How to survive a personal apocalypse through love

There are some things you don’t tell people when you first meet them. When skeletons burst out of your closet like it’s the dawn of an apocalypse, you begin to wonder whether you should take your potential lovers, friends and new flatmates by the hand and lead them to the gallery of your abstract past, point at the most painful pieces and try to let them guess whether your symbolic tattoo holds meaning and depth, or whether meaning was totally irrelevant.

The Apocalypse you may be familiar with, is that which is depicted in the Book of Revelation to John in the New Testament. It tells of a scroll in right hand of God, sealed by seven seals. When Christ opens the first four seals, four beings on horses ride out, representing Conquest, War, Famine and Death. The four horsemen bring about the end of the world, the catastrophe to come. And thus The Apocalypse sets into motion: an unveiling of information once hidden. A destruction of what has been built in preparation for the return of the King.

I became aware of my own apocalypse recently. A couple of swigs of vinegar mixed with gall seems like it would numb the pain, but straight refusal + presenting your pricked fingers results in the unlocking of secret doors.

I met my own personal crew of horsemen when I was 13. Vulnerability, Contention, Examination, and Rebirth were their names. They greeted me, and stood there, waited for me after school, waited for me outside my window, waited for me to finish my homework, waited for me till God gave them the go-ahead. They understood that when you’re forever trapped in a child-like frame of mind, trauma seems to take you to a place you didn’t buy a ticket for but get all seasons access.

Vulnerability rode out on his white horse when my mum got remarried and moved back to her home country. I was 19. I was happy for them. I am happy for them. I really am, please understand this. But for the first time ever, I was absolutely stumped. What is family, what is parenthood, when the parents move out? What do you tell people, when you live at home, but your family doesn’t? It’s a place where Vulnerability lost its virginity and it will probably take a few months of trying to block out the guilt of doing something before he should have.

For Vulnerability tells you that you’re about to get every single mathematical theorem you’ve learned since year 3 proven wrong. For Vulnerability is NOT the adult who asks you “What do you want to be when you’re older?”, as if asking you will give them some kind of hope in the future of humanity, that kids stay artists and don’t succumb to the pressure of finding a stable job. Wouldn’t that be nice?

Vulnerability, is when the person who you love doesn’t know how to tell you in words that they don’t really love you back anymore. Vulnerability is eating cherry cake on a stake center floor with an intriguing person you really want to meet, only to wake up and forget what he looks like, with only the taste of cherry yum diddly dip lingering on your tongue. Vulnerability, is getting all your grades back and feeling a lil bit depressed coz how you’re gonna recover when even Domino’s Pizza fired you on your first day? [das a tru story y’all ]. Vulnerability is when you wonder whether you’re the last one to have been kissed, but you know you’re the first one out of your friends to witness a person contort their body after major brain damage. Vulnerability is exposure.

I met contention when I was 21. The myth that contention likes to debunk is that after a missionary completes a specific set of months they are more spiritual and thus sexier than any other Mormon person. Contention looked like going to the Lord’s house, feeling like you got enlightened, only for your shoes to be thrown out of your own home. Contention screamed at my every move, hugged me when I least expected it, and then refused to acknowledge I existed when I bowed down to her. Perhaps human deficiencies like going to the bathroom or eating food weren’t necessary, because what’s the point when every attempt at peace turns into war? Contention took something solid and made its particles move and separate. Contention mocked my dirty laundry and brought over my friends to show them what it looked like. They say that peace comes when you go to the temple. But what if you look at it, and even a year later, feel utter betrayal?

The third horseman didn’t take too long to make his appearance. Examination likes to use multiple formats to test your limits and your capabilities, mostly through dating. Dating? Now dating doesn’t always come with a lot of romance I realised. I cried over the what-ifs, maybes and hell-nos, as well as please-text-mes and why-don’t-you-just-know-what-I-want-without-me-telling-you? All the meanwhile confiding in a crew of single, married and it’s-complicated friends, as if extrapolating their vast generalizations was going to somehow connect to something specific in my own dating life.

