Joie de vivre and other little treasures.

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Art by : Manka Kasha

I was going through old boxes of memories and melancholy a little while back.

I am still decluttering, you see, trying to find my way to peaceful minimalism. The great fun in those dusty cardboard boxes is finding little treasures from back in the day and reminiscing, travelling to a glorified past for the afternoon. Sometimes you find objects you had all but forgotten about wasting away under layers of dust, even though you used them all the time back then and they are now infused with your energy.

I found the oddest thing there.

Nestled in between old Maths copybooks (why is that even there? Definitely going in the trash) and a sky blue hand band I wore just about everyday when I was 16, was this feeling. Not the melancholy that gently moves my heart, but something more profound, more ancient.

A feeling I was born with.

A feeling that I lost somewhere along the way, probably during a rainy day when I was growing up. As I contemplated all the darkness I was going to have to face alone, it must have slipped from me.

Joie de vivre.

The joy of living.

It is small, exultant, consistent. Like a heartbeat, like a child eager to see the world.

I sincerely did not wake up that day thinking that this would happen. Actually, joie de vivre had become an impossibility somehow. That kind of constant ‘happiness’ belonged only to childhood and children, in my mind. Like milk teeth that fall out and never come back, instead replaced by stronger, more resistant ones, I thought ‘happiness’ had been forever replaced by fleeting joy.

That’s probably messed up, but I thought the highest the happiness-metre could go was “content”— overjoyed, exultant, well, that’s new.

But it is this observation that did it :  “I sincerely did not wake up that day thinking that this would happen.”. There I was that ordinary afternoon, sat on the floor, surrounded by boxes and memories when this thought awoke something deeply ingrained in me. What other wonderful, foreign thing could there be to look forward to tomorrow? What comes next? I can’t wait to find out! 

Yeah. Holy crap.

I cannot believe this. Even though I’ve been having a string of mostly miserable days, this is also what I get to feel, on-and-off. It’s not constant yet, but it’s there.

That’s new. Well actually, it’s really not.

H o l y  c r a p . 

I’m freaking out a little.


Note : I actually like how this one turned out! And I am still freaking out lol.

Listening to :

The Smell of Memories (2/2)

“The scent of baked goods, of melting butter and chocolate eased my breathing, their warmth soothing my nerves. And slowly, stuttering and speaking too softly, I unraveled. “

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Art by: 9Jedit

I had yet to reach the heart of the city, though.

The road long forgotten had open gardens that swam in several inches of cold rainwater, the potted plants almost floating to the surface. With the raindrops on my glasses, it looked for all the world as though the red-leafed plants, the ferns and thyme and tomato leaves were gently levitating off their designated pots, their roots hanging in the air, threatening to fly off.

It really felt as though I were barging in on something private. Some sort of elaborate concert/ art show thrown by Nature on rainy days, something humans weren’t meant to witness. As though to prove that point, the winds turned more violent, threatening to overturn my polka-dotted umbrella and take it away.

But I didn’t mind. Not a little. Not at all. It had been on my bucket list (back when I still had one) as a child, to be taken away by the wind, even as my mother warned me to hold tight and stay rooted. But if even plant roots were levitating and flying away, there was not much sense left to this world, was there?  So it seemed a doable dream: to be flying with the wind on my face, holding on very tightly to an umbrella and waving away at the people below. As a child, it had been right there on my to-do list, along with ‘going to the beach’ and ‘befriending a dragon’. Who knows, if the wind had spirited me away at that moment, it could also have dropped me at the bakery before picking me up again. I wouldn’t have minded. I would have said thank you, really.

I reached a bridge then, and I thought to myself —in the way in which you do not command thoughts, but rather in the way in which they arrive to you— that I would not mind staying there. Not forever, not for 10 minutes or an hour or any amount of time. Without ever counting the minutes or caring for the clock, I would not have minded staying there, simply. I would not have minded listening to the sounds of rushing water, which made that little stream seem so much like a waterfall hidden somewhere in the city. It seemed such an important thing to witness. It became something I had to live.

I stayed by the bridge.

Then, when it felt right, when my head had been filled with just the right amount of waterfall images and water sounds, I moved on.

