Inside

Off like a rocket it went

A brother dodging danger

A brief relief with a birthday and the beach

But when spring began it’s usual bloom

The warning signs began to blare

A virus, novel and like no other

From one corner of the world to the next

//

“Stay inside” reverberated some

While a so-called president twiddled his thumbs

Playing it off like a failed casino bet

Omission of truth, for who’s sake?

Declared a pandemic, despite the questioning and ignoring of common sense

Daily news briefs were almost too much to bear

Anxiety, chest pains, and lack of appetite by day

Depression descended as evening fell

//

“Routine, Productivity, Positivity!”

My body responding differently

I didn’t want comfort as much as I wanted personal connection

To physically feel common threads

My extroverted self a little lost in the hubbub

Afraid of losing the confidence I’d gained in the last year

//

So I stayed inside

Detesting “new normal”

Preferring currently reality

Though the unknowns loomed larger 

Than dormancy

A reprieve through walks and sunshine

Access to the water

Mom started a new chapter

The city came alive again

//

Behind closed doors

The desire to walk through fire

To support those who were struggling

To keep living, keep going

They needed me, and I needed them

Late nights

Deep conversations

Protective, patient, and learning how to hold space

Finding different ways

To carry them however I could

Capped by a reunion

A long time coming

//

And then the second wave

Predictable at one point

But could have been avoided

By collective responsibility and respect

The plea to stay inside again

Saved by the grace of changing colors and important milestones

I relished the tv specials

The snuggling up to read, watch, and just be

Real rest, without fear of missing out

My work in progress for as long as I can remember

//

But the fatigue is real

Body aches with unknown origins

Colder weather?

Lack of usual activity?

A response to stress?

//

Yet the most challenging aspect

Was not the confinement of four walls

But the confinement of thoughts inside my mind

Swirling around like storms

To reach out or give space?

To tell the truth, or pretend I’m ok?

Are you ok? Are we ok?

To ask for what I want/need

Or hold it in for as long as possible

//

Distraction could only do so much

When the healthy distractions weren’t always available

Overthinking, deeply feeling

Jealousy, more questions than answers

My prayers feeling dry and without heart

Sitting in the tension

I’m still learning

//

And as the calendar turns again

Cautiously Optimistic comes to mind

With new leadership

New possibilities

Changing seasons

A new year

//

I dream of music and dancing again

Lots of people

Opportunities for living

Being in nature

Assertive

Growing Confidence

Expression

Thriving

Roaring

A Virus and A Reckoning

 

There were initially whispers of warning

Something is coming, sickness will spread

That were largely quieted by selfish ambition

Self-preservation  over people

Stocks over saving lives

Drowning out concern with cries of “hoax!”

Denying experts the right and necessity to speak

And hiding the truth from all who needed to hear it

Not a big deal

It will go away

 

But it hasn’t, and now hear we are

Hunkered down to ease the rise and chaos

Daily life, collectively, has come to a screeching halt

Like misbehaved children, we are forced to think about

What we should have done 

In terms of heeding the cries of science

Weaponizing faith and privilege instead

Of being mindful and prepared

 

For extroverts, a new territory

How long has it been since I last stayed home this long?

No social gatherings, church, or bopping around the city

Like living in an alternate universe

How the actual hell did we get here?

But I welcome the resting, reading, and reconnection

 

And from this I’ve seen

That connection is essential 

To the human experience

Conversation, vulnerability

And physical touch

The latter which I crave

And miss the most

 

But where do we go from here

When a lack of leadership and transparency

Have brought us collectively

To such a dark place in history

A legacy stained by lies, corruption, and sickness

Those on the right side of history trust facts and science

More than blubbering buffoons 

 

I pray for healing, restoration, and protection

Accountability for politicians that looked the other way

That we may learn from this devastating season

Taking a damn good look at ourselves

What many have enabled

 

There might be dollars and so-called power in big business

But solidarity in the small and local

Heroism belongs to the every-day workers who cannot stay home

God go with all of those on the front lines of this crisis

Let us support them, honor them, and lend them our hands

For there is speaking truth to power

And power in speaking the truth

 

I anticipate the day

When I can wrap my arms around the people I love

Dance in public

And worship in community

A celebration unlike one I’ve ever felt or seen

Until then I pray for peace and ease

Waiting and expecting

Let it be so

Getting Wonder Woman All Wrong

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She was motivated by compassion rather than revenge.

Her strengths were not by chance, but by proper training and preparation.

She did not want to hide, nor did she want attention. She was simply fulfilling what she felt called to do.

