The train rides home are stressful at best and infuriating at worst; here in the Philippines we often deal with ever-failing systems and questionable characters on a standard commute. It’s not uncommon for us to experience having someone lined up behind you attempt to overtake as the car doors open, breaking away, shoving, contorting into odd shapes, and I think…
We are made up of each other.
I’m not thinking about genetics (even though family does make up more of us than strangers do). I’m thinking about how we all form each other, fine fractals of action shaping a person, building a movement, reinforcing identity. I’m thinking about how our experiences are experienced by the world, which feeds back to us.
I’m thinking about how boundaries are and are not. I’m thinking about how we believe that no one should be in our spaces while asserting our existence in theirs.
I’m thinking that we’re all made up of each other.
As I curve my torso over my things and attempt to fold into a space-saving singularity, I think about the middle-aged woman with her elbow at my back, muttering profanities at a mother who refused to let her cut in. I remember some all-too-human teachers, all-powerful in classrooms, passing judgement and feeding ego in one blow—this woman is like them, I think.
Or I think she is because they have come before her like insects in my ears, unforgettable buzzing that enrages me. Their hum has become part of my bones, and as I shift, her marrow subtly shakes.
I pass judgement at her with a look, and I become part of her; the impertinent younger woman. The teachers become part of her, righteous and proud in the face of my anonymous disapproval.
No matter what we do, I think, we are made up of each other.
Even disembarking doesn’t stop these thoughts; I watch an old man shuffle out the special section of the train. His steps are small and painful, but he persists. I watch him reach the platform bench before I do, exhaling in admiration. He makes me think of my grandfather, human and legend, whom I never see anymore.
I think it’s because we are too alike; stubborn and proud, unconsciously inflicting ourselves on the world while being the good metaphorical soldiers we are.
I sit beside him to finish reading a paragraph in my Kindle; he almost leaves his wallet. I call out and I become part of him, proof of decency in the world. His gratitude becomes part of my grandfather, and I briefly entertain the thought of writing a letter.
But I need to get home and the words get lost in the folds of my mind. I wouldn’t know what to say, so I say nothing.
The turnstile spins as I leave the station; without thinking, I start sewing patches of strange people onto the fabric of my life.
Instead, I think: we are made up of each other, such exquisite corpses.
I was supposed to write my review of Janus Silang books 1 and 2, but something shocking happened: David Bowie died following a battle with cancer almost no one knew about until now.
I can’t claim to be his biggest fan ever, but I’ve had a crush on him since I saw The Labyrinth. I admired his talent, and the sheer balls he must have had; few artists walk away at the height of popularity and still end up being famous over several generations.
So instead of continuing the outline, I started reading and looking at tributes (my favorite being the Neil Gaiman/Yoshitaka Amano collaboration). I looped my favorite Bowie song for two hours at work, and contemplated his commitment to his brand of artistry.
I wrote this instead, because I could think of little else (apart from cats, which he apparently also loved).
There will still be a poem on Friday. But today, there is this.
In Decembers, you get crazy weeks during which you can think of nothing but worries and parties and worry parties. How much work to complete before the holiday, how much shopping left to do, how much time to devote to anything at all…
You only have a few seconds’ worth of gratitude, followed by minutes of panic, and then hours of what seems to be remorse over choices not made. You do not have time to dwell and yet that’s all you seem to do.
Stop. Take a breaking breath and find a pool of light. Bring out a beloved book and pick a passage to shape with your tongue. Taste the air with every vowel. Memorize the melody of your voice.
Then return to your December and your worries and your parties and your worry parties, knowing that you can always have your breaking breaths.
I think of these days as my salad days. You know, that time when you’re the best you’ll ever be? That period in your life when you feel like every dang thing you touch will turn into gold (if not all-out platinum)? Your heydays?
Usually, salad days are recognized in retrospect; we only think of them as the best time EVER in hindsight. “Back in the day,” we might say, “we used to be able to write something like 10,000 coherent words per week, and edit while drunk on gin pomelo.”*
But why do we do this? Why approach the concept of these wonderfully amazing and productive days as something that has gone past, as something we don’t have anymore? Why think of this time as the time we’ve lost? Why think of this with so much regret?
If there’s one thing I’ve learned over the years (with the help of other people and various books), it’s that the past only looks good because time has covered it up and smoothed its edges. I’m willing to bet that when said past was still the present, it had the same horrible jagged corners that we’re still dealing with now. We just think the ones today are worse because they’re more immediate.
So I figured:
Wouldn’t it be better to just think of TODAY as a salad day? Wouldn’t it be amazing to think of every day of my life as the time when I’m at the top of my proverbial game? Imagine the confidence boost! Imagine what I, or anyone else can do with this kind of self-assurance!
Really, think about it—if you think you’re the best version you can be of yourself TODAY, what can you do? What will you do? And what’s to stop you from doing it?
Whatever it is, recognize that it doesn’t have to be a big thing and it doesn’t have to be for just ONE aspect of your life. Today, I’m having a salad day for blogging. Last Sunday, I was having a cat mom salad day.** Tomorrow’s going to be a completely different salad, I’m sure.
No matter what happens, though, I know my salad days will always be fresh and green and interesting because everyday is an awesome salad day. As the Great Master Oogway once said: “Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, but today is a gift. That is why it is called the present.”
* Elea’s note: this actually happened back in college, and these days I can barely stay awake after a spoonful of rum without it being helped along with caffeine—oh, how the times have changed!
** Another note from Elea: Yes, I rescued another one—
(this little guy’s tentative name is TP). He joins the other recently-chronicled rescue kitties—
What? I never denied being a crazy cat lady!