slow

species

The last few days plus today have had me swept up in an energetic thrust of cleaning, tidying, reordering, reviving routines I’ve fallen off from. I’ve really enjoyed it too, vaccuuming and wiping the floor with my eco-friendly cleaning solution, trimming the part of my hair that has been a little thicker than its matching side, wiping down my desk, doing a few rounds of laundry (machine, handwash, different clothing groups, etc. etc.), tidying the mess of jewelry and coins I keep by my room door, even (for whatever mad reason) ironing some shirts. (I never, ever, Ever iron my clothing. I simply do not care enough. But now maybe I do, a little? Ironing was fun.)

I also managed to go running both yesterday and today, in the morning. I’ve not really spent time with the morning running crowd before, so it was a bit of a treat to people-watch and get a sense of them as I went round and round the track. A lot of funny habits have also slipped into my life over the past weeks, like applying sunblock… Again, I generally have not cared about this? But suddenly I feel attentive to my body, I want to be clean and healthy, I want to re-engage with this locus of expression.

I am thinking a lot about DPR Live, this Korean musician I discovered recently. I am not interested in his music, but I watched a few interviews and felt quite comforted by his personality. I felt I was looking at someone I could be or already am close to in spirit, even if I really don’t vibe with the commercial-ness and materialistic quality of his projects under DPR. The things he said in the interviews, about not being ashamed to make money as an artist, about his rather boring and work-oriented routine – they resonated with me. I feel we are similarly attached to our work, in a way that may isolate us from the world, or at least make our daily habits and social bubbles quite specific and contained.

It reminded me of this thread about Scorpio risings I read recently, which was fun and curious until I got to: “10h leo – aims to be recognized for their great capabilities and contributions to society, for their hard work and regal persona. but this alienates self from others in a different way, admiration and regard is not a substitute for connection and relationships”. I froze for a moment and laughed internally and loudly – somewhere at the centre of my small brain I heard a long “ha haha ha ha hahahahha ha” and perhaps on the surface I smiled. Astrology is not the be-all and end-all of anything, but when something hits you it hits you. I got slapped in the face.

I have been wondering about that for days. I don’t know what about it bothers me, because it’s also a kind of assumption, right, that it’s a binary, that there are no overlaps between regard and relationships, and that one needs such and such intensity and quantity of connection to be un-alienated. I guess I wonder about my own sense of alienation from the world and people at large, and whether, at this point of peace and acceptance, it really is such a bad thing anymore. For a while my alienation made me write strange and sad things, it made me make a friend and challenge of language through my bid to articulate as precisely and truly as I could. For a while it did make me feel far away and alone in my life. And then when I was alienated from my body and sense of immersion within life and its concepts, I felt like a sentient awareness that had been assigned to this avatar and timespace, this strange physical world I do not originate from. Sometimes I still feel this way, and I feel confused that I am this awareness and consciousness too, I find it strange that I wake up and I am still here in this state and space and time.

For the most part, though, my alienation has aided me in my life, in the specific way I have become and can contribute to the world. I knew this when I chose to go to Warwick, where I knew a degree of isolation and singularity was inevitable due to the demographics of the Singaporean community that went there, as well as the more business- and management-oriented nature of the university. I knew that I thrive when I feel unique and singular, even alone, in my work, especially when there is virtually no one to compete with but myself. I also knew that I would thrive when I am somewhat misunderstood or incomprehensible (which my Singaporean counterparts easily made me feel), when the work I do is beyond capture by another person, even if generously and truthfully.

It worked. I thrived. Though the loneliness did hurt me toward the end, the alienation was fruitful. It was a condition and space within which I grew rapidly, earnestly. For me, the most important thing is that alienation gives me space to stew my ideas, and especially without the influence of other people, works, and ongoing trends. (At least to a large extent la – I know that a totally sealed membrane is not possible in this world.) I’m too susceptible, so I have to have walls against the outside, to avoid producing something that’s a boring derivative or reproduction which offers nothing new. That kind of work might still be beautiful, moving and exciting to experience,,, but I’m not interested in making that kind of work in this brief time I have.

