A: Welcome back! Today we’re going to talk about a character who is very beloved to me, and I think very near and dear to Brannan’s heart. Um, it’s from the book All the Crooked Saints by Maggie Stiefvater, and the character that we’re focusing in on today is Beatriz.
Beatriz’s family lives in southern Colorado, I think they were Mexican American, and their entire family is gifted with the ability to cure miracles or cure the curses, or the “darkness” in other people.
So people come from miles around with their own personal “darkness”, to figure out what it is, and when the Saint from [Beatriz’s] family—the chosen person from their family—comes and reveals their darkness to them, it manifests itself physically. So for instance, one person was carrying grief that was not really hers to be carried with her for her entire life, and [the manifested darkness was that it] rained on her perpetually. So it was like a physical manifestation of grief.
So I think the person [pilgrim] has to perform the miracle on themselves, right?
B: So the first miracle was performed by one of the family members, and then [the pilgrim] lives there on the ranch [until they can perform the second miracle, which is curing their own darkness].
And so the book is called All the Crooked Saints because there are a couple [of family members] in every generation that stand out, and they’re considered the “Saint”. And so in this book there are two Saints: Daniel and Beatriz.
And they can perform the first miracle that will manifest the [pilgrim’s] darkness basically. So you can see what you’re fighting against. Right?
A: Like for instance, here’s a priest who came to see them, and he had a problem with basically having a wandering eye. And his head turned into a coyote’s. Like, basically, he was a dog. Yeah. Yeah.
B: But you have to perform the second miracle on yourself.
A: So it’s like a puzzle you have to solve.
B: Yes. So they can help you with this. And they’re so gloriously truth tellers and explorers. Like, you know, they’re saints and they’re not necessarily the witch trope, but they’re outcasts a little bit from society. They’re separate, and they’re truth-tellers, and they will help you see the thing that you need to deal with.
But then you have to deal with it yourself.
A: Right. They won’t do the work for you.
B: But they have decided that as a family and as a ranch, they will let you stay there on the ranch until you can perform that second miracle on yourself.
A: But there’s a catch. ( I apologize if you plan on reading this book; we’re probably going to spoil it a little bit.
B: No, we’re going to spoil all the way to the end, because it is is
— I can’t tell you how incredibly personal this book felt. It was like she was in my head the entire time, and we can’t talk about this topic without going all the way to the end, right? So if you haven’t read it, pause it.
A: If this is gonna, ruin your life, definitely pause it. Go read it, come back, and then see whether you agree with this or not.
So, the catch to the miracle is that they are not allowed to interfere with the miracle and help the person figure out their miracle or…
B: …speak to them. You can’t even speak to them…
A: or your own darkness will overtake you. And the darkness of a saint is the worst darkness of all. Yeah.
B: So this has been a generational thing. And there’s a lot of expectations on the family and especially on the children who are young adult age
—they’re the next generation and they’re [supposed] to carry [the traditions] on. But then there’s also this cloud of frustration over the family that there’s more and more [pilgrims] piling up, more and more people waiting for their second miracle. But nobody’s talking to them.
A: And a lot of the family has [other] unresolved issues in between the family members that are unrelated to that. So like everyone’s like a little bit emotionally constipated. [laughter]
B: They all have their issues. They’re all kind of trying to deal with them separately. They’re all frustrated for different reasons.
And then we come to Beatriz, and what she’s thinking and what she’s feeling. And the beautiful thing about this book is that it’s not really one dimensional, for perspective. We get a lot of different motivations and thought processes for the different characters, and one of the ways that the author does that is by saying, “here’s the thing this person wanted…here’s the thing, this person feared”, which is gorgeous. And [the author] is so lyrical that even if this does ruin [the plot] for you… It’s gorgeous. Like, the visualizations and the rhythm of it and the way that she writes just kills me. I could just like soak in these words for forever.
A: Yeah. Okay, so an important point to set up is that Daniel
—the boy cousin or her male cousin—at some point Beatriz decides that she doesn’t want to be the main Saint, so he’s going to do it.
Obviously he’s made to do it. He’s incredibly interpersonal. He’s incredibly people oriented. He’s incredibly, um, you know, in touch with his own emotional experience. And Beatriz just kind of wants to be left alone with her thoughts, and she’s not particularly inclined to spend a lot of time with all of those people. Helping them figure out, like, it exhausts her. And so she’s kind of happy to let that go onto her cousin.
But Daniel, her cousin, breaks the cardinal rule of miracles, and he falls in love with one of the people who comes [to have the first miracles performed], who’s still stuck in her darkness. And he tries to help her.
And then his darkness comes upon him literally. [post edit note: he goes blind, if that wasn’t clear] And he runs away because he’s afraid his family will try to help him. So he runs off into the wilderness because of course, why not?
B: Cause that’s what you do…
A: As one does. Just runs off blind into the desert.
B: So setting up, walking through the way that Beatriz is approaching what’s happening: she’s seeing that everybody is frustrated. She has to go out to the greenhouse to even talk to her dad who won’t even talk. They have, um, they whistle to each other to communicate. And there’s a fantastic, beautiful backstory of the way that they interact with each other.
A: But those two are peas in a pod though, totally similar people.
B: Totally. She’s feeling the tension between everybody and not being able to do anything about it.
But the catch is:
They call her “the girl without feelings.”
…and she doesn’t care. She … it says the statement seemed true enough to hurt. She’s just like, “yeah, that checks out.” Um, because she’s not feeling things the way other people are fee:ling them.
