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Control.


It was easy, once
To tell myself
That the universe was burning just for me
And every time something unfurled
It carried meaning for my destiny

But something gives, I see it now
What I really wanted was control
Yet chaos reigns, and right and wrong
Are just figments of my soul.

 

I haven’t written any poems for weeks and weeks so the words won’t flow, they are stuck inside my head. The emotions are there but the expression is missing, but what I am trying to say here is that one thing I have learned about myself recently is that as an intense introvert sensitive to the tiniest stimuli, I crave a sense of control over aspects of my life- over how much light I let in and what I then do with that light. I have always known this about myself, of course, the shortest conversations can be taxing and I need days to recover from a large social event of any kind, but it is enlightening to think of this as a gift, and one that I share with others around the world but is still unique enough that I need to really work to make sense of it. Thanks to Quiet by Susan Cain for helping me see just a little bit of brightness in tough times.

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Once you are out of the woods: The perils of living with depression #2


I’ve been wanting to write this post for a while. Ever since I wrote that first one letting you know I live with depression, in fact. In the past few months, I’ve been using this platform to push myself to be more expressive and more honestly reflective about the conditions of my life. This phenomenon emerged by accident but is now turning into a deliberate practice. It is refreshing and sometimes nerve-wrecking to tell the truth in exactly those words. In fact, the morning after my last post (the open letter), I woke up feeling upset at and uncomfortable with myself and my decisions. However, I went to a class today that is always challenging and always teaches me a lot both, about research and about myself. After that class, as I walked home and watched a gorgeous golden sun set against a clear blue sky, I felt something I had heard before: learning is an uncomfortable feeling. In the process of expressing and exposing my thoughts to the world, I learn things about myself and they make me uncomfortable and my mind decides that what makes me uncomfortable must be avoided because it is wrong. Expressing that discomfort to the world becomes hard because I am trying to say things that people don’t always openly say. There is a desire to tuck away the uncomfortable and focus on what is acceptable. But that won’t do anymore. I enjoy writing and I have things to say, ergo I must say them. I try to remember that these waves and waves of emotion that wash over me can erode my shore, but not my core. And so, it is okay to be mindful of the emotions, and yet not feel washed away. 

This is part 2 of a series on depression.

In September 2016, I knew I couldn’t go on the way I was for much longer, and so it was the first time I went to see a counselor. I remember the day I decided I couldn’t do it anymore, I couldn’t not go, because I was afraid of what would happen if I didn’t. And so I went. But I didn’t know what to expect. I was randomly assigned to a counselor and I didn’t know it then (although she did), but she was a really good fit for me. We were well in sync for some reason.

Those first few sessions were mostly tears and a partial sense of release: it was good to have a stranger obligated to listen to you without judgement and without fear of the things you said trickling along a grapevine to others who might judge you. Once she had heard my first stories, the real work began. She told me (and I paraphrase);

‘It’s going to be hard, and it’s going to be a learning curve because we are working on breaking years of ingrained patterns of thinking in your head.’

I was amazed by what we found as we started mining my brain for the ways in which I thought and functioned. Things that people had said to me, the relationships I had had (romantic and otherwise), events and accidents that had transpired and the responses of my mind and body had all created loops of thinking that I was largely unconscious of  but that affected me negatively on a day-to-day basis in the ways I thought and talked and behaved.

With time, work and design, we started to see cracks in those patterns and we used those cracks to break the loops of thinking and insert healthier triggers so that the negative loops could turn into positive ones. The tricks my counselor taught me worked to a degree, until they didn’t.

‘That’s normal’, she told me when I said that I wasn’t seeing as much progress as I had in the beginning. She said there was some research into how counseling showed great results for new patients but the progress curve seemed to flatten out over time (although I’ve never looked into it personally). ‘But’ she added, ‘you might also want to go and see a doctor.’

