strong too long

red was the colour of your day
the undertones in your speech and the words that you said.
wet were the eyes that looked for an answer
biting hard on lips that tasted saltwater.
deep was the frown etched on your forehead
as you battled the pounding of your incessant ache.
quiet you were, as you sat in your place
while your soul exploded in your silenced day.

*

Dear little marionette,

Why were you so angry today? I watched you closely, as you sat huddled over in a corner, as if cradling your hurt. I reached out but your walls were too high. Did you hear me call your name?

No one knew what you were going through. No one, because… you didn’t utter a sound. Only your computer screen saw the real you, because each time someone asked you a question, you slipped behind a mask before turning around with the brightest, loveliest of smiles. It was terribly, achingly convincing.

You weren’t always such an actor.

Remember the time you were three, and life was too confusing to understand? You vented your frustrations with wild abandon, only to find yourself locked in a cupboard. They couldn’t handle you, so they put you behind doors where they didn’t need to deal with the tantrums. Is that why you now put yourself behind such thick walls? Is this your form of protection?

I would’ve admired your strength today, if you weren’t cutting yourself in the process.

But I’m glad you managed to gather enough sense to send a message out to a friend, asking for help. You didn’t need answers then… you just needed someone who would understand. Someone who wouldn’t judge you, but cared enough to let you be yourself. Those few minutes helped and when you stood up to meet your next appointment, you did it with such cheer, I nearly believed you were better.

Until I saw you between the moments.

You walked with the stride of a weary man, your face loosened into a frown.

And oh! How the tears fell when you thought no one was looking… but I was. And when you weren’t looking, I gathered the little saltwater droplets into my bottle. Every little tear that caressed your face before it hit the table, I found precious, I couldn’t let them dry up into nothingness. Because what you went through today, wasn’t nothing to me. No, it meant everything.

That was why I delayed you back in the office till everyone had left. I needed some time with you. Alone. Now weren’t you surprised when I turned up?

What are you doing here?‘ you hissed at me. ‘How dare you turn up?

I need you to understand…‘ I began. But you turned away.

I wanted to understand! I asked, but there were no answers. I cried but there was no comfort. I raged but there was no release. You’re too late.‘ You said, and I felt your pain.

I am never late’. I answered. ‘I was there before the pain entered. I was there in the cupboard with you, in the darkness, years ago. I was there alone, before you began to understand loneliness. I was abandoned before you were born. I am never late.’

You didn’t reply. But I saw you begin to cry again.
And this time, when I came over to sit by your side, you let me.
I entered your pain then as yours began to dissolve.

‘I know you don’t understand but is it enough if I do? Will you let me be the one to shoulder all that you’re going through?’ I asked you.

You reached out to hold my hand.

Will the day come when you realize how precious that one movement of yours meant to me? I don’t know… but I loved you all the more, when you were weak.

Because it was then that you allowed me to be your strength.

I will always be here. And I will never, ever, leave you.

With love,
The Dream Maker

*

JD Salinger once wrote, ‘She wasn’t doing anything I could see, except standing there leaning on the balcony railing, holding the universe together…’

I’ve been trying to be strong for too long. And the harder I try, the weaker I grow. I used to think that if I didn’t hold the universe together, no one else would, for me. So I held tighter to the strings, pulling things with just the right amount of tautness, careful not to disrupt the orbit of every demand, every responsibility, every role… until I couldn’t anymore.

But while the day was a tormenting one… at least, I have found a semblance of peace in the break down. Maybe my universe will fall apart, and maybe it won’t. But at least, I’m not alone.

[To Smiley: may you find your peace too, in being completely, entirely, unable to do everything. It is a beautiful letdown, when we can finally fall apart. And one day… we’ll have our wide open spaces.]

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enola alone

I had a best friend when I was eight. Her name was Danica and we were inseparable for four years, proclaiming ourselves to be best friends… till she moved back to her home country and we lost touch.

