time does heal, i think.

When she told me that she found love, I felt genuinely happy for her. For a large part of my life, I felt as if she were the love of my life. It wasn’t surprising to think why despite my never having expressed those feelings to her, or perhaps only expressing them at the wrong time. But I truly did, and do, love her as a person. 

We met at a young age, but always there was some unspoken understanding that we would be there for the other. Her for me, me for her. And young as we were, we honored it pretty well. In our hardest moments, we were there, often with confusion about the feelings we felt for each other. Or, what I can say with more certainty, the feelings I felt for her. 

In every relationship outside of ours, I felt uncomfortable with being her friend and I drew distance between us. This is among the many mistakes I have made in the relationship department. I did it as a matter of respect, because I knew what I felt then, but when I look back it was a horrible justification to be a terrible friend. 

But even when we didn’t speak, I still thought of her frequently. As her birthday approached, I thought about her and wondered where was she in the world, did she have good friends around her, was she happy with herself. Her birthday is shared with my cousin Eli. They were both born on March 22nd, and so I never forget it because both are important people to me.

I realize now that growing up, and making mistakes, is a part of life. But even having that knowledge one goes to question why it should hurt so much to make those mistakes. Despite it being a natural part of the process, it really is something we cannot grow used to bearing in our lives. 

I have to forgive her for the moment when I felt she broke my heart, but I also have to forgive myself for having treated a friend, a person, a human being as a commodity. Someone to nurture me, to love me, conditionally – based entirely on my conditions. But I do not feel unlucky. It is impossible. Because seeing her happy makes me so happy, and she is very deserving of love, but also so much more. 

What I am happy about is the experience of new love, the renaissance in her career, her growth and blooming into the person she is today. I would be lying if I said that the person she is today is better than any version of her past self, because we shouldn’t make those comparisons. Her past self is as lovable as any version. And if I could, I would go back in time to all of the moments when she felt alone and I would be there, close by, for as long as I could. 

I spoke to my friend about her, and how he also deserves happiness. But more important, a dedication to forgiveness and acceptance of self, past, and others. We all struggle through life, but even when it feels like its all doomed, there is hope. Hope that we’ll cope, but even more than that, hope that we will smile a wider smile than we ever have. 

Today, I sat across from my Master Chief, and he said to me that any path I take will lead to personal success. He isn’t a reader of palms, but it became clear like a crystal ball that there are people who believe in me. But do you want to know a secret, that even I didn’t know? I am one of those people, and I doubted it so much. 

At the moment, I feel incredibly proud of the choices I have made. I have created a life for myself based on one simple premise, I know myself better than anyone else. What does this mean exactly? I will trust myself to make the right decisions, and I understand that I am more reliable and resilient than I have ever let anyone believe, including myself.

Today, I pushed myself to go bike riding despite fatigue from last nights ride. I am thankful for that decision. I went so fast, and I rode almost 35 miles. This isn’t a number I am accustomed to reaching on these rides. 

Anyway, things feel good lately, and I am perfectly fine. 

a new friend.

There is a spider living in my sink. I am of the conviction that this spider and I have come to some agreement, perhaps to live and let live. When I shaved in the morning, spider climbed the side of the sink bowl so as not to get splashed by the running water. I rinsed my blade with extra care not to wet spider and cause its death. The spider living in my sink, it hasn’t made webs or set up territory in any distinguishable way. But as I walked back around, there was spider. 

I have to wonder if it is a he, or a she. Although part of me believes that this is most certainly a male spider. Men have weird habits, and this spider, seems to have some too. But what does he know, and what does he think, when he sees me towering above him, ready to turn on the faucet that spills danger by the metric ounce? Does he know that I have decided not to be the bearer of his death, as much as I could, or does he think that I may turn on him? How does one develop trust? Can spiders trust?

I don’t trust this spider. I have what is called arachnophobia, a technical term that describes an innate fear of his species. If we could talk to each other, I would mention how afraid I am, but also how curious. At times, after I am finished with brushing my teeth, I peer in closer to examine his features. He remains still, and sometimes crawls around the bowl, but he doesn’t move fast. The faster he moves, the more terrified I should become. 

