Of A Fall Like This

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It’s hard to remember when we had a fall like this last. It must have been way back when I was a kid (I can say that now without it sounding like an exaggeration). The sun warm and joyful, the light in the afternoons coating the city in honey. The air tasting of smoke, the wet leaves smelling of earth. Surrounded by bright yellows and look-at-me oranges and reds, I bite my tongue not wanting to jinx it by bursting out in screams of joy. But what a fall! The perfect fall for falling, don’t you think?

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Photo by Erik Mclean on Unsplash

Allowing yourself to fall is where things get contorted. The amount of trust – in yourself and the other – that’s needed is unquantifiable, and by that almost a thing of science fiction stories. To make yourself completely vulnerable and at the mercy of whims only romance can awaken in human beings requires faith of indescribable strength. Yes, a perfect fall for falling. Just don’t forget that once you start falling, there’s no way to stop – except maybe for when you hit the ground with a most deafening thud.

So what if, instead of falling, you try jumping? Assess your best options, calculate trajectories, and for God’s sake, if you’re still not sure, prepare a parachute! You might float about for a while, the adrenaline high won’t be quite as exhilarating as you remembered it, but at least you won’t be breaking yourself like a fool again.

Your choice.

All I know is that it’s such a perfect fall.

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I Want You To See Me

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Photo by Jahsie Ault on Unsplash

It just so happens

that I dream secret dreams,

but also dream

about secrets

offered to me

without having asked for such a gift

and in a most surprising manner.

I am the keeper of secrets

of hearts

that insist on raising unclimbable walls

between us.

You see, wine makes walls crumble –

if only momentarily –

and opens up weary hearts

quicker than a lock-pick.

In the light of the morning,

the haze lifting off of drowsy, hungover eyes,

left pondering what I’m to do

with yet another precious little piece

of someone’s soul,

I stand

in front of the re-erected wall

and wonder

when I might get another glimpse

of the person on the other side.

Habits vs. Change

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I set a motto for myself a few years ago: never trade in progress for familiarity. I was trying to pump myself up for a career move that made me anxious. I was about to trade in familiarity and stability for progress, but it meant starting over in a field I knew nothing about, in an environment I knew nothing about, nor could I guess what to expect from it.

These days, I find myself having to repeat it in my personal affairs as well. Because there are few things more alluring than the familiar. That’s why, even when we swear to the heavens that we’ll change, it’s so easy to fall back into known patterns that we end up barely remembering why we wanted to change anything in the first place. Some changes are absolutely necessary, possibly not just for your own wellbeing, but just as much for the person next to you. Still, because they are as necessary as they are painful to enact, we run away from them and we often allow the warmth of familiarity to convince us the status quo is not so bad, absolutely liveable, great even if you compare it to other situations.

That solely human, God forsaken, messed up tendency to go back to a past which has nothing more to offer you than a warped feeling of familiarity. That is what I cannot process or comprehend as much as I’ve tried, even when I’m the one doing it. Scratching at it, like picking at an itchy scab, you can’t seem to stop yourself. Worse even, there’s this undertone of pleasure while your fingers trace the profile of the almost healed wound. So instead of letting time be time and paint over your soul with the pink of a scar in place of the pink of watercolours, you choose to destroy the ongoing work of art. You should know by now that the scar only gets deeper and a darker shade of painful the more you pick at it. Even so, you keep on going at it like a naughty child.

Moving past the philosophical ruminations, there’s also a more palpable side to all this from a personal perspective. I took part in #walkingmonth for the second year in a row and I’ve been walking like crazy to get to the goal of daily steps I set for myself. Don’t fool yourself thinking the target was set very high, but for someone like me, who’s turned shamefully sedentary in the past few years, it took a great amount of willpower to hit the target on a regular basis. It was a long and tiring month, but it provided me with the motivation to do things differently. There was a sweetness to that feeling of physical exhaustion, like I was actually moving forward from things weighing me down, increasing my endurance and resilience bit by bit, day by day. I’m still recuperating, giving my feet some rest for a few days, but I feel that the habit of walking as much as my daily schedule permits is now formed. All that remains is for me not to fall back into the old, familiar, cosy pattern of finding excuses not to get those steps is.

