Month: July 2013

Strength of a Woman

Things irk me. I wish it were as simple as saying they annoy me but when it comes to womanhood, the things that make me feel like being a woman is a burden, a curse, something to be ashamed of, hurt me in a rather unique way.

Most days I’m okay with the fact that, going out into the world, logging onto a social network, hell, going on Yahoo, means I need to switch off internally to a certain degree and get ready for hostility. Being a Woman is much like being a warrior, even when you aren’t actively at war, you’re ready to fight.  And sometimes, I wish it wasn’t that way. Some days I get tired of fighting.

You can only ignore so much, I find, til you probably have to break down, then wipe the slate clean and start again. Start registering more hate and more pain and more of what comes with being who you are, where you are, and what you are.

Women aren’t meant to complain. And by “complain” I mean be honest and vocal about what hurts them, or what hurts anyone else. We are everyone’s punching bag. Everyone’s dump site. Everyone’s maid, lover, stress ball..Anyone’s anything.

Facelessly.

Silently.

I wonder, if it weren’t for “radical” friends, books, social media, all the ways women show support to and for other women, how many women would know they actually exist?

As people and not Lesser Beings.

How many would know they need to be their own Everything and not someone’s something?

I realize I’m faceless when I’m harassed on the street. There I’m just another body.

I realize I’m faceless when I’m shamed and stared at for my shorts or cleavage or walking a certain way.  To them, I’m just another [young] woman being nasty and disgusting. Something to hate and judge.

I realize I’m faceless when my parents tell me I’m a disappointment. To them, I’m just a dream gone wrong.

I realize I’m voiceless when I try to explain [myself].

When I come home, dead tired, and have to cook because I’m a woman. When  my brother, who’s 11, does nothing more than fry drumsticks every two months because “he’s still a baby” and I’ve been cooking for all of them since the same age. I realize I am just an able [female] body then.

When I hear the many variations of “dark skinned VS light skinned women” and I’m told I’m alright because I’m light, I know  to some men, we’re just colours with vaginas.

The arguments over what a woman should look like or be. We aren’t people,bodies,women..we’re clay everyone thinks they have the right to mould.

And how do you think it feels to live in a society that only acknowledgeS you exist when either degrading, dismissing or dehumanizing you?

To work at enlightening and emancipating people who think you’re silly?

What it’s like to live when you’re dead in other people’s eyes.

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Who are you living for?

I’m yet to meet a person who announces to the world that they’re going to change their life and actually does.  From drug addicts to layabouts, people pleasers to assholes, they all at some point proclaim “I’m done. From now on, there’s a new me” and I don’t know whether this New version of them malfunctions or it’s simply never created, but I’ve never encountered it.

Why people feel the need to proclaim their personal, internal changes to the world is beyond me. I guess in a society where we feel the need to share pictures of our food, the fact that we’re going to urinate and even that one is considering shaving, it was bound to come.

If eye rolling were an exercise, I’d have the fittest eyes around.  I probably do it too often  as I read these proclamations and promises to Future Selves, passive aggressive words heavy with urgency and defeat.

“From now on I no longer care what anyone else has to say. It’s about me now. I want to better myself and change into the person I’m meant to be.”

And that’s all good and well. Lovely.

But why tell the world what you won’t tell yourself?

I find more often than not, such people want affirmation and acknowledgement from others. Sometimes, simply, attention.

The “I quit drinking” every Sunday morning people.

The “I no longer want to have meaningless sex” and yet still having one night stands on the sly people.

The “From now on I’m gonna be confident” but I’m only saying that so you people acknowledge I said it people.

“You don’t get cookies for doing what you’re supposed to do.”

I don’t think people understand this.

You aren’t entitled to a standing ovation for bettering yourself as a person. Not for doing what’s best for yourself, no, you don’t.

I understand that for most people, they want some sort of reward for going through distress but honestly, even when it comes to doing something for yourself that you feel you’ll benefit from?

Why should your relationship with your Self include other people? See, this is where people get it wrong. We’re so busy being out of ourselves and in the world, whether on the internet or otherwise, that we forget that We are all we have.

That’s why we have people who can’t make a decision without someone else’s input, even if it’s a stranger.

