On Celebrating My Body

Four years ago this month, I chose to take my body back, putting my energy toward healing rather than hurting and destroying. Recovering from an eating disorder is not black and white, and there is as much of a mental component as there is a physical component. The beginning of the pandemic rocked me mentally, and I found myself teetering on the edge of unhealthy habits in order to cope with the stress of the unknown. Anxiety left me with little to no desire to eat, and when I did I was concerned about my ability to keep it down.

There are times where this kind of journey, this process, this life, has felt like basic survival. Going through the motions. Taking steps and following plans in order to go forward instead of fall backward. And yes, there are seasons, like at the very beginning or after a relapse where that’s the best course of action. But at what point does one shift their focus from surviving and actually start living? Or living again? 

Celebration is vital, and it’s something that’s not talked about enough in support groups and communities. We can talk about body positivity, neutrality, love and acceptance all across the board, but it becomes an echo chamber if we can’t identify and therefore practice what it looks like. And we deserve to. 

Especially now. 

Take All The Pictures (And Pose)

The very invention of the photograph was to create and keep memories, and for a long time you had to appreciate it, regardless of how it developed. Even before social media, I loved picking up a camera and capturing the beauty around me, even at the risk of annoying everyone else. Photography has become a favorite hobby, and I’m not going to deny that I love doing photoshoots (and having mine taken). I haven’t spoken about it much due to the fear of frequent discouragement, but I have been curious about modeling, regardless if it involves money or not. I’m fascinated by the creativity, the set up, and the way everything comes together. 

I want to remember the days, the moments where I feel good; good, confident, and completely and unabashedly myself. As scary as it is to see my body change, it’s even scarier to think about where I’d be or what I’d have to go through if it didn’t. It’s a sense of maturation, a softening, even if it’s not conscious. Your body is allowed to evolve with your mind, and it’s part of why I wear less eyeliner, only use hot tools on my hair when truly needed, and am most comfortable when wearing less clothing. 

I try things, but I don’t share it all with the world, because not everyone deserves to see it. I have a right to pleasure and enjoyment, but I’m rather selective about who I allow into that part of my life. It already feels vulnerable enough, and if I’m going to make it public, there has to be a purpose. I reject shame, and making anyone else feel that way merely because we’ve had different experiences.

Cultivate a sense of Adventure

I adore exploration; There’s something romantic about getting on a train or a plane and wondering what the day holds, who I might meet, and how it would change my life for the better. The recovery time might take longer, and I have to priortize rest and relaxation in the same way I do having a social life. All I can say for sure at the moment is figuring out how to do both is ongoing.

My family and I had to delay a vacation due to the pandemic, and then ended up making it happen almost a year later. It took a lot of balance with making lists and doing research, while still trying to roll with whatever was out of my hands (especially in terms of weather). I’m still a work in progress in regards to asking for what I want, and claiming victory in speaking up and putting something out there. This is especially true for me in relationships, both personally and professionally. 

It’s the kind of curiosity, vision, and creativity that has carried me through a lot of hills and valleys in life, even more so in this last year. 

Move. Dance. And Don’t Worry So Much 

Movement is a gift, and one that I often take for granted. I love to dance, regardless of speed, and despite never having concentrated on one specific type. At times I’m hyper-aware of the way others might watch me, which is why I’ve never been keen on taking classes (due to the impulse of self-comparison and criticism, wondering why I feel like I could but can’t seem to do it like those around me). But when I’m with people, when the lights go down low and the music is loud, I give myself full permission to go all out.. Sometimes I’ll start in on it without fully realizing what’s happening. Sometimes I’m in church, and sometimes I’m on a sticky dance floor surrounded by old-school paneled walls holding memories that could span decades. 

I’m going to a wedding in a couple of weeks, and I haven’t been part of a crazy party since my birthday back in 2019. I’d like to think I’d kick my shoes off and completely let go, or maybe ease back into it, depending on what the vibe is. But I will be in my element, and I will try not to overthink anything. 

Sip and Savor

My relationship with food has been complex as far back as infancy, texture sensitivities and subconsciously absorbing elements of diet culture playing key roles. I know that I enjoy grazing/snacking more than taking in fuller portions, and the latter can be overwhelming to the point where it causes anxiety. I’d like to expand my palate more (I take pride in trying mushroom stuffed pasta recently), but it’s all in the baby steps. I don’t label any food as good or bad, and do my best to listen to what my body wants and when it wants it. Rather than restriction, I focus on variety, even though there are days where all I can do is get something in my stomach, even if it isn’t particularly nutritious. 

