I felt taller than you [poem]

When I faced you

daughter to father, in the kitchen

I felt taller than you

just like I did as a teen

when I lept for you down the stairwell

and when I threw my hands

around your neck, near the pear tree.

I never meant to hurt you

Even though that was exactly my intent.

As the years have passed

and the strength within us both

has diminished, my anger has turned

to sorrow, not so much for my actions

but for the giant pain in this life

that seems to have left

no other way, but to anger, and defend.

Bing Crosby plays in my ears

as your low voice resounds against the walls

at Christmas, and on Sunday afternoons, trying their best

to absorb whatever joy they could.

Your hair is so much lighter now,

your large body more round, less firm.

I watched you slice tiny shrimp into pieces

at the third birthday luncheon for my son.

I know you’re afraid, and I wish you weren’t

so fearful of the death we all know is coming.

Your own father dying as he choked

on some trivial piece of food from a recliner

in his living room, his wife and son bearing witness

fighting against the truth of that moment.

Why must we always push back at

reality that is before us? Me, you, all of us

in struggle against the harsh reality we see.

please let there be blue paint there, too? choosing to career again. [poem]

I stayed in bed all of today, save
four walks to the kitchen, the same
number of front door openings
so my yellow dog with a hard chest
could pee on sparkling snow, light blue
reflecting the Saturday sky of January.
I felt a fever, which made me scared not
in fear of this virus I’m told to be afraid
of, but of passing on a job interview, a
role I know I’ll get, and will accept, and for which
I will adjust my life accordingly.
I didn’t want to fuck it up, from
sickness, no I’d rather make that happen
by choice. I practiced pitches, the sales funnel steps and learned about aluminum trailers. Hours spent understanding trailers. Done, and still will there be
time for writing, for spreading blue
on white canvas, the feel of wonder
on my fingertips as they glide in
wet paint, creating something from
nothing. The not knowing feels the best, and yet
here I am, with wrinkles
a hairline moving back, an inch past
where Snapchat filters place
the hairline on my head. My scalp
hurts. Years of indecision hidden
under play, curious in deserts, dawdles
on Fridays in the forest and tuesdays
on airplanes. Who but I to set
my schedule, and still, a child played
with gray blue sand and flimsy clear
volcano molds on the table next to
me, behind the computer as I decided
not to let me be so unsure any longer.
From this bed today I practiced
elevator pitches, the fire in my pelvis
cooling with the minutes that pass. I
questioned to the doctor if his drugs
could be to blame. I wished never
to decide my steps from head and not
from heart, and yet I saw him sitting
there, tiny rocks falling from chubby
little hands, water falling on my face
“Don’t cry like that mommy” as my chin
dimpled in. “Mama’s trying to make it better,
little man” amongst the papers and
the mess I created ‘round myself, to
shield us from monotony that is
surely just ahead, when I clear
the mess I created ‘round myself, in
spreading blue on white canvas,
the feel of wonder on my fingertips
as they glide in wet paint,
creating something from nothing.

I will listen and I will believe you. — a New Year’s resolution and a promise to a little girl.

As her blue ocean eyes peered into mine of bluish green, her blonde curls falling beside her face the way mine did when I was her age, I told her “If there’s anything you ever need to say, and you don’t feel safe or sure to tell anyone else, you can always tell me. I will listen to you, and I will believe you. No matter what.”

My parents never told me that, and they never did that. Listened, believed unconditionally, helped make sense of it all, and then act appropriately.

I am not this young girl’s parent. I am her aunt, but I did see her come into this world and that moment was one of my life’s most profound. Those early months were magic. I sang her to sleep some days with mantras. I felt her beating heart on my own while she curled her legs up to her chest and nestled into a similar shape on my own limbs and torso. There is a shared experience between us star children.

I worry about her and her ability to be listened to, and to be believed. I worry often that she won’t find ears for her truths.

As I dig for clues behind the current rage and contempt in my heart at the cruelty in this world, and the pain and problems and their denial to be seen within people who share my own blood, I find a deep yearning, simply, to be listened to, and to be believed.

I find that much of my harder to feel emotions are covering a deep despair over not ever being unconditionally believed. And if I am not believed, then am I really seen? How could I have had worth in the eyes of those who are supposed to hold me unconditionally, if I was not listened to fully and then loved no matter what.

I realize, as a child, that it was not safe in my world to share my full truth. People were uncomfortable if they knew the sadness, the abuse, the reality, of my life. It was only safe to share my victories, not my losses. So, I created a lot of wins, perhaps, just to have a voice. Being better than is far superior to being real. (I’m so sorry for those I hurt when I was trying to be better than you.)

