38 I never told the buried gold

 

I never told the buried gold
Opon the hill that lies –
I saw the sun, his plunder done –
Crouch low to guard his prize –

He stood as near
As stood you here –
A pace had been between –
Did but a snake bisect the brake
My life had forfeit been.

That was a wondrous booty.
I hope ’twas honest gained –
Those were the fairest ingots
That ever kissed the spade.

Whether to keep the secret –
Whether to reveal –
Whether while I ponder
Kidd may sudden sail –

Could a shrewd advise me
We might e’en divide –
Should a shrewd betray me –
“Atropos” decide –

[Emily Dickinson]

Atropos – Greek: without turn. One of the three Fates – goddesses of destiny. The oldest of the three, Atropos was known to be inflexible. She chooses the mechanism of death and snips the thread of life with her “abhorred shears.”

Written autumn 1858 and bound into Fascicle 3. This one seems light and airy at first, but wow. I read it aloud last night and am writing it out today, and it has grown to be a meditation on childhood and adulthood, on the fracturing that can happen to our joy, on the trauma that can intrude on our lives and steal away our treasure. Damn, girl! I love this. I hope you do, too.

Namaste –

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Enamored of Life

This series of choices and relationships and experiences that we’re all a part of, independently and symbiotically waking up and eating and moving and laughing and crying and feeling and loving and hating – let’s just take a moment to appreciate how incredible it is.

Don’t get me wrong, life is hard. I remember, in 10th grade, hearing a classmate of mine proclaim, in a tinny exclamation of joy – “I love my life.” She was happy with her boyfriend, enjoying her circle of friends, her close relationship with her sister, her academic success, and her important role on the swim team. In that moment, sitting alone, mocked for my intelligence, unhappy with my appearance, socially inept, virginal, in the throes of turbulent family life, depression, and an eating disorder, I hated her. I felt certain that she was lying, that it was impossible to love life when all I could think about was ending my own, clinging to the shreds of my religious beliefs as they disintegrated in my fingers. Joy felt impossible.

But I always promised myself it would get better. I held out hope for the day when I would dominate a court room with my litigious prowess or transplant a heart with my deft fingers, sustaining my hurting adolescent self on faint images of a future where I was accepted, respected, even celebrated – of a life where people liked me and maybe I even liked myself.

bloom pen and ink drawing lotus

Well I’m not a lawyer or a surgeon, but I do love myself. I am joyful. And I love my life. And I’m not lying. And sometimes it all feels too good to be true.

Maybe you, like me in 10th grade, hate me for writing this. Please don’t. Please understand that I know how much it can hurt and how awful the world can feel – I know. It can really fucking suck. But it doesn’t always suck. And so much of the suck is in your head. That doesn’t make it any less awful, I know, but it does give you power. It makes it within your ability to make the situation better. Just take a moment to be grateful. Relish in the way a berry bursts in your mouth or the way the sun feels on your skin or the way the person sitting next to you makes you smile. Let yourself get drunk on life – this is what we’re here for. We are alive and beautiful and capable of absolutely anything.

yolo hat style

No matter how binding or tragic your circumstances, you have the power to enjoy your life. We’re on this planet to live – for life. And after all, we only live once [as far as I know]. It’s so simple, yet so complex, and it is an honor and a pleasure to share it with all of you.

Love, calm, & care –

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Breaking Up with Jesus

I recently realized that my first breakup was with Jesus Christ. Having foregone dating in high school because it didn’t seem important yet, my first real relationship was a religious one. Maybe that sounds weird, and a little incestuous in an impossible way, but it’s true. Christians will tell you it’s not a religion – it’s a relationship, and many would say they are in love with Jesus. Looking at this now, some seven years post-breakup, it sounds a little crazy.

So – what is a relationship with Jesus like? Really. I spent time with him every day, whether it was reading his word [The Bible], praying, singing worship songs, or just talking to him like he was my best friend, because, for a while there, I think he was. I know, I know, but take it easy, I was practically raised in a cult and didn’t have many friends because I was a prudish, shy, and intelligent teenage girl – a triple threat in all the wrong ways.

