Blurry Memories

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.

Original Abstract Painting by Mariana R. Cabral

Writing Freely From the Heart

At dusk, when the neighbors’ lights turn on, you can hear football in the living room and smell dinner on the table. They’re laughing about something you’ll never know, but it feels like you’re there. I take comfort in walking past the intimate moments of someone else’s life. It’s like I’m home even when I couldn’t be farther from it. Whether I’m here or not, home never dies. It’s in the sounds and warm hues of the apartments come to life on a Monday night.

Isn’t it beautiful how comfortable we can be with the unfamiliar? Strangers don’t feel strange when you see them in their homes. You can picture yourself there, watching the game. Serving a glass. Warm.

How many times have people walked past our apartment and felt at home there? What would they see? Our bodies dancing wildly under Christmas lights, our laughter, our cries, our conversations which wouldn’t make sense out of context — but what might they sound like to a stranger? Hues of green within a concrete hug in the spring, brick memories of molasses in the summer. I wonder if our essence follows them.

If there is a sixth sense and we can feel it sometimes, I think it’s when we feel connection with what’s unfamiliar. That would explain why we can adapt so quickly. Why two lonely islands can be brothers once they’ve met. Home follows. It doesn’t choose. It runs through time with you.

I think that’s why I love stories about time travel. Shows like Outlander fascinate me because characters find themselves hundreds of years in the past and manage to adapt because the fundamentals of connection don’t change. If we each have incarnated as energy or souls time and time again, it would explain why it’s the most natural things that make me feel the most. Flame, flower, fog. Books, beer, bumble bee. Music, mother, magic. I could find beauty in any time after a while. In the unfamiliar, which eventually becomes home.

Right now I see the flicker of my mystic rose candle, my stone goddess and buddha head. I see the tree that greeted me when we moved here and the cinnamon roof of the neighbor’s house across the street. I wonder how many times they’ve seen us naked. How many times they’ve seen us in general. I’ve only seen them a few times behind the blinds. The sky is a muted blue, somber as a blanket. The grass is never quite green enough, always a light dusting of death to remind us of the fires. But it’s home now.

Photo by Pierre Blachu00e9 on Pexels.com

#bloganuary #bloganuary2023

The Price of Success: An Honest Reflection on Achievement

Is there a word for always falling short of extraordinary? When you’re pretty, but not the most beautiful person in the room. When your art is nice, but not timeless. Is there a word for that?

Jack of all trades, master of none. That’s kind of what I mean, but it’s missing the feeling of longing like the world owes you an epic main character plot. If there’s one thing we probably all have in common it’s that we’ve each felt more special than anyone else, like we were meant for more than an ordinary life. I’ve always felt this way if I’m being 100% transparent, but it was more visceral as a kid.

I guess I’ve always romanticized things: memories, myself, and my relationships mostly. I wonder sometimes if that’s a coping mechanism we rely on to get through this human experience. Because if we believe we’re meant for something extraordinary, we bounce back from setbacks faster. We have something to look forward to. It’s like this feeling of being special is a survival instinct we’ve evolved with. It tells us we’re meant for more, so we have the fuel to keep going.

Being special meant something specific to me when I was younger. It meant that my life was full of adventure, that all eyes were on me, and that I’d show them. It was driven by a need to impress, which is why everything I did had to be on display. Because if it wasn’t, then how could I measure my success? And until the day comes that I’m actually content with never sharing my life on an app or getting lots of likes on a selfie doesn’t immediately fill me with serotonin, I can’t pretend I don’t still want to be special in that specific way that traps us all. I still think the universe owes me a prize. 

But the truth is, there isn’t a prize or milestone that sets you apart from everyone else. We think there is because we put celebrities on pedestals and treat them like gods. Surely, they’ve touched what it means to be special — they figured it out. If that’s the case, why do we see famous actors longing for private and simple intimate moments with their loved ones as soon as the allure of fame passes? Why do we see people launch the project of their dreams and feel empty after? It’s because no amount of success is ever enough.

