I am bathing in the comforting darkness of a late, late night, caressed by its sweet anonymity.
Beyond the window, leaves rustle, but no one save the insomniacs like me hear them. Somewhere out there, if you follow the dark long enough, you will find the light. Somewhere in this night, there is a daybreak. Not metaphorically. But very much in actuality. If you walk and walk along the deserted highways, if you are able to slip through the narrow pathways that open onto the ocean and if, after that, you reach the horizon, there will be a sun waiting — warm and glorious. A promised day.
Somehow, it is there that I find myself now. In this rising sun, kilometres away from this dark room and the cold circulating inside.
I’ve done nothing in particular to feel like this. At times, these thoughts catch me off-guard and I stay up waiting for the sun to rise, feeling eternal.
Note: So when I was little, I had really bad insomnia. Often I would just wake up in the middle of the night and sit by the window in the dark, waiting 3 or 4 hours for the sun to rise. I’ve tried multiple times to write about these weirdly formative nights but they were just that: attempts. Somehow, this 2-minute midnight scribble is the closest I’ve gotten to describing the feeling 🤷♀️
I’ve been accused of hardcore cynicism in my time.
But well, life’s like a cat. It scratches me and then wraps itself around my legs. It finds me when I am feeling low and sits with me. Life endears itself to me, again and again.
In my hurry to leave for work, I left some chia seeds at the bottom of a jug of water. Without even seeing the light of the sun or caring to obtain my permission, these little devils sprouted on the side of my vessel. On one side, their roots unfurled all the way down to the shallow water; on the other, their long, green necks stretched to catch a taste of that promised glory, the nourishing touch of sunlight.
I know some people don’t believe in it at all — to them, every event is a result of your choices and Life’s own randomness. Other people believe in it sometimes, usually when something big happens, the kind that makes them say:
“I don’t believe in Fate, but even I can see that this is not a coincidence.”
Then there are those who do believe in it, quietly, without raising much of a fuss about it. On the opposite end of the spectrum, are those who attribute everything to Fate, who remove free will from the equation altogether, choosing to be moved about by life, instead of choosing where to go. All the same, surrendering is a choice, is it not?
“To what extent do I believe in Fate?” I found myself asking, faced with a strange set of circumstances I itched to call by another name. These events spoke to my heart but failed to satisfy my mind with some rational explanation or other.
But is there a reasonable explanation for everything? Should there be, should we expect one?
I thought I had answered those questions with a good degree of certainty many years ago, during The Great Existential Crisis™ that started in my early teens and lasted well into my university days. But they resurface every now and then, as though they had not been properly quashed the first time around.
The problem is not what I think, but what I believe. I’ve learned the two aren’t the same thing, that I can hold dramatically conflicting views without flinching. Logically, I know, for example, that I can never attain perfection. But do I believe it, am I entirely convinced that I can’t secretly get very, very close if I do X, Y or Z? As long as my heart won’t agree to something, I’ve found that a crack of doubt will always remain, not allowing me to seal the deal, to set the answer in stone.
Do not let your mind meddle too much with matters of the heart, whispers a voice inside my head. Not all problems can be dealt with reason, and the heart does not have all the answers either.
In my case, I have let my mind talk over my heart, interrupt it, cut it in speech, berate it, silence it. I’ve starved my heart because the adult world speaks in binary, of functions and formulae, of surface areas and investments, 5-year plans, employable skills, ‘worthy’ degrees, settling down and the stock market — concrete, well-defined things that form the foundation of daily life. This world does not make mention of everything that lies between the binary zero and one. It has no words to explain the twilight in all things, that which is flimsy and vapour-like, appearing and disappearing like the moon. It cannot describe, explain, understand or quantify anything that refuses to be corporeal, be it a feeling, an intuition, or a dream — and so, it casts it all aside.
My heart is all of these things: feelings, intuitions, dreams, wishes, worldviews, philosophies, musings. Physiologically, biologically, my heart is right where it needs to be. But spiritually — hearts do not, should not exist spiritually, thoughts should not be invisible. All the same, they do, they are. I have to accept that there is some part of me that is not at all corporeal, that it’s all smoke and mirrors beyond a certain point.With grace, I must recognise that the heart, ever-mysterious, has its own worth, one not determined by a decidedly practical society.
