Questions I’ve Been Asked About My Nails

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Why?

Because it’s pretty. Whenever I feel like my day isn’t going well, I look at my nails and feel a bit better instantly. Even when I’m at my lowest point and I don’t have the energy to even do plain nail polish, they are still long and pretty nice to look at, albeit kinda yellow. The nail painting sessions are on their own therapeutic: I put on a series or film and just not think of anything else for an hour or two (or when I’m ambitious, up to six). It also makes me more aware of my movements, because I want to avoid damaging them as much as humanly possible. I used to bite and tear pieces of my cuticles until I bleed, but this way I don’t anymore.

How come they don’t break?

I am very careful not to bump them on things or use them to pry things open (key rings are my mortal enemy and I am not above asking someone to help me with it). I use nail oil and hand cream religiously, because dry nails are brittle nails. I don’t use nail clippers because it makes them prone to breaking, and I use a nail file instead. Yes, it takes longer, but even if I use nail clippers I would need to use a nail file to shape them. Also, glass/crystal nail files are the bomb.

But they do still break sometimes. My right thumb and index finger are just flawed like that. Actually, in general, my right hand are just not as pretty as my left hand. If the broken piece is still somewhat attached, it’s salvageable. Just use a piece of tea bag and nail glue to patch it back up. If it’s 100% broken off, well. I mourn it and file the rest of my nails short in solidarity.

How do you paint your right hand nails?

Badly (because I’d be using my less dominant hand) and with full resignation over the fact that it’s already the less pretty hand anyway. It takes an hour shaping the nails because the index, middle, and ring fingernails are all different widths and I have to adjust the length of each nail to be proportional to its width so that they look uniform. Also, my right thumbnail and index fingernail are prone to breaking no matter what I do to them. My left hand has none of these problems.

How do you pick your nose? Do the nails make it easier?

I don’t. I’ve just never been a nose-picker, not even in private. When my nose itches, I take a piece of tissue and rub it over my nostrils.

How do you wash your butt after pooping?

Bidet and toilet paper.

Do you still eat with your hands?

Yes. I just wash them thoroughly, including under my nails, before and after the meal.

 

How much money have you spent on your nails?

Gee, I don’t keep track. But I remember spending IDR 230k on a bottle of Ciate nail polish because it is a pretty purple with blue shimmer. It’s my most expensive nail polish to date. I will probably be willing to spend around the same amount for a white nail polish that is opaque in two coats max, because that’s a thing that does not exist.

 

Will you paint my nails?

Hell yes. I love doing people’s nails.

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Five responses to “Oh, it’s all just in your head.”

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  1. Not always. Sometimes, it hits me everywhere except inside my head: light in my eyes, ice in my veins, vines around my lungs. There’s a percussion in the hollow of my rib cage where my heart should be. I hold on to its rhythm; it’s the only thing I hear because my head is not loud. My head is quiet. My mind is under lockdown as my senses riot. The reason you think it’s only in my head is because you don’t look hard enough.
  2. But you’re right; sometimes it is just in my head. And sometimes it is all that’s there, gathering in a crowd; there wasn’t room for other thoughts. I often look back to the battles I’ve fought and everything seems so silly in hindsight, how when faced with an enemy out of sight I nearly always picked flight instead of fight. This is not the movies where wars are fought with weapons. Sharp objects and poisons are means to escape and victory comes in the shape of a shuddered breath at the end as I walk away and let another day happen.
  3. 3 comes before 1 or 2, when I am functional enough to not betray the murmurs simmering underneath, the turbulent undercurrent that may anytime become a torrent, but not now, not yet. Today, it is content to be distant whispers pointing out fissures in my life and somehow it is both easier and harder to bear, because it is not loud enough to snare me in its net but it is also more difficult to forget when its presence is such a constant. I no longer remember what my conscience looks like without the white noise of doubt and discontent lying dormant. In the best of days, I laugh and I smile, knowing all the while that this, too, shall pass.
  4. Maybe the reason why you can be so careless, so callous, is because you’re so secure in your own mind palace that you can’t see that some of us just can’t find solace. What you don’t understand is that it doesn’t matter that they say ‘mind over matter’ because mind is matter. We are all the products of our bodies. Electricity and chemistry are the strings that tug at our flesh and blood limbs, and sometimes the strings get tangled up, and sometimes the strings just snap.
  5. Well then, if four-fifths of this poem can’t convince you still, maybe someone else will. Maybe Dumbledore will, as he said in 1998, “Of course it is happening inside your head, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?”

