It was just another day this June, when I awoke, put on my shabby jeans and t-shirt that I had worn over and over during the past year and a half during COVID.

There was no reason for lipstick as I would be wearing a mask to do my errands just as I had done throughout this world health crisis. It was the new norm and my senses had been deadened.

My desire to feel sexy and sensual in any capacity had deadened with the tragic times we were living in and I was more of a shadow of who I had been during better days. Even the sparkle of the flowers at the local market lost all their temptation in my somber, deadened eyes.

Any sort of flirtation or sensual handling of fruit in the food shop was a thing of the past. If I did have eye contact with anyone, it was a look of fear, fright and sadness. Because of the lockdown, my apartment had become my world and numbness, my new norm. I couldn’t remember the last time a guy “checked me out,” or for that matter, the last time I felt “turned-on” by the miracle of life and its bounty.

But something was different today.

The sun was shining, the COVID vaccine was being widely distributed and people began taking off their masks. The air was cool and crisp and the breeze gave me pleasure. Masks had only become mandatory when entering an indoor establishment. Maybe I could start wearing lipstick again… aah the small things that made me feel feminine were once again on the horizon.

It was at this point when I picked up a kindle version at Amazon of Erica Lemke-Pembroke’s book “Feel Sexy Again; The Ultimate Guide to Reclaiming Your Sexual Confidence.”

At 55 years old, I needed guidance to return to my “zone” of sensuality.I wanted life to feel juicy again. Confidence and sensuality needed to be restored and Erica’s book showed me the way. I have since worked with Erica and her wisdom is that of the ages. Here is my interview with her which sheds light on this very subject.

Many women lost their connection to feeling sensual and sexually attractive due to the pandemic. Now that COVID is under control and restrictions are being lifted, what would be the first thing you would advise women first physically then spiritually on their journey to getting in touch with pleasure in those areas?

When we are disconnected from our bodies, we cannot receive the important signals necessary to experience pleasure. So, I believe we begin by becoming attuned with our bodies. Having kinesthetic awareness: being aware of how we are moving, where we are spatially, how we are reacting to our external environment are all important aspects of how we can come back to ourselves and reconnect. This attunement can then further open us up to receiving pleasure.

So many of us are craving physical touch since COVID, while others are feeling reluctant to touch and be touched. This may seem silly, but when is the last time you gave yourself a hug or touched yourself just for the sake of acknowledging you are here, that your body belongs to you? Reclaiming our bodies and establishing our own boundaries when it comes to touch is key.

An easy way to extend this idea is to allow ourselves to tap into our five senses: touch, taste, sight, sound and smell. Especially when we’ve been so preoccupied with stress, worry, anxiety, grief, fear during COVID, many of us have simply ignored this. We’ve been so focused on external stressors that we got away from our internal compass and need a path for us to come back to our center. And it is so readily available to us! In my book, I actually talk about this idea of eliciting all of our senses and discovering what gives us pleasure in each of these areas (it’s called the Pleasure Principles List).

So, let’s start with attunement, awareness and boundary creation! As far as connecting to ourselves on a spiritual level, I believe it’s important to acknowledge where we are right now; not who we used to be or who we wish to be, but remember and see the raw vulnerability and authenticity, and accept our true essence. If we look within, love ourselves, give ourselves grace and patience as we journey back on the path and navigate this new world…well, I believe we will all be moving in a direction toward growth, transformation and expansion.

How did you begin your journey of developing a technique of female empowerment through returning to one’s sexual and sensual selves?

I noticed patterns of thoughts, feelings and behaviors of many clients and friends that mirrored my own. They craved to be seen. They craved to feel worthy. They craved to feel desirable. They craved to find themselves again. I felt their struggle. I was determined to guide them back to themselves. And through this journey in finding ways to help them, I, in turn, helped myself. This led me to see that we all have stories with common threads. We all are mirrors for one another. And we are, collectively, having a human experience.

How does a woman explore what pleases her?

I think a big part of exploring what pleases us is to first understand that our pleasure is our birthright. Pleasure isn’t some luxury that few are afforded; it is available to all of us. Also, probably the larger issue surrounding pleasure is feeling worthy of receiving it. We need to be open to receiving! And yet, receiving can be challenging for many of us.

We need to let go of what we think we “should” do or be and take a risk to explore our wants and desires. No one can tell us what is pleasurable for us. We have to be brave and be willing to step out into the unknown and see what is possible I believe we must take responsibility for meeting our own needs. This cannot be any else’s responsibility! What ignites and delights us must be ours to discover.

How can we get rid of the shame of focusing on ourselves, which is seemingly self-centered rather than being caregivers which so much of us are and is expected of us?

In my book, I talk about the concept of putting on our masks first before assisting others. If we were in an emergency situation on an airplane, we’d instinctively do this first so that we’d have oxygen and energy to then help others. If we run out of air, we aren’t good to help anyone else. But isn’t that what we do? We will run around, say “yes”, even when it doesn’t’ serve us and continually run on empty. And our health and wellness suffer because of it!

It’s time we fill our wells, say, “no,” to what doesn’t serve us and see selfishness as a positive! I equate selfishness with self-love. You don’t have to like the term; but I truly believe we need to love ourselves and prioritize our needs so that we have plenty of energy, time, and true desire to give to others. Once we are satiated and nourished, when our wells are full, we are so much more able to care and nurture others. It’s all about our mindset!

It’s old programming and old scripts that still play out in our lives. We must shift this old patterning and create a new mindset – create a new life story that empowers rather than disempowers us. We have the ability to change all of it, if we choose. So, it’s up to us to make a conscious decision to make it happen. Then, we can decide what we wish to change. And, a major way to begin this is to first acknowledge and accept ourselves where we are right now –in both our light and our shadow.

Loving ourselves through the process allows us to accept ourselves and invites others to accept us, too. How empowering it is to model that self love and self care to others so that they can see it is possible for them, too. Again, we are mirrors. In this post-COVID time – more than ever – we need to focus on personal transformation and empower ourselves to see new possibilities in our lives as we reenter the world. This is a true catalyst for growth and change…and this is the new renaissance!

What is the most important aspect of the process of returning to our sensual selves?

Especially, as we are beginning to reemerge back into a post-COVID life, I see our lives experiencing reorientation, reintegration and readaptation. For some, this will be seamless; for others, quite challenging. We must reorient ourselves to these new situations, “where am I now and how do I fit into this new landscape?”

We then must reintegrate what we’ve learned, or what we must learn, and fold it back into our lives in order to find our center once again. When we achieve this, we can then readapt and focus on the new life we are creating for ourselves. This will then allow us to explore and discover what truly delights and excites us, what brings us joy and fulfillment. Returning to our sensual selves is a new awakening. It is a rebirth. And so many of us are ready to experience the pleasures that have been on hold for much too long!

As we travel this new path, it may not always feel comfortable; we need to give ourselves permission to stumble, to have patience and to instill a sense of grace and kindness as we make our way to reconnecting to ourselves again. We are resilient, evolving beings. Our expansion is limitless! Now is the time to embrace our sensual selves and experience what is long overdue and so very deserving.

Pamela J. Goldman lives and works in Manhattan’s Carnegie Hill neighborhood. She is a published author, artist and restaurant critic. She loves cooking French cuisine and traveling with her husband.