The End is Near

It’s near the end of the semester.

The tree’s leaves have all but changed and lost their previous appeal; a chilly wind now flows through their branches and freezes my fidgeting fingers: it’s the end of the warm times, as we enter into winter. It’s near the end of the semester.

It’s near the end. 

Remember in middle school? those simpler times when seasons would indicate their passing in the changing of wardrobes and baked goods? when a rainy day meant only that: a rainy day. Not a day to get work done, or catch up on work already missed, but a rainy day, that and nothing more?

As a college student currently at the end of my second semester in grad school, such times are as a dream. I miss those careless days, those free flowing days. I miss when school was more about seeing my friends than advancing my career. 

Alas, those times have long left me, and I find myself at the mercy of finals, at the gallows of academia: that place every student loathes being. So close are we to peppermint drinks and unwrapped presents. So near is the smell of pine, the sound of crackling fire. But not yet—not just yet.

First, we type. First we empty our heads of the mess of amassed knowledge we’ve accumulated over the past three months. First we gorge ourselves on our textbooks, scouring every word of every sentence of every paragraph of every page—nothing will escape our hunger! First we drink coffee like it’s water, and stretch the lengths human consciousness can be sustained.

First, we work.

We approach the end—some of us limping, others striding forth with confident zeal. But we’re nearly there now. We gather our things and prepare for it, we pray and wish and hope for it to come sooner. For it to pass. For us to pass.

It’s almost here now—near to the end. The end is near.

The end of the semester.

Pillow Talk

Of late, I’ve been struggling with sleep.

Previously, the issue was too little: my days stretching long into night and enduring into the early hours of the morning (on several occasions, the later hours).

But lately, it’s been the opposite. Lately, it’s been too much sleep. 

And I’m not sure why. 

I can imagine to most, my complaint of having too much sleep seems a bit of an enigma: how could someone possibly get too much sleep? As someone who has worked a job starting at five in the morning for the past four years, I assure you I know the struggle. The work week brings with it stress and, well, work. We brace ourselves for sleep deprivation throughout the work week with the knowledge that the weekend will bring a reprieve, will afford some semblance of compensation in the currency of sleep. I know this struggle all too well. For years my body has been used to running on four to five hours of sleep (take that beauty industry! Eight hours my ass!)

But, as I said, lately the struggle has been too much sleep. I’ve found myself tied to bed (and not in the way some fantasize about it). Hours slip by whilst I dream away the world, and I feel bad. I feel guilty. I feel lazy, and powerless—there’s a word I’ve heard myself saying far too much this month. Powerless. Powerless. I feel powerless to my body and its shifting whims. Each day it seems to crave something different, and each day it seems my only power is to appease it as best I can. And it’s selfish. I know it is.

There’s something about being in bed so much that reminds me of how alone I feel; perhaps being here induces the feeling.

There is nothing like waking up to someone else beside you, someone whom you love and who loves you back. That comfort, that warmth, that assurance. Each time I wake up alone, I am reminded of it, of what once was, and what is no longer. And it sucks. It really, really sucks.

Fortunately, there’s Henry. My poor puppy of eleven months (soon to turn a year come December first) has had to endure lasting embraces and kisses rather than long walks and playtime in the park. He’s been my support blanket, and I’m grateful, though I do worry whether he derives the same pleasure and comfort from me. I try to be there when I can: when nightmares visit him in the night, when he gets scared by things beyond our bedroom window, when he is upset. But it’s hard. It’s hard caring for someone else when you’re already struggling to care for yourself. If you can manage it, it’s a good feeling. But when you fail to, when you can’t provide because you’re spending eighteen hours of the day in bed, it feels negligent. It feels selfish. It feels the worst.

