Hands Of Time

I have a thing for hands.

For as long as I can remember, really, as I’m pretty sure it existed even before I noticed it, this affinity for the look and shape of hands.

To my mind, you can tell a lot about a person by their hands. Not specifics, like their favourite colour, or their childhood pet’s name. It’s more of a vague sense of who a person is on the inside; a glimpse into their identity. Our hands grow and change as we do, and while much attention is focused on superficial matters like wrinkles, or gray hairs, there is somehow a kind of personality that resides in hands. They just speak a simple, basic truth – in the way they look, the way they move, the way they touch and the way they feel. They are both an internal and external extension of who we are as individuals.

Much of our public identity can be determined by hands. Fingerprints are unique to every individual human being on the planet, and handwriting analysis has been around for decades, if not longer. On the surface, these things are usually indicators of a person’s name. Beyond that, though, I believe there is much more to be gleaned about an individual’s identity from their hands and handwriting.

I remember watching an episode of Another World, back in the day, and there was a scene with a woman teaching a younger woman how to bake a pie, or something. She insisted that the girl do all of the steps herself, so that her “hands would remember how”. That one sentence struck me with such force of truth that it has stayed with me to this day. I think it was my first understanding of body memories, though I had no idea at the time. Even then, though, I knew that the act of doing something oneself was a far greater teacher than watching someone else do it, and trying to remember the steps later on. Our bodies are capable of storing information that our minds can not. Or, perhaps, our minds are inundated with so much each waking moment that it becomes easier and more accurate to access body memories in some cases, because our brains are working at a different, busier level. Even individual cells have memories, after all, so is it really any wonder that our ability to recollect thoughts, feelings, sensations, and events come from all over our bodies, instead of just that one organ parked upstairs?

Years ago, two things happened relatively close together that got me thinking about hands some more, and in a more specific way. I think that’s around the time that I started to realize my affinity for hands, and to notice things about them on a more regular basis. One was that, when going through some boxes of old school things, I came across a page of something my brother had done in Kindergarten or so. It had been printed on coloured paper, from a ditto machine (remember those delightful-smelling things?!) and there was a boxed-off section wherein he’d been asked to trace one of his hands. Maybe both, actually. I forget.

Anyway, there was a perfect outline – in crayon – of his pudgy little baby boy hand(s) on this sheet of paper, and just looking at it transported me back to a time when he was that wee and adorable. I could almost see him in my mind, the memory of him perfectly captured and preserved in that one (or two) little crayon outline of his hand. It was so powerful I had to, of course, take it to show my mom immediately.

The other thing was an episode of a TV show….or a movie…I don’t even remember what it was, or who was in it, or what was going on. I think there were two friends, both teenaged girls, and one was maybe moving away, or something? But one girl made the other girl trace her hand into her journal – they may have even swapped and traced their hands into each other’s journals – so that no matter where they were, a part of them would always be together. I remember tracing my own hand into my journal and, a page later, my kitty cat, Kate, stood on a page while I was trying to write, so I traced her little gray paw into it, as well. To most, I’m sure it looks like a squiggle on a page, but to me – it’s like I can still see her there, in that outline of her paw. It feels as though part of her is still with me whenever I look at it.

An ex and I had gotten our claspsed hands molded in wax at some point. Right before we broke up, the wax began to melt and we ended up throwing the piece of crap away, along with our relationship. Haha

Lesson learned.

The next time I would mold my hand with another’s would be with someone I’ve loved much more and for much longer than the wax person, and we did it in plaster this time. It’s surviving temperature changes just fine, over a year later and counting!

I love to create things with my hands. I still wash dishes by hand. I often carry a stone or crystal in my pocket to hold or fidget with whenever I feel the need. It’s comforting to me; grounding. I like textures, and usually find an excuse to make contact with the ones I am drawn to – the bark of a tree, leaf of a plant or flower, anything that looks shiny or soft. haha When sitting on a beach I love the feeling of pushing my hands into the warm sand and feeling its coolness underneath. There is a connection there, a tangible sense of oneness with the earth itself.

