Category Archives: Passionate Dreamer

To Live with High-Functioning Depression

Dysthymia – Dysthymia, also called dysthymic disorder, is a form of depression. It is less severe than major depression, but usually lasts longer. Many people with this type of depression describe having been depressed as long as they can remember, or they feel they are going in and out of depression all the time. (Harvard Health publications)

 

It’s fast-forwarding to the future, to better days, some possible, most of them fantastical, escaping the present, regretting the past, keeping up the façade that you’re a functioning adult who makes the right decisions. Life can be an exhausting performance, but no one tells you that early enough. Oh, they probably tried to in their own imperfect ways, but you didn’t know how to listen or refused to listen, thinking maybe you were unique, maybe life’s claws wouldn’t dig deep into your chest and strip bare your heart and soul. You thought maybe it would only sting you, not incinerate you to ashes.

Once you’re no longer shielded from the walls of college or some full-time graduate school program, you dive into life abruptly, sometimes shockingly, like someone dumping icy, cold water on your head, and you weren’t ready.

I wasn’t ready. I missed the class on how to cope successfully with the ongoing anxieties and despairs of adult life, its constant rejections, and failures. I didn’t learn the tricks of the trade or value the importance of networking and connections, all the necessary information delivered only after you’ve suffered through the beatings of your mistakes.

To choose the life of a creative is to invite great suffering. Every day you ask yourself if it’s worth it. I could’ve chosen something more practical, studied the markets, gone into computer science or any health-related field, and then maybe I wouldn’t be so dead broke. Over-educated with a degree from Tufts and Columbia, I stumbled into one ditch after another, asking why did I chase prestige thinking it mattered when it was useless, in my case anyway. Mistakes, mistakes, mistakes. I’ve made so many mistakes while pursuing the great white whale of publishing success.

I shouldn’t complain. Every day these words flash in my head: don’t complain. I’ve lived in five different cities and towns in my twenties: Boston, New York, Seoul, Korea, Toyokawa, Japan, and now Atlanta with eyes set on a livable city or town in California. I’ve met and interacted with people from all over the world, diverse in thought, philosophies, religion, and race. I’ve had unforgettable experiences living in Korea and Japan. I shouldn’t complain. Don’t complain.

But depression doesn’t care about your desires to stay free from pessimistic outlooks, low self-esteem, fatigue and exhaustion, disinterest in social activities and people in general. It doesn’t care how much you repeatedly tell yourself to stay positive, be thankful, consider those more unfortunate than you, suffering from the lack of basic needs you easily take for granted.

Depression doesn’t care about your well-thought out arguments against feeling deprived of joy, happiness, fulfillment, and self-control. You can argue all day and night. Scribble in journals. Pray and cry out to God. Depression doesn’t care.

It claims you, attaching itself to your mind, like a dark blanket wrapped around your head, superglued to your skin. It latches onto its host and grows in a unique way where some are highly-functioning while others are unable to get out of bed. Whichever way it manifests, depression is depression.

And so, I turn to exercise, running. The pain reminds me of my life. The finish line, my goals. Running is never just running. Each time a foot hits the ground, it becomes a metaphor for enduring, fighting, choosing to be defiant to the internal, screaming calls to stop and give up. Each time I finish a run, it reminds me of each time I wake up in the morning, having survived the last day, despite the clamor in my head to give up and die.

My family and friends stop me from taking my life. I don’t want to inflict any pain on others, especially on those who have sacrificed so much for me already, whose love has saved me countless times before. But that doesn’t stop the suicidal thoughts. As I said before, depression doesn’t care, not even how much you love your family and friends. It devastates everything, even love.

But I don’t have to live this way. It doesn’t have to be part of my character or be some twisted aesthetic accentuating my life as a broke, unpublished writer. Romanticizing depression isn’t cute. Major depression is ugly, blood, burns, cuts, sticky, gross intoxication, a haze of impenetrable smoke, destructive, paralyzing, a leviathan swallowing you whole, a killer.

So I make lists. Too many. Crossing off. Not crossing off. Scheduling. Forgetting. Smiling. Recoiling. I have to remind myself to widen my eyes and focus my gaze when my lids droop in disinterest and my mind wanders off into a blank space. Conversations deplete my energy faster than oil guzzling out of a pipe in a disastrous spill.

Sometimes people want too much from you. And sometimes people want nothing from you. I don’t know which is worse. I live in extremes with balance always remaining elusive, like a mirage that disappears each time I approach it.

But, I keep paddling forward, writing stories I believe many people will enjoy reading. I keep moving along. I keep dancing. I keep singing. I keep trying and learning. I keep going. I keep keepin’ on, and that’s all I can do. Keep keepin’ on, hopefully not forgetting the present, clinging closer to loved ones, and staying woke in increasingly dark oppressive times. To make love my religion, kindness my creed, compassion for all (except Nazis) my motto. This is life. This is to live with high-functioning depression in 2017.

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Stay amazing,

Sammy

 

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MY BOOKS

1.) PROPHET FROM THE MOON

Description: 

Alyssira “Aly” Beaulieu had a full ride to college, a loving grandmother, and a troubled older sister to take care of. Then the bombs fell.

