I Admit It, Fear is Still Scary…

On February 7th, 2022 an email arrived in my inbox from the NY Times titled, “I Admit It, I’m In Love with Fear” – it excited me and freaked me out. The NY Times was writing about FEAR! Ahhh! I wanted to read it and somehow I couldn’t bring myself to do it. Now I’m here writing, 1.5 months later, and I still haven’t read it. Not only did I not read it, but I also avoided writing a blog entry on my Facing Fear blog for exactly the same amount of time. What the fuck happened?

Allow me to explore, and as you are my witness I will have also read that NY Times article by the end of writing this. I believe the trajectory of my thoughts went something like this…

  • Oh shit! I LOVE that the NY Times is writing about fear.
  • I’ve gotta read this!
  • Did I miss the boat on becoming part of a larger conversation?
  • Why am I not writing about fear for the NY Times?
  • Who did write about fear for the NY Times?
  • Am I a failure for not being published in the NY Times?

Yeah, something like that. I had a lot of FEAR come up around not being exactly where I thought I should be and then I froze and avoided tapping into the conversation from exactly where I am. Thing is, I’m still wildly curious about what the article had to say… gimme a metaphorical five minutes while I go check out that article real quick. Thoughts to follow…

Well, what do you know? It was actually a series of articles based on three dozen interviews the NY Times did with Olympians competing in the Beijing Olympics this winter. I read a few of them and watched some of the excerpted interviews – and I HIGHLY recommend checking them out when you get a moment if you haven’t already. It was incredibly interesting to learn how these extreme athletes engage with fear. Freeskier Eileen Gu for example says,

 “Fear” is really an umbrella term for three distinct sensations: excitement, uncertainty, and pressure… Instead of ignoring fear, we build unique relationships with it by developing a profound sense of self-awareness and making deliberate risk assessments.”

Then there’s Millie Knight a Paralympic skier who has lost 95% of her sight – read: she’s skiing at 70 miles per hour with only 5% of her sight! Holy shit. It was incredible to read her story. Funny thing is, last weekend I went skiing for the very first time in my life. And only reading about Millie’s experience today, I was able to more fully appreciate how scary it is that she skis with only 5% of her sight, knowing how terrified I was doing it with most of my sight fully intact! The NY Times article has an interactive visual to show you what it’s like for Millie visually when she’s skiing for reference – and GULP she is VERY VERY BRAVE.

Swipe to check out the video below for footage of me on the slopes for the first time ever.

I’m going to break down my fear experience in relation to this NY Times article using freeskier Eileen Gu’s description of fear in the article…

  • First I got excited reading the article headline in my inbox, “I Admit It, I’m In Love With Fear”.
  • Then I felt uncertain how I’d feel after reading the article and whether or not I was in the place I should be in life.
  • Finally, I felt pressure to be someplace I’m not – creating an invisible external competitor when I was actually probably just visualizing where I want to go in the future.
  • As a result of avoiding reading the article and writing in my blog, then reflecting on it, I’ve developed a greater sense of self-awareness that I can apply to future such situations.
  • Next time, I can do a risk assessment and remember that by the end of this fear cycle I felt inspired and motivated to continue on my journey with facing fear.

In conclusion, it’s cool that I experienced fear, how I reacted to it is completely fine, and now that I’ve moved through the experience I feel more confident in myself. Let’s gooooo!

It’s March 2022 – and officially Spring now – have you pushed through fear recently this year? Pop a comment down below and let me know.

Thoughts on Fear

These past couple of weeks I’ve been musing about fear in a different way. It’s a singular word but there’s so much meaning in it. You can be afraid of so many different things and to varying degrees.

A quick google search of ‘what is the true meaning of fear?’ defines fear as…
1a) an unpleasant often strong emotion caused by anticipation or awareness of danger. 1b) an instance of this emotion.
2a) a state marked by this emotion. 2b) anxious concern: solicitude.
3) profound reverence and awe especially toward God.

Isn’t that interesting? Playing with those words, to understand fear more deeply, I’ll shape a poem.

