I Feel Free

6S3A3126

I am writing because I will otherwise forget, because I have so much in my mind lately — ideas and concepts and breakthroughs boiling in my subconscious that I sincerely can hardly remember where I was yesterday.

Questions, normal questions, such as, “What have you been up to lately?” or, “How was your weekend?” have become…difficult. I stand there, frozen, attempting to fetch memories from my mind. They’re in there, somewhere, they must be, surely. It’s just that I’ve thought a million thoughts since the weekend, and “lately” is more like an eternity of experience than a summary of recent events.

It is an increasing challenge to retrieve yesterday or the day before. I am writing because my life is slipping by so quickly, and I’m having increasing trouble recalling it, to an extent that causes mental distress.

I want to remember. I want it to matter that I was here, though it probably doesn’t, in the grand scheme of things. Two generations from now, I’ll be forgotten. But, truly, what does that grand scheme have to do with me, or I it? What can matter more to me than my own experience? Is it not worth documenting, even if the attempt of grasping is futile?

6S3A45306S3A30716S3A27836S3A0670

I wake up on a Thursday in September in my own bed. Drew kisses me goodbye as he leaves for work, and I know now with a certainty I have come down with a cold at the most inconvenient of times. I should have expected this. It is September, after all. But why must it revisit me now – only a day before I was bound for Colorado, to shoot a magical mountainous wedding I had been looking forward to for months?

In the course I took last year, they taught me that every physical ailment means something, that illness is a message from your body, telling you to slow down, give yourself rest. I think to myself, I’m doing my best. I think I’m taking care of myself pretty well, all things considered. If my body’s trying to tell me something, maybe it could try morse code. A dream or vision, perhaps. But, then, inevitably, I think, maybe this doesn’t mean anything. Maybe it just means I hung out with a friend who had a cold a few days ago, and so now I have a cold.

Once again, I arrive back at the awareness that I’ve come to embrace lately – like a new door opening in my subconscious – that I seem believe in everything and nothing at the same time. That nothing means anything and everything means everything, even if that can’t logically be.

Because I commend logic, yes; I also see an entire realm beyond it.

I turn into a needy child, as I do with illness. I have a million things to do before I leave, including packing, clearing my SD cards, making sure what was previously on them is backed up before adding more, but it is as if my body is on strike. It protests my every move. I fall asleep before I ever get to packing.

I wake up on a Friday, and hurriedly, dazedly, half-mindedly throw some clothes in a suitcase. They make no sense. They never do. How many trips, how many weekends away will it take for me to master the art of packing? Yet another riddle of existence I haven’t the time or energy to solve. The house is a mess, but I have no time to clean it. I blow my nose a million times, create a mountain of used tissues.

Drew comes home from work, helps me put my bags in the car. He gives me one of his hugs and I start to cry. In full melodrama, I tell him I don’t think I can do this. I feel terrible. Why do I have to be sick now, of all times? Where is the justice in life? What is the point of it all anyway?

He handles my meltdown perfectly, gently, reassuringly, understandingly. He doesn’t embarrass me for being emotional or chide me for being sad. We are, after all, kindred, sensitive souls. He knows just what to say. He always does.

I sit waiting in his passenger seat, sniffling and sneezing and whining to myself while he gets his teeth cleaned at the dentist. When he returns to the car around 12:40, we are off like lightning to the very same airport I left from the weekend previous for a wedding in Atlanta. He drops me off at Departures. Goodbye again, for what seems like the 5th time this month. I rush inside to make my 1:45 flight. Life is increasingly strange and exciting and exhausting and constantly moving forward.

6S3A03646S3A02866S3A28046S3A28056S3A2809

Security, shoes off, no, I don’t have a laptop. Hurry up and wait. I board a tiny plane. I love picking a song to properly accompany the sensation of leaving the ground. And I know no one will ever ask, but Cream’s “I Feel Free” is about as perfect a Takeoff Song as could be.

