Of A Summer Redo

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Warm August nights and there’s nothing more I could ask for right now.

It’s quiet. Finally, it’s quiet inside my being, even if my head’s as restless as always (when’s it not been, really?) The kind of quiet in the eye of the storm that I’d been chasing after but only briefly managed to grasp. The sort that’s perfect for stopping, staring into the darkness of the warm nights I so love and counting shooting stars. I didn’t make a wish, though; I made plans instead this time.

Yet, it’s August already. I’m not ready for summer to be over when it feels like it only really began a second ago. Months that dragged on with days insufferably melting into each other not because of the heat but because of how time works to cauterise wounds.

Even though there’s a familiar sense to the heat of the midday sun, somehow it feels far away still, not real, like I’ve just woken up from a daze. Can I ask for a redo? I wasn’t ready for this sudden August, I want a chance to properly enjoy it this time round. Can we have a redo, please?

No, I know I can’t be granted that kind of eccentricity. But a girl can only try, right? Once they’ve passed, there are moments you can never have back or get a redo for. The idea that there’ll always be tomorrow to do what you haven’t done today is a deceptive one when it comes to human interaction, so why do so many of us decide that it’s fine to waste the moment we’re being given right now? The days are short and the moments of wonder and happiness are even shorter, yet we either choose to ignore them or shoo them away like pesky mosquitoes.

I’m not getting a redo of this year’s summer, got it. I’m also longing like crazy for a sea whose salt water I won’t be feeling on my skin this year. For next year, I’m not making wishes, I’m making plans to not wish for a redo of moments I’ve let slip by.

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Of Fears

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Have you heard the one about funerals and public speaking?

Surveys on fears show that people tend to put fear of public speaking at the very top of the list, even above that of death. Essentially, this means that someone attending a funeral is likely more relieved to not be giving the eulogy than to not be the one the eulogy is about.

The oddness of such a result has managed to stump me every time I run across it. But then again, just like with culinary tastes or preferences in choosing a romantic partner, fears are deeply personal aspects of individuals. For some, the idea of standing up in front of a crowd no larger than ten people can be reason to break out in profuse sweat.  For others…What about fear of missing out? Fear of being forgotten? Fear of not being acknowledged? Fear of being seen as an impostor? We’re living in an anxiety-ridden society and the dizzying speed at which we live our lives only means the nuances of these anxieties are bound to increase in number. Try to be gentle to the best you can, it’ll go a long way for those battling them.

Fear of not being true to yourself. It started creeping up on me these past couple of weeks without me realising what it was at first. I said a while ago that I’d be hitting pause on posting here; it was the right decision at the moment, since sometimes silence is a more appropriate and respectful answer than trying to word experiences which are better kept private. But ultimately this blog is a vital part of myself and has been for the past eight years (almost to the day). It’s been my lifeline through my toughest times and an outlet for me to be able to express frustrations, pains and joys, my way of grieving and of shouting happiness from the rooftop.

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Photo by John Baker on Unsplash

Out of fear of not being true to myself, I found myself typing away today, in spite of my earlier decision to keep quiet. It wasn’t an active decision, but rather an instinct I went along with, so I can’t say with certainty how my writing will look like from now on. I very recently fell back into experimenting with poetry and it’s been years since I last tried to even allow my mind to think like that, so it almost feels like reconnecting with an old friend. The direction isn’t set for now, there’s no map to rely on, just listening to that voice telling me to keep true to this side of myself. Course corrections will follow as needed.

 

Of Goodbyes, Farewells And All The Things In Between

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This is going to be a sad one and a very hard one to write start to finish. This is what happens when it dawns on you just how cruel life can be, especially so when hope – or the lack thereof – is playing a major role. This is one about goodbyes, farewells and see you later’s.

For the first time since writing my very first blog post almost eight years ago, not having the faintest clue what a blog (albeit a personal one) should look like or what I was doing, these past couple of days I’ve been seriously contemplating giving it up.

