Tag Archives: hope

Hope is a Lioness

15 Aug

“Education breeds confidence. Confidence breeds hope. Hope breeds peace.”―Confucius

No.

Or at least, not always.

Education breeds knowledge. Knowledge can make you stand up and shout and stomp your foot, because here is your evidence, here is your fact, here is your goddamn certainty that this thing here is so.

Knowledge can also make you sit down and shut up because you know, you know that you are a human and have the capacity to be astoundingly wrong.

Knowledge breeds awareness. And sometimes, awareness can breed doubt.

Confidence can breed hope, but confidence can also breed hate. Confidence carries with it the offspring of swagger, a dangerous little bugger if not raised right. Confidence can slay its ancestor, replacing a birthright of knowledge with a reign of blind and willful ignorance instead. Confidence will sometimes shut its ears like that.

Hope is taken for such a quiet little thing. Hope will placate. Hope will soothe. Hope will take your rumbling shores and show you where to dock your anchor.

But hope is about weathering all that.

Hope is the thing that will stand up and fight in the night. Hope is the thing that will make you push on, even when the winds blow so hard as to strip you of all your armor. Hope is being able to stand naked before the world and say that still, you have these hands to fight with. Still, you have this mind within you. Still, you are on your feet before it all and you, against the odds, are not yet dead. Hope does not need reason. Hope does not need bravery. Knowledge and confidence be damned, hope will lean on crutches of desperate abandon and wavering limbs.

Hope is sometimes about reconciliation, but it is always about risk.

Hope may bring peace,

but it may also bring a body count with it.

Hope is no quiet, quivering mouse.

Hope is a lioness with her claws not yet out.

Hope breeds strength,

bodies strung with humming prowess.

A brood of capacity that pads noiselessly in the dark –

silent only until the kill.

Hope births the drive to sate the grumbling emptiness of a stomach,

and peace is not always what fills a belly.

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A Car And A Cute Old Man

9 Dec

Today, I met a cute old man. He was not by default cute because he was old. I have met a lot of old men, and many, many of them are not cute. A lot of them are crotchety fuckers.

But this old man, he was cute. He barely had any hair left, just a brush of white and wiry remnants as his eyebrows, and a U around his head. His skin has the yellow tinge of an elderly Philippino. He could have been stern, if his mouth puckered more. But it didn’t. He was not stern. He was not intimidating. He was like a really old uncle, maybe a grandfather. Something non-threatening. The sort of old relative that would call you dear and not mean it demeaningly.

Oh, I met him because he was my Lyft driver.

So I got into the car, and we made chit chat as is opening procedure for taking a Lyft. I asked how long he’d been driving, he told me he’d been up since 6 am. I commented on how early that was, and he mentions, nonchalant, that he’s hoping to make enough fare to head home early and take his wife out to a nice dinner.

Okay, this dude is like seventy. That’s already frickin’ adorable.

So I try not to making squeeing noises out loud and merely respond how that’s sweet. I ask how long he’s been married. He answers – 44 years.

Holy. fuck.

I ask how they met. He tells me that they both worked in the same government agency, back in the Philippines. “We met in the office and… that’s how it all got started.” His voice winked, even if he did not.

He launches into his whole story. He tells me how he and his wife, they worked at this agency for 25 years, but before they retired, his wife wanted to pursue her real profession for a while. They moved to Chicago and “were trapped there in the snow” for twenty years, so she could be a chemist.

Finally retiring, they moved to Florida. He tells me how, having saved up a fair amount, they gave their remaining assets in the Philippines to their daughter, which he pronounces further endearingly as duo-ter. But… he stumbles over himself, for a few seconds. He’d started to explain how he has a daughter, but… the stumbling and backpedalling came to a stop, and he tells me, “I had a son, but I lost him when he was nineteen.”

I don’t want to ask what lost means.

My driver, he pushes on and tells me about his duo-ter, now 44 (my innuendo-center starts cheering internally and wink-wink-nudge-nudging the man), lives in Okinawa with her eight-year-old son. She’s serving as a pediatrician in the air force – they paid for her school, she works for them the same amount of years. She’s got two left.

My mind immediately starts praying that Okinawa stays quiet for the next two years.

The old man’s talk meanders back to him and his wife. He tells me how they tired of Florida’s weather, so they moved to Los Vegas instead. It was cheaper there, anyway. They rented a three-bedroom house for just $700 a month. My roommates and I are renting a three-bedroom apartment for more than that.

But… the old man, his voice becomes closed and quiet, “Los Vegas was my downfall. I had never gambled before in my life. But I got myself stuck at the slot machines. I lost all our savings. I… I squandered everything.”

