beauty

When Your Aunt is Everything with Wings

Tia Stephanie 1
When your aunt is everything with wings,
Light is her preferred method of travel.
Floating. Skimming.
Air is water
and gravity, optional.
 
When your aunt is everything with wings,
Courage glitters her skin.
Bravery is her cartilage.
Divinity, her flight path.
 
When your aunt is everything with wings,
She teaches what effortless beauty looks like,
How grace is weightless,
and joy, a song.
 
When spring blooms and
stars fall, winds whip
and sea mammals breach —
Power,
strength,
fortitude,
and faith
have names,
when your aunt is everything with wings.
 
Happy Birthday, Tia Stephanie. ❤ What an honor it is to be your niece.
Photo credit: Stephanie Jensen Garza

In Praise of The Ugly Pants

Ugly Pants

The following is an extra special contributor post from my divine writer-friend, Elspeth Eckert. She constantly inspires me to befriend my inner goddess, and in this piece, she gives a fresh new spin to notion that “it’s what something is made of that really counts.” May the all “Ugly Pants” of the world find their perfect fit to love them just exactly as they are.

“In Praise of the Ugly Pants” by Elspeth Eckert

I bought a pair of ugly pants yesterday. They hung there forlorn, clearance tags thickly plastered from repeated failed attempts to entice customers. I looked at them in that way I sometimes do, trying to puzzle out if I liked them (the pattern is kind of fun, and I like the colors in theory) or if this garment was indeed truly hideous. Only one way to find out.

In the fitting room, the pants revealed themselves to be remarkably unflattering, more so than I could have anticipated. My rear seemed to balloon to elephantine proportions with every jiggle exaggerated. The banded legs seemed by turns either too short or too long to suit any style. The pattern didn’t line up, leaving the edges of those vibrant horizontal stripes warring along my pelvic girdle.

But there were roomy pockets at just the right height. And the fabric was soft.

I considered the pants and what it would say about me if I wore them. Would I be “letting myself go?” Opening myself to mocking judgements? Would I be one of THOSE women (and what does that even mean anyway)? I looked. I imagined and considered. I undressed carefully and returned the hopeful pants to their hanger a little straighter than I’d found them.

As I exited the dressing room, I experienced a transformative moment of clarity: I know who would wear these pants. People who don’t take themselves too seriously would wear them. And finally, at great long last, that kind of person was me. With a deep breath and not a shred of regret, I bought the ugly pants. And this simple gesture has made me ridiculously proud of the woman I’m becoming.

May I be reminded each time I slide into the comfy embrace of my ugly pants that life is not always so serious and taking myself less seriously can be the most liberating act of all.

Photo credit/Featured: Elspeth Eckert
Follow her on Tumblr: SpiralSpeaker

 

When Your Friend is a Machine Gun

Mechi on the beach

Do you have a friend that when you’re with you feel as if you can conquer the entire world together? That there is no limit? That any dream you can possibly dream really can come true? This woman is that for me.

Mechi is a FORCE. A supernova tsnuami. A machine gun of radical love and wisdom. I first met her in Brazil five years ago, where we lived and worked together in Salvador. It had been almost four years before she came flooding back into my life last summer and totally shot up my world, leaving a destruction of all my previous conceptions of love, friendship, and how navigate life in her wake.

“The world is magic!” She tells me. And I know this is true, because she helps me to see it. Over and over again.

She taught me how to trust in the Universe. To believe that we will always be taken care of. To let go of structure, of expectations, and just let it FLOOWWW. She inspired me to get my first tattoo, because I was there in Brazil when she got her’s. Earlier this year as we traveled South America together, she even gave me the honor of shaving her head after being inspired by my own buzz last year. (Yeah, lots of OMGICAN’TBELIEVEWEDIDIT happy tears!)

When I woke up this morning, this quote was in my inbox:

“What is a teacher? I’ll tell you: it isn’t someone who teaches something but someone who inspires the student to give of her best in order to discover what she already knows.” — Paulo Coehlo, The Witch of Portobello

I have many friends that fit this description, but today, I dedicate this one to mi gorrrda mas boluudaa. 🙂 And to all women who know how to wield their artillery powers for good.

Featured: Mercedes Ponce de León in Rio de Janeiro
Photo credit: Amelia Isabel

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

I Live Here

Sunset in San Ramon, CA

Found an incredible spot to watch the sunset this evening, overlooking the mountainside of the San Ramon valley. Amber waves of grain rolled out before me. The bay clouds unfolded over the peaks like rich cumulus cotton. I even heard eagles cry.

Yes, I was living in an American anthem.

And I remembered a story Abraham once told about Jerry and Esther Hicks. They were on vacation somewhere – Mexico, probably – and Esther was in love with it. Overcome by the beauty of the place and the strong desire to stay there forever, she asked Jerry, “Can’t we just live here?” After a beat, Jerry responded, “But, we are. We are living here.”

I’ve thought about that story a lot over my travels. But, I still constantly question the journey: When will I settle down? When will I find my new nest? Where will I finally LIVE?!

