Demanding more has become an essential element of our evolution as a society and humans. The dire search for happiness has turned into a hunt, a demonstration of prowess necessitating expensive gear, planning, training, and, once that trophy is up on that packed wall, no longer breathing adrenaline into our bloodstreams, the chase is back on.
We have forgotten, and some of us were never taught, how little it takes to be happy, this quarantine slowly becoming proof of how a tiny glimmer can brighten one’s day. Notice the exhilaration derived from taking little walks in the sun when streets are empty, a neighbour’s wave from the balcony across, a piano playing in the distance, news of someone healing somewhere in the vast unknown, someone giving up part of their groceries for someone more in need, eating one’s own bread fresh out the oven and that powerful feeling of self-reliance that ensues, pets wagging their tails all day long because we finally have time for them, books finally spilling their contents into hungry minds, the sound of birds chirping no longer masked by passing cars and honking trucks…
It is so simple to feel joy. When you realize how little it takes to draw a smile on a stranger’s face, or on our own, you wonder why the unnecessary has become such a necessity and why we jump through hoops for such useless rewards. Kindness is free, compassion is free, sunrises and sunsets are free, yet we have made everything so expensive. We have turned the simple pleasures of life into obsolete desires and endlessly create useless quests that feed nothing but our greed. When will the world realize that happiness is dirt cheap when we stop trying to sell it?
I grew up in a household where movies were a central interest alongside music. When I say movies, I dread being misunderstood, people thinking I mean Hollywood blockbusters and award-winning horrors, you know, those scripts without substance animated by pretty faces with no character or depth. Unfortunately, that’s what a big chunk of today’s cinema is, an act of an act, a parody. No, I grew up with the likes of Burt Lancaster and Montgomery Clift, Fred Astaire and Deborah Kerr, Grace Kelly and so many class acts that turned every ordinary day into a sparkling daze. However, my father – who initiated this love for cinema in my brother and myself – doesn’t always meet eye to eye with me on certain film topics, genres, or directors. Whenever I mentioned Louis de Funes or Robert De Niro for example, I’d get an instant eye roll; which didn’t make my likings die out or lose any of their luster; I always found differences healthy, but hearing the words “I just don’t like it/him/…” without getting so much as a reason always annoyed me. For the longest time, I took my father’s word for what was considered a good picture as the ultimate judgement, an unquestionable truth, but as I grew older and made it a duty to create my very own library, I noticed there were gaps I could no longer ignore. For instance, Woody Allen. I had never watched any of his works, mostly because every time someone brought up his name, my father reacted just as I mentioned earlier, badly. I mean the guy did run off with his adoptive daughter, that’s a hard thing to swallow. Nevertheless, he wasn’t some ignorant filmmaker emptily praised or focused on ridiculous money-making productions like Michael Bay, and he had something – a lot of things – to say. So I started: Annie Hall, Husbands and wives, and the list went on, only to discover…I liked him, his vision, the way he told each story, the way it all fit. I didn’t love him or put him on a cinematographic pedestal, but I felt an intriguing nudge each time I pressed play and heard the off-voice so characteristic of his creations. Then the other night it hit me – I finally understood why I liked his productions and how come they felt so familiar. Each one of his stories was told the way I lived life, a narrator in the background, a somewhat brownish filter in the words, the clothes, the topics and a certain overanalysis I never could shake off myself… I felt close to his vision, as if my mind could write things I wasn’t aware of, but he somehow was, and they turned into celluloid realities…for me to watch with a big bowl of popcorn.
There are sounds you can’t forget. The putter patter of rain drops on the roof, the high-pitched whistle of the tea kettle, the sleepy voice of your mother when she says “good morning” to you… we memorize sounds, define our lives around them, and when one stops being part of our routine, it’s like a breach in our cocoon, a part of this intricate safety net we spent our existence building.
Around a month ago, my father was hit by a truck as he was crossing a street on foot. Thankfully, it was mostly his leg that was injured. I say thankfully bitterly, for if there’s one thing he likes, it’s walking. Since then, he’s been much less mobile, having to minimize activity so his wounds heal without complications. Although this little anecdote has nothing to do with sound, it also has everything to do with the matter in my case. Ever since I was a little girl, I’d know my dad had arrived home from the confident and somewhat loud tapping of his shoes in the building’s corridor; my room being situated conveniently, I was sure to hear the main entrance door’s loud bang and the decided stride of my father as he hastily approached our apartment. Since his unfortunate accident, no such sound has graced my ears, no comfort has come from the familiar sound I had built my evening routine around; instead, the light tap of a crutch sometimes resonates in that same corridor, a sound I have come to abhor.
We don’t realize the importance of a sound till it is gone, the comfort of an assured familiarity in noises we’ve grown up with, learnt to accept or even love. I long to hear my father’s fast-paced footsteps on gravel, on wooden floors, on coloured fallen leaves again, and I wholeheartedly wish to forget the ugly slowness of that horrid crutch’s tap.
