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you find yourself in a forest

April 11, 2017 Leave a comment

Life can be so unexpected, sometimes. We often try so hard to keep it neat, clean, within the lines. Only walk in a straight line, stick to the plan. And I get this. I’ve been there. The unexpected can be scary, because it’s almost always a hell of a question mark. Even when presented with a choice, you then have to be brave enough to choose. Left or right. Leap or stay. You either hold your heart within your chest or offer it in the palm of your hand. You walk down a new street, into an unknown alleyway and see what happens—or you take the same route you’ve always taken.

These seem like clear cut decisions: you either do or you don’t. But that’s hardly the whole story, as much as we may want it to be. Because when making a choice, you find yourself in a forest. The forest is kissed by fog and soft light. There’s one path before you, and you know where it leads. It is a path you’ve walked before. It is safe, steady. Destination certain. There’s no guesswork. You can easily just keep walking, put one foot in front of the other.

But off to your left, you hear a noise. The snap of a twig, perhaps. The crunch of leaves. You turn and look. You lock eyes with a white stag. And for a moment, you hold your breath. For a moment, you don’t even remember where you are. All you can see is the gleaming white fur and kind eyes. You can feel your heartbeat thrumming in your chest, breathe leaning against your ribs. And you wonder at the beauty there, a thing you’ve not seen before.

The deer turns and walks the other way. You then have a choice: step off the path and see if you can catch the deer—or keep going the way you were. Resituate yourself in the familiar and keep to the path. There’s no guarantee you’ll even catch the stag. You might wander after it and never grasp it. You can try and still not succeed. That’s the catch. There are no certainties here, but there is always merit in the journey. It might not go the way you think. It might even be better than you had hoped. But you have to suss out, often in too short a time span, what you want. If you’re brave enough to do the unexpected thing—to say, “to hell with it,” and walk in a direction, knowing that you probably won’t ever see that path again. Knowing that to step off of it means an entirely new world. And it is, of course, terrifying and thrilling, the spark that lights the flame inside your heart.

You have to be willing to fail. You have to be willing to fall. You have to be willing to explore a part of the unknown. You could lose sight of that stag and never catch it. But what if—what if you did? There’s a crazy amount of joy in that. There is courage in stopping to think you might get what you want. A lot of things in life come down to how brave you are, how brave you’re willing to pretend to be. There’s no absence of fear, only telling it to shut up. Fear doesn’t get to run the show.

I have been that girl in the forest. I have looked at the easy path. I have seen the white hot flash of possibility. When given the choice, when my heart starts to race a certain way, the path stops existing for me. There’s just the curving beauty of a question mark, the stark pull of maybe, what-if clamoring for acknowledgement.

Today, what would you do, if you found yourself on that path? Are you brave enough to follow that deer?

Love That Feels Like Art

February 2, 2017 2 comments

Darlings, I am going to give you some advice. Now, I know you didn’t ask for this, but after a conversation I had yesterday—I think it’s needed. And with Valentine’s Day coming up, I figure it can’t hurt.

 

If you’re single, it’s okay. Bad failed first dates—dates that lead nowhere? That’s okay. That’s not a reflection of you. If someone doesn’t appreciate you for who you are (not funnier, not taller, not prettier), then that person is not right for you. Period. You are not unworthy or less, if someone cannot see all the wonderful things about you. If you have to change yourself (physically or personality-wise) to fit into someone’s life/heart? Well, that’s not real love.

 

And let me tell you something about real love: it will blow you away, once you find it. It will lift you up, not keep you down and never keep you small. Crazy Muppet hair will be appreciated. All your humor will be endearing. Because finding someone who cares for you just the way you are? Man, it’s magic. And it will do your soul more good than a thousand empty, shallow relationships.

 

Because you are not a vague ideal of a person. You are not a silhouette. You are blood and flesh. You are years of gathered wisdom and experience. You are a person, not a human-shaped checklists of requirements. Life is too short to be with someone just to be with them. It’s too short to settle. It’s too short to be anything less than 100% bloody you. Because you are excellent, just as you are—rambling and nonsense included.

