Less is More

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“If you want to live a happy life, tie it to a goal, not to people or objects.” -Albert Einstein

There is an art in living. A beautiful form that encompasses all aspects of what it means to be alive. The way we live says a lot about who we are as people. I used to live through material possessions. Each object I owned seemingly defined me and gave me worth. Then I took a moment of contemplation and realized that those objects were truly meaningless to me and will continue to be so when I am no longer here.

I live in a world of capitalism and consumption. Those big C’s are enough to mind control people into buying a surplus of unnecessary things. The word “things” in and of itself is arbitrary, implying that the stuff we buy really has no importance. I used to go shopping every weekend because I needed more. I always managed to convince myself that I needed that shirt that didn’t match anything in my closet or I needed that necklace that I would never wear.

The problem was that I couldn’t distinguish between a want and a need. I didn’t buy things because they were truly a necessity that would add value to my life. I bought them because I wanted them and somehow I was convinced  that by commodifying myself I would someone attain more social capital or more happiness.

I decided to make a change and adopt a more minimalist lifestyle. I started by purging my belongings. I made piles of things I wanted to keep that were important and things I wanted to get rid of because they no longer served a purpose in my life. It was hard to let go of objects, regardless of how trivial they were. I was somewhat of a hoarder, and I found it easy to keep objects by making excuses for reasons to keep them. In order to stop that, I decided to purge a month later and then two months later until I was rid of the excess things. With this system, change wasn’t drastic and I was more willing to make it.

Decluttering my life of unnecessary objects made room for the important things. This sounds like such a cliche line but it’s true. Once you take out the stuff you don’t need, you free up space, and open your mind to focus on other things that will add value to your life. I was spending less time at stores buying random things and spending more time on myself.

I admit that this process is something I am still working on. I still go out and buy clothes, but now I buy higher quality clothes that will last me a longer time. I still fall victim to the latest makeup trends. The only difference is that clothes and makeup add value to my life. I appreciate fashion and makeup as forms of art that allow me to express who I am. Although I have attributed a sort of worth to these objects, I have taught myself to let go when I no longer need or use them.

I wrote down a list of goals both short and long term. I translated my desire of attaining objects into my desire of reaching my goals. There is a curiosity attached to goals. I am fueled by that curiosity to continue to go after them. I realize that my purpose and worth are intrinsically tied to the actions I take to complete those goals. The journey there is an experience that adds to my identity and completing a goal is fulfilling.

So, free up your mind, continue to chase your goals, and never forget what’s important.

My choice

It was my choice

No I’m not sorry

But I’m not happy either

I remember it all

Like it was yesterday

Scared, alone, lost

Laying there

No control

My body trembling

The slow whirr

Of the machine

The smell of latex

The pattering of rain

the pounding in my chest

the notch in my stomach

Oh god, it hurt

Crippling pain

Consuming my core

The gnawing in my womb

Let it stop

Let it stop

Please be over

And then there was nothing

Numbness overtaking

I did it

It was done

Yet I felt so guilty

An expanding universe

Of cosmic miracle

Collapsed in minutes

An Open Letter to My Mother

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Dear Mom,

I remember the first time I learned what heartbreak was. You were crying telling me everything was going to be okay in the sake that I could still see that you were strong. That image breaks my heart every time. It was during my rebellious phase, where all I wanted to do was hate the world. You were at your last wits. I discovered that day that I could cause you pain, and that is what broke my heart. Because you have always been and will always be the most important person in the world for me. You are my achilles heel, a world without you is a world I would never imagine. You taught me invaluable lessons that molded me and are helping me become the woman that I am today.

The first time I ever listened to Stevie Nicks, Dreams was playing from your record player. You told me how Rumours was your favorite album of all time because it taught you to be a dreamer and that it was okay to fly high like a free bird. Rumours is my favorite album. I’m a traveling soul without a clear direction of where I’ll go, but the lyrics and the songs guide me on this journey.

In many ways you are an artist. When I was six years old, you taught me the phrase “I know that like the back of my hand.” It might have seemed like a good idea at the time, until I said it too much, so you decided to paint the solar system on the back of my hand. It took a while to finally get all the details and the colors, but the end result was beautiful. You told me the universe was too wide and vast. I learned that I should never confine my knowledge to something as small as the back of my hand. I now think in light years that stretch from here to infinity, and my thoughts are as beautiful as the butterfly nebula. That was the first time I knew to open my mind to things unseen.

You always kept extra chocolate hidden around the house. Told me that chocolate cured the aches of the soul. It was the magic ingredient to your happiness, and now mine. Every time I go home from college, you tuck heaps of chocolate into my luggage and remind me there’s nothing it can’t fix. I don’t know any other mother that advised her daughter to eat endless amounts of chocolate, but I’m glad you do. Life can be tough and battering, but the chocolate keeps it sweet.

When I was younger, I was fixated by superheroes and their powers, especially that of wonder woman. You told me I was wonder woman. I didn’t believe you because I wasn’t strong enough to be her. So you decided to enroll me in taekwondo classes. My dad said taekwondo wasn’t for girls, and you said girls can do anything they want to. I wanted to learn taekwondo so bad and become as strong as super woman. I learned that I am my own super hero, capable of saving my life, equipped with my own super powers. I can now defend myself both physically and mentally from the punches and kicks of the world. People will try to step on my cape, but I don’t need a cape to fly, just some faith and imagination.

