Friday, December 30, 2016

The High Road of Self-Care

According to thesaurus.com, high road can mean the ethical or easiest course. Personally, 2016 has meant taking the high road as often as I can in order to come to terms with suffering, and while this definitely has come to pertain to ethics, it has not been the easiest course.

2016 has been a year of self-care. It's been of self-containment: learning how to hold in the most powerful of emotions while they explode inside and still remain standing, with a smile. I've gone through years recently when I believed that being open about everything would equal a more honest mode of living. But that never happened, and in fact my relentless pursuance of openness and truth only backfired in one of the worst ways possible mid-2015 when my world effectively imploded in all the worst ways. Instead, in picking myself up out of that rubble, I rediscovered again that openness meant vulnerability.

Perhaps it is ironic that the loss of communication in my personal life translated to a rising star career in communications. Maybe the two are linked and yet, part of my self-care has been to stay away from analysing what this connection is. Part of my self-care meant that the sleepless nights and broken parts of me could be covered up with redirected energy to other places.

2016 has been a year of reflection, outward and inward. It has been one of struggling, of juggling so many things at once and yet keeping a nonchalant presentation whilst doing so to appear effortless. I've been let down so many times over the past year that I come to expect it and, in doing so, I'm already taking the next step when someone has failed to meet expectation. 2016 has sort of been a year where Plan B is already Plan A.

Ironically while expecting the worst, I have become a better empath. I've already forgiven everyone who is in the process of letting me down, ready to move ahead. In a way, forgiveness has been an irreverent way of saying 'it's okay; I really didn't expect anything more from you.' If there is anything 2015 taught me it was the power of forgiveness, and I put that into practice in 2016. I've become much more guarded with my trust; but this has allowed for me to remain detached in a way that has let me forgo the chronic depression that stood by my side in the last 12 months. Instead, learning from the eye-opening experience of being dropped like a rock or thrown over the shoulder like a piece of garbage, I, too, threw my  sorrows over my shoulder like a burden that 'ain't nobody got time for'.

In the process of learning to love myself a little more — from the knowledge that anyone else who says that 3 word phrase is probably lying — I've learned patience like I've never known before. It is still a hard time every morning trying to get over that 2-minute habit of getting past that tight, burning nugget of self-loathing that then expresses itself throughout the day as expansive tragicomic narcissism. It is a trying process, but it is happening.

The number of times I have broken down in public the past few months have been a testament to this. The last four months has revolved around giving to others: through organizing a huge charitable event, through helping other non-profits, through gaining insight in simply forgiving other people for being useless, it has been, more or less, a year of taking the high road. Learn to love yourself, learn to forgive, and more importantly learn to say sorry because that, too, is part of self-care.


Monday, December 05, 2016

The Effervescence of Empathy

In the last couple days, I've been paralysed with non-motivation. A sudden eruption of incomprehensible sorrow and fatigue just overwhelmed me, body, mind, soul. Despite the fact that I had an enormous workload pending, and a short span of time to complete this work to meet the deadlines, I haven't been able to apply myself. Which, all things considered, is uncharacteristic of me. Me -- the proactive, productive, passionate achiever. The supercharged thinker, the go-getter, the results-driver. I was now a fallen rock at the bottom of a deep and unforgiving well.

I kept plummeting. Until I completely broke down, in a way I haven't in a very, very long time, so caught up I was with moving forward and putting energy where it was needed. But this time, I just wasn't able to keep it all in. I imploded.

It is at these times when you realize how very little other people understand you. Sometimes, that even includes oneself.

These periods of deep emotion sometimes channel a different kind of catharsis. I relived a deep and unspoken sense of loss again. And in that void, that deep chasm of emptiness, I held onto that which has always kept me sane.

That's when I realized that even in that space of a million miles, in a thousand different echoes of silence, that when you experience and live through the variations of another being's soul, becoming a vessel to share that other being's vibrations does not simply cease.

Sometimes they call it sympathy pains. I'm not sure what they are, but I know that they exist. If I can so easily cry for another stranger's tears, imagine the depth of desolation that can be experienced with that other person who shares your soul.


Sunday, November 27, 2016

The Echo of Eccentricity

Falling in love again wasn't something I had planned. But then again, when is it ever a planned phenomenon? I've found myself asking, pondering whether it is really something in our control or not — sometimes it seems as if we subconsciously make that decision to go ahead and pursue that sensation, and yet sometimes I wonder if we ever really have a choice. If falling out of love was viable, then why not falling in love again?

I recall an age where I had compiled a list of requirements that with every year increasingly edging further into the teen years, grew and grew. He had to be funny, he had to be artistic, he should sing, he should be sporty, he should have abs, he should be smart, he should be kind, he should have a great smile or if not a smile, one that you could feel...and on it went, with extensive requirements that got more complicated and complex.

I'm not really sure if I ever actively sought out a candidate to fill all these requirements. Whatever happened just happened. But over time as I fell, flew, hurt, and got up again, I soon realized that everything that I wanted in my true love was everything I myself had become.

And now these days my heart is doing that little double-time skip, the corners of my mouth that little uplift of a secretive smile.

Monday, November 07, 2016

The Clasp of Cherishment

Sometimes one of the best sources of solace is simply letting go of all one's tension in the arms of a warm, strong, solid hug. It was something I had counted on through the last several years, even just psychologically if not physically.

These days I realize that I've become a bestower of hugs. It's not something I ever associated with myself; keeping my physicality aloof from those around me and reserved for a select few on special occasions and definitely for a special someone. But in the latest metamorphosis of the person I thought I was, I've become someone who gives hugs daily, to a number of people, often.

I've seen the way a hug lights up a lonely face with joy as I wrap my arms around a confused and lost soul. I've felt the unspoken compassion that's shared daily in a hug of habit, in mere hellos and goodbyes. The kindness that's elicited through a contact where warmth transfers and redistributes so that both parties share a moment of sameness.

There are so many times when every muscle and pore of me longs for a certain hug, but I've realized in finding myself that sometimes it's a profound kind of magic to simply give them.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

The Sublimity of Reunification

One of the best ways of recovering from anything is through friendship.

Time had passed like a blink of an eye, and yet the very moment I reconnected with one of my best friends it was as if no time at all had passed. And the funny thing is that both of us voiced that very thought, as the penultimate and long-overdue reunion finally happened.

We regressed to those same younger selves that we once were, and yet I reflected on the many ways we had transformed. We returned to the same hallowed halls where we once spent hours and days, and blanketed with memories and time and experience shared everything that has passed since we had went our own ways.

It is fascinating to realize how we were just children at that time we thought we were conquering the world. Perhaps in another ten years again, this realization will happen, looking at ourselves as we are today.

All the "remember when"s of nostalgia, of recounting old escapades as if it were just yesterday, of opening up about failed relationships and worries for the future — and realizing how much we have changed. Him more gentle, me more poised. If anything, I realized we had both survived a long weary journey, and were more laidback, calmer, and steadier from the experience.

I pointed out the full moon as we walked our last moments. "It's giving us its blessing," I joked.

Maybe blessings don't need to really have a point or outcome, maybe they are just appreciating the moments when you have them.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

The Giving of Thanks

This Thanksgiving, I had a lesson in giving thanks and a lesson in giving. Above all, I remembered the most important lesson: kindness.

In the past few weeks, I'd aligned myself with an individual who I felt I could identify with, as happens with new-budding friendships. Over time, however, I began to realize at the oddest moments that there was something subliminally toxic about the relationship, or rather about the person itself.

It is an all too common trap amongst us, to bond and enter relationships with an affinity that binds you together — so much that you band together. Against others who are not in your inner circle. For silly reasons, for legitimate reasons, sometimes for no good reason altogether.

Despite my wisdom, I let myself get carried away with the tendency to rant and rave, to mock and laugh. But soon I realized that I was falling into an unhealthy mindset.

Kindness was not smiling benevolently at someone, all the while running a multitude of invectives through one's mind at the same person. Kindness was not running one's eyes over a person's outfit and smirking because you made some judgement based on what you saw on the outset. Kindness was not wishing destruction on the same person you wrapped your arms around, pretending affection.

No.

Too soon I realized that I was positioning myself too close to someone who was full of negative thoughts against almost everyone else. This was someone who took against another person, violently and unfathomably, based on some internal set of twisted contraindications.

I could not understand so many things, yet I kept giving, hoping that something would soften, that some understanding of the basic rudimentary idea of a greater kindness would set in place. It took me waking up in the hospital to be faced with someone's utter self-centredness to come to this realization. Sometimes you need to remove these impurities to be able to breathe freely.



Saturday, October 08, 2016

The Primacy of Survival

One of the worst things growing up was having the one person who was meant to inspire you to be the best person you can be tell you that you're nothing.

