rabbit-brained

I once had a rabbit. It had no name. We just called it that… the rabbit.

It died of a heart attack.

Today, I feel like my rabbit.

*

I am a week away from a ‘work trip’ and am totally unprepared.

I have scripts upon scripts to write, production teams to pull together, schedules to lay down, props to finish up, articles to write… and all by the end of the week. This is in addition to the fact that I’ll be trekking in Nepal in about 3 weeks’ time and am totally UNPREPARED.

Equipment – nada.
Physical stamina – what’s that?
Permits – you mean I need them?
Plane ticket – booking tomorrow.

My thoughts are all over the place. It’s all not good. That plus the recent spate of sleepless nights have left me feeling very much like a watercolour painting. My substance is gone. Where is my mind?

*

*

I leave my sentences hanging and don’t finish them, ever. This frustrates Jap Girl, who’s begun finishing them for me. I’m in the middle of writing multiple emails as I write this post and yes, I know, someone out there is going to tell me, ‘Focus!’

But I can’t. Every minute, there’s a new demand. A new curve ball. Someone, throw me a lifeline. Or a nice basket of fruits. That might help. It always made my rabbit quiver with excitement…

*

*

Actually, while we’re on wishes…

Someone, give me a life where there are no demands. Just for a week, I’d like to taste what it feels like to do nothing.

[Beautiful watercolour pictures by Holly Exley]

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comfortable skin

‘Hello! My name’s Flex and I’m here to help your muscles get strong,’ the stocky instructor said. I nearly choked on my Coke Light. Flex? I quickly wiped the liquid dribbling down my chin.

‘Hi,’ I replied weakly. I didn’t expect the gym to allocate a trainer that quickly. Too many days since my last run and a rotund tummy was starting to get to me, and I knew I had to start running again, but after the last time I went out in the morning (about a week ago) I found myself severely disheartened. I don’t know where my motivation went.

Yesterday, while cleaning out my bag, I chanced upon a random voucher lying inside. ‘A two-week free pass to the gym? That might work’, I thought. And that was how I found myself there today, standing before Flex.

‘Look, I have never joined a gym before and have no idea how things work,’ I began. I didn’t want him to think that I knew anything about what I was doing. In fact, I think I might have unconsciously painted a pathetic portrait of myself, to kill any expectations he might have had. ‘You’ll be working with a complete beginner…’

‘No problem! I’ll take you through the equipment and start you on a course of workouts that will whip you in shape for your hiking trip!’ He enthusiastically pounded the table. ‘Do you want to start now?’

‘What? Now? Noooo… I’m not ready,’ I stammered. ‘How about a few days later?’

‘I can do lunch. You want to try on Thursday? I can slot you in at noon,’ he nodded, ‘Just send me a message with your mobile and I’ll slot you in.’

‘Okay…’ I meekly replied. Yes, I can see how having a personal trainer helps because I am now committed to a lunch-time workout. Me – the girl who always eats in to avoid jostling with the lunch-time crowd, who likes to kick back and chill, alone… will now be found sweating her ass off in front of a man named Flex.

*

‘Let’s use gaffah tape!’ Cutesy exclaimed, as we discussed the decor for the next campaign. I stifled a smile. Gaffah?

‘Will it be hard to edge the images of the dancer out if we shoot her against a background that’s not white?’ She continued. Edge? Did she mean etch?

‘It will take time but it’s do-able. And we’ll continue with the veneer effect…’ the designer answered. Veneer? Now I had to speak up.

‘Do you mean vignette?’ I smiled.

‘Yeah, whatever that effect is,’ he laughed.

‘Hey! You have white nostril hair!’ I guffawed. It was fascinating.

‘Ah, it’s the dust from the sculpture I was working on,’ he said as he grabbed a tissue to clean his nose out. ‘Maybe I should wear a mask.’

And that is how our weekly department meetings go. I like my team. They are some of the best creative minds I’ve met, who speak without an ounce of elitism in their speech.

*

‘What was the Sky Gym like?’ I asked the Husband on our way home. Months ago, he was offered several personal training sessions at one of the most elite gyms in our country and I know he enjoyed himself there.

‘I felt intimidated at first,’ he said, ‘Because that place caters to the rich and exclusive. It was always empty so the staff would be watching you as you did your workouts. I mean, they had nothing else to do. The view was great though, and the trainer was nice. I would have returned except… that place made me feel uncomfortable.’

‘What do you think of the gym we went to just now?’ I asked.

‘I like it there. I know some people may bemoan the fact that it’s common and crowded, which it is, ever since they lowered the membership price but I know if I’m a klutz there, no one’s gonna bat an eyelid,’ he said.

