Saturday, December 28, 2013

Becoming Visible

 Awhile back, This American Life did a podcast where they asked people which super power they’d rather have, the ability to fly, or to become invisible. 

I didn’t even have to think about my answer. I wanted to be able to fly. I already know how to be invisible, and it’s not all it’s cracked up to be.

On second thought, maybe it would have been a little different if I was better able to harness this supposed super power, but it always seemed that I had a faulty invisibility cloak. Sometimes I would get unwanted attention in the shape of being made fun of, or called out on something in front of people, or having to defend my beliefs, thoughts, actions or emotions in the moment, and I suddenly felt like I wanted to fade into the wall, but the damn invisibility cloak wouldn’t switch on, no matter how hard I tried. Other times, I would feel like I was standing in front of someone, screaming at them that I was there, I was real, can you see me? and the invisibility would not turn off. I would be left in a corner of a room, feeling insignificant and see through, wanting to insist that I was just as interesting or intelligent or worthwhile as everyone else there, but I had my own invisibility to contend with that made it seem that wasn’t so. If no one could see me, what on earth could I have to offer?

I am sure that this came about as a defense mechanism. I know I am not making it up that I think that, to some extent, women are taught to fade into the wallpaper, and to think the only way they can stand out is by wearing low tops, lots of makeup and pretending that they have less intelligence than a man so as not to scare or intimidate him. On the other hand, I also think that we are all taught to not actually to stand out at all, unless we can stand out as having all our shit together. I thought that I was supposed to be perfect, and therefore would only present the “perfect” parts of myself. This left out the parts of me that were hurting, the parts that truly needed the human interaction, and anything that couldn’t be listed on a resume. If I wanted to be seen, I thought, I would have had to pipe up and mention fluency in two languages, a full ride academic scholarship, two degrees, two cookbooks, 20 countries visited, but if I did that in a room full of people who didn’t know me I would actually alienate myself further -- pretty much guaranteeing the invisibility cloak would turn on with a remote switch from everyone else's blank looks. If I didn’t slowly dole out that information, I would be seen as bragging; trying to show that I was better than someone else, when in reality I simply wanted to show that I was worth more than the shadow on the wall that people seemed to be able to see through.

Without meaning to, I have stumbled onto the answer of my faulty invisibility cloak. It is not to lose it completely; there are people out there that I would much prefer didn’t notice me, either because they’re douche bags, assholes, want to suck the life out of me or simply do not get where I’m coming from. For them, I need that invisibility cloak to work. The rest of the time, however, there’s been something standing in the way of my being seen, and it was me.

The answer is to say it, out loud: what I really think and feel, not what the group is agreeing on. It is to take off the cloak when I feel safe, and let the utter fear of vulnerability wash over me as I show the sensitive, tender hearted person that is afraid to give of herself because it might hurt, but wants to anyway. It is working on leaving the cloak at home sometimes so that I can’t run to a corner and put it on, and it is not trying to ride the invisible/visible line, because it doesn’t work that way for me anymore: I can’t show up and expect others to see me if I’m not actually willing to show myself.

It also has nothing to do with listing my accomplishments. It has more to do with talking about how I feel, what makes me tick, what makes me smile; letting myself laugh out loud. It is disregarding the people who tell me I talk too loud, too much, too often, when in reality I have something to say; a voice that needs to be heard, and a need to state my case. It’s not always pretty. I can’t always do it right. I can’t know how much a situation will hurt by trying to predict any possible outcome and waiting for the perfect moment to show myself. I have to simply show up without the cloak and know that the people who are meant to will see me. Anyone else who doesn’t notice or doesn’t appreciate what I’m offering up – myself, in all my imperfect human glory – is probably best to forget anyway. 

Love and visible kisses,

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Rescuing Myself: A New Approach to Finding Validation

“Go easy on yourself,” she said. “What you’re taking on is a really big shift in thinking.”

Or at least that’s what I think my counselor said when I think back on our conversation now, probably three weeks later, as I struggle to go easy on myself in the midst of a mind-blowing revelation that is changing everything.

