I’ve spent the night sifting through some of my old writings. Peering into our past can tell us so much about ourselves. So much about the things I wrote suggest that they were written by me — from the sensitivity and vulnerability to the reverence for nature that I tried so hard to capture. Yet, I know that the girl who wrote them just doesn’t exist anymore. I can never be her again, even if I wanted to. She was so innocent, so naive. In a way, this piece on springtime has come to encapsulate a spring-like season of my own life. I know that I can never love like that again, and it has nothing to do with being unable to find the right person or anything like that. It’s because I’ve tumbled too far through life. I’ve loved too many. I know too much about humans now. I could never idealize another finite person like that again. Also, with a first love, everything feels so new and magical. But if you love enough people, the feelings might seem just as powerful, but you eventually run out ways to express those feelings. Anything I say to another person now seems recycled, old and tired. Every time I mouth something like “my heart floods with feelings for you,” I’m reminded of the fact that I’ve said similar things many times before and it loses its luster a little bit each time. Getting older means trading in youth for truth. Little by little, first-times are given up and replaced with insight.

Glimpses of Spring (2009)


Behold.
The Ecosphere is booming with life.

Fresh flower buds emerge on sturdy branches,
amidst fleeting traces of soft, delicate fragrances.
Silkscreen petals give off a translucent lucidity
gracefully cascading….
a kaleidoscope of color.

New birth surrounds us
as the cool, earthen, soil is ready to nurture plantlife
and further bestow enriched, plush greenery.

Blue skies resplendently gaze down upon us
and feathery clouds traverse across the global heavens.

Consequently, the humans are filled with vigor, zest, and fresh enthusiasm
as they, all together, shift time forward.
So the sun agrees to stay with us a little longer
for his company is so pleasant.
And when he must bid us adieu,
his parting gift is a musical blend of creamy
oil-pastel colors
painted in sweeping motions across the evening sky.

And here, I find myself,
with this heightened sense of awareness
of all that surrounds me.
My eyes indulge in ever-available beauty
and feast on the tiniest of delights
–like water droplets
sliding down glassy charcoal pebbles
and aphids circling up stems.

The cool air calms and allows me to breathe easy.
-bringing renewal
-tingling the skin
-unwinding all tension.
An enlivening therapy.

And I think to myself,
with a striking realization
This, it must have been something like this.
When your mother eagerly awaited your upcoming arrival.
And the day you finally tasted your first breath.
After all, what more befitting a time, than this?
For someone so wonderful to join in existence
and come into being.
What a special synchronicity.
Had they known you, ancient mystics would have deemed YOU the reason
the personification
for the splendor of springtime that surrounds us now.
The fair earth rejoices, and sings her jubilant song
so as to welcome you.
And now, the world calls on you,
with a beckoning ear.
It longs to hear your unconventional, revolutionary ideas.
It awaits a visionary like you.
To lead humanity down a new path
to Utopia.
I often listen in awe when I witness your voice
and the the ingenuity and inventiveness which stems from it.
These ideas are gifts, which you share with me.
Your thoughts are freer than most.
Yours are outwardly expressed.
Yours captivate, break boundaries.
You speak with determination, certainty, and strength of mind.
You stir hope.
Much like the hope that the changing of the season has brought to the flora and the fauna.
Humanity waits for you, too, to herald something new.
To deliver a glorious message of evolutionary transformation.
Your voice, it already permeates such passion.
In the natural world, seeds spread in multiplicity
to create an explosion of vibrancy.
You, too, will prosper on a grander scale.

My heart floods with feelings for you.
Even when you’re not around,
I feel your positive energy
uplifting me
and when in your presence,
there is a strong sense of security and guidance.
I find myself daydreaming of you
and the joy you bring me
and in those moments,
all is harmonized.
You make me smile,
like the wispy blades of grass that playfully dance in the breeze
yet you also bring strength and meditative peace
like tall, zen-like branches that pensively sway back and forth.
And incomparable to anything
– is the boundless love
so ethereal, enveloping
That intrinsically connects
you to I.

Billions of years ago
a profound accident happened, by chance.
And the earth slowly formed and eventually began to sustain life,
making everything we see now, plausible.
And by some continuing, expanding phenomenon,
countless factors throughout history and time
have fallen upon one another
to make the conditions favorable enough
so that you and I,
by some beautiful stroke of fate
could be brought together.
Nothing we ever do, or don’t do, is without relevance.
Destiny unfolds, as it hinges on our very actions.
It is an honor to be with you today,
and partake in the celebration
of the momentous event
that brought you here, now.
For you are as miraculous to me as the Big Bang, itself.
Our interconnectedness radiates such magnitude.
Happy Birthday, ***.