Is there some kind of magic trick that will answer all the questions that attraction, affection and companionship brings into the world? Or some kind of Buy 1 Get 1 Free promo, where if you earn a little bit more money you get 1 relationship without the costs of emptied pride and flattened ego? What will it take, to have a relationship that makes both parties happy and most of the time, satisfied? Does dating mean anything? Does commitment come with a best before date? And when it’s sour, do you throw it away, or do you try to restore it? Do you owe a no-strings attached, unconditional love? Do you owe them a promise to meet their expectations?

It seems like I tried on love and chose to return it 7 days later, even though I had a 30 day exchange window which I wasn’t willing to wait for.

And thus the last horseman made his entry.

I don’t know how to really explain the last horseman without feeling like I’m skipping many steps. For when the Lamb opened the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth living creature say, “Come and see!” I looked and there before me was a pale horse! Its rider was named Rebirth.

Rebirth brought people back to me that I didn’t expect. There is pain in birth, the most excruciating pain is quickly replaced by the arrival of a freshly made human being, unaware of the world around them.

Rebirth brought into my life fresh perspective. Rebirth took me across the world, gave me the means and abilities to cling to my mother and trust in her embrace. Rebirth showed me that joy can be found in simple things. And that God was there, in amongst the messiness of my life, and that I should hold on to whatever faith I had no matter what.

Rebirth, taught me to use my muscles to do the things I loved but to accept my limits.

Rebirth taught me to read and to write and to listen. To never generalize, to always find out things for myself.

Rebirth taught me that sometimes I was wrong.

Rebirth bought me books in a language I wasn’t familiar with. But… who knew that writing a comprehensive review of a book I didn’t really know, would cause destruction? In saying that… whilst I might have changed the way I wrote it, would I still portray the same meaning? When the holistic mirror doesn’t return the reflection, but pledges to stay there, seemingly unmoving. What do you do?

Maybe it takes breaking dishes in order to realize you wanted to eat like a proper human being. Rebirth will tell you he will hold your hands at dinner time, but sadly you both can’t eat because you ran out of useable dishes.

So maybe Rebirth was there for just that. Nothing more, nothing less. Rebirth. And I’m eternally grateful for the Last Horseman of the Apocalypse. Perhaps to stay, perhaps not. Perhaps to pave the way, for the fifth of the seven seals to be opened, and for The Apocalypse to continue its eye-opening path.

In the words of East of West:

“You come face to face with love, and before the sun sets, you’ve become someone you didn’t used to be.

It makes the old new. Makes dead things live. Love makes you into something better.

It’s the reason a wolf would chase a crow, even knowing he can’t fly…

And she don’t ever need to touch the ground.

Love sends a man half way around the world…

Just for the hope of catching it.”

And it’s okay if you don’t.

 

In loving memory

To what do you owe the people you love? To what do you owe the people who have died? Apologies? Tribute music? In the year 2089, a seminar commemorating the 73rd anniversary of boomerang grams will tell of the time where it was customary for grieving daughters to upload updates of their father’s funeral on to their Instagram story. #DeathIsNotTheEnd. -Sunday, July 1 2018, 3:00 am.

What do I owe him? Do we owe loyalty? What if you are replaced by someone better? Someone, alive? Do people continue to exist in some shape or form, knowing that energy cannot be created or destroyed, it can only be transferred or transformed? Because if that’s true, he’s done a very unfair game of hide and seek.” -Thursday, February 5 2015, 2:00 am.

Why did you leave, if families are supposed to be together forever? -Wednesday, February 4 2015, 11.59pm.

Many times since his death I have questioned, “Do I really believe I will see him again?” My feelings range from utter undeniable conviction to doubtful Thomas. -Thursday, November 10 2016, 6:32am.

So I’ve sat down, tied my unwashed hair back into a ponytail and rewinded all those tapes. You know, the kind you accidentally record voices over purchased music? Those ones. They’re useful when my dad lived in a time where social media was more about chain mail curses and less about recording daily moments. -Saturday, March 5 2011, 12:01pm.

