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 vane, 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.

Of Reasons

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You don’t know; not really. It’s easier like that. I know it is, because I’m sure I’m guilty of doing the same with some of those around me.

People imagine that when someone reaches their boiling point, when they lash out and just reach a moment when patience is in immeasurably low quantity, some emotionally cataclysmic event is to blame. So it’s easier not to know about others’ problems. Why get dragged into some messy drama, right?

Let me set the record straight here. Maybe you don’t want to see it, or maybe you just never got to understand this. Or maybe yet, nobody ever taught you, so now it comes as a shock to hear it. But listen up, it’s the truth I’m preaching here – it’s all the little things adding up day by day that make someone break. Those times when you flaked last minute. Those times when you just didn’t feel like keeping your word. Those moments when you were gratuitously mean and hurtful. Words, actions, or lack thereof, all have consequences of their own that you might not be able to anticipate, but would be damned nice to at least consider.

I binge watched 13 Reasons Why on Saturday. You may think my tirade streams from watching the show and getting caught up in its deeply disturbing story line. In part; but it was more of a catalyst than the main reason. Just look at the world around and all the senseless cruelty we treat one another with on a daily basis. We seem to heave learnt nothing from history and our past mistakes as a society or simply as human kind. We’re repeating them today at dizzying speed and with irrational conviction in the irrational. Just look around: the rise to power of extremists (wouldn’t you believe it that Turkey just democratically voted away the very democracy that allowed them to make that choice? Mind blowing, I know!), the reduction of women’s rights in countries that applaud themselves for being democratic through and through and for supporting women (but I guess that’s how it starts – men with law-making power who believe they know what’s best for women), the torture and killing of LGBT individuals in Chechnya, the murder of civilians – in large part children – in war torn countries like Syria.

These are the extreme events, the large scale ones. But they start in the small, don’t they? The fake news in the media, the rumours and the gossip in the schools; the racist, homophobic views you can read in the comments section of any news article, blog post or Instagram photo. Accepting hate speech and mindless, aggressive reactions under the guise of a statement like “this is my opinion, so as long as there’s freedom of speech I’m going to voice it” is nothing short of insanity.

If someone believes the Earth is flat, that doesn’t make it true. When a public figure says things like: “He was presenting alternative facts” and they’re not penalised for that sort of bullshit, we’re teaching our kids – and not only – that lies are relative and they can get away with lying by simply stating they were giving alternative facts. We’re telling them that they can be absolved of the consequences of their words and actions, so long as they’re in line with what they believe. Just remember the road to hell is paved with good intentions.

Watching 13 Reasons Why was hard. Let me rephrase that – watching each episode was painful, the gut wrenching kind of painful. I had a lump in my throat the entire time; I cried and not just once. How could you not, when the story moves back and forth between a bleak present where the main character is no longer alive, victim to her own depression, that could or could not have been treated, as well as to the cruelty of the ones around her, and flashbacks to when happiness was almost within her reach, but not quite? That almost, but not quite was the point from where tears gushed out inevitably.

We’re cruel. As a society, as individuals. Whether by choice or without even realising it until the damage is done and irreversible, we’re cruel beings, with the same potentiality to commit harmful and hurtful acts as the one to practice kindness and understanding for what the other might be going through.

Beyond that, one aspect should be acknowledged and fully understood: the potentiality may be there for either direction, but which direction one chooses is mostly influenced by what one sees around, what one grows up in. It’s the kind of societal expectations we are shaped by that matters for how most of us will act and react.

Efficiency and productivity are sought and taught, as if they will ever give anyone a sense of purpose or fulfilment, as if they will save us from mental and emotional distress. It’s kindness we should be teaching, it’s empathy we should be educating children in – how to recognise it and how to develop it within themselves and others. This is the only way we’ll be able to save ourselves from darkness and nothingness.

So maybe you don’t know; not really, because it’s easier. But you should start. Right now.

Of The Last Day of March

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There’s nothing like spring, like spring in March. Still uncertain whether the temperature will be in the positives during the night, or over 12 degrees during the day, there’s this moment when nature explodes in vibrant, raw colour. Completely unexpectedly, maybe after a few days when the rain kept pouring down or even after a couple of late snow flurries, there they are: the greens, the yellows, the pinks.

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by Alex Blajan, via unsplash.com

I remember this wonderful March, when everything seemed to fall into place just perfectly. It was as if fate had reached out a very merciful hand and said to me: “Here! Have at it, don’t question it and enjoy it wildly! You deserve it.” And so I did, I fell right into it like drowning into a warm, crystal clear sea, yet still being able to breathe. Gravity was cancelled. I was floating on my own fantasies and daydreams.