It’s a risky business though, trusting what you can’t see. Letting yourself be guided by what you can’t quite define. Seeing symbolism in things, treating events as signs. Yet I am also reminded, each time I venture beyond the gates of reason to dip into the pool-sky of my imagination, what we would be like if we didn’t colour a little outside the lines. If we dared not cross to other worlds, if we dared not believe in what has not yet been done or explained.
Free your heart, free your heart.
Do not let it be chained to a reality that does not understand it. Let it roam freely and find itself, until one day, its erratic intents align just as you knew they would.
So as I stare a fragment of Fate in the face, I ask myself:
“To what extent do I believe in Fate?”
Note: I hope you are all keeping well, wherever you are. Where I live, the number of cases has dramatically decreased and lockdown restrictions have been extended until the 15th of May. After that, the country is set to slowly reopen.
In the years I have lived, I have experienced no unbelievable events, have not had the significant encounters I believed so fervently would happen and that everyone else seems to have experienced by now. It has been an ordinary life, with no fabulous stories to tell, no surreal moments with which to impress others in conversation.
So when others tell stories about jobs that lasted only 3 days, about the talented, famous people they have met, what they have witnessed of private matters exploding into the public space, the places they have been — well, I can only listen. Listen and pretend I’m just the same, that I, too, have lived so thoroughly when, in reality, life stretches thin over all my years. I have more time to show than life to tell. Perhaps that is where my regrets lie, truly: to have had Time but not life.
You see, I have no stories to tell but the stories I have made up myself. At first, that’s all writing was: an imitation of life. Then it became an interpretation, a wish, a dream.
But it’s not unheard of, my story as a girl with no stories. It’s not hard for life to forget you when you live in such a remote place, a little city lost in the world map, struggling in the shadow of the world’s grandeur. Life has other places to be and is happy to leave after the years of wonder have passed. I think it happened in the last summer of my childhood. I was picking flowers in the large, labyrinthine gardens of the early years. Somewhere beneath a shower of golden light, amidst overflowing vines, chenille plants and bougainvillea bushes, I was humming a tune, contemplating my thoughts and star-speckled reveries. I was jumping from one star to the next, boarding another cloud of oracular thoughts, wandering the infinity of the world. That is when life left, I think. When I was too busy living to consider life.
I don’t think life meant to not return. Life just got caught up in things, in other people’s childhoods. It was just busy happening to other people.
Meanwhile, I grew up silently in those gardens, watching the years go by. I experienced the first isolating nightfall in those gardens that had never known the night before. It had always been early morning there and the day had never progressed beyond the evening. Time went on flowing. Every time I came on the brink of something profound and magical, every time I stood on the precipice of change, I fell back instead into my sameness, the same existence I had been growing into all my years.
By then, I had started hiding from life. I avoided it, fearing what it had become, what it had done to others. Besides, hadn’t I grown to love the existential loneliness I had made my own? An extension of myself, this loneliness spread and conquered the garden of the early years, until nothing of what it once was remained.
But maybe, maybe, maybe this is what life was meant to be for me. Just because I’ve never met someone famous or witnessed an ugly domestic scene in public doesn’t mean I haven’t lived. How much life was hiding there in those quiet moments? My life may not have been punctuated with moments like fireworks, but maybe it was more like a network of small lights glowing persistently underground — something I cannot possibly single out to explain. Maybe life doesn’t have to be spectacular to be beautiful.
All my dreams have already been accomplished. Somewhere in the future, everything that is meant to be has already happened. My job is only to remove the obstacles in my way, to clear the path my future self has already walked and meet her there, on the other side of fear.
Lately, I have been plucking at the tangles in Time (mostly because I’ve grown significantly older), wondering at how many of my worries I can actually control. Michelangelo believed that the sculpture was already present in the block of stone, that you only had to find your way to it. In the same way, I must carve a path to what is already there. I tell myself I am not stepping into newness, not plunging headfirst into the unknown. No, it’s strange but I am actually going home — home where I am meant to be, a home that has always, always been waiting for me somewhere in the future. My longing is for the person I am to become.