On Fear
Often strong
unpleasant
anticipating and aware
all in an instance
solicitude manifest – a caring
something of profound reverence
moving toward
an awe of God

So, fear, huh? Pretty damn special and powerful. Let’s go, 2022. Let’s see what FEAR brings and reveals, how it directs and strengthens.

I have a feeling that leaning into fear – directly experiencing it and not numbing out – making choices and moving forward through it, is what LIVING is all about.

New Years 2022 = First Time Stitches

I spent the first two hours of 2022 in an emergency room getting stitches on my toe. It was my first time ever needing stitches and my first time ever being treated for something in a hospital. Warning – some mildly graphic toe imagery follows.

Basically, here’s what went down. It was 2 minutes till midnight on New Years Eve in Montana, and I was walking through a dark hallway. There was a broken frame and a huge glass cover sitting in the hallway and as I rounded the corner I accidentally carved my index toe on the glass!

I initially thought I had just stubbed it bad, but after turning the light on I realized nope I have in fact sliced my toe a bit. It was more bloody than painful, and there was a bit of skin flap situation going on. It was unclear how deep and close to the bone it got. My boyfriend came over and immediately was in damage control mode – helping me stop the bleeding. I’m incredibly grateful that he was so supportive cause I was pretty rapidly going into a mild state of shock.

The way my body systemically reacted to the situation surprised me. I got extremely anxious and started to feel the beginnings of a panic attack. Then I threw up and felt better although was now pretty embarrassed. I would have thought cause I’m a woman and see blood monthly I would be less squeamish… but there we go.

Meanwhile, my boyfriend was on it (again) and made the call that a hospital would be best cause no Urgent Care was open and my toe had a deep enough cut that it was better to be safe and get it cared for professionally. Surprisingly, my toe really didn’t hurt that much. We wrapped my toe up in a bandaid and a clean sock and I wore a pair of his shoes since my toe couldn’t fit into my own without further damaging it. He drove me to the nearest hospital and since there was literally no other patient in the waiting area I got seen immediately. I’m super grateful for that and it occurred to me that if this had happened in NYC I would have likely needed to wait quite a bit longer.

They irrigated my toe – basically flushing it out with water. Then the doc came in checked it out and recommended stitches. The anesthetic was more painful than the actual stitches – which means it did its job well. I avoided looking at the procedure while it happened for the most part cause I was worried I was gonna be sick again.

After leaving the hospital I kept the toe clean and regularly applied a topical antibiotic ointment. 10 days later it was time to remove the stitches. You can opt to have a doctor or Urgent Care help you take it out – but the ER doc had assured me you can do it yourself too. I opted to do it myself cause it would be less expensive… But it was a freaky experience involving a tweezer, scissors, a lot of patience, and a little bit of nausea. I freaking did it though. And it’s healing up really well.

Learned quite a few lessons from this one but most importantly that THE BODY IS AMAZING. Seriously the way it can heal is nothing short of miraculous. We just need to give it a fighting chance.

Check out my IG for some footage of me removing the stitches from my toe… if you’re curious. But totally understand if you’d rather pass ;-).

Facing a Fear of Flying

I used to be scared of flying on an airplane. For both reasonable and entirely illogical grounds.

It started after September 11, 2001 – after the horrific terrorist attack on 9/11. I grew up in the Bronx in NYC and we could see the Twin Towers burning from our middle school’s hallway window. I remember our class had just come back up from the gym and we took turns peering out the tiny window at the smoke billowing out of our city’s skyline.

We filed into the classroom and our teacher had us pull our chairs semi-circle around a radio. It was a surreal break in our middle school routine as we sat huddled listening to the horrific news – planes had crashed into the Twin Towers. The school PA system kept coming on every 5 minutes calling students to come down to the office as parents came to rescue their kids from a horrifying new reality in droves.

For obvious reasons, what happened on 9/11 terrified me and I fundamentally didn’t trust air travel from that point on. While that early collective trauma we all went through was the start of that fear for me, here are some of other (somewhat illogical) reasons flying makes me nervous:

  1. We need to trust a complete stranger to get us through the sky to our destination safely. THANK YOU PILOTS, YOU ROCK. I find it hard to acknowledge that I’m in fact not in control – and I’m truly truly not in control on a plane – nor would I want to be in control of flying a plane, EVER.
  2. An accident in a plane while WAY less likely than in a car is 100% going to be a more deadly affair. I realize that the stats are against me on this one happening. THANK GOD. Still freaks me out.

