Death and Writing

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This too shall pass. . .

Shadows of birds flying on the sidewalk; clumps of wildflowers spilling over the fence; cracking noise of a porch door swinging open—this too shall pass.

Drumming of raindrops against the cement floor; tamarind pods swinging from the tree; bent legs of dragonflies moments before they spring to the sky, their gossamer wings catching the light—this too shall pass.

A knot of hair coming undone; bluish-green veins that travel like rivers under skin; bones poking out of people’s bodies—this too shall pass.

What we love shall pass, what we hate shall pass.

We shall pass.

What a painful, heavy truth to carry on our back.

Even at a young age, I felt the weight of this truth.

I was born and raised in a sleepy town nestled in the outskirt of a metropolis in Bangladesh. A rail line track cut through the edge of the town. It was customary for people to take a nap after lunch. My mother–after a heavy day of cooking, cleaning, and feeding her four children (her fifth child came many years later)–found the time to catch her breath after she tucked us in for our afternoon nap.

I rarely took my afternoon naps.

I would lay down alright but would get up as soon as my mother had dozed off. I would roam our empty yard that trembled in silence. I used to watch the oriental magpie-robins and the sparrows weave through the open space, sometimes stopping to perch on the guava trees that lined around our house. I would watch the afternoon sun lean heavily in the sky, then sink into the horizon.

I hated afternoon naps.

Afternoon naps reminded me that I was going to die, that time had slipped through my fingers while I slept, that breaths had come and gone during my sleep that will never come back, and that I was running toward death faster than I wanted.

Afternoon naps or no afternoon naps–the fact remained the same. 

This too shall pass.

The bones moving beneath my flesh, the sea of poppies undulating in the wind, the waves crashing against the sides of jagged boulders–this too shall pass.

 

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The pain of this truth still has the power to capsize me. 

But whenever I sink into my fear of death, of dying, of impermanence, I learn what waits on the other side of this truth: freedom. 

When I fully own this truth, I am liberated.

I can release one moment and be born into the next.

From breath to breath to breath. 

I can travel lightly through life.

What a beautiful gift.

I can feel laughter roll inside my belly, and know that this too shall pass. I can lean on my sorrows, wide-eyed and dumb, and know that this too shall pass. I can sit with my shame, dance with my anger, get intimate with my fears–and know that these shall all pass.

I can be present, tender, vulnerable, open to Life.

And this can only happen when I make room for Death in my living.

Birth, death, creation, destruction–the dance of life.

Let this dance course through your body.

Let this dance course through your writing, too.

Every time you write, put your whole life on the line.

Every time you write, make room for death, too.

Release your former self on the page and birth a new self. Again and again and again.

In this process, your writing becomes a burial ground and a birthing site all at the same time.

When you are mapping out the unfolding of this world in your notebooks, when you are writing out the beauty and the madness you witness–remember the dance of life.

Birth, death, creation, destruction.

Let yourself and the world emerge on the page through that dance.

Beauty and Writing

 

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See those flowers? I bought them for myself. That’s an important part of the story.

You should have seen me the morning I was carrying those sunflowers on my arms, their heads bending down to graze my elbow, the rough stalks scratching my skin.

I was holding onto them like a newborn baby, my heart pounding.

The morning sun broke out in splinters. A young man walking toward me said in mock surprise, “For me?” I giggled. No, silly. They are for me, I whispered in my head.

You can buy yourself flowers–every single day if you like. There are no rules against it.

You don’t have to wait for boys (or girls) to buy you flowers.

You don’t have to wait for special occasions. Any day will do.

Who knew?

Not me.

I wish I could run back to the younger version of myself–the one in middle school, who waited for boys to buy her pink carnation flowers wrapped in plastic on Valentine’s Day–and tell her this:

You don’t have to wait to invite beauty into your life.

Even money can’t stand in the way of beauty.

I have been broke more times in my life than I can count on my fingers. In spite of this (or because of this), I have learned to invite beauty into my life in creative ways.