I believe that the desire to learn is the most important quality a human being can possess. The abilities to seek and grow are a remarkably beautiful part of life. Such a pursuit should be relentless, spirited, and lifelong.

Everyday, I make some sort of an effort to better myself and experience something which reminds me that life is wondrous. There are so many opportunities in life. There are an infinite amount of ideas to consider, words to read, and people to meet. There is so much music to hear, art to connect with, nature to explore, and work to be done. Life should never be boring.

There are so many perks when it comes to learning. Learning offers people a special awareness. Not to mention open-mindedness, compassion, and understanding. Learning gives me passion, and it also sparks in me a desire to teach, to share, to help, and to inspire others.

I am an advocate for education. I understand that I am fortunate to be born into a country that gives me so many freedoms and opportunities to thrive. Students often grow weary and proclaim, “I cannot wait to be done with school!” Yet school should be embraced, because it is one of the only places in our society where minds can get together, speak intellectually, and spring up so much growth. All in all, I wholeheartedly believe that this insatiable thirst for learning is indeed one of the best qualities of being a student, and of being human.

Welcome
to the rush.
Nothing’s
as it was.

Here thoughts
flood like
calligraphic vials

toppled over.
Let them spill.
Let them flow.

Seeping
and stretching across
as they spread into
pigmented pools and
Rorschach
blots.

Can you tell me
what you see?

Defective Clairvoyance

Most of the time, it is the idea of things that bother me, and not the things themselves. I’m becoming more and more cognizant of the fact that there is (very often) an explicit contrast between my imagined expectations, and actual lived experience:

I wake up and it feels like someone tiptoed into my room and injected me with cortisol. I am utterly and pointlessly overwhelmed. I just lie frozen in my bed. I dread that I have to muster up the strength to get up. I’m reminded of my humanity and how I am pressured to go through the Groundhog Day motions of maintaining this ever-rotting flesh:

-pee, wash dirty face, tone pimpled face, moisturize dry, starting-to-wrinkle face, floss gross teeth, brush teeth and tongue till you gag and spit, gargle rabies foaming-at-the-mouthwash, wash greasy hair, dry wet noodley hair, straighten frizzy hair with a 400 degree flat iron, “cover” under-eye circles with beige goop, smear BB cream all over your visage, color in patchy eyebrows with brown powder, dab eyelids with “nude” glittery powder, trace eyelid-eyelash border with eyeliner,coat eyelashes in black casting, arrange an outfit that fellow humans will inevitably judge you by, actually put the subpar outfit on, figure out what to eat (among all the dizzying possibilities of food!), spoon feed self…

As I’m still lying there in bed, dream-drunken, I feel like I have insider knowledge into the life of Sisyphus because I, too, am going to have to wake up every day, for the rest of my life, and do it all over again.

I finally hurl myself out of bed and am standing in front of the bathroom sink. I notice that my body automatically starts sobering up. Something about just being vertical is galvanizing. I step into a shower. Looking up at the gentle and steady warm water falling, I find myself soaking in clarity. I smirk to myself as I think, “Why didn’t I just get up earlier? Why did I ever dread this? I wonder what it’s like for other people, who just get up. Oh well, I am up now and I feel so grateful to be experiencing this. It’s so invigorating.” I put on some fresh clothes and I appreciate the little things, like how my shoes feel perfectly snug as I wiggle them onto my feet. I take my first steps around my room as a fully-dressed, clean person. I feel so awake, so alert, and perfectly prepared to experience the day.


I’m hesitant about going out alone. When I have some very specific objective, going outside is easier because it’s a little more predictable. But today, I have no place that I really need to be. The general idea of leaving home just for the sake of getting out seems too vulnerable. Somehow or another I am going to be bothered or humiliated out in that precarious world, where all sorts of uncertainties abound.

I finally decide to challenge myself. As I’m stepping out the door, I am greeted by sunlight and celebratory birdsong. The crisp air wakes up my skin and a sense of daytime adventure leaps inside me. I feel silly for ever sequestering myself in a stuffy room, instead of being out in the wide open space of the world. I belong outside. Later on, I meet up with friends and I hypothesize to them that there is some sort of unspoken, evolutionary affinity between our biological bodies and the nuances of nature, and that communion is severed by cinderblock walls.

