MC's Whispers

Whispering Silences

Raising a castle from the ground

CUORE-DI-LEONE-FRONTMy grandmother always told me that you should never give women a response as vague as “do what you think, dear”. Because if you do, she is not responsible for the surprise you will receive.

I think she was the one who invented this rule.

Grandfather was always specific with his responses. He never said “do what you think”, but always presented her with at least two options. So, for example, if she would ask “what do you want for dinner tomorrow?”, he would say “how about some fried chicken, or perhaps some lamb stew?”. He had realized that if he offered two options, he would at least get the one. But there were always times when grandmother decided to implement a third option that she herself had decided upon.

Women are crazy and insistent like that. There was no way you could understand the manner their minds worked. Grandfather said it was not even worth trying. You would sooner be driven crazy than even begin to comprehend them.

Grandfather had learnt his lesson when during the early years of their marriage he had gone off on a three-day hunting trip with his friends. Grandmother was left alone in the house, having plenty of things to do and being content with simply running the household.

But she soon got bored and on the second day called grandfather to ask if he wouldn’t mind a few changes being made in the house’s construction. He gave the unfortunate response of “sure, do whatever you think is best, my dear”.

Grandmother kept herself busy, frantically and excitedly creating in reality what she had already constructed in her mind.

When grandfather returned two days later, he had to run around the house twice, thinking he made a wrong turn somewhere and ended up at someone else’s house. The house he had left, that simple, stone-walled maisonette he had departed from, had disappeared and in its place there had been erected a renaissance-style villa, with fifteen steps and a huge porch leading to the two-doored entrance of a three-storey house. The back yard featured a stable and a hencoop, while the entire perimeter was confined by an elegantly crafted wooden fence. Grandmother rushed out to greet him, beaming with joy. “Do you like the new changes?” she asked, obviously rhetorically. Grandfather was speechless. Grandmother took it to mean he loved them.

Women are crazy like that. They can raise castles out of molehills in less time than you need to go to the market and return. Yet they will always ask for your opinion, even for something simple as the colour of their shoes, but never listen to what you say. Either way, you have to admit, life would be really boring without them.

The voices in your head

voices_in_head_xlargeYou know those voices in your head, the ones that appear every time you try to rationalize a decision? The ones that you picture like two tiny “you” like cartoon characters dressed like an angel and a demon standing on each of your shoulders? Those voices that either agree with you or (vulgarly) disagree with you? What? You don’t have them? Everyone does. It just depends on how much you listen to them, that you keep them alive and present. Marcia knew it well. Because she conversed daily with the voices in her head.

But it usually got her into trouble.

Like today.

Last night Alan had told her on the phone that he had something to tell her, but wouldn’t give out any more details. He said he would tell her in person today. Being a naturally very curious person, Marcia could hardly sleep all night. She kept thinking what it was that Alan wanted to tell her.

Alan was the next-door neighbor Marcia had a crush on ever since she moved in. He seemed to flirt with her every so often but Marcia had read signs so wrong in the past that she didn’t really know what to think. Unless he came straight out and blurted to her that he liked her, she would never feel certain.

But, what was it that he wanted to say to her? This is when the voices took center stage. The angel would say that he would ask her out on a date. Or he would make a romantic gesture. Or he would confess that she stole his heart from the very first look they shared. Marcia was delighted with the prospect. She could already feel her heart flutter with joy and her hands shaking with excitement.

But then, the devil took over. And he filled her with doubt and suspicion. That he already had a girlfriend and wanted to ask her to house-sit while they went away for a romantic weekend. That he wanted to tell her he was moving out. Or even worse that he was getting married and wanted to invite her. The horror. Marcia could feel the heat rise up and strike her head, just like the opposite of a brain freeze, if such a thing even existed.

She began considering what she would say in each occasion. She had to be prepared. Being caught off guard for bad news, especially when you were hoping for good ones, is the most embarrassing thing that could happen to you, according to Marcia. So, she spent the entire night and all through dawn quarreling with the voices in her head about what Alan wanted to tell her and how she would respond.

