Holding On and Letting Go

The crazy part is, I don’t know how to talk about my own losses, so it’s kind of good I haven’t had any.
Wait, what?

relationships, loved ones, pets, even if I didn’t get to the funeral it still mattered.

And I do know how to talk about it, after the fact.  I’m an introvert, after all, so I talk later.  I tried spilling my guts for a while but really I didn’t get anywhere.  Digestion is internal.  Expression, however, is external.  You have to do something with all that stuff.  Our bodies, as Gordon Atkinson says, make food into feet.  And so, say I: our hearts make pain into love.

Recently I was doing a reframing exercise.  Danielle LaPorte (of http://whitehottruth.com, seriously worth checking out) puts out The Spark Kit (formerly The Firestarter Sessions) where she walks you through a little clarity-finding, power-focusing, business-building internal work.  One of the 190 pages of fun and awesome (literally laughed out loud a few times–and I’m only on chapter 2) takes your biggest business mistakes and has you figure out what you learned from them.

Now.

I hate the whole “you need all the horrible things that happen to you” thing.
I’m just not buying it.
“Everything happens for a reason” — nope.
True fact:
Sometimes shit hits fan and it just.plain.sucks.

BUT.

This is subtle but important: Shit-hit-fan now what do I do with the result? –totally different question.

Not Some Mean Grownup Made This Happen To Us.  and NOT We Brought This On Ourselves.

Instead: okay, we have serious shit-distribution here.  It sucked.  Let’s figure out how to use it.

Answer # 1: OWWWWIEEE NOT FAIR.  YOU CAN’T MAKE ME!!!!!

Answer #2: wait, what’s going on?  Shit?  Like manure?

Answer #3: Okay, hang on.  Can we get a rototiller in here?  I want sugar snap peas and juicy red tomatoes, and this is starting to look like fertile ground…

And then we get into the details: it will be an organic garden. It will kick FertilizerCompany’s ass.  I will feed the neighborhood and donate to the local food pantry with the results of this shitstorm.  Let’s call the papers!  Twitter!  Facebook!  Let’s build this on a reproducible framework, because pretty soon I will have an elite crew of gardeners.  And they will want a shit-distribution system…

It’s a turnaround, baby.  And it’s not a turnaround based on lies or damn lies or politics.  It’s a turnaround based on letting the past be the past and starting with a clean slate and a nonjudgemental set of facts.

Fact: Manure.  Everywhere.
Question: Now what?
The question needs to be clear and unhitched from how it got that way.  Leave unfair, messy, and painful aside (don’t stuff them, just don’t let them cloud your imagination) and look only at what is true and what could happen next. Change language.  Use “manure” instead of “shit”.  See what happens.
And the answer is obvious:
What next? Grow something.

One of our cats took off last night.  Hung around the margins, just outside the circle of light (thanks, Ani DiFranco), but refused to come in for the dinner call.  We worry about him because, well, he’s a beloved kitty but he’s not that swift.  He doesn’t like to come in.  He does like to sleep in the woods.  And these woods bite: they have foxes and fishers and owls.  And raccoons and bears and coyotes.  We love the living ecosystem, but it’s hard when we love prey as well as predators.

And I could feel myself letting go a little, trying to come to terms with the possibility that our one and a half year old sweet tabby with the fur that smells like talcum powder and the little tufts on his ears that bespeak a bobcat somewhere in his family could be gone.  Today.  Tomorrow.  Next week.  –that we might not have him for a happy 20 years and hold him while he dies peacefully in his sleep.  I don’t want to hurt when he goes, but I want to be fully with him while he’s here, so I’m trying to stop.  Stop making space.  Stop creating distance.  I’m trying to allow myself to be as close to him as I want, and know without judgement that it might hurt later.

I’ve seen a lot of people let go of other people.  Sometimes years after they’ve left; sometimes years before they’re gone.  And it’s the years before they’re gone that I really want to write about today.  Julia Terry wrote on my blog about tending the fire: keeping it alive.