She had been asking me to do that for months and I had never felt confident making the leap from counseling to medication as I had making the one from nothing to the counseling. However, she had an instrument that detected what I think is a much less commonly-known ailment, which, I have since realized from talking to some of the women in my life, isn’t as uncommon as it seems: PMDD or Pre-Menstrual Dysphoric Disorder, the darker twin of the better known and sometimes joked about PMS.

And so, in April 2017, I shifted to a small dose of anti-depressant, followed by a gradient increase in August 2017, and it was only after that, that I began to feel “normal”, which brings me to the theme I wanted to address in this post:

What do you do once your depression is under control?

It took a while for that initial relief of not longer having to live in dread for two to three weeks of the month to wear off. I was so excited to experience a much flatter mood line that I didn’t notice right away that not everything was okay. But once it started hitting me, I spoke to a friend who told me that those negative patterns I had mentioned earlier? Yeah, they don’t just magically go away when you switch to medicine.

From how I understand it, there is enough controversy about the effectiveness of medication versus other ‘natural’ remedies to fill books and blogs and websites. I have tried and continue to try experimenting with a number of different techniques, none of which are foolproof. For me, once I was on the medication, I realized that my brain and body had the energy and the capacity to see life more clearly and concretely than as just an endless expanse of pointless nothingness. In fact, my PMDD was getting worse and worse until I started the medicine, which probably meant that without the grace 1-1.5 weeks in the middle, I don’t know how I was even dragging myself out of bed every morning (I forgot to explain that PMDD is this miraculously blessed form of depression that mysteriously affects women for only about half their period cycle, leaving you feeling “normal”-for the most part- the rest of the month). Once I could see my life more clearly and with some form of consistent optimism however, I was in a better condition to take note of the things that still weren’t working.

The negative thought patterns were my biggest enemy. A book that I am currently reading and trying to process for a class on well-being (see reference below) suggests that emerging empirical research in positive psychology fits in well with the idea of something called Positive Causal Networks or clusters of emotions, attitudes, behaviors, traits and accomplishments that co-occur and make people happy and/or determine their wellbeing in some other ways. Such causal networks can also be negative, I suspect, although Bishop (2015) is not really wedded to that idea. The science is still young here but at least parts of what the book describes makes perfect sense to my personal life. Causal networks are persistent and its elements reinforce each other. The medicine alone would not break them because they include all these other things: emotions, attitudes, behaviors, traits, accomplishments that are cheering each other on, and that the medicine, in all its biochemical glory cannot completely control. And so, I imagine a rocky ride from a sustainable negative to an equally sustainable positive causal network, which will consist of changing all these different elements, many of which are so deeply ingrained in one’s day-to-day life that you might not even know they’re harmful for you.  I’m not there yet. I don’t know if I can get there. Maybe the best I can do in my lifetime is change fragments of the negative causal networks into fragments of positive ones. Perhaps, I can flip an entire network. Who knows!

These socio-psychological factors are also interrupted by the hormonal fluctuations and physical manifestations of health issues, creating a cocktail of factors that often require close attention and management to keep the ill-effects at bay. Bishop (2015) isn’t too convinced by the genetic component here- how much of our wellbeing and PCNs are actually affected by our genes or in other words, how much control do we really have in changing things?

And while that challenge can be intense at times, it is rewarding because- well it keeps depression under control. But it also teaches me about patience and perseverance and optimism and the cultivation of indifference. Most importantly, the ability to divorce myself from these causal networks (or whatever they are) even briefly through the acts of writing or interpretation or analyzing are strangely liberating at times because I don’t always have to be subjectively embroiled within my circumstances 24×7. I can take a step back and research my own reaction.

What I wanted to say was that the shadow of depression lingers even as the day wears out. There is no magic pill but there is a tunnel. Sometimes it bends and you may step into a puddle and get your leg all wet and muddy. I can’t even promise that there is an end to the tunnel but if you trudge along for long enough, you might just find it worth your while!

 

Reference:

Bishop, M.A. (2015). The Good Life: Unifying the Philosophy and Psychology of Well-Being. Oxford University Press.