I draw. I’ve been drawing since the first day someone gave me a pencil, the first time my hand was able to clasp that piece of wood with a coloured core trapped inside, warm, waiting to spread its magic. I often feel like that thin hidden stick, still waiting, even though I still draw, even though I’m not hiding. I’m that log of colour that just can’t wait to reach paper, to become, to be.
It took me years to make my work public, to push it into the light for public scrutiny, endanger my tiny almost non-existant ego with the not so soft noises that escape the mouths and keyboards of onlookers. I draw thoughts, emotions, fleeting passions and ephemeral pleads, and I showcase it so that people too disillusioned to understand the fragility of each stroke can point, question, disregard or ignore what part of me wants to say, while a few urge me onward, push me further, the beautiful ones, the tender souls that understand the deep connection between the nib of a pen and the unsaid.
I’ve often contemplated giving up, or keeping it all to myself, for it’s a part of me and not a whole, a few centimeters of heart and a few drops of soul, but then it hits me that someone out there is thankful, another appreciative, a few even understanding, some possibly detest my work which is quite a pleasurable thought for it means I stir up something brutal in them, animalistic maybe, and some more always expectant of what else my fingers can produce with that derisive twig of colour. I keep going for those, the few who dare express something, whatever it is, those who dare nod even though it can be difficult to stand by someone and their cause, even though understanding is a private notion, a secret twitch of the mind, a comforting little bell ringing in a distant corner spelling in morse: “you know”.
I suddenly felt like paying tribute to the great David Bowie by creating a “poem” with only his lyrics, taken here and there. Here’s my adieu, with your own words Mr. Stardust:
I’ve heard a rumour from Ground Control
Oh no, don’t say it’s true
I’m awake in an age of light living it because of you
Don’t let the sun blast your shadow
The moment you know, you know you know
Wonder where you are
Watching all the world and war torn
Said you took a big trip, they said you moved away
Happened oh, so quietly they say
Rebel, rebel, let’s dance
Put on your red shoes and dance
Let’s dance for fear your grace should fall
How many times does an angel fall?
Nobody here can do it for me
I’m in tears again when you rock ‘n’ roll with me
Ground control to Major Tom,
All the stars look very differently today, Is there life on Mars? There’s a starman waiting in the sky.
I’m stuck with a valuable friend
As long as there’s sun, as long as there’s rain
As long as there’s me, as long as there’s you
“I’m happy. Hope you’re happy, too”.
Ziggy really sang, screwed up eyes and screwed down hairdo, became the special man, then we were Ziggy’s Band.
Eh, eh, how could they know? That given time, the leaders go
Oh man! Wonder if he’ll ever know
He’s in the best selling show
Here I stand, foot in hand, talking to my wall, I’m not quite right at all
Keep your electric eye on me babe;
Time may change me, but I can’t trace time
For my love is like the wind, and wild is the wind
And though nothing will keep us together, we could steal time, just for one day, we can be heroes, for ever and ever, what d’you say?
“Oh I’ll be free, just like that bluebird
Oh I’ll be free, ain’t that just like me”
I come to you on this day with a wish
That your hearts these holidays will tenderly enrich
Family, friends and strangers too
May all your benevolent wishes come true
May your houses always feel like home
And your loved ones all be comfortably warm,
May your gardens be forever green
And each day be better than those you’ve seen.
Merriest Christmas one and all
May snowflakes not bombs on our cities fall
Over the past few years, I’ve come to notice a pattern in my writing, especially when it comes to my endlessly renewed blogs. I hear my thoughts reaching towards my fingers, ready to lie down as they escape my pen, or flow poetically from my keyboard, then, for some obscure reasons sadistically cooked up in my brain, I suddenly feel threatened by invisible rules, social impositions that prevent me from being this overly sensitive emotional ball of words.
I have what has repeatedly been described as a nostalgia-infused style, words escaping my heart to suddenly repose on fragile shreds of paper sporadically placed around me as I tiptoe my way through life. However, every time I start writing something for my blog, it’s as though an automatic tuning effect takes place, and I start sounding like a radio host, or better yet, a toaster’s installation manual. I tend to exaggerate, but it’s nothing short of the truth; I have the strangest tendency to transform into someone completely different, yet quite the same, doubling for myself while my other side rests or hides away till it all feels safe again. Writers and artists have always had a disturbing habit of figuratively ripping up old projects after some time, feeling completely disengaged towards the piece that once felt just right. Whilst there is nothing I would like more than to call myself a writer or an artist, I don’t feel I’ve earned those titles quite yet, but that won’t stop me from feeling peculiarly close to the persona and all the emotions the resemblance entails. I often feel inadequate, lost, maybe even somewhere away from myself, watching little old me struggling with what truly makes me…well, me.
When I write, it’s as though I light up; I can feel my skin glistening like the lights on a Christmas tree, but the fire is short-lived, washed away by fear and insecurity. I whole-heartedly want to expose the world to my writings, to the innermost workings of my soul, but I’m not quite sure of one thing: is it the world or myself that isn’t ready?