Raw With Love by Charles Bukowski
little dark girl with
when it comes time to
use the knife
I won’t flinch and
I won’t blame
as I drive along the shore alone
as the palms wave,
the ugly heavy palms,
as the living does not arrive
as the dead do not leave,
I won’t blame you,
I will remember the kisses
our lips raw with love
and how you gave me
everything you had
and how I
offered you what was left of
and I will remember your small room
the feel of you
the light in the window
our morning coffee
our noons our nights
our bodies spilled together
the tiny flowing currents
immediate and forever
your leg my leg
your arm my arm
your smile and the warmth
who made me laugh
little dark girl with kind eyes
you have no
knife. the knife is
mine and I won’t use it
“That was when I learned that words are no good; that words don’t ever fit even what they are trying to get at. When he was born I knew that motherhood was invented by someone who had to have a word for it because the one that had the children didn’t care whether there was a word for it or not. I knew that fear was invented by someone that had never had the fear; pride, who never had the pride. I knew that it had been, not that they had dirty noses, but that we had had to use one another by words like spiders dangling by their mouth from a beam, swinging and twisting and never touchingm and that only through the blows of the switch could my blood and their blood flow as one stream. I knew that it had been, not that my aloneness had to be violated over and over each day, but that it had never been violated until Cash came. Not even by Anse in the nights.
He had a word, too. Love, he called it. But I had been used to words for a long time. I knew that that word was like the others: just a shape to fill the lack; that when the right time came, you wouldn’t need a word for that anymore than pride or fear.”
– As I Lay Dying, William Faulkner.
I nearly cried the first time I saw the video. I heard the song was when I was having a miserable time at work, the beautiful melody caught my ear and I was hooked. There’s a genuine sense of vulnerability that a lot of songs nowadays lack. You can tell that the lyrics meant something to whomever wrote the song. It wasn’t just some mass produced hit meant to sell records. It’s a bit gut wrenching when you think about the meaning behind the video. Seeing the video put things in perspective, and made me realize that every one is fighting a hard battle not just me. We’re all just trying to get by while trying to make a semblance of meaning of all the struggles along the way.
It’s truly making me appreciate my parents. Despite the rough patches we’ve been through, there’s still love underneath it all. My father may not be the first person I think of when I think of my hero, but he does what he can to provide for the family. The New York Times recently delved into varying definitions of the word hero. I don’t know what your definition may be, it may be completely different from mine, but I don’t think heroes merely exist in the pages of comic books or in summer blockbusters. I think heroes are people who have the courage and the moral perseverance to do something for the greater good of the people around them. It need not be a herculean task, it can be standing up for someone being talked down upon, or voicing out the wrongs seen.
I’ve had many heroes in my life and I use them as beacons of who I aspire to be. I think that the most admirable thing about my heroes is that despite the strife they face, they’re motivated by love and faith in humanity. I do not want to live a life seeking revenge for all those that wronged me or worse: to be propelled by hatred. It’s easy to be hardened by the trying times. Every morning when I wake up to NPR, I hear of the civil unrest in Syria, or the dire state of the American economy, or some other atrocities here or overseas. It’s really hard not to grow bitter and cold, it’s much easier to be pessimistic and lose faith in people’s capacity for good. However, when I see an everyday act of heroism from coworkers, friends or bystanders I remember that the world isn’t all bad after all. There are still people out there willing to break their passivity to make a stand. It might seem naive, but I’d like to think that its not fame or money that propels them to act, but love. I still believe in the inherent goodness and altruism in people. It’s still a beautiful place despite the seeming bleakness of the times. I’ve quoted it time and time again, but I too need a reminder from one of my heroes:
“Be soft. Do not let the world make you hard. Do not let the pain make you hate. Do not let the bitterness steal your sweetness. Take pride that even though the rest of the world may disagree, you still believe it to be a beautiful place.”- Kurt Vonnegut
It’s 2:45am now and I have to get to lab in a few hours. When inspiration strikes, I just go with it. If you made it this far, I hope all is well and thank you for sparing your time gracing your eyes on my random rambles.
I just deactivated my Facebook account for the first time just now.
