Why I Don’t Hate My Body / Story #2

Story #2 in the Body Positive Story Collective.  Thank you for sharing Marianna.  Your story is so beautiful and inspiring, as are you.  Let’s stop body shaming.

Why I don’t Hate my Body

by Marianna Dorn


The short answer: because it’s what I got, through thick and thin. Just to be clear, it’s been mostly thick. I am only saying that so you can get the whole picture, because I really don’t think there’s anything wrong with being big. Although everyone and everything might tell me otherwise—media, doctors, even perfect strangers. Sometimes friends will even unintentionally body shame me when they talk about how huge their own bodies are. They might say things like “oh, but you’re not that much bigger than me.” Bitch, please: you and I both know I’ve got 50+ pounds on you, and it’s fine.

I owe a lot of my positive self-image to my mom. As a biology teacher, she taught me early on that what we see when we look in the mirror is just a bunch of dead skin cells. We cover it with make-up, style our hair in the latest fashions, but all we’re doing is just making dead stuff more “attractive.” It’s a biologist’s way of saying “it’s what’s on the inside that counts.” Unlike many mothers, as I’ve learned recently, she never talked about how big her hips were, nor was she constantly dieting. She did make home cooked, well balanced meals for us, and encouraged us to play sports and be active. Most importantly, she’s never discussed my body size with me, even when I’ve lost weight. If I bring it up, she’ll just ask if I feel healthy, and reiterate that that’s what’s important.

For the past 3 and a half years I’ve lived in a country where women cover their bodies almost completely. It’s not mandatory by any means, but cultural preservation and modesty is hugely important here–for men and women both. I think about its implications on a regular basis, and still don’t know what’s best. Sometimes I think it must be so liberating to wear something that ideally makes women less of a sex object. However, in practice, wearing the abaya here does just that, by showing others that you are modest, and therefore, an ideal marriage partner (ie, fuckable). A woman, particularly outside of the city, who doesn’t cover would have less of a chance finding a suitor.

In the west, women (and men) do the same. By uncovering our bodies, we literally show potential partners what they could have. As a result, there is such a societal pressure for everyone to have the, often unattainable, and unhealthy, “perfect body,” because *gasp* we might not find a partner otherwise.

This is just absurd to me. Firstly, humans have overcome trials and burdens of all sorts, and we still can’t break away from our most basic need to attract one another. It’s so forefront that we are willing to take drastic measures to alter our appearance, even when we are in loving, supportive partnerships. Of course, businesses love this. Think about it: if everyone woke up tomorrow morning believing they were beautifully made, the world’s economy would completely crash. Secondly, even if this ultimate desire remains, why do we think of ourselves as so undesirable all the time? Think about all the men and women you know: big, small, ugly, beautiful. Are any of them incapable of being loved simply because of how they look? So why is it that when we look in the mirror at ourselves all we see is our imperfections, when literally everyone we know in our lives is getting it in (and I mean that in the most fully realized way).

I know it’s not always easy. I sometimes feel the need to prove to others that I am not a lazy binge eating slob.  For example, if I run into someone at the supermarket I will sometimes point out that I am shopping for fresh veggies, maybe cheese, but never a whole cart full of cookies and chips, as I imagine they must think. Then I remind myself that what they think about my body size (if they think of my body size at all), literally has nothing to do with me or my body, and has more to do with their own insecurities.

Also, clothes shopping can, quite literally, be a pain in the ass as a large woman, since 90% of the usual shops have no clothes in my size. If they do, it’s in a special “plus size” section with clothes that are often, in my opinion, made to make me look bigger and older than I really am. Basically, the fashion industry makes us bigger women feel like if we’re going be fat, then we should wear potato sacks so everyone can see how terrible we must look and feel. Therefore, I only shop online at a few select stores that have clothes I know make me look and feel as beautiful as I really am.

It’s hard to feel good about your body all the time when everything you see and everything you hear seems to be about size, but when I look in the mirror I usually see a shiny, beautiful looking young woman staring back at me. I remember how gorgeous I really am, and I say aloud “Damn girl! You’re fine as hell.” I forget all those bad things I was thinking earlier, and I just go through my day knowing that I am a queen.

dsc_1017Momma Lynn & Marianna Dorn

Why I decided to stop hating my body


I decided to stop hating my body.  I came to the conclusion that the reasons I had for hating it weren’t fair.  My body hadn’t actually done anything wrong.  It hadn’t done anything deserving of the loathing and disgust with which I treated it.  The reasons I hated my body were attributed to the feast served up by the media and society; the feast we all willingly and unquestionably ate.  Reminiscent of the feast The Lost Boys dreamt up in ‘Hook’.  A feast filled with glossy, pink, tight-skinned super models.  Eat this diet, drink this drink, buy all these products that cost way too much money, to attempt to look like someone you will NEVER look like.  Oh, and when none of it works – hate your body.   At 10 years old, I ate it up.  My peers did too, which normalized it.  But watching the generations of women before me devour it too, that’s what gave us permission.  They all hated their bodies.  But now that I’m a grown-up, I see the feast for what it is; what it isn’t and I actually haven’t enjoyed hating my body all these years.  So I stopped.

I stopped hating my body because why hate the very thing that holds me together?  The actual unit that makes me, me?  The tiny pieces and parts that make me who I am.  Why should I exert feelings of rejection, criticism and hatred towards my own landscape?  The geography of my soft, brown skin flecked with a field of freckles and moles that exists only to blanket my muscles and bones.  The same skin which when exposed, soaks in vitamins from the sun, vital to my organs and my mental well-being.  This freckled, hairy geography mapped with an expansive network of river-like nerves that when touched: awaken, communicate, respond, tickle and tingle.  Nerves that say so much without speaking; so powerful they can arrest my whole being, and weaken my knees to a full surrender with the slightest neck whisper.  It’s pure magic, this skin.  I do not hate you skin.  You weather as I weather.

I trace the lines around my smile; around my eyes and they tell the story of all the best laughs and joys I have ever experienced.  Smile lines only come from smiling.  I replay the filmstrip in my head of the best laughs I have ever had.  I love you smiles lines.  You remind me of happy.  Thirty-six years of smiling and laughing.  What a beautiful flag.  I do not hate you.  You represent the people, places and moments that etched these lines on my face and I smile some more.

I trace the lines on my forehead.  Several long, wavy paths formed from the rising and falling of my worried, anxious brow.  These paths carry secrets only few know.  Trapped within their fold are the great traumas and terrible griefs, worries, deep pain, fears, anger, frustration and disappointments.  Like tree rings.  They grow deeper every year, as every year collectively seems heavier.  My feelings dragging a hoe across my forehead, tucking the seeds of my secrets into the lines.  There’s a sense of permanence.  I guess nothing really ever goes away.  The scary, difficult, traumatic moments leave a mark and it changes us.  Like the sand on a beach is changed and reshaped by the waves and tides, the lines on my face are like sand after a rogue wave.  The wave has gone, but the sand is different.  I do not hate you forehead wrinkles.  You remind me that those memories of grief and trauma did not kill me.  Yes, they changed me and let a mark, but I survived.  I accept you as part of my story; part of my body.  You represent struggle and hardship.  But without you, I wouldn’t know victory, stamina or success.  I wouldn’t know freedom and peace.  I will massage you gently with night cream and hope for sweet dreams, but I do not hate you.  You are part of me and I love you.

The lavender-colored scar just beneath my breast tells the story of a sobering lump removal; holding my breath – unsure of biopsy results when I was just 18 years old.  But the scar reminds me all was well, all is well, and I am grateful for my health and my breasts everyday since. I am also grateful to have had these breasts with which I fed my babies.  All those years I hated them for never growing up.  I’m so sorry.  I never should have scolded you, it was cruel.  All the times I looked in the mirror and hated my body because I didn’t have more of what I thought would make me beautiful.  I was wrong.  And to all the boys who measured my worth and desirability by my cup size – fuck you.  You all were wrong.  My breasts, you still gave, you sacrificed so much despite the years of hatred I flung at you.  It was wrong.  I was wrong.  The boys were wrong.  The magazines were wrong.  The sexualization of large breasts is wrong.  To the one who made me keep my shirt on when we made love because he said my breasts turned him off – he was wrong.  I’m sorry I listened to him.  I’m sorry I wasn’t proud of you.  I’m sorry I didn’t defend you.  I am no longer ashamed of you.  I am no longer masking or hiding your shape.  You nourished my babies and it was wrong of me to criticize you.  It was wrong to attach my beauty, worth, or desirability to my cup size.  Now I am proud of what I am.  The landscape of my chest, forever changed by the gift and honor of childbirth, nursing and age.  A monument I am proud of, not ashamed of: my breasts.  Perhaps unattractive to some, but altogether perfect, whole and beautiful to me.  I accept you as you are.  Forgive me for hating you and blaming you for all the shallow losers who passed me up because they couldn’t see your appeal, your natural beauty.  I got you girls.  You do you.  I love you just as you are and I will speak kindly to you and buy you pretty things to make you feel sexy.  You deserve it.

Then there’s the nude colored crooked-smile-like cesarean scar that digs deep into my abdomen and aches when it rains.  It aches when I sneeze or exercise.  The scar that feels so deep that I think the scalpel must have poked my soul.  Peeking up from my bikini line, this monumental scar marks the beginning of the epic story of my brave, half-hearted, angel-haired baby girl.  Cut through muscle, tissue, womb and pulled bloody and violently from my body, she breathed her first breath.  She lay on my chest to receive her first kiss from my chapped lips; a welcoming; an I love you; a christening before they took her away for her own first surgery.  Oh my stretched, weathered, beautiful belly, I do not hate you.  Broken with stretch marks; the cracks where my skin stretched so fast with the growth of new life inside.  How could I hate you?  You did what you did to make room for my greatest treasures.  Thank you for your sacrifice.  These tracks represent a courage my body had, that my mind did not.  The courage to change.  The courage to grow and make room.  To sacrifice and adjust for a hidden wonder.  The unknown.  If we have to think about something hard or scary or risky too much, our brains typically don’t want to sacrifice or hurt or sign-up for painful stretching.  But my body just went for it.  It is so brave.  I am so proud of my stretch marks.  Acts of courage.  I am proud of my cesarean scar.  I am proud of my changed belly button and my widened hips.  You are all so brave.  My beautiful broken skin, so graceful and patient to bring forth the story of me and my children.  So brave.  So sacrificial.