I don’t know why I wanted to title today’s blog Pillow Talk. I suppose it’s because nearly all of this blog has been written in bed, where I feel the most safe. It’s almost like I can pretend to have someone here to talk to, who will listen. It’s as if I can contrive this thing I know I’m missing. I can pretend they are here, lying beside me, holding onto me whilst I talk about these things. Each post gives me some semblance of productivity, even if it’s the only thing I do in a day; but lately this safe place (my bed) has felt the opposite, has become almost suffocating.

I’m sorry if all of this is very self-indulgent (it certainly feels like it). Normally I try to write about things I think other people will relate to, though too often I hear my friends complaining of a lack of sleep. To those people who dream of getting more sleep, who spend their days of the week deprived and weary, maybe take this post as a warning, and the ancient adage as sound advice: be careful what you wish for.

The Damned Dichotomy of My Disabled, Dysmorphed Body

I’ve come to recognize that the way I view my body is probably unhealthy.

I say probably; in reality, it is without question a definite.

I have body dysmorphia, and have for quite some time. I doubt I have to explain what it is (it’s a fairly common occurrence from what I gather, particularly for people my age), but as someone with a chronic condition, someone whose body is already different, already dysmorphed, as it were, the perspective that it lends is probably a unique one.

When it comes to my condition, I tend to assume no one is going to relate to how I feel. I dated someone who had it since literally birth, and even she couldn’t. This is because even when someone suffers from the same thing as you, they might suffer differently, or not at all. We are all made up of traumas that shape us, inform us, perplex us, frighten us, and even sometimes limit us.

I hate feeling like I’m only offering a “woe is me” narrative, in which I’m the victim; I hate the thought that I ever would be. But lately I’ve realized that my efforts to avoid this have backfired, and have found me underplaying the effect my condition has on me not just physically, but mentally, and emotionally: the scar-tissue of trauma built up from the things I’ve experienced from this disease I never asked for.

And that’s why today I wanted to write about it, about this body of mine that I’ve always struggled with, because maybe you can relate to this, or find some part of it relatable, and maybe you won’t feel so alone, or weird, like me.

Do you wildly vacillate between loving and hating how you look? Who you are?

Ever stare into a mirror one moment and think, “Wow, I look good,” or think, “Wow, I feel good,” and then the next moment feel absolutely disgusted with yourself, with your body and how it looks and feels?

This strange distortion begets only more insecurity, as you find yourself believing that you always look worse than you actually seem, and assume that even if you do feel good in a moment, to someone else seeing you, you must be hideous.

The condition I have (type 1 diabetes) requires that I oscillate wildly between low and high blood sugars, each with its own accompanying symptoms. Shifting back and forth between feeling good and feeling crummy about myself, and then actually physically feeling good and feeling crummy, lends to a wildly unstable living experience. Add to this the fact that I have medical devices literally attached to me, to my broken body, and you’ll find that it’s very difficult to ever feel “normal” when there already is no semblance to normal. There is no stability. There is no security.

I hate my body—but then I love it. I’ve had moments where I literally want to take a knife and cut off parts of it (the parts I hate and feel uncomfortable in), and then there are moments when I love it, when I feel very confident and content.

I suppose I resent my body. Hell, I wanted to kill it just a month ago (I suppose that says enough about the pits one can fall into when self-love isn’t present). But my attempt at suicide is by no means the only incident of me mistreating my body.

“I tried intermittent fasting to cope with the feelings of being bloated and sick from my chronic condition.” Sounds good, right? Understandable even? A rational course to follow, surely; but it’s not really true: I told people that lie, when in reality it was because I felt fat, and felt insecure in my body, and starving myself made me feel like I was fixing the problem, when all it really did was encourage me to starve myself, and further exacerbated the real problem. It took someone close to me telling me that what I was essentially doing was harboring an eating disorder, that I really was just starving myself so that I didn’t feel fat, for me to see it wasn’t healthy, and that it was in fact abusive. I’m still actively working on not doing this…

If you met me, you’d never think “Oh, he’s fat.” I keep myself in good-enough shape.

