How do you start your day?
I start my day with the hope I will remember the jungle of the dream world, with skin to skin next to the woman I love, with the awakening of listening. I live in a small city apartment, and there is something comforting and honest to me about listening to the outside sounds, the people going about their own beginnings, the movement and murmur of all that aliveness. Somehow I feel connected while held in my own solitude, clasped into a place of belonging.
Morning coffee in bed is, for me, the luxury that is the essential. Dark and bitter and pooled with cream, pressed and steamed and brought back to the soft of white sheets and tangled limbs and slowness of wondering what wants to happen in the day and in me.
If it is a week my son is living with me, there is the checking in and making sure his lunch is in the backpack and wrangling him into giving me a hug before he walks out the door.
And then I take notes. This is how all work and writing begins for me, the gathering and collecting of the notes on index cards. It is how I empty everything out, so I can open.
What do you do when you are overwhelmed or stressed?
I do things that feel really good to do, even if they are not what would be categorized as “productive,” “necessary,” or “urgent.” This helps me to remember that my life right here and now is what I have, and I’m not willing to just wait for a someday later in order to experience what makes me most alive and feeds me deep. So I bake pie, and I go to the art institute, and I walk around wearing wings and writing love letters on an old typewriter.
I get myself to the water. The water is always a good place to leave things, and to find what you didn’t even know you were looking for.
When overwhelmed by the amount of suffering or injustice in the world, I ground in individuals whose lives I know and love and have worked with and for. I remember faces, that this is not an impersonal idea. This is humans with heartbeats and an earth in protest, and so
I remember what I’m fighting for.
I make lists.
I lay on the hard wood floor, and I listen deep, and I name what is here, right here, in this moment. It grounds me in presence, which returns me to Self, which allows me to know that in this moment, I am here, living. So I can just let the ground hold me, and do the next right thing, and be here all the way.
What gives you the feeling of true bliss within?
Returning to Mexico: driving through the jungle, and swimming in her ocean, and walking the streets with heat and dust.
Hours of unbroken time in which to get lost inside the writing.
The first night it is truly summer, and the windows are open and it is hot outside and how it is late but only now just began to grow dark.
How I feel in this moment as if I am ageless, or maybe it is I am all the ages I’ve ever been, all at once, complete.
The open road.
What are you currently reading?
I tend to read several things at once, and I re-read things often, and I have stacks of books all over my apartment. Here’s a few I’m currently swimming around inside.
- Faithful and Virtuous Nights: Poems by Louise Gluck
- Hand to Mouth: Living in Bootstrap America by Linda Tirado
- Race Matters by Dr. Cornell West
- The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander
- The Encyclopedia or Trouble and Spaciousness by Rebecca Solnit
- Die Wise: A Manifesto for Sanity and Soul by Stephen Jenkinson
What are you listening to right now?
- Bob Dylan
- Michael Kiwanuka
- Dolly Parton
- Rolling Stones
What is your go-to simple recipe?
When I cook it is the kind that takes all day and makes a massive happy mess. Simple and cooking and me all together? Not so much. So it would have to be takeout of veggie pho at the Vietnamese restaurant down the street from my apartment.
What are some simple things you do for self-care?
Crazy hot baths, plant medicine and sexy music.
Falling in love with my people all over again. I’ve got one hell of a circle of good women and men in my life: witches and rebels, thinkers and seekers, artists and trouble makers, lovers of the living.
Refusing to spend my time putting out fires, standing still and strong in my own choices, and letting things take care of themselves.
Drawing maps on the walls and floor.
Walking away from the shiny and shellacked things, the chorus of voices saying what to do or how to be, and giving my whole heart to what is achingly and terribly and beautifully real.
What does nourishment look like to you?
Road trips: cowboy boots and cut offs, iced coffee and red vines, a truck and open windows and miles and miles to go.
Knowing I’ve got what it takes to walk through the fire and come through the other side, smoke rising.
Really good fried chicken and waffles.
Dancing. I am committed to the dance, always, and I can’t go long without it. Dance as prayer, as celebration, as love and language, as ecstatic, as sublime, the pure rush of being alive and embodied.
How do you make space for play?
My eleven son is good for this. We just like to have fun together, going to the movies, going for late night donuts and signing at the top of our lungs to pop music on the radio, talking, and going to stay in hotels for no other reason than so we can swim in the pool and jump on beds and have room service.
What are some favorite mantras you cling to?
“I’d rather be whole than good.” (Jung)
You are free to live your life.
Please share some words of wisdom you’ve learned as a direct result of soulful and embodied living.
The larger culture, patriarchy, religion and much of self-help all seems set upon insisting something is fundamentally wrong and I must submit myself to the process of improvement or fixing or monitoring myself.
And this is just not true. I refuse to participate.
My body not an accessory or a prison or propaganda. It is my home in this lifetime, and doing what it took to return to her fully and live alive inside her skin was worth it. Because I love her. I love her, I love her, I love her.
To be at home in the body is also to know that my psyche (soul) is not for sale. I don’t do anything without checking in and asking her what she knows. She has a wicked sense of humor, irreverent and honest and always brings me to the spaces and places of just showing up and loving harder.
The learning's alive for me right now.
As many wise people have said and taught, true liberation liberates the oppressor as well as the oppressed. And liberation is what allows for the deepest of loving.
We do not need to flee the body, ascend the psyche with her knotted vines and seaweed tangled heart valves, transcend the complications of the hurt that comes from being here fumbling toward connection. If god is to be found, it is entirely possible that she hangs out here in the quotidian and the rough edge and the burn and the skinned knees of pleasure. So we could stay, enter more fully and wholly that which is right here. Present. Being present to what is most human is to know what is most holy.
Isabel Faith Abbott is a writer, activist and speaker. A baker of pies and lover of learning. A feminist and a freedom seeker. An artist of salt water and maps, adaptation and liberation. She works with those crossing thresholds: sex and unlocked voices, birth and death (doula), artists and seekers coming home to the body and holy human. She is the founder of Writing Freedom Society and co-creator of In Her Skin, and is studying as a presidential scholar fellowship recipient at Chicago Theological Seminary, exploring intersections of embodiment and ethics, gender and presence and cartography of faith. She writes in print and online on embodiment and medical anthropology, the sacred and profane, outlaw faith and the wandering womb, legion hearts and the madness of mystery. Connect with her online on her websites, www.isabelabbott.com and www.listsandletters.com, Instagram, and Facebook.