Discover more from Britchida
Hi, I'm Brit
the big reveal! lol
I’ve only had the guts to share art that is so personal because my account has always been semi-anonymous. I figured if I didn’t talk about my art to people IRL, and if I never shared my photos or the specifics of my life online, that I could find that sweet spot of connection and privacy. And, it has actually worked pretty well.
Recently though, I’ve realized I don’t need the kind of protection I used to. I’ve somehow come into the felt sense of being someone who is able to look after myself, whatever future heartbreaks come my way. I realized this while I was doing dishes, and the first thing I wanted to do was make friends. Pretty sweet, huh.
I starting writing a bit about this on Instagram earlier this week, and received so many understanding responses and interesting questions. It seems that this tension between intimacy and self-protection is not easily resolved for many of us. I think of the ways that we navigate this tension to be the same thing that some people call boundaries, those ways we have of making our lives more how we want them to be. I want to be flexible and attentive to adapting when I notice that what feels good is changing. So here I am, changing.
I was telling my therapist a while back that sometimes I feel like I am keeping the secrets of people who have hurt me because it turns out there’s no one interested in hearing them anyway. In this way I sometimes feel full of secrets, like there’s an awful lot I don’t talk about, because even if I wanted to there isn’t really anyone to tell. Do you ever feel this way?
Anyway, the point of this letter is not to tell you all my secrets (phew! for both of us!) but to act on the internal shift I’ve experienced over the past year, where I no longer want to work so hard to keep the different parts of my life separate. I want to share more, such as what I do at my day job, and how I grew up.
I wonder what else you and I have in common. I wonder if it will be okay if I am different than how you imagined.
So, I do have a story I want to tell you, if you’d like to hear.
I know that so many of us that have learned that the more visible we are the more dangerous our lives become. I remember moving more freely before I learned this, imagining the world to be a place that I would grow into until, like the adults, it would seem like I’d been here all along. I planned on growing in rings, becoming thick and immovable. Instead, the years turned like pages in a strange anthology, always coming up a different story than before.
I grew up in a small world: a very conservative and separatist Christian community. I was home-schooled, knit deeply into a small group of people who wanted me to grow up and be like them. Thinking about it now I feel kind of dizzy, which is a cue that this is not the part I’m ready to talk about. But I can tell you that I met adulthood, queerness, and freedom with an body full of things to unlearn and a lot of dizziness. Oh, and, I’ll share this: my path out was more like through. I looked closely. I did a masters degree in theology, found some helpful ideas in critical ecofeminist and queer theories, but still moved on, with a clearer understanding of the systems that create our suffering, but no idea how to live a life within them.
When I came out in the last months of grad school, almost all of the people in my life evaporated. It was so painful, but felt also like a beginning: a clean slate to try again at keeping myself safe. I remember telling Danielle in my midtwenties that I did not want to meet anyone new because I could no longer introduce myself. My name felt dysphoric, my gender too difficult to explain, and I didn’t want to talk about my life. Plus, everyone looked like a threat. If I had learned anything so far, it was that no amount of interpersonal rapport, or even “love,” was stronger than the antiqueerness and racism that lived barely hidden behind everyone’s teeth.
I read Mary Oliver’s sentence, Privacy, no longer cherished in the world, is all the same still a natural and sensible attribute of paradise,1 and everything in me said: yes.
I closed down my personal social media accounts. I remember saying there was nothing I wanted to say to everyone in my life. I learned the phrase code switch, and built my life up again, this time in little silos. A queer friend, an Asian friend, a few from my childhood. Work acquaintances. This side of the family. That side. I wanted to be honest and I wanted to be safe, so to each place I brought an authentic but small slice of myself.
I then managed to go through a three year doctoral program without telling anyone anything personal. Professionalism wrapped around me like a fortress and offered me a script. “Hi, I’m Brit, your physical therapist” became the one introduction I could say to someone I’d never met. Healthcare providers are supposed to be see through anyway, offering up a genuine human empathy in a glass frosted by the opacity of nondisclosure - no story, no history. It was an easy fit.
I began working in a hospital (where I still work, part-time now that the art business has grown) spending time with people who are finding new ways of living in their bodies in those early days after a big change. In my work, it helps to have the understanding that healing is a type of adapting, and that it is a creative task, something we can help each other with.
But it was hard to work, because I was sick a lot. I was often very dizzy and nauseous so I had to stay home and horizontal whenever possible. I started to learn about ptsd and complex trauma. And, I bought a set of paints.
Painting felt good in my hand, in my body. I began to create a language where I could speak with the kind of honesty only accessible to me when there was nothing at stake. I began trying to make pieces that could say the things that felt most impossible to explain. Then in 2017 I opened an anonymous instagram account and started posting.
I made My World, the piece below, about you all, a couple of years ago. I wanted to mark the moment when I realized that my life was expanding again, and that it felt good. I knew then that some day I would start showing my face around here for real, and allowing some of the particularities of my life to make their way into my stories, but thinking about actually doing it made me dizzy, so I waited and continued on, trusting that my body would eventually come along. And finally, just recently, it’s given me a yes.
Many of you sent me messages this week relating to or asking about finding the line that feels good between protection and openness. Of course I don’t have answers, but here are things I’m thinking about now:
It has felt right to be patient and act on how I feel, not on how I wish I felt. And as I’m always writing in our check-ins, it helps to remember that there’s no right or better way to feel.
I think my years of staunch self-protection built up some self-trust that I can do what I need to do to keep myself safe, and this has now made it feel possible to open more. And also EMDR helped a lot.
The big stories of my youth, coming of age and coming out, felt a lot more like going in than I thought they would. I’m lucky to be old enough to be in another story now, and have some freedom from the shame and confusion I felt about how I’ve changed and moved throughout my life. Finally, there is no one I am hoping to become. But I would like to make some art and somehow come to feel at home, even in this world.
On Instagram I promised pics, so here are few more:
Thanks for reading along. Sending peace and a gentle pacing to any of you who are wading through these same questions. And as I hope you already know, I am profoundly grateful for your presence and kindness, which has reopened the world to me.
ps. In what is turning out to be the longest sale of all time, the goodbye-to-the-old-britchida-shop sale is still running as we’re not done with the new site yet.
Winter Hours by Mary Oliver