(Entry below was handwritten on 3/5/2002)
I finally got to visit ground zero this past Saturday, a site that is so sad. The front gates of Trinity Church are covered with several shrines to lost loved ones. It seems unreal, like a scene from a movie. Endless flags hand on the fence next to computer print out digital photos of smiling people who have died, instantly. The victims are young and old and middle-aged: husbands, wives, sisters, aunts-etc.
Some memorials are simple, like one of a woman. It’s her picture printed out with a caption reading “Smile in Heaven.” This woman looked happy. As did another woman with dark hair, someone’s wife named “Cora.” Her husband left up this picture and message to her saying he would always love his Cora. He included a short quote from a poem as well.
There are so many mementos ranging from teddy bears, T-shirts, crosses, and even a small, dirty hello kitty toy. It is a heart breaking site and several people walking through the area break down into tears. As I did also, upon leaving the ramp.
The ramp was constructed to control traffic flow and spectators. Although ground zero is almost all cleaned up, visitors and tourists come in droves to walk for blocks for free tickets to view the site for three minutes. People leave crowds of messages scrawled on the walls of the ramp. Here are some of the messages I saw left by people from around the world:
“but I still love New York”
“God save us from your followers”
“We will never give in to the evil of hate”
“River of Fire”
“New Life Pathfinders”
“Love is the answer”
“The second coming of Jesus”
“Te odio Bin Laden. Muerete” (translation: ‘I hate you Bin Laden, Die’)
There were also drawings by small children, like two towers drawn encircled by a heart and a sad face with tears rolling down. The crying face was underneath a long list stretching across the wall of the ramp, facing those who had been on the platform. The list was names of the people lost in the planes that were used as weapons and the victims in the towers. Some of these names had been circled by family members (I presume) with a note saying “RIP.” I looked down at the drawing of a crying child and couldn’t help but be overcome.
Some of the visitors to the ramp and platform had never even seen the towers in person. They couldn’t imagine how tall they stood. When an officer explained (at the head of the line) how the towers were 50 stories higher than an adjacent building he referred to that is still standing, the tourists gasped in awe and disbelief. And it was in that moment that I saw in my mind and recalled how magnificently the towers stood, how unreal and thick they seemed and how you had to bend far back and crane your neck to get the whole picture.
Some people were brought to the place because of a tragedy, they never even got to witness the towers’ absolute beauty. I became angry. I wanted to turn back time so that anyone who hadn’t had the chance could see the towers. I wanted to give back to those victims’ families the loved ones that they lost.
Before actually reaching the viewing platform, I stood on line on the ramp in the middle of the rest of the onlookers. A plan flew silently over ground zero in the sky and a woman near me said “Doesn’t that just give you the willies?” Everyone seemed to notice the plane at the same time. And it was a horrible reminder.
I almost expected a building to pop up in front of the plane, as I and everyone have been inundated with footage from that day, and I saw both towers burning with my own two eyes from an express bus window. Everyone, when seeing that plane fly over the site, must’ve heard the crash again and seen the explosions and the desperation of the people trapped and burning, or jumping from the 104th floor.
It still seems unreal that this could’ve happened in America and that this event has impacted all life as we know it.
(This entry was hand-written on 10/27/03. I was in a very dark place then, but I’m glad it produced this piece of writing)
Is an art, like everything else.
I do it exceptionally well.
I do it so it feels like hell.
I do it so it feels real.
I guess you could say I’ve a call.
Those lines by Sylvia Plath kept running through my mind all day. My mind heavy with sleep, with suffering and longing. My heart heavy and burdened and I couldn’t hold back the tears on the bus, both to and from work. There’s a scene in the movie “Sylvia” where she asks someone what to do “when your life gets as bad as it can, and just keeps getting worse.” And she is told that she should just “keep going.” But she meets that reply with a blank stare, unable to even ask anything more. Unable to ask for guidance or help.
