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.

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: Simple and Sweet

What is on your music playlist right now?

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.

#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