Three hundred years after the destruction, she awakes in the streets of an unfamiliar Boston in a whole new body. Lost and buffeted by shock, she searches for help but instead ends up in the hands of the city’s most dangerous gang.

A strange boy who goes by the name of Prophet from the Moon rescues Aly and leads her to his home, a compound of soldiers led by an ambitious young captain and her handsome lieutenant.

Aly has only one goal: to survive. She imagines a second chance at life in the refuge, falling in love, training as a soldier, and becoming an older sister to Prophet.

But a cosmic entity threatens her dreams when it reveals she is part of an order of intergalactic guardians called Curators, souls of the dead infused into supernatural bodies. It instructs her to cross a perilous wasteland to Toronto to find a journal capable of stopping elites living in cities on the Moon from selling Earth to an alien race within ten years.

But the captain plans to attack the compound’s enemies and needs Aly’s help, too. Now loyal to her new family, Aly must decide whether to fight for her compound’s future or abandon her loved ones to fulfill her purpose as Curator of Earth.

READ CHAPTER ONE HERE!

Picture the Face of Freedom

Picture the face of freedom for one moment. Don’t give it a passing glance, but let’s carve out a piece of time for it in this life, this brief walk often burdened with sorrow, anger, and pain, this flickering flame bursting also with joy, laughter, and the love of family, friends, neighbors, even passing strangers.

Stare into freedom’s eyes and listen to what it has to say, to offer, to what it can show us, the most integral part of not only its survival, but also its triumph.

Freedom is waking up alive in the morning and moving through the start of the day without worrying whether we’ll return home alive after we’ve stepped out the door, gone to work or school, after we’ve completed our day. It’s embracing our loved ones without fearing for their lives, without thinking, “Will she come home? Will I have to claim his body? Will they be safe?”

Instead, our thoughts are full with the nuances of life, of what we need to accomplish, of where we need to go, of what we hope to realize for our loved ones and ourselves.

Freedom is reading and watching the news and seeing justice paid in full, of trusting the collective conscience of our fellow citizens, not only a faction. It’s everyone agreeing we must hold those in power responsible for the grievances and sufferings of our fellow neighbors, no matter how they identify.

It’s making sure there are concrete consequences for breaking that sacred trust, that unspoken pact among humans to do no harm, to be free and let others be free.

If we doubt our neighbor, if we fear or hate those who call the same country home, this planet home, we’re not free; we don’t know freedom.

Freedom is pursuing life without fear.

It’s not holding our stomach from hunger pains, or struggling to feed ourselves or loved ones. It’s not dying from lack of access to healthcare, or having nothing because we gave everything we had to stay alive one more day, only to realize this extra day holds no hope or purpose. It’s not being forced to make decisions detrimental to our well being or that of others, of people we love, in order to survive in a system, in a government determined to destroy us, in a government insistent on stalling our progress and that of our children and grandchildren. Freedom isn’t losing our human dignity because we had no one or nothing.

Freedom is receiving an education liberating our minds, instead of confining our hands.

Freedom is having one more chance even when we make minor mistakes. It’s restoration, not eternal damnation.

Freedom is knowing compassion and giving compassion.

We may think we have freedom if we enjoy the comforts of financial security, supportive family and friends, and shelter from the attacks thrown at our less privileged neighbors. Insulated from the cries of the outside world, from the cries coming from our own backyard, we move through life, deaf and blind, silent to the sufferings of our fellow citizens, or worse, defending those in power who oppress and harm them. Instead of placing our trust in our our fellow humans, we’ve placed your trust in the system, in the powers that have time and time again broken the sacred pact to protect, serve, and uplift.

And because those in power have not paid the high price of abusing that sacred human pact, we shake our heads in shock as the world deteriorates, as freedom wanders farther and farther away from humanity, as more and more people grow angry and restless, some resorting to atrocious acts of violence because that bill has not been paid, an amount counted not in dollars but in the bodies of innocents.

Picture the face of freedom. See it clearly. Grasp its possibilities. Hear what it offers. And know that we do not have freedom.

Because as long as the cries of our fellow woman, man, child, our fellow humans, rises to the skies unheard, without receiving justice long overdue, we will never know freedom.

We only have an illusion of it as our mind and soul is wracked with the guilt of our inaction. An illusion feeding on hopelessness, disdain for humanity, and a lack of vision. Feeding on lies manufactured by those in power. Feeding on our stubbornness to not stare freedom in the face and imagine a future where freedom is finally real in the lives of the people.

Picture the face of freedom. And know and believe it’s worth fighting for.

Patience or Waiting to Live?

“The two hardest tests on the spiritual road are the patience to wait for the right moment and the courage not to be disappointed with what we encounter.”
― Paulo Coelho, Veronika Decides to Die

PATIENCE has been on my mind, its feelers rummaging through my brain, reminding me of its scalding presence in my life. I breathe its stinging fumes in the morning as I awaken and condemn the day before it has even started. My eyes open and I ask myself two obligatory questions, my passwords to re-entering the land of the living:

“Are you okay?”