I reached the bakery, all warm and fragrant, submerged in strong waves of vanilla essence crashing at the entrance, with just the slightest undertone of orange blossom. I sat for 15 minutes in a tiny, crowded office within the bakery filled with ledgers and pens and non-bakery things. The scent of baked goods, of melting butter and chocolate eased my breathing, their warmth soothing my nerves. And slowly, stuttering and speaking too softly, I unraveled. Layer upon layer, like a pain au chocolat, I explained what the cake was meant to be, picked out colours and sizes, fillings and tiers and decorations. Right as I was about to leave though, the smell of the bakery pulled me back in. It seemed a shame to return empty-handed. So, among other things, I returned with a warm—no, hot, hot— pain au chocolat . The golden, buttery layers of puff pastry and the softly melted chocolate warmed my heart on the journey back home.

On the way back, the rain sent me a present. Or a memento, I’m not sure. The smallest little flower, as bright and as luminescent as the sun. A flower from the storm,  stark yellow against the greyness of the pavement. As I looked one last time back at the road long forgotten, I realised that my wet boots had left prints on one piece of marvelously still dry pavement. These prints seemed to be proof that I had been there. That I had existed in that evanescent world of rainy days. Though less ephemeral than ripples in the water, these footprints would also very soon disappear, washed away by the water, dried by the sun.

And I thought to myself that this may just be what life is. A walk in the rain down roads unknown, in worlds too impermanent to ever truly matter. But it is this mortality that makes everything so damn beautiful.

 

Too Big For The Ocean

“You no longer know the ocean. You do not remember running after airplanes taking off by the sea. Bare feet burning on the asphalt, laughing as we sped up, believing we would also take flight if we went fast enough. “

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Art by: Puuung

Years ago, on that sweltering summer day, we ran into the sparkling ocean, shrieking and splashing and living. Today though, I’m drawing starfish and seashells on the corner of a letter that will never reach you. Even so, I’m writing to you about how the ocean calls your name. How I wish every seashell I put to my ear would echo the sound of your laughs. I wish the ocean we shared before didn’t have to be the one thing to separate us now.

But do you remember what summer was like here?

The sun heating our faces, turning our shoulders red. The shaved ice coloured pink, green, yellow and blue that would melt on the stick, dripping down our hands. The wind filtering through the locks of our hair stiff from dried salt. The cold water we would drink straight from the coconut, heavy in our small arms. Do you remember that even then we held hands? Back when we knew nothing about the world, and it seemed the most natural thing to do?

Do you remember? But they tell me you’re trying to forget.  I can’t bear to ask because I’m always hoping I’ll hear the sound of your feet on the sand, sloshing against the welcoming waves. Always imagining you will return to the ocean and dare call it home. But home is no longer the space between our intertwined hands. Home is now an apartment building squeezed in between two others, right? Home is a grey flat lost in the metropolis, a shrub of greenery peeking out of a tiny, stuffed balcony.

There’s no point, right?

You no longer know the ocean. You do not remember running after airplanes taking off by the sea. Bare feet burning on the asphalt, laughing as we sped up, believing we would also take flight if we went fast enough. No, the city is yours now. This little village by the sea is nothing to you. Only a dot on the world map. A bit of green drowned in all the blue. You’ve outgrown the ocean, I guess. So I can only understand that if you’re big enough now to cross it, the only reason you are not here yet is because you don’t want to be.

I finish off the seashells with a golden pen. And the rest is muscle memory. Fold the letter in the envelope. Push it in the back of the drawer. Place it on top of the stack. Try to forget.

 


Note: This is Day 18 of my NaNoWriMo Writing Challenge. You can find the entry for Day 17 here.

Goodbye, Nostalgia. 

“Sequestering myself in a memory, hiding away like this…I lived vicariously through the person I used to be. “

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Art by: Chiara Bautista

I need to surrender to reality.

