After reading Glennon Doyle Melton’s memoir ‘Love Warrior,’ I’ve been thinking a lot about honesty, shame and vulnerability.  In her book, she speaks to the idea that we have these impossible societal constructs within which to live and rather than be our vulnerable selves, we send our ‘representatives’ into the world.  They laugh on cue, they look the part, they diminish their voice, check out and hide, or fall in line.  It becomes a life of survival rather than a life of authenticity, and instead of thriving, we suffer and cope.  We find a pulse in various comforting addictions and the secret knowledge of these habits, fill us with guilt and shame. 

 

Late to the Glennon Doyle Melton party...

Late to the Glennon Doyle Melton party…

When Edward Snowden announced that the government had been spying on us and other countries, invading our personal freedoms and privacy in the name of terrorism, we didn’t take to the streets.  There was no rioting.  We rolled over, scratched our bellies and said, ‘Yeah, not surprised,’ and went back to sleep feeling powerless.  In the same way, we’re not surprised by Glennon’s truth telling.  ‘Yeah, yeah, yeah… We all know we live in guilt and shame.  Sweet Lord, don’t make me think about it.’  

The thing is, I want to think about it because I crave healing.  I want to be healed because I want to live a life that is powerful and full.  I want to be so full that I’m able to offer something to the world.  I want these things for all of us because… imagine that world.

There are many reasons, we send out our representatives but for me, my shame and guilt, pain and grief, all stems from my weight.  It’s so incredibly… painful. It is such a deep river within that when I think of my wedding day– my wedding day!— the feeling that first comes to mind is: FAT.  I had gained a ton of weight, was so uncomfortable and wanted to crawl back in bed for a do over because this wasn’t how it was supposed to be.  This wasn’t my soul’s wedding.  This was the wedding of a fucked up, embarrassed and guilt-ridden failure.  (Thanks to family and friends, it was also a day I’ve never felt so loved, a testament to what love can do).  

My representative wants to tell you about my mountain life, my adorable cats, manifesting a life of creativity and having a wonderful sweetie. These things are all very true.  I feel absolutely blessed and my life, oftentimes, divinely inspired.  But, truth be told, it is not the story in my head, the underlying programs; these are the voices I wake up to every day and the ones that scream me to sleep at night.   

These voices require that I live the ‘Walk of Atonement’ on Game of Thrones daily.  I am both the observer and the observed. I am an overweight, short, guilt-ridden and shamed, Cersei, naked and vulnerable, making my way through King’s Landing.  I am mocked.  I am hated.  I am covered in spit and garbage.  A man exposes himself to me? I’m sure I deserved it.  I question the people in my life that love me and what is wrong with them. I am also the one throwing the garbage. I detest myself. I spit and spew. My fat is nauseating and I hate looking at it.  This is how the standards I have set for myself, after being an A+ student in bullshit, make me feel every day of my life.

For anyone that has ever tried to lose weight and failed, it is because it is almost impossible to will one’s self into perfection.  And if you do have that sort of panicked will power, a neurotic workout and diet regimen is just another hamster wheel.  On a diet, there is good and bad. There is right and wrong.  It isn’t a matter of health or listening to your body. We are programmed to believe that to be thin and lose weight at any cost is a success and to be fat for any reason means you’re a failure. From doctors we hear, “Eat 4oz. of skinless chicken with one cup of steamed broccoli and brown rice.” From society we hear, “Eat less and work out, fat fucks.  It’s not rocket science.”  

There are problems with this… 

  • It speaks nothing to the holes within us that cause us to eat in the first place.
  • It speaks nothing to the shame and guilt that we feel toward ourselves on a daily basis.
  • It speaks nothing to the programming that thin equals success and fat equals failure.
  • It speaks nothing to how women view each other and how we’re taught to view each other.
  • It speaks nothing to the spirituality of our bodies.
  • It speaks nothing to the indoctrinated mindset of society that fat people are allowed to be the butt of a joke and are incompetent, nauseating, ignorant, unworthy of existence, etc.
  • It speaks nothing to how our feelings as individuals, regardless of the reasons for our shame, cause us all to exist in society.

It’s FUCKED UP!  And it’s not just about weight.  

To me it feels heartless, calloused, superficial and just plain wrong that as a society we don’t allow ourselves to talk about our feelings.  It’s only after we’re thin, fixed, have gotten sober or lost the addiction, that we’re allowed to admit to our issues and how we felt ‘less than.’  Only after the fact do you get to write the memoir, because to mention in everyday life that you are sad, alone, addicted, fearful, anxious, depressed, frustrated or angry makes society really uncomfortable.  It’s just not the American way.

I also learned in church that this was God’s ideal. To be without joy, was to be separate from God.  You’re either in the dark or you’re in the light. I was a determined and sensitive kid that took to heart God’s satisfaction and dissatisfaction with all of my thoughts and feelings. Not only did I feel God’s disapproval and judgment every moment of the day, but on top of my own, it was too great a burden to bare.  It caused so much guilt and shame, you could have tattooed the word ‘grace’ on my forehead and I still wouldn’t be able to look at myself. So, the best I could do was play the part and if I could never be good enough, hopefully, at the very least I could trick my community.  Proverbs 31 woman? No pressure.

Inner trauma is everywhere.  We all have it. It’s called being human.  Society wants to fix it.  I am absolutely guilty of wanting to fix it and my Christian upbringing required that I always had answers. It’s a trait that I’ve had a difficult time shedding and I know I’ve hurt people in the process. We hate to see people in pain, especially people closest to us, but I dare say, we need to start seeing people feeling their feelings.  We need snot, tears, laughter, hand holding and not just at our therapist’s office, but also at our therapist’s office. Not just with our close friends but especially with our close friends.  