And while we’re on that note, let it be known that I consider “Astronaut” by Gregory Alan Isakov to be one of the most romantic songs a person could write. But nobody ever really asks each other questions like that, in life, in social situations, though I wish they would. I wish it were considered normal, to delve into the soul on a regular basis. I need that, to feel healthy and whole, that kind of connection, to spend time with people who crave and indulge intellectual exploration. When I go too long without it, spend my days in surface-level interactions, I begin to unravel, lose my sense of self and purpose.

(And I’m just now realizing, that’s what my writing is – the answers to questions no one will ever ask which I nevertheless feel compelled to answer. And that’s why, to stay sane and functional and whole, I must write.)

I get a window seat, which is the only way being in such close proximity to other humans is bearable for me. It means instead of suffocating in my own Agoraphobia, I spend the entire flight marveling at reality. I think about how I am sitting in a seat in the sky, floating through towering puffy white clouds bigger than the aircraft I inhabit! What beauty and brilliance! I wish I could jump out the window into the clouds. They look so friendly. I gaze downward, enchanted with the scenery below.

From here, everything looks perfect, quaint, idyllic, like a miniature model. Tiny toy houses, tiny broccoli trees. Only it’s real. A million roads I’ve never driven, dry riverbeds cut their way deep into the ground, sprawling out in different directions. It’s the kind of sight that makes me wonder if we’re all just living in someone’s painting. I would like that. And perhaps, in a way, we are.

These are my thoughts on airplanes. I do well up there, in the clouds, because my mind spends most of its time there anyway. But the inevitable landing grounds me, back to the harsh reality. The landing is always my least-favorite part.

6S3A28156S3A28246S3A28376S3A30466S3A3037

I arrive in Grand Junction, which I realize is a place I’ve never been before. There are too many places I’ve never been before. The airport is small. I love small airports. Everyone who works there seems excited to see me, wants to chat with me about what snacks I chose. Nobody at the car rental car counter tries to get me to buy insurance.

I drive two and a half hours through lovely Colorado scenes, gradually climbing from bright desert to pines to aspen. I blast Shakey Graves, Conor Oberst, Laura Marling, Fleet Foxes, Rayland Baxter, The Nude Party. The latter sing to me, “I don’t need your love/ I just need my records.” And I think to myself, that’s almost true. And then, as twilight settles in, I arrive: Telluride. The place that most resembles Rivendell I’ve ever been. (Yes, a Lord of the Rings reference; my very soul is practically woven with them.) A tiny ski town at the top of a magical canyon, a river running through. Pleased to meet you, indeed.

I rush through a quaint little village into a restaurant to meet the bride whose wedding I’m there to capture. She is glowing. She is flawless. She is tall, slender, timeless, elegant human perfection. The sort of person you feel like a bridge troll next to, even when you’ve been in therapy for years. The next day is the wedding. It is divine, literally taking place on top of a mountain. The stuff of my career dreams. My cold persists, and the elevation makes it embarrassingly difficult to catch my breath. By the end of the day, I am spent. But I’ve come to love that feeling.

6S3A30476S3A30576S3A31626S3A3157

I think of something I read in a book a friend recently gifted me called “Women Who Run With the Wolves.” Estes writes of a woman’s wild self, “Once women have lost her and then found her again, they will contend to keep her for good. Once they have regained her, they will fight and fight hard to keep her, for with her their creative lives blossom; their relationships gain meaning and depth and health; their cycles of sexuality, creativity, work, and play are re-established; they are no longer marks for the predations of others; they are entitled equally under the laws of nature to grow and to thrive. Now their end-of-day fatigue comes from satisfying work endeavors, not from being shut up in too small a mindset, job, or relationship.

I remember those words, feel my heart echo their message. I think to myself, this life I now live is much better, ending my days in the delicious satisfaction that I’m doing the work, rather than in that old suffocated, stifled, muzzled, comfortable boredom.

Yes, the past several months to a year to maybe even two years have been full to the brim – sometimes to the point of what feels like insanity. This past summer, we scarcely had time to stay home and breathe. We scarcely had a free night to ourselves for months. But that’s only because we are finally spending our time on doing the things we’ve always wanted to. And, it’s like Oberst sings, “Slipping steadily into madness – now that’s the only place to be free.”

