I recently published a piece of fiction as part of Vocal’s Little Black Book Short Story Competition.
If you’d like to read my entry, you can do so by following the link below:
One of the most common societal misconceptions about life is that it is linear. From the moment that we are old enough to process complex thoughts, we are told that we will spend our time between birth and death transitioning from one progressive stage to the next. We’re told that we will go to school, graduate and attend college, get a job, meet a partner, have a family and eventually grow old, contented in the knowledge that we have ticked all the boxes that we are advised we must.
Because of this, we believe that everything has a time and place. We convince ourselves that there is a right time to fall in love, to focus on personal development, or to pursue our careers and education. When we believe that we should be directing our energy towards one aspect of our wellbeing, many of us begin to neglect all others, creating an imbalance within our lives that can damage the happiness we all strive towards.
We convince ourselves that because we haven’t finished our education or landed our dream job, that we shouldn’t find a partner and fall in love. Or that because we had a child at a young age, we can’t go back and complete our studies or start the business we have always yearned to create.
But life’s trajectory isn’t linear. It’s cyclical. And we as human beings must learn to be malleable, drifting with the ebbs and flows of the universe as they pull us to and from our heart’s truest desires.
In 2016, I set myself a goal. I wanted to write a love story. My reason for doing so was simple: I had hit rock bottom in my life, and I needed a way to find my feet again. At twenty-seven years of age, I had just had my heart ripped out by a girl and was so down that I became convinced that I would never find someone to fall in love with. I had to fight just to find a reason to stay alive. In addition to feeling like life had just knocked me down, I was viewing my life as a linear progression of events that had just been derailed, exacerbating the pain that I was feeling.
But rather than throw away what was left of my life, I made a choice to write about the very thing that pained me, confronting my fears and creating the happy ending that I believed I would never experience. When I first started to work on the novel, I told myself that it was time for me to focus on my career as a writer. I put everything else in my life on hold to concentrate on creating a manuscript that showed my own personal enlightenment and growth.
A lot of positives came out of what I did. Through producing the script, I began to understand who I really was, what I valued most, and how to shed the fears and anxieties that had lived inside of my head. But I also created a new imbalance between the world I was creating in my mind, and the one that I was withdrawing from on a daily basis. I was so focused on achieving a goal that had spawned from a place of great pain, that I missed out on experiencing some truly special moments, as well as opportunities to appreciate just how wonderful life really is.
The first time that I realised I had created an imbalance within myself was when I was partway through editing my novel. I met a girl. Well, kind of. We actually met a long time ago, and I have always known that there was something about her that could take my breath away. But I somehow convinced her to meet me for a coffee. When she showed up and smiled at me, there was a shift inside my soul and I felt something that I hadn’t felt in a really long time.
I felt butterflies in my stomach, and a pinch in my chest as if I’d taken an arrow through the heart. By the time our brief encounter was over I had realised that meeting her was the universe’s way of pulling me away from focusing so intensely on producing a manuscript, and guiding me towards something far greater. I didn’t fall for her because she was beautiful. That would be too clichéd. I fell for her because even though she has a smile that causes a kaleidoscope of butterflies to take flight within my abdomen, she’s also intelligent, mischievous, funny, brave, bold, compassionate and so connected to her own heart and mind that she makes me want to be a better man.
In the months since we first sat on a patch of grass and rubbed her dog’s belly while she teased me for taking milk with my coffee, I have made a fool of myself more than once. I’ve told her that I want to be her partner, that I love her, and that when I’m around her I feel as though I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be. I’ve written blog posts about flowers coming to bloom, and sent her a short story just because she was on my mind. And yet, while the cyclical arc of my life has brought me to the most unlikely of places where I have found someone I would walk through hell for, her life hasn’t arrived at that point just yet.
The person that I was a year ago would have struggled with the knowledge that he had fallen for someone who wasn’t in the same headspace that he was. He would have crumbled underneath the weight of his own insecurities, and cursed at the universe for constantly trying to pull him away from his linear path. But that’s not who I am anymore. In the space of twelve months I have transitioned from boy with no desire to live, to a writer who momentarily hid himself away from the world, to a man comfortable enough with himself to acknowledge that he has found a woman he could happily spend his life sharing adventures and creating memories with.
Yet while I know what my heart wants, I don’t think that the time for her and I is right now.
The universe hasn’t brought her to the same place as I am for a reason. She still has a few dreams that she wants to achieve on her own. But I honestly believe that she’ll be a part of my life forever. And that one day soon our souls will melt together like colours smeared across an artist’s canvas. Until then, I’ll cherish the moments that we share together and remind myself that you should never rush something that is meant to last.
When I started writing this post I had planned on doing a wrap up of 2017. I was going to talk about the challenges I had faced writing a love story, and what I had learned about myself while producing entries for this blog. But then I realized that doing so would be falling into the same mindset of predetermined progression that I always had. So, I decided to acknowledge that right now I’m happier than I have ever been in my life instead.
By allowing myself the freedom to open my heart and write with absolutely vulnerability, I’ve learned how to be free from the anxieties that turned much of my earlier work into disjointed garbage. By embracing my passions, I have been afforded the opportunity to work with one of my closest friends to launch a new venture that involves other artists and an origami wolf. And by taking a risk and asking a girl I’d always known was beautiful out for a coffee, I have found someone that I long to make memories with.
2017 was a year of introspection and rediscovering who I am. It was a year of slaving away at my desk, pouring my heart and soul into my work in an effort to understand what it is that I value, what I love, and what dreams I truly wish to become my reality. But as the new year fast approaches, I realise that I’ve always known who I am. I just lost sight of that person for a while.