“No.”

“When will you be okay?”

“I don’t know.”

Cranking all the levers in my mind, body, and soul to attempt interactions beyond mere existence, I wonder if I’m waiting for something good to happen before I can be “okay”.

Sometimes reality is like wading through waist deep Jell-O, the icky kind that reminds you of the gooey part of a skateboarder’s scraped knee. Encased in this blob of never-ending red, time becomes a hundred times slower, and each step I take gets me nowhere closer to my destination. I’m tempted to fall back into the Jell-O, allowing the jiggling clumps to fill my lungs and drown me. But my ambition is stronger than my pain and drags my tired feet forward.

Patience isn’t my friend. We wrestle, argue, and plot to kill each other while the other sleeps. I hate its life lessons because it’s oblivious to the millions of needles stabbing my spine. The pain steals my focus from whatever nugget of supernatural wisdom patience offers its victims. And yet, I endure it, letting it rule my life because without patience, I would be dead.

That’s our pact: I carry you on my back, and you keep me breathing to open my eyes to another day.

Patience isn’t waiting. But I wait anyway, stupidly, like a naïve teenager still checking the chimney for Santa Claus. Waiting is poison, the lesser, weaker form of patience, preying on crushed hearts too jittery and scared to succumb to the deep cuts of patience.

I wait for no one and nothing. I wait for everyone and everything. I wait, contradicting myself over and over, bumping my sound philosophies against my irrational fears. I’m a walking storm, full of tornadoes, hurricanes, and tsunamis on the inside, but a fragile façade of calmness and forced cheeriness on the outside.

I wait, losing time in the present, forgetting to live, experiencing every cell in my body age, die, get replaced, repeat. Clouds race in maddening speed overhead; the sun and moon rise and set, circling like the braying horses on a merry-go-round. Life fast-forwards around me while I’m stuck trudging through nasty, red Jell-O.

Patience isn’t peace, but like patience, peace is a choice. Patience hurts. Peace doesn’t. When I run out of time, peace smothers my irrational fears, barring them from transforming into the debilitating lies posing as truths intent on ripping my sanity to shreds. Patience helps me bear the torture, allowing me to stay conscious for every sadistic twist and stab of the knife.

I hate patience, but without it, I could never be a writer, and writing is the lifeblood of my existence. So patience and I have been intricately linked since I started writing stories at eight. When I sit to work on a novel or a short story, more so a novel, I can’t rely on motivation and discipline alone. Something much more significant, much more profound and powerful, carries me from the first line to the final word, from one round of edits to the final round, from idea to creation. Hope, the child of patience.

Although I work hard to keep it at bay, I love hope. It’s a tiny gem, not worth a prolonged glance, but it has enough strength to pull more than 80,000 words from the stormy mess that’s my mind. I can’t harness the power of hope without accepting the pain of patience. Hope keeps me human while patience wards off the beast. There’s a difference. Trust me. I give up a million times in my head, wishing I could hang up the NO VACANCY sign on my body. Please look elsewhere to affirm your existence. So many things I want to say, but I can’t because I’m a highly functioning human being. It’s naïve, but hope seasons the bland tasks of operating through this life, through adulthood.

The dangerous side of patience is daydreaming, the enticing promises we whisper to ourselves, the melting of reality for the sweet core of fantasy. I live half my life in a daydream, setting my mind free and wild to conjure the most pleasurable experiences and adventures. I dance in my room and the kitchen to music only I can hear, to beats others would find too abrasive or weird. Everybody should dance no matter their ability; sometimes only our bodies can express the feelings overwhelming our hearts.

The fantasy is addictive, like sugar, cocaine. Feels good but will destroy the body and mind in time. Too bad it thrives best in the hardest swells of patience, in the moments when life’s the tightest, most constricting, most painful. Sometimes fantasy’s everything keeping me dancing. But it’s not hope. Fantasy is a big, beautiful diamond, yet useless, empty, a precursor to deep disillusionment, cynicism, and stubborn darkness. I indulge in fantasy while knowing its true face and lies. If I don’t rip my fingers away from its grip, no writing gets done because writing lives in the realm of reality.

I’m a creative so my whole life is patience. I hate it but my hands fit in all its curves and grooves in ways more intimate than an eager lover. I’m not patience’s slave nor its owner; we live organically as two separate entities bound until death—for as long as I plan to be a writer.

What’s your relationship with patience? I’d love to know your thoughts in the comment section below. And don’t forget to share if you liked this post.

Featured image: Aeonium by Russ Mills aka Byroglyphics. Purchase the image here. 

Passion and the Creative Functional Depressive

Waking up is the hardest. The pressure starts between your eyes, throbbing and pushing at the same time, and won’t let up. You burrow your head into your pillows to hide from the sunlight streaming out of the curtains you opened last night as one of your many efforts to help drag your limp body out of bed in the mornings.

Because you know. You know well.

You turned off the blaring alarm from your cell phone about two hours ago. Snoozing is useless and no longer exists as an option. Guilt and the high pitch tone of attracting consequences prick your mind as the clock marches onward to the third hour after your desired wake-up time, another pebble in a mountain of promises to self your never keep.

