How To Get Free
Written by Kelly Diels
welcome to The Sunday Love Letter!
HThis may be no surprise to you, but my two teen daughters are committed researchers. (Apples, meet Tree.) Unbeknownst to me, my 15 year old daughter, Sophie, recently decided she wanted to go to a different school next year (to better achieve her big goals) and did some online sleuthing. Once she found The Perfect School, she then called the administration to ask further questions. She extracted every necessary detail, right down to how much the bus costs for out-of-district students, where it picks up, plus the forms and criteria for a scholarship.
I didn’t even know this was happening until she let me know she needed my signature on some documents.
Yesterday, less dramatically, my other daughter, Lola, found a place that fixes broken electronics. (I keep forgetting to get these things fixed, so she took matters into her own hands.) She found a shop that has consistently stellar reviews — much better than its competitors. She booked me to take her there.
So now we’re driving way out in the sticks. Google Maps is taking us down dead-end roads and past a decrepit sugar refinery I didn’t even know existed.
“Lola,” I said, “this is the beginning of a Criminal Minds episode. We’re going to pull into an isolated house with a fix-it bench owned by family of mass murderers.”
She’s like, “But their reviews on Yelp are great!”
Then we pulled up to a house — !!!! I told you !!!! – and before I could say anything, she said, “They have hydrangeas, Mom! And they’re so well-tended! I don’t think these people are murderous.”
Hydrangeas are one of my faves, and it was true. The line of lime-green hydrangeas at this house was SPECTACULAR.
And…clearly I have a lot to teach her about signs, safety and reading your environment. As much as I appreciate them, well-tended hydrangeas are NOT beacons of trust.
I tell you all of this to remind us that we are constantly picking up messages and cues from our environment and culture that can make us believe a lot of shit — and sometimes dangerous shit — about ourselves and our world that just aren’t true.
And the work of sorting that out is NEVER finished.
It’s the work of surviving and thriving.
I have done a lot of work to get comfortable in my skin; to lessen the impact of our culture’s fatphobia on my self image; to unlearn my own internalized biases against my own body. Like, YEARS of work.
The world still delivers fatphobic messages to me every single day. The source of injury has not been eradicated.
My thyroid has gone rogue and decided to underperform and as a result, my body feels and looks unrecognizable to me right now.
And that kicked off some STUFF — stuff that I thought I’d left way behind me, years ago.
Having to revisit work that I thought I’d already done made me question myself. I was kind of pissed at myself. Like: Body, Mind, didn’t we already HANDLE THIS? Didn’t I learn about Diet Culture and how destructive it is and get free of it years ago?
But getting free and healing is never one-and-done.
Especially when the source of injury — an oppressive culture that wants you to disappear — remains.
I should know this. I do know this. I wrangle it on a daily basis when it comes to success and visibility. Often I’ll be working with a leader who already had to get free of their fear of visibility to get where they are. They thought they’d already put those fear-of-visibility critters to bed. And then, as my client prepares to leap into a new level of success and cultural visibility, suddenly The Imposter Gremlins are hanging from the rafters, shrieking and tearing up the joint.
This is not unusual. This is routine.
So…if you make a mistake after you KNOW you’ve already learned the lesson…
…if you find yourself frustrated because you’re grappling with fears you thought you’d already laid to rest…
…if you’ve done the work but lo, you’re still not fully immune to the slings and arrows of an outrageous culture…
it’s not you.
It’s not that you didn’t do the work.
It’s that new circumstances prompt new rounds of the same work.
The work of surviving and thriving is repetition. We never stop needing to breathe, eat, drink. Life needs to be continually renewed.
So, too, does freedom.
(Same with broken electronics. My daughter knows a place if you need one.)
love + justice,
I write, work and live on land that is the unceded territory of the Stó:lō peoples.
Important to note: just ‘cuz I mention someone’s work does not mean we know each other. It doesn’t mean they even know I exist nor does it mean that they like me or approve of my work. Nor does it mean I endorse them unequivocally or that they endorse me. It means that there’s a particular cultural thing that I’m trying to talk about and an idea or project of their’s is relevant and I want to give credit where credit is due.