Strength Under Pressure.

I keep my worries bound in a carefully tied knot, held in place to my everyday obligations. I want to be free of concern–to get a break from doubting that I will eventually get what I need. Because honestly, I recognize that plenty of people go without. There are an innumerable amount of people who have nothing. People who regardless, always find a way to be happy. People who stand up and decide to keep moving.

It is believed that the more you obtain, the less satisfied you will become. I remember the months and years when I had little of the material but still felt I had everything. I remember being jobless and nearly homeless with a 1.5 year old. How I lived in a 3 BR apartment with 4 other adults and slept in a shared bedroom on a twin sized bed with my daughter. I remember when my first brand new car was repossessed in the middle of the night with my daughter’s car seat & stroller in the trunk. I remember walking miles back and forth to the library to spend 30 minutes applying for jobs because I did not have access to a computer at home. Running 3 blocks to the bus stop with a toddler on my hip and 2 bags on my shoulder.

It was here I could have decided to give up and accept that life was going to keep throwing punches that I was never going to be able to dodge. I could have sat down in the mess I created and allowed failure to reign in my thoughts. I could have ignored the silent roar for better in my heart. But I continued to fight in spite of everything I thought I had lost.

I feel a familiar twinge of panic now because struggle has a history of infinitely repeating. We will not be free of trouble in this world and it is one of the few things that we are absolutely guaranteed. Now, instead of complaining that “life is not fair” or blaming others for my circumstances–I try to take full responsibility for the gains and the losses. I cannot blame other people for my failures or ignore the consequences when I make mistakes. I can however, opt to face my sorrows and behave with the utmost of integrity.

Right now, it feels like I am being pulled in opposing directions. I feel like everything I fought so hard for is in constant jeopardy. Truthfully, sometimes we have deal with the consequences of our past decisions for decades. Even if I learned my lesson the first time, I still have to make peace with the fact that I deviated from God’s perfect plan for my life.

The beautiful thing about messing up is that it does not mean that we are:
unfixable or
unloveable or
unable to fix our stuff.

It just means we have to fight harder, get stronger and remember to get back up.

 

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You Cannot Rush Freedom (400 words)

Most of us exist for tiny moments of excitement–forever looking for the next thrill to write home about. I wish life was always this simple and we did not have to think about problems or troubles or figure out 5-year plans. But the truth is, an honest life is one of requirement. Everyday we must come to terms with the fact that our lives are not completely our own. We are responsible for other people–in the most benign to the most extreme of ways.

And nothing wakes one up faster than realizing that another person is counting on you.

I imagine taking this type of ownership to its highest peak. Because without sacrifice, we are incapable of offering anyone anything. Sometimes, the hardest part of my day is facing this blatant reminder in the form of an unrelenting alarm clock. It screams, “Wake Up!” when all I really want to do is sleep. The act of hitting snooze in this instance is probably one of the most selfish things.

When I was a child, I relied upon my parents to prepare me for every future event. From school and extracurricular activities to family special occasions; I was helpless without them. At times I found myself helpless as a result of them. Now that I am an adult, I remember the way I would rationalize their dysfunction on my life. I did not see drunkenness and disorder; it was unpredictable fun. My mother was not financially irresponsible and careless, she was spontaneous and carefree.

This is the lens I used to guard my innocence when what I really needed was protecting.

I dreamed of leaving my destructive nest and living a life of order and structure. I remember trying to fly on my own for the first time and it was then I learned that you cannot rush freedom. I thought maybe flapping my wings and kicking up dust would guarantee that no one could ever reach me. But the higher I flew, the more I lost sight of my calling and destiny. It took coming back down and sitting in the reality of all the hurt I experienced that finally gave me the courage to let it all go.

I could have chosen to cling to my past and perpetuate the cycle of pain, transferring the guilt I felt onto my offspring. I could have continued to run from my responsibilities. But I know I must live a life of intention.

And God intended for me to be free.

When Peace is Unavailable.

There are hundreds of thoughts flowing through my mind constantly–intent on influencing me to choose. At any moment I could drift out of conscious productivity and waste time thinking of things that will never bring me any peace. I could know I am on the right track towards something greater–but the problem is when that “something” is hard to reach. I understand the necessity of change, like a helpless victim sacrificed in the grip of a relentless boa constrictor.

art, peace, loui jover, anxiety

Artist: Loui Jover

Death is better than stagnancy.