Re: Warwick, I think I was lucky to find a place that both alienated me and had a pool of wise, kind and genuinely interested professors, many of whom were extremely generous to me, whether by listening to me or offering feedback and advice. And to be frank, I still hold on to a lot of their compliments and suggestions now. In a way, they catalyzed a large part of my confidence. And I know (even if I may sound full of myself and ridiculous) that a lack of confidence is all that can hold me back now. It doesn’t mean that my work will be good if I become confident. That’s still something I need to be attentive and devoted toward. But it means that my forward thrust and movement as a person and maker, the continued development of my ideas and my presentation of them to others, etc… These things are limited by confidence first, then, of course, time, space and money second. I lead a lucky, privileged and happy life, so I will make good on it.

*

Cycling back to DPR Live and the way he is inspiring me and making me think, I’ve been encountering a lot of good artistic energy and works of late. Because I am so rarely inspired by others’ work (which I think is my greatest problem – a lack of generosity & openness – and greatest strength – stubbornness and a clear sense of what I like and believe in), it has really felt like a blue moon event, and it has occurred not just once but twice in the past week or so.

The first has been Someone Else by John Hughes, an incredibly white- and cis-male-centric book (lol sigh) which experiments with form, voice and the act of writing in ways that really excite me and feel align with my own interests and intentions. Despite the very male and white line-up Hughes chose to ventriloquize, I have not felt so seen by and so intent on seeing a piece of writing since I read A Tale for the Time Being. This is not so much about the quality of writing (I’ve read quite a few good things this year!), but that sense of being known. Suddenly I discovered my ideas and desires in the mouth of another person, in the body of another text. A joyous sort of shock, and a sense of foolishness (egotistical hubristic nonsense) that I ever thought myself alone. I am coming to the end of the book now, very slowly. This one is an intellectual/spiritual immersion, more than an emotional immersion.

The second thing has been Spirit Advance Unit by Kim Oki. Such a gem of an album. I love the jazz, I love the speaking of text, the voice and spirit of it all. And it’s a good movement too, down the sequence of tracks. I am not a big jazz listener but this is really… really something special.

Okay. This really was such a wanky, self-centred post. I know this is my blog and all but I feel kind of embarrassed. If you read it all, uh… thank you! Ha. Why am I adopting this chatty voice now as if we’re talking to each other? I don’t know.

I would like to spend more time here, in this room of ease. In a way it is a selfish space, where I write for you and myself, and we both read me. It comforts and surprises me – both that I’m still blogging and that there are still people who read blogs. I still miss the golden Blogspot years, where everyone had a blog and I spent nearly all my time online cycling my way through a list of friends’ and strangers’ blogs, reading and reading. I would also like to read someone’s personal blog.

I’ve been closing a few channels down for myself, like Twitter. After a long period of loose trial and error, I’ve also found methods and rules for handling emails and text messages that work for me, and it’s been good. I think I would have been a little sad about this previously, but now I’m thankful and happy that I can compartmentalize the flow of information and energies that come to me. It helps me sustain more periods of inner silence, which adds to the clarity I now have.

I really feel and know I am in a season of harvest. Yet there is also a transition happening slowly, moving me toward something else. I can smell it in the air and I am in no rush to know what it is. Sitting here is lovely, is gentle, is good.

I think my questions now are leaning more toward ones like, how can I share this energy with other people? How can we initiate and cultivate a space where this peace is possible for a community? And I don’t feel this has to be a serious community of Buddhists or even people who meditate. It could even just be a group of friends. I’m wondering how I can expand this bubble of joy and ease into a shared inhabitable world. Yet I know this time I cannot move too quickly or impatiently, or perhaps I sense that to do so would not only compromise the sharing, but also the peace I now have. I must move gradually, I must learn to accumulate a future little by little, through small efforts and simply persisting within my plentiful life. Simply persisting can be enough, for a life accumulates on its own without you deciding that it will.

What I mean, in a way, is that the political work I want to do is centred upon the durational act of living, both on my own and together. Perhaps that is a very small thing, to insist and live on a life on my own terms. But I think the terms I want to live on are ones which, if I can repeat into a temporary permanence, will prove that a different life is possible. And that gesture, which I will perform with my whole life, might be political work enough.

I was thinking today about living with other people, and living with my family. And I realized, through weighing and shuffling these thoughts (which so vivid and full of feeling), that I will always need an inner room. Strangely enough, my family home gives me that now, and promises to do so even more now that she is moving out. I say strangely because I have often felt under-celebrated by my family for the things I have worked hard to do, and this evoked resentment, sadness, longing in younger years, when I was a different person with fresh wounds.

