Saturday, March 21, 2015

Your Journey, Your Wind

Do you ever need to release your anxiety or emotions as badly as you need a breath of fresh air, but can't because they're not for the world--or anyone, really--to hear? Do you ever feel the need to scream or shout at the world for all it's done to the battered, scarred victim you are, but at the same time feel the need to weep tears of gratitude to all those people, truths, and beauties that have, in turn, made you find just one more nugget of self-awareness or appreciation for who you've become? (I'm trying not to shudder at my cliche decision to open with a question. Hopefully you can get past it, too.)

My path of self-discovery has been a long one. It's been trying. It's hurt myself, as well as those around me. It's put other people's happiness at risk. It's been brutal. And wretched. And left me wondering how I could go my entire life before this not being able to see myself, and the world around me, more clearly. It's been a journey I could never--not even in a million-word essay--articulate to another living soul and have them truly understand the depths of this Hell-slash-awakening-slash-joy-slash-rebirth.

Because it is mine.

I am so grateful for the life I've had. I wouldn't take back a thing. But, oh, how I wish I would have loved myself sooner. How I wish I would have seen my potential at a much younger age, and held the conviction that what I wanted mattered. How I wish I would have known myself, loved myself, and been confident in those things.

I'm not the same person I once was; but I couldn't be happier about that. Subtle wearing-downs and beatings of the soul have changed me. And, unfortunately, most those beatings have either been by my own hand or by others whom I've allowed to "steal my wind." I'm sure any lovers of the TV show, Friends, know what I'm referring to, but in one episode, Rachel, Phoebe, and Monica get on a high from reading a female self-empowerment book. It eventually makes them turn on each other and is meant to be a comedic plot device. But I think there is so much truth to that statement, as ridiculous as it sounds.

Do not let anyone steal your wind. *cue snickers from Ross, Joey, and Chandler*



You own your soul, your body, your mind, your spirit, your intuition, your inspiration, your choices, your mistakes, your heart, your worth. You own them. You own you. Do yourself the greatest service you can ever do, and realize that, before it's too late and you've left a warpath in your wake.

Own yourself. Own your space. Own your freedom to choose, your freedom to be a smart, powerful, and talented woman (or individual). Be proud of that--not ashamed. Being ashamed of your strength is the greatest disservice you can do to you, your family, God, and even those around you.

Be YOU. No matter what anyone else thinks, be YOU, dammit. You might feel alone in a sea of opposition, and I know that is one of the single hardest things you will ever have to face, but I can also promise that you will be happier for it. You owe it to yourself. And believe it or not, you owe it to God, too.

But to whom you don't owe anything is other humans.

Another promise I can sadly make is that if you go through your life living in a matter that says, "I'm not good enough--my wants don't matter enough--to live for me. I must live for others, I must make others happy, unceasingly. My feelings don't matter, and others must always come first," you WILL discover you are wrong. You WILL suffocate, drown, or become trodden beneath the feet of those around you, even those you call your loved ones. You might think the altruistic way to be is weak, passive, modifiable, and agreeable. (Note: it is possible to be agreeable, selfless, charitable, and loving while still putting your own happiness at the forefront, right alongside the happiness of those you would do anything for. THIS is the thing we must learn. Sometimes to learn selflessness, we must first experience being selfish. Not selfish as society labels, but selfish in that you can't save anyone else if you're already dead.)

But you are not weak. And being weak is not the answer.

Because you are strong, you will realize this. You will discover the years and years of pain you've caused yourself, the trauma you've brought to your psyche, and the heavy amount of healing that must take place. Because you are important, and you are strong, you will discover that to start the healing--to get better--you might even have to hurt others on your path to becoming healthy again.

To become YOU.

The real you.

The you who you know inside and out, who you can feel happy for and proud of, despite what every person around you thinks. Despite the current of opposition you swim against. You will know it HAS to be done. You must fight. And for once, you must fight for YOU.

But the road will be dark. Almighty Heaven and Earth, it will be dark. But you will fight. Because you are worth it. You will fight through those dark times, when releasing the flowing tears of despair is all that gets you to the next moment--the next moment you are too blinded by sorrow to see that the tears you shed are actually tears of bravery and not tears of weakness.

