Wednesday, July 19, 2017

What is an Emotional Detox



Emotions are a funny thing. They’re irrational and don’t follow your set plans. It seems like emotions are a lot like words themselves. They refuse to be pinned down and when you try to explain them, to really use words to capture them, they slip through the cracks every time.
What I’ve come to realize is that emotions are multi-dimensional, that they don’t follow a set timeline nor do they follow the linear movement of the brain that separates yesterday from today and tomorrow.  I’ve come to see emotions as not a set words or phrases but rather as images and atmospheres that seem to whisper the internal excess of meaning that bulges out of words like happy, sad, insecure, angry, bitter.

The truth of the matter is that we never feel one thing at any given time. Sure, there are moments when happiness is amplified and you feel happy more than any other emotion, but that’s just because all the other more silent emotions are taking a back step, waiting for the right image, the right atmosphere to sing their tune once more.

I say all of this to come to the point that emotional detoxes are important. Being alone with oneself is a vital exercise in letting those overshadowed emotions come to the forefront to have their say. I think that if they don’t have their say, if they are not given a voice or some outlet of expression, then they will fester, become ingrown and lead to outbursts of irrational behavior.

What is an emotional detox? For me it seems to be a deep contemplation of the river of consciousness that exists in everyone. It’s allowing the mind to roam around within itself, connecting the past, present and future into one atmosphere, one image, if such a thing is possible.

A lot of the times we run away from our emotions, using various methods to distract us from our most insecure and painful memories. But what if we faced our demons? What if we took the time to really think about our feelings, to connect to them, to play music that creates an atmosphere where we can connect to images that truly are worth a thousand words. With time I believe that the emotions within ourselves that were painful or hard to give voice to will become easier to live with and may even open up to new interpretations as we live out new life experiences.

Like any detox, there is a period of going cold turkey. A period where every day seems like an up hill battle and you feel like running away from the parts of yourself that are broken and fragmented. But don’t give up. There is life, light and beauty in sitting with the darkest parts of ourselves. All you have to do is be courageous enough to try. 

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

What I want from you

                                                         

Be tender with your words
Slip them between my thighs...
hold them there.

Breathe me in,
smell the morning rawness,
the garlic fear
the sweet berries and acrid arsenic.

Be sensual like the feline night
and friendly like a dog after a day of work.
Take care of the scars and
the bulging muscles
(they are one in the same).

I'll show parts no one should ever see
I'll roar and I'll howl
trying to shatter the dome above
to set us momentarily free.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

How to Live Joyfully in a World Filled with Suffering

Is It Possible to Live Joyfully in a World full of Suffering?

People always bemoan how bad things are. How bad times are getting and how the end of days is very near. But I think people also tend to forget just how far we have come as a human race. We have survived two World Wars, we have cured countless diseases and we have delved deeper into the human psyche than human population has done before. Yet still people are unhappy, people are suffering and there is plenty of pain to go around.

So how do we live joyfully in a world filled with poverty, depression, sadness and evil. I have no easy answers to these questions, but I would like to offer some strategies on how to live joyfully in a world filled with pain.

Gratitude. It is the one value that I prize above all simply because many other values stem from a source of gratitude. From the love we have for our parents, to the love we have for friends, gratitude is the one value that I believe can offer solace, hope, consolation and healing in many of our lives. Being grateful for the food that we eat, the bed that we sleep in, the job that we have, the car that we drive and the people who love us is extremely important because it offers us perspective on our lives and enables us to deal with obstacles in our lives that otherwise may destroy us. Gratitude reminds us that there is joy to found in the simplest of actions, the simplest of experiences and the most mundane of human actions From drinking a cup of green tea to being able to exercise at the gym, there are countless ways to remind ourselves about just how lucky we are to be alive.