She describes feeling like a negative of a person- hollow inside (I know just what feeling she meant) as if she were a non-entity. Someone who has never felt or wrote or thought anything. It’s like that feeling I have of being outside of my body- like my spirit escapes for brief moments and I feel panic coming on that I will forget how to breathe, how to stand, how to walk, how to talk. Somehow I bring myself back, but still never really feel as if I’m contained in my body, but floating outside myself, wondering always at my discomfort.
There is a beautiful music in those lines: ‘I do it exceptionally well. I do it so it feels like hell, I guess you could say I’ve a call.’ It’s slow and meditative and reads slowly, commanding to be pondered, awed, studied, explored. I sang the lines in my head on the way home, walking through the rain, on damp sidewalks coated with soaked leaves. ‘I do it so it feels like hell. I guess you could say I’ve a call.’ It felt empowering and beautiful and sacred. I lost myself in the music of those lines.
Maybe it is the feeling of isolation or fear, of everything being so completely unknown, so meaningless. Everything I had and lost. Everything Sylvia had but she still could not bear living. It makes me wonder if anyone is ever really satisfied. Or if our longing is what keeps us alive- or ultimately destroys us in the end.
To have whole days just to write is my dream. So many ideas lost to idleness, to monotony, to mediocrity. I owe her more than that. As a living, breathing person, I want to believe I still have a chance to taste life, to obtain what I’ve always wanted, the only thing I could wish on, the only thing I could dream of. The only thing that is slowly taking my sanity: the desire for physical love- big, booming, shattering sweet, pleasurable, beautiful, life-altering love. The feeling of it- to be filled by another person. To breathe together as one. To be whole.
(A little inspirational passage I wrote on 5/8/2002)
This moment is a unique opportunity to give people something they won’t expect. To use the element of surprise to shake things up a little. Do something completely out of character for you today. You might discover a new side of yourself that has always been there that you have been ignoring.
Whatever you decide to go for, that is out of the ordinary, might reveal a lot to you about yourself that you never knew before. If someone is expecting you to wear black, wear orange. Go out with no makeup. Or copy someone’s style that you’ve always wanted to try. Take small steps if you have to.
Be daring and accept whatever emerges. We are multifaceted beings, and only one outward expression of who we are cannot fully encompass our whole selves.
(Entry below was written in response to a prompt on 5/6/2002)
Why do I write? Why do I want to write?
I write because it feels good. It’s fun. It’s always there. I write because I like the sound of silence being cut only by my thoughts. I write because my voice is almost as silent as silence itself. I write to get to the truth- to my heart that is all-knowing. I write to free the woman I am inside who hides her face to the world. I write to tap into what’s going on just below the surface of me.
I write because someday I want to be remembered as more than just someone who lived an ordinary life and then died. I want to recreate what I saw, felt, and experienced, so that someone might discover what I wrote and think it makes perfect sense. I write because no one else has ever or will ever see the world exactly the way I see it.
I write to express what I feel about people to them- even if I can’t speak to them in person. I write in order to slow down and capture my life before it flies by and escapes me entirely. I write to entertain myself with the notion that someone is listening. I write to keep myself grounded. I want to write for the joy of seeing my words in my handwriting filling a book. I write to confirm my independence and prove my existence in this wavering world. I write for the strength that writing seems to give me, for the chance to go back and reread my insights and epiphanies, and learn about my own mind.
I write inherently. It’s a driving, physical need without which I would be incomplete. I write for the smell of the ink, for a chance to leave an intoxicating mark of my own on a previously white page. I write for the sheer exhilaration of creating.
I write because there are some things I’m afraid to say, that only I will understand. I write in order to create something that is all my own.
(Entry below is an excerpt from a long journal entry written with a writing group on 1/14/2006)
…I realized that while meeting new people is hard at first, it must get easier with practice and it’s sort of fun, despite being so scary. Because there’s the factor of not really knowing what can happen. Maybe miraculously, a connection will be made that I didn’t expect or see coming. And the fun lies in knowing that new people know nothing about you, and really you can act any way you want and they will expect it. They won’t be surprised because you are just a stranger to them and you could be anybody. You can be a mystery or pretend for a day that you are this confident person that you know you will never be.
