A guide to how to smile

  • Drink a liter of green juice that you have made yourself, out of vegetables, that you unfortunately did not grow.
  • Shower, immerse yourself in the smell of lush products.  How could the scent of  honey / citrus not make you feel slightly less miserable?
  • Wear your best Sunday dress.  Why wouldn’t you.
  • Go out and get as caffeinated as your body can handle it, it is impossible to have coherently sad thoughts on caffeine.
  • Take a walk through the park and enjoy the smell of lilies
  • Buy yourself flowers, because no one else will.
  • Make plans for the summer, make sure it involves a lot of summer festivals, parks and gigs.
  • Make plans for after the summer, because you have to move, and not knowing where you’re going is stressing the crap out of you.
  • E-mail your mom and dad and tell them how beautiful they look on the selfie they have texted you yesterday.
  • Tell your best friend that everything will be okay and that you will always be there for her.
  • Write your friends letters that you will post tomorrow.
  • Try to find a cat on the street to pet, or if that fails, google photos of cats.
  • Make cake, and if you can’t be bothered, just eat cake. any cake.
  • Sing out loud, because you have the house to yourself.
  • Practice Leonard Cohen songs on your purple ukulele while there is no one there to judge you.
  • Read Fernardo Pessoa and smile because, well….a lot of other humans feel the way you feel, ain’t nothin’ unique about that, and that my friend is a very very beautiful, universal, human truth that should make you feel part of a collective whole and that should take you out of your own wrapped thoughts.

Sing some more.

 

You will never be to some what you are to others

There are some people who will, from the beginning, find out about your authentic self in its fully raw form.  The self that has multiple personalities all clashing with one another, that comes with destruction, beauty, over analysis, incoherence, aspirations, hopelessness, a stagnant sense of being a non entity, an overwhelming feeling of being part of a collective whole, and of being in and being the universe, both at once.  It drives you from point A to point B and then back to point A again, in entwined circles in your mind.  The self locked inside your cranium, feeding off patterns of previous fragments of thoughts, fragments of feelings, starts to weight heavy, like a deep dark secret that only starts making sense when it manifests into clumsy words during a conversation with another fellow being.

Until then, it is nonsense.

And then, there are people who will only know fractions of you.  You show them what it is what they want to see, what it is that they evoke out of you, carefully guarding the hundreds of mad facets that could bring you closer to that person, but that could also bring you closer to complete eventuality of destruction.  You are not ready to witness your great fall, not just yet.  And perhaps one day you will offer them the gift of your madness on a plate, but until then, you will feel like a fraud, like Dr.Jekyll and Mr.Hyde, everytime you smile, or laugh, or feel genuine happiness, or content in their presence.  You will feel like you’re conning that person into thinking that is all you are, happiness and content.  You, with your joie de vivre so blatantly expressive in your eyes, in your laugh, in the way you marvel at sights, or have the ability to recall the most perfect memories!  That side of you will drive you further into darkness, even when at your happiest, because you are unable to accept and nurture your own inconsistent states.  And you will, in passing, mutter out ‘I am not always happy’, just to let out an indication of your deep dark secret, and then resume laughing, thinking to yourself that they too are human, after all.

You will never be to some what you are to others, in the same fashion you will not, to yourself, be tomorrow who you are today.

The Beauty in your Existential Crisis

I was sitting with a good friend on a busy street last night.  Rain was drizzling as we sat beneath the rooftop of a pub, sipping on Blue Moon.  ‘The world is so depressing without the internet to distract me from my mind’, I voiced out.  I went on about being as lost as ever, after all, it comes and goes in waves.  When it comes, that feeling of absolute nothingness overtakes my brain, and everything about this world and life seems insipid.  Why bother to love, why bother to try, why bother to be!  Without some distractions, it is hard to sit in your overwhelming sense of loneliness.  It is hard to acknowledge how greedy your mind is and how you fail to practice gratitude for all the good things in your life and all the choices that led you where you are, and how where you are is exactly where you need to be. Instead, a voice in your head repeats, louder and louder ‘Is this all there is?’

Every now and then in the midst of that darkness and complete loss of purpose and meaning, you find peace in ‘Yes this is all there is.’  It makes you feel, even if for the brief instant of that realisation, that you are not fundamentally flawed, you are not wasting your life away, you are doing exactly what you want to do, but failing to realize it, failing to acknowledge it.

See, when that peace comes in, you suddenly feel filled with the ability to observe and take it all in.  The heaviness in your chest dissolves with every conscious glimpse you take on the world:  The homeless man on the street stopping you in your train of thought that one rainy evening to tell you Irish jokes in exchange of a pound coin, the dog who decides to make eye contact with you, the way that rain is tapping on the old London streets, the street sign before you,  your friend’s philosophies, the French music, the simple fact that this moment is exactly what life is!

You know that a year from now you will remember that moment, and you will remember it fondly.  That thought is enough to ease your over-analytical brain into the reality that this is all there is!  Life is not some grand scheme of linear progress, it rarely has a purpose.  The only coherence that life as we experience it has is found in a series of moments, in human interconnectedness, in the ability to share your neurosis, your banal suffering and your senselessness with another human being.