But knowing that someday it will go out–by death, by separation, by circumstance–is no excuse for keeping a distance now.  Now, you have it.  Now it is alive.  Now the person is with you, flesh and blood and bone, heat and laughter and tears.  Too many relationships end before they’re over, because we think it will hurt less, and that’s somehow better.

My massage instructor told a story about having frozen shoulder, and losing the use of her arm for a long time as a result.  She said, “If I had to choose between having the severe pain and the use of my arm, or losing the pain but also losing substantial range of motion, I’d keep the pain and the use of the arm.”

The people in our arms are part of our lives.  They are part of our bodies.  Someday we may lose them.  (Or we may not.)  Someday may come, and it may come in the way that we don’t want it.  It might have happened to us painfully before.  But as Havi Brooks says, then is not now.  And someday is not now, either.

Now we have one another.
Now we are in love.
Now we can be.
Now we can change.
Now we can create what we want.
Now we can make something happen.

Now it is all possible.
What will you do–now?

 

tending a fire

Julia Terry (and guest)

Julia Terry is one of the amazing accidents of my life.  We happened to meet online, and then we happened to be able to meet offline, and even though we rarely see each other she’s one of those wise, laughing, real people that I love to know.

She wrote this and posted it in her private spaces online, and when I read it I immediately asked if she would let me republish it as a guest post.  She graciously said yes.

So here it is!

 

***

(note: the following message does not apply when one or more of the participants just aren’t interested in getting down with other participants. people need to engage consensually for this shit to be healthy. seriously. also note: this isn’t specfically about lesbians. :) )

 

There’s a joke about lesbian bed death – you know, when all the lust has been sucked out of your relationship and you mostly just lay around looking into each other’s eyes and thinking about how all you need is love? Yeah. I’ve forgotten the joke because losing the fire in any love relationship isn’t actually funny. It’s challenging and sad and can feel like a great loss when we acknowledge that it’s happened. Too often, we make excuses, saying that all passions wane. We settle for less than what we want (and even sometimes what we need) because there are other (important and valuable) things that weave together to create the foundations of our relationships. The things we know about our partners, from the tragic to the decidedly mundane. The small gestures of affinity (always making sure there is good coffee, cooking together, grinning at each other while singing along to the radio) and the grandiose (wherever you go is my home, we build family together) all bond us to one another. There is comfort in pattern and familiarity and that’s a good thing.

 

That said, all of these components of loving one another that aren’t specifically about sexing it up are the wood we need to keep passion going. If you know anything about starting and tending a fire, you know that the best way to keep a fire going is to use seasoned wood of all shapes and sizes. You need to have a shit ton of it too, cause otherwise you end up huddled under all of your blankets while your 16×20 cabin steadily gets colder and you feel too lazy to go and gather and chop more wood so you might as well freeze and you watch the breath coming out of your body billow up to the ceiling until you say fuck it and find some 24 hour diner (cough Jeffry’s) to drink coffee at all night so that you can stay warm without any work (not that that’s ever happened to me…).

 

For me, this means making sure there are lots of things that are established in my love relationships as things that I can put my trust and faith in or that bring me joy. I need to know that we aren’t going to run out of wood – and I need to make sure that doesn’t happen by actively and intentionally working with my partners to keep discovering and supporting things that sustain our relationships. It feels like it’s far too easy to get caught up in the business of day to day life, to be in a routine where people are always too tired or have too many other things on their plate or just plain don’t feel like doing it, whatever it is. The woodpile needs to be replenished though, so even when you are feeling like adding one more thing to the list of things you need to do is going to overwhelm you, consider that we need basic fuels to survive – air, food, water, fire – you take one of those away and the whole thing starts to fall apart.

