fallacy

There’s a strange kind of fallacy,
about my sense of inadequacy,
that I have so much love
that I’d give away happily,
to everyone that I know,
until there’s none left,
But for some reason I struggle,
to give that love to myself.

It’s a bittersweet truth
we don’t want to have spoken,
like fears over promises
we risk having broken,
So we fold in our corners
to avoid being hurt,
and rely too much on others
to define our own worth.

We make ourselves sick
with insecurities and stress,
forget things about ourselves
we used to like best.
Losing sleep over questions
that we don’t have the answers,
like “Who are you really?”
and “What are you after?”

Drown in uncertainty
under the weight of decisions,
convinced that by choosing
there’s something else that we’re missing.
But you are more than the fears
that you see in the mirror,
you are a vision of love
that will start to get clearer.

Trusting your heart is at once never easy,
when we constantly struggle
to define our meaning,
But believe in the universe,
in its power and grace,
trust that your pieces will all fall into place.

Be at peace with the things
you thought would not change,
remove all your shadows
so only light will remain.
Our pasts do not own us,
we are not our mistakes,
All that matters
is who we choose to be today.

 

The real price of freedom

It is strangely fascinating
how much freedom we barter away
for the sake of
comfort and convenience
how easily we count up currencies
yet the conversion we care least about
is the cost of time

You are not your habits
or your attachments
your shiny objects
your wants
or your fears

I spent so much time
boxing myself into
an idea
of who I thought I was
and now here I am
trading in 8 years
worth of blackened lungs
for a breath of fresh air

When you actively decide
to change yourself
you realize that everyday of your life
is a choice
there is so much power
in the time you take back
to do what you really want
to be someone different
than who you were yesterday

 

I never thought I’d be writing about this for people to read, but it struck me as one of the few things I might actually write that would benefit someone reaching a similar crossroads. 17 days ago I smoked my last cigarette, and I believe it is the longest I’ve gone without one in, give or take, the last 8 years. For anyone that knows me, my relationship with tobacco is my longest and most committed. Hell, I obviously love them so much I included them in the title of my poetry book. Cigarettes were not just a “bad habit” for me, there was something ritualistic about it that I always loved — the moments I took for myself to be alone, to think, and to usually write. And no, I was never not aware of the health risks — people do worse things to themselves everyday — and I do believe we have the autonomy to make our own choices over our bodies.

But recent circumstances have reinforced the one thing I thought I knew all along: that it doesn’t matter how much money you have or how accomplished you are, if you don’t have your health, you literally have nothing. So no, this isn’t a New Years resolution or some patronizing PSA, though I’m sorry if it sounds like one. What I mean to bring attention to, is the concept of choice.

Making a commitment to lose weight or eat better or not smoke — and in an even more meaningful sense, when we make commitments to make more art, to be more outspoken, to get more in touch with ourselves — it is not about the actual intention you are setting forth, as much as the power of making that choice in the moment. Discipline isn’t about being hard on yourself, but realizing that as the creator of your own reality, we are actively choosing what we do, every moment of our lives. “Depriving” yourself of something you think you need, or something that has come to define an aspect of your life, is not easy. However, it is more feasible than we sometimes allow ourselves to believe.

On that note, I am actively interested in healing my relationship with tobacco, by educating myself on the history of it amongst indigenous peoples as plant medicine. Rather than abuse it, I would like to incorporate it into my life as a form of sacred cleansing and ritual. For friends who have information or contacts about this kind of practice, please forward whatever you can my way. As always, if you got this far, thanks for reading.

Living inside shame

It’s so much easier to encourage peace and happiness in others when you yourself are happy. Of course anyone can stand on a mountaintop in their proudest moments and speak the goodwill of the universe: that we truly live by finding harmony in the path binding itself to our feet.

But do we talk enough about what it’s like in the adverse circumstances, our least proud moments when trusting ourselves is most necessary, yet our self-doubt is stronger than ever? We talk so blithely about self-improvement to reach success, to work hard to be your best, to fulfill that blind ambition above all else — but at what cost?

Who are you really doing it for? Yourself? Or the audience that you think is watching you? We don’t talk enough about the shame and guilt we rack ourselves with, when we lose the motivation to lift ourselves up.

I find myself more lost than I have ever been, doubting the trajectory of the path I’ve chosen — mostly because in and of itself there has never been a “clear” path. The path only unfolds as I move forward, and yet sometimes I feel so paralyzed with indecision that I don’t know what else to do but lay down.

Breath deep. Close my eyes. Wait for it to pass.

Shame — how excruciatingly suffocating it can be. Mostly because it is self-inflicted, because I ridicule my own inflated sense of self-importance more than anything else. And hating yourself isn’t very conducive to moving forward. But I know this experience isn’t unique to me — we all inevitably go through it. The days where we don’t want to get out of bed, would rather hide our faces in our hair than sit through the long hours of the day. But I want to talk about it now, because maybe you’re going through it, too.

