The Sickness of Shadows

Attention torn away from
the hot victory of the sun
distracted by shadows
that dance in dark caves
the slow drip of time
crashes with violence
against the surface of
the well of history
cadence of madness
a frenzied race into
all consuming blank space
that blinds and binds
the invisible magnetism
of addictive illusions
shrouding the coal black
soot of the inevitable unknown

Black Hole

Turning around to find yourself facing
the yawning, gaping mouth of the future
a black hole of unknowns grabbing
at you with tiny black, star-speckled hands

The weight of it's gravity pulls you to your knees
wide-eyed stare of uncertainty, unable to look away
limitless vacuum that no light can escape
not knowing, the torrent of fear in perpetual motion

The mind's desperate grasp for something to hold onto
feet slipping forward into far-away, formless infinities
the tension of muscles trying to cling to past and present
an ill fated battle against all powerful time

So afraid to surrender to the inevitable destination
distracted by the scent of suffering in smaller doses
marveling at the mind's ability to imagine countless possibilities
exhausting itself to find safety in contingencies for each one

The hopeful illusion of life as a game of chess
pretending there are a set of correct moves to make
that will spare you from all pain and regret
the pressure to perform perfectly enough to find peace 

Time

The passage of time cannot
be wrestled into submission
through relentless routines
and systematically structured days

You can't press it into a container
and keep it from crawling forward
it's an intricate illusion determined to
distract us from what really matters

The most delicious moments in life
happen when we lose track of time
let it pass over you unnoticed and
unbound like the breeze

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

Pain Puts Things in Perspective

Without the fear of loss would we ever truly appreciate anything? We suffer from the mere thought of a loved one becoming ill or dying. We wish that we could live in a world without such awful realities. Yet, I wonder if a world without these negative moments, would be worth living in. It’s easy to imagine that in a world without pain, sickness, or death we would all be eternally happy, loving, and grateful. I’d like to believe this is true, but part of me knows myself too well to even pretend.

When I first became an atheist, the loss of the afterlife I’d imagined, didn’t make life less meaningful, it made it more so. Life was no longer simply a dress-rehearsal for eternity. This was it. This was what mattered, all that mattered, and I had to make every moment count. There would be no waiting to reconcile with someone past the pearly gates. There would be no final repentance or forgiveness or second chance to share my love with those most precious to me. This what it. This time I have on earth was all that I was going to get. Wasting it was not an option. When I died, when a family member or friend died, that was it, the final curtain call. Never knowing when that moment might come, the contemplation of that fact, is what give me the courage to not hold back.

Oh course, we can’t help wishing we could avoid it when the pain inevitably comes. I desperately wish that my dog was healthy and I didn’t have to go spend god only knows how much on expensive treatment, but somehow at the same time, I’m grateful for this experience. The small, petty problems of day to day pale in comparison to the joy of holding my dog in my arms. Even my recent fears and worries about money, seem insignificant. I have enough to save my baby, and that’s all I need. What a blessing it is that I can afford to help her. Nothing else matters.

Ideally we’d like to always recognize the love we are blessed with and never take an opportunity to bask in that love for granted. The reminder that my dog will die one day, that she will become sick and beyond help one day, makes the time I share with her all the more poignant. I want to think I’d always treat her with the devotion, attention, and affection she deserves regardless of the time we have in the future, but I know that isn’t true. These past few days of fear and uncertainty have shown me that. They’ve highlighted for me just how much I have been taking her for granted.

How many times have we said we’re “too busy” for those dear to us? Would we ever have enough time for them if our time together was not limited? Or would we keep putting off those quiet, tender, attentive moments indefinitely? I honestly don’t know. All I know is that I’ve never felt more grateful for every caress and sloppy kiss shared with my sweet dog daughter than I have in the last few days. Even the thought of her sweet, loving face and wagging tail brings tears to my eyes. I want to spend every moment I can with her. I want to make sure she knows just how important she is to me. I want her to feel this love I hold for her inside and know what I cherish her.

It pains me to say it, but I know that without this recent health scare, I would be continuing on as always. I’d be paying little attention to her and getting annoyed at her for little things. I’d speak harshly to her for not doing as she’s told. I’d feel irritated by always having to clean up after her. The realities of suffering, pain, illness, and death are sadly essential. We need them to shock us back to our senses. When faced with these hard truths, we are reminded again and again that love is the only thing that really matters. Everything else is irrelevant. Suddenly we see just how absurd it is to waste time and energy on anger, hatred, jealousy, greed, fear, etc. We should be spending every ounce of our beings on putting forth more love and happiness into the world. No phone call is more important than acknowledging your child. No chore is so urgent that you can’t take the time to be kind.

