Germany [Take 2, Part 1]: Thoughts
Trip Start Sep 18, 2010
86Trip End Jul 27, 2011
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- A loo that smells like a perfume store
- Blue blue sky (after weeks of smoggy, grey city haze)
- Frigid temperatures of 19 C
- A German lady bitching at me for nearly driving my luggage cart over her toes when she wasn’t paying attention
- A genuine feeling of happiness at the sight of fresh, grainy bread sandwiches at a bakery counter. And a little gulp at the realization that the cost of those equals the cost of one night in a simple hotel elsewhere in the world.
The sidewalk on the street to my dad’s place is perfectly even, clean and free of any obstacles
The next day, on my way to granny, my undone hair suddenly no longer feels liberating, but embarrassing and out of place. I am wondering why it is so quiet on midday Thursday. Suspicious that too many stores are closed, I ask a pedestrian if it is a public holiday. He looks at me amusedly. It is.
For years my granny has been telling me that this is the last time she’ll see me with every visit. This time it has only been about 7 months since I last stopped by. Every time I see her, she becomes a little smaller, weaker and more dependant. Back in November, she was sitting on her couch, alternatively being put on her side to nap and then propped back up by her care taker. Now, I find her lying in her electronic bed, mentally as present as ever, but physically barely there. She is in relative good spirits, knowing I’ll be here for a while and trying to stay alive to become a great-grandmother soon
I talk for a long time about what I’ve seen and done in the past months. At times, I am not sure if she is still awake, or even alive, her eyes half closed and glassy. Knowing her, what I am saying makes no sense to her, having traveled very little herself. As long as I remember she's been a very worried person: Constantly scared of what might happen if you walk instead of taking the bus, take the bus instead of a cab, a cab instead of a ride with someone you know, etc. Never mind, leaving the country. But it doesn’t really matter. It still feels like she is entertained and what I say is not even relevant. Ommi is just content for the moment, because I am here.
On my way out, I wonder what must go on in her head, day in and out, seeing nothing but her own reflection in the closet mirror across from the bed she lies in 24/7. I fear she might not have enough memories to get her through a day. Thankful, that I have so many stories, adventures and excitement to think back to, if I ever reach such a ripe age (Ommi is 93 now), my heart aches at the thought of how empty life must feel for her. When my grandpa passed away, the centre and focus of her life, her reason to live might have gone with him
My dad is away on a Buddhist mediation retreat with my brother, so I have his apartment all to myself. Enjoying the quiet and solitude of his place, it makes me realize how seldomly I was alone on this trip. And even less frequent, there was quiet. If there isn’t the noise of your hostel-mates snoring, there surely will be a TV running somewhere, a street exploding with traffic noise, a hen or pig making hen or pig noises, or in the most enjoyable cases, an ocean crashing its waves nearby. Most of it isn’t all that unpleasant, but I am gratefully aware of the sound of nothing but ticking clocks in the kitchen now. And hey – there is that swoosh of my thoughts. It’s only audible to me, but it’s louder than ever.
As for loneliness, I ended up traveling in tandem, triplet or sometimes more. So I got to reap the benefits of companionship a lot. Yet, even the times I was by myself, I was never really alone. For once, if you travel the way I did, choosing hostels over hotels when possible, for example, there will always be people around you
People are so afraid of being lonely that it stalls them. What is so scary about a bit of solitude? Just you, yourself and your thoughts? No one expecting or wanting anything from you. Interestingly - for me at least – the scary bit is what others might think of you. What I assume they might expect or want or believe about me. An in an attempt to avoid loneliness, my thoughts might circle nervously, trying to cater to others. How luxurious then, to enjoy moments, when all loneliness means, is to be. To be here, be now and be free. Free of other people and their (or rather your own projections of their) expectations and judgments. Like now, as I am contemplating if I’ll want to share these thoughts, I am wondering if they make sense, if I am congruent, if I might be mis-using the term ‘loneliness’ altogether and so forth. And with this contemplation goes the ease and freedom I felt when I started this train of thought. Suddenly, ‘loneliness’ (if I may stick with this term) is irritating and negative. How unnecessary.