moments – our love is not God

February 2017

“This Town” – Niall Horan / “Suburbia” – Troye Sivan

//

after feeling it all fall apart with the boy upstairs, visions of Heathers dance in my head

as I lie in the darkness, alone in bed. 
So scared of losing the God I used to idealize 

I know I’m supposed to draw, or sleep, but all I can do is wait and play these two songs on repeat 
Snow falls on the cold city outside my window 

where everyone I care about 

is out 

without me

Night lights

blue black and purple-grey clouds

obscure the illusory love with fog and doubt

Nostalgia embedded in every street of the blue neighborhood in California I used to inhabit

Was it ever real? The love Lana sings about? The one that matters, the one that I so badly want to feel

I always think I have it

until a month goes by, and it’s no longer ride-or-die. 
they were never what I wanted; it’s the idea I’ve always been in love with. 

desperately mourning something that never was

 fireflies

the sky is the softest of twilit blues, the air heavy with humidity, sweet as the honeysuckle vines that line maryland avenue. the south river shimmers on the horizon, a cerulean expanse of warm water where we would go skinny dipping every fourth of july. summer; home.

Scrambling up our wooden playground just to slide back down, grabbing the colored ribbons of the eight roly-poly puppies our dog had brought into the world a mere six weeks ago

That blue summer night, I felt so free. No math or gymnastics, no place I had to be. So warm, seated shoulder-to-shoulder and in laps on the grass. blanketed beneath the fading sky: my two sisters, my mom, and I.

We were together, as a family. Or as much of a family as we could be. That night was enough to forget we were missing my dad, fighting an undeclared war in Iraq.

fireflies flicker way up high, like magic – on again, off again. the darker it gets, the more of them I see, lighting up the old oak trees.

there were nights when we would catch them, my little sister and I. hold them covered in our hands, peeking in with one eye. sometimes, Mom would let us move them to glass jars, permeated with just enough holes so they could breathe

we’d watch them flicker by our bedsides, like nightlights.
until the morning came and they were just black-and-orange bugs again; crawling, encaged.
we, too, knew how it felt to be caught by life involuntarily
so we unscrewed the tops, and let the fireflies fly free

wild

fleeing outside, flying kites
meandering barefoot in the twilight

we run wild
up hills to the parks
where we can get lost together
midday past dark

Where we would wander,
cold and wet
through rain-soaked forests
all of the red orange yellow-browns
of the leaves that cover the ground
hiding the dirt and roots from the trees
a month ago pounded underneath my bare feet

still tracing the patterns the trees create,
except with you, I don’t mind the wait

you kiss me,
unafraid,
hold me tight.
together, we laugh about the things we fear alone in the night

we talk about the past and the future, too
things that are important to you
me
family
a half-forgotten memory

And I feel heard and seen and felt so deeply
in a way that gives me energy
makes me want to
want to do,
want to be
be with you

but I’m also stronger on my own
you’re vanilla tea in my heart when I’m alone

down St.Laurent at sunset
lights strung up and down the boulevard
watching our city glow so bright
I feel so very loved, so light

The clouds & the colors paint the sky
now I’m with you
I don’t have to try
to be
anything except for me

nights spent in your arms
rain pours outside
but nothing can touch us,
intertwined

hidden, under covers
my best friend, my lover
Scratch, kiss, moan, bite
fuck me and it’s wild, it’s right

dancing wild
running free
absolutely irrationally

while logically
we make ourselves believe
the lies we tell ourselves
don’t think about
the day I have to leave

she (story of a girl)

she won’t be tied down, except with words
she’ll believe what you say & she wants to be heard

she loves to read and run and learn and laugh
talk and jump and play in the grass

she’s always singing in her head
& wishing she hadn’t left thoughts unsaid

she’s smart & she knows it
but since she was 10 she’s been scared to show it

she’s 19 and she’s seen a lot of the world
she’s 19 but she still feels like a young girl

when she gets scared she fights like she’s right
she’ll run away in the night,
underneath the fluorescent lights
as fast as she can, until her chest feels tight

until the tears can pour down
bare, dirty feet
silent trees & concrete streets

she tries to find solace in everything around her,
doesn’t know why, she feels like she’s found there
she knows peace lies within but she seeks without
she knows what she wants but she sometimes has doubt

she thinks a lot about value
often asks what’s enough
and even when she’s not, she tries to be tough

when she feels alone
when she forgets what is home
when she wishes that she were fully grown
she has been known
to search for meaning in others
and conceal herself under attractive covers

shielded by the protection of her youth
she hides insecurity behind questions of truth

though some nights are dark
she finds safety in parks
and creates peace in making new art

she loves something fierce
she wants to be here
she’s learning how to persevere through her fear

she knows every sunrise breaks a new day
she’s figuring out who she is, & that’s okay 🌟

Vulnerability

April 10, 2016, instagram post from my high school bedroom:

Radical softness (n): unapologetic vulnerability. In a society that prioritizes fierce self-reliance, it is seen as weak to be emotional, to want support. It takes a different kind of strength to share your emotions openly with other people, to refuse to feel sorry for how you feel.

