Image: Pexel
[Skit. Take One.]

I never realized how stressful Christmas is. I turn on the TV and the most relaxing thing to watch is Haunted House S.2. And that's just cable channels. DON'T EVEN, LOCAL CHANNELS.

Seriously though, how do my introverted cousins survive so much Christmasiness? I thought Eid was stressful. But at least we don't have to be all decked up all month. I FEEL YA TREES!   

Alhamdulillah my family consists mostly of straight and narrow Wahhabis and Hijabis. Imagine if we were so loose to indulge religious diversity EVERY YEAR. Heck, there would be one less cousin every year. Even the emergency hotlines would start ignoring our calls.  
Dispatch 1: "I got a call from the house in the..."
Dispatch 2: "Yeah, yeah. They're regulars. Give it an hour. Then send in the body bags."   
So. Yeah. We're mostly just Muslims. Sunnis. Safe. Solemn members of Snapchat. It's a good thing we're so homogenous. We only have to be nice to each other just once a year. Especially when we can't afford voluntary exile in Bali or Dubai.   

Just the force of happy from one Eid is enough to depress even the sugar-high clown on coke. Imagine having our Christian cousins living with us here too. Or Democrats. We'd have to celebrate both Eid AND Christmas every year. Sweet Lord, IMAGINE ALL THE DISHES OUR WOMEN MUST WASH!  

I have no issues with Church. By all means, it'd actually be nice to get the Piety Stamp AND sit on chairs. I might even have time to attend Maulid Nabi Celebration at the mosque across the road. If I can make it through traffic. Because, Mashallah, everyone seems out here tonight. Not doing anything really. Just parking. BECAUSE THAT'S WHAT ROADS ARE FOR ON HIGH SEASON.   

You can't miss the fact that both Prophets have their birthdays on the same week this year. And what's so cool about Indonesia is that it's a National Holiday on both days! So both Prophets get their birthday bashes, and their followers get a VERY LONG WEEKEND.   

And you can't help but notice that at some point, out of the riot and noise and stampede seem to emerge a single common slogan: "AMEN". And it's catchy enough to be repeated after profoundly megaspeakered sentences.

"Bless this land upon which uncovered, tahfiz graduate Saudi women get to learn yoga, witchcraft and Vipassana. [Amen.] Bless the technology that blurred the segregating lines and made it possible for us to send love and greetings and money to each other all year round. [Amen.] Bless the freedom of thought and openness of heart that allows us to physically skip town on Ojeks and cheap airfares whenever the hugs get too tight, the daggers in our backs too deep. [Amen.] Praise Thor and Freya. Amen. XXOOXX."  

[End of skit.]  
[Applause]
Image: Pexels.com

How reading a hundred books in a year feels:

1. it felt rushed there were times when i wished i could have paused at a page and memorize the lines. times when i wished i could live and bed and sing certain lines by heart. but with so many books, i didn't have that privilege. i had to let go often. hold it for just as long as short-term memory allowed, and then move on to the next passage.

2. the things that mattered, stuck anyway.  memory is a muscle. i used to be afraid that my brain would run out of memory space if i stuffed it with too many stories. but memory isn't only lodged in the brain, right? memory also takes space in bones and muscle tissue.

i can't tell you details or even chronological orders, but i can still tell you how the books felt. i can still summarize the contents of a book just by looking at the cover. i can tell you the parts that made me cry in the depths of the Lords of the Rings series.

and you can't find your feelings in search engines. so reading still beats the internets. hallelujah

 3. great books make great company.  great books form great relationships. and that kind of relationships last through the years, long after the bitterest and saddest notes have been forgiven.  (here's a gentle pat on your butt for every time you remember me next year, babe. obviously.)

and just like how every person you meet enriches and adds something into your life, so did every book. i read 125 books. at least a hundred of them made me a better, happier, bigger, grateful-er nerd.

4. not every book is worth the time.  out of hundreds, there had been at tiny percentage that bombed. like, just krflynkd. dead. unpickable. ever.

i started reading those books for the sake of expanding my horizons (an experiment which went really well with the Hunger Games series and Gaiman's books).

unfortunately, not everything improves with time, no matter how drunk you get. and it gets more obvious jarring when you've already been reading few dozens of classic literary works. you can't unlearn what you've learned. so when the blasé exposition, the cliche abuse, or the impatient build-up begin to flaunt their hideous hides, there is nothing else to do but die trying.

or put that damn book away.

5. there's always another book.  this is something i need to correct about my past conviction on reading only books by dead writers. some of the books on the best selling lists aren't so bad.

so instead of worrying about running out of Steinbeck and Austen novels, reading books by living authors reversed that sense of scarcity. that there will be more books to read next year. and forever. and since there are so many books to read, we must read fast. and plenty. and always.

maybe next year i'll read 130 books. or just 50. the point is, there will be plenty. and everything wonderful that happened to me this year can repeat themselves next year. as long that i'm reading.     

and if this is what growing up boils down to, i'm glad. if reading so much has taught me to be less afraid, more forgiving, and less lonely, then it hasn't been such a bad year at all.

here's list of the books I've read in 2015. Where's your list?

"The difficulty lies not so much in developing new ideas as in escaping from old ones." - John Maynard Keynes
I have heard them in my head all night. They're not going to go anywhere until addressed properly.

This is not what I want to end up with tonight. I have to fight back with something concrete. I have to make my house habitable and spread the salt, so that I can inhabit my body and my thoughts can inhabit my head.

“Okay. Fine,” I said, getting out of bed at 02:35 AM, turn on the PC. “I hear ya. ‘Just write’, you say. Fuck ideas. Ain’t about tools or time or titties, you say.”

Not artistic prose or pleasure writes, but still necessary. Necessary to purge.

Not prize winning, but no less valid. Not pouring from heart and soul but also not just shit and snot. (And boy when it pours…)

This too is part of me. Less likable, but still me. Still true.

These are probably recesses of my shadows and nightmares. They're here and they need acknowledgement and attendance. Otherwise they'll fester and infest and poison. And those are things worth watching out for.

My darkness is part of me too. My work is to take care that it doesn’t spread, by confining it in creation, in written language.





The Timekeeper asked me about an ethnic group going through adversity on an international scale. It was out of character for me to tell him I did not want to find out. When he asked me why, I said:

“Because there is only so much we can do with what we know.”

The Second Flight

When the second flight also got lost at sea, a fellow witch did the very thing that I refused to do. And fortified my distaste for novelty magic.

 How could she have ignored it? I don’t blame her. I get it; the temptation is too great.  It’s impossible not to be curious; to not want to “take a look”.