I want to be fully able to see food as an experience, rather than something to rush through or survive on. I love the meditative aspect of cooking, and the sentimentality of drinking coffee in the morning and wine or tea in the evening. It’s those parts of my day that force me to go slow, to look around me and pay attention. And if you’ve ever heard me make a raunchy reference to eating chocolate (mousse, gelato, etc) maybe after reading this you’ll understand why. It should be pleasurable, and damn it if it can’t be sensual every so often. 

And when I can’t rejoice in my skin, or the things that come with it, I simply try to show it compassion. Here we are, calloused fingers and toes. Thank you, slightly pudgy tummy that sticks out because of poor posture. It all moves and functions differently, but I adapt and I figure it out. 

Yes, I have thin privilege. Yet I also live in a handicapped/disabled body, which society at large does not celebrate (if that was the case, ableism wouldn’t exist). It feels like a paradox, looking one way but having multiple layers to contend and come to terms with. And that is a whole story for another time. 

Right now, I thank God for four years, and for the way he physically made me. Even where there are days where I struggle and question and want to just get it right already. 

Here’s to draping myself in grace, and grace for those around me.

Let it be so.

Into The Valley (A Reflection)

It was initially described as a mysterious illness, originating outside of the country. Before everything seemed to tilt, I went to church and then traveled to North Carolina with my family. It was just like the flu, some said. It would be gone by July, a local doctor reiterated. When I got off the plane on March 11th of 2020, concern was growing exponentially. I had decided to quarantine out of caution, and then the following day a stay at home order was issued by the local government. Aside from essential businesses, we were on lockdown. 

Covid-19. Caronavirus. It was real, people were dying, and still are. I gathered I was high-risk, but learned that it was more so because my lungs had never fully developed (I had been on a ventilator as an infant). My mom frequently expressed that she was scared for me, and I was scared for my grandparents and my sister. I vaguely remember hearing about H1N1, Ebola, Zika, but there was more reassurance in how it was being handled. This time around, it seemed like all bets were off. 

By day, I was an anxious mess, mostly because everything was so unknown at the time. I hated the constant speculation about the virus in itself, along with what may or may not happen as a result. The news is never not on in my house, so that in itself was a challenge. I blasted music a lot and tried to journal. I didn’t want to eat, and found myself exercising more than usual. I started shutting off notifications and muting websites, which helped but didn’t stop me from doomscrolling (a feel-better attempt that always backfired).

At night, I would fall into a depression. I had just started genuinely getting involved at my church (my first time volunteering with any church, really), and to have the put on hold felt like a loss of possibilities when it came to connection and spiritual growth. A man that I could see myself dating went off the grid, and I had to literally sit with my feelings about it. My brother was on the tail end of his deployment, unsure of how he’d get home or when (after already going through the wringer back in January). And being the extrovert that I am, it was tough to suddenly be so limited in terms of what I could do or who I could see. 

I eventually recognized it as what is commonly known as a trauma response, and what followed is rather blurry. Walks were a saving grace. There were times where I read or watched movies for the entire day because I didn’t have the emotional capacity to do anything else. I Facetimed, Zoomed, and played silly games on Houseparty. I prayed, even when it got tiring and repetitive. And then I cried, waiting until late at night to truly let it out.

But what I remembered most was the little, now-significant moments: the feeling of sunshine on my face. A care package from one of my best friends (because I told her I missed Dunkin’ Donuts iced coffee). Listening to Jimmy Buffet and Kenny Chesney on the back patio as the weather warmed. Summertime was different, yet I was fortunate to get outside and be on the water, and did so whenever I had the chance.

In retrospect, I was incredibly fortunate both physically and financially. I’m grateful that I could support friends of mine who struggled with being alone, or were dealing with emotionally taxing situations in addition to the pandemic. Being a rock was part of what kept me going, even if all I could do was listen and validate and not let those people give up on themselves.

