Sunday, March 26, 2006

Post-nakedness (1): support and embracing awkwardness

I want to acknowledge how powerful last night was for me. It was a very profound experience to feel so exposed and yet so supported. As I looked around the room I felt many feelings. There were many more people than I expected. I haven't counted yet, but I think about 60. And what transpired was that there was a ring around me. Me in the middle and most of the participants around the periphery of the room.

It was awkward looking. All these people looking at me, silent. Me standing there naked, not "doing" anything but feeling a range of emotions--I haven't seen the videotape yet, but I think they showed. Many people looked uncomfortable to me. My clothed, conversational self would have tried to help them feel better. I felt that need last night to make things smooth (whatever the hell that is, but I feel that irritating need a lot) but didn't do anything about it. I felt exposed and freaked out and awkward.

A lot of people looked like they were feeling that way too. But one of the strongest and most meaningful feelings I had was that despite all the awkwardness all those people were supporting me.

The awkwardness was beautiful. Because I realize that if we are going to learn to love ourselves and each other, if we are going to live honestly and be true to our hearts, we are going to have to let ourselves be awkward. My fiance, Dave, asked me if there is anything I would change about last night what would it be. My first answer was that I would have been more clever. When people spoke into the mike, I would have replied in a more articulate way. But I have changed my mind and want to embrace my awkwardness, my uncoolness, my inarticulacy, my inability in the moment to speak clearly because I just wasn't able to.

A couple of people spoke hyperbolically about my courage and that made me uncomfortable. I do acknowledge that doing this took courage for me. But I felt like I was meant to do this in the sense of a calling and needed it for myself. I am very gratified that many people were moved by the experience but I feel embarrassed by being termed heroic. That was awkward for me. And, as anyone who has been in therapy knows, my embarrassment is about me (and my lingering, Canadian, female feelings of not wanting to be seen allowing myself to stand out; my false humility). I don't actually need, as my therapist would say, to take on what they said.

Another woman spoke about her "uncomfortability" and the "anxiety and tension in the room", which other people said they did not feel. I want to acknowledge all the speakers', myself included, and our imperfect ways of expressing ourselves. The people who spoke about my exceptional courage probably felt that they would need exceptional courage to take off their clothes in front of a lot of people. For me, I definitely felt brave but not exceptionally brave (I did have years of stewing this idea in my head and then months after I committed to doing it--a lot of panic got worn off). And the woman who spoke about the anxiety was probably feeling that herself.

I loved the (conversational) silence. And I loved that so many people came. And I loved that so many people stayed. And I loved that so many different types of people came. And I loved that there were men there. And it was so interesting that many people were people I didn't know. In the silence I was able to stay in what I was feeling for much of the time. I felt lucky to be--here's an awkward metaphor--the hub in the wheel of so many humans. I had the feeling of being the person who was connecting all these people. It helped me to feel supported by men and women both, and people whom I had never met. And it helped me to feel connected to and to feel like I was connecting people from many different backgrounds and ages. It was very moving.

And if there is something I regret or feel disappointed about, it is my imperfect ability to feel it all, to really take it in. I had to remind myself to breathe and remind myself to stay in my body. But, again, that is the awkwardness that I need to embrace. I'm a teacher. I know that people can only learn from where they are. I'm still learning how to feel what I feel, how to sit still in discomfort, how to connect with myself and others, how to let myself be vulnerable. I want to acknowledge how much I've worked on this and give myself credit for hanging in there. And I want to acknowledge the same for the people who were there.

1 comment:

  1. Well this really was something different to see in Lethbridge, Alberta! Mabey in another geo. location nobody would blink an eye but here, it is a statement, of sorts. To me it seemed to say "don't be afraid, it's just a have one too!". I thought it was a very refreshing and contrasting thing to do on a Saturday evening. I want to comment on the anxiety feelings.....I have to admit that I did feel slightly uncomfortable. Not out of shame or sexual feelings or religious guilt or anything like that, but I believe it came out of innate human urge to protect the vulnerable. You standing naked in a room full of clothed people, all staring at you, with the cold outside, and the all made you seem very unprotected to me and I felt like just jumping up there and standing with you so to even the score a little. Not to say that anyone was judging or that the silence denoted harshness but the mother in me kicked in. Another tender feeling was that I have never had anyone around watching me create fact I live alone for that sole maintain my privacy for art (mabey strange, but whatever!). At the same time I couldn't keep from doing something! So it was a new and kind of nervy situation for myself. I have talked to others that were present that night and they all had small issues of their own going on as well, some were shy to say what they wanted to say, one was itching to break the silence, ect. I think that there was tension in the room but my point is that I don't think that it was directed at your nakedness entirely. I think it was a compelation of tiny vulnerable spots of the humans that were part of it.
    That said, thanks for doing this here. In this conservative part of the country there is pressure from all around and you helped to break some of that pressure that I was feeling.