whoops

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This morning, I did a thing. I was going through some old writings I have saved in my drafts. There are a collection of these, growing ever larger as time goes on. I’m not sure what I’ll do with them, if anything. But, regardless, I like to read through them every once in a while.

I do it because it reminds me, of past events, random nights or conversations I’d never remember otherwise. But I do it mostly as a sort of exercise in encouragement. It reminds me of where my head used to be, the way I used to feel and think every day. It shows me how far I’ve come, and motivates me to continue in my personal journey, to continue this endeavor of the soul, in becoming what I’ve always dreamed I could be.

But THEN, I accidentally PUBLISHED one of these old pieces of writing! For all the world to see! I immediately adjusted this, hoping no one noticed. But, alas, a few minutes later, I received a text from my friend Tiffanee. She said she had read my blog post, and wanted to tell me I’m doing a great job.

I replied, “What blog post?!”

She said, “The post titled ‘War.'”

So, I hadn’t taken it down quickly enough. The shame!

Except, no. No shame. I realized immediately that this was a gift. This was the Universe’s way of showing me how supported I am. That, even still, when I show my dark side, I have people, just waiting to reach out and give me love, acceptance, support, understanding.

It’s even sweeter, really, because this friend is one of the key characters that encouraged me out of my dark place, and helped me to find love for myself, for the first time in my life. We had many conversations where I insisted she was just being nice, that she didn’t know me well enough to have such a grand opinion of me. I remember one moment in particular, sitting across the table from her at Rubio’s, crying to her about how I hated myself and didn’t believe I could ever feel differently. But she didn’t stop. She seemed determined, almost as if it was her personal mission, to show me all that there is about me to love.

And so, I’ve decided to include that old post here, to own it. To remember that, yes, there was a time, not so long ago, that every single day felt like a battle. That this was how I perceived existence, for many, many years. From the time I was about 12 years old, I was weighed down. I was tired. I was discouraged. I was plagued, paralyzed with self-loathing, crippling anxiety, Depression on a daily basis. This was a long period of my life where I didn’t believe in myself, didn’t know I had any right to. I was resigned, to working a job that I hated, to the belief it would never be any different. That I was, to quote myself, “…never meant to accomplish anything. That I’m defective, deficient, broken, lost. A misfit. A freak.” (Something I actually wrote a few years ago. It hurts to read, doesn’t it? Be kind to yourselves.)

I want to honor this version of myself, this shadow side, to allow her the space to be. Because it is only through her and with her I’ve been able to become what I am now, and that is someone I am proud to be.

War.

It feels like a cruel riddle with no answer. I wake up, heavy and fatigued, no matter how many days in row my body has had to catch up. To get used to this. To just accept the fact that this is what we adults do. I go to work, spending an inordinate amount of time day dreaming about what else I could be doing with my life. I become determined to make a change, I make plans. I get home with the best of intentions in my mind. And I’m too tired.

I’m too tired, I’m too tired. I’m too tired to plan healthy meals and to do the dishes after eating those meals and to exercise to burn off the calories from those meals or to play any songs or to socialize or call my mom like I know I should.

Every day feels more and more like waging war.

With other people’s love, guidance, acceptance, support, and my own determination to take responsibility for myself, my life, my feelings, I crawled out of that deep, dark hole. I was able to end the war, and find inner peace.

So, friends, thank you for loving me, in my darkness as well as my light. I hope you know I love you the same.

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too many photos/I need the trees

I don’t know about belief, but wind through trees has always felt like God to me.

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Our friends invite us to their family cabin for a night. We sit on the deck, and take in the view. It is the picture of tranquility, and the melody.

Birds sing, send out their eloquent message, echoing from one to another, back and forth. I wish I knew their names. I wonder if they’re trying to tell me.

The sun is falling to the west. A line of shadow makes its way, ever so gradual, up the trees. Immediately above it a bursting of brilliant light – yellow golden orange juice ribbon of fire. At this altitude, the air is cool, temperate, gentle, sweet.

They take us on a hike. We climb a hill, reach a meadow of bluebell wildflowers. It feels as though we’ve entered another realm where everything is delicate and ethereal and untouched. It is the perfect time of year, the entire forest sings a song of life. Drew and Chance get ahead of us, the echo of their voices become more distant until they disappear, like the sun sinking beneath the horizon; Holly and I take our time.

