“The moment that you feel that, just possibly, you’re walking down the street naked, exposing too much of your heart and your mind and what exists on the inside, showing too much of yourself. That’s the moment you may be starting to get it right.”
~ Neil Gaiman
I hadn’t really thought of myself as a writer.
I’d only begun creating poetry and essays to help me through my divorce and eating disorder recovery in 2009. A year later, I began the journey into my own sexuality. 2011 saw the birth of my blog, “The Orgasmic Life” (previously called “Returning Saturn,” in order to honor the lessons from the painful events in my 28th year). And then in February 2012, inspired by an off-hand suggestion from my then boyfriend (now fiancé), I sent “Anorexia and the Mother Shadow” to elephant journal.
At first, I was thrilled any major online magazine would even look at my writing, let alone publish it.
That one article led to another, then another, then another—until something new, vibrant and very, very tender arose: that part of my soul that yearned to be a “writer.”
So when Karl Saliter asked if he could interview me for his piece on How the Top-Earning elephantjournal.com Writers Strike it Rich, I was more than surprised—I was humbled (see full interview at the bottom of this article).
It also made me wonder, “Am I now officially a writer? And if so, how does that impact where the rest of my life is headed?”
I write and people read. That’s a fact. I coach and people work with me. That’s also true. Despite my putting no attention on my acting career since moving to the Bay Area, I still managed to do a play reading, an audition class and a short film last year.
And I’m getting married. Again.
I live in San Francisco, someplace I thought I would hang for three months tops—a layover on the way to Los Angeles. Fifteen months later, I’m still here. Before that, I had a 13-year love affair with New York City, living the life of a theatre actress/yoga teacher. But I’m a Southerner at heart—born and raised in Atlanta, with a two-year childhood pit stop in Germany nestled in between ages five to seven.
I think this is what we call an “identity crisis.”
If I keep writing, does that mean I’ll never perform again? Will I lose my love of coaching, like I did for teaching yoga? Why am I still living in a city that still sometimes seems like a “friend with benefits” vs. “the one?”
I want to feel at home. I want to have it all figured out, God damn it! I’m 32 years old; aren’t I supposed to be a responsible adult by now, with a 401k and a mortgage and health insurance and a baby on the way (or at least an attention-demanding pet)?
Nope. I’m just here. Shifting. Morphing. Experimenting.
And you know what? To my surprise, that’s okay.
If I waited to have things “figured out” before taking action, I’d still be living at my mother’s house, drooling and in diapers.
All of life is one high school science lab. The experiences we face become the lessons we learn. The mistakes we make become the glimpses through the cracks of our souls’ armor. Love in face of hatred. Compassion in the face of anger. Vulnerability in the face of grief.
And faith in the face of doubt. I’m not talking about faith in God or religion (unless that’s your thing). I am talking about faith in yourself, or as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. says, “Taking the first step, even when you don’t see the whole staircase.” Faith in your power. Faith in your dreams. Faith in your strength. Faith in your innate genius, intuition and intelligence.
Faith and courage to open your heart to that which is most precious to you—even if you stand to lose it all.
That is the level of faith we’re talking about—and if we’re bold enough to admit the sheer magnificence of our dreams, then the price for walking that path demands no less than everything.
It’s not easy. Living this way is often frightening, humiliating, strange and painful.
Yet it’s also glorious, exciting, adventurous and deeply gratifying.
And, ultimately, that uncertainty is what aliveness means to me. Anything else feels like waiting at the bus stop for death.
So here I sit. In the middle of living—figuring it all out or not figuring it all out or whatever the hell it is we are doing here on earth.
So thank you life, for challenging me to grow beyond my edges.
Thank you faith, for reminding me that I don’t have to have it all “figured out” in order to enjoy the ride.
And thank you readers, for supporting these words and for playing a vital role on my journey.
Karl’s interview with me…
KS: What part about being an elephant writer has been a surprise benefit?
CH: The surprise benefit of writing for elephant journal has been threefold: One—the massive level of readership elephant has cultivated. I’ve never imagined my work being read on such a wide scale. Two—the quality of the audience. The kind of people elephant attracts has an open mind, an ability to discourse intelligently and respond to my work with respect and honesty. What I write can be a little far out and sometimes hard to hear. elephant readers are in a class like none other. Three—a shift in personal perception. In the past, I thought of myself more as an actress/yogi with an interest in sexuality and writing. Writing for elephant has totally changed that. Whereas I previously felt limited in my goals and creative outlets, I now see that I have a lot more to offer the world than I thought. And I see, too, that I am big enough to hold all these desires—in fact I feel stifled if I’m not nurturing all these parts of my creative self.
KS: What questions do you ask yourself before you hit “submit for review?”
CH: The main question I ask myself before submitting anything is “How does this sound to my ears?” I have no doubt that what I write is my own personal truth, but if it the melody is off, no one will hear the music. Sometimes it’s a mellifluous flute; sometimes it’s a discordant clang. But either way, the sound must reflect the feeling I want to share—otherwise it’s just words on a page.
KS: What do readers who want to write need to know?
CH: Readers who want to write should just start writing. Even if the next day you look at the page and think, “Dear God what was that drivel that came out of me,” it doesn’t matter. You have to turn on the creative faucet and allow what wants to flow to flow. I made a personal vow in 2007 to start writing three hand-written pages a day of whatever just wanted to come out of me and I’ve stuck to this religiously. Mind you, most of these musings are probably not fit for print, but a lot of amazing ideas and insights came from this practice. After time, you will then discover your voice, your distinctive tone and what issues matter to you.
KS: What’s next on your creative plate?
CH: Well, right now I have three books in mind. One is an e-book filled with poetry and real life stories from my personal erotic diary. I’d also love to get some photos of me in there posing as various female archetypes. Another book is more of a self-help book that links cultivating a connection with hunger and orgasm to healing oneself from anorexia, which I struggled with for over seven years. The third book is more of a memoir of my life—but I still have quite a bit more living to do before this one gets to a publisher. In fact, one of the chapters is called “India,” which will be based on my upcoming travels this February to the Kumbh Mela.
In the long run, I’d love to co-write and act in films that explore taboo subjects and find the healing that comes with total acceptance of that which we deem shameful. Of course sex is a huge part of this, but I also want to include eating disorders and addictions of all kinds. I am writing an article now about how porn can actually be used for good. This is in stark contrast to the seedy scenes of men entering peep shows and porn stars depicted as sad and vacant shells of girls searching for daddy. This kind of paradoxical thinking turns me on and I believe it is essential to our spiritual growth as compassionate beings.
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Ed: Lynn Hasselberger