Red Light Existential Crisis

We are born through no effort of our own, with a mind and body we have neither chosen nor own. And, all of a sudden, this thought begins to morph, slowly, into a worm that wriggles its way through the crevasses of the mind. A magnificent organ, soiled effortlessly.

It may not be an existential crisis worthy of the philosophers I studied but it is an angst that quietly gnaws away at my consciousness. Long, grey nails on a bony hand picking away at the chipped paint on my walls. Tk. Tk. A soothing activity for the hand, I’m sure, but I am experiencing exposure and vulnerability.

I’m waiting. I know exactly what for but I will never tell. I know that some of what I wait for will not come to me and I cannot simply go out and grab it. So I slowly and painfully let it go. A mourning process of sorts ensues. If I were a fisherman, I’d release my line into the ocean to disintegrate where I know the spool will accomplish more in death than it ever would in life for me. I learn, and I let go.

Still, I have not begun to live. Twenty-eight years of life and I recognize that the vast majority was spent waiting. Subtly, but still very actively, waiting. Herein lies the crisis, bringing the basis of my existence into question. I have existed for years, created without permission, plagued by a feeling of needing to earn the right to… well, exist. Something about being given what one did not ask for, whether good or bad, creates a sense of responsibility over what has been given. What do you intend to do with it? How do I laugh with Sisyphus, look Nietzsche in the eye and say, “Yes, I would live this life over”?
The angst this creates is almost unbearable – I am chained yet free. I am nothing and everything all at once. The world I have envisioned is not the one I am in. I can either disregard or honor the difference. I am both an idealist and a realist.

And then, when the feeling finally subsides, I emerge from the depths of a murky lake. Baptized through my own suffering, the feeling of near-suffocation dispels the impurities in my lungs. Breaking through the water’s surface, breathing in deeply and urgently, I realize that I will never be loved by another more than I love myself. The fault may either be mine for loving myself too much or another’s for not being capable of loving me enough. And yet this all may not be entirely true. Either way, I am often at a red light, irritated yet unphased. Curious and anxious. The waters of my own reality splashing around me, taunting me mercilessly with the thoughts that while I may very well be Poseidon, these waters may very well be godless.

© Leila Chammas, January 18, 2017.

My Brother Died Twice

I don’t understand why I see the things I do in the middle of the night. I just know that they petrify me. The bits I’ve managed to remember alone terrify me and I’m thankful for what I’ve forgotten.

My brother, almost 3 years my senior, was in a basement with a bullet that had pierced through his stomach. The wound had perforated his body creating a massive crater in the middle of his body. Inactive, silent. Just a gaping, crimson hole. It was as if a massive bullet – a menacing and oversized Bullet Bill – had crashed into his back and with full pressure, thrust itself out the other side. Like a jar of packed jam. The glutton ruining its perfection by scooping the insides with his three plump fingers, licking them voraciously, staring at that gaping, crimson hole, a testament to his greed.

A man, a sacerdotal man, sat beside my brother and tended to his wounds. He was sleeping, somehow alive, perhaps comatose. Stretched out on a makeshift hospital bed in a dim room with pale green walls the color of sickness and despair.

Fade to wakefulness.

My brother, again, sleeping, somehow alive, perhaps comatose. This time, a bullet to his head. This time, I approached the religious man tending to his wound, and angrily yet fearfully exclaimed, “If you don’t save him, I will kill you!” I felt utter desperation. Looking at my brother, being watched by a man of God with no discernible medical training, in an inexplicably puke-green room, no indication as to how my brother became injured or who the other man was – nothing. I was simply in a situation, reacting to it, not understanding it, and experiencing great fear through every second of it.

And somewhere in between everything, my favorite mirror broke. No, shattered. I touched it as I usually do, and it simply fell apart. A thousand little pieces of magnified glass crumbled with the utmost ease while the other side of the mirror was none the wiser to the destruction of its other half.

***

They say in Lebanon, that if you dream that someone died, you have renewed their life. Last night, my brother died twice. Today, he will live twice more.

© Leila Chammas, December 31, 2016.

A Boxer, a Van, and a Tortoise.

I was standing in an open garage and looked out to the front lawn to see a white plastic table, about 3 feet tall, with a huge tortoise on top of it. It was hidden inside its shell. To the right, a dusty, emerald-green minivan parked at an angle. Not accidentally or with any indication of emergency. Rather, it was parked calmly and eerily with intention at an angle. An aging boxer was remarkably sitting in the driver’s seat, the fur on his face had faded to white around his eyes and jowls.

I walked over to the van and the boxer jumped out of the open window and stood, barking at me. Two cars passed by – one red, one blue. I don’t think there was any significance in the coloring of the vehicles; I just happened to remember them. I tried to coax the dog to approach me so that I might grab his leash. However, in a flash, he had jumped into another car, crashed it into the side of the garage, and was running through the open garage door and into the house, an excessively long leash trailing behind him. Meanwhile the tortoise, still hidden in its shell, had turned itself to face me as I watched, in shock, a dog I could not command run with a speed I could not match, through a house I was not in. Inside, they shrieked and screamed.

I wasn’t afraid of the boxer. I was worried he would get hurt, confused by the tortoise on the plastic table, and mystified by the parked van.

I then woke up, stressed, as I often do.

© Leila Chammas, December 22, 2016.