 

Find someone who loves your weird. Find someone who loves your flaws (spoiler alert: that person won’t see all the bad crap you see about yourself). Find someone who sets your soul on fire. Find someone who thinks your taste in books (or comics or movies) is fantastic. Who can match you Princess Bride quote for Princess Bride quote. Someone who encourages and supports you without hesitation or question. Because that’s what you deserve.

 

And me? I’m single. I may be single for the rest of my life, and that’s fine. I know what I deserve, and I won’t take any less. Sure, I’ve been on my share of bad first dates. And it’s rare than anyone gets a second. Does that make me a snob? No. I just know what I want. And I know what it’s like to be understood and appreciated. Anything less is…well, bullshit.

 

If someone wants you to be thinner or younger, blonder or more poised, or somehow more easy/manageable? That person is not right for you. That person is not worthy of you. Because real love can find you in the most unexpected place and the most unexpected time. And the secret is, even if it seems insane, it’s worth it. It’s worth all the crazy. It doesn’t mean you don’t have to put in time and effort. It doesn’t mean love isn’t work. But it’s the good kind, like pursuing a passion you love. Like doing something you can’t live without. For me, real love is like writing. I can’t breathe without putting words down on paper. If I don’t write for a while, I feel so off-kilter. So…un-me. Love is like that too. Not a need or a want—but somehow both. Easy, like second nature, an instinct.

 

Find the person who feels like art. Who thinks of you when they’re falling asleep. Who meets you for coffee and remembers how you take yours. Find the person who lets you in and asks you to redecorate, not the one who expects you to slide into what’s already that. Because love changes you, on both sides. And it should. But always, always for the better. It’s not that you aren’t whole to begin with. You are. It’s finding someone who matches you, step for step, without ever thinking twice.

 

Believe me, darlings, you deserve that kind of love. Nothing less will do.

You do not have to be good*

March 28, 2016 Leave a comment

Make a mess.

No, I mean it. If you’re not making a mess, if your pulse doesn’t race and your breath doesn’t catch it your throat, you’re only half alive. That’s cliché, I know. It’s something people say. But it’s also true. You get one life. You get one now. You get to live. That’s a privilege.

So, live. So, love. Stop conjuring up all the reasons why you can’t or shouldn’t. Stop caging yourself by way of other people’s expectations. It is your life. This is your story. Stop letting other people tell it.

Forget the script, forget all the reasons why not, push aside every pretense.

Make a mess. Go out dancing. Have margaritas on the porch and talk until 3 am. Kiss until you can’t feel anything beyond the way your lips have swelled. Make someone laugh until both your sides hurt. You weren’t born to take the easy way, to live or love timidly. You weren’t created, a miracle of bone and passion, just to take one breath after another. Tape up your hands, if you have to. Throw the first punch. Speak your truth. Don’t flinch. Square your shoulders. Wait for the reaction.

Then, ignore it.

Make a mess. Cross a line. Change your life. Do worry about polish or neat. Do not pay any mind to what other people are going to think. You are not a coward. And you are not simply the sum of all your past mistakes. The human heart is a miracle, not a math problem. It wants you to smile, dance in the rain, sing karaoke (possibly badly), make out in a car alongside the highway. Honor the holiness of your passions, the way your heart leans. It heart is a wild thing, all instinct and affections.

Let it out. Let it lead. Let it show you what might be, not what has been and not what is. Imagine it. Entertain the idea that everything can change for the better—but only if you’re brave enough.

Only if you let yourself get messy.

Be you. Not the you who pays the bills and goes to work. Forget that you for a moment. That you gets to take the lead too often. Be the you who says fuck the rules, and goes after what you want. Be the you who cuts class or plays hooky and spend the day with a person you love. Allow yourself the space to make absolute chaos, because without chaos, nothing changes.

This universe was nothing more than dust, once. You were nothing more than dust, too.

You only get one life, darlings.

Dare to make a mess of it.

 

*Title taken from a Mary Oliver poem, “Wild Geese.”

