Sep 01

Claiming My Heart

By Allison Stein

“Whose life am I living?” The words emanating from my conscience felt like barbs piercing my skin. I was tired of being someone who had to ask. Too often, the question infiltrated my dreams, bled into my veins—because I knew, somewhere in the core of my soul, that I was ashamed of the honest answer. The labels I championed in front of my peers were suffocating, paralyzing: I wanted to be more. As regret washed over me, I vowed to hold myself accountable to live in a way that reflected the spirit within. In the words of Margaret Chase Smith, “The right way is not always the popular and easy way. Standing for what is right, when it is unpopular, is a true test of moral character.” Once I refused to be a compromise, I heard a voice emerge from the silent abyss inside me: Learning to claim my own heart set my soul free.

The heaviest regrets we carry are those desperate moments when we break promises to ourselves. We submerge each other in the palpitation of a pressure, an energy. Popular choices tower over us like all-encompassing whitecaps: Fighting back means drowning. We fantasize about fabricating our hearts until we are deemed normal when our real dreams take wildly different directions. Unspoken laws bombard our minds: How can we break through walls we cannot even see? With building insecurities and mounting fears about the future, we want validation, but too often, conformity is a prerequisite to acceptance. Unfortunately, approval demands more than filtering our souls; it means hiding our potential, sacrificing possibilities, and silencing hope. One step outside the boundary lines makes us inferior. By violating our intrinsic covenants to align with others’ ideals, we are concealing our own principles, depriving ourselves of the gratification of creating lives we believe in.

We must ask ourselves what legacy we want to leave. Would we rather be remembered as passive observers who complied with the labels or as those who broke through barriers, rewrote stereotypes, and defied the gravity weighing us down? We are worth too much to settle for passive roles. We each have conviction and drive: We each have a piece of ourselves to offer to the world. Surrendering the freedom to express the music in our spirits is a mistake; not only will we waste the seconds we spend forging new souls, but blind submission to trends is no escape from judgment. In fact, accepting only what is considered acceptable forces us to scrutinize our own flaws tenfold: We cannot be proud of our voiceless silhouettes when they fulfill just a fraction of the difference we know we can make. If only we share with each other a more genuine glimpse of our integrity, we can take action to leave a more empowering impact.

Ultimately, I have claimed my own heart. I no longer cater to what the rest of the world views as my more perfect self; rather, I follow the ideals crystallized in my conscience. Yes, this means exterior judgment, but it also means liberation from within. No matter how others see my most vulnerable self, I am proud of the person I have become—and as I fall asleep each night, the only opinion still reverberating is my own. Stereotypes cannot penetrate my skin: It is the soul under the labels I have to live with.

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Aug 19

Journal: Success

By Allison Stein

My journal enables me to clarify my aspirations and commit to my dreams. All my life, I have felt compelled to answer the questions, Which choices contribute to my vision of success? Which directions complement my goals?

Below, I attempt to unravel an answer…

“I am determined to challenge the very boundaries of what I can be—my definition of success.”

  • September 20, 2014: “[I]t’s more productive to believe in myself and look at my problems with a little perspective.”
  • September 30, 2014: “[H]aving a plan allows me to identify strategies that could aid me in accomplishing my dreams.”
  • October 24, 2014: “…I want to be my best; pushing myself as far as I can go leaves me with an incredibly rewarding feeling.”
  • August 28, 2015: “I think it’s important to stay goal-oriented.”

“I’ve learned I have the potential to make a difference; I’ve learned not to hide myself.”

  • December 18, 2014: “[E]xperiences have made me stronger.”
  • December 23, 2014: “…I feel my efforts are worthwhile.”
  • January 1, 2015: “…I can’t think of many limits.”
  • February 1, 2015: “…I don’t want fear to take memories away from me…”

“How can I consider myself inferior when I have touched the lives of…people…who in turn have touched my heart?”

  • March 10, 2015: “It was truly magical to think of how far I’d come; getting where I am has taken passion, courage, and tenacity, and I am proud that I never quit despite the challenges I faced.”
  • March 25, 2015: “I thank God for helping me do my best.”
  • April 29, 2015: “…I’ll try to stay optimistic.”
  • May 8, 2015: “…I can’t help hoping…”

“…I’m not a quitter.”

