A Gust of Existential Angst

ExistentialGif
Gif by: Francisca Borzea

Ungrounded. Not floating—not flying and yet not rooted, I am caught in in-betweens, enmeshed in threads of Fate or Entropy I do not control. This heart, gushing hot, red blood is stoical. Everything tastes grey and I’m lying because I don’t even remember what life has been like these past 24 hours. This body is not mine, these memories— these small, distant touches of warmth— do they really belong to me? Or are they just electrical signals that buzz through ‘my’ brain? Mere pieces of data that can be forgotten, erased out of existence? How important can my existence be if it can all be reduced to such fragility?

All I am, all I know is this voice. It echoes thoughts in a dark room, raises questions, throws around truths that cannot be faced or acknowledged. I, I think I’ve gone and done it— I’ve overthought myself out of existence.

It’s not good.

It’s not bad.

It is what it is.

And it too, will come to pass as all things must.

The memories one day will flare, bright and summery, whirling through this body, all the way to my fingertips, to the strands of hair your fingers pushed back one stolen afternoon — and my whole being will remember what it means to be.

But that is not now, so when you ask, kind and unsuspecting, if I am fine, what other answer can I give but yes?

 

I See You

traitspourtraits
Art by: France Corbel – traitspourtraits

You.

Yes, you.

I see you, bleary eyed and resigned, the weight of the worlds digging into still soft shoulders. I see this bone-deep ache that you try to hide, this tiredness that has nothing to do with how much you’ve slept or how many hours you’ve worked. I see the disillusion in your eyes, I feel the sadness in your soul when you say: “I’m fine.”.

I see how you can’t eat because the sadness has filled you up or how you can’t stop having junk food because the melancholy has carved out a hole in you that you desperately need to fill. I see you slump into yourself, trying to disappear, drowning in music that speaks to the pain and gives you a moment’s relief. I see how you try, how you want to open up but get cut off because your voice is too soft, and your words trembling with fear. Fear of being discovered, fear of being found. And when you are silent, you fear never being searched for, never being thought of.

God, I see you. I see you. I can’t change the world, and I may not be able to do much for you, but I see you. I do.

Boring Sundays and Warm Loneliness

“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.

Seeds and Ocean Blue

 

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Not my actual hand *Anonymity breathes a sigh of relief*

These are seeds, just seeds, and yet why do I feel as though if I tossed them in the backyard, a whole ocean would grow from them?

In this concrete jungle of a neighbourhood, where grey houses and apartments sprout up from nowhere with their dust and drills, hiding the sky and clouds from view —imagine an ocean in the backyard. Imagine waking up to the gentle swoosh of the tide, the smell of salt, fresh and tingling your nostrils. But oh, every ocean has an ocean breeze, this cold spray that wets your skin, tickling the life  and laughter back into you.

And the adventures…imagine the adventures. Anything from treasure-seeking to unwinding in a fold-back chair, toes in the sand and a good book in hand. But there would also be a horizon, all oceans have them and, and the stars that glitter in the night, their light reflecting off the water that never stills. And the shells, the polished rocks, even the green, gooey algae, the —

Maybe it doesn’t have to be an ocean, maybe just the sea or a river. A brook or a rivulet. Even a leaky faucet or a can of seeds that are just the right shade of blue.

Right?

Leaving

 

BloomI love these flowers, tangled in twisting vine that look like they are reaching for the skies. No complex reasoning behind that. No elaborate metaphor or shocking symbolism. Just freedom and beauty, simply.

These photos aren’t even good. They were snapped in a hurry, the photographs almost moments snatched from the early evening air that day. Snapped, snatched, almost stolen. Like how I feel about happiness sometimes. Like I have to grab it and go before someone catches me enjoying it. So I end up tasting happiness not as the delicacy that it is — with all its hints of freedom, its subtle notes of understanding, of being wanted, and the faint aftertaste of nostalgia— but rather as a crude dish for sustenance that you shove down your throat because that’s all you have. So the photos are not good, they were taken in a haste, before the owner of the house could catch me taking photos of plants that weren’t even mine to look at.

