Unseen Arts

Everywhere I turn, there’s some idea of who I am, how I’m supposed to be living my life, what I should be doing. It’s not the world shouting at me, but a constant whisper of what if. This question is a dangerous, often misleading one.

It can inspire and motivate, sure. I feel like we’re overwhelmed with an illusion of limitless potential. It’s equally uplifting and overwhelming. The crushing weight of expectation contrasts with hope’s natural buoyancy.

I don’t know how to balance these feelings, and most people my age don’t either. It seems that as we age (based on my older friends), the gravity of expectation does one of two things: either it grounds youthful fantasy in a healthier reality, or it drags you deep down into resentment and despair.

Of course, we’re all fighting the ups and downs of life. Whatever plateaus we experience never last long (and if they do, they often result from complacency). Whatever we do, the contentment never lasts long.

But it’s not a fear of change that consumes me anymore. I’ve made relative peace with the unknown. What worries me now is the intoxicating notion of hustle and grind. I’m worried about getting caught up in the idea of the thing versus its reality.

If you’re on social media (at all), you’ll see dream worlds and lives aplenty. Destinations and lifestyles beyond wildest imagining tempt with seemingly endless possibilities. I’m learning that this emphasis on destination neglects the dedication, drive, and discipline required to transform dreams into reality.

As a conflicted idealist and a practiced realist, I understand the joys and dangers of dreaming. My biggest challenge as a creative creature resides in the conversion, transformation, and construction of the path to my big ideas. There’s a reason it took me a year even to begin my novel.

Emotions aren’t a negative thing, nor an enemy to intellect and reason.

And there’s a reason (two years into the journey) that I’m nowhere near complete. Most of the time, this doesn’t irk me. But most of the time, I don’t have the space, desire, or energy to dwell on my creative goals. Too often, I’m overwhelmed by my daily responsibilities and commitments.

Giving in to that unrelenting desire to create means becoming a slave to my passions. It’s a realm of success best occupied by intentional hedonists and tortured artists (not that those are mutually exclusive). Emotions aren’t a negative thing, nor an enemy to intellect and reason, as some believe.

But there’s a delicate, precise balance to appreciating and indulging one’s passions—without becoming the wild untamed. You can’t capture and leash your passions lest the reins drag you along. Conversely, you’ll find it next to impossible to keep up with wild horses, wolves, a flock of birds running through your mind.

Instead, cultivate the patience needed to capture that one shot of a snow leopard. Even if it means sitting still for hours in the freezing snow, build the discipline that kind of opportunity demands. Life passes you by if you don’t work to hold onto it. If you’ve seen The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, you’ll appreciate this attendance to wild abandon, I mean.

Of course, Walter’s denied his passions for years instead of chasing them around the world like the photographer in the movie. Too many people, myself included, feel as if they can spend their realities chasing dreams. But without putting in the hard work to get there, you’ll find yourself running out of steam.

But how do we avoid these meteoric moments? Finding out what it takes to defy gravity for more than a few seconds doesn’t happen overnight. It’s a process and a long one at that.

Defying Gravity

As a kid, I kind of resented those motivational posters, especially this one. I think what irked me the most was the feeling of settling when you landed among the stars.

As an adult, I get that this poster’s trying to push for excellence while still leaving room for error and failure. I even embrace the lessons we can learn from failure, anticipated or not. What I detest about this statement is:

  1. Aiming for the heavens isn’t settling at all.
  2. Stars aren’t any old, average thing.
  3. If you miss the moon, appreciate the view from the stars. And then move on. Don’t get comfortable!
  4. Keep on trying for your money goal, learning from your mistakes.
  5. If you didn’t make it alone, get help. I don’t know of any single-manned mission to space.
  6. For heaven’s sake, you’re aiming skywards, so coming down is only natural.

You and your goal weren’t average from the start, so why act as if they were? This is what I mean when I say defying gravity. You’re allowed to aim high. I encourage it.

For those closest to me, you know I expect and demand you to push yourself. (Hell, a friend’s mom called me Demanda behind my back even in high school.) I this from selfish benevolence. I wish to surround myself with people who aspire higher. Being around people who aim for success means I’ll push myself more. That’s the selfish aspect.

Suppose I’m benefiting from excellent souls around me, our collective willpower functions as an accountability and safety net. We elevate each other, bearing one another aloft. When I expect people to aim high, it’s done in solidarity with a low tolerance for quitting.

Of course, standards for excellence vary by ability, person, and circumstance–something high school Demanda didn’t understand. If no one ever expects the most of you, how will you know where you’re destined to land?

You're a shining star, 
no matter who you are. 
Shining bright to see 
what you could truly be.

Earth, Wind, and Fire

But it’s not about shining bright to stand out. And it’s not about being the best you you can be because the world tells you that’s who to be. Stop buying into the false dreamscapes perpetuated on social media.

These golden moments sell you something that requires actual effort. The idealized slideshows online spark a desperate wanderlust, often based on escapist desires. It’s not a true wanderlust but that of those disillusioned by their daily lives.

It’s not that social media’s the problem any more than the people sharing their accomplished dreams. It’s that we don’t think about the endless consumption of daydreams. Feeding ourselves nothing but illusion makes working, trying, and living that much harder.

It makes us question the reality of lunar landings, making us comfortable with complacency. But this life’s too rich to slide through it, simply hoping for more. You must find what fuels your fire before you burn out.

Disengagement and Disruption

As Dr. Albert Ellis so eloquently put it, “Stop shoulding on yourself.” What does this mean? All of those times you thought, I should do this, or be like this, or feel like this were moments where you shat upon yourself. You came from a place of vulnerability and filled it with fear and self-doubt. You were too caught up in your identity and lost sight of how to defy gravity.

This is what Brené Brown calls disengagement, which she roughly defines as the gap between culture or “who we are” and strategy or “the game plan.” The only way to close this gap and believe in your ability to fly sky high is to “Align values with action.”

Now, I’m not necessarily one to let my identity define how I act. Identity is impactful in a group setting. For example, I am a Catholic. In a room of non-Catholics, my identity makes me stand out. In a roomful of Catholics, I blend. Identity etymologically means “the quality of being the same.” Mathematically it means, “a transformation that leaves an object unchanged.”

In essence, your culture—often a voluntary group identity—doesn’t change despite any transformations you undergo. I’m not sure how well this translates to people. I feel like there’s a litany of arguments to be had about the definition of identity, but I will say this: Feelings transform all the time, so how you feel about yourself today doesn’t define who you are tomorrow.

We can’t give people what we don’t have. Who we are matters immeasurably more than what we know or who we want to be.

Brené Brown

I’m not entirely in agreement with this quote, but I will say that what we know about ourselves certainly affects what we believe we can do. If you don’t think yourself capable of defying gravity, you never will be. Even believing in your potential for big goals means knowing yourself enough to know that you can grow.

Remember how I said that reaching for the sky wasn’t an average goal? Expect to fall, a little or a lot. This depends on you and your self-awareness. If your game plan is to write a book by 2019, and you know you have poor time management, it makes sense to work on time management skills.

Building new habits and changing our scripts about who we are (i.e., Millennials, American, etc.) takes work. It’s not easy, and you have to be in for some discomfort. If you’re rescripting yourself, you’re disruptively engaging with a new narrative. That means things are changing, including your story about yourself. Stories die when static, as does life. So keep it moving and reach for those stars.

Don’t be afraid to fail, rather expect to do so. I’m talking about planning for the best with the worst in mind. Sure, we can’t predict the future, but we can be open to the uncertainties it brings into our lives. And if we’re not aiming for meteoric goals, we might make it to the moon.

Lunar landings are possible, but they remain a dream if you never take that first leap. Risking your comfort and complacency with a willing embrace of the unknown takes great daring. I hope you’re not okay with staying in the plateaus and lulls of life. I hope you dare to live your brief existence as bright as you can. I hope you dare to defy all the things that will weigh you down. Dare to dream, but even more, dare to make dreams real.


Thanks again for following my stories. As always, I hope they help you (or someone else in your life). I’ll keep trying to share the lessons I learn from life as best I can.

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In Retrospect

For the past few weeks, I’ve found myself slipping into the past. It’s not that the present isn’t worth my attention, but that the past offers too many distractions.

I call it slipping because it’s an involuntary tendency to look back. I’ve got nothing against retrospection and nostalgia. What I don’t enjoy is fixating on past mistakes, pains, regrets, et cetera.

Looking back can be a delightful intoxication. We can live in nostalgia and ignore present happenings. But the past only offers so much delight before distorted truths reveal themselves.

Regrets emerge. Hindsight hits like a sack of bricks, and the past loses its rosy hue. But if you can’t move forward, all you’ll ever do is look back.

And I’m tired of living in the past. I’m done with letting past mistakes, regrets, and decisions haunt my present. I don’t want to be alive ten years from today, still feeling like I haven’t made space for change and uncertainty.

There’s an unrest that never dissipates if you don’t expect uncertainty. You could call it existential angst. I call it ignoring opportunities to live fully.

Peaceful clarity settles upon me when I think of all the opportunities life still has in store. I don’t have to imagine closing myself off to these possibilities, either.

I also realize that I’ve been “silent” on here the last few weeks, too. Part of that’s been sheer exhaustion and lack of focus. Other parts of concern some work I’ve chosen to take on for personal growth and healing.

Trying to date again after three years of singlehood opened some old doors, ones I thought I’d closed. Old wounds and memories resurfaced, and it’s been a shock. Sometimes, we can fool ourselves into being whole by simply trying.

My determination and obstinance often result in accidental resilience. It’s a positive consequence of the fake-it-til-you-make-it mentality. This willfulness is as much inherited as it is learned.

But the problem with slipping is that you lose traction. It’s hard to be present and live in the moment when you find yourself falling behind into your history. And looking forward is just as difficult, too, when the past clings to you.

But the trappings of history only serve us so much in modernity. Some worship the past, believing its repetitive tendencies are predictors for the future. But that’s just another tricky little trap.

The past reveals truths, yes. After unveiling those truths, it’s vital to take action lest we doom ourselves to repeating past mistakes. But there’s value in learning from the past and applying it to today so that you can build a better tomorrow.

There’s value in learning from the past and applying it to today so that you can build a better tomorrow.

It hit me earlier this week, after so many relationships and romantic entanglements, why things haven’t worked out and why  I am where I am today.

Yes, I have (and had) my part to play in their end. Most of my past relationships ended because I had clarity or maturity or whatever foresight was needed to end things. A lot of my past relationships were good, if not entirely whole.

I can regret and grieve the trappings of my former self, but eventually, I have to move on. There’s a tipping point when accountability slips into guilting or obsessing over regrets and mistakes.

Once you realize where you are and how you got there, you have to move on. Taking that step forward seems like the simplest thing, but it can easily be the most challenging thing to do. If you overthink or put too much into tomorrow, you set yourself up for failure, too.

