My ball-point pen calls out to me as I glanced over my pencil case to pick a tool for the morning. I haven’t held it, much less written with it, for months. Thankfully, the ink hasn’t dried up, though it’s flowing less smoothly than before. It takes a few scratches to warm up the nib for it to glide again. Still, something seems to have changed.
A few of my letters appear broken or lighter. Perhaps it’s not the pen, but the way I write, that has changed. My regular use of gel pens ensured that I write with less force and a looser grip, and that is now affecting how the ballpoint nib is inking the page.
Human beings are great at adapting, aren’t we? I have unconsciously conditioned the way I hold and direct my pen to accommodate the wet ink that eagerly spills out of the pens I’ve been using.
I adore, though, how my letters are looking now. Neater. Prettier. Rounder. Smoother. So much so that I’m punctuating my words just to write yet another capital letter, and another. The shoulders and tails of my letters are looking friendlier; more welcoming, less sharp, less hard. A gentle, graceful woman, as compared to the sassy, spunky one brought to life by gel.
I can write at a slower pace too, without the needless worry of smudging due to resting my nib on the same spot just a millisecond longer. I wonder how this might impact what I will write tomorrow, or if it even does. Looking forward to the mystery being revealed.
I wavered. For a fraction of a second, doubt whispered to me in a seemingly gentle voice. Disguised as innocent wonder, it asked, “What might have happened if you had met your spiritual midwife at a later time in a different event? Would you have embarked on this writing journey?” I will never know since the milk has been spilled. I can’t put it back in the carton, neither can I allow such foolishness in my thoughts. The switch of guilt flipped on as I approached the edge of abandonment. Was I going to forsake what I’ve received so far from writing? The support, the friendships, most of all, myself. Was I going to forsake myself? I felt bad for wavering.
Do I regret picking up writing? I’m tasting a slight bitter note, wishing I had not written my first poem, first word, first letter, or maybe, even conceived the thought of picking up a pen. A spiraling slope down regret this is. I love writing too much to call it quits. I’m frightened by the image of not being able to write. I cannot imagine what my life would be without it. I tasted heaven. And now that’s what I desire. I cannot un-know or un-see it. This desire feels so great that I’m afraid of being consumed by it. As my desire grew, fear grew. As my fear grew, the chamber containing my desire crumbled, letting in shafts of regret.
Regret, the landmark indicating our arrival at the cusp of our current edge and a new frontier. It is the border that, when crossed, brings us into uncharted territory. Regret halts us in our tracks. A final call, last warning, to stop now to cut all perceived losses or push forth into the unknown. With ignorance overloading our systems, regret offers us a chance to tap out.
Regret is also a reminder of the one-way trip we are on. If time had no effect on us, if nothing could be gained or lost, regret will probably not have a place. It is the window to what I treasure—a life of writing. Caught in a collision between the fear of a potential heartbreak from not being able to write and the fear of what lies beyond, I drove myself to despair.
Despair. Perhaps that’s what’s required. The last piece for my incarnation to be complete, or is it the first ray for it to begin?
Despair. Drain all hope. Drown all fantasies, those fancy dreams I have about writing. Drop the roseate lens I’m wearing and look writing straight in the eye. Be neither wishful nor wistful. Be wilful. There is no path ahead. Carve the way with spirit, then pave it with my amalgam of blood, tears, and perspiration. Pour my entirety into writing. Empty myself, leave nothing, cling on to nothing; let what’s gifted be given away. Regret is the last gate; turn back now or forge on. There is no other way.
This is why any writing at the start of a fresh year is a sticky trap. If it doesn’t ask of me to set resolutions, it asks of me to create a vision. My imagination, impoverished, I’ve weights tied to it so I can neither see far ahead nor look beyond the week.
Settle what’s in front of you first, only then can you play, only then can you dream. Dreams are a luxury plumped by desires. Smother that desire. Cease the flame before it spreads.
No, I won’t. Why would I want to be choked on soot, suffocated, feeding on nothing but coal? I want to fan my flames. Be an arsonist, set fire to my desires. Torch them. Forge them into dreams so distinct, they become the future I’ll live for. Sear them on to my soul so they only fade when I do.
I have no idea what to write about, yet the tingling sensation in my forehand presses me on. It used to worry me when I have nothing in mind to write. My vision closes in and it blacks out, leaving me to feel my way in the dark. The rush and desire to find light and see the unknown creates anxiety when I continue to look ahead, blind, forgetting that light is also found within. A blank mind is equally, if not more, fertile ground to begin writing. No preconceived notions, no trying to be Miss Know-it-all, no unnecessary noises as distractions from what will come through me.
