Three Days.

Barthes, Junot Diaz,  home-cured ham, Vietnamese drip coffee, and a heart overflowing with love. 

***

Three days ago: I finally mustered the courage to read Junot Diaz’s This Is How You Lose Her a few days ago. My soul woman recommended the book to me – “He speaks your life language, read him,” she said. So I did. I finished his book in a day.

I revisited the words, over and over. Dreamt of faces I thought I’d forgotten. Remembered smells on streets that my heart recognized before my brain did.

You ask everybody you know: How long does it usually take to get over it?

There are many formulas. One year for every year you dated. Two years for every year you dated. It’s just a matter of will power: The day you decide it’s over, it’s over. You never get over it.” 

You never get over it. And yet, you do. You learn how to wake up again, and brush your teeth. You learn how to put on some lipstick, and wear a smile, and this time, it reaches your eyes. You learn how to run, not to loosen the knot in your chest, but to strengthen the beat of your heart.

You never get over it. And yet, you do.

Sometimes, the names, and the memories, and the places, and the kisses start to blur. You mix the dates up. You mix the feelings up. Everything that is sepia-coloured becomes one long tale that you write about on Saturday nights, in your bed, with a cup of hot tea by your bedside.

You never get over it. And yet, you do.

“This is what I know: people’s hopes go on forever.” 

Two days ago: I’ve been reading Barthes. I’ve written about Barthes before, and just like they did then, his words remind and re-educate.

“The psychotic lives in the terror of breakdown – the clinical fear of breakdown is the fear of a breakdown which has already been experienced.”

A frantic text message reads: “I’ve told myself I cannot, must not live in fear. I will not go back now.”

Barthes has hit the proverbial nail on its head. We fear what we’ve already experienced – we fear the pain of what has been done, not because we believe (somewhere deep down inside) that we could possibly survive it again, but because we fear that possibly, this time, this time, we will succumb.

In essence, we are fearing a construct of the past, not the reality of the present.

“Whereupon I know what the present, that difficult tense, is: a pure portion of anxiety.”

I can only see one message repeating itself: Stay away from old patterns and habits.

This morning: Home-cured bacon, Vietnamese drip coffee, and light, light everywhere.

Another text message (but I first heard this in a testimonial a year ago): “He shuts doors that need to be shut, and I am thankful.”

A friend of ten years and his never ending love. A friend of seven years and her never ending patience. A friend of four years and his never ending wisdom. A friend of one year and her never ending optimism.

I write to him: “I’m blessed.”

Barthes words float through my fingers: “What love lays bare in me is energy. Everything I do has a meaning (hence, I can live, without whining), but this meaning is an ineffable finality: it is merely the meaning of my strength.”

I’ve lived a lifetime of emotions in three days.

 

 

The Excuse of Being Busy.

Being busy is a choice. Letting life slip through your fingers every time you say you’re busy, is also, a choice. 

Choose well.

A note to self, more than anything else. 

***

“You need to write more,” she tells me.

I nod. Yes, yes, of course.

I’d been thinking the same thing, usually at that moment before I fell asleep after a grueling day. It has been a recurring thought.

(But, but, I think to myself, how does one wake sleeping words?)

It has unsettled me, this dark silence.

Words have been my companions through the best and worst moments in my life. Words have brought me friends from all over the world, and words have helped me to heal from the pain of losing friends. Words were there when cancer was, words were there when cancer sort of left (it never really does, let’s face it). Words were there to remind me of the person that I wanted to be, words were there to remind me of the beautiful people whom I never wanted to forget.

(The Word, has always been and will always be there)

And now, all of a sudden, nothing but this dark, deep silence.

It has happened before. I know it will happen again.

“How do you think I can become a better writer?” I remember asking the best lover once.

“Live better. The words will come, you’ll write better.” He told me. He’s not much of a texter, this one. And yet, with those poignant words, he reminded me of something I’ve held at the forefront of my life, ever since.

The truth is, I haven’t been living well. I haven’t been all here. Hell, I haven’t been all anywhere. Days have blurred into late nights, and instant deadlines, and the constant busyness of something which amounts to something which eventually amounts to nothing.

