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A Campaign for Self-Discovery

It’s easy, isn’t it, to read Andre Gide, “It is only in adventure that some people succeed in knowing themselves — in finding themselves”, and suddenly get jazzed. To throw an assortment of clothes in a suitcase and purchase the cheapest ticket on Skyscanner and just take to it, damn it, “I want to go find myself!”

To think, yes, “I go to lose myself— / and to find truth. / To soften parts of me / I didn’t realize weren’t bone” (1).

To read, “he knows his own mind so well that nothing can take away his character” (2).

To read On the Road and highlight “I saw that my life was a vast glowing empty page and I could do anything I wanted” (3).

I scribble a thousand of these quotes on coffee shop napkins, on the margins of used copies of Walden and Letters from a Stoic, on the pages of my battered notebooks. Furiously, desperately, my hands cramping with the speed of my voracious excitement, I get inspired.

Here’s what happens.

I pack a backpack, leaning more towards minimalism than being prepared, I’ll forgo the rain jacket, it’s bulky and I’m waterproof anyways. I’m inspired. I can do anything!

I bring my notebook and a book, leave everything else behind; I’m going to be too busy finding myself to have time for listening to music and connecting with people back home and etc. I pack only enough underwear for two days and a little packet of laundry soap and I leave conditioner behind, too, because all I really need is shampoo. And I skirt off to somewhere like Thailand for five days.

I think, “dwelling free means to follow the divine impulse, to live in a way that is not restricted to what others say and insist on, but to follow one’s broadest, deepest, sense about how to grow and live” (4).

I imagine that perhaps, with only a book and a pen to entertain me, I might get a little lonely. But then I read:

“She has had to make her way alone, through difficulties not commonly encountered, through shimmy muddy streets; she has known the dark night of the soul, Dante’s ‘dark wood, midway in the journey of our life’, and the sorrows of the pits of hell” (4).

I think, oh, perfect, really, so I shall look forward to feeling lonely! That’s great! I look forward to knowing the ‘dark night of the soul’!

I get to Thailand and ride in a taxi to the hostel like a champion because I’m following Jack Kerouac, right, like him I “dedicate myself, to my art, my sleep, my dreams, my labors, my sufferances, my loneliness, my unique madness, my endless absorption and hunger because I cannot dedicate myself to any fellow being.”

It’s brilliant fun, right, joyous and freeing.

I get to the hostel and I see that there aren’t really other people staying there, which is fine by me, because I’m going to be far too busy finding myself to have time to connect with other people. I unpack a bit and then stroll over the ocean and watch the sunset thinking, boy howdy, this is grand and just absolutely pleasant. I’m so inspired!

I shimmy back to my hostel eventually and tuck myself in.

And here’s what happens.

Perhaps not the first day, but inevitably, my inspiration withers. I long for my raincoat in the pouring morning rain. I get bored of reading. I spend the days going to one cafe and then coming back to the hostel for a nap and then going out to another cafe and then going to the ocean and it’s all mundane and empty because it’s one thing to be inspired, really, and it’s another thing entirely to know what it even means to “find oneself”.

It’s easy to get jazzed. But what does it even mean? How do I find myself?

I search for this amongst my papers, napkins, books:

“Go get lost.”

“Go on adventures.”

“Go be scared, put yourself out of the comfort zone.”

What is that literally? How can I fill my days with useful constructive self-discovery, and not just wait for it all to happen? I can’t rely on inspiration to take me to the depths. I don’t want these beautiful metaphors, I want the instruction manual.

I want to read:

“Begin the day with a cup of coffee and write 200 words that begin with the letter ‘m’, then do a rain dance (instructional video included) and follow that up with a nap because it needs to absorb in the subconscious. After the rain dance and the nap you need to wait for a friend to send you a message to hang out and you need to decline, politely. After you decline, you need to turn off all the lights and breathe five times, very deeply, with a straight back. You need to do this routine for two weeks in a row and then you shall find yourself.”

I look for that, too, really, scanning the biographies of famous writers and adventurers, pouring over Haruki Murakami’s daily routine, reading through Scott Jurek’s mindset, looking for how I could apply the same principles to my own life.

I try it out, sometimes. Waking up at 4 a.m. and writing for four hours, then going for a 10k run then finally eating breakfast, because being hungry is a way to get more into yourself. I try Scott Jurek’s post-run smoothie recipes and plant based habits, because that’s going to make me fast, too.

I try it for maybe two days, and then I miss my 4 a.m. alarm. Or I get real antsy after an hour and a half, and I end up writing absolute crap for the remaining three hours (if I can even stay still that long). I pass the jar of peanut butter and a packet of crackers and favor them instead of the kale and quinoa salad.

And then I read something like, “there is no drive-thru enlightenment” (4).

I don’t even know what enlightenment is. I don’t know what it means to find myself, I don’t know what it means to lose myself, I don’t know what it means to “come to the center of [my] own existence” (4).

It’s quite stressful, really, because I feel like I’m wasting my time. Here in Indonesia, especially, because many of the things I have identified myself with for so long (being outside, going for long runs, mobility and spontaneous adventure) are not accessible.