It’s so funny how we build things up in our minds, sandcastles of imagination. Each grain comprises dreams, desires, and wishes–nothing as solid as silica or carbon. No, this wishy-washy projection and ideation of hoping and wanting is naught but sand and smoke.

Mental Pictures

I ‘ve always been a creative person, so visualizing things comes naturally to me. Whether I’m slipping into my past or dreaming about my future, images appear on a reel of personal cinema. The stills and found footage of my life come together, forming strange montages.

I don’t know much about the development of film photography. I do know there are many chemicals involved which, ironically, are dangerous to one’s vision. If spilled in the eye, agents used in clarifying images can blind you, leaving your vision permanently underdeveloped.

Mental pictures require development of their own. The common adage of life flashing before your eyes evokes the flashbulbs of vintage paparazzi. If our lives are all one cinematic metaphor, we’re as much audience as the director, producer, writer, superstar. How we cast ourselves, presently and in hindsight, depends upon the roles we agree to adopt, the angles we capture moments in, and the effects of post-production.

Truthfully, our lives aren’t sequentially recorded like film. We jumble up moments with preferred filters on reality. Whether we flatter ourselves with denial or falsehood, our mental pictures are often unreliable. 

Time offers so many more moments than a mere snapshot can offer. No matter how much we record, there’s too much to capture.

It’s not as much a matter of curatorial or narrative authority but more so the sensory triggers we connect to certain scenes. Unlike cinema, we aren’t mere spectators. In the movies of our lives, inaction is still a choice.

Potential passiveness leaves us subject to the sounds, smells, and physical sensations around us. An especially stiff-backed chair may heighten your anxiety or unease. Someone’s stale cigarette breath may linger, triggering a craving for old habits or inducing nausea. A certain melody revives yet more moments captured in the mind’s eye.

My mental pictures burn rather keenly in my mind’s eye. I blame this in part on my eidetic memory. The other portion of blame I’ll assign to my observational skill and general emotionality.

I’m wary of validating my mental snapshots. Too much attention or light exposure on undeveloped films permanently distorts the true picture. I can choose to attach significance to moments that mean nothing to another individual.

This resounds beyond memory, often altering my present perceptions. It’s helpful in some regards. Prior snapshots show others’ growth and the general reality of their character.

This being said, how we see others in the past often distorts how people are present. The problem with stills is their very essence. They only capture moments, some of which may only appear once in a lifetime.

People can read too much into a moment, assuming it applies to a person’s entirety.

These images still have something to offer, but they can distort reality. People can read too much into a moment, assuming it applies to a person’s entirety. We all make this mistake, taking things at face value and basing things on first impressions.

I’m no exception to this, either, but I find myself consistently frustrated by others’ stilted impressions of me. I’m not sure if there’s any way to remedy this except to see people in various settings. Over time, people piece together a whole picture of your character, but it takes longer than we expect.

These virtual collages still only represent our perspective and perception of a person. We can blind ourselves with projections, daydreams, hopes, and other fantasies. Of course, there’s the honesty of the other person to consider, too.

Assuming there’s no denial or omission of truth, we often never see the entirety of a person right away. Time offers so many more moments than a mere snapshot can offer. No matter how much we record, there’s too much to capture.

Scrapbooks and Glitter Glue

Because of life’s unceasing nature, we often hold onto the past out of nostalgia. Many people use photo albums and scrapbooks as history made material. We hold onto the past for many reasons, sometimes to mark our progress and growth.

A friend once told me, “Never change, Amanda.”

I replied with a hearty laugh, “That’s all life is, though. If I’m not changing, then I’m not living.”

Piecing together our present means understanding those composite parts of our past. Each snapshot, ticket stub, pressed flower, song or poem all make up moments and memories. But we’re more than these memories; there’s the messy stuff in between that makes up who we are.

Focus on the truths of yourself. Remember that today’s feelings fade and don’t ultimately define you. If the pieces of your plan fall apart, you can always put them back together. Get creative with the glue. Make it pretty. Make something new.

This is the pretty, sparkly mess that holds your life together. If you’re a six-year-old, this might be all you need to piece together the parts of your life. As an adult, this probably isn’t the case.

In Japanese and Buddhist tradition, the philosophy of kintsugi is all about piecing things together after they’ve fallen apart. Take a cracked piece of pottery and fill said cracks with molten gold. When it cools, you’ll have something like this:

But we’re more than these memories; there’s the messy stuff in between that makes up who we are.

Kintsugi doesn’t exclusively apply to pottery. The philosophy derives from a myriad of words. Mono no aware, or “the pathos of things,” reflects on the impermanence of existence.

It encompasses the knowledge and acceptance and longing for the brevity of life’s many aspects. Whether it be broken pottery or the first birth of your first child, these are but fleeting moments in time. Kintsugi embodies this by saving and changing what cannot be as it was once.

Mono no aware is similar to the Buddhist teaching of wabi-sabiWabi-sabi includes the three marks of existence, impermanence, suffering, and absence of self-nature.

These all connect to a detachment from worldly concerns, which is necessary for achieving enlightenment. This pieced-together word comes with further layers which tie it more closely to kintsugiWabi connotes understated elegance, often including the unique aspects of “flaws” of handmade work. Sabi reflects the natural wearing and tearing of time on things, such as gold-mended pottery or an elderly human’s wrinkles.

The understanding and reverence of life’s impermanence is not strictly Eastern. Kintsugi, mono no aware, and wabisabi are all connected to Western elements found in classical literature. Take the Latin phrase memento mori, which means, “Remember that you must die.”

Better still, the phrase lacrimae rerum taken from Virgil’s Aeneid. It translates to “tears of things,” but even this varies with context. See the different interpretations below:

  • “The world is a world of tears, and the burdens of mortality touch the heart.” Robert Fagles
  • “They weep here / For how the world goes, and our life that passes/ Touches their hearts.” Robert Fitzgerald
  • “These men know the pathos of life, and mortal things touch their hearts.” Kenneth Clark
  • “There are tears at the heart of things.” Seamus Heaney

However we choose to mark time’s passing, I think it’s clear that staying in the past is detrimental. It’s unwise to assume things about our todays and tomorrows using only history to inform us, too. Paying attention to these details is only one of many moving parts.

In retrospect, I can say that the stills and odds and ends of my life comprise a rich montage of good and bad. I’ve got my share of pain, loss, and regret. But I’ve also got so much peace, joy, and fulfillment.

Anchoring myself to today is still something I’m working on. Slipping into the past isn’t always bad, and I often learn a lot about where I am today when a memory surfaces. I think it’s most important to learn how to live in the moment so you can truly thrive.


Thanks so much for reading my blog! It means the world that you’ve taken a few precious moments out of your busy day to consider my perspective. For more thought-provoking content, check out my other posts or sign up for email reminders.

Getting Lost

I ‘ve always had a horrible sense of direction. Growing up, I’d get lost in department and grocery stores after hiding in boxes and display racks. My mom would always find me (usually because of my red hair).

Over time, my navigational abilities have barely improved. I know the cardinal directions, but I couldn’t tell you which way’s which unless the sun’s up. As much as I wish I could chart my path my starlight, I’m equally useless.

When I first learned to drive, both of my parents tried to help me navigate. My mom’s a longtime teacher, so it came easier to her. She’s also far more patient and understanding of my navigational challenges than my dad’s ever been.

I recall one particular afternoon where he showed me three parallel streets in our neighborhood on a map, roads I was on daily often more than once, too. And he asked me to recall one or two major intersecting streets between those parallel to one another. No matter how much I tried, I couldn’t visualize the map nor remember the roads.

He tried to be patient with me to his credit, but I’ve since come to learn that spatial awareness is just not one of my gifts. I can read a map and use a GPS, but unless I have a strong sense of physical memory of an area, it just won’t stick. Some people can get lost in a parking lot, and I’m one of them.

Take that first step, accept the chance of getting lost, wander into the labyrinthine unknowns of life.

We all get lost in life, though, and it’s not always about physically getting lost. Just a few days ago, I posted about stepping stones and journeys. And I’ve mentioned the value in taking our time and the importance of slowing down to appreciate the small things.

When we hit crossroads in life, we’re given the option to decide with a multiplicity of unforeseen consequences. These can be good or bad things, but we can rarely see their nature until after choosing a path. This inherent unknown drives many to fear, doubt, and ruin.

Indulging in existential angst only gets us so far, though. We can meditate, introspect, and seek arbitrary counsel, but these are only pacifiers to action. It’s essential to take that first step, to accept the chance of getting lost, to wander into the labyrinthine unknowns of life.

Accepting my navigational impairment isn’t just about getting lost in parking lots. It’s about the ruts I’ve put myself in, the times in life I seem capable of only left-hand turns, the proverbial roundabouts of not learning from mistakes.

Ruts and Roundabouts

I didn’t experience my first real rut in life until college. Most of my childhood and adolescence was full of dynamic growth. And I was blessed that most of what I learned about myself and the world were good things.

But when I hit college, I hit rut after rut. I could blame it on Lubbock’s flat, dry, arid terrain and a general lack of rainfall. Or I could be honest and less metaphoric—I was stuck deep in a mess of my own making, and I couldn’t quite get out.

My parents raised me with a great work ethic: work first, play later. This made sure responsibilities were taken care of, but you still had time to enjoy yourself. And even with hard workers like my parents, there’s value in taking breaks.

Heading to college gave me an illusion of freedom and a dangerous lack of accountability. My parents paid my tuition, but I didn’t pay anything as long as I didn’t fail a course. I had minimal loans for housing and food.

In high school, I skipped class less than three times (not including a pointless mandatory assembly or two). I’ve always been a goody-two-shoes, with a rebellious streak I never paid any heed. But when life hit me over the head with its uncertainties, I gave into that temptation to rebel.

Wandering down the path of “do what you want, when you want” was so fun. I had no one to tell me to stop or slow down as I made my way down myriad self-destructive paths. And before I realized how far I’d gone, I couldn’t pull myself out.

I had no one to tell me to stop or slow down…I was caught up in childish notions of love and white knights, thinking any one of the foolish boys I met could save me from myself.

It was a slow and easy journey. I didn’t have anything pushing me along in college except the pressures I placed upon myself. I had the option to graduate in three years but chose to stay a fourth and gain a second degree.

And I finally felt wanted by the world. I had good friends in high school, but we all grew apart pretty quickly. My long-term (and only) relationship of nearly two years ended right before college, leaving me with a chasm in my chest. And I filled that emptiness however I could.

I know my ruts could’ve been more dangerous or destructive. I blame my nuclear family’s resilience and my sense of self-preservation for not doing worse to myself than I did. But I still offered up pieces of my tender heart and fragile soul in exchange for what I thought was freedom.

Trapped in my patterns of hurt and hate, I couldn’t break out of the loop. (If you ever get to LBK, you’ll find there’s only one loop worth mentioning.) I was caught up in childish notions of love and white knights, thinking any one of the foolish boys I met could save me from myself.

