I am Woman

In honor of International Women’s Day, I’m re-posting a prose poem I wrote a few years ago. As always, your thoughts and comments are welcomed below.

I am woman.
Hear me roar.
That’s how the saying goes, right?
And yet, you’ve never heard me roar,
never so much as a peep or complaint.
My mother taught me,
“Don’t expect too much from the world,
The world will only disappoint you.
Don’t expect too much from the world.
Then you’ll never be disappointed and no one can hurt you.”
Such wise words, I always thought.
Look at me now, I’m so happy.
No expectations, no disappointments.
Except,
hello,
I’m human.
The hurt would come and,
like a good little girl,
I would swallow it up.
Over time, it slowly built up,
like a heaving, suffocating burden,
so that now,
at 35,
I’m all filled up.
And the hurt the disappointments the heartaches,
they’re boiling over and pouring forth
like lava.
Still I tried not to show it.
I tried to push it, stuff it, lock it
all right back inside.
I hurt myself ‘cause I didn’t want to hurt you, world.
Didn’t want to hurt you, ‘cause I was scared you wouldn’t care.
And perhaps you don’t.
Or perhaps,
I’ve had it wrong all this time.
My mother was wrong,
as was her mother before her,
and her mother’s mother before her.
They taught us that,
as women,
as girls,
we have little worth in this world,
so better not to expect, to rock the boat, to stay in line.
Be a good girl,
be a good wife,
be a good mother.
Ain’t nothin’ better than a self-sacrificing mother who puts her needs at the very end of everyone else’s.
Needs?
What needs?
I’m a saint.
I’m an angel.
Except,
hello,
I’m human.
I hurt, I cry, I get angry,
when you don’t laud my achievements as much as my brother’s,
when you think my desires aren’t as important as my partner’s,
when friends and colleagues don’t show me the courtesy of calling back,
because their time is so much more valuable than mine,
when I am branded either a prude or a prostitute,
while, conveniently, “boys will be boys”,
when you don’t think to offer your help in the kitchen,
and instead, ask me,
“What can you offer?”
like I’m the waitress at your favorite diner.
What can I offer?
What can I offer?
Dude, what can you offer me?
When my profession asks me to work just as hard as anyone else,
take stress just as much as anyone else,
see my kids just as little as anyone else,
then pays me a salary lower than everyone else,
they’re telling me
I’m worth
less.
“You are not worth it.”
The world has said this to me in so many ways.
And I absorbed it, believed it,
inculcated it into my life,
wove it into my being,
and proudly spread the message to my sisters.
“You are not worth it.”
My worth lies in what I can offer,
in the pristine condition of my private parts,
in the voluptuousness of my body,
but only if it’s in all the right places, otherwise,
in the waif-like silhouette of my figure.
I am not worth it.
I don’t need some profit-hungry make-up company to tell me I am, just so I’ll buy their products.
I need my parents to say it,
my siblings,
my friends,
my teachers,
my children.
But most of all,
I need to say it.
Now I wonder, why in the world did I grow up idolizing Cinderella,
who let everyone walk all over her, as she whined in her sing-song voice to her mice,
when instead, I should have respected her Stepmother?
At least she was honest about what she wanted,
and went after it with a passion,
rather than running away at the first signs that someone might see who she truly was,
and losing her ‘glass slipper’ in the process.
(I wear Aerosoles, bitch.)
Because that only happens in dreams, right?
In fairytales,
with the help of fairy godmothers we didn’t know we had,
who randomly decide to bequeath us with magic?
You can’t give me magic.
You can’t wave a wand and expect its sparks to transform me into something more precious than I am now
because,
although I may not always know it,
although you may not always see it,
I am the magic.
I’m the magic that makes this world go round.
You don’t even know how lucky you are to have me, world.
If you call me a bitch now,
I will take it as a compliment.
If you call me “too ambitious” for single-mindedly going after what I want,
I’ll think I’m doing something right.
And if you say,
“What else did you expect?
She’s a woman after all,”
Then I’ll make sure,
in fact, I guarantee,
you will hear me fucking roar.