Work.
Money.
Could get fired.
Concerned talks.
Calls.
Write.
Stop.
You care.
WAKE UP, NOW!

You care.

Your brain fires these words and phrases at you, grabbing unto your shoulders to pull your up from the deep waters of depression. Out of your coffin. Out of your grave where you wish you could stay forever, forgotten, alone, and fortunately dead.

Dead.
Dead.
Dead.

You open your eyes.

I have to stay alive. I have to move. I have to get through the day, you think.

With resolve coming out of thin air, you throw back the comforts of the covers and swing your legs over the edge of your bed. You reach for your cell phone and check messages, email, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, WordPress, and the current news, none of it ever good, always explosions and people being assholes to one another.

You get lost in all of it, becoming robotic as your thumb scrolls up faster and faster. You’re not even reading anymore, just skimming and seeing how much you can cram into your skull.

Another forty minutes goes by. You curse your deplorable time management skills and put the phone face down on your bed in disgust, hating it and promising never again to start your mornings burning the surface of your eyes with the glare of its screen.

You promise to read a good book. To write instead. To exercise or meditate. Prepare a good breakfast. But tomorrow morning, you’ll do the same thing, phone in hand, making promises again.

Your morning routine happens in a blur. You check in and out of reality, in and out of your actions, with a pace both slow and fast, followed by long glances in the mirror. Your eyes pierce into that of another person who smiles, grimaces, frowns, and returns a blank face belonging to the ranks of the dead.

I don’t want to go to work today. I wish I could write instead, you think as you do your hair and face. But when you had no work, you couldn’t write like you wanted to. A paradox. Or a catch-22. Your creative process has never made sense to you. It most likely never will.

You write nonetheless because you’re the tin person and writing is your oil. Without it, you remain still and sink further back into your coffin, your grave, your deep underwater world of endless, stretching darkness.

You manage to drag yourself from the mirror and pack your bag, making sure to put your cell phone, earbuds, and wallet in there. Double-check because you’re terribly forgetful. You can’t count how many times you’ve forgotten your wallet somewhere, your phone, along with other useful items. You’ve recovered much though. For some reason you’re lucky in that area. Why can’t luck love you in the many other countless ways it can love you?

On your bike, your mind is on the music. Always on the music. It’s how you meditate, inserting yourself into the now, never the past, never the future, never anything of importance, sometimes not even your writing. Only the music.

On the train and streets, strangers see your true self, your true face. It’s a face not even your family sees. Not your friends. Not your coworkers. Not your students. No one. A face where the lines break through the surface of your skin, which droops to the ground from the weights of endless, tortuous pain. Your real self mirrors the darkness within, ugly and broken.

Maybe your loved ones and those near you have seen that face, and you only think you’ve successfully hid it behind the many masks you wear to present as a highly functioning human, adult, person, and loved one.

You have many masks. Many of which you create on the spot when the occasion rises.

They should call you a chameleon. You change your face and adjust your energy to match the frequency of those around you. Yes, you have a unique face and energy for every situation and person. Sometimes you succeed. Sometimes you fail. In an attempt to undo the conditioning of making sure those around you are well and comfortable at your expense, you work on eliminating your anxiety, but the tension escapes, oozing into the air, choking others, making them tense too, uncomfortable, stiff, unsure of how to proceed, looking for ways to vacuum the cold, rigid air your aura blows.

You can’t get closer to me. That’s what you think and believe. It’s why you prefer to be alone. You know the darkness within is too intense, sleeping with your ambitious passion to write great works, which makes you even more distant, so deeply embedded in your world and far removed from reality.

You only feel pain and love. The other emotions come to you on the surface, never penetrating the diamond barrier around your soul and heart: happiness, joy, guilt, anger, pleasure, hate, annoyance, and on and on. Even when you smile and your eyes light up, even when you’re having a good time, even when you’re so sure you’re happy and elated, the darkness, the pain, the depression, pierces behind your head, ballooning up in the space between your ears. It becomes harder to breathe, move, and think. Your actions become delayed, irrational, erratic. Everything is malfunction.

And so you withdraw and stay alone. Sometimes for long periods of time. You have to. To fill up the energy lost, drained, depleted. If you don’t, they’ll all see your true self. Listless. Emotionless. Dead. Worse than an android. Not even an empty shell. Invisible. Gone. In another dimension in time and space where you think you can never be reached.

Come back to me.

Those are the words someone needs to say when you’re with them and have checked out. When you have left with your whole body and soul. Once someone says it, you slowly turn back on and look up into their eyes and smile.

Okay, I’m back now, you say.

And you return for a while, secretly wishing to be alone again even though you enjoy and need the company. But you have to turn the crank attached to your mind to keep yourself going. You want to stay longer, talk longer, laugh longer, hold on a little longer, but with time, it gets harder to spin the lever because thick chunks of hardened darkness fill the nooks of the wheel.

