Feeling Known

The first time I encountered Anne Lamott, I was in college. I was living on campus during the summer but there were no classes so I was able to finally read for the joy of it all. I’d decided to pick up a copy of Donald Miller’s Blue Like Jazz because that’s what everyone was reading on Christian College Campuses in 2005. I was entering a phase where I had no more patience for Sunday School answers and stories that turned out to be analogies about God’s love for us. I wanted a story for the sake of the story. I wanted to hear about people’s real life without it turning into a lesson. In that way, Blue Like Jazz did not deliver for me. But I did like Miller’s writing style, so I kept with it. And I’m glad that I did because he introduced me to Annie. He quoted her within that book somewhere and I’m sorry to say this, Donald Miller, but it was the most true thing within those pages. I can’t remember the quote—just that I put the book down and went straight to the internet to look and see if she had any books for me to read.

“I woke up full of hate and fear the day before the most recent peace march in San Francisco. This was disappointing: I’d hoped to wake up feeling somewhere between Virginia Woolf and Wavy Gravy.” Anne Lamott

Initially I was bummed to see that Anne Lamott was an older Christian lady because all the experience that I’d had with older Christian ladies at that point was… not exactly progressive. Combined with the fact that two of her books were available in the library at my conservative school, I wondered if this one quote (and I don’t even remember what it said) would be all she had to offer me. But I checked out Traveling Mercies: Thoughts on Faith, and Plan B: Further Thoughts on Faith anyway. And it unlocked something deep inside of me. If I’m not being clear, Anne is so much more than “an older Christian lady”. I mean, she is one of those too. But the image that conjures up is useless in describing her–much in the same way that basically any label isn’t a thorough descriptor of a person.

“You can safely assume you’ve created God in your own image when it turns out that God hates all the same people you do.” Anne Lamott

At this point in my life I was comparing myself to the people around me and compared to them, I felt like the ultimate mess. Everyone that I knew at my school seemed to have all of their shit together. They seemed to have a plan. They were content and uncomplicated and they always had the right answers at exactly the right time. I couldn’t relate to this. I felt like a complete raging, complicated, ball of worry and confusion. Once, in a class called The Novel, we were reading The Bell Jar and I felt like I’d finally happened upon someone like me. Esther Greenwood understood the way I felt about myself and my experience among my peers. I was so excited to get to class and talk about the way that I loved and appreciated this character but before I could say anything everyone else described her as “troubled”, “scary”, “completely unrelatable”, and “sick”.

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I’m not sure I ever said anything out loud in class about The Bell Jar after that but I remember writing a paper about how I had related to her. It was completely off topic but it was all I could get out at the time. I would take a zero or I would write the only thing that was willing to be written. I wrote that it worried me because none of my classmates understood Esther the way that I did and it made me wonder if I’d end up with my head in an oven at one point, the way that Sylvia Plath did. My professor wrote a note on the back of my paper telling me that my honest struggle will serve me better in the long run and to not worry about having it all together at 21. Also he gave me a 100% even though I didn’t even write about the proposed topic at all.

So, finding a decent collection of Anne Lamott’s essays was a breath of fresh air. Her perspective on her life changed everything about my own. It was good to feel so “me, too” about someone who hadn’t gone on to kill herself. It was refreshing to see there were options and one of the options is to live a life with a zillion questions and barely any answers but a pocket full of coping mechanisms.

“Forgiveness is giving up all hope of having had a better past.” Anne Lamott

Yesterday I was listening to a podcast featuring a conversation between Linda Siversten, Glennon Doyle Melton and Anne Lamott and I wanted to weep through the whole thing—not because they were saying anything particularly moving but just because I felt understood for the first time in a while. It’s a powerful, powerful thing when you can feel known without saying a word. It’s a feeling that “these people are my people”. Truth be told, Anne and Glennon are probably more Jesus-centric than I am but I still know that they would welcome me and love me and not ask me to explain myself. That’s really all anyone wants—to be accepted without explanation or expectation.

In that conversation, Anne said, “Left to my own devices I would be Steve Bannon: utterly paranoid and reckless with my hate. But thank sweet Jesus I’m not left to my own devices.” This is the kind of thing that makes me want to politely ask her to stop talking about me in ways that feature such identifying characteristics to a broad audience. But she’s right and I’m not left to my own devices. I’m in love and I’m in family and I’m in friendship with people who keep me grounded. I’m a citizen of this earth and my duty is to love and try not to be an asshole and this keeps me from grasping at all of my own straws.

