Of The Two Great Loves

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I’ve had two great loves in my life.

One was that love you dream about when you’re a naive teenager. A beautiful boy you never would have expected to look in your direction is suddenly smitten with you and you haven’t the faintest clue how to react. He’s gentle and makes you laugh and makes you feel like maybe this isn’t real, like you’re going to wake up from a blissful dream. He gives you butterflies and everything feels new and unique. There’s only the two of you in the world, everyone and everything else are just the background for your story. Every girl deserves a guy like this for a first boyfriend.

The other one was the love that saves you from yourself and makes you believe in loving again, in loving in a different way, but just as deep. Maybe deeper even. It was the kind that doesn’t give you butterflies like the first one, but does something much better – it makes you smile the whole day long knowing that there’s no doubt about where you stand with each other. It makes you want to not just dream, but also plan. This was the love that made me feel seen after I’d been invisible in much too long. This love was deep and enveloped me without realising this was happening. This love saved me when I needed it the most, when I was close to the precipice and about to lose myself.

I miss the age of innocence sometimes, when I still hadn’t been truly hurt yet. Could you walk into a relationship from a better position than not knowing the fear of the ending? This is how one should step into it, otherwise it’s like dooming it before it’s had the chance to become anything worth living.

Love is misunderstood nowadays. So many circumstances warrant the use of another word – infatuation, lust, desire, excitement, adrenaline rush – but love itself can be replaced most times by a more accurate synonym, kindness. It shouldn’t be called self-love, it should be kindness towards oneself. Kindness is the foundation of any loving endeavour or gesture, not anything else. 

When stepping into a relationship, it should be falling in love like falling into kindness. Nothing is worth it without love – I say nothing is worth it without kindness.

31 now and true love to me isn’t butterflies that fly away, it’s the love that’s kind and keeps you true to yourself. 

Of Tolerance And Thresholds

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I have a very high tolerance threshold – for bullshit, for strange reactions, for harsh words, for forgetfulness, for the simple fact that we’re all a different shade of human, therefore have widely diverse interests, needs, desires and priorities. Everyone who knows me will know this truth about me. But even my tolerance and ability to understand and forgive have their limits.

I have too much hope in people’s potential, in their capability to grow beyond their limitations and to learn how to be better, how to do better, how to care and love better. Because at the end of decades upon decades, when you’re looking death in the eye, it’s what you’ll regret. That you didn’t care more, reach out more, speak more, hug more, love more. And you’ll think to yourself that while there’s no other way to fade away but alone, at least you could have avoided a lifetime of being alone, walled up in a fortress you built yourself. If only your ego, your bruises and scars could have let you lower the drawbridge.

I’m being nagged again by that horrid, self-deprecating question I so wish I could just forget. Why not me? Why am I not deserving of more, of that thing that others appear to be so deserving of just because they exist?

This much hope leads to disappointment. Expectations lead to disappointment. Event love leads to disappointment.

And that nagging question that keeps sneaking up on me just when I thought I’d stifled it for good.

 

Of Happiness and Worthiness

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It trickles down your face, until it blurs your vision altogether. You know, like when you walk in the rain because you’ve forgotten your umbrella at home, zooming out when you’re already late for wherever you need to go. The worrying that you’re just not enough, the relentless questioning of the self and your worthiness to be happy, to be seen, the constant “why me?” again, and again, and again. And always.

Yes, you are worthy. Yes, you deserve happiness. Sorry to disappoint, but yes, you have to work for it. Just like everyone else. It won’t fall down from the heavens straight into your lap one day, but it’s not something unattainable because of some malicious twist of fate or some malevolent spirit that’s sabotaging you. It’s equal parts learning what you should accept from the universe as it is, what you’re willing to accept as it is, as well as working up the courage and mustering up the energy to fight for what should be changed for the better.

You’re well aware that you’re imperfect. How could you not be awaew, when you’re reminded from all directions, in all shapes and forms, from the oh, so very subtle, to the blunt, uncensored, completely tone deaf?

You’re bound to be disheartened. You’ll want to give up on everything and everyone. You’ll want to be left the fuck alone. All that background noise can become too much to take for even a second longer, let alone a whole day. You’ll long for silence and for a calm that you’re hard-pressed to find. How can you hear your own thoughts when they’re swirling around, joining the constant buzzing from outside yourself?

Please, don’t give up. In this anxiety-ridden society, it’s easy to fall prey to the idea that you’ll always be a fraud, that in fact you don’t deserve any of the good things happening to you and that happiness is something that’s been given to you because someone up there must have fumbled the list of recipients. So now that you’re going through a rough patch, it’s surely what you were meant to receive all along. This must be the point in time when karma re-balances itself.