My name is Chris Nicholas. I’m a writer, a wolf, a brother and son. I’m a man about to embark on a new journey with his creative passions; and a lover excited at the possibility of a lifetime of adventures with a soul who vibrates at a frequency that mirrors my own. I hope that when I can finally share my new venture with my readers, they are as excited as I am to be a part of something new, and that together we can change the literary industry forever. And I dream that one day I no longer have to refer to the woman I fell for as my Horizon or Belle Âme.
“If I had a flower for every time I thought of you, I could walk in my garden forever.”
– Alfred Tennyson
Inside the heart of every man and woman lies a little patch of soil. This foundation for the garden bed of our deepest desires sits buried beneath the soft tissue of our atriums and ventricles in a place so sacred we share it only with those worthy of our truest affections. As children our gardens are bare, and we look to those that we love the most to teach us how to bring flowers to bloom. But as we grow and find our place in this world, we begin to cultivate a space that is uniquely our own.
Some people learn quickly; as though horticulture is ingrained into their DNA. They create nurseries bursting with life, or build a bedframe around their plot of dirt, allowing exotic flowers to grow in the empty space where a mattress once was. But some, like me, spend their lives patiently toiling away at an empty plot held together by weather worn timber and rusty nails; determined to grow something more than the florets of a winter’s frost that have settled against the earth.
There have been times when my garden has known the flowers and fragrance of seasonal romance. In my younger years I gave life to blooms that were never meant to last. I knew that my actions were foolish. But with each change of season I learned more about how to nurture the florae that blossomed within my chest. I didn’t realise it then, but as I broke my own heart over and over again, I was preparing myself for something far greater than anything that I had ever known. I was preparing myself for you.
When I was a boy I experienced the blooms of passing fancies. I smelled the scents of fleeting passion and marvelled at the petals of brief affairs. But my garden has never known a flower as beautiful as you…
You came into my life like spores floating on a gentle breeze, burying yourself inside of me with a mischievous smile that you sealed with a kiss. I was so captivated by who you were that I opened my chest, letting you sink beneath my dirt so that your roots could grow. I watered you, and let the sun warm your features until the first tiny green shoots of love grew inside my chest.
You became the first thing on my mind when I woke each morning, and the last before I fell asleep at night. With each passing thought of you I watched in awe as the flowers of my garden continued to blossom. Some of my thoughts have been more pure than others; I often dream of rubbing your stomach when you’re sick, or sharing in your moments of success and personal growth. But I have also longed to know how your breath catches in your throat when I press my hips hard against yours, or what it feels like to leave goose bumps across your naked body as my lips softly caress your skin.
I know that this sounds scary. Believe me, I’m scared too. But I knew from the moment that I saw you that you were destined to be so much more than just another seasonal romance.
You are the kindred spirit that I was always meant to find; the flower brought to bloom in the dirt of my soul. The way that my imagination has traversed the contours of your landscape, explored the depths of your heart and mind, and contemplated a future by your side has caused a shift within me. Because of you, what was once a tiny patch of dirt held together by worn timber beams buried in my chest is now a spectacular garden that stretches as far as my mind’s eye can conceive.
Because of you, I stroll through lilies when I picture your smile, or peonies when I remind myself of how I can feel your heart beat through your fingertips when we touch. I smell the allure of roses when I think of the moments of lust that I long to share together, and the fragrance of lavender and honeysuckle when I imagine you asleep beneath my sheets.
I have never known a flower as beautiful as you. I have never met a woman who could smile at me so mischievously and steal my heart. But now that I know how it feels to find someone who can take my breath away, I want to spend forever wandering through my garden, exploring the blooms that you have brought to life within me. I want to spend my life falling in love with the woman that you are every single day, and grow into the man that you need me to be. And I want to smell the subtle scent of lavender and honeysuckle beneath my sheets each morning until our bodies grow old and wrinkly.
I yearn to become lost inside of you, and to find myself again in your sensuousness and beauty. I want to be the flower that blooms within your chest; to be the man who devotes his life to nurturing your mind, holding your heart, and worshiping the intricacies of your flesh. I want to spend our time walking through our gardens, hand in hand, until our souls melt together as one.
We can spend the rest of our lives smelling the fragrance of roses when our bodies collide, or cooling ourselves beneath the shade of palms when we are tired and weary. And when we grow old, we can spend our afternoons lost amongst the fields of lilies that were once nothing more than little patches of soil in our chests. We can watch the setting sun as it sinks beneath the horizon. I can be yours; and you can be mine forever.
“You know you’re in love when you can’t fall asleep because reality is finally better than your dreams.”
I recently had a moment…
It was one of those moments when all the pieces of the puzzle that we call life suddenly fall into place, and for a brief instant everything that you have ever lived through begins to make sense. I was at the beach, lying on a blanket beside a girl. Her dog was excitedly climbing all over us, causing sand to stick to our sunburned skin. She was laughing hysterically, apologising on his behalf as she began throwing a stick for him to chase. I leaned towards her and planted a kiss on her shoulder, feeling something monumental shift inside my chest when she turned to meet my gaze and kiss my cheek.
I know that what I’m about to say sounds terribly clichéd, and some may even call me a hopeless romantic. But as I lay on the sand with her head resting on my stomach, I realised that I have never wanted anything in my life half as much as I want her. Sunburnt, covered in sand, and completely at the mercy of a beautiful woman, I started to think that perhaps I have been so preoccupied with chasing visions of literary success that I have misunderstood what life is really all about.