I nodded. It’s true. I liked being in that place because it didn’t feel extraordinary. If anything, it was common and approachable. Very much like the team of people I work with. There are no airs and if you make a mistake, it’s okay. It’s expected.

I want to be able to look back on a day and laugh at my plebian ways.

*

Stepping off the train, The Husband and I noticed a well-dressed chap walking ahead of us. Everything about him was perfect. His jeans hung at just the right places, the shoes were spot on trend and his clothes… well, let’s just say he looked like he’d just walked off the Sartorialist pages.

‘Why do I get the sense he’s too aware of what he’s wearing?’ I whispered.

‘I was just thinking that!’ The Husband exclaimed. ‘And that’s what makes his entire perfect outfit look a little wrong on his person…’

‘Maybe inside, he’s trying to be someone else,’ I answered.

How sad.

‘We are all freaks. Yes! Alone in our rooms at night, we are all weirdoes and outcasts and losers. Whether you admit it or not, you are all worried that the others won’t accept you, that if they knew the real you, they would recoil in horror. Each of us carries with us a secret shame that we think is somehow unique

And if we are, each of us, freaks – then can’t we accept what’s different in each other and move on?’

– James St. James

I want to be comfortable in my skin.

There is a line in my favourite Switchfoot song that goes, ‘We are a beautiful letdown, painfully uncool. The church of the dropouts, the losers, the sinners, the failures, and the fools…’

If only we would let go of the facade of perfection for a moment. We would finally be happy with who we are and cease from attaining the faultless life. Flexing our happy muscles then wouldn’t be such a chore.

(Sorry, had to use the word flex. It’s been ringing in my mind)

building my cardboard dreams

I was a race car driver, soaring down the tracks, the rushing wind swirling my hair into a little chaotic frenzy. The engines purred powerfully beneath me as we headed off the road down little unknown valleys, between the mountains, stopping somewhere beneath the vast open skies.

I was a cat, curled in her tiny home, seeking refuge and comfort from the cacophony of a busy world. My resting place was the eye of the storm and in it, I was invisible as I watched people quarrel, bodies passing by in a frenzy to meet their personal deadlines. All that mattered to me in that tiny house was the now.

I was a robot, looking through tiny pinhole eyes, my entire body a wall of protection against anyone who tried to get inside. But they would never find me as I was a robot, an unfeeling machine, immune to hurt, rejection and sadly, laughter.

I was a princess who just received a parcel from a prince who admired me, the gift filled with treasures from his land, a trumpet call to the man he was, and what he could provide. Riches? Glory? Magic? The parcel held secrets untold, passed down through the generations. What delight lay inside the parcel? With intense patience, I slowly peeled back it’s covers.

All I needed was a cardboard box. And the world of imagination unfolded whichever way I wanted it to.

The humble material of my early dreaming which today, was made tangible, thrilled me to bits. I’ve always wanted to do something in tribute to Michel Gondry’s Science Of Sleep and Norton Juster’s The Phantom Tollbooth. Both the movie and book impacted me deeply with its childlike perspective… something I lost when I grew up.

“Would it be possible for me to see something from up there?” asked Milo politely.

“You could,” said Alec, “but only if you try very hard to look at things as an adult does.”

Milo tried as hard as he could, and, as he did, his feet floated slowly off the ground until he was standing in the air next to Alex Bings. He looked around very quickly and, an instant later, crashed back down to the earth again.

“Interesting, wasn’t it?” asked Alex.

“Yes, it was,” agreed Milo, rubbing his head and dusting himself off, “but I think I’ll continue to see things as a child. It’s not so far to fall.”

– Norton Juster

We laboured over every element of our cardboard world – adults seeking play as children would, with the added finesse of skill that maturity brings. Every moment was gloriously relished because isn’t that what growing up is all about? We get to let our imaginations run wild with aplomb.

*

I cried a little today. Silly things but they got to me. I think I was worn thin with trying to look happy over the past few weeks and the more I tried to look like it didn’t matter, the truth ate me up from inside. I felt wretched.

The week was finally over but for me, the challenges have just begun. It’s going to be one long week. I am however, looking forward to playing with my cardboard world and fantastical characters. In them, even when I am weary with pulling together my damning emotions into a solid state of ‘okay-ness‘, I have fun… and in that fun, hope is strengthened. I resurface from the imaginary with new belief that it can all be good.

‘Wouldn’t it be great if we could build an entire building with cardboard?’ someone said today.

‘Yeah, but would happen when it rains?’ came someone else’s reply.

‘We’d just build another one,’ I replied quietly.

