Untitled

I was ten. I was running through the sprinkler in my underwear. Blades of grass stuck to my skin. My body was long and lean, void of any curvature. It was whole and mine. It allowed me to do backbends and cartwheels. That is all I noticed about my body.

I was twelve. I was sitting at the kitchen table in my pajamas. My dad looked at me sympathetically and told me that I had reached an age where boys would start to see me differently. He spoke of the differences between boys and girls and hormones. “Boys are visual. Girls are emotional.” So, child, you must be careful. The world will make sure you learn not desire for the other, but the desire to be desired.

I was fourteen. I took off my jacket at lunchtime, scandalously revealing my strapless shoulders.[1] The Vice Principal swore at me. I was sent to the office a for a second outfit violation that year. Blindsided and face burning with humiliation, I hid in the bathroom stall and changed into clothes my mom had to bring me. My parents read me something out of Dr. Phil’s ‘How to Talk to Your Teen’ book. I was learning that people had opinions about my body. Now there were rules regarding my skin.

I was sixteen. I was wearing a high-collard turquoise t-shirt and a long skirt. I was teaching vacation Bible school for children in the villages of Panama. We were singing Abre mis ojos oh Cristo and throwing a giant colorful tent up in the air. Tiny ones squealed with delight and ran under. I felt a tap on my shoulder and the leader asked me to talk to her for a minute. We walked to the church entrance, where she told me that since my chest was big and my shirt was too tight, boys were staring at me. She lent me a big t-shirt to put on, lest the outline of my body cause those brothers of mine to sin.[2] You don’t want to do that, do you? I walked back to the giant colorful tent, now resembling what I was wearing. I looked over at the boys leaning out the church windows. My heart beat faster. Lying on the church’s cement floor that night, from my sleeping bag I watched my cursed chest rise and fall. I was drenched in a humid sweat, soaked with shame. On this day, a tiny bit of my innocence was sacrificed. The impact of your naturally developing curves is a dangerous thing, apparently. Hide.

I was eighteen. I was wearing jeans and a hoodie. It is important to note that my face and hands were the only parts of me exposed because I was on a service trip in Morocco[3], a place that forced me to constantly be aware of my femaleness. It was a place where I was chased out of a market. Where I sat in an Internet café writing e-mails while the man at the computer next to me watched porn. Where a man on the street asked if he could bring me home to his mother and fuck me. Where I listened to people have sex against the door to my hostel room. Where I was constantly “complimented” in the streets and strangers were not afraid to touch you. One day, I was sitting on a park bench reading my Bible. Two men walked up and sat on either side of me. They began speaking to me in Arabic. I did not look up or respond. I just stared at Isaiah’s verses, resting on my knees. Then I heard in broken English whispers that felt wet and hot in my ears, “Why you no talk to us? We be nice.” They played nice with their hands, which found their way to my neck, gliding down my breasts, and landing in my crotch. My legs, despite their Jell-O consistency, found the strength to stand. I apologized to the men for not wanting to talk to them as I walked away. When I came back home, the prayer ladies told me that maybe I was supposed to go back to Morocco because it was obvious the devil didn’t want me there.

I was nineteen. I was wearing a white dress. It had little cap sleeves with sequins. The air was crisp. My stomach was in knots. I was his. We made lots of promises. We lit a candle and put rings on our fingers. We danced. It was sweet and sparkling and blissful. He carried me away and unlaced the white dress. I laced up my lingerie. Nothing went the way I thought it would. Rejection. Lies. Confusion. I had a lot of exposure to a world of fantasy and I grappled to understand how they became more desirable than reality.[4] You’re supposed to be both. But you’re not supposed to be both. The messages say things like: Be a virgin when you get married, but also know exactly what you’re doing in bed and be really good at it. Be outraged by the objectification of the female body, but also see your own as the sexual object it is. Just be you, but also look and act like these women. He’ll love you for it. You are valued for your purity, but desired for your promiscuity.

I was twenty-one. I was in the bathtub wearing a layer of bubbles. I knew something was wrong and I was trying to wash it off. He came in and sat on the bathroom floor. I asked him how he was doing. He admitted to this one thing that made my nose crinkle. This was different than the other things. Every cell in my body felt wide-awake and dead at the same time. This feeling wasn’t going to wash off. Something had to change. I can try to be or look as beautiful and perfect as possible, but I am it is not enough. I can leave for one, three, or five months, but I am it is not enough. I can read all the books, do all the research, plan all the things, say all the prayers and attend all the counseling sessions, but I am it is not enough. I can want, wish and love with all of my being but I am it is not enough. Something had to change.[5] It was me. The feeling never washed off.

