Why I Train
"I volunteer to pull out of this. It is becoming too much work to set this up."
This was the text I received from a gentleman in Seattle when he discovered that I was not up for just meeting then immediately going somewhere and having sex with him. He followed up by telling me that it was too much drama and work already. He told me all that he needed was stress relief.
This is the kind of shit that makes me concerned for humanity. I mean, why even bother meeting someone? Just turn on the computer, go on over to Tumblr, and look at all the millions of free porn blogs there. Get some stress relief that way. Don't use another person for it! That is a waste of a person!
Which brings me back to me, as it always does. I want to be in a place where this shit does not bother me. I want to be in a place where when this happens, I can know that it has nothing to do with me, and everything to do with who he is. I want this to not hurt my feelings, but, alas, it does.
That is why I train. I train my mind; not my brain necessarily, but my gut, my heart and my brain, interactively to react differently. If I don't I will react emotionally. I will believe that the flaw is in me. And while I am all for embracing and loving my flaws, I am not into taking on someone else's idea of who I should be because it is convenient for them. That just pisses me off and starts me down a very dark, ugly path.
So I train, because in a sense, I have been brainwashed. I have been brainwashed into believing that in order to be lovable, I must be perfect. Being human is off the table. I must have my hair a certain way, I must wear a certain type of clothing, I must be a certain weight, and behave in a way that is not a problem for anyone. Cellulite? Oh, hell no. And my eyebrows? They must look perfect. The number of things society asks of me, and of women, and yes, men too, is exhausting. I used to try to do it. For a short while, I believed I would be loved more thoroughly and by more people if I looked a certain way.
You know what? I was miserable. Two hours to get ready every morning does not a happy woman make. Feeling miserable every day helped me to see a basic truth of life, and I have stuck to it ever since. It doesn't matter how many people love you, nor does it matter how deeply their love goes, if you are not being yourself. If you do not feel good being who you are, if it is a pain in the ass to do everything you think you need to in order to be palatable, you will have no ability to feel that love.
That is why I forgive people who tell me I look too much like a man, or that I am too thin, or my nose is too big, my tits are too small, or my ass is too ginormous. Those people are brainwashed, and they think no better of themselves than they do of me. And THAT is the real pain. That so many people believe that they have to twist themselves up into something that approximates perfection is profoundly damaging,. because it damages them, it damages society. it damages any chance we have at creating a community of supportive and loving people who root for each other instead of tearing each other down.
Wanna know why so many women are competitive with each other? They are caught up in a society that tells them that they are not allowed to be human. This puts them in a cage of sorts, and a person in a cage is almost incapable of supporting someone who is free. They want company in that cage. I don't blame them. That cage is a shithole.
It is not that I am against make-up, or heels or dresses or long-ass nails or any of that stuff. A lot of women rock that shit and look good and feel good doing it. And that is a beautiful, wonderful thing. But it does not have to be the only beautiful wonderful thing. It can be just one kind of beautiful thing in a field of other equally wonderful and beautiful things.
All this is why I train. I train myself to have compassion, for myself, and for others. I can forgive the guy telling a woman who I truly adore that she has to wear spanx under her wedding dress...after I get over wanting to tear his arms off of his body. Because what he needs is love, acceptance, and the message that he too is trying to live up to an unattainable standard that is making him miserable. You might argue that he needs a swift kick in the ass, or a tongue lashing, but I guarantee you, it is not love that got him to this judgmental, pain-filled point, it was most likely more the latter.
We don't need to be perfect. What we need is to be human. So I celebrate, support and cheer that everywhere I go. I am not interested in everyone looking the same, acting the same, saying the same shit. I am interested in the chaos of a culture that thrives on diversity. I am interested in what could happen if we were allowed to follow our hearts. I am interested, finally, in a human experience; not a perfect experience.
So I will keep training. I will not waste the experience of another person because I need to let off steam. I will not blame people because they cannot see beyond their own pain to be kind. But I absolutely-every-mother-fucking-time will stand with you when you need me. I will celebrate you when you stand in your own skin and smile at me. I will, finally, allow you to be as human as you need to be.
And I will love you for it.
Is this the kind of message that you think is better kept a secret? Then do not share it. BUT, if you think this is the kind of shit that might make the world a better place, do me a favor and send it to the people you love. Hell, send it to the people who have the potential to be one of the people you love! Changing the world will take a group effort. So help me out. Help the world out. It needs it.
You Don't Have to Get Naked
"People take your naked body so literally." I looked across the table at my date, and shortly after being offended, I realized he was right. I had been discussing my desire to help people be more confident within themselves, starting with their bodies. My date was suggesting that people might be somewhat freaked out that I might ask them to get naked.
