somehow, i have kept a child alive in the dark and please don’t tell me how to be beautiful.

the light has woken me early, but the night that was only 380 broken minutes long, has left me tender and not yet ready for all these new hours that stretch lazily ahead of me, like a languid cat already seeking my attention, and i have pulled myself back from sleep 3 times in the name of all that is holy, so that i can put a needle into my sleeping son’s finger to check that there is enough glucose and insulin for him to wake again in the morning—not too much, and not too little, the porrige must be just right said the baby bear, and there was juice and a biscuit in the dark hours, sit up my boy and drink, you are too low, and with eyes closed he hears my voice and drinks, just like a long time ago, and still i manage to keep him alive, and isn’t this a miracle i whisper to myself, and just right is what the magazines say i must be, and not too hot (how dare she…) and not too cold (she’s really let herself go…) and there are women who were not even conceived yet, when i said yes, and they, these lovely, shiny, unlined and untested women, are telling me how to erase the gentle rise, and fall of my body’s topography, and that i should feel shame at the contour lines that snake over my womb, and someone with teeth as white as revelation is telling me how to pretend that my hips never held a heartbeat, and that my breasts were never a source of life, and this is how you shine if you want it all she says, and who doesn’t want that? but this morning i will settle for coffee and a slow-burning hope, and i unroll my yoga mat and i unfurl my limbs and my heart gently follows, and somehow i have kept a child alive in the dark—can you believe that? i ask the pretty girl—and please don’t tell me how to be beautiful.

just don’t.

and now the morning light has climbed in through my window like a bold, teenage lover, and it falls softly on my skin, and i can see all the pretty young women, and all the men who tell us how to be acceptable and everything they’ve ever dreamed of, and i can hear them as i fold my body down, down, down towards my feet, and i can hear their hunger, and it is no longer mine, and somehow i have kept a child alive in the dark, can you believe that? and this, is enough.

—somehow i have kept a child alive in the dark, and please don’t tell me how to be beautiful.

© Liezel Graham 2019.

Photograph by Arthur Roman.

how to believe in yourself.

of all the words

in the whole wide world,

and there are so many,

the ones

that you

allow

to live

inside your head,

are

the

most

dangerous words

in the whole wide world, so

you

must be

very careful

whose words

you pick up

with

your

bare

hands, and give a home to.

and some words,

especially stray ones,

will try

to make

you

feel

small

and

unimportant, but

you are not small.

you,

are so big

with kindness, and

you,

are so strong

with compassion, and

all your beautiful dreams

have made you

so very tall.

isn’t that amazing?

how big you really are?

so don’t you believe,

not even for a minute,

that you

are not

enough

for your life.

go,

and search for new words,

big words,

happy words,

words that smile at you

when you find them.

eat them up,

one by one,

until the inside

of your heart

is full of you.

—how to believe in yourself.

© Liezel Graham 2019.

Photograph by Orlando Vera.

Never forget how big you really are.

For someone very special down under, but for all of us too.

liezel

on finding my place.

one starry night, the woman took a walk inside of herself to the quiet places that she loved to visit, and

there, under the karoo sun, she could play barefoot again, unworried about ice and snow and other cold things, and her young hands could tease the

hot earth for tiny fragments of blue glass hidden in the soil, and

one day i will be an archaeologist and i will dig for things — beautiful things, in the dirt, and i will have rooms full of books and i will travel the world and see pyramids and other beautiful, broken things, and we will see each other and smile — the broken things and i — and i will never have to prove that i do know things and they are all wrong about me and perhaps i will finally belong, and i wonder what that feels like, to fit snugly in a place and in a life, like your shape was made to belong, but

some don’t, do they — belong?

and some people aren’t made

to fit into round holes, because they have sharp edges and sharp corners where the loveliest things hide, but not everybody can see this and not everybody knows, and it takes a very long time for a soft, square heart to know that it is ok not to be round,

and i have been scratching in the dust for years to find hope and life and other green things, and

i have grown soft with love for myself, and i still look for fragments and other broken things in places where others see dirt, and

this is my gift — to see the loveliness in a man’s skin, and to hear africa in his voice as our children swim together, here, far from home, and to see hope in the eyes of a woman who crossed deserts and bullets

with children in tow and then

still the oceans, too — what did she know about water so deep and so fierce, other than that it was safer than the hearts from where she ran, and i look for smiles and people who walk straight into you with mouths that bow up to the light, and eyes that sparkle like glass in the sun — these are the things that i search for now, and when i find them, i turn them over, and over, in my hands and when my hunger is satisfied i hide them, deep in a corner, and oh!

you should see all the beauty that i have hidden inside here, on this side of my walls, and finally i belong.