It started as a knee jerk reaction to the very low point I’d been finding myself in for far too long because of a relationship that ended without being given any real reason for it.  I was left confused and with my self-esteem in tiny pieces. My posts were confessional, through and through, sometimes to such a degree that people started asking me how I can possibly find the courage to put myself out there like that. Aren’t you scared? they would want to know. Of course, but what’s the point of being alive and feeling this myriad of feelings if you just keep them hidden and caged? They’ll start eating you up from the inside without you even realising it, until it’s suddenly too late to try to tame them with a gentler approach.

Along the way, I had to stop a number of times, tripping over my own words. I needed to soften the rawness of how I was expressing myself – how much of what I’m writing is just mine and how much in fact belongs to others? Of course, my feelings are mine alone, but that does not for a split second invalidate what someone else might be feeling about the same facts, the same conversations, the same situations. It’s the sort of balancing act that can get as dizzying as walking a wire 30 feet in the air – just one muscle relaxing more than it should or not contracting enough when it needs to and the consequences could be irreparable.

But right now the blog has become a much too emotionally taxing endeavour. The danger of being misunderstood in the worst ways is all too real. The possibility of bruising my heart even more is just a paragraph and a glass of wine away. The probability of unintentionally hurting certain people more that I know I already have is higher than I can accept. The storm violently swirling throughout my entire being is to blame. It will eventually pass and I’ll be wiser for it, hopefully also kinder, more understanding; but the moment of quiet is still too far in the distance for me to see it, so instead I’ll distance myself from the risk of causing more damage around me.

It’s probably not a goodbye forever, but it is a self-imposed exile from the little universe that I’d created here. I’ve no idea how long the hiatus might last for, but it’s something I can’t avoid, so instead I’m accepting it.

Of Writing About Not Writing

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Write. Write anything. Really, anything at all. Writing is good. Or so they say. Those on the outside, who couldn’t possibly understand all the minute nuances of all the ways that words can hurt.

To which I retort: good for what exactly? Remembering? Keeping wounds open? Making them deeper? So I don’t write, I just pretend to do it so as not to lose my edge at least. Yes, these days I’m just a shameless pretender – not because I enjoy it in even an infinitely small measure, but because I can’t envision any better alternative. Camouflaged in projects and objectives. Hidden behind books. Kept distracted by TV shows and movies. Kept breathing by music playing softly in the twilight.

It’s finally summer; the air smells of hot asphalt and greener than green grass, the crickets chirp incessantly as soon as the sun’s gone down. But my instinct tells me it’s going to be another one of those Lana kind of summers; and my instinct’s almost never wrong. If only I’d listen to it more often, maybe the Lana kind of summers would significantly decrease in frequency.

There, I wrote something. Things I’d written so many other times before, my very own personal clichés. Nothing to see here, move along, move along.

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Photo by Laura Skinner on Unsplash

Can We Talk About April?

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My God, April! What are you doing to me? Making me hope, making me dream bigger than advisable, making me daydream like there’s nothing more important in life.

And then there was light. Blinding light, taking away any common sense and reason, making me fumble through my days, making a mockery of my focus on the immediate and palpable.

You must be confused, my dear April days. You’re acting like children of summer, but the calendar keeps reminding me there’s still a way to go until then. You’re presumptuous and I find that I quite like that. The smell of freshly cut grass and lilac on these unusually warm evenings is quite maddening, you know?

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Photo by Juja Han on Unsplash

 

If May keeps this up, you two might be facing charges. For instigation: sudden romantic gestures being reported all over the city late at night, from long strolls in lush, green parks, to public displays of affection virtually anywhere that traffic allows it (park benches, street corners, in front of coffee shops, across candle lit tables on terraces).

Think of your reputation, April dearest!

 

 

Of The Connections We Miss

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‘No man is an island’, the saying goes. What if we’re more like ships passing each other in the night, though? Getting a glimpse of one another’s lights and glimmer from a distance; and at a certain point in time, when the air is sharp and crisp, seeing each other at HD level of detail.

