Green Tea Memories

Tea has been a re-occurring theme throughout my tangled life. My mother always preferred drinking tea to coffee. Her nervous nature simply couldn’t handle that much caffeine. Mornings filled with the fragrance of spices and herbs, clinking spoons, and tiny damp disposable bags.

Tea soaked wounds of my first broken heart remind me of moments of reluctant connection. It’s easy to wake up early when you’ve slept for over twenty four hours in the last two days. Dreams can only provide an escape for so long. When even that sanctuary is stolen from you, I learned that peace can be found in the slow ritual of sipping tea before sunrise. The begrudging silence between mother and daughter, the surrender of accepting help from someone you despise. Because you need her, and that hurts in its own strange way.

New love blossoms around a very different tea routine. Evenings after school, every day spent looking forward to this small, private heaven. Boiling water in the microwave and adding too much honey. The laughter we once shared when you finally admitted you couldn’t bear the way my overly sweetened tea made your lips sticky. Flirtatious frustration from the way you used to tease me for blowing on my drink before every sip instead of waiting for it to cool.

The soft haven found beneath the crumbling roof of your mother’s house. Her hovering hospitality of sharing joints with underaged teens, providing refreshments of my first teas made with milk. The strange, yet soothing smoothness of the subtle flavor. Savoring the mouth-watering smells of the best home-cooked dinners I’ve ever had being prepared in the next room.

All these years later, my heart can still rekindle those tender memories involuntarily as I sip my milky matcha. The most delicious ache, a powerful longing for a life that no longer exists. Beautiful lapping waves of private sorrow, never to be seen or shared. How can so much pleasure be found in such pathetic pining? Surely this secret clinging is a sickness, a delusion that corrodes all chance of a future. Even so, even so…

You’re With Me On My Own

Living lattice of spongey spiderwebs
stitches supporting the dark, damp earth
connecting networks transmitting information
between the trees' deeply buried toes

breathing in pulsating energy particles
that permeate the thick air above
quivering conviction of nature intertwined
magical mirror image, veins beneath pale skin

Sacred assurance that all is not lost
the same sun still rises in the east each morning
you reside in the red light beneath my eyelids
retinas stained with sweet remembrance

Everything fades except for this feeling
bitter things only taste better as I age
including this patient pain, the prize I protect
hopeless happiness harbored in secret

Silly dreams pluck breath from lonely lungs
pathetic mantra of "maybe one day"
vindicated by comparison to other
laughably unlikely anecdotes

The small, sharp pleasure of
planning this impossible future
fills my cracked cup enough
to keep going

Besides, we're still connected by
that complicated underground lace
linked inextricably through shared sunlight
eternally sown together with this earth
Mycelium Dreaming – Autumn Skye

Home Alone

Savoring the empty shell
of the structure I've called
my second home

Today I took pictures
of all the vacant, silent rooms
so I can always remember

I felt them catch in my heart
as I cradled my camera
with sentimental arms

Whether I turn away
or decide to stay
I am so grateful

For the way this place
has held me and helped me
to embody someone new

I find so much pleasure
in running my fingers over
these tender memories

No matter what happens
nothing can take away
what I've gained here

An End to Social Media

I honestly can’t remember how long it’s been since I decided one day to never post on or even open my social media apps again. It was definitely a pre-pandemic impulse. I can only imagine how much worse my mental health would have been at that time if I had remained on Facebook and Instagram. I really lucked out with my random timing because I don’t think I would’ve had the willpower to take that plunge during lockdown. I’m just going to estimate that it’s been around 3 years now since I’ve been a part of that online hellscape.

Right away I noticed more space open up in my day as well as in my head. There was no more mindless scrolling for hours or trying to mentally curate the perfect status update. I also didn’t feel the need to look perfect for even the most mundane events so that I could take tons of photos for strangers. I knew from the beginning that it would be more isolating to not have an active Facebook presence, but the pros far outweighed the cons for me.

Fast forward to now and I’ve started to feel that familiar itch for validation. Part of me does miss showing myself off and feeling important. Sometimes I miss knowing how people I went to school with are doing and always having an endless supply of people to message and get attention from if I’m feeling lonely. There have been a couple times I’ve considered trying to go back, if even in a much more limited capacity.

I had to remind myself of all the reasons I left in the first place and ask the tough questions about what I was really missing. The thought had occurred to me a few times for finding a way to have Instagram without all the other people. That might sound strange, but hear me out. I really loved posting on Instagram. It was my favorite when it first came out. I’ve always enjoyed photography, but even more than that, I enjoyed looking back at my own photos. It was my own personal little scrapbook of my life. I still look through my old feed sometimes to find a specific picture I want to show someone. It always fills me with such tender feelings of nostalgia.

At the same time, Instagram may have even been more toxic to me than Facebook. I followed so many beautiful, skinny, perfect women. It was one of my guilty pleasures to just gorge myself on these flawless images every day for hours. At first it really felt inspiring and motivating. That didn’t last long though. It quickly devolved into yet another way for me to feel like I could never be good enough. I would never look like those girls behind the screen. No matter how hard I tried. I truly believe (and many studies suggest I’m accurate in this belief) that those images on Instagram as well as Tumblr contributed greatly to my disordered eating and unhealthy relationship with exercise and my body in general. I was always a little messed up in that regard, but social media sent me over the edge.

