Twenty-Nine

Empty places are opportunities
open doors like invitations
leaving space for smiling faces
to walk toward you

Clenched fists cannot cradle
delicate offerings of new joy
bravely bare your blistered palms
and they will be filled

Growing old can be a clever exchange
instead of a cumbersome, slow decline
a youth being traded across decades
for wisdom and warm memories

Unthinkable to sacrifice this life of mine
for a brand new body, fresh with dew
despite the pain, it is a privilege
to keep pace with the progression of time

So many others have never gotten the chance
to stand of the precipice of their twenty-ninth year
even my regrets cannot rip from me the swelling gratitude
shining light on that empty expanse still before me
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Great Expectations

There is a sense of safety in youth
the assurance that we still have time
a comforting concept that assuages
all fear in the slow crawl forward

As the years pile up, we watch
that comfortable cushion evaporate
and wonder if we've been wasteful
with our share of great potential

Our failures sting more sharply
and stagnation stifles minds
once lauded as brilliant and unique
grasping backwards for lost luster

The first half of life is spent in ascent
I was not prepared for the plateau
peering ahead with hesitant eyes
anxious anticipation for the inevitable fall

Without regular praise from superiors
small stores of artificial self-esteem
shrivel in the severity of the sun
it's time to learn to water ourselves

There is no time limit on success
nothing is wasted in our thwarted attempts
this season of life is not yet over
seeds can still be sown 

Slow Descent

Someday not far off from now
this body will truly fail me
when that day finally comes
I'll wish I had forgiven it for
all these small imperfections

I'll wish I had been kinder
and offered compassion
to the many parts of me
that make me cringe
just to acknowledge

I'll think more gently about
the things that now seem unacceptable
about this ever fading physical form
it's hard to face the fact that
future changes will all be for the worse

All the more reason
to not waste this glorious season
of youth spread before me now
to not spend one more summer
ashamed of my soft tummy

I already look back and wish
I had loved myself more freely
and lament all the energy I've spent
disowning and being disgusted
by my own body

When the winter of my life arrives
how can I hope to embrace my decline
and not crumble with every new crease I find
when I've been unable to enjoy myself
even when I was at my very best

I want to be grateful for what I have now
so I don't discover someday that 
the treasure I've lost slowly through the years
was one I never knew the true value of
until it was all gone

The Endless Cycle of Introspection

Sometimes it takes an impending change to jolt us awake. It feels like I’ve been running on auto-pilot for quite a few years now. I’ve begun to wonder who I am and what I really want again. The misty idea of where I’m heading has become all together obscured. Do I even want to keep moving in this direction? Have I been moving at all? Why did I start wanting all these strange things I’m pursuing? When one change comes, for some reason, it starts to feel more possible to change everything, to choose a different course entirely.

It feels so scary to let go of all the goals I’ve been clinging to and clawing at for all this time. But there comes a pivoting point where I have to ask myself if the person that wanted those things is even still me. I think the brain likes to default to routines and rituals to conserve energy. It’s tiring to always be asking yourself why you’re doing the things you do. It takes a lot of brain power to start something new.

One of the hardest things I’ve had to contemplate recently is my seemingly life-long body goals. I think right from the very beginning, I never truly believed I’d achieve them. Although, I thought I’d get closer than this. The image in my head is still a high-school girl. The popular one with the perfect body that all the boys try to talk to. The older I get, the more obvious it becomes. That image is unattainable. My window of opportunity (if it ever existed) is quickly closing as I stare down the last two years of my twenties. Am I still going to be chasing the “perfect” body when I’m 50? Perhaps it’s time to start loosening my death grip on that aesthetic before this uphill climb starts to become a desperate, inevitable decent.

Why was it so important for me to look a certain way in the first place? All my inner longing has just left me years of unappreciated youth and a blindness of my own strange form of beauty. I’m sure I’ll look back on the body I’ve had with envy soon enough and wish I had enjoyed it more instead of wishing it were different. Still this battle has lasted long over a decade. It feels so foreign to let it go, not to mention the crushing sense of failure and acceptance of defeat.

