Burning to Be Enough

This ever-present emptiness
aches as it echoes
quick, shallow breaths
catch on inner absence

Wanting to wrap the words of others
around my wounds in place of proper dressing
no sentiments offered are ever satisfactory
to sterilize this self-induced infection

The inflamed ego agony of not enough
cannot be extinguished by anyone else
decades dedicated to feeding the flames
leaves little room for course correction

A wall of fire rising so high
sometimes it feels like all that is left
is to be asphyxiated by the smoke
and silently submit to the blaze  
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Teach Me How to Know You

I so desperately want to know the delicate details that make up the lives of others. The small, seemingly insignificant instances that strike us all, the strange stiches that have sown us into who we are today. The utterly unique patchwork pattern of experiences that compose every individual. Intimate, private memories that stand out and tangle up our hearts with hidden meaning. I don’t want to know how your day is going. I want to know who you are.

Small talk has always been one of my deepest frustrations, a tedious trial to be muddled through with the intention of reaching the real conversations that lie beneath it. My jaw clenches at the impossible effort it takes for me to navigate this fragile transition. Some people seem to open themselves to my curious soul like the mouth of a river into the ocean. Infatuation, fascination, true connection. The inexplicable, spirit quenching rawness of seeing behind the curtain of another person’s consciousness. The conversations that feel like pure creation.

Other people remain forever closed to me. Infuriating mysteries, staring at the bare walls of an empty room. No cracks to peer through, no insight to be uncovered. I can’t think of the right questions to break through blank stares. I know there is so much more inside, behind those unknowable eyes. Everyone has the depth that I hold within, an entire galaxy of thoughts, perceptions, and memories. But how do I learn to unveil the inner world of others? I can’t just ask them who they are. This gradual uncovering must come organically. Yet patience alone isn’t enough to draw it out.

The more often I find myself unable to crack the complicated code of true connection, the more I surrender to inner solitude. Giving up is what I know best, especially when it comes to other people. When I can’t see someone, I can’t believe that they see me. The smothered shouting of my soul demands a real witness. Demands to be drenched in the bottomless black water of knowing another being.

Exploitation and Injustice

The injustices, the atrocities, the exploitation that surrounds me, that suffocates me, is inescapable. Everywhere I look I see the rich and powerful crushing someone under the iron boot of the system that props them up. It is made all the more unbearable in the face of the irresponsible lies we are fed all throughout our youth about the way the world is. Why teach us that the world is fair, that society is just, that the government protects us, that we are free, when it’s not true? Why are we set up to suffer not only the reality of how things really are, but also the friction in our heads created by the false image inevitably torn down by that reality?

It makes me think back to a few months ago when I was reading A Tale of Two Cities. I couldn’t help but resonate with the plight of the starving, wretched peasants in the streets of France just before the revolution. I see that same suffering mirrored in the faces of the masses all around me in this pitiful, destitute area. I was rooting for them when they began burning down the mansions and estates of the wealthy, when they made being rich a crime, when heads rolled one after another from the guillotine all day long. They say history repeats itself and I’ve finally lived long enough to understand.

Even though I know these revolutions and uprisings have happened many times throughout human history, until recently, it seemed rather unlikely to me. I just couldn’t imagine the poor, huddled masses rising up and risking their lives no matter how badly they are treated. Now I realize that it isn’t a question of whether or not they will, rather when. Eventually enough is enough. Eventually the outrage, the fury, the inhumanity of it all becomes too much for anyone to bear.

It may sound silly by comparison to the injustices of the past, but spending all morning fighting with Comcast really gave me a glimpse into the mindset of these people willing to risk everything for the mere chance of change. In just three years time, my internet bill, which is the cheapest, slowest option available, went from $30 a month to $100 a month. My income, however, has remained exactly the same. How on earth am I expected to manage this? I have no other internet options in my area, so Comcast knows they can get away with it. (Even though we learn in school that monopolies are illegal for this very reason.) They add expense after expense hoping you won’t notice. They charged me $15 for me to install my own device a few months ago. I’d laugh if it wasn’t so infuriating. In addition to all that, each time I call, I discover that they’ve made it harder and harder to reach an agent to speak to. It took me nearly an hour just to get to a human being.