 My voice grew less playful and more panicky. I begged her to take her inner gaze away from the sunken flight. She kept sharing the details she sensed in her scry. The more vivid she described, the less inclined I was to attend her and what she was doing.

 At some point of her description, I snapped. I got downright condescending and rude.

I was ashamed of myself for a while after that. I could not pardon my attitude until I tried to understand why she was could not resist.

I had to make up her story.

 First of all, she’s new at it. Yes. It’s hard to not want to take a look. As hard as it was to ignore the den in the desert. But after that one time, after that one glimpse, I had learned my lesson and have gotten very careful with scrying.

 The young witch, though, did not stop at finding the vortex of misery. She delved deep, and did not leave out a single detail to describe to my horrified ears.

You know that threshold for sensitivity escalates? Like, if you've been in a working out a while, lifting 5 kgs won't hurt so much. That if you you've been comfortable for most of your life, your empathy dulls. And the idler you live, the more creative you get.

So my friend, the young witch, had an upbringing that gave her a taste for vulgar cruelty. She had a taste for watching dead bodies the same way that gossip hens take delight in feeding and elaborating and exchanging the cruelest rumors.

 This young, cruel witch had no sense of how it felt to be poor or defeated. The threshold of her sensitivity had been numbed by the years spent in comfort. She was innocently indulging in the same magnetism that “horror from a safe distance” would offer.

And she had not been crushed by the terrors that arise from behind the shade. Not yet.

The First Flight

When the first commercial flight got lost at sea, it stayed lost for weeks and weeks. You might have heard about its uncanny story. It wasn't  just one person in a specific hole. But a whole fleet of crews and passengers lost somewhere in the vast oceans.

 My mother likes Facebook and takes her news from there. So one day, she asked me where the plane was, or if I could scry its presence.

I told her I could. But I wouldn’t.

After scrolling down her timeline, she asked me again to take a look. 

I showed her the image of vortex of grief. If I scried this lost plane, I said, I would have to enter that vortex, at the center of which is the lost plane. At the center of which hundreds of dead have spent their last living moments in hopeless dread, and thousands of their living relatives fuel it with grief. Can you imagine what I would have to go through to appease a mere curiosity?

Just describing the vortex made my skin tingle. The terror from the desert had clawed its presence in every shade and darkness, in every bend my mind carelessly wanders. Even more so when I am aware and conscious of my thoughts. For all its faults, ignorance is easier to forgive than intentional trespass. 

My mother scrolled down her Facebook timeline and said, “Aren’t you curious?”

No. And I told her my story with the den in the desert.

Scrolling down some more. “But can't you help find that plane?”

And then what, I said, inform the authorities that I scried the plane’s position at sea? Even if covens of witches got together to accurately locate the plane’s location, it would still sound queer. Not to mention that it would start a modern terrorist- affiliated witch-hunt.

“Not even a tiny, teeny, weensy, bit curious?”

Sighing, I clasped my palms together and closed my eyes. How about this, mom, I said, I’ll take a look, but I will take you with me to see all the details. Touch the decomposing bodies in the dark waters, feel the echoes of their dying throes, and dive into the depths of their grief. After that, you and I can have tea with the despair of helplessness and the absence of concrete, remedial action. Wanna?

Mother shook her head, unplugged the internet, plugged up her ears and shut her eyelids tight. Not another word was offered concerning that sad flight.

The Terror in the Desert

Few years back, a five years old girl fell in a dry well somewhere in a desert in the Middle East. The rescue team could not reach the poor girl. They could not even establish contact with her. They knew she had fallen there, but they could not locate her exact depth to pull her out. 

After about a week of trying, the authorities presumed that she was dead and took permission from the family to close up the hole.

Understandably, the girl’s family resisted. They kept hoping they might at least retrieve her body for closure and proper burial. 

A querent (who knew I had just learned to scry) asked me to take a look on the girl’s whereabouts. 

I was getting ready for bed, flat on my belly and home alone in my house in Jakarta. The barriers were thin enough and I was so new at scrying that, without second thought or preparation, I immediately agreed to scry the girl. I closed my eyes, and dove into the Betweens.

The barriers between the worlds in Indonesia are so thin that even newbie witches and weakling demons can cross through. The Equatorial region is a geographical embodiment to what Wiccans describe in the couplet: “As above, so below”. The Equator is smack in the middle of the planet. It’s easier to go back and forth the Betweens from Indonesia or Brazil than, say, Australia or Mongolia. The further away from the equator, the thicker the barriers become. Consequently, the thicker the barriers, the harder it gets to travel between the worlds. That is, the further we are from the Equator, by North or South, more power and knowledge is takes the cross the barriers.

A dark world opened up to me. I had jumped into a den of lordly demons who were as ancient and cruel as the desert. They noted my presence, turned their attention toward me, and screeched a bloodcurdling cry of war. 

A frosty current of fear ran down my back and pinned me to my bed. Shivering with terror, I opened my eyes, fumbled to turn on the all lights. Turning up the music player's volume, I huddled into a ball under my blankets. Their rage filled up every part of my room, every part of my awareness with dread and defeat.

I texted my querent what I felt and saw. I told him that the demons saw and followed me home. The thick barriers they have crossed over could only mean that they were of a powerful class of demons. And they were pissed.

It took me a while to recover. It was reckless to go under with my attitude. It was stupid to travel without preparing for the culture. It was idiotic to not consider the culture of demons residing in an environment as harsh and uninhabitable as the desert.

The Desolation of Pity

When the Timekeeper asked me about an ethnic group in the news, I could have answered with a quick research. I could have explained it to him the plight of those people in simple terms.

But between the den in the desert, the planes lost at sea, and the shame of watching someone indulge in purposeless magic, I had enough reasons to keep my senses clear of global disasters. Unless a member of my close society was involved, I find it distasteful to dig into hard selling news. Unless there is a line of action to follow the digestion of hard news, I wouldn’t bother.

It may sound callous, but we're not made of infinite resources. All emotions, pity and curiosity can evolve into a banality. Even the best of intentions can turn into passive cruelty in when effective action fails to follow. For, only concrete action has the power to soften the shattering blows of emotions.

To follow up with action, we need to be aware of as many angles of a story as possible. It's a lot of work just to figure out what to fix first. That process, the process of finding out about others, will lead to more discoveries about ourselves. The more we know about ourselves, the less certain we’d be in the potency of our roles in the world.

Hence, by the time we know full stories, the story of all sides involved, we would rarely have room left for pity – for emotions. At best, we would be more aware of the pitiful things in ourselves, and be driven to actively do something about it. At second best, we would refrain from causing others anymore harm.   

Because there is so much we can do with what we know.

So, about this place I got in Jalan Sandat...

