A Sadness Runs Through Her

April was tough. Tough and magical. Tough, magical, and surreal. 

My heart has been stretched, full, and wrung at varying times during the warm, Gulmohar-laden month of April. I’ve written 30 poems for NaPoWriMo, kept as many rozas as women can keep (23, because: periods), cooked whatever dish was fancied that day for Iftar, and worked 12 hours to keep the capitalistic machine going. It was not a month but a fever-dream — delirium flowed through me and I wasn’t sure if it was the hunger and thirst, or the seeking of poems every day, or the spiritual quest that abounds fasting, or the non-reflective living we seem to do as a society. We are on auto-pilot and I find myself stuck between grasping at life’s curiosities while simultaneously asking myself the question — is this the life I want to live? I ask my heart — is this what you want?

I don’t write much about the heart anymore, do I? Of where it has been lately, who it has loved, and how it has been battered, broken. I follow my heart into whatever gullies it takes me, whether it is buying more-than-enough nude lipsticks online never to wear them or trying out a new anxiety-alleviating technique I’ve researched or in the making of questionable life/career decisions. I am never without my heart even if I am accompanying it into pain. Of late, I have wanted things to be easy, but not knowing how or when. Not knowing how the struggle will cease but hoping, nay knowing, blindly that something good will come. 

Now that I am thinking of an easy love, I am reminded of a short story I had written in which a college-going woman falls platonically in love with an older man in her apartment building. She’s often smoking at the stairs of her building when this man comes back from work. The man cooks casseroles for them to eat at dinner. They sit on a mattress on the floor watching the news, talk about the people they love who have hurt them so, and poke around for chicken inside the casserole, or not. I didn’t write it as a love story because writers are not supposed to spell everything out, but it was clear (to me) that these two people were in love. It was an easy-going love, not having to fall into the purple field of forever-after, without the burden of promises, being a healing salve to each other. (I hope the readers read it that way.)

Maybe it is easier to talk and write about love of the youth. Maybe it is easier to sing about heartbreak when love is virginal, and not in the biblical way. Maybe I am in the liminal space where I am yet to make sense of all the very big feelings I’ve been feeling. I am stretched, challenged, enchanted, eager, and yet. I want softness and I want ease. 

I see people around me wanting to place their trust somewhere. It could be a projection because I have come to realise that I have placed my trust in a moment of the future somewhere. I have done this without any evidence that an easier life exists. My mental health is permissibly sorry. I am not sure of anything I am doing anymore. I don’t know if I have any skills at all. Can I make tea? Can I endure an hour of physical strength training? Can I use an Excel sheet to add numbers? Do I have the right to exist in the spaces I do? I feel inadequate and not enough. I tell everyone it is okay to ask for help, but I am wary of asking for help, myself. I have somehow been made to feel like not knowing certain things and not being a certain way excludes me from spaces. I try very hard to fight this feeling of not belonging. I also recognise that I must not be party to environments that do not enrich me. I yo-yo between all sorts of states of being — hopeful, striving, distressing — and get on with my days. I trust in that small moment of the future like a fasting person trusts that the sun will set, water will come to their lips. It is a damning thing. 

However, the saving grace of this all is that my immediate circle of family and friends pick me up every time I fall. I find this to be both beautiful and sorrowful. Why, I wonder, do my people have to mend what other people and life breaks in me? I don’t think there’s an adequate answer for this. I just know that we all want to believe in something, in someone. We want to feel safe and protected even if it means that we feel safe enough to shed our tears in the presence of someone willing to witness us falling apart. I know this to be true. There is enough evidence of it.

Lately, I have stopped raging at the machine. I lean into my privilege and focus on the small things that get me by. I have accepted that my mental health and spirit need me right now. I need me. That small window of time where I mix hibiscus and rosemary oil to massage into my scalp needs me. The machine is not welcome into that window of time or otherwise. The people who don’t positively contribute to me are not welcome. The patterns of interactions that make me feel less than are not welcome. But love is.

Love, of any kind, is welcome into my life. The easy-going love of gulping down ice apples. The love of sewing to repair torn clothes. The love given to me when I am being vulnerable and worn out. The love of double chocolate chip ice cream. The love of endings. The love of dreaming about casseroles you will make for me as I sit and smoke while I wait for you. Whoever you are. Come. Sit. Let us feast on our life.

1. My poems from NaPoWriMo can be found on the collective blog Daily Riyaaz.
2. The short story I mentioned above is published on Coldnoon but their link seems broken. If you wish to read it, send me an email and I will send you a copy. You can email me at amarllyis [at] gmail [dot] com.

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