How to Love Your Body

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First off: you are already failing.

Ruminate on this fact. Obsess over your obsession with calorie counting and Paleo 15-Minute Dinners for a Busy Worknight.

Pinch the excess fat of your hip and lament the disappearing jawline you witness in your ten year span of Facebook photos.

Attempt to love your body with the same fervent eye-sparkling bliss each hour and each minute and each nanosecond of everyday. This is not the time or space for grey. Hate yourself for any instance you fall out of bounds and experience any sort of middling experience of your body.

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Linger in artificial spaces and hashtags. Allow these locations to perform your body-love work. The more followers the page has, the better. Never question the  the spokespeople for body positivity. The curvaceous blue-eyed blondes who still have six-packs? The ambiguously-raced models lounging on white sand? Focus on them.

Wait. If the celebrated celebrity/IG model/blogger does not have the exact skin color, hair type, nose shape, foot size, abdominal circumference as you, put off liking your reflection. Once your type of beauty is “in” pounce quickly.

Keep consistent track of beauty trends. As of April 2017, pay close attention to the gluteus maximus and for extra credit, the intergluteal cleft. Make sure each cheek is a gravity defying bubble of bounce. Kill yourself if you notice stretch marks, discoloration, freckles, cellulite. Forswear casual observation of this part of your body forever. Invest in spandex.

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Remember, there are two ways to talk about body love:

1.) NEVER acknowledging the difficulties of body ownership in a feminine-phobic society. In this vein, make sure to promulgate the ease of your positive self-regard. Question and criticize anyone who feels differently or who has had struggle. They are aliens.

or

2.) Erect a Body-Positive Social Media Platform. Detail every single experience of your body woes to include your work-out schedule, bowel movements, unflattering pictures, callus removal, trips to Urban Outfitters, bridesmaid dress anxieties, etc. Etc. Etc. Lecture widely and at length (kudos for militaristic language and 1,500 word replies) about the only acceptable modes of body-positivity: your own.

Pay no mind to your personal experience of your body. Adopt the origin story of the Body Positivity Spokeswoman of the Year. Loving your body is not to be muddled with individualized detail. Nuance is a terrible, terrible thing.

Do not be too cocky. Those selfies of effervescent happiness? Do not post those.

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Treat food as enemy and physical movement as punishment. Bemoan your badness (aloud) when partaking in the following foods:

a) cupcakes

b) empanadas

c) white rice

d) all of the above and whatever Dr. Oz releases as a a no-no food

(You know the answer.)

Agonize about aging. Be sure to invest in facial rejuvenation surgeries in your early twenties. Correct women over A Certain Age who have blue hair or wear skirts above mid-thigh. They are ruining it for everyone.

Hate your vulva.

 

Repeat and recirculate fashion mandates. Compare your physique to the models of Givenchy and Prada. Always come out on the losing end of this equation. Subscribe fully and adhere to the repetitive silhouettes you see within Vogue and the popular Kardashian of that week’s Instagram page.

Above all else, love your body.

Remember: everyone loves a confident woman.

** All art by Lovette Zola **

 

The Write Stuff

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Mid-terms have passed and the Fall Equinox has been going hard for a month already.

It is fall, y’all.

In the spirit of Fall and reassessing, redoing, regathering, I wanted to very clearly look at how I am (or more appropriately, decidedly NOT) writing.

Life in these parts is busy. Three classes. Teaching. Coast Guard Reserves. Weight lifting. Canvassing so The Evil One Doesn’t Take Throne. A feminine centered coaching program. Life.

I find myself not writing. Journaling, yes. Blogging, yes. But, sitting with my creative projects, my final manuscript?

Non.

I am a recovering perfectionist and procrastinator. A TERRRRRRRIBLE combination for a writer. Maybe a human being?

Probably.

Seen in London.
Seen in London.

I have this SUPER IDEAS IN MY HEAD for stories. They are so DEEP and FUNNY and UNIVERSAL and WILL HELP DESTROY THE PATRIARCHY.

So, why am I not writing?

I could say busyness, but c’mon, we’re all kinda busy. It’s the drug of choice of this day and age.

The deepest reasons are fear and priorities.