// January 25-27, 2018; Granada, Nicaragua

For the purpose of this article, vulnerability is defined as the ability to experience one’s emotions as they are, and in doing so, fully embrace the life one is living right now, in its entirety.

Vulnerability is the most rebellious form of self-love that exists in American culture. In an attempt to sell the American Dream, advertising companies and mainstream media moguls have created a culture that idolizes “happiness”, an effortless sense of satisfaction one can achieve simply by working hard and/or looking good. As a result, there is this expectation that to be seen as likeable, one has to seem happy. In conforming to this expectation, I have often felt pressure to exude an unconditionally positive outlook, to radiate a joy I don’t always authentically possess.

To maintain this illusion of happiness, there were emotions I would refuse to let myself feel. I was determined negativity deserved no space in my life, so I wouldbecome otherwise occupied to avoid feeling angry, sad, or scared. Despite my best efforts, my “busyness” tactic never really worked – no matter what activity I convinced myself I was immersed in, the shame was always there, whispering sweet “you’re nothing”s in my ear. The pressure to maintain the illusion of the person I thought I should be would build in the back of my mind, until I couldn’t take it anymore – I would shatter, my soul sharpening words into shards that would surround me. I would use these to shield myself from a version of me I didn’t want to see, but more than anything, the make-believe stalactites cut me off from the person I wanted to be. Sometimes they would turn outwards, on the people I loved the most, for coming too close, for fear of them seeing me in a way I couldn’t bear to see myself.Furthermore, by not allowing myself to feel how upset I was, I wouldn’t learn from the mistakes that caused me pain in the first place. The whole point of our brain’s negative feedback loop is to alert the organism in question that its current environment is not safe anymore, and something needs to change. But how on Earth can I learn to change my actions when I’m so busy pretending everything is fine?

Maintaining this facade of perfection was not only inauthentic, it was exhausting – by cutting myself off from emotions I perceived as negative, I was not experiencing my life to its fullest extent. This was a significant blockage in my relationship with myself that rippled outward to affect my relationship with others, leading me to stay in places I was uncomfortable far longer than I should have.

I realized in my teacher training was that there is nothing intrinsically bad about these so-called “negative” emotions – it’s okay to be hurt, angry, and sad. It means I cared about something enough to get attached to it, and it’s unfortunate that it didn’t work out. But these feelings don’t define me – it’s what I decide to do with these emotions that determine who I am and how my life will continue.

I let myself cry now. I allow myself to write & think about the things that make me unhappy, without immediately trying to find a solution. Quick fixes never worked, and it’s much less painful to address the underlying problem a single time than treat the symptoms every month or so. Who I really am and what I really feel is valuable; what’s crazy is how long it has taken me to understand this. Unhappiness is a necessary part of life, and the breaking is beautiful in its own way. Accessing these emotions has brought me so much closer to reality, to who I am and who I want to be.

Which brings me to my second point: Vulnerability is the fundamental building block for authentic communication of personal experience that creates connection with another human being. It’s the single most important trait for any meaningful relationship.

I am more connected to others, too – I can call friends & family members now when I’m upset, talk to loved ones about my less positive feelings in the relationship in the hopes of ameliorating it.  No one around me has been put off by these real emotions, either; on the contrary, it has made me so much more relatable when I am able to talk about things I am having difficulty with. It makes me a real person, someone others can really connect to; no longer an unattainable golden girl.

I’ve realized vulnerability is what I crave in communication. I would rather have someone cry to me about the shitty breakup they’re going through five times over than deliver a distant anecdote about what they had for lunch. Similarly, the music that resonates with me usually addresses themes of love, pain, sadness, and anger in relationships. These feel authentic, especially when they’re pertinent to my own life.

