Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Cuddle Party Part One: Yay, a Lot Less Grief!

I am so excited and happy to have a new adventure to write about. Before I start, I thought I’d share the cuddle party rules, copied from www.cuddleparty.com:
ARRIVE ON TIME: Once we begin the Welcome Circle and orientation, sorry, we can let no one enter late. This creates comfort and safety by knowing that everyone is on the same page about rules and expectations.
WHAT TO WEAR: Pajamas – nothing too risqué. Think more comfy than sexy. (More drawstrings, less lace! No shorts.)
WHAT TO BRING: Sorry, no liquor folks. Juice or sparkling cider is always welcome. A pillow or stuffed animal if you like. Otherwise, just bring your smiling self.
1.                      Pajamas stay on the whole time.
2.                      You don’t have to cuddle anyone at a Cuddle Party, ever.
3.                      You must ask permission and receive a verbal YES before you touch anyone. (Be as specific in your request as you can.)
4.                      If you’re a yes, say YES. If you’re a no, say NO.
5.                      If you’re a maybe, say NO.
6.                      You are encouraged to change your mind.
7.                      Respect your relationship agreements and communicate with your partner.
8.                      Get your Cuddle Party Facilitator or the Cuddle Assistant if you have a question or concern or need assistance with anything during the Cuddle Party.
9.                      Tears and laughter are both welcome.
10.                  Respect people’s privacy when sharing about Cuddle Parties.
11.                  Keep the Cuddle space tidy”

In order to capture what Saturday’s party was like for me, I need to backtrack a little to the Snuggle Party that I attended back in February. It was called a Snuggle Party because it didn’t follow all of the same rules, just most of them. It was a little more sex-friendly—women were allowed to strip down to their bras and sexy touching was encouraged. But all the neat stuff about yesses and nos were in place.

I attended the Snuggle Party as part of a fantastic conference day, one of the happiest days of my life, actually. I had spent the day feeling accepted and body-positive and had even had the most wonderful Indian food and gelato date with Sweetie. (She brought me gum so that I wouldn’t have too-spicy breath while snuggling—we know she’s awesome like that.)That was the day I started my tradition of getting fresh socks after every adventure—so soothing.

All of that wonderfulness aside, as soon as the welcome circle began, I got a terrible pain in my middle back. No matter how much I stretched or sat up straight or exhaled loudly, it huuuurt. I have a skeptical/aloof view about body energy, even though I experience it all the time, but this definitely felt like some terrible blocked energy. It began to radiate down from my back into my hips, and up into my shoulders. I went to the facilitator for help and she said the only way to stop the hurt was to stop dismissing my grief (over Bill, over all that time fighting being bi, about the hurt in my marriage, and so on), so I did—I cried a little to the snuggle facilitator and a lot to Sweetie on the way home. I call it a snuggle fail, but it really isn’t. That crying was so productive—it was kinda like handing in homework, and you know I love handing in homework.

Sweetie was overwhelmed and scared by the depth and breadth of my sobbing, but she did the best she could as we drove home. What I was crying about was, I felt like everyone there was so nice and someone bad like me could never belong with them, like I would only cause trouble with my bad energy. “You’re good enough,” Sweetie said over and over, “You’re good enough.” Scary as those tears were, I knew they were getting me somewhere.

Back to the present, on Saturday, Sweetie and I had had such a wonderful day together and I was settling into a book of Jonathan Franzen essays, so it was hard to pry ourselves out of the house. Like on so many other adventures, she’d offered to drive me and go to a coffeeshop nearby to work on her graphic design. (It occurs to me that it might be good to drive myself next adventure...) When we pulled up to the ashram, it was a somewhat foreboding house on a woodsy lane—spooky. Sweetie offered to see me in but I took my suitcase and kissed her goodbye, found my way to the back of the house and went in.

I saw one couple that I knew right away, that was comforting. It was hot in there, muggy and something else. There was a spread of snacks out in the kitchen that people had gathered around—this Cuddle Party was part of a weekend-long series of Tantra workshops, so people looked flushed and tired and seemed bonded. It didn’t look the way one might picture an ashram, just a regular pretty-big kitchen in a regular house. The body smell of everyone was less funky than one might expect—it was fresh. Not quite clean, but clear.

Cuddle Host One, a solid, sensible-seeming butch lady, came over and introduced herself. She gave me a waiver to sign. “This says you don’t hold us responsible if you have an emotional breakthrough.” Ok, noted. I felt aaaawkward and couldn’t find a surface to write on. I ended up ruining the email list by putting it down in some water. I didn’t really know where to put myself, either.

When I saw the room being set up for the Cuddle Party, my first instinct was to run. It seemed impossibly small for all of these people. Cuddle Host One was spreading out all kinds of blankets and pillows. I thought about adding my own blanket but didn’t want to have to pull it out from under anybody of I had to leave early. A cute fifty-ish man was asleep in front of the air conditioner. There was cute/radical Etsy-style art on the walls—that made me feel at home. There were lots of books on the shelves about being bi and sacred—how nice!

Comparing my body’s reaction to the Snuggle Party back in February and its reaction to this Cuddle Party really lets me know that I’ve gotten somewhere. Though there was awkwardness, there was no anxiety or pain. There were some guys who weren’t being careful with space, but I didn’t feel scared of them. I settled in and let my curiosity take over, knowing that Jonathan Franzen was there if I needed him, but letting myself be soft and present. There wasn’t pain in my center, but warmth—I wasn’t ready to let strangers hug me, but I was safe.
My teacher-brain suggests that I use Cuddle Parties as a quarterly assessment to see how far I’ve come towards inner safety and self-acceptance. I can’t always see the progress I’m making, but as I settled into that room of strangers the way one might settle into a warm bath, I could see I deserved a gold star.

Next: The Welcome Circle

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