An open letter to a stranger

This is a bit long and contains some profanity. I implore you to read it though, it’s sincerely meant and for all to read.

Hey, how are you?

I’m writing from my desk when I could be, arguably, doing more important things. However, I believe that this may be one of the most crucial things I ever could do … writing this letter to you.

I remember becoming excruciatingly aware of the passage of time a couple of years ago but none has rivaled the year that was 2016. I could bitch about it to no end, about the mistakes I made and how increasingly small I feel in this yawning old world that knows how to squeeze happiness out of a soul as much as it knows how to inspire an all-consuming will to live simply by existing in all its majestic beauty.

Sounds really poetic, doesn’t it? You know, poetry isn’t all pretentiousness, not all the time anyway. It’s the insincere assholes with some underhand agenda and something to prove that spew nonsensical drivel, giving the rest of us a bad name.

What did you learn from the past year? Did you pet many dogs? Got braces?  Did you get that promotion you toiled after? Or did that jerk with the broad white smile grin his way into the spot?

I hope you quit smoking, if not I’m tempted to send you what a smoker’s internal body cavity looks like. Yeah, go on looking disgusted and fed up with the well-meaning but unsolicited advice. It’s just … I want you to know that somebody out there cares.

Look up

I’m sorry that your brother/sister/mother/father died. I mean, I wouldn’t have known them personally but that new absence is a black hole in the fabric of your reality and I know that shit isn’t light, yeah? I remember when my grandad died three years ago, at the viewing before we took his empty vessel to the burial ground to be cremated into the open air … one of my grand-uncles told me to be strong. What he meant was “don’t cry”.

What the actual fuck even? I’ll tell you what I did. I cried. I cried because I don’t flow with that stoic shit. Because my grandfather was one of the most important people in my life and I hardly knew him. Even when I’d lived with him up until that last day. I did know that alcoholism screwed up what could have been a more promising life past his post in the riot squad.

But that was sixty years ago. The man I knew suffered withdrawal from the bottle, pissed and full of vinegar one day, and peaceful and jovial the next. He evened out eventually, but then came the mild assault of Alzheimer’s and the more prevalent Parkinsons that got worse after his fall. I laugh a little because the man could still quote Shakespeare off his head. He was a decent human being that made mistakes and paid for them. We moved on and lived as best as we could, but looking back today it was a half-life and the waste was mine. It was all of ours.

So when I was told to be strong … the rage that bubbled up surprised me but I’d welcomed it. After my brief rainshower, I could see faint disapproval from my uncle but I was all shove that, you know what I mean? Maybe you do.

Or maybe it was relief that you felt. I won’t judge. Not all families are good to each other. The saying goes “Blood is thicker than water.” I call bullshit on that, you and I know it’s not all roses. Sometimes blood is corrupt and vile when the water runs pure. It says something about the power people have when perfect strangers can become a family, and that initially tenuous bond can prove to be a steel thread that binds them together.

It made my heart sad to hear of a mother who left poison in her abused daughter’s room. She died a while back but that absence is still there. She mattered to someone at one time but we don’t always see that. Sometimes people turn blind eyes and sometimes we hide pain too well. Then there was this dad (now in jail) that set his little son on fire. The boy’s alive but scarred.

If you ever feel that way, if ever somebody hurt you, tell someone. Tell a friend. Anyone. You can tell me. Please please, please.

A friend

I can imagine you in a good home, perhaps one of your own, but you’re weighed down by the anchor in your chest. I feel like a hypocrite when I say this, but you don’t have to be strong all the time. If you chose to open up and they throw that trust back in your face then you know where you stand, you don’t need more negativity in your life.

But maybe you live in a shithole apartment and your future isn’t much prettier. Are you a writer? A doctor? An architect? A painter of either variety? A janitor or another struggling teacher? Were you or a loved one hurt in the recent terror attacks? Did you lose someone?

All the sorries in this world will not help you, but this isn’t news. You don’t need pity. What I offer is compassion. I don’t make you promises but I am here to listen. I ask you to not give up. Look to the sunrise and feel that wonder all over again. Weep at the bright joy of a young child’s potential. Marvel that colours exist at all and that you can see them (I do hope you’re not colourblind).

Actually, there’s this quote on my Momentum dash that nudged me into writing this letter. Here it is:

“What are the most powerful words in the universe? The ones you use to talk to yourself.” – Karen Salmansohn

There are very few things more powerful than the words we tell ourselves, second to that are nuclear warheads. I offer compassion, I said. But I struggle with the concept of self-compassion. I have to be completely honest if I am to tell you all this with no shame. Sometimes I’m the monster under the bed if that makes sense to you. How do you kill something like that? With kindness. Get it? Haha … no? Oh well.

When I feel like I’m at the end of my rope, I remember how lucky I am that I won the family jackpot. I think about the books I want to write. I remember how I want to learn so many languages and travel so many places and meet people from different walks of life.

Wind off the Atlantic

There is no simple meaning to this life we live, my friend, we give each other a purpose when we share a flask of water called kindness in this arid country we often find ourselves.

I read a lot as well. I also go on YouTube and patronize my favourite YouTubers. They’re normal people on the surface but they’re ridiculous and funny and are really lovely guys. They make me laugh and I can’t help but care for them because underneath I’m sure they hurt as we all do but they persevere even when they don’t want to. Shouldn’t you hope for the best, that a warm golden ray of sunlight should direct its attention to a wilting tree who hangs onto its foliage to shelter the vulnerable?

If I had to choose, my superpower would be the ability to talk people out of suicide, a special side-ability to let them see past the darkness that blinds them. To help them to realize their abilities and help them to achieve that.

Imagine that if half, if not all, of the people dead by their own hands could have lived to their full potential and thereby contributing to humanity in small but cumulative acts of progress, what a tremendous difference that would make! And the kicker? I can do this. You can. We all can. We need to be more observant and brave to intervene in someone’s crisis. It’s no unattainable superpower after all.

This letter has probably gone on long enough but I hope it reaches all of you.

As you could see already, this addresses the downtrodden but aren’t we all? If you are happy and content, I’m glad. If you’ve got itchy feet and a wandering soul, by all means, pursue that endless road with optimism and be mindful of the others who you pass on the way.

To you students, and single parents working two to three jobs, I am proud of you even when you mess up as long as you get up again. Study hard and smartly and try to not get consumed by the crowds that would distract you from your dreams. Don’t let the haters pull you down to their low level. The strong exist to protect and help the weak, in an ideal world that is universally realized.

And know this, every prayer I pray, I do so not only for me and mine but for all of you; friends and strangers near and far. I pray to what omnipresent being that’s out there gives you strength to carry on in times of need and to preserve the happiness you have.

We're in it together, distance is not everything

To close, here’s a fabulous stanza from my most favourite poem of all:

Beyond a wholesome discipline,
be gentle with yourself.
You are a child of the universe
no less than the trees and the stars;
you have a right to be here.
And whether or not it is clear to you,
no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.

Desiderata, by Max Ehrman

 

Rock on, Stranger. And always look ahead, you’ll miss the good stuff if you glance back too often.

Love, Devina.

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