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Photo by Anika Huizinga on Unsplash

I’d let my motto whither away for a while, it took a month of walking around the city every single day to remind me of it.

Of a record-breaking week

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Years ago, the world felt like a very small and limiting place to me. It’s easier than you might think to become invisible in a small community when you don’t fit the mould that most everybody else does. Lucky for me, I soon found out that there are more heretics like me out there, who might have felt out of place for years but could start being themselves (or discovering themselves), all the while feeling like they are invisible no more.

As I drink my tea this evening whose label reads ‘Never try to impress others, try to impress only yourself’, I contemplate last week, its days that managed to cram in moments which felt like chapter endings, deep sadness for those endings, retracing of steps and rethinking of moves to come. Most of all, though, it meant breaking of barriers I never thought I would be able to push through.

I did say barriers are at times for keeping you from being stupid. I still believe that. All those other times though, that barrier’s meant to remind you there’s something beyond, it calls on you to turn it into something more. A rock, a piece of wood, a piece of barbed wire in a desperate whisper, begging you: Pick me up and turn me into wings, make me into what you need to fly.

What I didn’t understand years back is that the world was only as small and restrictive as I allowed it to be. Trying to impress others just to fit in instead of showing yourself – quirks, qualities and all – is just a form of self-limiting I wasn’t yet aware of.

Push through those barriers, but do it because it will make you better and give you wings to soar over your fears (you know, the ones you don’t even like to admit to yourself).

Of The End (Of Summer)

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It’s over. Summer is over. We may still have a few days ahead of us with temperatures topping at over 25 degrees Celsius, but the chill of the early mornings and of the dusk hour tells a different story. Fall is here and so will soon be the cosy knits and warm coats. I almost can’t stop myself from playing The Neighbourhood’s ‘Sweater Weather’ on repeat.

It may come as a shock to hear this from me, but this year I’m actually glad it’s over. It’s not that I was bothered by the intense heat – I tell anybody willing to listen how much I relish the hot sun; it only lasted a few weeks anyway, the rest was mostly afternoon showers and nighttime thunderstorms trampling on my already restless sleep.

Instead of the joy of warmth and bright light, these summer months brought for me a disturbing sensation of being transparent. It felt like I was walking around completely defenceless and altogether transparent, for anybody to see every thought whizzing by and every feeling bubbling up. While I’m all for vulnerability (I’m still here, telling you all about my woes and joys as and when they occur), it felt like more than that, to a point where it wasn’t just slightly uncomfortable, but more like anxiety inducing. Just like the next person, there are nooks and crannies of my being that I want to keep for myself instead of making public, so you can imagine why this sensation was so bothersome.

When getting to that kind of vulnerable place, the tendency is to revert to a state where we feel protected – snuggling under the blankets (with a silly, but loving kitty if possible) comes to mind, but that’s sort of difficult to do in summer. Now that the temp is dipping though, I finally feel like I can start nesting and settling into a comfortable and cosy place of my own. No kitty in the picture as of yet, but there’s a warm blanket, fluffy socks, a good book and calming music. All I can say is that it’s good.

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Photo by Alex Geerts on Unsplash

Of A Rare Moment Of Perfection

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Walking down the street on a day like today, with headphones on and music playing to drag summer on for a few more hours at least, with the sun shining warmly but no longer scorching, I detected a spring in my step. I lifted my arm and passed my fingers through the leaves of a tree whose branches were hanging lower than the rest. I got the urge to smile for no reason at all, for nobody in particular. And even though I’d gone through an argument about an hour earlier which still had my mind racing in about 10 different directions, the moment felt as close to perfect as I’d experienced in a very long while. It was a state as much akin to happiness as I’m able to fathom right now, the kind of simple joy that can only reveal itself when you let go of ruminations about the past and worries for the future, and allow yourself to just be.