But then it’s gone. Because as crisp as the night air was, the moment was hot with anticipation and the usual fear of making a fool of oneself. The potential ‘what if?’ meant inaction was the safest bet for self-preservation. Whatever that may mean. So the chance to ask for help has passed, the shoulder to cry on no longer available, the potential once in a lifetime kind of connection is lost.

If you still can’t grasp this sort of moment, picture this: it’s early morning and you are in a rush to get ready for work. But that first cup of coffee is essential, you know you can’t function properly if you haven’t had it before you leave the house. So you boil the water, you add the ground coffee. The smell of the freshly brewed miracle potion envelops you. You add a bit of warm milk because that’s how you take it. No sugar, though. Can’t wait for that first sip. But this impatience won’t do – it’s too hot, so you have to leave the cup on the kitchen table for a while to cool off. ‘That’s alright,’ you think, ‘I can just finish reading this article in the meantime.’ You’re so deeply immersed in the article that before you know it you’re running late. Oh, and the coffee? That coffee you were about to thoroughly enjoy? It’s cold now; and even if you try to re-heat it, that miraculous, deliciously unique taste can’t be brought back.

It sometimes takes really horrific events to make us stop fretting needlessly about ‘what ifs’ and realise just how many of these human connections we’re missing day by day, even minute by minute.

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Photo by Evan Kirby on Unsplash

I can’t help but ask myself how we can make the effect last longer, so that these dark and painful events are farther and fewer apart. The only answer I was able to dig up so far is that we need to make the present moment something we’re actually present in. Then we can silence and eventually tame our monkey mind, allowing us to see the one in front of us and reach our hands out to them.

Of The Traps Of Living Forever: Altered Carbon

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Hi. My name’s Claudia and I’ve just binge watched Netflix’s new sci-fi mind-fuck of a show, Altered Carbon. Twice.

Truth time. When first seeing the trailer for this show, I was left slightly unimpressed. The premise sounded odd. The set reminded me a bit too much like Blade Runner (hello, perpetual rain, transparent umbrellas, neon lights and ever-intrusive holo-ads!). Oh, and the lead character, Takeshi Kovacs, was played by this guy who I was 100% sure rather belonged on a runway or in a glossy magazine cover shoot instead of playing the main in what Netflix appeared to be promoting as its next hit show.

But what’s a nerdy girl to do on a weekend when the flu is rearing its ugly head? I caved and clicked on the play button; and boy, was I not disappointed! Enthralled is the word.

I hadn’t read up about the source material for the show beforehand and I’m glad about that because it allowed me to go in with the same view as the philosophy the Envoys talk about so reverently – without preconception or assumption (well, sort of anyway). With each new episode, I found myself thinking (or sometimes exclaiming out loud) what a bad-ass and complete mind-fuck of a show this was.

Truth #2. Joel Kinnaman has got some serious acting chops! Still think he’s major eye-candy, so I’m pretty sure he can make a living out of modelling if this whole Hollywood acting thing doesn’t pan out as expected. As for his owning the thoroughly complex character that is Takeshi Kovacs while still pulling off the cynical, ‘I don’t care about anybody’ shtick – you can colour me impressed. This role truly showed the kind of acting range the guy can master, so I’m hoping I’ll see him in roles that do him the same kind of justice in the near future.

Truth #3. This is not a show for the faint of heart. That it’s on the pulpy side might be an uderstatement – large amounts of violence, nudity and sex. But that’s sort of the point of it, seeing as it’s built around the idea that the human consciousness can be stored on alien technology-inspired external hard-drives (stacks, as they’re called), while the body is nothing more than an expendable sleeve. Death is no longer something permanent, especially for the highly affluent members of society, who can afford to re-sleeve themselves in ever-young, ever-healthy, ever-attractive clones of their original bodies. Unless, of course, you suffer the kind of organic damage which will essentially leave your stack fried and your consciousness unrecoverable. That’s real death.

