17 July – 1 August 2010
Let me just preface this. What follows is not the most beautiful essay or entry I’ve ever written or the most clear piece of work. Traveling and practicing being in the moment sort of preclude me from delving much deeper into this to really flesh it out right now, but what matters most to me is the internal impact this has on me. And it is immense.
I bought some gold bangles today while on a school trip in Lucerne, Switzerland.
They’re such a small thing, really. Thin, shiny, gold circles that clink and leave bits of gold specks on my arms and clothes, making me look like I’ve just been visited by Tinkerbell.
But it marked a bit of a turning point for me and here’s why.
My favorite color was never pink. Never. Actually, I have always had trouble choosing just one favorite color because (as I’ve always said) I simply love color. Period. Except, usually, for pink. It’s only in the last few years that I have developed an affinity for the color. I don’t mind it now; in fact, it can be really lovely, especially when paired with gold or purple or orange. I like it. But I’ve always loved red.
Red always spoke to me, even as a child, of strength and of all sorts of other things I couldn’t name. But I felt guilty liking a color so much that was always associated with sin and murder and passion. So I quit it. I quit my love affair with red many years ago.
Or so I thought. Recently, the spark has returned and I am drawn to it. (And it looks better than ever on me!) I bought a red dress for the first time and there are weeks when it’s all I want to wear, but I must go slowly. The honeymoon phase will inevitably end, but I don’t want the affair to end again, so a bit of restraint is in order.
A few months ago, I was at lunch with a friend eating some delicious Indian food and I was telling her about two international job opportunities that interested me—one in Taiwan and the other in Istanbul. Both seemed like great opportunities. She had also worked in Asia before, and after telling her my difficulty in deciding where to go, she firmly suggested Istanbul because “Asia is like a cool color. Istanbul seems like a warm-colored place, like you.”
Which reminds me of the time I was out with a friend and colleague. He and I have a lot in common and during this lunch date, he was (I think) tossing around the idea of dating me, but at the end of out great time together, he said, “You need someone who is passionate. I’m not.” Whether or not he really was considering going out with me, he was right, and (although I hadn’t really thought about it before) I knew it the moment he said it.
So let’s talk colors. There are warm colors (browns, reds, oranges, yellows, certain shades of green) and cool colors (most greens, blues, purples, grays, blacks). You can have different shades and undertones in these colors that make them warmer or cooler, but generally speaking half the color wheel is warm while the other half is cool.
I have worn too many cool colors in my lifetime. I confess that I love black because it’s classic, chic, easy to match, and (let’s be honest) it doesn’t easily show sweat marks. But recently, I just can’t wear it. I try some mornings and I put it on while getting ready, but inevitably I take it off. It just doesn’t feel right.
But my friends are right: I AM a warm-toned person and I have been hiding in cool-tones for too long.
So you see, buying the gold bangles (I always chose silver before) was a big step and a turning point for me. I like the bangles. I like the gold next to my skin. No, I love the bangles and I LOVE the gold bangles with my red dress.
A couple of weeks before I came to work in Europe this summer, a healer said to me, “As you improve your relationship with yourself, your relationships with others will improve.”
I believe she’s right.
It’s like the sea and my hair. My hair has never been straight or easy to manage, especially in a dry climate, and I’ve always felt at war, in a way, with the nature of my hair. Generations back in my family, people were ashamed of their curls. Didn’t know what to do with them. Were always self-conscious about them. Tried to get rid of them. For me, my “nature” was just wrong and something to be ashamed about. I didn’t know, however, just how curly my hair could be until I lived by the sea. Here, on the edge of the Caribbean Sea, there is no use fighting it. It’s completely futile…and quite liberating.
How could I completely be happy with someone unless I’m not at war with myself?
And so, my happy gold bangle purchase was small, but it has taken me around (just as one may follow their perfect curves) to a new but key epiphany.
I know what happened to me now.
