradling pieces of this love that is engraved into my body and not yet ready to be free. Some part of me has closed over, frozen in time. I have already been gifted a miraculous love. One that deserves time and care to soften into memories, one that I could not possibly layer with another love. Part of me (a large part), worries that I have already been given my greatest love, and that whatever comes next would not, could not compare. I am in no rush to feel love again, but in going overseas, I needed to forcibly propel myself forward or I could have mournfully stayed in my memories of this love for years to come.

As you'll know if you read Post 22, I dipped my toe back into sex before I left in June to go overseas for a few months. It was complicated, unfeeling yet overly emotive, and refreshing. It was a complete contradiction, and it was completely necessary. So by the time I was settled into my travels, I was feeling traces of addiction to pleasure, to being desired, and to embodying sexuality more openly and deliberately. I had reopened a door that wanted to stay open. Even if the new sex I'd been having wasn't brilliant as such, I wanted more, I needed more, and I felt bizarrely free to do so. The anonymity of being overseas made the desire for sex feel safer, less complicated. I had no concern that the people I was meeting had mutual friends with someone I would know in Melbourne, that I'd be seen by someone who knew someone, that I'd have to see the person I still loved doing the same thing. The geographical distance from the person I loved was initially terrifying, until it steadily offered tentative serenity, a break from suffering. In those three months, I felt significantly more able to manage the breakup, and significantly more embodied than I'd been in a long time. Re-prioritising sex while overseas felt hedonistic and me-centered in a way that reignited my ability to connect again and reminded me that there is life beyond heartbreak. After a first month of delightfully wholesome traipsing and some version of breakup rock bottom, I committed to progress and to unwavering faith in myself (if you know you know), even if just to see how it might feel.

The first date I went on was in London, with someone I'd met six years earlier. For the life of me I could not engage completely with my memory of meeting this person, but being in his presence I felt traces of deep body remembering of him, an unusual experience. I had apparently given him my number outside a pub in London years earlier, and we crossed paths again when it was clearly the right time to meet. It was easy, and lovely, and I felt completely and deeply respected in the briefness and in the closeness. The energy of being on a date where I was essentially introducing all parts of myself, felt wild. This person didn’t know me as anyone other than the Sarah in front of him. He had absolutely no way of knowing who I was in Melbourne. I felt euphoric in my anonymity, and deeply sensual as a result.

Deep in a black, cavernous bar in Soho a few days later, I went on a date with someone new. I couldn't focus on anything he said without wanting to touch him. We sat next to each other, the length of our legs pressed entirely against each other. He told me that he couldn't stop thinking about kissing me, so we did. In Melbourne, I would never make out in a bar. But in London, I felt levels of freedom that made me very fucking horny. I cannot reiterate enough that I felt free. Completely unbound to routine, schedule, places I had to be. Here, I was just Sarah, not Sarah going through a break up, not social worker Sarah, not overly open about sexual trauma Sarah (oops). In classic London heatwave style, the tube was sweaty and full at midnight on a Tuesday. He smiled at me with so much warmth and curiosity, his excitement spreading to my body with ease. I pushed further in to his touch, my body so receptive to any kind of tenderness. The actual sex was phenomenal. I felt waves of pleasure in my body, and asked for the kind of sex I wanted. We filmed components of the sex and I watched it every day for weeks afterwards. His brief presence in my life was incredibly impactful. He offered connection and vulnerability so effortlessly. He made me feel so wanted, in his language, and the way he had touched me, and I loved how that felt in my body. We talked incessantly for the days after this, planning to meet up again when I was back in London, sharing vulnerability and genuine care. I knew completely that I would at most, see him one more time before I went home, and that there was no actual chance of anything developing. But it was this precisely, that made me feel free to wrap myself in the momentary intensity. I felt extraordinarily liberated, knowing I had an unusually low risk of getting hurt. I still had no emotional capacity to feel anything genuine for anyone. I was conscious of not misleading anyone, but also just let myself enjoy the feeling of being wanted and wanting him.

Settling into my time away, I began to be able to see myself reflected back in him and others. The impact of time away from working in family violence, the breakup and the combined bonuses of travelling and freedom were washing through me, confidence a shocking byproduct of this way of being . I could be my best self in these new circumstances, and so I offered intense and brief love to men I met along the way. Of course, I believe that there are so many different kinds of love and only some you can feel immediately. The love I was offering was not the same kind of love I offered my previous partner, but even opening myself to the presence of the tip of the iceberg felt spectacular.

My best self, is one who is loving and being loved. In some chapters of my life, I imagine that love will extend only to me and my chosen friends/family, but in these fleeting moments away, the love extended to strangers who I chose to love for a few days. I replicated this with the people I met only for one night, and sometimes with people who I met for a brief moment, no intimacy shared but the imagined sum of our interactions in my head. The underlying safety of all my connections while overseas meant that I got to practice opening my heart in a mindful way. I was only in one place for a few days at a time, and in reality, I had no depth of love and certainly no commitment to offer anyone. The complete knowing I had of the brevity, freed me to soar into momentary love without fear. I didn't have to face any of the things going on deep inside my heart, because I would never be with anyone long enough to have to explain the pain within me. I could enjoy every second with someone, because it would be over as soon as it began. I relished the feeling of someone else wanting me, and cemented those memories in my body for future nostalgia. There was so much comfort in the clear restriction of what I could offer, so I became even more pleasure centred, more confident, and more loving.

