Can You use me as I am?

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“Can You take me by the hand?
Can You use me as I am?” – Aaron Shust

I’ve been thinking lately that this whole “let me better myself” thing might interfere with my happy if not done right balanced.

Let’s explore.

I still believe wholeheartedly that we/I should always strive to be a better being. We cannot make this world a better place if we simply rely on or hope for others to change. Doesn’t work that way. At the end of the day, the only person you have control over is you. …and even that doesn’t always come without its difficulties. So yes, do better, be better, and all that jazz. It’s good stuff.

Buuut at the moment, while I continue to strive for better, I want to be used as I am. I want to be taken with all my imperfections, with all my flaws, with all those jagged pieces that we have as a result of living life.

I think that that’s where the balance lays. between the push-and-pull that is living and failing and re-attempting, and the stillness of the moment; in the acceptance of the perfection of imperfection.

So yes, I recognize that I will be a better being, little by little, moment by moment. I’ll get there.
But I also recognize that I am also perfect now, able to be used as I am to do good, create change, help and heal, if not others, then at least most definitely myself.

And that is pretty wonderful.

We will rise and we will fall
But you remain after all
You’re glorious and beautiful
You’re beautiful.

So, while striving to be more _____ (insert one of the millions of thoughts you’ve had on how you could be better at one point or another), I think it is equally important, if not more so, to accept that where you are is pretty amazing already. I challenge you ((and myself, mostly bc the whole practice what you preach thing is kinda on point and I shouldn’t ask you to do anything I’m not willing to attempt)), I challenge us to acknowledge one amazing thing about ourselves for every thought of dissatisfaction that comes up. Personally, considering the millions of things that run through my head at any given moment, I’m tempted to assume the extreme difficulty that lies ahead for me with this task. There’s that saying that good things don’t come easy. I’m starting to think that maybe they do, we just have a way of making them complicated. So, let’s not.

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“God knows I’ve failed but He knows that I’ve tried.”

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[failure and happy]

“God knows I’ve failed but He knows that I’ve tried…”

it’s true.

I’ve failed.

lots.

This is pretty much how I’ve felt lately. And I don’t think I’m alone in this.
…but, I’ve also been thinking that this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Or at least, it doesn’t have to be.

Life and all its circumstances have brought my failures to the forefront recently. I mean, it’s not like I had been completely unaware of my shortcomings before now. …they just hadn’t slapped me in the face as hard. Or maybe they just hadn’t affected me in the same way as they have been recently.

So here’s the thing, I’m pretty sure I’ve recently (and not-so-recently) failed at being a friend, daughter, and sister…among the many other roles I play. That’s not news. I suck at life sometimes. I think we all do. And that’s okay. It’s kind of hard to live it as smoothly all the time, especially when the current comes in a bit stronger. (I pray that those around me understand this to some extent when I’m failing). I think I’ve just been more aware of that difficulty and of my failures recently, particularly given that I’ve had more moments lately when I’ve had to neglect those roles in order to safeguard my own well-being. This leads to a wonderful push-pull between feelings of guilt for not being there for others and the necessity for self-care. It’s not very pleasant and often headache-inducing; I’m sure you’ve had moments where you can relate.

The thing is, I was starting to get really tired of it all. ..of the continued failures. of the unchanging circumstances. of the cycles and planning and never feeling like I was actually getting there anywhere. I was tired of feeling like I wasn’t taking the actions needed to be the person I knew I could become. I was tired of thinking so much and doing so little. hell, I was even tired of the writing [which is why I took some time away from this for a little bit. my bad. kinda needed a moment, which I know you understand. but I'm back now].

A conversation I had with someone brought to light some of that headache-inducing push-pull I mentioned. He said I had too high expectations for myself when I mentioned I was sucking at life at that moment.
Sometimes I agree that I can be a bit hard on myself, expecting more than I can possibly give.
..but then I think of how much I’ve yet to accomplish and of how wrong that he is because I there is so much I should be doing but don’t and of how I need to do more as soon as possible.
and then I see how that previous thought kinda sorta probably adds support to his reflection…but just a little bit…maybe. (okay, it does. a lot).

I got to thinking more about all that and about this whole failure thing as life began to circle back, as it tends to do when you need it most. And I thought about how the cliche “fall down seven times, stand up eight” line, while slightly annoying when you’re on the floor, fresh from having fallen, somehow holds truth and inspiration when you’re on your feet again.

