April 16, 2013
You see, now I’m at that point with my life when travelling and the rootless, baseless existence somehow doesn’t seem so temporary anymore… you know, the way holidays always do. The “already 4 days gone and only 7 days left!” kind of thingy. I have started to pin down – not sure if willingly or not – the little known pleasures of life again, instead of rushing after a new experience every day. Surely the experiences are coming our way anyway while on the road, no special effort needed, but it is easy to forget the little things. And life gets weary without the little pleasures, it starts spreading you thin, strips you from the small certainties and joys, the invisible scaffolding that keeps ourselves together. Like the dot puzzle that is starting to lose its dots and after a while doesn’t make sense anymore…
I remember a thought back in London while sitting at my desk and looking at the rainy day and undulating tree branches outside, sensing very clearly that everything that was worth in my life were the little things – looking sun rise over the Thames on my way to work, feeling the belonging as a Londoner between the early hours and sleep-hazy eyes on the tube, morning latte from Pret, reaching for my favourite peanut butter in Sainsbury’s, new pair of wing-shaped silver earrings, softness and warmth of my duvet, laying down on the park bench on London Fields while reading a well-loved book and looking at the clouds, smelling the dampness raising from the soil in Abney Cemetery, Bill Callahan and Cold Specks in my iPod, long Sunday brunches in Dalston Lane Cafe with Observer, large glasses of CabSav with friends, smile of the colleagues I genuinely like, purr of the tabby cat, the sound of dvd entering the slot, slicing the smoked mozzarella from Borough Market… Little everyday stuff that makes the life worth living, the things that the life is made of, and of what ultimately oneself is made of. Because the only time we live is now in the middle of these little things, and therefore it makes sense to take pleasure out of them, knowingly. Being aware of the gift, and that I can live this life however I like and make myself whatever brings me joy. It’s actually quite simple as that.
However, when I am on the road, I’m withdrawn from these everyday pleasures of life. Purely because the certainty has vanished and most of these little things are part of the stuff I know, part of the comfortable routine I surround myself with during my stationary days.
Of course there’re lots of different pleasures to be found also in uncertainty and travelling: pleasure of discovery, getting to know the new plains of the world and myself and ourselves, learning about the vastness of human mind, and the endless choice of different paths one can take at any given moment in life. Discovering how wonderful it is to be every day in a place we do not know a soul, and that all these millions of people out there are not responsible for making me happy, or that no one owes me anything. The great thing is that it all also works vice versa. But all these pleasures are thrilling, exciting, adrenaline inducing experiences, they are not cosy or comforting. It needs an effort to create the comfy sanctuary in my mind when we don’t know where we are going to sleep tonight, or tomorrow night, or any night after and before, spreading both ways for months and months.
Weird, now that I’m thinking of it, it seems that I really didn’t have these little joys in my life when I lived in Estonia, or I can’t remember them, or I couldn’t see them…I guess this is something that happened during the time on my own, when I could take time to notice things around me, and enjoy them knowingly, savouring the crumbs ticking away. This is something that happened during the time I didn’t desperately try to develop, grow, plan, make a career, have a mortgage, educate myself, survive, become faster, smarter, more fitting and successful member of society anymore. It happened when I had made peace with myself and started to do the “pointless-waste-of-time” things, like doodling on the paper, travelling, daydreaming, gazing rain or horizon or fire for hours in the end, taking long walks, listening myself. When I stopped fretting about the life, opened myself and let the things go where they supposed to go, by themselves.
Life definitely is getting easier and more pleasurable as one gets older. The experience and joy of expectation almost never fails me now, the knowledge that the next very cool thing or unexpected twist is most probably just around the bend, looking a lot like a blinking cursor on a blank page: the possibilities to fill the page are endless and oh-so-exciting! It has taken me some time to fall in love with life, and I believe that it is and that it will be a hell-of-a-pleasurable experience. Even the pain becomes familiar and more comfortable with time. Or like one of my favourite sculptors Louise Bourgeois said: “I’ve been to hell and back, and let me tell you, it was wonderful.”
You don’t need a superior skill to appreciate the great and special events in your life, but the truth is that these events even being important milestones, don’t fill the lives. And also that even the big events are made of small ones. Death beckons one over from a tiny moment when the heart fails on its next beat, revolutions start with a single rebellious thought, big inventions start with a flipping idea, a new life starts with a gentle breath onto your loved one’s skin.
Everything in life happens little by little.
But what I really wanted to say is that I’ve started knowingly noticing and creating the little pleasures here on our journey. I notice the smell of coffee every morning, how the sun shines through the papaya leaves outside, the warmth in my soul every morning seeing B next to me, the freedom and time to read (oh, more like savour hungrily) the books that have been sitting in my “to read” list for ages. I have returned reading my favourite blogs (damn, cool people don’t really write much as they are actually busy living their lives as obviously you cannot have anything meaningful to say about sitting at the computer all day. But when they do write, I’m very grateful for it), reading Guardian, floating on the sea appreciating the gentle rocking of the waves and the sun on my face, the scent of my perfume, sound of the rain, the feel of B’s skin. Discovering that silence is when I actually can hear. Or the real darkness is when I can see all the stars. The certain constants in my life I try to keep and notice wherever I go, the things that make me happy.
And whoever I have to thank for, and however I have reached this shore, I’m grateful that I can. See. The. Little. Things.
(and I love how you just took your time and made a little pause between each word in the last sentence.)
Thank you for reading.
December 2, 2012
Memory is not something one can trust for facts. Memory is rude and amoral, selective, almost free of fact and full of emotion. It has an uncontrollable will of its own. Which doesn’t mean that there is no truth in memories. Not all the facts carry the truth, nor is all the truth based on the facts.
