Why I Spent My Saturday of Catalyst Con Crying Instead of Having Sex, a.k.a. Grief Hits at the Worst Times

For the most part, I love speaking at conferences.

Very excited to be a keynote speaker at Catalyst Con East this weekend.

Very excited to be a keynote speaker at Catalyst Con East this weekend.

For the most part, I love being the person who encourages people to dig deep and share their Truths, to talk about the difficult – from money to grief to racism to sex – and to share their stories with the world. I love when someone runs up to me after I speak and says that I’ve given them the permission they needed to take on a passionate endeavor, the motivation they needed to keep going along a bumpy path, or the vibrator suggestion they needed to finally come.

For the most part, I am fueled by their excitement, pushed further along my path by their passion. The people that I meet are the reasons I attend conferences. I love being surrounded by their energy.

 

My name was on the banner for the keynote!

My name was on the banner for the keynote!

For the most part.

This weekend at Catalyst Con, things were drastically different. This weekend, I broke.

On Friday night – sixteen hours after flying from San Diego to DC and one hour before I had to be put together and on camera – I finally finished the website and guides for Frisky Feminist Press, the exciting new business endeavor on which I’ve been working for months. One quick nap, shower and a smudging of rouge on my lips later, I was gathering sex educators in front of a camera and answering questions from people all around the world.

Chatting with the world about sex.

Chatting with the world about sex.

Two hours after that, I was a part of the opening keynote plenary for Catalyst Con, on stage in front of a group of my peers, answering questions thrown at me by the formidable Tristan Taormino, attempting to match the wit, intelligence and articulation of my fellow panelists Melissa Gira Grant, Mo Beasley and Del Tashlin.

Twelve hours after that, I was teaching a workshop on the business of blogging with Epiphora and Mona Darling. Two hours after that, I was moderating a conversation about the legal atmosphere for queer people in the United States.

And two hours after that, I was curled in a ball on my hotel room bed, cuddling my pillow, crying.

I wanted to stay downstairs. I wanted to look everyone in the eye and listen to their stories. I wanted to brainstorm and collaborate, mix and mingle.

But all I could do was lie in bed and cry.

Something in my broke, and I could no longer be the put together, professional, friendly, motivating woman that Queerie Bradshaw is in the public light. I needed to be Lauren Marie Fleming, the broken girl who battles depression and is stricken by grief.

At one point, I got up, put on my bathing suit and headed to the pool, which was luckily empty except for two energetic young girls who stared at me for awhile until they decided they liked my buzzed hair and asked if I wanted to play “floating on water” with them.

I did. And it was nice to just float on the surface, letting the water hold the weight of my grief.

But all too soon, the pool closed, and I had to hold my own weight once more.

In the shower, I wept again. And again. And again.

I needed to get up, get dressed and go out to meet people with whom I had plans, but all I could do was drag my naked body into bed and stay there all evening.

That’s the thing with grief, it doesn’t care about timing. The higher you are, the farther you have to fall into the all too familiar pit of despair. The more I want to shout my monumental moments from the rooftops, the more I wish I could still text my brother about the little, minuscule things.

I remember when I spoke at an Ivy-League school for the first time (an accomplishment I was so damn proud of) and I didn’t heard a word from him about it. Sometimes, when I’m going, going, going, it just feels like that again. Like my brother is too self-centered and immersed in his own world to call and congratulate me on the accomplishments in mine.

Then the realization hits that he is not the asshole brother who forgot about my big day, he is the asshole brother who went and died (literally) on me.

Photo by J.Robert Williams.

Photo by J.Robert Williams.

As moderator, I started our blogging as a business panel with the question “describe what your blog was like when you started, what it is now, and what contributed to that change.”

I don’t know why I asked that question, when I never know how to answer it myself. It’s one thing to slip in the mention of a dead brother, it’s another thing to explain that watching him bleed to death in your mother’s arms after fighting for his life against a vicious cancer changed everything about your being, from blogging to social interactions.

I chose to go with the “I was superficial and SEO-focused when I started and then my brother got cancer and died, and now I am deeper and more soul-searching on my site” route.

But that just skims the surface of my transformation. It completely leaves out the deaths of my grandmother and grandfather, both of which I cared for during the last days of their lives. It leaves out moving from my chosen home of Oregon back to a place that wasn’t all that safe for me as a kid, and the emotional reconciliation my inner child has had to work through. It leaves out my sister almost dying having her second child and the year we spent holding each other on her couch, taking turns building up the energy to put another Disney movie in for her kids and us.

All of that is left out because this microphone on this stage is not the place to divulge all of that information. People are not here to be my therapist, and while the room is full of wonderful people that I love, I am not their friend right now, I am their instructor.

So I instruct, and leave the deconstruction until later, when it can be just me and my computer in a bed alone, typing my feelings into this blog, this place that has turned from a way to get free sex toys, to a way to express my Truth and connect with my readers (and occasionally still get free sex toys).

I made it through my engagements, and then retreated; back to my bed, back into my head, where the only person I have to make time for is myself.

I spent all night Saturday and most of the morning Sunday lying in bed crying, reading my new YA book (the best escape ever for me), and taking some much needed down time. Across the hall, my very sexy friends were having an all girls play party. Upstairs, some other friends were playing hilarious sex games. But all I wanted to do was lie in the dark and listen to my thoughts.