Up until quite recently I just dealt with that fear and took flights when I needed to.

Here’s the thing, I used to maybe fly once or twice a year MAX, but I’ve recently started traveling a lot more than I used to. In the last 3 months, I’ve flown 7 round-trip flights! The increased travel is for a combination of reasons – both personal and professional and it’s been a whirlwind. Initially, this increased travel also caused me increased stress. It’s historically been one of the scarier things for me to do, and gradually gradually I can feel this shifting.

Tonight I’m flying back from visiting my boyfriend in Montana and I’m literally writing this blog entry in an airport as I wait for a connecting flight to NYC. And later this month I’m flying out to Oregon to attend a film festival where my film is screening and won an award! So much plane travel.

Here’s the REAL KICKER – I’m starting to actually ENJOY it – WHAT?!?!?!?!

The sheer frequency of travel has lowered my fear of flying. To the point where I’m writing about my plane fear rather than just sitting in it. In the past, I would have probably just been praying right about now as I waited to board my plane. Meh who am I kidding, I’m probably gonna pray soon as I finish writing this but my fear has truly lessened. Mostly because I’m realizing it doesn’t do anything. When something becomes more routine it feels like you don’t have the patience to indulge fear… feel it sure, but not indulge it.

On the way out here to my connecting airport layover – my initial flight had a freaky moment. The plane was rocking – no other way to describe it – back and forth. And we even had a moment where the plane kind of tilted a bit. Freaky shit! And then the pilot didn’t even hop on the intercom to give us a little ‘well, that was a little bit of turbulence, folks and we’re cruising’ note nada. Which was even more freaky. I was spooked but happy to report that the rest of the flight went super smooth.

. . .

Okay – I just boarded my second flight, and I’m typing in my seat as I wait for takeoff. There’s a kind of excitement that comes along with this part of the journey. The bustle of the plane getting ready. It’s amusing to observe people finding their seats and settling in. As we get closer to it tonight, I’m realizing I even sometimes get a bit of a thrill when we take off. Which used to be the most terrifying part of the whole journey for me.

Now it feels more like an epic start to an adventure. We are literally launching into a higher altitude – elevating our existence with our heads amongst the clouds for a while. I’m realizing it can provide an epic reset on overall life perspective too.

And as our pilot just announced on this flight I’m on right now, it’s a clear night and the view as we land in NYC should be beautiful. And that doesn’t hurt.
. . .

Time for take-off.

A Roadmap for the New Year

I’m sitting in a warm cafe in a wintry Montana, sipping coffee and writing my first personal blog entry in two years. I was gonna sit down and work on my new play Primordial and I just got hit with an urge to do this first. January’s got a special kind of encouraging magic to it, right? I love how the start of the year offers up a moment for us to reset mentally and clean-slate it.

My New Year reset always includes taking a moment, just before midnight on the 31st, to write out resolutions. They’re geared towards things I actually want to do and are not about restricting current habitual behavior. I think of my resolutions as a roadmap to remind me of what’s internally important.

One of my biggest goals for 2022 is to get a production agreement signed and a production scheduled for my new theatre play Primordial. It’s my second full-length documentary (interview-based) theatre play, all about pregnancy and childbirth. I interviewed 44 different people about their experiences and then I turned about 1000 pages of interview transcripts into a 50-page play.

It’s been a powerfully illuminating experience for me and I’m incredibly excited to share the play with the world. I’m finishing up my fourth draft of the play this month (or this week?!), weaving in a couple more perspectives and feeling through the ending and where it wants to go.

Creating this play has very much felt like standing on the precipice of a great mountain absorbing a breathtaking view and then trying to capture it. I have a sense of anticipatory frustration almost. The topic is so grand and historical and there are so many vantage points you can approach it from. Can I do this justice? Can I get what it wants to be down on the page? The truth is, I can’t not do it. My heart and my soul demand I finish it and get it out into the world.

I LOVE IT when I feel that inner sense of urgency and drive. When I don’t feel like I have a choice. It’s in motion and I’m committed to it no matter how scary it gets.