As I got older and gradually got exposed to the world around me, I started to think. Objectively. I started to wonder. Reading apologetics books that were supposed to help me defend my own faith, I wondered why defending it would be necessary at all, why people who believed in Jesus could be the only ones to go to this place called heaven. I started to think that heaven didn’t sound all that fun, that maybe I didn’t want to wear white and worship God forever and ever and ever. Among other things.

So, as is my habit, I researched. I secretly checked out atheist literature and read it like a pre-teen boy who just stumbled on his dad’s porn collection. Maybe God wasn’t as great as I thought. Maybe other people could be right, too. Maybe religion was something I’d held onto too tightly, and maybe I’d built my entire world around myths. Maybe I’d been in a strange, codependent relationship with Jesus Christ.

Maybe this is where it gets familiar – you realize you’re in a bad relationship, then what? After much deliberation, and probably a few tears, you end it. And then the void appears. That empty place where this thing had taken on a life of its own and formed your entire identity. What then?

Then you get to start building. First I became okay with not knowing – with having no idea of whether or not god exists or if heaven or hell are real, and I felt free. Then I started living in new ways – doing the things my “ex” hadn’t allowed me to do, trying things because – for the first time in my seventeen or so years – I could. Because no one could really tell me what to do anymore. And of course I wrestled with my still-Christian parents until I moved out a year later. And then maybe I did a lot of crazy shit. But I didn’t lose my grip entirely – I just slipped a few times.

Then I started to find balance. I realized I didn’t want my entire life to be a festival of debauchery, and that morals were good things, even if they’d been imposed on me for strange, guilt-inducing reasons. I realized that I didn’t need a specific set of rules to be good to people, but that – simply for my own sake – I would be good to people. Because that’s better for everyone. I discovered love in real-life relationships, and with time and effort and practice, I healed. And I moved on from Jesus. I found myself, which was something I’d been taught to deny for most of my existence. And I found out that I wasn’t the vile sinner I’d been taught that I was. I learned that I mess up, but so does every one, and that doesn’t define me and, I think most importantly – I learned to love myself. And I learned that I could be enough. And if you can learn that and be a Christian, more power to you, but for me – this journey of self-discovery, which is fundamental to existence, couldn’t, didn’t happen, until I broke up with Jesus.

Do you have a story of leaving a religion? What was it like for you?

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Processing Grief [For Katie]

Three years ago, one of my closest friends died in a car accident. Needless to say, I was unprepared. What 19-year-old know how to deal with loss? Really, what human knows how to deal with loss until they’re in the throes of it? I learned by living through it, by grieving, and I started by falling flat on my face. I let myself get lost in grief, in depression. Because I didn’t know how. Because two weeks after she died, my other friends were asking why I was still wearing black and listening to so much Linkin Park and John Mayer. What could I say? They didn’t know any better, of course, but I became embarrassed, ashamed, even, of these emotions that seemed so impermissible. So, naturally, I repressed and avoided and acted out and dealt as well as I knew how, which mostly, apart from a lot of boxing and bike riding, meant not dealing at all.

Grief is nothing to be ashamed of. It takes time to process – three years later and I’m finding new bits of the experience all the time. If you’re grieving, if you lose someone, know that it’s okay to not be okay. It’s okay to be sad, angry, confused. It’s okay for that to last a while. It’s also okay if it doesn’t. Feel what you feel. Don’t try to mold it into anyone’s expectations or tidy it up in five easy steps. It’s a messy, unpredictable beast, and that’s okay. Allow yourself the experience of grief. Let it be what it is.

It will pass. Not completely – but the shroud of darkness with thin out into wispy clouds that come and go. The person you lost is gone – that won’t change. As time goes on you realize that you lost more than the person you knew – you lost the person you would have known. I lost the friend I would have called the first time I fell in love, the one whose 21st birthday would have been a wild weekend getaway, the one I would have known and grown with for years, blossoming the way that only our friendship could have. And there are continually new bits of that loss to discover and accept and feel.