I used to have pen pals all over the world, and I have boxes still in my apartment of the letters I received, along with cards and notes from family and friends. There is something more – intimate, and personal – in a handwritten note than in any typed text or email. Now, my penmanship has always been ass, but at the same time, it’s changed very little over the course of my life. I’ve been printing since Grade 8 by choice, but still know mostly how to write in cursive. It’s just much harder to read. Not that my printing is much easier. But anyway. I dated someone once who would, looking back, be remembered as probably the best and healthiest relationship I’ve ever had. For my birthday one year I was given a framed photograph – taken and developed – by that person, and a hand-written card. It was the card that made me tear up, because I realized that it was the first time I’d seen her handwriting. Somehow that made me feel like we were even closer.

Such a little thing. Handwriting. And yet, so much of a person can be seen in it.

I wonder if all this technology and interwebs and cellular service is actually doing more damage than good, in terms of bringing people closer together. I don’t remember the last time I sent a handwritten card or letter to someone…probably the crappy handmade Valentine card I sent to Colorado one year. 😉

I find I still take pen to paper when I am planning something, or writing to sort something out, or what have you. I have several of those old school composition books at home, and at least one more notebook on the go currently. My Guinness World Record attempt and resulting follow-up projects are all contained in one such composition book, as well. All written by my messy – but very me – hand.

I feel like we might be losing something in our insistence upon typing everything now. I think we might be losing some connection, and replacing it with something more surface-level. Something slightly cold and indifferent. You can often see my mood in my handwriting, and yet in typed form, that too is lost. It falls more to the reader to decipher, and that’s where so many misinterpretations begin.

And what if, in addition to losing a bit of connection with the world around us and the other people in it, we are also losing some of our body memories? What if fingertips on keyboards and touchscreens actually retain less than a piece of paper marked by pen, pencil, or a 5-year-old boy’s crayon?

What if we are actually losing a little piece of ourselves, as well?

Sense of Smell

Super nice out today, so I took Brody for an extra long walk.  He was so happy, trotting along, sniffing everything he could get at.  He was especially glad to not have to wear his coat or boots, I think!

Along the way, we caught the scent of woodsmoke.  A ton of houses in my area have fireplaces, and I think the smell of wood burning might be one of my favourite scents ever.  It’s different from other things burning – like toast – and is instead a warm, comforting scent that, for me, stirs up happy memories.

Are there scented candles that smell like wood-burning stoves or campfires or anything like that?  Because there should be.

Smell is one of our most powerful senses, and yet is quite often overlooked.  It’s linked very strongly to memory, and also to taste, as evidenced when one has a cold, for example.

I remember when I was quitting smoking, I was told I’d develop a greater sense of taste and smell fairly quickly.  Unfortunately for me, it was still kind of spring time, and everything I smelled was bad.  What a waste of a returning scent.

Some smells make me hungry, even if I’ve just eaten.  Bacon, bread baking, vanilla/cookies, pretty much anything on a barbecue.  Vinegar makes me want fries.  I guess in some way the scent of most foods make me hungry, but there are definitely a few that are tough to ignore.

I doubt I can even name the majority of smells that unlock memories for me.  Not all of the memories are good, either.  And some keep changing.  Like lilies will always make me think of Alysia now, if for no other reason than that we all wore them to her celebration of life, and they were everywhere that day.  Wood burning reminds me of being at Grandpa and Grandma’s, mostly.  Pies baking reminds me of my mom baking every weekend when I was young.

See now I want pie.  Where was I?

Certain perfumes and colognes of course.  What was that one all the guys were bathing in back in the 80’s?  Brut?

Some scents I don’t like still hold good memories.  Like, I don’t love the smell of mittens, toques, socks and/or those boot liner things Grandpa used to wear drying – and burning – by the wood stove or the heaters at home, but I do love the memories associated with having played in the snow and finally coming inside, out of breath, our cheeks flushed and our eyes shining with excitement.  I don’t love wet dog smell, but I adore dogs, especially happy ones who’ve just gotten soaked from playing out in the rain or a lake or what-have-you.  I don’t really love the smell of fresh-tilled dirt, but I do sort of love that it smells like life.  And I love the smell of fresh-cut grass, yet not when it gets rained on.  Wet cut grass smells groddy.