Sometimes I feel as if I were simply existing for when I would feed myself, when I would go to sleep, when it’s probably time to write a blog post. That I’m just filling in the rest with whatever I can think of. That I spend my days trying to not be bored, instead of finding myself.

Inspiration can only take me so far.

I have to take those grandiose sayings and deconstruct them. I can’t let them exist with out me. I need them to be internalized, desperately, individually. I have to study my own boredom, too.

What do I think about isolation? What is my opinion on solitude? What do I think about my own character?

This process of “finding myself” is way too abstract for me to handle. Instead, I favor “learning about my preferences”, “studying what makes me happy”, “experimenting”.

Ahh, even just writing those things brings release. I can fathom learning, studying, experimenting far better than finding.

I’ve got time on my hands, traveling alone allots me this (which is perhaps why everyone insists “solo traveling” leads to “self-discovery”).

But having free time is not what enables you to do these things. It might make it easier, but “not having enough time” should never be an excuse to not deconstruct yourself and learn, study, experiment.

There is no instruction manual, no “drive-thru enlightenment”, but there are more tangible practices to employ to seek out the soul. These are practices I’m trying out.

First, I’m asking myself three questions on repeat:

1. What did I want to be as a child?
2. What do I find myself gravitating towards?
3. Who do I envy and why do I envy them?

The first question revolves around innate preference. What did I want to be before I let “be realistic” seep into my soul?

The second question also revolves around innate preference. Are there things I do, sans any sort of money, any sort of external glory, just because I like doing them?

The third is extremely important. Envy’s got this negative connotation, right, it’s a sin to envy, it’s a horrid little emotion. But it’s quite human, and it reveals a lot. Envy teaches me about what I desperately want for my own life. By deconstructing why it is that I envy them, I let go of a significant portion of the negative emotion.

Second: I am deconstructing my five happiest days.

It’s kind of like The Blue Zones; I write out everything that occurred during each of these five days, in as much minute detail as I can muster, and I look for similarities. The patterns speak to my preferences.

Third: I am reading as much as I can.

Not self-help books, really, more books about the human soul and experience. Books like Quiet, by Susan Cain, and Dharma Bums by Jack Kerouac. The Hero with a Thousand Faces, by Joseph Campbell and Sex, Surrealism, Dali and Me, edited by Clifford Thurlow.

I’m writing down what stands out to me, taking notes, getting a sense of what sparks my soul. Then I’m asking myself why? Why do I connect with that particularly?

Fourth: I am practicing free writing.

Just absolute stream of consciousness, Jack Kerouac’s “spontaneous prose”. Because of this, there’s been an influx of poetry. Most of it, not so great, but a few gems here and there.

And poetry is an intimate form of communication with the soul, the bridge between the conscious and the subconscious, it functions against the lure of reality which is so useful.


I’m learning that finding oneself is more like understanding preferences. What makes me absolutely ecstatic? How can I reach that level?

Being bored, being lonely (which is much different than being alone); those things are useful because they give space. Encouragement, even. But neither solo travel nor deep periods of self-isolation is the path.

The path for me, as I am coming to find, is simply learning, studying, experimenting. Writing myself down and being aware. Deconstructing my habits and preferences and days.

“There is no drive-thru enlightenment”.

There is no instruction manual.

Just practice and adapting when it doesn’t work and reminding myself that I am a work in progress.

 

Peace and blessings,

Josie


 

Here’s a link to a page of my favorite “find yourself” quotes. It’s a good stepping point for introspection, contemplating what ideas and notions light the soul on fire.

Books and poems quoted above:

  1. “Go Get Lost” by Josie Rozell
  2. Empty Roads and Glass Bottles; In Search of the Great Perhaps by Charlotte Eriksson
  3. On the Road by Jack Kerouac
  4. The Hero with a Thousand Faces by Joseph Campbell
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Smuggling and Surviving

It was 7:20 p.m. and pouring rain when I ducked out of the Internet cafe. I had spent the last three hours reading Billy Collins poetry and watching Stephen Colbert when the cafe began filling up with screaming children, and I had decided a good stretch and change of venue would be ideal.

The rain was thick and heavy but I had borrowed my neighbor’s umbrella and had wrapped my backpack around in front of me to shield the contents from the rain.

I love walking with an umbrella in the rain. My feet get wet and slightly slippery and it becomes a game to stay upright, the head is blissfully dry and the breeze of the rain dances through my hair. I’m surrounded by the cozy caress of liquid cloud. The temperature is ideal again. I get to wear my rain jacket.

I had spent ten minutes dancing around when I passed an XXI Cinema and a sign advertising the movie Solo. Movie tickets are cheap in Indonesia, 25,000 rupiah ($1.77) as compared to the normal $10 American tickets.

There was nowhere specific to be. Since I don’t have wifi in my little cave of wonders I don’t watch many movies, so I thought: let’s go watch it, yeah? My soul nodded like a little child getting an early Christmas present, secretive almost, just don’t tell your mother! like. There’s something delicious about spontaneously going to see a movie on a Wednesday night. Something magical about whispering just one ticket, please, to the bored ticket woman. Something spectacular about spending the time before the movie starts finding  snacks to purchase and sneak in.

