Month: January 2017

Steady Your Hands, There Are Miles Still to Go

Steady Your Hands, There Are Miles Still to Go

 

I find myself needing a reminder every now and then that it’s not a failure to feel this way. It’s okay to feel like you’re a piece of shit sometimes. It’s okay to feel like giving up – roll credits, the film is over.  It’s okay to be weak, to feel ashamed and fall inside myself to drown a while.

Sometimes I forget that I’ve had a hell of a ride and that I’ve been dealt a really difficult hand to play. In some ways, I think I forced myself to heal too quickly after Dave (my partner and son’s father) died shortly after our son was born. I had to, of course, for my son’s sake, but sometimes it feels like I forgot myself in the process. Something inside me still feels unresolved. Something inside me feels dead. I worry that there is some part of me that is irreparably damaged, and, even when my goals are reached, maybe I’ll still feel unhappy and incomplete.

Sometimes I feel like I haven’t been patient with myself, or like I haven’t healed from my traumatic past the right way. I underestimate the impact living through what I did as a child can have on me: the adult. Does being deprived of food as a child have any bearing on why I struggle with overeating now? Is it why I struggled with not eating enough in my early twenties?

There is so much inside me that has been broken. I feel like I’m in a constant state of transition and trying to fit the pieces together. I have a difficult time pinpointing who I am sometimes because maybe I don’t really know who I am anymore. If someone asked me to describe myself, I wouldn’t know what to say. I feel like I’m detached. I’m on autopilot. I’ve spent so much time smothering the parts of me that feel pain that I worry I’ve lost my ability to feel in the same way I used to.

Depression gets worse for a while and then it gets better for a while before getting worse again. I know medication isn’t the answer for me, but keeping up with everything that keeps me sane sometimes feels like it’s doing the opposite. I feel like I need to step back and take my time; be patient with myself.

I just hope I can pull myself out of this fog soon.

Burning Bridges

Burning Bridges

Sometimes in life the only appropriate response is to throw your hands up in the air to admit defeat. Standing on the bow of a sinking ship isn’t going to do you any favors. The same goes for relationships. We all make decisions in life, and we tend to choose the paths that make our lives better in some way.

Everybody wants to be happy and we all hold different recipe cards. Every now and then you need to take a look at all the people in your life and reassess their place in your story. The goal is, and has always been, to surround yourself with people who bring out the best in you. People who make your life better. Life is too preciously short to spend it with people who add nothing -or worse- take away from your happiness. Similarly, if someone doesn’t see value in what you add to their life, there is no use sticking around.

If we can learn to recognize relationships for what they are rather than the sentiments we paint on them, we can live happier and healthier lives. I feel like sometimes we allow others to treat us poorly for longer than we should because we project certain qualities onto them that we wish were there, or expect to be there, rather than seeing the reality. Furthermore, people change as their lives change. Someone could be your best friend one day, and completely avoid you the next. We’re a tricky species that way.

Now, when you discover a person or multiple people in your life who don’t add anything to it, and it goes on for long enough, you might want to think about burning bridges. When someone seemingly doesn’t care about you or doesn’t make you a priority at all, it’s time to bow out. Spend your energy, your thoughtfulness, and your time on people who appreciate it and return it. It can be tricky to learn how to let go, but your life will be better for it.

From a Second Floor Bathtub

From a Second Floor Bathtub

As I lower myself through hot steam, I’m transported to a place without measurable time. It’s just me and this water, in this room. This is nice. I feel relaxed. Water ripples at my temples while I close my eyes and sink deeper. Soon only my nose and knees are above the waterline and I imagine I’m a submarine, hidden deep and safe in the warm water. I smell lavender and palm leaves rising all around me, scenting the air. Through the water, the old-timey swing music of Glenn Miller playing just a few feet from me sounds much farther away. I imagine I’m listening secretly through a closed door, hearing the muffled trumpets and trombones play their lively tune.

Here in the water, my body is amplified. I hear every heartbeat; every breath, as if it were right next to my ear. Each thought is magnified until my mind swims in static. I try to clear it all away; to think of nothing; to relax, but my mind keeps falling around him. I smile against the water and let my thoughts drift to conversations we’ve had about the way our minds are broken in some of the same places and that despite the cracks, his looks so beautiful to me. I think of the way his eyes remind me of some of my favorite paintings and that even though we might just be tourists in each other’s lives, he’s a song I want to keep listening to.

When at last I emerge, the cooler air of the room refreshes the skin of my face, my breasts, my back, and my arms. The music gets louder as my little underwater world fades to black until I am once again in the present time. The colour in this room has been enhanced while the stresses of daily life have somehow disappeared. I’m rejuvenated, but the water couldn’t clean off the smile he painted on my face.

Love Yourself – You’re Beautiful

Love Yourself – You’re Beautiful

I look around me and all I see are beautiful women. All a lot of them see are their flaws. An endless race to nip this and tuck that, too fat here and too skinny there. It’s a race that can never be won, because for every person you might think is perfect, they might look in the mirror at the end of the day and hate what they see.

If perfection is beauty, I want no part of it.

My best friend visibly cringes every time she tries on clothing in a store. She will look amazing but won’t buy a clothing item because of some perceived flaw or insecurity. She’s her own worst enemy and as much as everyone around her tells her she’s beautiful, she doesn’t quite seem to grasp it as a reality.