And I realized as I sat on top of the windy hillside: I live here. I am LIVING here. In California! Amazing.

My address doesn’t matter.

Because in every moment, wherever I lay my head, wherever my car is parked, wherever I take a breath, I am living.

America, America,
God has surely shed his grace on thee.

Photo credit: Amelia Isabel

The Beauty Crusader

The Beauty Crusader

Life on the road can be isolating as much as it is liberating. As much as I equally want to be a hermit, no longer caring about what I look like, I still want to engage with others and care about what I look like. It’s so easy to hide away under layers of clothes to hide an expanding waistline or put on a hat to cover a gradually-growing untamable mane.

It is a constant exercise in confidence-building and self-esteem. (WHICH I’M SUPER DUPER GOOD AT, BY THE WAY. Not.)

When I woke this morning after quickly putting on some pants and a hat to cover up my bed (er, car) head, and the new flannel men’s shirt I got from Goodwill yesterday, I made my way to the restroom area of the RV park. As I rounded the corner, a young boy about 10 or 11 emerged, his blonde hair freshly tussled, donning reddish-pink goggles with his towel cooly slung over his shoulder. I quickly crossed my arms over my chest, because I wasn’t wearing a bra (I’m liberated, remember? 😉 ), and I offered him a small smile before looking past him to find the bathroom.

“Good morning!” he proclaimed, surprising me with his bright and cheerful tone. I replied, matching his cheeriness — my uneasiness instantly erased.

As we passed each other, he turned around and said to me, “You know, you’re looking really beautiful this morning.” My spirit soared. I brightened even more. “Thank you!” I beamed back.

OMG WHO IS THIS KID AND WHERE CAN I THANK HIS PARENTS?! 😀

It is moments like this morning when I reminded of what it means to be really beautiful. It’s not about what you wear, (ahem: AMELIA), and it’s not about what you look like, or even how you sometimes feel, remember? Beauty exists, because YOU exist. And of course, it helps when others see it, too.

As I sat and made my breakfast, I kept on the lookout for him. Soon, I spotted him riding his mountain bike through the RV park, red goggles in place — a masked crusader of light and beauty streaming through the forest of campers. I shouted to him, “Hello!” He turned to find me and shouted back, “Hello!” And after a beat and without pausing to slow his steed, he said, “My parents need soda!” I smiled. “Ok!” I said. Then he was gone, off to sweeten and save the world one more time.

Thank you, masked crusader. Saluting you from campsite #33.

Amelia

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

Naked

Amelia in profile, headshot

To be fully seen by somebody, then, and be loved anyhow – this is a human offering that can border on miraculous. — Elizabeth Gilbert

This summer, my new friend, Alberto Martinez, said to me, “I would love to shoot your picture.” My ego instantly glowed, because what cooler feeling is there than for a stranger to see you as art? (Especially since this is the first time someone has ever said this to me when I’ve only barely walked into a room…)

Then, I realized HOLD ON. There is great risk to be fully seen by someone! To trust another person with your Essence. To look into the eyes of a camera and stand there as broken, unattractive, or unworthy as you might believe. You feel naked, vulnerable. Yet, somehow strong, empowered. Someone SEES you, and you are allowing yourself to be seen. Granting permission to be captured, flaws and all… into a work of art.

What greater freedom exists than to be naked?

I am proud to share this redesign of my website, which features some of the pieces from our recent creative project! (See them on the Home page and under About.)

Go on. Be naked with someone today. ❤

Photo credit: Alberto Martinez

I Shaved my Head. And This is Why.

A month ago I shaved my head. Last night at an Open Mic at Austin Java, I explained why.

The audience feedback was incredible. My heart is swelling with so much gratitude. In my piece, I discuss the history of the reflected self and our culture’s obsession with mirrors. Well, right before the evening began, a group of visually impaired students came in, and I though Oh my god…how am I going to be able to do this talk now?! But, it could not have been more perfect. They were the most supportive of my talk, as it resonated with them, too. One of them actually told me that she recently “came out” and that my presentation encouraged her. I was so humbled by her bravery. What better compliment can you ask for! Another woman came up to me later and thanked me for my existence. I have never been thanked before for existing! She told me that I needed to share this story far and wide, so here I go.

This piece is dedicated to Joanna McAfee and her brother Paul. My journey over the years started with her sweet courage. I have never forgotten her story, nor will I ever.

Screenshot of Why I Shaved my Head You Tube video

 

Blue

I saw a blue balloon today
floating along the stratosphere —
caressing heaven’s belly, batting
its glittering eye, intrinsically aware
of its place between the cosmos.

I saw a blue jay today
squawking down below our porch —
flitting among the branches, hopping
alongside the dry creek bed, content
in his handsome feathered frame.

I saw a blue bicycle and his sister today
racing each other through the park —
squealing in delight, wanting not
to be last, training wheels flying
as swift as wings.

I saw you everywhere today
coloring shirts and shoes and a dragonfly kite —
laughing behind graffiti, smiling across
the expansive Texas sky, your blue hair waving
in my memory.

For Machelle.

© Amelia Isabel