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: What’s not to love?

What is your favorite part about yourself?

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.

#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

Bloganuary Prompt: Pear Tree

If you could, what year would you time travel to and why?

When time travel comes to mind, I think of moments I’d return to rather than specific dates. I would try on feelings and memories again like an old pair of pants that haven’t fit for many years.

Maybe I’d return to when I used to pick pears from the tree that towered over my yard, right above the division between our land and the neighbor’s garage. The roof to our neighbor’s two-car garage leveled with our yard, which meant we could sprint up and down it as fast as we wanted when my parents weren’t watching. As kids, this was the ultimate playground with just enough promise of impending injury to pump us with adrenaline.

Regardless of the fact that we only ever found worm-hole-ridden pears on those branches, picking them was always the golden prize we earned upon reaching the top of the mountain. I would run my fingers through each branch, pick the dried fruit, toss it down into the warm grass, and sprint down the ramp to meet it there. It was simple. I don’t remember wanting to be anywhere else.

The branches of that old pear tree still stretch into infinity in my memory and remind me that the most significant time in our lives can often seem forgettable when you’re living it. It’s like that quote from Andy Bernard in the last episode of The Office when he says, “I wish there was a way to know you’re in the good old days before you’ve actually left them.” I think about these words often. They perfectly sum up what it means to be human and feel like you’re constantly racing against the clock. Simple moments when you’re present and the sun hits you just right or you’re in the middle of a deep belly laugh with a friend can often be replaced with a thirst for more… more eventful, more interesting, more excitement, never enough.

So if I had to go back, I think I’d find myself on the roof of my neighbor’s garage by an old pear tree. I think the sun would be painting freckles on my cheeks and I’d be running as fast as I can.

#bloganuary #dailyprompt

The best-kept secret

Striding toward the sun

linked arm in arm,

we always dive in headfirst.

We’ll make friends with squirrels

and fly with birds

until it’s time to reset.

I’d rather be idle

than on the go

when he looks so happy here.

Because life is simple

at its most grand,

blessed freedom and mother’s rays.

My Big Fat Hollywood Move

A 24-year-old’s last-ditch effort at “following her dreams” with her boyfriend and moving across the country to see it through

It’s been a little over a week since I stuffed my possessions into two suitcases, drained myself dry from parting hugs, and transported myself from Boston to Los Angeles where my boyfriend Rich and our new lives across the country awaited me. It’s a romantic and all too on-the-nose Hollywood concept to chase your dreams alongside the love of your life in LA, to take the ultimate artistic risk together in the city where everyone’s fighting for attention. Watch the movie La La Land, and you’ll know exactly what I mean. Although, spoiler alert, it doesn’t work out too well for Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling’s relationship. But that’s beside the point, and I’m veering away from my thesis statement. The point is, I’m here now. I’ve done this. And I’ve got a few things to say about it. Hold on to your panties.

When I arrived at LAX after 2 months of not seeing Rich and 6 hours of plane-ride anticipation, I was a nutty mess of exhaustion and eagerness beyond anything I had felt in years or at all. I spotted him standing about twenty feet ahead of me in a grey suit, doing a two-step shuffle while holding a huge sign above his head with my name on it. Suddenly my instincts kicked in and I felt two things. One, a foreign happiness that shot through my body like a rocket. Two, a primal desire to jump his bones right there on the baggage conveyer system.

The adrenaline between the two of us was enough to give me the shakes as we kissed and gushed till we could kiss and gush no more. It was another “movie moment” to add to our list, but it was the first in the City of Dreams – the movie mecca of our joint fantasies. I had never known adventure like this, never relocated my life or been farther than a few cities away from my family. The lure of possibility was intoxicating, of course, and Rich’s body wrapped around mine gave me butterflies I hadn’t felt in months. My gut was screaming “HELL yes! You really did this, you crazy bitch!” like a life coach on uppers. It all felt so right, and concrete. Concepts unfamiliar to someone with an often indecisive gut.

It’s been about nine days since this initial adrenaline overload, and while I’ve seen a few of the must-see tourist spots like the Hollywood sign and the Griffith Observatory, I find something new or foreign to marvel at every day even just driving around. The first was the smell. LA had been described to me by some East Coast friends as a smog-blanketed concrete trash heap, to put it kindly. I found the scent to be more floral, inviting and honestly confusing against all of the concrete and trash. There is a lot of trash. That bit was true.

