Rut

I’m in a rut.

And I have been for a while now.

It’s hard to trace and pinpoint when, where, why or how it started. It’s harder still to completely break out from it.

It doesn’t feel like much either. It’s a strange numbness. A subtle sense of apathy. Of nothingness and emptiness. Colors seem muted, and life seems to lack vibrancy. It creeps in slowly, and it takes a conscious decision to stop, sit back and reflect for you to realize that you’re already in the middle of it.

The desire is always there. That doesn’t really fade. It’s like if you’re someone who loves food. And you get sick. And you lose your appetite. Even if your favorite dish was right in front of you, you can’t seem to find the desire to take a spoonful, put it to your mouth and swallow it. But you know you still love that dish. You wish you could just pick it up. You wish you want it as much as you normally would, if you weren’t sick. You know it makes you feel good and happy. But you can’t make that first step. You can’t feel that love even though you can think of it, you can imagine it, it’s there, in the back of your mind. I guess that’s the best way to describe what it’s like to be in a creative rut.

You remember how happy you feel with the charcoal on your fingertips, making marks on textured paper, music in the background, mess everywhere. Black marks on your table, it gets on your shirt, and some on your face. You remember how cathartic it feels when words spill out, without much thought. When the moment just strings together words, which you feel perfectly reflects what’s on your mind. A seamless transition of thoughts to text. A subconscious manifestation. You remember how happy you feel clicking that shutter button, freezing moments to be looked at again later on your laptop screen. To look through those spontaneous and serendipitous moments, and to share it out to the world. To have little meanings which you think everyone can see but in fact it often remains a secret with your self. And to find joy in that.

You don’t really forget what it feels like.

You remind yourself – go out and do it.

You know how important it is to remind yourself, physically, not just in thoughts.

But you can’t.

And you console yourself with excuses.

You consume, and don’t create.

And with every second of content you consume, you lose a sense of self. Of that bold fearlessness – that what you create is worthy. That what you create is important. No, not what you create. It’s important that you create, full stop. To keep making. And to be fearless! You forget that you should have a stance, to have an opinion, to have something to say. And to say it! Get it out.

You become lazy, not for the lack of ambition but because of the fear of ambition.

You get lost in your dreams, and you forget to take the tangible steps.

Wake up.

Paint the world with your dreams.

Say something.

Add to the mess.

Create!

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Solemn, Still, Sober

There are many words I could use to describe my 2017.

“Easy” wouldn’t be one of them.

I called in the year with dear friends, in an apartment in Jakarta, after a 3 week backpacking trip. We sat in the darkness and watched the tiny little sparks fly up and pop in the sky across the city. The air was solemn, still and sober. It foreshadowed the year to come in more ways than I imagined.

It has been solemn.

The past year has been an incredibly introspective experience. I found myself with ample space and time, with which I grew and looked into myself. I listened and watched my own thoughts and imaginations grow. At times, they grew bigger than I could handle and I lost the ability to tame them. Usually, I would rely on those closest to me to lend me their beautiful patience and hear me out, be there as I tried to unravel the chaos of words in my mind into strings of sentences out through my lips. It made it a lot quieter in my head that way. But this year, many of them moved further away physically – and so I was naturally left to deal with a lot of things on my own. I’ve always enjoyed and needed my own space – but that was when it was a choice. It’s a lot harder when that autonomy is stripped away. I had to learn to let go – to be comfortable without control.

I’ve known for a while now that I am most productive, creative and happy when I work with a team of people around me. I enjoy bouncing around ideas, tapping into potentials and melting people’s strengths together like steel. And I’ve struggled with this realization – because life isn’t always so kind and easy to bless you with such a situation. More often than not, you will find yourself alone. My thoughts are loud, sharp and jarring – high pitched buzzing that you’ll eventually get sick of. I understand that no one can be around that for too long (because even I can’t stand it) but I know too that I can’t turn it off. Compromises have to be made. I have to learn to adapt.

