Sugar Love

Monday I posted, among other things, a series of tweets by Sugar at the Rumpus that I thought were important. She spoke of feeling protective of the people who write her letters and said how hard it is for her to read comments from people who criticize them.

At the time I posted, I hadn’t read the comments on Sugar’s latest column. I usually don’t. Sugar is one of those writers whose words I need time to sit with (or recover from). Every week, I read her column and I feel two things intensely: 1) the hurt, imperfect, searching, hopeful humanity of her letter-writers, and 2) Sugar’s wisdom reaching inside me, illuminating questions I didn’t know I had until she answered them, making me feel loved, even though I’m not the person she’s writing to.

I never venture into the comment thread, but Sugar’s tweets stayed with me, so when I got home Tuesday, I did. Most were sweet. They expressed understanding and support, gratitude for Sugar. The ones that didn’t broke my heart a little, made me think of how quick we are to judge, to call people names, to act as though we have the corner on morality.

But what struck me most is that even Sugar’s response to the critics is compassionate. She recognizes in herself that same tendency to judge, and it is there, I think, in that admission, in that instant of uncomfortable recognition, that the opportunity for true, fearless love lies. It’s easier, of course, to judge, to wall ourselves off, to point out the flaws of others. I did it. When I read the comments Sugar was tweeting about, I felt protective of her letter-writers too. I called the name-callers names (just in my head, not in the comment thread).

And then I came back and read Sugar’s tweets again. “But I hope we will all remember as often as possible that we have all made mistakes, we’ve all been ugly or wrong or selfish or dumb at times…” And I realized that sometimes fearless love is just that: the ability to see ourselves in the broken parts of another, to stand face-t0-face with ugly (or wrong or selfish or dumb) and choose love.


  1. Michael on September 21, 2011 at 2:17 am

    Without a doubt, Sugar takes sincere diplomacy, in her columns and responses, to a new level. Even when she’s laying it all out there, she manages to do it with a grace that is a little bit shocking.

    Kinda like someone else I know… (insert knitted super hero here).

    • j on September 21, 2011 at 8:48 am

      I wish I could lay it all out there like Sugar, but thank you. There’s a lot to admire about her, for sure, but at the heart of it all, I think, is her empathy, her ability to see herself in others. I was so angry when I read the comments, in my head I was pretty much acting the same way they had, only my ire was directed at them rather than the letter-writer. It was eye-opening then to go back and read Sugar’s reaction.

  2. prudencemacleod on September 21, 2011 at 6:57 am

    Read Sugar’s blog, it was my first encounter. Wow, Sugar sure has a way with words. She also has a way of cutting through the crap and exposing the humanity underneath. It is funny how we, as humans, always seem to look for pleasure, gratification, validation, love, and significance. However, we must find it within first, then get past the ego and its demands, to truly find these things outside, providing we still need to find them at all.
    All very thought provoking, thanks for sharing.

    • j on September 21, 2011 at 8:51 am

      I can identify with the need for external validation in all its forms. That is my demon, too. I often wonder if I will spend my whole life trying to hold onto the idea that all I need is inside me. I absolutely know it’s true, but sometimes I lose faith.

  3. Becky on September 21, 2011 at 9:38 am

    I read Sugar’s column.
    I read that particular column and walked away, as I usually do, wishing Sugar would stand next to me and guide me in my often non-sensical ways — she sees empathy when I think others can’t. I wish I could have time with Sugar once a week — just me and her.
    Anyway —
    Empathy is a true gift. You can’t just say the pretty words… you have to live the ugly parts as well.
    I’ve certainly been wrong and selfish and dumb on too many occasions, I’ve certainly begged for forgiveness and understanding, I’ve been… well, I’ve been wrong and selfish and dumb. But… that doesn’t mean I AM wrong and selfish and dumb, you know? I’m better than my sometimes screwed up actions. That’s what Sugar tells me and all her readers. Yes, I will fuck up, but that doesn’t mean I am fucked up.
    As far as the comments about external validation — yeah, I get that.
    I had a friend tell me not too long ago that I seek validation only from those I think will reject me — damn if that didn’t earn me extra therapy. 😉
    I guess here’s what I’m trying to say… if someone reviewed my life and tagged all the idiotic things I’ve done or said, I might as well just stand on the tracks and let the train have me. Knowing there’s people like Sugar who not only see beyond the actions and words, but she also teaches us how to see beyond those things.
    Anyway, sorry to ramble.

    • j on September 21, 2011 at 12:25 pm

      Sugar is… well, Sugar. I would love to hang out with her too, just to feel so seen and understood.

