kept in hand

It’s easy to say I won’t cry
but I will.
And you knew that – you must know me too well, but still…
In denial, I thought it was all kept in hand.
My perception was off –
you must understand…

So I’m here in that place where
I swore not to be.
Waiting for you … seems you’ve left without me.
And my suitcase is full
with my baggage so heavy
thought I’d built up a dam – it was only a levee.

The water is deeper than my skills were prepared…
All this weight counterbalanced
is making me scared.
But this flood will recede
and you’ll do what you must…
Then I’ll quietly blow on away with the dust.

After serving my purpose, after serving my time.
I’m a figment of passion –
I’m the victim, the crime.
And your gaze moves past me
in this silence of space…
With no words I’m effectively
back in my place.

~h

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huddled before you

heart cookie cutterthere is a secret language in my heart
… a tremulous pulse …
timid and tender as a soft first kiss
breath mingling, a shiver transposed
and if you follow the line
of my pale, fragile throat you might
read these syllables
as they beat in time

my lips are a tiny crescent moon
and the corners shine
this curve of shy emotion.
hiding all these questions and uncertainties
my eyes flutter shut as they
divert attention
– a detour around –
the roiling turmoil within.

some days
every little thing is pain ~
every doubt insurmountable
and i’m clinging to hopes that crumble and burn.
so could you be unafraid,
please come and meet me in this
vulnerable place?
where the timbre of your voice soothes me.
the refuge of your arms could be
a sanctuary – the safest place –
to share all that’s locked within.

you give me shelter
through this struggle and storm
as i memorize the planes of your face
in the warmth of all we have created
thankful – the remedy of all i seek
in your eyes
i pray you will not turn away
from these broken, bitter pieces
this damaged mess huddled before you.

close your eyes if you must
and find the real me
buried within
all these things I can’t articulate
–   a secret language   –
please read these words like braille
with your strong, capable hands
they cradle my heart.

~h

 

Know What I Meme?

Do you enjoy seeing a funny meme pop up on your social media thread?  Reading a meaningful one, perhaps, that inspires or challenges you?  On the off-chance that you’re not familiar with what a “meme” is (Don, I’m looking at you!), let me give you a quick introduction.  A meme (rhymes with team) is “an idea, behavior, or style that spreads from person to person within a culture”.  The most common modern example is in the form of internet memes – usually funny, cute images with a witty saying or quote.  They’re engaging and entertaining, and occasionally they offer a more in-depth observation about life and the human condition.

A close friend of mine posted a meme on social media yesterday and it has been on my mind ever since.  It expresses the fear that people don’t actually like you and just tolerate you hoping you’ll leave them alone.  (Notice I said a close friend posted this.  If they find their way here and read this, I have to urge them — please know you have no reason to fear.  You are genuinely cared about – not merely tolerated – and an asset and joy to many!)

"I havea a massive fear that no one actually likes me, rather everyone is just politely tolerating me hoping I will leave them alone."

What was instantly ironic for me, upon seeing this meme, is that I had recently expressed a very similar fear in more traditional communication.  It’s something many people might think but don’t necessarily say.   Either way, the words with this image portray a deeply guarded secret I’ve carried in my heart for a long time.

Most of my acquaintances would probably agree I’m fairly positive and try to keep an upbeat attitude.  Those that know me more substantially, however, are aware that sometimes that face is an act.  I am embarrassingly sensitive, and that sensitivity, in fact, can breed and amplify negative things…  There are days I struggle with depression and crippling insecurities that necessitate wearing a public persona so no one knows the things I keep inside.   Days when my faith wavers and bends like grass in the wind.  Try as I might, I can’t always keep the fears at bay… One of the greatest of which, is that I am not only unloved but that I am, in fact, unlovable.

Positivity has not always been easy for me.  When younger, I was actually quite abusive to myself.  Self-deprecation was a foreign language I studied and mastered (and still speak to this day), and I would continually compare myself to unrealistic beauty standards (which I still manage to do).  I was also physically cruel to myself in this pattern of self-destructive.  My eating habits were not normal and I would briefly deny myself food as a form of self-control and discipline… and perhaps the worst – I went through a period of time when I self-harmed.  I was a “cutter”.

