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.

Twenty-Nine

It was not quite a typical “quarantine birthday” as I was determined to avoid that, despite knowing that it would be different this year due to Covid. I experienced eating in an outdoor igloo for the first time, and my best friend and I made our own fun out of playing We’re Not Really Strangers and doing a photoshoot (with a bit of bubbly involved). The day itself initially felt weird, waking up to the last year of my twenties and doing my best to fight off the anxiety that  comes with trying to have reasonable expectations. 

My birthday has always meant a lot to me, and up until recently have been uncomfortable with sharing why. Living with a chronic condition, I’ve often gone along to get along for the sake of not being an inconvenience (at best) and not wanting to to bear the frustration of those around me (at worst). That’s only the tip of the iceberg, but it boils down to a birthday being the one day out of the year where I could vocalize what I wanted and how I wanted it. It’s a common attitude there’s some extra emphasis when you have this self-imposed standard to be the easy child. The selfless person. The compassionate one. Whether or not I have been, or if others would see it that way, is another story. 

It might have been the pandemic itself, or it might have been the gradual unfolding of 2020. Regardless, the desire to advocate for myself has been steadily growing and getting louder. I’ve alluded to it in previous writings, but learning and putting it into practice truly is a process. Carrying weight that isn’t mine, and taking responsibility when I don’t have to is a trauma response. Deconstructing and choosing differently involves a lot of grace, perseverance, and trying and trying again.

Self-advocacy is a huge step, especially when you’ve spent most of your life asking for assistance of some kind. The need to be helped and the need to be heard can coexist, and should never be transactional. I’ve known this in theory, but overthinking has often gotten the best of me.  One of the biggest challenges of this pandemic is having to sit with my feelings, wading through what requires deeper reflection, and what requires letting go of. It’s hard when I’m hurting or frustrated and can’t just go be with people, or seek out adventure on a whim due to the virus.

It’s exhausting to constantly ruminate on what to say, when to say it, and how. And the more I hold back, the more agitated I get. Of course there are times when my opinion isn’t required, and I’m aware of navigating circumstances when I’m overcome with insecurity versus confidence. There should always be a balance of considering viewpoints and feelings with pursuing self-care and things that give you joy. 

It’s not about getting what I want every time, but putting something out in the open so that I’m not saturated by anxiety and resentment down the road. Even if a situation pans out differently than I’d like, at least I did my part to the best of my ability. Growing in relationships, whether with people or with God, require getting out of your head and into your heart. A wise friend once told me that rejection is better than inaction, and I haven’t forgotten that since. 

There have been various small victories thus far: admitting what works and hasn’t worked when it comes to redecorating my room. Not hesitating to follow up on tentative plans if we’re still trying to figure out details. Being adamant about taking a ride-share to a dinner date because I wanted to feel more independent. Saying “because I want to” without a detailed explanation. As I publish this, I’m about to make the kind of phone call that typically has me crawling in my skin, but I’m not going to get anywhere if I don’t take initiative.

And it’s the small victories that I hope and pray will add up to breakthroughs, both personally and professionally. I’m cautiously optimistic, after having seen how everything can change and priorities can shift so quickly. But the work is still important, and necessary,

Here’s to speaking up, speaking truth, and progressing forward!

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!

Resilience (In The Age of Dumpster Fires)

One could say that I’m an embodiment of it. .

Resilience, before I could even comprehend it.

And yet, trying to harness it in 2020 feels like a joke. For most of us anyway. 

Cliche? Kind of. Overrated? Maybe. Necessary? Absolutely, yes. 

It feels weird to say this, but in a way it’s almost as if the pain from previous years has prepared me for this one. 

What Hurt You Isn’t Going to Heal You. 

My early twenties were full of anger and angst, mostly regarding transitions where I felt neither protected nor validated. There was some resurfacing of past trauma, and then retraumatization all over again. I spent a lot of time stuck in my head, which brought on intense loneliness and fear of abandonment.

I thought I needed an apology to move forward, and pursued it with reckless desperation. I longed for a kind of nurturing and assurance that I wasn’t going to get from those around me, and it would be a while before I learned how to set boundaries and have reasonable expectations. 

A few months ago, an ex (whom I’ve referred to as Ben) tried to come back into my life. While grateful to finally have answers, his explanation regarding the circumstances didn’t sit well with me. I didn’t want to be with someone who attributed a serious situation to bad luck, rather than taking responsibility for his actions. It was emotional, bringing up a lot of what I had already closed the door on over a year ago. I had to mourn the end of that relationship all over again, and for what? 