You are one of those people who, if you could, would divide themselves in thousands of entities…

When I was a child,  I spent weekends in one house and week days in another.  My parents are not divorced, but both, my mom and my dad had jobs in another city.  I was therefore raised by my grandma, my granddad, two of my aunts and my one uncle five days out of the week.  It was a full house in the country with a quite communal feel to it.  Despite being under five at the time, I have very vivid memories of those days.
I tend to digress, and so I was going to elaborate about the chickens, the cow and the sheep, the various fruit trees and vegetables growing in my grandma’s garden, and the many ways I found to amuse myself, but I think that is beyond the point.
When I was five, I moved countries, because of oh you know, circumstances such as a civil war.  Then, a few days after I turned eight, I moved countries again.  From there on, I moved provinces, cities, houses, and well, countries again!
Today, decades and three languages later, I feel like what one would call ‘citizen of the world.‘  My roots are spread here and there, and I took with me a part of all the places where I’ve been to and lived in.  My stay in England is going to end eventually, and I realize that, thanks to all the people I met, routines I have developed, places I’ve seen, the day I leave London, I will feel like I left a bit of me here.  Isn’t that what the sense of home is?  In a figurative manner, a big chunk of my heart is where my family and friends are, another is where my childhood memories are, and others are all the places where I’ve made new memories that my sentimental mind will think of with fond nostalgia.
I no longer feel guilty about being scattered or ‘all-over-the-place’ and that lack of guilt is probably what makes life seem easier.  As my dad once put it :  ‘You are one of those people who, if you could, would divide themselves in thousands of entities and be everywhere at the same time.‘ That was his parental criticism, but he was entirely right, and so I didn’t know how to contest, I just smiled in agreement.  Is that really so wrong?  Being older and somewhat wiser than I was even just a year ago, I say no, but I can only speak for myself in this case.  We all have different neurosis preventing us from sleeping at night, or triggering heart attack-like feelings during day time. The trick is in finding peace of mind with decisions made, or uncontrollable circumstances.   There is peace in lack of direction, as it takes you to the realization that you can go where you want to go, and live this life exactly how your mind pleases in a given moment.  And that is exactly what life is: a series of moments!  So as long as you are alive, you have power to change, to grow, to be!  There is no linear progress that needs to take place, and there is no regression, only moments, all different from one another, all turning you into a different individual from the one you were yesterday.   Whoever objects to you willingly accepting the uncertainty in your life, will eventually get over it.  Whoever fears for you, let them, but don’t make their fears yours.  There are millions of people who view life with the same type of philosophy you view it, and so go out and meet them, and submerge yourself in their energy.

 

In the Future Tense

If you disappear tomorrow I would call in sick at work.  I wouldn’t eat, I couldn’t eat.  I’d have instant coffee and would pace around the house.  Maybe I’d paint the cracks in my walls, maybe I’d paint my nails a pretty colour.  If you disappear tomorrow, I would lay motionless on my bed for half the day, staring at the ceiling, until I would talk to myself out loud to snap out of it.  I wouldn’t go on social media at all, and I wouldn’t care to know what the current situation in the Ukraine is.   By the end of the day, I would have written at least a dozen of poems about you that I wouldn’t write today because today I’m happy, and I never write poems when I’m happy.

If you disappear tomorrow, I would listen to Tori Amos on repeat, followed by Françoise Hardy.  I would sing out loud.   I would cry and spend the day avoiding my housemates to not have to explain why I’m red eyed and dishevelled.  I would take the longest and hottest shower and just stand there, staring through the water with eyes vacant.  Knowing myself I’d break down in tears uncontrollably, and then  I’d think how it reminds me of a scene in Girl Interrupted, or a similar movie that I have seen in the past.

I would fall asleep, eventually.

On Saturday I would wake up early because of the heavy feeling in my chest.  I’d have another coffee, and perhaps toast.  I’d dress myself and go for a walk on Brick Lane.  I’d avoid looking at couples and avoid looking at places where we’ve been together.  I’d think of going to walk by the Thames, but then would decide against it, because it would remind me of that one day with you when everything was a possibility.   I would head to a coffee shop and write.  I’d write about hope, I’d rationalise every bit of emotion overtaking my body, and I’d write about how one day this won’t matter.   Then I’d get that heavy feeling in my chest again and would message every person in the city that I would want to see and make plans with for the rest of the week. That night, I would put make up on and go drink whiskey with a friend, in a random pub.  I’d talk about you a lot, repetitively.

Sunday I would wake up with a hangover, which would distract me from the heaviness in my chest.  I’d step outside my house and buy flowers from the flower market.  Then I’d go to the drugstore and buy pink and purple hair dye and I’d ombré my hair pink again, while listening to my good old spotify list ‘we meet again my heartache.’  I’d smirk at the thought that all love songs and heartbreak songs are so generic, I’d laugh at no matter how concentrated the pain or the passion, and how unique our experiences feel, human feelings are generic.  My flatmates would bake me chocolate chip cookies, because by then I would have told them, and that’s something they would do.

If you disappear tomorrow, I would buy a one way ticket to Melbourne with my savings, for five months from now.  That would chase the terrible sense of dread for at least a few minutes.  I would e-mail all my friends abroad and have detailed skype sessions with them.  I’d avoid my mom, she’d ask too many questions that I wouldn’t want to answer.   If you disappear tomorrow, I would go see as many plays as I could and eat as much cake as my appetite would permit.  I would make plans for the summer and you wouldn’t be in them.  I would spend weekends in other towns than yours and would go to the planetarium with a new person.  I would blog every day, because last time I was heartbroken, I blogged every day, and I’m an individual of pattern.

If you disappear tomorrow, I would finish translating some ted talks, and then I would build a portfolio and apply for freelancing positions.  I would make a plan to send ten applications a day until something would come along.  And something is bound to come along if you try, right?

If you disappear tomorrow I would reactivate my ok cupid profile and go on pointless dates that would fill some of my lonely evenings with some form of entertainment.  I would talk with them about everything but you.  If you disappear tomorrow, I would make a point to run every day by the canal.  I would go to bed and fall asleep effortlessly, completely physically exhausted.

Eventually summer would come and I’d spend evenings after work picnicking in Hyde Park and on weekends, I’d take the train to Brighton.  My hair will be a bit blonder and my skin a bit more tan.  By the end of the summer, I would be in another country.  I would then think of what it would be like to be there with you, and quickly, the thought would disappear, because I would be too busy figuring the rest of my life out.