It is unconscionable. It’s criminal. The thought that humans are so selfish, so greedy, so horrible that they would make hundreds of thousands of people suffer with massive bill increases, for what? For literally nothing. The CEO of Comcast isn’t affected by my bill increasing. The amount of income those at the top see doesn’t even matter to them. Their quality of life couldn’t possibly be improved through financial gain at this point. They already have more than they can consciously even make sense of. Yet all of the people paying for this service, which at this point is basically a necessity, are crippled by the ever-increasing bills. I can’t stand it. I cannot bear to know this and accept that it is true.

This is the frustration, the desperation that eventually builds until it reaches a tipping point. I felt myself reaching that edge today. I felt the passion, the rage well up inside of me. I felt the truth of the potential I had to burn it all down, to kill or be killed rather than submit to this injustice any further. At a certain point, logic goes out the window, you become so blinded with fury that you are capable of anything. This is what fuels revolutions. This is what topples governments and creates violent riots in the streets. I used to think I’d be too afraid to fight when the next revolution finally arrived. Now I know I’ll be ready.

What I Want

I want chaotic devotion
an unhinged hellfire of passion
vibrating thread-thin heartstrings
creating a buzzing harmony 
of mutual happiness
a flurry of fearful excitement
rapid ragged breaths 
between whispered confessions 
of love and longing
the overflowing feeling of unbearable emotion
something that can't be named or tamed or taught
only found, only felt
an undercurrent of sugary sharpness
carving through heaving chests
ribcages torn open 
revealing true beauty, blood red   
is this a chemical reaction
or something that can be crafted
perhaps a perfect storm of coincidence creates it
it's hard to ask for what can't be explained
harder still when to ask is the last nail in the casket
I don't want to ask, I want to not have to
communication comes easy when I am handed a heart stripped bear
reciprocation is my realm, not initiation
my heart gives back what it is given tenfold
but shrivels, hardens, and grows colder 
when confronted with hopes turned hollow
I'm embittered by the idea
of creating everything myself
a childish hatred so sour it stings and contorts
spoiling all the seeds of love inside of me
I want to be bold and brave and tear forth all that may be hidden
I want to know and be known deeply
fear burns the hand that reaches out from within
anger, hatred, and frustration quickly cauterize
the dripping wound of the unfulfilled heart  
Death Leaves A Heartache No One Can Heal, Love Leaves A Memory No One Can  Steal - Her View From Home

Balance

The older I get the more I find myself conceding to the inevitable fact that life is a balancing act. No matter how much I strive to categorize everything into neat, tidy, consistent boxes, I’m never able to find even a single concept or scenario that doesn’t fluctuate or look utterly different from every angle. Part of my personal practice is trying to make peace with this amorphous, ever shifting, middle ground I’m constantly finding myself in.

It’s especially frustrating trying to find a place to rest when there seems to be no truly solid ground to land on. There are no definitive truths or unshakable facts. Ultimately it is always a choice that I have to make in every moment how I want to view things or where I’d like to focus my attention or perception. We can drive ourselves crazy trying to find a perfect answer or a single solution. With time everything changes and in response we must embrace that fluid nature within ourselves and move with the ebb and flow of life and consciousness.

I have a natural tendency to gravitate towards extremes. I’d even say a defining characteristic of mine is black and white thinking or an all or nothing mentality. I think to a certain extent we all fall into this trap from time to time. It feels unsafe, unstable, and unsatisfying to acknowledge that there are no hard and fast rules or concrete perceptions. Part of the balancing act is sitting with the discomfort of that truth, understanding that most states in life are not mutually exclusive. We have the space inside us to hold it all simultaneously. We can be both happy and sad. We can believe we’re right and understand why others may view us as wrong.