By not sharing the darkness of what I was experiencing, I allowed the storytelling of shame to begin within my hiding mind. Shame grows wild in the secrets and stories we keep to ourselves. (Brené Brown can fill you in on that if you’re not up to speed.)

Looking back, shame was all around me as a kid. It was in the denied depression and resentments of my mother, the overeating overworking over-angry high standards of my father. It was in my blood. And it filled my household.

There were moments when efforts were made, despite its presence, for genuine redemption (glory glory hallelujah) but were covered quickly with a round of “tell us about your perfection, kid number 2” at the post-Sunday church Chinese buffet.

I saw shame also in the sad eyes of some of my friends, in the lower middle class houses I passed in a school bus. My family’s house looked nicer than most on the outside, with its big weeping willow tree out front and the pony out back, but the farmhouse was cluttered, and unfinished (for as long as I lived there) on the inside.

Instead of finding ways to understand, I found ways to escape. Turns out, I wasn’t alone.

There were so many of us sharing our selves with each other, with our harvest season joints and our fifths of very bottom shelf vodka purchased at the Cherry Lane, with a passing round of cigarettes to burn holes in our arms that would scar circles forever. I felt belonging and believed in that badge akin to a polio vaccine wound. I wore it proudly. I had my tribe. And then I overdid it, everything, and saw the havoc I could create with enough charisma and a willingness to please. But it felt good to escape nonetheless. So I kept on… and perhaps still do.

I can’t fault anyone for being who they are, and for having only the tools they have. I know well enough that we are all a product of where we come from and the emotions of those around us when we’re young. But… I can be wiser than that, and choose differently than that, if I try hard enough. I fear I’m not trying hard enough. But I am trying.

So I told that little girl, with the ocean eyes that look into my own with a unique blend of sadness and spirit and a bucket of absolutely horrible beauty behind them, and I tell her that she will always be believed.

If there is ever confusion in her mind of why she feels a way that seems different from what she sees acted out around her, or if she is hurt, or forced, or wild with expansion… I want her to know she can share it without fear of being shushed.

I wonder what could have been if I felt safe to share.

I don’t want that little girl to grow into a woman who wonders what could have been. I don’t want her to impress everyone. I don’t want her to be unsafe in her body, so unsafe to feel what she feels that she hides any abuses passed her way even after an accomplice dies. I hope that she never has those stories to tell me.

I know the blood that raised me also raises her, in part, so I must try to show her another way than denial and avoidance and forced perfection.

I will listen, and I will believe you.

And I hope that she doesn’t need me in the end. I hope that she has that at her home, where should always be her most safe place. But if not, I’ll be there. Just like I try to be, insist on being, for my own son.

And for anyone who needs to be believed, I am here. My resolution for 2021 is to find more ways to listen. There are other bodies out there needing ears for their truths.

Tears of joy! Overwhelmed with love and love and love.

“Wear gratitude like a cloak and it will feed your entire life.” – Rumi

Just one year ago, I sat with tears in my eyes and a lump in my throat on a comfortable, puffy, oh-so-spoiled striped yellow bed at my best friend’s house. The two of us and another girlfriend of ours, and my much-too-furry-and-fat golden retriever, shared a one-bedroom apartment in a hip suburban-Detroit neighborhood. In theory, this was perfect (two broke girls + 1 even-more-broke girl(me) + a dog? We were in made-for-television heaven!)!

You see, I had just returned to Michigan, unplanned and unprepared, after four months abroad, and decided to weasel my way into this cozy home and create a fun, bohemian life for a few months. Well, that didn’t turn out so well.

Within a few weeks of living with this blonde yogi/PR-impassioned/pretty princess and uber-motivated/fiery ginger/goddess pair, I was more lost than ever before. What the fuck was I doing? Who were these women who had somehow transformed from my friends into enlightened beings who were living lives that were somehow sooooo much better than mine, who had it all figured out, who were taking me in just as they would a lost, sad, cute curly-haired little puppy? (Turns out, they weren’t purposely making me jealous, but rather they were just regular, albeit amazing, humans with direction and ambition in a world that seemed to have lost all cardinal points to me.)

So I left. I backed out before things had a chance to get better. I went north. I took another fruitless job in an isolated place, openly allowing myself to wallow and wither away…

But it’s not a tragic story in the end, you see. It’s actually an amazing, enchanted tale full of love and luck and magic!

