Beauty Standards

This may seem obvious, but I had a realization the other day. I was watching people reacting to one of the dozens of hot-people dating shows that are on every streaming service now. Every single person on these shows has a “perfect” body. They are all conventionally attractive to the extreme. But when the YouTubers I was watching started to joke about people finding them (the YouTubers) attractive, a new thought dawned on me. I did find them attractive. I actually found the YouTubers more attractive than the “super sexy” people on the show.

I struggle a lot with the reality that I will never be as thin or beautiful as all of the images of women that are forced into my line of sight online and in the media every day. Some small part of me had accepted the false notion that no one could ever genuinely find me attractive or be satisfied by my appearance when they are also exposed to such perfection day in and day out. This silent, unconscious belief filled me with shame, frustration, and self-disgust.

Coming to realize that I, myself, was attracted to people outside of what society tells us is beautiful and desirable, allowed me to contemplate a different reality than the one I’d created inside my own head. Just because there are people who are ridiculously more attractive than me, doesn’t mean that people can’t also find me attractive, despite all my perceived flaws. I honestly found that idea hard to even entertain, until I realized the inherent truth of it within my own feelings about others.

Sometimes we are utterly blinded by our own bullshit. It can be difficult to open our minds to any alternative perspective. I don’t know if sharing this will matter at all, but hopefully maybe one person who reads this will benefit from it. You don’t have to be perfect to be loved. Not a single person I love is perfect. In fact, their imperfections are part of the reason I love them so dearly. You don’t have to be physically flawless to be hot. There are so many more factors that go into attraction than just physical appearance. So don’t be so hard on yourself. Don’t feel like you have to question the authenticity of the love and affection you receive in your life. It’s real. You are loved. And you are worthy of that love.

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Manifest

Early morning cracks us open
a plump, orange yolk perched upon
the rolling expanse of open acres
the symphony of dawn begins 
beneath a veil of cool, dissipating mist

The earth awakens and unfurls in an instant
with interwoven, simultaneous, upbeat bustling
as hundreds of intricate beings of all sizes emerge
to dutifully begin their humble daily tasks
unwittingly weaving the world together for one another

The swollen present swallows us completely
enveloped in the electric energy currents of pulsating life
rushing through creek beds and rustling vibrant leaves
a soothing, faithful hum that echoes inside and out
intoxicated by the sweet nectar of undulating harmony

Each moment overflowing with the simple joy of right now
lapping up the soft waters of where we belong
indistinguishable elements of the intricate, lush landscape
synchronizing ourselves to the cadence of all creation
every instant ripe with it's own inherent meaning 

The Awakening *Spoilers*

I first began reading classic novels in college. I loved to read something that had stood the test of time, something that I felt I would gain some intellectual benefit from apart from simple enjoyment. It was exciting to catch quick references to characters or plots from stories in other content I consumed that before would have just slipped by unnoticed. I’ve found the classics add a lot of depth and context to many other aspects of life and art.

The Awakening is a very short novel by Kate Chopin I read nearly a decade ago. I wish I knew exactly what year. I hardly remembered the story at all. I just retained the vague feeling that I had not been too impressed by it. Someone suggested this book to me recently, and I was proud to say I had already read it. Although, I was a little embarrassed I didn’t remember more about it. Realizing this, I decided it was a good time to reread it, especially knowing, at only 157 pages, it wouldn’t take me more than a day or two to casually flip through. I was excited to see how ten years of further life experiences would alter my perception of the story.

It was fascinating to go over the text with the double vision of reading it for the second time. I could recall my original thoughts, while also experiencing it as if for the first time. There is something indescribably poignant and sad about seeing how much I’ve grown through revisiting a story like this. When I was younger, I remember being rather bored in the beginning of the novel, and utterly frustrated and perplexed at the ending. Now… well now, I felt my soul gripped by every word, every thought and experience Edna Pontellier had. Ironically enough, I am now the same age as she was in the book.

