Roxan McDonald joins me to share how spirituality can help with creative writing and how to live what she calls a “Spiritual AF” life. Roxan is another amazing human I found on TikTok and I am happy to share her work with you today!
For those new to Roxan, she is a writer, workshop facilitator, podcaster, and coach who has dedicated herself to helping people find their voice both on the page and in their lives. She currently leads writing groups and personal development retreats, and co-teaches with Ellen Bass at Esalen Institute and 1440 Multiversity.
- Roxan’s meaning of spirituality is aligning self with thoughts, actions, beliefs and values (7:25)
- Writing as a spiritual practice and how it can help your creativity as a writer (14:25)
- The transformative and therapeutic nature of writing (25:13)
- What is at the core of the spiritual creative overlap (33:40)
- Roxann has a playlist of videos on TikTok about not being nice. She shares her thoughts about women being nice and what she means when she says “Polite protects predators.” (38:12)
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Find Roxan on all the socials @spiritualaf
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You know how I love a good personal development book, right? I’ve compiled a list of book recommendations, as mentioned in past episodes. Check out these amazing book recommendations here. Happy reading!
Roxan McDonald has dedicated herself to helping people find their voice both on the page and in their lives. For fourteen years Roxan was on the management team of two alternative high schools focused on serving at-risk youth. Roxan taught creative writing, poetry, and memoir writing in alternative schools and produced eleven anthologies of student writing. She currently leads writing groups and personal development retreats. Roxan co-teaches with Ellen Bass at Esalen Institute and 1440 Multiversity.
She has studied with Ellen Bass, Marcy Allencraig, Joseph Stroud, Barbara Bloom, Chris Abani, Sanjiv Bhattacharya, Debra Gwartney, Jessica Brown, and Andy Courturier. She is an alum of the Community of Writers at Squaw Valley, Breadloaf Sicily and is a member of Cheryl Strayed's Writers' Camp. Roxan won the Mary Lonnberg Smith Award in poetry and her short stories, memoir excerpts, and poetry have been published in The Porter Gulch Review. She won the Eshleman Scholarship for the Community of Writers at Squaw Valley. Roxan received an honorable mention in nonfiction for the San Miguel de Allende Writers' Conference Writing Contest for an excerpt from her memoir. She was longlisted in The 2021 First Pages Prize and is a finalist in the 2021 Sandra Carpenter Prize for Creative Nonfiction. Roxan is the author of the best selling self-help decks Spiritual AF and Grateful AF published by Knock Knock Publishing and holds a BA in Interdisciplinary Education from California Institute of Integral Studies and an MFA in Creative Writing from Pacific University.
Roxan is a writer, teacher, public speaker, coach, podcaster, social media influencer, and workshop facilitator.
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I feel like there's a safety in writing that is not as diving headfirst into trauma work. It's the space where we can put it out there and making a thing. And then we're talking about this thing that somebody's creating, whether it's fiction or poetry, or a memoir. But the internal process of being able to write it is this incredible healing, meaning-making thing which I consider spirituality.
You're listening to Make Some Noise Podcast episode number 469 with guest Roxan McDonald.
Welcome to Make Some Noise Podcast, your guide for strategies, tools and insight to empower yourself. I'm your host, Andrea Owen, global speaker, entrepreneur, life coach since 2007, and author of three books that have been translated into 18 languages and are available in 22 countries. Each week, I'll bring you a guest or a lesson that will help you maximize unshakable confidence, master resilience and make some noise in your life. You ready? Let's go.
Hey, everyone, welcome to another episode of the podcast. I'm so glad that you're here. As I mentioned, I think last week in my intro, you would be astounded at the amount of times I start over these intros. You know what it feels like? I just realized, it feels like when you go to a party or some kind of network event or some kind of socializing, and you're super awkward. I mean, I'm an extrovert and I'm awkward. People are surprised sometimes when I tell them that and I'm like, I don't know if other extroverts are also awkward, or if it just comes so naturally to them. But it does not come naturally to me. I don't know if it's mental health stuff or what but anyway. You know, when you go and you're awkward, and then you're like, either thinking about or obsessing on how you sounded stupid, or like you wish you could say that over. And that's what this is. The good news is, is that I get to start over. The bad news is, sometimes I don't think I actually need to. And I know there are other podcasters who have everything written out ahead of time, they either read their intros from a script, or have really great notes that they use as to not annoy their listeners. I don't have that. I just have a couple of things in my head. I'm like, oh, I need to tell them about this. But I do read the bio. I don't memorize that. I'm pretty sure you knew that. You knew that right? Okay.