This is not the way I wanted my Catalyst Conference to end, but we don’t always get to decide what happens to us in life. Sometimes we just have to go along for the ride.

This weekend, it felt good to just let myself be present with my feelings, take some time off and do what my body needed, knowing that all the things I missed out on – meeting new friends, engaging in compelling conversations, connecting with important professional contacts, having wild sex – will be there when I am able and ready to return.

Until then, I’m going to stay inside these big fluffy white sheets and enjoy being alive.

About Queerie Bradshaw

Lauren Marie Fleming is a writer, speaker and motivator known for her intimate, informative and often hilarious look at sex, relationships and body-image. Lauren runs the critically-acclaimed QueerieBradshaw.com blog, writes for major news sources including VICE, Nerve, Huffington Post and Curve, and is the author of her memoir Losing It: My Life as a Sex Blogger. In 2013, Lauren founded Frisky Feminist Press (FriskyFeminist.com) as a way to enhance conversations about sexuality through educational guides, online classes and entertaining publications. A law school graduate, Lauren has spoken all over the United States and is internationally recognized for her dynamic, engaging style. In everything she does, Lauren’s goal is to educate, remove stigmas and encourage people to achieve their desires.
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19 Responses to Why I Spent My Saturday of Catalyst Con Crying Instead of Having Sex, a.k.a. Grief Hits at the Worst Times

  1. GeekyNymph says:

    This is beautifully written. Thank you for sharing with us your story. I’m so glad you took time for yourself, when it was the harder route to take. It’s so important to make time for one’s self and feelings. 🙂

  2. joanpriceauthor says:

    Oh, I wish I could hug you and rock you. “That’s the thing with grief, it doesn’t care about timing.” I know. Thank you for this beautiful, vulnerable post. The other thing with grief — you help others when you express your truth. They may come forward and tell you that, or they may not, but you do touch them (us) deeply.

    • Thank you. That means a lot coming from you, one of the people who has taught me about the importance of speaking about grief in the world of sex. You helped me, I’m so happy to return the favor, even if in the slightest of ways.

  3. There’s a lot of power and beauty here. Thank you for vulnerability and for sharing it with us.

  4. Victoria says:

    I cried reading this. Thank you for sharing your experience and thank you for all your hard work over the weekend. I’m grateful to have met you even briefly (and gotten a hug!) and look forward to following your journey.

    • I hope you got to have the good kind of cry where you feel a release. I used to hate crying but now I’ve learned to appreciate its purpose. I’m glad I got to hug you but wish we could have chatted more.

  5. Caitlin says:

    Queerie, Lauren,

    Thank you for sharing your story- I too have some things to dig through in my post-catalyst post, and this has given me the strength to look at them and maybe even sit down to write- but that’s not what’s important at the moment.
    I’m really happy to have (briefly) met you at catalyst- your words and your truths were and will continue to be an inspiration for me. I wish I could have talked to you more, but there’s always the future.

    Let me know if there’s anything I can do to help or support you, however big or small- you words here and at catalyst are helping me drag myself out of a depressive sloth into action. Thank you!

    • I’m so glad that you found comfort and motivation in my words. That’s all I can hope for when I speak. Good luck on digging through your own stuff post-Catalyst and let me know if you write anything about it, I’d love to read it.

  6. Thank you for being as strong and brave as you were while you could manage! I think the whole convention was deeply draining for many of us. I’ve never been in a place around so many people so willing to discuss the things my family always thought I was crazy for. It was so profoundly moving and startling that I’m not totally surprised I woke up Sunday at 3am puking and couldn’t do anything the rest of the weekend. I felt like I had cultural demons being exercised from my body so it’s probably no wonder I had to wretch!

    • Conferences are always so motivating and draining all at once. While I’m sorry you got it out in vomitting (I hate puking), I’m glad you got it out. Keep wrentching! Preferably on paper so we can all read it.

  7. This was the most beautiful and touching piece I’ve read about the weekend. Eloquent, insightful, honest, raw and real. Thank you for sharing your experience. The world needs more people like you.

  8. Reading this makes me feel so much better about the days where I’m afraid to do anything. Having only lost my mother in November after moving across the country to help care for her the last 5 years… there are days where I feel like there is nothing that will get me through… I started following you for trivial reasons (cute lesbian sex blogger) but your talk about grief and your coping have helped me immensely dealing with my own grief. So I guess I just wanted to say thank you, for sharing, for showing that it’s ok to not always be ok…

    Hugs to you

    • Giant hugs to you. I’m so sorry to hear about your mother’s passing. I know that feeling afterwards, like you’re broken and will never be whole again, and you have no idea how to keep moving a broken body forward. Some days, you just can’t. On the days I do, though, I feel like sprinting.

      I hope you’re able to find your sprints as well. Keep writing (I read your blog) and keep in touch.

      Lauren

      P.S. Thanks for calling me cute. 🙂

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  11. Stefanie says:

    Hey, Lauren. I love what you do and appreciate everything you share. I nominated you for the Sisterhood of World Bloggers Award. If you want to check it out and maybe nominate someone else, follow this link: http://advancedsearch-identity.com/2014/04/28/sisterhood-of-the-world-bloggers-award/ 🙂

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