Coming Home: Day 15 – (guest post!) Lighting a candle and keeping it real (Part 1)

Words today from my friend R_. He invites us to consider how we can use masturbation as a way to care for ourselves when we are depressed– and how, too, that can be so terribly challenging (So much gratitude to you, R_, for these words, this writing, your practice.)

It’s so good to have someone like Jen in the world, isn’t it? Lighting a candle, putting on the music we love, and keeping it real for us. This space we create together invites us to go to places within ourselves that need us as much as we need them. In this comfortable place we can tell each other stories of how it is. And how it is, is not always how we want it to be.
Antonio Machado has a poem that begins to evoke how it is for me:
The wind, one brilliant day,
called to my soul with an odor of jasmine.
“In return for the odor of my jasmine,
I’d like all the odor of your roses.”
“I have no roses;
all the flowers in my garden are dead.”
“Well then, I’ll take the withered petals
and the yellow leaves and the waters of the fountain.”
The wind left. And I wept. And I said to myself:
“What have you done with the garden that was entrusted to you?”
I inhabit a male body, and for the last five years I have struggled with masturbation. I am no longer able to find joy in it, and when I do come, I’m often left frustrated, sad, and ashamed. Occasionally, with the help of images and lots of time, I am able to approach my full strength, but I miss the unencumbered luxury of gathering urgency seeking release.
This is how it was for me this morning:
Stepping into the rain of hot water, I slide the curtain closed and feel the familiar desire to have a release before work. With eyes closed and the white noise of water driving against the back of my head, I consider time, desire, and ability…. and then take a generous helping of amber body wash into my hand and coat my penis in its cool viscousness, sliding down and around my scrotum, pulling gently … holding softly … taking comfort in its form and weight. Do I really want to do this? Bowing my forehead against the fiberglass wall, I conjure scenes with bodies while building sacred rhythms. My passion grows slightly, and I fill the palm of my hand, barely. It is not solid enough or strong enough to satisfy my hunger for a visceral experience of virility. I ask myself: Do I continue? Is some release better than none? If I continue, will I find any pleasure? I hopelessly try to relax, let the movie in my head––undulating hips, dark eyes, exposed collar bone––slow down, but under my fingertips I feel the elongating rope of ejaculate build under soft flesh, pushing its way toward the tip. Disheartened, semen drips down into the tub. Part of me vows never to masturbate again.
And where I go with this is pretty far down. Where I go with this is that I won’t be able to please my partner when I need to. Where I go with this is I stifle desire so that I won’t put myself in a position to have to test my ability. Where I go with this is that sometimes when I do feel aroused, I just wish it away. And having gone to these places, why not just close myself to desire? This far down, the garden is bare. I’m all withered petals, dry leaves, and empty fountain.
So what brought me to this place? There was a time several years ago when I was earning very little money and my partner was working extra jobs to handle the expenses. At that time, my ability to provide materially was tightly linked to my identity, and without it, well, I fell apart. Depression shows up differently for everyone, and for me, as part of this depression, I used masturbation to relieve the boredom. I masturbated to feel alive. Months passed, and while my depression eventually lifted, somewhere within the abyss I had lost the ability to fully please myself.
And hello National Masturbation Month! What a gift to have your support, to share this silent (no more) struggle, and perhaps rekindle my relationship with my desires, my sexuality, and myself. So where do I go from here? Seek professional help? More Journaling? Tantric exercises? I know that medication is not the answer for me. Behavior and conditioning probably got me to this place, and so behavior and conditioning can get me out, right? Or am I too naive? 
Is this familiar to you? What have you done to revitalize your garden?