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Passe-Temps. Story of One Life. VI

Yana Malysheva-Jones


The sound of the washing machine calms me down. I find these little rituals of the domestic household very calming and somehow cozy, maybe because they make me feel like there is life in the house I am living in. There is movement. Because I cannot stand calmness and quietness, no matter how tired I get. When I find myself somewhere in the middle of nowhere, say a forest or a village and I have to fall asleep to the noise of nothing I feel nothing but distress — my head feels as if it’s poured in with lead as we say in Russia and I can’t rest in what is supposed to be a peaceful setting. In the beginning of the twenty-first century we are all taught that calmness of mind and absence of thoughts is some kind of way to deep wisdom and the road to enjoying life. But is it really, I keep asking myself this question for a while — what if I calm down surrounded by noises and people, cars honking and sounds of aliveness, the sound of movement in this nothing but grandiose universe, filled with silence. So many of us for as long as I know try to avoid life on earth in the earthiest way possible by ‘meditating’ and practicing various exercises to feel closer to where we all apparently came from. I seriously doubt that that’s what we were given our lives to be. But you don’t have to agree with me.

I remember once in the middle of the winter we just went out for a short walk that turned out to be quite a long one in the end — me, Ben and Max. We entered a grocery store called ‘Magnolia’ — I can’t help but think of the eponymous movie by Paul Thomas Anderson every time I see one of the stores of this chain — to get a coffee or something. And as soon as I got my cup I went out and due to the fact there were no benches around I just leaned on the wall and slowly slid down to sit as homeless people do and then it struck me. Something inside just clicked and I felt for a split second what homeless people might feel sometimes, as long as they don’t freeze or starve. The noises and lights of the surroundings — of cars, of street lamps, of people chattering on their phones — felt almost like amniotic liquid of a mother’s womb where I felt cocooned and so safe but at the same time exposed to the world around me. That shell was there, the shell that we lose once we are out here. Maybe I felt that way because all the noises and lights were blurred into one at that moment and by sitting down there I felt like a small someone — it is actually nice to feel small and invisible in the world where everybody is trying to be bigger than themselves and therefore build up their everything to an unmanageable size and then suffer from it. Maybe fear and knowing one’s place is not such a bad thing in the end, despite that it has always been shamed and laughed upon.

So I did it. This week I sent the letter of complaint to the State Health Department — the letter that we prepared together with the lawyer. The letter that is supposed to show, firstly to myself, that it wasn’t all my fault that I couldn’t handle the birth of my son. Most probably it wasn’t my fault at all, but it will take me much more time to accept that and be at peace with the fact. I was shamed into being fearful and cowardly in my labour, but if anything I was too brave and again, as many times before, blind to who I really am and what I am capable of. I am only learning to understand the limits of myself, because, trust me, we are limited in many ways — please try to avoid anyone who tells you the opposite. Knowing your limits is the key to freedom. But again, you don’t have to agree with me.

It’s snowing outside. That day I was sitting down leaning against the wall of ‘Magnolia’, it was snowing too. Though it was December back then and now it is April. You know, they say that many homeless people love what they do and will never shift to living back to ‘normal’ no matter how much comfort of typical human life might be offered to them. Freedom is what makes them ‘addicted’ to nomadic life. Freedom to be free. Sit with this one for a while, as it’s not that easy to comprehend straight away.

Funnily enough, the flower of Magnolia is believed to have existed from the beginning of time and among other things it symbolises longevity and perseverance, something one might be gifted with for choosing their own definition of freedom. Even if it feels ‘small’ and worthless to the world around you.

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