It takes immense strength to reveal the parts of myself I have always been told are “weak” and “childish”. But I’m finding immeasurable power in accepting what is. True weakness is hiding who I really am from myself and those I love, out of fear of being rejected for not being enough. True immaturity is found in an inability to learn from past mistakes, stemming from a refusal to feel – a lack of vulnerability

Artists are some of the bravest and most open people in our society – they have to be to do their job, which is to create connection, the manifestation of art. That’s what I’m trying to create now, too. Open communication, connection, vulnerable authenticity. Growing into becoming a person who experiences & express herself fully, accepting all aspects of her life.

// How to?

I am by no means an expert on anything, but here are a few tips I’ve found useful in my own personal journey:

– Reach out. I try to open up to people when I’m feeling upset. Sometimes I disregard my own emotions as dumb or unnecessary, but talking to a loved one helps validate them. In addition, articulating my feelings often allows me to understand what I’m really struggling with

– Something really key for my journey in vulnerability that my personal development teacher impressed upon me was to always speak from” I”. Often, in an attempt to distance myself from being vulnerable, I would speak in vague generalities, saying things like “sometimes this happens” or “people do this”. Even using second person & first person plural, “you should / we feel” connotes an element of separation from self. The way to overcome this distance and really connect? Speak from I. After all, the only things I can ever really know are those I experience, so it’s all I can talk about with any certainty.

// Additional resources:

Brene Brown has done some incredible research on the importance of vulnerability in relationship and life satisfaction – I highly recommend any of her works if you want to learn about the concrete effect of vulnerability.

Love & Fear

I think every meaningful human action can be traced to an either love or fear-based motivational drive. Every decision we make, every word we say and thing we do comes from a place of either love or fear.

1. Love

All good things come from & return to love. Joy, faith, compassion, connection – love is the link that connects us to one another, what motivates us to create. Acceptance is found through love, because when you love something unconditionally, there is no need to change it. I think all positive changes in the world come about as a result of a love-based underlying belief paradigm, e.g. wanting to help people because you love them or make the world a better place for the love of it. When  you are immersed in an activity, whether it be a conversation or a drawing, this is where you find love (I expand on love as connection and creation in Lust for Life).

I have found that all the perceived negative aspects of love (especially in the context of relationships) are solely those that do not come from a place of love, but fear. Relationships built on conditional love are not built on love at all, but fear of being alone. There’s a huge difference between being with someone because you love them, and being with someone because you’re scared of being on your own. The latter is a fear-based behavior.

2. Fear

Fear is a mechanism that allows us to recognize that we are uncomfortable with a situation and challenges us to change (see Expectations vs. Reality for information on how to change to make it better). We’re not able to change for the better unless it’s through love.

Fear evolved as a motivational mechanism to make us aware of threats that mostly don’t plague civilization today. The overwhelmingly strong fear response successfully kept us alive and out of danger for the majority of our time on this earth. However, we simply do not have the same threats we used to. As a result, the majority of fear we experience is psychological, not legitimate threats for our safety. Because of this, the negatives often outweigh the benefits of fear. This is one of the reasons clinical psychopaths, who don’t experience fear the same way regular people do, are so successful in places like business – it’s more advantageous to take a risk when it comes to things like investments. We don’t have as much to be scared of as we perceive. Our reality is usually more optimistic than we perceive it to be.

A lot of people in our society are driven by fear, so we normalize it. But we can change this. We can defeat the fear through awareness, through acceptance, because that’s the only way to bring about positive change. Fear is a manifestation of unconsciousness – it tears us away from one another.

Fear IS important for who we are as humans – it’s what allows us to change our world and keeps us alive, part of what has made us so successful as a species. Despite this, it’s blatantly counterproductive for happiness and inner peace. Fear doesn’t make you stronger, it tells you where you’re weak. Don’t believe your mind when it tells you not to be vulnerable or real – this is where we find real love and connection. Bravery is one of the virtues I hold in highest stead, because it’s the ability to love in face of adversity. It’s what allows us to overcome fear.

3. Conclusion/Personal thoughts

Something I personally struggle with is having a want to do stuff vs. being scared of not doing something. Here, my self-worth is contingent on the activities I engage in. The goal: having all that is be enough, but still be able to enact positive change through a want to make the world better, through love.

I know I can make the best difference when I’m the best me. This is me when I’m coming from a place of love, not of fear. So I try to forgive myself and others and believe the world is enough as it is. Because it’s the only world we have, because I’m the only me there’s ever going to be, because it’s all the time I’m given. Because ultimately, it’s not the time that matters, it’s what I do with it. And I could be fearful about it, put pressure on myself to do things as if being were not enough. Or I could love ,and be grateful that I’m able to be alive in the first place, not to mention do great things on top of that!! I choose love.

