The Journal of Strength

 

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I don’t often sit in front of an empty page to see what will come as I type, like one would sit in front of an open fire admiring the flames as they dance. But even now as I thought of it, my eyes fell on the little icon on the top that tells me ‘write’. As if concluding my thoughts it said, ‘come on, come and write’.

This evening is calm. Clouds have withered away, there is a light in the neighbouring house. Birds are probably asleep, though it’s late it is still daylight.

A few months ago, someone told me to start a journal of my strengths, especially to help me with rough days. She told me, “You are strong. And you have to exercise your mind same as you exercise your muscles”. By writing about it I remind myself that I am strong, even though on more challenging days it feels as if the opposite is true. One thing I noticed. I redefined strength. In my view strength is not not-being-vulnerable. Quite the contrary, my strength is that I acknowledge my vulnerability but I don’t stop there.

Here is today’s example. Entry 83. I am strong because I let myself feel even unpleasant feelings of loneliness and despair – they lie to me about my weakness, but I am strong because I face them.

“They lie to me…” and they do it fiercely. Earlier in the year I faced one of my very intense fears and people told me I was brave. But fear makes you think you are a coward simply because you feel it. Then you unmask what is behind a ‘lie’ and realise, I’m simply human. I don’t slay fear fearlessly like a heroine would slay a dragon, but I faced it and it remains conquered on the pages of my journal.

Sometimes I read through the journal and get encouraged by words I wrote. Entry 44. I am strong because I use my vulnerability for connection (with others) not isolation. Yes, there is a tendency towards isolation at times, but even here by writing about what I learned on my own skin I hope to cross boundaries of my own house and enter into yours. With a simple thought, a few words, and perhaps a torch that brings light, should you need some.

Entry 48. I am strong because I am happy today. And you know what, this made me smile.

We often identify with our emotions, especially if they are intense, no matter whether we call them ‘good’ or ‘bad’. As if they tell us, “This is who you are”. Well, thank you, for it is true you are telling me something about me, whether ‘you’ are joy, or anger, fear or unrest. However, when I take time to stay with you, with all your persuasion that you are overpowering, you lose your capacity and I expand mine. Therefore, while you are part of me, you are not me. But you don’t have to be an enemy either, through you I grow, I become more human, more alive.

© Iva Beranek (Dublin, 7th July 2017)
Photo by © Iva Beranek

Talk to me about light

 

“Talk to me about light”,
he said
and I thought of the first ray
of the morning sun
that removes darkness at dawn
and how gently it kisses
a flower hidden in the grass
that’s how your light
caresses my soul

He looked at me with the gaze
firmly attached onto my eyes
as if seeking my depths
in love
and saying silently,
“talk to me about light,
once more”

I smiled
but what can I say about light
to the one who enlightens
my soul

yet I obliged
by pointing to the light,
the greatest among them,
which blinds death
with the vigour of life
holding miracles in each ray
when this light reaches my heart
everything that was dead
comes to life
again

“Talk to me about light!”,
he exclaimed,
like a lover who is never satisfied
always wanting more
and knowing that more
will be given

This time …. I stared
into the empty space
between his heart and mine
and said,
“YOU speak to me about light,
and why is there darkness 
where only light should be?”

© Iva Beranek (Dublin, 16th May 2017)

A letter. Send to: a tooth fairy

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Dear tooth fairy,

I don’t know how often you get a letter from an adult, but I am guessing it does not happen very often. As you know, I had my wisdom tooth taken out on Tuesday. I was a little bit afraid* that I might be in pain after the surgery, simply judging by the pain the week before, but it all ended up going smoothly and painlessly. I already had to face one of my fears last year, and going into surgery was another. Do I get something for bravery?

You know, I was wondering if you would pay me a visit, and the night after the extraction I got a box full of amazing chocolates from a friend. I presume you arranged that, so I wanted to thank you. I had no tooth to leave beneath my pillow for they kept it in the clinic. I was wondering whether I should have asked for the tooth, but clinging onto something that needed to be removed is not wisdom, so I think I’m alright without it. If you need the tooth, I will tell you where to go. You have abilities far beyond my knowing, I am sure you will know how to decipher which tooth was mine.

Since it was not just any tooth, it was a wisdom tooth, I thought you could give me more than chocolates. Also, if you look like an ugly man in a dress, the way my friends suggested, please pretend to be invisible. Would you be able to tell me, the fact that my wisdom tooth is taken out, does that mean that I now have more or less wisdom? Why is it even called the wisdom tooth?

I must say I am grateful for one more thing, though I think that Someone with more power than you brought this one about. For reasons far more extensive than what I can put into this letter, I was aware for a long time that I needed to rest. Yet, with all this awareness, I still was not able to take all the rest I needed. This tooth plunged me into it, without even asking for my permission, and perhaps that was its wisdom.

As I am writing this I want you to know that you are still welcome to bring the other gift. Something tells me you have another surprise, perhaps it’s even big. I can’t wait to see what it is!

Yours,
Iva

*understatement.

© Iva Beranek (Dublin, 7th April 2017)

Seeking beauty

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Beauty is the inner quality of the soul. It shines from within, like a sun whose rays reach far away corners of humanity.

Do not seek beauty only with your eyes, seek with your heart as well.