I think (or maybe it’s more that I hope) that everyone reaches a point in their lives when they make a conscious decision to just be and stop trying so much. I’m not perfect. None of us is. So it’s a thing of absurdity to expect perfection from the one sitting in front of us, yet we still do and end up bruised in the process. Not perfect but enough, and that’s much more important.

How many times have you swallowed your words when in reality there were waves of feelings and thoughts demanding to be given form? And how many times have you pretended to be someone you’re not just to not shatter the image that people have of you?

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Photo by Ethan Hoover on Unsplash

Once you reach this watershed moment, when freedom to be true to yourself becomes more important than keeping up appearances for the sake of others, there will be disapproving frowns, stinging reproaches and particularly disappointed looks. The biggest difficulty lies in accepting the imperfection, as well as the fact that the presence of a shortcoming unseen thus far does not invalidate a person’s entire character, nor their goodness. Most of all, it is not a personal attack.

We get triggered too easily and too violently these days. From our grandparents’ generation, to our parents, to us and even down to children not old enough to go to school yet. Across all these generations, my guess is that we’re all finally fed up with trying to live up to the expectations of the generation before us and of society at large, and with pretending we don’t have our own dreams, needs, fears and anxieties. I just hope that we’re all also ready to put in the effort to work on the dysfunctional patterns we’ve so far accepted as normal, but have proven to be a hindrance to real emotional growth.

Of Synchronicity

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There are times when life surprises me to the point that I’m left speechless, breathless even. Maybe I should say it’s people who manage to bring these moments of awe and sheer surprise. Still, with all my preaching that your life is a result of choices you make, that luck is just what you build it to be (one little brave action at a time), I can’t help but notice synchronicities at the oddest of times.

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Photo by Austin Chan on Unsplash

You think of someone, wonder how they’re doing, if maybe in their little corner of the universe there’s some even tinier space that holds thoughts of you. But you brush the ideas away. It’s easy to let your thoughts get away from you, to cling onto anything that may hold the most minute of promises of positivity when you’re at your lowest low. Then out of the blue you get a text from that very person, them reaching out exactly when you need it, precisely the way you need it. Yeah, that’s synchronicity, don’t you think?

How about when you kick off a chat with someone, just on a whim or maybe because you felt pretty fearless after one glass of wine too many; then you find yourself hours deep in a conversation that might as well go on for an entire night because you realise you have too many things in common to count. So you can’t help but wonder where the hell this person had been hiding until that point in time. Did that ever happen to you? No? Well, you’re missing out.

I’ve had the privilege of experiencing this a handful of times so far – the connection that results isn’t necessarily one with a romantic nuance to it, but it is one that hits you with extra strength. If ever you stumble onto it, don’t pass by like it’s the easiest thing in the world to find something remotely similar again. In what feels like a society which enables true connection less and less, you can’t afford to let it slip by when it turns up right in front of you.

I ended up back to the idea of connections, almost like a full circle. Maybe synchronicities are more under our control than we imagine. Without the courage to reach out to the other person, there’s no room for them. Without the courage to take action, even when the possible response you might receive is frightening, there’s no awe.

I still get questions from people that are just getting to know me, or even from people  that have known me for years but haven’t checked in on me in a while: “So, you write a blog, huh?” or “Did I see that right, you have a blog?” Indeed, I do, folks. Then comes the follow up: “Don’t you feel vulnerable putting yourself out there like that?” or “Doesn’t it scare you to be so open?”. Of course I do and of course it does. But this is one of the ways I chose to start building connections – firstly with myself and then with anybody who takes a few minutes to read this and attempt to get to know me better.

Of Death By Feeling

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“Try not to die…from your intense emotions.”

This is the way someone said goodbye to me this evening while they drove away, back to a foreign country where they’ve made a life for themselves (albeit an imperfect one).

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Photo by Clem Onojeghuo on Unsplash

This after a conversation with the intention to check up on me and try to make me feel more optimistic which pretty much failed miserably because I felt like I wasn’t being heard. Instead I was just being tossed back my own words via quips that were meant to be funny, but ended up feeling dismissive in the moment.

