I became aware of an aspect of my Facebook (FB) “persona” recently when a new, and very perceptive, also, inspiring, friend, Joelie Key-Tissot, whom I met in Maui at the Cheryl Strayed writers’ workshop, tagged me in a poster posted by Cheryl (the caption also posted by Cheryl, read “Just installed this in my new fucking office”). I was “honored” and at the same time, am aware that I have been using the “F” word in my speech and writing much more recently than in the past, when I’d viewed it as a sort of forbidden word.
I have SO much respect for Cheryl, and her exhortation to fellow writers to “Write like a Motherfucker”. * And because I understand how much shame so many of us feel about the bad things that happened to us, as well as some of the less-than-wise choices we made along the way, I could and can see how using emphatic language, like fuck and motherfucker, can help a girl/woman feel more empowered to re-claim her Right to exist, fully within her own humanity, her own challenges, her own suffering, her own hard-earned wisdom and power, instead of the timidity, uncertainty, lack of self-worth, (the double apology excuse-me-I’m-sorry syndrome I’ve written about in “Tell me what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life”, 4/23/15), and sense of private shame so many of us have experienced — other- and self-imposed labels that aren’t true, boundaries that are too constricted, too small.
If you are unfamiliar with Cheryl Strayed’s work, and might think from what I’ve written thus far that she is primarily associated with using the “F” word, here is a link to the brilliant Maria Popova’s “Brain Pickings”, where, in this essay, she quotes and discusses Cheryl Strayed’s work. If you read this article you’ll understand why Cheryl has so many devoted followers. You’ll also understand if you read her work “Wild”, “Tiny Beautiful Things”, “Torch”.
This call to empowerment via truth-telling and, if necessary, using strong language, is a major gift writers like Cheryl Strayed and Lidia Yuknavitch have given us. I believe their voices account in large part for the huge rise in the appreciation of memoir in recent years. not to mention the impressive number of women of all ages taking pen to page to write their own.
For me, this practice is akin to a spiritual awakening. For which I am oh-so-grateful.
Joelie’s tagging me on the poster helped me realize that my recent use of language on Facebook had become somewhat limited. I’m sure she didn’t mean it that way. I had already started wondering what might be the optimum number of times to use “fuck” in a sentence, post, year or life. Not only was I frequently saying “fuck” and “motherfucker”, I was also saying an awful lot of “amazing” “awesome” “wow” and “omg”.
The poster, and my being noticed as a “fan” of the word, gave me pause. One doesn’t want to become a one-trick pony, so to speak. A writer doesn’t want to become a one-word ( or a five-word) writer. And a 67 year old woman doesn’t want to be too transparently regressing toward teen-dom (with its concomitant public irritability, anxiety, and limited powers of verbal expression. ps on that. I think teenagers today are a lot more savvy and complex thinkers, do-ers, and activists than in my day). Time to loosen up my vocabulary. Shake out some new, or long-lost words, which could translate to new or long-lost thoughts.
And yes, when the occasion warrants it, I’ll still use the “F” word. I remember once Jon Kabat-Zinn saying he had a mantra for those who wanted to know how they could overcome all the various excuses their mind and body came up with Not to meditate. Everyone awaited his wise instruction. The mantra? “Just fucking do it!” I think Cheryl would concur. Me too.
* “Write like a motherfucker” coffee mugs and t-shirts can be purchased at https://store.therumpus.net