Practicing Lightness (And Using Four Letter Words)
(And Using Four Letter Words.)
By Bri Tejeda
This past January I took a break from the internet. I didn't know why I needed to - but I knew that I just needed to. With the ever changing landscape of our home life, our unconventional way of becoming a very conventional family, and the neurodiversity issues we had started tackling within ourselves and children - I was acutely aware that while I was progressively good at taking on hard challenges, and sharing them online - I needed to just not.
Over the last three years, as life would have it, I found myself in circumstances I couldn't predict - feeling in ways I didnt think I was equipped to handle. I would wake up in a home that wasn't mine, in a place I didn't want to be, longing for a freedom that wasn't currently there. Homeschooling my daughters because of unforeseen life scenarios wasn't exactly my first plan of attack in motherhood, either. I felt isolated and emotional, which was emphasized further when scrolling through the feeds that flood social media. The last year of my life felt exclusive to sacrifice. All work. The exasperation only continued as I looked deeper into our current political and social climate.
I watched from afar, with all three girls in tow, as the election polls closed, as a deep sadness swept across the country. I watched as women across the world congregated and marched for human rights. I watched a day later when women and men alike fought against reproductive rights. I watched friends get ready for protests - painting cleverly thought out signs, holding their daughters as they stood up for something that mattered. I watched my loved ones express deep grief and concern over their safety, with each passing newsreel acting as a trigger point for the masses.
I looked around at the turmoil, helpless and confused at the role I was supposed to play in an effort to turn about hope. To build hope for myself. To protect the people I loved. Only to come to accept that as time went on, and the news became heavier, a certain self-awareness in my life had been deeply lacking. I saw myself differently than I previously did. I realized that as a white, straight, female with a middle-class background - that I had only known privilege in the deepest sense of the word. Privilege to not be profiled. The privilege to show up - smile - and get the opportunity. The privilege of empathy towards me and my family in times of struggle. Most importantly, the privilege of peace of mind. Life has been graceful to me in nearly all of its circumstances, even the traumatic ones. To accept that I had no way of understanding the depths of this calamity and injustice that the people around me were facing was a deep hit in which I had to accept with a certain level of helplessness. I found myself spiraling into what I can only imagine being described as an existential crisis. A place where things felt a little disconnected, a place that needed as much growth as it did healing.
"Fuck." I would say when I woke up in the morning.
"Fuck." I would say when it was time for bed.
"Fuck." I would say when I watched the news.
"Fuck." I would say as I toiled over my family - Making sure we were clean, and taken care of.
"Fuck." I would feel when my husband came home stressed out from work.
“Fuck.” I would think while making sure I called my grandma, while making sure the bills were paid, while making sure…
“Fuck.” Was what I felt when I realized that I had spent the last three years sharing my experience with a hand full of friends on the internet. I remember when it started, it felt cathartic and pure. I felt free by just speaking what my skeletons were - I felt supported.
“Fuck.” Was where my mind went when I realized that it wasn’t where I was at. The catharsis started to feel shallow. The writing was jumbled and the thoughts unorganized. The longevity of the internet is terrifying. Growing pains can be followed and relived through an indestructible timeline and a quick google search. There is no remorse.
“Fuck.” Was what I felt as I stared down at a business started yet not completed. I ran from the obligation as quickly as I saw its undeniable future. Boxes and boxes of products sitting in my bonus room - waiting to be delivered to the homeless missions. Another promise not kept. Another let down in the midst of chaos I was feeling.
So I turned off my phone. I shut down my social media. I didn't respond to emails. I dissolved my business. I stopped texting back. And I took time. Over the next five months, I grieved, cried, read, and drank tea - and even, occasionally, ate in a little pot.
"Fuck." I thought as I re-read Sylvia Plath for the first time as an adult. "This is so good, and even relatable." Her writing is evocative and precise. Her depression was as tangible as the pages I was turning. I can empathize with a mind who sees others so outside of herself. I found myself deeply involved in thought throughout the Bell Jar. Relating her fear of failure and doing just enough to pass by as a modern day social commentary of women on the internet. The ones who want to make this millennial privilege of motherhood, or womanhood their career. The ones ignoring their own needs to mindlessly provide tips and tricks for fashionable ways to live. The ones carrying the weight of false realities. The ones, who as it appears, are cracking under the pressure.
"Fuck." I thought as I read Kurt Vonnegut for the first time. "This guy is insane.” I found myself daydreaming about how silly it is to have written such a well placed, but useless book in Cats Cradle. It is incredible how satirical commentary can just bring perspective on the ridiculousness of the experiences. It also was mildly entertaining how relatable his made up religion, The Bokonon, felt to the wordiness of the Taoism book that I also was trying to work my way through..
"Fuck." I thought as I read Viktor Frankl. A recommendation by a dear friend as a means towards hope and clarity in the midst of today's social predicament. Practicing Meaning as a light towards living. As a means towards overcoming momentary pain. Towards purpose. Towards prosperity. The depth of devastation this man, and so many others, experienced is beyond my ability to understand. This book brought it back to a place where you see the strength of human nature, while also not shying from the faults. A Mans Search For Meaning should be on everyone's book list.
"Fuck." I thought, as I anxiously thumbed through the pages of Neurotribes. I bought this beast of information in a desperate search for clarity. I spent the entire last year obsessing over the concept of what it is to be diverse in unseen ways. To be a child who thinks outside the box. To be a child so inside of their own box. A search of trying to define what was different. Trying to learn how to help. Trying to identify how to progress. A desperate effort of survival by intellectualizing an experience that, as it turns out, doesn’t need it. We aren't defined by our differences. I didn't finish it.
I continued down this path of taking in information, continually. Sitting with it and feeling it. I would buy up any recommendation someone would throw at me - no real rhyme or rhythm. I read for pleasure, I read to learn - but above all else - I read more in the last five months than I had read in the last five years. Out of all the self-care routines I have submersed myself in - This five month period was by far the most impactful. The most freeing.
Eventually, the Fucks turned into sighs. Those sighs slowly became sighs of relief. The more I invested time into myself, into my mind and into my family - the more meaningful our experiences became. Like A calm after the storm, a time of crisis can feel necessary to make a resolution complete.
It was then that I had made a choice that I hadn’t had the mind to previously grasp. I made a choice to accept balance. To practice it, actually, like a child with training wheels on.
It would be easy to explain this in ways that relate to our cultural inadequacies - like choosing books over buzzfeed, or experience over manufactured memories. But to explain it more innately, I would say that practicing lightness is letting life be. To not engage in the heaviest and deepest moments, where I don’t have a stake in the fight - instead choosing compassion with open arms. My strength is in my ability to communicate and overcome - to persevere. The balance comes with not needing to. Allowing gratefulness to take place of the fight or flight. Lightness to take place of the darkness in the depth.
To practice lightness by laughing more. By turning my mind towards one of tolerance, to make it my job to create that nature as one which our family upholds. To practice gratitude. To practice love.
I am choosing to balance the weight I've been feeling. I am choosing to see myself honestly. By practicing lightness, I am giving myself room to live. I am allowing genuine experience and sincerity back their space. These shifts will not be world changing, but they will be personally groundbreaking.
This is the lightness I'm seeking, while still occasionally - and rhythmically - indulging in one of my favorite four letter words.
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