Take What You're Scared Of
and give it a body
I pour my whole self onto a blank, white page everyday. This page, this place, this white, remembers my humanness: every mistake I’ve ever made, every sliver of darkness, every ounce of rage, every experience of pure joy, the highs of supreme happiness, every demon that has dropped down from the balurade to sit on my shoulder to torment my thoughts and actions. It’s my confessional. All this white, all this me, it’s as if I’m getting a pap smear on the sidewalk, frozen, unable to move. Old ladies buzzed off of dirty martinis and hot dilfs running errands for their wives will cock their heads towards me and scoff as they walk by. Sometimes writing makes me feel like that.
I’ve been thinking a lot about sharing my work more, on social media specifically. Sometimes I don’t because it’s scary to reveal your humanness. A friend of mine in my writing group receives death threats for the beautiful thought-provoking words she weaves together and publishes to the world. I, in a lot of ways, have just begun to learn how to think. Thinking is difficult. Curiosity is a malleable thing, to make curiosity make sense you have to do a lot of thinking. Then, putting those realizations into words onto a blank canvas everyday is really fucking hard. I don't always know what’ll come out, what I’ll see when all these words are brought together. Sometimes writing is like a braid, lacing together love and doom. People don’t want to accept love just as much as they don’t want to accept our doom. They feel threatened by that so they threaten my friend with death.
But as they say, the pen and the paper will do what it does, most times having nothing to do with the writer. I am just a witness to my words. And then to share it with everyone is a whole other challenge that I sometimes I omit from.
What happens to a person who is scared to share work that they're proud of because of their conditioning?
My friend and I were discussing imposter syndrome last week. While I believe that everyone at some point in their lives experiences this, it’s something that definitively affects women much more. Imposter syndrome came to be as one of the many nuances to our patriarchal and capitalist societal standards. As a woman I know my words will be chewed up, criticized and not very much tolerated. During my weekly writing session, our group discusses all the ways we’ve been chewed up. As a girl I was raised to embody a woman who would be gracious, quiet, well mannered. I went to etiquette school where they taught me how to cross my legs correctly and when sitting at a table with people from the opposite sex, I was taught patience to allow the man to always lead the conversation. My presence at the table is a “buffer,” a robot girl who smiles or nods or frowns or nods.
There’s a Cuban saying I was raised with: Me veo mas linda con la boca cerrada. I look prettier with my mouth shut. (The name of my forthcoming book in 2030)*
So here, inside the white, in between these words, is where I have my chance. Inside the writing is where I have to tame down my imposter syndrome, unlearn the quiet I have been taught. Internally, there is a sense of wrong that I always feel, so I have to keep working through these words, make out some kind of message, weave through these confessionals for me to feel like what I’m saying is worthwhile. I have learned that when something feels wrong or scary, it means you have to keep doing it. It’s uncomfortable to be loud, it’s a bitch to scream and have people look at you funny.
Words can be an embrace, a sense of softness, a sense of resolution. All this white can be a body, it’s a comfort to my eyes and a rush to the blood that pumps through my nervous system. Like the way my kids rely on my own body for comfort and sustenance. That’s what this white body is like for me. Knowing I can fill up this body in a way I want to, it's like a form of breathing. And then this body emerges: when it’s fully built it takes motion, other eyes lay onto it, and other eyes perceive it how they will.
My miscarriage in 2018 was my first encounter with grief. My grief was a delusional place, I was out of touch, absorbed within my own reality. I thought about swimming in the ocean and never coming back up for air, I dreamed about locking myself up in the bathroom and never coming out, worn down by shame, overwrought by people judging the caliber of my grief. When you grieve, you will learn about others’ self-contempt. It arises in them like a disease, and they project their disease onto grievers. So I wrote 10,000 words on my miscarriage, the shapeless messiness of grief, the way grief does not live concise in a body. But I put it all into words, I gave it a shape, I know my grief more than anyone else can ever say because I gave it a body. The war inside me quieted. Words are important, words saved my life.
But maybe you also think I’m full of shit. Anything that is not “man-made” tends to give you that thought process doesn't it? On a more serious note, anything a woman decides to share will be perceived that way, so much so that even us, the woman writers, producers and creators, will feel that way too. I wake up sometimes and think, I am full of shit, it’s true! I am awake to all of the shit that I am! Finally! Imposter syndrome is a joke. Use it as a friend who tells you such stupid things that you just have to laugh at it. Understand that your imposter is also your protector from fear. But being scared is a good thing. Sit down within the white, build your body.
During my early 20’s I did a shit-ton of drugs and alcohol, would go out to the clubs with my friends to dance and do more drugs, kissed girls, flashed my dazzling pre-baby titties at anyone willing to look at them, and then slept all day to do it all over again the next night. There are ways to unlearn your conditioning, and I think, in my early 20’s, this was the best way I knew how to do that. Now I unlearn them here, in the white.
It is a very ordinary thing to be scared, to accept that you’re a human with complexities: that sometimes we’re not very lovable or heroic or grand. But I am here, nonetheless, prying myself open. If people are not going to love you for all of your thorny parts, the least you can do is love yourself for understanding that you have thorny parts to begin with. I dont know if that’s useful for you, but that’s like a warm hug for me.
These things, the parties and the drugs and the lost fetus baby and the etiquette classes and the big smart men who lead conversations at dinner tables, once it’s all said and done, when you go home and all that sad stuff and sexy stuff and misogyny stuff wears off, all you’re left with is yourself. Your hands (and belly) are empty. The very least you can do is remind the little girl inside you that the grown up version of her found her voice. At the bare minimum we should be able to use our voice in whatever form gives you that rush of blood.
I imagine the days that I can step out of myself. The crocus are in bloom. Spring brings many promises of renewal. The weather is warming, the people are walking their dogs and smiling those certain smiles that hibernate during winter. These expectations are real, you can build yourself a place that is loving. You just have to want that for yourself first. When you share yourself, people will view you like the coming of spring. It will be like taking a deep breath and knowing that there’s another human out there that is doing something with their needy unlovable selves.
Here, in the white, and my determination to fill it up, knows me more than I know myself. It’s really scary, each and every time I fill up this page, to loosen up your heart and mind, shake it all up, pour it into a world that shakes it right back to being a silly frivolous thing.
But when I am in the white, giving my thoughts a body, word by word I am releasing the fear and shame, and then I think,
I am free.
The little girl will be pleased I think, the one who once sat in etiquette classes, who now lives somewhere in this body. I owe it to her to share me as much as I can.
*I do not have a book coming out in 2030. This is a joke, but maybe also a manifestation?
I have exciting news to share: You can now read bobbie in the new Substack app for iPhone.
With the app, you’ll have a dedicated Inbox for my Substack and any others you subscribe to. New posts will never get lost in your email filters, or stuck in spam. Longer posts will never cut-off by your email app. Comments and rich media will all work seamlessly. Overall, it’s a big upgrade to the reading experience.
The Substack app is currently available for iOS. If you don’t have an Apple device, you can join the Android waitlist here.