This is not about a literal or even figurative end, but the dying to my misguided destruction of potential. I am mine before I belong to anyone else. No matter how ugly the mess–I have to be able to live with myself. I own mistakes from my side that set changes in motion that were always going to take place. I hold myself accountable, knowing that if I were not the problem, the results would still be the same.

When I searched for peace in a lover, he chose to let me go. Love is choosing to be better or leaving before you wreak irreparable havoc on home. He knew his heart could not climb the depths of unconditional support that I needed with my over-sized load. There were tons of emotional baggage that I was carrying, all of which were my responsibility to put down.

I had to face my fear of abandonment with eyes wide open, and it had to be done alone. In the midst of his running, he was actually setting a beautiful process in motion. It took a long time before I stopped blaming him (and others) for my lack of culpability.

art, loui jover, peace, little secrets

Artist : Loui Jover

Some days, I still fight against deluded emotions.

Now however, I know better than to lash out when I am frustrated. I know love is a choice and fear is a feeling. I know I can only lose what is not meant for me. The peace we seek when we are at our lowest point does not exist on an earthly plane.

But all you have to do to reach it, is say His name.

art, loui jover, peace, silhouettes

Artist : Loui Jover

Winter Commencement: 2017

The following is the speech I wrote and read to the Winter 2017 graduates from Union County College on Thursday, January 12th at 6 pm in Rahway, NJ. The speech was intended for my fellow classmates–however, I believe it holds a message for anyone who has ever felt like giving up but knew they had what it took to keep going. Regardless of how long it takes, or the difficulties you will inevitably face–I challenge you to keep fighting, and striving for excellence no matter what.

I hope this message inspires you.

When I was invited to speak today as a Student Representative for all of you—I thought to myself, who am I to speak on behalf of everyone else?

I thought that maybe I could tell you how easy it was to finish my associate’s degree. However, that would not be the complete truth. It is far easier to find student parking on Cranford’s campus.

When I look back at my last five semesters, I become aware of this present moment that I had not yet known was possible. It was not always easy, but we all made decisions over these last few years that led us successfully to where we are today. We made sacrifices because we believed our lives would flourish when we chose to be intentional about where we wanted to go.

For some of us, especially me, the decision to invest in our own success took an extraordinary amount of time. We were often not ready when life came knocking at our doors. We held on too tightly to comfortable things. We aggressively fought losing battles against time. We allowed the idea of taking a necessary risk—to knock us off our feet.

Sometimes, some of us gave up too easily.

Today we claim victory and achieve excellence for our families and ourselves. We made it to this significant checkpoint in part because of our individual efforts—but also with the support of everyone in this room. Let us take a moment now to applaud all of the faculty and staff, as well as our friends, family and loved ones who encouraged and walked with us through this journey. [Applause.]

You may not realize your strength, or the power you possess—but I look out at all of you and I can see the fruits of your determined perseverance. The fact that you are here today is the ultimate sign that you are doing more than just passing each test. So hold fast to what is good, positive, and true. Take a deep breath, dwell in this sweet moment now, and let go of any thoughts that make you feel doubtful or weak. Do not let anything hold you captive below the full range of your talents and capabilities.

Keep fighting to make your unique mark on the world.
You are all brilliant sparks just waiting to light up the sky.
But you have to keep going. There is still so much farther you can go.

commencement, graduation, selfie, union county college, speaker, 2017

Winter Commencement: 2017

The Warrior’s Revelry: 2017

I pray you find what you are looking for in 2017.

But more importantly, I hope with a burning urgency for the realization that what you seek is already alive and well–within you. Getting in better physical shape, eating all the right things and meeting your elusive “One”, will not compare to developing the courage to live your life aggressively.

It takes courage to face the ultimate heartache in an effort to prevent it from overcoming your original course. There are eager, fractured parts of your once trusting self–begging for your immediate attention. Pleading with you to take a second look at this pain and turn it into a success story. Encouraging you to grasp a unique opportunity and make up for where you once lost.

Know you are meant for some legendary stuff.

Instead of damsels in distress, I believe you and I were destined to be the heroines (and heroes) of our own narratives. The hero does not wait in dread or sit with vivid anxiety. He or she does not torture their self by poking excessive holes into open wounds. No, they take time to absorb their failures and recover from them triumphantly.

Quite often this means taking a stand in the hostile and merciless battle against the dreadful healing process. It is, wrestling with your self doubt and putting the voice of adversity in its place. Picking up your heart after a catastrophe and brushing off the rubble and dust.

Deciding the one you love is worth your fight and vulnerability.

