+WRITTEN WORDS

Love
  • Within

    Photography by Ashley Burnstad | Jewelry by Amanda Hunt

    I
     gotchu baby girl, I am your own best friend
    I am your teacher, your healer, your lover
    I am simply you-- your higher self summoned 
    From the depths of you within, I am you, your soul
    I am always near my love, even when you seem to lose control
    Find me, feel me, for I am always here
    I am the stillness within with a voice that may seem quiet like the wind
    Until you stop to listen the way you would the trees
    like  the sound of the rustling, the turning of the leaves 
    The more you tune in
    the more I become alive
    The love, the self, the you within-- together we will thrive
  • Bath House

    The silence of the bath house. 

    Soft whispers. Water. Ripples. Drops. Deep inhales and exhales, wet feet on the ground. 

    The smell of cedar, the taste of cucumbers in spa water. Eucalyptus steam. 

    Bathing naked ladies of different shapes, sizes, and colors-- but all with the same relaxed expression. We move about and lay about in a dreamy steamy haze. Together we soak, we breathe, we relax, we release, we sigh, we sweat, we let go. We wash away all of our troubles and soak in the divine feminine that we are. Unbeknownst to some of us, we are all sharing this collective worship of us. 

    After bathing bliss I make my way through the ammenities. Bottomless lotions and potions. The dreamy haze starts to lift and I notice that as the women put on their clothes, I recognize their familiar presence less and less. We layer on the filters of fabric that garment our naked and soft bodies, we dress our personalities in patterns and colors, sealing our exibitions with buttons and zippers-- and we come back to our clothed and civilized selves. 

  • “YOU ARE A VICTIM OF NARCISSISTIC ABUSE”

    I stared at the screen, reading over the titles, subtitles; the long endless list of hundreds and thousands of links to websites, videos, articles, studies, books, and stories of victims who have survived Narcissistic Abuse. I stared at the screen in absolute dismay as I read, watched, and processed this new reality. It was a reality that I could have never considered or fathomed. It was the only reality that made sense of all the madness that had consumed me and left me in a disoriented fog for the entirety of my relationship with her.  

    As I read the stories, the cycles, the patterns, and the cookie cutter ways in which this pathology called narcissism plays out-- I felt myself having an out of body experience. The stories were all the same. All I could think was, “That is me, that just happened to me.” I could have written their story and they could have written mine. I was bewildered.

     Are you fucking serious? This is a thing?!?!  

    Yes, Kayko, it is a REAL thing.

    I was in a textbook relationship of manipulation of almost four years. I was one of those women that I watched from a Lifetime movie that I watched from my adolescent room, snacking while in my boxers and oversized t-shirt. I would root for the woman in the movie to escape her sociopathic abuser, outsmart his vengeance, and for her to gain her power and freedom back with her head held high.

    How could this be? How could something that felt so real, that went on for so long have been an illusion? What about that time she told me how much she loved me? What about those grand gestures of love? Where was I this whole time? How did I let this happen to me?

    With each sentence I read, this pathological understanding of this sickness was destroying everything I had ever thought I knew and felt in my relationship. Suprisingly, it was actually liberating me. It was the only thing that made it all finally make sense. It was the only thing that could thread all of the screams that I had shouting within me, it was the only thing can could validate all my confusion, it was the only thing that could diagnose what just always felt so fucking off. 

    The Hollywood 

    I was in her movie and in love with her character. I was the co-star and she, the narcissist, was the star. She acted out a role of a passionate and intense lover who had never felt the way she did, as she did for me. I was her girl, the love of her life. We fell madly in love and despite all the things that could and would go wrong—our love was all that mattered.

    Were there red flags? Absolutely. Did the role and character she played ever waver? All the time. She fell out of character and would pull a stunt that was quite disappointing, disrespectful, and inconsiderate. It would leave others including myself, hurt and confused. Her mask would slip and it left us questioning her integrity and intentions. Then she pulled the mask back up, would do a grand gesture, a thoughtful act, and eventually once again we would all be on board—hey we are all humans right? Some would walk away and never come back. Looking back, it seemed she knew it was a movie because she always believed and thought people were watching us. She always wanted to be “ON” and when our movie wasn’t playing out as she desired, I was “ruining it.”

