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Home Is

~
HOME IS
if home is where the heart is
i’ve found mine in many places
i’ve left a nest in
iron skylines
redwood rainforests
lovers from campbell to canaan
home is where i am
but also where i want to be
in a cluster of stars i swear i’ve seen
and in the damp sweet soil mother gave me
is my heart shattered and scattered?
or rather expanded,
encompassing hours of
ruffage and road?
perhaps home is not a place
but rather a state
beyond the surveyor’s tape
beyond the postmarked letters
or white picket gate
home is in knowing
our fate is in the hand
or rather foot-drawn map
of every step before
and even more
each to come
home is here
wherever we stand
welcome

Listen Here



~
LISTEN HERE
my body
is my most sacred instrument
i will make love with her
make some kind of magic
make that sweet music
strum my ribs like tender strings
spread my limbs like angel wings
raise my voice to sing
my truth like a melody
’til life takes its last from me
no one can silence me
hold me back or keep me still
i refuse to gather dust
on the shelf of my bedroom
because someone else
never learned how to play me right
so if you’re ready
hold tight and listen here
i will take you as my student
teach you ’bout appreciation
of a woman
of a human
of the heart’s enduring beat
how to make ends meet
on sweet love
spare change
and common sense
for it always adds up
when you learn to count your blessings
and let me tell you
i am worth my weight in gold
,

The Paradox of the Extroverted Empath


~
I have a pretty clear image of the “classic empath” in my mind.

She’s shy and sensitive and loves nothing more than curling up with a good book, a cup of tea, and a pair of socks she probably knit herself. She’s a gentle soul, deeply in touch with her emotions and sensitive to the feelings and experiences of those around her. She cherishes her solitude and the lucky few she trusts enough to love.

It’s a pretty picture—but it’s not that simple for everyone.

For those unfamiliar with the term “empath,” it’s a character structure built upon empathy for other beings. There are many other terms to describe this experience—including HSP, intuitive, “giver,” and more. Many consider it a gift, but also a challenge to navigate in our high-pressure, high-stimuli world.

Empaths have a few identifying characteristics including:

Hypersensitivity to people’s emotions, noises, stress, and stimuli of all kinds.

Emotional absorbency—taking on others’ feelings as their own.

Strong intuition or “gut feelings” about people and situations.

Loving and needing alone time.

Through all the pieces I’ve read and personal conversations I’ve shared, these qualities seem relatively undisputed, but one in particular I just cannot resonate with—introversion.

As sensitive and spongy as I am, I’m also (and have always been) a die-hard extrovert.

I thrive in relationship with others and need a boost of human interaction to keep my energy up during the day. I can’t help but feel an unending love for people. The truth is, when I spend extended periods alone, I actually feel heavy and drained—the exact way most empaths express their experience after too much socializing.

This is the paradox of being an extroverted empath:

We need human connection to thrive, but still feel drained after spending time with people.

We can relate deeply and personally to many people at once.

We feel a great sense of purpose from understanding other people’s experiences.

We need our alone time, but don’t always want to take it.

This is a highly challenging place to be in, but it’s the truth I’ve been trying to balance my entire life. Frankly, not all the “empath survival guides” out there speak to this experience and the unique needs of the extroverted sector of this community.

I’d like to change that.

How do we take care of ourselves as outgoing, extroverted sensitives in this life?

Here are a few practices that have proven helpful to me:

1. Breathe.

Some sort of personal breathwork practice is imperative to staying in balance. As an empath—especially an extroverted one—we are exposed to the emotional dispositions of many. So familiarizing ourselves with the feeling of our own bodies, feelings, and energy allows us to recognize when we’re holding something that isn’t ours.

I have benefitted from basic Buddhist meditation, self-reiki, and chakra balancingpractices, but the options are limitless. Find one that works for you!

2. Ground and center.

Carrying other people’s emotional energy leads to feeling overwhelmed, exhausted, and ungrounded. Once we recognize we’re feeling this way, re-centering our awareness back to ourselves and getting grounded expands our capacity to hold space for others without sacrificing our own well-being.