The structure is similar to traditional Balinese family compounds. A patch of fenced family land sectioned into separate blocks of smaller rooms and houses.

Our compound has only two buildings, two storeys each. Every storey has a separate entry. My landlady and her husband lives on one side of the house, I on the other. In the other building lives a Western, middle-age lady who doesn't believe in the covering of boobies in daytime. She also has the habit of confirming her beliefs by crossing the yard and blessing our compound's surrounding fence with organic(?) trash.

Anyway, one day, things changed for the residents of Uma Dangin. New residents arrived. A mommy and her two sons, aged six and twelve.

من كثر ما كلنا شطار و عاقلين و نوايانا صافية، و عشان و لا أحد منا فكر يولع له سيجارة كيف أو يعمل جناية ضد الديود المشمسة، الله أنزل على سكان الكمپاوند شقيقين أمريكيين، يتراوح أعمارهم بين ٦-١٢ سنة. 
And the two brothers became mildly popular with the ENTIRE CHILD POPULATION OF JALAN SANDAT.

Just in case you're wondering why naps have been cancelled indefinitely. And why our fence hasn't been blessed by beliefs in liberated boobs: There's been a serious watergun battle waging all afternoon and ammunition has been running low but thankfully someone needs to pee.
(just add a bit of color)
Theme park. 

That summarizes my idea of Ubud. An unoriginal thought. As unoriginal as any tourist spot in the world. Stretches of shops and convenience stores. Grownups spending the time and money they’ve saved up to make up for lost time and selves. And I’m in it for two whole weeks.

One thing that makes it so fun is that Ubud is not that big. Took me a couple of hours to walk from Jalan Sandat to the very end of Jalan Bisma, then around the Monkey Forest then all the way back up to Sandat again. Ubud is like a theme park but with beds.

Old habits don’t disappear just because you’ve moved places. The most persistent of my habits, in spite of all the good intentions in the world, had to succumb to afternoon naps. So we’ll start there. I know I did yoga sometime in the morning, but it was the nap that started my first day in Ubud.

Because, after the nap, I would be giddy with invincibility. Like I could do everything in that one evening. A state of inspired. We don’t argue with gifts like that. We accept and treat it gently. Allow it to build and balloon. Allow the muses to calm their chatter and receive our offering of selves.

I’m still time managing, albeit absentmindedly. I know now that mornings are for yoga and writing. And that noon times are for naps. And that evenings may or may not be for laundry. But one thing for sure is that, at the strike of 3 PM, management bites the dust and that state of inspired restarts.

That’s when things get really, really nice. The tilted sun sprinkles magic dust all over the place, making everything golden. And all that gold is within walking distance. And walking distances are easier to traverse with motivational bragging rights. And bragging rights are easily earned with GPS enabled toys. And toys are more fun with friends. And friends create peer pressure.

Peer pressure consists of Valin, who is eight years my senior and hikes across the Alps. And Mamad who, at my age, runs five kilometers at a breeze, every morning. And the people in my yoga classes who bend and twist and hold impossible asanas in spite of deep wrinkles and angry ankles.

No apologies. That’s the point to this reminder. I’m not going to apologize for half-minded blog posts and uncharted ramblings. I’m not going to apologize for leaving home and indulging in the banality of touristy attractions, for two whole weeks. 

And I’m definitely not going to apologize for naps, due in 23.2 minutes from now. 


 
Day's Bounty
"You spend money to make more money," the businessmen chant, in shameless materialism. 
It's true, though. It isn't hard to want to accept Grace, when a day has been spent offering it.

Grace comes through patches of hush. Grace seeps through the pores of dusk and twilight, announcing the changes of roles. Grace is to be able to witness ourselves morph from our dutiful selves to our magical selves.

My cue to receive grace usually comes in the groggiest moments after a nap. (A nap marks the change of day. The switch in my ultradian rhythm, from machine to magi.) There is usually a moment when groggy is actually an invitation to join the muses in their play. To ignore the world and just write.

To succumb, yet again, to another kind of Unknown.

Compassionate detachment is easier to cultivate and harvest by the end of a busy day. It isn't hard to find the drive to be creative when you've spend eight hours being boring. It's easier to stoke the primal energies when you've spent the day being straight and square.

Ha. After so long, finally the rebel stirring in my loins got its logic satiated: "Not never. Just not yet."
The Offering
"One writing held me up through the next. And the next. And then it all held up our losses and wins together in this bulk of general, impersonal compassionate detachment."

Compassionate Detachment

That. That was the trick I was supposed to remember.

To be able to love and practice compassion without getting personally attached. To be able to attend others while trusting that the karmic auditors do not miss. To be able to trust that the love we offer will be returned when we need it. To be humbled when random acts of kindness are offered from strangers. 
 (Kindness can only be passed on. The kindnesses that come out way are but ripples of our past offerings. And they, these karmic ripples, are never linear. They...well, ripple.)

The absence of logic in the way that karma ripples takes all the faith in the Unknown. The choice to say something nice, or to write an enthused document publicly, or to refrain from a cruel word, take a generous exertion of willpower. A generous offering to the Unknown.

Inno, okay, Universe, here's one for you. Here's one less mean word at the back of my throat swallowed. Here's one for you, bullies. May this sacrifice of not cussing my heart's content ripple back in goodness for us all.  

Bargaining with the Universe

The years spent in angry rebellion has made me impatient with Karma.

While Karma's patience with me is infinite, I have yet to learn how she works, in order to allow this moldy trust to strengthen.

If I'm as square and straight as I imagined my ideal self should be, I shouldn't be wincing at any kind of writing. I should welcome blogging and tweeting and SEO bullshit.

Nevertheless, even the darkest hearts have a shot at it. Even if willpower is finite, I still take credit for all the minutes I must spend being trying to be a good girl. All the while I'm spending on my stock of willpower, I am getting paid in credit to unleash my creativity elsewhere.

Fine, Universe, I'll pay forward my dues. I will be good in daytime, so that I can unleash and unwind in long words and paragraphs about detachment. About letting the garbage out. And allowing grace to come in.

Because grace, when she comes in all her crushing glory and vivacity and pomp, is inevitable. She's worth it.

 

These Past Couple of Nights

I have been writing faster and with better concentration in the evenings. I trust the muse, the urgent dictating and dictatorial voice in my head at night. Particularly if it's a day spent productively at other things besides writings.

For instance, yesterday, I attended people, Bugz and mba Titin and mas Aidin. I attended the clean shirt pressed on my face to stifle a heartbreak. I attended the master's lunch. Attended a trip to Tegal. Attended the master's connection with the rest of the world.

