Life = Suffering + Love

This is a sample of one of my recent writing projects, a personal essay-poetry collection. I wrote this for a friend’s birthday! I considered breaking this up into separate blog posts, but because it was deliberately structured into a collection I decided to leave it alone. Sorry if it turns out to be a long read. I hope you enjoy it though!

Kohaku


Preface

Zuihitsu (随筆, loosely translated as “follow the brush” or “pen at will”) is an old Japanese literary genre typically consisting of a series of personal essays and ideas regarding the world. The essays may be short or long, may connect to each other or not, and often blur the lines between prose and poetry. Most zuihitsu pieces were not planned, in the sense that they were not initially written with the intention of publication. Common themes included the flaws of humankind, the beauty of nature, the impermanence of the material world, and cultural, political, or social disillusionment, along with general introspection and reflection.

This work is a modern individual’s take on zuihitsu. Because the essays in this work are extremely personal and reflective, individuals within the author’s familial and social circles are often mentioned, though not by name. To those it may concern, please do not make the assumption that any certain passage refers to you, as many passages in actuality refer to a collective rather than a single individual, and several are loosely fictional.

This piece, written over the span of two months, is divided into twenty-five entries of varying subject, style, and length. The author humbly offers up this work and hopes that readers may find it insightful, thought-provoking, and even perhaps enjoyable.


//////////////////// 1

Talk to me.

I say this a million times, begging, pleading. When I’ve lost my voice I keep saying it, in my head, in my dreams, hoping and praying for an answer.

But there is only silence.

Don’t you understand that you aren’t alone? Don’t you understand how much I love you?


//////////////////// 2

Who am I?

I lay awake at night pondering this question, and by daybreak there is still no answer. Sometimes I think there will never be an answer. But don’t I need one? Don’t I at least have the right to know myself?

He got shot… she almost died in a car accident… he tried to kill himself… she says she wants to kill herself… he looks away, trying to hide the pain in his voice, in his eyes, and for a single moment I think that I can’t bear it any longer.

Everyone around me is suffering.

What does that say about me? What kind of person am I, that I gravitate towards such horribly wounded people? The people society discards without a second glance? The people who never did anything wrong, never did anything to deserve their pain?

Am I one of them?

No. Not me.

“Other men’s crosses are not my crosses.” But how can you tell? Where is the boundary, the dividing line, the wall between “my” and “other”? How much of other people’s suffering is it my responsibility to carry?

Because it is my responsibility. At least some of it.

I’m the last one, after all. The only one. After me there is no one left. And people like these, the outcasts, the invisible angels, they can’t carry their pain on their own.

I don’t want to be a burden to you, they say. And I’ll say back, you aren’t a burden, I promise.

I lied.

It is a burden. Of course it is. But it’s a burden of love.

Can’t you understand that?


//////////////////// 3

Someday, you will be happy.

Someday you’ll live in a world where you are valued. A world where every person, every book, every movie, screams out I love you, a world that affirms your very existence, your right to life as a human being. A world of freedom and peace, a world where the sun shines bright and never goes down. A world where the curtain never falls. Where darkness is something unknown to man.

Someday you’ll live in a world where you don’t need me. A world where you don’t have to call me in the middle of the night crying. A world where you don’t have to silence yourself, restrain yourself to just looking at me with pleading eyes, hoping I’ll see your pain. A world where you don’t have to lie awake at night trying to understand… why. Why you exist. Why you suffer. Why nobody seems to care.

Someday you’ll live in a world where you are not alone. A world where you are surrounded by dozens, hundreds, millions of people who love you unconditionally. A world where you are understood, accepted, invited in with open arms. A world where you can talk freely, act freely, where you can put down your facade, your safety net, your wall. A world where you can simply be you.

Such a world doesn’t exist. I know that. I’m not naive. But hope doesn’t have to come from a place of innocence.

Sometimes, hope comes from a place of love.

And sometimes, hope is just hope. It doesn’t have to get any more complicated than that.


//////////////////// 4

Even in the dead of night I know that I am not alone. Across time and space, memories always keep me company.

