Austin Storyteller

To Those Who Want to Give Up

Sunset in Oakland, California

Earlier this year I took a course on Death, Loss, and Meaning in Existential Psychology. I assure you, it was as intense as it sounds.

It was also one of the greatest, most inspiring courses I have ever taken in my entire academic career — easily coming into my Top 3 favorite classes of all time. We dug deep within ourselves and each other. We questioned religion and our own belief systems. We wrestled with the notion that the Universe could care less about us when we care so much about ourselves. We questioned what it means to be happy. We questioned the value of suffering. We questioned the meaning of life and whether or not one’s meaning is the same as one’s purpose. Does meaning have to be meaningful? What if my meaning of life is different from your meaning of life? What if my purpose is destined to be hard? What if my purpose is different from how I find meaning? What if it won’t be fun? Is it even worth it?

And above all: Why me?

Ah, the million-dollar Hero’s Journey question. I often wonder what Martin Luther King Jr.’s response was. Or Odysseus’s. Or Amelia Earhart’s. Or Gandhi’s. Or Malala Yousafzai’s.

Today, the answers aren’t any clearer. But, I find comfort in the fact that I am not the only one to question. Nor will I be the last. This project is dedicated to all of us who ask “What’s the point?” May these words give you strength, lift you up, and remind you that where human life still exists, so does hope.

Blessings, friends.

Presentation Cover Image
Photo credit: Amelia Isabel

When you love yourself, and I mean really love yourself

Love Reflection

When you love yourself, and I mean really love yourself,
you cannot help but look at that person in the mirror and weep.
That person who lives in a body tailor-made to swell and shrink
with the tides of food; whose scars, curves, lines, and bumps
pattern the casing of an animal, a house of the entire emotional spectrum;
whose dreams churn the engines and heat the heart;
and whose laughter delights the stars and all ancestors before her.

Yes, I love you.
All of you, person that is Me.
Every inch. Every piece.
Finally.

© Amelia Isabel

Photo credit: Amelia Isabel, in Buenos Aires, Argentina

When Mustangs Reincarnate

Me and Jessie in Costa Rica

It is said that everyone you meet is a mirror of you — a reflection of some part of your unique majestic makeup. Some will show your flaws; others will show your beauty. And, if you’re lucky, a rare few may even show you your wild buckin’ heart.

In 2008, I left to study abroad in Costa Rica for three months, never imagining I’d end up finding a job and staying there for four more. It changed me at a molecular level. I went in one person and came out somebody totally different. Sure, living in the flora and fauna of present-day jurassic park had a lot to do with it, but in reality, it was the people. Especially, this woman.

Jess is the reincarnation of a wild mustang in human form. She was the first to show me that it was ok to wander away from the group. That it was ok to stop in the middle of the trail — night or day — and look up for hours. That it was ok to not know what you were doing, but to do it anyway. That it was ok to ask questions. That it was ok not to wear makeup or deodorant or high heels. That it was ok to fall, as long as you got back up, no matter how much time it took.

She was the first badass I met in my entire life.

She made riding a horse bare-back look easy (she had never even ridden a horse before Costa Rica!). She could walk for hours, never complaining, even leading the pack for a 10 mile hike through the rain, mud, and horse flies of the jungle. She adopted shoes she found on the road, and would say, “Oh, GREAT! I can use these!” often fixing them with duct tape and proudly wearing them way past their expiration date. She even learned to climb trees with a machete hanging from her belt, so she could bring back mangoes and avocados for us to share. She is my opposite in so many ways, but my twin in so many others.

Most of all, she taught me to laugh in the face of life, and to follow my dreams mercilessly. I know that when I look back at the narrative of my life, my heart will sing knowing it was her who first taught me to be wild.

Happy birthday, gemela.

Photo credit: Amelia Isabel

For My Sister

Sisters swinging on swingset in backyard
If I could turn back time
to that day on the swings
I would 

Summer clung to the air
jostling the canopy
of the Great Pecan Tree
He laughed with his whole heart
and so did we

Down and back
forwards and Up
Wild curls reeling
to catch the clouds

Faster, higher
sweeter, lighter
toes scraping the sky
The moment, our spaceship
suspended in delight

Before the kitchen door opens
Before the magic breaks
Two backyard pendulums
swing

© Amelia Isabel
Photo credit: Hannah Nicole

Belong

A silhouette of a woman sitting and watching the sunset
When feel like I have nowhere to belong to –
I must remember that I belong to myself.
These bones.
These feelings.
This soul.
They are a universe –
a land
uninhabited by any other creature.
Only the cells of dinosaurs
and distant galaxies have called me home.
But in this life
I rule them alone.
My life is my kingdom,
my body my planet.
My reign shall be long and golden,
as long as I look towards the light.
Even in darkness,
I will glow,
burning the borrowed embers
that breathe and live all on their own.
I am responsible for this soul.
This Being.
For as long as we both shall live.

© Amelia Isabel
Photo credit: Kevin Cole

Gratitude! Gratitude! Gratituuuuuude!

The support and feedback from my talk on beauty has been nothing short of amazing. My soul is overflowing with so much gratitude from truly phenomenal people. On top of the audience feedback I got from my first Open Mic last week, here are some more comments that truly touched me:

From a beautiful and brave family member who has battled breast cancer:

Thank you for sharing this wisdom Amelia. You’ve shown me that I don’t have to be afraid of the way I’m changing physically due to having a mastectomy, or due to my age, or due to my particular feelings that day that tell me that I can’t go out of the house and see people. Your experience of coming to know that your true beauty is all parts of you has helped me to not be sad today as I realize there is more to me than my face, hair and clothes. I will accept who I am as a whole. Thank you for sharing your beautiful self!

From a dear friend who recently had a baby:

I listened to your open mic and it got me thinking about how after having [my baby] I’ve been avoiding pictures because of how I feel about my after body. Thanks lovely for the reflection.

From an inspiring new friend after having too much bourbon last night (paraphrasing):

Your talk was really inspiring. It made me realize just how much I’ve been picking at my flaws recently and how it’s been getting me down. I’ve always thought about how my hair part goes the other way, because I can see it in photos, so I’m conscious of it. You helped me to step back and see myself for who I really am. I really want to experience the True Mirror, too.

I was also recently spotlighted as a “Bald Beauty” by The Bald Movement, an organization that empowers women who are bald either by circumstance or by choice.

Spotlighted on The Bald Movement Instagram

AND if that wasn’t amazing enough, Daniel, the facilitator of Austin Java Open Mic wrote up a FANTASTIC review on my performance, saying, “It was really easy to take in all the emotion of what she was getting across and I felt like Amelia and I had a lived a lifelong friendship together by the time she was done.” Aww, shucks. 🙂 Read the entire review here.

My next Open Mic will be at BookWoman on North Lamar at 7:15 tonight! Come and share your own poems and stories!