I Listened

I see a lot of people talking right now about quarantine weight gain. We’re posting funny memes and joking about how we’re going to roll out of our homes when all this is over, and I get it. There is a certain amount of tragic humor in the fact that so many of us are stress eating right now and many of us (myself included) are gaining weight we’ve worked hard to lose or keep at bay. But I share this today in hopes that we’ll all take a moment to remember: Our children are listening… 

They asked me why.
Why did I start purging food?
And taking diet pills?
And gulping laxatives?
And swallowing sleeping medicine each day after school
just to keep from eating?
Why did I carve an “A” for “anorexia” into my wrist?
An insignia.
A reminder,
A hope for a new identity?



I listened.

When you asked if the clothes made you look fat,
I listened.
And learned that “fat” was ugly.

When you said your breasts were too small, thighs too big, and arms too flabby,
I listened.
And learned that beauty has a standard.

When you praised your latest weight loss diet,
I listened.
And learned that food was an enemy.

When you praised me for losing weight,
I listened.
And learned that attractiveness only comes in certain sizes.

When you asked “am I thinner than her?” I listened.
And learned to compare myself to others by the measuring stick of “thin.” When you dismissed the opinions of “ugly” women,
I listened.
And learned that only the attractive deserve to be heard.

When you called her “hot” and hung on every word,
I listened.
And learned that beauty is the currency with which to buy respect.

When you said she was too heavy to win the race, play the lead, join the team,
I listened.
And learned that only the thin are capable.

When you said you’d “never date that fatty,” I listened.
And learned that only the beautiful were desirable.

When you said he couldn’t have raped her because she was ugly,
I listened.
And learned that, to even the basest of men, only the beautiful are desirable.

I listened.
And lived my life accordingly.


Rina Marie

30 days of Poetry, Day 23

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We create our own joy or misery according to the goals we set

“What’s your goal?”

My friend used to drive me crazy with this question. Any time I’d ask for advice, express frustration, or tell him my thoughts, he’d respond the same way: What’s your goal?

I had no idea how to answer. No idea what he was talking about.

I spoke of goals in my last article, when I mentioned the conversation with my loved one. I knew I couldn’t guarantee I wouldn’t hurt their feelings, and as I faced this truth my friend’s question popped into my mind: What is your goal?

See, I’m finally starting to understand what my friend was getting at when he kept asking about my goals. I’m realizing that I create my own peace or misery according to the goals I set. For instance, as I mentioned yesterday, my goal to be liked was a bad one. Not only did it cause me to be dishonest in many of my interactions, it also–because I can’t control what other people think or feel–guaranteed my own failure at least some of the time. So I’ve spent most of my life striving to achieve a goal I had almost no control over. What a miserable way to live! But that’s what we do, right? We set ourselves up. We pick goals that are dependent on the actions/thoughts/opinions of others and feel terrible when we don’t achieve them. We practically guarantee ourselves failure, or at least frustration, and we do it over and over again.

I think this is what the bible refers to when it says “hope deferred makes the heart sick.” I don’t think it’s advising against hope itself, I think it’s telling us to pay attention to the things we hope for. I remember when I first told Jon about being in love with a woman, I was terrified but later blown away by the peace I felt, afterward. I told friends: “I have more to be worried about now than I’ve ever had in my life, but I feel more peace now than I ever have.” I didn’t understand it, then. I think I understand it a little more, now. In that moment, I was focused more on revealing who I was than about Jon’s reaction. I achieved the goal of transparency. And the result was incredible peace. I think this must be part of what Jesus meant when He said: “the truth will set you free.”

The goals we set will either guarantee our failure at least some of the time, or guarantee our continual success. For instance, if I want to ask someone out and my primary goal is to get the date, there’s a chance I may fail. Knowing this, I’m probably going to have some feelings of anxiety (beforehand) and rejection (afterward) if they decline. But what if I flip the script? What if I make “Be Brave” my primary goal? That doesn’t negate the fact that I also hope to get the date, but suddenly I’m not wrestling with so much anxiety because I’ve guaranteed myself success—no matter the outcome—if I just ask. We can do this with virtually everything:

Breaking up with a girlfriend/boyfriend?
Be Honest vs. Don’t Hurt Their Feelings

Playing a competitive sport?
Learn From My Mistakes vs. Be the Best
(I would be willing to best that most people who are the best in their fields didn’t get there because they were focused on being THE best, but focused on doing THEIR best.)

Seeking publication for an article or book?
Steven King once said his goal was to collect so many rejection slips he could wallpaper his house with them. What a fantastic goal!

