Blizzard road. Red lights paving the way. Pretending to be asleep when we park outside the house. Papa carries my limp body to bed. He smells like cigarettes, pine and honey.
He tucks me in and kisses my forehead. Later I hear him and Mama talk in the kitchen. The crack of a bottle. Red, blue and green lights flicker in the living room while songs of chestnuts and reindeer play loud enough to make out some of the words.
Family parties full of noise and energy. The buzz of anticipation and infinite play. Bacalhau, baked potatoes, the smell of garlic and wine.
Fifty different conversations happening all at once, a low hum you want to live inside forever. Those days are gone. But I remember them like they still live on separately.
I can’t see them anymore, but I know they’re there.
I’m all hair and moodiness like a willow tree. With deep roots known for their toughness and tenacity to live, I’m still standing.
I remember the first time I ever saw a weeping willow. I must’ve been five years old. I thought those long tangled branches could open like a curtain into a magic portal where the fairies and elves lived. There was a charge of energy that vibrated around them. People thought they were sad, but I just thought they were misunderstood. Secretive. Thinking.
Have you ever stood beside a willow tree’s trunk and sat where you could see it’s branches circle around you? It feels like a shield. A place where time stands still. With symbolic references to new life, hope and stability, they offer comfort to so many just by being themselves.
Woah, this one’s intense. In all honesty, I’m not sure yet. I’m still figuring that out myself. What I do know is that I’m passionate about many issues from women’s rights (especially when it comes to bodily autonomy) to mental health services, children’s rights/care, environmental protection, creating better systems to eradicate the poverty crisis in this country and to help establish a long-overdue work-life balance so people can do what they love and spend time with the people they love, etc. If I can put a dent in at least one of these issues and raise awareness, I’ll feel like I’m making an impact on the world.
One of the small ways I try to do this now is by sharing my voice in my writing and artwork when it comes to taboo topics about women’s issues and mental health. I still have a long way to go if I want to be fully honest in my work, and I still have many stories to tell that I’m not comfortable sharing yet. I’m working on it. I know I needed a place to turn to when I was struggling myself. Being a safe space for people to see their own issues reflected back to them so they feel less alone is my way of changing the world right now. With time, I’d love to expand this and eventually host healing abstract art workshops where people of all artistic backgrounds and communities can be free to express and literally pour their hearts out. I just want people to feel like they have a place to be loved and held.
I also think we change the world in small ways with every gentle act of kindness. I try to remember that when I feel like I still have a long way to go. Every time I FaceTime my little brother and we talk through his struggles at school and I see that I’m helping him process something or I hold space for a friend’s vulnerability and creativity, I know I’m making an impact. It’s like Van Gogh said…
“Great things are done by a series of small things brought together.”
Instead of writing about what songs I’m listening to at the moment, I feel this prompt pushing me in a different direction. It’s almost 6 pm for me at the moment and I just got home from an ideal Friday afternoon spent mini-golfing and making memories with my boyfriend. I try not to gush often, but today’s simple bliss feels worth it. We had a wonderful time in each other’s company as we often do, listening to our favorite songs together on the way back home. A mix of old and new.
Rich and I are nearly two weeks into a social media and health cleanse that has completely changed our daily routine. Books have replaced YouTube, video games, and bingeing Netflix. No Instagram. No fast food. We’ve filled our calendar with hike dates and new hobbies like roller skating, bowling, etc. I even signed myself up for a dance class tomorrow morning, and I haven’t danced in a class setting in over five years! I’ve been writing every day and letting the silence bring up uncomfortable thoughts when normally I would’ve shut them out with the quickest distraction. At the thought of all of our improvements, we raised a glass at lunch to how far we’d come as individuals and as a unit. It was worth celebrating.
When we got home, I shook my ass to some Top 40s dance hits in my living room. Typical. Rich strummed on the brand new strings of his guitar. Music has always bonded us since the day we met. It brings memories of our collective wins and losses to vibrant life again. I often go back to songs that remind me of when we first met in college or playlists we listened to during our trips together. Maybe I’ll listen to “Rake it Up” by Yo Gotti & Nicki Minaj sometime in the future and remember this simple, easy day too.
Growing up as an only child prepared me for being comfortable alone. I was 20 when my baby brother was born so I spent the majority of my life getting used to my own company. This meant that there were few things I loved more than coming home from school to my room and shutting the door behind me. In my sacred space, I could create anything and make the rules. No eyes on me.
These days I live in a small one-bedroom in LA with my boyfriend which means more effort has to be made on both sides to find our alone time. We’ve found a routine that works and, honestly, he’s one of the few people in the world I never get sick of having around. One of the ways I made the best use of our space was to create an art studio corner. This nook of our home is where I slip into solitude with my artwork. I’ll turn on the fireplace nearby and do an oracle reading or my meditation, letting the warmth of the flames inspire me. Even though it’s technically a shared space, I’ve found a way to make it my own.
Another one of my favorite places to be alone is outside. Anywhere. I’ll go on walks by myself as much as possible and take in my surroundings. This helps me stay present when my mind is racing. Looking up at the sky, running my fingers along the trunk of a tree, and watching the flowers change in my neighborhood always grounds me in the moment. There’s also a church near our place with a little outdoor courtyard area and benches. This is my go-to spot for a daily journaling or poetry sesh.
