Shaming + Blaming: Unconditional Self Love

Often it is hard to be honest, to get the words out especially when talking about anger and pain. I wrote this to a friend early this morning who has become my pen pal. We are both aligned so deeply with our own feelings and creativity - it is a blessing to have people like this in my life. I share it because this has been on my mind.

Hello R-------,

Thank you so much for your kindness and patience. I don't apologize anymore for "not writing back sooner" only because there are just too many emails and I find in this life I've apologized for too many things, for myself every day. So I am not apologizing, but I am writing back!

Thank you for becoming my pen pal! It's so funny that we've barely spoken longer than a minute or two - I know we will! - it's nice to get to know one another through our writing. I find I express myself so clearly this way and with you.

Thank you for the loving critique of my posts. You're right - it really is vulnerability pouring out of me because that's where courage comes from. In the beginning (in the first week), everyone told me how courageous I was, how brave I was for speaking so openly about the miscarriage (I often find myself almost saying abortion - it was technically a "spontaneous or natural abortion" and I feel like my body is a smart body, a good body because she knew to abort and reject a dead fetus). I didn't believe them - I felt that I had to talk about it for my own sanity and I just couldn't help it. But now I accept and open myself to the idea that I can be courageous. I can be brave. I am brave.

I have to say that there are the difficult experiences of living with loss in your life, grieving and being so open to it, even terrified of the madness of grief (and the accompanying madness of creativity). N------- tells me I'm unhinged and I say Yes I am unhinged! Yesterday was a particularly rough day for me. I feel insane, I feel unhinged, I feel crazy, I feel the madness. I know it's all ok because all feelings are valid. A friend, who had a miscarriage last year, wrote that to me when I announced the loss of our pregnancy and it's stayed with me. I frequently say it to people after I talk about feeling failure, shame, embarrassment, and like an outsider. Everyone wants to "silverline" the hardships (coined by Brené Brown during The Power of Empathy!). I opened a tiny window to this conversation with U-------- and she shamed me for my feelings. I was sobbing and shouting, All feelings are valid! but she comes from another time and place and has her own story of struggle. Everyone has their own story. I have never been shamed so intensely, publicly and on so many levels. Others have said shaming/blaming things to me about the miscarriage and every time I call them on it, for every single person regardless of who it is. At this point, I love myself too much - I mean I actually love myself! I think before I loved myself only a little bit in different ways but now I am in love with myself and that love is unconditional. And this means that I also have a deep confidence in myself to be anything, say anything, accept myself and my flaws, embrace the vulnerability, embrace myself and embrace those around me. But when these people shame me, when she shamed me in front of everyone...she put into words what I'm sure many think and feel. She had the gall to say those things to me - you would be ashamed for her for saying those things! I was in shock. I was in a raw place and the more she invalidated what I was feeling, the more I sobbed. She told me Don't ruin your marriage. I said I'm not ruining my marriage - this is making us stronger! She said, You need to live life and look forward! I said I am living my life! That's why I paint and write every day! And I look to the past and I look to the present and I look to the future - I have so many plans for myself!  She said, Well what if you carried that baby to a full term, to all nine months - and I interrupted Yes that would be worse! And she said, You see?! And again I have to say that all feelings are valid. But it's as if she hears nothing. I shout and cry It's only been a month! Later N------- tells me she didn't realize this. But how long is "long enough" for grieving? I've spoken to so many people who have lost babies in their wombs at 5 weeks and 4 months and 9 months and for those who haven't lost a baby, they have a story to share about their friend, their mother, their grandmother, their aunt. Often I am told it was last year, it was 5 years ago, it was 25 years ago and I still grieve the baby that I lost. That is honest. It is so hard to be honest and we are also so different in our ways and in our grieving (or our non-grieving-grieving).

I am grateful to have the confidence and the language to speak up for myself, to explain myself, to attempt to make myself understood even if I can't be heard by others. And I appreciate those, like you, who are so open to what is happening to me, what happens to millions of women (yes U------- - I know!) because even though it happens and has happened to so many all throughout time and will continue to happen because there is no such thing as just pregnancy or just miscarriage, it is the wide spectrum of pregnancy which includes miscarriage and still birth, it does not take away the sting and confusion and madness of loss and it does not mean my feelings and what I am experiencing is invalid.

Because all feelings are valid.

love, dawn

Roar aka Fuck Bikinis, Bras + Shaving aka I just want to be free

This week, Danny and I are in Miami visiting his family, his birthplace and also to have (hello!) a long, sunny vacation, and some beachy treats especially after the month that we’ve both experienced.

I just got off the phone with “Jane”, a volunteer through PLSP, a person who herself has experienced a pregnancy loss, and who I’ll get to have one more free phone counseling with before I’m eligible for their bereavement groups. The first time we talked, I was on a retreat with D & my mom, feeling very vibrant, and feeling the love. This time was different, because I am different. I now find that every day has its difficulties and I am crying daily again. I never know what will spark (inspire?) the crying, the sad feelings and although I always go with whatever emotions sweep over me, I feel I have no control.