But that doesn’t mean I don’t still feel it. That in my head there aren’t voices constantly telling me “You look like this right now,” “Oh, you must look like this to them.”

Let me be a little more transparent. To do so, I’ve compiled a list:

What’s Hated About My Body:

My stomach
The way my stomach bloats
The sides of my stomach, where my pump and CGM are located
The sticker marks leftover from those places
My legs, and how fat they look when I sit
My neck, and how it bunches when I look down
My arms, and the acne that forms on them
The musculature of my body
How my face looks when I smile
How sick I feel
How out of breath I feel
My intelligence (or lack thereof)
My voice
My height
My teeth
My hair
My nose

This isn’t the whole of it, but seeing even part of it written out affords a real sense of how far it’s gotten, and how bad those bad days can be.

Strangely enough, a lot of my experience with my body and how I feel in it informed me of transgenderism, whose individuals feel like their assigned gender isn’t correct to how they feel. What I’ve learned is that how one appears or is perceived has little to do with how one feels internally, and what their reality is to them. There is also the fact that my body and world both changed drastically when I was diagnosed, and thus I don’t really feel like myself in it. Sometimes I wonder if there is a self in it, or just more fragmented pieces of the already broken body…

Such is the nature of having an invisible disease. I describe it as “silent suffering” because though I may look fine, secretly I’m a sick person whose broken body is struggling to function at the most basic capacity, and that hidden reality makes for an anxious existence, in which no one truly sees me as me. I don’t know if anyone ever will.

I constantly feel this dichotomy of highs and lows, not only in blood sugar, but in mood and emotion, in how I view myself and my broken body.

There is no middle ground, and it’s absolutely maddening.

I feel sick right now. I feel hideous right now. I shy away from photographs and dodge glances because I feel gross.

I wrote the above yesterday, though this morning I no longer feel like that. Today I feel okay about my body. As I said, it’s ever changing.

But I wanted to write about it today and be more transparent than I have been with it previously because maybe someone else does feel like this, and maybe knowing you aren’t alone helps, that you aren’t the only one hiding behind a facade of happiness. You’re not alone.

I sure hope I’m not.

Close Shut the Covers

Is it late

or is it early?

The start to a new day

or the end to the last?

The witching hour cares not.

Crisp pages like autumn leaves turn by hand; the sound of wind from beyond my window carries the music of chimes; a bough scratches to get my attention; dancing wisps of steam drift up from a cup of tea, the smell of rain touching my nose; and all the while a book—a little world—is cradled in my lap, sits open, and waits for me

There is nothing quite like falling into a book. This inanimate thing once a mystery on a dusty shelf reveals itself as a friend, a fellow night-wanderer, an insomniac’s most trusted ally. A safe place.

When was the last time you fell for one? Found one? When was the last time you felt the hours of the day slip by whilst pages slipped through your fingers? Allowed yourself the freedom to dream?

I imagine we all have at least one book whose world we flee to when ours gets too scary.

It helps to have a place to go where elongated shadows are only as scary as their first impression; where a narrator holds us tight, and cradles us through the frightening moments; where we no longer fear the next hour, but instead eagerly await the next page.

I hope it hasn’t been too long since you last visited. I hope, like me, you’ve found some solace in hiding between covers lately, and escaping it all. Life can get hard—and everyone deserves to fall for a book: everyone deserves a world to turn to when theirs gets scary.

I hope you find yours.

So that when you’re ready to close shut the covers, and wake to the world, it isn’t fear that you feel, but instead comfort in knowing you have a safe place to return to.

Through Pinched Fingers

It’s so hard to let go.

Memories I thought would be collected and hidden away like treasure, I find now merely sand slipping through my pinched fingers, dissipating into a passing wind.

I race to try and catch it.

I dash after it, trying to capture even a single grain of its whole, trying to save some semblance of what once was.

And I do.

