34: Lessons from losing my hair

IMG_0570

I once was a girl, small and fragile. On the days we went to town, my mom would hold my hand so tightly, pulling me close, protecting me. I would sit on the bus with my curious big, brown eyes taking in everything. I would watch big people and dream about how and when I was going to be like them- a self written in the stars, bulletproof and perfect. Read More

Filling up

 

IMG_1015

Dear Girl with the big, wide eyes,

Once upon a time I thought I had so much to give. The way my heart used to swell up, so round and full had me convinced of that. There was always so much in there, pressing against the edges desperate for release. It became essential, the pouring out of myself, like breathing.

What do people need? I asked myself. People need love, and so love is what I gave. I stopped time and emptied pockets in order to lay hold of the last shreds of love in any given instance so it could be packaged and given away to a soul that needed it. Read More

The harder, beautiful bit of relationships – also known as staying

DSC_0490

Packing suitcases remind me of all the pieces of goodbye and staying, and how they hook into one another. They share the same body, opposite ends of each other, friends yet enemies, elements that are together  yet separate.

Maybe it is the action of standing in front of my wardrobe and deciding which pair of pants I will take. Which sweater and dress? Which scarf?

I imagine my clothes excitedly jumping up and down: pick me, pick me. It is a vulnerable moment as my hands reach out for my favourite bits – the ones that wrap around me with comfort and warmth, the ones that mold to my body in perfect lines, displaying my curves but also hiding them. At the end of this process when my hands finish grabbing at garments and I survey the damage, some clothes are chosen, some are not.

If my clothes were living things they maybe would feel the stab of not being chosen. They would lower their eyes in disappointment and settle into that heaviness of  heart. They would feel things just like I feel things as I pile my suitcase with pieces of myself to take to another place.

I have to get onto a plane next Tuesday. Flying is not really my thing at the moment. My best friend would tell you that I haven’t yet recovered from the careless way planes have been falling out of the sky lately. That I am still hang over from the incomprehension of the unexpectedly random loss of lives.

But much more than that, it is the way I have been thinking about what it means to stay.

We know alot about leaving. I think we do. About packing bags and walking away. The world never lets us forget that it measures our strength in relationships in chunk sizes of self-empowerment – of not taking nonsense or not letting our heart be smashed on by the other human in the relationship. There are even songs about that. Wonderful songs that make us fist pump the air and deliver courage to our shaky legs to walk away.

It is the age of self definition and somehow self definition has come to mean not letting people step on our toes. We are masters of our souls. And so we are schooled in the art of goodbyes when boundaries are crossed and love breaks. Yes, goodbye is still painful but we are more afraid of being forever known as those people who didn’t love themselves enough to walk away when things broke into pieces.

There are books about getting over people. They come in bold, beautiful covers that ensure you bury yourself in them. They want you to emerge out of their pages feeling victorious.

We all have stories about getting over people. Stories like mine. The one about that first boy I really liked when I was 16. The one who made my breath catch as it tumbled allover itself within the four walls of my chest. I didn’t know how to do it, the whole walking away thing. I turned the thing this way and that way trying to find the perfect way to walk away. There was no perfection in that exact moment. Instead it was messy and  full of ugly cries. But I walked away. And in walking away I became more of the woman I am today.

So, yes, there are times to walk away. To leave old things and places behind.

Staying is much, much harder. Maybe this is why there are no books on the bookstore shelves with bold titles like How to Stay. And maybe deep down we all just want to stay; to stay in love; to stay in that relationship. Maybe deep down we all just want to keep each other forever. But sometimes we don’t exactly know how.The ups and downs of being human beings in relationships is at best unravelling, sometimes confusing and often exhausting. The skill to know when to stay and when to go is not easily acquired. It takes discernmanet. It takes knowing ourselves and how we fit into other people, and how they fit into us. We map ourselves onto them and project from a distance all the places that may or may not align in all our relationships, good or bad.

But in staying we choose the harder, beautiful bit. Because it means showing up for the relationship time after time, again and again. It means taking a chance on our heart and giving a little piece of it away to those we love.

As much as I respect people who walk away from things I’ve only ever wanted the ones who stay. I find them inspiring in the totality of how they sit in relationships. Their fingers curl tightly around your fingers finding spaces to draw close and occupy. And all the goodness they can find in themselves they pour into the relationship. They are not perfect – and maybe this is the most beautiful part of all  – but they never use that as an excuse not to try and not to love you. It is never a reason for them not to deeply desire to learn how to be properly human in relationships.

