Submarines.

I’m just tired; I’ve got some work to do; I’m fine; I don’t know what you’re talking about.

He went with, “I’m just a little tired,” because it was the most convenient half-truth to tell at the time.  It felt like he could do nothing right that day.  And he knew – he had been told, really – that it was all just an overreaction to a single negative situation, and his programed response to it was to catastrophize.  Nevertheless, he didn’t care to fight back tonight.  He joked about physical exams earlier, realizing too late that she was anxious from her latest checkup.  The doctors were taking an uncommonly long time to return the results to her; in fact, self-diagnosing led her down a dark corridor with the walls closing in on all sides, stopping with just enough room for her to tuck her knees into her chin and hope beyond grace that it was all just catastrophizing.  He hadn’t meant to lead her by the hand back to the corridor.

How selfish he was, letting his regret show on his face, putting her in a place of regretting her openness about her very real issue while fighting to steady the darkness from encroaching upon the rest of her night.  And the way he left, making a big show of just how much he regretted making the joke, all the while leaving her ashamed and thinking – wrongly – that maybe she was being a burden on other people.  Maybe he was putting prison bars where freedom walked, giving in to the whispers of doubt about just how good of a friend he actually was, and none of this was happening at all.  He wanted to feel guilty about what had happened – he deserved to bear the responsibility for his mistake because he was supposed to be a good friend.  It was the most convenient half-truth to accept at that time.

The retreat inwards began, but he didn’t notice.  He just needed to get through to the end, and he would be home free – free from ruining anymore of his relationships, free to be silent, free to not live underneath the expectations that others had come to own.  He would just run from it all because after all, he was just a coward who couldn’t face his reflection when it surrounded him.  All he did was lie, sell himself as better than he really was, believe in his own lies, and continue manufacturing selves.  Positivity was his most polished mask, and his heart had accumulated enough of his half-truths to believe it owned a single, reliable shard of honesty.  At the end of the day, he was weak.  He wanted to be strong; he wanted to be reliable; he wanted to be honest; he wanted to be kind; he wanted to be free to know who he was and where he stood without the ground collapsing at the slightest nervous shift in weight from right to left, plunging him into the frigid and lonesome below.  He was catastrophizing.

Another mistimed joke, and he found himself lost.  Why was he? Had he not realized that he could have tried not belittling people around him for once, just so that his own crudeness could find a measure of stability?  Was it impossible for him to understand that who he was just didn’t fit who he thought he was?  He was pitiful.  He’d go home and paint something – painting would do the trick, what with the silence and the focus on making something really intricate so that he would just forget seeing his own face stapled onto his friend’s disappointment.  He knew that it had been a rough week for him, but he let his own charm poison the vial even more.  What a wreck.  He really didn’t know who he was at all.  All this time, he had the ridiculous idea that he had been doing him a favor when he himself was the burden.  Is it only now occurring?  He probably thought he was an idiot for even trying to show him in the most explicit way that he wasn’t the friend he thought he was, and here he was, thinking that he was saving him from the shadows.  There wasn’t a thing right about him.

He dove into the dark of the ocean, colliding with the side of the boat on the way down.  Abrasions didn’t matter anymore at this point; he wasn’t even sure he felt the slick, dull, trauma anymore.  I can’t do anything right. I’ve heard that one already.  Why are you wasting your time? Be honest about your mistakes.  You’re the reason we’re here.  Are you still here? Haven’t you grown up yet? Jeez. Get a grip. Move on. Stop worrying so much.  Time will tell.  Why didn’t you say anything? You disappoint me.  Where is the surface?  Don’t be a baby.  Where are you going?  You don’t understand.  Why am I here? You’ll be fine.  I can’t feel anything anymore.  Who’s fault is that?  You made this mess, you fix it.

His heart pounded and every beat felt heavier and heavier and slower and slower he felt it in his head and in his eyes until he was realizing that he was trying to breathe in deeply he was trying to breathe in but his lungs weren’t enough for him and he saw that it was dark except for a single moon far away though far from him and who he was and where he needed to be so he breathed less hoping to reflect on things more and realize that it was just catastrophizing it was just in his head it wasn’t going to be that bad it couldn’t be that bad what was going on he hadn’t felt this way in a long time but he couldn’t find his way out except to talk to no one about it because that’s who understood him best.