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Another Open Letter


I’m restless and I can’t sleep. I won’t send this to you. I have nothing new to say that you don’t already know. Instead I will put this out into the universe, hoping that something somewhere will absorb this negative energy and free me from these looping thoughts. This isn’t meant as a bitter rant, although I must admit my heart tends to fill up with something almost akin to hatred sometimes when I think of you but I am fighting to level it out, and I am pretty sure that that is just the aftertaste of the wound that cut me, and it will go away, I hope so. I am a work in progress. I must admit that after you I found myself wondering for the first time after all these years and after all these people if working so hard to cultivate this sense of indifference was even worth it. Perhaps sometimes you just have to get up and fight back and not worry about wanting to let go, about not wanting to be responsible for anything negative in the universe.

I should’ve known from the beginning. You were a scorpion, after all; intense and passionate, sometimes dangerously so. And I was always like a deer caught in the headlights; real or imaginary, but always bright and blinding. But the years passed by and I grew used to you, my fears were dispelled and I felt almost as though I was too old. Perhaps my soul was on fire, and perhaps I saw something mirrored in you that was something I had once possessed too: an unyielding optimism about love and the nature of every man we met. Perhaps I felt secure in the possession of the  maturity that takes over people in their mid-twenties, as the growing pains of early adulthood are replaced with a calming sense of self.

Whatever it was, I was jolted awake. I have folded the incident into the ever-flowing narrative of my life, accepted the wounds I gave and received, and tried to understand how my perception of myself and of the other could be so warped. I concede that I possess the ability to be buried in my own head and to be self-reflective to a fault. But I have always been that way. I did not wake up one morning with a tangled web around my head; these threads have been weaving that web since the day I was born and it was pretty darn well-formed already, when I got to know you at twenty.

I’ve taken to share my stories, including this one, with dozens of people who I know I can be genuinely vulnerable in front of (perhaps I am wrong though, because I once thought the same about you). In a sense, I have almost become an open book. I don’t give myself the luxury of being stubbornly right; I try to break incidents, conversations and words down to their elemental form until I can see the atoms. I am cursed and blessed at the same time. I am creative and destructive. I couldn’t be one without the other; these opposites ground me and pull me to a tightrope in the middle upon which I choose to carefully walk. In being an open book in this way, I also put myself out there to scrutiny, including your scrutiny. But it doesn’t matter if everyone scrutinizes me; it only matters when certain people do. It certainly mattered when you did.

I do not write to defend myself. I write only when the thoughts crowding in my head become so loud, that it feels like my head would burst if I didn’t put them in words. My writing comes almost from a kind of hedonism; it isn’t carefully thought-out prose, only a jumble of words jumping onto paper and leaving me relieved and satisfied because I almost feel like I made art out of pain. But that weakness is also the strength of these words because they are unedited and from the heart. They aren’t all of me, they never were. But perhaps they are the purest form of me. And so I won’t defend them, I won’t defend myself, I won’t even defend you here.

But I still do find myself defending me and defending you in front of some people some times. I ask myself why? Why do I still try to defend you one second, and then myself the next? Why am I cursed to see both points of views and perhaps dozens more in the years to come, as I did in the years gone by? Why do I still want to write to you- when I know there is nothing left to say and perhaps there is nothing that should be said? Haven’t I said enough? Haven’t we done enough? Haven’t I closed this chapter of my life?

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Frankfurt Dreams


I had a dream last night.

I was being put in prison. It was (only) going to be for three months but the vision is raw and red and vivid in my mind.

I was not to be allowed to text or call or be in touch with my loved ones. I was not to be allowed to keep my phone with me. Nor was I to be given access to any books, papers or pencils/pens. My bodily functions and food and water intake was to be monitored. My head was to be shaved. And it just kept getting worst from there  until I woke up, sweating and filled with dread.

And oh, it was because of Frankfurt.

