8.4.18 Swan feathers
I want to find better ways of being out in the world because I love it so, even though it drains me dry. I am learning that will mean unapologetic adaptation. I am trying to embrace it.
My worsening sensitivity to sound has the beautiful name of hyperacusis and is severe enough now to demand headphones in busy places, often and urgently, however self-conscious it makes me. It isn't simple noise itself I struggle with as much as its overlap. Music over chatter over coffee machine roar and hand dryer hum leaves me crumpled numb and in pain. I hear everything, every single thing, and I wilt under its intensity. If I muffle it all or give myself just one sound or one voice to listen to, I do better, my body releasing like a flicked switch.
It comes with an odd side effect: I love people more when I can't hear them. I don't mean people I know and am spending time with, the opposite is true there and single voices soothe like music, but when it comes to strangers, yes. Block my ears and I am suddenly, infinitely fuller of all the things I wish I was the rest of the time: love, compassion, patience. Muffle the world and I am abundantly adoring of one and all. I don't know what it is, but it's true. Perhaps it's because it lets me notice all the things that make them special.
Without sound, I find that I watch people's hands. I notice who puts them to their mouths or their hair, who reaches for something to fill them, who interlaces them neatly.
Without sound, I find I read eyes and watch lips and see whose move most. There is a scale of softness to both and I like spotting the spectrum of them and looking at the faces on which they live. The eyes that laugh even when their owners' faces are still; those that look around them, receptive or wary; more still that hold a subtle hardness.
Freckles and moles are a special delight, those personal constellations, as are the ways people touch each other and themselves, distractedly, impulsively. I like to see how people fit together, how hands and arms reach to find each other in sudden, unspoken agreement. I love people's hair, especially when certain, careful strands escape containment, falling over foreheads or tucked behind ears. I love the way foreheads change like clouds change.
I like to see the space people take up and the way they shift around in it; the movements you know are habitual and practised and those that are not; where their gaze and body rests, if they ever do; the ways they navigate others and whether they look at them, notice them, or wander an isolated corridor all their own. I love belly swells and the soft places and lines that shape each person and change each shadow.
I like to read mood and watch it alter, to suddenly see someone's teeth when before there was only a restrained, closed line. Openness in a face is rare, obvious warmth glowing only from the occasional, and you see how people are drawn to that, like moths, like sunbathers. Most people have a turned in quality, a watchfulness, but that is its own beauty and tenderness and I love that too. You can tell who's listening and who isn't, and I think you can spot humour the easiest of all. It flickers in people a room away.
Then there are things that stand out - the oddities - a carefully curled moustache, a looming height, a particularly graceful glide. They are easy to find: all you do is half close your eyes and wait for the thing that wakes you to attention. The tilt of the girl with heart-shaped mirror shades who has melted to the shape of her father's shoulder, bright wellies dangling. Identical twins, same coats, same expressions. The man with two missing front teeth. Take your pick. There is something interesting everywhere.
I love all of it. I am so glad everyone is different. It means I get to feel new kinds of love over and over. It means I never run out.
I take my headphones off and there, ah the shame of it, I am lost to it again, my own defences soon too thick to see through, my own thoughts and pain too loud, and all I want is to go home and be away from everyone.
Quiet, it seems, is what helps me get out the way.
Fancy that: the secret to love.