with friends | shine on

‘A painter should begin every canvas with a wash of black, because all things in nature are dark except where exposed by the light.’

– Leonardo Da Vinci

*

I scrolled through the text messages on my phone and pondered a while on the conversation that had just taken place. So many questions, so many statements, so many emotions underlined the simple words exchanged and I couldn’t help it. I needed to do something. Anything… that could possibly help the other person.

Have you ever been in that same place? Where you want to extend a hand but haven’t the faintest clue as to what your extended hand of friendship could possibly offer?

*

I recently found myself on the other side of the extended help.

In the centre of several productions that were beyond what I could cope, I had to pull together a storyboard, a detailed list of shots, shooting schedules and a whole new crew on my own. Then I had to fill in the director role. It was overwhelming. I probably teared once every day in silence, as I sat and stared at my computer screen. The tasks were simply beyond me. So much depended on these videos… too much depended on me.

I’d already asked Mr. Black to help with the edits and he willingly agreed, on top of his own productions. So I knew what was going to happen after. But during? With a heavy sigh and heavier heart, I picked up the phone and texted DigiBoy.

‘Hey… do you think you could help?’

I paused for a few moments before hitting send. My reluctance was largely due to the fact that he was already maxed out with work, had recently gotten married to a really good friend, and rarely had days off to relax. Calling on him was something I’d avoided as much as I could. Until the moment I knew I couldn’t go on.

And when he replied that he’d help, I teared a little again.

I can’t explain what it feels like when a friend puts aside his life to help you get on with yours. And when his wife offered to be on set too… I fumbled with the phone. Where could I start to say thank you?

*

And still the encouragement came pouring in.

Kitty baked some lemon tarts and GuitarMan’s wife bought me a box of macaroons.

‘Hope this cheers you up!’ they both said. And it did.

*

I’d been looking forward to some rest and was ready to work a little on my days off. But what I didn’t anticipate was coming home to a major family ‘situation’ where one of my full-time helpers has to leave with immediate effect. This throws a kink in my work schedule as the replacement will then need to go through several weeks of training (to care for my handicapped sister) and I cannot imagine where that time will come from.

I already have two scripts due this coming week, storyboards to complete, yet more crews to assemble, two videos to edit with Mr. Black and if that’s not enough… Both my son and I came down with the stomach flu today. Throwing up was never fun.

‘Typical story-writing technique’ I said with slight sarcasm to Kitty. ‘Just as the chapter ends, a new twist creeps in at the end and you find yourself reading on.’

‘I’d read that book,’ Kitty quipped in reply. So would I, actually. Just that I can’t as I’m too busy living it.

I was all ready to curl up in bed and whine to my pillow (a pathetic replacement to Mother) when Mrs. Couple texted me.

‘If you need me to come over at times to supervise things at your home, I can. Don’t be shy to impose okay? I’m just a drive away.’

What can I say? I could choose to complain about my work (which by the way, I love) but have decided instead to feel the comfort of my friends. Because in the past few days, I’ve been loved by some of the most amazing people on the face of this earth.

*

Shine on.

That’s what I’d tell the friend I had the earlier conversation with.

Because while it’s true that there are so many genuine factors that give you reason to sink deep in frustration and anger (I know I would if I were in your shoes), there are more reasons to lift your head up and walk proud.

Not for the work that you’ve done in the past – you aren’t defined by old accomplishments.
Not for the truth your life could tell – words are as flimsy as the people who hear or repeat it.
Not for the future you know you can shape – you aren’t the sum of your potential.

Stand tall and unafraid because like the moon, your light is a reflection of a greater power. You are untouchable because no man can rewrite your story – the past, the present, the future. How can they when the lines in your book was written before they were born? When the ink that shaped the words came from His very own veins? When the very idea of you was personally created by the Dream Maker?

No man can pull down what has been placed to shine in the sky.

Shine on.

Advertisements

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.

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-ExupĂ©ry

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.

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