There was no way of knowing just how wrong I was. Fairy tales and damsels in distress fit into neatly packaged narratives, but not real life. No one can save you from yourself, especially if you’re determined to destroy everything that makes you who you are.

Bouncing my heart from one boy to another every couple of months wasn’t good for me. I kept going round and round, making the same mistake over and over, wearing myself into a rut. And it took countless mistakes to break me out of that loop.

Flipping a Bitch

When you spend your time running around, you wear yourself out. It’s part of the reason people settle into the ruts they create. You can’t spell routine without R-U-T after all.

And we all settle into dangerous or comfortable patterns. They’re familiar, things we understand which evoke an illusion of control over our lives. But eventually, you hit a point where you’re tired of circling back on yourself, and you want to try something new.

Getting lost means lots of turning around and circling back on yourself. In Texas, we’ve got lots of roadways and space for turning around. We use U-turns at almost every underpass (or at least that’s what it feels like).

I didn’t know that these are pretty popular in my home state, but not so much for other areas. Considering how often I miss turns, turnarounds like these are always something I’ve appreciated. When I got older, I learned a fun phrase for U-turns called “flipping a bitch.”

Often, I’m stressed when I get lost because I have somewhere to be at a specific time. Other times, I don’t mind the warm sun coming in through my windshield as I casually course correct. There’s something so nice about happening across a new cute house, a coffee shop to investigate or the simple pleasure of a good meander.

But when you’re ready to turn your life around, you do have to flip a bitch. It’s not always pleasant, and you’ll likely find resistance along the way. But getting out of ruts and roundabouts might mean circling back, too.

You can’t spell routine without R-U-T after all.

When I finally accepted I was in a rut, I got mad. I mean, furious. Now I know that anger was part of the fight response inherent to anxiety. At the time, I remember being mad at so many people.

I pushed away friends I felt couldn’t change or weren’t willing to adapt to the future. I found myself focusing solely on fewer friends who’d made the time and effort to be there (and consequently were trying to change, despite whatever obstacles presented themselves). And I was happier and better off for it.

I’m not close with many friends from college, but I have a friend group I’d practically die for today. I don’t know many people in their late 20’s who can claim as such. Getting to where I am today took lots of flipped bitches.

Destinations and Journeys

All this talk of getting lost and turning around, has ne thinking about why we journey through life. I’ve had the destination vs. journey debate a few times in my life, finding merit in both. I think we value one or the other based on where we are in life.

I prefer the journey to the destination. When anxious, I fixate on the destination, but I always enjoy myself more when I take time to appreciate the journey.

I won’t argue: both are equally important. Debating over which is more important reminds me of a debate I had over the importance of breakfast. My friend argued for its importance in starting the day and needing to be healthy, but not elaborate. He went as far as to claim as not even liking breakfast.

Take the story of each journey one page at a time…

As an avid fan of all things breakfast, I disagreed. The principles of breakfast depend on taking the intentional time to create a little bit of delicious motivation in the morning to start your day. Of course, you can’t sit down daily for a decadent brunch, but that doesn’t mean even the healthiest diet can’t be enjoyable.

The same idea applies to destinations and journeys. Take the story of each journey one page at a time, and you’ll cherish the destination that much more. And getting lost on the way is as much an obstacle to the destination as it is as part of the journey.

I can assert that my getting lost, frustrating as it may be, is an essential part of my past. I wouldn’t give up my screwups and flipped bitches for anything. For every rut I’ve turned back from, I’ve had time to reflect on my mistakes and change. I’ve discovered opportunities to grow I might’ve otherwise missed.

Right now, I’m struggling to break out of yet another rut before I go roundabout, making the same mistake again. I know I’m going to be lost again as long as I’m alive. And as much as I fear not knowing my place, I’m excited.

Embracing uncertainty makes the destination worth all the work it took to get there. Every journey is enriched by a willingness to wander into the unknown. And every roundabout gives us a chance to look back before we build up the momentum to break the cycle and escape the rut.


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Cultivation

Once upon a time, I had a conversation with a friend. We spoke of past hurts and creating spaces to grow and experience wholeness. He even enlightened me to the reality that men should make this for women (if they love them).

It’s called locus amoenus (low-cuss a-moy-nhus). This Latin phrase translates to a “pleasant place,” according to the illustrious Google translator’s detection. It seems to be a phrase fraught with historical and social implications (one I don’t feel like exploring here).

This friend is a theologian of sorts, enamored with Renaissance notions of chivalry, polished to a beautiful pre-Industrial sheen. He’s as labyrinthine in logic as me, so I can’t claim to understand all his motives. I do know his reasoning for sharing this phrase with me.

As we sat on a back porch, sipping whisky and sharing sentiments, I had a moment of recognition. It was the first time I realized a man could love you incompletely the futility of utility (a.k.a., use). This moment was the start of something pivotal in my personal growth.

I needed to learn this truth from a friend not in love with me. I could hear the truth of what he said without distractions of personal motive. This rational epiphany gave me the moral objectivity needed for healthy introspection.

Before that conversation, I’d never considered what a man is supposed to do, why he’s called to it, and how I deserved it. We’ve all got self-esteem issues, sure, but when people you trust use you up, it changes how you see the world (and your place in it) forever. And for a long time, I didn’t feel like I deserved a pleasant place.

Insecurities aside, I realized I was more than worthy (we all are) of something secure and pleasant. It’s not a question of worth but a recognition of our inherent dignity. And too many of us aren’t raised to see that in one another anymore.

My parents raised me to see this in others. I could chalk it up to moral fiber, faith, their upbringing, or a million other little reasons. I know this: my father created a pleasant place for my mother when the world told him he owed her no obligation. And he strives to provide this space for her through every day of their union.

Mind you, I didn’t always recognize my father’s role in creating a space for my mother in his heart, but if a man loves a woman, he does this. I’d never describe my father as a gardener. Despite his deep appreciation for the natural world, he’s a hunter above all else.

But the same reverence he holds for God’s greenery he shows for the garden of my mother’s heart. And, damn, if that doesn’t move me to tears. I’m so blessed to have this model of love in my life. Make no mistake, I recognize it as the unicorn who rests in a garden.

Taming a wild heart is no mere task.

Taming a wild heart is no mere task. It often scars the man who tries, and it’s nothing to be taken lightly. This taming is even more challenging when the world disillusions both unicorn and gardener.

Over time, I’ve come to see these scars in my father. I saw those in my mother sooner—as we talk matters of heart and spirit more often. Seeing this legendary romance in those who reared me gives a good frame of reference for choosing the right man for me.

Garden of the Heart

Before I venture further into the man’s role of creating a space, I must write of the woman’s role, rite, and privilege, too. There’s a reason we refer to nature, and the earth is the feminine. Mother Earth, Gaia, and other cultural signifiers reflect femininity’s relationship with creation and life.

I’m a believer in the garden of the heart. It’s a fertile crescent, an Eden of potential for love and courage. But of the many metaphors for growth and discovery, there are just as many for corruption and decay.

When we think of the heart’s chambers as garden boxes to till and tend, think of everything from soil to leaves to vines to branches to sunlight to weeds to rot and to new growth. There are all sorts of lovely biblical implication to insert here, so there’s nothing particularly original to add.

I could mention our role as branches of the vine. I could also refer to the parable of mustard seeds or the weeds which grow up among the wheat. I could refer to the fruits of the Holy Spirit, too.

There’s so much rich imagery about harvest and growth and the price of neglect in the Bible. I really do love it, but my modern takeaway isn’t some primordial ode to the divine feminine, nor is it partial only to my Catholic upbringing. I’m talking about something innate to every womanly body.

We try to subvert or reinterpret natural truth, and it’s often to our detriment as a species. The kind of misconceptions we carry about our bodies is due to a myriad of maladies. Most often, it starts with a disorder untraceable beyond the subatomic—it’s of soul stuff.

So much of today’s world pretends to protect when it poisons from within, a wolf among sheep, weeds among the wheat. I mentioned earlier how I experienced incomplete love from the men who used me. I’m not blameless here. I want to state that I returned the incomplete love I offered.

Most of the time, I didn’t see the love as incomplete, but hindsight reveals much. What I chose to do in my past relationships didn’t feel like use. We were happy and enjoyed what we shared, no matter how small and incomplete it was.

We were happy and enjoyed what we shared, no matter how small and incomplete it was.

The world tells us, guides and molds us into believing that we should settle for less. And when we have the truest good in our lives, less really is more. But most of the time, we supplement what we settle for because it falls short of the truest good.

We’re so incredibly gifted at lying to ourselves, at deluding ourselves into believing in an illusion of abundance. But the truest, most beautiful things are unicorns in gardens. They’re the cliched flower sprouting out of concrete. These things are often buried amongst the weeds, rarely standing out as the legendary things they are.

I’ve written before about taking time to look for these things. I’ve written of building the mindset, skills, and virtue to see and hear these things. I’ve written of appreciating everything for the golden moment it may be, and still I cannot see.

Still, I remain blind and ignorant to so much of what I try to see. It’s one of many reasons I find the notion of revisiting the past so healthy (assuming it’s not for self-blame or idealistic malingering).

I find my retrospections a consistent form of enlightenment, largely when they’re fertilized by sources outside my garden. For instance, pressed flowers may be the memories we choose to keep. The beauty isn’t the same as it once was; the life essence dried up.

But there’s still a beauty present, albeit a different one. The lingering scent of what once was intoxicates, all the same, a nostalgic perfume. And the blooms pulled from our garden hearts depend on how well we tend them.

Despite what modernity shouts at the tops of its lungs, there is strength in silence and patience. As a strong-willed woman, I struggle with this. Many of my peers fight this, too, seeing it as timidity, sexism, denial of agency, and worse.

But if we’re too busy yelling for attention, who’s ear do we draw? I don’t want to scream my throat raw to capture anyone’s attention. I may be loud, but it’s from my love of life (and a natural ability to project).

The garden of the heart must not harden into fallow ground, despite what fear and doubt and delusion demand. More than ever, we women must embrace our virtue. We must create a place of calm within to weather the maddening world outside.

If we neglect our gifts, our strengths, we neglect those we dream of one day loving. I say this for myself as much as any women who read this. This simple truth shouldn’t be controversial, yet some would deem it as such.

The truth is hard to accept, even once recognized. Acceptance means actions of sacrifice, change, and vulnerability. It means no more hiding in the quiet, cozy comforts of naivete and immaturity.

When we carve out a space for visitors to our garden hearts, we can dazzle them with once-in-a-lifetime beauty. But we must take the time to cultivate our gardens into things of beauty. If we wall them off, denying sunshine’s truth, they’ll wither and fade. And if we let anyone wander through, we risk more than we know.

Guarding the heart might seem like a wise solution, but alas, it’s not. If anything, we risk our hearts becoming overgrown, untended spaces for wild terrors to rest. A heart overgrown with wildflowers seems romantic (and in some circumstances, it is!)