My kind, beautiful body.  I have stopped hating you.  I’m sorry it took me so long.  Forgive me for my criticism.  Forgive me for always comparing you to unrealistic standards.  No, you’re not 25 any longer, and you never will be again and that’s ok.  I love you now.  We are one, you are mine and I am yours.  You are a beautiful novel that tells the story of me.  The true story of me.  All of it integrated: bright smile; deep scars.

I will defend you.  I will own you and wear you proudly.  We will be free together.  Unapologetic and content.  I will care for you and take you out and not be ashamed.  I will keep my chin up, my shoulders back, and my booty out.  I’m sorry it took me so long to see that you’re my friend and you need me to be kind to you.  I understand now and I love you just as you are.

I stopped hating my body, y’all.

I stopped allowing society to define beauty for me.  I won’t compare my body to other bodies.  That’s your body, not my body.  Hey, yours looks great!  Mine does too!  Yay  we’re beautiful!  I decided that if my heart and mind are allowed to mature and change with time, as they do, why can’t I give permission to my body to mature and change as well?  I can and I will.  I will no longer compare my body to other people’s bodies, my past body, or put unreal expectations on it to be what it isn’t.  I will nurture it and love it today, just as it is.

I also decided that I’m done letting men define beauty.  Beauty is so much more than a nice pair of tits, long slender legs, a flat tummy and a bouncy booty.  Beauty is not sex and sex is not beauty.  Nudity doesn’t have to be sexual.  The over-sexualization/stimulation of nudity, tits, and booty are the driving force behind most women perpetually criticizing and hating what they have.  Yet these things are defined as beautiful or sexual – BY MEN.  WTF?  Let’s make our own definition of beauty, ladies!  Also, sex is not love.  A man may want to have sex with you because you got that fine ass and perky boobs, but that doesn’t mean he loves you.  And then you get your panties in a wad because men objectify you.  Hold the phone y’all.  If you don’t wanna be objectified, then define beauty for yourself.  If you know he only wants you for your rack, please reconsider giving him anymore of your precious time.  You’re more than your rack.  Make your own rules and speak up if you’re objectified.  Tell them they’re wrong and they can’t speak to you that way.  I do it all the time.  If you need to talk to someone because you don’t know that your worth is more than your body, please email me.  I’m serious.

For me, the most beautiful people I know are the ones who wear their heart on their sleeve.  The ones who have been through some serious shit and somehow come out the other end WOKE, stronger, teachable, more forgiving, kinder and empathetic.  I think self awareness, compassion, curiosity, empathy and humility are pretty much the most beautiful things that exist.  The stripping off of masks and pretense to reveal a soft, honest vulnerability is hella more sexy than nudity.  Also words.  A brilliantly crafted lyrical bouquet is sexier than anything to me.  Male-defined physical beauty is terribly antiquated.  No one’s worth is their waist or cup size, hair color or height – that’s just stupid.  Think about it.  No one’s worth is defined by the car they drive or the size of the house they live in.  So why should beauty be defined by Barbie, Kim Kardashian or the porn industry.  It’s all fake!  Be proud of what you are and what you have.  If some bozo in your life makes you feel like your worth is your waist or cup size, please offer them a pair of middle fingers.  I’m done letting men define beauty, they’ve done a really shit job.

And if you read my post a few months ago, you already know that I’m done apologizing.  I’m not gonna apologize for my face if you show up at my house and I’m not wearing makeup.  I’m not gonna apologize if I wear pajamas to the grocery store.  I’m not gonna apologize for wearing all black today; it’s on purpose and I like it.  I’m not gonna apologize for being me.  It’s taken me a long time to like who I am and be comfortable in my skin and not hate my body.  So why am I gonna say sorry all the damn time?  Now, if I’m rude or I hurt your feelings or am late – yes, I am sorry.  But when it comes to me being me, I’m done apologizing.

Why cyclically think or speak ill of the miraculous tapestry of calciums, proteins, cells and atoms that weave together to magically make my face, my hair, my fingertips, my butt?  It’s all a perfect miracle.  My body, your body, every body’s body.  You’re an absolute wonder.

Let’s stop body shaming.

Let’s stop letting someone else define our worth and our beauty.

Let’s make brains the new tits.

Let’s all agree that ANY BODY can be a BIKINI BODY.

Let’s spend more money, time and energy on lasting things that will help change us at our core and in turn help change the world, like counseling, education, health, mental health, science, the environment, and charities instead of continuing to fill the already bulging pockets of the Beauty and Cosmetics Industry.

I stopped hating my body.  I did it for me first, and then chose to make it a lifestyle for my daughter and my son.  I want to raise my daughter to 100% know and believe she is whole, perfect and beautiful just the way she is.  And that beauty is more about who she is inside, what she loves, how she cares, and what magic she emits into the world, than how she looks.  I want to raise my son to have a fresh set of standards about beauty that break the antiquated mold.  I want to raise him to be a sensitive, caring, empathetic man who sees deeper than skin and never objectifies a woman.  I know at this point that my children learn more by what I do than what I say.

This is why I stopped hating my body.

Some stats:

  • A woman, halfway through her life, will only achieve half the level of body self-esteem as the average teenage male.
  • Research shows that 70% of women feel pressured by media to have a perfect body.
  • Only 1 in 7 American women feel body positive (happy with their bodies), and about half feel body negative (dissatisfied with their bodies) or body ambivalent (at peace with their imperfections).
  • According to a 2007 study that used MRI technology to monitor brain function, “viewing images – like ones presented by the media – is proven by more than one study to negatively affect healthy cognitive patterns of the audience, which affects the well-being and happiness quotient of the individual.”
  • Worse, a study conducted at Bucknell University found that feelings of body-shame may actually be making women physically sick.
  • Approximately 91% of women are unhappy with their bodies and resort to dieting to achieve their ideal body shape. Unfortunately, only 5% of women naturally possess the body type often portrayed by Americans in the media.
  • Annual 2016 revenue for The Beauty and Cosmetic Industry in the US was $62.46 billion dollars, while Americans spent just $68,307 million on education in 2016.


Stop Body Shaming.  Love your body. I love you.




let’s be real: new year, same me

It’s true, this time last year I sighed a deep sigh and smiled a toothy smile standing on my favorite childhood beach in Florida with my kids and my partner by my side and thought “Thank God that year is over.”  I baptized myself in the briny Atlantic on January 1st, 2016 and with that half-naked holy dunk in frigid waves I theoretically shed the dried, scaly skin of the past year of massive heartache and grief.  I levitated out of the water, sputtering, trembling and proclaimed “NO MORE SHIT YEARS” to myself, to God, to the universe, to the ocean; my soul “Do you hear me?  Are we clear?  Enough is enough.”

Faith is a funny thing.  So is certainty.  There seems to be an infinity number of rugs under each.  So that as soon as my faith is settled, or my certainty is super certain, a rug gets pulled out, and I’m feet up high-in-the-sky, flat on my ass, lying on my back, wondering what just happened.  Maybe that’s what 2016 was for me, the unveiling of the infinity number of rugs.

I read more this year, absorbed more than I think I ever have.  I asked more questions and sought to be more teachable.  So curious about everything.  I exercised my empath muscles cyclically; daily even.  Breathing meditatively as I envisioned myself in someone else’s shoes – cue tears.  A queue of tears.  A trail of tears.  Tears for People of Color.  Tears for ancient Native tribes.  Tears for water.  Tears for land.  Tears for Queers.  Tears for Pulse.  Tears for Aleppo.  Tears for fellow grieving loved ones.  Tears for the losses of too many friend’s Fathers.  Tears for riots.  Tears for misunderstandings.  Tears for my daughter going under the knife again.  Tears for the future.  I cried everyday.

What a year, huh?

Amidst this sinking ship, I am thankful to report that many of us found each other.  Bleeding, naked, broken, lost, sick – and we called out to one another in the groaning, sinking wreckage “Hey!  Me too!  I see you.  I’m with you!  I don’t know what to do, but I’m here.  LOOK, we’re alive!  HA!”  And somehow it saved us.  If only for a day or a moment, or a week even.  We built beautiful, buoyant connection and belonging from the debris of our own sinking ships.

This year I became aware.  2016 taught me that in the midst of groundlessness, if we can swallow our fears and reach out in the fog there will be a hand to hold.

So, no…I don’t resent 2016.  I can agree there was shit and a lot of horrible things went down.  But if you can, take just a moment, take a deep breath, come close.  With a gentle, graceful gaze allow me to crack open my chest cavity, peel back the protective nets and masks to reveal the glimmery, shadowy, misty cavern of my soul.  Shhh  Tread lightly.  You will clearly see that the fires, traumas, losses, and near death experiences; those unimaginable hardships and bleak memories that make up the story of my life are not stone or ash.  No, come look, over time they have become sparkly, radiant gems.  Glassy stalactites and spiraling prismatic crystals.  With the fresh water, friends; that queue of tears I spoke of: of love, knowledge, therapy, connection and belonging, hearing people’s stories, the tears drip-dropping into the cavern of my soul, the hardships, thorns, fires have been washed, worn, pressed and squeezed.  They are no longer coal, but now diamonds.  My most beautiful treasures tucked into the walls of my soul are equally the hardest, darkest things I have ever been through.  My diamonds.  My pearls.

So for this, maybe I sound crazy, but I am thankful for 2016.  From my life experiences, I know better than to separate the list of “good things” from the list of “bad things”.  Instead my list is just “Things”.  For the things that caused pain: be them my own, or the pains of another, the drip-dropping of my tears washed down into my soul and are making pearls of parasites.  I know this is true when I actively reach my hand out in the fog of new wreckage and in the thick of impermanence through vulnerability I find belonging.

I am not #blessed because I have health, money or status.  The way I see it – neither are you.  Does that mean my life is a poop sandwich?  No.  I mean, maybe it appears to be when I carry my comparison lens (or when you look at my life through your comparison lens).  But I smashed mine a long time ago.  If #blessed looks like a mostly magical childhood, turned all your prayers answered with a first class ticket to a great marriage, fantastic health, perfectly born babies, Pinterest home, successful career, A+ clothes, future looks bright in Sudden Valley, California – then yeah…..no.  I am not #blessed and neither are most of the people I know.  But that’s good.  And I’m thankful for years like 2016.  And even 2015 (which was far worse than 2016 for me).