Later in the trip, I met someone else who rocked me in a substantially enduring way. I didn't expect to feel any of what I felt for him, but I basked in every moment of the connection. I met him at a time when weeks of sun and swimming had compounded in a layering of relaxation that felt innately sexual to me. I have for years felt a sense of primal magnetism around the ocean, so spending every day swimming supported a gentle unwinding of the day-to-day disconnect of my body from nature. My return to body was supported further by the impact of months of compassionate self-talk I had been curating, and the integration of sensuality I was encouraging in this. While I had been navigating the resurgence of some disordered eating thoughts throughout the trip, at this particular moment in Lagos, I felt balanced and safe in my body. This town in Portugal had my whole heart captured. So, meeting this person came at a time when I felt refreshingly content, and was enraptured by how amazing this felt. My breakup still hurt me deeply, but I had temporarily placed it in a far corner of my heart, gifting myself a break from turmoil in the face of the healing sun. I knew I would have to come back and face it eventually, but I was incredibly grateful to have a break from processing my emotions.

This person is not someone I felt I should have been attracted to, and so I tried my absolute best to talk myself out of it and have other people talk me out of it. But, another strong (self-compassionate) voice in me recognised that I had a lot to gain from momentarily suspending my ideas of who I should and shouldn't be interested in. Spurred on by spending even a small amount of time with him, it didn't take much convincing to let myself feel the full weight of attraction to him. The connection was very driven by sex, but accidentally became really lovely beyond that. He was deeply kind and overwhelmingly masculine in a way that I was incredibly drawn to. He had the sort of English accent that makes me unspeakably horny, and was to me, as much radiant in personality as he was attractive. After a couple of drunken conversations over a lazy susan in the Lagos Chinese restaurant with my sister, she urged me to consider him. She had read his goodness immediately.

What should have been a very brief encounter with this person, ended up in weeks of talking with intersecting intimacy and desire. I knew it was useless continuing to talk to him, for a number of reasons, but once my sister and I decided to visit him in England, I let myself fall further into enjoying knowing I would hear from him for a little longer. I felt his attraction to me, and the intensity of the fleeting connection. I hadn't seen such respectful forwardness (not an oxymoron) in a very long time, and it was incredibly attractive. As with the other beautiful people I met on the trip, I gained so much power from recognising that I could experience attraction and connection again; I had not been desired for the last time. Each moment that I felt attractive and attracted to him, I let myself gently reopen a hopeful door and gaze into a future which justified the pain I had been in for months. All of the connections I made, but particularly this last one, felt full of goodness in my body because I was engaging with myself, my brain, my heart, my imagination, in a way that was inherently safe. There was no part of me that felt anxious about these connections. I didn’t feel insecure, I felt curious and open to the brief time they would cover. I taught myself that there was a new way I could connect to people with freedom in mind and in turn, extrapolated a layer or two of years of unhelpful narratives I had taught myself about the way I love and am loved.

In returning to Melbourne, I held tightly to these memories of brief and healing encounters. I am so grateful. I don’t think I could have had those experiences in Melbourne, because I am a different version of myself here. I am weighed down with the realities of life here, we all are in some way. In these last weeks, I have been struggling to integrate the version of me who was travelling and the version of me who exists here. I just don't quite feel the levels of freedom and embodiment that I had overseas, anxiety greeting me the moment I landed back in Melbourne. While this is somewhat inevitable, I don't want to lose all trace of the way I was living. I am working actively each day to soften into the unknowns and the pain I associate with this place now. I am trying not to be scared by the resurgence of sadness. I am trying not to be embarrassed at the continuing nature of the sadness, and trying to sink into new experiences and gentle reflection.

I can see now why it felt so extraordinary overseas. I felt purposeful in letting myself momentarily pour love into someone, and be reminded of how affirming it is to me, to love someone. Child Sarah watched adult Sarah give love in the way she dreams of being loved, the way she has been loved. While I try to tell her that I love her just as much as I can love others, it is clear to both of us that I am most alive when loving someone. I'm aware there's something deeply codependent about this, but I don't see myself any other way, and don't want to encourage an already existing binary in which codependence is the worst way one can relate to others. I believe in the interdependence of humanity; we have evolved to need each other, and that is okay. It is only a problem to the extent that I am at risk of being harmed or harming someone else, and each time I love someone I learn more about keeping myself safe in the inevitable freefall. What was particularly healing to another version of me, possibly teenage Sarah, was feeling genuinely desired again. I had been navigating a frustrating struggle to separate myself from confirmation bias and real thoughts of not being desired in the end of my relationship. I have been cradling myself with self-compassion for months and noting the complexities of desire and love, but teenage Sarah's voice, cared only about feeling wanted. So while I have been working behind the scenes to top her up the knowledge of my innate sexuality and inherent worth outside of desirability, physically experiencing attraction offered further healing. Part of me wished I didn't gain so much from this, but this same part of me deeply feels that the interweaving of my sexuality and sense of self is innate and wonderful.

No matter what, I know that there is tangible love and the chance to love all around us. I love my friends a wild amount. The love I have for myself is growing constantly. I can and do love deeply, effortlessly. I will love again, I will be loved again, I know this without doubt. I have no doubt that I will have a life filled with love. It already is. I know that all of us will have multiple loves, some enduring, some fleeting, and they will all be purposeful. Right now, I am loving me, the love I know will carry me through it all. Many months ago my therapist said that the greatest love of my life will be me. I am beginning to feel this all around me, the self-compassion becoming more innate, softer. But I also know it's okay to miss love, and to enjoy feeling desired. We are all consciously and unconsciously influenced by the sum of the narratives of love and sex we have been fed from childhood, harmful and not. I am continuing to try to extrapolate my worth from external validation, while also knowing that it is okay to hope for a life filled with all kinds of love. In this moment, the ocean of love within me is being held by my safe people and me, care and consistency settling into the space in and around my body. I am buoyed by memories of Europe and the love that still sits within my body, the resurgence of possibility, and my ever solidifying knowing that love is complex, multifaceted, painful, and inevitable. I fucking love love.



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