Growing up with an abusive single parent was, as an understatement, unhealthy. I grew up through years of being screamed at, insulted, and demeaned. I was frequently told that I was good for nothing and would always be a failure.

It took a lot of time for me to climb out of that dark abyss. I kept putting on a bright smile on the outside, and when people found out that it was often masking something else, they were frequently shocked. People, I found, were often very good at judging.

Through years of depression, tenuous health, and teetering over that frightening dark place where one often lost the will to live, I still somehow clung on. And to this end, I had to tell myself that I knew that I was doing my best, that no matter what anyone else told me, I was being the best person I could be.

Being the best wasn't a thing of pride. It was of survival. It was a mantra that spurred me on from one slippery stepping stone to the next. Finding what I loved to do and doing it well made me strive to be better. I knew that despite the many people who kept trying to throw negativity at my fight for survival, underneath I was being the best person I can be.

Being the best wasn't a figure of relativity, it was not a ruler to outcompete or compare. It was a basic fundamental of being a good person, of being the 'goodest' but grammatically meant the best.

So whenever I find myself holding up the broken pieces that constitute my life, I remember that even pieced together with visible cracks, I will always strive to be the best; I am the best.


Monday, September 12, 2016

The Trajectory of Aspiration

When I was about 7 years old, I wrote my first masterpiece for publishing.

There was a contest in a magazine I'd stumbled upon. One of those old kid-oriented mags, perhaps OWL or chickaDEE — they were somehow always around for me to flip through and read with the solemn concentration that was typical of a self-assured growing toddler certain they were doing "grown up things".  I was a voracious reader even at an early age (which would later contribute on my needing glasses by 3rd grade).

The contest was sponsored by Disney for its forthcoming release, Aladdin, asking its young readers to write a creative letter about why they love Disney and why they should be the winner of the contest. If I recall, the prize was, typically, a trip to Disneyland.

Boy, did I work on that piece like a hard-pressed journalist. I sat down and wrote, rewrote, crossed out blocks of text, transposed sentences, checked every word in the huge dictionary that was kept in our study room. I threw in every bit of passion I had for Winnie the Pooh, Oliver and Company, The Little Mermaid, and my forever favourite, Beauty and the Beast. I threw in quotes from these classics, and added some special anecdotes.

As I said, it was a masterpiece.

I did all of this on my own, without telling a single soul. I thought I was taking the initiative, being proactive, being a daring go-getter. But I was only 7 years old.

I didn't know about Canada Post, or mailing addresses, or even the necessity of stamps. So I stood on my tiptoes and stuck my folded letter in its envelope into the slot with a sense of accomplishment, not knowing that it wouldn't go anywhere because I didn't give it a place to go other than writing on the envelope: "To Mr. Walt Disney".







Thursday, September 08, 2016

The Emancipation of Freedom

'But what's holding you back? What's...' he hesitated, 'what's stopping you from moving on?'

I'd been asked this question countless times over the last year. A lot of those times, after those initial months, it was me asking myself the same thing, but in different forms. Often, I sighed the question away. More often than not, I found that there was not one person who could ever really get it. Not the way that the missing element in the question would have been able to get it, and that was the whole point really. But this time, coming after one of those "life" conversations that I found myself having lately, I found myself able to enunciate an answer.

'What do you mean holding back?' I turned the question back to him, just to see how he was playing it.

'Holding back like, why are you stuck?' He also seemed to be struggling with how to phrase what he was questioning. Maybe he didn't know what it was that he was questioning, either.

'But, I'm not stuck, not really,' as I turned my answer over in my head, it seemed to fall in place right as the words came about, almost without effort.

Because he was genuinely curious and concerned, I tried to explain the deep sense of calm that was embedded inside of me, the calm that many people could not understand when faced with the circumstances. A calm that others didn't know existed but avoided from becoming acquainted with altogether, simply because they avoided me and the calamity they believed came packaged with me.

'Look at how much I have achieved in the short span of one year. For a lot of people, it's overwhelming. Although some think that I've been stuck or holding back, I've been doing so much. And for others, it's another side of the coin, as if maybe something has been in the way of me being able to achieve. But really, it's never been ... what is now absent in my life ... that's been in the way or holding me back somehow. The thing is, all this time, I have been accomplishing all of this for that absent part of me.'

'To stop being absent?'

I smiled.







Wednesday, September 07, 2016

The Taste of Calembour

Earlier today, I stopped into a health and herbal shop which was touting itself as an Ayurvedic authority.

I stepped into the small store, inhaling the incense that was perfuming the premises. I was scanning the shallow shelves for what I was looking for, not exactly sure if this place which caught my eye on the way home would really have the product stocked. As I gazed as the packages labelled sloppily with 'pomagrainit powder', 'daibetis pills', and 'diegastiv tonic', a voice chimed behind me, greeting me.

I turned around slowly, to be met with a short and squat Indian man, grinning at me the way salesmen do. 

'Hello, madam! I am health expert of this shop. I can show you some tips for staying trim and fit, if you don't mind.' 

I glanced at his distended belly that seemed to be performing its own yoga posture as it tilted itself over his belt. 

'No, thank you,' I smiled politely. 'I just popped in for a quick browse, thanks.'

'OK but madam,' he persisted, 'you must definitely try this one. It's on special, I give you, 75% off! Only today for you, I make.' 

He proffered a metallic resealable bag towards me labelled 'Epson Salt'. 

'No, thanks,' I said, 'I am not fond of consuming printers.'

I left while he was scratching his head.  

The Sharing of Umbrellas

"What are you doing?"

I didn't pause as I rummaged around in the front closet, which was, quite frankly, a mess. But I turned my head a fraction to answer.

'I'm looking for an umbrella,' I said.

'You're. Looking. For. An. Umbrella,' she said slowly. 'I see.'

'It's going to rain,' I explained, still digging through the morass of coats, scarves, hats, gloves, slippers, and every other odd and end that was currently taking up space in her front closet.

'An umbrella,' she clarified again. 'Since when do you use an umbrella?'

'An umbrella is what people use when it rains, A. C'mon, get with the program. By the way, where the hell do you even keep your umbrellas?'

'No. Stop,' she put a hand on my arm then. It was oddly gentle. Tender almost. I frowned at her hand then turned to face her, hands on hips.

'What's up with you, all of a sudden?' I examined her face, quite perplexed.

'No, we need to speak. Why are you looking for an umbrella? I've known you for eons, and you never used an umbrella! You used to laugh when I mentioned it! You used to run into the rain! What happened to you?!' her voice took a rather hysterical tone. I was a bit concerned.

'Whoa, calm down. What's wrong? Did someone tell you something? Was it C? Did he say something?'

'It's not what my boyfriend did to me that's the problem!' She looked as if she was just about to burst into tears. I made wide-eyes at her, hoping she'd read my concern for her.

'But what's wrong then?' I put my hands on her shoulders, comforting her.

Then she broke down.

I reached behind me and pulled on the first thing I could get a hold of and wiped her face with it, with my other arm holding her close. She finally calmed down and opened her eyes, and burst out laughing at the star-spangled bikini top that was currently wiping her nose. Then just as easily she burst into tears again.

I was bamboozled.

'What's wrong?!' I pleaded.

'Don't you remember you wore that and went dancing in the rain when we had our girl's sleepover?'

'Um, yeah?' I affirmed, cautiously.

'You don't get it! You were so free! You never cared about getting wet in the rain! Now you hate it! You rush indoors and make sure you're all clean and proper, and you...you...you've changed!'

I swallowed. Why was she even getting into this. Why was she reading this much into this? Why now?

'A, come on. It's no big deal. We...we all change. Sometimes it's good. It just means, we've grown up, I guess.'

'But you were so free,' she said tearfully again. 'You were what always inspired me to let go of being fuckin' grown up all the time, to be romantic and all that shit. And now, now you hate the rain.'

'Yeah...no! No. I don't hate it. I just...I can't. It doesn't make sense to go out and get all wet and sick. So, yeah.'

'But that was the point! You used to take the chance to enjoy the moment.You said to just face the sky and accept and whatever, and not to fear something that might not happen because it's how you accept it that makes it worthwhile. You told me all this. I remember, cause that's when I went to C that same day after our talk and see all the good that came from that, because of you.'

Silence.

'You changed so much...'

'Yeah, but it doesn't mean it's a bad thing, A.'

'It is, you don't even cry anymore. You're all closed up now.'

'Nah, otherwise I'd let you wipe your own boogers. Geez, is this why you don't have a damn umbrella?'

'Forget the umbrella. You're forbidden to use an umbrella!'

'What if I get sick and die?'

'Good.'

'Oh cool, I'm going now.'

'Yeah, I'm kicking you out of my house, is what.'

'Your smelly, filthy, dirty house. I would probably die inhaling the fumes in here.'

'Get on then, geddout.'