A heart overgrown with wildflowers seems romantic, but everything that grows in the wild isn’t as beautiful as it seems…

But everything that grows in the wild isn’t as beautiful as it seems. Some wild flora and fauna choke out native plants. If foreign flora finds its way into your untended heart, you may find yourself overwhelmed.

There’s a reason gardens are hallmarks of civilization. Many cultures develop unique methods to tend their gardens, from the Arabic tendency for symmetry and balance to the Japanese emphasis on union and harmony to the Irish transition of utility to ecologic form.

Our hearts have their own ways of blooming, requiring different levels of care. Different things nurture different types of flora, some requiring more or less attention. Each of us blooms in our own season, and it’s important to recognize our inherent perennial natures.

Some parts of our garden hearts may rarely bloom. There are some flowers that only bloom once annually, or every few years, or even once a century. Some things bloom only once, fading into the dust of the past.

Stepping Stones

Walking through a garden requires some kind of path. It may appear as a simple dirt walkway, as concrete steps, or ornate mosaics handmade with care. These paths can guide us to new destinations or secret places off the beaten path. Where we wander is determined by many things, particularly the stones laid before us by our choices and experiences.

In dating, some people feel as if they’re stepping stones to the next person or experience. I find that people who feel this way lack perspective or suffered use from their dating partner. The best “stepping stones” don’t care what paths they’re part of; they’re too busy enjoying the journey.

I find wandering down unknown paths is intimidating, but it’s exhilarating, too. You can let yourself drink in the new air, the fresh sights and sounds, and smell some damn roses, too.

I can’t recall any time I ever knew at the moment that I was someone else’s stepping stone. I only recognize the roles I played in hindsight (and the same goes for those who lead me further down my path, too). I don’t begrudge those I helped along any more than I hope I am not resented for others’ parts to play in my growth.

That’s the thing about a garden; it never stays the same. No blossoms come back exactly as their original. Stones weather over time, with every passing season. We can choose which stones we follow, and even those put in our path on occasion. But we can’t stop the passing of time and how these stones wear.

Stepping stones aren’t just symbolic of use. They reflect the imprint of others’ on our lives. They’re the weight of regret, as much as the grounding stones and for hope. The largest stepping stones actually become cornerstones, foundations of our core selves.

Stones laid down can be removed from a path, but there will still be the impression of what was once there. We can’t erase others’ effects on our lives, regardless of a desire to ignore the past. Instead, we can choose what paths to follow, even choosing which stones make up which paths.


I know it’s been a couple of weeks, so I’m super grateful you stayed with me. Your patience is much appreciated, as well as the time it takes you to read my thoughts. If you’re new here and want more 🔥 content lighting up your life, sign up for email reminders. Or, you can follow my page on Facebook.

Worth It

As kids, so many of us were told we could do anything, be anything. We could be anyone we wanted to be, as long as we dreamed, willed, and worked enough. The problem with thinking you can have anything is falling into the trap of wanting and believing you can have everything.

Why settle for less when you think you deserve anything in the world? That mindset sows the seeds for entitlement and dangerous ideas like wish fulfillment, the law of attraction, and manifesting your destiny.

Last I checked, you can’t just will something into existence unless you’ve got the power of a god. No amount of wishing, wanting, or dreaming makes this happen. Conversely, some of us think we can work ourselves into having everything we could ever want, too.

I (mostly) hate to break it to you, but that’s not true, either. Half the time, those of us slaving away sacrifice the wrong things. Or, we refuse to sacrifice the things needed for the everything we believe we deserve.

Sacrificing for your dreams is a good thing, if you’re doing it for the right reasons. Losing sleep, shedding blood, sweat, and tears—these things build empires and transform dreams into reality. If you don’t stop to think about the cost, you risk being the fool rushing in.

Losing sleep, shedding blood, sweat, and tears—these things build empires and transform dreams into reality.

There’s a reason the tortoise wins instead of the hare. It’s not that neither of them worked or put in the effort, but the tortoise made sacrifices the hare wasn’t willing to make. But the world tells us we can get ahead by living like the hare.

Getting ahead isn’t just about the destination; it’s about the journey on the way, too. If you take time to stop and smell the roses, you’re less likely to miss out on life. You can appreciate your sacrifices earlier and celebrate the small wins, too.

Those small wins are often underestimated. But even the greatest of the greats knows when to stop, take a deep breath, and enjoy the view (even if it’s not at the top quite yet). The key to getting the big wins is reminding yourself why your sacrifices matter.

Believe it or not, passion, motivation, and discipline run out. These are renewable resources, but what it takes to maintain them is beyond sheer willpower. We’re not hardwired to go and go and go without stopping.

We’re made for connection and if we don’t keep in touch with our loved ones, we’re likely to lose sight of our dreams and goals. We are more than our purpose. We’re immortal souls full of life and endless possibility.

It’s this same inherent infinity the world confuses with deserving anything and everything. So much of this life is spent untangling near-truth from actuality. And the best falsehoods are closest to the truth, those lies we tell ourselves most easily.

Making the time to see the truth is essential to reaching the top. Flying to Everest’s summit isn’t the same as putting in the months of hard work to get there. Having the discipline to reach the loftiest goals doesn’t happen overnight.

It takes time to build good habits and to keep ourselves motivated along the way. Part of that motivation comes from a healthy relationship with hope. If you’re having a hard time experiencing the faith needed to hope, you’re likely suffering from low motivation, too.

The best motivation comes from within ourselves. Extrinsic motivation is fleeting and often prey to others’ motives. When we introspect, it forces us to face truths we might otherwise avoid.

Internal reflection protects us from moving too fast or slow towards our goals. It forces us to question our purpose and the why of ourselves behind that purpose. It also guides us towards making the right sacrifices and forgoing that comfy afternoon nap (a la Aesop’s hare).

But when we don’t introspect, we look outside our souls (i.e., outside God) for inspiration. External motivators emphasize that in-the-moment, YOLO garbage. They’re limited to finite, material, short-lived satisfactions.

Spiritual Wealth

Material wealth doesn’t matter for our souls. You can’t hoard life’s intangibles (e.g., spiritual gifts) either. I guess that means it’s something to be shared.

Initially, I’d consider the divine inheritance God made for us all. He not only created heaven and earth for us but filled us with the ability to love and create. Our endless chances for redemption, give us the gift of eternal life.

This merely begins the gifts bestowed on us that we don’t have to earn. These include:

  • God’s unconditional, perpetual love;
  • His patience and forgiveness of our repeated mistakes;
  • His constant presence, so we’re never alone;
  • and His choice to offer up His only son (which technically counts as offering up himself, as God and Christ are one and the same).
  • Also, His choice to become flesh and walk among us.

I guess these are a few perks of having an omniscient, omnipotent, and omnipresent being on your side. Keep in mind, these are aspects of spiritual wealth we don’t even work for. Remember, we’re also all granted the immortal parts of ourselves, our souls.

These parts of us have their own intrinsic value called dignity. Dignity is defined and discussed in-depth in the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC), with particularly helpful cross-references. I’ve hyperlinked these texts to the Holy See for those of you who wish to research further.

These sections label seven articles of dignity: defining what it is, how we should express it, and why we have it. The ultimate goal of your dignity is that of fully devoted, lived, and expressed charity (i.e., God’s love).

“The dignity of the human person is rooted in his creation in the image and likeness of God (article 1); it is fulfilled in his vocation to divine beatitude (article 2). It is essential to a human being freely to direct himself to this fulfillment (article 3). By his deliberate actions (article 4), the human person does, or does not, conform to the good promised by God and attested by moral conscience (article 5). Human beings make their own contribution to their interior growth; they make their whole sentient and spiritual lives into means of this growth (article 6). With the help of grace they grow in virtue (article 7), avoid sin, and if they sin they entrust themselves as did the prodigal son to the mercy of our Father in heaven (article 8). In this way they attain to the perfection of charity”

(CCC 1700).

Unearned wealth aside, let’s discuss the aspects of spiritual wealth we must continually work toward. Dignity calls us to actively work on ourselves. Your soul must live, love, and create to its fullest expression. You’re not really living life to the fullest if you only do so for yourself. Your soul power (i.e. dignity) is the accumulation and dispersal of spiritual wealth.

If I’m being honest with myself, I’ve often attempted to hoard my spiritual wealth. My selfishness derives itself from a place of fear and mistrust.

Thinking about my past behavior, I posed a query to my friend, “Why are dragons always bad? Why can’t they be helpful, instead of monstrously selfish?”

She told me, “Dragons symbolize greed. They represent an obsessive need, of that same eternal hunger and thirst we all crave. Instead of seeking love, their desires are corrupted, thus their hoarding of material wealth. Tolkien’s dragons are an allegorical tool for this corruption of common desires (e.g. a need to feel loved or fulfilled).”

So I proposed becoming a dragon of friendship. I feel that the best-version-of-myself is present when I try to embody friendship as best I can. I want to get to a point where I’m willing to offer up my spiritual wealth by laying my life down for another without even thinking about it.

True friendship is all about giving and living servant-hearted. Why not amass an incorporeal amount of spiritual wealth to give it all away? Mostly, because you can’t. Also, you should be giving it away all the time, so you only ever have small amounts.

True friendship is all about giving and living servant-hearted.

If you could be an antithetical dragon of friendship, fire would spark impassioned blaze and warmth during despair and doubt. Talons would ward off foul gremlins of fear. Wings would carry friends to new adventures and belief in the not-so-impossible.

You wouldn’t be a beast slain by St. George but advance alongside him into battle, a fellow champion against wickedness. Make yourself into a creature of legend so that the real monsters are afraid to come out.


Thanks yet again for reading my thoughts on the inner workings of our storied lives. If you want to stay tuned for more content, sign up for email reminders!

Don’t Be a Prick

What are your thorns, exactly? Your flaws and imperfections. These work-in-progress parts of you are vital. They mark a space once tender, now ready to defend off untoward influence.

Like your soft-petaled hopes and dreams, your prickles are vital. Think of them as boundaries. Where your leafy, nourishing goals are concerned, prickles have their rightful place on you. The next time a thorn grows, don’t remove it. Let it remind you of growth.

Allow it to be part of the whole you, not a scar of a shameful reminder. We all have thorns; it’s how we use them that defines their purpose. Most importantly, don’t be a prick.

There’s more to this cliched adage than you know. Today’s post is a bramble about finding joy in the in-between spaces (e.g., uncertain crossroads). The rose encompasses this sentiment perfectly.

For years, I’ve loved the feel and smell of roses. They’re almost my favorite flower, coming in a close second to other blossoms. My love of roses probably began with my favorite Disney movie, Beauty and the Beast.

I loved the contrast between the monstrosity of the Beast’s rage and his delicate deadly curse. It makes sense he’d be so prickly about protecting such a fragile, powerful symbol of his fate.

These buds symbolize many things globally, beyond a fairy tale curse. Each of their colors represents something unique. I’m a sucker for symbolism.

Anyway, today’s post is about stopping to smell the roses. It’s not just about slowing down and living in the moment. It’s also about how roses can make your life a little easier.

