The art of life

There is a narrative I have in my head that I find myself saying a lot. It’s mostly “I don’t know.” 

I don’t know what I’m doing, I don’t know what I want, what my goals are. I don’t know where to start or what to do first or how to choose.

I just don’t know. 

But what if I do? What if this lie, the one where I somehow convince myself that all my past experience, all my obsession and introspection is just neurosis, what if that lie is the most damaging lie of all?

What if I can’t trust myself because I keep saying I can’t trust myself? 

Lately I’ve been thinking that the most vulnerable thing you can do is be proud of yourself. Yes vulnerability can look like grief and fear and shame and self-loathing. But what if vulnerability also looked like honor? Pride? Hope? 

It is so scary to hope, to believe, to have faith, because there’s always that voice that asks what if you’re wrong? Are you ready to face the consequences? What about that time you failed or the fact that you’re human and you never have been and never will be enough? It is in our nature to want. It is in our nature to hold contradictions. But isn’t that one of the most beautiful things about being human? That we can hold so many things at once, values that don’t compute, memories that war with the future. We hold storms and yet can still feel joy. Can still move forward. Can still find beauty.

The scariest thing you can do is to bet on yourself. To bet that you know what you’re doing and if you don’t, you’ll figure it out. To define who you are and what you want is to open yourself to criticism and attack. To suffering. It is to risk losing the things you love.

In buddhism they say that suffering is a truth of life. That it is ever present because we and the world around us will always disappoint. But isn’t it wonderful that despite that we continue to dream? To believe in a better world, a better self? 

The ability to hope for the future without letting it degrade the present, to want to be a better person without letting that mean you’re bad, to know how little and how much I know…

That is the art of life.

– L

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Vigilance

I wrote this just before the holidays. Maybe someone will read it and feel a little less alone. Maybe that person will just be me in the future.

//

December is a hard time. Full of joy and the holidays and time off from work. But also full of long nights and cold weather and the accumulated dust from the year.

Lately I’ve been tired. Stressed. Anxious. Unmotivated. When I was processing heartbreak, I put some of it out here, even while I was drowning in it. Even while I hadn’t figured it out or made it “presentable.” Whatever that means. I worry about that. About being presentable. About being my best self. About doing the right thing, the best thing, being the best me. About trusting myself and holding myself accountable.

How do you tell the difference between a day of needed relaxation and a day of toxic indulgence? Is it really just the narrative you tell yourself?

The spirals are endless.

And so I have decided to write. This is not a self-help formula. This is not a list of things to do or a recipe for success. Because I do not feel like a success. I do not feel like I’ve figured anything out.

I’m writing because I need to remind myself that its ok to be imperfect, to make mistakes and change my mind. Its ok to feel anxious and worried and do a thing anyway….or not do it. Truthfully, sometimes the anxiety is too much.

Lately I’ve been tired because of the vigilance that it takes to check my anxious thoughts. To recognize when I am irritable or feeling weird and trying so hard not to let it affect those around me. The vigilance it takes to sterilize my worries, numb my emotions lest they bleed into areas they are not supposed to. Sure, part of the problem is probably trying to compartmentalize too much, trying to control emotions instead of accepting them. But again, an endless spiral. How easily these “tips” can be weaponized as another way to feel bad.

The thing that gives me the greatest anxiety is work. Somehow it feels high stakes, as if any mistake could ripple into my reputation, into the future, into some validation that I am not enough. I know this is irrational.

How many times do I have to tell myself that I am enough before my heart starts to believe it?

How deeply do you have to love yourself before you can forgive?

Does one even come before the other?

//

Also, in writing this and then debating whether to post it or not, I realized one of the big benefits of the 26×26 project: it gave me permission to write. A reason to publish beyond “I feel these things but don’t know if I should share.”

No project this time but sharing anyway 🙂

– L

Something old

I found this buried in a notes app I rarely use. It’s not that old (last December) yet feels so long ago. A different lifetime. A different world. But the feelings are the same.

//

It is a wonder to me that as we grow older I watch us become the people we once admired. The grown up adults making a difference in the world. Building a life and seeking adventure with abandon and humility.

I write. I change. I continue to write. It occurs to me as the new year approaches that so much if my writing is about the loss. The grief. The future left unlived. The stark pain of a fresh wound bleeding through the page.

I continue to write. This year with a new theme. I don’t expect to write devoid of heartbreak. It is a familiar passenger in this journey. After all healing is a process not a destination so I fully expect the wounds to bleed again.

But it is not longer a river.

No longer feels like my body is cracking open with every breath.

Your name no longer feels like a secret.

The numbers change. The days lengthen. Still I write. Still I dream and question and grow and wonder.

//

– L

Hold your loved ones close

Hold your loved ones close.

This phrase keeps repeating in my head. Hold the ones you love close enough you can feel their heartbeat. Close enough you can share their warmth, close enough you can see the world as they see it. 

Hold the ones you love close enough you can keep them safe. 

But in these uncertain times, how do you really know what safe is? If the world was really ending, would it matter if I stole another kiss? A final hug? A few moments of comfort in your arms? 

