Vermillion

In the vermillion sky of the civil twilight
Pastel pink nimbus clouds drift out of sight.
As awesome a setting as one could behold
In dwindling daylight, painting us gold.
How fitting is it that this irreplicable sight
Bears the death of the day and birth of the night?

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safe haven

when all of the words I have on my tongue
and all of the love I have in my heart
are not enough to keep this from breaking
what am I to do but hope for tomorrow
that one day my opulent shining serendipity
will return to where it learned to be alive
for this home that has felt like a flawless escape
is not a place, but a person whose love has been
my safe haven, and my shelter from the cold

daybreak

this merciless disease
that haunts you like a phantom
and deconstructs your bones
weighs not only on my tired mind
but on my everloving heart
that bleeds bright red for you

if I thought that any god could help
I would pray to every one in turn
and beg them to let me relieve you
of all the vital pains and problems
that keep you up beyond the break of day

where is the dawn of that new day
that you so desperately desire?
how long will it be before the sun
cuts through the clouds and finds you
shedding tears of joy at the feeling
of sunlight kissing your beleaguered eyes?

Clouds

Midafternoon clouds are passing me by.

Drifting on through the idyllic blue sky.

Whisk me away to my beautiful life.

Relieve me of all of my stress and strife.

Some days they’re so close, you feel you can reach.

Constantly moving, too slowly to see.

Others they race to the end of the sky.

Going so fast, unfathomably high.

I hope that the clouds that I see today

Are the same ones that you see tomorrow.

These beautiful peaceful wanderers they

Make it clear that everything is borrowed.

Love me like I love the clouds in April.

Always be right there, but never be still.

Be my rain and my sun, my atmosphere.

Even when you’re far, you’ll always be near.

heart of the storm.

teach me how to hold your heart

lead me back towards the start.

love me like a hurricane

need me like I’m novocaine.

hold me up when I fall down

fix me when I fall apart.

kiss my hands when they start shaking

know that I’m yours for the taking.

it seems that the only time

that I can really feel free

is when your perfect green eyes

are the only things I see.

Fractured Eyes: The Fine Art of Loving Someone Who Doesn’t Love Themselves

I haven’t dated much.

I know I’m a little young to be saying that, at least based on what other people have told me. I’ve been repeatedly reminded that I’m only twenty-one, and that I have a lot of time ahead of me to find the right person and that there’s no pressure. Perhaps I’m just impatient to find ‘the one’, or maybe I just can’t stand being alone. There’s probably a bit of truth in both of those possibilities.

I’ve been a hopeless romantic for as long as I can remember, but it only really became evident when I got into my first serious relationship. I guess what really opened my eyes was just how much I was willing to do for the person I love: the sacrifices, the extra effort, the swallowing of my pride and admitting when I’m wrong. Obviously it was the big things, like moving out of my parents’ house into an apartment in the city, that gave me the largest doses of reality about love and relationships. However, it was the little things that were the most poignant reminders that love is not easy, nor is it something you can sustain without putting in the effort every single day.

It’s about cuddling each other to sleep. It’s about kissing them, even when they’re sick and make a fuss because they don’t want you to catch their cold. It’s changing your plans last minute to make room for them in your day. In my case, a big part of my past relationships has been taking long trips on public transportation. Even when I would finish work late at night, or when the weather was less than optimal, I would hop on a bus and travel over an hour to see them. To me it was never a big deal; I did it because I wanted to, not because I felt obliged.

All of this to say, love is a very complicated system of give and take. That applies to everything: money, trust, who gets to pick the movie, etc. You win some, you lose some. If you’re the man in the relationship (male or not), prepare to lose more than you win. Don’t get too upset by our assigned gender roles though, because that’s not what I was trying to say. I just meant that the key is finding someone to whom you are willing to lose a few battles. In fact, let me rephrase that: find someone who you will, on occasion, lose to on purpose.

If love is a cycle of reciprocation, it is not a perfect circle and there are a lot of kinks that need to be worked out. For one, people tend to be stubborn and selfish and that alone is enough to throw off the balance in a relationship. So now you realize that you can’t be too hard-headed or self-centered if you want a healthy partnership. Now you’re going down the list of things that a relationship needs in order to function: trust, honesty, loyalty, all of the things in that verse of First Corinthians that they read at weddings. All of that is very important- absolutely, no doubt- but it forgets one often overlooked aspect of being emotionally connected to another human being.

It is hard enough to be in a healthy, loving relationship when both of the people involved have their mental health under control; but when you love someone who doesn’t know how to love themselves, it can feel like trying to keep a newspaper dry in a hurricane.

I’ve been in long-term, committed relationships with people who struggled with depression, anxiety and chronic insomnia. To be clear, I found out very early on that they were sick and it never stopped me from falling in love even a little bit. I knew what I was getting into and I thought I was ready for the challenges that I was to be faced with. For the most part, I was well-equipped to handle the basic stuff: the doubts, the insecurities, the lack of motivation. I would bend over backwards just to get a smile sometimes, but it was worth it. It was hard sometimes, especially when the bad days came along, but I always tried my best. It wasn’t the amount of work that bothered me at all; it was the fact that sometimes there was nothing I could do.

The most absolutely excruciating part about loving someone who struggles with depression is the feeling of inadequacy that comes with not being able to make them feel better. There are some days where you talk to them, comforting them for hours, and they just keep crying and shaking and it seems like it will never end. Sometimes they don’t even know why they’re upset, they just get hit with a bad day and can’t handle it.

