Headphones

I was the angsty teenager in headphones. The black hoodie wearing, tattoo yearning girl with dark eyeliner and an air of moody misery. Sixteen years old and the world was against me.

Loud rock music blaring in my ears, adding fuel to my fragile emotions and intensifying my misery and self pity. I hid away in corners reading books and cycled for hours until my depressed feelings seeped into my aching muscles and I turned my depression into exercise.

Oh, poor, poor me, standing alone in the corridors, reading deeply in the library to avoid being seen with no friends.

One day a glamorous girl I was severely envious of came up to me in the library, in the spot where I always sat, reading a book.

‘Oh my God you’re such a loner!’ she said, her voice high and cheerful and her smile infectious. She nudged me.

‘Come hang out with me and the girls.’

I thought it was a pity ask. Our mums were friends.

‘No, it’s ok, I’m actually really into this book.’

Me with my oversized hoody and deeply emotional rock music. She tried several more times but I always thought it was her mother making her. Her mother knew nothing. I found this out years later.

I had no friends. For lack of trying, honestly. I lacked the try. I did not try. I expected them to come up to me and want to be my friend.

They did, as well. They actually did. They were curious, they asked me questions. I was shy. So I maintained a stony demeanour and answered shortly, avoiding eye contact and being blunt and dismissive.

Once a girl told me she felt I was ‘indifferent’. Like I thought I was above everybody else.

There was a boy in one of my classes who spent the whole lesson, every lesson, talking to me about everything he could think of. I enjoyed his chatter. I got first hand information on all the popular kids because he was down with the cool kids. In fact he was friends with everybody.

I was ‘indifferent’ to him too but he kept badgering me.

‘Why do you always sit alone in the library?’ he’d asked once, in between telling me about this girl he fancied like mad and who always sat next to me in Chemistry.

‘I like to,’ I told him, airily, ‘I don’t like you college lot. So I don’t wanna hang out with anybody.’

He laughed so loud that we both got told off and separated. Next class, he was at it again, asking me to talk to the girl he fancied for him. I didn’t. She didn’t like him, and had made that pretty clear to me many times beforehand, so I kept brushing him off.

We never hung out, despite his numerous invitations.

I never made friends there. Not real ones. I sat alone, and plugged my earphones in, and let the sad music wash me away to my own island of depression and misery, believing the world had given me a really bad deal and feeling dreary and lost because of it. I cried a lot at home, I told my mother I was miserable, and watched her heart ache for me because no mother wants to see their child struggle.

Sometimes those headphone days creep back on me, six years later. Making me feel lonely and depressed again. Reminding me of my sadness and my loss. Peering over my shoulder of a sunny day and stealing my joy, sucking it out of me until I am a melted heap on the floor. Self piteous idiot. Why should I let my own incompetence affect me now? I am not like I was then.

In hindsight, I should have gone with that girl. I should have asked those kids questions back. I should have sat with them when they called me. I should have made my own friends. I let fear rule me, you see.

I learnt something magnanimous from that experience. I learned that the world owes me nothing, it exists as it always has done and always will. It exists and it is up to me to get off my sorry, self piteous backside and explore it and take from it what is mine. The world will give me nothing. It has everything and it leaves it all there for us to take.

So, take! Take those damn headphones out with their manipulative music and clear your head and breath some fresh air and shake some hands. Smile a wide smile and ask people questions, and hell, bake them some cinnamon rolls. Indulge, enjoy, enter into other comfort zones, explore, learn, create! It’s up to you to make something of the world, because, as harsh as this sounds…

The world owes you nothing.

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Image source: Pinterest

Storytellers

Stories have been told to countless audiences throughout the centuries of human existence. We started off with oral storytelling, where the individuality of a teller was just as important as the telling of the story, where both of these aspects married with the dynamic nature of the story itself to produce something vivid and magical, to ensnare an audience and teach countless generations lessons pertaining to life, morals and their own rich history and ancestry.

Storytelling does not just limit itself to mystical tellers enrapturing an audience around a campfire or in an ancient tent, however. Stories can be found in the most common places, around a dinner table, at a sleepover, during a picnic, at a meet up, over a steaming cup of coffee, in a diary and even through a Facebook message! A story does not just have to be a well written, much drafted and severely edited piece of work. It can also be an event dressed up and communicated through several choice words, expressions and gestures, all interplaying to create a tale which is uniquely creative to the person telling it.