Written for the 2016 Ubud Writers and Readers Festival Poetry Slam

Mind Like Mine

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“Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?”
― J.K. RowlingHarry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

When you have a mind like mine,

some places become obstacle courses you cannot navigate around, only through.

Take the supermarket.

On a good day, it is where you can stroll leisurely between aisles and if you’re lucky,

someone will approach you with a hopeful smile and a tray of samples.

You say thank you and take a meatball on a toothpick and you move on

without the slightest intention to purchase the product.

You go home,

taking your grocery bags with you,

taking extra care with the eggs.

You won’t even remember the meatball on a toothpick the day after.

On a bad day, the supermarket is a maze,

hedged by cereal boxes, sanitary products, bargain sales.

You look around, because even if logically the odds

of someone aiming a gun to your head

or the rows of canned soup falling down on you from both sides

are negligible,

you cannot be sure until you look, again and again and again.

You pretend your hands are not cold and clammy,

your breathing is totally fine,

you

are

fine.

You start to think about that diving class you took for one semester

and you let out a strangled laugh, because it’s funny how it was easier to breathe underwater

even though snorkels make for poor gills and without one you would drown

but you wish you were really drowning because at least it would be more real

than this kind of drowning that no one can see but you.

You go home running,

taking your grocery bags with you, the plastic straps digging into your palm,

and when you look at the eggs they are all broken and you try your hardest not to think of them as a metaphor about yourself.

You dread the day you have to go grocery shopping again.

When you have a mind like mine,

you don’t need other enemies but your own brain

playing games with you,

whispering bitter nothings ceaselessly and sometimes

you don’t have the option to tune out, distract yourself, refuse to listen.

Sometimes the whispers are the only sound you hear

other than your own sobs.

The daily commute becomes an exercise in survival,

as standing on the edge of a platform in a train station—the words “MIND THE GAP” painted in yellow next to your toes—you realize that you only have to take a step forward at the right time and it will be the only step that matters.

Even your apartment balcony no longer provides only a nice view,

but a salvation so close to you,

if salvation means falling and close means twenty-five floors down.

You start to fear heights, but not because you might fall.

When you have a mind like mine,

your mind is a mine.

All it takes to set it off is a wrong step

a crowded place

a careless thought

and when, not if, it happens

all you can do is just to pick up the pieces,

clutch them close to you,

and keep walking.

You just

keep walking.

Performed at the Unmasked Open Poetry Mic on July 16, 2016.

On Taking A Running Leap

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Sudirman train station in the morning is a study in Jakarta’s ruthlessness. Picture this: a horde of employees working in the area get off the train then walk half-awake out of the train station. Some of them head for the Dukuh Atas Transjakarta stop. Some of them take motorcycle taxis. Some of them walk to their offices, if within walking distance. Dozens of them wait for a Kopaja or a Metromini at the juncture between Dukuh Atas and Sudirman.

If you have never been to Jakarta, Kopaja and Metromini are buses that simply do not give a fuck. They don’t stop, they just slow down and expect you to take a running leap through its doorway. When you are one out of dozens trying to get in, as you are every morning in front of Sudirman train station, you start to question the life choices you made that put you in this position.

Minor existential crisis aside, though, you make your way through the crowd, elbowing others and squeezing between bodies and jumping into the bus. Then you endure the next five to ten minutes hanging on the metal bars screwed to the bus ceiling for dear life. This was what happened the past months since I started working here.

This was not what happened last Friday morning.

Last Friday morning, as I was trying to make my way through the crowd, a cold dread seized me. My skin was clammy, it was hard to breathe, everything was too loud. I recognized all the symptoms and yet I could not stop it from happening; I froze.

The bus, along with the crowd, passed me by and I just stood there, trying my hardest not to scream.

The next bus came and my body worked on autopilot: one step. two step, jump. Hold on the handlebar, don’t let go, try to breathe. Pay the fare. Knock on the roof to stop the bus. Jump off.

Breathe, breathe, breathe. Break into tears.

The next day, I told my psychiatrist what happened, and he upped the dose again. I was doing so well, my medicine was tapering off, until this happened. For a fleeting moment I wondered if I should have shut up and pretended nothing happened. Which was stupid, which was why it was but a sliver of thought.

