While you’re making all of those resolutions, resolve to send me some of your poetry, essay or flash fiction to be featured on The Beautiful Stuff. Just use the contact button on my WordPress site, or e-mail me your brilliant stuff at firstname.lastname@example.org
Don’t lose your direction, nomadic heart.
Look to the needle swaying
In the depths of blood and bone
Old soul encased.
Waylaid by the plans of men and monsters
Fears and agitations,
False desires and hollows.
Don’t lose your direction, traveler.
Your feet alone touch dust and rock
Trails of world and earth,
Don’t let them plot the miles you go,
Before you rest.
Do not waver into their squall.
Do not falter, drifter.
Remember what your feet are for
The strength of legs, unbuckling
The pulse of your rhythm.
Cling to it.
Let it draw your map,
Let it lead you.
You know you.
You know the truth of your existence.
Though they’ve taught you to fear it.
Though they’ve convinced you to deny it.
To question it.
To distrust the very core of your happiness.
Do not let them take your journey.
Do not let them own your path.
Be the master of your fate,
The commander of your soul.
Do not falter.
Do not falter.
Seek the astrolabe inscribed on your heart
The Heavenly body.
The incline of space.
That can’t be measured by the methods of any other man.
You made no promise to tread on their pristine track.
Their paved and acceptable roads are not your obligation.
I hope that you all find yourselves well and recuperating from a holiday season that seemed more like a mac truck hitting us than a season of joy and light. But now we’re past all of the wrapping paper, and crowds, and tortuous replaying of Wham’s “Last Christmas”, and on to bigger and brighter things. Right?
That’s what the New Year is all about? Starting over, becoming a better, new and improved version of you? Everyone say it in your heads… “New Year, New Me!”
Let the marketing campaign wash over you in brain-addling waves.
Well…I’m not here to crush your dreams, or dissuade you from improving yourself. I don’t want to take the proverbial wind from your sails in the early stages of the month, but I do want to remind you about last year…and the year before that, and the one before that as well…
You know what I’m talking about.
The years where you went in, guns blazing to become the ideal human, clean of diet, kind, financially responsible, organized, and positive to a fault.
Don’t look away, you know you promised those things.
I’m not here to judge or berate your failure…quite the opposite actually.
I’m here to let you know that the old you is a fucking amazing individual.
S/he isn’t perfect, sure. Who is? But think, for a moment, what you’ve survived this far. The battle wounds, the trials, the breaks and heart aches, the falls and doubts. The beautiful human failing that’s left you with regrets and scars.
Why in the hell would you want to change that warrior? That warrior has seen some horrible shit and lived to tell the story. That warrior’s roots run Earth-deep. Don’t discount the strength of who you already are, in this moment.
You want to lose a few pounds or not blow your paycheck at Target? Fine by me…great goals…but don’t look to change the beautiful beast you are. Look to change your perspective on your own imperfection.
Wanting to be healthier is good, but I’m asking you instead of drinking lemon-juice laced vinegar three meals a day, to try taking care of the warrior. Good food, (things that build us up and make us stronger, not limit us or feed on weird ideas of food guilt), exercise (to keep us strong, flexible, and energized), more sleep (put your goddamn phone down at bedtime, lovey). All of these things are important to keep that warrior ready for the next battles they’re sure to face in the coming year.
So stop telling lies to yourself, stop trying to fit your old, battle-scarred body into the cute little New Me box. Don’t be a New Me. Be the impeccable Old You…just aim for a slightly better version…one that eats a salad once in a while instead of a bag of Cheetos. One that goes to bed before ten instead of playing an extra hour of video games. One that forgoes the hard runs once or twice a week to pay homage to the beautiful abilities and flexibilities of the human body in other ways.
Hell, walk to the post box instead of driving.
You don’t have to pin a board of ideas on how to change yourself to be ‘better’. You don’t have to change you. Just tweak some of the things that aren’t good for you.
Good luck out there, you old battle axe. Go find a salad…and a bag of Cheetos (for later).