When we were at the airport getting ready to board the plane to come down here, there were all these families with little kids, little girls. A father extended his big finger, as a steady hand, for his daughter to take in her hand and walk around. I went to tell D how sweet this was and in that split second that I turned to tell him, I found myself crying and sobbed and sobbed into his shoulder. He understands; we just express things differently.

500 year old trees at  Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary

500 year old trees at Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary

We started planning this trip when I was still pregnant. I would have been pregnant at that moment in time - this is how I dreamed it. And I lost my baby. We lost a baby. His parents and my mom lost a grandbaby. His siblings lost a niece or nephew. So did our friends-family. That is the truth. I don’t have any physical indicators any more to show that I was pregnant, or questions into my physical health, the easy questions. All I have is my own sadness, taking me to new heights and depths. I walk around every day now with the my own shadow of darkness following me, living below the surface, simmering inside of me. Jane asks me what the triggers are but I never know when its going to happen. It just does, and I allow it to. I allow myself to feel. I allow myself to be free. I am free. And in achieving this freedom, I see in these difficult weeks, this is another transformation - I keep changing, becoming new people, emerging from multiple cocoons, shedding old ways and taking on new ones - but I’ve been here before, I’ve said these words, this is all familiar and I am awake.

I’ve been wanting to write a blog post for days and art comes when it comes and when you make time for it. I announced the title of this post to D and he said, Why don’t you tell us how you really feel? And that’s why I love him! And that’s why he loves me. So let me explain. It started as Fuck Bikinis, Bras + Shaving because yes I am on vacation in the land of the sun and when you go to the beach you wear a bathing suit and most often a bikini. Now, even before I knew I was pregnant, I was taking a Spirit Bath (before I started calling them that), and said, When I’m pregnant, I’m not going to shave anymore. In fact, I’m starting now. I had read that Busy Phillips  stopped waxing because she wanted her little girl to look at her and know that "grown women have hair on their vaginas". I want to be a role model to whoever was going to be born, one that allows their body to be natural and to be free. But there was one thing I was going to cut - the hairs on my head! I also decided, in that space and time when I was weeks pregnant but had no idea, that this long in the middle, shaved on the sides is the hair I’ve been wanting for years and that though I love it right now it its shortest stage, I will also love it when the middle grows long. I want to have a long mane of hair down the middle when I am laboring and joyfully giving birth to our Rainbow Baby (inspired in part by SQUAT).

Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary

Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary

And so here I am presented with Naples/Miami bikini season and here is my futuristic-post-modern-post-misogyny-hairy-body and ohhh I’ve got dilemmas. I am comfortable with the leg, cooch and armpit hair but I don’t know how to navigate these waters on a clothed beach with my family. I know that society thinks it’s ugly because I’ve thought the same. While, I would love to wear what I’ve brought and let it all hang out, I feel like a parody of this offensive SNL skit I once heard which goes I’m Helga the German Waitress with the very long armpit hair. Oh Helga, your armpit hair is in my soup! Ohhhhh sorry!! My armpit hair is not that long, but my - I honestly do not know how to refer to the stretch of jungle growing in between my legs. Well, my snatch hair is growing - I’ve shaved for years so I have no idea how far it will go. But it looks pretty comical with a string bikini worn over it. I borrowed a tankini from my mother-in-law (mine were oddly stretched out and the string bikini top...no) and wore little hot pants shorts over the bottoms. While walking on the beach with D, I showed him what was going on downs-below and he was shocked. Yes it is shocking! He asked, Did you bring a razor? And I said, No I’m not shaving! But I need a different bathing suit (or a nude beach!). Everyone wants to feel beautiful and confident and sexy especially at the beach and this was an awkward barrier to that for me.

bird2.jpg

That night we got vegan food and I saw this brightly lit superstore of touristy beach wear and bathing suits. I was elated. I want to swim, I want to navigate mainstream waters and not freak people out (too much) before they get a chance to know and like me - this is part of the reason why I decided to continue to wear a bra in public - but only until I get pregnant and have a baby!! So we went in and they were actually about to close. I scoured the racks for hot pants/underwear in my size - this place runs so small just like American Apparel that I got a Large but needed a non-existent XL. D helped me find matching tops and it is all a hot mess, running around, time time time against (or for?) me, bathing suit tops not fitting. I definitely tested D’s patience, as I do every day but not his love, he said. This is why we love each other. And, I got my hodge-podge-bikini: blue hot pants underwear bottoms that conceal the va-ja-ja forest and a badeau top that's easily adjustable, won't let my boobs fall out and has palm trees on it. I did have some crazy revelations in the race to try them on. Shopping for bathing suits (jeans or bras) is one of the most horrible experiences for a female bodied person, at least for this one. Regardless of how skinny you think other people are, or how people often refer to me, I am not skinny. I have a lot of curves that do not fit into skinny people clothing. I was at an Indy party once and a (weird) girl approached me and said You have a womanly figure. So there you go - I have a womanly figure! But don’t we all? Anyhow, I tried on these hot pants which are electric blue and so comfy and cover up the comically offensive hairs and then I start criticizing myself because I got this muffin top thing going on. I think Oh no oh no! Not long after I realize the irony of wanting to be free and getting something to cover up that freedom only to be ashamed that my body doesn’t fit into these freedom pants. So I said to myself, If I can deal with this muffin top, so can everyone else. It has to be less culturally unacceptable than the growing terrain beneath it and the store is closing and we gotta go.

