you’re not the man I married.

You’re putting stickers on your guitar case in your underwear. It’s a Saturday morning in February. Your long hair is in a loose bun on top of your head. I’m wearing sweatpants and your old sweatshirt, because they always seem to end up mine. It bothers you at first, but I think, deep down, you enjoy it. Not in a way that you’d even consciously think about, but in more of an if-I-died- you’d-miss-it kind of way.

We haven’t showered, haven’t made any effort to be ready for the day. We slept in ’til almost ten, and took our time cuddling with the cat in our new California King bed. It’s heaven in there. What’s the rush to leave? I think to myself that I’m so glad my life didn’t have to turn into a permanent version of one of those awkward sleepovers with a morning person. You know the art of taking it easy. You’re like me.

The Replacements play from a playlist you’ve been compiling, the best from the 80’s and 90’s – The Smith’s, Built to Spill, Smashing Pumpkins, Elliott, R.E.M., The Cramps, Nirvana, Pearl Jam. I think of all the things I am because of you, all of the things I love now, because I love you. And I wonder how much of me is even me anymore, and how much of me is you. How would we even be able to tell, at this point, what originated where? We’ve become so entangled, it would be impossible to say.

There is always a part of me that laughs when I hear it, that culturally classic phrase, “You’re not the person I married.” Not that I’m laughing at their pain, but all I can think is, “Well, duh.

You said recently, a few months ago, fleetingly, as if it was nothing, “I don’t think anyone can stay the same person for too long.”

You’re not the person I married, almost 6 years ago. Imagine that. You aren’t the person you were yesterday. Neither am I, and that’s exactly as it should be, that’s the way it works, life. People. And anyway, why would you want to stay the same person, stay with the same person, for the entire rest of your life? Isn’t that why affairs are so common, divorce? People getting bored of each other? Of themselves? Is it not desperately grasping onto lunacy to expect the one you love to always stay the same, for you to stay the same, forever?

Why not look at our ever-evolving nature as an invitation for adventure, for growth and expansion, new awareness, rather than regard it as a threat with fear and horror? Rather than staying stuck, stagnant, repressed, bored, limited, out of touch with your soul?

You do it all so carefully, even small things, like stickers on a case. You carry so much patience with you, gentleness. You bring order to chaos. I marvel at your meticulousness, at the way you handle everything, at the way you’ve always handled me; with great care. The same way something in you recognized my inner dreamer as just the challenge you were looking for, something in me recognized your gentle ways, saw them as exactly what I needed.

I always find my greatest truths within the mess of utter contradiction. I don’t like this concept, needing each other. I don’t think anyone should need anyone, should give anyone else that much power over their life. It’s the disease in every show, movie, Nicholas Sparks novel, Ed Sheeran song. It’s what teaches us the wrong definition of what we’re meant to be to each other. It sets us up to fail at the nucleus, the very center of our entire being – connection.

And yet, I do need you. To become what I feel in my heart I was meant to, I know you are as necessary as oxygen. When the notion of coming back to earth is too overwhelming for this constantly scattered mess of a woman, I need you to ground me. I need your sanity.

You tame my chaos, keep me from diving down the wrong rabbit holes. I nurture your wild, give you permission to (sometimes) make a mess.

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year of 26

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Over the past year, I lost myself. I started a business. Apparently. Not entirely on purpose, but it happened. The business of documenting love, which is not an unworthy cause. However, I overdid it. That’s probably an understatement.

I undercharged, overbooked, overworked myself, and became so disoriented that I lost the sense, the point from which I began. I was a mess, so constantly busy, overwhelmed, overcome by stress. I became ill, more than once within just a few months, learning that old lesson, “If you don’t say no, your body will.”

There were several points in which I was certain I had gone insane.

Here’s just a taste:

There is too much to do. I don’t have a free day in my calendar until October. I’ll never catch up.”

**Queue emotional breakdown.**

“Wow. I get to be creative for a living! I never thought I’d be able to do that! I don’t work in a soul-sucking office anymore! I get to be my own boss and meet cool people and edit at home with my cat! I love my job! I love my whole entire life!”

