point a to point b

wake up so softly that you can’t tell when sleeping ceased and consciousness seeped in. don’t be surprised that you are okay. do be surprised to find a message from him on your phone asking where he can buy kale. realise maybe he needed you more than you needed him. he needed to realise he wanted kale in his life. write back. then let it go. don’t tell him you’re letting him go. don’t tell him it’s not because he’s not worth holding onto. that confessional urge has dissolved. you know that this is part of being a woman. you do not need to prove that you are okay.  tell him without telling him that you’re sorry you’re okay. it’s not him. he is good and beautiful and you could have loved him deeply, but you’ve explored every back alley of the alphabet and you know your way from point a to point z off by heart. you get where you’re going much faster if you know where you’re going and you’ve got no space in your life for someone who doesn’t want you.

you are the sofia. accept it. this is an excruciating role but it is crucial. excruciation is crucial (look at the letters). you are the one that makes them need kale. you are the teacher. you are the one that dies. and this is a gift. you wouldn’t be this person if you couldn’t take it.

GENDER: Feminine
OTHER SCRIPTS: Σοφια (Greek)
PRONOUNCED: so-FEE-ə (English), so-FIE-ə (British English), zo-FEE-ah (German)  
Sofia is a female name derived from σοφία, the Greek word for “Wisdom”. The name was used to represent the personification of wisdom.

this is what happened.

he came and the two of you stayed in bed for twenty-four hours. somewhere near the beginning you started talking and somehow you broke up. but still, you both stayed in bed for the whole twenty-four hours, fused, even when you cried, and when your bodies unravelled in sleep, he grabbed you. you watched a movie that rattled both of you in different ways. you kept saying, i’m the sofia. i’m the one that dies. in the morning he said, i don’t want to stop holding you. and you were confused again because this isn’t the first time a man has held you with one arm and pushed with the other.

you called a friend (those lifelines are unconditional and infinite) because you were wild with hurt and you were worried you’d start weeping on the tram. you said i’m not even tired of this happening. that’s how many times it’s happened. you saidbut i am so tired of falling in love, always soclose but never really in it. always allowed to dip my feet into lakes of love, just enough to remind me what it’s like to be drenched with intimacy, and then i’m back on dry land, alone, with all these holes where people used to be. 

you wanted to have a tantrum. you wanted to say, but you told me i had a reason to stand still! don’t. instead you said, how was your flight? oh you made a new friend? how lovely. you didn’t say, i took a shower but i still smell like you. i brushed my teeth but i can still taste you. i’ve stripped the bed, but making it overwhelms me and the notion of a naked mattress doesn’t horrify me right now (there is almost a perverted pleasure in sinking to such despair).

but maybe he is too young to know about the frenzied kind of grief that has you crying until you throw up. i know you, he said. you will try to find a way to blame yourself for this, the way you’ve done with everything else. but i won’t let you this time. this isn’t happening because of you. you hated him for saying the right thing when you were trying so hard to hate him. you said, i hate you so softly that it sounded like love. you didn’t ask him if he knew what it’s like not to want to exist. you didn’t admit you know why people want to kill themselves and it’s not because they want to die but because they don’t want to exist and you know that dying and not existing are not the same thing. he knows this about you.

you stood in front of the mirror and burst into tears, your eyes bulging slits, your cheeks pink and hard, your mouth bending ugly, saying again and again, i don’t deserve this. later, you wailed under the naked duvet, grateful that tears aren’t countable because the number would scare you.

you didn’t turn off anything, the laptop, the light, because you were afraid of being engulfed by grief in the dark. you tried not to try not to think about it because the trying gets you thinking about it. remember telling him, there is not a single consistent man in my life; only the women stay.

then you reminded yourself to trust the universe. you didn’t hate yourself when that trust didn’t make it hurt any less. you didn’t hate yourself at all. remember him saying, it’s difficult to like someone who doesn’t like themselves, and you were confused (maybe you’re not quite there yet).

the thing is, you do trust that you can handle everything life gives you. trust life. acceptance eases much suffering. yesterday the shock bred pain. but if you trust life, if you trust that every disappointment is a necessary pebble in the mosaic of you life, then you don’t need to suffer. everything that happens to you is for the better. pain is inevitable. accept. let go. flow.

hold on tightly, let go lightly.

obstacles are just pebbles for your mosaic. every x is  pebble. wisdom is seeing someone as a pebble instead of the whole mosaic. you are the mosaic. you are the sofia.

time

88 days ago 
was the last time you
let me stamp a letter 
to your lips with my lips. 
it said only       i love you
and it says it even now without
the envelop of you. without
the cursive of your smile. without
your inky eyes and your 
eyelashes that i wrote poem
about. without the sugar alphabet
i used to spell out our names that one
time. 