These are life lessons that we must learn again and again. In this way, the things that bring us the most agony in life are actually things to be grateful for. Death and loss are hard to accept, nearly impossible at times, but without them there would also be no love, no peace, no joy, no perspective. We must always try to be grateful for it all, even when it’s hard.

Funeral Tech Startups Expand Your Posthumous Possibilities | WIRED

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

Forgive Yourself

I’ve spent a significant portion of my adult life agonizing and lamenting some awful decisions I made. Thankfully as time continues to pass, I’ve been able to gain the space I needed to find perspective. Eventually we are able too look back on our younger selves with compassion rather than shame and regret. We begin to realize that we have to forgive ourselves for not knowing what we didn’t know.

As a child, my family had five dogs at one time. We lived out in the countryside and a lot of our dogs ended up with us because people would drive down our road and abandon them there. Ultimately we were being kind in taking care of them, feeding them, making sure they had all their shots, etc. But my parents would not allow them to live inside the house. It still haunts me to know that those dogs spent so many cold winter days and nights with only a plastic dog house filled with hay to keep them warm, chained in one small area for most of their lives. I still live with a lot of guilt about this which manifests itself in the form of reoccurring dreams where dozens of animals are confined, sick, dying, starving, and forgotten in dirty cramped cages.

I had always blamed myself for the way those dogs lived. Although my sister and I constantly pleaded with my parents to let them live inside, their response was always that if we were so concerned about it, we could give them away. Given this decision I always felt I should have allowed them to find new homes that would have treated them more properly. I was too selfish to do what was right. One day my sister made me realize something though. She said, “That was not our fault. We were children. We shouldn’t have been expected to make such a difficult decision. We loved those dogs and we did our best.” Until that conversation with my sister, I had never really considered the fact that we were merely children. I still have to remind myself of that fact from time to time. Now I’ve even begun to look back at my adolescent mistakes and realize that I was just a kid.

Only since finding another person that I truly love deeply and unconditionally, have I been able to look back at my time in college without immense pain and regret. For a very long time I thought I had destroyed my life. Even though the boyfriend I had back then was incredible and still one of the greatest loves of my life, I cheated on him. Not only that I cheated on him with two different people. Neither of which gave a single shit about me. Ultimately I broke up with that boyfriend in order to continue to explore what else was out there without guilt.

I can’t say what might have happened if I had stayed. All I know is that the years that followed were filled with disappointment, frustration, and heartache. But with my extremely limited romantic experience, how could I have known what I would find? How could I have known that the relationship I had was so uncommon and wonderful? If I hadn’t made the mistakes that I did, I may still be unaware of that. In the end, I’m grateful for the painful lessons I’ve learned through my mistakes. They have allowed me to become the person I am today and to be with another amazing person whom I love dearly.

I’m sure that I will continue to stumble and fall as I move along this path called life. There will be many more difficult lessons for me to learn. I only hope that part of me can remember that despite the pain, time will transform it into something worthwhile. I can recover from my mistakes, learn from them, even be grateful for them one day. But we don’t have to wait for that shift of time and perspective to be kind to ourselves. Punishing or belittling ourselves over our mistakes does not serve us. If nothing else, mistakes are an opportunity to practice self-compassion, self-acceptance, and self-love. It is also a reminder to be gentle with others as they make their own mistakes.

It's Time for Forgiveness to Go Viral | Time

Waiting for Life to Begin

It feels like I am always waiting, either for something I’m looking forward to, or more often, for something to be over with. Once I get home from work, then my day can really start. Once winter ends, I’ll feel better again. Once the holidays are over… Once I’m not so busy… Once I graduate… Once I start my career…. Once I get married… Once I lose ten pounds… Once the kids are out of the house… Once my house is remodeled… Once the New Year starts… Do any of these phrases sound familiar? We become so fixated and ensnared by this mindset that we never really take the time to realize that our list of things to do or benchmarks to achieve before we can be happy or before our real life begins, never seem to end. There is always something holding us back.