There’s another side to this whole mess yet. It’s one I plead guilty of and that I’m arduously trying to work on, putting in a lot of energy and just a bit more time than I’ve been doing so far. As much as I’d like to, I can’t just do an about face to the way I’ve been approaching certain situations and relationships. After all the effort to bring forth those rare and precious moments of happiness, it can feel to some almost impossible to accept them, to take them in and just stay like that for a few seconds.

For some absolutely inexplicable reason, it can feel that if you enjoy your short stretches of happiness, you’re rubbing it in someone less fortunate’s face. As if their happiness were your own responsibility, not mainly theirs. So you stifle it, you bury it, you find all sorts of ways of reducing happiness to something unimportant, of no consequence. Worst of all, you sabotage it, to make it last as little as possible, lest it make others jealous, envious, upset.

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Photo by Igor Ovsyannykov on Unsplash

What is happiness to you? And why might you not deserve it, even those little crumbles you manage to gather, through sometimes completely disproportionate effort? I don’t have an answer ready for you, other than we humans somehow manage to damage and break – each other, and ourselves. Putting the pieces back together and learning to see yourself as whole and deserving might be the most daunting task of your existence. But so satisfying once you manage to get a hang of it.

Soundtrack:

 

Of A Short Bout of Autumn

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Yesterday felt like a bout of autumn in the middle of an otherwise unusually scorching summer (yes, folks, climate change is a reality). It put me in a very melancholic mood. I wanted to scream. You’ve got to be kidding me, how has it all gone already?!

I’m a girl of summer, no secret there. I’ve been pining for this summer for what felt like an endless winter and a much too cold spring. So please indulge me if you see me become pensive and slightly aloof when there’s an unexpected low in the temperature. I don’t mean to get like that, I just have a very high weather sensitivity in terms of energy levels and state of mind. Probably always had it, it just took me a while to understand the way I react and the way my body reacts to the transition of seasons and the change in weather from day to day.

We somehow still believe the universe is inconsequential to our own being, while at the same time believing so adamantly in myths that hold no real scientific ground. Experiencing how much power the simple shift in the intensity of light during the day can have over mood and even the way my body works, I can’t understand such narrow, dangerous mindsets.

Today, summer and I are on much better terms.  The temperature’s turning around, the skies are clearing up, the sun’s a friend again. And how could I stay mad when for weeks now the season’s been gifting us breathtaking sunsets and skies that look hand painted. Each evening a different colour combination and shades of pink and purple that aren’t quite the same from one moment to the next.

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Photo by Arno Smit on Unsplash

What are summers for than to read to your heart’s content, and to take in the scent of the warm evenings, let your gaze rest of the endless green of the lush trees and the myriad colours of flowers blooming with no shame and no envy for one another’s beauty? What are they for if not to bask in the warmth of the sun during the day and to awe at the sight of sunsets later on? What are they for than to take everything in, revel in the scents, the colours, the tastes; and when autumn comes round you can say you lived your summer.

One More Aware Step

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When does one start becoming a true writer, no longer simply a scribbler of random thoughts and spewer of feelings turned frustrations? How do you go about working towards becoming a serious, professional writer? Even more confounding – what makes a true, serious, professional writer? Who decides it and bestows upon you that title? The readers? The critics? The printing houses? The effort, time and heart you put into your endeavour and each word that you imagine and put on paper? Is all of this worth it and is this really my purpose here?

I catch myself thinking that we expect too much from life. We’ve got it in our heads that the Universe owes us something, that it owes us happiness for the simple fact that we came into existence due to a multitude of factors coming together in that one single fraction of a second, so we were born instead of some other potential human beings. For whatever inexplicable reason, we concluded that there must be some purpose to life, that divinity or the Universe are supposed to offer that to us on a silver platter, while angels play the harp in the background and divine light shines down upon us. We fail to see that purpose is not just given to you, it’s something you create for yourself and it can be as unique and diverse as snowflakes are.

No, the Universe does not owe you anything, not happiness, nor bliss, nor a ready-made purpose. Life is not perfect by design. If it were, it’d be called paradise, nirvana or something along those lines. So in this imperfect and much too short-lived existence, it’s up to each one of us to draw the mental picture of what purpose is for us, and to work towards it; bit by painful bit, second by fleeting second.

