The First Monday of the next Decade

Monday April 22, 2019 – 23:30

Sleep didn’t come easily last night. While I was fortunate enough to not have dreams that haunted my waking hours, the turn of events, especially from knowing that the Sunday morning victims were my friends who were Catholics and Christians in Sri Lanka and by evening to come into the realisation that these acts of terrorism were carried out by extremist groups that use the name of a religion your family is associated to, was beyond understandable. Also yes, that was a very long sentence that doesn’t make sense, which I cannot be bothered to shorten or correct.

The message I sent to my Catholic and Christian friends on Sunday morning, letting them know that my home is also theirs during the time of need, was sent back to me once terrorists were identified. True, we are mature enough to disconnect an extremist group from the entire community of believers they supposedly represent, but in 2019, no one is taking any chances.

The country is still reeling in the aftermath of what has happened. My Mother walks from room to room (and no we don’t have as many rooms) sits down and looks straight ahead or at her phone. Sometimes she falls asleep. I haven’t looked at my planner in two days or even the lists that lay on my table – yes, they seem like first world problems but to say that we are unable to move past what has happened, is fair. The sombre mood in our house is very new, to all of us. While we are not the loudest of people, we are ones who continue moving forward regardless. The saying “the show must go on” should perhaps be the motto of our family. But not today.

Two days we have spent doing the bare minimum. Sleeping. Waking up. Watching/reading the news. Eating. Cooking if needed. Watching/reading the news. Cleaning up. Using the toilet or having a shower. Watching/reading the news. Our fingers are number from the endless scrolls and our eyes hurt from staring at screens for longer than we should. Occasionally we will pause our routine to pack an emergency bag. We are not sure where our cars would take us but the bags are now packed.

Elsewhere, even before the government and media called out on the perpetrators, people belonging to different minority communities began worrying for their own safety. A justified worry, but an untimely one. As someone who finds it difficult to restore her faith, no I do not identify or I cannot relate to what you are going through. However, as I live with my parents, their fear does become my fear too. But when there is no one who has been held accountable for the massacre, do not claim responsibility and defend yourself (and your community) for something you didn’t do. PLEASE NOTE THAT AT SUCH CIRCUMSTANCES, YOUR FEAR OR BEING LABELLED AS “GUILTY” IS FAR LESSER THAN THE EMOTIONS FELT BY THE FAMILIES WHO WERE A SUBJECT OF THESE ATTACKS. Also, while it is 2019, some people are among the educated. I have an issue with labels anyway during such times. While I do understand that people will always reach out to “their” kind first, during calamities, the child in me wonders why everyone cannot be “our” kind as we are bonded by the connection of being human and Sri Lankan. At the end of the day, regardless of one’s faith, we still have the same shitty Government, so what good does it do when you choose to protect your own kind? Or perhaps this comes from my Game of Thrones affiliations and how I continue to remark at the groups coming together to fight for survival.

There is so much more to write, especially on how the Government chose to not act on information received earlier as well as on the complaints made by minority faith groups, but the fact is, I’m exhausted. I’m overrun with emotion and I’m not sure if it was all those emotional Game of Thrones reunions and Brienne’s knighthood, post-period hormones or just the state of the country.

Perhaps tomorrow.

As I write this, there is another curfew imposed and the President has issued a Gazette Extraordinary that brings a State of Emergency into operations in the country. We can’t say who will lose a job in office this time and frankly, I don’t think the people really care anymore. If you are interested, this live update on the First Post will give you the information you are looking for.

I would like to once again leave with a thought that was inspired following the attacks at Christchurch in New Zealand.

Share the names of those who are not with us anymore. Share the names of those who did not make it through. Let’s remember them. But share not the names of those responsible for these crimes.

Stay safe and sunny.

Easter Sunday in Sri Lanka

Sunday April 21, 2019 – 23:53

It’s probably not the time to write this, but writing for me, has always been a source of therapy. And therapy is what I need now. I’m also aware that I began a sentence with “and”. I’m also quite aware that I don’t often write about my country as I don’t feel the need to.