I always thought that when if ever it came to this point, something would propel me to stop and rethink my decision. On the contrary, it was quick and painless. I haven’t been his certain about a decision in a long time. Facebook was never a grand concern to me, it’s not at the forefront of my list of concerns. I mainly used it to feed the little voyeuristic curiosity residing in me. most of the time, certain posts would provoke me to lose faith in humanity. Tonight in particular, I surrendered to frustration. I’m tired. I’m exhausted. I need a break from social media, and other things that sway conscious decisions.
A friend told me a few months back that I’ve been losing myself. Back then, I gave no merit to her statement and thought that it was spite or jealousy that drove her to make that statement. I continued on the path I was going on, with the thought that every decision I’ve made thus far has been out of my own volition. In retrospect, she may have been right about losing a part of myself. I feel as though I’ve been moved from my equilibrium, and disoriented with no sight of where to go.
I’ve always heard people tell me to, “always be yourself.” I don’t even know myself anymore.Do I have the same wants and needs as before? Do I still have the right motivation and reason to strive towards my dreams? Have I changed for myself, or to please someone else? The past few months have changed me so much that I don’t even know which decisions were from my own accord, and from that of external influences. In my desire to please the people dear to me, I’ve lost track of the things I used to find so much pleasure in before. Perhaps changing was for the better, perhaps my life needed to be amended to right my wrongs. However, there’s a little voice inside my head that echoes, “Are you sure?”
And so it has come to this. I’m taking a break from Facebook, and other social media in which I used to partake. I’m trying to re-evaluate who I am, and if I even like the person I am becoming. I don’t want to be motivated by the “likes” or complimentary comments by peers and friends. I do not want to fall prey to the emperor’s clothes; I do not want to be blinded from believing what I know to be true just because other people say so otherwise. I think times like these are necessary to stop ourselves from spiraling out of control, and even further into demise. I’ve quoted this time and time again, but it truly is a necessary reminder sometimes: Make it thy business to know thyself, which is the most difficult lesson in the world” (Cervantes, Don Quixote.) I am under construction, and testing if my foundation is still build on solid ground. I hope that the little break will shed some light on the answers I’m trying to find.
I’m okay… or at least that’s what I try to convince myself…
Ever since I was a child, I’ve always enjoyed reading. It was my way of escaping the lonely isolation of my youth. Sure there were perks to being an only child, but the indescribable loneliness can sometimes be consuming. At times I felt as though the emptiness of my environment was merely a reflection of the hollowness inside. At first I read to distract myself from my situation and to appease my mother from worrying about me. As long as I looked like I was enjoying what I was doing, it seemed like everything was A-okay, that I didn’t mind her absence in my life. I couldn’t blame her, she did the best she could to provide a good future for me, and for that I am forever grateful. So fake it until you make it, it went. Fortunately enough, I actually fell in love with reading. Literature provided a comforting sense of security. I read stories I could relate to, I somehow felt like I wasn’t a lone blip in the universe. Reading felt like I was connecting to other souls that empathized with my struggles. There were others just as confused and lost as I was; I wasn’t alone anymore. It’s what inspired me to start writing. Perhaps I too could connect with someone by sharing my experiences, and someway somehow make life a little more bearable similar to how other writers inspired me to keep going. I don’t know what contribution I’ll make someday to humanity, but if my words can somehow be the soothing words of reassurance to temporarily appease others that were like the past me, then I can die a happy woman.
To be honest, I didn’t come to realize this until recently. I thought I was perfectly fine being alone, that I could survive living a life of isolation if need be. However even if I lived as a recluse, my heart would always come back to reading and writing, and literature is all about connection. It’s not a direct connection like doctors have with their patients, but its a connection nonetheless. Most of the time, you don’t really know your audience, or who ever happens to grace their eyes on your words. Themes of hope, friendship, love and the like tie people together despite the diverse backgrounds they come from. There’s a difference of opinions when it comes to how a subject should be handled, such as love and loss. And to quote Flaubert,“You must write for yourself, above all. That is your only hope of creating something beautiful.” I’m taking it to heart and writing not to impress anyone or gain attention, but merely in hopes that someone out there also feels the same. I don’t claim to be a good writer by any stretch (god knows there’s a lot I can improve on), but I can only write in my words and my voice, no one else’s. Despite how unique and original we think we are, we’re all just really after the same things in life: to be happy and to be loved. I suppose we all want to form a constellation out of the blips in the big cosmos we live in, to feel like somehow we belong somewhere.
