All of them orbit around my head day and night, at their own paces, each one with their own sunsets, their individual low and high tides. I feel like the lamplighter in The Little Prince, who lights and puts out the street lamp on his planet some 1440 times every day.
There is not much time for anything else. As I tend to these overgrown thoughts, all else falls into a corner of neglect and I worry even more.
And that’s the problem isn’t it?
I am unable to dedicate myself wholly to one thing. Worry nags in the back of my mind, creating bumps in a moment that otherwise flows like river-water. I do not allow myself be taken by the moment. There’s just too much going on, too much to worry about. And I feel guilty if I don’t worry. I feel guilty for enjoying myself when I should be working to get things done.
It’s like kissing someone while thinking about someone else.
Evicted out of the present moment, I am neither here nor there. Instead, I watch on the situation, worrying, gnawing at my nails.
I have so much to catch up on that I act like every moment not spent working on my problems is a stolen one. I feel guilty for living in the moment, for not being busy.
And that, that is how I, how we lose inner peace.
By giving worries more rights and power than they deserve.
I mean, I cannot do everything now. There are too many stories, too many people, too many musings and anecdotes and each deserves their rightful share.
After all, how am I supposed to split one second into the many, endless fractions I need? How do I find infinity in what is hopelessly ephemeral?
Quote of the day :
“I would have you consider your judgement and your appetite even as you would two loved guests in your house.
Surely you would not honour one guest above the other; for he who is more mindful of one loses the love and the faith of both.”
—Kahlil Gibran, On Reason and Passion, The Prophet
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.
I am enjoying having lunch alone, under the swaying palm trees ripe with the promise of tranquillity, in the windy corridor between building A and B.
I love being here at odd lunch hours, it really cements what this place is about: nebulousness, off-the-mapness, in-betweens. It is the liminal space between the work world and individual life, a bridge where, crossing between two buildings, you stop being an employee for a hot second, the kind that can spill into infinity. You enter building A a worker, spill out into the windy corridor all-too human, all-too much of a star, all-too other and foreign even to yourself. Your self stretches out as though an accordion to showcase its multiple intricate layers, and the palm trees take you away to bygone summers. You are not a name on the payroll before you enter building B. No, you are an in-between, a free spirit. You become a kaleidoscope of yourself and the corridor is the light that shines so it may exist. You don’t think about work, you wonder about possibilities: maybes, perhapses, what-ifs.
I love going there for lunch at around 13:00 (start-up mentality lets me have lunch when I want basically) when the courtyard is free and deserted. For an hour long, it is all mine. Even now during the winter time, when it is too cold to be out, when common sense calls for warmth and safety, I somehow still find myself making my way to this windy place, peering through the gaps between the fronds of the palm trees to catch a look at a strip of sky or moving cloud.
1 p.m finds me gazing into the windows of building A, watching the reflection of clouds pass along one window, disappear into the concrete between the other window, then re-emerge into the next one.
Lunch tastes different too.
My senses are focused, attuned, at peace. I am in the moment as my nails dig into the fragrant skin of a clementine, peeling it and pulling out each plump, juicy wedge translucent with the promise of sweet citrusyness. And the spaghetti tasted more of home than tomatoes, every bite a step further inwards to the cherished, overgrown garden of memories. And oh, the melon iced tea in its glass bottle that tasted so sweetly, so gently of summer.
I wish I had brought a book with me today. It is this wondrous, ordinary-looking setting that has witnessed my exploring of “The Prophet” by Kahlil Gibran. It is here that I have found myself over and over in his words and even in the spaces between them.
I am going to miss this when I leave one day, invariably. And even as I tell myself that this is neither here nor there, I am reminded that half the year has already passed and that I may well be leaving too soon.
Note: Alternate title for this blog post: “The one where I make up all the words.”😂
I am waiting for watercolour wreaths to dry on a birthday card. Another hour will probably go into that card, crafting a message, trying to make it look dainty. I am trying to send something beautiful to someone dear to show her how she makes me feel. She sends me messages, telling me the family misses me. She makes me feel like pouring hours into painting watercolour, even though I’ve never learnt how and I am not good at it. She makes me want to spend my time on her, to weave my time grains into every brush stroke that makes up this little aquarelle.
I want her to think: “Oh, she spent so much time on this because she cares.”
A while back I swore off this kind of self-expression. Personal, involved, intimate, the kind I gift to other people.
Once bitten, twice shy.