She’s Imperfect, But She Tries*

October 22, 2014 2 comments

There are times in life where our strengths become our weaknesses – or, at least, they’re seen as such. If you care too much, try to hard, or are too understanding – people get the impression, for better or worse, that you’re a weak person. That you’re a pushover or a pawn. You’re too nice.

For me, if you’re important to me, I try to be understanding and accommodating. I see that as just being a good, caring person. (Like forgiveness, I see it as an attribute of the strong.) If we haven’t seen each other in a while and your schedule isn’t as flexible as mine, I will bend over backward trying to find time for us to hang out. I will get up early or stay up late. If the plans need to be made last minute, I might not schedule anything for a whole week, in the hopes that we can see each other. Because if you matter to me, I want to make the time. Period. This isn’t a weakness. It’s a choice. I chose to do that, and it’s always a deliberate thing – I’m not lacking in social opportunities.

It occurred to me, today, that some people view this as a negative thing. And it can be, if I let people take advantage of me. I’ve done that. I’ve bent over backward in the past, only to come up with snake eyes and hurt feelings. I’m not one to have outlandish expectations for any relationship, friendship or romantic. But there have been times where I bend too much, without getting anything in return. That’s partly my fault – and partly that the other person is behaving like captain of the asshat parade.

I think it is important to be flexible. I’ve seen what rigidity and an inability to compromise can do to a relationship. It isn’t pretty, darlings. It’s also been said that the person in a relationship who cares the most has the least power. That can also be seen as weakness. Except for me: I’m not after power. I never am. If I wanted power, I’d go into politics. In any kind of relationship, I just want connection. And the truth is that letting people in is damned hard, sometimes. Most of the time. It’s like walking a tightrope during a thunderstorm over the Grand Canyon. But some people never even risk it – never allow themselves the possibility or the thrill that comes with that endeavor. They stick to acquaintances and surface relationships. (There are different levels of friendship – but that’s another story for another day.)

Some people never risk or stop allowing themselves to risk. When we stop really trying and letting people in, that’s when we start losing. Granted, I’m not necessarily a paragon of anything. You can’t get to know me in an hour. And there are secrets I will always keep close to my chest. I’ve been hurt more times that I can count, but I figure if I haven’t, I’ve turned into a hermit and totally stopped living. Risk is a part of life.

There’s one relationship in particular that I gave everything I had to. Every thing I did, it was my choice. I chose to put in the effort and the time. I made a point of being open and flexible. I figure, if I can be flexible – why wouldn’t I? I think that the other person saw that, maybe, as a negative. A character flaw. Maybe a liability. And I wonder, when did we start viewing kindness and compassion as weaknesses? When did we start viewing gestures in a spirit other than how they are extended? I don’t know.

This world can be full of such horrific bullshit that I think kindness is necessary. So many people are awful and selfish. So many people offer disappointment and derision as food and water. So many people only want what they want, never seeing the other side of an argument. It’s a dangerous thing to be able to view another person’s perspective.

Over the summer, someone told me: you are the perfect woman. How are you still single?

I didn’t tell him that I am far from perfect. I’m so flawed that there should be another word for it. I did not tell him that being single is a choice I’ve gladly made for years, because I know exactly what I want – and that’s one thing I won’t bend or compromise on. I’m not perfect, but I’m good. I’m not easy, but I try. I’m not single because I’m somehow less – I’m single, because I won’t settle. I never wanted ordinary, and I won’t accept anything but everything.

There may be people out there giving me side-eye for all the gymnastics, both emotional and accommodational. (Not a word, I know. Shuuush.) But they don’t matter. You can’t let other people, and their opinions, dictate your actions. That isn’t ever a strength.

*title taken from Sara Bareilles’ “She Used to Be Mine,” which you can listen to below.

not a war easily won

September 8, 2014 2 comments

I try very hard not to be insecure. But life, and people, can be confusing. And let’s call a spade a spade: I’m sensitive. I think a lot. I feel even more. I’m basically a CareBear on emotional steroids, for better or worse.