I’ve thrown away his incorrect algebra notes he used to help me a few hours before he took his last voluntary breath, only to rush to the curbside and rescue them from rotten dinners and plastic wrappers before rubbish collection on Thursday morning. -Thursday, August 26 2010, 6.53am.

I’ve left greasy fingerprints all over the photo side of photographs because you can hold a photograph however the way you want to when you don’t have people telling you what to do anymore. -Friday, June 27 2014, 11.24pm.

I sift through all these pre-bankrupt Kodak moments, try to fill in the holes as I picture and remember who my dad is/was. Performing an autopsy on his computer. Comparing his handwriting with my own. Maybe he left messages for me. Maybe he knew he was going to die. Maybe I should read his journal. Maybe I would be more secure, my family would be happier, our lives more clear and serene if he had never left us. Unfortunately, the search leaves you wishing that journals with secrets never existed in the first place. But it’s ok, I love you and I know you’re looking out for me. -Monday, September 14 2009, 11:39pm.

In the example of wine bottles, (Matthew 9:17) Christ talks about how new wine cannot be contained in old bottles or else the gases produced from the fermenting of the wine will cause the bottle to burst. In the Saviour’s time they used goat skins to carry wine, thus these “bottles” would crack and wither over time, so it makes sense why you wouldn’t contain new wine in old bottles. -Thursday, November 10 2016, 10:31am.

I’ll make you proud. I’ll protect my family. Thank-you and I love you. -Saturday June 27 2009, 8:42pm.

from your daughter, Kelly.

(Disclaimer: I’ve taken some creative liberties with the dates. They should be pretty indicative of what I was feeling at the time. Take what you think is fact or fictional).

Horoscopes, God and trying to drink from the caffeine-free fountain of happiness

When I met Carter, I assumed that because he was a Scorpio we were meant to be. To add to this, his Myers Briggs personality was INTP, supposedly the ‘golden’ other half to my own personality type. When I told him about our supposed magical compatibility, he scoffed, asked me to massage the invisible knot in his upper back, and then proceeded to text me like I was his overdue homework. Needless to say, despite all the stars in the astrological sky aligning, our companionship was less than stellar.

I guess now would be a good time to tell you my star sign is Cancer. “I knew it! That’s the first sign that sprung to mind!” — is probably what you were not thinking. Growing up I would read out of a giant horoscope encyclopedia like it was the bible and dream of being the peacekeeper it said I was destined to be. Did I really share innate qualities with the 19 million living humans that shared my birthday? Not to mention, the other millions of humans who were born between June 21 and July 22? Because if so, there would probably be a lot more peace.

Perhaps it’s silly to believe horoscopes can determine your future, decipher your past, and explain why the occasional crap you roll around in your present day never seems to cease. Perhaps it’s silly to believe that I’m most romantically compatible with Scorpios like Carter who needed a sports massage, not a girl with weak wrists, to eliminate the immortal knots in his back. Perhaps I shouldn’t change my name to Moonchild and wear jewel-toned sweatpants on rainy days just because the psychic in a magazine said so.

My very miniscule obsession with horoscopes stemmed from the fact that a star sign doesn’t require anything except existence. Contrary to cultural and religious cards that I was dealt at the conception of my life, a star sign doesn’t have pre-requisites. I found out they could fill, at least a little bit, that void of direct guidance from God.

So yes, the crux of all this preamble is that actually my relationship with God is on the rocks and that scares me.

God seemed to be a constant fixture of my life growing up. My birth was God-sent, maybe not prayed about to begin with but definitely prayed about afterwards. I was given a name and a blessing when I was brought to church for the first time and it seemed I spent as much time on Sunset Road chapel as I did at school.

I turned to God every day. I would talk to this mysterious being, imagining him sitting on a throne as I poured out my heart and soul to him every night. I begged him to give me guidance and to help me through difficult times. I thanked him for all the little things I was given, including the trees and the bees and the beautiful sea I grew up next to.

Then I was introduced to Jesus. The son of God, a man who was perfect, understood all my pain and suffering because he chose to. Because he loved me, I would be able to overcome my pain, my mistakes and my weak physical body and thus reach heaven spotless.