I stood up and peered out the front door. It was definitely starting to come down hard. A huge choking feeling came up in the throat.

She stood behind me peering out also. I nudged her out the door and locked the door behind her even before she finished yelping in surprise.

As she knocked and banged the door, yelling obscenities, I sank against the door, sliding down, and finally let my own rain fall.

Sunday, September 04, 2016

The Permanence of Inconstancy

When I'd finally looked up from where I sat weeping silently, I had found myself on the very same park bench where years ago, broken, hungry, and alone, I used to sleep.

The coming together of these two separate phases in my life was eye-opening in many more ways than I would have realized just at that moment.

There were many ways the heart could break. By then I knew how and thought I was an old hand at it. I'd been broken, beaten, bruised. I'd been betrayed and like an animal that had been treated much the same, it was hard for me to trust again. But unfortunately for me, I did. And there I was in that exact same place.

At times, my mind chisels away at the idea of a promise. The way that, more often than not, the genetic makeup of a promise was just flat words. Words that fade, much like bruises eventually do.

Words like 'never' and 'always' are meant to be absolute and yet they cannot ever be. In whatever form they are used, even if the intent in that moment was for that ideal absolute, these words slip and slide, they're resized and reconfigure to suit the convenience of the user.

Anytime I get close to opening the door to trust again, I remember the bench. I remember the utter and complete disconsolation. A permanent scar that my fingers return to absent-mindedly, even after healing. I remember the way I start awake and remember those cold words that broke everything, and the door slams in my face again, lock turning from the other side.


Friday, September 02, 2016

The Repast of Bequeathal

The first thing they did was take my weight.

'Just hop on this scale,' said the attendant, who fiddled around with the top of the weighing scale until satisfied with the balance after I'd obediently stepped up.

'Fantastic,' she said, making a note on her clipboard. I peeked over her shoulder, and for someone who was supposedly ready to leave this world, unwilling to bear the weight of living, I was unreasonably pleased to see I was just a notch below 50 kg. Maybe it was a sign. 

Or not. Maybe it was just a number. Like everything else. 

I appreciated the quiet room to myself, with a window — albeit barred securely — looking over the roof garden. A morass of birds gathered there daily to commune together. This, too, pleased me. I also liked being able to shower. Not the facility of doing it but because I could do so on my own say so and silently and as I pleased. And eating, again being able to take my meals quietly, without having to communicate.

The doctor, sorry, psychiatrist, though, was the worst. He entered the ward briskly, impatiently, not really looking or listening to anyone. His wild unkempt hair seemed an attempt to harness some resemblance to genius. Eastern European or thereabout, he wore his haughty pride like a crown and cape all wrapped up, muffling any capacity to receive humanity.

You were ushered in like a criminal and made to sit across him in a grungy chair. He took lots of brisk notes before he even looked across the table. 

All you had to say was "I'm sad," and he snapped his attention closed and said, "Great," wrote out a shopping-list prescription for the top 12 trendy drugs with hefty doses and left quickly.

Once I returned to my silent empty sanctuary and I was not alone anymore. In the other empty bed was an elderly empty Chinese woman. Her hands were strapped to the cot and she turned her head in my direction, moaning incomprehensible incantations.

Dangerous. Violent. A threat to herself and others her report must have said, but someone thought it was fine to put her in the room with me, two feet away. Maybe they had a point. How could a violent person be a threat to someone who didn't want to live?

So I sat on the window ledge, legs swinging. I felt sorry for her. Who was this old empty woman and why was she here alone? I stuck the straw into one of my precious juice boxes that I made a ritual of saving from the meagre leftovers on the snack table after everyone had come and gone,  and offered it to her yawing toothless mouth. 

She sipped and then smiled with her eyes, tears glistening as she smacked her lips together expressing gratitude. She tried to say something, I shook my head because I could not understand her words, so instead I passed the evening entertaining her with drawings on paper, her hands still tied to her sides, the hours passing silently.

The next morning, her cot was empty. She'd died in the night while I slept beside her.





Thursday, September 01, 2016

The Shadow of Solitude

"What?" I snapped into my phone as the light turned green and I crossed at Lafayette St.

"Oh my god. What are you doing? Why are you answering your phone?"

"Why did you call, then?" I rolled my eyes.

"You're on a date! A date. You're not meant to answer your bloody phone on a date. Not this date, anyways!"

"I'm not," I answered evenly.

A gasp. "Yes you bloody are. Oh my god, don't even tell me you stood him up again."

"What do you mean again? I haven't stood him up...yet."

"No. Don't even play word games with me, you know what I mean. You can't keep doing this."

"OK. Calm down. I didn't stand anyone up. I met him."

"And what? He didn't know who Picasso was? He was colourblind? He wore red and pink together? What?"

"Oh geez, don't be a pig. Just don't expect me to get along with anyone I just...don't get along with, OK."

"Look, just because you're a hot shot en-tre-pre-neur," she enunciated as if reading off a French menu "You can't expect everyone to be as artsy or whatever!"

"I don't. That's fine. I don't."

"Where are you? All the noise just disappeared. No traffic."

"You creep. I'm at home kicking my heels off. Pouring a drink, why?"

"Alone?"

Silence.

"Don't do this. You can't be alone forever! But OK, Nik. He still likes you ... after your date last month. Then you stood him up. What was wrong with Nik?"

"Which one was he? Oh him. He couldn't do math."

"MATH? Are you crazy? Did you test his calculus skills or something?"

"No. He didn't know what 17 times 10 was."

"17 times...Where the hell does this kind of question even come from on a date? Oh don't even tell me. Why would you expect anyone to know their 17 times tables, anyways. Who does that? Don't we usually stop at 12 and say that's enough? I remember that in school. What a drag."

"A, think. 17 times 10. Who doesn't know how to multiply by ten?"

"Oh. Ten."

"See."

"Nik didn't know how to multiply by ten?"

"See."

"Whatever."

"So can you stop suggesting all your guy friends for me to meet with? No offense to your friends, but I have a feeling I don't need to meet anyone else."

"Fine, but you can't expect everyone to be Jack Porter."

"I don't."

"What was wrong with tonight's date?"

"What makes you think anything was wrong?"

"OK forget it. When do you leave Manhattan?"

"After Labour Day."

"OK, I'll pick you up at LAX."

"Yeah, whatever," I yawned into the phone and disconnected.

"You didn't tell her hi for me," he said from the couch, right at home with his shoes off.


Wednesday, August 31, 2016

The Aftermath of Absolution

I'd trekked my way over the last dune beyond our makeshift barracks, with nothing but a rucksack holding my notebook, pen, and bottle of water. Where I had expected more nothingness, more sand, I found a plateau just over the ridge. I found a paradise in this desert.

I'd settled down, the hot sun over my head, a moment of calm and ironically, peace, in this landscape so inundated with visions of destruction. I sat, writing in my notebook, getting lost in the words that were now so rare, the pen clutched in my callused and roughened hand.

A shadow. A man. Out of nowhere. He was smiling inquisitively, light pool blue eyes, sandy eyebrows squinting down at me. Greek perhaps, though his skin, too, was the deeply-coloured brown as would be expected under this sun. His body language shouted a particular interest, even before we exchanged a word.

'Which paper you with?" he asked.

"Paper?" I squinted up at him, confused.

"You're a correspondent right? War correspondent?" He nodded at my notebook and pen.

"Corr..." my mind had to reshuffle a few times to fix the word in its place. "Oh. No, I'm with them."

"Huh," he blinked. "You're ... enlisted?"

"Yes."

"War isn't meant for a girl like you," he said, confusedly. His whole demeanour had changed, almost deflated. Now, he couldn't get away fast enough. His retreating footsteps were quickly erased by the gusting sand.

War was all I had ever known. 

Once more I bent my head to my notebook.

This is what the heart does. It bowls away entire civilizations, exploding, again and again. When you think the dust has settled, love drops his bomb on you thinking it's all in the timing, and he drops it and runs. Runs to a place where he himself will be safe, far away from the aftermath of the explosion, somewhere where he himself will not get hurt. That's why they say that love lasts forever, because he hits you with all he's got and runs for safety once you're in flames, once you are broken.

Love and war aren't exactly two opposites. Love is war. 

Love, not the coward love who runs, but the real guy, Love. He knows how to play war. He drops the bomb and holds you tight as you both disintegrate. He knows that it is by holding on that we remain standing when the dust finally settles. War is all I had ever known. 





Monday, August 29, 2016

The Travel of Art

Vienna

"Noble, brooding, sorrowful, it helps one bear the world, and all fear of what may come in the sunless night.

Beloved Schubert, in your city I am adrift. I am consumed by past love; its germs, long embedded, half contained, have grown virulent again. There is no hope for me. I turned away four thousand nights ago, and the path was closed in by trees and brambles.

