Poems to my Younger Self

Poetry and I go way back. For as long as I can remember I’ve been practicing some form of writing including journaling, essays, and poetry. I’ve had one poem published. And have written at least a thousand more. Whenever I feel the need to decompress, I turn to poetry. It has been one of my truest friends. It has provided safety when I’ve felt most alone. It has given me countless lifetimes of inspiration. And it has continually brought me back into alignment during moments of imbalance. Poetry is a major part of my self-care practice. Through every cycle, shift, and transformation. But I didn’t always see it this way.

“turning at last

on a stem like a black fruit

in my own season

at last.”

—Lucille Clifton, turning

Poetry and self-care both require a lot of tenderness. There is a process of peeling back the layers. Uncovering things that are uncomfortable. And sometime, as a result, we come undone. Often, when we show up for the work, we are healed in ways we never imagined were possible.

“Moon marked and touched by sun

my magic is unwritten

but when the sea turns back

it will leave my shape behind.“

—Audre Lorde, A Woman Speaks

To celebrate the summer solstice, and give honor to the #MyYoungerSelf campaign, I re-read through some of my favorite poems and poets, and am sharing five that resonate with me the most. These are the cornerstone works I’d give to my younger self, as encouragement to love and trust myself more.

Poem age 7

For the little girl who was bullied, and developed severe anxiety.

“I’ve got a magic charm

That I keep up my sleeve,

I can walk the ocean floor

And never have to breathe.”

—Maya Angelou, Life Doesn’t Frighten Me

Poem age 14

For the teenager who yearned for rites of passage in order to understand her place in the world.

“You.

On Purpose.

Running home after all this time.

Bring yourself in full light,

Shine magnificent in the dawn

The crown of you is beaming

Beyond human structure.

Shine magnificent in the day

A stroke of insight

You are.

You are.”

—Christian Totty, You, On Purpose

Poem age 21

For the young woman who didn’t trust her intuition; who followed along and didn’t question.

“You do not have to be good

You do not have to walk on your knees

for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.

You only have to let the soft animal of your body

love what it loves.”

—Mary Oliver, Wild Geese

Poem age 28

For the woman who slowly began to listen deeply to the songs of her ancestors.

“That’s when the rain begins,

and when the mouth of the river sings,

water flows from it

back to the cellular sea

and along the way

earth sprouts and blooms, the grandmothers

keep following creation

that opens before them

as they sing.”

—Linda Hogan, The Grandmother Songs

Poem age 35

For the woman today who continues to lean into loving herself whole.

“To pray you open your whole self

To sky, to earth, to sun, to moon

To one whole voice that is you.

And know there is more

That you can’t see, can’t hear;

Can’t know except in moments

Steadily growing, and in languages

That aren’t always sound but other

Circles of motion.”

—Joy Harjo, Eagle Poem

May this solstice bring you and yours deep abundance.

 

In solidarity,

Christian

 

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