Vulnerability

Daring to Soar

Two New Years ago, I set an intention to write 100 blog posts that year. In retrospect, I see that the goal was ambitious. I do not want what I write to simply be stream of consciousness or quantity unpolished, unreflected upon. Still, there are ways with writing that I hold back that don’t help me.

 

I wrestle with blogging. There is a perfectionist in me that wants everything to be, well, perfect. That is not simply spelling, grammar, paragraphing. That is the easy part. It is more in striking the right balance between relevant and entertaining, serious and playful, logical and beautiful, pedagogical and vulnerable.

 

I realize in thinking about this that I am seeing blogging as more about appearance than essence. That is philosophy speak in my world for caring more about how it comes across to you than how it is for me. No wonder I was so struck in Elizabeth Gilbert’s book Big Magic when she entreats us to create for the sake of creating. She decries that we have been socialized to see creativity as instrumental (Am I talented? Will people like it?) instead of expressive (How is it an expression of myself? How does it make me feel?). Gilbert believes we all have a human need to create and part of us atrophies when we shut that down. She laments that we need to stop thinking about the audience (or lack thereof) and start believing in the benefits for ourselves.

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My Year of Blogging Boldly, Part One: The Dude

 

Nearly two years ago, I came across a man’s picture on a dating profile that stopped me. He was attractive enough. And I liked what he had to say. But there was something about his eyes that caught me. They had depth. They looked like they had seen and understood pain. I think that made me feel safe.

 

I reached out to him at the time, sending a note. Unusual for me as I rarely make the first move with online dating. In fact, I put up barriers to make contact with me a challenge in a bid to weed out insincere people. But something about him captured me. Alas, he did not respond.

 

I hardly ever go on that website now. But did on a lark late one night a while back as stolen moment of distraction while I was getting through a pile of work. He too was online. I would have been prepared to leave it at just noticing his presence there except that I’d seen him a couple days before at a movie. That had got me wondering about him. So when I saw him on at the same time, I said hello and asked him about what he’d thought of the film.

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My Year of Blogging Shamelessly: Part Five of Six

One woman’s journey from her body to her soul letting her relationship with food show the way.

 

In my mid-twenties I came across the books Fat is a Feminist Issue by Susie Orbach and When Food is Love by Geneen Roth. They were part of my discovery of feminism and the proposition ‘the personal is political.’ Through them I realized that I wasn’t alone in my struggles with my body, and they weren’t all my fault. I began to understand that the challenges people, especially women, have with food are substitutes or masks for other struggles that we don’t have the emotional space or safety in our lives to confront. We don’t have the social will in our culture to take on. Intellectually, I connected many dots within myself. Academically, I did a master’s degree on why women use food and their relationship to their bodies to have autonomy and give meaning to their lives. Physically, emotionally and spiritually, I am still finding my way.

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My Year of Blogging Shamelessly: Part Four of Six

One woman’s journey from her body to her soul letting her relationship with food show the way.

 

Suddenly, my English mind and my French mouth came together effortlessly. I was able to speak to my young interviewer passionately and forcefully (although certainly not perfectly) about my convictions: that we women use fat for protection, dieting for control and distraction; that weighing ourselves on a scale belies our desire for social approval in spite of protests to the contrary; that our physical hunger is trustworthy and our spiritual hungers are important; that the reasons we eat when we’re not hungry (or we don’t eat when we are) are the jewels that can give us insight into the most precious parts of ourselves.

 

Our personal stories of pain are planted as seeds that take root in the fertile soil of a patriarchal, fat-phobic society. And the patriarchal, fat-shaming society creates personal stories of pain. So it goes. This version of patriarchal society limits women by equating our worth with our size, and then shames us when we dare to step out of that equation. Just look at gossip magazine images and their finger-pointing headlines. We get called out both for being too big and too small, too sexy and too plain, wearing clothes that cover too little and wearing clothes that cover too much. It is a contradictory, confusing, confining and crazy-making world in which to have a female body. It creates the situation where we want to run for the cover of fat and the numbing power of food. Sometimes we eat just to get out of the line of fire. We rebel through fat; we conform through dieting. Either way, we sacrifice ourselves by sacrificing the wisdom of our hunger.

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My Year of Blogging Shamelessly: Part Three of Six

One woman’s journey from her body to her soul letting her relationship with food show the way.

 

There in front of me, interviewing me, was this pretty, young Parisian student maybe in her twenties, blue eyes, long light wavy hair, with what society would call an ideal body. Someone with a breathtaking air of innocence, who if you saw on the street you might assume didn’t have a care in the world. Everything about her seemed perfect.