For once I want to write an organized, cohesive piece- like a personal essay, and have it published. Just to have my name and a slight presence out there in the literary world. But I need to organize and get the discipline for it. I need to make sense of all these notebooks full of random ramblings. It’s so much better than spending my life wondering that might have been- knowing I have all the skill and the drive and divine energy at my disposal.
It would be stupid to try not to share my thoughts/experience with others. Especially since I have the gift of observation, and I experience things profoundly. It seems almost everything touches me to my very core, no matter how mundane the actual experience. For someone who constantly worries about her future, I sure spend a lot of time living in the present, maybe even more than I knew.
I have to remember not to be scared of people. I have to remember that everyone is human and has similar insecurities, no matter how well they cover it up or act as if they don’t. I have a tendency to think that other people have this ‘life’ thing figured out in a way that I don’t yet, but it’s the way that I think, and I need to let go of it and stop feeling so inferior.
I remember having a conversation with my sister when we were little girls. She said that when she wrote she felt somehow detached from her hand and arm, like someone else was doing the writing. And I could relate to what she said. It was like some divine force controlling our hands as we wrote. And even today I feel that way though I doubt she does. Maybe we felt it as children because children are inherently more creative and less afraid to express themselves. But I remember this conversation still as an adult because it still happens to me.
The fun of writing for me comes from feeling that some other force is helping me to compose, and the words that emerge are compelling because it was not I alone who chose them. It’s like each time I write, I’m tapping into this divine energy source that exists and is simply waiting for me to unleash it. Maybe it’s the muse or the act of ‘automatic writing’ or ‘flow’ that is so often described in writing books. That energy that takes over and makes you forget about everything and absorbs you, making you unaware of time or misery or anything else.
I still feel like a child usually. Like an eager sponge just absorbing and being in awe of everything out there that the world is offering to me. I could probably spend an entire day just writing, spilling out thought after thought, idea after idea. It’s my predisposition. I feel more comfortable and at peace writing than speaking. So much of conversation and human interaction is superficial. It’s all an act. And it’s hard to be genuine unless you are sitting alone in a quiet space exploring your emotions and innermost thoughts. I should have brought a more comfortable pen for this…
I read the following quote on this blog-http://www.minimalistadventures.com/
This week, I want you to embrace your inner heretic. Do something that riles others up because you are performing outside the norm. See what happens, because these days, the world loves heretics. Get outside of your typical self, and be the better self you dream of being.
It really got me thinking. I thought about all these bloggers I read about every day who are out there really living their lives and trying to help others lead richer lives as well. They make readers aware that a non-typical lifestyle is normal and that wherever you are in life, it’s never too late to scrap things and start over. I really admire them. They are using their time by exercising, eating healthy diets, writing e-books, traveling, and opening many people’s eyes to a whole new way of life.
Instead of wasting their lives away watching television or browsing online, they are really using their talents and being ambitious, living each day to it’s fullest. I started to wonder about myself. I know I have things and beliefs limiting me, and that my major flaw is giving up too easily when things get difficult. But I also started to wonder, is the big aim of my life to be as comfortable as I can? Is it time to really challenge myself and change my life somehow?
Nina Yau, the author of the blog ‘Castles in the Air’ quit her day job to pursue writing and art. I started to think about this and I thought, what would I do without my health insurance which allows me to get affordable birth control and yearly check ups? Not having birth control would really be a big deal for me. In this country, I think a big draw to staying employed in a 9-5 corporate job is health benefits. There really should be more motivation than that.
I don’t know if I’d be better off worrying about the future and thinking about the big picture, or taking things day by day and trying not to stress myself out too much. My biggest fear is getting to the end of my life, or becoming old and realizing that I am living with tons of regrets for things I never did, because I would over complicate stuff. Because I would never live in and enjoy the present moment.
I really want to travel, to see a lot of the world while I am here, and I have to try to structure my life to accommodate that. It stirs up the big questions like, what would I do if I only had 6 months to live? What would I do with my day? I read an interview recently with Nina Yau in which she says that her goal is “To never regret a single day of my life.” And that’s really what it comes down to.