I mentioned to my mom why I like these flowers so much. She’d remarked on my smelling nice. (I don’t typically wear perfume.) I explained to her about the new spray I’d purchased, which included rose essential oil. 

Then I went on to tell her that I’d realized why I enjoyed rose so much. I’ve purchased facial mist, lotion, and body spray in the last several months, all including rose essential oils. I found some homeopathic articles explaining how a rose is a natural mood enhancer (i.e., mild antidepressant, anxiety reliever). As quick as I was to believe this, I also needed some science to make sure I wasn’t self-inducing a placebo effect.

Unearthing the Science

So, I did my research. One particular meta-study by Mohebitabar et al. (2017) compiled and surveyed various similar studies on the physiological and psychological effects of Rosa damascena, a more commonly used rose essential oil. Rose oil reduced depressive symptoms in male and female participants suffering major depressive disorders and taking SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors) (Mohebitabar et al., 2017). Patients also saw an uptick in sexual arousal, reduced pain when the rose oil was in analgesic form, and reduced norepinephrine (Mohebitabar et al., 2017).

As helpful as meta-studies are, they’re usually introductory pieces when you have a more targeted goal. So I sought another source that examined alternatives to commonly prescribed treatments for major depressive disorder.

According to Sánchez-Vidaña et al.(2017), up to 30% of first-line antidepressants are ineffective, leading to more people exploring complementary and alternative medicine (CAM), neurolinguistic reprogramming, exercise, mindfulness, meditation, and so on.

Aromatherapy, which uses essential oils, is a form of CAM. This systematic review (Sánchez-Vidaña et al., 2017) targeted those CAM treatments specifically used for depressive disorder relief, unlike Mohebitabar et al. (2017), which compiled all data on rose oil aromatherapy. Sánchez-Vidaña et al. (2017) found participants ranged from age 21-73 and included cancer patients, pregnant women, menopausal women, patients diagnosed with depression and/or anxiety, children with ADD/ADHD, women volunteers, and others.

Sánchez-Vidaña et al. (2017) studied a variety of aromatherapy, not just R. damascena. Inhalation aromatherapy was variably effective where massage aromatherapy proved to be overall more effective (Sánchez-Vidaña et al., 2017; Nazıroğlu et al., 2013).

Water Your Thorns

Now that I’ve gone on about the science and symbolism of roses, let’s talk about their other parts. Everyone fixates on the pretty delicate details, forgetting the different aspects which protect these buds from disease and predators. I’m talking about the ugly parts people snip off to avoid pain. (I hope you see where I’m going with this…)

If you’re stopping to smell the roses, you might as well take in the whole picture. Assuming you understood the essence of smelling roses, there’s another part about flaws I think we can relate to.

This isn’t the first time I’ve addressed imperfection, and it certainly won’t be the last. Looking at just the beauty or utility of roses insults modern and past cultivars alike. The effort it takes to breed roses thorn-free is no small task.

I’m okay with a pricked finger. If a rose has thorns, it typically yields a sweeter scent or bigger blossom. Removing thorns isn’t actually necessary for anything but making the blooms’ beauty more attainable.

If inner beauty’s a rose, let’s make it mystical! Rosebuds don’t open overnight without expert care and lots of patience. They’re temperamental blooms and require lots of attention to grow big and healthy and beautiful.

Thinking about my own prickly nature has me think about pruning myself down for others. I think it’s vital for us to recognize when and how we can prick others. It’s about making the good and beautiful parts of ourselves more accessible, without opening out tender flesh to spiritual pestilence.

Thorns aside, consider the leaves of any rosebush. They sustain the entire plant by absorbing sunlight and converting it into nutrients. They’re not the prettiest part of the plant but are quite vital. The real catch is the prickles.

Most cultivars, gardeners, florists, and consumers remove these for fear of pricking a finger. They don’t consider the necessity of these least desirable parts. The sweeter the rose, the bigger the thorns. Those roses which bloom biggest often have prickles; it’s a natural defense mechanism.

The sweeter the rose, the bigger the thorns. Prune your thorns, and you leave yourself wide open…

The lovely bumble bee floats along, intoxicated by the floral aroma. It remains unharmed by the large thorns. Its welcome presence results in harmonious mutualism. More than friends are summoned by an open bud.

Predators come, lurking along the ground. They gnaw at pretty petals. Instead of a feast, they taste prickly, viny flesh. Injured by the mouthful of prickle or merely dissatisfied, they scurry into the shadows from whence they came.

Not all roses are equipped with self-protection. Some aren’t prickly at all. They’re feasted upon, their blooms consumed before they fully blossom. The same goes for pruned roses.

Stripped of their armor, they now lie open to predators and disease. The same is true for you and me. Prune your thorns, and you leave yourself open to the world (and not in a good way).

Once, I read some quote about watering your thorns. I dismissed it as some odd cliche then, but realized its significance with time. It’s about accepting the gestalt of ourselves.

We’re made incomplete by so many things. A lot of our brokenness comes from things we do to ourselves, including relying on our thorns too much or removing them for the unworthy.

So much of who I am comes from recognizing the need to blossom. Trust me, it’s so much easier to obscure our natural beauty (and I’m talking beyond skin deep). I’ve hurt myself, trusted those who betrayed me, etc.

Stopping to smell the roses is about taking some time to just be. You can’t appreciate growth from pain if you don’t make the damned time. You can’t rush knowledge or healing.

Taking life one page at a time allows us to see things in new light. So much of change and growth is cultivating a garden for our inner beauty to blossom. If we take the time to look for the thorns we might’ve otherwise missed, we save ourselves a little bit of pain.

Tending to these subtle details can bring us to fuller growth. We can bloom bigger and prettier than ever, given the time and right (spiritual) nutrients.

Neglecting these details withers the beauty of our souls (as much as overtending does, too). Before we know it, those things which seemed as insignificant pests become a gardenful of blight.

What Lies Beneath

We’ll tell ourselves the biggest lies to dismiss the blights growing in our souls. We’ll deny once, twice, three times. And we’ll do it until we hit rock bottom.

Some of us hit that bedrock and find our footing. Some people find sense in dead, thorny stalks. They’d rather take familiar pain over the hard work and risks of beautiful vulnerability.

They’ll come up with the most common reasons for why they just can’t do it. These little lies smell like manure, because that’s what they are. A big old pile of bullshit. Do you ever tell yourself any of this crap?

  • Just five more minutes and then I’ll get up.
  • Oh, it’s ok. I’ll do it tomorrow.
  • Don’t worry about it. She’ll get over it.
  • Hey, sorry to cancel on you last minute, but…
  • I’m just a couple minutes late; I’m sure they’ll understand.

In the past, I’ve been willing to burn my time, my reputation, my good will with others, and more to cover up my flaws. I rely on the goodness of others not when I need to, but when I can. And that makes all the difference.

Since then, I’ve learned what my personal brand of BS smells like. Normally, I’d say manure’s a great thing for blooming flowers. But for personal, spiritual, overall growth, honesty is the best fertilizer around.

To hear the truth, accept, believe, and share it, I think you’ve got to rid yourself of your personal smokescreen first.  If you’re closed to the actual truths about yourself, accepting external truth will be more difficult.

I don’t even mean the truths you’ve actively denied or buried with those best, personal lies. For example, I didn’t know my pride and ego were so big last year. So significant, in fact, that I couldn’t see how it affected my choices and kept me stuck.

Conversely, I’ve been well aware of my lack of discipline and my need to develop and maintain better habits. Yet, when opportunities arose, I denied and ignored the chance for growth, pruning and burying truths about myself (i.e., my fear, pride, obstinance).

Obscuring these obvious truths resulted in me holding myself back. My eyes watered and throat choked because of how much I’d burned and how I’d lied and how I’d denied myself into withered blooms. There’s a reason I lost sight of me for a little while.

Some people find sense in dead, thorny stalks. They’d rather take familiar pain over the hard work and risks of beautiful vulnerability.

The main point is, I wasn’t listening to the whisper of truth in my heart from God and that had me LOSTThat’s why this whole self-growth and development thing is so important. It’s about sharing my gifts, my heart, my fire with the world. That’s the rosebud blooming in me (and it wasn’t easy to find).

Whether people need  me there or not isn’t the question. The right people stop and smell the roses. The most important thing we can do is share our beauty, inspiring them to stop and try to grow, too.


Thanks again for stopping by and taking a whiff of my brain’s blooming ideas. Whatever you take away from today’s post, I help it brings you closer to cultivating your own peaceful garden (because you certainly deserve it). For updates, follow me on Facebook or sign up for email reminders.


References

Nazıroğlu M, Kozlu S, Yorgancıgil E, Uğuz AC, Karakuş K. Rose oil (from Rosa×damascena mill.) vapor attenuates depression‑induced oxidative toxicity in rat brain. J Nat Med. 2013;67:152.

Mohebitabar, S., Shirazi, M., Bioos, S., Rahimi, R., Malekshahi, F., & Nejatbakhsh, F. (2017). Therapeutic efficacy of rose oil: A comprehensive review of clinical evidence. Avicenna journal of phytomedicine7(3), 206-213.

Sánchez-Vidaña, D. I., Ngai, S. P., He, W., Chow, J. K., Lau, B. W., & Tsang, H. W. (2017). The effectiveness of aromatherapy for depressive symptoms: A systematic review. Evidence-based complementary and alternative medicine : eCAM2017, 5869315.

Nurturing Hope

I am not predisposed to subtlety. I live loudly, and that reality inspires and intimidates. I hope that living loud encourages others to do the same.

Overcoming fear is an essential step to nurturing hope. It takes courage to face fear, the same kind of courage required to experience faith and hope.

Since I’m all about spicing up life, embracing the unexpected is my idea of adventure. I’m already pretty memorable, but I’ve struggled with living bravely for several reasons. The biggest reason is a lack of grace, less socially and more so spiritually.

None of us lovely souls is without the potential for grace. I’ve merely denied opportunities to embrace it, letting my fears run rampant. In my disgrace, I felt the need to dampen my personality. The “me” I presented to the world was muted, a wet blanket. I was too disconnected from God, caught up in my fears and doubts.

My spiritual disconnection left me adrift in life’s myriad currents. I needed change, as I felt certain parts of my life stagnating, so I tried to force a future into being. This effort resulted in my poor decision to lessen myself. I couldn’t fit into who I should be, watering myself down.

In this shrinking of myself, I grew apart from God’s plan for me. I found myself tolerating a professional bully. I cared too much for the opinion of those unwilling to change. I let others’ fears and expectations get to me. I turned myself into a victim, inviting criticism, under-appreciation, and ignorance.

The more I watered myself down, the more I resented present people and opportunities. Losing myself meant muting the world’s colors, and I was too afraid to hope again. Instead of giving in to fear, I dared to hope.

Instead of giving in to fear, I dared to hope.

