Celebrations

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Admire someone else’s beauty without questioning your own.

Something about this line sent me reeling this week. I have hardly slept. I spent some of my nights pondering the implications. There’s so much more to the words – something more than the sum of all its parts.

How much of my life do I spend comparing?

Is there a single area where I am content with my own beauty?

Short answer: No. 

But more than that, I start to think about the conversations I have with friends and family from time to time. More than not, our lives are spent comparing.

“You’re such a stronger person than I am.”

“I wish I had abs like hers.”

“Why can’t I lose weight as well as he does?”

“I want to be as good a writer as you.”

Worse than that, some of these conversations do even more than acknowledge other people’s beauty over our own. Some of it is belittling their own self-worth. I do this. A lot. “Oh! I know I’ve gotten Editor’s Pick more than once, but I’ve still never had a paid publication. I must be a shit writer, then.” “Oh! I know I lost 10% of my weight, but none of it matters yet because I can’t fit into those pants yet.”

So last night, I consider the possibility that maybe it’s time to change my thinking. That perhaps part of the reason I have been so unhappy is because I can’t look at my own beauty. In fact, I avoid taking pictures of my face as much as possible.

Case in point

I know there is some there. I need only ask my friends and family to look at an image, and they are always there to pick me back up. To encourage me. To say what it is I need to hear to feel less unworthy of their words. But truth is, I don’t hear the words. I only hear my own voice saying how pathetic it is I need validation.

But there is truth in what they say, and it’s time I embrace those things first. It’s time we all embrace and celebrate our beauty! So I thought I’d start this off by naming three things I know are alright about me. Then I’d encourage everyone to do the same, because we all need a little more self-worth. For the next week, I’m going to focus on these things. First. Then see if maybe it changes the way I feel.

I can see my beauty. 

I have great passion, sometimes to a fault. Plenty of people have learned this the hard way.  “Arwen was never at the Ford of Bruinen! It was Frodo alone who stood up to the Nazgul and screamed, ‘You shall have neither the Ring nor me!'” (I may or may not raise my fist in the air as I finish my tirade.) When I’m focused and passionate about anything, I grit my teeth and make it happen. In fact, I recently won the very first thing I’ve ever won before – an 8 week challenge. See! I have a trophy to prove it. And a cute tiara. Because every girl wants a tiara?

I have a great smile. Let’s leave my face out of this, but my smile. I know it’s pretty good. I randomly smile at complete strangers to try and cheer up their day. I know. Lame. But awesome. But mostly lame. I especially like it when I can see a barista or shop clerk who looks a bit flustered and under the pump. I flash them my pearly whites (okay, they’re really cream-colored) and like to see their face light up when they smile back. Again, lame, but mostly awesome, right? Right!? (Insert required validation comment here.)

Lastly I’m super encouraging. No idea why. I like to see people succeed. Whether that be by helping people with their resume or prepare for an interview or beta read their pieces. I love helping others reach or strive for their potential. I do it in almost all aspects of my “social” life from writing groups to work colleagues to exercise buddies.

Embracing my beauty

This is not my usual writing style. In fact, I am normally never this blunt. I don’t intend to make a habit of it, because, for one, it’s exhausting. Maybe by doing this, though, it will break me out of what ever it is causing me to not write lately, and it might encourage some of my friends to do the same.

Nighttime Musings

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“Life,” he mutters. 
His eyes reflect the twinkle of the night sky as their barrel of fire crackles. 

The sounds of the bridge above drown his ramblings. Still, he continues, “How unlikely our life is in the universe, yet here we are.”
 
 
 

Miss Kylie

Miss Kylie slid the last of the outfit on. Long, shaven legs were accented with a pair of uncomfortable red heels. A short skirt barely covered the rear, and a tight top showed off more cleavage than should be possible. 

Blonde hair hung in ringlets around Miss Kylie’s face, and shades covered the eyes. The ensemble was complete with a scarf in a bright shade of pink tied around the neck. 

“You don’t have to do this,” Erica said. 

Miss Kylie just nodded and smiled. Erica shook her head and muttered, “You’re crazy going out like that, but there’s no talking you out of it now.”

“Rape culture at its finest,” Miss Kylie said gruffly.

Erica looked Miss Kylie up and down and sighed, “How is it you look better in those clothes than I do!”

With a shrug, Miss Kylie picked up a tiny purse and started for the door. 
 