For instance, the memory of a brief but eternal plane ride, the one that set the gears in motion for us to become closer than we’ve ever been. The plane ride that led to the great bridge, to the two of us standing together at the water’s edge, to the terrifyingly vulnerable confession, and everything after.

That’s a good one.

Or the memory of her face that night, flooded with genuine surprise and delight and embarrassment all at once. It takes on a soft, pensive look as four hands run over the piano keys in the background. For a moment it almost overflows with love, but it doesn’t, because love can’t overflow – it builds, expands, acting as its own container, its own master, the pace of its growth only restrained by the being it fills, but always on an endless journey towards infinity.

That’s another good one.

Sometimes, I am kept company by other people’s memories rather than my own. The memory of a broken childhood, of parents angry or never there, of social harassment and tears and pain and rage and above all a single, desperate, unspoken question, still perhaps unanswered, a question that a human being shouldn’t even have to ask.

This memory is not mine, but it may as well be, because when I lay awake at night this memory comes to me with the same depth of emotion as my own.

Memories are strange. They can evoke happiness, or suffering, or a million other indescribable things. They are not always reliable – they can change, become corrupted, or lost into the vast reaches of the universe, to be recovered someday, or not. They can be shared, or kept hidden, or they may be public in the first place. But in any case, it is memory that sustains life.

After all, memory keeps dead people alive, and it keeps living people alive along with them.

And which one am I?

Does it matter, in the end?


//////////////////// 5

What kind of world is this?

There’s something wrong —
Fundamentally wrong —
Open your eyes and see!

What kind of world is this, where children commit suicide, where adults commit mass murder, where thousands of people suffer every day for reasons they cannot fathom, and yet nobody seems to care?

Wait a minute, they’ll say. People do care.

Really?

Another school shooting on the news.
“How terrible,” they say,
And go on with their lives.
The next day —
The day after —
The week after —
The incident is forgotten.

How many people have to die like this?

How many have to die for humanity to start to care?

And death is not the least of it.

Silent, invisible suffering —
We all share in this,
Or know someone who does.
And no wonder!

After all, we live in a world where millions of children are taught to hate, and few are ever taught to love.

Is such self-imposed hatred and suffering unavoidable in a global, technological community of conscious minds?

Suffering is a necessity of life;
I do not mean to say otherwise.
But is cruelty?
Hatred?

At this point, can we even be cured from our own selfish and inhumane ways?

What such a cure may entail,
As of yet I can not say,
For the intricacies of the problem still elude me.

Is it that there are too many of us? Have we simply gone too far, and thereby hastened and ensured our own destruction? Or is cruelty and hatred part of our nature, a kind of self-replicating and self-defeating inheritance, a biological defect or inherent religious sin?

What I would give
To be an unthinking creature,
A mindless ant, fish, or honeybee,
Content with my own lot,
Unable to ask the unanswerable questions
That humans are forever destined to agonize over,
And have agonized over for centuries.

But even here I pause myself —
For to assume other living beings
Lack this conscious mind —
That is arrogant in its own right,
And gives rise to a whole new avenue of thought.


//////////////////// 6

Humans, I think, seem to have an innate desire to simplify, and to simplify too much.

Liberal or conservative
Male or female
Black or white
Gay or straight
Catholic or atheist —
Good or bad
Worthy or unworthy
Happy or sad —
Love or hate.

There are too many to name.

We reduce immensely complex feelings and thoughts to only a few words
We push those words onto a categorical binary —
Then we worship it;
And condemn any who do not seem to fit,
Or who fall on the wrong side of the line.

My political views cannot be reduced to a word.
Not all liberals or conservatives think alike;
What is the purpose of this all?
For now we promote doctrines on shaky grounds,
Like a house without a foundation,
Rejecting one’s ideas simply because “You are not
In the same party as I” —
And to what end?
How are we to progress?

You may look at me and term me female,
And perhaps it is true that I am —
But since I was young,
I display “male-type behaviors”
And reject the female —
What say you now?
Stop and think.
My behaviors cannot be reduced to a word.
They cannot be categorized —
They do not dictate my gender or my sex —
So why do you care?
Why do I care?

And what of love?
You say I love you
To your father
To your sister
To your friend
To your lover —
Do you really presume to say
That every feeling is the same?
No;
Love is a category
Not any one feeling.
So why is it that you judge
When I turn to a friend and tell him I love him
Or to a cousin?