 

At the end of it all, I think of how this isn’t the end of it all, at least not yet. I think about how, no matter how many times I’ve failed ((and will continue to fail)), the lessons come in the attempts. they come in the striving. He knows that. While I may attempt and fail a ridiculous amount of times, I keep trying. And God knows I’ve tried.

and that’s kinda the most important part.

there you have it, folks. you keep moving forward, inch by inch, moment by moment. while it may be five steps forward and two steps back, you’re still making progress, even if it doesn’t feel like it at times.

so keep going. keep striving. keep picking yourself up.
partly because, in doing so, you will find that you change and inspire those around you.
mostly because, in doing so, you will change and inspire yourself.

failure

*music inspiration for post and title. happy listening:

Goodbye, Chicago – or on letting go

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[letting go & happy]

I think it’s time to let go. I, like many, have held on to some things that aren’t benefiting me or my happy.

Mostly, I think it’s time to let go of expectations, of what will or could or may never be.

I think we’d all be a bit happier if we let go of the things that hold us back. Actually, no, that’s not completely right; I realized else something recently: I think we’d be happier if we let go of the things that are beyond us, things that are slowing our steps without necessarily completely holding us back. Those things we worry about that cannot be completely decided on our own regard limit our presentness, our ability to appreciate the present moments. They are the things that make us believe in “someday.”

Don’t confuse this with letting go of dreams or aspirations or even hopes necessarily. Those are all important. extremely. It’s hard to go anywhere further than where we are if we don’t have something to strive toward, no?

that was deep, Clouds.
agreed.

Okay but, while we hold on to some of those things, I think it’s important that we don’t hold on to things that cause us to miss out on the moments currently in front of us, on the now, on the amazing things happening right under our noses.

So, I think it’s time to let go.

Here’s what I’m letting go of:

*the number on the scale –
this one has held me back for way too long. The thing here is that I’m not letting go of being healthy. Nor am I giving up on toning and tightening and all those other fitness verbs that fill our world. What I am letting go of is thinking that I need to be a size 2. hell, I’m letting go of thinking I need to be a size 4! ..or maybe just letting go of the belief that I need to be any specific size other than what I am. I am not going to ever weigh under 125 and am probably not getting to 125 in a healthy manner. Constantly striving for “the number” left me feeling unhappy, not good enough, and mostly left my headspace filled with negative thoughts instead of praise for the changes I had made, for the body God gave me. So I’m letting go of that. Something I learned during my 40 days (which I’ll write about later) was that letting go of the scale is one of the most liberating and healing things I have ever done for myself. I think you should try it.

*friendships that have faded
I think this is one that has taken away from my happy more than most. There are a few friendships that I don’t think I can call friendships anymore. I’m not talking about the “we rarely talk or hang out” types of friendships. One of my best friends lives over a thousand miles away and, given my introverted-avoidance-of-phonecalls way of living, we rarely speak on the phone. But, somehow, that doesn’t matter. Connection and love are always present. I am 95% sure the friends with whom I’ve built lasting relationships with over the years know my heart’s intentions, even if I suck at making phone calls. What I am letting go of are the friendships where there is worry that I am not doing enough or being enough, when the absence has grown so great that there truly isn’t recognition of what’s going on in each others’ lives, the friendships where jealousy or guilt or manipulation have been the main emotion instead of love. These are the ones necessitating endings…or at least an allowance of fading without feeling guilty about the years spent building/rebuilding/reconstructing the relationship. What I’m learning with age and connection to truly kind souls is that a decade-long friendship isn’t necessarily worth more in love than a year-long one simply because of the time. I’m far from a perfect friend, but the love in my heart for you is authentic. I need to let go of the friendships that make me question this, on either end, for both our sakes. These relationships filled my headspace with wonders and worries of what I did to cause the rift, when really, relationships cannot be made up of one person.

*Chicago (the guy) –
While there is a Chicago (the guy), I think he can stand for the metaphorical “guy I need to let go of” since there are at least a couple more. Chicago is a pretty amazing, kind soul I was blessed to meet over a year ago. He helped me connect to mi cultura, to music, and mostly, to myself. You’d think I’d wanna hold on to him, no? Well, I wasn’t ready to hold on. and then, for the longest time, I didn’t want to let go. I realize this wasn’t/isn’t completely fair, to expect someone to stick around forever until I figure out where I’m meant to be, or how to make my way to another city, to another life, if that’s what even supposed to happen (read below). So I need to let go. He (and he and you and me) need to move on…or at least move. At the moment there’s no active pursuance or communication really. I’m simply holding on to the idea of him, someday. After seeing him moving on with his life (as is logical), I couldn’t help but feel…something. I can’t pinpoint what it is but I do recognize not-happy when I feel it. So I’ve got to let go. Again, this isn’t eliminating the possibility of connection or reconnection (I still believe that I’ll get my love that’ll last past Saturday), but what it does is eliminate the worry and thought that comes with thinking “maybe someday he’ll…” or “maybe someday I’ll…” Waiting for someday can get to be quite exhausting. I think we can all have our happy now, smiling later when we realize it was meant to be or smiling later when we realize it wasn’t.

