The Outsider

The Outsider

Hello.

You know, all my life, I’ve had the oddest feeling. And this is the first time I am voicing it.

Perhaps it only exists in my imagination, but much better is it to set it down in words, to give it shape, and, by breathing life into it, let it prance a familiar dance in the hearts of others.

This feeling is one of apartness, of being an observer rather than a participant, yet, at the same time, it is so much more than that.

Let’s see if I can put it into words.

It is as if, since birth, everyone else has been initiated into a grand, secret society, of dazzling rites and orgies and clandestine comforts and smiles and words, of which I have no part. This is sensation is accompanied by a bone-deep anguish, for I whirl in confusion about these people, glimpsing signs of this cult, yet unable to do anything but just that: look, and look, sometimes in hunger, sometimes in curiosity, sometimes even in brief flashes of understanding, but never in true knowledge.

Have I confused you?

I probably have.

I suppose it’s simply this certain assurance in people, this veneer of self-assured glamor and belonging. Most markedly, it springs up when I observe parties, elegant, glittering parties of adults with wines and loud talk, or even families, gathered outside their wedding-cake homes for a meal and then driving away in their gleaming cars for a bonfire down at the beach. I watch them, then, like a shadow, and I see their smiling, I see their knowing, I see the greedy strength of the parents who seem to hold the whole world on their shoulders and are strong and know their place in the world, seem to know it all, and fall asleep with security and safety in their hearts, for they have bloated wallets and built tiny empires with them, and look at how the dear pretty children scurry about their feet in high laughter…

…and I feel apart. I feel an ache within me, not for their castles and carriages, but for that laughing certainty, that clustered, close-knit belonging, that quiet steady knowing as if not a single star in the sky is out of place, and if it were, they would be able to flick their fingers to wink it back into existence.

It’s so nebulous a feeling, and attempting to describe it is like trying to grip an ectoplasm in one’s fingers, that I thank you for your patience so far. It’s just, I would so like for this to be understood, in some way.

When people party, and laugh, I wonder what could possibly be so funny, in that mad furor and noise and flashing lights. I wonder if they could possibly realise the fool’s gold they stroke in their hearts to make their dreams sweet. I wonder how they could not wonder, about anything, about the world, about life, and yet still twirl and spin and laugh over inane jokes to impress themselves and impress others and feel beautiful, all their loud and thrust-out egos pushing and shoving and mingling in a rough soiree.

Once, I visited my friend’s house while they were in the middle of a barbecue. She lived close by, and I had to return something to her for school. There they were, all chatting and knowing and sitting together, close and safe in their oneness, and I stood there, at the door, watching them with a wild, confused hunger, as my friend pranced towards me, hair curled and cheeks dusted with glitter – she looked like a fairy, and just as distant – and thanked me, profusely, for the papers, and I asked me if I wanted to join them. Then her brother appeared, I’d heard he’d already had a job at a law firm, and was raking in the big bucks and climbing up the ladders of the company, and I looked at this tall, long-limbed, steady creature that loped towards the door and I was impressed and yet I could not understand, I was wildly jealous of his knowing and assurance, yet I could not understand what went through his mind at night, when he worked through files and lived and flourished in a world, in a society, I often could not stand. I could see his whole life spread out before him: a beautiful wife, children, trips to the beach, a beautiful home and holidays and a retirement after years of being a successful member of society, rich and revered and with grandchildren scurrying about his feet. And I was painfully envious of this life, though I did not desire it for myself, and I was confused.

How do they do it? How do people do it? How do these adults, mingling in their grand parties, in their expensive dresses with their alcoholic drinks, these big people, these big, big people, at these conventions and at the White House and at Presidential meetings and at Oscar awards and at everywhere where one must smile and looking dazzling and put-together, how did they enjoy and do these things, how did they look so high and mighty and sure, how they could not be haunted the gruesome reality before their eyes?

And what gruesome reality was that? Did I see something they could not see? Was that it? But when I tried to tell them what I saw, their eyes gleamed like coins and they moved on, or their brow furrowed, their minds bewildered as to how far away mine had strayed, like a woman returned from the wilderness with straggly hair and torn clothing and dirt and blood rimming her nails stumbling into a king’s festival.

