The Strangeness of Ritual

Rituals can be strange things.  For those of us who drift through our days on autopilot, they are merely the segments that divide the day.  And they mark the passing of the hours in a way that can be both comforting and depressing.  For me, it begins with a jarring alarm buzz in the wee hours, quickly followed by the dizzying rush to get ready, and then the 5:00 a.m. sign-in at front desk.  For others, it starts with a bracing cup of coffee taken like a lifeline while they're still bleary-eyed and fuzzy-minded, and is followed by a long, torturous commute.

During the day, there are other markers too. The receptionist's PA-system announcement that the donut/sandwich/pastry/cheesecake or whoever guy is in the car park signals that I've reached another milestone - the day's halfway point.  Now lunch is just around the corner, and there are only four more hours to go here.  When I return from lunch - just one hour before the end of my shift - I'm in the homestretch phase, silently soothing myself that it's just a matter of minutes now.  Each ritual is like a raft, giving me something to hold on to as I stumble through the days with my thoughts only on making it to the end.

But, dear mornings, how I long to savour you slowly!  To revel in the gentle creep of warm, yellow arms around my body as the sun announces another day.  How I long to start each day leisurely, with the spicy, rich warmth of a mug of hot chocolate, the sizzle of sausages and eggs on the stove, and the lulling murmur of a tv in the background.  How I crave waking up with the peace of knowing that I'm mistress of all my hours; that there's no mask to wear, no armour to don against the outside world; that the Muse will visit some time during the day and my only task is to wait patiently for her so that another creative project can take flight.

The Softness of Sundays

Sundays at my house have always been an odd mix of quiet and nostalgia, with a small undercurrent of anxiety.  As a little girl, they were framed by the ritual of Sunday school and last minute homework, against a backdrop of oldie songs and cooking spices.  To this day, the songs of Skeeter Davis, Tom Jones, and Nat King Cole still conjure up the tantalising aroma of simmering beef stew, and the vision of my mother bustling around our small kitchen.

As I got older, the slow-drumming anxiety turned to dread.  Sundays now signalled the beginning of another work week to endure.  And as I braced myself for customers, bosses, and managers who were decidedly determined to be displeased, I missed the gentle beauty of the transition from one week to another, the potential of a second chance.  Instead, I kept a worried eye on the clock, constantly measuring the nearness to Monday.

Then, a year and a half ago, I started to blog.  I needed an outlet for my feelings, a way to capture beauty, to reminisce, to analyse - something to focus on besides the sadness of work.  And to my surprise, the unfolding vibe was a Sunday one.  Not the 'work Sunday' but the one of my childhood.  The one of stillness, introspection, wistfulness.  Somehow, through blogging I'd found a way to weave these gossamer threads together and knit for myself a softer Sunday.

Creativity and online community have been the spark of light in a sea of darkness - the one pure, untainted thing to turn to when the rough edges of my life are bruising.  I flip on my Kindle and through the blogs, podcasts, and social media feeds of likeminded creative souls, find comfort and inspiration.  They gently bevel Sunday's edges and give me hope that some day - maybe as early as 2017 - there will be nothing left to endure, and that the full sweetness of Sunday will be mine to savour.

The Beauty of the Obscure

I recently discovered the quaintly beautiful Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows and loved its purpose: to find words for many of the emotions and states that are part of the human experience.  Although made up, the words concretise our daily struggles and reassure us that we are not alone in them.  I'm looking forward to the book in 2017.

Here are some of my favourites:

Ambedo - n. a kind of melancholic trance in which you become completely absorbed in vivid sensory details—raindrops skittering down a window, tall trees leaning in the wind, clouds of cream swirling in your coffee—briefly soaking in the experience of being alive, an act that is done purely for its own sake.

Anemoia - n. nostalgia for a time you’ve never known

Imagine stepping through the frame into a sepia-tinted haze, where you could sit on the side of the road and watch the locals passing by. Who lived and died before any of us arrived here, who sleep in some of the same houses we do, who look up at the same moon, who breathe the same air, feel the same blood in their veins—and live in a completely different world.

Backmasking - n. the instinctive tendency to see someone as you knew them in their youth, a burned-in image of grass-stained knees, graffitied backpacks or handfuls of birthday cake superimposed on an adult with a degree, an illusion formed when someone opens the door to your emotional darkroom while the memory is still developing.

The Bends - n. frustration that you’re not enjoying an experience as much as you should, even something you’ve worked for years to attain, which prompts you to plug in various thought combinations to try for anything more than static emotional blankness, as if your heart had been accidentally demagnetized by a surge of expectations.

The kinda Blues - n. the sad awareness that the unfolding plot of your life feels new and profound but is not unique, just one of a few dozen possible riffs on the same chord progression, while the tunes reverberating from the jukebox in your chest are all covers of old standards from the Great Emotional Songbook, which is 98% identical to that of the chimpanzee.

Chrysalism - n. the amniotic tranquility of being indoors during a thunderstorm, listening to waves of rain pattering against the roof like an argument upstairs, whose muffled words are unintelligible but whose crackling release of built-up tension you understand perfectly.

Gnossienne - n. a moment of awareness that someone you’ve known for years still has a private and mysterious inner life, and somewhere in the hallways of their personality is a door locked from the inside, a stairway leading to a wing of the house that you’ve never fully explored—an unfinished attic that will remain maddeningly unknowable to you, because ultimately neither of you has a map, or a master key, or any way of knowing exactly where you stand.

Jouska - n. a hypothetical conversation that you compulsively play out in your head—a crisp analysis, a cathartic dialogue, a devastating comeback—which serves as a kind of psychological batting cage where you can connect more deeply with people than in the small ball of everyday life, which is a frustratingly cautious game of change-up pitches, sacrifice bunts, and intentional walks.

Kudoclasm - When lifelong dreams are brought down to earth.  Sometimes it feels like your life is flashing before your eyes, but it’s actually the opposite: you’re thinking forward, to all the things you haven’t done, the places you intend to visit, the goals you’ll get around to…

Silience - n. the kind of unnoticed excellence that carries on around you every day, unremarkably—the hidden talents of friends and coworkers, the fleeting solos of subway buskers, the slapdash eloquence of anonymous users, the unseen portfolios of aspiring artists—which would be renowned as masterpieces if only they’d been appraised by the cartel of popular taste, who assume that brilliance is a rare and precious quality, accidentally overlooking buried jewels that may not be flawless but are still somehow perfect.