THE CLEAR COOL STARS WERE RADIANT
I stepped off into the clear cool stars
walking on them. They called out to
me. They felt the same way it does
stepping off barefoot into dewy grass
at 1 AM. The decisions you make are the
rope leading you either to the edge of
the bridge or the safe green pastures. They are
what compels you.
She looked at me with sea-green
eyes. I saw aqua & turquoise rain
clouds flourishing in the distance.
They whispered to me by the tide-pool
room rock ledges &
familiar evocative songs on the
radio. “You are going to be
THE WALLS WERE GRAY :: http://amzn.to/2FTjQH5
AT THE END OF THE DAY, THERE ARE MORE GOOD NIGHTS
I took deep breaths & tried to calm the fluttering screaming inside / it was getting dark out / I opened the windows & bathed myself in fresh air turning the music up loud & listening to the wind / at the stoplight I watched the lights of cars on the evening road & felt the knowledge that I could do anything, any of it / that there would be more nights in this weather, driving, comforted by the fact that I was finding my way / I shamelessly danced even if people were looking / the music & gentle lights continued – glowing pathway spread before me yellowbrick road / it was deeply sad & darkly depressing but somehow deeply shining with hope & the golden warm light of PROGRESS / the first words of the new poem & the new beginning & new places & the unknown road & the unknown open road & the first words said by the person I was becoming & the soul of the person I was becoming & the overarching future & deep brilliant hope & a thousand things I had no names for / I saw a kid playing with a toy car on the sidewalk in the dark, & I breathed in deeply, & felt fresh air on my skin & the warm humidity of evening, & saw the road really illuminated by the street lamps like lighthouses / & it reminded me of something I used to know / I thought about how there would be so many more nights like this, how this wasn’t really the ending / & I reminded myself that I would make it through this, & be better off for it / that is how I thrive
Then, I read a poem titled “Christmas Day” from my Christmas poetry book!
waking up earlier than we normally get up. It’s Christmas!
Christmas Day! the thrill of Christmas gifts fills our eyes
& we’re rushing from our rooms & heading towards the tree
brightly wrapped packages in cheerful colors with bows & ribbons around the tree
we shout with excitement
thrilled, exalted, joyous
we rush around & scarf down breakfast
we don’t want to wait another minute!
when we’re done we rush out towards the tree again
first we remove our stockings from the mantlepiece & dump them onto the floor
beautiful things spill out of them
we shout & smile thrilled by these gifts
then we move on to what’s under the tree, tearing the paper from the gifts
& being thrilled by what we see in front of us
so many dreams, so many wishes, so many hopes
Christmas Day is one of the best days of the year
the air is filled completely with happiness
& our souls are smiling
later on everyone’s in the kitchen cooking
making all the delicious things we’ll eat tonight
kind of like Thanksgiving all over again!
the delicious smell of eggnog
& main dishes & side dishes & rosemary & oregano & cinnamon
& cheesecake & everything else delicious & wonderful
filling the house;
we can’t wait to eat it all later!
then it’s Christmas Day dinner
& we all sit down at the table
the house in happy chaos
& us smiling with every cell in our bodies
we eat together
once more thankful for all that we’ve been blessed with
after dinner we talk & laugh some more
& when we go to bed that night
tired, smiling, aglow
we are so happy
for Christmas has come once more
Authenticity is hard. Happiness is hard. But when you start loving yourself, that’s when these things become easier.
Happiness is hard. Authenticity is hard. I know this very, very well.
I’m not going to give you some fluffy sermon about how if you just take a bubble bath, smile three times a day at yourself in the mirror, & think happy thoughts constantly that your life will magically be better. These things might help you, but they also might not.
You’re probably reading this book because your life isn’t totally, 100% pure awesomeness. If it is, all the power to you! But it probably isn’t. You probably don’t feel like you love yourself as much as you could, or you feel depressed, or you really just feel you’re not living up to your potential. The best part is, whether you can believe this yet or not — you have all the power in the world to change & improve your life.
Hating yourself is boring. Feeling ugly & unloved is boring. Living someone else’s plans for you is boring. Being depressed & feeling hopeless about your future is boring.
