When I was 28 I chose the word unashamed as my word of the year. I had no idea how much unlearning I had to do. I got my nose pierced the same week I told my pastor that maybe I was being called to preach. I started blogging like I meant it. I inserted myself in conversations I had a right to be in. I decided to do what I wanted when it didn’t hurt anyone else even if I did think these wants were a little silly, or juvenile, or shouldn’t matter to me. I stopped being ashamed that I take up space in this world.
I don’t remember if I had already read Mary Oliver’s Wild Geese or if I stumbled upon it that year, but I still get choked up at the line “Let the soft animal of your body love what it loves.” Mary, do you have any idea how much work that is for me?
Last year was my second Wild Goose Festival. Her poem is always propped somewhere on the campground. My first with my kiddos and husband and camping and the whole thing. I linked up with a bunch of blogging buddies and we camped together and watched each other’s children and shared our food. It was good. A bright spot in a brutal summer where none of our plans had solidified. Out of one of the tents, Emily appeared with a flowing flowered kimono and red lipstick. I want to camp like that, I thought. Then I dismissed it. We don’t do that, women like me don’t do that, even if we want to.
But why not? If I am a person who WANTS to camp in dresses and lipstick, then why am I not someone who can do that? Y’all I am old enough that I pack my own suitcase.
This year we were having a nice normal summer where I could actually think about what I was chucking into my suitcase for the festival. When I sat down on my bed and thought about what I wanted to pack, I really just wanted to wear long dresses and big earrings. So I did. That was what I wanted to wear so that was what I packed. Even if I had spent a lot of time as a teen rollings my eyes at “those girls” who wore lipstick camping. Even if shorts seemed more practical, so I took a deep breath and rolled up my jewelry in each dress I planned to wear and shoved them in my tote bag. Then, every morning I took the time to wear one, and put on lipstick and earrings. I practiced loving what I love.
This is still hard for me. It is still a hard spiritual discipline to let the soft animal of my body love what it loves. It is strange and wonderful and really really hard. It is also, FYI SUPER convenient to wear dresses when the only bathroom option is a port-a-potty. The soft animal of my body loved that.
I love the Wild Goose because it reminds me of this. It reminds me that God created me on purpose and to be good, that the things that I like are worth pursuing because I am worth it. A few women pulled me aside to tell me that they liked the way I dressed, and that me leaning fully into myself is not just good for me, it is good for everyone.
This is worth it. I am worth it.
Good stuff! I wish I’d got to meet you at WGF this year. I’m only now allowing myself to take steps in this. I love the exhilaration of it!
Yes, I love it, love you. Thank you! You have helped me find this kind of freedom in many ways =)
I have always treasured that poem, and this post and your reaction to it is spot-on. Learning to let ourselves unashamedly love what we love is a surprisingly hard effort. You’re doing good work.
Love this post and can totally relate. I was also wearing dresses at Wild Goose thanks to a friend who said (in response to me asking–as a first-timer–lots of questions about WG attire): you do Francie. Great advice! Also really enjoyed your talk about white folks and rascism.
Yes… What is it about finding comfort in our own skin? I’m still flirting with it. We went camping last week, and I marveled at some of my packing list liberties, too. Luxurious to let go…