Service. The values of gratitude cannot stop with ourselves. It is only through being grateful for what we have that we are compelled to serve those less fortunate than ourselves. Sometimes I feel the word “Service” can overwhelm us and make it seem that we each have to be Mother Theresa but this is not the case. Service comes from giving a piece of fruit to a beggar standing on the corner. It comes from being polite to those people who are on the fringes of society. We serve others when we give tutoring lessons for free to a girl that lives up the road, or when we lend a hand to a soup kitchen without offering anything in return. Humans are social animals and as social animals we thrive on developing and evolving our culture and the way we relate to one another. With the recent student protests across South African universities I believe that a deeper culture is developing. One that places the African agenda at the forefront and one that re-imagines what it means to be African. These type of discussions are important especially for a country still feeling the aftermath of years of colonialism and white patriarchy. Yet, we must also remember that as citizens of a culture we are also called to serve and protest responsibly, and in a way that respects the dignity and rights of all people.  Drawing from the protest politics of Ghandi and Martin Luther King, citizens of country have the power to serve and change a society through words of change and actions  that send a message of non-violence, tolerance, intelligence and a deep commitment to changing society peacefully.


Connections. We must seek meaningful connections with people. What does that mean? I am talking about the type of connections where two individuals bear their souls to one another. This can be hard in a world optimized for social gratification through social media platforms. These platforms offer facades, and unrealistic standards to which we unconsciously compare ourselves to. But these platforms are (to quote Lady Gaga) perfect illusions. No one’s life is perfect and everyone harbors their own share of guilt, shame, unhappiness and pain. But this is part of the human experience. It is only through sharing our pain with honestly with our closest friends that we can ever hope to truly enjoy happiness authentically. Social Media turns us all into marketable brands and some people are better at marketing themselves than others. These people should not be envied nor should they be hated or put down for being shallow. Rather, what I am advocating for is a move beyond social media as a measuring stick but rather a  tool for connection, a tool for meaningful communication, a way to mobilize people around a common cause and an element of humanity that does not detract from being human, but enlivens it. This means not posting to Facebook to show off but to celebrate oneself and others genuinely. Sure, some people may see these thoughts as too idealistic and maybe they are. But if we could gather a sliver of idealism and live by it day by day, we would be all the best for it. 

Monday, September 19, 2016

Forgiveness: Letting Go

What does it take to forgive someone? To put aside your differences and settle in a path to healing and recovery?


First, I think it takes a little perspective. Taking a step back and seeing matters from all angles and not just your own. This is especially hard because true objectivity is hard to come by. But if we can manage to see the bigger picture then maybe we will be able to empathize or even put the situation in a context that gives it new meaning.

Second, it takes putting aside ones ego. As I have said before, the 21st century is an era of the Ego. The individual is king in our era. This idea can sometimes be problematic. Not only does it lead to selfishness but it can also become an impasse to achieving forgiveness that is restorative and healing.

But when we have been hurt by someone. It is hard not to want to hurt them back. Or to hold resentment towards them. I do not feel that we should forgive and forget. I believe we should forgive and remember. But remember in order to be better. Remember in order to see the person for who they were in that particular situation.  We remember because remembering is a way to prepare for the future. A way to bend time to our own advantage and seek out better choices for our lives in the future.

It is in remembering the past hurts and transgressions that we have the opportunity to become better people.

Quite often in the heat of passion it can be hard to see clearly. And that's okay. Forgiveness does not happen over night. Like healing from any trauma, forgiveness takes time. There will be setbacks and there will be times of anger and resentment but we must keep our eyes on the goal.

And what is the goal or point of forgiveness?
We forgive people not for them. But for ourselves. Malachy McCourt said that resentment is like drinking posion and expecting the other person to die.
When we do not forgive we can hold onto energy that can change us into bitter people. Forgiveness is about letting go. And often in our modern age it is the act of letting go  that needs to be practiced above all.

So reach past your ego, past your pain, past your own subjective experience and grab hold of that sliver of forgiveness. Maybe for yourself. Maybe for your lover or your friend. If life's obstacles breaks relationships down then forgiveness is the tool to reshape those broken relationships into tools that can teach us to be better, more circumspect people in society.