Sometimes it goes the other way, too.  I don’t even drink coffee, yet lI love the scent of it percolating.

Naturally, there are also a bazillion smells that I don’t like , nor do I like what caused them, nor do I like memories they may or may not stir up.

For example, liver.  Keep that crud away from me!

As Brody and I walk along, and I watch him sniffing away, I’m simultaneously awed by how much better a dog’s sense of smell is than ours will ever be, and also glad that mine isn’t that good, because there’s a lot of scents I could really do without as it is.  Imagine, though, what it would be like – for our palette to recognize even more flavours, for our memories to be even sharper at the re-introduction of a particular scent even years later.  I wonder if our minds would continue to store all of that information, or if it would let it go again, just as easily as we took it in?

I wonder if Hudson the polar bear would still remember me by my scent, were he to see me now?


Disconnect Frustration

In case you haven’t noticed, I find it very difficult to express myself in a way that other people can understand. I’m not sure how much of it is me, and how much of it is just lost in translation from my mind to another, wherein mere words don’t entirely suit our needs.

I struggle all the time to find the words I want for whatever it is I am trying to express, but from the responses I receive, I can tell I’m still not getting it right most of the time. It’s frustrating, because I often end up feeling a little bit trapped inside of my own head – in part because I can’t talk about some things in a way that someone else will understand the way I need them to, and in part because there are so many things I can’t talk about at all. When there are enough instances of both, it all builds up inside until I feel like I can barely think straight.

And waiting until it’s ready to boil over is of course not the greatest course of action! Yet for some reason I continue to allow myself to get lost. In…myself. Haha

Part of me hopes that writing something here every day – even if it’s not touching upon the things I really need to – will help in some way. Maybe I’ll even get better at expressing some of the thoughts, feelings, or whatever that heretofore have laregely remained unspoken and/or unwritten. Mostly unwritten, because if I think I am bad at writing, I am really horrible at speaking. It’s ridiculous.

Part of me is also convinced that this won’t help at all, and is basically a waste of time. It’s too bad that it’s only mid-February, but with a little luck – and my innate stubbornness – it’s possible that I’ll still be able to write every day for the rest of the year without skipping days or throwing in the towel, whether any of it helps, or not. I do hope I make some progress, at least, but I’m not holding my breath. I have, after all, met me! 😉

My vocabulary isn’t very large, but I think more of the problem lies in the fact that I’m not sure words alone really do the trick. No matter which words – in any language – to express that you feel sad, or angry, or happy or whatever you’re feeling, I think they just barely scratch the surface of the experience you’re having of the actual emotion. That’s why so much gets misinterpreted online and in other written correspondence. There’s no tone of voice, there’s no visual representation of a person’s facial expression, or body language. Talking on the phone is better, speaking in person is even better, and one-on-one conversations in a quiet spot are probably the best. If you’re me, throw in some alcohol for the walls to slip further down and get a look at the real deal. Or as real as whatever is being felt in the moment.

Like, our minds and emotions so often lie to us. So freaking often. I sometimes wonder if I can ever really trust any of it. That might be part of the reason I feel so disconnected sometimes – I can’t trust myself, and I feel unable to connect with someone else long enough to bounce some of the things going on inside of me to see what they think. To get another perspective; one that isn’t bottled up inside with its pal, Melodrama, lying to me. But when I can’t connect – when there’s faulty wiring and what I’m trying to express isn’t coming out nor being received properly, the effect is that I feel further away from the person I’m trying to talk to than ever. And that makes me shut down and shut them out even more.

Well, it doesn’t make me do that – I have to take responsibility over my own self and my reactions – but it makes me want to, and a lot of times that feels like the same thing.