The same principle applies to waiting for inspiration or waiting for the right moment. They are likely never going to come in the way that we want them to. While we waste our time waiting, life is passing us by. I’ve been reading a book lately that made an excellent point, it said something along the lines of: We must accept that our “in-box” is never going to be empty. Despite having our lives remind us of this each and every day, it is a rather hard concept to consciously accept. We so desperately want to believe that someday, somehow all of our chores and errands will be complete. That one day we will have time for all of the things we dream of, but keep putting off into some imagined future. It is hard to acknowledge that that future will never come. All we ever have is the moment that we are in right now.

Most days I save the activities that I really want to do until the very last moment. I want to play my new video game, or do some brainstorming. But first I have to clean the house, workout, do yoga, read, study, meal prep, etc. Then by the time the end of the day rolls around, I am so mentally exhausted, that I don’t even want to play my game anymore. The worst part is, I never seem to learn. Yet I get so frustrated with myself, day after day, for not doing enough. If only I were more organized, if only I had more energy, time, whatever, then I’d be happy, then I could really start to live the life I want.

The saddest part of it all is, there isn’t anything we could do or obtain that would put us in a better position for happiness than we’re in right now. We are the only one who has the ability to withhold our own happiness. These stories we tell ourselves make us believe that we have to finish everything, make everything perfect before we can focus on anything else. Despite having this realization many times, I still need a constant reminder that this is it. This is my life. I’m living it right now.

My life is never going to be perfect. I’m never going to have my in-box emptied. There will always be responsibilities and struggles and set-backs. And that’s okay. That’s life. There is nothing wrong with that. Having things left unchecked on my to-do list, isn’t the end of the world. It’s the way of the world. That doesn’t mean I can’t be happy right now. That doesn’t mean I can’t rest until everything is done. It will never be done.

It feels like a lot of us, including myself, go through our daily lives as if our commute to work, our studies, our chores, our self-care are all hurdles we have to jump over. Then and only then will we be able to really live. But that is all an illusion we’ve created. Brushing our teeth every morning, making coffee, making the bed, driving to work, buying groceries, cleaning the house, that’s life. Sure it may seem tedious and monotonous sometimes, but that’s only because we are taking these small moments for granted. Seldom are we truly focused and engaged in what we’re doing when we’re washing the dishes. We’re hardly ever fully present and in the moment when we’re stuck in morning traffic. Yet these things are ultimately what make up the majority of the time we have here on this earth.

At first this thought may seem depressing, but it doesn’t have to be. We get to choose whether or not these things are a burden or a blessing. It’s all a matter of perspective. We don’t have to brush our teeth twice a day. We get to. We don’t have to clean our house. We get to. We don’t have to take the time to prepare ourselves healthy meals. We get to. These are all moments that we try to exclude from what we consider our “real” lives. But why is that? Going to the bathroom isn’t any less a part of life than painting a masterpiece. We can find peace and contentment in both.

As you go through your day today, try to take notice of when you’re mind is waiting for a chance to relax, waiting until after work to feel happy. I’ve spent most of my life waiting. Now we have a choice to make. Will we keep waiting indefinitely? Or will we decide to live now, be happy now, be at peace now, regardless of whatever it is we’ve been waiting for?

Mr. Clarke Large Modern Plywood Wall Clock on Food52

Letters to Past Selves (Part 1)

Teenage Rachel

Dear Rachel,

I know that life may seem like more trouble than it’s worth right now. But I promise you, in a few years you will be so glad that you stuck around to find out. You’ll probably roll your eyes at everything that I have to say, but I’m here to say it anyway. I know you worry a lot about the future. Primarily you worry about being alone. I know how many nights you cried yourself to sleep, imagining an elderly version of you wandering through a dark, empty house. I know the desperation you feel at times. Even though it doesn’t feel like it now, it will pass. You don’t have to be afraid. You may not believe it, but one day you won’t even care if you spend your life alone or not. Some days you’ll even wonder if maybe you’d prefer it that way.

I know you are experiencing a lot of confusion and strong emotions right now. I’m here to reassure you that that is normal. Unfortunately all of the annoying things the adults are always saying are actually true. “It’s just a phase.” “You’ll grow out of it.” “Teenagers.” I hope to not sound as patronizing. I know that only exacerbates your sense of isolation and being misunderstood. Please believe me. Even if no one else does, I understand you. And I hope that it can bring you some form of comfort to know that things won’t always feel so intense. I can’t promise you that life won’t always be as hard. Life is a cycle made up of many smaller cycles. You are going to find yourself suffering again and again. Life doesn’t get easier. You simply become stronger. And it is a beautiful process.

