Body talk

It’s been a while and honestly I dislike saying that every time I blog so I vow that this is the last time that I will say that. Period.

It’s been a while.

Anyway, I’ve had a lot on my mind lately. I am starting training for an adventure race in June (that I will not miss) and I am starting a new job in a couple of weeks. Spring might actually be springing here in the PNW (!!!) and there are big, cool things in the making. All that said, one of the most lovely developments lately is my relationship with…myself. (please don’t stop reading) (just kidding) (but not really)

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Going through training for my last race and being so dedicated taught me a lot about what my body can do.  However, I still find myself faced with the challenge of accepting how my body looks. For some reason, I am able to completely separate the shape of my body from what it is capable of. I have read so many articles about body-positivity and loving yourself and etc. that you would think I would’ve gotten the message by now. But honestly, it wasn’t until reading this post by Kelly K. Roberts that it dawned on me-I have been doing an incredible disservice to my body by hating on it. When I started running again last fall, I felt slow and heavy and unsure.  Every time I ran, I would get discouraged by how different my body moved and looked than other runners I passed (let’s get real, mostly they passed me). Luckily, I was running in the winter, so I found comfort in covering myself with loose sweatshirts and (most often) rain jackets. The real test happened a couple weeks ago when the temperature rose.

I was on an easier run with David and the sun was out and I made the decision to run in just my sports bra and running tights. I was completely unaware of the liberation that would ensue. Growing up in a (super well-meaning and wonderful) conservative household, I was taught to cover up. I can still hear “modest is hottest” and other such sayings in my mind. I never felt suffocated by my upbringing and carried a lot of the principles of modesty into my adulthood. However, while I was running with David, I felt so fast and so free. More importantly, I felt beautiful. By “uncovering” my body, I was embracing my own strength.

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I’m not telling you to run in your sports bra because that will fix all of your problems (LOL what if I was just telling you that.) I am telling you to give your body a chance. Don’t make excuses for it, just love it as it is and be proud of how it is shaped. I am still working on giving my body the admiration it deserves and that journey might never end. But I am fully committed to being a part of the #sportsbrasquad (weather permitting) and I am never looking back.

P.S. As an exercise this week, I wrote an objective love-letter to my body. I honored it for its hard work and beauty. I told it that I love it. Not “I love you body, no matter how you look.” Or “I love you body, even though you’re not the way I want it to be.” Just “I love you body.” I made myself look at myself how others see me. I wrote thank you’s to every part. It felt narcissistic and weird, but the discomfort was worth the healing.

for the joy of it.

It has been a hectic two months. So hectic, that I didn’t realize it had been two months until I checked when the last time I blogged was. Sheesh.

Last weekend was a big first for me. You know that race I mentioned in my first post? Well, I missed it. I mean, I didn’t sleep in or get sick or anything. In fact, I was incredibly prepared and pumped. I just went to the race a day late! David and I pulled into McIver Park’s parking lot last Sunday expecting a plethora of runners and weird, too-loud music. Instead, there were two people taking a leisurely Sunday morning stroll in the rain. I was so crushed.

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We both spent the next hour upset and trying to process how this happened and what to do next. “You want to race next weekend?” David asked. I looked up prospective races, but it didn’t feel right. I kept thinking “Today was supposed to be it. The milestone.” To be honest, I was being a little drama queen in my head. But the race felt like it was supposed to be special. In fact, the race was supposed to be something special, but I was looking at it all wrong. After the disappointing morning, my friend Jen (who visited from Chattanooga!), David, and I went on a cold adventure to salvage the rest of the day. I guess Oregon rain and large waterfalls tend to get my mind back where it needs to be, because everything in my head and heart was at rest by the end of the hike.

Somewhere between the raindrops, I:

  1. Realized something supremely important that (of course) I had learned before but never seen illustrated so clearly.
  2. Asked myself a supremely important question.