What I noticed first are the distinguishable features that help characterize him as a spider. Eight legs, those two little pincers, and a tiny body. I am sure I can get a more detailed microscopic view with a better lens, but this is all of the identifying information that I need. Then I return to my room. 

I don’t think about the spider when I go back to my room to read or write. It barely crosses my mind. However, when I turn back to use the bathroom again, I wonder if he will still be there, waiting. I don’t presume he thinks too much about me, nor what I am up to when I am gone, but does he feel surprised when I come back? All of these questions to ask, have I made a spider friend?

One never thinks to make friends with an insect, but maybe a constant presence and frequent interactions is the beginning of friendship. In any case, hi Spider. Nice to meet you. 

blindness

I prefer to keep my eyes closed so that the tears would have to force their way out. I say I prefer as if I had a choice in the matter, and as if my eyes weren’t forcefully shut because I was not ready to see what I was beginning to see. 

The deterioration of the mind is sudden. By the time I am become aware of what’s happening, I am halfway gone – and without realizing it, I am lost, unfound in a haze of confusion. This is what I did not want to see, the tragic end to a life that began with boundless potential.

As a youth, I stared intently at the pieces of a chess game, pieces so controlled and with no agency. Perhaps they were made of the same stuff as we, having the poor to influence change, but unable to decide for themselves. I stopped believing in free will because I understood that we created games that mirrored life, and the games we most enjoy are the zero-sum kind. 

In these games, there exists binary relations between winners and losers. Winners excite us, inspire us – losers, there is a lesson somewhere to be learned. 

I spilled my coffee on my previously white shirt. The stain has left me sour, and I am unable to shake the feeling away. While my coworker talks to me, I start to think about the stain and whether it will be permanently there, married to my shirt, never to be separated until death or a drowning in a spinning vaccuum with a tide-pod extraction. The shirt shall be replaced now, and I am none too happy with the coffee this time either. 

I still order the oat milk latte with caramel flavoring that was her favorite drink. I don’t know why we hold on to things that people pass on to is. We accept behaviors and our entire personalities evolve. I went my whole life without knowing what I would order at a coffee shop, now I don’t think, I just say the words and the drink is prepared. But today’s coffee didn’t taste so rad, it actually made me want to attempt to slurp it all in one sip. What I actually did was toss the rest of it in a garbage can. 

She said I text like a book, and when people ask me why I don’t write, I tell them that I am a coward. Perhaps I believe this about myself, but I shouldn’t. After all, maybe I am just not ready for the writing that I am meant to write. Even as I write these long incoherent sentences. 

I disintegrate, and I cry. I am timeless at once, wandering in the past, lost – have I died yet. What if I didn’t notice when it happened and I am making my way to an Angel. 

I am missing my Guardians. My Wascar, my Ana, my Johanly, my Jeffrey, my Nelson. I am not abandoned, but I cannot find them here. I am alone, and my eyes have to remain closed. Because I am afraid again, and seeing is painful. So very painful.

the calm

Haruki Murakami has a book titled What I Talk About When I Talk About Running. First, I have to say that I would read any book by Murakami because I can find fragments of myself in his characters. I feel less alone, more understood. But I enjoyed reading WITAWITAR because it was Murakami’s book that was written as if it were only meant for him to read. Most writers, if they want to be successful, write for the reader, the audience. But this approach of writing for the self answers different calls, the calls from within, the questions that are buried deep within you. I call this exploratory writing.

Murakami’s story begins with why and how he began to run. He didn’t run in his track team. He wasn’t naturally gifted. His journey began at around 30 years old – relatively late, but age is nothing in these matters. At around age 30, Murakami also began to write seriously. He sold his restaurant to become a full-time writer. He gambled on himself.

To Murakami, running, as well as writing, were an escape. He did not use them to avoid his problems, rather they served as outlets for self-expression, for exploring his own character and purpose.

As a writer, you write in order for someone to read. As a runner, you race and train with others. But the joy of these pursuits, for Murakami, was how well they fit in and accommodated his propensity towards solitude.