Well, today we have Roxan McDonald on another amazing human I found on TikTok and was just vigorously consuming her content. And I was like, I need to have you on the show. I'm pretty sure I'm gonna have her back on in my sobriety theme that's coming up in a few months. But oh my god, it's been a hot summer. I hate to be boring and talk about the weather. This is the last thing that I want to do. Speaking of awkward, but shit it's been hot. Damn it. It ugh. I think this is what Bananarama was talking about when they sang Cruel Summer in the 80s. If you are around my age, you remember that.
Lastly, before I introduce you to our fantastic guests today, we have some openings this fall for some private coaching. And when I say we, I mean my amazing lead coaches, Liz and Sabrina and I. It's really easy. If you are thinking about it, you can head on over to AndreaOwen.com/apply and there's an application right there. And even if you just want to look at the application, if you're like, do I need a coach, do I want to do…I want to look more into this. Just read the questions on the application and that might kind of spark something and be like, oh, yeah, maybe or no, I think I'm okay, whichever. AndreaOwen.com/apply and once that gets submitted, if you're interested, we will let you know who we think the best fit is for you and get on the phone with us. It's super easy.
All right, let me tell you a little bit about our guest today. I'm really excited for you to meet her. Roxan McDonald has dedicated herself to helping people find their voice both on the page and in their lives. For 14 years, Roxan was on the management team of two alternative high schools focused on serving at-risk youth. She taught creative writing poetry and memoir writing and alternative schools and Spiritual AF and Grateful AF published by Knock Knock Publishing and holds a BA in Interdisciplinary Education from California Institute of Integral Studies and an MFA in creative writing from Pacific University. Roxan is a writer, teacher, public speaker, coach, podcaster, social media influencer, and workshop facilitator and so without further ado, here is Roxan.
Roxan, thank you so much for being here.
Thank you for having me.
I am so excited. I've been watching you from afar on TikTok and love your content and now that I got a chance to chat with you a little bit before we started recording, I hope that I can have you back on again to talk about further topics that you're an expert on. But today we're talking about spirituality and creativity and perhaps the overlap that that is there. And can you talk to us first and foremost, because the term spirituality is such a large one, what does spirituality mean to you personally?
Oh, that's a great question and especially, I mean, I get this a bit because I have my name on social media, which is Spiritual AF. So, I see spirituality as meaning-making and having agency and consciousness about my belief system. And so I think spirituality is just aligning ourselves or, I'm gonna speak for myself I see my spirituality as aligning myself and my thoughts and my actions with my beliefs and my values. And the practice of it is not static, it's not concrete. It is fluid and moving and growing.
I love that. Ask 10 different spiritual creators, writers experts, what that means to them, and you're gonna get 10 different answers. And I really love that, that you've, you've created that for yourself. Can you briefly tell us what was your upbringing? Like, did you grow up with, you know, kind of like hippie parent or did you grew up in a, like more conservative Christian home? What did that look like for you?
I grew up with a southern mother, who grew up in the Baptist Church, but she wasn't very religious at all. But we would go to Baptist Church… We'd go to Baptist churches when you know, there'd be a crisis and then we would get we were, you know, we're in generational poverty and so we would get, you know, the community support and then my mom, what would then get in an argument with somebody and we would blaze out. So I didn't get I didn't get really into any church. I do have the story, though about myself and religion, because my every summer, I don't know how we figured this out when I was a kid, but I figured out if we went into the phonebook and just went to churches, and we could call all the churches and they all had summer Bible camps, and then if we told them that we were poor, they would just come get us. And so I called all of them and so every summer, like my brothers and I would go out into the driveway and like for station wagons would show up and then we would pick which ones we would go to and we would split up and then come back and then talk about what it was like and like share our haul so…
Like you would go you wouldn't go with your siblings and see what…
So, you know, my one brother would go to a Mormon one, the other one would go to a Catholic and then I…
So you were scouting them out.
Yeah. And so we were like, the Catholics have really good crafts, but their snacks are horrible. And then the Baptist, their snacks are great, but it's, you know, and they sing a lot but then they, they talk a lot about scary stuff. And so that was my early experience with religious people where I would just go try them on and I'd be like, oh, that's interesting. Oh, it's weird you do that. So I got some benefit from it. But I never got I like to say that I got all the trauma besides the religious one. And I feel really grateful for it.
The other thing that I grew up with, that is way more impactful is I grew up in Santa Cruz and so I was around new age hippie witch priestess stuff. And then in my teenage years, I got sober, I got sober at 15 and I went to a clean and sober high school that focused mostly on, you know, wellness and personal development and we were exposed to a lot of practices. And one of them was a woman who who brought all the girls through a year long program where we really got in touch with a feminine idea of spirituality and engagement with our bodies and with the earth. And so that has been one of the most impactful things. The other thing is that we had meditation quite often. And so I did start becoming practicing meditation at 16.