For a large part of the day I walked around with this vivid dream locked up inside me. I asked myself: I have known people who have been raped and seriously assaulted. I have been through nothing like that in comparison. Why then, do I see such dreams? Why does my mind conjure darkness out of nothingness?

But I also know, despite what people say: comparison is not the answer. I cannot walk about every day feeling guilty about my pains just because there are others who are so much worst off than I am. I cannot walk about every day carrying the sorrow of every little thing I did as I experienced what it means to be human. I cannot let the voices of those who shun me, haunt me.

I come to terms with that and I allow myself to breathe. This exercise in journaling blankly at the world may be getting more and more complicated as I grow older and become entangled with people who carry their own weights and expectations about themselves and me and the relationship they wish to have with me, but that shouldn’t stop me from expressing my own pains in the ways that I want. Even when they are tainted with the guilt of feeling too much.

And so my mind drifted back to Frankfurt…I wonder if I am still carrying unresolved conflicts from that detainment in my belly. And if so, what kind of self-reflexivity may be needed to transform them into something healthy and productive, with the recognition that fears and anxieties may not completely go away but it is okay as long as we acknowledge them and trust ourselves enough to let them be within us.

But something else lifted itself to my consciousness as the vividness of the dream faded into the background. I lived this dream so poignantly that I could imagine what it might feel like to lose my freedom in that way. What happened in Frankfurt came close to it, in one sense, and this dream I think was just an expression of how closely I could feel the hurt and humiliation of those who are constrained by a system that is much bigger and more complex than them, wielded by people in situations that they have no control over, during the few hours that I myself was detained in Frankfurt. I felt it then and I felt it now. I feel it quite frequently and I want to confront it with my research and my writing, and more ambitiously, with my being.

I do not want to apologize for feeling it. I want to feel more of it, in fact. If it allows me to learn and to bring forward experiences that others might not be able to express, as a result of my privileged position, then I shall believe my life to have been worthwhile.

But I am human. I am inconsistent. Like every other human around me, I am full of imperfections. I have given myself the license to live with them but when it comes to this, it is hard. I want to embody in my real life the idealism I carry in my head. Knowing that it is impossible, knowing that I will inevitably make mistakes is sometimes a difficult pill to swallow. I know I hurt people as much as I am hurt by them. I know that I stumble often and hardly ever know how to offer a helping hand in return to the ones who support me when I am about to fall. I am learning…

When I was out for brunch in December with a friend and she told me she wants to confront her own demons before she can go out there and fix the world (with the caveat that of course both of us know that we cannot really ‘fix the world’ literally), I knew that I have to do the same. If my dreams, my writing, this blog, my confessions and the deep, deep conversations I get to have with people who stimulate my heart and mind allow me to confront my demons, then it is all worth it and the mean voices and nightmares that occasionally block it all out will eventually fade away or recede enough to not matter while I figure the rest out.

 

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The Perils of Living with Depression (#1 of what might develop into more parts)


This story has been living in my gut for the past two weeks. I was living in fear of saying the word out loud on my blog, although I know that those who follow my blog religiously can probably see its strands weaving their way through the fabric of my life. Today- I gather my courage, with the knowledge that some people will judge as they always do, but others perhaps may find some solace, hope or just a little connection with my story.

 

One fine Saturday morning in 2008, I woke up early with a heaviness in my heart, wondering why it mattered that I get out of bed at all? Those were the days of the intense pressures of preparing for engineering entrance exams, which, for those who might not know, are a brutal time in any Indian student’s life and required at least two years of intense coaching classes, in addition to regular school. A few hours later, I was crying as I dressed to go give one of the ‘mock’ entrances that I came to hate so much- as I hated everything about preparing to be an engineer- and that’s when the thought circled in my head, ‘was I depressed?’

 

I had a normal childhood with loving parents and I was mostly happy. And yet I find specks of inexplicable unhappiness darkening my memories of my preteen and teenage years. It wasn’t until I was sixteen in 2008 though, that that first cloud broke strongly upon my head.