Why do you assume?
Why do you care, if it does not involve you?

A person cannot be reduced
To good or bad
To worthy or unworthy
To sinful or pure
To anything.
So why do we insist?
Can we not believe in each other
Simply as we are?

But that, too —
That is a form of simplification in its own right;
Is it yet impossible to break free?
Are humans innately unable to comprehend the world
Without reducing the whole to some of its parts
And losing all the significant intricacies in the process?


//////////////////// 7

After the rain,
I sit alone, looking out the window, wondering.

A single crow stands on the roof of the house across the way.

She does not cry out or call; she makes no fuss.

Alone but not lonely,
It appears that the crow
Is just as well as I.

After some time – still silent, still alone – she raises her wings, as if stretching. Crows, I remember, take care of their elderly parents. There is therefore a deep cultural admiration already ingrained in me for this being, but at this instant, in my case, it is a personal admiration as well. Connected in our solitude, I watch her as she flies away.

There are lessons to be learned, peace to be gained, in the span of time and space between the rain and the sun.


//////////////////// 8

How many times have I thought, “I want to do this, but I owe it to my family, my culture, to do otherwise?”

Countless times –
Not only looking back at the past,
But looking forward to the future,
And in the now.

Where is it that I should draw the line between personal desires and obligations?

For the line is not clear – it never has been. As with everything else in life, I strain for a balance that is not tangible, that is in many ways unreachable. After all, if I happen to reach it, I am unaware that I have, and by the time I may possibly become aware, I have already crossed the line.

It is an impossible task.

What drives us then, to spend our lives pursuing a balance we are fated never to achieve?

There is an inner strength,
A power (another intangible thing, another unachievable balance),
In knowing the impossibility
Of the task you hold
And still,
Pursuing it to the last –
Not out of obstinacy,
But of a clear, quiet, determination –
Determination to pave your own way
To decide your own life
To find happiness and peace within yourself.

The search for balance
Ought not be a struggle –
Do not fight it –
Sit back,
Allow things to flow;
Things will naturally gravitate
To where they ought to be –
And if you cross the line,
There is nothing –
No one –
Preventing you from returning
To the other side,
And trying again.

Even if you are never quite there, you will be brought infinitely closer to peace and to happiness,
And in our mortal lifetime, that is all we can ever ask for.


//////////////////// 9

A human being without a home – is that really so bad?

For there is almost a freedom to it, a sense of being released into a boundless world, a life with no physical limitations. No place you must go, no place you must return to. The solitary wanderer learns to find her peace and happiness within herself, rather than attached to material things, and is that not more satisfactory in the end? Is it not a wondrous and necessary skill to learn to be happy anywhere and anytime, to be able to stand up to your own suffering and say you are content?

But there is, as we all seem to know, a danger to this freedom, a danger to this ability to create your own happiness. These things must come from within, not from without. To train someone to always be happy is to train a slave; to force someone to always be free is to tear her from her very foundations without regard for the inevitably earth-shattering consequences. In the end, we must all walk this path alone; any guiding hand must be gentle and full of love and care, and it may only be a guide, nothing more. Some of us attempt the path but never make it. Some of us deliberately choose a different path, or pave our own. And some of us walk the path without ever knowing it, until we reach the end and look back and say, Yes, this has changed my life for the better, and now I ought to go out and guide someone else.


//////////////////// 10

Why can’t we all just trust each other?

Out of fear of being overpowered, betrayed, run over in some great foolish race (a race which we should not be running), we turn to deception and destruction; we create weapons with the power to annihilate the earth; we refuse to extend our hands of friendship, support, or aid to those who need it most. And why? To what end?

We must stop believing that people are inherently cruel in nature; we must stop believing in the worst of humanity, for believing in it only fuels its existence. You may call me naive, but I implore you – look at history, the actual histories, look at the world around you! If we do not trust, if we do not allow ourselves to be vulnerable, what will become of us? What will this world look like twenty years from now? We must break out of the cycle of isolation and deception, out of this mindset that we must be “number one”, that we must appear “powerful” and “strong” – and open our hearts to vulnerability and compassion.