That’s why we have those “Wanna dye my hair. Red or purple?” people.

Those “I want to sleep but I’m hungry. What do you think I should do guys?” people.

I feel these kinds of people are exactly like those who want to tell the world about their decision to do something that affects no one but themselves.

People who constantly ask for advice irk me. I feel like they make you responsible for their life and that, in my eyes, is not only disrespectful, it’s a lot of pressure that the next person doesn’t need. No one needs to be living someone else’s life on their behalf.

If you are one of these people I ask you, why?

How difficult is it to ask yourself about things that are only your business and see how you feel about it?

How difficult is it to be responsible to and for yourself?

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Just A Taste: On Sex, Sleazebag Cheating and Why Some Men Are Still Nice

“I’m a very faithful guy hey. I’m one of the most faithful guys around” he says to me as we lay in his bed at 4 in the morning.  Words that would please any girl and send her heart beating in her chest, attempting to jump out and hug him for being so amazing.  Except I’m not his girlfriend. My hands wrapped around a vodka bottle as I attempt to taste the citrus that’s supposed to be in it, I say “Yeah..I bet your girlfriend thinks so. Yep. That must be why I’M in your bed right now” and  he looks uneasy. I laugh and we discuss the beautiful things Life tends to hand us that we feel compelled to destroy.

“Why do men cheat?” has been used to sell magazines since before I was born, with jaded women and defensive men alike attempting to reveal the intricacies or simple truths behind the act.

“They all do. They’re dogs” they say.

“They just don’t know how to be with one woman. It’s not you. It’s not him either. It just IS.”

“It’s in a man’s nature to conquer and explore.”

Or sometimes.. probably more often than I’d care to admit “It’s not him. It’s you. What are YOU doing to drive him out?”

I know some very nice men. Decent. They respect their women. They adore them. Their partners are happy and when they’re together, they create images worthy of a thousand Tumblr reblogs. To quote the young ones, they’re “Perf.”

But these men cheat.

Their partners don’t know it. These men hardly ever acknowledge it, and even when they do, would never call it what it is. “Cheating” is sleazy. But they do.

It’s usually premeditated.  It starts off with playful flirting as he wonders whether he actually CAN do this, and possibly fights his feelings of guilt. Because you see, his Lady is lovely, she really is.  She understands him and motivates him to be a better man. She could possibly be the future mother of his kids. But right now, he just wants something new. Something different. This one time, he feels an overwhelming urge to satisfy his curiosity and man, it’ll just be once.  Once he decides, it’s on to the propositioning.

I find they feel more comfortable exploring infidelity with a close friend rather  than a random girl found at a party.  Possibly because said friend would respect their relationship and not slander the “Wifey” or make the act seem more than it actually is: sex.   A friend I guess would be much more comfortable for them, seeing as they could rationalize the guilt away or minimize it using the age old “It was just a friend helping out another friend.”

And wasn’t it though?

I understand.

It’s usually a once off thing.  He doesn’t want to leave her, not even close. He’s happy and so is she. He simply wants to satisfy his curiosity. Look at it this way, I adore Toni Morrison’s work. At some point I read 4 of her books straight simply because I wanted to take her in, all of her.  I then took a break, read Charles Bukowski and went back to Ms Morrison.  Is that an issue? Is it something to be ashamed of? No. I think not.

 

And yes, relationships are different, I know. But monotony is rather irksome.

The only issue I see here is the deceit, but that’s the way it has to be.

Because let’s be honest, how many of us would believe it if our partner said they wanted to have sex with someone else once a year? Just once. How many of us would accept it?

 

There’s a difference between a man who wanders once in a while, out of curiosity, and a serial cheater with an insatiable appetite who insists on settling into relationships and dragging his partners through his mess.  Are they both cheaters?  Yeah, sure, but they have different reasons  for and methods of cheating. One isn’t as messy, selfish and sleazy as the other, and I think that matters.

The way a man chooses to cheat says a lot about the kind of man that he is. Which is why when some people do what they do, I understand, and to me, that remorse, even if it’s shame for following your desires, means something.  The fact that that person cares about the consequences of their actions and weighs everything out.  The fact that, to him, it’s not just “Me, Me, Me” it’s “Me, Me, Me, but if I mess up, what about Her?”