What if I shift my attention to the pressure in my hand? What is this desire to keep the pen moving? A tiny voice in me chants, “I want to write. I want to write,” like a toddler hungrily waiting for her food, thumping her rounded, plastic cutleries on the table. I follow this chant to my heart, and felt the tug, firm and enduring, ready to leap out of my body on to the paper and write itself. My heart is pulling itself away, and like a little girl taking my hand, tugging it lightly, she’s looking at me with longing eyes, hoping I’ll go along with her.
Oh, dear heart, what’s drawing you to write?
My means of expression when my throat is constricted. When verbalizing doesn’t seem possible, writing lets me express myself. Do I have something I want to say? I don’t. Like a child making sounds when she discovers her voice, she does it not to communicate nor connect with another. She does it because she is fascinated by hearing herself. Writing soothes me. Being able to express and hear my voice through writing soothes me. How strange and intriguing. I write to connect with myself, to know simply, I am alive, I am real, I exist. And that pleases me.
How has the new year started for you? What dreams or hopes might you hold?
As you will see from Daryl’s and Rosslyn’s pieces, both carry rather different energies into the new year and explored it from their individual angles. Daryl discusses the issues around setting resolutions and encourages setting them at any time, not just the new year. Rosslyn reminisces about a NYE experience, going inwards to explore her dreams ahead, and begins her year with a prayer.
How will you approach the new year? What thoughts and emotions do you carry as you step into 2021?
What rituals do you associate or practice with the new year? E.g. setting resolutions, picking a keyword to define your year, drafting plans, lighting a candle, popping a champagne.
What do the rituals mean to you? What might you learn about yourself from them?
ARTICLE // by Daryl
Happy New Era
There is a running joke among gym regulars that, come January, we’ll have to brace ourselves for the deluge of new year’s resolutioners. You know, the throngs of people who make a resolution to be fitter in the new year. We also know, however, the crowds will generally thin out by March and we’ll get the gym back to ourselves. Not having to wait (as long) to use the equipment is great. Not having to wait to use the equipment because someone is busy chatting/Instagramming/surfing on their phone while occupying the spot is even better.
But this issue’s article is not meant to be a rant. What I really want to discuss is the question of a resolution. The way I see it, there are two main issues with how resolutions are made, and I believe the transient gym new year’s resolutioners exemplify these two issues perfectly. To be fair, these couple of issues can apply to anyone about anything but I derived my observations from the gym sample population.
I. Making resolutions based on processes instead of outcomes.
When you make a resolution based merely on an outcome, you run the risk of losing motivation before you even attain your goal. That’s because you have not transformed your resolution into a way of life. On the day you quit, you’re as alienated from your resolution as the day you began. I’ll use myself as an example. I’m as lazy a person as it gets when it comes to fitness. In addition, I developed an aversion to exercise from my days serving in the armed forces because I perceive it as a yoke of oppression by the state. So what enabled me to keep to my fitness goals? I certainly didn’t say, “I’m gonna get fit!” If I did, I wouldn’t have lasted. Instead, I placed a premium on what exercise gave me on a daily basis, and the first thing it gave me was quiet time where my mind could focus. Those 1.5 hour sessions were my personal time when nobody could disturb me. No distractions. Just the weights before me. Before long, it became a routine, and I looked forward to all my gym sessions. I’ve spoken to some people at the gym and I realized coming to the gym was not a routine but a chore for them. They dread making the trip down but that’s because the goal of becoming fit is so distant they can’t identify with it or own it. Becoming fit remains merely some distant goal, rather than their goal.
You can’t be fixated on the end goal. Trust the daily improvements and before you know it, you’ll be within touching distance of your end goal. For me, it’s all about whether I can lift heavier than yesterday. If I did, awesome. If I didn’t, then maybe today isn’t the day but tomorrow might be! I remember my first barbell squats. All I could achieve was maybe 35kg (77lbs) at most. But as I focused on overcoming myself, I found myself squatting heavier and heavier. Suddenly, one day I was squatting a 100kg (220lbs). That was certainly unexpected. By making the daily routine a new way of life, I’m going to become stronger and fitter whether I like it or not. It’s only a matter of time. Being fixated on the end goal makes you impatient for results, and when you don’t see the result you’re fixated on, all your daily achievements elude your consciousness and you feel really lousy about yourself because, as far as you’re concerned, you’ve achieved nothing.