My point is, apologies for causing pain aren’t always the balm we think they are. They have to come from a genuine place of contrition, rather than manipulation or lip service. But to demand or wait for one is almost always going to hold you back, rather than push you forward.

There Is Room For Both. 

It’s becoming one of my favorite sayings, especially when it comes to dealing with feelings versus logic, or many all at once. Anger, sadness, frustration, and the like can equally coexist with relief and hope for the future. You’re allowed to acknowledge hurt and pain, while recognizing that everyone involved was doing the best they could with what they knew at the time. 

I can remember a sit down conversation that was a long time coming, and afterward my mind went blank. It was partially due to emotional exhaustion, but additionally I wasn’t sure how to feel. At the time, it seemed like I had to be completely at peace in order to put the situation in perspective. And then as I was sharing it afterward, somebody whom I admire and trust dropped a truthbomb.

“You don’t have to decide anything; feelings come and go, and what’s more important is how you deal with them.”

It was life-changing, and I wish I had grasped it sooner.

Reframing Helps.

Moving forward is tricky, especially in regards to when and how to do it. Ruminating on anything takes a lot of energy, and eventually I get tired of being pissed off or upset. Yet, it seems like the modern-day definition of letting go is to do so and never talk about it again, let alone think about it. But what if there was a better way? 

A different viewpoint does go the distance. The things that happen to you might actually  be happening for you. A relationship that ends is painful, but it can also be a freedom or a catalyst for much needed change. Job loss doesn’t mean that you’re not enough, or that you’re not cut out for your field. What might be right in one respect could turn out to be wrong in another. 

Life happens in seasons, and not all can be there to walk with you through each one of them. It means you’re growing and evolving, and that is more than okay. 

How I carry on often comes down to these two questions: What do I have control over, and what do I not? Occasionally it’s what other choice do I have? I’ve had my heart broken, and despite the passage of time, am still triggered by a song, a place, or an event. The bitterness and sadness resurfaces, where the best thing I can do is acknowledge it and then let it be.

However, there are definitely exceptions: I will never tell a parent who outlives their child how to grieve, and vice versa. There are no silver linings when it comes to abuse and/or assault, and putting that on survivors is a slap in the face. Yes, there is healing, but that and the tragedy should be treated as separate circumstances. 

Practice Real Self-Care.

It sounds like a fluffy little buzzword, but taking care of yourself is a combination of doing the work and also seeking out joy. I’m an advocate for taking time to reflect through therapy and writing, seeing what role I played in a situation and what I’ve learned from it. Books and podcasts are like an extension of that, but in the sense of soaking in and meditating on it. As human beings, we should always be striving to grow and improve ourselves, even when it’s incredibly difficult. I don’t like realizing that I’ve hurt people, or most likely I contribute to a problem. But the work never hurts as bad as the wound itself. 

Like working any muscle, you have to allow yourself time and opportunity to rest. Go for a walk. Blast your favorite music and throw a dance party. Eat your favorite foods. Dress up merely for the sake of doing so. What makes you feel alive is just as important as crossing things off your to-do list. Whatever you do out of love and enjoyment is never a waste of time.

Staying grounded, particularly on a spiritual level, is important to me. I’m learning to turn off the news and put my phone down, even at the risk of missing out. While necessary to be informed, it doesn’t help if I’m in a constant state of anxiety and distress.

As I write this, I’m experiencing what is now being called pandemic fatigue. I understand the need to follow the guidelines, but from a mental standpoint, it doesn’t make it any less tiring. I’m now just getting comfortable asking, “can I cry with you?” while holding space with loved ones who are struggling. When I’m being vulnerable, it’s not always about looking for comfort, but wanting to feel connected and close to people. It’s unfortunate when real, honest expression is mistaken for negativity, and it bugs me. 

It’s one thing to be independent, but another to do so where you’re afraid to need anybody entirely.

Many of us are in the same storm, different boat scenario right now. We all want something to look forward to, and a light at the end of the tunnel. 

And we keep going; one day at a time, 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?

When You Get Nervous

It was a Sunday summer evening
Been a few since I wore the dress
I could hear a loud noise beating as I rested my head
I asked if all was okay
As he kissed my hair so softly
Told me I was a sight of beauty
And that’s what made his heart go so fast

Flattered, but lost for words
Knowing my thoughts were similar
But wanting to feel protected, rather than a carry a savior complex

The road from seed to flower can be complicated
Zigging, zagging, and maybe riding off the rails
And God only knows what the other side entails.

