“We cast a shadow on something wherever we stand, and it is no good moving from place to place to save things; because the shadow always follows. Choose a place where you won’t do harm – yes, choose a place where you won’t do very much harm, and stand in it for all you are worth, facing the sunshine.” -E.M. Forster
“I thought about one of my favorite Sufi poems, which says that God long ago drew a circle in the sand exactly around the spot where you are standing right now. I was never not coming here. This was never not going to happen.” -Elizabeth Gilbert
March 31, 2018
Our neighbors are bouncing on their trampoline outside. It sounds like two girls; sisters, I presume. It’s 9:12am on a Saturday morning. I remember when we first got our trampoline. We thought it was the beauty of all beauties. There would be nothing better than this trampoline for our lives. We slept on it, snacked on it, put our dogs on it, invited anyone and everyone on it always.
The girls next door are giggling. I don’t remember the last time I laughed at 9:12 on a Saturday morning. My breath falls down to the bottom of my belly. Their joy radiates and I find myself entranced by it. It feeds me. Keeps me here.
It’s bold. To choose that sort of happiness so early on in the day. To set the standard high. My mind trails, wonders, and aims to pin-point when exactly I became so particular with the responsibility of choosing the measurements of my own joy.
A few years back, I freaking tattooed the word joy on my wrist as a quite literal reminder of how it is our duty to choose the lives we lead; how we wake up and scoop up joy like a child in the night. Intentionally. Purposefully. Because we don’t want to go about our days without nurturing the people and things that need us the most. Because we don’t want to go forth without providing for ourselves what we desire most.
Choose. Choice. Chosen.
“Today, if I choose joy.” No, not quite. “Today, when I choose joy.” You sound unsure. Unsettled. “Today, I choose joy.” Mm. Forced. Are you convinced? “Right this very moment, I am embodying the energy of joy.” Oh, I see. Here, here we are. Yes, I’m doing this.
It’s not what you say, it’s how you say it is a tired phrase. I was under the sinking impression this declaration dealt solely with other people, but I realize it’s best used and understood when it’s relating to our very own selves. Perhaps it works to inform the ways in which we phrase our inner-dialogues.
It’s always been about us. This battle. This morning. This tension. These options. The world outside sings and beats and begs. The sisters have gone inside. I imagine they’re eating pancakes. Or watching Spongebob. Or sprawled out on their bellies in their living room letting their remarks and inquiries and ideas bounce off of one another. Their parents are reading the newspaper or whispering about Easter tomorrow. The dogs are bustling around. Roaming from one sound, one movement to the next.
Our Saturdays used to ebb and flow similarly. When I imagine them, I remember us.
There are plants now growing in my window-sill. My comforter is stark white and the light refracts off of it when the sky opens up to its mid-day blue. I should move from here. My mind is beginning to fog and my body is restless.
Yesterday, I was trying to write down the warmest remark someone has ever told me, but nothing all that specific surfaced. Instead, I began rambling through all the words I want to have written or said or declared about my existence and now, as I sit here in the reverie of sister giggles, I begin to whisper the words to myself.
I welcome the tune of my own voice. I trust it.
“We forgive: Our parents, for being wrong about us in so many ways, for seeing some things and not others, for missing the point. Our siblings, for being smarter or more athletic or happier than we are. Our children, for diverging from our expectations, for scaring us with their developmentally appropriate but still dreadful risk taking, for growing up and leaving and forgetting to call. Ourselves, for being less than we planned when we were young and dreamed of outer space and Olympic medals. Such sprawling deficiency- ours, theirs, ever more varieties and degrees as each new day passes-to be acknowledged, to be pardoned. And yet, we do. We love and are loved anyway. Differently, though, than we might have thought.”
March 9th, 2018
National Women’s Day was yesterday. I’ve been reading and listening and silently critiquing the ways in which one could or should address this particular holiday, and perhaps that is proof enough that it deeply matters how we talk about the labels we hold dearly.
I’d like to note the preposterous nature of one specific day to commemorate an entire gender. We understand this as a society. Every day is a tribute to who we are in terms of what separates us and what brings us together (i.e., gender, race, religion, class, talent, intellect, age, interest). The very evidence of what we value and what is deemed equal can be found within and throughout the ways in which we interact with one another.
With this being said, I’m exuberant to expand on what it means to lay reverence down for the women who came before me, the women who raised me, the women who inspire me by being their own radical selves, and the women who (often times, unknowingly) carry me on the days it feels nearly unbearable to manage the weight of being all the things to all the people.