I am eaten by futile pity. I make too much of much.

From one city of shrunken power and lapsing music I travel now to another. Let there be some change in my state. Or let me live in a zone where hope is not a word. How can I long for what I do not grasp?"

...


Venice

"I stand on a little bridge over a side-canal, and view a landing-stage, its blue poles tipped with gold. Here is the watergate to the opera house: on it lie scraps of twisted metal, a wooden pallet, charred doors, a rusted bird. On the black walls graffiti proclaims: 'Ti amo. Patrizia'. This is the phoenix which burned down once before and this time has not risen. Surely what was lost so stupidly, so swiftly and in so short a time can be retrieved, redone, brought to life once more.

...


I see a small blue porcelain frog, and buy it for her.

I have drunk too much prosecco; no doubt she will smell it on my skin. On the way to the vaporetto I stop by a bar to sober up, and drink a little more -- strong grappa this time. I find that it is past midnight.

No light slits out from behind the shutters. I can make noise in the apartment, but not light, for she is asleep, and her dreams could stall. I strip and lie down by her side. As the night progresses, for all the fractures of the day, we edge absently into each other's arms. Or so I assume, for that is how we awake."


— Vikram Seth, An Equal Music

Friday, August 26, 2016

A Tribute to Apple Martini

From the moment we decided we hated each other, we knew we had each other's backs.

From the odd snarky comment, to the loquacious grin of mirth (on my side, of course; you couldn't expend that much energy to exercise your face muscles) it only somehow grew.

It's been over 6 years and perhaps a nominal value here doesn't count. But fluid like a sine curve, perhaps, the frequency of affinity and antagonism only strengthened.

Getting under my skin was one of your talents. Shedding my skin like a serpent so that you wouldn't really succeed was my talent. But underneath there was always the sure knowledge of that frequency like no other that we surfed upon.

It is perhaps the last year that has seen the most change. In both of us as we meandered and struggled on our individual paths. But it's that strengthened frequency that brings these words to be written. From waking each other up through what was some of my darkest days, to you experiencing snow for the first time. From debating absolutely nothing in the most intricate and intelligent ways, to utter nonsense being spouted into creative masterpieces. From listening to me reenact literature drunk, to being a rapt audience to my lectures. From your foray into discovering Canadian whisky and spinning around on a chair at your workplace while you overtimed your way through weekends to meet project deadlines.

A karela by any other name would be as bitter. And despite your part-time job as God (and my coming out as an atheist; correlation stats please) I probably knew before you did that this moment was due to happen. Paper cranes, neuralizers, icecream, tv stands, coat racks, blown birthday candles, fights, tears, jokes, big-haired girls who shall now remain nameless and 50 pounds of grapes later, maybe this time you can fall into the rabbit's hole and enjoy the wonders of a curious heart.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

The Feeling of Falling

Out of the sky, the little bird dropped. She'd been shot right out of the sky while soaring freely, unbeknownst to her that she'd entered duck hunting territory, the bullet going through a foot and wing.

She plummeted fast, and hit the surface of the gigantic lake below, her unconscious self unable to prepare for breaking the surface cleanly, instead hitting it as if she'd flown into a window at full speed.

She regained consciousness, faintly aware of not being alone. She opened her eyes and found herself laying on a makeshift raft in the middle of the huge lake. She sat up in alarm, seeking a shore, but with the vastness of the water around her, it was the same as if it were the Atlantic ocean.

Then she realized that there was a duck on the raft. He was chewing a strand of grass lazily, watching the horizon as if he hadn't a care in the world.

'Um, hello?" the dove ventured.

'Hello. How are you feeling now? Better?' the duck laconically asked.

'I...think so?' the dove then remembered what had happened before she had fallen and the pain suddenly became prominent. She winced as she tried to extend her injured wing, but it lay limp and useless by her side. 

A tear dropped as she realized what this might mean—that she, who loved flying more than anything else, might never experience the wonders of the sky again. She huddled at her end of the raft, a cold and wet bundle of misery.

'Here,' the duck proffered a bundle of leaf toward her. She shook her head miserably, and remained as she was. 

They drifted that way for some time. The duck seemed quite content to scribble designs in the surface of the water with a piece of twig, artwork that disappeared just as soon as it was created. 

The sun sunk and disappeared. The dove dozed off and woke, disoriented, in the dark. The duck was still sitting up and nodded a silent acknowledgement to the dove.

'Aren't you going to sleep?' the dove asked.

'No, I don't really sleep much,' he replied, rather shortly.

The dove's eyefeathers furrowed in confusion — didn't all birds go to roost in the night? What was this duck's story?

'Why not?' the dove asked. 'And why are you even sitting here? Why don't you just fly home?'

'I flew away from home and ended up here. This is good enough for me,' he said.

'Good enough for what? Don't you have a flock to return to?' the dove was curious, and for some reason she felt a very odd affinity to this fellow stranger. It wasn't that she hadn't conversed with a duck before, of course she had, but this one was rather less quacky than those she knew.

'My flock is what I flew away from. They wanted me to migrate with them and I wasn't really ready to spend all that time with them.'

'So you're on a raft in the middle of nowhere?' even though she really liked flying, this kind of solitude rather appealed to her.

'Shh, look!' he nodded over the edge of the raft.

She scooted over and peeked over the edge. Schools of fish were swirling just below the surface, as faint light dawned over the horizon.

'Whoa!' she watched as the strange creatures swarmed over one another, a mass of open mouths as they fought one another in an alarming display of antagonism and false bravado.

'They're losers,' the duck rolled his eyes. 'But they kind of keep me company, and I can watch them without really being one of them.'

'Hmm,' the dove was thoughtful. 'Why don't you go get some breakfast, I'm OK being alone for awhile. You don't need to babysit me.'

'No, I'm good,' once again he shut himself away. 

'Why,' she tried teasing him. 'Are you scared of flyinggg?'

'Actually, yes.'

She was shocked. A bird afraid to fly? She tried extending her wing again, and it wouldn't cooperate. A lump came to her throat. What would she give to be able to fly again, and here he had all the chance and he just took it for granted...no worse, just wasted it.

She once again bundled herself in a forlorn heap and slid into a deep, tormented sleep.

She woke up suddenly, something was hitting the raft on one side. She looked around, the raft had hit a shore!

She tried standing, but the pain in her injured foot was unbearable, and she sank down again once more. Then she realized, the duck was gone.


Wednesday, August 24, 2016

The Fluidity of Consciousness

Somewhere in the midst of the coma came a momentary lull of relative silence. The weird thing is that most people think it's like sleeping; that the shutting down of facilities and functions renders stillness, but really, its a miasma of noise.

Voices clash with other voices. Some I could decipher as being in proximity while others, more distant, resounded with thousands more, not all in the same language. Pain convulsed my body—not only my own—as did joy, ecstasy, relief, and sorrow. Emotions that had no consciousness to the scale we processed when lucid now coursed through my pulse. And noise like no other pounded in my head, even while outside of me there was not a sound.

In the couple of months I was apparently dead to the world, relief came rarely when the noise would recede and a single voice was speaking.

I heard all these voices all saying the same thing. First it was just one. The most familiar one, saying in a sad, defeated but resigned tone, "You need to move on."

Then other voices joined in, not in sync but disjointed, yet all saying the same thing: "You need to move on." The voice of a friend who usually spoke in a joking tone but was distorted with concern. Another voice this time with a sigh. A bored voice. An exhausted voice. Voices of all shapes, colours, and dimensions. These voices found each other and the murmur grew like an incoming tidal wave, climbing higher gaining momentum and power.

In this stillness I heard another sound. A systematic beeping, right by my head. It caught the rhythm of the chorus of voices and with each line "you need to move on," I found myself floating closer to a stranger shore, each pulse pulling me closer and closer, like I was buoyant upon a moving tide which was tugging me in, pulling me out. The beeps, too, seemed to waver and slow as the chorus seemed to fade.

If I moved on, where would I go?

Someone later told me that's what I asked as I opened my eyes.





Tuesday, August 23, 2016

The Cost of Defence

'Stop,' his hand came out suddenly, a firm grip on my wrist.

I looked at his hand holding mine. I wouldn't look at him.

'What are you doing to yourself?' his voice was low and measured, a softer tinge to his usual bark during our daily drills, as he shouted orders, insults, and punishments.

I looked at the cigarette smouldering, still held captive in his firm grip on my hand. Ash accumulated on its tip, the orange mirroring the sun setting to the left.

'You don't even like the effing things, why do you still smoke them, for Christ's sake?'

'Sam, just leave me alone, k?' I muttered. 'Just because you're the lieutenant doesn't mean you can dictate my life choices.'

'Oh, hell yeah I can.' He sounded more threatening this time. I hesitated; was he right?