    She was a pantomime, she was a hologram, she was a regurgitated projection of all the mannerisms and personalities that she studied from movies and observing others. She would take on the interest and traits that she thought people would love. Sometimes I would catch her quoting me or others without giving any credit. I remember it giving me an uneasy feeling but I brushed it off thinking it was her absorbing and growing and I should be happy she is learning.

    As all narcissists do, she was merely here to feed off my soul, I was food for this gluttonous lover. Perhaps  my romantic notions of vampires and love were actualized in this pathological way. The empathic good hearted mortal, a hopeless romantic, falls in love and self-sacrifices with a sexy, dangerous, unattainable mystery without a soul.

    It is a character study much like an actor would do to win the audience, gain admiration, to capture the emotions of the watchers, and to reap the benefits of such an Oscar winning performance. I felt so in it. I was engrossed in the love story, feeling every emotion, following every twist, sitting on the edge of my seat. This was a romantic comedy that would occasionally flash into a psychological thriller. I was left disarrayed in lies that I did not know how to get back into myself, my body, my vessel, who was sitting and watching the movie in the audience.

     When the reality of my relationship with my partner began to reveal itself to me, when her mask completely fell away, when the jig was finally up, the credits started to roll and the lights came on. I hauntingly recall  looking into the eyes of my lover and seeing an emptiness that terrified me. 

    The Terms & Definitions

    Educating myself helped me to identify terms and definitions for what I went through. Words and names for the experiences that many others were also  having. I was being seduced by a histrionic, charming, narc.  Wooed and pursuedlove bombed, and then slowly but surely being relied on for help and survival, creating an enabling and dependent dynamic. In the moments of disillusionment you are then gas lighted then drowned in pathological lies. I was ambiently abusedprojected upon, given the silent treatment, dosed,  bait and switched, and just when I was feeling loved, it would suddenly be withheld leaving me confused and wondering what I did wrong. When I could not take it anymore and would try to distance myself and leave—I was hoovered back in because she so desperately loved and needed me. I was needed as supply for her survival. I was put in positions where I had to carry her weight and responsibilities. When I would create boundaries, she would pull a vanishing act and eventually leave me discarded like a piece of trash. And don’t forget the flying monkeys they recruit to do a smear campaign on you to make them look like they need saving from your relationship and controlling ways. Many who are in relationship with a narcissist suffer from Stockholm Syndrome. It ends so badly and abruptly that you are left wondering if you ever meant anything to the narc. I went through the cycles several times. It was psychologically, emotionally, spiritually, and even physically abusive.

    The Victims

    Typically the victims of the narcissist are high acheivers, have great reputations, are intelligent, kind-hearted, giving, empathic, and nurturing. The Narc needs to choose persons of high value so that their own stock can go up. Of course we must also recognize the shadow aspects of these traits that the victims have as they manifest into the need to be needed, of co-dependency, and the martyr with poor boundaries. The Narc is drawn to people who are understanding and have potential to being a doormat simply because they are more likely to tolerate and forgive them. Narcs need someone who can make them look good. The more popular, the more successful, the more rich, the more respected-- the better.

    How a Narc becomes a Narc

    The narc typically develops in childhood. There is usually a narcissist adult and this becomes fertile grounds for a child becoming either a narc themselves or a magnet for a narc. The potential narc child doesn’t get the love, attention, or validation that they felt they needed. At some point the child discards their true selves similar to the metaphor of selling their soul, and commit to getting their needs met at all costs. This insatiable desire to get their needs met can never be actualized because they seek it from the external and not within. Sure, many of us will do this, search externally for our happiness but the narc does so without any regard or empathy for others. If you can’t give them what they want, you are useless. They carry a grandiose sense of entitlement to absolutely every aspect of their life because they were so wronged as a child. They spend their lives externally seeking to meet their unmet needs at the expense of anyone who may be able to supply it. This need for supply is survival and the world is against them and it is everyone’s fault but their own. Because they felt so robbed as a child and carry much anger toward their caregiver for not providing it, they project that same anger and resentment onto the world and all the people in it. 