What started just over a year ago as a period of complete confusion and disappearing dreams turned into a year of trials and tests and grace and absolute blessed goodness!

Who started just over a year ago as a lost child grasping at stranded strings has turned into a focused, inspired, ambitious, balanced woman living on faith and intuition, and loving each moment!

Tomorrow I will be leading my first set of yoga classes in Michigan.

What?! I have somehow transformed from a lost soul looking for guidance, to someone who will be providing guidance and hope and (hopefully) inspiration to sister and brother souls looking for peace and happiness — the same peace and happiness I was looking for, the same that I would never find out there, but rather the kind one can only find within.

So today, I sit sipping mint tea. Happy. In this moment. There’s a set of centering stone rings on my tan fingers, a streak of henna in my hair, a sparkling gem in my nose, and a big smile on my face…

Today, there are tears in my eyes but my throat is free, and my voice is strong, and I can proudly say I'm happy to be where I am
Today, there are tears in my eyes but my throat is free, and my voice is strong, and I can proudly say I’m happy to be where I am.

A year ago, I had tears in my eyes. Tears of sadness, depression, anger, confusion..

Today, I still have tears in my eyes. But now, these tears couldn’t come from a more beautiful place. These are tears of gratitude! Tears of strength! Tears of passion and power and hope and honesty! Tears of joy, and tears of truth.

Today, there are tears in my eyes but my throat is free, and my voice is strong, and I can proudly say I’m happy to be where I am, to have experienced all that I have, and to be headed toward a mysterious place that can only be full of blessings and exciting, welcomed challenges.

Life is good, you know. And life is ever-changing. And anything is possible, always.

Give thanks today for the blessings of yesterday, of now, and of each tomorrow to come.

Thank you, Universe. So very much. xxoo

And thank you, above-mentioned soul sisters for all the kindness and love you showered on this curly-haired puppy left out in the rain on her own (truth be told — she let herself out and then stubbornly refused to come back in. what a silly puppy she was!). I love you, so very much! 

 

It hurts to hurt.

I’m an empath. A sponge. I’m the kind of person who absorbs the energy of those around me — good and bad — happiness, pain, anger… Everything.

I can feel negativity because of this. I can sense when things are off. I can recognize right away when tension exists and when there are escalated emotions when there should be, and normally would be, calm.

"Recently, I've noticed negative energy around me a lot. I think I'm not only sensing it and feeling it, but I think I'm the cause. This realization hurts."
Recently, I’ve noticed a lot of negative energy around me. I think I’m not only sensing it and feeling it, but I think I’m the cause.
This realization hurts.

Recently, I’ve noticed a lot of this around me. I think I’m not only sensing it and feeling it, but I think I’m the cause. This realization hurts.

I try my best to inspire others to do great things, to push themselves when they can, to relax and rewind when they must, and to love and accept each and every blessing. This world is much too short to sit on the sidelines and watch great things happen to others, so I’ve taken big leaps toward making my dreams come true and it’s my honest intention to encourage others to do the same.

Sometimes, though, people don’t want to hear encouragement. Sometimes people are resentful when good things happen to others. Sometimes people are bitter and brash and downright berating instead of being kind and excited and genuinely happy for the little victories in the lives of those around them.

I’ve felt this nastiness recently, and it’s consumed much of my thoughts. I’ve tried to convince myself I’m imagining it — if someone had a problem with me and my actions, they’d tell me, right? I’ve tried to let it roll off — more slicker, less sponge. I’ve tried to accept it, to force myself to swallow and suppress the pain and unease rising in my chest and throat when I enter a room filled with obvious animosity. But, the empath inside won’t let me do this. The empath inside will continue to feel the negative energy until it’s gone.

In this morning’s yoga class, the Universe lifted this burden from my shoulders — it provided a solution my soul so desperately needed.

Our yoga teacher read Chapter 30 from The Tao Te Ching. The words helped me realize that I can only do my very best, each day, and that I cannot dwell on the outcome, whatever it may be. I can only live honestly, with integrity and good intention, and that the reaction from others to my life cannot be my concern.

I am happy with who I am. I am grateful for the good and bad in my life, for the tiny miracles and the big bummers alike. I am proud of the person I am and the person I’m becoming. I refuse to let someone’s anger or sour response bring me down and cause me guilt and shame or make me feel undeserving of grace and goodness. I’m worthy of life’s blessings, as are they, and my hope is that they’ll realize this as well. My hope is that they’ll work just as hard to live a good life, and that they’ll reap its beautiful blessings, just as I have.