When I was younger, everything seemed so much simpler and straightforward. If Edna loved Robert and not her husband, and Robert loved her back, then what was the dilemma? Just leave your husband. Nothing is more important than love, especially a love that is within your reach. I found it hard to understand why Robert left for Mexico. It angered and confused me. When he finally came back, my naïve heart truly believed they would finally be together in the end. Even when Edna left to go tend to her friend, I felt no uneasiness about Robert waiting for her to return. Of course he would.

This time, as soon as the inevitably ending began it’s slow approach, I felt my chest getting tighter. Despite not remembering the book, I knew immediately Robert would not be there when Edna returned. Some part of me thinks that even Edna knew as she sat on the porch for a few minutes before going back in, as if to prolong the happy delusion for just a few moments longer. This time, I also knew in my very bones why Edna appeared by the seashore of their happy island summer homes. I knew she would not be returning to have dinner with Victor. As a teenager, I was dumbfounded about what was happening all the way up to the point where she stripped all of her clothes off in front of the ocean waves. I remained in disbelief even at the very end.

Revisiting this story after so much has happened in my own life was profound. It ached in all the best and worst ways. It swallowed me up completely. It held a mirror up to my very soul and cradled my crumpled form as I wept inconsolably. There is something about youth that fills us with crisp simplicity and happy illusions about life and love. The painful pull of life that drags us along into the future adds such complexity and depth to concepts and convictions that once appeared so crystal clear and unchangeable. Sometimes things cannot have a happy ending. Even love is not enough in many instances. Certain decisions cannot be taken back or rectified regardless of how wretched we feel about them later. One word spoken too soon, a poor choice of phrase spat out in a moment of high emotion, can change the course of a life forever. Even small stones, carelessly thrown into the still pond of life create irrevocable ripples that spread out in ways we couldn’t have possibly imagined.

Despite this, there is such agonizing, undulating beauty to be found within deep, unalterable grief and regret. Books like these, characters like Edna, are a haven for the innermost broken-winged birds of my soul. They are a reminder that while I may not be able to change the course my life has already taken or the decisions left open to me because of that course, I am not alone in my sorrow. Others have experienced the complex emotions I often feel incapable of expressing for myself, and even more will experience them in the future. I’ll leave you will a quote from my favorite artist that sums up this sentiment nicely:

You’re not alone in anything. You’re not alone in trying to be.

The Ladder Song – Bright Eyes

A Challenge

I wouldn't suffer a man
who'd expect me to submit
or settle for one who would
always leave me to lead

I need someone who knows
how to tame and tend hot flames
a soul with the stature and strength
to make mine savor a surrender

To be softly swallowed up
in faithful protection and
gently nestled in a magnetic field
of overwhelming trust and safety

My writhing agitation and anger within
must be melted with the sedative
of a light hearted nature that
soothes with abundant laughter

I cannot be held by a handsome face
beautiful bodies quickly become boring
the brilliant aura of a burning spirit
is the only sight that makes me swoon

Come collect me, if you dare
the dragon my prince must defeat
is perched upon my very essence
with ignited wings of pride and passion

I will not be insulted or made to stoop
or force my consciousness to condescend
my lover must be like the tide
that makes all boats rise

Sweet Dreams

My higher self hides sweet droplets
of honey dew inside my head
glistening gifts given to ensure
a good night's sleep

The best self-care is kindled
deep within my dreams
a dependable dripping of sustenance 
I am so grateful to devour

Sleep ensures I am swaddled within
all the sensations the waking world lacks
a nightly reprieve from suffering
sharing space with you in my soul

A tender treat from my unconscious mind
to tide me over on this tiresome journey
far away from where I would like to be
sometimes it's enough to be happy as I sleep

A Precious Aching

Sometimes my heart strains toward you
spreading so thin across the expanse between
that it quivers like a tightly strung guitar string
sending notes of anguish into all that empty space

Reverberation of moth eaten memories
stirring up stale dust in a long abandoned room
as it echoes off the walls of aching lungs
until I'm almost sure I should reach out for you

The half formed fantom of a future
grips my heart so suddenly in some moments
that it feels worth risking anything for
even certain humiliation and rejection