I went on a trip with my childhood friend to play in Harry Potter World, to pretend for just a few days that we’re still kids. I realized, as we laid next to each other devouring garlic fries on Venice Beach, just how strange it is being a grown-up, because you can’t help but to see the many ways you and everyone around you are still children. And yet, that you can never truly be children again, and how that hurts, how that never stops hurting, not really.

I went to Washington to shoot my first wedding in the Pacific Northwest. It was an enchanting ceremony nestled in a forest of pine trees. I stood a few quiet moments in those trees alone, and they reminded me that they are alive, just like I am alive, and isn’t that a lovely thing? I have increasingly come to love listening to trees.

Next, a photography retreat in Big Sur where I couldn’t comprehend the beauty of the coast, of water and sunshine and fog. I learned there more about who I am, and who I’m not, as a person and photographer and creator. I was asked the question, “What is your main goal?” At first I wasn’t sure, but then, the answer was there. It flew at me with the speed and force and certainty of an asteroid.

I wrote: “To be FREE, financially, emotionally, creatively  — of guilt, and shame, and preconceived notions, and the ‘suppposed-to’ mindset, and living life out of obligation —  to show others that they already have permission to be free themselves.” The speaker had us share ours with the group, and when I read mine, they applauded. That felt really good, to share my honest truth and find it could be supported, even applauded.

I came home for a day to see Jack White, that Modern Warlock of Rock N’ Roll, Prophet of Sacral Sound, Deliverer of Holy Rhythms. We had the perfect spot on the second floor of Saltair, where I swung my head over the banister to the music, over the sea of human energy below as I stood next to some of my most kindred spirits. Our phones locked inside of cases that couldn’t be opened until the end of the show, everyone there was so present – you could feel it, all electric and dynamic and alive. It fed me, that experience, fed my heart and my soul. Yet again, that delicious feeling of earned exhaustion.

And then, just as quickly, we were off for our yearly trip to California with Drew’s family. We basked in the sunshine, swam in the sea. We sped as a group of seven – that is me, Drew, Lauren, Megan, Cody, Lisa & Kevin – on electric bikes down the historic Pacific Highway 101. As I rode, pushing my pedals with the joy of a child, I looked out to the waves below and let the sweet ocean air kiss my face, run its fingers through my salty hair, almost like it knew I would soon be gone once again.

After that came the wedding in Atlanta with a fellow friend and photographer. I was transfixed by the tree-lined streets, charmed by the neighborhoods without sidewalks. I sweat through my clothes in the humid southern heat, and collapsed on the floor of the bride’s room after several hours of straight shooting. We were, from what I could tell, the only white people there. It was incredible.

6S3A44796S3A45126S3A2767

And, somehow, there I found myself, falling asleep in Colorado after a day of photo-taking, moment-capturing, coming to the close of yet another season of major soul excavation and growth. Now, here we stand, on the edge of another November, inching closer December with each second: the end of yet another year. And how?

I’ve finally begun the process of surrender — to the insanity of it all, and I’m beginning to think that is the key.

 

Advertisements

on magic. on mystery. on destiny.

6S3A31356S3A32306S3A45706S3A03346S3A02606S3A02656S3A32286S3A02696S3A02856S3A31486S3A0300

For an amount of time undoubtedly inordinate, the apparent overall goal of social media, and, furthermore, social STATUS, has been to portray your life – what you’re doing, creating, accomplishing – all in a way, or with an attitude, that makes it look effortless. Easy. Cool. Without any struggle in the heart or sweat on the brow.

But, I must say, there seems to have been a shift. Have you felt it? The steadily-building rumble beneath your feet? It looks like we’re catching on now. The jig is up. This grotesque guise of ease finally dying – tired, counterfeit, spent.

I have never been interested in making my journey or creations look pretty or likable or easily understood for the sake of it. I am not interested in making it look easy. I am interested in honesty, in seeing things as they really are. Not because I want everyone around me to admire me for how hard I’ve worked, but because I desperately want to detangle this snare, shatter this illusion, exterminate this cop-out we all seem to buy into when we see someone we know doing something we also feel drawn to, even called to, but quickly dismiss the possibility of.

