After Reyna Biddy

the months keep passing and I am afraid you have forgotten me altogether.

there’s a little death in that, isn’t there?

I want to live somewhere, still, in your head, in your heart

I hope you have not mistaken my anger for no longer needing you

my silence for lack of grief

I swallow my agony whole and

fix my face and

hold my own hand

I like to think I am starting to forget you, ‘cause

I only miss you

when I breathe


I’ve practiced how to hold my tongue long enough, I’m afraid I forgot to say goodbye


& I hate you for loving me better than anyone ever has

for knowing me

seeing me

and then shutting the door in my face

you know

nobody’s ever loved me constant

and I am so tired

of sitting on the other side of the door

wondering if you’re leaned up against it, crying, too

or oceans away by now

and even then

busying yourself to forget then suddenly startled

when you eye the stars or cocoon in the empty

in you we both know you hide

behind closed doors or right out

in the open, waiting

for someone to see you the way

you know I always have

do you hate me, too, then?

for knowing you

seeing you


I swallow my hurt and you swallow the truth, each of us

disappearing whole worlds in the pits of our stomachs, the history of us

so hard to digest, my back

holding up this door between us, hoping

you’ll come knocking, that

we will sit nestled on a bench somewhere, side by side

speaking a universe back into existence

at what point does this become pathetic?


you have made me

a begging woman.


the months keep passing and I am afraid

I still love you

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The Minimalist Lifestyle, Self-Care, and Learning to Invest in Myself: A Personal Essay

Over the summer, I got rid of about 85% of my belongings. I did this with the intention of living a more minimalist lifestyle, freeing myself of all the things I do not use, want, need, or could stand to live without. This was not for the sake of bending toward the trend of being a ‘minimalist,’ rather it was more about a letting go and a honing in on many different levels. Now, everything I own is what is in my small, Brooklyn apartment bedroom. That is all. And it feels so good. Especially as someone who has moved more times than I can count, whose sense of home has been so transitory and temporary for so long, all my stuff gave me so much anxiety; I would go to bed stressed and mentally planning how I would move it all months in advance of every upcoming move — which was basically all the time. So doing this felt so freeing and clarifying. But the journey did not end there. In fact, it was just the beginning.

What I love about minimalism, or whatever you want to call it, is the focus on self-care, authenticity, passion, purpose, and fulfillment as a lifestyle. On decluttering your life, rather than just decluttering your house. Because to be real, life does not get in the way of things. Things get in the way of life. And I don’t just mean physical objects or possessions when I say ‘things,’ I also mean relationships, self-talk, baggage, socialization, you name it. All restrict our ability to live full, authentic lives. Figuring out how to do this is really hard. It takes an endless amount of checking yourself, of unlearning, questioning and challenging your own mind. But it is so deeply necessary.

Getting rid of most of my shit was the first step and now I’m focusing on living better and more intentionally. So, how did I get here? Well, to be blunt, I’ve been really unhappy. I’ve been tense and anxious and stressed. I have been and am utterly alone in so many ways. I feel deeply lonely; I’ve been sad and angry and I’ve been sad and angry about the fact that I’ve been sad and angry. I’ve been tired. I’ve been feeling frustrated and empty in a lot of my remaining relationships with people. I’ve been at my wits-end about what to do about all this because I usually think I’m really hard working and very giving in all these aspects of my life. A few weeks ago, I was so restless and at a bottom with these feelings that I decided I really needed to be proactive, strategic, and honest about where to go from there.

So I went to my favorite cafe in Bushwick, down the street from my apartment and wrote “things that make me happy” at the top of a page in my composition notebook. I almost gagged at myself for this because it seemed so flowery, and for someone who has struggled, I’d like to think of myself as a bit more hardcore than this. Anyway, I tried not to wince at how hokey this activity was and to just take a breath and think about what brings me joy. I wanted to call attention to these things, to feel grounded, and to take action on it by seeking out opportunities for those things or making the time to do them more. To prescribe self-care for my own self, rather than reserving it as this thing I tell other people to do. I literally wrote sessions of self care into my Google calendar to hold myself accountable, like every Wednesday I take a bubble bath and moisturize because, God, have you ever taken a bubble bath? HOLY SHIT. The act of being submerged in water, enveloped in soothing smells and heat, forcing stillness deep into your core — damn. Heaven is a fucking bathtub. Other daily calendar events include a ten minute guided meditation and reading poetry for at least ten minutes a day. At first these sounded silly, but being real with myself that I truly do have 20 minutes a day for self-care really helped me hold myself accountable to actually doing them. I even bought an adult coloring book that is currently coming to life with various hues.