Our public moments of pride, where we excitedly proclaim our accomplishments and wave them like flags of honor in front of anyone who will watch — those are not the moments that define us. What truly defines you is whether you have the strength to look at yourself without any false pretense or ego, to ask yourself what you are most afraid of, to hold yourself accountable for your own happiness.

The single greatest excuse we make, the one that stops us from pursuing what we want, is when we tell ourselves that we aren’t good enough. This is the lie society will sell you, by telling you you need this many followers, and this many gadgets, this many friends, the right kind of job or the right kind of lover — because for some reason you on your own is not enough.

But believing this lie is the most insidious of falsehoods, in many ways because it is the one we’ve been conditioned to accept from birth.

So that is why I’m talking about it. Because if anything, there is nothing to lose in being honest with ourselves — because it is okay to feel shame, as long as we’re willing to dissect where it comes from, and are ready to do the hard work to come out of it on the other side.

What I’m interested in

I am not much interested in what someone has to say if it lacks nuance regarding perception as an individual experience. I am not much interested in what someone has to argue, if they are only expunging air to prove that they are right. I am not much interested in what you have to say on the internet, in how much of your identity is quantified by taps and likes, measured in impressions, or predicted by algorithms. I am not much interested in provoked outrage, in someone’s right opinion, in unimaginative disdain.

I am not much interested in much these days, except:

How bright and beautiful the sunrise still looks everyday, even from the inside of a hospital waiting room. The strange whoosh of air from a ventilator machine, how it can transform from something first heard in a nightmare to a strange rhythmic lullaby, the cadence of a heartbeat still moving blood through a loved one’s veins. I am more interested in how to make myself more capable of loving, even to the point of exhaustion. Because there is no such thing as loving enough — loving the world, loving myself, loving the people that matter most me. I do not know if humans alone are capable of miracles, but I am not much interested in that, since life itself is a miracle. So I suppose there isn’t very much I am interested in, besides the healing power of love, the love we have within ourselves, both for ourselves, and for one another. I don’t really care these days to have space for much else.

flower envy

I envy flowers
whose only purpose is
to grow and bloom.
But is that not what I,
have been birthed here to do?
What made me this way?
Intolerably complex,
taking for granted
the simple happinesses that
life has afforded me.

Why not blossom,
into the best version of myself?
For the soil is fertile,
and the love is plentiful,
in my heart
& in the souls of those
who love me

Do not falter
at the cusp of becoming.
The trees cannot ask
the wind to stop blowing,
just as I am mistaken
to try and hinder the flow of time.
The same force that crashes waves,
upon the shore,
beats the blood that flows in my veins,
transforms the air I breath
into oxygen
— just so I may wake up to see another day.

Do not forsake the one body I’ve been gifted,
to grow and bloom in,
Do not forsake the one life,
I have been given to love,
there is no past or future,
Only this moment that I am breathing in,
With so much life left to live,
it would be a shame to forget that now.

above the coast

I woke up on a plane above the California coast,
a memory of who I was waiting for me like a ghost,
I have shed my skin like spring,
learned not to count this as a loss,
discovered moving forward
is always worth the cost.

I have learned how to unearth secrets,
that are stored within my soul,
learned that living in my solitude,
could make me feel more whole.

Learned how to fall in love with strangers,
for brief moments in my life,
the serendipity we shared
will stay suspended now in time.
I have crossed many oceans,
in search of myself,
climbed through the mountains,
to know truth in what I felt.

What has it meant for me,
to go out in search of meaning?
Savoring the seconds
in every new beginning?

Because life is just a cycle,
of lessons we repeat,
from when we’re born,
in different forms,
until the karma is complete.

So pay attention to the details,
because it’s not always the same,
synchronicities that guide you back the way you came.

The universe will take you,
exactly where you need to go,
combined with fate, which we create,
is all we need to know.
So here I am now,
having reached this journey’s end,
a resurrected soul ready to live her life again.

Nepal’s universal lessons

The novelty of this country’s beauty will likely never be lost on me. I have seen head high stalks of golden wheat waver in the afternoon breeze, marveled as they caught a reflection of light that made them sparkle like ocean water on a sunny day. I’ve watched as mist cast itself like a blanket over boundless mountain ranges, fell asleep to the lullaby of a thunderous rainstorm. I’ve seen day by day saplings grow into trees, caterpillars into butterflies, the land morph from winter to spring.

I have walked numerous miles through these mountains for countless hours, for reasons that even now are not perfectly clear to me. Did I come here to find my life’s purpose? Or to find something as trivial as adventure? Undoubtedly, I have a found share of both.

People had asked me quite insistently why I was coming back to Nepal, and I always had the strategic response prepared for when they did. There’s of course, the easy answers that are deeply true. My commitment to this project, my love of this land, my connection to the village, and to all the people I’ve met while here. But in many ways, those are surface level answers, that only address the singular meaning within the context of my singular life.

It would be disingenuous of me if I didn’t admit that I returned for selfish reasons. Here, in these illustrious hills, I am hidden from a certain type of reality. The expectations and niceties of modern society do not intrude on my life. But how privileged and close-minded of me, to hide within the real-life circumstances of impoverished people on the other side of the world? I am no stranger to my own pretences.