For the last VerseDay of 2018 I wanted to give you something amazing and powerful. Alas, this is what you get instead. (Well? Laugh!)
Next week, dawning the New Year, I will once again be promoting my submissions to VerseDay for the anthology out next fall. If you want to see your poem in print, please feel free to email or contact me with your poetry and/or essays.
And now…the final poem of 2018’s VerseDay adventure…
I miss you.
Miss the sound of your voice,
And the slight buzz
Dripping Carolina, Honey
I miss your fire,
the uplifting energy; an element so unconfined
The rushing ideas,
The rebellious feeling and defiant
I miss you, and your hover,
The way you called my flower the sweetest,
The only, under this sun,
You’ve ever loved, and danced so delicately across my
I don’t miss the way
Your deluge engulfed me,
Suffocated and overran in conversation,
The sting of barrage, welting my heart over and over again
And feeling that I was never quite important enough
To stop and take a
I don’t miss the pain,
Of the aching guilt you pierced me with,
The weight of what I should be,
What you wanted me to be,
The ideal you set
A high ivory honeycomb of complex,
Life does this.
It educates us.
Sometimes in human form,
and one sweetly hovering honeybee
Hard and hurtful once lured by the beguiling warmth
We must choose the limb to chew off to spare our
You were my lesson
To enjoy the drawl but not submit to the voice
To know the sweetness of honey, without succumbing to its
To stoke my own energy,
To comprehend that I don’t need yours.
Orbiting in the clouds of your unfathomable passion taught me
Okay…that’s not entirely true. Those of you who know me outside of the blogosphere know that I can be extroverted in some situations. On the floor of the dojo, I have to be loud and energetic under the necessity of keeping a five-year-old karate kid engaged and focused. I must be direct and clear spoken towards older students to convey the intricacies of technique and motion. Amongst friends at book club or UFC fight night I can be lively and even, occasionally, funny. But I have a very finite well for social interaction.
A friend once told me she could pinpoint the exact moment when I become introverted. She said,
“Your expression all the sudden fades from open and smiling to gray and downcast and you just sort of sink back into the furniture, and I think well, she’s done.”
I couldn’t have described it better myself. That’s exactly how it feels inside too. Like someone turns a light off inside of me and I’m no longer open for business. It isn’t that I stop caring, I just run out of the ability to express concern. I am overwhelmed with the individual energies surrounding me. I absorb too much.
I like people, in small amounts. I like to hear their stories and their laughter. I like when they feel they can open up to me even about the hardest subjects… but it takes a lot of energy to be honestly and truly engaged in other people’s lives.
And it should.
Some people have an endless well for this kind of interaction. Unfortunately I am not one of those people, not for lack of trying. Sometimes I wonder if I engage too well and end up caring a little too much and the energy that takes sucks my well dry faster than if I remained more aloof.
Some people are no good at alone. From a woman I know who can’t stand not to be married, and going on her sixth husband. To the friend constantly texting all the contacts in her list looking for conversation or justification, or just someone to escape normal life with…to the guy who’s always got a better-than-yours story and has a pathological need to share…constantly. The world needs all types and, to be clear, they aren’t bad people, they just need connection in a different way.
Sometimes I think they fear being alone. And I’m not sure why but it may have to do with how scary introspection can be. How scary the thoughts are that come up from the dark recesses when called out by the lack of outside stimulation.
Such things are easy to cover up with noise, and new love, and impressive stories.
If you’re uncomfortable in your own company, that’s something you should really take a look at. You should ask yourself why. Chances are, it’s because you’re afraid of what you might find.
We are scary, us humans. We have scary, weird thoughts, irrational, sometimes haunting. There’s a reason horror movies exist and why Steven King has sold millions.
Don’t forgo the experience and the knowledge it brings just because you’re afraid of what you might find on the inside, of what you’ve ignored. Facing it will help to make it real, and we can only deal with/solve/accept what we know to be real.