The other problem is that I hate feeling like I’m just talking about myself all the time, and not reciprocating in the listening department, or that I’m trying to spend all my time getting something out that I don’t let anyone just relax and have fun. I have trouble understanding in the moment when to draw the line and just let conversation flow to things that have nothing to do with me, or that are just silly and fun instead of more pressing or serious. Like, just because something is eating up my mind doesn’t mean it has to be on everyone else’s. Or anyone else’s. I’m pretty good at keeping it to myself and pretending it’s not there – unless I get started. Then it’s hard to stop. And equally difficult to find the balance. At least until I figure out that either no one wants to talk about it, or I’m just not saying things in a way that helps them understand. Then I have no problem just stopping and folding back up inside myself.

I got so good at folding up that I’m not sure I even know how to unfold, really. I don’t really know the difference between sharing bits of myself with someone, or just talking things out until I get a better grasp of whatever I’m thinking or feeling. I can’t just say I’m anxious about something and expect another person to understand why I’m anxious, particularly if I don’t know why, either. Sometimes I feel the need to just talk through something until I have a better handle on it – like bouncing it off a sounding board. Either it begins to sound true to both of us, or talking about it helps me realize it’s not whatever I thought it was. That’s where connection lives. Most of the time, though, I can’t get to either of those points, and end the conversation just as frustrated and confused as it was when I started. Only lonelier, because my attempt at connecting was a failure and all I can do is sit and stew in it, feeling like I couldn’t break out of my shell even when I wanted to, and therefore will never really be close to anyone ever.

See? Melodrama!

I’m not sure I know how to talk or share or express things with another human being. Sometimes I’m not even sure I want to, but there always comes a point when I need feedback, even if it’s just to stop the lying spiral in my mind and set me back on course. I’m sure it’s doable in baby steps, like everything else, and on some level, this blog is pretty baby step-y.

Except for all the things I can’t put here.

But that’s what therapy is for.

Now I just have to realize that friends aren’t therapists, and figure out where to draw the line, even as part of me is a little sad that the person closest to me is someone I have to pay to connect with me! 😉

Choices & Offerings

I had a whole different idea for today’s post, but it was feeling too forced, so I decided to put it off for another time, and just babble about whatever’s currently on my mind, instead.

Words are hard to find.  For me, anyway.  Especially when trying to talk.  I’ve always preferred to plan out what I’m going to say before I say it, but in recent years it’s gotten so that I end up not saying much of anything at all.  There is a whole world going on inside my head – a whole life – but the external reality is that my life and the world around me is just slipping quietly by without me.  Without me really being a part of it.

That was one of the reasons I wanted to give this blogging thing a try, actually.  Recent years have seen me sharing very little in writing, and even less via spoken word.  I have struggled to form connections with people around me, and instead have taken to connecting more with animals, since they require less of me, yet give me so much more.

Selfish, I guess, but while I have no intention of spending less time in the company of animals, I’m realizing that the lack of connection with other human beings is hurting me, and have decided to try and break the habits I have formed along the way that led me to this place inside my head.

It won’t happen overnight, of course, and sitting on my couch in pj’s writing a blog post on my iPad is a far cry from sitting across from a living, breathing person and trying to find the words that will unlock the door and release me from existing inside my own head, but it’s a start.  It doesn’t even matter if any of this gets read, really.  I mean, who am I?  I can’t guarantee that I will ever have anything useful or worthwhile to offer you.  But I can guarantee that I will always be as honest as I can with you.  And with me.  I know that my inner voice isn’t always telling me the truth, and I will be the first to admit that I’m not good at differentiating between truth and lies EVER, but especially not when they come from inside of me.

I will, however, always endeavour to speak my truth, whatever it may be.  So maybe that’s all I have to offer for now.  But it’s more than I was offering yesterday, and with any luck, there will be even more tomorrow.  So that’s something, at least.

And hey, maybe if I choose to talk to you, you’ll understand that there’s something great about you that makes me WANT to.

Then, maybe someday, you’ll choose to talk to me, too.