But I don’t think you’ll disappear tomorrow, and that thought makes me happy, as frail as that reality could potentially be.  The fear of abandoning myself in you, in us, the rational thought process of heavy cautiousness is never fully departing me.  But if you disappear tomorrow, I know that I would live on, no matter how broken and hopeless I would feel.  And writing this out puts me into perspective: allowing you in my dreams, and in my imagined plans is not what would break me.  And so, I, finally, consciously am going to let my mind do the thing that used to be so natural to it back when it was naturally vulnerable and had child-like naivety and hope about love:  daydream about us in the future tense.

The Feelings that Come and Go

I concluded I am finally okay with growing old.  The longer I bathe in this sense of living, the easier living feels.  Heartbreak, loss, unpremeditated twists of fate, they quickly morph from that heavy feeling in my chest into a lightness of being.  I used to be of opinion that some things in life never get easier, and perhaps, they never really do.  But I now have a different way of treating those feelings.  They trigger neurosis, they trigger psychosis at times, but I am fully conscious that they’re fickle and come to pass.  And with that realisation, lightness appears.
I remember the times when I felt like I could never be without that somebody, when I felt emotionally tied to things or people, when the end of us would pain every cell in my body to the point where I would feel like I was suffocating in my own being. When things ended, I would lay motionless in my room, staring at the walls, bathing in sadness, rehearsing sadness, training my body to grow dependent on that state.  I know better now.  I know that, throughout those emotions, I have come to a different place, and that life and circumstances led me to different people and different experiences, that I am so grateful for.  I am aware that this sense of hardship is the biggest blessing one can experience, and I am no longer interested in fighting it.
I don’t think I’ve grown jaded, I feel. I feel a wide range of powerful emotions, in full connection with every little thing in this world and with every little thought in my head.  I think I just interpret those emotions in a whole different manner.
I don’t consider myself particularly resilient, but I managed to get to a point in my life where I finally realise the meaning of ”self-sufficient”.  I don’t deny my dependence on other people, for they bring joy and laughs in my life, they level me and we feed off each other in order to grow and morph into people who we are today, and who we will be in ten thousand days of time.  Yet, I cannot imagine going through one single thing that would leave me permanently scarred or broken. No mourning, no end is finality.
Still, this doesn’t prevent me from overanalysing everything.  That is just a trait that I have yet learned to kick, or may never kick.  The great thing is that now, I get to overanalyse those everythings in a different light.  ‘Everything happens for a reason’.  It truly does. Everything happens for the reason of who you will become, and what action you will take once that something happens, and the place that action will lead you to.  I sit here, with a certain weight in my chest, caused by uncertainity.  And although that weight persists, it is so grand to realise that despite what happens or doesn’t happen, I will be okay.

Your life is good

Your life is good, because you slept in as long as you pleased, and now you’re sitting in your room, on a Saturday morning, with absolutely no obligations but to entertain yourself.  Your room is clean and freshly painted, and your skin smells like papaya&mango from the shower you just took.  Coffee tastes good, and the view from your window gives on a sunny and busy street.  The laundry machine is on and Arcade Fire is playing on your macbook.  Your phone buzzes, and flashes a message from someone that makes you feel like a 15 year old schoolgirl.

Your life is good because you have people who care to know how you are, they ask you about your life, no matter how far or how close they live in relation to you.  And you care about them.  More than you imagined you would care, a mere 5 years ago.   You have spent years building strong connections, and realising that life is about those connections, and despite where in the world you or they find themselves, you will still pick up the phone to text, or to have a skype session filled with laughters and shared concerns.  Your life is good because, as guilty as you feel about not doing what your parents want you to do, and as worried as you make them feel, you have parents who care and who have always cared, in their own way.  And if everything you pursue somehow one day fails and leaves you empty handed, you know that for as long as they’re alive, you have a refuge.

Your life is good because you met and continue to meet people who leave a trace in the book of your life.  They make you smile, laugh, you spend evenings and weekends indulging in each other’s company, and losing yourselves in stories and aspirations.  You meet them in a foreign country, on a trip you pursue on your own.  You stay with them for a while, and go your separate ways.  You think that there are so many great people you have yet to meet, who will one day come your way and stay, even if for a brief moment.

Your life is good because you travel.  You travel as much as you possibly can, and there are so many cities and lands to be seen.  There are so many birds left to observe, so many paths to walk, and that feeling of lightness, that can only come from finding yourself before a beautiful scenery to fill you in all its humility.

Your life is good because you live in one of the most beautiful and grand cities of the world, in the greatest neighbourhood of that city, on a street that caters to your every need.  Your worries consist of where to find the best red thai curry, or what museum to spend this afternoon in.  You go on walks, through parks, through streets, and everything still feels so new and novel, years later.  While, this is temporary, so is everything else, and so you finally feel at peace that this is now, and now is all there is.

Your life is good because you’re worried about not having the capacity to worry about the future.  You’re worried that one day the inevitable will happen: death of a loved one, poverty, depression.  But while these are all eventual, and sometimes inevitable outcomes, they are not part of your nowness.  And you feel at peace that life is not a linear path, it is a circular web, that entwines possibilities, and to’s and fro’s, that goes forward and backtracks and then turns left or right, and there is no such thing as regression as long as you are living.

Your life is good, because the worst that could happen is going to happen, and will happen to everyone.  The worst is out of your control, it is granted to you in an unpremeditated moment, and it doesn’t ask for your opinion.  And when the worst happens, the only thing you will be left with on your mind is how good your life was.

Like-love Take 2

Fireworks are going off.  Every bang more spectacular and grand than the other, and then, always unexpectedly, it ceases.  You stand there in the middle, on some urban hill not far from your apartment, watching the multicoloured light soften the darkness of the skies, and then fade into them, blown away by the wind.