I can find gratitude in the garbage because I know that (eventually) it blooms into gardenias.  It’s not over night – ever.  It never comes without loss.  It never blooms without effort; without work, pruning, gardening, labor metaphor, metaphor, metaphor.  You get it.  Yes!  HAHA!  Hooray!  It’s a brand New Year!  But guess what?!  I am still the same me.  I will continue to be the same me until I choose to help myself; to want to address the ship, the debris, the fog – any of it (you gotta start somewhere).  For me, this process has never been a New Year’s Resolution or a commitment to “30 days to Your Perfect Beach Body”.  No, because these never address the invisible me.  Diets, exercise regimens, facial serums and meditative Bible day-by-day devotions rarely dig deep enough to find the parasites; to address the debris of the ship that sank.

So here I am, January 1st, 2017.  I’m at home in a cozy sweater, drinking a warm cup of tea – recovering from a newly discovered almond allergy.  But I still managed to make myself a body of salty water (the bathtub) in which to be baptized.  And with that fully-naked holy dunk in steamy, lavender, salty bath water, I came up much differently than last year.  I’ve lost the toothy grin and the deep sigh of shrugging off the previous year.  I counted in the mirror, and have approximately 6-8 more grey hairs than I did last year.  And I didn’t ring in the New Year with my middle fingers up in a sparkly dress, heels or red lipstick like I wanted to – I was laid up on the couch bloated and itchy hoping I paid my health insurance premium in case I had to go to the hospital.  But I awoke this morning with a smile, knowing that this is life.  It’s a hard life, but most of it turns out good over time.  Most things are and never will be ideal or #blessed, and that’s entirely ok, if we let it be ok.  This year I’m not proclaiming “NO MORE SHIT YEARS.”  Because who knows – maybe the shit turns into rainbows and I’m vowing off my future rainbows.  I don’t know what will happen, guys….none of us do.  But if I am certain of anything at this point, I do have faith and certainty that no matter what ships sink this year, or what debris you’ve been clinging to for decades, or how thick the fog gets (because we know it will get thick with all this denial of global warming nonsense) – regardless of the impermanence of stuff, people, relationships, beliefs, and even the lives of those we love – I believe we can make something that floats when we hold hands.

Happy New Year.  I love you.


An Open Letter to the Broken-Hearted

An Open Letter to the Broken-Hearted,
(a.k.a. An Open Letter to Myself),
Good morning, beautiful.  You are awake.  You are alive.  Stretch.  Feel your heart beating.  Feel your lungs fill with air.  Feel your body squeeze it out.  Listen to your bones, your blood, your muscles move.  You are a masterpiece.  There is only one you.  You are the perfect combination of all you have seen and been and gone through.  Wonderfully imperfect.  That reflection in the mirror is lovely, imperfect, wonderful, whole.  Good morning, lovely.
Hey, it’s ok to feel pain.  To feel sad or lonely.  It’s ok to feel joy, too.  You don’t need a smooth, soft, fluffy horizon to be ok.  The juxtaposition of this beautiful life is that it is always an aching, yet adventurous challenge.  Would it be free of pain and difficulty, there would never be need of change or growth.  You…in the mirror…it’s ok.  You’ve got this.  Embrace it.
We can surround ourselves with all the comforts, beauty and safety, in hopes to thwart all pain, suffering and difficulty – but it will never blot it out.  There will always be day/night, warmth/cold, good/bad, sickness/health.  And that’s ok.  It’s good, darling.  And when it hits, ride the wave.  When it knocks on the door; it’s big, grizzly self – steady yourself and say “this is hard and scary, but I will be ok”.
Oh, and when it’s hard, Mother yourself and say “it’s ok”.  When you’re scared, Mother yourself and say “it’s ok”.  When you’re hurting, or sick, or anxious, please Mother yourself with a nurturing compassion and a gentle disposition.  Be kind to yourself, dear.
For you are neither burden nor bad news.  Your feelings have feelings. You are, and always will be beautiful and beloved – no matter what feelings are at play in this season.  No matter what you have done, or what has been done to you.
So it goes that life can be both brilliant and blindingly miserable at the same time.  To polarize and solidify our experiences as good, bad, right, wrong – just causes more pain, strife and struggle.  What did I do to deserve this?  No.  You didn’t do anything, no one did.  People don’t deserve bad or hard things, and neither do we deserve good or pleasurable things by way of our good or bad actions.  It’s not about that.  But when we attempt to see the world with synchronicity and accept and embrace what it is, then it’s easier to see that pain is not punishment; neither is pleasure reward – they just are what they are.  And they happen to everyone all the time.
They happen to everyone all the time.
And someday I hope we can see that actually the hard things, when embraced and accepted for what they are – can become the absolute greatest gifts.
You’re not the only one.
You’re not alone.
You’re not crazy, or strange, or lost, or broken.
You’re not a mess.
You’re beautiful; whole as you are right now.
The brave part is choosing to no longer be ashamed.  To no longer feel shame for your being human and having feelings everyone has.  Dear one, it’s ok to be afraid.  Not knowing what to do is also ok.  You don’t need to be ashamed of how you feel.  Sadness and fear don’t make you any less or any more of who you are.  They just are.  Not knowing what’s going to happen is ok.  Questioning what you thought you knew, is actually good.  Most things are rarely what we think they are.  Stay open today.  Stay curious.  Ask questions.  Be teachable.  Ultimate truths and permanence keep tight fists, closed eyes and judgmental hearts.
Recognize today that too much hope and too much fear swallowed in large doses can equally destroy.  We know that fear keeps us from stepping out and being brave and putting out there the real, vulnerable you that you are.  But also, too much hope keeps you only always trying to be better, more, acceptable.  It makes us a slave to the thought that someday I’ll get there, I’ll be more beautiful, stronger, wiser, braver, holier, thinner, healthier, richer, more successful.
When I get ________ I’ll be whole.
When I finally ________ I will be happy.
If I can just _________ then he/she/they will finally love and accept me.
No.  Shhhh.  Rest right now.  Love, embrace and accept who you are today, darling.  And if the “they” in your life don’t, then close a door.
I know it’s hard.  It means silencing a lot of voices that have told you otherwise and you’ve let it settle in; you have believed it all; it has made a home in your heart and how you view yourself.  It’s ok.  Look here, there’s a dry erase board on your heart.  What do you see?  What has been written about you?  What are the things you intrinsically believe about your character; your identity?  How do you believe people see you or feel about you?  Sometimes….I see this:
You are not important.
You are a second thought, to which most people forget about you.
You are not worthy of someone’s time.
You are a mess that people aren’t interested hearing about.
You are too much.
People don’t really care.   
But wait!  What’s this in your hand?  Oh!  It’s the eraser!  These aren’t written in permanent marker…they are just dry erase.  Nothing here is permanent and guess what!?  You can finish the story.  You can decide what is written on your board!  You can decide what to believe about yourself.  This is no one’s responsibility but yours!  OMG!  Who have we given the marker to?  Take it back.  Because you are the author here and you’re allowed to write on your board what is right and true.  Erase the lies.  Change your thinking.
You are incredibly important.
You are not a second thought.
You are absolutely worthy of people’s time.  List their names.
You are not a mess.  People love you and are interested in you.  
List the friends who inquire of your well being daily.
You are only too much to the people who don’t deserve to be close to you.
Close those doors.
People do care, deeply.  Make a list of their names.
Look!  We can change the pattern of belief.  Even if the dry erase board has to be erased daily, YOU always hold the eraser and the markers.  You can always write the truth!
Darling, should you risk it all and show up brave today, may you never resent whether you fall or rise.  For just the act of showing up brave deems you a most courageous creature. The only way we can ever lose is if we don’t step foot into the ring.  Showing up brave does not mean you aren’t afraid, and doesn’t mean you won’t fail.  It means you showed up brave, and you’ve already won – whether you rise or fall.
Maybe you, like I wonder if you might always feel as though you’re in some sort of recovery.  Or if there will be one day when the sac breaks and we feel free of it. When no matter what happens to come our way, we don’t allow our insecurities to shut us down and instead we are able to face it with bravery.  Who knows….but for now let us give our feelings voices and not cages.
Empathy cures shame.
So let us continue to speak openly, in hopes that your heart’s hand, reaches out to someone else’s heart’s hand, simply to say:
You are not alone.
We are not alone.
I see you.
“Me too” is medicine.
It’s ok, even when it’s not ok.
Try and stay in the moment with yourself and your circumstances.  Try not to get sucked up into the fear and anxiety tornado.  Try not to get sedated by numbing it all.  Stay here.  Presence is a present.
All my love to you today, you beautiful, brave soul.  I am proud of you.
Love Always,

I’m not sorry

I try to live by a simple mantra: Choose love. Be kind. Do no harm. Be 100% yourself. With that in mind, I’ve been thinking a lot about how sorry we all are. Erebody all sorry about erethang!  Shout-outs to Beyonce, my therapist, and Brene Brown, for helping me become super aware of how frequently women apologize for stuff. Not to say that men don’t also have an automatic sorry button (auto-sorry for short), but I definitely notice it more frequently with women. Take this recent Pantene commercial:


So true and relatable, right? Is this you? Your bestie? Coworker? Mom?

My friends!!! Why? Why are we apologizing so damn much? Why are we apologizing for basic everyday life things? We apologize to speak.  Or when the barista gets our order wrong and we ask them to remake it. We didn’t do it! Why are we saying sorry for paying $5.99 for a drink we didn’t want? We say sorry when someone else bumps our elbow!? What on earth, y’all?

I should stop here and make it clear that there are lots of very serious moments when genuine apologies are absolutely necessary and vital.  If I have hurt someone emotionally or physically, intentionally or not – it is MY responsibility to say I am sorry.  To verbally acknowledge what I did that hurt them (intentional or not), explain that I will do everything I can to make sure it doesn’t happen again, and then ask what I can do to make it right.  This piece is not about directly hurting others, owning it and making it right.  This piece is about how ‘sorry’ has become a space-filler and how it loses it’s juice as a meaningful word when slapped onto situations where an apology is not necessary.  For the record: Yes, I am absolutely sorry when I hurt others, and I do my best to own my shit, genuinely apologize and make right what I did wrong.  Please know this isn’t an excuse to never be sorry ever again – it’s just a challenge to love yourself enough to see that you don’t have to be sorry for things that aren’t your fault.

