Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Taking Risks

The person who risks nothing, does nothing, has nothing, is nothing, and becomes nothing. He may avoid suffering and sorrow, but he simply cannot learn
and feel and change and grow and love and live. – Leo F. Buscaglia 

Recently, I've been taking small risks. I learn the most when I leave my heart dangling on a limb, ready to be plucked and held close, or left hanging. When I was much younger, I felt a relationship to be the ideal, my ideal. It was what I wanted more than anything, and jealousy burned inside me when I saw my girl friends pair off, most often with boys whom I liked. I would embody self pity with hunched shoulders and a quiet voice, swallowing my feelings and building a wall around myself.

When boys started to show interest, in my early twenties, any and all interactions were catalogued and replayed in my head over and over. Independent of whether I liked the person, I always thought, "Finally, someone. I can stop exhausting myself with worries of being alone." Ultimately, they would lose interest and we would part ways, and it would feel like my ribs had been smashed and were piercing my lungs. I didn't realize at the time that I still had the wall around me, that I was so afraid of losing said person that I didn't take any risks in the relationships. I didn't let the person actually see me, a risk in itself, because I believed if they did, they would leave. And more often than not, they did. 

I got tired, lonely, and resentful, spinning around in circles behind my wall. Any "relationships" I had weren't real; they were pantomimes. Only recently have I begun to be able to bring myself, my true self, to relationships. I realized that being in a relationship for the sake of a relationship wasn't worth it. When I close myself off from the authentic and don't speak up, I am left to fill in the blanks with my own delusions. When I take risks, and ask the hard questions or express how I truly feel, and the result isn't what I intended, it no longer feels as terrible, because I know I did everything I could. I am left with my authentic self, and I'd much rather that than a shadow of something unreal.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Old Soul

When I was very, very small, my aunt held me and told my mother, "She is an old soul." My mama says that since that moment, I've had worldliness and  knowingness about me. They only evidence I have of that is ordering salads at restaurants when I was three years old. 

Yesterday, I visited the newest member of my family, Eli. I was scared to hold him, as I had been with his sister when she was an infant. I was afraid of holding something so delicate, of holding him the wrong way. I was telling his aunt this, and she said, "Oh, you have to hold him. When you do, it feels like there is nothing wrong with the world. He is such an old soul."

And it's true. As I held him close, the whirlwind, static noise of thoughts and worries evaporated. All of my attention was on this tiny little being. My heartbeat slowed to match his rhythmic breathing. He took in the world, and his eyes didn't hold the same grasping quality I've seen in most infants. There was an acceptance, a patience with the attention he was receiving, a knowingness and a sweetness about him, so rare in others that he was striking and comforting at the same time. It was a comfort being close to him, a little respite.

Welcome to the world, Eli. May it be a wonderful one for you.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Resonace and Frequencies

Photo my mama took on the airplane ride to Southern California 

There is something incredibly—I can't describe it other that tiny-laugh-secret-smiley-comforting-and-lovely—about having a conversation with someone, and they say things that echo your heartmind so thoroughly you feel a though they are reading pages from your personal journal. Those moments bring me back down to earth, make me feel connected again, and validate my cascade thoughts.

I'm in Southern California right now, where the air is constantly thick with a bougainvillea perfume that sticks to the roof of my mouth. My mama flew down from Northern California, and we're visiting my uncle and his family. My mama and uncle and I spent yesterday wandering around Descanso Gardens, venturing up into the hills among the poppies and the lizards, drinking in the sun's warmth.

Both of them are artists. They speak with candor, humor, and cadence that I recognize, and there are moments of resonance that give me pause. I wax on about struggles and insecurities, and they don't placate with "There there, now." They offer up truths so rare and so raw that my world starts to soften. My tunnel vision, narrowing in on the awful, expands to let in some light. "I've been there too," they say. "You're not alone."

I could write entire posts about how each of these people have inspired me in their own ways (and I most likely will). Take a moment to visit their websites and be inspired. The links to their blogs areavailable in my Love List. 

Joe Murray

"We can’t waste precious time bemoaning what is no longer. What our careers used to look like. How much money we used to make, or how much notoriety we once had. Those are illusions anyway. Sometimes we even limit ourselves with what we think is right for us. Your art is happening right now, and moving like water where it wants to go. It has bigger plans for us than we know." – Joe Murray 

Dianne Poinski Handcrafted Photography –

"I know that even if I won the lottery today I would still continue to pursue photography. I really don't have a choice. My sanity and well-being depend on it. I like to think I am making the images I want to make and not just for the market. Just try to imagine for one minute, what it would feel like to create simply for yourself with no intention to ever share that work! I feel so liberated and joyful when I think about that (even if it's only in that moment)." – Dianne Poinski

Monday, May 14, 2012

Pray, Tell Me

When I pray, I imagine myself as a glass shell of a person. My insides are hollow—if you tapped my body, a clear note would ring from my head to my toes. But darkness and dirt, the scrappy dust refuse of industry, gather around my head and my heart, blocking the light.

Like water, falling heavy from the sky, my higher power reaches in and washes away the refuse. I feel the water fall into the rim at the top of my head, falling with such force that it reaches my toes and swells back up my sides, going up and over out of the rim once again. With it, it takes my fear, my pain, my worries, and plaguing doubts. Light shines through me again and drops of water evaporate from my glass skin.

The moment, the rush, the swell are momentary. I haven't been at the practice of prayer for long, and asking for help is a relatively new concept for me. I am trying to build it as a habit. Instead of running my hands ragged, blisters forming on my palms where I've tried to grasp and control again and again, I open my hands and let go. Someday, my first instinct will be to let go.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

What Do We Do With the Sadness?

Today I listened to a Radiolab podcast titled "Race." The last section told the story of a Sunni man trying to locate his father's body in a Shia-controlled morgue with the help of his Shia friends. There were several layers of horror bound in this story: The sudden disappearance of the Sunni man's father; the photos of the dead shown in the morgue waiting room that family members were forced to sit through, waiting to see if their missing relatives would appear on the screen; the collecting of his father from a pile of bodies in the morgue. My breath staccatoed and tears began to well. I was so sad, hollowed, mortified, and bewildered for this man that I don't know. I felt helpless and small and weak, unable to reach through time and technology to help this man. But what would I have been able to do?

I immediately called my friend, who has seen me cry at the musical Chess (just to give you a barometer for my sensitivity), to help me calm down. She too feels overwhelmed with all the wrongness in the world, all the awful, all the monstrous. She reminded me about housing gratitude in our actions. Breathe with gratitude. Nourish with gratitude. Speak with gratitude. Acknowledge and cherish what is around you. It isn't combat against the dark, and it isn't a guard against it, it is an acceptance that the world is unbalanced, and we do what we can as individuals to restore balance. 

Even now as I type this, I am harshly wiping tears from my cheeks and wringing my hands, feeling guilt that my reality is so much different from the Sunni man's. But my friend's words echo in my head: Respect. Respond. Restore. Storing my sadness in my chest will do nothing but make me feel heavy. Walking with a purpose will keep me light on my feet.