All this space and time to myself meant that I had to get to know myself. I realized that I hadn’t done so in a while – letting myself go on autopilot and seeing where it would take me. I realized that my self-esteem was dwindling, and I had begun to question my own self; purpose, abilities and values. I felt that I had lost all sense of what I was and wasn’t capable of, and much too often focused on what I couldn’t do rather than what I could. I found it very easy to slip into this mindset, and to keep slipping, rather than finding something to grip and get out. Things that I had once associated with as my identity: photography, art, writing, learning – all the things which helped me to love and appreciate myself seemed to slip through my fingers like sand. I was on a bad path. The good (and at times worst) thing is that I was very aware of what I felt. But that didn’t really help me get out.

My ideologies can be very apparent to those close to me, whom I’d gladly open up to like a book reading itself aloud. And they’d know that I’d often say I find intention to be very important. But I hadn’t realized that I often overlook my own intentions. I rarely impose on myself the same amount of interrogation that I might do when trying to understand someone else. Why am I writing all of this right now – what is this reflection for? Why am I sharing this on social media? I need to practice being absolutely honest and objective – and to come to terms with it, to be okay with it. It makes it a whole lot harder to love yourself if you’re constantly lying to yourself.

And I need to practice taking on less responsibility, and keeping it at a healthy level of maybe-just-a-little-bit-more than what is expected. I want to lose weight – off my shoulders.

I want to be fearless again. To be fearless of failure. To keep trying, to keep learning, to be positive. I want to recognize and be fully conscious of what I’m good at, to be proud of them and not constantly view them in comparison, or relative to anything or anyone else. I want to be objective with myself with a healthy zest of kindness sprinkled on top. I want to be kind to myself. I want to be unapologetic about my experiences, my weaknesses  opportunities, and my strengths. I want to be someone I look up to, and I am proud of. I want to define myself.

“I love myself. The quietest, simplest, most powerful revolution ever.”

In the solemn space and time I was blessed with this year, I realize just how important it is to be kind. To be gracious and compassionate. In my teens, I came across a saying which I’ve held deeply as a little internal mantra – “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.” Recently, I came across another saying, which I thought was a nice addition to emphasize on the “everyone” aforementioned: “we tend to offer our kindness freely to those who are familiar with it and forget to offer it to those who need it most.

It has been still. 

If you asked me what my fears are, “time” would be among the top. I am afraid of not achieving enough (even though till today, I don’t know how I define my enough). I retreat into my head and I think and I dream of endless scenarios. Perhaps because it’s just easier than to actually do and pursue these scenarios. Or perhaps because I don’t have to choose and commit to just one scenario when it’s all alive simultaneously in my head. There’s so much I aspire to be, and to do, that it becomes self-annihilating and cripples me from doing anything that might actually bring me one step closer to realizing said aspirations.

I still hold my dreams dearly and I still believe them to be important. But I want to practice how I deal with the consequences of certain dreams not coming true – especially when I know I didn’t put in anywhere near enough effort to achieving them. This doesn’t mean to self-blame or self-victimize, but to be wise enough to step back, to understand and identify what I could have and should have done differently.

In retrospect, I wouldn’t hold 2017 as a productive year for me. But instead of letting that bring me down in the dumps, I choose to realize the weight and power that the space and time has given me. That I needed this more than I thought. I needed to get through this before I could jump further, and higher. I needed to be alone with my thoughts, my mind and my soul. I need to be kind, be kind, be kind to myself. I am grateful in realizing that having the time and space to think of all this in my head means that all other parts of my life are fulfilled: I have access to food, water, warmth, shelter, safety and security.

In this time of striking stillness, I look around and I see a handful of friends who are willing to sit there with me, looking out as the waves slowly and silently crash; in the stillness. And I am so grateful and appreciative of the kind souls who share their time with me. So grateful.

It has been sobering.