I needed to know why sorry has become a space-holder, so I did a little research…

Check it.

In a New York Times article , Sloane Crosley poses some theories as to why women apologize so much.

One theory is that being perceived as rude is so abhorrent to women that we need to make ourselves less obtrusive before we speak up. According to a 2010 study in the journal Psychological Science, “women have a lower threshold for what constitutes offensive behavior,” so are more likely to see a need for an apology in everyday situations. We are even apt to shoehorn apologies into instances where being direct is vital — such as when demanding a raise.

Sloane also suggests this theory…

…..we haven’t addressed the deeper meaning of these “sorrys.” To me, they sound like tiny acts of revolt, expressions of frustration or anger at having to ask for what should be automatic. They are employed when a situation is so clearly not our fault that we think the apology will serve as a prompt for the person who should be apologizing.

It’s a Trojan horse for genuine annoyance, a tactic left over from centuries of having to couch basic demands in palatable packages in order to get what we want. All that exhausting maneuvering is the etiquette equivalent of a vestigial tail.

These sorrys are actually assertive. Unfortunately, for both addresser and addressee alike, the “assertive apology” is too indirect, obscuring the point. It comes off as passive-aggressive — the easiest of the aggressions to dismiss.

So look at this! Saying “sorry” is actually a tiny form of manipulation. Where we thought we sounded so polite and were trying to be all sweet, it turns out we’re actually indirectly being passively aggressively assertive! When we’re apologizing, we’re passively looking for some form of validation or follow-up from the one we’re addressing.

For instance, I know if I apologize for not wearing make-up in front of my close friends, they’re going to immediately shower me with all the things I’d want to hear “OMG you don’t NEED make-up!” “You always look beautiful!” “Stop it! You’re perfect!”


In a TIME article written by Jessica Bennett she beautifully unveils the awful ‘Sorry’ habit…

Sorry is a crutch — a tyrannical lady-crutch. It’s a space filler, a hedge, a way to politely ask for something without offending, to appear “soft” while making a demand. It falls in the same category as “I hate to ask” or “I know this is a stupid question” or another version of “No offense, but” or ending your statements with a question. It’s bled into our text messages (“sorrrrrryy!!!!!!”), our emails (“SO SORRY for the delay”), our emoji (you know, the bashful “eeek” face), and our workplaces. Even the rise of “sorry-not-sorry” — a joke, and hashtag, that implies I’m saying sorry but I don’t really mean it — is couched in apology. (Can’t we even own the apology–or the insult?!)

No offense, but..

“Sorry is a ritualized form meaning something like, ‘I hope this is O.K. with you,’” says Robin Lakoff, a linguist at University of California, Berkeley, and author of the famous linguistic text from the 1970s, Language and Woman’s Place. “It lets people — especially women — get away with saying what the other person doesn’t want to hear.”

Appearing to be soft while making a demand! Wow! Did you have any idea? I have long wondered what the subconscious psychology was behind all the sorry’s and now I am starting to see. It’s kinda like that back-handed “God bless your heart” Southern-shaming tactic. When we sorry our way through life it apparently means we’re being softly assertive, but we’re afraid of offending others so it isn’t direct. We want to make sure that what we’re about to do or say is ok with our audience. Which isn’t totally awful, until we stop to think about what we’re losing in the process of being so sorry all the time.

Saying I’m sorry for not wearing make-up says “Is my face acceptable? Is this ok? I don’t mean to offend anyone, but here’s my face God gave me without pretty colors on it. Sorry.” Why do I need the acceptance of others to show my naked face? See where I’m going here? I could be wrong, but I think, if I can begin the great journey of learning to love myself without the acceptance of others, then I won’t be apologizing for my face anymore. Or my outfit. Or my latte that the barista got wrong. If I can begin to value me as me, then I won’t feel the need to apologize so much – for simply existing.

There’s a hilarious ‘Inside Amy Schumer’ sketch where fictitious women of prestige on an interview panel keep chronically apologizing throughout their interviews, to the point of one’s demise. It’s hysterical and disturbing because these women who had found a cure for cancer are apologizing for simply speaking. It’s so funny because unfortunately it’s so true.

Ladies, I think we need to stop being so sorry all the time.

Recently, one my best friends tragically lost her Dad. It was extremely hard for her to be social while she was grieving – especially in those first initial weeks. I didn’t want her to be sorry that she just couldn’t bring herself to hang out. She doesn’t need to be sorry for crying and grieving and needing as much time as possible to feel her feelings.


A few weeks ago, I hung out with a new friend for the first time. There was an annoying fly that wanted so desperately to be apart of our conversation. Every time it flew by us, my friend apologized. After awhile I asked her “Did you invite the fly in?” Of course she said “No”. “Then you don’t need to be sorry about it. It’s just a fly. It’s not your fault. We can work together to get rid of it!” At that point the fly became a joke and when I saw her next I asked if she had made a guest room for it, or if it had moved on. Thankfully it either died or flew out.

Let’s not be sorry for things we didn’t choose for ourselves or things we cannot control. The truth is, the fly got in because my friend is a Mother to dozens of urban kids in her neighborhood who don’t have stable homes. She feeds them and counsels them and provides a consistent warm embrace. The fly got in because her door is always open to those in need. Not sorry.

I have another friend who gets bad anxiety in big social settings.  I was selling cookies at an event she attended and upon seeing me she tucked behind me and apologized for needing a minute to breathe because she was feeling socially anxious.  I told her she was safe, I understood her anxiety, and she could hang out behind my table and chair as long as she needed and I would fetch her a drink.  It’s not her fault she gets anxious in social settings.  No need to be sorry.

A different kind of sorry.  One of my best friends went through a super traumatic shit storm a few years ago where very delicate and personal pieces of his life were carelessly exposed to his community, and in turn much of this community demanded an apology from him.  The truth is, what went on in his personal life was actually none of anyone’s damn business.  They had heard it through the gossip grapevine, taken offense, chosen judgement, and instead of embracing him during this trying time, they shamed him and demanded apologies even though what he had gone through had absolutely nothing to do with them.  If he did decide to be sorry for anything to anyone, that was his own business.  If you’re being feared or shamed into a sorry – don’t do it.

My life the past 7 years has been all kinds of crazy. I’m not ready to fully disclose the hardest stuff yet, but I’ll just say it’s been really tough. When one trauma has just begun to heal and then another shit storm hits without warning it makes it hard to know where to start. But I’m working on it. It is what it is. I know I have to face it all, embrace it all, and walk through it to get well. Numbing will never heal the hurts. Even the charismatic “giving it all to God” won’t completely release me of my own responsibility to listen to my feelings and do the hard work of changing habits.

If I am busy making everyone else comfortable but I am neglecting myself, then it’s not good. Hurt people hurt people, but those who get healed become healers. That’s what I want – to be healed and to become a healer. I don’t want to set fire to myself to keep others warm. Of course I don’t want to do harm to others in my healing process either. But as it goes, if you take enough time to sit with your own darkness, you begin to see others’ darknesses too and are vigilant and mindful not to add insult to injury.  Because you know how it feels.

I believe there is a common language that is learned in being broken by the world and in coming up out of the ashes to do the work for deep healing. I think it’s called empathy. Or at least it starts with empathy.

Here’s where I’m at: I am learning to be ok, even when everything is not ok. To not apologize because I don’t have it all together yet.  I am ok because I have to be; I want to be. Even in the midst of the shit, there are rainbows. But if I don’t at least acknowledge the shit while I’m looking at the rainbow I’ll wonder what smells so bad, and why I can’t fully enjoy the bright colors and splendor of the rainbow. Yes, things are hard and equally Yes, my daughter is alive and well! Yes, I have so much to be thankful for and equally Yes, my heart still feels like a jigsaw puzzle most days!  The stars can only be seen in the dark!  Don’t fear the dark.  #shitandrainbows

I am growing and changing and healing. I am seeing that it’s not about me having some grand purpose, it’s more about doing the very best that I can every day and having grace for myself in the process. It’s choosing to love everyday, no matter what; love my kids, my loved ones, and realizing that maybe who I choose to love well today is myself. Agreeing with who I am right now instead of believing I’ll be who I’m meant to be when I reach some goal. Goals aren’t bad, but if I can’t be content and mindful in this present moment, then I will always feel as though I’m just trying to catch up. Or I’ll be whole when……

Gosh, if I live that way, I’ll forever be apologizing for not being “there”. Where-ever the hell “there” is. Maybe for some it’s getting married, or having kids, or getting that promotion, or finishing school. If you’re under the impression that when you get “there” you’ll be whole, or it will be easier or better, and you’re not living in the now, I hate to break it to you but that’s not reality. I can choose to be content today with this skin and these tears and these scars and love the me that I am; the me that I have become today. I don’t want to wait to fully love the me that I can only hope to be. Because after these past 7 years of chaos, there’s absolutely no telling what could happen tomorrow.

Of course I’m still a dreamer. Absolutely. I still want my pilot’s license. I’m working on writing some books. I daydream of seeing and squealing at humpbacks in the wild. I’m going back to school to get more accreditation towards my passions (shhh secrets). I wanna sing and dance and write and make art and make a difference on this planet. But, I have found some balance in being mindful today and content right now. I don’t need to strive for an educational title to be happy. I’m Jessie Wimmer and that’s awesome. (I first wrote I’m Jessie Wimmer and that’s enough – but went back and edited it because I know I am more than enough – I am awesome. Please edit your thoughts as well towards yourself).  I am what I am: good, sad, excited, mad, healing, passionate, loving, broken, growing, sore, honest, happy, learning, trying, curious, wild and tame – and I am seeing that integrating it all together will make the best version of me – because it’s honest and raw. Not fake, showy, pretending, stuffing or numbing. I am vulnerable, yes; but I’m tired of apologizing for my existence. I’m tired of apologizing for things out of my control. I’m tired of apologizing for circumstances that broke me; apologizing for where I am because of that breaking. I’m giving myself permission to be me, and I hope you do the same. You need you. The world needs you. All parts of you. Beautifully.  Unapologetically.