Like all of them, it surfaced one small piece at a time. I wrote a piece about firing Prince Charming and had a conversation with my counselor, after all, so it’s not like this revelation came completely out of nowhere. Suddenly, however, as I was sitting on a beach in Costa Rica, it fully hit me: I’ve been waiting for someone to rescue me.

At that moment I looked back on my life and finally saw them: the holes that I had been keeping open, like portals to another dimension where the Disney princes lived. Despite being able to accurately describe myself as fiercely independent, I have also been buying into the idea that if I just hang on for long enough, eventually someone – some man – will swoop in and take care of me. He will look at these holes I have left in my existence, smile gently – albeit somewhat condescendingly – and get to work fixing the parts of me that are broken; the parts that I have left broken so that he would have something to fix.

I have been waiting for someone to rescue me. I’ve been waiting for someone to come along and convince me that I am worthwhile; that I am beautiful, that I am a good writer. I have (wince) been waiting for someone to come to me and say, “I believe so much in your writing that I will support you so that you can dedicate yourself to your writing without deadlines or worrying about how to make a living.”

This person would also convince me to take a day off when I needed it, sit down at my desk and write when I needed to, negotiate salaries, freelance work rates, and with the taxi driver that’s trying to rip us off. His job, essentially, would be to take care of me so that I wouldn’t have to take care of myself.


This may have been what I have been unconsciously waiting for, and yet when I have spent time with people who try even a little bit to tell me what is right for me, I have a desire to punch them for thinking that they could possibly know better than I do what I need.

It’s another Catch 22, you see. It’s a rock and a hard place, but more than that, it is a realization that all this time, all my life, I thought relationships were something that they are not: validation. Certainly there is validation in being in a relationship with someone you love, but if I seek my personal validation in someone else’s view of me, it is only a band aid over a gaping open wound that needs not just stitches but reconstructive surgery; if I find my validation in another’s opinion of me, that means I can just as easily lose that validation when they are no longer willing to give it.

Every situation I’ve been in since this revelation, I have caught myself seeking external kudos: for years and still today, I have been aching for connection and for someone to put me first, instead of being able to do it for myself. In any connection I've had, however, it's never felt like enough. I have fallen into a trap that I don’t think has caught only me: it’s called “If I just suffer soundlessly and give all I have, eventually someone will notice and treat me the way I deserve to be treated.” This is instead of a much healthier thought, which would be “If I let myself have what I deserve and don’t settle for less than that, I will get it.” In the second scenario, there’s no need to wait for others to come along: feeling good about myself would no longer depend on the good graces of my friends, family members or a significant other, all of whom have their own lives and their own validation to find. It would not depend on anything outside of my own control, and therefore my confidence would not ebb and flow with the tide of others’ opinions, but rather look more like a foundation of solid rock.

I am trying to go easy on myself here, but it’s a tough go. It’s like being handed the script of my life and suddenly noticing all the glaring inconsistencies and corrections that need to be made. Not only am I now recognizing what needs to change, but I’m also grappling with just how the hell to change it: if I break out of these age-old patterns, what do I rebuild with instead? If a relationship isn’t about giving me value, then what is a relationship about? The walls may have toppled quickly, but rebuilding them in a new, better and more sustainable way is going to take time.

Love and self-validating kisses,

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Don't Date a Girl Who Travels

Don’t date a traveler. If you know what’s good for you and you like your little corner of the world, don’t date a traveler, because she’ll want to pull you out of it.

Don’t date a traveler, because she’ll get antsy when you play video games. She craves real conversations instead of text messaging across a table, even if one of her “must haves” in hostel amenities is free wifi. Don’t date a traveler because she’ll constantly be converting the amount of money you spent on flowers for her into nights of stay at a hostel; she’ll have problems sitting still through sporting events that don’t teach her something she doesn’t already know, and she’ll ask you not if you had fun at a friend’s house, but if you met anyone interesting.

Don’t date a traveler, especially if you’re hoping to tame her. Don’t date a traveler if you’re hoping that by dating her you will give her roots, when in reality she is more likely to want to use her wings. Don’t date a traveler because even outside of traveling she will assess her shoes and yours by their ability to stay on during river crossings; withstand rusty nails found sole-first in the street, and whether they’re breathable in tropical climates.

