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Map-Making

I have been feeling like a ghost.

I vaguely remember waking up one morning with a feeling of air embracing me, like a light-weight force field keeping the world outside.

It’s nothing like that time when, in the middle of campus, I suddenly felt like everything was two-dimensional and made of sintra. The world was a meticulous stage set put up exclusively to fool me. But that’s not what it looks like today.

Imagine constantly needing warmth and coolness at the same time. Imagine getting burnt or frostbitten each time because you couldn’t find the perfect lukewarm. Actually, imagine that your skin is just layers and layers of cotton and you don’t really feel much at all.

You’d think it feels like poetry. You’d think it was a glorious feeling to feel like poetry, but I’m starting to doubt that’s so.

What I meant to say is — it’s January. Early into the second week and I still haven’t said hello to you, or said goodbye to December for that matter. I had given myself cold hard deadlines for learning how to let go of things, but my fingers weren’t quite warm enough to move. That’s just another way of saying I’m still staring at the scars. And I’m still trying to un-learn the dangerous idea that what I feel is beautiful.

***

I’ve lost track of the story that I was trying to write,

but if you have the depth in your soul, maybe you were still seeing it. Maybe you saw all the things that have been happening in my quiet, unruly life.

M came back. But conversations aren’t what they used to be.

They aren’t what they used to be with anyone.

I wrote one letter, and no more.

My soul-mates are many more than I thought, but they are less alike to me than I hoped.

***

I feel like a poem—

one that the writer abandoned half-way through; she stepped off the stage and said she’d never try again. I feel like I disappointed her by not being the poem she wanted to say. I feel like she wanted me to be funny, to make people laugh and love her, and I feel like I made her realize she was lonely. I feel like the loneliest poem she had ever tried to write.

What’s bizarre to me is how things quickly become normal after you’ve given them enough time. I have moved homes — literal and metaphorical — so many times in the past four months that it has started to feel normal to be in between.

Like on airplanes, when you’re actually nowhere on earth. Leaving was strange and arriving was unnatural. That’s what it felt like, but drifting? It felt like home.

I am constantly finding new homes, never the ones I am looking for, just like this isn’t the letter I intended to write.

I am always finding new places to come from. But for some reason, I am never starting over.

I’ll see you soon.

Dear Tuesday,

I am going to do a brave thing. All my worlds and heroes are telling me to let people be loved the way they are, and I am going to do that.

I didn’t love myself for a very long time. This isn’t news. I went through cycles and phases of loving myself at any state, and sometimes of twisting myself into a state I thought I could love. It’s the wild hunt for self-worth that melted and hammered me into the person I am today. I’m not grateful for the suffering. But at the start and end of each day I seem to like myself, and it’s difficult to not be grateful for that.

Here’s a trade-off: I forget people’s unwillingness to go through the fire themselves. Anyone who’s been through some tough times will tell you that we all come out stronger from it, but that doesn’t make the fire any more appealing. It is so easy to forget that.

I told somebody that I’ve been having these golden visions of a better time. A life long ahead of me when my suffering is purposeful, my heart recovered, my soul fulfilled. I envision myself a happy ending, one I will work hard to get to. One I will brave storms and hells to deserve.

But the storms never seem worth the trouble to anybody else. Hell is too big a price to pay for a happy ending that might come to us anyway. The present is wonderful and needs protecting too.

I think I get it.

It’s not the path I choose for myself, but I get it. And I release any duty I thought I had to make choices for other people’s stories.

I deeply appreciate what I’ve gone through and who I’ve become. But I look back on the girl I was before the first storm hit me, and I realize she needed protecting too. She needed validation too, for who she was then. She never needed to go through the fire and become me to receive the love that I am now receiving. She should have gotten it at the start.

Whoever let me have it would have been running the risk of preventing me from ever growing or changing. But letting me own that risk for myself would have been their gift to me. As it will now be my gift to anyone else.