“I’m not meant for that sort of thing,” we say, “Only these other people. See? Here’s the proof. It comes so easily to them.”

No. I would contend that, for the vast majority, it does not.

I want to communicate the simple truth that, with lies of what isn’t “meant to be,” we bury our own truths and hold ourselves hostage from what we ARE meant to be, effectively denying ourselves of our DESTINY.

It’s a subtle game, do you see? The way we convince ourselves we are destined not to fulfill our own destiny.

We do ourselves a disservice when we imagine destiny as something that happens to us, magically landing in our lap. We cheapen ourselves and our work when we allow others to believe that progressing at our craft, our brain-children, our reason for being, the very passion or devotion that pulls us out of bed in the morning and through the days, was hardly work at all.

And perhaps I’m wrong. Maybe there are exceptions, rare prodigious anomalies who knew from the very instant they drew their first breath what they were made to do, and did so, without effort, without struggle, quickly stepping into an applauded spotlight of success, riches, and glory. But I just can’t believe that it is so. The gentle voice in the back of my mind which I have come to regard as a guide insists it is not.

For a small while now, a few years, I have felt like I am onto something. Almost as if I’ve been following a trail of breadcrumbs, leading me to more and more truth. Maybe it’s folly, delusion. Maybe it’s simply the newfound power of the cappuccino in my life. But I don’t think so. I think it’s something bigger. Something more.

My limited experience thus far has lead me to suspect that destiny is something built into you, something only you can know, and, furthermore, bring into reality. It is a map, a guide, nudging you toward the role you were always meant to play.

But just because you were meant to do something, just because you have a passion for it that threatens to drive you to madness like a siren drives the desperate sailor over the stern, doesn’t mean it’s going to come effortlessly. It doesn’t mean that your pursuit of it will allow you to look cool the entire time. And those exceptions, anomalies, I now identify as myths, saboteurs, liars we use to keep ourselves safely within our comfort zones.

Things like magic, inspiration, destiny, they don’t spend themselves on an unworthy cause. They do not cast themselves as pearls to swine. They will offer themselves, yes, but only to those who actively seek them out.

“Inspiration exists, but it has to find you working.” -Picasso

We’re all drawn to, enchanted by, enamored with stories of characters who discover they are The Chosen One. Well, it is my contention that the reason for this is we see ourselves in these stories. We’re so drawn to them because they remind us of this part of ourselves we’ve been ignoring, drowning out, and disconnecting from for so long. Because it seems easier that way. Because there is less risk. Because we feel we can be more easily approved of and accepted by those around us if we can only shut it up. Because it’s less work. Because by staying in our comfort zone we can at least keep up the illusion of cool.

But I believe that we are all the chosen ones of our own story of destiny, if only we can find it in us to sacrifice our ego, comfort, pride, our determination to look cool, calm, and approved of, long enough to claim our power.

Not to say I’m particularly skilled or accomplished or hold myself as any sort of poster child for manifesting destiny. That’s actually my entire point! I’m really not especially anything. For heaven’s sake, I woke up at 9:30 a.m. today to find a stray chocolate chip from last night’s snacking session had made its way under my pillow and melted all over my hand! This is not a portrait of someone who has it all figured out! But I have been working.

Over the past few years, I have been gradually, consistently working to make my life look more like what I’ve always innately wanted it to. And, you know what? I’m finally seeing results. In small ways, yes, but those small ways taste so much sweeter and feel so much bigger than I ever imagined I could deserve or achieve.

And so it’s important to me to make it clear that anything I have achieved hasn’t come easily. In fact, it hasn’t come at all. Things don’t just come to us simply because they were meant to. Rather, we know, internally, what is meant for us, and it is up to us, through our efforts, failures, trial and error, to bring it into this realm of existence, to make it real. It’s more like specifically envisioning what you want, and grabbing at the threads that make that idea possible, slowly weaving them together.

For me, it has come from forcing myself to try, to get in the ring, to throw some damn punches, instead of sitting around in low-vibrational environments, criticizing anyone who dares to try, numbing myself with gossip in a sad attempt to distract myself from my own work, my own mission, my own progress.

