the audio story
storyweek — day 4: toxic environments

story transcript

11m 40s
read time
hi, its Elsa and this is StoryWeek day 4.

perception is the imaginary relationship between things.
by Matt Kahn

the world talks about physical violence like its the only form of violence. mainstream media is doing a superb job in reinforcing those beliefs. but isn’t that the surface of a real story? here we go deeper to see the unseen.

i had a ton of time to digest a mountain of stories.

that was — 15 months, 18 countries, 10’000 kilometres with an average of 9-hours alone time in single go. just me and the road. the four-directional wind and burning sun and manic rain.

cycling was easy. thinking was messy or revealing.

thoughts had their own timetable unmanaged by me. i never knew what to except. but i saw how all thoughts that entered my field were opportunities to help change my relationship with people, places, things. and i saw how all thoughts ever thought drifted me back to family ties.

i guess, it was in 1999 when my grandma moved in with us. in the huge house she didn’t get a room of her own. instead she moved in with me.

she didn’t cook. she didn’t tell me stories. she didn’t do none of that grandma stuff. but i didn’t care because i could be me, do me, be raw and unfiltered in her presence. she listened. she never judged. and her simplicity was all i needed in the house of dynamites.

i remember, together we took trips to the library. usually once a month she mazed between selves and picked her next load, mostly fiction and romantics, while i waited patiently and sniffed new books. it took her about half an hour to secure her load. once ready we slingshot back 300m. she with a walking stick and i with the weight of 20 to 25 books neatly stacked in pile of two inside a double layered grocery bag. mostly 5 to 8 kilograms of joy in my grip and what turned out, a tool of connection and escapism too.

while at home, my mom asked, “what happened next?”

with three generations in the room with dogs buzzing around my mom was alert and eager to gobble up the story of another finished book, and my grandma, my mom’s mom, did a superb job in feeding her hunger when in godly fashion she recited the completed book in impeccable details from start to end. excitement and love for storytelling oozed through their words while they sat next to each other like magnets drawn to one another.

for years, those were their moments. and from what i learned, it was the speck of reality inside the face of realty. turned out, my grandma, like me, like my mom, had skeletons too.

on the first day of each month my grandma walked to the local post office. she flashed her identification and received money to spend. when pension in her pocket she continued her systematic execution. in religious ways she dipped into a shop and returned with crossroads and snacks, food for dogs, a thirty block of cigarettes, and heavy booze.

hours later at home she unpacked her stuff and then gracefully, usually around noon, she cracked the lid and kissed the day goodbye.

around 6 o’clock my mom got home. i could tell she sniffed the trouble. she walked on the doorway of our room, then did a quick scan of grandma and as if planned she reached the knob of the door and slammed it shut with words, “you fucking drunk.”

i was fourteen when first left inside the room behind the closed door.

i observed life from my corner. grandma sat like a zombie in the middle of her bed. she said nothing, she did nothing while her books prayed to be touched by her. i felt sad looking at her. i wanted to help her but i didn’t know how, so i did the usual. i jumped realities.

on both sides of the closed door i felt how unsaid words hung like a wet cloth dripping poison everywhere. and then the flood came. whenever they met in a hallway my mom’s anger and dissatisfaction and frustration broke free with words, “you fucking drunk go back into your room!”

for days, my grandma left the room only to pee and smoke, or feed the dogs. also, sometimes she traveled to the shop for another bottle of disconnection. grant’s scotch whiskey was her favorite. vodka was okay too. i learned, a bottle a day was her enough. and the good part was — she could only afford up to 3 bottles of 700 millilitres once a month.

even though she had her moments, she was nonviolent with words and all. when not drinking, her biggest addiction in her moneyless weeks were books, dogs and crossroads. no tv. and no blaming of anyone in view. and this, by far, made her my favorite of all.

and i could tell, my mom wanted what we had — the deeper connection. i wanted her to have it but the silent i love youse and the passionate i hate youse relationship was all they had from my mom’s first breath to my grandmas last breath.

and now, in my thirties, being a voice for orphans got me asking questions i had never touched before. question such as — what if my mom was an orphan? what if she felt like an orphan, like me? you know, abandoned and rejected by her own flesh and blood.

i then recalled my mom’s outpour in 2008. it was a year after grandmas mysterious passing. she sat on sofa when i asked, “what happened with grandma? is she buried?”

in a snap, i saw how my mom flew out of her body, and then i added, “today, i am not leaving before i get an answer.”

i then stood there and eyeballed her empty frame. and then it happened. it might have been a minute or five or more when her frozen statue shattered into a rage.

she yelled how her mom was never there for her. how she was never at home. how she flirted with men and spent time in bars drinking and fooling around. how she promised to attend her shows at school but never ever came. how her mom’s absence matured her fast when she became the prime caretaker of her grandma and a younger brother.

i guess fifteen minutes went by when she breathed again. i had not moved an inch, both, my feet and mouth. i listened sharp. i felt her pain. i wanted to cry but i didn’t know how. but then a miracle happened, my longterm anger flew away. and just like that, i could not be mad at her. it became impossible to raise my voice.

we then talked a bit, and soon after i asked again. “but still, what happened with grandma?”

