Writing Down the Bones

donuts and coffee

When a writer-friend says about a book, “This will find a place next to your copy of Bird by Bird,” You buy it–even if you’re in a really, really bad head space, and you still would rather not follow any good advice. So, a few months ago I bought Writing Down the Bones, started to read it, and decided I hated it.

The premise is that writing is indeed a way into meditation, and quite helpful for the soul, and oh-so-very-good. And everything in me wanted to throw this writing-zen-meditation book across the room. This is my normal reaction to truth that stings. It’s quite mentally aggressive.

I’ve always had a sneaking suspicion that there was a connection between zen and the writing process, but I didn’t happen to care in that moment. And because I am not as evolved as you, or most newborns, I did not want to sit with myself, to hear my thoughts, and to sort out the bad from the ugly and the pain from the humor, and get it all down into letters and words. I knew what was there; I did not want to pen it down.

[Note: this is a tell tale sign that you should be writing.]

There was a little bit of shame, a good dose of pain, a smidge of hopelessness mixed up with insecurities, and a lot of self-doubt and brooding.  These are the times when I–in a clearly objective state–determine I am not social enough, or generous enough, or smart enough, or polite enough, and that my writing is mostly crap, and my driving is very bad, and I’m not quite qualified to do most things, or anything, really. Except sleep. Well, sleep and watch movies.

In essence, every un-truth and half-truth worked its way into my consciousness and I pretended the past few weeks weren’t their own kind of awful and my life was merely shit. This is what it is like inside my head when my feelings are hurt: I’m utterly irrational and weepy. I am not unique in this way.

So, of course, these are the times when meditation is best, and most necessary, and when we (or maybe just me) are the least likely to want to participate in any sort of self development and yoga-ness. Yet, meditation will seep into where it is needed. It will sneak into the act of writing, and move through the wisdom of others, and even turn running into it’s own type of  focused breathing exercise.

So my Honest Adult Book Review of Writing Down the Bones is that it was completely necessary, utterly annoying, and moved through me in all the right places. It reminded me that there is power in the words we share, the stories we live, and the truths we underline, highlight, and keep. It got me to write in the middle of sadness and fear and vulnerability, which is the best time (as is any time) to get feelings onto paper.

It is precisely the type of story that gets good books thrown at walls, and then picked up and read properly.

 

Learning to Date by Dating

girl on phone kristie was here
I’ve been working hard to be open. Open and kind. Open and smart. Open, vulnerable, strong, and honest. Open, with a fence, with a gate, a few keys, and a padlock. It is the most incredibly uncomfortable and terrifying thing, while simultaneously having all of the magic of the Divine wrapped into it. In short, it is the Amazing Mystery of Love Trumping Every Single Fear, But Only Slightly.

Last week a friend asked how I was. “I’m somewhere between a panic attack and great. So I think that means ‘okay’.”

“As long as ‘okay’ is in quotes,” he said.

I was sitting under my desk at work, listening to music, taking a break and making the world feel a little smaller and manageable. I do this (rarely) when I can’t get to a coffee shop or park bench to give my brain a break from the everything-is-moving type of feeling. Or when I need a nap.

To put my life in context: I am dating. That is to say, I am going on outings with strangers, or friends, or whatever you call the grey space in between. I am saying “yes” more than “no” and it is everything I can do to be “okay” and not tell the universe to fuck off. Some days this is all really annoying; as we all know, being self-aware can be exhausting and feels quite overrated.

So, dating—the intentional gender paring for a few moments over food or drinks—is scary, at least for me. Partly because I’ve done it poorly before; I believe “epically failed” would be the proper terminology. And partly because nothing quite prepares you for all this expansive human interaction except for the doing of it, both feet in, standing fully in your boots, looking into kinder eyes, wondering what the hell you are doing, and how you became an adult without your knowledge. Or maybe that is just me.

Either way, I keep saying over, and over, and over again, “This is me. I am here. Right now. Let’s give it a shot,” also, “Please and thank you,” because I have manners. Being present is one of the greatest gifts I can give another human being. Even if there is no spark, no stickiness, no attraction whatsoever, we are doing human together, and that is something.

Penelope Gunterman once shared with me an old Buddhist saying: “Life is full of one thousand joys and one thousand sorrows.” I’ve breathed in that truth.

Being human involves getting deep into the still-forming mosaic. It is all the issues, failures, baggage, and goodness forming Life; it my past and present and all the goodness of today. It is the joy, but also the sorrow.

When I was in Rome, a slender Italian man with gray hair and a large smile asked me, “How long has your heart been busy?” I was dating a tall gentleman at the time, and my new Italian friend had wanted to know for how long. His words were everything.