When I first started to experiment with writing at the age of seventeen I never could have anticipated the impact that my passion would have on my life. At the time, I was an idealistic teenager with a head full of stories and an ego a mile long. I told myself that I had talent, and wrongfully assumed that it would be easy to become a best seller, earn a small fortune, and find a partner who loved me as endlessly as I would love her. I didn’t think that I would spend the next ten years continuously pushing myself to think beyond my own limits, or sacrificing as much as I have in order to create.
But because there was such a startling imbalance between my heart and my head, those sacrifices that I have been forced to make were inevitable. I spent years focusing so intently on illogical delusions of grandeur that I ignored the beating of my own heart as it tried to tell me to slow down, appreciate life, and allow myself to feel love. In my ignorance and haste to be successful, I didn’t bother to understand my own emotions. As a result I have ruined relationships, missed opportunities, burned bridges, and suffered through anxiety and depression.
To put it really bluntly: I became so concerned with chasing dreams that I started to really screw up my own reality.
Yet while it would be easy to beat myself up for the mistakes that I made, I’m actually glad that I made them. Because it was the accumulation of all my past successes, failures, elations and pains that led me to that moment in time when I kissed the soft skin of a woman’s shoulder and felt the universe tell me that I was exactly where I was meant to be.
I’ve never felt anything like I did on that beach before. I’ve been in love; and there was a time when I thought that I had found the girl that I was destined to marry. But I have never experienced a moment where everything just makes sense; where all the highs and lows, the self-doubts, and the chaotic ten years caused by an impulse to write suddenly become meaningless in comparison to something as simple as a kiss, a smile, or watching a girl who takes your breath away laugh as she throws a stick for her dog to chase across the sand.
Now that I have felt it, I don’t want it to go away. I don’t want to lose the feeling that she left behind when she engraved her name in fluent cursive into my soul. And I don’t want to keep endlessly chasing dreams or falling asleep either. As I lay on the beach, I glimpsed a reality far greater than anything that I have ever dreamed of. It was a reality where I could balance the literary goals in my head with the beating of my heart; where I could write, be loved, and be happy all at once.
Life isn’t about materialistic success. It isn’t about selling millions of books, earning thousands of dollars, owning an empire, or any of that bullshit. It’s about being balanced and being happy. It’s about sharing yourself with those that you care about, learning that sometimes it’s important to listen to your heart over your head, and allowing yourself to be vulnerable enough to fall in love. Twelve months ago I never imagined that I could feel something as profound as I did on the beach. I never thought that I would find myself lying beside a girl who is so beautiful that she could alter the way that I see the world just by kissing my cheek. But I did. And I haven’t stopped smiling ever since.
So, I want to set you a challenge…
If you’re out of balance, and you’re listening to your head too much at the expense of your heart, I want you to try and make a shift. I want you to turn off the voice that drives you, slow down, and begin to understand what your heart truly beats for. I want you to stop being lead by your dreams, and start building a more beautiful, worthwhile, and rewarding reality instead. Allow yourself to feel loved, to listen to your impulses, and understand that the greatest thing you will ever do in your life is to share it with the people that you care about. If you can do that, you’ll be truly happy. I promise. Because I am.
As for the girl on the beach; her name has been written into my chest like poetry in the pages of a notebook. Whether I get my reality with her remains to be seen. But I really hope that I do. Because if something as simple as a kiss on the cheek can make me feel the way that I did, there’s no telling how magical a reality with her could truly be.
A few days ago I suffered through a crisis of confidence while attempting to gain a better understanding of what direction I am trying to move in with my writing, and my life. During this crisis I managed to convince myself that I have nothing of value to offer a potential lover, and that I was destined to be the man who spends his life writing about love, without ever being fortunate enough to experience it for himself. Realising that I’d fallen into a creative and emotional lull, I decided to write down how I was feeling in a piece that I have since come to know as Dirt.
I never intended to share the post with anyone. It was simply an opportunity to release some of the angst that has been building inside of me as I continue to work towards establishing myself and my voice within the literary industry. But as someone who believes in the importance of acknowledging that it’s alright to not be OK, I decided to share what I wrote below. My reasoning for doing so is simple: I don’t want pity. I want to give hope to anyone out there who resonates with how I felt. I want them to realise that they are not alone, and that negative thoughts will always come and go; but life will get better if you give it a chance. I promise…
An old Ugandan proverb says that the one who loves you, loves you with your dirt. But it’s not the dirt that concerns me. It’s the scars that are hidden underneath. Dirt merely clings to the surface; it can be washed away. I know that one day mine will be. I’ll find you, we’ll fall in love, and the sins and virtues of my past will become meaningless in the context of our lives. Yet I’m still so scared that when we meet and all the grit and grime of who I am is stripped away, you’ll see the blemishes on my soul and realise that you’ve fallen for a man who hides behind his words because his humanity has been broken beyond repair.
When all the dirt is washed away you’ll see the scars on my hands that were caused by a lifetime of fighting to find my place in a world that has always left me feeling lonely and afraid. You’ll see that my knuckles have been split on the cheeks of my enemies, and that I have torn skin from bone by driving my fists into brick and mortar in moments of frustration. You’ll hear the click in my wrist when it moves, and your fingers will feel the callouses that have left my palms feeling gnarled and worn. I’ll be forced to swallow my pride and tell you how they serve as a reminder of a time when I held onto a life that caused me great pain; and how all I had really wanted to do was let go.