And three years later, I see that the mourning process forms a narrative unto itself. Memories of my grief nearly equal the memories I have left of her. The place she holds in my heart will never shrink – it will always glow and remain, sweetly untouched. But it can’t grow. I can’t make new memories with her. But I can’t stop myself from making new memories altogether, from living, from growing and changing into a woman she never even met and wondering about who she would have become. I remember her as I live, and as new memories expand my heart, filling it with more joys and more sorrows, gradually dwarfing that bright, constant space that she holds.

The text along the inside of my arm is 9/3/2013 in lower case, cursive Roman numerals - the day Katie died.

The text along the inside of my arm is 9/3/2013 in lower case, cursive Roman numerals – the day Katie died.

She’s the story behind one of my tattoos, the bridge that unites me with my friend who lost her mom, the reason it’s still difficult for me to really listen to country music, the reason I smile anytime I see a girl in cowboy boots and jean shorts, the person I sometimes imagine conversations with, the reason I can’t help but cry on September 3rd and December 22nd, and that still, bright light in my heart that will never go out. And so much more.

So grief is really a continual process of acceptance. One of allowing yourself to feel all the things you don’t want to feel because sometimes you really don’t want to believe that the person you lost is gone. But just because they can’t live any longer doesn’t mean you shouldn’t. Thinking of my friend motivates me to live more fully than ever, to do the things she never could, to treasure the time that I’ve been given. Because not everyone gets as much as you and I have. And really, even though all this is so damn hard sometimes, I’m lucky I got to know her at all, just as you’re lucky to have known someone you lost. I’m lucky that I’m one of the people who holds her light in my heart. And we’re lucky that we get to carry their lights with us, and that we get to keep living.

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Clothes - adapted Arc, scarf - Morocco, shoes - Clarks.

Clothes – adapted Arc, scarf – Morocco, shoes – Clarks.

Nature’s first green is gold

Her hardest hue to hold.

Her early leaf’s a flower;

But only so an hour.

Then leaf subsides to leaf.

So Eden sank to grief,

So dawn goes down to day.

Nothing gold can stay.

[Robert Frost]

I first read this in 7th grade, and it’s always stuck with me. Any time the seasons change – in the physical world, in my soul, in my circumstances – this poem floats back to me – a comfort. I find rest, peace in the knowledge that change will always come. That this too shall pass.

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Turning Trauma into Beauty

Have you ever looked in the mirror and been displeased? Do you say mean things to yourself? Apologize for taking up space? Constantly berate yourself for the slightest faux pas? These are signs of self-loathing, and maybe that sounds extreme, but the prevalence of these symptoms leads me to ask – why do we hate ourselves?

In writing about the journey of self-love, I’ve been thinking about what the root causes of self-hatred are. Personally, it’s a Frankenstein’s monster of traumatic events and words that all shaped themselves into an ugly mass of depression. As I speak with other people about this, the same rings true. The culprit: trauma.

What is trauma? Trauma is something beyond your control that happens to you. Be it rape, an abusive relationship, or the death of a loved one, it creates a victim – you. This can be hard to accept, and it can also be easy to get stuck in. While recognizing your own victimization is a necessary part of healing, living in the victim mentality is not healthy. That mentality has no movement, no growth – it keeps you stuck, stuck in the mindset that things happen to you, that you are powerless.

And we hate ourselves because we become consumed with this thing that happened to us – the ugliness of it – and we take it on. Internalizing that hideous thing occurs when you allow it to define you, and, naturally, you hate the trauma, so you start to hate yourself. But you are not your trauma. Maybe someone raped you, but you are so much more than the girl or guy who got raped. Maybe someone verbally abused you, constantly looking over your shoulder, criticizing every move, but you and I are so much more than the girls and guys who were in abusive relationships. We are survivors – strong women [or men – humans]. And our lives are not defined by the bad things that have happened to us.

Yes, those things happened, and we’ll always carry the things that happened with us. But what will you do with it? Will you let it be a burden, weighing you down with every step, every look, constantly defining your perspective and yourself? Or will you turn it into an asset? Because that is possible. Turn that weakness into strength. Journal, talk to a therapist, explore the roots of your trauma, dig up all the dirt and clean it out.

