My Love, İstanbul

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by Emre Gencer

I find myself a seat in the corner of a coffee shop; brown table, wood everywhere, the aroma of coffee and caramel filling the air. I place my book on the table or on my lap—either way my neck bends so low it aches after a few pages—and I lose myself in a different world, touching the pages as though caressing a lover. Recently I’ve been double-pretending; the first setting is that of the novel I’m reading, and the second is İstanbul. Wherever my body happens to be, my soul is nowhere but in İstanbul, all day and all night. This she-city; my loyal friend and my enchanting lover, my mind’s remedy and my heart’s home. I am under Her sky, my skin absorbing the life radiating from Her sun, my consciousness expanding in Her language, my feelings expressing themselves in Her tongue. İstanbul is the lover I never got to meet in the body of a human; She’s the beloved to whom all my love poems are about. İstanbul is both a manifestation of my soul and a being all on Her own. I don’t know where I end and She begins. I have never loved as fervently and wholeheartedly as I have fallen for Her. It is the waters that soften Her edges that are the blood that swirls in my body. It is the echoes of Her past with all its tragedies and triumphs that engulf me and make me believe that life is worth living, no matter how long it takes for it to feel like so. It is Her complexity, Her fascinating identity, Her secrets and hopes and memories that have slipped into a haze of amnesia that I most relate to… It is the voices of the souls that have taken Her as their home, both as a blessing and a curse, that fill my mind as I pretend that the corner I’m sitting in is on Her land, by one of Her flowing waters or in one of Her cafés. This is what keeps me thriving as I count the days to have Her air be the oxygen that kisses my lungs; to have the chirping of Her birds be the pleasant sound I wake up to in the morning and the flirtatious song of Her shores and rains that I go to sleep to at night.

Jealousy

jealousy in relationships. why? i don’t get it. loving someone is not owning them. loving someone is not stealing away their freedom. loving someone is not guarding them to the point of suffocation. from what i see around me, we have no idea what the true essence of love is. we think that loving is depending on someone entirely, when in reality, true love is independent. it does not weaken the lover to the point that his whole life is in the hand of his beloved. that’s an illusion. what that is is need, not love. unconditional love sees beyond all those things, and is so much simpler than we think. it desires no control; it lovingly yields freedom. it gives and keeps giving out of love, not out of expectation to receive. true love between two souls does not narrow their whole existence down to each other’s presence in each other’s lives. love is so much more spacious than that. you love another human, but you don’t die when they leave. you love them so preciously that you don’t put the weight of your whole life on their shoulders. that’s the filthiest form of “love”; so much so that i pity those relationships because their basis is fear cunningly disguising itself as love.

so, back to jealousy. love your person, don’t imprison them. they are a bird in the sky of their own lives, and you are the beholder with the admiring eyes. you are the music to their dance. you are meant to uplift them, not bring them down just because of your own fears. love your beloved like God loves you. He gave you freedom, choice, and individuality. just like that. don’t strip your beloved out of her freedom, her choices, her individuality. support her. cheer her on. and you too. support him. cheer him on. know your places in each other’s hearts, and don’t let insecurity steal away your peace. remember, this is a companionship of not just bodies and brains, but souls too. eternal souls. souls that see beyond judgment and love without attachment.

To Let The Body Feed Itself

by Thought Catalog

one day, i decided to drop everything i ever knew about food. i attempted to erase all the messed-up beliefs from my mind, and then i placed what remained due to repetitive engraving under the word ‘myth’ in my mind. the words ‘breakfast’, ‘lunch’, and ‘dinner’ were no longer in my vocabulary. time of day was no longer something to associate with food or consider when eating. out of overwhelming frustration and deep respect for this body that i have mistreated my whole life, i gently spoke to it and said, “when you’re hungry, tell me. and if i happened to be too busy to respond, please feel free to move and feed yourself what you know you need.”

i dropped the label ‘vegan’ from my shoulders; not with the intention of eating animal products, but with the intention of erasing all those red, restrictive lines that i had been confined into ever since i could eat and think, before even declaring myself vegan. i knew that my body was wise and not in need of another soul’s dead flesh to function.

i decided to listen to my body, not my mind; to eat out of requirement for fuel, not out of mindless habit; to eat for nourishment, not for taste that ends up as a balloon beneath my ribs; to move for life and clarity, not out of fear or self-hatred.

the strict regime of daily exercise was out the window with a relief washing over my relaxing muscles. the only movement i engaged in was the kind that my body chose without the interference of my mind. i found myself getting off the couch out of the blue to stretch and do some yoga on my mat, finding calmness in posing with my head on the ground and my feet to the sky. some afternoons my body felt energetic so i went on walks and let my legs jog when they felt like it and rest when they felt like it.

as the days and months passed, my body morphed into the shape and size that felt comfortable and healthy and didn’t stand on the way of my self-confidence. ever since that day in August, my relationship with myself and this marvelous body that i have been lovingly placed into has flourished beyond anything i’ve previously experienced. i feel at home, like i belong here; no longer stuck in a bag of flesh that’s too heavy — emotionally more so than physically — for me to carry.

upon this experience, i have come to the insight that yes, food is a joy, but one must be careful not to cross the thin line that turns it into a disease.

