Monday, November 28, 2016

He Gave Me What You Could Never Provide

This is for the person that I am most thankful for this Thanksgiving! 

"Why can't you let yourself be happy?" I met him eight years ago, or was it nine? We were introduced by a boy, who later became a man who could not fill the big shoes of men who preceded him. "Why can't you just allow yourself to be happy despite his behavior and choices?" If only it were that easy.

Well, actually it would be that easy. It only takes one decision to let the past dissolve into nothing but memories. But what if I were to tell you that letting go of him and our story would make me the robot that he had fell in love with years ago? What if it means that I would regress to a twenty year old version of me that could not feel the world. My writing would be bland and my smile would merely be a pre-programmed facial expression. I would not be a human being.

"Would you be alright if my happiness meant that I would not be the person you've known for the past eight years?"

He looked at me. Silent. His eyes widened before narrowing. I try to recount the last time he was silenced. I wonder what took a man who nursed me after I crashed to the ground to be silenced. I study the face who's turned up at every book signing and who's popped up in front of my doorstep with a bag full of booze. He's like the partner I never had, replacing the hole that his friend had left years ago.

"What you're saying is I won't even recognize you if you were happy?" He finally asks.
"Think about it. You've never seen me happy." I pointed out the obvious.
"I've seen you happy." he says after a while, "You were happy when he was here, when you caught him smiling at you."

We stared at each other and smiled, fully aware that this is the last time he'd see me show any glimpse of happiness in this state of mind.

"Just remember that people care, that I care, about you." He says, "And if that's what it takes for you to be happy, if losing you is what it takes then, there's no other choice but to set you free."

With that he let go of the girl who did not have the strength to let go her own demons. And once again, he gave me something that you could never provide.

*The above image was hand drawn by the writer

Friday, September 30, 2016

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Till' the Bitter End

From the hills she scans the valley below, peering down on a man with a predetermined fate. He sits unaware, busy, distracted, just as she remembered.

All reliable battle plans must be scrapped. How can she conquer a war that she doesn't want to win? How can she erase the very figure that resurrected her faith in a happy ending? How can she forget all the things that kept her from her demons?

She peers down at her map. Her eyes follow an invisible line that would bring them on a pilgrimage through the past 10 months. Suddenly, her eyes stop.

A map that once illustrated a pilgrimage through their story

Reliable battle plans are altered as she looks on the battle ground.

Midway through the charge, I look down at my sword and wonder why I'm even holding a sword to begin with. A voice flourishes from my chest, traveling up my throat at increased rate, before filling up my head like perfume. The scent reminds me of survival, "It's either me or him".

With no doubts to address I push my horse even harder. It charges towards the battle ground, accelerating with assurance. The wind blows away the memory, burns the images and shatters any hopes that consisted of him.

I am all that is left.

*Picture was taken by the author

Sunday, July 31, 2016

When Can I Scream At You?

When is it alright to scream at your friends?

I mean, when is it alright to scream at all?

As I write this, I am listening to soothing music trying to well, sooth myself. And yet, I still can't brush the question off of my shoulders. I champion communication and yet, I can't even bring myself to tell you what is wrong because I have learned not to scream, not to throw a fit.

I am an adult struggling to articulate, not a child at a toy store. Ugh!

When were we taught not to scream at our friends?
Is it better to not scream at you or not to communicate the issue at all?

Talking about it like adults
One thing that I despise about adulting is the need to always be civilized. Sometimes, sending a message in a civilized manner discounts its contents and its weight, not to mention its urgency. Talking it out may help the receiver receive and digest the content better, hence increasing their understanding. And yet, it may also dilute the emotion that the message carries.

Also, wouldn't it be so boring if all our conversations are nice and polite and civilized?

The right to scream
To answer the first question posed, in some cultures it isn't alright to scream at your friends. Varying degrees of friendship warrants varying degrees of shock. Screaming is reserved to childhood friends or your best friends, people who've seen you through thick and thin. They have seen you done worst things than screaming. And hence, in some ways, it is fine to scream at these people. But the majority of your friends should never, ever see you turn into a primal creature and scream your lungs out. God forbid they leave you or gossip about it to your other non-close friends!