At 8:30 p.m. I snuggled in the cushy seats, one of seven ticket holders, dipping ritz crackers in a little jar of Skippy peanut butter and washing it down with orange juice.

I love adventure movies, and for the sake of those who haven’t seen Solo, I won’t spend time on my impression. All that matters is this: when you’ve been surrounded by battle scenes and intense music and your little soul is so deeply into it all, coming out of the theater at 10:45 p.m. alone, with only a few stray cinema employees milling about, is amazing.

The cinema is on the third floor of a mall, and even though the mall is locked from the outside and the lights are off, the front entrance of the mall is still the exit for the cinema.

The only sound was that of the rolling escalators and rain still falling on the roof. The building was lit solely by emergency lights, and the mirrors that lined the escalators pivoted the light in strange angles. I don’t know what had happened to the other six ticket holders, because I was alone on my descent to the exit.

The soundtrack music was rolling in the back of my mind as I gripped the railing of the escalator like I was the survivor of a massive apocalyptic wipeout. There was no one to watch me as I jumped lightly off the third-to-last step and assumed a crouch. I pulled my backpack around in front of me, to shield me, and edged alongside the wall, avoiding the patches of light from the mirrors and scanning the shadows.

It took me fifty times longer than necessary to reach the next set of escalators. I looked around. There was still no one watching me, no one observing the absurdness of this white girl jacked on orange juice wearing her backpack like a tourist. I jumped off the fifth-to-last step and attempted a sort of half-roll, but I banged my elbow pretty hard against the floor and didn’t tuck my head in enough.

The rain was letting up and the only sound filling the empty mall was the roll of the escalators.

I was on the first floor and could see the entrance. I kept my chin level and my spine straight, I made sure to walk aligned, calm, composed. But I was watching, right, completely aware.

I felt positively absurd and it was delicious.

The walk back home was just as enjoyable. The rain had drawn a blanket over the typical sounds, so the garbage trucks and occasional whizzing motorcycle sounded different than normal. Muffled and more individual.

My shoes clacked against the wet concrete and the light posts shown in the puddles. It was a mirrored sort of world. I was Sherlock Holmes investigating the streets of London. I was Draco Malfoy slinking through Diagon Alley late at night. It was brilliant.

It was the most fun I had had walking home from anywhere.

Peace and blessings,
Josie

 

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Parenthesis

 

There are days when I feel like I’ve only got the front end of the parentheses
and I’m sitting here cross legged
waiting for closure.
I long to complete this vulnerable musing and call it a day
for I fear an invasion of
too much external influence
I don’t know if I am the one who will supply the second half
or if that’s supposed to come from somewhere else.
It’s confusing to dangle here like this
caught on the edge of some blunted knife perfect for housing
tiny unbalanced feet and perfect for
setting my heart beating
which inevitably contributes to this
musing in the first place,
I’m sort of thinking.
But still. Sometimes. I want to call it a day already
to close up shop and turn out the lights
but something within me (or without me)
isn’t finished yet. So we aren’t closed for business
and we aren’t open later and we aren’t about to call it a day
for to do so would be murderous.
So I shall stay here cross legged and try not to be so defensive
and make peace with the fact
that for now
I’ve got the front end of a parentheses
and a wildly beating heart.


The reader brings his or her own experience to the poem and creates meaning. Here is my experience.
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Routine

 

Is it intelligence that breaks routine? Or is it the
carefully constructed anticipatory rebellion which welds inside
and cracks the chrysalis then

asks us to play electronic beats and dance like the ocean?
I never can tell with these things; all I feel is that
on one hand
routine is the knife by which I slit my arms and act surprised at the blood
and on the other
it is the warmth of a snug cookie dipped in milk on a summer afternoon.

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Blood, Sweat and Tears

By the time I reached the taxi stand underneath the bridge, it was 10:40 in the morning and beads of sweat were dripping into all the wrong places. My jeans were suctioned to the backs of my legs and I kept wiping my brow on my flowy cardigan which sort of felt like scrapping sandpaper against damp skin.

Little bits of me, thanks to the gorgeous amount of sun I had not put on sunscreen for during the previous two weekends, were peeling in the crook of my elbows, my neck, and it gave the impression that I had walked under a tree in the process of spring cleaning.

My pack was stuffed with what would make me a happy camper for the weekend—my blanket (excellent for picnics), laptop (for writing my little heart out), jar of peanut butter (perhaps not a necessity), a plethora of sanitary napkins (thanks to my womanhood), a swim suit, a change of clothes, two books (Quiet by Susan Cain and A Farewell to Arms by Hemingway)—but the load upon my shoulders in the stuffy midmorning heat was doing a number on me.

I was to spend the weekend in central Jakarta at a lovely place I had found on Airbnb for very cheap. A sort of “staycation”, as central Jakarta was just a day trip away from my place in Serpong. But I was looking forward to a weekend snuggled up in fancy eclectic cafes drinking Sumatra coffee and writing like a fiend.