The anger didn’t set in until I started trying to get a vaccine appointment last month. I had long held-in anger at an incompetent administration who cared more about pandering to their base than being honest and working alongside health experts. When people cried, “My rights, my freedoms!” I wanted to scream that getting a haircut and going to a restaurant isn’t exactly a right, but a privilege. You don’t get to complain about supposedly being controlled or policed while simultaneously being against marriage equality, denying the existence of racial injustice, and refusing to see the disparities in healthcare. And you don’t have to like wearing a mask or agree with every decision being made, but don’t make things more difficult for those who try to protect the people around them, or can’t “just stay home” (as it’s often oversimplified). Everyone has the right to an opinion, but no one has the right to use that opinion to harm someone else.

I didn’t have the energy to argue in those moments, and I don’t always do well at thinking on my feet. When it comes to choosing physical versus mental health, I don’t have a solid answer. It’s not about following every rule to the letter, but rather, taking care of each other. How differently would this have played out (at least initially) had we collectively focused more on helping one another? How many lives would have been saved? 

How can some Christians say they love Jesus, while refusing to see and meet people in their humanity?

Contemplating the road ahead is an overwhelming thought, and the best way I’m coping is one day at a time. I hope we remember that what was accessible and doable during the pandemic is still entirely possible (especially for the Disability Community). I pray enough people will get the vaccine, or at least be open to getting it in the future. I pray that the generations shaped by this last year will live and love better than the ones before it. May we learn to show compassion to the collective suffering we’ve faced, and sit with one another rather than compare or compete. My we choose humility over superiority, even if our health seems to indicate that we’re invincible. And as life moves forward, may we build a culture of presence instead of constant productivity, and cultivation rather than instant gratification.

Yes, God will do His part, but we also have to do ours

Keep going. Just. Keep. Going.

Bring It Forward

When it comes to relationships and vulnerability, there’s a lot of discussion on how to open up and share our experiences, but rarely how to navigate the sacredness and emotion of being on the receiving end. In my nearly three decades of life, I can’t recall a time when showing empathy in and of itself was the norm. Much of my childhood involved problem solving and attempted fixes, and if there wasn’t a solution, you weren’t supposed to dwell on it. Adulthood has shown me that life is a little more complex than that, and the saving grace is having at least a few people who are willing to sit with and or walk with me in various situations. 

I’ve learned a lot about being that type of person, and I think it’s one of the most important things we can do as friends, partners, and just human beings in general. How we do can be tricky to navigate, but there’s always room to grow.

Hold Space

I always try to look at it as an honor and gift when someone confides in me, or even if they’re just sharing more about their life that scratches below the surface. If they broach the subject, I let them have the floor first and don’t speak until they’ve said what they needed to say. Depending on the circumstances (i.e. talking face to face versus texting), I allow a few moments of quiet so that I can process what was said, allowing the opportunity for a response instead of just a mere reaction. If physical touch is welcome, a hand to their knee or shoulder is a subtle but meaningful way to create connection. I’m an emotional person, and I’d say it’s completely normal to tear up at times during the conversation (without changing direction or becoming hysterical). It’s also understandable to not know what to say (in the moment or at all), but you can never go wrong with “I’m grateful that you’re sharing all of this with me. I may not always understand what you’re going through, but I want to affirm that your experiences and feelings are valid And I’m here for you.”

Ask Questions And Check In

Whether before or after a conversation, questions like “How can I support you?” or “What do you need?” are paramount in showing empathy. In the early days of my recovery journey, I didn’t know what support looked like for me right away, but hearing those words allowed me to feel safe and communicate with that person openly once I figured it out (and had the language to express it). It’s not  just limited to a single conversation, and whether or not they say it, people always need something in the midst of all the heaviness. It might be meals, a hot beverage, or invitations to go for walks. It might be rides to or checking in after important appointments/meetings. Basic encouragement texts like “I’m here” and “I love you” mean the world, even if there’s no response. Empathy is not just about the moment, but the ride.

I go back and forth whether it comes to giving and receiving advice. Most of the time if I’m able to process pain or struggle out loud, I can eventually figure out how to move forward. As I’ve written this, I’ve realized my resistance often comes from the fear that the advice itself will be condescending or oversimplified. Not too long ago, I was talking to a friend about an unhealthy situation I had recently taken myself out of. At the end of our conversation, she asked, “Can I give you something to pump you up?” It was much needed wisdom, but with loving and affirming word choice.