The place I have come to know as the place with the flowers has guard dogs and alarm systems all over. The people are suspicious of those who linger in the streets. And yet they have hedges instead of iron gates. Rose bushes, towering trees, sidewalk daisies and looping vines. It makes me think that they are people who have been disillusioned but who have yet to give up, who know that because there is ugliness, there is also beauty. Cold hands, warm heart.

And today, I leave all this behind.

The evergreen garden that sparkles under the noon sun, the tall, too-green grass that sways with the wind, the rustling of the leaves, the silence, the too-warm afternoon, the muted magic, the pale pink haze of daydreams.

I have no words of wisdom to give myself over it. No false enthusiasm over the loss, no “ends are beginnings”.  I simply sit here and think that with the right eyes, everything can become a dream.

More is Less (Or how wanting is confusing when you’re a young adult)

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I think it is a shift worth noticing that as you grow older, you want less.

You want less pain, less worries, less of this feeling of being the only one to feel so horrendously lost.

But as a child, you had always wanted more. More sweets, more time being awake before going to bed, more tickles and more piggy-back rides.  More, more, more.

It reminds me of a child, a prince who lives in a faraway planet with his rose.

Dessine-moi un mouton // Draw me a sheep.” And then the one sheep wasn’t it. It wasn’t enough. And so, one more. And another. Until he had the one he wanted. I wonder what he would think sometimes, of the adults we have become.

PetitPrinceMouton

I have never been greedy for the world. Have never chased fame or money.  But now, I might think about wanting more. More happiness rather than less misery. More days out with friends in the place of less responsibility. If you think about it, to want less without also wanting more is the premise for a miserable life, the recipe for unwritten novels and untrodden paths. To want less without wanting more is to live off of a waning survival instinct which, like a blade, gets duller each time it is used.

Yeah, I think I cannot wait to crave Life again. And that’s already a good sign.


Listening to:

If You Are Waiting For “Something”

 

HeoJiseon
Art by: Heo Jiseon

It is 1 a.m. and I am sitting under the stars.

I am 20 or 21, I’m not sure; Time has stopped mattering.

There’s a whiff of sadness in the night, I wonder if you can catch it? Yet here I am still, an idiot, looking at the stars and thinking of you. I don’t even know who ‘you’ are. A mirage. A daydream. A feeling I am holding onto because if I don’t then nothing else matters. ‘You’ are like a mix of a face I lost in a crowd once and a person who has visited my thoughts in that time between sleep and wakefulness. Evasive. Haunting.

And yet, I am not entirely sure ‘you’ are ‘someone’. Maybe ‘you’ are something else entirely. Maybe ‘you’ are a calling. Maybe ‘you’ are a whisper from the past, or a novel that will change my world. Or an epiphany or a sunset. Or stars. Or maybe you’re the person I want to be. I don’t know, but I’m still waiting. I’m still waiting for you to happen.

I might be a little drunk on the dizzying freedom of the cool night air. Drunk on the mystery of who or what ‘you’ could be. So drunk that all these problems braided tightly into my hair have stopped straining so hard.

It’s 1 a.m. or 5:30 in the evening; I am not sure. I know nothing but that I am a soul, waiting, waiting, waiting…

And the odd thought crosses my mind that maybe you are waiting for me too.

(And so we will never find each other.)

The Promise of Youth

HowlsMovingCastle
Gif from: Howl’s Moving Castle

This beautiful life is no longer without consequence. Time has begun taking its toll out on you, dear. The late nights are now mapped out on your face, the sorrow weighing down the skin under your eyes. The memories of us have turned into sadness, who would have known?

Who would have known that one day on a roadtrip with no destination would change us so? You see, not even Youth is without consequence. Every happiness is to be paid for. So now we are sad adults, you and me, experiencing not Life, but the drudgery of everydays, reminiscing. Reminiscing about a pair of teenagers, wild and eternal, whose footsteps echo ever so briefly in the hollows of our chests.

