Dec 9, 2015

Dear Nobody,

Believe me when I say I have been writing. I have – on random pieces of paper, on my laptop, in my notebook, on the back of receipts and chewing-gum packets. I look at the writing, but it’s garbled. Some dreams, snippets of thoughts, the beginning of a story; mostly vomit. 

Vomiting on paper helps my bad nerves. On days when I don’t purge, I can feel the demons shape-shifting inside me, brewing these bubbling fears that come gargling up and block my throat. Those are the dark days that I can’t bring myself to sit down at my desk, or meditate, or even put a normal string of thoughts together. Like a broken radio I get all this deafening interference that clouds my mind and makes me anxious. I try to sleep it away but it sneaks up on me in my dreams, and I run run run away from the wild animals, and the knife-wielding shadows, and the monsters, but still it catches up with me and I stay up at night, sweating and staring at the ceiling. 

So I try to write, I try to walk, I try to sleep, I try to meditate, and I try to remember if it’s always been so hard to do the simplest things, to find balance. 

I envy my father, who seems to operate at an entirely different cosmic timescale from me. Sometimes he seems almost in tune with the rhythms of the earth, and I say this without exaggeration: he reminds me of an old tree. It’s not entirely unreasonable to think he was a great big oak tree in his past life. I think he is the most patient and meticulous person I know. 

I, on the other hand, must have been some type of small rodent, always running away from big overwhelming things, my heart beating too fast, extinguishing my life fuel with every fright and jolt and dash. Life seems like a blur when you are always running, and the world is always dark on the inside of a mouse hole. 

Or perhaps I was a snail who let her life pass her by, forever stuck on the shady side of a cool terracotta pot, hiding from the sun. Who knows how many years I spent shielded inside a shell, growing crusty and faded at the corner of the garden?

Perhaps someone thought I needed to come back with the full force and intellect of a human, so that I could think and suffer my way through creation, and into fulfillment. Perhaps. Well, in any case I’m here now, and I think I’m trying to heed the call, though I’m not sure what is required of me or if I can take it, or if from now on living authentically means I will always feel this way. Once you realize you resent distractions, life becomes so much harder, and I say this in the least pretentious way possible. From my heart, I tell you I feel this cosmic loneliness that no one can soothe for me. I’m okay with that. After all this struggling I realize that the answer is not external. Devouring books might help with hints, like in a treasure hunt, and other people can offer directions or suggestions on where to look next but ultimately, the tragedy of it all is that the answer to the problem lies deep within me. 

Yeah, I have to dig through all that shit to find that something, whose form and colour and taste and scent I have no idea of, and I’m not sure it can be reached through language or sensation or something altogether different. I just have no idea. All I know is I’m standing here in the freezing cold slowly undressing myself and opening my arms to the beating winds, feeling quite like Odysseas tied to the mast and going crazy. I realize now how long the journey will be, and I try to have faith in the process, and ask the universe to give me strength. Of myself I try to remember to ask daily for forgiveness, for my many past and future failures. In the meantime, I write. 

Nov 8, 2015

Nov 8, 2015

These past few days, weeks, years have culminated in a matter of life and death for me.

Either I love and accept myself, or I kill myself.

Before you gasp in horror, physical death in not the only one there is, though it is a real possibility and an option at the end of the day. No, I know a good few people who are alive, but have let themselves die – kind of spiritual zombies in a way. Ultimately, there is only one real dilemma in life, and only two real roads forking out from the present moment. These are not the choice between Oxford or Cambridge, a 2,000 or 3,000 dollar salary, marriage or the spoils of a single life, family or career (these were, in my circles, the discussions). Though legitimate on a day to day basis, once you draw the curtains to the backstage of existence, you encounter the real quandary: Do I understand who I really am and really accept it and even embrace it in loving kindness, or do I let myself die?

Yes, it may sound melodramatic, but no I don’t care. The depth of sadness and joy I have felt in my life is testament to how real, how important, how essential this work is to me. Splashing on the surface was never my predicament; I always caught my breath to dive for oyster pearls.


There has been so much push-back inside me against loving myself, that I see now that the seat of all my struggling has been this; something so small yet so difficult, so insignificant in the face of the universe yet everything in the scheme of my own small, shy life.  