Don’t date a traveler if your idea of excitement is signing a five-year lease, or taking out a mortgage, because a traveler has seen people with bigger, brighter smiles sweeping the dirt floors in their houses; she has swum with dolphins and listened to coral crackle like Rice Krispies in warm oceans, and she is not impressed by matching sheets or new towels.

Don’t date a traveler, especially if you find yourself saying to her, “When we get married you’ll stop traveling, right?” because that means you never really understood your traveler; you never really listened to the stories she told you about all the stars she could see from the top of the mountain in the Alps, or the way she wished she could cry at the beauty of the Great Barrier Reef but couldn’t stop breathing into her scuba mask long enough to get the sob out. Don’t date a traveler if you aren’t at least willing to let her continue traveling, because it means that you don’t notice that nothing lights up her face or her demeanor like meeting another fellow traveler and swapping notes on the most terrible bathrooms, the worst cases of Monteczuma’s Revenge, which country produces the best lovers and which tiny surf village in Costa Rica boasts the best Mexican food.

If you want to date a traveler, buy a backpack. Be willing to hike in the dark – albeit slowly; she’s adventurous, but not necessarily superwoman – to a hidden hot springs, an untouched powder field, or a clearing where you can lay out and look at the stars outside the city lights. If you want to date a traveler, don’t buy her foot cream when her feet start to get itchy, check your bank account and look for tickets with her. If you love a traveler, be prepared to love someone who can always tell you another way to see a problem – the way they would see it in the Amazon, for instance – and to be reminded that the world is much bigger than the little corner you call home.

If you love a traveler, it’s best if you travel with her, because then you can finally see the world through her eyes: a world full of wonder, of new chances for connection, sunsets from new beaches and mountain tops, new birdsongs, and new cultures that show that the way to happiness is not through something you can buy, but through things you can walk through: rivers, valleys, over mountain passes, amongst the crowds at an Independence Day parade, or weaving in and out of the masked and costumed at a Day of the Dead celebration in a small mountain village in Mexico.

Love and travel addict kisses,

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

The Small Uncomfortable Space Between The Rock and The Hard Place

Revelations never come to me on the day that I have blocked out on the calendar under “personal enlightenment appointment.” They don’t come to me when I’m sitting at a waterfall, looking up at the water coming off the ledge above me and thinking, “You know, now would be the perfect time to have a soul-altering realization.”

No, instead they come in the midst of a head cold, on the first day of my period, after two weeks of sharing my very small and sacred space with my brother, after I’ve had to wait an hour in line at the bank to pay my rent, with a food hangover from Thanksgiving, when all I want to do is lay down and sleep despite the fact that sleep won’t come.

Revelations come to me like a bucket of cold water to a deep-sleeping child in a bed. Despite the fact that I should expect them by now, as a younger sibling doused repeatedly by an older one, they leave me startled, shivering and crying, and not quite sure what the joke is.

The latest revelation is at once large and yet rather subtle and has been drifting toward the surface for awhile. It is multi-faceted. It is about the small uncomfortable space between a rock and a hard place where I have wedged myself; about the Catch 22 that I’ve found myself in. Here’s the deal: I have been limiting myself to finite possibilities.

I have been seeing the answers to all my questions as black and white: either he loves me completely and romantically or his even liking me is a lie; I either hate this person or I love them completely and wholeheartedly; you are – as Bush so famously said – with me or against me. In this black and white world, all the gray is removed and anything that does not fall on the “either or” scale is absolutely unthinkable: it does not exist, it cannot be there, it cannot be.

When I think about thinking outside the box, I still think in a square. I don’t draw anything that cannot encompass the box; it does not involve flowers nor are there jewels attached. It is not anything, actually, more than a larger box, or a circle around the box, or some other “primary shape” outside of a box.

