I would like to share part of my story and inspiration for this piece to hopefully help others with a similar struggle.
Dear 17 Year Old Melissa,
Being accepted by others is all you want. You feel if others like you, you will like yourself more. You feel that this will be where you get self-esteem. The problem with this idea is that you are always with yourself, hearing your own voices in your head- you only hear other voices from memory, not reality when you are alone. Your negative memories from others has been bullying, body shaming, feeling not good enough and they have left bruises.
These bruises haven't completed faded and you are now 39 years old, dealing with another identity crisis. You have breast cancer, you can't over exercise, restrict your diet, fix your hair (because it is gone now), make yourself feel better with the external appearance- because you have to save your life and eat, rest and do chemotherapy. You now have to love yourself at your core without all the frills. The real you. Years of programming and society telling you what beautiful is needs to go. Years of hating yourself because of an extra 3-5lbs lbs has to go. Years of craving the praise for being beautiful or too thin that you accomplished cannot be your only source of self-esteem. You have to work on re-training your brain as to what beauty is. You have to acknowledge your other attributes as more important. You have to stop trying to reach a level of perfection that will never exist or be sustainable. Take the steps now or this struggle will haunt and consume you throughout your life.
Intimacy with your partners will be affected. Co-dependency will rage because you will want to focus on fixing others and not yourself. Anxiety will consume you because you will strive for conditions to be "perfect" before you try anything new, therefore you won't take risks and miss out on things that will help you grow and gain real confidence. You will never be real with people because you will want their acceptance and praise instead of sharing your true feelings and being honest. You will lie because of this need to please. You will live in dishonesty. You will use drugs, alcohol and cigarettes to cope with being uncomfortable and destroy your health. You will do all these things because you never feel good enough. Because you base your self-esteem on external validation instead of from learning to love yourself. To be your own best friend. Through the journey of life you will hit your bottom, join therapy, Al-Anon, and find true love. You will learn to re-train your brain and old thought patterns. It will take trauma to get you to see your character defects and it will take strength and commitment to rid yourself of them. You will work so hard on yourself and see how much happier you can truly be, you will gain confidence you never thought you could have.
It will take breast cancer for you to work on your body image issues more than you ever have. You will work on them and it will give you a freedom you never thought attainable. It will give you intimacy you never thought possible. You will overcome self-hate and body dyspmorphia little by little and realize whats truly important and then start to believe that emotionally. You will win. So stop wasting time, be your own best friend and start living.
Libras crave balance, but in a life where that can be few and far between the struggle is real. I am an extremely visual person, so when my environment isn't calm, cool and collected my scales definitely feel out of wack. Perception is reality and if your in a dark place, things feel bleak and it can be hard to find balance once again. Here are a few tips on how I re-center to find my serenity and balance when I find myself running down the rabbit hole.
The designs below won't balance your life, but they will hopefully remind you to make time for yourself and they're simply cool.
Stay inspired by being present...
Has a song ever touched you so deeply your soul wept? Have you ever felt so one with the sound of someone's soul you felt it was meant for you? Has the universe ever sent you this gift, and as you realized it the gratitude was overwhelming? This is how I feel about this song...the lyrics circle my soul like a shark wanting to connect. I encourage you to listen to the original by The Drones- feel that energy, and then listen to the cover by Missy Higgins and feel their worlds collide.
"Shark Fin Blues"
Standing on the deck watching my shadow stretch
The sun pours my shadow upon the deck
The waters licking round my ankles now
There ain't no sunshine way way down
I see the sharks out in the water like slicks of ink
Well, there's one there bigger than a submarine
As he circles I look in his eye
I see Jonah in his belly by the campfire light
See the albatross up in the windy lofts
He gets to beating his wings while he sleeps it off
I hear the jettisoned cries from his dreams unkind
Gets to whippin' my ears like a riding crop
The captain once as able as a fink dandy
He's now laid up in the galley like a dried out mink
He's laying dying of thirst and he says or I think
Well, we're gonna be alone from here on in
Well you are all my brothers, and you have been kind
But what were you expecting to find?