Friday, September 16, 2016

Becoming Me


I walk into Nate Bishop Memorial hospital, my nerves twisted in knots. The receptionist knows me well; I greet her and carry on towards the waiting room where I am called within ten minutes of my arrival. I am ushered towards a small dressing room where I am expected to disrobe and put on those white hospital garments I despise so much. Why does it have to be white? Surely in a place that sees more of the inside of the body than the outside, white wouldn’t be such a clever choice.
“Miss Thomas, Dr Cantrel is ready for you now”
I take one last look in the mirror. Here it comes.
The nurse leads me through the corridor towards the plastic surgery wing. A swarm of kids exit a room to the left of me I step back and almost tumble over , luckily the nurse catches hold of me. I look down at the startled little girl in front of me
“You guys should be more careful!” says the nurse
“Sorry mam… we will, we promise.”
Children, so unaware of complexity. To little kids life is as simple as running through corridors screaming laughing and having a good time, until some adult ruins the fun. Kids can also be mean , scathingly mean.

I remember as a kid insisting that my mom buy me boys clothing. If she didn’t I would throw my entire body into a crying fit and my mom, being the sensitive soul that she was, gave in almost every time. I remember the kids on the playground laughing at me, asking me why I wore boys’ clothing or why my hair was so short for a girl.  I couldn’t understand at first what the whole big fuss was about, it was me. Images of dresses, skirts and long hair were pieces to another jigsaw puzzle but not mine.

We walk onward passing ward after ward. Sick person after person.
“ Don’t you think that it is such a normal occurrence for our bodies to fail us. A normalcy for our biology to mutate in ways unexpected, even in ways that work against our goals and dreams. “ I say this to the nurse but I’m saying it more to myself.
I look to the side of me and the nurse is giving me the blankest stare I’ve possibly ever received in my life. She doesn’t care and why should she?
I smile and say “Never mind, it doesn’t matter.”

I turn my gaze from the awkward energy between the nurse and me towards an open ward door and for a brief passing moment I see an old lady, shriveled and wrinkled, hugging what I assume to be her husband in his hospital bed.  They remind me of my parents , or at least what my parents would have looked like, still alive, still together.  

 “You feel like a what inside?”
“ Dad, please don’t make me repeat it.”
“No I want to hear you say it!”
 “Martin, calm down…please” my mother, always pacifying the volcanic temperament of my dad.
“I feel like a…u know…and I have for as long as I can remember.”
My dad stood there, visibly biting his lips. His face contorting in all sorts of disfigured shapes. What was I to do then, a teenager bordering on adulthood, standing in front of my elders , bare and naked in truth.

I quickly snap out of myself. I had walked to the plastic surgery wing almost every week for the past month and now this walk today seemed to be taking longer than usual. The nurse guides me though double doors that lead to a staircase which I would have to climb about two flights of stairs to get to the plastic surgery wing.
“Mam, this is where I leave you. Do you know your way? “
“Yes thank you, I do.”
“Well, just to make sure, you take two flights of stairs and then walk through the doubles doors and you’ll be in another small waiting room.”
“Yes, just as I remembered, thank you. “
The nurse gives me a ceremonial nod and leaves. I am relieved to see her go. These last few steps seem to be the hardest. I don’t quite feel present, as if I’m floating above myself , watching this frame of a woman stagger hesitantly to her own destruction. But things must be destroyed in order to be rebuilt. I keep saying this to myself.

I walk through the double doors and start climbing the stairs. All of a sudden I feel a shortness of breath take over me. I cannot seem to catch it so to stop myself from totally falling over I stop and hold onto the banister, attempting at all costs to regain my composure. A memory, from somewhere inside my guts, resurges into my brain and explodes onto my cornea.
I’m on a date, first date, his name was Jacob. I didn’t quite know what Jacob saw in a tomboy like me but he had told me that he enjoyed the fact that I was so boyish and that actually attracted him to me in the first place. I found that odd at first but then again who was I to judge. So I attempted my first shot at normalcy with him. My parents were so excited to see that some boy had taken an interest in me.  I really couldn’t disappoint them seeing how excited and nervous, probably hoping that this boy would turn their tomboy daughter into a real girl.
There we were, two nervous teenagers in a Chinese restaurant with bowls of steaming fried rice and chicken stir-fry between us. He was a gentleman that night and I tried to be as lady-like as possible. The skimpy black skirt my mom had picked out for me was sand paper on my skin, along with the eye-liner that seared my eyes and the blush that was making me feel like a baked doll. I tried, despite these things, to look engaged and interested, but try as I may I couldn’t help but see him as a good old pal, nothing more ,nothing less. The evening drew to a close, I had stuffed myself with stir-fry and smelt of soy-sauce and garlic but that didn’t seem to deter Jacob from wanting to kiss me in his rusty grey Honda Civic car.