I guess overall, I’ve realized that all I really want is to enjoy where I am, wherever that might be in any given year, at any given moment. That’s all any of us can do. Anything else is just wasting time we could have spent being happy. But after 28 years of immense self-hatred and dissatisfaction, I don’t know how to turn my inner dial to “happy.” Sometimes I’ll catch myself realizing how much better I’d feel if I dropped all of my self-imposed obligations and just let life be what it is. It’s a warm and fuzzy feeling. It’s true freedom.

My ego is always quick to chime in and say, “BUT YOU CAN’T DO THAT!” It yanks me back into old habits much easier and more frequently than I find those moments of surrender. The older I get, the more apparent it is that I’ve let the driving force of my life become fear. Fear is what inspires nearly every action I take, every thought that swims in my troubled mind. I’m always afraid if I don’t do this, that will happen, or if I do that, this will happen. I’d much prefer to move from a place of curiosity and love. But fear is such a primal force. It is so powerful. It closes down my ability to love, to access that higher self inside. I’ve known fear so much more intimately and often than I’ve known love. I’m terribly sad to admit it. Do I still have time to change that? Was it ever really my choice?

Some days I feel like I have an immense amount of free will. It seems completely possible to change course and fall into new patterns. But other days it feels like I’ve never had any say at all. Everything I am and everything I have been feels like a heavy weight around my neck. Standing still is all I can manage. It’s hard to believe I can simultaneously be every aspect of the self I embody. All of the shifting selves I’ve ever seen staring back at me in the mirror. Were all of them me? Or am I none of them? Can it be both?

Getting to witness the unpredictable and constant nature of change is one of the privileges of growing older. There is a point as a teenager where it really feels like you finally know it all. But life doesn’t stop. You keep going. And you realize you never knew anything, that maybe you never will. For me there was a beautiful, mysterious comfort in that realization. What a relief to know all the dark certainties I once held about myself and the world were just illusions, transitory passing clouds of perspective.

A big part of me has stopped trying to pin down or predict what is coming in life. Maybe that’s why it suddenly feels more possible to consider enjoying the present. When you aren’t sure of anything, it becomes much harder to move with aggressive conviction in any one direction. It seems much more practical to just enjoy where you are in the journey. Life was never a trip from point A to point B. It’s an expedition, an adventure through uncharted territory. Tomorrow I may push aside the brush to find a beach or a desert or a cliffside or maybe just more endless forest. It’s frightening, but it’s also what makes life worth living.

Youth

Youth slips away
in a slow fade to black
the frightening fury
of time on fast forward

No longer represented
by the image in the mirror
even worse to wonder
who might be there tomorrow

Aging gracefully is the ideal
but fear remains ever present
in the deepening grooves
betraying the body's slow decay

Tumbling forward into an unknown future
slowly gaining speed in the inevitable
spiral towards the other side or maybe
just the ultimate and final ending

There are few things more terrifying
than uncontrollable time
closing in on a life that
can't imagine being over

Hoping this fear breaks like a fever
before I face that last farewell
I hope someday I gain a wisdom
that will soothe me in my descent

Birthday Baggage

Today marks the 28th year of my being on this planet. It’s an incredible thing to think about. For me personally, birthdays bring up a lot of mixed emotions. The day we were born is supposed to be a reason to celebrate each year, but I haven’t felt much like it’s anything to celebrate since I turned 18. As a kid, birthdays are exciting. You get a whole day filled with attention and presents, then as a teenager you even gain more independence and rights as a human being. At 15 you get a permit, at 16 a driver’s license, at 18 you get to vote and (when I was 18) smoke cigarettes, and I suppose at 21 you are allowed to drink. However, I had already been drinking for so many years before that, it didn’t really matter. If anything it just took some of the fun out of it.