These people, they seemed so sure, within themselves, and yet I felt they had no reason to be, though I did not know why. They seem so knowing, so tied to others, so connected and safe, so belonging. Their talk is full of trivialities, and they laugh because they like the sound of their own laughter, and they like each others’ faces, and I don’t understand how they can’t see the corpses, the mummified gazes staring at them from shadowy corners, or hear the tingling song of the stars. Perhaps I am a peasant, peering into a ballroom, and seeing the puffed skirts skirl like so many dancing blooms, and my low thoughts could not possibly penetrate theirs: their thoughts of intrigue and money and family and the future of nations and feuds and hates and preserving the family, preserving themselves.

I don’t understand, and yet I want so desperately to be enfolded into their midst. I don’t understand, yet I yearn, hunger, for what they have, though I know it to be gold leaves that will dissolve into dust once the sun rises. I like this apartness, I do, for I can hear music where others hear silence, I pull up the tablecloth of the universe and peek beneath it, but it is a very lonely and sad thing all the same, to be without rather than within.

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The Phenomenon Of Half-Baked Ideas

PetalsHallelujah. It happens: an idea for story grips you in its bewitched fingers and gets you all fired up, fireworks sparkling and exploding in your brain, and you rush to grab a pen and paper to write it down, to plaster the beautiful creature onto paper, THIS IS IT, you think…only to see it flop and die on the page.

Something just goes wrong.

The characters are flimsy cardboard cut-outs, just props to keep the plot moving. None of the world-building is even remotely believable. The story starts off peachy, but soon deteriorates and peters off into a ramble of nothingness that doesn’t even make sense, straying away like a demented cat on the trail of an invisible rat. Your story is a wash of stained sugar, rather than blood, entirely without substance, and all you are left with is a bad taste in your mouth, and a few new crushed dreams.

Why? Why, why, why does this happen?

I don’t think I have all the answers. In fact, I have very few answers. Rather, that question is more directed at all of you: do you know the workings behind this phenomenon? But, I’ve whittled it down to a few.

  1. Not good enough yet. I’m just not good enough of a writing yet to write something that feels truly alive. My imagination and skills are still fetuses, yet to blossom and bloom into proper, functioning babies. This is disappointing. All one can do, in this situation, is to keep writing.
  1. Need to plan and brainstorm more. Maybe I just haven’t been nurturing the seed of the idea yet, and simply rushed to the page before it has even germinated. It’s like trying to force a newborn bird, still sticky with membrane, to fly. It’s not going to work, is it? So maybe one needs to sit with one’s ideas, let them grow and blossom, before rudely pushing them out of the nest of one’s mind.
  1. Bad idea. The idea wasn’t that great in the first place. Like a crystal house built on shaky foundations. Pretty, but, in the end, not nearly sturdy enough to withstand a few puffs of wind, and liable to topple over before the day’s out. So, this kind of sucks as well, because it brings in a lot of doubt: what makes an idea good? What if I can’t stumble across an idea that truly makes my heart sing? What then?

In the end, what do we do? We wake up, and we try. And maybe the lightning strike hasn’t hit yet, and maybe it won’t for a long time, and maybe I’m a deluded talentless fool and this phenomenon (which I made up, in case you hadn’t realised) is only further evidence of it, but I will wake up, and I will try. I will try to follow the singing. I will try to follow the love. That is all we can do.

Infatuation

Pain1

Don’t you just hate infatuations? And if you’re anything like me, you tend to imagine too much and over-think things, all of which only serve to fuel the Lovey-Dovey Machine Of Airy-Fairy Not Real Dreams. You become a powerhouse, churning out broken dream after broken dream.

And no matter how terrible it feels, we still love it. Because we’re in love with love, and the feeling of love, and maybe we need to grow up a little bit more before we can let infatuation’s steady sister, true love, worm its way into our lives.