There are some days where I totally fail to understand humanity, and in the absence of actual facts, my brain helpfully (not really) fills in the gaps with all the fears I’m too scared to say out loud. That’s what happens, I think, when we’re feeling weak or vulnerable. A seemingly small thing, left unattended, becomes a shadow. Then, that shadow becomes a monster. Before the cowering part of your rational self knows it, you’re five years old, again, hiding under the covers. Figuratively. (Or literally. Who hasn’t had the urge to cal out of work, build a blanket fort, eat candy, and hide for the day?)

The simple truth is that my brain is, often, a scary place of stupid. It can be a ridiculous graveyard of logical thinking. I am forever grateful that no one can ever read my mind, because (to paraphrase Anne Lamott), I often think such terrible thoughts that it would make Jesus drink gin straight out of the cat dish.

Internally, I’m Angela Chase. And don’t even get me started on Jordan Catalano. Because #MySoCalledLife forever. Yes, I know this isn’t Twitter. It’s my blog, and I’ll hashtag if I want to. (Somewhere, Leslie Gore is glaring into her morning coffee. Sorry, lady. #NotSorry)

There are days where I am unsettled and insecure. I don’t let that bleed into the rest of my life. I don’t take it out on people. I refuse to do that, because I’m had that done to be – and that stuff is not fun. It’s actually the mark of a jerk and a coward, but that’s a rant of a different color. (Is bullshit a color?)

I keep making jokes, I know. That’s because I’m uncomfortable, as I’m writing this. The subject makes me feel like I should run, because it’s not easy to admit vulnerability and flaws. And I think I’m doing both. Or I’m trying to.

While I don’t let me insecurity affect my actions, that’s not to say that it doesn’t affect me. Recently, I had a friendship tank spectacularly. Like a final scream as one is unexpectedly pushed off a cliff, I’ve never heard a death knell quite like that. It was strange and alarming to, essentially, watch it disintegrate in spasms. When something like that catches a person off guard, it can lead to a lot of questions – and a lot of self-examination. (That should, eventually, end when you realize that it’s not your fault – and, really, not your circus, not your monkey. In fact, take a match to that damn monkey, if you must. It’s probably rabid.)

Where was I? Yes, death of a friendship. Since the demise, I’ve felt rather wretched. I’ve tried to laugh it off and ignore it. I’ve tried not to take it personally, but…um, it is rather personal. But if I’m being honest, it has made me realize that this can be the norm more than the exception. People let us down. People disappear. People do hurtful things. And if we don’t talk about them, we end up internalizing them. Which is bad. Very bad. Do not pass Go. Do not collect $200. Dive straight on in to the rum. Or the vodka. Or the tequila. (Never the gin. I’m sorry. It’s vile.)

So, today, I am feeling insecure. I am feeling a bit underappreciated from several angles. I’m both curious and confused, and these are not necessarily pretty things. I’m neither angry nor upset. But I find myself dangerously close to so many things – and one of them is losing my patience. The thing is that life is tricky. It’s often unclear and uncertain. But I feel as long as you’re trying, reaching for your dreams, and not simply whining about what is and isn’t happening – that’s the trick to getting what you want/need/love.

For me, today might be a wash. I may be cranky. But tomorrow, darlings, is a fresh start and a new adventure. I’ve named the monster. Now, it’s less scary. Naming a thing is a powerful act. After all, we start our lives with naming. It is the beginning of identity. We name someone friend or lover. We call love, love. Saying things out loud means it’s more real. It means you can’t take it back. That’s why it’s a risk, sometimes. But naming is where everything starts. It’s the words that declare what the heart feels. And actions drive that arrow home. Remember that, when you’re scared. Name the fear. Name the confusion. Then, kick it in the ass.

Own it. Claim what’s yours, darlings. Say everything out loud. Because life is too short not to be absolutely, ridiculously bold. Don’t let your fears chase you away from what’s possible. Don’t let your doubt keep you where you don’t want to be. And, for coffee’s sake, remember: you never get what you don’t ask for. So, ask. It doesn’t matter if your hands are shaking. It doesn’t matter if you words come out in a rush or a heap.