But unlike horoscopes, belief in an all-powerful, all-knowing deity is a little bit more complex.

Because when your horoscope tells you that you are going to have a successful marketing pitch that will be approved by the whole team, you don’t get a migraine trying to figure out how it could be so inaccurate because you are just a waitress and you don’t think suggesting a new soup really counts.

On the flipside, when you feel like God tells you are going to meet people that will change your life, and that you should look after them, you get a migraine when you realize they just want your money and will stop at nothing, even you, to get it. Sounds overdramatic. But this happened, and it wasn’t pleasant.

That is when you wonder whether God is inaccurate. Or possibly non-existent. Because I can take full responsibility for my own actions — if something bad happens because of my human mistakes and my naiveté, then fine. I mean, that sucks, but it’s fine. But what if you got some kind of undeniably powerful spiritual experience like never before? What if you simply cannot deny that you had an experience that defied logic and science, and was a direct God-given instruction? You would follow it right? But after following it, what if it felt like it completely destroyed the ground under your feet? How do you explain that? Can you just believe, just like before?

I’m aware that people reading this include my fellow Mormon friends. I’m aware that I spent 18 months telling people to trust in God and keep holding on, even though it’s hard. I’m not saying I don’t believe, I’m saying I’m hurt. And in order for me to process that hurt and move on, I had to take responsibility for the events that transpired, and believe that people are people and bad things just happen by chance and by consequence. It wasn’t planned by God, or anything like that. The spiritual experience, though I believed at first was undeniable, needed to be denied and deleted.

So, I stopped wanting to get answers from God about a year ago. When I met God, I assumed that because he was a Heavenly Father I was meant to be his child. To add to this, his son was perfect, supposedly the ‘golden’ antidote to my own personal sins. When I told God about my gratitude of being raised in the church, he blessed me, asked me to serve a mission overseas and tell the people of my miraculous witness of his Son in my life. Needless to say, despite my fiery testimony and tenacity, my success in being heard and accepted was less than stellar.

Perhaps it’s silly to believe that a God above can determine your future, decipher your past, and explain why the occasional crap you roll around in your present day never seems to cease. Perhaps it’s silly to believe that I’m most romantically compatible with other Mormons despite the cultural and racial divides that seem a bit too big to cross. Perhaps I shouldn’t change my name to God’s child and wear longer shorts on Summer days just because the apostle in a pamphlet said so.

My belief in God stemmed from the fact that being his daughter doesn’t require anything except existence. Contrary to cultural and socioeconomic cards that I was dealt at the conception of my life, it seemed like God didn’t have pre-requisites. I found for the most part, being God’s child, could fill, at least a little bit, that void of not fitting in with my community, not fitting in with my ethnicity, and the country I was born.

But maybe I was wrong. Maybe in order to drink from the fountain of happiness (which according to Utahns, is made out of caffeine-free soda) and achieve identity and belonging, I should just stick with star signs.

I’m not going to write you a love song

 

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Writing is edited, proof read, spell-checked, and read over and over again. But real life is not. Sara Bareilles is not going to write you a love song. And nor will I. The last year or so has not been a love song. And it’s a bit hard to write about it.

I have suffocated 61 blog post drafts, starving them of the air of publishing that they crave. They weren’t perfect. They didn’t have enough references. They were too personal. They were too ugly. So I’m giving myself an experiment to write for 1 hour and publish whatever I come up with.

I haven’t written in a few months. I used to pride myself on how words could just flow out of my fingers and orchestrate what I felt were linguistic melodies. But I hit a stump. I made a couple more “friends” and “followers” who I didn’t feel comfortable sharing my innermost opinions and thoughts. Whilst writing may seem like an art form, rarely is it describing something perfect. I write to describe the misshapen, the ugly, the unfit, the things you don’t post on Facebook for likes. I only write when the sun is fast asleep under its cover of night, with the only sound being the clank of every keystroke on my laptop.