My name is Jessie Wimmer, and…

I’m not sorry.

I’m not sorry I’m sad sometimes. That I have a bleak darkness amidst my light and sometimes it’s shadow fingers loom long and far. I give it permission to be and I ask the darkness who she is and what feels there are to feel. I listen. I wait. I cry. Trace a line back to the source. Remembering that shadows only appear in the presence of light. Differentiate between what’s real and what’s a lie. Shake my brain free of the garbage. Shake. Shadows won’t last forever. Shake. Sun rises. Sun sets. Wait it out. So I’ll sit in the shadow, knowing it will eventually pass. Let it be what it is. Let me be what I am in this moment. And in this moment I may be sad and things feel a little dim and cold, so I cry. I’m not sorry. I cleanse. I tell myself my feelings. I look for the truth. The truth is always a flashlight in the dark. Breathe, cry, heal, wait. Care for my sadness. Give it a voice, a space, a value. My sadness is not a burden. My sadness does not define me or my future. My sadness is not too much to handle. It just is. I’m not sorry I’m sad sometimes.

I’m not sorry for my grief. “All those years I fell for the great palace lie that grief should be gotten over as quickly and as privately as possible. But what I’ve discovered since is that the lifelong fear of grief keeps us in a barren, isolated place and that only grieving can heal grief; the passage of time will lessen the acuteness, but time alone, without the direct experience of grief will not heal it.” Anne Lamott Only grieving can heal grief. So I grieve. Grief is unattractive. Grief can be a little scary. Grief can be heavy, like a big, wet blanket. Grief can show up unexpected in the grocery store and your soul howls like a werewolf and you clutch a cereal box to your face and coach yourself to just make it to the car before your face explodes with tears and grimaces. Because sometimes old wounds still cause deep pain, and sometimes new wounds trigger old pain. Sometimes certain smells bring back certain memories that bring back certain griefs. I have a lot of griefs. I choose to stop, so I can listen to them and ask them what I can do. To be my own caretaker. I turn the dial, filter off the static and choose to tune into my grief. She has something to say. If I ignore it, it actually doesn’t go away. Grief can manifest in our bodies in other ways when we don’t listen to her. Time also won’t completely erase a tragedy or trauma. Scars may change shape and color over time, but we rarely forget the initial injury. Care for my grief. Give it a voice, a space, a value. My grief is not a burden. My grief does not define me or my future. My grief is not too much to handle. It just is. I’m not sorry for my grief.

I’m not sorry for loving myself. I am making habits to speak to myself as if I am speaking to my dearest friend. To treat myself with compassion and understanding, as someone who has been through a shitload of shitstorms. As someone who needs gentle words and warm eyes. As the someone I know I am that just needs to be told “It’s ok, even when it’s not ok, you WILL be ok.” Mothering myself with nurturing comfort and grace. Prioritizing self-care and choosing kind and positive words for myself in all things, but especially when I look in the mirror, have my photo taken, try on clothes, and when I fail. “It’s ok, even when it’s not ok, you WILL be ok.” Recognizing the toxic patterns of body-shaming and choosing to be proud of the skin I’m in and all it’s been through. The child-birth war zone when I had the honor of carrying and feeding my children that gave me permanent war paint for the battle of love. Stretch, grow, ache. Scream, bleed, breathe. Nurse, crack, swell. The sacred gift of being a Mother makes all Mothers badass – not saggy, scarred, shrunken, broken or lop-sided, no – you’re a BADASS woman warrior with love scars. I’m proud of my love scars and I would go through it all again just to have my children. Positive speech includes not apologizing for simply being me. Not apologizing when my house is messy, or life doesn’t look perfect. Not apologizing for liking what I like, or doing what I do simply for enjoyment or pleasure. I’m not sorry for how I look or what I’m wearing – this is my face and my body, and I picked out these clothes on purpose. I am learning to love the me that I am and to be proud of her and see the imperfections as gifts. “The fact that someone else loves you doesn’t rescue you from the project of loving yourself” -Sahaj Kohli. Care for myself. Give myself a voice, a space, a value. Loving me is not a burden. Loving myself is not vain or selfish.  Loving myself is not too much to handle. It just is. I’m not sorry for loving myself.

I’m not sorry for my compassionate boundaries. Self-compassion. Compassion towards myself is gentle and patient; recognizing where it hurts and gingerly covering & protecting those exposed areas. The word boundary can have negative connotations, but I think of it more like a band-aid or a warm compress. This area is healing, and until it is well, I want to protect it and give it time to heal. A compassionate boundary is like a ‘Wet Paint’ sign. Please Do Not Touch. Still Healing. Handle with Care. This Side Up. I have learned to do this by tuning into myself and listening to my needs. If certain social medias make me feel shitty, comparative, shamed or left-out, then I set up a compassionate boundary – showing compassion to myself – because why torture myself? Why perpetuate unnecessary pain? The only person I can change is me. I adjust my social media as needed with self-compassion and spend a good deal of time looking at pictures of sea life, megalodon teeth, surfing, inspiring quotes, kittens! and I feel happy, not isolated, comparative or left-out. Compassionate boundaries means using caution when telling people about my grief and hardships. It’s not appropriate for lots of people to hear my story because a lot of people don’t know how to handle it with care. In my experience, not many actually. For those who speak the common language of having been broken by the world, I see you; your soul reaches out and holds hands with my soul, and I know you will be kind.

“Nothing has transformed my life more than realizing that it’s a waste of time to evaluate my worthiness by weighing the reaction of the people in the stands.” Brene Brown

“If you are not in the arena, also getting your ass kicked, then I’m not interested in your feedback. I want to be in the arena. I want to be brave with my life. And when we make the choice to dare greatly, we sign up to get our asses kicked. We can choose courage or we can choose comfort, but we can’t have both. Not at the same time.” Brene Brown

Being compassionate to myself. Giving my boundaries a voice, a space, a value. Compassionate boundaries are not a burden. Compassionate boundaries are not vain or selfish. Having boundaries is not too much to handle. It just is. I’m not sorry for my compassionate boundaries.

Just like many of you, I didn’t ask for the hard things to happen in my life. No one ever asks for them. Yet, amazing or awful, they are all apart of my story and I am responsible for how I respond to them. Maybe this isn’t normal or typical to ask my feelings what they need. Maybe other people don’t deal like this. But this is how I do and little by little it’s helping. I’m here, thankful for this life. Thankful to be alive and thankful for all the good I have.  As I wade through the muck of circumstantial basic life bull-shit, choosing to be in the arena. To be brave with my life, not to numb it or feel shame by being sorry for it. I am here doing my best, hoping to do no harm, to always choose love, be kind, be 100% myself and…
I ain’t sorry.

Connection & Belonging Meet-Up

Good morning friends.  A reminder that tonight I will be hosting a little get-together for anyone desiring more connection, to discuss belonging and whatever else may come up.  As I mentioned in my previous blog, I think there are a good number of people that feel like islands and fool ourselves with the illusion of false connection through social media.  I’d like to sit with some people, flesh and blood, awkward, smiling, nervous, happy, sad, brave, broken-hearted, human and just be real.  I don’t know what it’ll look like, but as I mentioned in my last post I am hoping for a cross between an AA Meeting and a Poetry Reading.  Ha!

Personally, I have been through a lot of hard shit in the last few years.  I have gone through rejection and isolation among other awful things.  In it all, I began to seriously question things I’ve believed my whole life – about myself, about religions, institutions, about humanity in general and how we treat the lost and the broken-hearted.  Things shifted and changed drastically in my DNA.  Through all the shit and questions, I made a choice to not be beat, to not be swallowed by the waves of darkness.  Actually, it’s a choice I make everyday.  To push through and somehow, somewhere find a silver lining or something that resembles hope or light, love, connection and belonging; anything but despair, isolation and depression.  I realize no one else can do this for me.  Yeah, I see a therapist, but it isn’t her job to change my unhealthy thought patterns or behaviors.  It’s equally two things: my own hard work and my willingness to learn something new or see things differently – and then apply those things to my life.  It’s not about other people changing and then my life finally coming together.  Nope.  It’s about accepting things as they are and adjusting my expectations and interpretations.  My own healing and happiness are no one else’s responsibility but mine.

I don’t think I am ready to share my stories publicly yet, and don’t feel like you’d be asked to do the same.  I get when discussing vulnerability, people need to feel safe and we fear that sharing our stories may end up isolating us even more.  That’s not what I want to happen.  But what I do hope will happen is people opening and engaging in conversations that might help each other connect.  “Pain is our Mother, she makes us recognize each other” -an Over the Rhine lyric which I quote a often mirrors what I’m talking about.

So, if you’d like to participate in person, shoot me an email at thecookiecult@gmail.com, I’m hoping to get started tonight around 8:30 pm.  If you’re not in town or aren’t able to break away tonight but would like to Skype in from home, you can!  If you don’t already have Skype, you can download it here. http://www.skype.com/en/  It’s free and you can set-up an account super easy.  To find my profile, type in my user name: jessie.mariewimmer.  I will post it to Facebook as well.  If you plan to Skype in, please let me know so I can have it all set-up for you to participate in the conversation.

Before we meet, it should go without saying that this is a judgement-free zone.  If you’re a judgy crumudgen, please don’t attend.  If you have a bend towards gossiping, don’t come.  If you have an agenda to try to push on people, don’t come.  If you strongly believe in something – that’s great, but I am not looking to make this gathering a place to push anything on anyone unless it’s a message that affirms: You are loved – just as you are right now.  You are worthy of Love and Belonging.  You are deserving of Connection.  You have Purpose.  It is possible to get well and find peace and happiness.  The hard things that have happened to you, or even that you have brought upon yourself are not some message from the universe that you’re a piece of shit and you deserve crap.  No.  The only message I hope we can all communicate is that life can be hard, yes….but you are beautiful and brave and we can rise strong.  Please do not come if you want to get people saved, or get people to come to your church, or get people to sign up for your pyramid scheme, please don’t.

As human beings we all long to hear the above affirmations.  We desire to be loved and accepted just as we are.  I’m not a doctor, or a theologian,  or a philosopher, or a therapist, but I want to see  and learn about and fight for more connection between humans.  To find the mechanisms of communication and connection that tear down the walls that separate us, not build more.