Mental exhaustion morphs into physical exhaustion. Your entire existence screams for a break. A pause. For silence quieter than the sound coming from a TV without signal put on mute. You need a long hard stare into space, looking through the cores of the atoms themselves. You long for a complete and total shut down. But that would mean death, wouldn’t it?

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via sf.co.ua

Your brain flutters awake, reminding yourself that you can’t stay like this. You snap out of your stupor, crank the wheels, and resume functioning.

You observe the smallest details with intense attention in hopes it will add accent to a bland life. From the faintest lines on a face to the curve of a fingernail. The smallest chip on a tooth often obscured by moving lips. The tiny piece of squiggly red thread on a black shirt. The individual tiny dust balls on a desk, irking you. The misplaced eyelash tucked in the folds of an eyelid or a single strand of hair sticking out from a groomed eyebrow.

You miss nothing and everything at the same time, hoping to live fully and presently, only to be swept away by your own daydreams, paddling you into the future.

Come back to me, they say.

Okay, I’m back now, you say.

And for all your darkness, pain, suffering, and occasional bursts of suicidal thoughts, you remain highly optimistic, confident, possibly borderline delusional in the attainment of your dreams. You widen your eyes, pupils dilating, heart beating, and fingers trembling, from anticipation of what’s to come, of what you’ll achieve.

You pant hungrily for the sun’s brilliance and stretch your ears for the soothing songs of ocean waves. The sea salt smell teases your nose and sand climbs in between your toes, massaging out the stress, pulling out cord after cord of curling darkness from the bottom of your heart straight out of your feet.

But inside your darkness is beauty that you let out from time to time. It’s as gentle as the rays of a setting sun. Calm like a quiet river. Resilient like tall stalks of grass getting buffeted by the wind. It’s a beauty you share freely because it comes from a deep love of others, a deep love for all who have experienced pain and suffering, for those who know what it means to be in the dark.

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via  sf.co.ua

You can’t stay still in one location and suffer from bouncing knees eager to keep moving to the newest place with fresh faces and unfamiliar buildings and roads. You’re a butterfly perpetually returning into a caterpillar only to transform into a butterfly again and so on.

You’re a collector of brief, wondrous experiences, instantaneous connections and interactions, accidental meet-ups, and short-term relationships. Those who can stomach your erratic, capricious behavior and your longs bouts of silence for years, even after you’re gone, have your deepest gratitude and love.

In your haze of darkness, you still have faith and believe everything will be all right. And so you release your pain every day and let time heal as it can and should.

I’m not a good person, you think. And you’re right, but you strive to be, despite failing time and time again. You forget the the hard lessons from your mistakes, but your awareness of your actions become acute in the aftermath and you somehow end up learning anyway.

You’re tired of running, but you’re always running away from yourself so you think if you jump from one location to the next, you’ll get away, but you can’t. No matter how far you go, you’re always stuck with yourself. And this drives up your headaches and deepens the furrows between your forehead. You have to learn to live with your thoughts, the constant chatter in your head from sources within and the outside, good and bad, deep and shallow, powerful and weak.

At the end of the day, you don’t congratulate yourself for making it through the day, for operating in your functional depressive state. You don’t think you deserve a shiny medal because you know you’re not the only one. You’re one of millions hunkering their way through the trials and errors of this brief experiment called life.

It ain’t easy. It ain’t easy at all, but you do it anyway.

You live, anyway.

 

Feature image credit: “Underwater room” has been published on October 07, 2012 by Paul Mood.

On Being “Normal”

Millions of people live scripted lives, carrying out roles of normal functioning individuals socialized to suppress whatever makes them unique or stand out too much. Some people enjoy this performance and are quite content with being a star in this movie, taking directions from their family, friends, employers, the media, culture, and society in general.

Many carry out these performances to preserve their lives and social presentation, along with preventing what could be deadly repercussions for any form of deviance.

Many adhere to their culture’s definition of normal because it confers benefits in terms of seemingly pleasant social interactions, employment, and approval.
For others, being told to put on this veil of normalcy for the sake of social preservation is pure torture. It makes us sick inside to have to follow a plan or script set out for us. We walk through our days feeling incomplete and trapped in what we consider lies that people have created for us, lies that we have created for ourselves.

Many of us knew from an early age that we were different and understood that it wasn’t always a good thing in society’s eyes.

In fact, children recognize and understand social norms as early as 2 or 3 years old*. In an experiment with puppets conducted by Marco Schmidt and Michael Tomasello of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, along with Hannes Rokoczy of the University of Göttingen, 2 and 3-year-olds objected when puppets performed actions different from what they had seen adults doing. Furthermore, these norms are not necessarily taught. Children usually learn norms by observing and following adults who expect life to be performed in a specific way.

Therefore, some of us have learned to hide or suppress our uniqueness in fear of coming across as a deviant who will eventually become rejected.

But for most of us, hiding what makes us different is close to impossible; as a result, we risk experiencing familial and social rejection. We get plastered with labels, used mostly in a derogatory manner, that forcibly categorize our uniqueness or eccentricities.

In other words, we’re punished for making others feel uncomfortable and confused by our behavior or identity, which may or may not have been self-assigned.

