In a garden somewhere, not quite here and not quite anywhere, there is a boy who has cried his eyes away. From fears emboldened by his youngest days, transformed outside control, and turned to physical in form. He fights as best he knows, penance in his joy and an urgency behind every grin.
His demeanor merely makeup to hide the way he feels, scorned, rejected by a whole world who doesn’t know him. Doesn’t see the way he sees. “If it has no room,” he says “I will make space for myself.” While he picks up new habits and beliefs, leaving others hanging, abandoned, alone alongside the shelves of the parts of him he does not remember. Tucked away, in memory.
It is impossible, he knows, to move forward without hope, so hope became all he had to give. If he could just make himself out to be a force of will among the rest of the tall trees and sorrowed souls, he could make a difference, he believed.
Perhaps, he was right, but perhaps not, too.
He is happiest, when it rains. His garden watered then in ways it had never been before, and he smiles. It is a weak, fearful smile.
But a smile nonetheless.
It’s three o’ clock in the morning and my bones are shaking with anticipation. It is the night before the release of my first full length novel. A night I’d been manifesting for weeks, if not years of my life. It was right there I could feel it. As soon as the novel released I could make something of myself. I could be the person I’d always (for the prior two years) wanted to be.
That isn’t to say I haven’t always wanted to be an author, although a more apt description is that I’ve always wanted to make stories. Ever since my youth, I was a half blind boy who wanted to do something magical, fantastical and everlasting. It’s been in my bones since I first heard the rapping upon Poe’s chamber door.
“I want to make someone feel like that.”
I believed, and I still do, but there was a lot of life in between me and making an impact on someone as profound as what had been done to me through the work of Poe, Tolkien and the others I was exposed to when I was still in diapers. The world had a lot more for me to experience beyond blinding myself with cayenne pepper and losing a few friendships along the way.
As the months of my childhood withered away at a blistering pace, I set my life toward the apparent end of my youth, this ever fleeting and impossible to catch part of me was going to be gone at any moment. If I did not make as many memories, good or bad, and stow them away for a time of need, I would lose them for eternity. I believed then, and I still do now, that I was right for that. The world changed for me as a result of that decision, for the better.
It’s eleven o’ clock in the morning and I’m surrounded by new friends I’ve just met, excitedly waiting for the signal from our conductor to funnel out to the risers and begin singing. Our last months of practice on the singular piece, a dedication to lives lost, and we are looking between one another expectantly. We’ve done this a million times, and we all want to do it a million more.
But we won’t. We are a dam, cracked and breaking, full of a million other things we all want to do and in the cacophony of our millions we can do nothing, other than wait at Carnegie Hall in anticipation.
Then, the director waves us forward.
I thought, at one point, I would go on to be a musician. That telling my stories throughs song was my destiny. Maybe I still will, but I don’t know what comes next and that’s a beautiful thing.
This life is complicated and confusing. The path we take is not predefined and changes by the second. I used to think that only the big stuff mattered, who we knew, where we worked, how we impacted others. It was a mentality which led to me losing, and losing a lot.
I don’t mean that in a way that says winning is the most important. I think losses are the best thing we can experience. Without loss, we never get to celebrate through our sorrows. Today, a lot of our peers talk about the importance of winning, succeeding or being “the best” and it’s tainted our view of the world at large.
If everything is amazing, then nothing is, right?
It’s three in the morning, I’m on the phone with a girl I call a girlfriend, but we barely know each other. She tells me I’m destined for great things, but I’m sitting outside a hotel smoking a cigarette the night before my grandmother’s funeral.
She tells me my grandmother was happy to get a final moment with me, and that she’s proud of me. I ash my smoke on the bench and I go back inside to try and sleep.
My grandma died last week and I have a performance to make tomorrow.
The further back we dig, the more apparent it becomes that we don’t know anything. And we know less than half of what we ever thought we did. I think it’s a universal understanding we all have. The world is open for you to explore, enjoy, make the most of. That’s what myself and people like me used to say like a skipping record.
The truth is, the world is all things, all at once. Just like you and me.
Everything is happening all at the same time and what we remember is what we focus on, there isn’t anything more to it than that.
I lived a lot of my life believing that it took simply my outlook. Whether I was sad or happy was the predictor of what my life would present to me. If I started a day upset, I would likely have a bad day, but not because I was upset at the beginning, but rather that I was looking for reasons to be upset.
I try to talk myself out of this mindset even today, that if I am uncertain about something I must be looking for uncertainty. It’s a rule I’ve developed for my own life thanks to the trial and error of my youth. Anger begets anger, sorrow begets sorrow and uncertainty, begets uncertainty.