But what if the things you are feeling are so devastatingly ugly, that it feels only right that no one should see it? To a degree that no human being, nor a God above could knock on your door and read the profane slogan on your cheap t shirt and think, “Oh yes, I still respect her for purchasing that.” In fact, rather than inspire and uplift, it disturbs? When you worry about reactions of family, you worry about friends, past professors, people you’ve dated, bosses and people you’ve connected with on LinkedIn. What do they think of me? Am I marketing myself properly? Am I showing the world that I am a product ready to be purchased, in exchange for love, money, companionship and a career? Am I authentic? Am I too filtered, am I too real, too Mormon or not Mormon enough?  Am I too single or am I too taken?

I started my blog as a method of self-help. When I felt like all the things I had worked for prior to my mission popped like insects under a magnifying glass, I still had writing to save me from feeling like an absolute failure. I had not danced for over a year when the stage used to be my solace. Refused to dine in the kitchen that I had grown up cooking in, refused to take out the weeds of the garden that I had grown up getting dirty in. But I had a laptop with the letters S and H missing and that worked for me.

In my 61 drafts I wrote about my battle with the pill box that couldn’t fit the number of pills I took, about escaping my problems via Boeing 747 and feeling unable to speak my mind to the people I loved. I wrote about how heartbreak hurt more when it was between God and I, not between me and a boyfriend.  I wrote about how I felt jealous, crazy, hurt, lost, lied to, betrayed. I wrote about how NCMOs made me feel like a bag of dehydrated bones – not because I was being used (or rather, not because we were using each other), but because I was heartbroken at what I thought was going to be, but realizing I was looking at Instagram and not the real thing. And that maybe they couldn’t see me either.

But it wasn’t all bad.

I wrote about how love took on itself many different disguises, and was mimicked by many, but I found it and it was just as stunningly beautiful as I had known it to be before. I wrote how God and I are on speaking terms now, and whilst He still speaks to me in a language that is non-audible, I’m beginning to understand sign language.

I wrote about how The Atonement really did heal me every Sabbath Day, without fail, and if nothing else makes sense and giving up coffee in the morning  just cannot be done, then know that at the center of all things is a Christ who suffered your sufferings.

I learned from Paulo Coelho, via my roommate, that if I just spoke my feelings, in conversation, I would be able to get proof that what I was thinking was true. I wrote about how even though gay and transgender people will probably always face a straight and narrow path in the LDS church there are many in the church with hearts that understand, even if that doesn’t change more pressing concerns and anxieties.

I wrote about how if you try to learn Korean from a friend she will end up teaching you more ways to speak than just Korean. And that if you make a goal to talk to a stranger every week, that stranger who you met at a vending machine may just give you and your friends a ride to a party, free of charge and with plenty of entertaining conversation topics.

I wrote about my pilgrimage to Mormon mecca, and how it was not as holy as I had expected, but it was home at first sight and I finally felt like I belonged somewhere, and that I was not strange for believing in a being that was all powerful and all mighty but perhaps could not create a rock that He could not lift.

I wrote about not having the garage that has five mountain bikes, well-used fishing rods and sleds but rather beautiful old photo albums, flat basketballs and well-read encyclopedias.

I wrote and I wrote. But those 61 drafts of real real real life will probably remain unpublished and unread (at least for awhile). Writing is edited, proof read, spell-checked, and read over and over again. But real life is not.

Playing games in a mental hospital

There are a couple of games you get tired of quickly. One is noughts and crosses. Once you’ve exhausted all options you realise that whoever places their mark in the middle is going to win if they want to. Another is scrabble. It was entertaining for a season to see people get a kick out of spelling out swearwords and nonsense but after a while its just not that funny. Connect 4, however, no matter how repetitive, was one of Carl and I’s favourite games.

I know I don’t really need to explain to you how to play Connect 4. But just to debrief, its a simple, two-player game where you take turns dropping colored coins from the top into a seven-column, six-row vertically-suspended grid. The aim of the game is to connect four of your own coins of the same color next to each other vertically, horizontally, or diagonally whilst also blocking your opponent’s attempts to do the same. In combinatorics, it is found that there are 4,531,985,219,092 ways to connect four of your coins. Most people only need to suss out a couple before they find a winning strategy.