It’s not men who make us feel this way. I’ve known men who are attracted to fat women or thin women, or women with large or small breasts. Black hair, blonde hair, red hair, green hair, it doesn’t matter. I’ve known men who don’t seem to give a single shit about stretch marks or a less than ideal figure. In my experience it’s rare to see a man trashing a woman’s appearance. No, it’s not men. It’s us. We do it to each other. Women hating on other women. It happens all the time, and I am sick of seeing it.

I see it on message boards and in the comments section of any social media website I’ve ever been on. Women tearing other women down. It’s always confused me. Maybe it’s because of my long history as a portrait artist, or the fact I was raised not to allow physical beauty to dictate my self worth, but I think everyone is beautiful. For every stereotypically “beautiful” woman I see presented in social media, there are at least a hundred comments, usually from women, cutting down what she’s wearing by calling her a slut or a whore, or finding some flaw in her appearance and ripping her to shreds for it.

Remember that Miley Cyrus music video for Wrecking Ball? Honestly, I was never a fan of Miley Cyrus prior to that music video but now I respect the hell out of her. It’s a good song, and I understood the video. It was powerful. Yet, she got torn apart for it because of how she chose to express herself. I watched my Facebook Newsfeed blow up with women posting the video and ripping into Miley about what a “skank” she is and how ugly she looks. Why? The typical excuse is that she’s providing a “bad influence” for young women. I think the opposite is true. Miley is a strong, intelligent and confident woman who is comfortable with her body and with her sexuality. If I had a daughter, those are qualities I’d hope she’d grow up to possess.

I like to think I’m fairly comfortable in my own skin. I don’t obsess over jiggly bellies or saggy boobs or cellulite or double chins. My body is what it is, and I love it and take care of it. But of course, like everyone, I have my moments of insecurity as well. This is a very new realization, but I find my confidence dips along with my depression lows and I start looking for some form of physical validation. I might put a ton of makeup on and hope someone compliments me that day, or I might try to boost my confidence by taking a hundred fucking selfies at just the right angle and in just the right light to look a little bit closer to what I think my own personal ideal should be. I never realized just how ridiculous that is before now. I know it’s unhealthy, and I’m trying to stop.

We all just need to love ourselves more. I know how cliché it is, trust me, but don’t compare yourself with others. Don’t dwell on your perceived flaws. Focus on being healthy in mind and in body rather than punishing yourself. Celebrate your differences rather than trying to hide them. For a number of years now, I’ve made it my goal to compliment at least one person every day. Not only does it bring smiles to the faces of other people, but it makes me feel really good too. As human beings we deal with enough stress and hate and anger in the world without getting extra from ourselves. You are beautiful. Be kind to yourself.

P.S. I know this post has been completely dominated by the female perspective on this. I know men have the exact same problems with insecurities and confidence, but as I’m not male I didn’t feel qualified to comment. I know my readership is mostly female, but if any men read this, I hope you know you’re beautiful and I hope you love yourself, or soon learn to.

I’ll Place You in a Tiny Pocket in My Heart

I’ll Place You in a Tiny Pocket in My Heart

In life, nothing is ever certain. You could drop dead at any moment, or live to see 100. Life can turn on a dime, and there is often no way to prepare for or alter the direction a path takes. This is never more true than when it comes to the people we walk those paths with.

Whether it’s a friend, a lover, a life partner or even a family member, nobody is permanent. This is something I’ve learned, and re-learned the hard way. All our lives are a series of places, and who we share those places with. The sad fact in all of this is that everyone you love will leave you eventually. Everyone. There might be irreparable damage from an argument or you may cease having anything in common and grow apart. Perhaps they’ll die or you lose touch when one of you moves away. Maybe one of you will hurt the other in a way that can never be forgiven. Perhaps they will leave without ever really saying why.

People come in and out of our lives all the time. Some for 5 minutes and others for 50 years. Logically, I guess it makes sense to keep your heart locked away, so that the pain of loss is never too great. It makes sense to remain cold to those around you so that you never truly get attached to their presence in your life; so it won’t hurt when they inevitably go. Life is so much easier when it’s all a blur, void of detail or familiar faces.  Yet, as hard as I’ve tried, I’ve never been able to live that way for very long.

Turning my heart to stone after Dave died was the easy part: Avoid interaction; reject any advances; make excuses to stay home. Keep people at a distance; keep interactions short (and digital, where possible) and avoid asking or answering too many questions. Soon you’ll have yourself convinced that your heart is bulletproof, and it might stay that way for months and even years. For as many walls as you put up, however, there is someone who is apt to break them down.

When someone comes along with just the right weapons to break through your barricades, it’s terrifying. Terrifying because you’ve forgotten how to react. Terrifying because you realize it’s something you want. Terrifying because if you let yourself hold it, you won’t want to let it go. Terrifying because you know you’ll have to, sooner or later.

I’d rather feel pain after having cared for someone than to feel nothing at all. When someone breaks through the walls I’ve been guarding for so long, whether it’s a friend, a family member, or a lover, I will place them into a tiny pocket in my heart. There they will remain for all of my days, and whether they were in my life for a few months or several years, I will look back fondly on the memories we shared and the gift of their company. I no longer carry the romantic delusion of “forever” that a younger me believed in so passionately. It makes it easier to appreciate what you have, when you acknowledge that it could be gone at any minute. A steady hand holding your heart long-term is a beautiful thing in its rarity, but expecting it will likely end in disappointment. Appreciate the people in your life for as long as they’re in your life, know that the experiences you have with them will remain in your memory until your last breath, but never hold on too tightly.