    • Becky on September 21, 2011 at 12:56 pm

      So… J’s Love Project connection…
      THAT, the being so fully seen and understood, is possible with those that love us the most, I think. I mean, that’s love isn’t it? Being fully seen and understood. Romantic, platonic, family.
      That’s the ultimate — Sugars wisdom strikes again.

  4. Joanne Marie Firth on September 21, 2011 at 11:52 am

    Bravo! I don’t read Sugar, but I will go over there to see what struck you so strongly. My sister, who can be very abrubt and judgemental of me, always tells me I am the compassionate one of the family. That’s about the nicest thing she has ever said to me. To love others, is to overlook the obvious traits that you see first, try to get underneath all that and find what you have in common. It’s like a gift to unwrap. People are people and it’s a wonderful surprise to find how much the same we are, underneath.

    • j on September 21, 2011 at 12:40 pm

      If you’re only going to read one Sugar column, I’m not sure that’s the one I’d pick, though it’s wonderful. Let me know if you want me to send you my favorite most searing, beautiful, inspiring, soul-rocking Sugar columns.

      In the meantime, I agree with you about where our focus should be, but I don’t want to sound like I’m advocating that we all overlook our differences and get along. I don’t think that’s possible – not if you’re passionate about things, not if you have opinions, heart-felt personal convictions. You’re bound to butt up against other people with equal and opposite views, and I don’t think people should be quiet when their heart wants to cry out. That’s how change happens.

      What I got from re-reading Sugar’s tweets is that the way we address those differences, the way we talk to each other, even to people we’d rather not spend time with, matters. We can choose to be ugly or we can choose to be compassionate. Sugar identifies with the critics (validates them to some degree), and then turns her loving attention to the letter-writers.

      That’s a grace I’d like to learn.

  5. Jerry Attricks on September 21, 2011 at 8:07 pm

    “Sugar’s wisdom reaching inside me, illuminating questions I didn’t know I had until she answered them, making me feel loved, even though I’m not the person she’s writing to.”

    I get that from Zebra Sounds all the time.

    • j on September 21, 2011 at 8:11 pm

      You have no idea how magical this comment is for me. xoxo

  6. NM (@echo90803) on September 22, 2011 at 9:18 am

    Huge ditto on Jerry’s comment! I have to digest this and go read sugar’s column (I’ve only read it once before) but before I can do that, I have big data issues to work out. Now I know I also have an additional topic for therapy, like Becky. Gotta run, but wanted you to know I’m still here, being dazzled by you.


  7. j on September 22, 2011 at 10:52 am

    Yikes! Big data issues sound kinda scary. Thank you for stopping by to tell me you’re still here. Big huge grateful smile. xo

    • NM (@echo90803) on September 22, 2011 at 12:04 pm

      They’re not really scary, just time consuming. You would think that in the age of technology, there’d be no hand counting involved, but i’m a public sector worker with underfunded technology. 🙂

  8. Milliver's Travels on September 23, 2011 at 9:26 am

    Wow. This resonates. And flows. I love how you wrote this.

    (Jerry nailed it in his comment.)

    • j on September 23, 2011 at 10:13 am

      Thank you so much, Milli. And Jerry melted me with that. If I were to distill my wish for people reading Zebra Sounds, it would be that.

  9. casoly on September 25, 2011 at 7:16 am

    I’m late to my comment, and after re-reading your post, I guess my “and yet…” was misspoken. Teach me to read ZS on my phone! ;o) Or more likely the rushed way I read this post – I know that for me the best way to read ZS is with coffee in hand, when I have a few moments to savor the words and think about the topic. To explain – I thought that you were saying more that we should see the ugly inside of us (that we see in those who criticize) and then to still love ourselves, love them. While all good in theory, I don’t know how that makes us better people. To recognize the ugly, to love yourself in spite of the ugly, but to make sure you make steps to change the ugly, that I can get behind, and I’m sure you probably agree with some form of that. I was too quick with my comment earlier. OK that’s it. xox Thanks J!

    • j on September 25, 2011 at 11:47 am

      Actually, I love that you feel that way about ZS. That’s kind of how I write the posts too – often sipping something, and always thinking hard about the words I choose.

      I do agree with you that recognition, self-love and positive change should be the goal. I’m a HUGE believer in personal evolution and cannot imagine simply loving myself without question, without movement, without a constant realignment to north.

      Maybe that’s what I like about Sugar’s letter writers. They are searching for their path, and there is something to said for that, no matter how fucked up things have become.

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