Maybe these people understand what I have learned, what we all learn at some point:

Apart from growing a love that is visible in action, real, true, strong and godly there is no formula to staying in relationships. There is no mystery. People stay by staying because the only way to stay is to stay.

**Photo by Jo Chin**

History & belonging

IMG_0609

Everyone belongs to a piece of something, to a part of the world that begins with humanity. Someone ought to tell the girl that because she shifts nervously in her chair, the air of discomfort growing taut around her. It envelops her like a cloak and saturates the breaths she takes in and out.

She looks around the table at the five faces she knows so well yet also doesn’t know. She wonders about the cords that tie her to them. Are they real and true? Or are they figments of her imagination?

In the moment she thinks about relationships – the belly in which they get formed, intricate detail by intricate detail. The history that collects around bodies to form an impenetrable wall that sometimes holds up its hands to others:

“No, you are not one of us.”

History. Does it come between people as a foe or as a friend? And when is it time to open up that history and let others in?

The seat beneath her feels too big for her. The conversation passes around her like delicious morsels, of things she knows yet history dictates her ignorance. She wants to grab every tidbit of the words and themes and concepts and tuck them into her body. To feel a part of the table and fit into her seat fully and securely with these people who know her so well yet don’t know her so well. She wants her place claimed for all times.

But instead she gets up from the table and smiles.

“I have to go,” she announces.

No one objects so she walks off still clutching the wonderings about friendships and family and the places these things get made. The easiness that comes to her, to tumble around with these sorts of things is not shared by many.

I watch her as she walks away, gently rubbing her chest, massaging the doubt that was beginning to beat behind the fleshy walls. I want to tell her how beautiful she is, from her heart to her mind and to the way her life pours out of her fingertips when it comes into contact with others.

In times of doubt she doesn’t see the full version of herself. And so I want to hold the ground for her. To hold up a mirror so she never completely forgets what she really looks like.

I want to tell her that family and friendships are things requiring honesty and vulnerability and that the world doesnt always do them well even where history is present. And a history that is not based in love will always keep others out. It will always be built around the superficial things of belonging:

—we have blue eyes—our father is that man—

If these are the only things we hang relationships on what kinds of families and friendships do we create? And maybe a look around the world today is enough answer to that question.

The girl gets onto the bus and sits in her favourite seat, her gaze following the setting sun. The red glow of twilight bathes her face in light making it luminous. Her lips twitch as though resisting a smile or a sigh. She does both.

I mentally grab her into my arms.

You are doing great, I whisper to her.

The deep things are mapped onto your bones. And love is the core from which you are hewn. This is where you belong, and where history should grow out of. And all the people you gather to you may not always know but they will experience the belonging etched all over you. When you give yourself permission to belong to yourself and to the spaces you occupy, others find the magic of wanting to belong where you belong.

Disappointment and his contours

IMG_0454

How does disappointment sit in the chest occupying all the sides, up and down, and filling every space between the ribs with heaviness? What colour is it? Is it a brilliant red that shocks the senses? Or a dull painful gray that spawns numbness?

I have been to disappointment’s house, so grand and so cold. He has invited me in. I have sat in his chair and listened to him give a soliloquy about himself. How he deserves so much more than the things and people he settles for. How expectations must always be high and met by those who claim to love him.

I have tried to leave then, quietly getting up from my chair so I can slip away only to have him push me down again.

Tales of how things can never be the same after he arrives on the scene of a relationship, and how he wishes humans would learn to walk away from people who fall short flow from his intoxicating mouth. He has a smooth tongue, his voice sure and mesmerizing. It catches your breath. And soon enough I start thinking to myself:

“He must be right. He must be right.”

He smiles at the defeat that creeps into every facial line I own. He knows exactly when he hits a jackpot.

In the past I have left his house drained and dejected. Under his tutorage I have watched people I love walk away because it was too hard to stay. Just too hard. Disappointment has applauded me in those times laughing with his big, deep voice and slapping his hands together joyfully.

“You did great!” he beams.

I know it is not true but I convince myself that it is so, so I can sleep at night.

