8 When roses cease to bloom, sir

Written summer 1858. Deceptively simple inspiration.

 

When Roses cease to bloom, Sir,
And Violets are done –
When Bumblebees in solemn flight
Have passed beyond the Sun –
The hand that paused to gather
Opon this Summer’s day
Will idle lie – in Auburn –
Then take my flowers – pray!

[Emily Dickinson]

In beauty –

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4 I have a bird in spring

Hold on to your hats, friends, this is a good one. And how fitting for this time of year? Mhm. Written about 1854, age 23. Savor this one, let it soak into you, let yourself imagine all that this bird represents. Levels.

 

I have a Bird in spring
Which for myself doth sing –
The spring decoys.
And as the summer nears –
And as the Rose appears,
Robin is gone.

Yet do I not repine
Knowing that Bird of mine
Though flown –

Learneth beyond the sea
Melody new for me
And will return.

Fast in a safer hand
Held in a truer Land
Are mine –
And though they now depart,
Tell I my doubting heart
They’re thine.

In a serener Bright,
In a more golden light
I see
Each little doubt and fear,
Each little discord here
Removed.

Then will I not repine,
Knowing that Bird of mine
Though flown
Shall in a distant tree
Bright melody for me
Return.

[Emily Dickinson]

Love love love –

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Soul Care

As humans, we are inherently triune beings – mind, body, and soul. Growing up in charismatic Christian circles, I saw people moved by what they called the holy spirit. Now I see that these people use[d] religion as a means to give their souls life. They spoke in tongues and danced around rooms, “moved with the spirit.” But I feel the same spirit when I listen to jazz or absorb great paintings; I pulse with that life when I dance in a club or write a story. I may not ascribe to any religion, but my soul is as alive as ever.

We are raised to go to school, to seek education – to read books and solve math problems in care of our minds. We’re taught to eat healthy foods and exercise to care for our bodies. But what about our souls? The spirituality of religion can get stuck in legalism and dogma, leaving the greater part of the population lost and, in many ways, dead.

“A little wisp of soul carrying a corpse.” – Epictetus.

 

Our souls are what bring us to life – they’re the animating factors that shine light behind our eyes and make our skin glow. Think of humans as double layer cakes – mind and body are the layers of cake, but without frosting, who wants to eat it? Dry and crumbly, maybe it tastes good for a few bites, but something’s missing. The glue, the moisture, the decadence – the icing on the cake – the soul.

All animals have bodies and minds. But what make us human, what have the potential to make us great and transcendent beings, are our souls. Our healthy souls can unite us, make us free, give us power, and lead us in paths of love and light. Maslow’s hierarchy of needs sets physiological and safety as the lowest two – the only needs that are purely physical or mental. The top three are love/belonging, esteem, and self-actualization – the needs of the soul. So, if you don’t believe me, believe an esteemed psychologist – 3/5 of our most basic human needs are those of the soul.

But in a society, a culture, a world that neglects the soul – how do we care for it? How can we bring it to life? This takes work, consciousness, dedicated practice; Rome was not built in a day. Maybe you follow religious teachings, maybe you let music and art spark your internal fire, maybe you practice meditation and yoga. Start by clearing out the cobwebs, dusting the corners, and opening the windows – the beginning is the hardest part. Just as muscles atrophy in the absence of strain and brain cells wither away with disuse, our neglected souls wilt like thirsty flowers in the shade. We need sunlight, we need water, and we need these things regularly. People use drugs to feel alive in this way – to skip the daily practice and enjoy the light of the soul for an evening. But this feeling of ecstasy is possible on a daily basis. With practice, with care, the soul becomes stronger and brighter, and your power becomes increasingly accessible.

pen and ink drawing let the light in

So, as Voltaire wrote, let us cultivate our gardens. Let us seek out beauty and love, surrounding ourselves with objects and images and sounds and foods that bring us joy, with people who radiate light – let us make our souls happy. When we do this, all other desires are met – a body and mind connected to a healthy soul with be beautiful and intelligent and strong. So yes, have your workout and your salad, and read your books and work your sudokus, but begin with the soul. Stoke your internal fire and all parts of you will burn as brightly. 

Let the light in.

 

Love, calm, & care –

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In Celebration of Women

Aren’t we lucky, getting a whole day to celebrate our sex? Personally, I take it further – it’s become a lifestyle. I grew up resisting it, seeing femininity as a weakness, an excuse to be emotionally unstable and manipulative, a made-up façade under which brains were supposed to atrophy, a body and soul with no purpose past the functional roles of briefly being sexy and then bearing and raising children.

I grew up wearing my older brother’s hand-me-down basketball shorts and t-shirts, running around outside, reading books, and acing timed math tests –

boyish little girl

One Halloween I was a twerk queen…

#TBT halloween twerking little girl

…and the next I was a football player –

little girl halloween football player

While I’ve always loved style and dance, my preferences for intellectual conversations and theological debates followed me throughout adolescence, leading to taunts of lesbianism (at a time when I was fully in denial of existing as a sexual being – straight or otherwise) and honest thoughts of changing my gender. Because men have it easier. They get to be smart and funny and ugly and still respected, considered successful. But women – women only have to be beautiful, women can only be doted on and adored. I decided I was too short to become male and that, for me, it wasn’t worth the process of switching over, and now – well, now I am a woman. And now I absolutely respect and adore that.

let's be feminists beautiful blog woman

But this did not happen overnight. Before I could ever celebrate my femininity, I had to understand it. So I studied, spent years exploring and trying on different forms, trying to understand what this was. And I learned that Western culture has a very limited understanding of it.

Today is International Women’s Day – a day to celebrate those who identify as women. Feminism is more than this – it is a celebration of the feminine. Man or woman or gender neutral, every single one of us has feminine energies and qualities. Maybe you don’t like that we use this word, indicative of our society’s binary idea of gender, to describe intuition, sensitivity, beauty, and other lighter energies, but let’s take one step at a time. For now, this is how people understand it, and it makes the most sense to use it.

Feminism got lost when women tried to be men, just like patriarchy became toxic when men denied their feminine qualities. We need balance – all of us. Men focused on brute force and power, and more recently, women have embraced our masculine energies, focusing on gaining access to the boys’ club that was politics and business and science and philosophy and – practically everything. Now men stay at home to raise children and women, too, are finding our way to this balance. We’ve gained access – women are CEOs, we are philosophers, we are engineers, we are mathematicians. We wear pants suits and we cut off all our hair and we are powerful. But let’s not forget our sensitivity, our beauty.

Let’s relish in our ability to wear dresses and lipstick, let’s lean in to our femininity in order to actualize ourselves – societally and personally. And – what  I love most about this – is that it’s inclusive. Everyone has a feminine side, everyone can embrace emotion because we all have it. Everyone can be beautiful, and sensitive, and sweet – these are not weak. It takes strength to feel. It takes courage to be sensitive and kind and caring, bravery to be beautiful and fragile. Men, women, everyone – we are fragile, we are lovely, we are gracious – we are feminine. This is feminism. This is what I celebrate. So today, on this day for women, and on every subsequent day, let’s celebrate the women in our lives and the feminine energies within us. Let’s all be feminists.

feminism is for everyone #internationalwomensday

Love, calm, & care –

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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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