 

So, in my heavy handed way, I think I’ve established the necessity for your combustibles – you gotta keep on feeding them to the fire or it will burn out, dwindle down to glowing embers which are evocative of the fire you once had but aren’t going to keep you warm through the night and may leave you feeling vaguely dissatisfied. Remember though, embers can be built back up given kindling and more wood. Which leads me to smooching. Seriously people, let’s touch our partners. Not every touch has to be about ultimately getting it on, and yet when we establish that it feels good to have a back rub (and that the back rub itself is enough) and that making out for 5 minutes doesn’t need to lead to anything in that moment, though it can give you something delicious to ponder during the lulls in your workday, we are creating an environment where there is the potential for hot entanglements.

 

Sometimes the things we communicate nonverbally can create miscommunications with our partners – so, in the course of remembering to engage in touch (hold hands, people! hug! cooties are a myth and you are an adult!), I think it’s helpful to talk about this shit too. Like – tell your partners you really enjoy helping them feel good or talk about how awesome it felt when their face lit up when you came into the room. We have a tendency in our culture to only talk about the stuff that needs to be processed and to forget about verbalizing the yummy stuff. Yep, there’s a fire analogy here too: this is the smoke. When things aren’t burning up properly or when you’re burning a bunch of garbage, the smoke is plentiful and grey and probs pretty smelly. A good fire (ie one where there is clear, transparent, intentional communication) will burn with tendrils of white smoke, the kind that you smell on a fall day and it makes you feel cozy down to your toes. Now, sometimes you just have to burn the leaves that have been gathering in the yard or you throw some pbr cans in to see what happens – this happens. It’s ok. It will burn away, given more of the good stuff. So yeah. Talk about it, the yucky stuff *and* the stuff that gets you worked up in a yay way.

 

And then we come to one of the most important parts of keeping a fire nice and hot, efficient and sustainable: friggin space for the air to flow through. You can douse a fire by smothering it. You can go through your woodpile putting more wood on than you need to to keep that fire going. You can work and work to get that fire ablaze, but if there isn’t any room for oxygen, that fire won’t happen.

 

This is the part where we talk about doing our own stuff. This isn’t about making yourself more interesting to other people, it’s about having time and space to explore the things you care about. It’s about going on a camping trip by yourself so that you can get up and watch the sunrise while you drink a cuppa cowboy coffee. It’s about having a job that keeps you engaged (paid or unpaid work). It’s about having a friend community you nurture and feel invigorated by. It’s about supporting your partners to have all of those things too – and separately from you! Having space that is our own gives us time to continue to grow in our own right…and let’s be honest, it’s really ok to miss your partners for a bit. It makes it even more exciting to jump all over em when they return. :)

 

There are ways, of course, of making your fire flare up, though they may only be momentarily pleasing or may only give the appearance of creating warmth. You can totally douse your fire in gasoline and watch it leap (fights and making up? last ditch efforts to instigate some kind of response?), and then the gas burns off and the fire is a little weaker because of it (not to mention it smells like hell).

 

I hope we all take time to ignite, giving ourselves space and time and fodder and remembering that some work is helpful and some work will only lead to burn out. Lighting a match and holding it to a log ain’t going to do shit…except maybe burn your fingers.

Passion needs to be tended in order to be sustained.

Julia Terry is a queer, polyamorous, poor person who is married to a transmasculine person. Julia’s preferred pronouns are she/her and her gender identity and expression is working class femme. Julia recently became a mother and is busy being excited about every new sound her sweet baby makes. Her paid and non-paid work involves working as an advocate, educator, and support person. She travels frequently with her partner’s show, the Tranny Roadshow, is a church administrator for a Unitarian Universalist congregation, and will soon be blogging for The Mommies Network. She thinks sex and love are full of awesome.
http://themommiesnetwork.blogspot.com/

http://www.trannyroadshow.com/

 

Hi!

mecarlslideshow

photo by Carl Zimmerling http://www.carlzimmerling.com/

 

Come on in!  Welcome!  Have a seat.

(looking for massage?  Click here.)