  • November 27, 2014: “…I am proud of how hard I have worked…”
  • December 23, 2014: “I think it is wonderful to sometimes challenge myself with a situation I am completely uncomfortable with.”
  • August 2, 2015: “…I’m a firm believer that people who work hard and trust in God can beat the odds.”
  • August 12, 2015: “Yes, odds were against me, but odds were meant to be beaten.”

“[M]y aspirations would be considered delusions by many, but I champion my goals.”

  • August 31, 2015: “…I have to remember to have courage.”
  • August 31, 2015: “I have to be resilient.”
  • September 14, 2015: “[T]he highest expectations placed upon me are my own.”
  • September 26, 2015: “I couldn’t stop my hopes from sailing.”

“Focus only on people who contribute to your happiness.”

  • August 25, 2015: “Sometimes I worry that I’ve become so accustomed…to being my worst enemy that I don’t know how to be my own best friend.”
  • October 2, 2015: “Respect holds far more dignity than fear.”
  • November 5, 2015: “…I listen to my conscience foremost…”
  • December 30, 2015: “I…stood up for myself more than I ever have in the past.”

“I learned how tough I am, that I’m a fighter. Before all these headaches and heartaches, I never believed that I could be my own best friend and make my own happiness.”

  • June 12, 2015: “It was about going above and beyond, about striving for all one can be.”
  • August 21, 2015: “I’d never…compromise myself.”
  • August 23, 2015: “…I want to do my best and push myself farther than I imagine I’m capable of going.”
  • September 25, 2015: “And how encouraging to know how far I’ve come!”

“Regrets don’t come from failure; they come from taking shortcuts and realizing at the end of the journey that I’ve missed the most enriching part of the experience.”

  • August 2, 2015: “…I wish I’d found the courage…”
  • August 2, 2015: “Even if I lost, I would have liked to know that I made every effort, that I didn’t let fear stifle my potential.”
  • September 13, 2015: “One of my greatest regrets is a chance I was too scared to take.”
  • November 5, 2015: “[I]nstinct told me to go for this.”

The act of defining success has brought me a purposeful life. I hope you, too, find the courage to pursue what you believe in!

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Jul 27

Poem: Souvenir

By Allison Stein

I found the inspiration that ignited this poem on a fishing trip, an escape that changed my perspective, claimed my heart, and quieted my soul. Silence is powerful: Only in the peace of nature could I hear the words reverberating within. Always take a moment to listen.

Souvenir

Trusting the current to propel you
Past smooth waters kissed by the sun
Is liberation.
You live wave by wave,
Cast by cast,
Moment by moment,
Breath by breath.
Your heartbeat slows down,
And your eyes open up.
You stop searching for answers
And begin to revel in the questions,
The mysteries,
The enigmas.
You listen to the rhythm of life.
You breathe in and breathe out.
And when you reach shore,
You wonder if you have to leave this peace behind—
Or can you carry it with you
As a pressed leaf
Or a pretty stone
Or a memory glazed like clay in your heart?
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Jun 30

Can You See the Wind?

By Allison Stein

“What if you trusted the wind / To propel you to the heights of your dreams?” The final lines of my poem linger in my soul as I drift off to sleep and wrestle with my own dreams. I already know the words will be tough to publish, tough to let go of. Poems are like friends in that they somehow become part of me. They make me braver. This one forced me to open the crevices of my heart.

The title poem of my most recent chapbook, “Trust the Wind” is a tapestry of childhood wonders and adolescent wishes. In fact, the core of the piece was conceptualized at age eight while I spent a spring afternoon saturated in soft rays of sunlight. I sat cross-legged on the grass, the blades caressing my skin, and looked across the circle at 10 other facessome familiar, others nameless. I don’t remember being afraid. Aside from preparing to make our First Communion, we had no common ground, but back then, we didn’t need any. We were all people, all worthy of friendship and love. We danced to the same universal song of childhood. Our reactions were simultaneous, instinctive. When our leader passed out bottles of bubbles, we eagerly held our wands up to our lips, watched our very own breath create crystal spheres.

The bubbles were supposed to give us perspective, to illuminate the truth our leader cemented in our young minds. She was chasing a metaphor, but she didn’t call it that. She just asked us if we could see the wind.

We exchanged glances. Not one of us could see it.

“But you believe it’s there?”

Of course, we did. At that very moment, the wind was carrying our bubbles to the opalescent clouds above.

Well, it was the same way with God, she told us. We couldn’t see Him; we could only read His signs. But we could believe. We would always believe. As the words solidified in my spirit, I let the bubbles from my wand escape my line of sight. The way I understood it, if only I trusted the wind, they would get where they needed to go.