At thirteen, Charlene and I became ‘sisters’ and everything in life we had – from crushes to study tips, fashion and music – we shared. Our relationship was open and honest, and our quarrels only served to strengthen what we thought was again, forever. But somehow, we drifted into different circles by the time we were sixteen, and though we were still friends, it was never the same as before. We still occasionally meet up today and much as I treasure what we have, we both know… we’ve moved on.

‘I dislike this notion that friends are only for a season,’ Smiley once remarked to me. ‘It sounds like an excuse for laziness on a person’s part to pursue that relationship, to see it through.’

‘But you can agree that on some occasions, no matter how hard you dedicate yourself to keeping the relationship alive, some just fade away. That’s not to say that the friendship was fake, but perhaps, they were there at a point of time in your life, to serve a purpose?’ I answered, reflecting on my own string of best friends.

‘I suppose… but I still don’t like that idea. I want the friends I have today to be there, years on,’ came his reply.

And that’s what I long for too – that the friendships we’ve established as adults are somehow, for life.

But today, I questioned that belief.

It’s not about the frailty of our humanity but the fact that every individual walks a path that’s intended for them alone to complete. ‘Sometimes we can choose the paths we follow. Sometimes our choices are made for us. And sometimes we have no choice at all.’ (Neil Gaiman)

Recently, these paths have begun leading some of my closest companions away from me. They were my comrades at life’s table, friends who feasted on challenges alongside me, companions with whom we drank the rich wine of delight, mates whose souls mirrored mine.

And as I watch them enter a new phase of life, I cheer them on with my best – I want them to be happy. But at the same time, despondency has settled on me like a heavy, smothering blanket.

I feel alone.

*

People think a soul mate is your perfect fit, and that’s what everyone wants. But a true soul mate is a mirror, the person who shows you everything that is holding you back, the person who brings you to your own attention so you can change your life.

A true soul mate is probably the most important person you’ll ever meet, because they tear down your walls and smack you awake. But to live with a soul mate forever? Nah. Too painful. Soul mates, they come into your life just to reveal another layer of yourself to you, and then leave.

A soul mates purpose is to shake you up, tear apart your ego a little bit, show you your obstacles and addictions, break your heart open so new light can get in, make you so desperate and out of control that you have to transform your life, then introduce you to your spiritual master…

– Elizabeth Gilbert

Soul mates aren’t forever, because souls change with time. And unless you are able to find someone else whose changes are identical to yours, it’s a fact that I’ve grown used to dealing with since I was a child –

People come, and people go.

But they aren’t forgotten. How can I, when their very hands have helped shape who I am today? Each time I look in the mirror, I see a little of them, because of the beauty they placed within me. In the course of watching them live, I caught a glimpse through their open doors to the heavens. How wide I see upwards is because of what I saw through theirs.

‘But that doesn’t stop you from feeling alone…’ the Dream Maker remarked.

‘No, it doesn’t. To tell you the truth, it scares the hell out of me,’ I smiled, thankful that He was prompt on the scene, as usual. ‘Who do I send a text message to when I need to vent my frustrations? Who do I call when I want to celebrate?’

‘Ever wondered how it felt to be suspended between heaven and earth, belonging to neither?’ He asked.

‘Yeah… The loneliness must have been intense.’

‘It was. But erm… it was for a reason, you know?’ He said. Then opening His nail-pierced hands, He wiggled his fingers in my face and I couldn’t help it, I laughed. Then taking His hands, I held them against my face and closed my eyes, breathing in His familiar scent.

Home had come into where I was alone.

*

Sigur Ros – Glosoli

Aside, here’s a glimpse into what I was listening tonight. One of my favourite bands… with a sound that probably captured what I was feeling as I penned down my thoughts.

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

two hours

‘If there’s any kind of magic in this world it must be in the attempt of understanding someone, sharing something.’