IMG_41491. There is a cliché about the journey being more important than the destination that honestly causes me to involuntarily roll my eyes. But when multiple people consoled me through sweet text messages and comments (I forgot to mention: social media was definitely involved in this humiliating experience) saying that I had “done the work” and already had something to be proud of,  that cliché rang true. As I have mentioned before, I love to run and that is a new experience for me. Something about this race was going to solidify that in my mind. For instance, if I raced well and had a good time to show for it, this new way of living would really begin. That is equal parts ridiculous and understandable. Racing is so satisfying and needed to keep fueling that competitive nature that resides inside of me. However, racing doesn’t mean a thing. Missing my race made me look back on the time I’ve spent training and be proud of that instead of a personal record. And man, I am so proud.

2. The “supremely important” question I asked myself was “Why do you run?” I am not an extremely competitive creature. I don’t run to win races. I do run to beat the clock, feel alive, reduce stress, etc. However, I learned near the end of my training that running is only a purely positive force in my life if I am first and foremost running for the joy of it. That outlook has crept into my other hobbies and passions and jobs and all of a sudden, my whole world is transforming. The only way I could make it through the last few miles of long runs was to remember that. The only way I could go for a run this week (I am not going to lie, I was tired and still disappointed) was to remember that.

What’s the moral of the story? First, don’t let yourself go two months without blogging. Because your skills get rusty. But also, the journey is more importan-just kidding! I think I would definitely say, be proud of hard work even if the “end result” is less than satisfactory. Hard work is well, hard and I respect the cuss out of people who are disciplined enough to try something new. Finally, find something to do just for the joy of it. Better yet, rework joy into the heart of something you’re already doing. I promise you it will only do you good.

Weekday Reading

I am feeling a little off today. I think it is because I slept in, or maybe because I skipped church (I am a creature of habit), or maybe because I had diet coke and pizza for breakfast. Regardless, I am here at Either/Or (one of my favorite coffee shops) and I’m trying to get my juju back.

I tried to read two books over the last two weeks. I am sad to say that I didn’t finished either title. One book I didn’t finish on purpose, the other I am reading a lot slower than I thought I would. Because they are unfinished, I will not number them among my 50 books. But since I like to write about everything and coffee is finally in my system, I figured I would tell you about them anyway.

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Falling Upward by Richard Rohr

This book is a treat and I am planning on finishing it this coming week. I first listened to Richard Rohr speak the beginning of this year. He was on one of my favorite podcasts (Comedian Pete Holmes’s You Made it Weird) and I knew we were kindred spirits. It’s a good episode and worth the two hour listen. Anyway, I picked this book up at the library last Monday and am only on the 39th page. Rohr dives into the notion that humans have a two-part spiritual journey with some sort of “falling” in the middle. The book is relevant and inclusive to people of all faiths. Here are a couple of my favorite moments thus far:

People who have never allowed themselves to fall are actually off balance, while not realizing it at all. That is why they are so hard to live with. Please think about that for a while. (p 28)

and

Our Western dualistic minds do not process paradoxes very well. Without a contemplative mind, we do not know how to hold creative tensions. We are better at rushing to judgement and demanding a complete resolution to things before we have learned what they have to teach us…This is not the way of wisdom. (p 36)

I can tell that Rohr and I will be fast friends at the end of all of this.

Scary Close by Donald Miller

So this is the book that I have no plans of finishing. I am usually a Miller fan (I even mentioned him in my previous post), but this book fell a little flat for me. Miller’s tone seemed to not be as warm or inclusive as his previous titles. Part of my jaded attitude might be the fact that he spends much of the time talking about being real and open with your partner. I know I have so much more to learn in marriage, but David and I started our relationship off as two broken human beings making clumsy mistakes. Even at my most guarded, I am awful at hiding my flaws or faking confidence. So I guess Miller lost me a little bit. I think when I’m a famous author with some large businesses and a public presence to maintain, I will feel the same as he does.

Honesty is the best policy when it comes to challenges and resolutions, so thanks for bearing with me and forgiving me and sending me love and maybe some chocolates and a new pair of shoes.

Warmly,

Mary Emily

 

 

Being

We are so obsessed with doing that we have no time and no imagination left for being. As a result, men are valued not for what they are but for what they do or what they have – for their usefulness. -Thomas Merton

“So…what do you do?”