I wondered what it meant, and I had no way of comprehending it and no one to really turn to help me either. So I decided to visit the school counsellor. She was a psychiatrist but I suspect the school had mostly hired her to provide career counselling, and not to talk to depressed students in a very 13-reasons-why-esque fashion (fortunately I wasn’t suicidal, it saddens me to think of where suicidal children are led in such circumstances). Somehow, I knew I needed to see her. And it might have taken some guts (I don’t recall). What I do recall is feeling a sense of relief when, after hearing what I had to say, she used that word to describe what was going on: depression.

I believed her. But nobody else I talked to about this back then believed me. And so, a part of me stopped believing in what she had said too. I thought, perhaps, I was being paranoid, and have thought that many times since. Miraculously, this incident itself was enough to snap me out of what I was going through. To this day, I have no answer for how I did what I did as a 16-year old when I can no longer do it as an adult, except perhaps to say that whatever innocence remained inside me then shielded me from what was to come.

Today, there are often times when I can no longer tell you where the depression ends and I begin. Was it I who spent multiple nights of 2011-2012 crying all by herself on the dusty and unused rooftop of a hostel chock full of girls, and multiple days not crawling out of bed unless someone forced me to go eat, or was it my depression? Was it I who spent hours doing the same on bathroom floors, or was it my depression? Was it I who was unable, unwilling and unmotivated to leave her house, move a single muscle or do any chores, or was it my depression? Was it I who made excuses to get out of accepting invitations to social gatherings, or was it my depression? Was it I who demeaned herself in front of multiple people and allowed herself to be taken advantage of, or was it my depression? Is it I who spend countless days still thinking she is worthless, talentless, unworthy and undeserving of anything good in life, or is it my depression? Is it I who lost multiple friends because I was busy doing all of the above, or was it my depression?

These are difficult truths to type on a public website that everyone is going to be able to see. I am typing them because I once believed there was something almost-romantic about being depressed. Perhaps popular culture led me to believe so. In books and in movies, suffering in different forms is a central element of a character’s development. In real life, perhaps it doesn’t always contribute towards what one might call one’s development.

Development would have been if I had built a strong and healthy self-image, learned the skills I needed, discovered my passions and allowed my soul to lead the way. Development would have been if I had allowed my intellectual capacities to strengthen, planned the trajectory of my future, fed whatever pre-existing talents I might have possessed, sought directed guidance from people who were in positions to guide me.

Instead, depression led me to believe that it was not my empathy and sense of compassion, my beliefs about how the world should function, my still-forming opinions, and my life experiences that contributed to who I was as a writer (which is one of the primary roles in which I have often taken to justify my worth to myself) and later as a researcher, but that it was just the depression that did it. That it was the only reason I was creating, the only reason I was experiencing anything worth talking about, the only reason I was, and the only reason I may choose to not be. And yet, I could not talk about it without disguising it in metaphors, and dressing it up in poetry.

Well, today I am tearing all those walls down. I am stepping out into the open. I am choosing to be stripped of all excuses, of all the times I have blamed my depression for things that have happened to me in my life.

Because, yes, I do not always know where the depression ends and I begin. But I have embraced it as a part of me. I have gotten good at living with its shadow over my head. At accepting that I can still be a ‘me’ who is worthwhile and efficient and contributing to society, despite my depression.

And I didn’t do this alone.

For any friends or acquaintances in the US who might be reading this, it might be helpful for you to know that the American healthcare system has, strangely enough, played a huge role in teaching me how to learn about and manage my depression. For others, back in India (and even in the US and elsewhere), this might be a reason to think about breaking down the walls that we hide behind when it comes to talking about depression.

But more than anyone else, there have been some people who shone like beacons of light and have helped me on this journey. Perhaps one day, I will talk about them here or elsewhere, in more detail.

I was reluctant to write and share this story (for fear of being vulnerable in public), and even more nervous about not being able to do it justice on paper. Perhaps because I live with depression, and the fight is never over. Perhaps because is such a delicate part of my life, and so influential that I wanted to put all my writing skills into talking about it. Perhaps because I thought it was an important story of my existence, and needed to be told beautifully. But I realized I didn’t have to give depression that power over me either. And so in the end, I just wrote.

