In 2015 while I was raising $10,000 USD for a Kickstarter to create my debut album as a Singer-songwriter, a friend of mine asked if I could cover ”Tongue” by R.E.M. It was a reward for one of the higher pledging tiers. I gladly covered the song, never really wondering what it was about, thinking that the title “Tongue” sounded abit sketch, but eh, I was not about to turn away an opportunity to make some much needed moolah for my precious debut album.

As I went on a trip down memory lane today on my YouTube channel, I found myself checking out the cover I did of this song in 2015; I was impressed with my guitar arrangement of it and my singing which was done in a suitable register for my voice… I had forgotten how I had come up with the guitar arrangement, it made me nostalgic for days of being immersed in my guitar (these days I’ve been spending more time on the piano).

Anyways, in the end, watching this cover I made of “Tongue” got me curious about the meaning behind the song.

I looked up the lyrics:

Call my name, here I come.
90 to nothing, watch me run.
You call.
I am ashamed to say.
Ugly girls know their fate.
Anybody can get laid.
You want a room with a fire escape.
I wanna tell you how much I hate this.
Don’t leave that stuff all over me.
It pains me.
Please just leave it.
I should toss that vanity license plate.
Toss that make-up painted face.
Box those poems, chocolate cake.
Scratch that name on the record player.
Please just leave me be.
Don’t lay that stuff all over me.
It crawls all over. All over me.
Call my name, here I come.
Your last ditch lay, will I never learn?
Caramel turn on a dusty apology.
It crawls all over me.
You turn all over.
It pains me.
Please just leave it.

To me, it sounds like someone is fed up with her partner. They are having more than just your garden variety relationship problems. Their problems range from disagreements over where to live, ”You want a room with a fire escape/I wanna tell you how much I hate this,” disagreements over space, “Please just leave me be,” communication problems, ”Caramel turn on a dusty apology/it crawls all over me” and finally, to what seems like a pattern of manipulation or abusive power and control dynamics, ”Call my name, here I come/ Your last ditch lay, will I never learn?”

Then I looked up various interpretations of the song lyrics online and the most consistent interpretation is that it is being sung from the perspective of a girl with low-self esteem who can’t leave an abusive relationship. She obviously doesn’t feel valued in the relationship, and it appears she is being used and she feels bad about it, “I am ashamed to say… /it crawls all over me/you turn all over/it pains me/please just leave it”

Sometimes we sing, read, see the things we are experiencing without even knowing it. Maybe you are drawn to a book, a song or a person, but you don’t really know why.

The external object to which you are drawn is merely answering a question that you have inside of you, a question that you may not even be aware of as yet.

As you can see from my ring finger in the video, I’m (at the point of the video’s recording) still married and stuck in an abusive relationship; at that time I was not aware there were dynamics of control and abuse in my relationship, and that I was on the receiving end of it. However, subconsciously I resonated with the song lyrics without knowing why exactly.

As a lover of lyrics and song meanings, it’s surprising I never bothered to really think about what the song meant – but somehow I interpreted and arranged this acoustic cover intuitively and captured the pain and conflicted feelings embedded in the song albeit with some degree of dispassion and aloofness.

Here’s the original, which looks and sounds quite different:

It’s interesting how we often do not see the forest for the trees, but our subconscious (or our authentic self) never stops trying to communicate to us anyways.

The next time you are drawn to or repelled by something, maybe you can ask yourself why. Really spend time thinking about it instead of accepting the obvious and immediate rationales you arrive at.

If you allow yourself to be curious about why you are drawn to, bored by, or repelled by something, maybe the answers you discover will surprise even yourself!

The Beloved

A long time ago, there lived a girl in a castle. It was an ivory tower, tall, pale and lonely. Encircling the castle was a huge and thick gray wall, dark and foreboding. It was made of heavy grey bricks so closely melded together it seemed to be one gigantic monolith.

No matter how far she walked around the castle grounds, the girl could never see the end of it; it was impressive in its span and immensity and the girl found security in it. She felt glad for the safety that the wall afforded her: it kept her safe from bandits, raiders and strange creatures that roamed through the lands beyond the wall. Yet even so, she often felt sad.

Her heart longed for something more.

The ivory tower was tall, and the girl liked to climb up to the attic on its rooftop and peer out through the window into the far distance. Everyday she witnessed glorious sunsets and sunrises; she loved how the sun’s rays reached across the sky, tickling the clouds so that they changed colors.

On beautiful clear mornings when the sun’s rays stretched all the way to her window and illuminated the dusty floor of her attic, she felt like the sun was reaching out to her too. She would often try to touch a golden yellow ray of sun that shone into the dusty attic, to see if she could actually hold it in her fingers and hands. She would feel gentle warmth on her skin. In moments like these, she felt a heaviness lifting from her heart and she dreamt of a different life – a warm, sunlit space, uncluttered and full of fresh-air, sunshine, laughter and life.

The Dream of a Safe Place

This dream and vision of a safe home had populated her thoughts for as long as she had known – she had had a family a long time ago, when they had lived in a Glass Castle among respectable people in the town. Her father was a trader and her mother was a cook; they went to church and her mother often had people over for lavish lunches and dinners. They seemed to have everything the towns folks could envy, a pretty Glass Castle, three beautiful children – the oldest a son, and two daughters, servants, a wonderful carriage with two sleek white horses, social access to a prestigious coterie of town luminaries, and of course those wonderful parties they threw.

But the reality of home life was very different. Her father regularly had romantic rendezvous with other women when he went on his long voyages for his mercantile activities. Her mother knew that he was being unfaithful; she had once discovered smears of red rouge on his shirt, but he shrugged it off when she confronted him about it.

He pretended to be a stand-up family man and this hypocrisy poisoned the heart of the girl’s mother and drove her slowly insane because there was no acknowledgement and no end to the source of hurt and pain that was eating her up.

She sought help from several people in church, but nobody told the father to his face that what he was doing was despicable or supported her mother in walking away from a man who failed to respect her and honor their marriage commitment.

In fact, a female Christian leader said to the girl’s mother “You made the bed, you lie in it” – basically saying she had made a choice in the past and now had to continue suffering for it.

In any case, the increasing tension between the girl’s parents resulted in many broken nights of arguments, tears, cries and pleas, glass breaking and finally her father leaving the house. Her mother, who had by this time, completely given away her self-respect and lost her sense of integrity, would beg and plead for the father to come back, enlisting the support of her children to get him back.

She compelled her children to write letters to their father begging him to come home, and eventually he would return, only to leave again when he had had enough of her mother “acting out.”

This had an enormous impact on the girl, yelling, shouting, blame, conflict and repeated abandonment plagued her home life and crippled her mentally, emotionally and physically – she got backaches and headaches all the time, and often felt like there was a fishbone stuck in her throat.

When she went to see the town doctor about it he said, “There’s nothing there, it’s all in your head.”

Friends in church seemed to inhabit a different world completely. The things they found interesting or amusing, the jokes they made among themselves, the way they would laugh and make eyes at each other, it was all foreign to her. She could not understand them, she felt alone, and she would often go home after spending two hours with them because being around them made her feel even more lonely and isolated.

It very hard for her to fit in.

In the local school, she found some friends. But never felt comfortable with them. Their judgement and disapproval was not overt, but it came out in the ways they would talk about her, single her out, as if she were different from them. They would do it almost as if to say they cared about her, that she was “unique” but underneath their pleasantries was just well-concealed venom.

All of these interactions ate at her soul.