I have been doing this project for six months now, and I realize, more now than ever, that it is not my body that is the point. It is not that it is a challenge to come up with inspiring phrases. It is not that I am putting them on social media on several different platforms in order to encourage and inspire.
While this is all important to me, it is not the point. The point, is that on every level, we are scared to reveal ourselves. Not necessarily our bodies, but our souls, our thoughts, our hearts. This is what is truly challenging; to admit to your deepest desires, and your most terrifying fears.
There are so many things that I will never be. There are so many places that I will never see. But I am free to choose, and that, to me, is the only freedom I need. I am very afraid I will not be accepted. I am scared to death I will be criticized. I worry constantly about what other artists think of my work. I worry about failure. I ruminate for hours on how painful it would be to be betrayed. I do. But, I have a choice and I have history and some experience to help inform my decisions, I can let these fears and anxieties control my behavior, or, I can push past them; I can live beyond them.
I ask myself how vulnerable I want to be. How much do I want to share? How much will sharing my pain help other people? I am not hoping to get everyone taking naked selfies. I am not hoping to have people do what I do. I am hoping that in their own way, people will find a way to be vulnerable, even if it is only incrementally. Even if it is only with themselves. I am hoping that I can inspire people to be naked by being more honest, more authentic. More human.
I have made this practice, this very personal and meaningful practice, public because I believe that the very demonstration of courage will help inspire others to be courageous in their own way with whatever they are ready to do. And that is the point. That you do what you are ready to do. You do not have to rush. You do not have to pressure yourself into doing anything you are not ready for. And being ready does not mean it is easy. It does not mean that you are completely comfortable. It means that you have what you need to handle what might or might not happen. That is all. It is not a guarantee. It is a risk.
This naked selfie project is still a risk for me. That is why I continue. I keep finding new ways to expose myself as I am ready. I keep finding ways to take risks. I keep finding myself in this project and finding that I am not as scary, deep down, as I thought I was. I am not as horrible as I once believed myself to be. I am finding new ways to love and accept myself. That is why this is a practice. Because I am within, and I am attempting to draw myself out.
Be just who you need to be, and when you are ready, see how much more you are. Discover how much more you can possibly be. Surprise yourself with your depth, your vulnerability. Show us your human side. We need you.
Whenever you are ready.
If you hit the Tweet or FB button, this information magically flies through tubes and tunnels and goes to other places on the internets. Seriously. This shit happens EVERY DAY. Hit one of those buttons and watch the magic happen!
The Memory of My Body
I still remember the first time I tied my shoes. I was so proud of what I had done! I was so happy I felt like I could fly. I remember the first time I rode my bike without training wheels, too. I remember the first time I hit a baseball, the bat's vibration stinging in my surprised hands. I remember the first time that I threw a perfect spiral. I remember the first time I did a handstand, a back flip, a somersault, I remember the first time I beat my brother in a race. I was so amazed at what my body could do. I was so proud of it. I loved my body.
I also remember the first time my body kept me from something. I was playing baseball with the boys. I was eleven and I was developing. The coach took one look at me and told me I couldn't play because I was a girl. My father argued with the coach, telling him that I was better than most of the boys. It didn't matter. My dad was pissed. I was mortified at my body. And it would not be the last time.
Since that day, I have been discounted for being a woman, for being a girl. I have been objectified, belittled, and otherwise marginalized. For a long time, it pissed me off. I thought it was some external battle I had to wage against the men of the world. I believed that the way I felt about my body and myself was wholly on other people.
But I was altogether wrong. At about 43, I realized that there was so much about myself, about my body, that I did love, so much about what I could do that was unique, significant and special, that the thing I had to work on, the thing I had to change, was how I let the world's brainwashed opinion effect me. I realized that I had to go from being reactive to being proactive. I realized that the only person who had to love my body was me. That the only experience of my body that mattered was my own.
From then on, instead of reacting to the way certain men treated me at work, instead of engaging with them on their level, I decided to not engage, to pull back, and to treat them like misbehaving dogs; just ignore them. I realized at a certain point that their bad behavior was not a reflection of my value, but a reflection of what they believed theirs to be, and I allowed them to have that.
I decided that all the messaging that I have access to, I can turn off. I can stop buying. I can shut it out. I can call bullshit. I can also prepare myself for it before I see it. I can set my mind to knowing full well that I am valuable beyond measure. I am beauty incarnate. I am unique in a way that must be celebrated. I do not need to compare myself to anyone else because in every situation, it is apples and oranges.
We are all a combination of skills, abilities and talents. A multitude of integrity, courage and depths unknown. We are connected in this way. We all have so much in us. We all have potential.