Grounding is as simple as sitting in meditation and bringing awareness to our tailbone being supported by the Earth, or the simple sensation of our feet on the floor. We can also get grounded by spending time in nature, noticing all the sights, sounds, and smells around us. In terms of centering, I like to just close my eyes and take a few deep breaths into my heart and belly—visualizing all my scattered thoughts and emotions drawing back to me.

3. Let go of what isn’t ours.

Extroverted empaths are drawn to engage with many kinds of people, and naturally absorb thoughts and feelings that aren’t ours. For example, that sudden feeling of anxiety was actually our mother’s, that grief was our colleague’s, or that flood of love was our best friend’s. Whether or not the feeling is pleasant isn’t important—only that it’s not ours.

When we choose to regularly engage socially, it’s even more important to check in with ourselves and make sure that what we’re feeling is actually our own. Pause frequently and take a big sigh out to release anything that isn’t yours to hold.

4. Seek out smaller groups.

I’ve found that smaller, simple interactions are enough to fill me up with the human connection I need to thrive. We don’t have to be the fluttering social butterfly at a 50-person party every weekend to feel connected—in fact, more intimate personal relationships often generate the fulfillment we’re looking for more effectively anyway.

Have dinner with a few close friends, or meet one-on-one with someone to share a creative project. When I do find myself in spaces with many people—like a concert, party, or bar—it helps to have an “anchor person” who I know and trust to check in with if things start to feel intense or overstimulating.

5. Take breaks.

We have to be willing to take breaks alone to recharge—even if it’s for an hour or two—to avoid emotional burn-out. This has been a lifesaving lesson for me. If I want to be social after work, I’ll go home to make dinner, lay down, listen to music, or read solo for a little while before reconnecting with people again.

Meditation, or even a five-minute walk, is an incredibly effective means to do this when we don’t have time to take a full break. Finding (or creating) small windows in the day to reconnect with ourselves ultimately allows us to keep up the energy to support our extroverted nature.

6. Be alone in the presence of others.

Many of my favorite “me-time” activities involve taking myself out to enjoy things I love in public spaces where I don’t know anyone. Extroverted empaths can’t help but engage on a deep, emotional level with people we know, and this takes energy, but complete solitude can be equally draining. Solo time in public is the “Middle Way.”

I love to take my laptop to a coffee shop and write, or take a book of poetry to a bistro and enjoy a nice glass of wine. Others may like to hang out at the beach, hit the rock climbing gym, or maybe peruse an art museum. Enjoy the company of the strangers without directly engaging with them.

These are just a few practices I have found allow me to fully express my social, people-loving nature while maintaining my sense of balance and energy as an empath in this world. Are there any other extroverted empaths out there? I’d love to hear how other tips for embracing the paradox that we are.

In Soul, Danielle

(This post was originally published on Elephant Journal)

Human Heart

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HUMAN HEART
~
as a human being
with a human heart
i will never hold back its breaking
so when love arrives as mine for the taking
you better believe I’ll say yes
to the risk of the fall
to losing it all
every time
before i opt out in favor of safety’s illusion
it’s never my heart who knows confusion
it’s my head who’s mixed up
and it’s pretty fucked up
that I once considered love less than first
so let me say that here, today
this human being
with this human heart
is saying yes
to you

Give Me Roots

Your Love is All

~
YOUR LOVE IS ALL
~
my love for you

brims with such immensity

heart spills over heels

for all living things

every creature with a soul

i’ve come to know

holds a speck of star

who at one time found home

as a freckle on your cheek

or a fiber in your bones

to love you is to love

every thought

every being

every day

everything

love is all

and in my fall

i’ve found it true

in you

Of Cracked Clay

OF CRACKED CLAY

when our hearts have been broken
perhaps long ago
perhaps when they were soft and still forming
we can no longer hold love in our bodies
we become pots of cracked clay
love, like water, graces us
quenches us
fills us up
but it always runs out
when our hearts have been broken
we will break our lovers too
we will break them
and their breaking will break us more
than every fight and fall before
but still
our hearts
are meant to be filled
to live by divine design
and still
our hands
are meant to heal
to seal up the cracks with earth or gold
wet the walls with our tears
guide our form without fear
and mold ourselves whole
again, again
for you, i’ll be whole
again

Better Be

,

Breaking-Up With California

~

It’s hard to write this. It’s even harder to publish.