Maybe.

In these uncertain times I ask myself, what would I do for you? Anything. What would I feel for you if you were in danger? Everything. What would I cry for you if you were gone? Oceans

And yet, part of what makes this so surreal is that even as it burns, the world is still allowed to be beautiful. 

/

The world is silent but for the hum of the car on the highway as we make our way down to Joshua Tree. It’s dark but in the distance the hills are….glowing? I think they’re lights from houses, but there are too many of them. Too many and they’re flickering. Like embers. And I realize…

The hills are on fire, literally burning in white hot flames. 

It is terrifying. 

It is beautiful. 

It makes me want to cry. 

/

The other day I went for a walk and was struck by the colors of the flowers near my apartment. Vibrant purples made all the more dreamy by the late afternoon sun. Don’t they know that the world is holding its breath? 

No. Of course they don’t. Because that is not their business. Their only business is to live. To blossom and die.

/

Even in uncertain times

Hold your loved ones close

Because the world is always allowed

To be beautiful.

– L

b – birthday

Entirely unplanned but the last letter in this year long project is ‘b’, on the night of my birthday, appropriately marking the end of my 26th year. I don’t really do regular retrospectives, though I have often wondered whether I should start. This blog has served a bit of that purpose.

A year ago my birthday was not a particularly happy occasion. It was the night I cried, alone and so terribly sad. Sad from heartbreak. Sad from the grief that sometimes never seems to leave. Because while so many people had reached out to me in love and well wishes, I had secretly been waiting for one message that never came.

Heartbreak is a bitch like that.

It can take all the good around you and flatten it into shadow, hidden by the stark contrast of that one missing thing. How terrible it is to live in the negative spaces.

This year my birthday has been soft. Unplanned and a bit unexpected with not one but two delicious cakes. There was nothing in particular I wished for and nothing in particular missing. It has been textured without being jagged, with moments of beauty, joy, embarrassment, loneliness, gratitude, and wonder. I feel like I am living in the humblest sense of the word.

It’s been almost exactly a year since I started this project and honestly, it has not turned out the way I’d expected it to. I thought I’d do more long-form pieces. Or ramble-y posts around some theme or word that I’d picked out beforehand. In reality, many of these poems came to me either in fragments or in a rush of emotion some solitary night, with the title often arranged only after the piece was done. I tweaked my made-up rules and randomly forced myself to follow others. There was very little rhyme or reason to most of it and this project leaves behind many, many poems that didn’t fit a letter quite so neatly.

Which means I should think of another project theme to publish them under.

But until then, here I am, one year older and still not wiser. Thanks to everyone who reached out to say happy birthday, who coordinated secret cake surprises and spent time with me, whether in person or online. To anyone patient enough to have read all 26 of these randomly arranged letters.

You have all my love.

– L

 

 

j – judgement

It hurts to know that you don’t regret it. That your advice to others is to break up. That when you see your friend unhappy, when you hear about their doubts, you conclude that it must mean that they are too different.

Leave her, you say. 

I can’t, he responds. 

Your loss, you think. 

It hurts to know that you think you are better off. Without me. Without us. That you cling to your judgement like it is the only thing that can save you. 

Maybe it is. 

Do you ever doubt? Ever wonder if you were wrong? Do you ever worry whether our love was the greatest love you will ever have? Or are you still wearing the blinders that tore us apart. The blind optimism that turned to pessimism, neither one something I could change. 

But I can promise you, you will never find someone who loves you the way I did. Maybe that is a good thing. Just as every person has a different genetic footprint, every person has a different way of loving. A different way of seeing things. Judging things. 

If only our verdict had been a little different. 

– L

y – you

I want you. 

All of you. 

I want to swim in your veins 

And let it carry me 

Through every inch of your body. 

I want to hold you so close 

I can no longer tell whose heartbeat 

Is drumming in my ears.

– L

k – kindness

To all the boys who loved me more than I could love them back: 

I could only love you as much as I loved myself 

Is that how love works? 

Does it exist on a spectrum 

That is and forever will be 

Bounded by how we feel about ourselves. 

I could only love you as much as I loved myself 

Because to love you more 

Would be to give up on myself 

I am not a savior nor did I want you to be mine 

please 

forgive me 

To all the boys who loved me more than I could love them back: 

I hope that you are happy now. 

Better now. 

Safer now. 

I hope that the magic we had has made your life 

A little brighter, 

A little softer

As it has made mine.

– L

g – grief

I have known how

to spin beauty from sadness

for as long as I can remember

it was an alchemy

that I was born with

but

I want to know how

to separate the substrates

find light without darkness

does it even exist

or do I need grief

to live?

– L

q – questions

I could spend forever writing lists.

Lists of things to do, things I want.

Things that I feel guilty for.

Things that I regret.

Things that I hold on to.

I could print them all out,

Wallpaper my room,

Cross reference the content

Like a detective hunting for the truth

I could bury myself in lists

And I still wouldn’t know the answers:

Why am I like this?

Why are you afraid?

Why did you leave?

– L