That’s not to say we should never choose goals we can’t guarantee our success in, but they ought to be nestled within larger goals. I can be honest and try not to hurt someone’s feelings. I can learn from my mistakes and hope it leads to me becoming the best. But the primary goals we set will determine our focus and our resulting successes or failures. If I hurt someone’s feelings or even lose a loved one as a result of being honest, I can live with that, because honesty–and not the maintaining of the relationship–is my primary goal. And with the goals we set, we can guarantee our own success, each and every day.

We create peace or discord, freedom or bondage, joy or absolute misery according to the goals we set. So before every conversation, every practice, every decision, ask yourself the question:

What is your goal?
And set it wisely.


Related Articles:

Confirmation bias – how our thoughts shape our reality and how we can use this to create a better life

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It’s Okay to Leave

It is okay to leave people
Who don’t inspire you
Who make you feel less like yourself
Who can’t help you become all you dream of being.
It is okay to leave people
If their presence will keep you from sharing the way you want to
Or living the way you want to
Or loving the way you want to.
It’s okay to leave people
If they make you question things that matter most
Or doubt who you are and want to be
Or feel bad about yourself
Even just a little.
It’s okay to leave people
When staying will crush your soul.

Rina Marie

30 days of Poetry, Day 22

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I wrote parts of this many years ago when I had deeply wounded a friend. Today I am struggling on behalf of another friend whose mistake I did not see in time to help her avoid it. I am holding on to God’s promises and asking Him to do what He says He will: work this—even this—together for good…


I made a terrible mistake.
I made a terrible mistake and I cannot fix it.
“I’m sorry” lacks the power to mend.
“I was wrong” will not repair this bridge that I have burned.

Yet in the midst of my tears, God gently reminds me of who He is:

The One Who Heals.
The One Who Provides.
The Deliverer.
The Redeemer.

The Redeemer.

Redeem: “to compensate, or make amends for,
to return something lost or stolen,
usually through the fault of another.” In this, I find peace.
In this, I am reminded that God has placed Himself in charge
of making amends that I cannot.
God has made Himself responsible for restoring what is lost.
Even when it’s my fault.
Even when I don’t deserve it.
Even when I can’t see how.
I am hurt, but not without hope.
I am full of regret, but not despair. “Where sin abounds, grace abounds much more” (Romans 5:20) “For love covers a multitude of sins” (1 Peter 4:8)
“All things work together for good.” (Romans 8:28)


Rina Marie

30 days of Poetry, Day 21

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If You’re Going to Date a Writer

You can expect letters in the mail
And love notes on your pillow
And sweet scribblings on your mirror
And long, rambling emails in the middle of the night.

You can expect love quotes on your phone
And song lyrics in your inbox
And affirmations in your lunch box
And “I love you’s” on the windshield of your icy car.

You can expect encouraging lines
And witty sketches
And sympathetic verses
And sexy sonnets designed to get you into bed.

You can expect to be the muse for an essay
Or the motivation for a rant
Or the inspiration for a comedy
Or the arousal for a romance

You can expect to find yourself highlighted in the chapters of my book,
Featured in the articles of my blog,
Headlining in the pages of my journal,
And draped across the verses of all my poems

You can expect that I will scrawl you fiercely into my life
And compose you carefully into my mind
And draft you tenderly into my thoughts
And pen you painstakingly, permanently upon my heart.

Rina Marie

30 Days of Poetry, Day 20

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Be Free

“True belonging is the spiritual practice of believing in and belonging to yourself so deeply that you can share your most authentic self with the world and find sacredness in both being a part of something and standing alone in the wilderness.”
—Brene Brown

I recently had a difficult conversation with a loved one. I’ve never been good at confrontation, and I knew that if I answered their questions honestly it would be impossible to keep from inflicting pain. Just a few wrong words had the potential to impact our relationship far into the future, so before answering, I paused and asked myself one question:

What’s your goal?

If lack of pain wasn’t a goal I could achieve, and reconciliation might not be, either, what was a goal I COULD strive for? After much thought, I came up with an answer:

Speak the truth, as kindly as you can.

I spent much of my early life lying, in one form or another. I learned the rules of the social game at a young age and began suppressing thoughts I knew weren’t welcome and catering my responses to obtain the desired outcome. White lies, lies of omission, lies to avoid hurting people’s feelings, likes to hide difficult truths, all sorts of lies aimed at one goal:

Be Liked.
(Aka: be accepted, don’t rock the boat, don’t make people angry, protect others from pain…)

I wanted to be liked by my family, partners, friends, coworkers, hell, I even wanted to be liked by strangers in the check-out line. And my primary methods of attempting to achieve this likability have been the omitting of truth and the subtle (and sometimes not-so-subtle) bending of truth to slant it toward my own likability.