Let It Be (Uncomfortable)

The reality is this: you will not be able to take away a person’s pain. You will not be able to change their situation, their heart, or even their outlook. You cannot force people to treat them well. And a difficult fact of life is that most things are not meant to be fixed; they are meant to be experienced, felt, and learned from. So as heartbreaking and frustrating it might be to hear about what a loved one is going through, keep in mind the importance of not making it about you. Be aware of using the word “negative” (a word I loathe because of how dismissive and projectile it sounds), as well as cliche platitudes. If someone specifically asks you to just be quiet and listen, respect that. And when you’re able to process your own feelings, take the time to ask yourself why you might feel the way you do.

As one who is almost compassionate to a fault, viewing myself as a project for a good portion of life, I struggle with the notion that “some people just can’t.” As set in their ways as some may be, I think it’s a matter of whether or not we want to. 

Yet even if the desire to learn (or unlearn) is there, that doesn’t take away the importance of having boundaries.

That can look like pausing difficult conversations, and then come back when one or both parties is in a better head space. 

Establishing that a child should not have to be a therapist for a parent (or any elder, for that matter). Even when the child becomes an adult themselves.

Refusing to be put in the middle of a conflict between people you care about.

Saying, “I care for you and I want to support you, but this is beyond my expertise. Can I help you find professional help?” 

“I’ve already listened, and you know what you need to do. Unless you make a choice, I’m not willing to talk about this anymore.” 

Most importantly, it’s always possible to do these things while still affirming and communicating love. 

And there is Grace. For when we react and project, or assign shame and blame. Grace for when that person overshares, especially at inappropriate times. For when we lash out, or end up completely isolating ourselves from the world. It’s never too late to try, and then try again. 

We can’t go back to pre-internet times, or life without social media. We can’t pretend that the world isn’t saturated with news and opinions, or pretend that it doesn’t influence how we see it. But we can bring it forward, a new way of relating and connecting with those around us. And while it might be different, who says it can’t be better than the decades before?

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

When You Need A Little Extra Help

I wrote this as I was holding space for someone whom I’m care about very much. This kind of decision should not be made lightly, and should always involve professional evaluation and input. I wrote this based on my own personal experience, and ask that it do not be taken as gospel.

I take a little pill each day
And I was scared at first.
Would it change my personality?
Would it make things even worse?
I had a lot of questions, which were answered with patience and care.
Follow the instructions
Pay attention to your mood and feelings
And then take it from there.

So I took that little pill each day
And it took a couple of weeks.
Over time I noticed that there was a change
But a change involving good things.
I wasn’t crying as much anymore
And the chest pains went away.
I had the headspace that felt lighter and brighter
And the motivation to go about my day.
Some people say I mellowed out
“You’re not as bubbly as you used to be!”
My friend, it’s called the typical stresses of adulthood
Hormones and PMSing.

Haven’t you heard of puberty?

It’s not always magic and instantaneous
I still have to do the work.
Reframing anxious thoughts and coping with uncertainty
But I stay off the edge, for what it’s worth.

It can take some trial and error
Many options, and not all have the same purpose or results.
But it’s better to try and try again
Then to strive for mental wellness
And yet do nothing at all.

What works for me, may not work for you
That’s entirely okay.
But if you’re not a doctor or professional
Please be careful with what you say.
Some people need that little pill, but avoid it due to fear.
Fear of stigma
Fear of criticism
Wanting to be superhuman in the eyes of strangers
But especially to those they most hold dear.

It’s not a lack of faith
Or a desire to numb out.
I’d rather not get stuck inside the prison that is my head at times.
To be able to connect and build relationships.
To seek and experience joy
Is what life is all about!

So if you need that little pill
There’s nothing wrong with you!
Human beings have complexities
Who need a little help, that much is true.

I think it’s brave
I think it’s wise
And who is anyone to judge?
If you take a little pill
You have my support and love!