Yes, I might be overpowered. Yes, I might be betrayed. Yes, I might lose. But, with the end in mind, is not love and care more desirable than fear and hate? Does my life not mean more if I choose to trust another, if I allow myself to be vulnerable, if I extend my hand – even if no one takes it?


//////////////////// 11

Eight years ago to this day.

I pause for a minute, look out the window; my breath catches when I realize the date. Mind you, I am fully aware of the fluidity of time, that our social perception of years and days is completely subjective – but, because this is the society in which I have been born, years and days have meaning for me.

For instance, eight years ago to this day – though I was not aware of it then – nearly twenty thousand people were wiped off the face of the earth. Hundreds of thousands of carefully constructed lives were torn apart in an instant, and they would never be the same. The earth, air, and sea took the time to remind us of the fragility of life, and while many people took this lesson to heart, many others did not. People I know personally were there, people I admire were there – many people whom, if they had simply been at the wrong place at the wrong time, would not be here today. People whom I never would have met, who would never have had the chance to tell their story, never have had the chance to raise a family, never have had a chance to change my life. And if these are the people who survived, I cannot help but wonder how my life might be different had the twenty thousand others also made it. But that thought leads down a pointless road, for if the event had not occurred on such a drastic, tragic scale, had the suffering been less (if you can even quantify suffering), the whole world would be different, the survivors would be different, and I would be different, all in ways we cannot name. Rather than chasing down current impossibilities, I am more content to take the time to honor the past.

And so, today is an example of an important day for me.

There are many others. The birthday of a friend who is no longer here, and the birthday of a friend who still is. Birthdays are immensely significant to me, even if I cannot accurately explain why, even if I know that the way we tell time is subjective and the actual moment has no meaning whatsoever – it’s meaningful to me, and so it matters. And isn’t that all there is to it?

The thing is, everyone’s important days are different, and without truly getting close to someone you will never know theirs. The person you pass on the street today could be mourning the anniversary of the death of her father. The teacher you see every day in class, could today be celebrating her daughter’s birthday. The old friend you haven’t talked to in years, could today be lost in memories and recollections of the day you first met. In the same way you do not easily know other people’s suffering, you do not easily know their perception of time, the meanings they attach to certain moments, the memories they keep – and if that is so, perhaps it would do us all a bit of good to be kinder to each other offhand, to open our hearts to each other more often, to be willing to listen and try to understand, to offer up our love and care. I won’t say it to you directly – but I could use a kind gesture today.


//////////////////// 12

We live, right now, in a world of synthetic chemicals.

We live in a world where we have flooded our seas with so many toxins that the bodies of marine mammals can classify as hazardous waste.

We live in a world where we can light our water on fire.

We live in a world where our rain, at an unnatural frequency, comes down as acid.

We also live in a world where hundreds of creatures, known and unknown, are dying off by our own hands.

Is there not something wrong here?

I do not question the difficulty of finding a solution. I only wish to know why people continue to deny the very existence of the problem. If we all admitted that the problem exists, we could all work together to solve it – yet we sit in clean white rooms staring each other down across empty desks and debating, over and over again, over and over for years and years, whether or not humans have gone too far.

Is it not so immensely clear that we have?

We have gained great things for ourselves at the expense of everything else on earth, and if we are to sustain any hope for our continued existence – if we are to sustain any appearance of morality – we will have to start giving some of these great things up.

I’ve already begun to do so, and really, it’s not so hard.


//////////////////// 13

Sometimes I wonder if I’m dreaming.

I wonder if the life I’ve lived until now –
Everything I’ve seen and done and suffered –
Was all pointless.
A dream I might suddenly wake up from,
To discover that I’m a different person
Than I imagined myself to be.

The dream itself is not a bad thing –
Though the contents of it may sometimes be.
It’s the thought that, perhaps,
The life I am living is not mine –
And it isn’t, really.
Dream or not,
I am not living for myself.
So does it matter in the end,
This life,
If I wake up one day and do not remember it?


//////////////////// 14

When I think of my childhood, I think of you.

Now, alone in the darkness of night, I wonder: will the sum of all the good and bad things that happen to a person balance out over the course of their life?

