When I look too long

Sometimes I want to ask out loud, does the way the sun blinds you when you walk back inside to artificial lighting ever make you wonder what it would be like not to see defining features. 

What if I couldn’t notice the chips in my nails, the food stuck on a spoon I delayed putting in the dishwasher? 

What if the marks on my arm that make my skin red with too much sunlight just looked like the fuzzy blue of after sun sight?

Maybe it pays not to notice so many little things in need of perfecting. 

Perhaps rigidity of form has less of a place among our self-evaluations than we like to think. 

It’s possible the days would still pass, and my chest would still rise and fall even if I never noticed how well my weight fit in with the ideal, I imagine I should be striving for. 

It may even be that our hearts would beat normally if we didn’t have a name for false imperfections, despite its normality…like cellulite. 

To think, our veins could still have blood running through them if our hair looked different from each other. 

Imagine how we’d live to see the day if the different colors in our skin didn’t require products to make it more uniform. 

How long do you think it takes each artist to see the blues, purples, reds, and greens in skin? 

When I stand in front of a work that didn’t blend the different dimensions and hues that make up a face, I’m in awe of the industry that tries to keep these mosaics away from their rightful place. 

A spot that questions the steps we take to remove in the name of refinement. 

The oils in my skin when they show could be painted and I would admire the stroke. 

Yet when they’re captured in a photograph, I take note of all the things wrong. 

I want to know who is responsible for this discrepancy. 

Is it the hand that chose the colors, picked out the stroke, and took time to care for my details? 

Is that why I admire the work…how would I manage to go to comparison war with myself if I saw a painting of my own face next to another? 

I don’t think I could manage anything save for admiration of differences.

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When October Leaves

There is this sensation at this time of year, near the end of it.

The leaves are slowly changing, it starts getting cold with little to no sign of warmth.

Everything is rushing to be somewhere, myself included.

The end of the year is in sight, so we cram it full of things we imagine deadlines exist for.

The difference is this year, I’m quiet inside.
This understanding of time I gripped so hard has thankfully slipped right past me.

I’m unbothered by its passing, not unmoored by penning tasks to a list.

My walks in the morning are allowed to take as long or short as I can manage.

Days of the week are only important when I’m tapped back into the world of deadlines.

I’m slowly unraveling time and the constriction I forced it to wrap me in.
No longer finding safety and security in the dependability of my productivity.

I lounge with grace and sink into the wealth of empty afternoons and evenings.

Sometimes I’m visited by merchants wishing to trade time for wealth.
As pleasant as their pitches are, I continue to be pleased at my own resistance.

I manage my time around the warmth of not needing an escape.

Watching Myself

I’m growing skeptical of the methods I employ to romanticize my life.

I can hardly decipher between what has been sold to me, and what I picked out for myself.

I’m unsure if habits are adaptations to veiled criticisms,
my desire to be loved above another,
to create a pedestal for myself.
Knowing full well I’m itchy with regret each time I reach a new height.

Is the single serving of honey I choose now because you took yours with one while I formerly opted for two?
My taste changed when there was enough distance not to hope for a moment of time over tea.

How quickly I move to make alterations, stunned into my own silence by those who are unwavering, unbothered by their preferences.
It is the small choices littered throughout the day I keep a log of comparisons of.

I embody unflinching confidence in moments of big decisions making, unaware I’ve done something bold…there I am surefooted.
I will uproot myself without a second thought

But I hesitate into silence when asked minor preferences…preferring to hear the room out before allowing myself the space I’ve been asked to occupy.

I am comfortable shrinking, a habit I have a friend in even when there is no one to witness a difference.

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Recommended Discomfort

The change I crave is uncomfortable.

The best lighting wouldn’t make it photogenic.

A well-crafted soundtrack underneath its experience would be awkward and uncomfortable to watch.

It is maddeningly unfit to a reasonable timeline.

I cannot fit it into a schedule of self-improvement.

It is an unruly child screaming at a pitch fit to pierce attention.

Ripping through unspent energy.

I have to cling to the change I want.

It will test me, begging to be abandoned.

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Greenies are her favorite.

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Tough as a bamboo infestation

I am durable.

Someone who survives a storm, bearing the brunt of things with neutrality.

I am tough.

Strong as the flexibility of material meant to bend but not break.

I grow.

No matter the scorched earth my roots find a footing in.

I laugh.

With the strength of someone who has been shredded.

I stand.

No matter the weight on my shoulders.

I shatter.

With a strength that understands the pain of each cut.

I bend.

Knowing how to meet the eyes of all who understand hate.

I stick my neck out.