I draped myself into the first taxi.

“Rawa buntu, please,” I said, in my best Bahasa Indonesian accent.

“Huh?” came the reply, whistling through a missing front left tooth.

“Rah-wu Bunt-oo?” I said, a bit disappointed that all the pronunciation I had practiced in front of the mirror that morning was for naught.

“Huh?” came the reply, whistling through a missing front left tooth.

“Uh…station? Wait, I know this one, stasion? Train? Vroom-vroom?”

“Huh?”

I began a very elaborate charade of a young boy unwrapping a train set for seventh Christmas and in his joy at getting to be his very own conductor, something he had longed for since he could remember (about three months), he threw his arms around his parents and kissed them heartily on the cheeks and spent the rest of the day putting together his new track.

“Huh?” came the whistle.

The sweat had now completely saturated my handkerchief-cardigen and was threatening to capsize the entire Josie vessel. I abandoned my carefully constructed character development and pulled out my phone. I clicked open maps.me (a capital resource for the data-less traveler) and zoomed into the train station. It was about a 20 minute drive, and the closest station to BSD city. I handed him the phone, the picture on the map showing little train track markings, a picture of a train, and the words Rawa buntu.

“Huh?”

Good freaking gravy! Had he seriously never taken someone to the train station?!

“Address?” he whistled.

I shook my head. The address is “Rawa buntu”. Can we please go there? I am going to miss the 11:18. I then abandoned further attempts to make contact and popped back out of the taxi, giving him a cheerful wave and a thank you!

“Huh?”

Should have seen that one coming, really. I hopped into the next taxi in line.

“Ra-w-ah bun-too?” I said.

“Huh?” came the reply.

“Ruh-whuh-bun-tuh?” I tried again, my hands starting to shake. It was 10:55 and the train was to leave at 11:18. Before he could shake his head at me or utter another “huh?” I whipped out my phone and showed him maps.me. To my delight he flashed a big smile and laughed.

“Ra-wa bunt-oo! Yes!”

I was pretty sure that was exactly what I said the first time. But the sudden flooring acceleration was enough to dissipate any further irritation. We made it to the station at 11:08, I got my one-way ticket to Palmerah (for 15,000 rupiah, or $1.08) and walked to the platform.

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The sun was very eager to make friends with all the passengers on this side of the track, and when the train came 15 minutes later, I was a pool. My hair was stuck to my sticky cheeks and when I attempted to remove it, it bit at me and refused to leave.

I loaded myself into the train. It was very full, especially for a Friday at noon. The woman standing behind me was spooning my backpack, as if she were the banana peel, and I thought this was very excellent anti-pickpocketing. Unless, of course, she herself was a pickpocket.

It was a thirty minute ride to get to Palmerah station. Here I was to meet Renata, my airbnb hostess, at the street entrance to the station so she could motorcycle me to her apartment in central Jakarta. I was very grateful for the offer, and as she was coming that way from work anyways it was inconvenient to neither of us.

Well, the station at Palmerah was very large and had not one street entrance, as I had imagined, but four of them.

Four of them to choose from.

I don’t have a SIM card or any form of communication without wifi, which I also did not have, so I was slightly alarmed at how I would locate Renata. The heat was climbing and the number of sticky bodies pressing against me (and walking extremely slowly in front of me) was doing nothing to calm me down.

It was 11:49, two minutes after our selected meeting time. I was quite anxious to inconvenience her as little as possible, as her offer to transport me to her apartment was above and beyond for a hostess.

Before I began my search, I went to the ticket counter and handed in my commuter line card for a refund of 10.000 rupiah, rendering my one-way ticket $0.56.

Then I shuffled myself around strollers of children and slow-moving adults and made it to the northwest entrance. I scanned the motorcycles on the streets, looking for Renata.

To my horror, I found that, first, everyone looked the same, and second, that I didn’t actually know what Renata herself looked like outside of her airbnb picture. My only hope was that someone would shout, “look, it’s a bule! And then someone named Renata would recall that her guest was American and come and take my hand and lead me across the street and perhaps give me some cookies and a glass of milk and a train set for Christmas.

I scanned for two precious minutes until I gave up on the northwest entrance. It was all I could do not to forcibly remove the people who walked like turtles in front of me. I severely disliked them for the oscillating leisure.

My watch read 11:55 by the time I made it to the northeast. I scanned the faces, which, again, looked like a clone army, and heard no shouts of “I’m Renata!” and no offers of cookies.

Life abroad is teaching me many things but not attending to my anxiety over being late. Come on buddy, I say to my amygdala. We’ve been late loads of times! Cool it in there, will ya?

I had to pick my way now to the southwest entrance. The throngs of people increased, my state of mental sanity was not good, repeat, and the heat was getting at me so much that there was a little sweat waiting line at my pores.

Suddenly, as I was striding myself across the bridge connecting the entrances, the call to prayer from the mosque right next door SCREAMED into existence. It was the loudest, most forceful I have yet heard in all of Indonesia (and Bosnia and Morocco, for that matter).