Something about the boy drew you to walk towards him and ask him about his life.  It could have been his tranquility that seems to have an immediate calming effect on your overactive brain.  It could have been the night itself, or the bottle of sparking wine you shared,  you’re unsure, but something made you walk towards him with certainty that it is what needs to be done.  You stand next to him, by the fence, watching the sky grow darker, behind the city buildings.  ”Tomorrow we’ll see pictures of the fireworks in the papers, and they will look nothing like what we saw today,” you tell him to strike up a conversation.  He says something, you’re not sure what it was anymore, you haven’t memorised it.  He gets closer and tells you how about what he did four years ago, he tells you about the books he reads and the music he listens to, he speaks about how sad he was last year this time, he tells you how sometimes feels so young, and then so old.  It makes no sense.  You relate.  He starts telling you how he turned twenty-seven a few months ago.  You both realise you share the same birthday, and laugh at the coincidence, wondering which one of you is lying.  He asks you if your view of the world is based on science or magic, and something about that question softens your cynicism briefly, while you ask him to explain what magic is.

You decide to cut the conversation short and head back, your friends are waiting on you on, and they must be cold, so you head to a bar.  There, you have tequila and whisky, until one of them is too sick to go on with the night, and so you go back to your place, make the bed for him and your common friend to sleep on and say goodnight.  You go to bed alone, with a sense of sadness that as alcohol evaporates from your bodies, so will the moment and the certain sense of connection you shared the night before.

Morning comes, you walk over to your kitchen.  He comes down, and you talk. You decide to head out for a walk, just him and you.  The banks of the Thames are almost overflowing.   You walk across the Tower Bridge.   It’s raining heavily and your feet get wet.  You decide to stop for coffee.  It strikes you how comfortable you are sharing random thoughts and being in silence with him.  Night comes, and you walk to London Bridge where you part ways, he to take his train, you to meet a friend for dinner.  You say goodbye, and as you turn around and start to walk, he shouts ”Hey…If you ever feel like coming up North for a trip, let me know.”  Two weeks later, you go.

About Neurosis

It’s ten past midnight Sunday.  Tomorrow I’m resuming real life, after a two week hiatus from work and all other obligations.  I spent the first part of my holiday visiting my family in Bavaria, hiking, doing yoga, eating too much vegetarian food with my aunt and my cousin. The second part was spent drinking, eating, walking busy streets, granted it involved laughter and meeting interesting people.

Yet it’s midnight on a Sunday, and here I am, with my eyes wide open and my thoughts pacing, in of course, what I could qualify of an anxious state of mind.  At least I don’t think I’m dying tonight.  All in all, I read the following sentence in an article a few minutes ago, and it made me feel rather nervous.  It said: ‘The ability to worry about the future goes hand in hand with the ability to plan for the future – and planning for the future (along with remembering the past) is what gives rise to culture and separates us from other animals.’

That’s where MY problem lays.  I stopped planning for the future, a while ago.  I can’t exactly recall when or how, but I now have less and less understanding or idea about what it is I want, or what it is I should or will do.  I am navigating through my life quite blindly.  Sure I’m doing some things I’ve been meaning to do, but here I am, doing them.  Now what?  I am one of those unfortunate souls that always has the tendency to want more.  Sure, I can appreciate what I have, but there comes a moment, when I realise ‘I am still unsatisfied.’  And it is not the longing for love, or stable relationships that would satisfy me, as I have a very strong social circle of people I can count on, it is literally the lack of meaning in my life.

See, for the longest time, I embraced Albert Camus or Jean-Paul Sartre’s philosophy, I navigated life through Sisyphus eyes, with conviction that there was no meaning to it, and that life is what you make out of it.  Except, tonight, as I type this, I realise that I cannot make something out of nothing.  All great actions come from thoughts and from intention.  I have absolutely no intention.   This of course without fault reminds me of Viktor Frankl’s logotherapy principles.  And so, tonight, during my neurosis, I am going to honestly sit down with myself, forgive myself for times I’ve spent wanting to do everything at once, and the fact that it amounted to me doing nothing at all in the end.  I am going to move forward from that, and stop trying to avoid the fact that I (and I can strictly speak for myself), the type of person that I am, require some coherence, a meaning.   I’m going to make peace with the hours, days, months and years I wasted dwelling on things I have absolutely no control over, or spent stupidly staring at a computer screen, reading my facebook newsfeed.  I am going to accept this neurotic being that lives inside of me, and that in the end is trying to guide me, through its guiltrips and feelings of anxiety, to make more out of this experience of being alive.

So, tonight, I suppose I’ll make a pact with myself to find acceptance in neurosis, to find calm in confusion, but to, for the first time, in a very long time, allow myself to bathe in the string of possibilities, and through past and current exploration find the meaning, and the drive that is worth getting out of bed for.

The heartbreak that shaped you

Years ago, I used to write a blog, a bit more intricate, a bit less concrete, and a bit easier to update than this one, because it was written in a diary format.  I wrote  almost every single day, it wasn’t much of a chore, my mind was urging me to write.   There was no other way.  I was filled with a very unique type of sadness, the sadness that differs from the apathy that’s accompanied with day to day depression.  My first post was called ‘The End‘ and  written in the following words:

”Don’t say too much, say just enough…or barely anything actually. Just. Enjoy. This.  Don’t speak, unless it’s to say something that has nothing to do with anything. Shades of purple and green projected on the immense monuments, we walk the dark hills…And I feel alone in the universe with you. ‘I love you,’ I whispered, and it got to your end of the echoing monument, you laughed and whispered it back…it echoed. We walked through statues, views of bridges and cities, rivers, galleries…stray cats. A gazillion of stars were lighting up the sky. ‘The flickering star is mars’, you told me. It felt like this was the very first date, the one we never had, or should have had.  We both had a cold, walking in our recycled clothes, and our messy locks. I was never one to pay attention to apparence, and neither were you.  ‘Let’s go’ you said abruptly, as I was enjoying the sounds and the lights, and the images that were being projected. My bus came right away, you kissed me goodnight, and we parted…We always hated parting before tonight.  On my way back, I tried spotting Mars.  It looked closer than ever, from this side of the river.”