Those feelings are all completely valid. They’re also sadly common. But when you really think about it, those aren’t very interesting things to feel. Break them down, & all those feelings relate to sadness. Society has romanticized the idea of sadness. It’s made personal sorrow seem alluring & mysterious & beautiful. Like that without it, you won’t be an interesting person for people to know. Like you will be shallow & one-sided if you’re always happy & you feel good about yourself. Like your art won’t be as good if you don’t have all this sadness as your muse.
Those feelings aren’t making your life any better. They’re not serving you in any way. They’re not even true.
You deserve better than that. Your body is made up of the remnants of stars that were born & died long ago. You are literally made of stardust. You can do anything you want to. Stars didn’t die so that you could loathe yourself & live an unspectacular existence. You can have better than that. You were born to live an awesome life. It’s your duty to yourself to pursue that, as vibrantly & lovingly as you can.
Why not give it a try? You have nothing to lose, & everything to gain.
Happiness is thrilling. Love is beautiful. Self-acceptance is rebellious. Success is triumphant. Hope is alluring. Peace of mind is interesting. Boldness is adventurous. Resilience & determination are courageous. Living a life you’ve created is compelling.
Sometimes, I ask myself why I should bother loving myself. Sometimes, the whole thing seems impossible, & even pointless. Sometimes, I don’t feel like I deserve it.
Why should you love yourself?
Because you’re vast & brilliant & awesome & kind & smart & filled with potential. Because you might as well. Because the only way you’re ever going to even KNOW what you’re capable of is if you try. Fear of missing out on what you could become should be the biggest FOMO of all.
You don’t want to be a product of a society which profits off promoting self-loathing & insecurity. You don’t just want to be another face in a crowd of mediocrity. You want more for yourself, even if you can’t admit that to yourself yet & don’t think you deserve it.
What do you have to lose in learning to love yourself? Or in trying to be happy, & starting to live a life that genuinely makes you feel good? There is nothing to lose.
Change is hard. Taking all the bullshit & the bad feelings you’ve been accumulating & shoving them out the door with their cardboard boxes of baggage isn’t easy. In fact, changing & creating the kind of life you always hoped you might be able to live & becoming the person you hoped you could become might just be one of the hardest things you’ve ever done.
There will be kicking & screaming & tears. There might even be days when you don’t even think you can get out of bed, much less move forward.
But the thing is, you will. You will get up. You will open the curtains, & the sunlight will stream in again. And you will feel better. You will make it through this.
On the other side of the dark stormy seas you’ve been sailing, there will be sunlight, & warmth, & a life better than you ever hoped you could have.
To be completely honest, I’m not there yet. But I’m on my way. I make my progress in great leaps & strides. Sometimes, I fall down. Sometimes I stumble & slide back on the hill I’m climbing. Then I get back up & brush the sand off my clothes, & I keep climbing. Someday, not long from now, I will get to where I’m heading. And then I will find somewhere else to travel to.
I am on my way.
So are you.
Change is hard. But the ability to adapt is the thing which separates the winners from the losers. You are trying to make your life better. That puts you in the category of the winners, right now. You’re strong enough, & smart enough, & determined enough to win.
Think about this. You have made it through everything that’s happened to you in your life so far. You have made it. If you can do that, you can do this. You can do anything.
You can love yourself. You can feel better. You can be happy.
You can start living any super-awesome amazing life of your choosing.
And you can start today. Right now.
The key to having all this starts when you start loving yourself. Self-love is the backbone to everything else available to you. It’s the ship that you’re sailing on, & the wind that fills your sails & your lungs. It’s the star you see up ahead in the dark of night. It’s the start of everything else. The first brick on the yellow brick road.
When you start loving yourself, everything else falls into place. You become stronger & more resilient. You start respecting yourself & knowing your worth & only accepting the things you deserve. You start realizing that you can create whatever life you want for yourself, & start empowering yourself to go out there, & go get it.
Happiness is hard. Authenticity is hard.
But when you start loving yourself, that’s when these things become easy.