The trick is going forward behaving as if we have value, because to some extent, we have all been treated as if we don't, men and women alike, and we are all just trying to get past this. We are all trying to get past the programming that tells us that we are not good enough, programmed by people who thought that they were not good enough. People who could not see beyond their pain.
We must learn to see beyond our pain. We must find a way to rise above our fears. There is no other way. Fighting each other will not solve it. This must come from within. This one thing, this determined focus for our betterment, must be our practice. It must be our practice to stop fighting each other; to stop fearing each other. There is nothing outside of us that is more frightenting than what is contained within; but we distract ourselves by telling a different story.
The distraction throughout our history has been a story of the other; fear the other. Hate the other. Anyone who does not look like you, think like you, buy shit like you, cannot be trusted. People who have less, people who have more, people who believe in different gods than you are seen as threats. As if the other is not in some way linked to you. The other distracts you from yourself; from the fear that you have regarding what is inside of you. The truth of this is painful; hard to accept, but true nonetheless.
As for my body, I do love it. Even as I watch it age, I am grateful for it. I have had an extraordinary life thus far, and seeing that has made my life that much better. I have come from a place of self-loathing to this, and in order to not fall back there, I take time for myself, before my day starts, to set myself up for success. I know that if I am going to believe in myself, I must use Jedi-like mind strength and ward off the invasive forces that seek to make me doubt my value. This is the unfortunate way the world is. For now.
But, if the individual can choose out of love instead of fear who they want to be, if people can truly love and accept themselves, they will be able to do this for each other. The fear of the other will vanish. That is my goal. To eradicate the fear of the other.
When I die, I want the memory of my body to be of a strength that was impervious to hate and fear. I want the memory of my body to be of a strength that was based in love.
This is the deal. If the world is gonna change in the way I feel I can, I am going to have to ask you to share this in whatever way that you can. Tweet it. FB it. Email it to a friend. Cut and paste the link. Send it to people who can put it in from of other people. Let's work together on this one, people.
Since my early twenties, I have had a secret emotional problem. When I say problem, I mean it has come close to ending relationships. It has definitely ended friendships. The emotion has left me helpless in its grip so many times, that I have started to wonder if I will die cold and alone in a house full of dogs. Because cats will eat my eyes out when I die and I can't abide that.
I have tried everything; therapy, energy work, digging and discovering the root of the problem. I have entered into an open relationship with the intent of working this issue out. But it has not abated, and I can tell you why. I have not admitted to it. Not to my partner or anyone who matters. I have hidden it deep in my cellar, where it has grown moldy and fetid, hoping that no one would notice, knowing that visitors to my home do smell something funny, but are too polite to ask about it.
But I am finally exhausted. I have finally had enough. I am giving up and going ahead and admitting to the world that sometimes, I am a small person. Sometimes, when women pay a special kind of attention to my fella in front of me, it makes me crazy. Sometimes, when my fella flirts with women, I feel a rage boil up within me that I know I will not be able to contain or hide. Sometimes, when I feel like I am not being considered or appreciated, I get extraordinarily anxious, frightened, I would say even panicked.
The thing is, my fella has shown no sign whatsoever that he would leave me for someone. I know intellectually that he loves me, that he holds me above all others in his heart. My jealousy is completely and utterly based upon experiences in my youth which I was helpless to do anything about. So I have decided to turn this burden into a gift. I have decided to do two things:
I know that from past experience, any secret I have ever kept has caused some type of problem in my life. There really is no such thing as secrets. Especially when it comes to emotions. Anything you try to bury comes out in some other way, usually unexpectedly and almost always in a way that is incredibly damaging.
This is not to say that I am no longer jealous, I am. But I am free from having to hide it. I am free from having to act in a way that is counter to how I am feeling. I am free from treating myself like I don't have a right to my feelings. I am not giving myself the room to be all of who I am, and in so doing, not allowing myself the absolute freedom to deal with it. I am behaving as if I do not deserve to be loved.
This is what the hard stuff takes, and by hard stuff, I mean the stuff you do over and over in your life, creating the same bad result for yourself and everyone else around you. You have something like that? Yeah, that is because you are punishing yourself with it by trying to hide it from people. You are in denial and it is damaging you. You are keeping your secret from the open air of love and it cannot oxidize. It cannot change. Suffocating your emotions will not kill them. Suffocating your emotions gives them a reason to find another way out; in the form of angry outbursts, passive aggressive behavior, and outright shittiness.
If I can inspire you in this endeavor, I would very much like to. Please, please please let your shortcomings out for air. Admit to them. The part of you that is keeping it a secret is your ego and is not working in your best interest. In 2016, I encourage you to let your secrets out into the air of love so they can oxidize. Give your shittiness up to the world. Embrace it. Address it. Love it.
