“As a survivor of anorexia, abuse, and depression, I can say that I have let the overwhelming pressures of filling media/society’s expectations of ‘how a woman should be’ overwhelm and silence my inner voices—without even realizing I was doing it. Until… I just couldn’t breathe anymore. As I live more days on this planet now, I can say with full confidence that there are no standards or rules worth crushing our soul bones to fit into. Life gets better when we just… let it out.”
— Connie Lim
Living in Downtown Los Angeles, I had the convenience of walking through my lobby and out the door, turn right, take another right, and head down the street to join the Women’s March on the day of Donald Trump’s inauguration. For most people, it was a unifying event that was a popular social media posting. Men and women were there, proudly brandishing their posters with statements like ‘Pussy Grabs Back,’ some wearing pink knitted hats, and there were several generations of family out to join the movement. It was my choice not to come out earlier in the morning when a friend was heading there, but in a silly way I felt alone.
I realized that I was feeling removed because I wasn’t relating to them. Somehow, I had been held back by feeling that I had to keep a lid on who I was, what I had been through in my life, and the truth of my emotions, hopes, and thoughts. What I was convincing myself of was that it could somehow be better to transcend being human and become a sort of artificial intelligence. I was clinging to a false hope that maybe if I could be someone who wouldn’t be… well, me, the imperfect way that I was, I would be more attractive, successful, accomplished, worthy, and proud of myself.
At some point, I realized I was surrounded by beautiful people with storied lives. All the people at the march. Everyone in the world. The beautiful woman in heels and perfect poise at the checkout counter in a grocery store that I had seen the evening before. The disheveled homeless man walking down the street with a yellow umbrella. All the people having their coffee at home or at a café somewhere earlier that morning. I looked up as I stood on the corner of 5th and Broadway, and saw a young woman sitting on top of the walk sign. Another young woman asked her to take a photo and passed her phone up to her.
A junior college colleague of mine is an editor for an indie magazine that hosted a Vox and Voices event at Stories Books and Café in Echo Park where I first heard Connie Lim’s voice, complemented by visual imagery by Yumi Sakagawa. She sang a song about being a monster; about being uncertain who would love her. Connie released a song and used the Women’s March to raise her voice to the world. I looked to her and thought to myself that she was extending her reach for authentic empowerment to the collective. It helped give me a boost of encouragement to see a fellow sister in arms shine her light. I felt that my writing was not just for me, it was for something bigger and beyond me.
People have their hearts broken, their hopes dashed, and their dreams smashed. We all have times of faltering and realizing human weakness but also human strength. Despite anything anyone could ever do, we will always be imperfect. I will never be able to erase my imperfections, memories, feelings, or humiliations. It was time to let myself feel what I felt and live what I lived. Feel the emotions, be vulnerable, and be free. No shame in having shame. I strive to be intuitive as well as practical, spontaneous as well as self-controlled, and feel human emotions without feeling like I’m betraying reason, but I realize that not everything has reason. We’re human beings, not human reasonings.
So get out there and be. Link arms and walk together. We are all sometimes strangers even to ourselves and need to assume the position of befriending ourselves and being empathetic towards the truth of our sufferings, longings, needs, hopes, and dreams. We are often awkward at relationships. We’re not always innocent, we’re not 100% good, we’ve all been mean to ourselves, other people, and each other. As life goes on, we’ll live and evolve.
What I’ve learned about being human, whether male or female, is that it’s liberating to feel sexually, emotionally, and soulfully empowered. To take ownership of beauty. It’s not easy to step into a world where a woman can be misread as being a bitch for being confident and assertive or saying no when she needs to. It’s not easy being a secondary or primary breadwinner as a woman, find a partner willing to respect and honor caretaking and womanhood (there was honestly someone at the march who said something along the lines of “Get back in the kitchen and make me a sandwich”), and not feel like masculinity and femininity have to be a power struggle. Men need to deal with their emotions and personal power too. There are men who are abused at the hands of women, men who are incredible stay-at-home dads, and men who are as sensitive as they are strong. Their vulnerability and strength should be honored. When a man holds a door for a woman who says, “Get your hands off that door, I can do things for myself,” that woman is discouraging etiquette. Men who have manners ought to be applauded.
As for sex, sex is wonderful. Sex can unfortunately be abused but also can be honored. Intimacy with a partner with whom you have an intellectual, emotional, and spiritual closeness is a beautiful thing. I love to kiss, to press my ear to a heartbeat, to feel breath on my lips, and gaze into the eyes of my lover.
I cannot understand why it can be so difficult to learn how to love myself, love other people, and to love life, but I can appreciate the challenge. The challenge can help make love more palpable for you. There are these barriers associated with love which might make no sense. If we are vulnerable, does that mean others will wound us as much as possible? Not necessarily. I feel that the more we open up our hearts to the world, people who don’t deserve to stand in the light with us part ways instinctively. If they leave, we don’t have to care because the quality of our life is not hampered in any way by their absence. There will be some people we have to walk away from or maybe even push out of the way. There will be people who will stay and love us for who we are. That’s human relationship.