I’ve got a complicated relationship with hope. But honestly, don’t we all? If hope comes easy to you, it’s for one of two reasons.

Either you’re spiritually mature and wise beyond your years, or you’ve never had your hopes dashed so severely you’re afraid to hope again. I mean the kind of put your faith in someone so blindly and intensely, you find even hoping terrifying.

Maybe I’m wrong, and nurturing hope isn’t as hard as I think. But even with the receptivity I’m working on, I find cultivating a space for hope challenging.

Over time, I recognized my weirdness with hope and determined a lot of my fear came from my mind. I overthought, justified, and rationalized myself dizzy. This labyrinthine logic made me feel like I had Mandora’s box for a brain (a nod to the original lady with a crazy box full of dark shit, too).

When I tell people about the melancholic gravity hidden in my mind’s maze, they struggle to see it or believe me. It’s not that this darkness defines me (by no means, I fight any singular dimension defining any person, myself included).

I think people assume my joy comes from some endless faucet of energy and optimism. I’ve never been an optimist in my whole life. I blame my childhood fascination with Greek mythology and its all-too-common tragic endings for my less than sunny outlook.

Of course, this doesn’t mean I’m a pessimist, either. I don’t do idealism in more than a moment, as it often leads to dangerous ideas like daydreams and desirous delusions. And I can’t afford nonsense like that in my heart or head.

My joy doesn’t come from nothing. It comes from the deepest recognition for the gifts of suffering. Last week, I addressed some of my journey with mental health and its subsequent growing pains.

Finding this joy came at a cost, one I’m glad I paid. And I think my past battles with fear, vulnerability, and courage put me in a space to hope the right way.

In lieu of passionate, angsty daydreams, I can feel clearly. I used to think my feelings were the problem, but they’re far from it. When I get nervous about hoping for something or someone, I learn something from it.

Today, I experienced so much hope, despite my heartaches, old and new. I went to Confession (since Easter’s around the corner, I needed a check-in with God). And the number of souls I saw there brings me so much joy.

I’m grateful for the solidarity and the dedication, and I’m hopeful that people care so much about forgiveness and redemption. These are critical to experiencing true hope.

And hope’s a gift bestowed on the faithful. It’s a balm for those with unquiet minds and hearts (mine included). And I felt that today, too.

Hope’s a balm for those with unquiet minds and hearts.

In the past, I hoped for those who used me to step up and make amends, to acknowledge my worth with more than a single night’s pleasure. I’ve hoped for people to solve my problems and take away my pain. But I hoped for the wrong things from the wrong people.

As I’ve matured, I recognized misplaced hope and learned where to place it: not in other people but God. I’ve hoped beyond myself, too, realizing hoping for others is a good and beautiful thing.

Even now, I hope for old friends to discover truths that will bring them closer to joy. I hope for peace in my family and their struggles. I hope my friends find love and peace outside of superficial satisfactions.

Sure, I hope for love. But I also hope to be the best person I’m meant to be for those already in my life. I think that’s the point of nurturing hope. We’re not doing it just for today, but for tomorrow, too.

With the Flow

Making space for hope means flexibility, the kind that stems from honest vulnerability. I’m relatively flexible in that I say I like change but resist it once it’s happening. But I usually experience gratitude somewhere before a full transformation happens.

But going with the flow isn’t in my DNA (it doesn’t come naturally to me, really). I’ve learned to adapt, but I’m pretty feline when it comes to change. If you have a cat, you know what I mean.

Most of the time, I feel like I’m up a creek without a paddle. I tend to fight the currents of life. Most who know me personally would agree that my “element” is not water.

If I did live a life aquatic, I’d most likely be an ocean or a major river like the Nile, maybe a small sea. Either way, I’m not good at going with the flow. Instead, I’m more like a tidal wave or the waters held back by the Panama Canal.

I’m not something that flows calmly. I don’t slowly wear away at mountain ranges until they become Grand Canyons. Nor do I move as a giant mass and melt into great lakes.

I’m not gentle rainfall. I’m more like sleet or hail, a snowstorm if you will. I fall, crystalline and brittle. I might sting your face or bring you mild delight. Or I might dent your car. All of this depends on how hopefully I approach change.

I’m not gentle rainfall. I’m more like sleet or hail, a snowstorm

See, as we’re not entirely water, change takes time. How we approach a time of transition determines just how ready we are for a change. Essentially, throwing a fit about not getting my way with the flow of God’s plan would be like throwing my paddle into the river.

Water ebbs and flows, constantly changing and moving. Humans are only 70% water. I guess we’re only changing that much of the time. Then again, staying still and growing stagnates water as much as a person, and water does freeze.

It might stay chemically H20 but easily changes states from solid to liquid to gas. Although this level of state fluidity is not so simple for humans, metaphorically, it is. The hardest part is being open to a change of state.

Most of us suck at being too open or too closed. We come up with all sorts of excuses or guards to not change. We maintain pretenses and pressure ourselves to be what we should be vs. who we are or could be. We rush growth, or we don’t grow at all.

We never know what twists and turns life will throw at us. They require patience, grace, discipline, and willpower. Heading around life’s bends isn’t something you do alone, either. You only stay where you are when you fight the current.

Going with the flow is in your best interest. It means following God’s plan for your life. Sometimes, you’re merely along for the ride. Maybe you’ll get tossed about in some Category 5 rapids.

Don’t fret over life jostling you about. If you want a permanently smooth ride, I think you’re looking for the River Styx. When it is smooth sailing, lay back and enjoy coasting along. When it’s not, that’s your opportunity to fight for the path you’re supposed to be on. Usually, those grand rapids come from pressure to meet false expectations, throwing you off course.

I could wait hopelessly, gripping my oar and lamenting my lack of control in the situation. That’s not really me, though. As someone who elementally identifies with fire, I won’t sit still for long.

Of course, I don’t want to burn up my metaphorical boat, so I’d probably contain the flames of whatever I’m feeling. That being said, if I’m open to no longer resisting the current flow of God’s plan, then I’m going to have to turn down the heat.

You can throw your oar overboard, lament about your inability to change life’s current, or you can relax and enjoy the ride, or fight the current.

You can throw your oar overboard, lament about your inability to change life’s current, you can relax and enjoy the ride, or you might have to fight the current when monsters try to knock you off course.

It isn’t easy to go with the current when things don’t go your way. Sometimes we misinterpret the water. We take risks that might put us off course or bring us closer to our next resting place.

After the last few weeks, I’ve been struggling to make space in my boat for hope. But have I thrown my oar out yet? Nope. I share about my pain and learned resilience as a lesson and personal reflection. Going with the flow means reveling in the journey as much as the destination.


I hope y’all enjoyed this week’s post! If you missed out on last week’s post about pain and the gifts of suffering, check it out here. If you don’t wanna miss out on stuff like this, sign up for email reminders (since Facebook seems to refuse to notify anyone).

Growing Pains

There’s no such thing as life truly lived without pain. The world wounds us, and we hurt one another. Strangers and loved ones alike, we all share in suffering.

 Different kinds of pain hit you differently. Most pains sit in your chest or your gut, but the way they feel differs. Some pains are heavy, long-lived, fleeting, or come in waves.

 That loss can drain you down into a seemingly abyssal chasm. Betrayal snakes its way through your intestines, hooking itself behind your navel and resting there uneasily.

 Heartaches and various rejections come and go in waves—their pangs of hurt swell in your chest, an unrelenting tide. Just when you feel as if the waves might break, the oncoming tide fills your heart until you’re fit to burst.

 I find bearing the weight of suffering survivable. It’s not pleasant or easy but is livable. I find it a heavy burden, one I struggle to carry at times but must do to avoid falling under its crushing weight.

 Adjusting to suffering’s no small thing. It takes a lot of time, silence, and intent to acquaint yourself with its weight.

 With heartache, as with other sufferings, there’s a different kind of healing. You can’t build levees to hold the flood of hopes, dreams, and ideas you clung to.

 Instead, you have to learn to weather the pain. Whether it’s high tide or monsoon season, it’s a matter of sink or swim. As my mom says, “You can always do nothing. Doing nothing is still doing something.” But doing nothing often means we drown. And I’m done pretending I can’t swim.

 But doing nothing often means we drown. And I’m done pretending I can’t swim.

 Working through pain can strengthen us. We can’t rush healing, or we risk not fully recovering from the hurt. And the kind of suffering determines how much or how long we need to recover.

 My rational mind is impatient. It often rushes past sentiment and steamrolls my heart’s needs. I learned this soldier-on, grin-and-bear-it mentality from my father. Forcing ourselves through suffering isn’t always the solution.

 The mind’s a fickle thing. Even now, I’m inundated with whorls and eddies of possibility, each as one-of-a-kind as fingerprints. Yet, I lament these perceived “opportunities” as undertows of impossibility. Ideas are dangerous, intoxicating things.

Brutal Truth

 I stand by the value of a life fully lived with difficulty, effort, and suffering. And I stand by the belief that most things worth doing are rarely easy. Make sure you don’t confuse ease and simplicity. Sometimes, the simplest things in life are the most difficult.

 I find difficulty arises most often in representations of pain. Adjacent to the effort, suffering (often but not always) indicates growth.

 Over the years, I’ve transformed from an anxious, withdrawn bookworm into something else. I’ve been told I always had no problem expressing my opinions. For the most part, I believe this claim about my childhood self.

 My best friend reflects fearlessness and strength, and courage even in our youth. It’s the first thing that drew me to her, this ability to be herself unapologetically. It was and is a source of inspiration to me. It’s the same innate reason I dared voice my opinions, despite my fears of rejection and judgment.

 I remember holding back my thoughts, feelings, ideas—myself. I was so afraid my truths would hurt others or isolate me in their intensity.

 Once upon a time, I used to fear the truth. As I aged and matured, I recognized the importance of sharing the truth with others. I learned to share truths there, only mine to share, becoming vault and confidant to peers and close friends.

 Holding onto others’ truths bestowed a sense of power and entitlement. Fortunately, I took pleasure in simply knowing. As a result, I never intentionally betrayed another’s trust.

Knowing hidden truths is as dangerous as having ideas. You can learn things you never wanted to about yourself

 But knowing hidden truths is as dangerous as having ideas. You can learn things you never wanted to about yourself and others. Turning away is difficult, too, as it removes a sense of ownership or belonging.

 And when you’re faced solely with truths of self, it’s the loneliest damned thing. So I came to learn the emptiness of withholding the truth. Yet my fullest appreciation of truth didn’t arrive until college.

 My time in college wasn’t all it could’ve been in part from the mental health roller coaster ride I experienced. I discovered what depression and suicidality do to a person. I discovered the truth’s brutality.

 Accepting I wasn’t okay and needed help hurt. A lot. It also brought on unanticipated relief, the kind only brought in discovering truth. Truth is brutal but is fair.

 So I spent four years fighting an uphill battle. At times, I was alone. At other times, I had a friend or boy who loved me along for the ride.

 It’s either you or the monster driving your life.