9 days ago
was the last time we
made tiny talk, protecting
every stranger around us from
the gravity of our history. 
i chant it all the time:
we are something that was
we are something that was
but when i see you, there is no we,
only non. 

4 minutes ago
i remembered that i am magnificent.
you are just the boy that thought my darkness was opaque,
just the boy
that is more scared of love than loss.
you are just the boy that stopped
telling me i’m beautiful long before you
broke my heart for the second time.
you are just the boy.

sometimes i imagine running into you
without the stirrups of etiquette propaganda.
i’ll cry as usual, and you’ll put your eyes to the floor, muttering,
“i’ve got to go” and then i,
with eyes heavy as teabags,
will say, “honey, you’re already gone.”

“God, sometimes you just don’t come through.”

I caught fire on Saturday 6th February 2010. The first tear I shed was eleven days later when the doctors informed me that the risk of infection was low enough for me to be discharged. The first time I wept in reaction to what happened to me was some time in April, maybe May. I remember this only because I was dating The Neanderthal at the time. I was taking a bath and maybe I looked down and saw the smirking scars, I don’t know, but I started weeping in such a raw, honest way that the grief almost wasn’t painful.

My mother was with me the entire time I was in hospital. She made me eat, she scratched my nose, she wiped me. At night she slept on a rented deckchair next to my bed. She took care of me but she also told me when I was being silly, she laughed at me, she forced me to try and walk on the days I thought I was too tired.

My father walked in on the first morning, saw me, and burst into tears. I felt myself go marble-hard. I said, “Get out.” He was so shocked he stopped crying.

“What?”

“Get out. I’m not crying; I’m not going to deal with you. Get out and come back when you’ve composed yourself.”

He didn’t come back. I found out later that he spent a week in bed, crying, depressed. I resented him for his weakness until M nuzzled me to a different perspective. Did it ever occur to you that maybe your father cried for you when you couldn’t do it for yourself? And so I softened towards him.

Last week, I noticed that my main scar, the one on my chest, the heart-shaped one that I call my Second Heart, was almost flat in places. It’s been four years since my accident; over time, it’s stopped being one of my definitions and has become part of me instead. But in that moment, I remembered what happened, I remembered what i went through. And I realised that that’s all it was anymore: something that happened to me. And so, I wept. In that beautiful, pure, rare way. I took a photo of it: my face, my Second Heart, and I put it on Facebook. Because not a single person that went through it with me was in Australia, and I healed because of them, I know, I felt their love pulsing through me when I tried to meditate the pain away, and I wanted to share this with them. I know exceptional people and some of them aren’t even my friends.

My father called me a couple of days later and asked me to research plastic surgery in Australia. I refused. Daddy, I’m okay with my scars. They’re part of me. But he persisted. For me, he said. I can’t stop thinking or crying about it. I sighed and agreed. But damn it, this wasn’t about him. And I heard Marco’s voice in my head, reminding me that maybe he’s grieving what is too big for me to grasp, let alone process. But then I got angry.

I am lucky to say that my mother is one of the strongest people I know. I am lucky to know a lot of inspiring, strong people. But strength is a double-egded sword because with strength comes expectation. My mother literally makes herself sick because she takes on too much. Me? I burn out (pun unintended). I stampede through life and then suddenly I’m exhausted and I crash and, more often than not, there’s no one there to catch me. When you insist on being in the driver’s seat all the time, there’s no one to take the wheel when your vision gets blurry. 

It has been 45 days since M and I broke up. Life is ripe and exciting. I am well. I let go without looking back. But the past week, he’s been seeping into my thoughts. I scoop them out as quickly as possible but sometimes I’m not fast enough and then a grief swells in me so thick and hard that I literally cannot breathe. It doesn’t last too long. I don’t let it. But I am so fucking sad for myself because I have realised I was wrong. I thought I let go easily because maybe I didn’t love him as much as I thought, when what’s happening is that, like my accident, losing him is too big for me to grasp, let alone process. And if my accident hasn’t caught up with me yet, maybe I can dodge this pain as well.

But tonight, I feel tired. I’m been bulldozing my way ahead and tonight I wouldn’t mind someone else taking the wheel. In a letter M wrote me, he apologised for not being there the way I needed him during my depression. He stood away from me, straight, stoic; it was his way of passing strength to me. But, he admits, it wasn’t what I wanted. “It wasn’t a cuddle and it wasn’t intimacy.”