I began drafting this post in my mind from the time I was woken up with a call with this very news. While asleep, I dreamt of blood. Blood on me and blood around me. I’ve been having weird dreams for weeks anyway so that’s all there is to it. My Mother, while watching the news tells me of the “fall” of Notre Dam and how it was symbolic of the things to come and even possibly, the end of the world. See, unlike me, she believes in religion. She, unlike me, has been able to bypass and look beyond the cruel intentions of small groups of organised religion and continue with her faith. I, unfortunately, have not been able to.

Which is why these multiple coordinated attacks on a religious holiday bother me so much. It bothers me more than the floods from two years ago. Because this wasn’t a natural disaster that we couldn’t prevent (the floods too could’ve been prevented if we looked at adequate measures but that’s a conversation for another day). It was a disaster, there were multiple attacks, which were targeted predominantly at a minority ethnic group in the country.

It’s a topic we are all too familiar with. For 30 years, to be precise. Since the “end of war” in 2009, we have witnessed smaller-scale attacks on other ethnic groups on several occasions, a few times a year. Correct me if I’m wrong but – and no I don’t mean to trivialise war and the state of the country – during the last few years of war, with the multiple bombs going off every day, it became a normal thing. Yes, war, was normalised. Just as how when a male/female is “accidentally” touched when travelling in public transport or catcalled when dressed well, is normalised. Both of those statements sound wrong and it is wrong, but that’s what it was and is. Anything more than 10 casualties may have been taken seriously. People found it horrendous when the forces carefully scrutinised a packet of rice but that’s what it came to. But that was in 2009.

After the war ended, at home we continued the practice of carrying our National Identity Cards (NICs) with us at all times. In the event of us not having the NIC at hand, we would have our driver’s license or passport. My Mum used to work with war widows pre-“end of war” and we used to travel a lot to the North Central and Eastern provinces. I too often accompanied her as my parents were getting a divorced around that time and my Mother didn’t want to leave me home alone – we didn’t really have a lot of people we could rely on, save for the kindness of our neighbours and friends from the neighbourhood, some who offered to house and feed me while she was away sometimes (and my sister during the time was working abroad). During that time, we both had a majority-ethnic-group last name, which worked for our advantage. Travelling to my Mother’s location of work today would take us no more than four-five hours without stops thankfully for improved infrastructure. Travelling then, took about seven or eight if went in public transport and six or seven if she drove. Sometimes, Akki (my older sister) would be there on holiday and we would take her too during the field visits. Lucky for us, she is very fair and looks Southeast Asian for most of the part. This meant that the checkpoint checks will be cleared for us in no time – yes, that actually happened the two or three times we all travelled together.

Besides carrying our NICs at all times, our house was always well stocked. We always had an extra gas cylinder, extra dry rations and sometimes, extra frozen meat too. We were always ready for a curfew. Ready for an emergency. And ready to run. We continued this practice even after “the end of war”. Since the post-2009 wave of minority group attacks, we would even have a bag of essentials ready, in the cars and in the house, the latter would also have a bag/box of documents to take and run. In recent years, we wondered why our house had only one entrance and we contemplated asking our neighbours if they didn’t mind sharing a back gate in the common wall.

So fear, as you can see, has not been something new. Perhaps it has not been shared in equal degrees by all people, some more, some less, but fear has always been present.

 

A fellow tweep had this thread too. I asked him for permission and he was okay with me posting it. (edited 23/04)

However, as years went by, the fear remained, but we grew positive about life, sometimes about the economy and about those around us. For those wondering if we grew positive about the government, it’s fair to say that it never happened. We knew deep down that what befell us forty years ago, might not strike again. However, a month shy of our “10-year anniversary/victory day celebrations”, we had a change in heart and we feared this might happen once more.

For me, personally, what makes things scarier is the fact that people have more access to improved technology and communication. While this is a good thing, what this does is people have the capacity to become overnight journalists and share unverified information from sources they are not even certain of. They are capable of sharing “fake news” and information that is not true. The calamity of the situation doesn’t stop there. Despite the war and multiple ethnic-group attacks we’ve had over the past so many years, those whom we elect as our leaders would constantly fail us. They will not be able to reassure us and with each passing election, the country and the future of this country grows to become more apathetic than the next.

The government has currently blocked social media, which is a good thing I believe. It helps lessen the spread of rumours and false information. Of course, those who are keen on disseminating such information will download VPNs and continue as per usual, but there is a certain degree to which, this has been curtailed through the blockage. It’s a radical move, yet an important one. Sometimes, the older generations who have been introduced to embrace technology and digital media have not perhaps been familiarised with identifying accurate information, which is fair, as it was never a concern during their time. However, it is now.

