A big, fat, question mark;

I’ve made it my business to know things, my whole life, it’s been what makes me. It makes me sure, opinionated, capable, steady, level-headed, objective. Knowing keeps me safe. I know who I am, and where I want to be. I know useless facts, and obscure how-to’s, that’s the way I like it. I want to be exactly, at least two hops above average in at least 80% of the things on Earth. I don’t care about becoming an expert, I simply want to learn enough, and become skilled enough in any given thing that I will be able to handle anything I encounter in life. I don’t care about listing all the plants, animals and countries, I just want to know the poisonous leaves, the most likely human predators, and the countries I intend on seeing. As New Found Glory would say, “I am an endless source of useless information.” But most of those innocuous details are uncovered in the pursuit of concrete know-how.

I hate these times because I am undone. Everything that has made me seems to be just a hazy white noise somewhere behind my eyeballs. The simplest tasks feel overwhelming, and even though I feel like I am trying harder than I ever have to move 20,000 tons of bricks by myself, in reality, I’m barely existing. Whoever I was, wherever that capable girl went, I couldn’t tell you. I feel frozen in time while the world is double and triple paced around me. I get dizzy walking out my front door. I can’t bring myself to care, about anything. I’m looking at this tornado of a room that I just moved back into, and, well, you know how sometimes chaos can be comforting? but, other times it’s suffocating. It’s neither. I look around and I feel like I am lightyears away from it, and yet I’m sitting on my second mattress amidst a category 5 of clothes, shoes and old water cups. And honestly, all I can think is, “I’m amazed that I’ve drank that much water.”

My body hurts and every day there’s a new ache, but I can’t hear my joints screaming over the pounding in my head, and yet somehow I ignore it, constantly. I’d ignore it until it killed me, if I could but sometimes the pain gets so loud that I scream silently into the atmosphere. Sometimes I want to cry, and I couldn’t tell you if it’s from a physical pain that I’ve been ignoring or if my heart is finally bleeding through the tightly wrapped gauze. I look at nothing, and I think, “how sad.” And just like that I’m begging my eyes to swallow the waterworks, pleading with my brain to be useful. I hate existing around people when I’m like this, but I hate the emptiness and the waste of life I become when I’m not around them. I’m so sick of being this person, or this lack of person. Every time I think I have a handle on things, and that I can handle anything that life throws at me, life drops an anvil on my head. Or a piano. Or a car. Or a bomb. It’s never fun, and it’s never easy and it always hurts like hell.

My biggest fear is that I won’t be able to handle the world, and the worst part about these long periods of falling apart, is that I can’t. I no longer know what to do with the minutes, much less my hair, or your polite small talk. When I was young, I wanted to start a blog, it took me ages to find a name that I could get behind, and what I finally chose was,”the unknown.” Because that’s all life really is, right? A big, fat, question mark. None of us knows what’s going on in the world, I sure as hell don’t. It takes a lot of effort to exist, and I don’t know what’s next. I’m not going to say it can’t get worse, because every time I do, life makes a point of proving me wrong. But I hope it gets better.

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In a word, you are dazzling;

I feel overwhelmingly sad at the uncalled for heartaches that compile life. I feel like everywhere I turn I’m making a mistake, disappointing someone by being less than I should be, by being less than I could be. Perhaps the only person I’m disappointing is myself, but I sure as heck don’t think I’m making anyone proud. I’m not very sure of what to do with life, usually, but I’m even less sure the older I get. The more pain I live through, the more tears I cause, the more my heart pours out onto a blistering, silent sidewalk.

I am so overtly aware, constantly, at how unusual my life is, and was, and will be, so uncontrollably anxious about the dizzying reasons why the world is. I hate more than anything, watching the people I love experience the gut wrenching, stabbing, torturous agony that makes up this world, but even more unbearable is the affliction of indifference. I get so angry that I have to feel all my own wounds, that I have to look at all of my scars, physical and metaphorical, for the rest of my life. Even more upsetting is the fact that I have to feel the misery around me.

