I am walking through aisles of books in a huge Barnes & Noble in Tampa, a city along the west coast of Florida. Books of different shapes, sizes and colors fill the enormous space, just like an array of miscellaneous thoughts cram the empty gaps in my mind. On the outside, I smile as I find some of my most favorite books on the wooden shelves. On the inside, I fight with my demons and look for anything that can calm me down.
I wonder if an unread book would answer some of those relevant existential questions that have been haunting me for a while. I quietly read the synopsis of about 20 books but I don’t know if I’d really want to read any of them. Moving forward, I think of buying a diary with a beautiful hardcover that has the word “WRITE” engraved on it. But I already have at least five blank diaries at home. I move on, realizing it won’t be a wise decision to buy a sixth one. I walk through a pile of art books and wonder if I should buy an adult coloring book. I have read art helps. I look through color books and pencils and easily get bored.
My restless hands, legs and mind almost work in sync to push me to write. And that’s when I unlock my smartphone and start typing while telling myself to channel my energies toward a more constructive direction.
I feel cold because of the air conditioner and finally move out. The warmth of Florida, however, doesn’t help like it should. I still have goose bumps all over my arms. I wonder why? It’s apparently 28 degrees (in Celsius), way more than the freezing temperatures I have endured in Chicago and Washington D.C. I don’t know whether I am bothered by the cold or something else.
I don’t feel relaxed or at peace on most days. When I try and talk to friends, I get the blame.
You think too much.
You’re a negative person.
Try focusing on better things.
I don’t understand what is wrong with your life.
You’re a stress.
Yes. Perhaps on the outside I continue to smile and on the inside I force myself to change how I feel. That’s the norm. Suppress your feelings, desires and pain. That’s what everyone says.
For quite some time I have known and understood my tendencies toward depression and anxiety. Every time I get any closer to breaking down, I pull myself back up and get going. That’s the norm too. You can’t break. You have to be strong.
I feel strength is over-rated. But I don’t have the energy to fight with the world at this moment. I have repeatedly done my share of explaining, struggling and fighting. People who know me know that too. I don’t give up. I never will. But then is that what strength is about?
Why can’t I be strong if I embrace my emotions and I acknowledge my pain? Why can’t I be strong if I let some tears flow out of my eyes and let them take over me for a few moments? Why can’t I be strong if I fight my anxiety ten times a day instead of refusing to come to terms with it?
In this moment, as I write this, I smile. You know why? Because I am being honest with myself and that’s where my strength lies.
I left the bookstore a few hours ago but the images of the aisles of books are still clear in my head. On the outside, I look tired after a long day. On the inside, I feel like I have successfully fought with my demons once again.
[The above image is from one time I was at Idle Time Books in Washington D.C.]