I started this blog in 2016 – which is bonkers. I haven’t regularly written in here over the years but I want to really go for that this year. All these years later I’m still facing fear, and I will until the day I die. It’s a choice I’m making to do that. Again, I can’t fucking help it.

While this blog is still about my journey facing fear, I’m hit with the realization, this January of 2022, that it’s also about commitment. Speaking of, I’m gonna commit to a weekly entry on here this year and see where that takes me.

The Universe says: you want it? Great. Just commit to it and you can have it. No matter how scared ya are.

Happy New Year, friends.

Cheers,
Lillian

ps: I’m realizing I accidentally just drank a caffeinated coffee instead of my regular decaf. Whoops. Time to go drink some water. Helloooo 2022.

How We Love

Video Still How We Love

Everything in the world seems to be in chaos right now, and that is in part what fuels my writing. It’s my way of revolting – energizing my heart and offering my words up as theatre to rejuvenate yours.

I’m producing my sex-positive play How We Love/F*ck this Fall at the legendary Cherry Lane Theatre. Over the course of the last year, I interviewed 28 different women about sex, from a positive and open standpoint. Then I transcribed those interviews and turned them into monologues and wove my own personal narrative poetry about my experiences as the connective tissue throughout.

It’s the biggest push to face my fear I’ve ever made. The writing is tremendously vulnerable and it explores a topic that engenders some extensive shame among men and women alike – human sexuality.

We’re currently fundraising for the play, we have some fun giving levels, and anything you can afford to give, I’ll be incredibly grateful for.

My producer just sent me the below Toni Morrison quote this afternoon and it perfectly describes why the heck I keep producing my play amidst all the human pain we see around us. Why getting this play to the stage drives me forward and gives me purpose, unlike anything I’ve ever known in my life before.

“This is precisely the time when artists go to work. There is no time for despair, no place for self-pity, no need for silence, no room for fear. We speak, we write, we do language. That is how civilizations heal.

I know the world is bruised and bleeding, and though it is important not to ignore its pain, it is also critical to refuse to succumb to its malevolence. Like failure, chaos contains information that can lead to knowledge — even wisdom. Like art.”

-Toni Morrison

I’m profoundly grateful to everyone who has joined me on this journey to bring this play to life. If you haven’t yet donated, please make a contribution to this intimate celebration of female sexuality.

Ecstatic Experience + Exercise

I exercised at the gym today and also took a couple long walks outside and it feels so good. I feel so damn good. I haven’t exercised in a while, I felt stuck in a kind of physical stasis and had some anxiety about exercising. Everyone knows exercise is good for you but it’s easy to forget how good it feels. Embodying that goodness oh man. Tonight my cheeks are flushed, my blood is flowing, my eyes and mind are relaxed. I’m turned on all the way up and lit from within.

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Yes, it’s definitely a goal of my January 2019 to get physically in shape again. I’ve been using this incredible (free) app Pacer to track my daily steps and exercise goals and in the week I’ve been doing it, it’s markedly increased the level of my physical activity. It has a little tracker that tells you how many steps you’ve walked so far. 1-2999 is sedentary. Sedentary! I hate the idea of being sedentary (not to mention all the health risks that go along with it) so that alone has made me intentionally get out and walk at least 3000 steps on a daily basis.

A lot of the work I do is remote from home so it’s easy for me to have a sedentary day if I’m not mindful about it. The levels on the app are sedentary, lightly active, active, and highly active. I’m happy to say today was my first highly active day in the past week and I feel fucking amazing. The screenshot below is my actual day today. Woot.

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While I was leaving the gym I held the door open for a man behind me, and he said you’re from Latin America! And I said I’m half Cuban. And he said I could tell you had sunshine in you. Maybe he was just hitting on me but he was polite and respectful and didn’t ask for my number so I prefer to think he was just appreciating my inner light thank you very much.

On my walk to the train, I passed by a light store. Scores of chandeliers lit up and shining in this warm thin little slice of a store. I walked passed it smiling, then walked back over to it and decided I wanted to walk inside and soak up all the lights. I entered the store and the only two people in there, both of whom worked there, snapped their heads up as soon as they heard the door open. Likely not something that happens too much in chandelier store… although you never know it was by Fifth Ave. I said,

“I just want to walk and look at all the lights!”