A: She’s not demonstrative at all.
B: Nope. And so she feels a little bit separate. And she seems like she’s a little bit separate from them. She’s okay with that. But all along the way we get these, these hints that she’s feeling things. She’s just completely disconnected from them.
But then Pete comes along.
A: And he’s just a little peach, isn’t he? He’s kind of the cinnamon roll of the story. You really can’t hate him. He’s kind of a great guy. He comes to work on a family’s farm, and [Beatriz] starts to have very special feelings about a particular crease in his elbow.
B: She just wants to put her thumb in it!
A: She’s deeply confused by this impulse.
“Why would I want to touch the crease of his elbow? That makes no sense. What a strange thing is happening inside of me right now.”
B: Absolutely. Yeah.
And you. Yeah. Oh my God. I just have such a hard time like being eloquent about this book because it says all of the things in ways that I couldn’t say… and that’s even… tIt’s even addressed in the book where she acknowledges that as a thing that people think: I think Beatriz talks about it as being very sad that most of her best thoughts will never make it out of her mouth, is the gist of it.
And that is so incredibly true of our internal thinkers and our truth tellers; sometimes you have so much bottled up inside of you and it might be a really powerful truth and it might be a really powerful feeling. But sometimes that is so foreign to you and it’s so uncomfortable, and new and different, that it’s never going to make it all the way out of your mouth where someone else can understand it.
She sees more than you think she sees…except when she doesn’t
A: And so for an outsider… like I have the perspective of being… I have a tough time bringing emotion to the surface.
I have a lot of high energy and enthusiasm a lot of the time, but I don’t always have the emotional response I want to have. But from the outside looking at someone who’s even more introverted than me, sometimes I’m sitting there thinking,
“What are they thinking? Are they feeling anything at all?”
I think that the impulse for somebody who’s more demonstrative can be to try to mess with [the introverted truth teller] until you get a reaction out of them, or to assume that they don’t care or they’re not emotionally invested or they just don’t notice what’s going on around them.
But the thing that I really love about this book is that you get a window inside of Beatriz’s head, and you realize that she is exquisitely aware of how things are working around her at all times.
B: Right. Do you want to read the quote?
A: Yeah. The one from…?
B: “here’s the thing she wanted”
A: Okay. Here we go.
“Here’s a thing Beatriz wanted: to devote time to understanding how a butterfly was similar to a galaxy. Here is a thing she feared: being asked to do anything else.”
I love that so much. Like, you could just sit there forever and contemplate the nuance of things, deeper than most people I think.
B: Yeah. Where sometimes when you’re the Explorer, and you’re trying to get as much information as you can, sometimes you can look really flighty, trying to get from thing to thing. And sometimes, you can look really, really hyperfocused and looking so closely at details and making connections and understand like, “this goes to this, and this is over here, and what about that other thing that I learned…” [post recording note: so while a explorer/contemplative person might look scattered on the outside, their thoughts are highly organized and detailed!]
And to have that interrupted… When you have those moments of deep concentration or concentration that looks like you’re not concentrating because you’re going from thing to thing and making connections… When that’s interrupted, it feels painful.
A: It actually hurts! And I’ve noticed in small children, in small children who have this dynamic going on, sometimes if you interrupt them or stop them or touch them or get them to switch gears too quickly, you could get a rage response. Like, they’re the people who don’t need a five-minute warning. “Hey honey, we’re going to go somewhere in five minutes.”
They need a 30-minute warning and a 20-minute warning and a 15-minute warning, and then I have five minutes. You need to gently touch them on the shoulder. “hey, it’s time to start wrapping it up. I’m going to move you in five minutes,” right?
Because it’s hard. It is jarring to go from that intense inner world where you might be exploring actually quite a lot of feeling. But on the outside, it looks very deadpan, right? It can look stoic and deadpan, but that person could be contemplating something pretty deep. Something that is requiring a lot of emotional processing, and it’s not registering on their face at all, but it is a kindness to go up to them and say gently, “Hey, I know you’re thinking really hard about something right now, but we have to switch gears, and here’s why.”
B: Right. And that was actually part of why, in the book, her father isn’t speaking to anyone, because he just hit a point of overwhelm where there was nothing left to give but to work on his flowers and get this one particular flower to grow. There was nothing else that he could focus on, and he completely broke in that way. And that’s not a lie.
A: He went to his literal happy place, and he didn’t come back.
B So you can find that like, I think especially in adolescence, it’s really easy to just shut down. And become the, like, April Ludgate. [laughter]
A: Well, and some ages are naturally really internal and introverted and quiet too. Like, I’ve found that 13 is a super intensely “I’m going to go be in my room by myself for long periods of time.” And, like, obviously if you have a really extroverted kid and all of a sudden they go dark, it can be kind of jarring, but if you have an introvert and then they’ve doubled down on it…
It can feel like depression. It can feel like they’re tuning you out. It can feel like they don’t care. It’s easy to get worried, and you should check in with them. You should check in and make sure that they’re fine. But at the same time recognize that while it might look like laziness on the outside, they are doing a lot of work on the inside.
B: And if you’re ahead of the curve a little bit, and know that that’s coming, you can prepare them because I think that’s puberty related, right? Because there’s so much. It’s kind of like the growth spurts when they’re babies, and they have to sleep a lot. You really have to give yourself space to deal with what’s happening, and sometimes that can only happen with your guitar or a book or a notebook. There’s some ways that you have to deal.
