unnamed 1.77

wandering aimless for years
i never thought i’d find a home
in any one place
wondering, hoping
will i ever settle, find peace?
then this year i learned
I am my home
beneath my skin
wherever my heart beats
is where i hang my hat
i’ve made it comfortable in here
my resting place
i am my home base
my breath is the key
that opens my front door
so long as i inhale, exhale
i can enter here
a space furnished by trust and love
mind and body knit together
but when depression rings the doorbell
i feel its pull and long to leave
the home i’ve made out of body
of flesh, blood, bone
fraying edges of body and mind
this cunning mood tricks and deceives
and if i’m not careful
he will carry me out out out
lying through his devil smile that says
there is no home after all
you’ll have to keep wandering
lost, alone, forever
soon i forget my breath’s ability
to anchor me in what i’ve created
here within myself
and i wander through the ether a while
until depression looms no more
and my inhale, exhale returns me
to my heart, my hearth, my home
within

“Too Much Feminism”

When Ruth Bader Ginsburg died, some of the first posts I saw on Twitter were telling women to hurry and get birth control now, before it gets taken away from us entirely. Other posts said to go purchase a few Plan B emergency contraceptives to keep stockpiled, just in case.

After I watched the film Enola Holmes this weekend—a movie about an intrepid teen defying the traditional path of a woman in order to make her own way in the world—one of the first things I was told about those already commenting and critiquing the film was “We get it…feminism!” There seemed to be eye-rolling about the creation of another film about female empowerment. This left an unpleasant taste in my mouth.

It’s as if these critics are sick and tired of all the feminism they’re seeing on screen lately. As if women don’t need to see themselves represented as powerful, angry, ambitious, intelligent, career-driven, or any other characteristic that we are typically expected to stifle. As if women aren’t being denied the same basic human rights as our male counterparts. As if women detained at our borders aren’t being sterilized. As if the leaders of this country aren’t making it their mission to take away even more women’s rights.

Women need more movies and TV shows and video games and books and comics that represent us the way we deserve to be represented. Especially if what they’re saying on Twitter is true, and our rights will soon be flushed down the toilet. We need reminders to continue to fight. We need reminders that we are strong, and have accomplished change in the past, and we are capable of accomplishing more in the future. We need reminders that our emotions are not things to be ashamed of.

There are many reasons why I loved the feminism in Enola Holmes. Not only does the title character make a wonderful role model for all young girls growing up in this terrifying political climate, but the film also drives home the fact that feminism is about equality of all sexes. We see a male character who has embraced traditionally feminine characteristics, like having a passion for flowers and crying publically, while still being powerful and desirable. Additionally, our protagonist learns that she can forge her own path, create her own future, on her own, but that doesn’t mean she can’t have a companion by her side to be an independent woman.

Lately, I myself have struggled with balancing my need to be a strong, independent woman “who don’t need no man” with my relationship with my partner, who happens to be a man. As I embraced the power of the female, as I described in one of my last posts, I found myself doing some all-or-nothing thinking. I worried that standing up and speaking out as an independent woman would mean I had to hide the fact that I was, happily and completely, in love with a man.

Upon reflection of Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s life, I remembered the example she set in her marriage with Marty Ginsburg, which proved that just because a woman stands tall and strong on her own, doesn’t mean that she can’t be holding the hand of another tall and strong person. Enola Holmes proved this, as well.

I don’t believe there can be “too much feminism.” I believe feminism will exist as long as human beings exist, and we should continue fighting for the rights of all humans, no matter their gender expression, skin color, or economic status, in order to be seen as equals on the same playing field.

I encourage everyone to go watch Millie Bobby Brown as Enola Holmes, on Netflix now. Feel free to share your opinions on the film in the comments below!

Responding to Fear with Curiosity

As difficult as this time in quarantine has been—with the isolation, civil unrest, and anxiety sprouted from seeds of uncertainty—it has also been a beautiful period of growth.