To comfort herself, she would often imagine this special “home” where things were quiet, where she could see the dust specks settle and where there was no broken glass, or cluttered spaces, but just sunlight streaming in and lighting up the space with goodness and life.

She felt safe imagining this place.

No Safe Place

This picture of a quiet and safe space was something she had kept in her heart, but she often longed to share this picture with someone she loved.

One day, when she and her older sister were in a carriage on their way back to the glass castle, she ventured to tell her sister about it in spite of a niggling feeling that it might not be a good idea to share this quiet picture with her.

Sure enough, when the girl told her sister about this picture, her sister scoffed and said in a cutting and dismissive tone, “yeah, we all want a place like that.”

The girl felt foolish for confiding in her sister.

Even though her sister had treated her poorly because of her own hurt and pain, the girl felt like it was her fault.

What could she have done so that her sister did not treat her that way? Was there something wrong with her? She could not imagine that her sister was merely working out the intricacies of her own maimed heart on the easiest target available.

One day, her family house burned down to the ground, completely decimated by a freak fire that came out of nowhere. She lost her entire family to the fire. It was inexplicable, no one knew how that had happened, some suspected foul play and even insinuated that she had resented her family so much that she had committed arson.

While some subscribed to this notion, most people just believed that she was cursed.

They felt a mix of pity and fear when they looked at her – pity for how far her family had fallen and the state the she was in, but fear that they would be judged if they tried reaching out to someone like her. They felt uncomfortable as they thought that being around her could affect them negatively; they treated her like a leper, fearing that the disease would be passed on to them if they tried to reach out.

The girl wandered through the green hills, looking for something she had lost.

Daily she ventured out, drinking in the crisp air and morning dew as the sun rays peeked over the emerald hills. Shepherds looking yonder saw a lost child, wandering in the mist. Her form cast an unnaturally long shadow in the valleys. However, as soon as they ventured closer to see if she was okay, she disappeared like the morning mist.


Knowing her was like trying to know the wind, the life she inhabited seemed more of a myth than a reality. But she was always there. The towns folks knew about her. They knew her tragic story and spoke in hushed tones about the tragedy that marred her existence. The words they weaved around her formed a fictional quality and twisted the reality of her life – the barrier between her and the townsfolk grew deeper still.

She existed in a universe apart from them.

The girl felt the loneliness of living in this shrouded world keenly. The ghosts of her family haunted her, their words piercing into her spirit like a sword. The townsfolk had grown to become dark and threatening figures in her mind – she saw the way they looked at her, their furtive glances and tense whispers behind her back. They called her “volatile,” they said she was “unstable.”

She retreated farther.

The walls she had run to grew dark and foreboding, immense in their stark desolation.

And all the voices of disdain and criticism from her family and the village reverberated even louder in her head. So, eventually, for a peace of mind, she decided to leave the village.


So she wandered, far and wide. So alone for so long. She walked up and down the hills, traversed the valleys and often sat by the lakes that littered the land like coins in a wishing well.

She learned to talk to herself. Some days she would whisper softly and sometimes, she would laugh out loud. Her laughter would echo through the valleys and travel up the hills, the townsfolk were discomfited by it.

There seemed to burn a strange fire in her, and they whispered of her as if she were a woman possessed.

This went on for years, till she was no longer known as the girl, but rather as a wraith – a strange apparition that shepherd boys would sometimes encounter on their long days of watching over the flock and looking out for predators. Sometimes a heavy darkness would be felt among the flock and the shepherd boys’ hearts would be filled with fear, that is when they knew she was among them.

There were always a few sheep lying flat on their back in her wake of her visits, and when the darkness retreated, the shepherd boys would scramble to set the sheep back on their feet so that they did not end up hurt or dead.

These were just rumors of course. She had nothing to do with the tall tales the shepherd boys loved to spin about her.

The truth was the girl stayed as she was – alone, sad and afraid.

After leaving the village, she wandered away, blindly, unthinkingly, knowing deep in her spirit that she could no longer stay there.

There was no place for her – she had never been truly seen, heard or felt in the town.

Nobody saw her and accepted her as she was, only as they expected her to be, especially the members in her family and the so called “friends” she had grown up with in church and school.

She was the scapegoat they pinned all their grievances and unhappiness on, and she took their blame. She could not imagine why they would blame her and be unkind to her, there must be something wrong with her, why else would they treat her with such contempt? Why would they reject her?

These questions burned in her soul and shut her down. As she walked through the rolling mists in the countryside, her feet became blistered and cut up by the thorn and thistle in the undergrowth. She grew hungry and cold and tired and eventually lost all strength. She ended up collapsing by the side of a lake.

When she came to, she found some bread by the water and helped herself to it. It was the tastiest morsel she had ever had, the bread was crusty and warm, like it had come fresh from the oven. There was such a sweet and wholesome smell to it that she ended up scarfing the whole loaf in a few minutes. She was soon seized by thirst and leaned over into the water, scooped the cold liquid into her cupped hands, and drank deeply from it.

Ahhhh! She felt so much better! If she could have such fresh bread and sparkling clear water everyday, her soul would be satisfied! She could ask for nothing more. She felt sated. As she sat by the water in the green pasture, she pondered deeply.

“What next?” She thought. “Where will I go? Where can I live?”

She gazed into the distance and as she did so, she saw a Dark Tower in the distance. She narrowed her eyes, “is that a castle?” She wondered, regarding it thoughtfully; her eyes were now slits and but still it was hard to find a clear focus. There was something about the tall dark smudge in the distance that beckoned to her.

It stirred up a deep curiosity in her.

She got up and dusted the crumbs of her raiment. Her body felt refreshed and spritely, and for some reason, the lump in her throat had disappeared. It was almost as if not being around the townsfolk had a healing effect on her body. Her blisters had healed partially – taking note of them, the girl resolved to avoid all thorn and briar and keep her feet safe as she moved forward.

The Girl Finds The Dark Tower

It took the girl three days of walking with breaks in between to approach The Dark Tower. In the midst of her approach, The Dark Tower seemed to appear suddenly in full force with a menacing strength that both awed and appealed to her.

Yes, The Dark Tower was perfect for what she needed.

In the past few days she had encountered a pack of hyenas who eyed her hungrily; thankfully she had once read about how to deal with hyenas in an encyclopedia collection they had in the home library. Mindfully following the instructions she had read, the girl spread her arms out wide, flapping them out in exaggerated motion and made howling, keening noises that were guaranteed to set even a banshee’s hair on edge.

With her Oscar worthy display of aggression and soul-curdling cries, she was able to scare the hyenas into turning tail and running away.

This small victory gave the girl a sense of confidence. However, she knew how vulnerable she was, so when she saw The Dark Tower, she felt that it would be the ideal place for her to reside. The tower loomed high over her and seemed inaccessible – there was a wall surrounding it, dark and monolithic – made of a greyish bricks that were chilling in their cold uniformity. She surveyed the landscape, determining in her heart that she would find her way in.

But there was no entrance, so she walked around the entire perimeter of the dark walls.

It took her an hour to circle the perimeter; it was hard for her to tell where she had started and ended her walk, so she left a tree twig that she had picked up along the way as a marker. It was not until she came back to the same twig for the third time that she felt something give way underfoot.

The ground underneath her right foot had crumbled away slightly to reveal a wooden structure. On closer examination, she realized it was a trap door. Moss and rust had grown over the keyhole and the lock; it seemed that the lock was barely holding the door in position. She stomped on the lock a few times and it broke apart. The door sat unmoved. She lifted the latch and tugged at it with all her might. A low yawn emerged from the wooden door as it edged closer to opening; she felt exhausted from the sheer intensity with which she was lifting the door.