A few stories:

When I went for a walk one day, my eyes took in the clusters of wildflowers dotting the side of a bike path, beauty scattered so haphazardly. Who knew tiger lilies grew on the side of a road? That afternoon, I made myself a bouquet of flowers; my fingers tugging at stalks of Queen Anne’s lace, a few dusty-pink cone flowers, tiger lilies that opened up like yawns, tiny purple flowers whose name I do not know (forgive me, you were beautiful).

I remember another walk, this time with my sister. We had noticed neat bundles of frangipani tree branches left on the sidewalk for the next day’s garbage collection. We were on our way to a bakery, so all we could do was marvel at the sight of the gnarled branches—their bare limbs spiraling upward, twisting and turning to reach fuzzy, cream-colored bulbs.

Stunned by their beauty, my sister and I vowed to return to rescue a few shoots.

On our way back home, we searched for our treasured item: frangipani branches. What was easy to locate in broad daylight was nearly impossible to track down in poorly lit-streets in the evening. When we did find the bundle, still untouched, I felt thrilled.

My sister and I rummaged through the pile to find three beautiful shoots to our liking, and victoriously marched our way back home. My sister dipped her brush into pots of acrylic paint, and colored the branches in hues of magenta, lemon-green, mustard, white and indigo. I gasped when I saw the branches again.

Beauty, beauty, beauty.

You don’t have to wait to invite beauty into your life. 

You can begin this very moment.

Lean close to the lone gardenia on a bush. Rub the leathery skin of a sage plant. Turn your face upward to watch the silk flowers releasing themselves from the clutch of a tree branch and slowly descending from the sky to kiss the earth.

Roam the world for beauty.

Notice the berries splatter to the ground, staining it purple. Watch the shimmering lake, the moon hanging low on the horizon. Follow the bent legs of dragonflies resting on grass, their gossamer wings lapping up the sun’s rays, moments before their flight.

Invite beauty into your life.

Once beauty arrives, remember this: don’t hold on to it so tightly. Don’t try to possess it. Let it dance, and fade away in its own time.

Let yourself dance with beauty, too.

Carry the details of your dance to your notebook and write about it.

Then, let it go.

This Too Shall Pass. . .

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This too shall pass. . .

Shadows of birds flying on the sidewalk; clumps of wildflowers spilling over the fence; cracking noise of a porch door swinging open—this too shall pass.

Drumming of raindrops against the cement floor; tamarind pods swinging from the tree; bent legs of dragonflies moments before they spring to the sky, their gossamer wings catching the light—this too shall pass.

A knot of hair coming undone; bluish-green veins that travel like rivers under skin; bones poking out of people’s bodies—this too shall pass.

What we love shall pass, what we hate shall pass.

We shall pass.

We radiate iridescently only for a fleeting moment on this earth.

Why not dance euphorically to the frenzy of life?

Why not make magic during our short visit?

Why not begin the magic-making in our notebooks, drawing out the beauty and the madness that we witness, mapping out the unfolding of this world by stitching words together?

Make magic.

Then, let it go.

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Chaos and Writing

Last year, I turned my life upside down.

It was my year of the Saturn Return, complete with major upheavals, epiphanies and chaos.

During that year, I quit my job, broke my apartment lease, launched my business, ran a fundraising campaign, traipsed through the Southwest on a solo three-week trip, surrendered myself to a 10-day silent meditation retreat, published my short story, and began healing my broken relationship with my family.

Phew.

In July 2015, I packed up my belongings into cardboard boxes and left them at my friend’s basement. By July 2016, I had lived in fifteen different homes, carrying my red suitcase and a tote bag wherever I went.

Can you feel the chaos? Continue reading

Light at the End of the Tunnel, Tunnel Vision and Writing

Sometimes we find ourselves in tight spots.

We may be overwhelmed with our writing, or work, or relationships, or feelings.

Our heart feels clenched shut. Emotions feel like pins prickling our skin.

If I just get through this week, this month, this year. . .

We don’t finish that thought.

Hope waits for us at the end of that ellipsis.

So, we make declarations.

I will push through this rough patch.

I will grit my teeth, clench my fist, suck it up and get it done.

Then, we utter this pithy saying: “There is light at the end of the tunnel.”

Sounds familiar? Continue reading