“You know I like you Gina ?”
My jaw instantly locked, after a silence I managed to speak
“uuuummm yes Jacob I know but listen…”
“…no buts Gina , I know you feel the same way, I mean we make perfect friends, imagine how good we’ll be together.”
“Together? No Jacob, wait let me speak…” The air seemed to vacate the car as I yearned for it to give my vocal chords the strength they needed to voice how I felt. My mouth became sandy and I swallowed hard, still trying to regain some composure, then he kissed me. That car became an iron lung, breathing for me, deciding for me, assuming and thrusting me forth into the harsh light of a thousand strobe lights.
I manage to settle my lungs into a regular rhythm. I begin climbing the two flights. There is a slight muscle burn in my legs reminding me to hit the gym soon. After the operation I’ll be able to look as buff as I can without it looking weird. It’s a comforting feeling to know that you’ll soon be able to share in experiences of life previously restricted to you by biology. What is this whole “biology” thing anyway?
I reach the door leading to the plastic surgery wing, open it and walk through. Immediately I am greeted by a swathe of women and men all sitting in the beige waiting room. Everything is silent, so silent it produces tension instead of relaxation. A overly sentimental classical song plays in the speakers as the receptionist smacks away on the flimsy white keys of her keyboard. Each person here, I assume,  has their own imperfection that they want dealt with: enlarging breaths, reducing breasts, eliminating fat, sharpening noses, creating bigger penises for small egos. Their eyes all watch me as I enter the room. They look at me as if we are fellow conspirators. They look at me as if by being in this room we are immediately sharing in something intimate.  I walk over to the desk, announce myself to the receptionist.
“ Thomas…”
“aaahhh yes, good morning Miss Thomas,  Dr. Cantrel will be with you shortly”
I take a seat next to a chubby gentleman with a pulpy, pink nose. He shifts in his seat as I take mine. Am I making him uncomfortable? I smile to myself a little.
“So what are you here for ? “I ask , toying with his visible discomfort. He looks at me surprised and says
“Nose job…”
I nod understandingly, “I’m here for gender reassignment.” I say with a smile and  wink. He looks at me perplexed and now the rest of the room begins to hone in on our conversation.
“ You know if God wanted you to be a boy, he’d make you a boy”
I am taken aback by his willingness to continue our conversation. “Well if God wanted there to be peace in the world he would have made that so too. You can use that argument for anything that is lacking or distorted in our world. If God wanted me to be a girl, he should have rewired me in some way so that I would like dresses and the color pink too. But alas, God does not rewire, we get what we get and we work with it.”
Just then Dr. Cantrel walks in.
“Miss Thomas, we ready for you…”
I smile to the gentleman next to me and say “What’s your name sir ? “
“Martin.”
“Martin…” I repeat it to myself, playing with each letter between my lips and on my tongue. The universe is surly playing tricks. I tap Martin on the shoulder and say “Nice to have met you Martin.”  I walk away from him towards the doctor but then I turn round.
“Oh and don’t worry about the nose, its only biology. God gave you that didn’t he?”  I say. I turn on my heels I head through the double doors following Dr. Cantrel in his long, white lab coat. Looking all magician-like.
I am all wrapped up in light blue hospital wear. A drip descends from my wrist. The bag of liquid above me drips deliriously slow, it’s almost hypnotizing if you watch it for long enough. The sound of “beep….” ”beep…” “beep…”echoes throughout the room, containing each time bubble; my last few time bubbles in this mold of mine. A group of masked faces appear in a circle around me. In the middle of the circle is a bright light. Is this what people describe when they walk through mortality into oblivion? I squint in order to keep my eyes open.
“ Okay Miss Thomas… we are about to start the procedure. This is the first step in many forthcoming procedures but it is the most important. We will begin administering the anesthesia.” Says Dr. Cantrel.
A woman sitting to the side of me places what looks like a gas mask over my face.  For the strangest reason I get a flash of images of Auschwitz: the camps, gas chambers, the smell of death among the deviants, among the exiles. I am told to breathe normally. Am I nervous? I don’t know. I’m numb.