So that's interesting. I didn't realize you entered into the world of sobriety and recovery at such a young age. Yeah, that would definitely point you in the direction of spirituality, especially if you're, you know, in 12 step programs, and then it sounds like it led you to decide for yourself as you became an adult, what was best for you.
Yeah, I think I think what I've always come to is that what's best for me is having some belief that I'm working with and for many many years, I feel like one of my biggest strengths of being a support to other people was that I don't have a concrete idea of what is right about spirituality. My idea was that I go if this belief makes me kinder, more of service, calmer, more loving to myself and others, than I will use it right now. So if I'm believing in a guy that, you know, that lived 2000 years ago, and talked about being of service, and it's making me better, right now, that's good. And then I can set it down and move to another one, without any shame without any right or wrong. And that's what I feel like is, with all the things I've practiced, that's I think the strongest for me, or the most impactful is that ability to see the benefit, honor it, and then also say, nah.
I love that. I agree with you, you know, when you were saying, hey, if this thing makes you a better person kind, helping others, compassionate, then believe what you want to believe. hether it's Satanism, or Baptist or whatever. But it's interesting to see, you know, my spiritual transition, you know, I grew up, I grew up in the Lutheran church for a long time and, and there was definitely some ideas that were bestowed upon me that are…that I look back on and I'm like, wow, that was shitty. Like you I don't think I had, quote unquote, religious trauma as some of my friends and you know, people who listen to this podcast I've experienced. So I think it's easier also for me to, to not dig my heels in and say, no that's wrong, because I'm not really angry at anything, any deity or religion or anything like that. But I do you understand where people will find themselves in that place. But yeah, I mean, my gosh, if it makes you a better human run with it.
Well, okay, I want to kind of slightly shift gears and ask you about writing because you are also a writer, you have a couple of books and will of course link to those in the in the show notes. So how has your writing or how does your writing help you connect more spiritually?
Well, I see writing as my longest term, most consistent spiritual practice. That it's the same as when I sit down to meditate. It's about presence, it's about consciously showing up and being with, and then I also utilize traditional meditation practices in my writing practice. So a lot of times I will sit down, I'll meditate, I will get present and then I will open my computer look at what I am about to write and then and stop again and then with an intention, delve into the, you know, a visualization about what I'm going to write or the message I'm wanting to convey, and then I will go back in and start the actual physical writing of it. But that presence is so connected with our ability to communicate. And I think that emotional process of creating anything is difficult and fun and expanding, and takes us… Well, it makes us grow, if you really show up for it. And one of the things that I think about a lot about my spiritual practice, and my writing practice, is that I have been working on a memoir for decades.
I was gonna ask you about that? Yes, yeah.
And, and then… It's taken me a long time. And I, I, I have this mentor, Ellen Bass, who's a poet, and just an amazing human being, every few months, I will call her up and say, like, I'm such a failure, I can't, you know, I keep, I keep not finishing this book, and then we'll go out to dinner and she will inevitably say, you have to become the person who wrote the thing. And the thing is calling for you to grow and become the person who wrote it. And, you know, I have really lofty goals for my memoir, and it was about a whole bunch of trauma and a whole bunch of things that were unresolved in me. And so in tandem, thinking that I am ready to put this story out there, and I could have. I could have just thrown it out there.
But I have seen over the years of having to grow and accept and be kind and loving to myself. And at the same time, this next level of processing that's happening through writing this thing. And so I'm becoming the person who wrote the thing. And I think that a lot when I'm working with writers, because I am a writing coach, and I teach writing, and, you know, and a lot of what I do is overlapped with my history as a counselor. And I don't do it explicitly, because, you know, I feel like there's a safety in writing that is not as diving headfirst into trauma work. But it's this space where we can put it out there and making a thing. And then we're talking about this thing that somebody is creating, whether it's fiction, or poetry, or a memoir. But the internal process of being able to write it is this incredible healing, meaning making thing which I consider spirituality, and I would think even with things like self-help books, which I mean, I would think you having written your self-help books, you had to become the person that wrote them, right?
Could be the person who needed to write it, which is all the, you know, I didn't take up space, I didn't do that. And then now here's the lesson. But then do you think that in the writing of it, you had to grow as well, even though it's didactic. Right?