– Richard Linklater (Before Sunrise)

I took leave from work today to do several things:

1. Run – which I did, clocking in 6km in 47 minutes. It’s not fast but still, an improvement from when I first began training, slightly over two weeks ago. I ran in the hot sun and was thrilled that I no longer felt faint from the heat. Now I just need a miracle to finish 10km before I leave for Australia, because once I’m back, it’s a mere two weeks till the race. Shouldn’t be too hard, right? Right?

2. Spend time with the little ones – I took them everywhere I went today. They were happy. I was exhausted.

3. Visit to the Amazonian.

Since she gave birth three months ago, I hadn’t spent time with her at all, nor visited her family (me being the fantastic friend I am). I knew I had to do it today, even though she is a good 45min drive away from where I live. I prepared lunch, a fruit salad and purchased some ice-cream, then bundled the little ones into the car and off we went.

The first thing I noted was that my house-proud friend’s living quarters was in disarray. The second thing was that she looked tired.

‘Do you get any rest at all?’ I asked her.

‘No, not really. Once the baby sleeps, I’m doing all I can to take care of my siblings or washing up. And honestly, it’s been hard. That day you texted me to say you wanted to come over was the day I felt like giving up.’

Due to a lack of time, the toilets have not been washed for several weeks, the family eats takeaway every night and my dear friend hasn’t had a break from it all, not one second. I wanted to reach in to her world and find a way to ease the burdens on her shoulders.

Instead, I made her sit down while I prepared lunch and got everyone seated at the table. We ate, chatted and ate some more. I washed her dishes and resolved in my heart to do something about the house at my next visit. I also asked if she minded if I prepared some food for the family.

‘I can pass you several days’ worth on Sunday,’ I said.

‘That would be great. Thank you so much,’ she sighed. ‘It will be so nice to eat home-cooked food!’

We talked about baby care, sibling rivalry and tried to catch up with each other’s journeys but time was too short. Before we knew it, two hours had passed and I needed to leave for my next appointment.

In the cab, my phone beeped.

‘I just saw the Ben & Jerry’s ice-cream you bought for me! It’s Chubby Hubby, my favourite! Thanks dear, I feel so loved.’

It takes so little to show love. I got to do this more often.

*

‘Do you still want to do this?’ Busy Bee sat forward and asked me straight. I was quiet for a while. It was a question that I’d been asking myself the past few days. There are many good reasons to relinquish my responsibilities with the team of singers under my care and yet, something holds me back from giving up.

‘I’ve thought about that,’ I answered, ‘Because over these past few weeks, with the break I’ve been enjoying, I’ve felt as though I finally have a life again. And it’s grown harder to connect with the singers as I’m no longer on the inside of everything. I’m now an outsider to the team. It’s easy to walk away.’

She nodded. That had always been her struggle and it comforted me to see her identifying with my situation.

‘But you know, I want to continue doing this. Largely in part because… see, you were the first person to really work through my weaknesses – breaking me, teaching me, moulding me – and dear, I don’t want to stop working with you. I want to do this because I want to continue learning from you.’

She teared a little.

‘Thank you,’ she said. ‘Sometimes, it feels very lonely to be where I am and I feel as though I’m facing this huge responsibility all on my own, that no one understands. To have you say that you want to continue… well, thank you.’

We smiled at each other. Partners.

We weren’t always this comfortable with each other.

When we first began working together, it was hellish. A tremendous over-achiever, she intimidated me with her relentless pursuit of truth in relationships. She was always unwilling to walk away when I dodged her questions and sought to know why: why did you say that, why did you do things that way, why do you react to things in this manner… and because of this, she inadvertently made me face up to the one thing I feared: failure.

As a person who dreads confrontation, I hated waking up in the morning, knowing I’d receive a call or a text from her that would again, expose a lapse in my thinking or an unconscious cover-up of a mistake that I’d made.

