Tag Archives: self-knowledge

My Word is Passion

Today I posted a question on my Facebook:  What word would you choose to identify yourself, to express something important about who you are?

The question was inspired by the publication of the book 200 Women:  Who Will Change The Way You See the World.  This book offers up photos of famous women and asks them to identify themselves with a word.  While I admit that I have not paid close attention to the actual book, I’ve been pondering the concept for the past couple of weeks.

What would I choose for a word?  I considered a humble approach:  “critical,”  “self-righteous,”  “vain,”  “frivolous,” maybe just plain “self-obsessed?”  Then I considered a positive, empowering approach:  “worthy,”  “enough,” “growing.”  The problem was that on their own none of these words felt very defining for me overall.  They might all be true in some capacity, but they were also very limiting and reductive.  Maybe any single word would be?

I wanted to know and honor what my friends would say about themselves.  As their responses popped up, I looked at their words and thought about them as people.  It was illuminating and lovely to consider these people in tandem with their chosen words.  The outside world is quick to tell us who we are, and while listening to others is often useful, when they want to define you, they’ve pushed past the boundary.  It’s not fair.  So I chose my word deliberately.

My word is “passion.”  It follows me at my best and worst.  It is not inherently good or bad on its own, neither self-deprecating nor self-aggrandizing.  It’s about big, combustible emotions.  They are the emotions that lead me to cry every time I listen to Willie Nelson sing “Always on My Mind,” stare in awe at mountains, oceans, the first daffodils of Spring.  It is the word that guides how I feel when I turn to those that I love most and am terrified of a world that can’t and won’t protect them, a job I’m not qualified for and haven’t been ask to do.  It sits on me when I write my novel and it clings to me when I read Rumi, Emily Bronte, so many others.  You might call it “sensitive,” but you’d miss all the fire, the ways that it pushes and determines me.  It’s the piece of me that fights back despite battling seasonal depression every damn winter in Michigan.  It’s the piece that is unwilling to give it up.

So, there you have it.  My word.  What’s yours?

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The Feeling of Yellow

The yellow dress of happiness is a real thing.  It is my favorite dress and was purchased at a Goodwill for $7.99.  When I wear it, I feel beautiful.  The design is simple:  fitted bust with spaghetti straps and a loose skirt.  It is a very feminine shape, but it also shows my tattoos and unshaved armpits.  It makes me feel like myself.  I think that it is the color that I love most about it.

But I don’t really want to talk to you about a dress.  This is more about how we lose sight of the importance of our basic senses.  The world is a very sensual place.  We are constantly bombarded with visual stimuli, food options, and store upon store with mountains of clothes to sift through in search of just the right thing.  Perfume counters offer seemingly endless varieties of scents.

We learn to tune it all out.  Or at least, we often try to narrow our focus.  We have jobs, families, friends, partners, pets, and whatever else.  We are busy.

However, I spend much of my time trying to absorb details.  Citrus yellow makes me feel radiant.  Typing on keys that are slick and get oily with use feels better than matte finish keys.  The tang of pineapple juice mixed with orange makes me crave sunshine.  To kiss someone slowly and mean it feels like a decadent ecstasy.

I cannot always tell you that I am invested in the business of life, but I can assure you that I am always experiencing the sensations of my world.  I am alive to it.   When it is so easy to flounder and flub and second guess because our lives are confusing places to inhabit, I will always fall back on small, deliberate joys.  Snapshot_20160724_3

 

What a Road Trip Teaches

I took a nice long road trip last week.  I went alone and I did what I wanted, when I wanted.  This trip was for me.  That’s a powerful thing.

I could rattle off cliches about how we could all use a break or about why we ought to make a bit of time for ourselves, but I think it can go a lot deeper than that.  I think taking time away from everything that is familiar and asking yourself what you want, following those desires moment by moment, can be transformative.

I drove out to Boulder, Colorado and challenged myself to enter those beautiful Rockies with my somewhat uncertain Taurus.  I slowed down, got scared, said “fuck off” to a million more able drivers…and I did it.  I saw the Rockies.  I listened to what I wanted.  When I first saw them looming in the distance, I started to cry a little.  I was overtired and they were so lovely.

And sometimes there was genuine sadness.  Driving down lonesome roads in Nebraska, I found myself sobbing as I listened to Johnny Cash’s cover of “Hurt,” a song so honest it cuts me down to my soul.

Other times, I felt myself so full of joy.  I hugged a bulldog that followed me around and felt like this was everything.  At least for a moment.

I saw the places I belonged and the ones where I didn’t.  I was greeted by uncomfortable stares from men in Kansas every time I stopped for gas, food, etc.  Their eyes looked harshly at my tattoos, my piercing, my lack of fucks given.  They tried to burn me with the obscene gaze of lust and hate.  I ignored them, unafraid.  This, I thought, is who I am.  This is always who I am.  Forever.  And I won’t give you my fear.  I don’t have any to give.

I can tell you that I saw things there that jolted sharp memories of other parts of my life, moments when I texted friends things that they likely didn’t want to hear.  I can tell you that I was alive to my truths, both lovely and ugly.

My current life is so small.  It could be different.  It still may be.  I looked into those mountains and I felt at home.  There were tourists from South Carolina staying a door or two down.  They asked for ideas, itineraries, a sort of pure breed of tourism.  But I sank in.  I absorbed.  I touched flowers in neighborhood gardens, chatted with random people about their lives.  I drank coffee and sat around.

Ultimately, everything I do is what I have chosen to do.  Even in work, I could so easily just walk away if I chose to leave.  No one tells me what to do.  Only myself.  It was only ever me.

I am just learning that this is true.

Mother’s Day and the Art of Presence

I decided to sneak into my parents’ house for Mother’s Day and surprise them, but when I arrived no one was home.  I set out the card and gift I had brought and sat down.  I spent a lot of years living in this house with them, but now it feels unseemly to open the fridge or muss a blanket on their sofa.  It is so silent, so unlike the banging and yelling chaos of my neighboring apartments.  Their cat is indifferent to my presence.  I would not know where to look for extra floss or toothpaste.

I am a distinct and separate unit.  I have been for a while.

I try to imagine them  out, probably to dinner or for a walk.  But I like to imagine they become entirely different when I am gone, reckless and carefree.  What if they stayed out all night dancing and getting trashed?

A magazine I was published in sits on a coffee table.  My photo of a birthday is on the entertainment center.  There are reminders of me here and there.  It makes me think of the ghosts we carry of the people we love when they are not present.  I’m not talking about death, or at least not exclusively about death, but more about how we hold our beloved ones before us always, imagining them in places they are not.

This is what you would say, I say.  And then I make guesses.  This is what you would do, I decide.  And I make more guesses.

I look at the photo of me, clueless as to that former self.  What would she say?  What was she thinking?  The younger me, forever blowing out candles.  She sits in front of me and I cannot animate her.