You are adventurous. We used to go out into the woods with magnifying glasses so we could observe the small insects. You told me they were just as important as the big animals to the ecosystem. I now look at the world through a magnifying glass. No one is ever too small to impact the world. Though my voice be soft, my words are as loud as a falsetto. My mind, soul, and heart are big enough to conquer lands far and wide.

My fourth grade teacher had a parent conference with you because I wasn’t doing well in reading. I was scared that you would be upset with me, but you weren’t. Instead, you sat me down with a dictionary and said that every word I needed to know was in there. I was scared, because I knew. I knew you would make me read every word. It took a year to get through the dictionary together, but my vocabulary was expanded. I am grateful for the evenings we would spend reading the dictionary and engraining the words because it was the spark that ignited the fire of desire to write. You told me there is a word for everything, and now I know them. When life decides it wants to strip me of my words, I know I have more stashed away waiting to retaliate.

Mom, you taught me to be the independent woman that I am today. Although the past seems far and insignificant, those were the most important life lessons and memories. I am proud to be your daughter. I am grateful that you opened yourself to me and allowed me to learn the inner linings of your being. When people say I take after my mother, I feel joy to be compared to you. In a world without superheroes, you are my wonder woman. In turn, I am learning to become my own wonder woman because of you. If I should ever have a daughter, I hope she sees me in at least half the light I see you in. I hope I never ever cause you heart break again. It would break my heart too. I would go to the ends of this world for you with Rumours, chocolate, and a dictionary in my hands to greet you.

Mom, in all of this, I want to say that I love you. Always and forever. From here until infinity.

The Beauty Behind the Madness

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I was eleven years old when I heard the three words that would drastically change my life forever. Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. Those three words were all it took for my already upside down world to spiral out of control. I knew I was different from the time that I was five years old. I washed my hands at least a hundred times a day leaving them cracked and bloody, I cleaned every plate and piece of silverware until it was sparkling clean, and I switched lights on and off and on and off just to make sure there were no monsters lurking in the dark. What I didn’t know at the time was that the real monster was trapped inside my head. Inside the inner confines of my mind where only I knew what was happening.

That’s the thing with OCD. No one truly knows what you are going through. People just assume you’re crazy or you want attention. However, never in the past decade that I’ve lived with this disorder, have I ever wanted the spotlight. All I have ever desired was anonymity and invisibility from a world of hurt. It was never enough to be mentally struggling. People made fun of me in middle school because I was the weird kid who was afraid of so many things. The only way I ever found relief was with my tics and compulsions, which furthered validated the bullying. As I have grown, I have come to forgive those kids because the ignorance they experienced was not their fault.

It is the fault of society. A society that pathologizes, demonizes, and marginalizes people with mental illness. How dare they say I’m crazy? How dare they put shame and humility on me? How dare they? In the years that I’ve had to endure with this battle, I have not found someone who actually understands what goes on inside my head unless they have had OCD too. Our society wants to paint a perfect picture where everything is just that; perfect. But there is no perfection. None. The only thing we can do is accept but pride is an evil thing. It is what hinders us from acceptance most of the time.

Awareness is a key foundational aspect to bettering the stigma of mental illness. It’s hard, though, when there isn’t enough information about who you are. I do not know why I have OCD or what caused it. All I know are my own experiences. All I can do is tell people about what I’ve gone through so that I can help others. My mind is a constant abyss of horrid thoughts that endlessly stream through my mind. Most of the time I feel numb from the dreadful feelings that these thoughts give me. But I cannot say it has all been bad. Within my thoughts, I have found light and realization.

I know that in order to see change, one has to be an agent for that change. I may only be one person. I may not know what everyone is going through. But I am passionate about helping others. I know when I needed help the most it didn’t come. Sometimes it felt like I was perpetually in a dark sea of destruction, drowning within my own mind. I know what desperate helplessness feels like. I would not want anyone to feel the way that I had. Which is why I strongly believing awareness is crucial.

There are a few things I have learned about OCD. One of my most important realizations is that OCD does not dictate my life. I am capable of achieving anything I want to, and there is not a damn thing my disorder can do about that. Sure, it’s not easy when you have the crippling thoughts of not being able to do something constantly running around in mockery. If I had been told when I was younger that I would be doing all the things that I am, I would have never believed it, much less imagined it. But I am a warrior. That’s the beauty of my life. Through the hurt and the pain, I have fought through and against it. Because of this I have become a much stronger person. I have become more compassionate and understanding. I will never escape this disorder without a cure, but I have gained knowledge and wisdom to confront my mental demons head on.

I am strong, not because I know pain and suffering, but because I have uplifted myself in my darkest of places. Because through the battle, I have acquired ammunition that has made me a better person. Never in the thirteen years that I have lived with OCD have I ever felt stronger than I do today. Ten years from now, I know I’ll feel even stronger.

That is the beauty that I have found. The beauty to accept myself for who I am, not letting social stigma define me. Life is a tumultuous ride for everyone. We all go through things that paralyze us and make us feel weak and battered. The most important thing to remember at the lowest of points is that we are capable of helping ourselves. We are all strong in our unique ways. Self-acceptance and self-love are important to making ourselves better, and then making the world a better place.