I might continue this post later today, however, I’m hoping that there is no need to and all we talk about is the new Game of Thrones episode. While we wait for the curfew to lift, I would like to leave with a thought that was inspired following the attacks at Christchurch in New Zealand.

Share the names of those who are not with us anymore. Share the names of those who did not make it through. Let’s remember them. But share not the names of those responsible for these crimes.

Stay safe and sunny.

Let’s Talk about “Gay Marriage”

For the record, I’m neither gay nor am I married.

Second, I add the phrase “gay marriage” in inverted commas because I don’t even see how a “gay” marriage is any different to a “regular” marriage between two “heterosexual” people. As far as I know, marriage is a union of love, gay or otherwise. Or one of convenience, if Jane Austen was bae.

Third, I’m quite aware of the sort of possible criticism that this post might gather and my dear fragile heart (apparently I do have one after all) might not even be able to handle it. But it’s been bothering my pea brain and of course if this means that I’m finally going to blog about it, so be it.

Fourth and finally, my research might be flawed. I’m not well read on the topic and have only bits and bobs of information I sourced through the Internet.

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According to the news there was talk of Sri Lanka “decriminalising homosexuality” (I suppose that would be the first step towards gay marriage) and then in less than a day this proposition was called off. I also made the mistake of reading the comments in this news article – the comments are not for the faint hearted.

In fact when American legalised gay marriage nearly two years ago and Facebook suddenly had an influx of all these colourful profile pictures. I mean this is great and all. No doubt about that. But the question my pea brain had in mind was as to how the world came to a state where the right to marriage was a question of gender and not of more important things like age or mental stability? However, those in America who were able to be married as a result of the events of 2015, good on you no doubt.

With Sri Lanka though, it’s a different story all together. Our friend in the city actually put together a video I am happy to share and that’s not even because of my favourite friend Dili. They walked around “progressive” Colombo and asked people their thoughts on legalising same-sex marriage / “decriminalising homosexuality”. The word “decriminalise” makes me wonder what sort of word rapists of paedophile get. Again some content is not for the faint hearted. It doesn’t scare you like a horror movie. It just makes you sad to realise that there are people (probably the same age as you are) that think aeons different to you do. Also that there might still be people who have no idea on what they might be talking about to start with. Here, I specifically refer to the loose use of the word “culture”.

What nags my ignorant self is probably not knowing as to why the world need a “special” law passed in order to practice the right to love. 

And I’m not even the romantic one in my present relationship.

Until next time.

#ThinkSunny

Let’s Talk about Failed Writing – II

You see, writing “well” for me was never easy. I always wrote, even as a child (since when I could actually start writing that is) but it wasn’t about being any good at it, but more so as a practice of documentation and now in retrospect (as an adult, lol), to keep at it. Because like the electronic organ that I used to play (for fifteen years mind you!) the more you practice, the better you get at it, yes?

Of course this was before a time when I started considering if “good” writing was even a question. This was before the time of competition, before the time the Internet would be a wonderful but terrible place where I would get to see “better” pieces of writing on the same thoughts that had run through my mind while driving home the previous evening but I had let go of it because I was just too tired to put it down once I got home.

This was before the time I had decided to make a career out of it.

See that’s the other problem. I like to call myself a writer but clearly, I don’t seem to be doing much of it. Mostly because of time. There simply isn’t time between navigating through traffic and replying to a gazillion emails. Second, is inspiration. When there is inspiration, there is no time (or there are more important tasks at hand – a time like now for instance) or when there is time there is no inspiration. I don’t write books or long form as much now so whatever discipline I used to have during my journalist days seems to have casually found its way out of the window.

With the problem of being called a writer – because it’s difficult to explain to people what exactly I “write” because I too don’t really know what that is any more – there comes the question of career. For those who know me well enough, you probably have heard enough about my existential career crisis. For most of the part, I don’t know what to do or maybe at times I do and then there is no clear definite path to get to where I have to go.

Maybe sometimes it would be better to go back to a time of no choice, no Internet and standard careers for all those who graduated school and ran into university. Choice supposedly makes us more creative, brings out the best in us and leaves us more confused than ever.