I can’t do that anymore. I’ve simply run out of the patience it takes to sit around and state the obvious. Frankly, I have too much to do.

It’s a willingness to show up, and consistently so, when everything inside of me seems to be begging me to just keep hiding, keep quiet, keep using shame and sarcasm and self-depreciation as a shield, keep playing it safe, keep small.

It’s daring to allow myself the ROOM TO BE IMPERFECT, to be bad at something in order to gradually, eventually improve. It’s working steadily rather than waiting for some mythical moment of instant gratification, some imaginary hand to appear and scoop me up, dropping me effortlessly into my dreams.

It’s putting forth efforts to heal myself, to take responsibility for how I feel, what my life looks like, rather than remaining a victim.

It’s a willingness to just try it, to step out of fear and into possibility. It’s detaching my self-worth from other people’s actions, realizing that what people do is always, always, always about them.

It’s trusting my vision.

Your heart is your map, and the world is your mirror – they’ve been trying to tell you something. So, what do you see?

become what you’re doing.

6S3A16696S3A30896S3A16726S3A30956S3A1692

I love the heat. The white-hot undeniable summer sun seems to burn out of me much of my usual pension for darkness. I feel dark, at times, but it’s much less concentrated than in the winter, much more fleeting. Here and then gone. Everyone around me seems to be complaining constantly about the temperature, all the while I’m practically building altars to it in my mind. Summer is a special sort of magic.

I develop a belated obsession with Ty Segall after Drew and I see him in Las Vegas in the early Spring. It was the same with Tame Impala. The Black Angels. I didn’t like them, found their music too strange, chaotic, spacey, aggressive at first. There are some artists, for me, that I can’t fully understand until I see them live. Almost like the recording can’t contain enough of them, and at a live performance, something just clicks.

“Oh,” I think, “So this is what they’re going for. This is what they’ve been trying to say. I think I get it now. I think I see.”

In Las Vegas, the venue is smaller than I expected. Segall and The Freedom Band play so loud I can’t stand close to the stage after a while. But I love it. It’s almost as if they have no regard for the audience. It is apparent, so very apparent, that what they’re delivering as a band, and the manner in which they’re doing so, they’re doing  for themselves. We’re just lucky surveyors.

Everything about that show, down to the way they position themselves on the stage, does something to me, sticks with me, changes me. I don’t know. It’s like I’m under a spell; I can’t stop thinking about it.

I realize I want to know what that feels like. To be so in something, so sure of your ability that you forget where you are, what you are, who you are. You simply become what you’re doing. You forget an entire room of people’s eyes are on you, fraught with expectation.

From that point on, every time I got in my car, I’m blasting Ty Segall. It takes me months to graduate from Freedom’s Goblin. I spend several weeks just listening to the first 5 or 6 tracks (out of 19) over and over again. On my way and back to the grocery store, on my way and back from a photo shoot.

I’m that way, with albums I really love. I can’t take them in all at once. I need to feel I’ve come to an at-least-adequate understanding of the first chunk before I can move on to the next. I don’t know what that is. A weird manifestation of perfectionism, perhaps? The trait I never could find for my schoolwork, but have obsessively applied to the music I listened to since I was young.

If only I had learned earlier what passion means. That the thing you love most in existence, the thing you had broken up with boyfriends over, the thing that you look forward to most every day, that takes up the most space in your mind is the thing you were meant to do, surely. That all of my burning jealousy toward musicians, writers, creative people, was pointing me to something. If only I had known then that it was all a map, expertly built into me as it is all of us.

But I know now. That’s what counts.
Yes, I know it now, and that’s what counts.

I listen to the music in my car so loud, the speakers are damaged. I can hear it as a sort of static layer over the songs. But it has always been this way. I just need it loud, the main event rather than wasted in the background. I go through some phases, where I don’t have an album, where I am void of obsession. These are the points I feel a void in myself that the empty airaround me reflects.

Something is happening to my ears. Probably from too much noise. They’re more sensitive now. Stacking plates in the cupboard kind of hurts, that ceramic hitting together. I ask people to repeat themselves more often. Band practice doesn’t help. I try to wear earplugs, but they’re such a pain. I can’t hear what everyone else is playing, or saying. I don’t know. It just doesn’t feel as good, but I try to do it anyway. I don’t want to be deaf before I’m 40.