Yet even as a child, I was never one to wish I was “grown up.” I always knew that childhood was something magical and precious, something to cherish. I never wanted to grow up. After gaining my independence at 18, I honestly wished that I could prevent time from moving any further forward. I had no concept of what the future would look like for me, and that hasn’t changed with all the years that have passed since then. It still feels surreal that I’ve made it this far. As a severely depressed teenager, you don’t really spend a lot of time imagining a future for yourself. I definitely never even considered a life for myself after 21.

While I am incredibly grateful that I’ve been given such an amazing life thus far, birthdays always remind me that my time here is limited. On my birthday, when I look in the mirror all I see is a youth that is slowly waning and that will soon be gone all together. Not only does it remind me of the physical deterioration and death we all have to face one day, but it also makes me feel like I have lost that much more value as a woman. My boyfriend said last night he comforts himself about aging by imagining himself one more year wiser. That may be well and good for him, but a woman’s wisdom holds much less significance than her youth and beauty unfortunately. Obviously, I’m not saying that this is right or that I agree with these statements and value judgements. Still, I do believe that this is the harsh reality that women face in our society.

Despite believing I am an incredible human being who is smart and funny and unique, I don’t delude myself into thinking I’ve gotten this far in life on those qualities alone. I fully believe I wouldn’t have been selected for my current job had I not made such a good impression at an earlier date while interviewing for a different position with my organization. My boss may not even be consciously aware of it himself, but I guarantee my appearance had a lot to do with him reaching out to me when a new job opened up.

Maiden, mother, and crone. These are the three stages of a woman’s life, at least in the eyes of the male dominated world. And I don’t really know where I fit in that cycle anymore. All but the maiden sound abhorrent to me. Although I’m pretty sure I’m getting a bit old to consider myself a maiden, I will never be a mother (nor would I want to be), and I sure as hell am not looking forward to being considered an old crone. As I drift farther and farther away from the freshness of youth, I can’t help but wonder fearfully when the world will begin to look at me and treat me differently. How many years do I have left before I am pushed to the side, discarded, and forgotten? It’s a sobering thought that prevents me from really feeling much like celebrating on my birthday.

On the other hand, I am proud of the life I’ve led up to this point. I am humbled and grateful for the unbelievable good fortune I have been blessed with for so many years. I am also endlessly baffled by the concept of time. I look back at my high school memories with fascination, unable to believe they are already ten years behind me. Yet at the same time, moments that once seemed so sharp and crucial in my memory have now begun to blur and fade together into a vague feeling, as if those things never really happened to me, but someone else instead. I feel even more removed from my childhood memories, as if they are just some stories I read a long time ago. It’s strange to think that some day even my current life will feel like something peculiar and foreign.

I suppose my birthday is just another opportunity for me to practice being grateful for what I have without becoming overly concerned with the fact that I will surely not have it forever. To a certain extend, that’s what gratitude is all about. There wouldn’t be much cause to feel grateful for something that was guaranteed and never changing. The transient nature of life is what makes it so precious. No matter what the future may hold for me, I have already been given more than I could have ever asked for, and that’s what is most important. That will be my heart’s mantra today as it continues to beat for me without rest even into it’s 28th year of faithful service. That miracle alone is something to be grateful for.

Happy Birthday to Me Quotes - Happy Birthday to Me From Me

Getting Older

Late 20’s/early 30’s is a strange stage of life to be in. You no longer fit in with the “young” people which you still have the tendency to consider yourself a part of. You still feel young, but I remember thinking 30 year olds were super old most of my life. You also aren’t embraced by the older generations who tend to view you as an immature child and make light of your concerns about being older. I’m so used to eye rolls and scoffs from boomers if I dare to mention feeling old. It’s an awkward middle ground between youth and middle age. It feels like no one quite understands you. At times it feels like you don’t even understand yourself.