Perhaps this is the most important; 2017 has been sobering in so many ways.

I am not special. I am not as important as I think I am. I have put myself on a high horse for far too long. I have been much too self-absorbed. And this delusion and deception has distorted my reality. Blurred my vision and clouded my thoughts. I forget to take the simplest step.

You have to learn to love yourself, before you can love others, and before others can love you.

And with that, I realize that some of the most obnoxious cliches hold so much deep truth in them. You brush it off because they are cliches, but you forget that they became cliches because they’ve withstood the collective trial imposed by us. It’s only when you come face to face with it, nose to nose, breathing each other’s air, that you realize just how true the cliches are.

Don’t judge a book by its cover.

Too often I feel that I can empathize and that I can understand others. But I think now more than ever, I have to face the fact that human beings are extremely complex and no one can ever truly understand someone else. We only understand others through the lens of our own experiences. And if I so often feel that no one can understand me, why should I expect that I can understand anyone? What makes me so special to have that ability? Nothing, because I’m not special. The only thing which makes each of us special is our own experiences, because that’s the only individual thing we hold.

It has been sobering because I realize the importance of taking care of your health – physically and mentally.

Physically, we are getting older everyday. I am at the age where friends are getting married, siblings are having babies (started the year as an uncle of 2, and exiting the year an uncle of 4!) and parents are at a time where they should enjoy the rest and relaxation they so rightly deserve. They have worked extremely hard, and I have to buck up – I should actively work towards giving them the rest they deserve, and take away their worries like they did for me and my siblings. It is time for reciprocation. And the time will come and go. Seize it while it’s there.

I’ve realized the importance of keeping my mental health in check, and also just how easy it is for it to slip out of control. It is strangely… addictive and dis-empowering. It sucks you in, and every time you feel like you’ve climbed out it kicks you back down because to be fine is to come to terms with reality, and sometimes the reality is that everything was just fine, that it was self-created, that you were just disillusioned – that it really was just a phase. But it’s incredibly difficult to admit this to yourself. Because admitting it means that you’re admitting you wasted all the time moping around when you could’ve been doing something more productive instead – that is the sickness. Your immune system attacks itself and prevents itself from getting better. I don’t know yet how best to deal with this. It’s still there; sometimes quiet, sometimes loud. But “I am not special” is ironically a good way to deal with it. As bleak and horrible as it sounds, knowing you are not alone in the pain… helps. And this is made harder with the programming and feel-good algorithms of social media. It can get toxic, so I need to remind myself to be conscious of my use of social media.

In sobering up, I want to learn to not take so many things so seriously. Clearly, this post doesn’t seem to help make my case, clearly I’m taking myself way too seriously in thinking and writing all this. But hey, I had to indulge myself.

It’s one thing to realize all these things, but the harder part is to put it into practice. And that is my aim for the years to come. It may feel very counter intuitive and unnatural; like I am unlearning all the experiences which have made me who I am for the past 23 years. I mean, for so long I’ve been told by others and I’ve told myself that I’m destined for greatness, that I’m special – why should I just erase all of that? But I’m reminded of a quote I see often when I go to the library;

“The beautiful thing about learning is nobody can take it away from you”

Nobody – not even yourself. So don’t dismiss your experiences, good or bad. Build on top of it. Layer it like a wholesome lasagna.

Finally, there’s so many reasons to be happy and maybe I ought to spend more time consciously addressing those things. To practice gratitude instead of just preaching it. To be happy I can taste good food, smell the freshness of nature, see a spectrum of colors, that I can speak and I can hear beautiful words and beautiful music, and I’m surrounded by beautiful people.

Perhaps this reflection seems like I’ve been very critical of myself and that I’m going in the wrong direction in trying to love myself. But I feel I needed to be honest. I needed to come to terms with what I’ve been going through, and still going through.

It’s liberation – self-love and emancipation.

