(Im)mortal

Immortality: built to last, like the Roman Coliseum.
A first century monument to humanity’s achievements,
to Nero, to the strength of linen clad Romans,
with travertine arches that withstood fires and earthquakes.

Mortality: bones and blood, like Nero himself.
and those who followed him until there were none.
Our breaths follow the rhythm of our internal clocks,
ticking down the hours until we fall into cold dust.

Immortality: tastes like sermon promises of Heaven;
shines like morning light through cathedral stained-glass,
mesmerizing and tantalizing, hope that our breaths
will stick to the world like black ink on scritta paper.

Mortality: tastes like dried leaves and scattered roadkill;
shines like morning light through hospital windows,
reminding and tormenting, months and months of hospice.
Our bones are not travertine, our blood is not Holy water.

 

Limiting social media & sharing imperfections

Social media and I have had a deep, dark love affair. To be completely honest, social media had been to me exactly what people are now criticizing it for: a validation-seeking, dopamine-producing, and envy-inducing vehicle of illusive connectedness.

I didn’t realize how toxic social media was for me until I deleted the apps from my phone and deactivated some of my accounts. Once I was away from it for several days, I started to evaluate how much different life was with and without it. My conclusion is the same as the experts.

I read an article recently on using social media mindfully. For someone like me, who is one of those easily exploited individuals, disconnecting from social media every once in a while is extremely important. Once I got back on my social media, I only downloaded the Instagram app on my phone (because you can’t post from a computer like Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn) and I even muted the notifications. Muting notifications was important to me because those likes, comments, and follows can be addicting. Limiting use of aforementioned apps to my laptop has already had positive benefits. I find myself scrolling less, which makes me less envious of those around me, and posting less, which makes me less pressured for content.

At the same time, I’ve been making an effort to live more presently. Instead of interrupting moments to take photos, tag people, and post about them, I have been putting my full attention on enjoying the moment. I want to actually enjoy the people I’m with, not scroll through my phone and post about it. I want to actually take in my surroundings, not just stare at a screen all the time. I want to savor a moment through my eyes, not stress out over trying to get a good photo. I want to cultivate meaningful relationships, not just engage with everyone I see online. If I find myself scrolling too much, I take some deep breaths and think about something else I could be doing that’s more productive, then I go do it. When it comes to posting, I have started thinking about the THINK method. (Is it true? Is it helpful? Is it insightful? Is it necessary? Is it kind?)

I have also come to terms with the fact that social media is never really honest. Everyone (including myself) is interested in showing their best selves that they forget to just be themselves. Instead of criticizing and pointing fingers, I have joined some acquaintances in sharing our imperfections online. It’s not in a way that could be seen as attention-seeking or complaining. We post things, as if to say, “sometimes I don’t feel well and that’s okay because it’ll pass,” or, “here are the responsibilities I’ve been neglecting because life can be chaotic.”  We want to share our imperfections because those messy, ugly things are what make us human. I want to be honest on my social media and I no longer want to chase likes, comments, and follows. My goal with social media use is to express my interests and lifestyle without the B.S.

After next Sunday (January 28th), I will be logging out of my social media and ignoring it for a week. As the article advised, a week away can have some positive benefits, especially for people like me and those who get easily sucked in. I intend on unplugging for one week every month this year.

I thought about being extreme and deleting everything and being completely off the grid. I harbored negative feelings towards social media. But, the truth is, it’s not all bad. It, like everything else in life, is what you make of it. I think being responsible, knowing your own limits, and doing things in moderation is the best thing you can do for yourself. Instead of cutting off the love affair, I intend on taming and reclaiming it.

Temporal Desire

There was a time when I wasn’t obsessed. I can’t quite remember it, for it must have taken place before I could articulate a coherent thought, when communication was reduced to caveman grunts, pointing fingers, and temper tantrums. I don’t remember what it felt like to learn how to walk, but I remember the first time I felt my feet beating against the ground as I chased after the most beautiful thing I had ever seen. I remember the thorns, briars, and twigs sticking up into the bottoms of my bare feet. I remember the air escaping my mouth much quicker than I could drink it into my lungs. I remember feeling my hands reach out beyond a grasp I thought was physically possible, feeling my shoulder blades extend so far forward that I thought my shoulders would fall right from their sockets. I watched my fingers as they pointed like an infant, as if to say: “That. I want that.”