I’m not trying to say “Cheating is okay if you’re sorry you did it to an extent”, not at all, the point I’m trying to make is, certain things, once understood, aren’t as evil as we could perceive them to be from face value.

 

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Martin Taught Me

No, not Luther King, Lawrence.

He was Madea before Tyler Perry.

Sans the perpetuating of all Black stereotypes and monotonous story-lines.

Here’s a list of things Martin taught me with a wig, press-on nails and lots of sass.

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1. When it comes to trans people, refer to them as they’d like to be referred to.

We all knew Martin was Sheneneh. Sure. It was evident. But I love how no one, at any point in time made any negative remarks or questioned her authenticity as a woman.

That was a valuable lesson I think he was trying to get across.

Gina: Maybe I can give you some advice on girl stuff or something like that..

Sheneneh: …You thinking like your friend huh? That I ain’t ladylike and stuff huh?

Gina: No, that is not true. Look at your hair, your nails and your jewelry, I think you’re very ladylike.

Sheneneh: Because Sheneneh is a round the way fillet.

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Respect it.

2. “If a man don’t like you for you then he can just step off, aiiiite?”

3. When it comes to drinking 40s.. Or if you’re down here, Black Label quarts, you don’t drink it outta the glass, you got to take it to the head. 

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4.  Sometimes 

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5.  “Don’t be trying to trip, if you ain’t rich. Sheneneh ain’t no trick. Better have a grip. And if you ain’t got no rims on your hooptie, don’t be tryna scoop me.”

If you don’t understand..the message is similar to Destiny Child’s “Independent women”. Basically.

6. Never be afraid to tell someone you’ll buss their ass. Even if you never actually do.

7. You better work. 

Sheneneh was a focused woman.  A weave technician with her own salon and designer weaves, including the “My man just got paid” weave. She also had numerous awards from hair shows.

Work.

8. Know you’re Fine, don’t need anyone to tell you. Know you’re Fine.

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9. Don’t be that person

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Very valid message actually, just overlook the threat at the end.

10. Evaluate everything.

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Things I’ll probably never fully understand: Men, Race and Gender

  1. What it’s like to be  a Man

It’s easy to complain about men’s behaviour isn’t it? So many of them mess up so effortlessly when interacting with women.  If one isn’t calling you a bitch he’s groping you or one of the straight ones is going on about how “homos” are an abomination. They’re quick to point out how they don’t do certain things because they’re “not bitches”, think feminists “are just angry lesbians” and when out, it’s shocking to find one who isn’t getting sloppy drunk, sexually harassing a woman or looking for a fight.

Now no, I’m not saying that ALL men do this, I’m saying a lot do. Too many.

And some genuinely have no remorse. Some think this is what it means to be a Man.  Some are unwilling to grow.

Why? Because this  is what they’ve been taught it means to be a Real Man. These are the thoughts that’ve been ingrained into their minds.

A man doesn’t cry.

A man doesn’t read books that aren’t about nude women, sex or money.  Wondering about the World and feelings is for women and homosexuals.

Nobody’s opinion matters more than a heterosexual man’s.

You need to be your own man, but only as long as your father and society approves.

Do not feel. Do not think anything you haven’t been told to think. Do not be anything other than what you’ve been told to be.

And a lot of men refuse to acknowledge that they aren’t living for themselves. That they live with a chronic fear of being considered feminine because, whether they’ll admit it or not they believe a woman is a horrible thing to be.  That it gets heavy sometimes, having to always be on your toes because someone may catch you slipping and wearing pink, only to question your sexuality.

That they’re often confused and feel confined by the word “Man.”

With the help of one, I have little difficulty understanding their experiences and their behaviour. I encourage my male friends to explore their feelings. To be honest about their desires, their fears and their dreams. To draw the line between What Society Wants and their Wants.  And there, I’ve found a lot of pain. A lot of confusion.

A lot of women are guilty of stripping males of their humanity too. Girlfriends who laugh when their partners cry or confide in them, mothers who tell their sons to “man up”, there’s always someone ready to continue the process of dehumanizing the Man, and yet who complains when said Man begins to act like the animal he’s been led to believe he is.

Men need healing too. They need acceptance too and for us to acknowledge their struggles with identity etc. They need to be taught.