I have inherited this anger from my mother. As a child I must have sat next to her countless times while she sailed deep in her own thoughts, her gaze glazed over and turned inwards, the lines on her face carved deep and stiff and tense, like an old Cypriot woodcarving. I have no way of knowing what her thoughts were anymore, but I most certainly can remember the energy emanating from her body and filling the room up with splinters. Perhaps I was sensitive and open to cosmic disturbances, perhaps it was a survival thing. I am learning to accept that despite herself, she may have been stricter with me than my brother, she may have projected more, she may have expected more. I have forgiven her, and I hope she has forgiven me too. But I am still struggling with breaking this mode of perceiving myself in space, time and spirit; at once arrogant and contemptuous, prideful and hateful, brimming with scorching envy, rage, bile and infinite concern, love and tenderness for the world. It is like a gold ring or wedding dress handed down through the generations, a gift that breaks you open to the frail and beautiful heart of the world, but also throws you into the pit of snakes out of which you have to claw yourself until the day you die. I love and hate my mother for it, I love and hate my grandmother for it, I love and hate the whole lineage of wombs and arms and breasts that coddled and nursed the translucent diamond-shaped pain that ended up inside of me, throbbing in brilliant light.

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Some habits never change. It is Sunday, I am thousands of miles away from where I was born, where Sundays mean sunny car rides to the mountains with the radio playing "laika" and the coffee waiting for us hot, bitter and bubbly when we arrive and where a sense of well-being and carefree-ness penetrates the very cells of one’s body and soul. I sit here in the room overlooking my flooded tropical back yard with the windows closed to block the swarming mosquitoes, the sky cloudy and uniformly grey. Blue-jays and cardinals are flashing red and blue in the deep green of the magnolia tree, once in a while swooping down to bathe in the murky puddles, showing off their plumage to the brown females looking down from the safety of the neighbour’s oak tree. Youtube is blasting Vitali and Glykeria, my coffee is imported and expensive, my mind is swirling to tsifteteli rhythms, and a joy is bubbling up from a well of happy memories, like Arabica cooked on the stove with a mother’s love.

“Costa, theleis kafe?” must be the happiest words of my childhood, as this was a very real gesture of love between my parents, a time when there could be no fights, no arguments, no anger, just a tiny cup of coffee on a saucer on a tray on the table at the porch in the sun. My safest, coziest memories revolve around coffee get-togethers. Even the women of my family could sit around a coffee table of peace, reconciled for as long as a cup lasted. When guests came over the ritual was more elaborate: different levels of sweetness require different batches of coffee, and two maybe three brikia would have to be unearthed from deep inside the kitchen cupboards, often of differing sizes depending on how many people wanted “”sweet”, “slightly sweet”, “almost sweet”, “medium” or “plain” coffee. The silver tray was now bigger, and full of little open-mouthed cups whose ears pointed to different directions depending on the sugar content, the only person holding the secret to decoding this language of cups being my mother, who had transfigured from ball of melancholy to radiant, able and funny hostess.

Really, the happiest memories (or memories at all) I have of certain people involve a little cup of coffee. Like my uncle, whose presence in my life has been distilled to the image of him sitting at the white linoleum table with the rusty metal legs in the back yard with the lemon tree, cigarette in one hand, legs crossed, newspaper sprawled in front of him and a perpetually full cup of coffee. “Stathi theleis kafe?” were the same words of truce uttered by my aunt, perhaps the only words she exchanged with him that harboured neither abuse nor hatred.

Today I make myself coffee in the same spirit of reconciliation and love, and suggest coffee dates to my dearest, closest friends, or even potential ones. In preparation for skype conversations nowadays with my family, I always brew a fresh batch to last  the duration of the call, and I probably regard people who dislike coffee with somewhat of a suspicion. To guests in my house I always extend the hand of hospitality with an offering of coffee, and delight in an affirmation. My best ideas and conversations and essays have been facilitated by caffeine or borne out of a coffee haze; I think you get the idea. Wars could perhaps be avoided and problems put aside even if momentarily, for as long as the open mouthed cups on the silver tray whose ears point to different directions hold that strong, dark liquid of ceasefire and peace.

