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To not look away
Taking small inroads to presence seriously
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A song I’m loving:
Tomorrow, I leave for a weeklong solo writing retreat at Salmon Creek Farm— a land I’ve wanted to visit for years. I’ve been packing this weekend and needed a few last minute things so I went to Target, where I found myself in the dressing room. I haven’t been in a dressing room in ages. I try to buy clothing online from brands that align with my values, which generally distances me from the experience of trying on clothes in a big-box store. I had forgotten the potency of energy held in these public spaces. I had forgotten what those tiny mirrored stalls can do to, and maybe for, us. A dressing room feels like a place all my most tender parts come out of hiding to show me where I’m settling these days, what I’ve been shoving under, what I’ve been neglecting to look at. It’s hard not to see what’s there with mirrors on every damn wall, reflecting the truth back. Maybe that’s why I avoid them.
For whatever reason, I chose to really look yesterday. I looked in the mirror at my unfamiliar body from all angles— the blessing and curse of four-way mirrors— and started to cry. I don’t usually cry in public places. I hadn’t been in a dressing room since becoming a mother. The tears weren’t self-deprecating or harsh or critical like they have been in the past. They weren’t tears of shame or lack, which I was honestly surprised by. Finding my way in this new body has been its own journey. Finding my way in this new role has been its own transformation.
Yesterday, though, they were tears of grief and compassion as I looked at my body with a different lens, recognizing all it has been through the last few years— the last lifetime, really. I recognized the scars it held as reminders of moments, of wounds, of overcomings. I recognized the bumps and lumps and bruises as symbols of experience, of memories, of all I’ve faced. I noticed the subtle darkness under my eyes, a reminder of all the tending I do for my daughter day in and day out, of the vast energy it has taken to make a life and return to myself after what’s felt like a monumental straying. I looked directly at the roundness that was once slim, the looseness that was once taut, the things that don’t feel or look the way they used to. I didn’t look away. I thought about my newborn body who was left with a continuous longing. I thought about my body that grew another body. I thought about my body that often feels lost and misplaced, wondering where and how to land somewhere. I thought about our bodies and the complicated experience we often have with the bodies we came from. I thought about how all of our bodies are just looking for a soft place to land, a safe place to fully Be in.
And instead of belittling or groaning, talking down to or being disgusted by, rolling my eyes at my overly sentimental self or the predictably deep experience I was having in a dressing room, I cried on behalf of my body. I saw it as a vessel working so hard to get me to the next sacred moment, and I let it let it out. I listened to what needed to be released in that dressing room stall. I cried for everything my and all of our bodies hold. It felt like one of those cliche moments you’d see in a sitcom so I also laughed a little at the boring and basic metaphor of it all, but mostly just sat with what arose as the rest of the world faded into a swirl and all that existed was my body and I, getting honest in that tiny room. And my body and I walked out the same, but lighter.
Moments of honesty and release like the one that happened in the dressing room yesterday don’t fix or solve everything. They don’t remove obstacles or relieve us from the ongoing necessity of being a person in a complex world. They don’t erase what we haven’t yet figured out, what we don’t know how to face, what we aren’t sure how to embrace or accept. But they do offer a slice of humanity. They offer a reminder of what we actually care about, which creates an inroad to slowly dropping that which we don’t. They offer a glimpse of healing as a momentary experience, rather than a Thing To Strive For. They offer that soft place to land we’re always looking for. They offer a chance to be in the moment, which is perhaps more important than any achieved goal or outward growth or level of success or Healing Journey.
And that’s all I’m really after these days when it comes to “healing” or “growth” or “betterment”— I’m just after moments of honesty, of being willing to look at what’s in front of me, of sitting in the discomfort of both pain and joy, of practicing the ways of being I want to embody in this world with myself and my own body first. It’s from those places that I want to move and choose, pivot and change, create and allow. Because of all this, I keep my eye out for dressing room moments. For moments where these micro-shifts in presence are available. And I take them when they arrive, no matter how small. And I stop assuming they’re cliché and start noticing how they can support me.
My body and I are no longer after the profound and triumphant changes we collectively love eating up in Before and After stories. We’re not after Bolder and Better. We’re not after shrinking or bouncing back. We’re not after complete acceptance or 100% self-love always. We’re not after proving or showcasing our most intimate moments of transformation. We’re not even after un-intense moments in dressing rooms. We’re just after this: this capacity to confront, to face, to look without turning away. This willingness to notice the small opportunities for self-tending and taking them seriously. This incrementally shifting internal dialogue. This subtle softening that doesn’t heal everything but makes living a little easier, a little lighter.
There is nowhere else to get to. There is no one else to become. Getting places and becoming new versions of ourselves happens as a result of being open to returning to exactly who we are right now and living from that place— not through force or coercion, pressure or pushing, always looking elsewhere for what we can only find right here, right now. I’ve wasted years of my life assuming everything would be better if I just changed, if I were just different, if my life were just different. And sure — change and movement can be a bolster to our aliveness, to being more of who we actually are, to doing what matters to us. But I’m no longer convinced we can get there by neglecting, belittling, and wishing away the version of us and our life that currently exists. I’m no longer convinced we will become the person we want to be by hating the person we are. I’m no longer convinced looking at ourselves and our bodies with disgust is the medicine that will motivate us to change. And I’m no longer convinced being embarrassed by our reality is what will allow our reality to shift.
So I’m practicing looking in the mirror with compassion. I’m practicing allowing the valid grief to rise up when it needs to. I’m practicing not turning away. I’m practicing letting myself be the person I am right now, letting my body be the body it is right now, and holding reverence for all it has moved through. I’m practicing mothering myself in ways that feel nurturing, forgiving, loving. I’m practicing. Maybe that’s all there really is to do.
May you find mirrors when and where you need them.
May you offer love to whatever you see reflecting back at you.
May you slow down enough to notice what can shift right now.
May you receive the compassion of your own being.
May you grieve the things that are asking to be grieved.
May you let cliché moments be welcomed parts of your momentum.
May you allow softening to happen where it happens.
May you feel whatever you need to feel about your body, about the bodies you may have made, about the body you came from.
Thanks, as always, for being here.
PS // I am in the process of re-considering what I’m offering paid subscribers, and also reconsidering whether or not weekly letters are sustainable for myself and others with the amount of newsletters there are to read now. If you are up for providing feedback for this newsletter, I would be so appreciative. YOU CAN DO SO HERE.
△ This poem from Gregory Orr, originally seen on poetryisnotaluxury
△ Why Won’t People Just Let Me Not Be a Mom? (As a mother, I fully endorse anyone’s choice to not be a parent, for any reason at all, with no explanation needed, ever.)
△ Currently reading an early copy of's new book, The Success Myth, and it is so good
△ These sweet poppies filling the garden bed in our yard
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