She got up today having hardly slept at all at night.

And when Alan appeared at the door all smiling and bright, Marcia was such a nervous wreck, she broke down in tears and slammed the door in his face.

Alan was dumbfounded. All he wanted to say was that the book Marcia had been expecting for weeks now had finally arrived and he had signed for it. He simply wanted to give it to her himself because he loved how her eyes lit up with the excitement of even simple things like this.

Who knew he would have been beaten by two little voices in her head?

Pride and Stubbornness

stubborn-muleZoe and Theodore had fallen in love the minute they met. All it really took was a deep gaze into each other’s chestnut eyes. They were both glowing, an indication of the emotions that had sparked inside of them. But they knew that this relationship was not going to be an easy ride.

Pride and stubbornness does that.

They were both successful in their respective careers. Independent, self-sufficient professionals who had learned how to battle through life and persevere no matter what came their way.

But in a relationship, that wasn’t necessarily a good thing.

Theodore would occasionally back down, allowing Zoe to make the choices – the meal, the restaurant, the movie. But she often felt he was letting her do things so she wouldn’t nag and she detested it, leading to a fight – the kind of ones only women know how to start.

When he wouldn’t call during the day because he was often caught up with heap-loads of work, Zoe refused to pick up the phone and call him herself. And they would spend days wondering why each other didn’t call, waiting, hoping, drowning in thoughts and doubts.

In the end, they realized they were simply suffocating themselves. Something should be done. So they set a specific time by which they would definitely talk on the phone if they hadn’t already. They took turns choosing what they would eat, see, go. They would discuss and make decisions jointly, in rare cases even flipping a coin if it came down to that.

And with time, their pride and stubbornness in their relationship subdued. They realized these feelings had no place in emotions of love. And so they managed to save their life as a couple and ultimately rescue their own sanity. Because sometimes, you do need to let go of a few things and just for a while demonstrate you too have weaknesses.

Exorcising the black cloud

dark-cloudIs it true? That if one thing goes so wrong that plunges you into pessimism and depression then a whole string of things will follow? As if the entire universe is somehow conspiring against you?

Why doesn’t it ever conspire for you?

Maurice was pondering these thoughts as he stared at his half-burned down apartment.

He had burnt the toast this morning – the toaster was already broken, so he placed them in the oven instead, but miscalculated the time needed. So he threw out the two black squares and went out to the bakery at the end of the street to get something fresh. On the way, he stopped by the kiosk to get a newspaper and had a 5-minute chat with the seller there. But by the time he got back, it was already late. Apparently, the oven had not been shut-off properly and a burnt piece of toast had managed to creep its way into causing enough trouble.

The rest of the week was horrible for Maurice too.

He missed a deadline at work and was heavily scolded at. He got food poisoning from not defrosting properly some fish. And he couldn’t sleep at night because of all the thoughts swarming in his head.

Why didn’t anything ever go right for him? Why was nothing ever working out in his favour? And most of all, why did nothing ever happen as he wished?

So how would he manage to exorcise this dark cloud of bad luck that was hanging over his head?

It was a drag and lately he could feel it suffocating him all the more. He felt so crushed by sadness that he didn’t want to do anything. He wanted to leave the house but didn’t have the energy too. He wanted to sleep to forget it all, but couldn’t because the minute his head hit the pillow all these thoughts attacked him like a platoon of angry fighters.

He read a series of articles in the magazines he had piled up in his bookcase and confirmed what he already knew – he was on the verge of collapse. It is not just the physical stress that can do that to you. It is the psychological breakdown that delivers the final blow.

So he decided to adopt something new – to find the positive in every situation, no matter how bad the latter was. He began with the burnt-down flat. The positive was that it was a chance to renovate. And the fact that he was alone while all his friends were away? A chance to do some self-exploring and perhaps even find new friends. He just had to manage to get out of the house without that cloud over his head.