I began to cry. Wild, hot, breathy tears. I was extremely moist. I was a child who had lost her mother in the grocery store, except that I was taller than nearly everyone around me and no one was giving me any cookies.

At the southwest entrance there was again no one who could be a Renata. It was past noon, then. I went back into the main part of the station and wrapped on the “customer service” glass with one sweaty knuckle. With the other hand I wiped away hot salty tears. A neon-vested man came out and before I could explain my problem and ask to potentially borrow his phone, a woman with a purple hijab and about thirty thousand shopping bags pushed me out of the way and began speaking rapid Bahasa with the customer service man.

She was older than me, probably, so “respect” and all that. But I was pretty pissed. I did all the knuckle work, here lady, he’s MINE. But I stood “very casually” behind and allowed her to recite Tolstoy’s War and Peace from memory. After about forty years, she grabbed his arm with her third hand and began leading him away. My face was concerned. The man shot me an I’ll be back soon look, and I had to bite my tongue before I shouted,

“DO NOT LEAVE. I NEED YOU.”

Which would not give the correct impression, I believe.

I swayed back in forth in my anxiety and anger and frustration and the call to prayer was not ceasing and I wanted to throw things. If I weren’t absolutely positively sure I was an introvert and of the “high reactive” sort that Jerome Kagen had defined, I was sure of it then. The self-reflection and introspection wasn’t helping, however.

The man came back, sporting a fully grown salt-and-pepper mustache and a bald spot, and I, wrinkled in my old age and lack of dryness, explained my situation. By some miracle he understood me and allowed me to borrow his phone to type in Renata’s airbnb phone number which I had screen-shotted from the website. Look at me, eh, I really plan ahead.

Well, she didn’t answer.

We called her back. No answer.

I was prepared for the marathon here, and steeled myself in for just massive amounts of redialing until she answered, but he looked at me and shrugged and I realized we’ve both got to move on. I’ve got one last entrance to try, so as much as I am more than willing to crawl back onto the train and go home, I persevered. I thanked him for his time.

I shoved myself through molasses once more and made it to the southeast entrance. As soon as I stepped out of the building, I locked eyes with a petite woman sporting a Minnie Mouse motorcycle helmet.

“Josie?” She asked. I longed to throw my arms around her neck and vow to never leave her ever again, but I decide that’s not a great first impression. I settled for a wild nod.

“Sorry I’m so late!” I said, as it was now 12:15. She looked confused, and handed me a matching Minnie Mouse helmet.

“Did you not get my email? I was running late from the office. I told you I’d be at this entrance around 12:15.”

These are the moments when having a working phone is really splendid. I like to say that I am a voice for the campaign to free yourself from the phone, as it is the norm for me to travel internationally without the use of a phone. But still. This is one moment when having a working phone would be really splendid.

I clambered on the back of her motorcycle and we sped away from the bellowing mosque and the throngs of people. We maintained a bit of small talk, which was surprisingly pleasant in how human it was. As the wind evaporated the sweat on my skin, I began to feel a return to Josie. My anxiety was dissipating, blessedly, and I was breathing again.

It took fifteen breezy minutes to reach her apartment in the Diamond Towers and she dropped me off at the door to the lobby. She handed me a set of thick golden keys and told me “press 8 on the elevator, I’m room 8S.”

That lobby was fancy. Tall, gold-rimmed sofas and huge paintings on the thick purple wall. The floor was speckled marble and reflected the chandelier light around the room in a dazzling sort of spectacle. I had a bit of…miscommunication with the door to the elevators (not realizing that you have to use the keycard before selecting the buttons) but eventually made it to the 8th floor, room S.

It was a beautiful, cozy studio apartment (exceptionally clean and featuring much Minnie Mouse memorabilia) with a fabulous view of the city. More than that, though, I was alone in a cool, humidity-free place, and very shortly I increased my joy by slithering out of my pants.

AND. My god. She had left a myriad of snacks on the counter for me, including (but not limited to) chocolate chip cookies. In the fridge there was a little cartoon of soy milk, which she had indicated was for my enjoyment, too, so you can bet that I had myself some milk and cookies.

I went out to explore the area for a bit, and came back just in time to watch the sunset from the 5th floor (which was really the 8th floor, I believe, because the numbering system goes GF, P1-P7 (for parking), then floors 5-36).

It was glorious, truly, and made the entire flutter of a day worth it.

I changed into my swimsuit after that and came back to the 5th floor to swim in the empty pool and watch a little lightning storm.

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Ahh, beautiful lightning. The sort of unpredictability that I prefer.

 

Peaces and blessings,

Josie

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Play Dates with the Soul

He liked the first 15 seconds of the song;
to some that was annoying
but to him it was soothing
and good exercise to reach over so often and press rewind.
His life was a boxcar, a dream
capitulated to the infinity
and they mistook his focus for seriousness
not understanding that he was engaged in
a play date with his soul
that was anything but solemn.
He was his own marksman.
In a jean jacket and frizzy hair
blue backpack in his lap
he swayed softly to the beat of his song
(so soft it looked like breathing)
and that 15 seconds was like fresh air to him.
His boxcar didn’t have retractible windows
so this was important, see.

