I thought I did, all this time. I thought I had peeled back and laid bare the many layers of my self. From character to personality, learned traits, preferences, triggers and addictions… I thought I had been thorough in my analyses, cutting in my judgement. I believed — worse, ‘knew’ — what I had uncovered to be the truth.
But here I am, a mystery to myself once more; a stranger in my own home.
Take me back.
I was brought into this strange world, and have been dyed by its colours and the bright spectacles it puts up…yet part of me remains foreign and calls to what once was. It seeks to unite again with the Source of all matter.
Always, in every one of the soul’s actions, in every yearning is this desire laying dormant, to return to the place of first belonging — the Place Before. Before the rushing tunnel of lights, Before the shower of stars searing soundlessly into the silent universe, Before the brief all-encompassing obscurity that lasted a billion years, Before it all exploded into red-hot life, pulsating, throbbing, crying —Before it scattered us all about, our names wiped, our memories vanished but still there, everywhere inside of us, haunting our every move, colouring even the most benign choices of our existences until our very end.
There is a void in me that calls for You. This is no simple emptiness. It is no random gaping hole. Only Your names will do. Only the truth of millennia past will ever calm my soul.
Take me back; free me from myself.
Note: So I’ve been immersed in worldly life a lot lately. I (arrogantly) thought it was not something that could happen to me, yet lo and behold I’d lost touch with my spirituality without even knowing it. And then, no amount of information or psychoanalysing or introspection could help. Even now I feel like I do not know myself. It’s strange to have lived 26 (26!!) years thinking you know yourself and then it turns out you don’t really. Welp.
Anyway, to distract myself I’m trying to say “Before the shower of stars searing soundlessly into the silent universe” fast 10 times. Maybe it’ll help (it probably won’t but at least it’s entertaining).
“Who are you?” is never an easy question to answer.
I mean, how do I define myself beyond these fill-in-the-blank questions, beyond a selection of names, numbers and practical facts? How do I explain that who I am now is not who I was a minute ago, and yet there are parts of me still rooted in the days of childhood, the dawn of my life? There is no way to explain all the times my skin has cracked apart and the light has mended it with a golden thread. How can I say that I have been dipped into the darkness so much so that its stain remains; that I have loved as ardently as I have lost?
Who are you?
It takes a lifetime of soul-searching for some people to find out; journey upon journey through the world and through themselves. Some never do. Others still, drift in life, unaware. Yet, at times, it is quite by accident that the human essence bleeds out. In casual conversation, during middling days, boring car journeys as we experience time in the most unexceptional ways.
It was maybe a year ago now (and yet with everything that has happened, it seems so distant…). We were strolling around a deserted mall that Sunday afternoon. You could say that I was with “the girls” although most, if not all of us would object to calling each other that. We are not that to one another. I have another group of friends who are “the girls”, who I will go on dates with to trendy cafés, with whom I can be a little daring when it pleases me. But this group and I are like childhood friends. The fact that we have grown up together, seen each other everyday for 7 formative years, creates a bond that cannot be erased. However much we may lack a natural connection, there is something underlying, a common thread of Time that ties us all together. It’s hard to forget. To let go, because in so doing, we cut ties with parts of ourselves, the ones that reside in others. So we are not “the girls” to one another — we do not carelessly hang off of each other or exchange makeup tips; but we are friends. This is a label we hang onto quite possessively, protecting it from Time, distance and changes in who we are as people. We are not the girls we used to be. We do not slot as comfortably into each other, cannot bounce off the same experiences or share the same crucial opinions anymore. The conversation doesn’t flow as smoothly and we sometimes resort to small talk to fill in the gaps. They have grown so different from the 13, 16 and even 18 year olds I once knew. But it doesn’t matter. Some part of me recognises some part of them. That is enough.
So that drowsy Sunday, as afternoon was melting into evening, we roamed about an abandoned mall in a coastal village, still too full from the buffet lunch to form words.