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My Year of Blogging Shamelessly: Part Two of Six

One woman’s journey from her body to her soul letting her relationship with food show the way.

 

My mum had had a handful of boyfriends since her divorce. Not a high number for a single woman, but for a girl who missed her dad, who liked the men her mum was with, and who was devastated every time one of her relationships ended, it was too many. It was like having my already tentative heart opened only to have to close it again—hardened with a new layer of scar tissue each time.

 

To make matters worse, my dad was not someone I could rely on emotionally. I have learned in adulthood that I am Métis through him, and that he spent grade five and grade eight in care with the Catholic Church in Moose Jaw and in Edmonton. I have heard stories that my grandparents drank a lot and partied a lot, and were desperately poor. My dad won’t say much about that time except “you knew which priests to stay away from.” But his elder sister recounts memories of neglect at home and being left for long periods of time in the convent. On the occasions when she was finally picked up by her parents, she would arrive home only to meet new siblings.

 

My dad is a much better parent to adult children. I get that. And in my youth, when I needed him most, he was carrying a lot of shame from my mum’s leaving him. That likely only exacerbated the scars from his own parents’ eventual divorce. One thing I knew then, my mum was all I had.

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My Year of Blogging Shamelessly: Part One of Six

One woman’s journey from her body to her soul letting her relationship with food show the way.

 

I was in the middle of getting my hair done at a salon (a luxury I treat myself to every week) when my phone rang. I wasn’t surprised as it was the opening night of the film festival I was mounting in honour of International Women’s Day—a huge event I’d created on my own for a cause I am passionate about. The caller identified herself as being from the CBC, Canada’s national broadcaster, and asked if she was speaking to the Michelle Brewer who was responsible for the event. I replied that she was. She then asked me if I spoke French. I paused. I have worked hard at my French—including having lived two and a half years in immersion in Québec City. In fact, I can usually even pass as francophone for the first few sentences—that is, until my lack of vocabulary, my English mind moving faster than my French mouth and the letter R betray me. Still, out of love for the film festival and being a proud Canadian, I took a deep breath and responded oui.

 

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My Year of Blogging Vulnerably

At the beginning of this year, I committed to blog 100 times in 2016. That is an average of roughly twice a week with a couple of weeks off for good behaviour (or vacation or sickness). Here it is January 11th and only one post to date. Hmmm. I am a little bit behind schedule.

 

I can tell you that it is not a shortage of things to say. My mind is constantly whirling with one of two things. To start, ideas about how my relationship to food is a mirror/substitute in my life for my life. This is important to explore and discuss because I constantly hear how my experience is representative of many other women’s relationship to food, and because I am convinced that it has so much to do with our situation as women in this still patriarchal Western world. What I mean is “internalized oppression:” that is both about how we have internalized the social-political limitations of yore as negative self-talk about our appearance, especially about our bodies, that continues to limit us, and how we use gossip and criticism of other women–again about appearance and body–to police and confine them so that they don’t have lives bigger than ours. (Yes, there is a fuller blog post in there sometime soon).

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brene brown photo showing I am Enough written on a woman's chest

I am enough.

How can something that feels so wrong actually be oh so right?
Why you shouldn’t always believe what you’re thinking.

 

Oh my God…what have I done? What was I thinking to share my ideas like that? Who am I to think I can be on a mission to spread the word about mindful eating? I am still working through eating issues myself. Who am I to think I can be a specialist in this?

This is exactly what was blaring through my head when I woke up Monday morning after two days at the amazing workshopping weekend “The Good One Hundred Experiment” for businesses and projects out of Edmonton that focus on the social and local good. Even though I loved the weekend, got amazing feedback on what I was doing with mindful eating, and met some truly fantastic people, my overall take away at that point was that I was a fool for sharing myself like I did. I was sure that the people there were thinking what a quaint little project I had but was truly out of my league, or what I loser I was for talking so openly about something that is better seen as a private and shameful issue that only belongs to weak and undeserving people. (Underscore the word shameful–more to come.) When I was thirteen and started to gain weight, I learned pretty quickly that my ‘go to’ position on my weight gain was to give the world the impression that it did not matter to me…in spite of all the pain I was feeling inside. That way, people wouldn’t be able to use it against me. Now, here I was some thirty years later telling a room full of participants that it was my issue, and it meant the world to me. I felt naked.

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