dig your emptiness in
and let the soils of temporary happiness fall
dig your emptiness in
dig your emptiness in
and let the soils of temporary happiness fall
(I am just a shadow of who I used to be.)
I try to remember a time when the world was still innocent. When I was still innocent. The earth tremored in delight, not in fear… did it not? And blue… blue was the colour of fine skies, not of sadness. The flicker of every heartbeat signalled to life, not to this creaking pain. I was once unhinged, free to roam and dream and smile at the thought of having those dreams because fantasies defined my realities. But now, fantasies have become just that – fantasies and nothing more; a testament to what could have been but will never be. I am just a rusted piece of metal, too frail to swing open, drowning in my own papery breathes. The doors that once beckoned at me with the vitality of a billion lights have now closed upon me. I am alone. And it is dark. And it is cold.
Innocence is not ignorance. If life’s greatest purpose is to be happy and I was happiest in my innocence, then surely I was at my wisest point in those childhood years? The older I grew it seems, the more unsatisfied I became – it was as though age impaled upon me the inability to see the good through the bad; so much did I acknowledge the bad that I forgot to consider anything beyond that.
But maybe… maybe I think… there’s no point comparing who you were to who you are? Maybe to lose your innocence is to gain a deeper understanding of suffering? And maybe understanding suffering equates to understanding happiness… because how could one ever know how it feels to be happy if one did not know pain and sadness first?
I think maybe I shouldn’t try to remember, because to remember is to accentuate the differences between the past and present – differences that cast a dark cloud of longing and unfufilled dreams over your head ’til you’re reaching for a version of your childhood that never even existed. The doors are closed now, but maybe I still have a little energy left in me to open them up again. Maybe this is a choice. Nothing’s easy and simple anymore, but that doesn’t mean nothing’s achievable. And I have a choice now: either to stay in the dark or take a step forward towards the light.
(You know what I’ve always liked about shadows? They are indications that even in darkness, light exists close by. And you are the reflection of that light.)
I’m thinking of a smile concealing pain, the pillow hiding hours of tears, this chocolate coating containing a roll of licorice horror (sorry to all people/animals/creatures who actually like licorice). You expect homogeneity but everything is far more complex than that. You see that smile and associate it with happiness, forgetting that it might also be a silent expression of sadness. You slump against the pillow and associate its soft surface with comfort, forgetting why you had so yearned for that comfort in the first place. You bite into the sweet chocolate layer, forgetting the undesired taste that lies within.
But then I’m thinking of how that smile is not just hiding pain, it is showing that you can stand up from that pain; how those tears are not a sign of weakness, but a sign of strength, a moment of catharsis; how eating that chocolate-covered licorice might not have been very pleasant but it is a symbol of my ability to choose what I try and what I don’t try.
The good may disguise the bad, but we forget that the bad also disguises the good. A tough life does not equate to an unworthy one.
Happiness. Such a perplexing concept. Buddhism tells us that it’s a permanent state of enlightenment beyond temporary earthly attachments, and that like a lotus flower, you must first push through the muddy waters before you can blossom into something so beautiful and breathtaking. Only when you undergo suffering can you achieve happiness.
Perhaps, in some respects, that is true. But I think that what makes happiness so special and so precious is that it’s fleeting, that it’s not permanent; like a moment’s touch, it warms you but does not stay with you forever. Only its impression lingers in your heart, a memory, a nostalgia for the present, iridescent flashes blurred into one chaotic emotion.
Be happy. A simple statement, a simple concept, but so eternally tangled in complexity and paradox. Some suggest that you are at your happiest when you forget about being happy, much like finding a key that only appears within your line of vision after you’ve stopped looking for it. Happiness is hearing a childhood tune. Eating a slice of chocolate cake. Laughing so hard your stomach aches. Wrapping yourself in warm blankets on a cold winter’s night. It is the rush of something so light yet so profound that clutches onto your heart momentarily before it lets go.
Like an autumn leaf descending, it flies with the wind and refuses to grow lifeless even as it becomes detached from its primary source of life.
A prose piece
I try too hard. I care too much. I simultaneously hate the spotlight and long for it. I deny the things I love and pretend to love the things I really don’t. I think that vulnerability is a crucial part of being human, yet this is the very aspect that I am afraid of revealing. I tell people to do what makes them happy, yet I cannot find the heart to be happy myself. I’m walking down the path well-trodden, earphones in, pretending that I want to engage in no form of social interaction whatsoever… when really, beneath the music that is blasting in one ear, I am yearning for someone to start a conversation with me.
I say I give up, but I never do. I say I hate you, but I don’t. I say I’m okay, but I’m not. I am laughing, but I’ve forgotten how to laugh.
I’ve become a paradox, and my actions have cancelled out my dreams, my desires, my true intentions.
I’ve been so incredibly busy over the past few days (thus, lack of posts… sorry!), no time for any breathing space. Today, I’m finally giving myself some.