I spent so much of my youth obsessed with this idea that one day I would do something remarkable, but I never took a second to think about what my definition of that was. If I limited it to being rich or famous, it seemed shallow. But if I limited it to leading a simple life, it seemed dishonest. Now I realize you can find a sweet spot that satisfies aspects of both of those seemingly opposite desires.

At 28 (and I’m sure this will keep evolving), my idea of success is finding balance in work, relationships and self-care. It’s working a job that challenges you creatively but also gives you the freedom to focus on other things outside of it. It’s achieving flexibility in your work life and finding time for the things you care about. It’s putting your foot down when your time is being taken advantage of. With this extra time, it’s filling your heart with authentic interactions and creativity. Would it be cool if thousands of people loved and shared your work? Sure. But that will never come close to the feeling of making something because your soul is bursting to or getting lost in a conversation with a dear friend. Why do you think so many actors love working but hate press tours? It’s not the “success” that keeps them in love with what they do.

Success is spending time with the people you love, paying attention to life’s simple moments that are calling you to be awake and present. It’s being in tune with everything all at once. It’s sharing and receiving love in all of the ways that it manifests. If this leads you down a path of our society’s traditional definition of success, fantastic. But if instead, you find yourself dancing with the spontaneous rhythm of the universe in that sweet spot where we all connect, you’ve already found your prize.

make it better

ungrounded, unmotivated, unmoving.

walking in squares and hitting dead ends just to repeat it again.

i don’t know what’s happened to me

or to my dearest.

all tangled in electric knots, in mounds of pity

and I wish to whoever’s god that I could start over

try on a new avatar

leave it behind

without adding more sorrow or sinking the ship further.

so naturally, i’ll have to stay

one more day

and probably the rest too if that’ll make it better for them.

“Knots” – Original Abstract Painting by Mariana R. Cabral

Bloganuary: Look at the stars…

“…look how they shine for you. And everything you do…”

I’ve always been enamored with the sky. I’ve looked up to the stars and to the moon for answers in moments of crisis and felt held by the infiniteness of our universe more times than I can count. I think of the stars as a reminder of how connected we are to something far greater than us — even if we don’t understand it — there’s visual evidence of that above us. It can be scary to picture the vastness of it all, but oddly comforting too. The mystery keeps the magic alive.

When I look at the stars, I see limitless potential. I see millions of galaxies and planets, the possibility that other intelligent life forms are looking up from their worlds and thinking about us too. I see the perplexing beauty that has inspired the greatest artists for thousands of years, all of the poets who’ve tried to find words to capture our universe. I see how the stars guide my hand when I’m painting and reveal pieces of my subconscious when I need it most, like there’s always something bigger at play showing me the way.

I don’t subscribe to one religion or god, but I believe in the power of the universe and the love that bonds living things together. I feel that love from the stars, from the trees, the ocean, the birds, everything. I know there is something we’re not supposed to know until it’s our time, but I can feel our part in it when I look up at the sky and manifest. I feel it when I see synchronicities or the inexplicable happens, like when I dream something and it appears in front of me in my waking life. When there’s no logical explanation for something, I think of our universe. We don’t have all of the answers, and that’s okay.

. . .

P.S. I’d just like to say how much this #bloganuary challenge has meant to me. I’m genuinely sad that it’s over. I haven’t committed to writing daily in a very long time, and I’ve learned so much from these prompts and everyone’s answers. Thank you to everyone who’s been stopping by, leaving a like and a comment. It’s been such a boost of confidence I didn’t know I needed and I’m so grateful. Wishing you all the best and all of the writing inspo you desire moving forward.

Bloganuary: Finding Solitude

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.

#bloganuary #bloganuary2022 #dailyprompt

Bloganuary Prompt: What Makes Me Strong

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.

#bloganuary #bloganuary2022 #dailyprompt

Never Alone: A Bloganuary Poem

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.

. . .

don’t fear quiet

and wish for filled spaces

your head doesn’t have to be hell

if you use it well

solitude can be solace

emptiness whole

in the presence of everything

you’re never alone

Bloganuary Prompt: Let Go

What is your favorite quote and why?

“There’s beauty in the breakdown.”

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.

#bloganuary #bloganuary2022 #dailyprompt