“You own everything that happened to you. Tell your stories. If people wanted you to write warmly about them, they should have behaved better.” Anne Lamott

I don’t know how to end this but that’s okay because this really doesn’t end anyway.

XOXO, Lib

Love the One You’re With

A few years ago I introduced a friend of mine to a larger group of friends. She could have just said, “Nice to meet you all” and left it at that but the first thing she said to the group was, “Libby helped me to love my body and I’m forever thankful for that.” I was brought to tears immediately. Not just because that was such a touching and disarming thing to hear–something I’d love to be remembered for. But because sometimes (and at that moment in particular), I am just not loving this body of mine. But I want to–so I work hard at it.

If there’s anything in this life that’s worth having, it’s worth working for. You’re never just going to wake up one day having dismantled all that your upbringing, culture, and expectations have constructed around you. I don’t care who you are–what your gender is, what your age is, what your body looks like, you have been told that some aspect of you is not good enough. It’s as inevitable as death and taxes. Some of you have had it whispered to you in a sliver of doubt in your mind–some of you have faced humiliation, discrimination and even violence because of it. But no one escapes it. Would you believe it if I told you that social media has been one of the key ingredients in building my confidence?

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Body-love starts with body-acceptance and body-acceptance starts at normalizing normal bodies. Now, body positivity is very trendy right now and on one very, very large hand that’s awesome. But on another hand, when important things become very popular, they can become diluted. Lots of brands are out there advertising diversity and body love while still showing images of all the same types of people. And the reason that this doesn’t help is because it just creates a new normal–a new ideal. Just a different thing to strive for. But I don’t want a new normal. I want what exists right now to be normal.

Look, I’m not going to change the media and the way that they keep giving us new ideals to strive for. But I can change the media that I consume. So rather than waiting for Glamour to serve me up images of the types of people that I know and love, I’m going to seek them out for my own self and flood my own media channels with what I’m looking for. It’s 2017. You’re in control of a lot more than you ever were before.

I want to be more loving and accepting of my own body and I want to be more loving and accepting of other peoples’ bodies. So I flood my social media channels with images of people who look like me and people who do not at all look like (or maybe even live like, or think like) me and this has made such a huge difference in how I see myself and how I love others well, too. The following is a list of people that I follow to one degree or another. These are Instagram accounts but don’t forget to find these people on YouTube, Facebook, Snapchat, Twitter, Tumblr, etc to make sure that you don’t leave a gap. I hope you have so much fun finding new accounts to follow, finding new voices and perspectives to hear from, and finding new ways to see yourself as honorable.


Women who look like me (at least in one way or another):
@fatgirlflow (I especially like watching Corissa on YouTube because she often films videos with messy hair and a makeup free face and that makes me feel so much more acceptable in my greasy hair and pimply face), @meghantonjes, @hellabellafabulous, @allisonkimmey, @margotmeanie, @tessholiday

WOC Instagrammers:
@lizzobeeating, @douxsarah (plus-size, hijab fashion? I’m so here for this.), @ihartericka

Trans Instagrammers:
@shadeyshay, @ryancassata, @janetmock

Disabled Instagrammers:
@sitting_pretty, @rvbyallegra, @curvesbecomeher

Male Instagrammers:
@fatboyflow (yeah, so Nate is married to @fatgirlflow and they’re both broadening my horizons and cracking me up), @mattjosephdiaz, @titusssawthis

Etc. Body Positive Instagram Accounts:
@bodyposipanda, @bebody_positive, @cheyennegil, @themilitantbaker, @slaygirlsociety, @nolatrees, @donthatetheshake and a gazillion more who are ready and waiting to serve you up some sweet, sweet body normalization.

Are there any accounts that you’d like to add to this list? What about categories? Is there anything you’d like to see but are having trouble finding? I’ll look for it!

I think you’re great.
XOXO, Lib.

“You’ve Got the Right to be Mad”

One thing I’ve always been mindful of… possibly to the point of being self-conscious is the Angry Feminist trope. There’s something about being angry that manages to delegitimize what it is you’re trying to say. It shouldn’t—but it does, to the rest of the world. Think about it. It’s so much easier to just disregard what a person is saying if you just write them off as angry. But what if you reached deep inside yourself and pulled up just a little bit of extra grace? What if you looked just a little bit and weren’t put off by the fact that they are angry but thought a little bit about why they’re angry.

I try really hard—especially when it comes to the subject of Feminism—to keep this an anger-free zone. Part of that is because I don’t want to get written off as the Angry Feminist but a lot of it is because I want you to be able to hear me as clearly as possible.