Bring on 2018.

a self-portrait / raison d’etre

I’m dealing with a monster that has been growing and getting stronger for years now. Largely owing to the fact that I have been reluctant, hesitant, stubbornly refusing to confront it and face it and tame it. I run, and I escape, with whatever means I find presented in front of me, or whatever means I find to be most accessible. If I’m lucky, that means it comes out in the form of words strung together eloquently – most often it means I escape with a self-imposed slumber, I sleep.

It gets tiring. I seek meaning in everything. In every little detail of life, of my every day. Why did I have that conversation with that person today – what was the purpose of it? What did I get out of it? What did they think of it? Will it impact them? Will it change my life forever? Why do the leaves on that tree move like that conditioned by the wind? Assign meaning to it, fix a metaphor to it, use it to explain an unsolved mystery of life.

Find a reason for being. A reason for it being, a reason for your being.

Perhaps it is an art form worth cultivating. Metaphors and analogies exercise your brain to relate different things together on common ground. But perhaps, it is meaningless to assign meaning to meaningless things.

Thoughts are too loud, too noisy, unfiltered. Sometimes, it’s overwhelming and a wave of anxiety washes over me – drowning, suffocating me – before it passes and I’m able to catch a breath of air again. I make sure to take deep breaths. To savor it and the calm it brings with it. To feel my heart beat slow down again. I slow down.

All I seek for now is clarity. There must be a formula. It really shouldn’t be this hard and if it is then why does everyone make it look so easy?

I know that this stems from being alone, left with only myself. I’ve never been good with myself. My reflections have never been kind to me.

I know what I have to do, but why does it feel so difficult to get started.

I need to tell myself, “it’s okay.”

And to keep telling myself this until I believe in it.

Until it’s easy and natural.

Because now every time I try to, my mind kicks it out, rejecting it, refusing it.

“NO, IT’S NOT OKAY”

Perhaps it stems from years of being “believed in”. To constantly find yourself in situations where greatness is just expected, the norm, and the only surprise comes when you do not deliver – not when you actually do.

It’s particularly discomforting to be in a position where you start to question what you had always thought to be your fundamentals – the essence of you.

For so long, I preached against being content, against the whole notion of contentment. I believed inherently and so deeply that we are all here for a greater purpose, that we should always strive to achieve the potential that rests inert within us unless we actively realize it. To never stop reaching for ‘greatness’ – however vague, abstract or undefined that ‘greatness’ may be. And this philosophy I’ve been preaching has unknowingly, under my radar, grown itself to be a monster blanketing over me. It is suffocating. I rest uneasy, uncomfortable, always itching to be more or less than content. Anything but the emptiness, the apathy, which I associate with contentment. But perhaps contentment is much deeper. Perhaps I’ve always underrated it. Perhaps it’s what I should work towards.

I had always thought I was empathetic – that I was blessed/cursed with the ability to understand another human. I now realize all I did was project my own self into another human’s situation with my own set of ideals, philosophies and emotions. I am not as empathetic as I thought.

In studying art in high school, I was drawn to the Japanese ideology of wabi-sabi – the art of accepting the impermanent, the incomplete and the imperfect. I relished in the power that came with the ability to create without judgement. I valued creation over perfection. But it seems lately, perhaps due to certain self-defined failures, that my hesitation over achieving perfection impedes my spirit for creation.

I found relief in the art of letting go. I accepted the fact that I wasn’t born a leader, and that the role wasn’t something I found to be naturally comfortable. I didn’t need control. But the last 5 years have slowly shown me the discomfort of not being in control. Perhaps it has always been there and only now come to be visible after the dissolving of naivety. Perhaps the change in perception came naturally with the change in maturity – a product of increased self-awareness. Or so I tell myself to make it easier to digest.