But here, in this moment, I know it’s not easy

Your past, and present fears speaking loudly

When you’re nervous, think of strength
Your arms that will hold
Another body, and that same heart

When you’re scared, think of risk
Risk lies in our deepest dreams and desires
Given to us by One that is Higher
Success, security, and the fiercest of love.

Love’s worthiness is not determined by reciprocation or rejection
But the willingness to live a noteworthy life.

When you look at me, all nerves and racing hearts and fears
I hope you’ll remember the love that is already in you
The love that carried you here
And may that guide you to seek me and pursue me
Knowing that what is given, can also be taken away
To be present, pursue, and serve with purpose
Bold, brave, and beautiful
This moment
And every day

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

Why Mental Health Is About More Than Just Self-Care

If you’re struggling, reach out. There is help. There is hope. [insert number for crisis text line]

I’ve seen this kind of message shared in droves over the last couple of years, and admittedly I used to do so whenever I would hear of a prominent celebrity passing away. The intentions are good, but the wording reeks of privilege and implies that society should only do the bare minimum in order to address a widespread crisis. The reality is that verbally disclosing that kind of struggle, whether it’s depression, anxiety, or any kind of mental illness, as not as simple as most PSA’s imply. It’s hard when you’re directly in the midst of a dark moment/season, one that is so emotionally paralyzing that you can’t find the words to articulate what you’re going through. It’s hard when you don’t know how someone will react, and telling them could possibly hurt the relationship and make you feel even smaller than you already do. And it’s hard when you don’t want to be a burden or an inconvenience, and then have it held against you later on.

I read and hear a lot about self-care, and the fluffiness behind it all. Yet, I feel like we should be doing more: we need to take care of each other too.

But how do we do that in a world prides itself in individualism and a “do it yourself” mentality?

How do we do that when everyone seems to keep score of who reaches out to whom, and then holds a grudge if you go a long time without talking?

It starts with one question: How are you today?

If the person says that they’re struggling, you could ask the following: What do you need? How can I support you?

Maybe they need to just get out of the prison that is their own head. Maybe they need to get something off their chest so that it has less power. Maybe they just need to be affirmed that it’s okay to not be okay all the time. Maybe they need help, and have no idea what help looks like or how to get it.

The important thing is to simply hold space, for whatever it is in that moment; no problem solving or preaching about being positive.  Do not assume that they want or need advice unless explicitly asked. Yes, it is unbelievably difficult to see someone in pain. It might seem impossible to listen to anybody try to explain the intensity of their experiences without wanting to run or cover our ears. But it’s not about you, or your comfort. This is about demonstrating love in action through empathy and allowing people to just be who they are, where they are.

Village Care, as I’ve come to call it, doesn’t only have to involve sharing and being vulnerable. It could be offering to help find a therapist or treatment program, driving people to and from appointments, or offering to babysit if they have kids. When I was going to a support group for my eating disorder, I very much appreciated when family members or friends would go with me. It showed me that they wanted to learn about what I was dealing with, and how they could love me and walk with me in my recovery.

Having been both the listener and the talker, there should always be boundaries. I do not keep my phone on at night unless specifically asked, and I don’t have the energy to keep my DM’s open all the time. A child, regardless of age, should not have to play a role bigger than themselves in their parents’ crumbling marriage. In dating relationships, a significant other should not pay the price or be the solution to their boyfriend/girlfriend’s previous relational pain. If a loved one knows they need professional help, yet continues to expect you to act as such instead of seeking it, it’s okay to draw a line. I care about you and I support you, but this is beyond what I’m able to do for you. Can I help you find someone more qualified?

Setting boundaries might feel like abandonment at first, but no relationship is worth compromising your emotional and physical health over. You’re not leaving them as much as you’re recognizing that you cannot save them, and they have to do their part too.

And sometimes, there are seasons where we just don’t have the energy or stamina to be there for someone in the way that we’d like to. It might be too painful, too triggering, and end up setting us back in our own journey. There is absolutely no shame in that, but the response should always be with love and compassion.

Lord knows I have failed at empathy many times, and I am still learning. It is never too late to learn how to do something, especially if what you learn might help save someone’s life.

We say that we are not alone, and I believe that. But it’s about time we stop saying it to merely pay lip service, and start making an effort to make it a reality.

Be Brave enough to go first. Set your pride, ego, or whatever it is aside and go to them. And then keep checking in.

You are wanted and you are needed. Probably more than you know.

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