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Photo by Quino Al on Unsplash

In a very unexpected twist of events, about the same time I began to reflect on this and to internalise it, I stumbled on this article. Quoted there is the below musing by Pulitzer-winning poet Robert Penn Warren:

“In the phrase [“to find myself”] lurks the idea that the self is a pre-existing entity, a self like a Platonic idea existing in a mystic realm beyond time and change. No, rather an object like a nugget of gold in the placer pan, the Easter egg under the bush at an Easter-egg hunt, a four-leaf clover to promise miraculous luck. Here is the essence of passivity, one’s quintessential luck. And the essence of absurdity, too, for the self is never to be found, but must be created, not the happy accident of passivity, but the product of a thousand actions, large and small, conscious or unconscious, performed not “away from it all,” but in the face of “it all,” for better or for worse, in work and leisure rather than in free time.”

We are, but we also become, in a never-ending transformation and evolution towards the purpose that we must pinpoint for ourselves, be it small, or be it monumental. But for that we must also have the bravery to take a true, good look at ourselves in the mirror.

It’s a terrifying thing to do, seeing the ugliness in your soul, acknowledging it and resolving to do something about it. What you see in that mirror might be completely unexpected, and it may be the most beautiful thing that you’ve never known about yourself. If only you’d had the courage to glance at yourself earlier!

Getting to know yourself and building purpose – these are active verbs we should all use in writing the stories of our lives. The passive voice is what’s dragging us down and keeping us trapped in our unhappiness.

Clujul e mişto

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Din varii motive, nu am reuşit să ajung la niciun film TIFF anul acesta până ieri, adică ziua 4. Dar nu despre asta voiam să delirez aici.

Citisem zilele trecute un lucru – Andrei Gheorghe, invitat la o dezbatere în cadrul TIFF, crede despre Cluj că ar fi un oraş mişto, desi până acum îl considera un fel de Timişoară de mâna a doua. După ce trec de momentul de revoltă provincială în faţa unei astfel de constatări din partea cuiva venit de la capitală (te iertăm, Andrei, că de altfel şi mie mi se pare că eşti mişto) îmi cam vine să râd. Explic mintenaş.

Mie Clujul mi se pare mişto de vreo zece ani (plus sau minus), de când am aterizat aici pe jumătate extaziată că am venit la facultate, pe jumătate îngrozită de un oraş care mie mi se părea mult prea mare, mult prea grăbit şi mult prea gălăgios după 18 ani de vieţuire într-un orăşel trecut de zilele de glorie comunist-industrială.

Fast forward vreo 2-3 ani şi am început sa cunosc oameni extraordinari, cu dorinţa de a schimba lucrurile în bine, cu viziune, dar mai ales cu ambiţie şi determinare. Oameni care au ajuns în IT sau oameni din domeniul creativ (cu tot ce înseamnă asta), oameni care au realizat că gesturile mici ajung să transforme mai rapid şi mai eficient o societate, atâta timp cât există destule minţi care să gândească în perspectivă şi destule inimi care să bată cu empatie şi înţelegere, nu cu ură şi prejudecăţi. Oameni după sufletul meu, tribul meu.

A fost un moment interesant cel în care am decis că merită toată încrederea din lume Clujul acesta. Aveam o discuţie înflăcărată (că altfel nu poate fi atunci când te mână pasiunea în tot ceea ce faci) cu un bun prieten care împreună cu un grup pe aceeaşi lungime de undă ca el începuseră să organizeze seri de caricaturi şi portrete. De ce? Pentru că viaţa e mai mult decât métro, boulot, dodo. Iar arta e acel ceva intangibil, dar care, în mod cu totul misterios,  ar trebui să ne atingă pe toţi într-un fel sau altul.

Eh, în seara aia mi-am zis că trebuie să mai dau o şansă Clujului înainte de a-mi lua lumea-n cap şi a mă muta la mii de km depărtare. Am simţit că există o speranţă reală şi că letargia aceea de care tot fusesem acuzaţi noi, „generaţia Facebook”, generaţia Millenials, era de fapt o percepţie complet greşită. Atunci am realizat că nouă, adică generaţiei noastre, chiar ne pasă; doar că poate de lucruri care părinţilor noştri le vine greu să le găsească relevanţa raportat la experienţele lor şi la viaţa pe care au dus-o, la lipsurile pe care ei au fost nevoiţi să le îndure. So I stayed.

Mă bucur că am rămas, pentru că suspiciunile mele s-au adeverit. Clujul e plin de oameni mişto, care fac oraşul mişto.