Eventually, she let go.

All the strength had seeped out of her arms and they were numb. She took a break, lying on her back on the forest floor. She then had an idea, she would pry the door open just enough so she put her feet flush against the inside of the door and push hard with both her legs to swing it completely open.

The door creaked in tired and cantankerous protest as she gritted her teeth and pushed her legs hard against the side, she positioned her leg near the top edge of the trap door where she could get maximal leverage and torque. For a moment as she was pushing and she felt like her legs were going to give out, she felt a cold sweat come over her as she realized that if she gave up the trap door would slam down, crushing her legs rendering her crippled.

This thought gripped her heart with fear, but she discarded it. She pushed harder, exerting every cell in her body till her blood vessels felt like they were going to burst; she felt a rush of blood to the head and started to see lights explode in the periphery of her vision. She did not let up, but kept exerting with all of her failing strength. Finally, she pushed the door till it teetered past ninety degrees and fell over flat – the pull of gravity had conspired to help her in her mission.

When the door swung wide open, the girl’s legs slid off the wooden surface into the opening – her heart was pounding, her head and back was drenched with sweat and she savored the sweet taste of accomplishment. A frisson of fear shot through her lower back when she realized that she had almost given up and would have been horribly maimed by the trap door slamming down on her body had she done so.

Taking a few more deep breaths, she gathered herself and brushed away beads of sweat that had built up around her eyelids. She propped herself up on her hands and looked down where her legs were hanging over into a dark hole. A ladder led down the hole but she could not make out what lay beyond.

It was pure darkness.

“Perfect!” She thought, “Nobody is going to come here. I just need to make sure I close the door behind me.”

There was a length of rope attached to the door, ostensibly for it to be closed from the inside; she scanned the grounds to look for a large rock; she found one a few feet away, it was the size of a large wheel of cheese, jagged and rough around the edges. She rolled it over to the trap door and fastened the rope tightly around the rock with a sailors dead-knot, also another handy technique she had picked up from the encyclopedia.

She gripped onto the ladder and hopped onto the rungs with her two feet. Lowering herself step-by-step down the ladder with one hand, she gripped the rope with the stone with the other. She shifted her weight and moved to the right side of the ladder while yanking on the rope so that the stone came falling down; the trap door flew up ninety degrees and then slammed shut.

She was plunged into utter darkness.

In The Castle

The girl was not sure how long it had been since she had closed the trap door. But each day melded into the next. A strange peace and deep sense of relief came over her when all the light was shut out by the trap door. She climbed down to the bottom of the ladder and walked through a dank long tunnel and found her way into the castle grounds. From afar, the castle had looked dark and foreboding, but within the castle grounds, the walls of the castle took on an ivory glow, exuding stateliness and elegance.

She found many old and arcane books within the library of the castle – they were written in old English, so it was difficult for her to understand what was written at first. But over time she grew to understand the language, and was able to freely peruse the books. There were rows and rows of books which covered the four walls of the library from end to end. The topics of these books ranged from medicine, economics and astronomy to history … and magic – these subjects fascinated her deeply as they gave her a glimpse of many lives she had never known, worlds she had never explored. She spent her days poring over these books and the vistas of imagination they created in her mind’s eye. Everyday stretched out before her like an idyllic endless summer.

But something was missing.

She subsisted on the fruit from the many fruit trees that grew within the castle grounds. Occasionally she would set up rabbit traps, skin the rabbits she caught and roast their carcasses over a fire. She had found two pieces of flint in the library so she was able to strike up a fire which caught easily on a small pyre she would build with the dry twigs that lay scattered everywhere.

The Girl Recalls The Incident

In the evenings she took special comfort in climbing up to the attic, watching the sun recede over the horizon, as the sun melted into a golden blaze and darkened into hues of deep orange, purple and pink. One evening when the sun shone more golden than usual, her thoughts drifted back to the day the fire swallowed up The Glass Castle.

She had been unable to sleep that night and had gone for a walk in Mastiff Woods, a forest near to The Glass Castle. It was a quiet night and the only sound overhead was that of branches and leaves crunching underfoot, and the cooing of long-eared owls – a species native to the woods.

A cool night breeze played with her hair, pushing her bangs into her eyes, tickling her lids and compelling her to lift her hand occasionally to her face to sweep the hair out of her face. It was late, she was heading back home when the smell of smoke filled her nostrils, she discerned the faint sound of shouting and yelling in the distance. She stopped in her tracks, heart seized with fear and dread.

Was it what she thought it was? It couldn’t be, she reasoned, she had taken special care before she had left the house to ensure that the fireplace was safely sheltered away from anything flammable; she’d made sure of it, not wanting to repeat a near accident that had almost burned her house down.

But a sense of deep foreboding crept in as she tried to push down the rising panic in her throat. “God, please don’t let it be!” she murmured aloud as her body tensed and she picked up her pace, breaking into a run to get back to The Glass Castle. In her panic, she lost her bearings and found herself tearing blindly through the brush, the opposing branches of trees in her way scratched and clawed at her face, arms and hands, but she did not feel them. Her heart kept pounding, “It can’t be” she thought, “It cannot be.” She followed the smell of smoke and then broke through the forest boundary.

From a distance, she saw The Glass Castle completely swallowed up in flames, each flame waving in the night air like long bloody arms gesticulating spasmodically in protest against a meaningless war.

She sank to her knees, feeling her life and strength seep out of her, unable to take in the full import of what was happening.

“They are fine” she told herself, and pushed herself back up violently and ran full speed towards the burning castle.

As she approached she saw the entire community of towns folks gathered around outside, transfixed, as pieces of The Glass Castle melted and fell off the edifice, dropping onto the ground like molten lead. Desperately, she surveyed the crowd. The local Butcher and his son was there, the Priest, the Bard and the Cheese-maker and his wife. Her school mates, her Church folk.

There was never such a sea of faces before that she cared less for than in that moment.

All she wanted to see was her family, she looked for her brother, her sister, and her mother, but their faces were nowhere to be found. Jonah, a school mate, came by. “I … I… I am sorry… ” he choked in the middle of his sentence and pointed weakly towards a bundle of people in the distance.

An overwhelming sense of frailty came over the girl, yet she found her legs propelling her forward, one step after the next. She approached the tight knot, and the knot parted before her to reveal three charred, blackened and wizened bodies on the ground.

They were barely recognizable, all the hair on their heads had been burned away, their faces had been eaten through to reveal gaping maw and pink flesh, the unctuous white of bones showed through the tattered remains of charred flesh and the horror of what she saw before her rooted her to the ground.


The girl blinked several times as she emerged from the nightmarish stupor; pictures of the unspeakable horror faded away as she took in the library and the familiar comfort of the oak table and piles of books that laid stacked up all around her – she was gasping in short shallow breaths, and she noticed beads of sweat forming on her nape and temples.

All the fear and pain that she had carefully sequestered away and anesthetized with books and routine and curious thoughts for months, maybe even years, came out in tremors – her hands were shaking. When she looked down at her hands, she realized that her entire body was shaking; it was almost imperceptible.

She breathed in sharply and breathed out very slowly and then repeated the process twelve more times, no more and no less. This was a technique that she had developed since young to manage her raging emotions which threatened to engulf her whole since she was a child.