 
Erica drove Miss Kylie into the city and parked off a major street. “Good luck,” she said.

A laugh, “You’ll see. Nothing to worry about.”

Miss Kylie stepped out of the car and heard a whistle.

“Hah, yeah. You’ll be fine,” Erica said. “I’ll see ya soon.”

Miss Kylie nodded and walked down the street. The shoes proved to be the hardest to master. But after some time, they seemed to get easier. An old couple walked past and gasped. Mutters of “why would she wear that?” eddied across the sidewalk.

But Miss Kylie continued on.

A whistle here, a catcall there – all well-received. But the longer the walk went on the more was heard. 

A hoot, a holler, a slap on the rear, a dirty joke, a bad pickup line, a few sexual advances, repeat. 

For half an evening this went on until Miss Kylie had had enough. 

How do they do this all the time? 

Miss Kylie travelled back to the apartment where Erica was waiting with a bottle of scotch and a frown.

“How was it, Kyle?” Erica asked as the door slammed shut.

Kyle slumped into a chair and tossed the blonde wig onto the ground. 

“People are disgusting,” he growled.

He didn’t say another word. He grabbed the breast pads, threw them down on the ground, and proceeded to remove all reminders of Miss Kylie. 

“I tried to tell ya,” Erica sighed. “No matter how progressive the world gets, women will be objectified.”

He grumbled, “I know now.”

The social experiment was over, but the lesson was not soon forgotten.
 
 
 
 
 
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I Am…

I’m out at sea. Waves crash into my sail pulling me closer to the edge and filling my boat until it’s ankle deep. I hold on, life jacket securely around me, and shovel the water out. I can do this. I can weather this storm. I have been here before, and I know exactly how to see it out.The sun shines through ahead, and I focus on that. I just have a little bit further to go. Keep the sail from touching the water. Keep the water inside my boat low. Don’t think.

What if this is the best I deserve?

I catch a glimpse of where I have been. Those dark clouds, the rolling waves, my past. I have made it this far. 

I don’t see it coming, though. I am not prepared for it. A giant wave sweeps over my boat, and it capsizes. I rush to grab a rope, the sail, anything to support me, but everything is within grasp and nothing at the same time.

The boat disappears, and I am all alone. I swallow water, and I realize I can’t swim. I don’t know what to do. 

I never finished college. They would have taught me this in college, right? 

My arms and legs jerk in competing directions to get be back to the surface. The rough waters send me out further to sea or maybe closer to land. I cannot tell which. I only know one thing.

This is the best I can hope for.

Water fills my lungs, and my mind goes blank. All at once, my arms and legs stop moving, and with the help of my life jacket, I float back to the surface.

I am in the deep end of a pool.

The lanes are not roped off, and I am still so far from the edge. It’s only a pool. A lifeguard is here. The instructor is here. I have so much support around me. Yet I am empty and frightened and sad all at the same time.

I cough and splutter. My arms and legs have no muscle memory of how to survive here. I sink; the water washes away the tears but never the fear. 

No matter how hard I try, I will be stuck doing the same thing for the rest of my life.

The end is within reach but so is the deep. I touch the ceramic surface at the bottom.

My writing is going nowhere. Will I ever get published? What am I missing that others have?

My feet touch the bottom.

Am I ever going to get to see my family again? I am homesick for them. Will I ever be able to afford to go back to college? What if I put on the weight again after working so hard to take it off? What if my heart gives out like my dad? What if my PCOS develops into cancer? What if -?

I barely notice my arm being pulled. The instructor, the lifeguard, the other people in the pool are all helping to take me out of the pool.

I land on the ground and vomit the water onto the soft earth. I breath and push myself up overcoming the weakness in my arms and legs.

I am in a crowded field.

All around me, I can see people. I can see their lives before me. The woman who gets hit every night. The man who has been overshadowed by his father his whole life. The girls who can’t get into the college they wanted to. Every one of them has a right to be unhappy. They deserve to be lost and scared. 

I don’t. I’m a fraud. I shouldn’t be here. I have no right to be in this place.

I push through them all. Their lives touch me, become a part of me. I want to save them all, but how can I when I can’t even save myself?

I see a man standing above an entire peoples. He is driving hate and oppression. I watch their faces go darker. The shadow covers them all, and I see it cover me too.

How did I get to this place again? 

How do I get out?