Before I digress and ramble farther away from my original intention, I wanted to share the books that made an impact in my life. The books that shaped my perception about life, love, and loss. It’s these books that helped me through my darkest of times, the books that I turn to time and time again when I feel like I’m losing my way. The were the sort of Lode Star that guided me back where I needed to be. Perhaps I’ll elaborate how each have changed me, but it may be too long for this post, and it’s far too late (2:00 am) my for my mind to function properly to do them justice. Without further ado, I present the works that shaped my life: Don Quixote, The Unbearable Lightness of Being, Kafka on the Shore, As I Lay Dying, The Geography of Bliss, A Jane Austen Education, A Sense of an Ending, Le Petit Prince, and The Things They Carried. I hope that somehow it makes an impact in your life like it did in mine.
Like a rain shower after a season of drought, I’ve been inspired lately (hence the plethora of posts.) I would even go so far to say that it’s like a tsunami of ideas rushing in. I’ve been listening to NPR again during my commutes, reading The New York Times, and overall just staying informed about the world outside my bubble. I have about 60 drafts on my queue waiting for revision, not to mention the volumes of scribbled ideas in the pages of my journal I have yet to type out.
Since I’m not eloquent, I’m just going to quote Murakami from Kafka on The Shore.
“Closing your eyes isn’t going to change anything. Nothing’s going to disappear just because you can’t see what’s going on. In fact, things will even be worse the next time you open your eyes. That’s the kind of world we live in. Keep your eyes wide open. Only a coward closes his eyes. Closing your eyes and plugging up your ears won’t make time stand still.”
It used to be that darkness would be my source of inspiration. I’m an adult now, not a kid playing dress up pretending to be all grown up. I can’t shut my eyes and pretend issues don’t exist, or that they’ll go away if I close my eyes long enough. I can’t run away or escape and assume that problems will remain where I left them. It’s really time to grow up, be aware, and see what contribution I can make. I need to open my eyes beyond the comforting walls of college and home to see the future that lies ahead of me.
Like many other twenty-somethings, I’m still trying to figure it out. Ha, how typical; I know. This blog is my mostly thoughts poured into words, or things I wish I could have said had I the courage to say them. It’s a chronicle of thoughts to remind myself of where I came from, and who I was at a moment in time.
On another note… I’m honestly quite surprised that I have followers, seriously. I never thought my writing could garner any attention at all. Thank you though, from the bottom of my heart! It’s quite an encouragement!
I hope you all have a lovely day ahead. 🙂
I woke up to NPR’s Morning Edition story about the Race Card Project: Six Word Essays.
It got me thinking about my six words. Six words. All of who I am, my race, background, and identity, distilled into six words. I urge you, dear reader, to do the same. Take on the challenge.
I sat on my bed thinking about the past twelve or so years that I’ve lived in America: the experiences, the struggles, and the lessons I’ve learned along the way. How do I identify myself? Is there even a choice in the matter? The following is what I have concluded:
I’m not simply where I’m from.
Let me elaborate.
Upon first meeting, people don’t realize that I’m a first generation immigrant. There’s barely a trace of my native tongue in my speech. I would even go so far as to say that I’m a coconut- brown on the outside, white on the inside. Don’t get me wrong though, I’m not ashamed of my race. I’m just culturally Westernized. Some people would censure me for being so proud of being white-washed, and I can’t say I can disagree. I would argue though, that I am not, and should not be limited by the color of my skin or the country of my origin.
It’s been nine years since I’ve been back to The Philippines to visit. My mother and I spent two weeks rekindling the old flame of home. In the span of three short years, everything I remembered from my childhood were paved over. New buildings and structures stood atop the park where my cousins and I used to spent hours at. Manila was plagued with malls and the miasma of pollution. The years changed the people I used to know like the landscape that seemed all too strange. I felt like a foreigner in my own land. It’s not the same, it’s no longer home.
Although I was born and raised in Manila, there’s few links that hold me close to home. Memories of childhood are all I have tying me back. I can’t say that I have a faint feeling of homesickness like I once did. Maybe it’s because I left at an early age and bonds weren’t solidified like it did for my mother.
I am Filipino. There’s nothing else I’d chose to be. I’m grateful to my culture for teaching me the importance of family, values, and tradition. I’m grateful to be an immigrant, albeit there were times it wasn’t easy. Underneath all the westernization, and the veils I put to fit in, I’m still the family girl my mother raised me to be. But that’s not all I am. I do not want to be placed in a box solely on the basis of my race or my background. Does being Filipino confine me to the stereotypical traits placed on us? The formidable years since I moved to America provided the foundation to build my identity upon. My background will always be a part of me, it’s set a stage of who I am. I’ve grown so much as a person, that condensing who I am in one word just doesn’t seem right. The same goes for anyone reading this: does a word seem to fit all you of who you are?