It was the only way he would allow the light back into his life.

Phantom Moments

illutionoftimeThere are moments in life that seem like illusions. They come and go as quickly as flashes of lightning and you are left wondering if they ever truly existed. They are phantom moments.

Moments that are so intense for however long they last, but once they are over they come round again after long periods of time, if ever.

Violeta knew those moments well. This was what her life was like. Full of phantom moments. Moments when she would experience the greatest rush of her life and then days, weeks and months full of boredom and the memory of what that exhilarating feeling felt like. Moments filled with love, excitement and adrenaline. That would make her scream with happiness, only to be left in longer periods of time dreaming of what a continuation of the phantom moments would be like. What would it really be like if those moments were more than just a phantom. If those moments were life itself.

She soon realized that time passes by quicker than memories. But memories are not something you can forever hold on to.

She figured it out when enlightenment struck her in the midst of an Eat, Pray, Love-style journey of self-discovery. It was where she became aware how hung on to those moments she was. How she spent each day waiting for the next one to arrive. And in the end, this waiting, the anticipation, the expectation of something that may never happen was killing her from the inside. So she decided to seek help to get rid of this “bug”, this phantom-withdrawal-syndrome she had apparently developed.

A guru in Thailand gave her an advice she would never forget. And it was one that would truly change her perspective on life:

Always have a plan B, because plan A almost never works and even if it does, it won’t last. Phantom moments never do. Search deep in your heart and find what it is you truly seek, where you want to be, how you want to live. If you find that, then you will be the one to make the phantom moments last a lifetime”.

Those who run

Run-With-The-SunPeople run. From the things that irritate them. From those that hurt them. From the memories they seek to escape from. From the reality they don’t want to deal with.

Everybody does it and some point or other. Even if it is just by dreaming of escaping to somewhere else.

People want at times to feel secluded, shielded, protected. They want to feel in control of their own destiny again. As if they truly are responsible for their lives.

So when Margaret just got up and left one day, shutting out everything and everyone, she knew she wasn’t alone. There were millions of rebels out there who wanted “to change the world” and who believed that to do so you needed to first change your submission to the status quo.

But it is not always like that. And Margaret would figure it out harshly. When the bubbles would burst and she would realise that there is no true escaping anything. Because no matter how far and how much you run, there are some things you will always carry with you.

You may still choose to run.

But it is the people who stay, who demonstrate the greatest courage.

Choose wisely

Sleepless journalistsThey say that when you select your career path, you need to choose wisely for it is what you will spend most of your life doing. It will be what will determine your character, your personality, your entire being. It will be through what you will learn to deal with whatever life throws at you and how to cope with it all. But most of all it will be the prism through which you will view everything around you.

When I chose to be a journalist, I never had a doubt. It was a profession depicted as adventurous, exciting and fascinating. It was a chance to travel, even if it was simply around your neigbourhood, to meet people and learn their stories and then be creative in writing it all out for other people to read. And the satisfaction of having others view and praise your work is, of course, priceless and worth all the effort.

But what they don’t tell you about this profession is that it requires at times inhuman hours. Long waits doing absolutely nothing. Constant screening of everything that goes on the web – on every platform and social network. Of cross-checking facts before you say anything, just to be sure. Of reporting alleged claims and two seconds later confirming they have been refuted. Of covering 17-hour marathon negotiations that have been described as the “European Union’s most historic and significant Council” in order to avert the collapse of the entire system due to a single country’s breakdown. Yet, even with hardly a couple of hours sleep in the night that results in you spending the rest of the day stumbling over just by moving between living room and kitchen, it is somehow all worth it. When you see that the articles you wrote are being shared and liked, that you are being recognized as fluent and exceptional in what you do.

Right then you don’t think about the tiredness anymore or the lack of sleep. You simply dwell in the satisfaction that you did indeed choose wisely. And this is a path you never regret having taken.