Here is a typical cycle of infatuation for me:

Sees object of infatuation → Falls in “love” → Start analyzing and watching them from afar like a creepy person → Falls further in “love” → Pine and mope internally for years without plucking up the courage to talk to them → Obsess over them AKA dream about the perfect marriage, the perfect holiday, the perfect argument, even → Get worried about how long the infatuation has been going on for → Tries to talk to person → TOO SCARED → Tries again (and again and again and again…) → Rejected (at this point, anything other than an emphatic declaration of love is perceived as a rejection) → Wallows in misery, write epic love stories and poems about it → Sees a new object of infatuation → Cycle repeats

Here is the infatuation cycle for normal, sane people.

Sees object of infatuation → Talks to them → Friendship/romance/apathy ensues

Why do we do this? I think it’s because, as I said before, we’re in love with love. We love the drama, the ecstatic highs and the bone-crushing lows. In many ways, we’re like addicts: hooked on the feeling of pining and yearning and loving from afar. It’s almost masochistic, in many ways, like the page who tries to serenade an untouchable noble woman who stares down at him from her balcony. Maybe it’s because I’m an INFP, and nothing gets our eyes shining and our hearts going than tragedy and pain and longing and loss, all of which are beautiful in their silent misery and suffering.

Or maybe, deep down, it’s just a way for us to avoid the true thing: that is, of actually letting someone into our hearts and minds and souls. Even though we yearn for love so hard our souls tilt our of our chests with hunger, we’re still scared of it. When we let people in, they mess us up, rearrange the organs, skew the heart, and tangle up the veins and sinew. Letting people in, so they can see both our light and good sides, is terrifying. We idealise ourselves as much as others, and for another person to see our refracted rather than crystal-clear self is agonising. Daydreams, in the end, are an act of avoidance: we don’t want to face reality. We’d rather stew in quiet, imagined pain, rather than actually be stabbed, butchered. But even dreamers know that no fantasy can ever compare to reality.

So. We must grow up, a little. We must talk to people, even if we’re afraid of being shot down. We must wrangle our way out of our heads, push ourselves upon the world outwardly rather than inwardly. We must build our sandcastles in the real world, even if they pale in comparison to the crystalline towers in our our minds. Sometimes, floating down from the clouds allows us to truly enjoy the riches of the earth, and, let me tell you, there are many to savour indeed.

Kind Lips

Lips

Do you love me?”

Yes.”

Why do you love me?”

I love you because you’re the kindest person I know.”

Do you like that, about me?”

Yes.”

What else do you like about me?”

I like your lips. I like your mouth.”

Why do you like my lips, my mouth?”

Because they’re beautiful.”

No. Because they give you pleasure.”

That, too. Kind lips, kind mouth.”

Kiss me, then. Kiss those kind lips, that kind mouth.”

Ouch! What was that for?”

Nothing. Do you still love me?”

Yes, but I don’t see why you had to go ahead and do that! Shit. It’s bleeding. That fucking hurt.”

Yes, it hurts. Kiss me again.”

You kidding? Not after what you just did.”

Kiss me again, and again, and again. Because I’ll kiss you forever. Because I’m kind.”

Strange Envy

Feathers

Envy. It’s a funny thing.

When obvious, it curls, a fat anaconda, around one’s neck, to flicker its tongue at every passer-by, arousing discomfort in the hearts of others. Those that come too close are bitten, champed down upon by sharp, poison-tipped fangs.

But when it is hidden, secret, burrowed deep within the soul and away from prying eyes, flourishes in a grand multitude like so many tiny snakes, writhing in their thousands through your body, each and every one sinking their fangs into your own, soft insides instead.

Over time, the snakes become as much a part of you as your veins, as the twists of your sinew, the seepage of dark poison as unnoticeable as your own bloodstream.

Funny. Funny, how it is. How you sneer at those vapid people, with their vapid thoughts and desires! Look at them, gathering together like buffoons, laughing and hooting, chomping their way through artificial pleasure after pleasure, with nothing but sparkles dancing on their tongue and behind their eyes. You, on the other hand, touch upon the pulse of life, sink your own fangs deep into literature, art, philosophy, the wonders of existence, sustenance to be savored and chewed over. Their pleasures may be wild, and in abundance, but yours, though of smaller portion, is none the worse for it, for in its rarity, in its smallness, it is sweeter, like the last few glistening red berries that cling to a branch before winter freezes the world over.

