Looking at the pattern of my life, I have always been a very visual person, relying primarily on my sense of sight to navigate my way through the world. This is an obvious explanation for my predisposition towards painting and writing -- I like thoughts and ideas put down in visible form on paper or canvas. Even poetry, for me, is a visual thing, each line a tightrope that holds a story in balance. The writing of a language that I am not familiar with is as fascinating as a photograph to my eyes. I have a fondness for drawing maps and flowcharts to elucidate my thoughts, I gesture in the air when I speak in an attempt to manifest what I am saying.
However I am aurally-challenged -- phone conversations are torture to me, and I broke into cold sweat during listening comprehension exams when I was studying Nihongo. Music is something I enjoy in context, meaning that there is an accompanying visual in my head for me to fully appreciate listening to it. That is why I am partial to movie or show soundtracks (because they give me a starting clue on what to see in my head, a seed for a fantasy), or susceptible to music that I hear while I am in the midst of a significant or traumatic experience. I can easily love or hate a song based on the circumstances within which I heard it. The song "Teenage Dirtbag" by Wheatus, for instance, evokes a particular memory and setting. It was the very late 1990s, and it was at a company Christmas party. There was a local band playing it, and playing it really well. The volume of the music was like solid air wrapping everyone in a hot excited embrace. I was standing at one end of the dance floor, a wide grin splitting my face to cover up the actual turmoil inside me as I watched the one I loved across at the other end of the dance floor be sweet to the woman whom he had chosen over me. I remember that the party theme was to wear something on your head, and I was wearing a small sparkly crown from my grade school days that I got when I was around 9 or 10 years old because I won a beauty pageant (I was Miss United Kingdom and I wore a lovely royal gown). I must have thought the crown would bring me some remnant of magic from those childhood days, of being the one chosen instead of another. These days my Spotify playlist is made up of Japanese and Korean soundtracks from films and TV shows, occasionally interrupted by songs in English that are altogether off the mainstream plus a few classics in their original or remade versions. It's a rather mushy dreamy playlist, and that crowned young woman in the Christmas party would not have believed I would still have the heart for such hope now after all that have happened.
My sense of taste is tied up with whatever story I am involved in at the moment. So these days I crave a lot of Korean and Japanese food. I do have a preference for non-sweet foods -- spicy, salty, sour. Instead of sugar-sweet I prefer the subtlety of cream, but I have specific vulnerability to caramel and custards. I have a peculiar way of being able to describe certain tastes by likening them to inedible objects. Such as something tasting like "wood" or "cockroach" or "scented rubber eraser". I have been known to describe dishes as tasting like "a dirty wet rag", or having the texture of "dust that is often found on the windowsill". I know the flavour of petrichor, and I can pick up the taste of sadness or neglect. I love the taste of the sea, and of forests. Coffee in its many variations carry different stories and many of them have been bittersweet. Lately I find myself drinking less coffee and more tea.
In the late 1990s (yes, that decade has been quite turbulent for me in many ways), I fell in love with a highly intelligent and creative man who also possessed some physical characteristics that echoed those of Neil Gaiman's the Sandman (the Dream King, Morpheus, Dream of the Endless). As I was then supernaturally and magically inclined as I am now, the combination of attributes was just plain irresistible and appealed to my very young and naive spirit. We worked in the same office and he was already one of the big bosses. But I had my own talents and skills as well so I was not entirely unnoticed despite my lower position in the company hierarchy. The glaring problem actually was, he liked men. But there was no way for me to control how I felt and so I must simply ride out the waves until the seas of my affection calmed again. At that time he used to wear a particular cologne called Green Water, which reminded me of tea and leaves and forests where small pools of water mirror everything else but your reflection. I hunted for that cologne and used to spray it on my pillow so I would dream of him. The scent made him real to me in a way that real life could not quite capture. At some point I confessed my love to him through a handbound book of handwritten poems, and he was kind and grateful, and he never made me feel foolish or stupid, and for that I still love him although the love has become now the safe sort that is rooted in gratitude and admiration.
In the early 2000 I was into burning incense because I was exploring other forms of spiritual beliefs and spiritual journeys, and I was attracted to the rituals of burning and smoke and the idea of being able to slip through in between worlds. I liked woody and leafy scents more than the floral or fruity ones, and I remember going to great lengths to obtain frankincense which to me evoked memories of things that never happened and places I've never been to.
Last night I went into a Korean beauty shop and bought myself a rose-scented cologne. It has a very distinct blend, a softness that is often absent in either local or western versions. I wear it and I feel like an invisible cloud forms around me. I need that thread of sensation that what I am smelling is a piece of that country, from that very place where I want to go, that I am wearing it on my skin and becoming an echo of it, and perhaps akin energies will then gravitate more towards me and pull me closer towards that destination.
The sense of touch is the sense I am least versed in. I am still learning the language of this particular sense, how to synchronise my body with my heart and my mind, with my very spirit. That is why I have been making particular efforts to match my inside with my outside. For many years my body, my physical self, has been an obstruction to everything else of myself. It was never enough - not enough of being pretty, skinny, or young, or being nimble, well-coordinated, or strong -- and thus I have always felt that my physical self was my weakest self, and that it was deficient as well in communicating and connecting.
I am suspicious of touch, for many reasons, but the main two have been: 1) because of how I was brought up with traditional Catholic repressions and 2) because I never felt that anyone would really want to be that close to me without some rational motive that included duty and politeness. When it became social norm to hug and kiss/air-kiss as a way of greeting, I longed for the intimacy that touching originally had. Nuances were harder to read when anyone can just hold anyone's hand, and people were so free with their kisses and embraces. When was it a casual gesture and when was it something more? I remember standing on the stairs halfway between the two floors of our office, and being hugged and then kissed on the forehead because I was feeling a bit sad that day, and I was never sure how much to weigh into that sweetness because I was so blinded by being in love with that person and I did not want to misinterpret.
When I practised kendo I had a breakthrough of sorts on coming to terms with my body, although it was also an occasion that forced me to face all its limitations. I had to stop practising kendo eventually because I could not put myself together well enough to be able to do it well. I realised that I was weak all over, even in my other senses and my other aspects, and that I was not as whole as I thought I was. On the year that I left kendo and put down the (bamboo) sword, that was when I started to find my way into making art. Now I am finally beginning to fit my body into the rest of myself. It is not perfect, oh so far from it. But I know now how it wants to be dressed and what colours it loves and that it can work with silvered hair without any loss of confidence. It feels less guilty about feeling.
I have a long way to go but it's all coming together now. I am coming together. Still a lot of awkward moments, and inner quarrels, and blame-throwing. Still a lot of sliding back into brokenness. But I am keeping at it, and I am making progress. I am engaging each sense to participate in this story I am weaving now. I am doing my best to be all here, bearing the full weight of myself into shaping my tale. Whole-hearted, indeed, venturing as if my heart or my spirit has never been broken.