The showrunners did not shy away from showing us exactly the kind of dark pits of despair and lack of empathy the human soul can fall to when faced with the possibility of escaping death forever. There was one line delivered by Dimi the Twin when he gets sleeved into the body of a street gang member which illustrates how far from the aspirations of the early days of the technology humanity has fallen: “Where is the voice that said altered carbon would free us from the cells of our flesh? The vision that said we would be angels?”

Truth #4. I had to watch the show twice to grasp all the minute references, hints and gestures. Altered Carbon builds on a high minded premise from beginning to end, it’s multi-layered and makes sure to remind you of this fact in precisely those moments you would discard as non-significant. While it can at times feel like the characters can only speak in exposition (what’s happened to the ‘show, don’t tell’ rule?), what I appreciated about the show was the fact that it did not insist too much on explaining the inner workings of the world it was building. Sure, there’s a dictionary-sized list of specific jargon that can be utterly confusing in the beginning, but it also means to say the showrunners trusted their audience enough to just run with it, knowing it will all make sense at the right moment, as well as making the viewers feel like they’re in on a secret code of their very own.

The lingering questions remain, as well as the controversies, which means I might revisit the subject matter at a later date (maybe after I’ve also read the source novel). There’s no news yet as to when/whether a second season will be picked up by Netflix (although I think they would be fools not to). And there’s only speculations as to how a second run might look like, based on the source material in Richard K. Morgan’s Broken Angels. If they do stick very strictly to the content of the novel, this means Joel Kinnaman is out, which to me is a huge shame given the exceptional way that he’s carried the role. What’s certain is that Altered Carbon has brought up a lot of philosophical questions, uncomfortable as they may be, yet not that far fetched at the rate technology is evolving.

Thank You For Your Victory

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My dear, strong, beautiful, blue-eyed woman,

I’m not going to beat around it. This is an open fan letter. A letter from someone who admires you and your strength throughout the difficulties you’ve hit along the way.

I want to tell you something you’ve probably heard from a lot of other people today, but will say it nonetheless, because you need to hear it again and again, and believe it’s true: you ARE the champion today! You’ve shown the world what it’s like to play a 3 hour-and-45 minute match and then go on to shine. You’ve played brilliantly through physical pain and discomfort, and did it with determination, elegance and a sense of modesty rarely seen.

My dear, amazing woman, you are a role model truly. There’s an entire nation that should praise you and push you forward. You are a role model, showing us all that hard work is what makes for success, not just a spark of talent that can get snuffed out by lethargy and complacency. Hard work and honesty is what makes someone grand.

But at the end of the day, remember this: you’re not playing for us, not your fans, not your hecklers. You’re doing it only for yourself, so you only owe it to yourself to break new barriers and take on new challenges. You don’t owe anybody any titles, you’re our champion because you’ve got this impressive internal strength and no matter the obstacles you kept on fighting.

Thank you for today. Thank you for being yourself and for allowing each one of us watching your matches to dream that we can be more, to dare to keep fighting to be more in a society that snuffs out spirits like yours.

Yours,

A fan

Of Creativity In The Workplace

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In all the years since I’ve joined the working class and become part of the corporate environment, I’ve taken part in my fair share of trainings. One particularly stands out these days.

I remember the trainer asked us a question: “Do you think you’re a creative person?” Simple, right? I naturally answered with a very decisive yes (I run a blog, after all! I also happen to delve into painting from time to time). He asked me to explain why I thought that and gave him the blog argument. At which point I got something in the lines of “yeah…but no” (maybe not quite the same wording, but you catch my drift). My first reaction was to feel offended. Actually, I lie, my very first reaction was to feel embarrassed and probably turn bright red all the way up to my ears (something that doesn’t usually happen to me). “That’s not what I mean”, he told the group, “that’s not creativity really”. And I was stunned; and offended still.

A few years having passed, I can look at that moment in a different light. The person who was delivering the training was an entrepreneur, a businessman if you will. So he thought of creativity in terms of how things can be done in a unique, innovative manner, so that ultimately you can bring in more money for the company. Anything else lacked significance. Sadly for him, I would say.