I’ll explain that there are scars inside my head too. And that I can still see them when I close my eyes. There are the wounds caused by driving down a motorway with my eyes closed, wondering how it would feel to simply cease to exist. Or the marks left behind by the nights I spent lying awake questioning how I became a sky that no one wants to fly in.
I never wanted to be the man who was different. When I was younger I never thought that I would be twenty-eight years old and still alone. I didn’t ask to feel an empathy so strong that I was willing to sacrifice my own happiness to protect those around me. People often say that it sounds like a noble calling, but I have had my heart broken too many times by those that I have tried to save to find solace in the decisions that I have made.
All I ever wanted was to be normal; to be loved like everybody else. But as the sun sets each night and my sky turns from blue to black, I realise that even the stars are afraid to shine within me.
And yet my head and my hands are nothing compared to the wounds that lay buried within my chest. My heart has been ripped apart and crudely stitched back together more times than I care to remember. I haven’t even met you and I’m already struggling to find a way to show you just how fragile it has become. How can I ever tell you about the marks left by the infidelities of lovers, and how they make me afraid to love again? How could you ever want me if you knew that a piece of me died when I told a woman I wanted to grow old with her and she left me all alone?
I wish that it was only my dirt that you had to fall in love with…
I wish that I could smile at you with a face covered in filth and grime and steal your heart. But there’s more to me than what’s on the surface; it’s buried beneath the dirt. Life hasn’t always been easy. But I wouldn’t be the man that I am today without the scars that I mark my skin. I wouldn’t know how to love, how to smile, or how to find that little piece of happiness within myself even when I feel like giving up.
I can’t promise that I’ll be perfect when you meet me. Chances are I will be so excited just to see you that I’ll say something stupid, or try to hold your hand. But I promise that I will always think the world of you, and try my hardest to say and do the right thing. I promise that I’ll love you, your dirt, and the scars that hide underneath.
I’ll hold your hands tightly when you’re sad. You may not have the same callouses that I do, but that doesn’t mean you haven’t had to hold on when it felt like life was dragging you down. I’ll kiss your head when you close your eyes and the scars inside your mind manifest as visions that cause you pain. You may have never driven down a motorway with your eyes closed, and maybe you’ve never thought of yourself as an empty sky. But I promise that I will fly in you if you let me. Every day; and every night. I’ll fly one of those little gliders that leaves a trail of smoke, writing love notes across your horizons for as long as we both shall live.
And when your heart hurts as the wounds of lovers passed make you question who I am, I promise to be patient. I’ll lend you my ears, a shoulder to lean on, or just give you a kiss to show that I don’t ever want to lose you. I know that I said that I never wanted to be different. I know that I told you it has caused me a lot of pain. But I’m hoping it’s all for a reason; that maybe when I find you, and you look into my eyes, those differences will be what makes you take a leap of faith, and risk falling in love one last time.
I can’t guarantee that I’ll be perfect. I would do it if I could. But I promise that I will spend every day loving you, even when you’re covered in dirt.
Milk and honey have different colours, but they share the same house peacefully.
One of the most defining moments of my admittedly short writing career came on December 20th, 2014 when I received my first death threat from a reader. The threat, received via email, was in response to an article I had written which drew comparisons between religious intolerance and a criminological model known as the Broken Windows Theory. Throughout the post, I suggested that the constant defamation of an ideology through misrepresentation and bigotry damages an individual’s perception of a subculture, and creates a rift in our society.
To illustrate my point, I spoke of the Islamic faith and the unjust insinuation that it is a religion defined by violence. I compared acts perpetuated by extremists as stones hurled through the windows of a beautiful monument in an attempt to damage its image and cheapen its perceived worth. At the time, I believed that what I had produced was ground breaking. The piece was my first attempt at blogging about issues far greater than my own, so I saw the influx of hate mail that I received from readers as a sign that I had struck a chord in the hearts and minds of my audience.
These days when I look back at what I wrote, I realise that whilst my intentions were pure, my message of peace and love was lost amongst a violent analogy of shattered glass and social disorder. The end of 2014 was a chaotic time in my life; I was treading water in an endlessly deep ocean of anxiety and despair, and I probably shouldn’t have attempted to write what I did. Nor should I have responded to the threats against my safety with an acid tongue and a willingness to protect my beliefs with bloody hands. By lashing out at those who refuted what I believed, I undermined my own message and became another wedge driven into a fracture between subcultures.
I have never been one to retract a statement that I have made on this site. I have never tried to apologise for expressing myself during my lower moments, or asked for a second chance at a piece that failed to hit its intended mark. But I’m not the same writer that I was in 2014. I’ve grown a hell of a lot since then. I have learned about who I am, what I aspire towards, and that I’m no longer afraid of being wrong.
So, almost three years after receiving a tirade of threats and abuse from readers, I’m ready to acknowledge that if I had my time over, I wouldn’t write a passive aggressive post about broken windows and intolerance like I did. Instead, I would write about milk and honey. And I would speak of how despite their difference in colour, they can still share the same house peacefully.
When you strip back much of the hate that consumes us and examine the world with some objectivity, you begin to realise just how pathetic and illogical our prejudices towards our fellow man or woman truly are. We often hate because we fail to understand; conjuring up divergences and fears where there are none. And we disparage because we are insecure or frightened of our own position within the universe, beliving that the belittlement of others will allow us to prosper.
