Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Just Be and Other Things I Learned While Recovering


Wild Geese
by Mary Oliver 
You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting-
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.

When I was in pre-school I informed my parents that I wanted to learn how to read. So they marched me across the field and our very patient next-door neighbor (Hi Frances!) pulled out some See Jane Run and got busy fulfilling my wish. In elementary and middle school there were special classes, and camps, and trainings. And then in high school, when I felt I had out grown my public school, I decided I was going to an elite boarding school. In college, I studied Art History in the Louvre––in. the. Louvre. After that, in grad school, I was voted "Outstanding Marriage and Family Therapist Student." Since then, I've applied to and participated in yoga trainings, counseling seminars, local boards, and extra classes.

I do not tell you this to brag or tout my accomplishments, because at the end of the day I haven't cured cancer or solved world peace, I haven't done anything all that great except have an insatiable need for knowledge, for learning, for growth. A need so painful, so intense it has driven me across continents and countries. It has made me annoying, and humble, and depressed.

Yes, depressed.

Because when you base your life solely around accomplishing things, you're bound to get let down. Not every moment is great, there's not always something to learn, and sometimes there's nothing more to do than keep your head down and slog through.

And slog through is exactly what I have been doing lately. Getting up, going to work, coming home, and watching TV like most Americans. Except, I am not most Americans. I am the Valedictorian of Everything. The Valedictorian of Everything does not just slog through.

The Valedictorian does things. Accomplishes things. Has projects. Is great.

But I've accomplished all the major things on my list. I have an advanced degree, a job in my field. A wonderful husband. Amazing friends.

I've ticked the boxes I've been told to (that I've wanted to). So, what's next?

It's a question I've had a long time to ponder as I've been laying around being the Valedictorian of Doing Nothing, of recovering from my surgery. My it's not cancer, you may have endometriosis, but you'll be fine surgery.

And all I can come up with is that my next project is realizing that the mundane, ordinary life I've created (that I've been granted since my it's not cancer, you may have endometriosis, but you'll be fine surgery) is actually quite extraordinary. That it's what I worked hard to create. That it's what I walked across that field for when I was three.

And that it's enough. I'm enough.

Which may be the hardest lesson of all. Becoming a human being instead of a human doing. Funny how we do that. How we learn that we have to do things, accomplish things, run marathons, tear down walls, cure cancer to be good enough.

When really all we have to do is let the soft animal of our body love what it loves.

And my body loves my husband, and seeing clients, and cooking food, and snuggling on the couch. And that's good enough. I'm good enough.

So are you.

Monday, January 13, 2014

New Year's Resolutions


December 31st, 2013

While most pop champagne and share ruddy cheeked kisses, I sit on the couch running my fingers along my belly. No outward sign of the abnormality I know is there. No rippled skin. No hard place. No indentation or bulge.

Nothing to announce the presence under my skin except for a phone call and a hunch, "mass, right ovary, abnormal, cyst, large, specialist." A string of words I arrange and rearrange as the clock ticks. As the new year slams into me.

And I can't help but wonder what's really there among the old spent cells, among the blood and viscera of my sex. Is it the story of my mother? The unwanted glances, missed opportunities, and regrets of my youth? Or is it newer? Maternal ambivalence, over-striving, and always measuring myself up short?

What has grown, but then been discarded?

The doctor says it's just endometrial tissue. But I know it must be something more. Why else would my body turn against me? Why else would it threaten my fertility?

January 10th, 2014

Google search:
Chocolate cyst
Endometriosis
Treatment for endometrioma
Endometrioma and ovarian cancer
Can I have babies
Will I die

Today
I'm tired of not talking about this. Of saying, "it's nothing," "millions of women," "no big deal."

There's a golf ball sized growth in my ovary, and the blood work doesn't come back until next week. I'm tired, and full of too many thoughts.

I need to say, "this hurts," "I'm scared," "please pray."

