• juliadestefano

By Julia R. DeStefano

Photo © Julia R. DeStefano, 2012

My late friend Neal used to cover a song called, “There’s a Reward.”

They say that God doesn’t bring us anything that we’re unable to do or handle.

And so often, the most valuable reward -

the one we consider to be our most prized -

is the one we had to earn through merit.

I think that real love is like this, too.

Earned through growth, they call it the up-level

because it's asking us to rise up to meet it.

"It" being real love.

It's usually a challenge that we issue ourselves -

having become tired of patterns or disconnect or lack,

or tired of not feeling good.

But it could be issued in-tandem

with someone who represents light,

or even a second or third chance.

Because it always begins with a change in thinking,

no matter where the thought originates.

What we don't realize though, is that the seed of that thought

was planted many moons ago.

What we're feeling now is the tipping point.

But I don't think it's ever as easy as saying:

"There's my reward!"

Real love is not a car or a cash prize.

Still, there's a quiet knowing that it's yours

even if it doesn't arrive in the package you thought it would.

And it's tugging at you -

sometimes gently

and at other times, more forcefully -

to meet it.

Maybe you even keep it secret at first

because it feels so good to have something just for yourself

after feeling like you've lived for everyone else

and have been discouraged by that.

Either way, there is soul recognition

and a heart that just feels like it was meant to love you

even if you don't necessarily believe in fate -

even if you can't wrap your head around the why.

But however it arrives,

it's up to us what we make of the opportunity.

An amazing opportunity.

Therein lies the challenge

and the reward that lay on the other side of it.

This is where the up-level comes in

as you feel it tugging at you a little more.

Because we're being asked to shift our mindset first

or at least try -

when our wounding just wants us to fall back into wallowing,

and remain stuck in the sludge and muck.

And maybe we do fall back into our wounding from time-to-time

because we're not gods and goddesses but humans.

Having been conditioned for so long to think of easier pathways.

Attempting to convince ourselves that real love is too good to be true.

Self-sabotaging in our laundry list of all the ways

we perceive ourselves not worthy.

Doubtful because we'd thought our lives needed to look or turn out a certain way,

even if it meant sacrificing ourselves in the process.

Refusing to acknowledge the very real differences between attachment and love.

And all the other things that we tucked away over the years

because they felt too inconvenient to address.

OR do we look towards the light

and all that it represents?

Because even if we can't see what's exactly IN the light

or understand where it may lead -

what we CAN feel is that it's something more than what we're used to.

And somehow, that constant pulling at our heartstrings is enough

despite usually needing to see to believe.

But if we're not tuned-in to the frequency of our hearts,

it will be challenging to allow ourselves to see positives

as life brings with it twists and turns

and umpteenth reasons to bury our heads under the covers

and think it all away.

Or distract ourselves by falling back into familiar patterns

even if they no longer truly represent who we are and what we want.

But to receive the best,

we will undoubtedly be tested -

though we will feel it more if we have spent our lives living in our fear

and wounding

instead of living from our hearts.

It's a tale as old as time.

The boy who didn't believe in magic until he saw the girl.

The Fear that was nothing more than a challenge

as it whispered in his ear: "How badly do you want her?"

Because to make the choice to live from the heart -

while it CAN look like a major leap of faith for some -

will MOST likely begin as one step of effort

and then another,

as we try on for size what living from the heart feels like for us

and what that actually looks like in reality.

Small steps until we feel ready to take on larger ones.

The heart that's meant to love you will accept this,

even encourage it.

And before we know it, we've reached the point where we wonder why

we ever dwelled on the other stuff for as long as we did.

When the future is now the present

and it far outweighs the past.

Because to be on the other side of fear

is to wonder why it ever took so long

to make the decision to live

in faith.

  • juliadestefano

Originally published on Medium, August 2021

Amusement Miles

“Take me to the water,” I whisper.

My Amusement Mile,

Coney Island of your mind

where eyes become hands.

Once, they called it the Pleasure Wheel

and I believe it, too.

A strong man.

Provider of a heavenly ascent.

But first, the Zipper.

The Sea Dragon gaining speed with each cycle.

Coming up against one another

like bumper car enthusiasts

in a thrilling rollercoaster ride

through the Tunnel of Love.

Hearts in a tilt-a-whirl.

Minds in a Scrambler.

An intense force to propel us into the next state.

Sharing the extreme urge to hold on tight.