I can hear the shame in his voice. I would not have been surprised if he’d started to cry.

“But I told my wife,” he goes on, “I told my wife, it’s not too late, I can earn it back. Well, not all of it, but some, enough…” He spends several more minutes reciting a litany of “I did a bad thing” and “I needed to make it better” and “I was contrite, so I could do it.”

They moved out to Santa Clarita. He started driving for Lyft. That is why he is a driver, to try one car ride at a time to rebuild the life he intended for his wife – and himself – to have. To make good on his statement that he is contrite. He tells me how sorry he is for what he did, how grateful he is that his wife is with them. “I think she still loves me,” he said in a small voice. “I love her very much.”

We reach my street, and as we pull up to my curb, he turns to me and with a somehow beaming face tells me enthusiastically, “I hope all your ventures are successful!”

I tell him that I hope he has a nice dinner with his wife.

Silence

1 Aug

dwindling fade

Life is a hard thing when you go numb. When soul dies, hopes dissipate into nothing leaving not even a shadow of an imprint.

Silence is a terrible thing. I hate it. I fear it. I fear it, because I fear me. Silence means I’m left alone with myself. And that’s terrifying.

Silence means I only have the chatter of my brain to keep me company. And when that chatter comes in the form of verbal knives and memory punctures, those internal conversations can hurt a lot.

It wasn’t always this way.

I used to be able to sit alone with myself and dream. I’d spend hours thinking about problems I wanted to solve, things like biology research and magnetism projects. I’d turn the information I’d learned earlier over and over in my mind, looking for new angles or remaining questions to tackle a need with. I’d process things for hours, while I was swimming, or walking through a grocery store, or driving, or scribbling in a notebook. It was fun. I was content.

Or I’d think about stories. I’ve written entire novels in my head, always meaning to transfer them to paper later. I’d flesh out scenes and plot, playing them out in my head like a movie while I was showering, or sitting in an airplane, or bored in class. I have had worlds spun into being inside my head. I loved the feeling. That’s who I was.

It’s part of the reason I love art museums. Wandering through galleries, staring at canvas after canvas, the paint on the picture starts speaking stories in my brain. I love art that I look at and immediately think, “there’s a story in that.”

I love doing art too, in and of itself. It’s almost like I’m creating some kind of secret. “Here, let me draw you this picture” – it’s got a fairy tale behind it. Or at least, it does in my head. Who knows the stories it may speak in yours.

The better I’m doing internally, the better I do at art. If I fall into eating disorder patterns, I stop being able to create proper scale in my drawings, especially when it comes to people. The more stable I am in terms of ED, the more accurately I’m able to draw humans. The more there I feel inside, overall, even if it’s a hurting sort of “there,” the more I’m able to do some sort of creation. Even if it’s just sketching out eyes. Simple, closed eyes.

That’s what I did, when depression and suicidality first hit me in the clinical sense my senior year of high school. My school planner is full of eyes, blue pen sketches of what’s really no more than a glorified eyelid, covering almost every page. Eyes, everywhere. Closed.

There’s probably some symbolism in that.

But now… now I can’t even draw eyes. Even short poems, little bursts of anger or hurting or hopelessness, the ones that I used to be able to throw onto a page in a blink, they’ve become harder to write. There’s no voice left in me.

There’s only the silence, with its terrible chattering.

And I hate it.

There’s another spot, another corner of content curation that I decided to take a stab at, here on the internet. I hear there’s a thing called Tumblr. I still don’t entirely understand it. How it works. What the fuck it’s even there for. But I’ve got one – decided to call it “Mad Woman Blinking.” (Oh hey, more eye symbolism!) And I decided that it’s there for my art. More so the visual kind, though I’ve got a fair amount of word spew on there too. You can check it out or not, that’s really not the point. I bring it up because yesterday, I also wrote a post called “Silence” there. It’s a shorter version of what I’ve written here. But it’s differently phrased, and I feel like the language has more art to the wording. It’s the more compact, drip-coffee version of what I could squeeze out of my soul. Looking back, I’m glad that there was some poetry to it.

“Silence usually means I’m not okay. In life, when I fail to stop by a friend’s dorm room, or stop contacting my people in all their little chat boxes. In art, when I just stop doing it.

My art habit fluctuates wildly. I’ll go a couple of months where I do art every day, or at least every week. Then I’ll have a year of not even scribbling on a napkin.

I’m not okay when I’m not doing art.

Because if I’m doing art, it means I’m stable. I’ve got the time to sit down with pencils or acrylics or whatever. I’ve got soul enough inside me to pin dreams down on papers in their many colors of imagination. I’ve got sense of self enough to still make my fingers etch out a story, whatever their medium.

