Here’s a dam on the river.
Here’s the place when I’ve hidden all my secrets,
and if you ask me nicely,
I just might let them all out,
They’ll flow like water over stones.
You see, there’s a fine line
between protecting yourself
and shuttering everything to the outside world--
it’s safe to say that I haven’t yet
perfected that art.
I’ve a past I want to forget, but
remember when it can keep me afloat.
Sometimes, I drown under the weight of it.
The limbs of even great swimmers grow tired.
I write poems about water and about trees
because sometimes I am the fish swimming upstream
and in other moments, I am the birch observing it all.
There are boulders on the shore watching me.
There are stones under this water,
weakened by the tide rushing over them.
These are the words that fill the quiet spaces.
The corners of life where I can't give enough of myself to everyone and keep the right number of pieces to feel like I'm still whole.
Words like glue to hold things together,
letters like a salve for wounds I didn't know were bleeding;
syllables like a cadence pushing me forward:
These are the words I need you to say---
or maybe I need to teach them to myself---
You are enough. You are so worthy.
Consonants and vowels brushing past my teeth
in rapid succession:
Happiness is yours, love.
These are the words that keep me warm
when the fire softens.
These are the quiet moments.
“It’s all messy: The hair. The bed. The words. The Heart. Life.”
– William Leal
We all strive for perfection—for making ourselves the absolute best human specimens we can. As a country, the financial and daily investment in self-improvement is never-ending. Isn’t that the point of life, after all? To make yourself a better person than you were yesterday?
We all do this—read self-help books, spend hours at the gym, bookmark dozens of articles that we’ll likely never read. I’m guilty of these things probably more so than others. If you look at my 25+ boards on Pinterest alone, you’d be safe to assume the following about me:
The life we project on social media rarely mirrors the actual moments of our lives. Sure, I have plenty of glamorous pictures of fancy wine bottles I’ve consumed on Instagram, but where are the photos of me playing The Sims for hours on end (in the same sweatpants I wore the day before)? Where are the records of me getting angry at everything in my path because I had a rough commute home? What about the moments I cry simply because my hormones sent me on a rampage and I literally don’t know what else to do with myself?
Let’s face it. No one wants to see that side of my life.
And that’s totally okay. Because here’s the thing—as much as I love honesty and vulnerability, I don’t need to see someone else’s messiness. Nor do they need to see mine. We’ve all been there. We know what it looks like.
Nobody’s life is perfect; we’re all busy and doing far too many things at once. So when I look back at my photos years from now, will I be upset that I don’t have the less-than-perfect moments recorded? Absolutely not. I won’t care about the tears, bad meals, arguments, and sub-par wine (okay, maybe I will care about that one).
I’ll care about those moments that were perfect and special to me—even if they would be insignificant to others. Let others remember my life as one filled with corks, Cosmo Kramer pictures, and happiness.
Give me the messy moments to deal with on my own and I’ll show you a photo album filled with snapshots of a life well lived.
And if you’ll excuse me, I have more things to mess up and memories to create.
Under my feet,
there's an ocean of cement.
After years of trying, I found a way
to wade through the city blocks and seascapes
that kept me from you.
When we were younger,
but not that young,
you’d hold my hand and pull me through
all this, so I never even knew the depth
of the water at the end of the Earth.
And now we’re older,
but not that old;
our bodies don’t float as well as they used to.
But it’s okay.
Our fingers together become a boat
keeping us near the surface.
I’ll never let go of your hand or your heart.
Sails are stronger in the open water
when there are two catching the wind.
Promise me that when the tide stops turning
and the world becomes so still
it seems like an oil painting,
you’ll be there yet--
teaching me to swim when
I’ve forgotten how water feels against
Never let me go. And I promise that I will
always row us to shore with my words
and my affection.
I can see it.
There’s a beacon in the lighthouse
calling us home every moment
with the words:
We are here, my love.
On the fourth floor of my office building, there’s a stairway that leads to nothing. Well technically, it leads to a hatch that opens to the rooftop, but for the average person, climbing those stairs gets you nowhere.