We need people, and we need to be the people who give others the permission to sit in their own skins and not be afraid. That’s the best gift you are ever going to give someone– the permission to feel safe in their own skin. To feel worthy. To feel like they are enough. (Hannah Brencher, )

Because more than a brave thing to do, it is loving. It is kind. While it is good for my soul to give, it is better that someone has received because of me, and it makes all the difference. It is the whole point. It is everything about the kind of life I intend to be living at my happy ending.

So I’m going to go do that.

When I finally fall in love and agree to forever, be warned. This is how it will feel:

1. I will fall asleep to you and wake up to you. The rest of my life will consist of waiting to fall asleep again.

2. When there is anyone else, I will need them to know that you and I are one and the same.

3. The more I love you, the more I will believe in a God. (I hope you will too.)

4. When my heart breaks, it folds like a cave. I will be a mountain that cannot hold itself together.

5. (I hope you plant flowers at the openings.)

More and more of my letters are addressed to the months of the year, and I haven’t decided if I find it funny or sad.

As life takes me away into a situation I know I wasn’t ready for, I get lonelier. My phone book is filling up but none of them are people I can call at the proverbial 3AM. My hands have started looking for addresses to write to or paper to write on but I have found none. And so I write to time.

I give myself numbers to hold tight to. Two weeks, and you can share your salty thoughts. Five months, and you can write down a milestone. A year, and you can say you’ve done enough. I give myself time, and I tell myself it’s just time. It’s just weeks. It’s just months. You’ve done it twenty-one times, at least.

It’s still not enough to compose me. My life seems split unevenly between things that matter and waiting for the things that matter to find me. Or love me back.

I am having trouble being loved back.

What hurts is trying to make up for it by giving love even more and what hurts is I don’t have an idea if it’s working. All I feel is lonelier, and emptier. All I start to think of is maybe October has always been dark blue to me.

Despite the love I used to find in October and despite someone always wanting to hold my hand, October is dark, unfriendly blue. It is the onset of lonelier things, of personal winters. It is the recurring question of whether or not I can live inside my own head for much longer.

Loves, it is so damn lonely inside my head.

1.

“Man starts over again everyday, in spite of all he knows, against all he knows.” (Emil Cioran)

2.

if you have the courage
to make it through a lonely night
with nothing but
your self destructive thoughts
to keep you company,

darling, you have
the courage to make it through
anything.

(“silent nights” by typical treatment.)

3.

“Try and stay fresh and engaged and have something in your heart that you want to say [that] feels important to you.” (Stephen King)

4.

“I don’t want to look back in five years time and think, “We could have been magnificent, but I was afraid.” In 5 years I want to tell of how fear tried to cheat me out of the best thing in life, and I didn’t let it.” (sublime-flowers)

5.

“I would like to be known as an intelligent woman, a courageous woman, a loving woman, a woman who teaches by being.” (Maya Angelou)

6.

“Some days are like this. And the only way to get through them is to remember that they are only one day, and that every day ends.” (David Levithan, Six Earlier Days)

7.

“If you care about something enough, it’s going to make you cry. But you have to use it. Use your tears. Use your pain. Use your fear. Get mad.” (Sherman Alexie, The Absolutely True Diary Of a Part-Time Indian)

8.

“Whenever you’re going through a bad day just remember, your track record for getting through bad days, so far, is 100%; and that’s pretty damn good.” (pain-is-temporary-keep-fighting)

9.

Some women are
Lost in the fire.
Some women are
Built from it.

(michelle k.)

10.

“You’ll figure that out. The more you know who you are, and what you want, the less you let things upset you.” (Lost in Translation, 2003)

11.

“People will love you. People will hate you. And none of it will have anything to do with you.” (Abraham Hicks)

12.

“You will always be too much of something for someone: too big, too loud, too soft, too edgy. If you round out your edges, you lose your edge.” (Danielle LaPorte, The Positivity of Pride)

13.

“Be as you wish to seem.” (Socrates)

14.

