Welcoming 2019 in Silence

It is 8:20 pm on the first of January of the year 2019.  I welcomed the new year in silence. Today, I have not used my voice to speak to anyone. I was around family at midnight, and a few times throughout the day, but have not felt the desire to speak. I will not speak today.

I constantly think about silence and about choosing to be silent. I’ve toyed with the idea of giving up verbal speech for Lent. In the past I have attempted full silence on several occasions; but, have never maintained my silence longer than ten days. In other previous attempts, I had chosen to continue speaking to those I had previously spoken to, while communicating with all new individuals using gestures and writing. This is an easier first step towards full silence than suddenly stopping all verbal communication with everyone.

I remember refusing to speak in kindergarten and throughout early elementary school, a few times in high school, once in college, and a few more times since. Between kindergarten and now, in the last two decades, I have been gaining mastery of silence.  With each passing experience of silence, I have learned how to be silent for longer periods of time, how to communicate without using my voice, how to have my needs met, and how to be more comfortable in silence and with myself.

I do not know why I initially gravitated towards silence. I do have many memories of being misunderstood, and memories of not being understood, by teachers, classmates, and strangers. I also have a few memories in which my speech was corrected, and I have memories of practicing speaking. I am certain that these events led me towards choosing silence; simultaneously, I believe that the desire to not speak existed before most of these events.

Keeping conversations flowing is difficult, especially when I do not desire to listen or engage in the conversation. Politely ending a conversation when not speaking, especially ending one with someone who is venting, is also difficult. Also, being silent while being surrounded by people who speak for the sake of speaking, or who only speak to fill the silence, can be frustrating. There are drawbacks to both speaking and choosing silence.

In this new year, I will practice making my speech more deliberate than it has been in the past. I want my words to be purposeful; not automatic. In order to become more deliberate and purposeful with my spoken language, in this new year, I will spend more time in, and with, silence than I have spent in previous years. Currently, I am unsure about when I will speak for the first time in 2019. I am predicting that it will likely be tomorrow at work; but, if I am able to communicate with a shake or nod of the head instead of using my voice, my first word(s) can be postponed.

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Choosing Silence

I often choose silence over speaking. If I am unsure of my stance, I prefer to not take a stance until I become certain. In silence, I am able to think, to become certain and uncertain; I am able to be.

Those who do not know me well interpret my silence as a sign of something being wrong. Most of these people attempt to fill my silence with their questioning, with their words, with their lack of silence. They decide I am anxious, hiding something, or unwell. Most often, in silence I am calm, well, and discovering something for myself.

I choose silence because by not sharing I am ensuring that the final thought, or final decision, stems from myself. I trust my own ability to reason. I also trust that I know what is best for me. At moments in which I am unable to reach certainty, I am able to break my silence and approach, figuratively as I tend to choose non-verbal methods of communication, the people in my life whose ability to reason I trust.

Belonging: The Common Delusion

I have been called an existentialist, a cynic, and a pessimist. I understand why others choose to identify me with those terms. I can also be labeled as an absurdist who is quite rational, is a bit of an idealist, and who adheres to some romanticism. I contain many contradictions and do not perfectly fit, or belong, in any one descriptive, or philosophical, category. The way I think is not conformist, it is authentic to my experience. While, I attempt to enslave my body in order to force it to present my physical self in a way that does not delineate from the limits established by my society, my mind enjoys a more liberated existence. My mind wanders, walks, and runs. I am in awe of the details I notice, the thoughts I can both entertain and be entertained by, of myself, and of my experience.

Over this past month I have heard the term “common humanity” more times than I can recall. It’s a silly concept, that most around me seem to accept. From a young age, I noticed that most people want to be a part of something, they are in pursuit of a common good, of a common ground, of a common humanity. They share a common delusion and seem unaware to what they are missing in their search for commonality. Reality.

The country in which I live in is consistently described as an ‘individualistic’ society. Yet, this search for commonality is fundamentally ‘collectivistic.’ In a search for common ground, common humanity, and common good, there is also a search for a collective identity. A search for belonging. The search is futile. It is absurd. Besides the evolutionary goal to reproduce and maintain our own genes in the genetic gene pool, there is no other meaning to life. There is no higher inherent value to existence. Still, with this knowledge, I am guilty of engaging, from time to time, in the search for meaning, for commonality, for purpose, for love, for belonging, etc., The desire to search appears to be ingrained in society; it is difficult to escape since it is reinforced by religion, romantic comedies, the media, etc., While I sometimes allow my mind to search for meaning and sit with the thoughts associated with the search, I have always returned to accepting the lack of meaning. Most of the time, I am at peace with living a meaningless life.