A: I think part of me thinks that Beatriz is sly. She is so smart because she understands this, right? One of the nice things about being a step or two away from big feelings and intellectualizing them and pondering them and understanding… like it’s more like looking at a wire system. “This one goes to here, and this one connects to here, and these two intertwine, and they affect each other like this.” It’s a very intellectualized understanding of how emotions work inside of yourself. You’re not necessarily sitting in them, feeling them, and letting them wash over you as much as you’re like, “Hm, this is what this is about. This thought is sparking this reaction.” So the nice thing that allows you to do is to easily understand the dynamics between other people and understand other people’s problems and other people’s emotions and how they’re getting in their own way.
And if that secret gets out, people come to you with their shit. A lot. Like, people come to you with a lot of shit, and sometimes they’re prepared to hear your answer and sometimes they punch you in the throat for your answer, right? Like, because I think sometimes people have the sixth sense that when they find somebody who’s very truth-telling or find somebody who has a good bead on worldviews, they find them and they get the sense that there’s something deep there. And they’re not wrong; they’re correct. There’s something deeper there, and there’s wisdom there.
But especially when you’re young, and you haven’t learned to carefully mete out your truth and couch it in a way that’s “a spoonful of sugar” for other people… Like they can come to you and they’re used to women especially delivering the positive, and delivering the affirmation, and telling them that they don’t have to do the hard work.
Right? That’s the temptation for salvaging harmony between women. Like we save our relationships sometimes by pulling punches. Someone who understands how the wires are connected cannot lie about it. They can’t lie about it. So they will tell you the truth about what’s happening, and if you’re prepared to hear it, that relationship can become invaluable. But if you’re not prepared to hear it, you get to endure that person’s incandescent rage fit, or their tears, or you know they are going to have a big emotional reaction to the truth. And, you know, I have it too, when I find a truth that I don’t love; I need to cocoon into a blanket for a few days and sometimes I might be tempted to kick the teeth in the messenger a little bit.
But like I get why [Beatriz] is hiding. I get it. It makes sense cause she’s, she’s smart, she understands how it works. And also when confronted with other people’s big, giant feelings, like what do you do? You can’t help. I am ill-equipped to help somebody through big feelings like that. And I can only imagine that if I had less energy for people, it would be a little more exhausting and draining.
Yeah. And I think that’s why she doesn’t want to be the only saint. And the other piece to that, too, is that she knows that under the system that they have, you can’t help them actually fix anything. And it’s really frustrating when you can see that…
A: Oh, God, I hadn’t even thought of that.
B: And she’s probably looking at all of the people going, “well obviously your thing is this, and your thing is this. If you would just do these things, it would be fixed.” And so it’s much easier to shut down to that. It’s not unlike… We have to talk about this…
Emotional distance can be a gift to others
It’s not unlike Hermione in the movie, which movie is it?
A: Order of the Phoenix. Because Cho (which is like a whole ‘nother can of worms, which is not our lane to talk about) but like [Cho and Harry] had just kissed, but Cho was really upset because her mother was getting in trouble at the Ministry of Magic, I think she had lost her job or something…
B: There were a whole string of things that she was upset about…
A: …and her boyfriend had been murdered by the Dark Lord. So I mean, yeah, she had some big feelings.
B: And so her and Harry kiss, and in the movie we see Hermione and Ron, on the edge of their seat. “Tell me more. Oh My god, tell me more. I want to know about this kiss.” And like really excited.
A: And Harry said, “well it was wet.” And Ron was like, what? And Harry was like, “she was crying at the time,” and Ron razzed him about being a terrible kisser. Right.
B: And so it looks like when Hermione says her line, “I’m sure you were fine” or “more than adequate.”
A: She says it so earnestly, and she’s so like… she’s doing the female thing of “I’m sure you’re more than adequate Harry.” It’s fine sweetie. Like it’s okay. Like that intense leaning forward…
B: And it was meant to like play up the whole Ron jealousy, whatever it was meant to do. That’s not how it happened in the book. And this is significant, right? Like this is not… I will not even get into like fandom world discussions of Hermione and Ron and Harry and whatever. But this point is significant for understanding and relating to Hermione as she was written.
Because in reality, she was doing homework or writing a letter. She might’ve been writing a letter to Krum, but whatever she was doing, it was completely…She was at the desk. She wasn’t in front of the fire. Yeah, she was at a table behind them.
A: I think the dialogue tag was actually “Hermione muttered distractedly” or something like that.
B: She’s got her own thing happening.
A: But she wasn’t oblivious though.
B: This is true, but she’s visibly oblivious; it looks like she’s not paying attention. Right, and with that distance, she was just half-heartedly going: Of course she was sad. Of course this is what’s happening. And they’re like, what? What are you talking about? And she’s like, well blah blah blah. And like rattles off all of the reasons that [Cho] should be sad. Like obviously this is what’s happening.
Detached people observe a lot. They’re watchers.
B: Always watching, always bringing in information. And really, being detached, like you said, lets us bring more information in. And so it’s there and it’s accessible.
A: Because you can move, you can kind of nudge your own biases out of the way a little bit more.
B: So that’s such a different dynamic from this, like, teen conversation. “Tell me what’s happening. I want to know all about this kiss!”