Now this lack of interest in my achievements and public/ professional selves, along with the ample space I have carved out and am now easily given at home, affords me a kind of anonymity. I’m not sure if that makes sense? But home is, more and more, a place where I can be no one and nothing at all, perhaps merely the minor mood or activity I’m in at any given time. I am nothing but someone chopping up some mushrooms for lunch, or a figure unseen behind a closed door, doing whatever that no one cares to ask about. I am asked about meals and laundry and simple things with kindness but without expectation. I am seen but not looked at, not read, not considered. In a way, I think my family has come to understand and adapt to me.

Now, then, the inner room I carry within myself has an external extension, and I needn’t clutch so tightly within. There is space and room for me to pass through walls, a ghost.

Today, a vaccine-fuelled haze.

New things. I feel a curiosity for new things, like new sounds and new foods, that I’ve not felt for a long time. I listened to four or five new songs today. I walked out and bought my brother and myself McDonalds.

I also pulled out a stack of books and more clothing to sell or give away. A milestone, and I am eager to shed until only a thin layer is left, the layer which holds all which is actually true.

I finished the latest episode of TXT’s running variety series, which brings the total episodes I’ve watched to 56. I don’t know what to think about this. It is merely another facet of the tension I feel toward my hunger, my desires.

More technical forms of learning are moving along, albeit irregularly, like Korean, guitar, driving, coding. My hunger cannot be sated, and I am impatient. I am working hard on being patient, on enjoying the slow dripdrip of understanding entering me.

After this weekend of sharp turns which capped a few weeks of just chugging forward and consuming blindly, I finally came to stillness and sat in it for a little while, grieving. I think a lot about my life and how it could unfold more meaningfully. That is a difficult habit. Also about this weekend: I already didn’t feel I could ever fully trust a man, and now I’m not sure I will ever recover out of that position again.

I wish to be bothered. To give and receive affection very simply.

Soon, I will sit in a mall and have some sushi alone.

I think I am ready to have long hair.

I’ve been resisting leaning too much into astrology, but I’m feeling it this week, as we had the full moon in Pisces and are now passing (?) the autumnal equinox into Libra season. After a dreamy weekend in a stupor, I’m experiencing what feels like the culmination of my 1st house profection year, the Scorpio rising filling up space in the light, seeking visibility. (Is my 12th house Sun asleep? How is it faring as I walk toward the centre of the room?)

I’m also feeling an early preview of my 2nd house profection year to come once my Solar return hits in a few weeks. Just this week, my credit card got declined for the first time ever because I maxed it out for a company expense (which I’ve claimed but haven’t been reimbursed for). I had to make my first ever massive payment for insurance, which triggered a series of events where I had to dig for the pin of a debit card I’ve never used, in order to retrieve a forgotten password, in order to transfer money around so I had enough to make payment. Interestingly, I also smoothly ordered some new huggie earrings to replace and top up on the ones I’ve just messed up while bleaching my hair. These earrings I consider very expensive, because I rarely pay for things at these sort of prices. I’ve been spending a lot this week.

Separately but maybe tangentially, I’ve been thinking about my hermetic/ ascetic desires, and how some part of me seems to be laying them to rest, and plunging into what I consider layman/ wordly life by way of material goods. I still ache for that desire. I remember when the truth of staying here instead of turning away sunk in and I cried. I cried knowing that I have to give something up to grow differently here in this life, something I have gravitated toward and devoted myself to before. How can I be a worldly person amongst other persons? For now this pains me, but I guess it is something I must come to learn and discover..

Life is good. In the background, still a humming sense of sadness and knowing. Suffering goes on. But the heart floats up in the air, beating with blood, and not only insists but knows that another world beckons. Is in us.

[t/w: descriptions of past suicidal thoughts & depression]

I discovered this song on Spotify today. I didn’t understand the lyrics, but the singer’s voice and emotion made it difficult not to sink in, to feel for him. Even more so with the child’s bright and soft voice. I sent it to a friend, who later found and sent me the lyrics. It was difficult to keep myself from crying on the train as I read them. The way they swallow their singer and even the very act of voicing/ singing was too much. It brought me back to the hopelessness I swam in when I was 11, when I was 12, 13, 14,… I was in a pitch-dark cave of a cave of a cave inside myself, completely isolated and alienated from myself, from any form of love I was still receiving from the world. I trudged and writhed and thrashed and sobbed, so deep in suffering that I could not see anything else. I was ready to end everything then. This song brings me back.