When you cry, my ribs break from your heaving sobs. That flash of disillusionment behind your eyes, the twinge of perceived failure is enough to rid me of every teardrop in my entire body. And I wish more than anything that I could believe your words when you tell me that you’re okay, while your insides are so clearly screaming to be let out. I want to set you free, because the alternative is to crawl inside that tiny, unlivable cage beside you, while we make believe that we’re anywhere but. If there’s anything I’ve learned, it’s that there is no going back to “the way it was before.” Because, as the saying goes-“it was” and is no more. When I look into your eyes, my insides tremble. It’s as if every fiber of my being is feeling everything that you once were to me, and never will be again.

There was a time when you had begun to embody safety, but the shadow you cast was always pure danger, the blackness as deep as eternal night. I’ve always wanted to save you, to make you see the goodness in your soul, to make you believe in the sunshine. But I’ve felt you so deeply that I’ve always been attracted to the shadows. Chased them, pursued them. I have made the shadows, and the explanation of their caste my business.

I wish that I could believe you when you say that you care for me, but I don’t know how to comprehend an affection so neglectful and so encumbered. I hope that by now, after all the pain I’ve witnessed and felt for you, with you and because of you, I hope that by now I would know that your indifference has less to do with me and more to do with your attachment to your own shadow; that insurmountable, dark devil, taller than a building and smaller than a dime, depending on the position of the sun, but always, always right on your heels. He’s there to remind you where you come from, to provide perspective on your relative, and highly subjective position in this world. He is not made up of your shortcomings, not entirely at least. He is compiled of your Cimmerian self, the part of you born into that helpless abyss, and all the parts of you who have since chosen to abide there. And when my darkness meets your darkness we have the capacity to create a tremendous, unscrupulous, black hole with our shadows that would swallow the both of us whole.

But I’m asking you the same thing I’ve always asked of you, and that is— instead of allowing our starless shadows to devour us both, instead let us come into the light. Let us not erase our shadows, for they are forever a part of us, but rather, illuminate them, brighten them up, so that perhaps we can unveil the beauty. I’m asking you to face your darkness, to look into the onyx shade and to soften your self to the pain, and the hurt, until it begins to quiet down. Not because it’s extending it’s reach, but because you’re excavating its depths, diminishing the darkness.

It takes courage, dear one, to abandon your apathy, to become sensitive to the wretchedness that so often makes up our lives. But when we do, we also become photosensitive, we begin again to see in color. I’ve always seen the glimmer in your eyes, but when we face the sun, you are luminous. I am weary from experiencing your heartache, I am weak from trying to face the world alone, for you, for me, for everyone. But when I see that flame in your eyes, I know all at once that you are incandescent. In my vision for you, you are dazzling as your opacity falls away, and your shadow walks with you into the soft glow of the morning haze. In my dreams you are brave and you are radiant, and you feel as deeply as your shadow once was, because you have dredged up your pain, and burned it away with the fire in your eyes and the passion in your soul, you are beaming, bright as the noon day.

 

July2017-22

Living like you’re alive;

Humans are complex creatures. We are so much more than what we do. We have dreams, ambitions, needs, wants, desires, cravings, thoughts, feelings, emotions, opinions, demons, and deviances. We have vices. We are passionate, forgetful, creative, curious, sensitive and serious. We are multi-faceted. We have an incalculable number of dimensions. We are body and soul. Mind and body. Heart and brain. Feeling and thinking. Deciding and diverging. We’re rebellious and obedient. We have immeasurable depth. We are capable of understanding, of comprehension. There are galaxies in our eyes, and parallel universes in our brains. We are infinite.

Have you ever met someone with eternity in their smile? Y’know, the person who looks at you like you’re the only one in the room, eagerly intentional with all the sincerity in the world, as if time spent with you is the most important thing they’ve done all year. Every minute, every interaction was so full of purpose, lending meaning to the smallest gestures. Every minute felt like freedom, every hour was piercing clarity. I’ve met someone like that and let me tell you, it’s the most inspired I’ve felt in years. Watching him was like watching Jesus. Seeing the way that people lit up around him, the careful, joyful way he handled every interaction. He was alive. He was unapologetically, entirely, wonderfully, unwaveringly consumed in his identity, and it was the most beautiful thing I’ve ever witnessed. That’s when I realized how far I’ve wandered from my own identity. How long I’ve strayed from the woman I was made to be.