The right to scream is also reserved to your loved ones. Highlight the word love(d) here. Your parents may not be your close friends, but again, they have seen you done worse things than scream and most likely, you have screamed at them before you questioned its appropriateness in the first place.

Another group of unfortunate souls are your significant others. I've seen many of my friends start fighting and screaming at their beloved once the relationship becomes official. Somehow, a status or a label allows people to act uncivilized: to vomit the truth and serve it in the most indelicate of ways. Suddenly, complaining about how dirty their car is or how often they fail to listen is kosher. And based on my observation, this behavior only increases over time and with more milestones.

Now, why do I need scream?
Well, let's just say when you haven't had the chance to communicate for quite some time, words that were properly written with a civilized accent, have now turned into a pot of sounds that can only be delivered in screams.

Even after screaming, I can't see myself articulating any of my feelings or requests so I shall opt for questions instead. Perhaps, questions will help illustrate how you have made me so frustrated with you, us, even myself!

And after all this contemplation, I am no longer concerned about the appropriateness of a scream. Instead, I fear that we can only move on once I've screamed, once you've seen the monster that you have helped create.

*The photo was taken by the author

Friday, June 24, 2016

You Saved Me at 3

The past three weeks have been spent deciding if I should stay
If I should stay on this damn roller coaster ride
Or eject myself from this seat
And exit the ride

Though I still take pleasure in making plans
I did not like what was in store for me
The chances were slim
The outcome grim

Was I to eject myself and free fall to the ground
Or was I to remain, strapped in, waiting for the next sudden fall
And the next and the next
Without a hand to hold

The past three hours have been spent under the blanketed sky
I couldn’t breathe, let alone sit
But somehow the roller coaster became bearable
And I left feeling thankful I had decided to wake up this morning

Three days ago I considered taking up alcohol as a new past time
Two days ago it was cigarettes
And today it was food
But he has changed my mind

Alcohol, perhaps, could cure my loneliness
It’ll make me less of a coward and more of a charmer
But he made me realize that I need my brain to remain alert
Which I need to allow my ego outsmart his

Smoking, perhaps, could give me something to do
A quick relieve amidst aimless living
But it will prevent my tongue from debating
Which need to become a valuable player and keep on playing

Food, perhaps, could relieve me from my sadness
Sugar would inject me with a sudden high that would conceal my pain
But it will prevent my heart from beating as fast
Which I need to help me feel alive and help me forget time

As the minutes passed I quickly forgot about you
Forgot about our future and my doom
Forgot about the damage I had made and the castles I had built
And the sudden free fall waiting for me in the next three months

Instead I wanted to stay
Talking till sunrise
Bitching about life’s follies
And the damn roller coaster we’ve all been trapped in  

Now I am on the roller coaster
Still moving full speed ahead
Still complete with a free fall
Waiting at the end of the next three months

But, instead of dreading the future
I’m glad to wake up another day
Glad that I am not alone on this damn roller coaster ride

Glad I stayed, strapped in, to hold your hand

Monday, April 25, 2016

I Hate My Period

Once again, I have ruined another pair of panties! This cramp doesn't let me get up from the toilet, let alone clean my underwear in the shower. I can't decide whether to feel angry, hopeless, or debilitated.

Is it just me, or have you ever wondered the legitimately of your emotions when you're on your period? Your emotions signal the arrival of your loyal friend, yet each time you wonder if you want to punch that guy because his chewing is truly, justifiable annoying or because a gush of blood is making its way through your tubes? 

And what is worst than not being able to trust your own senses?

The only thing that comes to mind is when other people discount you, your decisions and your judgment when they realize that you are on your period. 

Being on my period doesn't mean I am crazy or incompetent! On the contrary, my period lowers my tolerance, which in some ways helps me mitigate conflict more quickly. It makes me more honest, inspires me to be upfront with myself, and prevents me from sweeping problems under the rug. And sometimes, it brings me to the darker corners of my consciousness, pushing me to really take a hard look, deal with it, and carry on. 

Mood swings, fortunately, only allows these feelings to exist for a few hours at a time. It provides a taste of sheer joy and feeling broken, preventing me to catapult to the sky or plunge into misery. 

If there is one reason for me to look forward to dripping blood for five days is to take a break from feeling blue. Being on your period means having sudden rushes of joy. The feeling resembled that of eating candy for the first time or running towards Disney Land when the parks have just opened. You feel pumped and excited. Nothing can stop you! 