Chills scattered across my skin as she grabbed her shield and began climbing the ladder out of No Man’s Land.  She rose up and began to run forward in cinematic fashion, deflecting bullets off her wrists in the process. I was so overcome by the power and awe of these singular moments that tears formed in my eyes and poured onto my cheeks. I had come across an article headline where many admitted to crying during this particular scene (and others), but didn’t read any further for fear of coming across spoilers. And while it is wonderful that strong female characters have been brought to the forefront in action-adventure, there’s another reason, a personal reason to celebrate the incredible film and story that is Wonder Woman.

In my teens an early twenties, I proudly called myself Wonder Woman in Real Life, though my only vivid interpretation is the most recent summer blockbuster. I’d seen various references through the old days of Cartoon Network, but never knew her story within the context of any comic books. It was a lot of assuming and creating a definition in my own head based off her title alone. I desperately wanted to be strong, fierce, and independent; not for the sake of being a heroine, or doing what was right, but merely proving people wrong. It was a defense mechanism, a way of communicating that underneath a sweet (and perhaps naive) exterior, there was a badass not to be messed with.

And one could argue that the fictional Diana Prince is similar, but the difference between her and I has been a matter of pride.

She never had to proclaim who she was in order to make a statement or have an impact, nor did anyone have to point her out in dramatic fashion in order to shape her identity. She allowed herself to be helped and advised in adjusting to the outside world (even when the majority of the responses to her requests were “NO!”), leaning on her male comrades for support without total dependence. Her relationship with Steve is not a back and forth of who saves who, but it more so revolves around what they teach one another, about partnership, grace, and the harsh realities of justice and evil. And as I’ve dug deeper and reflected on what this film has meant to me, I realized that perhaps it’s not just social media, loneliness, and ignorance that’s slowly killing us. Rather, it’s also individualism.

The reasons for “every person for themselves,” are plenty, from the fear of coming across as needy/codependent, to the fear of rejection and abandonment. I’ve always been, and still am slightly terrified of being too much, and have assumed that’s why people tend to disappear out of my life every so often. It seems like when it comes to lending a helping hand now a days, there’s a bit of a debtors mentality, where if you do something for someone, then they automatically owe you (or vice versa).

And so we do everything ourselves, or at least we try to in order to avoid pain, disappointment, and betrayal. Whether it comes from society or otherwise, we’re either pressured or expected to dig deep within ourselves and by ourselves for that which is beyond comprehension. We dig and we dig until we’ve become hallow shells, resentful and isolated from what we were created for.

Love. Connection. Community. Building each other up instead of tearing each other down.

I believe that love comes not from within, but from God above. And I believe that we learn to love ourselves through experiencing aspects of God in other people, both women and men.

The first time I heard that God loved me was from a man.

Had it not been for the men I’d met during college, I wouldn’t have begun to understand what loving myself meant until much later. They accepted me and didn’t judge me, even in the midst of bad decisions and mistakes.

And not too long ago, a man whom I very much care for, admire, and respect said to me, “You’re one of the strongest and most resilient women I know.” He then continued, “I wish you could see in yourself what I see in you.”

But I think that’s what relationships are for, whether they’re platonic or romantic; again, to show us what we’ve been blinded to by impossible standards.

///

I’ve had to fight battle after battle since the day I was born. More recently, it has been the battle to overcome stereotypes, establish a career, and live my own life. A battle to let go of anger and allowing my heart to soften toward my family history. And now, a battle with a disease that threatens to land me in the hospital, and perhaps even take my life.

Since coming to terms with it three months ago, many have asked me how they can help or support me. Most days I’m not entirely sure, but I do know that it goes beyond just getting me to eat, or encouraging me to take deep breaths when I feel like going back to an unhealthy physical behavior. It’s a lot of patience, especially as I’m still in the midst of trying to get some kind of professional help. It’s grace when I ask obvious questions or bitch and moan over silly things, portraying myself as self-absorbed.

But mostly, it’s letting me know that it’s OK to not be a superhero. That I’ve got this, and we’ve got this.

There is part of me that will always be a fighter, stubborn and willing to kick down doors if need be. If that wasn’t the case, I wouldn’t have lived past infancy. But I’m practicing and allowing myself to be soft: Instead of “I’ll show you!” it’s, I’ll show you what I have to offer. Rather than getting angry at those who don’t understand, I seek to gain a better understanding of both myself and others. And rather than putting up walls, I choose to set boundaries. It’s still in present progress, and I can’t say whether or not I’ll fully get there.

But the best way to get healthy is to start getting real. No cape. No lasso or tiara. Just an open heart and willingness to see what wasn’t there before. One day at a time, one foot in front of the other.