I’m not the only one of my friends who have expressed gratitude for this time, which isn’t to discredit the terror and panic others are feeling and that I have also experienced. But for many who were blessed with unemployment benefits, usually (and sadly) greater than their typical paycheck, unemployment has been a blessing in disguise. It has allowed us to take a break from the “Rise and Grind” hustle culture that dominates this country. A culture that measures success by overwork and exhaustion, where giving 100% is not good enough or expected.

This unexpected break has also given me the opportunity to remove myself from the day-to-day comparisons of others, and I’m finally learning to love myself for who I am. I’ve been able to reflect on my perception of myself, and I’ve noticed that being away from most people for all these months has shrunk the frequency of my own criticisms of my perceived shortcomings. Rather than spending my days focused on what I lack, I’m focused on what I have, and how I can continue to utilize my gifts, skills, and talent on things that make me happy.

A match has been lit within me in the past six months, and has developed into a roaring fire of curiosity and excitement to learn what else I am capable of. I’ve already grown more than I ever expected to, and fear tells me I have more power to gain, more skills to learn, more creativity to expand. Fear means it’s time to once again step out of my comfort zone to create something bigger and better.

On the Mat: Establishing an Imperfect Yoga Practice

Yoga for Perfectionism

My new yoga practice is both consciously and unconsciously challenging my perfectionism. Especially as a beginner in quarantine, without an instructor to show or help me with proper poses, pretty much everything I do is imperfect. And despite knowing this, I still choose to show up on my mat every day and try…I think that’s what yoga is all about…showing up, even when it’s messy or imperfect.

I’ve been struggling with meditation recently because I found I’m not great at the concept of “noticing your thoughts as clouds passing by, without holding onto or judging them.” In the last week I told a friend that rather than observing my thoughts as clouds, I cause a storm of clouds that hover above me and drench me in rain. I’ve been encouraged to treat meditation like a skill that requires practice, just like photography or writing.

On the mat the other day, I was in the middle of a particularly challenging yoga practice that woke up a lot of muscles I don’t normally use. After I transitioned out of a difficult pose back into downward dog, it took me a few breaths to realize I wasn’t holding proper form of this resting pose and was sort of collapsing in on myself because of my tired muscles. When I became aware of my improper form, I simply readjusted, pushing away from the earth and dropping my shoulders. Upon reflection later that day, I realized I had unconsciously done what I always tell myself I’m so bad at in meditation: I noticed my form was wrong, and, without judging myself for getting it wrong, I just readjusted and moved on with the practice. There wasn’t time to linger on my “mistake,” because I breathed into the next pose and was so grounded that I stayed in the present.

Yoga for Body Positivity

Yoga is helping me see my body differently, more than I’ve ever been able to before, and in an entirely new way. We discussed body positivity in my ED treatment program, but it wasn’t until I continued to show up on my mat that I fully grasped the concept.

When my lungs expand and contract, I am grateful that my body is able to keep me alive, most of the time without me even being conscious of it. When I stand in tadasana, or mountain pose, I am grateful that my bones support me as I stand, sit, walk, and go about my life. When I move through different poses, I am grateful to my muscles for allowing me to do the things I love and even the things I don’t, usually with ease and obliviousness. When I lay in savasana, or corpse pose, I am grateful to my body as a whole, for performing so many simultaneous complex functions that allow me to breathe, walk, talk, and think, let alone feel, emote, create, and do the million other things that make me me.

Yoga has given me the beautiful chance to stop criticizing my body for what I perceive as “faults,” and be grateful for just how many things it can do, that I normally never acknowledge.

Yoga for Willfulness

Listen…I am stubborn. My willpower is sub par. When I have a bad day, it is easy for me to pass on the difficult tasks. Lately, I’ve found that the days when I really don’t want to show up on my mat are the days that I notice the most improvement in my mood from the beginning to the end of my practice. And knowing that helps me push past my stubbornness. To show up, even when I desperately do not want to. Because the feeling at the end always trumps the feeling at the beginning. Feeling proud. Accomplished. Inspired.