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To be completely honest, lately I am struggling with the concept of ignorance, of which I admit I harbour much myself. I suppose if I had to explain it, I’d say I am much more intolerant of ignorance that stems from privilege than the ignorance that stems from lack of education. I am terrified at the thought of my own ignorance stemming from my own privilege, and this has been the cause of a lot of self flagellation and censorship. I am partly afraid to write, because I am afraid that I will pour my ignorance on the paper where I am trying to pour my heart out. I acknowledge that if it is done sincerely and openly and truthfully and compassionately, exposing oneself to the world can only be a good thing, since any critique and backlash can point out the flaws in one’s thinking and the privilege in one’s point of view so that those parts of oneself can at least be illuminated and accepted and taken into account, if not amended and integrated. That is however, a braver thing than I am always capable of, and I find my courage slipping away from me and a silence descending like a big heavy cloud over me, severing my thoughts from my voice and the outside world. Cowardice is such a big curse. Self-awareness is certainly  a curse too, which is why you see the most insensitive people having the most success and power in the world today. A more just world would have to be a gentler world, one that would not demand such bravery of its most sensitive and vulnerable people – such a world would surely have been devoid of great art, music and literature; a heavy price to pay, I admit.

I am increasingly more at peace with all of this, and acknowledge that to live one’s life in any meaningful depth and truth and clarity requires an inordinate amount of courage and forgiveness – of self, so that you may pick yourself up when you have fallen and resume your trundle- and of others, so that you may reflect back at them the compassion required to deal with this world, when they seem intent to believe that the wheel of life runs on injustice and hardness and suffering and all the other things brought about by the ego, and the buying into the illusion of the ego.

There is only one thing I am growing to know for certain: there is a basic goodness underlying the whole of everything. I used to read this in books and not believe it, and I am still most days coming to grips with it especially when my cynical side creeps in with an ego-woven narrative, but I understand more intuitively now what this means. If you are having trouble with this think back to when you were a child, and remember the sense with which you related to the world and the feeling of having an underdeveloped ego – your actions sprang forth pure and clear like from a freshwater spring, right? Life is supposed to be effortless and joyful like that, even in pain. This is the essence and truth behind all religions and concepts of the Divine, and I beg you to search for that goodness that you have covered up in so many layers of hardness over all the years of your life, and believe that it is the yeast and the truth of life.

I think once you start feeling this in your bones you start shedding your fear, slowly but surely, because you have increasing faith in the process, though the path is unknown and scary and dangerous. I remain terrified of pain and disease and death but a small voice inside me tells me that behind it all I still have the choice of letting that fear steal the moment, which is all I ever had, or love myself and believe in that basic goodness that underlies and transcends my mortal body, and let myself go.

All this is much easier said than done, of course. Today has been a good day for me, where I have sat here and managed to concentrate for a little more than five minutes at a time, it is quiet in the house and I have allowed myself to stop letting my mind distract me with demons (what am I going to cook, I need to clean the house, what do I have to do tomorrow, I still only have one Bachelor’s degree, I really am very bad at my job, I will amount to nothing in life, I have to wash the dog today, is Mark going to drive safe back home, my in laws would rather I was different, I have no friends left, the laundry is still in the washing machine, I have no money in the bank, what will happen with Mark’s shoulder and we need new health insurance, I hate my therapist, I like my book study group, do they all think I am a bad person, I shouldn’t have stopped volunteering at the bird sanctuary, does everyone hate me, I am very bad at writing, so and so is better at writing, she will get published before I ever write a single word worth anyone’s while, why did I study Biology, the rainforests are burning and I’m sitting here, I don’t remember anything from my degree, Mark will eventually divorce me, who will take the house, I will be left with nothing no degree no career no money, I will die alone and friendless, my mother would be ashamed of me, I wish she never died, I feel bad about leaving my dad behind he is growing old, why wont he ever get on Skype and call me, why wont anyone call me, I must really be a bad person, I am overbearing, I hate myself, I'm scared of getting cancer, I should eat better, I’m lazy, why won’t I go to the gym, I’m scared of the people at the gym I hate them looking at me, I’m so different from everyone here,  I always look scruffy, my mother in law hates my red converse shoes, I have big feet, I have no talents, my parents wasted their money on me, my brother is so much better than me, everyone is better than me, I can’t cook for shit, I can cook but I always eat by myself, I’m a killjoy and not funny at all, I hate so and so she has everything, so and so betrayed me, so and so is a spoiled brat, I can’t have female friends, my best male friends have been lovers and that’s over with, they all hate me, I don’t have a PhD, my mother would have been better off with so and so as her daughter, I hate me, I should journal more, I should read the news). Today I haven’t thought much of that and I hardly feel as exhausted as usual. Today I feel like tomorrow could be a good day, and I’m not half as scared of tomorrow as usual. Today I have thought of past cities and past lovers with a sense of fondness but not nostalgia, with a deep feeling of gratitude but no pain, and I have asked all the people I have ever known and hurt to forgive me by sending good wishes out to the universe, and I too have made a small step towards forgiving the people whom I feel angry with deep, deep in my heart.