Deep Skin

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To some degree

My life has been about my body

Fixing pieces with needles and surgery

Braces for my legs

Had me walking like a robotic contraption

Than attempting to perfect with the ‘right’ hair

Painting my face with acceptable colors

Wearing clothes that enabled me to blend in

Or at least try

 

A college student, naïve should have been my middle name

Rape culture seemed foreign and distant

I did not consider myself a target

Because I did not see myself as sexy or beautiful

I was just trying to be human, to be me

But my twenties showed me the difficulties

Being groped in dimly lit bars

One bragged about “ripping” me “in half”

If he could bed me

I never let anyone past my apartment door

But I beat myself up

For not standing up

 

Post-grad was another picture

Dating without reservation

Where hormones and desire took precedence

It feel natural and right in the moment

Always followed by doubts and questions later

I never voiced what I truly wanted

It felt silly at the beginning

Like forcing each other into a pressure cooker

So I let it roll, and eventually rolled into the deep end

Where I no longer had to wonder

Yet such experiences were anything but

Heat of the moment, nothing more nothing less

Where they disappeared like ghosts

Flinging me into depression

And debating regret

 

But I’ve kept going

And out of many, there’s only been a few

Who don’t beg me for some kind of stimulation

We talk like adults

I feel seen and heard

The others don’t really know me

And I question my responsibility

Whenever the same scenario plays out

We meet, we kiss, and then he leaves

Me asking, “What could I have done differently?”

I resent being the one to always apply the brakes

Or to have that role

When they have a voice too

 

It’s a lot to take on

As I work toward loving my body

And keeping my insides from destroying it

I need to openly communicate that I’m not just skin and body parts

I have them

But I also have a mind

A soul

And a heart

Which is challenging

When living in a culture that values what is initially seen

Over what is seen in time, and with patience and grace

I won’t fully blame myself

Or the guys that buy into stereotypical bullshit

But if I am more than just what magazines, media, and even doctors say I am

I have to stand my ground

And live that out

When I make mistakes

Grace upon grace upon grace

Marks and Measures (Of a Woman)

 

 
 
Marks and Measures (Of a Woman)
 
 
What makes a real woman?
She asks
As she curls her hair, her lashes
While trying to stand up-right
*Stares at unpainted nails*
Her closet begs for change
Sentimental remnants long-since hanging by thread
Wear the black heels, they said
Raise your height so that you can actually be seen and heard
Take care of yourself so that others can take you seriously
Walk right, speak firmly but softly, don’t appear foolish
Act the part, and she might believe it
She sees her body as a vessel
Yet unsure of the role it’s meant to play
She’s no Victoria’s Secret Angel
Child-sized with flesh and muscles
Meant to give life and share intimacy
Untouched, but demanded to perform and please
Though not just in media or magazines
Sacred texts take it to the other extreme
Let a man lead without question
A clean home paves the wave to a clean heart
Look up at others, because she doesn’t know any better
She was not raised, but she can be taught!
Sensuality is a light switch
Still a performance, albeit joined by a ring
The images come together as I quiz my reflection
Preferring what’s in my head to what’s in the mirror
Fighting labels the way some have fought for autonomy
I am
Complex
Layered
Worthy of love and connection
A child-like heart molded by my Creator
Eclectic and multi-faceted
Wanting to be wanted, but still valuing independence
Dancing and laughing
Simultaneously wearing a cross around my neck
Shining gold or silver pairs with red lipstick
You cannot measure a woman by the size of her jeans
Or the height of her shoes
Beauty doesn’t necessarily fade
But it changes
We’re all different kinds of colors and flavors
Sweet, spicy, determined, and feisty
Marked not just by what we give
But how we love, embrace, and honor
Let’s honor ourselves as human beings
Speaking in kindness and bravery, with-holding judgement
That’s the real thing


 

photo credit: Time. via photopin (license)

Body Wars (And Peace)

It’s that time of year again; the time where a lot of us look in the mirror and analyze every inch of our reflection. Whether it starts on New Years or a month before spring break, we stare, we scrutinize, and we tell ourselves that it’s a matter of practicing good posture or actually sticking to doing those fifty crunches that we were told would make our stomach’s flatter in six months. Soon enough, that all-too familiar voice chimes in and gets louder by the minute; it sounds like nothing yet comes from everything around us, from the media to even friends and family.

 
You are too much of this, and not enough of that.
 
Growing up, I never dealt with any major weight-related issues, unless you count the time period when I was an infant and had to gain four pounds in order to go home from the hospital. My grandmother affectionately nicknamed me her “Bag O’ Bones”, because of my lack of body fat. Some will argue that I’ve had it easy, and I won’t deny that in some respects that’s true. I was, and always have been fairly active person, especially coming from a family of athletes. My fast metabolism and a liking for healthy meals early on in life have definitely helped as well. When I went to college I avoided the freshman fifteen by long walks around campus a lot (rather than taking the bus) and learning how to make decent food choices. 
 