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Four Ideas for Better Living


Conversations for Overcoming Depression


Dear Internet,
I spend most of my time thinking about how I can improve myself, what I need to work on, how I'm lacking, and/or ways to combat any number of the things I've either been diagnosed with or have diagnosed myself with (SAD, dysthymia, depression, eating-too-many-cupcakesitis). This, perhaps, helps explain why I'm a counselor for a living because this sort of obsession? Compulsion? Way of being? is encouraged. And sort of what we get paid for in a way. After all, how am I to be of any assistance to my clients if I haven't done the work myself?

Because of this neurotic tendency towards growth, introspection, and being the Valedictorian of Life, I have a lot of esoteric conversations with people about navel gazey type things, the latest psychobabble research, and strategies for better living.

Recently, several of these conversations have resonated very deeply with me. So deeply, I feel the need to pass them on to you because they've shifted how I think about things and ultimately how I behave (which is sort of the whole point of psychology when you get right down to it). They've been the shot in the arm I've needed to help me get off my butt and clear the depressive fog that sometimes creeps in on me. Maybe they'll do the same for you.

>The 7/10 Rule

Part of my depression stems from the fact that I don't like to fail and have a very abnormal desire for perfection. I often get so caught up in doing it right, in winning, in being perfect that I often end up not actually doing anything at all. Because procrastination is the flip side of the perfection coin.

We set ourselves up for failure when we set the bar too unrealistically high.


Don't get me wrong lofty goals are wonderful, but at a certain point they become action prohibitive. This conversation and subsequent realization has completely changed what I do (and how depressed I (don't) feel).

Instead of having an insane, totally unrealistic goal (like going to the gym everyday for an hour and running a marathon next month), and then being totally derailed and shutting completely down when I don't achieve that goal (because come on-that's never going to happen for me), I've put the 7/10 Rule into effect.

You don't have to make a hundred on the test, all you gotta get is 7/10. So, I missed one day at the gym. Did I go six other days? Well, good enough. I'm still moving in the direction of my value. One slip up, one wrong answer doesn't matter in the long run. Because 7/10 is way better than none/10. And none out of ten is usually what happens when we get too focused on being perfect.

This rule alone has re-energized me, and served as a massive counter to the inertia I often experience (especially when it's 30 degrees and snowing outside).

>Don't Wait, Just Do It

A few weeks ago I was in one of my slumps. Instead of wallowing in bed like I usually do, I reached out to my girlfriends by sending a simple mass I miss you text message. They of course responded with witty and I love you banter that instantly lifted my mood.

Then, one of them called me. Which is sort of a rarity with this friend (we're more of the let's meet for coffee or go for a walk kind of girls). In the course of that conversation she said, "I was going to text that if you needed to talk just call, then I thought that's silly I'm just going to call her. I'm not going to wait for her to ask."

How many times have you gotten the impulse to do something for someone, but didn't? How many times have you said, "If you need something just let me know?"


Do you know how much that works for people in crisis? Not very much because they are in crisis. Also, do you know how helpful it is when someone just does something for you when you're down, or upset, or hurt, or...? It is extremely helpful.

So, don't wait. Don't make it the other person's problem. Just do it. Just make that phone call, or send that message, or fold that laundry. Action begets action. And what goes around comes around. Not to mention, being of service to others is one of the quickest ways to improve your own mood.

And since you only have to get a 7/10, you don't have to worry if your action is perfect or not.

>Actually Show Your Support

Living and working in a small town comes with a unique set of problems. People frequently complain about the lack of resources we have, or the cost of the ones we do. They do their shopping out of town, or seek out services elsewhere. Then, they complain when people don't show up or support their own venture. (And yes I've been guilty of this).

The recent closings of several of my favorite businesses in conjunction with trying to drum up my own clients, has made me consider the part I played in the shuttings. Me just liking that we have a knit shop, or bookshop, or yoga studio, wasn't enough. And that's true no matter where you live.

People need you to actually spend your money in their shops. They need you to show up for the things they plan. They need action not just kind words and prayers. 


Plus, how can we expect people to support us when we don't support them? When we don't show up for the classes they are teaching, the events they are planning, the shops they own?

I have to invest in the community not only with my time and well wishes, but with my money if I want it to invest in me.

So, if there's a shop you like. A person you know doing something cool. Go. Go, spend your money. Invest in them and they'll invest in you.

