I thought it would be different now.
I thought when I turned 40, I’d have a few things figured out.
But here I am, the year end of a global crisis—and I know nothing.
I’ll turn 43 this January.
The only thing I do know is, I’m tired. Of getting in my own way. Repeating predictable patterns of self-sabotage.
People say, “You’re so strong, graceful, and resilient,” as I smile. If you only knew.
I recently had to perform a monologue for an acting class. My fierce, 70-year-old teacher, who taught both Tupac and Dave Chapell, gave me a poem to memorize and become—Mary Oliver’s, “The Journey.”
“ and there was a new voice, which you slowly recognized as your own. That kept you company as you strode deeper and deeper into the world. Determined to do the only thing you could do. Determined to save the only life you could save.”
How did she know? That I needed to save myself?
The only one who can “handle me” is me. I have spent decades auditioning strong men for “The Savior” role. Who will stay for the standing ovation, as I lay on the ground begging him not to go?
I have dedicated my whole life to trying to free her.
Therapy, volunteer work, movement, travel, practicing yoga, teaching yoga, sitting with dying people and in graveyards, Buddhism, Christianity, seminary, collaging, art, book after self-help book, meditation, all the training, spirituality, martial arts, fighting, acting, writing, journaling, talking to myself, talking to a therapist, a dog, plants.
Years of intense work, yet still pleading him to, “Come back,” as I walk home crying in the rain.
I will take responsibility. I will be better. I will fix myself.
My acting teacher said my emotional and angry performance was special. She knew I had great potential, but I was one-sided. Too strong, not vulnerable enough.
What? Why do people tell me this? Can’t they see my raw, pulp-like insecurity?
Haven’t I stayed with my pain, anxiety, and fear long enough to be considered “vulnerable?”
Healing is a mysterious process. I’m still unearthing pieces that want to be found. Shame buried deep in my subconscious.
A breathing contradiction.
I am strong and graceful on the inhale while exhaling lies. I can hurt people. Especially myself. I’m scared of everything—and the bravest woman I know. I am deeply kind. I move toward suffering. I love fiercely and can also get enraged. I can be violent. I am a paradox. I cannot be boxed and wrapped with a bow, yet I’m all tied up. Looking for scissors to slice my own bullsh*t. I try to stay positive, but sometimes the sound of loneliness is all I hear.
I am angry. At a world that taught me to stay small and in need of saving.
I am furious that my female body is judged by arbitrary standards.
An object to be picked apart and f*cked.
This body is mine, a conduit to feel warm sunshine on my cheeks, inhale campfires, taste my grandma’s venison sausage, walk barefoot on dewy Bermuda grass, marvel at a full moon, hold another tender hand.
But if I still believe a prince needs to save me from my sleep, I will have to control my body.
Dear body, you must do what I say because you are too feral and need a man to tame your savage instincts.
Wax all your hair off, except your head; make sure there are no signs of gray.
Inject poison into your forehead and extra fat into your ass and lips, so they have something to bite and hang onto—but your waist?
Forget it. Suck that sh*t in.
Dance in shoes that hurt your feet and pretend they don’t. They make you taller, and your legs look longer. Check.
Make all the right sounds, shapes, and rhythms to drive him wild, while never asking, “What do I desire?”
Fake it. Put on a show. Protect the male ego.
I’d like to take my humanity back.
For years I swallowed my rage. I obeyed the rules. I fixed my hair every morning, smiled, said, “I’m fine,” while my insides burned. I gave up my own needs for others. Made peace as a storm brewed within. I was a “good girl.”
I shoved down my hunger, impulses, and preferences. I searched for safety “out there” because I didn’t trust I was a fighter. I longed for freedom but was too scared to be alone and face my own demons.
So I kept lying. I’ll play the distressed Damsel. Oscar performances, I convinced myself were true.
They keep telling me I’m “too much,” so I swallowed the words like nasty cough syrup.
I guess I am. Nothing will ever change. I guess I do need a man to save me from myself.
As my animal body rebels, ravenous and ready to taste blood.
She wants out.
The teenage girl who prayed to God as a Father.
She longed to be a Pastor and preach “the word” but would have to settle for “Church Secretary.”
She didn’t want to be a secretary. She wanted to be the goddamn Pastor. She wanted to be the star she was born to be.
This same little girl wouldn’t eat crunchy food in the cafeteria because it was too loud. She sat frozen at recess, longing to play, but terrified to be seen.
She wanted to throw wall balls with the boys. Aggressive, dodging the hard tennis ball, but after being rejected once, she was too scared to ever try again.
A thousand lost opportunities because she was too afraid to show up.
As the voice whispered,
Don’t worry, baby girl. Just secure a man who was made in the image of God; he can rescue you from your ancient anxiety and fear. He will make sure you don’t eat the poisonous apples of your own liberation.
I wanted to do it myself. I tried so hard to stop crying and “man up,” like a proper patriarchal daughter.
I could pretend I didn’t care, but, inside, everything hurt.
My heart constantly breaking for warted bullfrogs and raindrops that died when they hit the window sill. Aching for baby birds, fallen from the nest, who couldn’t reach their mama.
I was too sensitive to “will” myself into bravery.
My boots straps were broken, so I just stayed small, afraid of my own power. Believing this is “good enough.”
But I don’t want “good enough,” I want it all.
I’m trying to fall in love with this body.
I am trying to unearth years of shame for being a woman. Spit out the poison of misogyny I drank from the bottle.
Now is the time.
In 2021, I commit to stop lying. I don’t need to be saved because I was never broken. I will trust my gut and lead with my senses. Silence means inner voices that tell my little girl to suck it up and stop crying.
I will own my rage and stop making “men” carry it because I agreed to the rules.
I will take my anger and turn it into a creative fire, lighting the world with vulnerable bravery and shaky steps forward.
On a yellow brick road of questions—because I finally have the courage to “not know.”
I’ll wear magic red slippers because I believe in magic, and I’m not sorry anymore that logic cannot explain mystery.
I still believe.
I believe I am worth being fully human, not a woman pretending to “man up” or a woman making fake sounds during sex to please him.
I will sit right in the middle of discomfort. I will wait. I will not lose eye contact with fear. I will be still. I will ask the pain what it wants to teach me.
In this moment. I am the only one. Who can wipe her tears. Who can come to her rescue. Who can witness her lifetime of anxiety, fear, sadness, shame—and create something beautiful.
Maybe I was never made to be fixed. Maybe I was meant to be broken open into a million pieces. Giving birth to real strength, grace, and resilience.
Maybe “crazy” is just being exceptionally human. Feeling every inch of the world deeply.
Maybe I can give her a break today. Maybe she is doing the best she can.
Maybe this is what she was born to do. Sit with the scariest suffering—hers and the world’s.
A warrior of the strongest kind, standing right in the middle of the fire ready to burn for love.
You are beautiful because you are here. The world needs you to stay—exactly as you are.
“ and there was a new voice, which you slowly recognized as your own. That kept you company as you strode deeper and deeper into the world. Determined to do the only thing you could do. Determined to save the only life you could save.” ~ Mary Oliver
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