When I stop drawing, it’s because I’ve gone silent inside. And that means I’m not okay.”

I’d really like to be okay.

A Small Little List of Small Little Things

5 May

Lovely readers, it’s been a rough few weeks. That, ahem, may have been reflected in the tone of my writing. Not that doom and depression and dark lands with dark creatures don’t feature in it even when I’m full of sunshine and sparkle. Or whatever. But today, today’s been a good day in a long stretch of very bad days. No saying what tomorrow will be, but today, today has been better than the running average. And so I thought I’d share, just a small little list of small little things that have made me happy today.

Hope you, lovely readers, have such a list for yourself too.

 

1. The flare and the hiss of a match just lit.

2. A pair of red macaws who licked and nibbled on my fingers for over ten happy minutes.

3. Sympathy and Empathy.

4. The wonderful owners of the Belgian chocolate shop who make perfect soy cappuccinos.

5. Learning that the German word for “fluffy” is “flaumig.”

Magick

2 May

 

Magic

I want a world where there are dragons.

I want a world with traveling circuses at night.

I want a world with flying carpets, mermaids, selkies –

where colds, flu, and heartache can be magicked away

with nothing more complicated than some herbs in a pot

and the right words, already written down in a book for you.

In this world of pragmatism,

it’s too hard to know the right words to say.

I want a world with beasts and beauties

requiring no photoshop to recognize,

where illusion makes you think about what life is

instead of trying to convince you the other way around.

I want unicorns,

phoenixes that can rise from ashes and second chances that really matter.

I want the impossible.

I want something more than indeterministic fate.

I want a way to cats-cradle the strings of the universe together

into something better than what it handed me to start with.

I want not the power but the plausible hope

of a world where your will could actually change things.

Where try hard enough and you can succeed,

instead of just the lie they feed you about that here.

I want a world with beautiful rules

and even more beautiful exceptions,

instead of just the shit stochastic

we all give our breath and brains and beatings to.

I want a world where words can fight fists

and win in the moment, there and then.

Words can already bruise people beyond belief

but at least with magic they could provide real safety too.

I want a world with fewer bruises.

I wish more people just hid flowers up their sleeves.

I want a world where more hearts could roar

when they hear that uttered, muttered phrase –

Here be dragons.

I want a world that will offer me greater possibility than this world has to offer

where the only magic that people can ever know –

love, hope, faith, dreaming, a kiss –

is more often that not mere slight of hand and even the best of pixie dust

will end up dead.

 

I do not write happy stories.

9 Apr

People want happy stories. Good characters. Sweet endings. Family-friendly. At least, that’s what a lot of magazine submission guidelines seem to be saying.

But I do not write happy stories. I swear, I try. Took me five goddamn years to write a YA novel with a happy ending and after another five years I’m still not finished editing it yet. Happy stories are not the ones that come to me most naturally or most frequently. They are not what my brain generates. They are not what my brain understands. They are not what my brain has had to work with.

Happy stories, sure, they can be nice to read. Like a delightful little square of baklava. But too many of those delightful little squares, and odds are you’re going to be left with sticky, nut-grimy fingers and an urge to go puke up at least half of the sickly sweetness now residing in your stomach into the nearest toilet bowl. Or onto the nearest politician. Either would be acceptable, probably.

I mean, too many sad stories, or difficult stories or unsettling stories or generally unhappy narratives, and you’re also probably going to be left in a huddles mess o’ blankets on your living room couch crooning yourself into a tear-slopped sleep with that bottle of whiskey you’re clutching as your only friend. Not exactly a more preferable kind of overdose.

But at least… at least those tears your crying are real. The elation you feel from a happy story may be a vicarious kind of wish-fulfillment but the pain you’re left dealing with from a grungier tale is a memory, the recollected aching from some time before when your story veered a little too closely to something a character got herself into. Probably why the sadness lasts so much longer; it’s no mere slap-on-the-surface temporary veneer. No, it’s an upwelling of past shame or doubt or anger or disappointment. The kind of sadness that leaves you as said whiskey-breathed mess has roots.

Maybe it’s just because of my own negative-lens tendencies the depression fairy apparently decided to, uh, gift me with at birth, but I know that I, at least, remember pain more than I remember pleasure. In my life-flashes-before-your-eyes-’cause-you-done-fucked-up-and-somehow-now-you’re-drowning reel, the moments of hurt, of regret, of loss would be the first ones to play out again before me. They are, unfortunately, what my brain, my memory centers, my inner interpretation mechanisms snap to first. Over time (read: SO MUCH THERAPY OH MY GOD), I’ve been able to re-groove my brain a bit (hoorah neural plasticity!) and convince my brain that it really is okay to go the positive route every now and then, really, there’s probably not even that much of a traffic jam,  but still… inner GPS forgets about those routes a fair amount.

