Tag Archives: writing

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. 

Advertisements

PITCHWARS PIMP MY BIO

Howdy! Welcome to my #PimpMyBio page for #PITCHWARS 2016. Woot woot! Writers from all over the world enter their works for a chance to win the help of a mentor. Why is that awesome? Because these amazing mentors whip a mentee’s manuscript into tip top form for the Agent Round. Hello? Awesome opportunity? You betcha! (I swear I’m not related to Sarah Palin). Anyway, learn more about it from the incredible Brenda Drake’s website here. Also, give some love to the other bios at Lana Pattinson’s how to page here.

ABOUT ME:

silly me
G’day! >>>> My writing face. >_<

Call me Samantha. Born and raised in Boston, I attended a small Catholic school in Dorchester called St. Kevin’s. In third grade, I wrote a story about a bunny detective trying to save the world from an evil mastermind. My teacher, Ms. Bess, loved it and read it aloud to the whole class. My fellow classmates clapped and cheered, and thus began my lifelong journey of writing, books, and chasing dreams.

powerpuff-blossom-running-gif

I’ve failed countless times in publishing my stories, but I’ve never given up because writing is my world, my passion, my life—everything. I’m serious. Writing helped me survived high school, college, graduate school, and post-school life. Writing is how I survive every day. When I’m depressed, I write. When I’m happy, I write. When I’m excited, I write. I think you get the picture.

writer-moments9

With writing, I’m unstoppable, like a Shinkansen (high-speed train from Japan) rocketing to her dreams.

When I’m not swimming in books and writing, I’m Netflixing, playing story video games, teaching (my second love), traveling, and talking to my little brother about everything. He’s my hero. I’d do anything for him. My relationship with my brother is why I enjoy writing and reading stories with strong sibling relationships, biological or not. I’m also a big fan of stories with friendships, and I blame anime for that—we can do it, together! Ganbatte! (Japanese: Do your best!) *friendship hugs*

tumblr_inline_n4x7jmi2kt1ro4gn4

This is my third time entering Pitchwars! YAY!

FAVORITE CHILDHOOD BOOKS: His Dark Materials series, The Giver, Bridge to Terabithia, the Secret Garden, Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry, and Narnia Chronicles. I also read a lot historical MG/YA fiction about the Civil Right movement and Holocaust in middle school. I always loved history as a kid. Still do sometimes.

ABOUT MY MS:

It’s five years ago. I’m in grad school in NYC, Columbia, studying sociology of education. One strange night, I have a horrible nightmare. I’m in a different body. My lips are sewn shut so I can only moan. My surroundings are a post-apocalyptic wasteland. I’m wandering around, scared as hell, and I find a small boy. A voice from nowhere says: protect him. The boy turns around and stares at me with these shining silver eyes. And then I wake up. Seriously. True story.

p89jk

What do I do? I jump to my computer and write out everything from the nightmare. I turn it into a story and get five pages. I stop there and eventually forget about it.

It’s last summer. I finished watching Mad Max: Fury Road, and I absolutely loved it! And for some strange reason, I’m reminded of this old story I started back in grad school. I get an incredible rush to write it, to finish the story. After three rewrites and revisions, I get the story down and a title: THE MOON’S EDGE.

So what’s it about?

Alyssira Beaulieu goes from high school senior to soldier when forced to survive in a post-apocalyptic Boston. She might have to cross a dangerous wasteland to retrieve a journal capable of dismantling the evil Moon Empire and thwarting their plans to sell Earth to an alien race. That is unless she chooses to fight an equally dangerous battle with her fellow soldiers instead.

WISHES: I would really love a potential mentor to help me with plotting and pacing, along with word economy and choice. I can be wordy sometimes, and it can be hard for me to catch that on my own. I’d also like help with whether my characters’ actions/reactions are logical. My brain works differently in what I think would be an appropriate response to some things.

tumblr_o8veltd3e81rc45qro1_500

WHY YOU SHOULD PICK ME:

First: If you love sci-fi stories about queer kickass heroines who mess up big-time, heroines that are stubborn, frank, and humorous (some humor is important to me so let me know if I’m funny or not ^^), then you’ll enjoy MOON’S EDGE. Also, I have a great cast of supporting characters: love interests, friends, a hot dude who bakes pies, and a growing sibling relationship.

Group dynamics are really important to me in a story, so if you could help me improve that, I’d be forever grateful. Also, my story has a BIG fantastical element, so it’s more like SF/F. If you don’t mind or rather enjoy the two together in one story, then I think you’ll enjoy my manuscript.