And what ended up on that list of what makes me happy? Poetry, art, music, food, being outside and in nature, traveling, social justice events, political talks, podcasts, deep conversations, learning, cultural immersion, dancing, leading, mentoring. All of these things are not things. They’re activities. They’re experiences.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I am not entirely un-materialistic. I love finding clothes or accessories in a way that may come off as vain, but it’s more about how they make me feel. So, even then, it’s not just about owning whatever that article of clothing may be for status or show, but rather how it makes me feel, the joy it brings me, the way it reminds me to carry myself. And I think that’s great.

And so, what if I refocus my time, energy, and finances on experiences, on what showed up on that list?

And so, what if I refocus my time, energy, and finances on experiences, on what showed up on that list? I thought I was previously really good at this and super aware, that I’d had my priorities in the right places. I mean, hadn’t I just spent a year abroad, basically living out of a suitcase, pretty much alone just ‘doing me,’ not doing any of the things I’d just worked four years to get a degree in? I suppose. But, there is more work to be done, and I wasn’t even happy then, either. I need to work more on pushing past doing things for measurable success and goals and getting ahead in school or at work. I need to stop confusing things that simply excite me with things that are my true passions. I used to focus so much energy on throwing myself into every opportunity I could, setting my breaking point to further and further end points, amazed at how much I could get done, no matter the cost to my physical and emotional health. A lot of this came out of trauma and struggle — needing to be the best, to control whatever I could, to secure my future, to sacrifice so that I did everything I could to be successful and take care of myself on my own. I understand why I did that and why, still, I instinctually lean towards it. But now I am trying to live from a different center and to resist the anxiety that pulls me back to that place. I need to find a balance that honors the intellectual with the physical with the emotional. I need to see me as a whole and living being.

I need to recognize all the ways I have neglected myself physically and emotionally. To apologize to my body, my mind, my heart, for all of it. For at times both the glutton and the starvation, the idleness when my legs beg to move, the doubts and insecurities, the myriad ways shame and fear control me. My silences and the disservices I do myself simply to save face or keep other people happy and comfortable.I want to be more tender towards and liable for, me. How many parts of myself have I let die simply by not listening to what I needed? By failing to honor the importance of every part of me?

When I truly listen to myself and stop ignoring or pushing down what I want and need, I recognize the places where I’ve faltered and where I can do better. For me, so much of this is focused on the body and allowing myself certain experiences.

I want to be more tender towards and liable for, me. How many parts of myself have I let die simply by not listening to what I needed? By failing to honor the importance of every part of me?

For example, the other day I “splurged” and got a Groupon for a 60-minute deep tissue massage. The amount of time I debated about buying this for myself was ridiculous. And after I did, I literally was like, “oh, you know what, I should give this to someone else, that would be so nice.” BISH, WHAT? You know what would be nice? Giving it to ME like I intended. So, anyway, I went and got this massage and Dear. Lord. Almighty. If my face wasn’t pressed up in the face pillow thingy, I would’ve been making some serious facial expressions. The masseuse went IN on my body. She ground up like a decade of stress and knots in my shoulders and back. It sounded like someone was stomping around on some crunchy ass snow. There was oil, warm towels, and hot stones; chiropractic cracks, twists, and strong kneading and pulling and stretching of my muscles, from my arms to my legs to my head to my back. And her hands were all up on my BUTT! I mean, she really went for it. And I was naked, and at first tensing because I was embarrassed and self-conscious and had never been touched or cared for like this, but then I just leaned into the discomfort and let it happen. And it was fucking amazing. Earth-shattering.

It made sense, though. I have for so long ignored my body and my body’s experience of this earth. For so long, I have ignored myself. Thinking back on a lot of the things I’ve been missing and needing, like nature and physical movement and care, they are also all reflective of some of my best memories. In my past year(s) of traveling, it was never the cities that filled me with something indescribable or marked my memory, it was the Earth and the cultures that grew from it, and the way my body existed and felt in it. It was lying on the beaches of Croatian islands, traversing the valleys and mountains of Morocco, the strangers I dined with in Rome, paragliding off the cliffs of Gran Canaria, the generosity of people in Greece. These were so much of the body and of the heart. These simple things, like relaxing on the beach, felt glamorous and self-indulgent, just like the massage did, at first, yet they are so clearly what I desire and yearn for.