Sometimes I sit and work and wonder: Is this what I really want to be remembered for? Isn’t there more that I could be doing with my gifts and talents to help others? Helping others brings way more happiness than working at a job you hate. That’s why I know that I would volunteer if I didn’t have to work for a living. You need to find fulfillment and satisfaction somewhere. And sometimes, doing so on a small scale just doesn’t work anymore.
I know I can get bored and long for new and stimulating experiences, just like anyone else, but how many of us actually pick ourselves up and do something about it? It’s a nagging question that haunts me, even as I tell myself I’m simply happy and grateful for the little things, like music, or food, or getting out of work early, or having my own apartment, or reading a good book, or having quiet time in solitude. There still is something more, something bigger, an urge to leave a mark on the world, and the constant urge to make each day count. To make it matter that I was even here at all.
(Entry below was written by hand on 1/4/06 at 12:25am)
It’s so hard to write lately. Sometimes I’m really afraid. I get scared that upon my demise I will meet a vengeful God. And what if He really does punish me for acting on my lust? I think most people believe they will get to heaven and that they are good enough as long as they haven’t done something as terrible as murdering or raping someone. And even those people who do those sins probably feel that they will be forgiven and let into heaven by the mercy of God. But what if that’s not the way it is at all?
What if it’s like Dante imagined the inferno with all the different circles of hell detailing all the specific punishments that will befall particular kinds of sinners? What if he wrote “Dante’s Inferno” as a result of divine provenance? What if God was speaking through him? Divinity is usually named as and believed to be the source of all creative and artistic output. What else is the muse but God? Trying to enlighten the world through the work of a human being he uses as a vessel to carry his message?
It’s a scary thought: to ponder punishment in the afterlife for sins, to live in fear of it unless you confess and are truly sorry (before it’s too late and your life is taken from you). Lisa (my meditation teacher) used to say that death always comes sooner than you think, so you have to be prepared to face it and realize life’s worth and impermanence.
This is the stuff most people try to spend all their lives avoiding thinking about. And the older I get, the harsher that reality seems to be. It is ever-present and sometimes I get scared of simply living, wondering if it all means anything-how we live our little lives. I wonder if it has any bearing on the grand scheme of things.
Is it really worth sinning a few times here on earth to have eternal torment in the hereafter? And if there is no eternal torment and we simply cease to be, will we have missed out on all the pleasures of living? In this life that is a gift for us, it’s so easy to be led astray, to not know what to do, to feel scared and lost all the time, day after day.
(Entry below was written by hand on 1/7/06 at 12:55am)
“The way to find your true self is by recklessness and freedom.”
I love that quote. It gives you permission to go a little crazy every now and then. Everyone needs that I think, especially stuffy, uptight people like me. It reminds me of a fortunate cookie fortune I once read and kept that said something like “Don’t play for safety, it’s the most dangerous thing of all.” I still have that fortune in the photo slip plastic in my wallet.
I struggle to write and part of the reason might be my insistence on these slow ballpoint pens. But I bought a big stack of them and now I feel guilty if they don’t get used. Another reason may be this journal I write in. The current pages have such light-colored lines that I can barely see them and barely write straight. And the other big thing is my lack of a real writing space- and fatigue. I’m so tired and need sleep. But I struggle to sleep too. And desperately I long to write.
That desire won’t leave me alone. It just takes over me and I find myself composing journal entries that I should be writing, just as my head has hit the pillow and my eyes have closed and I should be focusing on trying to sleep. Can’t seem to lose consciousness lately. Feeling this urgent need to stay awake, take advantage of any small amount of free time and use it to nourish my spirit, to find a way back to myself.
I remember stopping by at a restaurant/deli type of place one morning, ordering a hot chocolate and sitting down to write about a dream I had the night before. I decided I would be late for work, and gave myself the time and space just for writing. And it felt so wonderful, so comforting and true. In those days I didn’t have to punch in, so I could just make up some believable excuse to be late if I wanted to. I also didn’t have half as much work as I do now.