Tonight 8:30.  If you wanna bring snacks & drinks, feel free.  Let me know if you’re joining.


ISO Connection and Belonging


I want to start a thing.  I don’t yet know what this thing will look like, but I want to unite people in search of connection and belonging.  After ingesting nearly all of Dr. Brene Brown’s writings in less than a year, I am now craving connection with people aspiring like goals.  I don’t mean career goals, or family goals, I mean life goals: Living brave, daring greatly, embracing our gifts of imperfection, and learning how to love ourselves fully, wholly, completely, in order to live life whole-heartedly.

I have a small number of dear souls who write to tell me that my random ramblings mean a lot to them, and for that I am truly overwhelmed and grateful.  I don’t take this lightly, nor do I assume some weird position of false humility.  Honestly, I take a lot of pride and joy in my writing and believe clear and unique communication is a skill I have.  As an avid reader, I also believe writing can be a strong, powerful bridge that connects people.  In my mind, I am personal friends with Anne Lamott, Bob Goff and Brene Brown – despite the fact that I’ve never met them.  Which is why I write this post.


We obviously live in an age of false connection and false belonging due in part to the rise of social media.  I’m not slamming it, I just mean it’s easy to assume we know what’s going on in someone’s life because we cruise Instagram and Facebook and see a sliver of a fraction of something they CHOSE to post.  I’m just sayin’, people don’t post their anxiety attacks, or the 6th marital argument of the week, or their recurring night terrors, or their own stressful toddler-induced breakdowns, or their bulimia, or their business failures, or their pile of skeletons in the closet.  No, people don’t broadcast that.  And I’m not saying we should.  I just aspire to more; more honest and real connection and belonging.  Instagram and Snapchat feel like Taco Bell relationships, and I want some Southern, home-cooked, organic, food pyramid relationships.

I’ll be the first to admit, I don’t have any answers, but I do think as humans, we all long for a safe place to shed our outer layers and be real.  Like really real.  But most of us don’t do it because we’re so afraid of being shamed and rejected.  A dear soul shared some honest thoughts with me via email, and then admitted that her greatest fear of all was the people closest to her finding out, because they would shame her and she would become an outsider.  God, I know how this feels.  I have been shamed and made an outsider for my truths.  Stepping into my truths; ALL of my truths (good, right, strong, brave, bad, ugly, wrong, scary and even the not-my-fault truths) stepping into ALL of them and pushing through has been one of the most challenging but freeing journey’s of my life.  I’m this far in now and I’m not going back.  I am proud of who I’m becoming and where I’m going.  I want to be whole-hearted.  I want to stand in my truths, own it all and write the rest of my story, myself!  If we don’t own our stories – ALL parts of them – then we can’t author the rest.  Yeah it’s true….you might lose some people and you might feel like an outsider.  But the truth will set you free.

As Brene Brown said “You cannot transform yourself and not piss off other people.  You’re not responsible for how they react.  For every major change in my life, I leave a few friends behind.”  She also said “I forged a relationship where I was constantly taking care of someone else, but now that I am choosing to take care of myself they can’t handle it, because my focus isn’t on them anymore.”


I believe we need a partner, a teammate, a posse that can sit with us in our full truths and aspire with us to whole-hearted living.  If you’re looking for the same, let’s meet up.  If you’re in or around Charlotte I’d love to do an in-person get-together.  If you’re not in Charlotte I’m going to set-up a Skype group chat once a month.  I think it’ll be good.  All are welcome.  Seriously – anyone.  If this resonates with you, join in.  Shoot me an email if you’re interested.  TheCookieCult@gmail.com

What will it look like?  Well, I’m not entirely sure but my goal is some cross of an AA Meeting, with A Poetry Reading?  A safe place where people can share honest stories, share empathy, feel connection and a sense of belonging.  The True True Posse!  Hollah at me.


First Meeting – Monday February 22, 2016  8:30EST



Discovering emotional galaxies


Our brains and bodies are such an intricate, always changing mystery; each individual consisting of their own personal universe – much of it yet to be explored or understood.  And like the actual universe we live in, our own internal universes are always growing, changing, and building on what was and what is coming.  I recently listened to a Radiolab podcast that surmised the center of the universe we live in is always changing as well, as it continues to grow and change, there becomes a new center.  They are discovering it is like a living being, which is crazy astounding to me and I won’t get into all that now, but maybe someday I will nerd out real hard and spill my thoughts about the universe.  Muriel Rukeyser claims “The universe is made of stories, not atoms.”  Which I particularly like, being a story-teller myself.  I feel like the same  uncertainty which applies to the unbridled, ever-expansive universe, is particularly true when it comes to the expansive and uncharted galaxies of our feelings and emotions.  Not only do other people misinterpret our feelings and emotions, but if we’re honest, we do too – which is totally weird, because they’re our feelings.

I’ve been reading a good deal of Dr. Brene Brown’s work on shame and vulnerability, ok… truth is I have read nearly all her books – and the research she has done on how we respond and react to life and each other is insanely profound.  There’s so much I have to learn about the galaxy that is my own brain and the expansive star system of my heart.  I have willingly become an amateur astronaut to the unknown and misunderstood orbits of the planets within myself.  With Dr. Brown as my “Houston”, among many other authors, teachers, faith & life lessons I believe I am beginning to get a map of how this all works – or at least begin to chart one small corner of the map of my own emotional galaxy.

An Observation:

Last weekend I took my son to an indoor trampoline place for his 7th Birthday Party (early).  This place is nuts, dozens of trampolines, obstacle courses, and foam pits.  It was a lovely cacophony of sweaty children and adults flying through the air and testing their gravitational limits.  We had a blast.  At a certain point I noticed a woman in a foam pit frantically throwing foam cubes and shouting.  I approached the edge and another woman was standing there watching her, so I asked what was wrong.  The woman standing on the edge replied that the lady in the foam pit had lost her glasses.  It was clear the woman in the pit was panicked and upset – and no one was helping her.  The pit was probably 4 feet deep and the length and width of two swimming pools filled with large foam cubes.  Finding her glasses seemed unlikely, but I jumped in anyway.  I approached her, touched her shoulder and asked what her glasses looked like.  She screamed at me “I handed the glasses to my daughter to hold, but then she jumped in, dropped them and now they’re lost!  They are my only pair!  I have to find them!”  I gently asked again what they looked like and then reassured her I was going to help her find them.  “They’re brown!!!  I’m claustrophobic!!!”  And at that she quickly wiggled her way out of the foam pit, didn’t look back and stormed off stomping her feet, brushing past sweaty, unsuspecting bouncers  Her daughter returned to the pit and jumped in with me to search for the glasses.  Many people stood on the edge watching us.  Eventually I found them – somehow I knew I would.  I wiggled out of the pit, so did the woman’s daughter.  I handed the glasses over and that was that.

My boyfriend, Tim approached me, asking what had happened and I explained the situation.  “Why did she storm off so angry?” he wanted to know.  “She said she was claustrophobic.” I explained.  “Oh, man.”  he said.

Ten minutes or so later this woman (now wearing her brown glasses) ran up to me and thanked me over and over for jumping in the pit and helping her find her glasses.  We embraced, and then with hands still on each other’s shoulders, looked into each other’s eyes and just smiled.  “Of course.” I said.  And that was that.  I returned to bouncing with my kids and friends and she returned to her family.  But since, I haven’t been able to stop thinking about what happened and how it effected me.

First….I think anger can be a poser.  What looked and sounded like anger (the woman screaming at me and storming off stomping her feet) was ultimately fear.  She was afraid of two things: 1. having lost her only pair of glasses, and 2. she was claustrophobic – which is the fear of having no escape or being trapped in a small or tight space. It often results in a severe panic attack.  I have suffered from panic attacks myself and been around others who have had them, so I am familiar with their nature and how they make people behave.  It is not rational and it is not pretty.  In this case what was really fear appeared to be anger.

Several years ago I had a counselor explain that nearly all people are either fear-driven or anger-driven by nature, and they do not match up as you might think.  Fear-driven individuals respond to troubling stimuli with anger, and anger-driven individuals respond to troubling stimuli with fear.  This PhD therapist explained that if one feels safe enough to approach an individual who appears to be very angry, try asking them what they are afraid of and see what happens.  This may sound terrifying and entirely impossible, as it did and still does to me.  But even if we cannot ask verbally, we can assume the anger is a front to some big, scary fears the person is dealing with subconsciously.  To verbally admit our fears is to venture into the unknown waters of vulnerability, and to most people vulnerability is more terrifying than lashing out in anger.  Displaying anger makes us feel in control and powerful; like we have everything under control and we can handle it.  It’s loud and aggressive, assertive and bold.  Fear makes us feel scared (duh) and vulnerable; we appear and feel weak and cowardly.  So naturally our subconscious (what I call my inner ninja) takes over, anger shows up to self-protect and tries to over-power our fears with a big show yelling:”Hell no I’m not scared!  That’s stupid poppycock for pussies!  I’m a strong-ass Muthereffer, I got this.  Watch me be big and awesome and whoop fear’s ass and anyone else who gets in my way!!!!  RRRAAWWWWRRRRR!!!!”

Cute, right?  God, no.

But the thing is….our subconscious mind, the self-protecting part, the part that we’re not entirely conscious of, the part we don’t completely have control of even though we think we do….that part of the mind is the one putting on the anger show, and we don’t usually realize what a monkey’s ass it’s made of us until later.  Because what’s really behind the wheel driving is fear, but the passenger, anger grabs the wheel thinking fear is going to screw it all up and make us look weak.

But what a concept!  Oh my gosh!  What if we could see that most visible anger is really fear-based, then what a different approach might we have with one another; with ourselves!?  There’s so much hate and anger and rage in the world, I believe if put under a psychological microscope would reveal underneath the hard, ugly shell of hate and anger and rage was a beautiful someone who is scared – scared to lose something, scared to not be treated as an equal, scared to die, scared to live vulnerably, scared to be hurt, scared to be rejected, scared to give up, scared to be seen for what they really are, scared that they’re a failure, scared of what others may think, scared to get taken advantage of, scared. Scared.  Scared.