A Series of Seasons

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by Nathan Dumlao

i’m starting to understand that life composes itself in the form of a series of seasons. you go through phases in which your personality portrays attributes and behaviors and beliefs and emotions which ultimately aim to expand your soul and fulfill its earthly purpose with the lessons you come out with. some seasons are harder and darker, while others are smoother and carry winds of serenity and peace — and only the wise of us can combine both, maintaining the innate and ceaseless peace of their spirit as they tackle the unpleasant circumstances in their outer world that are but reflections of their inner subconscious workings. i think that there’s no such thing as a mistake, no such thing as time wasted, and definitely no such thing as a bad person. we are made up of dualities and we have the innate ability to embody the exact opposite of what we are at the moment. by that i mean that one cannot value the magic of joyfulness without knowing the misery of sadness; that one cannot display genuine kindness and compassion without having witnessed or been an embodiment of anger and cruelty even in the smallest scale like a loss of temper or a slip of the tongue; and that one cannot possibly have a presence of peace and serenity and an attitude of equanimity without having been through the kind of deep suffering that seals itself with immortal divine wisdom.

in essence, we play the role of a canvas; we are the sky whose blueness is exposed by the light of sun, and whose darkness is revealed by the absence of it. our bodies are the vehicle through which our soul manifests itself; and our lives are the screen on which the movie of our minds is constantly playing — all to fulfill the sole purpose of soul expansion through a human experience.

Crossroads

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by Leo Berne

what if i dropped out of uni
and had all the time in the world
to do all the things i want to do?

what if i had all the means and connections
to bring to life all those amazing ideas i have?

what if i read from dawn to dusk
and wrote tens of poems throughout
and poured thousands of words into a novel
and had a great record of success under my name?

what if i had the freedom to travel the world
and stay as much as my heart desired,
created art out of my days
and eterneties out of my moments?

would i be happy then?
completely fulfilled?
not at all distressed?
without a speck of regret
for not earning a college degree?

is it really truly
one’s experienced wisdom
and inventive ideas
that lead them to legitimate success?

or is it a paper falsely valued as proof
of intelligence and expertise based off
memorized textbooks and daunting stress?

i just can’t reason with this world.
and i am ashamed and disheartened
and eaten up by self-pitying gloom
for not having the courage
to take a stand for myself
and do what i know is right for me to pursue.

The Novel-Writing Experience

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i have never experienced anything similar to the experience of writing a novel — the ceaseless trance of creating a world of people and events. as the writer, i am entirely consumed by this world that i’ve created. it occupies the majority of my thoughts. i imagine it’s very much like falling in love; it’s the beloved that you go to sleep and wake up thinking about. new ideas and ventures, new characters and more details about the existing ones and ways to rewrite the currently occurring events are constantly filling my mind. the process is exactly like a map being drawn, and it’s only colored and detailed when put into words. this manifestation came unexpectedly and took me by surprise. it was the art that came out of the pain i was feeling when i started it. it’s only been two weeks, but the wound is already mending and feels more inclined to healing than getting infected.

if this isn’t magic (it sure is), and if it isn’t the light at the end of this little tunnel of mine (i know it is), then i’d love to live longer and experience more magic and lights at the ends of tunnels if they come close or possibly even exceed the wonder of what i’m experiencing right now.

Split

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i want to cry. it feels like a mountain of pain is building up inside of me. my eyes well up with tears, but as soon as i blink they disappear. nothing falls. there’s no door to release this angst. i feel the muscles of my face tensing, i feel how my teeth are gritting, i feel the grief that’s all over my face — hell i even feel it in the way i’m walking. i’m listening to the same two songs on repeat. i feel a strong urge to talk to someone. but i have none. it’s only me, my pathetic words that no one will ever read, and nature. i just take myself on walks. i’ve been walking more than i’ve been sitting, and i’ve been alone more than i’ve been with company. i’m not okay. far from it.

there’s this strange thing that’s happening inside me though. a co-existence of opposite forces. pain and gratitude. anger and compassion. fear and love. burning rage and calming surrender. the pain speaks, it invades my body with its sensations, and then gratitude speaks and its light permeates my body. i sense both a blankness and a sparkle in my stare, both lifelessness and vibrance in my skin.

i’m both happy and sad. both angry and understanding. both lonely and whole. i don’t know what to do, and i don’t know who to share myself with. i just walk and then sit on a bench and write and then walk again and sit again. i keep going in circles, and my head doesn’t even get dizzy. i just keep going, keep experiencing opposites and extremes. i feel like i’m drowning and flying simultaneously.

i don’t know what to do. i don’t know what to do. i have no one but myself. no one but my goddamned self.


{this piece was written in july during summer vacation. i wish i can walk around in nature every time i feel sad.}