On May 16th, I was chatting with a friend about how we'd been doing. Ours is the type of friendship where we check in on each other regularly, while making jokes about therapy.
"Have you been doing better?" she asked. "Looks like you've been functioning well."
"What do you mean?" I said.
"Well you've been writing," she answered. "So that's a good sign."

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She was right. I've written things from the most boring days I've had to the biggest change I've experienced. No matter what season I go through, it is writing that anchors me. It's my heartbeat — its imperfect rhythm keeping me alive. So, when I sense myself avoiding that pen, for some reason, or when I'm gazing at this blog from the sidelines, my fingers locked to where they are, I quickly realise there might be something wrong.
My last entry on June 8th was titled, How to Cope in a Heavy World. It is July 4th and the world is still, clearly, heavy. But I am writing again. In retrospect, maybe instead I should've written, How to Blog in a Heavy World. Because in the grand scheme of things, I stare at my words, and think:
Does this really matter?
And maybe it is a question many of us ask, regardless of what we do. Maybe musicians feel the same. Maybe teachers, after a long day. Maybe it is a question we would've asked ourselves anyway, with or without a pandemic on the rise.
As I grappled with this thought process, I put myself on hold. My month away from blogging wasn't so much a Sabbath as it was just being sick of amplifying my own voice. I stepped away and embraced the world in search of things that mattered — to me, at least. Deciding, each day, that if it kept me alive, it was good enough. And here is what I found:
1. That there are people to love.

When Melbourne began to ease restrictions last June, my two friends and I held a celebratory picnic. After being stuck in our apartments for the most part of those three months, our many laughs shared in that afternoon, accompanied by sunny weather and music, felt like breath. 
Later that week, feeling a tad rebellious while erring on the side of "law-abiding", we visited a friend's house within the small number that was allowed. She made us homemade pasta. We ate, we drank, we played Nintendo Switch. Might've laughed too hard, yelled a little too loud in that living room that night.
My first finding is that I couldn't change the world (or at least, not right now), but that there are people who, by what seems like a roll of a dice, have been placed into my life, and to whom the least and the most I could ever do is try, and try, and try, to do a mighty good job at loving them.


Kitchen counter. 9 PM.


2. That there are small things to be grateful for.

The chirping of birds, blissfully oblivious to our many grievances. The sunlight that comes around at noon and makes a winter day warm. The book I hold in my hand, reciting to me love stories that break my heart, then mend it back again responsibly. A picnic mat that reminds me of summer. A mother who, in the days where I doubt myself the most, tells me she is proud. That I'm in control. That I'm not in control. The toddler who saw me on my morning jog, who moved her feet and wanted to run with me. My breath when it's short, my breath when it's deep. And the many, many instances where someone says something that makes me smile.

Small things.


3. That there are words to say.

... and art to make, as long as I haven't forgotten how to do both. 
There are friends I exchange letters with, and these letters — the sending and receiving — are colour to my days. I write to them about a plant I saw, a dish I cooked, the life of my dreams. One of my friends doesn't have a last name so I add in "Hemsworth" on the envelope for the fun of it. Our postcards are ink-stained and creased and we love it all the more.
About a week ago, I bought art supplies again — a new set of brushes and a pack of acrylics. There are canvases and papers in the corner of my living room, reminding me everyday: There is so much to make. My third finding is that my empty days eradicate the notion, "So much to say, so little time." With all this time, my urge to create has intensified. I have so much to say. And I have so much beautiful time.

So much to say.


4. That there is grief to be cared for.

Earlier in June, somewhere along the lines of when society erupted in protest, I turned twenty-one. Now the idea of celebrating it was not only unappealing to me, but also morally close to bringing a show horse to a funeral. In the throes of replying to messages from loved ones, I thought, I should write about this like I always do. But amidst a world combating illness and injustice, then my 21st, then Father's Day (which fell a couple weeks after), I wasn't interested in trying to wax poetic. 
The truth is I was holding opposites, of gratitude and grief; a heart light, and heavy; and every day was the tightrope upon which I would balance both. My final finding during my month away from blogging is that there is grief, here, that is present. That I, and each of us carry for a multitude of reasons. So I no longer try to ignore it like a house guest I never invited. I let it come in. I make it feel comfortable. I cradle it when it cries on my shoulder. I fetch a box of Kleenex, and I let grief tell its story. And I find relief when grief finally speaks.
It's a balancing act, you see.


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Thank you for being here. For sharing your time. Thank you for the warm wishes sent my way last June. Thank you for every sliver of light you so generously give through your words and support.
Additional note: You can now subscribe to With Risa via our Facebook page, or signing up for an email subscription on the left hand side of this blog! I hope you're all taking care of yourself. May this entry offer you a little comfort. 
Talk to you soon.

Signed,
Jo

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