But then the sharp, pinching recoil always returns
to snap me out of my pathetic, forlorn reveries
my hand is not worthy of even reaching
a frenzy of hope can overcast the wretched truth

I have no right to continue pining
a don't deserve the bittersweet comfort
of these carefully enshrined memories
let alone the audacity of asking for more

My lot now is to keep languishing
moving inevitably away from a future
that could have once been mine
but was long ago forsaken

My selfish heart keeps me from
even the respite of one day forgetting
pouring warm tears over ice cold memories
I will be grateful for this aching

You Don’t Have to Earn It

There was a brief time as a teen
when I recoiled from all the love
I thought came to me too easily

Some troubled part of me was
disgusted by the fact that
I didn't earn it

The unconditional love
of my mother, of my family, my pets
seemed cheap and unsettling

I couldn't help but stew in sour thoughts
questioning what I had ever done
to deserve it

Sometimes it seemed like a consolation prize
like accepting this love would confirm
I was incapable of winning it for myself

Now I've learned that, in fact,
the sweetest, most sincere love is
love we haven't earned

Unconditional positive regard
is a precious rarity
to be grateful for

Some people are not so lucky
to have that unflinching affection
selflessly bestowed for no reason

A love that not even collision
with disinterest or hatred
will deter or destroy

Few things are more meaningful
or moving than being granted
a love you feel unworthy of

And there is no greater honor than to spend my life
learning to pay that same love forward, indiscriminately
into the open, imperfect hearts of others 

Private Polyamory

There are many reason I identify with polyamory
primarily the science that explains it's our nature
but also because it allows me to love again
even though my love for you has never faded

Monogamy proclaims I cannot love more than one
in this model my life would have to be spent alone
or else in a horrible, shameful sham of love
because you will never again be mine to hold

Polyamory is something I am able
to practice quietly within my own heart
the alter I still gently tend for you in my soul
need not be torn down or take up all the space

I can share my love with others
without letting you go
which is a true blessing because
that's a choice I am unable to make

The feelings I have for you
are probably the best part of me
and it would be a tragedy
to discard them all together

What a relief to be reassured
there is no need for me to be alone
just because you no longer love me
while I will love you forever

What a gift to get to keep you
nestled close to my heart no matter what
to never have to lose the vivid color
of all that you still are to me

The Unedited Self

First loves, I've learned
can cut to the quick because
we haven't quiet learned yet
how to conceal our worst qualities

There is a certain magnetism in someone
who has seen our deepest flaws
but chooses to love us despite them
there is a humbling awe in such acceptance

Not to insinuate that later lovers
would not be as generous of heart
rather that the older we get
the less chance we give them

After adolescence we get so good
at hiding away all the parts of ourselves
that we aren't proud of
hidden under a heavy layer of secret shame

Only those who've always known me
have seen who I truly am unedited
before I crafted the silk screen of self
I've erected for protection

No opinion of love or hate
can touch me as it once did
there is a certain safety in isolation
but the soul withers without sunlight

Unconditional love is hard to come by
when you won't allow yourself to be known
maybe the world would surprise me
but I fear I'll never let myself find out

Venus Heart

I live for the moments
when my heart bursts open
tiny arms of loving energy
extending toward everything

Shimmering expectations
of receiving returned affection
a few moments of being unafraid
of all the other alternatives

This heart of mine is over-sensitive
the slightest suggestion of disinterest
or the mere perception of rejection
and it slams closed with a violent shudder

The sharp sting of this sudden reversal
sends me spiraling into solitary self-doubt
the glue of fear holds me fast in imagined isolation
and I vow to stay closed, to stay safe, forever

Over time the mere sensation of opening
is tinged with a hesitant terror
pre-emptive recoil from possibilities
that have not yet come to pass

The bravery it takes to stay open
is something I strive to obtain
teach me to invite in even pain and
train my tender heart to be strong

I long to feel the boundless love
I know is harbored somewhere within
the deep knowing and the certainty of oneness
that transcends even fear