I pinch my fingers, cup my hands to protect this single grain; this lasting memory—all that I have. My fingers like a barred cage hold tight this single memory. I squeeze so that it can never escape me, so that I’ll never lose it, so that I’ll never forget.

I’ve never felt desperation like this. I’ve never felt fear like this.

And so when I finally open my fingers to see nothing there, that whatever was is no longer, I have to wonder if I squeezed hard enough, whether I fought for it hard enough.

Or if it was that hopeless struggle that made me lose it in the first place.

Suddenly, I feel empty. The truth of my reality dawns: what was is no longer.

But that doesn’t mean it never was.

Trapped (?) in the Head of Another

5:30 AM.

So it’s day 162738373 of a completely wrecked sleep schedule, and because my mind is going mad from sleep deprivation, I figured I’d write about someone else’s for a change.

I’m currently writing a character whose world is drastically different from mine. To make matters worse, she is also drastically different from me.

I say worse, but I have a habit of writing characters drastically different from me, not only in terms of gender/age/ethnicity, but also morality, opinion, viewpoint.

I honestly prefer it. I find it can be refreshing and informative to step into this other consciousness, to gaze through eyes who see differently from mine. It affords a unique way of looking at the world, especially when they’re not from this world.

The character I’m writing is from a short story I wrote awhile back, which I am now turning into a Novella, and while the story she’s set in is filled with plenty of weird things, ultimately it is the way she thinks, and sees herself and other people, that is weird—and it is her weirdness that I find so freeing.

It’s fun to lose yourself in someone else, to take on problems that aren’t your own, but are in fact your character’s to solve. One of my favorite things about writing creatively in general (fiction specifically) is that it can liberate us from the entrapment of our own problems. By stepping into another character’s head, we take on their consciousness, their world (and, you guessed it, their problems!) and are forced to approach things differently than we otherwise would when dealing with our own.

It’s fun. It’s freeing.

Somehow by solving someone else’s problems, we feel we are solving are own; we taste a bit of that joy, and feel a semblance of that sense of relief.

Recently I read Neil Gaiman’s Coraline and found myself relishing in Coraline’s ability to solve her own problems. It may sound strange, but I almost felt apart of it. Whether it be because I remembered something important that happened earlier on in the story, or because I agreed with Coraline’s judgements of her situation, or because I cheered her on throughout it, I felt like I was there, that I was somehow helping this character solve their own problems.

And it felt good. It felt good to be helpful.

Lately, I’ve almost felt like I can’t help myself. I’ve feel powerless. I’ve felt as if I’m trapped in my own problems. But writing has helped, writing always helps, and so I’ll continue to do so. I know I need to more.

I suppose in a weird way we do help when we write. In a way, we help free characters from their problems.

And perhaps a little part of us is in there, being freed too.

The Silence After the Party

5:01 AM.

I haven’t been sleeping well at all this week.

Have you ever messed up your sleep schedule so bad that you forgot it was ever normal? and because you got busy, you never got around to fixing it?

Suffice to say mine is broken.

I keep having these late, late nights where I can’t sleep, where I don’t want to. Earlier this last month, when the depression I was feeling was at its pinnacle, I looked forward to sleep. I would actually induce that sleep, because for me it was a safe place away from the circulating thoughts, a quiet place of solitude for me to escape to.

But lately it’s been the opposite. Lately, I’ve been dreading that silence. I liken it to the silence that one experiences at the end of a party.

The music stops playing. People turn to acknowledge reality, which waits beyond the walls in which they hide. A crowd of lost people disperses into the cold night, sure to return to their lives and abandon the life that was the party before. They bid farewell to one another, making promises they won’t remember the next day, and silence once more takes the streets.

You all the while clamber into your car in a drunken haze, feeling the cold air outside follow you in, sobering you just enough so that driving isn’t immediately the worst idea. Turning the ignition, you wait to feel warm again. The engine hums happily, though you are feeling anything but. It is dark, it is quiet, you are cold, and you are alone. The party is over. The party has ended. And you are alone.

