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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Saying Goodbye with Grace

2016 is ending, and with it, a phase in all our lives. Years neatly section off time so that we can all have an ending and a new beginning together, but endings come around more often than every 365 days.  Whether it’s January 1st or May 24th or August 8th or whenever –

A phase in your life is over.

throw up your deuces to 2016

Maybe you’re moving to a new city, a new country even. Maybe you’re leaving a job, or maybe you’re ending a relationship. Little endings happen every day as we walk out of buildings, get out of cars or buses, leave movies, check out at stores, finish essays or books or tv shows, but these don’t get much attention. Maybe you think about what you just did for a moment or two, make a comment about something you noticed to a person you’re with, but leaving the grocery store doesn’t typically make the news feed. But big things – these take quite a bit of our attention. And they’re often quite painful.

Whether you’re happy to go or your heart’s breaking, grief happens. It’s okay to be sad. It’s okay to walk around a town wondering when you’ll ever be in it again, it’s okay to cry yourself to sleep replaying memories of you and someone who’s no longer in your life.

You’re allowed to celebrate, too. Even if you’re going through a nasty breakup or ending something awful – there were good parts about it, right? You treated yourself to a fancy coffee once a week at a certain coffee shop, say, or he made you laugh til you peed your pants – just because it’s over doesn’t mean the good things go away, and it doesn’t mean you have to be sad.

Endings are bittersweet, and forgetting to balance the bitter with the sweet tips us off kilter, sets us up to begin in a strange, unhealthy way. To get closure, even from the sharpest pains, you’ve got to hold the sadness with the joy. When something’s over, you get a bit of distance from it – you’re no longer in the midst of it, so you can see clearly – without the bias you held while you were living that reality. Now you get a chance to see the whole experience as a montage, to view yourself acting in situations that already happened. You can think about it. Maybe you like how you acted or maybe you don’t, but see it. Understand it without judgment. Since the phase is over, you are no longer that person. Yes, it’s you, it looks like you and said all the things you said, but now – now you’re not in that situation. You’re no longer impacted by its stresses or joys. The part of you that actively does that thing is gone – dead. So really when you’re grieving a phase in your life, you’re grieving a former version of your self.

maybe i'm not who i thought i was abstract drawing

I’ll use myself as an example here – I just recently moved from the town where I graduated college, where my family lives, where I fell in love twice, where I learned to be kind to myself. This was also the town where I felt more depressed than I ever have, worked through conflicts with my parents, ended a destructive relationship, and had moments of truly hating myself. In leaving it, I had to see it for what it was. I had to recognize the sadness of some of the times I went through, and feel joy to be leaving, but, at the same damn time, I saw all the beautiful moments, the wonderful job I had, the community I relished – and I had to feel sad. I had to grieve that I couldn’t be there any more, that I was leaving, and that those joyous moments were gone.

Flipping through my rolodex of memories before I left, I saw some clear images – beautiful evenings with people I love, moments alone in my favorite places – and I realized that the girl I saw in those moments, while Bethany, was no longer me. I saw myself being happy in the past, and at the same time I knew – I’m not her anymore. She’s a part of me, of course, and all my past experiences – positive and negative – inform who I am now. But, looking back, I saw a girl who hadn’t learned lessons that I’ve since learned, who hadn’t endured trials I’ve since endured, and who didn’t know she would be living in China right now, typing this out in her very own apartment. And for a few moments, I felt sad. I loved her. I felt true joy in those moments, and now they’re gone, never to be lived again. And that can be difficult to let go of. But what good would living in the past do me? Seeing her, that version of myself that I was truly happy being, I know that she is a part of me. And I trust her to build an incredible future for herself, to move forward into new upgrades of herself and to never let yesterday or last week or last month be her prime. Even if it was really fucking great – tomorrow always holds potential to be better.

stylish girl says goodbye peace out 2016

Endings are hard. There’s no way around that. But beginnings are beautiful. And the purity and freshness of a new beginning can be tainted if the past hangs around too closely. For now – it’s over. Cry about it, laugh about it, comfort yourself with the memories you’ll always have, and turn forward – hold your head high and carry on.

Love, calm, & care –

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Loving Yourself Through Loneliness

I’m a human who lives alone, and I’m not afraid to admit that sometimes it hurts. I love being alone, but sometimes alone can turn into lonely, and sometimes I curl up into a ball and cry because the pain is just too much to bear in any other position. So I get it out and, to keep myself from getting stuck in a fog of it, I keep moving. I have my cry and then I summon my strength and I do something about it. I see clearly that I could be a sad lonely person, or I could be someone who lives alone. And I won’t have anyone pitying me – especially not myself.

So the volta comes when you’re slumped on the floor or stuck in your bed and you realize what’s happening. Yes, you could watch Netflix all day just to hear other people’s voices or you could drown your sorrows in ice cream or booze – but none of that will make them go away. Those are temporary fixes, and really they only leave the true problem to fester, making you worse off than before. The longer you ignore an issue, the harder it becomes to handle. So, in this critical moment – what will you choose? Will you face your problem, or will you run away?

be a flamingo in a flock of pigeons, different, lonely, alone

I’m not a coward, and I know you’re not, either. So we begin –

  1. By accepting that sometimes we feel lonely. It happens. And it’s okay – no need to feel ashamed about it. It hurts a bit, yes, but it’s a part of being human and there’s nothing inherently wrong with it.
  1. Have your feelings. Let your loneliness live and breathe. Crying is the most efficient way to move emotional energy out of the body, which is why, when I only have a few minutes or I can’t quite get myself out of bed for yoga or a workout, I find it to be most effective. But what works for you? Maybe you box or run or lift weights – movement of the body spreads to the emotions. I recommend Yoga With Adriene on Youtube – she has gentle hatha videos with titles like “Yoga for Anxiety” and “Yoga for When You’re in a Bad Mood.” Breathe it out.
  1. Do something with it. You’ve emptied yourself – after a good cry, you hit a refreshing point of clarity and self-awareness. A calm might wash over you as you see why you are lonely and maybe it becomes clear what you can do about it. Maybe you need to call a friend. Maybe the issue is that you have no friends to call, but don’t despair – pick up a pen or a keyboard or a guitar or a paintbrush; innovation and artistic achievement primarily happen alone. Be a friend to yourself. If you feel misunderstood in the world, the least you can do is strive to know yourself.

view desk solitary alone lonely work creative

  1. Get comfortable with your alone – make peace with your loneliness. The pain will crop up now and then, but you can handle it. Once you figure out how to do that, it’s like leveling up in alone time. Once loneliness is no longer a looming specter on the horizon but, instead, an annoying friend whose visits you are prepared for, you clear out space for yourself, enabling levels of productivity and drive that you could have been muddling with Netflix or pizza.

When you feel deserted – don’t desert yourself. You have all the compassion and kindness and love inside that you need, all it takes is giving it to yourself. You give so much to other people – you’re just as worthwhile as they are. I think you’ll find the extra effort to be quite rewarding – I know I do.

How do you handle loneliness? What are little things that make it easier for you?

Love, calm, & care –

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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