I’m realizing the timeliness and imperative value of diving into this shame because it is such a disservice– not to the idea of this woman with the mountain life, the baker with adorable cats, but to the perfect and vibrant soul that was born joyfully into this world.  Our world! The skin sacks we choose don’t make us who we are, that soul we were created to be is everything.  I am learning that taking care of my soul is my biggest priority right now.  And personally?  My soul wants a healthy skin bag. I’m also learning that self care can mean more than a bubble bath.  It could mean spending time on the elliptical, spending less money, laughing more, going to therapy or taking photos and connecting with someone.  It’s different for everyone. 

On 9/11 we accepted each other’s pain because we were all in pain. That pain was beautiful because it was honest, heart wrenching, vulnerable and true.  Each face in front of us was our own. It united us. Do we have the guts to do this everyday? Can we tell our very honest stories and see ourselves in each other without ego or judgement?  Can we just sit in each other’s messiness without an answer to be had? 

What is our shame? Let’s start with what is true… 

I just got back from a trip to Los Angeles where I was working on my very first photography project.  It was also my best friend’s 40th.  Between the two, I was so overwhelmed with activities– heavy photoshoots mixed with Universal Studio Theme Park butterbeer nausea, I had a headache and was in a fog a majority of the time I was there.  One afternoon, driving home from a shoot, my right arm and mouth went numb.  I was so overly exhausted, my body was literally not having it.  I’m not gonna lie– it was scary.  I felt completely out of control the entire trip. 

I have learned in my later years just how effected I am by the energy around me.  As much as I adore my friends to the moon and back, I am a gal that needs her downtime– especially when I’m shooting.  I have to be able to decompress, meditate, be alone and tap into the solitude.  I’m not sure that a lot of people understand this as it demands a lot more time than you’d think.  Clearly, I need to find better solutions for my next trip.

Chaos is also just in the air right now.  I blew out a tire on my way down and broke a timing belt on the way back.   According to the Power Path, April is a month of intensity and I can’t help but agree. Hannah Honda is now in a shop in Roseburg, Oregon and will be there for the next week or two until she is fixed and we can pick her up.   

After two weeks of being on the road with nothing to ground me, with only one morning of alone time where I had nothing to accomplish, to break down in the middle of Oregon felt like I was floating off into space.  I was so outside of my body, I didn’t even know what I was feeling!  I was angry, sad, confused, grateful, relaxed and totally zen like a ferris wheel of emotions in constant rotation.  

Thankfully, prior to breaking down, I was listening to Pete Holmes ‘You Made It Weird’ podcast featuring Elizabeth Gilbert.  In the episode she talks about her Grandma and how she is a woman that very sincerely finds the joy in everything.  Her letters are filled with exclamation points and she’s always excited about what she’s doing.  So much so, that when she tells Liz she has cancer she says, “Isn’t that interesting, Liz?  I’m getting to learn all about my body and about our cells and I’ve been meeting all of these fascinating doctors…”  

It sounds like a load of crap but Liz said the woman is unquestionably sincere as the day is long.  So I tried it.  Rather than freak out about money, be a victim or try to control the situation with a white knuckle grip, I just decided to be fascinated and amazed and present by the whole thing as best I could.  My tow truck driver was a sweetheart and my mechanic went above and beyond for me, even driving me to a local hotel with a car full of shit.  I was soooo taken care of, how could I not be grateful?  

Humanity snuck in for a brief moment when I couldn’t get a rental car on a Friday night.  All of the unknowns undid me until– again– I realized, there was nothing to control here. It was entirely out of my hands.  Miraculously, my photography class in Seattle is going to be rescheduled, I got my money back for the two nights that I booked a hotel in Seattle and I was able to get a rental car first thing Saturday morning.  These are all miraculous things! There were times my old habitual, ‘responsible’ mind almost felt guilty for not being more stressed about money but it also felt… powerful.

My honey picked me up in Wenatchee that night and a day later?  I’m shocked to be as cool as a cucumber with not an ailment, headache or overwhelmed thought to be had.  In fact, I came home and ideas for my pilot and my children’s book just started coming out of me. There is a lesson here and I have a lot of gratitude.

With that said, the trip was chaotic but amazing.  Working on this project is an honor and fills me to the brim.  The project involves actors and the bittersweet, joyful stories that come with being creative people– and human beings.  Artistic survival may only be familiar to artists but the struggle of humanity in our creatively blocked nature is a commonality that can be recognized in all of us. We all cope and survive in our own ways.

Below are three photos of my ‘BF,’ Sarah Welborn. (I can’t decide which one I like the most.  Each one has its strengths and weaknesses). She isn’t a part of my photography project but I wanted to share these photos because I think her story is inspiring and in its own way ties up my experience. 

BF 1

She moved to Chicago to take part in the Steppenwolf Theater summer program for actors.  After the program ended she stayed in Chicago to pursue acting and started writing a web series. When filming plans fell through and she couldn’t find anyone to film, she decided to go to film school to learn the skill set to tell her own stories.  Soon voice and vision will also have eyes and hands. She is removing obstacles and excuses that keep her from being powerful.  She now lives in Los Angeles with her partner Lou.  This fierce, brave, mindful, queer and spirited woman is going to tell fierce, brave, mindful, queer and spirited stories and I am PSYCHED for the world!   

BF 2 copy

I mean, look at that no bullshit ‘TUDE!!!  God, I love it.  

BF 3

Anyway, as I step into my own creative projects and my jazz shoes (I danced for the first time today– at over 200 pounds, it’s gonna be a ‘thing’), I wanted you all to be encouraged and am feeling this on my heart today.  The world needs your voice not your excuses. It needs your driven heart not your victim mentality. Tell your stories.  Live your life.  Be powerful.