We reflect what we see in the world and in ourselves. If, when you look at yourself, all you see is the trauma – the ugly thing that happened to you that you have no control over – you will believe that you are ugly. But this is not true. What about your ambition, your strength, your wit, your cute fingers, your bright eyes, your thick hair? Look in the mirror. Smile. Look outside, look at other people, look at yourself and find the beauty in these things. Think of it as a treasure hunt at first, and then, as you practice, the colors of the world get brighter and you’re like Alice in Wonderland, constantly looking around in awe and even checking yourself out in the mirror. Because we live in a beautiful world, and there is beauty in every single one of us. You just have to find it.

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Do you like yourself?

If not, here’s how. I certainly have my moments. It’s not always easy to feel beautiful and amazing when we live in an entertainment, image saturated world. With so much to compare ourselves to, it can get confusing if you take all the images as advice – as the way you’re supposed to look. The truth is, you’re not supposed to look like anyone but yourself. How could you? Changing your perspective may take some time, but this should help.

Headscarf from Goodwill. Dress from Arc. It was once long sleeves and floor length - I tore it up.

Headscarf from Goodwill. Dress from Arc. It was once long sleeves and floor length – I tore it up.

 

  1. Objectify yourself. It sounds ridiculous, even cruel, doesn’t it? But really, find a way to distance yourself from yourself – not forever, just long enough to analyze who you are really and find the objective truth that can stand above the lies that your mind might be telling you. It’s true that you are your own worst critic. So if you can please yourself, you can please anyone, right? It might not be pleasing now, but be honest. Talk to a therapist or a friend if it helps – someone who can help you see the truth. There will be things you don’t like, even things that are objectively awful. It sucks sometimes, but no one is perfect. Not me, not you – we are imperfect humans. And it’s better to see that for what it is than to deceive yourself.
  2. Accept yourself. As you are, misaligned morals, traumatic past, ten extra pounds, unibrow and all – or whatever it might be. Nothing will change until you honestly accept what you’re working with. Living in a delusion about yourself won’t help matters. Learn who you are at this moment. How do you spend your time? What makes you excited, what puts you to sleep? What do you cling to? Regardless of how you feel about your findings, accept them. Accept that you are a human being on this planet and you are worthwhile.
  3. Find your values. There are assessments you can take online, providing you with dozens of traits like adventure, creativity, and self-awareness, and you choose which ones are important to you, narrowing down your set until you’ve selected a top ten and then a top five. And then you can refer back to these and evaluate your actions and lifestyle by them. These serve as a guiding light, a sort of north star for personal growth. Any time you lose your way, you can reference these. They’ll grow and change with you, and your life should follow them. If it doesn’t, and if the values are truly important to you, maybe it’s time to make some changes.
  4. Figure out who you want to be. What do you look like in your daydreams? What are you doing? What would it take to get there? Dream. Don’t stop yourself, just let your mind roam freely in fantasy land and then find ways to make those things happen.
  5. Become who you want to be. Maybe this sounds silly or daunting, but trust me, it is possible. The way out of this mess is self-love, and it happens when you can be happy with yourself. With your values and your newfound self-worth, there’s nothing you can’t do. Want to be kind to yourself? Practice. Remind yourself daily that you deserve kindness and love. Start to see your world through these new lenses, and everything will begin to change. Painfully, slowly, then all at once, and one day you look in the mirror and love what you see, one day you gain five pounds and you still love yourself, one day you do things that make you happy every day. It just takes practice. And you’re as capable as anyone else.
It was windy. Those shoes are broken now, but they were beautiful.

It was windy. Those shoes are broken now, but they were beautiful.

It’s not easy every day. But it gets better. It always gets better. Life is filled with growing and changing and it’s an endless wave that you get to ride. But first – pick up your board and learn how to surf. You’ll fall a lot, but you’ll pick yourself back up because it’s important and because you’re strong. And before you know it you’ll be swimming farther out, riding bigger waves. Before you know it you’ll be yourself. And no one can do that better than you.

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