My career as a supposed writer may have failed because I’m only 434 words in and here I am trying to finish up my train of thought that began with some definitive goal at the beginning of this piece.

Let’s Talk about Failed Writing – I

See the notion that comes from “Working from Home” is the supposed abundance of free time. Well, yes and no. Yes, because you are at home, supposedly chilling in your pyjamas (unlike YouTubers who have morning routines where they get about their day at home with a full face of makeup, the furthest I’d go would be to have a shower, breakfast and wear more home-clothes) and deciding what you want to do with the rest of your day. No, because working from home also requires an abundance of self-discipline that seem to come in like a cool breeze on a hot summer’s day. Sometimes, it’s not as infrequent depending on your levels of happiness, hormones and Heaven knows other monstrosities that govern your day to day existence.

But when it comes to writers who work from home,

(Still despite all hesitation, confusion and problems where career is concerned like to think that I am a writer)

there is no excuses, right?

Or that is what I thought so too the days I’ve stayed at home to work. See the work (that is not necessarily related to writing) always happened, but the writing, never came by.

And I’m not even talking about novels. It’s these little blog posts. Prose poetry stuff. Or even a Trip Advisor review.

If I were to show you the number of posts that are sitting in my WP drafts, half-written Pages saves or even the scribbles from various notebooks, the only question would be as to why not go ahead and finish them now.

I’ve done that before and all I can say is that the train of thought once lost, doesn’t really come back. It’s weird because for someone like me who remembers shiz that no one ever should, it should ideally come easy. Because I remember things. But trains of thought seem to pass by and never come back, I don’t know why.

While it definitely motivates and makes me happy to read others’ writings, it doesn’t always help to see pages and volumes of publications making its way to the Internet and print media, while I am stuck here trying to hit a 500 words.

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(c) Creative Commons

Until sunnier times to write.

An Open Letter from Me to You

To the dearest people in my life,

These are different from the previous open letters that I have written. This one is a tad bit more personal even to the extent of TMI. There might be parts that you might think are exaggerated but this is just me talking through the written word because we all know how bad I am at communicating in real life.

I don’t always speak my mind. You see, I’m crying-emotional AF and any sort of extreme emotion gets my waterworks running. I am not very emotional otherwise as most may already know. If you don’t believe me and know any of my close friends and family (or even better the ex-boyfriends!) do ask them too. I also used to be affectionate once upon a time but that too was lost after growing into adulthood. And on being sensitive and sentimental, but we’ve spoken on that before.

Instead of me speaking my mind, I want you to read my mind. No one is psychic here I know, but I can gauge your feelings. In a similar way I want you to do the same too. Because you wouldn’t know and I wouldn’t tell you otherwise.

I also don’t ask for things. If I get something I take it but if not I don’t. Because if we are close and I were to do things for you I would expect that you knew on how the drill worked. But if it doesn’t turn out that way that doesn’t mean i would care less about you. But you should know that I don’t ask. On the contrary if I do ask or say I want something, please by all means give it to me if you can or if you can’t say so. You see it’s part ego and part social anxiety that prevents this happening often.

Continuing on the note of asking, if I ask and you don’t respond because you may have simply forgotten, I won’t ask again.

You see, I’m not a very second chance type of person. My Mother is heavily into that but to an extent I’m unforgiving and I don’t know why. I suppose it’s because I don’t forget easily. I would want to ideally forget, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind style, but I don’t. This means I will ideally never (or not for s very long time) ask anything related on these lines again.

I also want you to remember. Mostly again because I remember.

I suppose a lot of these sound like I want you to be me, haha

Because for me if is always the little things. Also because I’m just tired of constantly reminding.

You should also know that I get lonely. I like being alone and we all know that, but being alone and being lonely are two different things. It’s probably again due to my social anxiety and female hormones, but I get lonely and because I don’t communicate, I don’t tell and I would want you to know. I want you to know and be there for me without me having to ask you for it. Because I don’t ask. But if you don’t, that’s alright because I wouldn’t love you less.

Finally, if you are wondering on what you get out of all of this, all I can give you is unconditional love. I will also give you little material or edible things when I can but it’s my “love” that you will always have and it’s not because love will save the world. I will also make sure that no one around you tries to hurt you and if they do I would wish nothing but unspeakable things on them and to the rest of their generations.

