Of A Warm Weight Of My Own

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The weight of days is equal to or larger than the weight of your heart. I wrap words around the Saturday noon nap and spin threads of dreams that I only half remember upon waking. But I open my eyes smiling, it was surely a good dream to wish into reality.

I’m starting to believe that goodbyes are real. To some, they come easily, as natural as the movement of covering your face the split second before a runaway ball smashes into your nose. Same principle, really; both reactions serve the purpose of defending a precious asset – in the first case, your facial architecture, in the second, more often than not your heart.

The question of whether I am willing to show up fully again in front of another human being came up last night over a glass of gin infused with summer berries. Who else would have the lack of inhibition and the warm concern to ask such a direct question than an old friend: ‘Loving is supposed to be a selfless emotion, can you still offer it?‘ No hesitation. Yes, I can. I’m as sure as I’ve been in the surest of moments of being blindly, deeply in love that I can.

My heart’s grown big again over the years, it’s grown gentle even in the face of disenchantments and frustration. But it’s also grown confident in the overflow of love it can generate.

The days smell like lilac and acacia flowers and I can’t help smiling – it’s surely a good dream to wish into reality.

Of Pushing Through The Block

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I scowl at the blank page in front of me. Words have not been friends for weeks now and I’ve been blaming it on writer’s block, but I’m starting to acknowledge what that really means beneath the clichéd excuse we throw in the world. There are times when I edit myself at a subconscious level and the reason is usually the same – fear.

I’m not afraid of fear, you see; it’s a healthy mechanism most of the time, but when if misfires it needs to be faced with determination. There’s another thing I’m realising more than one year into the pandemic and one parental broken later leg (that could have easily been something more serious, but thankfully wasn’t). With age comes the recognition of our mortality (personal and applied to the ones around us), and as a result the gentle acknowledgement that our parents have given us not only hurdles we need to jump over or dismantle, but also gifts we’ve been misinterpreting. It is my mother I have to thank for the grit I approach my fears with, for both the rational and the emotional sides of the arguments I present to myself in those moments.

Scowling at the blank page, something shifts slightly, just enough to push through the emotional blockage. Yet the only thing that keeps coming back to mind is ‘Would you look at that big, blue sky!’ and ‘Thank goodness for the sun!’. Thank goodness for its warmth in the chill of these early April mornings. Thank goodness for those people who are sunshine in the dreariness of the daily trudge. You know, the ones who no matter the catastrophe will find a way to look ahead, realistically and hopefully nonetheless – and they will drag you along for the ride even if you weren’t explicitly asking for it. When clouds are covering up the sun, look for your sunshine people.

Life is more than a collection of breaths.

To act as if it were sounds both heartbreaking and arrogant – can you really believe it’s just that when you look at the beauty of a rose, the complexity of a pinecone and the softness in the eyes of your beloved furry companion? are you really so confident that the value you bring to this constantly rearranging chaos named the Universe is non-important to such a degree that you are unique in your lack of value?

You may blame the sunshine for my buoyancy, but I choose to thank the multitude of the little things for it.

Of How To Drop It

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I’m not one to brag. Still not sure if this is because of my introverted temperament or due to the way I was brought up – I can still hear my mom’s words whenever I felt that my academic efforts weren’t being seen: ‘You don’t need to prove yourself constantly, people will recognize your value’. This helped calm my nerves about the expectation to be highly participatory in class, but at the same time it made me work that much harder to make sure people saw all the blood, sweat and tears I was putting in. It also engrained in my mind the false belief that people would just know without me showing up at all.

For a handful of years now, I’ve been actively working on myself in attempt to become a better person and not to fall back into the same patterns of mistakes I’d been blind to both by circumstance, but also by choice (oh, how the mind can rationalize the worst of situations just to avoid the anxiety of change!). I’ve become quite skilled in conversing with the people around me, in being curious about them. I stand by the idea that one of the greatest failings of today’s society is the absence of true curiosity, the one that requires us to be patient in the way we probe, ask questions and, more importantly, listen.

Having reached this point in my journey of better understanding the world and myself, I came to believe that knowing something is equal to being able to act the way you know to be right for the context and for your values. Wrong! I’d become an expert at preaching the gospel of vulnerability (just search for this tag on the blog to see how many times it comes up) while being scared out of my wits whenever I came close to it in my own life experiences. Needless to say, when this fact sunk in, I started to feel deeply ashamed of my hypocrisy, but what’s a girl to do than keep preaching and trying, and trying, and trying even in the face of mounting evidence that her shield might be too well put together to be dismantled anytime soon.