While things are still not perfect, I feel more mentally healthy without these influences in my life. I feel like I have more time to form genuine connections with the people that truly matter to me. I don’t feel distracted by all of these shallow, phony imitations of community. Now for the first time in my life, I have been actively working to create a real community for myself. I even found a solution for the things I was missing about social media.

Having Apple products, I am constantly being bombarded with iCloud pop-ups trying to get me to pay for more storage. While it is endlessly infuriating, it has led me to realize just how stupid these paid cloud storage spaces are. Why should I pay to store this in one place when there are literally thousands of free platforms that offer unlimited free storage to every user? Instagram doesn’t ask you to pay to save all your posts from the last ten years. Facebook doesn’t have a limit of things you can upload or share. Even this blog affords me unending space to post or upload as many files as I see fit.

I mentioned earlier my longing to have a private Instagram vacuum. I don’t want to get sucked into looking at anyone else’s feed, nor do I want to become obsessed with a public image and getting likes. Some people have told me their camera roll is like that for them. But as I don’t have unlimited backup storage, I don’t feel safe relying on something that could ultimately become lost. (It wouldn’t be the first time.) Plus there isn’t really a way to organize photos on there in any kind of meaningful way.

A few months ago I had the brilliant idea of using my other blog that I never actually post on. Having a private blog is the perfect way to keep a little digital diary with photos, journal entries, or literally anything you might want to share on social media. So I switched the blog to private and make sure that I also set every post to private before publishing. Now I have a lovely little collection of moments from this past year just for me! I still get to take cute photos, edit and arrange them, but I don’t have to worry about tags or likes or who is going to see them. I can even add little excerpts about what that day was like or how my life was going during the moments these photos were taken. Uncensored, raw, and real. Memories stored forever, for free, for just me.

I would highly recommend this method for anyone who may be tempted to immerse back into the dark waters of these online spaces. It could also be an excellent substitute for people that want to extricate themselves from social media, but feel unable to do so. It has definitely scratched that social media itch for me. Even if you don’t want to stop getting on Facebook, another important takeaway is: The internet is the cloud. The internet is free, unlimited storage. Don’t pay for that shit. Anyway, thanks for coming to my Ted Talk.

Have any of you tried this method already for yourselves? Do you have any experience trying to get off of social media? What has it been like for you? Do you think my solutions would be helpful in your situation? I would love to hear about any tips or tricks other people might have. Hope everyone is staying mentally healthy out there. Whether you ditch the apps or not, always know that you are worthy, you are beautiful, and you are enough exactly as you are.

Scars

I love my scars
I love the raised white ridges
randomly placed along my body
reminding me of where I've been
running my fingers over these imperfections
private souvenirs from my past

My favorite scar
is the one you've left
internal and invisible, etched upon my heart
a mark that remains for only me
jagged and deep, still tender to the touch
from the years I've spent tearing out the stitches

The Roads I Used to Know

Crumbling edges of long, winding roads
worn tires and no cell service
kicking up dust and distant memories
of days when I was someone different 

Complicated pangs between heartbeats
it hurts, but I hope it lasts forever
the bittersweet flavor of emotion
crashing over me

the sweet honeysuckle air of early summer
saturating every poor with subtle notes of nostalgia
a backdrop of rolling fields and familiar forests
fading sunlight softly shining through knee-high grass

the blooming joy of all that has been mine
the bitter grief of knowing it's past
the lonely recognition of unique remembrance
never to be shared fully by anyone

the miracle of time's twisting perspective
the power to ferment past pleasure and pain
into one deliciously intoxicating wine
savoring each sip of yesterday

Linger

forgive me
for still feeling so strongly
for half forgotten memories
for keeping these embers of images
ever warm inside my mind

somedays it feels like a sign
to know I can't let go
but maybe it's a sickness instead
a festering heart left
frozen in the past

regardless I'm still grateful
for the ghosts that haunt me
my comfort and my curse
I cling to the thoughts 
that tear me open

if I were offered a remedy
I don't know that I'd respond
am I willing to sacrifice 
something as sacred
as this shameful, secret joy

I'd rather linger here a little longer
with all that I've lost

Learning From Loneliness, Loss, and Stagnation

Focusing on the past and trying to make sense of my previous mistakes and experiences used to be a much bigger part of my mental landscape. I think when I was younger it was easier to line things up in a neat and orderly manner in order to create a story that made sense and gave me a sense of direction. Eventually it seemed like I had created so many memories, lived through so many years, met and lost so many people that I started to lose the plot. There no longer seemed to be a way to make all these seemingly random pieces fit together.

One of the good things about shifting my focus away from the past is that I don’t ever dwell on regrets. Someone asked me the other day what one of my biggest regrets was, and it honestly took me a long time to even come up with any. I’ve certainly made a lot of egregious mistakes throughout my time on this earth, but do I really regret those mistakes? I don’t know. I do regret the way I’ve treated a lot of people in my life. But even then, that’s more because of the way it affected them, not how it’s affected me. Although I feel guilty for being so cruel and selfish when I was younger, I never would have learned what I know now or become the person I am today if I hadn’t behaved that way in the past.

