Weightless in the afterglow

The best part of the holiday season this year, I am realizing, is that the afterglow — the dying of the tree; the saran wrap you put over your Christmas feast as your last guest is leaving; that moment when snow stops being this magical substance, but just frozen water — is actually the part I relished the most.

I came back home, fresh from the icy biome of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, and I realized, my pain is gone. There is a weight that has been lifted that somehow got flushed away by the cold winds. I realized the last few weeks that my angst over  my past is gone, and what’s left in its place is an acceptance of what happened to me.

For most of my thinking life, I have grasped my pain close to me, like a blanket. I was desperate to retain my anger, thinking it would shield me from this thing called positivity, which was this evil, smug, smiling light that would take my blanket away from me. But in doing this, what I was denying myself was the grace and strength that comes from truly letting things go.

I don’t need to be a sulking martyr who is constantly blaming my past transgressors for my current faults. I am a human, some things have happened to me, but things happen to everybody. What is the point behind letting old wounds fester? All of a sudden, self-acceptance is feeling more natural to me.

As I sat in my morning commute, watching people board and un-board, I felt this innate sense of content; I realize my story is just one in millions. My pain is valid; but it is also heavy. Why did I carry it all with me all these years? By some perfect storm of happenings—all the tears, the unrest, the gut-churning conversations—I feel freer.

* * *



Have you ever, with a stranger?

* * *

Have you ever fallen in love with a stranger just because?
Caught their eyes, smiled a bit, was intrigued, was surprised?
Have you ever caught the eyes of a stranger just because?
Well, I have — they were yours. And I was mesmerized.

Have you ever talked of life with a stranger just because?
Reminisced, wept out loud, voices cracking in the dark?
Have you ever reminisced with a stranger just because?
Well, I have, with you, my dear, and on me it left a mark.

Have you ever felt the soul of a stranger just because?
Held their pain in your hand, in your head, in your heart?
Have you ever held the pain of a stranger just because?
Well, I have, it was yours — and I simply fell apart.

* * *

Daily Post prompt: Rhyme

A thank you to my ex

I have playlists for men in my life with which I have had a significant romantic connection. So far, I have three.

When I listen to the playlist of the man that caused me so much pain and doubt for five years, I can only think of how much I have grown through that period, and afterwards. I look at the progression of songs:

from the first songs he sent me, so full of hope and young love —

to the songs I listened to one year in, so full of pleading, asking him to stop the hurt —

to the bittersweet songs that I played for him as I let him go, slowly and lovingly.

My playlist for him has evolved; but then again, so have I.

* * *

I started this blog while I was with him. In fact, he is the reason I started this blog. The first words I typed in were efforts to be understood by the world at large — if he couldn’t understand me, then maybe someone else out there would.

Eventually, they became words that felt healing to me, like a cool salve that I applied to wounds that were there before even him. I communed with my past through my words, and through this process, turned myself inside out. It was painful, but joyful. I relived my trauma every time my fingers flew across my keyboard. Through this blog, I’ve written about him, about other loves, but mostly, about myself — and that’s what I have needed the most.

And because of this, I want to thank him for being the gateway to this world of catharsis; for being the initial struggle I had to overcome before I truly got to the hard stuff; for necessitating this blog that accepts my beautiful and my ugly.

* * *

Here are three songs
dedicated to each phase of our love:

The budding romance;

The suffocating love;

The ebbing breakup.

* * *


Daily Post prompt: Gate

Women & their (in)visible power

It’s been a strange week.

A couple nights ago, my Vietnamese co-worker got smacked in the head by some random guy at a bus stop. A few days ago, an acquaintance of mine who is Taiwanese got punched in the face by her father, bruising her eye.

Women, and specifically women of color, are harmed every day — and not just by complete strangers, but by our own kind, and people we know and love. Am I paranoid because I am assuming the physical insult done to my co-worker was because of her race? Maybe I am. And is it sad that I’m not surprised my acquaintance got punched by her father? Maybe it is. But faced with these abuses, what did my friends do? Nothing. No call to the police, no reporting, no self-defense, nothing.

* * *

There is an almost complacent reaction when women of color endure such abuse, like it’s expected and there’s nothing we can do about it. Why?

Because we are used to it. We experience it every day.

Generations of physical, emotional, and mental trauma has — for whatever reason, whether it be displacement, sexual abuse, cultural expectations, family dynamics, life — sunken permanently into the soil. A woman, her mother, her mother’s mother, and so on, have experienced pain, and shoved it into the mouth of her daughter, to be a bitter taste in the back of her throat for as long as she will live. For the women who have passed on that pain, they know no better. They cannot fight patriarchy and break the cycle; tradition is too formidable a force. And in their frustration, they misplace their anger onto the next generation.

If I promise to myself I will never beat my daughter as I have been by my own mother, will I keep that promise? If I swear to myself I will never emotionally tear down my daughter as I had been, will I uphold it? Will the cycle stop with me? Or will my willpower slip because of my anger?

* * *

Women are taught, from birth to death, to have constant doubts about themselves. The media, the men in our lives, our workplaces, all teach us that it is normal, even desired to have all these qualms and anxieties: am I pretty enough, smart enough, thin enough, good enough? In a Twitter post, Feminista Jones dares other women:

Not surprisingly, women began replying back with situations where they simply said thank you, accepting the compliment without further ado. The men who said them either retracted their compliments or just moved on to direct insults. As Feminista Jones says in an interview about that post:

It’s the idea that they [men] bestow the compliment on you, and you’re not supposed to be aware of it.

It’s almost as if recognizing our own beauty as women is unacceptable. We can be complimented, yes — but we have to act modest, as if we are undeserving of such affirmation. It’s almost as if low self-esteem is required for a woman to be desirable to a man. It’s almost like it is a sin for a woman to recognize her own power.

My friends being hurt; the subtle microaggressions I and countless women face every day, the resurrection of feminism in the 21st century, the intergenerational trauma that women of color are burdened by, and how that manifests — it is all palpable, especially in the States’ harrowing political climate. The macro feeds into the micro, and vice versa. The unrest can be felt.

It is time for a change. I ask you: When will it stop?

* * *


Daily Post prompt: Qualm