untitled portrait

a work in progress

This song always makes me happy. 

To Build a Home by Patrick Watson (with The Cinematic Orchestra)

The girl in the video makes me even happier. 

Familial Attachment

One thing is for sure: I’m not myself right now. I’m an emotional minefield, impossible to pass without tripping a switch. When I’m my normal self, I’m considered to be calm and collected, but in these few days I instead react irrationally. I try to remain composed and unconcerned but I can’t hide what is frequently anger, frustration or fear. Playing passiveness simply doesn’t work. Nowhere else do I experience such strong negative emotion. Is this because I’m not used to such close familial attachment?

As a child, closely-knit family integration was non-existent. When I’m put into an environment of intimate family bonding, I’m awkward and clueless as to how to participate. I react by imitating others. As much as I’d want to avoid pinning this flaw up to some Freudian hypothesis, I do believe my lack of genuine compassion stems from the absence of a mother’s say in my early years. My father did well to clothe and feed me, but there is only so much an emotionally tongue-tied Scotsman can do to make up for a “mother’s touch.” This would explain why I freeze up during hugs, am speechless when I’m complimented, unmoved by another’s suffering and unaware when it comes to acts of familial bonding. I simply didn’t experience such things as a child. I have no sense of attachment.

So, 20 years removed from her, to be with her now I am ashamed to say I act like a child. It seems I’m learning how to receive a mother’s say 20 years later. I tell you, it’s hard being told what to do when you’ve been doing things your own way for a very long time. Harder is to read her true feelings and decipher her criticisms and verbal lashings. Is a mother ever pleased with you? It seems like they always have an opinion on what you’re doing wrong and what you could be doing better; after I’ve cooled off I can accept this as their love, not disapproval. But getting to that point of rational thinking definitely requires a sojourn in a very angry place. Thankfully, after writing all this out, I’m at peace.

For now.

 Sitting on the edge. 
"The Chief" - Squamish, B.C. 2010

Sitting on the edge. 

"The Chief" - Squamish, B.C. 2010

If you laugh out loud by yourself, does that make you crazy?

We were separated for 10 years. You made sure I ate my congee when I was sick. You beat me when I was bad. I cried but now I forgive you. I was a confused child without you. I tormented myself with the thought I’d never find you. I held on to the faint sound of your voice. Yet as the years passed, your voice faded away. I would stare at your photos for fear of forgetting your face. 7 years have passed since I found you. I’ll never forget the ride from the airport when I realized I was home. I promised myself I’d never lose you again. I won’t lie. Right now I’m afraid. I’m helpless to what happens next month, so the only thing I can do is pray. I will pray every night that you will be safe. 

I lean my head towards you, look at the lines of your back and many feelings rush inside my head but I’m unable to put them into words, so I curl my arms around your waist and pull myself closer to your body and smile. This is happiness.

no time 4love by popoks (deviantart)

no time 4love by popoks (deviantart)

Conversations with Elders

When I was a child my Dad told me to listen to my grandparents and do as they told. This discipline was expected for all elders, and over the years through listening to them my silence turned into respect. I took their word as truth and saw them as cardinal bearers of the past. Listening to their conversations with other elders and adults I noticed they enjoyed talking about the olden days. The War was a common topic that never escaped daily conversation. No food was wasted as war-time rationing was not a distant memory for them. Not diluting your glass of juice was considered thriftless. A bit of mould on a loaf of bread or piece of cheese was merely cut off for the rest was still edible. Not writing on every line and using both sides of a piece of paper was considered improvident. Food was regularly discussed and they loved to lament on the days when one could buy two pounds of apples for 15 pence or a dozen eggs for 40 pence. The good ol’ days. When children were seen but not heard. When TV was not full of rubbish and one could watch a proper newscast.

Some of their stories would make me chuckle while others, like the German bombing of London in WWII, would make me silent. War and politics took up a large share of everyday conversation. Mark Twain once said “it’s better to stay silent and look a fool, rather than speak and remove all doubt.” At an early age I quickly learnt this lesson. When I tried to enter the discussion I was either ignored or told I was too young to know what I was talking about. This was true. Their discussions on Yasser Arafat, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and the cold war made me dizzy. I was intimidated but also fascinated by their vast array of knowledge. Gunter, my step grandfather, seemed to know just about every conflict known to man since David and Goliath, could explain the revolutionary military strategies of Alexander the Great, and tell you the shoe size of Napolean and the size of Nelson Mandela’s prison cell. I absorbed their words like a sponge. Knowledge became authority. They had lived through two world wars, the Great Depression, the Suez canal crisis, apartheid and the fall of the Berlin wall. I was alive when the Berlin wall fell, but I did not understand the context that made its destruction so significant. I grew to respect these people by listening to their life stories.

Today I still feel humbled in the presence of elders and enjoy talking with them. When I moved away from my grandparents I no longer had access to their stories but I continued to acquire knowledge through encyclopaedias, history books and eventually the internet. But it was their conversations which ultimately nurtured my character, humility, and high esteem for knowledge. I saw their experiences and stories as life lessons one could not find in a textbook. Considering I decided to study history at university, I’d say they had a profound effect on me. At university I found professors that filled the void of my grandparents’ absence. Passed away, they no longer walk among us, yet their stories will be passed on.

World Spins Madly On by The Weepies