“10…9 …..8” I suddenly think how similar this is to the countdown of a bomb going off. Before I drift off into the sterile twilight I sigh. I know what lies in destruction.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Sample Poems from my upcoming Poetry Collection

Today I post some sample poetry of a collection I am currently working on. Enjoy!


Happy Nadir

I am happy to have been scorched.
Happy to have my arms nailed
asunder,
crying out to the empty blue sky.
I am happy that sunsets make me cry
and children playing,  nostalgic.

Happy to have secrets wrapped like Christmas presents
in   my   body.
Happy to have been blinded by lithium set alight.
Healed through darkness and
thrust out into the raw morning air.

Happy to have drained blood for you
to drink
and shared my limbs for your journey
into the valley of no shape,                     no form.
Happy to be weakened by happiness and
emboldened by sorrow.

The weeping feels like sex.
The first moment you entered me
my body stretched to welcome you,
Now it constricts to expel you.

The orgasm runs from my eyes,
I convulse, I contort,
expel expel expel
nothing will out.

The orgasm pools in my palms,
I begin to see something that looks a
little like me.

I gasp for joy
I gasp for pain
its all the same.
I am happy to have learnt how to love
scorched Earth and barren land.




What Adrienne taught me about the Wreck.

Why have you left me here
with the broken shells of our underwater house.

Where have you gone
with your glazed over eyes and sleeping body.

Take me with you
there is no place in this  no-place.


The world gave me a map
outlining the body but not the contents.

So with these broken shells I dived
into the wreckage, to save what I could.

The pieces didn’t fit.
They just cut deeper, lodged stubbornly in orifices.

Where have you gone?
Come back.

Call to me if you can  (if you want to)
yell, scream, throw something (anything) at me
(make me angry).
Broken words
strung together with stale bubblegum.

A bitter aftertaste,
too much gin seeping  into the pores.

All around this wreckage:
half smiles, torn fabric, shattered wine glasses, lost jewellery, splintered floorboards
blinded mice, rotten bread, dysfunctional cell phones, distorted mannequins, punctured condoms,
melted plastic, carcinogenic cutlery, stained linen, bleached walls, bloody underwear, crusty hands, decaying bodies…


I understand what you want to do.
in the wreck I search for the button to reset it all.
I understand what you want to do.

Run away.
Burn it all.

Our bodies involuntarily vomit at the sight.

We do not live in this wreckage
anymore. 



When an Author Dies

I have died and gone into limbo
Leaving words on a page for them to wonder:
Who was he?
What did he mean?
Can we ever really know?

They will lean over my page with a flashlight
And never find a trace of me, simply
That I was submersed in a place
Filled to the brim with liquid
And the sun shone through me
Filtered down and landed: Splat!

Taken out of context
There’s a gap between the train and the station.
The passengers get on and never leave, they don’t know where they’re going.

On the phone the voice calls
To an automated response system
“The number you have dialed is out of service”
And just like that years of communication
Kids commenting about “bitches”
Behind plastic masks and screens in the dark.
The plastics of the world reduced to a fine
Super fine art.
Pixelated and packaged
Through filters and angles
Removing blemishes with a click.

It begins to
Break down
And no one can see
I’m in limbo

Swinging from a tree.
In toilet stalls
Written in black marker:
Shy voices of the biological forces
Come out come out
Out of the vibrating cell.

The words become me
The spectacle the reductions
The overall summaries of a life
Too full to ever
Put                                to      ge ther.


Its haphazard and its chaotic
Its shouting and its whispers
Its holding up the mike
And praying for the electricity to kick in.

The factories keep calling my name
The factories of fame.
The factories spew us all out
We fashioned refashioned manufactured
For our unique faces in the mirror which hides
The little spiders in our minds.