Because I will break before I see a system make another bend too far.

How It Passes

Often, we pretend to be present as our feet stretch with anticipation to reach the future.
To obtain something seemingly better.
It’s hard to wrangle a current moment.
Never knowing if it will be worthwhile, how long it will last, or if that presence will scatter the moment your eyes turn to focus on it.
I have been paralyzed by time, the way it passes and how best to use it.
Trying not to obsess over the flexibility in which it comes and goes.
This process allows me to laugh at myself.
How silly it is to be confident in the structure of a minute.

When given a heaping table of options in who to become.
I’m stunted by the possibilities.
It forces a hunger to stuff myself full of every option, tasting nothing.

My eyes and mind are enraptured on who to become.
My true self looks on blankly, filled with horror at the rejection.

Dear Inner Critic

I understand you have a lot on your plate, and you’re often in a rush to feel heard. You speak the language of fear and trepidation. It must be hard to live in a state of constant doubt, but what else do you know? I must say, I wasn’t aware how many different forms you could come in. You’re quite the shape shifter. I would disguise myself too if my only means of survival was to instill fear and remain undiscovered.

That’s part of what makes you so intriguing, there’s no real evidence of the claims you’ve made against me, but you hold tightly to them anyway. It’s always awkward when you stand in the middle of my path and find it’s not difficult to walk right around you. You still manage to stop me in my tracks often enough that the weight of your influence feels familiar.

I have managed to eek bits and pieces of my creative work out while you’re not looking, but now that’s not enough. I’m not an imposter of myself, I have value and deserve to enjoy the work I feel called to create. Though I don’t prefer to label it as work, as it feels more valuable. I’m aware you don’t mind infusing it with the bitter taste of productive value, because when you do I falter and feel intimidated out of moving forward.

Even speaking to you here, directly I can feel the weight of resistance. You don’t like being found out, feeling seen in such a fashion. If I can see you, I can ignore you. The more places I find you hiding out or see where you have tried to leave a mark, the smaller you get. I must inform you, that I will now be taking up more space within myself. Together we’ll gather up all your things, so you can move on and out of the influential space you’ve taken up. I can’t allow you to have some excuse to revisit the holes you bore into my confidence.

I am inviting you to take a permanent leave of absence. I’ll help you out the door. You can keep your plans for making me feel inadequate. I don’t need to be reminded of the lies you paint with fake smiles. Make sure to take the mirror you hold up against me, seeking comparison to everything I’m not in that moment. I think I’ll see myself more clearly without it.

I know in your mind you thought you were protecting me from the possibility of failing. It’s also clear that you feared success more than anything, driving me toward destruction. We aren’t as familiar with the feeling of vulnerability paying off. I’ve decided I’m going to test the waters and see what I can do without the constant nagging of your screeching voice. I have clung to you for many years but am finding the weight of you is more than I want to carry with me.

Thank you for leaving.

Starting Over

Beginning again can be a godsend. A chance to drop everything that lined your lips as you repeated complaints to ears uninterested in hearing them the first time around. It’s an enticing escape, to drop everything and go do what you want. To pursue your dream. It doesn’t matter if that’s to travel, draw, write or do something completely unrelated to creative work. Though, it seems with the way our society devalues creativity, unless it can be industrialized and mass produced, it is usually that kind of work.

Actually, dropping everything and pursuing your dream is much easier when it is just you, but it’s also harder for that same reason. If you have a partner who can support, you and encourage you it can be easier financially. It is still an individual endeavor though. Only one person in that case is doing the work and figuring out how to move forward. Calling it a hobby feels like cheapening the reality of the creative work I chose.

Writing is something that has kept me going in vastly different ways throughout my life. I’m not much of a talker and have never been. But I could sit at a tiny desk in a room the size of a closet and write for hours. I had a lot of anger to sort through, and I still do. I manage it much differently than I did at that time when there were so many sources it was coming from, I couldn’t wrangle each one of them.

I gave up what could be considered a sort of platform in writing. I made myself into a voice that could be trusted to deliver important information, and I’m glad I did. It’s strange to be doing writing that is adjacent to it, without the platform to lend me legitimacy. Honestly, it’s really scary to stand still and speak the kind of work into existence that I feel closest to.  It doesn’t feel as natural as journalism became to me. Writing personally about my thoughts, experience and then using fiction to interpret things around me.

I’m reminded of all the crutches I was clinging to when I started my first full-time job in journalism. I knew I didn’t need to use them, and it was all make-work, but there was enough kindness around me to give me the time to see it for myself. I’m leaning on that kindness now and trying to show it for myself.

