17 Jul Sex, Creativity and Gifts from the Soul
I’ll never forget my sex education.
As a 12-year-old convent schoolgirl, my teacher was an Irish nun in her fifties called Sister Catherine who had a mop of curly grey hair, wore a lumpy blue cardigan and had a plaster holding the frames of her glasses together.
In a shrill voice she explained: “Now girls, the Catholic Church is strict on its understanding of the purpose of the union between a man and a woman. When they are united in love and form together in wedlock, they partake in an act where they come together in order that they may produce a baby.”
The sniggers on the back row made Sister Catherine turn bright purple and I remember the naughtiest girl in the class, Julie Wilson, asking what intercourse was, to which Sister Catherine mumbled that it was time for lunch. That was the extent of my formal sex education – and being pre-internet, let’s say I was set up for life!
I left the convent at 16 and headed to art college, where I discovered a little slice of non- Catholic heaven. There were so many handsome, arty boys everywhere that it became obvious that my sex education would continue on a more practical route.
Flirting became the new curriculum and my teachers/boyfriends included a glam rock singer called Paul, who had long, platinum hair that was so crimped it felt like corrugated iron, followed by a gothic photographer called Rob, a man so pale that I thought he may have been raised in a vault.
I adored Paul like a fan looking up to a pop star – and I think my adoration matched his own. He had so many pictures of himself on his bedroom wall that I wondered if he had any space in his heart for me! Rob was more devoted, but moody. He bought me flowers every two weeks after sulking or when he got his giro cheque.
This voyage of discovery came at a time when I started to find my artistic voice. I danced, acted, took photos, made videos and collaborated with other arty 16-year-olds. We were like the kids from Fame (an 80s TV show set in New York).
This world felt exciting and dangerous. But I discovered that exploring my artistic soul and sexuality brought up a lot of the same issues.
They both led to vulnerability, anxiety and a fair amount of rejection.
I remember performing in my first college play. I was a workman in A Midsummer Night’s Dream and had braces put on my teeth. I was in so much pain from ulcers I had to hold back the tears. After a good performance, I felt the ache of disappointment when family members said a half-hearted ‘well done’ when I really wanted them to tell me that I was clearly the star of the show (even though I only had three lines!).
In the same week, dreamboat Paul dumped me for a busty blonde glam rock chick. I cried so much I thought my face would melt.
Yes, sex and creativity share a lot in common. You feel the joy of freedom and vitality and yet the same crushing disappointment when things go awry.
Both are intimate forms of self-expression that give power to others to approve or reject you.
So – what’s my conclusion?
I remember watching a cheesy film a few years ago. A guy called Sam was giving a pep talk to his heartbroken friend Matt.
He said that the first time he told a girl that he loved her, she had said ‘thank you’ but had not reciprocated. His eyes became dreamy as he said: “It was the best moment of my life.”
“But weren’t you devastated?” said his friend, brooding over his recent rejection.
“Oh my God no, I expressed my love. I still love her and I feel so good about that. What she feels towards me is less important than the fact that I can enjoy my feelings of love for her.”
OK, perhaps it’s a bit shmaltzy, but I actually love the wisdom in this perspective.
If you take this approach when sharing your work, you could see it as an honour to give a little piece of what you love out into the world and disregard whether it’s well received or not.
In fact, it’s not relevant whether people idolise you, tell you you’re a genius, slam your work or give a mediocre ‘well done’.
I believe what matters is that you express yourself from a place of love and then you can enjoy the good feelings of doing that.
If you are in the mindset of worrying whether your work or your abilities will be judged, then you may as well give all of your power away to everyone else. It will only lead to you feeling fearful and frustrated.
So stay connected to that beautiful creative heart of yours and don’t ever feel scared if someone isn’t open to receiving what you’ve got to give.
Just keep going, keep giving and know that what matters is the joy of expressing yourself.
And as for Sister Catherine – if she’s still alive, that story still makes me cackle today. Thank you for the gift of making me laugh, even if you didn’t educate me about sex.