When I write, I get so deep into the words. I match them so closely to the exact emotion I feel to express the rawness and authenticity of it. So in my writing you’re getting close to the most intimate part of me. That’s the closest to perfection you’re going to get.

The Hard Part

 

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I think the hardest part about getting to know someone isn’t just your insecurities, your fears, your hesitations. It’s all of theirs. You’re fighting a war in their head and their heart that’s derived from every person that’s come before you. It’s every lie, false definition of love, excuse, broken promise, and broken heart that someone before you caused. It’s so sad that someone could take something so beautiful and shatter it beyond recognition, and now the only thing keeping it together is the cast of steel they’ve surrounded their heart with. It’s even sadder to think that just when their cast is no longer needed, someone comes along and breaks them again and again, and each time a thicker cast is thrown on. So now here you are fitting no mold, you were never like anyone else, and you’re trying to break through a cast that seems to be 82 miles deep while bearing your own cast of steel. It’s heavy and it’s hard but every once in a while you get this glimpse of what’s behind the wall and you know it’ll all be worth it. And you know that even if you’re not the one who takes the last piece of that wall down, you’ll have helped heal what’s behind it in hopes that someone more deserving than you gets to see what she’s gone to the depths of hell protecting.

Paradox of Choice

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I remember our first conversation and how you said that I suffer because of how sensitive I am to the world. Frail heart with a red smile. Life happens to us and we’ll change. We’re not perfect and that’s okay. I’m selfish and hollow too. Living in your 20s with so much on your mind. I think it’s normal to feel like a bad friend or a bad lover. We’ll fix it someday, won’t we? Can we?

People don’t understand us, they don’t think like us. Have you heard about the paradox of choice? There is an infinite amount of things to do– it ultimately leads back to who you truly want to be. Time doesn’t stop for anyone, it passes us by like clouds during a normal day. Maybe that’s why it’s called the past. You learn to love people, but they may never learn to love you. Well… at least not how you’d want them to. Humans are strange, we built a society that tells us you are more if you have more and you ain’t shit if you ain’t got shit. We sold our souls a long time ago. Our identities crushed by the pressures of our peers and our parents. I’m sick and tired of people telling me how to live my life. What is the point of freedom if your mind is a slave to material things? We’re out of touch with reality. We have forgotten about Mother Nature. The trees and the bees are upset with us. Flawed creatures searching for a future amongst dollar signs. I guess that is kinda morbid. Time is running out and the choices we’ll make today– they affect tomorrow in ways that we can’t see. You’re sensitive to the world. Always have been, always will be. That’s who I am.

I wake up with both feet hitting the ground running through a forest of dreams designed to break my fall, but I always loved head first– I’d rather break my heart a few times than to not love at all and maybe that’s my biggest problem. I sleep with thoughts of maybe some day, I’ll have something that’s close to home, something that’s less dream and more real, something that’s more poetic and aesthetic– and it’s kinda shallow, but if we humans don’t dig a little deeper to add some depth, what’s the point of this jellyfish in our skull? We’re too numb. We’re too numb. I’d rather love and feel dumb, than to run and run some more. I’d break both of my legs to catch up to someone. But that’s the thing, would someone do that for me?

I’ve read too many books to know that not every story has closure. I could spend the rest of my life asking questions I’d never get a firm answer to. Maybe this is why I fear getting close to new people. It is never easy. Every person has the potential to become another midnight poem, another piece of ink-drenched speculation when I get tired of the words ‘What if’ being on the tip of my tongue with no answer in sight. When I open up to you, I do so in the hope that one day I’ll write about you with satisfaction guiding my hands and you by my side to extinguish the fires my mind loves to ignite when night falls and silence overtakes me.
I do so with a heart that wants to love and will never stop loving you. All I ask in return is that you don’t become another cliffhanger.

How do you see yourself? A list of things that we should talk about, a bit of you within every room, a memory for every smile you’ve so freely given away, so I’ll ask again. How do you see yourself with me? Do I really make you happy?

What Is She Supposed To Be?

 

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So what is she supposed to be? He wondered, his gaze stalling on mine as he lights a cigarette in the bathroom stall of the city’s cheapest bar, his eyes like satellite discs, roaming the epicenter of a stretch of tidal wave girls, and me just happening to be a thorn in the midst of their saltwater hemmed limbs, their sugarplum lips, their laughs like molten gold. She looks out of place, he adds. It’s true. Because I’m out of place wherever I go. I shrink into my coat. I pretend that I don’t see him.

