Happy New Year, y’all! Warning: this is going to be a long one, replete with Feelings and (because it’s me, swearing), so make yourself a cup of tea and settle in. Or don’t read it. That’s up to you.
It’s been a hot second since I’ve been on the blog, for various reasons- the big one being that last fall, I decided I really needed a proper job to supplement what’s going on with Republica Unicornia.
And it’s been a good thing, really- helped me heal from the toxic relationship I’ve had with work over the last ten years. No one at my part-time cooking store retail job has shamed me for being a human being or told me that if I worked longer hours or just tried harder and wasn’t so much myself, I’d be worthy of being there. I have been able to talk about food and cooking and proved to myself that I can put on pants, leave the house, function for eight hours straight, and not dissolve into a puddle of anxiety-ridden goo.
This functioning has felt like a major coup, and I feel like myself again.
But I’ve missed having the time to devote to Republica Unicornia—I had a meltdown in mid-December because I felt like I had missed the holiday season. Running a one-woman business where you make everything while also holding down a job that is physically exhausting (and heavy on the extroversion) got to be a bit much.
So I decided to cut my hours at the steady paycheck gig in favor of the rainbows and unicorns. RU isn’t a vanity project for me—we are dual income, but me faffing about with yarn just for funsies isn’t an option.
And so, I haven’t taken the decision to give up stability lightly- it’s a true leap of faith. But when I think back on my adult years, the things that have caused me the most pain and suffering aren’t the leaps of faith—it’s those times when I decided that what I really needed to do was grow up and be responsible and settle down, even when—especially when—every fiber of my being was saying NOPE NOPE NOPE.
I may have mentioned this here before, but one of our family mottos was “We all have to do things we don’t want to do.” My mother said it to me when I wanted to quit gymnastics (I was so uncoordinated that I was *demoted* a grade level by the park district), or when I wasn’t quite sick enough to stay home from school but still feeling pretty gross. And I absolutely see why she did this- as adults, we have to clean the bathroom and get pap smears and spend glorious sunny days doing our taxes.
But the message I internalized was that “being responsible” was about mind over matter—that the “should” outweighed everything else.
And so I married my college boyfriend, despite the fact that I woke up with a panic attack every morning the year we were engaged, and remember standing at the altar thinking, “Whelp. We’ll see how this works out.” (Spoiler: it didn’t.)
And so I became a United Methodist pastor, despite the fact that my prevailing feeling during the whole time I worked in the church was sheer, abject terror—terror that I was not good enough to be in the pulpit I occupied, terror that I was not equal to the tasks placed before me, terror that I was going to lead people away from Jesus with my honesty and my swearing and my inability to toe the party line.
Both of these situations ended poorly, and in much the same way—with swearing and heartbreak and some truly kickass breakup playlists.
It’s so easy to look back on our massive screw-ups and say, “I knew all along.” Because we do, really. On a deep level. But we are taught to suppress our appetites: to do the grown-up, responsible thing at all costs. Even if that cost is ourselves.
For me, it’s not just that searching my feelings tells me it’s so—it’s a physical thing. My “gut feeling” is *literally* in my gut—under stress and unhappiness, my GI system is a hot mess.
When I moved out of the condo I shared with my ex-husband, I remember going, “Huh. I don’t want to throw up for the first time in seven years.” I was voracious—enjoying food and life in a way I had forgotten that I was capable of.
It happened again when I left ministry, although the healing this go-round has been much slower. I’d gotten down to a weight not seen since I hit puberty, and it’s taken almost two years for me to regain my appetite, but I’m here. I feel at home in my body again, not at war with it, and I know it’s because I feel at home in my life again.
Last year, when I was serving as a chaplain, my badass supervisor had us all read the chapter on intuition from the weird and wonderful Women Who Run With the Wolves. Clarissa Pinkola Estés takes the Russian folktale of Vasalisa and Baba Yaga and argues that the story is really about the power of intuition. I’m not going to go into the plot of the folktale (I tried and frankly, it’s just a little too strange to summarize) but Stuff You Missed in History Class did a delightful podcast on Baba Yaga last October, if you’d like to take a listen. Or read the book.
The upshot of the whole thing is that as women grow, they shed timidity and sweetness and learn to walk in their own power, trusting themselves.
And that shit is terrifying to everyone, ourselves included.
We women especially are taught not to trust ourselves: that our appetites are dirty and must be suppressed, managed, denied, that food is the enemy and our bodies are disgusting. Our cellulite (which, by the way, is a MARKETING term and not a biological one), our armpit hair, our unruly eyebrows and all the rest of it must be tweezed, plucked, shaved, moisturized, squeezed into post-modern corsets and shoes that can literally hobble us.
So we deny ourselves the joy of cake and homemade bread and shave the tops of our Hobbit Feet (raises hand) and squeeze ourselves into clothes that hide the fact that we have hips and butts and squidgy bellies. Our value comes not from how much we love our lives, but from how much of ourselves we deny.
Having so long worked to make our bodies into something they are not, it’s a natural extension that the cult of self-denial extends to our life decisions, too. “Good” women put on their big girl panties and deal with it: with sexist co-workers and abusive partners and seventy-two cents on the fucking dollar.
“Being good” almost cost me my life and I am calling bullshit on the whole thing. This year I am trusting myself and my appetite: that if something is right or not right, I will know. It feels risky and somewhat subversive to trust myself, and I confess that I’m more than a little afraid of bankrupting us. Well-educated, responsible, put-together young women don’t put color on yarn for a living, do they? DO THEY? But also- maybe I can trust myself enough to know that if push comes to shove, I will not let us starve.
I have some good evidence that this system works—pretty soon after we started dating, I told Steven that if he ever caused me any kind of gastrointestinal distress it was over. We’re nine years in and that man has caused me nary a tummy ache.
I cannot even begin to articulate how grateful I am for all of you who have supported my fledgling business this first year—when I left the church I couldn’t see a way forward, and thanks to you, I can. Y’all are blessings upon blessings.
I hope that this is a year when you learn to listen to your appetite and give the proverbial (or literal) finger to all those forces that say that you can’t possibly know what’s best. Because you do.
PS: OH! And because this is *technically* a knitting blog, I have also decided to apply this “follow my appetite” thing to my knitting—I cast on a Nightshift Shawl quite out of the blue on Christmas Eve, and while I was planning on making the Selbu Mittens next, I decided to cast on the Cardamom Coffee hat and the Floozy Sweater instead. Maybe this will be the year I actually post pictures of my knitting on my knitting blog. Or maybe not.