shut up and just enjoy this feelin’.


I’ve never been a stranger to loneliness; my body is used to retreating, holding itself accountable, in a constant state of waiting and wondering and who will leave next. I have desperately tried to thwart this mindset, yet it always creeps back. Birthdays were always the worst culprits; coffee ring stains on empty guest book pages. Waiting, wondering, were the few here actually here for me. Were they too busy laughing at my silent living room, or even worse, not even sparing a second thought? My family in tatters, the rest of them carried on the island breeze, hearing only their beautiful whispers through the holes of a landline. The date in February, odd in number but gratefully in sequence to give my compulsive brain some ease, came and went with none of the celebration it once had when we were too young to know what could really hurt us.

It was a gift and a curse – I hate the spotlight, really. Anything in front of crowds makes me uneasy, anything where I’m the center of attention gives me anxiety. I’ve made a home in my hobbit hole and I enjoy it here, thank you very much. So, I took solace in planning and seeing the joy in others. My husband’s birthday is the day after mine and I began looking forward to my birthday again because it became a shared time, like the week of Christmas, where the focus wasn’t on me. There’s expense to this – to the small chipping away of your light. It was my fault and no one else’s. It was my husband, in fact, who brought it to my attention. When he asked what I wanted to do for my birthday this year, I had told him “It didn’t matter.” He looked at me, rightfully so, like what I had said was preposterous.

“Why wouldn’t it matter?”

“It’s just a day”, I told myself. In the grand scheme of things, it’s only a day.
I joked to myself “I could blame COVID for no one coming to celebrate, but it’d be a lie.”
“May as well make it a great day for the people I love. I don’t need/deserve the attention.”
You’re in this alone.

Ah, there it is.
The ever-present monster. It hibernates, breathing deeply and soundly, feeding off silent and passive cuts to your mind until you feel smaller than it is. It breaks you apart in a masterful way and you’re not sure how you’re really together; maybe with invisible threads loose at frayed seams, the appendages still yours even if they’re worn and wrinkled and twisted every which way. They’re yours. They’re mine.

They’re mine. Yes.

I began to look around me, at the rare few who have stuck around, who would be around if they could, if COVID or finances or too much distance weren’t factors. They each have a little piece of thread, or glue, or staple in their gracious hands, waiting, wondering, what do you need. I’m trying to be better at reminding myself of this, of reminding myself my body matters, my mind matters, I matter.

I mattered when I came on a Sunday evening, albeit early (always punctual).
I mattered when I was brought to the main land for better opportunities.
I mattered when I was chosen over a toxic relationship.
I mattered when graduated college.
I mattered when I found love.
I mattered when love found me in the form of my own child (I made this thing, how nuts).

I think it’s worth celebrating, every little bit of it, not just everyday, but the day meant for me, just for me.

The monster is at bay now, a restful slumber. You don’t have to be alone to feel lonely, especially when your mind is a cavern of hurtful thoughts and wandering dreams. But even a patchwork warrior can last a long war knowing they can fight, that they aren’t alone in the battle; waiting, wondering, what if I can win this.



December of last year, I was crying in the parking lot of my therapist’s office. It was a rainy night – cold droplets sticking to the windshield from the upcoming freeze – and the clouds were hiding away the stars. Brandon Flowers’s voice was pouring through the speakers; it’s a song I still can’t hear without my hands shaking. Music has always had its important footnotes in the chapter titles of my life and this was one. Memories I hadn’t realized were hidden away in the concrete of my walls had made themselves known, ready to be chipped away. I had a chisel in my hand in form of a pen, a notebook (one of many empty ones impulsively bought that could finally be put to good use) in my bag waiting to bear the blunt of its tip. Insurance bills had made it known to me a couple days prior that my sessions at that point could not continue, so it was on my own to turn a barrier into a passage. It was time to let the weight go.

January proved to be a salve on the wound, bringing joy in the form of first trips to Disney and laughter and family. In March, I started a new job and I immediately felt at home and appreciated and felt my worth. Quickly thereafter, the world turned upside down and on fire and spiraled out of control. It was a good thing I was no stranger to solitude – being severely introverted and having clinical OCD certainly had me prepared for a global pandemic.

But we already know what went wrong, this year, don’t we?