I gaze out at the crowd. A congregation of delirious devil-worshippers, boys and girls trading their merry-go-round brains for baits of ice, crystal, leaves, whatever’s taking souls on a sunday night, whatever kills the quickest. Behind the chiseled bar, rows of wine glasses gleam like a selection of murder weapons.

From somewhere, summoned like ghosts, an aggregate of disembodied voices reply: a woman, a god, an anthem of spokes. Fine grains of desert sand. An endless alleyway. Rain, rain, bloodshot sky. Burnt roses littering funeral grounds.

The voices continue, even as his green eyes wander. Lightning within the root. Someone falling from the bannisters. Poison ivy, seeping into a rotting mouth. Trigger-happy hands, always going for the sharpest object within reach. Bombs trickling off like he loses interest.

I smile, No worries, this isn’t embarrassing at all. I’ll create a story where you care. I’m a magician, didn’t you know? I can make things appear from out of my head! A story where you buy me flowers and we mouth off at the sunset, where you cook me eggs runnier than my thoughts, I wear something pink and we devour this town together.

My mother used to say, loneliness is a bug, once you catch it, you can’t quite get rid of it not without the hospital visits. Not without the vaccinations. Not without the nurses with sinister bobcat eyes stealing the blood from your body and storing it in little glass vials. Not without losing bits of yourself, bits you never get to have back. Bits you have to fight for to keep as your sanity, that ever-slippery ice cap, floats farther & farther away from your burned, bludgeoned, berserk island of a body.

I miss gripping for power lines in my rain boots, finding solace in the neck of a stranger. Three-hour long showers and gardening myself (here, chrysanthemums tucked into the ribs, and there, a daffodil beneath the knee), I miss what it’s all supposed to mean, back when everything still had a point and the world was somehow a kinder place, being human on a steady diet of dreams, creating a breach in a star-system, losing faith & pilfering it back from chapels, tumbling, always backwards, into the closest abyss.

Living with Vasovagal Syncope

 

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Does anyone ever wake up in an instance to see their vision in an array of tiny black pixels formulating in obscure random patterns? Or a sick crumbling feeling in their stomach accompanied by an impending tingling wave of nausea moving up their chests with a ringing in your ear and you lose your balance?

If so, you’re in luck because well, you’re not alone.

For the past 15 years I’ve experienced a health condition called Vasovagal Syncope which is basically getting dizzy more than often or fainting. Now I have had this condition long enough that I know the different stages and how severe my symptoms are at the time. My symptoms can range from just a quick dizzy spell and be back to normal all the way to fainting for 5+ minutes and every thing in between.

I’ve adjusted my life to help control my Vasovagal Syncope. For example, when I workout, I cannot do real squats. I must do sumo squats (legs apart) so that way, I have enough balance and lower my chances of fainting. I must carry a water bottle every where I go.

Vasovagal syncope is a fancy medical way of saying that a person had a change in their body that caused them to faint. The change is not caused by a disease or disorder – instead, it happens because of an extreme feeling like shock, fear, or pain. It also happens in certain other situations (e.g., seeing blood). People with vasovagal syncope often describe sweating, feeling dizzy or nauseous, or having clammy hands or skin before they faint. They will usually regain consciousness after lying flat for a few minutes. A doctor will ask you about the situation surrounding your loss of consciousness to identify vasovagal syncope. Treatment usually involves avoiding the type of situation that caused the fainting spell – if this is not possible, there are other behavioural and medical treatments that a doctor could prescribe for you.

The first fainting spell I got was when I was 6 at a toy department store with my parents. A toy box fell on my hand and left a cut on my fingers. It was a moment of intense panic and I slowly find myself collapsing on the ground with my lips as pale as paper. My parents held me down in the car measuring my pulse. It was intense for a child my age, and I thought I was going to die.

When you have a syncopal episode, you have something akin to a very vivid dream, and when you regain consciousness, you can’t remember it apart from the fact that you thought you were dreaming. (Perhaps, that was the leading factor that got me interested in stuff like astral projection, out of body experiences, etc.)