There’s still enough shame in admitting that fact that I almost want to delete most of the last paragraph.  Part of my mind whispers, however, that perhaps the admission will help someone else one day so I should leave it out there for people to see.

amazing how much long sleeves and a fake smile can hide

“Cutting” typically involves making scratches or cuts on your body with some sort of sharp object until you bleed…  I’m sure several people close to me know I went through a couple of difficult times and still bear a few scars as witness.  To the great majority this will be a surprise, though, as I took great pains to hide the fact and my smile stayed fairly constant on my “public” face.  Those who have never had this sort of tendency may not ever understand.  To people who have self-harmed, self-medicated or engaged in any other self-destructive behavior, I probably don’t need to explain any further.  For me, it was a way to deal with all of the things I had no control over – such as feeling unworthy and unlovable.  The pain I created for myself, however briefly, overshadowed the pain inflicted by life, and the endorphins released offered a false sense of peace for a short time after.  In the end, it was more damaging than helpful and I wish I could go back in time and tell myself that now…  (*Please see notes at the end of this post!*)

Seeing people post images or quotes on social media that echo the turmoil and heartache I felt during those chaotic years bring back a lot of memories.  The majority are not good, but there are lessons learned from the mess those years left.  One of the most important, for me, is the idea that I will always be flawed, I will always be “broken” in a multitude of ways… Yet, those facts do not make me unlovable.  They merely make me human and make up the sum of who I am.  I’ve spent a large part of my life believing people don’t actually like me, and that they could not – would not – love me if they could see all the damage and darkness in my soul.  The truth is much kinder, thank goodness, than my vicious inner voice… The truth is that we all have struggles and dark times. We all have concerns and inescapable fears buried deep within the shadows of our hearts.  Despite the flawed, imperfect parts of us, we are all deserving and capable of being loved.  The flavor and depth of fear is different for each of us, but I doubt I’m alone when I think people merely tolerate my presence until they can escape.  That does not mean that it’s true… However, if I continue to fall back on a lifetime of self-destructive patterns, it makes it seem plausible.

amy bloom

So what to do?  I wish I knew the answer and could share it freely with you.  The best I can offer, I think, is a glimpse into what helps *me* with this struggle.  Try to find positive things to be grateful for every day.  Joy breeds joy and whatever you fill yourself with is going to multiply, so do try to treat yourself with kindness!  More importantly, however is being present in life… One of the most empowering things I do is take risks and learn from possible rejection.  It makes it sound easier than it is, to be sure, but nothing wonderful is gained without first taking a bit of a risk.  John A. Shedd wrote, “A ship in harbor is safe, but that is not what ships are built for.”  There is something beautiful and true in that simple sentiment.  As humans, love, I believe, is the very essence of who we are – our very nature.  It would be easy to avoid rejection and pain by staying safe at port, but it is not truly how we’re built… And while we may not always be fully loved in return, those that do love and value us usually make that sentiment known in their words and actions.  The trick, reader, is to teach your heart to trust that it is true.

let-someone-love-you-as-flawed-as-you-are

Love one another, dear friends, and be kind…

 

~h

 

 

 

*** PLEASE NOTE:  Regardless of my past, I DO NOT endorse self-injury or harm and highly recommend that anyone considering it or doing  anything of the sort, please find someone you trust and reach out to them!  Please don’t use this pretend therapy of creating new wounds in an effort to heal old – it WILL. NOT. WORK.  If you can’t talk to someone you know, check out any number of available websites such as this one, this one, or this one.

 

Being Brave & Other Seemingly Impossible Pursuits

Last week I wrote a post about an issue that, throughout most of my life, has hurt and plagued me.  Weight. More specifically, my weight and how society, in general, views those that don’t conform to certain standards of beauty. On the surface it was an open letter to a gentleman that gawked at the size of my posterior (in a mean, prejudicial way), but underneath it was a message about acceptance.

After the post went up I received several lovely comments and messages from people who were moved or impacted by what I wrote… There are quite a few marvelous people in my life, so it shouldn’t surprise me that any number of them took the time to read my words and reach out to me in support.  You never know, though.  Sometimes is feels I fling these messages out into the ether and no one is aware of their existence. My voice is infinitesimal in the grand scheme of things, after all, so even a couple of views feels like a home run!

