Dear Liesel

dearliesel

It is the middle of the night, and I can’t sleep- so I am reading your book. Not in the dark corner of a basement, struggling near a flickering candle or dim bulb, as bombs drop above me; but comfortable, in a bed with a dog and a lamp.

The first time I read it, I drank it in like water in a desert. These days, I have trouble with the words. It’s been a long time since they’ve come easily to me, through my own fault and through the fault of no one but the universe. My bones ache, and my thoughts are thick, sometimes. Finding the words requires wading through a fog, and I’ve lost the desperation for them that I once had.

Did you ever write again after they pulled you from the rubble of Himmel Street, or did the words drift away from you, like the ash billowing up and away in the heat of the fire?

People say that tragedy makes for good art, but I’m not sure that I believe that. They all want believe that suffering can create beauty, because it makes it a little more bearable. No one ever talks about the times when the sky opens up, dropping bombs that blow the words right out of you. Do we need to have both tragedy and joy to find meaning? Is it just a lie we tell ourselves to make sure we keep going? Would your papa’s accordion have sounded just as beautiful if the world around heaven street wasn’t going to hell? I don’t know.

Hell, I don’t know much of anything, and I especially don’t know how to say it. There are just nights like this, where I feel empty of words and full of words all at the same time and can’t seem to find a damn thing to do about it. I read and I write and I feel better but none of it makes any damn sense because if there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that everything is a contradiction.

You need suffering to feel joy. But you also don’t. The world is both more or less beautiful because a Jewish fist fighter starved in a concentration camp and a boy with hair the color of lemons saved a book from a river. We need the words. The words are worthless. It’s all a pile of shit and I don’t know how anyone can hope to describe why or how that is, but I’m glad for poetry and music all the same.

God, I want to go to sleep. I don’t ever want to sleep again.

Some nights, I feel like the words were stolen from me, and I want to shout up at the sky in all its colors at the unfairness of the universe. So tonight, please, help me steal just a few back.

Sincerely,

An Admirer

 

 

 

Liesel Memminger is from the novel The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

Dear Winry Rockbell

dearwinry

I’ve always admired you so much. I even started piercing my ears to look like yours. Which is sort of silly, but I think you’ll understand? You pierced yours because you admired Riza Hawkeye, right? It’s a way of emulating someone’s good personality traits in a physical action. It helps you remember, but somehow, I think it helps you change too. And I want to be more like you. I need to borrow some of your patience, if that’s okay.

See, you were always good at knowing exactly which things you were capable of fighting, of changing, and which things you would just have to be patient and allow happen in their own time. That’s why you were so good at being there for Ed and Al. You didn’t try to take their problems onto you. You didn’t try to fix them, because you knew you couldn’t. You knew that wasn’t your place. And you were patient enough to be okay with that, even when it was hard to watch from a distance.

I need to remember that for myself. Life is really frustrating, especially when it feels like there’s nothing I can do to change the world. Or fix someone else’s problems. Or fix myself. That’s just how life is sometimes. We do what we can, and we have to be patient for the rest. Most importantly, we find ways to make what we do while we’re waiting matter. You couldn’t go out and save the world. You couldn’t give Ed and Al their bodies back. But you gave them a place to come home to. A smile and a leg to lean on. You went out and helped people, individuals, in the little ways that keep the world spinning in the face of catastrophe.

So I’m going to just keep living and doing what I can. You’ve shown me that that will be enough.

Thanks,

Your friend

 

 

Winry Rockbell is from the manga and anime series Fullmetal Alchemist by Hiromu Arakawa

Dear Chihiro

dearchihiro

Watching your journey has always brought me peace. I don’t know why that is, precisely, but I appreciate it. Spirited Away has become something like a lullaby for me, on the nights when the pain was at its worst.

I suppose I should explain that last part. For many years now, I’ve dealt with a wide range of medical problems, autoimmune and chronic pain disorders that have been very debilitating. They won’t kill me, but there’s no cure either. My body is weak. It makes me feel weak, even though it’s not my fault that I have these problems.

But watching your journey, to become Sen, and then to become Chihiro again, helps me find a new kind of strength within myself. Because you show me a different kind of strength, one that isn’t in most stories. You aren’t some fantastical warrior hero, who succeeds by fighting monsters or destroying evil. You overcame by being kind. And by remembering who others were- and who they had the potential to be- you save people.

Maybe we all stay the same, deep down, while still growing up and out and into other things. You remembered who you were. You remembered Haku and your parents. People who were all different, yet the same

I am different now, and will never be the kind of strong that most people think of. But there is strength in living the life I was given. There is strength in kindness. There is strength in simply doing what the world requires of me. And there is incredible strength in loving others. I suppose that what brings me peace as I watch your film. Knowing that I can be strong in ways I never thought of before all this happened to me, that I can be different and the same all at once.

Peace is something I need more than ever these days. Thank you, Chihiro, for helping me find it.

