The Pleasure Price
The High Priestess Has Arrived
When I saw her standing there in front of the ruinous landscape of my past, the last bloody thing I wanted to do was take her hand! I argued with her for days. I was angry to even see her standing there. The last time I accepted her invitation, it cost me more than half a decade of soul searching.
I demanded to know what she was doing here now.
To be honest, I was afraid. I have achieved a certain amount of momentum in my life and I was terrified she had come to snatch it from me in another round of karmic reckoning. Besides that, I couldn't imagine what shred of damage even remained that I had not diligently repaired. Soul holes are my personal specialty.
Above all, I wanted to know: How could she call me from a deep dive into luxurious enjoyment of myself, reveling in my life, planning for my delicious future...to attend to this fucking scene AGAIN.
She was unmoved by my protest.
She reminded me of Persephone and her fateful encounter with Hades and his pomegranate seeds. She urged me to remember that there is life giving food in the dark, watery chasms of this world. But would I be willing to taste the bittersweet fruit again? Would I trust her?
I didn't know how to answer.
My body answered for me.
I began to feel nauseous, anxious, disconnected. Whether I liked it or not, I was back there, sequestered in that upper room where my suffering and my pleasure were not about me. They were for someone else, about someone else.
From the moment of my first orgasm, my sexuality wasn't really mine.
From about that same time, a man's suffering became my suffering (and mine lost all relevance, even to me).
It was as if I met there Jehovah's son, Adam, and that he handed me (to bear along with my own) the curse. It commanded that he toil fruitlessly among the brambles by the sweat of his brow. And this is how I have toiled.
I recalled how, in that cursed bedroom, I struggled against the drugs in my system and the exhaustion in my body to remain engaged in the "pleasure play" whether I wanted to or not. Just then I began to notice that my creativity also very often takes on the fevered rush to achieve.
Has the command performance extended from my sixteenth year (and that methamphetamine induced haze) all the way until now, a chain unbroken by time and intention?
The upper room...Suddenly it wasn't just a place, but my mind disconnected from the needs and sensations of my body, my creativity disconnected from my own pleasure center and on hiatus, tucked far away, safe from my roiling emotions.
Gently, she explained that we were not here to retrace the wound. She pointed out the reality that the wound had long since disappeared. This was about a treasure left behind that once recovered would finally allow me to close the door on this scene, this tower, where I have been like the fabled Rapunzel, cloistered and denied my own involvement with the world.
The cloistering, upon further examination extended well beyond one room. It took on the shape of an absorbing interest. In that room I gained my first clear glimpse of what an abuse of power looks like. I learned what it means to be stripped of dignity and objectified without mercy or empathy. It isn't that I hadn't seen or experienced this many times before. It is that I didn't fully understand it as such. Since then, throughout much of my adult life, I have lost my focus time and again to the unfolding train wreck that is another person or organization so caught up in their own needs and desires that my humanity fades from the scene like color fading in the direct sun, only lightening fast and unabated.
For a long time, I was unable to snatch my eyes away, and therefore, was condemned to witness the fading of my glory over and over again.
In recent years, I have made some headway. I have, with discipline and forbearance, snatched my gaze from this wretched scene (in all its myriad forms) over and over again. But it has been a labor of love. It has left my brow furrowed and my clothes drenched in the sweat of effort.
Against the backdrop of all these realizations, she presented me with a choice. It wasn't a crossroads. It was a choice between two ways of meeting the possibilities that arise in my life.
Somewhere in the chamber of my initiation into a rabid, broken sexuality, I had left behind the option to achieve pleasure and richness with grace and for myself. I had surrendered my aliveness to a tortured effort to perform like a ballerina in a little music box, all stiff and bound to the same rigid movements tapped out to the same old song; not even my song.
With one clean swipe, I cut loose what belonged to me and without so much as a backward glance, I left that vile enclosure and every single one like it.
It's only after the fact, with some moments of reflection under my belt, that I realize how my attention has always wandered back to that room at the start of each creative project, at the doorstep of every orgasm, in the wake of every success.
Now I can also see that the room was not just an ordinary room. It was an antechamber, a vestibule leading either to a tiny cramped life or to a room swollen to the brim with the treasures of my life.
Though the choice took two and a half decades to come to this incredible moment of fruition, I must bow to my young self. One day I made the choice to leave that place for the first time and to greet the light of a new day. I found the hope in new possibilities.
Those first tremulous steps were, perhaps, the bravest of all. Today, I felt her hand there, on my shoulder, steadying me as I walked, not in this present vision, but in the nascent moments when I first realized that life was a choice I could make. And so it remains.
I suspect if there was a price to pay to ransom my pleasure, she paid it. It was only by her grace my feet remembered to walk.