Hey my precious friends.
One of my all-time favorite books in the world is Truth and Beauty by Ann Patchett. The reason I haven’t told you about it is that when I finished it, I decided no one should ever comment on it. It’s written so true and beautiful and perfect that I could not imagine mustering the audacity to add one more word. When I read the last word of Truth and Beauty, I thought of that line, “speak only if you can improve the silence.” So I just nodded, put the book in a place of honor on my bookshelf, and that was that. Please read Truth and Beauty so we can not talk about it. Today I need to say at least this much though: in the book there is a letter from Lucy to Ann that begins like this:
Pettest of my pets. There is a crisis in leadership . . . Jane Fonda has had ribs removed, a la Cher. Is this true? I can’t bring myself to believe it. What ramifications does this have for us? I am so terribly disappointed in her, though I also understand the mania twixt this ribectomy comes… Is she afraid of something? What could it be? Are we afraid of the same thing, the same sort of thing, whatever it is? . . . . I forgive her to the end, yet something is different. Jane is as fallible as us: she always was… – Truth And Beauty
I think about this paragraph every single day. It’s so freaking funny to me – there is a crisis in leadership – and so horrible and so true. It’s so true how we’re always looking for infallible women heroes and how we’re so afraid when they are afraid and so despondent when the poison in the air affects them, too. How when we discover again and again that there’s really no ONE to follow—there’s no Oz behind the curtain—we feel so suddenly scared and alone and directionless. All of this is why it’s a saner policy to love people than to admire them. Admiration involves putting a person on a pedestal and since people are wobbly—pedestaled folks always end up falling down.
Anyway. The other day I was on the road looking at some pictures you guys posted of me from Sacred Threads, which I will tell you more about later because it is simply one of the most special places I’ve ever been in my whole little big life. I was scrolling through and saw this one picture in which I just looked SKELETAL. Like not my normal smurf-sized self at all, like scary skinny and weak. Sister and I were in a hotel room and I pointed at the picture and said: “Good Lord, this pic is awful. Can I hide it? Is that wrong to do?” And she said: “That’s not a bad picture, actually. That’s just what you look like right now.” “And I said I LOOK LIKE THAT?” And Sister said yes, you do. And I lay on the bed and stared at that picture and this thought crossed my mind: Uh-Oh. There is a crisis in leadership. I’m all jacked up again. I looked at that picture and KNEW, I just KNEW: That’s not right. I’m not right. This is not me. I’m not strong right now. Not.
And the next day I called my very honest friend and I said: “Tell me the truth. How do I look right now?” And she said: “Look. I want to say this as gently as possible: you look like shit, honey. You just look like shit.”
A friendship like this is a treasure. It really is.
So often, people’s lives are presented to us as before and after stories. It’s always: “Look! My mess is fine because I’m ALL BETTER NOW! Ten steps to FREEDOM! Look at me, I’m FREE!” Sometimes it feels like it’s only okay to talk about your Cinderella story when you’re at the ball. When the tough, ugly parts are over. When everything is shiny and happily ever after, promise!!
But there is no ball. There is no point in which you stop working and just brush your long pretty hair and flit around, untouchable. Done. All better. There is no before and after. Most honest folks with food/body/God/shame/etc. issues will tell you that it’s just the same damn thing, over and over. That you just fall down seven times and get back up eight. That each time you earn a little more wisdom to help you up faster the next time you fall. So I came here today to say: You guys. I got a little jacked up again. And I’m in the middle of the mess now. I’m not at the ball. I’m scrubbing floors: wondering why everyone else gets to dance and make it look so easy. I’m a little angry and confused that I’m almost forty years old and STILL DEALING WITH THIS SHIT. Why I don’t have all of this figured out yet. Why I can’t just get on with it already. It’s exhausting, to tell you the damn truth. And embarrassing. But it’s real. The before it’s fixed part is real. The storm before the calm is real. The during is as holy as the after. And it’s okay. It’s a good place to start.
So: here’s the good news. I know what to do when I get all jacked up. I made an appointment with my therapist. I started back to yoga. I’m taking it easy on the elliptical—reminding myself that if I use it every time I get anxious, every time the fire starts inside of me: I’ll never get off of it. I need different strategies to deal with my fire. Strategies that don’t make me disappear. Because despite every lie we hear from every seller of things on Earth: it is not a woman’s job to get smaller and smaller and take up less and less space until she disappears so the world can be more comfortable.
And I’m eating again. I’m reminding myself that there is no prize for she who denies her hunger, her humanity the longest. I am reminding myself that life is not an exercise in maintaining control. It’s just not. Life is a feast and she who sits out the feast to follow the underneath rules of the world just misses the hell out.
So that’s good, right? It’s a start. We don’t have a crisis in leadership. It’s just that leaders are human and your leader of Momastery and Together Rising is ESPECIALLY, JUICILY, and UNAPOLOGETICALLY HUMAN. And she’s doing her damnedest to use her fire to light the world instead of burn herself up. And she knows how. She does. She forgot for a minute but now she remembers and so she is not afraid.
Remember. Don’t be afraid. Begin Again.
Since I have decided to live out loud and put my art into the world, you are free to respond how you’d like to. You are an artist too, with your response. We are always creating. Every word we speak or write either says: LET THERE BE LIGHT or Let there not be. It’s a big responsibility: responding to people’s pain in a way that unleashes light.
If you’re interested, here are some responses that make people like me feel loved, and some responses that don’t:
Perhaps avoid saying things like: Yes. Yep. I noticed you looked really skinny. I’ve been so worried about you. That makes me feel stupid, like everyone’s been on a secret I just found out about and the secret is me. Even if it’s true, it’s just not helpful.
Maybe avoid commenting on my appearance or physical or mental health at all.
Things that are helpful:
Vulnerable sharing of your own experiences in this arena of food and weight and body and being a woman in a culture that offers many, many confusing messages to women.
Sharing of non- gimmicky things that help you when anxiety takes over, when you feel like life is just TOO MUCH for a spell.
Gratitude for my commitment to fighting out loud.
Simple love. That’s the best offering. So much light in love.
*Consider speaking only when you can improve the silence.
Author of the New York Times Bestselling Memoir CARRY ON, WARRIOR
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