He knew what was important.


The reader brings his or her own experience to the poem and creates meaning. Here is my experience.
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Time Traveling

Almost every morning I snuggle into cross-legged position with a cup of coffee and write for a while. Clear the cache. Explode a bit. Stream of conscious all the mindless rumblings of my soul until I can begin the day as blank a slate as possible. It’s a form of meditation; I actively practice non-judgment and non-attachment to my thoughts and ideas.

I’ve detailed my morning writing routine here, if you’re interested. Perhaps my favorite effect of doing this (sans the immediate cleansing sensation) is that I can time travel to certain days and reconnect with myself. Reconnect with who I was on Wednesday, December 13th, 2017. Tuesday, June 14th, 2016. See my own progression. Both as a writer and a thinker.

These aren’t “diary entries”; I’ve got a section in Evernote for “Memories” (where I record events from the previous day, keeping a log of my life). I don’t begin:

Dear Diary/God/Love/World/Reader

I just begin however I need to. It just happens, and I get to watch it (and then eventually re-watch it).

When I go back to read these, I am a time traveler to my own soul. I get to see what I was struggling with, what I was longing for, what frustrated me, what set me on fire. Many of these articulated meditations feature me dreaming at the end. Writing out my ideal life, or where I would live if I could. I get to see the progression of my dreams, in these time travel sessions of mine.

I find, too, that I have a lot in common with my past self. That some of the things she was working on, I’m working on. That’s sometimes…frustrating, because it’s been so long on this one struggle of ours. But sometimes it’s calming, as if someone deeply understands me. Someone who has gone through the same thing as what I am going through now. We get each other, past Josie and I.

It’s kind of like writing letters to myself. It’s hard to say you just don’t understand, to ME like it is to say to other people.

I spent this morning in nostalgic time travel, reading back on my articulated mediation sessions. I’ve forgotten a lot of what I had written in the past (how brain plasticity tends to work) and some sections of my sessions made me giggle with absolute happiness. I’d like to share some of these with you, too, both in encouragement to document your own life, and also because they are amusing.


Tuesday, August 23rd, 2016

Okay, so today is definitely going to be a good day. I feel good except that I have to poo because I always do after a run and after some coffee. But I think I’ll persevere and it’ll be chill and stuff.

Wednesday, August 31st, 2016

Whatever. It’s chill. I’m going to make the plane, I’m not a smidge worried. And I am going to sleep and then eat dinner and watch a movie or read for a while. And then when I wake up I’m going to be in Frankfurt, Germany. And then I’m going to be in Graz, Austria and I’m going to run into Anna’s arms and scream,

“BIST DU? ES IST DU!” To which she will be confused because I most likely didn’t say it correctly. I hope that they have vegetarian items on board.

Wednesday, October 19th, 2016

Josie Josie Josie Josie Josie JOSIE.

Sunday, January 8th, 2017

Today I am an animal. That is my intention. I am a productive BEAST of burden, an anomaly of productivity. I am a MACHINE.

Thursday, December 21st, 2017

 I wonder why it is that writers drink so much while they are writing. The fun ones, that is, not the serious. Whoozits. There are a lot of things that I wonder about. I wonder why I like peanut butter so much, and perhaps it’s because I tell myself that I do so often. But I think that I genuinely do.

Thursday, February 8th, 2018

**Editors Note: this one turned into a blog post

Time is a castle and we spend our lives going from room to room, exploring–or not. Seasons of life are spent in the drawing room, entertaining guests. Season of time are spent isolating ourselves within the servant’s corners.

Sometimes we lean out of the window on rare occasions, and a part of us escapes Time. When that happens, we lose our minds. Not in the ceaseless worry of whether or not we are wasting our lives of which we are so accustomed, but in the scent of the wind and the breath of the flowers and the giggling of the pines.

We must be both careful and intentional. Leaning too far out of the castle, reaching towards the sensations of the forests, will cause us to lose all sort of grounding.

But to never lean at all.

That is monumentally worse.

Tuesday, February 20th, 2018

 Okay, Jos, remind yourself: you love Churchill, Kerouac, strong black females, writing, coffee, surrealism & peanut butter.

Thursday, March 1st, 2018

Good morning and welcome to the morning Bitch session. I’m your host, Josie, and today you will be joining me for some

Ultimate

Morning

Bitch.

It’ll be exciting.

But first, a word from our sponsors:

Jiff’s Natural Peanut butter is the greatest peanut butter in the entire world. If you slit my veins I would probably bleed peanut butter. Which would be a dangerous sign and then you should take me to the hospital, probably.

Back to you, Jos.

Thanks Jos.


I’d say give yourself material to chuckle at. That makes a good sort of life.

Peace and blessings,

Josie

 
+

The Intro-Version

Pause

for a moment
in your intro-jection I’m on an 
expedition and you need to listen
you’ve not been intro-mitted
and I’m kinda offended
I need some intro-pin for the
shock.