Overall, I’m asking too much. I know. But I can’t help it and the person in me is too adamant to change her ways. But if you are already here in my life, thank you for being there for so long. If you are new, welcome and I’m glad to you have here too. I hope this letter explains my behaviour because I’m simply a little tired of trying to explain myself.

Love,
Seni.
Open Letters

Let’s Talk about the English Language – Part I

Before I launch into an ultimate rant, let me just put out a few disclaimers for all we care:

  • Yes, I’m aware that I speak in English than Sinhala when given the opportunity;
  • I’m also aware that my blog posts are entirely in English;
  • and finally, despite it not being my first language or “native” tongue, I’m quite aware on how better I think, write and make sense of when using the English language.

But this isn’t about the English language. Rather, it’s on the growing sense of uneasiness a lot of the people come across seem to have with the use of the Sinhala or Tamil languages.

I would speak mostly for the Sinhala language though as the encounters are higher there.

If you know me in person, you’ve probably heard multiple rants of mine where I tell people on how it’s “okay” to actually get the English language “wrong”.

Yes, I am also one of those people that finds secret humour in ridiculously misspelled words, but this is about the spoken language and not the written. 

One of the things I still remember from my uni days was this lesson from my English Language Teaching class: the LSRW system or method or whatever. So, LSRW stands for “Listening, Speaking, Reading and Writing” and is a method (in that order) followed when teaching second or foreign languages. However more often than not our education system practices an exact reverse of the same method where most children end up “listening” towards the end of their learning.

Now you wonder why young and older adults have arguments with each other and often throw in “you don’t listen to mes” – haha. It’s also not surprising how my aural skills are shiz and I had the attention span of a fly when it came to my music practical exams!

But leaving out LSRWs aside, when it comes to English or any other second languages, something we must all understand is that it’s okay to not be accurate. I used to teach English once upon a time in my life. I gave up for two reasons:

a) I was convinced that I was a terrible teacher and

b) I did not agree with the teaching system that was set out for us teachers.

Because for an individual like myself that harps on the fluency > accuracy formula, the system just did not work

However, the funny thing is that (at least from what I’ve seen here in Sri Lanka) non-native speakers of English and other “foreign” languages garner more attention and praise from the general public when compared to those who either do not speak non-native languages or those who speak it with “flaws and inaccuracy”.

In my posts, I usually try to refrain from dragging in the line of work I do. Mostly because my blog is separate from work and while I am influenced by what I see and experience during my tenure, I try not to write of it specifically. And no, in case you were wondering, I’m not a spy, or you weren’t but I just wanted to type that line out, haha. 

As a “communications” person and as a language enthusiast that picks up languages fast, one of my key personal objectives at work and in life is to “communicate” messages. Now these messages need not be communicated verbally. It can be pictures, hand gestures, miming and you know the rest of things we do when in search of a bathroom while travelling within a country that doesn’t praise the English language as much as ours does.

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However, in the context of verbal communication, the motive remains the same. The goal is to communicate a message from one party to another (or more). For which, the kind of language used in communication is secondary. If you live or work in Colombo, chances are that you speak more than one language. And if by chance you as a recipient are aware of the speaker’s language capabilities, it is your responsibility to ensure that you speak the language they are comfortable in.

Do you know that when an individual is comfortable speaking the language they do, they usually bring out their best most authentic self, which is a great way to build your relationship with them? 

So, why do we stop people from speaking in languages they are comfortable in?

  1. Shame – Quite similar to Cersei Lannister’s walk of shame, there are those who get uncomfortable and squirmy when someone speaks in a native language (in our case, Sinhala or Tamil).
  2. Classism – Stereotyping yes, but those from “upper” classes, do not speak in their native languages. Not all, but some for reasons I do not know.
  3. Upward Social Mobility – Similar to classism, this refers to the aspiring upper class.

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If you wondered why me, as an English writer chose to write this in English and not Sinhala given my supposed opinion on it, my reasoning is surprisingly a little similar to what’s listed above:

  1. Shame – I am not very fluent in Sinhala writing. I was nearly a decade ago, but I have stopped writing in Sinhala, especially long form. I am aware that it would be a bigger shame to speak incorrectly the language you were taught in school as opposed to the language you picked up through media.
  2. Lack of Adequate Resources – As a writer, I have no shame in saying that I refer dictionaries, Google and other websites when I need to clarify grammar and ridiculously big words I don’t understand. I’m also more familiar typing in English. However, while there are some resources available in Sinhala, there aren’t as much and kind of removes the guarantee otherwise vested when writing in English!

