Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Love doesn't need a "spark"



We think it’s the big prerequisite to lasting love. Without it we’re nothing more than roommates, moving peripherally through one another’s lives. We chase the “spark”: that elusive glimmer of attraction which, if shared, could lead to forever.

But love doesn’t need a spark to begin.

Relationships based on attraction are a cultural norm. We are drawn together like magnets, seeking physical fulfillment. The thrill of mystery. We think chasing attraction is the way to lasting love; that if we get that part right, everything else will fall into place.

But we have it all backwards.

Chemistry isn’t a prerequisite to love; it’s the product of love.

Love is the staying power that makes attraction so strong. The magnetism of attraction increases as intimacy deepens; as our hearts – less our bodies – are bound together by common experience and time. The spark is a part of love, but it’s not the cause of it.

Chasing the spark defeats our relationships. We move from person to person, eager for that “feeling” but unwilling to commit. We don’t understand what love really is so we keep failing at it. We’re emotional thrill seekers, trying to gauge forever by the most unreliable of means. We can fix this. We can know lasting love. But we have to stop chasing a feeling and embrace what love really is.

Love is the one who stays when no one else will. Love answers the late night call and listens on the line. Love is the shoulder you cry on and the arm around your pain. Love is the slow burn of friendship and faithfulness, a fire unquenched by distance or time apart.

Love is less of the spark and more the ember. It's always there, ever burning under the surface, ready to burst into flame once you recognize its potential.

True love doesn’t need a spark to last forever. It needs people who choose love when the feelings come and go – when emotions fade, and the seasons change. True love burns slowly, but it burns brightly – and unlike the spark, it takes a lot to put it out.

Monday, December 18, 2017

Date someone who brings out the best in you

Date someone who truly brings out the best in you. Who highlights your best attributes. And who brings out the kind of smile in you, that is 100% genuine.

Date the person who recognizes your weaknesses as strengths. Who watches you fail, and gives you a reassuring smile to get back up again. Date someone who believes that your goals will come true. Date someone who knows they will come true.

Date the person who brings out your rosy cheeks from laughing so hard, and who brings out your goosebumps when they tell you that they love you for the first time.

Date someone who looks at your imperfections as perfections and who never sees your downfalls in a negative light.

Date the person who brings out the wildness in you. Who dares you to be the best you that you can be, and who dares you to live outside of your comfort zone. Date someone who brings out the fire inside of you. Who lets you know that you should stand up for yourself when you need to, and who realizes that you are a strong, strong human.

Date someone who brings out your youth. No matter what age you are, date the person that makes you feel young again and who makes you forget your worries. Date someone who tells you that it’s ok to play and that life should be more fun anyways. Date the person who brings out your giddiness and enthusiasm. Date someone who lets you know how to truly live.

Date the person who reminds you that you are important. And who makes you realize that you are truly special. Date someone who lifts you up when you need help, but who also recognizes that you can do it by yourself. Date the person who cherishes time with you and who feels grateful that you are in their life.

Date someone who teaches you that life is worth living. And shows you that life is so, so precious. Date someone who makes you realize that live is short, and that you might as well date someone who actually gives a damn.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Please don't tell me I look thin

I remember it very vividly. I’m in fifth grade when I notice the way my belly sticks out. I can’t say why I see it now and never before, but I can’t un-see it. And I hate it. Round, plump. Childlike. Determined to make it go away but still blessedly unfamiliar with the language of dieting, I try to simply suck in my breath, tucking my little extra belly into itself. I find that it’s a delicate balance to suck in enough to look flat, but not so much you get short of breath. Sometimes I forget and I notice the roundness protruding when I glance down. It requires constant vigilance.

I’m twelve when I start my first diet.

I’m thirteen, trying on bathing suits with my mother. I come out of the dressing room and she says “Yep, you have my thighs.”

At fourteen I lay in bed in tears, clawing at the circle of pudge around my belly, and vow not to eat for a week. The only thing that can make me hate myself more than I do in that moment is when I eat dinner a day and a half later.

Sixteen: I craft elaborate ‘zero net calorie’ diet and exercise plans with the help of a fun new weight loss app. I say, “I’m getting healthy,” instead of “I’m getting skinny.” I’m hungry all the time. I learn a lot of nutrition facts, like how many calories are in a stick of gum.

Nineteen: I’m at a friend’s graduation party. I can’t say no to the cake. And I try, I really do, but it’s like an out of body experience. I actually watch myself accept the cake, say thank you, and attack it like a ravenous hamster with a tiny burrito. As soon as I regain control I’m in the bathroom retching over the toilet. It’s the first time I’ve done that.