The heart. The gentle almost-always guarded heart I carry around is looking to be busy, busy with a kind of strength and vulnerability that has always been a fight. It is a fight worth having, but a battle nonetheless. My friend Shaylynn knows this. She is part of my Sanity Support Group. She has a lifetime membership. Last week she wrote me, “You’ve been through a lot, love hasn’t been a fair balance for you. But you are beyond deserving.”

And that is the gift of humanity, I suppose: whether or not it—love, vulnerability, joy, compassion, strength—comes easy, you are beyond deserving.

And if that ever gets to be too much (because I promise you it will sometimes) there’s always room for you under my desk.

Stories from May

typewriter kristie was here

 

And now I present you with potential titles for the stories I’ve lived this month…

On Dating: Tales of Wild Optimism & Incredible Naivety or How I Accidentally Go on Dates

On Education: That One Time I Was Homeschooled In A Cult or How I Finally Have Something in Common with The Duggers

On Running: I Keep Forgetting I Hate This or That Was Stupid

On Early Mornings: I Hate Everything Before 6:30am or Just Say No

On Children: Stop It. I’m Old Enough to Know if I Want Them or I Really Want a Dog

On Birth: Horrific & Magical—I Have a New Niece or I Almost Passed Out While Photographing a Birth

On Introverting: It’s Not You, It’s Me or If I Walk Away Will You Stop Talking to Me?

On Shopping: I  Have Enough or If I Cannot Buy it Online, It is Not Important

On Grandparents: My Grandma Wants a Tattoo or Why My Grandma is My Spirit Animal

On Watching Movies: Laugh with Strangers or Stories are Therapy

On Transportation: I Have Issues, Always or It Shouldn’t Be This Difficult to Park

On May: I Was Home for 37 Hours or Why Living out of A Suitcase is A Great Idea

Guest Post: Body Shaming (Victoria Fisher)

Today I’m handing the blog over to Victoria Fisher. Don’t worry, I’m writing other stuff. You’re just not allowed to read it right now. If you’re interested in my thoughts on a somewhat related topic, check out Self-Esteem: Why Christian Girls Don’t Need It. Also, I locked myself out of my apartment again just to help you feel better about yourself. Hugs and stuff – K

brunette, kristie was here

The quest for body-beauty is therefore not a choice for the Western woman and the concept that she is free to choose her own image is a myth. It has not built confidence and self-esteem in the woman but rather produced a mentality of insecurity and obsession with her appearance. The Western Beauty Myth – Shabaat of Hizb ut-Tahrir 2003

Everyone is different. It’s science. We’re born with different DNA, different personalities, experiences, and ways of interpreting the world around us.

But there’s one thing we all have in common in Western civilization: we’ve all been exposed to Diet Culture. We’ve been raised with the idea that if we don’t look a certain way, our bodies are wrong and we aren’t allowed to be happy until we fix it. Pre-teen girls are known to think of themselves as “fat” and admit to trying to change their eating habits in order to lose weight.

Think about that for a minute. Our little girls are taught from day one that their bodies are something to be loathed. How can they ever feel comfortable in their own skin? Comfortable enough to play sports, to stand up for themselves or others, to believe in their voices, to try to create change? They can’t. So, many times, they don’t.

What might we be doing, thinking, feeling about if we didn’t think about body image, ever? Caroline Knapp

Just because you’ve been told something your entire life doesn’t make it true.

Here’s the thing: Hating your body helps no one but the people who want your money or the a**holes who want to bring you down.

People who are told to hate themselves do not treat themselves well. It makes sense, right? If you hate your body, how likely are you to nourish it in a way that makes you feel your best, or exercise to feel good? You’re exercising or eating to punish yourself for being in a body that you don’t believe is good enough. Body shaming, whether it comes from you or others, just makes you feel worse. There’s no justification for it. My advice? Do yourself a favor and cut that shit out!

Every weight loss program, no matter how positively it’s packaged, whispers to you that you’re not right. You’re not good enough. You’re unacceptable and you need to be fixed. Kim Brittingham

I know that’s blunt. And I know it’s not easy. These messages aren’t something you turn off after a lifetime of indoctrination. You’re going to get upset sometimes when that cute dress on sale only has sizes left in extra small. It happens to even the most fierce body love warriors out there. I’m not expecting change overnight.

But I want to challenge you to try to look in the mirror and dare not to think of your body as a work in progress. Love it for what it is right now: a 100% unique, complex gift from Nature or God or The Flying Spaghetti Monster; whatever belief system is your jam. Get to know your body instead of fighting it. Eat food and see how it makes you feel. Exercise and see how it improves your mood. Do and eat things you like. Yeah, spinach is good for you, but if it makes you want to throw up in your mouth when you think about eating it, why put yourself through that kind of torture? Life is too short.

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Victoria Fisher is a freelance writer in Michigan. She is a fan of feminism, rainbows, and the Oxford comma. She sometimes talks about feelings on her blog, Disaster Poodle. You can hire her to write stuff for you at her website.