But it isn’t just the world at large – it’s you and me and our families.  When you get angry with your children or employees or family members, what is the fuel?  Ask yourself “What am I afraid of?”  I think everyone’s initial knee-jerk reaction is “Psshh.  I’m not scared of nuthin’!”  Because we are trying to avoid the big sea of vulnerability.  Or we think psychoanalysis is mumbo-jumbo and yeah maybe some people need to analyze their feelings and shit, but not me….I’m good.  I don’t need to dig deep into myself.  It’s fine.  I’m fine.  All that therapist-ish is for people who’ve had huge traumatic things happen to them – but me?!  Nah, I’m good.  Look, I’ve made it this far and can obviously handle it all myself.  I’m strong and self-sufficient.  I read my Bible sometimes and go to church and do my yoga and all is well and fine and right and fine.  I can swallow my feelings, been doing it my whole life and maybe deal with them later, or they just get pooped out, right?  Like everything else I eat.  Huh?  What’s that?  My childhood?  Oh, I mean….it was fine.  But uh…did you watch the game yesterday?!  What?  How’s my family?  My job?  My marriage?  Am I afraid of anything?  Uh….look I told you – I’m fine.  It’s all good.  Nothing’s perfect, you know….but it’s all good.

Oh.  Is it though?

I want to live a whole-hearted life.  I want to be someone who is real.  There’s a lot of talk of authenticity these days and it’s kind of nauseating because it shows up on my feed as the caption to a flawless Instagram photo.  -vom-  Sure great it’s a nice photo – but that’s not real life ya’ll.  I don’t have anything against social media – it’s a nice, small glimpse into people’s lives – but only that; a very, very small glimpse.  I don’t assume I actually know what’s really going on with anyone I follow unless I keep in touch with them – in real life.  And here’s the deal.  I think everyone is cool with standing on the edge of someone’s life.  Taking in what they can see from that very, very limited perspective and making assumptions, or having opinions.  Because it’s comfortable.  Nothing, absolutely nothing is required of you.  But from experience there aren’t many who are willing to jump into the pit with you.

I use the word pit to circle back to my story about the panicked woman at the trampoline place, but I also say pit because for a lot of people – our lives may feel a bit like a pit.  Especially if you’re grieving, healing, lost, broken, sad, angry, in transition, rejected or just in need of a job, or a car, or money, or a break, for God’s sake!  In my experience, most people stand on the edge of the pit and discuss the struggle they see you having.  Like the first woman I approached.  She told me the lady had lost her glasses and then she stepped back and just watched.

I don’t really do New Year’s resolutions, but I did decide this year I want to be a jumper.  See a need – fill a need.  Just do it.  So I did.  I jumped in.  It seemed entirely unlikely that we would find her glasses but I was determined to help anyway.  I believe one of the main reasons people don’t jump in the pit is because they’re afraid of sitting with the discomfort of another.  Or they’re unsure of what to do or how to handle it.  Or they’re just afraid in general.  Afraid of their own safety, their own reputation, afraid of messing up their makeup, whatever.  Which I get.  Someone in a panicked state is not logical or rational and it can be extremely uncomfortable to be with them, or even know how to assist.  Someone who is grieving is the same.  Also, those who are lost, broken, sad, angry, in transition, or just in need of a break.  To jump into the pit with these people is risky and carries a high probability that anything could happen; good or bad.  The people who jump are usually the ones who have already decided – what do I have to lose?  What do I have to be afraid of?

I know this.  I am in the pit.  Sifting through a lot.  And those who have jumped in with me, sat with me, cried with me, laughed with me, made me dinner, or just held me through some really shitty moments; you are my heroes.  Through my own difficult, personal experiences and those beautiful, brave friends who have sat with me through the discomforts, I have decided to be a jumper myself.  Because, really….what do I have to lose?

I am not swayed by your anxiety or your depression.  I can sit with the discomfort because I am familiar with it and know that we need one another in it’s midst, and I know it will not last forever.  This too shall pass.  You are neither burden nor bad news.  Your feelings have feelings.  You are and always will be beautiful and beloved no matter what you are going through, what has happened to you, or what you have lost.  No matter what feelings you are feeling, you are still you and this will not be how you feel forever.

I believe life can be both miraculously brilliant and blindingly miserable at the same time.  But to have people jump into the pit with me, (with you) can help soften the darker days.  To see people as afraid instead of angry changes my approach.  If I take a second to apply the question to the behavior I can ask “They look super angry, but what could they be afraid of?”  It makes room for the benefit of the doubt.  It makes room for grace and not judgement.  It makes room for me to jump into the pit and offer help and assure someone they’re not alone.  Because isn’t that what we’re all hoping for?  To know we aren’t alone?  To believe we are worthy of love?  We are worthy of someone jumping into the pit with us?  That we are worthy of belonging?  Because once someone jumps in with you – then you’re no longer alone.  You belong.

Unfortunately, it seems there will be people who only stand at the edge and just stare and tell others about your difficulties.  When your struggle seems less dramatic or attention-worthy they get bored and walk away – because what’s there to talk about?  But listen to me, do not waste your time or energy worrying about them, what they’re saying, why they aren’t jumping in with you, or helping or doing anything other than talking about you.  It’s not worth your emotional well-being.  Focus on you, your loved ones and your own personal journey to wholeness.  Those who are in the pit with you care – you can be assured because they jumped in.

Despite the on-lookers, make a choice to stay focused.  Choose to navigate the sea of vulnerability.

The irony is that we attempt to disown our difficult stories to appear more whole or more acceptable, but our wholeness, even our whole-heartedness depends on the integration of all of our experiences, including the falls. – Dr. Brene Brown from Rising Strong

Let’s stop masking our fears with hate and anger and judgement and gossip.  Be honest about what you’re afraid of.  Face the vulnerable places, set free the stories and feelings you’ve had locked up in there and give them voices and validation.  We can’t find our wholeness until we integrate it all: joys, successes, failures, losses, everything.  Don’t disown the hard stuff.  We need to stop carefully applying our anger & judgement make-up to conceal our fears and vulnerabilities.  There’s way too much anger, hatred and judgement polluting the atmosphere.  I’ve been choking on it for years and years and I’m tired of how sick it made me.

I’ve got my astronaut suit on and I’m exploring the universe of myself.  Why do I cry when I cry?  Why do I get angry when I get angry?  What am I afraid of and why?  How can I love more?  How can I serve more?  What holds me back?  How can I get past this?  What else can I do to release more love and more kindness and more positive vibes into my family, my community, to those who despise and dislike me, and ultimately into the world?  Just like the NASA explorers who did not give up researching whether there was ever water or life on Mars, I too will not give up searching the craters on my own soul, to try and understand their origins.  Explore your own galaxies.  Build your own map – make it a priority to discover the planets, comets, star systems and black holes of yourself; your feelings.  The only person you can change is yourself.  If you don’t even know where to start, peel off your pride and go see a therapist.  I have been seeing counselors for over 7 years – no shame here.  Read books.  Lots and lots of books.  Open your mind and assume that maybe you have a lot to learn.  That maybe, just maybe all your “ultimate truth principles and beliefs” might not be so ultimate.  “Sometimes your belief system is really your fears attached to rules.” – Shannon L. Adler   Don’t be afraid to learn something new.  Don’t be afraid to be wrong.  Don’t be afraid to step out of the box, or ask who built this box  anyway, or ask do I even want to be in a box?

Start by being honest with yourself.  Then see a therapist and be honest with them.  Then you can see who else is being honest, and if they are a safe place, ask them to jump in the pit with you and share your honesties together.  Integrate all of you; everything that has happened to you.  I believe the most important decision one can ever make is the decision to journey into their own whole-heartedness.  And that decision must happen every damn day.

Your vision will become clear only when you can look into your own heart.  Who looks outside dreams; who looks inside, awakes. – Carl Jung

These books have been massively helpful throughout my journey:

  • The Gifts of Imperfection – Dr. Brene Brown
  • Daring Greatly – Dr. Brene Brown
  • Rising Strong – Dr. Brene Brown
  • Help.  Thanks.  Wow. – Anne Lamott
  • Stitches – Anne Lamott
  • Loving What Is – Byron Katie
  • You Are A Badass – Jen Sincero
  • The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up – Marie Kondo

And here’s the Radiolab podcast about space that turned my brain into mush and planted a bunch of curious seeds.  http://www.radiolab.org/story/91520-space/

*These are the books on my wish-list that I’d like to read, and ahem…tomorrow is my Birthday wink wink*

  • Big Magic – Elizabeth Gilbert
  • Small Victories – Anne Lamott
  • A Year of Yes – Shonda Rhimes
  • The Alchemist – Paulo Coelho
  • Healing Through the Dark Emotions – Miriam Greenspan
  • The Storytelling Animal – Jonathan Gottschall
  • Writing to Heal – James W. Pennebaker
  • The Dance of Connection -Harriet Lerner
  • Women and Shame – Dr. Brene Brown
  • I Thought it Was Just Me – Dr. Brene Brown
  • The Places That Scare You – Pema Chodron

I’m not a therapist or a counselor, but I can listen and if you need advice, ask and I would be open to trying to help.  I refuse to believe we go through shitty things just have merely survived them.  I think our stories can connect us, give us belonging, make us feel less alone.   Empathy is the antidote to shame.  You are not alone.  Share your story.  Let’s connect.  TheCookieCult@gmail.com



the waves that pulled me under


you never did see the waves that pulled me under.  they were 100 feet over my head.  but you never saw them.  I mean, I didn’t see them coming either, not until it was too late.  and then I looked out through them, swirling above me.  the weight and pressure tossing me, pinning me, keeping me under.  would I breathe again?  would I survive this?  I still am not entirely sure.

the thing about drowning is, it’s a subtle and quiet catastrophe.  most people don’t call for help because they’re just desperately struggling to breathe, to swim, to stay alive.  and when they go to speak, another wave crashes overhead.  so they reserve their energy – for survival.  I know.  It’s happened to me – physically and proverbially.

I have not incurred trauma today, thankfully.  and it’s been a little while since the last 100 foot wave busted me up, thank God, but I am still afraid.  I am still broken.  I am still sad.  I am still lost.  the brain is slow to process; first the blow and then later a bruise.  later the bruises.  later the recurring dreams.  later the poisoned mind.  later the broken psyche.