And yet. And yet. For all your berries, you are not happy. You are not entirely satisfied. Your own contemptuousness is but a defense, something to protect your own fragile ego, and assuage your own loneliness and deep sense of unworthiness. In truth, you do want to be one of those vapid people – or, at least, you do want it in your own idealised fashion. Staying by the sidelines, with your nose buried in a book, while those sparkling creatures dance like a meadow of wind-blown starlit flowers, makes you feel drab and dull, like a lone, pale mushroom growing in quiet and dank shadows.

In truth, you want to be one of them, dance with them, laugh with them, wear their pretty garbs and be admired for doing so, for your own mouth to open wide and happy with lipsticked, elegant joy, so elegant, so nice. You want to live in the castles they do, drink the fine wines they do, live the grand and wonderful and luxurious lives they do, and be the recipients of their wild, exciting secrets, whispered into ears and over the rims of champagne glasses in hushed breaths and gleaming eyes. It seems to be almost another sphere, strange and glorious; less pure, yet the more dazzling, than your own, and you long to enter it and shed your wings and grow golden horns like them, be one of them.

But you are not, and you will never be.

As the animals in a herd sense the weakness of one of their own, so too do they intuitively pick up on your faint wrongness, a slight, queer tinge, a faint sourness, and their eyes cast you aside with a single, elegant flick. And then you are left with your books and dreams, all alone, and suddenly all that you love and live for seems to be but dead moths compared to the lush butterflies and gardens others covet, and obtain. All seems cheapened, and small. Deep in your heart, a voice cries out, plaintive and high: “Love me! Love me, too! Please, tell me I am beautiful, please, let me be one of you, perhaps then I will confident and sure, and not feel so awkward and gawky and wrong, so very defective and strange and wrong.” But the words, wild as a hurricane, blows only within you, agitating the snakes coiled around your organs and bones, and not a wisp of it makes it to your lips.

In the end, you know that you do not want to be one of them. Not really. Your sense of self is far too grounded in your separateness, your uniqueness. Even if, by some miracle, you were accepted, embraced into their fold, your soul would rebel like a snared fish, thrashing and thrashing, and, before the first fizzing glass of pure, distilled joy had been raised to lips, want to break free. Even if you ignored it, crammed your soul to the bottom of yourself and asked the snakes to guard it, prevent it from ever escaping, you would never feel truly one of them, even if you did laugh and dance and speak as they did, for some corner of your mind is quite, quite strange, like a stain of petroleum in a puddle of water, refracting in quiet, mad rainbows.

There are worlds we wished we could touch, and only one that we do, and it is the latter which we should concentrate upon. One bird in the hand is worth to in the bush, as they say, and even this tiny conventional phrase, in its banality, tastes bad and ugly on your tongue. You see? You are silly. The fine, haughty phoenix envious of the cooing chatter and second-by-second joy of the pigeons. In your minds eye, you can see empires rise and burn to ashes, again and again – what need have you for their shiny, candy thoughts, so easily dissolved?

So you return, to your books and writing and dreams, and let their ever-welcoming tendrils curl around you, one by one, keeping you safe and secure and true. Tiny sparkles burst off the pages, rise in gentle spirals from the words, falling in showers down your throat to drug the snakes within you, until each lolls and sinks into a deep, deep sleep, thin, membranous lids closing over their watchful, reptilian eyes. And, feeling the weight of the slumberous snakes in you, coil upon fleshy coil, you turn another page.

Being A Young INFP

Girl

Well, no-one has it easy.

But as a young INFP, it’s particularly hard. In the past, I’ve been called out for whining and being overly melodramatic, for focusing on my poor little issues when other types struggle just as hard, but this is what I truly believe in: young INFPs have it hard. Of course, not all young INFPs have it hard, because not all INFPs are the same. Like all things, we come in all sizes and shapes and forms and, yes, even personalities. So I can merely speak from my own experience, take what you will of it.

Ah. To be seventeen and confused. Yet, to be a seventeen and confused INFP is an entirely different matter.