I know I should focus on being grateful that I even made it this far. I’ve had an extremely easy, wonderful life for nearly 28 years now. I’ve never had a serious illness, surgery, or even a broken bone! Throughout most of human history, it would have been a miracle that I even made it this far. Rather than feeling like a blessing, aging has just started to feel surreal to me. I’m sure as children, we all imagined growing up and living independent, adult lives one day. However, when you’re 10, “adult” means 18-20. That’s all the further out I really pictured. It was hard to even conceptualize being older than that. It started to get weirder each consecutive year after my 21st birthday.

You find yourself waiting and waiting. Wondering when you’ll finally start to feel like a real adult. It used to seem inevitable that one day you would wake up and just get it. You’d understand what you’re supposed to do, who you are, where you’re going in life. After a while, that expectation changes to questioning if you’ll ever actually experience that confidence and self mastery you had always anticipated. At a certain point you start to ask yourself where you ever got that impression of adulthood in the first place.

It’s also strange to consider if this is a natural part of getting older, or if this experience is unique to your generation. After all, things have changed quite a lot since my parents were 30. The baby boomers were all having children and buying houses around this age. Whereas my generation isn’t exactly able to enjoy the same privileges. Instead, we are burdened by crippling debt, useless degrees, being stuck living with our parents, unable to shed those aspects of our childhood that are still so prevalent in our lives. I’ve been playing Pok√©mon every evening for months now. I doubt I’ll ever outgrow that particular interest.

Apart from all the psychological aspects of aging, it’s also quite scary to realize that my body is getting older too. As a woman that is particularly frightening. Despite knowing that my worth is not tied to my age or my appearance, I am aware that society does not reflect that fact. Is my life going to become more difficult once I’m no longer a young, attractive woman? I’ve already got a few wrinkles between my eyebrows and a handful of grey hairs. Will I still think I’m pretty ten years from now? Will I still be able to do impressive yoga poses or intense cardio workouts? When will I begin to notice aches and pains that never quite go away? How much longer will this strong, healthy body last?

The concept of aging is certainly a bizarre one no matter how you want to look at it. I only hope that as time continues to pass that I will grow older with dignity and grace, with gratitude in my heart. Even though it’s scary, I am still hopeful. I am curious to find out what the rest of this miraculous life has in store for me.

What Is (and Isn't) Normal Aging

Four Years

I can’t believe it has already been four years. Four years since my hopes were shattered. Four years since I lost everything just as I thought I was about to finally craft my own happily ever after. Four years since that long silence, since the day that still grips my heart and burns my eyes.

Yet also four years since I submerged myself in my yoga practice. Four years since my practice saved me, since I saved me. Four years since I decided to be my own happily ever after, since I decided to stop waiting for someone else to bring happiness to me. When I finally decided it was always mine to take.

Time can be a scary thing. How is it that I can feel hardly anything has changed and so much has changed simultaneously? How can it feel so long ago yet also so recent? When I was younger each day seemed to be stacked up neatly in my mind. Each moment so powerful and poignant. It feels like many more significant things happened within the three years I was in middle school than have happened in the last four. Is that an accurate perception? Or is it distorted somehow as more years pile up behind me? Have the years smeared together naturally due to aging, or am I losing the clarity I once had due to drug use? Perhaps both?

How am I already turning 27-years-old next month? It makes me want to laugh and cry all at the same time. Who even am I now? Do I even accurately remember who I’ve been? How much more will my perception of time be altered as more years pass? I can’t bear for it to become any faster or murkier. Yet I fear it will. I don’t want to forget. I don’t want to keep changing. I had never envisioned myself even getting this far. And the rest of the road ahead seems less clear than ever.

Four years… a few blips in my memory. And what of the spaces in between them? Were they not worth remembering? Have I really wasted so much time already? Yet I remember that fall four years ago so well. It is sharp and sour. A drop in an ever-open wound. However, it is also sweet. It was that fall that taught me I would be there to catch myself. And that was enough. I was enough. I finally committed to myself, to my practice.

Nothing has changed since that day. Everything has changed because of that day. I am different. And I am the same. I have withered, and I have grown. Time marches on, relentless. A burden and a gift.