If you’re a fastened-seat-belts person, there’s one over there.

If you’re a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants person, feel free.

Either way is good.

This is a place for wishes and wishers to ride the roller coaster to reality.

And a place to learn to tie shoelaces.

***

If you wish you could do IT, if you’re not sure, if you’re hoping but have too many doubts…

If you want IT to be better

If you want to get off your ass and get IT done

If you want an honest voice in your corner

If you want a better sex life (asking for what you want? knowing what you want? initiating what you want?  wanting any at all?)

Imagine this:

You know you can, finally.  Really.

That’s after we figure out what it is

and before we figure out how.

Because you will.  And you’ll know that, too.

Sometimes it’s about life.

Sometimes it’s about sex (I specialize in explorations about sex).

Most often it starts somewhere (maybe you don’t have sex with your spouse anymore) and it goes from there to everywhere else (career, family, hiking in the Alps) on the way to a happy ending.  (No, that kind of happy ending you have to manage on your own–that’s not the work I do.  But after we’re done, your relationship–and your sex life–may well be a lot better!)

If you are sometimes hopeless, we can work with that.

If you are sometimes confused, we’ll untangle the knots.

If you sometimes trip on your own internal shoelaces, we’ll tie your shoes.

And then you’ll learn to tie them.  With double knots.  In the middle of the playground.

So when they almost trip you the next time you know what to do, instead of sitting there waiting for doom doom doom to come down on your head when they flop all over the place.

You sit down.  You tie them.  And you keep playing.

Want to learn to tie shoelaces?

Ready to ride the roller coaster?

Call me: 612-209-6611 or send me email (leelaATleelalifecoaching.com) and we’ll talk.

 

going mainstream

newspaper

Check it out!  The NYT has a whole article on vibrators–not so much the history of, but the current trends.  If you don’t believe me, believe them–when a major newspaper can publish this, the world is changing.  Time to celebrate!

 

clothing not optional

WalnutCoatHanger

I’ve got a full day coming.  Three clients right in a row, class in the afternoon, consultant call in the evening.  I’m excited about all of it.  I love my work, my classes, and my business.

And I want today to shine, baby.  SHINE.

Not just glimmer, flicker, or glow. SHINE like midday on a mountaintop. DAZZLE like the Fourth of July over Manhattan.  BRILLIANCE and GLORY are the plan of the day.

And so as I was getting ready, I said to myself,

SELF?

and I said,

yessss?

SELF, YOU HAVE A BIG DAY TODAY. SO HERE IS MY RECOMMENDATION:

“GET DRESSED.  And do not wear anything you are not thrilled to have on your body.”

Oh!  I said.

I MEAN IT!

Okay.  What does this mean?  I’m barely awake!  Clothes are clothes….but…

And just like that, I picked a different shirt, different pants, a different bra, and different underwear.  I had been about to settle for an entire outfit that left me feeling…blah.  And I hadn’t even realized it until that moment.

Because clothes do not just make the man.  Clothes make the mood.  Bad clothes make you slouch, they make you sigh, they make you feel like whaleshit.  They leave you thinking, “no one will like me,” or worse, “no one will see me,” and that is the kiss of death.

Now I do not mean that you have to go all What Not To Wear on your ass.  You don’t.  I don’t care what thrills you, what you think looks good, what works for your time and place.  If you don’t want a push-up bra or skinny jeans, that’s fine with me.

But hear this: what you wear matters.  It matters to you.  And looking good will change your energy, your productivity, your sass, your swagger, your creativity.

So try it.  Today? Do not wear anything you are not thrilled to have on your body.  See what happens.