>No One's Coming to Save You

It's no secret, to those who know me well, that Maggie Mason is one of my personal heroes. So, when she posted, Amy DuBois Barnett, "Take care of your own damn self, a few weeks ago I was all, "Yeah! Do that! Take care of your own damn self!"

It was an article, (who's basic premise is that no one is coming to save you, so you best get along with your own life), that stuck with me for days. I kept vacillating between, "that's so true," and "aww that's sad, we all need support and connection."

I'm still not completely sure of how I feel about the whole thing. But I do know there's an element of truth there because I do believe we are each responsible for our own lives and how they turn out (to a certain extent). 

And if one thing's true, it's that we can control the meaning we make of the situations we either put ourselves into or that are thrust upon us. 


When we fully realize that it gives us an immense amount of freedom to make changes because we aren't waiting around or at the mercy of other people.

And that my friends feels good, especially when you don't worry about being perfect, or how your actions will be received.

As winter closes in on me, my hardest time of year, I'm trying to keep these conversations in the forefront of my mind because I find them useful tools.

What helps you? What conversations have you had that are helpful?

XO,
Sara

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

From Pink to Red: My Issues with the Month of October

[Author's Note: I wrote this last weekish and let it sit in my drafts box because I know it's controversial. And quite honestly, I was a little afraid of posting it (least I hurt someone's feelings). I also sat here for a half hour debating whether or not I needed to put several disclaimers on here and apologize for my strong opinion. But really, I'm not sorry for the following post. And I do truly believe it's our duty to be responsible, to ask questions, to educate ourselves, to stand up and say, "Hey something's odd about this," even about the hard things-even about cancer. I also believe in listening to my urge to write, and this I didn't so much write as standby and let the words fall out. ]

Dear Internet,

There are a handful of things that really fire me up. Like when my husband gets something out of a cabinet and leaves the door open. When people say one thing, but do another. When grave injustices are committed like double parking, genocide, or Netflix not having a movie I really want to watch.

But nothing really compares to the disdain. The furry. The annoyance. The fire I feel for the month of October. Because for the month of October I have to hear about, and see, and deal with breast cancer awareness.

I usually keep quiet about this particular pet peeve of mine because: 1) it's not exactly popular to say, "If I see that stupid pink ribbon on one more thing I'm going to scream." 2) I know my hatred is personal and stems from the fact that my mom died of Ovarian cancer. A cancer that gets little attention, yet is far more deadly (figure that one out Internet). And 3) Deep down I'm all about promoting awareness and research and supporting survivors and their families because regardless of what kind you or your loved one get-cancer sucks.

I bide this month sending dear friends snarky messages, rolling my eyes, and complaining to my husband. But this time October you've gone too far.

I mean seriously, a National No Bra Day? Pardon my french but WTF? How is putting on display the things breast cancer survivors loose helpful? Should we have a no underwear day in support of testicular cancer? I mean the cruel, cruel irony of this idea makes my insides hurt. (Which is what really fired me up about this whole thing in first place. Because really, a No Bra day?!? It makes no sense to me.)

(Then, there's the second thing riles me up about any "awareness" type event, breast related or not.) What does it do?

Let's say I didn't hate trite (My inner feminist would like for me to also insert the world sexist here, which I realize opens up a whole other can of worms. Do with that what you will.) stuff like this and I just happened to whip off my bra in support of breast cancer. Then, what? Are we closer to a cure? Has some family suddenly gotten money to offset the cost of medical treatment? Has a survivor magically grown their hair back, overcome their nausea, and resumed a "normal" life?

No. Not one of those things happens.

What happens is people have pointed and stared at my nipples and sagging breasts all day. Which helps no one, and quite frankly makes me feel a little weird. Just like half the crap that's painted pink.

