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Letting the soft animal of my body love what it loves

Friends,

It has been a doozy of a year. I feel spent. A lot has happened on a personal level. I labored for 34 hours and experienced a traumatic birth during a nursing strike. A friend overdosed and died. A beloved family member fought a very scary illness. It only crescendoed from there.

And yet. I met my son for the first time. I got a promotion at work. My badass book club and family showed up in every way possible. In a time of accelerated pain, there seems to be inversely proportional joy sprouting up.

There’s a gorgeous Mary Oliver poem called “Wild Geese” rolling around my brain. It begins:

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
For a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
Love what it loves.

She’s right, you know. In the midst of this season of grief, as the pile grows, I am thinking about letting the soft animal of my body love what it loves. Lately, it loves the intersection of media and art. Sometimes I need something external to center me, some brief distraction to give my brain a chance to catch up to my heart. Here’s what my body loves:

  • Cheryl Strayed’s book Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life from Dear Sugar. The book is filled with advice Strayed dispensed on The Rumpus. It’s lovely stuff, full of anecdotes and vulnerability.
  • The “Thanksgiving” episode of Master of None, which tells the coming out story of Lena Waithe’s character, Denise. Waithe wrote the episode, and she describes it as “a beautiful tribute to my family, to black women everywhere, to black matriarchs.”
  • The song and video for “Thunder Thighs” by Miss Eaves. The video makes me want to dance and flaunt and invite my friends to do the same.
  • An older but recently replayed episode of This American Life called "Tell Me I’m Fat." Lindy West, Elna Baker, and Roxane Gay discuss their bodies and how they think about them. If you’re a woman and have ever thought about your body, this episode will bring out all the feels.
  • The Pod Save the People podcast by one-time Minneapolitan, Twitter giant, and activist DeRay McKesson. McKesson explores activism, social justice, culture, and politics, and it’s a gem of a touchstone for nonprofit life. 

What does the soft animal of your body love these days? I invite you to share in the comments.

I’ll leave you with this tidbit from the end of Oliver’s poem:

Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting –
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.

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Please Note: The YNPN Twin Cities blog is an opportunity for YNPN-TC members (and others) to share their opinions about issues important to young nonprofit professionals. Each blog is written by the individual author, and the views expressed may not be shared by all YNPN members.


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