Courage is sharing the ugly truth with the intention of honoring the people who deserve a whole lot better than your apathy. It is acknowledging the various possibilities of where the truth will lead. Not being swayed by the fear of the unknown and trusting that being honest is the only way you can grow.

Because you cannot acquire anything worthwhile, until you learn to first let go.

passion, fire, art, portrait, girl

–I pray that you, find your way through, whatever may be blocking you.

 

The After Effects of Shock.

I dragged the pitiful remnants of my sorry 2015 into what was then, the new (2016) year. Still, this was not even the worst part. Everyone told me to just “let it go” as if I could somehow give away my hurt and manifest some unguarded strength that was eluding me. For some reason, people tend to forget about the after effects of shock. It was like I stood outside of my body–pleading with myself to stop.

Stop emoting over a person who does not have the capacity to love you properly.
Stop fighting against every sign telling you that you are better off.
Stop trying to prove you are worthy enough.

Just, dammit stop.

Shock had other ideas about how I was going to “get over” my loss. It reared up in absolute ugliness–breaking the hearts of everyone I was ever close to. It decided that I did not need to repent or reconsider my actions, words and thoughts. No, we were going to drive intentionally off the cliff of ambivalence, never fully understanding what was happening until I hit the bottom rocks.

I believe: You can only relate to others as much as you have resolved your deepest grief.

But I did not want to sit regretfully with the betrayal or think on anything I did wrong. I could not face what I should have done differently because at the end of the day, he/she/they were gone. So, I chose to wrap myself around the certainty of shock. Certainly shock would protect me, by blocking the valves to my heart. It could obviously mask the feeling of cold creeping in my frostbitten fingertips.

It could absolutely hide the fact that I was dying inside. 

I want to be able to honestly say that one day I decided to fight back. That I tore into my frigid nature and found a way to warm up my internal core. The truth is, there was an essence I was missing and a peace I denied. Trying to do good on my own misguided terms only spread the disease I was feeding and left tons of damage behind. There were months where I read countless books, articles and blogs in an attempt to figure out how to help my self. Yet at the end of it all, I still felt lost.

But 2016 was not a total loss.

I could sit here and list all the amazing things happening in my life right now, but I will spare you my “self-righteous” brag. Instead, I leave you all with this final thought:

No matter how many failures you endure, the cost of which may seem unfair and unreasonable–your success will eventually outweigh the loss.

2017 #RISEUP

determination, bravery, facing fears

Therapy for Winter’s Ache.

Recently I realized just how much time and effort it takes to disconnect from memories that remind you of people who are gone. All the pictures, videos, birthday cards, clothes, and on and on. They seem to unforgivably remind you of what you lost. Every room in my home that tells a story of my life–is now wrought with gaping holes and empty spaces due to the absence of things I threw away. Things that were never truly mine. When I decided to become a minimalist, I knew that keeping all this memorabilia would continuously haunt and poke at my heart strings. But I could not prepare for the emotional repercussions on the day I finally got rid of everything.

It was all extremely difficult.

I tried to tell myself not to read the little love notes, or listen to the messages detailing how much we were in mutual love. Instead, I find myself trying to make up excuses as to why I should hold onto the items that have long since become integral parts of my everyday life. Like the coffee table in my living room or the blender I can never bear to use because the last time I used it, I was still with you. Somehow, I developed into this pathetic creature who cannot find the path to move on. No matter how much I ignore how I feel or purposely choose to walk in another direction–I always wind up back in the same emotional drain.

I remember how I fought. How I cared so damn much and how you did not (maybe could not) care enough. Even now, I find reasons to absolve you of the blame. Torturing my heart with the broken promises that left me stranded in the midst of my own personal crisis. Trying to make light of all this collateral damage. And at the same time refusing to admit to it.

In so many ways, I have been successful. There is a level of growth that could never happen without making it through such an impossible course. Every time I think I will not recover, I eventually discover a new way to survive. They say travel light–so I throw my baggage out the window and keep my foot on the gas pedal. My courage manifests as speed, tempting me to get out the way before anything can touch me.

For awhile this has worked in my best interests. But now, (at times I cannot predict)–I am filled with an overwhelming ache. Nothing can fully numb this pain or take my mind away from it for long. I wonder silently to no one if this pain is even reciprocated. Still, I know better than to look back in that direction or to ask questions to which I already know the answer.

Instead, I take solace in the minute victories.
While purging the rest of the items that do not belong to me.

quotes, poems, hope, inspiration