Thoughts on the months that pass. Taking my life seriously now, so perhaps it would do me good to think about life, to do so purposefully.

Go home or View sitemap

Reflecting on March 2024

March was the month of Rilke & the month of solitude. I told the Gull yesterday that at the end of each month, I have “ordained reflection time” & she asked me what that was like, ‘cause she doesn’t reflect like that. It’s those thoughts that end up on this page. I pick up small thoughts along my way through the month, but on that last day I sort through them like tangled jewelry. Really, it’s a pretty small thing. Or maybe not small, but simple. I’m in my own head a lot & I can describe my thoughts as some sort of web, lots of strings that meet in places & then diverge, making an overall pattern but in the end, they’re just disparate strings. Another way I think of them is as tangled threads. Either way, they have a lot of jumping off points; they’re not a straight line. Sometimes my mind will retrace its steps, but for the most part, I live in a mental state of wandering around. This isn’t to say that I’m not contemplative or that I don’t get lost in a single thought, but when I start somewhere I have the tendency to end up somewhere completely different & unrecognizable.

During this “ordained reflection time,” I keep my mind from wandering so much. It’s not on a leash or anything, but I make the effort to guide my thoughts along a single string. I ask myself how I’ve been, why I’ve been that way, if I there was anything significant that happened, if I realized anything, if I want to keep going like this, how I can stop going like this; it’s not like I have a checklist, but these are the sorts of things on my mind. They may seem like a lot of strings, but really they all come down to the same thing: How can I be fulfilled or happy? Or more importantly: Is this how I want to live? Or if these thoughts are a bunch of different strings, then we can think of this as a braiding process.

The “process” is pretty simple, or the “practice” rather: I sit quietly, go on a walk quietly, take a bath quietly, & don’t tell anyone what I’m doing & just think. I don’t write it down as I’m thinking either. I don’t know why. I think it's alright for these sorts of thoughts to be vague, because they’re as much feelings as they are thoughts. It can be easier to admit things to ourselves internally than on paper too.

-----

In February I said that I would dedicate the month of March to “climb[ing] out of this hole” & I think I’m there, or at least I’ve got my hands above ground now & I just have to keep pulling myself up; it’ll be a while till my feet aren’t dangling in the subterranean darkness, but I think I’m breathing clean air again. I feel like one of those cats on the posters, you know, “Hang in there!” That’s how Vashti is situated in her hole. At least I’m not curled up at the bottom anymore.

This was a month-long process, (& will be a several months long process as I see it to the end), but I didn’t get close to this till about mid-March. Wasn’t even close enough that I could see it. All I could see was a vague outline, one I couldn’t distinguish from friend or foe; didn’t know if I should feel afraid of my future. I said,

“What to do now? I think the time for thinking has ended & that it’s time to work quietly. I’m someone who spends most of her time thinking, retreating into some form of contemplation, but it’s not the time for retreat anymore. I’m indecisive, & instead of doing things with my hands, with my body, I think things in my head, spin them around, weigh them, imagine them. I squeeze every thought like I’m comparing pieces of fruit at the grocery store & I never eat them. I need to eat. I’m so hungry.

“I’m making a promise to myself: Just until April, I’m going to try. I will decide on the life I want & I will commit to it, even in uncertainty & even at risk of failure.

Reading this, I can say that I stuck to my guns, (a phrase that I’ve been using a lot lately). That isn’t to say that I became happy. I don’t even know if I'm happy now as I write this, but I did what I said I would. I really tried. All month. Maybe I tried & failed, but that didn't stop me from trying, & I didn't say that I wanted to succeed- I said I wanted to try. When I say “to work quietly,” I mean to go forward without questioning everything. For me, part of that was shelving thoughts of suicide. They were there, but I wasn’t following them. I didn’t push or pull on them, just observed them, which brings me to a realization I had:

My feelings are not lies. When I get like this, I see my feelings as an adversary, you know, I’m feeling bad & I shouldn’t feel bad. I’m feeling suicidal & I shouldn’t feel suicidal. I see them as deceptive & untrue, or like tricks, like a cartoon hole hidden under some leaves that I have wandered & fallen into. This way of thinking is wrong. Feelings don’t lie to us. Feelings are true, even awful feelings: Shame, disgust, defeat, despair, desolation: These are not lies. Not even the desire to kill yourself is a lie. They’re more like kids that don’t know anything & they’re trying their best & they are wrong, but they aren’t lying to you. They don’t have that capacity & they don’t have the malice for it. They’re not duplicitous. They’re just misguided, so you don’t have to let them guide you. You just gotta accept them without listening to them, which is to feel them without doing what they say. There’s no blame when I think about it this way, no blame towards these feelings that can’t help themselves or towards me for having them, just acceptance.