Remember all of the times that you cried and mentally went back to visit all of the other sad crying selves in the past? You held them in your arms and cried together. You thought that was an embarrassing form of self pity, but actually without realizing it you were developing your own lovely form of self-care. I am here to tell you that through all of this distance, through time and space, I am here to hold you now. It’s going to be okay.

Even though I can’t really be there to help, know that you already have all the support that you need. You have absolutely amazing friends. Be grateful for that. Cherish them, and try to hold on to them for as long as you can, especially Ally. She may get under your skin now, but she is the truest friend you’ve got. She’s your brother. Try to be nicer to her, even when you don’t understand her. I know you don’t want to hear it, but you should also be kinder to your family, particularly your mother. Right now it may seem like she’s to blame for all of the struggles you are facing, but I assure you, you’d be facing much more serious troubles were it not for her. She is an incredible woman. She has always been patient and kind to you. She certainly wasn’t perfect, but no one is. She does the best she can for you every day and that is what counts. She loves you. She loves you like no one else in the world will ever love you, unconditionally. So don’t close your heart to her just yet. Give it time and you will see.

I hope that at least some of these loving words of reassurance and advice will be able to reach you. I may not be able to take away your suffering, but know that someday you will even be grateful for these painful years. You will look back on them fondly, tenderly. You will learn so much in the years to come. You’ll even learn to love yourself more than you ever thought you could. You’ll learn how to be soft, but also strong. You’ll learn how to appreciate the little things so much that they become the big things. You’re going to be alright. You can do this. You already have.

Love,

Your Future Self

May be an image of 3 people

Five Years

It still feels surreal to me, but I officially have a boyfriend again after five years of being single. I feel ridiculous being so happy and giddy over something so commonplace, but I can’t help myself. I hadn’t even realized it had been five years until now. Time perception is such a wild and ever-changing thing. It’s crazy to think that when I was in school, a mere four years enveloped a huge, important chunk of my life (high school) and now the past five have just been a vague blur, hardly worth remembering. I suppose there were highlights within the past few years, but they don’t seem to stand out as much as similar things would have when I was younger. Maybe the structure of school just allowed for a more organized, and therefore more easily remembered, life.

Regardless of how long is seems, it has been five years. I’m 27 years old now, yet I definitely still feel 22 if not even younger when it comes to my emotional maturity. As someone who is quite proud of being more intelligent than most, it is quite a painful realization that my emotional intelligence is so stunted. It really has never been so obvious to me as it has in the last few weeks with my new partner. The littlest thing makes me tongue tied with embarrassment. Then that embarrassment is compounded again and again as I cringe at myself, embarrassed of being embarrassed. I’ve always felt that I am clueless and awkward when it comes to dating and romance, but it didn’t seem like that was all that uncommon for my age back when I met my first boyfriend. However, even though so much time has passed since then, I feel exactly the same as all those years ago. A far less acceptable place to be emotionally now that I’m no longer 16. Over a decade has passed with little to no progress in that arena.

I suppose I’m just being too hard on myself again though. I don’t have to be perfect to be worthy of love and affection. It’s okay to make mistakes and feel embarrassed. My new boyfriend doesn’t seem to be put off by it at least. I’m excited to learn and grow with someone by my side to support me again. Especially someone so considerate and kind as the one I’ve found. Although it does feel quite unfamiliar. I’m so used to being on my own now. It feels strange to tie myself to someone else, to not only have myself to consider or look out for anymore. Someone made a comment on one of my other posts about just waiting until I feel more emotionally developed or “ready” to start a relationship again. Definitely sounds like good advice. Unfortunately, I’ve already been doing that for half a decade! Remaining on my own seems to have only been making things worse, not better. Instead of growing as a person, I’ve remained in a stagnant cocoon, off in my own world. It’s only made it harder for me to be with others, not easier. Just like with most things, if you are waiting for the perfect moment, chances are you’ll be waiting forever.

This analytical, obsessive mind of mine just loves to get lost fixating on the details. I’m always stuck worrying about all of the unknowns ahead. For once I’d like to just enjoy the blissful happiness that I have in this moment. It’s time to let go of fear and to learn how to just trust, in myself, in my fellow humans, in this universe. All is well. I am healthy. I am happy. I am loved. I have found a beautiful, intelligent, kind, vegan boy who wants to be with me. And for the first time in a very long time, I desperately want to be with him as well.

Photo by Trung Nguyen on Pexels.com