Yet somewhere in there at least one person would make some sort of comment about my figure: 
 
“You’re too skinny!” 
 
“You need to eat more!”
 
“Why do you even work out? It’s not like you need it.” 
 
“We’re going to fatten you up when you get home.”


It’s as frustrating now as it was back then, given that I’m constantly taking care of myself to the best of my ability. I’m well aware of my eating and exercise habits, along what works for me and what doesn’t. But it’s not so much the remarks in themselves that I find annoying as much as whom those words are coming from; it’s sad when those who should be encouraging you to love and accept yourself are the ones trying to convince you that you’re somehow not healthy.  That’s not to say that there wasn’t genuine concern, but there are better ways to go about the conversation than making snarky comments or dropping hints.

Maybe it wasn’t even about me, but more so about people projecting their personal insecurities onto me.

With developments in technology over the years and the fact that more are now openly discussing the subject, dealing with body image and what’s healthy versus what isn’t can be complex. New studies regarding what to eat and what to avoid are being released all the time and it’s constantly sending people into a tizzy. There’s a love/hate relationship for Victoria’s Secret and “Fitsporation” on Pinterest, while celebrities are being glorified or attacked all the time getting older or having babies. A lot of popular music urges people to celebrate who they are, but not without undermining others by referring to them as “skinny bitches.”

Do we really have to look at one side as the enemy in order to embrace the other? It seems exhausting and completely unnecessary.

While I was training for my first 5K race last spring, I went to a health specialist at the my University’s rec center to make sure that I was doing the proper preparation. Not only was she incredibly helpful, but it was nice to hear that I wasn’t necessarily doing anything wrong as it was. She explained that because I’m living with Cerebral Palsy, it’s perfectly normal that I have a slightly different diet and exercise routine. And as I went about my days getting ready for my upcoming run, I noticed a change in how I felt because I ate certain foods or focused on specific exercises. As I type this, I’m recalling a line from a commercial that I saw on TV a long time ago; it’s been well over a decade, but the message is still relevant now as it was fifteen years prior.

“It doesn’t only matter what you look like, but what you feel like.”

It really comes down to this: Pay attention to how you feel while and after you’re doing something, and that goes for both workouts and food. I like  to involve lots of cardio and movement, where I’m aching by the time I’m done. I’m not one for a ton of greasy or heavy food because they both make my stomach hurt. And in terms of how I eat I’m much more of a grazer throughout the day as opposed to eating three big meals at designated times.

No one body is exactly the same, so I don’t think you can determine whether someone is living a healthy life based on looking at them. Yes, this country has problems with both obesity and eating disorders, but how one navigates that is not exactly black and white. I get the reasoning behind some countries banning models who don’t meet a specific BMI requirement, but who’s to say that they’re always in control of that? It’s kind of insulting to those who do struggle with such life-threatening conditions, because there are other factors that go into it besides dramatic weight loss. As I said previously, if the signs do indicate that something isn’t right, there are more genuine and loving ways to discuss the subject then just demanding that they eat.

But there are times where body acceptance does not just involve clothing size or weight.  For me, I’ve had to come to terms with the fact that I’m fairly petite for someone my age and am done growing. I have moments where I absolutely hate it because it’s difficult to find shoes that fit, while tops and swimsuits can be a struggle because the straps don’t stay up a lot of the time. I know that some aspects of sex are not going to be easy (at least at first), and while that might be awkward to read, it’s important for me to think about as I determine what I want in my life and who I want to surround myself with. I’m an adult now, and even not everyone understands that, I have to choose what’s best for me.


Just as choosing to make lifestyle changes is honorable, so is choosing to accept things as they are, as long as that person is doing so in a safe way and for the right reasons. As much as I wish women would stop complaining about getting back to their pre-pregnancy bodies (or struggling after a certain age), I have no room to comment because I have not been down that road. As much as I wish that some of my family members would exercise or that others would stop smoking, I can’t force them to do it. I believe in leading by example, but not in the way that we shame or blame others if they choose not to follow. 

I hope one day that we’ll realize that our bodies are not the enemy. Food is not the enemy. Instead, it is that false, monotone voice that spits out unrealistic expectations without experiencing real life. It speaks out of fear, rather than speaking from a place of love. That’s where I’ve found peace; knowing that I am what I am because I’m a human being and a child of God. I don’t need anything else to define my worth.

I’m ready to put my weapons down.



 

 

photo credit: Tell me that you’ll open your eyes via photopin (license)