I know it’s unfair to project into someone else’s future, to say that it doesn’t look good –
But there is a practicality, a realism, in that –
And sometimes storytellers cannot help themselves.
In the end I know –
All we have is hope.
Is it fair to hope? For someone else and not yourself?

I wonder sometimes: do you think of me as much as I think of you?
Do you remember my words the way I remember yours?
Will you trust me enough to reach out to me when you need help?
You’ve done it before. But will you do it again, when you really need to?

It’s unfair to ask. All I can do is remember, offer, and love – and I have to learn to be content with just that.


//////////////////// 15

I come to class and to work with clean clothes, a clean face. I have school supplies. I have a roof over my head, with water and gas, and there’s food on the table everyday. I don’t look poor, and technically I’m not.

But I’m not rich, either.

You don’t understand –
I’m still in school and I had to get a job to be able to feed my family.
I can’t buy the things that I want to buy, or do the things that I want to do.
Every evening I empty out my pockets, count the change, wonder what I can possibly spare.
My father isn’t here, my mother is sick, my little sister wants to take dance classes –
It’s all I can do to even show up to class everyday, let alone do my homework and study for tests.
It’s all I can do to show up to work every afternoon, even if I’m dead tired and half-sick the whole time.
Can’t you understand?
Apparently not, because all I hear everyday is this:
“Why don’t you do your work?”
“Don’t you want to graduate?”
“Don’t you want to go to college?”
“If you don’t liven up, I’m going to fire you.”
“Why can’t you put on a happy face for our customers?”
“Why do you always look so depressed?”

I also hear this:
“You just need to learn how to effectively manage your time.”
“You just need to smile more often, then you’ll be happier.”
“You just need to save up five dollars every week and then you’ll be fine.”
“It’s all about self-care and wellness. You should exercise more often and eat healthier.”

And then I hear this:
“Hey, what do you want for Christmas this year, Jun? I want the new iPhone and a MacBook and a GoPro and a skateboard and …”
You know what I really want for Christmas this year?
A bicycle, if I could afford it.
But I can’t, and there isn’t anyone who would buy me one –
So stop asking.
You never listen to me, anyway.

Don’t be fooled –
The life described above is not mine.
Compared to my friends, I’m wealthy.
I don’t have to worry about money.
I can afford to buy the things I want to buy, do the things I want to do.
I don’t need to worry about getting scholarships because my parents can pay my way through a four-year university and grad school and more –
That is, if I wanted to pursue higher education.
I’m wealthy enough that I have the privilege of choice, of time, of relative happiness, health, and comfort.

And because of that I feel very, very guilty.

It’s not that I wish I was born into a poor family – I wouldn’t lie like that.
But when my friends, classmates, coworkers, teachers, open up about invisible poverty,
I choke through my own guilt –
Because the life they’re living is drastically different from mine,
And none of us had any choice about any of it.

In the end, what’s the most I can do?
Take care of my friends and my juniors and those around me who need it.
Call them up to check on them,
Give them thoughtful gifts when I can,
Treat them out to good meals.
Slip them my phone number,
In case they need to talk to someone.
I didn’t choose to be born into a wealthy family,
And I can’t do anything about it now, except this.

It’s my responsibility,
But it’s also a byproduct of love.


//////////////////// 16

Few of us ever think
Of the power behind our love.

To think that by calling at just the right time,
Or saying just the right thing —

You can entirely change the course
Of someone else’s life.

Is there not power behind that?
It is at once great
And fearful
And dangerous to all involved.

A strange word to use,
Danger, when coupled with love and care.
But it is dangerous — for the sense of responsibility,
The blame it can create, if the love is not “done right”.

Of course blame in these instances
Is unfair on both sides —
But a lover cannot help but blame themselves
When their loved one dies.


//////////////////// 17

A world where people die,
For no reason –
For all the wrong reasons.
This is the world in which I live.

How have we become so complacent?

We look around and say,
“I have done this much – so I should be satisfied!”
And we end our efforts there,
As though the work is over,
The problem is solved,
And everything is back to normal.

But this shouldn’t be normal.
Should it?