Yoga for High Sensitivity

One of the benefits of yoga, I’ve found, is its ability to safely and gently connect the body and the mind. One of the skills I am currently developing is interoception, or the ability to sense what is happening inside the body at any given time, and acting on that awareness.

Lately, my HSP trait has felt like a foghorn, glaringly obvious and isolating me from everyone around me. On a regular basis people point out my self-awareness or my natural ability to self-reflect, and I’m left thinking Does nobody else think about themselves this way? When I asked this question to my therapist this week she smiled and shook her head, “Nope.” It’s funny how much I continue to learn about this trait and how it separates me from everyone else, as I’ve always felt like an outcast, and now I’m finally understanding why.

However, my natural tendency to be self-reflective has helped me in my yoga practice. Yoga is all about inner-awareness and this interoception, so as I allow my breathe to lead my movement on my mat, I feel more attuned to my body and its needs than I’ve ever been before. This practice helped me be honest with myself about my meal plan; being more aware of what my body was telling me helped me recognize hunger cues I may not have otherwise been aware of. With a slight adjustment, I now feel back on track and my body thanks me!

Yoga for Radical Acceptance

I am a highly sensitive person with multiple chronic and mental illnesses. I am in recovery from a painful, consuming eating disorder. I experience PTSD from my chronic illness and subsequent anxiety. All of these facets are a part of what makes me me. Denying them or being angry with them won’t make them any less true. I am in a period of transition and acceptance of the shitty things that have happened to me. I’ve realized that holding onto anger or resentment about these things only cripples me further and keeps me in a place of stuckness. If I can’t embrace my body for all of its intricacies, talents, and flaws, how can I embrace a true yoga practice? Radical Acceptance is a skill I learned in Dialectical Behavioral Therapy, and it’s never made more sense to me than it does when I’m sitting on my yoga mat, grateful for what my body can do for me.

Resources that Helped Me:

  • “I Am Maris” — a documentary on Netflix about a teenager who uses yoga as a part of recovery from an eating disorder
  • Eat Breathe Thrive — a nonprofit founded to prevent and help individuals overcome eating disorders through community, mindfulness, and yoga
    • Eat Breathe Thrive’s “Yoga for Eating Disorder Recovery” course
  • Yoga with Adriene — a YouTube Yogi whose channel offers yoga videos for everyone and everything
  • Perfectly Imperfect: The Art and Soul of Yoga Practice — a book by Baron Baptiste that offers up excellent tools to help yogis show up, both on and off the mat

unnamed 1.76

the sky is stuffed with clouds
and moisture fills the cracks in my lips
wide as canyons as I tear through flesh
searching for some control or maybe
another way to live that isn’t quite so
disappointing
How does one exist without
splattering thoughts against concrete
reaching for hands you thought
were extended but no
it’s only the limbs of trees planted
long before your body
was used as leverage in
this war with humanity
How does the wind not have
a backache from all that it carries
Can it teach me what to do with
all of these secrets because
I don’t recognize my own scent
and I’ve got pheromones like
a child forcing a jigsaw
into its proper shape
and what will my limbs look like
once the chaos finds its footing

through her eyes

This morning I woke up at 4am to get the chance to have my favorite portrait photographer— Julia Trotti— edit one of my photos on her YouTube live stream. She ended up editing my submission around 6am, and while I was utterly exhausted, it was so exciting to see her process. I realized what I loved most about it was how her edit was drastically different than mine.

This is the photo I submitted to be edited by Julia Trotti, with my original edits.