I know some of you, especially women, are reading this and saying “Well they don’t do that for us” and I know, they don’t. Some of them are lost causes. But some men really do want to be better. They know there’s more to Life than being “Real”. If you come across one, nurture them. Is all I’m saying.

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2.  What it’s like to be Black, In America

“Diaspora”. I first heard the word in High School as my History teacher discussed “the African diaspora”. The conversation led to how hard life must be for Black people  in America. We all rolled our eyes.

What was he on? Evidently someone didn’t listen to Hip Hop. Hadn’t he seen all the sexy women with long weaves chilling outsides their yards, hanging out with their high yella lovers as kids played on the streets and expensive cars passed by with drug dealers behind the seat? Hadn’t he ever witnessed that Utopia? Well..yeah..random shoot outs would occur and that was sad..Yes, Tupac said it was rough over there but..It couldn’t be THAT bad, right? Right?

We thought for a long time that because America was “civilized”, because everything that we knew to symbolize success came from there or was somehow connected to it and the American Dream, it wasn’t possible for anyone to be unhappy there.

We thought Black Americans were ungrateful.

You need to understand, we got to see them through the eyes of the privileged White people who create the shows and the videos.

So we thought: Thugs. Prostitutes. Crackheads. Drug dealers. A few trying to make it out of the hood. Black on Black violence.  Unappreciative. Lazy.

We were led to believe the circumstances that many live under were of their own doing. That America, the land of Milk and Honey, provided equal opportunities to everyone. Everything was there, the Blacks just wouldn’t get up and take it because they still believed they were victims, that they were still being oppressed.

Delusional Blacks, living in the past. Tut tut.

It wasn’t until I stopped paying attention to the media that I began to somewhat understand the effects of oppression, the difference between what Is and What’s Shown etc. Social networking sites began my growth as a person, as a person of colour, as a woman, and for that, I’m eternally grateful. Meeting and interacting with not just African Americans but Black South Africans and hearing their stories made me appreciate my country and experiences that much more, as I understood theirs.

Botswana’s never really had any hostile experiences. Our country’s filled with Batswana and to be honest, most of us are shocked to see White people among us walking.  They’re an addition to our society, we aren’t an addition to theirs. We don’t know what it’s like to be Othered.  To be treated as Less Than. To be viewed as parasites in our own Land.

When the Trayvon Martin case began, some ignored it because they felt many more kids had been murdered, why focus on one? But I remember someone saying it would be an iconic case and we all waited to see whether that would be true.

Zimmerman was acquitted.

The case was simple. We all knew.

He saw a young Black man walking, he stalked him, confronted him and murdered him.

And he was let go.

It’s not that we didn’t know chances were this would occur, it’s that many were hoping it wouldn’t.

Now?

The racists are coming out to play.

Black boys are scared.

The Black community is outraged.

Simply, the facade is falling apart.

I cried.

I still do.

It’s heavy. It’s heavy on the heart and it’s heavy on the Soul.

I continue to watch this all unravel.

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3. What it’s like to feel like a stranger in your own body

Growing up I thought you were either a man or a woman. It was that simple to many. If you’re a woman, act like one, is you’re a man, act like one.

I didn’t acknowledge the Trans community til later on in Life, and even then, even now, it’s still something I’m learning about. Someone explained it to me simply “I just don’t feel comfortable this way. It doesn’t feel like who I am. Who I should be” and it’s something I still think about.

To a lot of people, the fact that they can’t relate means they should  reject something.  I thinks it’s silly.  I don’t relate to your struggle but that doesn’t mean that I shouldn’t understand it.

One of my closest friends is undergoing hormone treatment. When she told me she intended to go along with it, she was cautious. I could shun her. I could tell her it was a waste. I could tell her anything that would dismiss her feelings and crush her spirit. I understood why she tiptoed around it.

My main concern? Was she sure? Would it make her happy? Then sure.

We already live in a society that’s dismissive, you don’t need to be one more person who’s a total asshole to  people because they aren’t like/don’t feel like you.

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I’ve had my own experiences as an African Cisgender Woman, and I am always aware of what and who I am. I appreciate it. But I’m always fully aware of the fact that there are so many more stories out there. An endless array of feelings and experiences that I’ll never fully feel, and I appreciate that too.