**Queue burst of pure gratitude, maniacal energy and joy.**

“I’m so overwhelmed. I never have enough time to edit. Being my own boss just means I have to do all the things. I don’t know what I’m doing. I’m letting my clients down because my work sucks. I’m letting my friends and family down because I’m so busy creating terrible work. Who am I kidding? Why did I ever think I could do this? “

Ad Nauseum. Sometimes this would occur within just a few minutes. There was one day in particular where I was positively losing it. I had been angry, then fell into a puddle of tears, and then started dancing feverishly in the passenger seat while Drew drove us to the store.

I said to him, “I think I might be an insane person.”

He replied, with an unconcerned shrug, “You might.” 

I don’t know that I can recall a moment in my life where I felt so positively loved for exactly what I am. 

(For the record, I Googled it, and if you’re sane enough to think you might be insane, you’re probably not insane. Though I’m not always convinced.)

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June came. I started a year-long course to become a facilitator for Emotional Processing. Logic told me this was the worst possible time to begin such an endeavor. But something inside of me screamed, demanded, “DO IT NOW!” It was a good thing I listened. It was the best choice I’ve made since Drew.

I began the process of identifying many behaviors, belief systems, survival tactics I had adopted in the past which no longer served me, letting them go, finding new ways to see and be. I found the power to write a new story about who I am. I started showing up differently. I learned to look inward for my own answers, to trust my own instincts rather than endlessly looking outward for validation that would never be enough. I gradually started sticking up for myself, shaking off my old patterns, allowing myself to be free.

And that was when my life exploded.

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My parents had separated. It wasn’t the first time. My dad was struggling with the reality of being a bachelor at this point in his life, and needed support. My mom relapsed after leaving rehab, and, let’s just say, a loved one relapsing is never an easy ride. My brothers and were I constantly working to seek out this ever-elusive answer to where our place is in all of this.

I walked out on a dinner where I felt I wasn’t being respected. Just got up in the middle of a conversation and walked myself home. I set boundaries, and held them, let other people react how they would. I had never done that before. I didn’t recognize this girl who no longer spent her life on egg shells. It scared me, for a moment. But it was just a pendulum swing, from one extreme before settling into a new state of balance.

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It felt very much as if I had signed up for The Refiner’s Fire: Crash Course Edition without being conscious for it. I was being pulled apart, wrung out like a rag. Family issues, photo shoots, weddings, emails, endless hours spent editing millions of photos, band practice, school, homework, trying to maintain relationships and a sense of self-care. (As if.) I was going and going and going with no time to rest. Even when I tried to allow myself rest, I would just stress out about everything I still had to do.

Enter Meg’s Quarter-Life Existential Crisis. Right on schedule. It turns out that changing your perceptions isn’t a selective process; it is all-encompassing. It affects every single area in your life. I had begun the process of reconsidering why I do life the way I do, why I believe what I believe, what I really want my life to look like, instead of living from a concept of scarcity and following the format.

I can only explain it like this: my entire inner system – the way I lived my life, and why – was like a tapestry of color, emotion, tradition, expectation, dogma hanging in my subconscious. For the first time, I had begun to examine it, to wonder where it came from. To wonder what parts I had put there intentionally, and what parts I had inherited from others. What parts were true to me, and what parts I only kept there out of obligation or for the goal of gaining other’s approval or something equally as senseless. To question who had truly woven this monstrosity in the first place. I had a growing suspicion that it wasn’t me.

Time passed. I grew brave. I approached it, slowly, carefully, inching closer and closer, eyes narrowing in consideration, a contemplative hand on my chin. Finally, I reached out in curiosity, pulling at one tiny thread, “What about this one….?”

This tapestry, the center, the nucleus of my every thought and belief that had until this point been so intricate and tightly woven, dismantled, unraveled, positively fell into a mess of threads at my feet at the slightest curious tug.

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I had brought all of this to fruition, set all of this change in motion, I knew. I had learned a new dance, and refused to return to the old. I felt stripped, raw and dizzy with so much change in so little time. I couldn’t keep up with the pace of it.

Looking down at this fallen system, now a tangled rat’s nest, I felt nothing but overwhelmed. What had I done? How could I make sense of this? I wanted to go back into hiding, to let myself disappear, to return to that familiar identity of doormat, appeaser, wishy-washy go-with-the-flow moldable mush. That girl who ate up any answers fed to her by whatever source seemed sure enough of itself to explain away what she hadn’t the strength to face.

