Hello there! I wanted to do quick post to let you all know that I’ve decided to take down this blog and start a new blog (via Instagram) under a different name. You can find me there @m.peebleswrites, where I’ll be chronicling what poetry I’m reading, my writing process, and the submissions I’m making to literary journals. It’s been so nice to have a dedicated place on the Internet to post my poems and occasional musings, but I’d love to try my hand at sending some of my work to journals and connecting more directly with other writers and folks on Instagram. I would love it if you decide to follow along, but of course no hurt feelings if not. Thank you for reading and following along these past few years!
At the beginning of the year, I made a promise to myself that, going forward, I would put my mental health before absolutely everything else. It’s a deceptively simple promise—to treat oneself continually with kindness—one that, in practice, is honestly much more boring than revloutionary. But it’s a promise nonetheless, and I intend to honor it with care and discipline.
2019 was a year of change. It was a year of endings and beginnings springkled with a few wild challenges—most of which were out of my control—and for a couple months I was truly terrified of my mind. (The mind is a valuable tool when working for you, but when working against you it seeks only to aimlessly destruct.) From these changes and challenges I realized I held beliefs that were contributing to a deep sense of internal lack and unrest. While some of these beliefs are more personal to me and my individual struggles, the damaging beliefs that I consider to be products of society are as follows:
- Success is more important than your mental, physical, and emotional wellbeing.
- Your life is not valuable unless you are achieving, or distinct in some way.
- If you don’t know what your Life Purpose is, you must find it immediately or else you will waste the precious time you have on this earth and fail to live up to your potential.
I don’t know when I internalized these thoughts as true, but I’m tired of them being in my mind. Not only are they incredibly black-and-white, but they rely almost entirely on the good opinion of others to sustain themselves. Standards of success, achievement, and potential are external constructions; they have little to do with true inner peace.
I’ll be deconstructing each of these beliefs in three separate posts, as they are too powerful and complex to analyze in a few paragraphs. My goal is that by working through them intentionally, I can leave these beliefs in the past and create new neural pathways. My hope is that these reflections will benefit those of you who may struggle with similar beliefs. Maybe we can work through them together, no?
For as long as I can remember, I have wrestled with a callous set of twins: Grief and Worry. I’ve spent much of my life either wallowing self-indulgently in their company or scheduling as many activities as possible to prolong our eventual, inevitable reunion. Throughout elementary school, I remember flipping through a bright blue binder full of old photos containing memories of younger me and crying, understanding the terrible reality that I would never be where I was or who I was in those photos—at those precise moments in time—ever again. I would never experience the same feeling of being seven years old at Suzanne Shuff’s house eating cake and drinking a Capri Sun with the other girls of Troop 4023. Yet I did not bemoan the passing of these captured moments because I was distinctly happy in them. In fact, I remember feeling rather melancholy at most of my Girl Scout troop meetings. What caused my grief was simply that the uniqueness of the moments had passed—that the uniqueness of every moment always passes.
While Grief prefers to spend her time ruminating on what has passed, Worry concerns herself with the meticulous details of all—and I mean all—conceivable future scenarios. Understandably, Worry likes to consult Grief when predicting patterns of possible emotional storms. Worry sits erect in a luxurious, mahogany leather chair at her command center, reference book of Past Transgressions in her left hand and all controls dedicated to the Prevention of Future Pain within reach of her right hand. What is unpredictable or potentially uncontrollable must be eliminated in order to sustain her white-knuckled reign. Worry’s presence in my life has materialized through a near obsessive pursuit of knowledge (what you know can’t hurt you, right?), a deep-seated fear of tornadoes (the essence of unpredictability), and the creation and subsequent abandonment of several five-year plans. Despite abounding evidence to the contrary, Worry operates methodically and reliably under the notion that all pain can be avoided if she develops a sophisticated enough life plan.
While varying in actual emotional vibration—Grief churns and Worry quivers—what these two states have in common is their preoccupation with time: its simultaneous ephemerality and infinitude. Grief understands that life is fleeting, that life can end as abruptly as it began; Worry knows that a day can feel like a year if not structured properly. I wish I could say that I found a way to keep these evil twins at bay, but many days I spend too much time in their company. And there’s that word again: time. From practicing yoga, reading poetry, and attending regular therapy sessions, I know conceptually of Grief and Worry’s antidote, Presence. She beckons me to come dance with her, already, even if it feels safer to sit in my seat and watch, introspect, contemplate, yearn. Presence knows that some days I will dance with Grief or Worry, but there will be other days that I dance with Tranquility, Optimism, Wonder. Some days I might even dance with every emotion on the spectrum. What matters is that I try—we try—every day to let the rhythm of the dance envelop and deliver us to where we are supposed to go.
Perhaps, instead of constantly reflecting and ruminating, I can sometimes simply be. I can exist: sleep and dream, feel the wave of tall grass on my ankles, observe the birds, talk of inconsequential things, make my bed, keep my bed unmade, listen to my sister, watch the clouds merge and scatter, savor the golden evening light. Peace can be found in the tangible things of this world.
It is one of my last lunch breaks beneath the trees of Wooten Hall. Soon I will trade twisting branches for billowy clouds. Over the past few years, this place has been a sort of refuge for me—a haven of green and brown amidst the hours of work and talk. It is in the presence of these wise beings, having endured years of sunshine and storms, that my spirit soars. I’ll miss seeing these trees every day, but if I know anything about life, I know that there are special spots everywhere. There are special spots everywhere, waiting to be found, and if not found, then created by you.