Soul Food for Introverts

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I am an introvert. I identify as an INFP. Looking back, I have always been introverted since I was a kid. My love for alone time, getting lost in a book and with my own runaway thoughts, plus moments of melancholy would have clued me in had I known and understood what introversion was before.

But there were times during my growing up years that I got lost. In my desire to belong and be just like everyone else, I second-guessed myself. I worked so hard to keep up with my peers, and growing up in an exclusive all-girls school just reinforced the pressure to go with the flow and be in with the majority.

If I were suddenly face-to-face with my acne and insecurity-riddled 13-year-old self, I’d tell her it’s going to be okay. That all she’ll need to make it in life is to be true to her self even if the consequences are losing friends, being betrayed, getting hurt and disappointed, learning lessons the hard way. I’d tell her writing and reading more would be her salvation. That humor, true friends, and the inescapable longing to experience being infinite, being in the here and now, will always keep her going.

And dear reader, if you are a fellow introvert needing a little bit of comfort and validation, know that you are awesome the way you are. Know that you are not alone. Know that someone understands exactly how you feel, knows what you’re going through, would hit like in a heartbeat if you post about the intricacies of your introvertedness on social media. We may be the minority, and our comrades may be hard to find especially in the midst of the daily grind, but we’re scattered everywhere, basking in our own pockets of peace and quiet whenever and wherever we do get them.

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Chasing the light

solitary-light-chaserYou can never know with finality how your life is going to be like. How it pans out through the years, what you’re given to deal with. You can never truly know if you’ll ever meet the love of your life, get that toe-curling kiss you’ve dreamed of since your teenage crush on Daniel Day-Lewis, make love with the windows open like there’s no tomorrow, get married in a small quiet chapel on the highlands, raise children with your lioness courage and his precious heart. You grew up with your head stuffed with romantic bollocks but you know better now. You’re a realist romantic.

You’ll never know if you’d get another shot at studying and mastering something you should’ve chosen when you were filling out college application papers, make a living out of your passion when they tell you that’s not a real job, do work that you love, be your own boss and not tie yourself down until retirement years to a life of modern serfdom and secret despair.

You’ll never know if you’d get to travel one enchanting place at a time, meet strangers whose kindness will be etched in memory, bask in solitude and togetherness, discover old things new to you, get lost and secretly dance a jig because more than anything you love finding your own way to your destination and back home again.

You’ll never know if you’d get to read all those books in your list and your library in your lifetime, get to write every story inside you, every idea that pops into your head while in the shower, sweeping, cooking, doing laundry, all the while believing that yes, you are a writer and your words have worth.

You’ll never know if you’ll win the lottery and be stinking rich you can finally put up more public parks, museums, and libraries in your city, rebuild the crumbling local post office in this godforsaken country run over by bullies, pot bellies, and misogynists who call themselves public servants.

You’ll never know if you’d still have your one true friend with you in the next ten years, if you’d still have her unconditional love and support through all your “reality bites” moments. But one thing is for sure. You still exist. You are here right now–mind, body, and soul. You can choose to look at what you’ve got and find happiness with your blessings, to forgive, to make it to the deadline so you can pay the damn bills, to laugh off mishaps and negative people, to bake your favorite shortbread cookies and savor it like you would a rare orgasm, to write another fledgeling story in your head, to love despite all past disappointments and hurts, to smile at random strangers again. If tomorrow comes, and thank God when it does, you have another day to live life on your own terms.

 

 

Be a sweetheart to yourself

I have been on a writing slump lately, and I know exactly why. The mind is such a terrible thing sometimes especially when it latches onto self-destructive mode with thoughts like, “I could never be as good of a writer as J.K. Rowling, Emily Dickinson, Natalie Goldberg, or this random cool lady whose blog I’m obsessively stalking right now. When I go down that rabbit hole of self-doubt, the more I feel inadequate and insignificant as a writer. My voice is but a whisper amongst the chorus of bold and brilliant voices.

But when you fall, you’ll reach the bottom eventually and when you do, the instinct to pick yourself up and climb back to the light again to get yourself out of the pity hole you’ve gotten yourself into is stronger than any pull to stay huddled in the dark and host your own pity party. Pity parties are no fun. I’d rather break my back in multiple escape attempts to see and feel the light again than channel Bridget Jones and lip synch “All By Myself” at a pity party.

This is when I recover from writer’s amnesia and remember that I am not J.K. Rowling, Emily Dickinson, or Natalie Goldberg. I am Lea. I am myself. I am a writer. I am a writer because I write and will not do or be anything else. I am a writer because as cheesy as it sounds, I have given my heart and soul into the world of words. I am a writer because I can feel it in my bones. If Ladybird gave herself her own name and speaks of it with pride and dripping with juvenile defiance, I give myself the title of writer and own my words–all of it. The beautiful and the ugly, the subtle and deliberate, the naive and risqué, the sensual and the crazed.

