I am sitting in a large ballroom near the end of a grand banquet table within a gorgeous chateau in the French countryside. I’m pinching myself because this isn’t the start to some scintillating fantasy. I’m actually here. And I made it happen. Through tears and fears and sacrifices. This wasn’t handed to me. And I’m so freaking grateful for all that happened so I could be present in this moment. To have time to sit and reflect. On the strength I’ve drawn on to get through some yuck, on the path I’ve cleared in my career when many judged and criticized me, and for the judgment I placed upon myself.

I sit in reflection. I am mindful. I am grateful and I know I am fortunate to have this experience and I look around and see the candles dripping from the numerous candelabras, eating luscious food while soulful music swirls around us and the chatter of sisterhood lives amongst us.

I notice a feeling stirring.

I feel sexy.

Sexy?

WTH? What happened to grateful?  Mindful?  Humble?

Hello,  Sexy?  I did not call you.

Let me keep it real. I am NOT around any men who would be looking at me with sexual interest and no woman here is interested in me in that way. I am not interested in any sexual activity—even solo time. In fact I am quite focused on work and had just finished a photo shoot after hours of writing. I am physically and mentally exhausted. In other words, the atmosphere is not about sex.

But still. I feel sexy. I don’t look sexy. I FEEL sexy.  I am aware of this intensely.

In my pours.

All my senses are tingling. I feel connected within myself and I feel connected with others. And that taps into a part of how I look at the concept of ‘sexy’.

I am physically spent but I am soulfully vibrant.

Stay with me….I’m going in.

I’ve had an interesting journey with ‘finding sexy’. There are clear times in my life and in moments where I felt sexy. I’ve been told I was sexy but BEING sexy? That’s been a different animal. A different journey.

As I wrote in a previous article, when I was acting professionally, being placed in a scene where I had to act and be sexy brought me to sheer panic and embarrassment in every cell. Yet, privately within my relationships, sexiness poured out of me easily. Well, in several relationships. Not every one of them. It was a perplexing juxtaposition.

So that brings me to –what does ‘sexy’ mean? What is the difference of feeling sexy versus being sexy?

Is there a difference?

Sometimes I feel more confident in knowing how to define what sexy is NOT rather than what it is. The words and images come easier to me.

I love feeling soul connected through meditation but I can’t say that when I finish meditating, I feel sexy. I enjoy beautiful sex but I’m not sure I connect orgasm with good sex every time. I do not feel sexy just because someone says it to me. I can look fantastic but not feel connected with sexy emotionally.

Previously, I would sit there so frustrated that I couldn’t figure out that magical formula. So I would start with a list of when I felt sexy.

Sample of List 1:

When I am around luscious flowers.    Drinking jammy, yummy red wine while engaged in meaningful conversation one on one.    Fire-flames of a candle or a fireplace.   Wearing skinny jeans and heels.    Out to dinner with a small group of girlfriends and laughing about old memories and being sarcastic with each other.    When I think something really insightful.   Bubble bath with candles, my hair up in a bun and soulful music playing lightly.   Waking up in a baby doll nightgown with tussled hair.    Making eye contact with a stranger for a split second as we walk past each other.    White t-shirt and holey jeans barefooted.   Walking around naked with my lover after a meaningful orgasmic experience.    After I have a great work out and my body feels vibrant.    Dancing carefree.    When I feel wanted.     Having a soulful but playful conversation with a man I’m attracted to—when he asks me about my thoughts, when he makes me laugh with a sarcastic jab.

I noticed that sexy didn’t always have to do with overtly sexual things. In fact most of my list included things in my life outside the bedroom.  I was on to something but that list didn’t feel enough. So I made another list.

I thought maybe it was also about getting in touch with what I thought was sexy in other people.

Sample of List 2:

Humor—when someone can make me laugh, my attraction peaks.    Santal 33 perfume. (I am obsessed.)    When a guy does something thoughtful but with meaning.   Sharing space with a woman who is comfortable in her own skin.   Woodsy musty cologne that whips around me but doesn’t engulf me.  Specifically Terre D’Hermes—that cologne drives me WILD.    A man wearing a blazer, white shirt, jeans and loafers. Extra bonus for scarf and cool glasses.   A woman who has a sexuality that is palpable and present but not in your face.  Daniel Craig’s image and eyes.    Confidence mixed with humbleness.    A man’s hair I can run my fingers through.    A protector.     A man who is 5’11-6’2.   A woman who has a personal style and story.    Someone who can cut loose.

The lists are fun to write. I found myself smiling and thinking “OOOh and this. And that!!” I liked keeping it simple and something manageable like a list. I was clear that there was an important piece of sexy outside of the bed. In my life, with other people, what others did for me but also what I did for myself. And what I thought of myself.  But also knew….sexy isn’t something you can order out of a catalog.

It’s complicated. A small part of my story reflects this….

My first husband and I met and married young. We met when I was 17 and dated for most of my college years. He made me smile. He made me laugh. He felt stable and certain and he was my best friend.  We were happy and I thought we would stay married. But we weren’t a great match for each other in the end. We were good friends and we were better as friends. We loved and still love each other but we didn’t have that spark. We didn’t have that wanting for each other. We never really did. Our sex life was fun and youthful and clunky as we grew into ourselves as sexual beings individually and together. For most of it, we didn’t know who we were, what we wanted or how to figure any of that out. We did our best and we shared a lot of joy and happiness. He is a great man. Father to my son. I adore him to this day.  But sexy was not a part of how I felt during most that marriage. Not the sexiness I thought meant sexiness.  In fact,  I felt invisible most of our relationship.  I put a lot of meaning into that at the time.