Glennon Doyle Melton writes, “I’d rather lose them/it forever than lose myself ever again” and as I read those words a few years back, I wanted to weep with their precision into every area of my own life. I used to lose myself to the whirlwind of just about any expectation. Really. You name it. I tried to master it—School. Friends. Sports. Achievements. Obligations. Expectations. Relationships. Teachers. Projects. Image. Humor. Intellect. Bravery. Carelessness (yep. I cared so much, I would care about how much I cared).
If there was an opportunity to do more or do better, I wanted in. The struggle clearly became, a slow deterioration within me. I grew a fierce inkling to reach out into the world to take back my own humanity. I no longer wanted to be a martyr for another raised bar or organization or classroom identity. I couldn’t keep up. I couldn’t recognize or distinguish between my very own self and the things I was a part of. My accomplishments felt embedded into my DNA, as if I wasn’t who I was without what I was doing or what I had done.
In short, I ejected myself out of the world and nestled my way into books. I read just about every memoir I could get my hands on. I peeled open covers that welcomed me into the lives of women who were being bold enough with their voices to string together declarations I could only ever whisper. They embodied the characteristics I had come to believe were present only in those who ran the show, so to speak. These authors were brave. Raw. Hilarious. Brilliant. Resilient. Peaceful. Honest. Exuberant. Flawed. Spirited. They were warriors with vision and intellect and kids and businesses and book deals.
Could these words ever be true for me? Would I ever be one of these women?
People who empower others are those who know what it’s like to live in the trenches of constantly feeling inadequate. I know this to be true because the women in those books I was reading were breaking their hearts wide open for their readers; they knew full well that the journey began only when they acknowledged that their cracks were their commonalities. Almost every story or memoir or biography I’ve been introduced to has been delivered with an undertone of, I’m here to write my scars un-edited because someone before me did the same and it moved me to self-compassion and then towards the forgiveness and healing of my own mis-guided expectations for who I am and should be.
Listen. I have a million miles yet to travel. What I know thus far is simple and poignant and so bloody obvious it makes my skin crawl to imagine anyone living without believing this one thing:
The map for who you are and who you should be cannot be found out in the noise of the world. It’s entirely up to you.
Resentment comes in all shapes and sizes, but it doesn’t leave until you start getting out of bed in the morning because the vision for what your life could look and feel like means more to you than the satisfaction of blowing the hinges off of another self-inflicted or societal-inflicted expectation.
Let your life bleed and ache and pulse to a pulp. Let it ebb and flow and wobble around until you learn to dance to the mayhem of your Tuesdays.
In deep appreciation to the women who have come before me, trudging along through their own million mile journey, I salute you. To the women who are in the trenches with me, holding our breath some days and screaming at the tops of our lungs on others, I’m cheering for you. I’m cheering with you. We’re not in the stands with foam fingers and popcorn spilled out over our laps; we’re in the arena fighting the only good fight there is. And to those women who are just now rising up and out, I bleed for you. I open my heart and hand to you and in the depths of my being I profess a truth I pray you forever know: You are brave. Kind. Courageous. Worthy. Bold. Fierce. Compassionate. Humble. Powerful. Peaceful. Resilient.
You’re a force to be reckoned with the moment you stumble upon the miracle that is your very own humanness.
Lean into your divine.
P.s. this picture is of my mom wiping away a tear after my grandfather’s funeral. Not all warriors write books or run businesses or speak at conferences. In fact, most of the greatest leaders walk among us, as us. Cheers to you, mom. I am who I am because you too, showed me what it was to live into your own warrior-like nature.
“creative entitlement simply means believing that you are allowed to be here, and that—merely by being here—you are allowed to have a voice and a vision of your own.” -Elizabeth Gilbert
Let it be known: this is pure evidence of one of the happiest moments of my life. Elizabeth Gilbert is hugging me WITH HER EYES CLOSED OKAY and you can’t see me but I’m weeping because a.) I snuck into this viewing and illegally (sleuth) got into a book-signing line and b.) her words empower me to believe in the craft in and of itself, and by extension, what I have to say and give. What we all have to say and give.
If you know anything about me–seriously, anything at all– you know that as much as I love to talk and wonder and argue, I love reading more. The quickest way to get me to stop the questions spewing from my mouth is to shove a book in front of me. Truth.
Lately, I’ve been reading books all across the spectrum. And to be clear, when I say all across the spectrum what I really mean is, I’ve been avoiding fiction like the plague and instead devouring anything I can get my hands on that reads like a meaningful conversation between the author and my own stream of conscience.