Most introverts know how to be alone. We don’t just know it; it’s our homeostasis. The safe place we return to at the end of the day to recoup and refill the well. We thrive in the quiet, where our brains and hearts can focus on one thing, usually of our own, that doesn’t involve the constant dance of keeping another person’s feelings and thoughts in our mind, ahead of and instead of our own.
That’s not to say that all introverts are good at self-reflection, but I think it happens more often for us, in part because of the quiet we seek out. Quiet fosters uninterrupted thought. I, like most introverts, am a person who needs to shut down everything else in order to check in with what’s happening in my own head.
Sometimes, without the quiet, and only the loud and obligatory, chocked-full days, emotional backlash catches me. I will spend time with friends, co-workers, students, etc and wonder why I feel so frustrated or angry, or sad, or antsy when I return home. But with all the obligations at home and work, I often don’t have time to understand that they aren’t my feelings, but ones that I have absorbed. So I am angry, frustrated…sad. It’s only when I can spare a moment to look at the interactions from a place outside of them that I begin to understand their effects.
From the quiet I can understand that one friend is an attention seeker, outwardly sweet, but always demanding of justification and the need to be right. So I walk away feeling drained and always wrong. From a distance, I see how I am often captivated by an individual and every tiny crumb of attention they drop, because they give them so sparingly. So that when they give I feel like I could fly from the elation in my heart, and when they hold back, I am cast into a hopeless darkness.
The friend who swears she is here to listen to me but every time I begin to talk, barges over my words with stories of her own so I can be assured that she understands my exact feelings. To the person who shrugs off my insecurities, because how can my life be as hard as their own…and proceeds to tell me why. To the parent who makes up their own side of a conversation when what comes out of my mouth is too hard to face.
It’s often difficult to convince myself, at the end of the day, that I’m ok. Just me. Outside of the worldly distractions, outside of the demands of family and friends, and coworkers and students.
I don’t know if I’m okay.
How can a sponge that absorbs so much of the dirt, and grime, and ugly underbelly of the world be okay? How can I be fine when my whole being takes in the emotions and worries of those around me? I can’t be.
Which is why being alone is so necessary to repair my damaged calm.
With only my own company to keep, I feel weight lifted off of my heart. I find I’m quite a pleasant person to keep the company of. I’m quiet. I’m funny. I’m hard working and driven. I don’t make a big mess and am an excellent stretcher. I’ve been known to cave into a nap when left alone, and always, always leave space for thought and breath.
I like who I am without people.
But I have to carve out this time and space for myself. I have to make my health as important as I’ve made their company, even though it’s not an easy task for someone who wants to help others, to be sympathetic and supportive. As much as I enjoy being alone, I will always gravitate towards helping others lighten their load.
It’s in being conscientious enough of my own health to let it go of that burden at the end of the day that’s my challenge going into the new year.
We’re not only defined by what we chose to do in our lives, but how we do it. We are categorized by outward and inward perceptions, each of us, akin to novels, and are thusly classified into genres.
Ah, she’s a romantic mystery with a dash of humor.
That guy over there is a political intrigue, with a splash of old school patriarchy.
Ah, she’s a pushy self-help, peppered with self-righteousness and a healthy pinch of praise-Jesus.
That lady over there is a bitter cozy mystery with a hint of post-menopausal lack of fucks to give.
We are defined by the things we do. We’re put into categories by people we know, and by companies that gather our data. Even when we don’t ask for it, we’re given a neat little label. And sometimes, when we’re overloaded and overworked, we start using that label as our only sense of self, as we desperately try to remember our purpose… And sometimes, we use those labels as a scapegoat for our less-than-desirable behaviors.
I’ve been trying to meditate every day and have been working through a series on my app (yeah, look at me, getting all tech-savvy with an app to help me reconnect with my humanness…seems oxymoronic) about acceptance, depression, letting go, and stress management.
One recurring phrase I hear is: You are not your thoughts or your feelings.
This is a hard concept to grasp.