— on finding my place.

© Liezel Graham 2019.

Photograph by Tim Mossholder.

when she takes me back.

…and then there are days, and nights sometimes, where healing, is lying down on my yoga mat in a dark room and going back,

.

back, as far as the child within me wants to go, and i let her decide where we stop and linger for a bit. i have learned to trust her with this most important thing, and

.

sometimes we walk through my father’s vegetable garden and he is there and the sun is hot on my skin and the cicadas are shrill in the heat of the afternoon, but we are happy and content and i ask him the secret to growing strawberries that are sweet like syrup and how-do-i-know-just-when-the-corn-is-ready-to-be-picked, and show me how to read the clouds that gather over the karoo landscape, and he tells me all the hidden things a gardener needs to know, and it is like the rain that falls from a broken cloud and floods the dry earth.

.

but sometimes, we stop where words are like acid and my skin burns and my heart melts like lead over a hot flame and then it cools into a different shape, and all i can do is stand there with my hand on her shoulder — the child who i once was, and i tell her that it’s ok, it’s ok, you are going to be ok, just you wait and see.

.

…and please let these words fall off your skin, please don’t let them cling, and yes, there is pain and it is not just your heart that hurts, his does too, but he does not know how to undo the deep tracks left in those new fields, and pain that is given no name, loves to marry anger and none of this is your fault, and .

it’s ok to let the tears fall, even now, let them water your skin, and your bones, and the dry earth of your heart and it is never too late to let them come, and just you wait, you will see.

.

it will all be ok.

.

and then we come back and we hug and say goodbye, for a while, this is hard work — too hard for every day, and she leaves quietly and i get up and read bedtime stories to a heart that looks at me with love, and i get to kiss a soft boy-cheek goodnight, and somehow,

.

somehow, it is all ok, and somewhere i can hear her laugh.

.

— when she takes me back.

.

© Liezel Graham 2019.

.

Photograph Pixabay.

Generational healing.

One of the greatest gifts that you can give to all the women who came before you — your mothers, your grandmothers, your aunts and nieces and sisters all the way back through the generations, is healing.

The same applies to men, of course, but today is International Women’s Day and this is where my heart is, today.

Do everything in your power to seek healing for yourself, both physical, spiritual and psychological.

Be honest with where you are, and who you are.

Be gentle with your pain and your scars.

Trauma cannot be undone in a day, or a week or a month or a year, but you can start.

Be kind to yourself.

Be kind to the memories of those who lived before you. We can only live what we know, we can only do something if we know how, and perhaps they just didn’t know — didn’t know how to leave that abusive relationship, or how to face that addiction, or how to simply love, or perhaps, how to just keep on living.

And perhaps, and this is hard, I know, but if they are still alive, they might never learn how, or want to seek any healing for themselves.

But, you can.

You can change your future and if you ask for the way to healing, to open up before you, it will.

Of this, I am certain.

And it won’t be easy. I am pretty sure of this too.

And healing will look different for each of us. And it might never fully be here for you. You might still jump at the slightest sound and always hate surprises. I do.

You might have to find new friends because your old friends cannot accept that alcohol is no longer your ‘friend’. That is ok. Really, it is. New friends will come.

It might be a coming out to who you really are, or a going back to who you once were, before…

Chains are notoriously hard to break, but you can do it.

And it will be worth it. It will be a re-birth, an undoing of you are not and a discovering of who you are.

Keep searching for it — your beautiful heart is worth every bit.

#internationalwomensday

#generationalhealing

Photograph by Pixabay.