The typical I am not good enough fears that start yipping and yelling like hyperactive children with IVs of Kool-Aid and Oreos would when we want to create Something New.

That Something New could be writing. Or a new work-out regimen. Your PhD bibliography, that one art class you swore you would take.

Dissecting the fears is not my concern right now. I am well into my life to know that these fears will always be here. They are no more inextricable from me than my own heart.

So, I have to make friends with what stops me from writing. And then like that mean girl from middle school, I gotta outmaneuver them and then show up the next day at lunch like, “Aha! Got ya!”

My methods of choice right now are 1. publicly shaming myself, 2. scheduling,and 3. realistic goals.

  1. I get it. I read Brene Brown.

Shame is not cool. It destroys.

But sometimes, well, sometimes, I know I need some accountability. Some sort of life-and-dead-line which spells out punishment if I don’t meet it. So on Tuesdays and Thursdays I will be writing for at least one hour. Just writing. That’s it. By hand. On a laptop. I will tune out and write.

And I will post when I start and stop to Snapchat.

(You see what kind of excited life I am leading that my Snapchats most prominently will feature me typing away at Panera…perhaps this will change.)

It’s not about who sees my “stories” of writing on Snap. It is just a mechanism that forces me out of hiding.

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                                  mtv.com

I remember when one of my favorite musical artists, Francis Farewell Starlight (yes, his real name) used to post his piano practicing sessions on line. He promised his fans he’d practice for an hour each day and he did. I’d check in time to time.

Perhaps, he knew he needed something outside of himself to truly sit down on the bench.

I am finally seeing the beauty and wisdom of this for myself.

2. Schedule. I’m going to put this in my calendar. With hearts and other fun-time emojis. I am going to treat it like a yoga class where I’d feel stupid for showing up halfway through.

3. I am going to be realistic: my writing is just gonna suck for awhile. 

Sometimes it’s so hard. You write. You take those papers to workshop and you learn they are shit. Or you read them yourself as you write and know, deep down,

“This is shit.”

I will remind myself of Anne Lamott and the SFD (Shitty First Draft).

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I will talk to my Inner Critic, My Inner Perfectionist Asshole, My Inner Saboteur and whomever of the posse decides to show up (without a damn RSVP). And then I will get back to work writing shittily.  I will give up on genius work. I will take crazy-stupid risks. I will remember how long it took me to master a jump shot when I first started playing basketball.

I will use jock analogies internally incessantly.

And later on, I will revise.

As in life.

So! Yes. If you are looking over your 2016 and going, yeah, I really don’t wanna enter 2017 without _____________, then you gotta do something differently.

What works for you? What definitely does not? What do you truly want to create and why?

I refuse to let the smallness of my ego get in the way of creating.

I’m sure you are too.

Onward,

Hannah

 

 

The Adventures of Stilt Girl

Sometimes I don’t know exactly how to write about learning to live a truly loving, engaged life. One that is not laden with trite advice, banalities, or uncensored venting.

This blog aint therapy.

It’s so easy to be performative within self-love stories, to fake a level of authenticity and learning. Conversely, there’s the desire to hide it all and attempt to be cool.

Well.

I have decided I am not cool and will most likely never be. What I can do is share, share, and share. And hope that it helps somebody out there…didn’t mean to make that rhyme.

The comic within this blog post (and I hope you can read it) covers my experience with what Alice Miller describes in The Drama of the Gifted Child as grandiosity. A steady need to better than others, to walk above them, to be admired and adored. All to cover up the God-shaped holes of the soul.

I am one of those people. I’m sure most of us are in some way or another.

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Last week, I had the opportunity to hear Jordan Burnham, speak at one of Pitt’s Mental Health Week events. He attempted to commit suicide by jumping over a balcony and survived the nine-story fall.

 

What really struck me about his story was his candor about how he deals with his depression and alcoholism today. He still takes medicine, attends AA meetings, sees a therapist and a psychiatrist. He makes sure to engage in healthy coping behaviors every single day.

Part of healing is honesty. Honesty to ourselves, but also an honesty we share with others. Maybe it’s through therapy or talking with a close friend. Maybe it’s through your art; your singing, dancing, spoken poetry.