And I’m tired. I’m tired of dwelling and recapping all this fear. I have barely watched the news lately – “2020: A Summary” – as if we need reminders of the trauma we have endured. For ten months, we have lived in fear of many things, in the constant mindset of death and destruction of not only a virus, but at the hands of our fellow man. Hope seemed too distant, as if the rest of the galaxy had just left us without the beauty of its stars, and we were left floating in the void, feeling forgotten.

But even in the darkest depths, when we are blinded by shadows, we forget we are not alone in our struggle and we still grow. If anything, this year taught us resilience and how to breathe through it. It taught us to spend each moment with our family members like it was our last. It taught us who our true friends were and family doesn’t necessarily mean blood ties. It taught us what we are capable if we are pushed enough. It taught us to fight for the love of one another. We may be glad to say goodbye to 2020, but I, for one, am grateful for the lessons it has left behind.

So, where do we go from here? How do we find ourselves out of the darkness? How do we pull out of that rainy parking lot with determination and purpose?

Tonight, things can change. Not overnight, no (anything worth fighting over takes work, after all). It can start with something as simple as finding a good song to make you smile – one that fills up your chest with that incomparable swelling of joy – writing something you wish you had the courage to say but didn’t, calling/texting someone you hadn’t spoken to in awhile, saying I’m sorry, I will, or even I won’t anymore. As the clock gets closer to midnight, remind yourself of what makes you happy, no matter how small, and do that thing, talk to that person, write out that plan. Hope can start out so small, but it can tether us through zero gravity. It’s okay to reach out for it. We’re all here, tumbling, holding out for someone to say it’s okay. So take the time tonight to reach, to hope, to squint for a star in the nearest or farthest of horizons. Perhaps we are all each other’s stars, each other’s light, waiting for the other. We want to be found and it’s only a matter of time before we gather close and make our galaxy anew.

Embracing Damage

“Translated to “golden joinery,” Kintsugi (or Kintsukuroi, which means “golden repair”) is the centuries-old Japanese art of fixing broken pottery with a special lacquer dusted with powdered gold, silver, or platinum. Beautiful seams of gold glint in the cracks of ceramic ware, giving a unique appearance to the piece.

This repair method celebrates each artifact’s unique history by emphasizing its fractures and breaks instead of hiding or disguising them. Kintsugi often makes the repaired piece even more beautiful than the original, revitalizing it with new life.” – source


I want it to not hurt so much.

A mirror seems like a simple, ordinary, everyday thing. The glass, when not peppered with dust, makes everything clear and definitive, like the untouched surface of glacier water.

But its surface, and everything it shows me, weighs all of my thoughts down like hardening concrete. It pinpoints all of my scars and stretch marks, bringing them to life as snakes and vines, choking all of the stories behind them –

The ongoing years of fighting anxiety, depression, impulse disorder, and body dysmorphia which I have not lost, despite the hurt of the fight.
The reminder that I grew and birthed another human life.  
The blessing of having food and sustenance to begin with, when others are not so lucky.
The battles, while few, which I have won, my skin reminding me in wrinkled lines.

I have not forgotten or forsaken these things. I am grateful for how they have shaped me emotionally and mentally. Physically speaking, it’s another burdensome beast. For now, I know only this –

I am the heaviest I have ever been in my life. I know this in the silence of my family and peers, despite my ongoing efforts to look presentable to the world. I know this in the amount of space I take in the glass, in the seams I’ve stretched and ripped. There are days when I don’t want to leave the comfort of my bed, but the nightmares make me feel as if the sheets are there to swallow me whole. There are days of wearing heavy sweaters two sizes too large and long sleeved shirts and pants in the bleak of summer in order to feel small, my body not worthy of meeting sunshine. I cringe at every photo, seeing a monster instead of a human being. I want to fade away from the photograph as if I’ve changed time.

My eyes gravitate to every bump and roundness, sneering with disgust; as if our bodies should be made of nothing but sharp points and flat surfaces. But we are not paper. We cannot simply dissolve or crumple with the slightest touch. We are not just lines and corners, we are circles too.

The mirror does not know this. It ridicules me with its two-dimensional portrayal. It is a foe I have to fight every day. It tells me I am unworthy of many things.

This is life living with depression and BDD. Reflections become monsters and negative thoughts are parasites, overpowering your own voice with overlapping whispers of doubt.