We’ve done a lot together, over the years. Many weekend plans, a two-week trip to Europe. We know each other, in the way that we don’t have to always be laughing or smiling and silence is okay. They’re some of the few people I don’t feel nervous around anymore. This takes me a long time, to warm up to people, to not feel eaten alive with social anxiety around them. Like, years. Drew and Chance are always objective-oriented. They want to make it to the planned destination as efficiently as possible. Holly and I, without fail, end up distracted by, say, the way the light is hitting a certain family of wildflowers. We lag behind. We wander.

The more I attempt to be an objective-oriented person, the more I find that my objective is to wander. 

Not to be self-righteous about it, or to say my way is better or right. I’m so glad everyone isn’t like me. We’d all be too caught up in our dream world, too up in the clouds. But it is good to know yourself, to know your own ways. It is good to come to trust yourself, your perspective, your feelings and instincts and thoughts. It is a gift, in and of itself, to learn to trust your own gifts. It is liberation. It is finding your path, rather than losing it, wasting it, like a full moon in an overcast sky, to comparison – that tired old lie.

Everywhere we go, a forest of Aspen surrounds us, their white spindly trunks draw a contrast against the shade they cast below. There are too many to count. It doesn’t seem real. I think about how they are all one organism, connected, their existence entirely dependent on the existence of a million other things. I think to myself, of all the trees, I’ve learned from Aspen the most.

Holly and I sit under them on an ant-infested log, waiting for the men to find us again before heading back for dinner, which Chance will prepare, which will be delicious. It always is. As we wait, I say, “Next time a gust of wind comes, let’s close our eyes and listen.” Holly immediately agrees, not a question in her mind as to why I’d want to do such a thing. These are the sort of friends you need.

The sound is like running water, it is like a deep breath, it is a cleansing rush, it wipes my mind clean. It wants for nothing. It teaches me, wordlessly.

The quaking Aspen, white as snow, ghosts in the wood. They bring a song of vibrant green, soft ferns beneath, like a carpet of feathers. I know myself, when I sit with the trees. I know myself because I am not myself. I am a small part of one organism, my existence entirely dependent on the existence of a million other things.

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brought to light

Every morning that I can, I write letters to God. The Universe, to my higher power, whatever you want to call it.

I don’t worry about that anymore, whether people have the “right” idea of things (and by “right,” I mean matching up with my own personal definition). I used to spend a whole lot of energy concerning myself with such things. It felt like every day was a battle in which I was meant to correct everyone around me until the whole world’s views matched mine exactly.

It stemmed from insecurity. Compensating for it.

I’ve come to discover that, for me, right and wrong are arbitrary, when applied to the collective or whole. What is right, what resonates into the caverns of my heart and soul, isn’t necessarily the same for another person. “Every head’s a different world.” Every soul is a Universe. I don’t need them to match.

In fact, I would argue that they were never meant to in the first place.

The world is filling up. I like to think that the reason for this, that there are more people here than at any time in history, is because we are progressing as a species. Our souls are older, more experienced, which is leading to innovation. Technological, medical, psychological advances. Healing, becoming more conscious, more aware, more connected, compassionate. I think this is also leading to confusion, turmoil, violence and a push-back of extreme, outdated viewpoints. But overall, I see it as old ways dying, new ways being brought to light.

Of course, it could just mean that humans as a species were destined to devour themselves and in turn the planet in which they dwell. But, oddly enough, my view of things seems to be becoming more hopeful, positive. Trust me, it’s just as surprising to me as it probably is to you.

I read once that people who give others the benefit of the doubt are generally healthier and more positive. It make so much sense to me.

Yes, every morning I can, I write letters to God. Our relationship has evolved of late. This has become my main method of prater. I don’t beat myself up for not doing it correctly, traditionally. I don’t make things so difficult anymore. I do what feels best for me, and let that be enough. It’s enough.

I wake up, say kind words to myself as a sort of prescription for mental health, I stretch, and then I sit at my kitchen table, where the light is loveliest throughout the day, and I write. Just a few pages. Nothing overwhelming. Just a little bit every day. Consistent.

Consistency has been on my mind a whole lot lately, and I’ve come to the conclusion that it is one of the keys to growth and fulfillment.

I write about what’s worrying or bothering me, what’s making me happy. I write out anything that comes into my head. I rest on the page. In this one space, I get to be messy, or frustrated, or worried, critical, unreasonable. I allow myself this space to vent, and then I gain clarity.