During interviews, there’s a question that’s constantly brought up, “Describe yourself in three words.” Although most interview questions are loaded already, this is the most difficult for me to answer. It begs to ask, who are you? If forces a prioritization of your values, principles, and identity to be put in a hierarchy of importance. Most of the time I use adjectives that describe me as a worthy candidate for a desired position. The three words you chose speak volumes to the employer, but it’s all inference on your character as a person in general.
Who am I? How should I be? These are questions that constantly echo in my mind. I can’t say with complete certainty that I know the answers. I live a life that’s filled with uncertainty, and that’s okay. It would be presumptuous to say that I know anything at all. I’ve changed so much over the course of the years, especially since college, that I’m not sure what my true self is anymore. I can blame my twenty-something inexperienced youth as an excuse, but older people are still figuring it out too. One day I’ll probably return to my native land knowing more than I do now. Maybe I’ll even have a solid answer to the questions looming my mind. I suppose that a reason I loved Don Quixote so much was because he was so sure of himself despite of the critics telling him otherwise. He had a tenacious grip on his identity, which I truly admired. I hope that down the road I’ll come to a moment of lucidity, come to an conclusion, and have the definitive answer I seek. Until then I refer back to Don Quixote’s advice to Sancho, “… you must look at who you are and make an effort to know yourself, which is the most difficult knowledge one can imagine.”
I keep hearing people say that they have no regrets about the things they’ve done. I have a gripe with the media for perpetuating this YOLO generation and reckless actions with no remorse for its consequences. If you live life like it’s your last, you need not worry about the repercussions of your actions, right? Unfortunately, or fortunately, life isn’t quite short enough for us to avoid the consequences of our recklessness. Living with no regrets leaves no room for remorse and accountability. Remorse is important in empathy. If there is no remorse, then we never grasp our ability to hurt others. It’s the mirror that helps us see the mistakes we’ve made and the possible ways to amend them. I’ve made a lot of mistakes in my twenty-something lifetime, especially since I left for college. Once I left the nest, I spread my wings and went where the wind took me. I exposed myself to the various facets of a college experience by cramming, joining clubs/Greek organization, partying, interning, and working just to find where I fit the best. Eight times out of ten, it seemed like I was jamming a square into a circle. I wanted so badly to belong that I was willing to change who I was. At one point in my college career, particularly at the latter part of junior year, I felt like an decagon. I was completely changed from who I was, I barely recognized the person I turned into. I turned from being a timid nerd into a stereotypical sorority girl. I spiraled out of control, I let my grades slip by, my relationship with my dear mother deteriorated by a margin, and I was befriending toxic company.
It wasn’t until I received my first ever D in a midterm that I started to realize the demise. I crammed my way back to a decent grade and I found a cause that truly made me realize what I wanted to devote my life into. It’s been a while since I’ve gotten close to my former state of normal, I’m back to being a square and I couldn’t be happier. I’ve found a prince after kissing so many frogs along the way. I regret what I’ve done in the past, and I feel remorse for the people I’ve hurt along the way.
However, I can’t change the course my life has taken. Going in reverse isn’t going to reset the mileage of experiences in my life. The period when I was broken allowed time to put back together the disassembled pieces of my life, while leaving out the unnecessary bits behind. I can only go forward and be wise enough not to take a detour back to where I was. There are still times when I feel like I’m losing my way, or as though the map to my desired destination is incomprehensible. Unlike before when I turned to partying to escape and feign freedom, now I stop and look at the miles I’ve covered and lessons I’ve learned along the way.