After that episode, it was understandable that I was apprehensive about getting on the bus this morning. So it was with no small trepidation that I walked towards the crowd.

I saw the bus coming and counted, one. Two. Three.

I pushed myself through the crowd, squeezed through and jumped and got into the bus.

And I was okay.

I did not break into cold sweat or lost the ability to breathe. I did not break into tears or stand frozen on the spot. I did what I had to do, what I have been doing all this time, and I was okay.

I might have to take medications for the rest of my life, but that’s fine. This illness can knock me down, but I can get up again, as many times as I need to. It will not get the best of me.

Life Right Now

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  • I have a couple dozen unread books
  • I bought new books two weeks ago including a coloring book and I totally forgot to buy colored pencils
  • I have gigabytes of unwatched serials
  • I have not, even though November is days away, planned my Nanowrimo project. At all.
  • Despite all of the above, I am rereading Harry Potter. After all this time? Always.

Three Months Going On Four

On July 1st, 2015, I started to finally work full-time. I now mostly, barring the odd weekend, live in Jakarta, the capital city slash hell hole that has ensnared many of my friends with promises of prosperity. It now has its claws sunk in me too. For the sake of a steady income, I now bear the traffic, the commute, the crowd, the heat, and the feeling of absolute loneliness that comes with walking among fellow zombies in the morning.

Bandung, cool weather notwithstanding, is a warm city in the metaphorical sense. Jakarta is the opposite. Jakarta does not care for you; you are merely one in millions. You are not unique or precious or loved in Jakarta. It is gilded by tall buildings and luxurious malls, but try having an afternoon stroll on its streets and feel regret as soon as one of its notorious buses spray smoke to your face.

The work itself is fine. Really. That is the adjective I’m going to use, because there are days when it feels too easy to be true but then soon after are days when I’m in over my head. But in average, it is fine. I am not blissfully happy the way I was when I was studying French, but neither am I in the pits of despair, other than the first few weeks when I was still getting used to things.

I gained eight kilograms. I’m not sure if it’s the work, the city, or the medication. Perhaps all three.

I stopped writing. Now that, that I am sure is all on this city. It sucks the soul out of me. My parents told me to hold on to good days and keep them as my Patronus. That is seriously what they said: Patronus. I love my parents, but they don’t seem to realize that a Patronus charm is a NEWT-level charm and I never went to Hogwarts.

I don’t really know where this post is going, to be honest. I just want to write something, anything.

Kind of the way I want to write something for NaNoWriMo, which is in less than two weeks away, except I don’t know what to write.

Whatever.

It’s three months going on four since I started working, and I’m still alive. That’s something, isn’t it?

Of Crowds, Corporeal and Otherwise

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Today, I watched an absolutely fabulous musical juggling performance. Vincent de Lavenère juggled, danced, sang, played flute and lute, and did tongue-twisters in French, sometimes at the same time. I was enraptured, suddenly reduced into a gaping child in a circus. It felt like IDR 20k was too cheap a price for a full hour of sorcery.

But before all that, when I was still waiting in queue to enter the auditorium, stuck in the middle of a crowd, it was slightly hard to breathe. I remembered the episodes of panic attacks I had in March and I wondered, would I forever be afraid of crowds? Would I ever be able to walk in a crowded place again without continually calculating an escape route?

It is a terrifying thought, but it was one easily pushed away by the performance. Now, though, with the lights on and the music off, it haunts me again, along with other equally fearsome thoughts. What if I don’t get the job I’m applying to or I get the job but I fuck up? What if I don’t pass my B2 test? What if I do, but then the language withers away in my mind because I stop using it? What if my life continues to be mediocre? What if my life does not continue? Can I please not continue my life?

All that combined with how heavy my body is in the mornings and how much I dread my classes because, finally, we have reached a point in which the lessons are truly difficult for me, makes it even harder to continue. My mind is a crowd, and it turns out that an incorporeal crowd suffocates me just as easily a physical one does.

But then, I went to the supermarket yesterday and it was crowded and I was mostly fine. I’ll take that small victory.

Link Dump: Worldbuilding

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Posted here for future references, and by future, I mean this November when I attempt to write yet another novel for Nanowrimo (and hopefully succeed).