We have far more control over the things in our lives than we give ourselves credit for. The world is spinning at a billion miles an hour and we are spinning with it. No one could blame us for losing sight a little bit. Between the wars and the rumors and the pace at which we are suggested to live, everything outside of our circle becomes a blur, and we can forget that in the middle of those whirling streams of color and wonder are people, just like us. Going through things we’ve gone through, or maybe we haven’t yet, but we might.
I used to think that happiness, every day, was the answer to life. That it would bring me the most joy.
I’ve since learned it isn’t happiness I need.
It is three o’ clock in the afternoon, I am walking home with my best friend after we just talked out a disagreement from days prior, which led to a fight. He had a cool sweatshirt and a pretty girl liked it, and I got upset.
Together, on the way home we find some sticks in a dirt lot behind the local Walmart and we take a couple of hours to pretend we are warriors from distant lands, stranded and facing off against one another to the death.
This is my first nemesis. Imagination.
“If I were not happy, where would I be?” I used to ask myself. Particularly, on the day I was set to release my first published work of fiction. That was in 2014. Back when the world was the product of my design, not this place full of thorns and despair. Not this place where the fangs of life had grazed me and made me something I feared becoming.
I once thought being happy would be enough to satiate the thing inside of me. This thing that we all have, a monster to some, a voice to others. Whatever it is, I think it’s inside all of us, calling out to us about every little thing we miss inside the whirlwind.
I thought it was happiness, but it wasn’t. No matter how happy I appeared, what I felt within didn’t change. I could fool anyone. Least of all, myself.
We all have our own means to the end that is that feeling of elation. To be one with the world and in perfect harmony between your relationships and your job and especially within yourself, but it doesn’t come simply from being cheerful in the face of adversity.
It comes from greeting difficulty with tenderness.
Tenderness, of course, was not what made up a man.
It is late, late enough I can’t see the sun or the moon. All I see is the stars above me and I am chewing on a Honey Bun with Matchbox Twenty playing in the background. Today was a long day in the sun, racing my family’s go kart around a makeshift racetrack scraped into chalk-dry dirt as far as the eye can see and I am, for the first time, experiencing that marrow deep feeling of joy that I will become addicted to in later years, hoping to find everywhere, forever.
I am not only happy here, but I am satisfied, as much as a twelve year old kid understands this kind of satisfaction.
I don’t want to come out anymore and tell you I have the answers. If everyone listened to me, we all would have failed the test. Maybe the things I used to preach like an abolitionist pastor might have helped. I know they helped me in a way I never expected.
I learned, through lying to myself constantly, to trust what I felt. That it was true and it mattered all on its own.
Validation doesn’t come from the outside. We are the only one who can make ourselves feel at home. Through tenderness, acceptance, or whatever else.
If you ask me, that’s awfully beautiful.
My Favorite Flowers is the final series release of Lifeis+ 2023, and with only three parts, it is also the shortest. It’s the culmination of my month and within are the things I hope to leave you with as we come to a close. Keep an eye out tomorrow for the final entry.
Thank you for participating once more in the Lifeis+ celebration. I’ve got a lot to celebrate this time around so you’ll be hearing from me often. If you’d like to read more, you can check out me current fiction project Sisters of Westwinter & The Heart, Felt Series below!
If you’d like to support what I’m doing here, you can click either of the links below to be taken to ways you can help you (if you feel so inclined!)
I’ve recently started a Ko-fi Shop online where, if you would like to help support me as I continue to work on my various writing projects here and over on Vocal, I would be so, so appreciative.
As of the publication of this post, it’s a little barebones but I’m working on getting it spruced up! I’ll be linking it at the end of each of my posts going forward if you are interested in helping me keep my eyes open at all. Anything offered through Ko-fi will go directly back into the blog, or toward other projects I can’t afford at the time.
Regardless of your decision, thank you for being here. 🔺
A.T. Baines Ko-Fi
Mental Health Support
Consider donating to a charity with the intention of aiding those struggling with thoughts of Suicide, Self Harm or Depression.
Below I’ve listed a few charities and non-profit organizations you can donate to. if you’d like to support groups trying to make the world a little bit less sad.
If you don’t see your preferred charity here, pick one! Or go give someone’s dog a treat. Anything kind will work. ❤️
More From Me:
Creativity is sometimes like a spark. Once it lights, it can set fire to every soft thing within you until you are left with a smoldering pile of ash and jewelry made of earth & glass.
Creativity is sometimes like a vine. Once it has rooted it will grow forward, wrapped around whatever provides it stability. Occasionally, should it put its hopes upon a frail dowel or worn stretch of shiplap it may crumble and its course my veer.
[SOW] Interlude Three: The Seafarer’s Secret
To do what was required of her meant in most cases she needed to silence the part of herself that called out with the cries of the sinking crews. On her last run, as soon as she and her crew boarded the vessel and began tearing apart their commodities, she realized immediately it was not…