One of the things I consistently hear from readers of both this blog and my Reflections issues that go out each Monday is how much you appreciate my authenticity. And it’s true, I write and speak about things that many other folks might not want to talk about.
I have written extensively about my experience of mental illness. Indeed, I have written about hearing voices, and what that has been like in my life, what I used to think iand t was (I thought everyone went through life the way I did!), and what it was like getting an initial diagnosis that had “psychosis” in the title. I mean, really?! Really?!
And writing about that “really” has helped me rethink so many things. Things like using the word “psychotic” as a slur is something I don’t do anymore. And hearing it is still a soft spot, I must admit. (I do still talk about what it’s like to be “batshit crazy” from my own perspective. “Do I contradict myself? Very well then, I contradict myself. I am large. I contain multitudes.” –thank you, Uncle Walt. Language is a funny thing.)
I write about what it’s like to be fat. And I don’t talk about being obese, or overweight (that one in particular, makes me laugh), or “fluffy.” I write and talk and preach about what it’s like to be a very fat woman in our culture. I write about being very fat, even though I’m not entirely comfortable with it. I’m certainly not “comfortable” with what it’s like to be with, in, to be this body. But I believe that writing about that discomfort, physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual, is important. My voice needs to be among the voices, especially given the cacophony of anti-fat, weight-biased voices that are out there.
I even write sometimes about being a bad-fattie, as we are sometimes called. Someone who is fat and has a hard time getting to joyful movement or perfectly intuitive eating. Someone who prioritizes some things above physical health and who thinks the expression, “If you don’t have your health, you don’t have anything,” is ridiculous and beyond ableist. I write about how fat people are treated generally–note the “headless fattie” above, and I write about my own experience of feeling “headless” at times, seen only for my cane, or my epic ass, or the fact that I preach sitting down.
I write about being a witch, a priestess, a spiritual leader who doesn’t fit tidily into religious boxes. I write about my commitments to Unitarian Universalism. I write about my commitments to Stone Circle Wicca. I write about how Roman Catholicism has shaped and continues to shape my life.
I write about being a survivor of multiple sexual assaults. Where I have been victimized or feel still keenly the weight of those traumas, and where I am thriving in spite of them. I want people to know that it’s more than just about getting through. It doesn’t have to be only a slog. I won’t say, “It’s gets better,” because for some of us, frankly, it doesn’t. But I want to do my part to help it get better for others.
I write about the past and present. Things that are happening in my heart now and things I have experienced before. I try, truly, to write and preach and speak and listen and respond from a place that acknowledges that I am human, mortal, sinful (getta load of THAT word!), bruised and friable, and yet still beautiful, still beloved, still thriving.
I even, sometimes dare–and more on this coming soon–to write about my own internalized ableism, weight bias, and fat-phobia. These are harder, because they’re closer to the bone of tender feelings, of what is hard right now, and where I need support nearly as much as I can offer it.
How to Choose?
That question–where do I need support and where can I offer it, is essential.
So we’ve established that authenticity is important in my ministry.
So many people have come to me and said how much they appreciate my work on mental health/mental illness, fat and fat phobia, as well as stories of my younger life, when I was the polyamorous, BDSM, vandalizing dyke about town and campus. We all need to hear what is real. And we need to hear it from people whose lives and words and teachings matter to us.
But there is a way of going over the line.
There is a way of making other people into receptacles for the writer’s–in this case, my–needs, feelings, desires, woundedness.
There are ways of speaking to people, on video, from the pulpit, in person, that don’t take into consideration the nature of relationship.
It’s true, I share more than many people do, or would, and sometimes I make mistakes. I err on the side of the overshare, I forget to WAIT–that is, to answer the question, “Why Am I Talking?” I forget to pause and consider for whom I am talking or writing.
Is it for me and only me? Then it belongs in my journal, in conversations with beloveds, in therapy. And I need these places to help me sort out what is mine and just mine and what is and can fruitfully be part of my ministry.
In Part Two, I will rite about surrender/acceptance and collapse. Look for it soon!