I drop to my knees and sob. I can’t stop the tears. I want to. I want this to end. This too shall pass, but how? Someone please tell me how!

I lift up my head.

I am in a square room with no windows and no doors.

I accept it. Despite all the support I have around me, I know this is where I am meant to be. In solitude. Not bringing anyone else down with me. 

“You are so useless!” a voice hisses in my mind.

“You will never amount to anything.”

“You’re a gold digger. You don’t really love him.”

“You don’t care about anything but yourself.”

I lie down on the stone floor and let the chill of it sweep over me. I know it’s not true. I know it. The people who said it are no longer welcome in my life. So why are the words still there in the back of my mind holding me down? 

I pull my legs close to me and fill the cramped room with water.

I am drowning in a pool – no, I am out at sea. Everything and nothing is wrong all at the same time, and all I see ahead of me are gray skies, rough waters, and a minute trace of light.
 
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The Principal’s Office

I clutched the note in my hand and walked through the halls of the school with a 10lb backpack swung across my right shoulder. My eyes were focused on the toes of my shoes, each step harder than the previous. My knees seemed to buckle under the pressure of the words stamped across the top of the note: “From the Principal’s Office.”

The weight of the letters was heavier than the six textbooks I carried. What could the principal want from me?

I was a band and choir geek. In that small Texas town, sports were more important than the arts, so it couldn’t be about that. I wasn’t the smartest kid in school, so I wouldn’t be winning some award. I wasn’t naughty. I don’t think I was, at least.

I approached the office desk. The long countertop stretched out across my full field of vision. The dark hallways gave way to a light-filled administrative space speckled with desks three times longer than any students are allowed. Of the staff of six, none bothered to even look up at me.

I rubbed the note between my fingers until the edge was rolled into a mini scroll. I shifted my weight and swallowed to spite the dryness in my throat.

One of the staff coughed uncomfortably without even looking up from her desk, and finally a clerk shot up and walked to stand in front of me on the other side of the counter.

“Yes?”

My mouth opened, and a tiny squeal escaped. I handed her the note, and heat swelled my cheeks.

“Oh. Yes. This way,” she said.

She pointed towards a door around the corner, and I followed her direction.

The principal was waiting for me behind a large oak desk. His pensive look, complete with pen in mouth, stared back at me from within.

I stepped forward and heard the door close behind me before he spoke, “Please take a seat, Melony.”

I nodded and sat down in the first of two cushioned chairs.

“One of your peers,” he said before a slight cough. His eyes fell to his desk before looking at me again. “One of your peers has lodged a concern with my office today.”

My eyes narrowed. What did I do? I don’t remember. 

“They saw something yesterday. At your home,” he continued.

My head lifted a tad and eyes grew. A girl was riding on my street yesterday. I remembered her pedaling past when Daddy…

“Oh that was nothing,” I blurted out.

The image of the moment was burned into my mind. Daddy was drunk. He was angry. I don’t even remember why. The why was never important.

“This is a very serious accusation,” the principal said, swallowing air loudly. “She says he was hitting you.”

Daddy’s tirade had started and ended in the carport. He held in his hands a splintered wooden rake. It may have been the source of the anger, but I couldn’t even remember the next day. He swung it into the post sending showers of wood into the three of us. We crouched to avoid chunks landing on our face or eyes. The onslaught continued until the rake was in two.

I shook my head, “He wasn’t. I promise. Daddy has never hit us.”

I blinked sending tiny drops down my cheeks, and I sniffed the moisture away.

The principal crossed the room and sat beside me. “If you ever need someone to talk to, my office is always open.”

I acknowledged him with a nod, but all I kept thinking was don’t send us away. Please don’t take me from my family. Please don’t take me from my daddy.

“If anything ever happens, you’ll be the first to know,” I said. I stared straight into his eyes and drove the lie home.

He patted my shoulder, smiled, and sent me on my way.

I walked out of the office burdened by the weight of my books and the certainty that life was about to get a whole lot more complicated. He would have to report this to Child Protective Services. He had a duty of care to his students. There would be an investigation, and just like last time, I would be ripped from my parents’ arms.

But there was no investigation. His duty of care must not extend to students who don’t want out of their abusive homes. There were no calls made to my parents. My worst fears were not realized. 

I kept the exchange to myself, life moved on, and I continued to travel along it on a roller coaster with a drunk conductor.

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