In mid-February I traveled eight hours to sit by the sea

“I am unhappy. Father,” I said. “I have loved this town and the people in it. I have drunk them down with delight. But they have some poison in them which I cannot stand. If I think of them now, I vomit up my soul. Do you know of a cure for me?”

“Why yes,” he said, “I know a cure for everything. Salt water.”

“Salt water?” I asked him.

“Yes,” he said, “in one way or the other. Sweat, or tears, or the salt sea.”

– Isak Dinesen, from “The Deluge at Norderney” in Seven Gothic Tales (1934)

 

In mid-February I traveled eight hours to sit by the sea, hoping to float, baggage-free, along the horizon. Instead, I spent that weekend reading books and articles on wasted lives, the politics of disposability, human rights, and the death zones of humanity. I read up on the Ampatuan Massacre, I read up on the killings of the Davao Death Squad. I wound up V-Day singing saksak-puso-senti songs on karaoke with strangers at midnight in a hipster pasta place in a gentrified surf town.

I have run the gamut of saline solutions. But sadness, like seawater, is a renewable resource.

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Lessons from my early twenties: Never assign a central position in your emotional life to someone who treats you as if you were dispensable. It takes a while to arrive back to where you were, and distance to see clearly through saltwater.

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