I can’t breathe.  Just let me wake up.

Please.

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I Mean.

It’s no secret that I’m a sucker for heartfelt messages and thoughtful gestures, and I think my friends have picked up on that over the years.  Then again, who isn’t?  I have been blessed with amazing friends over the years, and I’m constantly amazed that I ever have an impact on anyone.  More often than not, I think deeply about how the things I do have little to no impact on the lives of others, and why should they?  Talk is cheap, and indeed, that seems to be all I’m good at.  Nevertheless, I’m occasionally reminded as I am on this day, the day my daughter is to be married (whoops, wrong movie – go watch the Godfather!), that somehow, I’ve meandered far enough into people’s hearts to find myself meaning something.

Perhaps it’s ego-stroking, but perhaps it’s waking up from a dream of false identity.  Most likely, it’s a mix of the two.  Growing up in a culture of perseverance begetting further expectation, verbal expression of appreciation was nigh unheard of.  Passing through the valleys of depression led to a lack of weightiness to this life; the side effect was believing myself to be barely existing, just a breeze that was pleasant enough to take note of but for a moment.  And so, when I’m met with so much appreciation and shows of kindness, it becomes rather confusing to sift through.  On one hand, I ought not enjoy it so much because I’ve really done nothing worthy of the attention that I’m receiving, but on the other hand, it’s nice to find reason not to listen to the silent acceptance of meaning very little.

As it rains outside and as my eyelids begin to wage war against my wide-open consciousness, gratitude sinks heavy in my heart.  I am nobody, but Christ in me is more than enough to find an identity in.  Thank you all for seeing past the shortcomings and pointing me to where Christ has redeemed my wretched life.  As we usher in the new year, I hope some of us can continue to encourage one another on this crazy journey of life to understand just how deeply Christ is involved in shaping and sanctifying who we are.  You all didn’t have to remind me of the memories that we made together, but I’m really glad that you did.  It’s been a humbling day just thinking about all of you and seeing that I have no reason to continue on in insecurity about my friendships, which has been a bit of a struggle for me from time to time. If I have any boast in this world, it’s that God has granted me the most precious of friendships with all of you and with Himself, and that means more than enough to me.  I mean something, but that’s founded on God and God alone.

Sunshine Mail.

Today, I read a piece of “sunshine mail” from one of my best friends, and it moistened my eyes.  Insert obligatory “It’s a terrible day for rain” reference.  Sunshine mail, or encouragement notes, are funny things, really.  Sometimes the notes we write intending to encourage other people do just that at the time, but read the same note at another point in life afterwards, and it may just do the opposite.  When we read notes from the past, so much of how our worlds are now is magnified in comparison to our past lives.  We may find that some of our relationships never quite hit the stride we thought they would, or relationships that seemed forced actually blossomed.  The phantoms of past friendships that linger in our exchanged letters may revive conversation once more, or they will spread a veil of melancholy over the present.  Perhaps they’ll even lead to indifference because the relationships haven’t changed – for better or for worse.

Now that the unfeeling mask of finals rigor (and mental exhaustion) has been lifted and I’m allowing myself to indulge in the warmth of fond memories, I’d just like to take a moment and say thank you to all of the friends I’ve made, in the past and in the present.  It was always a little difficult for me to make friends just by being me, and so, if reading your letter was humbling to me, it probably means you’ve borne with the reality of who I truly am and still stuck around.  It’s often difficult to gauge how invested people want to be in the friendships that we make, and one of my worries is that I, as the youths say, “do the most” in my friendships.  I look back on my behavior in some friendships and realize that I was suffocating my friends with my unspoken insecurity; at the same time, I read notes and realize there are true friends who I have unfairly neglected.  It’s a mirror on the wall kind of situation, and I never know what version of myself to expect. Nevertheless, I suppose I’d rather try to err on the side of trying too hard in my friendships than playing it cool and secretly not knowing where I stand in the friendship because I’m not the type of person who can make friends wherever he goes, and I’d be the only one really getting hurt should the friendship turn out contrary to my expectations.  I was the kid who would ask other kids if they wanted to be my friend because I just couldn’t tell if we were friends or not just by walking around with them.

