I started setting boundaries and speaking my truth. Here’s how.

I started setting boundaries and speaking my truth. Here’s how.

I still have the journal entry. It says, in striking black pen, “I wish I could say what I mean. If I can learn to say what I mean before I die, I will die a happy woman.” 

I’d written it the morning after I’d been the recipient of unwanted advances at a bar. A stranger had engaged me in aggressive conversation, peppered in flirtation, and every so often slipped his bony hand around my waist. For 30 minutes I’d tolerated his behavior with a fake smile before feeling it was appropriate to escape to the bathroom.

I could’t bring myself to say “Thank you, but I’m not interested. ’’ I’d waited in silence, hoping the man would mind-read my discomfort and give me space. My stomach had churned with discomfort. The next morning, I took my pen and articulated what I saw as my Great Frontier in life: speaking up, resisting the impulse to people-please, and not settling for less than I deserved.

My tendency to people-please at the expense of my own wellbeing manifested in all areas of my life.

It was why I worked in a job that didn't reflect my values; why I felt emotionally isolated in my imbalanced relationships with friends, lovers, and colleagues; and why I relied on external distractions and addictions to numb myself to my emotional landscape. Sometimes, my people-pleasing manifested as mildly as staying too long in a conversation that bored me, or offering to help a friend when I didn’t have the time. Sometimes, it was as extreme as sleeping with someone I didn’t want to sleep with because I didn’t want to “hurt his feelings.”

I knew that my difficulty setting boundaries was largely a consequence of a culture that encourages women to be people-pleasing, accommodating, and self-sacrificial. As Harriet Lerner says in The Dance of Anger: “Our society cultivates guilt feelings in women such that many of us still feel guilty if we are anything less than an emotional service station to others.”

Though I understood the cultural roots of my behavior, I didn’t want my socialization to define me. I wanted to develop the capacity to speak up for myself. The less I heeded the wishes and warnings of my inner self, the more her cries went unheard - and the more her anger, instead of directed outward, became directed inward, at me.

I felt like I was constantly betraying myself, constantly designing my life around others’ desires. The result was a life that felt mediocre, underwhelming, and not quite my own. 

Read More

Everyone's Doing The Best That They Can

Everyone's Doing The Best That They Can

My favorite principle is this simple truth: Everyone is doing the best that they can with the resources they have. Adopting this belief has radically changed my relationship to myself and to others.

This idea has been explored by a constellation of religious, spiritual, and wellness practitioners. As Deepak Chopra said, “People are doing the best that they can from their own level of consciousness.”

At first, it's a hard concept for us to swallow. In a culture that constantly urges us to do more, to be better, and to excel,  “I'm doing the best that I can” sounds like complacency—like an excuse. But what if we took a step back from our culture's infinite growth paradigm and considered, “What if, right now, there is a limit to what I can achieve? Can I be okay with that?”…

Published on Tiny Buddha. Read here.

Read More

poem: touch(love)

poem: touch(love)

i. collarbone
if i starve, will you love me better?
i’m so hungry all of the time.
no peanut butter, no milk, no pasta
i tiptoe on the scale like a ballerina and trace my collarbone in the mirror
i’m an archaeologist digging for love, but
i only find bone.

ii. lips
i’m so lonely. i get tired of performing.
i just want to escape for a while.
alcohol loosens my limbs and limbers my lips
gives me permission to scavenge for scraps of touch(love) 
beneath the naked moon
to eat greedily from the hands that feed me.
i’m so hungry all of the time.

Read More

Love As The Foundation Of Social Change

Love As The Foundation Of Social Change

I retaliate against these [modern political] crises with love and community. It’s the only path that aligns with my values. It’s how I feel I can be most impactful.

Hurt, fear, anger, blame, violence, and the reduction of other beings to less-than-human are the tendencies underlying modern public debate. We can’t make the paradigm shift we need - right at the very roots of our hearts and culture - without building a foundation of change upon something radically different.

Aggression and division have developed a stronghold on modern, mainstream social justice communities. Folks who are not angry, unwavering, “renouncing,” and “calling out” are told they are not doing their duty as activists. But what about our duty to build a better world - not by shouting over evils, but by loving, caring, and acting compassionately in our communities?

Read More