'You don't get it, OK. I saved every penny for 5 years for ... someone else. I didn't spend a dime except for the necessities. And now... Now I can spend my hundred thousand on whatever I want. I can burn it. That's what I'm doing. With this.' I shook my hand holding the half formed cigarette.

'You're poisoning yourself.'

'Yeah.'

His hand tightened on my wrist. It hurt. I finally looked at him, and his eyes met mine. Green eyes again.

I brought my knee up into his stomach. He let out a loud exhalation but otherwise didn't make a sound.

'"Don't let your guard down unless you want them to kill you", lieut. Isn't that what you drill into us?'

I dropped the cigarette into the sand and walked away, trying not to limp. His abs were hard as steel. Instead I massaged some feeling into my arm. 

'You don't put your life on the line for others if you only mean to punish yourself!' his voice yelled after me.

'Tell me about it,' I mumbled, as sand swirled around my boots, the heat giving way to the evening desert chill. I dropped onto the ground, watching the sun lower itself until it became a forgotten memory.



The Fury of Amusement

Under that over-bright sun, the esplanade thrumming with energy, noise, colour, movement, there we were above it all, in our own time-capsule, spinning together as a planet of our own.

To anyone else, our words were indecipherable, lost to the wind. But we were happy. For there was nothing else but the other and it was perfect for the moment.

Then in the middle of a joke, as we zoomed high and reached the zenith of our locus, you spread your arms wide, mirroring me with my expression of elation, to encompass everything, for in that moment the universe was ours.

Laughing out loud, blinded by the proximity of the sun and each other, your elbow knocked into my head and with an indignant yelp, I scrambled for my glasses before they fell over the side of our airborne ride. The typical clumsiness of our duo act sent us into gales of hilarity and even despite the dizzying moments on that amusement park ride, with the wind in our faces, we laughed until our tummies were sore, holding our bellies and each other, crying on the other's shoulder with laughter.

The sun made its way over, from one side to the other. Each time we disembarked, we again ran around the enclosure, chasing one another, to join the line again.

Perhaps in those moments we captured freedom, friendship and love. Your hand was in mine even as we flew closer to the sun, like Icarus before the fall.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

The Refuge of a Fugitive

Most of my life I have been on the run. From a past or myself, I am not exactly sure which or even if there is a difference between the two.

Phases of my life flit past, people coming and going, venues and abodes of the heart replenishing every few seasons or years.

I don't even know if maybe I am consciously causing this, an escape that I still yearn for and never find. Every time I find someone to call my own, somehow they elude and slip away from my grasp. Or is it me who leaves the warmth of the bed of attachment, sliding out from the sheets of emotion in the cold moonlight to carry on my own way with a sigh of relief?

Have you ever wondered what it might mean to one day actually settle down, really set the foundation to a life that isn't temporary, and completely at peace with oneself? To not keep pace with a ticking clock, or other people's needs or requirements or expectations. To be able to finally have the courage to say "No", and turn around and go back to that one last regret and pick it up and dust it off and claim it again as your own?

Maybe each time I look at an image of myself or look at myself reflected in someone else's eyes, maybe I can really find myself in the way I never could with a head in the clouds.

Maybe each time I braced myself for the explosion that was inevitable with every relation, maybe I had in brutal honesty anticipated it, knowing that that last shred of love would diminish and that by casting me off from their own lives, they were only proving to me what I had always secretly known: that I was not worth holding on to.

But sometimes that reflection in someone else's eyes are what haunts you for the rest of your life. Because for once maybe you were not looking at your own reflection in their eyes, but actually getting lost in that very familiar aspect, seeing them look at their own mirror image in yours and contemplating when would be the best time to run.




Monday, August 15, 2016

The Price of Freedom

A last-minute campaign for a client whose consumer demographic was a mix of both Indian and Pakistani communities (thereby requiring a politically-correct Independence Day tagline for both at once) landed on my shoulders first thing Monday morning. My mind automatically envisioned the fusion of both flags, and out it came.

"Often we need to find ourselves before we can learn to love each other truly."

Then I hesitated. Was I really talking about two nations, or something much more personal?

Friday, August 12, 2016

The Catharsis of Innocence

There came a time when I discovered that writing while crying was a great consolation. Catharsis. Through scribbles on the inside of big people books at the age of 2 to writing make-believe stories in my journal in grade 2, writing was perhaps written in my destiny. Writing was to be my medicine and magic. What writing really was was the art of getting lost in my own mind.

There came a time when I realized that writing while crying was unproductive. I put all my emotions into writing when I was my most distraught, and then when the clouds of sorrow raised that art was already quenched. Little did my happiness become recorded in word. Little was my happiness embossed as a permanent marker for reminiscence sake.

Oh, I hoarded memories. Saved conversations, screenshots, notes folded in tiny little squares and stowed away where noone else could retrieve them. I hoarded every laugh and grin greedily, perhaps with a dark prescience that these were moments that would not last.

Maybe words were all I had. And they were not enough. And I discovered that I too was not enough.

Words, writing, getting lost in my mind fail to medicate or heal. Rather I myself have gotten lost. When words could not heal all the broken bits of me, my words ceased and I embraced silence.

Sometimes I look back at those scribbles in crayon, those half-formed words so carefully written and long for more than just solace but the ability to go back to a time when I could discover how to unconditionally belong.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Short Shorts

Traitorous March had started; when you had no damn clue what the weather was going to be like. Either it would be blowing cold or blowing warm—like a fickle lover, you could never trust it.

I hadn't gotten any sleep that night. Nil. Nada. In fact, I hadn't slept for a few days, and the sun was the only thing that I really wanted to see. I squinted in its light, standing in the middle of the road, waiting for the oncoming lane to empty so that I could cross over to the bus stop.  An old grandma was already inside the bus stand, and she was fidgeting with her glasses, trying to wipe the lens clean. She would put the lens on and then take them off again, wiping, wiping. As far as I could tell, the lens were crystal clear, and felt a pang for her poor bleary eyes.

She looked over at me."Yuh wearing yo reg'lar coat, dear?" She queried, most randomly, in her Jamaican accent.

There it was. Human contact. I squinted a little more, and cast her a sideways look.

"You never know," I said cryptically.

She seemed overwhelmed with this profound statement, and lapsed into a silence until the bus came and took us away.


*****


In the middle of March, I was on my way home, and though we had some mild weather through the day, as the sun set, it had been snowing again.

My stop was approaching, so I grabbed my bag, descended to the lower level of the bus, hit the button and stood at the back doors, waiting for the bus to stop.

The bus kept going.

I raised my hands in exasperation. Uh, Hello? The bro standing nearby shook his head dismally. I rolled my eyes and made my way up to the front of the bus, and leant against the driver's wall.

"Good nap? You just missed my stop, man." I said, almost conversationally to the driver.

"Oh. Ehm. Ah. I'm sorry," He looked abashed.

"Now I get a NICE, LONG, LOVELY WALK BACK," I said to him in the same almost-friendly conversational tone, my icy smile punctuating the statement with the sarcasm it was meant to be.

"Uh. You ... want to borrow my toque?" He offered his hat to me.

"Nah, don't worry about it," I gave him a sideways look.

He sighed in relief, and opened the doors.

I stepped off.

His hat? 


*****


Now it was* April and the weather was amazing!

"Bye!" I chirruped to the random lady clumping down the staircase from the upper level as I ran up the stairs. It was around 6 pm, and she was clearly on her way home, laden with her bags.

"Oh," She blinked, "Bye bye to you too, dear."

I was a complete stranger.

"Have a nice weekend!" I called as she went down another few stairs.

She stopped again, and looked up as I opened the door at the landing, ready to leave the stairwell.

"But, dear, it's only Monday."

"You can never start too early!" I grinned at her, and with a wave, left.



*is

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

What is This Season

Sometimes, on days like this, when the coolness holds hands with warmth, all I want to do is lay back on the earth, and smile at the sky. 

Sometimes, I can almost pretend that every cloud out there holds the answers, holds the secrets to unleashing my dreams.

Sometimes, as I loll in the grass, with the smell of the undomesticated ground surrounding me like a new perfume, I feel as if I could almost become one with the raw warm fertile soil.

Sometimes, I stretch my hand up to the sky, and it almost seems as if I can catch hold of the great blue above me.

Sometimes, I wonder how much of this Mother Earth is made of the dust of all her children, and how it might be to be that way too, fragmented ash flying around the world free.

Sometimes, I feel as if I could take these unfulfilled parts of me, my dreams and desires, and throw them back up at the sky to rejoin that great emptiness, like caged white doves set free.

Sometimes, on days like this, the earth warm on my back, the sun warm on my face, I smile and feel maybe yes, it is fine to be alone; yet the wind smoothly blows over my cheek like a warm, sweet-smelling caress.

artwork: pascal campion

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Ma

"Really yummy. How did you manage to get the paneer so crispy and still so soft and flavourful?"