A story is a performance, no matter it does not strictly adhere to a play or an opera. A story is individual or collective artistry, working closely with the conventions of performance and forming something familiar, yet distinct in its own right. And that is what captures the attention.

Tradition is therefore a huge part of storytelling. Be it at a pantomime or around a dinner table, certain conventions and expectations of performance intertwine with the teller’s innovation. The key here is manipulation of convention – a good story turns expectations on its heel, and makes something new out of something expected. A good novel has an unexpected twist, or challenges conventions of creative writing by using unique language structure, or changes the face of a genre by interlacing two completely different ones. A good play is one that challenges the audience to think and bates the breath. A good family story is one told with enough wit to conjure laughter at the table, or with a hilarious display of gestures to endear, or with solemnity in an otherwise jovial demeanour. The ways are countless, and they all can be understood through the context in which they are told, and the audience must therefore be familiar with the traditions around these stories. A story from Shakespeare’s time would not, perhaps, be understood in the midst of the Arabia desert, since they are worlds apart and flourish under different cultures.

As to how stories and story telling affect one’s life, well, we are living and breathing results of such an experiment. Every single one of us has heard stories in the past, has perhaps been influenced by a story or has had a story change one’s mindset.

As a child I heard hundreds of stories, from books, from relatives, from the security guard of our building warning us not to do something because so and so did it and such and such happened, from my mother relating past experiences in her mesmerising way, short and concise, yet carrying deep meaning, from my grandmother adding snippets in conversation, rolling rotis out and telling me the servants used to let her roll the last roti because they didn’t want her to ruin the batch. From my paternal aunt telling me stories of my father as a child, helping me understand his character better. Stories have added to my life perspective about people, places and feelings. And accompanying the stories themselves, the ways of narration, the different accents and languages and gestures and fonts and structures through which they were told have had just as much impact as the stories themselves. Stories would not carry the way they were, for impact as much as they have been, were it not for storytellers and story weavers.

Research has shown that storytelling in very young children improves their cognitive abilities. Stories are important. They are life changing, and they add colour and insight to one’s existence. They are the small threads that connect people together and unite them under one cause or many, under one tradition or many, and make people feel as though they are part of something larger in this vast world. I think that is something everybody wants to feel, don’t you?

How have stories and storytelling impacted your life? 

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Reckless

Ploughing. Raking. Toiling. Burning, wiping, smearing.

Looking up through sweat soaked eyebrows and blinking roughly against the salty stinging  in his eyes. The heat hazed in the distance, the trees rustled, or seemed to, because they didn’t move and from where he stood, the sun scorching his scalp, they looked like a painting. Lined up at the top of the fields in the distance, the sky a lazy blue, not quite burgeoning into the deep colour of summer, almost as though the sun was so bright that the sky paled in comparison. So still. Was the world even real?

Midday. A bird chirped quietly somewhere nearby, too tired to break into song. A pickup truck trundled slowly down the dusty road just outside his garden. A face, browned and hardened from heat, stared at him, turning as the truck drove past. He stared back.

The truck slowed, it seemed, creeping along now. He gripped his shovel tighter, aware his fingers were slick with sweat under his gloves.

‘Hey,’ he said to the man. The truck was level with his now, and the man’s eyes were piercing. They reflected the light like a pair of sapphire beacons under the shadow of the truck.

The man said nothing, and the truck slowed to a halt.

‘Can I help you?’ he tried again, shifting to his other foot. He was aware of his own pulse in his neck. The world was so still around them, even the solitary bird nearby ceased to chirp.

Nothing.

Then the wheels spun viciously in the dusty road, and a brown cloud rose behind the car and it roared into being and started off, engine rattling loud enough that birds flew up into the sky in alarm. He watched as it sped off along the road, growing smaller in the distance.

As the dust settled, and the birds swooped back into the cool shadows once more, the heat of the day took over again, blanketing the world in hot, tired silence.

The trees in the distance didn’t move a branch. The summer haze lay languidly over the earth. The silence was vast, universal.

Was the world even real?

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Reaper

My attempt at a 100 word story.

Merrin Reaper was a charmer.

He belonged to the Hill people, renowned for their electric blue hair and waif figures. Five foot tall, and a brilliant smile. Everybody loved Merrin, even the big people down by the river. Too bulky to venture near the Hills for fear of trampling on those mines, they only ever dwelled on the banks.

Merrin tripped there daily. An ear for everyone, and a comforting shoulder for those in mourning. It was hinted at darkly that there was a dark shadow behind the small fellow.