A few years having passed, I do understand what he meant when he referred to creativity in a business environment. If you’d asked me back then how am I being creative in my work, I’d have been completely stumped for an answer. Right now, I can list so many things: pouring myself into smaller or larger impact decisions, coming up with the right investigation route for a certain technical issue raised, applying solutions used for one client to another one I’d not had contact with up until that point, dreaming up ways to fix a problem that everybody has so far said cannot be fixed.

But the best playing ground for creativity is in the communication piece – being able to reply to an email or in a call in a manner that puts across the message you want to put across, while all along remaining polite, professional and getting what you need from the person on the other side of the table. Positioning a message in just the right way. They call this assertiveness, don’t they? Ah, this elusive and mysterious state of being. So un-straightforward, so difficult to pinpoint. It sometimes feels like walking a tightrope high up above a huge canyon – if you fall to the right, you’ll be seen as passive and people will think they can just steamroll you; if you fall to the left, you’ll be perceived as coming across aggressive and unyielding, uncaring even. It’s a very fine line you have to walk and it requires impressive amounts of creativity and going through constant decision making processes (some will be microdecisions, granted, but they still eat up mental energy even if you don’t realise it).

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Photo by Alice Achterhof on Unsplash

It was an unexpected conclusion I reached after pondering on the subject for the past couple of weeks or so. I realised I’ve been coming home pretty much exhausted after some very full days at work which involved lots of what I’ve already listed above. Guilt ensued, along with a slew of existential questions as I just couldn’t bring myself to do any of the things which in my mind so far were the only outlets for creativity. So I began delving into what creativity actually means. Lo and behold, I managed to surprise myself and at the same time give me peace of mind – I’m not stuck in a rut, it’s just a different way of being creative.

Of Ways To Fuck Things Up

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In the words of the ever glorious Alanis Morissette, isn’t it ironic how things can go from ‘thank you so much for everything’ to an unspoken ‘screw you and screw this’ in 2 seconds flat?

Just like with the things that the goddess-singer lists in her hit song, the reality is that no, it’s by no means ironic. It’s very, very sad and disconcerting however. And the situation contains in itself an equally unspeakable level of disappointment. No matter how much you may try to make sense of it, you’ll always fall short simply because basic information is denied to you. You’ve been blindsided and you have to swallow the bitter pill as it was given to you, or risk turning it even more bitter through any level of prodding into what someone’s true motives might be.

Things break, and they break down into unrecognisable bits and pieces, remnants of what they used to mean in this completely unpredictable universe, because of completely unfathomable reasons.

What I am and will forever be unable to understand is how you can under any circumstance attack someone for caring about the people around (with everything that entails). Imagine going up to Mother Theresa and saying something like “You know what, lady? You’d better stop giving this much of a damn about everybody and stop all your fretting. Have you looked at yourself in the mirror lately?! I mean, you’re skinny and sickly as hell, better just focus on some self care, m’kay?” Now, I know the comparison is taken to the extreme, but to me this sort of reaction is this kind of level of incomprehensible.

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by Mag Pole, via unsplash.com

Surround yourself with a high brick wall and stayed walled up for long enough, and you’ll soon realise people have given up on trying to climb it if they kept being hit by buckets of scalding water and then some tar and feathers to boot. Nobody is Mother Theresa except for Mother Theresa, which means that as human beings we have a limit to how much we’re willing to accept in terms of rejection and hurt.

As for myself, I care. I’m a chance-giver, a second chance-giver and a 10th-chance-giver. I care about other people’s well-being and seeing the ones close to me (or even not so close to me) suffer or experience a rough situation triggers an immense feeling of sadness and the desire to do something – anything – to relieve that suffering, to make the situation easier to face. That’s just who I am, not something I’ve chosen and something I  can only partially control. I’m not ashamed of it. I won’t apologise for it. It’s caring and closeness that the world lacks, not more walls and more loneliness.

So build those walls up high, I hope the view from behind them is nice. But I won’t be part of that.