Eyes Open #WorkForHappy

(Or Alternatively, “Turning Twenty And Realizing My Eyes Have Been Shut The Whole Time: A Brief Birthday Reflection”)

Ascending into the two-decade old plane of existence was almost anti-climactic, but to be fair, it had to close a rather turbulent turn of the globe. Since last year, August 31, 2017, I have taken four total double 10+ hour bus rides, snared a dream role at a start-up publication, and even started dating a rather dashing lad who has an affinity for calling me a water buffalo in his free time.

At the same time I have screamed, panicked, had a handful of crises (less in comparison, though), was ghosted, and learned what it’s like to be between jobs about… five times. Oh, and don’t even get me started on the Mercury retrograde – I don’t even believe in that stuff and I still felt it in my bones that something was off in the heavens when I couldn’t even sip tea without burning my tongue.

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Artwork by Tanya Shatseva

I survived 20 years of life. That’s cause for celebration, even if the sky doesn’t glow for me. The main difference between this year and the year before that is probably just how much I have matured.

Once I turned 20, I was faced with a very real responsibility – growing the fuck up. Being 19 was the last time I could plead being a teenager.

Do I miss this trump card? I thought I would. Do I still reach for it as if it’s still in my pocket? You bet your ass, I do.

The earth didn’t exactly pause in its orbit the moment I was born one humid Monday night in a Lester hospital, and it didn’t twenty years later either. The occasion was marked poignantly by my mother, who not only was celebrating my birthday, but the moment she officially became a mother. Every milestone and accomplishment in my life belongs, in part, to her as well.

My eyes were closed for my teenage years, and my mother had to remind me again that my eyes are hers, and she will not let me screw them shut any longer. I opened my eyes, witnessed everything I chose to ignore about myself, and realized that there’s a marked difference between walking through the dark, and walking with your eyes determinedly shut.

“You are my eyes, and I want you to see the world for me.” My mother never misses an opportunity to tell me this. Any moment I have self-doubt, or feel like a failure, I am reminded to open my eyes for her.

…there’s a marked difference between walking through the dark, and walking with your eyes determinedly shut. [Click to tweet!]

I have survived twenty years of existence, and now I am now en route of my twenty-first, I have decided not only to survive, but thrive. This sounds a bit tired, since everyone has a bit of a resolution when they get older, usually more and more sombre with every passing year.

My resolution, however, isn’t just to sit down and grow up – I want to grow. Perhaps now I am resourceful enough to actually push myself to do so, now, with eyes wide open.

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Siren Song

I remember my first voyage into the eye of a storm.

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artwork by elesq

It began as an inbred curiosity, the sort of thing you repress until it feels like if you don’t venture out, you might as well shrivel into nothing. I untied myself from the dock, and let the waves carry me out to where I thought I might be meant to be.

I could taste the purple storm building on the horizon with familiar bitterness, clouding around me until I was roped into an inevitable disaster. Continue reading “Siren Song”

Holes In The Sky

Everyone dies someday.

“But not you!”

No. Even I will die, one day.

“But I don’t want you to die one day. Mommy and Baba might die one day, but you’re gonna live forever.”

Stars are just holes poked into the sky so the people who are behind it can look through and see who they left behind. [Click To Tweet!]

Do you really want that? Do you want me to live forever?

“Yeah. You can’t die, you’re gonna live forever.”

And what about you? Are you going to live forever, too?

“I don’t know. Yeah.”

You don’t sound too sure.

“I didn’t think about it ’til now.”

Okay, well think of it this way. Everyone dies one day, and they can go to heaven. We can all live in heaven together and be happy. Do you still want me to live forever, and not come to heaven, too? Do you want your sister to be lonely?

“Why do we have to go to heaven? Why can’t we just stay here?”

Do you know what heaven is?

“Where people go when they die.”

Well, yes. Do you know what heaven looks like?

“No. Do you? Have you been there before?”

I don’t know, maybe I have. Heaven looks different for everyone. To me, heaven is a garden where we can all play and be together.

“Really? We play soccer and lie next to each other at night when we wanna go to sleep?”

Yeah, totally. Actually, Mamani is there already, waiting for us to come join her one day.

“Mamani is in heaven?”

Oh, yeah. For sure. And guess what – she’s happy there.

“How do you know?”

She told me! I had a dream where Mamani and I were sitting together, and she was making tea like she always did. That’s how people in heaven talk to us sometimes, through dreams. When I asked her if she was happy, she said yes.

“Really? She said that?”

Yes, she said that. She says that heaven is on the other side of the sky. People who are gone like to keep an eye on us, and tell us which way to go when we’re lost.

“Where is she? Can I say hi to her?”

Of course you can. Just look up at your favourite star and wave. Stars are just holes poked into the sky so the people who are behind it can look through and see who they left behind.

“Behind the sky? Like space? So Mamani is an astronaut!”

You’re totally right, Mamani is an astronaut. She’s floating above earth in heaven and looks through the stars to say hi.

“Hi! I’m waving, Mamani! Can you see me?”

I’m sure she can.

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Artwork by heartsnmagic on Tumblr

Why And How I Developed Self-Control #WorkForHappy

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Artwork by Megan Brewty

Upon my second and last visit to the hospital, I realized something essential that transformed my outlook on life forever: being depressed is a hell of a lot easier than being happy. I had just realized that the support of my loved ones had run out, and I was officially on my own.

It was time to turn my life around, and I would only have one chance at it. It was now or never. It was life and death.

This is a new self-care series where I will be exploring how to be a better person in my struggle with mental illness. My first lesson: developing self-control.