By evening, I wasn't hearing words anymore. The Voices' urgency had lost their linguistic cues. What remained was primal drive to write and be swallowed in that writing. A primal drive that abandoned all worries about coherence and cohesion.

Even when Maghrib called, and the New Hijri Year's prayers lasted late into the night, the urgency remained. Even with the break between writings to attend dinner, the last sentence waited for the next thought. I wrote without looking up. I wrote without editing. And no questions about which, what, why, who or how.

There was only writing.

I wrote, last night, to reach a thousand words. Then a couple of hundreds more. Then the night wrote through me: The attachments that fed that writing kept me up until past midnight, long after it was sent and discussed and appraised.

Similarly, the writing session in the previous evening too was as fluid. It started right after tea and lasted until the evening call for dinner. It came out as a shy letter to Kris and a Volunteer Info sheet for the UWRF group on Facebook. I fed off the afterglow of that writing until the next session.  The public writing fed the private. It held me steady through the next day, when I attended others and went to Tegal. It held me up when Bugz and Wawung asked about lunch. And it pressed down grief with infinite kindness: "Not never. Just not yet."

One writing held me up through the next. And the next. And then it all held up our losses and wins together in this bulk of general, impersonal compassionate detachment. 
"You usually have to wait for that which is worth waiting for." - Craig Bruce
“It’s in the house. I’m scared. I think it's in the house.”
“Where are you now?”
“In the bedroom. Light’s off. Yeah, it's locked. I’m scared. I think it's in the house. Shh. Wait. Oh God. It's at my door. It's him! He knows I'm here! He's calling my name from under the door. What do I do? Where do I go?
“Can you get out of there?”
“No. I can't. I'm too scared. What if he around the other window? What if he climbed up the balcony? He might catch me before I climbed down the balcony. I could give it a try. I don’t know where he is now. Shit. He’s not at the door anymore. I think he’s gone. I don’t see his shadow under the door anymore.”
“Get out of there.”
“No. No. He’s at the window! Help! Help me! He’s in…”
“Hello? Hellen?”
Static.
He stared at his phone. Noted the time. He might need it for evidence later.
What evidence? Who’s going to ask?
Then he heard it. A cutting silence. The sound of a held breath. He looked up. People were staring at him with terrible understanding. He didn't realize how loud he was. They swayed away from him like rows of grass in the wind. (It’s just the bus stopping.) He excused himself and squeezed out of the crowded bus. They avoided his gaze. The frantic excusemes. Bad news. He was all bad news.
What was he supposed to do? Go back to her house? Get an ojek and make sure she’s alright? Or find what’s left of her? Get implicated? But she’s – how could he say it? How could he explain himself?
It might have been a mistake. A misunderstanding. Or the neighbor’s TV. It might've been a hyperbolic imagination. And why would he need to explain himself to anyone? And about what?
He tried calling her again. Recorded. He tried calling her house. No answer. She lived alone. It was for his sake that she left the girls dormitory. For their quiet lunches and long Tuesday evenings.
So he stood there. Frightened. Furious. Frozen. All that moved, and that at chaotic speed, were the thoughts in his head, battling the paralysis of uncertainty. Eyes met his and accused him with the vilest of sins: Indecision. A cowardly indecision.
His phone rang. The screen a blur. It took him another blink to realize that it was Home. And he took another breath before sliding the lock to answer.
“Daddy.”
“Yes, my love.”
“Are you still far? I think the TV is broken.”
“Almost there, my darling.”
“Mommy wants to talk to you.”
“Hey, honey.”
“Could you pass by the ATM on your way? I forgot to pay the cable.”
“Of course. Anything else?”
“No, we’re alright. Are you still far?”
He paused before answering. Watching the approach of another bus. Stepping into the queue. “I’m almost home.”
One of the things that gave me scribomania this month was reading a lot, a lot. I’m never going to stop bragging about it so here are the numbers: I read about 70 books between January until June. In early July, writing 1500-2000 words in one-half hour sprints happened regularly.

Hence, how I started writing a lot, a lot.

The bulk of those thousands and thousands of words were garbage. Just plain, disgustingly plain mind dumping. But, since I got to writing a lot, a lot, patterns started emerging. Thank the predictability of integrity in personality and cognitive structures for that.

THEN. After a while of mind dumping, I grew to actually like the voices in my head. Yeah they’re vehement and with a flamboyant flair for propaganda. But they’re not immune to reasoning. Nor are they too above the beatings of an ego bash.

Liking develops trust. Learning to trust the intentions of the meanest voices in my head, on the holiest month of the year, at the worst week of the girly cycle, from the bottom of this auditory hell of a village, develops the faintest shades of c-o-n-f-i-d-e-n-c-e. I have to be careful here. There’s no telling what’s waiting to jinx something as magical and fleeting as that particular C element in writing.

Although, considering all the trouble that it took to bring in that C element, it took a while to shake off too. I mean, when I wasn't writing, I didn't think I was doomed. Again. This year. It just felt that I needed some time off. I needed to cool my embers and simmer and cook slower. It felt okay to write or not to write that very minute of that very day. Quota? It can wait.

THEN IT HAPPENED.

Between reading a lot, a lot, writing a lot, a lot, and hanging out with just the right people, a story emerged. IT HAPPENED. It came from a deep and desperate place, drenched in writabilitiness. I held it and wrote it while constantly on the verge of crying for two days.

And I kinda died.

It was just that kind of story. It was a story that forced me to stop writing to breathe. To stop, stoop, spot and justify the fallen tear drops on the pages that will always, always remember every excruciating minute spent on bringing them forth to the world.

And this is where I kinda sucked: That it’s been nearly two weeks and I’m still recuperating.

Okay, so in those two weeks, Eid also happened, and no God-fearing Asian would dare to skip on the elaborate ritual of repetitive and meaningless small-talk if they still want to have a fighting chance of getting buried in the family lot.

But it's been two weeks and I still haven't grown the ovaries to touch that story that crushed me and everything writer about me.  If any of you happen to know someone, get a certain something that would help an idiot to recuperate faster between creative cycles and explosions. YOU'RE A PAL.

Nevertheless, write we must, for writing we like. Bruises and blues regardless. Along with all the bric-a-stuffy-bracs that makes a writing HAPPEN. Along with the hours of reading, the risks of hemorrhoids, and social estrangement. If anything, writing hints that I am well. That I'm in no shortage of awesome brainfood to read. That my bottom is fairly comfortable and my heart is beating in its place. That the electricity and internet are running. And that my family and loved ones are fine. That we have plenty to be grateful for.

Hamdillah for everything that made THAT sentence happen.
"At least you feel time."
Been writing this story for two days now.