    For the victim, the honey moon is eventually over, followed by the gaurenteed whirlwind of drama, betrayal, and confusion. When the Narc is confronted the victim is then discarded into what feels like a room with no doors, no lights, feeling as though they are on the brink of insanity, imprisoned in a spiral of what feels like a bad batch of drugs that got slipped into their drink. That is hopefully when they realize—this isn’t and never was, LOVE.

    When The Viel is Pulled 

    I got lucky. My life was falling apart, she was cheating on me again, lying to me again, and the lies were finally catching up. I went through great lengths to discover the truth and when I did, I no longer recognized the person I was living and sharing my life with. When I told my director that I needed some time off to make some major changes in my life and that all jokes aside, I think I might be in a relationship with a sociopath, he looked at me with a knowing glance and sat me down. He pulled out the DSM 5 and told me he was going to bookmark a few pages that I could read when I felt ready. He had his own experiences with a NPD mother and a few NPD relationships before finally becoming an expert on the matter. 

    Being in a relationship with a narc can be the most absolute destructive experience  of psychological warfare that one could ever experience. They leave a trail of people in shambles behind them without any sense of remorse. It is not until you have personally experienced narcissistic abuse that you could ever possibly wrap your head around it. The biggest tragedy of all is that some victims never find out that what happened to them is an actual thing. That is why knowing and educating yourself about it can be so extremely healing and liberating. Many victims of narcissistic abuse go on living in a state of disoriented depression for years until they one day became enlightened to what actually happened to them.

    Awareness is key. Knowledge is POWER. Truth indeed, will set you FREE.

    It is an absolute nightmare to have been in bondage with a narc. But like all nightmares, you eventually wake up, catch your breath, and come to realize that it was just a dream. You are still you and there is something to say about the symbolism that lies in the dreams that we have that can provide us with so much cues as to what we can start to begin to understand about ourselves. Sometimes the most extreme of experiences is what catapults us into radical transformation.

     

    RESOURCES

    http://narcissisticbehavior.net/narcissism-and-the-addiction-to-narcissistic-supply/

    http://thehappysensitive.com/narcissistic-love-versus-unconditional-love/

    https://www.bpdcentral.com/narcissistic-disorder/hallmarks-of-npd/ 

    https://afternarcissisticabuse.wordpress.com/2013/12/01/signs-that-youve-been-abused-by-a-narcissist/

    http://esteemology.com/whenyoukeeptakingthemba/

    Take the quiz: http://www.melanietoniaevans.com/quiz-npd.htm

  • Happy Earth Day

    Mother Earth is home to all of us. We aren't separate because we share the same air, water, and space. And because this is our home and the divisions are invisible and made up-- we are all responsible for one another. When a fellow human being is in turmoil, we all are. If any part of the world is having a disaster then we are all having a disaster. Yes, your own happiness is ultimately your own responsibility-- but we are also collectively here having an experience together. Our own happiness is a contribution to all. Be kind to yourself, our home, and each other. 

  • At Last

    At Last started to play and she coyly smiled and gestured me to dance with her. She reached her hand out to meet mine, our bodies pulling together as if we have done this before. As we slow danced, everyone in the room disappeared, she held my gaze with her sincere blue eyes and I felt us traveling through time and space as the music echoed. I couldn’t remember what day or year it was. For all I know, Etta could have been singing it live. We danced like lovers do and as the song neared it’s melodic end, she leaned in and whispered in my ear—"I just got lost with you."