The woman who works there (and maybe owns the store) said,

‘oh, yes! The energy. Go soak up the energy!’

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So I did. I wandered through the store in a kind of reverie and soaked up the brilliant lights. My heart was so open and happy and… bright. As I walked back out the store and to the train I felt like I was exploding with some kind of ecstatic bliss, likely due to my (finally) exercising – hormones are real. And I remembered something my acting teacher said to us last weekend during an intensive workshop, ‘On the other side of anxiety is an ecstatic experience’.

The other side of anxiety is ecstatic experience.  Tweet this!

I can definitely say that today, pushing through my anxiety and getting some exercise led to an ecstatic experience. It’s exciting to think that those of us with anxiety are blessed with bundles of energy primed for ecstasy.

Till soon,
Lillian

 

 

Celebrating My Heart in December

I’ve been reading this book ‘Radical Acceptance: Embracing Your Life with the Heart of a Buddha’ by Tara Brach. She is a clinical psychologist and a western teacher of Buddhist meditation, emotional healing, and spiritual awakening. She shares simple meditations throughout the book that can be done in a few minutes. Last month I started doing one of them. In short, you sit in stillness and ask yourself ‘What does my heart truly long for?’. At first, you might come up with answers like ‘money’, ‘a partner’, ‘a house’. You keep at it though, asking yourself what does my heart truly long for? Eventually you hit on something, the true something of what you long for – hint: it isn’t usually material.

woman stands on mountain over field under cloudy sky at sunrise
Photo by Victor Freitas on Pexels.com

I realized what my heart truly longed for at that time was to open up to love, and feel love and connection with other people. Knowing that was powerful because it helped me understand my self more. I began to look at my day through the lens of wanting love and connection and figuring out how I could give it. Cause what I want more than anything is to open up to love and that means giving, giving, giving. Not just to others but to myself too. How can I give myself love?

That led to me creating a challenge for myself (of course) to celebrate the holidays in some way each day in December. What better time to connect with others than the holidays?! Originally it was to go to a holiday-themed event, get-together, or party each day, but in the vein of loving myself and enjoying myself, I realized that wasn’t exactly going to be practical. It’s day 21, the winter solstice, and so far I have indeed celebrated the holidays each day. A list of how I’m doing that below.

Lillian Isabella

I didn’t know what to expect, but I have already seen some changes. I’m about to share just how weird I can be so if you’re still reading this, get ready. In the past, I’ve not wanted to hang out with my sister when she’s with her boyfriend or friends. I get too self-conscious and feeling like I need to take care of and balance everyone else’s emotional energies. It’s actually a little hard to explain and it’s definitely not rational, but my sister is super understanding about it. It’s also not exclusive to being with her. I generally find group dynamics a little stressful.

Then on December 7th, I went with my sister to the Frick museum. As I was getting ready to go I thought to myself, I wonder if her boyfriend will come that would be cool all three of us checking out the museum together. Then I had a holy shit moment. I had literally never EVER had that thought before. I believe that I was able to feel that way because in the six days prior to that I’d been going out and celebrating the holidays each day and opening the space around my heart more and more. He didn’t wind up joining us, but I was open to it.

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Photo credit: Dan Corbett

As I open up more to love and loving myself, it’s a little painful to recognize how I haven’t done that in the past. To see how I rejected my own heart, and myself. It’s also extremely exciting and enlivening to see how powerful my love can be, now that I’ve decided to practice opening up to it.

My December adventures so far…

DAY 1: Checked out the #MariahExperience Christmas booth at Sony Sq NYC.

DAY 2: Gathered with hundreds at the Annual Park Avenue Tree Lighting Ceremony. They light trees all along Park Ave between 54th and 97th street as a symbol of peace and the people who fought and died in WWII to attain it. It was a night filled with caroling and families celebrating + praying.

DAY 3: Visited the Union Square holiday market, and worked a holiday party.

DAY 4: Went to the SAG-AFTRA holiday party and saw a bunch of friends there.