I live in a constant state of awe. While there is some fear associated with the vast emptiness of meaning I attribute to life, there is also a lot of wonder directed at what is in front of, and around, me. I also perceive beauty in the pathetic search for meaning. In my perspective, there is beauty in the meaningless, the purposeless, the futile, etc.,

To Belong

To belong is to be a part of something. A member of something. Adherent to something. To be property of someone or something. Simply by reflecting on the definition of belong, I can determine that I belong in several ‘categories.’ I am of a specific race, of an ethnicity, I grew up in a specific religion, am an alumnus of some schools, a citizen of somewhere, etc., etc., Although, due merely to birth, experiences, and upbringing, I belong to, and in, these categories, they do not fully satisfy the socially ascribed meaning of belong.

Belonging is both a state of being and a state of mind. It is both rational and emotional. I can rationalize where I belong and the people I belong with based solely on commonalities; but, I cannot find the emotional connection to the people who also belong in the categories I belong. I am attached to the idea of belonging, but do not connect with the experience.

I perceive the emotional component of belonging as including two separate entities, myself and another individual or group. Ultimately, the only person I can connect with is myself, and I believe that I belong with myself. Only belonging to myself is lonely when I remove myself from spaces I occupy alone and place myself in shared spaces, and in general, society. Also, belonging with, and to, myself only involves one person; I am just me. Thus, belonging with, and to, myself, does not satisfy how my society seems to define the word belong.

“Come here.” “Come Here.” “COME HERE.” I wonder if there is a place somewhere calling me over. Is that how others’ know where they belong? Or, do they search for where they belong? Do they stumble upon belonging? I am unsure.

Is there currently no place for me? Is belonging a verb? An action? Am I not exerting enough effort?  Do I need a change in perspective? A change in mindset? A different state of mind? Do I need to become delusional?

Same Me, Different Routine

It is late tonight. It is almost midnight. I am laying in bed. I am typing these words. As I type, not a lot is coming to mind. This is odd, because there is a lot I could type. These past few months have been interesting. Yet, at the same time, these past few months have been quite mundane. Actually, they have been mostly mundane, quite boring, systematic, and adherent to routine. As in the past, I have spent a large quantity of time reflecting, and, in general, thinking. I have been thinking about the past, the present, and a bit about the short-term future. I have also spent a great deal of time working, thinking about work, and commuting to and from work.

I continue to be the same, do the same, and inhabit the same waiting place. While the past few months have been quite familiar, this month, December, has been a bit different. There was a small change in my physical routine. Honestly, the change was quite larger than small. There was a notable change. I have been occupying a space with new people, listening to new people, and attempting to be the same around new people. For those reasons, this month has been different. It is now December 22nd, a few minutes to December 23rd. This month will soon end. When it ends, I will return to my prior-to-December routine. I am unsure about whether or not this current change in routine is beneficial to me. I do not know if I will one day view this change as anything more than an inconvenience. For now, I am adhering to my change in routine, making an effort to meet expectations, and am attempting to maintain an open mind.

Observations Made

Observations made in the last 24-25 hours:

On a blue line train towards O’Hare: A man sits with a young girl (about 6-8 years old, maybe even a little older). The man has a bag on his lap with two empty plastic cups each holding a green straw. The girl is holding a tall inflatable hammer or bat. She is licking it. The man doesn’t seem to notice. I call my younger sister’s name to direct her attention at the girl. It took a few attempts because the train is loud. After she notices the girl she laughs and tells me “that’s you.”

At O’Hare’s Terminal 3: We waited for a bus to take us to Terminal 5. Two busses arrived. The first had many passengers in wheelchairs. We decided to take the second bus.

At O’Hare’s Terminal 5: While waiting for the airline to begin the luggage check I watched the female ticket agents put their make up on. One woman put on lipstick twice while looking in the mirror.

While leaving O’Hare: My sister and I raced each other out of the airport. We ran down halls, escalators, and stairs as though we were running late.

While walking towards the bus terminal at Jefferson Park Station and young man said ‘hi’ to me. I did not recognize him.

Three people, two men and one woman, stood outside of the building I had to enter blocking the door. They were talking. I did not know how to interrupt them so I stood to the side. The man noticed me and opened the door for me.

I was given two strawberry Laffy Taffys and a watermelon Jolly Rancher. I ate all three in less than an hour.

Inside a Kmart, a man speaking Spanish approached an employee. The employee stated that she does not speak Spanish. He asked her where the “men’s intimate clothes” were. She led him towards the men’s underwear.

Inside a Walgreens, as I decide which two chocolate bars I will purchase (they were 2 for $1), a woman tells a man “I got the type of face that only a mother can love.” They laugh. I did not see her face. I chose to purchase a twix bar and peanut M&Ms.