I’ve fallen prey to identity amnesia. I’ve all but completely forgotten who I am. I’ve gotten so wrapped up in neatly packaging myself to be agreeable, charming and unoffensive. I’ve spent so much time trying to soften my edges, and gloss over sadness. I was so scared of lying, offending or just generally misspeaking, that I stopped sharing. I didn’t want to be vain so I dressed down, I didn’t want to be narcissistic so I asked the questions. I was so focused on the needs of others that I forgot to take care of myself. I was so preoccupied trying to fit this mold society had so stealthily constructed for me, that I forgot I was alive.

Pretty soon, I didn’t recognize myself anymore, and I couldn’t remember my identity. But I had that feeling, of “I don’t know what to call it, but I’ll know it when I see it.” I wore other people’s identities like a poorly fitting Halloween costume in July. I felt conspicuous, I didn’t know who I was, and I didn’t really care who I became. So I changed my clothes, and I changed my hair, I wore anything and everything, under the guise of mystery. Unpredictable, even to myself. I felt like a little girl again, my whole world constantly shaking, moving, spinning, unstable. I couldn’t sleep and I didn’t know where I was when I woke up. I didn’t feel real, I was unqualified to own a body. I was lost, and sometimes I was fearful. But mainly I was untouchable. My heart was in hibernation and all I had left was impulse. I didn’t care what happened to me. I simply didn’t have anything left to give, I had lost all of my fucks.

I think God was still there. He’s always there, even when you can’t see Him, even when you’re not talking. That’s the thing about God, he doesn’t desert us. He loves us at our darkest, and He doesn’t hold it over our heads after.

I’m not going to tell you that I’m perfectly fitted back into my identity, that would be a lie. I wish I could tell you that, because now I remember the feeling of being free, of breathing fresh air, and laughing uncontrollably. I remember the feeling of spinning with my arms outspread in the pouring rain, of talking with my mouth full because I couldn’t wait another second to speak, I remember dancing on the cold sand, jumping fences and staying up all night with dear friends. I remember wholeness, and I crave it. There’s no road map to your identity. It’s not cut and dried, it’s not laid out for you. Most of us have to stumble in and out of it until we recognize it for what is and decide to hold on for dear life. Our identities are so precious, so unique, and so all-encompassing, there’s truly nothing like walking in yours.

I’m not completely lost anymore, I’m still stumbling through it, leaning on walls and sleeping on floors, but at least I’m on my way again. I’m beginning to see bits and pieces of me, like old friends come back to catch up, sometimes it feels like they never left. I’m seeing less and less of that tearful little girl living in an upside down world. I’m seeing more of that woman, who believes in her worth, who has a relationship with her Creator, who loves with all she has, and who lives uninhibited. I’m catching glimpses of that free spirit. I’m remembering that I am fearfully and wonderfully made.

May2017-49

Snippet about books, from my [hopeful] book;

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Raw reality. I don’t know about you, but I feel like I’ve wasted my time if I read a book and the author is a fake. I mean, I get enough of that in life. Everyone is always trying to shield their identity from you, people are afraid of sharing their true selves with anyone. If I wanted someone to bullshit me, I’d have them do it to my face. To me, books are about truth. They’re about all the things you wouldn’t or couldn’t ever say out loud. Books are the vulnerable reality that none of us have the guts to live in. I don’t read to escape reality, I read to discover it. I’ll sit through a painstakingly dramatic movie if I can believe the emotions. Nothing upsets me more than poor acting and deceitful books.

The people I feel closest to in life are the ones who own up to their personality, the people who know who they are and are unapologetically so. Of course, if you’re an unapologetic dick then, I probably won’t want to get to know you. But if you know that you’re a dick, and you know why you’re a dick and you’re sincerely trying to change your dick ways, I support that. I love seeing a person who knows they’re fucked up but they’re still marching, or trudging, crawling… slithering, it’s not the motion that matters, its the progression. Some people choose to salsa through the hard parts, step forward, step together, step back, step together, step right, step together, step left, step together, step forward, etc. It doesn’t matter how you get there, it only matters that you keep moving.

