A Few More Things that are Good (part ii)

Scrawled 30 September, 2015, 10 Comments

(Because Part I was fun to write, and because today is a day in which I need to grasp onto some small wonders.)

i. Autumn. Hymns of wind-soaked laughter and homesick thunderstorms, the crunch of leaves underfoot, the satisfied whistle of a teapot boiling. Of all the seasons, I think autumn holds the most dulcet sort of music.

ii. The comforting weight of three books tucked in one’s bag and six more perched on the nightstand. I will never truly feel at home in a place that is not overflowing with books: books in the closet, books on the desk, books peeking out of the most remote crannies to whisper hello, it is a wonderful thing to read and be read by you.

iii. Poems. And also the people who enjoy poems. (Funnily enough, I have discovered that these people tend to be poems in and of themselves.)

iv. Children who are kind simply because they can be. Today, as I was volunteering in our elementary school library, a small girl I had never seen before walked up to me and said: “You looked like you need a cookie today.” And she procured a crumbling chocolate chip cookie from her bag and placed it on my desk, and then wrapped her arms around me and hugged me for a good thirty seconds. “I hope things get better,” she said, and promptly untangled herself from me and skipped off. I think that is a level of kindness we should all aspire to.

v. A dog and a squirrel, and the endless whirl of delighted chaos that occurs when they happen to come together.

vi. Being on the way home after an evening of exhausting happiness — how your eyelids are pleasantly weighted down, limbs ready to be cradled by soft linens, everything enveloped in a rather quiet silvery haze.

vii. Listening to the same song over and over and over again. How, after a certain unnamed point, the music is less filtering through your headphones and more dissolving into your bloodstream, the lyrics etched into some secret place very deep inside of you, the rhythm thrumming through your bones, less a discombobulation and more a perfectly crooked symphony. The precise moment that a song seeps into your soul, becomes the motive in everything — that, I think, is the most special one of all.

Snapshots | September 2015

Scrawled 29 September, 2015, 6 Comments

It’s slightly hard to believe September is over already (!) — but with its end comes the beginning of autumn and cooler days ahead (or, for those of us living on top of the equator, the rainy season — perhaps less cool, but certainly lovely nonetheless). A fine exchange, if you ask me.

I feel as if these past few months have flown by, and so it seemed prudent to begin monthly recaps on Six Impossible Things, so as to perhaps hold onto the last dredges of months and reflect on how they went. We already have little horoscopes to welcome in the new month — it seems only fair to have recaps to say goodbye to the old, no?

September has been a bit of a roller coaster for me, I must say. It started off rather sad — and I did unfortunately have some issues with derealisation in there as well — so that was slightly tough to deal with, especially as school began picking up in earnest.

But interspersed with all of that there have been some absolutely incredible moments: specifically, the entirety of the American Writers Festival, which was in Singapore a few weeks ago and during which I had the beautiful opportunity to work closely with Brooklyn Poet Laureate Tina Chang. (I’m still sort of reeling from that, honestly; it feels slightly surreal even now.) And, in case you missed it, I turned 16 on the 25th of September and was pulled into a magical night to celebrate — it was an unprecedented delight.

Online: most notably, I joined Instagram! As you can tell by the sampling at the top of this post, I have had quite a lovely time trying out my hand at photography — I have a sneaking suspicion that I am sort of horrible at it, but I am having quite a bit of fun, so I think that is really what matters. ;) If you’d like to read the stories behind the photos above, here is my Instagram page; feel free to peruse the captions!

On the blog, the most popular posts this month were the 777 Challenge, in which I introduced a snippet of a WIP; O2, in which I mused upon the peculiar weight of breathlessness; and a Friday Poem called “Rabbit Love, Lion Love”. And also, if you are inclined to have a look, I updated my sidebar over the weekend with current favourite songs + newly-discovered loves around the blogosphere.

And so that was my September! Certainly a good month, I think — though I must admit I am immensely looking forward to October. (One word: HALLOWEEN. *excited cackling erupts in the distance*)

How was your September, then? Let’s chat in the comments; I’d be so happy to hear about it.