In reality, life is nothing like this, and the blow my ego took this week was pretty large when I realized that all this time I have been struggling with reality because reality isn’t about the box at all: I can be large and beautiful, brave and a coward, a victim and not a victim, all wrapped in the same person, and get this: all of that is ok. Here I’ve been trying to fix me, and completely missing the point of what needed to be fixed. I do not need to be less me in any way, I need to accept all of me and understand that the way through is not by trying to break me apart, but accept all parts of me equally; accept where I am and use the skills I already have to keep moving forward. It is not about trying to cut off the parts that don’t work; it’s about developing the new parts of me that DO work and letting them slowly but surely take up so much space that the parts that don’t work as well fall to the wayside.

Am I being vague? It certainly feels like it.  Let me see if I can be clearer: I have thought that there was not enough. Not enough of me to go around, so I had to keep myself TO myself. Not enough of someone else so that they could be my friend and also friends with others. Not enough talent that I could read an amazing book and KNOW that it didn’t mean that there wasn’t enough talent in the world so that I, too, could someday write an amazing book about my own story and have it be considered life-altering to someone. I thought there wasn’t enough money. I thought you either made money or enjoyed your life. I thought you were either happy or sad. I thought you either loved someone unconditionally all the time or you simply were incapable of real love.  I thought I would either “make it big” or never make it. I thought I would push through all of these damn revelations, life changes and spiritual discoveries in one fell swoop, cry, gnash my teeth, wail, get them out of the way, and then live happily ever after, my perfectly enlightened partner at my side, who could read my mind, wash the dishes and show up the minute all my enlightenment was complete.

And that’s what the problem has been, invisible audience: it’s been me, thinking that there was just one way to figure all this shit out; that there was ONE answer; that, despite the fact that I have claimed to enjoy this introspection and soul searching, I have been expecting it to end with a party to celebrate my newfound spirituality, after which people would flock to me and children would sing my praises.

There is a Buddhist saying that goes something like this: “Before enlightenment, chop wood and carry water. After enlightenment, chop wood and carry water.” Although I am not claiming enlightenment, I have found myself in a deep setback the last week or so, for several different reasons, and it has thrown me, because I thought I was farther along than this: farther along than having simply found my bliss in a foreign place, in a secluded casita with only the social interactions that I chose. I stumbled backward to the point that I found it hard to see ahead again, to a place I have already been, one full of bliss and self love, a place where I knew my place, and I liked it.

All of this, but it is not an all or nothing existence. I have not forgotten what the last year has taught me. I cannot unwrite the thousands of words I have written in my own defense, and I cannot unsee what I have seen – both the good and the bad. I know all this, and yet on the days of the big ego-killing realizations, I feel untethered, like a child that once again cannot make herself heard, like someone screaming into a wind machine, her voice and her breath sucked away from her even as they leave her throat.

It is not all or nothing. I am just as tired but more confident, less sure, more alive, less docile and more sensitive than I was before. When I confront situations that were always comfortably anything – painful, normal, expected – they rub a different way now, a new way: they are abrasive against a new skin I have grown that is not near as scaly and yet is in many ways tougher than it was before. I am different, and yet I am the same: I have a new skin, but it has grown over my old body. I am not black or white, but shades of gray, and all of the shades deserve to see daylight: to see the light through their eyelids and feel the warmth on their face.

Love and gray kisses,

Friday, November 22, 2013

At A Loss For Words

It had never really occurred to me before, but it turns out if you’re finding yourself starving even after eating, it could be because you’re missing an essential vitamin or mineral that was not in the food you just ate – or the food you’ve been eating lately.

I have recently found a similar deficiency in my language, and suddenly I have realized that I am starving.

It didn’t occur to me until lately that words possibly could not be enough; that this vast and varied language that I love to play with could be missing anything at all; that there wasn’t a word for absolutely anything I was feeling, even if I personally didn’t know it yet.

Recently it has begun to occur to me that it is very likely the language I love so much is skewed: skewed toward a logical existence, and away from a creative one.

Certainly, there are many words that I can string together to create a creative picture: I can roar and scream and wail my words; the flame can burn, char, crackle and stutter in the rain if I so wish. The words are sufficient, invisible audience, but suddenly, they are not enough.

