Mourning Wall

“We never love anyone. What we love is the idea we have of someone. It’s our own concept—our own selves—that we love.”

― Fernando Pessoa, The Book of Disquiet

I’ve been thinking a lot about the implications of possessing a conscience. The frailty of the human spirit, and the fragility of the relationships we hold. It takes a lot to procure a relationship, a bond with a person as dynamic and unpredictable as you. We get to know so many people throughout our fleeting years and to think that you possess a place among their thoughts is a burden. Their expectations and their opinion you, what space they occupy in their limited capacity. Who are you to them? Does it mirror the perception of the self? How often do they think about you? Are you worthy of their time? It’s impossible to decipher, the limitations of the brain so many people before us have tried to understand.

I’m not even sure if I know myself. Times have been rough lately, and for me, things have taken a dark turn. I’ve begun to see a new doctor, and they’ve postulated on what’s been bothering me. They assume that the depression I’ve had for some time now might be manic depression or bipolar disorder. Both labels are intimidating, and dare I say, frightening, and have pushed me to question my ideals and what compromises my being. I’ve always tried to maintain consistency as a virtue, as I think reliability is a key element in trust. With this new label, I can’t even trust myself to do that. My emotions, what compromises my external and internal being, have been illuminated by a light that casts dual shadows. Which one should I trust? Which one is dominant at which time? My state of mind is fickle. At least, that’s what ran through my head when the doctor said those words. It could be possible that I’m just gaslighting myself into an identity crisis. I get worried that I have diabetes when my feet get cold, after all. I can’t be sure, and that’s what scares me the most.

I visited the synagogue I used to attend as a kid after the appointment. The clinic is only a short drive away. My parents never really tried to impose their religious beliefs upon me or my sister, save for the rare Christmas mass or Passover seder, but my dad had some of his loved ones engraved upon the memorial outside of the temple as something to maintain the connection and honor the fallen. My mom was Roman Catholic, but her name is up there nevertheless. I hope I don’t sound sappy or self-indulgent when you’re reading this, but when I go through the names I recognize on that wall, I always am taken aback. There’s more than just the names engraved, too. It spurred some reflection. The feeling of sonder is not alien to me, but the severance of human life is a lot to think about no matter how much you’re acclimated to it. I loved my mother, even if I never got the chance to fully digest her “personhood” as much as I did my father. But even then, I find that I don’t think about her as much as I should. I just go about my day, living my meager existence in spite of losing someone who gave me more than I could ever give back. And all the other people, my grandparents, uncle, my dad’s brother, all of these people, had their stories end in ultimate finality. People go on to live their lives. They mourn, they cope, and they move on.

What’s the point, then? As much as you try to cement your legacy, the impact you’ve had upon other people, everything about you, it will all fade away. If I can’t even be bothered to remember the woman who gave me life, then what does that mean for me? If I just died one day, would anyone really remember me after the funeral? This isn’t an original thought, by any means, but the thought has been something that I’ve been grappling with especially lately. The nature of this postmodern era dictates that your 15 minutes of fame come and go in the blink of an eye. Fame on TikTok can’t even be trusted to last more than a week. Memes come and go in a fashion never seen before, cultural institutions rising and falling in a myopic pointlessness. 

I don’t really have a moral to tell here. It’s mostly venting. But talking about this subject, a memory comes to mind. I was a senior in high school talking to one of my teachers who I adored,  Mrs. Nayak. I remember dropping into her class, as seniors do, and striking up a conversation. This was about the time we were receiving our decisions from college, and I went off on my usual spiel about consequentiality and how if I don’t get into the school I want I’d have a stroke. Instead of feeding my strange case of megalomania, she offered a rebuttal. “Is it better to mean something to the masses and be forgotten, or be remembered by the people that matter to you?”. I dismissed it at the time in my bout of mania, but I come back thinking about it more often now than ever before. I think we can all get a little wrapped up in ourselves. Especially as a college student, who’s been primed their entire life to go to an institution and “make something of yourself” without any real direction. I don’t want to be the guy who’s sitting around in his mid 50s questioning where he went wrong, y’know? But there’s two sides to that coin. Lamenting lost potential on heads, and lamenting lost human connection on tails. Nobody really “wins” this damned game of life, and you can be sure as hell you have no stake in what happens after “GAME OVER”. But you might as well appreciate what we have here and now, right? Make sure they remember you, at least a little bit.