“You are ugly. You are stupid. You are not good enough. No one cares about you. Your partner will leave you. Your friends will abandon you. You will amount to nothing. You are alone and always will be.”

And I am tired, so very tired.

Some days, my tears wash away the hourglass sand building up in my throat, others they just congeal together to keep me silent.

No more.

I am sharing this for two reasons – to be held accountable for the change I am implementing, and because I know I am not alone.

My perception is only a fragment of the entire reflection. I need to stop seeing imperfections as constricting ropes but instead as wayward rivers and lunar marias, war medals instead of battle scars – things to take pride in instead of covering with cosmetics or thick fabric. All of this takes work; the physical change is only a small part. Reshaping my mind to see a new image is the hardest part of all.

While I reshape, I choose to embrace the damage. I still want my scars and marks because they tell the stories of who I am. Instead of hiding them, I want to texture them in gold and goodness. I want to accept myself more than I want others to accept me. I want to know what self-love feels like, instead of hurt.

So for you, dear reader, I offer you this.

My support. To those who feel this same darkness, who wake up wanting to feel that small bit of beauty in the world again, you have my hand, my shoulder, my voice to help you keep going.

Resources. Some things I’ve utilized which have helped so far:
* Shine App

  • Used for daily self-care, meditation, and affirmations. This is a great app with informative articles and one of the very, very few apps which I actually pay for (it’s free, but you can pay a small monthly fee for the premium content. Worth every penny).
  • Fabulous & Wysa (AI daily check in buddy) are both great as well

* Write it down

  • My biggest flaw is commitment to an exercise/diet/self-care plan. If I have a planner or keep a notebook, put post-it notes or torn pages on my mirror to visibly remind me of what I need to do, I’m less likely to stray from those plans.

* Cut out the toxic

  • Listen to me carefully. Life it too short to keep negative people around. If there is someone in your life who is always on the downside – whether it’s negative speech, passive aggressive notes, abandonment, or complete dismissal or redirection of your feelings – cut them out. Defriend. Block. Mark out. It will hurt for awhile, and make no mistake, you will look back on it occasionally wondering if it was the right decision, but it will be worth not having to deal with unnecessary drama. True friends will let you speak but most importantly, they will listen. Keep around only those who truly love you for you, no matter what shape you hold.

* Keep positive images

  • Don’t focus on things that you want to be; instead keep photos of people and items that make you happy and who have made you who you are.

* Feel good music

  • It is easy and cathartic to retreat in melancholic music. There’s nothing wrong with that. When you’ve wiped it all away, make (and keep) a playlist of songs that put a smile on your face. Come back to this whenever you need the smallest boost.

And finally, and most important tip of it all – 

There is no weakness in crying. Whether it’s a moment, or a day, or longer, it’s your body expelling all of those things that tell you you are not worthy. Listen to it. Wipe it away and start anew. Embrace the damage and fill the cracks with something that makes you shine, because despite what you see in the mirror, happiness can exist in all of the imperfections.


brown is okay with me.

a poem of clarity.


Brown is okay with me.

Do you view it the way I see?


It is the mahogany of the grandest trees.
It is the coffee and tea which raise you from your sleep.
It is the caramel of the sugar you burn.
It is the desert sand from which your gods are born.
It is the bones of houses, new and old.
It is the wool and fur, warming you in the cold.
It is the hidden gems beneath the earth.
It is the combination of color and warmth from your hearth.
It is the wheat through which your fingers pass.

It is the pile of leaves to jump into at last.


So why can it not be the color of my skin?

Of my parents, my ancestors, my friends, and my kin?


My bark, my shell, my bones, my hair,

Must count for some amongst the Fair.


For I have so many hidden gems beneath.

I am a fighting sword waiting in its sheath.


I am above and below and around and through,
Why can it not be okay with you?

i press restart.

Today’s soundtrack


Like many writers, my stories either thrive or suffer at the hands of my own anxiety.

When my indie publishing deal went down the drain, I went through a period of mourning. It was hard to realize that it wasn’t really my fault, that it wasn’t my material or me personally. It was unfortunate timing and bad ownership.

But it’s time to cover the wounds and trudge on. As F. Scott so eloquently wrote, “So we beat on, boats against the current[…]”. We are all just gluttons for punishment, after all.