Two of the greatest lessons I learnt last year were to own my resilience and to have compassion for myself. I don’t mind being in the driver’s seat most of the time. But on nights like this, when I struggle to muster the strength to smile, I become frustrated. And I worry too. Last time I drove for too long without resting, I crashed. I don’t want that to happen again and it’s frustrating to know that all it takes is, every now and then, someone tucking me into bed and stroking my hair until I fall asleep.

God, Tori Amos

A River in Egypt?

Even as a child, I was a knot. High-strung. Tangling thoughts just because I could. I always defended Friday 13th. I liked it just because it was thought to be unlucky. Maybe I always knew I was a black sheep. What’s worse? Being a black sheep and knowing it, or thinking you’re a black sheep when you’re not?

Consider this: thoughts are placebos. 
Again. Louder.
THOUGHTS ARE PLACEBOS.

We are what we think. And my mind is mean. Harsh and relentless. For how long can someone fight their own mind? How can they win? Where does your mind end and you begin?

My eyeballs have been swollen with tears for weeks; my tears are constantly en guarde. Why? Why?

Where does it all come from, this voice that tells me I’m unloveable? Also, unloved. How can my own mind, my own life make me claustrophobic? Don’t I control my mind? Didn’t I choose this life?

A few months ago, everything was coming together and now it seems to be draining. Maybe it’s me who is draining away. 

I am making myself into glass when I could so easily succumb into sand and be washed away. It’s taking all my guts to stay on the painful edge instead of toppling over. So I am stuck in no-man’s land: not okay, not not okay. But still, I am glass, and I crack, crack, crack.
I don’t have the strength to not crack. All I can do is not let too much water in. All I can do is keep reminding myself that I am not hopeless. But that’s like a kid holding a match at night, telling itself that the sun will come out before the match burns out. 

I have never felt quite this way before. I am not not okay. I am just a narrow, long pit of non-colour. I am not quite hysterical, but The Panic visits daily, sometimes twice. I am not sad but I cannot stop crying. 

Maybe I’m just bored.

Yes, that’s it. I’m bored.

Who’s Afraid of the Big, Bad Blues?

I deflated flat across his bed, trapped by my smallness. He leant over me & smiled. I said, “Why are you laughing?”
He said, “I’m not, I’m smiling.”
“Well why are you smiling?”
He smiled harder. “Because for some ridiculous reason, I still love you.”
& I wanted to cry then but the tears wouldn’t quite come & also, I didn’t really want them to. I said, “I’m sorry I make your life difficult.”
“You don’t. You make your life difficult.
& I argued with him. But the exchange was rather deja vu; I could swear I had said that someone before & they had answered in the same way. 

& herein lies the problem. I am like the dog that chases his tail. I chase myself, I bite myself, I exhaust myself. 

& where did this come from? This disbelief that I can be loved? 

She & I are such good friends that we timed our breakdowns. We got home at the same time & we fell apart at the seams simultaneously. I was putting the carrots away when I heard the whistle of her tears pulling into Breakdown Station. I continued putting away groceries: tofu, lentils, spinach. So Good soy ice-cream that was, ironically, not so good. Then I went back inside & hugged her & kissed her head & cried into her hair. I could feel her pain seep into me. I wept for both of us. We listened to grey songs & we laughcried as we bared our hurt. She gave a hilarious, painful performance of her Feelings. I said, “Why is Life so painful for us? I know of other Sensitives who suffer like us & it’s not like that for everyone & it is because we are so sensitive, because we carry everything with us all the time.  I hurt all the time, even when I’m okay, & I know you do too & most people don’t understand that- how could they & why should they?”

& so we bawled our eyes out for a few hours & we hugged & we told each other we loved each other & when we woke up the next morning, we were both quite bright. 

So, here we go on. Focus on each day as it comes. Slow down the thoughts. Pick out the dysfunctional ones like bad grapes. Don’t let any of them sour. Instead, make wine of them. Be still. Focus on each breath as it comes. You might have been dirtily depressed last Thursday but that was four days ago & today was okay & you need to ride that. 

I’m changing tack though. I’ve been squashing grapes for years but I have not made any wine. I have been letting the depression overwhelm me; I have allowed myself to be swallowed by my suffering. & especially in the last three years, I stopped fighting back

I don’t know if I’ll ever be happy, but I might as well be productive in my misery, you know? If I’m going to hate myself, I might as well accept that. If I’m going to be permanently swollen with past pain, I might as well use it as a pen. I might as well, I might as well. 