Merrin knew better, of course. It was his brother, Grim.

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Snapshot

I took a snapshot in my memory the other day. It was a brilliant moment. A flash, if you will. A photograph seared in time.

Perhaps my brain has already changed it. I remember it so vividly, and it is an incredible and saddening thought to me that my brain edits the things I remember. Do you ever wonder if your memories are real, or just mere constructions of your psych?

 

The moment the sun gave its last kiss to her part of the earth as it sunk below the horizon. Its last hurrah, she thought, watching as the bellies of the clouds illuminated from below. The sky in stunning shades, so vibrant. The silhouettes of the trees and houses just before. The lake, still and silent. The gentle breath of wind on her cheek, caressing her skin so softly.

It was a moment come and a moment gone. A moment in which her very heartbeat stilled, and the world around her ceased to turn. A moment through which clarity beckoned, so fleeting that she missed its soft call, before the sun disappeared and the world began to turn again. Heavily, slowly, like ancient cogs on a vast machine.

The sun vanished, and the cold settled in, and she wrapped her wrappers tightly about her shoulders and made her way back home in the increasing darkness.

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Blog Share

This one is an absolute gem from Frank, of A Frank Angle.

In this post Frank describes the calm walk on a beach, encapsulating beautifully the calming atmosphere walking has on the mind, body and feet! He also touches on the wandering thoughts of a peaceful mind. This is a beautiful read.

 

On A Beach Walk No.1

I like walking the beach. It’s good for the mind, body, and soul – and refreshing on my feet.

Never a run – very seldom a stroll – but a walk – a good exercise – and as we age, walking keep us moving. My wife and I walk at home. We walk on vacation. We walk on the ship’s deck when cruising. We like to walk.

As we walk, conversations can be short or long – the topics deep or shallow – important or trivial. In times of silence, my mind keeps going – to think – to ponder the world. Thinking is also good exercise. Like the body, the mind must keep moving as we get older….

Continue Reading: On A Beach Walk No.1

 

Addicted to Daydreaming

I think there is some kind of disorder where a person lives a soap opera of sorts in their imagination.

I had it when I was younger. I dreamed up these characters; they were very real and have names that still sound so familiar in the back of my mind. For six years I would live their lives out in my mind. I created thousands of stories about them, I dreamt about them before I fell asleep, when I was bored after an exam, when I came home from school, in the car driving to and from places. All I had to do was close my eyes and I was transported instantly to them in their special world. Their pains became mine and their passions were my own.

It was my secret, nobody else knew. I became so adept at it that I could even imagine them with my eyes open.

It was incredible. I didn’t need to watch movies or TV serials anymore. I had my own, and it was more precious than any story I’d ever read.

Oh, I still know the details of their lives from the moment they were born until their became old enough that their children were adults. I knew their characters inside out, and I still do, years later, when I have ceased to think about them so much.

I will remember them in passing now, a fond smile and an invisible sigh.

I find I want to write their story down, and bring them to life with my words. But I am afraid I can’t ever do them the magnificent justice my brain could.

Recently I stumbled upon an article describing the very symptoms I displayed – making up a story in one’s head so consuming that it almost took over daily life – which in my case was true because I would close my eyes anywhere just to think about them. Even when I had things to do, I preferred to think of them. I found an online forum describing people who do this as ‘addictive daydreamers’. I found that it was odd, to spend hours and hours of the day just – daydreaming. Doing it at the time felt wrong, in a way. I felt as though if I told anybody, they would think me a lunatic.

I found out that it was called ‘maladaptive daydreaming’ – and the part of the brain that lights up when an alcoholic sees alcohol, lit up in test subjects when they thought about their ‘daydream’. Some people genuinely suffer from this and it affects their lives in an extremely negative way. They usually develop this condition if they have been victims of abuse, imagining a life and characters far removed from their pain. The condition is sometimes extremely debilitating for them.

Thankfully, in my case, it was just a result of boredom. I still managed to study hard and do well, and as I grew, by the age of seventeen, the habit had lessened considerably and soon vanished completely.

I know that I got comfort from this daydreaming addiction. I know that I felt fulfilled at times when I was lonely, that I never truly felt alone because I always had my vibrant characters to think about, and follow through their vivid lives. I know that I would seek to daydream at any chance opportunity, and went to bed hours early so I could close my eyes and just think, curled in a ball. It sounds so weird, looking back at it.

Have you ever experienced this? What are your thoughts?