I read books to learn how people move. I want to know what it was that made them step back and where they found the courage to step forward. I want to know what was in their peripherals and what made those things, people or goals less important than their focus. I want to know how they felt every step of the way, if they laughed, and how hard. If they cried, what for? I want to know if they hit rock bottom and if it was made out of granite, or coal or diamonds. I want to know why they climbed back up and if they were wounded in the process. I want to know their vices, and how they got rid of them, or if they took over. I want to know who won in the end, if anyone at all. A good book should be able to make anyone cry. Because everyone has felt some way, some time, for some person, or place; everyone longs, hopes, cares and despairs. And I bet we all do it a little differently, but it feels very similar.

Dictated Contradictions;

You know when you wake up and all your friends live somewhere else and you realize that you’re all alone because you’ve said no to every boy you can remember, except for the ones who said no to you, and you find yourself wondering if maybe you should’ve been more? More something, sometime… to someone, or someone’s? You can’t really pinpoint where you went wrong, or how many bad turns you’ve made since then. You always thought you’d make it out anyways, because all roads end up at the same place, don’t they? Or maybe they just intersect.

You operated out of your trauma and your unconscious fears for so long, until you became conscious of them. And now you’re afraid, all the time, of so many things, but what people don’t know about you is that, just because you’re terrified, just because you’re a scared, trembling, little girl doesn’t mean that you’re going to be this way forever. It doesn’t mean you’re not going to fight and change, it just means that you never knew you’d have to fight this hard, for this long.

So you write to make sense of things, and you write to communicate and you write to see your own soul, just in case no one else ever does.

And you think of all the lives that have been lost without anything to show for themselves, and you beg and you pray that you won’t be one of them, but you have this sneaking suspicion that you might already be one. You shiver at your own thoughts of mortality and you war with fate, if that’s even a thing, and you wonder where all your dreams have run off to.

You try to remember the times when your neck was stronger and your back wasn’t breaking under the weight of your own uncertainty, and more than anything you wonder if it will be like this forever.

You think, if only I hadn’t… then I might… but it isn’t true; because you did! here you are! And you wouldn’t be where you are without where you’ve been, just like you can’t be who you want without first living who you must be. And so you fight— mostly with yourself. You used to be oblivious, until you decided to try to understand, and then as the doors opened and the pages of your story wrote themselves before you, you realized all the reasons you are here now, and all the things that have made you this way.

And sometimes you hate it, sometimes you hate yourself for who you’ve been without thinking. Without a thought for the future you’ve thrown away so much that could have been. But dear one, even though your life has been long and you are tired, you are not finished yet. I won’t tell you the war is over, because you’ll be fighting battles for the rest of your days, but it will teach you to be strong. And you are strong, even when you don’t believe it, you are fierce, and sensitive, and there is so much more to strength than fighting.

You must learn to be vulnerable, to let your insides out sometimes. It won’t always feel natural and you will absolutely make mistakes, but that only makes your strength more beautiful and more enduring. You are imperfect, and more than that, you are allowed to be. You can be messy, you can be unsure- it won’t make you less.

You don’t always have to understand, and sometimes your mistakes will scare people and you will blame it on your vulnerability, and you will think that you are too much, or too ugly, or too messed up. But please, please Love, push those thoughts away with everything in you, because they aren’t true, and you are allowed to be wholly you, and if that is too much then maybe you just weren’t meant to be loved by that person.

There is sincerity in your hard edges. Don’t soften yourself for others, learn to love your roughness as well as your sensitivity, because the blind intelligence, the useless facts, and the monosyllabic responses are you just as much as the convulsive sobs, the hysterical laughs, and the spontaneous explorations, and everything in between and around.  You can have a soft heart and a sharp mind, you’re not a contradiction. 

You may not be able to be everywhere at once, but you are everything at once, and that is something that is lovable, not detestable. If you want to be seen as a whole picture, you must learn to see yourself first.

Everything doesn’t always need to be analyzed or put through rigorous testing for validity and origins. Sometimes you will need to just be. To exist and not question it so much. Eventually you will find joy again, and one day you will know that you are loved, and after that, it will come easier and easier every day. And you’ll look back and you’ll know that all the pain had it’s place, and that love is synonymous with long-suffering, but it’s also so much more than that, little girl, just as you are so much more than the sum of your suffering.