(It’s no surprise then, that the words have sunk to the bottom of the pit, waiting for life to ignite them.)

I had not known my mother was ill until two days later, when she told me over breakfast. We live in the same house. She hadn’t seen me for most of the week.

Thank goodness she understands. Thank goodness she forgives me each time.

The truth is, it shouldn’t be this way.

Being busy, like everything else in life, is a choice. Sometimes, it is a choice we are forced to make. Regardless, it is a choice. Being busy without really “gaining” anything, is also a choice. Most times, a choice we make because it makes us feel “useful”, “productive”, gives us a sense of “worth”. After some time, this “being busy” way of living becomes an excuse. An excuse to make ourselves feel better, an excuse for a life that is spiraling out of control, and perhaps, an excuse for not stopping and facing the barest and most stripped down versions of ourselves.

There is a time and place for everything, including being busy.

There is a time and place for everything, including (and especially) rest.

More than you, and you, and you out there, this is a reminder I’m writing to myself.

P.S: Learning to stop is not a sin, it is a necessity. 

P.P.S: To write well, one must live well. Start living! 

 

 

 

 

Love in Forgotten Spaces.

We find love hiding in forgotten spaces, and it reminds us all that we should and must be thankful for.

Taken in Singapore.

Processed with VSCOcam with x1 preset

She welcomed us into her house with a smile – it was a one room flat, and it was clean, albeit a little messy. She was flustered in her excitement to have us over, there were 7 of us, but we managed to sit comfortably in her living room/bed room/dining room while I hovered outside her flat, keeping an eye on my team, but mostly, listening to what she had to say.

Her son stared at us with wide, sparkling eyes, round cheeks, and a rosebud mouth that bespoke of giggles and smiles, but at that moment, a whole lot of trepidation. He had no idea why there were so many of us here, all at once.

The team started pottering around the space, asking for the little boy’s help in cleaning up the area, and I continued to speak to her. She told me about how much her mother loved her son (“more than me, if I dare say so myself”), about her son’s favourite food, how he was doing well in school though there were some subjects that he didn’t particularly like. Though the boy seemed occupied, I knew he was listening to what his mother had to say about him. I caught his quick smile when she praised him, and thought to myself, this is how it begins. Love begins with the right word at the right moment, even in the most sparse of circumstances.

There was one thing I kept seeing and hearing when I spent time with this lady in her home: She was trying to give him everything that he had lost when his father made the decision to leave the family. In the way she talked about how she tried to cook his favourite food, in how they watched horror movies together (his favourite), in how she was trying to get the computer fixed, in how she was trying to move to a bigger place so that he could have his own room (“he’s becoming a big boy now, he needs his privacy, sometimes, he gets so shy that he doesn’t even want to change infront of me!”), in how her every word somehow went back to him, and what she could do for him, and how she could make his life better.

I’d forgotten about this facet of love – give, give, give, without expecting anything in return. The daily mundane grind has a way of luring you into a trap of dull grey, where these little bright shards of love are forgotten in the face of bills, long commuting hours, 10-hours-at-the-office-desk.

She wanted to bring him to swim in the community pool. Look at him, all ready to leave, she teases. He’s a brilliant swimmer, she adds. I can tell that even if he wasn’t, she’d be proud of him anyway. Proud because he was her son, and any achievement, even a non-achievement, was something worth being happy about. I’d forgotten this too. Love comes with gratitude for all that there is, in the face of all that isn’t.

The team continued to entertain the boy by asking him questions about his likes and dislikes. She turned to me, and her eyes were shining with something that looked like thankfulness. I didn’t know where to look in the face of that naked emotion. Thank you for coming, she said. Sometimes, all we need is just people to talk to…Thank you for listening so patiently, and thank you for giving him something to remember this day by.

I smiled, muttered words that barely did justice to her simple, quiet declaration.

My dad’s words came back to me as we slowly left the house.

“Sometimes, the greatest gift you can give others is reminding them that their stories are worth listening to. This too, is love.”

We do find love in forgotten spaces. We just have to keep our eyes wide open so that when it assaults our senses, we are able to gather it into the dusty corners of our hearts, and take strength in the beauty it has to offer.

 

Of Saris and Skies.