Perhaps this is grief. Perhaps this is regret.

Because we killed them. The people we used to be. The dreams we used to have. We gave in to the world. We bowed to the storm and let it strip us of all we were.

So we go through this cruel existence, paying the penance for our crimes with unhappiness and misery. If you are miserable, then their deaths will mean something, right? If you feel hollowed out, soulless, then it is because you deserve to be, right?

Right?

But even now you appear right when I have scrubbed my memories clean of you. In the supermarket, outside a café. Grocery bags in hand. Sadness in your eyes. And for a moment there, I see the spark of the 17-year old you used to be. I see this tingle of Life that wants to awaken. And for a brief minute, Life allows us this repose. This breath of Youth that erases the fine lines and the great walls alike. And all disappears. As though Life had an undo button, a ‘restore to previous version’ option that could take us back to that summer when we were 17. Where the sunlight was warm on our faces and our days were boundless. The grass was tall, and the pink carnations swayed in the wind as the nearby brook ran its course.

But you chose, long ago. So you turn your head and in a heartbeat, take the sunlight away with you.

Éclat De Vie

JinXingye
Art by: Jin Xingye

So much of who I am today comes from others.

I find comfort in the idea that I carry a piece of the souls I have met and loved with me, wherever I go in Life, wherever I may wander on this Earth.

On days when I face the numbness of reality, I remember the peals of laughter my Grandmother would burst into and I smile a little brighter.

When I feel like I keep messing up, I think of that kid I went to school with. She never could whistle and for a year she tried, spitting all over the place as she did. Until one day, she did. And flowed from her lips a feeble melody.

On rainy days, the ones that are thunderous and grey, I think of the stories my Father used to tell when the lights were out and we were all gathered in the living room, hiding from the storm. And it makes me a little braver.

Life, I am learning, does not have to be lived alone.

The grief in her eyes

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Art by: Maria Ngyuen

If Grief is a look, then I saw it in the eyes of someone not much older than I today. And it was only a flashing moment, only in the slight squinting of eyes against the harsh sunlight did I see the mark of Grief painted there. She sat, leaning into the hard seats of the moving train, her eyes closed, as if nursing the pain that had been gathering for 3 years now.

3 years. That’s what her arm tells me. 1967-2014 and a few birds flying away into freedom. I could not catch the name written across her skin, but I have a feeling it is something in between “Mon Coeur” and “Mon Amour“. My heart, or My love.

The dulled tingle of Grief awakes again now. I imagine how it must have been, 3 years ago. I imagine the shock, the disbelief.

Then plummeting into reality, crashing into the overwhelming truth and thinking that you did not sign up for this. This wasn’t meant to happen. It is a breach of all human laws and of all fairness, all decency — and the person you have known and loved all your life, the person you have not had time to cherish yet, is “no more”.

But what does “no more” mean when they have never existed more wholeheartedly for you than in that moment?

But I, 3 years ago, I was probably stressing out about an assignment. 3 years ago while she cried, I was probably binge-watching some show. The day she went to get her skin inked, I was probably lying in bed, quietly contemplating the meaning of my existence at unruly hours, my gaze shifting to the stars for guidance. It always baffles me how your world can change and turn on all its axes three times over in a day without it ever meaning anything to anyone else. To others, it’s just a regular Tuesday that will soon be lost in a sea of everydays, gasping for breath in the foam of memories and ultimately sinking into nothingness.

How strange a thing it is, to exist.

How much stranger it is to be when Grief claims you. When all of the sudden, there is all this love that has nowhere to go. All those ‘Be careful’s, ‘Have a good day’s and ‘See you tomorrow’s that have no place to be. So you keep them in, you close the lid. You close your eyes one day in the stuffed train and let the world be.

3 years is a lot of time for anything. But not for Grief.