And I smiled to myself, because while making the dish I remembered his mother's tip, and lost in that special world in the kitchen, my dish became infused with a hint of love mixed with bittersweet loss.

Cooking has always been an independent venture for me. From the age of 6, on a makeshift stool comprised of random pieces of wood stuck together, I was making roti—rolling away with the belan as well as I was able to with my little hands, patting the dough primly with a dusting of flour and carefully shifting it onto the hot tawa.

To date, I still have a faint scar on my chest from where the edge of the tawa burnt me as I leant over. The symbolism of the act, the pain, and the scar, is as succinct as it could be.


Making roti is the one thing that has ties with that Other World. It's one of the very few memories that I have with her: standing on a chair and rolling a small glob from the big portion of dough in the bowl, and happily rolling it, flattening it, making my very first roti, only for it to come out in a very strange misshapen triangular form. But that memory is so much more than the detail. It is adorned with her gentle grace, her loving patience, more that overwhelming warmth than the accuracy of her face. She praised me for my Christmas Tree roti and commended me for my creativity. "Let's make it green!" she suggested, and got out the food colouring, so that when my father finally returned from work that evening, there among all the well-formed round rotis was a special little green Christmas Tree roti.

Things changed drastically soon after, and our family, smaller by one number now, moved to a new neighbourhood. I began a new life at a new school in a totally alien landscape. At home, I soon learnt to do the chores and cooking. I was in first grade.

When it was warm enough, we played in the streets. It was a way of getting out of our father's way. 

"She has no mommy," I overheard another little girl tell the other kids on the street. And that information made them all avoid me, as if it was a contagious form of a shameful disease. 

In those young years I became the object of passively aggressive bullying. I didn't realize that was what it was, but for some reason, my newfound tendency to cry easily seemed to be a point of amusement for the other kids. I cried every single day in school in those years. That the other kids thought that mocking me for not having a mother seemed the best joke did not help. I remember being completely ostracized in 5th grade as a clique of 'popular' girls chose to disparage me on my lack of femininity, loud gossip and meant taunts of not being able to go shopping with a mom. As we grew up into the pre-teen part of elementary school, I shied away from the female teachers' attentions and stayed aloof from other children's mothers who volunteered at school events or joined us on trips. If another kid's mother was extra kind to me, I had to shoulder the additional grief of that particular kid's glares at the perceived invasion of territory.

When I started high-school, I was just as aloof. This was a new start and I kept these secrets of my history  to myself. I became one of the class clowns, tomboy Jane, the go-to girl for crazy antics and hyperness, all in the most geeky ways. And I made friends. Friends who after a few years eventually complained that I was too secretive; that I kept my feelings to myself. By then I had told them a bit about my family life, but only enough so that the very deep and dark bits would not scare anyone away. But keeping such things to oneself has its own psychological consequences too.


That particular loss is one that has never been healed. And it continues to hurt, almost every single day. It is the one thing that I can never articulate to anyone, because the depth of that loss is absolutely endless. I don't want anyone's pity or sympathy, and yet, through most of my life, that is the one thing I crave instinctively: some form of maternal love.


The problem is that when I became close to anyone else, they sooner or later shared in this nugget of loss (as is natural in exchanges of personal data with close friends) but the problem is that soon, they too extended that holy grail: aw, it's okay you can share mine! Certainly, the offer was always made with the best of intentions, with a good heart and full of warmth and kindness. But somehow, time or other events seemed to break down the very structure of that relationship and along with the friendship went that maternal gift.

More than that, often the rational for the breakdown of friendships happened contingent to the nature of the maternal bond. Somehow, there still remained that sinister whisper of contagion which I first overheard on the streets as a child. One of the most defining milestones was being explicitly shunned and kicked out of a tight-knit circle of friends—at that time the only friends I had—like a dirty untouchable. 


You never think that people can have this kind of cruelty.  And perhaps they simply do not realize the extent of their behaviour, maybe because they do not know what this kind of experience is like. But it hurts more than I could say when you are given a taste of what it is like, when a friend says that their mother is there for you too, and then so easily take it away without even recognizing the emotional destruction they cause.

After these experiences I became a little more hardened. I remembered how to be aloof again. When visiting friends at their homes, I was pleasant and polite but always reserved and never opened up my heart again for a surrogate mother.


And then he happened. You could not talk to him—really talk to him—or get to know him, without him talking about his mother. His love for her is probably his quintessential defining characteristic. It absolutely shines. And you cannot help falling in love with her. So I fell for both of them. They both made me laugh like I never laughed before. This was a new kind of bond and relationship that I had never experienced or witnessed. I was in awe, and yet was head over heels in being blessed with her love, too. I felt like a geeky fan being bestowed with the attention of a mega celebrity. But it was more for me. So much more.

Sometimes out of the blue, her voice pops up on my headphones. An old saved voice message wishing me a happy birthday and telling me that innocent unknown lie: I will always be there for you. These are those times when I need to rush out of the room, or rush off the train, and hide. Sometimes, it is so hard to figure this out. You think it is just another heartbreak, but it isn't. It's much more. When I cry for him, I cry for her too.


What is loss? I could never figure it out, only feel it, again and again, in louder explosions, each time. 


I type the question, and pause, as my adopted feral kitten stares at me in consternation as I cry, trying to finish this. I am so sorry, baby, I will never kick you back out in the streets motherless for I know what that feels like. Is that why you followed me home?

Monday, April 18, 2016

Thought of the Day

Quietly sometimes, and loudly at times, I try to infuse as 
many moments of my memory into life before I am gone.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Resilience

Perhaps it's okay to break, afterall. Maybe that is actually the true purpose of life, if ever there was one: that living isn't about finding a form or function that is impermeable, infallible, indestructible. Living is in breaking, in drowning, in falling—living is even in hurting.

Long time ago, when I was stuck deep in my med-sci studies, one of my university professors said something which, obviously after all these years, stuck to me. He said, "The Earth will become a huge snowball, we will all die. Sure. But who are we kidding? The Earth is more resilient than we give it credit for. It's going to perish, sure, but it will still be there, and it will thrive again, light years after we have wiped ourselves off the face of it."

Maybe it is OK, therefore, to let yourself trust and be broken. It is OK, to feel the fifty million thousand frequencies of loss and despair. It is OK to paint your world with shades of anger, sorrow, melancholy, and grief. It would almost be wrong not to. Like being able to paint as many colours onto a canvas and never touching all the colours of possibility.

In breaking then, despite the many ways that the cracks seem irreparable, the way they creak and hurt again and again, like a misaligned patella that you fell on when ice-skating that many years ago and whenever you stand up or try running down stairs the pain comes shooting up your leg in remembrance, all it takes is not avoiding the pain but embracing it, exercising it.

Even when you feel that you have lost out, when your trust has been brutalized again and again, maybe sometimes the pain is the best opportunity for you to look it over and realize that those moments had more worth than you ever even knew, even (especially) when you were actually living it. There are moments that make you remember exactly why that trust was so deeply ingrained in you, why that Jenga piece was so vital to your sense of self. Perhaps that person gave you a mirror to look at yourself in ways you never were able to before. Maybe they gave you a blanket, just for a while, sometimes, if you were a bit cold. Maybe they lent you an umbrella, not expecting that the relationship would develop further than that casual transaction. Maybe you spent hours and hours, learning to be yourself for once in your life, because this person gave you the space to be that, with them.

These were beautiful moments, and yet moments always have an inexorable place in the past. There are echoes of that laughter which permeate even into the very present now, telling you, reminding you, that you have never laughed as much in your life or smiled as much as you did then—and even if it is gone, it had at least existed.

Perspective is such a compelling narrative.  Even that moment you fell, where you hurt so much and thought that was it: that was the end, that was life, goodbye, time and perspective allows you to see that 5 year old little child that you were, falling on the playground and skimming your hands with gravel embedded under the skin. Adulthood is no different from that child, because we are always lost children seeking something more: a best friend, or companionship, a better snack, or a great exhilarating experience on the slide; and we are always growing in ways even we do not know—until we break.

Forgiveness is an act of the will, and the will can function regardless of the temperature of the heart. — Corrie ten Boom (quote that popped up in my inbox after I finished writing this post)
 There is a reason we can forgive, and maybe even as we cannot forget because we are still scared—maybe now more than ever—to trust again, we learn to forgive ourselves. We are all broken children, but in breaking, and breaking again and again, we have learnt to become a little more accountable to and for ourselves.

Sometimes you realize that the trust you thought was shattered is actually only a small dwarf planet compared to the huge expanse of a neverending universe of that patient, deep-abiding, resilient love within which it revolves.


Saturday, April 16, 2016

Safekeeping

One of the hardest things is piecing yourself back together again after breaking into a million pieces. 


