Post- Magazine

anything but lines [A&C]

mourning a past self with repetition

My dog likes to take me for walks around the areas familiar to us. He pulls me through night-covered forests and faintly-lit suburban sidewalks on paths of all kinds—spirals, ovals, rings—but never allows me to turn around. If I do, he stops, protesting and refusing until I face forward again. He makes sure that I don’t ever pause, even for a breath; he is stubborn, and I guess I am, too.

I try foolishly to resist. I tell him something along the lines of “It’s been a long day,” or “Can’t I just walk you for longer tomorrow morning?” but he either doesn’t understand or doesn’t care. So he drags me into the world and forces me to remind myself of what I love. He turns me around if I look back, and I seem to watch myself walk through the world with my legs waiting behind me. 


I end up tangled in the past more and more as I get older. I am overwhelmed by the linearity of life and by the forces that push me forwards, so as I grow, I grieve the irretrievability of my past self and the grief that set him back, too. I struggle to reflect without regret and always wish to have done more, been more. I seek to circle back to instances where loss of identity defined my life in order to reorient my present path. The loss and I force each other into spirals, and I miss myself. 

As my dog and I move along, I can’t help but think about the same things again and again. Thoughts wander in, dissipate, and reform before I can notice that they are gone. I have no control over what I internalize. We travel through reeds I’ve grown up with and ponds I’ve watched fill, and though I can’t quite tell, I get the feeling that the birds sitting in the water are the same ones that were there last week. They arrive and leave often, and I always wish I’d gotten to know them better.

Circles only. No lines.

After the death of his brother, artist Hiroyuki Doi began to draw millions of tiny circles at a time to distract himself from feelings of grief. The resulting works—massive amounts of space with massive amounts of repetition—capture overwhelmedness in their circularity. Hurricanes of inconsistent ink spread across pages as though time lays them out involuntarily, and as I watch them, I can’t help but feel that they are moving. 

So I try to move along with them. I walk in circles. I find simplicity in repetition, and I spend my time tracing shapes and watching them grow and shrink as I move with the day. I think my dog knows this, to some extent. He forces me into these patterns to help me heal and reminds me that there is nothing two-dimensional about changing. And it’s nice outside. 


I’m often told that grief and growth are linear, and that those five infamous stages are all one can and will experience, even though when I walk and when I watch Doi’s circles and when I read and when I sleep and wake up, I move in anything but lines. Nothing about the world around us is so direct, so I hope not to be either. I find myself healing from the past in patches; sometimes moments of uncontainable comfort emerge, and without realizing it, I have returned to a fuller self. In these instances, I am not the same as I was—I never will be, and I don’t necessarily want to be—but I am complete and I am more

Though these pockets of assurance come, they also go. Moments of familiar loss swing by without invitation or expectation, and I am forced to revisit (whether through nostalgia or discomfort) moments that have twisted me up. These moments come and go, but I continue on. 

Circles only. No lines.

Hiroyuki Doi’s artwork captures, more than anything else, the unavoidable unpredictability of human life. It serves as proof that structures built by repetitive action can still create and be a part of something so driven by variation. The amount of circles is overwhelming, but that’s also what makes the work so beautiful; each one takes up its own space to form an even bigger, more unstructured shape. The universe depicted in each drawing holds the efforts of repetition alongside the gradual coming and going of emotion. The roundness of it all makes the piece appear to flow, as though time and grief are held together in its spaces to allow for falling forward and away from the past. I like to think that if I tried to map out all of these comings and goings—blurs of contentment and corrosion, of comfort and nostalgia—I’d end up with patterns similar to the beautiful, repetitive chaos of Doi’s circles. 

For me, resurfacing from spirals of the past is returning from an extensive journey back to my former identity with an extra layer of ink in hand. I am held up by the certainty that there is nothing certain about grief precisely because the freedom to grow at my own pace is the freedom to choose how I recover. With this autonomy, I walk in circles. I stare at drawings of ovals and rings, and I write words that remind me of the ones I’ve written before. 

My dog comes to me, leash in hand and mind dead set on exploration, and he forces me to experience the same world again and again and again. I put on my shoes. We walk towards the same trees we always have, and he moves me onwards. We follow in the footsteps of our former selves, stopping only to laugh and make new prints and reconsider our lives, as we always do. There’s always room to reflect, to reminisce, and to regret, so we do. 

But as we return home with the sun, and even if we aren’t content with who we were, we are content with who we will be. There’s no one else to become. 

Circles only. No lines.

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