That’s what happens when you step into a conversation already set on how you want it to conclude no matter what the other person has to say, not yet knowing what they are going through and not really ready to listen because your own perspective is just way too loud. When the initial intention was eventually revealed and explained properly, it was too late. We were running short on time and of course there were still things unspoken just beneath the surface. Much too late.

While it may seem that you’re turning into polar opposites with people you used to know almost as well as you know yourself, if you dare drop the masks of cynicism, self-deprecating humour, bravado in front of painful situations, you’ll be surprised to discover you’ve not changed quite that dramatically. Life makes you put up walls and hide behind masks for fear of being found out and punched in the most sensitive spot of your soul again. But then can you expect authenticity from the other person if you’re not honest about who you are?

What could I have responded to that goodbye? I said nothing and attempted a smile. I didn’t want to justify myself for feeling deeply and for making use of those intense emotions to force myself to grow. From this point of view, I’ve not changed a bit over the course of decades. I’ve just learnt to hone my emotions with a sense of purpose instead of letting them run amok. (to be entirely honest, I’m still learning to hone them, but it’s a whole process, so patience is essential)

I get the other perspective as well – when there are different levels of imperfection to life, the levels of escapism are also different. One person’s aimless drifting may be in the eyes of the other the possibility to make choices unrestricted. How strange can life be.

 

Of Limits

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There’s a saying in Romanian that goes: “Râdem, glumim, dar nu părăsim incinta.” I suppose a very rough English equivalent would be “It’s all fun and games until somebody gets hurt”. To me, both of these speak about limits.

Limits are beneficial – they keep you from acting stupid. In order to maintain personal integrity, setting personal boundaries and knowing how much to allow others to push the limits of these boundaries before your intimate space starts being violated are paramount. But then the limits we set for ourselves in various situations can also be some of the best excuses under which we hide our fears. Go on, admit it!

From time to time, it’s good to have a sit down with yourself. Shut off the laptop, turn the phone screen-side down (and set it on silent) and ask yourself: is this a boundary I need in order to be able to develop a particular side of myself without others infringing? Or am I using it to mask the fear of facing uncomfortable or delicate situations?

I’ve asked people what takes them out of their comfort zone so many times in the past year that I’ve lost count. And in maybe 90% of cases they refused to admit to anything or give very superficial, vague answers. Facing your fears may be difficult, but it seems that admitting to them is even more so. Maybe that’s why we have such a tough time reassessing boundaries even when the context demands it – it would mean for us to firstly admit to a weakness in ourselves, to something that we’re even just a tiny bit afraid of.

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Photo by Sam Xu on Unsplash

So instead we choose push back, sometimes brutally so. We choose inaction over moving forward (however frightening it might feel in the moment). We choose the comforting silence over the possibility of a reply that could bruise us. We choose to stand still, while opportunities to grow, transform and connect pass us by. But that’s not living, it playing pretend.

Fate is Fake

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There’s only so many times that you can allow certain moments to slip by before you realise they’re not turning up at your doorstep anymore.

There’s one joke that goes:

“Knock, Knock!
Who’s there?”
Opportunity.
Don’t be silly – opportunity doesn’t knock twice!”

So don’t act shocked when the moment you kept postponing, avoiding or over-analysing for weeks, months or even years is now no longer something you can seize. Opportunity might in fact not knock twice, but rather three times, 10 times or even 100 times. Still, there’s just no way of knowing really how many times it’s going to be before it decides it’s tired of waiting on you or of being so rudely rejected.

Do you speak up when something is bothering you? Do you reach out when you notice someone needs nothing more and nothing less than a human touch, someone to listen or just someone to sit in silence with? Do you look away when you know there’s someone searching for your gaze in the crowd (simply searching for an acknowledgement that their presence matters)?

Or are you the kind that believes Fate must know best? Well I have some bad news for you – especially if you’ve been relying on this lady called Fate for as long as you can remember – she doesn’t know shit. She isn’t real. She’s fake news. In other words, you’ve been duped. It’s just you and your decisions. And there’s nobody else to blame for letting opportunity get bored and leave, or for giving it a swift kick in the ass instead of inviting it in for a nice cup of coffee.