I’ve been feeling a disquiet lately. It’s the kind of discomfort that causes me to squirm in my skin; to sit staring out at the rain from my porch, my journal in my lap, trying to find the colors to paint a vibrant landscape with a palette of beige.

The words are no longer enough. Screaming out loud comes closer; breaking things for the sheer joy of hearing them shatter could possibly be the right track; setting a painting on fire might just be the way to convey the heat I’m trying to capture. It’s as if suddenly I have awoken inside a black and white world and I am trying to describe the brilliant hue of the sunset in my dream. It’s as if I want to break clear out of my skin, slough it off like a snake, and slither away cloaked entirely in sunlight.
Suddenly, words seem too logical for what I am. The creativity is leaking out of my every pore; I find it difficult to sit in front of a computer and type black onto a white page when I’d rather be screaming in ecstasy jumping off a cliff; I’d rather have my hands in the dark dirt and see it gathered under my fingernails; I’d rather run until my breath is ragged in my chest and I collapse, my entire body spent.

I’d rather be flying, and yet it still wouldn’t be enough. My creativity, my sexuality, my appetite, have all started screaming that they are starving for outlet; they are all the same thing, you see: the craving for connection, for intimacy, for fire, for art, for moments that stretch the heart chambers and cause the head to bow in disbelief; the moments that take my breath away and cause me to gulp it back in in huge deep breaths, because it is not enough to live one lifetime on this wondrous plane. Instead, I can only look forward to many lives left to come, because each moment is a new one: each sunrise a new brilliant flame, each full moon a new poem to be written, each star-studded sky a new chance to lay out in the grass and ponder how small I am, and how large a universe I get to explore.

Love and wordless kisses,

Friday, November 15, 2013

Dear Prince Charming: You’re Fired.

Dear Prince Charming,

I am pretty sure that your only job is to ride around rescuing maidens and performing knightly deeds for damsels in distress, and based on this job description, you are fired.

It is not necessarily because you are doing your job poorly; rather, it is the broader implications of your position that need to be eradicated. I am not sure how much learning large words is part of your training, so I will try to put this in terms you can understand.

It’s not you, it’s me. 

I don’t mean this in that the problem is with me; unlike many people who use this phrase to “let someone down easy,” I am not lamenting my inability to love you despite your impressive list of accomplishments. “If only I weren’t so broken,” they wail, “I would love you, wonderful person that is in front of me.”

No, I don’t mean it like that, because – shall I be blunt? – that’s a bunch of malarkey anyway. When people say that, it means that they can’t for the life of them get the attraction juices flowing, and while there’s nothing wrong with that, for some reason people think they need to simper and apologize for a basic human right: to fall for who we fall for without having to explain or justify it, and to not fall for someone with the same rights.

No, what I mean is that the idea of YOU showing up in my life has made ME lazy. My entire life I have been told by every Disney movie, most other movies, media in general and a big black paradigm cloud that if I’m a good girl and I wear nice dresses and suffer soundlessly and get my nails done so my toes don’t look gross when you put that glass slipper on my foot, all my problems will go away and my dreams will come true when you show up. 

I was also told that I’d better not act like I need you or need anything from you when you get here, because nothing will scare you away faster. Instead, you will naturally intuit all that I want and need, so I'd better make sure what you're intuiting is what I want. I’ve been told to play hard to get; to dumb myself down, and that there’s nothing sexy about being myself when I could be a simpering, bustle-wearing beauty instead.

It’s actually not you OR me, but US, Prince Charming. Because I never learned to chop wood, knowing you would do it when you showed up to show off your manly prowess, and you never learned to cook, because that was women’s work. I never learned to slay dragons, because that would emasculate you when you finally did come to call, and you never learned to cry, because if you were crying, then who would I lean on?  No, your job was to be stoic and mine was to faint at the site of danger, despite the fact that eventually I will have to muster everything to shove our child out of my womb in a mass of pain and blood, and if that is not a brave or emasculating endeavor, then just what the hell is?

I know it’s not your fault, Prince Charming. I know you can only know what you have been taught, and they certainly didn’t teach you how to appreciate a woman who would have the dragon spitted when you got there, or how to swaddle a child. They didn’t teach you to open up to me, because feelings are not manly. Instead, they taught you to want to rescue me, and me to want rescuing.

