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From The Afterglow

Verses, Tales, Thoughts

by Varsha Panikar

How can one embrace the future if one is still yearning for the past?

Alone, I walk past my old haunts, the bittersweet entangles. I can no longer recognize them with my sore and weary eyes. Still, I behold the visage of those I’ve chosen to abandon as I moan and ache in silence. They try to reach but I recede. My hands ascend over my head searching for something larger to keep me; the mundane, the mould away. My search persists. The haunts, all vacant; old reveries of memories held dearly no more; they persist, and like nails, they pierce through the skull like hellfire to the soul.

I behold it now, with no control and no vision, just subtle haunting sensation and scourge after scourge, I endure. More and more unsure of whether I’ve reached ashore, or still treading as before.

Nails are sinking in my head.

[From my series, Whispers To My Shadows]

There was a time I used to think it was necessary to figure the world out and as a small niche of that, my life. Worse still, I believed it was possible given enough thought. I then went through a stage of believing I had pretty much done both of those. What can I say? Vanity knows no bounds. In fact, I went through a stage of heavy disillusionment, both with the belief that I had figured out my life and the world. Luckily, I soon realized the answers to questions in society were false or only partially true and would require a lot more experience, thought and learning to even approach. So with time, I trimmed down the tree of my expectations and aspirations. Growing older kicked me hard with reality. It killed some or much of my youthful optimism and exuberant idealism.

Gradually, my thinking, my beliefs — fell in line with my experiences rather than trying to work to experiences based on my beliefs. I developed a stoical attitude to life. Accepting it pretty much as it is, imperfect but still good, neither optimistic nor pessimistic. Personally, I came to hope for little. It’s strange to consider yourself an optimist when you expect very little. On a wider scale, my politics and philosophy became more humanistic, more realistic. I realized that politics is nuanced, complex and exceedingly difficult, and philosophy has come to be somewhat irrelevant in our modern society and where it is not, it doesn’t serve much either. I learnt that life is nuanced and rarely, black and white. We’re all figuring it out as we go along — as individuals, as societies. Like art, living is a creative process, where you look for the ability to create something within it, the opportunities for fun, for pleasure, for kindness and the like. Even though I had heard it many times, it was only then that I understood that life truly was like an adventure, a multifaceted journey which you define with each step. It can be exciting and inspiring! Still, there was something I could not wrap my head around. The uncertainty that comes with it; it got to me nearly every time.

Uncertainty is a curious thing. It is complex because it doesn’t have any sort of form. It’s mutable and constantly changing. It doesn’t sit in your stomach like hopelessness, it doesn’t course through you like anger, it doesn’t freeze you like depression. Uncertainty is just that - uncertain. You can’t deal with it because it shifts all the time, but it’s not always bad because it thrills us as well as crushes us. Anticipation is one of the most intense feelings you can have.

Think about the last few minutes of a game, your team up by 1. Anticipation is one of the most intense feelings you can have. Think about the last few minutes of a game, your team up by 1. That feeling, the increased heart rate, the rapid breathing, the excitement? That’s uncertainty too, and it would be unfair to discount it. Uncertainty is the most intensely personal drug the human race can experience. Everybody rides it at one time or another, but nobody gets the same reaction — and in our own way, we are all addicts. That’s what makes it feel so bad. It gets to us because it taps into the most powerful emotion we are capable of experiencing, hope! Do you know what they say about hope? That hope, is a rainbow winged bird flying high in the dark night sky, only to be seen by a dreamers eye.

They say that life isn’t good or bad, it just is. I am slowly starting to grasp that idea. In this present moment, all I can hope for is hope itself. A hope where I am able to just be more in the present and not linger in the past, or worry about the future; be more accepting of its uncertainty. A hope that I am able to focus on creating myself and be more accepting of me. A hope that one day my body will give into my soul and I might be to understand my place in this world, or perhaps, see beyond infinity. A hope that maybe one day I am able to truly stop trying to figure all this out. Deep down, I’ve always felt that whatever I am looking for is present within me, even though I haven’t been able to explore it; but what I hope for most of all, is that one day, I can truly learn to just be!