But the truth is that while some of us may choose to vilify or trivialise based on sexual orientation, religious creed, or ideological beliefs; we are all connected. And we are all human. It really doesn’t matter whether you are a man or woman; Christian, Muslim, Atheist or other. Nor if you are a heterosexual, transgender, or whether you have fallen in love with a member of the same sex. Or even if your skin is white, brown, yellow or black. When you take away all the bullshit labels, you are a human being; and you matter just as much as anyone else does.
Although we all have our lapses and moments of intolerance towards others; there is no one in this world who should ever feel less valued or appreciated than those around them. If someone does make you feel that you are unimportant, or that you are of a lesser worth than they are, then they’re wrong. It doesn’t matter what their reasoning for doing so is, or even how abhorrent their words or actions may be. There is no fault with who you are, the colour of your skin, or what you choose to believe in. The fault lies in the fucked-up logic and closed-mindedness that prevents them from seeing that perhaps you are the milk to their honey; or vice versa.
It’s at this point where a younger version of me would have flown into a tirade of insensitive nonsense and expletive comments about fighting against the closed-mindedness of others. I would have called myself a wolf and talked about baring fangs, tearing out throats and fighting fire with fire. But I’m not going to do that. Not this time. Whilst I still consider the threats that I received for writing Broken Windows to be some of my proudest achievements as a writer, I’ve learned that there is nothing be gained from becoming the very thing you seek to condemn.
To fly into a rage about bigotry and cultural prejudice would be to speak from a place of hate. Since writing Broken Windows, I have been called a lot of things. Some readers continue to take offence to the idea that I choose to believe in people rather than constructs. They cannot fathom that although I am far from perfect, I try to accept the idiosyncrasies that make each of us perfectly imperfect and wholly unique. Others still have accused me of promoting dangerous ideals, or questioned my sexuality for publishing posts such as Honey.
I used to be angered by the ignorance of others. When someone questioned who I thought that I was I would respond in vulgarity, believing that I had the ability to change someone’s opinions by berating them into submission. But almost three years after my first attempt at promoting cultural acceptance, I don’t carry the same anger that I once did. Nowadays I feel sadness for those who just can’t seem to grasp the concepts of equality and human compassion.
I have learned to feel pity towards the chauvinist who believes that women are beneath him; disappointment for the religious man or woman who ignores the teachings of acceptance they aspire towards whilst tearing down the beliefs of others. And to feel heartbroken for those who believe that the purity of love should be restricted to that between a man and a woman. Because when we close ourselves off to the possibility that the beliefs, ethnicity, orientation or compulsions of another person matters, we lose the piece of ourselves that could have grown through understanding their thoughts, feelings and experiences.
We shouldn’t hate those that are different. We should embrace them, learn from them, and understand that we can share the same house peacefully. Without diversity, the world would be a horribly mundane place. So, if you are someone who struggles to accept people who are different: try. Try to open your heart and mind to the idea that we are all connected, and that we are all equally important. If you do, you just might learn something new, or even help to make the world a better or safer place.
Love is love. Human is human. And regardless of what some may wish to believe; we are equal. We are all valued. And we all connected.
A wise man once said that patience is bitter, but its fruit is sweet. I always believed that I understood what he meant. I thought that he spoke of suffering; that one must sacrifice so that he may eventually prosper. I told myself that I wanted to be a writer, and that the yearning in my chest was the pain I had to endure in order to succeed. Because of this, I spent years fighting against a loneliness so encompassing that I could feel it in my bones. Then I met you. And I realised that I was wrong. It took my twenty-eight years to understand that the hole in my chest was the bitterness of waiting to meet someone who could take my breath away; and that there is no fruit as sweet as falling for a woman as beautiful as you.
It started with a photograph. Until then I had always considered myself a hopeless romantic. I thought that I would meet a girl and we’d hit it off right from the start. I dreamed that we’d bump into each other in the street, or meet through friends of a friend. I told myself that our conversation would flow easily; I would smile and say something clever, and as she laughed I would realise that our souls were destined to become intertwined.
I never imagined that I would stumble upon your photograph and feel a breath catch in the back of my throat. I didn’t think that I would spend weeks trying to introduce myself, before finally sending you an awkward message that just said hi. You were never meant to respond. You were gorgeous. I was just an ordinary man who felt his hands shake and his heart skip a beat when he saw you smile. But you wrote back and jokingly thanked me for not asking to see your feet. You seemed nonplussed by my awkward introduction, and as we spoke I realized that the beauty within you was even more incredible than the image that had captured my attention.
Since then we have spoken every day. With each conversation, I have learned more about who you are. I can remember your birthday, your favourite flowers, and the first time that you called me babe. I don’t think you meant it how I hope that you did. It was just an expression that you uttered without realising that it would make me stumble and fall head over heels for you.
But, while I’ve learned so much, I have said some stupid things too. I told you that I wanted to be your boyfriend; and you laughed and offered a polite no. It was naïve to say what I did. I know that I have found you at your lowest; when you are trying to find yourself. I understand that the timing is so wrong; but the butterflies in my stomach when I think about you just feel so damn right.
I’m not writing this to say that I love you. We have really only just met. I’m just trying to find a way to tell you that you are a drop of honey that has fallen into my soul. The sweetness of your smile and the subtle touch of your kiss have stirred awake a part of me that I never knew existed.
You are a warm glow that has spread through my chest, and down the length of my limbs. I don’t love you. Not yet. But I know that I could be the single greatest thing that has ever happened in your life. If you gave me half a chance I would be the man who picked you up at 3am and dropped you home, and who carried your shoes inside when your feet hurt. I’d be the man who rubs your tummy when you’re sick, or writes terrible stories about your dog to make you laugh. And you…
…You would be my Lacuna.