I don’t remember how I become obsessed either. It was as if an angel had guided them to me and me to them and orchestrated a divine dance between us. A day hasn’t gone by since I lurked through the woods and frolicked through the fields in pursuit of the most inspiring beauty roused my passion. No woman has ever come close to captivating me as much as the butterfly has. I leap and lunge after them, hoping to hold their beauty for as long as I can. In the beginning, it wasn’t very long.

I remember splitting open my palms as if I were opening the pages of a forbidden book. I peaked between the edges of my palms, attempting to contain the temporal creature. Sometimes they would dart from my hands and flutter back into the highs of the sky, so far away that no hand nor net could ever touch them. Sometimes I would feel delighted in my success of capture when they wouldn’t escape, but soon find that their wings or antennae or both had been crushed by my clumsy human hands. I remember not knowing which feeling was worse: watching the butterfly escape my grasp or looking down at a mutilated insect that lost its divine luster. I remember realizing, after moments of hesitation, frustration, and disappointment, that there was an art to capturing these elusive creatures. There is an art to holding beauty in your hands tight enough not to watch it slip away, yet just generous enough to maintain its authenticity.

There came a time when I mastered the art. I mastered the art so well that I had glass displays organized throughout my home. I had become a scholar in lepidoptery and published many works over the mysterious lives of butterflies. Not only were their wings perplexing, but so was their ability to know things. They’re intuitive creatures. They dance from flower to matching flower, knowing in their cells how to pollinate and what to pollinate. Like birds, they have an instinct for migration. They don’t require navigation to travel great distances and they don’t even live long enough to make it to their sought-out destinations. Their future generations know the way, as if a map was pressed into their DNA. Their intelligence is beautiful. But, like a young boy darting through briars and thorns, I still chase them by their wing pattern as they glitter under the sunlight.Though my house is full of colorful, symmetrical, bright wings, I still see my fingertips reach out towards the sky as I hear in my heart: “That. I want that.”

Temple

I dream of you.
I dream of your strawberry
ice cream tiles while
under a blanket stitched
by mother’s hands of
a color just the same.
I dream of your sidewalks
that lead your crowds
from halls to kitchens, breezeways
to basements, with echoes
of girls’ stolen virginity locked away.
I dream of your stream
which was my playground,
rolling between trees
that tower like your
cylindrical pale columns;
I dream of you when
I am a stretch of highway away
in a tiny town that guards me,
keeps me safe and hidden.
I dream of you when
I will never see your gates
because my closest family
have all become ghosts
haunting every room and hall.
I will never visit your crowds
because they have painted my father
as a hero and his heroes as saints.
I dream of you when
I no longer find truth
in your books and murals,
rolling through time,
that towers like your
cylindrical pale columns.
I dream of you.

Mother

I stood behind him, watching
as his hands prepared to dissect
the cadaver — the corpse of our computer.
A virus or something put it out again,
turning off its lights like a fallen city.
He began to, screw by screw,
remove the casing and I could see its
colored — the yellow, blue, red, black —
cords trailing from the disk drive
to the hard drive, the hard drive
to the motherboard.
Each part was removed
from the open body
to make room for new parts.

A new RAM and processor made in
2004 was placed in a computer from 1998.
A new sound card and video card,
even though he hasn’t left the house
to work all year while mother comes home
with worn down soles late in the evening.
The motherboard — the powerhouse
of the system — stares back at me,
old and worn and tired,
from its colorful, spotted surface.
Yellow, blue, red, black.
The color of her bruises when I hear
them through the walls.
He continues to replace the old parts
with new ones as if they fix the past.

A broad Roman nose, close-set up-turned
eyes, weak teeth, sore back, cracking knees,
a fierce temper and nagging anxiety.
I’ve heard his voice in mine.
I’ve seen his spirit in mine.
I’ll never forget the way he tore us apart
like how I’ll never forget — the
Yellow, blue, red, black —
The intricate puzzle that binds us together.
A virus or something he handed down to me
and, with hands like my mother’s,
I prepare to, screw by screw,
remove my casing and fix my own
internal hard drive, from the hard drive
to the motherboard.
Make the motherboard seem less
old and worn and tired.
His virus can’t turn off the lights in us.