That is my least favorite question, but I find myself asking/being asked it so much these days. It may be because I’m a little awkward when it comes to small talk, but I think it goes deeper than that. I used to ask “What do you like to do?” but people would truly get so thrown off that I would almost feel bad for asking. As a creative, I envy those who can answer that question without clumsy further explanation. If someone my age is on a real career path, no one side glances with questions still in their eyes. Their inner dialogue is like “I get it, they save lives.” But when I am asked what I do, I perform a complex explanatory dance just to end up saying simply “I’m a nanny.”

What is that all about? I think I feel the inherent pressure to succeed because I’ve gambled my life on art. I have spent the last two years trying to validate what I studied in school. And trust me, being a nanny is certainly a strange place to show that my education was worth it.

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I have been surprised by what I’m currently doing with my life.  Part of my job as a nanny is also taking care of a small, ragamuffin farm. I have pruned fruit trees, cleaned coops, weeded ceaselessly, and (my personal favorite) turned compost. All these things become automatic pretty quickly and provide me with perfect opportunities to consider my own existence. I know that sounds a little navel gazy, but I believe it’s a privilege and a practice we could all use a little more of. When I am struggling to shovel unmentionable waste and rotting veggies, I am also giving myself time to just be. I’m not sitting cross-legged on a pillow (although that is also something I wholeheartedly encourage), but I am meditating and diving deeper into what it means to exist.

I have been curious about the more mystical side of spirituality for as long as I can remember. I was raised in a traditional church, but loved yoga the minute my feet touched a mat. I read excerpts of things written by mystic monks and gurus with the same enthusiasm. One of my favorite things that I have gleaned from these teachers is the importance of giving yourself the permission to simply live. Thomas Merton (one of my absolute favorites) lived and died without seeing a super-computer phone or the internet, yet he still thought we all needed to let go of “usefulness” and look at existence.

I know I am not original in saying we need to relinquish what we are doing and focus on who we are. I also know that we need to be reminded that we are so much more than what we do. That is only a small fraction of the beautiful garden of self inside each of us. Merton’s quote is my thesis for living this year. I am planning on returning to school with the hopes of teaching. I will write. I will keep on running. I will create art. But I will also remember that I have time to breathe, to live, to just be.

So here’s to a new calling: Being. Focusing on that will better enable us to love others for not only their usefulness, but for who they are.

Weekday Reading

This week has been heavy and long for more reasons than one. I am working on a fair amount of projects that distracted me from writing much. Don’t worry, I have a two part post planned for next week and I think the extra time will prove helpful. Anyway, I let’s get into this week’s choice!

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Week #3) What Do We Know by Mary Oliver

Wow, what a treat this book was. I felt like I rushed through this collection of poems and prose poems, so I will probably go back and read through it again this week. Oliver has long been a favorite poet of mine. Her poems are rooted in nature and have such a kind tone to them. One huge lesson I learned from her this time around is the power of a single-word title. Some of her most powerful poems in this book have the simplest of titles: “Gratitude”, “The Return”, “Mockingbird”. “The Return” is my favorite moment in the collection. The word choices and the structure of the poem are masterful. I would like to share the final section of the poem:

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The country of the mockingbird is where I now want to be,                                                     thank you, yes.

The days when the snow-white swans might  pass over the dunes                                            are the days I want to eat now, slowly and carefully                                                                       and with gratitude. Thank you.

The hours fresh and tidal are the hours I want to hold                                                                      in the palm of my hand, thank you, yes.

Such grace, thank you!

The gate I want to open now is the one that leads into                                                                   the flower-bed of my mind, thank you, yes.

Every day the slow, fresh wind, thank you, yes.

The wing, in the dark, that touches me.

Thank you.

Yes.

Oliver’s subtlety has encouraged me to look deeper into what I see, feel, taste, etc. in each moment. She has pointed my eyes to the ordinary-the dunes, the wind, the act of gratitude-and shown me that is where the true treasure of life lies. I would encourage you to look closer this week. Observe your own breath, the way your standing, the patterns of your thoughts. Connect those with the things and people around you. I am challenging myself to do the same, this week. Let’s meet here next week and share what treasures we’ve found.