It started as a plaything, something to tease the friend who inspired it. But then it grew into this colossal 4000-word thing. And it's still growing because I haven't really gotten my heart into writing the third act.

I haven't gotten my heart into writing the third act because I'm crying my way through the second act, the "all is lost" part. I cried when I was outlining the story. I cried when I realized how the ending was going to come. I'm crying through the first draft, detailing the losses in the second act.

It feels like auditing a year's worth of sadnesses.

It feels like how it felt the first time, except now, this time, it's voluntary. It's mine. Arriving and leaving upon my behest. And that illusion of control, albeit brief and limited only to these pages, heals.
Book of Shadows
All the while writing on paper, I kept wondering why the spellcheck wasn't working. 
I had been struggling with “What’s the point?” dilemma ever since I wrote up the Cliodynamics of Literature. Struggling as in literally sweating for a way to loosen the paralysis. Struggling as in making up excuses to leave town and take the five-hour train ride to attend a writing festival in Jakarta.

I.

The Cliodynamics of Literature opened up vistas for my head. While writing it, I thought I was going to reach a conclusion that is as final and abrasive as “The society is in peril if it doesn’t read literary fiction.”

Even though my conclusion did not exactly fizzle like a snubbed cigarette butt, it still fizzled. I couldn’t be abrasive in my closing. Heck, I didn’t even bother with a closing.

Not everybody should read literary fiction. In fact, in some cases, it isn’t wise to thrust too much education too quickly upon a society without the grounding support of habit and routines.

For instance, if all the farmers in Java were to read literary fiction, develop socialist ideas, and put lives in peril by not tending the fields, then to hell with the books. If all the women in Saudi suddenly decided to start a suffragette movement, house and hearth be damned, then hell hath indeed no fury like a Saudi woman scorned.

All of which meant that, as good and nourishing as literary fiction may be to the souls of those who are accustomed to its effects, it’s still better to stock the rest of the society with genre fiction that soothe and entertain and ascertain their step in the world.

Which meant that I held one less conviction, one less reason to bother writing that kind of fiction.
Which meant that, while I am not good enough to write for the Western market, I still couldn’t go as low as writing formulaic* genre fiction.

Which meant that me and my writing motivations were screwed.

II.

Months passed in unwritten silence. I figured that, to break the block, I needed to be amongst writers. I needed to see how real writers do it. Writers who must have gone through the same depressing thoughts, and managed to forge on writing without losing their souls in the process. Writers who managed not to succumb to genre fiction, even though it is never a fanfare in the Indonesian literary fiction market.

He was still productive in his seventies. He gave his lecture on Freedom Writing, of all irony, under the effect of a rebellious hip. And his voice was softened with self-deprecating awareness of his age.
The lecture was about daring to write scathing truths that could lead to incarceration and other scary things. He talked about the time he spent in jail for something he wrote. And lamented this generation’s lack of sensitivity to their surroundings, to themselves and the hard sacrifices the past has made to bring them here.

While the lecture was very encouraging, my head was screaming. “Dude, people need to eat first before they could give a fart about sensi-fucking-tivity.”

I raised my hand when he closed up, “Any questions?”

“Do you know about the hierarchy of needs?”

I gave everyone in that auditorium a mini presentation on the Maslovian Hierarchy of Needs, closing it with the question that has been bogging me down. “Where do you think the need to be sensitive fit in the hierarchy?”

“At the very top,” he said, “Along with the need to self-actualize.”

“Then how could we expect the self-entitled, the poor, the jobless, the majority of the society to be sensitive enough to bother reading and writing sensitive literature?”

He paused.

(I held my breath watching him pausing. Mesmerized. There. See? That moment of pause is the thing that brought me all the way to that festival. Only his generation could have that reel of history and experience within their mind’s reach. Only writers could have that confidence to take a thoughtful pause in front of an audience. That, mate, that is wisdom. And it came to me like an affectionate echo from the past. From a place where worse things than a writer’s block or a generational amnesia have taken place. Things that have murdered half a million Indonesians and cleansed the souls of those who remembered it with the humility of long survival.)

“I sold my first story to Kompas when I was in relative poverty and had just had baby.”

(It felt that a key just lodged itself in my heart,)

He raised his gaze to meet mine. “I was hard up. But there were worse things happening around me. Things that needed retelling. Things that only by writing about them I cloud alleviate the survivor’s guilt. People were going through much worse situations than I was. I couldn’t….”

(I felt a click.)

“…not write.”

(And felt the swoosh of relief filling me up.)

"How could we not write with this blessed curse of awareness?"


* This article was written by loosely following the “Perfect Scene” formula. #sheepish

I get it. There is only so much that we can do. But I'd been afraid that none of it, none of this could matter much.

I could try to blog, practice writing and maintain a daily reading quota. But then I would have to cut back on yoga and daydreaming.  I could try to spend less time on each task and try to multitask. But the brain has its own ideas of working, and it doesn't like multitasking.

I'd love to figure out how much is enough. How many tasks must I check off my list to feel adequate? How much change in the world in order to feel that I have paid the cost of my earth? Do I need to start a weight-loss diary too?
____

I had an enlightening moment today.

I was mulling over the worries when I gave up thinking and decided to spread the Tarot cards. And the cards said something like, "Wait. A visitor is going to shed some light on the very things you're worried about."

So I stopped trying to create and kept watch. I watched the Timelines and phone lines. I watched the sunrise and pages turning.

Then he posted on his Timeline. To which I responded. To which a possibility turned into inevitability: "Skype?" "Great idea."

I saw the spread of hints that amalgamated into a Sign. That we both had the time to attend. And the flow of words effortlessly filled hearts with wonders. Until a De Javu sealed the hush with certainty.  

That's when we knew we're exactly where we’re supposed to be.
 ___

First things first: The questions that I can’t answer immediately don't belong on my task list.

That is one thing that this habit of writing has convinced me in its wake. No matter how much I analyze it, fussing about things that are beyond my control won’t lead anybody anywhere.

And today, my Truth came in the form of an effortless conversation. I had waited until the right time to ask the right person the right questions. How he came to be there when I needed him was beyond my scope of understanding. How I came to be there waiting for a Sign was within my habits of relinquishing hold over the things that are beyond my control.

I didn’t even need proof that my work is worthwhile. I just needed the assurance that I am going the right way.

And maybe it’s vain to think that we matter. Maybe the best way to live with the Big Questions is to learn existing with their Unanswerableness.

Just exist? How could you?

Well, I’m happy, aren’t I? What could be more important than that?

HOW DARE YOU?!

By balancing between effort and result.

