Undisturbed Solitude

photo by austinrhee

sometimes
it dawns on me
like a weight suddenly pressing
on my shoulders

that i do not know
how to be in others’ company
that i do not know
how to engage with the world

it feels like everything
outside of me is foreign;
the stimuli are sharp and loud and invasive
and i just can’t sync with them

it pains me
that i have absolutely no desire for it
i have no motive to get out of my cocoon
nor a desire to let anybody in

i hear of people
living in continuous undisturbed solitude
and i feel an ache, a sudden pull, an innate desire
to live a life like that

Quarantine Diaries: Day 79

7 June 2020

i’m living the art of enjoying the little things in life; the fleeting moments of serenity and joy in my days..

the timeless noon hours at a café with my book and notebook;

the coldness of iced coffee as it flows down my throat in this humid heat of June;

witnessing the magic of writing: when words materialize in the immaterial world of my mind and find themselves out in the real material world of pen and paper;

brushing away the mockingly judgmental voice in my head as i write with my horrendous handwriting;

the image of myself as a girl sat with the company of her books in the corner of a café;

taking photos that make my days look well-spent;

the momentary pleasure of sending out a tweet;

the cold blow of AC in my car after an hour-long sunset walk — which i refer to as ‘The Walk of Sanity’;

memories rushing into my mind’s eye as i listen to an old playlist;

the smell of hand sanitizer that reminds me of my childhood vacations when my siblings and i would snack on chips in the car during long road trips and would then clean our hands with detol wipes;

the ticking and tacking of my nails on the iPad’s keyboard as i write this..

i think life’s good now. there’s a subtle layer of apprehension in the air, but maybe this is the beginning of a new life.

Quarantine Diaries: Day 66

25 May 2020

these months of quarantine taught me that there’s so many things in life that i love. there are so many moments and people and objects and experiences for me to pour my love into. in deprivation and restriction i tasted the most delicious of feelings: an ardent love for life and an appreciation for the sacredness and value of this fleeting, seemingly insignificant human experience.

putting travel out of the question for the near future, i discovered that driving my car around this land that’s tiny on the map but vast on foot is a good enough replacement for a summer unlike any other. i learned that reality is sometimes surprisingly better when it doesn’t go as planned and when we let go of tradition to experience something new, something we wouldn’t have chosen had we had the choice. we fool ourselves into believing that our joy can only be found in doing a certain thing (travel in this case), but in reality we can find even more joy in the flexibility to embrace circumstances that may be far from ideal, but that nevertheless have their own essence of enjoyment.

this will certainly be the longest summer break of my life, and it is up to me to make it memorable for good times rather than bad.

Quarantine Diaries: Day 65

24 May 2020

it’s 1am now. i’m snuggled on my couch with my cozy crochet blanket and linen pillow and iPad, reading an ebook. i’m suddenly astonished at the magical quality of nighttime when i’m the only one awake while the whole house sleeps. it feels calmer.. much more solitary and even spiritual than when the house was still filled with life and lights and my siblings’ voices during Ramadan. even though i’ve spent almost the entire day on my own (save for a couple of hours visiting family) it’s only now in the silent midnight that i truly feel my solitude.

it seems all one needs is a good book and a loving friendliness with oneself to taste the true joys of solitude. now that i ponder it, it’s becoming apparent to me that there are different types of solitude… tonight i discovered (or rediscovered) a type of solitude that makes me wish the night would last forever.

25 May 2020

i slept at 5am and woke up at 5pm. i’m miserable. my cousins and their kids are gathered at our house. i feel the urge to mute my ears. i love them and appreciate them and am happy that our house is where they like to gather, but i want to forget their presence because i’m sad to be someone that locks herself in her room instead of joining her family. it’s not their sounds i want to block, it’s the reminder of who i am that their voices trigger. i talked about solitude yesterday. this is yet another type. the sad, guilty, lonely type. part of you wants to be with people, to enjoy their company while it lasts, but a greater, much more dominant part keeps you locked in your own world, wearing unmatched pajamas and looking far from presentable and not caring about it because no one’s there to judge except yourself and you’ve accepted the way you look — maybe more like hopelessly resigned to it — so you live in peace in your impenetrable cocoon..