I’m older now, and the world is tougher to trust. New experiences have shaped me, strengthened me, hardened me. People have let me down. I’ve learned that friendship isn’t always forever and love isn’t always unconditional. Regrets of yesterday cloud the horizons of today, and I wonder whether I’m truly that good person I used to imagine laughing in the mirror. At eight years old, I was my own hero, but I’m no longer innocent. My mistakes are footprints in the sand, impressions the tide will never wash away. Yet before I can fill the voids I’ve left in the past, I am thrust into the future, thrust into today.

Here I am. The world is colder than I remember, and its evil is darker. Nightmares have evolved from villains in Disney movies to villains on the six-o’clock news. Is the universe honestly so vicious, so hungry for the next tragedy? I want to believe people have good intentions again.

In the past few years, humanity has been conditioned to hate. Or perhaps it always has beenperhaps I have only now opened my soul to the injustice ever-present across generations. Maybe the adults can’t close my eyes anymore. Maybe I have to be brave.

I guess my heart is goodI was baptized cleanbut as an individual, I am powerless. Still cast under the childhood spell of insomnia, I lie awake contemplating a nefarious force I am part of but can’t break away from. The monsters I fight are more real than ever. No longer will a night light assuage my worry, for the fear is no longer an illusionit’s the truth I’m scared of.

Writing is my only freedom. I write to resurrect the emotions of youth, to reconstruct the wonder of watching those iridescent bubbles pirouette in the spring-kissed winda small miracle before my eyes. Or maybe I write to conquer fear, to remember what it means to not be afraid. Putting words on paper makes me feel somehow less alone, like my heartstrings have entwined with others’. Writing gives me faith.

I’ve given up searching the world for truth because my hope lives within me: Every night, I go to bed knowing that God has made a place on this earth for me. Yes, I’ll awake to a world scared to love, but I’ll look to Heaven, look to the sunrise, take comfort in another silent sign from God. I’ll still believe in hope.

Learning to trust the wind again has set my soul free. To believe my life is propelled by the will of Godthat somewhere out there, a future for me is inscribed in the starsis to break away from the fear that shatters my faith. Let the breath of God carry my heart. I’ll get where I need to go.

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Apr 03

Revision: Shatter the Chains

By Allison Stein

To edit a poem is to amplify its words. Indeed, the revision process has enabled me to elevate my work and empowered me to forge a more profound connection with readers. Below, please find the first draft of “Shatter the Chains” as well as the more polished piece that resulted from restructuring the core of the poem. It is my wish that you, too, are inspired to channel the creativity essential to transforming a dream into a reality. Enjoy!

First Draft:

Break Through the Chains

I am a fabrication.
Only the richest, rawest part of my soul is genuine,
Pure enough to emanate this muffled song:
Echoes of a heartbeat disintegrate in silence.

I am a compromise.
Insecurity conquers my courage,
Stifles my stamina:
Freedom fades to the shadows of dreams.

I am a disguise.
The confines of a stereotype shelter me
As unspoken lies clutter my mind:
Fragments of faith dissolve in lonely tears.

I am brave.
I am strong enough to fight,
To break through the chains of fear
And achieve liberation.

Revised Draft:

Shatter the Chains

I am a lie.
Let the world filter my soul
Until echoes of my heartbeat disintegrate
In silence.

I am a fabrication.
Let the song inscribed in my spirit go unheard
Until freedom fades into shadows
Of dreams.

I am a compromise.
Let the confines of a stereotype shelter me
Until fragments of faith dissolve
In lonely tears.

But I am brave.
I am strong enough to fight,
To shatter the chains forged by fear
And achieve liberation. 
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Mar 19

Trust the Wind

By Allison Stein

I am excited to announce my new book, Trust the Wind! I would like to share my note to the reader with the hope to inspire faith and kindness in all. Enjoy!


Words forge connections. They inspire action. And I believe they change the world. To hold this book in my hands for the first time is to learn that the dream that has been alive only in my heart is now tangible. Yet at the same time, the poems are suddenly beyond my graspno more rewrites, no more second chances. The world will see my as I am. Exhausted and euphoric all at once, I can scarcely process in my mind that I have finally scaled the mountain, that journey has given way to destination. I thank God for the love that sparked this pursuit and the tenacity that sustained it. I ask Him to open my eyes to the beauty of His creation, that I may strive to encapsulate a silhouette of such grandeur on paper, that one miracle at a time might be remembered. And I pray for couragebecause I am strong, but I am scared.