When I Sit in Silence

When I sit in silence
with nothing but my thoughts for company,
my consciousness for comfort,
I feel,
palpably,
that something is missing.
For years, I didn’t know what that was.
An absence of goals and dreams?
A lack of purpose?
No connection to a single home,
a stable identity?
The theories behind my inadequacy came and went –
childhood trauma,
young adult depression,
laziness without ambition,
not enough gratitude.
Now I know better.
The thing that’s missing,
the lack of which makes me feel
this unbearable loneliness and deep-seated longing,
is You.
You who created me
and loves me like no other.
You, who are with me,
even when you’re not,
who gifts me moments of work and rest,
glimpses of transcendence and treachery.
Despite all that you have blessed me with –
family, friends, multiple homes, diverse experiences, a world of beauty and amazement –
nothing compares to the feeling
of being
with You.

I miss you always.
I sometimes wonder how I’ll last
with just this tenuous connection between us.
I want more.
Is this what greed is?
Then, truly, I am a greedy person.
Honor, nobility, morality be damned.
You can see right through to the core of my being,
even if no one else can.
I ache for you,
like a child who’s been separated from his mother,
or someone who wants only to be wrapped in her lover’s embrace.
I ache.
And that is the root of all my pain.
Everything else pales in comparison
to the joy of being with you.
Yet I know
that “everything else” is your gift to me,
to keep me balanced,
too distracted to drown
under the weight
of this painful disconnection.

How can I help others to heal
when my own wounds feel so fresh,
so physical?
When will this ache diminish?
How do I move forward in this life
when all I want is to fall back
into You,
when all I can think about
is melting into your embrace
and becoming One
again?

You say heaven or hell lies ahead of us,
on the other side of this life.
I say heaven or hell is right now,
this life and what we make of it.
What, then, waits for us on the other side?
Home?
Perfect union?
Limitless love?

You, with arms outstretched.

We All Sink Sometimes

For all my rhetoric

about tearing down walls,

realizing you’re special,

feeling connected to the Universe,

there are moments 

when I feel like I’m still the same

insecure, 

under-confident, 

massively depressed

teenager I used to be,

and for all the work I’ve done on myself,

there isn’t much to show for it.

You can never fully escape depression,

no matter how hard you try

to hide from it,

to handle it,

to heal from it.

You will always have moments of weakness,

and depression will be right there,

lying in wait,

like a deceiving 

yet oddly familiar crutch.

At such moments, 

the best thing you can do 

is to know

with utmost certainty

that it will pass.

It’s okay to sleep it off,

to talk to someone,

eat comfort food,

watch a funny movie,

or even find a corner to cry in,

to let yourself feel 

the weight,

the sinking,

the numbness

and pointlessness of life,

because those thoughts will come.

It’s okay to lean into it, 

and feel like you’re utterly 

at rock bottom.

Just don’t act on it.

Hang in there.

Wait it out.

A couple hours, 

a couple days.

Because it will pass.

You’ll notice that all the effort you’ve put in –

learning how to better yourself,

how to transcend the pain,

and grow towards the light –

it hasn’t been for nothing.

Your strength and resolve will slowly return.

Your deep-seated desire 

to unearth yourself from the mire

will become your lifeline,

so that whenever you feel like you’re drowning

in a cesspool of negative energy,

your lifeline will always be there to pull you out,

back to consciousness,

back to your waking self,

and to your mission of lighting up the world

with your very existence.

Some people believe

you can measure the worth of your existence

solely by what you’ve achieved in life.

The truth is, 

your worth can’t be measured.

Your value is inherent.

It’s incomparable,

and it’s inked into the unfolding of your story,

which is itself entwined 

into this infinite adventure called Life.

So before trying to conquer the world

by crossing off an endless list of to-dos

and achieving a myriad long-term goals,

remember to just BE.

Remember who you are

and who you aren’t.

Who you are is

unique,

irreplacable,

whole,

a universe unto yourself,

born on this Earth to learn 

and love 

and luxuriate

in the magic of this world.

Who you are not is

lazy,

dumb,

talentless,

ugly,

weak,

hateful,

a mistake.

There is no such thing as a mistake.

Every person, 

every moment,

has a purpose.

Find yours.

And if you can’t find it, 

create it.

And when you do,

revel in it.

Living with purpose is the ultimate antidote

to depression.

The more you learn to believe in yourself,

the greater the heights you’ll climb,

until one day 

you’ll find yourself soaring above the clouds,

able to help pull others out of their despair,

and into this One 

enigmatic

yet extraordinary

life we all share.

Why Giving is Good for You

We’ve all heard that it is good to give in the service of others, whether it be of your time, effort or money. But how often do we think about the benefits giving has on us?

Usually, at the end of a long day or gruelling week, I feel depleted, as if I have nothing left to give anyone, not even a smile or a kind word. I just want to be left alone to stew in my self pity, resentful that there is no one around to give me the love and attention I want.