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I know this all reads very fragmented, but I know inside of me all of these things I write are connected in a deep and meaningful way. Even the fear of my Cypriot-ness mixing with my British-ness and my Greek-ness and my Middle-Eastern-ness and my Asian-ness and my Western-ness into a great big clusterfuck of curly hair and coffee-breath doesn’t phase me today. It doesn’t matter to me if no one understands or connects with my identity, my personal insights or my use of language. It doesn’t matter if I am the only person on Earth who defines herself not with nationality or skin color or mother-tongue or religion (in fact, none of these at all), but with the books she has read and the foods she has tasted, and the places she has traveled to, and even the museums she has visited, and her dreams, and all the moments she has hid herself under the bed covers and willed herself into oblivion and came out of it alive somehow the next morning. It doesn’t matter if I am not unique or special in any way other than the fact that I feel unique or special to myself just because it is my eyes I use to look out at the world and my eyes alone. It doesn’t even matter that I have filled my blog and countless pieces of paper with bad poetry, or that I have typed them up and shared them with people who are important to me who might have recoiled in disgust at how bad my poetry was. I feel happy about sharing it, because I had to share it because it expressed something terrifying to me that I survived and had to make known and validated and heard. It doesn’t matter that I was born into a middle class household of educated and tormented and highly self-critical people who trod lightly on the world and led discreet and quiet and modest lives because I experienced that and I survived that too and I enjoyed it and hated it and delighted in it and now it’s over and I can make my own family and bring more people into it and into the world.

I’m not scared anymore to say I suffered myself manifold into becoming what I am today, like everyone does, like a cicada breaking out of its chitinous shell until the next moulting occasion. I am happy that my suffering has been my very own and it will continue being my very own and that it is no less or more important than the next person’s suffering and growth and life.


May 30, 2015

The end of me

Like the final flap of the wounded duck before it crashes
the words leave my mouth on a desperate flight:
I love you.

I know it's true, the cactus bloom told me before the morning,
before the moths inhaled its wilting veils with an orphan cry:
I do! 

And when I joined their swirl around the sun, surrendering my wings
to a sweet and painful singe, a searing sound:
Again, again, again.

At last I stitched my burning body with a pearl head pin
onto the rising moon,
up from the smoke my heart exhales:
Forever.

Mar 19, 2015

The Quiet People

Don't forget about the quiet people.

Though they may never tell you, your music has changed their existence. There in the audience, among hundreds of pairs of eyes looking back at you, they were the ones who saw you peeling your soul on stage. At the end of the gig, while the crowds formed lines in the lobby to meet you, they were the ones rushing out of the concert hall and into the night. Look for them in the quiet spaces between your notes; their tears fall to the floor like broken pearls. 

Do not forget the quiet people. When they sat next to you on the bus, they noticed you. They wondered about you. They searched in your eyes for your life story, unique and frayed and trembling at your lips like a hand-rolled cigarette, but they were too scared or quiet to ask. When the doors opened and the windy city sucked you out, their hearts grew larger to fill the vacuum, and they turned to their pensive reflection on the window.

