Tiny Revolutions №106: Our Actions Are Our Only Belongings
notes on being a woman of action
Greetings from my usual end-of-year chaos. I have a pretty quiet life most of the time, but at Christmas I go and visit my family in Atlanta, and it is the opposite of quiet. Between visits with my siblings (seven out of eight of them were here this year), their kids (18 of them), the parties, the friends in town, the gift acquiring and giving, the constant football bowl games haunting televisions in the background, and the catching up on the conversations we didn’t have all year, it’s not exactly a time of relaxation and reflection. Mostly I love it because it’s kind of a nonstop human dramedy zoo parade and I’m a fan of that kind of shit, but there are moments I’m close to hitting the eject button entirely. I had a couple such days last week. I was very close to booking a hotel room for a night so I could read and binge watch TV in peace (I’m staying at my dad’s house, which is main hub of activity) but instead I escaped for two consecutive afternoons to a Korean spa, where I laid in the charcoal and Himalayan salt rooms with my Kindle for a few hours and allowed my nervous system to come down a bit.
I’ve said it many times this year in these missives to you, but it’s been a wild one. A lot of change, a lot of loss, a lot of becoming. I’ve heard it said that there are some years that ask questions and some years that answer, and this one feels like the latter. In some ways, in fact, I feel like this year told me clearly to stop fucking around and get to work, and I don’t know if that’s because my mom died or because, at 47, it’s glaringly obvious that I don’t have forever or what, but all signs are pointing to me taking more decisive action towards things that I want.
Perhaps not coincidentally, the books that have stayed with me most this year have been about women in the throes of action at different points in history.
I read and can highly recommend Hild and Menewood, two epic works of historical fiction imagining the life of Hilda of Whidby, a 7th century British saint. I also loved The Vaster Wilds, Lauren Groff’s tale of a girl escaping an early American colonial settlement and her attempts to survive in the wilderness. And then there was The Highland Witch, a novel set in 17th century Scotland with a female protagonist who is forced into a stark outsider existence in the woods.
Each of these books were both gorgeous and brutal, full of danger and terror and astonishing beauty and joy. The protagonists had to fight to stay alive while also managing to transcend mere survival and actually fully appreciate this mad reality. (From The Vaster Wilds: “It is a moral failure to miss the profound beauty of the world.”)
All of these books were fantastic escapes for me in a tough year, and as a person who considers herself more or less among the highly online, they gave me a visceral thrill. As much as I love the internet and all the ways it’s made my peripatetic life possible, there is immense relief in the idea of just being with direct sensual experience. Its pleasures, tediums, and pitfalls, and the herculean amount of work required to carve out an existence. We are so spoiled in our era. And I wonder often about the cost of it, and what those of us in the laptop class (define that how you will) have lost in our comfortable existences where just about any service or good can be summoned almost immediately. And sure, I can (and do) go camping for a few days to experience the wild and chop the wood and carry the water myself, but it’s not the same.
Another highlight of my year? Completing Stasia Patwell’s School of Thot, an eight week fitness program that emphasizes walking, strength training, and tracking macros. I’ve always been into exercise (I credit it, meditation, and writing for my sanity) but for months after my mom died, I found that I couldn’t manage anything more intense than walking the dog. By summertime I was feeling soft and more ill at ease in my body than I had in years.
I came across Stasia on Instagram, where you can see her patented blend of tough love trainer and new age hype woman in action. She makes me laugh and I love the way that she gives it to you straight, which is something like this: you can either choose to do the work of being a fit person, which is often difficult and requires a lot of mindful effort, including brutal workouts a few times a week, or you can choose to take it easy on yourself all the time, which, especially as you age, is going to be hard in a different way (for me: not feeling good about my body, beating myself up for not taking better care, losing mobility, my clothes not fitting, etc. etc. etc.).
It’s not quite so binary as all that, but I gotta say: I’m feeling sharp like a knife and ready to meet 2024 head on. All that hard work is good for me.
Also on my mind right now: Buddhism’s Five Remembrances. These are from an early text called the Upajjhatthana Sutta, and I came across them in Zenkei Blanche Hartman’s excellent Seeds for a Boundless Life.
I am of the nature to grow old. There is no way to escape growing old.
I am of the nature to have ill health. There is no way to escape having ill health.
I am of the nature to die. There is no way to escape death.
All that is dear to me and everyone I love are of the nature to change. There is no way to escape being separated from them.
My actions are my only true belongings. I cannot escape the consequences of my actions. My actions are the ground upon which I stand.
My actions are my only belongings. Damn! There’s something to ponder as we finish up this year and begin a new one.
The past, whatever it was, however it was, is gone. The only thing that matters is what we do now, as that is how we live. And we can always choose to do it differently.
So I invite you to join me in considering, how will you live this year?
Alright alright, sorry for going all dark on you like that. We’re all gonna die!!!!!! But until then, let’s fuckin’ live, friends.
Tell me in the comments some stuff you wanna get up to this year. Maybe we can even find some others to get up to it with.
Thanks for reading, as ever, and Happy New Year!
p.s. On Thursday I’m hosting The Fire Inside, a free 60 minute workshop on building your inner fire and laying the foundation for a 2024 on your terms. You can register here.
p.p.s. I finally made myself a new website and feeling proud! Have a gander here if you like.
p.p.p.s. Tiny Revolutions is free to read but if you’d like to support my work, please share this with someone who’d appreciate it, or just like this post!