Recently, while meditating, I opened up to a new idea. I had been focusing my energy on removing this painful block at the top of my spine, trying to will it away through the sheer use of my mind and breathing. Nothing worked. It was only when I stopped focusing solely on the pain, but rather, around it, on my body as a whole, and thought to myself, “Just release,” that the pain finally dissipated. It occured to me that “releasing” is a lot like “giving”. By giving my negative energy away, not to another person, but back into the universal pool where all energy exists, I was able to feel a sense of release, and ultimately, peace.

If we can start to think of giving, in all circumstances, as a release, it will do us so much more good than the people to whom we give. Whether it’s lending our voice to a cause, creating our art for the world, sacrificing our time to be better parents, or just sharing our resources with those in need, the act of giving is a privilege. The giver gets so much more out if it than he/she will ever know.

At the end of the day, when your exhaustion gets the best of you, instead of focusing on all that negative energy, aim to release it. Give it back to the universe. Sorry, world, I don’t want this resentment, this disappointment, this depression. You can have it back. I want to make room within me to receive something better from you – your endless supply of love. 

It may not come from the exact person you want, in the exact way you want. But it will come, so long as you are open to receiving it. Being open means softening your heart, softening your expectations. It means accepting loving energy in whatever form it takes, and allowing it to replenish you.

So next time you think you have nothing left to give, give anyway – a hug, a smile, a kind word, a helping hand. Apart from the postive impact it might have on someone else, and the ripple effect that ensues, it will be a release for your soul, and a way to make room for replenishment.

Why Pain Matters

Most people run away from pain.

It’s uncomfortable and disturbing.

We think it takes us away 

from being able to enjoy life.

And yet, on the flip side of pain,

there is always pleasure.

They are two opposing sides of the same coin 

that we haven’t learned how to flip to our advantage.

Most people just choose to stuff the coin deep within their pockets,

rejecting both pain and pleasure,

in favor of a routine life,

where both these experiences are tempered,

and life seems manageable.

Except that life isn’t meant to be managed.

It’s meant to be fully lived.

Despite our best efforts, life doesn’t bend to our will.

Instead, we’re the ones getting puppeteered through life,

thrown from one tumult to another,

taking solace in the breaks between each crisis.

What if there is a way for us to align ourselves with the Universe?

To reduce our depression and anxiety,

our chronic loneliness,

always feeling on the fringes,

disconnected?

What if there is a way to be happy,

but it involves taking out that dreaded coin,

and dealing with the pain in our life head on,

learning how to sit with it,

process it,

and ultimately, 

release it?

What if the force of releasing that pain 

had the power to elevate us,

causing the coin to flip on its own? 

Then we might feel the greatest pleasure of all –

connection.

To ourselves.

To each other.

To that spiritual being lying deep within us.

The thing is,

there is no such thing as pleasure

without pain.

If we didn’t have either of these experiences, 

we’d be living a life of ennui.

Without the pain of our aching muscles,

getting a massage wouldn’t feel like such ecstasy.

Without the pain of going to school every day,

we wouldn’t have the pleasure of seeing our friends,

or in the long term,

the satisfaction that comes from achievement,

the joy that comes from using our education to better the world.

Without the travesty of war,

we would not truly cherish peace.

Many of us live with deep wounds,

from childhood,

from broken relationships,

from illness,

or the loss of loved ones.

We endure tremendous pain,

absorbing it into our psyche,

allowing it to diminish our spirit,

trying, unsuccessfully, to ignore it 

until it goes away for good. 

But pain is like a leech.

It won’t leave

unless we learn 

how to heal.

The path to healing is personal.

It’s not a one-size-fits-all set of guidelines

for finding your bliss.

Yes, talking to a therapist might help,

or joining a support group.

Yes, medication might be hugely beneficial,

or reading about personal development, 

opening up 

to new ways of thinking.

Or maybe, for you,

none of this will work.

Perhaps you just need patience

and perseverance,

the sincere desire to evolve,

to transcend this human pain that is constantly weighing you down,

so you might find some semblance of peace –

and dare I say –

happiness. 

The path to healing is personal.

You must figure it out on your own

but not necessarily alone.

In fact, 

you’re never actually alone.

If you step out of your own way,

start ignoring your inner critic –

that pesky roommate who’s taken up residence in your mind –

let go of all your preconceived notions,

your antagonizing ideas about life,

your impressions of success and failure,

if you let go

and trust

your intuition,

that constant connection you have with the universe,

I promise you,

your heart will open up

to the truth.