“I am learning every day to allow the space between where I am and where I want to be to inspire me and not terrify me.” (Tracee Ellis Ross)

15.

“‘Why the fuck not me?’ should be your motto.” (Mindy Kaling)

16.

“Never bend your head. Hold it high. Look the world straight in the eye.” (Helen Keller)

17.

“Owning our story and loving ourselves through that process is the bravest thing that we will ever do.” (Brene Brown)

18.

“My darling, you are allowed to fail without being a failure. You are allowed to make mistakes without becoming one. More opportunities will present themselves, you will find hope again.” (rustyvoices)

19.

“Having a soft heart in a cruel world is courage, not weakness.” (Katherine Henson)

20.

“There’s power in looking silly and not caring that you do.” (Amy Poehler)

21.

“Always be kinder than you feel.”

There’s a rare and fleeting time of the day when the sky is streaks of peachy pink and powder blue. I saw it today, and it occurred to me that there are moments when I feel exactly like that, with no other way to describe it. There are also months which feel like that, and September is one of them.

September to me is a pretty girl’s name written in dull gold ink. September is how I know the difference between something that gives and something that takes away. August always takes away, but September is generous to me.

After days and days of dark places, I slowed down at an in-between. I started thinking about the kind of person I really wanted to be and the kind of people I really wanted to be around. It put things into perspective, sometimes painfully so.

I found myself crawling forward with this stubborn, aching hope that I had somewhere to go. This, after weeks of feeling like maybe life was directionless and I could belong on the ground in the middle of nowhere just as perfectly as the peak of a mountaintop somewhere. I felt like maybe I could conquer a hill and be okay with it.

But we were talking about September.

While I was looking at the pale clouds and thinking about touches that give and touches that take away, something whispered to me that I was, for once in my life, looking at collections of vapor and seeing miracles and feelings. I wasn’t quite sure what that meant for me, but I felt very very deeply that I was at least looking in the direction of the kind of person I wanted to be. The kind of person I actually am somewhere underneath my rust.

I felt, for the first time in a long time, how very very capable of love I was.

If that ends up being the only thing September gives me, I’d still feel like it was more than I’ve had in forever and I’m thankful.

DeathtoStock_Wired6
I had never really been an “aim-and-fire” kind of person, the kind who sets her sights on something and runs towards it until she’s there. It must have something to do with my attention span and my motivation. Specifically my lack of either one.

But at the beginning of this year, I tried to do something for the first time. I set a list of goals for the year. Some of them were pretty specific, like “Read at least 20 books,” while others were as vague and fluid as “Do 10 things I’ve never done before.”

Just last week I was lamenting over my list and how behind I am on completing it. Some items are more or less gone by now, while others just became difficult because I put them off so long. And of course I was feeling sorry for myself and my growing list of disappointments.

But something happened recently, I guess that odd, false feeling of “invincibility” that comes with depression sometimes. You know, when people who have been through a personal hell feel like they’ll never experience anything worse. And so they become reckless, or brave, or maybe just tired of hiding under the blankets at 4 in the afternoon.

I realized I might actually be learning to let things go.

I think I finally accept the meaning of the line, “Things didn’t go as planned and that’s okay.

I think I am finally forgiving myself for having little failures that help me grow.

You don’t know what a huge deal this is.

On New Year, I received a letter from myself. First I reminded myself of what my hopes and wishes were a year before, and then I reminded myself that it was totally okay if I didn’t get them. In fact, I congratulated myself for getting through the year at all. These are the kinds of things I do to cope.

I am constantly learning to coach myself positively, to treat myself kindly, to protect myself in a world where nobody else will. I think I might be seeing the effects of it for the first time. So somewhere I changed from mourning my unfulfilled goals, into listing down the chances I still have to do it.

Instead of thinking that half the year is gone, I think that I still have half a year to go.

Let me tell you, I still find sadness beautiful; it’s still my old friend, and I am certain we will still be seeing each other a lot. But god, if this is what positivity tastes like I don’t think I’d ever want to go back.