And yet much of who I am going to be comes from who I was before.
Much of adult life has been a slow return to old loves, to passions gone cold. Once I had graduated from the watchful eye and stern disposition of formal education, I simply bounced back in shape to what I had been before. Like a rubber band, I was stretched out over the years, meant to fit every kind of shape (a diligent student, a good daughter, a promising member of society, a “success”…). Now that I’ve bounced back, I am not the same. Of course. But there’s nothing to do about that. You can’t change the past. You can ignore it or remember it differently, you can add or subtract meaning, you may write it or tell it whichever way you wish, exaggerating or undermining any number of details. But you can never change that it happened the way it did. Besides, what a waste of time it is to chase the past, to look at it not to learn from it but to live through it. Very much like a dog chasing its own tail, it is a futile endeavour and you only end up hurting yourself…
Now to make myself understand what I already know to be true… It’s a slow journey, it always is. Yet ironically, you can only tell how far you’ve reached by looking back to where you were before.
Note: I’m still alive! 😂 And happy to be posting again ^^ And as I read this post again, I realise part of the first paragraph is very likely inspired from the poem by Jalāl ad-Dīn Rumi I mentioned in a previous post:
“Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.”
And now, the truth I have been unwilling to admit to myself: I am escaping. Sentenced to unexciting realities, my mind cooks up elaborate scenarios, my body busies itself in all ways it can think of.
I am living for dreams that have yet to be, trading the certainty of “now” for the maybes of tomorrow. I know that no matter how much I plan, there is always so much that is left in the air, so much I cannot control. These doubts infiltrate my small, ordinary day and grow large and looming until they fill up my breathing space and the only way away from them is distraction.
Daydreaming, entertaining the idea of smoking, putting music on every time silence stretches or boredom reaches to the bottom of my soul, risking myself in brazen speech, scrolling through social media, snacking on things I don’t even want to eat, texting “people”… All things I’ve done or attempted in an effort to escape from life, actions very much like the moments when, as a child, I would plug my fingers in my ear and go “Lalalalalalalala, I can’t hear you!” at the world.
So I’ve come to abhor silence; these thoughts only echo louder in it. Instead of facing them, I fill every moment of idleness with something else. I drown out my thoughts in loud music, I forget about my troubles through conversations, I escape reality with all the swiftness of a gazelle being chased by a lioness. This is nothing new, it is something I’ve always done. I just thought I was past it. That I had harnessed this proclivity to escape into something beautiful that I could use at will. But I am reminded that this is what it looks like when I mess up: I run away, I hide, I escape. All that’s left to do now is to understand, to look at the wreckage left of these few months and examine them without trying to criticise.
You meet impermanent people in impermanent places, fading, fading into the mist.
You meet dying people, waning humans — people who die as children, as teenagers and who are never reborn. You meet them in the last light of their days before they fall, before they fade. And for one moment, you glimpse eternity in them, in their soft lostness, their innocent erring into the world. You see the fates of millions before them and millions after them mirrored in their existence. In their frail bodies, you glance at a flicker of permanence in a world of ephemeralities.
At the crack of dawn, at no hour, you chase that bit of rawness in them, warmth against warmth, feverish for that last light in them because you know it will die — and you don’t want it to be alone as it does.
Note: “White dwarf” actually refers to the remnants of a star that has died. The “white dwarf” that remains is actually what used to be the star’s core.
I am currently thinking about how I will evolve and where. It’s become obvious to me I need to move on (both for my own growth and because I cannot stand the routine, have gone way above my limit of round-trips to this business park I both hate and love.)
It’s frustrating that I know no details of this impending change: no how, where or when — and the only answer I have as to “why” sounds feeble even to the kindest ears:
“I am tired.”
“But why, you’ve got everything over where you are. You’ve got bosses who always say please and thank you, who give you books and buy you croissants and respond in kind to all the jokes you make. Besides, you don’t even hate your job. You wanted to be a writer.”