Your path will be revealed.

Something beautiful will take shape

from the core of your being.

And if you can learn to trust it,

it will never steer you wrong. 

If you are ready to face your trauma,

the challenge will be immense

but the reward exponential.

Because with healing, 

comes the ability to help others.

And in the quest to help others,

you may just find your life’s purpose.

In helping others,

you’re creating a ripple effect

that will change the world.

And in helping others,

the person you’re actually helping the most,

is yourself.

Remembering How to Breathe

I see you.

I see you struggling with life.

The burden of your job,

the responsibility of your relationships,

thinking that everyone else is succeeding in life 

but you.

I see the pain,

the loneliness,

and the sense of hopelessness

that life will never change for you,

that you’ll never get the chance to follow your dream,

or worse,

that you don’t even have a dream.

You think there’s no way out of your situation,

or if there is,

you’re too damn tired to take it.

Perhaps you don’t realize

there’s a power you have at your disposal,

a portal into another world.

It’s not alcohol or drugs,

sex or sleep.

It’s your inherent ability to breathe.

Every living being can breathe,

in fact, so automatically, 

it’s easy to forget you’re doing it.

But to breathe is to have power.

We often hear people say,

“You should stop and smell the roses,”

but how many times do we heed that advice?

How often do we breathe so deeply

that the smell of lavender tickles our brain cells into a natural high?

How often do we step away from the daily grind,

close our eyes,

and breathe in, 

2, 3, 4,

then hold it…

and breathe out, 

2, 3, 4,

and hold it?

At the end of a busy day,

when my shoulders are burning from stress,

and my back muscles are clenched like unrepentant fists,

I sit still,

remain quiet,

and breathe.

I breathe in as if my life depends on it,

like I’ve forgotten what it feels like to have fresh air coursing through my lungs,

luxurious and exultant.

Then I breathe out,

so deeply,

as if the toxins I need to release from my body are emerging from a bottomless pit.

I breathe, 

and breathe, 

and breathe,

until each part of my body has untangled from its burdens,

until each part of my body feels loved and cared for,

until my skin feels ready to dissolve into the air,

allowing my inner being to expand

and encompass the world.

When I breathe

with attention

and intention

I can access another part of me,

the one that’s limitless,

and overflowing with love.

I choose to believe that there’s real magic in this world,

that portals do exist,

and energies can be manipulated.

I choose to believe 

that if you spend more time being aware of your breath,

then suddenly everything will come into focus.

Your once burdensome job will seem like more of an adventure, 

or a learning opportunity that has reached its expiration date.

Those relationships will feel more special,

tender and temporary,

nurturing,

or else, unworthy of your time.

You will start to see the pain and struggle in others’ eyes,

and realize, you’re not alone, 

you never were.

We’re all going through the same process

of trying to remember 

how to live and love,

of trying to remember 

how to breathe.

Life Sentence

I’m a prisoner in my own mind

sentenced to a life of despair,

and the only one able to save me

is behind bars, too.

For years, I longed for a savior –

an attentive parent,

an inspiring mentor,

a romantic partner.

For years, I waited.

People came and people went,

but not one of them could save me.

Because the only one able to save me

is behind bars, too.

She has the keys to our freedom,

but not quite the strength.

She knows that I love her,

but my love is weak.

We’ve spent so many years apart,

walled off from each other

because I abandoned her,

but only to protect her.

What good was our bond if it had only caused pain?

So she turned her back on me,

and I on her.

Doesn’t matter that we were stuck in the same cell,

the walls between us of our own making.

All these years later,

I turn to face her.

She’s the only one who can save us,

if only she could muster the will.

I’m begging her to unlock the prison door,

and set us free.

Let us live as one,

in this perfect human body,

with this identity that, together, we can sculpt to our liking. 

Let’s forget the past

and not dwell on the future,

but just experience each moment as it comes,

with nothing but love for each other,

with nothing but gratitude for our oneness,

with nothing but grace and contentment in our heart.

She reluctantly turns towards me

and points to something in my hand.

Turns out, 

I had the key to our freedom all along.

When I look to the prison bars,

all I see is a curtain of wild flowers intertwined with leafy vines,

sunlight peaking in through the gaps.

We hold hands,

lift up the curtain together,

and walk into the beautiful landscape 

of the unknown.

We saved ourselves.

And who knows?

Maybe we are the savior in someone else’s story, too.