I write out the things that I need, the things that I want, the things that I dream of. And, you know what? They come to life. This year I have learned that I can have anything I want. I just need to look in my heart, observe what is there, write it out, and work to make it happen.

I used to hide behind victimization. “I don’t know what I want. I’m sure I’m not capable or deserving or good enough to have it anyway.” What a relief, to let that jig be up.

I feel so happy lately. The weather is perfect, taking shifts between sweet, temperate, bright sunshine and relentless rain and thunderstorms. Everything is so green, I can hardly believe my eyes. I’ve never seen the world around me so green before. I wonder, is it greener than usual this year? Or have I only just allowed myself to see it?

Today I’m editing a photo session from last night, which means I’m not behind and overwhelmed like I was last year. I have enough money to pay my bills and hold my end of things. I’m not making quite as much as last year, but I have time, you see. To write morning pages, and talk to my lilac bushes and say nice things to myself in the mirror, all of the resentment and self-loathing that reflection used to bring now replaced with a sense of my own value and abilities. I get to watch Rick and Morty with Drew. I have time for sanity, I have time to breathe.

I’m just so happy. I changed the ringtone on my phone to the Harry Potter theme, and my text notification to a train whistle blowing. It makes phone notifications, which usually raise my blood pressure, now a pleasant, dreamy treat.

Each day I sit in our kitchen, writing and working, and I look out the windows at our backyard. The vine on our fence is growing with vim and vigor, transforming everything it touches into a wall of foliage. The lilacs and snowballs I planted last year are still small, but thriving and in full bloom. My mom and I cleaned out the flower beds they grow from a few weeks ago, and I can’t wait to plant more lovely things in them. There have been times when I didn’t think I’d be able to do such a normal thing with my mother again.

I’m writing this down so I can remind myself in the future, in moments when, inevitably, things don’t feel quite so sunshine-y green, of the time of year when the world swells into Spring in a wild crescendo of life, blooming, awakening, reaching upward to the sun, and each day is positively fraught with the hope and potential of what Summer will bring. To remind me that there will always be moments of clarity, hope and balance again.

That’s what this feels like to me. One of those rare moments of balance. A season of tranquility and beauty before another adventure of growth. Which is what I like to call challenging times: Adventures of Growth. That’s what they are to me, now that I’m high enough on my own lofty summit to look back on them clearly.

You know that part in The Lord of the Rings, after the breaking of the Fellowship, when Frodo and Sam are standing on that summit, and they can see Mount Doom. They can see it. It’s right there. And yet, it’s still miles and miles away? And with every step they take it almost feels like it’s getting farther from them?

That’s how it is, life. When you begin, you can see it all so clearly. Where you are, your destiny, and the path which leads you there. But once you depart, once you’re in the thick of it, you can’t see it anymore. Things become messy, you get lost, and sometimes it feels like you’ll never make it. Like this entire journey was a waste. How could you ever think you were meant for such a lofty destiny? Who do you think you are?

But then, there are moments of clarity. You make it to the top of a foothill, and you see it again. The big picture. The end goal. The higher cause. What you knew you were always meant for, what you exist to do and be, but almost lost hope, had almost convinced yourself it was lunacy, gave up. And aren’t you so glad you didn’t?

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Grandma and Bobo’s

The last time I ever got to hug you. The last time we ever spoke.

I started taking photos of the house, much to Grandma’s dismay.

“What are you gonna use those for? I haven’t dusted, you know.”

I knew I’d want to remember it all, just as it was.

My dad had been saying it for the past decade, “You should really get out to Oakland for a visit. This might be the last year he’s alive.”

Bobo was in his 90’s. He always seemed so there, still cracking jokes and playing his barbershop quartet albums for us. Until the stroke. Until his words didn’t come so easily anymore. You could see that he had something to say. He would make a frustrated face and wave his hands around until he eventually gave up. I hated seeing that. This person, this man that I had come from, who had fathered my father, fought in WWII, an entire lifetime of knowledge and memories behind his eyes, just fading away.

I was so full of regret, that I hadn’t made more time for him. That I hadn’t made more of an effort to go visit him, ask all of the questions I had.

