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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A Year of Restoration

Dear friends,

I write to you from my (current) bedroom, a space filled with the aroma of warm coffee and the quiet hum of morning. Outside the sun glows bright on a blanket of snow. Trees extend their joints to the blue sky. Everything around me seems to be in prayer. This moment calls for a commitment to memory. I will need to summon it again and again because I am human and, sometimes, I forget. This moment calls for a commitment to action, as Maxine Hong Kingston taught us, “In a time of destruction, create something”. And if prayer is the act of creation, then I will pray harder than ever.

The transition between “new” and “old” does not start or end when the clock strikes midnight. It is ever-changing. It is the sloughing off of that which is no longer of service, and the integration of habit in hopes of creating a more sustained self. We are alive during this moment of transition for a reason, and there is no better time to continue the work of healing.

Staying accountable to personal healing is possible if we decide to keep coming home to ourselves. Seeking to remember that we are flexible, resourceful, creative, and resilient beings manifests greater humility and courage. In order to make room for whole-self and whole-community liberation we must tirelessly return to the work that is bone-deep. cropped-file_000-7.jpegThis deep work takes a level of clarity, compassion and consistency that we often forget we have access to (I’m raising my hand over here!). To level up in 2018 while embracing whatever fears may accompany struggle, is to hold space for restoration of personal and communal power.

A few years back, I shared 10 Ideas to Unplug (and Reconnect), and today I’m revisiting that initial work with a reiteration which provides more detail and structure. As the coming year unfolds I’ll be harnessing this vision as a navigation guide. If this resonates, feel free to utilize it in whatever way feels good to you.

Schedule health checks and self-care

The end of the year proved to be challenging health-wise. It was a good reminder to make sure that I prioritize my healing and well-being. By scheduling wellness check-ups and self-care dates early on, I hope to maintain a healthy awareness throughout the whole year.cropped-dsc_0809.jpg Organize staycations and road trips

Being back in the Midwest has allowed me to see how much I don’t know about Ohio. I intend to learn more about my home state by planning as many getaways and staycations throughout the year as possible. I will definitely be writing about these adventures in the new year, and will post on the site. 

Wake up (early)

Waking up early in the morning is one of my greatest pleasures. I find peace in the still moments when sun the rises. On snowy days it is barely seen, but the brightness that gleams from the earth lets me know it is there. Even though I love waking early, there are days when I struggle to move my body from the warm, soft sheets. One new ritual I plan to incorporate is to place my phone across the room from the bed, and set the alarm to a gentle, uplifting song. The transit time and music will be a good muse to help motive me to stay woke. One current ritual that I will be keeping in 2018 is planning nourishing and exciting meals for breakfast. I’ve loved making my first activity of the day something that involves creativity and self-care.DSC_0938 Create something

Writing, like reading, is a means to deepen our understanding and experience. I’ve written about creativity many times before on the blog. In the past I’ve often tried to set too many limitations on myself when it comes to creative expression. A practice that has been an ally to me is writing my ideas down first. Whether I have a vision for a photo shoot, poem or wellness workshop, jotting it down helps to bring the idea for fruition.

Prioritize literacy

Literacy is a privilege. It affords opportunity. It connects us to the legacy of storytelling. It reminds us that we stand on the shoulders of our ancestors. Literacy reminds us that we are resourceful beings. While in grad school, I spent a lot of focused time reading, studying, and integrating information from both classical and modern medical texts. It was deeply nerdy and humbling. It helped to root the knowledge in a profound way and supported my practical application in clinic. The experience shaped me as a reader in ways that I will spend a lifetime learning from. Visiting libraries, museums, independent art shows, and attending classes are common ground ways in which we can cultivate literacy. Learning with others in community provides ample opportunity for consciousness to grow. It also gets us out into the world, which can be a sweet retreat from the constant pull to be online all the time.dsc_0823 Cultivate mental dexterity

There are times when my work requires that I spend a significant amount of time online. It’s difficult to avoid the internet altogether, but setting appropriate boundaries is just the remedy I need to keep my mind supple. We can always give ourselves the gift of planned time away during the day, week, month, and year. Carving out space to dream is critical sustenance for survival. I wish to grow mental dexterity in the New Year through more prayer and meditation.  Taking a walk around the neighborhood, or in the woods. Being in group with others. Cooking a new or favorite dish. All provide an opportunity to move beyond the limitation of patterned thoughts, to reorient toward less stress and more flexibility.

Redefine exercise

Movement teaches us about the complexity of life. The stretch of muscle fibers. The graceful open of a wing. We crawl and stand. We sit motionless, and jolt quick as a lightning bolt. Every creation on the planet has a signature, which is eloquently expressed in the way that it moves. There is power in movement—be it physiological, an expression of solidarity, or the shifting force of tectonic plates. In redefining exercise, I’m also considering what it means to be empowered. In the coming year I seek to strengthen my power by refining my Qigong and Taiji skills. I look forward to breaking down each movement and form into small digestible components. I have a feeling this process will allow me to unfold in unexpected ways, and remind me to work toward right relationship with the earth.ChristianTotty_DyshaWaites I’d love to hear your tips on how to embrace restoration in the coming year. Thanks for reading mine. 

May we continue to remember who we come from. May we uplift our unique cultures and traditions. May we grow in capacity to love more deeply. May we be unafraid to make magic that is rooted in profound gratitude and imagination.

New Year Blessings.

In solidarity,

Christian