Humans are this odd mishmash of biology and higher neuronic thought processes. I mean on one of our great ape-grasping hands we’re barely getting used to this hairless bipedal thing, on the other hand we’re philosophical, heavy in the head, braining entities who, when left to our own devices will overthink ourselves into a coma.
Maybe there’s a fear that if we disconnect to our thoughts then we won’t know who we are.
Maybe we fear we’ll lose the basis of our existence if we let go of the ideas and feelings tethering us down.
But this is not so.
You see, thoughts and emotions change. All the time. And the reason humans become so miserable is that we tie ourselves to them, try to define ourselves by them. Then we are less apt to let them go, especially when they hold the addictive qualities of self-spiraling sadness and anger. We feel sad. We are sadness. We feel anger. We’re angry humans.
Conversely, when we are happy or elated and the emotion passes, as it will with the natural ebb and flow of life, we cling to it desperately and feel like something’s gone wrong when its tying us down.
Should we let go of happiness. No. Should we reject sadness and admonish ourselves for anger? Absolutely not. Be in the moment, with the emotion, understand it is a feeling, acknowledge it and let it go. You’re all that’s left.
Just as we aren’t tied to labels; we are not one genre, we are all genres.
Why is it important that we understand this?
If we are boxed in to what the world has categorized us as, to our labels, we won’t know we can change. We become stagnant and perpetuate behaviors that are detrimental to our happiness and the benefit of humanity.
Secondly: We will feel trapped. And trapped animals lose the will to live. Without will, without passion, we cannot create, we cannot solve, we cannot continue to thrive in the world.
So how do we escape?
Here’s the dirty little secret:
I’m not entirely sure.
I think it has something to do with opening your mind to new ideas, allowing yourself to be different, to change the things about your life you don’t want to be a part of anymore, without guilt or self blame, and to let go of the idea that you are the personification of your thoughts and feelings.
You can be anything. Or just some things.
Or nothing at all.
Cross genres. Explore. Maintain your free will. While those that seek to control will tell you, free will is our greatest vice as human beings, that it causes us to make decisions that don’t align with status-quo, religious concepts, or dictator-imposed law and thus brings about the downfall of society, this is not the case.
There’s a reason the Dark Ages happened.
Free will, your ability to change, to move, to think differently are vital to not just survival but your purpose in life.
I hear there have been some questions at school and amongst your friends, about if Santa Claus is real.
There comes a time, in most kids lives, when they are taught to grow up and out of what some adults call “silly, fanciful, daydreams.” And so adults and peers will go about destroying everything that even whiffs of magic, and work hard to wipe away every ounce of stardust from the eyes of children who believe.
To this I say…shut it your mean-hearted pieholes, you wankers. (And anyone who hasn’t, at some point in their existence, called a middle schooler a wanker is probably lying. Let’s face it, middle school was/is not our finest hour as humans.)
And I’m willing to bet that these are the same little judgmentalists that gave you sideways glances for not going to church.
These are the people who say it’s obviously impossible for a generous old guy to deliver presents to kids one night of the year, while simultaneously cherishing and accepting the “fact” that a deity impregnated a virgin and their child wiped away the entirety of sin in the world…
If they can suspend reality, nay, even base their lives around this idea of, albeit a cool, hippy/demigod, is it such a stretch to believe in a jolly old elf that spreads the ideals of generosity and selfless giving for just one day?
(To be clear–I’m an equal opportunity believer so I won’t touch your demigod hippy if you don’t touch my fat guy in a red suit.)
I refuse to lose my stardust. As Anne Shirley would say; I refuse to be poisoned by their bitterness.
You want to know if there is magic? If Santa is real?
Here’s what I know…
Santa is real and magic exists.
How can I be sure?
I’m here aren’t I? You’re here, yes? We’re all here.
We were sprung from the unlikely combination of a chemical lottery and dumb, cosmic luck. We went on to survive hundreds of thousands of years of evolutionary death traps.
If that’s not magical, what is?
Here’s what I also know.
There are two types of people in the world.
Those that destroy joy, and those that spread it.
