Icy Neurons and Hearts

I wish making sounds was a valid response to the “How are you question”! GRRSAAAHH, MEEEWH, YAAAAY! The expected “I am good!” so rarely encompasses anything I feel. If pure vocalization of emotion was a socially acceptable reaction, I would produce a series of grunts, low and high tones, an odd composition of disharmonious tones at any given moment.

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Even when I try to comply with social conventions and answer with words, I am notoriously bad at it. It is in my long-winded answers I often  myself realize how I truly feel in particular moment or about a given topic. This often leaves me wondering how do we really know what we feel? Is it in the rational analysis of the cacophony of words that stream out of my mouth that I “discover” my true feelings. Is it the observation of my emotions when answering that makes me realize the underlying sensation. Do I create the feeling by the analysis or is it something independent?

Then there are those rare moments, when you just feel. This Tuesday, I experienced one of those moments of purity. Incidentally it was a Valentine’s Day, when the odds are that I as a single person may not be at a peak of happiness. Yet, there I was sliding on frozen lake in my high heels I wore that day. Venturing on ice was definitely not the most rational decision, which I uselessly tried to counterbalance with outstretched hands. Needless to say, I landed flat on my back. Yet,with the sun shining into my face was giggling. Looking around at the ice, my giggle turned into laughter. Imprinted in the ice, was a pattern of a neuron immediately reminding me of my pondering – is it the brain or heart that discovers/creates emotions.

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This was only a first of several serendipitous moments that afternoon. I was engulfed by my enjoyment of the moment, by my ice fascination, not only the patterns but how it allows me to see a familiar lake from a new perspective. As I stood there, recalling the many moments and memories I have created by this lake, I heard a loud “Hey I know you!” from a passing by ice-skater. What a coincidence! A guy I met a day before in a climbing gym was passing by.

While this did not turn out to be spontaneous Valentine romance, that afternoon definitely felt movie-like. However, not because of the chance encounter but because of the purity of the moment, the purity of my happiness, the lack of analyzing.

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Upon my return home, another serendipity hit me in the face. A quote, “How do you know you love somebody” was starring at me from my email subject lines. The question seemed very fitting, especially on Valentine day, and the article on Brainpickings resonated deeply with me and way more eloquently and philosophically discusses the emotions-heart-brain issue that was lingering in my head.

While I have no clear answers to the philosophical dilemma, my afternoon of happy high-heels ice sliding definitely agreed with the Proust’s quote that “Knowledge of the heart must come from the heart – from and in its pains and longings, its emotional responses“. On Tuesday, my heart was purely happy, as well as it can be entirely crushed on other occasions.I am glad, that I did not let the lack of the ice-skates and my rationality take away the YAAAAY from my heart that day.

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Orange survival strategies

eskimo_rollSometimes you think you come up with a life-hack so brilliant that you wonder how come that the whole world is not doing the same? Like a “post-break up face to face in the swimming pool, preferably in a kayak while training Eskimo rolls“. Does that seem odd? Why? Well, if you start crying and do not want it to be visible* – you just flip your kayak! Smooth! It also comes with many desirable side-effects: underwater silence, refocusing your breathing (yoga people swear by it) and well, developing a new skill (always trendy these days). Okej, this might not be THE life-hack the entire world will adopt, but hopefully the idea at least made you laugh.

However, during my even years of living abroad, I did come up (and abandoned) a whole lot of life-hacks. Living and travelling alone means that I am often out of my comfort zone. Riding a constant roller-coaster of doubt, fear, stress and loneliness, and excitement of overcoming all of those. I do not think my life is special in any way, we all experience those. And likely, most of my life-hacks won’t work for anyone else. But I want to share one that might. A hack for believing into the better of human nature,  something we can all use these days. It is listening to  the Crazy Good Turns podcast,  which is something I did today after taking a break in (yes orange!) cafe and devouring Swedish delicatesse of the season called Semla.

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The podcast features people, and they are people like me and you, usually living their ordinary lives, but who at some point started doing something for others. The interviews feel unpretentious and genuine. I have yet to listen to an episode that made me feel bad or judgmental of the efforts of others. Which is not a luxury I award myself, with a little voice whispering to me, nagging, questioning my own ideas, service to others and efforts for better world and meaning.

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But today’s episode – “All our kids” touched me even more than usual. It tells a story of a couple, opening their home to friends of their children, and other strangers, providing love, support and guidance to them. Hearing the dinner chatter on the podcast, reminded me of the many homes that have been opened to me on every continent I stepped on – from rural South Africa to developed North America. An echo of the countless conversations over cup of tea or while mushroom picking in a Swedish forest resonated through my soul. An echo of gratitude. This is the world I want to live in – with open homes and souls. And maybe I am like a David fighting a Goliath, but my freezer usually has some baked goods and my home is open for those in search of a home, be it for a half an hour.

So what is my life-hack? Repay all and a bit more of what I got and keep on finding ways to keep my orange fire burning when it get’s windy. Today, my wood was the Crazy Good Turns podcast. If I find other fuel I will share it.

*not that there is anything wrong with public crying, in some places and times I think it is actually a form of social service.