I suppose now that I’ve fired you I’ll end up an old maid, because according to “them,” there is no in-between: you mind your p’s and q’s and wait quietly for your prince to come, or you die an old maid because you didn’t deserve him in the first place; you must have done something wrong if you ended up alone. There is no room there for the kind of relationship that would truly be of equals, because that would be too much to expect or ask – and also, it’s not the stuff that fairy tales are made of. No, no man is wowed by a woman’s brain. Instead, her beauty sets her apart, makes her different and desirable. If I ask you just where the hell you got the idea that it was my job to clean your boots and be impressed by the fact that you killed a deer and tracked its gore into my kitchen, well then, I’m just being ungrateful. No one says anything about the rabbits I snared that kept us fed when you went sullen and decided you didn’t want to hunt for a month while your drinking buddies were in town.

Oops, I’ve gone and done it now. I’m all fired up and speaking my mind. God forbid. I am certainly not the stuff that fairy tales are made of, because that would mean that I was docile, unable to care for myself, and that I needed you to think for me and protect me from others AND myself. I guess I’d better go work on that shawl. It will keep me warm when you aren’t there, because even if I hadn’t fired you, nothing in your experience has taught you to appreciate what I could give you: an equal, a confidant, and a partner. 

No, for that I’ll have to go somewhere else. Maybe there’s a woodsman in need of a wife; maybe there’s a shepherd who hasn’t heard anything about a need to rescue a woman perfectly capable of rescuing myself. Maybe there’s some man out there who has not heard anything about this superiority crap, who can just appreciate my humanness and my femininity without making it into a game of whose genitals and temperament are superior. However, if he sees you when he shows up, he’s going to turn and walk away, because it’s a logical conclusion to think that no self-respecting woman would be sitting at your feet, batting her eyelashes and oooing and aaaahhing at your stories. 

So off with you, Prince Charming. I wish you the best, but please don’t come around anymore. From now on I’ll slay those dratted dragons myself and wait for someone who will be willing to do the dishes if I’m willing to learn to chop the wood. If that person never shows up, I won’t be worse off, because I’ll no longer be waiting for that space to be filled, or an imaginary hole in my life to close. 

Love and fired up kisses,

Princess Morgan

Friday, November 8, 2013

The Turtle: Coming Out of My Shell

Judith Grob in the Turtle Pose. Read Judith's blog here.
About five years ago, a friend of mine’s mom gave me a necklace. It’s a carved woman, naked, with a turtle shell on her back. She is the woman who carries her home with her, and Jane gave her to me because I am her: I move around often, and I can feel at home wherever I am.
I have always identified with the turtle, although the extent of which I did so has been lost to me until recently. Before, I would have said that I identified with her because she carries her home with her; because she likes water, and because she has the ability to find safety inside herself, despite what is happening in the world around her.
Last summer at Yasodhara Ashram, someone showed us the turtle pose in a Hatha yoga class. I don’t remember who the first instructor was, but I do remember when Judith showed it to us again, because she could get into the FULL turtle pose, with her arms under her legs and back behind her on her butt. I was impressed and wowed, and even if I could never get into FULL turtle, simply wrapping my arms under my legs and around my ankles and breathing into the shell I created with my body was soothing…and also made me cry.
One of the first legends I ever heard was the one of the turtle creating the world by bringing sand up from the bottom of the ocean. She can dive deeply, hold her breath, and find herself and the answers in the underworld. She is unafraid of the dark, and capable of covering long distances with a slow and steady yet constant pace. She is wise, older than time, and manages to survive despite lack of speed or defenses that will not hurt others, and consist of simply hiding herself without having to go anywhere to do so.
These are the good parts of the turtle; the safety of eons of slow forward motion; self-defense without attacking others, and the ability to dive deep. Just as important, however, is the shadow side of the turtle, which I have only recently realized I also identify with.
The shadow side of the turtle hides when things get tough. She goes mute and can do nothing more than keep her limbs in as she is skittered along on her back by forces greater than herself. Her strength is not in lashing out when needed, but in staying in her shell until the coast is clear.
The coast is never clear.
I love feeling at home wherever I am, and yet I am ready to pick up another totem or animal to identify with. I want something loud and raucous this time, with the ability to reach outside itself for affection, and also to bite, HARD, or claw, or otherwise use tooth and nail to protect my niche, instead of being forced within myself until the predator loses strength or interest and wanders away. It is not that I am forsaking the turtle that has, until now, taught me how to survive with the resources I have had available. It is simply that now there are MORE resources outside of simple patience, slow forward motion and a shell to hide in. Now, it’s time for me to take wing, bare my claws if needed, but also find a different view besides the plodding one I have had until now: the one where only what I can see from the ground is available to me; where my only defense is to hide, instead of to shine.