Happy Birthday to Me

Scrawled 25 September, 2015, 25 Comments


“You know, I think I just want to have a quiet celebration this year, you don’t have to –”

“Hush. We’re taking you out. Get in the car.”

Drove downtown through the lamp-lit streets, all the way to an incredibly sketchy movie theatre, tucked into a back alleyway and sandwiched between a questionably hygienic tattoo parlour and a flickering neon-lit ice cream shop. Climbed an increasingly narrow staircase to the 7th floor, then spent far too long attempting to catch our breaths in the cigarette-smoky air. Paid $5 each to see a screening of a melodramatic indie film amongst hipsters, biker guys with more tattoos than skin, and fellow lost teenagers. Piled into rickety cinema chairs. Spent most of the film drinking warm root beer & making out with respective S.O.s & giggling at the painfully stereotypical dialogue. Stumbled down the stairs once more, found ourselves in the ice cream shop, bought a decadent ice cream sundae and gorged ourselves on whipped cream-covered loveliness. Sang a beautifully off-key rendition of Happy Birthday as I blushed furiously and other midnight ice cream eaters stared unabashedly.

I have the most ridiculous, irreverent, flawed, wonderful friends in the world. What a perfect way to turn 16.

Literary Love: Sylvia Plath

Scrawled 24 September, 2015, 10 Comments


Are you our sort of a person?

Which is to say: are you flawed (but not too flawed)? Perfect (but not too perfect)? Compliant (but not too compliant)? Defiant (but not too defiant)? Intelligent (but not too intelligent)? Airheaded (but not too airheaded)? Which is to say: are you willing to dance exactly the right steps, unless we require you to make a mistake?

No, no?)

Literary Love, affectionately known as #litlove, is a feature wherein I and friends around the blogosphere extol the virtues of various bookish topics. This month we’re talking about Sylvia Plath! Don’t forget to check out the others’ posts on this topic: Alyssa on Ariel, Christina on Lady Lazarus & Witch Burning and AnQi on The Bell Jar.

Oh, Sylvia Plath.

Of all of the poets who have made me laugh and cry and wonder and shiver, I think Plath tops the list. She is a writer who pens words that seem to echo within the core of my being, dripping with emotion as raw as it is exquisite. There is something about Plath’s work that tears out shreds of my heart and then, just as effortlessly, puts them back together again. Perhaps slightly crooked. (Tell us a little bit about yourself, won’t you?)

The Applicant is, hands down, my favourite of Plath’s poetry. Which is saying something, because I love all of her work fiercely.

But there is something aching and familiar about The Applicant, its scenes of an unnamed young woman tossed from interview to interview, from courtship to courtship, desperately trying to find a deeper sort of love in a world that wants nothing more than to objectify her as nothing more than a living doll. (In your opinion, what are your best qualities? … Oh dear, please don’t brag. We don’t need an exhaustive list.) Perhaps Plath was tired of it too, this constant, ever-present fixation on shaping women into aesthetically pleasing robots. Perhaps I am. Perhaps all of us are.

Of course, you don’t need me to tell you that we live in a world of striking misogyny. You know it, you’ve seen it, this dark, cloying stain, spreading across to the way we work and the way we love. (Tell us about your experience at your previous company. You do have work experience, don’t you?) The standards to which men hold women, to which women hold themselves — they are contradictory, paradoxical, impossibly and frustratingly high.

And Plath understands. Oh, how she understands.

The Applicant is a picture of a woman who grooms herself to become what she believes is needed by men, who makes sacrifices she does not fully understand for a prize so coveted — and ultimately, so disappointing. (What is your greatest weakness? … No, no, please answer honestly. This is very important for us to know.) It is a raw, striking portrait of the misogyny in marriage, one that is less an indifferent observation and more a cry for help.

But there is more to the story than despair. The last stanza displays a kind of hope — one that is tenuous, but no less real, no less resolute. (What do you think qualifies you for this job?) It works, there is nothing wrong with it, Plath tells us. After all of the contortions and the distortions, after all of the not good enough, after all of the ways we have heard over and over that we must go further than we have ever been comfortable with:

it works, there is nothing wrong with it.