Love even the smallest, shittiest parts of yourself in 2016. Why? Cause what you are doing now isn't working, is it?
Hey! Share this brave message with your world. Tweet it, FB like it, email it to a friend. Let them know that even if they think they should hide something, you will accept whatever they got. 2016 is no time to be timid in this regard.
Some of the hardest things I have ever heard have come out of my brother's mouth. Some of the shittiest, toughest, meanest words. But, some of these words, while tough to hear, have put me on a path to freedom. They have put me on a path to independence.
The first time was when I was nineteen. I had finished making a large, nine panel collage that I was quite proud of. I had spent many hours cutting and gluing colorful and shocking pictures out of magazines ranging from Art in America to Ladies Home Journal to National Geographic. A friend of mine who worked at a local frame shop had supplied the frames for it. This piece was the first multi-day, large scale object I had ever made, and I was quite proud of it.
After I finished hanging it up, my brother came to my apartment for a visit. He was visiting from the east coast, where he was attending a culinary school, learning how to be a chef. I was sitting in my pajamas on the awful pine green shag rug in the middle of my living room, staring at my art and feeling very proud of myself when my brother came in, and I asked him what he thought. He looked at me on the floor, at the collage on the wall, back at me, and said, "you know, Sara, sometimes too much complacency can be a BAD thing."
It hit me like a kick in the gut. I had expected that he, like everyone else, would express admiration, love, even pride. But this is not my brother's way. My brother fully believes that there are some things people absolutely need to hear, even if it makes him sound like an asshole when he says it.
Several days later, I realized he was right. I had had time to take stock of my life; I was living in an apartment with two guys in Chicago, waiting on tables, going to a community college, and partying on the weekends. I was living a life of non-direction. I was living a life of non-action. Within three months, I decided to move to Portland. Within eight months, I was gone. It was the first step into a larger world, which I might or might not have taken if my brother had not said what he said to me, and for that I will always be grateful.
The second time was in my twenties. I was visiting my brother and his girlfriend in Chicago, and his phone rang. It was our mom. The phone rang and rang, but he didn't answer it. I was shocked and kinda pissed. For many years, I had been the messenger for my parents with Josh. He didn't talk to them much so they both would ask me how he was, what he was doing, and most importantly, why he wasn't calling them back. It was very frustrating as it made me feel like I was less important, and I also caught a lot of their grief for Josh's behavior because he was smart enough to not be around to answer for it.
We got into a bit of an argument about it, actually. I told him how I always had to tell our parents about him, how they took out their frustrations on me, and how I was sick of deaing with them for him. His response was annoyingly simple." No one is forcing you. I have no desire to deal with them and I don't really want to talk to them." It was stunning to me, that my brother had the presence of mind to make this decision for himself. I always answered the phone calls of my parents; my entire family for that matter. I honestly never thought to not answer. I never thought to just let it ring and to talk to my parents when I was good and damn well ready.
From that moment on, I felt free to choose not to. I felt free to have my own space. My perspective shifted in a way that shook me. It was a liberating moment that changed the rest of my life, and still does, even to this day. It was the first time I realized I could set boundaries with anyone I wanted to in order to get some space and some sanity.
These are just two of the conversations I have had with my brother that have freed me. Two of the conversations that have changed me so that I could handle my life with more confidence and less dependence on others. I have had many other conversations of varying lengths and depths, but these two are important because they taught me larger lessons about life and how to be aware of the choices I make. They helped me understand that I am in charge of my own happiness.
Very recently, I made a video about mentors and role models. Princess Leia was my example.
While Princess Leia taught me a lot about how a woman could be, my brother taught me a lot about how a human could be. You see, I had never seen my brother as lucky that he was a boy. I never saw him as having an advantage due to being a male. In fact, in my house, it was quite the opposite. In almost every situation, my brother got the raw deal, and I usually ended up getting the deal that was just a little bit more cooked. My brother had learned more from being treated so poorly, and I knew it. He had to for his own survival.
When he said these hard things to me, I listened. I reflected. I put my pain aside and decided to listen to the message. He was one of the first people to do this for me; trust in the strength of our relationship enough to tell me something that would help me. Risk a bit of pain up front to hopefully make the big picture better. I learned from my brother that this was something you could do for people you love, maybe even people you only care about.
That is why I have decided that 2016 is The Year of Speaking Dangerously. It is the year I will handle my fear of rejection and say what needs to be said anyway. It is the year I will listen with my heart and not my head. It is the year I will say what I believe needs to be said in order to make the world a more just and wonderful place. How about you? What are you doing to improve yourself and the world you live in?
Happy New Year! Share this! Send it to a friend! FB share or Tweet it out! Do what you can to make New Year's Day a day of change.
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