A: “Tell me more, tell me more…”
B: She was not… like she didn’t care if they kissed. Like, “whatever, you do you, that’s cool.” But she was able to use that detachment to be able to analyze the situation, and offers some really valuable insight that these boys in my least favorite book because of their age…
A: “just because you have the emotional range of a teaspoon…”
B: Exactly. And so and actually Ron is a fairly feelings-connected type character, and Hermione would be perceived like Beatriz; as “I’m the girl without feelings.” She feels like she has to say it, and we have to say it sometimes; we have to tell people, “I have a really deep emotional range that you don’t know about, and yours is actually pretty small compared to mine. And you kind of get a little bit feisty about it because it’s frustrating.
Why half-baked thoughts give thinkers salmonella
I think this is what I love about Beatriz. Here’s the thing that I love about Beatri.
A: [chuckle] Tell me.
B: They say that she is the girl without feelings, and they don’t say it with malice. They don’t say it as a negative. Right. They don’t say it as something she needs to fix. They don’t say it as something that makes her less than or makes her like come up short from some kind of standard. They just let her be. She’s fine with that for a time. Right. It makes sense to her. “Yeah, I can be that person.”
And that allows her to develop that distance to make the connections that ultimately wind up saving everybody, because she was given the space to be the girl without feelings. Hermione becomes defensive and frustrated, and you have “the emotional range of a teaspoon” because she’s not given that space.
Right. She’s not given that room to just be. And there’s so much, so many layers on Hermione that we’re not talking about in this [episode], but the point is, she has so much else that she’s trying to deal with. She doesn’t have the space to just be herself. She has a lot of performing and a lot of standards-meeting and obligation that she’s trying to fulfill and, you know, the whole war thing and whatever.
A: That small thing of the dark lord trying to bring about the end of the earth.
B: So as much as [Beatriz’s family] like a dysfunctional family, the way that they’re dealing with all of the darkness and their conflicts and everything, they still have a lot of respect for each other and a lot of respect for everybody moving through their own process. Yeah. Um, which is fantastic.
Towards the end of the book though, all of that has to unravel because their main saint, the person who was holding it together….we’re still getting pilgrims coming, right? People still want to come and get a miracle. But there Saint [Daniel] is gone, and everybody else’s too dysfunctional right now to be able to deal with it. Right.
And then, of course, they’re worried about him. And the dilemma becomes “if we can’t help someone with their second miracle, do we just let him go out into the desert and die?”
A: Right. Exactly. And everyone’s like, “but this is the way we’ve always done it. This is the way we.” I love Joaquin; he’s my favorite character. Is that terrible? But I think he, he shares personality traits with me. And I love that both he and Beatri are like, “Are you guys crazy? What is the matter with you? Of course we can’t just let them die. That’s ridiculous! Just because it’s always the way you’ve done it… We have to find a loophole!”
And I think [Joaquin] does end up finding a loophole.
B: He does find a loophole. Um, so he works on it in his own unique way…
A: Thinkin’ outside of the box!
B: He does. He can reach his cousin via radio and brings in the pilgrim…he decides that “we’re not technically talking to the pilgrim who he’s in love with, right? We interviewed her via phone, via the radio.”
A: Right, and “we’re not addressing her directly…” And so they actually start helping all of the [pilgrims] this way.
B: Because they’re hearing each other and they’re communicating in different ways, and they’re hearing stories. One by one, the pilgrims start to have their second miracle, and people are starting to kind of wake up, and it’s connection that does it.
It really is the way that they start to connect to each other. So Beatriz is seeing all of this happen, right?
A: She’s watching. Joaquin is test-iterating…and she’s watching very carefully and figuring out: how exactly does this work? How is this working precisely?
B: And then when she figures it out, she decides that her theory needs to be tested. She develops the theory, and I’m not telling you what it is yet for a specific reason, because this is what she does and this is what I do. Your internal girls are going to do this.
We’re not going to tell you the theory until we have run it through all of our systems first and are fairly certain that it’s solid.
B: Because it is so deeply painful. Not to be wrong; it’s okay to be wrong, but to have not thought of something thoroughly and to have holes and our logic and our thought process, and have someone else see them before us.
A: Does that feel like… when I hear it… Okay. For a second it gives me pause, because on the one hand that does sound like you’re afraid to be embarrassed in front of other people. But I think what I’m hearing you say is that you don’t like exposure because your thoughts… in, in having clean logic, and having considered it all the way through, almost like a work of art, is being true to yourself.
B: It’s absolutely about authenticity. Because, because it’s such a high value to think through things so thoroughly, um, to just throw something out there half baked would come from some kind of ulterior motive.
A: Does it feel dishonest? Like somehow…
B: I feel like it would be using someone or something… like obviously depending on the situation, but this could apply to something very small or very big. It would feel like it would’ve had to have come from some other force or motive other than my own. If I had pushed it that far that fast, it would feel like I was not being really true to myself at all. It would be like, it would be like performing or pretending.
A: So for people who are not like us, right. And specifically not like you and Beatriz… Could we try to… could we bring that down, that big concept down to earth with a practical example? Like a silly one.
B: [laugh] Oh God, I know what you’re going for. Yeah, outing me.
A: I am a little bit.
B: Um, okay. So homeschooled kids get a lot of time on their hands, and I would predict, I didn’t really watch a ton of TV, but I would flip it on while I was like eating lunch or something. Um, because honestly, it was like recess for my brain.