I documented that heartbreak, practically every single day.  Gradually, with time, the theme progressed.  It wasn’t my first relationship, nor was it the longest, but something about it made it the most intense one in my mind.  Perhaps it was the state that I was in, that I never found myself in again.  The hopelessness, the tears, the emptiness, the darkness were all novel, and I explored them in full consciousness, rehearsing the same idea over and over again, in words and posts all different from one another, until there was nothing left to explore.

Perhaps my love for that person was simply based on the novelty of those emotions and nothing else.  I haven’t felt that broken ever since.  A part of me misses the fullness felt in my stomach, the nights spent sleeping next to my housemate because I couldn’t bear to sleep alone, it misses the pain that lasted longer than the ‘love’ itself did, it misses how every sad song intensified the sadness to a point of feeling unable to handle the rush of nothingness navigating its way through my brain and manifesting itself in my every gesture and my every sight.

In hindsight, I cannot quite tell if it was having my heart broken, or just the overactive 22 year old mind of mine, but one day in the summer, on a bus in Ireland, I found myself changed.  As if the two seasons spent mourning over the potential pretence of something have altered the composition of my every cell. I had metamorphosed.  And so, although years have erased those feelings, and I tell that story in a comical and rather satirical tone to my friends now, those two seasons during that one year were the most defining two seasons in the last decade of my life.  It was then that everything I once knew about myself, about life, about love, about the world had departed me, and I was left in a quasi tabula rasa state of affairs.  That feeling and realisation was worth every second of darkness.

A Recap of my 2013

I decided to stop to think (thing I fail to do nowadays) and to summarise this past year in the laziest fashion I could: a bullet point format.

  • Dyed my hair pink in January
  • Took random day trips to places such as Brighton, Stratford upon Avon, Leamington Spa, Windsor
  • Had my friends, my parents and my aunts visit me
  • Got a little heart broken
  • Got a new job
  • Had the honour to be in my first Wedding Party
  • Visited NYC and home
  • Went back to Edinburgh and to Paris
  • Got involved in theatre again and took part in two plays
  • Made a lot of new friends and made very good friends
  • Said a few goodbyes to people who left London
  • Spent my birthday walking Regent Park with a stranger who shared the same birthday as mine, then had a lovely dinner
  • Saw a lot of Pete Doherty
  • Took up juicing
  • Saw Leonard Cohen again
  • Went to Italy again and visited some places I haven’t been to before
  • Started understanding the concept of ‘being in the moment’ a bit more than before
  • Moved to a new place with the best location
  • Spent end of December hiking in Bavaria with my family

You spoke of now

We will never sit on the lawn in the Brixton square and watch the sun set behind the clock tower again.  I knew it back then, but it still feels like a new idea in hindsight.  Everything was so tangible then!  It wasn’t that long ago you see, the autumn had come, and we both wore our jackets, but still, the crisp air didn’t phase us. And so we sat outside on the lawn, not far from the buskers and the homeless, until midnight.  You spoke of now, you spoke of goodness, your naive wisdom resonated within me and during that one night, I felt young again.
There was nothing deeper than that moment between us, nothing to romanticize, except two humans opening their hearts and speaking of their fears in the most vulnerable and honest manner.  Some people have the talent to bring something like that out of you.  They have the talent to share, listen and inspire.
When we said goodbye that night, I felt light again, and that’s when I realised that feelings and impressions come and go, the same way people do.  I fell asleep that night with that thought and left it untouched until today.  Today, you’re crossing the ocean, you’re on your way back home.  Knowing it’s the end of your own personal adventure, knowing that you are not somewhere in this city makes me terribly long for that moment in Brixton Square, when we drank cider from the bottle, climbed trees and watched the sun set over the clock tower.
brixton

Now is Now

I cannot believe it’s been almost 4 months since my last post!  How time flew!  It is precisely that realisation that brings me here this evening.

This evening I had a good conversation over japanese food with a new friend.  ”My visa expires in August”, I muttered out, and as soon as I said it, I felt nervousness.  I felt like, despite everything I’ve done, I’ve wasted the past 16 months dwelling on things.  I spent a lot of time dwelling about my family and friends not being here, then I dwelled on the fact that I didn’t have as much money as I wish I did, about failed non-relationships, about still being as confused as ever about what I want out of this life, but mostly, I’d dwell on the fact that I’m dwelling.  Counterproductive ”innit’‘!

Yet time doesn’t give a flying fuck, and it doesn’t await for you to be done dealing with things in your head.  I guess it’s part of the human experience, to bathe in primitive feelings, and to aspire to have it all figured out…but to never ever figure much out.  Still, there comes a time when you have to consciously train your brain to simply call it quits.  I suppose having limited time inspires you the impermanence of everything.  It makes you view things in awe and focus on nowness.  And I guess, that is what I intend to do with the remaining time I have left, focus on now.

I felt like I got to London just the other day.  In a way, I feel like the same person, and also like a completely different person.  In a way, I feel both, more and less brave about the future.

Somedays, I want to go back home and hug my family and friends, take a long walk in the Maisonneuve park with my mom and dad and tell them how these past years have shaped me, sit in a cosy coffee shop with my sister while watching snow fall and listen to her stories about her patients, but I know that distance makes the heart grow fonder.  Days like today, I want to stay here, and explore every inch of my new east London neighbourhood, buy flowers from the Columbia market every Sunday for the years I have left to live, listen to all the different accents, drink coffee from all the random coffee shops, continue meeting incredible characters, keep on going to pubs more days a week than I should, continue living in a city where age and social expectations are barely existent…But there is only so much red wine that my liver can handle, before it puts me into perspective: Whether this should last or not, this is now, so live it as such, live it as fully as your entire core permits.