I feel, and I always say, personally, there are a few things that feel shittier than writing a self-help book and feeling like a hypocrite about what you're writing. It's like do as I say, not as I do. Like I couldn't… And it's the same thing like when I got sober, I had just started my coaching business, I just gotten certified. And here I am, so my business is for was formerly called Your Kickass Life for a long time. And I remember sitting there thinking, like, how on earth am I going to tell people to live their most kickass life when I know I have a drinking problem, and I am not doing anything about it. And I sat in those weeds for only a couple of months until it got so incredibly uncomfortable that I decided to reach out for help, and I got sober. So yeah, it's quite a spiritual experience. No pun intended there. But yes, I agree with all of what you're saying.
Well, I'm having to, I mean, that hypocritical thing, especially when you're doing things that are teaching, right. We're right. Like I have, I have the two decks, which I would call self-help books in a box. I what I wanted to write with my decks were self-help books that I could give to the teenagers I used to work with them. It's a bite size, it's a meme on one side, and it's a little bit of a tool on the other. And when I put them out, one’s Grateful AF and one’s Spiritual AF, and then I nosedived into like I am the least grateful person right now. And I think being a teacher or somebody who wants who has the I don't even want to say urge but the calling to take up space and talk and share and grow publicly. There is this thing for me that I feel like it's a little bit of like a writer deadline where I go well I wrote those dang books, I better get back on gratitude. I better pull one of my own freaking cards and live up to it. Which is great. It's another layer of living by what I care about what I really want to be? Well, and
I think, you know, for the people listening, I just adore them. And I think one of the reasons that they have, you know, that they stick around, especially people who've been with me from the beginning, is that I have never pretended to put myself up on a pedestal and pretend like I live these lessons. 100% of the time, I'm incredibly transparent. I mean, they walked with me in 2016 when my dad died, I was here on the podcast crying about it and it was because it was the first like, major grief experience that I've ever had happened. And so I think that, I'm not sure where I was going with this other than just talking about myself, but no, we were talking about, you know, just kind of like living and not feeling like a hypocrite, but I just… I don't trust people who portray themselves on social media or online, with no flaws at all. Like, I don't think that everyone has to kind of put all of themselves out there and like, you know, be demonstrative with their emotions or anything like that. But I just, it's like, well, shit. We're all humans, like, none of us get it right all the time. Like, I'm constantly learning and stumbling, and looking back, and you're going, oh, great. I messed that up. And having to apologize to people and I get passive aggressive with my husband, and I snap at my children. And am I better than I used to be? Absolutely. But we're all still human at the end of the day.
Yeah, that's my, one of the things on my platforms with my community, I lovingly call myself a fuckhead. And I call other people fuckheads. And then it's this, you know, it's almost the like, the fuckhead in me honors and recognizes the fuckhead in you. And that we are, that's the one of the basis of the whole Spiritual AF thing is that I don't trust gurus. I don't I don't think anybody who shows up and denies their humanity is trustworthy to me. And I totally honor people that do find that enticing, but I don't. And then one of the fears I had about becoming more public about being somebody who value spirituality was needing to become that person. That person that only talks in a whisper and is never affected, and hides all of all of their struggles, or their struggles are always a lesson. And I'm like, that's not me. And so I started the whole fuckhead thing with teenagers because they would have these moments where they'd be like, wait, you're a fuckhead, too. And I'm like, yes, we're all fuckheads. It's amazing.
Like, when I speak about things, I'd really try to be like, yes, I do. I have, I have expertise in this. I have a voice. And at the same time, don't ever I'm not going to forget, that I'm going to try to have people around me or help me not to forget that I am a fuckhead just like everybody else. And we're all going to struggle with some new flavor of fuckheadedness. And that is actually one of the beauties about being here trapped in a human body. Is that there will always be another layer of fuckheadedness that will reveal something to us. And hopefully we can use it as a way to become better, more compassionate, more loving beings while we're here.
100%. Amen. I want to say something to about poetry and spirituality. I remember someone asked me like what constitutes a poem? Like it might have been my daughter was in some in her ELA class, and I said, anything. Like it doesn't have to rhyme. It doesn't have to have stanzas. It doesn't have to look like a haiku. Like any piece of writing that you deem a poem like that is… I think it just allows you to take the pressure off, because I remember I wrote poetry starting when I was a teenager and it was very angsty and it I think it did rhyme and had a specific flow to it. But that was just my style in the past. I have some of them and they are literary gold. And what I mean by that is like, the drama. It helps me remember, cuz I have a 12 and a 14 year old now, it helps me remember the obsessiveness or maybe it was just me because I'm an addict. But like the obsessiveness of love back then. Anyway, I digress.