This rush bulldozes through feelings of helplessness and stress. All of a sudden you feel invincible! 

Being on your period is not merely a biological phenomenon. Yes, blood is running down your leg. And yes, you need to wear a tampon or a sanitary pad at all times. And it can definitely feel uncomfortable. But, you can't help but realize how it saves us from the monotony of life. Suddenly people don't expect you to be totally sane. Even if you are sane, think of it as an opportunity to do the unexpected. And before it gets boring you're already on the next emotion, surfing through life! 

*The featured image was taken by the author

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

It's March 30

It's March 30. In less than 30 hours I will break my sorta, kinda New Year's Resolution by failing to publish a piece. What if I fail? What if I fail again? Today, a friend in real life commented on February's solitary post. Ironically, the post was about disappointment, more precisely disappointing oneself. It's funny when real life people intrude your "virtual" existence. It feels much like when a friend that I've only known in New York visits me in Indonesia. Oddly, it feels wrong when characters cross worlds. So, why do I so badly want you to cross to the other side? Why do I want you to see my past, to relish the streets I used to love? I wonder what you'd say if you were to read my blog. By this sentence, you've probably realized how cerebral these words are. I wonder if you'd run away at the sight of this unstructured, chaotic mess. I wonder if you'd be disappointed.

Friday, February 26, 2016

When You're Disappointed in Yourself

Disappointment. Disappointment frightens me. It stops my foot from taking another step towards the mirror of truth. I quiver in fear, unable to fathom the sight of my own figure.

What if all I see is disappointment? 

Understanding oneself is arguably the most treacherous journey in life. The lucky ones start walking without questioning the outcome, without examining the risk. Obliviously, they embark on a path that may leave them in shambles. I envy them.

I wish I had not a brain, but beauty. No, not beauty, but the foolishness, the foolishness that can only be described as satisfaction?

I look down at my feet, still strongly planted on the ground. They need the very thing that the others have. And yet, though I can see them paving through their journey? And although I could hear them talk? I can't quite articulate this thing that they have.

What keeps them from fearing disappointment?

Understanding the source of my disappointment will, perhaps, allow me to begin this journey. Having low expectations seem to be one part of the puzzle. Even though low expectations can ease the process, they do not guarantee satisfaction.

What am I afraid of being disappointed of? 

I am afraid that I will be disappointed with the true version of myself. But who is the artist behind this "version of myself"? Who illustrated the true facets of my exterior and interior? Who decided the number of dimensions I would possess?

Policy makers say, I am shaped by the government. Teachers say, I am shaped by my peers. Psychologists say, I am shaped by nature and nurture. Preachers say, God shaped me. Self-help gurus say, I am shaped by myself.

Who am I disappointed in? 

Depending on who's talking, I might become disappointed in the government, my friends and family, genetics, God, and myself. At the end of the day, life will disappoint. So how can I make sure that he/she/it doesn't disappoint me?

I look at more oblivion figures walk past me. Some are policy makers, teachers, psychologists, preachers, and self-help gurus. Knowing who will disappoint them, even if it were themselves, does not stop them from taking another step. Now, why is that? What do they have that I don't?

What stops me from making others disappointed?

Let's pretend that this creator can do no wrong: that even his mistakes are nothing but disguised perfection. Perhaps, then, I could happily assume that the disappointment I see is nothing but a temporary lapse in judgment. I misunderstood what he/she/it meant, hence I could not appreciate my true self.

If I trust that my creator, be it something within or beyond me, can do no wrong, I shall be saved from disappointment.

My foot begins to move, strengthening with each step, accelerating as I become increasingly trusting of my creator.

*The featured image is provided by the author

Friday, January 15, 2016

How You've Changed Me

I am a strong believer in plans. Perhaps, so much so that I forget to nurture life's unplanned surprises. To be honest, I considered your unplanned appearance last year as a mere cameo. And that message I sent in the Spring as a rare sighting of spontaneity.

In less than a year, your cameo turned into a seven-hour conversation, which quickly snowballed into weekly hang outs. Rules and conduct are slowly erected. Despite deliberate attempts to get on with our first fight, it has miserably ended in failure and tear-reducing laughter.

Even without a blueprint, a map or a timeline, we managed to go the distance.