The empty page that stares back at the writer as he sits at his desk to write; the lonely roads that a runner treads on his morning runs. These are the starts and stops of a journey with no end. When I sit here to write, I have the same thoughts – what questions am I grappling with? What is awakening my curiosity? These are things only I can answer for myself.

The same has happened as I ride my bike down winding roads, or stare at the bottom of the swimming pool covering lap after lap, or even while running on the trails. I encounter these questions, this inner drive to explore what lies within. There is also an internal calm when I can hear my breathing and feel my heart pumping furiously the blood that will course through my veins to deliver oxygen that the muscles need to keep on pushing. 

The calm is ephemeral, dharmic. By the time I recognize it, it is gone. Maybe that is because I don’t really know how to live in patience. I do everything fast, and I expect everything fast. I am learning this. I devour my meals as if I were timed, and I chug my coffee and water. I get anxious when people don’t respond to a text message. I cannot wait in customer support lines. Time is valuable, and I think that is why patience is hard. I am not ill-intentioned, but I am not ready in that way. So when I encounter the calm, I notice, and I am grateful for it. 

the unknowns

The things I know, I cannot tell them all. Not because they are secrets, no. It is not secrecy, but a brilliance that I cannot share for fear of blindness, deafness, an overwhelming of the senses. 

These things I carry, deep down within me, are the seeds of greatness, too eager to sprout. I am the neglectful gardener, preserving the soil, and protecting the neighboring weeds and grasses. These seeds will sprout and root deeply, force-digging into the hardened terrain.

These things I see, when caught in the rafts of slumber, are visions of a life unimagined, a world of what-ifs that I could not bear to conceive, for to see these things for real would mean a shattering of the walls and the skies that I have known. Nobody truly wants a Truman Experience. The warm walls of Plato’s Cave are luxury suites in Tribeca’s district. 

These things I feel, are unreal, unmatched, surreal. So I walk this world alone and unattached, serving faithfully, and even when I struggle I know that I made this happen out of love, passion, and commitment. I could not unfeel this way. They asked me if I really believe in the things that I write – it made me pause for a second, why not? Because the alternative would be to live it less intense, less worried, but imagine I didn’t have these dreams. 

What comes next? I don’t know. But tomorrow will bring another day, another opportunity. A grand adventure awaits. 

i remember

Every sentence began with an I remember, connecting the past to the present by a bridge self-created. What we remember could be so different from the stories of others, yet the strength lies in their personality. Each person self-defines their personhood using fragments of memories, and there is perhaps no greater symbolic item for memory than the post-it note. That sticky, albeit easily torn sliver of paper – a fragment. 

In these fragments live empires, generations that span from the very beginning to who knows when. Because I remember the mornings when we were getting ready to go to school, and my mom would tie that last shoe so that I could walk, and she would have my books in my bag, and I would climb on her back so she could carry me to my school. I remember how I cried on my first day of school in kindergarten, and then again in first grade. Why should I be ashamed of that now? I know now things that I didn’t know then, that crying isn’t a sign of weakness – it is a sign of strong feelings, an overwhelming feeling that refuses to be contained, and demands nothing more than to express. Expressed feelings.

I remember that our teacher would have us try to write our names, and after a few weeks, there were only three or four of us who hadn’t yet learned their name. I remember that I didn’t think I was too smart, but what did smart really mean then? I had never been measured against anyone else, maybe my sister. My world was my mother, my sister, and the tv. So measurements, conceptually, were the thing that I remember first noticing. 

I probably remember walking down the hallways, where our work hung and was celebrated for our parents to see, and waiting in line for lunch. I remember pledging allegiance to the flag before I knew what that meant, but I remember not being alone – being with others who uttered the same. I remember so much of childhood, of sitting there on the corner of my bed with my neck craned up, playing video games. I remember when I’d climb up the 5 flights of stairs to see my grandma, my cousins, and my aunts and uncles. I remember, and I can’t go back too far, or see it all. The only things left are those fragments.

evading sadness impending gloom

All of life summarized, the rush to get to somewhere unknown will consume your peace. 

Every moment seems to bear an equal weight of importance. When I tell the story, I stop at every sign and open every door. I am seeking a truth that may have gone hiding away. The past is a labyrinth in which I sit down and weep. 