[REDACTED]

Something missing
Always has been missing
Since my mom passed
And that cruel friendship
Oh so painful

I’m stuck in a loop
An eternal loop
It’s like escaping quicksand
The pits of hell

Self-inflicted
Like an abusive relationship
I am a facsimile
To the pessimist within

But I hold people dear to my heart
And I’m sure they would say otherwise
Tell me I’m enough
And that I make their live nothing but better

I am more than what I think I am
Not a pain to have around
It’s going to be an agonizing process
To overcome this illness

To take off the blindfold

https://anartistformerlyknownas.wordpress.com/2020/12/28/%e2%96%88%e2%96%88%e2%96%88%e2%96%88%e2%96%88%e2%96%88%e2%96%88%e2%96%88%e2%96%88%e2%96%88/

██████████

Something missing
Always ████████ missing
████████████ passed
████████ cruel █████████
█████ painful

█████████ in a loop
██ eternal ████
It’s like escaping █████████
The pits of hell

██████████████
███████ abusive ████████████
I am a facsimile
███████████████████████

██████████ people ████████████████
█████████████████ would say █████████
Tell me I’m enough
████████ I make their lives ████████████ worse

I am █████████ what I think I am
███ a pain to have around
It’s ██████████████ agonizing ███████
███████████ this illness

███████████████ blindfold

https://anartistformerlyknownas.wordpress.com/2020/12/28/redacted/

Sinew

My hair flows with the oscillations of a fan
Like tendrils
The rays of light through my blinds
Like tendrils
The phone is the brightest thing in the room
Blinding me
Curated snippets from perfect lives
Blinding me
I yearn for something greater
Something bigger
The shame I feel malignantly festers
Something bigger
The world outside escapes my grasp
Swiftly absconding
Hope of a life better than this
Swiftly absconding
I turn my phone off and stare at my ceiling
And the tendrils wrap around my eyes, blinding me
A large part of my being, hastily escaping never to be seen again

This Charming Man

The sands of time are unrelenting, and they won’t stop for you
Nor I, and every day I can imagine the sands in an hourglass slowly sinking.

Sinking is a feeling I don’t want to imagine, hopelessly struggling against the grains of a desert
That leaves you with nothing but a succumbing feeling of futility.
Like a race, against time or against the weight of the world. And like a race
That I’m woefully ill-equipped to win, there’s nothing more crushing than your own futility.

It’s a fact that I choose to ruminate on every day, whether it be from a glimpse in a mirror
Or the people around me who’ve shown more resolve than I could ever hope to match.
I am a defendant in a case filed against me by my own ambition,
Critical in a devastatingly clinical way, observant and cunning to the point where I have no hope
Of competing.

I think I’m balding.
I isolate myself intentionally to chase the high of suffering.
I’ve never been skinny.
I’ll never amount to anything, and you’ll never see the fruits of your labor.
I wish I was taller.
My friends will move on and I’ll be drowned in the dust of their wake.

How am I even supposed to argue
With the demon on my shoulder? They never shut up, and they never allow me to breathe.
My megalomania gets into scraps with my doubts, and I live with internal strife
That clouds my perception of reality. Who am I?
Am I Pontius Pilate? Of what sins must I wash my hands for?
Must I be both the Virgil to my Dante? There are people who are willing to help
Yet I continue to refuse.

