Some mornings I wake up with my mind already steeled against the world.
First light touches the windowsill and my hands roam with piano fingers under the comforter by instinct for my little life-line, for my constant companion. Half awake and I'm already reaching for the slim green phone that beeps and whirrs and whistles for me hundreds of times a day. And some days I don't know whether it's a blessing to me painted on my hands in bright pleasant colours or a parasite, draining me of early mornings in the hardwood pines and a clear mind.
My days used to be entirely different once upon a time. And for better or for worse I couldn't say. It must be some of both. It weighs on me now sometimes in the evening, and it creeps up quietly behind me while I'm busy fake-smiling and brushing away people's pokes and prods into my interior world. Now I wonder how much of me is my own and how much of me is still sacred. Am I still a recklessly happy scarred girl mingled up with roses and Jesus and the forest floor or is it vanishing from me leaf by leaf?
Am I worthy, with only 3500 'followers' to do the work my heart loves and when did that start to matter to me and why? Sometimes I'm left shipwrecked by the new measures of success. It takes everything in me not to bolt away from them on long legs to a quiet place where I'm Lucinda. I wonder how many people have truly met her between 'Nice!' and their fingerprint striking a screen or how many believe she merely is lulubeeisme or even only effervescent Lulu who is kow-towing to all of this forced 2 inches deep interaction with a bent head. I know what I seem. I created it.
I don't want the watch. Or the plane vouchers or the bottle of liquor placed ever so casually in the corner of my workspace that I would never drink. I don't want to document my haphazard rainbowed outfits or show you the blackberries and Frito chips I had for lunch, perfectly arranged just so in a china bowl. And I acknowledge with something like patience and something like a grudge the way that those who accept these new rules win the game.
It's all at once too easy and too hard. Type the words, use the app, comment, like, share, subscribe, repeat, die slowly inside, keep going because what other choice is there? If I lived in a disheveled villa in France and only emerged for salty crackers and sparkling water and once every 5 years I unveiled in a gallery what I had slaved over from my soul with my camera and lenses, Facebook and Instagram are the people who would stand in front of it with black sweaters and small talk and decide whether or not what I had done matters.
And maybe only 3500 of them would come instead of the 101k who would clap their hands before my friends and peers. And if I took selfies in a swimsuit with glossed lips on my phone perhaps more would come. And if I lived in Seattle and was fonder of coffee, still more. And if I was truly only an image, a beautiful lanky girl with a night sky of freckles and serious eyebrows who could be cooed over like a dove until you scrolled past and forgot me, then all of this would be quite simple indeed.
But dearest ones how could I diminish myself to an object on purpose? To merely an image, despite my love for them? How can I place myself next to a helicopter or a stylish warehouse studio and tell you that I am the same as these aesthetic things? Should I look best against a clean white wall because giggling under the covers with tangled hair where I'm a grainy blur of teeth and darkness wouldn't evoke the tidy 'Nice!' response from the online world where it watches? And then decides. Decides whether I deserve a sponsored life and the accolades that surely come with it, or not.
The pendulum that hangs just over all of our heads, just there, out of sight but always in mind.
And if you stepped away could you still make it out there? Could you be an artist without the posts and the featured accounts and the hashtags and the question no amount of tiny hearts can fill: 'Is it good enough?'
Could you paint in a field once upon a tiny town and maybe sell a few pieces at the studio attached to your house and feel that you had done well and good, faithful servant of the muses?
Or would you always long to know as we are all famished to know, what others thought of you. Anyone, anyone, complete strangers if need be, but anyone who can tell you what they see when they look at you and what you present for their consideration. Could you live without it?
I don't know if I could. Be it the Devil in me or an insatiable curiosity or only a sensitive weakness, I see myself always hands out, asking not for money or handmade shoes but to fill the blank void in me that needs this reassurance 500 likes a day, that I am loved and that I matter. And part of me knows I'm trying to raise the ocean by tossing pennies in but here I am still trying. I lie to myself a little and say that it's mostly for me that I crawl out of the blankets with sleep's dust in my eyes to the river where the fog floats inside it's low ceiling.
But it's largely for you. And the strangers. To touch the hearts of people who may never know me as anything but lulubeeisme and the 150 characters it made me use to describe myself. All 115 aching, frightened, joyful, ecstatic pounds of me who hauls this heart around wherever the light is pouring in to show a glimpse of it to you and ask your opinion on the matter.
I beg you not to square crop your life. Your bursting at the seams life with it's bleeding wounds and it's frailties and it's moment's of awe and something higher than happiness or love which must be your pure connection with all of existence.
I beg you to give yourself lonely mornings with the robins out the back door, away from the noise of the freeways and the Internet lanes bustling shinier and shinier cars past your steps.
You are enough, right where you stand. Right where you fall. Right where you crawled and wept and prayed and dragged yourself to, to that place where you are your own best friend and you know perfectly well that everything you do is magic and beautiful. Only you don't admit it, not out loud. Not even quietly to yourself.
You hide it away to remember when people unfollow you for posting that photo where your face is contorted with laughter and you feel like an exhausted king slumped into their throne wondering where it all went wrong. Were you too human after all? Would it all have gone better if you could have just kept your being to yourself? The unfairness of it chokes you now and then.
But I will tell you a secret the summer lilies told me once. You're irreplaceable.
And if you're not always travel-stoked and clinging like a sailor to all this unstable rigging, you're welcome and you're appreciated just for showing up for what you showed up for. Whether you climbed mountains or didn't get out of bed and stared at the ceiling and wondered what the point is, the point is that you're home here wherever you are.
And there's more than enough room at the table for you and your disjointed thumbs and your nervous tugging at your tee-shirt and your uncertainty that you're cut out for any of this. If anyone at the top of the charts is genuinely thrilled to the tips of their toes to lead a life dictated by 24 hour people-pleasing then I offer them a hearty high five and a warm hug.
I just don't know how to live like that and I suspect you might not either. So we're free!
Free to be spontaneous and unplanned and unrehearsed, in ill-fitting jeans that we stole from the friend who left them at our house and in our unfiltered selves who are glowing like the sun whether or not every thumb goes up when we arrive on the scene.
We can share it all and we can share what we feel like. Stars and mountains over looking glass lakes and late night snaps with the flash on double-fisting envelopes of french fries after an evening that was too fun to record save for that one blown out shot. And some days and some things we don't need to share at all. Ben's face when he looks at me very still and intently suddenly. The cheap ice cream I ate because I was sad. The beach that one day when it was all ours and the seagulls and time stood still. And everything whispered.
'Come as you are. Bring what you have.