Today we talked about past lives and permanent dispositions. Can a child be born sad? Can sadness be inherited? I had always believed that it could be cultivated, and after so many years of attention and nurturing in that manner, become that way. But a sadness in-grown, and not merely adopted, that is a hard pill to … you know the saying.

Where do our thoughts come from? How do we crack the puzzle of our mind, eliminating intrusive thoughts? How do I move forward from where I am and open myself to something new? I need to give myself space and time to relax – somehow, someway, into the space within myself. I need to relax. I need to ease back. 

Have I processed enough of the past to make living in the present bearable? Now, when my writing becomes more question than answer, I start to think that something is terribly wrong. But here is my theory, it will get fixed, but not today nor tomorrow. But where do I place these hopes?

I sat at the book store, and I was able to get some work done. But I drank my Chai Tea with the expediency of a New Yorker. The weight of the world builds knots of tension in my body. I only want to do what I need to do to make progress, but I look back and all I have been pleading for is a moment of rest. A moment to put my phone down, close my computer screen, and return to me. 

I missed you, Natasha. I didn’t know that I did so much, and then tears formed in my eyes. My eyes, which grow tired and worn, but not from seeing, from not closing enough. From too much of it. 

I always thought I cried too much for a guy. Somehow, not being able to speak led to more of that. I cry when I think about hugging my mom again. I wonder, with honest concern, whether that will happen again. I used to be able to stroll to her room in my apartment and lay down beside her. She would place her arm around me, or I would just snuggle underneath her. That warmness, love. 

We are too often buried in minutiae. When nothing really matters, and here I go tip-toeing towards nihilism. Everything matters. The two bitter extremes. 

I wish I was on good terms with all the people that said they loved me. I need all of the love right now. I need it from people I don’t believe it to hear it from anymore. I need it from my mom. I need it from dad. I need it from myself. Not in the form of a text, or a phone call. I need a hug, a handhold, a head rub. 

I let the day sleep, but I was too tired to reach for it anyway. Tomorrow will begin a new week, I will be renewed soon. 

seeking excellence at hour 24

I seek excellence in all that I do. I do not discern between making my bed, wearing the uniform, or working on a project at work. Even as the output varies, some days I just am not that good, the input and the intention remain the same: give your maximum effort.

There are challenges along the path of excellence, and many of these errors can be fixed. But you have to commit to the vision in order to enact the change.

The first, only seeking excellence when people are watching. If you fall into the habit of only putting in your best effort in the presence of a supervisor or mentor, then you become vulnerable to falling in your performance in the time of their absence. At that point, your excellence is dependent on the praise and admiration of another person who may not always be there to cheer you on. In order to fix this, you have to ensure that your expectations for yourself always exceed the expectations others have set for you. When others think you have done the highest and excelled, that’s the new floor you should work on.

The second, setting limits based on what is immediately attainable. The value of short-term goals is undeniable, they keep you on track. But if your goal is to become a petty officer third class, or maybe one day a chief – or in civilian terms, if your goal is to become a manager, guess what you will become – a third class or a chief or a manager. Great. You have accomplished your goal, but you have also set a limit for yourself. Pursue excellence and set a new standard – let your position or title become secondary. Become truly excellent. Strive to become the subject matter expert, to exhaust every topic, learn it in depth. Practice the skill of blind recall, where you begin with a blank page and recreate entire scenarios, books, missions, plans. Then execute and understand why every decision is made.

The third, see the highest score as the highest score. Avoid thinking in numbers – when you take exams that gauge physical fitness, avoid focusing on the chart. Seek to maximize your output in the 2 minutes rather than reach a certain number and stop. If the max pushups for your age is 74. That is the max for the average group of your peers who are at that fitness level. That should be your baseline.

Pursuing excellence is a 24-hour op. There are no breaks, and there are no shortcuts. You must tread on.

communication/past-life

She doesn’t understand me. I struggle to understand her. Yet it’s possible we are both saying the very same thing. Such is the nature of our language. That oddities such as these shall arise, and a terribly long period of time should go by with neither side reaching agreement. We all have our reasons, we all have our truths – these turn into decisions, some are good. Most are experiences.