DAY 5: Visited my friend and a renowned figurative painter who has painted a couple of portraits of me. Drank wine and sat around her fireplace talking about the holidays.

DAY 6: Worked another holiday party, and sniffed some evergreen Christmas trees.

DAY 7: Went to First Friday at the Frick with my sister, we drew together and listened to a performance of live Christmas music.

DAY 8: Worked another holiday party.

DAY 9: Lunch with mom + she got me a Christmas wreath. Spent the evening with my friend Mara, we walked around lit trees in Thompkins square park, drank tea, and talked about the holidays (and other stuff ;-).

DAY 10: Bought a Christmas present for a family member.

DAY 11: My friend Benny invited me to his work Christmas party, he won a prize and we posed for photos with a polar bear.

DAY 12: Helped decorate a Christmas tree at a church with the Actors Episcopal Guild.

DAY 13: Worked my last holiday party.

DAY 14: Went to a holiday poetry reading at the Cornelia Street Cafe.

DAY 15: Checked out the gingerbread house at Madison Square Park.

DAY 16: Deep cleaned my apartment while listening to Christmas music on blast.

DAY 17: Went to a local cafe and drank hot apple cider, sitting by a decorated Christmas tree, reading a book about love.

DAY 18: Went to hear the New York City Opera perform live Christmas carols, and classical music at Bryant Park.

DAY 19: Watched a movie about Charles Dickens called ‘The Man Who Invented Christmas’. At the end of the film they share that Dickens published ‘A Christmas Carol’ on Dec 19th many years ago. I didn’t realize that ahead of time, but I love synchronicity. I also had a session with a social media client in her apartment and got to see her beautiful Christmas tree.

DAY 20: Went to a cast + crew screening of EVENING NEWS, a film I acted in earlier this year. It was so beautiful to be among the people who helped make that film happen and listen to their reactions as they watched the film. 💛 It’s my holiday event for the day because it’s in the spirit of love, celebration, and creation.

Lillian Isabella
Photo credit: Camile Grace

I’m looking forward to continuing my December journey, and curious to see where opening my heart will lead me to next.

Warmly,
Lillian

http://www.lillianisabella.com

 

Mental Health Month and OCD

It’s been a while since I’ve written an entry but it’s because I’ve been facing my fears hardcore in a multitude of ways and it’s been a little overwhelming. It’s intense to face your fear and push through obstacles. I started to see a therapist and earlier this year she asked me how I felt about her assessment that I have obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). I told her it made sense. I started seeing her late last year because I realized I had gotten into certain unhealthy mental patterns that were getting stronger as my stress levels increased. She recognized these patterns as signs of OCD.

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Photo Credit: Unique Spirit Photography

Thankfully over the past few months, she’s introduced me to various cognitive therapy techniques to help me break these mental patterns. It’s been working wonders. I’m not taking any medications to assist in this transformation (doc doesn’t find it necessary) and breaking mental patterns is a stressful endeavor. Luckily a lot of the therapy techniques she’s been working on with me are relaxation techniques as well.

It’s challenging for people with mental health issues to be open with their friends, family, and colleagues about it. Mental health is heavily stigmatized, maybe because so many people are repressing their own mental health issues and feel a need to disassociate from people who are naming and working through their shit. Who knows. Thing is it’s not easy for people working on their mental health issues to admit it to themselves either because of that same stigma. Yet self-acceptance and love are essential to recovery.

I have a mild level of OCD and I’m pretty sure it’s added to my ability to be a more highly functional human in certain areas of my life. Which is why it took me so darn long to seek help for it. I was kind of in denial about the negative impact it was having on my life, even as I was able to observe it happening.

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Photo Credit: Dan Corbett

Since I’ve started using the cognitive exercises my therapist recommended I’ve noticed I’m able to focus more on the present moment and release an obsessive need to control it. It’s an ongoing process but I’m deeply grateful for her assistance and it is 100% changing my life. I cannot recommend cognitive therapy enough.

Mental health is such an important part of our lives and it frequently gets swept under a rug of shame. Lets air out our collective psyche and let the healing begin. I highly recommend following @MensHealthMag for more on the importance of men talking about mental health and their #HowIGotHelp campaign for #MentalHealthMonth.