The element of surprise

surprise-boxAristotle had said that “the secret to humor is surprise”. And it is true. Because if you really consider it, “the moments of happiness we enjoy take us by surprise. It is not that we seize them, but that they seize us” (Ashley Montagu).

Surprises usually entail a positive connotation. The word itself springs to mind something pleasant, bright and joyful. Who wouldn’t want a surprise that means being granted a wish so unexpectedly? Being given flowers without reason? Receiving a gift just because the giver so feels like it? Or even getting an unexpected (but very welcome) visit when you are home feeling lonely?

“Surprise is the greatest gift which life can grant us” (Boris Pasternak).

Surprises enrich not only our psychology – usually lifting our spirits – but they also train our minds to acknowledge that not everything in life can be planned. And no matter how good a scout you are, you can’t always be prepared.

Life throws a lot your way. You just have to learn to accept and deal with it as best as possible.

And never stop hoping that a surprise might eventually come knocking on your door. Because wouldn’t it be lovely if just once things turned out as idyllically as they do in your head?

…And some pasta

shopping basketThere was a supermarket rush this week. Everyone for some reason or the other was hastily grabbing a shopping basket (or cart), stacking it up and then waiting endless minutes in line at the cashier to pack it all away and leave.

But that wasn’t the interesting part.

The most remarkable trait of this whole incident was what everyone was shopping.

And this largely also depended on the age group they were in.

For example, the two twenty somethings who had come in as if they had just emerged from a hippy concert at the beach somewhere, had filled their basket with snacks, beer, chips, biscuits, sausages, and some pasta.

Yet, the elegantly dressed woman in her forties in the next queue preferred to load up on fruit, frozen vegetables, meat, bread and crackers, olive oil, milk, and some pasta.

The much older 97-year old man who grabbed the opportunity offered by the long wait to start a conversation, had instead selected lentils and beans, some fruit, some canned foodstuff, and some pasta.

So what can be deduced by all this? It is all a matter of perspective – and age. It is also interesting to note how you tend to change nutritional values as you grow older. But maybe one thing is for sure: pasta is ever-lasting…

The elephant in the closet

elephantinthelivingroom2When it was just a young calf, the little elephant was adopted by a rich high-class, very well-off family for no other reason because they could do so, and because their toddler son had become fascinated by the picture of the animal in a book he had, that he simply had to have one for his own. Most of the first few weeks were spent with the toddler running after the little elephant, tugging at its trunk and rejoicing whenever it squirt water back at it in an unsuccessful attempt to get the kid to stop.

As time passed by, the toddler grew older and found other interests. The elephant wasn’t the biggest fascination of his life anymore, but he did often still play with him. One rainy day, he had the idea of playing hide and seek. With the elephant. The elephant was to go hide.

The boy counted to 100, got distracted at 49, wondered off for half an hour, returned to count from one again and, well, two hours later he went to seek the elephant.

By now, the elephant was almost full-grown. So, really, where could an elephant hide? Mind you, the boy lived in a mansion, so it was quite easy to get lost in there. Or, in the boy’s case, get tired. After around half an hour of searching, the boy gave up and was then called for dinner. His mind drifted to other things and he soon went to bed.

The elephant had hidden in the basement closet.

They say elephants never forget. But people do. The boy forgot about the elephant and it was literally months before he remembered that he once had such a “pet”. But he never reached the closet. Because of laziness, of over-privilege, of low-concentration capacity? There were many reasons. Reasons that the elephant could not understand. For in its miserable, unnatural life, it was locked up, voluntarily at first and forcefully later as the closet door could not open from the inside.

The elephant perished in the closet of one of the most lavish houses people could ever build. But he became witness to the truth that appearances are deceitful. Because no matter the grandness of the house, the hearts of the people who occupied it were nonexistent.

Elephants never forget. But some people don’t even remember.

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