  • Together Forever

    You stand across from me, with a cigarette in your mouth. I wish you would quit smoking. You look at me the way you do, arrogantly, when you know I am watching you. You take your last few drags and without blinking an eye, carelessly flick your bad habit onto the ground between us. The fire starts to spread slowly before picking up speed, spreading fast and quick, swiftly destroying all we will have ever known.

    All of our sentimental belongings become food for this gluttonous fire; our photos from the romantic trips we took hanging on our walls curl up before dissolving into nothing but a memory. The bed we once shared, laid our heads to rest, dreamt on, fucked in, and watched endless movies from--engulfs into a sea of flames. The walls around us, containing our sacred space-- our home, collapses around us and we are enveloped in a ring of fire. We both watch powerless, as the unforgiving fire destroys everything that is precious to us. It’s too late and I cannot save you, so I stay. I hate you for having put us in this danger and I love you too much to leave you here alone. The heat and the flames are like no agonizing pain we have ever felt, it gets harder and harder to breathe, our screams fall on deaf ears, and we burn. 

     As the fire finally dies down and the smoke settles, we are left with the incinerated rubble and remain in silence as the flames gracefully fade from the remaining cinders. Your blue eyes stare back softly at me exhausted, filthy, burnt, scarred-- and yet, you are still so beautiful. I reach my hand to wipe the ashes off your cheek as your apologetic tears stream down your face. 

    No one could have survived this, but WE did. We made it. We are still here. We let the fire consume us. We don’t even know if we are still alive, we might be dead, but it doesn’t matter because we died for our love. In some other alternate reality, in some parallel universe, somewhere in the matrix of possibilities-- we survived a hellish fire and we are still together. Together forever, just like we promised.

    You grab me and hold me close against your frail body. I bury my face in your chest, I close my eyes, I breathe you in, and I cry tears of relief knowing that no matter what happens or how much it hurts—our love is immortal.

  • I Left My Heart in San Francisco

    It felt so nostalgic driving through San Francisco the other day, despite all the construction, changes, and gentrification of the city. These changes have been raising much controversy; however, for the first time in a while, the city felt like it once did some time ago. The sun was out, the skies were blue, and we had the windows of our old red Mustang rolled down with the crisp air circulating around us. Not only was it a beautiful day in San Francisco, but Tj, my lover, my partner, was driving us to our double date with my childhood best friend, Aya and her husband, Julian. It felt like such a profound coming together of both my past and present life (and self.)  We were driving from Oakland to Japan Town; and, because of heavy traffic, we were routed through Pine Street. As we drove up the historical, steep hills of San Francisco, we were both commenting on and appreciating the beautiful Victorian homes. We fantasized about maybe giving city living a try.

    Looking out the window, I started thinking about how much Mama loved this city. She has always been romanticized by this city and so was I. I thought about how we once lived here, shortly after I was born in Hawaii. I thought about how incredible it was that she, a woman, born and raised in Japan, managed to break through the societal norms of her time, to find herself traveling the world, Go-go dancing for the Air Force troops in Vietnam, having children with an African American man, living in all the major cities, opening a little punk-rock fashion boutique on Polk and Post, and employing gay boys in her store. She was truly brave, open minded, and unchained by social reform. I thought about how courageous it was to be a woman of that time; with English as her second language, to actually open a business in the heart of San Francisco. I wondered what the apartment in Japan Town we lived in must have looked like and if it still existed.