Remember to fight for your life — for what you want and for who you are. Remember that, occasionally, means you’re fighting you. Nobody can save you but yourself — and you, love, are worth saving. (Sorry, Charles Bukowski, for paraphrasing you poorly.)

How Big Is Your Brave?

June 5, 2014 1 comment

 

I’ve seen a lot of conversations centered around bravery, lately. Mostly, it’s people wondering how, exactly, to be brave – how to be strong enough to make a change or go after something. Incidentally, yesterday morning, I was grappling with that very thing – stuck in the very moment where you vacillate back and forth, wondering if you should do The Thing or Not. There’s a kind of pulse-shaking fear in that moment before you decide to do something. Adrenaline might be kicking around in your veins. That makes it hard, because that turns a choice into a fight or flight. You either do The Thing (fight) or you don’t (flight).

Usually, I go the route of Marilyn Monroe, say, “What the hell?” and do the thing. Because if there’s one piece of advice I’d want you to heed and carry with you, it’s this: Always do The Thing. Whatever you’re searching for the courage to do, whatever it is nagging at you or haunting you, do it. Go after it. What lights up your heart, who lights up your heart, don’t be held back by fear. Be brave. You will regret the things you let slip away, doomed to always wonder what might’ve been or what-if. That kind of regret is far more powerful than the kind that comes with things that don’t turn out exactly as you’d hoped. So, dear heart, do The Thing. And don’t look back.

So many of us put walls up, keeping ourselves theoretically safe, but also keeping ourselves from possibilities. There are moments in a conversation, sometimes, when you can hear that exact moment it happens – a question is asked, a consideration is raised – and, suddenly, there’s a wall. (In your heart. That no one can get through. *ahem* Song lyrics just spat themselves out of my brain. That’s a lovely song.) It’s as if the other person is holding up an emotional (or informational) stop sign. I suppose it’s most cases, it’s wise to respect that. But much to my detriment at times, I do not believe in walls for the sake of walls. I do not believe in keeping distance between myself and those I love. Ever. It’s usually a temporary structure, for one thing. A diversion. A false pretense. And, almost always, it isn’t constructive – such things hurt more than they help.

If you miss someone, tell them. If you want to see someone, see them. Stop saying no so often, and give yes a try. Yes opens doors. And no is a drowning word. And for god’s sake, if you love someone? Tell them. It doesn’t matter if nothing comes of it. It doesn’t matter if it’s half-insane or seemingly impossible. A person should know he/she is loved. There’s no more important truth to be told, if only to tell it. Saying that out loud is a powerful thing. And it always matters, even when it may not seem to. It always matters, even if nothing comes out of it. It’s not always about a happily ever after. It’s about the moment of knowing, of letting it out. It’s being that brave and that vulnerable. But you can’t do that – any of what I just said – if you’re hiding behind walls. Get rid of them. They do you no real good.

Do The Thing. Always, always do the thing. Your heart – your life – will be all the better for it.

 

 

“If you’re crazy, be crazy. If you’re broken, be broken.” ~Suzanne Palmieri, The Witch of Belladonna Bay

“And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.”
― Anaïs Nin

 

walk through fire

May 11, 2014 3 comments

When I was seventeen, I was (despite my own rampant insecurities) completely and utterly fearless. I had no fear of new things, uncomfortable things, or whatever pushed me out of my comfort zone. If I wanted something badly enough, I went after it or I just did it. I don’t exactly know where that courage came from. By all accounts, I was kind of a dork. I was necessarily confident, but I did know how to fake it. Or, at the very least, hide it from those who might use my insecurities against me.

