I saw a tumblr post saying how it’s a unique kind of torture to Google recipes from your own culture. To measure out ingredients for another family’s family recipe because you never learned yours. And sure, you can ask your aunt to teach you, to write it down, but the writing is a loss in itself because every single woman before you stretching back to the dawn of humanity had known it without ever having to write it down, and you’re the one who broke the chain. And I know it’s not my fault my grandmother died before I was born so she could never teach me, and that my dad grew up in a whitewashed world that made him feel ashamed of his culture - as though he had to bury it, pray that his child’s skin would be more white than brown so that she would never endure the marginalization he felt - and I don’t blame him, not even a little bit, but his prayer worked and my skin is white and how can I be a brown person when I’m white. My cultural clothes feel like a costume, an appropriation, and I have to tell myself over and over that I belong here, I belong here, I belong. And I can see my family’s love for me in their faces, their brown faces, all of their brown faces looking into my white one, trying telling me I belong here, I belong here, I belong. And I’m trying to cook for myself, make flatbread with flour and water and nothing but those two ingredients, and mine’s too thick and it won’t puff up and I can’t shape it in my hands like my aunts do and its lumpy and tearing and it tastes all wrong because it’s white fucking flour and I’m burning my fingers on the pan as I flip the bread with my bare hands because using a spatula would just be another betrayal and my fingers are burnt because I wanted to feel close to my grandmother in this tiny way and I had to use a spatula anyway. I have to learn my own language out of a book because this society shamed by dad into silence. I sweat every time I try to pronounce one of the six words I know because I know I’m pronouncing it wrong, and I shrink when my dad corrects me and I break when the quiet realization hits us both that the alphabet of my native language is foreign in my mouth. I don’t understand the religion inside the book my grandmother prayed with every single day. It feels wrong when I wish to be a part of a culture, this culture, that hurts women, hurts my family, hurt my dad so badly and it feels wrong when I criticize a culture that barely even feels like mine. My dad almost never talks about his parents, and years ago while driving he mentioned the singing, the wailing at my grandmothers’ funeral and I laughed, I LAUGHED, thinking of how strange the wailing-type singing I’d heard at weddings and the like was and I don’t think I’ve ever hated myself more than when I think of that memory. I told a girl at college that I was mixed and she spoke to me excitedly in our shared ancestral language and I stood with my mouth open and she asked “Did you understand what I said?” and I shook my head no and the light in her eyes went away. I was walking at a wedding wearing a beautiful orange outfit, a hand-me-down from my brown family, and I looked in the window and saw my reflection, white feet and hands and neck and face, and I wondered how many times I would have to burn my fingers or memorize recipes or practice my pronunciation over and over again, mouthing the words to myself at night, before I would actually believe that I belonged here.
This evening, I spotted a sowbug on my carpet. He wasn't moving and I worried I had stepped on him. I knelt down close and he started to wiggle his antennae and move a little. Bugs usually kind of freak me out, but I was relieved to see the little grey creature slowly poke his way around. My house is asleep and so I can't put him outside until morning without waking everyone up, so I decide to put him under a glass so he doesn't accidently wander underfoot or near my sister.
I want him to enjoy his stay, so I run upstairs to make him some snacks for the evening. A Google search for 'sowbug favourite food' mostly turns up fishing websites explaining what kind of fish like to eat sowbugs, and the most revelant information I can find is that sowbugs eat decaying organic matter. I was hoping to find some specifics - do they like a certain vegetable, for example - but I guess there's not too many other people out there who are looking to feed a sowbug their favourite food, which seems like an obvious realization but still makes me a little sad.
I collect a little plate of a wrinkly blueberry (I split it open for the sowbug's convenience), a piece of bell pepper (I meant to bite off a little piece for the sowbug but I absent-mindedly started chewing the whole slice, so the piece I got was a little slobbery but I figured it was ok), a bit of browning guacamole (closest thing to 'decaying' I could see in the fridge), and a couple drops of water on the plate in case he was thirsty. I ran back downstairs and looked around the area of carpet, but I couldn't see the dark sowbug-shaped spot. I turned on the brighter hallway light and I saw his pale grey underbelly laying on the carpet, legs curled in, unmoving. In the minute I had left, he had passed away.