In all honesty, do you not think that it takes a colossal effort to refrain from packing my bag and leave this auditory hell of a village every prayer call? Like hell it does. And instead of packing, I unsheathe a bagful of envelopes. And turn up the music. Then go and lie down on my belly and rest my back. And then I get to break my fast with Wawung. And we'll have Papaya juice that'll go down very quickly and happily.

And that’s something. That’s work. That’s progress. From winning the little battles with Self, to figuring out the best possible ways of alleviating the callouses of daily labors. (It’s also a sign of progress to compare the state of my mind between now and the beginning of this writing session. I’ve practically talked myself into reasserting my delusions about happiness.)

 How else could we recognize the Signs of probable greatness, if we miss their momentous progress in everyday ordinariness?
Philosophy can only do so much in alleviating anxieties. In the long run, nothing beats the jitters like a relative sense of control over self and time.

And if we can’t stop time, then we might at least keep a watch*.

Big Clocks: Age Cycles
From longest timespan to smallest: 7000 years of human civilization. The Aquarian Age. Human life cycle. 10’000 hours of practice. Being stuck at a boring meeting.

Point is: If you see the big picture, the small stuff will stop sweating and stinking.

Medium Clocks: Annum Lex
Three Quarters
  • Imagine no more than five major objectives to achieve every quarter.
  • The simpler the goals, the easier done.
  • Imagine the year broken down into three-acts: 
    1. First Act: Planning
    2. Second Act: Application
    3. Third Act: Revelations!
    4. That extra act that nobody wants to talk about: For backup. And second-chances. And vacations.

Small Clocks: Monthly Calendars 
(The smaller the clock, the more obsessive I seem to be with timekeeping.)

I made a 2015 calendar that shows the Jawi, Gregorian, Hijri and Lunar calendars on a single page. Printed out all the months in A5 papers. Stuck it in my daily grimoire. Happiest Muslim Witch alive. 
Gregorian, Hijri, Day, Jawi Pasaran and Moon Calendar
What’s with the Lunar Calendar?
  • Some habit cues are spread throughout the month.
  • Writing is creative work.
  • Creativity is in the domain of the Moon.
  • Women follow a monthly cycle.
  • Farmers, the Javanese, Wiccan and Muslims observe the Lunar Calendar.
  • There is just too much lateral culture and tradition to disregard lunar energy effects.
As far as witching goes: 
  • From the New Moon until Full-moon (waxing moon), I tend to produce fast and energetic writings.
  • This blogging daily thing was started around the full-moon, when the creative energies were at their peak.
  • From the Full-moon until the New Moon (waning moon period), my writings adopt a psychotic calmer tone.
Very Small Clocks: Timers
Once, I heard Tony Schwartz talk about the ultradian energy management, and then my brain broke forever.

I apply Schwartz’s Ultradian thingy in combo with the 30/30 Timer App.
Schwartz's method on 30/30
Notes on Timers:
  • To differentiate the cues between Tick and Tock, don't use the same productivity timer for your down time. Use, for example, Ensō instead. 
  • Or, if you're really good, don't use a timer at all.
  • There’s only so much that a timer can do. It’s a timer. Its job is to ding and ring. Not motivate or compliment or punish you emotionally, intellectually or sarcastically.
  • If you happen to still want to do this after three months of trial, you probably don’t need that much external help. 
  • Likewise, if after a couple of weeks, the voices in your head are still dissatisfied, you probably need more help than a timer and productivity techniques. Hire a new choir. 
  • Thou shall not overdo it. The productivity gurus and meditation teachers have talked about it, only your bosses will love you for it, when see your body screams it: Slow down, you overachieving fiend.
  • Try the clocks from the biggest to the littlest. Try the quarter annum calendar. If, after a week, it still makes sense, break it down to monthly tasks. Then, if you’re brave, you might try the daily calendar, fill it in retrospect. Divide 24-hours into sleeps and naps and Schwartzes.
Off Topic:
  • What a funny twist of language: Time is passing. Can’t save it, can’t multiply it. It’s going, going, gone. Except for those who believe, who can reclaim the time they spent in goodness. Except for those who remind and encourage each other to persevere in spending time on the true, worthwhile things.
Off Off-Topic:
  • [I nicknamed my master the Timekeeper because he is the authority who keeps watch of the local azan times. Maybe the name bears more than one meaning, more than one side of his story.]
    • [Is that why they’re called the Watchers on the Wall? "The snowy stillness marks the near-absence of time, or the ultra-awareness of every minute passing in the monotonous white."]
That another way to deal with worries is to get to know them better.
The Writer's Altar
Worries, in order to cause actual harm, must have a physical form. Physical forms are controllable. Which means that our worries can be broken down into measurable dimensions: Time, space, other kinds of resources (money, food, books to read, community support, etc.). 

Time: Big Ideas

We know where we’re going with our time by knowing where we’ve been. 
  • Long Term.

I’m almost forty. Considering my genetic build, my smoking and exercise habits, and the fact that I’m basically trying to be a generally happy person, I should have another quarter of a century to degenerate naturally into senility.

Twenty-five years are just three-hundred months, or seventy-five annual quarters to divide between the short- and midterm plans.

 It may seem like not much time. Or it can be just enough time if I do it right. Or it can be too much time if all I do is squander it. But if I do it right, if I watch the clock and try to adhere to the general flow of the Universe, it can be plenty. 
  • Mid-Term.

This is hard to write up. To be able to think what the next five years is going to be like, I need to understand what the last five years haven been spent.

 We’re not short on basic sustenance, that’s one thing to be grateful for. We have shelter and clothing and infrastructural support. We’re not under immediate impact of war or disease or famine, and that is a lot, a huge lot to be grateful for. For, it’s the security of our basic sustenance that has allowed us to think creatively and thrive. It’s only by having a reserve of psychic energy that allows us to enter the flow, the closest state of happiness.

If there is anything more paralytic than being an illiterate woman living in a slum, then it would be being an educated affluent woman with too many choices to pick from.

Too much freedom of choice, then, became a burden. The abundance stability and routine gave little incentive to stay put. Having too much psychic reserve made me too easily bored. Getting too easily bored meant that I tend to start projects and drop them again. To come and go as I please.

What’s wonderful/terrible about the reliability of karmic law is its timely effectiveness. Privilege, when it’s not carefully minded, backfires. I broke my heart and bank a lot by mistreating myself and privileges. It’s only natural, and I wouldn’t have learned otherwise.

 Likewise, the karmic laws are very generous at giving rewards in the event of good behaviors. This isn't a philosophical as much as it's a direct result of watching the clock. The Universe has this way of SHOWING UP AND FILLING ME UP WITH BLINDING LIGHT when I least expect it and most need it.

