CELIBATE: YEAR 2- KNOWLEDGE IS POWER
I've been asked numerous times during the past couple of years why I chose to be celibate. There is no one answer to this for me. My reasons were (and still are) many. There were times when I’d boldly answer, “I want to do something different to get something I’ve never had before (which is the overall reason that all other reasons fall under).” Those times mostly fell within the first year and a half of my journey.
It wasn’t that I no longer had the desire to do something different in order to get something I never had before (I still do). It was that in the midst of standing on that decision, life just kept on coming. That should be expected, right? Well, it is. Life is like a crash, it’s impossible to adequately brace for impact. You never know what’s coming, how fast or intensely it will arrive and how long it will linger.
It wasn’t that relationships were that big of a distraction that any prospect of love intercepted my intentions and caused me to waver. It was that when life happened like consecutive jabs to my peace, my certainty in purposefully being alone was no longer certain. When the areas of your life that you thought you secured begin to loosen under pressures that you didn’t even think could move you let alone unravel you, whatever defenses you’ve prepared (or a lack thereof) kicks in.
I went into celibacy thinking that the work that I would have to put in would simply be to stay away from any relationships. I had no intentions of flinging or one night standing so I knew that wouldn’t pose a problem for me.
I didn’t stop being celibate, though there were moments I had to ask myself what the point was in all that I was forcing myself to endure ‒ and yes, there did come a point (several in fact) when it no longer felt like a choice that I made but like a punishment that I had to endure for an indefinite period of time. That point was accompanied by all the strength I felt from reclaiming my power thinning out and I hung on by a fairly loose thread to the remnants of my regained virtues.
During my first year of celibacy, I had this amazing epiphany about “taking back my power”. I had been doing a lot of reading and referencing the parts of the bible I had committed to memory when I was in church. I always giggled at the lingo used to express sexual relations in the bible. “And Adam knew Eve his wife; and she conceived.” “But he knew her not until she had given birth to a son.” We’ve gotten so far away from prudishly annotating the coming together of two people but going back to the basics made something apparent for me. Thinking of sex as “knowing” as well as the spiritual act of sharing your power with your partner ‒ “knowledge is power” started to mean a whole lot more than just “read a book and learn something.”
After that moment of clarity, I was hell bent on never sharing my power with anyone my spirit couldn’t vouch for and I knew that would take time and intense vetting. But even those fortifying epiphanies don’t just stick.
Let’s back track..
Back in December 2016, life happened to me in continuous rounds of body shots and I can’t recall a time prior to that where I took as many consecutive jabs, where I felt as low or as weak as I found myself feeling during that time. I found myself drunk at a friend’s house trying my hardest to not talk about all the emotions I was battling (ones that had absolutely nothing to do with celibacy). I found myself drunk. I found myself responding to subtle advances and I found myself advancing not so subtly on my own. The main problem with this was that the guilt that hit promptly upon the arrival of my sobriety the next morning stemmed in (large) part from the thought of having to restart my celibacy calendar (no, not an actual calendar).
Being the guilt-ridden, introspection junkie that I’ve been, I lamented over all of it. I cried - a lot. I felt horrible in awful ways. My guilt and shame got together and reproduced, creating some hybrid monstrosity that felt like more self-loathing than I have ever had the displeasure of becoming acclimated with. It was so bad that I told a friend not to try to talk me out of my funk because I didn’t deserve to feel better.
I woed even more about the fact that I didn’t break my celibacy because celibacy was proving to be difficult. It happened as a result of feeling weakened in every other area of my life. I loathed how comforting it felt to indulge in a meaningless connection. I hated myself for being capable of such weakness.
That honest slip of my will pushed me to question myself and the reason for my vow of celibacy. It made me question whether or not it was necessary for me to continue. It made me uncomfortable with the self-imposed struggles that I was being held accountable for. It made me rebel against myself which led to a second moment of weakness that wasn’t an honest slip at all. It was deliberate. It was a face off between my will and my desire to be free of the responsibilities that I had taken on (on my own).
I felt less terrible. It being a decision rather than a mistake took away some of the self-loathing that followed. I still felt wretched, though. I felt numb and that numbness - my rebellion that resulted in my little “experiment” helped me to realize that I had lost sight of the quest that I was so sure of to begin with.
I can honestly say that I didn’t regain the confidence in my journey until a couple weeks ago (about 7 months after the slip). It was just a few weeks ago that I told a friend that I was over celibacy. The truth is, I’m not over it. That would mean that I’m over my growth, my peace and my desires for a life that doesn’t feel like an episode of a bad reality tv show. I’m not over it.
The pros of my slip and fall from (my own) grace is that it highlighted for me more areas of my life that needed further detailing. I never intentionally swept any of my issues under my proverbial rug ‒ the mess was masked by “the way things are”, “the way things have always been”. I just happened to throw a pretty little rug on what I thought was a clear space. Now that it has come to light, I can’t pretend I didn’t see it. That would be a sin against myself. It would be catastrophic for the “different” that I’ve almost delusionally told myself was possible even without example.
