Always in your stomach and in your skin there was a sort of protest, a feeling that you had been cheated of something you had aright to.
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Always in your stomach and in your skin there was a sort of protest, a feeling that you had been cheated of something you had aright to.

-George Orwell

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First I need to do something.’ He pulled me closer towards him until our lips were almost touching.‘What might that be?’ I managed to stutter, closing my eyes, anticipating the warmth of his lips against mine. But the kiss didn’t come. I opened my eyes. Alex had jumped to his feet.‘Swim,’ he said, grinning at me. ‘Come on.’‘Swim?’ I pouted, unable to hide my disappointment that he wanted to swim rather than make out with me.Alex pulled his T-shirt off in one swift move. My eyes fell straightaway to his chest – which was tanned, smooth and ripped with muscle, and which, when you studied it as I had done, in detail, you discovered wasn’t a six-pack but actually a twelve-pack.My eyes flitted to the shadowed hollows where his hips disappeared into his shorts, causing a flutter in parts of my body that up until three weeks ago had been flutter-dormant. Alex’s hands dropped to his shorts and he started undoing his belt.I reassessed the swimming option. I could definitely do swimming.He shrugged off his shorts, but before I could catch an eyeful of anything, he was off, jogging towards the water. I paused for a nanosecond, weighing up my embarrassment at stripping naked over my desire to follow him. With a deep breath, I tore off my dress then kicked off my underwear and started running towards the sea, praying Nate wasn’t doing a fly-by.The water was warm and flat as a bath. I could see Alex in the distance, his skin gleaming in the now inky moonlight. When I got close to him, his hand snaked under the water, wrapped round my waist and pulled me towards him. I didn’t resist because I’d forgotten in that instant how to swim. And then he kissed me and I prayed silently and fervently that he took my shudder to be the effect of the water.I tried sticking myself onto him like a barnacle, but eventually Alex managed to pull himself free, holding my wrists in his hand so I couldn’t reattach. His resolve was as solid as a nuclear bunker’s walls. Alex had said there were always chinks. But I couldn’t seem to find the one in his armour. He swam two long strokes away from me. I trod water and stayed where I was, feeling confused, glad that the night was dark enough to hide my expression.‘I’m just trying to protect your honour,’ he said, guessing it anyway.I groaned and rolled my eyes. When was he going to understand that I was happy for him to protect every other part of me, just not my honour?

-Sarah Alderson

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I saw a banner hanging next to city hall in downtown Philadelphia that read, "Kill them all, and let God sort them out." A bumper sticker read, "God will judge evildoers; we just have to get them to him." I saw a T-shirt on a soldier that said, "US Air Force... we don't die; we just go to hell to regroup." Others were less dramatic- red, white, and blue billboards saying, "God bless our troops." "God Bless America" became a marketing strategy. One store hung an ad in their window that said, "God bless America--$1 burgers." Patriotism was everywhere, including in our altars and church buildings. In the aftermath of September 11th, most Christian bookstores had a section with books on the event, calendars, devotionals, buttons, all decorated in the colors of America, draped in stars and stripes, and sprinkled with golden eagles. This burst of nationalism reveals the deep longing we all have for community, a natural thirst for intimacy... September 11th shattered the self-sufficient, autonomous individual, and we saw a country of broken fragile people who longed for community- for people to cry with, be angry with, to suffer with. People did not want to be alone in their sorrow, rage, and fear. But what happened after September 11th broke my heart. Conservative Christians rallies around the drums of war. Liberal Christian took to the streets. The cross was smothered by the flag and trampled under the feet of angry protesters. The church community was lost, so the many hungry seekers found community in the civic religion of American patriotism. People were hurting and crying out for healing, for salvation in the best sense of the word, as in the salve with which you dress a wound. A people longing for a savior placed their faith in the fragile hands of human logic and military strength, which have always let us down. They have always fallen short of the glory of God. ...The tragedy of the church's reaction to September 11th is not that we rallied around the families in New York and D.C. but that our love simply reflected the borders and allegiances of the world. We mourned the deaths of each soldier, as we should, but we did not feel the same anger and pain for each Iraqi death, or for the folks abused in the Abu Ghraib prison incident. We got farther and farther from Jesus' vision, which extends beyond our rational love and the boundaries we have established. There is no doubt that we must mourn those lives on September 11th. We must mourn the lives of the soldiers. But with the same passion and outrage, we must mourn the lives of every Iraqi who is lost. They are just as precious, no more, no less. In our rebirth, every life lost in Iraq is just as tragic as a life lost in New York or D.C. And the lives of the thirty thousand children who die of starvation each day is like six September 11ths every single day, a silent tsunami that happens every week.