I become attached to said friends, but the time finally comes for them to say their goodbyes. The fact that I am about to be alone for an extended amount of time feels like being sentenced to solitary confinement. I will be alone, thrown back into the chambers of my mind. I can’t know where my busy thoughts will take me once I am alone. They could easily spin out and I’ll end up being forced to endure the tumultuous waves of Styx.

But then the person goes and I find myself actually alone. About a minute after they’ve left, I admit that it really is nothing like I expected. The silence is actually sweet. There is a sense of airy delight. My thoughts become unbridled and imaginative. I sit with myself and enjoy my own company. I assumed that being alone was going to make me feel out of control, but it’s actually the only way that I can feel most in control. I can finally recharge, gather myself, marshal goals, and make myself.

The “idea” of creating frustrates me the most. It is by far my most pernicious, most pervasive bane. When I think about the idea of possibly creating something, it feels like I am being choked and rendered immobile by a straightjacket of self-doubt.

Then I somehow end up entering the realm of creativity, that sacred space where time no longer matters and everything surges and cascades. Where dusty, stored-away experiences reappear and magically collide to form a fresh amalgam. That is when I really look back and wonder. I wonder why thinking about creating can be so intensely threatening but the act itself is one of the most profound and rewarding parts of being alive.

The moral of this mess: Next time you’re about to face the unknown, the daunting, or the assumed-to-be disagreeable, watch how you waver. Like me, you might start by making tense suppositions but end up in unexpected relief. The phantasmagoria in your mind and the actuality that follows never totally align. Reality is rarely as bad as your worries make it out to be. Forge ahead. You might start with a dreaded future, but find that time ends up unfolding into a pleasant surprise.

“We are more often frightened than hurt;

and we suffer more from imagination than from reality.”

-Seneca, Stoic philosopher/badass (4 BC – AD 65)

The Missing Piece Meets the Big O, By Shel Silverstein

2

This book has been a life-long friend. I first met it as a very young child. The pages of the copy that I owned had a very distinct, ambrosial, scent. I remember sitting and drinking it in as I revisited the book over and over again, as an innocent little Anna. (I have never found that scent again.)

As I got older (and experienced relationships) the story transformed into more than an intimate sensory experience. Its message has become a whispered reminder. A reminder that resonates within me and fortifies me on my path.

Long live Shel Silverstein. ♥

P.S. If you’re ever interested, you can read the story here:http://www.ktor.me/bigo/index.php

10269349_957574580927151_1016185174128308140_n

* * *

What if I told you
that you’ve been tricked
into miming?
The box isn’t really there and
you can step out anytime.

Wipe away
that ghastly facepaint
and those inky tear stains.

I know there is a voice inside.

***

1. I created it and like the miracle of childbirth, it somehow shoots out of me through a seemingly magical process.

2. I am overly invested in it. I worry about it to the point of sheer agony. It is a major source of stress in my life. I’m not sure how it will turn out. Anything the writing says or does reflects back on me.

3. I am willing to sacrifice everything for it. All of my other non-writing related desires find their place on the back-burner, and I’ll wonder where my time went. When writing is around, I will forgo socializing and hibernate at home. Looks? What are those? Once writing is in my life I can put on a pair of glasses, throw up my unkempt hair, and forget that make-up exists.

4. I am overly sensitive about it. The slightest criticism of it immediately sends my body into mama-bear defense mode. I have to tell myself that the criticism will make my writing stronger.

5. I feel like it is the greatest source of meaning in my life. When it says something clever or cute, that’s all I want to talk about, and I wish everyone could experience how it makes me feel. I just feel so proud of it, but in reality no one else gives a shit. Some probably roll their eyes in annoyance and think, “Shut up, Anna!”

Coming back to my hometown, after four years of being away, has allowed me to dissect the cultural climate in which I grew up with fresh, new eyes.

