Tried seeing delectable Ben Frost at Berghain. Realized two songs in still can’t cope with concert volume. Frustration gnaws. Keep trying — never know if/when it’ll get easier. 5 years later, a constant reminder. Berlin’s a quiet city, lovely in that way; suits me. But at konzerts, the sound, in all its glorious vibration, eats me, my insides, expands ’til it feels like I’ll burst if I don’t hear nothing soon. On the whole I guess it’s gotten better, but sometimes it’s like it’s in reverse, getting worse. A low-fi problem, I know. Barely a problem. More that it takes me back, disorients my sense of self, being here, now. Cried a little on the way home. Slept it off, sound still inside, reverberations of past.
“Are you attaching? Of course you are! It’s human nature. You know the drill. Let it go. Loosen the grip — respond, don’t react.”
He doesn’t know how much he helped me with that brief rundown on life lessons 101. In 2 mins flat, over fresh fruit smoothies no less.
What if the apartment doesn’t work out? Let it go. There’ll be another one. Where am I gonna keep my stuff? Let it go. It’s just stuff. Will my body survive without the gentle touch of that special man? Let it go. Touch is everywhere.
Am I attaching?
Of course. Thoughts, actions, feelings, habits, fears, freedoms — everything holds me too close. Dancing amid pragmatism and adolescence; those awkward years between birth and death.
If you’re averse to awkwardness, chances are you’ll be averse to life.
I lay my head down on the start-stop of myself, repeating the uneasy silence within until I hear its pattern. Wound-up energy with no place to breathe.
If not this, then what? Gliding from here to there, unencumbered? Can’t do it; impossible.
No, these untimely-unseemly-downright-uncomfortable asymmetries demand to be embraced. Roughly, warmly, they beg to be sought after — not avoided.
I am not always my best self.
But I still buy my ticket: I still get on the plane.
Whilst still in Kampala, I take boda bodas (motorcycle taxis) most places since the matatus (public van taxis) are challenging for sensitive-eared individuals like myself.
Boda boda drivers range in skill. Some are horrendous, some are pretty okay, some are damn feisty (= good). Kampala city streets are dog-eat-dog, so you better be on the back of someone’s bike who knows what they’re doing. (Note – there are almost no female boda drivers.)
Understandably, finding a trustworthy driver is imperative. Log his number in your phone, call whenever you need to get out and about. I’ve found two I actually feel sort of safe with so far – Jimmy and Godfrey. I’ll never forget their names for the rest of my life… I depend on these boys to navigate me through the treacherous traffic, potholes, the riff-raff, the mishmash.
I sit on the back with my headphones in ears – auditory distraction is necessary to keep my mind off the reality of the road insanity. Sunglasses on. Helmet, check. Foot on rests, one hand on the cool rear metal bar, the other varying between my thigh and the driver’s stomach depending on the terrain. Tap tap, my fingers drum lightly to the song.
We go. It’s sort of intimate, in a removed kind of way.
If my go-to boys are busy, I’m left to my own devices, meaning I do a split-second assessment on every passing boda driver who whizzes by. The routine becomes disheartening pretty quickly, and eventually I tire of standing on the side of the road with dust flying everywhere, battling the “muzungu!” chatter in my ear. Resigning to pick the next one that slows down and doesn’t have cracked mirrors, I cross my dirty fingers.
All this does is make me want to ride on my own again. Too chicken to do it without insurance for the time being.
Photographically, I’m in process of figuring out how to show this feeling of flying through the air on two wheels with an engine in between and you on top with wind shooting past and trees zipping by in your peripheral vision and feeling the control and the power and the risk and the autonomy and the vulnerability all at once. The freedom, the stillness in movement.
Inside the chaos, be still…
I love motorcycles.
Here is my secret. It is very simple. It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; What is essential is invisible to the eye.
– Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, Le Petit Prince [The Little Prince]
Hold on… to yourself, love, hopes, dreams, compassion, empathy, boundaries, truth, your heart
Let go… of fears, attachment, stories, negativity, unnecessary dust bunnies that linger in the mind
Relish… clouds floating by, with their perfect ephemeral state, perpetual change, and light beauty
Never bend your head. Always hold it high. Look the world straight in the eye. – Helen Keller
A few days ago, I read this lovely article on introverts and their ‘woes’. Needless to say, I related to it: Introverts Explained: Why we love you but need to get away from you.
The author writes:
“Introverts are not all recluses hanging out in dusty homes with cats and classic books (not that there’s anything wrong with cats and classic books;). We get out and rock it, but then we need to withdraw from that buzz because if we don’t we will feel like an overdone steak, no life, no juice.”
Yes! I am not a recluse (though sometimes I think I could be quite happy living as one); I just need to be by myself sometimes. Or, often. Totally alone, no one else in the vicinity. Even sitting in the same room as another person quietly can be much too energy-draining.
“The other day I heard a fun-loving morning show radio host say she needs to be in the house alone often in order to be civil. Having someone in another room of the same house isn’t good enough. She can feel them there.”
I have a beautiful friend who is very sensitive like me. She makes sure to nurture and care for her introversion with love and kindness rather than force herself into situations in which she feels uncomfortable. She inspires me to make ‘the world work for me’, rather ‘me work for the world’. Sensitive people need to create our own safe space away from the world in order to flourish when we enter back into it.
“It’s especially difficult for children. I’ve seen my daughter’s friends question her relentlessly when she says she is going to play with her dolls after school instead of playing at the friend’s house. You mean you’d rather play alone than play with me?”
Yes! As a kid, I remember frequently feeling guilty and abnormal for not wanting to be social more often. Instead, I preferred to read by myself, draw, or sit quietly. I even thought that there was something wrong with this. (Not so, dear friend!)
Our brains process everything so deeply it’s tiring. We need time to live in our inner world. We need to recoup bubbly energy by visiting our thoughts, creativity and feelings. We need to go internal in order to express ourselves generously externally. Solitude expands us (and everyone really). It makes space within us so that we can take in more from the outside.
If you happen to first meet me on a random night out when I’m in social butterfly mode, you might quickly conclude that I’m an extrovert with energy for days. Au contraire: after a bubbly night out, recuperation time begins. Lots of time alone, to be. Peace.
I highly recommend reading the article – linked above – in its entirety if you or someone you know has introvert qualities. We are all special, in our own ways. 🙂