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She is Sex;

I want you to feel uncomfortable when you read this.

I want you to think about the words that you’ve said and the looks you’ve given me, or her. I want you to cringe at the next line and the next and the next, like I’ve cringed at your ‘compliments.’ & I don’t want it to be because you have a sister, a mother, a wife, or a daughter, but simply because— I am a person.

I want your skin to crawl when you see the effect you have on me, when that light goes on in your head that I, too, am a human being and that my skin is always moving when I feel your eyes, even if I hold my breath, my skin still creeps in your presence. I want you to listen to yourself when you tell me that I’ve lead you on with my eyebrows, because what kind of a woman would raise her eyebrows in your direction if she didn’t want to be fucked?

I want you to eat your words when you tell me that you only did it because you knew I wouldn’t be weird about it. I want you to take responsibility and choke on your own blue balls, because they are not, and never have been any of my concern. I want you to go back to the basics, to learn the meaning of “yes” and of “no.” I want you to know that it doesn’t make me a ho, if and when I don’t say no.

I am a woman & I am sexual and that doesn’t mean that I am here for your viewing pleasure.

I want you to realize that I am allowed to enjoy sex, and that it doesn’t make me any less. I am not dirty, used up, easy, cheap, sloppy seconds, or any other hip cliche’ equating my body and my soul to something that can be consumed, purchased, or soiled for your pleasure.

I want you to know that you don’t own me, you never have, and you never will,
no one’s dick is important enough to change my identity.

This face is a carefully spelled F-U-C-K Y-O-U, not a fuck me. I am not sending you mixed signals, your illiteracy has nothing to do with me.

& I’m only going to say this once, I don’t owe you a fucking smile.

And even if I sound strong now, I may not always be so fired up. Society has taught me to laugh it off, and let it happen, not to cause a scene. Society tells me that I should be flattered, that I should blush and say thank you.

I wish I could be strong when it counts.

I aspire to one day be able to look you dead in the eye, until you squirm, and say without faltering, and without a doubt in my mind, that what you said, and what you did, was not, is not & will not be okay. Society tells me that I shouldn’t have been drinking, that maybe I was showing too much skin, or my skirt was too short.

I have sex shoulders, she has a sex face, it’s my lips, my eyes, it’s her hair;
we are asking for it simply by existing.

I wish I had been strong when you touched me too long, or too low.

I only want you to understand that I don’t belong to you, we don’t belong to you.

“But, did you tell him ‘no’?”

As you were lying naked, gasping for air, helpless, drunk, or roofied… but did you?

Because if you didn’t, how would he know? And if you did, did you say it forcefully enough?

Because maybe he thought you were being playful— boys are quite dense, you know, especially when they’re thinking with the one-eyed monster.

“He’s a good guy though.”

That’s my favorite line,
because it tells me that he can’t
& won’t
be held responsible,

& even if it’s true,
no one can believe it,
no one will believe it,
because it’s a hard truth,

& the only thing that has the right to be hard is his dick.

And we can’t reconcile how such a good guy could do, say, or think such a terrible thing.
“He simply wasn’t himself…it was a fluke… but maybe you were…” Why is it so much easier to believe in the vile temptress, the tease, the slut, the young seductress? It’s easy to blame her, because she’s the one who looks like sex.

It’s not his fault,
she wanted it,
you could tell just by looking at her.

He was only doing what comes naturally.
You can’t blame him.

But I do.

I blame him, but I also blame myself, for buying into the lies
that that have been hurled in my face since I was young. The one’s telling me that femininity is weak, that we women, are the lesser sex. The lies that tell me I shouldn’t leave the house looking unpresentable, because I need to be desirable or what is my life worth? But not too desirable because no man likes an immodest woman. The lies that tell me I should be meek and polite, and not speak out of turn, or too rashly, or disrespectfully to a man.

Well, let me just tell you,
I am Polite as FUCK.


I see your ‘manners,’ your chivalry,
and I raise you human decency, and mutual respect.