And thank you, most of all, to the person who told me, ‘…writers have never feared how <other> people will take their work.’

Your words gave me courage.

Until we speak again.

PS: If this was of any use to anyone at all, I might choose to go into more details in future parts. I haven’t yet formed an idea of how to do this. There are countless stories that I can share, but most of them are intimately painful, and I may not be ready to tell them, at least not yet. However, as a reader, I know that it is often helpful to feel a connection over paper with someone you may not know (or may know very little or very well but not well enough perhaps) who expresses a relatable struggle.

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About Love.


She drew him on the kitchen floor
With ink of tears, her heart of gold
Wept upon that masterpiece
As it was swept away by a winter breeze

She knew he would forget the song
Or pretend he knew it all along
But never let her know she stirred
Its meaning in his stone-cold heart

She signed her name everywhere she went
So he would trace its pattern and
Meet her when it was safe to be
The person she thought she could see

She jumped the fence and stole him flowers
But found them strewn and torn and thrown
She buried them in her backyard
And prayed to her imperfect god

She watched them bloom little buds
That reminded her of what she’d lost
And in her heart, the memories
Play hopscotch on those cobbled streets

I found a simple poem about love curled deep within my heart, and it came pouring out like molten gold. It didn’t take long to write, it isn’t exceptionally polished, but its echoes are in my heart tonight 🙂

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The Researcher (that I want to be…)


Why am I here? I have asked myself this question a few times and the answer is that there is no where else I would rather be. I’ve chosen the roads that appear the hardest  to me and have the least number of signposts along the way, the roads that offer few answers and throw up many, many questions. I cannot say that I have been happy- not in the prolonged mental state that most of us wish to be- but I have learned so much about how to become fulfilled, to control my impulses, to be patient and forgiving in the face of hardships and judgements, and to know what I want for myself.

And yes, I pick the hard roads but only because they have the most scenic views.

And this week I saw another one of those scenic views. It hasn’t let go of my mind since.

And it was motivational and surprising, scary because I wonder, ‘what kind of researcher am I capable of being?’ but wonderful because the possibilities to answer that question with are endless.

I’ve been drawn to qualitative research for a very long time now, and in getting a master’s degree, have had some preliminary experience under my belt of what it means to do qualitative research. But I’m still learning of course. Yes, that learning will be a lifelong journey.

I was recently told that qualitative research is a way of life. The instructor of one of the most spellbinding classes I have ever sat through, rattled off minute details etched in her memory from an ethnographic study she had done years and years ago. She could re-live that scene piece-by-piece, reconstruct every moment of it because she had recorded it so deeply as part of her research. Qualitative research improves your memory, she insisted, and then you have to learn to draw boundaries between your research and your real life just to stop it all from becoming too much for your head to handle.

I found myself agreeing completely with that point, because I already experience some of it. Even ordinary moments have never been ordinary for me because I am caught up in the details of my mind, and of the conversations, sights and sounds that surround me. I believe that is one of the reasons why social interactions are so taxing for me, why I am so overwhelmed by people and places, and why I need so long to recover from my own experiences. But I have always been that way. In a way perhaps, I have always had that latent potential inside me to be a qualitative researcher. Now I only have to unlock it, systematize it, let go of my fears that surround it.

The most important thing, my instructor reminded me of was something I think I already knew- perhaps somebody had already told me about it, or perhaps it had come to me in one of those subconscious moments of realization that you can no longer remember. She said that unlike in other forms of scientific query, in qualitative methodology you -the human being, are the research instrument. As such, it is not just your intellectual capacity, but your emotional, psychological and physical states that will also impact your work and the research you do.

Unlike other kinds of researchers, a qualitative researcher can never disengage from her own body, experiences and life. That makes the task as exciting as it makes it dangerous.

