Pants On/Off

Does it feel like the inside of a sweater ad where you are? I think Oregon has had its big hurrah, but there are still leaves all around: spiraling down from the sky, lining the sides of the streets, sticking to the soles of my shoes.

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I love this time of year. It’s the time — as poet David Baker put it — to “bag gold,” for all of the cold days to come.

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I haven’t been writing a lot myself lately, but I have been reading. Sometimes — for better or worse — it feels like I need a break to fill up with words again.

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What have you been up to lately? Catch me up.

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Would you agree it’s easier said than done to write your own definitions of love and happiness and let everybody else do the same? Ditto on thoughts about healing and health. And so many other things too, really. Beauty comes to mind.

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Also: courage, balance, success, strength. We all have different pictures of these things.

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I wonder what’s a priority for you right now. I wonder what you’ve been procrastinating. Not in your work life, but in your life-life. What feels like a really big ask these days?

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I don’t have a neat and tidy answer, or at least not one I’m ready to unpack in plain view. If my gut instinct is anything to go by, there are a few too many — what did we used to call them, unmentionables? — on top for that.

So, until I’m ready to unzip myself and survey the contents of the last couple of weeks, I’ll take comfort in other people’s words. In things I read that made me feel better. And by ‘better,’ of course, I really mean: less alone.

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“It’s all a matter of paying attention, being awake in the present moment, and not expecting a huge payoff. The magic in this world seems to work in whispers and small kindnesses.” -Charles de Lint

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“You can look at a picture for a week and never think of it again. You can also look at a picture for a second and think of it all your life.” -Donna Tartt

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“You can fume at the world if you like. Or you can use your words, art, and gifts to let us in. Build us a bridge to where you are.” -Lin-Manuel Miranda

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“Remember that real love doesn’t feel like a fantasy. Real love feels like real life, but a real life that you can finally experience with all of your senses. Real love is a divine series of clumsy maneuvers, unnerving mistakes, flashes of joy and lust and self-doubt and fear and anger and also peace. You don’t share real love with some fantasy ‘soul mate’ with magical qualities that radiate around him and make you nervous forever and ever.

What you’re looking for is someone who can see you clearly. An ordinary, lovable person who exists in the real world and understands that flaws are human and not a deal breaker. These people are everywhere, once you start to see yourself and your own flaws the same way. At some point, someone who accepts your good and bad will embrace you with patience and grace. It will feel strange and amazing and frightening. It will not always feel romantic in the ‘music swelling, cameras circling’ sense. You won’t get to be the gorgeous heroine. You’ll get to be a human being, with needs and problems and emotions. And that will be enough.

Start now. Be a regular woman who has needs of her own. Don’t try to be a fantasy girl. Be an awkward interloper, someone who says the wrong thing and feels the wrong way and is all sharp elbows and mumbled words and lopsided smiles and perfectly timed mistakes. Open your heart and embrace this person. Give her your love. She is more than worthy of it.” -Heather Havrilesky

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“Are you feeling a bit shaken, maybe stirred, maybe fearful and doubtful and completely utterly, wildly terrified? Good. Keep going.” -Victoria Erickson

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“Yes, it was true that Franny had gotten thicker in the last decade, but that was what happened unless you were a high-functioning psychotic, and she had other things to think about. Franny knew plenty of women who had chosen to prioritize the eternal youth of their bodies, and they were all miserable creatures, their taut triceps unable to conceal their dissatisfaction with their empty stomachs and unfulfilling lives. Franny liked to eat, and to feed people, and she wasn’t embarrassed that her body displayed such proclivities.” -Emma Straub

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“Perhaps many things inside you have been transformed; perhaps somewhere, someplace deep inside your being, you have undergone important changes while you were sad.” -Rainer Maria Rilke

“Blogging is a tough thing to explain to people who don’t get it. Why in the world would you want to pour your most private thoughts and emotions onto pages that anyone in the world can read? It looks almost rude to them, like taking your pants off in the middle of the street. And you’re not even getting paid for it? And there are only three or four people watching, and two of them are snickering behind their hands?

But for someone who’s spent her entire life feeling out of place, feeling like what’s inside of her is shameful and embarrassing and should never, ever come out — even in conversations with her friends, even in talks with her family — writing stuff that’s deeply personal and pushing it out into the world feels like breathing in deeply for the first time. It’s not just a thing you do for recognition or to build some kind of a reputation. It’s a way of feeling right with the world, feeling seen and heard and connecting to people who understand exactly where you’re coming from.

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Blogging is a way of staying where you are (for now) while also reaching out to the wider world for acceptance and understanding and connection. It is a way of showing who you really are. It is a way for you to have a voice again. It is a way for you to stop hiding.

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Will there be people who say, ‘Wow, is your whole life just one unbroken therapy session? Does your identity really matter to anyone else that much? Why don’t you shut up and make yourself of service to some greater cause?’ You bet. But some of us really can’t do anything until we figure out how to show our authentic selves to the world, and I personally don’t think there is anything wrong with taking a little time and space to figure out how to stop pretending.

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When you struggle with how much of yourself to reveal, and whether or not you should really be taking your pants off in public anymore, remember: you are the decider. You control how much you expose. I mean, look, lay it bare if that’s what you love to write and what you love to read the very most. But personally, I think we’ve lost sight of how important it is to stay partially hidden at times. You can show your ass by wearing ass pants. You don’t have to moon people out of your car window.

You can still tap out your anger and loneliness and revel in the giddy delight at finally being free and living out in the open. It might feel silly. It might be downright embarrassing, at times. You spend how much time writing? For how many people? That voice might never go away completely, and that’s okay. We’re all a joke to someone, somewhere. But I’m like you. These are the sounds I make. This is how I breathe. This is where my happiness starts.” -Heather Havrilesky

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{Line-up of leaves via @nicholas_steven_, tombstone sketch via @bymariandrew, Rowena Crest via @thatmiyamoto, Portland from the OSHU tram via @findfarah, big leaf maple via @maime_, Ohanapecosh River Bridge via @michellesurdo, winding road via @kategantner, downtown PDX via @bakery_bingo, dream house via @nschinco — all on Instagram.}

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2 thoughts on “Pants On/Off

  1. Powerful messages here. I love your writing and willingness to expose your underbelly – the part that most of us feel too vulnerable to share. Keep doing what you do.

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