Of the many kind comments extended, one, in particular, was especially meaningful to me. It came from someone I deeply admire and respect, someone who knows me well enough to read all the nuances of that blog post while not being close enough to lose objectivity. He reached out to me in an intelligent and witty rejoinder and wrote something that meant more than most any comment I’ve received on this blog.  (You know who you are, and if you are reading this please accept my apology for not being able to properly convey how much gratitude I feel for your generous words!)  Not only did he think my writing was beautiful (words *any* writer, no matter how amateur or seasoned loves to hear), but he told me I was brave.

Brave.

Courageous. Valiant. Bold. Gutsy.

Fearless.

One of my mantras this year has been to try to approach life with less fear. I have even toyed with the idea of a tattoo to forever remind me of this philosophy. It’s not that I have lacked courage or conviction in the past. It’s not that I haven’t gone out of my comfort zone to accomplish something that was merely a hope or a dream. My nature, however, is to seek perfection and fear anything less. Often, in the past, that fear has paralyzed me. Kept me from goals I could have accomplished. Prevented me from fully pursuing passions or aspirations. I have been frozen in place by fear and allowed self-doubt and negativity to keep me from doing things I might otherwise do. Because I was not brave…

"You must do the thing you think you cannot do."

Bravery is difficult. It’s painful at times. Going out into the world determined to valiantly confront whatever comes your way does not automatically mean success. It is not a given. There is a Latin Proverb (perhaps originating from Virgil?) that states, “Fortune favors the brave.” (Or, one more literal translation, “Fortune helps the daring.”) According to myth, Fortuna, the Goddess of luck, is more likely to help those that take risks. My experience in the real world proves that this is sometimes false. Fortune does not necessarily favor the brave or help the daring. In spite of that, I believe it is true that success is *not* merely a matter of luck. Going out into the world bravely does seem to tilt the odds more in one’s favor…

 

"Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts."

So, this year was about chances. Taking greater risks. Trying to stare fear in the face and simply, be brave. Remembering, even in the midst of my fear, that failure is not fatal…  In some respects, I feel I’ve made tremendous strides and dared more than I normally would. In other respects, it appears there is still a long way to go. As I try to redefine who I am and how I face the world, it is amazing and humbling to discover that someone out there actually noticed and took the time to tell me they thought that I was brave.

To the Man Who Stared at My Butt… And Other Inconsiderate People

I was standing in the store a few days ago and became aware that the guy beside me was staring at my butt. In all fairness to him, I have no idea what thoughts were going through his head – “nice pants”, “did I get everything on my list?”, “man, she’s a porker”… At the same time that I turned slightly to the side, I realized that this man’s friend was also staring. Unlike the first gentleman, his expression was very easy to interpret.  He made no attempt to hide the fact that he thought I was unattractive and overweight, and staring at me was like a bad car wreck he couldn’t look away from but desperately wanted to.  In a few seconds time a bank of clouds skirted across the happiness of my day and I stood there stiffly while hearing his comment about me being fat.

This is my life since becoming a larger gal, and I’m here to sum it up pretty quickly: It sucks.

When I was younger I could not be pinned down long enough to do much that didn’t involve physical activity of some kind. Swimming, biking, dancing, gymnastics – you name it, I loved it, and was thrilled with my body and its strength and abilities. I never worried about whether I was physically  capable of doing things, I just did them. Even then, however, my weight and self-image took up more of my time and attention than it should have. Schoolwork was pretty easy for me, but instead of being proud of my intelligence and creativity – participating in all advanced classes, sitting for the SAT in the 7th grade, etc – I mostly wanted to feel comfortable about the way I looked. I wish I could say I believe in all the positive things I put out into the world, but I’m as influenced by the media as most any other woman I know. There is an ongoing social argument about whether or not society teaches women (girls) that their looks are unacceptable at any size (it does), but I think the continued epidemic of eating disorders at ever younger ages speaks for itself.  Something else that speaks for itself? The attitudes of others…

It would be disrespectful to single out the gentleman from three days ago as the only man who made me aware of my weight. I have plenty of ‘chubby’ stories and have even had the privilege of hearing warm, endearing past compliments such as, “You have a great personality, and I’d be more attracted to you if you’d only lose weight.” ……  Sure thing! Maybe if these men had known me well enough “on the inside” it would cease to matter what I look like on the outside. Doubtful, but stranger things have happened, I suppose. The issue I have with that idea is that I don’t want people to accept me and find me attractive *in spite of* my weight. This is who I am.