It seems a miracle now, since I went back several times and never saw her again, but there was a woman with a jewelry stall in one of the building’s wings. She was probably one of these woman entrepreneurs, who have a skill and who are trying to develop it into a business. This could explain why she was there, alone, on a Sunday afternoon, and probably why I never saw her again. It’s a shame, because the jewelry she sold was just beautiful. Brooches, pendants, bright bracelets, earrings, shell necklaces and other kinds of pretty trinkets were all laid out on a table.
So, remember that part when I said we weren’t “the girls”? Well…we do love to accessorise.
I didn’t have any particular intention to buy anything; I’m not much of a shopper. A. and M. were picking out bracelets and the lady, previously overcome with ennui, was eager now to tend to 1,2,3,4,5,6! 6 young women flocked around her stall. The jewelry was pretty, in that way only simple things are. Dainty as a snowflake, light as a grain of sand.
And that’s when it happened. When some essential part of me showed itself without me knowing. I was eying the pendants and their myriad designs: stars, hearts, moons, circles, triangles, the tree of life… I was quite partial to the ocean themes; all these delicate pieces of metallurgy were gleaming like treasure from the sea. My heart was hesitating between two of these pendants. “Why not have both?” is an option I, for some reason, did not seriously consider. Back then, I was still on the fence about many things in my life.
“Anchor?” I asked, bringing it to the hollow of my neck, “or shipwheel?”
“Whichever one you like best.” M. replied.
“Yeah!” cheered A.
Let it not be said that my friends are not supportive. Now, helpful is a whole other thing. But supportive, still.
Y. still had this sort of aloofness about her but volunteered her opinion anyway, which goes a long way to show how she’s changed, actually. Before, she didn’t care to care for more people than she already did. Now there’s an opening for vulnerability, carved by the wounds of life. She’s softer now, but also a little worn out. Her answer didn’t much help,though.
“Whichever one you want. Take both, actually, if you like them both equally.”
Y. has always been the logical one.
But in my head, it was this dilemma. I wanted so much to decide, to not just choose the easy route by buying both (and yet, what’s so wrong with taking the easy way sometimes? Why does everything have to be complicated, so labour-intensive?). There were so many decisions I was not making in my personal life, and I wanted to get this trivial one right. So which one did I just have to have? Which could I bear to leave behind?
“Shipwheel. I want the shipwheel.”
And that was it: shipwheel. Nothing more, nothing less.
Like the cheesiest person, I wore this shipwheel pendant with my sailboats and shipwheel dress for far too long.
But why all this talk about an old necklace all of a sudden? Well, now this necklace lays in my hand, its clasp broken. I have been decluttering (again) and finding it has made me realise a lot of things about myself and the year that has passed.
Shipweels or anchors?
Do you want to explore and risk yourself out there? Or do you want to settle here, content but mostly unchanged? Back then, without even knowing it was a question, I had already chosen an answer. I was just a girl buying a necklace, how was I to know?
The symbolism I could not grasp then is not lost on me now. The fact that I ever stopped wearing it already says something. But so does the fact that I’ve found it again now, as I am rising back to myself. Still, fittingly, the clasp is broken and I wonder what it means for me.
I am unsure when it is that I will be at the wheel again. But I look at this pendant and somehow, I know who I am. I am the kind of person who chooses a shipwheel over an anchor, who fears stillness more than adventure.
Note: Behold now, the (not so) mighty shipwheel necklace I have just dedicated 1200+ words and several hours to. It has lost some of its lustre but should be good after some polishing and a new chain! Also, I’m curious to know, have you had any small moments like these, which later turned out to be huge life realisations? I’m always worried it’s just me 😂
“And my heart, that stupid heart. It remembers nothing. It knows nothing. Hearts are useless without brains. A heart without a brain is just an engine. A brain without a heart is just dead.”
I wake up some days, and I’m not really me.