So while it might make you, personally, feel better to ditch your bra or buy something with a ribbon, it's not actually doing anything (and in some cases it's actually spreading the disease). (Some of you will argue, "Yes, it is! It is! It's bringing awareness!" To which I will reply: unless you have been living under a rock for the past decade we are all very aware of breast cancer. I can't buy yogurt without being reminded of breast cancer. Awareness does not in fact fix the problem. It's like if a giant hole opened up in the middle of my living room and all I did was tell people about the giant hole. "Hey, there's a hole. It's giant. It's in my living room. It happened at this time and was caused by this. And it's a real problem. Let's make t-shirts about this giant hole. And go on walks. And spend a portion of the money we'd use to fix the hole making sure everyone has a trinket that acknowledges the hole!" And if I did that. If I made sure everyone was aware of this hole. Not only would my husband think I'm crazy, we'd still have a giant freaking hole in our living room. The problem wouldn't have actually been solved. I can't just wear cute shirts that announce the presence of the hole. I actually have to do something about said hole.)

And doing something is what cancer survivors and their families need. They don't need you to take off your bra (they may even actually hate you a little because you have a bra to take off). They don't need you to buy a key chain, water bottle, Christmas ornament, trash cash, vibrator, dog dish, T-shirt, bumper sticker, tote bag, pencil, pen, roll of wrapping paper, yoga mat, magnet, lipstick, or cookie. (Things that organizations and institutions have to spend their money on to make, instead of spending their money on you know finding a cure and doing research. And all because we want some bauble that says, "I'm aware! I support! Look at me!")

No, cancer survivors and their families don't need any of that. They need you to come over. To sit with them. To clean their house. To buy their groceries. To talk to them like they're normal. To talk to them like they are sick when they are sick. To mop up vomit and diarrhea. To help care for their children. To visit them in the hospital. To listen to them. To cook for them. To tell them you love them. To make donations directly to companies and foundations that are doing research whether you get a knickknack or not. To take care of yourself. To be educated and empowered about your body. Your whole body-not just your breasts. To give them a pass when they are tired and cranky and crabby. To be supportive by actually being supportive.

Because cancer is hard. And it sucks. And for the most part we'd all rather buy a cute shirt or take off our bra because it's easier. But these people don't have it easy. And neither should you.

Love,
Sara

Monday, May 20, 2013

Redefining Yoga

"If you love something, set it free." —Sherrilyn Kenyon, or maybe someone else who had waaaay too much time to create Facebook memes


Dear Internet,

I walked into my first yoga class when I was eighteen. That means that for the past twelve years my life has revolved around this ancient practice (Okay, so it hasn't been a solid twelve year commitment. There were those moments, mainly in college, where I did a lot more thinking about yoga while sleeping off a hangover than I did any actual yoga. But still—twelve years. Twelve years, I've been organizing my life around asana* classes.).

*For those of you whom I'm related to or suffered with through that bizarre reenactment of Peter Rabbit that the Baptist church put on when we were kids in which they forced us to dress up like vegetables, asana is not some secret code for having cocktails with Satan. It simply means posture. I could have easily said stretching, or attempting to put my foot behind my head instead, but I like to sound smart and superior so I say asana. I also realize this weak attempt to explain my heathen ways probably has no effect on you whatsoever and I'm still on your prayer circle list. To which I reply, "Thank you." Because as far as I'm concerned, I could use all the prayers I can get.

Anyhoo. Twelve years is a long time y'all. Some people don't even stay married for that long. Yet, here I've been rolling out my mat and doing my thing. For. Twelve. Years.*


*For those of you who have me on your prayer circle list because I've "been doing my yoga thing for twelve years," I assure you that does not refer to sacrificing goats, or making burnt offerings, or having graven images before anyone, or worshiping golden calves. It simply means that for twelve years I have been going to a public yoga studio, rolling out a rectangle of rubber, and stretching in the company of others, while sometimes talking about why it's important to be nice, and turn the other cheek, and be kind to everyone—you know, kinda like what Jesus did (I'm sorry was that too far?). But if you don't believe me, you can ask my friend Jan. You can ask her because not only is Jan one of the people I've been "doing my thing with," Jan happens to be a yoga teacher AND the wife of a minister. Yes, a yoga instructor AND a minister's wife. I just blew your mind didn't I? And before you discount her as the wife of some snake charming not real minister from the wild, wild West, Jan and her family live in Wagner, South Carolina. Wagner. And the church they belong is a real, live Methodist church. That's okay I'll wait while you apologize for condemning to me hell for something you've never even participated in. I got all the time in the world because I learned patience in yoga.