Exciting because she must engage every atom of her being into the research that she wishes to do, in order to be true to the research and her cause. And dangerous because at every point, she must confront her full being and be aware of who she is and why she is doing what she is doing, and that just might be enough to drive her out of her self.

In a conversation with a friend recently, I asked him why he did not record (what might have been) some great observations during his recent travels.

What’s the point, he said, of recording anything?

Well, one clear answer that I always have to that question is that writing allows you to understand and reflect upon yourself. But what if someone does not want to do that? Why is it important then?

I don’t know the answer to any of these questions. I write, and I believe I will write until my very last breath. This doesn’t mean there haven’t been periods in my life when I barely wrote, but that was a mistake. Writing is still my best tool for processing the world around me. Beyond that, I do not really know why I write. Why do I want to record the world? Why do I want to understand and interpret it, when I believe that there is no one correct interpretation, only different angles?

I can’t answer these questions except to say that I would be miserable if I did not do so anymore. It isn’t about a noble cause or conviction. At the end of the day, it is about me.

And that is what I think Dr. Sarah Amira de la Garza meant about qualitative research being a way of life. It requires cognitive consciousness, but also emotional and physical reflexivity and mindfulness, and care for your own self- the instrument of understanding this world.

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Raw.


Oh but you have lit a fire underneath me.

You turn away and merged yourself with all those who may call themselves my shapeless nemeses. I am not one to be ignited by bitterness but I acknowledge the free-floating aura that is you. You,  who flit in and out of my imagination now. You pick careful spots; mushy and matted with fatigue. You squiggle your way in, broadening that space with your lips and your gums, making it home.

And you may find me prone to the moistness that diffuses the vapid city air on the choicest day of summer. You may find me sticky with the blood oozing out of gaping holes that you created, and that I refuse to bandage up. You may look inwards and watch the drip-drip-dripping of these feelings with a fascinated smile curling across your lip. Is there something inherently beautiful in a rumpled soul? Are its creases and folds so exquisite that you cannot turn away?

Is that why you stay?

For I would think you were rumpled too. Smiling though you are, as you look upon me from this hidey-hole inside me, and I look in upon you perched in there, I have a revelation that means something to these toothless mouths that you have created on me.

 I have left holes on you too.

Did I assume that the atoms that make up your skin are any different from the ones that once made up mine? Perhaps I did, but that illusion is definitely broken now. I can see my holes mirrored in yours. In fact, your skin is creeping and crawling with them. Are they almost mobile? For it doesn’t matter where I look, all I see is liquid- rushing and gushing out of us. Spilling over these strange lips until we’re both drenched.

But then I travel outwards and the holes disappear. You disappear. You are nameless once again, and faceless like all my dreams. All I see in this dusty city then is my own reflection, staring back at me from the tops of the heads of countless strangers.  Your aura no longer haunts. No longer does it linger with me on the edge of the abyss from which I dangle. No longer is it there when I am pulled out and upwards towards the starless night sky which is still gorgeous in its emptiness, by helpful strangers and sweet loved-ones . No longer am I swimming dizzingly inside its curved countenance. It’s…gone. You’re gone.

But yes, you did leave behind a little heat.

And it is in my spine, running from my neck down to my tailbone. The heat tingles and tickles and radiates, little by little every day. Sometimes, it hums almost-songs late into the stillness of the night. I wait for the heat to subside, and then I am almost me again.

But me with a little bit of you.

 

I

 

 

Poems

All the Letters I Won’t Send


IMG_20171130_111845_086

The sky has been frozen blue today
And it reminded me
To leave my yellowing prison behind
To feel the life around me awhile

I consciously bared my skin today
It breathes in the last of November
As the seasons, in their rotation
Remind me of the life I’ve lived on paper

For the pale white orb of the sun today
Seems caught in a death grasp, but I sense
A peacefulness growing within me, as I
Think of all the letters that I won’t send

Often written in moments of passion
Some lie rotting inside me, others I sold cheaply to the void
But most of them were silent songs
And I often wonder why they came to be

So the world keeps moving, rotating every day
But for now, in this white stillness
I am grateful for all the now-lost words that I
Once dreamed up in my head
Into all the letters I won’t send

 

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Reflections on COPs (and more) following the Frankfurt detainment incident


A lot of thoughts regarding my recent experience at Frankfurt airport are still going through my mind. For those interested, here is post two, reflecting more on the research-side of this incident. As always, these are budding thoughts, but I am happy to be able to express them here!