Here is a portrait of my honesty.

The Unlearner

I am a slow unlearner, but I love my unteachers. – Ursula K. Le Guin

It is fall and tonight I went to watch David Sedaris speak. I am tired and in full #gradstudentmode. I know I am not alone in this.

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I’ve been thinking a lot these days about writing, but mainly about what I don’t write due to fear, a sense of Obligation, attachment to words like wry and intellectual, procrastination….

It is a familiar pattern, but one that does not have to go on forever. Fall and Winter are known in goddess circles as the more “feminine” of seasons. There is a slowing down, a cooling off, a darkness and receptivity to these seasons that is quite opposite the boom-boom bright pace of Spring and Summer.

I am an April baby, who loves the boom-boom movement of Spring and Summer.

What I love (and detest) about this time of year is how glaringly clear my still-needs-to-be-healed portions of my heart and soul become painfully clear. I can’t scurry over to my next travel adventure to ignore them. The movement of this season calls me to turn inward and bog down (hopefully with some kinda warm beverage in hand).

Writing right now is one of these ways in which I am going deeper. In the competitive and busy environment of grad school, it’s been crazy easy for me to forget why I came to this MFA program in the first place, why I pick up a pen each day to write.

While there is probably some pure soul who creates solely for the sake of inner growth and world peace, I am not that woman. I seek to challenge myself as a writer and to write shit that people actually read.

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I have a lot of unlearning I need to do as I make my way down this path. Why am I so attached to certain New Yorker ideals about what constitutes good writing? Why am I avoiding being more public with the hippie-dippy parts of my persona in my writing? Why does my mind often go into “compare and despair” machinations when I hear of other writer’s successes?

One thing I know: unlearning takes time. I do wonder if all the quotes about seeking knowledge in life actually have it backwards: perhaps what most of life is is actually a careful shedding and pruning of the knowledge we’ve gained thus far. A fruitful unlearning.

I seek to be more open and “authentic” in a non-performative way in all areas of life, but especially with the writing. I seek to unlearn some of the stagnant ideals that turn my writing into a listless, boring, and hurt smiling thing performing for the quickest handout.

I dedicate this Fall and Winter to a more thorough unlearning.

Let’s see what happens, shall we?

Onward,

Hannah

 

A hunger to Dance

Red is the color of today.
Red is the color of today.

Today I had the opportunity to write with the Pittsburgh Memoir Project held at East Liberty Library. It was my first time and I enjoyed every second of it. (The Project travels to a new Pittsburgh location about every 6 sessions if you are interested.)

I heard many inspiring things today:

What would happen if we acted like magic really existed?

We are all living witnesses to history

A story shines when it intersects the universal, historical, and personal.

One of the prompts we were given was one on Appetite: How do you nurture your appetites? Name your hunger. Give it a color, a texture. Describe what appetite is to you with concrete images.

Here is what I wrote about Dance:

I would say it was red. The color of Aries, alive and pulsing under the skin. It feeds on blood and rampant desire. It throbs and electrifies. Spiky and crimson, shaped like a cobweb made out of Twizzlers. When activated it melts and relaxes neck muscles and itchy soles of feet.

Most of the time I beat it back, crumple it like a piece of wasted writing in the corner. Not now. There are people around. Not today, you need to clean the bathroom and take the clothes to Goodwill. 

But she persists. Sending forth incessant images of burlesque halls and Spanish parties. The hearty thump of a character shoe. The undulating fingers of flamenco. The lively springiness.

And when I let her free. She thanks me. Emerges from the pores in colorless drops. She unwinds and bursts forth.

What kills Her?
What kills Her?

What kills her?

Worry over how my long body looks.

Applause neediness.

Does-this-look-right checks in hallway mirrors.

A red, seared hunger yes. Wide but spreading further and further until it is as close to me as a DNA strand. Twisting, attaching and holding on for dear life.

She is Life. If I will have Her. Buzzing Life. For-sure Life.

Pining for hours of uninterrupted dance floors and a steady drop-down beat. She is my friend but I treat her tangled self like the Enemy.

She is lurking and sometimes I let her fly.

I love this camera effect, can you tell?
I love this camera effect, can you tell?

-Hannah