I know. I know. I know that I have it good, that it could be much worse. I know I could be job-hunting for months, like my friend is, or hating my crappy job like my sister does. And in the grand scheme of things, I have very little to complain about and so much to be grateful for, starting with the fact that I have a home, food and even a job.
Yet I cannot silence this qualm I have, this feeling; a far-reaching boredom, an exasperation with the smallness of it all, the lack of zing and pizzazz and excitement.
Everyday is predictable, following the same script from the day before, like an endless rerun of the same old sitcom. I feel like a goldfish sometimes, circling a bowl, forgetting every 5 seconds —in my case every weekend— what the week was like so that I can endure the upcoming week better.
And the worst part is I shouldn’t even be posting this here. I want to be a writer, but I don’t even know what to write and for whom. All I know is some part of me insists on being a writer and I am helpless to it. It insists even after all the criticism I put my writing through, staying alive as nothing else ever has.
And I want to listen to this persistence more than I need to. I have to see where it takes me. I have to try even though I do not know the littlest thing about it: what it wants to write, how it wants to write or even why.
All I have to go on is one stubborn sentence from this unhinged desire. You see, this desire/persistence/annoyance/passion throws tantrums like a petulant child, one who will not see rhyme or reason and who answers every legitimate question with:
“I want to be a writer!”
and a huff and a pout and an attitude that says “We do not negotiate with people who do not want to write.”
As exasperated as I am with this, I also know that it is a sign. If I cannot be ‘happy’ in a work environment that gives me everything I need, then maybe it’s not meant for me. Or maybe it was but now I’ve outgrown it and I have overstayed, simply.
I want to be a writer.
It doesn’t mean that I am ungrateful for what I have. I am, endlessly. But this shouldn’t stop me from reaching for other things. Other riskier ventures, where people will not be as kind and life not as easy.
I want to be a writer.
Six words and here I am: ready against all reason to be pulled apart by this feeling, to follow this utterly ridiculous demand to the ends of the earth.
Note: Yes, my boss buys us all croissants from this lovely French bakery whenever he drops by. And gave me books he no longer had space for. And is generally a really cool human being along with my other boss.
I woke up to this question today, a remnant of an already-forgotten dream, and it really rattled me.
The idea that there are hours that are valued less or more than others. Does this mean that there is Time that you can afford to waste? To lose like a spare cent or two that you drop on the street, shrugging it off as it is trampled, as it rolls away into the gutter?
Don’t get me wrong, this is something I’ve done countless times: I’ve scrolled my Time away on social media, fed it to algorithms and data structures, and Time has slipped from my fingers, uncaring.
But also, here’s the thing: I’ve loved wasting some of the time I’ve wasted. I have valued “spare” time more than I have other, valuable (working) time. But these are the kinds of societies we are heading towards or live in, already: ones where work is the single most important aspect of our lives, and all our Time is structured around it. Our lives are divided into “Work” and “Non-work” time, where we view everything else in relation to our jobs and take decisions accordingly: meeting up with old friends, dates, romantic relationships, going to an event, dying our hair, getting a piercing.
I don’t think human beings were made for this. For work that takes this big a chunk out of life, that overpowers all its other facets. I don’t think I am cut out for this (and yet, who really is? We are all thrown into it and we cope the best we can. Who really chooses this kind of lifestyle? No, most people just fall into it and never get back up).
Do we truly have “spare” time? Or is it instead that the value of our Time is being decided using criteria we had no choice over — instead imposed by “society”, itself a grey, hulking mass nobody knows the real identity of. There is no such thing to me as spare time. All Time matters. I could not “spare” even one bit of it. I will not let the world define which parts of my life matter. I will choose that for myself, thank you very much.
All Time is valuable, regardless of how you spend it, so long as it enriches your experience of existence.
But at the same time, do not fret (as I did, as I do) once you realise all moments will not be perfect, that you aren’t always able to make every moment worth it. It matters only that you try. That you seize what you can of Time and make it your own.
“Slow living” is a concept I have been reading about for the past year.