For a moment, I did. It was the last, desperate cry of all of those old ways before I finally put them to rest. And let me tell you about old ways. Old ways die hard. Bruce Willis has nothing on me.6S3A73356S3A7332

I missed the safety, or the illusion of it, that I had been wielding as a shield my entire life. But it was time to surrender it, to face what seemed unfaceable. Going backward is fallacy, a futile attempt to postpone the inevitable.

However long postponed, everything composed, must decompose.” – Alan Watts

July was an exhausted blur, gone before I even noticed its arrival. It mostly consisted of this:

Friend: “Meg! I miss you! We should get together soon!”

Me: “I’d love to! I’m free….four weeks from next Wednesday.”6S3A73266S3A7347

August came. We took our yearly trip with Drew’s family to the sea. I attempted to allow myself some rest, lull myself into forgetting all that I needed to do. It worked for small moments, but I paid dearly for it in paralyzing blows of anxiety after coming back to my senses. The ocean mirrored me, as she always does.

I found my entire state of being so eloquently summarized in the waves as they enveloped me, swept me off my feet while I struggled to find which way was up.6S3A7329

Family members remarked on the difference, the change in me. It felt good. I had been working, and it was finally beginning to show. Naively, I thought, this is it! I’m done! Goodbye, Depression. Goodbye, Anxiety. Hello, new self.

But I wasn’t done. You never are. I was fragile still, like a butterfly newly emerged from its cocoon. The old ways were dying, the new way hadn’t quite solidified. I was running on stitches, failing to take it easy, be gentle with myself, give the new me time to settle in. I didn’t realize how much pressure I was still putting on myself. There was a moment when I fell to pieces, a sobbing mess on the fetal position on the floor of our room in a timeshare condo, spewing the same old tape of never feeling good enough. Drew, in his sweetness, knew just what to do. No advice, no pep talks. He simply laid himself down next to me, and let me cry.

That was August. I watched her die while standing in a field of sunflowers, her very last rays of brilliant orange cutting through pollution from summer fires, falling down, slipping away, past the horizon. Never to return.

September came. I wasn’t there. I couldn’t find me anymore, in all of the endless to-do’s. A close friend saw me for the first time in a few months, and I never felt more accurately described when she said, with a look of concern, You seem spent.”

I was.

6S3A73686S3A7337The world felt still, as if holding its breath in anticipation, struggling to balance, and about to tip. And then arrived October. The slight shift in seasons was, to me, a signal of hope. A reminder that this state of constant movement was temporary, subject to change, as everything is.

I used to dread the winter, regarded it as my enemy. But this year, I’ve seen it as a friend.  It seemed to sweep in, wrap me up in its arms and say, “You move too much, child; it is time to rest.”

Within that rest, I have re-centered, reclaimed my energy, my motivation. In that rest, I am learning to use my intent, with every day, every breath I take in and out. I am taking the time to examine my life, to work through that tangled mess of thread at my feet, to hold up each one and ask, “Is this me?” And accept whatever answer comes, regardless of what my ego wants. Regardless of what’s easy, what gains approval, what my preconceived ideas about it are.

But that’s what we do. As soon as we’re old enough to understand what approval looks like, to know the pain of its absence. We dismember ourselves. The parts that we’re afraid won’t be liked or understood. The parts that we imagine won’t meet with applause, we give them up, carry them on our backs, weighed down more and more each time.

What I’m trying to say is this has been a year. This has been the year, of many things. Working hard, getting out of my comfort zone, finding my bossy side, owning my weirdness, making myself free, beginning to heal my codependency, learning to use iCalendar, but mostly, this has been the year of reclaiming myself. Reclaiming my power, potential, my dreams, and a belief in my own abilities. Reclaiming my right to show up as exactly what I am, with no doubt in my mind that it’s enough. 

This has been the year of unpacking the burden I carried, and reclaiming my wholeness. It is much lighter here.

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that great descent

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Most of us, the majority of the time, are in an unconscious state. We sleepwalk. We aren’t awake to the reality of our own power. We don’t realize that our entire existence –  everything we see, feel, experience – is shaped by our perceptions, our subconscious belief systems about ourselves, this world, this life. Our beliefs about who we are, what we deserve, what we’re capable of, what’s possible for us.

