clemency

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Sometimes, Clement Space can exist inside inclemency.

I recently spent 3 days and 2 nights at a holiday chalet with immediate and extended family. A grand spectacle of non-stop sensory overload. Unceasing noise. Human chatter at booming, roaring, shrieking, penetrating volume. Clattering of mahjong tiles into the wee, wee, wee-est hours. Thick, choking smells from the barbecue, food being cooked all day, cigarettes (smokers were very considerate, they only smoked outside, but my olfactory receptors picked this up too), and burning mosquito coils.

Oh, yes, and food. An over abundance of food. So much that it became overwhelming, even for a Foodie Bunny.

My brother-in-law is an award-winning professional chef. His family members are also talented cooks. Their friends are foodies as well. Holidaying with them means that I never need to wriggle my wrists in the kitchen. Just sit down and eat. Or stand, if you so please. They don’t mind at all. It’s the shared act of ‘fooding’ that matters. In fact, nobody in this crowd minds if one of us sneaks away for extended periods of time, or doesn’t pitch in to do anything apart from eat.

I was suffering from vertigo attacks throughout. Was it the result of sensory overload, or another underlying problem? I do not know for certain. The doctors have been mystified by me since 52 years ago when I made my glorious appearance on this wretched earth. In any case, I spent most of the days and nights holed up in the bedroom, under the sheets, with the air-conditioning on. I even had my meals and drinks brought upstairs to me, if I felt too weak to join the rest during meal times. No questions asked. And nobody came to bother me, no “How-are-you? You-really-ought-to-join-us!” intrusions. They had heaps of fun in their cacophony, while I received noshments and acceptance of my non-social quirks. I did emerge at dinner time, and everyone was whole-heartedly, genuinely friendly when I wished to connect with the chatter. And when I withdrew and ate in silence, there was not a single raised eyebrow, not even a split-second pause in the flowing, polyphonic merriment.

I did not feel pressured to conform, or perform to any fixed construct. So very unlike the gatherings in the past, in a different time and place, with a different configuration of blood-ties. Back then, in a world far removed, it was sonically gentle, while a veneer of gentility permeated the stuffy, still air in the various expensive restaurants we inhabited. The atmosphere was always charged with barbs and stabs from thinly masked animosity, jealousy, disdain and judgment. Here, now, at last, despite the raucous sensorial clatter, with this selection of humanity, there is never any emotional and psychological battling going on.

I love food. And I love the easy-going social acceptance.

This is the Clement Space inside inclemency that I am learning to adapt to and enjoy. Empathy is an endeavour. So is Clement Space. Acceptance is an act of reciprocity. Accept me as I am, and I must accept you as you are in return.

And so this, too, is love. ❤

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