Other personalities wade through the social and business life of our world with ease; it is their natural habitat, and they swim free and gay as dolphins in pools of watery cash, flicking up coins with their tails in snickers of high laughter. INFPs, on the other hand, are more like butterflies, whose wings grow limp and whose flight is impaired by contact with such water. Yes, we can swim, but we soon need the shore, and are left bedraggled and miserable.

Within me lies such a conflict. Occasionally, I feel as if the friction is so great it could tear me in two, rip down the middle of me in a blinding hash of red glare and leave me two broken burnt human halves, quivering in hot indignation. On one hand, I want to do nothing more than throw all caution to the wind and throw every fibre of my soul and being into my one and only love: writing.

On the other hand, I am deathly afraid of the consequences of such a step. Every way I turn, there is a wise figure who says, with so sagacious a nod of their head, that to do so would be folly. That one needs a degree if one wants to eat. That the starving artist is not a romantic ideal but a cruel reality. That if I do choose this path, of working a dead-end part-time job and leaving on rice and beans in some cramped room, I will come crawling back to the institutions and beg them to accept me back into their cold bureaucratic arms. To chase magic and pumpkins, only to return penniless and ragged back to the home of my stepmother.

My heart whispers its quiet truth, but my mind is afraid to listen. For, like many INFPs, I cannot stand the structure of educational institutions, the regimen and the monotony of having information and learning fed and dictated like so many cubes of tasteless food. My idea of learning is to be set loose in a library, and allowed to read and explore on any topic I please, drink my fill from the wells of knowledge until I am bloated and sated, spurred on by natural curiosity and delight. The university campus grounds is a large, hollow, impersonal complex, of students scurrying about like so many blind tortoises, blinking blearily from their books and laptops. I have been there, and I have felt their cruel, cold smiles. It is no place for a butterfly. It is like setting me loose in an empty cavern of quietly silent, quietly bloodthirsty bats. There is nothing there for me, and yet I am told to enter this dreaded cavern, I am told to enter into the lair of the dragon and shed invisible blood.

Many things are difficult. Finding people I can connect with, converse with, is difficult. They all seem so caught up in the web of unrealities, of stocks and profits and economies, all of which are more evanescent and airy-fairy than my fantasies and stories. Do they realise that? Do they realise how much of what we worry about is but imaginary, like a town of people who fret over the arrival of dragons that do not exist?

Also, I am young, and I am lonely. These two things, when found hand in hand, is a most miserable thing. I am lonely because there is no-one I know who understands the slightest cell of my being. For the most part, I am happy to be alone: I am, after all, an introvert. But even the souls that seek solitude desire company at some point, and I am lonely, so lonely, so starved for another soul to pour myself into, for the liquids of our being to mix into a sweet brew.

Everyone has a demon, and mine is money. It rests at the bottom of my soul, staring up at me like a particularly smug and fleshy golden frog. Its bulging, batrachian eyes glitter and glimmer with harsh greed, while every now and then a yellow tongue flits out to capture and crunch into scintillating smithereens another fluttery-fly dream. Late at night, when I am dark and alone, it begins to hop, up and down, up and down, every flesh golden fold of fat jiggling and shaking in horrid mocking.

If you’re an INFP, you are also your own worst enemy. After recently devouring one of Sylvia Plath’s journals, and pressing my fragile heart against another kindred spirit through the medium of words and pages, the both of us calling out to each through the dried wrinkles of time like two people pressing their hands on either side of mirror (such is the magic of books!), I am in awe of her talent, and in despair over my own. Daily regime for me consists not of exercise, or eating well, but self-flagellation. This demon is smaller, but sharper: it sits perched on my shoulder, a tiny, nasty, gibbering creature, spitting hate and self-loathing into my ear.

To be burning on the inside, and to be baked on the outside. That is what it is like, being a young INFP, poised on the precipice between childhood and adulthood, afraid of falling into the ravine between. Cooked and skewered and branded by everyday life: every glance, every word, every person, every sound, every noise, every hateful, hateful noise. But under the layers of flame, there smolders something quieter and stronger. An unbreakable spirit.