To me, March has only ever been one of two things: either a time of seemingly endless bliss – which of course always had an end, or at least an interlude – or of unquestionable heartbreak. Both these states were a blessing I only understood much later. In bliss, I flew to heights I’d only dreamt of before and never imagined I’d get the privilege of reaching. In heartache, I delved to depths of my own mind and soul that I’d been afraid to confront or acknowledge, ultimately rising from the ashes of what was lost. With March and onward, spring has forever been a time of transformation for me, in sync with nature finding its way back to vibrant life again.

Of Full Moons and Memories

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Looking back at all the things you don’t want to forget. There are details you clutch so hard to because you can’t find it in you to let them slip away into the blurry half-remembered snapshots of days past.

I reminisce about long gone springs and summers. The air tonight makes me feel this beginning of March as if it were its end – is it March 3rd or 31st? Does it matter really, at this point in time? The sky hasn’t been this clear for way too many days and there’s a twinkle in each and every star. Walking home from the bus station, almost tripping a couple of times because I was too distracted by the twinkle that kept catching my eye, I decided: my future home must have a telescope in it.

A couple of weeks back, on my way home from the station again, I witnessed the most magnificent moon I’d seen in years. I’m not entirely sure it was a full moon, the full snow moon, as February’s full moon was traditionally called by the the Native Americans  during colonial times. But it was such a sight to gaze at. A father with his young daughter, probably no more than 3 years old, were just as smitten as I was with the big, pale ball hanging in the sky.

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by  Anders Jilden, via unsplash.com

“Look up!”

“Why?”

“The moon’s so pretty tonight.”

It’s these random evenings, unexpected observations and touching thoughts and gestures that you clutch to so hard that you knuckles turn white. They’re the ones that keep you going when you feel like throwing in the towel. But how do you hold on to them when you’re being pulled in three different directions, when the exhaustion creeps in and when you start wondering why you keep at it? Write them down – write until your fingers turn numb or there’s no more ink in the pen. Write until there’s nothing more to say or nobody else to read. Just write, clutch on to those moments and release them on paper.

Of Civil Resistance

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For almost 7 years now, I’ve been able to keep this space a purely personal one. Politics have not been a topic of choice and I’ve kept myself at a safe distance from what I  always considered to be a moral grey area (to say the least), something I didn’t wish to be part of or associated with.

That was my greatest mistake, believing what the politicians decide and enact is something separate from my day to day existence. It’s not. It is not!

We’ve been called lazy. It’s been decreed that we do not contribute with anything to society. We’ve been called stupid, misinformed, easily manipulated, paid off by Soros (the big bad wolf for anything they cannot offer rational counterarguments for), we’ve been pointed out as traitors and instigators, wanting to split the country down the middle and to create political and economic instability.

Is that really why we’re out in the streets, night after night, straight after our working hours and then in the morning back to work, paying our dues to the state and expecting to receive at least respect from the people elected to represent us? Is it really? Short answer is ‘no’. The long answer is ‘hell, no!’.

Most people out there in the streets are part of my generation, people my age or younger. We’ve been underrated, seen  as passive and uninvolved, these self-absorbed millennials with shot attention spans. I despise these evaluations, because they couldn’t be farther from the truth. What drives us is a moral compass that’s started to point the true north for an entire country.

For all those who still don’t understand why we’re out there in the cold and the rain, marching night after night, for those who still think we’re against democracy by protesting against an unfair governmental emergency decree and so many other acts of abuse: we march FOR democracy, not against it – we understand the left won the elections, it’s not something we’re denying, but that does not give them the righ or legitimacy to legalise acts of abuse and straigh out theft; we march for fairness and morality, not against the government or the leftist party (although, in our current rage against corruption, it might feel like PSD is our enemy); we march for a better future for ourselves and the ones who will come after us, not just for the spare change they’ve been throwing in our direction.

We march because we yearn for a purpose that goes beyond the power plays we’re witnessing. We march for principles.

Of The Shortness of Time

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“Living like you’re dying
Isn’t living at all,
Give me your cold hands,
Put them on my heart,
Raise a glass to everyone
Who thinks they’ll never make it through
This life
To live a brand new start” 

Ingrid Michaelson – Afterlife

No words. Nothing to say. Acknowledging the one next to you, their pain and loneliness, or instead their dreams and desires, is an act of effort, which most of us would probably rather not commit their energy and time to. Can’t be bothered, as the saying goes.

But why not? Why is the connection you establish with another considered a bother, when all the studies and research on happiness say it should be our first priority in life? That is, unless you’d prefer to end up 80 and filled with regret at all the things you could have said and all the souls you could have touched, but instead found excuses not to.

