[A five-part series inspired by my participation in Amy Walsh’s Art of Showing Up five-day workshop]

[See #showingup2018 Day 1 here]

My medium is words. I don’t aspire to become a great visual artist. And yet? This guided practice of taking selfies and playing with them made my vocation (self-acceptance through storytelling) that much richer.

Day 2: make images that explore and redefine your beauty and your ugly

From unconscious self-loathing to conscious self-loathing to substantial and profound self-trust. I am alive. And not just alive, but elementally so. I am whole and complete. And then not. I arrive and depart. I arrive again and then depart. Again. Over and over. ~ From my Liberty Story

In this series of photos: my double chin (top left), my chipped big toe nail (bottom left), my wet face (bottom right), the scars on my left arm (top right), my soft belly (middle).

Thoughts on Day 2:

“Stop PICKING!”

My mother slaps my hand away from the scab I am absently picking at.

~~~~~

“It HURTS!”

I say, as my mother tries to squeeze a blackhead from my chin.

~~~~~

“Stop PICKING!”

I don’t slap my mother’s hand away, but I say it in a mocking tone, as she absently picks at something on her face.

~~~~~

I’ve been a picker since as long as I can remember.

In the early 2000s I got a few mosquito bites on my legs that I scratched until they bled. I then picked the scabs. I kept picking and picking and the wounds got bigger and bigger until they covered the lower parts of my legs.

That was the worst it ever got, but to this day, whenever I have a rough patch, a pimple, an ingrown hair, anything that doesn’t feel like normal, smooth skin, I pick at it until it bleeds. And then it heals a bit and I pick it again until it bleeds. Over and over again. Slowly it heals but the second it gets rough and flaky, I must pick and peel at it until it is smooth.

I am left with scars like the ones currently on the back of my left arm. The older I get, the longer it takes for them to fade.

I had surgery on June 7 to repair my left shoulder. Of all the things I could be concerned or worried about, pretty close to the top of the list was this: What will the surgical team think about those self-inflicted scars on the back of my left arm? Will they be disgusted? As I am?

I thought about my own visceral response when I see people with similar scars or “flaws.” It goes like this:

:: disgust/revulsion

:: envy (“I wish I were brave like them to show my flaws in public and not care if other people are disgusted”)

:: compassion

I used to stop at disgust, then moved to disgust and envy, and now, within seconds I am able to feel all three. For others and now, not quite as easily, but also for myself.

A few hours after I took the picture of the scars on the back of my left arm, I was thinking once again about the surgeon being disgusted by me. And then BAM, I was brought to tears by this thought: what if he felt compassion for me?

True: We are often disgusted in others by what we are disgusted by in ourselves.

Also true: We can transform disgust for ourselves and others into compassion.

Disgust has it’s place. In fact, it’s easy to feel it.

Feeling compassion, on the other hand, especially for ourselves, can be uncomfortable because it cracks us wide open. There’s a vulnerability in feeling it.

I let myself be cracked open by the thought of the surgeon having compassion for my poor left arm and then felt it for myself.

I still pick. I am not sure if I’ll ever be able to stop. And that’s okay.

P.S. This piece first appeared on Patreon. If you love my writing and would like to have access to it when it debuts, consider joining my exclusive community for as little as $2/month. There you will find all my best work. There you can ask me for advice and I will give you my very best answer…and if it’s unclear or you need additional insight, I will provide it.