The silence after the party is really just a reminder that what was is no longer. It is the reality that though we may feel surrounded by warm bodies milling about, and though we may feel that we are a part of something larger—that this party is one in which we all have something to celebrate—we are ultimately alone, ultimately on our own. It’s the same feeling I experience at the end of the day, when it’s time to go to bed.

There is a potentiality to the morning time that isn’t so at night. I spoke with a friend about this, about how I keep feeling anxious—eager, even—to get to the next morning and see the sun rise. I dread the process of sleep: I don’t want to lay in the silence of my darkened room and feel that same feeling of the silence after the party; I don’t want to be reminded I’m alone. Instead, I remain on my phone, busying myself with distractions so that the silence never fully reaches me.

I never do anything in silence anymore, except write. At every other time of the day I’m listening to something, or watching something, or reading something. I’m constantly consuming. I fill my head with these conversations and stories because there are none to be had or heard now that the party is over.

And that’s why I haven’t been sleeping well.

That’s why I’m not now.

You gaze up through the window shield, out to the foggy night that drifts beyond. You’re alone, yes, but is there not something special to that? Something intimate that only you experience? You need not now consult with the others around to select a song; instead you connect your phone, and soon the song you’ve been wanting to hear all night is blasting through your speakers. The car has warmed up now, so that even the cold from outside has left: yet another reminder that you’re alone.

You shift the gear from park to drive and speed off and into the night, away from the party that was, away from the night that is no more. In the silence after the party you linger, knowing you won’t remember any of it in the morning. But maybe you’ll stay awake, maybe you’ll decide that lingering in that silence after the party is easier than wakening to the new sounds of tomorrow.

And so you stay awake. So too, will I.

Grappling with Humanity

I think I struggle a lot with humanity.

On some days, it is my own. I think I express a lack of humanity, or at the very least a bitterness towards humanity. I am cynical. I am resentful. I am distrusting, and I am hateful. On other days, it is too much humanity. On some days it feels like I am the only one feeling. It is as if I am touched by things others aren’t, affected in ways others aren’t, so that I’m left feeling vulnerable, out in the open and exposed. I am left feeling too many feelings. 

So much of my struggle with my chronic condition can be viewed through this lens of humanity. At times, it can feel like I am dehumanized by others. I often feel that way whenever I step foot in a hospital, and before being asked my name, or how my day was, or how I’m feeling, I am forced to hand over this piece of technology that supposedly represents me. Suddenly, I am reduced to a series of numbers, a grouping of statistics. In the worst of moments, the pain/suffering I experience from this condition renders a bleak perspective of humanity as this uncaring, cold thing. Medical. Sterilized.

I’ve seen a lot of that side lately. 

But then, I’ve also seen the opposite. I’ve seen the best of people reach out, extend themselves so as to connect and let me know I’m not alone, that none of us are. I’ve felt humanity’s warmth, experienced its care and consideration. I’ve seen the best of it. I’ve seen a lot of that side too.

When I write, I do so with humanity in mind. I can never really get away from it and its relationship with monstrosity. I am fascinated by monstrosity specifically because the line that separates it from humanity is far more blurred than we would ever like to admit. I love exploring that blurred place. Those who are disabled know it all too well, for we are often monstrified in our own right.

So much of humanity is messy. So much of it a convoluted mess of emotions, ever-conflicting and contradicting. And lately, that’s how I’ve felt: like a mess of emotions. One day happy, the next distraught. One moment smiling, the next in tears. Of course, the line that separates the two (happiness from sadness) is also blurred, and is just as ambiguous.

But there is such beauty in the struggle with humanity. At times it feels I am grappling with it, holding fast to this thing that jerks me around, tossing and turning violently, sending me spiraling at times, to the point I feel I may fall.

But, I suppose that’s just what life is: a struggle. We are left asking ourselves whether it is worth it, whether the number of good days will outnumber the bad ones, whether our humanity will outweigh our monstrosity.