Now back to my existential crisis about yoga—the one consistent thing that has defined my life for the past twelve years besides trying to find a husband.

I can blame the following positive life occurrences on yoga:
  • Recovering from my mom's untimely death.
  • Managing my depression.
  • Losing 70lbs.
  • Prolonging my sinful life by lowering my blood pressure, improving my cholesterol, introducing me to a form of exercise that doesn't give me seizures (Okay, I never actually had real seizures, they were just mainly in my head when I thought about having to workout at a gym or go running or heaven forbid—play a team sport), and lowering my stress level (all of which can be proven by science, which I would totally show you if I wasn't too lazy concerned I might have a seizure from working too hard on the Internet, so you're just gonna have to trust me when I say there are numerous studies that scientifically show yoga to be very, very beneficial for your health, and if you don't trust me, well then you're just going to have to go look them up yourself but don't say I didn't warn you about the seizures).
  • Introducing me to a beautiful, supportive group of women who will fly to the other side of the country just to ensure my secret trashy isn't showing on my wedding day while wearing silver glittery Toms and non-matching dresses because I asked them to. They will also do lots of other nice things like tell you when you're getting that far away depressed look, or have salad in your teeth, or smell bad.
  • Helping me not murder anyone while in grad school (see article about yoga as stress relief).
  • Cutting my getting ready time to ten minutes tops, as yoga pants and t-shirts aren't really time intensive wardrobe decisions.
  • Allowing me to meet my husband (Okay, so he's not my husband yet and if this does end up going South I'm totally blaming yoga for it).
I'm sure there are others like making me a nicer, more patient, loving human being, and raising my self-esteem to a normal level, but I didn't want to get too cocky. And you can never be too sure where therapy and anti-depressants end and yoga begins (except I'm not on anti-depressants anymore because of all the yoga).

Nevertheless, the point is—yoga has done amazing things for me. Things I'm very thankful for. Things that make this next sentence sort of hard for me.

I'm kinda over asana. I know, some of you just praised the Lord and others of you are speed dialing me to make sure I have not been abducted by aliens. I thank both camps.


It's just when I wake up in the morning and I check in with what my body wants to do, it's not asana. It's mainly everything but asana. And while I laid in bed last night working out exactly how I was going to tell you this, I suddenly realized I actually have a fantastic reason why. A reason that was so unexpected—and by unexpected I mean that I've been trying to figure this out for moths and only just discovered it last night at 3am even though it had been laying right beside me the whole time—I started to cry because it's so true and perfect and comforting.

Brian is my yoga.

That's right. Brian is my yoga.

For these twelve years, yoga has been the vehicle I've used for knowing myself deeper. For challenging myself. For growing. For learning how to be patient and kind and accepting and loving.

Until it wasn't. Because we can only do so much alone. We need mirrors.

And Brian is now that for me. The love and acceptance that happens between us is much deeper than anything that has ever happened on the mat. And I'd much rather spend my mornings doing that kind of yoga than trying to kick into handstand.

 

Because at the end of the day yoga is not about the postures or the stretching. It's about radical love and acceptance and deep knowing (Chit Ananda for those of you who know).


And Brian shows me that every single day. He shows me that when I roll over and poke him awake. When I sing the same four bars of one song for a month. When I spend the entire morning writing instead of cleaning the house like I said I would.

He shows me that because he loves me. Because he loves me despite all the weird, annoying things I do. Even because of all the weird, annoying things I do. He loves me even though I'm not perfect.

So suddenly, moving my body through a serious of contrived poses* in order to know that feels sort of meaningless in comparison. (*I'm actually putting this one at the end because lord the can of worms it's going to open.)

And I'm okay with that for now, for Brian to be my yoga. Because he's—our relationship—is pushing me to grow in ways asana never can. Never has.


