Each week at my Unitarian Universalist church, the minister shares a “Story for All Ages.” This is the time that my daughter and the other children move to the front of the Great Hall to see the pictures and I let my head drop onto my wife’s shoulder at the exhale of another long week.
A few Sundays ago, the minister told a story about a man who’d passed on from this life and was given the choice to be reincarnated as any creature he wished. He observed animals of the earth, sea and sky before his eyes lit on the humans. “I want to be that kind of creature,” he said. “They are so beautiful.”
That observation penetrated my Sunday morning sleepiness. At best, I’m inclined to think of the human animal as ridiculously adorable—more baby hedgehog than magnificent peacock. I tend toward a functional, “feed-the-machine” perspective, celebrating the corporeal capacity for doing. I practice gratitude for my body’s gifts: sensuality and sexuality, movement, strength, and power; and more than anything, the child that grew inside me. But beautiful?
Navigating Spirituality in a Relationship
This story was originally published as a 2nd Story performance piece, 2011
On a weekend morning in January, a few years ago, I was lying in bed with Jess. Jess and I had just started sleeping together, and we had woken up in my apartment in Edgewater.
The winter sunlight poured in through my windows and lit up the bedroom in golden light. Jess’s long brown legs were tangled up with the sheets, my fingers in the locks of her hair, and we were cozy amongst the pillows and blankets, talking about, well, “everything” and “nothing”, the kind of conversations you have with a new lover. We talked about where we grew up, our favorite stuffed animals from childhood, and if we ever sang to the mirror in our underwear as teenagers, or as adults.
Then she asked me, shyly, the kind of question you only ask when you are really comfortable and safe with someone. She turned in bed so that she could face me, and she asked, “CP, do you believe in God?”
Celebrating the Choice to Be Wild and Free
The first time I saw a woman with body hair, I was thirteen. She was my teacher for a summer creative writing class. As she stretched her arms above her head, I was transfixed by her curly black hairs. After that, I waited for her to do it again, because, wow, I’d never seen a woman with armpit hair before. Every so often, I’d sneak a peek at her leg hair. I thought I was being casual enough about it, but now that others pull the same move on me, I realize how obvious I must have been. She knew I was looking, the same way I know when others are looking at me.
If you asked me when I thought I reached my absolute point of total hotness, my answer would be ten years old. Having started to develop breasts at the age of eight and menstruating at nine, by sixth grade I was constantly mistaken for a college student.
When I was eleven, a rapid weight gain of 30lbs in 30 days put an end to my middle school hotness. My skin became clouded with acne and dark hairs sprouted from wherever they damn well pleased. The weight continued to pile on. My periods became irregular and often appeared every two weeks as opposed to every month. I was a mess.
Conquering Fear and Living in the Moment
Imagine it’s race day. You’ve been preparing for this for the last few months or longer. This is the day where you can show off all your hard work, maybe with your first race finish or a new personal best.
You should be excited, but instead your stomach is in knots. That little voice in your head, the one that loves to tell you how much you suck, is at it again. It’s whispering that you’re not as good as the people around you. It tells you that you’re going to finish dead last and be a laughingstock. It shouts that you’re not prepared.
The race starts, and as you begin to move, that little voice cries, “Look at all those people who are passing you!” Your knee twinges a little, and the voice starts in on how you’re not even going to be able to finish. You still have forever to go!
Does this sound familiar?