My mother’s sari is not worth one, but an eternity of poems. 

*Picture is not mine*

***

 

blog

Fill me with the kind of love
that speckles the sky with chiseled mirrors,
I remember a love like this, once, a long time ago, on
a starry sky that my mother wore as a sari, draped.

A starry sky of the softest black, resting gently on
my mother’s hips, heavy with the darkness of
womanhood, or maybe, her tears from yesterday when
Papa left for the last time.

Mother writes to me every weekend,
I (try to) remember little of her, except for the way
her hands would press against my fevered ill brows,
and the sari, like a starry sky, would speak of all things
possible in this impossible world, whenever I think of
hope, I remember her.

The starry sky on my mother’s sari is the colour of dreams
on days when reality tastes too strong in my mouth,
the lightness of my mother’s smile flits into my mind, the first time
my father gave her a gift, this soft dark velvet speckled with bright,
her eyes were brighter than any mirror I had ever seen.

Mother never told me what happened to the sari; she has understood
the ways of keeping the memories tightly shut, time has passed,
people have left, words have withered away into silence, and yet,
yet, the starry sky on my mother’s sari continues to glisten;
only, I wish that I could have kept my mother’s eyes as
bright.

An Open Letter to You.

All it takes is that one moment to either swing you up stream, or down stream.

As I was writing this, I also understood that all that I write, and read, and search for in life, is a feeling of connectedness with another living being to be assured that no, no, I am not alone, and to assure that, no, no, you are not alone.

And I wanted you to know this. Right here, right now. 

***
An open letter to You:
All of us go through such things don’t we? 

This intense high of being one with the world, being part of this big happy family called humanity, of being in love, of being loved, where the sun is beaming somewhere in your chest, the sky is a bright azure blue and when you listen closely enough, the birds are chirping in the distance.

Then, there is the gut clenching low, when the train breaks down at night, and you can’t get a cab, there is a creeping pain in your lower back and no one has texted or called you in hours, so you feel cold and alone, and then, your iPod decides to unearth that one playlist that you gifted the love of your life years ago (why do you still have this, you wonder) and the waves of pain start. It seems like it was just yesterday that you were on your knees, wailing for an end to the kind of emotional agony that you didn’t think you could possibly feel.

There are the days when you need friends and no one is around. There are the days when there are too many friends and all you want is some peace and quiet so you can listen to the new song that was dropped several days ago. There are days when you are so happy that there is no reason to think that you could ever feel like shit again (“Negativity? That stuff is a myth!”). There are days when you are so goddamn miserable that other people’s happiness sits like a dull weight between your ribs, not because you wish them harm, but because you yearn for a sliver of what they have.

There are days when all your body parts work and you are on top of the blessed world, young, full of energy, vitality and strength. Nobody can stop you with that fire in your veins, you think. You are ready to question every injustice, fight every battle against humanity, give your hundred and twenty nine percent for all your endeavors and function in superlatives. Then come the days when the alarm goes off at 5.30 in the morning and you think of the long day that stretches ahead of you, and the people you have to put up with, and for a split second, the thought crosses your mind that you should skip work, or even better, head back to sleep and hopefully not wake up for a long time, and you wonder when the world managed to get the better of you. Your bones feel like lead, your breast hurts again (“Oh god, is the cancer coming back?!?!” or it might just be your heart reacting to a dream you thought had forgotten) and your skin feels too hot for your soul.

There are days when you know you’ve crossed the line and left the past behind, and there are days when you realise you are caught in the quicksand of memories and choking on the debris of nostalgia. There are days you will be thankful for those who hold your hand in your present, and there are days when you are weeping as you stand left behind after having handed your heart on a platter to someone who didn’t look back.

God, there are days, and then there are days.

These are days that your mother, your father’s aunt, your sister, your husband of thirty four years, your best friend, your teacher, your boss and your non-friend have gone through, just like you have, just like you had, and just like you will, though perhaps, they might be a little more silent or a little louder than you are when it passes them by.
What I mean to say is, there are good days, and there are bad days, and both will happen, and you will survive, even if you don’t think you will. I just wanted you to know that I’ve gone through them, just like you’ve gone through them, and you’re not alone.
That’s all.