I had to shut down for a little bit. And so I would eat lunch and watch tv and I had, I was pretty young. I had just started… I wanted to shave my legs and I had just started, and my mom, um, who’s much more body aware, shaves her legs every single day to this day. I do not. And I was feeling really frustrated because she was like, uh, “if you start shaving your legs, you have to shave every day.” And I was like probably a few months in. And I’m like, “well, this was trash. Why did I ever want to do it?” So I see an ad on tv for a mitt…
A: Oh No.
B: It probably had nair on it…
A: Oh Shit. [laughs] See, my brain…
B: You already know; you’re moving real fast.
A: I do.
B: I was not. I was looking at it going, “huh. That appears to be exfoliating. I think that’s what’s taking the hair off in that commercial.”
A: Oh, sweet baby Jesus.
B: I know what might exfoliate. I could try sandpaper.
A: [gasping and whimpering] My muscles just clenched.
B: So for that hour while I took a break, I sandpapered not part of my leg. Not One full leg. Both.
A: [gasp] Both of them. You just went for it completely!!
B: I mean it didn’t hurt right away, but I’m not particularly sensitive to pain.
A: Right, right. So you’re not connected enough to your body to know that you’re like actual doing damage.
B: Tried it a little bit and I’m like, “the skin feels pretty smooth” because it was scratched to shit.
A: Oh my Godddddd.
B: “That feels pretty smooth. I think it’s working. I’m just going to go for it.” And it was almost like a sensory experience, like a soothing feeling at first. If I had just been willing to run that by someone or even just like verbalize what I was doing and extroverted a little bit… Um, I probably would have been saved some pain.
A: Some, she says.
B: I didn’t tell my mom what had happened until after I decided to take a shower to soothe the pain and then when that didn’t help to put lotion on, which also didn’t help, then I was stuck with lotion and some very, very burning legs. You would think that that would be the point of embarrassment, right? For somebody.
And that’s when I was like, “so I did this thing and it did not work”. Right? I was completely comfortable saying the thing, and I’ve told multiple people over the course of my life since then. But beforehand, I would not have spoken that theory [except] maybe to somebody very, very trusted and uh, you know, like a really unique type situation. I might have said it. Okay.
A: So that’s like a really immature example because an adult, I would imagine you’ve probably reached the point…
B: [laughs] Thanks for that.
A: Well, I mean you were a little girl! So of course it was immature, right? Like, because you were literally, you know, an immature human. So I would imagine that as an adult, if there was something that important, you could probably Google it.
[crickets riding on an awkward turtle]
Okay, you wouldn’t. HOLY CRAP. Ladies and gentlemen, she would not. So lady has just scowled at me…
B: Okay, so. I, I, I…googling helps. It helps speed up the thought process quite a bit. I still would not ever show anyone my google history because of the things that I’ve googled, but I will actually run through…
A: See, I’m shameless. That’s so baffling to me!
B: My husband processes things a lot faster than me, and now he’s kind of my shortcut for things where I’m like, “can you think this thing for me?” Especially like physical world, or a decision sometimes I will run it through by him.
A: Cause he’s good at that, right? Like he is kind of in touch with what’s going on immediately around him.
B: Yeah. And I’ve become impervious to his teasing and being like sandpaper, really babe?
Um, but yeah, I’d show up to him with like full spreadsheets of like pros and cons and multiple outcomes; like five year outcome, ten year outcome, and like potentials of everything, before I would present a possible thing to him. And he’s like, “why? Why are we going this in depth?” But I have to know that it’s a completely formed thought.
A: I think I’m understanding what you’re saying. Like you can tell me if I’m right or not, but like I, it sounds like you’re saying that you are extremely reluctant to put data (that you’re not sure is sound) out into the world.
Even in the form of a question.
It would be like going outside half dressed.
A: oh my God.
B: Which honestly probably wouldn’t even bother me this much. Like whatever, after you’ve nursed babies…
Yeah, that’s what it feels like intellectually; being half dressed and not have a thought fully formed before it comes out. And often I can’t, I couldn’t even get it out of my mouth to begin with, because it’s not..there are not words for it yet. I have to fully think about it before there can be words for it, so I might not have even been able to say, “hey, I wonder if sandpaper, if that’s exfoliating and if sandpaper would work the same.” You just have to like look at it, and I had to think about it, and I had to try it, and I was much more willing to tell about it afterward than if I was to present the possibility.
A: See, I suffered from the same malady of not wanting to ask about things like that, but the reason I didn’t ask because I figured somebody was going to try to stop me, and so I did things like writing a plastic sled down a flight of stairs or trying to give my neighbor’s kittens a bath (and ending up with it in my hair). Like I couldn’t remove him, and there was like blood and… like this is the shit that I did all the time.
Like I was just like, “this sounds like a great idea. Let’s try it.” Because if you ask it’s easier to ask forgiveness than permission. That would be why I didn’t ask, because I couldn’t slow down enough. I was like, “okay, that sounds like a theory. Let’s do it!” And then would just go for it because I didn’t want people to stop me, but I don’t have any shame around it.
You know what I mean? And I think that I’m actually using their wrong word, because you don’t have shame either. It’s not shame. It’s just like…
B: And honestly if someone tried to stop me, if I was able to somehow articulate it and was inclined to articulate for and someone tried to stop me, if they didn’t have equally thoroughly formed thought processes to tell me why it was a bad idea, I would probably still try it anyway because I have to know that that idea is fully complete before it can be checked off in my brain. It would just bother me. So if I said, “hey, I think that’s exfoliating. Would sandpaper work? And they just said “no sandpaper wouldn’t work” but couldn’t tell me what was on that mitt… It would have burrowed a hole in my brain until I tried it just to make sure.