Quarantine Diaries: Day 61

photo by Casey Horner

 

20 May 2020 // 27 Ramadan


one thing i like about these days is that i don’t talk a lot. i like being silent. i’m slowly training my mind to also not think in any way that i wouldn’t want to be heard outside. of course, i can’t fully eliminate my thoughts because aside from that being humanly impossible, i do harbor some beliefs that to others and to my own rational mind are absolutely insane, and i can’t just not think them because “i don’t wanna be heard saying them.”


all of this is based on my conviction that what’s within us inevitably comes out through our words and behaviors and even in our mere appearance. if i want to appear serene and peaceful and somewhat intelligent with my humble little nook of the world’s knowledge, then it only makes sense that i actually be like that on the inside. this is the art of being a person in the world. it’s true that we are seen (and misjudged) by others based on their own clouded perceptions, but it’s an unquestionable truth that there’s a margin of who we are that shines out to any observer no matter what they make of it.


it’s this tiny window that inspires me to mindfully sculpt my inner world, and to hone the art of doing so as i grow and evolve. this inner world of mine, this rich forest, murky with mystery and occasionally sharp with clarity.. i see it as a canvas for me to paint with the colors and virtues i choose, because if i didn’t mindfully choose them, the paintbrushes of others would scribble on me and i would fall prey to my own unconsciously chosen misfortune.


looking from the outside, through this tiny window comes an aura, a person’s essence, something you perceive but can’t really pinpoint.. i want my emanating light to reflect a serene and benevolent person.. perhaps this period of continuous silence and solitude is a great opportunity to look within and start painting something beautiful..



look at that..! i had no idea i had it in me to write tonight! see? what’s within always finds a way to come out into the tangible world and prove its preexistence in the mysterious non-material inner world — wether we were aware and consenting or not — it doesn’t care!

Quarantine Diaries: Day 54

13 May 2020 // 20 Ramadan

the details of my day are not worth mentioning. it was no different than yesterday and the day before and the one before that. i have nothing to say except this:

when lockdown started in mid-March, we were stifled with uncertainty and ignorant of how long it would take to get back to our lives. we were all baffled and in collective distress. the imminent threat and consequent anxiety were rippling all around us, invading our minds and permeating our homes and ghosting our streets. for the first time in our lives, we were all feeling the same emotions, thinking the same thoughts. we were separated and in isolation, but none of us was alone. we were all understanding and understood. those of us that didn’t get infected by the virus, they were sure sick with its looming all around. the thing with this pandemic is that it clogs our minds before clinging to our lungs, and sometimes it fails to infect our bodies but it surely succeeds in disrupting our lives. at this point we just held our breaths and waited for April.

when April finally arrived, we were only faced with disappointment and there was no sign of getting out. some of us took hold of their pens and filled their papers till they ran out of notebooks. some of us stocked up on canvases and turned their homes into galleries. some of us read book after book while some could not turn a single page. some of us spent all their waking hours switching between bed and the couch running marathons on Netflix as an attempt to escape the reality of the rising numbers and gloomy predictions. many of us cleared our desks and sat there facing those inanimate screens that were the only form of contact we had with the world. all of a sudden a lifeless object fed our need for human contact; it kept us alive and sane behind those locked doors and between those lonely walls.

we said maybe Ramadan would be it. it would come and bring the airs of Heaven along with it. it came, it blessed our hearts and cleansed our souls, but it kept us home, praying in the solitude of our tiny rooms. we prayed like never before. millions of us, scattered across the globe, asking God for the same exact blessing in a hundred different languages. we whispered to the sky incessantly like birds chirping at the crack of dawn and went to sleep with surrendered hearts.

we kept holding our breaths with the hope that May would bring our release from our homes — those houses of ours that started to feel too small and suffocating for our arms and legs that yearned to stretch and move. May came and it only succeeded to dishearten and disappoint. do we have any more hope left for June? i think we need to stop holding our breath and just breathe in our safe homes and befriend our new close allies — our masks and gloves — until our collective human fate makes a turn for the good and sees the light of day at last…

A Blessing in Disguise?