The Mental Health Generation

Born on the edge of the days of old

Coming of age in the dawn of digital social status

Flanked by news screens screaming tragedy and terror

Trauma absorbed from that which seemed impossible to comprehend

Guns, death tolls, and hatred

An amplification of algorithms, metrics, and trolls

The elders shake their heads

“Glad we didn’t grow up like that”

Columbine, 9/11, “video games lead to violence”

Tone deaf thoughts and prayers every time

Calls for change

Pushback from the NRA

Cycle going round and round

The message lost

In a cacophony of who’s to blame

Myspace, Facebook, Instagram

Bullying comes to the forefront again

On the screen instead of on the ground

Comparison, jealousy all around

Anxiety goes up

In person interaction goes down

Secrets passed from one person to the next

Carrying weight like a prison sentence

Depression

Addiction

Codependence

Broken relationships

Acting as if all is well

And the truth stays hidden

Screens, shouting, and silence

Is this all there is?

Life continued

But a movement stirred

The generation perceived as “me”

Slowly, but surely, became a “we”

The we that believes in therapy

Asking questions

Going deeper

Being vulnerable (with an open heart)

Building community

Coming together

The we that believes in medicine

As long as one needs it

Perhaps temporarily, or longer

A balance

Clearing the fog

Despite trial and error

So that joy can be sought and found

And the we that understands

That mental wellness is not one size fits all

There are barriers, physical and financial 

What works for me, may not work for you

And that’s more than okay

There is always opportunity for peace, relief, and healing

Today and every day

It takes as long as it takes

A lifestyle, not a timeline

Each day as it comes

One foot in front of the other

The Unintended Impact of Disabled Inspiration

“So, how’s the job hunt going?”

I was at an appointment with my doctor, a yearly checkup or something to the effect. He was trying to make small talk while looking at a clipboard.

“It’s going,” I said. “I’m filling out job applications, going to networking events, reaching out to people on Linkedin, and honing my overall skills.” I elaborated that I wasn’t giving up, and proud of myself for trying to build a life in Chicago, even if that meant having one foot in and one foot out.

“The world needs more people like you,” he said without looking up. “People that realize that there’s more to life than just playing video games and living off government money.”

Huh? His comment carried an uncomfortable implication, an unspoken expectation. I left with a kind of uneasiness that I couldn’t explain, and for the longest time couldn’t figure out why.

///

I’ve become part of and have learned a lot from the Disability Community over the last year. My first steps were reaching out to a woman whose Facebook post had gone viral, needing validation regarding a long-desired dream. I’ve wanted to write and publish a book but questioned the right to tell my story due to having a lot of privilege as a white woman who can pass for being nondisabled most of the time. Her answer was a resounding “YES!” and that disability is fluid in both condition and experience. I joined online groups and began following prominent figures. I learned about the Americans With Disabilities Act, my own internalized ableism, and how SSI keeps many recipients in poverty. I read, watched, and listened as much as I could, and I’m still learning. It helped me begin to grasp what I previously didn’t have the language for.

When living with a disability, you’re either pitied or put on a pedestal. I’ve been both at one time or another, and it’s been why I’ve been so hesitant over the years to write for large publications and truly plant myself in the public space. I don’t like the idea of telling people what to do and how to live their lives, especially if I’m not in their shoes. I was (and still slightly am) afraid of being idolized to the point where I feel like I can’t be me. I wrestle with that enough as it is.

I’ve only been called an inspiration on rare occasions, but it’s been equally implied in other ways. The term may have fueled my sense of determination growing up, but I can no longer deny the problematic nature of the word and the weight that it carries.

It Has the Wrong Focus

When hearing stories of those facing more barriers/challenges, the common assumption is that the person isn’t working hard enough or saying/doing the right things. This leads to a harmful misconception that most disabilities can and should be “overcome”, whether by sheer willpower or divine healing. “Inspiration” puts the sole responsibility on the disabled person to not only make everyone around them comfortable, but they often must rely on that comfort in order to fight for and obtain basic human rights.

What most people don’t realize is that for decades, there has been a system at work that aims to discriminate against disabled folks, particularly in the workforce, healthcare, marriage, education, transportation, and even art. (I’m sure if Trump and the current administration had their way, we’d be locked in institutions again and out of public view). Rather than lauding (or pushing for more) we need to examine how society has systematically failed to see us and treat us as human beings, and then hold it accountable.

We have the technology. We have the resources. Any supposed reason not to address the system going forward is just an excuse.

It Removes Agency and Projects Identity

I won’t deny that grit, determination, and resilience are part of why I’ve reached certain milestones and accomplished a number of things in twenty-something years. But attributing “inspiration” to part of my identity has often made me feel like I have to be “on” all the time, and I end up struggling to tone that fierceness down when it’s not needed. I actually have a soft, romantic, and even sensual side, and I’m in the process of figuring out how to show it more often. I have to remind myself that I no longer need to spend my time and energy proving my worth, and I’m allowed to just rest and be.