12122767_779687118809230_2133655397191058379_n

*sigh*

In the last few years there has been a movement to end “fat shaming” and it has definite supporters and detractors. Speaking to the validity and influence of that movement is a post for another day and time, I think, but I will say I’m happy people are having conversations about it at all… Even when a vast majority of those conversations turn hurtful and antagonistic.  For instance, while pondering this post I read several articles and blogs and discovered heartbreaking articles that have gained cult following status. One site, in particular, was so inflammatory as to discuss “fat girls” not being worthy of love, and offered advice on how to teach fatties their place by reinforcing their worthlessness, and pulling the twinkies out of their mouths while telling them they’re stupid. It also advises readers to stop “banging” cows because to do so was slumming and would ultimately damage men’s own self-worth… While the author hoped to be inflammatory and draw more traffic with as much shock and cringe-worthy language as possible (no I will not include the link and send more people to read that garbage), the comments section… well, let’s just say the true story of acceptance unfolds in the comments section.  There readers are greeted with gems like “I won’t even talk to a chubby if I think she has her eye on me” and “You made yourself an undateable loser by sitting at home and stuffing food in your piggy face”.

Wow.

I’m glad I put a little body armor on before waddling into those trenches. And, of course, by body armor I mean extra pounds.

People look at me and see what they want to see, I know. I have cellulite and stretch marks… places that round out where they should, at the very least, probably remain flat, and a face that I’m told often enough is ‘pretty’ while the person complimenting me ignores the other 5 feet of “train wreck” that occurs from the neck down. This is not new to me. I’m used to trying to stand in the back of a crowd so as not to block someone’s view, make sure any walkway is wide enough for my hips, and wear clothes that, at the very least, try to make the most of any positive physical traits. I could pretend that I am recklessly self-confident because I know my value is worth more than a number on a scale, but the truth is – I’m not. The idea of getting naked in front of another person is still sometimes terrifying.

And while most who judge me don’t know my story or my struggles, it is easy for them to assume I choose this life. The comments and insults I hear are because of my own poor choices, right? They think I choose this by refusing to get out and be active… eating my emotions while pining for the slimmer, more athletic build I used to have… finding other “pigs” and “slobs” to affirm and validate all those unhealthy decisions I must be making. There are neither enough hours in the day or compassion pills to pass around in order to change the minds of the masses. Even if I could, the effect would only be temporary… It would be easy to talk about my health and the impact it has on my weight, or the fact that I love being active and do as much as I can whenever I can. Still, no matter what I write or say, the sad truth is that behind every supportive person waiting to listen and care, there are two or three others waiting to tear people down. There are entire blogs written by men whose posts are full of rallying cries for males of the world to unite and “FAT SHAME – Save a Life!”

Would I like for someone to see every bumpy, imperfect inch of me, review it carefully and honestly say that they can love me just as I am? Touch my skin where it’s not young and smooth and tell me they know these scars are just badges of honor for difficult trials I made it through? Make me feel like I’m as beautiful as any beauty queen that ever accepted a crown and walked across a stage? Feel treasured and sexy even though I am not the ideal shape or in ideal shape? Of course!! What woman wouldn’t want those things?? Will that be factual and true of my life? Who knows. I deserve love, however, and joy, and for others to treat me with respect for the whole person I am, not the just the exterior package they quickly assess and dismiss as unworthy…

There’s a lot of talk about acceptance today. It’s a trending tagline attached to various topics and with good reason. Acceptance isn’t about agreeing with someone all the time. It isn’t about changing yourself to be more like them. It doesn’t usually require much change at all, come to that.  In fact, if you look it up, one definition merely states that it has to do with positive welcome and belonging. Positive welcome. Belonging. How much better would the world be if we could each practice a bit more of that every day? I wonder how much differently I would’ve felt if the gentleman with the roving eye had merely smiled at me and went on about his day instead of making a disgusted face after sizing me up in all my curviness… Learning acceptance doesn’t require a realignment of our beliefs or values as some people seem to believe, it merely suggests we are all of us worthy and valued and deserve to be treated that way.  Regardless of the weight of the baggage we’re hauling through life…

PLEASE feel free to comment!! But *note* that this is only a space for open, considerate conversation. Nastiness not tolerated.  🙂