I’m scared I’m not good enough. I’m mortified that strangers will know me on such a vulnerable level, for I’ve etched my soul in each word. I’m afraid of being forgotten. How can I justify a book that may never touch another spirit? How can I even imagine that the truths palpitating in only one heart will penetrate the walls of so many others?

Sometimes I worry that a page would be better off blank than with my rudimentary scribbles staining its purity. But my doubts are so small, so meaningless, from the perspective that God has blessed me with this beautiful gift. I hear His call to share embers of faith and hope burning within. And I will answer. Maybe I’ll make a difference to somebody, somewhere. That’s the dream.

I don’t know where I’m going, but I know I’ll get there. I spend so long searching for direction, yet Iweneed only to follow the compass of faith. We need only to trust the wind. Yes, we each have only one heart to reach into, but we can reach out to so many more.

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Jan 03

Looking Back

By Allison Stein

As we anticipate a new year and a fresh start, we find ourselves looking forward to the goals we will tackle in the 12 months ahead of us—but even more powerfully, we look with newfound perspective at the 12 months we have just left behind. Time has a way of deepening the impact of moments and coloring the stain of memories.

Likewise, after years of entries, my journal has illuminated the relationship between my past and present—where my story belongs, where the past ends and the present begins, and where these two plot-lines intersect.

I would like to share with you the words of my past self, words that penetrate my heart to this day. It is my hope that you, too, will be inspired.

1. I learned.

  • December 14, 2013: “What if I look back years from now and wish…?”
  • December 21, 2013: “[K]nowing that I struggled will satisfy me all the more if my dreams come true.”
  • June 9, 2014: “I want to remember the times I was strong but also the times I was weak.”

2. I changed.

  • April 17, 2014: “…I have found what I’ve spent years looking for: my voice.”
  • April 18, 2014: “I have gone through some kind of stage, I feel, and entered another.”
  • June 18, 2014: “I’ve changed…and that took courage.”

3. I loved.

  • March 4, 2014: “I hope that someday I can help someone like you helped me.”
  • March 15, 2014: “[R]eading my book is like reading my heart.”
  • March 18, 2014: “It was…one of those now-or-never moments.”

4. I dreamed.

  • December 8, 2013: “I dream…anyway…”
  • March 27, 2014: “I wonder what will have happened one year from now.”
  • March 31, 2014: “Dreams always seem both impossible and inevitable.”

5. I discovered.

  • January 16, 2014: “I want to be myself and my own…”
  • February 15, 2014: “We really are all connected…”
  • March 18, 2014: “[J]ust knowing that I could…do my best was encouraging, just for me.”

6. I believed.

  • February 1, 2014: “I like to think that…maybe I’ll someday positively affect the world.”
  • March 10, 2014: “The world seems full of hope…”
  • July 1, 2014: “It isn’t that I’m not afraid. I am.”

7. I smiled.

  • January 7, 2014: “It’s the cold days when I’m most thankful for home.”
  • April 10, 2014: “[E]very day is…joy…”
  • September 9, 2014: “I’m lucky.”

8. I cried.

  • January 15, 2014: “I was counting on someone who let me down.”
  • June 9, 2014: “[T]hose weak moments seem like things I’ve overcome, not things that have overcome me.”
  • June 18, 2014: “…I’ve learned that…God will help you through anything.”

9. I struggled.

  • January 5, 2014: “I’m afraid of growing up.”
  • April 17, 2014: “I regret my silence.”
  • September 8, 2014: “Well, I had done my best…that was consolation, at least.”

10. I prayed.

  • May 24, 2014: “You stayed with me…through every defeat and every victory.”
  • June 30, 2014: “I think I have faith in myself, too—at least deep down.”
  • July 10, 2014: “God…thank you for giving me the courage…”

I hope that you enjoyed this post—and that we all spend 2017 living out our dreams with no regrets. Happy New Year!

 

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Dec 20

Poem: Star by Star

By Allison Stein

I hope this poem reminds you to rejoice in the miracles of life and love. Enjoy!

Star by Star

One by one,
You count miracles.
Beat by beat,
Our hearts meld.

Beam by beam,
Moonlight flickers on icicles.
Dream by dream,
We dance under frozen chandeliers.