I felt soft sadness in my throat as I held my little tasting plate. I don't know what it's like to be a sowbug, but I figured it would be nice to have an exciting new snack collection to explore before passing on. A tasting plate for a sowbug is already somewhat ridiculous, but it would feel even more so to wash a plate of untouched sowbug snacks down the drain just a moment after I made it. I watched my little friend, connected to him now, hoping for him to move. I thought I saw his antennae twitch, but it was 3am and I hallucinate slightly sometimes (I mean, I just made a snack platter for a sowbug, so mild pyschosis is kind of a given), so I figured I was just seeing things. Despite the doubt, I knelt down to look at the poor thing closer, and his antennae definitely moved. I looked up whether flipping over meant certain death for bugs - again, not an area that many people seem to have researched - but generally, it was said to be a step on the progression to death, which meant the sowbug could still have a chance.
I took a stiff piece of paper and tried to push the sowbug onto my plate as gently as I could. His antennae got a bit smushed and I thought it might be gentler to use my finger, but the curled-up legs were a little bit too much for me to touch. I flipped right-side-up, but he wasn't too responsive. I pushed the blueberry and pepper a bit closer to him, and still, he didn't really move. Even if he was on death's door, I figured I had done what I could to give him his snacks and hopefully a peaceful departure. I'm sure it was stressful for him to have me there, pushing him around, but I'm not sure he would have reached the snacks on his own if he had wanted them. Now, at least he has the option.
I checked on him a few minutes later and he still looked unresponsive. He's outside my room on his plate as I write this. I could check again, but it's Schrodinger's sowbug - he can be alive in my mind until I check and confirm that he has passed on.
This is a supremely weird take on your challenge, unlike anything I usually write, and entirely non-fiction, but I wanted to share my experience with my sowbug friend. Maybe 'friend' isn't the word - I mean, it's an elderly sowbug who doesn't know who or what I am and didn't (can't?) consent to any kind of friendship. I might have contributed to his early death by unknowingly stepping on him or excessively stressing him out. He may not be a 'he'. And I know I'm overly emotional tonight, but with all of that said, I care about the little guy. I couldn't touch him with my finger, but I really wanted him to try some new foods and pass away feeling content, happy, at peace, or however sowbugs experience postive emotions, if they do have such a thing. I don't know if my friend will be alive this evening to try his foods, or if he will feel happy or calm doing so, but I really hope he does.
Life is hard and sad and complex, and my brain is spinning with self-criticisms even as I write this. Do I think I'm better than other people for trying to feed a sowbug - am I a narcissist, attention-seeking by posting this on here? My mind chatters endlessly and relentlessly at all times of consciousness; the sowbug's mind probably does not. I'm not a sowbug, and I will never be (in this lifetime), but I feel as though tonight I caught a glimpse of the most basic simplicity of what it means to be living and interacting with the creatures around us. I met a sowbug as he neared the end of his life and tried to give him something to eat. Is that not the essence of everything? Is that not the meaning of life?
the best of r/su!c!de
this is what I found that has helped me. not my writing, just wanted to share. if you're reading this, feel free to message me to talk about mental health anytime. my personal addition is I'm looking forward to holding my godchildren when they're born.
"Because the pain I would inflict on my loved ones is far greater than the pain I'm enduring right now."
"If it makes you feel better in the documentary "The Bridge," people who have jumped and survived from the Golden gate bridge have felt instant regret after jumping"
"Because I don't quit."
"If I kill myself it can't and won't get better."