But life always teaches us that people are just people. And that in all the ways we rub against each other sooner or later we will fail one another. Our world may stop. There might be thunder and some mountains in our corner of the earth may shake violently. But we will surely arrive at this point. Because the truth dictates that human beings are fallible, beautiful and messy.

It doesn’t mean we pick every disappointment and add it to our personal collection but that we are intentional about how we arrive at disappointment’s house or how we let him into our homes or sleep with him or frolick with his tantalising contours so we never forget that for those we love and cherish, we will both disappoint and be disappointed.

Loveliness

 

IMG_0504

How is it that hurt arrives, fully dressed onto our front porches and into our homes?

How is it that we invite hurt in and then delicately and sometimes violently serve it to our friends, lovers, neighbours and strangers? That our bowels fill with tears we cannot cry and words that cannot be spoken?

How is it that the human heart is good at shielding away every thing that would make us admit that we have been failing at loving well and fully? That our only crime has been that we have not been loving hard?

Relationships are simple. Truly. On paper they move from A to B and to C effortlessly. We imagine ourselves as pros, strong and capable. We can do relationships like warriors.

But after walking into the arena we soon find out that not everything that is simple is easy.

Relationships take us on a journey. A journey that is unravelling even as it is edifying. But no matter how far we go or how wide our every limb is spread out, we must always come back home, beat brow and all, we must always come home to the truth: relationships are about love. Without love there is nothing lovely.

We must all set down our burdens and look at each other. To look closely to see where loveliness has died and bring it back to life.

Relationships should be the space where loveliness lives – the very love child of love herself.

I string together a wish, for you and for me, that the hurt will stop, between friends, lovers, neighbours, and strangers…because hurt is the opposite of lovely.

My wish is that we will become breathless for loveliness; to want it so bad we become fierce for it, for our relationships.

 

**I am taking a break from long posts so I can re-group, concentrate on other writing and finish my dissertation** xoxo

Friday shots: mandate

2014-06-05 23.45.58

Don’t break to pieces.

You are stronger when you are whole.

When all the dam walls break and the waters come rushing at you, you will need to be brave. For you.

Because they will not always come. Sometimes they will stand afar off and watch from the comfort of their assumptions. Glances and whispers behind backs.

You need to stand then. You need to strengthen those limbs and plant your feet firmly on the ground.

Don’t shake. You can do it. Puff up your chest like you mean it. You are the door to yourself. You are the place where the buck stops.

Don’t break to pieces, beloved. You are are beautiful when you are whole.

Love is…a renewable resource

neautiful-water-drop-top-images-computer-background-hd-wallpapers1

It is our most desired experience. We salivate and drink wine for it. And its pulp in our veins makes us do heroic things or convinces us that we can spread our wings and fly. But for the most part, our understanding of love is complicated. We tie so many things to it, a stranglehold that redefines it in our minds and alters what proceeds from our fingertips in its name. We believe love ends. Finishes. Dies. And we all have the evidence to prove it. We can trace relationships where love simply gave up its life; where love was not enough to save that connection. Separation was inevitable and the only way to peace. We know these stories oh so well. We all have them. They live on our skins.

Mine are written in red ink. Splattered all-over my life. Blots of pain here, regret there, and disappointment. They are reminders of the sheer difficulty of life and the hardness that lives in human relationships. I had reached a place where I believed real relationships were impossible. How could they not be? How could they not be when we are all just so imperfect? And love is never quite enough?

These are the questions I burrowed my whole being into for the last eleven years. I sat with them, ate with them, obsessed over them, had fights with them and wrote them down – looking for the colour, volume and texture that would finally explain their mystery to me. And I rewrote them, just incase I missed a syllable or letter; rephrasing and restructuring. Perhaps everything I have ever written before has been about trying to understand love and what humans do with it. And the truth of that is I simply wanted to know why my heart breaks so easily when it comes to people and love, and why these leave an indelible imprint on my canvass.

It turns out heartbreaks tell us something about how we are made to live and move through this world. Heartbreak, like any other pain, means something has not worked right. It means something is wrong; a malfunction. And this something is often, love. Or more accurately, our wielding of it. How we hold it in our hands and use it to express our unique souls to others.

