The best game
I'm playing a game at the moment. If you want you to, you can join in too.
The game is pretty simple. It's called 'presence' and it involves relaxation and attention. At times the game can become incredibly frustrating. You may find your fingers twitching for your phone or earphones. But the longer you play, the more you discover. Here is a collection of scientific data from the past couple of weeks of my experiment.
Getting the bus around town everyday is very enjoyable. Whilst I am aware that yes it's merely a tin can crammed with bleary eyed people en route to whatever day they face, I am learning to love it. Who would have known how much joy there is outside of a screen? The way the trees are slowly changing to Autumnal green ready to shed, the way people help those with buggies up onto the bus, or let others go in front of them out of sheer kindness. The way we all grin at eachother when someone enters the train on their phone, loudly discussing 'Mrs Boothby' and their conversation has a whole table of strangers in stitches. Just taking these things in without distraction is a breath of fresh air. I've been having positive conversations with people I don't know and I'm constantly blown away by how decent people actually are. At first attempt, the chatting egoistic voice in my noggin was blabbing ON and ON about how awkward I am and how I need to check if Camila has uploaded another photo, but a couple of days in and it's nagging presence isn't as loud as it was.
On the way to a wedding last week, my taxi driver made a remark about Queer education being terrible for young children as it was breaking apart the traditional family unit. He didn't know I was a big ol' gay and he didn't know the wedding was for the union of two beautiful women. Ordinarily, my massive ego would swell up to fill the taxi, so his face was crushed against the window. I would then 'educate him' and drown out his bigotry feeling like a legend before making a sarcastic remark and storming out of the taxi. However, because I was present in that moment, I felt the rage inside my stomach and sat with it. I kept breathing calmly and listened to his concerns, trying to swallow the bile ready to fly from my mouth. After a while the rage simmered and I offered my own thoughts from working with young people and he took them in. It wasn't done to belittle him or to make myself feel better. It was sharing the space to discuss openly and honestly. We sat in silence for a few moments and it felt like something was shifting for both of us. There was no aggression or gritting of the teeth. In fact I felt calmer after the conversation than I did before. Now, I don't know if his views will change and in a way that's not important, but I do know that the conversation was stimulating and encouraged us both to hear eachother out.
GUESS WHAT? I LOVE HEARING WATER SPLASHING IN THE SHOWER! Has she finally lost the plot, I hear you ask? It's a homegrown habit from living up in Northumberland to have a soundtrack on at all times in the house; you'll find Radio 4 on in mam and dad's room, Joe's Youtube gaming review videos blasting, mam on her Ipad listening to comedy, me listening to Fifth Harmony 7/27 album in the shower and dad playing some hipster band on Radio 6 because he's cool like that. Their love of music informed a great deal of my passion for creative content, but it has also amplified my need to always fill the silence. Because guess what lurks in the silence? It's ME! Oh no! It makes sense that in my teenage years of depression my Ipod Nano played non-stop My Chemical Romance, Fall Out Boy, Panic! at the Disco, Alicia Keys, Nelly Furtado, Madonna, Linkin Park, Lighthouse Family, Elvis, Kate Nash, Clubland remixes (Sexy! No No No... Girls Aloud: Flip and Fill Remix- Clubland 12 version, STILL makes me grin from ear to ear and cry. I can hear my mates laughing but if you haven't heard it you don't know a tune, so get out.) The shower now is a place to bring my mind back to the feeling of the water, the sound and the experience. Ruby Wax notes in her hilarious book 'Frazzled' that we may be physically in the shower on a morning, but if our mind is at the office then we are clocking in early.
So what Jen? Now you can hear water and sit on a bus? Good for you, now leave me alone so I can sit and scroll through hundreds of pictures of other people living their 'authentic' lives and feel my heart shrivel up. Just hear me out though. There are so many podcasts, articles and videos out there telling us to be present. We can listen and read information until our hearts content. But when it comes to doing it, it takes a big leap of faith to plug out and connect to our surroundings. Even doing it for 10 minutes a day really helps take the edge off of an intense sensorial environment of advertisement, capitalism and judgement.
I think you are so beautiful and brave. I think you can sit and listen in silence for 10 minutes and survive it.. Come join me in my game. And if you don't want to, that's totally fine too. Maybe we can put some Clubland Classics on and dance anyway...