“If only she could see herself the way I do,” I thought to myself. It was a thought that passed through my head on an almost daily basis. I would always come up with new ways to try and cheer her up: building pillow forts, movie dates, leaving love notes stuck to all of the walls. It would make her smile, she’d show her appreciation and I would think that I did pretty well for myself. “If I do this enough, eventually she’ll come around,” I would convince myself, almost daily.

I learned the hard way that you can’t fix someone by loving them- the love has to come from them.

I’m not trying to perpetuate the worn-out saying that says you need to love yourself before you can love someone else. Speaking from experience, that’s completely false. You can be drowning in self-loathing on a daily basis and still give your whole heart to another person. You can be caring, patient and understanding and be there for someone else even if you yourself are broken. The problem with loving someone who is fighting their demons doesn’t lie in their inability to love.

The problem lies in their inability to feel worthy of being loved.

In Stephen Chbosky’s classic novel The Perks of Being a Wallflower, Charlie writes in one of his letters that “we accept the love we think we deserve”. This applies to the people I have loved and to anyone else who tries to balance a love life against their mental illness. The problem with depression is that it corrupts a person’s feeling of self-worth and, by extension, their perception of other people’s feelings towards them. When someone feels worthless, it’s near-impossible for them to understand why someone else would care for them, let alone love them. As a result, they either reject or dismiss any and all attempts at an emotional investment.

Love is about sacrifices, right? It’s about being the big spoon and sleeping with hair draped over your mouth and nose. It’s about running to the store in the middle of the night because she wanted ice cream. Those are the sacrifices that are easy to make, the ones that you make because you know it makes them happy. Knowing that you can put a smile on their face is a pretty good motivator. When that’s gone, you stop giving up your time and your sleep and start having to relinquish parts of yourself- your confidence, your emotional well-being, your motivation.

Maybe it’s just me; maybe I’m not as well-suited to deal with someone’s illness as I thought. I know for a fact that I take it too personally. I can’t count the number of times that I’ve been told that it’s not my fault, that I’m good enough, that I’ve done more than enough just to feel like I’m failing to do the simplest task involved in being in a relationship: making them happy. When you give and you give and you give and they’re still sick, when you feel your heart drop because their last text message seemed off, when you see the scars on their skin and wish that kisses were a cure-all- that’s when the real sacrifices happen.

I’m not trying to say that healthy relationships are not hard, because they are. The reason love is so difficult is because it leaves us vulnerable, in the hands of someone else. I’m not saying that loving someone who goes through bouts of incurable sadness is somehow more noble or more difficult. No matter who you are or what you’re dealing with, love is the single most vital human experience we have. It is what unifies us, what gives our lives meaning and what comforts us when the world gets dark. Being in love and working to maintain a healthy partnership will always be hard, sometimes even impossible, because making sacrifices is not easy.

All I’m trying to express is that being sick doesn’t mean being unable to love. I have been loved gently and wholeheartedly by someone who couldn’t even look at herself in the mirror. I have been loved passionately and incomparably by someone who put on a mask every day to avoid being thought of as broken. I have had beautiful, loving, relationships that ended for other reasons, but mental health was always the elephant in the room.

What can I say? You win some, you lose some. In my case I lost quite a bit, but I did so with good intentions. It wasn’t easy making those difficult sacrifices on an almost daily basis, but I never thought twice about it because I knew that creating even a moment of happiness in her life would make a difference. While she may not have accepted the love that she deserved all of the time, getting that newspaper inside with even one dry page gave me an overwhelming sense of satisfaction.

 

Take what’s left of me, if you must.
It isn’t much but it’s enough
To keep the darkest days at bay.
I’ll light the lantern every day
To keep the shadows from your mind.
Despite the life I’ve left behind,
Your love endures and occupies
The thoughts behind my fractured eyes.
With nothing left but love to give, I need you.

Stargazer

Glimpse into your future
And tell me what you see.
Does it look bright and beautiful
And does it involve me?

Do you see us together still
Or living far apart?
Are we still crazy kids in love
Do I still have your heart?

I don’t know where you’re going now
But hope it’s not too far.
I know you think it’s for the best
But I’ll still miss my star.

You shoot across the violet sky
And brighten up the night.
I don’t know why I thought that I
Could hold onto your light.

For I can’t be the only one
Who thinks that you are mine
And wishes on that shooting star
While waiting for a sign.

I know you don’t belong to me
But I can’t help but feel
Like having you all to myself
The moon, for you, I’d steal.

Airplanes

I ran towards you-
Blindly, recklessly, without doubts
Unhindered by the snow or the sound
Of airplanes flying low overhead
That rattled the windows in their frames.

I ran into you-
Wrapped up in an honest love and the hope
That I had finally found my evermore
That I could put my insecurities to rest
And find this youthful euphoria I’d long since dispelled.

I ran home to you-
Late at night when I was tired and sore
To find my escape, wrapped in your embrace
And clean white sheets that keep us tangled
In a perfect knot I wouldn’t dare undo.

I ran to you, with arms open wide,
And you ran away.

Permafrost

I’m shaking like a leaf on a bare tree branch
Fighting the frigid winds of February
With every ounce of force I have left.
Saint Lawrence mocks me from afar
With fluid blue eyes full of contempt,
His icy stare puts permafrost in my heart.
The sky is the softest shade of grey
Sparingly brushed with a delicate baby blue
Tinged with pink by the descending sun
And it seems so strangely sad to witness
Such a colourful commotion through such bitter tears.
I’m hanging onto the pieces of a broken rope
That once tethered me to the ground
Now I bury my head in the clouds and cry
Because I’m freezing cold and can’t let go.