In my family we never spoke about sex. At the age of 13, I was molested by a stranger, and I had no way of telling my parents what had happened. Although I spent days crying and washing my hands compulsively, my mother and father never asked what was wrong. Everything changed after that. I went from excelling in school to, well, not. I became a dark and moody teenager. I even tried to run away from home. I didn’t feel safe there, probably because I didn’t have the words to share what had happened. This inability to express my thoughts and feelings would dog me for much of my adult life.
After a rebellious period in my late teens, I went on to honor my traditional Catholic upbringing by marrying in my early 20s and spending the next two decades trying to be a good wife. While I fulfilled my duties—cooking, keeping the house clean—there was a particular kind of intimacy my husband and I had no access to. I was unable to look him in the eyes, for instance. I kept the focus of our physical intimacy squarely on him. In many ways he and I were the same—he couldn’t talk about anything either. It was like I was outside of my body, unable to feel what I wanted, much less ask for it. When our marriage ended after 16 years, it was as if there was a palpable mass of unspoken words between us.
In the relationships that followed I felt freer and more open, but true connection continued to prove painful and elusive. The men I dated, while talented, funny, and intelligent, were almost always addicted to alcohol and drugs. I found my way into recovery. I was finally willing to address the low self-esteem and insatiable craving for love that had always been present. In recovery, I realized that although my parents had loved me, they had been physically undemonstrative when I was a child. My father didn’t like to hug or touch and neither did my mother. My inability to express myself had begun there. And while the recovery work gave me the insight to realize this, it was OM that finally allowed me to be expressive.
My first OM was the most intimate experience I’d ever had, and it was with a stranger. More intimate than anything I’d experienced in 16 years of marriage. In the beginning, it felt like I touched a hunger that I’d never fed before. It was like finding something I had been waiting for all my life. I didn’t OM every day at first, but within months I had made it a daily practice. OM was profound. I was able to open myself.
One of the things that struck me when I first began to OM was the experience of pure desire. All I wanted to do was OM. I would travel across London for an OM. At first my OMs felt raucous and explosive, but eventually began to settle. Now I am able to experience and enjoy a wide range of subtle sensations. I think it was the permission, the incredible permission OM gave me to have whatever experience I needed, that began to connect me with how I truly feel. And, as importantly, what I truly want. Connected in this new way to my feelings and desires, I began to develop a vocabulary around asking, as well as the resilience to accept a ‘no’ to my requests with the same equanimity as I would a ‘yes.’ I can express my thoughts and feelings honestly, really ask for what I want. I can go dancing and genuinely enjoy the spontaneity of meeting someone new. It’s like I have the permission to share what I feel.
I see OM as part of my self-care, like something I owe to myself that is linked both to my recovery and my sense of a higher power. I have always been looking to other people to make me well, but OM is where I take responsibility for my own well-being. I have been surprised to discover the depth of my own power. Now, whether I OM or not, I am aware of this thing inside of me that is boundless and beautiful. It is like discovering a wealth, a treasure, that would have otherwise remained untapped, buried beneath the traumas of childhood. Stroke by stroke, I uncovered an endless cache of calm, courage, and power.