Breath by breath,
You spell your love.
Footstep by footstep,
I learn to trust.

Wish by wish,
We search the sky.
Star by star,
God inscribes our lives.
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Aug 13

To Etch a Life in Words

By Allison Stein

A journal is more than a record of the writer’s life—it is a notebook that, page by page, teaches the writer how to live. To etch a life in words is to lend it new meaning in the process. Here are the top 10 reasons to saturate paper with the songs inscribed in your soul:

1. To Capture Change…in Real Time

  • February 15, 2016: “Everyone else…seems to be looking forward to a sparkling gem of the future, but I’m holding on to all I can.”
  • March 24, 2016: “…I’ve changed so much between now and then that it seems a near eternity has elapsed.”
  • April 18, 2016: “[T]ime goes too fast as it is, so I’ll simply savor this moment.”

2. To Crystallize a Moment in Memory

  • January 19, 2016: “I know the odds are against me, but I can’t help but hope.”
  • January 25, 2016: “I have to trust my instincts: They’ve never let me down before.”
  • May 24, 2016: “I have to at least try.”

3. To See Through the Scope of Retrospect

  • March 2, 2016: “I suppose I…have to take comfort in the fact that I did the best I could do.”
  • May 12, 2016: “I’m just proud I never gave up.”
  • June 13, 2016: “…I’d fallen hard, so hard I thought I might crack, but I wouldn’t break.”

4. To Solidify Ideals

  • March 14, 2016: “[D]reams come true…if you chase, you will catch. You will lose your breath and trip over your own feet and fall down, but you will catch…”
  • May 16, 2016: “Let faith be your compass.”
  • May 17, 2016: “Take joy in the successes, and take heart in the failures, but remember that, ultimately, the only worthwhile validation emanates from within.”

5. To Wrestle with Insecurities

  • March 28, 2016: “Sometimes I feel like a horrible person. I’m so flawed, so far from where I want to be.”
  • March 28, 2016: “I try hard…but I still fall short…”
  • March 29, 2016: “I’m scared I’m not good enough.”

6. To Accept and Embrace Flaws

  • February 23, 2016: “[C]onformity is too often a prerequisite of acceptance—but it is the soul under the labels I have to live with.”
  • July 4, 2016: “I want to be accepted for the person I am, not molded into the person they wish I were.”
  • July 4, 2016: “I hope the world knows I try to be a good person: I have good intentions, a good heart.”

7. To Find a Purpose

  • January 19, 2016: “Maybe I’ll make a difference to somebody, somewhere. That’s the dream.”
  • February 21, 2016: “…I owe it to the world to be the answer to someone else’s prayer.”
  • March 9, 2016: “…I didn’t want to take a passive role in my own life.”

8. To Gain Perspective

  • April 4, 2016: “God always aligns the constellations just right.”
  • May 22, 2016: “[I]n the toughest moments…I was listening hardest for the voice of God…”
  • June 23, 2016: “I learned that…people are good…”

9. To Seek Answers

  • March 2, 2016: “God will stay with me, and I’ll be okay.”
  • March 20, 2016: “I have to remember that God has a plan, and He will take care of me…He gave me a heart to reach out to others. I can do this.”
  • May 6, 2016: “[I] kept praying that God would make it happen the way it was supposed to happen.”

10. To Be Grateful

  • January 11, 2016: “I thank God for memories every night—and for the people I made them with.”
  • April 2, 2016: “It is so wonderful to have someone to call a best friend, someone to open my heart to.”
  • April 17, 2016: “I am…blessed to be around people who love me.”

While I hope you enjoyed reading the reality I strived to etch on paper, I also invite you to write your own story—and, word by word, build a life you are proud to live.

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Jul 19

Poem: As Long As I Have a Heartbeat

By Allison Stein

To write is to etch on paper the song of my heart. I would like to share a poem that reminds me to sing the lyrics without fear:

As Long As I Have a Heartbeat

Your words wash over me
The way rivers erode lonely stones
Till they're broken.

Frozen waves of your blindness
Suppress my languid spirit,
Paralyze the music of my pulse.

Your shortsightedness is the current
Pulling me away from my dreams,
Forcing me under an icy ocean of fear.

The salty sting of your insults
Breaks down my tenacity,
Extinguishes dying flames of courage.

Have you forgotten that I am a fighter?

Jaw clenched, I refuse to drown:
As long as I have a heartbeat,
My soul has a song.

 

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