My first factual memory is that I have no memories I’m sure of. Until then I thought my first memory was the event of trying to hit sparrows in the back garden with boomerangs made of sticks. Neither of us hit any, but somehow you still won. They told me that it was not real.
The sun was creeping in between the heavy curtains pulling bright strikes on the dark red carpet. There were paper and colourful felt pens around us on the floor and your index finger with dirty nail dragged along the white surface showing me where to draw the lines. It smelt of dust hanging in the light, pen scratching on the paper. You concentrated with your head tilted slightly to the right and eyes fixed on the paper. It was a rabbit forming, blue lines and yellow eyes. Later my mother asked me who had drawn it and when I claimed the honour she didn’t believe me: apparently it was too good to be true. I tried to convince her that it was you who made it possible, but she said that I have to stop lying as you don’t exist. My first factual memory thought me two things: that big part of my world doesn’t exist for other people, and that you are more important than others because you never doubt me.
I think I would have preferred the sparrows as my first memory as supposed to betrayal.
The differences between memories of the same fact are slight, but significant. Like words “denotation” and “detonation”. I’m sure for my mother the situation was of denotation, but for me it was a detonation. Things blew up in me never to be the same again.
This was also a time around my first official diagnoses: “imaginary companion”. Which is not true as you are exactly as real as any other memory people have. In adult speak it was called IC: a futile attempt to shelter me from their own judgment. Obviously your name isn’t IC but Geert, a name no one could pronounce because it is a Dutch name. They would always say it wrong, but I did almost never correct anyone, somehow being able to pronounce your name made me closer to you, you were private. Remember how we used to joke about how stupid people were not being pronounce the simplest name, twisting our tongs mimicking their sounds? That was one of our first private jokes I can remember. Apparently that was not real either.
The fact that you seem to exist only in my world, does not matter slightest. For every situation there are two truths, one not more real than the other. For me you preserve my sanity, for everyone else you are the proof that I’m insane. It appears that these two are the same thing.
The IC was my first title of many – Adele Cissus, IC. They told me that this was real.
When I realised that when relying on my own memories I was often accused in lying, I started to collect other people’s memories, the ones that were supposed to be based on the facts. I wrote them down in a diary I called Memory Book and became into a habit of representing slightly altered stories from there as they would be my own. It seems safer than to tell the truth as by the end of the day, these things actually had happened. Or this is what was believed.
One can rely on the meaning of real life, or one can invent it. I was deprived of meaning and hungry for memories. So I invented them, quite simple as that. My life has become a theater, self-inflicted comedy and tragedy, myself as a leading actress.
The Memory Book has a red soft leather cover and is bound with a leather string of the same shade. Its corners are curled upwards like piglet’s ears. It was a gift from my grandmother, the only gift I ever had from her. She thought it would be good for me to write down my neurosis and live them out on paper rather than behaving “mad as a hatter”. I guess in a way she achieved her will. For me this book was a proof that I was insane, for her it was a thing that preserved my sanity. It appears that these two are the same.
The book is well loved and well used. This collection of memories is made of the first ones: the “virgin memories” I call them, something not yet contaminated by the previous experiences. I became into habit of asking people what was their first memory instead of enquiring about their work or even name. People found it blunt, or funny, unexpected, but they rarely objected. It appears that most of the first memories are not pleasant. I stopped collecting the memories when the book became full. It seems to have enough sorrow in it to last me a lifetime.
I can quote every single line from these pages, I have made them my own. They replaced my own memories with something that seemed to be socially acceptable. By now it is sometimes difficult to remember which memories are my own and which ones I have made my own. The only memories that I know in fact that are my own are the ones with you. The unreal memories have become the real ones and the real ones have become the unreal ones. At least my sorrow is my own.
Flicking through this book actually keeps me from falling into myself too far. Reading these lines lays bare that there is not much difference between my unreal and their real memories. Except that theirs supposed to be factual and mine are not. Weirdly enough me using their apparently sane factual and painful memories makes me broken, and them having the same memories themselves makes them whole.
My first memory is of broken glass. Thick yellow pieces of antique lamp shade that someone had smashed against the wall. It had white flowers embossed into the glass, and the pieces became covered in blood when I ran over them towards the kitchen. I was afraid of someone screaming and tried to get away. I remember that I found the bright red smear on the sparkling yellow glass a beautiful combination. It is still one of my favourite colour combinations ever.
My first memory is of a screeching breaks and a large orange car, the smell of hot asphalt and sun blasting down. I ran on the road without looking, might have been couple of years old then, and this orange car almost hit me. I stood there looking at the car and pissed myself.
I remember playing in front of my house with a broken fire truck in wet sand. Then car stopped and asked for a way. I climbed into the car and took them to the neighbouring village to the man they were looking for. Some time later they brought me back and bought me an ice cream as a reward. My mother went mad and hit me first time in my life. I can remember a taste of blood in my cold mouth.
It was a late summer, with distinctive sound of cicadas, and I was sitting on the front stairs of the house. Somehow I think it was dusking. There were lots of people in the house, it was a harvest time and women were all in the kitchen preserving and juicing and marinating away. I can remember a smell of vinegar and burnt sugar, hollow clinking of aluminum. One of my aunts came down the stairs with a hot boiling jam in a pot and slipped over the edge of the rug. She spent rest of the summer in hospital and I have now permanent marks on my thighs. I feel unattractive because of them.
I remember that I was sitting in the old truck on the back seat and I was cold. Someone’s bony hand was holding me firm from the shoulder their steel fingers buried into my coat pressing against the collar-bone, so firm that it hurt. But I was so cold that I thought my toes will fall off, and it seemed to go on forever. Sometimes it still feels that I never get this chill out of my bones.
These are real, they tell me.