Two weeks ago, I found one of my birds dead on the bottom of her cage. It was completely unexpected as she was perfectly healthy, and I couldn’t think of what had happened to her. I was devastated. I couldn’t even bring myself to take her body from the cage, and had my friends come over to help me. A week later, I found another one laying there limply in a small puddle of blood. I’d seen a magpie outside a minute beforehand, and only then did it all click into place. The stupid things killed them both, the same way they’d killed the dove I tried to save a few months ago. I was so upset that I didn’t even get to look at her properly before my sister whisked her away to bury her in the front garden next to Piper, who’d been buried exactly one week before. I loved them both, but Freckles was my favourite bird, the sweetest little cockatiel with the most loving personality. She was obsessed with food, carrots in particular, and liked stick her head in my mouth and nibble my teeth when I was talking or trying to eat. I would take her for showers with me where she’d stand beneath the water contentedly, until she sneezed from getting too much water in her nose, and I’d have to pull her away so she could breathe, much to her irritation. I had her for almost six years, and Piper for four, but in that time they made me laugh and smile so much with all the quirky little things they did, and it’s just not the same without them. In some ways, I feel silly for feeling so much grief for ‘just birds’, but I loved them the same way I love dogs and cats, and the same way animal lovers love their own pets. Grief is the same feeling no matter what it is we’ve lost – I’ve never understood why some people equate physical size to the amount of sadness felt when they die. It’s been just over a week now since Freckles died, and two since I lost Piper, but it still hurts so much. I’m just so angry that their lives were taken when they were still so young, and in such horrible, violent ways. Because it was all so sudden, it’s been much harder to accept than when I’ve lost pets to old age or disease. I can’t reverse time and shouldn’t dwell on the ‘what if’s’, but this feeling seriously sucks, and I wish death didn’t have to hurt as much as it does. I’ve never lost a person, thank goodness, but I’m dreading the day that I eventually do, because if I feel this way over pets that I owned for half a decade, what will happen when I lose those I’ve known my entire life?
They say men have a ‘nothing box’ in their heads, a place that exists within their minds where they can be completely relaxed and at peace. If I possessed such a box, I don’t think I would ever crawl outside of it. I’d become a hermit to the nothingness of my mind. It’s rare that I feel even remotely close to calm. My thoughts run rampant 24/7 and they don’t stop, even when I’m sleeping. It’s exhausting to think so much, but my mind doesn’t seem to have an off switch. Though sometimes, very rarely, something flips the switch for me. It might be when I’m being creative or existing within nature, but mostly, it’s a song. Notes woven into melodies that somehow halt the busy highways in my head and let my anxiety fade away. In these brief moments, I have my very own nothing box. Only then do I ever feel completely present. Not reliving the past or worrying about the future… simply HERE, in the now. I wish I experienced it more often, but for now, I will treasure my nothing box whenever it chooses to reveal itself.
Over the past 11 days, I traveled across New Zealand’s beautiful South Island in a Maui camper van with my parents and two of my siblings… and it was definitely an experience! Cramming myself into a sardine can with five adults and playing human tetris for nearly two weeks isn’t something I intend on recreating anytime soon, but there were a lot of memories made and a lot of moments that could’ve been plucked right from the movie RV, though luckily, besides a lopsided number plate, the van survived our journeys.
New Zealand has been the 7th country I’ve visited in the last 3 years, and although we didn’t get the opportunity to do a lot of things due to a tight budget and the weather, it was amazing to drive through the rugged wilderness that stretched for miles with beautiful sights to see in every direction. Until a few days ago, I’d never seen proper snow before, let alone been snowed on, made snow angels or been able to catch the delicate flakes on my tongue; all of which I can now cross off my bucket list. The snow was my favourite part of our trip, and even though its cold, wetness can easily become uncomfortable and inconvenient, I still find it magical. Due to our long days driving, I read five books, was annoyed by one sister and ignored by one brother. Apparently, eating biscuits ‘loudly’ at 9am in a confined space is enough to earn my place on the ‘most hated’ list for an entire day! Though by far, the most memorable moment was when we decided to cook a meal one night which led to oil and pieces of bacon popping and flying all over the van, on my father’s head and even into the pocket of my mother’s jacket. That was fun to clean up! Being surrounded by and unable to escape my family for an extended period of time was at times, an unpleasant reminder of how if I don’t have enough time to myself, I become irritable and my emotions go a bit haywire. I’m a highly introverted being, and even though I babble non stop and have plenty of energetic, crazy moments with those I’m comfortable with, I need alone time like I need air to breathe. So being without it for so long, I had a few squabbles with my family, and would sulk on the opposite end of the van, as unfortunately, rain and snow makes for a difficult time venturing outside. For the last year or so, I’ve had almost unlimited hours to myself, and so experiencing what it was like to crave that time again has made me appreciate the moments when I do get to just shut myself away from the world and exist in my bubble for a little while. All in all, I had a very cold, sometimes unexpected but continuously beautiful holiday with my family, that I will cherish for the good times, and even the bad, because it was a once in a lifetime experience that I have no plans of revisiting. Good riddance Maui camper van!