I thought the answer was the fight.
pushing anyone who got in my way out of the way, kicking through doors, fighting & working & fighting as damn hard as I could to make something give
beating against the wall, fists pounding on wood, trying to find that one weak spot
“let go of it all” I told myself “become a machine. that is what they want you to be. that is how you win”
become ruthless. become inhuman. be a machine. be a machine. be invincible. coat yourself in iron armor. build a suit where nothing will ever hurt or touch or lovingly caress your skin. become unfeeling. be a machine. become what you do & not who you are. you must protect yourself. you must not let anyone get too close. you must not let anyone know the person you really are. you must protect yourself. stop feeling. fight. fight. fight. fight. fight, even if it makes you bitter, even if it makes you cynical. cut yourself off from feeling this way. cut yourself off.
yet there is a price to pay / you win the game, in some aspects, but you are left behind, the underdog, unfulfilled, unhappy, unseen, unknown, lost / lost / you will all the wars but lose all your soul / you become what they want you to be, but not what they need you to be / not what you need to be
because all along, the answer wasn’t less heart, but more / all along, the advice you needed wasn’t less soul, but more
& the fight doesn’t have to make you bitter
it doesn’t have to make you cynical
it doesn’t have to make you heartless
maybe you just need more heart, more soul / maybe you can only be strong if you know how to be vulnerable
Here is the (awesome) first episode EVER of my YouTube web series, The Ashlee Craft Show! The video’s theme is POETRY & I read the poem “& I Embrace the Changes” from my newest book, Art Poems – Volume 3, which I released 6/24/17. Let me know what you think of it in the YouTube comments!
& I Embrace the Changes
I walked alone on the beach in the morning before anybody was up / there were two places calling out to me I felt the inexplicable connection to though I’d never been there / I didn’t know exactly to where I was heading; there is a great big world out there & anywhere could be the place / but I embrace the confusion at last, & the darkness, & equally the confident light / & I embrace the changes
for a long time I tried to pretend that it wasn’t important; I buried it & muddled it & feared it & ran away from it / I put on the cloak & wore the dagger hidden where no one could see me; hid behind the curtains & sat in darkness because I would rather sit alone than with them / I cried at night & felt like a freak because they all sped by me in the fast lane rushing recklessly towards careers & eternal matrimony & I was alone & partially longing / but I never did want what they had anyways, & yet still felt left behind / but I have come to embrace the aloneness / & I embrace the changes
there are different things that have meaning to me / “still so far behind!” they wail in the corners / but I do not hear them anymore, & I do not care what they are saying when I cannot see them / let them have their opinions & make their conclusions; let them believe what they wish to believe / I am freedom, I am alien, I am independent, I am different / & all of that is okay / & therefore, I embrace the changes
I will never fit into their molds or want to sing their songs or want to go the places they go & do the boring things they do / I walk along the seashore each step a prayer propelled deep into the earth with vibration / each step is a declaration, a battle cry, a triumphant shout that I WILL NOT BE WHAT THEY WANT ME TO BE, I AM NOT WHAT THEY WISH I WAS, I DO NOT HAVE ANY INTEREST IN FITTING IN WITH THEM / each step is a statement of utter freedom, a release of the words I have been fighting for my ability & courage to say, the Phoenix pushing the ashes off the place of both its birth & its tomb simultaneously, shouting out into the night, YOU DO NOT OWN ME
& so, I embrace the changes
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★ Walk On – U2. I love this song for so many reasons, but probably my favorite line in the song? “What you got, they can’t steal it. No they can’t even feel it.” They can’t take anything away from you. They cannot confine you. You can leave them behind. You are not trapped.
★ Sweet Thing – Van Morrison. A beautiful epiphany in a song. The multi-layered instrumentation is phenomenal & magical & perfect. Soaring flutes. The tender melody & lyrics. Ebullient guitar. One of my all time favorite songs.
★ You Still Believe In Me – The Beach Boys. The comforting knowledge that even after everything that has happened or will happen, that there is a constant person who has your back & will believe in you, no matter what.
★ Crowded House. I started listening to more Crowded House recently. The song that made me start loving their music was Archer’s Arrows (which is a phenomenal & fantastic song). Then I heard Don’t Dream It’s Over (see below), & fell in love with that too. I haven’t heard that many songs of theirs yet, but I’ve liked what I’ve heard so far. Their songs are very aesthetically pleasing, & very atmospheric. They’re the kind of songs I would like to work into a variety of playlists.
★ In A Sentimental Mood – John Coltrane & Duke Ellington. I like this song because it’s evocative in a somewhat melancholy way, & John Coltrane expresses this mood perfectly.