Which is pretty much what I’m doing with my life now. Every single day, I build a new dream. The days are filled with both accomplishments and disappointments but I carry none of them with me to bed. Like what Michel Gondry once said, ‘I’ve dreamed a lot, but I’m not a very good sleeper.

Instead, I search out for that place in my cardboard box where I once hid in a corner, alone for a while, the silence punctuated only by the sound of my rhythmic breathing…

‘Have you ever heard the wonderful silence just before the dawn? Or the quiet and calm just as a storm ends? Or perhaps you know the silence when you haven’t the answer to a question you’ve been asked, or the hush of a country road at night, or the expectant pause of a room full of people when someone is just about to speak, or, most beautiful of all, the moment after the door closes and you’re alone in the whole house? Each one is different, you know, and all very beautiful if you listen carefully.’

– Norton Juster

In that silence of my cardboard box, I am satisfied. For a moment.

And sometimes… that’s all I need at the end of a long, long day.

damning evidence

They stared at me, taunting me… ‘I dare you,’ they seemed to say.

I succumbed to the dare. I finally put them on (quashing the unease in my stomach) and looked into the mirror. It felt odd to see my body’s silhouette look like an hour glass. Yes my dear friends, I finally put on my first high-waisted pair of jeans and let’s just say, it’ll probably be my last time.

They were electric blue and I teamed them up with a white tank top (tucked in, of course), a yellow cardigan and beige heels.

‘Do I look slim?’ I sulked to the Mother. I really needed some form of reassurance.

‘Yes, you do. Well… most parts of you do,’ she chuckled in reply.

‘What? Some parts? Which part looks fat?!’ I was aghast. The Mother, in a sudden passionate desire to clean her shoes didn’t seem to have heard me.

‘You look gorgeous,’ the Husband smiled. ‘Very hot.’

‘Right,’ I answered. ‘This hot wouldn’t have something to do with the fact that a particular part of me is emphasized, does it?’

‘Oh erm… heh, let’s just say you’re all woman today,’ He laughed. No, it was not encouraging at all.

I tossed my hair in what I hoped was a stylish shampoo-ad move and sashayed to the door. It was the start of a very self-conscious day. And like most of my life’s drama, today was also one where my digestive system felt inspired to produce the largest amounts of gas within the shortest amount of time. I was grateful that farts don’t come coloured because I would have been surrounded by a constant gaseous rainbow.

Around noon, I was propelled out of my chair (gas is good for turbo power) into a rehearsal with a new voice talent and thereafter, we were cocooned in the recording studio (thankfully, they didn’t die of suffocation), before I headed off to meet the guys who were on site to help create our set for the next video shoot.

I was seated on the couch talking to the chaps when I noticed an odd balloon-like swell beneath my belt. What the hell? Mortified, I tried to flatten my tummy bulge but it didn’t work. The tough jean material was buckling in ugly pouches and I looked at least four months pregnant. Smoothly, I took my laptop and pretended to do a little work…

Have I said yet that I hate high-waisted jeans?

To make matters worse, my stylist had efficiently arranged for me to pick up some clothing from a well-known boutique in what is probably one of our most stylish streets. Right. Embarrassment is not good enough for the office. It must be shared with a well-dressed world.

For once in my life, I was dead focused in doing my job. I picked up the clothes and made a beeline for the station pronto.

Ever noticed how toddlers playing hide-and-seek seem to think that as long as they can’t see you, you can’t see them? They stand in a corner with their eyes tightly shut and are shocked when they’re found. Well, I ‘hid’ myself on the train with a book. Buried between the pages of ‘Where The Wild Things Are’, I’m sure no one saw me in my electric blue-white-yellow damning outfit.

Stepping through the door of my house, I ran into the toilet with tremendous speed.

‘You win,’ I muttered to my pair of jeans as I flung them across the room.

I swear I heard them snigger.

*

I have a pile of clothing that I keep for my personal morbid fascination. They are damning evidence that some things should never be worn because when I did, I died a thousand deaths. And yet… it only takes a year before the horror fades and I revisit them with renewed hope.

‘Maybe my body’s changed shape! Maybe I wore it wrong! Maybe it’ll work this time!’ I smile in hope.

They never fail to make me feel like the worm that crawled out from under a rock.

Under the glare of reality, I see my faults highlighted with such force I wear black for days thereafter. A sign of mourning the things that can never be and well… because black is slimming. It’s a good ego-booster.

Moral of the story?

Keep on trying but dear god… do it first in the bedroom, not in front of the world.