I have my own unique voice. It doesn’t sound exactly like anyone else, and nobody else sounds exactly like me. I will keep on writing, swimming in the sea of all these writers’ voices whom I admire and feel kindred connections. Their voices will buoy me up to the surface and I’ll be Venus on a clam shell riding the waves, my words taking off on their own. I won’t look even a hint of similar, but I’ll feel that way.

Not everything I write will captivate, be killed with praises, or get likes. Some won’t sit well with hardened sensibilities and versions of me they’ve been intimate with. And a massive chunk won’t even see the light of day, an iceberg of words hidden beneath the water. But none of that matters just as long as I still have the yearning to write. I don’t need an audience to write. I write for myself first, for my soul to continue to thrive. And finally, I can be kinder to myself in a world where an artist’s worth is constantly measured and judged. I can be my own sweetheart.

Dude, I miss the ’90s.

2017 might just be the year of nostalgia for me. Whether it’s revisiting old journal entries, deciding which school mementos to discard or keep in my decluttering frenzy, crying over the Anna Paquin movie, “Fly Away Home” or staying up until 4 a.m. just to catch Star Wars on cable (more like catching Carrie Fisher in her immortal moment as Princess Leia in a gold bikini strangling Jabba the Hutt to death), downloading mp3s of songs from the ’90s, or re-reading Harry Potter and other books from my childhood, nostalgia has been the driving force behind my see-sawing emotions for the most part of this year. Sometimes, I miss my simple, social media-less ’90s childhood, when Little Lulu and MTV were enough to make my day. Other times, I want to go back to my college days, or the years right after it, when being a dreamer didn’t give me as much heartache, and possibilities were everywhere, especially with the person right beside me.

The past is such a beautiful place, but I have to remind myself not to get stuck in it. My place is right HERE and right NOW. In the present. And there are things that need to get done. There is a book or two that I need to write. A house that needs decluttering. Friends that deserve my time and attention. Trips and adventures that need planning.

So, goodbye for now, wonderful past. For now, there is a present to be and a future to look forward to.

And on that note, here is a quote from one of my favorite movies ever, Anne of Green Gables.

Write even when the weather is against you.

On a day when it is too tempting to sleep in, I got up to write. I usually don’t get up early these days. I have become a chronic night owl. I tried to sleep in, but my mind is already abuzz. I can feel the holiday breeze in the air, hanging Amihan as we call it here, and I simply have to write. The air compels me to. I can feel a familiar, almost long-forgotten stirring in my heart and my bones again. My fingers itch for a pen and pad, or a keyboard, anything to write with.

Yes. I will write again like I used to all those years ago, and not exactly like it at the same time, for I am a different person now than I was back then. But this need, this nudge from the Muse, a constant longing to write, will always be with me.

When I woke up today, my first thought went to a Longfellow poem.

The day is cold, and dark, and dreary;

It rains, and the wind is never weary;

This describes today in general, and my emotions, as gray as the overcast sky.

My thoughts still cling to the mouldering past,

But the hopes of youth fall thick in the blast,

I hanker for an addictive stimulant–a cup of warm English breakfast tea with a splash of milk and half a teaspoon of sugar, or matcha milk, just the way I like it. But I can’t, or my acid reflux will punish me for it. And as I write, I discover there’s really no need for it. The act of writing itself is already addictive, once you’ve found your groove or whatever it is you want to express, and the words just keep on flowing from you.

Thy fate is the common fate of all,

Into each life some rain must fall,

Some days must be dark and dreary.

And I am looking forward to better days ahead as I continue to write and be.

Some day

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Some days I wish I could write the way I used to before

back when I wrote those poems of you,

back when I was full with longing and driven by need.

But I know I will write again someday

and not just about you

maybe it won’t be about you

I’ll write about red nail polish

and biting into apples ripe with truth and knowledge

I’ll write about the sea–

one part calm, one part stormy

and oh, how I thrive in both,

how I am both,

that I would continue to be both.

Maybe I could write about you someday with no regrets

And finally lay these bones of longing to rest.

These old pages

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Revisiting old writing is like rediscovering an old friend after a long time. You’re relearning those tiny details you loved about her–her laugh, her idiosyncrasies, what made the two of you click together in a way that you’ve never had with another.

Old feelings flood back and assault you, warmth as palpable as the naked sun on your face that time you laid on your back on a rock at the beach on a perfect summer’s day, giving in to the pull of the waves lulling you into a sweet sleep.

And sometimes the yearning is the hardest to bear–to be back as you were in that same moment now only preserved in words, reanimated by memory.

But you know you can never go back–to a frenzied infatuation you dreamed would bloom into love, or a kinship you thought would last until you left the bubble of youth. The sweet with the bitter and the tang, the then and the now, all a part of you–occupying a space where you can embrace them both, for as long as the feeling lasts.

In that moment, time doesn’t exist–it’s immaterial. It’s just you and the memories. Suddenly, there’s a thread that runs through you that regret is a thing unheard of, almost, and rejected.

There can be only what you make of, continue to be, choose. You can finally let go and let the old bones rest where they should be. And you realize now with clarity that wasn’t there before: there is peace, there is peace within.