Gratitude in a List

A non-exhaustive list – in no particular order – of things, people, and experiences I am grateful for. Some eternally, some momentarily:

  • My health.
  • Myself.
  • Solitude.
  • Silence.
  • The time a bird flew close to my car while I was driving and, for a few seconds, it was like we were traveling together.
  • The rabbit we saw in a park in NY, the one that knew something.
  • CN – for being one of very few people who makes me genuinely laugh out loud. I love you and am so grateful you are my friend.
  • RZ – for bearing witness to insanity  and making it tolerable.
  • Music.
  • My P-Knot and the P-Knot crew, for being kind.
  • Philosophy.
  • My car.
  • Warmth.
  • DC – for being a friend.
  • Every animal that has ever existed, particularly those I’ve petted.
  • The internet.
  • Roger the Alien for being hilarious.
  • The gentleman who kindly asked me to smile when he saw me walking during my 2015 graduation ceremony.
  • The time I was on hold for over an hour with a company notorious for its shoddy customer service but ended up talking to someone knowledgeable.
  • The solo drive I took to Canada.
  • That bit of blubber over a shar pei’s nose.
  • ASMR.
  • Socks.
  • New Orleans.
  • Learning about introversion and knowing it’s okay to possess it; INTJ.
  • Ocarina of Time and Resident Evil 4.
  • Existentialism.
  • American Horror Story, Seasons 1 – 4.
  • TF.
  • Everything that broke my heart, before it broke my heart.
  • My threader earrings.
  • Riddles.
  • Silence. Solitude.

© Leila Chammas, December 20, 2016.

Over A Decade of My Life in Songs

Certain songs remind me of a certain time in my life, whether it be good or bad. These are some of those songs:

High School
2002: Freshman year
Stacie Orrico + More to Life
Avril Lavigne + I’m With You

2003: Sophomore year
The Used + All That I’ve Got
Simple Plan + Perfect
The Killers + Mr. Brightside

2004: Junior year
Blink 182 + Always
Blink 182 + I Miss You
Evanescence + My Immortal
Counting Crows + A Murder of One

2005: Senior year 
Alanis Morissette + Everything
Third Eye Blind + Jumper

Undergrad
2006: Freshman year
Hanson: When You’re Gone
Bill Withers + Ain’t No Sunshine

2007: Sophomore year
Counting Crows + Round Here
Dave Matthews Band + Crash Into Me
David Gray + This Year’s Love

2008: Junior year
Fiona Apple + Never Is A Promise
Björk + Hunter

2009: Senior year
Alice Smith + Dream
Segal + Skins Theme Tune
Crystal Castles + Alice Practice
Kanye West ft. T-Pain + Good Life

2010: Graduation  
Augustana + Boston
Joe Budden + Black Cloud

2011
Antony and the Johnsons / Anohni + Bird Gerhl
2NE1 + It Hurts

2012 
Gotye ft. Kimbra + Somebody That I Used To Know 
Pogo + Wishery
Pogo + Alice

Grad School
2013: First year
Rihanna + Man Down
Nas & Damian Marley + Nah Mean
Cab Calloway + St. James Infirmary Blues
Grimes + Genesis

2014: Second year
Amy Winehouse + Back To Black
Lana Del Rey + Ride
Lana Del Rey + National Anthem

Post-Grad 
2015

Tove Lo + Habits
Disclosure ft. London Grammar + Help Me Lose My Mind

2016
Mabel + Thinking of You
WSTRN + In2
Claude Debussy + La Mer
Rihanna + Love On The Brain

© Leila Chammas, December 16, 2016

Aztec Nightmare

I was driving down a main street and I distinctly remember thinking it was dark out far too early, even for wintertime in New England. The sky was vast and charcoal grey. But it wasn’t just dark, it was empty. There was a contagious feeling of hopelessness permeating the atmosphere, one that was unmistakably signified by a sun that had refused to rise. An Aztec nightmare coming to fruition. The feeling seeped down from the sky, a godless abomination clawing its way into me. Trickling down from my head to my toes, I was filled with angst and the kind of sadness that floods the body and morphs into depression with heavy determination.

I was the sky.

I was driving towards doom, into a dim sky. Everything was stopping. The sun had not risen. It wasn’t temporary; we knew that that was it. The sun didn’t just not rise, it had stopped rising altogether. That was the end and I was somehow existing beyond it.

In my sleep, I felt it all for a mere few minutes but remembered it for days.

© Leila Chammas, December 14, 2016

On Emptiness

on-emptiness
Yesterday, I felt like a jar.

All of a sudden, for a few moments, I felt utterly empty. Gutted out clean. Not a morsel of my being left, even if only to serve as a testament to what used to be. It was as if every disappointment and every loss I had ever felt was imposing the weight of what could have and should have been onto me. A vacuum, declaring its presence not by its substance but by the absence it creates.

I am suspended on a string in space. I have nothing. I am nothing. I am nowhere. It were as if the apex of an existential crisis exploded in my lungs and settled in particles and pieces to rise again unexpectedly, like surprise confetti.

For a few painful minutes, I felt like a jar. A glass jar. See through, empty, full of potential but no fruition. For a few painful minutes, what lay dormant in my lungs rose with a vengeance to remind me of its existence and then settled… like dust at the bottom of a jar.

© Leila Chammas, November 30, 2016
Photo taken 11/30/16