To say that 2015 took a lot out of me would be an understatement. It seemed like the pattern was to lose things. People. Places. Organs. Well, one organ –– which had to be literally taken out of me. The others were really of the metaphorical sort, their departures imagined at best, but the voids they left sometimes felt so expansive that the idea of placeholders seemed so wonderfully tempting, I gave in.
 
Still, I kept losing. I lost the reckless confidence in myself perhaps possible only in youth. I lost faith in humanity quite a couple of times. I lost sight of how in the grand scheme of things, there will always be bigger losses, but these do not necessarily invalidate mine. I lost love in possibly the most clichéd, gut-wrenching way (but oh, you’re still young! –– I lost how that statement once seemed logical, too.) I then lost the ability to forgive myself for the tendency to needlessly lament. I lost opportunities because I waited too long. I lost all remaining notions of self-restraint after. I lost people to my impatience or timing or geography or the magnanimity of an outright refusal to remain.
 
But as Elizabeth Bishop wrote, “so many things seem filled / with the intent to be lost / that their loss is no disaster.” So I suppose I am fine. And I’ve been fine –– most days.
 
What got me through the rest was how people kept telling me to be good to myself, in spite of how at times I became aware only of the gnawing absence of reasons to be.
 
I found that most of the time, the enterprise of being good to yourself requires merely an acknowledgment of the assortment of objects that came and occupied the spaces now rendered free-for-all. Perhaps a new job that everyday despite your troubles makes you consider the big picture. Maybe another shot at a degree, which, combined with said job, reminds you that all you’ve ever wanted was to make the least bit of difference. A new friend. A new mentor. A new love. How these three can somehow come together in one new person, too. Tidbits of information you’ll hopefully find a use for one day: like how the universe apparently hums in B flat, how in Tamil there is a word for fake anger during a lovers’ tiff called oodal, or that Puttanesca sauce and the ease with which it’s prepared originates from how in 18th century Naples as in today, a puttana only had so much time in her hands. You marvel at your new appreciation for accomplishments in all packages, whether it is developing a skin regimen, finishing a manuscript or finally admitting you need help. You feel this new overwhelming sense of gratitude for the slightest stirrings that happen in the darkest of evenings, whether it is rage at the injustices that prevail or the ability to want things again despite perpetually losing, and indeed losing again, this time “farther, faster.”
 
Happy new year, friends. May we all come across more marvelous things, remember how loss is ineluctable, but go in with full force, anyway –– if only for the fun of it.
 

One Art

BY ELIZABETH BISHOP

The art of losing isn’t hard to master;
so many things seem filled with the intent
to be lost that their loss is no disaster.
Lose something every day. Accept the fluster
of lost door keys, the hour badly spent.
The art of losing isn’t hard to master.
Then practice losing farther, losing faster:
places, and names, and where it was you meant
to travel. None of these will bring disaster.
I lost my mother’s watch. And look! my last, or
next-to-last, of three loved houses went.
The art of losing isn’t hard to master.
I lost two cities, lovely ones. And, vaster,
some realms I owned, two rivers, a continent.
I miss them, but it wasn’t a disaster.
—Even losing you (the joking voice, a gesture
I love) I shan’t have lied. It’s evident
the art of losing’s not too hard to master
though it may look like (Write it!) like disaster.
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A Strategic Retreat

Look at me still referencing Blair Waldorf at the worst of times. A moment of silence for my lingering obsession with Gossip Girl, my only desire that has yet to be trampled by the inconvenient realities of time and space.

That said, I figured I have enough willpower left tonight to attempt to articulate what feels like the daily inevitable imploding. What remains intact at the very least is the certainty that writing remains my catharsis, ergo this note, whose overarching theme of sophomoric nostalgia already pains me. But still — the whole being good to yourself enterprise, I realized just this morning, includes cherishing and making the most out of the little things, and with that comes the complete disregard for the unattainable standards and timetable you have long set for yourself in an attempt to pack into a moment all worth you could extract from experiences mundane to profound. These days, I am learning to pat myself in the back for what feels like the simplest acts of kindness to myself, be it finishing a chapter of a Marquez novel, managing to sit through an entire film and actually staying in the mise-en-scene long enough to identify with a character, getting through and even learning to prefer the numbing allure of domestic tasks, or picking up writing again, albeit in short bursts.

I’ve always thought getting points for mere effort was such a ridiculous concept, thought reassurance of potential as some ridiculous bourgeois logic of upper middle class reward invented to further a consumer-capitalist agenda, and felt a disproportionate amount of anger for those who received insane credit for trying, which I believed should be a given, never mind which pursuit. While I never knew disproportionate anger and outbursts were already symptoms of this probable condition I am trying so hard to make sense out of, it makes me laugh now stumbling upon the irony that I’ve spent most of my life directing much of this anger at myself. I kept up a laid-back vibe of course, but my darkest hours were spent berating myself for having yet to be the multi-hyphenate I wanted to and still want to be, deemed the reaches for greatness insufficient; futile.

Being classified as intense has always felt like the worst insult. Actually clenching the certainty that you are, indeed, intense, is draining. Imagine gravitating back and forth between ridiculous brilliant moments of inspiration and paralyzing episodes of self-loathing because of the inconsistency and unsustainability of aforementioned moments, and worse, having nothing in between between these two. Imagine blaming yourself for feeling too much, wanting too much, or nothing at all. Imagine your condition, which make everything feel like life and death situations, being dismissed as just a flair for the dramatics, a childhood quirk just being resilient, or your generation’s tendency to label every unwanted emotion as a disorder. Imagine comparing yourself to level-headed, highly-achieving creatures who can keep their cool and rely on human intuition, which in their case, doesn’t tell them contradicting stances in a span of several hours. Just writing this down for the first time in my life makes me want to take a breather.

A few months back, someone shared how my tendency to succumb to gravity without hesitation and fall completely for things, people, despite the trauma of the past is utterly admirable. I joked how this just means I unfortunately know nothing about self-preservation. I’m thinking now is the best time to start learning.

I suppose what I am trying to say is, in light of my whole commitment to make the best out of these rare, small moments of calm and clarity, I came to the decision of just making the days a wee bit more bearable by pulling back from social media and the like. God knows I am so close to losing everything if i don’t stop and rest now. In the meantime, the world just seems a bit more manageable when I am not constantly exposed to anything that overwhelms me to the point of exhaustion. I am all for anything that renders me speechless still, I don’t think having this fascination will ever dwindle.

So hi, dear reader. In case you’re wondering, I am still alive. But as of today, I just need some time to be still.