Learning the words: even the ugly ones.

I’m writing over at Defeating the Dragons today, contributing to her “learning the words” series. Hope you enjoy!

This post is inspired by Grace BiskieBethany SuckrowAddie Zierman, and of course Samantha (who, when first starting this series and asking for guest writers, responded enthusiastically and favorably to my tentative proposal of this particular topic).

The past few years, I have been on an intentional journey into freedom from the panic, rage, and fear that has been the constant undercurrent of my young life. A big part of that journey has included the freedom to look at the horrible things in life and to say with confidence and conviction, “Fuck. This. Shit.”

Read more at Defeating the Dragons…

When Beauty and the Beast are both within.

This project from Dove has me so introspective today*. Please take a few moments to watch the video.

I don’t have the words at the moment to explain why this speaks so deeply to me.

But part of that is because I’ve sort of started a project semi-similar to this, inspired by a chapter of bell hooks’ “Feminism is For Everybody” in which she talks about the importance of changing the depiction of women in media.

I’ve decided to illustrate the women in my life that I greatly admire.

Mostly because I don’t know a single one of my friends who hasn’t struggled enormously with body image. And I want to capture them, their beauty, in artwork that they can look at on those days when they feel like they’d rather just disappear for good, to remind them that they’re their own worst critic.

But…I’m starting with me.

Because even though I was able to embrace myself for a few short days back in January, by and large I still hate myself. I’m still cruel to myself. I think of myself as monstrous, hideous to behold, an ugly eyesore to all who know me.

I feel very much like the Beast, when perhaps if I were to step back and be honest, perhaps I have more Beauty in me than I thought.

So here’s the beginning, trying to set a style of illustration to follow through my project with. If you like, I can update here as I go.

Initial illustrative style exploration. More to come until I settle on a technique I like.

Initial illustrative style exploration. More to come until I settle on a technique I like.

*While the video meant a lot to me, that doesn’t mean that it and other marketing campaigns of Dove are free from reinforcing the very narrow beauty definitions they decry. Read this article for a very balanced explanation of the more problematic aspects of this video in particular.

In which I have stories to tell.

I’ve been taking a bit of a break from writing, investing a lot of my time into self-care and survival. It’s been a good time. I feel like I’m starting to discover the joy of simple living and being. It’s been healing and wonderful.

But there’s been this nagging guilt in the back of my head. After all, I just resolved to write more — more often, more freely, more honestly, more brokenly. And after only four posts, I’ve felt emotionally exhausted and mentally spent. There’s been a lot of introspection about this seeming flakiness of determining to write then taking a break so soon into the new year.

It’s not that I don’t have stories to tell. It’s not that I don’t have a voice that deserves to be heard. It’s that I feel like I don’t have words with which to tell my story.

Prismacolor brush-tip illustration marker.

Prismacolor brush-tip illustration marker.

The other week, Paige came over and we had an art night. It was thrilling to pull out our stock of art supplies, rediscover things we’d long forgotten we owned. I decided to look through a quote book for something to letter so I could practice with my newly-found brush-tip illustration marker, and I came across this phrase. It grabbed hold of me and wouldn’t let me go. Four little words that buoyed my soul and freed my spirit and helped me sink into the couch a little deeper, breathe a little more easily, relax into the moment instead of worrying about life.

Four little words told a story that refreshed my heart. And so I wrote them down. I told myself the story that I most needed to hear.

Michael began a project this year in which he is completing one drawing a day. Sometimes it will just be a sketch, and sometimes it’ll be a full-blown art piece. And something in my soul stirred as I watched him create artwork after artwork.

He is telling stories through pencil and marker.

So I joined in ever so hesitantly. I’m used to drawing portraits with pencil, taking my time and getting things perfect. I decided that life was messy, and so my art could be messy as well. And so I ditched the pencil and opted for markers – something a little more permanent, a little quicker, a little messier, a little less precise. I drew my friend Jes, and watched her face fill with delight when I presented her with my work. I drew Lindsey. Emily saw my drawings and asked me to choose her next, and I was able to add some hand-lettering to her portrait. Then I decided to try to do something more than a sketch, something more like a piece of art, and so I drew Alyssa. Each drawing is a story. Each drawing has a voice – my voice and the voices of these beautiful, strong, vibrant, wonderful women.

Sometimes telling a story and sharing your truth doesn’t have to be done with words. Sometimes it can be a silent practice, a wordless offering, that sparks conversation and brings health.

And so I’ve decided that I’d like to share with you all my voice, in all its iterations, on this blog. My stories, all of them, in words and pictures.

I hope you join the conversation wherever it happens.

Because the best thing about stories is the community around them.

Existential perfection, problematic cultural systems, and being okay.

I am completely and utterly overwhelmed by the response I’ve gotten from “The body I have.”

On the one hand, I keep checking my stats with ever-widening eyes and a grin that I can’t quite get rid of. “People…are actually reading what I wrote? They like what I had to say?”

Then my introversion comes out, and I think, “I’ll just hide under a rock for a while until they all go away.”

And then my depression and anxiety kicks into high gear, like it has right now, and I frantically feel like I’m a fake and everyone will hate me if I’m discovered — until someone brings me back to planet earth with a reminder like this:

And now I can breathe a little easier.

Why did I write that piece in the first place?

I’ve been asking myself that a lot.

I think it boils down to me being sick of our culture.

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The body I have.

That leopard print thing is one of Sherlock's fabulous coats.

That leopard print thing in the bottom left corner is one of Sherlock’s fabulous coats.

I am fat.

And for the first time in my young life…

I am okay with that.

As I write this, I am sitting in my size 20 dark-wash skinny jeans.

You read that right. Skinny jeans — that somehow miraculously hug my butt, hips, thighs, and calves without making my stomach protrude unnaturally. Skinny jeans that make me look, well, really good.

On top of these magical jeans, I am wearing a size XL faded teal 3-quarter-sleeve fitted shirt with buttons halfway down the front, mostly unbuttoned so I feel neither choked nor awkward. It hangs just at my hips, which is remarkable considering my tall torso.

I am happy with how I look, even though I still have bulges I’d rather not have.

But it most certainly has not always been the case.

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