And if I've learned anything from all the horrible, no good things yoga has helped me overcome, it's that—life is short. And if I've learned anything from yoga, it's—when you find something that lights you up inside, that so perfectly reflects your brilliance, and so so gently pushes against your growing spots you should hold on to that thing like holy heck.

So, that's what I'm doing.

I'm holding on to Brian like holy heck. And I'm taking walks, and writing, and meditating. And I'm doing just fine.

I'm doing more than just fine. I'm doing fantastic. And isn't that sort of the point of yoga, anyway?

XO,
Sara

*Hey guys can we all just admit that the system of yoga we practice in the West is relatively new and based solely on the ideas of a handful of men? Indian men. Indian men who did not have large boobs and short arms and birthing hips. Indian men who sometimes hit their students with sticks if they were misaligned. Can we all also agree that this is a little crazy? And that maybe we shouldn't be sooo concerned about exactly replicating those poses. And maybe we should stop giving people the stink-eye when they don't really want to do an Eye of the Tiger practice or be the Valedictorian of Asana or could careless about standing on their heads for ten minutes at the time. Because there are other things to life besides yoga. Other things are just as worthy and valuable. And being a yogi does not make you better, or more enlightened, than anyone else. In fact it probably makes you a little worse off in some ways (according the that book that was on the NY Times Bestseller list), especially if you live in the South, where you get the stink-eye for being a yogi. And could we also stop with all the competing and focusing just on asana? Because there are seven other limbs. SEVEN!

**And also could we realize that the above rant does not secretly refer to anyone I know personally or to either of the kulas I've been a part of, but just to the general air of yoga in general, generally speaking?

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Feminine? Or Femi-none?


"A well-read woman is a dangerous creature." —Lisa Kleypas


Dear Internet,

I have worried about the following things this week: the current length of my leg hair, whether I could go one more week without an eyebrow wax (I could!), and how exactly I was going to whip up something delicious for dinner while washing all the dishes, scrubbing the grass stains out of Brian's pants, finding a cure for cancer, maintaining a perfectly manicured coif, and working forty hours a week (I could not.).


In short, I have worried about being a woman. And doing all the womanly things I'm expected to do now that I'm shacking up with someone and on my way to being his wife.


Now, before you phone me up to berate me for marrying such a cretin, let me say he does not expect me to do anything of those things. Sure he prefers not to be able to braid my leg hairs and likes a warm meal every once in awhile, but for the most part he grunts and shrugs and does his own laundry and mending. Seriously, I once watched in fascination as he sewed two buttons back on one of his shirts while simultaneously cooking dinner. I mainly watched because he was shirtless—but still. He was raised well and is generally a prince when it comes to these things. It's me who's not.

I expect to be able to do all those things because isn't that what we're told as women? That we must whip up homemade French Laundry quality meals after working all day and managing to keep our hair in the right place (and out of the wrong places)? And that if we don't we somehow fail the wife test and the police come and revoke your license and it's a whole big "thing." I do not like "things." Or failing.

Although, I'm sure you're laughing now if you know me intimately. Because you know I can go weeks—nay months—with chipped nail polish, that I am quite capable of using every last dish in the house before I wash a single one, and well the status of any of my hairs on any given day is usually code orange.

Which was fine when I was single. But now that I'm an almost wife aren't I supposed to get it together? Aren't I supposed to become this neat, tidy, well-organized, multitasking goddess of domesticity while also remaining wildly desirous to my husband?

It makes me tired just thinking about it. Sigh.

Now, because it's almost Mother's Day, I will blame my lack of skills in the domestic arts on my mother, god rest her soul. I will do this mainly because I can and I'm a therapist and it's a trade secret that everything is always our parents' fault.

But to make my case, the woman wasn't exactly the most feminine person in the world. She believed in applying lipstick once a day (in the morning), that panties were to be white, cotton, and bought once a year (for Christmas), and her version of cooking was eating all the icing off a store bought cake (heaven help you if you ate the last piece).

And because I don't want to be accused of trashing my family again, I will add—she had many wonderful qualities that I totally appreciate, keeping house and knowing her way around Sephora were not them.

