Bilkish Vahed

The Woman Inside

A Pulsing Something

It took shape not during the first dance, nor the second, probably the third or fourth. An ordinary man, dancing with an ordinary woman, amongst ordinary couples circling the dance floor. There it was suddenly, palpable in the space between us, this unseen, deeply felt, subtly pulsing something.

Time slowed down. We slipped into a portal it seemed, our senses becoming acutely attuned. The music played on, amidst a deep stillness. The connection of our moving bodies, keenly refined by mutual listening so clear, I was awe struck.

Here was intimacy. Not sexual intimacy. 

What was arresting, had seemingly little to do with the actual touching of bodies, cheek to cheek, palm to palm, arms wrapped around shoulders and necks. The magic was located elsewhere, in a kind of ethereal waveform that had spontaneously arisen between us. 

What was this exactly, I try to grasp this morning?

The Prosaic & the Wild

Loving is easy. In my day-to-day exchanges with strangers and people I don’t know well, often I feel a clear, warm feeling coursing through me. My heart swells as I listen to their stories, or simple comments, observations about this or that. Our common humanity sparks my love which pours forth with no effort. It’s simple and I’m gratified.

Relationships, even though anchored in love, are different.  Repositories of so much stuff – of the individuals and the partnership – accumulated over time, make a relationship a complex animal, full of moodiness, varying flavours, intense whirling swoops and dark heavy dips. But in this very tactility lies its preciousness. 

Egon Schiele, ‘Self Portrait in Jerkin with Right Elbow Raised’ 1914
Egon Schiele, ‘Seated Semi Nude with Hat and Purple Stockings’ 1910

Romantic relationship is much like performance art that requires the other. Only in this edgy relational playing field can one let the subtle bubbles of the deep erotic self rise to the surface. Egon Schiele had an uncanny way of penetrating this self. His art asks: Is there space in the relationship to express the diverse aspects of the self, even those less acceptable, not conventionally pretty parts that are none the less urgently real? Is there space to perform our hidden under the skin desires?

Whilst we crave the anchoring sense of loving “home” with a romantic partner, still our internal antennae are in revolt at the first hint of stifling constraint. In revolt when we find ourselves having to suppress our desires. Cherishing the other is at the heart of relating, but safeguarding our erotic vivacity is paramount, as we grapple to make space for both the prosaic and the wild. 

Red Lipstick & me

Though she’s never out and out said anything, I read it in her eyes, I hear it in her unspoken words – her disapproval. My mother is not fond of my penchant for red lipstick, nudge nudge!

It’s not a deep irritation, just a superficial difference of aesthetics, I suppose. If I asked her head on, I can just hear her sharp retort: Where did I dream up the insane idea, she would probably say, fiery light in her eyes, she has no opinion on the matter.

Weird though, in the confines of my mind, there’s a memory. Did she once let slip, or did I dream it? Said very red lipstick made one look like a woman of the night, shady behaviour and all that? I think she did, or something close enough. Then never again, said nothing more about this topic!

Funny how perspectives change from one generation to the next, and how standing up for our individual choices requires some spirit, some resistance, some standing our ground, even when it’s about the harmless subject of red lipstick. Smile smile.


In Johannesburg during the winter, the air is chalk dry. My skin aches with irritation. Hydration is called for.  Should it be water or oil based? Would exfoliation be a good idea? A soothing balm? A heavy face oil? Maybe a rich emollient cream? What is being asked for?

What do I need?

Within ourselves, dry patches sometimes also arise.  Below the skin, deep in the spaces and crinkles of our interior selves, one suddenly becomes aware of a thirsting, an inner parched need for something. Something, but what exactly? 

More rest, less rushing? More walks in nature? More intimate conversations?  More alone time? More touching? An overdue decision? A shift in thinking? Hard to know. 

The thirst not quenched though, slowly intensifies. Ones vivacity is quietly eroded. The self is asking for something. It dare not be ignored.

Your Life’s Work

As I drifted into wakefulness this morning, I was suddenly aware of a faint stream of excitement. What, I wondered softly? 

With more awareness I remembered that today I wanted to build a few posts on my new Facebook public page… to add a line or two to round off a piece that I was writing yesterday… How come, I demanded now fully awake, how come this “small” stuff was filling me with joy, real joy? 

Ok, I’m sorry, I’m probably not making much sense. You see last evening I was reading the work of some spiritual luminaries who describe how they arrived at a sense of purpose in their lives, and as a result of that came to be doing their life’s work, with all the accoutrement of success, like bestselling books and solid income. 

I went to bed with a feeling of discomfort – how was I to figure out what my life’s work is? So onerous. If I hadn’t figured it out yet in my fifty-seventh year, was there really any hope? Heaviness, I felt.

But this morning, joy. Joy about writing pieces that don’t earn me any money, that at best are read by a few…. Was joy the hint that there was something more to these “small” pieces? I’ve been scribbling all my life. My writing project has remained largely underground with forays into public spaces that I’ve regularly abandoned.

Therein lies the simple but courage-calling-forth dictate: Continue on consistently and build momentum. Layering effort is what builds critical mass. And probably only after some measure of success is achieved, do we speak of doing our life’s work without others laughing in our faces.

In the ruckus of actual, imagined or perceived rejection; or worse still as Elizabeth Gilbert names it – being ignored – the creating must go on.

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