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From The Afterglow

Verses, Tales, and Thoughts: A Literary Odyssey

By Varsha Panikar

I used to believe there was distinct segregation between the two ‘worlds’ - one good, one bad. This dichotomy was being used to categorize nearly everything in the world around me, including me - events, people, food, decisions. This, at times, made me feel like I was put in something of a straitjacket. It always made me feel uneasy, unhappy and constantly unsure of my actions and decisions. Although, as time passed, the segregation began to lessen and the two worlds drew curiously close together. I realized that good and bad are not polarities. They are not opposites. We may not like one end of the scale, and so we call it bad, but this does not make bad an opposite polarity of good. Now, I won't extend this approach to 'really bad things and events' because I can't. Yet, this state of equanimity or acceptance of the relative nature of good and bad once applied to some aspects of my life, internally and externally, has helped me over time. To allow you to gain a better understanding of the divide, I will try to describe it metaphorically.

The best way I can explain it is if I examine the separation of the two worlds to staring through a rain-spattered windowpane. One could look straight through the coating of rain droplets covering the glass pane, subconsciously registering them as an inconvenient obstacle that needed to be overcome, and thus, automatically and instinctively ignoring them. On the other hand, one could also focus directly on the rain droplets and visually register them in their own right while still having the ability to look through them to the other side.

At times, you may find yourself feeling shock waves of badness when you do something you were taught was wrong even if now you don't agree that it's bad. In these times, remember that you are a human with every right to be here, learning and exploring. To label yourself good or bad is to think too small. What you are is a decision-maker and every moment provides you with the opportunity to move in the direction of evolution or in the direction of stagnation or degradation. Our choices and actions lead us in different directions, and it is through those choices and actions that we create our realities. Sometimes our choices take us in the opposite direction of the reality we want to create for ourselves. At times like these, instead of labeling yourself good or bad, simply acknowledge that you made a choice that lead you down a particular path and let it go, forgive yourself and prepare for the next opportunity to choose, and act, in ways that support your best intentions. Resist being blinded by the peaks and valleys of wins and losses in life, and be kinder to yourself and others. Choose improving yourself to killing yourself just to attain a ridiculous standard of perfection. You have strengths, and you have weaknesses. Sometimes you succeed, and sometimes you fail. Sometimes you’re right, and sometimes you’re wrong. It is just the way things are, so try to accept yourself and allow yourself to fully be who you are. In the end, only you know the difference. If you find yourself going into self-judgment, try to stop yourself as soon as you can and come back to the center. Do not undermine your ability to find your own moral center and to trust and be guided by your inner self. Be aware! You will figure out the balance along the way. Know that you are not good or bad, you are simply you.

Excerpt from, The End Of The Line.

I feel tender, but not like a flower or a love story. Instead, a deep cut left weeping in the cold wind, like scabs that one picks until they leave scars. I wish I could tear out the hard lump in my throat like tissue.

Have you ever just wanted a free mind, one where you can simply exist and forget everything; not because you don't enjoy what you are doing, but because it will allow you to do anything you wanted? A mind free of over-thinking consequences or risks of actions? A truly free mind? It's something I wish I had.

I also wish I could heal correctly, but for now, I would like to curl up and just cry, tenderly.

I’m scared that there are people watching me in the dark. I turn my head and glimpse out of my periphery, only to see shadows and paintings of laughing faces. Patterns slowly diminish in the absence of light, but an impending doom resides, burns more intensely. I tighten my pose and clench my fists. It waits in the corner, nose pressed to the cold, while I cover my face and lower my eyes in hate, self hate. Always watching but never receiving anything but judgement and deceit. Nothing ever comes of it.

I’m alone here in the dark, marking my territory with absent eyes and great reprise. No, I don’t feel complete. Absent of any remaining desires, I claim it’s outstretched hand and let It take me. My benefit isn’t loneliness. My sides ache, and my shoulders cry out; sore and weak from holding up the world, the world within, the world without. This is the day I weep, the day I leave these memories behind, or perhaps, fall further into misery; holding the last piece I took with me, a fragment of what used to be; and watch it disperse into ash from my withering palm.

I will wait for better times on the other side and find myself drawn to your gravity, once again, but time has become abstract. Hours and decades are unclear to me, but there is hope beyond this barren place where time cannot follow, only erase. My burdens absorbed. I let it take me. A voice tells me to run, but something inside refuses let go, but fret not! These are the shadows of my mind, my daily chore, nothing more.

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