If There is a Flame, Don’t Snuff it Out

Sometimes realizations dawn on us like the sun breaking over a dewy landscape. Its light is suddenly so everywhere that it’s hard to understand what darkness it replaced. We muddle over it, chew it, twirl it around in our mouth like ripe peaches. We try to gain the perspective we once had in that single fleeting moment, but the realization—the light—is so ubiquitous, that pinpointing that first sliver of light that pierced the dark is nearly impossible.

Sometimes I learn things about myself. I say them out loud. I write poems about them. I lit the fire to feel its warmth, but I feared the burn so I suffocated it. How many times I’ve said these words the last few months. It is the idea that there was a spark within me which lit me up from the inside with such intense emotions and experiences that it would utterly consume me. It would char my insides like the inside of a fire pit, leaving only black chalk-like destruction in its wake, tarnishing the vivid watercolor paintings that housed my cherished memories. In their new egregious form, they were not much more than charcoal sketches, blurred around the edges with the kiss of time and perverse effect of heartbreak. I hated to see my collection turn cold, so I steeled myself under the guise of maturity. I used my soiled pictures as a lesson not to let the spark burn so brightly that it caught ablaze. I didn’t realize that by avoiding fire, I was robbing myself of moments of warmth.

Sometimes you read a book, or you watch a movie, or you have a conversation where the words that have kept you staring up at your popcorn ceiling at midnight are repeated back to you. Only this time they are said in such a context unrelated to you, and the arrangement of words seems to fall out of the page or off of their lips like jewels, so perfectly piercing your heart and illuminating that perspective you’d been tirelessly searching for. It’s as if you are understanding it for the first time.

It’s hard not to believe in something more in those moments. God. The Universe. Magic. It’s as if they heard your pleas, saw the thoughts swarming your head like black crows for months while you struggled to conjure the prescript word that seemingly burrowed itself into the tip of your tongue and refused to come out. Waiting for you to solve the riddle. To regain that fleeting moment of brilliance. The something more had pity on you. Or was softly nudging you, like a dog with his head on your lap gently reminding you he’s there for your caress. These were the words you were searching for. Here you are, child.

On Tuesday, my emotions left me without a goodbye. I was simply numb. On Wednesday, the only emotion that decided to return home was dread, which filled the pits of my stomach with lead-like hopelessness that seemed to weigh me down so heavily that I was stuck in bed. Anxiety and depression are silent diseases because they can’t be seen. Even I didn’t realize I was in the grips of a depressive episode until Friday. Why can’t I catch my breath? I thought. What is the emotion I’m feeling as if my soul has been bared naked to the world and ridiculed and scathed until it stood raw and empty and beaten? And as I lay knee cap to knee cap, nose to nose with him, I let him know that it would be okay. He spoke words that would come to hold significant weight in four hours time, much to our unknowing at the time.

We don’t need to fix sadness, he said. There is such a misconception that sadness or hopelessness is inherently wrong and that it must be cured. But as I sat and watched the film Call Me By Your Name, I stared as Elio bore his heart to his father, battered and bruised and broken. I was utterly engrossed and moved to the point of sobbing as his father delivered the monologue, which bore a striking resemblance to the one I’ve repeated vis-a-vis my pillowcase for months. But the words were like precious pearls plucked from the ocean. The words, which I recognized so deeply, I experienced and understood as if for the first time. They cannot be replaced with my attempt at paraphrasing. So I will leave you with them and them alone.

When you least expect it, Nature has cunning ways of finding our weakest spot. Just remember: I am here. Right now you may not want to feel anything. Perhaps you never wished to feel anything. But feel something you obviously did.

In your place, if there is pain, nurse it. And if there is a flame, don’t snuff it out. Don’t be brutal with it. We rip out so much of ourselves to be cured of things faster, that we go bankrupt by the age of thirty and have less to offer each time we start with someone new. But to make yourself feel nothing so as not to feel anything ― what a waste!

-André Acimen, Call Me By Your Name

This is to know something deeply, but to hear it and understand it as if for the first time. Thanks to Andre Acimen’s Call Me By Your Name, I found the perception I was lacking around the destructive act of guarding my heart. One must feel pain so that one may recognize joy, and this is the human experience. We are given one heart. We are given one life. Let’s make the most of it by giving all we have to love, even if it feels like it may destroy us.

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