That said, I’m waiting for a certain friend to finally try on the two newly purchased pairs of skinny jeans that are still lying in the closet. Come on! It’s time someone else had a hilarious story to share.

a wonderful life

[Wonderful Life by Hurts]

Between the pockets of a good day filled with fast-paced activity and cheerful creativity, I slumped inwardly with tremendous inertia. I was about to expound on how many shades of grey existed in my day… when this song popped up in my iPod, at the precise moment I began writing this post.

I smiled.

What can I do but shake my head in amazement? When I stand disinterested with all that the Dream Maker wants to say to me, He reaches out to speak in a language that touches my heart.

‘Don’t let go, it’s such a wonderful life…’

It was enough to shake me out of my somnabulistic stupor. To celebrate, I will don my shoes early in the morning and hit the tracks tomorrow. I’ve neglected my daily runs for slightly more than a week now… not anymore.

Once 6am comes around, I’ll head out with a new determination. I deserve it.

Helloooo running shoes, I’ve missed you.

medication

‘Did I tell you that I was admitted to the mental hospital twice?’ Jay said to me, twisting a tissue between her fingers. ‘The first time I was admitted, it came after a spending spree. Apparently, I had taken all my credit cards and bought so many items I maxed out all my cards but when I returned home to my husband, I couldn’t remember what I’d bought. I had nothing in my hands. They say I gave the items to random strangers on the street.’

‘What’s wrong? What did the doctors say?’ I tried my best to keep my face from showing any outward shock. She looked so empty, devoid of all the cheer I once knew her to have in vast amounts.

‘They say I am bipolar and when I’m happy, I go berserk spending loads of money. And when I get depressed, I hide from the world because I think someone is out there, coming after me.’ Jay looked at me and smiled wistfully, ‘I can’t remember how it feels to be unafraid.’

‘Why did you enter the hospital again?’ I reached out to hold her hand, ignoring the shredded tissue on the table between us.

‘I had been on prescribed medication for months and was feeling good. Stable. So I thought maybe, I was fully recovered and so stopped taking the medication. Not a good idea. The wild mood swings hit me again and when I began crying in class in the middle of teaching a lesson, they put me back into the hospital again.’

‘Why did you stop taking the medication? I take vitamins every day… it’s just routine,’ I tried my best to empathize with her but honestly, I couldn’t begin to fathom the depth of her struggle.

‘As long as I’m taking the medication…’ Jay took a deep breath to still her shaky voice, ‘I can’t have children. I’ve been married for three years now and all I dream of is holding a baby in my arms, and I can’t. I hate the fact that I’m dependent on medication to keep me normal,’ she gave me a sardonic smile.

‘Do you have any idea what it’s like to practice being normal?’ Jay leaned forward and stared at me, ‘I need to force myself out of my house to take a walk around the neighbourhood. Every person I meet is like the enemy, and to overcome this fear, I get out, walk for a bit and run home. I do this every day, while I wait to fully recover from this madness.’

She sat back and sipped her tea. Cocking her head to one side, she smiled.

‘I’m better now so don’t worry. I just need to wait for the day I’m fully recovered… the day when I can be stable without ever needing those damn pills. Maybe then, I can start living life again.’

*

How different am I from Jay?

Every single day, there are certain things I need that help me get through the day feeling, well… normal. I start my mornings with a hunger as I open my box filled with letters from the Dream Maker. Reading them and spending some time listening to Him talk takes me into the happy zone.

Recently though, I’ve been careless with my time and negligent with my ‘medication’. While I can’t understand my change in attitude, I see its effects on my emotions – they swing wildly from anger, depression, hurt to apathy.

‘Just pick up the letters and read them,’ I chide myself as I stare at the box of letters. Oddly, I put it down and walk away, only to face a day battling shadows that I don’t need to fight.

It’s plain dumb, stupid really.

*

‘Though I have a broken heart
I’m too busy to be heartbroken
There’s a lot of things that need to be done
Lord I have a broken heart

Though I have a broken dream
I’m too busy to be dreaming of you
There’s a lot of things that I gotta do
Lord I have a broken dream

I’ve been told that this will heal, given time…

– Spiritualized

‘Are you angry with me?’ His quiet voice startles me a little. I didn’t even notice Him coming to sit by my side, that was how consumed I was with my internal battles.

‘Angry? No…’ I shake my head.

‘Don’t lie to me, I can see right through you,’ He replies with a tinge of sadness.

‘I’m not angry, well, at least I don’t think it’s with you,’ I sigh. ‘I’m just tired…’

‘I saw a tear fall while you were asleep,’ He put His arm around me, ‘And I know why.’

‘Can you be faithful when I am faithless? Loving when I am hateful?’ I said, trying to keep the edginess from my voice, ‘Can you see me beautiful when I turn ugly? Will you make it all work out when I wonder if I’m doing all I can to destroy it?’