Have you ever taken the time to count your scars, the ones on your body? What about the ones within you—the ones that often hurt the most, the ones seared into your memory forever?

The thing about psychological and emotional scars is that they can't be seen, and some of them run deep—so deep that, at times, we fail to recognize them, and no matter how hard we try, they seem impossible to overcome. This is not to say it's impossible because some do find a way. Sadly, many don't; at least, not in time. Even though the pain rooted in our hearts and minds may pass, more often than not, the scar remains. Deep beneath the surface, it stays.

We all have scars that won't heal and won't stop hurting. Some fade and dull, while others stay bold and sharp. Some are easy to see or share, and some are not. Some scars force a negative emotional reaction or trigger an inability to handle certain events and behaviors. Some break us every day, like a never-ending nightmare. Some hide within us, patiently waiting for us to slip back. Some claw at the walls of our sanity, leaving us exposed. So, what do we do?

We create an exterior made up of lies to keep ourselves safe, while the inner wall continues to crumble a little each day. We try to heal it, or we learn to live with it, or worse, we get good at hiding it—so good that we convince ourselves it isn't even there. Until it regurgitates its poison and once again pulls out its dark, cold, and piercing claws that dig deep and affect our basic functionality and interaction with the world. Yet, we continue to walk through life with all this buried deep within us, without ever truly recovering from it. As a result, these scars get neglected and rarely receive proper understanding or empathy, continuing to destroy us bit by bit along the way. I wonder if this is human resilience or ignorance. You decide.

The point is, we are everywhere. You may have bumped into us on the street, in the gym, in the elevator, at your workplace. We may be someone in your family or your circle of friends. You may have seen us. You may even be us. So what will you do?

I personally have a strange relationship with my scars. Sometimes I see them. Sometimes I don't. Mostly, I just wish they were gone, but they are here to stay. They aren't going anywhere, at least not anytime soon. My scars cast a darkness so thick that I find it hard to find my way. I have no choice but to answer when this darkness calls my name. I may cover and hide, but I can't really escape. Sometimes it creeps up unexpectedly, rearing its ugly head, and I cringe at the sound of it, filling me quickly with dread. So quietly, so softly, it whispers my name and reminds me once more it is time for its sick little game. Old and familiar, the game remains the same. Over and over, the same hurtful exchange. The damage was done years ago in my youth, and I bleed from it now, no matter the truth. Bitter, unforgiving, always venomous and mad, this darkness destroys any sense of self that I have. So what am I going to do?

A part of me says, "Nothing," because it knows that somewhere lurks a new scar, waiting to be born and take its rightful place, and there is nothing I can do about it. I've tried to fight it time and again, but the results are always the same. So what can I really do? I will continue to be strong and carry on anyway, try to be true to myself, try to keep the monster at bay because I know that I must. I will continue to fight because I MUST! Sometimes, I feel that our survival instincts are starting to fail us miserably, but that's a thought for another day. In the meantime, I will write. I'll write the emotions that rage within me. I'll continue to fall and rise from this darkness I nurtured inside of me. I'll slowly learn to let go of these scars that hold and bind me, that sometimes paralyze me. I will let them rip me to shreds and then build myself up from it, again and again, until they lose all control over me. I will open up the wounds that gnaw at me and demand a truce with them before they consume me. I will place my faith in hope and wait until I don't overcome them or learn to embrace them so I can make peace with them. Granted that there is also a possibility that I might never triumph over this darkness, but there is comfort in knowing that the pain does subside a little, each passing day, it does subside.

So while I sit here wading, brooding in the depths of these thoughts, I can't help but wonder, what if these scars were visible? What if they could be seen as they formed? Would people be more cautious? What if our moods could be seen as colors? What color do you think we'd see the most? What if we could see the damage we cause? What if our thoughts could be seen as dark and light? What do you think would happen? Could it make a difference?

You decide.

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