The bright glow of a monitor keeps me company into the faint hours of the night,
With the sun rearing its blinding crown to let me know my transgressions.
My refusal to improve upon myself is my decision, yet I complain about it to no end.
Yet, despite all of it, the image of a disillusioned college student,
A contemporary Raskolnikov faintly illuminated by his cigarette and accompanied by the whinging of a Smiths song never fails to entrap me.

The dichotomy between my self-hatred and my romanticization of suffering is going to leave me with nothing.
But it won’t stop me. And that leaves me here, writing this sybaritic poetry.
I can only think
“Who else but me?”

Cold Front

The wind was flowing with an icy sting on that fateful November day. I say fateful as if it wasn’t a pathetic attempt at either confronting my fears of living my life in mediocrity or confronting my fear that I’m just like everybody else, that I’m nothing more than just a fleeting sensation on the palm of Gaia’s great hand. The megalomania that fuels me is a thought like a malignant cancer that infects and seeps from my being like a parasite. I want to be a great author, and I want to be someone who’s left an impact on an unfathomable of people. As people, our capacity to remember faces caps out at 400 or so, so maybe that number would satisfy. Sometimes I’m not even sure I could call the feeling megalomania. Have I convinced myself that I’m bad, worthy of contempt? Or is this who I’m meant to be? The self-pity leaves an icy sting that I have to graze my finger over.

I drove my car in the wee hours of the morning up onto the 8th floor of the parking structure and was met by the sight of a black lattice fence. I was sobbing, but laughing. The icy sting of the wind was exacerbated on my dampened cheeks. I had nothing to my name, not even the title of “first to off themselves on this particular parking structure”. The pitiful irony of my woes posed against the nature of my ever-nearing death. I always laugh. It’s how I rationalize it, a court jester staving off the chopping block appeasing his fickle master. My name might as well be Pagliacci. I wiped the stream of tears off my face with a sleeve of my sweatshirt, staving off the urge to vomit. No originality, and destined for a whimper rather than a scream.

It was getting colder. My supernatural resistance to cold wasn’t enough to warm my heart. My fingers began to tremble. Or was that the adrenaline? I think of my sister and my father. I don’t think they would’ve been happy to hear the news. Was I determined enough to climb the fence and take the plunge for an outcome so grim? I think of my mother. She wouldn’t have been happy to hear it either. Despite the glaring flaws of an angsty little shit on the cusp of being a teenager, she extended her love for me even in her last moments. All of those expectations laid to waste in one night. The icy sting of loss and lost potential nipped at my face.

I dialed the suicide hotline I saw plastered everywhere with my trembling hands. The phone could hardly stay in my hands as they put me on hold. A kind man named Jason picked up the phone, and talked me through the episode. I’d been through this process several times before, and by now I knew every meaningless platitude they’d throw at me. But we started to delve into the banalities of life, talking about this video game I used to play as a kid. I remembered the experience of booting it up for the first time, the emotional investments I put into the characters I played, and the disappointment at the anticlimactic ending. Jason and I shared a peal of uneasy laughter. The icy sting of experiences I’d never be privy to pushed me back into the car.

My drive home was marked with an amalgam of the most saccharinely sweet melodies and darkest of elegies put into song. A melodramatic end to an anticlimactic night. The clock in my car read 2:30 AM, and the odometer 4,352 miles. I sat in my car for a few moments before gingerly stepping out and making the trek towards the staircase up to my unit. I didn’t have the courage to go through with it. A strange juxtaposition of a morbid victory versus a hopeful defeat. My roommates stared at me as I walked in, the salty tears dried upon my pallid and exhausted face.

“It’s a bit chilly tonight.”

A Stream

Something arises within me, a fleeting thought

Who am I to claim I deserve to fulfill my dreams?

Who deserves to claim that I won’t fulfill my dreams?

The pressures from an uncaring world, cold and dark

Like a 5 AM shower when my eyes won’t close, cold and dark

The gentle sounds of scalding water dripping from my back

The gentle movement of a tear rolling from someone’s cheek

There’s more to this world than just me, I know that much

And I know as much that there’s more suffering in this world than I can imagine

There are people in my life that rely on me for different things

People in my life rely on things that I can only trust myself to give

There’s purpose in being a confidant, a friend and a healer

A jester and a dilettante, what is my purpose?