Doing this work has pushed me to ask difficult questions, ones that I am still not fully equipped to answer. Such as: what does it mean to help people? How do we definitively know when we do? What does it mean to bridge cultural divide? How do you find proof of it? What does it mean to truly trust one another? How do we create change within the systems we’re given? Do good intentions amount to much in the grand scheme of the world’s conflicts?

Despite the destruction of barriers, I am aware that I come from a world that the community I serve does not fully understand. This goes both ways. I exist in a realm of acute individuality, while many of their lives are intrinsically entwined with the lifebloods of their families. I am forever in awe of these dichotomies, of the separate realities that exist side-by-side, to allow a melding of understandings from opposite sides of the spectrum.

Nepal is so much more than enamored mysticism and prayer flags. It is a land of both intense poverty and generous abundance, deep divisions and shared fanatic national identity. Its people are both astoundingly passionate and at times jadedly apathetic. It is both beautiful and destructive, as flawed as it is perfect. Nepal is a metaphor for humanity in more ways than I can begin to convey — but I suppose as are the behaviors of any people, in every place, anywhere in the world.

But for a funny little foreigner like me, there is a magic here that reminds me so sharply the arbitrariness of my existence, the happenstance of my birth, of being able to experience the world as I do. I am so profoundly enraptured by this place so fundamentally different from the reality I once knew. And at the same time, my ability to discover patterns and parallels in human behavior, across cultures and continents, fascinates and fulfills me in ways I’m still learning to understand.

Living in different places for months at a time has taught me a lot about the tendency of human behavior to move towards polarity. Though it’s internal happenings don’t gain as much international attention, the country is shuddering under the same pressures of industrialization, polarized political conflict, and extreme wealth disparity as much as the rest of the world.

I have learned to recognize the insidiousness of patriarchy in all its forms, how it transforms itself into an easily palatable poison to the point that many don’t even notice. Like in the US, there are persistent preconceptions and prejudices against poor and working class people. There is such a level of government corruption that many people are discouraged from fighting for accountability, and at times lack motivation for civil engagement.

Like the Philippines, Nepal struggles from the destabilization of work diaspora, families split apart in search of greater opportunities; young people choosing to work abroad because ultimately there are few relevant financial prospects at home. This is also a consequence of imbalanced socio-political dynamics established through history, with much of the country’s abundant resources under the vice of Chinese and Indian government control.

Like nearly everywhere else in the world, Nepalis are disillusioned by their government. Asking people in this country to not just trust in the work we do together, but to believe that they themselves are capable of creating change, is sometimes a constant uphill battle. Many people in my own country don’t even believe this about themselves. 

But here’s the thing: when you choose to believe you are not capable of creating change, you then evade your own responsibility to help others, simply because you don’t think it is actually possible. You then continue to perpetuate the same systems that destroy the earth, that create apathy, that allow things to continue as normal.

The struggle here is universal. How do you convince people to care about the greater good? To be willing to work hard and make sacrifices, not for their own self-advancement, but to improve the livelihoods of others? For a community? For a country? For the world?

Nepal hasn’t taught me how to convince non-believers, but has showed me something else more important. That there are people who have lived entirely different lives, experienced far more difficult realities than I could ever fathom, and yet also share the same vision for the world as I do. Narayan Bhatterai, or Mama as we lovingly call him, is not just one of the longest employed members of Conscious Impact, but also one of our deepest inspirations. He is the type of man who not only wants to fight for the same world I do, but has taught me more about it than I could ever learn in a classroom.

Jenisha, my partner who ran the Girls Empowerment group with me these past few months, is one of the most inspirational and loving women I’ve met, and her connection and passion for empowering young girls in her community blew me away. Both Jenisha and Mama exemplify willingness to lift others up, to see another person’s individual happiness and security to be as important as their own.

My work is not about coming here and helping Nepalis with my knowledge, as if I know what is truly good for a country I am an outsider of. My work is about uplifting the people here who believe in change, and are truly capable of it. Who understand that by sharing our abundance, we bring ourselves closer to the source of our humanity. Their friendships have taught me that the limitations and boundaries of language and lived experience do not restrict the depth of connections possible between people — not when you are willing to open your heart.

I am now driven by this desire, to continue building mutual bridges of understandings between realities — to find common ground in our desires for meaning and love and family, in our deepest despairs and sadnesses, in shared ambitions and achievements. Because isn’t that what it means to be human at the end of the day? To achieve true understanding between beings of consciousness, however futile it may actually be?

Rather than end this with my own words, I’ll leave you with something Mama had said not too long ago, and has continued to resonate with me. If you’ve made it this far, I hope it does with you as well.

“The benefits we receive as individuals are not large. We are not taking any things with us, yet we try to earn so much to have sufficient things. We come into this world with empty hands, live in nature, step on this earth, breathe the air, drink the water, get warmth from fire. And when we die, we leave empty handed. We reach again the water, and are burned by the flame, mixing our soul back into the fire. We take only the satisfaction that we drew from our own lives, and the thoughts that others had of us, when we die.”