It's easier to bring on the Universe's more meaningful presents by sticking to its laws, than not.

 So I picked up yoga and meditation to keep me physically grounded. I picked up the idea that staying in this auditory hell of a village can keep my heart from drying up, as long that my master is comfortable. Then I picked up seventy books to read in the last six months. Which led me to writing and blogging again.

 Isn’t karmic predictability a nice thing?
  • Short-Term.

How I got to break down a year into hours came in the course of six months of practice, at least. Not to mention the frustrating years of trial-and-errs between overreaching and underachieving.

 I can't emphasize enough how important it is to take things slow. Took me years to understand HOW I'm physically bound to the supremacy of seasons. Took me months of watching my mood swings to understand that, Hey, maybe "bipolar" isn't a mere diagnosis, but a symptom of something meaningful and useful.

At the end of every experiment, one idea kept glaring at me: That I only needed one person to believe in me at a time. One person to keep me afloat. And that person can come in the form of a conversation, a character in a story, a Like on one of the social media applications, or an awesome wordcount in my journals.

This is why I can do this daily writing thing. I am connected and loved and anchored in my society and habits and beliefs. In return, my people and beliefs and practices keep me afloat and hopeful on a daily, monthly and yearly basis.

And when I run out of steam again, and see that I need a break again, I know now that I can do that. And nobody is going to sue me for it. In fact, I don't see how anybody could wish me anything else today but the best of luck.
The longer I wait for the muse, the harder it gets. So jump the writing engines. If I’m doing this for the long run, if I believe in this thing that I am doing, if I trust the process of read, write, vent, repeat, I might as well just go ahead and put my bets. 
What are the risks? What could go wrong? Could you ever run out of words to write. Could the stream of thoughts cease to flow? So maybe there are theories to test and experiment.
  • Does writing really beget more?

My favorite productive writing advice came from Seth Godin: “The Talker’s Block”. I want to believe him. He’s such a nice guy. But in my stinginess for my words, I wondered: Does writing really beget more?
  • Won’t our words lose strength the more we talk? Don’t magical spells need consecration of words and charging of energy? How could writing more make us better writers?

Ah. But energy is fluid. We are mere vessels of words and thoughts and energies. Dozens, if not hundreds of ideas pass through us daily. Either catch and test them or let them pass on. 
 
It’s pompous to think that our ideas need us to hold them. Ideas need to be exercised and applied (into practice, writing, spreading) to prove themselves worth keeping and following. Ideas need to get hammered and beaten against stony facts and oppositions to break, strengthen then improve.
  • That seems like so much work! I’m not so athletic to go beating my ideas on stone walls of facts and risk losing my very-hard-earned inner equilibrium.

That’s okay. You don’t have to. You don’t have to endure the rigorous cycle of self development so often. Maybe you’d enjoy botany or kickboxing more. Maybe you’ve just gone through a  period of hard intellectual bursts and need to give yourself a break to digest and assimilate. 
 
Nobody’s holding a timer and chasing you with an “Annual Intellectual Growth Plan”. Nobody’s going to hold it against you for not volunteering to be unhappy.
 
And if you’re doing things you don’t like for someone else’s sake, I hope that there is a lot love (expressed and nurtured and restated daily) between you people.
  • Fermenting works for wine and bread. Aging works for steaks and tobacco. Why can’t we just be reservoirs of ideas?

Because, you stingy stocktaker, you’re not a building! You aren’t made of mold and mortar. You can do that, of course, be a tomb where ideas come to die, be forgotten. But we assumed that you wanted write because you like writing. And you like ideas. So much liking you have for ideas that…well, look at what you’ve done to yourself.
 
See here, you’re worried about stock. So it's a simple economic question, not about method of processing and maturing and aging, thank God. 
 
The easiest answer for the idea stock question, we need to check with your suppliers: How’s your reading? 
 
Idea generation is an intellectual process. Intellectual processes need intellectual fuel. Intellectual fuel come in many forms and colors. What kind of fuel have you been feeding into your intellectual engines? In plain language, how much have you been reading, you dork?
 
If you want new ideas, you read.
  • What kind of reading? 

Well, what kind of writing do you want to do?
 
If you read tweets and blogs, then you write tweets and blogs. If you read fiction, your moral flexibility improves along with your empathic abilities. If you read nonfiction, you…dammit. Take a hint already. 
  • But...

Knock it off. You’re doing a great job at degenerating ideas by worrying.
 
In tests of endurance, it’s not about strength or agility, tools or gadgetry. It’s usually a mental game. You’re not stupid or naïve. And nobody is keeping count of your faults unless you owe them money or an apology. 
  • Replace worry with workshops or wayward free-writings or READ about writing and writers. 
  • Keep writing until worrying ceases. Keep writing until self-confidence increases. 
  • Since blogging for a long time is a test of endurance, think of it as a sport instead of vintage winery. As the case with sports, biological engines are made of cells and vessels and fluidity.
  • The better we take care of our physical engines, the better the intellectual engine will endure sitting through long bouts of  intellectual work.
    • That last point is, by the way, another way of explaining Godin’s theory of a talker’s block: The more you work that intellect, the more intellectual you get.
 
How did the word "ego" get such a bad rep? Isn't Ego a part of identity and work and culture? 

Ego is the first layer of our self-awareness. It's how we see ourselves in the mirrors of introspect  and how we see our place among others. It's the easiest part of our minds to measure and cultivate. The easiest to confuse and abuse.

The thing is, if we can make it a practice of taking care of the Ego with healthy stuff, feed it with a balance of vegetables and sweets and sodiums, a balance between cultivating and detaching from it, between rewarding and reprimanding it, Ego will make a great anchor and companion in the face of Id's temptations and Superego's impossible demands.

And that's another thing. You can't just take your theories in parts: Ego isn't the only part* of the psyche in the Fruedian** school*** of Psychology****.

*(And everyone has all the parts: Id, Ego and Superego.)

**(And Fruedian isn't the only way to understand Psychology.)

***(And the schools of psychology interconnect with a broader world inside every person: The world of actions and thoughts and dreams that makes up all of you.)

****(And studying Psychology is not the practice that will make a goddamn good person out of you. It's how you use yourself and knowledge in serving others that matters as far as humanity cares.)
____

So if you want to know how to control your ego, learn about it. Understand how your Ego works. Figure out the most effective diet to keep it happy but healthy. Get used to the ridges and feels and flaws in your Ego.

In the beginning, depending on how long you've been away from its true size and color and flow, your Ego might bellow, burn or bite. Stay calm. How your ego behaves in your presence reflects the kind of nutrition you've been feeding it. Don't run. Fix it. If failed, try again tomorrow.