“i took her ashes and threw them in the air,” she said.

“but mom, i wanted to be there. she was important to me.”

“she’s my mom and i do what i want with her,” she shot back.

i was calm when i said, “would you like when someone would do the same for you?”

she turned inward. her silence said, that’s enough for today.

i then did my calculations. she had hauled her stories for forty to fifty years at least. more than four decades of weight. all that heaviness, blame and judgement in her mind and heart and body left me with a wish to heal the wounds i carry.

from then on it didn’t mattered who was right or who was wrong. and who did this or who did that. somehow my desire to do and say hurtful things vanished in the polarity of our collision. my yelling transformed into, “i am so sorry you had to experience it all”.

and now, seven years later i wheeled countries with my mom in my heart, and with stories in my mind.

i had learned, she too wanted to be loved. but she didn’t feel loved. she had no clue what love is. how love feels. but her story, was as a story of me. and my story stunk like the story of many. and then it hit me — orphans, aren’t they everywhere?

the more i looked around the more i could hear and see a silent whisper in the world at large, “please love me. don’t abandon me. don’t dare to reject me.”

i could tell, all places i had ever visited, all people i had ever met, my cry was not personal. it was collective. globally epidemic. and most effected was the western world.

while i cycled in my skin — feeling my past, present and future — i saw, it all began with emotional imbalance. then followed by mental imbalance. and finally, there was a physical release.

in my case, my anger was suppressed passion.

like me, like my mom, like my grandma, the hunger for love, for deeper connections, stemmed from the feelings of constant rejection. we felt alone in our pain and unloved and forgotten by the world. feelings were boiling. thoughts were scattered. and we were clueless to what to do with them. so we did the schooled — we numbed our bodies and released the pain in verbal communication. this was our toxicity, the anger in words. our blame and hate and silence as an act of love in third dimension.

my family dynamics opened my eyes to see how the rainbow of orphans hugged the world.

in the world at large, when enough was enough then violence with hands and guns was an inner fight in physical form. a desperate cry for love in action. the polarity of extremes.

and physical violence, gosh, it’s so easy to measure. so easy to recognise. mainstream media — print, broadcast and online — is full of it. they pollute the minds of many with one sided views to create and achieve the control of the collective unconscious mind.

the fight seemed endless. but not just physical. there was more to the story that met the eye.

for 365-days and 24/7 the fight was right in my face, always there, either energetic, spiritual, emotional, mental or physical. global. not personal. and always present. the fight swam in the global body with words, “watch out. if i don’t get what i want i lash out.”

to love, to be loved, to feel loved, had become an object of desire. humanity did whatever it takes to get want it wants. anything. everything. and nothing.

the holistic health was under attack.

and i, i had lived in a fearful grip, “please accept me the way i am. please love me. don’t abandon me. don’t you dare to reject me.”

i expected others to feed my hunger. to give me what i didn’t know how to give to myself. connection. and love.

i then looked around. i felt unheard and unseen in the american dream.

parents worked from early to late at night. children booked with activities saw their parents in flight or fight. mom’s were exhausted. dad’s were exhausted or some in grave. and streets were decorated with men from war with ptsd, or with people who couldn’t keep up the economic growth.

few weeks of unpaid maternity leave screamed the loudest. then the flickering screens of family reunions. the sunday service of justification. and the bloodshed of wars for extra comfort.

disconnection breed global epidemics.

how can one be healthy, emotionally and mentally, in patterns like this?

work-work-work. money-money-money. stuff-stuff-stuff. stress and anger. dissatisfaction and frustration. we don’t have time to connect. and when do, we don’t connect because we don’t know how to connect.

basics skills are unschooled. we do what we do to survive. we try our best. we do our best. and we mean no harm.

my moms best triggered hurt in me. my grandmas best triggered hurt in my mom. and who knows whose best triggered hurt in my grandma. i lived and breathe in ancestral cycles. lifetimes of stories passed on to me.

fuck, there’s no one to blame. the roots were deep in human history.

so how do i know how to love when holistic health is schooled to deny?

but i wasn’t alone in this. this pain was global. we shared it all.

a famous line from the Lion King says it all, “them? us! look at them? they are us. what differences do you see?”

each soul i had ever met, had pain. had joy. had fear. had love. it was all there, heard or unheard, seen or unseen, but it was there, no matter the environment.

i then got showered in thoughts like this. what if cradle christians would have born as muslims, or perhaps as natives with traditions older than any religion the world has ever seen? what if the rich would have born as poor, or perhaps born in war zones baked in fearful love? what if the saints would have born as dictators of nation? what if we all would have born in the values we dislike or hate? or in the cultures and religions we judge and condemn?

what if?

isn’t it true, we all need love? emotional health and mental health?

we are born innocent and vulnerable into this world. every-single-one-of-us. we come with nothing. we go with nothing. we come from the same place. we go to the same place.

them? us! look at them? they are us. what differences do you see?

no one’s born with guns in their hands.
no one’s born with hate in their words.
no one’s born with pain in their hearts.

we live to love, to be loved, to feel loved. all else is bonus.

so here’s today’s question to your heart.

what if changing my perception with people, places, things helps me to open myself up even more?​​