Dear Self

Dear Self,

You're hurting, because you feel no one sees you. Perhaps that's true. For years now, you've listened to friends and family tell you how amazing your wife is, or your daughter, though no one says these things about you. Your wife and daughter have told you about it. You asked your wife if anyone ever does, and they don't. It's getting to you, especially lately. It hurts, and your hurt and your feelings are valid. However, you have to remember the things about you that are good, and wonderful, even if no one else ever sees any of them. So, Self, here is a list:

- You were a single mother who was brave enough to leave a bad marriage where you and your very character were torn down daily. Where you were cheated on and left to raise a newborn alone. You left, and then you raised a baby on your own. When you needed help, you didn't let your pride get in the way. You asked your parents and your grandmothers and your sisters. You got a job, and when you were laid off, you went back to school full-time and worked two part-time jobs to work toward the future while making ends meet...and still loving on and raising your sweet daughter. 

- You have a wonderful relationship with your daughter. You two are two peas in a pod. So alike, it's uncanny. You still hold her, and she still wants to be held. She promises she'll always hold your hand and cuddle with you, even when she's an adult. She confides in you and is transparent with you. She is smart and kind. She can carry on a conversation with an adult and play in the mud with the kids. She tries to include everyone all the time. You play a role in shaping her. Take some credit for being a good mom, and a good mom who hasn't had it easy. You've done a good job, and you'll continue to do a good job.

- You came out. You accepted who you were, and you stand tall. You didn't hide for very long at all, even knowing you'd lose friends and family members who believe you are a worthless sinner. You understood that loving yourself and being true was more important than their acceptance of a false version of you. You don't exclude parts of yourself to make others more comfortable. You are just you, whether they like it or not. 

- You have a marriage worth fighting for, and you fight for it. When the going gets tough because life is tough, you don't let it break your marriage down. You love your wife with everything you have and then some, and would do anything for her. You have done so much for her. She tells you all the time what you have done for her...that you have helped her become more honest and real and gain courage to take risks and speak truth. You're a good wife, and one that speaks openly about your love for your wife because she deserves to be seen and loved for who she is. 

- You started your own creative business and it's successful! You have always loved design, ever since you were a little girl, and you're designing for a living! You found a way to merge so many things you love...and you get to do it with your wife. You waited and worked and you're still working and waiting, but a dozen years later, you're making a living creating art. You are doing it. Remember that, even when it's tough and the lists are never ending and no one gives a shit that your design is what makes the project so good. Remember that when a client tells you that you don't do anything, because they have and continue to. Remember that. You keep the business running, the designs are yours and have made the business what it is. You can take credit for that. 

- You are a survivor, Self. You have survived some pretty tough shit...divorce, single motherhood, death, job loss, that terrible car accident a week after you lost your job just a few months after leaving your's been a lot. Self, you keep going. You have depression and anxiety and you're highly sensitive. INFJ and a enneagram 4. It's a whammy of epic proportions sometimes, and then life happens too, and life's not always been kind to you. Yet every single day you get up, and you keep going, and you keep loving, and you keep creating and striving and going after your dreams and goals. 

- You're a good friend. Some people might tell you otherwise, but that's only because you decided you needed to have boundaries with people who weren't being kind to you. You let a lot of things slide give friends chance after chance after chance, and you don't let them go until you know that what they're doing is truly wrong. You give it more thought than that. You don't cut people out of your life for no reason. You genuinely care about the people in your life, and you think about them often...maybe even more than they know. You know that you could be better about being communicative, and you're working on that. You're working on the right kind of boundaries. You're working on loving even deeper and harder. 

- You will give people your all and your whole heart, even if they don't know it's theirs for the taking. 

- You forgave your parents a long time ago for the pain that happened in childhood. You forgave them for what they said when you came out. You love them so much. 

- You used to be afraid to leave the house, you were so depressed and your anxiety so intense. You went and sold everything you owned and moved into an Airstream you helped renovate and traveled all over anyway. You nearly lost it that one time in the Mission District in San Francisco, but you huddled on the floor of a ill-lit market until the panic attack passed...and you went on to enjoy a beautiful day with your family that you won't ever forget. You saw the bridge and the baths and had that beautiful vegan lunch. You have seen so much because you didn't let the pain and fear stop you. You aren't as scared or as sad anymore. You hardly are at all. You'd have never written a post like this even just a few years ago. The road has changed you because you were awake to it. You wanted it to change you. 

- You didn't grow up around water, or camping, or traveling much, or being adventurous. Yet you've camped out of the back of your truck, travel as a way of life, and can pop up on water skis like you've done it a million times. It took you three years to actually get up on the skis, but now you love it. This year you went outside of the wake for the first time. You were so nervous, but you did it anyway. You didn't say no to trying something new simply because you were an adult. 