After our marriage ended, I started dating a man with a very different life than I had been living. He was in a band that was pretty popular at that time often playing for crowds of thousands and sometimes tens of thousands in their heyday. I started dating him too soon but I was so drawn to him it felt unavoidable. We were both drawn to each other.  We locked eyes the first time and it was magical. A mutual friend introduced us and that first night we talked, flirted, and we tried subtly to figure out how to find time alone together. I can’t tell you how in touch with sexy I felt. It felt like sexiness was pulsing through me. Pouring out of me and connecting with the sexiness of him. Wowza. At last, we had about 5 minutes when no one else was standing around us and we were alone in a corner of a busy room. We were close to each other physically and we were staring at each other. I was so nervous and overwhelmed I could barely form full sentences. Then he looks at me and says with a hushed voice, “I want to ravage your body”. Now, out of context, that may sound like the cheesiest, most tired ass line. You may have been one of the many other women he used that line on at some point… but then…. at the moment…The woman who was standing there feeling like she had been invisible to her ex husband for years—she—was on fire. I hadn’t realized I had been waiting for someone to feel that way and say that to me for years.

Hell, my whole life.

And I’m telling you I believed it. And I wanted him to do that to me. I didn’t even really know what ‘ravaged’ meant at the time but it sounded awesome. It didn’t happen then but our relationship was magical once it began. I never felt sexier than when we were together. Our relationship made me feel wanted.  I felt safe with him and I was able to open myself up to being wanted by him. And to open myself to the risk of wanting someone in return. Our relationship was not easy nor perfect or always full of fabulousness. But that part, the wanting part. It was something special.

And it left when he died unexpectedly.

I didn’t know how to connect with ‘wanting’ after that relationship ended.

I thought that since I had ‘figured it out’ with him that meant I had figured it out for good.

Nope.

The journey was still moving along and requiring more of me. I was pissed about that. In my mourning process, I also had to come face to face with the realization that my path wasn’t over. I still had obstacles to maneuver and figure out. And damnit I didn’t want to.

I went back and realized I blamed a lot of my perception of invisibility on my ex husband. But the truth was I didn’t ‘see’ me either. I didn’t even really know me. I was chasing this impossible goal of pleasing everyone  and trying to super achieve to gain favor and admiration. I thought I was authentic. But I didn’t really have a clue who I was. So how could I have anything that I thought I wanted if I didn’t have that within myself? Or even truly know what I wanted. I also was never going to get it if I didn’t take the risk of opening myself up to communication about it.  My fears, my questions, my needs, my emptiness. I would tell friends, I would cry about it but I didn’t really find the words and I never really expressed it to him. And that’s on me.  How could he give it to me and share it with me if I wasn’t open to it nor claiming it myself? He wasn’t perfect and he didn’t fully know himself either, but when I stopped blaming him and seeing our relationship like I was a victim, things shifted for me and in the way we treated each other.

Next a-ha moment in how I found sexy was sitting in grief with my guy’s death. Of course I had incredible grief for his loss of life and what he was missing and what the world missed with his death but what is important for this explanation is I also felt a deep sense of aloneness again. Not the ‘who is going to open the jelly jar when it’s stuck aloneness’ but  will I ever be happy again aloneness. After I experienced fire with him, I thought I knew who I was. Oh, okay….THIS is me. I saw it as I had arrived to myself. But in my grief, I couldn’t escape the truth that I had come to the end of myself.  So who was I without him?

I thought sexiness was singular.  In one relationship. In THE one.

It isn’t.  ‘Sexy’ was always going to look differently in my life. Not like the movies. Not like it was with him. OR him.   Sexy is RIGHT NOW.

I didn’t realize this IS who I am and part of my learning journey was starting to gain a deeper understand what sexuality actually meant. What desire meant.  And how the two related.  I started craving to have a deeper relationship with the sexuality within myself. I started seeing how to connect within myself to show up, to my life and to the people in my life, as a woman who knew herself and had access to her essence, to her desire, to her sexy.

I felt SO excited to discover that ‘sexy’ was up to me. And I couldn’t WAIT to find out what sexy had in store for me next.

I started putting images to my sexy. I describe my sexiness with my first husband like a field of gorgeous wildflowers. Untamed, carefree and growing, twisting this way and that. Youthful, fun and smiley. My relationship with musician guy like a bonfire. Flames that shot up and were impressive and consuming and a bit dangerous but also grounded with simmering embers. Neither better than the other. Just different.  As I was with each man.

I learned it was up to me to become the woman who could attract the man I wanted. And then do the work so I could open up and take the risk of wanting him too. The lists are fun….when do I feel sexy, what do I find sexy. I still think there is value in that work. They can spark and ignite something within us. But they aren’t the ending point nor the soul compass.  My sexy changes. It is not good, perfect or “IT” when it feels tapped into and it is not bad, broken or wrong when it feels disconnected.

I now know that finding sexy is a life long voyage. And that’s the good news.   And finding sexy is about the work within myself. And that is the GREAT news. It is not dependent on someone else. Whether I am in a long-term relationship, at the grocery store, on a first date or sitting by myself staring at a fireplace.

It is about connecting with the vibrancy, hope and strength within me and living that.

In my core. Through every cell.

What is your journey of finding sexy? Share it with me. I love hearing your stories and insights.

xoxo, Dr. Juliana