What’s next in this vast publishing ocean? I find another route on the map.

  • I’m putting writing and re-working A Deathly Compromise (and its sequel) on hold for a bit and instead, making it available en masse for consumption. I’ve joined Wattpad and you can read and get updated on ADC for free here. The prologue and first chapter are already up and updates will come weekly.
  • I’m currently writing a new novel, entitled Shift – a detective noir YA/NA rooted in a magic realm, with murder, shapeshifters, and sassy sidekicks. Think The Magicians meets Cool World (bonus points if you’ve actually seen Cool World). Once I get a substantial amount done, I will start querying (I said gluttons for punishment, right?). In addition, I’m collaborating with a friend on a joint project that will bring a fresh perspective on the standard magical epic.
  • I’ll be exploring different resources and focus on making more connections on social media. That means – more blog posts, more writing bits for you to enjoy, more rantings of a writer’s life, for better or for worse.
    • Feel free to follow me –
      • Twitter: @theladyreva
      • Facebook: /officialcoralrivera
      • Instagram: /theladyreva
      • Wattpad: theladyreva
  • I’m going to get my reading back on. I firmly believe that the best inspiration comes from the worlds we get to experience, if only in our imaginations. So give me all of your recommendations and I will add them to my ever-growing list.
  • Helping others in the community is just as rewarding and serves as an incredible learning experience for your own writing. Lately, I’ve been serving as a beta reader and all-around encourager for a group of writers that just want their voices to be heard and to share their hard work. Revealing bits of stories, no matter how small or seemingly insignificant, is a HUGE act of courage in the writing world. Many don’t realize that we as writers, thrive on feedback and use them as fuel for a lot of our creative decisions. If you would like to join this community too, I’d urge any and all imaginative voices to sign up at: You won’t regret it.

Feel free to follow along on the journey – just bring a life vest.

The Long Road: A [De]Composition

I was whole.
I basked in the sun.
I relished in the way the sprigs of new wheat and tall grass touched my shoulders, my face, my skin.
There are still fragments of it on me, even now.

I waited.
In the end, we all take shortcuts. The long road seems so tiresome.
My feet touched the pavement.
I saw the mist coming off the lake in the early morning, a familiar ghost, a promise.
One foot in front of the other, they told me. Their voices are echoes rattling in my bones and muscles, a cacophony of calcium and cartilage.

I just wanted the taste of life between my hands.
I wanted to see the morning.
Fill me in, rising sun. Fill me whole again.

The impact reminded me of birth.
A light, a warmth, a strange place to wander into.
The comfort always came later.
I waited for it. Waited with shaking breath and twitching limbs and watering eyes.
The moon began to leave my line of sight. I no longer felt the pull of galaxies and universes between my heartbeats.
Fill me in stars, fill me in where the treads have emptied me.

I always thought too much.
Weighted decisions seem so distant and pointless now.
My brain is forced to stop now, to look around instead.
Time is limited, yet long, full of visitors.
I watched each one. Felt each one. Looked at their uncaring grimaces, and sometimes, words leaving their lips.

They do not know me.
They do not know the stories I hold in my spirit.
They only see me for what I am now, beneath them.
I have lived and birthed and eaten and stole and given and killed.
I have loved.

They want the long road.
Some will take shortcuts like me.
Some will be luckier.

The lake is far now, but I am not bitter.
I have broken apart, but I am starting a new story.
I have lost and grieved and wanted and cried and felt joy.

I am blood and bone and matter and hair on your wheels.
What’s left of me feeds others.
Fill me in, life, fill me into something new.

I am whole.
I bask in the sun.
I relish in the way I grow.
I was once fragmented and jagged but now I am full.
I am a piece of everything, everything a piece of me.

Child from the Garden, take two.