We don’t see, we aren’t raised to see that our entire existence is a manifestation of our Inner Universe, that our intentions are the brushstrokes that paint the picture of our reality. That through our intent, we get exactly what we want in this life.

I have become fully converted to the idea that we get exactly what we want.

The trouble is, our intent, our belief systems, that inner world, to most of us, is a mystery. We don’t know it. We don’t claim it. We don’t wield it. Therefore, we are under its control. We don’t choose our reality, we don’t choose our reactions, we don’t get a say.

“What you don’t own, owns you.”

But when we take the plunge, make that great descent into our subconscious, when we acquaint ourselves with our inner world, that’s where magic is found. When we discover what’s going on inside of us, and why, we become our own masters. We find that we have a say. We find our freedom and our power to create.

that month which reigns superior

October was far too kind. Temperate and lovely as ever, the buttery golden glow of Autumn greeted me each morning through my window, and waved goodbye in a heavenly display of color each night, if ever a heaven could there be.

A long-awaited solace after a season that seemed determined to break me to the point of what felt like near-insanity; my first deep breath in months. A phrase I have uttered many times before, it bears repeating: I love you, October.

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home of bone

Lately, between long swaths of editing photos, I am captivated by the image outside the window to my left. The vines that grow on the north side of our house surround the glass in a dreamy foreground, the leaves fade each day from brilliant green to yellows, oranges, reds. I look beyond, and the great old trees in my neighbors yard seem to wave, dance, greet me in the happy October sunshine. I answer the call, and wander out my front door.

I walk down my front steps into that same sun, I lift my face upward, eyes closed, and breathe. I pretend I am a tree, and all I must do is grow my roots deep into the ground as I reach, stretch my branches into the sky, cast sweet shade onto the ground, become a home for birds and bugs, and dance when the wind comes. Something about the simplicity, the absolute clarity of that existence calms me. The sun gently kisses my face, and it almost feels like if I love it hard enough, I could stop time. I could stop time, and dance in the Autumn splendour for the rest of my days.

But reality is a cruel alarm. I know this thought is only vapor, the mist of my dreams. Swipe a hand through it a few times, and it’s gone. I’m grown now. I can no longer live entire days in the comfort of the imaginary. I have responsibilities, obligations, roles to fill. There are rivers and chasms in the landscape of my face that weren’t there before.  I’m not as soft anymore, not near as gentle as that October sunshine. Not as hopeful as I used to be.

I’ve been here too many times before to allow such notions to sweep me away. I remember too vividly the pain of hitting the hard earth again when those gusts of delusion settle. I don’t know how to hold onto her anymore, the little girl who tugs at my jacket, begging me to play in imaginary. I don’t know where she fits among all of this harsh reality. The truth is, she’s grown up. It’s done. She’s grown and she cannot go backwards. You never can. That’s the trick of it, time. When you’re younger, it feels fluid, bendable, fickle. But as you age, it becomes so strict, stiff, hardened like lines in your aging face.

I am now a grown up girl who knows that time can’t be altered, that seasons can’t be put on pause, that loving something enough will never transform it into what you hope it might be. Even if you wish for it with every birthday candle, desperately beg for it in every prayer, give up your identity to help it find its own. No matter how many times you take it by the shoulders, and shake it with violent motion, it will never be enough. It is out of your control.

It is a losing game, always, to spend your precious effort on transforming what was never yours to change.

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last breaths of July.

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There's a storm over the mountains. I can see it, the way the clouds streak downward, like spilled ink, signaling rain. I wish it would come back this way. I sit on my porch, taking in the second-to-last day of July. The sun descends gradually behind the horizon, its last rays bleeding brilliant color from the sky. It's a miracle, a masterpiece. I don't understand how everyone doesn't come running out of their houses to kneel at its presence.

Everything is alive. A friendly breeze sweeps down our street, sweetly enveloping me, dragging its feet through the tree tops. Something about the summer breeze, it feels like a deep, satisfied sigh.

Contentment. Peace. Such simple gifts I find on summer evenings just by walking out my front door. The kitty runs across the yard to meet me where I stand in the road, marveling at the sky. I scoop her up, and we're still. We take it in. Crickets. Sprinklers. Cars passing by. The light of day slowly fades. I can almost hear them, the last breaths of July.