Today I held a dove as it died in my arms. It was the first time I’ve ever witnessed the moment when life suddenly isn’t there anymore, and it horrified me. For fifteen minutes, I cradled the stunned dove that had been attacked by magpies, its wide eyes staring at nothing, its little body trembling in my hands. After trying to fly, he fell to the floor and died seconds later. It was a seizure, from shock my mother told me. It wasn’t peaceful like everyone claims death to be. It was violent and awful; the sight of a little heart giving its final few beats, a feathered body convulsing with the end of life. I was devastated. He was supposed to fly into the sunset a few hours later, but instead was lying limp on my living room floor. I’ve always hated death; the knowledge that eventually, everything must die. When I was a child, I remember saving insects from spiders webs, untangling them from their silk prisons and setting them free. To my dismay, I was informed that in doing so, I was potentially endangering the life of the spider instead. This is when I realised that life is cruel. But still, I tried my hardest to make sure every creature had a chance. I’d save the insects, rush to the windowsill, gather the dead flies that lay there and rush back to spider, carefully placing them in the delicate web. All the spiders in my house probably hated me. If I was served month-old roadkill instead of a steak, I’d probably hate me too. As the years passed, I learned to accept that I can’t save everything, but today – holding the dove that I’d bonded with for a few short moments – and watching it move on from this world… well, I guess it was just a harsh reminder that life can be swept out from underneath us at any moment. How depressing.
I have insomnia. Sometimes my mind insists on keeping me awake even when my body screams for sleep, and I have no choice but to let it. Drawing helps me put things into perspective and halts the progression of my negative thoughts before they pull me deeper into the dark, bottomless pit that I dig myself. This drawing took several months to complete, because I worked on it only when I was feeling anxious, mostly at nighttime. Charcoal isn’t my preferred medium as I’m a perfectionist and end up covered in it, but I felt it worked best to convey the emotions I was trying to express. I’m grateful to have things I can do that silence my mind – I know that not everyone does.
“One day, you’re 17 and you’re planning for someday. And then quietly, without you ever really noticing, someday is today. And then someday is yesterday. And this is your life.”
There is no quote that terrifies me more than this one. What’s worse than waking up one day and realising that your entire life has passed you by, seemingly in the blink of an eye? Quickly and quietly, perception catches you off guard and pulls the rug out from underneath you, leaving you scrambling to make something of yourself. To find purpose and fulfillment in this otherwise stale existence. Growing old is inevitable, and it’s one of, if not my biggest fear. I don’t want to age, not because I’m afraid of wrinkles and grey hair, but because these changes remind me that I have an expiry date. Perhaps, because I’m still young and have barely scratched the surface of what will become my life, I don’t understand the natural progression and ultimately, surrendering one must feel when they’ve reached the end of their tether. I’ve seen it in the eyes of the elderly who used to reside in the nursing home my sister once worked at. A look of acceptance, of exhaustion, and of peace. A life filled with joy, love, pain and grief, of moments that make us feel like we’re flying, and others when we struggle to catch our breaths. After decades of experiences, of milestones, hardships and accomplishments, there must come a time when someone decides they’ve had enough. For some, this moment comes much earlier in the timeline of their existence, either through the hands of the universe, or their very own. Others try to fight time and cling onto the appearance of someone they once were, continuously altering their bodies in the pursuit of eternal youth. We’re all walking the same path, and inevitably, we will all reach the end. We won’t all stumble across the same rocks or divots in the earth, and where some of us see as a path lined with flowers, others see only weeds. The lives we live are fleeting, and whilst we should accept the fact that we live within the constraints of time, we shouldn’t let that define the choices we make or the emotions we let consume us. Sometimes I feel like little more than a fearful child shoved into the body of someone who’s supposed to have everything figured out, but I don’t think anyone actually does. Contemplate the future and accept the past, but live in the present and take comfort in knowing that no one really knows what to do with this gift we call life.
If we never felt sadness, we wouldn’t ever appreciate what it feels like to be truly happy. With nothing to compare and contrast against the positive emotions, happiness becomes a constant state of being, synonymous with what it means to be human. Our lives would become dull. Yet, despite me being able to recognise the important role sadness plays in my life, I still struggle to accept when I feel anything other than content. I don’t allow myself to be sad as often as I should, because I don’t feel like I deserve to be sad. For the most part, I live a wonderful life. I’m surrounded by incredible, supportive and understanding people; I have a roof over my head, food in my belly and a bedroom filled with art supplies and books. I have so much, whereas others have so little, and so I tell myself that because others have it much worse, I’m supposed to be happy. But it’s okay to feel sad. Life isn’t a straight line that we follow until we reach the end of our road; no, life is an obstacle course that we’re thrown into blindfolded with no clue how to navigate our way through it. Even the most privileged of people will struggle at times, and that’s okay. Every single one of us will experience moments of both extreme joy and pain throughout our lifetimes, regardless of what kind of childhood we had or how much money we make. If a child breaks their arm, we don’t tell them to suck it up and stop crying because others are dying of cancer. We love and support them, and do our best to ease their pain. Sadness can’t be fixed with a bandage because sometimes it demands to be felt.
“Everybody wants happiness, nobody wants pain, but you can’t have a rainbow without a little rain.”
I’m inside out,
You’ve scrubbed me clean
There’s nothing left for you to see
I wore my heart where it got broken,
I wish I hadn’t been so open.
I’m an open book. Whether this is a good or a bad thing, I’m still yet to decide. There is a lot of talk aimed at people who struggle to open up and reveal their innermost thoughts and feelings, but not as much surrounding those of us who are perhaps too open. In the past there have been times when I’ve tried to close myself off from the world and live a mysterious and solitary existence, but it’s literally impossible. I have too many thoughts that push against the confines of my mind until I set them free. My head may as well be a beehive, because it sure does feel like I have a swarm of busy, buzzing little bees up there. Being the person I am, I have no qualms with being open and honest when someone asks me a question. Sometimes my answer surprises them, and their impression of me alters. I see it in their eyes; the judgement when they realise that I too am a human being and won’t always fit into the little box they’ve created for me. So, if people don’t want to know my answer or hear my opinion, they shouldn’t poke the beehive.