Seasonal [Sponsored]

(on 20 September, 2017 & with 0 Comments)

my therapist & i have been speaking lately about my tendency to second-guess my illnesses when they do not resemble the form i believe they “should” take. it is rather astounding how often the world speaks of mental illness as something familiar & gentle & almost romantic – as though my ocd exists only if it forces me to clean without end, or my anxiety exists only if it keeps me from speaking comfortably to strangers. as though i could be a wisp, a forgotten & lovely one-dimensional thing. as if a tree singing with apple blossoms in the spring becomes less of herself when winter comes to life & strips her limbs bare.

so when the lovely folks over at betterhelp.com reached out to invite me to partner with them, what struck me more than anything was how sensitive they are to the ease with which we can fall into that pushing, obsessive certainty that we know exactly how mental illness works. betterhelp is an online counselling service that connects people in need with licensed therapists at a fraction of the cost of in-person therapy, & they perfectly embody what is perhaps the most liberating thing i have learned in my own journey of healing:

that my illness is valid in every form it presents itself.
that my tree is still a tree no matter what season envelops her.
that i do not need to exhibit performative sadness or anxiety of any sort to convince the world i am not making this up.

i think perhaps the reason why i am so drawn to betterhelp’s mission is only this: they make certain to emphasise that their service is for those who “struggle with life’s challenges”. no one is unwelcome at their doors & no one is turned away. how beautiful is this refusal to make suffering into a contest. how necessary. how bright.

it is still something i’m learning myself – that the one who experiences depression as emptiness is no more or less valid than the sadness i experience, that we are all just trees trying to grow to sunlight, trying to find the place where light falls into us like the most beautiful kiss, & every form we do that in is true, is right, is real. it is something i must remind myself of over & over as the seasons constellate into each other, a symphony, a resurrection, an effervescent flickering certainty, something painstaking & wholly good, every blooming thing at once in the knowing of:

your aching need not resemble the norm to be valid.

thank you, betterhelp, for the reminder.

i’m trying to hold it close, cradle it like the light it is. i hope you will join me.

 

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p.s. this essay is sponsored by betterhelp.com, the world’s largest online counselling platform. click here to begin your free trial of affordable, discreet, & accessible online mental health therapy with licensed counsellors. all words & opinions shared here are my own. thank you for supporting the brands that support my work.

p.s.s. as always, i would be so honoured to hear your thoughts on this subject. do you ever find your unique shades of aching packaged into something too accessible for the rest of the world to feast on? please do leave a comment & let me know; i have a sneaking suspicion there are a great many of us who feel this way.


“You are as much a person in stillness as in flight.” (Little Horoscopes for September)

(on 14 September, 2017 & with 0 Comments)

This month I’ve been feeling like I’m at a standstill, both personally & professionally, & I don’t quite know what to do with that. On one hand, the launch preparations for my new book poems for the sound of the sky before thunder are beginning in earnest, which thrills me—& yet, it feel as if I am in a poetic funk, a strange & prickly limbo. Yesterday, for the first time in nearly a year, I was too sad to get out of bed. My ears have been flaring to no end. There is so much ache in this place.

It felt good, then, to write September’s horoscopes. In some odd way I am proud of them simply for existing, especially since they are among the last I will write. I am trying to be proud of myself for existing, as well. I hope there’s something bright in that act.

Enjoy this small gift, dear friends. Please do share your thoughts with me in the comments of this post; I’d be honoured to hear it if any of these month’s horoscopes (for your sign or any others) particularly resonated with you. I cannot wait to hear from you. xx

 

Little Horoscopes for September

Taurus, now more than ever you must not go gentle.
Gemini, sometimes all of the loveliest things arrive at all of the ugliest times.
Aries, you are as much a person in stillness as in flight.
Capricorn, it is a sore & bruising thing to pledge allegiance to a grudge.
Leo, you can learn to live without anything, just as you learned to live with it.
Aquarius, these moments of tenderness deserve to be cradled.
Virgo, your suffering does not need validation.
Libra, you cannot always be the versions of yourself in your poetry.
Cancer, kindness & ambition are not mutually exclusive.
Sagittarius, don’t forget your keys or your gods on the way out the door.
Scorpio, your capacity for wonder is beautiful & astounding.
Pisces, you belong to nothing.


Night Driving

(on 30 August, 2017 & with 2 Comments)

these months smell of the last drops of summer, a solid steady weight curled beneath the ribs like a dream or an alleycat. something captured here in such tenderness, the final prayer of heat before autumn comes again – &, even more aching, the last summer i’ll have in singapore before i leave for university. there is so much space to fill, & i’m doing my best to settle into that well-worn openness.

do you know the feeling that comes over you on a very long car ride home, late at night, when the radio is dreaming in a colour that never hurt anything & so few other cars light the streets that you might almost mistake them for stars, & you come through your door & brush your teeth & fall into bed & the next morning you wake & it feels as if all that happened last night was a dream, just a soundless precious invisible dream? some days i think my entire stay here in singapore, these ten glorious & sweat-drenched years were nothing but a dream. like i might wake any moment in a bedroom in dallas or minneapolis or chicago & wonder at how odd it was that i ever thought these hours, these fraying & blurred & endless rearview skies might be real.

for now, summer dissolves like a cherry cough drop on the tongue, as it always does, as it always will. we are so close to something, & i hope it is something good. i’m eating at hawker stalls & calling taxi drivers uncle & letting stray cats nestle beneath my ribs & stepping over each crack in the sidewalk like perhaps it might make the days flow a little slower. light wanes into evening & i’m trying not to fall asleep in the back of this car, trying not to form too many question marks, trying not to say too many words. i hope i wake up tomorrow & i am still here. i hope, on the tomorrow when i wake up & am not still here, i don’t for one moment doubt this was real, this was real, this was all so breathlessly gorgeously carelessly persistently singularly brilliantly unforgettably real.