I Almost Destroyed Myself… Here’s Why Self-Control Is Essential

Continue reading “Why And How I Developed Self-Control #WorkForHappy”

Fixing Yourself: A Brief Look At My Mission For Self-Improvement #WorkForHappy

I have an incredibly flawed personality. The first sign was probably around the time I got diagnosed with an actual personality disorder – unspecified – after my behavior led to a pretty self-destructive, “self-prescribed” binge behaviour. Honestly? I never actually considered it problematic for a long time.

Clearly, it was everyone else with the problem. Tsk, tsk.

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Artwork by Christian Russo

The problem with having a diagnosis that’s “unspecified”, especially when it concerns something as intangible as personality, is that the solution to your problem is also unspecified. At that point, all the doctors could prescribe me was a harsh slap to the face when it came to my true reality.

Now it’s like every move I make, I scrutinize. When I’m an asshole, I usually know it. A little bit of denial doesn’t hurt, until that becomes a flaw as well.

Do other people think like this? I’ll probably never know, but the scrutiny I have adopted has become both a blessing and a curse. I’m able to look at myself objectively and understand that whatever behavior I’m choosing is not appropriate. It’s like a super power, because I now understand mine and other people’s motivations and reasoning with everything they do. I get it now, when someone is an asshole. I do. Because I can do it too, sometimes.

But with great power comes great responsibility, or something like that.

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“Infinite Introspection”, by Francisca Borzea

I recognize my behavior, but do I actually do anything about it? Well… I’m trying. It took me years to figure out that I was wrong, and another year to come to terms with the mistakes I had made in the process. Do I regret these mistakes? Of course. But would I change it? Not at all. I am the person I am today because of what I have struggled with.

That being said, I’ve been trying to actually prevent such things happening ever again, but that takes a little more work than just some introspection. I have to actually change my habits, my mood, and, well, my personality. I’ve had to heal those wounds, and now I have to take actions so that I don’t inflict them on myself or others ever again.

What do I have on the agenda to actually fix about myself? There are the common pitfalls, like procrastination, lack of sensitivity, and impatience. Then there are the big ones, like bad attitude, lack of responsibility/motivation, dependence on others, and over-thinking. At this point, all I can really do is acknowledge what I’m doing wrong, be aware of problematic behavior, and seek to replace it with healthier moves by developing better, healthier habits. Of course, that’s easier said than done, but… I have the privilege of being surrounded by people who care enough to call me out on my bullshit when I miss it.

Go and love someone exactly as they are. Then watch how they transform into the greatest, truest version of themselves. When one feels seen and appreciated in their own essence, one is instantly empowered. —Wes Angelozzi

The people around me… man oh man. I’m lucky, so incredibly lucky, to have such a strong network of people who care about me deeply enough to not only forgive me when I mess up, but support me in my journey to become a better person. I’m just so grateful that I now have the foresight of actually understanding the magnitude of how lucky I am. Privilege can be a lot of different things for different people, but for me, true privilege is having the support of people around you.

Like I said, this process is a blessing and a curse. You can feel hopeless sometimes, like you’re gonna be stuck being a bad person forever and that you’ll never be worthy of love – this is a common late-night thought that induces panic attacks for me – so I’ve learned to become aware of my good qualities too. I have a strong sense of maternal instinct. I am a compassionate person. I’m smart enough to succeed, when I put my mind to it. I can write, draw, sing, laugh. I even make other people smile, from time to time. I love others, and they love me. I repeat that last bit like its a mantra whenever my mood dips below the dark surface.

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Artwork by Mari Toh

Do I deserve love? That’s something I still grapple with, and honestly, it’s probably the main question that drives my mission for self-improvement. For a long time, I didn’t think I deserved the love I got from others, and that was because deep down, I knew that I was a fuck up.

But now, I want to deserve it.

I have an incredibly flawed personality. But flaws make the human, and the human can only work hard to rectify those flaws. And this is me doing that.

This is me. I’m the one with the problem.

And… I’m fixing it.

 

 

A Jigsaw Puzzle

I struggle to take this apart and put it back together to create a picture that makes more sense for fear of ruining what I have already arranged. Two years ago a hurricane ripped me off the wall, out of my pristine plastic wrapping, and I was left scrambled on the floor. I struggle to understand why I didn’t at least glue my pieces to each other.

Let’s take a better look at me.

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Gif by Audrey DeBruine for North by Northwestern

Here in one hand I hold a puzzle piece. In it, I can see my mothers fingers, outstretched to touch mine, still pink and stringy from being in the womb for too long before I grip hers like my new life depended on it. My eyes open for the first time.

In the other hand, I hold another piece where I can see the corner of his smile, the smile that I came home to after getting fired from a job I hated anyway, the smile I cried to like it was the first day I was born. His smile, however, stayed constant, the only constance I had left.

With wet eyes I let the pieces fall. Everything that fits in between them must be too varied, I fear it’s not all the same puzzle. Did I mix up boxes of different lives together by accident? Is this a trick puzzle, a 3D puzzle of Dracula? Or maybe this is a different game altogether. A game of monopoly, perhaps? Poker? Hungry Hungry Hippos?

I never knew I would be so mismatched. People talk about everything falling together perfectly, like a bubble being blown into existence by accident and flying up to be swallowed by a neon cyan sky. All I seem to have is a toddler’s take on a masterpiece, horrid and painful and juicy and colorful and blurry. None of it fits together, and it certainly cannot be framed – not in its entirety, at least.

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from x

My knees throb from kneeling on the ground for too long, but I let my fingers trail across the mess, the low light making it all heap into a giant dark mass I could never differentiate for its parts.

This is the sort of jigsaw you don’t put together, but rather just appreciate for its individual pieces, good and bad, rough and smooth. Though the idea might be a little avant-garde, I make peace with the pieces nonetheless.

After all, at least I am a mess left over by a puzzle ravaged by a hurricane, and not, say, a game of Hungry Hungry Hippos.