I’ve been in love before. I still have the scars to prove it. I’ve never told you this; but it’s something that we both have in common. I found a girl that I assumed I would grow old with; she left me, and I thought that I would always be alone. But then came that drop of honey: the warm amber glow that lit up my soul when I saw you smiling in a photograph and realised that all hope was not lost.
I don’t know if you’ll ever read this; or if I’ll ever get a chance to buy you flowers, to celebrate Christmas a day early, or to make your next birthday the most incredible one that you have ever had. I really hope that I do. I hope that when you find yourself again and you’re ready to open your heart, you remember that awkward message that brought me into your life. I’m not asking you to rush; I’m telling you to take your time. If I can have some fun with you, and make you smile until then, I’ll be the happiest man alive.
But if I never get a chance to show you just how much you could mean to me, and what it feels like to know that you’re no longer wasting your time: I want to thank you all the same. We may have only just met, but you’ve already taught me that there is no fruit as sweet as falling for someone as incredible as you. You’re the woman that made me realise how wonderful it is to feel a swarm of nervous butterflies in my stomach. You are the drop of honey that warmed my soul.
Some days are harder than others. There are times when I barely notice that you’re not around. Some days my life can seem so busy that I almost feel complete. I have a job that despite my shortcomings, I have managed to excel at. I have my writing; I run a website, and I wrote a book. It’s a love story. I think that you would like it. I have my family and friends too. I’m trying to be a better friend, brother and son, yet I know that I don’t always tell them that I love them as much as I should.
But there are also times when I reach for your hand, only to grasp at air. There are days like today when I’m surrounded by the people that I love, and they’re all married, partnered, or engaged. Some have families; or are expecting. And I’m standing there alone, wondering when I’ll meet you. Or if I ever will.
I used to think that we had met. I found a girl who was so beautiful that I knew I was in love from the first time that I saw her. She was smart too. She taught me about flowers, about having an open mind, and how wonderful it is to feel content. I tried so hard to make her love me; and even harder to make her stay. But she left. And she broke my heart. The final lesson that she ever taught me was that true love doesn’t just happen. It takes hard work, and sacrifice. She taught me that just because you love someone, it doesn’t mean that they know, that they’ll love you back, or that you’ll get the happy ending you have always longed for.
I wish that I at least knew your name. That way when I lay awake at night and picture our life together I could call you something other than Lacuna. It’s not even a real name. It’s just a word that I found in a book. But I chose it because it means a blank space; or a missing part. I’m twenty eight years old and I don’t have a woman to love, or to hold. There’s a blank space in my life that I wish I could fill; a missing part to the puzzle that is me.
I promise that when we meet I’ll do everything that I can to sweep you off your feet. I’ll spend every waking moment trying to take your breath away.
I want to be your husband; and for you to be my wife. It sounds crazy because I don’t even know what you look like, but thinking about the day that I ask you to marry me brings a smile to my face. That doesn’t mean I want to be hasty and ask you as soon as we meet. I want us to take our time. I’ll ask you out on a date, and try and hold your hand. You’ll look at me as if I’m insane, and my heart will skip a beat as our fingers interlock. At the end of the evening I’ll drop you home and walk you to the front door, placing my hands on your hips as we kiss goodnight. It probably sounds silly to you. I know that people don’t do that kind of thing anymore. But there’s no need to rush something that is meant to last forever.
I promise to take care of you too. I want to be there for you during the tough times as much as I want to share our moments of joy. When you’re sick I’ll tuck you in at night and wrap the blankets around your body before dimming the lights. I’ll make you soup when your throat hurts; or rub your stomach when you turn ill. If you need to talk I’ll listen with great patience. And I’ll buy you flowers on your birthday, when you get a promotion, or just because I can.
When we have children, I’ll be the best damn father you have ever seen. I’ll change nappies, and teach them how to count, or to read and write. We’ll laugh and cry as they say their first words, and take their first steps. I’ll make sure that they grow up in a house filled with so much love that it radiates from their smile.
If we have a little girl I’ll learn how to tie pig-tails and play with dolls. If we have a boy I’ll teach him to ride a bike and that real men treat women with respect. I’ll be at the front row of their sports carnivals, their spelling-bees, and graduations. You will too. We’ll be hand in hand, just like we were when I took your hand on our first date. We’ll be older by then; but just as in love as we have ever been.
Eventually we’ll grow old and retire. I’ll have to give away the job that I managed to excel at; I don’t know where you work, but I’m sure that you’ll be missed. We’ll travel the world, our faces cracking into a series of wrinkles as we smile gleefully at one another. When our hips give out and we can’t travel anymore we’ll find a little cottage to live in where we can form bizarre habits, like eating dinner while the sun is still up, and drinking so many cups of lukewarm tea that we spend most our nights dashing to the bathroom.
I know that one day I will find you. My parents always told me that good things come to those who wait. I just never thought that I would be twenty-eight and still searching for the woman that I grow old with. As a child, twenty-eight had seemed so old. I thought that I would have figured my life out by now. I wish I didn’t have to hurt as bad as I have in the past. I wish that I hadn’t had to lose the girl that I thought was you, and that I didn’t have to write a letter to someone that I’m still waiting to meet.
I don’t know where you are right now. Or if you’ll ever read this, but I want you to know that one day you are going to be my wife. And that I am going to love you, you are going to love me, and we are going to be happy. I promise to sweep you off your feet so that we can create a life so wonderful that your heart never aches again. When that day comes, I won’t need to call you Lacuna anymore. You won’t be a blank space, or a missing piece in my life. You’ll be my best friend; and I’ll be yours. We’ll be in love with one another, until the day that we die.