Of what use is the past if we cannot make reference of it to guide our decisions? I feel this is what you ask me to let go of. For it is not benefitial any longer to hold on. As too much weight can stress a fragile boat, so too can the past weigh on a person’s disposition. But for this, I will take the stand – the past is my only defense. It is, however, also the reason for my distaste in life. In it, I find moments of sadness and instances of hurt that spill in all directions. And people say about spilled milk what they want to say about the past as well – never cry about it. 

Far from cry, I find it hard to shed tears tonight. And laughter takes a deeper struggle. I am caught somewhere in between like a person who lies in bed for too long, too tired to do things, too anxious to sleep. The past takes hold of me, and for a reason or two I cannot shake it away. Perhaps I am callused by the pain. Indifferent. So it makes no difference whether things go anywhich way they may. This is what it feels like to feel tired.

I am too tired for more words. I am thought to be mean for the ones I’ve uttered, but this is what sounds like when you’re tired. A yawn from far away, an island to one’s self. Wanting to be alone, yet hoping that they’ll reach out. But that won’t happen, no it won’t. Tonight you sleep alone. Tired and angry – lonely boy. Tonight you sleep alone. 

keep going

2022 is a new year full of hope and promise. Like many traditionally do, I have set goals for the new year signifying a blank slate and an opportunity to restart, and recalibrate my compass.

Every year, our goals are created after some sort of assessment of the current situation. If we find ourselves with a few extra pounds, we assess what needs to change and then we decide to head in that direction. We consult with ourselves to decide what issues or problems need addressing, and then we decide upon a few things, or many, that may help us resolve these problems. Resolutions. Diagnosis leads to resolutions.

What follows is action. After we resolve to lose some weight, or cut some sugar, we must act in accordance with the behaviors and rules that will allow us to remain faithful to our intentions. That may mean lacing up the sneakers to go for a run, or emptying the pantry, removing all sweets, and starting fresh with wholesome vegetables and meal options. Action is where the magic happens.

Last month, I participated in a challenge to burn the most calories on a Concept 2 machine for the month of December. For this challenge, I chose to row exclusively and I started by going at my own pace. When other people began joining in the challenge, things got more interesting. Not only did I have to burn the most calories I could manage, but I had to ensure this was more than someone else’s most. So I zoned in. I made efforts to show up to the gym, strap onto the rowing machine, even when I was tired. When I began to row, I made commitments to stay there as long as I needed. But eventually, I would tire.

The tightness in my hip flexors and hamstrings caused an awful back bend during my rowing. Since I rowed long, and most sessions were brutal, the repeated motion only served to worsen my back pain. I discovered how tight my hamstrings are, how tight my quadriceps are, my chest, my back. I’ve become robotic – sacrificing mobility for strength. At what cost?

Despite the pain, I managed to push through. I discovered that sometimes when you’re doing something as repetitive as rowing, you need a mantra. Or you’ll create one. During one of my longer sessions, I kept repeating to myself, “show me you’re not a quitter, and I may free you.” I don’t know why, perhaps I feel trapped by the mindset that quitting is a sign of weakness, and I have ended things early in the past. The words perplexed me at first, but soon they brought comfort as I adjusted to the strains of rowing long distances.

Quitting would have meant leaving and not coming back. But that’s not what happened. Sure, I got off of the rowing machine, but I stretched, relaxed my muscles, recomposed myself, and then I hopped back on. That’s when I realized. Stopping is not a problem. Rarely do we make a trip anywhere that doesn’t include stopping, whether its at a traffic light, for gas, or for coffee. But we don’t just quit the trip and head back home because we stop. We rest, we take a breath, and then we get back in the car for more milage.

Being a quitter, who knows what that actually means. But being a stopper, a pauser, well what is with this? It’s actually ok to stop, to pause, and reconfigure yourself so that you’re stronger, more alert, and more ready to take on the day’s challenges. In any case, when faced with a challenge, stop if you need to. But once you’re ready, go in with full force.

In 2022, I will learn to trust myselfmore!