The Conference of the Parties or COP plays an important role in the international governance  around climate change. For those who remember the Paris Agreement of 2015, that international treaty was created and signed at COP 21. However, in addition to the representatives from various countries who come to the COPs for the important job of discussing the intricacies of a complex global agreement, the conference is also open to a number of environmentalists, businesses, NGOs, researchers, and civil society leaders. These stakeholders come to COPs for their own myriad purposes from networking and advocating, to advertising and researching. Thus there are two parallel vibrant spaces at COPs where a number of different activities can take place.

I was concerned with exploring what kinds of opportunities are available for students that attend the COPs from around the world. Why do students like me spend the time, effort and energy to come to a COP, which isn’t a traditional academic conference where they can present their work or network with peers in a normal academic setting? Is there anything to be gained by there being here? The COP has not been designed to accommodate students and yet, among other actors, students have found a place at this table. What does this place represent for them? That was what I was hoping to get at, but my underlying goal was to understand if there is a different in accessibility for people from different parts of the world.

Like everything else, the climate change regime is fraught with justice issues. A number of common themes come to mind, some of which may be familiar to a lay reader: developing countries are asked to switch towards renewables and away from traditional energy sources that allowed the developed parts of the world to advance in the first place, and often on the backs of resources obtained from the developing world; communities and countries most vulnerable to climate impacts include places such as the Small Island Developing States (SIDS) that are, in many cases likely to be underwater in a few decades even though they contributed the least to the problem of climate change; within the international governance regime for climate change, policies and funding options continue to be skewed, and it is common knowledge at least for those familiar with the Paris Agreement that what is being proposed under the agreement is not going to be enough to combat some grave climate impacts, especially in vulnerable parts around the world.

In such a scenario, and with so many justice implications at stake, the ability to arm countries with the skills to deal with climate change on their own becomes very important. Simply put, this is called capacity building where actors within countries get to take the reins within their own hands and take decisions about what they would or would not like to see within their country, without powerful global corporations or governments dictating their mandates. Opportunities for capacity building need to be created around the world and especially in the Global South. And as students are one of the key players for the future, and students who are chosen to attend COPs are likely to be passionate about climate change in the first place, I have been wondering how accessible the COPs are for these students, and whether or not there are divisions around the Global North and Global South that make these conferences more or less accessible for people born in or living in different parts of the world.

I think I got a small slice of my answer, even though I was unable to carry out the research I had intended to do. One reason I so admired the COPs was because by reducing barriers to travel between countries for the purposes of the conference, they became more accessible to people from different parts of the world. In that one sense, this allowed climate change activists, leaders and researchers to transcend international politics and be able to focus on the other more important stuff. When this mobility is taken away or even restricted by mechanisms and systems that may not always serve their original purpose, aren’t we basically circling back to some of the justice issues I mentioned earlier? Whose voice is being heard in decision-making for climate change? Who has access to the information and resources countries and communities might need to deal with the challenges of climate change? What are the degrees of ease of access for those from around the world? Who is being kept out of the conversation and what could the long-term implications of being kept out be?

These are important questions for those of us who want to see the climate change playing field made more just and accessible. Often, we are so caught up in how our old ways of doing things, even when they do not serve us, that it becomes hard to redefine ‘rights’ and ‘wrongs’ based on changes in the world around us.

I do not have any answers yet, but I do know that my desire to seek them remains as strong as ever. These reflections are an ongoing process and I will come back with more later! Thank you for reading.