In the arms of someone I love, I realize it was only a fleeting thought

Something more despondent

The most regret a person can experience is when lamenting lost potential. I’m horrified by it every waking moment of every day. I stand petrified by it, the looming specter of my failure inching closer every with every second that passes without me working towards my aspirations. Sometimes I think it stems from some kind of self-hatred. I hardly think I’m talented enough to make it big and make my mark before I wither away, failing to have my name stay on the lips more than two generations down the line. On the other hand, it might be due to some kind of unacknowledged megalomania, a craving for exceptionalism that forces me to ignore the true joys in life in favor of some unachievable, selfish dream. I think about it every day, ruminating on my every move trying to see where specifically I fucked up, flinging myself down a timeline where I die unhappy.

But is that every timeline? Am I always going to be unhappy? Crushing myself with unrealistic standards isn’t a great way to live a long and prosperous life. I can’t remember the last day in which I haven’t fantasized about shoving the barrel of a rifle down my throat. Oh, how I yearn to feel my tongue dislodge when the cold steel of a firearm finds its way into my mouth. That or a quick shot in the head from some stupid fucking pig of a cop while fighting against injustice, accidentally martyrizing me and solidifying my legacy further than I’d ever imagined. A guy can hope.

A lot of what this stems from is what I project onto others. I fall into the category of “gifted kids” who impressed their elementary school teachers with a reading skill marginally better than the rest of the class (who would shortly catch up by the end of the year). In the hollow and vapid way many parents and friends do, they compliment you and bloat your ego with meaningless bullshit until one thinks they’re destined for greatness. Statistically speaking, no fucking way. That was me projecting again, as half of this is just justification for my own failures and inflated expectations for myself. I had a small anxiety attack just looking at another person’s pictures on social media the other day. It wasn’t even someone I knew, just in my explore page on Instagram. But they were going to a more prestigious college than I, framing themselves in the photo in front of a New York subway. I’m not at said prestigious college, or in New York, so I’m probably going to die an unnotable failure. Something as banal and non-intrusive as that set me off. Or like when I see a lengthy and eloquent post on Canvas that I didn’t write. That situation in particular often puts me into “existential crisis” mode. I perceive them to be more talented than I. I’m crushed by the presumption that they managed to cultivate their skill greater than mine in the same timeframe I was given. It demoralizes me to such a degree that I have to resort to drowning in alcohol. I’m fucking pathetic.

Why do I always find myself being compared to others by none other than myself? Maybe that goes back to the gifted thing. Maybe it’s the insecurities that rule my life (ironic, given the megalomania that’s being discussed). Maybe it’s the way our society has raised us, telling us it’s a “dog eat dog world”, and that the Darwinian principles of nature and competitiveness somehow apply to the anomaly that is human society. There’s a lot of culprits here, and my willingness to accept everything as my own fault has proven itself to do nothing but make things worse.

Y’know, I’m not really even sure why I’m writing this. What purpose does this little essay serve? Why do I feel the need to broadcast this to my astounding audience of the 50 people (if even that many read this stupid fucking blog)? I can’t really give an answer. Do I like to vent? Yeah. Do I think this offers any meaning to anybody but me? Probably not. Maybe you can relate. The constant cacophony of garbage that’s thrown at a person by modernity and capitalism might elicit revulsion from a few of you. ‘Cause I think that’s what some of this whole thing stems from. My grandeur is fueled by consumerism and the worst of Western values. Individualism can be toxic, forcing people to pigeonhole themselves into an auto-cannibalistic pit of dismay and shattered dreams. Not to say that being fiercely independent is always horrible, or that Western values are all trash (for the Tradcaths in my audience), but something about fervent self-reliance isolates the individual and poisons their soul. That’s how I rationalize what I’m going through. Sounds better than just “being a selfish and elitist asshole”. So to you, dearest and most treasured reader, don’t be like me. Don’t feel ashamed to revel in mundanity for a while. Don’t feel ashamed to merely exist.