Friendship is a beautiful vessel for our hearts, containing the memories and uncertainties that pour out of separate souls.  Sunshine mail directs rays into those vessels.  What thoughts may come when we gaze into those vessels? Will we still find ourselves, or will the contents seem almost foreign, like discarded childhood toys? Perhaps, we’ll have only memories to spread beneath us; may we tread softly on those memories and walk on.

I Understand.

There are so many things in life that just make no sense; above all of these are the intangibles that happen.  Sometimes, I just want to let go of everything and just let the colorful language flow forth from the fountain of freestyled furor.  But then again, what’s the point?  Life’s too short to let these minor things affect me; why focus on things of the past and let them tarnish the present?  I feel like sometimes I just make it so easy to fall into the inner rage and criticism that existed before, and totally forget about showing the grace that I should be trying my best to show.  It’s so easy for us to dive into the depth of how we have been wronged and just take for granted how much we actually have received.  We don’t realize what we have until it’s too late, but why?  A Family Guy episode I watched recently actually got me thinking – it was a scene where Peter reminisces on a time where he turned down one million dollars to take Lois’s hand in marriage, and then it fast forwards to his present self reflecting on how much he would have given up for Lois back in the day.  It got me thinking, how many people are there in our own lives that we haven’t treated the same as we have from before?

Another thing that was surprising for me to learn was that when one of my predictions came true, I actually didn’t feel as bad about it as before.  I think I just resigned to the fact that life just proceeds this way.  It wasn’t that I expected something different to happen, but I feel like saying otherwise was a way for me to escape from the preconceived conclusions that festered in my mind – it was as if saying so made things alright, trying to muster up the last vestiges of hope within the capacity of my being.  But it happened, and I didn’t lose control.  God just has a weird way of doing things, I guess.  I wanted to do nothing more than be upset, but I completely lacked the conviction to be infuriated because I do believe that in some way, God has changed the way that I see things.  In my eyes, what’s happened has happened; arguing about things isn’t going to fix anything.  Move on with it, get hurt, rinse, repeat.  It sounds like a terribly depressing matter, but the blow is always softened by relying on God.  If I feel kind of distant from things, it might be the suppression of that aforementioned rage seeping to the surface in a kind of deterring mechanism that isn’t working.  Or it could be that I’m tired.  Either way, I’m just going to keep praying and holding onto things that actually matter in life.

Insecurities.

I don’t know why I think the way I do.  Maybe it’s just fear of losing something that matters for once; maybe it’s the realization that the situation is more familiar than I’d like it to be.  When all’s said and done, it turns out that I was wrong about how I thought, wrong about how I analyzed things that were said, and wrong about the outcome that I thought was so close at hand.  Because of these fears and these worries and these anxieties, I’ve been led to believe that I have no other choice than to ruin that which is most precious to me.  It’s a self-destructive, yet repetitive behavior for me, and it makes me question if I should even invest anymore in personal relationships.  It’s tiresome for me to have to bat away those thoughts, and it’s surprising and often quite hurtful to the other person when I express them.  I don’t know what to do.  It seems like no matter what I try to prevent what I fear from happening, it comes at me like a train that’s due to arrive, and all I can do is wait, bound on the tracks by my own suffocating insecurities.  It seems like the harder I try to improve things, the worse they get, and I leave feeling like I am the villain in everything that’s gone wrong.  And I am.  I have accepted this; no matter how much time or effort that I put into building these personal relationships up, a tragic flaw appears, one way or another, that leads me to ruining it for both people.  I’m tired of this pattern of incompetence and helplessness…I seem to just attach myself to people and watch them flit through my grasp as specters merely passing by.  So many pieces of my heart that have been placed in full trust of people have been lost to the ages.  My fatal flaw is that I am too willing to trust people and give them a chance, and I indulge in this flaw in complete ignorance and innocence by throwing all I have into developing that little chance.  It’s the hopeless romanticism that permeates into all areas of my life.  A young boy reading Shakespeare with Romeo and Juliet failing to feel the pain that gets his eyes wet after thousand daggers pierced his heart, making suffering a lonely art.  You read that sentence and think drama and, for the more keen observers of rhythm, poetry.  And that’s what I’ve built my life upon, to be honest.  The drama of a normal life has magnified itself in my eyes so that everything could be taken for something of worth, something meaningful, until my paranoia overwhelms my satisfaction with the present and swallows up my faith in personal relationships.  It’s my hopelessly romantic view of loyalty too that manages to mangle my faith in relationships; I take too much pride in having a blind loyalty to a select few people, and I somehow expect that loyalty to be reciprocated, knowing full well that only fools rush so quickly into giving that kind of loyalty.  And yet it hurts every time, waking up to the fact that maybe it’s not mutual, maybe I’m caring too much and just being an annoyance to that person.  I don’t know what they feel because things always end up dissolving into history’s clutches before I get a chance to review them in the present.  All I know is that I will keep on being loyal to the ones I care about whether or not they reciprocate it, or even notice it, because they’re really all I’m living for.  That blind loyalty to God ended up preserving my own life back in high school when suicide was just a bike and a car accident away, so I know it’s worth something.  I just need to make that leap of faith in loyalty to overcome the insecurities swimming in my head.  I know that someone will come along who understands what I mean and how I feel; in fact, someone has come along who seems to understand me at last.  But these insecurities keep harassing me to no end, and I fear for the end of this story; nevertheless, I will fiercely fight to show my loyalty to those who are loyal to me, trusting in them and hoping that they’ll understand how foolishly complex I am and that God even will surround me with people who understand and forgive me for the flawed, hopelessly romantic fool that I am.