So, I'm a little deficient in these areas (Ok not the Sephora part. Most of my twenties was spent figuring that element of being a women out, but doing that while also folding laundry is a lesson I have still not yet mastered. I've been too busy cataloging all my shoes).

Figuring out what exactly it does mean to be a wife is also hard since I don't have any sisters and was awkward around most women until I was in my mid-twenties. Okay, I'm still a little awkward around most women. Groups of them often scare me. Hence why my upcoming bridal party consists of four lovely ladies instead of the mandatory herd most Southern weddings call for.

But I digress. Back to all the responsibilities and things I'm at best average at. And yes, I just cringed a little when I wrote that word—average is not something I'm programed to be.

I shall learn how to crush keeping everything tidy while minding my nails. Ok, I probably won't.

Because half of the crap we worry about as women is total bunk. And if you don't believe me please read this book. Seriously.


I picked up How To Be a Woman mainly because the book I really wanted to read wasn't available and navigating this new word wife has been hard for me (something about not having a mom or sisters to ask about these things) and I figured surely I could learn something from "The British version of Tina Fey's Bossypants."

And my god I have! I have learned so many things. I have also spent most nights howling at Brian, "Wait, wait just listen to this part!" as I laughed spit all over him.

Because this book is hilarious, and irreverent, and poignant, and exactly what a *gasp* feminist book should be (why do we hate that word so?).

Not to mention it instantly stopped all the hand-wringing and worrying and fretting. Because it reminded me that we are all in this together. And we have many ways of doing things. And contrary to what my Southern upbringing says there's no rule that mandates you scrub the floor with a toothbrush and always wear pearls. Nor do I have to have twelve pieces of matching silver and sixteen sets of china.

I can do it my way. I can be any kind of wife I want. Any kind of woman I want. And so can you.


And that my friends is what *gasp* feminism is. Saying out loud we're all in this together whether or not you've had your bikini line waxed or not.

Thank you Caitlin Moran for that. And thank you to all the wild, wonderful women I run with who remind me every day there are many different ways to be a wife, a mother, a sister, a friend, a woman. And that all ways are pretty fantastic (even the ones I poke fun at for having tidy houses and perfect hair).

Now, since it is almost Mother's Day go kiss your mom. Tell her you love her. Thank her for showing you the kind of woman you want to be (or even the kind you don't want to be-although maybe don't say it like that).

Thank her for coming before you. For doing her thing. Because whether or not she was the best role model her existence is exactly why I can sit here typing this while Brian cooks dinner. Exactly why I can have a public opinion and job and fret about all the things I have to do.

Exactly why we can choose the kinds of women we want to be.  And that deserves some thanks whether she was perfect or not.


Love,
Sara

The following excerpts may use foul language, allude to bodies parts we aren't supposed to talk about in public, and tout liberal ideas. You have been warned.

"Similarly, if we live in a climate where female pubic hair is considered distasteful, or famous and powerful woman are constantly pilloried for being too fat or too thin, or badly dressed, then, eventually, people start breaking into women, and lighting fires in them. Women will get squatters. Clearly, this is not a welcome state of affairs. I don't know about you, but I don't want to wake up one morning and find a load of chancers in my lobby."
"I can't believe we've got to a point where it's basically costing us money to have a vagina. They're making us pay for maintenance and upkeep of our lulus, like they're a communal garden. It's a stealth tax. ...This is money we should be spending on THE ELECTRICITY BILL and CHEESE and BERETS..."
"In a world of infinite possibility, why not learn to hang off a pole by your pelvic floor? It probably will be more useful than learning Latin."

"All weddings seen to boil down to acting like Michael Jackson at the height of his insanity—pretending to be a celebrity for one insanely expensive day. And we know why celebrities have pet monkeys and stupid shoes and the Elephant Man's skeleton and a fun fair and swimming pools shaped like guitars. BECAUSE THEY'RE DYING INSIDE. THEY'RE STARING INTO THE VOID....We communally pity these people as damaged idiots."

"There's so much stuff—in every respect—that we can't afford and yet we sighingly resign ourselves to, in order to join in and feel "normal." But, of course, if everyone is, somehow, too anxious to say what their real situation is, then there is a new, communal, median experience that is being keep secret by everyone being too embarrassed to say, "Don't think I'm a freak, but...""