This darkness had come over her since she was a child when she realized that her parents would never be able to truly understand her, or protect her from themselves and their brokenness. Their marriage had taken on the nature of a cancer, spreading out and eating away her sense of safety and wholeness, breaking down her personhood and inner security.

As a child she lived like this for an indeterminate period of time – periods of peace interspersed with incapacitating episodes where she was plunged back into memories trapped by pain and trauma.

When she came to from these dark reveries, she would eventually smooth her emotions over with methodical focus and routine and fueled by her unquenchable curiosity for life.

She had mastered the art of distraction and used it like a hot knife on butter.

The Tunnel

One day when she was setting up a rabbit trap, the girl spied a bramble bush she had never seen before. She turned towards it quizzically. How had the bush just popped up today? Or had she just never seen it before? She walked towards it and saw what it obscured – a trap door just slightly misaligned with the bush, so that its handle poked out from from behind.

She walked over to the handle and pulled on it. The trap door swung open, revealing a long, dark and seemingly never-ending tunnel. She walked into it, leaving the trap door open behind her. It became immensely and unnaturally quiet once she stepped into the tunnel.

It felt as if she had slipped into another reality.

There was a chill in her bones and her hair stood on their ends. She had a premonition of something momentous, something that would change the course of her life if she continued walking down the tunnel.

But what life did she have?

A dark castle filled with books? The girl enjoyed that life, but often found herself longing for something deeper, fuller and more meaningful than a bookish existence of vicarious living.

She was not sure how long she walked through that tunnel. There were moments she felt like giving up – mentally exhausted from the darkness and uniformity, unable to see the light at the end of the tunnel, she would drop down into a crumpled heap and hug her knees to herself.

Sometimes she would cry and wonder if she had made the right decision to enter the tunnel, she longed for the comfort of the Castle and the beautiful sunset views it afforded her. She missed touching the yellowed and textured leaves of book pages and turning them slowly, page by page as she devoured the words and the worlds they opened up to her.

She felt overwhelmed by the surge of emotions that would come over her in the darkness.

Whereas there were many distractions for her to turn to in the creature comforts within the castle, there was no such reprieve in the tunnel, only more darkness, only more uniformity, only the silent echoes of her ragged breathing.

There was one point where she decided to give up. “That’s it” she thought “I’m not trying anymore, I’m just going to lie here and die.” This thought filled her with a cold peace, an icicle in her heart, as she slipped into the darkness, losing consciousness and falling into deep and troubled dreams.

But she woke. Her eyes could not make out anything, but she heard herself breathing and felt the cold hard ground beneath her.

There was a song in her heart when she woke, it sounded haunting, plaintive, but persistent. It was the lure of what lay beyond the tunnel, she took the song in her heart and sang it out.

She felt surprised by the sound of her voice. It was … pleasant, heart-warming and comforting. She wavered abit when she first heard it, and then started to sing louder and more confidently. Finally, this song became her compass and bulwark as she navigated her way out of the tunnel. It took days and nights to break through the tunnel, but at least she saw a faint light in the distance; sunlight stole through the opening, illuminating the darkness.

As she drew nearer to the entrance, she saw how the light revealed motes of dust in the air; these dust motes floated through the air lazily, languidly, almost as if to say,

“Don’t worry about time my dear, you have all the time in the world you could ever need.”

The girl felt comforted by this sight, as she had felt anxious about losing track of time in the tunnel. As long as she had stayed in the castle the passage of time was marked by the waxing and waning of light, and the brilliant sunsets she witnessed daily marked her days with a regularity that was both reassuring and orienting, but in the tunnel it felt like she was disconnected from time itself and held in stasis – a place where there was no beginning and no end, no rhythm and indication of her connection with the world.

The only reality was herself and that was all she had. It almost drove her mad.

She turned her eyes from the dust motes to the open field in front of her and drew in a sharp breath. A vast sea of green grass bordered with Pine Trees lay before her; it was dotted with daffodils and lavender nodding in the breeze. The air around her was fresh and crisp, enveloping her with the sweetness of pine and lavender. This experience was something that she had not known for years in the dank castle.

It felt wonderful.

The sky above was majestic, a deep azure blue that seemed to say that there was nothing good that would ever be withheld from her again. Sunlight bathed the scene before her with a brilliance she could not comprehend. Why did the green seem so much more green and why did the flowers appear almost as if they were dancing and rejoicing, almost as if they were trying to tell her something.

What was it they were saying? That she was free?

She felt the song in her heart come up again. It pulled at her heart-strings and floated out of her mouth – a melody of joy and hope. This music felt unfamiliar to her, her heart seemed to flutter in a way that was foreign. It felt like a slowly unfurling rose, like a layer in her heart had been gently peeled off; she felt lighter and softer; she felt like a burden she had been carrying for a long time had fallen off from her back.

The Man

There appeared a figure in the distance. A man. He was tall and thin and walked somewhat awkwardly towards her. She looked at him with curiosity. It had been years since she had last interacted with another human being. She wondered what this man wanted with her.

“Hello” he said as he approached her.

“Hello” she intoned.

“How are you feeling?”

“I’m okay”

“My name is Jesus, what is your name?”

“I don’t have a name” she said… feeling lost, feeling as if something had eluded her. She had always been known as “the girl” as far back as she could recall. It did not make sense though, everyone else in the village had a name, she remembered their names but how come she could not remember hers?

“People used to call me ‘the girl’ but I guess that is not really a name?”

“That’s a noun. But don’t worry we’ll figure it out” He sighed and sat down on the ground. “Would you like to join me?”

“Okay” the girl said, and sat down next to him.

“The sun is going to go down soon, it’s going to be beautiful”

“Mmmhmmm” the girl said, leaning back slightly as she hugged her knees. She felt excited about the impending sunset. Sunsets were beautiful at the castle, but surely it would be different here.

It was different.

The sky turned into a canvas of purple and pink and burning orange – it bathed the pine trees and the field of daffodils and lavender with an ember glow.

A strange and ethereal sense of peace filled her heart in the moment as she registered the presence of the man next to her. He looked young, no more than thirty years old; his face was filled with a sense of joy and expectancy; there was a quiet sense of confidence in him that she had never witnessed before in any of the towns folk. She felt comfortable with this man. It felt like she had known him all her life.

“What are you thinking about?” the man said, turning to her with a serious look on his face.

“That I feel happy, peaceful and at rest” the girl said; something in his expression seemed to indicate that he was asking about something more than what was on her mind.

He gazed at her for longer than a few seconds and then tilted his head and said, “How often would you like to come out here and see the sunset with me?”

“Everyday” the girl said with a happy smile. Her eyes lit up and the lids closed gently as she imagine the pleasure of more sunsets, all the different ways the dying sun rays would spread across the sky enveloping it with a burst of orange and pink. She imagined how the air might smell as the seasons turned, perhaps in a few months, instead of lavender and pine, she would smell the scent of falling autumn leaves and wet soil.

The man turned and looked at the castle wall that lay behind her.

“Would you like those walls to come down?” He asked the girl.

The girl pondered his question – it had taken all she could to walk through the walls, every last ounce of her strength and beyond what she thought she had in her. In the end, she had given up, but something else arose in her, a song of faith and courage that gave her the final push to get through the tunnel.

Did she want to go back to the castle? Yes, it would be nice to have a warm bed to rest in and books to read, but the thought of going through that tunnel filled her heart with a deep sense of dread.

“Yes, please” she said, looking at Jesus expectantly. “Can you take it down for me?”

Jesus nodded his head and he bowed his head and started murmuring. “Are you praying?” The girl whispered tentatively to him.