So yeah, I wouldn’t say I have An Eating Disorder, specifically, but my eating has pretty much always been disordered.

My experience is not important because it’s unique (it’s really, really not) or even especially dramatic (it’s not). It’s important because it is the context in which I view my body and it’s very painful. It shapes the lens through which my image passes every time I look in the mirror, or see a photo of myself. It is the filter through which every compliment or criticism passes. It’s the residual guilt I feel when eating carrot cake, and the unshakable compulsion I have – to this day – to walk around my own house with my breath half held in for maximal tummy flatness.

I’ve basically accepted that the factors that influenced the way I grew into my body as a young girl are not going anywhere. The fashion and entertainment industry is going to continue insisting their army of size zero, 5’10”, light-skinned women are a reasonable and healthy representative sample from which to shape our collective global understanding of The Ideal Female; fat shaming will continue unabated from all quarters; fad dieting will continue to find easy prey in women whose very insecurity makes them most vulnerable to the destruction these diets invariably cause.

What I find difficult to swallow is when shame and pain about my body is triggered by those closest to me.

Coming home for a family reunion and hearing from twelve different smiling relatives that, “Sweetie, you look so thin!”

Friends taking it upon themselves to tell me that they’ve noticed how good I’m looking recently – always just a little too quick to add, “like, not that she didn’t look good before… just, well, like, you know, maybe you've lost a little weight or whatever.” Having my lunch evaluated by every coworker who passes by as I’m eating – “wow, so healthy – good for you!” – their voices tinged with the kind of congratulatory admiration usually reserved for the recently sober.

I know that in many ways it probably seems logical that a woman with lots of image issues wants constant reassurance that she is achieving her aspirational body. And there is certainly a voice in my head that whoops gleefully every time I receive a weight loss related compliment. It is the same voice that still reminds me daily how disgusting my cellulite is and still suggests regularly that maybe it wouldn’t be such a bad idea to just, you know, stop eating for a while.

I often spend a significant part of my day arguing with that voice, trying to convince it that no one actually takes note of the subtle roundness that grows and melts away in my face and hips as I fluctuate ten pounds here, five there. But I never sound very convincing, even to myself, and the instant a well-meaning uncle asks approvingly if I’ve been working out lately, the voice becomes so smug and self-satisfied that it doesn’t even have to say I told you so.

What I wish more people (and men, especially) understood is that for many, many women a compliment is not simply a compliment. It is an unneeded reminder that our appearance is under constant surveillance. It is too often a reinforcement that the constricting beauty norms we have spent so long trying to eschew for kitschy benchmarks like “health” and “self-love” are in fact the first – and maybe only – thing that anyone really notices anyway.

And underlying this is a much darker fear: that our adherence to a very narrowly defined ideal of beauty is the one thing that will be allowed to define us as women, as individuals, as people. That our accomplishments will never matter as much as the amount of space between our thighs, or a letter on the tag of our underwear.

I cannot begin to communicate the horrifying helplessness of this fear.

If you want to compliment the women you love (and compliment them you should) I would challenge you to ask yourself, what is it really that makes these women beautiful? What makes them unique? Is it her eyes – the bright flecks of gold right at the edge of the brown? The way that the lines at the edge of her mouth make it seem like she’s been smiling all her life? The warmth of her laugh? The strength of her convictions?

All I can say for damn sure is it’s not a number on a scale or a tag or a calorie log or a BMI index. These numbers are the cage we’ve been told to live in all our lives.

Monday, May 22, 2017

She doesn't believe she's beautiful

She is uncomfortable with compliments, because she never believes them. She avoids having her picture taken, because she knows she’s going to hate the way she looks. And when someone actually sneaks a shot in, she untags the photos of herself, because she doesn’t think she looks as pretty as the people around her.

This girl is beautiful. But she doesn’t realize it. When she looks in the mirror, her eyes skim past her strengths to focus on her flaws. They zone in on her insecurities.

It’s not like she’s never been told that she’s beautiful before. She has been — by friends, by family members, by strangers that pass her on the street and offer their smiles.

Some of these people have asked her out. They’ve tried to get her into bed. They’ve looked her in the eyes and told her how gorgeous she is.

Boys like her. But not the boy. And his opinion is the only one that matters.

As long as she’s living life without him, she won’t feel good about herself. She’s looking for love in the wrong place. She’ll keep chasing the one boy that doesn’t want her instead of looking around and seeing that there are dozens of others that realize her worth.

For some unknown reason, her heart wants the boy that makes her feel ugly. The boy that refuses to give her the one thing she needs. Confidence.