Here’s the thing: I read for a variety of reasons. Most people assume I do so out of sheer enjoyment, but this isn’t necessarily the case. To be completely raw: I’m incredibly insecure about the amount of stuff there is to know and see and do in the world; the lives I have not lived and may never live; the information and thoughts I may never come by if I don’t actively pursue the insight of those who have a wide range of knowledge and experience.
I soak in these worlds because it creates a breathing room in my head-space. Without it, I would drown under the ever-present internal pressure and inquiries. I realize there is no real end goal here, and I have to remind myself of this as I speed through pages as if I’m competing to win some arbitrary rat-race.
After I close a book, I look at the world in a softer light than I had prior to. I engage in relationships differently. I allow myself to push my shoulders down and back until I feel an audible exhale. These pages bring me back to a place within myself that I so often stray from, a place I return because it’s where I unearth and refine my very best self.
I am an assortment of all the writers who have come alongside me and whispered their own personal anthems. Unbeknownst to them, I fell into their lives when it felt like I was falling out of my own. Slowly, over the years, I’m learning that merely existing creates a song inside of you, and if anything, we have an obligation to share it as much as we have an obligation to do any other human thing. I have as much to say as I have yet to learn. Which, as it turns out, is a HELL-OF-A-LOT.
When we become people who dare to believe in their own divine-ness, we pass the baton on to others who are then given permission to do the same. Call it the science of empowerment or the impact of a culture, I’m not sure. I only know that it’s real. And that I feel it more often than not.
Regardless of how you spend your extra hours, I recommend the following books to you. Truly. I cannot promise they’ll reveal to you anything you don’t already know, or perhaps anything you even desire knowing, but I can assure you that these authors opened up spaces in me that were either a.) filled with lies or b.) devoid of my own light.
If anything, I nudge you to recognize or identify the places or events or people that allow you to exhale. The baton is already yours.
“One is astonished in the study of history at the recurrence of the idea that evil must be forgotten, distorted, skimmed over. We must not remember that Daniel Webster got drunk but only remember that he was a splendid constitutional lawyer. We must forget that George Washington was a slave owner . . . and simply remember the things we regard as creditable and inspiring. The difficulty, of course, with this philosophy is that history loses its value as an incentive and example; it paints perfect men and noble nations, but it does not tell the truth.” —W.E.B. DUBOIS
Loewen, James W. (2008-04-07T23:58:59). Lies My Teacher Told Me: Everything Your American History Textbook Got Wrong (Kindle Locations 443-444). The New Press. Kindle Edition.
“Teachers have held up Helen Keller, the blind and deaf girl who overcame her physical handicaps, as an inspiration to generations of schoolchildren. Every fifth grader knows the scene in which Anne Sullivan spells water into young Helen’s hand at the pump. At least a dozen movies and filmstrips have been made on Keller’s life.
Each yields its version of the same cliché. A McGraw-Hill educational film concludes: “The gift of Helen Keller and Anne Sullivan to the world is to constantly remind us of the wonder of the world around us and how much we owe those who taught us what it means, for there is no person that is unworthy or incapable of being helped, and the greatest service any person can make us is to help another reach true potential.” 5 To draw such a bland maxim from the life of Helen Keller, historians and filmmakers have disregarded her actual biography and left out the lessons she specifically asked us to learn from it.
Keller, who struggled so valiantly to learn to speak, has been made mute by history. The result is that we really don’t know much about her. Over the past twenty years, I have asked hundreds of college students who Helen Keller was and what she did. All know that she was a blind and deaf girl. Most remember that she was befriended by a teacher, Anne Sullivan, and learned to read and write and even to speak. Some can recall rather minute details of Keller’s early life: that she lived in Alabama, that she was unruly and without manners before Sullivan came along, and so forth.
A few know that Keller graduated from college. But about what happened next, about the whole of her adult life, they are ignorant. A few students venture that Keller became a “public figure” or a “humanitarian,” perhaps on behalf of the blind or deaf. “She wrote, didn’t she?” or “she spoke”—conjectures without content.
Keller, who was born in 1880, graduated from Radcliffe in 1904 and died in 1968. To ignore the sixty-four years of her adult life or to encapsulate them with the single word humanitarian is to lie by omission.”
Loewen, James W. (2008-04-07T23:58:59). Lies My Teacher Told Me: Everything Your American History Textbook Got Wrong (Kindle Locations 467-482). The New Press. Kindle Edition.