One of my favorite things about photography is that there will never be the same two photographers. Everyone has a different perspective to offer; even among people you are closest to or have the most in common with, everyone sees the world differently. I remember in the first week of my freshman Cultural Anthropology course (one of the “dreaded” general education classes I was required to take in college) we learned the definition of “worldview.” I have never forgotten this word or this concept. Everyone sees the world through their own specific lens, because everyone has different backgrounds/personalities/home lives/home locations/opinions/beliefs/culture/values/etc. Some people are color blind and only see the world in monochrome. Some grew up with only one parent in their home. Some grew up in a generic, middle class, suburban subdivision. Some got their GED. Some speak multiple languages. Some were adopted. All of these things, whether based on their external environment or their biology, impact someone’s worldview.

This nature vs nurture concept plays a huge role in someone’s worldview. Not one person is the same. It’s intriguing if you think about it. Even my partner, who shares similar reactions to my own when watching a favorite TV show or movie, is still having a different experience while watching it than I am. I love that idea. Maybe it’s why I love photography so much. I can capture a moment and share it with the world, editing the image to try and help you see it how I do, and you will still see a different photo than me. You will have your own reaction or experience looking at my photo than your mom will. Or your spouse. Or your neighbor.

Screen grab of Julia Trotti’s live stream and her final edit on the same photo I shared above. Notice the differences?

Art is so subjective. As I told my partner earlier today: If you give 10 photographers the same photo to edit, you will end up with 10 very different photos. That is the beauty of art. What’s more, you can carry this concept over to the state of our world right now, and maybe it will show you how “essential” means something different to everyone, or why some people are feeling particularly tense right now while others are experiencing relief or joy in this time of isolation. Perspective matters.

Keep creating, friends. This is a scary time; allow your emotions to bleed into your art. I want to see how you see the world. Let’s allow ourselves to be vulnerable, to be raw and unapologetic. Creativity breeds authenticity and vice versa. No time like quarantine to explore yourself, your perspective, and perhaps seek to understand the perspective of others.

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2020 Vision

I’m stepping into this new year- into this new decade- feeling a sense of calm and clarity. I’ve realized that I finally have some semblance of a grasp on my health, both physical and mental. I was planning on diving into what led me to this eye-opening moment in my life, but decided to save it for a future post. Got to keep you wanting more, I suppose. Instead, I will say this:

I have never shied away from discussing my mental illnesses on this blog. And I’m not about to start now. 2020 will be the year I embrace the role of advocate, and start being more proactive about trying to help others who struggle with their mental health like I do. I have many goals for the new year. I aim to reclaim my identity as an artist, and embrace my creativity, however messy or even lackluster it may be at times. I aim to allow my individuality to continue to exist while I grow alongside another human, my partner, and recognize that I can do both at the same time. I aim to push myself to be the best version of me that I can be. I aim to pursue my passions, especially the new ones that terrify me. And I aim to work harder, and share more of my journey here with all of you.

When I created this blog during treatment for my eating disorder, I awakened part of myself I never knew I needed. Writing on this website helped me in ways I never imagined, and taught me a lot about myself and the kind of person I want to be. So, here we are in a new year and a new decade, and I’ve decided not to hold myself back. To acknowledge that I am not perfect, nor will I ever be, and that sometimes pursuing my dreams and pushing myself through depression and anxiety will be hard as hell. But I will continue to move forward. I will continue to pursue my dreams, be ambitious, write freely, and try not to judge myself too harshly along the way. I hope you will join me for the adventures.

Happy New Year, all. Congratulations on making it this far. Let’s keep going.

Reframed: The Series of Hope & Bravery

My big exciting news that I mentioned in yesterday’s post has to do with my Reframed photo series (found here).

While I can’t say what the news is specifically (yet), I will tell you that the series is expanding! I have around 20 new models- many strangers- who have agreed to share the most vulnerable parts of themselves with me and my camera. It has been so inspiring.

I’m meeting so many people who have been brave enough to share their story with me; I can’t wait to share them with all of you. This has been an incredibly moving process, and I can’t believe that my small project may make such a large impact on others.

I want to thank those who have, and who will, participate in this project with me. I applaud your bravery for coming forward and making a difference in the world. This series is doing huge things when it comes to breaking down the stigma of mental health, and I am so happy you are a part of it.