It's like sex and food, Ego can be a useful word and idea and tool. You can use your ego to do/make/cause good things, to serve God and fellows. Or you can let it run around spreading dirt and disease.

But the point remains. It's not the size or color or structure of the Ego. It's how you want to use all the variations of your Ego that matters.

Act I.

I got married in Jeddah, on March 2012. Three months later, around Ramadhan, I pulled the plug on the project and that was that.

Being married to a Saudi meant that that was all I was going to be. A legal minor. As long as I was married, all of my achievements would be accredited to my husband's generosity for allowing me to perform outside my duties as a wife.

For a while, I thought it's just a Saudi thing. But it's a marriage thing, and it's in the implicit details of a lot of marriages around the world. That a woman is expected to represent herself as member of her society. While a man is expected to represent his achievements (and failures) as his very own.

Act II.

I will gladly take vanity as part my issues with marriage. I hated the mere possibility that being married could have done to my writing voice. To my practices. To the decisions that have gone through plenty of consideration (childlessness, meditation, rolling paper).

That my ego just can't stand sharing credit for my work with anyone else. Just like how I don't mind bearing the consequences of the rest of my action as a citizen of the Universe, bound as much as anybody else to the laws of karma and physics.

I could have just rolled over and allowed the society to dictate its opinions on not having children. Or I could have just died because the integrity of identity is part of mental health, and mental health is part of survival. In my head, to indulge the social demands to act as a Saudi man's wife in Saudi, a woman, meant that I had to further forgo the important stuff that made me who and what I am. The stuff that made up my ego.

I couldn't commit to that kind of egocide.

***

Creative writing is a very soul-revealing work. It's very hard to write effectively, to stoke the creative fires, when you only allow parts of your mind onto the page. The contempt I had against one issue infiltrated the rest of my life because I could not arrest it on a page. It made me distrust myself and decisions and adequacy as a human being.

Since I couldn't wrap my words around my feelings about that aspect of my life, I could not trust using my voice about practically anything anywhere. It is as if all the arguments I had against my marriage, backfired against me: Married or not, I lost my voice anyway.

***

Ideally, I should have been able to continue writing even if I were married. Except that I have not seen that many Saudi women writers who managed to juggle creativity, children and marriage. So I presumed them all dead. I didn't want to die.

Part of writing down things is having the power to reframe the world in a structure of sentences. Not being able to write about an episode as important as that is a problem for me this blog. To get over it, I needed to write about it. To write about it, I needed to not get too angry.

Hence, three years of being berricaded in a gridlock of seething silence.

Act III.

Last year, I found that I could write unemotionally while flirting with the cliodynamics of literature. That's when I realized that enough time had passed. And that I've grown just enough ovaries to talk about it with close friends, even though I still couldn't write about it without getting too pissed.

Enter the wonderful world of Internet and the permeating powers of storytelling.

Ghazi Al-Buliwi is an Arab living in New York. From the sounds of it, he basically did the same thing as I did: Signed into a traditional marriage for the (generally) right reasons. Followed by series of discoveries that basically led to...well, you go ahead and have a listen for yourself.

In the meantime, I'm taking his lead by taking it easy on myself. Nobody gets in and out of marriage for a mere handful of reasons. And I just want to have my voice back. I just want to be able to tell my stories with the same ease as Ghazi does.

And if I never had to talk about marriage again (albeit unlikely), then so what?

Transforming the definition for "effort and difficulty" into "that time when neurons are making new connections, when their brains are getting smarter." ~ Paraphrase from Carol Dweck’s TED Talks presentation. 
Once, Sahrish said that reading my blog feels like listening to an old friend talking.

Once, after chatting with Qusai about our creative progress so far in the last few years, I realized two things:
  1. That I have been writing more and publicly since I read Rettig’s book on prolific writers, specifically that chapter on perfectionism.
  2. That it’s easier to be brave when you have company
Those two things made me want to be braver and own up the mediocrity in my writings.

Owning up to my flawed writings sounds like: Yea, I probably can never make money out my writings. But it isn’t because I lack the education or training. It isn’t that my writings aren’t good enough. It isn’t because I’m worthless.

It also sounds like, Okay, my writing is not going to lead me to any recognition, prestigious prizes or publishing. Nothing beyond the scope of an amateur’s indulgent hobby. But that doesn’t make my writings unimportant.

By all means, if I had to choose between the security of marriage and social esteem, I would have chosen writing over again.

Because writing, to me, is true and reliable. It’s as close as I can get to reaching God by intellectual means. The whole process of reading-thinking-writing-repeat is as consummate an investment as taking care of a child.

I haven’t even begun dabbling in publishing.

To the people who matter, the people whose readership and company and opinion truly matter to me at the end of the day, they’d rather find me happy than not. Even if that happiness comes in the form of amateur indulgence.

And there is true, irreplaceable joy in going for broke to figure out what really matters. There are true returns of investment when we take care of ourselves, when we make the effort to stay true to ourselves. There is serious value in finding self-validation by doing the things that make us happy. And the most valued returns cannot be appraised with countable units.

Happiness cannot be measured with conditional rewards.

In a world where conditional rewards are heavily based on results and products instead of process, the work of finding joy in labor takes the heaviest toll. We are expected to be achieve awesome things at the cost of our day-to-day happiness. We are expected to outperform each other in everything we do. We would rather have more likes and followers than to find that fleeting moments of flow in doing the things we love.

Now, one of the ways to feel that we are better than others is by finding those who are performing worse than ourselves. And I think that’s a game I can afford losing for your sake. I think I have to dare showing you my flaws, my shames and my process of getting out of the cycle of my misery.

Not because I need you. No, I’ve passed that. I wouldn’t be writing publicly if I have not secured that "Writer’s Secondary Need for Security and Intimacy" elsewhere. I would not dare to even think aloud if I’m not writing this from a comfortable place where I am sure that I will be loved and wanted even if my writings suck.

It’s just that I’m trying to meet you and the demons of your doubts halfway. Inno, see here, mate, I have been accumulating some love and self-assurance, and thought I could share some of it with you. You’ve already made the effort to read this far, I think I can make it worth your time:
  • That, it would be easier for you to think that you can outdo me, that you can write and create and forwardbend better if I showed you my flaws. 
  • It would be easier for you to see the qualities in your work if you saw someone else (“me”) do worse.
  • I hope that by reading this, you’ll see how you can outperform my mediocrity, or find some sense of community, and that your work is not the worst in the world ever.
  • If I can do any of that, then I would have done my privileges some justice. And if you can do that, then you have a fair chance at being better than good enough. 
And that even good enough is a lot.
 
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