The other day, I was having a conversation with a friend about horseback riding. And how she used to have absolutely no fear and would hop on any horse, no matter how bonkers. I was the same way. In fact, my last horse was a handful; he was not mean by any stretch of the imagination. But he was spirited. If you didn’t know what you were doing, he would take advantage of you. As such, I was not allowed to ride him for a long time. I would argue with my mother for the chance to ride him. I lobbied like hell and fought for what I wanted. And I remember, with unflappable certainty, informing my mother that I would ride him – and that it would be okay. It would be more than okay. He and I would be brilliant together. And you know what? I was right. We were. We made the perfect team. (Except for the time he and I nearly ran over my BFF and her horse. In my defense, I thought he would stop. MOVING ON …)

Despite circumstances or even visible observations, there are moments in life that are just like that – where you look at a situation that might seem totally insane and completely impossible, and you just know. There are times where you look at a situation or another person, and you think, “This is completely insane.” But despite that blatant insanity – or, simply, how it looks from the outside – you know that it will be entirely, impossibly brilliant. You know that it might seem crazy to other people, looking from the outside. But there’s the quiet voice inside you know that so full of certainty. So full of yes. It’s totally and utterly devoid of doubt. It isn’t a matter of if. It’s a matter of when. Because, regardless of what might seem like total madness, you know. And you’re ready to take that challenge. You’re ready to take that step. You believe, pure and simply. You are brave, but it’s not even bravery that’s needed to take that first step. Because you know in your heart exactly what’s right. Exactly what you need. Exactly what to do.

And you do it. Forgetting what everyone else may think. Forgetting all irrelevant outside opinions. Forgetting the naysayers and the ones who might tell you, “You’re going to get hurt. This might go badly.” It’s like exactly like getting on that horse, as I did, when everyone thinks you’re completely out of your mind. That horse just got me, and that’s so important (for those of you who don’t know horses – you need trust). Because he would do anything I asked of him. He’d jump anything. He’d try anything. He was a beautiful horse to begin with. But together? We were a badass team. And that’s a magical thing, you know. He made me a braver rider. Sure, he might’ve tried to kill me a time or two, but what relationship is perfect?

As we grow up (more chronologically than maturity-wise), we often begin to shy away from the ability to believe and fight like that – with unvarnished boldness and certainty. I don’t know if it’s because life has a tendency to wear us down or if we just start to forget that we have that possibility within ourselves. That we are as strong and as able to fight as we allow ourselves to be. There are always a million reasons why we shouldn’t do something, go after someone, or change our lives. There’s a stagnant kind of comfort in routine, in keeping things the same, and in staying with what the familiar. Sometimes, too, we are more vulnerable than we’d like to admit, and we maybe feel as if we don’t deserve anything better. Or, maybe, that we really don’t have anything to offer. There’s always the asshole voice that tries to convince us that we’re not good enough or that we can’t do it. Let’s face it: even though we might be totally miserable in a situation, change is terrifying. Change is a wild horse few would dare to ride.

But you know what? That is exactly how we become better – better in all possible ways. I am not always that brave – sometimes, I look at that fictitious horse and think, “Oh, god. No. Not this time. Can’t do it.” Then, I remember my mother. And how she did not believe in can’t or even giving up. And she certainly did not believe in staying inside the lines (even though there were so many times, god knows, where she wished I would). I was sixteen before I ever fell off a horse – and I’d been riding since I was three. And you know what? I landed on my feet in an impossible backflip, holding the horse’s reins in my hand. I was taught to stay on at all costs, no matter how freakin’ stupid I may look. That is a good life lesson too: don’t bail, hang out, and if you do fall, do it with grace.

Today, I am reminded that I’m still that crazy girl who do anything, risk anything, for what she believes in. I’m still the lunatic who dares to try and who always follows through. Who does not give up for the sake of comfort or what might be easier. Who doesn’t get scared off by what might seem completely insane. And if all else fails, I know I’ll land on me feet – and I know I’ll get back on that horse again.

But the truth is, I never gravitated toward simple, and I never, ever will. I want the wildness. I want the crazy. And I know exactly what I dare. Say what you want, there’s nobody and nothing that can ever convince me otherwise. That’s something that my mom certainly taught me: to know myself. And come hell or high water, I know how to be brave – even when it might seem crazy.

Tell me, darlings: do you know how to risk it all for what may seem like an impossible dare?

 

“nobody can save you but yourself and you’re worth saving. it’s a war not easily won but if anything is worth winning then this is it.” ~Charles Bukowski

 

“what matters most is how well you walk through the fire” ~Charles Bukowski