I say, it does no harm to believe in something better, more beautiful, and magical in our lives (Hippy Demigod or Santa Claus).
I say, it does no harm to fill our eyes with wonder and joy in the midst of the darkest day of the year.
I say, it does no harm to hope and anticipate.
I say, it does no harm to walk into these short cold days with elation in our hearts.
I say, what a horrible, dark and sad world it must be for those that seek to take away such light; those who disbelieve and ridicule others who hold magic in their heart.
It does harm to take someone’s joy.
It does harm to smother the fire of giving and generosity.
It does harm when we seek to oppress the light of selflessness in a world so dark.
I know this; each one of us chooses what we believe.
We choose what we fill our hearts with. And in a world that can be so gloomy and wretched, why would you want to fill your heart with anything that would make it even more so?
I choose to believe.
I believe in Santa Claus and I believe in magic.
I believe that there is light in the darkest of times. And I believe that the joy radiating from the hearts that hope, and love, and give, is more real than any hot air getting blown around by a bunch of self-conscious, hormonal, dying-to-fit-in middle schoolers.
I can’t decide for you, but neither can they.
Embrace the joy, be the magic, and light the dark… or reject the lot of it and wipe the stardust from your eyes.
Distance. One word with a myriad of attached ideas. The space between two points, the play between perspectives, and how it can shift the way we see the world.
As a mom, wife, friend, co-worker, volunteer, writer, runner, kenpoist and all the other shit I personify in life, I get really bogged down in how the world sees me.
We all have responsibilities and I know that I talk about this a lot. But I think that part of the beauty of being human is trying to find a balance between what we have to do and what we want to do in terms of how we create artistically.
It’s generally agreed upon that the have-to’s rarely help out the want to’s. That is, when we are so embroiled in buying groceries and appeasing children, and working the hours, and mopping the floors, we have very little left of brain and body to contribute to our art.
Maybe some people don’t have this problem and the fire in their core burns bright enough to fuel all of their endeavors whether they are necessary or casual.
But I ain’t one of those people.
In our world today we’re seeing a startling trend of human beings snapping.
I think it’s the fast pace. I think it’s the constant technological interconnection and human disconnection. I think it’s the noise that barrages us, nonstop. I think it’s the expectations, and the anger, the powerlessness that often comes when we realize how fragile we are and how big the world’s problems can seem when they’re looming over our heads.
All. The. Time.
No wonder we medicate. No wonder we drink. No wonder we take out our aggression on innocent bystanders and make scapegoats out of whatever group we think could be the root of suffering.
It isn’t right, it isn’t just. But our poor little lizard brains can’t contemplate or find order under such constant distress. Most of us, aren’t self-aware enough to stop and gain perspective on it all.
And that brings me back to distance.
Distance and perspective are fraternal twins. Borne of the same womb but different in their nature. We need one to have the other. Both are vitally important to our survival as a species.
Distance as an artist can be hard to gain. It means dropping the roles we are pegged into, permanently or at least temporarily, in order to have hour proverbial hands free to create, to problem solve, and to ease the process of gaining proper perspective that will, eventually lead to healthier choices, lifestyles and hopefully communities at large.
So stop. For a day. For a week. Hell, for an hour. Disconnect.
Leave behind the have to’s and make it okay for yourself to let go.
Let your overactive, overachieving brain know that this is the time to not.
To not think too much, to not make lists or plans or organize the day. Let your brain know that there’s no shame in stillness. In staring out the window at the snow, or sleeping in. Or writing just to write, and not feeling obligated to anything else. To paint without interruption unless you feel like getting out for a walk.
How many of us have ever let our bodies and brains do just what they wanted, just when they wanted?
Not many. We always have too much shit to do.
So drop the shit. Let it go.
Be okay with just being.
You’d be surprised the calm that will find you. And a calm mind is a happy mind.
A creative mind
A forgiving mind.
An open and accepting mind.
It can become all of the things our world needs.
So go find some distance. Get out of town, get out of your cubicle, get out of your head.