Posts Tagged ‘self acceptance’

I think of a year ago
and all I did not know.
I do not hold my innocence
against myself.
If there is a future me,
I toast her tonight.
May she look back at me
as I light this white candle
and whisper love into the flame.
May her thoughts be generous
as she remembers
how it is to live
with this heart,
both ruined
and burnished by loss.
As I toe the edge of the year,
the edge of the moment,
I imagine her waiting
on the other side, saying,
Jump, sweetheart, jump,
I’ve got you.
Or perhaps she says
nothing at all,
but stands there as I do now
looking back,
arms impossibly open.

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            (title after a first line by e.e. cummings)

when you with your nimble

and radiant thoughts

reach into the junkyard of my mind

and there—hiding behind

some old rusty shoulds

and burnt-out what ifs—

you find a small tarnished scrap

of lost perhaps and hold it up

like a treasure, burnish it

with fierce devotion

until even I can see

how it shines.

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for Betty Rocker

I roll out the yoga mat in the living room

and find the You Tube channel

on which the twenty-something girl

with an armful of tattoos and a perky smile

tells me in her perky voice all about how great it is

I am going to take care of myself for just

fifteen minutes a day. She says that

five times, as if to both belittle it—

you spend more time than that

on social media, she suggests—

and at the same time elevate it—

you can do so much good in just fifteen minutes!


Some part of me wants to hate her,

but she is clearly so happy about what

we’re about to do together in our living rooms.

She claps to punctuate each thought,

and does a little skip in place as if to say

I am ready before I am ready.

I have been ready before. I remember

what it’s like to be ready. I remember

multiple decades when I was so ready

I just never stopped. I remember feeling

somewhat sorry for people who, as I do now,

rely on someone else to tell them to kick

and how high.

But I don’t hate the perky young woman.

In fact, I can’t help but fall in love

with her exuberance, the way she enthuses

through the burpees and turns the wide plank

into a star, whee! she squeals. And in fact,

as I do crescent kicks, like a ninja, she says,

I can’t help but laugh and smile because

she is right—it’s fun. And I feel goofy

and great and so glad to be the woman

I said I would never be. Somewhere,

a young woman is feeling sorry for me.

Somewhere, another woman is doing

lunges and squats in her living room.

Tomorrow we’ll do it again.

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Today yet another chance to notice

how often I am wrong. How easily


my voice puts on its business suit

and power pumps and exudes confidence—


how sure I am that I am right! And then,

when confronted with the real truth, what to do


but laugh at the self who just moments ago

was strutting and certain and bold.


What a relief to kick off the shoes

and let the self run barefoot through the afternoon,


ditching her dress, letting the world

laugh at her, holes in her stockings,


holes in her conviction, shoulders

bare and exposed. Feel how the breeze


rushes in through the open door,

carries with it the song of red-wing blackbirds,


touches everything like relief, like

a song about journeys, like forgiveness.

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I was fourteen, Richard was eighteen,

and he was Romeo in the high school play.


He was Romeo and I was chorus, and

every song I sang, I sang for him.


Every song I sang, a love song.

I had never been taught any other,


I had never been taught to be hard,

I longed to give him everything,


I longed for him to want to kiss me,

to give me everything, and when


he kissed me, which he did, he gave

me mono. I was somehow proud,


was proud of getting sick because

he kissed me, as if it were a badge


that I was worthy of being kissed,

kissed by Richard, Richard Smith, who left me


shortly after, who left me crumpled, weeping

in the green cement block halls,


halls that rang back all my emptiness.

I didn’t know then love could end.


I was a girl who knew only beginnings,

a girl who trusted in happily evers,


a girl who wanted to be chosen. Years later

I’d learn there are many kinds of love,


how all of them depend on one thing.

Years later I’d learn to choose myself,


to show up at my own balcony,

roses and poems in hand.

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after Ellen Bass



To trust life, that is the thing.

To trust it even when there are gaping holes

in the walls of your certainty.

To trust it even when your foundation

feels like a strange place filled with strange people

who all feel more at home in you than you do.

And when fear enters you like a bear in your basement,

or like three bears, all of them famished,

all of them rummaging through your emergency stores,

yes, when fear offers to give you its name,

when fear brings you a ladders and says, Here,

climb down into yourself, into this chamber

of strangers and bears,

when you would rather go anywhere but in,

that is when you step onto the rungs and go down,

one rung at a time. No gun in your hand.

No bear spray. No knife. There is honey

in here somewhere. And tea. So much here

to offer these hungriest parts of yourself.

And you are ready to make peace.

You are ready to meet them and share.

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Fabulous Animal




Then came the day when the turtle

was tired of her protective shell.


Sure, it had helped her survive,

but retreating is no way to live.


She flipped through the catalog

until she found the removable,


realistic great white shark fin,

dorsal, size medium. Just right.


It came with a strap to adjust it

to her carapace and a carrying case


for times when she’d rather be truer

to her turtle nature. It was awkward


at first, the way the other fish

scarpered when she came around.


Yeah, she felt powerful, but

to be honest, the ocean felt


a little too lonely then. Of course

she liked feeling safer, heck,


even the fishermen stayed away,

but the fin was cumbersome and


just plain strange. After a few days,

she decided to give it away


to a crab who admired it.

Let the sharks be sharks, she thought,


and she reveled in her shell, how

it allowed her body to be so very soft.

IMG_2229 (2)

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I no longer have the shiny black shoes

with metal taps on the bottoms—


though if I did, they would perhaps sit

in the back of the closet along with the wigs,

the boas, the long black gloves.


How I used to love the sounds they made—

fa-lap, fa-lap, fa-lap ball change—

such a shiny, happy silver sound

that used my own heart as a metronome.


I was never much good, but I didn’t care,

I held out my arms with wrists upturned just so


and shuffled and clicked and smiled

for no one but myself. I think of that

today as I dance in the office alone,


it’s a quiet affair without the right shoes,

and I am clumsy with lack of practice,

but laughter makes a fine music

for everything inside me dancing.


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Dear Mrs. Jones

Dear Mrs. Jones,

Please accept my resignation.
I know you have come
to expect me beside you.
What a long time we have
been at this together.
Husbands and houses
and graduate degrees,
children and book deals
and dress sizes.
It would be easy to blame
my torn hamstring.
It’s just gotten so hard
to keep up. Painful, even.
But that isn’t it.
Sometimes I notice
that I forget you, your
perfect complexion, your
six-figure advances, your
obedient children, your yacht,
and life is a whole lot more lovely then.
Mrs. Jones, I get seasick.
I do not want the yacht.


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scarred, hidden, lost
and still somehow
god recognized me


the chair next to me
would be less lonely if
you were in it


the lonely in me
would be less lonely if
I would show up


crossing the room
I trip on my way
to ask myself to dance


I think and think
and think and think and think
about not thinking


cradled in sun,
I forget I’ve ever
been unhappy

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