Love and out of my shell kisses,

Thursday, October 31, 2013

The Reasons to Live List

A couple of days ago, a friend of mine tried to kill himself.

I talked to him yesterday, and have found myself grappling with a whole plethora of feelings that I am only beginning to sort through. Initially, when I suspected that he might have tried suicide – this is not the first time – I was scared and worried for him. Second came a strange detachment that I can only attribute to a lot of working on the idea that I do not actually have the ability to save anyone else and that whatever choice anyone makes in their life has nothing to do with me: his suicide attempt happened around me, not to me. This may sound incredibly callous, but it’s really true: it is not my job to save or help anyone, especially someone who has decided not to help themselves.

I may know that to be true on some growing level of awareness that I have been cultivating after years of thinking it was my job to fix, rescue and otherwise take care of people, whether they wanted it or not, but there’s another piece to this that I am only just coming to realize that has made his suicide attempt that much scarier for me: I am a highly suggestible person.

It is for this reason that it took me so long to finally step out of a system that was not working for me in the States; it is why I have agonized about quitting jobs that I hated and didn’t serve me; it is why I have tried so hard to convince others that I have a right to make my own choices while everyone most likely stood around thinking, “Jesus, Morgan, we get it, just GO already.”

I have been missing a level of defense: the one that sifts through the messages coming at me and decides which ones to let through. When I say I am suggestible, I mean that my first step until recently has been to believe whatever anyone else tells me and try it out, feel guilty about why it doesn’t work for me, cry to others about how I’ve failed, and then finally let it go before it occurs to me that if I had just asked myself about whether whatever scam or belief or system would work for me in the first place, I might have saved myself some effort and some heartache.

It costs me a lot to stop these ideas from coming in. I shy away from conflict because of the emotional energy it takes out of me to defend my position, and even if you manage to get me riled up, it is actually because I am getting more and more desperately in need to protect my OWN ideas FOR ME, not because I am going trying to get you to agree with me.

Basically, for the most part I think that life is a wonderful, magical existence, and when I surround myself with people who feel the same, I can see the wonder in anything. When someone immersed in negativity comes along, I find myself stuck on two levels: one, I am fighting a need to help them or fix them, and two, I am trying my best to keep their ideas and feelings from becoming my own. It’s sort of like trying to yell at someone casting seeds of doubt in front of you, without realizing that their ears are plugged and moving out of the way may be a better defense.

Let me be clear: I am NOT suicidal, but I can feel my friend’s pain. Certainly not to the depth and extent that he can, but there is a ball of anxiety and fear and sadness in my chest that has absolutely nothing to do with how I see the world, who I am or what I am experiencing. In the past, this ball would have caused me to empathize with him to the point of detriment; I would have been unable to separate these feelings from my own, and been unable to hear my own voice at all.  Instead, I would have continued to fight with him, trying to change his point of view to better match my own, not to save him, actually, but to save me from starting to internalize his feelings.

This is how it has always felt, until now.

Now, there is a new part of me that I have only recently discovered, and invisible audience, she is PISSED.