I am still alone, and I am still sad. But I’m trying to make myself the best me I can be regardless of who is or who is not around, and I am doing what I can to self-cultivate joy, but more importantly, fulfillment.

And the thing is, I would buy or do these things for other people in a heartbeat, but before I never would for myself. Why? Well, honestly, partly because I feel undeserving. That I need to keep my head down and will deeply guilt myself for any way I treat myself or invest in me, to see this as irresponsible, selfish, and frivolous. And is this not just so typical for a woman? I’m pushing back against these notions. I’m gonna buy myself a god damn massage every now and then. I recently enrolled in a five-week poetry workshop and it will not be the last time I do so. I want to buy a new trumpet and play in a jazz band again after all these years. I will continue to juice and take the time and care to make healthy and wholesome food. Catch me in the bath every Wednesday. Or deep in the woods somewhere, on the sands of another country’s ocean’s edge, writing in a cafe, asking panelists questions in some lecture hall, eyeing the art on gallery walls, hiking whatever literal or metaphorical mountain that presents itself. I will bear witness to the world, and I will bear witness to myself. I am still alone, and I am still sad. But I’m trying to make myself the best me I can be regardless of who is or who is not around, and I am doing what I can to self-cultivate joy, but more importantly, fulfillment.

I will allow myself to come alive in every way I crave to. After all, it is so lucky that I am here, now, alive; alive to see, hear, know; alive to ache, want, struggle; alive to enjoy, inspire, and love. In every possible way.

 

 

my mouth

when I was a child

my parents marveled at my obedience

looked at other people’s kids and

gave thanks for how good I knew how to be

my mother told me

I was good without coercion, easy

like it was innate

but 

it was my mouth, she said

my mouth would get me into trouble

that I never knew when to shut it

always had to get in the last word

push

and push

that I made the mistake of thinking

being right

meant 

being righteous

made the mistake of thinking

that justice

meant they couldn’t come for me

always did

salt truth in the wounds of the wrong people

I wound

I wound and call it being real

I wound and call it honey drizzle

taste nothing but ash and blood

we’re all black and blue

we’re all black and blue, anyway

I harness smiles on my face with tired hands

until my jaw is a ready casket disguised as sugar

I like the way life feels in my mouth

pulsing

needing

wanting

I am afraid that soon

they will sanction my wanting, too

my lips, part wide

more divine than legs, cavern

darker secrets at their center, bleed

regularly just the same

I am wounded

I am wounded and it is called collateral

I am wounded and it is called deserved

there are so many names for hurting

for hurt

I see pain and it turns to water in my mouth like

sustenance for the struggle, my teeth 

bite back all the dark in me 

I am still good

but I got dark in me

my teeth

28 comets blazing

we’re all burning

we’re all burning, anyway

I wound

I am wounded

the biggest wound of us all is the world

so I hold it in my mouth

settling in

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22 cities later and sometimes I feel like it didn’t even happen. Like it’s a dream I can no longer remember the details of but know I once had it. My feet stand in one place now. Sometimes I don’t recognize myself. Sometimes I don’t recognize anyone around me. Sometimes I still feel like I’m just taking it all in, watching, listening, and becoming a stranger time and time again like I did in all these places. It can be a beautiful thing to be nameless. To slip in and out of focus. To be seen and unseen. To see pain. To see love. To see it all glorious but without glory. I don’t know how to hang that all up like photographs but I will adorn it the same.

The Days After the Women’s March

My birth was a revolutionary act, and I try to spend every day of my life living up to that. I believe I was given two shoulders to carry both of my mothers forward with me, one on each side of my head, bearing down on the future, looking straight on, forever hoping, forever wanting, needing, fighting, always fighting. I see pain and it turns to water in my mouth like sustenance for the struggle. When my heart gets too heavy, ocean-swollen with grief, I swing it over my shoulder, carry it on my back like my spine was made for this. My spine was made for this. My march started in the womb, was learned in every step my mother took, this is to say that this marching has always been a practice of existence and our right of it. Our worthiness of it. It is a stance. An offering. A hand reaching forward. A hand reaching back, for others. A firmness. And a quiet. And a roaring. Sometimes it feels prophecy-made. Sometimes it feels like nothing. But it is all heart. It is always all heart.