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Exploring questions of wearing masks and the ability to make eye contact, as these things happen, I see
. Yes, “when you’ve been driven off a bridge at 80 miles an hour, you don’t let happiness in the door without a body search”. Sure, some bridges are higher than others. But haven’t we all been driven off a bridge in one way or another? So often we get into “my bridge was higher than yours”. But like Alice’s response to the Red Queen’s “Speak when you’re spoken to!”, someone’s got to take the plunge. Maybe we’ll fly. You first.
There seems to be a strange parallel between longevity and an absence of emotional attachment. Says Teresa Hsu of Singapore, “After what my father did to us, I told myself to shun all men and not have any emotional relationship with them, so that no other man can hurt me anymore”. And that’s precisely what she did, preferring to focus on sisterly, rather than romantic love. She’s now 102, and still teaching yoga. But is that really preferable to dying young of a broken-heart? I’d love to be able to touch my nose to the ground like she can, though.
I met a beautiful woman in Amsterdam, a Berber princess I was told, who said that until she arrived in Paris to go to school, she never realised that she was an individual. In the village where she grew up, everyone was part of one organism. In the Metro in Paris, she suddenly found herself unable to make eye contact with people. There were too many. Then she realised that she was an individual. It was a difficult realisation, and one which she said she’d never really grown comfortable with. I’ve always been painfully aware of the price of individuality.
“You have to accentuate the positive
And eliminate the negative
And latch on to the affirmative
And don’t wait for Mr In-between” sings Willie Nelson. (Well I couldn’t find the Bing Crosby version, and Willie 'n I share a birthday, so it seemed kind of fitting. He doesn’t do it badly, either.) It’s a Pollyanna-ish sentiment perhaps, but I think there’s no other way at this point…So…the sun is shining, the birds are singing, I’m relatively healthy, not in debt, and I’d like to think that I’m wise-ing up… (Jonah rather than Job as a role model for me today.)
The boundaries of dreams and reality seem to blur into each other. I dream that my gums are bleeding, and awake to a bloody mouth. But did the taste bring on the dream, or the anxiety provoke the bleeding?
Hotel New Hampshire
is on television, but what’s real and what’s imagined? “No one is sure, apart from faith, whether he is awake or asleep”, says Pascal. “If we dreamt in company and the dreams chanced to agree…” It’s the sleep walking we need to be careful of. If we can but keep from throwing ourselves out of those open windows.
You share a workspace with someone for years, and you think you know her, and suddenly it appears she has been guilty of a terrible crime. Does this mean that you were wrong, and all her apparent kindness and generosity were a lie? No, this is the same person who collected the money that paid for your father’s funeral, and wept when thanking you for nagging her into the visit to the doctor that discovered she needed surgery. “Thank you for saving my life”, she said. You are filled with sadness that she seems to have thrown it away now.
“A choice for something is always a choice against something else” somebody once said to me. Obvious, perhaps, but kind of comforting to hear it put like that. My Dad used to have a little trick in decision making. “Toss a coin”, he said, “and if you like the outcome, go for it, and if you don’t, do the opposite.” Do I get the “okay”, or the “oh no” feeling? Kind of like when you invite a friend around to help you decide where to hang your pictures, and you know instantly from his advice where you don’t want them.
How refreshing to encounter a sales person who sells you what you need, and says, “No you won’t need those AND those. Just those will do fine.” Of course, what more reason should there be for buying a product, other than I need it, and it works? All this stuff you flash in my face is really unnecessary, and just serves to drive me away. e. e. cummings wrote, “a salesman is an it that stinks Excuse”. Well, not always. I leave armed with vitamins, and knowing that I will feel better. “i thank You God for most this amazing”.
Why is it that one feels compelled to give to some, and not to others? I walk past him almost daily. His hand juts out automatically. “Not today”, I say. He laughs (is it my imagination?) mockingly. I feel manipulated. He gives nothing back. Just expectation. No gratitude. Where is the gratitude lacking in me? Sometimes I see him elsewhere. He uses public transport to get here. I suspect he imagines this is his job. He comes to work every day. Seems as if he has been a beggar all his life. I need to develop some compassion for him.
It’s fascinating the way that we often develop the same symptoms that our parents had. Of course there’s genetics, but there’s more to it than that. It’s almost as though we are given the chance to heal what they weren’t able to. To seek a cure for our ancestors.