The second time that happened was also the first time I got my menstrual period. I was in a train and I felt like I was losing a lot of blood. I passed out and terrified every passenger in the cabin. Thankfully, to the kindness of strangers and train coordinators, they helped me out with water and a kind lady with paramedic license massaged my temples.

At least once a year, a pattern of thoughts turns into a series of chemical reactions, and I lose consciousness, crash into something, have rapid muscle spasms that look for all the world like an epileptic seizure, and then I lie limp and unresponsive for a while with dangerously low blood pressure, a weak, sluggish heartbeat, and a thready pulse. A series of heart palpitations ensues. It scares the hell out of everyone. As for me, I’ve done it so many times and under so many circumstances that it’s mostly just humiliating. I have a refrain for these post-faint moments, and I’m usually saying it as I come to: “I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry.”

Sometimes what I am thinking causes me to freak out so badly that my vagus nerve is triggered and all the blood leaves my brain, with the effect that short portions are edited out of my life.

It was definitely terrifying to experience this from time to time, but the interesting fact is that is biologically justified. Specific triggers induce an overactive “fight or flight” response that then leads to vasovagal syncope. It’s different for everyone. Some people experience it when they hear particularly shocking or overwhelming news. Others pass out at the sight of blood, or at graphic descriptions of injuries, or in situations in which they themselves are superficially injured or are undergoing a procedure involving needles.

Distress signals from the brain cause a wave of adrenaline to crash through the body, which in turn kicks the heart into high gear, narrows the blood vessels, raises blood pressure, and floods the heart and lungs with blood. These are the body’s “oh shit!” responses, developed over the ages to prepare humans to recognise and flee from predators or fight for their lives. A true state of panic, however, one where the brain and body react as though the threat were genuinely lethal, can only be sustained for so long.

In people with a history of vasovagal syncope, the “fight or flight” response seems especially prone to overheating and then triggering a response from the body’s emergency pressure valve, the vagus nerve. From its privileged position close to the brain, this nerve sends up a message authorizing the release of massive amounts of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine, adrenaline’s opposite. Blood volume plunges and pools in the legs, leaving the brain with too little circulation to keep functioning. Musculoskeletal control is lost and the body collapses.

It is the brain’s last-ditch effort to reclaim the blood it needs—if the heart is suddenly too weak or slow to pump blood upwards, the body must be brought down.

And here the response usually ends. Sometimes it even looks graceful, more accurately fitting the word “swoon”—wrist to forehead, a gentle crumbling perhaps brought on by a too-tight corset. There were even special couches for this purpose in the Victorian age, “fainting sofas,” on which one could elegantly recline while smelling salts were held beneath the nose. But in an even smaller subset of the already small percentage of the population prone to vasovagal syncope, an exclusive club to which I and a few members of the population belong, the fun continues with a sudden, violent stiffness in the limbs or uncontrolled shaking that resembles, but is not, a seizure.

In other words, anyone without a spear in the Paleolithic Era learned pretty quickly how to tell when things were going south for their side in a conflict. Better, if the raid is heading more towards a massacre, to go ahead and appear dead. Keep in mind that humans at this point were pre-verbal, and had no means of communicating through sounds or symbols.

A convincing appearance of death was truly the only way of saying, “Fuck, please stop stabbing me.”

I find it fascinating that a non-lethal trigger, something as tiny as a needle’s prick, the sight of someone else’s blood, a convincing or elaborate description of gore, or even a strong emotion, can cause an uncontrolled, if brief, shut down of the brain and the superficial appearance of death in the body. The situation is not “fight or flight,” not a confrontation between predator and prey, but my imagination, my emotions, my mental pictures of split bones, pierced veins, and swelling, empty tooth sockets that have convinced my brain that the stakes are life and death. The stress of lost control plays a huge part as well, the knowledge that whether or not I approve, painful and invasive things either must be done or have already happened to my body.

In a case of a syncope episode, it is important to not freak out. I’ve complied some effective ways of managing it, to protect yourself from your environment. These are from my personal experiences. I am in no way a certified cardiologist, but I have been recently diagnosed and I really hope they could come in handy one day.

Self-Management tips for Vasovagal Syncope

1. If you are able to be aware of the oncoming signs, sitting down, lying down, would be an immediate response. There’s the old head between the knees method. But avoiding them completely, well, the only thing to do would be to avoid what causes it, and sometimes we just don’t know what the trigger is.

