Three small acts of bravery
Content warning: disordered eating
1. Last week, I decided to step away from social media.
Since then, I've finally done my laundry, renewed car registration, & cleaned my room. There are piles & piles of books I’ve left unread or unfinished. Languages I’ve been wanting to learn for years. Hours of my life I could spend reading & learning, but would spend scrolling instead.
To step away from mainstream social media is to risk near-invisibility of my creative work. But I took the plunge — not because social media is evil, but because I lost a handle on my engagement with it. Each day became oversaturated in content.
2. Yesterday, I improvised for the first time in months.
The improvisation is to help me learn a new piece of music, “Fish are Jumping” by Robert Dick.
(For this piece, I'm also teaching myself to play multiphonics — a throwback to high school, when I spent my afternoons teaching beginner flutists how to play the upper octave. It does not sound pretty. Shout-out to my housemates for tolerating this.)
This week, my playing has felt lackluster. Like some invisible ingredient has gone missing — in defiance of relatively consistent practice. Maybe I’m drained from working so much at the bakery counter. I’ve been covering a lot of extra shifts this month.
I decided to cover these shifts a month ago, with no gigs in sight. After a steady stream of projects, collaborations & gigs for almost a year, I welcomed the break, but wasn't ready for stillness.
With some collaborations on the horizon but nothing set in stone, I'm trusting that this quiet stretch will last for as long as it’s meant to.
A quiet stretch means time to focus on my practicing, healthy habits, & learning. It hasn’t convinced me (not yet, anyway) that I’ve exhausted my potential in this city, that I need more degrees to call myself a "real" musician.
3. Below, I've shared a video of my practicing — even though the video triggers insecurities that have led me into disordered eating.
It has been half a year since I wrote my most-viewed blog post, “Girl struggles with disordered eating, works at bakery counter.”
Since then, I’ve followed social media accounts about body neutrality & recovering from disordered eating: like @tiffanyima, @thebirdspapaya, @thelovelybecoming, and @lizziemarkson.
Over the course of months, their posts spoke healing to me. They encouraged me to focus on building healthy habits, letting my body be the weight it wants to be (Tiffany Ima). To recognize & allow space for shame, without letting it define me (Sarah Nicole Landry).
Seeing their content so warmly received, I began to internalize that I'm not alone — not the only one whose mind built a cage out of my body's transgression of thinness & white concepts of beauty and worth.
Slowly, my habits began to change.
I would notice myself gaining weight, but resist the urge to starve myself in order to lose it. While this process hasn't been linear, I’m a healthier weight than I was during the winter, when my disordered eating flared.
Even so, it is painfully hard to see myself in what is, by the standards of my lived experience, a larger body.
When I see that body in the videos below, I feel compelled to upend my eating & exercising habits — anything to make that body smaller, to beat it back into thinness.
It makes me question my decision to withdraw from social media. Maybe I still need that daily affirmation, the voices of these older, wiser women. Their voices entered my life months ago, whereas the voices screaming in my head that I need to starve myself crept in years ago.
Eventually I'll go back, both to reconnect with those accounts & to make my own content more accessible. But I needed a break. I was losing a sense of what that content needed to be, instead producing quick, less-nuanced content just to be seen.
Both as a creative & as a woman recovering from disordered eating, being seen involves letting go. Letting go involves accepting the reality that to some people, you will not be enough.
Bravery is giving yourself permission to take up space, anyway. It’s committing to believing one day that you are enough, even if the words themselves have crumbled into a cliché.
Bravery can be the two seconds it takes to recognize & reject a toxic thought about yourself. It can be sharing two videos. It can be two words — the way we release ourselves into a plunge, “here goes.”
Bravery, it can be so small.
Nothing special about this improv, my first in months. One risk of improv is that I can't focus on technique & sound.