Also, there’s a beautiful organization called Art with Impact that brings screenings of short films about mental illness to college campuses around the world that is worth keeping an eye on.

Alright, until next time. Maybe next week. We’ll see…

http://www.lillianisabella.com

#TimesUp and Time to LOVE

Sunday night we witnessed Oprah begin her candidacy for President of the United States – I mean, I hope – at her acceptance speech at the Golden Globes. It was a fantastic way to herald in the New Year. A rallying cry for women and men everywhere. This is my favorite part:

So I want all the girls watching here, now, to know that a new day is on the horizon! And when that new day finally dawns, it will be because of a lot of magnificent women, many of whom are right here in this room tonight, and some pretty phenomenal men, fighting hard to make sure that they become the leaders who take us to the time when nobody ever has to say “Me too” again.

I loved her speech. Particularly how she talks about all of us fighting hard, men and women together, to eradicate abuses of power. The #TimesUp movement is pretty phenomenal. It’s a rallying cry from many powerful women in Hollywood that reaches across a huge socio-economic gap and offers a helping hand to less financially privileged women so they too can fight sexual assault, harassment, and inequality in the workplace. They’ve set up a Legal Defense Fund to subsidize legal support for people who have experienced sexual harassment. More on their website.

The whole #MeToo movement has highlighted how disturbingly pervasive sexual assault and abuse are across all industries. I know women who have suffered from it, and I doubt there’s a single one of us who doesn’t. It’s energizing to see how making our voices heard prompts real change – firing perpetrators, mobilizing the elite, and intensifying a sense of solidarity.

I haven’t been sexually abused or assaulted, thank the universe. I have had men, boyfriends, friends, and strangers, say the most disturbing things to me and haven’t been able to process them. I remember one day lying out in the sun with a group of friends near our high school campus. I felt divinely happy, surrounded by people I cared about, feeling the sun soaking into my skin, and completely relaxed. It was a mixed group of men and women friends. One of the guys, whom I considered a friend, said to me, ‘I don’t understand, do you want to be raped?’

I haven’t ever been able to fully process that question. I went from being in a state of natural bliss and relaxation to being horribly self-conscious and shy and honestly repressed. If you’re wondering what I was wearing shame on you, and it doesn’t matter, but it was definitely not revealing. I tended to subdue whatever about me was attractive in high school. I didn’t wear makeup, I didn’t wear heels (still don’t really if I can help it), I would hide my hair when I walked home from school because my mom told me it would attract too much attention. Which leads me to another story…

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photo credit: Dan Corbett

One day on the way home from work, post-college, I did have my hair out. It was long and thick and luxurious and I wanted it to be free. I stepped out onto the platform to wait for my transfer. As I stood there I suddenly felt someone’s fingers run through the length of my long hair as they walked by. I felt every other hair on my body stand up and a kind of sick feeling churn in the pit of my stomach. I turned to look and a man I didn’t know lumbered away from me quickly walking to the exit. Two girls sitting to my left looked at me horrified and then looked at each other and whispered about what had just happened. I looked at them and tried to connect but they looked away from me as if I was somehow tainted by the incident. Or maybe they were just embarrassed for me.

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photo credit: Dan Corbett

Here’s the thing, femininity is not actually a commodity. Although people might try to commodify it. It is not something that can be used and abused, at a moments notice for a moment’s pleasure, and then cease to exist. Although people will try to pretend that’s the case. It exists whether or not you’re there to look at it, touch it, or enjoy it. If you must engage with the feminine and/or with the female body please do so with respect and with permission.

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The real truth of it is, we’re all irrevocably connected to one another. The #MeToo movement and the resulting #TimesUp movement highlight how much good we can do when we stand together and shout enough is enough. I hope we see more men join in the fight, really join in, as this moves forward. Not a one of the men who gave their Golden Globe speeches mentioned the TimesUp campaign and that was disappointing. We’re all in this together, and it’s going to take both men and women to make a lasting change.

Moving forward, let’s all try to be a little less afraid. Face our fears of whatever the hell it is that holds us back from being as brave, and brilliant, and divinely feminine as we can be.

Now is the time to embrace love. L.O.V.E.

Read more Facing Fear posts here.