The last thing I ever want to do is portray my life as perfect, because that is a lie. Drew and I are Drew and I. But the past year was, I would say, our most challenging.

We were talking about this just last week, about how everyone told us during our engagement, “The first year is the hardest.” I’m sure you’ve heard that speech before. (Always accompanied with a facial expression that seems to say, “You kids have no idea what you’re getting into.”) But that wasn’t our experience at all. The first year, the first few years, were the easiest. Drew remarked that during that time, we were happy as a couple, but we weren’t growing. We were just sort of…existing. Stagnant. Following the format.

But more recently, we’re both shifting, as individuals, and therefore as a couple. The ground beneath us in transition. Things are unsteady, at some points. Ups and downs. Strange arguments coming up at strange moments. Odd new behaviors, uncovering some old dishonesty, delivering brutal honesty. Both of us looking at each other, perplexed, as if to say, “What happened here? This used to be so easy.

And it was. It’s easy being married to someone so out of touch with herself. Not so easy after she becomes reacquainted with her will and her voice and her anger, when she swings from one side of the pendulum to the very opposite until leveling out, finding freedom in the middle ground, expecting you to support her when it must have looked like she was losing her mind.

I. I must have looked like I was losing my mind. Which, I’ve come to believe, it one of the greatest signs of health in a human. You must lose your mind in order to find it. That sort of thing.

Things begin leveling out, becoming more peaceful. We become less concerned with how we’ll be perceived, and more committed to the idea that people will feel about us the way we feel about us. We begin to take our focus off of the audience, and just become what we’re doing. I keep thinking to myself that I’m not sure what my life is becoming, but I think I like it. I think I really do. It’s so much different than I ever expected, and yet, somehow, closer to what I’ve always imagined.

We play our first show at Urban Lounge. I’ve wanted to play there for so long, have watched so many bands with envy, and there I was, setting up my drum kit. Well, helping Drew set up our drum kit.I’ve still never done it on my own. One of the perks of having a husband in the band, I suppose.

It’s a Tuesday night, and we don’t play until 9, so not many people show up. A few close friends, and the members of the other bands. But it doesn’t even bother me. It would have, months ago. But I’ve realized since when you do what you do for you, you’re free. What better way to spend a Tuesday night than playing some rock & roll? There’s nothing else I’d rather be doing.

I decide to wear my sunglasses during the set, and I find it extremely helpful. Without them, I can see the audience too clearly, and I start worry about them. How are they feeling? Are they enjoying themselves? Do they hate this? Is my performance good enough for them? Co-dependency at its finest. With the sunglasses, there’s an added protective barrier in which I can forget about the audience, and essentially become what I’m doing. That’s when I know I’m doing it right, in drumming and in life.

whoops

 

6S3A32036S3A03456S3A3180This 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.

too many photos/I need the trees

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

6S3A9235

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.

6S3A92646S3A92586S3A91896S3A91776S3A92226S3A91666S3A94176S3A91566S3A92286S3A91926S3A92506S3A91856S3A92426S3A9196-26S3A92796S3A92696S3A94016S3A92706S3A93136S3A93846S3A93496S3A93456S3A93726S3A93806S3A94006S3A94026S3A9419

6S3A94246S3A9431

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?

6S3A99346S3A99356S3A99376S3A99396S3A99406S3A99426S3A99456S3A99466S3A99496S3A99586S3A9988

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.

6S3A34306S3A3460-Edit6S3A35756S3A35886S3A35966S3A36066S3A3620

6S3A21336S3A21356S3A21366S3A21376S3A21416S3A21426S3A21436S3A21456S3A21466S3A21476S3A21486S3A21496S3A21506S3A21516S3A21526S3A21536S3A21556S3A21586S3A21596S3A21626S3A21646S3A21686S3A21696S3A21716S3A21756S3A21776S3A21786S3A21796S3A21816S3A21836S3A21866S3A21936S3A21996S3A21986S3A2139