I wake up with the feeling that something’s missing, that I’ve lost a few days. But it’s more than just that. I realise, as I stare at my blurry, barely-there hands, the shoes still on my feet, that I have been absent, sleepwalking my way through some part of life and—
I’ve lost my head again.
It has just gone, vanished, simply.
I am as faceless as the wind, and no one has noticed (Why has no one noticed—why didn’t I?). It has just been my limbs doing all the work, carrying my body from A to B, doing everything without a thought.
What have I—what has my body been doing? I don’t know. I can’t remember. It has probably been losing itself in days too alike, in vapid entertainment that only serves to distract on the most basic level. Something that takes your mind (Oh,the irony) off your worries, and fills it with straw, as a way to just stuff it shut with something. Just so you won’t ask any questions. Just so you won’t wonder. The kind of entertainment that comes in 3 to 4 minute bursts that wound up costing you an entire night.
But every now and then, I wake up like today, and I realise that I’ve lost my head, that I’ve lost my thoughts. So I look for them but I can’t find them, because of course, of course, I have no eyes.
But I know that’s not true.
I know that’s just an excuse.
In reality, I just can’t admit that I’m scared I won’t even recognise my own head, that I won’t even remember what my thoughts were like. I’m losing my memories. And if I can’t remember myself, who will?
And my heart, that stupid heart. It remembers nothing. It knows nothing. Hearts are useless without brains. A heart without a brain is just an engine. A brain without a heart is just dead.
I don’t know where I’m heading to, because I don’t know where I’ve been. But I keep going, because there’s no point either way. It doesn’t matter. I drift in between railways and deserted highways, try to find my head among all the other lost ones. But nothing seems to fit. Or maybe I found it, but it just didn’t fit on my body anymore. And then I try to reach inside of me, to maybe dig out my head from between my ribs. Maybe it’s hiding, maybe, hopefully. But it really is gone. Cut off neatly, rolled off my shoulders.
The only good thing here is that time doesn’t matter. Time doesn’t exist. So I drift for however long, sometime between a few days and several years. I drift to the mountains and to the sea. I drift to the skies and to the stars. I drift to all the things I hadn’t felt before. I turn to the universe. I turn to art.
And if I had eyes, I think I would’ve cried.
I’m not looking anymore. I’m not trying to find my head or my thoughts. I just want to never forget what all that feels like. Grass and wind, stars, waves, rain.
And art…I don’t ever want to live in a world without art. There have been times when art has mended my bones, filled in the porcelain-cracks on my shattered skin.
Other times though, Art paints me a brand new face, fills me with brand new thoughts.
But the memories are there, just the same.
Yeah, every now and then, I find myself, and I lose myself and I find myself again…
Note: So this is probably one of the most abstract and surreal things I’ve posted on this blog. So I feel maybe an explanation should go hand-in-hand with it, if you haven’t already made up your own interpretation.
I wrote this after a couple of days when I spent almost all of my time on social media. I didn’t even feel great about it as I was doing it. Then I thankfully woke up from that addictive spell (if you’ve been following the news, the Cambridge Analytica deal kindof helped with that). It felt like something was missing though, that I’d lost my time and something else too. So the idea of disembodiment, of literally losing your own head fit in perfectly for me. This story is about how you can lose yourself sometimes and not realise it. Finally, the ending details the solutions I find to my own headlessness.
On another note, this could easily have been much longer. I may or may not be writing a longer version 🙈
“How do I show you all the experiences I carry with me, all these burrows of treasured memories? All this undeclared wealth that I have amassed with every wrinkle, every laugh line?”
How do I explain what it is that is inside me? How can I convey to you the wonder I feel from days that have long since passed? How do I tell you about the scent of hot bread on the way to school? About how we used to stuff it in our pockets, about how warm it was against your leg? How do I make you feel the warmth of the summer of 2004, when I climbed on the roof for the first time and I flirted with the edges of danger and freedom, when I dreamed of sprouting wings? That summer when I knew little of sadness and too much of shared meals and laughter and beautiful sunsets? How do I show you all the experiences I carry with me, all these burrows of treasured memories? All this undeclared wealth that I have amassed with every wrinkle, every laugh line?