But I have found that during the most difficult times in my life, writing, what I didn't realize was poetry, later, when I was done, I realized that it was the poem has been the most therapeutic and gut wrenching and spiritual and healing processes I've ever done. Better than medication, better than crying my eyes out. And I've said this before on the podcast, I would say most of the pieces that I have, I have no recollection of writing. And I’m like, did I write that? Like, yeah, because it's on my Google Doc’s. So I'm the only one that has access to it. It's as if something took over in my heart in my body, and that came out of my fingers onto the keyboard. And that I'm forever grateful for just embracing writing. I absolutely love it.
Every stage of that writing process has been extremely transformative for me over the years. Where I was when I was a kid, and I was writing poetry in a journal nd then I was going to free writing classes and getting prompts and then just blurting out everything that had happened to me on a page, without any sense of sharing it with anybody else was so transformative. I mean, it's a therapy in itself. And then the process of crafting has been one of the, it actually I feel like has been the most healing about my past. And then I've seen where, you know, I taught in an extension programs for universities, where it would be seniors, and so many combat Vets would be in there and, you know, we would write out over week after week revising these stories of intense trauma and then over the series of weeks, they would, they would say, like, I just feel so much better. And it wasn't just having somebody read their story it was going in and going, what was that blast really like? What sound did that, you know, that bullet make as it went? What color was the dirt? And to go in and do that.
And for me it had been going in to all those things in my life, and truly reliving them, but in a place of power, in a place of curiosity that I did that. I learned from going to therapy from sitting in meditation from doing all these things, but then the writing of it truly integrated it into a place where it can live comfortably and not without any toxicity in my in my psyche and in my body.
That last part. Yeah. Well, I'm also writing a memoir, and it's going to… The major traumatic events happened in 2006 and 2007. So I'm about almost 15 years out. What is that? Yeah, it's been over a decade. And the whole process has been so interesting, because it's like you said, you know, I don't I majored in exercise physiology. So I probably should have majored in English and gone on to get an MFA, but I didn't. And so I have written three self-help books, I've gotten major book deals with, you know, the big five publishing houses, but, which is very different writing that kind of nonfiction, prescriptive nonfiction is very different than writing narrative nonfiction, or memoir. And so I also have a fantastic memoir coach, James Canis Davis, She's incredible.
The reason I say this, because I know we have some writers listening, and even people who don't consider themselves a quote, unquote, writer with a capital W. I know there's a lot of people out there who have been told, you should write a book, or they just want to write a book. Maybe not get it published, necessarily, but just have it out. I think that everyone should, if you feel the calling, even just a little tap on your shoulder. This whole process, even if I never published this memoir, has been so healing. And just take a step back and look at it from just the meta view of it. And I mean, I don't know if this is good or bad, maybe you can tell me, I get to craft the story. Like I get… I'm in control of the narrative, which as someone who's experienced trauma feels incredibly empowering. Because there was a very great deal of time where I felt like I didn't have any control at all and I was grasping at it with rage and desperation and hopelessness. And now on the other side, I feel like, I've wrapped my arms around this young woman who I'm writing about, which is my younger self, and I'm able to sit down with her and craft the story. And to me it feels like the definition of being on the other side.
Mm hmm. Absolutely. Absolutely. That that being able to look at oneself with a lot of compassion and to… And there's this thing and memoir called reflective narrator that most people without guidance miss. And that is that voice that comes in that says, I have digested this, and I'm telling you this with a point, and I'm gonna I'm gonna step in this person who lived through it was 15 years distance to make some meaning. And once I pointed out people often say like, I you, you've changed my memoir reading because now I see it when I'm like, oh, there's that reflective narrator. But that's the part that we develop as we craft. That we are not there's the round where we just put the facts on, and then there's the round where we write in more detail, and then there's the round where we step back and go, how does this connect with the things that happened in the future, and then there's the round that comes in and then goes, oh bless your heart, my younger self. Oh, yeah, what don't you know? And oh, I see now what this means I see now I didn't know then why I did that and now I see. Or I still don't understand. That voice is the thing that grabs the reader by the throat and brings them into the book and says, you know, like…
That fuckhead thing that where they feed themselves?
Yes, exactly, exactly.