Warmly,
Mary Emily

Other titles read this week: Attempting Normal by Marc Maron, Botanical Color at Your Fingertips by Rebecca Desnos

Weekday Reading

I have been sort of halfway sick this week, so I got to finish reading more than my goal! As exciting as that is, this week’s main title deserves all the attention. So let’s get into it.

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Week #2: Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates

This book was an incredible treat to read. I would recommend it to anyone. The  writing style is conversational and fairly easy to follow. I felt like reading this letter was a privileged look into a culture and history that I am not apart of. Coates’s commentary on race and what it means to have a “black body” is relevant and full of impact.

I cannot say much more than read this book. I was fortunate enough to be given a copy. I will give you my copy if not having it in your hands is what is stopping you. There are lots of moments that I are important in this book, but this quote is my favorite:

“The forgetting is habit, is yet another necessary component of the Dream. They have forgotten the scale of theft that enriched them in slavery; the terror that allowed them, for a century, to pilfer the vote; the segregationist policy that gave them their suburbs. They have forgotten, because to remember would tumble them out of the beautiful Dream and force them to live down here with us, down here in the world. I am convinced that the Dreamers, at least the Dreamers of today, would rather live white than live free. In the Dream they are Buck Rogers, Prince Aragorn, an entire race of Skywalkers. To awaken them is to reveal that they are an empire of humans and, like all empire of humans, are built on the destruction of the body. It is to stain their nobility, to make them vulnerable, fallible, breakable humans.”

Coates has not only made me feel uncomfortable, but responsible. I am terrified and excited to find out what it means to live free.

Warmly,
Mary Emily

Other titles finished this week: The Bad Beginning by Lemony Snicket, The Feather Room by Anis Mojgani

 

One Thing

“Never half-ass two things. Whole-ass one thing.”

-Ron Swanson

Why have I hesitated to call myself an artist or a poet, in spite of a decent amount of formal training? In fact, there is a long list of things I have been too uncomfortable with labeling myself as: dancer, yogi, musician, writer. This thought has come up more vehemently in my mind recently because someone asked me if I was a runner. I shuffled a little and awkwardly answered: “Yes?”

Honestly, I have never been one to label myself as something outright. This decision was never based on some esoteric notion of existing as a multi-dimensional being who is ever changing and transforming. No, I just never wanted to seem prideful enough to presume I was worthy of a title. That sentiment is laughable to me now, because false humility is ridiculous. In college, I was plagued with the “Fear of Missing Out” (FOMO for the hip folks out there). So much so, that I double majored! I didn’t want to jump wholeheartedly into Art or English, so I split my focus between the two. The result was being continuously grateful for my two fields of study while being perpetually confused at my decision to have two fields of study. Looking back on it, all my work suffered because of this.

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When I timidly called myself a runner a few weeks ago, I was allowing myself to be all in for something and that made me tremendously nervous. The days that followed, I acted like I was a runner. Not someone who likes to run, but a real runner. My FOMO kicked in the first day and I had thoughts like “What if training hard makes me unable to work on my poetry collection? Should I just give that up?” and “I’m never going to have time to re-learn how to work with gouache if I’m having to stretch and foam roll on my evenings off.” I shook the anxiety off and kept running. The next day, I doubted myself and thought: I haven’t won races or gone impossible distances, it’s silly to even dream that I am a runner. I exhaled that sentiment and kept running. I kept running through beautiful tears on the beach New Year’s Day and I kept running through the snow last week. The result of my labeling experiment has delightfully surprised me.

By completely diving into my identity as a runner, all my other identities have not faded away. Instead, they have been brought into sharper focus than before. I have not had to deny my creative pursuits! I have been more motivated than ever to write and paint. Not only have I thought about these things, but I have done them. I didn’t look long enough to find scientific back up on this theory. But in the words of Ron Swanson, “whole-ass one thing.” Run towards it with your whole being. You will wonder at the clarity of your peripheral vision. By choosing one thing to become, all the other you’s will fall into line.