The first four seasons in London (part 2)

The 10 steps someone like me takes when they get to London:

The days that followed my arrival consisted of me wandering around the city aimlessly.  I remember trying to walk to Regent Park, all the way from Covent Garden, but then getting to Mornington Crescent instead, because, well, reading google maps fails me.  Besides wandering around, my induction to this city went something like this:

First step is the step anyone would have to take: Equipping yourself with an umbrella, and carry it with you at all times, no matter how clear the skies may seem when you walk out of your door that morning/afternoon/night.  Ideally, you would buy wellies too, because wet feet are the worst, but if you’re like me, you’ll just spend a whole year without rainboots, skipping from dry spot to dry spot.

Second step consisted of me buying a camera to photograph all the random sights I’d come across.  Although I visited London on two occasions previously, I never had to navigate it on my own, and so all sights were entirely novel to me.

Third step in establishing yourself in a new city is finding  a café worthy enough to be graced by your regular presence.   And so I did just that.  I found a café where I would spend some early afternoons writing e-mails to my friends, my old boss and my parents, where I would update this blog from.

Step four is of course opening a bank account at an institution preferably close enough to the café, cos ‘yo’ americanos ain’t gunna pay themselves, sista!’  That will take you two whole months, because…uh, that are the service standards at the bank you chose to open your account with for the people with your visa.  You just feel lucky that nobody is driving a van with ‘Go home!’ posters in front of your flat, so you accept the inconvenience without fretting.

Step five  is researching the vegetarian options and restaurants.   That’s how I discovered certain places in Neal’s Yard (where I just remembered I need to go back very soon!) and Mildreds, a lovely vegetarian/vegan restaurant where I went for my birthday last year.  Their puddings are just to die for.

Oh step six is adapting to the lingo.  Pudding is in fact not a runny custard-like substance, it is simply ‘cake’.  Lemonade is not made out of lemons and ‘Are you alright?’ is not an intervention by a stranger about your visibly morose state of mind.  I made a post about that previously.

Step seven is getting an oyster card, and that in itself means understanding the tube maps, and also ensuring you get TFL notifications about weekend closures.

Step 8 is making friends. ”How does one make friends in a new city?” you ask!  THE INTERNET, naturally, where else?!  So you will go on OkCupid dates with random women and men, telling them ‘I’m open to romance, but have zero expectations.’  You will meet girls who want you to meet their boyfriends, you will meet musicians who pop acid through their eyeballs, and you will meet guys you will need to high five as they lean in to kiss you, simply because they do not get the social cues of ‘not interested’ at the end of a date.  You will feel like Michael Cera in Arrested Development, but it will at least fill your days with eventful evenings.   You will remain friends with most of those weirdos, because, well, you have a whole lot of weirdness in yourself too, and you find things to bond over!

Step nine: Great!  Now that you have deep and meaningful connections established, you must look for a job to be able to pay for beer.  Nevermind your education and previous experience in office positions, you didn’t come to London to make money, no, you came here to meet locals, to understand their culture and history, and so naturally, you will get a job in the most cultural establishment that exists: The pub.  There, you will meet alcoholics, tourists, locals, and 90% of the Polish population in this city. You will have tons of fun, and you will also feel tons of anger.

Step 10: Now that you have at least three friends in this city, and a job, you can focus on quality hobbies: so you go from pub to pub, killing your liver, and trying things such as ‘Snake Bite’ and experiencing a newfound love for tequila.  Mazel tov, you’re now a Londoner!

The first four seasons in London (part 1)

Day 1 

Friday the 9th marks my one year anniversary of being in London.  I can recall the day I arrived so vividly, that I’m freaked out at the thought of it being a year ago. My aunt warned me ”time goes by faster and faster the older you get”, and today I couldn’t agree more.

I remember the day that I flew out of Montreal at 10:00 p.m.  I  spent the day with my mom, we ran around the town, as I had some last minute chores to take care of.  I was a nervous wreck and took it out on her, yet she was so understanding.  If I was one to say ”bless her”, I’d say it here.  That day was her birthday.  I flew away with a premeditated sense of nostalgia.  I knew very well I was choosing to walk away from something that I will never live again, but was excited at the thought of this experience, and so I dozed off for the duration of the flight.

Morning came and I got off the plane.  My friend and flatmate was waiting for me at the gates.  ”We will just take the Piccadilly line all the way to Covent Garden (where our flat was).” I remember assuming people actually lived in places like Covent Garden, not realising the luck I had!  We walked through the busy market towards Maiden Lane, and there it was: my new home, ironically above a Canadian pub.  The city was sunny, the street was busy with tourists, locals, I adored every glimpse of that liveliness.

That day we went for pizza, and more jet lagged than ever, I went for a nap.  I woke up at 5:00 p.m. disoriented “We must go to tuktuks for dinner”, my flatmates informed me. Little did I know at that point that we’d be regulars at that place.   And so we walked to Soho.  I couldn’t really eat, but I remember so clearly how different that restaurant and those streets looked that day.  This city was a labyrinth to me.  Isn’t it rather funny how perception of certain places changes with familiarity, morphing it into a whole new place?  Your eyes slowly adapt to the novelty, and you start forming patterns in your brain, rearranging the view in ways that make sense.  I remember going to bed that night, unable to sleep, half the reason being the jet lag, and the other half being mixed feelings of excitement, wonder and nervousness.

The Real World

Almost a year ago, I took a year off from my permanent and well-paid office position and moved to London.  People often asked what prompted my move:  nothing but the desire for novelty.  I was able to move because of a friend’s mother kindness: she gave me accommodation and she gave me a job in a pub.  I’ve often made jokes that never working in a pub was one of my biggest career regrets that I came here to fulfil.