I am twenty-four. It is pouring rain. The humid summer kind of rain. I’m wearing a striped dress, cotton clinching to my grass-covered skin. I’m dancing. My body, which has felt burdened and hallow for months, finds in this moment a sweet release. There is pure, unadulterated joy beaming from my twirling limbs and bouncing wet waves. My body is soft and strong, no longer void of curvature. It is whole and mine. It is more than enough. It still allows me to do backbends and cartwheels, among a million other amazing things. That is all I notice about my body.

 

[1] There is nothing scandalous about my shoulders.

[2] Boys are not helpless victims when it comes to their eyes. The evidence of my breast size does not cause them to sin.

[3] I was fully clothed when I was assaulted. Sexual assault happens because the perpetrator wants it to happen, not because any woman “asks for it” with her appearance.

[4] Love it or hate it; porn is a lie. It is a performance. It is not an instruction manual. Never before in our world have we had such immediate access and extreme exposure to this kind of media and at such young ages. Science is starting to show the negative effects it is having on our brains, relationships, and society.

[5] There is nothing I can do to create or initiate change in someone else.

 

Love,

Taylor

Self-Love Letter

Dear reader,

Love the person you’ve become because you fought to become her.

Say the positive things out loud. Use your voice. Let it ring in your ears.

Look at you!

Your spirit is bursting and beautiful. It is impacting. It is courageous. It is your essence and it’s the sexiest thing about you.

Your mind is unbelievably intricate. Just imagine all that it holds and how open it is to absorbing more and more and more. The thoughts you are capable of are astounding. The way your mind is wired is unique and fascinating.

Your body is incredible. It can bring life into the world. It’s a home for everything that makes up who you are. Woah! So, maybe society/media/mean people have helped you make a list of things that are “wrong” with it. My thighs touch. My cheekbones aren’t defined enough. I’m not thin or toned enough. My eyelashes aren’t long enough. My stomach isn’t flat enough. My butt isn’t big enough. I’m not tan enough. The double chin.  F*ck that. It works. It knows what it needs. It has strong parts and soft parts. Maybe you are decorated with freckles, scars that tell stories, and curves that you rock so hard sometimes they spill over your jeans. So, what? Say the positive things out loud. Hey you, you have a cute nose. Your hair is enviable. Your eyes sparkle. Your lips are alluring. If you’re the only one confident in that, be content because you are the only one in charge of believing it for the rest of your life.

Your heart is admirably full at all times. You know how to put it to good use. It is great, big, and beating.

Your voice is sweet and important. Use it wisely. What you have to say matters.

You are incredibly fortunate to be you. You will be one of your greatest discoveries.

Some parts of you will remain constant. Some parts will change. Hey, it’s a journey. Be kind to yourself. Do something that your future self will thank you for.

Love, TaylorIMG_2197

7 Things Sunday

 

 

Bring-little-love-simple-Spring-blooms-flower-heart-print-16

 

I hope that you all had happy hearts this week! I hate that couples take the cake on Valentine’s Day because really it’s just a day to overtly celebrate love. Anyone and everyone can do that. Think about or do the things that make your heart sing! Treat yo’self: to pedicures. To an extra piece. To a dance in your new underwear. To an hour of quiet. Make things: hats for people with cold heads. Drawings for people with naked fridges. Gluten-free cake for people with sensitive tummies. Tea for the friend who is sad. Give things: Nice words to people without smiles. Kisses and hugs to your grandma, boyfriend, kid or cat. Your precious time to the ignored or poor. Your prayers and thankful heart to the Creator. Remind people they aren’t alone. FYI: This week is Random Acts of Kindness Week! What a perfect way to extend the good love vibes.

It’s interesting to me how love is something so natural and yet I’m always learning more about what it actually is. What it actually means…what it looks like…how it feels. What I knew about love at 14 pales in comparison to what I know now. I wonder what I will know at 30 and 55. It makes me really excited to see how much I’ve learned but to know that I don’t know it all yet.  That there are bursts and depths of love that I have yet to experience. That there are people out there in the world that I will immensely love but have never even seen their faces. That there are places I will leave bits of my heart at, but have never been to. That there is room for my heart to grow and expand, but it has yet to be tested. Right now I’m learning about sad kinds of love. Or bittersweet kinds of love, at least. Love for what is lost and broken. Love for what is out of reach. Love in the midst of everything unknown. The handing over kind of love. The kind of love that rips you apart and holds you together at the same time. I think that’s the kind of love Jesus had. And that’s the kind of love I want to emulate, so maybe this is a good lesson. A good season of learning love.