“Yes” he grabbed her hand and said, “Let’s ask my Father to bring the walls down”

His hand felt warm and strong, it enveloped hers completely and filled her with a deep sense of safety and peace. The girl closed her eyes and let go of the last vestige of fear that had gripped her heart when she thought about the tunnel.

At first nothing happened. But Jesus and the girl persisted in their prayers. Suddenly spidery cracks seemed to appear out of nowhere and quickly spread across the entire expanse of the wall. The wall which had appeared to be dark and impenetrable now seemed fragile and delicate, almost frail with the lace-like pattern of cracks that had spread across its edifice.

Jesus continued to pray and the cracks widened and spread right down to the foundations. There were tremors as the cracks expanded; cascades of energy seemed to shift within the walls and soon small rocks were starting to fall out from in between the cracks. There was a low rumble which mounted to a large roar as chunks of the wall came tumbling down, falling apart like a 3D jigsaw puzzle being torn apart. Chunks of stone lay all over the encirclement; dust filled the air in a gray mist.

The girl stood dazedly looking at the castle and the ruins of the wall encircling it; Jesus stood next to her, still holding her hand.

When the dust settled she saw the castle in a different light. Now it looked pale and vulnerable, whereas previously it had seem dark, impenetrable and foreboding. The foundation stones of the wall around the castle were stark and jagged, it would still be dangerous to venture past those sharp edges.

The girl turn to Jesus with a perplexed look on her face and asked, “What are we going to do about those jagged edges?”

Jesus squeezed her hand and said “Let’s continue to pray for all of those foundation stones to crumble so they are no longer in the way” he said quietly.

There they stood, praying. The girl closed her eyes and said a silent prayer to God, her Creator, “Lord God, thank you for bringing down the walls, those sharp edges make it hard for me to go out and come in, can you remove it completely so I can come and leave as I want to? I don’t want to feel afraid, like I am walking on eggshells all the time.”

Jesus smiled and nodded. Sure enough, the remaining rocks came crumbling down till there was nothing more than dust, leaving a dark ring around the castle.

There was a long moment of silence as the girl and Jesus surveyed the landscape. The castle stood looking somewhat sad and forlorn without its walls, but there was something strangely inviting about it, now that it was unencumbered by the towering expanse of a dark wall.

Something like a huge weight felt like it had fallen off the girl’s back. She had never really noticed the presence of this weight before, but as she surveyed the landscape before her and saw how nothing was blocking her passage between the castle and the open field, her heart thrilled and a deep sense of hope stirred from deep within her.

The vise that had gripped her heart previously, a deep sense of dread and fear that lay deeply buried within the embers of her heart suddenly loosened. Deep within her soul, the girl felt an unfurling. Something strange and beautiful was happening and Jesus was with her through this experience. She turned and looked up into his eyes.

He looked back steadily at her, quietly.

“Want to go home now?” He said to her. “I’ll be here again tomorrow.”

She hesitated. She felt reluctant to leave. It had been so very long since she had had human contact. And this did not just feel like human contact, it felt like she had met a friend whom she had known her whole life, someone who knew her intimately, yet held her lightly and gently, but with a supple strength that rivaled that of figure skaters she had seen on the television many years ago.

“… okay, see you tomorrow then” she said softly and treaded slowly back to the castle.

Her life soon took on a rhythm and a flow that centered around her evenings with Jesus. There was a religious order to her day that gave her a sense of fullness and purpose. As she started her days, she would read books, play the piano, draw and craft, looking forward to sitting in the field and witnessing the sunset with Jesus.

Sunsets with Jesus filled her heart with such peace and hope – a new feeling of safety and space had begun to govern her mind and all of her waking moments. Her heart was at ease.

Whereas previously each day melted into the next in a blur of happenstance, each day seemed to be marked by specific thoughts, events and revelations about her identity, and the girl felt like she was becoming a different person. Things which used to scare her, like spiders or the sound of ferrets mating in the wild now no longer perturbed her. She had no problems stomping on insects and putting them to rest, whereas in the past she would cower in fear of them.

She took more pride in keeping the castle grounds clean, whereas in the past she would have trouble finding the strength and will to maintain a tidy space. She developed an interest not just in reading, but also in writing. She pulled out a quill and some parchment paper and started writing poems and songs. As she did so, she felt more at ease and a stronger sense of self developed in her. She realized that she was really and truly a different version of herself now – it was almost as if her daily encounters with Jesus was bringing her truest self into life, it was a slow unfurling each day, a peeling back of layers and layers of hurt and pain that had built up over the years.

Each day she felt a rawness and ache in her heart, but even through the pain, she felt a deep seated sense of joy emanating through her spirit.

The only thing that she felt bad about was the garden in her castle grounds.

She felt glad that Jesus never came to visit her castle and that he stayed outside in the field. Every time she left the castle grounds and came back she would be confronted with the barrenness of its garden: thorn and briar inhabited the hardened soil and whatever grass there was had now completely shriveled up into light brown clumps of straw.

Each evening she walked out of the garden into the path leading to the green field. He stood facing her each time she approached him, and she would feel herself sinking into a deep sense of peace and safety as she walked closer and closer to him, all her fears about her castle grounds being exposed melted into the far recesses of her mind.

One day as the sun slipped beyond the horizon, Jesus turned to the girl and said, “I’ll walk you back home”

The girl felt uncomfortable at the thought of Jesus seeing the state of her garden but she did not want to say goodbye and felt thrilled that Jesus was trying to spend more time with her.

“Okay” she said hesitantly.

“Something the matter?” Jesus asked.

“Oh, it’s nothing” she said, shrugging her shoulders… they got up and started walking back to the castle. There was a long stretch of silence after which the girl blurted out, “Okay, the truth is I think you are going to hate my garden. The truth is that everything in it is dead.”

“What do you mean?” He asked.

“Well, for starters, there is nothing growing there, it is all brown and grey, everything’s dead…I’ve always dreamed of a verdant green garden with an oak tree and a swing…” she trailed off as her eyes followed the sun’s dying rays, reaching across the sky in a silent goodbye.

“I know a place where you can pick out some plants, any type of plant and we can bring that back to your castle grounds together” Jesus offered.

The girl paused. She could scarcely take it in. Jesus was not judging her for having a barren garden, but he was actually offering to help her get new plants to transform her garden and make it beautiful.

She kept quiet for a long time, trying to hold in the tears that were threatening to pour out.

“You okay?” he said, turning to look at her intently.

The tears came out; first they streamed down slowly, but soon they came in torrents as the girls body started shaking violently. She stood there before him, convulsing as she tried to choked back her cries of deep anguish. He put his arms around her and drew her close. She had gotten used to his presence soothing and comforting her, but she had never felt his touch before.

It felt foreign to her, the warmth of a body that she had come to associate with love and tenderness. The way that he held her was so gentle, yet strong. Something broke in her, something that had been tightly balled up for years yielded to the softness and care that he offered to her. She stopped trying to choke back her cries and started weeping deeply, fully, unashamedly.

As she wept, her whole body shook and heaved, and she collapsed into a heap on the ground. Jesus bent down, got on his knees and hugged her, holding her close to him. They sat there for rest of the evening until the final light disappeared, bird calls mingling with the soft whispers of the night breeze.

The Plant Shop

They ended up going to the plant shop Jesus had told the girl about.