*Chicago (the city)
This one’s hurts a little more than the others. but I’m not saying goodbye forever. I think what I need to let go of with this one is my belief that I’m meant to be there, which, at some level, means that I believe that I’m not meant to be here. There are a lot of things wrong with this; namely, I am potentially – probably – seriously missing out on sooo many possibilities, blind to what’s happening right in front of me because I’m too busy looking at years away. …and, honestly, even that is not guaranteed. Nothing is. Holding onto this has begun to leave me feeling jaded as I think “is it ever going to happen?!” I wholeheartedly believe that good things are in store for us all. But, I also believe that we must take an active stance on making some of those good things happen now, on realizing that those good things are already happening all around us. Whether I end up there or not, wherever there is, doesn’t really matter at the moment (or ever) if I’m not able to count my blessing now, here.

so that’s it. I need to let go. …do you? (no right answer to this one, just a good question to reflect on. …actually, I take that back. The answer is yes. Of what? Well, that’s something only you know. I recommend letting it go. …or at least seriously considering taking the first steps toward this, which would be acknowledging that there is something holding you back and realizing that you’re worth more than the negative feelings it brings).

“Abandon anything about your life and habits that might be holding you back. Learn to create your own opportunities. Know that there is no finish line; fortune favors action. Race balls-out toward the extraordinary life that you’ve always dreamed of, or still haven’t had time to dream up. And prepare to have a hell of a lot of fun along the way.” — Sophia Amoruso

 

belong

sex and sexuality and womanhood.

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[feminism and happy]

“Feminist: the person who believes in the social, political, and economic equality of the sexes”

Many moments led to this post (…and to another that is in the process of being written but not quite ready to be shared):

`sobering conversations with my mother, much different from before….in a good way

`an honest talk on choice with my best friend over beers, void of judgment

`intimate moments after a night out, chosen and remembered

`coincidence and conversation with my sister involving a bad romantic comedy

`current events and #yesallwomen articles (which I recommend you take a moment to read…if you can. ..right now, right now. I’ll wait.. I must admit, my heart hurt a bit after reading some of these, but in that let’s-do-something-about-this-please! type of way. more on this, too, later)

`internal reflections on sex and sexuality and womanhood as all of these things collided (purposefully?) within this past week

 

I’m not sure when I’ll shared what I’m actually intending (still working on being bold, remember? the potential for judgment, like with much of what I reflect on, is definitely there/here. as always, I don’t ask that you agree with what I say or what others say; I simply ask that you add a bit of personal reflection to the judgments that may come). anyway, the above experiences did bring up a very related and relevant topic: feminism and the different meanings it holds.

I’m not sure how much I’ve written about the topic overtly but I do know it comes up in many of my writings, like my conversation with my Mexican mother referenced above and how things look better with the lights off and about  doing it like a dude. It’s a big part of why I write: figuring out my happy and who I am as all of the parts intersect to create me as a whole, me as a Mexican American female with countless other equally influential parts. I made the mini-video-reflection /slash/ documentary /slash/ whatever-you-wanna-call-it below last summer as part of a course project with the help of some very kind souls who shared their thoughts with me. It combines a few of my favorite things: consciousness-raising music, the words of others, and thought-provoking images and ideas.

so why did this come up (again) now? why am I sharing this? good question.

maybe it’s because I’m supposed to reflect on recent-not-so-recent actions and values and potential cognitive dissonance…
Or maybe it’s because I’m supposed to shift focus to this topic given dissertation deadlines and potential article publications and (very much needed) need to get things accomplished this summer…
Or maybe it’s because I’m supposed to bring about reflection on the topic since it’s on the minds of many but not overtly discussed…

…I don’t really know the reason.