And this glow, which is not flame and not light but simply a strength, extinguishes all the pain, blinding white engulfing the golden and orange, and propels my limbs into motion. I will jump out of the kiln, out of the pits of hell. I will stare down the frog at the well of my soul until its bulging eyes close in fear, and flick that detested bird off my shoulder. There are demons, yes, but they can be defeated through confrontation. That is all they are afraid of.

And then I will dance, with the soft, heart-shaped glowing pulsing in my chest, out in the open, away from the fire, until all the butterflies and flies and birds of the world descend upon my body in a shower of glinting, translucent rainbows.

Nice.

Holidays, of palm trees and blue skies and lace-canopied beds on porches overlooking the sea.

None tell of the mosquitoes which feed on clots of your blood in buzzing swarms, or the scalding of the sun on your skin.

Love hearts dot the world in an eternal, happy, commercialized pattern.

None tell of the ugly, muscular pumping, the throb of bulging purple-blue veins, the horrid thick fleshiness.

Marriages are petty arguments and candle-lit dinners and howling children and sweet lie-ins in the morning.

None tell of the flies the both of you grow into, flies on the walls, buzzing feebly at each and choked in the muggy air of onwards.

Success is a golden beacon of validation.

None tell of the eternal smog of doubt, that turns every achievement into a pitiful anthill, and blows your existence down to dust.

But there lies, in all this a reconciliation.

All tell of the horrors of existence, the gap between one’s ideal and reality, the shock of coming to where you have wanted to come and finding yourself and the world the same, but…

None tell of the nice dream it all is, the nice briefness it all is, the kiss that is nice because it is nice, and nothing more, the bed that is nice because our body needs rest, nothing more, the book that is nice because our minds yearn to escape beyond its bone carapace, nothing more, the niceness of it all that is nothing but nice, so nice.

Reality

Reality

Sometimes, reality is so inadequate, so common, so very bland and dull, that it breaks my heart.

There is a deep-rooted yearning within me for towering, blissful romances, for magical creatures to descend from the clouds, to sing and dance in a desert beneath the stars and moonlight with a cheeky, rattling skeleton.

Sometimes, I get so lonely, so hurt and empty, like there’s a tiny, pinprick black hole in my heart slowly sucking away the rest of me, molecule by molecule, that I can only cope through writing and retreating into my imagination.

I want to grasp every single human being within my reach and press them to me and for the both of us to find comfort in knowing that the other is alive, and feeling, and breathing, and hurting. But no-one is willing to do that, everyone has walls, even me, and so instead, I just sit in my room, arms aching for a phantom chest to press against and ghostly heartbeat to listen to, so as to not feel so alone and afraid and lost.

But even if I did get my towering romance, the sweet would soon lose its flavor after a few chews.

Even if magical creatures did descend from the sky, soon the scientists would be dissecting and probing them, their bloodshot, mangled bodies splashed across the front of newspapers.

Maybe after dancing with the skeleton, it would promptly collapse into mere bones into the desert sand, and leave me thirsty and alone and wandering.

And no matter how much I think a pair of warm, understanding arms clasping me during the night will assuage my fears and loneliness, in the end, the demons snigger on the inside, and no amount of holy water splashed against the skin does anything.

I think so much my brain wants to explode.

I feel so much it’s as if every pore of my body is trying to shed tears, each tear painful as a droplet of sharp glass.

I yearn so hard, and so long, that my soul lilts out from between my rib cage like the panting tongue of a dog.

I feel so much joy it as if my heart would splinter from sheer happiness, the shards scattering into the air like golden dandelion seeds.

And I’m terrified all this thinking and feeling and seeing and yearning is but clutching at mists, at fairy wings that crumble at the slightest touch.

I’m scared of that black hole one day eating up all the rest of me, leaving a gaping hole in the world where I used to be, such black emptiness, nothing but a static wash of misery forever gaping at the world with grey, morose eyes.

Reality does leave a lot to the imagination.

I guess it’s lucky we have our books. I guess it’s lucky we have the internet. I guess it’s lucky we have ourselves, and can comfort ourselves, and fool ourselves. I guess it’s lucky that we can pick up a skull and talk to it.

Skull? How are you doing?

Yeah. Me too.