Please, don't forget the quiet people. Your words have scarred them. They stayed up all night dislodging them like splinters where they dug deep into the flesh. Internalising every little betrayal, neglect, teasing and judgement that you threw at them during the day, they grew another limb that beat them to sleep.

I beg you, don't forget about the quiet people. Be gentle when you walk into a room, try not to trample. You'll see them alone, lingering on the periphery of the room, or huddled together engrossed in conversation. They may hold on to their glasses like they would from the edge of a cliff. Really notice them, they are ready to revel in your presence. Remember their names, pronounce them right, they won't correct you. They are not shy - they are softspoken. They do not prefer solitude - they crave connection. Include them in your life if you want it to bloom honeysuckle and wisdom; they will always dance naked with you in the rain. 

Like birds in the spring they will sing in the night, half confused - half stubborn, persevering with a life force larger than words, equal to love. They have not one heart but two, one for the sun and one for the moon. Their restless soul may have brought them to distant shores, but their love sleeps cradled in your cupped hands. 

Yes, don't you forget the quiet people, they think about you after you've gone. For hours, for days, for years on end, they read your letters again and again and stare at the hefty handwriting, heaving the irreplaceable loss from sentence to sentence. They try to remember your voice and revive your face in the trees and the frost on the pavement. They live on - quietly - after you've gone.

And when the time comes, they too trudge the path through the snow fog to endless white landscapes, leaving behind some half-empty teapot, some gentle life. When the sun hits the rock side at sundown, like hidden ores they glimmer in gold for a moment, withdrawing in shadows again. Look for them, out the window beyond your screen, between these lines, in subtle magnificence, in each moment, at each breath; do not forget the quiet people, you'll miss out on the world. 





Feb 18, 2015

Discovering the fourth dimension

I haven't written for a while. In the meantime, I have had so many thoughts, and come to so many realisations, and I have made so many conclusions, only to have those conclusions undone and re-worked to form so many new ones, that I can't remember where I left off with this blog or what I was trying to say. I've been like a cloud that constantly shifts in form, breaking off in cloudlets and melding into bigger ones - now a laughing giant with a scarf around his neck, now a scornful pig face, now a running wizard with a very pointy hat- until it disappears like swirling smoke into the vast blue sky. I have felt loneliness, fear, despair, peace, joy, anger, sadness, gratitude, pain and anxiety, all in a matter of months and often all at the same time, and like Alice I have felt myself shrink to the size of a pinhead or grow to the size of the Petronas Towers; sometimes the house seemed so vast and frightening I thought my boat would sink under the massive waves of the ocean enclosed within the four walls, and sometimes the house seemed so small my soul spilled out of the windows and the cracks in the ceiling. I have spent endless hours sitting doing nothing, lamenting the time that passes, and just as many hours running around being busy trying to forget the time that passes. I have read many books and articles in all this time since I last sat to write, and some of the words I've encountered I've clung on to like a security blanket, and I've slept with them in my arms, night after night. I have searched, fruitlessly, for belonging, meaning, Home. A purpose, even. Even a small suspicion of those states of mind has been elusive, the sensations only fleeting. I guess I have been having what people call 'an existential crisis'.

Being a stranger among strangers hinders the resolution of said crisis, though I know it will get better. There's nothing and no one to even momentarily construct a sense of self for me. I have to put in the work of delineating, defining and defending myself against all backgrounds, situations and people, all the time. That might be what growing up is. I certainly feel older. I certainly feel more responsible and accountable for my actions, as well as my feelings. Now, grief runs deep, but so does joy. Now, joy is very conscious, and seldom taken for granted.  Those little moments of normality bring great happiness, and sometimes being unconscious of joy takes you by surprise so much that you become conscious of it and then a little sad. Joy is never pure, but always holding hands with sadness. I always thought clouds gave the sky dimension, depth and texture, so I can accept the sadness as part of it all, and say that it gives joy dimension, depth and texture. In fact, I feel like I am on the cusp of breaking open the portal of a fourth dimension, but what it is or what it'll bring I don't know. I just feel I'm on the verge of something great and that gives me some kind of pseudo-meaning to keep keeping on. Does this even make sense to anyone?