I realize now that many things are down to sheer chance. So many good things are born out of the uncontrollable alignment of timing and luck. It makes me nauseous that no matter how hard you try, how much effort you put in, won’t really matter if the wind isn’t blowing a certain direction at a certain speed or the leaves aren’t a certain shade of green yet, or that the person who matters isn’t in the same room as you – all these factors which may seem random may have the most profound impacts, yet you can’t control any of it. Your history and experience which you value so much, which makes the core of your existence may not mean as much as whether or not you decide to get out of bed, and go to that seminar, and meet that person. The past and future are concepts.

Maybe for too long, you have constantly distracted yourself from your own self. Constantly cared about everything else but your own self. You devote yourself to your work, to the people around you, to your environment. You cut your heart open and let your love spill out. Maybe it’s time to keep it to yourself now.

Treat yourself. Give yourself time.

No, give yourself actual, quality time.

Be at peace with yourself.

Accept all the mistakes you have made, own up to it, be responsible for yourself.

For all the things which come naturally when you deal with others: kindness, generosity, curiosity, empathy, belief, sincerity, trust and responsibility – you owe it to yourself to treat your own self with the same degree, if not more.

Practice this.

Be kind to yourself.

Be generous to yourself.

Be curious of yourself.

Be empathetic to yourself.

Believe in yourself.

Be sincere to yourself.

Trust yourself.

Be responsible of yourself, your actions, your intentions, your thoughts, your words, your existence.

Exercise mindfulness.

Find contentment. And let it stay.

Let contentment blanket you in its warmth and comfort – not too cold, not too hot, the contentment that comes with “just right”.

You are not crazy. You are not weak. You are not incompetent.

You are you.

Practice

Some people are good at certain things

others need more practice

for too long i have neglected myself

self love, self appreciation, is something I haven’t been

actively practicing

you have to put in effort

and a lack of self love distorts reality

and nauseating when paired with the ability,

that comes with ample time and space, to think

and when your mind is saturated with

The thought of thoughts

Constantly processing, rarely disposing

Reality is warped beyond recognition

And now you try to get back into it

And everything seems to be against it

Slowly now

you’ll get there.

Time Heals

“Time heals” is the most outright optimistic euphemism one can think of

when going through a period of turbulence,

a prolonged moment of absolute chaos

seemingly suspended in a time paused –

where you the subject are static, but everything rushes by you.

You reach out your arms and you scream silent screams.

You try to grab hold of it, of anything,

and it just all seems completely out of reach –

out of your control.

“Time heals” assumes that there’s a light at the end of the tunnel, but it’s useless

when the tunnel is opaque – it’s solid. You’re moving,

but it’s an absolute void.

You still get the motion sickness, but you’re not in motion.

Your feet deeply rooted to a bed of empty clouds. Stuck.

Held down by nothing with the force of everything

Floating, sinking. Sickening.

“Time heals” but wounds do not disappear without leaving a nasty itch.

You pick at it, you stare at it, you pick at it – why is it not disappearing?

And sometimes you keep scratching away in desperation and you drift further away from making it disappear – it leaves a scar, instead.

“Time heals” but it’s not a beautiful, calming process.

“Time heals” but you have to be prepared to ride the waves – or drown in it.

You have no control.

Let go.

Stop latching on.

“Time heals” is a mantra. “Time heals time heals time heals,” over and over you mutter and chant and you subjugate to the forces.

“Time heals” your perception of distortion, but you have to believe – a mantra only works its magic if you believe.

“Time heals time heals time heals time,” – but does time heal time? Time is a cannibal.

Time swallows itself and digests itself and disappears, itself.

“Time heals” but how much time?

You are here and now and you will never be in the past, and you will never be in the future.

You are here.

Now.

And time heals.

assume

left blindsided, i can only assume

and there’s so many things left

to my imagination

diffused ability to perceive the truth

what is it, really

dispersed focus.

 

brushed off, i can only assume

and often times it’s hopeful

but sometimes it’s plain

awful.

