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There are self portraits included in this post that are of me messing around for my lighting class and a couple of shots I did for a different homework series about shame.  They’re not specifically about this post but I thought I would share them for the sake of the topic. –MC

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At the lowest of my lows, I was living in Los Angeles, very much in debt and super depressed.  Each day I would pray for God to get me through another day.  I was clearly living in ‘survival mode.’  Psychologically, spiritually, emotionally– you are surviving, and anything more than that feels like an impossibility.  

I’m sure I’ve mentioned this before but bare with me… I began to take classes that taught you to examine your thoughts and feelings.  By becoming aware of those thoughts and feelings, you could see your unhealthy patterns and change them in a loving way.  My mind was blown.  I was waiting for my life to begin when God was whispering, “I already gave you the skills. Take responsibility. YOU got this.” With this new set of keys, my life did change drastically.  Some might call this mindful or positive thinking. 

When you are a student of life, however, truth is like an onion. There is always another layer.  You work up the courage to peel off a layer and you feel great.  Then you dig deeper and you realize there’s more.  It isn’t easy but you do the work, feel great and dig deeper again, peeling off another layer in the name of awareness.  There is always more work and more truth and more bliss– a teacher in everyone and everything. 

Me?  I’m a digger.  Since that class, I’ve always got a shovel.  I know the deeper I go, the more is revealed and the happier I am.  I’ve seen my life change… More of that please, thank you!  However, there are so many people in this world that hate digging.  It’s such a scary thing!  Their journey hasn’t taken them to a place where they can hear that they have the power to dig.  They don’t yet have the tools. 

So here’s the thing… I’m seeing a lot of this idea on social media, first of all, is that to have feelings is a negative thing.  It means your not ‘being positive.’  Ex:  Me posting these photos could potentially be viewed as uncomfortable, negative, sad, depressing.  “Poor Mandi, etc.”  Do some of these photos make you uncomfortable?  Why?

My response to that idea is remember you’re human.  To say you don’t have moments of fear, worry, anxiety, etc. in life is a lie.  Through photography, I’ve learned to linger with them.  It’s all beautiful because it is all truth.  It is what we have in common.  The more it is embraced, the more we’re able to accept each other and relate. 

Let me be clear… I think ‘positive thinking’ is GREAT.  Yes, you can go through life much happier and lighter by being aware and examining your thoughts.  Joy is absolutely a choice and mantras are terrific.  But what about deep fucking trauma?  Indoctrination?  Societal constructs?  It’s like people being told to eat healthier when what a person might need is  major hospitalization for a triple bypass.  Years of therapy might be required for them to recognize what a shovel even is and their existence is just as valid as yours.

The second thing I’m noticing is that to be negative means you are a toxic person and “I can’t have that kind of negativity in my life.”  These folks make me laugh.  Let’s get real… There are soul suckers, for sure.  People that you truly cannot be around.  I am all for cutting out unhealthy people from your life.  But a majority of this toxicity is an unwillingness to allow for humanity.  It’s grounded in fear and judgment rather than love.  We don’t want to get our hands dirty with a fellow human being because it makes us uncomfortable.  This usually comes from people that have found their answer and if you’re not not the same brand of bandwagon, you’re icky.  It’s positive thinking at its most baby-spiritual. 

Like any good intentioned person, there will always be those telling you you’re doing it wrong.  Out of ‘awareness’ will tell you, what you’re doing is something else.  There might be those on a bandwagon that can’t handle your honesty or reality– or even worse, view it as negativity. Everyone’s story is different and trauma is trauma, folks.  People that don’t understand aren’t meant to be around for your journey and that’s okay.  Feel free to set aside anyone’s rules about what it means to be spiritual.  Feel free to set aside people that want to put out the fire in your soul that you know to be true.  Honesty is integral.

Also, if you’re not big on shoveling, feel free to listen.  More often than not we are very stubborn people and our fear is so deep rooted we can’t see our own programs.  We believe a mantra is doing it differently but we make demands about how our life should be.  It is a limiting ruse. Fear feels good and right because it is comfortable.  It is what we know and allows us to maintain the status quo out of survival rather than take part in real change.  Cheating yourself only leads to more misery.  (Also, being open is a hell of  a lot easier than kicking and screaming). 

We are all on our own journey and hear things in our own timing.  If you have you eyes to see, be grateful.  Have compassion for those who aren’t where you are.  And keep your eyes open. There’s probably more going on in the mirror than you might be willing to admit. xoxo

 

 

 

 

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…