How can I describe what Jennifer Louden and her work mean to me? I could tell you about the day I spent with her on Bainbridge Island as she led a roomful of women to remember the heroine’s journey we’re on. I could tell you about finding a supportive group of indie authors through her mastermind class. I could remind you that she is a pioneer of self-care and author of the bestseller The Woman’s Comfort Book.
But what means most to me in Jen’s work is the way that she shows up with her whole self, whether she’s writing, teaching, or leading. She owns both her faults and her high-flying. She allows herself to be funny and earnest, strong and vulnerable. And seeing her model that embrace of her self, sometimes awkwardly and sometimes with grace, I am able to hold myself with more love too.
I am honoured to count Jen as a sister on this path of desire, and happy to share part of her journey with you today.
I am in love with Alison’s book, its truth and lyricism, and grateful for the startle of recognition I felt reading it: here is another woman who wrestled with letting herself want what she wants. Just look how boldly she wrestled!
For what feels like lifetimes, I struggled with my desires: to know them, to act on them, to not feel guilty or ashamed of them. I was once a woman who asked her husband for permission to have an orgasm. “Is it okay?” I would squeak. Sheesh. I was a woman who fretted about giving herself a half-day to do nothing but what I wanted, justifying an afternoon on the couch by first going to yoga, cleaning the garage, visiting my mom in memory care. I was a woman who flapped and flopped around so many book ideas, I lost count – and so did my agent. I was a woman who for years would ask herself, “What do you want?” and hear only deadening silence.
And I was also, often at the same time, a woman who moved across the country at 19 because I wanted to make movies. I was a woman who wormed her way in to USC film school, taking production classes I wasn’t allowed to take, earning two degrees without anyone noticing. I was a woman who, a few years later, listened to her numbing despair and “gave up writing” only to be rewarded, moments later, with an intriguing title booming through her head, a title that would launch a large body of work. I am a woman who has taught tens of thousands of women to listen to their desires and to honor them moment by moment.
Thus, I have been every woman: a mix of listening and denying what I sense; of self-doubt and self-trust; of resisting and softening; of overthinking and taking the next simple step; of seeing a desire and resenting the hell out of all the things and people that stood in my way and then getting free to pursue it and stopping myself cold; falling into depression and soaring into freedom, maybe all in the span of a single day.
These days, I am sniffing out a new way of living through desire that feels like coming home. I’m letting desire arise without attaching a striving “I” to it. It feels something like, ‘Desire for chocolate – hello.’ ‘Desire to work less… oh, hello.’ ‘Desire to dive deep into the new project I’m working, hi.’ I’m (mostly) following what feels good and true, moment by moment; trusting that ever-present Being is what desire actually is, rather than my story about what “I” want. To feel that desire is life moving, calling out to take form moment by moment, through me.
Doesn’t that sound hippy trippy! How’s this for an example: a few moments ago I was prepping questions for an interview for my course TeachNow and then I noticed I wanted to go lie on the couch with my dog. On the couch, I felt my way into moaning and shuddering, not sure why but it was there and wanted to come out. Then I found myself wanting to write this piece, and so I am. I can feel something else beginning to beckon but not sure what it is – maybe stretching, maybe apple slices with cashew nut butter….
Soon, my day switches from open creative time to appointments. During those, I will do my best to continue to feel into what feels good and true. I have no idea – the “I” cannot – what that will look like. My job is to relax and listen and honor what I hear.
Moment by moment trusting what feels good, knowing full well it doesn’t mean everything will work out the way “I” want or that I even know what “good and true” means, because I don’t. All I know is a felt sense. A felt knowing. From which solid self-trust is growing, as long as I keep my commitments to what feels good and true, rather than make an argument in my head for overriding them (which I did last night by eating too much chocolate).
Okay, over to you. How are you living through desire these days? What questions does my hippy-dippy approach stir up in you? I will do my best to respond.
Love and thanks to Alison for letting me be here,
Jennifer Louden is a personal growth pioneer who helped launch the self-care movement with her first book, The Woman’s Comfort Book. She’s the author of 7 additional books on well-being and whole living and has been teaching retreats and leading workshops since 1992 and creating vibrant on-line communities and innovative learning experiences since 2000. Her current course, TeachNow, was created to help teachers – of all subjects, in all settings – thrive. Check it out here: www.theteacherspath.com.