I was hoping to push Him away with my extremities and at the same time, longing for Him to prove that nothing will change the way He was holding me in His arms.

‘If you will let go of all that’s in your hands, and let me hold you in mine, I will change your world,’ He says with an urgency I haven’t heard before. ‘Look at me.’

I lift my bowed head and turn to look at Him.

‘That’s faith. All you need is to know and understand that I am the Dream Maker – the Maker and fulfillment of every desire in you. I made you, how can I do anything but love you? I see into you and whatever you choose to dress yourself in, dirty yourself with, doesn’t matter to me. I am looking into your heart.’

He opens His hands and spreads mine in His.

‘My hands are bigger than yours. You can try to work destruction, either purposefully or carelessly but My hands will always be bigger than yours. The world I can create from your mess will be far more astounding than any crap you give me. Can’t you see it? I am passionate about you.’

He takes the box of letters and places them in my hands.

‘How you feel on your journey – pain or joy – will be dependent on what you choose to fill your mind with. It doesn’t change its outcome. I’ve already written your story. And it’s good. One of the best, really…’ He smiles as He leans over, kisses my forehead and stands up.

‘I made my choice to believe in you. Now you choose what you want to believe.’

*

After He walked away, I sat there holding the box and bowed my head. Then very tentatively, I opened it, took out the first letter and began reading.

dreaming it real

A boy in a wheelchair dreams of dancing.

It’s the biggest dream he has that fills him up with hope.

‘There’s all this new research that they’re doing and I think if I tried them all, one of them is bound to work for me,’ he smiles at his school counselor.

‘I read your file and… you know you are severely crippled,’ she answers him, holding sheets of medical research in her hands. ‘These studies take ten years or more before they are even tested on humans…’

And as the words of his counselor sinks into his heart, he bows his head and leaves the room. He lets go of his dream. Someone finally woke him up to reality.

‘It’s not going to happen, but I’m really okay,’ he says to his girlfriend. ‘I’ll make new dreams. I’ll dream of things that are possible.’

Yes, I was watching episode #19 of Glee’s first season and in my heart, applauded the scriptwriters for handling the delicate, nearly intangible topic of hope and reality, with dignity and grace. Year after year, thousands of hopeful wannabees put themselves out in American Idol auditions… and I am always amazed at how many people live in a bubble where all things are possible.

‘My momma says I’m a great singer so f%#k you Simon Cowell!’ I hear that statement repeated time and again on the show.

One of the hardest things I’ve had to handle, when auditioning singers in the past, was telling them that they didn’t have the natural foundations for what makes a good singer. Here I am, on one hand, telling people to build visions and dreams, while the flipside to what I do is bringing reality into what simply cannot be. I do my best to help them seek out their natural giftings and build on what’s already in them.

Dreams and reality – if there ever was a better conundrum, I haven’t found it.

‘Years ago, I couldn’t carry a tune,’ SoftSpeaker once said to me. ‘I know you won’t believe it but I never sang in public, and when I did, people told me I wasn’t cut out to be a singer. But it was all I dreamed of doing.’

She has since recorded albums and her voice is heard on at least two internationally marketed albums. She has performed in front of thousands and yet, here is a girl who says she couldn’t sing. What would have happened then, if she allowed someone else’s opinion change her course?

Can a dream be so powerful it changes the very elements of a person’s physical makeup, taking the impossible into the realm of possibility? Would that have worked for the boy in the wheelchair?

*

The first song I ever sang for my vocal teacher (more than ten years ago) was Dream A Little Dream (funny… I only just saw the irony of my selection) and because she was a jazz singer, she cut me off. I think I hurt her ears and caused embarrassment to her favourite genre of music.

Back then, I actually harboured dreams of performing on stage. My first vocal teacher (the temperamental witch!) was unyielding in her attack on my dreams and truthfully, I thank her for that because in injecting such mockery at my juvenile vocal attempts, she steered my dreaming into the right direction.

Today, I know that I’m not cut out to be a singer with albums under her belt. My ideals are lowered and I just want to sing well enough to hold a song without the cringe factor, while I do what’s necessary on stage. I have since sung in choir recordings, taught choir singers, done backing vocals, performed in musicals and my forte (if any) would be funny, dramatic and hilarious pieces. Yes, my singing is more a support role to what I do better – I am a communicator.

Do I still dream? Hell yes.

But I’ve also learnt the difference between fantasies and actual dreams. My definitions of both categories are based on a healthy combination of experience, brutally honest people, hope… and a sprinkling of all-things-are-possibility.