★ Vanilla Talenti Gelato. Seriously. Try this with rainbow sprinkles. It’s seriously THE BEST. Rainbow sprinkles make good things even better. Gelato somehow always manages to taste elegant & make you feel elegant while you’re eating it. I also love Talenti, because they keep their ingredients simple & to the point, & produce an awesome product. Fun fact : my father usually refers to my Gelato as “ice cream”, a term which I don’t think encompasses the awesomeness & quality of Gelato.
★ Ducktrap Smoked Salmon & Ducktrap Smoked Trout. I am a huge fan of smoked fish. A huge fan. Their smoked salmon with dill is AMAZING, & I am so in love right now with their smoked trout, which I just recently tried. The smoked trout tastes like a combination between fresh smoked herring fillets and smoked salmon. One thing I love about both the smoked trout & the smoked salmon is that the fillets of them are nice, thick, & wholesome, which is even better than the thin fillets more commonly found. Also, I want to put dill on everything now. I recently made homemade guacamole with dill in it, & it was great.
★ This awesome meal I made a while ago
★ Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins. This was a nice, heartwarming YA romance story. It made me feel all warm & fuzzy inside, & it’s just a sweet book in general.
★ 10 Really Easy Ways to Love Yourself More Today. As always, Gala Darling has a lovely, illuminating, magical list. I especially like Point #8, about liking what you like & not liking things just because they’re popular.
★ This article about Street Dreams Magazine from The New York Times. I really, really like the idea of bringing the Internet into a more tangible, DIY form. Like a zine, of photographs.
★ Jamming Baby Owls. BABY OWLS DANCING. Owls are the best thing ever.
★ John Owen-Jones Singing “Who Am I?” From Les Miserables. I love this song with a passion, & John Owen-Jones is the very best at singing it. He fills it with an emotion & evocative vulnerability that I haven’t heard in other renditions of the song. It is the most real, honest version, & because of this, a favorite.
★ Colorful socks inside my awesome sparkly jelly shoes. Right now, I am especially loving my photo print strawberry socks, but since I bought the jelly shoes, I have bought a lot of cute, colorful novelty socks, just for wearing inside my jelly shoes.
★ My canvas medic bag. I wear this bag in a lot of the fashion photos I take, & it’s my go-to bag for everyday usage. Ever since my Indiana Jones phase as a teen, I wanted a bag like this. I finally found one which appropriately matches the one in the films. I love it because it is sturdy, holds a lot of stuff, is comfortable & easy to wear, & just looks cool. Looking cool is the primary reason. It adds a ruggedness & uniqueness to any outfit I add it to.
★ Knee Socks with Jelly Shoes or Combat Boots. I will be posting photos of this combination soon, but it looks tough but feminine at the same time, & also allows me to include the edginess of combat boots while still showing off all my cool, patterned knee socks.
★ Laying on the floor with my dog & playing fetch with him when I get home from work. He looks forward to this, & would seriously play for hours on end if I didn’t get tired of throwing his toys for him.
★ Learning how to drive. I didn’t learn when I was younger because I had no need to, but I’m learning now, & it’s going great!
★ Earning my GED & passing all the subjects the first time around. I got honors on Reasoning Through Language Arts and in Social Studies, & was one point away from honors in Science. This was something I’d wanted to do for a long time, & I’m so proud of myself for accomplishing this goal.
★ “When nothing is sure, everything is possible.” ― Margaret Drabble. Embrace the confusion. Now that you have nothing to lose & maybe nothing to prove, you can do anything. Now that you’re confused & uncertain & scared of the changes going on around you, you can turn this into anything. You have a blank canvas from which you can paint & create & shape into whatever feels best for you.
NEW AWESOME THINGS
Summer, I Remember Your Lights (2015) is Ashlee Craft’s fifth short film. It’s an aesthetic short film focusing on the somewhat still-life aspects of peaceful, breezy summer afternoons.
Directed by Ashlee Craft
Written by Ashlee Craft
Produced by Ashlee Craft
Cinematography by Ashlee Craft
Edited by Ashlee Craft
Score by Ashlee Craft
Duration // 2 minutes
Release Date // October 9, 2015
Themes // summer, aesthetic,