"Schopenhuaer, probably the most nihilistic of all major modern philosphers, condemned suicide. He argues that suicide is not a solution to anything - it merely negates the problem. Like staring at a difficult math problem and tossing it away as the solution. Certainly, you don't have to deal with the math problem anymore, but you haven't solved it. .... Whatever meaning is, whatever the answer to life, it must be sought in the here and now." (read that last line again. so powerful.)
"Death is waiting for each of us anyway; why call on it before our time?" (my two cents: death is infinite and life is brief. just stick with it, babe.)
"I'm not going to let her bury her child." (speaking of one's mom)
"You should keep living because you haven't found the reason to. Once you do, trust me, you'll never want to leave."
"I have a hope that the future will come through for me like it has in the past. Things really do get better, they just fucking suck right now." (my two cents again: if you have a tiny sliver, a shred, a grain of hope, that's enough. let that little hopeful dust mite keep you rooted here for a while.)
"Realizing my own perceptions were so negatively skewed is what helped lift me out of a major episode a few years back. I try to always keep it in mind whenever the feeling creeps back up."
"One thing to note here is that it's likely that people suffering from depression aren't in a good position to reliably estimate how valuable their future life will be. So even if it feels as if the future probably holds no value, you shouldn't trust that intuition. But of course I admit that it might feel that way."*
*I can confirm. No healthy mind actually thinks of suicide as a viable option, and if you're feeling that way, please reach out to me or someone else for help. I've been there and I know how to get out, and I'd like to share that with anyone who needs it.
it’s not personal, you just have too many eyes
the bumblebee bumbles, the butterfly flutters
the dung beetle rolls up the poo
the grasshopper hops
the ladybug walks
and the spider gets squashed with the shoe.
a letter to my soulmate
There aren't words to express how much you mean to me. Life would be empty, joyless without you. You fill me up, you give me life. Your humility, your modesty, the way you support everyone else and step back, letting others have the spotlight. Well, let me tell you something, honey - you're the star of the show every damn time. You are complex, you are infinite, and I love each and every part of you. I love you when you're soft and when you're tough, when you're warm and when you're cold, when you're sweet, sour, or downright cross (for the record, I still think you're pretty sweet when you're cross with me). You look beautiful when you're pale, tan, plump, thin, covered in spots.... my dear, you look lovely always. You are timeless, you are beloved, you are a treasure. If there is a God, you are the best thing they have ever made. Everything pales in comparison to you; when you're there, I can look at nothing but you. Given the choice between you and the world, I'm choosing you every single time without question. The word 'love' does not do justice to my feelings for you. I am grateful, grateful, grateful you exist, and I thank my lucky stars that you love me back. You're there for me, you take care of me. Every time you call me your butter, I melt. I will use this life, these hands, to bring life and love to you as best I can. My body and soul are yours. My dearest, my darling, my beloved Bread. I am yours.
All my love,
Sorry, you’re not what we’re looking for.
I wrote this 2 years ago but I've been feeling like this often. Reminder to anyone reading: You're good enough exactly the way you are. You are worthy of respect simply for existing. Big hugs :)
I’m not sorry
For going to bed at 3am
Instead of working
I’m not sorry
For studying with my friends
Instead of sitting
I’m not sorry
For going home at night
Instead of playing
A sport I hate.
I’m not sorry
For stopping piano lessons
Instead of forcing
Myself to play.
I’m not sorry
I chose not to run for council
Because you wanted it
I’m not sorry
I chose to tutor instead of study
Because my friend’s at
I’m not sorry
I chose not to take physics
Because I loved Spanish
So much more.
I’m not sorry
I chose to take Saturday off
Because my family means
I’m not sorry
I refused to jump
Through every single hoop.
I’m not sorry
I didn’t check
Every single box you drew.
I’m not sorry
I used my time
To write poetry
I’m not sorry
I never tried
To change myself
(Content warning: su!c!de attempts, mental illness, self-harm, pills)
Please note that this is an old poem, it’s mostly fiction, and my mental health is very good and well taken care of recently.
Secondly, please note that if you are struggling with mental health issues, please feel free to message me anytime. Wishing you all the best.)