The con is fairly obvious (even if only in context). I backslid. There was a moment during my emotional decline where I sought out a purpose in my position of falling out of sync with myself. I tried to make it mean more than it did in a desperate attempt to regain the self- respect that I had lost. I even went as far as trying to find long term potential in that friend that so readily aided in my backsliding. That was up until I inevitably found myself on the losing side of a power trip and I realized that I never had this power trip with him before because he didn’t have my any of my power before. You can care enough about a friend to argue/ debate things but it’s different when those debates and arguments are a result of trying to demand a level of respect that you feel is deserved but isn’t being given. It doesn’t mean that it isn’t the respect you actually deserve but why demand it (even solely in action) from someone who doesn’t see you as worthy of it to begin with? It took a while to snap myself out of that foolishness but I did. I had to forgive myself in order to not count it as a failure for me. I had to get back to a place where I was adamant about not allowing it to make me feel like continuing was impossible or futile. I had to readjust my perspective to find the lesson in the L I was taking and that required me to sedate my ego.
Where am I now?
I decided that I wasn’t going to completely start over. I’m still 2 years into my decision to be celibate. It’s not to pretend that I effortlessly made it to 2 years of celibacy. It’s not to pretend that what happened didn’t in fact happen. I will continue to count how long it has been since I made the decision, the vow to be celibate, just as I’ll always count my fouls as a part of the journey. It has been 2 years since I decided that I needed and wanted to be celibate. It has been 8 months since I realized that temptation doesn’t only come in the form of physical urges to have sex but that needing or wanting comfort in other seemingly unrelated areas can also open doors for weakness. And it has been 4 months since I proved to myself that sex clouds even the most objective judgement and can thwart the strongest will. Everything counts.
I’m currently reading “The Wait” by DeVon Franklin and Meagan Good. It’s reminding me of all the values that prompted my celibacy to start. My desire to regain my control, my power, my desire to get closer to God, my need to tune out the noise of modern life and modern love. It confirmed for me that these journeys are always better with support. That’s where I am now – building, attracting my support system. It’s necessary to start new, as I’m still learning. The people who are already stationed in your life as a support system for other things won’t all fit the necessary criteria for support in this journey. Friends who encourage you to have sex because “it’s good for you” and friends who are willing and always ready to aid you in succumbing to your vulnerability aren’t the friends that you need to allow into this particular part of your journey. It reminded me that you can’t take people on those parts of your journey that were meant just for you. It’s confirming that when you are ready to commit to a decision ‒ enough so that you are willing to put space between you and whoever you need to, that space will be filled with real support from kindred spirits.
I’m in a place now where I’m looking for space to take. Space from everything and everyone not meant to serve in this next phase of my journey. I can’t afford the kind of support that eggs on counterproductive thoughts, behavior or even conversation. I can respect that this path isn’t meant for everyone regardless of how helpful it can be to anyone. I also have to respect that it’s necessary for me ‒ enough to give myself a solid chance at seeing it through.
Where am I now?
I’m back on track - in a less “needing to be certain that it’s all possible” way and in a more “I’m going to create this possibility if it doesn’t already exist” way. Being committed, being adamant, being the force that you need, to be who you need to be is pretty damn great. It’s the kind of boldness that will attract the necessary support for the moment when your own force wanes.
Where am I now? I’m back to purposeful. I back to sure. I’m back to in control.
Am I afraid to mess up again?
No, I’m not. That’s not to say that I’m any less human now than I was before. It’s to say that having gone through a significant phase of doubt only to come back to this resolve solidifies my resolve for me. I never want to get back to that place where my thoughts of myself felt almost impossible to redeem. I never want to get back to a place where my guilt is so strong that it has the potency to destroy my desire to allow myself to move on so I can do better. I never want to feel like less than my best self again.
At the same time, I’m completely open to my humanness. I know that I’m not impervious to messing up. I’m not above emotion. I’m not the queen of restraint. I’m actually the opposite of all of that. I’m super moody and have the kind of personality that allows me to easily become addicted and almost obsessed with anything that coddles my feelings ‒ be it a combination of good weather and a serene location, a great meal or a gentle touch. Knowing myself and what makes me susceptible to caving is essential to avoiding those things that will tempt me in ways that I could potentially find it hard to turn down.
Should the day come again, that I find myself staring down the barrel of any kind of pain or discomfort that has the potential to fuel my infidelity to my promise to myself and to God ‒ if I’m weak enough to fold, I’ll aim to deal more gracefully and mercifully with myself and get back on track sooner.
All that I aim to be – powerful in my vulnerability, in giving of myself; through my art, through my life, being a source of light, of peace and of love – not everyone deserves to be on the inside of that journey; not as friends and certainly not as a partner. Not everyone (despite how intelligent they are or how spiritual they seem) can add to you in the ways you need it. This makes it imperative to wait, to take the time – however much it requires. Take the time before you allow someone to know you. Let them prove themselves continuously.
Who are you allowing to know you? Who are you sharing your power with?