For all our trumpeting of individualism here in the United States, our society still punishes and marginalizes those who stand outside of what’s considered “normal”: white, straight, cis-gendered (gender matches sex assigned at birth), able-bodied, pro-authoritarian, pro-patriarchal ideals, pro-capitalism, pro-assimilation, pro-assigned gender roles, pro-groupthink, pro-consumerism, and pro-white supremacy.

People falling outside of this range are often encouraged to change their ways to be accepted by the majority who are given the title “normal”. These calls for assimilation are bullshit. The truth is that we “abnormal” ones will never be truly accepted or understood by those considered “normal” or adhere to being “normal”.

Depriving ourselves of our uniqueness or identity to become something we are not brings more harm than good. This forced erasure censors our creativity and voices, and stilts our ability to confront our present realities and usher change into our world.

For those of us who have no choice but to play the game of appearing normal, we feel smothered, chained, and sometimes even alone in our performances as the people we interact with contradict or vehemently oppose ideas or identities that we support or identify with on a personal, social, or political level.

We are not allowed to express ourselves openly due to our fears of social isolation, financial vulnerability, or even violence. For those of us whose situations are less extreme, but no less poignant, we may admonish ourselves for not being braver or stronger enough in taking advantage of our more open-minded environments.

Such self-criticism can reinforce negative thinking that makes us less vocal and active in issues or projects needing our participation and strengths. We may erroneously believe that our silence in regards to our identities or ideals delegitimizes us from taking a stand in issues of gross injustices. We may wrongly believe we cannot participate in resistances to restore human dignity to marginalized and oppressed groups.

We find ourselves living two lives: the one on the outside and the one on the inside. If we’re lucky to find understanding souls, for a time, we may be able to align our outside lives to match our lives on the inside.

Bravery can manifest itself in multiple ways instead of being confined to the Western mainstream idea of being loud and open for everyone to see, admire, reject, or criticize. Small, accumulating acts of courage in customized personal resistances are valuable. Each person’s familial, religious, cultural, or spiritual experience does not necessarily mirror the mainstream images widely portrayed and distributed.

Even in spaces where outsiders, rejects, and the marginalized come together, it’s important not to enforce and applaud only one brand of bravery or resistance. We should encourage a multiplicity of differences, and seek to understand each unique life that comes in our presence without rushing to shut a person down or force them to change.

Life grows through difference. Change grows through difference. A better and more open world grows through difference.

I’ve been brave enough to upset both allies and opponents, becoming more of who I need to be at the present moment and not following anyone’s vision of how I should be. Choosing this way is far from easy and is sometimes fraught with frustration, confusion, loneliness, impatience, failure, self-doubt, depression, pain, and discouragement. It’s a difficult journey, but a necessary one to take to peel away the layers of false identities created by others while growing.

It’s one of the few ways to reach the true core of our true selves and figure out where we need to take ourselves next. Of course the core of our inmost identities will contain influences of our upbringing and our environments growing up, but somehow or another we’ve developed our own ideas of what matters most to us that differs drastically from anyone else’s; it’s something akin to a fingerprint.

We won’t reach these oftentimes buried ideas or identities without doing the hard work required to survive being thrown out into the wolves called the real world and society.

We can shield ourselves from this hard work or ignore it completely by following the scripts handed to us. That way we avoid the painful processes of undergoing the fiery baptism of confronting our childhood demons, figuring out our true core values, understanding our fiercest passions, wandering in the deserts and wastelands of confusion and instability, and developing the strategy to achieve our dreams.

In eschewing this difficult path, we accrue financial rewards and stability quickly, prestige, honor, and other accolades from our satisfied loved ones and society.

But the human soul is hardly ever satisfied. Sooner or later, it demands far greater things from us than wealth, prestige, and praise. It tortures us for living lives that go against its true essence, something different for each person, but with overlapping similarities. Our minds persistently present us with questions about the why of everything going on all around us. Meaning and purpose knock relentlessly on our doors despite our desires to ignore or dismiss them.

We can’t hide forever unless we are content with leading empty lives all the way to the grave. Some accept doing it and some have done it happily. But for the passionate dreamer, this life is impossible. This may be both the curse and blessing of the passionate dreamer.

It’s okay for supporters and loved ones to imagine highly successful lives for us or to envision futures in which we make significant impacts on the world. It’s not okay when they want us to follow a particular path or box us in how we should go about accomplishing these amazing feats.

We all deserve the respect of forging our own lives without our loved ones or allies shaming us for doing things outside of what they think is best. We get enough grief from our opponents and society without having to deal with the psychological drama of navigating spaces where we expect to receive love and support.
If we choose to be different in the countless multiples way there are to be different, we need to remember to be patient with ourselves. We will stumble and make mistakes.

Our decisions won’t always be the best, and we’ll sometimes follow advice that hurts more than helps. We may also ignore advice that might have helped more than hurt. Our eyesight might be poor so we may miss great opportunities or fail to see the failure waiting at the end of ventures we’ve decided to pursue.