And this is what makes Plath not only a truly beautiful artist, but also a truly beautiful human being.

Maybe we don’t need to rearrange our souls in order to find the right man, she seems to say. Maybe we are more than fragile artefacts to be kept behind glass, more than zoo animals in dresses and false eyelashes. Maybe we don’t need to reach impossibly high or sink impossibly low, to squeeze ourselves too small or stretch ourselves too large.

Maybe who we are is good enough for now.

(And finally, why should we hire you? … Last resort? I’m afraid I’m not quite sure what you mean.)

The Applicant is a poem of uncertainty and of oppression — but I believe it is also more than that. In the final stanza, Plath delivers a soothing reminder: we do not exist to conform to the standards of what society demands, of what men demand. We are all that we need. Just as we are. Just as we have always been.

We are women.

And it is enough.

(Thank you for applying. We’ll be in touch.)

Adventures in Zombieland: Real or Not Real?

Scrawled 21 September, 2015, 4 Comments

Here is a list of scenes that I can give you: the cover of an old Reader’s Digest magazine. A half-empty water bottle. A blinking Gmail icon in the corner of my desktop, 1 new message. The clock’s minute hand hovering at exactly 8:34 PM.

Those four images are crystal clear in my mind. Honestly, I think that is the funny thing about it – that even in the haze that surrounds this evening, I should pick up those rather insignificant details.

At 8:34 PM tonight, I realised – probably belatedly – that there was something very wrong with the way I was existing. Which is to say: I was not quite sure whether I was existing at all, or perhaps, if I was some figment of the world’s collective imagination.

I pinched myself a few times. And then I took a long, cold shower. And then I locked myself in the bathroom with a Sharpie and wrote I AM REAL on my skin – unfurling around my kneecaps, snaking up my forearms, meandering across my stomach. Over and over and over, those same three words, until the ink was fading from my marker and the words glowed bright on a tingling canvas.

I am still trying to figure out whether they were telling the truth.

I think derealisation is one of the most alien experiences I’ve ever had. (Am still having, possibly, as I write this post.) It’s defined as “a sense of the world not being real”, a side effect of multiple mental illnesses – and while that might seem rather ridiculous to those who have not experienced it, it is something profoundly unnerving to those who have.

For me, derealisation is something that comes on suddenly – often after a normal, even happy, day – and one that I am rather horrible at identifying until it becomes overwhelming. It leaves me feeling as if I am floating, not quite sure whether I might crumble at the slightest touch. It clouds my actions and makes me hyper-aware of only certain, minute details (Reader’s Digest, water, emails, 8:34 PM), as if there is something important lying in the half-finished jigsaw puzzle, the mystery gathering dust in the corner. If that jigsaw even exists.

The thing is, even with panic attacks, even with depressive episodes, there is a grain of ineffable reality to the madness. Perhaps not a very beautiful one, but a reality, all the same – and yet, when I experience derealisation, it is difficult to find a place of grounding. I think we as humans need that – something to point at, to say here is a thing I know to be the truth. But derealisation is a hurricane of raw uncertainty.

You are real. You are here. You are holding together.

This is a text a friend sent me a few months back, on a night much like this one, when I could not separate the gossamer dreaming from real life.

With derealisation, I often wonder whether other people are telling the truth when they say such things. It is an easy thing to disbelieve during a time when nearly everything is a cause for scepticism. And after all, when one is in the passenger seat of one’s own mind, who’s to say that there is any comfort to be found in words whispered between phone screens, blown across the fickle lines of cyber-communication?

Still, though, I find comfort in that. A mantra of sorts – that even when I am drifting through life, here is one thing I can grasp onto. Even when I can’t believe it, I think it is nice to know that someone else can. That amidst the hurricane of derealisation, here is something to point at, to say here is a thing I know to be the truth.

You are real. You are here. You are holding it together.

Even on the days with jagged edges, I try not to forget it.