I wish I could touch you or just look into your eyes and show you the light that shines within. To let you know that though my smile is sad, my spirit is at ease. But my tongue slips, and I manage to turn even the magical into the ordinary. There is not a thing that leaves my mouth that is not underwhelming.
There is so much of me that I cannot explain, so much that is lost in gestures and sounds and made-up words.
I cannot invite you to my world. I am lost within it and cannot find the way that leads to it—I do not even know the way out. But I can only hope, from here on out, that you will keep searching for it with me.
“At 1 a.m., we are too much of ourselves. At 1 a.m., we cannot handle the thoughts that take a highway to feelings…. At 1 a.m., your heart is a funnel for the feelings of all other hearts. “
I think a major reason why we sleep at night is to avoid living these 1 a.m’s. They are the moments when everything exists through a haze, as though any moment now you would realise you were dreaming and go back to sleep. But it all feels too real, too. The sounds of the neighbour’s air-con going off, the rustling leaves and the silence. It is calm even in your head. But there is no peace. Just contemplation. Just everything, naked, uncaring for the sweetness or brutality of Reality. At 1 a.m., we are too much of ourselves. At 1 a.m., we cannot handle the thoughts that take a highway to feelings.
At 1 a.m., the brain actually shuts down in part, something about needing rest and signalling that you’re tired. But the heart never does—it takes no breaks. So at 1 a.m., you have no thoughts, really. Only memories and sadness. Yes, 1 a.m. is the heart’s reign. So even the sadness is too complicated to dissect. Regret. Fear. Nostalgia. Hope. Useless wishes. Insecurities. This amorphous thing that is Life. At 1 a.m., your heart is a funnel for the feelings of all other hearts.
At 1 a.m., Life stares back at you, asks you who you are and what you’ve done. You’ve had 20 years—what are you now? Who will you be in another 20?
But because your brain is sleeping, because all your defenses are down, the only reply you give is the one that comes from your eyes.
“No, we are not souls, you remind me. Not merely that. We are souls with bodies; we wound up having both our feet on the ground and our heads in the clouds. “
I often stress the superiority of the inside versus the outside. Of the mental versus the physical, the intangible sketched against the tangible.
I get swept away by the idea of ideas and boast about existing on a higher level— a dimension that is transcendent of bodies made of clay, dismissive of the ritual physicalities of life.
“I am more! I am more!”, goes my cry to the Void, “I am a soul anchored to this earth by a body heavy enough that I cannot drift away to the place that calls to me (this place somewhere between the stars). I am more—more than what you see me to be.”
But I am wrong.
I am not a soul.
And you prove that to me without even a word.
Because there are days when I do not need the sharpness of your wit, the complexity of your stance on Divinity or your knowledge of the stars and the ocean and all else that lies in between. It is those days when my head aches from the weight of my own thoughts and I cannot talk—for Lord’s sake, some days I can’t even be.
Those days, as much as my meaningless ego loathes to admit, I need the warmth that gathers within your palms. I need the sound of your heart thumping in my ears, the rise and fall of your chest against mine. And your fingers that draw patterns and tangles into my hair, your voice that cracks sometimes, imperfect and warm when you hum a little something under your breath.
I am not a soul.
In those moments, I am glad that there is this body. These bodies, both yours and mine and all the ones that have loved us til this day.
No, we are not souls, you remind me. Not merely that. We are souls with bodies; we wound up having both our feet on the ground and our heads in the clouds.
Ah, but when these days are past and Life is back to this lie that we can ‘normal’, I will argue otherwise. I will insist that our bodies – yours at the very least- are guided by an inner gentleness, a kind of ‘light from within’.