Another difficult aspect of balance for me particularly is when it comes to knowledge. There are some questions that we must accept never finding the answers for. We must cope with the possibility that we are not even asking the right questions. Living side by side with the unknown, the unknowable, is uncomfortable, to be sure. Any missing pieces sow seeds of such doubt in me that I can at times lose faith in my ability to perceive or know anything at all. If I don’t know everything, I quite likely know nothing. This is a duality I battle with constantly.

Balance itself implies that it cannot be held permanently. The idea of balancing evokes a sense of movement. It may create an image of someone slightly wavering or suddenly jerking in an effort to reclaim equilibrium. The quest and the pursuit of balance is a life long battle. This too we must learn to accept. A day will never come when the fear of falling will be absent. The pendulum of life will continue to swing both ways indefinitely, perhaps growing smaller in its repetitive arc, but never finding perfect stillness. While the impermanent and shifting nature of reality and consciousness can be overwhelming, discouraging, and frustrating at times, it is also something to be grateful for. The give and take of the universe is what makes it so alive, so fascinating, so engaging, so worth being a part of. You’ll continue to wobble and fall, but you’ll also find moments of exquisite peace and clarity made all the more poignant by the contrast. Don’t lose heart. You’re doing just fine, even when you find yourself falling.

5 Health Problems That Can Cause Bad Balance | SELF

Scorched Earth

Wielding knowledge like a weapon
I was a foolish warrior
Gathering sources and citations
I will shake you from this sleep

But the heavy lidded would not rise
the passionate tides of my pride
crashed silently against indifferent minds
I languish, froth, and writhe

Open wounds in salty water
there is no healing here
neurosis turned necrotic
consciousness confined quickly corrodes

Uncovering the empty container
of human empathy
mankind's compassion reduced to crumbs 
on kitchen counters

The swelling heat of unrequited rage
from years of fanning flames
burns behind tormented, tearful eyes
consumed in dancing tongues of frustrated fire

The elemental nature of my indignation
once extinguished, leaves only damp ashes
soggy reminders of sparks of joy
suffocated hopes gone up in smoke
Scorched earth by arcipello on DeviantArt

Anger, Compassion, and Not Knowing

Understanding Suicide: Risk Factors, Prevention, and How to Get Help |  Everyday Health

I struggle with anger nearly every day. The smallest things can set me off in an instant. A pattern has begun to emerge from these occurrences. The common denominator for my anger always seems to be a sense of “not knowing.” For example, I’ve been getting extremely frustrated with my dog the last few days. She goes through spells of refusing to go up and down the stairs. I try to carry her, but she won’t allow that either. She makes me chase her around in circles before finally she goes on her own. This has been happening on and off at random intervals since we’ve moved here, and I cannot for the life of me figure out what it’s all about.

I’m obviously not mad at her. She’s just an innocent animal who is clearly scared or in pain of some kind. (I’ve wondered if it may have to do with arthritis inflammation that comes and goes.) Regardless of what the explanation is, I think what it really comes down to is the fact that I don’t know. As someone who prides themselves on their quick wit and intelligence, not knowing anything is a threat to my ego. It’s not as if I’m consciously aware of this in the moment though. I make lots of excuses for myself to explain why I am actually angry. Normally it has something to do with believing the whole situation to be utter nonsense. If I can’t understand it or find a good reason, I assume that it’s impossible to understand, that there is no reason.

I realize that this isn’t true. There are many motives and reasons that guide people that I cannot fathom or understand from the outside. It’s a bad habit of mine to assume they must not have a good reason, and they are just being difficult. I guess it feels like deep down one of us must just be stupid, and since it absolutely cannot be me (because I am so very smart *eye roll*) it must be them. This is yet another way my black and white thinking causes problems for me. It is hard for me to wrap my mind around the idea that two people can just misunderstand one another. One person doesn’t inherently have to be of lower intelligence.