From a file of numerically titled entries;

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She’s a slob, a vagrant, a nameless wanderer, drifting in and out like so many chapters in a dream, occasionally a nightmare. She’s been aimless for so long, she’s forgotten if she ever had a purpose. Erratic and fickle, she’s a wayward soul, grasping for meaning, wishing she had one inkling where she was.

Someone once told her that if she got lost, she should stay put, exactly where she was until someone located her. It’s much easier to be found if you stay in one place, they insisted. She’s tried to stick around, take their advice, suspend her movements long enough to be discovered, identified again. It’s proven difficult advice to follow.

She’s observed that people love to offer unsolicited advice, especially to strangers. Perhaps there’s some innately altruistic compulsion behind their bursts of spontaneous wisdom; probably, they’re simply uncontrollable.

One summer, when she was young, she met a man under a railway bridge who emphatically shared with her the secret to a long, healthy life, which was as simple as “two packs of cigarettes & at least a full pot of coffee a day.” He swore, adamantly she’d live to be a hundred. Naturally, this prudent recommendation was difficult to believe, but much easier to follow than the aforementioned counsel.

Generally, she’s not a dreamer, but she’s been spending more and more time behind closed eyes imagining a better reality. It never seems like there’s much out there for her when she looks up, but she needs to believe in something bigger than herself. She needs to believe she’s wanted, that someone is looking for her, eventually she’ll be found, eventually she’ll know who she is. 

On Transparency;

Up until this point in my life I’ve done my utmost to present myself as an opaque being. I’ve never believed that I could be understood and therefore I never tried. I’m taking baby steps to say what I’m feeling, to voice my struggles and my inner life, fighting tooth and nail against the truth that it’s none of your fucking business.

It might not be any of your business, but I realize now that true and healthy relationship cannot be obtained without a culture of candid sharing.

It’s apparent to me that my desire to know the depths of the universe and to understand the inner workings of people will never be realized as long as I continue to shell up. I need to learn how to trust others, even others who maybe aren’t worthy of trust. I cannot expect to grow if I won’t stretch out my arms.

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Be gentle with me;

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Reading about introversion is so impressively soothing. Even though I know I have many talents and skills, I often forget how useful I can be, because it is shrouded in my ever growing exhaustion from constant, incessant, and dreadful overstimulation. A sweet soul told me today that she can’t think of anything I’m not good at. It made me giggle, because knowing my strengths and weaknesses, what I am and am not capable of, is one area that I excel. And I can think of a great many things that I am less than fabulous at and many more that I am absolutely horrendous at. But I did appreciate the sentiment and the affirmation. Because, especially in a week like this, I feel overwhelmingly bad at everything, and grossly behind in life, and I get bogged down with ideas of self-improvement and preoccupied with my vast mental lists of things I need to work on as a human. But these things take time. Perhaps even lifetimes! But as I live in a state of constant stress and anxiety over everything that I could be and should be because I’m surrounded by so many people who are so much, not that they are so much more than me, but namely that they are universes better at social interactions in gigantic, frequent, suffocating doses, than I could ever or should ever hope to be. And then I forget that while they may be better at these frivolous interactions that I have no taste for, I might be better at the more meaningful, thoughtful discussions on life and philosophy. Rather, not that I am better at those than them, but that I am better at those than I am at the others, and that is good for me. That is a happy place for me to live and exist. And rather than focusing on the fact that I am god-awful at these painful, dead witted, dead ended conversations with strangers, I need to focus on the fact that if I had 45 minutes with that same stranger then we might just get somewhere beneficial instead of coexisting in the artificial. And that is what it is to me to be introverted. It’s not that I hate people, or that I am shy, antisocial, anti-confrontational or frightened of big conversations, it is simply that I am energized by myself, and in the quiet I can hear myself think and I can sort my thoughts. But in the chaos, I am suffocated and drained, and I have no room for any other stimulation, because I am completely consumed in the loud noises, and bright lights and sudden, usually unwelcome physical assaults in the form of shoulder touches or unexpected hugs. Be gentle with me.

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Strength;

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What does bravery mean to you? And courage? To me, bravery is saying yes, when you probably should’ve said no. Bravery is living like you’re invincible. It’s seeing the risk and taking it anyways, because it makes you better. Bravery is looking fear in its quivering face and saying, “You don’t scare me.” Courage, though, is the absence of fear. I think we can be brave without being courageous. Bravery is facing your fears, and courage is telling them they don’t exist.

