The Lonely 1 a.m’s of Life

michelleellis
Photo by: Michelle Ellis

I think a major reason why we sleep at night is to avoid living these 1 a.m’s. They are the moments when everything exists through a haze, as though any moment now you would realise you were dreaming and go back to sleep. But it all feels too real, too. The sounds of the neighbour’s air-con going off, the rustling leaves and the silence. It is calm even in your head. But there is no peace. Just contemplation. Just everything, naked, uncaring for the sweetness or brutality of Reality. At 1 a.m., we are too much of ourselves. At 1 a.m., we cannot handle the thoughts that take a highway to feelings.

At 1 a.m., the brain actually shuts down in part, something about needing rest and signalling that you’re tired. But the heart never does—it takes no breaks. So at 1 a.m., you have no thoughts, really. Only memories and sadness. Yes, 1 a.m. is the heart’s reign. So even the sadness is too complicated to dissect. Regret. Fear. Nostalgia. Hope. Useless wishes. Insecurities. This amorphous thing that is Life. At 1 a.m., your heart is a funnel for the feelings of all other hearts.

At 1 a.m., Life stares back at you, asks you who you are and what you’ve done. You’ve had 20 years—what are you now? Who will you be in another 20?

But because your brain is sleeping, because all your defenses are down, the only reply you give is the one that comes from your eyes.

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The Lost Red String of Fate

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Art by: nile-can-too

The thing I want exists somewhere in this world. Somewhere, somewhere in this vast blue planet (and I dare not think, maybe even beyond that), it is waiting. For me.

Yes, somewhere—somewhere that is not here, some time that is not now— there is quiet, there is peace. There is a touch of happiness, slight as the sun before it finally disappears into the horizon line. Better than, there is home. But miles and years stretch between us and I am left with all these thoughts.

All these doubts, this longing— I wonder, I wonder— is it going to be too much to ask from the Universe? To plot the graphs of lives, to tangle the winding web of Humanity and the Tapestries of Time just right, so that one day…One day, while walking down the street, I can catch a silver, an atom of this feeling, this loose thread of Fate I have yearned to catch?

But dark thoughts have embittered my heart and I doubt. Inexplicably, I think that if Life is made of intersecting threads, then part of the thread of me is still hanging on the old, wooden spool.

 

 

When Writing Becomes Jarring (The Art Block)

Perhaps one of the most frustrating things that can happen to a writer or artist, aside from being told that Art is nice but, is the art block. Even worse, it is the art block that happens from having an idea without the expertise to bring it to this world. Because the words will not pour from my pen. Make no mistake, the pen is brimming with dark ink, but it is my mind that is dry, bare. My mind stutters. I know the words, I know what I want to say but—

How do I express myself when I do not know how? Lately, I have been experiencing a version of Life that is greater than my current skill will allow to recount. The colour of this emotion, my pen cannot hold—only now is my heart even grasping at its edges. The feeling eludes me. It feels like trying to catch sand from the seabed with your bare hands. At first it feels full and promising in your palm, but when your hand comes back up, it clutches onto nothing. The sand has been washed away by the current. I keep trying to maraud the ocean but I lack the skill to go after what is right in front of me.

Writing is jarring. It is not always cathartic. It is not always bleeding at a typewriter. Ironically, writing may even become the very thing that makes you seek catharsis. But I am a fool, always have been. I continue to go down the train of thoughts that lead to nowhere. I explore the convoluted maps of my imagination, this meshwork of thoughts and words, knowing it will all end in no particular way at all. I turn a masochist almost, seeking the thing that will surely antagonise me most.

But I have learned that—well, if writing is a skill, then surely, I can get better at it. I can learn. So, on days when I cannot write, I read. I still write, and I know it will not be what I expect it to be, but I go on.

All of Life is made of successes and failures, why then should Art be any different?

 

I am not a soul.

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Art by Soey Milk

I often stress the superiority of the inside versus the outside. Of the mental versus the physical, the intangible sketched against the tangible.

I get swept away by the idea of ideas and boast about existing on a higher level— a dimension that is transcendent of bodies made of clay, dismissive of the ritual physicalities of life.

“I am more! I am more!”, goes my cry to the Void, “I am a soul anchored to this earth by a body heavy enough that I cannot drift away to the place that calls to me (this place somewhere between the stars). I am more—more than what you see me to be.”  

But I am wrong.

I am not a soul.

And you prove that to me without even a word.

Because there are days when I do not need the sharpness of your wit, the complexity of your stance on Divinity or your knowledge of the stars and the ocean and all else that lies in between.  It is those days when my head aches from the weight of my own thoughts and I cannot talk—for Lord’s sake, some days I can’t even be.

Those days, as much as my meaningless ego loathes to admit, I need the warmth that gathers within your palms. I need the sound of your heart thumping in my ears, the rise and fall of your chest against mine. And your fingers that draw patterns and tangles into my hair, your voice that cracks sometimes, imperfect and warm when you hum a little something under your breath.

I am not a soul.

In those moments, I am glad that there is this body. These bodies, both yours and mine and all the ones that have loved us til this day.

No, we are not souls, you remind me. Not merely that. We are souls with bodies; we wound up having both our feet on the ground and our heads in the clouds.

Ah, but when these days are past and Life is back to this lie that we can ‘normal’, I will argue otherwise. I will insist that our bodies – yours at the very least- are guided by an inner gentleness, a kind of ‘light from within’.

And that is who we are.

 

I Thaw

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Gif by Unknown Artist

I thaw.

Crystallised in ice, my heart stirs back to life. From blue to blooming red, the season has come and I thaw.

The layers of cold, the once solid ice slide down, fluttering to the ground, melting into puddles at my feet. It’s a little like autumn inside, but it is also spring. I am no longer numb, no longer cold — the season has come and I thaw.

And I know it will be a sweet, lingering spring. Because the heat that warmed this heart up came from within.

 


Listening to:

 

A Gust of Existential Angst

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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

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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.