I’ve been trying to practice compassion in the face of anger recently, but it hasn’t been going as well as I might have hoped. I think the missing piece is that, while I’ve been trying to foster compassion for the other person, I have not offered myself the same compassion. It’s okay to not know. It’s okay to not understand. It does not mean that I am any less intelligent for acknowledging that. You don’t have to know absolutely everything to be smart. No one knows everything. We all have our blind spots.

I think if I afford myself the grace to not know, I will finally be able to relax enough to get curious again. The double edged sword of intelligence is the ego’s desire to protect and prop up that intelligence. Sadly, if you never allow yourself to not know, how will you ever be open to learning something new? Learning, coming to new understandings, and finding new perspectives are some of my favorite parts of life. How boring it would be to think there is nothing left for me to discover.

By turning to anger so quickly in any situation I don’t immediately understand, I am robbing myself of the opportunity to learn something new. The next time I find myself overcome with frustration, I am going to try my best to pause and ask what is it about this situation that I am not understanding? Can I allow myself to not understand for the moment? How might holding space and staying open allow me to benefit and grow in this moment?

Maybe if I were to resist my anger, I may notice something new about the periods of time when my dog appears afraid to go down the stairs. Maybe I can help her more effectively if I give myself the space to discover her hidden reasons. And ultimately, even if I never understand, can I offer compassion anyway? Can I have the humility to accept that there are some things I may never understand? Can I acknowledge that compassion does not always come from understanding? Compassion and loving kindness are mine to give freely and are applicable and beneficial in any situation regardless of personal comprehension.

In the same vein this mindset would do me good in regard to the way I feel I’m perceived by other people. I tend to think that if I am not fully understood by someone, then they cannot truly love me. Now I am beginning to see that isn’t true. I’ve certainly loved people that I may not have understood 100%. I don’t think we can ever understand another, or even ourselves, fully. But that does not lessen or cheapen the love that we can offer. The best love is unconditional anyway. I don’t have to reserve my love and compassion for only people and situations that I understand. Perhaps it is even better given in those instances. Love and compassion transcend understanding, and that is part of what makes them so poignant, beautiful, and worthwhile.

Impermanence

When I look around at the civilization that we have built as humans, I see it crumbling. I see abandoned buildings retaken by the earth, vines weaving in and out of windows and door frames, mossy, earth eaten walls. I see cracked and distorted highways and crumbling sidewalks. I look within my own home and I see the small consequences of daily life chipping away at tabletops and wallpaper. I see clogged pipes and burnt out bulbs. The constant repairs, the consistent yet futile attempts to prolong the inevitable. The frustrating struggle to keep an impermanent structure, permanent.

These are the most important differences between what mother earth has created and what we have. Nothing is wasted or caving in on itself in nature. The earth moves as a single organism absorbing the old to give birth to new systems and structures in a beautiful ever changing cycle. I can remember having a morbid thought once as a child as I looked out the car window over the acres and acres of headstones on the hillside. Won’t all the land be graveyards eventually? While I no longer think we will allow cemeteries to cover the earth, I do think I was on to something. The earth does slowly become more and more of a human wasteland every day. As we rapidly consume and discard, our garbage remains and multiplies. Even our homes are reclaimed by nature in time.

Impermanence is something that we have all but disregarded as a species. It is something I personally struggle with everyday. We want things to remain the same, to remain constant and predictable. Still our best efforts lead only to stagnation and slow decay. We are unwilling or unable to accept that nothing lasts forever. Instead of learning how to better situate ourselves within this system, we have endeavored to resist it. It’s an endless source of anxiety for me to know one day I’ll have to buy another new laptop, new clothes, new shoes, new windows and shingles. To clean off the kitchen counter every single day, to vacuum the house knowing tomorrow it will be covered in cat fur yet again. The ultimate decay and transformation of death is perhaps what I’m truly fearing, what we are all desperately trying to avoid and deny by our unmoving creations.