-----

The other realization that I had, probably one of the most important in all this life, is this idea of authenticity- I’ve been doing it wrong. I’ve been looking at authenticity almost as a performance, you know, like to be authentic is to present myself as accurately as possible so that others don’t misunderstand me. I was looking at authenticity as a sort of self disclosure, but it’s not. Authenticity is for the self. Authenticity isn’t something that I do to avoid being misunderstood, it’s not caring if others misunderstand me.

This is something that I’ve been thinking of since February & I will write more about it elsewhere, ‘cause I’ve also been thinking about what it means to write here & have come to the conclusion that I don’t care about anyone else when I’m here. Not at all. If you’re reading this, I don’t care. If you’re not reading this, I don’t care. Authenticity is the ability to exist in the open & to not care. Writing is the ability to exist in the open & not care. This writing is for me only. I was starting to think of others as I was writing & I realized very quickly that I had to rid myself of it like a tumor. It was truly an emergency of the self. I want to write & I want to write for no one. I have nothing to explain.

What really illuminated it for me was this lyrical interpretation that I read of Eugene by Sufjan Stevens. I have a lot of trouble listening to & interpreting song lyrics, deciphering the words not in the artistic sense, but in the literal sense, so I went on a site to read the lyrics to Eugene as I was listening. One of the lines goes,

“Lemon yogurt
Remember I pulled at your shirt”

& out of curiosity, I clicked to see how someone else had interpreted it & they said,

“We don’t know exactly what lemon yogurt has to do with pulling on his mother’s shirt (only Sufjan knows).”

& reading this, I understood instantly: This is what art is. This is what writing is. This is what living is. The things we write do not need to be understood by others. It’s that simple. & now I don’t care if anyone understands me. I will try to understand me & that will be enough.

-----

In the spirit of working quietly, I have more of a to-do list for this month as opposed to any other words about it:

  1. Work quietly & try.
  2. As long as you try, you can fail & I will love you regardless. “The soul is a huge thing : maybe [you] just scraped its knee.”

  3. Continue to pursue solitude.
  4. I read Letters to a Young Poet by Rainer Maria Rilke this month, twice actually, & his advice to embrace solitude has saved my soul. My soul is a tattered & stained dishrag & his writing sewed some of its pieces back together, enough to go on.

  5. Stop being so preoccupied with the future.
  6. I have my acceptance letter, my scholarships, my plane tickets & that’s enough. I’ve done the work. I can enjoy myself without thinking so far ahead.

  7. You don’t have as much time as you used to & you need to choose what is most important to you.
  8. Writing & everything falls second to that. (Writing for no one!) Then reading & walking under the open sky. Really read. Read a lot. Read under the open sky.

  9. Authenticity above all else; existing in the open.
  10. Authenticty is the antidote to shame.

  11. Love your suffering.
  12. Sometimes, maybe most of the time, it's all you have.

-----

Some small threads from this month: We don’t always need to respond to others; we can respond in silence or in action / “We cannot even imagine how huge our souls are, I think we both agree on this, but what if this is precisely because god is there in them ? Why do you want to see all you can of the world before your pigeon heart stops beating ? Why the want of everything new ? *Is it maybe to uncover some corner of your spirit you haven’t met, but know sits waiting to be touched by the sun of your insight ?” / Speaking out loud & praying out loud / Books & noodles & coffee & other simple pleasures are okay & you do not deserve to feel guilty about enjoying them / Love the questions for now & live till you get your answer / No numbers / Started carrying a little notebook around, writing in passing

*Like Rilke wrote:

“For imagining an individual’s existence as a larger or smaller room reveals to us that most people are only acquainted with one corner of their particular room, a place by the window, a little area to pace up and down. That way, they have a certain security. And yet the perilous uncertainty that drives the prisoners in Poe’s tales to grope out the outlines of their terrible dungeons and so to know the unspeakable horrors of their surroundings, is so much more human. But we are not prisoners. There are no traps or snares set up around us, and there is nothing that should frighten or torment us. We are placed into life as into the element with which we have the most affinity, and moreover we have after thousands of years of adaptation come to resemble this life so closely that if we keep still we can, thanks to our facility for mimicry, hardly be distinguished from all that surrounds us. We have no reason to be mistrustful of our world, for it is not against us. If it holds terrors they are our terrors, if it has its abysses these abysses belong to us, if there are dangers then we must try to love them. And if we only organize our life according to the principle which teaches us always to hold to what is difficult, then what now still appears most foreign will become our most intimate and most reliable experience. How can we forget those ancient myths found at the beginnings of all peoples? The myths about the dragons who at the last moment turn into princesses? Perhaps all the dragons in our lives are princesses, only waiting for the day when they will see us handsome and brave? Perhaps everything terrifying is deep down a helpless thing that needs our help.”

Reflecting on February 2024

February was a month of cruelty & a month that was marked by a lack of clarity, of blindfolding myself, purposefully or not. I was the most depressed that I had been in a very long time. It made me feel like a teenager again. I had a thought one day that I wished I were dead & after that, I couldn’t get rid of it: It played in a loop in my head, minute by minute, like punctuation between thoughts or like a coughing fit between words.

I said that I lacked clarity, but in a way, the opposite was true, & it was as though the thing I blindfolded myself was an awful mirror- Cruel & self-inflicted introspection. I came to the realization that to some extent, I hate myself. I do not think that this was my depression cooing at me either; even now, I really think that some part of me hates myself. I don’t yet know what to do with this information. I’m holding it but I don’t know how or where to set it down.

As I write this, I am still in a tender place, & my bruising has not yet begun to turn yellow. With this in mind, my goals for March are going to be simple ones that I think will be manageable for me:

  1. Start reading again, a book a week
  2. Do enjoyable things, even small ones like video games (I don’t think I’ve played any since January)
  3. Seek out emotion in art & in the mundane world around you
    • In February, I had forgotten how to cry
  4. Consistent wake up time & bed time: 12-2 AM & 9 AM
  5. Stop distracting yourself, look at the world & at yourself, even if it’s painful

This last point in particular is important to me. I’ve developed this pernicious habit of trying to avoid all thought & the worst part is, it hasn’t even worked. I just haven’t allowed myself to reflect in any sort of meaningful way & instead, most of my thoughts have been consumed with self-loathing or the conscious feeling of numbness. This month, I’m really going to try to just exist in myself, as myself. No hiding.

It would be a lie to say that I feel confident or strong, but I will still try to use this March to climb out of this hole.

Reflecting on January 2024

January has been a good month to me. I often feel as though the months have passed too quickly & have left me behind, but this month was not like that. It moved forward at a purposeful but leisurely pace & I walked with it, neither being left behind nor rushing past it.

My days felt the longest that they have in a while. I’ve taken up reading again & have a book with me in my spare time, even at work I lean against a wall & fall into its pages until something pulls me away. Some of my days felt longer because I stayed up late into the night, reading for hours, like a child. Despite being the middle of winter, this month was like a summer to me: It felt childish & long in the best of ways.

Among my New Year’s Resolutions, which I am still serious about, I said I wanted to read 100 books & I’ve decided to change that. Here is my reasoning: If I were to pursue my goal of reading 100 books just to read 100 books, then I would prioritize reading shorter, easier books. I’m not going to do that. Rather than reading lots of books, I just want to read a lot. I came to this conclusion when I picked up Anna Karenina from the used book store: If I really wanted to reach my goal, I could read two or three books in the place of Anna Karenina, but I don’t want to do that; I want to read for the sake of reading & have fallen so thoroughly in love with it again that I don’t need any sort of extrinsic motivators or goal posts, I can just read to read. So Vashti’s revised New Year’s Resolution is to read a lot. It’s that simple.

Along with reading, I’ve started cooking regularly, every day, & will not stop. It’s quickly become one of my most cherished hobbies. Another one of my New Year’s resolutions was to “eat more good food,” which has morphed into “make yourself good food,” & so I have learned to cook. I’ve never been bad at following recipes, but this is the first time that I’ve taken liberties with experimenting in the kitchen, altering or even ignoring recipes because I think I can do it better. My time in the kitchen is so enjoyable that I’ve found on some days I’m not even listening to music like I normally do- I just follow the beat of my knife & the hum of the gas stove; it’s all I need.