But once you do learn then treating the symptom as something to avoid if you can, and generally taking things slower and easier to allow the body time to adjust.

2. It is important to lie down flat immediately when you sense heart palpitations and loss of vision because you never know what can happen if you fall and knock your head, breaking your skull, neck or spine which can cause instant death.

3. Lying down helps to regulate your blood flow instead of gushing it down to your lower body, delaying the flow to your brain which needs it most for oxygen.

4. It is also especially helpful to drink water as taking gulps helps to regulate breathing and take in long timed breaths.

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All in all, it is not a lethal condition, but something biologically engrained. Perhaps, that adds as a relief knowing that is something just to be aware and cautioned about, and not to fear any onset potential health threats. I, and some others, just have a more sensitive nerve, which sometimes malfunctions and starts a fight with my brain, all for the better of my safety.

Short Story: The Sound Of Our Soul

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Orum Taruwa by Petros Stefanidis

“Sand’s a time of its own. Take your seaside arms and write the next line. Oh, I want the truth to be known.”

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There was nothing better than welcoming the new year with one’s beloved, with the waves of aurora in red and green rolling above them like ripples of avian sea. They had brought out blankets and pillows to keep them warm on the winter night, and bottles of the finest wine their money could bring, but the most important of all, was their mutual company.

Down below in the shed an occasional bleat from one of their sheep could be heard as one dreamt or woken up momentarily. But otherwise, all else was silent and calm. Over the distance the sea sparkled with the reflected aurora like captured gems woven into midnight fabrics.

The grass was frosted with mild snow, though they had been in luck this year, as most of the snow earlier this month had melted by the day after July, though a bitter chill still lingered about all month. It was not enough to deter the young lovers from wishing to spend the night outside atop the roof, two young souls of a land all theirs as far as their eyes could see. If they were lucky, they may glimpse fireworks from the nearest town many miles away, but the show provided by nature was more than aplenty.

The two of them, together like this, tonight, was ideal. Without the commotion of a crowded town to drive his senses on overdrive, Rey could enjoy the details of the night better: the way Leila’s breathing was a little heavy from the cold and the drinking, the tiny puffs of air, how her cheeks were reddening, the soft wool of her sweater, his head resting on Leila’s chest.

“Over ninety years ago my great grandfather sat out on the roof and watched the stars,” Rey began, breaking the silence. Not a terrible breaking of silence, as he had a way of making himself part of everything in just the right way.

His voice rang out like a tiny bell, a bird chirping softly in the night. “I wonder if they ever saw the Northern Lights.”

“If they made enough time for more stargazing in between all the housebuilding, cleaning, and…the war,” Leila said. “Shame if they never got a chance to enjoy this.” She snuggled against her lover as a sudden chill shook her bones.

The drink shared between them helped keep them warm.

Time ticked away in tranquil hues of teal above, slow, lazy, pleasant, hazing with their fogging minds teetering on the edge of dreams, fuelled by by the wine.

“I remember a night like this when we danced,” Rey said, again breaking the silence with his gentle demeanour. But this time Leila’s face stretched into a small smile. Her mind calculated, to the best of her ability, how much time had passed since they had come up here.

Not much of the ending year must be left. The first part of the night was over. Now began the next part.

Their lips found each other, warmth blocking the cold as their world collapsed into just the two of them. In the distance came the gentle splashing of the seaside shore. Rey’s hold on Leila tightened as the sounds of her sighs passed like the soft gusts of night wind.

“What do we dance to, stupid?” Leila asked softly, each word dripping with utmost affection.

They shared a smile before listening to the sea not far off. The song came to them as if they shared one mind; their bodies moved to the silent tune in their heads.

“Please do not sing it,” Leila teasingly warned Rey, sticking out her tongue.

“Why not?” Rey asked as a whisper, right against Leila’s ear, in a way that just made Leila shiver in her arms. Bastard. She dug her fingers in Rey’s shoulders.

“Come on. I know you like this song yourself. We begged Eva to take us through her archives for a copy—remember when we did that?”

“You fucker…”

“It’s among my plans tonight.”

Leila snorted.

But they sang together, keeping their voices soft. She wished they could play the song itself, but this wasn’t half-bad. Although she was the better singer than Rey. But the point wasn’t to get it right; it was to sing themselves into reverie.