MIA: Emotional safety—enough to be and show when I was happy; vulnerability—a safe space and a safe person to tell how I was really feeling and thinking. These are what I was missing while growing up and they are what have shaped me more than almost anything else.
I knew at age seven there were certain people I couldn’t trust or rely on for help. Actually, there were really only one or two people I felt I could trust, but even then it wasn’t all the time. I grew up very comfortable in melancholy and criticism and for years have wondered why being happy and smiley and showing that I was happy gave me anxiety and made me sweat.
I fought against everything and everyone that was really meant to protect and secure and create safety for me. I didn’t feel it and when it seemed offered I didn’t trust it. Couldn’t trust it. I always wanted to, and well, I did run away from it whenever and however I could.
This body has known such terror and fear, such self-consciousness, such terrible comparisons, such discomfort, such fight, such battle and war and criticism and despising of my own nature. This body has felt such insecurity and unease—more than most people in my life know—and this body and mind have felt such entrapment in the condition of distrust.
A colleague and I were recently discussing whether it was easier for us to give or to receive. For her, receiving is easier, and her graciousness and class and calm are evidence of that gift. For me, I said, giving is much easier because deep down I am so clearly aware that I have heaps and heaps to give and I enjoy it (sort of like the way a sea needs a river outlet to keep it alive), but also because deep down I also just don’t really trust that anyone else truly understands or is capable enough or sees clearly enough to really give what I truly need. And disappointment and betrayal are not new things to this body. (It’s not the best way of thinking, I know. Sort of prideful and problematic at times, but it’s protective.) So I was briefly explaining my trouble with receiving and strength in giving and my colleague then clearly remarked, “Is that why you take such good care of yourself?”
Hmmm. I have taken on a kind of parental role over myself. And even in the worst of time, I was fiercely devoted to myself and whatever divinity was inside, no matter how hidden it was.
I don’t lay blame on anyone, not anymore. There is a clarity now in my life about what happened and a love I feel is the best and only thing I need to give, even though I’m sometimes unsure how to give it. I sort of wish things had been better for me, and there are things I wish I knew better how to do and things I wish I were more comfortable in, but I so appreciate the strength and wisdom, like internal steel, it led me to develop.
I LOVE my parents and appreciate so many of the values they taught me, for the reverence and generosity they demonstrate, for their good hearts, for their willingness to learn and grow, and for all sorts of individual traits they have respectively.
I feel lucky, really. I was released from several things in life: from an extremely awkward growing up, from emotional non-safety, mistreatment, physical deformity, and from severe self-consciousness. I’m still not exactly in the position I want to be entirely, but my gut still tells me I’m capable of so much more. So many others never find release or relief, and I feel intensely grateful I did.
In the end, I’m grateful that it taught me to be a fighter and taught me how to create some of those things I lacked and that it pushed me to find a safe place in things like music and writing, and that it pushed me to develop a kind of internal strength and tenacity and wisdom that I continually rely on. Simply put, I’m grateful for who I am.
Even though I’m aware of those emotions and those memories and that distrust still stuck in some places in my mind and body, I’m intensely grateful for my brain, my mind, my heart, and my spirit that somehow, collectively, allowed me to realize things and grow, especially when there are so many others who never do escape. More than that, however, I offer gratitude that somehow and somewhere in this universe, my heart was heard, even when it didn’t know the words.
I’m grateful to know—just know—that God loves me. I appreciate how it pushed me to rely on Him—as a God, as my parent, and as my friend—and how that laid the foundation for me to know and rely on myself. I now have such appreciation for the internal strength it pushed me to develop and for the authenticity of what I know and feel.
I’m so grateful for my internal eye that sees what’s beyond in myself and other people and that understands this continuing blood poetry and to—somehow, without obvious reasons—just know things.
I love my brain and I love my heart. Fiercely.
Most of all, I’m grateful for the realization that I don’t have to live the same way anymore. Actually, even more than that, I am grateful for the opportunity now to learn how to feel safe and open and to live safely and openly, especially with another person.
i LOVE the sea