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The other thing about writing which I'm not sure if you experienced this, but I actually hope that you do. But I asked my I have weekly writers groups that members join and they stay on for years and years because it creates a deadline, it's a support, its community and you get craft feedback. And every few months I will stop and say why do you write? And there's these people who have dedicated time and money long term to just the practice of writing and a lot of them aren't doing it to publish. They're doing it to have the practice be in their life. And inevitably, people will say, I like myself more when I have a writing practice. I love the world better, I notice things more because the act of having to write detail every week makes me see that a flower isn't just a series of petals that there’s shadow and that there's brilliance, and then there's decay and then I walk through my life and I look at the people in my life and I noticed their crooked little tooth or the little you know the way that they grab their ear when they're stressed out and that makes me better. And I live my life in an exquisite way. And I feel like that is one of the cores of the creative spiritual overlap. I have only the self-help stuff out. I don't know I just wonder if you experienced that as well even with writing more didactic stuff?
And well, there's a couple of nuances, I think so my short answer is yes. And it's funny, right? When we started talking about writing, I had this sort of thought in the back of my mind that says, you know what, I'm happier when I'm in some kind of writer's group. Because I'm not right now. Like, I have my writing coach, but it's a one on one thing, and it's, it's very different. I also thought, when I was outside playing, we have a almost four month old puppy and she's brought me outside way more than I was before we had a senior dog who passed away, and I thought this morning to like, I'm happier when I'm outside, because I've been outside so much. But anyway, yes. Yes to everything that you said. Just to touch on a little bit of answering the question of why do you why do you write, I have found, even at a young age, that I can't make sense of things that feel complicated and heavy and painful and confusing, until I write about them. And sometimes my writing makes no sense. Sometimes wouldn't make sense to anyone else, although I see things in it. But that's one of the reasons that I write. And also, I what you were describing as, when you are writing a lot, and you start to sort of see the world differently. I find that a little bit of a hazard as you're just noticing things like, oh, I could write a scene about that. And how would I hate this picture and noticing the way people's breath catches that you may not have noticed before, and just the subtle nuances of people's mannerisms that you have probably seen 100 times but never really taken note of it. It's things like that I find are just, you know, not in a heavy way, but a little bit of a hazard of being a writer
What do you mean by hazard?
It, for me, it can sometimes take me out of the present moment and think about, like what I would write about that, or where this would fit into either a blog post or a book or things like that. It was more so when I was…before I started my podcast, when blogging was all the rage. And I would write, you know, I would I would sit down to write maybe I was in early recovery or something and I'm writing about that. And I would set out to do it. It's just for me, it's just for my own kind of personal, dear diary, if you will. And then and then I would start to think well, this might be a good blog post and it would change the way that I was writing. Because I don't know about you. But sometimes I have two different modes. I have the writer where it's just for me, and sometimes it's rage filled and messy and ugly. And then there's the one where I'm like, but this is for the people, you know? It has a process it has an introduction. That's a little bit of a hazard.
I have that with social media. Where I'll go, I'll be in the middle of just processing something and then in the process, I think I could make a TikTok about and then I'd have to keep doing this thing where I'm going just experience your life first Roxan before you're like show it, right? Curating it for people.
Yes. One of the reasons I've taken a bit of a break from TikTok. Which brings me to a question, thank you for the segue, that I wanted to ask you, which is a little bit of a left turn. But I didn't want to say goodbye without asking you to talk to the listeners about the this. You have a playlist of videos on TikTok about not being nice. So can you tell us about that and just, you know, generally speaking, kind of walk us through what are your thoughts around specifically people who identify as women being nice.
So much, so I'm going to try to not take up too much time.
Feel free to go off. My people are used to that.
Okay, so, back in 2016….
So many good stories start with that.
Exactly. Or no, I think it was 2013 that I started Spiritual AF. I was not on social media and then when I quit my job as a counselor, I got on social media and I started the page, basically to stay connected to the community of kids because I went to that clean and sober high school. And then I came back and was a counselor, and then I became the director, and it was my life for decades. And then I quit to be a writer. And then all these kids were like, I thought I was gonna have this community because it was just this thing of like, you never have to leave and we'll always get this. And so I started the page as a way to continue this ongoing conversation and this ongoing community of deep meaning, and looking at tools to just help us become better and more engaged human beings. As well as stupid jokes and poop humor and just be you know, being a fuckhead. And I had we had you know, several names means and then one day I got fed up because people were going, well, you say your spiritual and na na na, and I had, you know, and I would just be like, I'm so sick of this because I get it in my life where people will go, if you're spiritual, you have this one personality type and if you don't act within that, that soft, sweet, nothing fazes you, you have no peaks or valleys, you are just completely even, and you know, and everything is transcended, then you're gonna you're gonna get picked apart about your, the truth of your spirituality. And so I changed the name in a huff where I just said, fuck you, I'm, fuck, I'm Spiritual as fuck, and you guys can all just eat it. And that's how I got the name.