Given the chance to reset my mileage and avoid having wasted resources on useless travails, I wouldn’t change much. Don’t get me wrong though. I’m regretful for my recklessness, but without them I wouldn’t have gained clarity and growth. Had I stayed the same as I was before, I would have been stunted in emotional growth. I would not have learned how deeply words can cut, or how my action can have so much collateral damage to people in my vicinity. The remorse I felt after I realized my wrongs helped me become a person who is more capable of understanding, empathy, and compassion. I do not want to return to follies of my youth, but without them I wouldn’t be the same. Just as a tree needs trimming for proper growth, or as a book needs several drafts before it reaches publication, cuts need to be made before a final destination is reached. Heck, even Pokemons evolve to become stronger versions of themselves. But in order to evolve, battles must be fought in order for the next level to be reached. I used my mistakes as the vehicle for change and transformation. I’m still in the drafts, I’m undergoing constant revisions, I’m still fighting my battles in hopes that one day I’ll be happy with my final destination. Without the mistakes I’ve made, I would have remained in the drafts of my former self, but mistakes were made and I ain’t the same.
I recently went to a Passion Pit concert with my boyfriend. We enjoyed the band sufficiently enough to want to see them live. For me it wasn’t so much to see Passion Pit, Matt & Kim, or Icona Pop, I just wanted to share a special moment with my special someone. The night started off pleasantly, we managed to get in the middle center section of the crowd. However after the first opening act, the crowd thickened. More people shoved their way to the front to get a better view of the main band playing. While I understand the sentiment to see a band you love perform live, I don’t think that it justifies ruthless shoving and overall douchery to your fellow concert goers (hey, we all paid the same price to see the band play, so cool it pal!) When the main act was preparing for their set, the crowd grew exponentially. There was a miasma of thick smoke from a combination of marijuana and cigarettes.
Although I ended up seeing Passion Pit only through the backdrop of the big screen while I was covered in sticky alcoholic beverages from intoxicated concert-goers, I still considered it to be a memory I’ll cherish. It really only takes one moment to make the stress and frustration away from any situation. For me that moment came when the band performed “Constant Conversation.”
Everybody now, oh oh oh oh oh
They come singing through the window, singing through the trees, yeah
They’re singing through the bright spring leaves
Everybody now, oh oh oh oh oh
Yeah they love you when they need you, but someday you’re gonna need to
Find some other kind of place to go, oh
In that moment, it seemed like all the frustration of being soaked in beer and being rudely shoved aside washed away. In that moment, it felt like the two of us were part of something bigger. It was a moment of unity. The words of the song resonated to me; I felt it in my bones. Maybe it was the loud speakers or the rest of the crowd swaying together while singing in unison, but I swear that in that moment, it was as though the song had a new life. It’s these moments that make concerts worth it despite the struggles it sometimes brings. It’s the feeling of community and congregation of people who like the same thing rallying together in that moment. At that moment, it didn’t matter if you were an over-privileged twenty-something San Franciscan that just wanted to do something fun, or the biggest Passion Pit fan that saved all his/her money just to see the band live, all that mattered was being one with the music. The hundreds of voices singing “oh, oh, oh, oh, oh” created an electric feeling that can’t ever be mimicked through YouTube or multiple listens to iTunes. For me, that moment of unity is what defines a concert experience. It’s the feeling that you’re not alone, and somehow the song has touched other people’s lives too. For that moment, it seems like your voice is part of something bigger and something greater.
And while taking copious “selfies” at the concert or pictures or videos of the band performing can make the memory last longer, one also risks missing actually being in the moment. A picture is a nice remnant of a memory, but if you’re just focusing on taking pictures to preserve for later you risk missing what’s in front of you. If you only focus on capturing the moment for later reminiscence, you miss out on what you came for in the first place. You miss out on the present when all you’re worried about is forgetting the memory in the future. What good is going to a concert if you don’t even stop to enjoy the performance, to feel the power of the music that moves people and brings them to a moment of repose from a chaotic world?
I can only speak personally, but music has been a form of therapy during trying times. At moments when it seems like the world is dark and grey, I turn up the volume in my music player and just soak in the lyrics to Bright Eyes, Kevin Devine, Geographer, or the like. Music has a way to hit the emotional spot at times when I’ve felt broken and vulnerable. It’s true that it can’t provide a warm embrace that a caring friend could offer, but when I’m at a lack of words to describe the storm inside, music seems to be the only antidote.
So, when people ask me how the concert was, I turn to the time when I felt one with the music, when the words of the lyrics resonated to my heart. I’ll remember the time when everyone stopped cramming and shoving their way to the front and just enjoyed the moment. It’s these times that make the ticket prices, inconvenience of travel, overpriced drinks, and obnoxious concert-goers worth it. Despite whatever struggles we encountered that night, for that precious moment in time I wouldn’t trade it for the world.