Well now a year later (it’s crazy how quickly that came!), I no longer work in a pub, and I no longer am on a sabbatical leave from a permanent and stable position.  See, today, is the day I officially resigned from the latter.  The weeks prior to me typing up the resignation letter were filled with uncertain feelings of anxiety.  Thoughts such as “You have a student loan…AND credit card debt!”  “You also have nothing to go back to once your visa expires!”  “You’re a little bit older now! ”  rehearsed in my head.  I don’t know if I’m making a “wise” decision, but I know that I’m making the decision that is right now right for me.  And so today, I typed up that formal resignation letter, and stopped beating around the bush, I titled it “resignation letter” and sent it to my Director.  Relief ensued.

And now that that job is a memory that I will never relive, I am looking back on those times and am charmed by the nostalgia.  I am charmed at the memory of grey cubicles in a grey building in a structured town, the same coffee shop I used to frequent every single day, the yoga classes I’d run to most days after work, the tex-mex bar where my friends and I would meet every single Wednesday for cheap food and beer…All those little things that I took for granted, that I perceived through Sisyphus eyes, I now suddenly see as wonderful times.  And holding onto the idea that you will never relive what you are living now, and today, I am now trying to seize in as much as I can everything that it is I feel and do right now.

Realising that this spectrum of emotions we get to feel is such a privilege (be they deemed as positive or negative by our standards) comes naturally, but embodying that belief takes perseverant practise.

You are not the loneliest whale in the world

This image has been circulating for some time now, which in turn led me to conduct tons of google research on the topic, I dare you not to cry while reading:

weepingwhale

That image reminds me of conversations I’ve had with people, for a lack of better term conversations about whether “romantically unloveable” people exist.  Maybe, I’m dramatising, maybe it just means “companionship-less people”, people incompatible with companionship as is, any kind.  Kind of like the weeping whale, those people don’t project that “I’m the one that you want” vibe.  And that vibe has nothing to do with the human definitions of personality traits or concepts of beauty.

The reason why I’m blogging about this is because the other day, I felt like the weeping whale, for absolutely no rational reason, except perhaps my hormonal imbalance during PMS.  I was speaking to my friend about how it inspired me to write a post called “This is why you’re unloveable”, which obviously to her sounded like the most depressing thing she heard.  I didn’t mean it like that, it was meant to be a post about how being unloveable is a very common feeling, and how yes, you do have the power to reverse that train of thought.  So many people I come across feel like this whale, and clearly, I’m not exempt from those feelings! And then as I sat on a train for an hour or so, and as over-analysis worked its way through my brain, I realised how ungrateful and petty it is towards the whale to compare myself to his situation.  “No you don’t understand what the whale is going through, get over yourself and don’t demean his situation you human fool,” my inner voice shouted!

You are not the weeping whale, because no matter the frequency at which you fall in love, be it every year, every leap year, every dozen of years, or never, you have that possibility.  You are not the weeping whale, because you’ve missed so many opportunities! Not necessarily by close-mindedness, but because it wasn’t what you wanted at that point in time.  Which brings me to my next point: Don’t compare yourself to the weeping whale, just because you can’t have exactly what your greedy mind wants.

You are most definitely not the weeping whale, because you romanticise. You romanticise everything, from the person, to your feelings, to expectations.  It is those romanticised feelings that make you feel like the weeping whale; it is irrational and creates dissonance between your reality and your ideas.

Lastly, you are not the weeping whale, because you are not alone.  What you are is a picky introvert when it comes to ‘love’, with over analytical and idealistic tendencies  lifestyle. And that is okay.

One of the simplest lyrics that grounds me when I start feeling inept, in whatever the case may be, is probably by Regina Spektor “People are just people, they shouldn’t make you nervous.”   So all of you  who identify with this poor creature, and write poetry about your 52 Hertz reality, get out in the world, and get out of your head.

To a Mother,

To a mother who took me on long walks during rainy Sunday afternoons.  We would go by the river and skip stones, we would sit on park benches, me in my yellow raincoat, you probably in tweed, with beautiful shawls covering your shoulders and colourful Italian jewellery.  Everything felt so right back then.  We would walk the fields, where you knew everyone.  We would walk past that house up the hill where that old woman named Aisha lived, we would walk all the way past that river to go see Joe the Dog.  I’m not too sure whose Dog he was, but I liked playing with him.

To a mother who took me on long walks during sunny days in May.  We would go in forests, and I’d pick wild flowers.  Every now and then you would panic when you would think I was holding something poisonous, and would tell me to throw the plant away in your nervous tone that I know so well.  We would then go sit on our house’s balcony.  You made me juices out of fresh nettle, that I hated so much! You made me spinach that I refused to eat.  You’d tell me stories about how Masha, the girl from that book that I liked so much, lived on that hill that we could see in the distance from our house, and how she ate enough spinach to grow big and strong, and so I ate.

Later in the evening, as the world went quiet you would sing me russian lullabies, that I somehow understood.  To this day, images I pictured in my head as a child during those lullabies are so vivid and clear, as if that world exists somewhere.

To a mother who spoiled me enough to never make me feel like I had less, and never make me feel like I had more than other people.  To a mother who made me pick up litter when I would throw it on the street, who would refuse to let me drink juice made of concentrate, who let me bring in and take care of kittens that I would find in garbage bins, who would carry me on her back during long hiking trips, who brought me to theatre plays, who taught me how to read and write at such a young age, who bought me books in which I would spend hours drawing lined up girls without noses, who gave birth to my little sister after I had asked to have a sister.

To a mother who always made sure Santa Claus came, even during the hardest times, such as a civil war. There was that one year in 1992, you asked me if I was excited to see what Santa Claus had brought me in the morning, but concerned I replied that Santa Claus wouldn’t be coming because we did not have a tree, and we were away from home, to which you took out sheets of paper that you taped together and started drawing a big beautiful green christmas tree that we decorated with crayons. In the morning, Santa Claus came.  I will never forget that.