To release the past from my grip because the flow of Time is inescapable. There is nothing anyone can do about it. We shouldn’t cling onto it, onto memories and past versions of ourselves and the people we loved. I cling to the past because the present is scary. Because the pain from an old wound is better than whatever new ache this unknown world could bring me. Sequestering myself in a memory, hiding away like this…I lived vicariously through the person I used to be. But I cannot live there anymore. The past is not a place where anyone can grow. It is like trying to fit in clothes you’ve long since outgrown. No, it will never satisfy my heart.

No, no more dusty happiness, no more borrowing from the past for me. The present is ineluctable. Running from it means nothing. It is like trying to outrun a treadmill— you can’t. You just can’t. No matter how much you try, you’ll never be able to catch up.

So I will not fight this anymore. I will grow old, as I dreaded. I will be an adult. Someday, I will fade out, I will go out of fashion. I might live enough to have grey hairs and wrinkles. It is not just that I will be old, but also that I will no longer be young. Facing Time, facing the Present, I will lose everything. But I only lose everything if I have nothing to replace it with.

There will be other happinesses, other versions of me to be. There will be new adventures, new people to share them with. There will be another golden age, if only I seize the day.

Goodbye, Nostalgia.

 


Note: This is Day 13 of my little NaNoWriMo Writing Challenge. You can find Day 12 here.

Boring Sundays and Warm Loneliness

Before, there was no room for boredom. Only space for: “I am soul-deep tired. I want to stop.” But now that there is nothing to do, my mind seeks out dreams covered in dust, like old diaries.

‘If I can’t create a new feeling,’ my mind reasons, ‘why not visit an old one?’

“Sundays are boring.” my sister complains like she does every other Sunday of the year.

It could be true though. We, as a collective, as a family, rarely leave the house on Sundays. But as someone who has been known to enjoy laziness and quiet moments of introversion, Sundays such as those suit me just fine. Even if they are tinged with loneliness, it is a loneliness specific to Sundays, something I have known all my life. So, in its own twisted way, it is a comforting ache.

This warm kind of loneliness, I feel it especially now that I have yet to be taken by another engrossing project that does not let me sleep the dark circles away. I have time now, I guess. With the stress gone, I see more clearly what life is. I am not charging ahead, heart bursting, breathless and with eyes on the prize and nothing else. Now, the prize, the purpose is gone and I instead take walks that ease me back into slow movements and quieter states of mind.

When your eyes are not on the prize, when there is no prize, you suddenly find yourself in possession of a peripheral vision and of the empathy that comes with it too. Working for your dreams can be a horribly self-absorbed thing sometimes, I realise.

Eyes on the prize. And nothing else.

So now, I notice that the neighbour’s kids have grown. They have a dog, too. The thyme in the garden has flourished, the daisies are blooming a radiant orange and with a tinge I notice the joy is fading a little from my Mother’s eyes.

At noon, I reach the point of hazy, unsettling loneliness and think Sundays are boring. Before, there was no room for boredom. Only space for: “I am soul-deep tired. I want to stop.” But now that there is nothing to do, my mind seeks out dreams covered in dust, like old diaries.

‘If I can’t create a new feeling,’ my mind reasons, ‘why not visit an old one?’

‘You used to fly kites, remember?’ goes the memory ‘You’d gaze at the cheap thing, all fluttering plastic and frail sticks tied with some piece of string you found in the garage, feeling so proud. But then your gaze would be lost somewhere between the clouds, in the valley between the green mountains and you’d think: “I wonder if someone else is flying a kite somewhere in the world?”

‘Greece,’ you thought, unknowing, uncaring of time-zones or geography. ‘Yes, Greece, with its statues and fables — mythology, actually— someone must be flying a kite there. Or China: dragons and great walls, emperors and dynasties. They must have beautiful kites there: large, red and gold in the shape of a dragon or a swan spanning grand wings in the sky, a crimson dot in the open world. 

It’s evening when, like the kites I used to fly, I am reeled back to Earth. Back to this feeling of Sunday boredom, this dull loneliness punctuated by music coming in from the neighbours, the drifting clouds, the obvious wanderlust, the soft orange skies of sunset and the smell of chicken in the stove.

Yeah, all that, that’s the fragrance: Eau de Boring Sunday.

And yet, I won’t make plans for next Sunday, just like I don’t for many, many Sundays of the year.


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I am a boring person, y’all.