On a bus stop, I sat on a bench. An older lady came and sat on a different bench. After a few minutes she came and sat next to me. She talked about the weather, the bus, and guessed my ethnicity/ told me about her own. When the bus arrived she boarded in front of me. She pulled the cord for the first stop after we boarded; but, exited the bus two or three stops after.

Outside another Walgreens: A flock of about 20 pigeons lingers outside of the store. As I pass by them none fly.

On a bus, a man boards and sits near the front. A few stops later a woman in a wheelchair boards, he shakes his head when he has to change seats because he was sitting on priority seating. He sits across from where he was sitting, next to an old man who was also shaking his head when the lady boarded. A few stops later, a lady with a stroller containing blonde twin boys boards. The man has to move again. He seems frustrated. The old man shakes his head while looking at the lady with the two kids.

While crossing a street a man behind me is yelling at someone. The yelling is very loud and it sounds as though it might get violent. I turned around and saw the man yelling at no one. He was having an argument with someone only he could see.

Inside a different Walgreens: A lady stocking juice said something to me. I was confused. She then asked me “do you work here” and I said “No.” She said my vest made her think I worked there. My vest was red.

Outside a different Walgreens a man sat in his car. He called me over. I continued walking because I did not recognize him.

At a clothing store a customer approached me and asked me where she should put the clothing she does not want. I told her I did not work there.

On the sidewalk: A woman with an Ipad approaches a pedestrian asking if she has a minute to talk. The pedestrian states that she has already signed-up.

My one true love: In the past 30 days

I had a birthday thirty days ago. It was my 25th. As a 25 year old I have been doing a lot of the one thing that makes me feel at ease. I have been going to the one place I have always felt comfortable. I have been more openly sharing my joy.

It is not a secret. (Everyone who has known me knows about this special place).

I am not ashamed.  (I talk about this place often).

I am only dramatizing my truth; hence the following: Today is the day I tell the world. It is time to make my confession,

I love Walgreens. I have always loved Walgreens, and I cannot see myself ever not loving Walgreens.

In the past thirty days I have visited nineteen different Walgreens stores and have entered a Walgreens a total of forty-four times. As a 25 year old, I am keeping track of the Walgreens locations I visit. I am attempting to recognize how often I frequent this space. I am also tracking how many different Walgreens I can visit in one year while continuing with my day-to-day life.

I do not know how or when my love of Walgreens began. As far as I can recall, Walgreens has been a special place to/for me. The healthcare clinics have taken care of me, the pharmacists have been thorough, and the atmosphere has been exceptional. For the last twenty-five years and thirty days Walgreens has been both my pharmacy and my corner store.

There are people who describe my love for Walgreens as an obsession. It’s confusing because describing emotional states of being is challenging. To those who call me ‘obsessed’ I ask:  Is love not in part an obsession?

As I spend my 25th year sharing my love of/for Walgreens, I will also be sharing my reflections and memories associated with this company. More words are still to come. In the meantime, visit your local Walgreens.

Another new year

A few days ago I met a new year. The day was a Monday. To be more specific, it was a cold Monday. I waited around on Sunday, a cold Sunday, to meet the new year. I was aware of the change that would be occurring. I knew that in a few hours I would need to start writing 2018, instead of 2017. Becoming accustomed to writing a new year could possibly be the hardest/ most frustrating part about starting a new year. In the last few days I have seen other individuals write the incorrect year; thus, it appears as though a lot of people struggle to immediately adapt to writing a new number.

As I was writing before I detoured, I was expecting the new year’s arrival. I was anticipating the arrival as I have anticipated the arrival of many years prior to this year. The day did not feel special as I’ve met many years and understand how year’s change. Also, the day was not too different from other days. What made the day different was the knowledge that when it ended a whole year would end with it. I stayed up as I have on many nights and behaved as I tend to behave. Well, I was cleaning up after myself more quickly than I tend to in order to not have to begin the year cleaning; thus, I now see that I was preparing myself for the new year while simultaneously attempting to act and feel as I would on any other day. At the moment, other than that slight change in urgency towards household chores, nothing felt unusual about waiting for Monday. Yet, when midnight struck I felt an overwhelming urge to cry. This urge confused me as I did not expect this reaction. I am still struggling to interpret my experience on midnight. Was I sad? Was I happy? Was I relieved? scared? terrified? anxious? overjoyed? mourning a year now gone? celebrating an arrival? a new year? a rebirth? I am unsure. Were my emotions aimed at 2017? or 2018? or something else? Was I just ready for bed? hungry? thirsty? I do not know. The fireworks outside guided me to acknowledging that, although I was focused on how the day was as other days, I was also aware of how it was/would be different. Although I might have attempted to treat it like a mundane, everyday, run-of-the-mill type day, I had also ascribed symbolic meaning to the day. The day symbolized a new beginning and literally represented a new tax year.