Photos by @wanderwithnada

I’ve been anticipating the indescribable joy that would overfill every heart in the whole nation when they finally tell us the condition of the virus is under control and quarantine is over and we can go out whenever we want to wherever we want with as many friends in the car as we can fit…

You know how when the electricity goes off and it stays dark and hot for a while? We find ourselves gathered in the dark, lighting candles and blowing air with random objects… Just when it’s about to get really frustrating and uncomfortable, the light suddenly comes back. Joy and gratitude envelope every single cell in our bodies and we all feel giddy and smile so big and some of us even hug it out..! Then, with the company of our grateful hearts, we all go back to our rooms and carry on living our evening where we left it.

That’s what I imagine it to be like when the spell of the virus is over and quarantine becomes a distant bittersweet memory — a memory that we still can’t comprehend how we managed to go through without completely losing our sanity!

Light would come back to every house and every mosque and every street and every school and every university and every gym and every restaurant and every mall and every airport; and most importantly, hospitals would finally restore their calm and safety. We would no longer hear multiple ambulance sirens every day…

Those of us that were staying at home for however many weeks will burst out onto the streets with euphoric smiles and laughter; and those of us that were risking their lives to keep us all safe will finally get their rest (and free coffee for the rest of their lives, I hope).

It’s as though God wanted to us truly feel the love that ties us to one another as families and friends; to remind us of the innate solidarity we share with our fellow humans — a kind of solidarity history will brand as new and never seen before. A solidarity that overlooked politics and nationalities and races and religions and preexisting disputes and merely did the most human thing to do: to help.

This crisis has planted in us a newfound appreciation for our planet that we’ve been mistreating for decades. I, for one, foresee unimaginable good coming out of this unforeseen crisis.

Transmutation

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How can one feel so lost, yet know that this is the state that they are meant to be in at the given moment? So confused, yet know that this veil is only obscuring clarity for a short while? So broken, yet know that every whole and enlightened soul had their pieces scattered and threads torn apart before they were rebuilt into the loving wise humans they became?

Tell me, am I as lost as I feel?
Am I as confused as I feel?
Am I, oh God, as broken as every inch of me feels?

The Lingering Winters of The Heart

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When a loved one departs
Winter submerges our hearts in snow

Our nights become tearful
Our mornings mournful

But then
Spring inevitably arrives
Bringing along sun and life

If the sun
Doesn’t melt away
The snow engulfing our hearts

It’s we who won’t let it
It’s we who reject life

For we equate
The death of a loved one
To the death of ourselves

Four Years

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1101 pm
1460 days later.
3rd of October 2019.
this evening 4 years ago,
i was in a hospital room
lying on a bed next to yours,
listening to music
to mute the fear
of what could happen to you
during the hours of the night.

it’s 11 pm now.
i remember switching turns with mom
to hold the oxygen mask
over your nose
because it bothered you,
but we had to secure it
because your body needed it.
my eyelids were getting heavy
and my arms started to ache.
you moaned from exhaustion
and cried silently at times.

i gave you oxygen
hoping that you’d sleep
and wake up better tomorrow.
i didn’t know
that you were going
to take your last breath
just a few hours from then,
so early in the morning..

it’s 4 years later tonight,
but the hospital scent
and the heart monitor beeps
are as vivid and real
as though no time has passed,
as though it’s happening right now..

1258 pm
1461 days later.
it’s the Fourth of October again.
a Friday this time, not a Sunday.
i’m sitting on the pink couch
that used to open up to be your bed.
i feel numb, like i know nothing
that could make me feel something.
i don’t know what this means.
am i desensitized from all the grief?
or healed from it?
what do you think?

it’s 330 pm now.
i’m in a café, reading a book.
four years ago at this hour,
strangers were filling our house.
i was locked in my bedroom,
in utter shock,
writing meaningless words
on sticky notes,
wondering where you were,
what was life and what was death,
and what exactly did it all mean..

when i did come out,
i saw grandma downstairs.
i noticed her eyes weren’t lined with kohl,
and i realized
that this wasn’t just a bad dream
on a Sunday morning sleep-in..

my tears came in waves.
sometimes
i looked blankly at a wall
as tiny tears streamed down my cheeks,
and sometimes
i weeped and fell to the floor
from the weight of the grief
and the heavy presence of your absence
in this house.

it’s different now.
you know how it is.
you prefer it this way.
and i think i do too.

we’re united
as pure souls.
grief and longing
are not the rope that connects us
anymore.
it’s deeper now.
so pure, it’s ineffable.
words don’t do it justice.
it’s out of language,
deep in the soul.

only you and i understand it.