Eighteen

(on 25 September, 2017 & with 20 Comments)

So it appears I am 18 today.

There are a great many things I might say about this particular revelation, but I think for now there is only this:

I’m grateful to be here. There have been times when I did not believe I would ever reach this birthday, & it feels like such a blessing just to still be breathing. Most days I yearn & yearn & yearn for more, most days I’m sure there is no way I could possibly be satisfied with anything less than a bright & burning legacy, but tonight I am happy to drink too much coffee, listen to the same playlists over & over, eat dinner with my baby sister, cuddle my dog, write mediocre poems, flirt with boys whose names I will not remember this time next year, worry about college applications & whether I am moisturising enough. Perhaps it is a paradox, but tonight, on this most important birthday, I’m happy just to be here. I’m happy keep my dreams small, manageable. Not so terrifying. Not so obviously out of my league.

Tonight I am sitting with my stubborn lungs, my softened ankles, reading local literature, incense burning & dog at my feet & monsoon rain singing at the windows, listening to the playback of my own memory. I am 18 today & for once I am sitting still & completely satisfied the thought of not being remembered.

This sort of quiet contentment feels foreign in my mouth, but I’m trying to to settle into it. I think I deserve peace.


Seasonal (with Betterhelp)

(on 20 September, 2017 & with 5 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 2 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