- You make things around you beautiful. It might seem like a waste of time to others, but it makes you so happy. It's part of your personality type! Fours are romantics. This is what we do. We spend our lives surrounding ourselves with beauty, whether we create it or seek it or both. You do both. You create beauty in your home, the spaces you create for work, the photographs you take, and the words you write. You put yourself in the way of beauty as much as you possibly can. This brings you supreme joy, and your wife loves this about you. Your daughter loves this about you. They love what it brings into their lives. YOU do that. 

- You're not great at building like your wife is. It doesn't come naturally to you, but you do it anyway because she needs you sometimes. You've learned so much while renovating these Airstreams! You used to be intimidated by a drill and could barely hold it correctly, but you can whip out 1/8 rivets like it's your job (because it is). You can use the chop saw, and the circular saw, and the table saw - even though they scare the shit outta you. You still struggle with measurements and math but you're getting better, and you always try. You can wield a polisher like it's nobody's business. You can catch mistakes by eye that the ruler didn't catch. You're really fucking strong and can lift 100 pounds with ease. Look at what you can do! Look at what you've learned! It's okay if you hate a lot of it, too - your strengths and passions lie elsewhere, and they are just as valuable. 

- You know yourself. You're self-aware. You're constantly evaluating your emotions. If you could afford therapy all the time, you'd be in it all the time, but since you can' read books by Brene Brown and others and take notes and do the exercises and talk about it with your wife. When you can afford a session, you go. You put things you learn into practice. You admit when you fuck up, and you say you're sorry, even if sometimes it takes you some time before you actually apologize. You try really hard to grow, always, even if it means facing really scary, intimidating, uncomfortable, and painful things. You know you've got a long way to go, but that doesn't stop you from doing the work. 

Self, if no one else sees sure that you see you. Do you remember when Leslie Knope included herself on her wall of inspirational women? She said that she was big enough to admit she was inspired by herself. That's some self love, Self! You were uncertain that you should publish this, but you were only afraid because you were afraid that others would think poorly of you for trying to love yourself more...but the thing is, you feel better having written it. You hope that someone else will read it and maybe make a list like it. You wrote it for Self, but you published it to help others. You didn't let shame get in the way. 

Self, you know that you can't lean on others who don't really take the chance to truly to know you to fulfill you or lift you up. They don't see you! You see you. You know what you've done, and what you've overcome, and what you have made of yourself and your life. You are inspiring, Self, to self! You are incredible, talented, loving, resilient, strong, and so very worthy of love...especially from yourself. 

I am learning to really love you, 



I had a dream last week, and though as time passes I cannot remember the vivid detail, of which there were many, the premise lingers and with that, the significant truth and weight that this dream bears to my life, as it is now.

I don’t write down my dreams. I don’t recall doing it once in my (nearly) thirty-three years. I submit the ‘nearly’, because my wife thinks it odd that I’m always aging myself. It’s true, I do this. The new year comes and I’m only halfway into my newest age, and with six months yet (I was born halfway through July), I begin listing that age. I’ve done this since just before thirty, yet I’d never done it prior. Now I do it each year, with just as much tradition as a birthday.

When I first woke, the morning after the night in which I had the dream, I remembered it in startling clarity, which is also unlike me, yet I didn’t write it down right away. Perhaps I wanted to process it alone first, and then a few days would pass and I did indeed share it with my wife, and when I did, I told her I’d been thinking of writing it down too, and then still more days passed, though the dream did not leave me as I went about my days, the long ones I've been knowing. Even now, in writing it down, I have created this story and intro because I can’t just dive right in, since I've never written about a dream before. It feels strange to do so, yet there is a wonderful segue - dive - and I should get to it, because the dream involves water and boats and diving automatically alludes to water, because you cannot (or should not) dive into anything else, really.

It was nighttime, and there was first a ferry boat, from a mainland to an island, I think. That’s the part that has become more fuzzy, and it’s not as important as the second boat: the little dinghy from the island to the final destination on our route, which in my mind I could picture, like a map from a strange vantage point, not quite above and not directly on the horizon, but somewhere in between and in full color, which was dark black and charcoal and brown and backlit with tinges of gold, the way a city lights a sky, but much prettier than the dull orange tinge of reality. 

The boat was moored to a meager little dock, one that ran horizontal to the water’s edge, and did not protrude vertically. Alone, I began to load our things into the little boat. I was traveling with my daughter and my wife, just as we do now, and we don’t own much in the grand scheme of things. As I loaded the boat, I was careful to distribute the weight evenly: after all, we’d all three need to fit inside and it wasn’t large, and I would need room to row. 