PS: don’t know your style?  I met Elsa Issac last fall, and she has it nailed.  Check out her article on spring cleaning and finding your style here: http://blog.elsaisaac.com/4-easy-steps-to-a-happy-clutter-free-closet/

homecoming

football_field-962

Holy moley. No, that’s not strong enough. Holy fucking shit. That was an amazing conference. There’s NO WAY I could have predicted that level of amazing.
Momentum (the first ever) just happened in Washington, D.C. and I was thrilled to be a part of it. We had fantastic speakers, great organizers, but most of all, everyone there was brilliant. Almost every conversation, every spare moment, every casual fleeting thought felt like the beginning of something big. I could write for a year from this one weekend.
Here’s what’s inspiring: so many people doing good work to make the world fabulous.
Here’s what’s moving: people balancing self-interest with the greater good.
Here’s what’s transformative: being somewhere where you don’t have to explain yourself.
I think it’s called fitting in, and we all want to do it. We all want to feel super-rockin-awesome about who we are, and not be questioned all the damn time about the choices we think are perfectly logical. It’s not about conformity, it’s about not having to think about survival.
See way back in the day, we had to think survival thoughts. And one big one was, “If it’s me vs. the tiger, I most likely lose and the tiger gets lunch. But if it’s eighteen or twenty five of me vs. the tiger, we have much better odds.” Which meant, “don’t piss off the other twenty four people or you will indeed be tiger lunch.”
When you’re able to relax about the tiger, you can do things like invent arrows and discover fire. You can make up words to communicate ideas; you can draw pictures and invent writing to pass on information even when you’re not there. Also, and maybe more important, your stress hormone level goes down and your pleasure hormone levels go up. You can safely make babies (or just have sex for fun!) so you WANT sex in a way that you probably won’t when it’s you and the cold hard world. There’s a place for creativity and sweetness and affection and invention. It’s space to grow and change. It’s space to take on other stresses–voluntarily–because the primary stresses are no longer in place. So you can decide what challenge you’re ready for, and go that way. Individual identities emerge.
That’s right, fitting in makes space for you to see yourself. You’re no longer one of 25 people scared shitless of a tiger; you’re someone named Jo who likes to cook mammoth and makes fabulous jackets from the hides.

Momentum was like that–we all relaxed about the tiger. Some of us live relaxed; some of us don’t have that luxury…yet. But at Momentum we were all relaxed together.

So personalities surfaced. Talents rose. Generosity and joy spiked. The workshops were awesome, the panels were a shiny shiny array of stars, but my favorite thing was the change in everyone there. We felt…good. Safe. Supported. Like we really could take on the world. Twitter and Facebook are good; email is a lifeline. But there’s nothing like looking into someone’s eyes and holding their hand.
Thanks, Tess and Diva, and thanks to everyone who presented and everyone who came. Here’s to 2012!

http://momentumcon.com

diving in

sandy rocks web

I’ve been living in Portugal for the last three months. It’s been awesome. Seriously.  And?   I can’t wait to get home and share my stories, because you’re going to love them.

There’s the one about going to the end of the earth all ready to see big crashing spectacles and seeing…nothing.

There’s the one about not looking like an outsider even when you are.

There’s the one about people-sized streets.

There are a ton more. And there’s this one.

I grew up on Long Island Sound. It was like half an ocean. There were waves, little tiny ones, and the water wasn’t warm but it certainly wasn’t cold. Fast forward to Maine. Waves in open water and COLD water, even through most of the summer, but most of the coastline is coves.

So coming to Portugal was my first real experience with consistent open-ocean surf. Some days it’s kind of placid, with little, well-behaved swells. But when there’s a storm the waves rise up and shout their names, crash on the beach, hit the seawall, and scare the surfers out of the water. They are HUGE.

And beautiful. And huge.

The funny thing about our beach here is that when you’re looking down at it from a distance, you have no sense of scale–there’s nothing in your line of sight to help you figure out how big the waves are. Then someone goes swimming.

So a couple of weeks ago the waves were crashing and a couple of friends of mine decided to go in. They stripped down and waded out. With every wave they paused, waited for it to wash past, and then kept walking. Between waves the water was down to their ankles, but even then the next wave would tower above them. They were tiny, barely visible in the rush and crash of the surf.