I recently accompanied a friend to her local community college. It was Day One of Fall semester, and the entire campus was back in busy motion. Bright-eyed students, donned in their best back-to-school attire, bustled about to find the right classrooms. As a guest, I wandered about and reveled in the exuberance that only college campuses are capable of emitting. I eventually found a bench to sit on and began my daily reading ritual. As I began, I briefly took notice of a bespectacled Latino student standing nervously beside a closed classroom door, as if he were waiting for someone to come out. He stood there for over twenty minutes, but I didn’t mind him and continued my reading until he sheepishly shuffled over to me and said, “Hi, do you know if I’ll dropped for not showing up to the first day of a class?” I told him that showing up on the first day of classes is crucial, because instructors often give the spots of absent students to those on the waitlist. He told me that he was registered and really wanted the class, but confessed that he had gotten lost. He had been standing outside because he was late and didn’t know what to do. I urged him to just go in and explain his situation to the teacher. His response was, “But I’m too embarrassed….” I convinced him to go in, but his words kept reverberating in my thoughts: “I’m too embarrassed.

In those words, I heard my own voice — my younger, naive voice. I recalled all the times when I didn’t know how to advocate for myself. I had a skewed conception of professors, seeing them as daunting authority figures, hardened and dismissive of their students’ plight. I felt like it was somehow honorable to put myself down and humbly hide in the periphery. I also believed that I was undeserving of being granted favors, because I didn’t want my teachers to think of me as a mooch. I can’t count all the times I had to swallow an unfair fate because I lacked the savvy to ask for help. Injustice imbues bitterness, and I remember believing with resentment that my last university was “riddled with bureaucracy.” Since then, I have realized that professors are just people, and they tend to be some of the most rational and understanding people out there. Most teachers feel compelled to help their students, but they can be extremely busy. They can’t be aware of every student’s predicament, so if a student doesn’t speak up, her needs can go unnoticed. But for me, that lesson from ‘the hidden curriculum’ had to be slowly and painfully learned.

Self Amidst Flux

RiverWinding

“No man ever steps in the same river twice,

for it’s not the same river

and he’s not the same man.”

-Heraclitus

*

Whether you believe that there is an overarching “self” or not, you must be willing to acknowledge that you are continuously changing.

You hardly resemble the fetus that you once were, nestled in your mother’s warm body. Suppose an advanced Womb with a View existed back in your fetal days, and your parents had a clear image of you captured. Would you now be able to pick out that image among others? Beyond just images and down to a micro level, your body consists of fluctuating cocktails of chemicals that are capable of affecting your mood from moment to moment. Molecule for molecule, the entirety of your body is being slowly replaced several times over.

Cognitively, there was a time when you didn’t know this language. For months, as a baby, you sloppily yet steadily babbled simple sounds — sounds with no meaning yet attached to them. Yet now, here you are, with a grasp of the English language that is sophisticated enough to effortlessly gather meaning from these lines of symbols. In fact, now, it seems virtually unfathomable to go throughout your day without words. The most intimate parts of you and your thoughts are so steeped in language that it would be hard to imagine forming a single thought, let alone an entire identity, without it.

As long as you are living, you are changing. Every day, you take in an innumerable amount of information, tugging you this way and that, subtlety and drastically transforming you. Even the most fundamental parts of you — your values, beliefs and judgments have shuffled and shifted with experience. Lessons are learned and patterns slowly diverge.

Amidst all this flux, where is “the Self” or the tangible thing that makes you, distinctly you? Is there some sort of common thread that is somehow woven throughout your being from the beginning of your consciousness to the end?

 

I’ll never be able to commit myself to one neatly-packaged worldview that I can explain with ease, but here is a tiny list of labels for groups that have made marks on my perspective over time. Within each them, I have seen limitations, but more importantly, I have found sparks of greatness and truth.

ZEN BUDDHISTS: Thank you for teaching me Satori, non-attachment and inner quietness.
FRANCISCIAN MONKS: Thank you for instilling in me a deep sense of rebelliousness and love of solitude.
SKEPTICS: Thank you for showing me how to critically question and analyze.
MYSTICS: Thank you for chasing the divine.
FREETHINKERS, NONBELIEVERS, SECULAR HUMANISTS, ATHEISTS: Thank you for promoting the value of science and for unveiling the wonders of reality.
PANTHEISTS: Thank you for seeing the infinite in everything.
LIBERAL CHRISTIANS: Thank you for being brave enough to surpass religious boundaries.
EX-FUNDAMENTALISTS: Thank you for your perfectionism and ongoing determination to “go all in” on your quest for truth.
UNITARIAN UNIVERSALISTS: Thank you for believing in the inherent value of diversity, and for fostering a sense of open-armed hospitality.