I had invited someone in, given her a “Drop by whenever you need” card. Yet after several years of beautiful friendship, her actions, like mud splatters, ruined all my delicate aquarelle feelings, shattered my porcelain-like vulnerabilities in one fell swoop. Even now, a year later, I cannot begin to figure out my feelings. I keep switching between denying the pain and feeling it. I struggle with forgiveness and moving on. Some days I tell myself to forget it ever happened. Other days I feel like apologising even when I’m not wrong just so I can get her back.
Heh, who said friends can’t break hearts.
I remember how I refused to even write “letters to read on the plane”, which for years was a personal tradition I treasured. A last, lingering forget-me-not, a relic from the time spent together in my city that would follow loved ones on their plane journey home, sealing all the memories we’d made that summer.
I wished I could tear all the ones I had given her. I wished I had written something different in them, as if that would have changed anything.
But hope grows like a weed in my heart. No matter how many times I pluck it out, it somehow always finds its way back there. So I am flinchingly trusting other people again, writing letters against my better knowledge. I’m holding back on emotion, but at the same time giving so much more than I thought I would.
I am learning to accept that this is who I am, regardless of what other people are.
I didn’t grow up rich or poor, but we were always trying to pinch pennies, to make the most of what we had. For one, we’d never been able to go on holidays as a family, it wasn’t even an idea we could entertain. I am aware that as I describe this middle-class setting, I am already more privileged than I can fathom.
I was fortunate enough to have all my basic necessities covered, allowing me to long for more. Still, we had to be careful with our things and would not think to ask the latest things from our parents. So like everyone else, I grew up wishing for things : the newest clothes, cars, holidays.
At some point though, it stopped mattering.
Now that I am able to have these things, I realise I do not really want them, I do not wish to hang on to them. Owning things weighs me down. A little like when you have had a too-heavy meal, and realise you overdid it. My arms hurt from carrying all this…stuff (nameless, characterless objects) and all I want is to go straight to what is essential. Everything else is just add-ons; I wouldn’t, couldn’t be happy with more.
So no, I do not want these markers of “success”, these…accessories. They distract from what is truly important. Like gaudy jewellery and shiny baubles that divert the attention from a simple, elegant dress.
Pare everything down, strip it to the core. I do not want more than what is essential.
Owning things does not fulfil me. It does not make me happy or content. It could never rival the simple things in life that I adore : rain, a worn, comfortable shirt, warmth, time spent with family and friends.
In fact, things come in the way of all that. Material gains make you forget what you were looking for truly, all this time.
And by that, I do not mean I will not buy material goods. It does not mean that I will not own a phone. It means I will not rush headlong into buying the latest iPhone, just because it is the latest iPhone.
I will not listen to what the world says I need in order to be happy. I know what I need. And it is not material possessions bought for the sake of owning them or impressing others.
It is the simple things. Always has been, always will be.
Quote of the day:
« On ne voit bien qu’avec le cœur. L’essentiel est invisible pour les yeux. »
“It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.”
It is one of those Saturdays, quiet and warm and reflective. The smell of clean sheets rises in the air, mixed with the comforting scent of the summer breeze. Everything is soft, soft around me. Soft pillows, soft smells, soft memories.
My eyes are lost somewhere in the stream of light cascading through the window, following the ascension of dust particles in the atmosphere. Time melts around me, the barriers between past and present and future turn blurry, until they are but a point in the distance.
“You know, one day you’ll want children of your own…”
“Or maybe I won’t. Maybe I’ll never be ready to have children, no matter how much I love them.”
I stared into the silence. Our outlooks were too different, our self-evident truths too disparate and we seemed only then to have come to that realisation.
“What’ll you do then?”
“Travel…I don’t know.” The answer, though truthful, felt lacking, missing a crucial part.
I was younger then, still unsure of countless things.
My gaze has not wavered from the open window. The sunlight must be warm and comforting.
I want to reach out and hold this light in my hands. Another part of me wants to cup it and…and let it grow.
I understand. Actually, I think I’ve known all along. There is a desire in all of us to nurture a life that is not our own. Children. But also pets, plants, art, projects. I believe we have this innate need to care for things, for people. We need it to survive, to feel needed and important. Caring for someone else gives meaning to life; it gives purpose to sacrifice. It is a reassuring thought : we may fade away, the day may come when we no longer have time to spend, but some part of us will always persist in someone, something else.
So yes, I want to cup that light and help it grow.
Right now, I also want to lean into it and close my eyes, letting my skin soak in all the wisdom of this ordinary-looking moment.
Oh simple saturdays, small saturdays and your great-life-realisations, I’ve missed you.