Trust.



You can trust someone with information, or trust them to get a job done. Trust someone to have your back, trust someone to be there, no matter what. Or trust someone to keep you safe. 



The worst part in misplaced trust in a person is that when you give that trust to another being, that trust is completely contingent in your very own personal trust of the self. You are trusting yourself, your sense of judgement, in being able to believe that this other person is worthy of keeping your trust.



So, when they decide they no longer want that burden, when they decide that hurting another person to relieve their own stress in life is OK, because they have already done the calculations and decided you will be OK even if your trust in them was wrong all along, they forget that the implications lie on a much grander scale. Because, even after the damage is done, and they have moved on, that huge earthquake is only the start of an avalanche of aftershocks: you are left stranded in a place where you cannot even trust yourself.



When you have moved from a space of casual acquaintance, slowly and systematically ingraining everything inside of you with this person's aura, their function in your life slowly becoming part of the very equation of who you are, so much that you would bet your life in that trust, nevermind your own sense of identity and trust, it goes without saying that once that little piece of trust is removed like a Jenga piece down there below the other million pieces which comprise you, of course everything, absolutely everything, collapses.



But it is all inside of you. And not any other person ever could imagine what it is like beyond that outer shell.  Inside, you are juggling the pieces that have not yet fallen, and yet you are trying to pick up, and catch, the other falling pieces which are sharp, fatal, piercing you with pain. Inside, you are slipping trying to escape falling completely and utterly to that bottomless pit where your sense of self can never be resuscitated, and yet you are slipping on the shards which make up the slopes you are trying to keep a grip on with the soles of your already-ripped and bleeding feet, and mutilated palms, slipping on the blood, bringing you to your knees, on which you continue to struggle up. Inside you are suffocating, as the atmosphere around you is a vacuum-sealed vessel of building pressure, toxic fumes of self-hatred, green gaseous canisters of laughter assaulting you with no remorse. Inside, you don't even know which part of you is really you, and inside, you don't even know who you are anymore, not really. 



Can you ever really—really—trust another person to keep you safe?










Friday, April 15, 2016

Enduring

"Now, just turn your head a little to the left...Yes! Gorgeous!"

The photographer beamed at me from behind his camera, while I wondered if I was allowed to scratch my nose. He was quite particular about his subjects.

***

After having met him and having a little chat while we settled on my outfit, he had positioned me in my chair and fidgeted around me while I told him to make sure my hair looked good—because I knew my face was quite excellent already, just, my hair needed a little loving care because of medical conditions—but he instead started paying more attention, strangely enough, to my necklace.

"Just need to make sure it's captured perfectly in the picture," He mumbled as he adjusted it, then stepped back, examining it from different angles.

Umm. What about my hair? I thought. What about, you know, me? I need to be captured perfectly too!

"Just got to get it right," He said, stepping behind the camera to see how it looked behind the lens, then again stepping quickly to the window to check how it looked in the light.

"Hmm, just a...yes, that might be it," He said, again, brushing my hair behind my shoulders so that the precious necklace got to be center of attention.

"Um, it's okay," I said. "It's just a necklace..."

"Just a little bit more this way..." He was totally focused on the silver necklace with two hearts intertwined (ostensibly forever) together.

"No really," I said a little more forcefully. "Just take the damn picture, leave the necklace. The...the man who gave it to me dumped me," I said as bluntly as I could, verbalizing in the very words I could never bring myself to say until then that most private of information now being proffered to this stranger, hoping the the shock value would stun him into retreating behind the camera and taking the goddamn pictures.

"Oh," He looked up, yes, stunned. He looked balefully at the offending piece of jewelry, now, as if it had broken his heart.

"Yeah, so it's okay," I nodded at him.

"But you still love him," He said, looking at it sitting in that hollow above my heart. It wasn't a question.

"Of course I do." Definitely not up for debate.

He nodded, briskly, somberly, understandingly. There really was no need for anything else to be said.

"So! Then, will you be taking your photos with smile, or no smile?"

"What are you, crazy? Of course a smile!" I beamed a 100-watt at him.

"That's a girl," He said, somewhat admiringly. "You keep that attitude!"


Honestly, though? I was secretly glad, deep down inside, that it got that much attention; it felt sort of right: that in trying to capture whoever I was, that one thing, this emblem, was made to shine brightly.


So, of course I smiled.



~in memoriam of a breaking heart, 6 months to the day.~




Thursday, April 14, 2016

Accumulation

Memories linger. They haunt me, and I have grown comforted by their company. More so than the company of those whom the memories encapsulate. I am so often overwhelmed by them; sometimes the smallest elements of very tangible reality tick off a box in a long shopping list of memories, nudging my mind off-track and suddenly tipping me over into a huge, gaping, vast abyss. 

A sudden lull in the surrounding noise, momentarily hushing to a certain frequency that complete retrogrades time to another moment where I remember a certain person talking to me; their words full of mirth or solicitude, and while their words are coming out into the air, the intertwining moments seem to slow down, slower, slower, as I am no longer in that memory but watching it, watching them, watching their words, floating, the feeling of togetherness, a moment that is now an infinite ways altered by the knowledge of it becoming only that: a memory. 

A sudden whiff of an odour as I am walking through a corridor, and my whole being stops, unable to move, and yet I am inhaling deeply, lost to time again, as I spiral through a warp hole taking me to another memory filled with warmth; tantalizing aromas or sensual colognes, around me or under pillows, memory trailing itself seductively, insistently, deep, and deeper inside me, as it goes down my nasal passage, deep into my lungs, and back out again, but different. 

And again, a thrilling sense of forbidden, as I find myself tasting something sweet—catapulting me into a bittersweet memory of finding sugar on my lips with the tip of my tongue; the memory of a voice again telling me, persuading me, to try sugar on toast: illicit moments in the dark light of twilight as on a whim remembering that voice I reach for the sugar canister and sprinkle a dose on the still warm surface, the slow sinking sensation of teeth, crispy and yet soft, and that aftermath, licking that sugary stickiness off my lips.

Memories cannot leave me alone, and yet in a strange way, maybe I am leaving them behind, as I find myself grasping more and more for a certain word, a certain warmth, a certain colour, a certain shade of green, a certain way that my name was spoken by a certain person, a certain time, a certain person I myself used to be, all lost in an uncertain quagmire of memories.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Thought of the Day

Little things can become the biggest things—can become your whole world—when you have almost nothing.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Photomemorphosis

Kodak moment? But what if it is not what it seems to be? Photography? No, I mean, well, yes, photography. Photographs. The idea behind it, the science. What are you saying? I'm saying, what if photography isn't what our memory is. What if, in the act of trying to record something forever, that phenomenon is actually what causes everything as we know it, to actually change? What the goddamn hell are you saying? No, listen. What if, as soon as we take that photograph, the image that we thought we were preserving actually changes so that what comes out, the virtual image, is an altered reality and our memory, too, is altered, and we don't even know that anything even changed? That's freaking scary. What if the people we were—Stop, you're freaking me out—before that photo was taken are left behind in a different world and the people we are after the click have been changed? Whoa, why are you aiming that at me, is the camera on, hey sto--

Monday, April 11, 2016

Goodbye, Hippopotamus

Just the other day, my kitten pulled it out from under my bed. I looked down, absentmindedly, to where she had deposited it at my feet, meowing at me to praise her achievement or thank her for her gift, or both. Its grey fur was matted as it lay there on its side, and its empty, lifeless eyes stared up at me, even as my own eyes rolled.

Since my move earlier this year, the two plastic bags of stuffed plush toys had resided under my bed, because I could not bring myself to get rid of them and yet, there was no place for them anymore in my minimalistified, and "grown up", life. But since the little one had arrived and since my room was designated her HQ from the first night she arrived home, she had developed a habit of disappearing under my bed and, after making lots of mrowling purrs and scuffling sounds, would re-emerge with one plushy or other firmly clasped in her mouth, carrying the spoils of her hunt around proudly. Soon the house became decorated with odd mementos of my stowed-away childhood as Tiggles, Cutums, Squeakums, Eek, Zoey, Chocolate et al, found themselves rescued from the abyss of the black garbage bag.

But this time, she had overdone herself. I looked down, shaking my head in disgust at the grey hippo that was given to me a long, long time ago by the goddamn self-obsessed jerk who spent more time admiring his reflection in his phone than he did in the hours we spent hanging out. Thankfully, he never made it to actual "boyfriend" material. Indeed, he was just a few weeks long "thing", if it could be called that, because really, both of us just were kiling time even as we pretended to exchange flirtations in the time we spent together after or between work.

I had a few moments myself, when one night, driving home with one of my best friends I would put the question out in the air whether it's weird for a girl to be a bit older than the guy, and my friend, who himself was a few months younger than his girlfriend, would look over at me and ask me, sort of surprised and amused, "What? Are you serious about him? I thought you were waiting to be serious about..."