: “When a gypsy gets sick, it’s common for six or eight others to accompany her to the doctor. Such family participation provides not only a support system for the ill member…it’s easier to be creative if your environment both supports and expects new ideas”. I second that.
We are sitting round the fire at a
Soft and Comfy
rave. Where is your mother? Feiss asks. “She died when I was young”, I say. “But she is still alive”, he answers. I look at him confused. “She is sitting in front of me”, he says. I guess he’s right. “The dead have a pact with the living” sings
Sweet Honey in the Rock
, “they are in the waiting child, they are with us in the crowd…” Feiss has a different understanding of life, death, loss. “Tis the ancestors breath when the fire’s voice is heard.” He continues drumming.
Feiss grew up in a Kenyan village, where almost everyone was his brother and sister. His father was the chief and had many wives. His father was very old when Feiss was born, so he died almost as early in his life as my mother in mine. He didn’t see it as a loss, though, just the way things are. Feiss met Guru Nischan in Kenya when she was travelling. She was born and grew up on an ashram in Minnesota. They had a lot in common. They both understood community. She grew dreadlocks. He lives somewhere in America now.
Laughter is such a funny thing (ha!) The robot in Eric Idle’s novel
The Road to Mars
, bemusedly studying humour, called it a sort of barking. But think about it… we find something funny, and each make this distinctive sound in the back of the throat, that distinguishes us one from the other. During my theatre days, actor friends would say, “I knew you were in the audience tonight. I recognised your laugh.” How about that?!
Reading bits and pieces online, I catch myself frequently laughing out loud. What would the neighbours think? I often muse. “She’s in there laughing…alone!”
After 14 years of being together, my father married my stepmother on his deathbed, when he was dying of cancer. Major Robbie of the
, who performed the ceremony (my father didn’t want “to get the church or the state involved”) said: “In all my 20 years in the organisation, this is the strangest wedding I’ve ever performed!” I said to my Dad, “I thought if I ever saw you get married again, you’d have to be either incapacitated or drugged.” He was both. On his way out, he realised that he was not going to be abandoned again.
Yesterday was Polly’s 30th birthday. She thinks she’s getting old, and for me it was a quarter of a lifetime ago. I lived in a communal house once where an article ended up on the kitchen wall: “100 things to do before you’re 30”: “get a bad haircut”; “get a hat to wear over it” etc. I used to joke that I should live alone before I turned 30. Having finally had enough of communal life, I found a flat of my own. Lying in bed the night of my move, I realised the next day was my 30th birthday.
Wondering why I feel so depressed today, I realise it’s my mother’s birthday. She would have been 61 today. As it was, she only made 24. I look at her picture on my computer, the broad smile, and bright eyes, and wonder what else hid behind that smile. I dream of her very seldom, but when I do, of course she is just 24. I was 24 when I left home. So long ago now, I am almost old enough to be her mother now. “‘The child is father to the man!’ How
he be? The words are wild.”
“When you left you took a part of me”, I said. “Yes, but I left you a part of
”, he replied. Well, when you put it like that… I wonder, on average, how many people we carry around bits of? The kahunas of Hawaii believe that we retain a connection to everyone we ever made eye contact with. If that is true, it’s no wonder that making eye contact can be so scary. The weight of the pain and longing in people’s eyes can be too much to bear. But why do I see
? Fallout of apartheid? Projection?
Love is strange. There are those fairy tale romances that end tragically. And then the relationships doomed to failure, that last forever, or at least until death do them part. I admire my gay friends who have sustained relationships for decades, without the distraction of children to care for together. Am I being cynical when I say that I suspect it’s a rare thing that two people alone can continue to sustain interest in each other over an extended period of time? Watching
The English Patient
has prompted these questions. I wonder, is it merely tragedy that makes it romantic?
“Why do you always wear black?”
“I am in mourning…for my life.”
So begins Chekhov’s
. I never understood why Chekhov’s plays were considered comedies, until I performed in one myself. His characters -- with their endless anxieties -- seem not so far from our own lives. The
, pining and constantly talking of their return to Moscow, to which they will of course never return. We all know people like that. If we are not ourselves people like that… who miss our lives, while we’re regretting the past or busy making other plans. Comedy can be cruel.