A young, bright graduate
with a promising future
now sobbing in a waiting chair
in the hospital’s psychiatric ward
Sorry, hon, I know you’ve tried
seven kinds of medicines already
but let’s just try one more
don’t take them all this time
Bloody wrists and vomit
wipe it up, wrap it up
have a panic attack or two in class
go back home and try again
I apologize for the poor quality
of this academic essay
I just started new antipsychotics
because I can’t tell what’s real
The whole world feels greyer
than my defective grey matter
wake me up when something matters
if that day ever comes
Tell me, have you ever blacked out
with no one there to catch you
except the slate-grey concrete
with all its warmth and empathy
Tell me, have you ever floated
in a bubble-filled bathtub
with your head underwater
and wanted to breathe in
How do you think
about a problem
when your problem is
you can’t think right
How do you live
when your life’s over
and you’re got a mangled gouge
where your soul used to be
in a quiet room with beige walls
a girl kneels by a woman’s bed
with crinkled brown skin and wispy white hair
fragile as an autumn leaf
wrinkled and weary from a season now past
softly swaddled in hospital sheets
her skin soft and rosy with youth
and tracked with tearstains
they sat here together
as the girl wept
her head bent and shoulders trembling
hunched under the agonizing appreciation
of time’s ever-persistent march
she crumbles here, beside the bedframe
trembling with grief
in this beige room
a wizened, knobbly hand reaches
and grasps hers
the woman shakes with the frailty of age
but her grip is strong and steadfast
she pulls the girl close to her chest
and murmurs into her hair
the girl understands
not the words, but the meaning
the woman holds her here
until the girl’s tears slow
she holds tight to the woman’s shrivelled hand
and she knows her skin will too be crumpled
under the weight of a lifetime
but at this moment, she rests
held chest to chest with the woman
breathing in pace
with one another.
The walls have always had it
The mold, the heaving dark mass
Silently, insidiously poisoning the air and rotting the wood
Of the room I live in, the one I never leave
It leaks into the carpet
Staining the walls from the inside out like spilled black ink
Breathing leaves a bitter taste
And makes the inside of my throat feel coated with illness and spores
It whispers as it creeps closer to me
Where I lay in the centre of the room
The world outside these walls is poisoned, coated in a thick black fog of decay and suffering
The inside is just as filthy
But mushrooms grow in my throat and I lay still
It murmurs soft sentiment
The walls are encased in the writhing darkness
A disease that has crawled its way up
From a place deep in the earth
The mold reaches my body on the floor
Creeps into my ears
Nestles into my eyes
My vision is dancing black spots
And in my ears I hear it talking
I know where this ends
I know I have to stand up
My heart still beats, my muscles work
But in my lungs are growing splotches of black fungus
And my mind is a hive, a clamour of voices
There’s a quiet voice telling me to get up, get up, run away
But I don’t
I don’t move
I don’t move
And the softly singing shadow that slithered its way into my mind has risen to a scream
The eternal hum of the universe has twisted into a choir of cruel and Godly voices, shouting, shouting
I take up hardly any space at all, and yet I have failed to justify my place
Who I am is not enough to carry the weight of my consciousness
And so this mold decomposes me and I am thankful for it
Once I’m dirt maybe I’ll be worth something
Once I’m dirt maybe I can rest
Who could refuse such an offer?
Advice from the Bumblebees
Dance in the garden each morning
And sing in the afternoon
Clock in as the sun awakens
And clock out beside the moon.
Work with a love of working
And work at a lighthearted pace
Seize what the world has to offer
While appreciating its grace.
Explore what needs exploring
And just for the joy of it, fly
Join in the hum of the hive
And twirl a new path through the sky.
Be grateful for every flower
Each one a soft Monet
Spread love to the gently buzzing hive
All together, a yellow ballet.
I wrote this 3 years ago, so cheating on the challenge, but I wanted to share because I think it's the happiest thing I've ever written and I still really like it :)