A log provides new life at Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary

A log provides new life at Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary

We come back to the (incredibly fancy) hotel and just chill there. I finally get my Bloody Mary and it’s more perfect than my fantasy because it’s me, D + his Vodka Tonic with our legs in a hot tub. I submerge into the hot tub for a while and then go swimming in the pool. I lay on my back there, staring at the stars, at bright Mercury or is it Jupiter, D knows. I look back at the universe, the dark sky, the lights, so vast, I see my baby there, when all of it came out of me that day, and saw the universe that had been growing inside of me and I cry and cry into the lake of the pool, of myself, floating, floating and I fall asleep. I am very good at floating.

The following day we’re packing up to head over to a protected Everglades swamp and I decided to pursue a song I heard on D’s parent’s car radio. The song is Roar by Katy Perry. As I was packing, I listened and watched the music video and found myself sobbing. This song, this video spoke directly to me. I kept watching and playing the whole thing until it wouldn’t make me sob (which was about 4-5 times). That is now one of my mantras. I went to read about it and discovered another related song, Brave by Sara Bareilles. Last night after the Mogwai show with Team Danny, between 2 and 4am, I listened to many versions of this song, a duet with Carol King melded with her song Beautiful and one two three different videos of people dancing to this song. I went to go into the backyard but the door was locked and I didn’t know where the keys were so I quietly put the music on in the living room and danced there.

jungle.jpg

Coupled with the temporary phone therapy, therapy with a social worker, bereavement groups and support from friends-family, these are my song mantras, they make me stronger, I sing them in my head when I wake up in the morning, they help me to maintain my confidence in myself, living this life fully, leaning into the discomfort, the pain of the loss of losing this baby, this tiny life that was growing inside of me and birthed a new Dawn, that is me, and knowing that I’m not alone and I am powerful and I am weak and there is courage in my vulnerability because one can’t exist without the other, they are all parts of me, all feelings are valid, all living things are valid and we all deserve freedom.  

Living tree at Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary

Living tree at Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary

New Old Friends

I thought it was time to dedicate a post to all the new friends I've been meeting and making in the past four days (and some longer than that). To new friends everywhere - remember, a friend is first a stranger.

Thank you to:

Steven, who owns + runs an antique vintage art glass + Scandinavian ceramics neighborhood shop/installation on Hudson that's been there for 17 years (!), his shop that I've walked past many times, but this time I went in, who, after talking about my love of elephants and inquiring about them (investments someday to be mine!), gave me this tiny, heavy elephant which I now carry in my pocket every day. 

my little friend

my little friend

Sarah, who recently joined the choir, with whom I've begun an email-pen-pal-writing-adventure before even having spoken in person, and then only speaking for less than two minutes a week or so ago, who herself is an incredibly creative, brave + talented writer + person and inspires me with her writing and thoughts and feelings.

Succulent has a new home with new friends!

Succulent has a new home with new friends!

Nicole the artist (+ baker + florist), at the flower shop on Hudson (near Perry) who, whilst I was checking out the succulent air plants (and subsequently purchased one), gave me some flowers after I told her my story which I then gave to Rita whose birthday we were celebrating later that day.

Ranger Bob who was sprinkling seeds on a square of grass + tree, "thumbelina park", on 25th St & 8th Ave as I was bicycling by, one of those divider green squares, who, after I asked what he was doing and showed an interest, appointed me on the spot to Ranger Dawn by us holding up our right hands and repeating "I do solemnly swear to do whatever the hell I can to make this into a park".

           subway elephante

           subway elephante

(Another) Steven, the photographer, on the subway ride home from Boozy Birthday Brooklyn with Louise + Ali (+ Brook!), who asked what I was painting (photo at right) and with whom I had a swift ride home due to pleasant + friendly conversation.

Amy, who I met possibly one or even two years ago at The Brooklyn Free Store, and met again at a party on Saturday night and she remembered me and thought it was serendipitous we should meet again because after I told her my story, told me that she is curating her first art show (which is extremely interesting!!!) and has some elements of focusing on pain and invited me to submit my work now or in the future.

Ruth, who I've known a while through Community, gave me gifts of laughter on the retreat last weekend, and who last night gave me one of her handmade journals (which will be my next Dream Journal, I told her).

Ruth Miller's handmade notebook pour moi.

Ruth Miller's handmade notebook pour moi.

Is it serendipity? Is it synchronicity? Is it fate? Or is it just life? Is it about being open to life and everyone and everything in it? Is it about believing in the impossible or in limitless possibility? Is it about being open to change? Is change inevitable? Is it about a deep unknown need for human/life connection? Or is it about love?

love love love love love yes yes yes yes yes yes love love love love love yes yes yes yes yes
— Rita DeCassia, Healer + Multi Linguist

p.s. joy comes in all sizes.

meow!

meow!