As you may know, International Women’s Day is coming up very soon, and I’ve been noticing more of those #DearMe videos on YouTube, where you ‘write’ (or film?) a letter to your younger self, giving any advice, insights or words of inspiration you’ve accumulated over the years.
So here’s mine, written to my 12-year-old self.
*** *** ***
You’re a few weeks into high school, and already, you find yourself struggling. Struggling to remake yourself. Struggling with that foreign, incomprehensible word.
You’re surrounded by a whole group of these so-called ‘friends’… friends who don’t talk to you, who don’t ask for your opinion on anything, who don’t even share a single inside joke with you?
You’re afraid. You think they choose you as a last resort because of who you are – this boring, serious, overly shy girl whom no one will ever cast a second glance towards, who doesn’t even deserve the attention to be laughed at. You’re afraid of being invisible. And alone. You’re afraid to get out of bed every morning because you know it’s just going to be another day of fake smiles and words left unspoken.
I won’t tell you that real soon, the universe will miraculously answer your prayers and change your life for the better. That would be false hope. What I will tell you, however, is this: Nothing will ever really change until you be that change yourself.
It’s okay to be afraid. What’s not okay is if you let those fears overcome and define you. Remember: fearlessness isn’t about having zero fears; it’s about pushing forward despite those fears. So… just hang in there, okay?
Because down the road, you will meet these amazing people. They will embrace everything that is weird and special about you. They will know you better than you know yourself. All you’ll have to do is make eye contact with them, and they will understand exactly what you are trying to tell them. And then, there’ll be those days and nights when you’ll be walking and talking and laughing, and suddenly, you’ll understand.
Everything will make sense. That foreign, incomprehensible word will become your lifeline, your saviour.
I’m not going to lie to you and say that it’s going to be all rainbows and sunshine after that. You’ll still be faced with moments of doubt and loneliness; you’ll still be caught in messy dilemmas you can’t seem to escape.
You’ll still be struggling. Struggling to figure yourself out. Struggling to pursue your dreams in a practical manner. The truth is, one struggle will always be replaced by another – but you will have your friends, your family, yourself… and one day, you will realise that just because life’s a struggle, doesn’t mean you can’t dance your way through it. Life will never be perfect, but if you keep focusing on the bad, you will miss all the good.
And happiness? You may think that those people you hang out with are the ones who dictate your happiness. I’m telling you now: They aren’t. You are.
Stay brilliant. Stay brilliantly you.
is it in our human nature to constantly seek other people’s approval? to look for our own worth in someone else’s words? to find our perfection through the eyes of another?
i’m asking myself these very questions as i think of those people.
those people who question your dry humour and quirky laughter and clumsy dance moves, who make you question your own happiness. cynical people with narrow-minded views of the world, who inflict a lingering pain with their words – a pain that clenches onto your heart and will not let go.
your mind’s always telling you that you shouldn’t listen to what they say, but you can’t help it. you really can’t. when you’re so young and innocent and unafraid of your own vulnerability, you can’t help but open your ears as widely as you open your heart. you let them steal the colours that define your skies, till everything’s grey and tasteless, a stone.
till you’ve hit the bottom of the sea, without a ripple, without a sound.
and when you look up, all you see is a blurry world staring back at you.
but then i’m remembering those other people. the ones who taught you how to swim back up. the ones who made you realise that,
even when everything’s smeared together in chaos and mess, everything still makes sense.
and they tell you:
just because nothing’s as clear as it used to be, doesn’t mean you have to start all over again, as a nobody carrying a blank slate.
because you’re a somebody.
you’re older now, maybe a little more closed-off, a little more fearful of showing too much pain and vulnerability. but that doesn’t mean you’re a worse person than you once were. your skies may no longer be filled with the same colours as before, but that’s not because those cynical people have drained them all away; it’s because you’re creating new colours and adding them to the mix.
this is you. this person with dry humour and a quirky laugh and clumsy dance moves. this person who sometimes needs to seek other people’s approval because you don’t think you deserve your own. this person who doubts, who dreams big, who’s sad at times but happy other times.
you’re searching for something you already have. and you’re always returning empty-handed, wondering where your worth is, where your happiness is, where your life is.
stop searching, because what’s the point of finding something you haven’t even lost? be this person that you are, and i tell you now:
that’s perfection enough.
*** *** ***
1. Joyride of a different kind
Wind on skin,
I’m whizzing down a wild slope
on skateboard wheels,
and surfing over sticks and stones,
I’m thinking: ha! no broken bones –
then I’m jerked a-forth
and thrown off by a giant patch of grass.
2. Dancing in the rain
World is blurring,
Lights are dimming,
Shoes are sinking,
I am dancing.
3. Another’s laughter
From down the stairs,
I hear their precious laughter,
and not a quarrel in my ear.
*** *** ***
What are three things that made you smile this week?