But I suppose I’m grateful for the struggle. I suppose I feel lucky to be able to experience it, to be able to question my humanity and have that in and of itself be emblematic of my humanity.

This paradox that we all live, is beautiful.

About Writing

Writing—let’s talk about it. 

Lately I’ve been feeling really insecure about my writing. Some days I feel so competent, so confident, and others I feel I have no idea what I’m doing, and that any notion of competency is something that ought to be questioned at every turn.

This is, naturally, the best way to grow as a writer: to constantly question your adequacy in your field leads you down a path that can only arrive at excellence (that or madness). That said, there is collateral damage to this imposter syndrome, which is, of course, a complete rejection of compliments, an overly-developed self-loathing, and a desire to feel good enough, as your worth is unlikely to come from the churning chipper-shredder of critical faculty that is your mind now. 

It’s a mess. It’s a messy mess, and it’s the worst sort of mess because you alone can’t clean it up; it takes others—others who say your writing is worth something—for you to feel like it is, for the ground beneath to clear, and for you to see what truly lies beneath it. Now, that’s not to say there aren’t times when I’ll write something and think, “Yeah, I nailed that,” or times when I’ll reread a sentence or paragraph I wrote and get excited and think, “Oh, this is really good.” I imagine that is the experience of any writer who’s worked at it long enough—why else would we write if not because we know we are good at it, or at the very least have something to say worth being said?

But that’s just it, isn’t it? Something to say. Sometimes (and I’m still learning this) it’s okay not to have something to say. Sometimes it’s okay to want to write but not be able to. “Writer’s block,” as we call it. But perhaps we should call it something different, as “blockage” seems to imply something unnatural occurring, something that is detrimental to the process, when in reality it is often something necessary, something natural and to the benefit of the work. It is distance, it is time afforded to reflect—and we all need it sometimes.

So whether it be writing that is your passion or something else, afford yourself the time you need to come at it with a fresh perspective—ideally one that isn’t “Oh no, I’m awful at this!” Hopefully, with a little time and distance, that desire and drive to express, to create, to invent, will find you hungry for it, and when it comes time for you to put pen to paper, you’ll be ready for what flows out of you, and it will feel honest. 

—Announcement—

My friend Tenley and I have decided to start collaborating on a short story! It’s a sort of mix between the two genres in which we write (mine being primarily horror/gothic, and Tenley being YA/fantasy). More news to come, but suffice to say I really, really think you will enjoy it (you being anyone who reads my writing enough to get a sense of who I am, or just enjoys spooky stories).

a Lazy Day

It’s a lazy day.

Sometimes you need one. Sometimes it’s good to stay in bed, to sleep in and let the day outside drift past dreamily, as if bobbing down a babbling brook. Let it flow. Let it go. Give yourself permission, for today is a lazy day.

Stay in bed. Curl into a bundle and allow the sheets to fold over and embrace you. Pick up that book you’ve been meaning to read—what page did you leave off on again? Text a friend, reach out to someone you care about and let them know. Or don’t. Or just ignore it all today. Shut out the world. It’ll be there waiting for you tomorrow.

Sob to a romantic comedy, laugh to a horror movie. Feel the cool air beyond your window, your world. Hear the birds. Give yourself permission to feel sad, or happy, or anything really. Give yourself the freedom to feel today.

It’s okay to be behind—you’ll catch back up tomorrow. Whatever day it is you need, take it. It’s yours. You deserve it. You’re doing great. You’re doing amazing, and you’re doing it on your own. You’ve got this.

Don’t worry today away. Don’t let your mind wander back to those dark thoughts from before. Feel no guilt. Instead, take a nap. Let your sleepiness swallow you whole and bask in that drowsy darkness. Let all that today could have been go, and allow yourself the freedom.

It’s okay. It’s all okay. You have permission. You have every right.

Today is a lazy day. Enjoy it.