 But they never made it into the driver’s seat. With depression, it’s either you or the monster driving your life. On the best days, you’re doing the steering. On the worst, you crash.

 Learning no one could bear the weight of my illness but me was terrifying and painful. It angered me, too, more than I’d ever been in my life.

 I cursed a God who’d let me be so broken, one who gave me the conscience to know withholding truth was the best way to spare my loved ones’ pain. Part of me is glad I held back because supporting someone through depression is no walk in the park.

 I lost more than one friend and ended a relationship while I was unwell. Knowing I spared my family that hurt brings minor solace. When I recognize how many times we could’ve loved one another, I regret not telling them.

Vale La Pena

 After my anger dissipated, I started to experiencing gratitude. It wasn’t an overnight resolution. As peace gradually trickled in, I had the purest clarity. I saw the truth of my pain and realized its purpose.

 In peace, I found the necessity of my suffering. The greatest gift my journey through depression gave is the utmost appreciation and gratitude for this brief, miraculous life.

 I’ve discovered so much about humanity, my loved ones, my faith, and myself since wandering that lonely road. I can honestly say if I hadn’t walked that path, I’d be a shadow of the woman I am today.

 Bearing this life takes a hideous strength, once accompanied by growing pains. But surviving that pain strengthens and invigorates the soul.

 It makes us the best versions of ourselves, cutting away false security and idle comfort. It brings us closer to something higher than ourselves (if we let it). Pain teaches us things are worth doing because we’re growing—closer to truth and stronger in ways we’d never imagined.

Pain teaches us things are worth doing because we’re growing—closer to truth and stronger in ways we’d never imagined.

 This journey into the unknown has taught me the value of pain. The suffering and struggle are worth it. A friend recently told me, “Vale la pena,” which roughly means “worth the pain or sorrow; it’s worth it.”

 It’s this same experience with pain that reminds me why I opened my heart to the unknown. Beginning to date, even allowing myself the option, was about so much more than “putting myself out there.” It was casting off old habits, beliefs, and comforts—an emergence to a willingly-accepted unknown.

 I walk these crossroads, these paths of uncertainty, knowing I asked for it. I am exactly where I should be, even if I don’t know why or where that is. The things I’m learning and rediscovering alongside the growing pains bring me ever closer to the true path intended for my life.


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Ponderance

One of my biggest pet peeves is willful ignorance. People close themselves off to the truth, especially when it contradicts their preconceived perceptions. It’s a terrible habit we’ve all normalized to lull ourselves into false security. I’m no exception to this rule.

 I deny the truth for security or self-protection too often. I don’t typically consider myself a close-minded person, but I’m the worst when it comes to my head and heart. Closing myself to the truth seems like a good idea sometimes.

 Anyone who knows me personally wouldn’t argue my intensity, passion, or expressiveness. Rarer are those who recognize my tendency for deep introspection. My propensity for self-reflection often conflicts (and eventually resolves) and opposition between my head and heart.

 Most often, my heart’s dragging its heels as my head leads the way. Occasionally, my heart grabs the reins and sends me on reckless adventures. When I’m feeling brave yet afraid, I’m usually open to my heart’s yearnings.

 But other times, I guard my heart (and not necessarily in the best way). I overprotect myself, deny my feelings, and ignore God. And that’s no bueno.

 I’ve been blogging a lot recently about vulnerability, courage, and bravery. But today, I wanted to address a special kind of strength I struggle with most. I wanted to talk about the power that lies in acceptance.

 This conflict confuses the heck out of me, leaving me with one big question: WHY. And I have done so much to try and answer this question in my life. A lot of what I’ve done hasn’t helped but has hurt me (and others).

Responding to Uncertainty

 Lately, dating has me all kinds of shook up. My endless internal conflict is only magnified as I fight the intoxication of my ideas. When I dream about “missed opportunities,” I miss the life in front of me.

 Past me couldn’t stop this dangerous pastime of thought. I’d spiral out of control, wending my way through a labyrinth of pain and false hope. And it was a path I used to walk alone.

 I fought acceptance at every turn, isolating myself. This pushed me further and further into a downward spiral. It made the truth stranger than fiction (and thus, easier to dismiss).

 Healthier, stable me finally understands chronic vs. event-based mental health issues. And it’s made me a better human being. But knowing I’m an anxious mess makes me proactive.

 Knowing proactivity is a good thing, I usually take action. The issue lies with taking the initiative when you need to sit back and listen. Taking a less traveled road to acceptance is still taking action.

 I waver one minute from anxious to peaceful to hopeful resolution. The next minute, I’m hurting over fear, questions of self-worth, then struggling with acceptance. Sometimes, I’m in a rage and exhausted and want it all to stop.

 My feelings about uncertainty put me out. When I’m only certain of my uncertainty, I itch for action. But not looking before you leap can land you in shark-infested waters.

 I suck at waiting. And the path towards graceful, peaceful acceptance is an uphill battle. I get tired of climbing that muddy, uneven slope.

 The upturned earth trips me, chips away at my resolve. Each step gets harder the closer I get to the top. I persevere, knowing that view is so worth it.

 What slows that climb isn’t the earth I trod. It’s the weight I bear. It’s a weigh unborn by the likes of Atlas or Sisyphus. It’s a weight all women carry.

 We, as women, were made for receptivity. We receive the phenomenal weight of life, no matter how we try to deny it. Our literal capacity for bearing life defines so much about our inherent strength.

 To be a woman is to receive the weight of so much expectation. How we bear that weight and what we do with that strength is what defines us as individuals. It’s what makes or breaks a phenomenal woman.

In a world where femininity is thwarted by a culture prone to cancel the truth, the weight we bear increases evermore. It’s a two-way street, too. The more we have to accept, the more support we need from our male counterparts. Eventually, it’s too much to bear for anyone.

 One of the truths of feminine genius is the crossroads of acceptance, vulnerability, courage, and strength.

 One of the truths of feminine genius is the crossroads of acceptance, vulnerability, courage, and strength. We don’t roll a boulder uphill until it hits the top. That’s the punishment of a purposeless man.

 Those of us women who try to follow the same Sisyphean path are bound to the same fate-never reaching a proverbial top. And those of us who bear the world on our backs will bow and eventually break (just like any man).

 And this is not our calling. We’re called to a grander ponderance, one of mobility and progress. We may never literally bear life (not all of us are privileged with this gift).

 I spoke with a couple of girlfriends last weekend about our calling to receptivity. And I boldly claim, “I can’t befriend someone who’s not open to life’s possibilities.”

 And I stand by this claim. If you’re not courageously vulnerable to life’s uncertainty or can’t accept you won’t always understand or have clarity, then you’ll never fully live. The beauty of acceptance is its simplicity.

 Earlier this week, our morning formation struck a particularly relevant chord. I hated how true it was. The relevance was providential, as the apostolic letter came out last December. Here’s what hit home the most,

 …Set aside all anger and disappointment…and embrace the way things are, even when they do not turn out as we wish. Not with mere resignation but with hope and courage. In this way, we become open to a deeper meaning.

Patris Corde of the Holy Father Francis

 There’s nothing overly original about these words, but their context shed new light on uncertainty. My ongoing and historic struggle for clarity and forced resolution revealed something. The desperate pursuit of truth distorts the objective truth.

 Despair, often fueled by fear and faithlessness, reveals weakness and doubt. If you chase down answers, you blind yourself to other possibilities. One of the joys in faith is a revelation of something already before you in essence; it’s a mere perspective shift.

 Understanding the toll desperation takes creates a space for hope and patience in your heart. This space is vital, especially for pondering tough stuff like suffering, trauma, and old hurts. The only way out is through. Otherwise, you get stuck rolling a boulder up a hill for a proverbial eternity.

 At the Crossroads

 I find myself in a place of uncertainty pretty often. But I know that being amid possibility and potential is a rare place to be. That up-in-the-air feeling permeates my very fiber, thrilling me to the core.

 The thrill invigorates me, pulling taut the muscles of my patience and preparation. The courage needed to open myself to this thrill comes from hope, not strength. The thing that takes the most strength is acceptance.

 Bearing a weight, considering a burden, being a woman necessitates ponderance. Ponderance means weight, importance, a thing of consequence. It’s the intention behind acceptance that requires strength.

 When you take desperate action, you ignore the weight of a thing. And avoiding ponderance leaves you clawing for a “why” you might never get. That’s a dangerous thing in any part of life, especially with love.

 Opening my heart to dating to another kind of crossroads brings memory lane into view. Some things come back I’d tucked away or artfully forgotten. And working through those things without regretful dwelling is hard.

 I used to think love was a waiting game, something I needed to bide my time for until it came along. But I was so very wrong. Love is no waiting game, but vulnerably living, brave yet afraid.

 Love is no waiting game…

 Suppose you’re not full of self-doubt. I applaud your superhuman ability to forgive yourself and accept yourself as who you are.

 Usually, it’s a particular person (or series of similar persons) we allow to hold back our growth. Much of our time is spent resenting exes or never moving on, maybe trying to win them back.

 Meanwhile, said exes are moving on and growing up. They’ve chosen to let the past be in the past. It’s not necessarily apathy as much as having outgrown past relationships. Ideally, this doesn’t mean cutting all ties, but that is now all too often the case.

 Until a few weeks ago, I’d chosen not to date. What began as yearlong abstinence from dating eventually became three years.

 After two relationships ended back to back, I needed some me-time. As a wise friend put it, “Concentrate on you, girl. In a correct, positive, nourishing sense. Not the silly, modern selfish sense.” And that’s precisely what I’ve been doing.

 Three years ago, my mom and I spoke about the difficulty of growing up. As she accurately put it, “You’ve been in a holding pattern ever since you got out of college and came home.” There was no disagreeing with her then.

 Now, I have space and desire to grow. When I graduated from college, I was so set on forcing the things I wanted to happen. Instead of preparing myself for what I wanted, I “waited” with impatience and resignation.

 Impatience reflects reactivity; patience reflects proactivity. One comes with clear, targeted goals, the other with muddled feelings of frustration and resentment. It requires more strength to accept where you are instead of forcing change.

 I speak of strength, for I am a willful woman. Too often have I attempted to force fate’s hand. It began in my eighteenth year, before one of my more significant life changes.

I speak of strength, for I am a willful woman. Too often have I attempted to force fate’s hand.

 I was in a two-year relationship, and all I could think of was its end. I feared what parting ways meant or what a burden another year of long-distance dating would be without any declared intent. I was selfish and afraid, so I forced change.

 This began a series of forced changes, some in the ending of relationships or trying to initiate them. I’ve learned since then that turning the wrong way down a one-way street puts you in a world of hurt. At best, you’re in for an awkward turnaround. At worst, you get wrecked.

 During the paths of growth I wandered while single, I set some new rules for myself. Considering my past willfulness and frustration in the realms of romance, these rules are necessary for many parts of my life, especially dating.