But boys aren’t the only reason she feels unattractive. She won’t let her self-worth rest entirely in the hands of men.

She’s too hard on herself. She lets one little thing destroy her self-esteem. If she likes how she did her makeup, she’ll only be proud for a second, because as soon as she tries to take a selfie and it doesn’t come out well, she’ll be convinced that she’s ugly. That she doesn’t look as good as she thought. That the mirror was lying to her and she’s secretly a monster.

She doesn’t want to care about social media, to be sucked into an online charade, but she can’t help how she feels. If she uploads a selfie and no one likes it, she’ll scramble to take it down. To erase it from existence and hope that nobody realizes what she’s done.

She’ll actually be embarrassed of a photo that she originally loved, because it didn’t get enough approval. Because the likes were too low.

She knows that it’s crazy to care so deeply about social media or mirrors or dating, but she does. She wants to be pretty. She wants to turn heads. And most importantly, she wants to be comfortable with herself. She wants to stop waking up and wishing she was someone else.

And she tries. She tries so hard to see herself in a positive way. She can see the beauty in every other woman that walks by, but she’s blind to her own beauty. She doesn’t realize how stunning she is. She never has.

She can’t magically change her self-hatred to self-love and her self-criticism to self-acceptance. But every single day, she’s trying to silence that voice that tells her she isn’t good enough. That she isn’t pretty enough.

And slowly but surely, she’ll see what everyone else sees. A beautiful girl that deserves everything the universe has to offer her.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

You are only human

You are only human.

So when you are hurting, tell yourself this. That you are only human. You are not made up of metal that refuses to break. You are not made up of concrete, that can withstand the strongest of storms. You are not made up of the harshest wind that can knock down even the strongest of foundations. You are allowed to take a break. You are allowed to feel.

And when you are feeling sick with heartache, tell yourself this. You are only human. You have one brain, one heart, two hands, and ten fingers. You ware made to produce salty tears when your heart feels to weak to keep on going. You are made to feel with every bone in your body. You are supposed to ache with loneliness. You are supposed to feel everything that is terrible and everything that is beautiful.

Because you are only human.

And when you feel like you can’t go on any longer, when you feel like you can’t live another day, please remember this. You are only human. You break, you bleed, you bend, and you crack open. And yes, you are not made up of bricks that refuse to fall even during the darkest of hurricanes.

But, please, know this. You are made up of water, of the sea, that can drown the most terrible of feelings. You are made up of currents that can cleanse your soul of your darkest thoughts.

We say we are only human, and that we are weak because we are breakable. But my dear, we all break sometimes, but we always can find a way to be reborn.

You have lungs that work day in and day out to give you inhales and exhales that you don’t even have to think about. You have bones, that protect your every muscle, enclosing your body in a safe haven. You have one heart that pumps blood throughout your body, and you have your brain, that makes you, you.

You are human. But you are so much more than that. Because you see, while your bones and heart can break, while your lungs can weaken and your muscles can grow weary of this life that you live, your heart still beats. Your cells will still be reborn. Your lungs will still move in and out, no matter how tired you have become. Your bones will heal on their own, slowly but surely. And your body will begin again.

So while you are just a human, you are stronger than any natural disaster, than any army of wolves, than any man made metal, and than any tornado. Your body will keep working, even when you don’t want it to. Your body will keep you awake, even when you just want to sleep forever. And your body will keep cheering you on, even when your heart has dropped to the ground in despair.

So when you feel like you can’t keep walking, when you feel like life isn’t worth living, and when you think that you aren’t worth another day on this earth, just remember that you are human. Remember that you are mighty. You are the vision of strength and endurance even when you feel like throwing in the towel. And remember that you are beautiful, you are beautiful with all of your flaws and insecurities, even if you can’t see it now.

Sweet human, you are a masterpiece of cells and bones and heartbeats. You are nothing short of a miracle, because you are here, breathing in this air and this life. You are nothing short of perfection, because you are your very own person.

You are stronger because you are human. You are stronger because you have strengths and weaknesses, and you have insecurities and marks etched into your skin. You are stronger because you can break, and still get up the next day. You are stronger because you can die, and be reborn again. And you are stronger because after all of the time, you wake up each day and continue to climb this slippery slope that is your life. And you must know, that you are worthy of waking up each day, and breathing in this beautiful and crazy world.

So please, don’t stop climbing. Don’t stop breathing. Don’t stop living. Keep on going. Keep on walking. Don’t stop trying. Don’t stop inhaling. You are worth today. You are worth tomorrow. You are worth, a beautiful, masterpiece of a life. And you are worth giving yourself a shot to do more, to be more, and live a better life.