Confused.

Why is it that this world feels so far away,

I was close, but now I feel really far today.

I don’t understand, but inside I do,

It’s just hard for people to remain true.

You may claim to know all about a man,

but inside that man is a deep, dark, secret plan.

Friends can be true, but times can change

Which is why this feeling is so strange.

Out of touch, out of sight, out of sound,

Without me, the world will still go ’round.

A castaway that’s been cast away

Friends of yesteryear become strangers today.

Perhaps it’s society, with its numerous plots

Whatever it is, it hurts like gunshots.

To feel lost is when all hope is lost,

When no strength is left to keep the fingers crossed.

Depression is the catalyst, aiding the reaction,

perhaps dwelling in ourselves remains the last safe bastion.

But for me, I trust not my inner being

For it speaks things I don’t wish, it says what I’m not seeing.

A complete deceit, wicked to the core

How can I ask for truth, when I need to find it more?

To lose this persona would be a blessing profound,

To dwell in the light, and in joy fully surround.

Happiness only lasts but a mere two seconds,

Before it’s all torn away in a mere few seconds.

Insecurities creep in as they did in old times,

Filling my mind of all the old crimes.

I beat desperately at them, shoving them far

But little do I realize that I’ve left the door ajar.

They flutter in, reveling in the clutter

Littering my mind with dross, I shudder.

The dark envelopes me, I am lost to all

I can no longer resist whate’er befall.

Chaos reigns high, clouding my vision,

But to remain faithful is my sole decision.

How can I disbelieve the truth of my friends?

The ones who are close, the ones that never pretend?

They are truly all I have, and yet

I find myself waking in a cold sweat

In cold blood, I could be stabbed with a cold knife

Despite all the joy comes a cruel and bitter strife.

It is refuse, and I refuse it

I banter too much, exhausting too much on wit.

Though friends knowest not, they are the reason why I’m alive,

And with surety I know that through this ordeal I will survive.

The toll that is taken upon my emotions

Cannot be described by any small motions.

Gestures alone can speak quite loud,

But right now, I can express not what I am sorrowing about.

A negativity unparalleled has taken control,

I only look to my friends to help me keep hold.

Dear friends, though my manners are quaint

You paint with truer colors than any kind of paint.

Expose my inner self with the bond we have set,

Restoring me to the jolly fellow I was when we met.

Joy has not a place to find in this soul of mine,

But I still have space for the few friendships divine.

On War and Peace.

This post will not be as long as my other ones, but it definitely moved me.

War and Peace, A New Translation by Anthony Briggs, Afterword by Orlando Figes

Page 61, short section preceding Chapter 15.

“‘Oh, my dear count, money, money, money – how much trouble it causes in this world!’ said the countess. ‘But I do need it very much.’

‘My sweet little countess, everybody knows you’re a shocking spendthrift,’ said the count, who then kissed his wife’s hand and went back to his own room.

When Anna Mikhaylovna returned from the Bezukhovs the countess had the money ready under a handkerchief on her little table, all in crisp new notes.  Anna Mikhaylovna could see something was worrying her.