I don’t know why traumatic things happen.  no matter what people say, nobody knows why.  I don’t know why my anchors were ripped from their secure holdings.  and I don’t like people’s cliche responses to trauma.  I don’t like people’s catch-phrase spiritual get better’s.  I don’t like Bible band-aids.  I don’t like feeling like I should have it all together by now.  I don’t like feeling like life is just what you make of.  I don’t like the idea of fake it till you make it.  I don’t like it when people say ‘all things happen for a reason’.  I don’t want to be someone’s project.  I don’t like the idea that people can treat you less than because several handfuls of shit have been tossed your way.  I don’t like the unspoken but highly acted upon hierarchy of holiness and favor.  I don’t like “at least…” comparisons.  I don’t like that you never did see the waves that pulled me under.

trauma makes us refugees from ourselves.  in the waves that have sucked me under, I have been separated from who I was; who I have ever been.  and only the survivor survives.  only the survivor survives.  all other veins of my being have been separated and imprisoned by the trauma.  and here I am (some years; some months) distant from recent traumas and I am trying so desperately to pull myself together.  but you never saw the waves.  so you’re confused.  I get it.  why has Jessie changed so much?  she’s not who she used to be.  but am I really trying so hard to stay the same?  are you?  am I really wanting to be who I was before?  the survivor survived.  don’t you get it?  and she is painstakingly searching for the parts of herself that have been lost in the wake of the traumas.  she did see the wave that pulled me under.

She, who I have found, – a girl I have only just met.  she is me – she is new, but somehow has always been here.  she is the true me.  she is the survivor and she is the refugee.  she is both light and dark and I am her.  I am collecting the well and true pieces of me, and discarding the parts that are sick and poisoned.  I am throwing out the parts of me that were broken even before the blow, and any that are out of alignment with who I am becoming.  I am personally tending to the small fractures and the gaping holes.  I am hopefully becoming a me that is wholehearted and knows peace and happiness to be unequivocal.

I believe empathy and compassion are the greatest tools.  I believe owning my entire story – the light and the dark is essential to my wholeness.  no feeling left behind.

“Compassion is not a relationship between the healer and the wounded.  It’s a relationship between equals.  Only when we know our own darkness can we be present with the darkness of others.  Compassion becomes real when we recognize our shared humanity.” – Pema Chodron

I am sharing in my own humanity.  finding the refugees of myself who have been tossed overboard through the traumas I have somehow survived.  if I cannot show kindness to myself, how then will I ever know how to show authentic kindness to anyone else?  if I am unable to throw a life raft to the broken pieces of myself, how can I ever know how to help others?  if I don’t learn how to love myself – really love myself – really care for myself and value myself, how then can I expect to be fully capable of loving another?  there is nothing vain or selfish in learning how to love yourself.  it is the beginning, the middle and the end.  no one teaches us to love ourselves.  but I am telling you.  it is vital and completely essential to your survival.

fine, yeah I am changing – have been changing – have been forced to change – have been marooned from who I used to be and been left staring at my empty, quivering hands wondering what the hell just happened.  I didn’t ask for all the shits to hit the fan.  I didn’t go looking for trauma.  you didn’t see the waves that pulled me under.  it’s not up to you to decide if my pain is real or if I should be “better” by now.  it’s not up to you to say if my actions are justifiable.  it’s not your call to even say that I have changed.  no one has the right to write my story but me.  I was me then and I am me now.  all of this makes me me.

if you’re in the arena looking for the lost parts of yourself too, then I am with you.  we can find each other and all we have to do is make eye contact – and know.  because pain is our mother, she makes us recognize each other.  and we can forge the shit swamp together and sleep back-to-back.  and you won’t have to hustle for your worth with me.  I am not afraid of the discomfort of trauma and pain.  I’m just in a place to be real.  I am not afraid if you don’t know exactly who you are right now or what the hell happened in your life either.  whether I like it or not, I am in the shit swamp, but I am choosing to lean into it; dig my hands into it and pull out what has long needed to be rescued.





I am all too familiar with the surprise appearance of a hidden werewolf in your belly.  The dark creature that uproots itself after months, maybe years of lying dormant.  It slowly stands, shakes off it’s mangy fur, sits back on it’s haunches, and starts howling.  He howls about your past and it feels like you’re dying, or sick, or completely delusional because it seems to have come out of no where, and no matter how hard you try, you cannot silence it.  It stirs from this brackish pit inside; from the deepest part of the soul that isn’t easily accessed.  Even with a bright light this cavern is so deep and so grand you wouldn’t even know where to begin an excavation.  Yet from the surface of your fragility you feel a ripple as the howls echo off the walls of your insides then burst through your tight-pressed lips.  I am all too familiar with this werewolf.  He embodies the grief too great for our humanness to harness.  He absorbs the trauma we consciously choke down so we can make it through the day.  Then the next day.  And the next.  But it doesn’t disappear.  It all goes somewhere, and like a boomerang, it all comes back – eventually.

This week marks one year since Sparrow’s surgery last year.  Look into my eyes when someone walks by in OR scrubs.  There’s a particular brand of hand sanitizer used in the hospital that when I smell it my stomach turns, and shivers run down my spine.  Place your hand on my heart as I hold a healthy. newborn. baby.  Feel me tremble when I hear a man aggressively talk down to a woman.  There is an actual audible cry that comes from deep within my being; a literal howl that leaps out of my mouth before I can control it.  Before I even have time to come up with a reason or an appropriate reaction or a place to bury my everything.  My werewolf digs his heels in, throws back his head and howls at the painful injustices that have occurred in my life.  But I have to let it.

The howling is apart of the healing.

You will never know what I have literally been through, nor will I ever know or fully understand what you have been through.  We each carry our own pasts, full of all the feels: pain, love, trauma, joy, and a magnitude of individual experiences and memories that are likened to no one else in the entire universe.  I have suffered and stuffed my traumas, I hid my pains, I protected other’s reputations forsaking myself and my feelings all the while feeding this werewolf in my gut.  He holds memories I do not remember that have of late resurfaced and caught me so off guard I am overcome with pain and grief.  He is the part of me that held onto the things no one should ever have to endure, but I did and had to keep putting one foot in front of the other – with no time to sit with the hard things, the painful experiences – so they fell deep inside to the werewolf.  I have heard and read that this is a real aspect of our human existence.  That circumstances that are too massively traumatic for our humanness to grasp or understand or even create a memory for in the moment are stored in a traumatic safe-keeping until our body believes we are in a more stable place to process them.  There are many medical names for what this is, but when it happens to me, I audibly sound like a werewolf.

There’s no telling what lies in the belly in the belly of your werewolf.  We cannot know what someone has gone through, which is why kindness and authentically connecting with people are two of the greatest assets I believe anyone can achieve in life.

“The highest form of wisdom is kindness.” – The Talmud

How then can we ever cast a single judgement or strike anyone with a bolt of shame when not one of us can or ever will know what it’s like to be someone else or have lived someone else’s life?  I do not know what lies in the deepest part of your soul; hell maybe you don’t even know, but I am learning for myself that the best medication comes in letting the howl out.  I’m also finding that dropping the “I’m ok. You’re ok.” facade allows for some real magic to happen.

“When two people relate to each other authentically and humanly, God is the electricity that surges between them.” – Martin Buber

I don’t know how it ends up though.  I’m only 33 and my pains are only as old as I am, but for me, when this deep howl comes to the surface, I make an attempt to grieve it, or forgive, or accept it, or release it as it floats around my room.  I usually cry; a deep bellowing cry.  A cry that’s been locked inside for too long.  And when I’m done I let it go and don’t over-analyze anything.  It just was what it was.  A long overdue passing moment of grief that’s been tucked deep down in the belly of the belly of a werewolf.  I believe that the tears are for cleansing and that this is in someway a process of my healing and restoration.  (Actually I know that it is – my counselor told me).

Many choose to numb themselves.  To never have to remember, or feel those feels ever again.  But I fear that the numbing makes things worse.

“…I believe we all numb our feelings.  We may not do it compulsively and chronically, which is addiction, but that doesn’t mean that we don’t numb our sense of vulnerability.  And numbing vulnerability is especially debilitating because it doesn’t just deaden the pain of our difficult experiences; numbing vulnerability also dulls our experiences of love, joy, belonging, creativity and empathy.  We can’t selectively numb emotion.  Numb the dark and you numb the light.” – Brene Brown

I’ve also seen that just placating the monster in the closet or numbing it or pretending it doesn’t exist will cause it to grow in the darkness, and just as the grief surfaces when you don’t expect it, this too will surface – now larger than it once was – and it will cause injury.  Hurt people hurt people.  We typically hurt the people closest to us because they’re just there, and we assume they’ll stay.  Let’s stop numbing.  Let’s stop pretending we don’t have any deep hurts; or worse not deal with those deep hurts.  I think we need to deal with them and get healed.  Yes, hurt people hurt people – but people who get healed become healers.

As I recognize the howl in my own belly and give the grief a place to be released, I am learning the importance of how to feel my own feelings – all of them.  Not just the attractive ones or the ones that make sense or the ones that won’t scare the shit out of everyone.  They’re my feelings and I’m a grown-up and need to take responsibility for them.  Not by numbing them, but by getting well.

I’m also learning how to be mindful of my own numbing behaviors.  “Where is the line between pleasure, or comfort and numbing?  It’s not what you do; it’s why you do it that makes the difference.” – Jennifer Louden  My motives have everything to do with everything.  Nothing is arbitrary.  Why do we “need” those drinks every night?  Why do we have to have those “likes” or “followers”?  Why why why?  Ask yourself.  Be honest.  You know the real answer.

And I am learning that I need to press into the discomfort of the hard things.  When it arises – to let myself feel the feels.  Especially the yucky ones.

“That hurt we embrace becomes joy.  Call it to your arms where it can change.” – Rumi

“…You gave me beauty for ashes, joy for mourning and praise for despair…” Isaiah 61:3

“He has made everything beautiful in His time…” Ecclesiastes 3:11

So I am howling from time to time.  The more I allow it, the more I get used it and the less it freaks me out.  I want to be well.  I don’t want dark, scary feelings and traumatic memories to be locked in my belly forever or grow bigger than they are or to breed little babies.  I want to be whole and healed.  I think my healing comes with some howling.