Please.

It’s my intro-it for my
officiant see my
introse face that is
intro-spect
we’re all intro-nauts
but I intro-gress

here, I guess.

We halt.

Then intro-sume.

Much deeper please,
you need to see the space
you need to hear the
space
it’s not intro-uvable
it’s not unusable
it’s not for filling up
nor for caving in it’s
intro-ception
not intro-cession.

So breathe.

It’s not intro-punitive
or intro-pressive cause
it’s not a hole at all
it’s a waterfall
and the only rule:
don’t speak so loud.

Just listen.

Let’s intro-dict 
these distraction pieces
which keep me sleepless
and fast lane to 
all the words inside
that ask for quiet.

An intro-duction to the
sort of soul that 
I sort of seem 
to be working with.

My intro-version is
not contagion
to be fixed cured mended
or else defended
I like to celebrate
instead this silence
and my seriousness,
not a mask

it’s focus.


The reader brings his or her own experience to the poem and creates meaning. Here is my experience.
+

Both Sides of Blood

Me

You hate me for what I did in Israel,
and you still harbor anger
for the destruction of Japan and
Vietnamese children.
I hate you for what you did in New York
even though you’re half a world away
from the Middle East;
you’re brown and practice Islam
so it still counts.
You blame me for childhood obesity
and I point fingers at your gender inequality.
I say, “who gave you Starbucks
and the idea of a hamburger?”
You say you provided the coffee beans
and all you need is rice, thank you.
I laugh at the state of your traffic
and gigantic free standing malls
and you chuckle at my lack of public transportation
and abundance of fast food restaurants.
I point to your Mac laptop and you
point at my t-shirt and sneakers.

“Who gave you H&M?”
“Who gave you tempeh and tofu?”
“Who gave you Dunkin’ Donuts?”
“Who gave you Sumatra coffee?”
“Los Angelos, California?”
“The island of Bali?”
“Football?”
“Badminton?”

Before we know it, you and I are making
quite the scene,
fingers pointing and hair grabbing and
spit flying and nothing stopping.
Soon, eventually, after a long while,
Mother Nature comes around the corner
and grabs both of our flailing fists.
She sits you down quietly in the right corner
and me she guides back left.

She looks me so deep in the eyes
that my soul lights on fire.
“You, little girl,” she says to me,
“did not invade Vietnam. You did not
drop the bomb. You did not
chose to go to Israel.
You did nothing to cause obesity
you’ve never run a business
and you have nothing to do with
the globalization of Starbucks.
You did not create the Mac
you don’t work in the department of transportation
you’ve never been to LA and you don’t
play football.”

She gets up, tells me to stay there,
and walks to your corner.
she looks you so deep in the eyes
that your soul lights on fire, and she says,
“Little girl, you have
nothing to do with terrorism.
You did not have a hand in clothing
manufacturing and you are not to
blame for the traffic.
Your hijab you wear because it makes you feel purpose
not because you’re a slave.
You did not invent fermented soy and
you don’t even like coffee.
You’ve never been to Bali and
you don’t play badminton.”

She takes your hand and pulls you to the center 
then she comes and gets me, too,
but I can barely see cause I’m pouting still 
and she sticks me right next to you.

“You are not your ancestral past,” she says,
“You are not the country you were born in.
You are not the clothes you like to wear 
or the religion you chose to follow.
You are not so arbitrary as all that.
You hate because it is easier than
saying hello
and you hate because you want to hate
first. It’s easier that way, too.
But you don’t have to be so
arbitrary.
You are a trillion complexities
in a waterproof casing 
with profound ideas on the nature of love
passion and beauty.
For my sake, Christ’s sake, Allah’s sake,
you have to stop being so
arbitrary.”

She leaves just as she came
and suddenly it’s just you and I
and I’m kind of embarrassed
snd I see the blush in your cheeks.
There’s a whole lot of silence
and we feel the absence
and the hollowness and the cave.

I think of myself, then,
as a person, not as a country with a history.
Suddenly I think,
you might think the same.

“I don’t want to be trivial,” you say.
“I don’t want to be trite,” I say.

We extend our hands at the same time
quite slow at first.
You tighten your fingers around my palm 
and I squeeze your hand back.
I can feel the blood pump in the veins
on the back of your hand and it is
to the tune of the blood that pumps in my chest.
How is that?
How can we be synchronized if we are of such different blood?
We inhale at the same time
long and slow
and that’s in tune, too.
How is that possible?
We have different tongues,
they remind us,
how does air go through our mouths the same way?

We are a trillion complexities in a waterproof casing
and sometimes it’s more of a chrysalis;
there’s something deeper
in this body of ours.
I need to hate you less
for my own sake, too, because that hate
is plastic weaving into this skin
making it hard and unyielding
shivering the creature within.
I am a country with the burden of a past
only until I stop thinking of you that way, too.

I don’t want to be so heavy, so swollen, so angry.
I don’t want to assume responsibility
for all the destruction
I haven’t caused.

I think maybe, suddenly,
that you might think the same.



