Entry #17 – Taking Care of Yourself

Hi everyone, Kohaku here; I hope everybody had a great week.

With respect to writing, I got more done this week than I expected, so I’m glad. Even so, life is still really busy, and I’m stressed and tired. Things will sort themselves out soon. Until then, all I can do is keep moving forward.

I’ve been trying to do a lot recently. I’m working hard, learning a lot of new things, and chasing after new experiences and opportunities. And while that’s all well and good, I think it’s important for us to remember that we don’t have to do everything. Sometimes, some days, it’s important to let yourself sleep in, relax, make some hot tea and curl up by the window with a good book. Treat yourself to a nice warm bath, maybe an afternoon nap. Stay home. Spend time with yourself for once.

Sometimes, because of the way our society works, we can’t afford to do this. I think that’s a problem – but there are lots of ways to argue it. I just wish society at large would accept and prioritize the importance of the health of individuals, which greatly depends on being able to have relaxing days like these.

I’m just incredibly tired. I need a break, but don’t we all? We each have to find our own ways to recharge and keep on going. This week, think about what you do to take care of yourself, and do it. Your health and happiness depend on it, right? Do your best to make time for that; just do whatever you can, and keep walking forward.

Take care~

KT

Tariq

through these burning skies I see
the starless sky you gave to me
the place I left my souls behind
the wandering demons in my mind

hurting just to feel alive
mere seconds tear apart my drive
you thought I was just going to sleep
sometime, someday again we’ll meet

I’ve fallen through the cracks, I know
mistaken gifts, my life to show
now searching for a place to die
just waiting for the right time

in the mirror, the ghost you see
the physical faces of all but me
the living spirit floating through the air
surviving now on a single dare

the shadows drifting through the night
challenging the edge of light
embrace me just like falling sand
knowing those without homelands

I’ve fallen through the cracks, I know
mistaken gifts, my life to show
now searching for a place to die
just waiting for the right time

now searching for a place to die
just waiting for the right time

disappearing

as time moves past ruthlessly,
your feelings drown in the silence
staring out the window into the night,
I can’t even form a thought

this world is too difficult
this life too hard to bear
you don’t understand
how your words can hurt me…

just looking for an escape,
but too scared to really do it
I look out towards a future that
it doesn’t even exist

please just stop talking…
I can’t hear you right now
but you’re blind to my emotions
just as I am to yours

maybe I’m being unfair
maybe I’m being inconsiderate
if I’m the one who’s in the wrong
just take me, please…

if I could vanish from this world,
whenever I please,
without hurting you…
I’d do it in a heartbeat, but…

Swinging

Up, I raise my face to the sky –
Down, I touch my toes to the ground;
Up, I cry out to this crazy world –
Down, I embrace its tragedies and drown.

Day after day I seat myself
High on the playground swings –
Going up and down,
Up and down to eternity.

And yet…

「なんでひとりでいるの?」

「疲れた。。。」

Day after day I swing alone
Alone, because this is my life –
My life and no one else’s –
But all I feel is this empty space around me.

「ハク、寂しくない?」

「うるさいよ。。。」

Deep inside I know I will tire,
I can’t make it on my own.
The swing will cease its endless rhythm –
I will fall into the sand, unless…

「ハク、きいて。」

「なんでひとりでいるの?」

I close my eyes; I feel the hand on my back
I feel the sunlight lift me up in a warm embrace
I hear the familiar laughter of my old friend –
And I go up and down, up and down to eternity.

Pieces of a Shadow

My heart fills with fear when I realize what you’re doing. I stare at you, sitting on your bed with a calmness I haven’t seen in years. I watch as your fingers deliberately tie the rope. I call out to you, confessing my love, pleading for you to live, but you can’t hear me.

Please, stop. I can’t lose you.

You can’t even see me. I fall to the floor, reaching in a panic for the tiny pieces of darkness scattered across the room. Most of them dissolve in my hands without form or depth; others, like shards of glass, draw pain and blood. I give no mind to the scarlet running down my arms onto your carpet. I struggle to fit the dark pieces against each other, trying to stitch together a shadow so that you can live again. But it’s no use, and I know it.

You’re not even dead yet, and in my head I’m already reciting the speech I’m going to give at your funeral.

I watch as you sit at your desk and write your letter, a short note overflowing with pain and anger and sorrow. I close my eyes and pray into the silence that you won’t sign it. But you do, happily. You stand up and cross the room, and I don’t open my eyes again until you’re hovering ten inches off the floor.

I thought I could save you. But all I could do was give you a broken shadow and a formless hope that you would make it.

She Saw My Scars

She calls me in the middle of the night, for the first time in months. I’m sitting at my computer listening to music when my phone goes off. I pick it up, surprised, and say, “Hey, are you okay?”

“Hi. I just need to talk to you,” she tells me. “It’s been kind of bad the past few days.”

“Where are you?” I ask.

“Outside my house. There’s a community pool in my neighborhood. I go there when I need to think.”

“Okay,” I say. I make a mental note of that. “Well, what’s up?”

“So we went to a hot springs bath the other day,” she says. “And I cut, right, and my parents didn’t know, and I forgot to cover it up. And my mom saw my scars… she saw my scars and started blaming me. She started yelling at me saying how she doesn’t even put that much pressure on me to do good at school or anything but she does, she does, she just doesn’t realize it. She doesn’t realize she’s causing so many of my problems and she just blames it all on me.”