 

tumblr_ml8br2wcj11so44hao1_500
My story takes place in noir type cyberpunk city.

 

Second: I work hard. I’m not sensitive. I take critiques and use it to turn whatever I have into gold. With the right mentor, I know we can make gold. Rip me to shreds, and I’ll do everything I can to show you how much better I can be. I’m an Aries, we love challenges. MISSION: ACCEPTED.

 

candela_by_draxnoel-dabkllo
Proud to be an Aries. Go Team Valor!

Third: Despite all the passion, I’m really chill and love cracking jokes, even if they’re bad or corny. So if you have a good sense of humor, then let’s make bad jokes together. 😀

All right, let’s get this started!

giphy

 

Featured image by Marek Okon @ Sci-fi Fantasy Horror

Warning: Inside the Mind of a Highly Functioning Depressive 1.0

Warning: Language

It’s 1:30 in the morning as I write this now with my mind unable to sleep thanks to the millions of thoughts flitting across my head at 240kmh (that’s 150mph for us non-metric folk).

I feel the pain of the world too easily with all the tragedies unfolding this year, this week, today, right now, threatening to tear my heart and mind apart. Hopelessness sets in along with my weakness and sense of powerlessness to change or stop the daily horrors. Forget our politicians. We’d have a better chance of asking a group of orangutans to draft new laws that could carry out lasting change.

I wish peace could be attainable for our planet, but it doesn’t feel like it will ever happen. Sometimes it feels like hate runs deeper than love. That violence is our code instead of helping and caring for our fellow neighbor. And that we would rather cheer for those who scream the loudest and throw verbal vomit the farthest.

But most of us are asking the same question: What the fuck is wrong with humanity?

It’s not like it’s anything new. Generally, humans have always sucked since the beginning. It’s just with the countless social media options of our modern society, we now have the wonderful pleasure of knowing exactly how much we suck, and this shit can be quite overwhelming.

I know we can’t have a perfect world, but could we at least have a world that can work on dialing down the shittiness factor of humanity, its greed, lust for hate, death, and destruction? What would it take? What would we have to do? How long would we be willing to wait for it to happen? Why am I thinking about these things? Why do I care so much when all I’m doing is exacerbating my depression with all of these thoughts?

And yet, I can’t escape them because it’s who I am; it’s pretty much engrained in my DNA to be heavily concerned about the state of the world and humanity. Lucky me.

I know there’s more good than bad out there. Unfortunately, our social media outlets have a high propensity for tragedies and crude humor and cats, always the damn freaking cats. Okay, can’t hate too much on the cats because those little bastards are too cute and entertaining. I mean, just look at this.

maxresdefault
Catroll! Yeah!

But to get back on track, we need more good news to help balance out the bad. We’re not that starved for sensationalism and horrors that we would throw away the stories of humans not being shitty for once and actually accomplishing pretty amazing feats to help others and make the world a lot less horrible.

Maybe I’m simply talking to the wind, and we’ve long resigned to our fate to stay the same and not evolve into better versions of ourselves. I know that isn’t the case, but it certainly does feel that way.

We can’t stay stagnant and keep hoping someone else will the do the dirty work for us. The social upheaval our world needs today won’t come from one charismatic, uplifiting leader, but from everyone coming together to wake up and yell a resounding, “Enough is enough.” And then going there to do something about it.

Anyway, what about you? What keeps your mind running at night if it does?

Stay amazing

Samantha

Being Alone and Lonely in Japan: An Introvert’s Perspective

 

Listen, you’ll need bottles of cheap wine, 500+ tracks of good music, some of it mindless like 2000s pop, a deeper appreciation for introversion, a good activity to speed up time—mine is writing (thank God or else I would’ve jumped in front of a Shinkansen already)—Netflix playing in the background, a quick dismissal of whatever qualms you’ve had about talking to yourself in public, your Kindle to tackle all that reading you’ve long neglected, and a big healthy dose of IDGAF anymore because it’s that serious.

Loneliness and being alone.

Two different concepts but living in a small town in Japan, I can no longer tell the difference.

Being alone is loving your own company because you think you’re the coolest even when you’re not, but it doesn’t matter. You must believe you’re the coolest if you’re going to get onboard with being alone.

You relish the silence that comes once you’ve entered your place after work. You don’t want to bang your head over the deafening sound of your endlessly rolling thoughts.