“They stare at me. We all kind of hate each other in this minute, me most of all because I taught them the word bitch and I yell so they yell and Edward missed another brawl so they’ll like him more today and he’s better anyway and whatever lust for combat my daughters have comes straight from me and I thought I was going to be a good mom like Michelle Constable or Tammy Stedman and I’m not and according to a parenting blog I saw, yelling is as bad as corporal punishment and particularly destructive to self-esteem so oh my God, what am I doing?
Soft but direct, I say, ‘Georgia, Claire is wearing the shirt. I gave it to her. If you want it back, you can have it after today. Now, go.’
Georgia turns in a theatrical huff, Claire clomps behind, no less preposterous, and in seconds, I hear my elder tattling on me to her father: ‘She always takes Claire’s side.’
I took the side of ex-ped-i-ence! I want to scream, but I can’t defend myself against my accuser, not only because that would make my daughter equal to me in a way that’s verboten according to the last conversation I had with my mother, but also because the phone rings again and it’s her, my mom, calling as if she knew was headed for a doomed arbitration. Just as well. The girls are eating bacon with SuperEdward. What do they care about a T-shirt now?”
Tell Me More: Stories About the 12 Hardest Things I’m Learning to Say, Kelly Corrigan (pgs. 18-19)
“You will eventually catch on that you have to distance yourself from your psyche. You do this by setting the direction of your life when you’re clear and not letting the wavering mind deter you. Your will is stronger than the habit of listening to that voice. There is nothing you can’t do. Your will is supreme over all of this.
If you want to free yourself, you must first become conscious enough to understand your predicament. Then you must commit yourself to the inner work of freedom. You do this as though your life depended on it, because it does. As it is right now, your life is not your own; it belongs to your inner roommate, the psyche. You have to take it back. Stand firm in the seat of the witness and release the hold that the habitual mind has on you. This is your life-reclaim it.”
Michael A. Singer, (pgs. 21-22)
“Which parent did you crave love from more?” the speaker asked the crowd. “Not which parent did you love more . . . Which one did you crave love from more?” My dad. I would assume that this is true for many women, but it’s definitely the truth for me. And here’s the thing: I’ve done a lot of therapy, and much of it was so I could work through questions like this one. So when he asked the audience whom we craved love from the most, my answer was my dad. But, I already knew that, no great surprise there. Then he asked the follow-up question that changed everything.
And who did you have to be for them?” Meaning, what did you believe as a child that you needed to do to receive that parent’s love? “Successful,” I grumbled to myself. This was not news to me. As I’ve already mentioned, I understood all about how being a “performer” had affected my life as an adult. “Besides that,” the man on stage asked, “what else did you have to be?” “Small.” It fell out of my mouth without conscious thought. Before that moment, I can tell you I had never, ever considered that concept before.”
Hollis, Rachel. Girl, Wash Your Face: Stop Believing the Lies About Who You Are so You Can Become Who You Were Meant to Be (pgs. 125-126). Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition.
“For the last two years, two intrepid researchers and I have read and analyzed more than seven hundred studies— in the fields of economics and anesthesiology, anthropology and endocrinology, chronobiology and social psychology— to unearth the hidden science of timing.
Over the next two hundred pages, I will use that research to examine questions that span the human experience but often remain hidden from our view. Why do beginnings— whether we get off to a fast start or a false start— matter so much? And how can we make a fresh start if we stumble out of the starting blocks? Why does reaching the midpoint— of a project, a game, even a life— sometimes bring us down and other times fire us up? Why do endings energize us to kick harder to reach the finish line yet also inspire us to slow down and seek meaning? How do we synchronize in time with other people— whether we’re designing software or singing in a choir? Why do some school schedules impede learning but certain kinds of breaks improve student test scores? Why does thinking about the past cause us to behave one way, but thinking about the future steer us in a different direction?
And, ultimately, how can we build organizations, schools, and lives that take into account the invisible power of timing— that recognize, to paraphrase Miles Davis, that timing isn’t the main thing, it’s the only thing?”
Pink, Daniel H. (2018-01-09). When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing (Kindle Locations 139-143). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.
Love After Love
The time will come/ when, with elation
you will greet yourself arriving/ at your own door, in your own mirror
and each will smile at the other’s welcome,/ and say sit here. Eat.
You will love again the stranger who was your self.
Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart
to itself, to the stranger who has loved you/ all your life, whom you ignored
for another, who knows you by heart./ Take down the love letters from the bookshelf,
the photographs, the desperate notes,/ peel your own image from the mirror.
Sit. Feast on your life.