You

I hate you for what you did in Israel,
and I’m still bent up about the
destruction of Japan and all
the Vietnamese children.
You blame me for the attacks in New York
despite the fact that I’ve never been to
the Middle East
and I don’t speak Arabic.
I blame you for childhood obesity
and you point fingers at our gender inequality.
You say, “who gave you Starbucks
and the idea of a hamburger?”
I reply, “we provide the coffee beans
and all I need is rice, thank you.”
You laugh at the condition of our traffic
and free standing malls
and I sneer at your lack of public transportation
and abundance of fast food restaurants.
You point at my Mac laptop and I
point at your t-shirt and sneakers.

“Who gave you H&M?”
“Who gave you tempeh and tofu?”
“Who gave you Dunkin’ Donuts?”
“Who gave you Sumatra coffee?”
“Los Angelos, California?”
“The island of Bali?”
“Football?”
“Badminton?”

Before we know it, you and I are making
quite the scene,
fingers pointing and hair grabbing and
spit flying and nothing stopping.
Soon, eventually, after a long while,
Mother Nature comes around the corner
and grabs both of our flailing fists.
She sits me down quietly in the right corner
and you she guides back left.

She looks you so deep in the eyes
that your soul lights on fire.
“You, little girl,” she says to you,
“did not invade Vietnam. You did not
drop the bomb. You did not
chose to go to Israel.
You did nothing to cause obesity
you’ve never run a business
and you have nothing to do with
the globalization of Starbucks.
You did not create the Mac
you don’t work in the department of transportation
you’ve never been to LA and you don’t
play football.”

She gets up, tells you to stay there,
and walks to my corner.
She looks me so deep in the eyes that my soul
lights on fire, and she says,
“Little girl, you have
nothing to do with terrorism.
You did not have a hand in clothing
manufacturing and you are not to
blame for the traffic.
Your hijab you wear because it makes you feel purpose
not because you’re a slave.
You did not invent fermented soy and
you don’t even like coffee.
You’ve never been to Bali and
you don’t play badminton.”

She takes my hand and pulls me to the center
then she comes and gets you, too, but
I can barely see cause I’m pouting still
and she sticks you right next to me.

“You are not your ancestral past,” she says,
“You are not the country you were born in.
You are not the clothes you like to wear
or the religion you chose to follow.
You are not so arbitrary as all that.
You hate because it is easier than
saying hello
and you hate because you want to hate
first. It’s easier that way, too.
But you don’t have to be so
arbitrary.
You are a trillion complexities
in a waterproof casing
with profound ideas on the nature of love
passion and beauty.
For my sake, Christ’s sake, Allah’s sake,
you have to stop being so
arbitrary.”

She leaves just as she came
and suddenly it’s just you and I
My face feels really hot
and you can’t seem to make eye contact.
There’s a whole lot of silence
and we feel the absence
and the hollowness and the cave.

I think of myself, then,
as a person, not as a country with a history.
Suddenly I think,
you might think the same.

“I don’t want to be trivial,” I say.
“I don’t want to be trite,” you say.

We extend our hands at the same time
quite slow at first.
I tighten my fingers around your palm
and you squeeze my hand back.
I can feel the blood pump in the veins
on the back of your hand and it is
to the tune of the blood that pumps in my chest.
How is that?
How can we be synchronized if we are of
such different blood?
We inhale at the same time
long and slow
and that’s in tune, too.
How is that possible?
We have different tongues,
they remind us,
how does air go through our mouths the same way?

We are a trillion complexities in a waterproof casing
and sometimes it’s more of a chrysalis;
there’s something deeper
in this body of ours.
I need to hate you less
for my own sake, too, because that hate
is plastic weaving into this skin
making it hard and unyielding
shivering the creature within.
I am a country with the burden of a past
only until I stop thinking of you that way, too.
I don’t want to be so heavy, so swollen, so angry.
I don’t want to assume responsibility
for all the destruction
I haven’t caused.

I think maybe, suddenly,
that you might think the same.


+

Commitment

Center
fold ask myself
what matters now
who am I
this morning
on this breath
on this blink.
 
Learning
to release
learning how to
blink better
how to
clip my toenails
less angry
 
Staying
with these emotions
and listening
they aren’t flaws
or barriers
they aren’t to be ignored
or shoved to my eyelids
to my throat
I don’t want to be so
heavy so
swollen
so angry.
 
Learning
how to sob myself
into a nap
how to wash my face
with careful
beautiful
circular motions
to look into my own eyes
and smile
slow
authentic.
 
Asking
myself what’s it like
in there
can I help at all
 
Keep breathing
like this
I’m still breathing
look here!
look at my breathing!
look at this,
we are breathing,
and we are soaring
we are learning and learning to love
not just ourselves
not only the breath
 
but the battle, too.
 
I am not
“sentimental”
but I am not a mask
either
and I am not
to be understood
all the time.

 

 
I am
centering my Self
I am reminding
my Self I am
asking
my Self
and I may not commit
to much these days
but I am
staying
with my
Self.
 
 


The reader brings his or her own experience to the poem and creates meaning. Here is my experience.