Everyone has a right to choose how they identify, and reject terms and phrases put on those who have never been where they have. (Most of what’s deemed derogatory were done so by those without disabilities, believe it or not). I’m not “semi-disabled.” I have a right to ask for help (without being talked down to or infantilized). And I’m not being selfish by refusing to deny my needs related to having Cerebral Palsy.

I’m realizing that I don’t want to attempt to do everything, especially for the sake of being a badass. I don’t want to be everything to everyone, particularly if I have to forsake my mental and physical health in the process.

It’s Just Awkward

Imagine if someone were to approach you, and the first words for an introduction were “Hey sexy!” or something along the lines of that. Whether it was intended as a compliment or a come on, there’s something about it that doesn’t feel right. I’ve been there plenty of times, and in those moments I wish I worked up the nerve to say, “You don’t know me, so how do you truly know what makes me [insert adjective]?” I’d probably be accused of not being able to take a compliment, but if I sense that it’s not genuine, I’m not going to take it as one.

And I think that’s why much of the Disability Community bristles at co-opted adaptability, especially if they’re just trying to survive in a world that wasn’t built with them in mind. Some appreciate it, and they’re entitled to do so, it doesn’t mean everyone should be lumped together. If a disabled person says “this is hurtful” or “this isn’t helpful” that should be respected, full stop.

///

When it comes to giving praise or speaking highly of anyone, I’ve learned to use “I” statements to communicate that I’m taking personal responsibility for what I say and how I say it.

“I admire you,” or “I’m grateful for you” doesn’t seem like much, but it goes a long way.

 “Thank you for sharing your truth,” or just, “Thank you for being you,” speaks volumes.

For me personally, it melts my heart when individuals take the time to ask me what I truly want, rather than trying to convince me to take what I can get all the time (both personally and professionally)

Context is equally important, specifically how long you’ve known the person for and what parts of their story they’ve shared. If you’re at a speaking event or conference, take in and sit with what they actually said before sharing what you’ve learned or what it means to you. There’s a time and a place for everything, and a first meeting isn’t necessarily it.

In a culture that values productivity and defines individuals by how they contribute to society, I want my message to be that what you are capable of doing matters. The world needs people who can do the little things as much as the big things. It’s perfectly valid not to want to be the next big polarizing figure, or the subject of inspiration porn (that’s another subject for another time). You are worthy of living life as you see fit, regardless of who tries to make you feel bad about it.

For those getting defensive about this subject, please check your ego as well as your privilege. Impact is always greater than intention, and if you don’t live with a disability, you don’t get to tell the disabled how to live. Part of being an ally to marginalized communities is the willingness to have some humility and be corrected, even when it doesn’t feel good.

I know that many will still look at disability a certain way, regardless of how much education and insight there is. And I know that people will still look at me in a particular light, regardless of how I ask to be treated. But I hope that my closest family, friends, and even potential partners will respect where I’m coming from, regardless if they agree or not. I’m still learning how to explain what I often don’t have to think about, because I live it on a regular basis.

And now the question is, if you’re so inspired, what are you going to do about it?

Intentions and Direction

I’ve never been one to make concrete “resolutions” per se, a wistful, yet gargantuan to-do list that seems easy to dream up, but difficult to keep. Over the past several years I’ve discovered the concept of setting intentions, which relies on the balance of discipline and grace rather than depending on the happy-go-lucky feeling of a New Year carrying one through the next twelve months. It doesn’t have to involve a timeline, and can evolve and reshape itself in whatever way helps you to grow. 

 

Start Small

I initially started out with a no-holds-barred journal entry of all that envisioned for the coming year. After splitting it all up into categories (Mental Health, Physical Health, Spirituality, and Creativity) I noticed that a lot of the changes I wanted to make involved regular habits. I thrive when I have a routine, and developing a solid rhythm  makes goal-setting both manageable and realistic. These habits include waking up early (6 a.m. during the week and 9 a.m. weekends), daily exercise and stretching, taking vitamins and medication, and making time to both read and write. While starting early doesn’t always guarantee productivity, it’s better to at least try than risk having to play catch up and foregoing basic needs (i.e. eating breakfast). I’ve learned multiple times over that an evening routine is just as important as what I do in the morning. 

