Like a Scimitar

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The black rhino’s horn curved like a scimitar.

It was the curve and the length of it—growing from nose and toward the cranium as though gravitating towards a center—contrasted against the squat earthly body that made the entire image ethereal.  

How is it that a simple fact—maybe even just a revision of a fact can unlock the way you see the world.  Reality is not as deep as what we see because there is always so much more to see.

I was told over and over that it was extremely unlikely that I would find a rhino in the wild.  Yet there it was, basking in the mud of a shallow creek—something that could have easily been a rock, sitting casually in its manmade rarity and scarcity. 

In my mind, a rhino’s horn has always been short and stubby.  Children around the world learn about the rhino because it is a large and idiosyncratic animal.  Yet it’s existence outside of Africa is artificial and that is hard to realize without actually trying to track a rhino down in the wild.  It’s renown is indirectly related to its actual population.  And the images of rhinos that we see are all of stubbed and short horns—perhaps because all the rhinos in captivity have had its horns purposefully trimmed to discourage poaching or there are simply not enough old rhinos to live to the age worthy of a scimitar horn.

Because I am in this privileged position of constant information, stimulation and access I felt suddenly as though the world had lied to me. How could it be that before this moment I did not know? But I suppose the process of birth and growth and education is a constant addition and subtraction of blinders.  The more we see the narrower our worldview can become; it sometimes feels safer to live with a kind of certainty of what the nature of this world is.

Sometimes I like to return to this moment because it shakes everything up.  It was a moment of such unadulterated euphoria and the absence of fear.  No fear of right or wrong or failure or vanity.  It was a moment that convinced me I have to keep traveling and I have to keep discovering my own misconceptions.  It was a moment where I felt immense gratitude for the luxury to travel and the unabashed desire to use this luxury.  I wish everyone could know that anything could lie beyond the next bush you pass, the next casual glance of an eye, the next person you meet.  I want to remember and re-live it again and again when I find myself convinced that the world is dull and grey and enclosed, I need to remember that it is not.  The world is grand and curved and unexpected—endlessly so. 

And if who I am now does not have the words or skills to adequately describe it all (and I am feeling so clumsy today), I need to keep trying again and again. 

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My Definition of Anxiety

I remember in high school I would read the definitions of mental illness conditions and I would be unable to confirm or deny whether I had any of it.  There is something that is lost in reflection—when you reflect upon yourself and if any of those definitions for depression, paranoia, anxiety, manic behavior actually defines you.  

I sometimes wondered if there was no “click” because the human experience of the mind is so intensely varied.  Or if I was so ingrained in the culture that exasperations with one’s own mind was a result of personal weakness.  Sometimes I wondered if the desire to not have any problems was so strong that it blinded me to being able to understand definitions.  When you read a word and it just floats in front of you as some sort of alien entity you can’t connect to your experience, the uncertainty is frightening.  

It’s taken me so many long years to articulate to myself “Yes, my brain right now is in anxiety mode.  It isn’t right, it isn’t right.  It’s not as it should be.”  These days, I’ve slowly been turning my head to meet anxiety in the eye.  To recognize it for what it is.  

If I were to define anxiety—it would be a tightening.  A tightening of the brain that pulses into every muscle below it.  To be so full of negative energy you can barely move.  To almost work manically, first on one thing and then to think of the next, so the next, only to remember something else that needs to be done.  It’s an unending chain and it’s exhausting.  And if I sit down and try to relax, I can only hear my head blaring images of everything that isn’t done.  Everything that isn’t right.  The piece of paper that hasn’t been picked up.  The fruit that hasn’t been bought.  The lack of accomplishment becomes so heavy in itself that I can barely breathe under the weight of it. Completing one task becomes purely a prologue to the next task.  It’s never over.  It doesn’t leave. It’s obsessive. 

That is anxiety for me.  I wonder if anyone can click with that definition? 

I haven’t written very much lately because sometimes writing can become a source of anxiety.  It’s that thing I feel like I should do but have not done.  It brings anxiety if it isn’t part of a habit—if it’s not something I do with regularity.  I’ve never done it regularly so I want to stop expecting myself to do it unless I can slowly develop it into a habit.  

Writing has saved me, but it has also torn me down.  Thinking back to the years since high school I think I’m just too tired to continue dealing with anxiety as it is—now that I’ve finally recognized it for what it is.  So I’ve made it my number one priority, beyond standards of success and creativity and cultivating discipline, I just want to be less anxious.  Because really, anxiety distorts everything else.  There is never success in teaching, only nervousness, there is never preparedness, only unpreparedness.  There is never ‘enough’ or ‘satisfaction’ because anxiety is preoccupied with all that wasn’t.  There is never rest because anxiety sees it as time wasted.  

But it isn’t, and I know that—I just can’t feel it all the time.  I want to be able to live in the present. 