Outside of these hobbies, the biggest change in my life is my room & a new mindset: This month I cleaned out my room & gave away the majority of my possessions. It was easy too, so easy, easier than I thought was possible. I realized that I didn’t really care for most of the things around me, that they were just there, fossils of the past that I felt no sentimentality towards. I believe it was easy because I viewed it as an affirmation of my values in many ways:

I shaved my head this month too & it made me realize that the people around me misunderstand me, even when I make an effort to be understood. When I was asked why I shaved my head, which many people asked me, I explained that while I was in Oregon, & even before that, dyeing my hair began to feel like an obligation: Rather than something fun & something that gives me a sense of agency, it felt like something I had to do to maintain my appearance and identity. This was the first time I had felt this way, & it felt like twinges of vanity. I decided that to rid myself of these feelings that had wormed their way into me, I would rid myself of my hair, a way to practice nonattachment. This felt like the natural progression to ridding myself of my once beloved things, to rid myself of my hair. I don’t think anyone really listened to me when I explained this to them: any reactions I got ranged from confused to incredulous. When I made a mistake shaving my head, shaving it a bit too low in a few places, my family pointed it out to me & I again explained that the way my hair looks didn’t matter to me, that it was a practice in freeing myself from attachment to things & from vanity, to better live in line with my beliefs. They wouldn’t hear me, wouldn’t listen. It felt somewhat lonely, but it felt that I was doing right by myself & the loneliness didn’t matter much at all.

Among the other happenings & things that have come to pass: I got my driver’s license. My dad then totaled the car & so I now have no car to drive. We found my passport. A new semester started, my last one at this school. I found a new favorite album, Kokou no Gadan by Kyojaku. I’ve started drinking tea because it is cheaper, has a sense of novelty, & because I have been saving money. I haven’t bought anything for myself this month, beyond a concert ticket. I saw Kikuo in concert! I found an old Kindle & have downloaded many PDFs to it. I have a newfound & budding interest in Greco-Roman mythology. Newfound interest in stoicism. I’ve been taking lots of baths & doing things by candlelight. I feel as though my writing has taken a turn for the worse, but I realize that this is likely just a perceived inadequacy, evident only to me.

Beyond the concrete, my mindset has shifted into one of acceptance. I’ve stopped myself from worrying about things that I’m unsure of, that I don’t know about, that I have no control over. It’s made work much more agreeable & this is the closest I’ve come to liking my shitty job. I’ve come to understand that rather than pushing against these things that I hate, I should push through them, try to pass through them quickly, as if I’m swimming along with a current. To swim against a current is to stay in the same place, to swim with a current is to let it carry you forward & all I want is change. Come May, I will be ready to transfer to a new school, will quit my job, will be on my way to Japan, will come back & start student teaching. In a few months’ time, my life will be radically different & hopefully unrecognizable to me.

Approaching February, I would most of all like to continue living this way. This is the happiest I’ve been in a really long time. It wasn’t until now that I realized this is how things should be. I understand now in retrospect that I was depressed last fall. I managed it well, better than I ever have, but the feelings were there. I didn’t know things could be this good & this easy for me, not to say there’s no effort on my part: I don’t let myself fall into apathy or let myself atrophy; I’ve make myself keep going, with purpose, & have found ease in force. The actions may not be easier, but getting myself to do what I want is easier. Maybe the word is “discipline.”

This next month, I’d like to take up studying Japanese for my upcoming trip, the basics, & would like to challenge myself creatively: by drawing & in my writing. I need to learn to be bad at things again, to do things poorly & unrepentantly. Unrestrained & without overthinking, just enough though to not stifle myself. That’s what I want.


February goals:

  1. Continue reading & continue cooking.
  2. Take up studying Japanese.
  3. Make "bad" drawings & focus on the expression of feeling rather than form.
  4. Make an effort to write outside of your diary pages: Write longer pieces (like you are now), write poetry, do something new, because who knows what you will like? You'll only find more of yourself to explore.
  5. Make an effort to pray & to read tarot.
  6. Continue extending patience to those around you. It's only proved to serve you well.
  7. Keep treating your future as though it is fast approaching, because it is.
  8. Abandon other's standards: Wake up when you want to wake up, sleep when you want to sleep. No planners if you don't want one. Don't try to be anything but yourself.