When I got on TikTok. And I don't remember how the don't be nice thing really started but I ended up just telling stories about how we as women have been indoctrinated into men's comfort over our safety, over what is right and good, over… We are, we are so taught to be pleasing, we're so taught to that…that are…we've brought, you know, we've had histories of people bragging about never, never making waves and that politeness is just that, you know, politeness is what we should be doing. And as somebody who grew up with, I don't, you know… Trigger warning for people. But, uh, you know, with growing up in a way in a place where stuff horrible stuff was happening, and nobody was talking about it and then I was saved, because there were people talking about it, and I started talking about it. And so I have this thing where I say polite protects predators. And then I don't care about polite and I feel like we all need to, we need to shake off politeness and dive headfirst into kindness, as well as telling the truth, naming stuff and being really okay with not being liked, as women.
And that that manifests in so many ways to where I used to work with teenagers, and so much of the work about their safety was going, say, when somebody crosses your boundary early, not real. I don't blame anybody for anything that happens or for, like, whatever way you got through anything is the exact right way. I just want to make that clear. But there is this thing where I could see, even with my ferocity I grew up literally feral, like I, there's, you know, and I have an edge on that because I just I not growing up not middle class growing up with as much as wildness as I did, I had a very loose, you know, connection with polite society. And even with that, I valued men's comfort and politeness over my own safety so many times to where then I just openly want people to brag about going you know what, when that guy came too close to me, I just said back up. And that you know, or to go, why aren't we talking about Uncle creepy openly? Why are we so afraid to have that person not like us or other people not like us, that we are willing to go to children and say, be careful around that person instead of saying that person is not invited. And it's politeness. And so that's how the don't be nice thing happened. And then it intersects with the spirituality thing because once again, I get spiritual people coming on to my don't be nice series and saying, well, if you were truly spiritual, this wouldn't affect you. And that is so discounting…
It’s so pervasive, and it's so discounts the experience of so many people in the world. That it goes that spiritual bypassing thing where we go, all anger is bad goes to civil rights leaders and saying, oh, if you were spiritual, you wouldn't be doing this. It goes to people who should be angry at what is happening, and discounts and silences us and silences groups and just, you know, discounts so many voices. And so I just, I leaned in I'm like, now I'm like the don't be nice lady. And I'm spiritual as fuck, right? Both can exist. And I don't give two shits about politeness. Really. And I work at it. And the other thing that I don't prioritize is men's comfort.
Yes. Yeah. That is yes. Much of my last book, Make Some Noise is about that. It's just the culture that we were raised in and, and also, I mean, I think it's important to also acknowledge the punishment and reward that happens is when we do push back on that. And I think for women like you and I who have a decent amount of privilege at this point in our life. We're not we're not as at risk when we push back and when we are quote unquote impolite to men who have crossed our boundaries. And I think even more so for women like you and I to do that. It's more of a push. It's been interesting you know, my daughter is 12 and I have been talking to her about this, since her ears have been working. And still, still, I sometimes don't have as much fight as our culture at large does and it's so infuriating, and I feel like I have to work overtime to talk to her about it. And sometimes I feel like I'm lecturing, and she's not listening and she's listening to music on her phone, and I'm like, oh, my god, is this. My even getting through to her but, but it's, it's, I wholeheartedly agree with everything that you've said.
And I also think it's, it's a lot to untangle and unpack for women. And I don't want to and I'm not you weren't doing this at all, but I just want to acknowledge for people listening that there can be a lot involved. And you know, we have many times experienced this in families, we've experienced it and in our communities, we've experienced it in our culture, depending on your on your culture. I am a big fan of Kate Mann's work. She wrote the book Down Girl. And she, and I have not read this one yet, she coined a term, have you heard of himpathy? No, it was like sympathy and but using the pronoun to him empathy. And so she defines it as ‘inappropriate sympathy given to men or boys, especially those who are guilty of sexual transgressions’. So you know, I’m thinking of Brock Turner, those types of things. And there's so much that we could go on and talk about around this. But yes. Yes Roxan. I think there's…one of the…let me just distill it down to this one of the lessons that I told my daughter is that, yes, I do want you to be kind to people, like lead with kindness. And when someone crosses your boundary, you have my explicit permission, I highly encourage you to not be nice. And I talked to her about like, making direct eye contact with no expression and, and things like this, like, I wish that someone would have taught me that. Yeah, and if I think if we don't learn it early on, there's like some grief that can happen r if we didn't teach our daughters or our nieces, there's also grief that can be in that. So I just want to, I'm giving a virtual hug to anyone that needs it, where this topic can be painful.