The shop was unlike anything she had ever seen before: bursting with color, the entire space was populated with heads of tulips of every shade of red to purple and pink sitting straight like little handleless cups, there were Rhododendrons in all shades of lilac, pink and purple, all the hothouse flowers: Orchids, Anthuriums with their Big Red Heart Shaped leaves, Bougainvillea creeping all over the trellises they grew on, the Chenille Plant with it furry extensions, Jasmine flowers lending their sweet pungent scent into the air and Birds of Paradise with their orange crowns and blue beaks. Lobster claws hung discreetly at a corner of the store.

The girl was blown away! This was like nothing she could have ever imagined.The village where she had grown up in only ever had Roses, Carnations, Gerberas and Baby’s Breath; whole vistas in her mind opened up when she surveyed the store and imagined all that she could do with the plants that she was eyeing.

In a shaded corner of the store a strange odor emanated. It had a cloying scent that smelled abit like overnight trash. Curious, she ventured towards the strange smell and was shocked and intrigued at the grotesque monstrosity of a flower before her. It approximately three feet wide and had five “petals” that were mottled with white spots, these “petals” converged on a big yawning mouth that gaped leerily at her.

The smell was much more intense now that she had gotten closer to it. “Who would want such a horrible looking and smelly flower?” she thought to herself, withdrawing viscerally.

“Different strokes for different folks” Jesus said, smiling as he looked at her. She looked at him and smiled. Jesus seemed to intuit what she was thinking very well. That is another thing she really liked about him.

She continued surveying the dark and dank section and found more plants that captured her interest. There was the Venus flower trap with it oval shaped lobes articulated with thin red strands, a buzzing fly soon landed in one of its lobes and the two lobes immediately snapped shut like the praying hands of some alien space monster.

The girl was thoroughly impressed. She added the Venus fly trap to the mental list of plants she wanted.

She looked around. There was sooo much more that she wanted. In truth, she didn’t really like the Rose, Carnation, Baby’s breath or even Geberas. There was nothing wrong with those flowers, but they were just too pat and just a little bit boring. She was interested in wild crawlers, like the humble morning glory. She was fascinated by the idea of growing a herb garden, she loved tulips, especially the jagged-edged and two-toned ones. She loved the fly-traps, the pitcher plants but doubted that Jesus would approve of these death traps! She loved the crocuses and green buds that would reveal special surprises of their own. She wanted to grow Four-Leaf Clovers in her garden and toadstools and all sorts of moss and ferns.

She wanted, more than anything, a huge oak tree from which she could hang a swing. She touched the packets of morning glory seeds gingerly at first, glancing back to see how Jesus would respond. He caught her glance out of the corner of his eye and turned to her.

“Beloved, what do you want?” He whispered gently as he knelt down next to her.

The girl felt a sense of comfort wash over her as she had never known before. Here He was, looking at her fully, acknowledging her deeply, teasing out the tendrils of unspoken desire she had carefully sequestered away for years.

“Beloved…” she thought to herself slowly. “He called me Beloved.”

“I would like these things…” Beloved responded. She indicated all of the things which she really wanted – the morning glory, the misshapen bonsai plant ridden with knobbley branches, the Butterfly Pea plant, the creepers, the traps, the weeds, the things that nobody would cast a glance at, because they were not considered beautiful by mainstream standards.

These were the things she loved, there were the things she cared about.

Her eyes filled with tears because she was finally being honest with herself and with Jesus.

Jesus looked at her and loved her.

And she felt His love for her so deeply that she was no longer afraid.


She went and got the stuff for moss and ferns, helped herself to the creepers and traps, grabbed a bunch of seeds and bought some rope and wood.

“This is for the wooden swing I’m going to install on the oak tree Jesus” she informed him with a quiet confidence.

Jesus smiled and said, “I can’t wait to check out the swing!”

If you were to walk into her garden today, you would find a place that you could only dream of. It is filled with plants and creepers of every kind. A mish-mash of the tropics interspersed with evergreen trees. The cornucopia of wildlife and plants is framed by a large oak tree in the garden from which hangs a wooden swing.

“To the weary and heavy-laden, come and sit on the swing, have lots of fun!” says a plaque that Beloved herself designed, painted and nailed into the tree. The oak tree is verdant and strong – it’s branches spread out with a majesty that speaks of something greater and deeper than the material world we live in.

The way the wind blows through this resplendent garden tickles your senses and brings you back to a time in your youth when you once believed in love, and trust and freedom and growth, a time when the world was filled with the fullness of possibility and hope – you knew that life was not perfect, but you believed you could shape the world into a vision of joy, hope and beauty, if only you allowed yourself to.

This is what her garden invites the lonely, weary and heavy-laden to: rest and revival. You find your courage renewed when you spend some time swinging up and down beneath the steady branches of the majestic Oak.

If you were to see her today, if you were to walk into that garden, you would see Jesus.

What Are Champagne Problems?

As I reflect on the different facets of my relationship with my ex-husband, and the nuances of abuse in our relationship, and as I consider all of the ways I was complicit in keeping the charade of a relationship going with him for 10 years of my life, I have been listening to Taylor Swift and finding a depth in her music that I never could detect before.

Why couldn’t I appreciate her music before?

Because while I was married to him, I did not understand what love really was.

Love is not some superficial thing that is based on glib words and calculated actions and keeping tabs.

Love is not about manipulating and guilting someone so that you can get your way with them.

Love is not based on fear and control.

No, love is the opposite of fear.

The philosopher and poet Khalil Gibran wrote on love in his seminal book, “The Prophet.” The following is an excerpt that I have come back to again and again:

All these things shall love do unto you that you may know the secrets of your heart, and in that knowledge become a fragment of Life’s heart.

But if in your fear you would seek only love’s peace and love’s pleasure,
Then it is better for you that you cover your nakedness and pass out of love’s threshing-floor,
Into the seasonless world where you shall laugh, but not all of your laughter, and weep, but not all of your tears …

But if you love and must needs have desires, let these be your desires:
To melt and be like a running brook that sings its melody to the night.
To know the pain of too much tenderness.
To be wounded by your own understanding of love;
And to bleed willingly and joyfully.
To wake at dawn with a winged heart and give thanks for another day of loving;
To rest at the noon hour and meditate love’s ecstasy;
To return home at even tide with gratitude;
And then to sleep with a prayer for the beloved in your heart and a song of praise upon your lips.

When you really love someone your heart is laid bare. You do not withhold any part of yourself, you are willing to walk through the fire for the person you love.

Nothing is too delicate, nothing is too embarrassing, nothing is too scared to withhold.

That is what love is. That is how I loved him, and how I believed he loved me.

But I was very wrong about him.

Which brings me back to this song by Taylor Swift, “Champagne Problems”

I was intrigued by the title, and held in thrall by the melody and the wistful melancholia of the lyrics:

You booked the night train for a reason
So you could sit there in this hurt
Bustling crowds or silent sleepers
You’re not sure which is worse

Because I dropped your hand while dancing
Left you out there standing
Crestfallen on the landing
Champagne problems

Your mom’s ring in your pocket
My picture in your wallet
Your heart was glass, I dropped it
Champagne problems

You told your family for a reason
You couldn’t keep it in
Your sister splashed out on the bottle
Now no one’s celebrating

Dom Pérignon, you brought it
No crowd of friends applauded
Your hometown skeptics called it
Champagne problems

You had a speech, you’re speechless
Love slipped beyond your reaches
And I couldn’t give a reason
Champagne problems

Your Midas touch on the Chevy door
November flush and your flannel cure
“This dorm was once a madhouse”
I made a joke, “Well, it’s made for me”

How evergreen, our group of friends
Don’t think we’ll say that word again
And soon they’ll have the nerve to deck the halls
That we once walked through

One for the money, two for the show
I never was ready, so I watch you go
Sometimes you just don’t know the answer
‘Til someone’s on their knees and asks you

“She would’ve made such a lovely bride
What a shame she’s fucked in her head, ” they said
But you’ll find the real thing instead
She’ll patch up your tapestry that I shred

And hold your hand while dancing
Never leave you standing
Crestfallen on the landing
With champagne problems

Your mom’s ring in your pocket
Her picture in your wallet
You won’t remember all my
Champagne problems
You won’t remember all my
Champagne problems

She paints a poetic and delicate picture of her ex, whom she rejected when he was on the verge of proposing to her with his mother’s ring.