I’m tempted to write that to me, happiness just doesn’t feel natural. But I know, really, that’s not true. Happiness is totally a natural thing to experience. It’s more appropriate to write that for me, happiness hasn’t felt usual. I grew up in a household of parents who had been fighting since before I was even born. I wasn’t exactly the cool kid in my class for much of high school (but then come high school people realized I was smart and that they needed me and then I ruled the world! AHAHAHAHAHAHA!). I’ve been battling mental health shit since god knows when. Yes, there has been a lot of happiness in my life, but it’s not exactly been the baseline or background. Happiness has been an exception.

But honestly, I don’t think it’s just my own experience that’s made writing happy stories so difficult for me. Ever since, well, ever, I’ve been an emotional go-to for other people. I may not have been the cool kid, but I wasn’t ever that kid – but I did usually end up getting picked out as OMG BFF! by that kid. Then come middle school, when puberty hit and we were all just leveled to a singular playing field of awkwardness, the girls who became my closest friends were also the ones who, like me, had some inner demons that started clawing a bit more actively at our vulnerable brains. And our vulnerable hormones. The rest of pre-college schooling for me was a slew of late night phone calls, desperate pleas to hang on just a little while longer, letters sent every day to some treatment center other, constant scans of wrists and arms and rib cages and stomach circumferences and little pricks in the back of our minds any time one of us wore long sleeves or baggy clothing. Chat sessions into three and five am, glowing laptop screens hidden behind closed doors and under the covers.

Yes, there was a strain of hope. Maybe, just maybe, if I can get through this, you can too… We were all one giant mess of hands and arms clinging to each other and brace the entire structure of our lives. Support went in all directions. Hurt went in all directions. Despair abounded. Hope was a parched substance. It did not rain; it sludged through the ravaged sewers of our tenacity, tainted and unsafe even by the time it got there in the first place. But when you’re dying of thirst, you stop being so picky about these kind of things. Even dirty water will keep you going. For a little while. It might kill you a little while later. But I don’t think any of us would have minded that for ourselves.

We would have wailed over it, though, for each other.

The real-life stories that I have known have not been ones that work out. They have been ones of struggle. Constant struggle. You think you’ve gotten over one thing, and then something new crops up. Your once-savior becomes your new slave master. Relief only lasts so long. Every so often you may find yourself on your feet again, running, and you run as far and as hard and as long as you can, but then some invisible un-reason reaches its ugly snag and you don’t even see and suddenly you’re on the ground, scraped knees and bleeding elbows and your legs are so tired they don’t want to work anymore and your arms are wondering what the use even is anymore to try to pull yourself up one more time if you’re only going to end up down here covered in the dirt of a failed attempt again anyway…

And yet somehow we keep going. Knowing we have likely only doomed ourselves to repeat the process. But the way out is no more glorious than the struggle. So you might as well finish the race. Might as well find out if it was ever going to get you anywhere anyway.

You understand if your fellow runners decide they can take no more of the dizzying, soul-quenching exhaustion. You understand the decision to finally cease running, cease panting, feel only one more final sharp stab at the weary lungs you have forced to keep filling you with breath before saying that no, no more, I will stop here.

It’s a tragedy, yes. But it’s less of a tragedy than most people seem to realize. The loss of uncertain future happiness ways a little less to you than the end to present, undeniable pain.

So far, only one of us has dropped out of the race.

This impossible, endless race. There is some pride in my fellow runners, every time I look around and see them still there, straggling through this thing with me.

We will arrive at the finish line cut and scarred by thorns and brambles that held no roses. Our souls will be impossibly bruised. We might not have the strength to hold even our heads high. But we will have made it. We will have finished.

That is not a happy ending. That is not the kind of story I write.

But it is a story. With a horridly natural, un-fairy tale ending.

And that is something.

Unmeds

19 Feb

crack under door edited

 

Unmeds

My mind is blurry

and my soul is cold.

My eyes are bleary

and the trying’s old

to grasp at the sediment

of weathered, beat hope

chipped and chiseled

by the unending slope.

There’s not enough coffee

and it’s all gone stale.

The dawn’s too early

and I’m still pale.

The pills have stopped working

so I can’t take any more,

but I think there’s still light coming

through the crack under the door.

Maybe it’ll open,

and then I’ll feel the floor.