You can relax, stretch your limbs, get stuff done, eat ugly, forget the pants, and curse loudly at the stupidity of whatever show you’re watching. Sleep late or early. Read or waste time on YouTube videos or scrolling through Facebook.

No one is there to nag you. No one is there to ask you for any favors. No one is there to annoy you. No one is there to judge you.

No. One. Is. There.

Back home, I enjoyed being alone. But here in Japan, it’s a different story because I’m alone every day even when I’m with people, sometimes especially when I’m with people.

Back home, I’m not alone every day because when I’m over being alone, I can go ahead and be with people I love and enjoy talking with. I can take a break from being alone. I have a choice.

But here, six thousand plus miles away from people who like hugging (I’m a hugger; people aren’t huggers here), who can keep me engaged in a good conversation, and who have a strong connection with the real me, I can’t take a break from being alone. Guess what happens? My time alone eventually turns into the beast called loneliness.

Hold on tight because I’m about to drop some bombs about loneliness in Japan, especially when you live in a rural town where the most exciting thing is an earthquake tremor.

First, let me get this one simple thought out of the way: being lonely in Japan sucks.

Okay, now we can go ahead and hit the deeper points.

1.) Communication:

If I ever plan to live in a foreign country where the people don’t speak either French, English, or Spanish, I’ll make sure to be enrolled in real, not online, language classes. My Japanese ability is enough to get me by and fulfill essential needs: shopping, eating out, traveling, and banking.

But a person needs more to maintain a healthy mind. A person needs conversations that go beyond likes and dislikes and what you think about Japan or why you’re here.

After answering these questions multiple times, you don’t want to talk to anyone anymore. You instead end up talking to yourself since you’re under the impression that you’re the most interesting person you know.

Just kidding, of course. Maybe.

There have been times when I didn’t make any attempt to start a conversation because I knew it wouldn’t lead anywhere significant. I chose to stay quiet and only talk when spoken to.

As an introvert, keeping up a superficial conversation drains so much energy out of me. It augments my depression and feelings of loneliness. In fact, relief  spreads all over me when the conversation ends.

Of course, I talk with my family and friends back home and it helps a great deal, sometimes even saves my life. But nothing can match the simple joy of talking to someone in person, seeing each other’s eyes, smiles, funny grimaces, and feeling each other’s energies.

Here, I am no better than a talking doll with a string you can pull on her back. A doll’s probably more alive, though.

2.) Weekends:

In a previous post, I wrote about how Japan has been great for my writing in term of getting the words down. Why? Because my weekends consist mostly of drinking white wine, cleaning my apartment, and writing.

I’ve written more than I’ve ever had here. It’s the result of not having my weekends booked with the laughter and joy of family and friends. Instead, it’s me, the laptop, and a fiery passion to get work done.

Writing is great. I love it to death. You all know that already. But my sanity needs more than writing. In fact, too much writing has made me colder, more introverted (yes, that can be a bad thing; balance is key, people), and a tad more obsessed with writing itself, which I didn’t think was even possible considering how passionate I am already.

I’m sad to say that I’ve also lost a good chunk of interest in traveling to other cities here. Depression does that to you. Robs you of things you once enjoyed like traveling and exploring new places (thank goodness it hasn’t taken writing yet; the universe knows I’d end it if I lost that). So I prefer to stay in and write at my desk or sit in the corner of my favorite café in town and spend hours writing there.

Another culprit behind my not traveling so much is having to do it alone. This is hard for me to admit, but I don’t like traveling alone.

Kudos to those who can do it, but it’s not for me. I can live alone, no problem, but traveling alone pushes me further into my head and thoughts, which makes me talk out loud more than I’m comfortable with before I can check myself.

If I do have to travel alone, it needs to be in nature with a sparse sprinkling of folks. I can’t stay in crowded places or else I’ll suffocate. So it’s hard to explore a new city because those have lots of people, right? What can I do except run away back to my room where—spoiler alert—no people.

But if I’m with someone, my mind takes a break from the crowds and inner thoughts to focus on the person beside me. I feel better and can endure a trip for quite a long time. I become a happy traveler.

3.) Daily Life:

No. I don’t exist in my daily life. Reality doesn’t exist in my daily life. Nothing exists in my daily life. Monday morning through Friday night is known as THE VOID, the zenith of my loneliness. I escape it somewhat unscathed on Friday nights with lots of wine.

They say life is what you make it. Yeah, well, I’m hanging by my teeth on the highest ledge of the Burj Khalifa to make it through the rest of my stay here in Japan. But the key to surviving this great leviathan called loneliness is not giving in to it.