You know when you find something from years ago that you don’t remember writing whatsoever? I vaguely remember this – like most things I write, it came from a dream but I have long since forgotten the specifics. I’m sure the details that I wrote from my nightstand in the middle of the night are in some notebook in a box in my closet somewhere, but I may just opt to give this a bit of a different life. Or perhaps it’ll play on in my dreams where it probably belongs.
The barn looked cherry red amongst the pristine white of the newly fallen snow. She hadn’t really noticed the brilliance of it before that crisp morning. The cold wasn’t bitter, but an incoming storm promised a change in the soft kiss that hit her cheeks. She followed his clean footprints to the edge of the clearing, up and down the small hills that eventually led down to the road. His navy blue coat almost blended in with the tree branches behind him. He turned his head slightly upon hearing her feet crunch in along the snow drifts. As she approached, she noticed his muscles tense, the worry in his eyes becoming more and more apparent. She stopped a couple of paces away from him, observing every little movement.
She stared at his hair, the longer strands whipping across his forehead in the cold wind. He didn’t want to look at her, but she silently begged for that contact one last time. She cautiously walked to him, lifting her hand up to his cheek. He flinched, her warm touch raising his skin. He didn’t say a word. She let out a small laugh under her breath and broke the silence. “Do you remember when you first came into my room all those years ago? The little boy from the garden.” He didn’t say anything, but closed his eyes at the fondness of the memory. It stung each synapse that once fired so brightly upon seeing her.
The snow began to fall in heavy flakes now, blankets forming on their shoulders and hair. He was so still, as if frozen in time. She wished with her entire heart that it were true.
“Please…” she finally whispered, fighting back a choking cry.
“You know that I can’t,” he finally answered gruffly. “It was stupid of me to come here, to see you. I need to go–the door will be closing soon.” He turned to leave but she grabbed his gloved hand. He was warm. He had always been so warm. He pulled away but didn’t leave.
“That’s you in there, don’t you realize that?”
“That is not me. I’m right here, flesh and bone and soul. I’m…” he paused to swallow the regret. “I’m just-” He shook the snow from his hair, clouds of breath escaping his lips. Despite the strong scent of the pine, all she could take in was the scent of his world, a combination of cedar leaves and lightning.
Tears began forming in the corners of her eyes. They would soon form miniature icicles on her eyelashes. “I don’t know what you want me to say. What do you want from me?”
He squared his shoulders forward, masking the wound she just inflicted. He stuffed his hands in the pockets of his coat, holding the lapels closer to his chest. He stole a glance of her; her brown hair caught in the wisps of the north wind, her brown eyes glowing and prominent like a wolf tearing his soul apart. “I wanted you, that’s all. That was everything.”
He turned away from her and darted into the clearing. She wanted to follow, but knew that she couldn’t. Her time in that world had run out.

she used to be mine – a love letter to an imperfect self.


If I could turn the clock back to 15 years ago, I would tell you to put them down.

I know in the melancholia of the evening, they feel like grains of sand and shells from the beaches some 45 minutes away. You haven’t been in awhile. You miss the salt water. You can feel it in your nose even now, the taste of it in the corner of your lips carrying the oil from your cheeks.

You grasp them tightly, feeling your fingertips curl into the flesh of your palm.
The shaking is minimal now, despite the ongoing turbulence of the yelling in the background.

You think this will shut the noise off.
These are not silencers, girl.

This is glass with rounded corners.
They will cut you by masquerading as warmth and kept promises.
It takes you for a fool.
The phone will ring. Pick it up. It will be a friend that needs you.
I know – When will someone be there for me? you ask.

This is a question that will never go away, especially when you’re my age.
You bite your tongue.
A little bit of blood is okay. It means you’re still here.
Throw that sand back in the ocean, girl.
Watch the waves pull it away.

However inconsequential it may seem, you matter in this moment.
You matter always.
Even when your words go unread, and your voice unheard, and your presence unnoticed – the world has a way of acknowledging your whispers.

The monster will return, this much I know.
You learn to bargain, to protest, to shape it back into something small and pushing it back onto the mainland.
It is as rough as the ocean.
But you will also learn to swim, pushing your feet away from the sand and off the ground.

Almost as if you are flying, when actually, you are living.

i could tell you the wildest of tales.

 |Soundtrack |

While I drive to work, I think of ways I can lie to my daughter.

It’s hard not to look back at her in the rear view mirror in the mornings during my arduous commute, watching her eyes drift off to places I wish I could go instead of driving through barren plains and highways. When she’s awake, from the opposite side of the car, we watch the dawn together – rays permeating up from low tree tops and misty hills. The sky is half midnight, half cotton candy. A gentle wave borders the cloud bank, rippled as if stopped by glass. Lightning etches the bottoms of the nimbostratus, whispering its arrival.