For some time, I struggled with trusting myself within my relationships, the good times, or any of the good fortune I had in my life—in apprehensive disbelief. It dawned on me one day. This was for real. I know where I came from, where I currently am, and refuse to live on autopilot asleep at the cockpit. I’ve left the past behind and refuse to live afraid. I have a lot of fun with life. I have become very committed to authentic, full engagement with those whom I love and my experiences. I laugh more and open up more now. A tender sweet kiss atop the head speaks volumes to me. Fits of laughter seem to last for ages. I am much more calm in the face of uncertainty and ambiguity. I feel alive, as in the sense of how the Velveteen Rabbit and Pinocchio wanted to be real. My love is real and true. There’s plenty where it came from.
Processing emotions is necessary. The happy and painful things both; everything has to pass through during the process of experiencing. It could feel like the most difficult thing in the world, to confront the scary shadows in your head and attempt to be positive in hopes of enacting positive change in life.
People have their own emotions. Let them feel what they feel and sort it out. Support by being there for them when needed, not by spraying them with an emotional fire extinguisher. Conflicts are normal. Emotions are normal. People aren’t happy all the time. Life has its ups, downs, and plateaus. We don’t need to try to fix anything or be afraid of the not so great emotions.
When we feel hurt, sad, and ashamed we often feel conflicted between not wanting closeness but at the same time feeling a need for it. When we push each other away as an act out of our own suffering, it never means that we don’t care, it means we care a lot. My sensitivity and someone else’s sensitivity sometimes lead to conflict before alchemizing into compassionate empathy after a process of refinement. We sometimes don’t reach this point until we’re both flat on our rears in pain and shame, dazed, and looking at each other with stars and birds flying around our heads wondering where our attention had gone and run off to during that meanwhile.
When we’re holding things in, we’re closest to each other when the emotional shrapnel flies. Keep this in mind with regards to the people that you love. We’ll have our ups and downs. That will be the hard but valuable crux of our relationships which further expands our awareness about the ebb and flow of life itself.
We may need to be rescued by our partner and they will be there to save our day when we’ve run out to get the mail and locked ourselves out of the building or hold us close when we’re terribly sad. Graciously receive their support. During all the crises that we go through in love, hold on tight to each other during the storms and fall in love with each other even more for the strength of the support. We also need to learn to allow people we love to suffer without any need for rescue and simply be present when it’s not really our fight.
Sometimes, we love each other so much that we are afraid to let go and afraid to be too close. Sometimes, one of us starts to feel confident that the other isn’t really needed, one of us becomes more absorbed into the world of our own interests (whether they be positive or negative), and sometimes we become self-absorbed and forgetful to be caring, attentive, transparent, inclusive, empathetic, and supportive.
Go back to love. Return and return again to it. Fight for it. Be on the side of your loved ones. Especially, when you are a life partner to someone, be on their side day and night—be true. Be an authentic power couple. Be heroes that amplify. Despite all of our incongruences, differences, and the struggles of our spiritual, emotional, or humane elements of existence, I have faith in love.
Love is for the strong. Compassion is a healing and building force. Love is redemptive energy. Love has a covalent bond with success to form a purer sense of energetic power. Love and success can have a relationship that are in perfect synchronicity with the other. You have to feel assertive to be better able to go out into the world and take care of yourself. Love your own life first and foremost. If you love your life, you exude love. Giving love does not take away love. It creates even more love. Love is energy which cannot be created or destroyed but can be transformed.
It’s okay if stuff is messy. Love doesn’t have to be perfect. Just worth it. Love is what we are, do, breathe, and live. Love yourself and have your own self-esteem. Harmonize your mind, body, heart, and spirit as one body of who you are rather than separate parts while living on this earth. Understand life as participation in the universal whole of creation and being here to love.
No email in the world is worth forfeiting your attention at the dinner table. Show the one you love that they mean so much more to you than an email. Sometimes you don’t need to offer unsolicited opinion or have any comforting words to offer, just be there. Show up and be present to the best of your ability. When possible, give the gift of your undivided attention. Give when you feel like you have something to give of yourself. Receive when it’s time for you to receive with an open heart. Be grateful and let that gratitude bring more gifts of gilded grace into your life. Don’t give into apprehensions of having anything taken away from you, of not having enough, not deserving, or being expected to have to give back. Give and receive for the simple and pure sake of giving and receiving.
Life can be gorgeous in unexpected ways. The trajectory of time and space, and the experiential rate of catalysis and turnover can’t ever be anticipated. I’ve become a lot less lost and a lot more found; at home with wherever I am. There are stories of people who travel to India or Nepal and find spirituality. They find the spirit of the world. Not everyone needs to live in an ashram or find a Rinpoche. Forget the adages. Throw away the clichés. Don’t listen to what anybody — not even the greatest wordsmiths of our era — tells you about how your life should unfold.
There are billions of people on the planet. Not everyone is going to like you or connect with you. That’s OK. Don’t take garbage from people to have them like you. You’re better than that. It’s not easy to do, but it will make your life so much more fulfilling. Love yourself and be loved by the right people. Let people be happy the way that they are. Respect their unique journeys to wholeness, self-love, freedom, and fulfillment. Embrace and accept all life. It gets easier with practice and time. As you become more carefree and happy with life, people will wonder who you are and how you got to be that way. Don’t allow the things that hurt you make you lose hope. We have hope. Tell yourself that you have hope.