slow

species

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.

Today, as I came to the end of the “All in One, One in All” chapter of this book of the same name, I teared up realizing again that I had received something wonderful through text. I teared up not only because of the wonderfulness of what I had been given, but also because it proved to me that text still carries the possibility of transmitting something which steadies and blooms the reader, something which could change how they live their life, or how they feel about the world. It could help them survive.

Writing this now I feel the urge to cry.

I’m still meeting this new self! She’s solid stuff, and okay, I should stop referring to her as a separate entity if I want to close this dissonance. I am her, actually, for real, with some permanence, with new confidence, courage, ease and compassion. Even in this peaking point of exhaustion, of feeling dead on my feet on the MRT, of finding the whole world too bright and hazy no matter the hour of day. I do like myself very much.

I think what has been most surprising, most comforting, is my new ability to hold rage and resentment without being eaten up…! To recognise that anger is an important emotion I must hold without indulgence, without repression. And to also realise that my anger is me standing up for myself now. I am not diminished by careless words, I am indignant that someone said such things to me. That is a newish feeling. Something I have experienced with myself before, but not so clearly, so doubtlessly.

Today all this culminated in a Scorpio rising on high kind of state: black velvet skirt, black sleeveless knitted cropped top (I have virtually never worn a cropped top ever), black tight hoodie, black socks, black running shoes, green knitted sling bag, pink wireless earbuds, pearl earrings on the uppermost ear piercing on both sides, long strides not looking back, looking straight ahead as if striking with a knife. It was anger, certainly, even some anxiety/fear, but also another shade emerging. I am excited to embody this colour.

But first, time to rest. Time to sleep for many hours on end, without thoughts of other people, projects, problems.

Nothing much I can report here except that there have some upheavals in my heart, but also that this new self is taking them well and it’s really a new feeling — experiencing sadness, disappointment, anger without feeling totally swept up, totally overtaken. At the same time, it isn’t repression. It’s sitting in the pool of feelings while knowing clearly that they are not you, and that you do not have to identify as/with them. Letting them run their course but not indulging them or extending them unnecessarily. They are a part of your experience, your life, but they are not you. Does that make sense? (I ask as if you might reply! But if you wish to, please do.)

The upheavals have triggered some bad emotional habits/ responses which I am slowly observing and holding. It is sometimes hard to hear myself say aloud the harsh, selfish things. I am thankful for XZ, who listens patiently. The question, I think, is something like: how do you articulate these hot, resentful, tar-like thoughts and feelings without causing harm, without feeling overwhelming shame, and without totally identifying with them? It is a delicate distance and position to enact, but I think I am learning now.

I have been doing more research on monastic life, and wondering again if that is a path for me. I am conscious of the part of my desire that is ego, and the need to observe and dissolve that first before I continue. I am also conscious of the impulsive, lightly escapist energy here, and the need to attend local sangha events first to get a proper sense of things. Either way, there is no rush here. I will work on practicing alone for now, to absorb what I can and to build a clear mind.

As I plod along, bright and light as a daytime cloud, may I continue to extend compassion and patience to each moment, each person, each thing.

It occurs to me that every day I wake and try to forgive this new self. Forgiveness is the wrong word. I wake and try to come to terms with this steadiness, waiting for the anxiety & low mood to return. But it does not. I feel something like guilt, confusion, being ripped out of one life and placed in another. I am afraid I am merely dreaming.

I have been slowly meeting you, my new self which feels more like a new life. So much has been shed in the last ten years (maybe more), and here we are now, you and me. I am continually surprised by your ease, your confidence, your steadiness. Who are you? Me, yes, but you’re so thoroughly different from who I thought I was. Your calm rhythm, your general lack of self-hatred, your ability to let go more quickly that I’ve ever been able to… continually astounds me. It shocks me out of my body, causing dissociation. I seem to have changed sharply and suddenly, almost overnight.

E’s suggestion that it’s kind of like a chemical reaction, where every day a few drops are added to the solution and one day, suddenly, there’s enough solution that the reaction happens, makes sense. The catalyst here is also clear. The other possibility is that I’ve been changing into this new iteration for some time now, but I’ve simply not noticed. Perhaps I assumed that I had grown as much as I could have in this life, and taken some past self as a state of permanence.

I am not un-grateful, merely still in a state of light shock and disbelief. Surely time passing will allow this feeling to come to pass, as I, again, become my own evidence of what I want to make possible in this world.

It has been interesting to encounter new people and experiences like this, to come to know how they perceive me and how I make them feel. The disjunction can be felt there too, where they seem to be describing someone else. Either way, I like where I am/ seem to be. I just need more time to sit and settle into it. This new sense of clarity, self-assurance, power.

I may find myself perplexing, but almost never boring. I am mutable and constantly acting upon an impulse to shift. For a while I thought it was a sign of being easily distracted, lacking staying power (consistency), and/or being ungrateful, not knowing how to be content. I’m beginning to see that that may have been partially the case previously, but also that my discontentment & restlessness were rooted in pain and a desire for another world. I was not ungrateful so much as deeply hurt, deeply afraid to be here.

As I grow less afraid, I realise that I am still shifting. Less impulsively, perhaps, but still shifting all the same. Morphing and moulting again, again. I should learn to forgive my mutability, to stop troubling it as a sign of flakiness. I should also stop seeing consistency and uniformity as (morally) superior or greater virtues. There is value in mutability just as there is value in consistency; they are both companions of our lives and the world.