Speaking in a native language is a good thing. Most languages are on the verge of extinct today because people don’t speak them and newer generations aren’t taught the language for any of the above reasons. It’s funny because then you have countries like China that, with the help of their massive population have managed to make Mandarin / Chinese (I’m not sure of the difference) among the main languages in the world.

Perhaps this all goes back to the time of colonies where post-colonisation, the colonisers left with the colonies the need to spread and “colonise” their language and present it as more superior to others. *

*”Colony” word count: 05

Until next time and more rants and writings.

P.S. – The Part I is obviously an indication of more rants to follow, haha.

This Millennial in Colombo

I was born to a privileged generation, Millennials they call us. True, as a Sri Lankan I had war, but then I lived in Colombo and the most we did was have a “drill” for emergency situations during the late 90s. But unless you live in Sri Lanka, it would be difficult to understand as to why we weren’t the “direct” victims of war. Yes, I had family and friends that died in war and we also had an occasional bomb that would go off some place close to where we lived or schooled, but as far as the “victims of war” were concerned, that was not me (I refrain from using “us” because of how soon people get offended for things these days).

With the height of war, the next biggest catastrophe (I speak for the number of localities affected that’s why I did not mention the the Central Bank bomb blast) was the tsunami. Internet was still at its dial-up days in 2004 and information was not freely floating around as much as it is now and up until the tsunami struck us in 2004, I did not know what a tsunami was.

True this island girl cannot swim and hence did not venture into the sea, but having grown up next to the sea (or schooled, would be the better word) it was unfathomable how my favourite past-time or gazing-at-the-sea-and-being-all-philosophical would bring upon a large group of people such disasters. Yes, I was aware of storms and the sort, but they were disasters “at sea” and to my teenage brain, the sea posed no threat to those living on land.

But just as the war, the tsunami did not hit “Colombo” – or parts of it might have but I’m not too sure.

Hence, once again, we were safe.

Fast forward to 2016, we have floods. Once again, there is no direct impact to me. Yes, I am stuck here at home because of the water and traffic on the main roads taking us to Colombo, but me, my family and house are okay. I also have internet to post this and as far I know, this is luxury.

My extended family however, is not.

I am told that this isn’t as bad as the early 90s flood. I would know it is not because what remains of their photo albums (sitting in one of my boxes) tell me so.

But it’s getting there.

A close friend and his family of five including a child at hand have taken shelter on their roof. My grandparents, uncle and aunt have shifted to the bed room and extension space on the second floor of their house. Most of the other family friends, even though not knee deep in water, cannot step out of their main gate.

Apart from the fact that we all know now how much I dislike rain, what bothers and irks me most (I think) is think is my inability to do anything, or rather,

how vulnerable I am when I cannot save (or be there for) those whom I care. 

Riding on my Game of Thrones high from yesterday, it’s similar to how Tommen feels when he cannot do anything for Margery or could not Cersei when imprisoned, despite being King.

But I’m not a Queen, not in anywhere inclined to any form of royalty whatsoever but I work for the development sector (particularly climate change and environment) that are yet to have its disaster management centre, met department and other authorities step up their game on early warning systems and similar practices. But instead, we work primarily on policy and on donor requirements that will help fulfil international energy targets and best practices of what is accepted industry.

I’m not complaining about the work I do and am no doubt blessed to be doing what I do, working from home and all, but sometimes when the industry you work for is unable to fulfil its responsibilities at home base, trust me it can get a bit discouraging. 

Should you need more clarity, I would recommend reading after the quake by Haruki Murakami. Yes, you would tell me that somethings were lost in translations but no, that’s not a concern now. Neither is it as dramatic a situation yet, but it’s a dreaded level of hopelessness that seems to have engulfed those of us who cannot do anything to help

I wanted to lighten the moment because who knew we drowned so deep and this seems to be the only apt copyleft image I could find.

Until the sun shines bright upon us once again and the laundry finds it way back to my dresser neatly folded.