My hope is that my hurting heart will heal and that I’ll always remember the lines from the Tao Te Ching, and that I’ll continue to believe in myself, to be content with myself, and to accept myself, just as I am.

And that one day, sooner than later, they will, too.

The Master does his job and then stops. He understands that the universe is forever out of control, and that trying to dominate events goes against the current of the Tao. Because he believes in himself, he doesn’t try to convince others. Because he is content with himself, he doesn’t need others’ approval. Because he accepts himself, the whole world accepts him.     — From Stephen Mitchell’s translation of The Tao Te Ching
The Master does his job and then stops.
He understands that the universe is forever out of control,
and that trying to dominate events goes against the current of the Tao.
Because he believes in himself, he doesn’t try to convince others.
Because he is content with himself, he doesn’t need others’ approval.
Because he accepts himself, the whole world accepts him.
— From Stephen Mitchell’s translation of The Tao Te Ching

Letting go of defeat: 2 steps to regain your strength.

“The greatest test of courage on earth is to bear defeat without losing heart.” – Robert Green Ingersoll

I’ve faced defeat half a dozen times the past two weeks. Even one instance of this can knock me off my path completely, but over the past two weeks, I’ve done my best to dodge SIX deadly bullets. Six times in twice as many days I’ve experienced feelings of inadequacy and rejection so powerful and pointed toward the core of my being that I’ve been blown backward and forced to regroup… Dust the debris, shake my shoulders, and keep moving forward.

I last wrote about an instance where I didn’t get a job, and about how I recognized that the event was helping me learn patience, trust, and walking the talk I so openly write about. At the end of the post and at the end of the day, I was happy. I had recovered from the little defeat and hadn’t lost sight of my goal.

I then did this five more times. Each time became slightly more difficult than the time before as each event softly stabbed and scraped at the fresh layer of scar tissue being built upon the wound. I did my best to bear the pain and push through.

But, eventually, we all come to a point where we are defeated. We realize that those little cuts are plentiful and that we’re bleeding out. We’re no longer able to heal as we could if only one or two slices marked our skin…

Today, I arrived at this point.

Today, I felt defeated.

When we’ve experienced true, lasting, painful depression and sadness, we’re fearful of re-entering that space (despite knowing it will eventually go away) and we often develop strategies for staying positive and dealing with our dark sides. We try to be proactive about maintaining a positive mind.

Through my personal battles over the past eight years, I’ve developed a couple tactics that work well to banish the blues before they take control of my life, of THE LIFE I want to live.

1) A quick and easy way to deal with negative thoughts and feelings is to give ourselves a little pep talk. I count my blessings, remind myself of my talents and the goals I want to achieve, reflect on the experiences I’ve had, and tell myself that I am enough and that I have enough and that everything is just fine. I bring positivity into my life via a few moments of positive self-talk.

2) A more focused, purposeful way to let go of specific moments and to draw in positivity is by holding a simple fire ceremony to seal in your intentions. First write down the negative thoughts, feelings, or events on one sheet of paper and then write down positive affirmations or goals on another (these don’t have to be the rehashing of all bad things in our lives or recreations of our vision boards, but rather simple cues of the bad and the good). Then, burn the lists. Watch the flame devour your moments of defeat and watch the flame grow as it’s fueled by your positivity.

No matter how we choose to regain our strength when we’re feeling week, it’s important to first acknowledge our feelings and to let our bodies and minds fully express our emotions as to not create more toxicity within ourselves. Let yourself cry or scream when you’re sad and upset just like you *should* let yourself smile big and dance when you’re happy and excited! Let it all out, then do what you can to let go of defeat and regain your strength so you can keep moving forward.

Write it down then let it go. Fire is a powerful way of releasing negativity and drawing in strength.
Write it down then let it go. Fire is a powerful way of releasing negativity and drawing in strength.

After a particularly trying day (Christmas Eve of all days), I decided to hold my own little fire ceremony to release the recent string of defeats. I’ve cried more in the past two weeks than I have in the past three months combined and I do not want to let this sadness become a staple in my present reality — I’m positive and powerful and destined for great things as long as I stay focused on activities I love. I do not want to waste any time being stuck in sorrow caused by hearing “NO” too many times.

So tonight, I scribbled a few words about each of the six defeats on a purple post-it and set it aside. Then, I wrote dozens of affirmations on another post-it, filling up nearly every violet void with positive statements like “I am enough” and “I am responsible for my reactions” and “I am getting closer.”