My throat tightens in anger and pain as I try to find a way to answer her. This, I find, is a common thread among many of us – people who don’t understand, who don’t listen, who blame us for our own problems without realizing that they’re the cause. And at this age, many of us are just stuck with these kinds of people. It’s worse when they’re your own family and you can’t do anything about it.

I start asking her about her plans for her future. I want to hear what she wants to do, where she wants to go. She can’t give me anything concrete – people who are suicidal usually don’t plan that far ahead. I stare at the wall of my room and tell her slowly, “I have an old friend who was in a similar position. We were talking one time, and he explained to me, ‘But I’m willing to burn bridges as I stand on them for a life I’d rather live.'”

I let that sink in for a moment. She says in a small voice, “That’s a good quote.”

I tell her, “Plan for a better life. It will hurt, but if your family relationships are toxic, that’s a bridge you should be willing to burn. Pursue your own life, your own happiness, because that’s more important in the end.”

We sit in silence for a little while. Finally I ask her, “Well, what do you want to do?”

She says, “I kind of want to go to Korea to teach English…”

Drowning

I sit at the edge of the pool, letting my feet dangle in the cold water. I stare into the dark blue depths and feel alone. There’s a slight ringing in my ears, drowning out the sound of the wind and the birds and the traffic on the street below. I close my eyes and try to breathe.

You’re okay, I tell myself. It’s okay.

My chest hurts.

Before I know it I’m crying, silent and powerful sobs that shake my entire body. I want to stop but at the same time I don’t, I want to drown myself in tears. I want to wring a rope around my neck, I want to throw myself into the pool and hold my head underwater with my own shadowed hands. I want to escape this life of suffering and pain and hatred and humanity.

I close my eyes, choking on my tears. In the shadows I reach out to touch my memories but they shatter beneath my fingers, violent and sharp, jagged shards slicing across my wrists. I scream into the darkness, calling out for someone, anyone – no one.

Inside of me I know that I’ll wake up from this nightmare. But I’m not sure what side of life I’ll wake up on.

Not Enough

From the beginning, we are constantly comparing ourselves to other people. Schools reinforce social comparison using grades, test scores, and certificates until it becomes almost secondhand. As soon as a test is handed back, many students begin to ask their friends, “What did you get?”

We are taught to feel good if we have higher grades and more rewards than our peers. But it doesn’t make me feel good. It makes me feel sick.

Whether in school or not, the things we use to compare ourselves to each other are completely arbitrary and are rarely indicative of actual effort, intelligence, or character. For those who end up on the lower end of the scale, often unfairly, this system rams down their throats a single message: You are not enough. And that message is toxic. That message can kill.

I often say that I take human beings one at a time. That’s because every single human being is different. Comparing us all to each other, and comparing us all to a single arbitrary standard, just doesn’t make sense. I’m tired of looking at the people around me and thinking, they’re smarter, they’re more beautiful, they’re more interesting, they’re more creative, they’re better than I am.

Some Eastern religions, such as Buddhism and Taoism, have a teaching roughly equivalent to this: if there are seven million people, there are seven million different ways to live. As long as you are not harming others, live true to your heart, and let others do the same.

I have to remind myself of that a lot.

For instance, I have to remind myself of that when I feel like I don’t “qualify” to be a member of the LGBTQ+ community. Because the typical narrative is that gay people have always known they were gay, and being gay is a huge part of their lives, and non-cis folks have always felt non-cis and experience severe gender dysphoria and being non-cis is also a huge part of their lives. That might be true for a lot of people, and that’s totally valid – but none of that applies to me. For me, my gender identity and sexuality are just small facets of the very complex human being that I am. I don’t feel the need to come out to people or make a big deal out of it. I don’t care if other people know, I don’t care what pronouns are used to refer to me – the only thing that matters to me is that I have a better understanding of myself. That’s just my way of life. And I’m tired of feeling like I have to compare my way of life to others.

I’m tired of making that comparison and deciding that I’m “not enough“.

Zuihitsu #29

I am tired of standing between other people and death.

I am tired of saying, “If you need me anytime, just give me a call.” Because when they call, I am tired of saying, “Please don’t kill yourself today.”

I am tired of staring people in the eyes, hoping I will see them the next day because there is no guarantee my words will carry them through the storm – no guarantee because nothing can guarantee life, and yet…

Promise me I will see you tomorrow, I said.

They smiled, nodded through their tears. They promised.

They promised. Tomorrow came, and they weren’t there, and I…

I am tired.

But what else, what more can I do?

Nobody wants to stand where I stand, but someone has to. We need people here, at the edge of the cliff, people who can create a safety net to catch those who are about to fall –

And sure, the net breaks sometimes. Sometimes the net itself needs saving. But we need it to be there in the first place.

Now more than ever, we need to look out for each other. We have to take care of one another.

Because who among us is strong enough to continue alone?

Zuihitsu #28

Daily Thoughts:

I wonder why life is so terrible.

I also wonder why life is so beautiful.

I wonder why I sometimes feel depressed and suicidal.

I also wonder why I always end up choosing to live.

I wonder why people have to suffer without reason.

I also wonder why those who have suffered the most are often the wisest, kindest people.

I wonder how it is that humans have such a capacity for cruelty and hatred.

I also wonder how it is that humans have such an immense capacity for love.

Do you want to live? they ask.

Not right now, I say. Maybe later.

There is no later, they tell me. Just now.

Well, in that case…