II. Resolutions can be made anytime.
When one rushes to make a resolution for the sake of making one, believing it’ll set the tone for the coming year, the reality is that, for most of us, nothing is going to come to fruition. Without forethought, the resolution one makes can’t possibly contain any resolve; any professed resolve to change is mere lip service. What’s needed, then? Don’t rush into making a resolution for the sake of meeting the new year deadline. Consider what change you want to effect and, more crucially, why you want to effect that change. Only after do you own the reasons for wanting to change do you determine how to actualize it. And it shouldn’t have to matter if the moment doesn’t coincide with the new calendar year. After all, when you’re committed to change for the better, you’ve already heralded a new era for yourself. Isn’t that grander than just a plain ol’ new year?
Till next time, may you find the satisfaction of birthing a new era in yourself every day.
ARTICLE // by Rosslyn
I’m penning this as I sit in my bedroom, sipping my morning coffee made lovingly by Daryl, occasionally gazing out of the window at the leaden sky. Such mornings tend to weigh me down, but perhaps, it’s merely reflecting the heaviness that’s already in me. The clouds are pregnant with the hope of new showers to cleanse me of my troubles. Ahh…what a romantic image. I’ve not seen that before, but it helps me appreciate this morning’s weather in a new way.
It’s New Year’s Eve. I’ve made it through this year, alive, safe; my close family and friends, alive, safe. Our world lost many precious souls through the pandemic, I’ve not lost any whom I know. How blessed I am. This realization weighs on my heart even more.
The universe sent me a telegram earlier, dated Dec 31, 2017, written in Kyoto, Japan. It was the best NYE of my life thus far, being able to spend it with my favorite person in my favorite city. We braved the crowds at the temple to experience a few of the Japanese rituals for the new year. Running holy water over our hands then taking a sip of it, savoring sweet rice wine that’s been blessed by the gods from a small shallow saucer; getting a rope, lighting it on one end, then swirling it to keep the spark alive as it burns through its entirety (to ward off evil spirits;) praying on new year’s morning; drinking fermented rice wine.
But of course, the telegram wasn’t simply to remind me how much fun that was. These events speak of the Japanese way of receiving the new year—going to the shrine to thank the gods for the year, appreciating the sweet harvest of the year, and praying for blessings for the next.
Through my struggles, I’ve almost forgotten, again, to give thanks for my year. Despite my depression episodes, I enjoyed the abundance of time and peace. Shackled in the mind, but not shackled by the physical duties of running and raising a household, I was in a privileged position to pursue my dreams and desires. I have been blessed, each time, to emerge from yet another depression, unscathed, only to learn more about it and write.
Out of 366 days, almost two-thirds of it, I woke up in despair, just like today. So often, I’ve been blind-sided that I forgot the other one-third when I woke up excited about life. So often, I let my inner critic get away with abuse. Stories of envy, inadequacy, inferiority, like thorny vines creeping up my chest suffocating my heart, choking me. So often, I expend almost all my energy fighting it to get back to my baseline that I forget the days when life tasted exceptionally sweet. I have had so many succulent days in 2020.
I can’t yet see all the silver linings, I’m inquiring and learning, beginning by remembering.
Remember the moments, of ease, of wonder, of peace, of spaciousness, of joy, of clarity. Remember my heart, now drawing little breath, prickly creepers constricting it. Remember, and return to its pulse, return to me.
Remember, that which I desire…
To dream freely. I want to dream and share my dreams openly, without fear of them being trampled. I want to give my dreams a chance to take shape before they die of asphyxiation. I want them to live till they reach their natural ends.
How human of me to desire, and experience anxiety amidst it. How blessed of me to live as human.
Remember, that which I boldly dream of…
An integrated life, where vocation meets livelihood, where my gifts pay the bills. For my calling to be a lifetime, not just a past-time.
Another book, to write another book, and another, and another, then publishing each of the books I wrote. For my words to reach a large audience. To connect with others and have others connect with themselves through my words. To write and be guilt-free as I travel down this path.
I want…I want…I want… through writing I want. To write freely, share freely, give freely, without qualms about how I’ll be received. To bear witness to the world, and write.
Oh, Beloved, I pray thee… please continue to bless me. Bless me with rain to nourish me, light to see, gales to spread my seeds, lightning to pierce through the fog, thunder to challenge my resolve, and lastly, beautiful blossoms to remind me, “There is a place for you, just like there is for all living beings.”
Meanwhile, I will continue to meet myself in you as I meet you through my writing.
In you I rest, may I bloom with wonder.
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