Is it normal, that people routinely hurt and kill themselves?
Is it normal, that children now contemplate their own suffering and mortality?
Is it normal that people hate each other with such passion?
Normal that the world is falling apart?
Normal that nobody cares.

“It is normal,” they say –
“The new normal.”
“Nothing’s wrong,” they say –
“It’s just a fact of life.”

Well, maybe I don’t want to live that kind of life.
Because that life is out of balance and unsustainable.
It is unethical, it is hurtful,
And it is tragic. Deeply tragic.

This life can be improved, built upon,
Perhaps it can even be fixed.
We can live better –
But we choose not to. And for what?

Why do we always stop before the work is done?
Why do we always pretend we have done our best, when we haven’t?
Should we not strive to honestly do our utmost in all things –
Especially when it comes to this?


//////////////////// 18

On the hillside,
Rows of dead trees,
Their charred limbs sticking up out of the ground
Reaching every which way,
A reminder of the fires that raged here
Not so long ago.

And yet –
Spring has come,
And with it nature has pushed the other way.

The hillside now –
The blackened trees remain,
But surrounded by a carpet of green grasses,
Fields of yellow mustard,
Purple and white wildflowers.
A hawk circles slowly above,
A rabbit hops along;
The sun filters through the clouds,
Its rays separating and coming back together
The same way water flows over a cliff
Dissolves into a fine mist
And then surges into the pools below.

For some reason the image resonates within me.
It is burned into my mind,
Into the back of my eyes.
For is this not a clear representation of life?
The remains of death,
Surrounded by such beauty and vitality,
A sudden reclamation of the land.
Yes, I think –
This is life.
There is always such pain and suffering,
But through it all,
In the midst of such tragedy,
We raise our heads up high,
And we smile and continue on.

As is said, the world is cursed –
But we find reasons to keep on living.


//////////////////// 19

To what extent should we consider how our actions will affect others when deciding how to act?

How far does “consideration” go?

For certainly, consideration is important – to care for others, to not be selfish or self-centered, to be aware that your own actions may hurt or harm those around you. We may easily say that one should always be considerate of others. But it is not so simple.

When you are in pain,
And you feel that all others around you are also,
What do you do?
A “considerate” person
Would be inclined to stay silent,
To not ask for help,
To not ask for the support circle they need
Because they feel that it would be wrong –
Cruel, rude, uncaring, “inconsiderate” –

To pile their pain on top of other’s,
To make them struggle more
On account of knowing their suffering
And likely not being able to do anything about it.
But this is not the case.
it is not self-centered to ask for help when you need it.
Suffering is a part of life –
And we are all suffering.
The best we can do
Is open up to each other about our pain,
And give each other strength
Through simple love.

And what about this –
Is suicide a self-centered action?
I have heard it branded as selfish,
Because when we take our own lives,
We leave an irreparable trail of ruin in our wake –
We abandon our loved ones,
We escape the problems we all face,
And leave others to struggle through them without us.
In this sense, perhaps suicide is selfish.
But are those who commit suicide really “inconsiderate”?
I do not think you can possibly argue that.
To say of someone whose life was so terrible that they killed themselves
That they were “inconsiderate” or “selfish” –
Does that not seem wrong?
And yet,
Somehow,
I can also understand.

In the end I come to no conclusions,
Only more questions —
But this train of thought is not pointless.
Is it?


//////////////////// 20

How easily
A life may be torn apart —
How easily
People can just disappear.

In another moment,
You could be gone.

People fall one after another
Vanishing into the wind
Dissolving into the salty ocean spray
Buried in the dirt
With rope fibers under their fingernails, and
Blood still on the knife.

And yet
We cannot live in the future or the past
Mourning those already gone
Fearing who might be next.
We cannot live our lives trapped by death.
Live now.
Take chances
Pursue your own happiness
Live and love with no regrets –
Because in the end, death will come anyway.


//////////////////// 21

In my dreams I walk
Amidst an eternal sunset;
With night on the edge of the horizon
I move through this silent world
Only a phantom
A pale thought
Soon no more than a memory.
All around me, above and below
The dimming world is filled
With trees with leaves like feathers
And fields of shattered glass;

The waves lap at my feet
And I say nothing.
I feel nothing.
There is no one there,
Not even me.
And I walk into the ocean without looking back.