Is he deliberately ignoring me? Sometimes it helps to pick up the phone. “We’ve just moved offices”, he says “and I’ve been unable to get in to check my mail. The problem will be sorted out by Friday.” The ridiculous things that cause us stress. His hands are full, so he drops his envelopes. I begin to stoop to pick them up… “Don’t worry”, he says. “At our age we shouldn’t miss a chance to bend!” I reply. (Did I really just say that?!) “I just wanted to show you that I could”, he laughs. Flirtation in the post office.
I lived in a house once for 18 months, with a number of unpacked boxes lined up against the wall of my room. As I recall, they had bits of paper of one kind or another in them. When I moved from there, I vowed to myself that I wouldn’t carry around the past in that chaotic fashion anymore. My father used to have a maxim (that he didn’t live by!): “When in doubt, chuck it out.” Or as Sophia puts it, “If you don’t absolutely LOVE or NEED it…throw it away!” That’s how I live now. Feels much better.
Since the unpacked-boxes-of-I-know-not-what days, I have become very organised. When it doesn’t feel anal, it feels very comforting. The great thing about living in a streamlined way is that you can find things. One of my epitaphs could be, “She was a great filer”. Not perhaps a grand claim to fame, but a useful skill to self and others at times. A colleague, in the middle of a conversation while leaning on the filing cabinet in my office once, stopped dead and said: “Andie…your files are all in alphabetical order!” “Well Paul” I replied, “how else would I find anything?!”
I had an excuse for being quite so organised that time, though. I was working as information manager for an NGO. If you’ve ever worked in an NGO -- particularly in South Africa – you will know that throwing stones/tearing things down/making things happen in an immediate gratification kind of way is their forte. Putting sustainable systems in place, or finding an article that you wrote last month, however, is not. It was a nightmare of a job when I started it, but when I left after seven years, I felt proud of what I left behind. The filing system works.
I’m very aware of the voice in the back of my head saying, “You spent three days [four?] writing about FILING?!…Get a life!!” There’s a reason that I feel so satisfied by my state of organisation at the moment though. It’s a big change from years ago when I let tax related stuff pile up for years, and then ran round like a lunatic at the last moment trying to make sense of it all. Next week’s the end of the tax year, and all’s calculated and in order. I feel calm. The last I’ll say on the subject. Promise.
, “the living and the dead have to learn to live peacefully alongside each other” stayed with me. Sometimes I feel haunted by ghosts. Even photographs make me feel that they’re not quite there, but remnants of their unhappiness when they lived seems to live on, and hangs over me. Sometimes I have the desire to remove all photographs of anyone no longer alive from my living space. I fear that I will be cursed for not remembering them. But perhaps we can just take a break from each other. The reconciliation will come in it’s own time.
I call the energy doc to get clarity and make sense of some things, and his machine says, “Please call back on Thursday the first of March.” It seems I have to stand on my own two feet today.
“He’s out,” said Pooh sadly. “That’s what it is. He’s not in. I shall have to go on a fast Thinking Walk by myself. Bother!” says my desk calendar for today. Yep. Loud and clear! Surrender…
Well, it was a slow music listening walk, actually. But it was quite calming. Sunshine,
Sweet Honey in the Rock
, and the stretching of muscles.
Sometimes it helps to go to the top. I moved three years ago, and still my bank statements are going to my old address. This despite having been in to the bank half a dozen times. So I call the bank manager. He is unavailable, but calls me back promptly on Monday morning. “I am free all week” he says, “when suits you?” So we sit and re-enter the info together. Seems the computer didn’t like the “Hamlin Extension” of my address. We changed it to street, and trust the postman will be more intelligent than the bank’s staff’ve been.
Transformation is a confusing thing. You know… Am I disintegrating in order to be reborn? Or am I just disintegrating?! Another 100wordster seemed more confident about the process when she said: “Destruction is often seen as a terrible thing in our culture, but people forget that when there is destruction, there is also rebuilding and growth. Isn't that beautiful? Someone shatter me so I can be rebuilt, good as new.” A sense of optimism to meditate on…Well, it’s the end of the tax year and the receiver’s been paid, and a big job is finished. To sleep, and sleep, perchance…
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