A: If they told you like, the rubber is actually winding around the hairs and yanking it out…
B: God, is that what it is?
B: That does not sound better! Yeah. If they could explain it to me and tell me and give me that, I’d be like, okay, that’s good. Which is why Google is a decently good shortcut; you know, you can get some good answers with the world’s information at your fingertips. But even that really was only enough for me for a little bit until I had to be like, I need to learn how to properly research. And that, you know, that when it’s a whole other rabbit trail in my life. Um, but, but yeah, it’s, it has to become a fully formed thought.
A: Would you feel especially guilty… Like see, it took me a while to develop: “I may not try this out on other people/animals/plants/other people’s property.” It took me a while to figure out that that was not fine, because it didn’t occur to me that it was going to hurt them or hurt their feelings, and once it hurt them or hurt their feelings, I was horrified because I legitimately did not want to hurt other people.
It was terrible for me, once I realized that I had done that. Right, but it wasn’t thinking in terms of that before. Like there was just, it was just too fast. The whole process was just too fast. But would it occur to you to… But that’s not necessarily your reason for not involving other people. It doesn’t have anything to do it.
Intimacy is a slow and subtle bubble
B: Honestly. It’s such an internal world, and I like really seeing with Beatriz in that, in that it really doesn’t involve anyone else ever. It doesn’t… And so if I trust you to give me that full logical answer, like that might be the conditions where I would tell you before I do something or if I could share an unformed thought with you. It would be if we shared a lot of shorthand, where I didn’t have to say the whole thing because it’s not there yet. Or if I really, really trusted you to give me a fully developed logical answer or that we could like hash it out together. Right?
Because that process has to happen.
A: You’re talking about vetting other people. I like vetting other people before letting them into your internal world.
B: And that vetting happens by whether or not they can vet ideas because if they can’t, it doesn’t matter. Because in my thought process and my personality, if it’s not a fully formed thought, it’s not ready to interact with other people. Yeah.
A: So think about the person in the world that you’re closest to, that you’ve vetted the most thoroughly, right? Does that person have access to even 60 percent of your thoughts?
B: Oh No.
And it never even occurs to me to share them unless they become necessary for that person.
So I think we have… I mean extroverted/introverted is pretty well understood by everybody. It’s thing that we all can relate to and a commonly accepted thing. Extroverted adults, extroverted children really interact with the world around them a whole lot more than introverts. And it’s not that we [introverts] don’t want the world around us. It’s not that we don’t want the people in our lives, it’s just that most of our world is internal.
A: So what are some misconceptions that you’ve run across that other people have had of you? If you’re willing to share.
B: I don’t know.
A: You don’t… [laugh]
B: Honestly, I have no idea! This actually came up the other day. My husband said something about um, “yeah, I’ve had to correct these perceptions [of you] like so many times” (which I don’t know if that was accurate), but the idea that people had misconceptions of what I was presenting with body language and what I was saying, I was like “WHAT? Noooo.”
A: [playful] “You’re crazy” B: You know, like I really had no idea. In fact, if you don’t know me or haven’t seen images of me yet, I have a full [tatt] sleeve all the way down to my fingers. Part of it is a placenta, which doesn’t happen a lot, and then my leg is covered as well. I have multiple piercings. I feel like a wallflower.
A: [chuckle/teasing] Yeah, you blend right in with the background.
B: I get incredibly confused when someone remembers me from just by looks, when they’re like, “oh, I’ve seen you before.” I’m like, what? How would you even know?
A: In your mind, you’re like a cuttle fish; you just kind of blend in.
A: You don’t really think of yourself as a body in the first place. [Post record note from A: I knew this because B had expressed as much before]
B: No, and I remember in high school some people talking about like seeing someone checking out someone else, or how you’d see someone making eye contact? Never once. I’m like, “nobody ever checks me out.” But it’s just because I never ever saw it. Never aware of it, never aware. You have to like get eye contact with me. That’s not easy. And then tell me like “Hey Brannan,” and then directly telling me what you are thinking for me to understand it, I really just…
And I can pick up on social cues if I’m looking for them, like Beatriz, but unless I have motivation to do that, I’m never going to. I will not see what’s happening.
A: So how shocking was it when you noticed “the crease in the boy’s elbow”, and the impulse to put your thumb in it?
B: It’s so confusing! And it is so random like that. So [Beatriz] didn’t notice his eyes. I didn’t notice that he was working on the farm. I legitimately don’t notice like body types or typical signs of attractiveness. I don’t ogle, which is I guess a good thing, but it really is difficult for me to find like standard types of attractiveness, because, like Beatriz, you notice things… Like, she really wanted to put her thumb in the crook of his elbow and it pops up of nowhere and you notice an elbow or you notice like, like maybe a dimple. Like, that might be as conventional as it gets.
“They have a little dimple in their cheek.” What you’re really noticing, what she’s really noticing is I could maybe possibly probably get close enough to touch that person and let them touch me.
A: It would be okay; touching that person would not be an unpleasant experience.
B: Exactly. Which is high praise from this kind of person. Like that’s intense stuff.
A: I kind of feel like maybe it’s time to read her visceral reaction to having her hands touched. Is that where you’re going next?