When I finally came to the end of my self-made strength and told her that I couldn’t go on, she surprised me with her warmth. She began teaching me, little by little, coaching my thinking processes and training me to think for others, to keep seeing the big picture. It was then I realised that all she wanted was my vulnerability. She wanted me to be honest about things, because she was a nurturer at heart and could only help me when I stopped hiding my frailty.

A huge success out in the working world, her business reaped in a profit of more than a million dollars last year. While expanding her business, she pursued a degree (night classes) and continued to get her certification as a vocal teacher. She also teaches piano, conducts external workshops for some schools and somehow works in the time to care for her family.

And people like me.

Our meeting lasted only two hours but we were both extremely happy at the end of it all.

*

Two hours.

Two meetings.

Three individuals who feel less alone in a vast, wide world.

alone, together.

A dream you dream alone is only a dream. A dream you dream together is reality.

– John Lennon

Paddington walked through the doors into my office and sat beside me as I explained the concept for the videos we needed to film. We bickered, laughed and shared several months’ worth of experiences. His latest (and successful) project required him to stay in the office for days and when he met me, he’d already gone without sleep for 3 days. In the midst of our laughter, I looked at him and said, ‘Hey, it’s good to have you back.’

We first worked together in 2009 on a series of videos; most of it were wonderful experiences but the last one made him walk away, feeling as though he didn’t want to return. It had drained him too much and he wasn’t ready to give again. Until today.

Having him back on the team somehow made me feel safe and although I didn’t tell him, he gave me strength to move forward into the unknown and unexplored dimensions of what we could do.

Partnership. Can we exist alone? Or are we made real with the sharing of dreams and the conquests of mountains?

*

“We’ll be there Harry,” said Ron
“What?”
“At your Aunt’s and Uncle’s house,” said Ron, “And then we’ll go with you wherever you’re going.”
“No,” said Harry quickly; he hadn’t counted on this, he had meant them to understand that he was undertaking the most dangerous journey alone.
“You said it once before,” said Hermione quickly, “that there was time to turn back if we wanted to. We’ve had time, haven’t we? We’re with you whatever happens.”

– J.K. Rowling (Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince)

I once thought that I needed to face life’s battles alone. I deeply believed that there was no one around who could take me as I was – faults and weaknesses – and I resisted anyone’s extension of friendship towards me. I was fine with being their friend. Hell, they could call on me in the middle of the night and I would be there. But when I desperately needed support, I never wanted help. I willed myself to stand alone. I was fiercely independent.

When I was four, one of the first songs I learnt to perform whilst standing on my parent’s headboard was by Melissa Manchester. ‘Don’t cry out loud. Just keep it inside, learn how to hide your feelings. Fly high and proud! And if you should fall, remember you almost had it all…’

I’d sing proudly, daily even, never realizing what a cage I was building around me.

When the day came that I could no longer stand on my own, I found a hand stretched out toward me. It was the Amazonian. She too, had been raised as a fiercely independent child. Her family was severely dysfunctional and when her brother committed suicide, I decided to stay by her side. With no appropriate words to say, I sat with her through the midnight vigil. Quiet. And when it was all over, walked away.

When she turned up by my side at my most broken moment, I was… hesitant. If I held the hand she extended, would it mean I was weak? Was it even okay to be weak? I decided to take her hand to let her support me. And life changed.

I began to learn to open up, be vulnerable and let myself be loved. It was very thoroughly weird. And at the same time, beautiful.

*

Today, I stand on the brink of the unknown, perched on the eve of yet another mad few weeks. The event that’s coming up is probably going to be the biggest I’ve ever done and the waves of tension are slowly building up within. Being the Producer doesn’t help one bit…

‘But that’s where you’re graced!’ Paddington exclaimed. ‘It’s one of the most obvious things I see in you. You have the amazing ability to pull people from all walks of life, to come together with one vision and one purpose, to join as one team toward a goal. I’ve never seen anyone do this, ever! This is where you are meant to be. And this is you.’

An advocate of partnerships? Me?

All I know is, the future is brighter because of these people.

These people I call… my friends.