    I thought about how this incredible city will always represent a part of her that will live within me forever. This city was once a home to her, to us, and over the years, we created wonderful memories exploring it together. I felt my tears streaming down my face, trying hard not to let Tj notice. I started to feel a deep and profound sadness over the struggle she endured in the last 10 years of her life. She could not enjoy growing old the way she deserved to and endured such a debilitating illness that caused her so much suffering. She lived in such discomfort for as long as she could for the sake of her children. I cried and cried and couldn’t seem to stop the flow of my salty tears for all of her pain and suffering. Although the hardships brought us close together, she didn’t deserve them. Her rapid decline in her health with an untreatable autoimmune virus, Sjogren's syndrome, was a life altering condition that forced her to withdraw into herself. She could no longer be the busy business woman she once was. She could no longer go running, play golf, practice yoga, drive her real estate clients around, eat out, travel, or socialize. Even something as simple as being outside, feeling the cool island trade winds, being under the warm tropical sun, or going to the store became almost impossible with her condition. Everything in her life came to a screeching halt; and because of her cultural influences of never wanting to be a burden to anyone, her condition was kept a secret. To the outside world, it was as if she fell off the face of the earth. I thought about how isolated her life had become in her solitude and how insecure she felt about herself and her appearance—although to me, she was still so beautiful.

    As I cried these tears of painful sadness, we came to a stop at an intersection and a cable car passed by. In a matter of a few serendipitous moments, my tears became a deep and comforting reassurance. It was as if this cable car intercepted my heartbreaking sadness and reminded me of the immense joy we shared. I was flooded with memories of Mama and the cable cars of San Francisco. She once gifted me a wind-up wooden cable car that played the melody of “I Left my Heart in San Francisco” that I kept in my room. I would look at it and fantasize about how one day I too, would travel to that romantic city.

    I thought about the trips we took in her last 4 years here on earth and how we would ride the cable cars throughout the city. It was the only handful of times during her 10 years of being confined to the interior of our home in Hawaii that she would just somehow miraculously pull herself together. Her sister from Japan would join us and Mama would step outside of her suffering for the sake of us. It made us think that maybe she was going to be all right and that maybe she was getting better. Unbeknownst to us, she was still struggling.

    I thought about one particular memorable ride on the cable car, she was seated behind me and she wrapped her loving arms around me. It was one of the rare moments of physical affection. She gave me the most loving embrace and squeeze that said “I love you” more than words could ever express; I was her bambino, her baby.  I always felt so loved by her, without the reenactments of TV-moms that I grew up watching on television that lavished their children with hugs, kisses on their scraped knees, and endless “I love yous”. That wasn’t how we were; but it never mattered. I understood her, I understood the Japanese culture, and I always knew she loved me. There would be moments where she would just stop and take a moment to look at me with such love and adoration. She would touch my face or come and hug me out of the blue and those moments were so incredibly powerful. I saw how other kids would roll their eyes at their overly adoring mothers and I couldn’t relate. I appreciated her love. The moments we shared stood out; they meant a lot to me, and they were so precious. I knew on that ride that that moment would never leave me; I knew that it would forever echo the incredible love that only a mother could give, and in that moment, when I needed it the most, I felt it all over again.

    The double date with Aya and her husband ended up being momentous. It was the perfect meeting and experience of the propensity of both life and death. We watched a movie at the iconic Kabuki theatre and ate delicious Japanese food. During our meal, Aya had an important announcement to make that she had been waiting to tell me in person; she was pregnant! My childhood best friend, who was both a beautiful woman and yet, the 10 year old little girl, who showed me true friendship. Aya was going to be a mother. I was utterly overjoyed. Tears of happiness flowed from my eyes. I felt absolute, pure unconditional love; the love of a child for a mother and a mother’s love for her child. I felt that love in its entirety and in every fiber of my being.

    My joy and my sorrow hold hands with one another; they are two sides of the same coin, just as birth and death are. They both stand beside us and are our life long companions. Birth welcomes each one of us to exist here in this world and death is that which will see us all out.  We also experience them alternately for we die and are reborn many times within a lifetime. Both joy and sorrow visit me continually. One always greets me while the other awaits its turn, and sometimes they keep me company at the same time. I have been blessed with such profound love and joy and with that comes inevitable, deep sorrow. The depth of my sorrow is an equitable reflection of that boundless love; a union that could not exist without the other. I have learned that joy and sorrow will continue to co-exist in my life, that both will tenderly embrace me—just as Mama’s hug on that cable car ride will continue to embrace me for the rest of my life.