Just in time for Fat Liberation Month (May), I am releasing my latest book, Embracing Awkward: A Collection of Writings on Life, Love, Body Image, Fat Liberation, Sexuality, Vulnerability, and Standing Strong. This book is fat-positive, sex-positive, contains some profanity, and the last chapter is sexually explicit in parts. It’s not for everyone, but some of you might love it!
Embracing Awkward is a compilation of some of my poems and short writings I’ve collected over the past 30 years. It is my journey into accepting and loving myself in all of my humanness.
I’ve been contemplating my relationship to “Awkward” lately – how I’ve avoided that feeling my whole life as much as possible. In my book, I tell the story of how when my daughter was little, if she sensed an awkward moment coming in a movie or TV show, she would jump off of the couch and go flying out of the room at a dead run, yelling, “Tell me when it’s over!” I felt a little sad that she did that – because she missed all of the best parts! The funny, the heart-felt, the poignant, the very human moments that were what actually made the story.
One night as I was trying to fall asleep, it occurred to me that I do that in my real life. Instead of hanging around for the awkward moments – and allowing whatever might come (laughter, tears, arguments, awkward conversations, the unknown), I have my own version of running out of the room, avoiding having to deal with anything that makes me feel the least bit awkward or uncomfortable. How sad! And I not only do that in relationship to other people, but I’ve also had a way of closing myself down inside – that separates me from my own Self – from my own life force, my inner voice, my feelings and passions and desires.
As I’ve faced loss, betrayals, disappointments, and incredibly painful moments in my life, I’ve battened down my feelings with my very oft repeated mantra, “It doesn’t matter.” That is spiritual bypassing, in case you don’t recognize it. I’d tell myself that the Universe has a better plan or that everything happens for a reason. I’d coach myself to “put love first” and let slide the things that would pull me out of love by (rightfully) upsetting me. “It doesn’t matter.” “All that matters is love.” I’ve been an expert at spiritual bypassing for decades – but that isn’t the whole story.
The other part of the story is that spiritually bypassing was useful in helping me to avoid dealing with awkward situations and feelings – both with other people, as well as inside myself. It’s the inside myself that really concerns me. I mean, yes both – with other people too – but if I’m gaslighting myself, denying myself access to my own true feelings, that’s a major problem for me. And yes, that’s exactly what I’ve been doing when I kept repeating to myself, “That’s okay. It doesn’t really matter.”
When I’ve said, “It doesn’t matter” over and over, the message I was getting internally was that I don’t matter – that my feelings, desires, wants, disappointments, dreams, etc. – none of that matters. I was shutting myself down. I’m well aware that when we shut down any part of ourselves, when we dim any area of our emotions, we shut down and dim everything. We can’t shut down our disappointment without also shutting down our joy and hope. We can’t shut down our anger without also shutting down our passions and love. I mean, yes, of course I still have felt love – but the reality is that when I tamped down my other emotions so much, there was a sort of deadening in me that’s difficult to explain. I almost felt like I was bound inside – as though each denial had placed a layer of gauze over me until I was nearly mummified.
“It doesn’t matter” and “I don’t care,” when they aren’t true, have done incalculable damage to my Inner Being and to my relationship with Self. I’ve done this dance to some extent my whole life, between burying my feelings, just going through the motions of life, then excavating my feelings and allowing my vulnerable, awkward self to step out into the light. Then back into hiding, only able to take so much before I needed the “peace” of numbness, checking out. Of course, my Spirit doesn’t allow that for very long before she rises back up and demands to be seen and to be able to breathe.
I’m currently in a phase of stripping off the gauze and allowing myself to see what’s there – and while I’m doing that, to dance with Awkward. I’ve personified him in my mind. I sat with him the other day, feeling the physical and emotional sensations I have in my body in his presence. What I noticed, is that much like fear and excitement, Awkward produces those same sort of vibes and reactions in my body – a fight or flight or freeze response, tingling all over, nausea, a sense of something that feels like dread, but might be excitement. It’s an interesting experience, to stay physically and emotionally present to Awkward. I’m going to try to do that more often – because I really want to set my Spirit free. I deeply want to live from my own truths and to follow my passions and desires and inner voice. I can’t do that if I keep running from Awkward – because a lot of the things that matter to me are sitting right there next to Awkward – and the only way to get to them is to approach him. I’m training myself to think of each potential encounter with Awkward as an opportunity to move toward, rather than a threat to run from (respecting, of course, when I don’t have the energy to deal with such an encounter in the moment).
One thing I have noticed is that as I move into Awkward, just like when I move into fear – it’s not as scary or as painful as I’d anticipated. On the contrary, the further I step forward, the more they seem to dissipate – and I’m left with moments that just feel … real. Normal, even. The heart-racing sensation shifts into an inner calm as I notice I’m still breathing and that nothing terrible has happened to me. Part of this has been made possible by the deep commitment to self-love that I have made over these past years. I know that I have my own back – and that regardless of what happens, I will come away still loving and supporting myself. I may need to lick my wounds, but at least I am no longer denying they are there – that’s a big step in the direction I want to be heading. And you know what? I believe that if I can manage to stay open, even to my disappointments, that something else wonderful might come along to fill that open space – since I’m no longer stuffing it with the “it doesn’t matter” gauze.
Below is a video performance of a poem that I wrote called, Oh Awkward, My Lover. It is not in this book, but will likely be in a future collection. I want to warn you, should you decide to watch it, that it does mention a private anatomical body part. I’m embracing Awkward in my life as much as I can, which is not all of the time – but moving in that direction. Sometimes, we may need to run and hide from Awkward and rest and rebuild our strength. I do invite you to consider and explore your relationship with Awkward. It can be very rewarding. Also, as more of us embrace Awkward, it creates space for others to be themselves too. Can you imagine the wonderful world we could create if we all felt free and able to be and express our authentic selves?