Right now, I think I’m brave. But I remember a time when I was courageous, I aspire to be courageous again.

We all have a lot of bogus ideas about bravery and strength. When I think “strong” I think stoic, heavy lifting, emotionless, and powerful. I don’t think that definition is entirely correct. Sure, a physically strong person might be able to bench press twice their weight, but if there’s anything I’ve learned from rock climbing, it’s that there’s more than one kind of “strength” in the body. You might be able to lift twice your weight, but can you pull yourself two hundred feet up a sheer cliff by your fingers and toes? Maybe not. Does that mean you’re not strong? Certainly not. You’ve simply chosen to maintain a different set of strengths.

I grew up thinking bravery was being quiet when you were scared. Strength was hiding your emotions, and crying was the ultimate sign of weakness. You were strong if people obeyed you. You were strong if you were bossy. Strength was measured in power and control, of others and of yourself. Strength was being someone who others were afraid of.

Understandably, I didn’t see myself as strong for most of my life. What with all my tears, and feelings. I was the runt of the litter, people weren’t afraid of me, I was afraid of them. I didn’t, and still don’t, like loud noises or bright lights. I was born with a soft voice, and it physically pains me to raise it. I was skin and bones, a walking, giggling skeleton. I was fragile and emotional. I felt the weight of the world and I carried the pain of those dear to me. I just wanted people to stop hurting, I wanted to help, but I didn’t know how, so I cried. It was no easy task navigating this big world by myself. I wasn’t brave, and I certainly wasn’t strong.

It was only later that I found out that strength isn’t so callous at all.

It’s taken me years to redefine, and I couldn’t tell you that I’m satisfied with my interpretation just yet. But here’s what I have so far: Unsurprisingly, we find our strength when we uncover our identity. Our identity that is multi-faceted and complex, that is resilient and concrete. Our identity that is a respite in this ever changing world, we are wholly ourselves.

In my limited experiences I’ve found that definitions are not concrete. They are not stagnant pieces of information, rigidly adhering to indisputable, objective facts. No, definitions are much more fluid than all that. Just take language for example. How words can have different meanings based on their surroundings, their time period, or their reader. There’s a synonym for nearly everything. We express ourselves differently using the same words in slightly different combinations containing worlds of meaning. I’ve chosen to define words by actions.

Strength is not the absence of emotions or a life devoid of feelings. It’s not tearing others down in order to elevate yourself. Dictators are not strong; selfish, mislead, dangerous- perhaps, but strong, no. Strength is not wealth of power, or skilled manipulation.

A strong person is a brave person is a courageous person in the making. Strength is mourning your losses, and crying with everything you have in you, with heaving, blubbery sobs and tiny streaking tears. It’s being aware of your emotions and handling them accordingly. It’s operating from a powerful place, not elevated above others, but in control of your own self. Strength is hearing something hurtful and responding in love. It’s resisting temptations and deciding to put others before yourself. Strength is knowing your worth and operating from a place of wholeness. It’s saying yes to the character instilled in you, it’s agreeing that you are valuable and irreplaceable. Strength is knowing your importance apart from how others describe you. Independence is strength, and accepting community is strength. Living with and for other people is strength. Strength is loving imperfectly and knowing when to apologize. Strength is in every part of our being, it’s carrying on even when the fear is crippling.

Strength is a choice, it’s a learned trait. We are born weak, and helpless. In the same way we have to train our muscles, and maintain our bodily strength through constant movement and use, we have a lifetime of building on our strengths. We are capable. We are able. We are skilled. You wouldn’t work out once and expect washboard abs. Strength is a building exercise, it’s a consistent discipline. An occupation of operation, if you will. Strength training is difficult. It’s an undertaking where we have to actively die to self, and practice purpose. It’s not a passive movement, it’s not a mindless activity. Quite the opposite it’s reigning in our minds, taking our thoughts captive and choosing carefully what we release into the atmosphere. It’s responding, as opposed to reacting. The age old concept of thinking, before you speak.

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