Yeah, and I just want to say like, I am way more interested in culture than I am and incidents. And so the people like us using our privilege, and our strengths to address culture will hopefully shift the entire ecosystem and make it so people who do not have the privilege of safety that I have now, who can't do that, don't be nice, because they're physically not safe, that hopefully that the those of us that have the safety, have the resources, don't have the kind of repercussions. If we're allowed enough and consistent enough and get more people to do it, then then hopefully it will become more of an ecosystem culturally that that you know that the people that aren't in that privilege state can benefit from .
The other thing I want to say is about the don't be nice thing is to just… Women are the ones who have been regulating and policing this, and they're the ones who I get the most pushback from, they're the ones I address most, they're the ones who get so upset….you know shame and admonish and ostracize women who don't do the polite thing who should who shake it up. And it's mostly white women you know. I don't think I've ever had anyone be you know, any woman besides white women come at me about the don't be nice thing. And that's a whole other conversation.
Yeah. Well, and yeah, and just about you know, white supremacy and what white women are doing you know and that we call other people angry and if we begin to just brag about not being nice, the way that women have been bragging about being, you know, sweet and you know, not accommodating. Yeah, so that thing. And take that, you know, and to hold a mirror up to their people's reaction. So a lot of my stuff that I do on TikTok is actually like, I almost never address a man. I pull up comments from other white women and I go, look, look at what you're doing, this is what the response is. And then I am hopefully helping people hold a mirror up to go, oh, I've done that to other people. Oh, that's how I…you know, that doesn't fall within my value system. And that's how we change culture. That's how we make it a safer place to for the next generation of kids.
And the other thing I just want to put out there too, is that I do this because I, at eight years old, I was in a kiddie pool filled with sharks. And the one thing that happened that shifted was that I had people in my life, women, who were out there talking about stuff, and he told me, you are safe use say it, whatever happened, say it and I became a loudspeaker. And that is the only thing that changed is that I let everyone in my life no, I will not hold your secrets about your crappy behavior. At eight years old, I started doing that and I got taken off the menu. And I've seen it throughout my life, that when somebody's not that there, were shaming anybody for not being able or privileged enough to do it, but just if I offer something is to just go, if you become a persona, if people know you and look at you have going, that person is not going to hold a single secret about this, people don't want to mess with.
It's true. It's true. It's like you're a porcupine in a good way.
Yeah, exactly. I hate that we have to wrap up. I feel like we're just getting warmed up here. And I know that you have some writing workshops and you have a podcast. So tell people and all these links will be in the show notes of course, tell people where they can find more about you.
So my writing stuff, I am a multi passionate person. And so I do make the mistake of being all over the place.
I don’t think it’s a mistake. I think it's so dehumanizing. I hate marketing, and it's like, oh, you have to be known for one thing. It's like ah. I love that you're multi passionate. Sorry to interrupt.
Well, I'm trying to integrate just because I've been a little bit all over the place. But thank you for that reframe. So if you're interested in strictly writing, and you know the writing workshops, I have my website ResourceForWriters.com. I also have Spiritual-AF. I do a lot of overlap with those. And so even if you just follow me on any social media, it's @Spiritual_AF, or my name Roxan MacDonald, R-O-X-A-N, spelt like a chemical like Roxan. And just yeah. just announced stuff all over the place. But I do have a some gratitude and writing workshops, I have mindfulness and writing. And then I'll have weekly feedback groups.
So awesome. That's great. Yes, well, we'll put all those links in the show notes, your social your to websites, and the podcast and everything. Thank you so much for being here. It's just been so enlightening and fun and interesting. And remember everyone, it's our life's journey to make ourselves better humans and our life's responsibility to make the world a better place. Bye for now.
Hi, there, sweetie back by to say one more thing. You know, I'm always giving advice over here on the show and on social media. And a couple of those things is that I'm always telling you to ask for what you want, be clear about it, and also ask for help. So I am taking a dose of my own medicine and I'm going to do that right now. It would be the absolute best and mean the world to me. If you reviewed and subscribed to this show, Make Some Noise Podcast on whatever podcast platform of your choice. And even more importantly, it would matter so much if you shared this show. Sharing the show is one of the few ways the podcast can grow and that also gives more women an opportunity to make some noise in their lives. You can do that by taking a screenshot when you're listening on your phone and sharing it in your Instagram or Facebook stories. If you're on Instagram, you can tag me @HeyAndreaOwen and I try my best to always re share those and give you a quick thank you DM and also you can tell your friends and family about it. Tell them what you learned. Tell them a really awesome guest that you found on the show that you started following. Whatever it is I appreciate so much for sharing about this show.