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.

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 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.

All Stories Can Be Summed Up Into This One Line

We are one.

Whether it’s a Regency-era novel or reality TV, self-help books or Sufi poetry, indie movies or Insta highlights – every story we read/hear gives us a peak into someone else’s life.

The story might be set in a past or future landscape, and take place halfway across the world from you. It might be an encapsulation of one person’s emotions or her description of a moment in time. Whatever the story, each one shows us another perspective, another life into which we could have been born. But just because we weren’t, doesn’t mean we can’t try to understand what it’s like to be “other”.

Stories create empathy. They allow us to see ourselves in others. And if we can truly see our reflection in another person, or in several other people, or, indeed, the whole of mankind, we would realize that we’re all the same. We each have a human body with a soul or consciousness. We all go through the same cycles of life and experience the same laws of nature.

If you walked down the street today, and passed by someone who looked exactly like you, perhaps you’d be more likely to smile and say “Hi!” If your enemy suddenly transformed into your mirror image, you’d probably be more likely to resolve your conflicts and forgive him. What if you saw yourself on the news, being attacked or oppressed in some way; wouldn’t you be more likely to help yourself? To speak up, to tell your story, to call out injustice. To create an uproar.

We are one. And like some idiot who hammers nails into his feet and sets his hair on fire, we’re only hurting ourselves by not taking care of each other. It’s only natural for our world to be in pain right now. It’s a symptom of all the damage we’ve inflicted on each other. What’s unnatural is for us – all of us – to not be screaming out in anguish.

Dayton. El Paso. Chicago.

Kashmir. Palestine. Syria.

The Amazon Forest. Our polluted oceans. The toxic atmosphere.

There is no lack of stories to be told, people and places to be cared for. And the great thing is, there is no lack of love in this world, or positive energy with which to spread that love.

So next time you’re walking down the street, see if you can spot yourself – your thoughts, your emotions, your experiences – in the person that passes you by. Then take a moment to wonder what that person’s story might be. The tingle that you feel in your heart? It’s called Empathy, and it’s just another word for Love.

My First Prose Poem Performance

About nine months ago, I shared a prose poem with all of you entitled, “Bare Naked”. If you didn’t get a chance to read it, you can find it here. Today, I’m sharing a video of myself for the first time, in which I’m “performing” it. This is new to me, so thank you, in advance, for your views and comments!

What Does it Mean to be Free?

Sometimes I wonder what it would be like

to evaporate into the air,

transform into a molecule of oxygen and join the rush of wind

as it enters my house through an open window,

flowing past me in a wave of ecstasy,

before rushing out again.

I wonder what it would be like to fly,

to feel the coolness of the breeze and the warmth of the sun at the same time.

But not just to feel the breeze,

to be the breeze,

leaving everyone I pass in a state of bliss.

I wonder what it would be like to feel my own self so fully,

my own little universe in my own tiny molecule,

but also, to be a part of something greater than myself,

the collective expanse of air that makes up our atmosphere.

I wonder what it would be like to fly through the world,

and go anywhere I wanted,

not rooted to any spot,

not bound by the limitations of geography

or the human body.

I wonder what it would feel like

to own this world.

All my life I have felt unanchored,

adrift at sea,

and uncomfortable,

in a way that disturbed me when I was growing up.

The fact of the matter is,

I’m still growing up.

I used to spend each day

trying to figure out why I felt this way,

why I couldn’t feel at peace in the security of my family,

the walls of my house,

knowing that I was loved

knowing that I was taken care of.

Why wasn’t that enough for me?

Now I’m starting to think

I was never actually meant to cling to anything so tightly in the first place.

I was meant to be free,

I just never understood how.

Why would I want to hold on so fiercely to things,

to relationships,

to moments,

to concepts of home,

that are all just constructs of my imagination,

none of them permanent?

No matter how precious they are to me,

I have no control over any of them.

In fact, I have no control over anything.

And that’s why I need to learn to be okay

with just being that free-floating molecule of air,

whether I’m lying stagnant on a hot summer’s day

or whipping about in a fevered frenzy,

or even being thrown from one side of the world to the other

in what feels like a catastrophic storm.

I have no control over what happens in this world.

So why am I trying to grasp so fervently onto what are,

essentially,

clouds,

reassuring and ephemeral,

beautiful yet banal.

I need to learn to let go.

I need to learn to let go

and just enjoy the ride.

Maybe then being unanchored will feel more like freedom.

I am larger than what my body allows me to be.

I am a force of nature, bursting at the seams,

as if I’m trying to get out,

not out of this world, mind you,

but, out of my body.

I’ve always known that there was something precious inside me –

inside all of us –

but for years, I hid it away like a dirty secret

under all these layers of my own making

and now that I’m trying to strip away those layers

and tear down those walls,

that sparkling and buoyant Being is expanding inside of me.

It wants to grow larger than humanly possible.

It wants to bend reality and challenge the limits of my imagination.

It wants to break free,

as if this combination of body and mind is some kind of prison,

but it’s not.

At least, it doesn’t have to be.

It’s only a prison if I allow it to be one.

It’s meant to be a vessel that I borrowed for a short time

which will help me experience what it’s like to be human,

to experience pain and pleasure and everything in between

the way only a human can.

But this growing Being inside of me

isn’t quite content with this arrangement.

It wants to be free.

Of what, I’m not sure.

How can I be both a human of this world,

and a Being far harder to describe, from some other world,

at the same time?

One foot here and one foot there.

How can I be in two different places at once,

two different beings in one?

Please help me

to be both human and spirit at the same time,

to find the balance to float freely between worlds,

as seamlessly as the wind blowing in and out of my window.

Please help me to unanchor myself from my limited understanding of the world,

and to be okay with it.

I long for the truth,

but I don’t need to know it all,

at least not yet.

Please help me let my Being evolve as much as it can,

even if that means it grows larger than the confines of my body,

as enormous as the Earth itself,

as inexhaustible as the universe.

Who says I can only be a human who exists inside the universe?

Why can’t I be something greater?

Something shiny yet invisible, full yet free, everywhere and nowhere at once, 

with the universe inside of me?