I lit a candle and filled a small bowl with water (far too many house fires happen over the holidays and although I doubt many are caused by 20-somethings trying to create a sacred space for strengthening the spirit, I can’t be too careful).

I glanced over my defeat note, folded it in half, and held it above the flame. I watched as the sharpie chicken-scratch letters burned and charred then disappeared above the glass water dish. I let it go…

Then, I looked at the barely legible words on the second note, written on top of each other and numbering dozens more than the measly defeats. I closed my eyes and breathed deeply, acknowledging the truth of the words I’d written. I folded the paper and held it above the flame. I watched as the flame took my thoughts — I felt strength in watching this natural force envelop my hopes, taking control of what I gave it, doing with it what it liked — I let it go…

This simple act had a powerful effect on my sense of center. I felt better, cleaner, lighter, and more confident in myself. No longer was my solar plexus chakra feeling powerless and defeated. I regained a bit of my pride, and my head felt more at ease and my heart felt full again.

I may have heard “NO” a few too many times lately, but that doesn’t mean I’ll always hear “NO,” and that doesn’t mean that “YES” isn’t on its way.

Good things will happen — until then and even after they do, I’ll keep moving forward. No matter what.

Tie-dye leggings and gray dress slacks. A note on bending before breaking.

Today, I’m wearing gray dress slacks I put in a box destined for Goodwill just one year ago. I’m pairing these pants with a black sweater and a pair of modest ballet flats.

And a pair of multicolored tye-dye leggings.

Before I quit my job last fall, I decided I’d had it with business attire. Never again would I wear dress pants to work each day! Pencil skirts and cardigans? Go to hell. “I don’t want to work at any company that won’t let me dress in a t-shirt and flip flops!,” I said defiantly when my mom questioned why I was getting rid of my professional clothing.

Well, maybe this happened by mistake or maybe on purpose (her purpose, not mine), but many of these business pieces weren’t stuck with little blue and green tags and sold to someone who needed a cheap option or someone who wanted to be hip by buying used… Instead, the boxes and bags overflowing with khakis and cable-knit were stacked alongside my distressed denim and concert tees. Now I’m wearing these clothes again. They surely have proven useful, and saved me loads of moolah.

I’ve grown through my 20-something freak out, and I’ve learned that having a nice stable job that asks you to look polished and neat each day isn’t so bad after all. Actually, it’s quite nice not having to decide whether or not my over-sized tank, skinny jeans, and moccasins are appropriate (sometimes yes, most times no… not in the newsroom at least). I enjoy that a little bit of decision making is taken care of simply because I have to build an outfit using “business casual” attire. Black pants? Check. Simple sweater? Check. Nude flats? Check. Done and done.

However, what I HAVE learned is that even though I’m not getting the chance to “express myself” as freely as I could by wearing clothes appropriate for interacting with editors each evening (although, many of my coworkers totally dig this Bonnaroo tee-wearing boho chick and would welcome the change of pace), I’m still able to integrate bits of my personality into my fabric and accessory selections. A printed cami. Multicolored Mayan loafers. Leggings and boots and a way-too-baggy sweater. Black on black on black on black. Things that are “appropriate” but are still me. Bending inside the limits, bending to conform just a bit…

At my last office job, I think part of the reason I BROKE like I did was because I didn’t consider how to remain stable while BENDING… I looked at my situation as an ice block that I had to remain frozen inside of, rather than looking at it as something that could melt and conform to my natural shape a bit better. I could have sought out more opportunities to express myself, in areas like creative design tasks or writing for example. Or I could have accepted my professional job as it was, and expressed myself more freely in my downtime. However, I decided I was stuck and I had to break free.

Now I know, learning to bend rather than break is so important.

Learn how to bend the rules, and when you can't, still be YOU underneath ;)
Learn how to bend the rules, and when you can’t, still be YOU underneath.

But even in my current job there are some days, like today, when I decide to go the very traditional route of wearing black on gray. But, I’m still me and I’m still making it a point to make the child inside happy, the one insisting she wear striped socks over argyle tights with a polka-dot sweater (I just reunited with a younger me who lives on the Oregon coast), even if the expression has to be underneath my varying shades of K. No one knows I’m wearing neon pink and yellow tye-dye leggings but me, and I’m the only person needing to be impressed sometimes 🙂

I’ve now learned how to bend and compromise in so many areas of my life. Doing so prevents many headaches and helps keep the peace. In the workplace, and in my heart.