We may have days when we feel hopeless and directionless, looking up at ceilings with no answers or guidance. Days we feel broken, useless, or frauds. We may find ourselves questioning every act we make and cursing the universe or God for our rotten luck. We may find ourselves waiting for something beautiful to happen instead of realizing that we ourselves are responsible for making something beautiful happen.

We may find ourselves with little to no patience and may consider following the script handed to us. After all, it’s so easy and promises the stability lacking in our lives. We may walk through our lives unsure and hurt by all of these feelings, feelings for which there might be no escape from. We might even feel that being stuck in limbo is our fate.

But it is not our fate. Our lives our made richer for being passionate dreamers. We may not see it now or even believe or accept it. But we are made stronger, bolder, and more open minded, maybe even more lovable and accepting of difference.

We may not see it now, but on the other side awaits the rewards of our labor of passion. If we are more introspective and matured, we already experience and see the rewards of our passion. We understand and accept the beauty of our differences and the difficult process of becoming our higher selves.

Although our loved ones, opponents, and society are blind to it, we have put on glasses giving us a clear vision of what awaits. Sometimes our minds are already there, waiting for our physical bodies to catch up and experience the beauty and magic of living our ideal lives.

We envision new worlds, unaware of how our decisions influence and impact the people around us, bring us all closer together as a family of sorts, hoping to create a better reality for both present and future lives. The world needs passionate dreamers, those who are different, weird, quirky, eccentric, marginalized, oppressed, or othered in any way by the dominant culture.

We should let ourselves be ourselves in whatever ways we know we can or are willing to be. We have to be for the sake of a more open world where more and more people can live lives fulfilling their deepest dreams and passions. A world where more people can reach self-determination and fulfillment, reaching further into the depths of their souls to uncover meaning.

Passion is beautiful. Passion is ugly. Passion is freedom. Passion is pain. Passion is peace. Passion is war. Passion is life. Passion is difference.

We cannot relinquish what makes us different because our difference is our strength as humans.

*Nair, Drishya (2012) “Children Understand Social Norms Very Early” Current Directions in Psychological Science. August 2012.

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Be sure to look out for my e-book, The Passionate Dreamer’s Notebook: For Those Who Refuse to Quit, coming out soon!

The Things She Carried; The Things She Conquered

A woman stands in front of a black and brown house with large second story windows. The edges of the house turn black from rot and crumble into the ground, becoming like the fine grains of sand falling in an hourglass.

Shoulders shaking, the woman slaps a hand over her mouth and sobs at the destruction unfolding before her. She wants to go inside and save all the things she’s worked so hard for—all the things that showcase her prestige and worth as a human being.

She takes a step toward the crumbling house, and it roars back at her with the bellow of deep thunder. The hair on her skin bristles from the goose bumps coating her arms, and the woman shuffles back. She gapes at the house now halfway destroyed.

I have to go inside, she thinks. I need to save my things. I can’t lose them. I can’t lose anything more at this point. I’ve worked too hard. Nobody knows it except me.

She ignores the house’s growls and swings open the front door, forcing her trembling body to go inside the blackness ahead. The woman stretches her arms forward in the dark, fingers groping the walls for a light switch. She curses her bad luck, wishing she had a flashlight or even a match to give her light and help her find and save her things.

The house creaks in protest, sounding like scraps of metal in a blender. The woman has no bearing in the darkness all around her. The whole house shakes, and she loses her balance and falls to her knees. The sound of a child weeping stops her breath, and she looks up, eyes scanning the dark. She knows that cry. It’s hers. It’s her cry when she was a child. But what is it doing here? It’s not supposed to be in this house.

The house creaks louder than before. The woman plugs her ears with her fingers. A gust of wind hits her face, and she cowers into the ground, head tucked between her knees. Tears form tracks over her cheeks. She wants to get out where it’s safe, but her she can’t move a muscle.

What if she ends up here all alone forever, trapped in this dying house?

The wind whistles harder and the woman grips her shoulders, holding on to herself to keep from being blown away. In the wind, she hears voices, all of them familiar, most of them hers:

“You’re ugly.”
“You’re fat.”
“Your body is gross.”
“You haven’t accomplished anything of value yet.”
“Why is your skin dark?”
“What’s wrong with your hair?”
“You didn’t earn this. It’s not yours. It was given to you.”
“Why can’t you be smarter? More capable? Look at her. Why can’t you be like her? Be like her.”
“Stop dreaming. You’re an adult now.”
“You’ll be poor for the rest of your life.”
“Why are you such a disappointment?”
“You are a disappointment.”
“Why are you so stupid?”
“They’re all better than you are.”
“I didn’t work this hard so you could just repeat this suffering again.”
“Stop trying so hard.”
“You should just give up.”
“You should just kill yourself.”
“Nothing matters anymore.”
“It’s not worth it.”
“Why do you lie so much?”
“Why do I lie so much?
“You failed.”
“I failed.”
“I’ve failed.”
“I’m failing.”
“Why am I always failing?”

The woman sinks her head further into her stomach, hoping to make the voices disappear, but they saturate the air, getting louder and louder. The woman ransacks her mind for answers, looking for anything to help her get out of her crumbling house, but her search yields nothing.

