Gravity

Something always brings me back to you…

I have always thought about writing as an act of getting naked.

You come home to yourself, drop all the baggage on the floor, peel your clothes off and throw them into the laundry bag of yesterday, wash the glitter down the drain, dust away the day’s worries, and slip into the comfort of your own skin. You close the door and open your heart into words that ebb and flow, much like the quick typing and sudden backspacing, moving onward, backwards, onward again. Fingers that slightly hover over the keys, much like pauses between conversations when we let awkward silences between what we say and what we don’t say magnify what isn’t there and what we don’t want to hear.

But ultimately, we write.

And it is within the jungle of words and hanging vines and lines that we try to make sense of the chaos in our mind. Eyebrows furrow deep into what we are not trying to say when we want to say something. We choose chaos, and chaos chastens us into submission. Caught in the middle, you try to meddle and get lost and wonder…what were you trying to say in the first place? But in the first place, there is no first place. There is only now and you try to stay with it, but you lose yourself and that’s fine.

Sometimes, you need to get lost to get home.

…It never takes too long.

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Perishable Commodities

Tara is in the convenience store to buy some canned laughs. There was a news flash this afternoon and the grim reporter said a storm is coming to town and will stay for at least a week. Best be prepared, she thinks out loud, surveying the variety of colorful cans laid like a feast in front of her.

She picks up a neon pink can (Girly Giggles Guaranteed), gets three more of the variety and chucks the contents into the cart. Her hand swipes two electric blue cans (Goofy Guffaws Galore) and drops them to the pile. I need five more of these stuff, she murmurs and grabs five glittery orange cans (Gorgeous Glorious Grins). That should do it. She transfers to the next aisle to pick up some toiletries, candles and mixed nuts before proceeding to the cashier counter.

Tara’s mouth maintains a straight line, slightly pulled down at the edges in a permanent display of displeasure. She impatiently waits for the old stooped lady in front of her to move along. Finally. The cashier punches in Sarah’s grocery items like an automaton and asks “cash or credit?” without looking at her. Tara whips out her credit card in response. She couldn’t help but notice the cashier’s over-the-top bright red lipstick lined way over the outline of where her lips should be. Clown. “I’m sorry, what did you say?” snaps the cashier. “Nothing, hurry up,” she bites back. Sarah chews on her lips in silence and thinks of the orange cans.

Back home, Tara triple locks the door before organizing her groceries. Unpacking her items, she noticed that one of the blue cans was expiring today! Fuck. She slaps herself and fishes out the can opener, her expletives further drowned by angry peals of thunder. Storm’s coming. Laughter uncanned, she sniffed at the blue goo inside and drank it all in one go, clumsily spilling some of the liquid laughter over her drab gray dress. 

The effects started 10 seconds after. Her chest began to heave and her shoulders began to shake.

HAHAHAHAHA! HAHAHAHA! HAHAHAHHAHHA! Ohyes. HAHAHHAHAA! Ahhhh… HAHAHA!

Tara’s knees weaken and she slips slowly to the floor, guffawing, her eyes rolling to the back of her head.

HAHAHAHA! HAHAHAHAHAHAHA! AAAAAHAHAHAHAHAHA!

But Tara knew the laughter was going bad.

HEHEHEHE! HEHEHHEHE!

Oh no, no no..

HEHE… HE… HEHEHE… HEHE… HU… HU HU HUUU..

Canned laughter promises at least 10 minutes of “uncontrollable belly-aching euphoria”. Tara has only been laughing for two minutes. But her cheeks are sore, shoulders involuntarily shaking with quiet chuckles. Her thin lips are stretched too tight, upturned into a wide tooth-baring smile. But she is no longer laughing. Dammit. 

As she spent the next six hours, miserably lying in the cold floor waiting for the convulsions to stop, the storm came howling into town. BOOHOOOOOOO.

ALS Awareness: Breaking the Ice

Earlier this month, the ALS Association launched an awareness campaign that spread like wildfire on social media. With the hashtag #IceBucketChallenge, celebrities and well-known groups alike poured ice buckets on themselves, tagged another person or group, and challenged them to do the same within 24 hours. Failing to do so, the tagged person or group must donate US$100 towards ALS research. Not a bad way to raise awareness and research funds.

But what is this ALS and why should you care about it?

What is ALS?

Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, is a progressive neurological disease that targets and degenerates motor neurons. These are nerve cells located at the brain, brain stem and spinal cord that give us voluntary control over the muscles in our face, arms and legs.

With ALS, motor neurons become unable to send signals to the muscles causing them to weaken and waste away. ALS patients soon lose the full ability to talk, move and walk. In worst case scenarios, even the lungs are unable to function without a ventilator support causing many to die due to respiratory failure. Although ALS does not impair a person’s mind, heart, and five senses, a patient may still suffer from depression and have difficulty in decision-making and remembering memories.

What are the symptoms?

ALS starts out very quietly. The symptoms are so subtle that a person may tend to overlook them. Here are some telltale signs of ALS:

  • Cramps and muscle twitches
  • Stiff, tight muscles
  • Weakening of the arm and leg muscles
  • Slurred, nasal speech
  • Trouble chewing and swallowing
  • Struggling to do simple tasks like writing, handling utensils, or buttoning shirts (upper motor neuron damage)
  • Sudden awkwardness in walking, tripping over your own feet, and stumbling on flat surfaces (lower motor neuron damage)

Know the signs and raise the alarm immediately once spotted. Go to the nearest doctor for a complete check-up and ECG. Although the appearance of both upper and lower motor neuron signs may be a strong indication of ALS, some symptoms may be caused by a different disease. The earlier tests are conducted, the better to save a life.

Treatment for ALS
The cause and cure for ALS is not yet known. Continuous research is being done to test new drugs and learn more about this neurodegenerative disease. Currently, there is only one FDA-approved drug called Riluzole that is being administered to ALS patients. Although it does not reverse the damages already inflicted by ALS, it does slow down its progression. Coupled with physical therapy and use of special equipment, patients are also given other medicines that relieve pain, reduce fatigue, ease cramps and promote uninterrupted sleep to make them more mobile and comfortable.

Once diagnosed with ALS, a person is given an average life expectancy of 3 to 5 years. But each case is as unique as the person. As supporting technology improves and continuous medical research yields more answers, an ALS patient can still live actively and productively for even 10 to 20 years more. More importantly, the unending support and love a patient’s family and friends together with the ALS community are priceless gems improving their quality of life.


Author’s Note: When a group of people gathers for the first time, it is common practice to hold a fun activity to “break the ice“. This aims to reduce the awkwardness of the initial introduction and encourage a positive vibe around a room full of strangers. I would like to do the same with my first blog entry. So here is a video of myself, tagging myself to do the #IceBucketChallenge. I do not have $100 but I hope this entry helps in spreading ALS awareness to more people. Buckets up!