If you’ve told me three months ago that I was an extrovert, I would have literally [I mean physically] attacked you. I would have felt insulted. Just as I would if you’ve suggested how after I went home, locked the door, closed the shutters and turned off the light; I watched “Jersey Shore” or read some cheap romantic novel where the heroine always rides horses and the hero is a powerful man whose uptight friends jokingly refer to as “tin man”.
So naturally, when I made a conscious decision in 2012 to “take myself less seriously”, “live a day at a time” and to “pursue happiness” [worry less about my responsibilities to my parents, how people view me as and how dangerously low my saving is becoming while accumulating credit debts], I have also made a decision to willingly and consciously kill the shy girl in me. I didn’t know how to flirt, so I started dishing my phone number to strangers I meet online, so anonymity would strengthen the “out-going” muscle. I lifted the bar of my tolerance threshold. And made a habit, that wouldn’t stick, of paying compliments to the girl I see in the mirror.
And when, about two weeks ago, a blogger friend I only knew so far through emails took me to watch “Hugo” and said I was not only sexier, but much more extroverted than I led him to believe; I crossed off two boxes in my to-do list. Ofcourse it bothered me afterwards. I worried that by becoming an extrovert I was not only conquering new grounds but losing old.. valuable ones. I was finding it easier to laugh at stupid jokes nowadays. I can’t go half way through, let alone finish, the books that I enjoyed reading tremendously [“Life, The Movie: How entertainment conquered life” being one of them]. More importantly, I no longer see social gatherings as something to be avoided, prepare for and fret over two days in advance, or put up with while agonizing over every minute. I have started looking forward to them. I welcome them. And I try to enjoy them. True, the smile still feels phony. My conversation skill is lacking – a lot. And I hate myself afterwards for all the wrong things I said, and/or all the “pauses” I took in between making a joke/answering a question/quick comeback that made the whole experience feel forced and not-genuine.
[Alas, I was there, wasn’t I? I was doing stuff for me [“me, me, me”; Papa Leech would have been so proud!]. Taking charge of my life. Living the “American” “dream”. Wasn’t I?! Well?!]
I worried this “trend” can only end at one and only place: shallowland. Everybody knows extroverts, optimists and people who are “life” to parties are generally dumber than their introvert counterparts. [Those loners who would volunteer to dig tunnels instead of watch “Jackass 3D”. Those pessimistic to whom the word “life” has one and only logical conclusion, “sucks”. Those gloomy wall flowers to whom the glass isn’t just half empty, but is dangerously low on sands. The group I belonged to prior to November 2011].
I wanted to enjoy life. I hated being weighed down by guilt. Was effing tired of not looking at the sun without thinking of the darkness that would envelop her before the end of the day. But I had no intention of being dumb. The foundation on which my whole “maninent” has been built upon was one that knew, without a doubt, that whatever expression people may use to describe me; “stupid”, “idiot” and/or “a moron” won’t be one of them.
And so I decided to retrieve my old self, and do whatever I can to help her live in peace with her new sunnier-disposition-ed neighbor. I hoped to accomplish that by doing two things:
(1) be more aware of my surrounding [the way I was when all the world was still filled with new and exciting information]
Listening and meditating is one of the three things my intuitive [older, more mature, had-his-share-of-grief] friend said I should do when my heart gets rushed by panic [the panic of loneliness brought about by the absence of other sounds (phone calls, texts, “wacha doin”s)]; on long howling Sundays, Superbowls and Valentines, when life and my future feels arrested between four white washed walls with three items to mark them; a pair of colorful brass images of two west-African women; a black and white wall clock and a harari “mesob” [next to a window that’s been sealed off for safety; and a roommate whose shrill voice makes me wanna start throwing up till Kingdom comes].
Listen, laugh and meditate.
So I sat outside Seattle Central Library this morning, took out a fag [“American Spirit”, yellow], and lit up. It’s never occurred to me that I could use the few minutes I spend on smoking for listening and meditating. I have assumed it was spent with you trying to look intelligent and thoughtful. Ending up looking like u didn’t know what to do with your other hand. That fag-time could be a “me time”; not just me showing the world I didn’t care I was killing three seconds off my life with every breath I took, but with me being attentive – to me and the world about; that has escaped my imagination.
So I listened.
First came the usual sounds, tires on asphalt, car horns, shoes on gravel, gusts of wind circling buildings.. hissing like an angry she-snake looking for her eggs; a distant cry of a bird complaining about something. A closer listen brought out sounds I would have never paid attention to, like back packs being lifted and arranged on shoulders. Shuffles of jackets, dresses, thighs. The subtle sound made by a person interfering and passing through the gaseous substance surrounding the earth. There was the sound I was making, when sucking in and releasing smoke into the cold Seattle air [while a mother pushes a noiseless stroller by, with a cute child inside it, who seems intent on watching and learning, “sorry, baby. I need this”]. Then the unexpected..unpleasant .. unwanted sound; of swinging doors opening and closing. A homeless man shuffling out and towards me.
I started visibly. He has environmentally responsible and pretty gross-looking grocery bags on every part of his body that is capable of carrying, his shoes looked greasy [you can always tell a bum by his shoes, even when he isn’t a bum] and he was eating something that didn’t look very appetizing. I knew he was gonne ask me to bum him a cigarette. I also knew I had no intention of bumming him one. Aside from the 9.02 I paid for my packet [which feels like 18.04 nowadays; with the hour cuts and the cold weather making lighting-up a necessarily evil], once you gave a homeless guy a cigarette, 8 other seem to crop out of the wood works to demand for one. And you can’t give one and refuse another. It.ain’t.good.manners!
The homeless guy shuffled closer, then stopped a few feet from where I was standing – meditatively looking for safe exits. Then he put his junk down, laboriously and one by now, and started crumbling the cookie in his hand on the ground. “God damn it!”, I must thought, righteously indignant at how these folks seem to take their role as a human-garbage-producing-machine a little too far.
A bunch of birds, from trees I can’t see, swooped down to where he was scattering the crumbs. There was the flattering of wings, the pitter-patter of tiny feet, birds walking about in purposeful and measured steps like young women hurrying to work. I watched, almost dazed by the beauty of it. By the poetry of it. By the humbling fact that the “rejects” were the ones who sought and looked after the friendless: the child, the puppy, the bird.
One more entry to my long list of things to do: Laugh. Listen. Mediate. And Keep your eyes open. It’s the homeless that feed the birds.
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