 

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p.s. what are you holding onto these days? what don’t you want to forget?
p.s.s. let it be & the anchoring & love letters for more


In This, a Revolution (How I Am)

(on 23 August, 2017 & with 8 Comments)

I am not quite sure where or how to begin writing this letter, to be honest. So much has happened, beautiful & terrifying & ugly & tender, since I last gave a life update. It’s only been a few months & yet it feels something closer to a lifetime.

How am I, then? I am tired & restless all at once. I am hurting & whole. I’ve made mistakes since we last spoke that I’m not sure I will ever know how to remedy, & I have done things that were difficult & necessary & not wrong at all, & slowly I’m learning the difference. My ears have been flaring more than usual, & so I have, by association, been listening to lots of music.

This, friends, is how I am.

Perhaps we know each other already on social media. If so, you’ll be aware of the news already, but I will share it here once more: I wrote a new book. It is called poems for the sound of the sky before thunder, & it contains around 35 poems about hurt & hope & healing, & I am so proud of it, & I can’t wait for you all to read it. It’s being published by Math Paper Press in November at the Singapore Writers’ Festival. More details to come.

This is how I am:

excited for this book that has proven me wrong so many times & held me up so many more, but also wondering whether it truly matters considering all of the horror happening in this world of ours. Perhaps that is an uncharacteristically morbid statement – & really, deep down I do believe the act of creation matters more now than ever before – but still I cannot seem to shake the thought.

Even so, I have been consuming so much art that is funny & soft & subversive & inspiring & makes me believe there is still light glowing in this place for us to hold, & I thought you too might like to partake in it. Here: Hank Green on tolerance & forgiveness (“Hate is easy”); 11 Ways that I, a White Man, am Not Privileged (“I’ll just sit down, would you like to fill in the last one?”); powerful photographs that speak so deeply to race & power & class (“So let’s do our part to get an honest, compassionate conversation going, in which people feel heard and we all learn something”).

School has begun again, & it is my last year of high school & therefore of living in Singapore, & I’ve been thinking lately about what the future holds for me & the world. My therapist & I have agreed that we will try to wrap up our sessions together by the end of this school year so that I might go to university only on medication & without the need for therapy. I have healed so much since we first met & the thought of saying goodbye already makes me sad, though I know it is for the best in the long run.

I participated & won my first poetry slam while I was in Virginia participating in UVA’s Young Writers’ Workshop. I am endlessly thrilled to be able to put that in words, & even more so to share the slam videos with you soon, soon, soon.

This is how I am:

trying to hold people closer. Tell my friends I love them, & hang out with my baby sister more often, & cuddle with my dog, & write more letters to loved ones across the seas. It’s helped cut through all of the horror & darkness life sometimes seems to be drenched in. So many people have given me so much & I never want to forget the beauty in that.

Speaking of beautiful people… my small community of Patreon fireflies is steadily growing, which pleases me to no end. I would so love if you joined us (they have known about the new book for months now, & are also in the know about many exciting new projects that I cannot reveal quite yet).

A few fun things that have made me smile lately: this incredible photographthese gorgeously diverse models; this reminder that poetry is not (could never be) dead.

In case you missed it, my small sad poem “I Start Crying During the Best Part of the Film” was published in Rust+Moth. Do have a read. More poems are forthcoming from Reservoir Literary, Cosmonauts Avenue, Glass: A Journal of Poetry, Tenderness Yea. I quite like most of the pieces & am so honoured that these publications have offered homes for them – & of course I cannot wait to hear your thoughts.

I am a poetry mentor for this year’s Glass Kite Anthology Summer Writing Studio, & working with all of my lovely mentees, critiquing their pieces, helping them discover new literary frontiers, makes me endlessly happy. If they are the future of poetry, then we are in good & loving hands.

This is how I am: paying attention to the music of the body.

This is how I am:

I met a new friend a few weeks ago who cares a great deal about Star Wars. I have watched all of the Star Wars films on his urging, & I’m pleased to report that I too now care a great deal about Star Wars.

For all my lovely writers in the room, have you read this article? I found it so refreshing & wonderful.

Here is shocking/incredible news: my short film SUPERNOVA has received quite a few more accolades. We were an official selection in the Laurie Nelson Film Festival & Newark International Youth Film Festival, shortlisted in the Best Sound Design & Best Young Filmmaker categories at the My Rode Reel Film Festival, & I received the Overall Best Actress award in the Singapore International Student Film Festival. How lucky I feel to have had some small part in creating this soft spinning blue thing.

There are so many atrocities shaking the world to its core. These days I am sometimes afraid to wake up & check the news because I know, deep in my marrow, that yet another horrible thing has happened overnight. Because even if only for a few minutes, I yearn to postpone that aching.

But also there is hope, & there is wonder, & there are sunsets, & there are odd facts inside the caps of Snapple bottles, & there is this haunting song, & there is this earnest Instagram caption, & there are these ethereal bubble portraits. Yes, there are people filled with hate, but also there are people who remind you to take your medicine. There are people who move snails into the grass instead of leaving them on the sidewalk to be stepped on. There are people who make cookie sandwiches & laugh like they’ve never once been lonely.

This is how I am: holding good things to the light. Making sure I don’t allow them to be drowned out by the cacophony.

Something I have been trying to keep in mind over these past weeks…

There is hope for us yet, & in this hope, there is a revolution. There must be.

No matter what, we must not go gentle.

So: this is how I am.

And you?