Courage

Image

At my age, it should be okay to spend the holidays away from home, but I’m a self-professed mama’s girl, and beyond that, it’s the first time I know so few people in one city. Homesicknesses isn’t ageist.

I opted to spend my first Australian holidays in Sydney. I assumed that being with my sister would make everything okay. It didn’t. She is a person with many wonderful qualities… it’s just that they don’t really extend to me. According to her, I am spoilt, irresponsible and self-involved. Which I am. But I know that I am also more.

There were two rounds of arguments. 

Round I took place on Christmas Eve and ended with tears (mine) and some heads buried in sand (hers). A 5 a.m. call to my mother, and a gin with my beautiful aunt later, I waltzed into her other family’s party like nothing happened. 

The peace lasted for 42 hours. 

Round II was impressive because I actually got her to tell me why she’s angry with me. Kind of. She yelled at me for minutes- I should have done my Christmas shopping earlier, I use ’I’ too much, I have no patience for political conversations. I am obviously a sinner. Naturally, I started to defend myself.

And then I stopped. Because I do not need to defend myself. I spent the first half of my twenties half-heartedly trying to do what was expected from me and no one was happy. There is nothing wrong with office jobs and mortgages and saving for rainy days and shit. It’s just not me. It doesn’t make happy. That kind of life is like I’ve got a dead dog that I’ve beat the shit out of. It’s like my sister is saying that it’s better to have a dead dog for a pet than a llama.

The funny thing is that that argument didn’t make me feel lonely. I realised that this is exactly what they mean when they say that it takes courage to live unconventionally. I realised this and I felt empowered. I don’t have anything to prove.

And neither do you.

We can lead whatever lives we want. I am one term into my degree and I’m already looking at work in Bali and India in case I want to pop over next year. Crazy? Sure. But why not? Stability is wonderful…if that’s what you want. 

Friends, you do not need to defend your life-choices. Ever.
You do not need to listen to the one negative voice in a choir of positive ones.

Go on spontaneous holidays.
Cry when you need to.
Smile at as many strangers as you dare.
Laugh when they call you a hippy like it’s a bad thing.
Let them be impatient with your neuroses.
Always try to see where they’re coming from, even if they refuse to move.
Don’t be afraid to look cute boys in the eyes.
Don’t bite your tongue, just let it go.
Wear tiaras to breakfast. 
Don’t worry if people think you’re nuts.
Be kind to yourself.
Remember that THIS is what they mean when they say that it’s difficult to be different. 

Is There a Word for Laughing and Crying at the Same Time?

I stay in bed for 27hours. In that time, I catch up on my shows, I read a letter, I cry, I write, I cry again, I consider eating, I don’t eat, I write some more.

I wake up super late feeling muffled. I watch another show. I cry. I think about that letter. I get up. I unpack. Almost everything is dirty. I feel guilty for not buying presents. I realise I came back with a lof of books. I don’t realise that I am making a pile of things that smell like Bali. I stop every now and then to smell them– the lemongrass soap, the sweat, the incense, the palmtrees, the heat.

I shuffle around the room, still muffled, with a tan that makes my skin feel more like home. What happened just before the moment  threw my arms up and said, ‘I want to live, damn it’? I don’t know. But I did it, I said it. Is this what I am mourning? How easy it was to feel alive in Bali? Am I mourning the freedom of devoting so much time to my happiness?

A while ago, someone I love deeply stopped talking to me. I didn’t ask questions. I didn’t think about it at all. It hurt too much. I just learnt to live without her. But she wrote to me last week and she asked me how I was and I told her the truth. Rather, the tip of the truth, which is that  I am better, but being better means reconciling with not trying to be happy. It’s too hard and devastating to try and be happy. I think I’ve kind of given up. Can you only kind of give up? I have accepted that joy does not come to me naturally. And because of that, I look closer. There is no point in tripping over everything in the attempt to reach some distant light.

I guess Bali freed something in me. I guess that’s the best souvenir. I think maybe that’s the key– not to try to be happy, but to try and be alive.

And the moment I was about to post this, a song came on, and I laughed, because barley sounds just like Bali. I laughed and held my hands up to my face and then I wasn’t sure what I was doing, laughing or crying. But I don’t care which one. It is what it is and I was doing it. Is there a word for laughing and crying at the same time?

Fields of Gold by Eva Cassidy