You beautiful human being, you

I’ve been pretty miserable lately. I think that’s true for a lot of people. Generally have spent a lot of time in the past couple months feeling like shit. I can feel my mind falling apart, the little cognizance I have left oozing through the creases in my brain matter. I’ve been through about 3 different medications over the course of the quarantine. Called the suicide hotline a couple of times. Torn out some hair. Whatever. My comical descent into madness isn’t the point of what I’m about to write. The free time from being confined to my home has given me ample time to ruminate on what makes me tick. What gives me the will to keep going. There’s a lot in this world that I don’t understand. I think that’s true for a lot of people. But I think that’s what makes our short time on Earth so meaningful, even if it can be scary.

We’ve been deprived of something so integral to our sense of wonder. As people living in the modern age, everything around us has been commodified and clinically analyzed to the point where there’s nothing left to ponder about. I’m not trying to be an anti-intellectual, I promise, but I think there’s something inherent in the way capitalism has boiled the world down that makes us unhappy. The world is orderly. There’s structure, and you’re meant to be funneled into filling the role of a cog in a massive machine. We aren’t allowed to dream, aren’t allowed to appreciate the minutiae in life. If you do that, you’re somehow wasting time. Productivity has been conflated with worth and meaning. To stand still and observe your surroundings is deemed worthless.

I sit here typing on a light-up keyboard, staring blankly and comatose at a massive monitor that makes my pupils contract. The power of electricity fuel the motors and circuits for almost 50,000 people in this city alone. The wonders of the modern world are made banal, our collective feats of ingenuity unappreciated. Rocks tricked into thinking, right in our pocket. Flying metal birds being propelled miles above the ground. Being able to circumnavigate the globe in less than a single revolution of our shared planet. Science and modernity aren’t diametrically opposed to the feeling of wonder that once fueled our ancestors. Our understanding of history isn’t, either. Conceptualizing all of the history that put you here, in this exact moment, can put things in perspective. All of the beautiful, serendipitous, horrible, zemblanous history that led to you reading this very post on your mobile phone. All of the puzzles had to fit into place, something very few people will ever truly internalize. You are an anomaly, a statistical unlikelihood that forced itself into being. The human experience, with almost 14 billion years of universal history preceding it, potentially couldn’t have occurred given a single atom out of place. The beauty of the sublime isn’t nonsense. It surrounds us. 

The universe is a beautiful place. The stars and galaxies in our sky presenting us with a stellar fireworks show free of charge. The wind rustling a meadow filled with flowers. The sun setting under a sky filled with hues of pink and orange. The pillowy chew of a Chinatown pork bun in bustling Manhattan. The thumping bassline of your favorite song. The warmth of an embrace from your favorite person. The sun bleeding through the blinds onto your bedsheets. The wafting scent of a patch of flowers on a morning run. The respite of a comfortable sofa after a long day. The elation you get after winning a round of your favorite game. The granular feel of a page on your dampened finger. The many intricacies that put a day in your life together can be enough for you to be happy. To exist happily is to resist the system that tries its damndest to put you down. 

If you’ve ever interacted with me in person, you know that I’m quick to jump on the soapbox. Espousing my feelings is one of the only ways I feel confident to brute force my way into the next day, and the day after that. There are many things in this world that spoil my spirit. I don’t think life will ever stop being painful. Life can take as much as it can give. The troubles that have befallen you won’t go away with the wave of a hand. I can’t expect you, or anyone for that matter, to forget that fact. But I want you to prevail. I want you to feel happy. Throw off the shackles that capitalism has fastened to your wrists, and live your life happy. Go out into the woods and read a book. Indulge in your favorite food. Play that shitty video game. Let yourself loose. Because if you don’t allow yourself to, you’ll never get the chance.