My Year of Blogging Personally: Part One
One thing I have come to see in the short time I have been writing this blog is that I have to show up and be responsible for the discipline of writing: etch out a time, sit myself down (preferably at Starbucks with a chai tea latté), set myself up to go and write down some of the ideas that have been whirling around in my head. Those are the basics. Most days the discipline also includes things like resist the internet and ignore the to do list–things that weren’t even on my mind until I sat down to write. Okay, I check my emails more than I need to. But I usually bring myself back.
I hate it at the beginning of each post. I hate it because at that moment I don’t know what I am going to write. Sure I have some orienting ideas. But I’ve come to realize that it is a process that I start but don’t necessarily know where it will go. That is the grace part-the part I do not control. It is the gift—the unmerited favour or goodwill from the universe. Yes, and thank-you.
There are two things that I don’t like about not knowing. One is the unoriented feeling, like fumbling in a dark room looking for a light switch. Every step forward becomes shorter and less confident. It is a time for me of frustration, powerlessness and sometimes brutal self-talk. “You can’t do this” and “No one cares what you have to say.” That amps up until I eventually and mercifully find a cohesing direction–when a general theme emerges together with an order that allows the whole of the thought to flow to completion, as the French say: le fil conducteur. Then I can’t get enough of it. I could spend days in the writing and perfecting of it like there is no world outside the document. (Yes, that sounds like narcissism-I get that)
Recognizing this as a process has helped me settle into it a lot. Seeing its predictable stages. Trusting that the piece will take shape and become more than the sum of its parts in its own time. In the end, I feel like I sculptress who has lovingly released something precious from its encasement. Something that had a preexistent form. It’s like my own version of midwifery.
The second thing is that there always seems to be some uncomfortable self-exposure involved, exact content of which was unanticipated in the early stages of writing. I am just typing along and it all seems fine until I feel inspired to provide an example to illustrate what I am talking about, a personal example. It streams out of me unabashedly until I register what I’ve just included. Then I stop in horror. Am I sure I really want to say that out loud let alone on the internet?
In spite of this internal protest, there is something that impels me. It feels like what I am writing is missing something if I don’t include the example. Whether that something is crucial to the integrity of the post or is actually a sharing for my own process, for the benefit of making myself vulnerable? That is an interesting prospect. According to Brené Brown, telling our stories is exposing ourselves to the light of day for healing, instead of being in the poison of shame and isolation. For Cheri Huber, when things are hidden within us, our behaviour is controlled by self-hate. Sharing our experiences means they can be met with the dissolving power of compassion from ourselves and from others, and we can be liberated.
What I can tell you is that sharing like this feels daunting. But really, what is the alternative? At the beginning of writing this series of blog posts I said that this process was for me to figure out my places of shame. So to the personal parts of myself that make their way out to be shared as examples: yes, and thank-you.
I first saw the play Medicine at the Edmonton Fringe in August 2012. It had a great impact on me. It is an autobiographical monologue about the experience of its author/actor TJ Dawe on a week-long retreat he attends to make sense of his dread of auditions, a feeling he connects to a deeper social alienation.
The retreat was led by Vancouver doctor Gabor Maté, author of books on ADD, stress, attachment parenting and addiction, the latter he defines as any behaviour one craves, that relieves stress, has negative consequences for the person doing it, but who continues to do it despite those consequences. Dawe had discovered Maté’s books during a period of exploration into himself. After writing and touring an earlier play that involved insights Dawe gleaned from reading them, the doctor invited him to take part in one of his retreats. They were, Maté explained, for people who were willing to find out the truth about themselves, whether it was what they wanted it to be or not.
The gathering was a kind of intensive group therapy with around twelve other participants. But different from most therapies, this one involved their twice taking the Peruvian shamanic plant medicine ayahuasca. Ingested as a tea, ayahuasca is seen as a sacred means to insight into psychological issues, enabling the person drinking it to make sense of how parts of their personality are often related to early life experiences that are otherwise hidden but nevertheless affecting or inhibiting their present day life.
Before drinking it, all the participants were called on to set an intention as to what they want the psychotropic medicine to show them. A request to “Mama Ayahuasca” to shed light. They were advised that they might not get the insight that want, but they would always get the insight that they need. And the right response to her in all manner of revealing–whether that was accompanied by intense vomiting or a colourful psychedelic trip– was “yes, and thank-you.”
When I have been sitting down lately preparing to write what new insight I’ve come to about my relationship with food, I have been a little surprised. However I start my posts, they all seem to veer into one direction: my divorce. At first I was perplexed: “Really?” and “What does that have to do with my relationship to food?” Then it became “NO WAY! I don’t want to talk about that. It would make me vulnerable in a whole way I didn’t anticipate. It’s personal. It’s too personal!”
Like this whole thing isn’t personal. Maybe my divorce is precisely what I need to talk about to understand my relationship to food, how I turn to it even and especially when I don’t want to. Maybe it is somehow connected to perceived rejection and early loss. So wisdom of the universe, I yield to you. I open myself up to write about my divorce. For this opportunity, I humbly say: yes, and thank-you.