B: Yeah, because it really is. And like the dimple, if you notice things like that, you’re not noticing that standard attractiveness. You’re noticing that like really genuine smile. Like there’s just things that you notice that are…it pops up; you’re not looking for it and it shows up, and then you’re like, “what am I even do with that? Why do I care about that?”
And then everything else starts to grow around it.
So by the end of the book, what we were leading into was Beatriz’s idea that she couldn’t just tell people. She said she had to test it, and it could only be tested on herself. And so the connection that she made was that she has to…
Daniel’s second miracle, because he’s off in the desert and blind, his second miracle was that he needed help, despite the lore around his family [not being able to give/get help] He had to accept help and someone had to realize that and give him that help, because the lore had been that the Saint’s darkness was worse than everyone else’s.
And what [Beatriz] realized is that lore was created because “we didn’t want to deal with our shit”.
A: Of course! A doctor heal thyself situation. Like they didn’t want to actually deal with the stuff that they’re encouraging other people to deal with.
B: Right! So you create this mystique about yourself is like, we’ll just help everybody else. And as long as we’re helping everybody else, that will absolve me of my darkness. Right? So that I don’t have to deal with my own because mine is clearly more profound than yours.
So she realizes that [her cousin Daniel] has to have help, and the only way she can test this theory… that it’s only lore… is if she has to just go help him, and she does. And so what happens is she winds up getting [Daniel’s] darkness, which is blindness. She gets his darkness and so she can’t see and um, she had already chased Pete [the cinnamon roll love interest farmhand] away.
A: I feel it was at least once, maybe more than one.
B: We tend to do that.
Um, she chased him away and he came back after making it clear that she did have feelings for her, for him.
A: So it wasn’t like, I’m not interested in you; go away.
B: It was, “this is too much for me. I’m not, I can’t do this. You have to leave. And also I’m a mess.” Yeah.
So this is kind of long. Um, there’s two different parts to the ending, but we have to cover both of them.
A: Yep. Go for it. So this is… goodness. So her realization starts here:
It was often easy to identify the darkness from the outside, but from the inside, your darkness was indistinguishable from your other thoughts. It could take forever to learn yourself.
Something touched Beatriz’s hands. She flinched back, but the touch pursued her and she realized it was another set of hands gripping hers. She tried to pull back from them, but they hung on.
“Beatriz,” Pete said.
“You left,” she said.
“I did.” He’d tried to, anyway.”
So not only did she let him touch [her]…and you do flinch.
A: Like, it’s surprising.
It’s surprising to be brought back to your body.
Yeah, it’s not, it’s not a recoil. So this is another thing where you can watch for and your kids or people that are close to you: If you have somebody who’s flinching, and again, not like trauma-based (if there’s trauma or you know, work on those things) but we can be pretty like jumpy,as like a nature thing. Because it’s not that we’re recoiling from you because of you. It’s just really shocking…
A: [gasp] I have a body!
B: …to suddenly be back in your body.
[post edit note: to clue the listener in to what a powerful insight this is, I, A, was wiping tears the whole time B was talking here. ]
It’s confusing because you’re, you know, trying to figure out how a butterfly is similar to a galaxy and you, you, yeah.
So she jumps, and he didn’t caress her. He didn’t try to be…
A: He was just present.
B: He was present, and he gripped her because what she needed in that moment was to be held onto tight after he had left and couldn’t leave and came back. What she needed was to be held on tightly, which honestly could be just as much sense sensory as metaphorical because…
A: Uh, well she’s blind in the desert for one…
B: She’s blind in the desert, but also those kinds of sensations are often better than light feathery, light, feathery touches. Or like the thumb in the elbow. Like sometimes I just want to bite him.
A: It’s grounding. It’s grounding yourself in the physical world again.
B: And I’ve said things to my husband like, “I just want to crawl under your skin.”
A: Okay. My youngest daughter totally does that. She’s been in my lap before, and she’s literally had her arms around me, her legs around me, and her face buried in my chest. And she’s saying…and I’ve got all my arms around her and my legs wrapped around her too. And she keeps saying, “hold me.” And I’m like”, I can’t hold you anymore than I am physically holding you without you crawling into my skin. You can’t reenter the womb. I won’t allow it.” Right?
B: And it doesn’t happen all the time, but it’s, it’s typically when you’re really feeling overwhelmed and you really need to be grounded, and I don’t know how to ground myself. Like I can sit and try to do yoga or meditation or I might be able to pull it off by like walking barefoot in the grass, but I either have to be like…
The alternative to trying to crawl into my husband’s skin would be like going to the beach and having my feet in the sand, like buried in the sand, gripping the sand, wind blowing on my face, super salty smell like waves crashing. And that full immersion of a sensory experience, because it’s very, very difficult to find your body when you’re this internal. Yup.
So for anybody listening who’s convinced that I’m extroverted… because a lot of my close friends…
A: She isn’t. [laugh]
B: It’s very hard to be in your body and to connect with other people in a physical sense.
A: My spouse does that too, by the way. Like if I come up and talk to him… so many times while we were dating, it actually caused a lot of problems because I would go up and touch him, and he would jump and jerk away. And I was like, sorry. And I would just get up and leave and he’d be like, “no, no, no, please come back”. And it was just like, “Do you find me repulsive. Why would I want to be with you?”
And it was that he was surprised, like you were surprised, to find himself back present in reality. And at that point, he actually really did need me, because it was kind of like a “you break it, you buy it” situation. [laugh] If I touched him and he did that, he really did need for me to stay there. Yeah. He needed me to stay and be present.