Now your eyes turn inwards, countenance turns blank
And I'm floating away on a barrel of pain
It looks like nothing but the sea and sky remain
A harpoon's shaft is short and wide
A grappling hook's is cracked and dry
I said, why don't you get down in the sea
Turn the water red like you want to be?
Cause if I cry another tear I'll be turned to dust
No the sharks won't get me they don't feel loss
Just keep one eye on the horizon man, you best not blink
They're coming fin by fin until the whole boat sinks
Dig deep inside. Deeper than your "self-awareness". Deeper than your "deepest secrets". Deeper than your "heart" allows. When you start to arrive at the core of your existence, stay awhile. Love those shadows within and reflect on why they exist. How does one get there? It's the journey you think you are taking, but then you realize the path less traveled is the one you must walk. Look outside yourself to those along the way to guide you, open up to their experiences and allow yourself to soak up the signs. The first step to freedom lies just below the surface, it's time to crack the facade, let go and fall in love with yourself. There you will find your freedom.
“The American Dream” is a phrase I remember hearing as a little girl in the 80’s. Why does everyone want a car, a house and 2 perfect children I thought. I wanted to be a fashion designer in NYC and live in the fast lane like my mother did in her 20s. So we grow up and then life happens. Plans change and people figure out what they want or it just gets thrown at them. I’m 38 now👆, with the car, the house, and a blended family. My life has taken so many turns and curves to bring me here. We all think we can “plan for our future” and to a certain extent we can...but some of us drive ourselves crazy to get “The American Dream”. When in reality, we are all just people sitting in our cars headed nowhere fast unless we take a look at what we already have and appreciate it. Don’t let time pass you by without living your dream instead of always chasing it.
Fear & the need to control will rule if you let it. Nothing changes without change. These are easy enough to understand, but to make the changes - now that's the kicker. I went back through all my blog posts and re-read them yesterday. I remembered exactly what I was going through for each one...and as I write this one another struggle is upon me. "I am tired of being the strong one and handling things" - I told my partner, "wtf?" I said. Well what's the lesson? Why another one- how many more will come my way? Then the fear of what the lesson is if I don't learn it...do they keep getting worse to show me I should've appreciated the smaller struggles? Maybe...so what's the change I need to make? I am trying to figure that out. I liked it better when I was emotionally monotone sometimes, even though I know that stunted my growth. Persevere, trust the process, don't give up. I won't-never...and I know I am not alone in any of my struggles, because I am not the first and certainly not the last.
I expressed myself on Instagram recently with some written truths, which is not usual for me since I am a visual artist mainly on that page....with a few typography elements in my art. My art speaks volumes of emotional controversy- I guess it's always been easier for me to communicate my feelings that way. I have been noticing more and more of my peers, particularly women, exposing their personal truths on social media. I commend the bravery and self-awareness it takes to be genuine in that way. It's therapeutic to me to read about their struggles and triumphs, big or small. Struggles cross our paths and how we choose to interpret and learn from them is the most interesting part to me. My recent post (first photo above) is pretty light-hearted and represents me dipping my toes in my truth to be expressed in the public eye. It was warmly received by those who are connected to me and refreshing to others- which is what I desired. I will continue to express myself slowly but surely, and I hope you can relate to all those truths in some way.
I've had to tell myself that a lot lately, to take deep breaths and to remember change is growth. I have been through several storms in my life and also weathered them, climbing out on the other side stronger and better prepared for the next. I would say the most recent turbulence is null & void in the bigger picture, and that this too shall pass...however with that statement I wonder if I will wish for the smaller turbulence in light of bigger gusts. I know the answer to that is yes and I focus on that knowing I need to embrace this change as the pathway of growth that it is. I need to remember that good comes out of bad always, and that I need to just chill sometimes and soak it in.
I am tired of having to choose what represents me.
I am tired of having to be strong and not vulnerable.
I am tired of pretending.
I am tired of pleasing others first.
I am tired of feeling trapped in this diamond, this bottle of Chanel.
Time to break free, escape and liberate myself.
Time to live.