I’m not a patient person when it comes to my own progress, and I think there are plenty of other people who can relate to that. That’s why the saying “we are our own worst critics” rings painfully true all too often. Right now, I’m actually my only critic which isn’t something I was expecting. I thought I would be made fun of, criticized, and believed to have lost my mind for my decisions.

The people who came to know my name associated me with news. They heard my voice delivering them a slice of what was important on a weekly basis. I’m still doing that, but not how I used to. I’m excavating my own experiences and packaging them so you can see what is important in a moment. I like to think the timeliness of my creative work is rarely in question.

We all know the collective trauma the world has been going through. People are feeling that itch to wake up from what we’ve all grown used to accepting. I’m hopeful that something more sustainable than outrage and blame will take root and infect the masses.

To the quitters

I hope you ride the high of leaving what wasn’t right for you. When you come back down to a ground that’s unfamiliar and lacking the direction you should take next, I hope you’ll sit. There’s going to be a lot of noise vying for your attention. I’m not telling you not to work and get by as you need to, I’m just asking you to listen. Hesitate before you jump in with your worth next time.

Consider who you are, and who you might be if it was quiet, and your thoughts didn’t torture you with doubts and warped reflections. When you get back from the vacation, and your energy isn’t so focused on just getting out of work every day…what might you do? Think of something you would really enjoy for 3-4 hours a day, maybe a few times a week. Do not consider how you would make money, the success of this or anything like that. I’m not talking about turning your moments of peace into the next thing you’re trying to escape.

It’s just an exercise in remembering who you are. Not knowing how you want to spend your time is a valid answer, just as saying “I don’t know” should not be dismissed as a non-answer. The result can tell you where to start deconstructing. A truly uncomfortable process, believe me. Those of us who feel the most confident about this answer and skip the time to pause and listen are often the most directionless.

Laugh With Her

Tasks pile up, those with great importance trying to look large and intimidating.

That is when the inbetweener arrives.

The woman that is an adult, grown and all at once energized by the child so easily distracted within her.

You’ve seen her, felt her excitement…so infectious and silly it’s hard not to pay attention.

A stack of bills sits on the corner of her desk, right within reach.

The smaller one who has an energy that tricks her into believing she’s taller than her legs realistically allow…has found a way to convince the older one that the bounds of what is within reach are flexible and immaterial.

The day has been set up to be productive and very responsible…which is why the five-year-old in me needs to paint without concern or acknowledgement of direction.

I have to feed myself, but I also need to let her tell me I’m mixing a magical and mysterious potion.

“That’s not coriander!” She yells at me when I try to be too serious. “Those are the ashes of a dragonfly who has been blessed with the fart of a giant upon its wings!”

I’m lucky to have her to correct me when I try to read a recipe for what it is.

She has a hard time paying attention to the road in front of her when the clouds are drawing her up, making her think she can fly.

I let her run wild when I get the chance to fly, laughing at the puffy things sailing right alongside her, and never the other way around.

Trusting that she needs to chase the moon, blow bubbles in her soda, and fill her belly with chicken nuggets, fries, and a big squirt of ranch.

I love her.

Adore the way she wants to cackle as she runs, feeling grateful not to feel the age of her body just yet.

I want to take her on adventures. Let her live and breathe in this skin that only temporarily needs to reside in places of pretend importance.

I’m protective over her too, not letting others experience the pleasure it is to feel her excitement explode.

Where the younger version of me felt the pangs of others signaling it was time to grow up; now that I’m here…I refuse to let her be confined by such stupid notions as adulthood or what age she may actually be.

I’ll feel her childish enthusiasm and stubborn determined nature as I mow my lawn. Even let her voice how she can do it herself!

She can have the space of adulthood, owning her environment while confidently cackling at maniacal expressions she’s invented simply to entertain herself.

I will buy her a milkshake when someone is a butthead and delight in how it will never not be funny to her to build a whipped cream mustache on her dog’s face when we get home.

What Pictures Do You Take Now?

I stopped taking pictures of myself as our conversations tapered off.

Never one to hide how I’m feeling, my face says it all,
reacting before I have a chance to cover up my blatant honesty.

These pictures I’d send you are strange and uncharacteristic.

They are static, unmoving, and unnatural.

My face is expressive, moving and intimidatingly curious.

It’s not something I’ve thoroughly enjoyed capturing for a moment,
not unless I can tell you why I stepped into that light there…
what I was thinking when I smirked.

Now I scroll through the photos on my phone and find only art.

Rows and rows of the work I’ve let myself become obsessed with.

It is a better depiction of me than a selfie could ever be.

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