Saturday, May 4, 2013

This Little Light of Mine

"Yes, but I think she's really a writer." —my mom

Dear Internet,

Someone recently asked me why I stopped writing here (*cough, Uncle Mark, cough, cough*), which led me to wonder why I started writing in the first place.

I've always been, shall we say-a sensitive child-a quality often not appreciated by some of my more rational kinfolk. So, at an early age, I began scribbling things down in notebooks or on the backs of discarded pages, least those things-those feelings-escape from my mouth or worse yet my eyes.

Some of you talk over wine, or spend hours on your bike. Some of you take baths or read. Some of you make art, or cook, or doctor on people. Or whatever it is you do to make sense of the world.

I? I write (and walk, and drive, and talk, and a myriad of other things).

But the writing-it just happens. The words come to me and it's all I can do to keep them from spilling out and ruining everything. So instead of blurting them out (vomiting them up?), I pen them down. I write them so I can see if they are true. If they make sense.

I write them so I can understand. 

 

Because when I don't-when I keep them rattling around inside my head-they turn rancid and bitter. They bite and sting and make me cranky.

And maybe I should just keep them to myself-continuing to fill journals and bits of paper. But I don't believe that's what we're meant to do-to hide ourselves. No, we-we are meant to let our lights shine. And writing? Writing helps me reveal my light-especially when I forgot it's there.

So why then, as this person asked, did I stop writing here?

 

There are several answers I could give: I was busy and flooded with words, and sights, and sounds-too many to tag, catalog, and trap here; I said a lot of my words over there and didn't have many left for here; I didn't think it was wise for the words I did have to be kept here as they needed some sorting.

Which would all be true. But, there's a better answer I can give-a truer answer. And that's-I haven't felt safe here. Someone I adore, whose opinion matters dearly to me, said some very unkind things about my writing. Trash was the chosen adjective.

Which is right in some ways. What I write is trash-mental, emotional garbage that needs taking out. Cleaning up. Dealt with.

Trash that often makes me cringe when I look at it now. Because I'm not that girl. Hardly ever am once I let the words out on the page. 

It took me a long time to shake that criticism out. To brush it off. To dust off my keys and open myself up again because what I write is so uniquely, heart wrenchingly me. And trash it may be, but it's my trash. It's me.

And the jab seemed to extend far beyond just the words on this page, because as I mentioned before I'm a sensitive child. And opinions matter to me. Those opinions especially matter to me.

So instead of leaving my trash here, I went into hiding. Retreated to my journals, my fiance (yes I have one of those now), and my bed. I let my mental garbage build up and weigh me down. I piled it up and barricaded myself in.

And while sitting amidst the rotting stench of unwritten words, I wished I didn't have this curse. This desire. This impulse to air my garbage out. I wished I could make myself into something more acceptable. Could just sweep my words under the rug and be done with them.

But I can't. I am me. And me writes and has opinions, and makes unusual choices, and marches to the beat of a different drummer, and yes takes her trash out and puts it on the Internet. And that's ok.

 

In fact, it's more than ok. It's fantastic. Because that's what we're meant to do. We're meant to stand in our lights. To be our true selves. To use our gifts.

 

Because when we do-when we have the courage to write, or draw, or talk-to live from our hearts-it gives other people permission, encouragement, the desire to do the same. And our world needs more of that-so much more of that.

But now my naivety has been scrapped off and I now know that not everyone can, or will see my trash (or yours) as treasure. No matter how much we wish they could. No matter how much we want them to. No matter how much we love them. Mean things will be said, eyes will be rolled, support will be withheld. And at times we'll feel all alone and it will stink.

But the cracks are where the light gets in. And when we bravely do what it is we're meant to do, other support floods in. Connections form. Hearts open.


And that covers. That mends. Any criticism.

I'm sorry I chickened out. Stuck my head in the sand. Tucked my tail between my legs. That's not the kind of living I believe in.

And I pinkie promise from now on I'll tell my stories, I'll write my words no matter what anyone says about them.

Love,
Sara