Wednesday, January 05, 2011

The New Year Rising and the Helm of Dreams

For Kenny, after reading about libraries and Neil Gaiman's marriage

How I loved him. Every night, waiting so eagerly to slip into sleep, easy as a scalded peach slips its skin – but of course, he was only a figment of fiction and I could hope, I could dream that perhaps I’d see his eyes as I’d written in a story so long ago.

Dream’s eyes. The Corinthian had none, only sockets capable of so much blood.

How she loved him, Jade the White-Haired. She’s found in no canon other than the long-forgotten annals of role-play in the Endless’ extensive universe – a demon in the shell of a scorned, betrayed girl, each tattoo on her beautiful, tebori-marked body a soul that she’d claimed. And of course, she fell in love with eyes that were pools of shadow with glimmers of light within. She didn’t mean to, but she did, and every night in sleep she would wait to see them. Hope for them to appear.

Her secret that she likely carried to the ends of forever, this. When the role-play universe of that world ended, she walked hand-in-hand with Dream and vanished into the distance, united at last with the one she had grown to love so well. I like to think that she was happy at last, and that she gave him pleasure too, the time they spent together.

A beautiful fiction invented to keep out the cold, to quote Vienna Teng’s beautiful ballad Blue Caravan. I too wanted to escape the mundane and search for the exotic, the fantastical, the greener grass on the other side of some mythical pasture far across the sea. Well. I can’t say ‘wanted’ when I still do, really.

The legacy of Dream’s Helm, isn’t it? Finding it buried in the corners of the mind deliberately left untouched for years, not being able to resist the temptation to pick it up and slip it on despite the bony spine, the bulbous skull, the alien, almost frightening appearance.

Because in the end, the need to dream, to wish, to yearn for, is sometimes as necessary as breath. Old desires, long-suppressed, sternly forgotten against one’s will, bubbling slowly to the surface in an instant of unexpected trigger – news of an old friend, now a successful author and recording artiste; the marriage of a writer/artist whom you’d always harboured a secret crush on; the jet-setting, exciting lives of acquaintances and more friends; the plans of dear ones.

None of it bad, of course, no such thing – in fact, you’re thrilled for them – but the secret little yearning reaches its tendrils out and tugs at the heart, whispering, ‘You wanted that life too, many, many dreaming ago. Now look where you are...’

So many heart-burnings. So many acid recriminations against the self, against the workings of the life you’re leading, against how mundane it all seems compared to the rest.

And yet – and yet – a little small still voice floats up from the depths of the envy abyss yawning in front of you, like hope in Pandora’s box.

Lives, it says. Your students. The lives you teach in this new life you’ve begun by accident and continued by choice. The ones that you can perhaps can make a difference to, the ones whom you have made a difference to.

I weigh them, as I’ve weighed them again and again – my life now, my students, my work, against the words I always dreamed of writing, the unknown artist I dreamed of marrying, the life I might have had if only I’d stayed in another country instead of returning home.

And what I know now, as I knew then but refused to accept, was that contentment is learned. It is a decision not based on the heart, but rooted in commitment and the surety that a life can count, if you make it do so.

So I sit here, holding Dream’s Helm between my hands – so heavy and smooth, this marvel of bone and memory! – and I wish the abyss away, close it with a decision. I’ll do it many, many times in the days and months that make up the year.

Because whatever else I might have dreamed and yearned for, this life counts, and I make it count only if I seize each day, each year of it and keep moving on. More often than not it’s plodding and trudging, but I have made my choice on what I value and what matters in the long run – and with that, comes contentment and peace with myself.

The Helm is heavy on my head, comfortable even. It promises flight and new dreams and even journeys into the past, pleasant or unpleasant. Oh I’ll indulge, I know - I can’t help it, I might even linger a little in those dark, familiar depths.

But I won’t be confined there. I must keep moving. Because in the end, life is short and the lives along the way are precious, and there is work to be done – and that, I think, is what matters.


Daniel said...

As you are about the only person who posts on my blog I feel inclined to post on yours :)

I agree with the sentiment of this and can say 'I've been there' to a degree and perhaps I'm still there to another degree.

Anyway, in my experience I have found that there have been things that I really (really) wanted that God just wouldn't give to me at the time. I found it very frustrating, but in hindsight I can actually say I am glad He didnt, because He had something so much better for me. Like the Psalm says, 'Trust in me and I will give you the desires of your heart'.

So I agree with what you said about making every day count but I encourage you to keep dreaming (in the right way) because God wants to give you great and perfect things that are better than things you didn't get :)

Shuku said...

Amen to that, Daniel - it's been a year of learning, I hope for it to be an even better year of good things. I'm learning to keep dreaming, because it's been hard to, but...yes. You're right. Great and perfect things, so much better - and in His time, not ours. Thank you for the reminder. :)

Kenny Mah said...

This is what struck me the most: Your past dreams (no pun intended) of marrying a writer or an artist did not come to pass. And we ask, So? Indeed, we may even ask, So what?

For we are immersed in waves upon waves of your words and your artistry - your writing and your creations - that we wonder, Why marry a writer or an artist, when you can become one yourself?

Why dream those old dreams, when you have become these persons already? You are a writer, my friend. You are an artist. You are a creator. And we are all the more fortunate for this. :)

Shuku said...

Kenny my dear, thank you. *hugs* You inspire me, always, and you believe in even the craziest things that I set my heart to do, with or without reason. Rich? Who needs rich when I have friends like you and Daniel? :) If I had to make a comparison between the Sultan of Brunei and myself? I think I still come out the winner because of it.

Kenny Mah said...

Yes, you shall and will come out the winner. Not least because you have no need for gold-plated toilet bowl seats. :P

Shuku said... toilet bowl seats??

Wow. D'ye know how many pairs of earrings/necklaces/lengths of gold wire I could get out of that ONE TOILET SEAT?

Stop putting evil ideas in my head, man! :P

Kenny Mah said...

See? That's why you're better off already. You're not wasteful.

As they say, waste not, want not. :)

Shuku said...

You realise that if I ever have a chance to burgle places that have gold-plated toilet bowl seats, I'm dragging you along to help.

Kenny Mah said...

I can help you carry your tools? Hehe.

Shuku said...

You're on, buddy ;) *grins*

The less the merrier in this case, and a lot of sneakiness a'la Rorschach.

Kenny Mah said...

It'd take quite a bit of sneakiness to out-sneak Rorschach. :P

Shuku said...

Gotta love the man. I know I do, the cynical punk. Mmmmmmm. Oh yes. MMMMMM.

Snickering Corpses said...

Well, Daniel said everything I was thinking of saying when I clicked on the comments link. Very well said, sir.

I shall only add that it is a thrill to see God freeing you from some of the chains of past regrets you've long carried. That has been prayed for for quite some time.

So instead of weightier matters, I shall spend my time thinking about golden toilet seat pilfering. Could you fit golden toilet seats in a bass case? They'd be a little big for a violin case. Hmm.