Wondering where the bragging part comes into play? Right about now, because it turns out I am capable of taking off the plate mail armour and being vulnerable, and not shattering completely in the process of falling on my face. The bruises and the pain may be real, but so is the strength to rebalance myself that I’ve worked on silently and steadily for years. It was there all along, I just didn’t trust myself enough to test it in real life conditions for fear that another crash would break me beyond repair. If you’re wondering what prompted the gain in trust, it was from an improbable a source as one could imagine – someone still struggling with their own ability to let go and face their vulnerability in front of another.

Does this mean vulnerability will come easy to me in practice from now on? Absolutely not. There are knots in my throat to untangle still. But this single proof of the possible was enough for me to drop the shield and armour again when life will demand a leap of faith on my part.

Photo by Brittney Burnett on Unsplash

Of Ghosts of Lovers Past and Present

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Running away has never felt more appealing.

Seems like so many do it without any qualms, so why should I hesitate? Walk – no, run! – away from the disappointment of people’s duplicities and inability to be open and vulnerable in the truest of senses. Tell me, if pain is real and you fight to assuage it when caused by others, then how can you inflict it yourself so casually? Why should I be capable of enduring it, while others must be protected from it?

The double standards of human relationships confuse me to the point of falling numb, to the point that my brain shuts down: any logical thread to make sense of a senseless situation hits a wall of an absurdity that cannot be surpassed. So I slide down, back to the wall, and stare into the distance surely containing some sort of explanation that will be revealed to me, to clear my mind of thoughts of irrational guilt over nothing at all – if I only stay awake for long enough, try hard enough. Keep trying, always keep trying, as if I’m the only one who should.

Don’t ask why we’re guarded, us introverts. We feel in ways words can’t describe, so we decide keeping quiet is better than not doing our feelings justice with our misshaped words. We’ve got mail plate around our hearts because they’ve been bled out enough times over to fill a blood bank for a century. We tread carefully because we think other’s souls might be just as skittish as our own, so when we stumble into another human whose eyes sparkle at the same dorky nothings, we don’t jump, we smile wryly and pull them just a little bit closer into a tight hug. Be patient with our skittish soul, for when we’re good and ready to drop our armour, you’ll find a heart as ready to love as a teenager’s first fall into the whirlwind.

Of The Warmth Of Spring Sun

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Do you know exhaustion? Utter, bitter, seeping through every cell of your body exhaustion – but not from physical exertion; from too much hope and too much trust. Idealists have it rough in this world of minimal effort to understand, of curiosity in the Other being squashed under muddied trunks of baggage we drag behind us from frayed relationships with family, friends and lovers.

A year of trying, the same month lived over and over and over again, like an awful rendition of Groundhog Day where we all know we’re stuck in a loop, yet are still unable to escape it – it would take too much effort we’re not willing to put in.

Running doesn’t help, but neither does sitting still. Then just when you think you’ve found the way out, that ray of sunshine to guide you out from the fogs of winter, you realize you’ve been too greedy for your own good by trying to rely on outside forces to brighten the skies.

‘Smile more,’ they say. But smiling is a luxury when disappointment is the rule of the game and your heart’s been bled out more times than you can count. On an average day, you try to keep it safe by folding it in wit, irony and laughs that don’t sound quite like you, all the while praying to divinities you don’t believe in that someone will see through the ruse and inspire a laugh so honest that nobody could deny you are happy to the last cell of your being.

Of When It Snows

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I had missed the cold, and more than anything the cold of the snowy sidewalks in a city devoid of people running breathlessly from here to there, from somewhere to who knows where. The air goes still when snow falls and all that feels wrong spins on its head – can you honestly tell me you’re able to stop yourself from smiling when it snows?

A heart under the influence or a mind stuck in loops of pattern analysis – which is worse in this cold?

I’m certain we’ve all got talents beyond the definition of marketable or utilitarian skills. I make people acknowledge things about themselves and their lives that they’d have preferred not to confront. Not exactly an ideal one for winning the school talent show or the popularity prize, for that matter.

Bundle up, darling, this winter is just beginning, the snows are piling up and hugs are in higher demand than the supply. Market prices are bound to go up by the day.

When it feels like all’s been said about the pandemic times we’re living, still the penchant for musing isn’t something I can shake. I may not be original and my thoughts about what I want from my life may not be my own, but the grasp of telling stories in whatever form the day beckons is too tight and too gentle to want to walk away from. So I linger in this self-indulgence as if I weren’t aware of my failings and the mundane urgencies in my life which demand my attention and energy.