This new part of me is not the still-quiet inner voice that whispers what I want and need in my life to be happy. No, this is a mama-bear type woman with the mouth of a trucker on her, big fists, a wide stance and a tattoo on her very large bicep that says, “Don’t you mother fuckin’ FUCK with me.” She doesn’t give a lick what anyone thinks, and her only job is to take care of that still weak-voiced part of me that has found herself unable to be heard over the din of everyone else’s needs. She stands up in the middle of a room full of mild-mannered people and bellows, “Shut the FUCK. UP. Little one’s got somethin’ to say; first person to talk gets their face rearranged for free.” (I have been watching Deadwood lately, and I like to think she’s a lot like Calamity Jane.)
And they all sit there, stunned, as my timid inner child swallows several times and whispers that she wants a glass of water, please.
And Bertha – shall we call her Bertha? – takes those kind eyes and patient gaze off the child, turns her face to stone and barks, “What, are you all fuckin’ DEAF? Get the girl some WATER.”

Bertha has emerged lately as my protector. She’s the one that helped me rewrite the rules that I now live by. She’s the one that helps me look at situations, like a nervous solicitor trying to sell his wares, and decide whether or not I want what he’s selling, whether I want her to kindly escort him out, or if I want her to throw him into the manure pile where he belongs.

I talked to my friend yesterday, and at first found myself where I usually am: trying to argue with him – and ultimately, with myself – about why he should want to live and what this life might still have to offer him. At 4 a.m., though, Bertha woke me up, pissed as all get out at the pain I was feeling on his behalf.

“Fuck that shit,” she said. “You want to LIVE. We both know it. Make a list of why. It will help you reconnect with yourself and put his feelings down.”

It’s hard to admit how susceptible I am to others’ thoughts and feelings; it feels like an admission of failure that I haven’t been able to figure this out already, or that I haven’t built up stronger walls to protect myself from this before. However, beating myself up from what I haven’t learned yet is a fruitless task. (“DAMN STRAIGHT,” says Bertha.) So instead, invisible audience, I’m going to write a list of all the reasons that I adore my life and would miss it if it were taken away from me, and then I would appreciate it if you added your own reasons to it, either in the comments here or on the Facebook post, to remind me of all the reasons there are to continue to experience this beautiful, magical existence that I believe in, and that Bertha is helping me protect.

Love and living loudly kisses,

The Reasons to Live List 

(in absolutely no particular order)

Being loved and loving in return
Sunsets and sunrises
Swimming in freezing cold fresh water
Hikes to mountaintops to see the view
Scuba diving
Delicious meals
New food concoctions that become necessary dietary staples
Goat cheese
Writing by hand with a big thick pen
Falling in love
First kisses
Pretty much all kisses
Mind-blowing sex
Oral sex
Huge deep hugs that say, “Put it down. I can carry it for awhile.”
Laying out under the stars
The smell of a freshly showered man
Getting off a plane in somewhere new
Meeting new people who really see who you are
Emails and video recordings from friends
Shared introspection
Intelligent conversations
Work that stretches your abilities and teaches you something new
People who stretch your abilities and teach you something new
The smell of snow coming
The smell of baked earth
The smell of fall mornings, right before sunrise
Sunny days on a ski hill
Skinny dipping
A really good book that you don’t want to end
Being rewarded for vulnerability with new, deeper intimate relationships
Soul-touching poetry
Dark German beer
Cuddling with a cat
Squished-faced dogs
Sitting in an empty bathtub fully dressed with three of your friends, drinking way too much champagne
Laughing until your face and your sides hurt
Crying until you’ve cried out all of the pain into a lake of tears around you
Music that makes you dance and sing out loud
Road trips
Getting stoned and working your way through a whole pan of dark chocolate brownies while laughing over absolutely nothing
Outdoor concerts
Skiing moguls until your legs collapse under you
River floats (and THE Riverfloat)
Sitting on front porches with friends
Potlucks with friends
Christmas and Thanksgiving prime rib, slathered and cooked in kosher salt until there’s a wonderful crispy crust on it
Children’s laughter
Cold white wine on a hot day
Staggering natural beauty
Human connection
Having crushes
Completing a well-done task
Unspoken understanding
Books, movies and theater that touch your heart
Fresh-picked apples
Honey lavender chevre
Coconut oil
Holding hands
Learning something new
Thunder storms
Lightning bugs
Bike rides