I wasn't, and yet, there was something still inside of me that always felt that romance, whatever form it took, should have a deeper significance or should really mean something. This ideological Hopeless Romantic within me would be the reason why most of my relationships could not really get to the "official" stage. For some reason or other, I always had this prophetic epiphany that the relationship in question at the time just was not the one. And as my friend noted, I was in fact waiting for that someone else to wake up and smell the coffee.

It's a weird place to be stuck in, because at once, you want to "know" things in a very clear, logical way, and yet, when you have a very certain sensation that at the same time seems vague, brought to you by presaging dreams, no less, it is hard to really let go of your intuition, if that is what it is called.

But hey, intuition was so not needed with it came to the Giver of the Grey Hippo. I am not even sure why he even went to the extent of gifting it to me, in the first place. Especially when I kicked it down the length of the mall soon after as if it were the FIFA final game scoring kick.

But the weirdest part is that, even after my kitten dropped the thing at my feet, guess who, out of the blue, pops up on my social media—with his shirtless six-pack, bicep-flexing selfie in his display picture. OF COURSE it was a shirtless picture.

The very first time I even saw him, he was walking down the middle of the mall with his shirt off, strutting through like he was George Clooney. And I had laughed. Out loud. And he had turned, annoyed, to see me—who the hell is that girl— laughing at him.

But now he was back. WHY?

"Hey," his shirtless picture stated.

"You stole my calamine lotion," I replied.

"What? You want it back?"

"Considering that was more years than you have IQ points ago, no."

"Oh yeah, I forgot you were the smart one. I remember now, you always had a book!"

"Which you always took and threw on the floor."

"You were supposed to pay attention to me, not the book."

"I pay attention to whatever is more interesting."

"Yeah I remember that attitude. Now I remember your last text message too! It was so mean but damn it was a classic."

"Lol," I typed, looking up from my book. "I don't remember."

"You said, 'We cannot see eye to eye because your head is stuck too far up your ass' LOL"


Sunday, April 10, 2016

Palliative Care Therapy

"If you died.."

"When, you mean..."

"Well. When, but let's stick with if, OK?"

"OK."

"If you die, what do you think he would say?"



"Nothing."



"Hmm. Nothing at all?"

"Yeah."

"Why do you feel that?"


"I just know. What is there to say? I... hmm, I don't know. Yeah. "

"What are you thinking?"

"What's the point? If there was anything to say, why not, you know... when I could listen?"

"Would you listen? Or react, though? From what we talked about last session, I mean."

"I don't know."

"But you think he wouldn't say anything."

"Yeah. Because he doesn't say stuff, anyways."

"Then, let's ask this: what do you think he would think?"

"He.. would ... think ... I don't know, he would probably think 'Oh well' and go on with his life."

"Do you really feel that? Or are you transferring feelings again?"


"There are no feelings in this case."

"You seem to be feeling a lot, right now. Hey, it's OK, take a breather."


"I'm sorry, I didn't mean to ..."

"You don't have to apologize. Come on, have some water."

"Yes."

"Yes to what?"

"I really feel that."

Saturday, April 09, 2016

Propa

Hunger is a feeling that has double-standards with me. I don't actually realize it's there, most of the time, and I go through my days often without remembering it, until sometimes at that moment when afternoon meets evening, something happens to my insides, sometimes it is a plaintive meowl, or my head aches more than usual, and I remember that I have not eaten all day. But truly, I have lost any inclination for eating and even in feeling hungry, even when I idealize some really great foods and crave them theoretically, when it comes to the process of putting food in my mouth or eating, something else seems to repel the action. My whole being has been on a hunger strike for so long it almost thinks it is a way of living.  Then I came across this yesterday—some time at around 4 something in the morning because apparently sleep, too, is not something my body wants—and I remembered one of the many reasons why


Friday, April 08, 2016

Synchronicity

"Geez, Madeline," I said to my colleague, giving her the side-eye while we stood from our seats as the meeting broke up, "Are you trying to conjure up snow again?" I pointed to her incongruous "Ugly Christmas Sweater" embroidered all over with yarny snowflakes.

"What? Oh," she said, looking down at herself, "Ha, yeah maybe, why not?"

Why not indeed, despite the fact that it was supposed to be officially Spring, and finally the weather had kind of accepted this state of things and let the sun come out, the winds ameliorated and the grass, yellow and pale and almost dead, finally showing.

"Well, when it snows," I said cryptically, "It's going to be your fault."

"You mean if it snows," She laughed. Because the forecasts all said rain. Of course. BECAUSE WE TRUST THE FORECAST.

And with that, we went our ways.


The next morning I open my front door, only to be met with a winter wonderland vista spread out before me, almost as if I were in a magical realism story opening a magical portal to a magical world that was totally...well, magical.

Because, it definitely was. Quiet. White. Soft. Even somehow, warm. Thick piles of flurries coming down as if it were a million buckets of feathers. Muting all sound, even your own footsteps were faint echoes (and I was wearing heels so that's saying something). I walked through that magical world in almost slow-motion, and it was almost as if I really was alone in that world (until I reached the main intersection that is).

It matched the huge snowballing feeling that was accumulating within me. A feeling I still am not able to articulate, the way it is perhaps with most loss.

The strangest thing is, that heavy wondrous storm lasted almost as long as my own walk. I fell asleep on the commute as I always do, and when I woke, everything was melting again. I almost wish that my own sense of loss could easily melt away, but things are not ever that easy, and I suspect that it is the one thing I will never actually lose. But even as the snow that had accumulated thickly as blankets melted, it went away revealing the most magnificent transformations: thick, lush, vibrant verdant green grass. Maybe in the same way that loss can only flourish with the agony of hope.



Thursday, April 07, 2016

Please Play Again

Finding that tiny scrap of paper changed everything. Or at least**


"Why does Tim Horton's hate me? WHAT DID I EVER DO TO YOU, TIM?" I lamented, clutching my ripped up coffee cup. I had rolled up the rim and discovered that I was a winner of un beigne.

"A donut! What the hell is wrong with this world," I shook my head. Donuts are a secret walk of shame, it is the outcry and signpost of those who try to pretend they are really quite cool but do not realize they are buying into a corporate confederacy that everyone who is truly cool actually shuns.

Or anyways there is that recent scientific evidence showing the direct detrimental effect it has on intelligence, sexual performance and attractiveness. Ugh.

But I don't eat sugar. I do occasionally, but it is a crime, among other things. So I went up to the Timmies boy in his little beige uniform, and told him that I had won a donut. I held the offending scrap of coffee cup aloft like it was tainted with a highly infected disease.

He beamed at me, "Wow! Great, which one would you like?"

I gave him a gimlet stare of death and told him, "None."

His smile faltered and then extinguished. "No?" he asked, uncertain now.

"No. I don't eat donuts. It's a health thing. They have sugar which causes lots of pain to my insides and sometimes this pain comes outside and it makes other people feel pain as well."

He looked somewhat bewildered, but then, casting around for a solution, he straightened his shoulders and said, now much more confident: "I will ask my manager!"

And he disappeared into the back.

I looked behind me at the very long line waiting to get their coffee. I sighed. This was just supposed to be a simple thing. I just want a coffee instead of a donut. What is so hard about this.

The boy re-emerged, now accompanied by his manager.

"Hello maam," the manager said, "Do you have a receipt for the coffee you bought?"

"What, why do I need a receipt? I have the winning thingy from the coffee cup itself right here, and I just want a coffee instead of getting a free donut, even a small coffee is fine, this isn't supposed to be a big deal"

"But you know, we have to make sure that we are not committing a fraud. This is why, you should go back to that Tim Horton's coffee shop that you got your coffee from and tell them to give you a receipt and when they do that then you can come here and get your free coffee."

Was...was he really serious? No really. All I wanted was a coffee. And because I am secretly a sexy hothouse plant when indoors, exasperated, I again turned to face the glass front doors so that I could look out at the sunlight struggling to meet me. I turned back and he seemed to brace himself.

Instead of telling him I bought my coffee at this same exact location, I shrugged.

"Give me a donut," I said.

I emerged 20 seconds later out into the bright, cold, downtown of Toronto, and handing my newly packaged sugary parcel to the homeless man sitting outside the Tim Horton's front doors, I went along my day catching the rays as long as they were out struggling.


**But now, days later,  I was just about to board the approaching bus, and stepping up to the curb, something caught my eye. I looked down, even as the bus came closer, and then I bent down and picked it up.

It was a tiny scrap of paper with a message that told me that sometimes things can make sense in the weirdest randomest ways, and sometimes yes, maybe karma is real:

"Win/Gagnez: Un Cafe/Coffee"