‘Well how did you get on, my dear?’ asked the countess.

‘Oh, he’s in a dreadful state! Unrecognizable.  He’s so ill, so ill…I was only there for a minute, and I hardly said a thing.’

‘Annette, for heaven’s sake, please don’t refuse,’ the countess blurted out with a blush that looked rather odd on her [aging], thin, aristocratic face as she produced the money from under the cloth.  Immediately understanding, Anna Mikhaylovna leant forward, ready to embrace when the moment came.

‘This is for Boris, from me, to get him kitted out…’

Anna Mikhaylovna’s arms were round her.  She was weeping, and the countess wept too.  They wept for their friendship, their kindheartedness and the unfortunate need for lifelong friends to soil their hands with anything as sordid as money, and they wept also for their lost youth..But the tears of both women were sweet…”

Not too long of a passage, but the content that is within deeply moved me.  Although I am not familiar with economic troubles in Tolstoy’s time, the message between the lines strikes me profoundly.  Too often nowadays, we find ourselves “spotting” our friends and having to do with money as a source of friendship, but little do we experience the purity of friendship that is untainted by money.  Though surely none of us can call ourselves counts or countesses, Tolstoy’s words provide me with ample food for thought.  The passage, to me, portrays one of the most beautiful friendships encountered in a human’s life, and though the two women wept, their tears were sweet; no hard feelings between them.  In the beginning of a book titled ‘War and Peace,’ I’d say this book purveys much more than meets the eye, so it is meet for me to take my time with this book, and fully indulge in the work of one of the greatest Russian authors that history has witnessed.

A friendship in the halcyon days of youth is to be desired; a friendship purged of any impurity is to be dreamt of.

– W.L.

p.s. I greatly encourage you to read Divine and Human and Other Works; though the times are different from ours, Tolstoy is a wonderful storyteller, infusing his works with numerous characters, and the short stories are deeply touching.

A “Thug” Life.

When we listen to rap music from the old school days,

We hear about the shootings and the cigs they blaze.

But what we don’t see is the life behind this life of “glory,”

When thugs get to shooting slugs and getting gory.

What caused this tragedy, this animosity?

All I know is that I gotta get into university.

My own personal grind is nothing like Pac’s or B.I.G’s,

my own story is based on getting A’s and avoiding B’s.

Termed by many in school as the college game,

I wonder if I keep playing, will I get fame?

Pac and Biggie were thugs til they died,

But how can I be a thug when I don’t ride?

Old school rappers knew the drive-by shootings, the death of a homie,

But all I know is that I gotta lock down in school, and make sure no one’s before me.

The thugs know the streets, and so do I

I know 183rd, just over by Cerritos High.

Though thugs fire bullets into one another,

In school, some backstab the guy they call brother.

It’s a dirty business, but students gotta hustle in their own way.

A homie doesn’t matter at the end of the day;

You use ’em, you lose ’em, that’s what goes on sometimes.

Sometimes you sit down, and you only think about the crimes

The bad times, the bad rhymes,

and think about how the times are not sublime.

They are subhuman, cold and cold-hearted,

I got hurt the other day, and it really smarted.

But we aren’t dumb, we’re just vicious,

They might have your card, but tell you to go fishes.

Out of luck, you draw from the deck of life,

As the people around you backstab with an academic knife.

But the streets of academia aren’t just negative,

Like a Duracell, for each negative there’s a positive.

Tupac and Biggie had some fake brothers, but still had true homies,

The ones that were real, the ones that really know me.

For my brothers out there, I’d do anything for you

I sleep at 8, but to help you I’ll stay up until 2.

True homies stick together, through thick or thin,

Just like Snoop and Dre, sharin’ a sip of gin.

We’ll stick it out, the hard times will go by,

But when we bury a traitor, nobody cry.

They stayed for the good times, left when it came hard

Who knew someone so “close” could be so far?

So I sit near my laptop, meditating, simply waiting,

thinking about who my true homies are, there’s no debating.

Homies for life isn’t just a street slogan,

It’s a way of life, Hulkamania, Hulk Hogan

So while Tupac and Biggie each died young

I think about all my friends who’ve listened to me,

felt for me,

stayed with me all through the fun.

It’s been a long run, but life is longer still,

Homies, I hope y’all don’t forget to stay mad real.

– Fearless