Amidst all of the litter, my eyes were immediately drawn to the booming culture and diversity around every corner. When you think of Hollywood, you might imagine an abundance of white girls with fat asses stepping out of their fancy cars with matcha tea in-hand, but I’m over here like…where are they hiding? I know that LA is HUGE and that the “glamorous” aspect of its reputation certainly exists somewhere, but I’ve been immersed in something vastly different and real – an image of this city I’m glad I wasn’t prepared for because I’m pleasantly surprised in new ways all the time.

People here come from all walks of life and coexist rhythmically together, bringing in an abundance of eclectic food, art, and music, which quite literally keeps the city alive. I still hear the street vendors sizzling up assorted meats and snacks for club-goers past 12am. I mean, we drive by graffiti that should be studied in Arts History courses or hung in museums and have access to some of the best Korean food I’ve ever tasted right next door. And while it may not be squeaky clean or even conventionally beautiful all the time, it’s always full of life. Honestly, I can only compare the way I feel here to the way I felt when I was in Austin, Texas: the grit, art, food, music, and heat. It feels familiar, and appeals to me in similar ways.

Even big tourist attractions like the Santa Monica pier, which I had lowered my expectations for, totally took me my surprise and left me like a rambling wide-eyed idiot. I couldn’t believe how stunning it actually is – vastly more impressive than the images and videos I’d seen countless times. And while I may be biased because this was one of the most romantic days of my life, I genuinely didn’t want to be anywhere else in the world. We spent the afternoon chasing each other around on the beach like teenagers, urging one another to touch the Pacific Ocean for the first time. When we found ourselves a spot to watch my first California sunset, the people around us seemed to be putting on a show. Everyone was playing with the waves, laughing, creating a palpable energy of childlike happiness and serenity. As the sun descended below the mountains, it became quiet apart from a few giggles here and there and the crashing of the waves. It was then that I felt something frightening. I held it in.

The feeling was fear. Fear of being too happy. Fear of it dissipating fast. Fear because these moments of inner peace rarely last. Fear because, while Rich had come all this way for his concrete dream to pursue acting, I was still a dreamer without any tried-and-true singular pursuit. A familiar critical voice was trying to break though, trying to find reasons to remind me that I wasn’t going to make it here. That god damn ego.

I guess, even in a new setting, those of us who are used to bringing ourselves down or who feel odd when things are too right might always have to fight a little extra to be present. I fight every day to tell the voice in my head to shut the fuck up. Even though I have my flare-ups, I know fighting against it inch by inch is making a difference. When that fear kicked in on the pier, it was new because it came with a feeling of pride too. It was like there was another version of my own voice sticking up for me and saying, “Hey! You did this, you crazy bitch. Remember? You took a risk. You’re trying!” And, to be honest, all I can really conclude about this first week of my Hollywood adventure is that I’m proud of myself for saving the money to get here, for applying to dozens of jobs every day, and for continuing to write even though I hate it sometimes. This is what it’s about. The risk. The gut. The pursuit, even if it is a little more abstract than the person’s sitting next to you. Go for it anyway.

Thanks for listening, and check out Part 2 of this LA series here!

Surface Tension

He held me on the sidewalk while bodies passed, dodging us like we were delicate birds in the middle of the road.

I stained his jacket like the rain looming above our heads threatened to stain the city.

We had been here before. Me grieving a loss of something I’d never had. Him towering over me like a building I could lock myself inside.

I used to think he waded in shallow waters while I sunk into the deep. I pictured his long tranquil body at the surface, a halo of sun emanating over the sea. I couldn’t reach it.

In the car I mourned the loss of nothing and felt myself sink. He held my hand just in time to keep me afloat. We locked eyes and fingers, igniting a forcefield to keep the world out.

Driving through the clutter, we escaped the muck that pressed onto our skin – mine always stickier than his it seemed.

When we were free I kissed him so he could feel the light he had left inside me.

It was then I knew we’d find our way together

through the rain,

the sea,

and up towards the sun.