 

smoke and mirrors, i can only

exhume past memories

with a breath of fresh life

stronger now than ever

words written about you

being a wild cat hungry

of your cruel dual personality

of golden brown eyes

and wavy brown hair

of intense hugs

of 3 numbers and codes

my essential muse

like Leonardo’s immortal smile

words written by you

so few but plentiful

but i can only assume.

 

we’ve had our shared past and

we had our own past after that

i thought it was all past, that

it shouldn’t last.

 

bittersweet unrequited

maybe you’re fearful of

perilous schemes of

vulnerability but

i can’t just assume.

 

perhaps the timing’s not right

perhaps it won’t ever be right

perhaps just “not now”

perhaps, haphazardly.

 

god, i miss you

 

stubborn, unwilling, selfish

self-victimizing, self-inflicted, selfish

i try not to be but i try

all i can,

still, i am self-consumed

unreasonably confused

stubbornly refused

i continue to assume.

 

you want to make your mark on this world

to be independent, to be successful

to prove to yourself you are all that you are

you’re not ready

i’m too intense

you want to love yourself

i want to love you

you don’t need it

i can’t stop giving it

you’ll take it

 

i know i get impatient

overtly sentient

 

i don’t take for granted

and i hope you don’t

that in my mind,

you are beautiful

and i love you

 

in love with you

i am in love with you

and that is all i know

but this love has me worried

has me completely unsure.

 

it seems like we are of different worlds

and perhaps our history has ruined any chance

of the future i dream of

 

for now, all i know is

i’m completely in love with you

and no one seems to be near as beautiful

 

and i know my words can seem flowery at times

but i can’t dress this up even if i wanted to

i just want to tell you, i’m in love with you

plain and simple, i wish

 

but it’s not plain

perhaps it could be simple

 

i think about you everyday

and everyday i hold back

from telling you these words

afraid it would sound cheap

 

but i just want you to know

i am in love with you.

 

cliches have never been more genuine

not a day goes by that i don’t wish

you were here to share it with me

to laugh at silly things, mostly each other

to try new things, and share stories

to just have time to adore you for all that you are

that timid smile drawn from beautiful lips

shining eyes ever so sincere

and to hold your hands and feel like home

to snuggle up in bed at the end

or beginning

or all parts of the day

and snooze away

 

when i walk around this strange new city

appreciating everything for the first time

my mind constantly wanders to you

 

but that sense of naive romanticism

is often bitterly followed by a pang of pragmatism

sour, lack of self worth

i’m not _________ enough

 

but i’ll indulge in my dreamy thoughts

because you make me happy

and i’m in love with you.

 

 

 

Disposable

I’m sorry

Perhaps I should’ve learnt to read the signs

I should’ve seen things for what they were

And not as how I’d always wanted it to be instead

Because in my mind we were beautiful

And everything I ever wanted came in the shape of you

Lovely, wonderful and smart. Sunshine.

Driven, confident and beautiful.

But maybe I should’ve understood that you have choices

A choice to say no to what’s not the best for you

And I should’ve understood that maybe I was never the best

And I could never be, sworn in by name.

A choice that was never made by me.

I’m sorry.

I’m upset.

My love isn’t cheap – please don’t treat it like it is.

I’m not disposable.

We Start and End at the Start – In

I can promise you the world and I can

give you all that I have to give

and you will be happy and you

will be miserable at times too, and will

you be okay with that, or are you

not the kind who’s up for that, not

one who has patience, for someone

like me, imperfect in every way, like

different worlds, one who struggles to be indifferent

cares too much about the little things and cares

way too much about the big things, lost his way

sometimes, but never stops looking, all the time,

won’t give up, till he gets what he wants.

 

You will feel like the most important person, and you

would know that it’s because you are, in my world

see, someone like me, we don’t let people in,

so easily, so deeply, so vulnerably, so

 

I promise you the world,

and I will give all I can give,

You will be happy,

and miserable at times.

 

Most importantly,

I’ve let you in.