 Let the Chase Happen, But Don’t Wait

 Men are supposed to take the lead for a reason. It’s only natural for men to be the ones to seek a woman’s attention. Every other mating species on this planet has some ritual. The males prance, dance, engineer, or coerce (yikes) to seduce a mate. Of course, their mating is a 9.5/10 about genetic propagation.

 So why are men any different? Despite cultural adjustments or gender revolutions, men are still proposing marriage, and women still have to say yes. What’s the difference between a man asking a woman out on a date?

 So much of modern dating involves inorganic interaction. The removal of that face-to-face pressure also removes any impetus for men to be truly masculine.

 The responsibility for initiation becomes a question when it’s not supposed to be. If you match, swipe, select, et cetera on someone, who’s supposed to message first?

 Some dating sites and apps are engineered to give women the first choice. As much as I’ve appreciated this in the past, it’s entirely uncharted territory. Too often, forward women have a higher agenda than men lacking initiative or in need of organic encouragement (i.e., higher stakes with other men around, potential friends serving as a wingman).

 That’s why I’m not dating like I used to. I’m letting men do their thing, as they’re supposed to. Despite any mutual feelings I may share with some, it’s not on me to have the cajones and initiate. Too long have I been the one deciding how things should be, and it’s exhausting.

 This is my whole new world. It’s going to take some getting used to, certainly. Impatience has been my holding pattern for so long. I’ve finally realized that patience requires clarity of purpose, firm intent, and cultivated willpower. I’ll get there eventually, and when I do, it’ll be life-changing.


Thanks for bearing with me as you read about my journey through love, dating, and life in general. I hope my stories help you in some small way. If you’re a big fan of my stuff, sign up for email reminders or follow me on Facebook to get notified about my latest posts.

Looking for Love

I think about what my name means a lot. Amanda means “lovable” or “worthy of love.” There’s a lot of power in a name, even if we don’t immediately recognize it.

Plenty of people love me. And I firmly believe that I’m a loveable person. Not everyone has the pleasure and privilege to know and feel this about themselves.

But I want to clarify something: Lovability is only synonymous with the worthiness of love. Being worthy of love is on the beholder as much as self-perception. And I don’t always feel I’m worthy of love, despite my lovability.

Yeah, we all struggle with feelings of self-worth. I’m not putting myself on a singular pedestal of doubt and fear. It’s more the existential irony for me.

See, I was supposed to be named after my great-grandma Ada. Out of fear of lifelong teasing, my parents chose Amanda instead. And I’m okay with the name, but it sets me (a word-nerd extraordinaire) up for some weighty introspection.

Like, can I live up to my name? People affirm my lovability all the time, but dating certainly has me wondering this. This journey I started a month ago has put a lens on things I had sorted. I’m reminded of things I’d thought once resolved.

This process of opening my heart to strangers is scary and exciting and new and old. It’s so many things, most of all, overwhelming.

I’m forced to think on parts of myself I’d rather neglect, but it helps put how I see myself in perspective. I recently had a new friend tell me he only wanted to explore friendship further. And that soft rejection hurt more than I realized.

It’s not that I’ve never been friendzoned before, but I think I’d see it coming historically. Whether I’m blind to something I need to improve or learn to stay more open, it was a learning opportunity. Now, I know how cliche that sounds, but it’s the truth.

Old me, unhealthy, mentally unstable me, would’ve seen it as a rejection of me entirely. And I know for sure that’s not the case.

Receiving this new friend’s boundary opened old wounds. I’ve had men use me for my beauty and then friendzone me (that hurts far more than any boundary setting).

I gave myself a break from dating to learn, process, and refocus my energies. I’m even likely to entertain friendship with this new friend (despite my lady friends’ objections about my worth). I think it’s essential to keep good people in your life.

One of the most significant gifts in this new trial of mine is my friends. I leaned on my girlfriends heavily for their insight, but I could also turn to my little brother for his direct, blunt honesty.

Finding Love in Friendship

I am beyond blessed with all of the fiercely fantastic souls in my life. These connections are born out of charity and mutual interest.

We put up with one another’s quirks and flaws out of love. We remind one another of our best traits when we forget just how priceless our souls are.

Charity is not just giving but sacrifice. It comes from the Latin caritas and relates to a love of humanity. It has a more complex connotation, depending on its context.

It takes charity to maintain a friendship in the best and worst of times. Sometimes it’s challenging to remind our friends of how great they are. It might be tiresome to hear them rag on themselves over and over.

When you objectively know that the garbage of self-loathing they spew isn’t true, I don’t have to imagine how much love and patience it takes to weather the storm of their nonsense.

Maybe you’re waiting for a friend to get their life together. They’re dating someone, and the relationship is going nowhere. Or, they’re stuck in a job they could leave, but they choose not to; I’ve been there before.

Telling your friend what to do is not a good idea. Usually, it breeds resentment or provides an opportunity to misplace blame when their poor choices catch up with them. Providing unsolicited aid in a friendship is an excellent way to end said friendship. Sometimes, maintaining charity means having the grace to hold your tongue and let them screw up.

Manifesting the grace to maintain charity requires courage and strength. The best example I can think of is breaking up with someone and still be friends afterward. It takes all kinds of guts to do that.

When you’re in a tighter-knit social circle, there’s no avoiding exes, either. The actual initiation of said breakup takes strength and tact, which mark a real man or woman of character. I respect any individual with the power of the heart to do this.

And, if they manage any level of friendship afterward, kudos to both of them. The charity with breaking up with someone comes from wisdom.

It means knowing yourself enough to end a relationship. It means having the love for another to stop using each other purposelessly. It’s a thankless task for most, but not always. When done right, friendship is possible afterward.

A Ghost of a Christmas Past

I was leaving a holiday party. Although I left well after midnight, the party was still going strong. Even though I’m introverted, I never leave a party unless it’s for a good reason. Those reasons include:

  • wanting alone time with someone, out of concern or romantic interest;
  • already having other plans;
  • getting struck with a bout of social anxiety;
  • overthinking and overdrinking;
  • and being too much in my head or feelings.

Notice how work or being tired didn’t make the list of “good reasons.” If I can, I’ll crash on a friend’s couch. So far in my life, couchsurfing indicates a good night (in the past, it did; that’s not the case anymore).

If I work, a lack of sleep certainly won’t stop me from spending time with friends. As my grandma says, “You can sleep when you’re dead.” My response and latest motto are, “I’m not dead yet.”

I’m not dead yet.

Why I left early: sadly, it was a case of sensitivity. I was seriously beginning to miss my brother (at the time, he was deployed overseas). I inadvertently discovered my exclusion from an event I wished to participate in. Between the saudade, I felt for my brother, my presumed exclusion, sleep deprivation, and my girlfriends’ departure, I was not in a party mood.

Amidst the festivities, a friend of mine noticed my silence. Seeing as I had no cigar or whiskey in hand and was mute during a debate on superheroes’ validity, his concern was valid.

Silence is not something I’m well acquainted with uncomfortable with today. Considering the circumstances, it was uncharacteristic. I acknowledged my friend’s concern.

Due to the number of people present, I was uncomfortable being too candid. I shared something about missing my brother, which seemed to satisfy my friend.

While determining how much more socializing I could tolerate, I found myself momentarily distracted by unknown people. As the night wore on, I realized I needed to take my leave.

Following my friend out the door-a useful social tactic when people might wonder why you’re leaving early-I realized we hadn’t said goodbye.

I called out to him, really feeling the need for acknowledgment, “Are you going to leave without saying goodbye?” Fortunately for my feelings, he made his way back for a proper exit.

I guess he could tell I was still upset and inquired about it. I can’t always determine my face’s expressiveness, but as often as I curse being an open book, I was grateful in this moment.

I finally removed the mask of bravado I’d donned that night, sharing how I often wore it to force myself out of fear. I confessed my omnipresent anxiety, despite my pretense of confidence. I ran out of words, cognizant of my vulnerability.

Part of my motive for this confession was that I knew he’d understand. Despite his calm demeanor, I suspected how anxious he truly was. Based on our friendship so far, it was reasonably apparent he couldn’t sit still at parties.

He always needed something to do, to keep himself occupied and distracted from impending self-doubt and fear of social buffoonery. I often found him tucked away in quieter corners of parties, usually conversing with someone he already knew. I even concluded that smoking was for him what drinking was for me-keeping oneself busy to avoid anxiety.

His response surprised me. He acknowledged the use of masks, admitting they didn’t always matter. “Sometimes people are just bitches,” he said.

He reminded me of my already amazing friends and not to give a shit about others’ judgment. I thanked him for his kindness, then looked at him to gauge how my openness was received. It felt as if he had more to add, as always. Instead, he said, “Let’s keep in touch. We should keep in touch.”

How We Talk to Each Other

Keeping in touch stayed with me past that conversation. After processing my vulnerability, I found myself inspired to share the above story. I wanted others to see how a little courage goes a long way.

My friend’s parting words also made me think of how we all keep in touch nowadays. I pondered modes of communication. How we choose to contact people matters.

Texting is functional, efficient, and convenient when communicating basic needs, time, location, and quick jokes with friends and family. It is not for long conversations, time-sensitive topics, or serious emotional matters.

It’s not for dating. If you are online dating and don’t feel comfortable exchanging numbers for an actual phone conversation, you might not be ready to date. Of course, everyone’s standards of ‘acceptable’ vary, but generally speaking, asking someone on a date over text is juvenile.

On the other hand, there are more beneficial forms of virtual communication. Take families that live far apart for various reasons. Soldiers celebrating holidays overseas can now do this with their families via video chat. Talk about modern miracles! If you’re in any long-distance relationship, it’s vital.

Most of our communication occurs through body language, so face to face is preferable. The next time you find you’re ‘not getting’ a joke or merely misunderstanding, check what you missed.

Was it eye contact? Did you tune out of the conversation? Or was it the mode of communication you chose?

Either way, keeping in touch is necessary for humanity. When we lose touch with ourselves, loved ones, culture, and faith, we lose our humanity.

We can touch others with more than verbal communication. Body language naturally accompanies our dialogue. Intentional eye contact is a powerful tool in every aspect of life. Not all of us are easy to read, unlike me, so eye contact aids in understanding someone’s intent.

With 55% of our communication reliant on facial expressions, eye contact, gestures, postures, and other nonverbal cues, it’s no wonder eyes are the window or door to the soul.

Your pupils dilate in response to excitement, fear, attraction, or arousal. This doesn’t include the color change in eyes also due to an emotional response. Pigments in your iris expand or contract with pupil size change, altering the eye’s color temporarily.

Eyesight aside, there’s also art. I think creativity, in general, keeps us in touch with each other and our Creator. I’ve previously pondered creation before as I likely will in the future. Until then, use your humanity to connect with others. Create something that keeps us in touch with our immortal selves.


Thanks again for sharing in the story of my life as the beautiful wonderful audience member you are. Stories matter only when they’re shared, and I hope mine hit home with you. To make sure you don’t miss a blog post, follow me on Facebook or sign up for email reminders.