He is crestfallen and gets onto a fast-moving train to “sit in [his] hurt”.

She must have been a very physically attractive girl, because everyone else around him is trying to comfort him telling him that “she would have made such a lovely bride, she’s fucked in the head”

The reason she gave for rejecting him is vague – “sometimes you just just don’t the answer till someone’s on their knees and asks you.”

In the past it would have been impossible for me to understand why a woman would turn away a man who did such wonderful things for her, someone who gave her “everything.”

Now I understand.

It’s not about the nice things they do, but it is about their heart.

How much can your heart hold? She knew his heart was made of glass, fragile, so easily broken – “Your heart was glass, I dropped it, champagne problems”

His pride was tide up with how his family and friends saw him – he was caught up with externalities, he lived for the applause of the world, but she lived for something deeper. She trusted her intuition, and she wanted someone who knew himself better, someone whose ego was not a delicate flower, someone who would be willing to dig deep and go beyond maintaining the facade of a superficial marriage where each person was merely playing a predictable role for the world to see.

She wanted someone who would be willing to walk through the fire, someone who respected himself enough to live from the inside out, not the outside in.

She wanted someone she could really respect.

And love.

He was not the person she sought, she did not know it until he proposed. As terrible as it made him (and her) feel, she had the courage to reject him because she was honest with herself.

If I had known my own heart better when Esteban and I had first started dating him, I would have never gotten into a relationship with him.

I have always had trouble with saying “no” to someone who is charming, funny, and persistent. It was hard to do so because I did really know how to love and cherish myself when I was younger, and I was saddled with a lot of false guilt and feelings of obligation.

Nowadays, as I learned to be honest with myself and to love and hold myself unconditionally through this season of deep sadness but also unexpected joy, I look for something deeper and real – something that charm does not lend itself to easily.

I search for honesty, courage, vulnerability and patience. Four things that I’m learning more about everyday as I rub up against reality over and over again.

Today I took my elderly mother with Stage 4 colon cancer out for Sunday brunch. We went to our usual spot at Wheelock place. It’s hard to be with her sometimes because she has early onset dementia and lacks self-awareness. I often have to over-function to be able to take care of her. In addition to this, many of the things she says and does still trigger some deep wounds inside of me that have yet to heal.

Today as I was preparing to get her into the wheelchair, I tried to move something out of it so she could sit comfortably in it. She did not wait for me to clear it and went and sat down even though the wheelchair was not close enough to her.

She fell over backwards and yelled so loudly I was mortified and terrified at the same time. A crowd of people rushed in to help. She lay there for a while, stunned, her 8 inch stomach wound from her colon operation exposed for all the world to see.

It took 3 people to haul her up and into the wheelchair. We thanked everyone for their help and I tried my best to stay calm even though everything in my brain was telling me to freak out. I talked to her and asked if she was okay. She said she was okay, that she was just shocked.

Later on I brought her to the bathroom and realized that she’d wet her wheelchair because she had peed her pants.

I waited for 20 mins for her while she changed into a new pair of diapers and pants. She did no want me to help her with it even though she regularly gets the helper to serve her hand and foot. I suppose it is a relief for me too.

In the end I left the bathroom to take a mental break from the drama of it all. I’m still feeling shaken up by her fall and feel quite guilty about it, even though it wasn’t my fault.

It’s just a lot of work when you really just want to be able to relax and enjoy your Sunday. I feel bad even for saying this and I will always treasure the times I have with my mother, but these times with her are often fraught with all kinds of embarrassment and frustration.

Later on when we left the building to get a cab, it was also a trial. My mother balked at climbing the stairs even though usually she has no problems climbing up two flights of stairs at home when she wants my attention.

In the end two guys came over to help and I felt super embarrassed when one of them said, “it’s not very handicap friendly around here” I saw him glance at the wet spot on the wheelchair out of the corner of his eye and something just shriveled up inside of me.

Anyways, it was all I could do to contain myself on the way back as I called a Grab, struggled to get my mom in the cab and load the wheelchair in the trunk. The elderly cab driver insisted on helping and I felt even more ashamed.

I know there is no objective reason for me to have felt shame in those moments: I needed help and my elderly mom can’t be blamed for her neediness, or even peeing herself – however, my shame about my mother and her indiscretions have plagued me my whole life, and I was churning through a cycle of shame in that moment.

It was hard enough to not lose my cool, but when I was spacing out in the cab, trying to get a grip on my feelings of overwhelm (tears were pricking my eyes and I was desperately trying to hold them back) when my mother turned tentatively towards me, like she was seeking my validation and approval and said, “you can just drop me off downstairs I’ll go up on my own.”

I just snapped and said, “I’ll take you up, don’t be ridiculous.”

I felt angry because I felt she should know that I could not in good conscience leave her at the lobby with her wheelchair. I also felt that taking her up to her apartment would be nothing compared to what I had already been dealing with.

I just needed space to work through my angry and sad feelings, but she wouldn’t give me space and it seemed like she just wanted more emotional energy from me – more than I could give in that moment.

It was hard.

I don’t even know how my feelings towards my mom can be so extreme at times – overcome with feelings of love and affection, and the fear of losing her and then at odd moments riddled with anger and rage, bordering on hatred.

Is this what it means to love someone from your heart?

Is this what it means to see someone you love grow old and lose their capacities?

Is this what it means to cope with grief and loss?

Is this what letting go looks like?

Mark Manson talks candidly about losses:

“Life is a long series of losses. It’s pretty much the only thing guaranteed in our existence. From moment to moment, year to year, we give up and leave behind former selves that we will never recover. We lose family, friends, relationships, jobs, and communities. We lose beliefs, experiences, perspectives, and passions. And ultimately, we will one day lose our existence entirely….

You can never bring a dead person back to life. You can never hit ‘reset’ on a broken relationship. You can never fix a wasted youth or redo a past mistake or un-say the words that destroyed a friendship.

When it’s gone, it’s gone. And it will never be the same, no matter what you do. And this, in a real psychological sense, destroys a small piece of you. A piece that must eventually be rebuilt.”


Even through I agree that moving forward from a loss involves accepting the past and rebuilding your psyche in the area that where you have suffered loss, I have something that will never be lost – a relationship with Jesus that is eternal and constant.

There is so much comfort in knowing I’m am held in His hands, and I can accept whatever happens knowing that He’s protecting and restoring me each day as I turn to Him as a child to her Heavenly Father.

So even if I have “champagne problems” or perhaps in this season something more akin to “hard liquor problems” I can rest assured that He is with me and will never let me go.

Psalm 27

Of David.