I do know that all of these events came together this week, reigniting my passion for this topic and thinking and learning and writing. …truth be told, I’ve been in a slump lately. Details of this aren’t the point of this post; just know things haven’t been getting done and cycles attempted to creep back in and I didn’t like it, leaving me unproductive on so many levels and feeling overly self-critical. But, in answer to your (my?) question of why this, why now: well, today seemed like a good a day as any to do something will all of this given that I can feel the fire again, the passion for all this.

With that said, happy viewing (and reflecting), friends.

(*note: I recommend you pause to read the quotes. As an amateur documentary maker, video editing is a bit…well, amateur. So frequently pausing is definitely recommended, unless you’re a super speed-reader, which is cool too).

***side note: as I’m typing this, I (like always) have music accompanying my thinking. Pandora decided it was a good time to introduce to me a new song — “Flawless” by Beyonce featuring Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. …seriously, that just happened. They say that Ralph Waldo Emerson said: “Once you make a decision, the universe conspires to make it happen” (and by “they” I mean wikipedia so don’t quote me on the quote. aaanyway, moving on..); moments like this make me believe in this even more wholeheartedly than before ღ

“We teach girls to shrink themselves
To make themselves smaller
We say to girls,
“You can have ambition
But not too much
You should aim to be successful
But not too successful
Otherwise you will threaten the man.”
Because I am female
I am expected to aspire to marriage
I am expected to make my life choices
Always keeping in mind that
Marriage is the most important
Now marriage can be a source of
Joy and love and mutual support
But why do we teach girls to aspire to marriage
And we don’t teach boys the same?
We raise girls to see each other as competitors
Not for jobs or for accomplishments
Which I think can be a good thing
But for the attention of men
We teach girls that they cannot be sexual beings
In the way that boys are
Feminist: the person who believes in the social
Political, and economic equality of the sexes”

love (v.)

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[Love and heartbreak and happy]

I think I lied to you before.
…not intentionally. I guess I also kind of lied to myself. Nothing major. Well, not major major. It has to do with falling in love.

I told you before that I had only been in love three times. The fact is it’s been much more than that…much, much more. I just hadn’t realized it. Or maybe, I didn’t want to believe it.

Truth is, I fall in love almost every day. I fall in love with thoughts and ideas and sunshine. I fall in love with moments. I fall in love during interactions and conversations and possibilities. Seeing as very few of these occur in isolation from others, this means I fall in love with people, and have done so for as long as I can remember.

So why the avoidance of accepting this fact? Well, part of it is that I often felt Selfish if I did admit this (more on this later). But mostly, I think it’s because I used to think that if I didn’t admit that I was in love, heartbreak wouldn’t happen if /slash/ when that love went away, that it hurts less when love goes away or doesn’t pan out as hoped for or imagined.

Wrong.
…sort of.

I read this article recently that talked about the seemingly social stigma of saying “I love you,” about how we don’t say it as often as we feel it for fear of rejection or some misguided notion that we shouldn’t say it or feel it or something ridiculous like that. I’m not saying that these things aren’t present or that fear of rejection isn’t scary as hell. Nor am I advocating that you go fall in love with everyone you meet. …actually, maybe I am. sort of.

Clouds, you’re kind of confusing…please explain.
Sure thing, friend.

So I’ve come to realize that love isn’t simply a feeling, but rather, and perhaps more importantly, an action, something that you do, in different ways and stages and presenting forms. That’s why people talk about falling in and out of love. It’s an active thing. What you don’t hear about nearly enough is how this very thing, love, applies to things and people and places, outside of romantic love and significant others. But love is love is love, no?

This is my point. [...sometimes it takes wading through some confusing bits for me to figure out the nonconfusing part of what I'm trying to say. And, sometimes, it's still confusing. Not sure into which of these categories this particular post and point falls but I'm gonna run with it since the bits seem to be falling into place in my head at the moment].

I used to fight against saying I was in love. Not necessarily an active, conscious effort. But, in its place, I would emphasize that I loved but wasn’t in love. I know I’m not the only one who’s done this. Romantic comedies are built on this shit, along with millions of breakup stories.

I love you but I’m not in love with you.

Sound familiar?

This post isn’t about heartbreak per se. And it’s definitely not about romantic relationships necessarily. It’s about love. No, scratch that. It’s about loving. Here’s my logic: I fall in love with friends. I fall in love with sunshine. I fall in love with conversations. I fall in love with ideas. But if I don’t actively take part in pursuing each of those things, at least on some level, I can fall out of love with them too. If this holds true, this means that the opposite must hold true as well: that others can fall out of love. And, an even more relevant truth to this point: that others can fall out of love with me.