Our efforts to ignore and avoid life’s natural cycle of death, also prevent us from experiencing the beauty of growth and rebirth. Impermanence isn’t only something that exists outside of us in the physical world. Our spiritual selves, our mental and emotional needs, are also subject to constant change. I have a tendency to hold on to my habits and routines until long after they have stopped serving me. I lament to think about the fact that I’ll need to keep tweaking and adjusting my behavior as my inner and outer worlds endlessly change. How can we ever expect to accept the natural cycles of nature, when we cannot even accept our own inner cycles?

When I come up with a new productive habit or self-care routine I am usually delighted and fully satisfied by it for a few months. Each time I think to myself, “Aha! I’ve finally found it. This is the thing I’ve been looking for to make me feel happy and help me grow.” I’ll cling to this “perfect formula” I’ve discovered even once it no longer brings me the same peace and joy. I berate myself for once again growing distracted and disinterested, instead of adjusting or coming up with a new habit that better serves the new me that is ever emerging. It feels overwhelming to even consider constantly having to contemplate and concoct new systems within my own life. Yet I don’t know exactly what it is I’m imagining my time would be better spent on. What could be more important and fulfilling than learning to read and respect my own inner journey and tend to my physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual needs? In some ways, that’s what this life is all about.

We plan and construct our lives and our world with the unspoken assumption that things will remain constant. We’ve never learned how to shape our aspirations and intentions to be flexible and temporary. We are a rigid and unrelenting species. I personally am no different. Even so, I hope that I can learn to practice, allow, and accept impermanence in the world, in my life, and within myself. We can never hope to overcome or resist this ever changing system we are a part of, attempting to do so only leads to frustration, disappointment, and ruin. We are numbing ourselves to the beauty and potential that will inevitably emerge from the ashes we are so desperate to prevent.

DEATH/REBIRTH | Poets

It’s Not Fair

One of the most common and recurring whines I’m sure we’ve all uttered in childhood is, “But it’s not fair!” Only once we’re older to we really realize that life isn’t fair. As children, though, we are told to “play fair” to “share” and things of this nature. We learn the moral value of justice and fairness, expecting the world that taught us these values to actually embody them. It’s no wonder that there is such friction and frustration when we go out into the world only to find that these lessons were all just talk.

I’ve always felt like most people make peace with this inconsistency more easily than I have ever been able to. I constantly feel victimized and cheated by small injustices we all face every day. I become especially exasperated when I think of the injustices of society as a whole. Even when I know that this period in history is a lot more just than it has been in the past, I can’t seem to let go of the idea that it should be better.

I constantly catch myself playing little mind games to even the score when I feel like I’ve been cheated out of money or have been treated unfairly in some way. The absolute madness of Comcast charging me $15 for a “self-installation” fills me with so much anger that I instead force myself to look at it as if the “free” product was what was $15. If something bad happens to me, I think of all the reasons why I must have deserved it. I’m always tallying up the score in strange ways like this in order to make myself feel a situation is more fair than it actually is.

For the longest time, I thought this was an excellent way to handle the injustices of the world. If I can play around with the facts in my head enough that I end up finding some sense of peace then all the better. However, just the other day I began to question this process of mine. Why must I make everything fair? After all, I know full well that life is not fair. Is it really doing myself any favors to pretend otherwise? Maybe instead I should be working on learning to sit with that unfairness.

It also occurred to me today just how hypocritical I have been in this regard, as we all tend to be honestly. We never scream “it’s not fair” when the scale is weighted in our favor. If I find myself on the beneficial side of an unfair arrangement, I feel rather pleased. I don’t feel any need to examine it or balance everything. Yet, if I’m the once short changed I am appalled and outraged. I feel helpless in the face of the big, bad, corrupt, unjust world. When I do something well, I expect to be rewarded in some way by the world. Yet when it comes to all the terrible, selfish things I do, I don’t expect punishment.