In grappling with the exacerbated disconnectedness of these eleven months, I’ve gone through phases. Denial and rebellion in the beginning, apathy and resignation in the middle, and now curiosity and a pull towards understanding, but slowly moving back to rebellion as the one year mark draws near. Hugs aren’t the only thing in short supply these days, patience is also harder to come by. Conversations are short and our fuses are shorter even, to the point that anything could be a trigger for the other person to either explode or retreat from the interaction. Both emotionally taxing for the person on the receiving end and probably equally painful to go through for the one enacting them.

I miss hugs and the festival crowds the most. Back when hugs were not epidemiologically questionable, they were catalysts for more acceptance. The crowds hypnotized by the same musical gods were bound to lead to planned or accidental encounters and to embraces freed of past and future. If it’s true that the post-pandemic years are expected to be flamboyant and filled with relentless social interactions, then let the roaring 20s come!

I Once Was a Child

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After Victoria Chang

In my grandmother's garden
I once was a child
and ate warm tomatoes straight off the vine.

I could smell the burgeoning summer's evening -
hot, humid, holy
as a child's birthday wish
to be no longer lonely.

A waft of Jasmine tobacco
drifting up from years not yet passed 
to yesterday to today,
turning the sky from pink to mauve 
to gray
and just a hint of come what may.

Of Soaring

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To take flight
requires
a full set of feathers,
shining silver in the winter sun.

For twelves moons,
the buttons you tore off my white shirt
lay on the table.

Unsown buttons
and singed heartstrings
whisper every night
of a summer that never came to be.

To the stranger across the table:
'Are the calluses on your hands
from heavy labour or
laboured poetry?'
Him to me:
'Couldn't it be both, darling?'

Of How We Keep Dreaming

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Today I put on a new wool sweater I’d gifted myself, got dolled up and met up with my blondie bestie for a walk through the neighbourhood. A reflection of 2020: empty streets; only the most essential of personal ties maintained with extreme care for fear of being shattered by inconveniences we’d have brushed off as insignificant under pre-pandemic circumstances; for (some of) those suffering from FOMO, a rediscovery of the value of depth to the detriment of wide exposure; a visceral pull to any reason for celebration.

Approaching the turn of years feels uncomfortable. We’d usually want to mark the end of December with a summary of the year that’s passed, make assessments and draw conclusions. I fear I might either be too gloomy and severe in my evaluation of 2020, or turn sentimental and weepy – I’ll do my best to refrain from both, but offer no guarantees I’ll also be successful in my attempts.

There’s no denying that 2020 has sucked (yes, I know the range of my word use can be quite spectacular sometimes, no need for praises). We’ve torn ourselves between basic existential instincts – to remain physically sound and functional workers – and more subtle needs we’d somehow failed to understand the importance of while the means to address them were freely available to us – to see faces and all the messy expressions we base our reactions on; to touch, to hold, to kiss without the fear of trespassing personal tolerance limits for the risk accepted in seeking such tokens of intimacy; to share meals, and walks, and music and dancing.

I have a vague memory of what keeping connections with the people around used to look like during my grandparents’ and parents’ time. From stories told around the table celebrating Christmas or Easter or birthdays and from memorabilia left over decades through time I’ve pieced together in my mind a nostalgic image of what cheer looked like. It was an intricate intertwining of the simplicity within reach due to socio-economical factors (communism was in full bloom, after all) and the creative spirit concocting new ways of using the available resources to turn the mundane into sincere joy. This year, under the forces of restrictions meant to protect public health, I’m seeing a return to the same sort of atmosphere of drilling for joy in all the places we’ve been overlooking – the simple, the private, the little routines, the forgotten hobbies.

I’m loath to try to anticipate how 2021 will turn out.

I’d be easiest to declare that I won’t be making any plans because they might be shattered to a million pieces as they have been since March. But that would be the coward’s way out. Dreaming is how we keep our hearts alive, planning is how we turn dreams into more than dandelion plumes floating in the wind.

Of Sweetness

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Every now and again, time turns into honey. It starts drip, drip, dripping and accumulates in pools of sweetness instead of flowing at speeds that escape our grasp. It slows down so that it almost moves backwards, taking you to moments you’d thought lost to your flawed human memory.

Do you see the night sky reflecting in our pool of honey, darling? I’d tell you to stop looking back, look up instead, but I can barely hold myself from reminiscing either. The calm you held in your breath was foretelling of who you would become even when you could not believe it and even when I’d lost nearly all hope in it.

Let’s make some ripples in our pool of honey-tasting time, darling. I’ll throw the first rock. Now shush! don’t break my focus, you know how competitive I get around you. Let’s see which forgotten echo of a story envisaged comes up to the surface first – we’ll raise a glass of tinted wine to it and hold each other to fend off the chill of this winter’s evening.

And before we let the shadow of the once dreamt dream sink back into the amber liquid, we’ll kiss the sweetness off each other’s lips for good measure.