But today I’m angry and I’m a feminist. And I’m gonna be your Angry Feminist. I’m asking you to try to hear me anyway. Can you do that?

What am I angry about? Let’s see… I’m angry about these bizarre and harmful societal expectations about the way that men and women should behave. They’re bizarre because they’re just completely made up. They’re harmful because they actually kill people.

I’m mad at the societal more that says that men are more informed on matters of basically anything outside of the confines of a kitchen or a laundry room. I’m mad at the guy who can’t help but explain Trump’s Muslim ban in the simplest of terms for me saying, “he’s just trying to keep you safe, hun.” With a tilt of his head and a twinkling of his eye as if to say, “aren’t you adorable with your opinions and thoughts about important matters?”

I’m mad at society’s obsession with infantilizing women and the guy at the McDonald’s drive thru who loves to play into it by calling me “my beautiful baby girl” and “honey baby” during the course of our very, very short transaction. And then when I don’t smile and bat my eyes, he tells me to “have a better day, Beautiful.” As if the only reason I’m not fainting at his charms is because I’ve had a rough day—not because he is the source of my irritation.

I am… so completely livid. Furious. So physically repulsed by the way that women are here to be the helpers. The ones who would rather split themselves open than inconvenience another person. Women are the ones to set ourselves on fire to keep other people warm. We are the helpers. It’s what we do. It’s, what? Just the way God made us? This is the tactic that was used by a man to try to get me into a car with him on Wednesday night.

I was getting ready to close up the bookstore at 7:00 pm. A guy came in and I told him, “Actually I’m just closing up.” He made the hairs stand up on the back of my neck. It wasn’t anything in particular about him—just his energy. He was fidgety but obviously trying to make himself appear calm. He started to approach me to say something but then when he saw that there were other people in, he stopped himself. He said, “Oh, that’s okay. I’m just going to look around a sec.”
When the other people heard me say that it was closing time, they gathered their things and left. Then the man approached me again. He told me that I seemed like a nice girl and asked if I believed in helping people. He stretched his hand out and said, “My name is Robert.” I shook his hand but my other hand was holding tight to the phone in my pocket. He asked me a few more times if I believed in helping people who really just needed some help and had fallen on hard times. He told me, several times, that his name was Robert. He even said, “I’m not lying. My name really is Robert. I have ID to prove it.” While he was rifling through his wallet to find his ID, he was telling me this convoluted story about how he’d been at Dillons buying groceries but his ride left without him? Or something? It was having a hard time following his story. He was trying to find his ID but also it was obvious that he was hoping I’d say, “Oh, no. You don’t need to show me your ID, I don’t need that.” But I didn’t say that. Not because I cared about seeing it—I truly didn’t—but because I was trying to figure out how to get this guy out of the store so that I could lock the door. And I could write this off as a weird moment.

He hands me his driver’s license. It looks relatively normal. I know what a Kansas DL looks like except that it was missing something crucial. This ID didn’t have his name on it anywhere. “This man is lying and he is not safe” was the only thing in my mind. I thought about pointing it out to him but I didn’t want to give him anything else to talk about to me and I didn’t want him to get upset. I just wanted him to leave.

I stood extra tall. I broadened my shoulders. Anne Lamott says “courage is fear that has said its prayers.” I pulled on the armor that the women in my life have given me. I was bouyed with the prayers that they have prayed over me without knowing it. The prayer of “fuck that guy” from Cammie. The prayer of “I just want to hold you” from Sherilyn. The prayer of, “listen to your instincts” from Becca. The prayer of, “I will not stand for this” from Kalene. The prayer of “oh, hell no” from Kat. I pulled on Katelin’s ass-kicking boots and felt fire in my eyes.
He asked me to give him a ride to his house; it’s just a few miles south of town and he doesn’t feel safe walking after dark. “You would really be helping me out a lot and you seem like the kind of beautiful girl who helps people. Do you believe in karma?” He’s trying to be charming but one man’s charm is another man’s manipulation and that’s how I usually take it. I said, “I won’t be the one to help you, today.” I made no excuses. I made no apologies. His nostrils flared and his eyes narrowed, but he still pretended, poorly, to be casual. I pointed to the south and said, “The deli is right next door. By the looks of the number of cars parked on the street, there is probably a lot of people in there. I’m sure that if you really need a ride, one of them could find a way to help you.” I was pointing to the door, never leaving my spot behind the counter. He inched toward the door, said a few more things about helping people and how I should do it because there are people in the world who need help and they might be angels in disguise. He finally left—walking north. When I couldn’t see him anymore I sprinted to the door, locked it, and hid behind the counter. I was done being courageous. I was terrified. I felt like such a baby.

