the only way out is in: on storytelling and healing
“If there’s a book you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.”
- Toni Morrison
A little over a year ago, I began quietly collecting research for a book that I was dying to write, a book that I knew that I needed to write.
I hadn’t wholly envisioned the details, but I desperately wanted to create a collection of stories that spoke to the body love experience. Real life experiences. Body love romances and tragedies. Heartbreak. Reconciliation. The kind of stories that lead to compassionate self-understanding and generational transformation.
It was a book that had yet - has yet - to be written.
My methods were unconventional, ones of a storyteller rather than a traditional researcher. More specifically, I spoke to women.
With deep, deep gratitude, I gathered their body love stories, storing them near and dear and safely in my heart.
Stories from women whose souls took shape through the telling. Women who love others deeply but struggle to love themselves in kind, who carry with them the generational burden of body shame and self-criticism and sacrifice.
Women whose stories spoke to heartache and redemption, to crushing experiences of rejection and shaming and pain, to strength and change and wholly aware self-compassion.
In the midst of these interviews, a body of work that I called The Body Love Sessions, I began writing.
And then, I stopped.
It wasn't because I didn’t desperately want to see it in print, want to see it out in the world, because I did.
But I had work to do. Personal work. The deep work of the soul.
Hearing the stories reminded me that I needed to get in touch with mine. Like a soul-centered detox, all of the garbage that I had allowed myself to consume rose to the surface. All that yucky, mucky, dark stuff, the messages of lack and shame and painful self-criticism, became strikingly clear and painfully present.
So, I put The Body Love Sessions on hold and began doing the work… the work of cleaning up a part of myself that had been left dusty in the corner, easy to ignore but always there, taking up space.
“But if these years have taught me anything it is this: you can never run away. Not ever. The only way out is in.”
- Junot Diaz
It’s been a little over a year, now. Of writing and discovery and slogging through the triggers that bring up the whole mess of past lives and pain. And doing that work, well, it’s been revolutionary.
I know my story, and I am open to its evolution. In fact, I’m grateful for it. My relationship with my body, just like a relationship with an intimate partner, will shift and change and grow. A stagnant story is one of disconnection and distrust. The important thing is to be present, listening in to what my body is telling me (and what I am telling her), and to be open to its changes.
Now, as we usher in a new year, I’m picking up where I left off, grateful to be revisiting the project with clean and clear eyes, a hell of a lot of self-awareness and, perhaps most importantly, with greater clarity.
I am currently in the process of cultivating a collective of personal body love stories. The Body Love Sessions are made up of a combination of written words and interviews, personal narratives which provide the foundation for a project grounded in storytelling and connection.
I truly believe that stories have the power to heal. I have experienced, through workshops and the written word, through retreats and speaking engagements, how deeply transformative it is to hear other women (and men) share their stories.
Sharing our stories goes beyond our audience. It sets a little piece of our own soul-puzzle in place, healing our hearts in a way that might never have happened without the telling and opening up our experience to its evolution.
We may not be the same. Your story may expand where mine contracts, you may see healing where another woman experiences heartbreak. But there is something that connects us in a fundamental and transformational way.
The sharing of stories gives us the power to tap into that connection, to learn from each other and with each other, and to gain the precious awareness of our own evolution and the potential for healing. It's brave and vulnerable and what the world so desperately needs.
You are invited to join the collective -- to be a part of community dialogue here and on your favorite social network, to peer in as I share the process of learning and writing, or, more personally, to share your own story.
If you are interested in being a part of The Body Love Sessions collective or just want to know more, you can email Kate directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.*
“Owning our stories and loving ourselves through that process is the bravest thing we’ll ever do.”
- Brene Brown
*This current work is, at this point, restricted to women’s stories, but stay tuned – I’m hoping to be able to broaden it at some point in the near future.