Farewell, Grandad. Thank you for fighting those Nazis, for your cheekbones, and passing on your passion for documenting life through words and photos. For winning Grandma over and bringing her here from England so my dad could exist. So I could exist. It feels like I never really knew you, really. Just things about you. And by the time I was old enough to care, to see what matters, what a gift I had, you were already fading. Why does it always seem to take death to show us what we should have seen all along? I hope I get to talk to you about that, one day. About so many things.

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about six months ago, in san francisco

I’ve come to a strange place with this blog of mine. I love this space. It has always been my outlet, somewhere I can go and emote whatever storm brewing in my throat. It began out of a desperation to deal with the reality of working a soul-sucking 9-5 job. Now that I graduated, you might say, from that era of my life to the era of self-employment, it would seem that I have more time, more energy to contribute to this blog than ever before.

But things are never truly as they seem. Are they?

This feels like the year I grew up. We grew up. That man of mine and I. It’s difficult to pin point exactly why, or when. But this, our sixth year of being married, looks like the year we got more honest with ourselves, each other, the year we got more serious about our interests, the year we took more responsibility for what our lives look like. I think that’s it, the main contributor of this new weight of adulthood I feel now upon my shoulders. Responsibility.

“Take your life into your own hands, and what happens? A terrible thing. No one to blame.” -Erica Jong

I’ve referenced that here before, I think. But that’s it. We began the process of letting go of blame. There’s a reason, I think, it’s referred to as “The Blame Game.” It can be so entertaining, so fun to constantly pile any responsibility for the way you feel, the circumstances of your life. It has some great payoffs.

But, essentially, the biggest cost of playing that game is what it is we want most. And that’s a cost I was no longer willing to pay.

And so, here we are, inching closer every day to closing this chapter of the decade of our 20’s. It seems I should have more time to update here, but it’s become increasingly difficult. The moments I have free, I feel like I should be working. I write, still, of course. I can’t exist without it. But the act of finishing, of taking thoughts, polishing them, sharing. That is where I struggle. It seems like every thought I write down disappears, instantly, from my mind, never to return. I remember, a few weeks, months later, “Oh, yeah, that idea. I should do something with that.”

But, then, life. It never stops. Everything else gets in the way. I’m learning to adjust to the way things are now, to this new, quickened pace of things. I don’t see it going away. Nothing goes back to the way it was. I’m learning to make time, be intentional with what I do.

And so, I haven’t abandoned this space. That’s what I want to say. There is so much I want to work on, finish up, share. So many ideas, memories, moments. For today, here is one from when we visited my grandparents in San Francisco. It was the last trip before Grandpa Bird passed away. It meant a lot to me.

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what is your payment

Don’t stay safe. Don’t let those limiting beliefs and assumptions keep you in that self-imposed prison. Let your life expand. Let go of the preconceived. Who made those rules? Who decided for you, and what was your payment for allowing them to? Stop holding yourself hostage, and blaming others for where you are. Surrender that inner victim. Don’t accept that script, that role, that imposter forced upon you long ago by someone else.

Be true. Your insides are begging you through your anger, your jealousy, your rage. Why do you stuff it away? It’s a map. Where does it lead? Take responsibility for your reality, your feelings, your life; it is no one else’s. Take seriously your own mind, and the content it produces; it is like no other. Give yourself a chance. Look stupid. Be messy. I dare you. See what you’re made of. Do you even know yet?

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farewell, Winter

I’ve come to regard Winter as a great teacher, always reminding me to love what is, this instant. Summer will return, as she always does, and, once again, we will feel the kiss of the sun as we run barefoot in balmy warmth on a soft carpet of grass.

“But, look!” Winter exclaims, “There, at this very moment, the manner in which the gentle February sun comes out to greet us from behind the day’s melancholy cloud-cover. See the way it so delicately kisses fresh-fallen snow in a grand display of creamy white, palest blue, and brilliant gold. It is a beauty so sublime I can hardly keep my eyes open to take it in.”

“And look, now, the way great mountains, coated with a blanket of cotton, seem to turn to ghosts on the horizon, guarding our little valley as if bound by some solemn vow. And do you see, my gentle soul, how the snow drifts glitter as they’re carried away in that winter gale? How that storm suddenly swallows up your street, as if to transform your world into a snow globe? Do you notice, child, how the moonlight turns the frozen ground into a twinkling tapestry of stars? The way it creates a universe for you, laid at your feet?”

“Beware!” says Winter, “Your yearning for the season of ease can very well apprehend your ability to accept the gifts of this season of stillness, reflection, rest.”

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