My mother knows that I am sick, but I hate that she can’t understand that whilst I am grateful for her love; it won’t stop the shaking of my hands.
One of the hardest things about dividing your time between blogging and writing manuscripts is that it often feels like one body of work must suffer so that that the other may thrive. When I blog, my desire to work on a larger manuscript wanes; and when I devote my time to creative fiction, it can be difficult to transition into the mindset required to produce entries for this site. At times it can be overwhelming to try and find an equilibrium between who I am as a blogger, as an author, and as a man. This complex balancing act is what has led to the recent lull in activity here at The Renegade Press.
I haven’t given up on blogging: I still have a notepad full of half thought out entries and epigraphs that will eventually become completed posts. But I have been focusing my attention elsewhere. In the past month, I completed the first draft of a love story; a piece unlike any other manuscript that I have ever produced. While the script needs a rewrite and a hell of a lot of editing, I can honestly say that I have never been so proud of something that I have created. I often write about concepts such as heartbreak, vulnerability, and anxiety on this site, so to be able to explore them in greater depth while producing what (I hope) will one day become a published novel has been a liberating experience.
In the excitement that followed completing the script that is named after an entry on this site, I hurriedly edited the opening two chapters so that I could share them with my mum. I sent her an email that was just under four thousand words in length, and waited with baited breath for her to tell me what she thought. While she told me that she loved it, I may never really know if she did. Mum has always supported me. I can’t ever imagine her suggesting that something I had written was shit. Yet despite her bias, being able to share something I am so proud of with someone who I love, and who has stood by me through the lowest moments of my life means more to me than I could ever express.
But that moment of intimacy sparked a thought. And that thought soon led to another, which then led to many more. Before too long I realised that although my life is no longer ruled by the anxiety and depression that I have often blogged about, I have never really taken the time to say thank you to the people who stood by me when I felt as though I was suffocating under the weight of my existence. I have always assumed that people would just instinctively know how much their support has meant to me, and that their kindness and compassion saved my life.
But I don’t want to assume anymore…
I want to say thank you to my mum. And to my dad. To my brothers and sister; to the woman with the little blue hearts that I loved and lost. To my friends, and to you, the reader. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for all your support, and for never giving up on me; even when I was so close to giving up on myself.
When I started blogging in 2012 I was sick. When I look back through the archives of this site I can feel the pain woven into my words. Yet even though I was hurting, it took me another four years, and to lose someone that I thought I would spend my life with to finally hit rock bottom. When I did, the anxiety and depression that I had been battling with for so many years won. I lost myself. I felt like a failure. And I wanted to die.
In the months that followed I spent hours locked in my room, crying my eyes out as I read the kind words of strangers who had stumbled across my blog and learned of my heartbreak. Although I never responded to most of the people who reached out to me, I read every word that they wrote. Had it not been for the love of my family and friends, or the compassion of strangers who shared their own experiences with me, I may never have rediscovered who I was, and learned what it feels like to be happy.
I’ve always said that I want to leave the world in a better state than it was when I was brought into it. Which is why just saying thank you doesn’t feel like enough.
I mean, shit; I wanted to die. I felt so low that the idea of taking my life played over inside my head on an endless loop for longer than I care to admit. I could have easily been another man who had their life cut short by mental illness, contributing to a statistic that is already heartbreakingly larger than it should ever be. But I was lucky. The love I felt from my friends and family, and from every single person reading this was enough to help me through the fear and loneliness that I felt.
Unfortunately, not everyone is as blessed as I am. Not everyone suffering from mental illness has that support; and some that do still struggle to find the strength to carry on. Despite the love and support of their peers, they can’t find a way to face one more day in the hope that their life can get better.
So, I want you to help them. Just as you helped me. I want you to tell your family and friends that you love them. I want you to tell your work colleagues, your neighbour, and the people around you when they do something amazing. And I want you to offer a smile, a wave, or even a hello to a perfect stranger who looks as though they may just need to see a friendly face. I want you to promise to never take someone for granted. Don’t ever let someone you care about question just how much you love them. Take every opportunity that you can to show them what they mean to you.
As a society we often state that we need to have a conversation about suicide and depression. Yet we’re too scared to open our hearts to the possibility that we, or the people around us, are not OK. We feel as though opening a dialogue means that we must have a solution, an opinion, or an insightful response that will take away someone’s pain. But we don’t. There is no definitive solution to mental illness, and you’re not expected to provide one. All you need to do is listen; to allow someone who is fighting an illness inside of their head the opportunity to talk. And more importantly; to be heard.
You may never know the impact that your kindness has on someone’s life. They may never offer their thanks, or find the courage to tell you how much you mean to them. But a random act of kindness; a smile offered to a passer-by, or the compassion to ask someone if they’re OK, could be the catalyst that helps them find the strength to control the shaking in their hands. By offering to listen, you could be the reason for someone to keep fighting, even when they feel like giving up.
If we keep offering our hands to those whose hands tremble, and we continue to listen when their minds are filled with fear, then you and I can leave the world in a better place than we found it. We can help fight suicide, anxiety, and depression. And we can make a difference. With nothing more than an open heart, we can change, or possibly even save the life of someone close to us who is struggling. I know that for a fact; because you have already saved my life.
I hope that together, we can help save many more.
A Sufi holy man was asked, “What is forgiveness?” He said, “It is the fragrance that flowers give when they are crushed.”
