Turn Me On, or, The Terror of Our Desire

It's the last day of school and the most sublimely beautiful, early summer day in New York City. My charge is at the park with a pack of his best friends, there is an endless supply of pizza and sweets, and I've just given him permission to play in the kid's water fountains in his school uniform. Because childhood. Because summer. Because get dirty. Why not? He sprints away before I can change my mind, bursting through the water with unreserved, joyful abandon. This goes on for hours. I watch with wonder at his full presence in the moment and his total commitment to the task at hand: having the most fun possible. Right here. Right now.

Later on I've moved into my evening and my own version of fun: Breathe-In, a movement and meditation event held monthly by two of my favorite teachers in New York. Before class begins, I'm laying out quietly, dissolving the day and trying to arrive fully to the moment when a question drifts up clear and strong from my deep center of knowing:

"When will you let me be happy?"

Basic nature, forever and always.
My earliest, most clear memories are of pleasure. In a particularly deviant moment, I recall being maybe five years old and grinding on the pew in front of me while standing to pray during Catholic mass. AMEN! I also remember being caught in the act, a hissing no, and confusion over why something that felt good wouldn't be okay. Sheila Kelley, founder of the transformative movement system S Factor, calls this The First Offense- the first time we recall some part of us being coded as shameful. It is the beginning of the turning off of that aspect of our being. We must behave in pro-social ways in order to be accepted and included in the tribe. When a behavior is coded as anti-social, we must repress it in order to survive in our environments. It may not actually be life or death, but it feels it, and that's all that counts to our body's trauma response. We don't know why, but this part of ourselves is unacceptable and it must go in order for us to live.

Just as the failure of an organ will lead to an overall system shutdown, the repression of one expression of self leads to the unintended dulling or shutdown of other areas. I've met so many women who are so disconnected from their pleasure that not only do they not know their sexual selves but they can't tell you much of anything that lights them up inside.

Pleasure encompasses so much more than the sexual; it's a feeling of happy satisfaction and enjoyment. Delight. Glee. Gratification. Contentment. Similarly, our Turn On is actually so much more than our sex. Our Turn On is the fathomless well of our personal magic. What does it mean to be Turned On? We tend to think of it only as sexual arousal, but let's look at it more broadly. It could mean; to make a piece of equipment or machinery start working, to start a supply of electricity, to activate a system.

To Bring to Life. To Awaken. To Empower. This is what happens when we live Turned On, and people who are fully alive and awake, living in their power, cannot be fooled, manipulated or controlled. You cannot sell them shit they don't need for problems they don't actually have because they know who they are. The smooth flow of a capitalist society depends on a gnawing sense of listless discontent and insecurity. People who have come alive are staging a daily rebellion that makes them strangers in the world, and straying outside the herd feels dangerous. Those who stand out and shine bright are easier to pick off, put down. To live boldly and be seen clearly is a vulnerable act.


This piece started on June 22nd. I spent the summer very seriously considering the question "When will you let me be happy?" and all its implications; 1) That I am not happy, 2) In what ways am I unhappy?, 3) Oh no, I play a very large part in this unhappiness, and 4) What am I willing to do to be happy?

Through deep meditation and some domestic travel journeys, I discovered my most authentic desire, and riding along in its sidecar, enormous terror. I know what I want and I am absolutely terrified of it. My desire flaunts social convention for the lives of good citizens and respectable women. My most authentic desire is to travel the world full time. I want to live location independent, allowing the flow of life to have its way with me. I want to be able to make money on every continent, in every time zone. I don't want a TV or a husband or a permanent address. I want total freedom and a whole planet's worth of space. All the space and freedom that a US passport holder can get.

There's not a lot of compassion on offer for those who stand out. Celebrities and basically anyone on the internet is on the possible receiving end of baseless cruelty. I feel vulnerable admitting my desire, terrified of the hissing "No," of having this thing that I need to be happy codified as shameful. How selfish I am to even admit this, let alone to take action! We don't get to follow our pleasure. It is to be swallowed to choking, swallowed to death. Because others were told No, so you will be told No, so you must tell yourself No. There's an unspoken responsibility to collectively suffer.

Nevertheless, today I'm coming to you live from a flight to San Francisco during which I've taken online courses in designing sales funnels and viral marketing. On January 1st, 2018, I'm catching a one way to Thailand where I will begin an indefinite period of world travel, working online along the way in social media strategy and writing. The next few months will be spent saving money and learning a new, mobile trade so that I can follow my pleasure to the ends of this earth.

My responsibility in life is not to validate the unhealthy suppression of desire. My responsibility is to myself and to answer the question "When will you let me be happy?"


Today, wild bird. I'll gut my possessions. I'll risk colossal failure. I'll do the thing that scares and thrills me most. For freedom. For authentic joy. To ensure that I know, for better or worse, exactly what it is to live my truth.

You many want a TV or a husband or a permanent address, and that's great! It doesn't matter what the desire is, what matters is the responsibility you have to yourself to see it fulfilled. Look and listen for what it is that will bring you joy and even if it scares you half to death, go for it. Many may tell you how stupid or selfish you are being, but it's you that has to live in your reality.

Make it exactly what it needs to be for you.




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