To a mother who made decisions based on what’s best for her children, to a mother who sacrificed her own freedom for mine, to a mother who tolerated and reciprocated my teenage fits of anger, to a mother who sometimes was child enough to talk back, to a mother who always told me she loved me and has called me cheesy names such as “snowflake” my entire life, despite my disdain. to a mother who ever since I can remember saw potential in me, when I to this day do not clearly see it.  To a mother who was brave enough to let me go and whose love I never, even once doubted,

thank you for being so courageous, thank you for being so kind to me and to everyone around you, thank you for all your life lessons and most of all thank you for understanding my choices and letting me live this life as I please, even if that, for now, means distance and seldom calls.  There is not one moment you are not in my thoughts, there is not one sleepless night I spend without wishing you were near. Happy Mother’s Day, mom. lilac

Homesick feelings

“Why do you go away?  So that you can come back. So that you can see the place you came from with new eyes and extra colors.  And the people there see you differently, too.  Coming back to where you started is not the same as never leaving.”

I was not too sure how to begin this post.  Earlier, I stepped into the shower with a heavy heart.  It happens every now and then.  It happens unexpectedly and is triggered by nothing in particular.  A long 20 something minutes spent standing under water, and the feeling still wasn’t washed away.  I decided to call my mom.  As the phone rang, my chest grew heavy.  The voicemail picked up and I articulated, very carefully, paying close attention not to sob a “Hi it’s me, I wanted to see if anyone was home.”  Then a voice came on, it was my mom’s.  She rushed to the telephone, and spoke, in a familiar Eastern European language, that I often forget I know.  And I started sobbing.  “I miss you”, I let out. I rarely ever tell my parents that I miss them or love them, although I constantly do, saying it out loud never came easy to me.  Today however, I missed them too much to bottle it in.  After an hour and a half long talk, I feel a bit better.

 “And I called through the air that night,
A calm sea voiced with a lie
I could only smile,
I’ve been alone sometime,
and all in all, it’s been fine…”

Although self-induced in my case, homesickness is also one of the most overwhelming states to be in.  In such state, I feel longing and nostalgia, both at once. I feel nostalgia for what has been, and even what could have been, and I feel longing to separate my consciousness in multiple entities and be in multiple locations, simultaneously.  Then melancholy takes over when I realise that my greedy mind will never fully be satisfied.  Homesickness comes with guilt about spending the precious time of being alive away from the people who matter the most to me.  It follows with a sense of senselessness as soon as I think about my experience of being away.  I have somehow managed to build a routine, just away from home.  It comes with anger that I deviated from my original objective of being entirely carefree, and that I no longer even know what my objective is.  Of course, frustration with my own self weaves its way in, and I get tired of myself for not seizing the opportunity, the moments, and for not being grateful for everything that I have achieved up until now, and of opportunities that I was lucky enough to be presented with.  Then existential depression takes over, full force; there is no now, is this all there was to it?

I did my best, it wasn’t much,
I couldn’t feel, so I tried to touch(…)

No, I never thought it would be easy, and it’s been easier than I intended it to be.  No, I didn’t think I was not going to miss my family and friends, I just thought that I would not have the time to realise that I miss them.  As a matter of fact, I have all the time in the world.  I do meet people, I spend evenings conversing with strangers, but I remain disconnected.  Of course, I realise now, that no matter where you go, you have to take yourself with you…There’s one thing I wish I could miss.

I fall in love with everything and everyone that was

I fall in love with everything and everyone that was.  I fall in love with everyone and everything ephemeral, namely.  I fall in love with the 60 year old white-haired man who’s making crêpes in a crummy pâtisserie in Montmartre; I fall in love with the woman I cross on the sidewalk, who smiles back at me;  I fall in love with the kind drug dealer who gives us directions on the metro, on how to get to Châtelet. I forget his name, but remember his face.  I fall in love with the pretty 20-something tour guide girl who’s guiding us through little streets that I’ve never walked before, and that I will never walk again.  I fall in love with the Australian traveler with a SLR camera taking photos of the mountain and of the city, and even with the Québecoise girl who didn’t understand English and who strayed away from everyone. I fall in love with the Cemetery at night, with David Hume’s grave and with everyone who lives, or who’s ever lived.  I fall in love with Bobby the dog, and wish I had a dog named Bobby. I fall in love with the French Piano player and the way he strolls his hands on the black and white keys; I fall in love with his voice,  his blue eyes,  his smile, and then I turn into a school girl.  I fall in love with the scribblings on the red wall and with the three strangers at the table next to ours who are humming the melody in a shy and composed manner.

I fall in love with the bartender in the plaid shirt and the pleasant look on his face; I fall in love with the man who looks like the Doctor from Doctor Who, simply because seeing him made my friend smile.  I fall in love with an old Greek man who drinks Guinness and whom I saw every evening in the bar where I worked, he was witty, kind and clever.  Now I don’t know him anymore. I fall in love with Guinness.

I fall in love with a country I’ve never been to, simply because I had a good time with people I met who come from there.  I fall in love with a new coworker, just because his mouth and demeanour reminds me of his.  I fall in love with a song, I fall in love with every song that played while we were having fun.  I fall in love with Thames, because we crossed it; I fall in love with space, because we watched it in the Planetarium.  I fall in love with a fictional character, because we invented it.

I fall in love with the hostel owner in Algarve, who invites me to work there during the next summer.  I never did.  I fall in love with an Italian girl and a Mexican boy because we share a 50′ of cheap beer together on the streets of Lisboa. I fall in love with Lisboa because that’s where we met and spent an all-nighter together before my flight to other places. We sat, just the two of us, until the dawn.  You told me something I wanted to hear, and everything feels right in that single moment. I fall in love with the darkness, because I wish it could last a little longer.  I fall in love with dawn, because that’s when you decide to walk me to a taxi and hold me tightly as if we’ve known each other our entire lives.  And then we part, and I fall in love with departure, because I would have never fallen in love with anyone or anything without it becoming but a memory of a moment that has passed.

by Nev.