I distrust the confident
Those we know which way is up
And those who tell me the sky is blue
How they have lied to me and you.

The show is on and the magician is at work
He will not let me behind the scenes to see.
I swing in limbo from a tree
Sending whispers on the wind
Confusing sunrises for meaningful things.

What breaks                                                                                            apart
And
What                                                                                holds?


L e t t e r s    wish to stand A       L      O      N     E    .


THEY SIT AT MY TREE ALL GROWN UP,  STARING AT ME

Mutely I swing eyes glazed over immortalized forever
 for the wrong thing






Dance Dance Dance

The rain keeps falling, canals of water run off every roof.
It’s a downpour of major proportions.
And those who choose to
Dance dance dance.

The thunder bellows from the clouds
Tearing eardrums and sending pups into kennels
And those who choose to
Dance dance dance.

The cats screech clawing at each other in fright,
The lighting cracks the sky and all of heaven
Is toppling down into hell.
And those who choose to
Dance dance dance.

Wet and mangled are the leaves of the trees
Which once hung joyfully.
Now brown and pressed down into mush
Unrecognizable from what they were,
Patterning the ground with sweet death
And decay.
There are those who dance upon them
Pressing death into the ground.
Dance dance dance

What is there in the gyrating of the flesh?
What joy in the twisting muscle and contracting heart.
How alive are we in the downpour of it all, when
Drenched to the skin and open to the sky
We let everything in:
Dance dance dance.

Nothing can tell us
How this storm will change
The landscape and wash the dirt in the streets away.
Flooding out and flooding in
No need to gasp for air
We were born to breath under water and
Dance dance dance..

Monday, August 8, 2016

On Courage: Cutting our Way Through The Forest

So often the difficult times in our lives are much like a jungle, the amazon jungle for instance. We are smack bang in the middle of all that vegetation, all those things that distract us from looking at our pain, our regrets, the things that haunt us. We bury these things and get lost in the vegetation of the forest. We allow little insects (the small irritants of a Western civilized, capitalist society) to annoy us, to get under our skin, to cause us to curse at the heavens for allowing such a thing as humanity to exist.
But then we may at times be offered a machete. A chance in any small way to cut a path through the forest; to mow down the branches and wide leaves that block our path. And where does our path lead you may ask? I think our path always should lead to the top of the nearest, highest hill. In life this could be anything: a song that causes us to face our feelings, a good gym workout that enriches our body and mind, a spiritual meditation or prayer, or even something cultural like a moving theater production, work of art, film, or the company of a friend that understands. These small transcendent moments are those hills surrounding our forest. These moments make up in height what they lack in length. What do I mean by that?I mean that they are brief but immensely rewarding. 

Once you have cut your way through the forest of your pain, felt everything you needed to feel, cursed at everything you needed to curse at, and sumitted your hill, you are able to look back at your struggle, look back at your past pain and fading demons and see them for  what they really were. In the midst of pain and strife it’s hard to see clearly, hard to hold our heads true and stick to simple goals. But it is those very same simple goals, simple passions, simple connections that are our weapons to cut our way through to the summit of  our hill.

So what does it take to do this? It can be summed up in one word: courage. But this is not the courage of superheroes whose powers put them at an advantage when facing danger. No, this is a courage whose strength lies in its vulnerability, in its ability to break down for any reason and hurt till there is no more hurt left. This is a courage that empties the hurt tank,that expels the demons instead of suppressing them. When Joan of Ark was arrested by the English and interrogated so that the English could convict her for blasphemy, she was no doubt scared beyond words. But what made her face the pyre bravely? What made her stay true to herself and to her beliefs? It was courage. A human courage that sees the quality of life not in its length but in those moments that are transcendent and universal. Joan believed that her suffering had meaning and it is quite interesting to note that in another country centuries ago a wise man named Siddhārtha Gautama had preached that human life is suffering.

So we face that suffering with a vulnerable courage that is creative, that channels pain into meaning, that forms the bliss in the void, that seeks, that reflects and that lives authentically. Finally, we must remember that courage is not the absence of fear but the realization that there is something more meaningful, more worthwhile and more rewarding than fear.