Despite my urge to cry, I was determined not to start the year with tears. Thus, as I have done on many days, I stood up, took a conscious step with my right foot, in order to begin on the right foot, and continued moving as I have on many years.

Translating Emotions to Comprehensible Language

I enjoy attempting to read signs that are in languages I do not speak. I take pleasure from attempting to translate phrases, songs, television captions, etc., for myself. I often check for accuracy on Google Translate. To translate what is foreign to me into something familiar, I heavily rely on the languages I currently speak. I work under the assumption that all languages have a genealogical relative while simultaneously being aware of theories proposing the existence of language isolates (for instance: Basque, Korean, etc.,).  My translations from written French to English are amongst my most accurate. With every failed attempt at translation I pick-up words in new languages that later help me translate from a new language to English (i.e., new French words, in combination with knowledge of Spanish, have assisted me in understanding Catalan and Haitian Creole). There is always the risk of losing meaning in translation. There are expressions that cannot be properly translated. Communicating interlinguistically can be difficult.

As I think about languages and challenges that arise when translating information into different languages, my mind wanders towards a different type of translation that I am conducting as I aim to learn a new language. I am attempting to learn the language my feelings speak because I struggle to translate what I feel for myself; hence, often fail to communicate how I feel to others. The language spoken by my emotions and internal states seems foreign to me. It might be that my emotions are like language isolates, too unrelated to the languages I know; thus, too incomprehensible for me. In order to understand this isolate I am observing the gestures, physical reactions, and other forms of non-verbal communication my body exhibits as it attempts to communicate with my often rational mind. For many years I had turned to other people to learn about what they claimed to be feeling before making their emotions my own. This reliance on another’s emotions to understand my own has prevented me from owning my feeling and from taking ownership of the perspective allotted to me by my internal world. Today, as I try to wean away from my reliance on other people’s perspectives, I am starting to create my own understanding of the semantics of emotion-words (with the assistance of a collection of descriptions by people I encounter daily, posts on Yahoo Answers, Experience Project, and pages found while conducting simple Searches on Google). I now more heavily rely on the languages I currently speak to understand my emotional states than I had when I was mimicking the emotional states of those around me. In many situations I am still a mime, but I also see that I am spending more time rationalizing my internal experience in acts of self-reliance that assist me in my efforts to understand myself.

I remember, as a young child of either seven or eight years, I once tried to practice looking happy for picture day. As we waited in line to have our pictures taken, one of my classmates behind me in line attempted to teach me how to hold a smile for a picture; I did not achieve the intended results. Now, as an adult, I still struggle to purposely hold a smile for a picture. Facially expressing what I internally am not feeling is an act of deception I have not yet mastered. From attempting to smile when I did not want to smile, I learned that just as an individual can use spoken language to lie, many people use expressive communication to lie. I sometimes lie. My facial expressions often unintentionally deceive others– I am frequently told that I am displaying an emotion that I do not believe I am/was feeling. Of course, it is possible that I was feeling the emotion I was displaying; maybe what I perceive as an unintentional lie is an act of honest representation. I might just be unaware. Anyway,  I have many memories of being in a classroom as an angry teacher reprimanded my class. I do not remember any instance in which I did not feel the need to laugh. I am sure I smiled on many of these occasions. For a long time I assumed that laughing/smiling and wanting to laugh/smile at inappropriate times made me a bad child. As a teenager I realized that I laugh when I am uncomfortable. I translated my laughter by reflecting on the context and recalling the way my body has felt in similar situations. I depend on context to know what I feel. Context is what separates my understanding of happiness, excitement, ecstasy, love, and serenity. Context creates a distinction between frustration, irritation, confusion, anger, and sadness– emotions that feel identical to me and, if felt with noticeable intensity, can lead to tears. I use words to express a wider range of emotions than I feel.

In my case, translation is an act of subtraction and addition; I often lose my raw understanding, or lack of understanding, about what I am feeling, while simultaneously  creating a semantic network that links the emotion-word I have chosen with related concepts, and with memories of other instances in which I had chosen said word. My semantic network is constantly being re-created and the way in which I describe how I feel is continuously changing. I do not know if I am becoming more accurate or more inaccurate with my use of emotion-words. Being unaware of my emotions, failing to accurately express, and failing to effectively translate my emotions into spoken or written language, is frustrating (or confusing, or irritating, <insert emotion-word>).