B: Absolutely. So Beatriz lets him touch her, grab her hands, and then she tells him, uh, he starts to get her darkness. So they’re both losing their sight, and they’re both hanging onto each other.
A: This is like the worst thing for Beatriz, I’m sure.
B: This is beautiful. This is the last page of the book, so it’s hardcore spoilage, but you still need to read all of it to be able to grasp the fullness of it. Um, the book builds and builds and builds to the very last, like three paragraphs where it ends, because this is how profound [this experience of intimacy] is for her.
And I want you to understand this before you go into it, because if you don’t understand the depth of her and if you don’t relate to it, it’s….you might not understand how powerful this is. And you need to understand this for the girls in your life who are this way and if you are this way.
[post recording note from A: At this point, I was openly bawling, because yes, it is that profound and important.]
She lets him hold her.
They’re both losing their sight, and she says:
“In her head, Beatriz heard all the arguments she had mounted against the possibility of a relationship with him. A young man, so kind and so soft and her, the girl without feelings.”
Because right? You have to run it through your head. She tried to talk herself out of it.
A: “How’s this gonna work?”
B: And it’s still happening. She’s still trying to talk herself out of it, and then it says:
“And then of course, just like that, she had it.
“I was upset,” She told him.
“I know,” he replied.
“I was upset every time you said it,” she said.
“I don’t show feelings like other people.”
“I know that too.” She hesitated. It felt very peculiar to express this out loud, but she suspected that meant she was supposed to.
“But that doesn’t mean I don’t have them. I think… I think I have a lot of them.”
Pete wrapped his arms around her. He covered her. He was covered in all the dust the desert had rolled him through, but she didn’t mind. “I know I have a lot of them,” she said.
The sun rose, and they both saw it.”
A: Oh, it’s so good.
B: It’s so good. And it that’s, that’s the end. That’s how the book ends. It’s everybody else who takes so long to make their second miracle happen. They take so long to figure out what it is they need to do to overcome their darkness, and Beatriz figures it out, and she knows and there’s the thing about it is she knows very, very quickly, but the amount of effort that it takes for her to say that out loud to him…
The miracle isn’t her understanding that she has feelings. They don’t start to see again as soon as she realizes that she has feelings, because really she’s always known that she has feelings.
She’s always known that she has a lot of feelings. The miracle is her being able to let him wrap her up while she tells him that she has a lot of feelings.
There’s so much a fear around vulnerability, because vulnerability in that way leaves you feeling like walking outside, half dressed. It leaves you feeling completely raw and naked and open for someone else to just do whatever they want. Even if it’s just with your thoughts, because they’re so integral to who you are.
And to anybody else, if I just told you that this book builds and builds and builds and builds, and then there’s one paragraph, and then it’s over, it might not be a book that you’re interested in.
And if I told you that you have a child whose resolution/climax might look like, “hey, I feel things”, or it might look like, “hey, thanks for that breakfast”, or it might look like, “hi, I’d like to talk for a minute” or something really simple. and that’s the most you’re going to get from them…. You might feel inclined to push them further than that and you might feel…
A: Oh God, but please don’t.
Yeah, just by the way, like I’m sitting crying over this because for me it would definitely be: “I’m scared to lose you. “Yeah, that’s my. That’s my thing. It’s hard to say. Yeah. It is so hard to say and I’ve never said those words without crying buckets. Yeah, and I know that that’s the sort of thing that most people find it pretty easy to say… and some people say on a first date. [laugh] That’s a little terrifying to be honest…
But yeah, to have somebody railroad that after you say it, after you left that out… Yeah, that’s the extent of it, right?
Letting that out is very difficult and it’s not because we’re being precious about our feelings. It’s just. I probably, I probably fear being tied down more than I fear letting things about myself out, so to tell somebody “I’m scared to lose you”, I’m all in. Yeah, I am all in. You can destroy me if you want to; like you have the power to. And I would, I would suspect that for somebody who’s very internal, like telling somebody “I have a lot of feelings” is basically like…it’s basically the equivalent of like, you know, inviting the vampire into your house. Now they have access until you revoke it, and you will build the world of your head around that person.
B: It’s kind of like if you can remove the evilness from the Daleks, it would be like saying “you can come live in the shell with me if you want to, or like visit it sometimes; it’d be okay. I feel safe with you.”
A: Like a turtle.
B: Yeah, you can come in my turtle shell.
A: But you need to understand that it’s squishy in here, it’s a lot squishier than the outside, I’m just sayin’.
B: And we’ve already worked through all of that to know that you’re probably safe, but because other people are not entirely predictable, there’s still that chance that you could…
A: They could do massive amounts of damage to your circuitry [a phrase I borrowed, and will credit as soon as I remember from whom]
B: So it’s almost like finding your second miracle. Whatever your second miracle is, whatever your child’s second miracle is, when they’re going to say, “this is the thing that I’m telling you that makes me feel like a complete person again”, listen for that and honor that.
Even if it’s not what you expect and not what you understand.
A: Don’t ever say, “Is that all?“
B: “Like isn’t there more? I feel like we should talk about this more. Do you want to work on your feelings more right now?” Let them have that moment because you’ve created a pretty fantastic little human, and they’re letting you be in that world as they grow. And that’s a pretty massive gift, so thank you for giving that to them.
Thank you for giving that to the world, and thank you for spending another hour with us.