Boom. There it is. full circle to one of the first things I said (wrote?):

…if I didn’t admit that I was in love, heartbreak wouldn’t happen if /slash/ when that love went away, that it hurts less when love goes away or doesn’t pan out as hoped for or imagined.

Again, take “falling in love” out of the romantic-relationship context. I think this fear, of hurt/heartbreak/pain/anything but sunshine and butterflies and rainbows, is what keeps me from loving acknowledging that I love as often as I do. If I don’t admit that I love someone who used to be a best friend, then it won’t hurt as much when we’ve lost connection, no longer in each others’ lives for a reason I am unaware of, right? wrong. it still hurts, just maybe not as loudly. If I don’t admit I loved sharing moments with someone who was never meant to be more than a casual thing, then it won’t hurt as much when things end because casual no longer works, right? again, wrong. it still hurts, just maybe not as obviously. If I don’t admit that I love photography or singing or writing, then it won’t hurt as much when rejection in those arenas come, right? you guessed it: wrong again. it still hurts, just maybe not as intensely.

I’m not saying that you/we/I love everyone or everything, or that fading of love doesn’t occur, or that there aren’t different forms of love. I very much believe these things are part of our existence. What I’m saying here is that there’s an intentionality missing on our/my part. We often avoid saying or entertaining the idea, which on some level means we avoid actively noticing or pursuing what we are feeling, which also means that we aren’t necessarily avoiding the feeling itself (as we might have hoped to believe), which also means we don’t avoid the hurt. By avoiding the former (entertaining or acknowledging the love we feel), we not only cheat ourselves (and others) but that will also leave us confused as hell as to what we feel if the latter part (the hurt) is there but we never acknowledged the feeling before. I don’t know about you but that ambiguous unidentifiable invalidated feeling sucks.

So if you feel it, feel it. even if it’s not a I-want-to-be-committed-to-this-forever kind of love, it’s still love (noun), so go ahead and love (verb).

admittedly, I’ve recently fallen in love with: acoustic folk music, hugging my Sisters and telling them I love them, holding on a little longer, dancing with strangers, being honest despite the vulnerability required, letting go, asking for prayers, reading and the thinking it inspires, sitting with discomfort, and unexpected kisses after midnight. some of these lasted only moments. others, moments longer. but all, I love (v.).

…I feel this post took the scenic route. but hey, considering my love for long, winding, country roads, it seems fitting.
now let’s go fall in love.

 

love

Soul(mates).

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[soul(mates) & happy]

I never believed in soul mates. Or at least not in the stereotypical sense of the term. You know, the “romantic, true love, meant to be united, destined and fated and together forever” sense.

…I still don’t believe in that.

But I do believe in soul(mates).
Let’s explore.

I started thinking about the idea of soul mates after doing some exploration on personality types. …yes, that’s the type of thing I do in my free time. Go ahead, you can say it: Clouds, you’re awesome. (Taking obvious liberties in assuming that that’s what you’re thinking. I think we’re both used to it at this point so why ruin a good thing, right? Right.). The more I study and work and explore and live, the more I am convinced about the guiding influence of our personality on our actions/reactions/inaction as social and reactive beings.

Where am I going with this? Personality and happy and soul mates, that’s where. Stick with me.

So, I’m exploring and come across this description of the INFJ personality type (which just so happens to best describe my traits. Shocker). Here’s part of the million-word description that spurred this post:

“INFJs are true introverts, who can only be emotionally intimate and fulfilled with a chosen few from among their long-term friends, family, or obvious ‘soul mates.'”

Yes! That’s it! I think many of you may relate to that statement, to the whole description in fact (you should totally follow the link above if you have some time; it has some great insights or just thoughts to reflect on, which is always nice). It’s a truth I’ve discovered about myself. Part of this whole happiness thing is connecting with others. We are meant to be social beings. What isn’t set is whether that means “social” in the extroverted sense or “social” in an introverted, more intimate sense.

So I believe ((and personally need)) soul(mates) to help my happy. And I think you do too.

Like I said before, I don’t believe in soul mates as they are commonly thought of. If you do, that’s cool too. This isn’t a judgment on that. What I’m saying is that I think we all need soul(mates) in our lives, people who allow us to be emotionally intimate with them, without judging or expecting or needing anything from us other than simply our being. They help us feel fulfilled, capable, worthy. They are amazing spirits that compliment our own free spirited nature. But they are rare, hard to come by, and sometimes lost in the mix of life. And this is okay. …well, not okay okay, but it’s part of living and letting go. I don’t have a grasp on it exactly and am not an expert on letting go (as i wrote about before) but I have come to learn that it’s a part of living. I have a few soul(mates), kind souls with whom I can be unabashedly me. It’s the most amazing feeling in the world. And I am constantly meeting others who seem to fit into this as well.

so while I don’t believe in soul mates, I believe something: I believe in soul(mates).
what do you believe in?

soulmates

naked.