Unfortunately, we didn’t have Connect 4. We had some shady little knock-off, something along the lines of 4-In-A-Line or Link-Them, which ticked me off a little every time I read the box. We had a shelf full of random games, gimmicky figurines and romance novels but this time when I went to collect the games, Link-Them was missing. To my great chagrin I fished out the old dingy card set which I knew had a few too many aces and not enough Jacks. But Carl was optimistic as always and didn’t really care that the cards that he was snapping were not of the same integer. With Connect 4 he never actually won anyway, he just liked the coloured coins and dropping them into their slots.

It wasn’t a date, although it wasn’t uncommon for volunteers to be asked to get married, perhaps on the hospital lawn before morning tea. He probably didn’t remember that I had been visiting him for weeks and was a bit confused why I was sitting across the table from him, avoiding placing my elbows where day-old coffee spills and drips of mayonnaise laid to rest.

What Carl didn’t know was that I was secretly attempting to ‘play Connect 4’ with the personalities that inhabited his frail body. As irreverent as that thought may be, it was fascinating, riveting but equally devastating to see him fight with the minds that all wanted control over who he was inside. It pained me to see him day by day never getting any better, not really getting any worse, but stagnant at a four-pronged fork in the road every second, minute and hour of the day. He was never visited  by family and the hospital had on and off been his home for several years. But he seemed content at least, and pretty okay with his life.

Carl One looked a little bit like this. Incredible, creative genius. Whatever Carl One said was pure mushroom magic to him but unfortunately, unintelligible utter gibberish to the rest of us normal human-folk. It was a shame that we did not understand because he probably had come up with ideas that would have shaped humanity but instead they incurred more crosses on his check board and time in recreation therapy.

Carl Two, however, was a vindictive professor that would tell him things that should never be thought of let alone whispered in public.

Carl Three was intensely competitive, a superstar ping pong player and training for the next Olympics. He was “almost there” he told me. Just “a little more practice”. Carl Three was in cahoots with Carl Two, you couldn’t really have one without the other.

And my favorite Carl was Carl Four. Kind, caring, and a little aloof. Carl Four would read rule sheets most people ignore in board game boxes, would open the door like a gentleman and always encourage me that I would one day become a good ping pong player…even though we both knew I should never be allowed near a ball that bounces and I was a disgrace to my ethnicity.

Strangely enough, the four Carls, whilst unable to come into agreement with each other, were capable of seamlessly orchestrating escape plans that actually worked. When I came into the hospital one afternoon Carl had been sent into intensive care, as he had gapped it across the hospital lawn to a restaurant, ordering and demolishing a three-course meal, only to disappoint the waiter with his cashless pockets.

Sometimes I would wonder why the hell Carl was in the mental hospital in the first place. What had caused his mind to birth people out of fractions of himself? What had happened to him? What did his family do to him, and how dare his parents treat him like this! Or more importantly, how on earth was he going to integrate back in to a society that struggles to even accept ‘single’ personalities, let alone a quadratic one?

But my job wasn’t to think about Carl and his future and how he would, if ever, return back to the real world. My only job was to keep him company and occasionally find him clothes to wear when it was cold.

And whilst Carl lived there day by day, abandoned by family to choose his own expiration date and adopted half-heartedly by volunteers like myself wanting to get an edge on our resume, it didn’t matter to him that he wouldn’t ever get married or find a job or reach Nirvana. It didn’t matter to him that he never won any board games because at least he was amazing at ping pong. It didn’t matter to him that gas prices were increasing and there was a housing crisis on the rise or that half the population had not turned up to vote because he was so grateful to me for getting him a new puffer jacket and it would be great for Winter although Carl Two was adamant it was unnecessary. He was (mostly) content.

Carl played Connect 4/Link-Them/4-In-A-Line all the time. But out of the 4,531,985,219,092 ways to win, Carl was not able to find any. But somehow he was happy anyway.

 

(Names have been changed.)