And when they were out far enough that they had to swim, they began to bob along, treading water, paddling out, treading water…

and I noticed something.

There was only one way to keep moving out to sea.

Swimming, floating, treading all meant that the wave carried them back in, farther than they could get out.

But when they dove into the wave–hands first at the base where the water curled–then they popped up on the other side, free of the current. It made a pattern: swim, swim, dive. Pause. Swim, swim, dive.

Inch by inch they made it out, past the breaks, into the water. And then–only then–did their long, clean strokes get them anywhere.

Sometimes, going with the flow is perfect. But when the flow isn’t going where you’re going, fighting it doesn’t work. Diving in does.

kissing at halftime

I never made out under the bleachers. With anyone. That just wasn’t the kind of high school life I had. (I did make out with someone under a piano in a church once, but that’s a different story.) But I knew people who did; I saw them. Under the bleachers and in the stairwell and around that one corner by the elevator that only kids who broke their legs got to use, they touched and kissed and generally had much better things to do than study.

I didn’t really envy them at the time,(hell, I liked to study) but they knew something important: good sex is not all about intercourse. In fact, there’s a hell of a lot of pleasure to be had right in front of the irritated and helpless hall monitors.  Kissing, touching, leaning into the pleasures of skin and bone against skin and concrete; anticipation; possibility; the small theater of costume and dance that was the heart of the high school social scene–so much more than just tab a into slot b.

SO much more.

Remember your first kiss?  If it was any good at all, it was probably as good as at least some of the intercourse you’ve had.  Remember wanting your girlfriend or boyfriend more than anything else in the world?  Remember the thrill of….holding hands?  Come on, it must have been thrilling once, before life got busy and you became a jaded junior or senior and holding hands was kid stuff.

 

the Hindi saved me

So this is kind of off the usual subjects.

And kind of, as usual, not.

My Hindi saved me today.

Now to understand the absurdity of that, you have to understand that I have not spoken Hindi with any kind of regularity for over a decade, and have never ever been proficient, much less fluent.

To understand the logic, you must know that I am in Portugal.  And I speak a little French, but no Portugese except please and thank you.

So today, I decided to have an adventure.  And in adventuring, I walked to the next town over, which is farther than I expected.  I bought a real fish (pictures posted tonight, probably) with its guts still in (and then when they offered to clean it I said yes), and some cilantro and savoy cabbage.  And then I needed a taxi back to my hotel so I would have time for lunch before class.

Only I don’t speak enough Portugese to ask for a taxi.  And the helpful people and I couldn’t pantomime sufficiently.  So…I was in a pickle.

I was looking around for some way to figure out the taxi problem.  The center of town, where I believe there is supposed to be a taxi stand, was nowhere to be found.  One sign pointed left, and the other pointed right.  But there was no taxi stand or anything else in the middle.  The lady at the restaurant didn’t understand my interpretive dance.  There were very few people on the street.  And it was about to rain.

And lo!  There it was!

A tiny little Indian market.

So I went in and looked around. It mostly carried regular Portugese stuff–cookies and bottled water and so on–but they man at the counter looked Indian.

So I asked,

“Ap Hindi boliye?”

Do you speak Hindi?

(It’s a badly constructed sentence.  But I KNEW it had enough of the right words in the right places to be understood.  More than I could say for my Portugese.)

Si

(yes.  In Portugese.  Whew.)

Hum ko chaiye ek taxi.

(I want a taxi.  I think that sentence is even constructed right.)

He asked where to.  I had to ask him to repeat it.  I don’t remember how to say it in Hindi, but he did.

I told him.

He told me there’s a bus… and then realized that I really just wanted a taxi.

He called me a taxi.

And while I waited, I bought Indian groceries–spices, chickpea flour, and dal.

When it came, I ran out and hopped in, calling “Obrigado!” over my shoulder, just as it started to rain.