///////////////////// 22

Sometimes I look out
And wonder —
Where you are,
What you’re doing.
I wonder if you’re alive.

I’m sorry I never got to say goodbye.

It’s been so long —
Would you be proud of me?
Of the person I’ve become,
The things I am doing,
The people I now love?

I’m sorry I didn’t realize
How much I loved you
How much I needed you
Until you weren’t there.

Sometimes I wonder —
Who would I be without you?
Would I even be here?
You encouraged me to write
You encouraged me to live.

I’m sorry I was too wrapped up in myself
To pay attention to you
To your love
To your suffering.

When I needed you
You gave me hope,
And strength,
And an outlet for my pain
That wasn’t myself.

I’m sorry I never got to thank you.

I still celebrate your birthday.
I still think of you, after so many years.
Because no matter what happens,
I promise myself that I can’t forget
How much the world needs people like you.

No matter what happens
I know I have to live —
For you.


//////////////////// 23

Pain:
How often we have met,
You who take on
So many forms
So many roles
Embodying all that is with and without in life.

My friend,
I know you will always be there
You will never abandon me
To walk the path of life alone.
You support me,
You give me someone to talk to,
Someone to cry out to
When I need it.

My enemy,
I must watch my back
Because I know you will appear
When I need you to not be there,
But you are there anyway
Sword in hand
Ready to fight a battle
We both know you will win.

My teacher,
You have shown me the way.
You have taught me how to live —
How to live and how to love.
You have painted me a picture
Of the fragility of life
Of the values that should matter to me,
That do matter to me now.

My tormentor,
You haunt my dreams
Night and day
And slowly you tear me apart.
You drag me to the edge of the world,
You show me death —

You give me the choice
And watch me struggle to make it.

And I make it –
The same decision,
Day after day,
Because of you.

Everyday I ask:
What, where, who would I be without you?


//////////////////// 24

Tell me why
I feel like a wanderer
Why I have no home
No place to go
Why I feel like I just don’t belong
This time, this place

Daily I walk alone
A gray shadow hangs over me
This self-fulfilling prophecy
Now tell me
What’s the point of living
If I know how soon I’m going to die?

Bathed in blood and tears
I scream out in my head
The limitations of my body, it
Rings chains around my heart
And I beg the silent world
To give meaning to my life.

The sun hovers on the horizon
Day turning to night
A single moment frozen in time
The sun never goes down
And it never goes up
I’m locked into the pain of this world.

Stop torturing me with this moment
Stop trapping me in time
Stop giving me the choice
If soon I’m going to die
Why won’t you just kill me now?
Just end me, now!

Paint splatters across the canvas
And my fingers run across the keys,
I fantasize – about the knife on my desk
About the open window
My blood courses through my veins
Runs under my words, my music
As I grapple endlessly with another version of myself.

The shadow of a butterfly
Painted gray
Flutters across your face
And cries –
And for once in your life
You allow your tears to flow.


//////////////////// 25

In scattered fragments
Here and there
This day and that
The beauty of the world rushes to me.

The leafless trees,
Outlined against the blue-white sky;
The magenta of the flowers
Against their backdrop of green.

How often I now pause
To look at these things.

Because someday, I know
I will be gone –
Just as all living beings fade
I too will return to the earth and sea and sky –
It is all I can do, with the time I have been given
To look around and appreciate this world of mine.

These days I treasure the moments
With my friends and loved ones –
I take care to show my love,
The depth of care and gratitude I feel –
I gaze into their eyes
Knowing that soon, this will all be over,

And none of us know who will be next to go –
Or when.

I reach out to hold your hand,
I allow the embrace to linger –
I gaze into your face,
Commit to memory all the things we say,
All the experiences we share,
Whether I think them good or bad –
Because in the end, when one of us is gone,
These are the only things we really leave behind.

After all,
This is life –
And the belief that we will meet again
Does not excuse thoughtlessness now –
Because after we are gone,
We will never be the same.

I hold in my hand and heart
All of the love I can manage,
And I pour it back out into the world –
Now, while I still can.


8 thoughts on “Life = Suffering + Love

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