There’s a part of me that doesn’t want to admit I’m moving on. Will they think I’m a failure? Do I think I’m a failure? Am I letting the people who love me down by not coming back? The river of insecurity rushes by me faster than I can offer compassionate answers.

But here’s the hard truth: California never felt like home. So I left.

We had a good run. This feels like one of those break-ups between two good people who just aren’t right for each other. I planted so much love there, and despite the fact that for a while there we were on thin ice, I feel like we turned it around in the end. After years of trying to make it work, I finally understood that what’s right doesn’t take so much effort.

I’ll spare you all the sappy details. Because let’s be real, California has been through so many break-ups by now it will surely move on to someone new by the end of the week. It has a way of attracting sparkle-eyed adventure girls like me.

Regardless, I’d like to share a bit of what California meant to me during our three-year rendezvous.

Moving to Los Angeles was my first attempt at making it in the real world. I thought I was equipped for it, which I find unceasingly amusing now. Is anyone ready for the world at 22? I learned more about myself leaving the Midwest than I ever thought possible—and in such a short amount of time.

That’s what coastal energy does to us, I believe. There’s a sense of impermanence that feels heightened. The tides ascend and then decline back to Mother Ocean’s blue belly right as we dip our hands in to catch. The breezes carry seasons of rain and colorful wanderers into town to change the scenery and tell stories rich with lessons if we listen closely.

It was exciting but damn, was it ungrounding.

You know what else California taught me? Fucking up is normal. It’s human nature. If our Souls were perfect and had it all figured out we wouldn’t be on Earth, wobbly-kneed in these depreciating bodies. We’d be living it up, floating around somewhere golden and celestial.

We’re here to make mistakes, learn the lessons, and evolve.

Not every chapter is meant to be comfortable. Not every chapter is meant to grow roots. I’ve moved ten times in the past three years. I lived on the top floor of a Hollywood studio with a primo view of Capitol Records, and then I lived in a tent. In the process, I lost a lot of “stuff” I thought I couldn’t live without.

I did, in fact, live.

The funny thing about comfort is it makes change a hell of a lot scarier. We get slow, we get a little sleepy and complacent. The roaring fire of our dreams shifts from its perch under our asses and onto the back burner, slowly going out. Our new dream now is one day installing granite over the kitchen sink. Not me. I’m grateful for the upheaval since 2014 because in never settling down I never settled for less than my heart’s calling, even when I didn’t know what she meant or where to go next. Not this? On to the next thing.

Perhaps the greatest gift California gave me, though, was trust in myself. She has pushed me to endure more than I ever thought possible. I used to believe I couldn’t handle the demands and pressures of this world. That everyone wanted something from me and I would always come up short. I relied on others to rise to the occasion when shit hit the fan. But that changed. I’m my own guardian now, and it feels so good. I know, at all costs, I will show up for myself. Now I can leap off the most daunting cliffsides, into the darkness, without a clue of what lies below, because I trust that I know how to fall. How to heal. How to listen to Soul and take that next first step all over again.

Thank you, beautiful Golden State, for guiding this adventure. Thank you for breaking me so I could grow my bones back stronger. Thank you for holding me, and now, thank you for letting me go.

And just like that, it was over.

Next stop, Boulder.

In Soul, Danielle

Neil Gaiman’s New Year’s Wish

I stumbled upon this post by the fantastic author, Neil Gaiman, at a time when I needed to hear it most. I was about to graduate from college and his words inspired me to take a chance on leaving behind my comfy life in Chicago for a new one in California. “Make glorious, amazing mistakes.” continues to be one of my personal mantras.

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My New Years Wish” by Neil Gaiman, c. 2011.
I hope that in this year to come, you make mistakes.
Because if you are making mistakes, then you are making new things, trying new things, learning, living, pushing yourself, changing yourself, changing your world. You’re doing things you’ve never done before, and more importantly, you’re Doing Something.
So that’s my wish for you, and all of us, and my wish for myself. Make New Mistakes. Make glorious, amazing mistakes. Make mistakes nobody’s ever made before. Don’t freeze, don’t stop, don’t worry that it isn’t good enough, or it isn’t perfect, whatever it is: art, or love, or work or family or life.
Whatever it is you’re scared of doing, Do it.
Make your mistakes, next year and forever.
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In Soul, Danielle