And when Leila met Rey’s eyes, she felt the time was finally approaching. Her eyes looked up, focusing on the waves above and sighed, feeling her body drifting. When Rey’s lips woke her back, they were amongst the stars, with the aurora right above their heads.  In some dimension intersected between the waking world, dreams and imagination, they danced.

How can you do this? Leila wondered with awe, but she shut off her mind. Just this night. She lets herself get whisked off by Rey’s imagination, penning the details of the dream world. They danced in circular formations, gently chasing the reflected swirls of the aurora above. As Leila leaned into Rey, he picked her up, his lips trailing kisses down Leila’s front, staying at her middle.

With arms outstretched, Leila’s fingers brushed the passing waves, and in that instance a burst of profound poignance and passion filled her. Engulfed in the rays of the gods and Rey’s love, her eyes teemed with the reality of this moment, too vivid beyond any dream.

“I want you to feel this truth,” Rey said, kissing Lalli’s neck. “Do you feel the love around you?”

“Yes,” Leila sighed, almost moaning from the intensity.

“I think…we can find a staircase somewhere.”

“What?” Before Leila could comprehend what Rey was saying, Rey carried her over, and she felt herself rising higher. A scream bubbled to the surface in her throat.

“Rey!”

With a delighted laugh, Rey set Leila down and embraced her tightly. “Let’s not break the dance!” he said and a second later they were back at it. Leila glanced down and her jaws dropped.

They were dancing right atop the Northern Lights.

With his lips against Rey’s as light shone under their feet in wondrous hues, illuminating their shared moment. They drew closer together in their slow, intimate dance. The feeling of profound bliss grew inside Leila as she could feel Rey’s heartbeat along with her own, their souls converging as one. She squeezed Rey’s hand.

“Are you enjoying this dance?” Rey asked, smiling. His eyes shone. Leila smiled back.

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As she cried out, she opened her eyes back to the waking world.

Lying on her back with Rey atop her, both of them wrapped in layers of blankets. Rey’s face was very red now, that silly thing, and panting. The Northern Lights swirled by in luminous waves high above him, and the stars shone beautifully like diamonds.

And Leila, though bare of any clothing, did not shiver. She rubbed her cheek against Rey, smiling faintly in pure satisfaction.

“Did you hear that?” Rey asked, his voice husky.

“The sound of our soul?” Leila said and nodded. “Yeah. I did.”

Hello 2017, Let’s miss 2016

 

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So, it’s the last day of another year, and you’re wondering how time goes by so quickly, even though there have been days and weeks and months that you thought would never come to an end.

There have been hard times, harder times than you’ve ever imagined. 2016 has been the year of heartbreak, of struggle, of loss and almost giving up. But you never did, you never gave up. You’re still here, we’re still here, your heart’s still beating, your heart’s still full of love, and you’re still full of life.

So, maybe you’ll look back on this year as one of the worst, as one of the hardest of your life, and maybe it was. We all lost too many greats, and whilst it’s undeniable that society has taken a hundred steps forward over the last few years, it seems as if 2016 was the year when it took a hundred and one backwards.

The world is scary, and this year has proven this, but it’s also proven a lot more. That we are all stronger, and braver and, more resilient and more beautiful than we can ever know. Why? Because you’re still here, I’m still here, we’re all still here. Still fighting, still proving that love is greater, love is more, love is love. And what’s to come in 2017?

None of us really know, none of us know how the events of 2016 will drain through into the new year, how the repercussions will fall, but it’s still a blank page. For now.

So paint it with the brightest colours, scribble down your hopes and dreams, wishes and plans and try to see them through. Life may be hard sometimes, and the world will throw obstacles in our way, but it’s up to us to find a way through.

To see love and light and laughter in the darkness, and to remember that we are lucky to be living this life, this beautiful life. There are still things to smile about, things to look forward to and things to celebrate. Things that stay with you, people that will stay with you.

So, let’s celebrate. Let’s celebrate all the good things that happened in 2016, the times you laughed so hard your ribs hurt, the first kisses and the lazy Sundays in bed, the rainy mornings and crimson sunsets.

And let’s look forward to all of those and more in 2017. Your life is what you make it, and you’re gonna make it great.