You will have times when you will feel like this, when you will tell yourself:

Before an explosion is an implosion. Everything stops. You take in everything. Every surrounding, you absorb. They soak in through your skin, into your soul. Sights, sounds, absence of sound, emotions--or lack thereof--from those around you. None of it matters anymore. You've absorbed it all; it's all become a part of you, a part of your world and your reality--the only reality that now exists, but the reality that is really just a dream. Because nothing is real. Nothing but your emptiness and your cry for help. Your ache to shout everything at the top of your lungs. To stop hiding. Stop hiding what you feel and say what needs to be said. Stop pretending. Stop feeling weak and worthless. Feel good enough, not for them but for yourself. ...And since none of that is possible, you ache to disappear, forever. ...And since that isn't possible either, bury it and go on with your life. Be at everyone's aid because that's what you have to do. Because that's who you are. Take no thought to your own deteriorating mental health, or the way you beg God to take your life so you can stop disappointing everyone, including yourself. So you don't have to feel weak anymore. So you can be free.

I jotted those words down in one of my darkest moments recently (the past few months have been full of them). But that voice is wrong. I know that, and I knew that then. Do not let that voice win. That person the voice tells you you are is not you at all. The person you really are is the one waiting on the other end of this refiner's fire. The flames are too scorching, too bright to see anything else while the fire rages. But that fire will refine. Please, allow it to refine.

Some people are blessed to have a strong sense of who they are from the moment they're old enough to have memories. Others discover it later, but while still young enough. However, others--like me--don't realize it until well into adulthood. If you are the latter, you are not alone. You will be alone in the sense that only YOU can fight on your battleground and trek on your journey; but know that others have fought their own, with blood, sweat, and tears.

Do not let any anyone tell you how to fight that journey--no one. Only you can know what journey you need to trek, what path you need to take, and what weapons to bring to the battle. No other man, no matter how great their rank is in church, society, etc., can approve or disapprove.

Find yourself, love yourself, BE yourself. Make yourself happy. If you can't do it for you yet, then do it for others. Save them the pain, and be true to you from the beginning. Even if others see you as selfish, worldly, weak, or evil, it DOES. NOT. MATTER. All that matters is that YOU know you're doing what needs to be done. That YOU feel your worth.

Listen to your heart. Listen to your soul. Be YOU, and love YOU.

Don't let anyone steal your wind.




Sunday, March 8, 2015

Like A Girl

Dear [insert culture, society, family, or name of choice],

I want this stage of my life to be over, this stage of being beaten down by the measurement you've set. I'm ready to move onto the next: to the one where I don't allow my worth to be dependent on how you view me.

I know, I'm living a dream if I think I'll ever be to that stage. But maybe someday I'll be closer, hopefully much closer than I am now. Maybe someday, when I'm not enveloped and pressured by your view that is meant to make my view and desires feel guilty, I'll be a little closer to that--a little more sure of myself than I am right now.

Because right now, I'm feeling the weight of the shadow you've created. The one you've tried to mold me into. Right now, I'm feeling the years of conditioning, ready to--hopefully--break loose.

Right now, in your eyes, I'm a woman who's walking a thin line into an unacceptable life. If I want to be accepted, I must fit into your category. You say that isn't so, and preach acceptance. Yet the more I realize my potential--and that it can't and won't be chained to your acceptable womanly shadow--the more I feel your judgement.

I'm selfish, shallow, vain, worldly. Pick the word you like--you've used them all, if only in your heart and mind.

But really, I want to be independent and change the world. I want to make a difference. I want to allow who I am to shine through in what I do. I want to work my talents and be able to accept it and believe it when people tell me I'm a great person, and really quite likable.

I wan't to stop feeling like it's a shameful thing to show my beauty, within and without.

I'm done.

I'm done not feeling good enough. I'm done being downgraded by our clashing. I am a woman, and one God loves. I am a woman who is strong and maybe even sometimes incredible, even when--brace yourself--I'm not at the potential you think I can reach.

But you know what? I'm steering in the direction of the potential I want to reach, and, actually, am already there. I want to become what I value. And--again, brace yourself--I think I just might be there. I think I just might already be a woman of worth, to my standards. And that makes me happy.

Do you hear that? I am happy with who I am. What, that's hard to believe, since I'm not the kind of woman you think I should be?

Guess what. I love the woman I am. I love who I know I am inside, and what I know I'm capable of. I love me, who you don't see, and sometimes I see that others love me, too. I'm kind--genuinely and honestly kind. I have an empathetic and caring soul, that brims over capacity with love for others. I want others to be happy and for them to see their worth.

And I want to be included in that. I want to stop being judged, tirelessly--on my appearance, for one. Not only do I not want to be judged for it, but I want to stop allowing you to let me feel unworthy or not good enough because of it.