If you look close enough, you’ll find that there are endless places you can be alone and savor that time. It just takes a little problem solving and a sense of adventure.
I wish we had to ask ourselves this daily. It’s so much easier to pick apart your least favorite features when you’re on the spot, especially since our culture gets off on a little self-deprecation. Comedians are so good at this, it’s like hating yourself is part of their job description. We eat it up.
While I’m all for a good joke at your own expense, it’s refreshing to see people own up to their strengths. I’ve loved reading everyone’s responses to this prompt and seeing how passionate people are about what they’re great at or even just listing off their favorite features. When do we really get the opportunity to do this?
Even as I’m about to answer the prompt for myself, I feel the need to package it in a humble way. I’m still performing.
Let’s give this a real shot…
I love that I can pour sunshine into any room or space I enter. I make people feel heard and loved or like their dreams are possible. I am a chameleon. Regardless of the environment, I adapt and find my courage.
I remember always being able to do this, like it was my superpower. When I was 10 years old and my parents would throw parties at our house, I would shift from climbing trees with my friends to having deep discussions about life with drunk twenty-year-olds. There was no limit to my ability to communicate and connect.
I used to think my chameleon powers were a weakness that made me hyperaware of my surroundings to the point of anxiety. And yes, that is still partly true. But what I’ve come to find is that it’s a gift when I use it well. It means I can go anywhere, find my way, and use that power to my advantage. I can travel to new places and adapt as I go. I can make friends in unlikely places and turn mundane moments into an adventure. I’d say that’s worth being proud of.
This is one of those prompts that feels so important that I can’t seem to find the words to respond honestly. At first, I started writing about specific things that give me strength but it felt like a BuzzFeed list. These are tough to narrow down, but I like the challenge.
One of the first moments I felt truly strong was when I was about 13 or 14 years old. I walked into a lawyer’s office and gave them my statement that I no longer wanted my biological dad to have custody or any ties to me. I wanted to be free of him and the suffering our relationship had caused me since I was born.
After years of mandated abusive phone calls, arguments, and the guilt I carried for him, I was able to make a choice for my wellbeing. It was the first time I had ever braved something so immense that affected other lives as well. It was a lesson in doing what is needed for you, sticking up for yourself. Something that would continue to be a challenge for me moving forward.
Any time I’ve been able to accomplish something outside of my comfort zone and see it through to completion is a moment I feel strong. When I started sharing my vulnerabilities with others through my blog or my art. When I started talking about my mental health online or when I started trying to be comfortable in my body. Oh no, I’m starting to list things off. See? It’s hard.
The things that make me strong all have one characteristic in common: self-assurance. When I listen to my inner voice and I trust in my ability to decide what’s right, I always feel stronger for it. As young women, it can feel like everything from the warped beauty standards of the time to toxic male authority figures and countless other setbacks work in tandem to silence that voice. I believe every single time you acknowledge what is right for you and you’re brave enough to take inspired action, that is the true essence of strength.
You don’t need to have groundbreaking ideas every day, but you should find meaning in every moment. Even when poetry is the last thing I can get myself to write, I see it all around me. I see it in the way the power lines on my street look like crosses and in the scent of new flowers about to bloom. It’s in the shrill echoes of the police sirens and in the voices of people going out for drinks on my block. All of these small everyday details find ways to command attention, which is why for today’s #bloganuary challenge I’m going to try to write a poem when I’m not inspired.
From the time I was about ten years old, Imogen Heap’s lyrics have taken life’s most difficult concepts and translated them in a way that makes sense. The quote above is from an electronic group called Frou Frou, and I listened to every song in their “Details” album until they became a core part of my story.
I didn’t give it much thought when I was a kid, but that line from the song “Let Go” kept creeping up on me over the years and developed more meaning as life became more nuanced, more difficult to process. When my grandfather died and my family seemed to be falling apart, everything had gone cold. I couldn’t make sense of the excessive suffering and I stopped looking for silver linings.
It wasn’t until I started abstract painting that I discovered my passion for duality and the realization that there was magic to be found in the contrasts of life. I was in my final year of college, heartbroken, and releasing pent-up pain on canvas with colors and textures that orchestrated those feelings like a symphony. I saw my pain reflected back to me as something beautiful. That’s when those lyrics really hit home.
I’m still relentlessly searching for my “calling” or whatever. I know it’s a cringey and narcissistic concept to many that we each have a reason to be here, but I think it gives us a reason to brainstorm what we can do to make the world a better place. When I think of this quote, I’m reminded of my mission. A pursuit to help people find comfort in the ebb and flow of a complex human life.
What if we could find beauty when things go cold? What would happen if more people found beauty in their breakdowns? Maybe nothing. Maybe we could save lives. All I know is that I could’ve used this insight when I was shutting down.
So I’d like to thank “Let Go” for gifting me this simple yet profound concept. I see it manifest in every facet of existence. I feel it in my hormonal imbalance, in moments when life juxtaposes in ways that leave me breathless, and I relish every lesson it teaches me. I also try to make these contrasts beautiful in the ways I know how, by turning them into some kind of self-reflection. And I invite you to do the same. Just as Imogen Heap has and countless artists before her.