“Dragons,” I whisper, practicing my answers for the inevitable questions I hope she asks in the years to come. “In lands that mirror ours but don’t quite break through, there are dragons that fly freely. They hunt, they love, they play, they fight. When two young dragons play, their fire comes out in quick, thin bursts so bright, it lights up the sky in our world. When you hear loud thunder, the playing has turned sour.”

She stirs in the back, eyes dozing, her lips puckering as if to make the words she has yet to learn. She is beginning to slip into dreams.

“They come out for battles in the summer, flapping their giant wings and creating gusts so large they topple trees. They play and fight so much, there is not much life left. And when they leave, they take the warmth of the summer with them.”

At this point, I’m feeding my own ideas and talking to the air conditioning and squeaky brake pads. She’s asleep now, another 45 minutes still ahead on the drive. The best ideas come when my hands are holding steering wheels or baby appendages, never when I have a pen in hand. I make a mental note but will often forget – a hint, perhaps, that some of these stories are reserved for just us and the road and the sunrise. I continue to talk about the lesser known winter dragons, mermaids in pink lagoons, the fairy dust of stars and where the fairies go on cloudy nights (pester the dragons while they are trying to sleep, of course).

She’ll eventually know the right answers. When she is able to sit and speak on her own, speak to her friends more than her mother, speak with a voice I’ve heard echo in the back of my own mind, I hope she still remembers the summer dragons and their lightning storms. I hope she carries a bit of magic behind her eyes. Selfishly, I hope she becomes a liar of her own – a creator of worlds and fictions that would rival the greats.

I continue to drive. The cloud cover has passed now, sprinkles drying up on my windshield as the sun meets the periwinkle of the sky. I drop her off and think of a story for the afternoon. On the road, there is no word count to be met, no reviews, no red marks on paper. There is just asphalt and dreams and lightning in the distance.



put on your war paint.

My mother taught me about red lipstick.

Not in a tutorial type way, but strictly observational.

No matter what our house or family was going through, the mornings were always the same – my mother, sitting at the kitchen table with her coffee and toast and an open, blue glitter Caboodles make-up case in front of her. Specks of foundation and powder caked the corners of her mirror, framing her face in a thin halo of ivory-beige dust.

Some days she looked tired than others, thoughts weighing heavy on her mind, decisions on her shoulders. I would watch, either through my periphery when reading a book or from the brim of my own morning mug. There was calculation behind the art form, care put into every crease. When the blue case closed, she’d walk back into her room and come out moments later wearing a powerful suit – she was the boss and she knew it but she never flaunted. It exuded from her, an aura of subtle confidence sharpened by years of struggle.

The last thing she did was apply her lipstick. It was her way of kissing the morning and wishing it well. There were shades of blue-reds, brick reds, crimsons, and coral reds, some bright as a rose, others subdued even on her alabaster skin. In comparison, I never thought my olive pallor would work, even if I had tried. I couldn’t get away with something that fierce. My Cherry LipSmacker was the closest I came to daring. I tucked my books away into my bag and hung my head low, eyes quickly darting to the sidewalk, wondering if I could ever be that strong. It wasn’t until a couple a few years ago that I braved my first shade.

My mother suffered and overcame many things in life, all while working a demanding job with three kids, one of which had a learning disability. For the majority of our childhoods, she did this alone. We suffered too, but always had her to lean on. It wasn’t until I recently became a parent myself that I truly understand the weight of that. But everyday, without fail, she put on that red lipstick and strived to be the best that she could, not only for us, but for herself. In a way, we were her shoulders too. And in the close of the first Act of our lives, she sees our success as hers. She left everything behind – her home, her family, her friends – to start a life here, and while it wasn’t necessarily the life she expected, it was the one that she herself built.

There are many things that stand to her character – no small, pocket size object could every truly symbolize all that she is worth, but to me, that tube of crimson or coral or brick red always reminds me of strength, power, respect, kindness, laughter, confidence and overwhelming love. And so, I break out my small drawer of reds and long for the day that my daughter will watch me while I tell her stories – of what life and dreams can be like and the strength she holds to pursue them.



“If you’re sad, add more lipstick and attack.” – Coco Chanel