Some additional references:

Daring Greatly – Brené Brown (love her)

Art

Art is communication

Self-expression

Connection, not perfection

Sharing our experiences as best we can

One of the greatest virtues of man

Allowed for by our consciousness

Our drive to create

The same thing that makes us

formulate & fornicate

//

Art is communication. It’s all forms of self-expression. It’s sharing who you are (which is composed of your experiences & your consciousness) through what you’ve created. It’s the method through which people share themselves with the world around them.

This includes talking, writing, drawing, singing, painting, filming, playing the violin. Any legitimate expression of oneself is art. Love, literature, film, photography, sex – anything that captures any part of you and shares it with the world is art.

The best art is determined by what you’re able to connect with. What makes you cry, what makes you feel, what’s real – this is what makes true art. Art that deals with love and loss, passion and pain – ultimately, love and fear. They’re what motivate us to act. They’re what’s real and what’s beautiful about who we are.

Art documents the struggle between love and fear in people. It gives them a space to confront the fear and learn to love by realizing they’re not alone. Performing, sharing our creations, allow us to let out the fear and overcome it, by sharing it and learning to love.

Concept: a well-fed, emotionally healthy artist (not just tortured & starving ones). Would they create as well? Would they create better?

I would love to create a space where people feel safe to share, because the vulnerability is the most beautiful and terrifying thing. It makes us grow more than anything else when we’re able to love in place of fear.

Art makes you feel more significant, less alone, allows you to find meaning in the world outside of yourself. It allows you to create something bigger than yourself, to leave your mark on the world. To influence other people and share your feelings.

That’s why I think loving relationships are the most beautiful things you can create – it’s the deepest level of connection with another person. It makes everything feel worthwhile. It makes us and the world enough. It brings more love into the world than any other single thing. Human relationality matters.

inspirations for this post:

– Lorde’s Melodrama album

– Dear Evan Hansen (the musical)

– Bo Burnham

Yoga

This morning I didn’t want to get out of bed. It was rainy and cold and I knew I had a long day of work ahead of me. It took a significant amount of time and quite a few mental pep talks, but eventually I got up, made breakfast, and went to the studio.

I started doing yoga a year and a half ago (wow so long ago!), beginning in January 2016. In this time, I have been able to feel myself grow so much. Yoga has improved my life in too many ways to count, and this is my little appreciation post.

Yoga is not about being flexible, or strong. It’s not about the poses, or even the breath, though these are all important aspects of a practice. Yoga is about creating space in your mind and in your body. It’s not a performance, it’s a practice. It’s showing up and trying your best no matter how you feel.

It’s something you can do when you’re tired and sick and injured. Especially then – that’s when you really need to listen to your body. Yoga is a practice that you can modify according to what your mind and body need that hour, that day.

Yoga is challenging. There are poses that require specific muscle groups that you don’t have when you start, that you have to work towards. Many poses you can’t do at first, or can’t do properly. There are still poses I thought I understood which I was actually doing wrong – I was muscling through when I should have been breathing into it.

There is plenty of tightness and aches in my body. Yoga doesn’t stop the pain; instead, it allows you to grow from it. To create a space where you can be comfortable in spite of the physical pain you feel. The mental practice does the exact same thing. It doesn’t change the way the world is: all the bad parts of the world still exist; you are the same person in the same circumstances before and after your practice. Yoga allows you to create a headspace where you approach your situation with love. This is what makes all the difference.

I grew up doing all sorts of competitive sports: gymnastics, soccer, track & field; yoga is the only physical activity I’ve done that has no external purpose: it’s just for me. It makes my experiences more positive, my days better: it allows me to become a more positive person. It makes me stronger and fitter, to create space in my body, but much more importantly, to create space in my mind. Having the time to focus on my breathing, my body, the moment clears my head. I’m able to focus on what’s important during my practice, and it carries through to the rest of the day.

I have the most incredibly loving and supportive teacher, who always encourages us to listen to our bodies. Who pushes me because she believes in me, who teaches me how to make myself better. Who really loves me. It’s the most incredible thing to start every day seeing her and listening to my body, breathing and moving and creating space.

If you’ve never tried yoga, definitely do. It doesn’t matter if you’re good or not, if you’re able to do the poses all the way. Just be there, breathe, and create space within yourself to grow. That is yoga, and that has changed my life more than I can express.