The World is larger and more diverse than your existence and your experiences, I’ve learned.

You, Yourself and You

“Life’s all about progression and transformation” I said as I passed the beer bottle over to a friend, wondering whether in this very moment, I was progressing.   Which led me to wonder if one has to be progressing all the time, and if you weren’t, were you falling back?

 

If Life’s taught me anything, it’s that it goes hand in hand with Loss.  Sometimes you push things out of your Life, and other times, they just go.  Friends come and go, dreams come and go, thoughts come and go.  I always marvel at how, despite the fact that we know change is the only constant in Life, we can’t seem to embrace it and go with it.  We’re always looking for some sort of stability.  We keep clothes that will never fit us, buy brands we’re used to, regardless of whether or not they do what they’re supposed to, and keep relationships that no longer do anything for us.

 

Eliminate things that no longer evolve you. — Erykah badu

 

I’ve been observing my relationships with people in my Life and wondering whether I truly need them there, trying to figure out if I need what they bring to the table. Birds of a feather flock together and as I observe some of them I realize, they simply don’t know how to Live, how to take responsibility for their lives, how to stand alone. How to exist as a lone being, and for me, that’s a necessity.

I believe in the importance of individuality, independence. You need to know how to be alone, how to think for yourself, how to grow on your own, what to take in and put out to keep growing.  Stagnancy is a trap, it’s a cage you don’t even know you’re in sometimes.  I know.

I’ve spent close to a year, maybe slightly more, at home, terrified of growing up. Of making any decisions, of living, because I was afraid I’d mess up.  As each day passed, I seemed to find more and more reasons as to why I should simply wait to die.  The possible shame of making a “wrong” life decision [which in this case, was about my academic life] weighed on me before I even bothered to CONSIDER what I’d do.

To many, that was a year wasted. I could’ve done so much in that time, right?

Gotten an online diploma maybe.  Found a job. Hell, gotten married.

But no, none of that.

I cried, I read, I thought, and I repeated all of this. And to quote Anais Nin “And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.”

I got sick of seeing my face in the morning with the same uncertain look. I spent hours upon hours arguing with myself about what We want to do, who we want to be, and eventually, I put myself together.  Now, I appreciate all the uncertainty, all the time I felt I was wasting. I grew.

 

For many of us, it takes a lot before we can let go.  We don’t know when to, nor how to. We don’t know when a situation has run it’s course and even when it begins to hurt, we tell ourselves it’s a test to see whether we’re truly committed. Sometimes, that’s simply Life showing you that it’s done now. Some things, I dare say, most things, aren’t worth fighting for, especially if you aren’t even sure you want them.

In Setswana, there’s a saying that goes “Se nkganang se nthola morwalo”, which basically means, whatever repels me only relieves me of a burden.  Words to live by, don’t you think?

 

Most people will never be too ashamed to pass their burdens on to you.  Nor to bring, or keep, you down. A lot of people wouldn’t care if your mental maturity never goes past this point.  But you know, that’s them. It’s up to you to see to it that you become More.  And that will be your responsibility to yourself for as long as you’re here.

 

Who are you? What do you want? Do the people in your Life want the same for you? Will they help you become who you want to be? Are they people you’d like to be like?

You need to ask yourself.

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The Fall: On Greatness, Society and being a Sociopath

Last night I wondered, how much work do you have to put in til they [the public] consider you one of the Greats? This was prompted by seeing someone’s list of the current greatest rappers alive, with Kendrick Lamar on it.  Kendrick is fairly new to the scene as compared to the others on it, those considered veterans such as Nas, Eminem and Jay Z, but for someone, actually, a lot of people, he’s already there.

 

It got me thinking about his work.  He’s a decent rapper. He has the ability to be both ignorant and insightful, something many find difficult lately, or are simply too lazy to do.  But then, how can we consider him a Great?  I think it all boils down to the fact that we’ve grown accustomed to accepting what’s Less Than so when something’s mediocre, average and should be the bare necessity for any artist, to simple NOT be one-sided, we celebrate it like it’s the best thing ever. 

But that’s not the issue here.

One of the answers that I got to that question [I tweeted it] was “You have to die.”