Yeah, life can certainly sometimes be one big steaming pile of shit. I think a lot of people will agree 2016 has been one terrible, no good, very bad year. It’s been no different for me  – the recent loss of someone dear has shaken me to my core and made me look at the world through a different lens.  I’m not coming up with some novel idea to achieve happiness, these are truths we can all acknowledge and there’s almost a ‘duh!’ element to what I’m about to say next; but probably precisely because of the common sense aura surrounding these things, we tend to treat them with levity and not grant them the importance they deserve.

Our time is limited. No shock, no surprise, no big reveal. Yet somehow we’ve become so talented at forgetting that, at shoving that fact so deep under the daily grind and under piles upon piles of unessential events. This is the amazing part – that we act like there’s always going to be more time to put back together what we’ve broken and to rebuild what we’ve torn down. Maybe there will be. Just as well, this might be all we get and absolutely not a second more, and our level of control over how much of this thing called life we get to enjoy is in fact ridiculously low.

Yet we put off saying the things that we mean to say. One ‘I love you’ or one ‘I miss you’ or one ‘You’re beautiful’ won’t chip away at anything, but not saying them might. A touch of the hand, a long hug, a passionate kiss won’t cost you. A kind word won’t make you any less strong, instead it will show the kind of strength you posses.

I was once asked if it doesn’t scare me to put myself on display through my posts, to show so much of myself through my words and to ultimately be as vulnerable. Of course it does, but this is who I am and I’ve learnt that owning the vulnerable part of myself is where I draw my strength from. More than ever, after this terrible, no good, very bad 2016, I choose to be open, to own who I am and to carve out time for what truly matters during this brief time we each get to be alive.

I get excited by the holidays. Even more so this year, because it’s a time when generally people pull away from the dark and dreary of their existence and decide to instead celebrate the good around them and be grateful for the tiny bit of positive in their lives. Why do people make such a fuss about the holidays? Simple: for some, it’s probably the one and most important time when they get to be surrounded by the people who matter and get to fully enjoy their presence, no rush, no work-related phone calls, no stress for the tasks that are waiting for us in our inboxes. It’s that moment when you get a reason to smile, even if a lot of the time life is hard and painful.

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by Brooke Lark, via unsplash.com

Even though 2016 has been a terrible, no good, very bad year, I refuse to give in to that. I refuse to give in to an immobile, sad, almost hopeless existence of dragging myself from one day to the next, with little to no joy for the good things and amazing people that surround me. Joy can be in the incredibly spectacular gestures you might receive from someone who loves you more than anything, but it’s also in the small acts of kindness, which can mean simply showing gratitude for what the universe has given you.

The day we give up on having hope in the good, on celebrating it, however small and insignificant it might seem to others, that’s the day our spirit dies. Personally, I don’t plan to be a dead-woman walking, my spirit is very much alive and kicking. So I say be silly, be merry, be alive!

An Ode to Leonard

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It feels ominous now in hindsight. These past few days have hardly had anything good about them.

I was so excited after the launch of his latest – and as I sadly found out this morning, also his last – album. The title track, You Want It Darker, felt heavy. It all felt heavier than usual, but Leonard sounded better than ever.

I think we all wished him to still be present, full of life and brilliant inspiration. We wished that Darker was – albeit striking in its genius – just a regular case of Cohen voicing an ever imminent sense of defeat. Yet looking back at The Guardian‘s review of Leonard Cohen’s last album, I can’t help but shiver. The opening paragraph: ‘Last week, Leonard Cohen felt obliged to announce that reports of his death – or at least his imminent death – had been exaggerated. “I said was ready to die recently,” he told the audience at a listening party in Los Angeles for his 14th studio album. “And I think I was exaggerating. I’ve always been into self-dramatisation. I intend to live for ever.”‘ This was not much more than a month ago.

Along with review after review that praised this masterpiece, but at the same time felt it as a sort of last will and testament; along with the saddening US election results that seemed to embody all of Cohen’s worst fears for the American society, it all feels terribly, frighteningly ominous in hindsight.

I don’t know if he just decided to leave the table before the game became too dreadfully painful to bear anymore,  but I know the world  will be poorer without him.

His songs have never really left my side for just over a decade – when I was so happy that I thought my chest would burst open and I’d have my heart fly away, forever lost from me; when I cried for my shattered heart to use those tears and glue itself back together; when I was searching for the kind of unique wisdom that only he could offer through his sung poetry.

Through the best and the worst, his words and melody elated me and got me through. And for that I can say thank you, you will be missed!

The troubles came, I saved what I could save
A thread of light, a particle, a wave
But there were chains, so I hastened to behave
There were chains, so I loved you like a slave