I fantasize about writing a book (while I battle deadlines for short articles), running a restaurant (I don’t even cook regularly though I must say, I eat well) and being in the top 20 fastest runners of a marathon (when I can’t even finish running 10k).

And my dreams? Ultimately, I just want to be happy and fulfilled every single moment of my day.

But that might just be made up of many tiny little fantasies… and that’s why it’s important to keep it all alive. With the power of dreaming and the Dream Maker’s ability, it might all come true.

Am I contradicting myself in this entire post? Yes. Because that’s precisely what dreams do.

They contradict reality and offer the solace that one day, what we want will happen, what we want changed will finally transform and what we desire most of all is really, already in our hands.

I say, dream on.

Now please excuse me while I go back to my fantasies.

the lost friend

Stop, and we start asking all the questions
Raising alarm, a symptom of the tension
Though we’re unarmed, we fumble through the trenches
Taking apart all that we invented

We have become alien

We played the part til comfort’s gone
Now the only language is loss

– Cary Brothers

My first best friend was a toy beagle. I received him as a Christmas present when I was about eight.

‘He was in the store and he had the saddest, cutest look on his face,’ The Mother said. ‘He looked lonely and there was only one of him. I thought he needed a home and that was why I bought him for you… He also reminded me a lot of you. He had your eyes.’

He was a beautifully made soft toy puppet and I remember afternoons I spent with him, talking about our childish dreams for the future. Every night, I fell asleep with him in my arms and woke up with him by my side. Over the years, his fur lost its gleam and the spot where I lay my head on his became bald. Still, I loved him with all my heart.

I can’t remember the day I finally packed him into a carton box where he now resides. I don’t even know when nor why I outgrew him but I never gave him away. I couldn’t. He was too precious to me.

Several years ago, a friend gave me a bunny named Beatrice. She was a gorgeous hand-made terrycloth doll that had the droopiest ears and the cuddliest form. It came at the perfect time. I was 29 and going through a difficult time in my life. Now I am not one to have many dolls. I dislike soft toys and the way they gather dust but Beatrice was different. She stayed in my bag and went with me everywhere I went.

At work, she sat on my lap while I conquered pages of Excel spreadsheets and Word documents. At night, she watched me while I poured my heart out on the laptop, writing words no one would ever read. She was the hug I needed when I felt lonely. She was the smile I needed when things got unbearable.

Eventually, I started going out more on production shoots and it was no longer feasible for me to tote her around while I stood out in the hot sun, ran around in the rain, battled camera equipment, props, wardrobe, lights and a demanding schedule. She found her way beside my beagle and stays there now.

Tonight, I remembered them.

As I did a friend who has grown distant over the past few months.

My dear friend was a soul mate. And like all soul mates, we shared our dreams, laughed at our similarities and found hope and comfort in our friendship. Knowing that there was someone out there strengthened our determination to make it through life’s gray landscape, in search of our personal rainbows.

Recently, I couldn’t find that friend everywhere I looked. It’s not that my friend no longer exists. We still write emails but with each word written, I feel the distance more tangibly than I ever believed I could. It came to a place where the words were finally useless – the very words that once drew us together.

It felt strange and I wondered, had I unconsciously packed our friendship into that box where my beagle and bunny now resided? I thought I was trying… thought I was still doing my part to reconnect with my friend but it was all alien. Our language was no longer a dependable medium of communication.

Smiley once asked me, ‘Do you believe that friends are for a season?’

‘Well, I think some friends are. They come into your life at a specific moment to give you support and be what you need. Then we both move on,’ I answered. ‘It’s not usually painful because both parties simply get on with our busy lives. But real friends? I think they are here to stay.’

‘Yes, that’s what I think too,’ Smiley said. ‘I have friends I made when I was really young and though we don’t contact each other all the time, we still make the effort to catch up. I think the idea that friends are for a season is bullshit.’

I agreed. I still have my secret keepers and we make attempts to constantly catch up. Sometimes, it’s with regularity and sometimes, it’s after a long silence. Sometimes, our conversations are casual and then there are those moments when we’re extremely close. It all depends on what we’re going through in our personal lives. The important thing is… we’re there for each other.

So what happened to my beagle, my bunny and my lost friend?

And why do I feel such a strange sense of loss tonight?

*

‘I do not want any one to read my book carelessly. I have suffered too much grief in setting down these memories. Six years have already passed since my friend went away from me… If I try to describe him here, it is to make sure that I shall not forget him. To forget a friend is sad. Not every one has had a friend. And if I forget him, I may become like the grown-ups who are no longer interested in anything but figures.’

– Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

My lost friend is special.