As the lyrics sank in and the tears welled up, I found myself gripped by the desperate, urgent need to run toward 太一 the singer, to speak with him, to hold him, to comfort him, to make sure he did not give up on his life. I did not need to question if he had written the song on his own, because these lyrics could not have been sung by anyone but their writer. (I just checked, in case. And yes, he composed, wrote, produced, did everything except the parts where the child’s voice comes in.)

I don’t want 太一 to ever be alone like this, these words leaving cold imprints everywhere inside, on his heart, his lungs, his mind, his stomach,… He is probably okay, perhaps he has even moved on, but this fear continues to wind through me, that the him in the song, like my past self, will sink through these words, through this bleak chorus that repeats itself, into devastation. Having been there, how can I not fear this for someone else?

I think the most difficult bit was that self-annihilating gesture I mentioned earlier, where a part of the lyrics talk about how it’s a lie that singing comforts or makes things better. Because for me it’s like, even if someone expresses utter sadness and hopelessness in their song or poem or whatever form, the act of voicing/ uttering is a sure sign of something fighting to get out, to get help, to make known, to survive. To fold upon yourself and declare your very act of speaking, through which your words are reaching me, useless or pointless… That brings me to my knees.

I’m coming down from the anxiety of being turned away now, and recentring myself. At the end of it, when you sit down with something you’re upset or panicked about, you usually find assumptions that aren’t necessarily true. In this case, it is untrue that I was too honest. I simply was. Honest. And within the probabilities of different futures, perhaps the doctor and I kept me safe. Despite the rise in tension, we were an assemblage, we collaborated on this outcome.

As the panic subsides and I realise that nothing is so urgent, that life flows in a way that I must also learn to give in to, I am recalling how tense she was and how tense she still must be, a young doctor working very hard in the midst of a pandemic. Probably without the pandemic she would have worked just as much, and her face would also be hardened in this way. It is a difficult position to hold. I sensed that behind her hardness and curtness and unwillingness to look me in the eye when I came to her to ask again, she was exerting so much energy. I wonder now if she was afraid that I would get angry and take it out upon her. In the end, who, when faced with a customer or patient or audience of any kind, does not on some level want to please? Or want to be liked?

I think my anxiety comes from feeling like I was too honest, that I could have gotten what I wanted and expected if I had just been less truthful. That somehow that makes me a fool, an idiot. That hurt, because I hold honesty dear to myself, as something I want to uphold. But it is not so simple. It is not true that inconvenience is an error, or that being stopped halfway means failure. So much of my response was not about the situation, but from all these logics (yes, I want to use this plural form) I had learned as a child. So much of my response was situated in a learned urgency (faster is better, sooner is better). So much of it was also feeling rejected, feeling like I didn’t belong. All valid feelings that I will tend to. But not indicators of what was actually happening.

Truth is subjective, but I think the truth is I was being protected. And my worries about the hives from before were being validated. Yes, we want to know what happened. Yes, we care that you do not go on in the face of considerable risk and danger. Yes, it is hard to take this and you may be pushing back, but we must put our foot down. Am I giving them too much credit? Am I over-reading the logic of this system and its gates? Perhaps. Still, I think this is a form of love.

I can’t quite tell if this enduring withdrawal stems from defensiveness (spite?) or a genuine need to retreat, but perhaps it is both, and that is okay. I think I am yearning for someone or something to appear. For a moment of magic to occur. In the meantime, I live earnestly and tunnel inward, into a silence I can hold. It becomes more difficult to be seen, even as my desire to appear grows. To whom? I am not sure. But I carry my heart. It heaves (very softly), it longs for some mercy.

It seems right that you are staging a disappearance now, in my hour of newness and estrangement and clarity. I bought you early in the aftermath of breaking up, when I was transitioning out of the ring I had worn while in the relationship. You were an intentional sign of devotion. I was trying to tell myself: I will love you now.

I was deeply comforted to have you, light blue beads in rows around my thumb. And it makes sense that, if your disappearance is in fact departure, that you are leaving now. I am another person now. It may be time for a new beaded ring (!) to accompany the next gesture of my life.

Wherever you may be, I wish you might return. I am no good at losing things, at being left behind. But if you are truly gone, I hope you are returning home to the world! You are, after all, of the world. Of course, the time we spent together was of the world, too. But you, of all things, would understand what I mean.