 

You have to die for people to appreciate the true extent of your brilliance.

You have to no longer be able to create, for them to look back on your past work and see how amazing it is.

Isn’t that some shit?

People only see your excellence when they have to catch up and take all the time in the world analyzing it.

So, what I gathered from this is:

  • Most times, if you’re truly great, chances are, the majority won’t appreciate you, and if they do, it’s not immediate.
  • If you’re Great, you don’t create for the public. 
  • When you begin to create for the public, you have to sell out. Water it down. Come down to their level.

On death.

 

I understood the surface meaning, but then I thought of one of my favorite artists, The Weeknd.  He’s very much alive, well, in the physical sense, but what any fan can tell you is, Abel Tesfaye [The Weeknd] is far from alive internally.  

 

He is a man incapable of love, yet somewhat envious of those who can feel it.  We aren’t sure why he is as he is, we don’t know what happened to make the man switch off internally, but what we do know is, whereas he shuns the women who seek to love him romantically, he appreciates his fans, though he remains fully aware of the fact that they could leave at any moment.  It sounds like a sad existence doesn’t it? To most people it would. It’s easy to pity him because many of us feel our lives are only worth the love we receive.

I used to think so too. I understand why you may be shaking your hand as you “tsk tsk”, but let me tell you a little something about being an emotional person, and an artist..

Things hurt you in a deeper way than they would the average person.  Heartbreak stays with you, you force yourself to keep it on the surface, sometimes for inspiration, sometimes to feel like you have a colorful story, sometimes because you simply don’t know what to do with it.

I think to such people, every relationship, every interaction with a person, is a story in itself, and when it doesn’t end well, it’s a tragedy, not a simple end to a relationship.  

Everything is greater than it is. Nothing is ever what it is and to be honest, we don’t get over things.

You reach a point where you tire of constantly having to fix yourself and tell yourself this is simply Life. When you get tired of feeling like a mess who overreacts to everything. Of doubting your sanity, of wondering if there’s anything wrong with you because you can’t ever seem to find Peace.

And maybe, you decide to switch off. 

You decide your body can’t take the sleepless nights anymore.  Your heart can’t take the pressure and you can’t keep up with all this mess. You can’t constantly feel like you aren’t coping, and so you stop it.

Now, it’s not immediate.  It’s a gradual process. It’s constantly detaching yourself from anything that might take too much from you, anything you might feel the need to give yourself to.  It’s constantly saying “it doesn’t matter to me” until eventually, it doesn’t.  Until romance is just something to write about, but not feel.  Until intimacy is only for inspiration, not bonds.  Until you feel nothing more than what’s already within.  When things that used to make you want to help, or care, or intervene, are too far away for you to bother with.

 

I can’t tell you then you’ll feel “happy” or “fine”, but you’ll be within yourself and hopefully that’s a safer place than out here, for you. 

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Words To A Daughter

  1. If you really loved him, and he hurt you, the broken heart will be repaid. Somehow. The Universe reacts to the pain of  Black Women. Sometimes slowly, sometimes quietly, but it does.
  2. You may end up heartbroken and finding solace in temporary lovers who belong elsewhere.  You may end up like your mother and simultaneously intrigue while repelling. You may be blessed with Love.  You may have no time for it. You may fear it, and you may just shut yourself off and focus on anything and everything else. And all of this is fine if you feel so. If it feels right and necessary.
  3. Men who don’t even belong to themselves are only for temporary use.
  4. Some days you will take long showers and hot baths seeking things in the water you could not find on the Earth. Peace, understanding, silence. You will get it. Until the water turns cold or the mist begins to disrupt your breathing. Then it’ll be easier to just go back to the Earth.
  5. I hope you forgive me, I didn’t know. And I don’t know if I would have done anything different had I known. But maybe. I think I would have.
  6. I would have loved you better.
  7. You changed my Life, for the better. Thank you.
  8. The readers and the thinkers are those who get the most out of this Life. Do both passionately. For yourself.
  9. Insecurity is a disease. It’s symptoms are aggravated by society.
  10. Your skin, your features, honey, they are beautiful. It may take you years to see it. Countless books and documentaries and hours spent staring at the mirror naked, but see it. See it all, eventually.
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