There are dreams found within that person, a depth of character and resilience that is uncommon and over the years, I’ve grown to both admire and respect the odd quirks. Even in the deepest of difficulties, I remember how my friend would search for truth in the anger and tears.

My friend could see beauty in the darkness and had an uncommon patience to wait out the storms.

When I turned ugly and withdrew into a season of solitude, I often returned to the friendship thinking that I’d get a reprimand or at least a chill in our communication but that friend was always there with a smile.

‘I’m sorry,’ I would sheepishly say.

‘It’s okay. It hurt but I understand,’ came the reply.

Today, I wonder… if I went back to that box in search for my lost friend, what would I say? And what would I hear in return?

*

‘Thanks for being there today,’ I said to the Dream Maker.

‘I’m always there,’ He replied.

‘Yes… You are. Why is that? Why don’t you turn away when I forget about You? If someone were to ignore me the way I do to You sometimes, I’d at least give them the cold shoulder for a while… but you never do that. Why?’ I needed to know. It felt very unfair for Him to be on the receiving end of my rants and emotional tirades.

‘Simple.’ He said. I looked up from what I was doing.

‘I don’t get You…’ I began to say, till I saw what He had on His palm. It was my name, inked permanently into His skin.

‘I made a promise once. A promise I will always keep. I’m here for You because I traded all I had… to win you with my love. Do you think it’d be that easy to turn Me away?’ He looked at me quizzically, as if He couldn’t fathom why I could doubt.

I traced my name in His palm and as I reached the end, He closed His fingers around mine.

‘I promised I won’t let You go. No matter how you try to shake me off, run away, hurl mean words… it won’t change a thing. I made a promise I’ll keep for eternity.’

We sat there for the longest time, holding hands, while I wept my silent tears.

I am not alone.

letter to the broken-hearted

Dear friend

How do you stop your heart from breaking? Every moment, the silence rips each piece of my being into a million pieces, with no promise or hope of mending. I try to hold it together, put on the bravest of faces, smile to all who are familiar and yet within lies a hurt so unbearable that my strength is but a mere shadow.

I tell myself that it will get better with each day and I hope to fight a winning battle at the break of new dawn. Then I awaken from slumber and the hours ahead feel like hell.

How do I fill the void that’s within, when all focus and distractions have abandoned me? I know what needs to be done but my capabilities struggle and fail. There is no comfort except for the assurance from the one I love… but when silence is the only sound, all sanity, resolve, confidence and everything I know leaves me…

And I’m left with nothing but the unbearable heaviness of being.

She broke up with me. No, more than that. She broke me.

How do you live when your person has been shattered into a million pieces?

*

I logged in to my email account, only to read a dear friend’s heart-wrenching note about how she got dumped. The relationship seemed so magically beautiful when they first met and then, a few weeks later, with no warning whatsoever, the other person ended it.

‘I never told anyone this, but I think I found The One,’ she confided in me. ‘It’s hell. I don’t know how to live from here onwards.’

This was just yesterday. A few days before, I received a text message from Mrs Couple. She had just got her separation papers and the divorce will be made official in a matter of months.

‘What do I tell the kids? The truth? A lie? What?’ Mrs Couple asked me. ‘How do I explain to them that Daddy won’t be coming home? And me… how will ever believe in love again?’

Then there are the two chaps I caught up recently, both getting over the girls they had been dating for months.

‘Every day is a fight to resist making contact with the other person,’ they said. I looked into their tired eyes and wondered when they last had a good night’s sleep.

Deep in pain, they just wanted to know one thing.

‘How do I get through this?’

*

What do you say to a broken heart? How do you tell a person that everything will be okay? When you’re deep in pain and can’t see past the bleeding wound, it’s almost impossible to imagine the day it heals. It’s too surreal a hope.

‘How did you get through your pain?’ the friend who wrote the note asked me.

‘God,’ I said.

I knew it seemed too simplistic an answer but like the very breath on my lips, it was through intense pain that I found my way to recovery through Him. The drugs didn’t work, neither did the alcohol, or physical pain of any sort. When I came down from my high, reality – with all its claws – was waiting. God changed my reality. And that was a fact.

‘The Dream Maker huh. Why do you call Him that?’ she asked.

‘Because the day I found myself broken, when all creativity had died, when my dreams were snuffed and tomorrow was too painful to imagine living through, He came and gave me new dreams. He took all the pieces of me and over the months, knitted them together with a love that I couldn’t imagine existed.’

‘I’m too proud to ask for help,’ she replied. ‘I think it’s hypocritical if I go to Him when I’m all bleak, only to forget Him when all is well.’

‘You won’t forget Him,’ I said, ‘How do you forget the One who was there when no one else was?’

