“life is almost magical, after all”
– Vincent Van Gogh
What have I been waiting for, all this time? To what things have I been pinning the declining value of my youth?
Maybe it is true that I (think about and) talk about my own confusion – these inner turbulences – a little too much. I have, for a long time, often felt like a walking collection of ‘too much’s and ‘too little’s. But for what purpose? What do these thoughts add to my life, and to my growth?
A long time ago, I stopped being afraid of the dark. And perhaps that is part of the problem. But it is impossible to become fully comfortable with heaviness; the most one can do is try one’s best to adapt to it; to alter one’s posture a little, to manage. I suppose I ended up speaking about it too much: I made my own ears bleed, and I managed to exhaust myself. But, also, I spoke about it too little: it was like I had forgotten how to speak, how to assign words to things that effortlessly overwhelm. Sadness is a sea: sometimes its people swim within it, and other times, they drown.
What do I await? A new experience, or a new person? A sudden change of scenery?
I so wish that enough could truly be enough. There is only this, only today; there is no more. There is nothing to make up for, and nothing of me and mine to shed.
I know not if I am more a ‘realist’, or an ‘idealist’. Sometimes cynical, a little on the pessimistic side. And yet, at the same time, I want to believe that everything is infused with love and hope: such are the things that illuminate the human universe.
What will idealism do for me? It will boost my spirits, for sure. Poetry is a form of idealism, is it not? But this idealism cannot be tethered to some imaginative machinations my mind comes up with, for the future. It cannot be contingent on any series of dramatic shifts: not in a change of the people I am around, nor in a change in who I am.
Perspective, and the present day. The red carpet before me; what lies beyond is a little foggy. But the red carpet is here today. And tomorrow shall be a new today. And all is swell, where realism meets a healthy dose of its counterpart: beautification, idealism.
“Things are just things. They don’t make you who you are.” Macklemore was right when he said this. Neither the value of I, nor the quality of my life – a series of expressions of this ‘I’ – are dependent on the things I have, or might come to have. What I do, however, is important. Habits and identity are inextricably connected to one another.
A day is a day: but how will I spend it? All those yesterdays are no longer with us. We should not mourn their going, though. Back then, we were not yet who we are now. And those yesterdays did teach us so much.
A house is a house, whether it is a palace or a council flat. What is important is its essence, and its success of functionality. Things are just things. It would, however, appear as though most of the things we concern ourselves with so much are rather illusive. And the days just continue to happen and pass, exactly as they do.
So, with which aphorisms, with which useful concepts, do I know I must equip myself with, going forward?
Well, firstly, making poetry of things is pretty much never a bad shout. I don’t necessarily mean the type that is typically bound by iambic pentameter, and which must follow a rhyme scheme. I mean poetry: perceptive synthesis, but make it beautiful, infuse it with light, hope and wonder. Somehow.
All that nostalgia, sometimes dark, sometimes brilliant and spring-like, always bittersweet. What is it that I miss so much? And, when it comes to considerations of the future, what is it that I truly long for?
Good things tend to happen unexpectedly. And then, when one goes to write about them somewhere, it feels rather like penning a novel. Sometimes, the best things happen in those infantile hours which occur after midnight and before dawn. Like the time I stayed over at my cousins’, and the way that nostalgia – all those childhood memories coming back to me at once – enveloped me. But this was a new experience, truly a thing to behold, in and of itself:
The conversations that took place, connection. Reminders: that you are not alone in this. And you come from a [extended] family of deeply caring clowns. There will be unplanned sleepovers, during which you and your beloved cousin lay awake, unable to sleep, trying to think about ways that humans might have slept, if the usual way had not been a thing.
Staring at the ceiling, reciting, “I am asleep. I am asleep,” robotically, over and over again.
Bellies filled with laughter on the days you had been fasting from food and drink. Your auntie’s cooking on the table, and the distinctive personalities that then surround it, each bringing something a little different. We are beings that contain life, witnessed and lived through different eyes, and different minds. And we are reminded of these facts, time and time again, and we can know life’s poetry when we see it, granted we make the effort to seek it out a little more.
Some ways of living, I consider so very soul-draining and boring. Excessive industry, and wasting one’s time and breath criticising things. How does anyone manage to endure such violence against the human spirit?
Yes, there is work I need to do. But the point of my work cannot be the work itself: somehow, it must all enrich my experience of this wonderful gift of Life. And I always take inspiration from
myself and my cousins and my friends: who we were when we were younger. All those adventures, the conversations, the laughter. This was life, pure, mostly unbridled. We would make mosques out of our living rooms, and a playground out of our grandma’s bedroom. What else is there to do here, but to nurture our bodies, minds, and souls?
Good food, good company, the fostering of meaningful thoughts. Doing away with the things that will not serve us and our humanity. Overthinking is the stuff of people who live outside of today, and thus outside of life. It’s good to pray in one’s garden, sometimes, and to read books under blanket forts.
I must also stop digging. Seeds need time to sprout; unearthing them so as to ‘check their progress’ results in their uprooting. One must simply let the growth happen, even if so much of it does so away from clear sight, underground.
There have been certain points in my life, at which I have managed to think myself into oblivion. Life is not experienced passively; our minds do not simply represent things. Human perception, subjectivity, define our very (individual) realities. So I think a thing; it thus becomes real.
So why on earth don’t I focus on mentally composing sonnets for the moon? Or on writing odes to the chocolate cake I intend to break my fast with tomorrow? For is it not true that
life is almost magical, after all?
Sadia Ahmed, 2020