Să nu mă înţelegeţi greşit, nu spun nici pe departe că totul e perfect şi minunat în Cluj, mai sunt multe la care trebuie lucrat (traficul, dom’ primar, ne omoară traficul si autorizaţiile de construcţie data fără cap!). Dar un lucru mi-e foarte clar în minte acum – oamenii sunt cei care fac oraşul. E nevoie de curaj şi inimă deschisă – şi nu spun că-i uşor să le găseşti sau să le cultivi în tine – dar dacă le-ai descoperit, transformă-ţi vocea din şoaptă în strigăt de războinic. Ştiu că poţi.

PS: am să las asta aici, şi asta la fel

Purple Hair, Don’t Care

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31. Thirty-fucking-one.

Part of me is screaming “So what do you have to show for it?”, while another part is yelling back, irreverently (as is only natural after too many cocktails to count, courtesy of a dear friend’s wedding today) – “Pretty fucking much, actually! Let me make you a list.”

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by Rich Helmer, via unsplash.com

I remember now what I almost never got to understanding – I am strong, and capable of making the hard decisions and owning the weight of them. I may cry the very next second, kick and scream in my mind, lament my fate for a few minutes, but at the end of the day, I know I’ve grown enough over the years to be capable of owning my life, my choices, my reactions and my feelings.

I wear my heart on my sleeve. It’s who I am and the only person I want to be. You may wonder how on earth I can survive in this world when I allow myself to be so vulnerable. You’d be mistaken to think I haven’t wondered the same from time to time. Then I remind myself this is my superpower, this is who I have grown into. No apologies.

Allowing myself to be vulnerable, believing in people and their untapped potential, believing there’s more to life than sadness, darkness and hate, trusting and being hopeful even after a fall.

Those are my superpowers and I’m going to be celebrating them. Bring another year on!

Of Wishes and Fishes

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I wish, I wish, I wish I were a fish.

No, but let’s get serious now. I do have lots of wishes, especially since my birthday is coming up in less than a month’s time. The first one over the big 30 mark. Should I be feeling old? Nope! Let’s not forget how much life expectancy has increased. Maybe I should be feeling grown up and mature. Well, there’s the rub.

I overslept today, barely woke up past noon, while if I were truly mature (at least in the sense of how my parents’ lives went decades ago) I may have woken up at 8 AM – the latest! – and started doing mature, productive things like doing the weekly shopping, getting breakfast ready not for one, but two small children, cleaning the house and so on.

It can be difficult not to feel pressure to fit into a particular mould that’s been prepared by your parent’s expectations for years and years now, probably from the very instant that you took your first breath and started screaming like that was the worst thing that could happen to you in this entire universe. Even your peers might be putting some pressure on you, without them being aware that’s what’s happening – there’s a certain average age that most of them get married, have kids, advance to a certain point in their careers.

But what if you fall outside of that average and those expectations that you found were just dumped on you without asking if you’re OK with them. I know some who just don’t give a damn about societal expectations and just do their own thing, speak their mind freely and are quite happy as they are and exactly where they are in their lives. For me, that works sometime, sometimes it doesn’t and I find myself falling flat on my face, hurt by my failure to live up to those views of how my life is supposed to look like by now.

So what if I have deep feelings and own them overtly? So what if I relish in poetry in a world that’s forgotten its beauty and prefers to mock it? So what if I like movies that force you to think, to question, to listen carefully to every line instead of those that spell out everything for you and leave nothing to the imagination? So what if I get emotional  and cry while watching emotional movies?

So what if I dance all alone in my room sometimes, because the song is just that good and catchy? So what if I’m sometimes nostalgic and decide I should re-watch some silly TV show or anime from my childhood? So what if I go from listening to a really positive, upbeat, pop song, to drowning in a truly heart-wrenching ballad? So what if I enjoy fine clothes, fine wine and fine food?

So what if I revel in the summer heat when everybody else complains about it? So what if the sound of birds chirping each and every day outside my window makes me happy? So what if I get lost in pink and blue and lavender coloured sunsets? So what if I think there’s nothing better in the world than the smell of balmy evening air when the seasons are still undecided between spring and summer?

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by Christine Coley, via unsplash.com

So what if I believe in the power of kindness when there’s so much lack thereof around? So what if I believe collaboration is the solution when people around seem to be tugging in their own directions, leading nowhere at the end of the day?

I have moments when I question whether I’m doing enough with my life or if I’m wasting it away, just because I haven’t hit those milestones that others have. But then I shake myself really firmly, I give myself a couple of metaphorical slaps over the head and realise that I have nothing to apologise for.