I didn’t. He’s all I have.

*

Humanity lies bleeding at my doorstep. I want to help, I want to reach out and give them hope, love, riches… anything to ease the pain but I look at each and every one of these people I love and I realize, I can’t.

I don’t have the power to make them dream again.

*

My dear friend

I wish I could wrap you up in my arms and love you till the pain eased.

If I could…

I’d take the tears you cry and bottle them because they are precious.
I’d take the colours of the rainbow and knit them into your soul.
I’d take the wind and tie them to your spirit so you could fly.
I’d take the rain to wash away the darkness in your being.
I’d take your hand and just be there whenever, wherever.

If I could… but I can’t. So instead, I’ll write you new dreams, re-write the stories of the life you know and trade it in for the life you want to have. I’ll carefully seal these in an envelope and place it in the hands of the Dream Maker. Then as you lay your head on your pillow and finally fall asleep, tired from the fight in your mind, may you meet the Dream Maker.

And one day, you’ll smile again.

I love you dear friend.

note to the odd beauty

‘I got freaked out when I looked through your tumblr account…’ JapGirl said.

‘Really?’ I didn’t think I had anything odd or morbid posted there. ‘What freaked you out?’

‘All the pictures you re-posted were the same ones I did too… and it was weird!’

‘I noticed that too…’ I was bemused. For years, I’d lived thinking that my tastes were highly unusual. I don’t like diamonds and prefer used jewelery set with semi-precious stones. I dislike brand names on my bags and clothes. I see words when I talk to people. I also remember them by colour or pictures, which is one reason why everyone in this blog has a nickname (besides retaining their privacy).

The more we work together scripting videos, the more we’re both horrified and amazed at how similar our tastes are. When JapGirl introduces a website to me, more often than not, it’s already bookmarked in my browser. When I suggest a logo, or explain why I’d rather not have things done too polished, she says she was thinking the exact same idea.

We also have similar mixed heritage lines.

‘We’re not unique,’ JapGirl sulked.

‘Horrifying, isn’t it?’ I laughed. ‘For years, we thought our tastes were unusual and had to spend time explaining to people why we like things a certain way… and now, to realize that we even have favourite flowers, what’s left to talk about?’

*

We walked into the office pantry with our notebooks, ready for a discussion when we spied a box of gummies someone had kindly left behind to share.

‘Look! Isn’t it lovely?’ JapGirl held them out to me.

‘Yeah! I was so tempted to throw out the gummies and take the box!’ I said in reply. Yes, we were both eyeing the container it came in. It was a gorgeous miniature replication of warehouse food delivery boxes, complete with shipping tags and Korean words we couldn’t understand.

‘You think anyone will notice if we left the gummies out and took the box?’ she whispered to me.

I shook my head.

We took the box. And left the gummies behind.

*

The world grows less alien when we find someone else who cherishes the same things we do. It makes living life that bit less lonely. And loneliness is something that I both enjoy and wish I had less.

For years, I’d been working alongside a team of women who are fabulous. The only problem was that I found it hard to connect with them on a myriad of matters. It taught me to enjoy the differences though, and over the years, my passions and personal interests were slowly subdued, hidden in a dark closet.

I was labeled as odd, dark, weird… it became a fun thing for them to anticipate what I would find interesting.

I didn’t have the energy to constantly explain my penchant for shadows and rainbows, Tim Burton and Neil Gaiman, craft work and fonts… there was just no one around who understood me when I gushed over a beautiful line of poetry or a watercolour painting, dancing barefoot in the rain or lying in a field of flowers.

‘It gets a little lonely sometimes,’ I whispered to the Dream Maker one night, as I hunched over my laptop, writing. ‘They don’t listen to the music I like, they don’t read the books I devour, they aren’t excited over a caterpillar but run screaming the other way. I’m sure there are millions of people out there who are like me but darn it, where are they?’

In a Christian world, I was starting to feel as though I was mistake.

Then in 2009, one by one, they came sashaying in – girls who were unique in their tastes and tolerant of my shadows, who had enough odd quirks to make me feel comfortable in mine. Slowly and tentatively, I began pulling out ideas from that deep private closet, carefully testing their reactions…

And found myself suddenly surrounded by characters that I could connect with.

We created a new world where our differences were celebrated.

Since then, work and life has taken us all down different paths but simply knowing that I’m not on my own anymore has made being alone less… lonely. We’re only a phone call away.

So to all those darling beauties, thank you, for being you. And allowing me to be just me.

When you’re in jail, a good friend will be trying to bail you out.
A best friend will be in the cell next to you saying, ‘Damn, that was fun’.

– Groucho Marx