In a year, you tried the patience of an impatient girl
You succeeded in making her wait
But curve charts reside in her mind
Calculating the opportunity cost and redrawing timelines

And yet she holds on
To something that might as well mean nothing
Sometimes this girl even forgets you exist
But then you pop up on her screen, in person, on the phone

In a year, she believes that you've changed her
You've revolutionized her beliefs in men, in relationships
She no longer generalizes
She no longer settles

Order was brought to her relationships
You've inspired principles to be established
Perhaps, love needs room for rules
Perhaps, their relationship needs borders

And policies to be implemented

Now she sits
Her fingers gingerly taps on the keyboard
Her mind unable to list more than five ways
Five ways you've made a difference

*The image is provided by the author

Friday, January 1, 2016

A Year at War

What is it about the thought of war that makes it so consuming?

2015, it seems, has been all about war. News revolved around war, businesses entered war, and I just can't get enough of it.

Each day, for the past six months I have started my day with a dose of the BBC. Each day, except for the days when Pope Francis visited the US, centered around war. I turn off the TV, pick myself up and head over to the car. I have twenty minutes to clear my mind before it infects the entire office. Without any hustle and bustle, mornings at the office fails to distract me. So, I skim through the New York Times instead. I avoid terror by going straight to the Opinion section. In the summer, the NYT had a section on Summer Love, which helped turn my thoughts into clouds of optimism.

Meetings start at 9 AM. Soon enough I am back on the battle field. Conflicts have become such a norm that I have rediscovered the use for the word "Stupid!" Cerebral cursing helps me ease my frown into a mindless stare. Combined with religiously applied eye cream, lines won't form between my eyebrows any time soon.

One month I even started doodling to maintain notes and inner peace. As I anger nears, I can't help but draw weapons on paper. Even the stickmen are at war with one another. Even they could be annihilated with a charcoal bomb or crumbling paper.

But now, I zone in and out of the discussion enough to safe me from looking like a total ass. When my mind fails to leave the room, I listed in intensely, praying to learn how people's minds work. Why are they being so difficult? How can I make this conversation more productive? A simulation of treatments and their potential outcomes play out in my head, as my eyes and hand keep up with the discussion.

I take a break from the war in my mind during lunchtime, which consists of shoving food down my throat in record time. Eating alone has its benefits, I learned, whereas eating with others may require a touch of strategical thinking. When time allows, I return to my reading list or catch up on news. Nine times out of ten, headline news consist of war. Thankfully, there are those who are willing to have meet before the lunch breaks ends.

For the rest of the day I try my best to regulate my breathing, to provide constructive criticism and ultimately stop myself from heading into battle. My views on "Pick your battles!" has see-sawed uncontrollably for the past few months, especially when it comes to pressing issues. Each day, I try to limit myself to one active battle that could be defined as a battle between two or more parties, one of which is me. This is a battle that is palpable to those around me. More often than not, it stems from ignorance and passive aggressiveness. When I could sense my stamina deterring, I opt for diplomacy. "Let's talk about it!" I'd say before laying out our definitions, assumptions, and perspective. Ironically, some battles can be easily resolved, making it much less attractive to pick my battles.

Before I could understand this logic further I am on my way home, where I spend the evening aimlessly perusing the internet, reading or counting down the hours till I sleep. This year I have had the pleasure of relearning how to empty my mind. Sometimes it's a struggle to convince my head from going full speed, but this year silence has seen more triumph than ever before.

Unfortunately, wars do not have the day off on weekends. Bloodshed still takes place somewhere in the world no matter the date, no matter the time. The war in my mind has also bled onto Saturdays and Sundays. In recent weeks, it has become so severe that a friend has called me manipulative in a suspiciously positive way. I have also tried to pick my battles on my days off of work, especially as friends become so comfortable that they find it totally acceptable to say sexist jokes and be their unfiltered self. If geopolitical wars don't stop on the weekends, why should the war between your true self and ideal self seize?

Funnily, although parts of war remains fetishized, most of it becomes routine. There is a pattern to be seen and lived. And as 2015 nears its end, I can't help but put away my rifle and ammunition, I can't help but lock away my map and combat boots. Perhaps, only then, will 2016 become a peaceful year.

*The photo above was provided by the author