1 The Lord is my light and my salvation—
whom shall I fear?
The Lord is the stronghold of my life—
of whom shall I be afraid?
2 When the wicked advance against me
to devour[a] me,
it is my enemies and my foes
who will stumble and fall.
3 Though an army besiege me,
my heart will not fear;
though war break out against me,
even then I will be confident.
4 One thing I ask from the Lord,
this only do I seek:
that I may dwell in the house of the Lord
all the days of my life,
to gaze on the beauty of the Lord
and to seek him in his temple.
5 For in the day of trouble
he will keep me safe in his dwelling;
he will hide me in the shelter of his sacred tent
and set me high upon a rock.
6 Then my head will be exalted
above the enemies who surround me;
at his sacred tent I will sacrifice with shouts of joy;
I will sing and make music to the Lord.
7 Hear my voice when I call, Lord;
be merciful to me and answer me.
8 My heart says of you, “Seek his face!”
Your face, Lord, I will seek.
9 Do not hide your face from me,
do not turn your servant away in anger;
you have been my helper.
Do not reject me or forsake me,
God my Savior.
10 Though my father and mother forsake me,
the Lord will receive me.
11 Teach me your way, Lord;
lead me in a straight path
because of my oppressors.
12 Do not turn me over to the desire of my foes,
for false witnesses rise up against me,
spouting malicious accusations.
13 I remain confident of this:
I will see the goodness of the Lord
in the land of the living.
14 Wait for the Lord;
be strong and take heart
and wait for the Lord.


Why can’t I let go
Of this memory
The one that I never had
With you?

The one where
We’re sitting at the canal
Looking at the water

Peeling rambutans

Biting into the soft white flesh
Me masterfully pulling
flesh from
woody skin

You gazing off into the distance
Musing about
Jesse and the
He’s writing his PhD

And I silently wonder
How many more rambutans
We have left

The poem above captures an imagined scenario of hanging out with my sister. She talked about it one time, when I wistfully mused about how I wish I could just chill and eat rambutans by the Sunset Way Canal. (See picture above)

She said “Sure, we can go do that, why not?” I felt heartened by her easy carefree way of talking about hanging out. A big part of me wanted to spend time chilling by the canal with her, but in the end, it never happened.

Why not?

Because I rarely had anything meaningful to say to her; most of the time she would dominate the conversation and talk endlessly at me about some guy or another that she was dating. It would get really boring after a while.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t have problems listening to my girlfriends tell me about guys they are dating or interested in, however, I draw the line at 1 hour sessions hearing an endless litany of musings about her current crush, about what he does and this and that.

It’s really boring.

I wonder if it’s because I just wish she would tell me instead what she’s doing. What was she doing apart from hanging out with these guys that she gets so fascinated by and who are just stringing her along and wasting her precious time? Is she doing anything with her own life to attend to her own emotional, spiritual and mental growth?

Also I wished she would actually be interested in me for once. And listen to me without judging me and talking down to me about the things I was doing, saying or thinking. I always came away from our conversations together feeling shit and completely misunderstood.

I never said anything explicit about our relationship in the past because I did not want to cause her offense. But upon writing the poem and having had some time to think about it and what it means, I realize that I wrote it to capture the dynamic in our relationship which was always marked by an abject lack of psychological, emotional and mental connection.

All of this stymied our relationship and led to dead-ends in our conversations. When I tried to tell her honestly how I felt, she would inevitably turn on me and criticize me, saying that I was too harsh or that I did not listen well, or that I had some serious anger problem.

I used to feel really bad about it. There were times things she said would make me feel like ending my life.

I used to think if only I tried harder to be kinder, nicer and more patient, or that if I were more self-aware and tried to sift out the truth of what she said, that we would have a good relationship, but now I realize that somethings just aren’t your fault.

There are some things you are never meant to carry – it’s not your responsibility. Good relationships require mutual respect, understanding and reciprocity; emotional intimacy involves holding space for each other.

She never once held space for me.

I have finally learnt to let go of a relationship that was never good for me.

I have developed what you might call ‘self-respect’.

Below is another poem I wrote about my sister which captures some of the nuances in our relationship.


My sister loved me
But she broke me
In so many ways
So many splinters in my soul
So many fractures
That never healed whole

Did she know?

And what if she did?

Was the pain she held
Too much to contain?

Did it have to spill over
Messing everything up
Like that?

The seeping spread
The septic wound
The sopping rag
Couldn’t stanch the flow

Of life
She drew out from me
With her harpooned words

I was beached
Like a whale on sand

Gasping for air
Each ragged breath
Drawing sharp
Stabs of pain

The pain that
Tore through
Her soul
A cancer that
Threatened to consume

But I have released her



I’ve found my way back
Into the water

I’ve found my way back


As if life wasn’t hard enough
You and I danced a beautiful
Dance of dysfunction

As I look back
There were all these signs
But why did I ignore them?

Was it because I was
Drawn to the fire
As a moth is drawn to
The flame?

You told me life was precious
But you didn’t know
Just how precious it was
Until you walked out on me

You sang a song of freedom
But there is no
Freedom without surrender

I’m tired of running from the pain
My love
So I’m letting you go

The story you wanted to
Write of a nuclear family
Tight and close knit
Constricts my soul,
Like a vice around my neck

Because that’s not what I was designed
I fought so hard for us
But now it’s ashes in the dust

Hot coals in the fire
The forgers fire
Is calling out to me

I must surrender to His call
And you must reckon with
Your creator

Broken eyes
Broken heart
Broken soul

I’ll see you again on the
Other side

16 “See, it is I who created the blacksmith
    who fans the coals into flame
    and forges a weapon fit for its work.
And it is I who have created the destroyer to wreak havoc;
17     no weapon forged against you will prevail,
    and you will refute every tongue that accuses you.
This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord,
    and this is their vindication from me,”
declares the Lord.

Isaiah 54: 16-17


How many lives can you lead
How many languages can you speak
How many worlds can you live in
How many stories can you tell

If you live in a shell

How many times can you
Keep learning the same lesson?

I would rest easy if
I knew you were mine to keep

But you’re a child
Of the universe
Free and unfettered

By rules and stifling conventions
You scale walls, stomach bulging
in tacky plastic armour
You write notes with uneven scrawl

You flex in the mirror
Congratulate yourself
Looking sideways to see if I approve

Your noisy aggression
Was a foil to your soft underbelly
It was unsettling, intriguing
I had to find out more

So you are the one
I chose to burn
The river I drowned in

I awoke, found myself sitting safe
Drinking peppermint tea
While thinking about you –
A distant memory
In my soul

How Do I Let Go?

How do I let go
Of someone that was never there
A person that was not real
A concept
I fell in love with

And did 10 years
Of my life with?

Flesh and blood
Dust specks all around
He sat in front
Of the computer screen

He was mine
Mine to hold
Mine to love
Mine to touch

I was his
His to use
His to plunder
His to control

I learned from him
And grew stronger

I broke free
One day,

When he broke me

But letting go …

How do you
Let go


Nice Girl

You try to be kind
You try to be good
But have you been kind
To yourself?

Have you thought
About how much
You can bear
How much you can carry?

The only cross
You ever needed to carry
Was your own
Yet you had no time for that

You see the sadness
And loneliness in others
But do you see
The devastation in your own heart?

You keep walking on eggshells
Believing that
You need you to be
Something you’re not

You try to be strong
Not realizing how
Powerful you are
When you feel weak

Their hurtful words
They don’t define you
Their thoughtless actions
Are not your fault

Their silence
Does not reflect on you
and you don’t have
To live in fear of punishment

Let go and trust
Take all the time you need
To heal, feel and be you

This world is your playground
And you can live in safety
Child, take all the time you need
To grow up