Because it’s a fun world, after all

with a woman who straddles the realms

of kitten and lioness like a carousel horse,

and loves with the strength of a high-striker bell.

She knows she is the World’s Fair.

Every inch of her

an achievement worth crowning.

Around each corner,

a prize to be won no matter the angle.

Refreshments endless

as she bursts into colors like fireworks.

© Julia R. DeStefano

  • juliadestefano

Updated: Mar 28, 2021

Hey you. It is March 26th, and I’m having my typical breakfast of oatmeal and coffee. I can feel you shudder through the screen. I know you don’t like oatmeal. I’m watching a squirrel play against the backdrop of the neighbors’ fresh new siding. I've hung a new shelf, myself. Why I hung a shelf if I am planning to move, I’ll never know. Maybe I've finally accepted that I’ll never have another work office. Maybe I just needed a place to put some things. It’s in the Writing Room. I’d like to show it to you sometime. Then again, there are a lot of things I’d like to show you. I wish you would shock me by letting me. No, "shock" isn't the word. "Surprise" is the word. I wish you would surprise me by showing up in front of the house with your little car, or calling me out of the blue to say you were thinking of me. You see - this is what women want. To feel special. I know you know how to do this. You have done it for me before, really made me feel loved and treasured.

I don't really know what happens to us every few weeks or so - how we can go from so close to so distant with the changing of the tides or the phases of the moon. It seems to me that the planetary alignment has to be just right in order for you to say “good morning” to me, ask how I am, or hold me. Sometimes, it feels like something as mundane as a toe stub or as frustrating as a conversation with your boss will impact whether or not I hear from you for a week, two weeks, even a month. You blow so hot and then so cold with the wind that I don't know whether to put on a dress or a down jacket. You can probably tell I've been thinking about this much, and I have. I think you're very good at compartmentalizing, putting me into a little box until you feel able-bodied enough to deal with me. But my thoughts and feelings can't help but bleed into everything I do and am. The only thing I ever needed from you was some consistency in your interactions with me. Could you say "good morning" to me? Start a round of Scrabble? Ask me how I am? Take an interest in my life? And then there's the biggest one: hold me. I am touch-starved. Blame the pandemic. I don't know if that makes you a friend with benefits, or what. But I'd be lying if I told you that my body didn't want that. My body and mind want anything but the sickness they've been contending with for so long. Call it a respite. I struggle to call you a friend with benefits because I really love you. But I know people can be more than one thing to each other.

I guess I also feel like, when things are going badly for you elsewhere, you automatically file us into the "bad" category, too. I used to self-sabotage a lot and still do at times, so I get this. Maybe that's why it impacts me so greatly with you. Because you're me in so many ways. You are my mirror. We can both be our own worst enemies sometimes. But I'm the kind of woman who responds best to "I need space" rather than full on silence or an abrupt ending that comes out of nowhere because you feel stressed elsewhere. Do you think it's fair that you begin to self-sabotage when things get hard and in doing so, shove away the one person who will ever truly love you - me? No? Neither do I. We've got to go easier with each other. We're all fragile. There will never be another me. I know I am the Red Queen to you. But sometimes I feel like this title makes you believe I am some superhuman. I am human, just like you. I have always tried my best to give you what you need and to make you happy. But I have feelings, too. I don't want to have to tell you to care for me or see me. I want you to because you want to - because you cannot imagine your life without me in it. It sounds more complicated on paper than it plays out in real life.

Sometimes, I feel funny telling you all this - though, with the things we've done and said to each other - how could I feel funny? Then again, sometimes I can't find you to tell you and so, I write because I feel unseen and the words help. Sometimes, I fear that by telling you, I am trying to force your hand. Because the truth is, if you don't want to say "good morning" to me but only say it because I want you to, then it wouldn't really mean anything. I don't really know where I'm going with this. I just haven't been well for some time now and needed you to know that it isn't you causing it. It seems when I do tell you how I feel, you take it to mean that it is you causing me pain and go even further away. In reality, you and I are a bright spot most of the time. That is, until the cycle of disappearance and disconnect rears its ugly head. But we're worth trying to figure it out. Honest. Even if it just means a walk in the park again. My heart hopes you will agree, and surprise me. I wouldn't refuse flowers, but what I really want is your face. You know why.

As Tom Petty sang: "You oughta want her more than money. Cadillacs and rust. Diamonds and dust.... Good love is hard to find,"

Your (very human) Red Queen