No, I am not craving acceptance. No, I'm not lost. I am found, and have accepted myself. With every passing day, I feel more capable of owning who I am. So, please, don't feel sorry for me, or pin me as a rebellious soul trying to find her identity. I'm a grown woman, and I know exactly who I am.

I might not be as conservative as you, in beliefs, words, or dress. That doesn't mean I'm a bad person.

I just. want. to. be. comfortable. in my own damn skin. And I want to stop feeling the need to apologize for it.

It's okay--more than okay--to be a strong, independent woman who knows what she wants and stands for something--even if that something is different than what you stand for.

It's okay for a woman to be both smart and beautiful, and to use her talents in the capacity she desires.

I don't feel strong most the time--hardly ever, actually. Part of that is the pressure from you--a lot of it is. But part of that is because I expect too much of myself. I want, so badly, to not fall pressure to human--or "girly"--emotions. In my eyes, those emotions make me weak.

I want to know I'm strong, and not depend on you for it. I want to know it's okay to express emotion, be it sadness, joy, love, depression. I want to feel safe in that.

I want to feel confident in who I am. Comfortable.

And see, the thing is, I am. It's you who is not. It's you who is not comfortable with me embracing myself. It's you who is not comfortable with my own empowerment. My own joy, and inner piece. Because to you, the only way I can truly have that inner piece is to fit into the mold.

Again, I repeat: I'm done.

I was done trying to fit into that mold a long time ago, but now I'm done allowing it to control my emotions and make me feel like a lesser person. I'm done feeling worthless. I want to break away.

I will break away. I will fly, and I will be real with myself. I will be okay with your disapproval, because not only have I approved of myself, but I have let in the love of others who also approve.

I am a woman of worth.

No Longer Yours,
Jen

#LikeAGirl
#InternationalWomensDay

Sunday, March 1, 2015

The Greatness of Flaws

Before I learned I had to be a paying member wasn't cool enough to attend one of the writing sessions I was going to attend in Denver last week, I was tasked with writing an essay titled The Greatness of Flaws. Naturally, when I found out I couldn't attend the meeting, part of me was relieved to not have to write the piece.

Then my mind got stuck in it and I couldn't stop thinking about it and what I would write if I could go. The problem was, I couldn't think of anything worthy or noble to say about the greatness of flaws. Nothing.

And of course, because that troubled me, I decided to write a post on that topic, and try to articulate the best I could how I really feel about the greatness of flaws.

So here's this:

First, I will talk about my own flaws. My distortions. My ugliness. Because I see no greatness in my flaws. Almighty Heaven and Earth, life is hard, and finding my strengths right now seems impossible, and seeing my flaws as "great" is even more impossible. My flaws weaken me, make living my life even harder. Some would call an open, deep-feeling, and empathetic heart a strength. It can be, for sure. 

But recently, in me I see it as nothing but a flaw. Things are raw and painful—things that never were before. I feel so much. And I could swear up and down that my throbbing heart emits vibes of pulsing energy, making me wonder how every person within range doesn’t feel them, doesn’t get knocked down by them the same way I feel knocked below the earth. The emotions trample me, keep me downtrodden. My heart swells with love, ache, longing, beauty, joy, sorry, hopelessness—all of it. And I want to share it. I want to act on it.

Even when these emotions aren’t trampling me and instead lifting and empowering me—helping me move forward in beautiful ways—I still ask myself, How can there be greatness in such a flaw? Where is the greatness in loving so deeply when it scars so permanently?

Then there are flaws in others. Why is it that I will pick out the flaws in myself before I notice the strengths, yet in others, I see their strengths first? Also, other people's flaws--how can those be flaws? Flaws in others are what make the world beautiful and diverse. Really, the flaws in others aren’t flaws at all, but simply attributes that make individuals individual. 

To say there are flaws is to say there is a perfect measurement. 

And to say there is a perfect measurement is to say we are all failures. 

What is perfect then, and who measures it?

There is no perfect, and therefore no flaws (right?). Those, that society would have us view as flaws, are attributes.

So if the flaws in others are merely attributes, why are mine flaws? And what makes them great, if nothing more than to provide a meaningful essay topic?

Ugh. I suppose this is where I fail. This is where I end it then: unable to articulate greatness in flaws, unable to write a breakthrough piece that would help one me see their my flaws as attributes. 

Because, in my mind, I’m a dirty, and perhaps unworthy, exception to the rule.