Most if not all of our suffering in this life is brought about by reality not living up to our expectations. By finding a way to make things always seem fair in my head, all I’m doing is subtly reinforcing my believe that the world should be fair. I think it’s time that I work towards accepting things even when they aren’t. Eventually there will come a time that no amount of mental effort will allow me to balance the scales of my life. It may sound depressing, but one of my new mantras is going to be “life isn’t fair.” I want to learn to accept this fact so that I am not crippled by my reaction to this part of reality when I inevitably encounter it in the world. Not only will practicing this new mindset of surrender and acceptance help me mitigate my anger at personal as well as societal injustices, it will also help me avoid internalizing a lot of the bad things that happen to me. Just because I experience some type of awful loss, doesn’t mean that I deserved it, nor does it have to be the end of the world, when things don’t go as I think they should.

How to respond to tantrums - Harvard Health

The Searing Pain of Self-Hatred

Some days I am really surprised by just how much I still hate my own body. Objectively I know that it isn’t even an unattractive one. It seems like people have complimented and enjoyed my appearance for my entire life. Yet I have never been able to accept my own image staring back at me in the mirror. It’s honestly impossible for me to even imagine being okay with myself. I have been counting calories, dieting, and despising my stomach since I was young enough to still call it “baby fat.”

Today as I moved through my yoga flow, it actually brought me to tears to realize how incapable I am of connecting with my core. I am only able to hold my awareness on those lower ab muscles for a few seconds before diverting my mind elsewhere. I feel such violent disgust and hatred for my belly that I’ve disassociated from it entirely. I find it terribly challenging to deepen my breath in any position other than lying flat on my back, because the expansion of my belly is repulsive to me. My breath stays shallow, high up in my chest. Even making the effort to deepen it brings me no peace as then I am overwhelmed with negative thoughts about myself. The ironic part is, because of that, no matter how many crunches or ab workouts I do, I can’t effect that area at all. The rest of my body’s muscles compensate because my brain has all but severed any connection with my midsection.

There have been many times in the past where I’ve tried to keep engagement and awareness in my core throughout the entire day. It is utterly impossible though. I end up tensing my lower-back and hip flexors instead. It is just too painful for me to notice my stomach for any significant amount of time. Even writing this down feels so pathetic and frustrating. It’s hard to even acknowledge.

Instead of softening and feeling compassion for myself, I hate myself for hating myself, as stupid as that sounds. I feel as though I am in an impossible position. I know that in order to ever have any hope of having a flatter stomach, I have to first accept myself so that I can consciously connect to and strengthen those muscles. However, this is an absolutely atrocious concept for me to even consider. I can feel my entire body tense at the thought. I begin to hold my breath. My heart seals closed.

I desperately want to love myself and feel okay in my own body. Even though I believe that everyone deserves that, somehow at the same time I still believe that I don’t. It truly makes me afraid of how I will be able to cope with the inevitable aging of my body. If I can’t love it when I’m young and healthy, what will happen to me when I am older, heavier, disabled, or ill? I am so utterly fed up with my fixation of my appearance. Of all the trillions of things in the world to focus on, I waste so much time and mental energy hating myself for something I clearly have little to no control over. Do other women feel this way? Is this the reason that my grandmother’s core muscles have actually atrophied over time? I don’t even know where to begin to address this issue.

The power of our own self-perception is staggering. It’s crazy to know that my own (possibly grossly distorted) self-image vastly outweighs what anyone else thinks about me. Despite all the people in my life that have told me I’m pretty or even sexy, never once have I truly believed them. If anything, my initial instinct is one of wonder and suspicion. Why would they say that to me? Are they just trying to be nice? Are they attempting to flatter and manipulate me? Occasionally, I even become angry by these kind of comments because I feel them to be blatant lies that I cannot comprehend.

I guess I’ll just try to visual that someday I’ll be able to love myself and my belly exactly how it is. Because right now, the idea is laughable and unimaginable to me. Then maybe once it doesn’t sound so ludicrous to see that as a possibility, I can work towards making it a reality. All I hope is that there comes a day where I don’t feel I have to avert my eyes each time I step in front of a full length mirror, a day where I can calmly observe my own reflection if not with love, than at least acceptance and an absence of desperate, frustrated tears.

5 Habits for a Healthy Body Image | The Clinic on Dupont Blog