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[vulnerability & happy]

So I’ve been trying to figure out why it’s hard for me to write recently, why there are a couple of (completed) drafts in my folder, ready to be published…but not.

I think it’s because I still feel naked.
…no, not like that. Let’s explore.

I went on another weekend away. This one was different, but equally exhausting in its own right. This time, I ended up speaking more than intended, invited for various moments. Each time, I felt a little more drained. It wasn’t the getting up in front of people and speaking that did it. I’m okay with that now. Somehow over the past few years (unbeknownst to me exactly how), I have found ease in this (…like seriously, if you can figured out how I’ve come to feel something aside from deep, debilitating anxiety when standing and speaking in front of others, clue me in bc my introverted self has yet to figure it out. I’m even feeling energized in some sort of weird fulfilling way). Anyway, I think the being drained came because I put myself out there each time. …maybe “out there” isn’t quite it. I put myself in itin the words I spoke, whether they were mine or an adapted passage from scripture or the words of others. I felt the words as I voiced them. It was exhausting.

Alright, what does this have to do with happy? Hang in there, folks, it’s coming.

So I think what did it, what really exhausted me and stripped me down to my core was when I shared my story, sharing my self for what felt like an eternity (but was really more like 25 minutes), exposing myself and removing any potential barrier that could be present between myself and those who listened. I shared a story that has sat partially told in my drafts folder since last year. It sat (sits?) there because I wasn’t ready. I’m not sure I was ready when I shared it with the women during my weekend away but the purpose overrode the fear. I felt called to share, both in the literal and spiritual sense of word. I feel that stirring happening again, a stirring that tells me I’m (almost) ready to put it out there. That stirring is the weird mixture of vulnerability and happy. This is it, friends: happiness and vulnerability may actually be connected. How can you find any semblance of happy when you’re feeling vulnerable? Good question, ma’am (sir?).

Well, I think it’s because pushing past that discomfort gets you somewhere, somewhere new/different/amazing/maybe-not-so-amazing-but-you-went-there-anyway-which-is-a-feat-in-itself-so-you-are-amazing!
be uncomfortable.

Yes, it is amazing. But, I won’t sit here and lie to you, feigning that it’s easy to be vulnerable. Nope. not. in. the. slightest. I was scared shitless. True story. I still kind of am. That’s where the naked feeling comes in. When I said I felt exhausted and stripped afterwards, that wasn’t an understatement. As I spoke, I was okay, too wrapped up in my own words and emotions to care completely what others were thinking, feeling, judging, not judging. In that moment, it didn’t matter. Afterwards? Completely different story. After praising me for my courage and delivery, a kind soul asked me how I felt. All I could say was “…I don’t know.” The truth was, I felt…naked (read: uncomfortable, open, raw, completely. vulnerable). [random ramblings in my head as i write this: i can actually recall the feeling as i sit here and type... the mirror in my room shows a look i can't quite describe -- a pained face wanting to tell others to be kind to those in my story, to be kind to me, to not judge, but also to use me/my story in whatever way will be most helpful. ...used. maybe that's it. the feeling i can't quite describe..like a vessel there to deliver a message and that was all. ..but that's not it exactly. plus, i don't quite like the word "used" since it feels like the connotation is negative. and while the feeling i had wasn't necessarily a pleasant one, i'd repeat the event in a heartbeat so it couldn't have been that bad].

Clouds, what exactly are you saying here?

Another good question, my friend [...I'm obviously taking liberties with assuming what's going on in your head as you read this...and I'm okay with that if you are. ...you are? great! let's continue].

What I’m saying is: be vulnerable! be courageous! I’m not saying go and tell your deepest secrets and fears to the world. [While I believe in the kindness and goodness of all human beings, I also believe that there are assholes in the world who are capable of hurting you, intentionally or not]. I guess what I’m saying is what I learned: sharing your self, your real self, in a way that allows you to feel protected, is healing, not only for yourself but for others as well. And that will bring you more happy than doing nothing. Will it be easy? not in the slightest. Is it worth it? more than you’ll ever imagine.

courage.