Thank you.  Thank you shopkeeper, thank you taxi driver, thank you serendipity or universe or happy coincidence.  Thank you for my trip to India; thank you for playfulness and creativity and for the fresh fish and food I now have for dinner.

Who knew?

Hindi.  In Portugal.

You really never know.

the biggest sex organ ever

profile pic

Today I’m featuring my very first guest poster!  Holly Jackson comes to us from Cottage Copy, where she helps people turn their text into something worth reading.  (That’s my take on it.  I’m sure she’s much more diplomatic.)  I know her from her work, from Twitter where she’s @copygeniusgirl, and from her efforts in the #customerlove challenge that was started out of a post by @NaomiDunford over at http://ittybiz.com and got a life of its own when @LavonneEllis (http://thecompleteflake.com) picked it up and ran with it.  Holly is brains and wit and beauty.  Enjoy!

When I was younger, I found myself in a position that I think must be very common among well behaved east coast girls who don’t know much about sex beyond all the awful consequences it can have. The man I was with was working very hard to make things work for me, and I felt terribly guilty because no matter what he did, they just weren’t. So, I did what many women do when faced with an awkward sexual situation: I faked it. This apparently isn’t a talent of mine, because he immediately stopped and turned to face me.

“You don’t have to fake it.”, he said seriously, “Just tell me what you like.”  And this was where I really froze; I must have had that full on deer in the headlights look that people get when they’re asked a completely new question and can’t think of any possible answers. “I can’t,” I told him while turning beet red, “I don’t really know.”

The guy didn’t last much beyond that, but the experience had made me nervous. I’d grown up knowing about all the bad parts of sex; my dad worked in AIDS drug development, and my high-school had a sex ed course that successfully made you never want to have sex for the rest of your life. I’d spent my whole life fixated on the negative, instead of learning what I liked.

As I got older, I learned that my preferences in men were relatively similar to my preferences in books: I liked smut, but only when it was backed up with a seriously sexy vocabulary. In other words, I was pretty much a word nerd, in all areas of my life. I liked sex, but it was the mental part that really took it over the top.

So here’s the issue: when you’re trying to figure out what you might like, there’s no guide for finding a more varied and hot vocabulary for sex (Well, except this class that Leela teaches), and there’s no study guide either. I was a research lover stuck in a trial and error world.

To help the rest of you sex-loving literary types out (Hint: If you think Mr. Darcy is sexy, you may want to read on), I’ve put together a quick field guide for you to help with the research portion of your life.

1. There’s a lot of sexy stuff that happens before you actually get naked.

Porn teaches us that you can’t get turned on until people’s clothes come off, but that’s really not true. If you find the mental stuff sexy, an intense debate over dinner can be just as effective as foreplay. Even better, you can do it in public and not get strange looks or worry about decency laws. If you find someone who has the same tastes, figure out how to indulge them mutually and frequently, even if you couldn’t explain to the rest of the world why arguing about world economics is hot.

2. Figure out what you find sexy outside the bedroom, and incorporate it.

Our sexual tastes are developed in many more places than just the bedroom, and a fulfilling sex life means drawing on all kinds of experiences. What was the sexiest book you read, and why? The sexiest intellectual conversation?  Go back and analyze the most sexual experiences of your life, and try and find the patterns. Knowing (and being able to create and identify) those patterns means that you can create sensual experiences anytime with the right person.

3. Verbalize everything that you can.

Really, I suppose this all comes back to that early life lesson. Figure out what you like, and don’t be afraid to say it. Make sure to compliment your lover’s mind as well as their body or skills in bed. Even better, don’t be scared to mix sex and intelligent conversation (even if it’s a little more X-rated than your dinner debates). Indulging both sides of your personality is the key to really having fun.

Holly is a copywriter who has read every R-rated unauthorized sequel to Pride and Prejudice ever released. When she isn’t reading smutty literature, she can be found blogging at Cottage Copy.