I have always viewed the individuals that make up our society as a collection of candles. Inside the mind of every man, woman, and child are thin strands of consciousness bound together like interwoven cotton, forming a wick. These wicks are the idiosyncratic and cultural beliefs that guide us; they are the past experiences, thoughts, and feelings that govern our realities and establish how we see the world. Although our individual philosophies, and how we choose to interpret them may vary, they are central to who we are as human beings.
From an early age, we are taught about love and human compassion through the various fables and religious analogies that are passed down from generation to generation. And as we grow older, our physical bodies become the solid foundation of wax that surround the emotional facilities of our wicks, and allow them to burn.
But sometimes those strands of consciousness and cotton can become tainted. Prejudice, bitter experience, and extenuating circumstance can alter our beliefs, causing the flame that burns atop of our candle to flicker and fade. A terror attack against innocent people can cause our belief structure to shift away from tolerance, to wariness and fear. A failed relationship can break our heart, and cause us to treat the opposite sex in a derogatory manner as we attempt to hide our own fragility. A statistic, or series of unfortunate events can transform our perception of a racial subclass from an equal, to a violent, seemingly lawless community. And a difference in the ideals and expression of love can make some of us feel uncomfortable with the idea of a man loving another man; or with a woman falling head of heals for another woman.
When these experiences taint our wicks, our flames diminish, and the light that we shine into the lives of others fades. Regardless of whether these bigotries are developed consciously, or not; when we stereotype, judge, vilify or disparage, we cast a shadow across the lives of the people around us. When too many of us allow our flames to flicker and fade, the world around us grows dark, and becomes a very scary place.
Agh. Let’s pause for a second. That last comment sounded fucking bleak. It almost as if I’m trying to paint a dystopian world view as a way of expressing concern that too many people are being caught up in bigotry and hate. As if I am subtly suggesting that too many individuals have allowed their fires to fade, and that we’re living in a world ruled by intolerance and darkness…
Despite my candle analogy being an ideal that I have long believed in, I’m beginning to realise that I have only ever been partly correct in my thinking. For the past few months the posts on this site have been deeply introspective in nature; I have erred away from writing about the more contentious topics that occupy much of my thought processes, and focused instead on the idea of self. In doing so, I have come to realise that while there is a candle that burns in the minds of every man, woman, and child; there is also a rose garden that blooms within our hearts.
Love, tolerance, and human compassion are attributes that blossom within the souls of men and women who open their hearts to the world and risk having their rose gardens trampled; and who chose to allow the fragrance of their humbling moments to radiate and compliment their light, rather than diminish it.
Confused? You should be. It’s taken me months to come to this conclusion, and even as a write it out it still sounds like the ill-thought-out ramblings of a madman. So, let me try and explain…
I’ve said time and time again that I am a humanist. I believe in people. But I’m also a realist. I don’t believe that it is possible to live in a world without hate. The idiosyncratic nature of the individual means that we are inevitably going to find someone that we just cannot connect with. But if you are going to hate; then hate justly, and express your hate through love. Don’t hate someone because they are different, or because their views run incongruously to your own. Hate the person who diminished their own light and cast shadows into the world by attempting to destroy the rose gardens of their fellow man and woman. And love the people that they sort to hurt. Bask in the fragrance of their humanity, and show them that even in their lowest moments, they are beautiful. By doing so you can help create a world where tolerance trumps abhorrence.
If a terror attack robs the world of innocent people, don’t condemn a religion. That’s bullshit. Condemn the misguided individual who twisted their understanding of series of teachings to fuel their own rage. Rise above their actions and use the fragrance of the flowers that they have crushed to build a world devoted to compassion. If your heart is broken; find the courage to love again. Don’t withdraw into yourself and rob the world of the flame in your mind, or the roses that bloom within your heart. And if you cannot accept that a man can love another man just as much as two members of the opposite sex can love one another, then seek him out and learn what it is that makes them so hopelessly devoted to his partner.
If you don’t, and you feel the need to vilify, disparage, or segregate based upon an individual’s beliefs, anatomical makeup, ethnicity, or the love that resides within them without seeking to understand who they are, then you are an arsehole. And you don’t deserve to shine light into their world, or to bask in the aromatic fragrance of the rose gardens your own insecurities and intolerance seeks to destroy.
People often think that in order for the world to experience love, change needs to occur on a grand scale. We turn to governments and leaders and ask them to make decisions about the rights of sub communities, or to dictate who it is that we should direct our angst towards in moments of great tragedy. But this kind of top down mentality towards human compassion and understanding is wrong. Real change comes from within us. It comes from helping to rebuild the rose gardens of those who have been hurt, and in allowing your light to illuminate the shadows caused by those who choose to stunt their own flame through anger and parochialism.
Whether we choose to accept it or not, the truth is that we are all connected. Every man, woman, and child on the face of this earth is both wonderfully unique, differently the same, and perfectly imperfect. If you struggle to accept those who you don’t understand, I implore you to open your heart and your mind, and learn how to accept rather than condemn. One of the reasons that I have always loved the analogy of a candle is the that as beautiful as its light may seem; it will burn far brighter when inverted. The same can be said for the way that many people, myself included, perceive the world around us. An inversion of thinking; acceptance as opposed to abhorrence will allow us all to burn brighter than we ever thought possible.
And if you step into the rose gardens of those who you have hurt, or who have hurt you; take a moment to breathe in the alluring fragrance of forgiveness; then help them tend to their damaged hearts, and cultivate a more tolerant world.