For context and in the words of people more qualified than I am on the subject :
‘ “Slow” encompasses several layers of meaning that go beyond simply “sustainable.” Slow is the opposite of “fast” — fast food, fast money, fast living — and all of the negative consequences “fast” has had for the environment and for the health of people and societies. “Slow” embodies cooperation, respect, sustainability, gratitude and resilience.‘
I have been exploring how others live “slowly”: the careful attention they infuse every aspect of life with(from the practicalities of eating, dressing, consuming to more abstract ideas like living, thinking, creating) and the intention they so mindfully build. All serve as a reminder to slow down as life speeds past us. I have seen these people weave meaning into everyday tasks, into their slices of life so that the routine we are all accustomed to does not become “small” or negligible in any way, like something that you are glad you are done with.
I’ve seen people cherish their Time. Guard it like a temple.
I’ve never wanted to lead the kind of life that makes me say “Thank God It’s Friday” every end of week, as though all the week had been a waste, a drag. Yes, this kind of week happens every now and then. But to have a life that happens to me is not my ideal.
With slow living, I find that everyday is imbued in greater thought—as if the day were a seed you were considering how best to set out: What is the weather going to be like? How do I feed that plant? How do I make it grow? It’s organic, from what I find. And the thought process isn’t meant to be overthinking, not meant to cause worry. It just wants to guide your day to where you want your life to take you.
This is something I often forget in my big-picture-oriented mindset : that life is not just this huge, heaving, mysterious, existentialist, ever-expanding entity. You see, the thing with the big picture is that you can often get lost in it. You see so much that you don’t know where to get started. You don’t know where it’s right to start. Which part of your life deserves most of your immediate attention? Why? And then you start thinking about greater concepts like Time and its constraints and its probable, potential nonexistence. You lose yourself further in this greatness, because however great you are, you are also relatively small.
Some days you are the universe, yes. Other days you are the remnants of a single star. Other days still, you are a face in a crowd.
Slow living makes me realise that. That life is also made of individual days and hours and minutes—none of which deserve to be unremarkable, bland, lacklustre…You don’t have to feel like a face in a crowd even if to the world you are one, some days, most days.
Because it’s about how you feel about your life. How you lead it, regardless of how others perceive it. The everyday can be just as beautiful as the Big Days, is what I am learning. There is much that can be done in a day that is not some major life change. Reading the books you want to read, watching movies that move you and make you laugh, writing, painting, exploring a garden, going cycling, being with friends and family, creating, expressing yourself even if it’s not objectively good. There is so much that makes life worth being lived, every single day. Besides, life can’t all just be Big Events. You cannot derive meaning from the few Big Days then waste your time waiting, waiting for something unexpected to happen. Meaning does not have to come in jerky bursts ; it can be a slow, steady stream following the seasons of life, changing with them.
Slow living is about making the days count. Slowing down and not always taking the highway in life (lots of traffic there), instead taking an interest in the small road that leads to the ocean— a place where you can simply breathe, one slow inhale followed by a shaky exhale. And it’s so grounding.
So it is something I have been trying to implement in my life, to a certain extent. It requires some organisation, will and hard work—but we only have one life here at the very least. It would be a shame to not give it your all. To not go after what you really, truly want because it is hard, because it is uncomfortable.
It’s like the time I found out about magic realism all over again. It felt like looking into a thousand puddles at the same time and seeing myself reflected in every single one of them, if that makes sense. One of my lecturers back then (a really cool person) asked to see everyone’s blogs. With great nervousness and after a lengthy preamble about anonymity did I send him mine. Among other kind things, he mentioned that my writing reminded him of magic realism.
I looked it up and Pfouu!
I think slow living is a natural complement to magic realism. It’s about finding beauty and purpose in the small, everyday things and being grateful for them. Slow living may just be magic realism applied, who knows.
Make no mistake though, I am dying to branch out, too. I find that both magic realism and slow living can give me a bit of a narrow view whenever I dive fully into them. I am in great need of a wider spectrum of life, and will be looking into other ways to live it.
Note : When I say that slow living can give a narrow view, I mean that in my own very personal case. I know there are lots of people out there who lead the most fulfilling lives thanks to slow living, but it is just my personal view that I might need to diversify. Also, I wrote this in February but then convinced myself it wasn’t that good, which is why I am only publishing it now.