Writing, meditation, music, movies, books about writing- these will have to be my pleasures for now. And how I treasure those pleasures. But it’s so hard to find time after cleaning, grocery shopping, laundry, dish washing, working. I am just tired and it’s really difficult. I don’t want to be in the hell of living someone else’s life. This drive to write is something that can’t be ignored and is just a part of me. I need to have my thoughts and observations expressed through the written word. But I am so sleepy as I write this, and I don’t want to sleep.
It’s hard to find the balance between writing and making time for life and friends and family. One almost always suffers from too much focus on the other two. I can’t seem to figure it out. Time for sleep, I hope I’ll have more time to write soon in the near future.
This advice is very sound and can be very comforting, especially for people like me who always want control over every situation, and who get disappointed when things don’t turn out the way they were expecting. Not everything can go as planned all the time, and we only stress ourselves out by trying to fight
against the flow of life. Sometimes, there’s just nothing else you can do, but wait something out and leave the outcome in God’s hands. Let go of control and
There are times when letting go and letting God seems impossible, but we need to have trust and faith that things are for the best, and the lessons we learn as humans will only make us better in the end. I used to think things like: When will I find love? When will I be happy? When will Iknow my purpose? When will I feel like part of a group of friends? But it’s pointless to try to predict the future.
We can only live now and what’s important is accepting who we are and how life is. This leads to peace of mind, it ends fruitless resistance. It’s ok to be gentle with ourselves, to admit we have faults and have made mistakes, and simply try to improve.
Nothing can ever be perfect, or exactly as we want it, because we are human, not angels. And this is earth, not heaven. there will be struggles and hardships but there will also be blessings and happiness too. And little things to take pleasure in. And little moments that remind you of why you are alive, and those are the ones that matter most.
(Entry below was written by hand on 4/28/06 – 12:38am)
It occurred to me while I was watching the play “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels” tonight with my coworkers, as I stared at the young blonde girl in the lead role as she sang, that I want to be one of those people on this earth that shine more brightly. So many people live life settling for something that’s below their capabilities. I don’t want that to be true for me.
I don’t want to settle for just any life. I want mine to be something extraordinary, something undefinable. Maybe that’s what everyone wants until they get to a certain age, then they just give up., or buy into the thought that their dreams are just unreachable.
It’s important to live in the present moment. I’ve spent so much of my time living in my worry about the future. All the while there was so much to be grateful for in the present moment. You just have to step back and pause and take notice, even mentally, just for a moment.
I’m glad I’m someone who doesn’t take things for granted. I love living alone, I love my apartment. There are aspects of my job that I enjoy. I like feeling like someone important there. I like my bosses and the way they are lenient and understanding about things. I’m grateful that my job has activities to participate in like theater night and an origami class with the purpose of folding 1,000 cranes to give to the pediatric unit at a hospital. It is legend in Japan that a thousand paper cranes folded by someone will grant them a wish, and that a gift of a thousand cranes to someone who is suffering or ill will lead to their recovery.
I’m grateful for services that send you movies in the mail for a flat fee. I’m grateful for the chance to spend a night at home after spending the past several nights out. I’m grateful for literature and legendary writers and poets whose works are screaming with inspiration. I really believe that writers (in all times and ages) call out to and help bring about the talents and imagination of all other writers.
To feel so deeply in tune with a writer who is long gone from this world is an amazing thing. I once heard that the reason people write books is so that they become immortal. That’s a good reason, but only the truly talented and inspired stand the test of time, only those who are so in touch with universal human emotion are the ones we return to again and again, seeking that limitless source of illumination.
I’m grateful for the change to reinvent myself, each day in a new way. I’m grateful to know that I’m free, and giddy at the though that anything can happen, things can get better, I can get a better hold on the filters through which I experience the world, and try to help myself in every way I can.
As I was walking home tonight, some guy passing by in a car with his friends screamed out the window to me. I was the only one on the sidewalk. He screamed, “God bless you!” “God bless you!” I smiled embarrassedly, but I can say that right now, I truly feel blessed.