Love always,

A friend

 

 

 

Chihiro is from the film Spirited Away written and directed by Hayao Miyazaki

Dear Vicky Austin,

dearvickyaustin

It’s been a long time. I’ve missed you, in a multitude of small ways. Your words were always there for me when I was a teenager. It was always your book I picked up when nothing made sense and my world felt simultaneously too vast and too insignificant.

Vicky, I know you’re often just as lost and confused as I am, but you do have a gift for listening and saying the right thing, even if you don’t always realize what you’re doing. And I feel like this is something you’ll understand, because you feel it sometimes too- I am so very replete with me. I know a lot of people feel that way. And for many good reasons, I’ve been focusing so much on myself on purpose. I’ve ignored my own needs and wants for so long that now I know everyone has to be a bit selfish sometimes. Taking care of my own needs first isn’t nearly as selfish as I used to think it was. It’s just that I feel out of balance. I feel like I’m starting to focus on the wrong things. It’s part of why I’ve been writing these letters to you and everyone else. I keep hoping to find my way back to a balance. I want to feel less “replete with me”.

When I started rereading the book again, my first reaction was to be scornful of your naivety. And that frightens me, a little, because I would have never felt that way in the past. But as I kept reading… I realize now how easy it is to mistake naivety for hope.

The world is full of horrors, red in tooth and claw. Little girls die pointlessly on the floor of overcrowded emergency rooms. Cops shoot kids because of the color of their skin. Dolphins are stillborn. Good people die doing the right thing. We all die without fully understanding any of it.

The world is full of hope, deep and dazzling darkness. Swallows learn to fly. Piano concerts in the grass on a warm summer night. Strangers go out of the way to help someone they’ll never see again. People wake up from comas. People fall in love. We all live without ever fully understanding any of it.

I don’t believe in God anymore, Vicky, not for a long time now. I don’t think I ever want to again, to be honest. But I do like reading about your faith, and the ways you struggle with it, because I am struggling with faith. It’s just not faith in God. What I’m trying to find is my faith in humanity, faith in goodness. I want to have faith that even in all the vastness of the universe, in the face of unrelenting rush of time and death and black holes, who we are and what we do matters.

I’m starting to relearn that it is not naivety to see every element of existence and still believe in goodness. There is courage in choosing joy and hope while fighting back against overwhelming evil and injustice. It matters who we are and what we do, even in the infinite. Being sick the way I have been, the depression, the physical pain and disabilities, looking around at the horrors of the world, it’s all made me lose sight of that. The darkness was not dazzling, but consuming. I know it’s not possible to optimistic all the time. The world doesn’t work like that, and neither do people. I am going to have bad days, weeks, months, still, no matter what I try mentally and physically. But when I can, on the days, weeks, months when I’m able, I want to start believing in joy and hope again.

Vicky, you always help me remember that there is a ring of endless light inside all of us, giving us hope. We’re not always able to see it. Being replete with me leaves little space for it, but I’m going to try to find my light again, even if I have no idea how to start.

Love always,

Your friend

 

 

Vicky Austin is from the novel A Ring of Endless Light by Madeleine L’Engle

Dear Raven Reyes

dearravenreyes

Sarcasm and bravado are a great defense against self-pity. You know that better than anyone. At one point, I debating doing a project, a comic, called “On a Positive Note, I Probably Won’t Survive the Apocalypse”. It was meant to be a bit of humor piece, making fun of the shit condition of my body. Of course, it was also a bit depressing and self-deprecating. With all my health problems, I truly couldn’t see myself making it in a difficult situation like that. I’m in pain, constantly, on some level, because genetics failed me. Some days, I can’t walk because my legs give out from under me. On worse days, I can’t move.

But, you not only survive a nuclear apocalypse radiation soaked planet, against Grounders and Mountain Men and the occasional jackass in your own camp, you kick ass and take names while you do it. Even after losing the feeling in your left leg. Even while living in extreme pain yourself. You’re able to do it because you’re smarter and more determined than anyone else. Which means that I need to rework my way of thinking. My body is kind of shit, but hey, both my legs work some days. And I’m sure as hell not stupid. Not “perfect scores on all my tests” or “hack a ridiculously advanced AI” smart, but smart enough to figure out how to make it. How to kick ass. How to be the awesome. So I will figure it out. You might be the best, but give me time. I’m just as much a perfectionist as you. I’ll find a way to kick ass, even if the apocalypse does happen and things trying to kill me surround me.

Raven, you’re crippled. And you’re strong and talented and badass. Those things aren’t mutually exclusive. Don’t ever let anyone tell you otherwise- especially don’t tell yourself otherwise. I’ll try and do the same.

Yeah, sometimes we both just need to remind ourselves that we’re allowed to ask for help. And just because our bodies don’t work the way they used to, we’re not weak. We might have changed, but that doesn’t make us less than who we were. It just makes us different. And we’re both smart enough to figure out how to be a different kind of badass.

Life is a struggle, apocalyptic wasteland or not, but we know how to fight. So let’s do this shit, and do it better than anyone else.

Thanks,

Your friend

 

 

Raven Reyes is from the television series the 100