7 Things I would tell my 14-year old self about love:

T-pola

Hey you awkward little thing, you:

1. You think you are in love right now. I won’t say you aren’t. I won’t roll my eyes at you and speak of puppy love or whatever it is grown-ups talk about. I won’t tell you that you have no idea what you’re really feeling. I will validate the in-loveness, the euphoria of it all and the earth shattering feeling of when you get rejected. I was thinking about telling you to guard your heart better (as if this is something we all inherently know how to do) so that it doesn’t hurt as much when its over (and then over again) but no…no, don’t do that. Because later on it will just feel silly. In a good way. The kind of silly that makes you smile. The kind of silly that makes you happy you experienced what you did. You eventually forget the hurt and all that’s left is a whimsical, nostalgic kind of thing. I shouldn’t say you forget the hurt. It’s definitely memorable. But the dancing in the rain kind of stuff will be more in focus. We learn from heartache. Everything is a gift, even that part. As Elizabeth Gilbert says, “It’s a good thing; a broken heart. It means we have tried for something.” So I guess what I’m saying is take it all in with everything you’ve got, but then let it be over. Don’t keep trying or desperately hoping for more. Let it be.

2. You’re really good at loving your friends. Love your family more. Friends will still mean everything to you. Friends will still be who you see the most on a daily basis. But don’t miss out on family. I wish I could tell you everything, but just trust me. The family thing gets much better and bigger and more lovely. So give them the quality time they deserve. Your presence is love. Its cliche, but they will literally have your back no matter what. They don’t change. They always love. They will be your sounding board in life.

3.  Sometimes love is making the decision that doesn’t seem loving. Sometimes the most loving thing you can do for a person is to say, “no more.” I know you’ve had it drilled into your brain: love, forgive, love, forgive, love, forgive. But that doesn’t always look how you think it does. You’ll realize all the love and forgiveness you can give doesn’t change a person. And sometimes you end up enabling the bad things because you’re too scared of doing the wrong thing. You’re not a very brave person in that department. You don’t trust yourself very much. It makes me sad. But grace is key to who you are, so don’t change that. Just know that it’s okay. It’s okay to have a breaking point. And it’s okay to not know what God is teaching you before he teaches it to you. It’s okay to let go of whatever is hurting your heart and soul.

4. For goodness sakes, love yourself more. In order to love people well, you do truly need to be in a healthy place of loving oneself. At the end of the day, you are all you have. You have your mind, heart, soul, and body. Take care of it. Love it, with all it’s flaws and all it’s beauty. Love your body. Be outraged at the objectification of the female body. Stop trying to please everyone. It’s okay if people don’t think you’re the greatest or the prettiest. It’s okay if people don’t agree with you. Don’t burn yourself out. Listen to yourself. What do you need? Ok…now do that. It’s quite simple, really. You don’t have to go to that thing because that person will be disappointed if you’re not there. You don’t have to do every little thing someone asks of you. It’s okay to say you’re busy. It’s okay to say you need a night at home. Learn to be in tune with your gut. Sometimes you have to listen to yourself and to God and accept that someone you love might not understand.

5. God loves you, no matter what choices you make. There’s nothing you can do that will ruin His plan. He won’t see you as less of a good person if you do___. Your life isn’t going to be less full or blessed if you ___. You don’t worship a conditional God. No, really. You know this, but knowing it in your head is entirely different from knowing it in your heart. It’s a really hard thing to grasp–unconditional love. Maybe you’ll get it more if you become a mom someday. I don’t know. You definitely have a “gray” perspective. You’re really good at being accepting of everyone else and not being judgmental. You’re really good at knowing if Jesus is the Truth, you’re not…except when it comes to yourself. When it comes to your life, things are more black and white. It’s harder to believe that whole unconditional love thing for yourself than it is for everyone else. But you are, you are so radically loved and accepted just as you are. Don’t let anyone else taint your journey by comparing it to their own. And don’t do that to yourself. Live into what God has for you.

6. Sometimes love needs boundaries to keep hurt and confusion at bay. And then sometimes screw boundaries…love with abandon, my dear.

7. Some of the greatest loves of your life will not be boys. They’ll be the girlfriends who intensely know you and are your memory keepers. They’ll be the places and spaces that saw you through unforgettable seasons of life. They’ll be the children that light up your world and teach you to wonder. They’ll be the roles or vocations that allow you to live out love and purpose. They’ll be the women you look up to, the ones who blazed the trail before you and come back to walk you through it.

Love,

Taylor