On my wall, I have the words: 

It is extremely difficult to stay alert and attentive, instead of getting hypnotized by the constant monologue inside your own head. —David Foster Wallace

It isn’t so much inspiring as it is a definition that I found one day that clicked.  The “constant monologue” explains the detachment I often feel from reality.  The preoccupation with everything on the inside.  

This creature inside me, it is my partner and my companion and a part of me, but it doesn’t deserve the amount of space it demands.  

For weeks I’ve been thinking about how to approach writing about the past 4 months.  The teammates I’ve worked with, the project we devoted our semester to, the things I complained about, the friends I left, reflections on this first year of teaching, traveling to Kunming—>Nairobi—>around Kenya—>Beijing—>Tianjin and the privilege of travel, the things you can learn only by traveling, the sublime beauty of nature, what am I going to do with my future, the devastating earthquake in Yunnan etc. etc. etc.

It’s been hard to find internet and time to be recreational on the internet.  Just now I’m sitting in a Starbucks connected to a Beijing subway stop and I asked myself, if I only have the internet speed to upload one picture to my neglected Tumblr, what should it be?

Lions or giraffes or students or friends or family or mountains or skylines. 

So here’s an aerial view of Kibera, the largest urban slum in Africa.  It was the one thing I didn’t expect to see because I was too preoccupied by the idea of leaving Yunnan to think about where I was going.

 In my mind, the magnitude of Kibera and the magnificence of the savannah bookend two extremes of how vast this world can be. 

"The future, does it exist?"

Today I started writing in my diary again because I had been frustrated for too long over an inability to write—most of which having to so with writing for other people to read. So I wrote freely and raged with no mercy for punctuation.

And I revisited the last time I wrote in May of 2012 and I was shocked.

Shocked from remembering how completely erratic I was and how I very nearly became a Christian. A whole hearted and tragically desperate Christian. For all the wrong reasons.

Shocked over how I didn’t think I would have a future. I was sure I wasn’t going to make it. Shocked over how little even I knew what I was doing on a daily basis.

Shocked by how frightened I was. And alone, of my own doing.

"Day one of taking care of self. Debra called me and overwhelmed me. Walked to the rose garden and the dog descended. Slashes at myself to feel sharper as a person. What was going on?
I almost lost my umbrella; thank god it wasn’t taken.” —April 11, 2012

When I think back to who I was I inevitably connect it to who I am in the present. I was shocked that these words suddenly made me love who I am now even more. As though I could not trade in those days of fear if it meant losing this person I have now. And that makes me feel like the terror was conquered.

Reading also reminds me of the moments inexperience even now. Quite frequently, moments when I feel the fog nipping at my mind reminding me what it feels like to relinquish yourself to death. The draw of it. But also of how it does leave. It rescinds and the future moves on.

As I fret over what to do with my career and future and life I am stunned by my own past belief that the future would never come. And I feel an indescribably gratitude that I was wrong.


From my phone so please excuse the brevity and other potential errors.

“One moment….it’s what I want in a relationship […] it’s that thing when you’re with someone and you love them and they know it and they love you and you know it—but, it’s a party and you’re both talking to other people and you’re laughing and you’re shining and you look across the room and catch each other’s eyes—but not because you’re possessive or it’s precisely sexual—but because that is your person in this life and it’s funny and sad but only because this life will end. And it’s this secret world that exists right there in public unnoticed that no one else knows about.”
Frances Ha 

lungpeiling:

I appreciate that for all the selfie loving, peace-holding, skinny arm Taiwanese person, there is one disgruntled oncologist in our hospital who despises pictures and thinks that having an experience is already reward enough.

I love that in Guan Shan (關山) there is one 24 year old nurse who chose…

Pourquoi? 

Why is it
We cannot be
both happy and sad
both good and evil
both young and old
both independent and dependent
both idiotic and clever
both frightened and brave
both scandalous and dignified

Why is it
I cannot
go to heaven
and go to hell?
Why is it 
I can never find
the secret bridge 
to paradise? 

yalestewart:

daltonjamesrose:

nevver:

Hey Monster

😄😃😀

A-mothereffin’-mazing. Kill me now. It’ll never get better than this.

The best.  yalestewart:

daltonjamesrose:

nevver:

Hey Monster

😄😃😀

A-mothereffin’-mazing. Kill me now. It’ll never get better than this.

The best.  yalestewart:

daltonjamesrose:

nevver:

Hey Monster

😄😃😀

A-mothereffin’-mazing. Kill me now. It’ll never get better than this.

The best.  yalestewart:

daltonjamesrose:

nevver:

Hey Monster

😄😃😀

A-mothereffin’-mazing. Kill me now. It’ll never get better than this.

The best. 

yalestewart:

daltonjamesrose:

nevver:

Hey Monster

😄😃😀

A-mothereffin’-mazing. Kill me now. It’ll never get better than this.

The best. 

My student points towards a tree whose trunk has grown straight through a rock—and then marvels at it. 

Joy is infectious. 

A storm is coming. A storm is coming.