Why am I trying so hard? I should just give up. I’m so tired. I’m so tired, she repeats.

I’m so tired.

She hears the crying child again faintly beneath the cacophony of adult voices.

The cries of her child-self tighten her chest with more pain than all the voices barraging her.

“I’m sorry,” the woman says out loud. “I’m sorry you thought were never good enough. I’m sorry you thought you were ugly, fat and stupid.”

The house buckles and invisible beams crash loudly all around her. The wind wails as it unleashes its most powerful gust, dialing up the volume of the adult voices.

“I can’t hear you,” her child-self says.

The woman raises her voice. “I’m sorry you had to lie so much to escape feeling unworthy. I’m sorry you tied your worth to what you accomplished, what schools you went to, what things you owned, and what places you’ve been to! I’m sorry you didn’t believe in yourself. I’m sorry you hated yourself. I’m sorry you failed to trust in the power and beauty within you. I’m sorry you couldn’t see any of those good things in you. I’m sorry you let people decide for you. Decide who you were and what you were supposed to be.

I’m sorry you couldn’t be honest with who you really were. That you pretended to be happy and didn’t get help. I’m sorry that you were afraid and alone. That you didn’t feel loved or wanted. That you thought something was wrong with you. I’m sorry you wasted your years thinking about the past and the future. I’m sorry you lost time pleasing other people. I’m sorry you wanted to kill yourself. That you suffered so much pain to even want to do that. I’m sorry you couldn’t see that you were in charge of your own self worth.

I’m sorry. I’m sorry for the nights you cried. For the days you walked with your heart in pieces, your mind heavy with worry. I’m sorry about the people who couldn’t see your pain. I’m sorry you felt so unworthy to talk to someone because you feared of becoming a burden. I’m sorry you gave up the interests and dreams you loved become someone told you they were worthless.

I’m sorry that you had to mourn for the deaths of your dreams, some at infancy. I’m sorry for the callous people, the shallow ones, the racist ones, the sexist ones, the homophobic ones—all those people who brought you down because of their own insecurities and because of society. I’m sorry for the people who hurt you. I’m sorry for the friends and family you lost. Some to death, others to distance, a few to time, several because of your pain.

I’m sorry. Sorry that you felt trapped, stuck, and incapable of moving forward. I’m sorry you had to shut down and withdraw. Sorry you couldn’t hear the music or appreciate beauty because of your pain. I’m sorry you couldn’t find the time to sit down and breathe. I’m sorry for the times you needed a hug and no one was there. The times you needed a touch of assurance, a word of encouragement, and a voice of understanding, but found none.

I’m sorry. Sorry for the times you failed and felt incompetent. I’m sorry you thought had to give up so quickly. Sorry you gave up so quickly. I’m sorry you lost your way and couldn’t find it back. I’m sorry you thought you could never find it back. I’m sorry for the shame and guilt you were made to feel because of who you were, because of your body, because of your desires. I’m sorry you didn’t love yourself, your body, and your spirit.”

The house ceased to shake and the wind stopped howling. The woman uncurled her head from her stomach and pushed her palms against the ground to stand up straight, her shoulders squared and her chin high. Hands dangling by her side, her child-self appeared across from her. A small flame of light appeared above them.

“I’m so sorry,” the woman continues, her voice calm and clear. “But I want you to know one thing. I love you. I love you more than you can ever know. I won’t let anyone hurt you anymore. I won’t let anyone make you feel inferior. I won’t let anyone steal your hopes and dreams. I will always be here to defend you. I will always be here to hold you and give you strength. I will always be here to fight for your cause.

I know I can’t remove all the hurt, pain, and suffering you’ve already been through, but I want you to know I can help you from now on, giving you my guidance and strength. I will help you experience the rest of your days with beauty, dignity, and most of all, love. You don’t have to be afraid anymore because I am here, always by your side.”

The woman reaches her hands out, and her child-like self runs to her arm. The woman hugs her in a tight hold.

Her child-self asks, “What about the things you were looking for?”

“I can’t remember what I was looking for. I found you and that’s all that matters.”

The flame above them bursts into a huge conflagration, lightening up the dark space and consuming the house from the inside out. The fire leaves the woman and her child-self untouched. The house destroyed,the woman now stands alone in the middle of a field with her arms wrapped around herself. She searches left and right for her child-self but the little girl is nowhere in sight.

She sits down on the grass with her legs crossed and stares ahead at the field stretching for eternity. There is no sky, only pure white above her and the green of the swaying grass blades.

The woman closes her eyes. I need to build a new house.

~~~

The woman stands at the window of her kitchen’s apartment and follows the drops of rain trickling down the pane. A mug of black tea is nestled between her hands, sending much needed warmth to her cold hands. A smile tugs at the corners of her lips.

Today is a perfect day to write, she thinks. So she leaves the window and brings her coffee mug to her desk. She sits down and lifts open the lid of her laptop. Her fingers tap the keyboards without pressing down. She thinks for a minute.

The words come and the woman writes.