-Shane Claiborne

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Now, my dear little girl, you have come to an age when the inward life develops and when some people (and on the whole those who have most of a destiny) find that all is not a bed of roses. Among other things there will be waves of terrible sadness, which last sometimes for days; irritation, insensibility, etc., etc., which taken together form a melancholy. Now, painful as it is, this is sent to us for an enlightenment. It always passes off, and we learn about life from it, and we ought to learn a great many good things if we react on it right. (For instance, you learn how good a thing your home is, and your country, and your brothers, and you may learn to be more considerate of other people, who, you now learn, may have their inner weaknesses and sufferings, too.) Many persons take a kind of sickly delight in hugging it; and some sentimental ones may even be proud of it, as showing a fine sorrowful kind of sensibility. Such persons make a regular habit of the luxury of woe. That is the worst possible reaction on it. It is usually a sort of disease, when we get it strong, arising from the organism having generated some poison in the blood; and we mustn't submit to it an hour longer than we can help, but jump at every chance to attend to anything cheerful or comic or take part in anything active that will divert us from our mean, pining inward state of feeling. When it passes off, as I said, we know more than we did before. And we must try to make it last as short as time as possible. The worst of it often is that, while we are in it, we don't want to get out of it. We hate it, and yet we prefer staying in it—that is a part of the disease. If we find ourselves like that, we must make something ourselves to some hard work, make ourselves sweat, etc.; and that is the good way of reacting that makes of us a valuable character. The disease makes you think of yourself all the time; and the way out of it is to keep as busy as we can thinking of things and of other people—no matter what's the matter with our self.

-William James

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You saved the world," annabeth said."We saved the world.""And Rachel is the new Oracle, which means she won't be dating anybody.""You don't sound disappointed," I noticed.Annabeth shrugged. "Oh, I don't care.""Uh-huh."She raised an eyebrow. "You got something to say to me, Seaweed Brain?""You'd probably kick my butt.""You know I'd kick your butt."I brushed the cake off my hands. "When I was at the River Styx, turning invulnerable . . . Nico said I had to concentrate on one thing that kept me anchored to the world, that made me want to stay mortal."Annabeth kept her eyes on the horizon. "Yeah?""Then up on Olympus," I said, "when they wanted to make me a god and stuff, I kept thinking—""Oh, you so wanted to.""Well, maybe a little. But I didn't, because I thought—I didn't want things to stay the same for eternity, becausethings could always get better. And I was thinking . . ." My throat felt really dry."Anyone in particular?" Annabeth asked, her voice soft.I looked over and saw that she was trying not to smile."You're laughing at me," I complained."I am not!""You are so not making this easy."Then she laughed for real, and she put her hands around my neck. "I am never, ever going to make things easy foryou, Seaweed Brain. Get used to it."When she kissed me, I had the feeling my brain was melting right through my body. I could've stayed that way forever, except a voice behind us growled, "Well, it's about time!"Suddenly the pavilion was filled with torchlight and campers. Clarisse led the way as the eavesdroppers charged and hoisted us both onto their shoulders."Oh, come on!" I complained. "Is there no privacy?""The lovebirds need to cool off!" Clarisse said with glee."The canoe lake!" Connor Stoll shouted. and they dumped us in the water.

-Rick Riordan

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LADY LAZARUSI have done it again.One year in every tenI manage it--A sort of walking miracle, my skinBright as a Nazi lampshade,My right footA paperweight,My face a featureless, fineJew linen.Peel off the napkinO my enemy.Do I terrify?--The nose, the eye pits, the full set of teeth?The sour breathWill vanish in a day.Soon, soon the fleshThe grave cave ate will beAt home on meAnd I a smiling woman.I am only thirty.And like the cat I have nine times to die.This is Number Three.What a trashTo annihilate each decade.What a million filaments.The peanut-crunching crowdShoves in to seeThem unwrap me hand and foot--The big strip tease.Gentlemen, ladiesThese are my handsMy knees.I may be skin and bone,Nevertheless, I am the same, identical woman.The first time it happened I was ten.It was an accident.The second time I meantTo last it out and not come back at all.I rocked shutAs a seashell.They had to call and callAnd pick the worms off me like sticky pearls.DyingIs an art, like everything else.I do it exceptionally well.I do it so it feels like hell.I do it so it feels real.I guess you could say I've a call.It's easy enough to do it in a cell.It's easy enough to do it and stay put.It's the theatricalComeback in broad dayTo the same place, the same face, the same bruteAmused shout:'A miracle!'That knocks me out.There is a chargeFor the eyeing of my scars, there is a chargeFor the hearing of my heart--It really goes.And there is a charge, a very large chargeFor a word or a touchOr a bit of bloodOr a piece of my hair or my clothes.So, so, Herr Doktor.So, Herr Enemy.I am your opus,I am your valuable,The pure gold babyThat melts to a shriek.I turn and burn.Do not think I underestimate your great concern.Ash, ash--You poke and stir.Flesh, bone, there is nothing there--A cake of soap, A wedding ring,A gold filling.Herr God, Herr LuciferBewareBeware.Out of the ashI rise with my red hairAnd I eat men like air.

