On Strength

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Back when I was young and naive, a phase that I’m hoping has passed but how can we ever really be sure, I thought that strength was about power. Having the power to lift, wield, dictate, reason,  choose, decide. To be in control.

The universe has a funny way of buffing out that naïveté, doesn’t it?

Today my understanding of strength is nearly the total opposite. I understand strength as having the will to overcome in the moments when you are at your lowest, the ability to accept fault, apologize, choose vulnerability over pride, and acknowledge the humanity of ourselves and others. Strength is not something you are born with, it is something you acquire slowly, with intention and support. It is the kind of thing you get more of by giving it away, and it is a thing to be worn, quietly but proudly, like a badge of life earned in battle.

Today what I associate most strongly with strength is the notion of resilience. I admire and work towards the ability to have awareness around the highs and lows, the ebbs and flows of life. My succulent tattoo has something to do with that. I got it partly as a reminder of my own resilience, having made great progress on moving from a harrowingly negative body image to a much more positive (though of course not perfect) one. I wanted to adorn my body with something I thought was beautiful, and in that way remind myself that my body is a beautiful thing meant to be loved. (For the record, tattoo needles hurt a lot more than acupuncture needles 😛 )

These sometimes symmetrical desert plants have found a home here in San Francisco. They somehow thrive in this ever changing micro climate environment. The ones I love the most appear in the sidewalk cracks beneath established desert flower beds, escape artists making a break for it and surviving on their own. My succulent tattoo, artistically recreated from a photo I took of just one such sidewalk escape artist, reminds me about the beauty of survival, and the art of carrying on.

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Shoutout to Morgan for her monthly poetry nights, and giving me topics to write on 🙂 

Mind Over Matter

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I was recently sitting with my friend Lizzie before she went onstage to perform at a student showcase concert. Eyeing the performers onstage I turned to Lizzie and said, “So do you just not have the part of your brain that recognizes this situation as terrifying?” (mentally referring to the concept of being able to switch off one’s inner critic to do something out of the ordinary in public). “No way,” she responded, “Every time I’m about to go up on stage or perform in front of people I get terrified, but I just tell myself, ‘You have no choice. These people came here for something, and you are going to give it to them.’ And then I just do it. I channel my nervous energy into the belief that I can do anything, and the confidence that I will.”

This idea, so simple and eloquent, really hit home with me. I forget sometimes, as I think many people do, that overcoming fears, whether rational or not, is a matter we as individuals are entirely in control of. So the next time you feel afraid, stop for a moment and mentally channel that feeling into the confidence to overcome your fear. Remember that you’re the one in charge.

In the meantime, check out Lizzie and her amazing band, RiverRan, here.