Several years ago, I began working to be more deliberately honest with another goal in mind: to build authentic friendships. I decided to speak the whole truth at all times and risk losing some people, if it meant my relationships with others grew deeper. I worked hard at being truthful, but I still found myself holding back or scrambling to find the “right” words that would cast me in the best light, at times. It wasn’t until recently, after reading the words of Brad Blanton in his book Radical Honesty, that I realized that the goal of building authentic friendships, though slightly better than the goal of being liked, is still a bad one. They both focus on and require the participation of another person. As I read Blanton’s book, the following words leaped from the page:

“When you tell the truth, you are free simply by virtue of describing what is so.”

In that moment, I realized there is another, better, goal to strive toward than Be Liked or Build Authentic Friendships:


“Telling the truth means telling everything you have hidden that you have done in the past to the very people who you think would be most hurt or angry or surprised or embarrassed by the revelations… The first thing you have to get over to tell the truth is politeness—modification of your report of your experience out of ‘consideration’ of the other person’s feelings.* That is, unless your spouse gets a clear feeling from your report of how much fun it was when you f*ked his best friend, you haven’t told the truth yet.”

This sounds horrific and almost guaranteed to result in the loss of a relationship or two hundred. But the moment I understood FREEDOM as a goal, this kind of “radical” honesty made sense. Freedom doesn’t require anyone else’s participation. It stands regardless of anyone’s opinion and exists regardless of where I am or who I’m with.

The truth is, no matter what we do, how hard we strive, or what stories we tell, reactions and feelings and opinions are not something we can control. No matter how many “right things” we say or difficult truths we withhold or skew, we can’t determine how someone else will respond. But unlike likability, honesty is a behavior. Honesty is something we can choose. And the resulting freedom is an experience we have access to, whenever we want it.

I spoke with a friend recently who expressed fear that if she told the truth she might lose some of the important people in her life. It’s a legitimate fear. It speaks directly to our biologically hard-wired need to belong. Thinking out loud, I asked: “what if freedom is better than belonging?” But today it occurs to me: What if freedom IS belonging? I recall a conversation between Maya Angelou and Bill Moyers:

Angelou: You only are free when you realize you belong no place — you belong every place — no place at all. The price is high. The reward is great…
Moyers: Do you belong anywhere?
Angelou: I haven’t yet.
Moyers: Do you belong to anyone?
Angelou: More and more… I belong to myself. I’m very proud of that. I am very concerned about how I look at Maya. I like Maya very much.

Freedom is the way we keep in right relationship with ourselves, regardless of our relationships with others. Freedom is a much better goal.

An interesting thing happened when I spoke the truth to my loved one. During the course of the conversation, I was able to see the other side just a little more clearly. I acknowledged and admitted some of my own mistakes, developed a greater understanding, and learned some important lessons about my own judgments. In the end, though feelings might have been hurt, the conversation allowed for greater connection, and I came away with a little more compassion and a little more love. Isn’t this what life is all about? Isn’t this the work we’re called to do while on this earth?

“Speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of Christ.”
“You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free.”
“It is for freedom that Christ has set us free.”
—Ephesians 4:15, Galatians 5:1, 5:15

* I, personally, disagree with Blanton’s opinion that in order to tell the truth we must disregard politeness or consideration for another person’s feelings. While I do believe there are times when this is true, I also believe it is our responsibility to “speak the truth in love” by carefully considering how best to phrase our truths in a way which causes as little damage as possible—the surgeon slicing with a scalpel in an effort to heal vs. the soldier swinging a sword for the purpose of killing. Words have both the power to heal and do irreparable damage. Sometimes that damage is unavoidable—the very surgery aimed at healing often kills. But I believe it is our job to always do our best to reach for the scalpel not the sword.


Related Articles:

Walking with God

The Truth Will Set You Free

A woman’s path to freedom

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What I Cannot Say In Words

Show me your curves, your edges, your smoothness, your scars,
every sun-kissed spot of age.
Show me how and when and where to touch,
show my mouth your favorite place.

I want to be fluent in your body language
and read between your lines.
I want to mold you beneath my hands and tongue
and trace your shape to mine.

I want to burn your skin into my palms
and dance across your hips.
I want to paint your body with my breath
and play your ribs with fingertips.

Let me climb the arch of your neck
and memorize your curves.
Let me tell you with my hands and eyes and lips
all I cannot say with words.

Rina Marie

30 Days of Poetry, Day 19

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