In relationships, there is more coming to love than love coming to us. The act of walking towards love is a choice we make. This, in practice, means love is always there, holding its own and unending. An abundant resource that can be harnessed in the same way water runs through the whole earth in its cycle or the manner of grains coming out of the ground, again and again. Love is always there. What changes is us…our understanding of it and how it proceeds from our fingertips

Relationships get their structure from their core and their core is love. Because we are human we project our failings onto this core and when those failings cause a rupture in the skin of relationships we tell ourselves stories about how love ended, mainly to assuage ourselves. But love was always there. It just became too hard for us to use. From the depths of our being we could not reconcile our thoughts and feelings into the space love hedges. We do things to one another and in the process we forget to walk to love. And when it is just too hard, and sometimes situations indeed are, we walk away.

And this is why the heart breaks – because love doesn’t do its work.

I used to believe the world’s declaration of doom on real relationships, friendships and love. Until I met people who wanted to have this realness with me. My whole world changed with just one friend who is willing to love the way I love; fiercely and with sheer abandon to the requirements of love. And this is what happens when love is used, it changes people.

I am finally learning that love was created to be renewed, everyday.

Like the oxygen we breathe that is never used up but only rearranged, love is renewable because it is never depreciated but instead gets restored and replenished through a process of actions and commitments. Renewing love means constantly choosing it and going back to its beginning. This takes work, of course, but our misconception of love dying is precisely built around the belief that love is responsible for working out relationships, and therefore, when relationships fail, we believe it is because love was simply not strong enough.

Here is a fact: people are responsible for working out relationships, not love. Love is a resource, given to us to bind, grow and sweeten the beauty that is born out of people connecting. Love is the thing that makes relationships work the way they were designed to work. But the CATCH is, love has to be used BY people who are working out their relationships.

Human relationships are hard but love, when used well and full, is the hedge that keeps us from spilling out. Instead of saying love ended, let us be truthful that relationships end because we fail. And we fail to use love for its purpose

It has been many years since I first walked into the arena of the world, naïve and crazy pumped to love human beings with my little heart. Many years since my first heart break. Now, I have profound respect for the work of committed people that rise at dawn with the intention to love better than they did yesterday, people that take each day as another gift to love anew.

 

Beautiful inventory

0918-inventory_full_600

You are made for so much more. I know this to be true.

I will not lavish you with sweet words of what you deserve i.e. happiness, success, love…because I don’t know if you do.

Deserve is such a powerful word. & it is greatly, greatly misconstrued. misused. It is thrown around like a wet towel that is meant to suck up all the mess in the world. all the mess you & I have made in the kitchen because we thought mama wasn’t looking.

No, I will not even claim to know what you deserve. I dare not go there.

I do know though that you were made for so much more. For beauty & honour & glory. for love.  & this is what gets written over & over on the canvass of your life – in what you do; in the way you think about others & yourself; in the way you treat others & yourself. this is what forms your identity. not so much what you look like or how many people think you’re cute or that you can write so well.

My dad always used to say that life is about relationships; that life is a love relationship. But relationships are tricky beasts. & sometimes they are plain difficult.

A few weeks ago I laid it out for my mom. I told her I had it up to my ears with people who rub me the wrong way – people who breathe negativity into my life. I had taken inventory & they were getting the chop. My wise mother let me vent for a while & then paused, the way she does when she is listening hard.

“Sometimes you can’t choose who walks into your life. Nor are you meant to in those times” she finally said quietly.

Her words sat uncomfortably into me for days. Later I realised what she had been trying to tell me; what I had been resisting – every inventory begins with myself. If I’m not getting it right why should I give other people such a hard time? I cannot ask people to do what I am not doing. & I cannot ask people to do what I am not willing to do. That is hypocrisy 101. Sometimes people walk into our lives to teach us this very lesson. This is the inventory that counts. It is the one that produces the more that you & I were made for.

Should you be crossing & dotting negative people off your life list & casting them into your version of utter darkness? Probably. But it’s not about having people in your life that make you feel good. It never was. You can feel good & still be lost. It’s about having people in your life that help you grow. & sometimes that will involve a bit of frustration & pain.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s super important to surround yourself with people who are real, kind & compassionate. But first check in the mirror – are you real, kind & compassionate yourself?

By all means take inventory. But make sure you start at your own doorstep. What you will have in the end will be beautiful. It will not necessarily be easy but it will be beautiful.