Never give in, just keep pushing and another day will come one after the other until it’s all over, and you can go back and ask yourself, “What the hell was I doing with my life then?”

Living. You were living and you keep doing it, except way smarter this time around.

So, what are your experiences with being alone and lonely? Would love to hear your thoughts!

Stay amazing,

Samantha

Feeding on Rejection, Criticism, and Reality Checks

This is how it goes. I submitted a short story to a horror magazine last month and received a response about four days later. Before I clicked open the email, I knew it’d be a rejection, and lo and behold, it was a rejection. I promptly dropped it into my Rejections Folder, bringing the count up to 63 big fat NOs from literary agents and magazines.

Now, some might say I brought the rejection to myself for calling it out. Negative. As a writer, I’ve learned to expect rejection 99% of the time and hope for a positive response 1% of the time. It’s not that I think I’m a shitty writer, or else I would’ve quit torturing myself years ago and slide into living a more normal and stable life like most people. You know, be happy.

But I can’t quit writing because a powerful spirit of creation possesses my body: I must write, create, or I die. I’m totally seriously. This is deeper than a calling. It’s like having a second heart. Kill it and my real heart will die soon after. Try to take it away from me and I’ll cut you off cold. Writing has been with me for twenty-one years. Guess who will win in a relationship? Yes, that’s right.

I live in a passionate hell of my own making: it burns, but the flames are never hot enough to destroy me. Sometimes the flames purify me before they go back to burning again. And so I keep writing and grinding hard to get my work published.

Each literary rejection I receive adds a layer of steel around my heart where now even the criticisms, both helpful and painful, I receive from people in situations unrelated to writing have a minuscule effect on me.

I used to be a highly sensitive person with a raging temper who would chew your head off if you offended me. My response to heated environments would turn me into a twister of dramatic outbursts, rushing to make a series of bad decisions based on my current emotional state. In short, I was a walking bomb of rage, ready to explode at the slightest mean poke.

When I received my first batch of rejections, I wanted to throw my laptop out the window and eat a carton of ice cream to heal my scorched soul. The second and third wave of rejections forced me to work harder to improve my craft, read, write more, edit, rinse and repeat. By the fourth and fifth wave, I knew and understood why I was rejected and simply worked on fixing that.

This is what goes through my head now when I receive a rejection:

Oh, I probably should’ve done this and that, or my style doesn’t suit their tastes. Ok, back at it to do some edits or find new people to submit.

I get a small prick in my chest, of course, because I’m human, but I’m no longer devastated or start cursing everything aside from that one obligatory ah, f**k. My hardened writer mindset propels me forward so I don’t stay stuck in a haze of self-pity or low self-esteem.

I don’t have time for that. There’s writing, editing, reading, and learning to be done, and I, unfortunately, don’t have an android version of myself to do it all. It can be hard and frustrating, but I’ve got to do it anyway.

They say writing to get published is a long waiting game, but for me, it’s also a race against myself. How can I be better than my old self in terms of writing speed, quality, word choice, characterization, pacing, tension, and making a reader laugh out loud or get teary-eyed?

The truth is that this race never ends. I’ve signed up for a lifetime journey of self-discovery, pushing my limits, and experiencing the amazing exhilaration of bringing worlds and characters to life.

All the negatives that come with writing—the self-isolation, neurosis, deadlines, rainstorm of rejections and critiques, and so on—can’t compete with the deep self-satisfaction, self-affirmation, and, definitely for my case, the pure thrill of creating.

Sometimes it’s beyond logic and reason, beyond getting published, beyond living forever in your books; it’s knowing exactly why you exist despite what everyone and everything believes and suggests.

And so it goes like this. I feed on rejections, the criticisms, and the occasional harsh reality checks. I don’t ignore them, though. That’s different and unwise. I use them as fertilizer to help my craft grow into a robust green garden full of vitality and beauty.

As a writer, creative, or any person pursuing a project with an insane passion, we can’t let the failures and defeats snuff us out from under the soles of their feet. We push back, get ourselves back up and running again, and seek to learn more. Always. Because what doesn’t kill us shouldn’t only make us stronger, it should make us smarter so that the same old shit doesn’t keep happening again.

And while rejections are important for growth, victories are still better. And that’s what I want. Victory.

What’s your experience with rejection or criticism? Would love to hear your thoughts!

Stay amazing,

Samantha

Featured Image credit: by Park Pyeongjun via totorrl0107 

 

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?

wallpaper-1731613
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.

wallpaper-19023
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.

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.