© Iva Beranek (Dublin, April 2012)
Photo by © Iva Beranek

Strong woman 

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No, I don’t believe
in a parallel universe
but that won’t stop me
from imagining other lives
that play a tune
in my soul
sometimes loud like a cry
other times only
a whisper
or a gaze from a passer-by
‘Do I know you?’
‘Hi’

‘Not yet my dear,
but wait for it…
ask me again next year’

Strong woman,
who doesn’t care
what you think,
in a dress,
painted nails,
a smile as her best
accessory
Laughter, roaring
laughter is
the sound I make
as my eyes
get locked with yours
Satisfaction is my middle name
All the care I could have
is washed away
with regret
that I left behind long ago

I offer you a drink
no, it’s not what you think
martini is too posh
for you
beer smells bad
so I offer you a cup-full
of my poetry
delicious taste that
lingers on your lips

You look up
I am gone
I don’t wait around anymore
You smile,
“I’m gonna get her, somehow”

© Iva Beranek (Dublin, 24th February 2017)

Take off your shoes…

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What is holy?

Anything where I have to take off my shoes, metaphorically. I don’t walk barefoot on this earth, even though perhaps I should, at least when I am walking inside my heart, or inside yours. Your stories are holy, filled with grace that falls through the cracks. The silence that rests in my chest between heartbeats and the breaths is holy. The way I look at him, even when he cannot see, is holy. A smile that resides on our lips after a flower has opened up or after a bird flew by, after a child started to cry, all of them are holy. A tear, oh tears they are holy like sacred salt consecrated with longing and love. They wash away any stain, they clear away the pain…they are treasures from the soul, and the soul is holiest of them all.

You know why?

There is a part of us that is so deep, so pure, intact in fact from any stain of life. No matter which wrong decision or hurt rains inside, there is the deepest centre in us that is always holy – it is rooted in God. A diamond planted deep in our soul, in our heart. The longing we feel? It is from that diamond. It reminds us who we are. So when you tell me your story, I will take off my shoes, listen and observe…between all the words, there is a spark, unique for you, unique for me, that diamond inside: who we really are, is holy. I think each of these diamonds are taken out of God’s heart and that’s why the true meaning of our existence is love.

© Iva Beranek (Dublin, 20th February 2017)
Photo by © Iva Beranek

When Jesus was a refugee

Yesterday was a feast of the Flight into Egypt, when Mary and Joseph took Jesus to a foreign land in order to save their lives. I never knew we had this feast or how it’s marked, but what I do know is that it reminds us that Jesus, the one who came that we might have life, had to escape from his native land and became a refugee. Imagine the terror, Herod asking for all the little boys to be killed in Bethlehem and Mary and Joseph, being warned in a dream, running away to escape. I know they trusted God, but they must have been terrified. Now, imagine further what would happen if when they approached the new land, alas the borders were closed? ‘Sorry, no escape, go back into death’.

Instead, thankfully, they managed to run away and they lived in a foreign land, to us a hidden life, and probably ordinary in many ways. But Jesus knows what it means to be a refugee, a foreigner, and even though he was but a child when they escaped, I believe he knows even the fear, uncertainty. Not only because he is God, but because children soak up everything and remember more than we would ever think. Jesus understands how it is to be a refugee. And what about us? It’s something to think about…would we let Jesus into Egypt, or would we tell Mary and Joseph they are not welcome, they should go home. ‘There is no room in the inn, not only in Bethlehem, but also closer to home’.

© Iva Beranek (Dublin, 17th February 2017)

Waterfall

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If all the memories
cracked open in me
a waterfall would come
out
from within my heart
not a waterfall of tears and
sadness, nor a
waterfall of joy either
but one that is filled with every
emotion, thought, sigh
every laughter I ever felt
whether asleep or awake,
waterfall vibrant and alive
full of strength as it’s
gushing out
and all those memories
stored in my very cells
would explode in the symphony
as if singing with choirs of birds
millions drops of water
bursting from within
each representing a memory
sometimes glistening
in the light of the sun
looking like diamonds
or pearls,
sometimes raging
into a storm
as they fall
they would paint a different
kind of me
from year to year
and yet the same one
all along

© Iva Beranek (Dublin, 17th February 2017)
Photo by © Iva Beranek

Wild

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This life is wild, unpredictable like the wind at times….even when you have a dream, and the stubborn inner certainty to follow it, still you can never know all the roads where you will be led on. Sometimes we don’t even know if those roads are right, or wrong, until perhaps later on. Even beauty is wild, goodness too, in this world that sometimes doesn’t value either of the two. I want to take all the goodness that I can and throw it in the face of the ugliness out there, all the terrors and wars and ways in which we walk over the treasures in someone else’s heart, oh if I could be that wild to stand up and say, ‘no, not here, you cannot walk over these people’s dreams. Here is a mirror, go and have a look, there is a treasure hiding in your heart, yes you forgot that you are good! Stop that war, stop that fight, rather take this mirror, and show others who they are’.

Horses, I always think of horses when I think of being wild. Wild horses, running free, untamed, knowing that freedom is their destiny. I suppose there is grace in their ‘wild’, there is pose, and elegance. They are who they are meant to be, and while I call them beautiful, in their wildness there is peace. Oh if people could learn from it!

© Iva Beranek (February 2017) #wildheartwriters