For instance, one of my biggest regrets is probably the way I treated my mother during my late teens. Part of me does wonder how I might be different if I had been willing to accept her support and love during some of my darkest, loneliest times. Still I think I wouldn’t have the perspective to appreciate her the way I do now if I hadn’t rejected and hated her all those years ago. Despite my coldness, I was able to feel just how much she loved me. Even when I basically threw her love away each time, she continued to offer it to me at every opportunity. She never returned my disdain or cruelty. She never left or gave up on me. Because of that time in my life, I now cherish her more than I think I ever could have otherwise. One of my biggest regrets still led to the discovery of truly unconditional love and the unwavering support of a mother for her child. And understanding just how lucky I am to have that.

Lately I have been feeling completely stuck and without direction in life. I keep struggling to move past this uncomfortable stagnation. At the same time I just can’t seem to envision how or when this feeling will change. Looking back at the past, particularly our own mistakes, can be painful, but there is a value to exploring our own story every now and then. There is a lot that we can learn from piecing together the seemingly disconnected parts of our colorful pasts. One of those things is refilling our faith that things might not make sense right now, but one day they will.

No matter how badly we might feel we have failed, or how irredeemable our actions may seem in the moment, you can never be sure the future benefits, knowledge, and value we may gain from them in the future. Just because we can’t see it right now, can’t even conceive how that could be possible, we can at least acknowledge that it’s happened in the past. By reflecting back we can recognize how some of our darkest moments eventually, without our conscious awareness, transformed into some of our greatest strengths, our deepest insights, our most valuable lessons.

Even though things have been confusing, difficult, and unsettling for me for what seems like ages now, it won’t feel like this forever. One of the scariest things is the feeling that I’m wasting time, years of my life, of my youth. But our time can never truly be wasted. No matter what we are doing, whether we want to be, or believe we are, we are always growing, learning, and changing. This time is not being wasted, despite how it feels. Periods of stagnation can just as easily be viewed as periods of incubation. This perspective might not make it go any faster, but it does make it just a little bit easier to keep going, even when you don’t know where you’re going or when it feels like you’re actually going no where at all. One day it’ll all make sense again. You’ll be able to look back and see that it was all necessary, that it was all worth it. An egg just looks like an egg from the moment it’s laid to the moment it hatches. Just because we might not be able to see or understand what’s developing within, doesn’t mean that tomorrow won’t be the day it’s finally revealed.

Kind Words

I’ve struggled with my body image and my weight since I was a child. I can remember being so small and looking at my pudgy little belly wondering if it was really “baby fat” like my mom and sister had told me and would go away as I got older. I remember being in elementary/middle school drinking SlimFast shakes as meal replacements. Looking back I honestly can’t believe my mother allowed me to do that. I suppose as a child, drinking those shakes would end up being more calories than you needed anyway.

It was hard for me growing up with friends who never had to worry about their weight or what they were eating. All of my friends were, in my eyes, perfect, pretty, and skinny. I still remember a phone conversation I had with my best friend in 6th grade about this. She may not have been able to relate to my suffering, but the things she said to me that day nearly brought me to tears and have stayed with me ever since. She told me that one day I was going to wake up and look at myself in the mirror and love myself. She told me to look forward to that day and plan on being very kind to myself, to take a bubble bath, wear my favorite outfit, do my makeup, and just enjoy being me.

Sadly, I’m still waiting for that day to come. But I’ve never forgotten the gravity of those kind words my friend spoke to me all of those years ago. I still get tearful when I think about them. This was probably the first time in my life that I had even considered being kind to myself or that it was possible for me to love myself, even in the future. It didn’t seem likely or even possible at the time, but just the idea changed me. It opened up a new perspective in my mind.

We don’t always realize the effect our words can have on someone else. We may have forgotten all about a conversation that the other person is still thinking about years later. I no longer speak to this childhood friend of mine, but I think of her fondly, especially when that conversation we shared enters my awareness, which it does quite frequently. I have no doubt that she has no recollection of it or any idea how much what she said still means to me.

This anecdote serves as a reminder to never underestimate the power of our words, whether they be kind or cruel. Something said carelessly out of anger may permanently damage someone. A smile or a kind word to a friend may be enough to get them through another day, another year. Sometimes it can feel impossible for us to make a meaningful difference in the world. We forget what immense power we hold in the words that we choose to speak. Don’t hesitate to tell those around you how much they mean to you or express your heartfelt gratitude or appreciation. You never know what impact you may have. If a similar situation came to mind while reading this post, perhaps it would be nice to let the other person know how much what they said meant to you. If you have said something hurtful to someone in the past, maybe it’s time to apologize. Even if it was years ago, you never know if it is still affecting them, or how much peace it may bring them to receive an apology. It’s truly incredible what little energy and effort it takes to be kind and what huge ripple effects may follow as a result.

Speak mindfully. Speak kindly. It matters more than you know.

How Parents Can Help Kids Cultivate Kindness : NPR

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