-Sylvia Plath

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One day about a month ago, I really hit bottom. You know, I just felt that in a Godless universe, I didn't want to go on living. Now I happen to own this rifle, which I loaded, believe it or not, and pressed it to my forehead. And I remember thinking, at the time, I'm gonna kill myself. Then I thought, what if I'm wrong? What if there is a God? I mean, after all, nobody really knows that. But then I thought, no, you know, maybe is not good enough. I want certainty or nothing. And I remember very clearly, the clock was ticking, and I was sitting there frozen with the gun to my head, debating whether to shoot.[The gun fires accidentally, shattering a mirror] All of a sudden, the gun went off. I had been so tense my finger had squeezed the trigger inadvertently. But I was perspiring so much the gun had slid off my forehead and missed me. And suddenly neighbors were, were pounding on the door, and, and I don't know, the whole scene was just pandemonium. And, uh, you know, I-I-I ran to the door, I-I didn't know what to say. You know, I was-I was embarrassed and confused and my-my-my mind was r-r-racing a mile a minute. And I-I just knew one thing.I-I-I had to get out of that house, I had to just get out in the fresh air and-and clear my head. And I remember very clearly, I walked the streets. I walked and I walked. I-I didn't know what was going through my mind. It all seemed so violent and un-unreal to me. And I wandered for a long time on the Upper West Side, you know, and-and it must have been hours. You know, my-my feet hurt, my head was-was pounding, and-and I had to sit down. I went into a movie house. I-I didn't know what was playing or anything.I just, I just needed a moment to gather my thoughts and, and be logical and put the world back into rational perspective. And I went upstairs to the balcony, and I sat down, and, you know, the movie was a-a-a film that I'd seen many times in my life since I was a kid, and-and I always, uh, loved it. And, you know, I'm-I'm watching these people up on the screen and I started getting hooked on the film, you know. And I started to feel, how can you even think of killing yourself. I mean isn't it so stupid? I mean, l-look at all the people up there on the screen. You know, they're real funny, and-and what if the worst is true.What if there's no God, and you only go around once and that's it. Well, you know, don't you want to be part of the experience? You know, what the hell, it's-it's not all a drag. And I'm thinkin' to myself, geez, I should stop ruining my life - searching for answers I'm never gonna get, and just enjoy it while it lasts. And, you know, after, who knows? I mean, you know, maybe there is something. Nobody really knows. I know, I know maybe is a very slim reed to hang your whole life on, but that's the best we have. And then, I started to sit back, and I actually began to enjoy myself.

-Woody Allen

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Julian," she said huskily, "you were right the other morning. You know me so well. I'm not made for illicit affaires, all that sneaking around to avoid discovery." In the dark, her hands crept up to his shoulders, then his face. Her finger teased through his hair. "Why should we hide at all? Let all London see us together. I don't care what anyone says or thinks. I love you, and I want the world to know."He wanted to weep. For joy, for frustration. She was so brave, his beautiful Lily, and the situation was so damned unfair. It wasn't her fault that she made these heartrending declarations at a moment when their lives were probably in danger and he couldn't possibly reciprocate. That fault was his, for choosing to live the way he had and making the decisions he'd made. He didn't deserve her, didn't deserve her love. He most certainly didn't merit those warm brushes of her lips against his skin. But damned if he could bring himself to stop them."We're in love, Julian. Isn't it wonderful?""No," he murmured as she kissed him again. "It's not wonderful. It's a disaster." Her lips grazed his jaw, then his throat. "I can feel you speaking, and I know you're probably making some valiant protest. But you know I can't hear those words. Your body is making an altogether different argument, and I'm listening to it." Her fingers crept inside his waistcoat, splaying over the thin lawn of his shirt. "Take your heart, for example."Yes, take it. Take it and keep it, always.

-Tessa Dare

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A few years ago I spent Christmas and New Years alone. No family. No friends. No gifts. A little tree with some lights on it. A small Christmas dinner (in a can). Far from home but with a lot of good memories of it. I didn't feel too sad because I knew things would change for the better because I knew I would change them for the better. It was all up to me, not fate, or luck (although understand that those are big players in this game too). If I didn't like where I was at that moment I couldn't feel sorry myself and blame someone else, play the victim. I was the one who put myself there and I knew I was the one that had to change. So I did. See, misery is never very far away from us (it lurks around every dark corner) but neither is joy. You've got to roll with that black horse when it visits, ride that bitch out if you can but you've got to enjoy the hell out of the other too, when it chances to come your way. Above all, you've got to recognize joy when it shows up to dance with you and, sorry, that's not nearly as easy as it sounds. You've got to fight tooth and nail in this life to try and be as happy as you can with the circumstances you've been given. You've got to fight with every inch of your being for that and grit your teeth and stick out your chin while you're doing it too because although without a doubt it's the right fight to be in, it's going to be hard sometimes. So hard that maybe you'll be blind to everything else. Along the way however, always remember one thing: even though there are people out there in the world who will take the heart right out of you...there are those who will put it right back in again (let them). Learn to recognize who they are because that's something really worth knowing. But it's up to you in the end. It's up to you to embrace the wonders in this life and to deny the darkness (and there are plenty of both). Be strong, be brave, be kind, be noble and above all, slay your dragons and keep on moving. Don't stop. And finally, even if happiness forgets you for a little while, never completely forget about it. It's there waiting for the other to pass. Even in your darkest hour don't ever doubt that for a second.

-Noel James Riggs

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