I’m not sure where my wife and daughter were, they seemed to be nearby. There was a building behind me, and I think they were there, waiting for me to load the boat, as if I had some prior knowledge they did not possess and I needed to be the one to do it. It felt maternal and paternal all at once, my work, and I was doing it willingly and not with a lick of grudge toward the lack of help. I felt strong and powerful, as it were, and glad that my wife was taking care of our daughter while I handled the puzzling game of packing our wooden boat. 

Yet as I loaded the boat with bags of our things, the essentials…the clothing we needed, and food, and a laptop and camera, because I needed them to work - to earn and survive - the nighttime scene that had felt slightly menacing, but only slightly, as nighttime tends to do, embraced it’s full potential. I would load, and people swimming, not joyfully, but lurkingly, would swim up alongside the dock to topple the boat. Like it was a game. They were certainly taking it lightly, yet all my worldly possessions and means for survival were inside. The water would dip into the sides of the boat, sloshing around, and the people would do it while my back was turned, and some of them right in front of me. I would reach for our things and pull them out, back onto the dock, and hope they would stop, please stop, yet I was voiceless. I could not speak. They kept pulling and pulling on the sides of the dinghy, and I was simply trying to load my boat. The boat was sinking now, and I’d gone back to where I’d piled our things for too long to gather more, and everything we owned was on it, and I was yelling for help but nothing was coming out. Still voiceless, and my arms were weak against the weight of the water in the boat, and our things were drowning in the dark water, and I just kept pulling and pulling, and the people in the water left, they swam away and onward to wherever they got to go, and I was left with a sinking boat, defeated and breathless.

Less of Proving

I was going to shut it down.

I spent several sweaty hours yesterday morning in a patch of sun working my way backwards, archiving each post manually. I'm a bit of a speed reader (okay, that's not true, I read extraordinarily fast and can basically glance at a few paragraphs and have them read), and I started to note that though a lot of the things I'm still struggling with are the same as they were when I began to write here, many are not...and more so, I began to see how clearly undefined this blog has been, and how that's not as much of a problem as I once thought. 

More than anything, I started to notice how I wanted so badly to be perfect in the beginning of all of this. I had very little understanding of how I could be messy and vulnerable and painfully honest, and I kept it fairly well-masked in the beginning, with only the occasional post where you'd see a glimpse of who I truly was (then). I was desperate to be seen and to have a voice and to be heard, though I'd very little concept of who that was at all, and that now, I still want to have a voice, and be heard, but simply because I'm a writer and there is story to tell and I've begun to know and accept who I am evolving as. It's less of proving and more of being. 

I wrote very little on things like motherhood, though that is so much of who I am and there's a reason for not writing about it and I'm waiting for those words to come, I've been waiting for years now...and when they come, it'll be exactly what I want to write, and the best writings on travel were the ones I wrote when in it, translated from a written page in a little notebook from my sister, not the ones I wrote to account it to take on the title of 'travel blogger'. I tried to pose for the curated sorts of shots but I fucking hate being in front of the camera and jut out my belly awkwardly and never know what to do with my hands when a lens is pointed my way, though I want my daughter and perhaps one day her children to see me when I was young and doing all of these wonderful and unconventional things. I gave too many shits about content that would please and fit into the parameters of the time, back when moccasins were being worn with maxi dresses. 

I write, now, with blazingly truthful words that aren't typical of blogging, but really, what the fuck is blogging anymore anyway? It's less defined now to me, it's less defined and rigid. I remember wanting to have the right things, and to share the right things, and I did it. Those things grew my following and readership and got me interviews and features that grew my following and readership and it felt good. I wanted it. It gave me a sense of pride in myself and got me through and in some ways, that's okay, but in the grander bit of it, not so much. 

I've settled into these bones and this softening skin and the way my life looks and is, that it's beautiful when I don't try so hard, even more so, because it's less about you and more about me and us and isn't that what matters? The light I find is still the light I find, the shadow is still the shadow, but I see more light than shadow now anyway. 

What I know, after this weekend of reading back, is that deciding to travel had nothing to do with anyone, it was only later that it did, later when I started sharing and thought I had to keep up. Doing all we did to get there was the exact right thing to do, and though none of this looks the way I thought it would, and I didn't get the epic shots I thought I would-should-could or have the epic moments I thought we would-should-could because Instagram told me so all those years ago, I still had the privilege of being changed because of those first seven months on the road, and I've allowed it to slip in and weave its way through whatever it is that makes up my being and I'm better for it not because I did it, but because I allowed it, and it's part of me in a beating and pulsing way as I muddle my way through some of the hard places and the things that I don't yet know.