Sure, I wish that some aspects of my existence were smoother and required less effort and energy to keep them afloat (like I was saying, I wish, I wish…). But I’m proud of who I’ve built myself to be in (soon to be) 31 years on this planet, I’ve overcome so many negative moments and picked myself up in situations where I’ve seen others simply crumble. This is what I keep telling myself as I get closer and closer to the next 28th of May.

Of Sleep/Rest

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There’s tired; and then there’s that level of tired when you’re not really sure what day it is or how you ended up where you are right now. It’s hard to describe how this kind of tired feels like, in your mind it sort of becomes a chorus on repeat. You know you can’t stop or slow your pace, or else you won’t be able to start up again.

There was once before when I reached this point, lots of years back, when I was digging my way out of an insanely harrowing heartbreak. I was getting little sleep, and even that small amount of rest was broken up into chuncks of night with haunting dreams much too vivid for my taste. I would wake up with my heart racing and couldn’t get it to slow down for the life of me. I had these rare moments when the blood stopped pounding at my temples, but these were literally split seconds – the very instant my body realised I was having an interval of quiet, the heartbeats sped up as if to make up for the slowdown. I was left exhausted even after hours of so-called sleep.

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via unsplash.com, by Krista Mangulsone

During the days, I’d throw myself into way too many activities to count, I’d walk for kilometres across town instead of taking the bus. I’d tire myself out, just to keep my mind from drifting into an even more depleting thought process which would drive me even deeper into my pain. Anything to not fall deeper into that.

But that’s a different story altogether at this point, one for another day.

I’d like to know how people are able to disconnect. Seriously, how does anybody do it?! I can’t get my brain to shut up or stop swirling and swashing thoughts around long enough to even get a shush in. I hear about the miraculous power of meditation, but with my track record of ideas whizzing by at 1,000 kilometres/hour, I have serious doubts regarding its effectiveness in my particular case (I even considered starting to practice some yoga). But hey, I’ll give that a go too, even if it’s to be able to say I did it and I gave my best. Who knows? This may be the one single time my instinct is wrong.

PS: I swear sometimes, looking at my two kittens and the life they live, I wish I were a cat.

Of The Cost of Taking for Granted

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Unseen, unheard, invisible. Uncomfortable, unimportant.

We talk about priorities and goals. We set them out on paper or in Excel spreadsheets, we tell our friends about them maybe. We boast with how put together our lives are – at least in our heads. So how is it that we never really stick to them?

Something (or someone) becomes a priority only when it turns out to be urgent. It doesn’t seem to matter that it was important all along, as long as tending to it had not been pressing because of whatever deteriorating circumstances. Investing in it – effort, time, energy, patience – was not perceived as a priority among all the other sources of annoyance and stress that pull at us day in, day out.

One of the most tragic mistakes we make is taking for granted – things, people, our own lives and how many chances we will be granted in order to make up for when we’ve done wrong. Don’t even try to deny it. And don’t give me that accusatory look, like you’ve never done that, take a situation or someone’s mere presence for granted. We start doing it when we’re children and this kind of self entitlement just gets worse in adolescence and even as young adults; our poor parents are the first victims of our rotten approach.

Then slowly we begin to realise what mortality truly is and the finite nature of basically everything. It’s usually a sudden awakening. A parent falls ill and you realise they’re not quite young anymore, the peril of losing them by the hand of time’s cruelty is not as distant of a concept as it used to be. Then, on a cold autumn day, your last living grandparent passes away and the painful shortness of time becomes even more stringent.

It’s not as if others can escape the same ungrateful attitude – friends, lovers, siblings, colleagues. How easy it is to just accept someone’s love as given! Or to take people’s respect for you and their trust in you as something you deserve, not something you have to earn little by little, day by day.

We keep fooling ourselves we are forever and we’ll surely get yet another do over if we fail, if we disappoint, if we hurt the ones around either with our words, or with our actions and gestures. There’s a limit to the number of do overs we get, not one of them should be wasted by thinking there’ll be another one.

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by Takahiro Sakamoto, via unsplash.com

A kiss on the neck. A kiss on the lips. A certain kind of touch. A look that says you can’t get enough. An acknowledgement that we are all fallible and vulnerable in our own way, but that’s not a permission to take advantage of said vulnerability. An embrace without a particular reason. A smile right when you need one, so that you won’t feel like it’s all in vain, like your invisible and unimportant.

Kindness doesn’t hurt or take anything away from you. Humanity doesn’t cost. Not caring can cost too many hearts too much.