It’s quiet up there. It’s the stairwell that not many people use, on the far side of the building. And being that there are few businesses are on the fourth floor, the traffic is pretty minimal.
Every few hours or so, I like to go walk around the building and try to get my Fitbit step count higher and stretch my legs. Inevitably, I find myself walking up those vacant stairs and pausing once I reach the top. And I just sit and listen.
It’s not that the fourth floor stairs leading to the roof are all that exciting, nor is there a mystery hiding in the walls I’m determined to solve. It’s just…still.
We live in a world that’s not only obsessed with busyness, but is so filled with noise—lights from televisions illuminating our eyes, cell phones and cat videos constantly filling our ear space. Even as I type this, I’m listening to my phone chirping while Evan has a video game orc or something similar grunting in the background. All day at work, I wear headphones to drown out the noise of other people. The moment we turn the ignition in our vehicles, some pop singer with debatable talent takes over the radio. Cars screech in rush hour traffic. Airplanes fly overhead.
My ears ache constantly from the sensory overload.
With an environment that’s making noise at full speed, how does one reclaim the quiet?
If you have any suggestions, I’m listening. Or at least trying to get better at it, once my brain can push aside all the excess.
There’s no hidden message here, no agenda I’m trying to impose. I’m simply thinking that perhaps we should all take care of ourselves and find those quiet moments, cherish them, and remember that life doesn’t always need to be deafening.
But for now, I’ll climb to the top of my stairs, listen to the absolute harmony of nothingness, and breathe.
You asked me to show you how I felt,
so I cracked open my chest and pulled out
my still-beating heart.
There are no words that can compare
to seeing it yourself.
I could tell you that my stomach fills with
hope and happiness and nerves
every time you smile at me.
I could whisper that my legs become
broken stilts when you
tell me I’m beautiful.
You look at me and there’s fireworks
happening somewhere altogether
near and far---perceptible but
I could tell you these things and hope
that the language translates,
but instead I hand you my heart,
trusting you’ll take care of it,
as every beat spells out:
I am yours.
I love you.
Time is a funny thing, isn’t it?
As the days march on, it seems like there’s never enough to accomplish everything---too many things to get done around the house, too many people to please, too many tasks to cross off my to-do list. And at other moments, we have an excess of time---too many days left until a wedding or fun event, too many minutes until the work day is done, too many hours until the weekend.
But how often do we consider exactly how we’re spending our time?
Sitting in yoga class on Sunday afternoon, our instructor said something that struck me. As we were preparing for practice, she calmly said, “There are 24 hours in a day. 23 hours of today you will likely spend on someone else or some other thing. But this one hour today, is for you. Make it about you.”
As I sat there in the quiet darkness of that room, I felt a sudden sense of guilt. There are so many hours in a day---how many of them do I waste?
Time spent with my family is never wasted. But what about the hour (or more) I spend on Facebook each day? Or the hours spent every day worrying about something that will likely never happen? Even when I’m doing something for myself, like reading a book or exercising, how much time and mental energy do I waste thinking about something else instead of focusing?
We need to reclaim our time. The hours and seconds of our lives are our most precious resource, and it’s time to start paying attention to how we invest those resources.
With so many things that happen in our daily lives that require our attention, there’s no sense in wasting breath on anything that doesn’t deserve it.
There’s no time for guilt about doing things that benefit you and make your soul happy. There’s no time for watching the clock of my life tick away while I mindlessly scroll through my news feed for the fourth time today. There’s no time to devote energy on people who make you unhappy.
There’s no time for anything but happiness and self-growth.
I’ve discussed how being present is a continual problem for me and an area on which I need to focus. The two missions are one and the same. Being present and mindful in your own life means that you no longer live your days as a passenger, but rather as the driver.
Spend your time on what fuels your soul. Eliminate the things that don’t.
And above all else, remember that we only die once, but we live everyday. Make sure your days are spent doing exactly that...living.
Writer, editor, and storyteller living in the Twin Cities.