I called my husband and asked him to come to the store without telling him why. Without question, he said “sure” and was there within a few minutes. I hid behind a bookshelf until he got there so as not to be seen.

And ever since then I’ve been going back and forth between, “maybe I am just over reacting and he was just a guy who needed a ride home” and “could I have died if I’d gone with him?” The more I think about it, the less I feel like it was innocent.
Like the way that he’d supposedly come from the grocery store but didn’t have any bags at all. Like the way that he waited until I was all alone before he asked me for help even though there would have been a better chance for getting assistance if he’d asked more than one person. The way that he confirmed that he’d go to the deli to ask for some help but walked the opposite direction when he left. Not just the opposite direction of the deli but the opposite direction of where he said his home was.

And when I’m not wondering what could have happened, I’m thinking about “what if…” Like I came home and saw my dog, “what if I was kidnapped tonight and then Fiona would have to be locked up in her kennel all day every day because I wouldn’t be here to let her out while Ryan’s at work?” Or, “what if he’d raped me and kept me alive? Everyone would say, ‘well, what did you expect getting into a car with him??’ ”

I know, I know it’s drawing a lot of conclusions. And I know, I know, #notallmen. But fuck, you guys! I’m really, really tired of doing that thing that women have to do all the time. That thing where you’re constantly at war between being safe and being the kind of person who thinks everyone is a predator. Do I think Robert was a predator? Absolutely I do. Or he was working for one. But the next morning when I opened the store, my first customer was a man wearing a black coat with the hood all pulled up and I was instantly nauseated. Just filled with dread. When he lowered his hood he proved to be a regular, relaxed, 24 year old dude who was really cold. Because it was cold outside. He spent his whole visit surfing the sci-fi section and making cheerful small talk with me. I was actually quite grateful to have him in the store. And I was left doing that thing we’re constantly doing where you’re like, “Oh… man… he’s harmless. Hahaha! I’m such a sexist jerk for assuming that he came here to hurt me.” But my god… what else are we supposed to do?! I’m tired of it. It’s exhausting to be always on guard. If you’re too on guard and nothing happens, you’re hateful and distrusting. If you’re not on guard and something happens, then you’re a dimwit and gullible.  I’m going to be extra on guard for a long time. And I hate that because I don’t want to be the kind of person who holds prejudice. I don’t want to not trust people. I don’t want to be a slave to my reactions. But here we are. Here’s where I am right now, anyway. But at least I’m safe, I guess.

XOXO, Lib

PS It should be noted that I immediately told my boss. She called the police and let them know what had happened. And we’re looking into ways to keep us extra safe when we’re working alone at night. So don’t worry about any of that.

The Hardest Part

The greatest struggle to quitting my job with no money-making replacement wasn’t the change in income. It wasn’t that I didn’t know how to spend my time—I filled that easily. It wasn’t that I got bored or lonely. It was the judgment.

“She just got married and decided to quit her job and stay home? Must be nice.”
“She doesn’t even have any kids to take care of, who does she think she is?”
“I thought she was a feminist…”
The side eyes. The sneers. For months, it was more than I could take.
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And the worst part of it all is that I was doing it to myself. No one said those things to me. I don’t know if they even thought them. Truth be told, there wasn’t one person that I talked to who, when they heard what I was doing, said anything other than, “that’s awesome! I’m so excited for you!”
Continue reading “The Hardest Part”

It’s Been a Year

I’ve been trying to write this post for the past month but I just don’t know how to do it. I don’t want to throw anyone under the bus but I want to tell my story the way that it happened. So I guess we’ll just dive right in at the request of several people who want to know how I made such a significant life change last year.

This time last year I was in a very different place. I mean, not locationally or anything but mentally and emotionally. My heart was so different from what it looks like now. I’m reminded of that because of the beauty/ horror of Facebook telling me, every day, what I did or said 1, 2, 7 years ago. So in addition to showing me how problematic I have been in the past, it also lets me know that I did brave or scary things. On New Years Eve of 2015, I quit my job. I quit this job that was killing me.
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Ryan took me out for sangria at 2:00 pm and we sat together feeling like we’d just jumped off a cliff without knowing what was at the bottom.

I’m not sure we’ve landed yet.
Continue reading “It’s Been a Year”