 

Write It Down

And not only in the first few pages of a brand new journal. Set reminders in your phone. Put sticky notes in places where can you actually see them. Buy a planner (a first for me since college!)  Make your to-do list based on what will push you forward, rather than something to just cross off. But nothing will ever be accomplished if all you do is let something live inside your head. When I see it, it’s more like that I’ll follow through with it. 

 

Find Accountability

There is usually at least one person who is thinking along the same lines as you, whether they aim to be more disciplined in a certain area or you need a buddy to help take the scariness out of trying something new. Good therapists can help you get to the heart of why you’re putting something off (Writing essays are often terrifying; not so much due to the topic, but because of the possible heavy feelings/emotions that can and do follow). Ultimately, a healthy network, community, etc helps me to see the things that I often can’t see in myself, and reminds me to keep going when I simply don’t want to. 

 

I don’t remember where exactly, but a short time ago I came across a post that portrayed intentions, resolutions, and so on as a false sense of trying to have control over all aspects of our lives. I scoffed in response, but it stuck with me to an extent, reminding me of how busyness is often displayed as a badge of honor. Don’t forget to leave room for the unexpected, the magic that happens when you’re not planning things down to a science (especially if they involve deep conversations and laughter). If it seems like you’re doing something for the sake of pleasing others more than honoring yourself, it’s perfectly okay to pause and take a step back. And if you change your mind? There’s absolutely no shame in that either. What matters is that you walk with presence, in purpose, and to stay open to all possibilities. 

 

Here’s to a new year, and a new decade; Happy 2020!

Thank An Artist

No one told me to go to business school
But they raised their eyes all the same
Sitting down, telling stories of a far away place
Holding onto ideas like precious gems
//
Writing and playing
Dancing and painting
Picture an uneven life
Without the promise of money or being known
Exposing your soul
Sometimes more than once
Speaking in a tongue only some can understand
//
Art
In all it’s mediums and interpretations
A second voice
An outlet for intense emotion
A puzzle for that which we can only try to grasp
Expression of experience
And desire
//
It teaches you how to feel
To fall in love
To fight for what matters
And find your way back
When you hit the bottom
Talk about it
Weep for it
Celebrating all that life is
The good, bad, and incredibly ugly
//
Chords, colors, words alike
No one is niave to their power and movement
Yet some of us run and rage against it
While others savor the sweetness
//
Like it or not, we need it
So before you tease, or complain, or point fingers
Remember all that is that has moved you
That keeps your sanity
That fosters connection and builds bridges
That saves and sustains
That heals
//
Thank an artist
For what you don’t have the guts to do
For bleeding when they can hide
For giving their time to their heart and mind
Expecting little to nothing in return
//
Except to show and be who they are
Colorful, breathtaking, and always evolving

Love Alive

Raised on boybands and princesses
Nothing was messy
The 90’s was where it was at
A writer and a wordsmith
Telling stories on end
Hell, I made volleyball sound romantic
A first kiss in a bar
Relationships became a rollercoaster
Now what do you say about that?
//
The life raft
The mirror
The runaway
The free spirit
The Rock
They all gave me something so beautiful
And it hurt just the same
How do I risk enduring it again and again
//
Role models are few
Formulas are cheap
But walls aren’t worth it
And love runs deep
//
Looking to the horizon
Having faith that all works together
But how does one allow whole hearted togetherness
When pain and memories prickle
Like needles to the skin
//
Art has a purpose
Imagination is limitless
The possibilities full of wonder and romance
A balance of realism and whimsy
The music we sing and dance to
The stories we hear
The way we root for others
And the way we hold each other
//
But it’s choosing and trying
Again and again
It’s declaration followed by action
Not despite imperfection, but because of
Scars and beauty marks
Here for it all, baby
Every moment
Gratitude
//
There is wisdom, and there is noise
Pain does not have to become cynicism
It’s hard to grow from bitter thoughts
That are not without value, but not worth blood
//
Believe in meetcutes and meeting halfway
Passion and compromises
Slow dances and running together
Flowers and basic needs
Arguments and fighting for what’s right and real
Over and over
Now until kingdom come