Speaking of science fiction, I made a zombie apocalypse story and posted it on wattpad. I’m uploading it in parts (it’s finished, but I’m still tweaking the draft as I go) one chapter every Wednesday and Sunday. To read it, simply click on that cover image below:

II II

Pulse Check

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When I feel like this, I put one finger to my wrist and feel the vein beat.

I thought that taking the pills would stop me from feeling like this again. How foolish of me. The pills consist of an antipsychotic and a mood stabilizer. I don’t get antidepressants; they would make me manic, my psychiatrist said.

Hold. Rewind. I haven’t told you yet, have I, my good invisible wordpress audience?

Around three weeks ago, I started having panic attacks. It was like drowning, except when you’re drowning, people can help. In this case, when people come close to you, you feel like screaming. You just. Can’t. Breathe.

Around that time, someone asked Kent to write a story about anxiety disorder, but he passed on the request to me because he thought I could help. I came up with this short piece, based on my own little episode not a week before.

supermarket panic

Anyway, when I started to have around three panic attacks a week and stopped being able to even come to class, I decided that it was time to come and meet my psychologist again.

She told me I had bipolar disorder.

Yes, apparently my high, “I’m so happy I might explode, I could do anything, I make all the unrealistic plans I never see through” phases in my life are manic phases. Then I had major depressive phases. She referred me to a psychiatrist, I got prescription drugs, and here I am.

You know how people like to say, “Take a chill pill,” or “Have you taken your meds yet?” Or how in cheap soap operas an unstable character would be shown to have empty antipsychotic pill bottles? Yeah, guys. Shit just got real for me.

The medicines worked. For a while. I slept well; Seroquel hits me hard like a tranq dart. The panic attacks stopped.

Then this. I don’t know if it’s partly because of the grim outlook I have post-DELF or just me being at the bottom of the turning wheel again and it will pass, but it feels like having my lungs caught in a vice all day long. But as I said, none of the pills were antidepressants. It’s alright. It’s part of being human anyway, feeling things. I can still function, mostly.

Funny how apprehensive I was when medication was first mentioned, because now if given the option, I would run to it very easily. I have all the makings of a drug addict. My problem is in the mind, Chloe says. But then, what is the mind if not just some synapses firing, some hormones and chemicals mixing? The body is the mind, and both is not well. I have so much unspoken fear about what my mind may tell me to do to my body, what it already does except I do not listen.

What does it say about me that I feel safer confiding all this to the faceless unknown of the internet rather than to her constant presence?

Le Souci Absurde

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Avant de commencer, je vous avertis: j’ai essayé éviter des erreurs grammaticals, mais je suis encore une etudiante et c’est le 1e aticle en français que j’ai écrive dans ces 23 ans de ma vie. En fait, quand j’écrivait cet article, j’ai dû consulter la dictionnaire. Si vous parlez français et cet article cassera votre cerveau, je suis desolée.

J’écrive cet article en français parce que la semaine prochaine je prendrai l’examen DELF B1. J’ai pensé que je réussirais facilement, pas de problème. Mon resultat de DELF A2 était pas mal. Je peux lire les BD et les romains simple. J’ai compris l’extrait de Le Fabuleux Destin d’Amélie Poulain (avec le sous-titre français) que Mlle. Marie nous ai montré le samedi dernier. Vraiment, tout est trés bien.

Je me suis trompée.

Aujourd’hui, nous avons fait des exercices pour le compréhension écrit et le compréhension oral. Pour le compréhension écrit, je confesse de pouvoir faire mieux. Mais, quand j’écoutais les pistes pour le compréhension oral, j’ai trouvé que je n’ai pas pu comprendre que les gens y disaient. Sur 16 points, j’ai pris seulement 3 points.

Maintenant, je ne pense pas de pouvoir reussir. Ou, bien que je reussi, peux-je prendre un bon resultat ?

J’ai seulement une semaine pour étudier. Cet week-end, il y a le ASEAN Literary Festival, et j’y vais aller. Alors, j’ai encore moins le temps.

Ah, c’est stupide, non ?

Quand je me soucie, j’ai oubliée que j’apprends le français pour le plaisir. C’est pour lire les romains sans traductions, pour voir les films françaises sans sous-titres anglaises, et pour le plaisir simple d’apprendre une nouvelle langue étrangere. Bien sûr, je vais prendre un examen et c’est sérieux, mais si je l’échoue, la monde ne finira pas.

Donc, on va lire Le Petit Prince et crier sur son beauté maintenant.

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