Sunday, 30 January 2011

Live A Life, Not Win A Fight

You know how we're supposed to take stock of the year gone by at the beginning of the new one? To make promises for a better, brighter year. Resolutions. Well, yesterday I realised that the January is almost past. The sun is out. I read the blogs of people from more temperate climates and see them posting pictures of the first little plants braving the frosty earth. And I remember, from my days in Portugal, how the spring, for me, seemed to come with the beginning of February. So, I'd like to think that despite the freezing temperatures and snow and more snow, the spring is on its way. Come on, now, the flower shop at the nearby supermarket has brought out its seed shelf! But what I'm getting at is this, I have not made a single resolution for this brand new year. Haven't yet even so much as stopped to think back to the year we just left , to reflect on it all that much. Until yesterday.

There's a song by a British band The Editors called When Anger Shows

''It pulls you to the ground like soaking wet gloves
The change in your face when anger shows.''

For the past couple of weeks, I've been battling with not only growing exhaustion and the ever present fear of what that might entail, but also with feelings of anger. And that's not ok. That's not '' yeah ok but well it's all good it's all feelings, you know''. Anger is not good. It breeds hate, hatred. Bitterness and cruelty. It's like some slimy monster that starts its life as a small black spot at the center of your soul only  to grow little by little every time you feed it by giving your feelings of hatred permission to take over your mind. And before you realise, your smile is gone. Your eyes have become opaque to the beauty of everything around you. The anger has spread its tentacles to every part of your being, and even your body starts to speak a new langue. A language of defense and attack. 

Gandhi certainly had a point there.

I've heard this term of 'embracing anger' being used in context of glorifying it. In making it something to cherish, something to keep alive. I have seen, I know, what it can do. How it destroys the people who are angry, who hate, just as much as it does the lives of those it touches by proxy. Anger is addictive. You can get seriously hung up on the adrenaline rush. But in the end, it will, one way or another, burn you out. Without an exception. Now, there's anger and there's anger. What I'm talking abut here is not the 'damn-this-sock-not-another-hole-again-I-hate-my-life' sort of thing. I'm talking about the bona fide cold kind of hate, grown out of anger, and capable of terrible things. So, yes, embrace anger. Embrace it to death. Kiss it until it can no longer breath its poisonous fumes. Kiss it like my Daughter says, '' million trillion zillion times and infinite amount too'' when she wants me to cover her little face in little butterfly kisses. 

And frankly, I was not a little lost with these feelings of mine, not knowing how to deal, because you simply can not just brush something under the carpet and pretend its not there. What it will do is keep growing in hiding until there's a huge elephant right there in your room, a hulking mass under the carpet that you have to tiptoe around in fear of waking it. Also, in the past few weeks, some friends of mine have been going through a patch of seriously sad and upsetting stuff in their lives, and having to deal with that, no, make that being priviledged to be there to help what little I could, has made my getting rid of these feelings that much tougher. Sometimes, the extent to which us humans are capable of hurting each others just seems too damn much. Then, last night, I got an e-mail from a friend. And while it wasn't anything special as such, no marriages, babies, what you might expect, something in that letter just quite simply brought back to me the feeling of warmth, of calm in the middle of the storm. 

Friends. Love you.

So this morning, you know what I did? I danced while doing the ironing. Sung while doing the laundry. Hummed while pricking my finger on a needle trying to fix a ripped off ribbon on a vintage pillowcase. And saw the sun. Don't get caught up in the negativity. Let it shine. Peace.

And just in case somebody now thinks I am advocating endless turning of the other cheek, of allowing people to walk all over you, trust me, I'm not. There is a book by a Swedish psychologist,  Anna Kåver, called '' At Leva Ett Liv, Inte Vinna Ett Krig'' which, I'm afraid, has not been translated into English but basically means '' To Live A Life, Not Win A Fight''. She talks about seeing both your outer and inner reality, and accepting it. This acceptance does not mean stopping working towards changing the things in your life that need changing, it means stopping the fight against yourself and of life itself. According to her, there is an inherent paradox in this kind of acceptance, you can accept your situation as is and still continue to actively work and live according to your own values and objectives. 

Accepting reality, both in- and outside of yourself does not mean approving of it, but rather  it is a starting point for true change, for freedom. And living a life of constant mental fight is anything but freedom. Just ask any of the chronic PTSD sufferers around the globe. And yes, I know, I am obviously talking here from the relative perspective of the privileged westener. To those having to deal with the daily struggle of hunger, of war, these musings would obviously sound like what, to them, they undoubtedly are, ridiculous warblings, but we can, each of us, only truly see from our own subjective view and to each of us, there is only truly our own reality. And if us 'privileged westeners' weren't so hell bent on being angry with ourselves and everything round us, so busy with hating, of being bitter enough to think nothing can ever change, maybe there would be less hunger, less wars. Yeah, I wear my heart on my sleeve alright.

This year, I've learned the value of true friendship. I've learned that distance, being it geographical or that of time has little significance if there is true kinship of humans. I've learned to appreciate and respect who I am, and what my values in life are, so much more. I've had people enter my life, old acquaintances and new. And had some leave, old and new. There has been new life, babies born. And life that ended too soon, too abruptly. Leaving sorrow and the endless yearning of a child for its mother in its wake. I can still feel the tears coming when I think of that. I've made some very tough decisions, which, like dropping a stone to water, have caused ripples that will still take a long time to settle. All in all, it's been a year full of life. And you know what, I realised just a few days ago hearing someone complain about boredom, that I can not even remember when was the last time I felt that. So, quite likely, it's also been an entire year without ever having felt bored. Now there's a feat.

I have a pair of shoes sitting on top of a chest of drawers in my bedroom. Recently bought online, vintage. High heels, round toes, ankle straps. Petrol blue suede with antique gold trims. Photo will have to wait as I am currently sans camera. I keep them there instead of sticking them in the closet because they remind me that sooner than I think the roads will be clear of ice and I can put these shoes on, my dancing shoes, and give them a swirl on the sidewalk outside. Never mind the people watching, who cares if they think I'm nuts. I'll just accept that as their reality, keep dancing, and who knows, maybe, eventually, somebody will join me. Feel free.

Friday, 7 January 2011

This Ice Will Melt Too

Ok. I just deleted an entire post. Wowzee. Haven't done that one before. But it was just too close. Too personal. And it led me to thinking about turning this blog into a private one. But I'm not there yet, I am seeing this becoming more and more like a diary for me, but until the day I really, really feel that I just have to write something immensely personal out here, I will just keep on doing what I'm doing. 
And I'm also wondering if I should be slightly worried about the fact that for the past couple of days I've been listening to the same album over and over and over again. I'm talking about Through Low Lights And Trees by Smoke Fairies. There's something simply mesmerising, almost hypnotising about this music and I seem to be unable to get enough of it. Maybe it just fits in with January. It's just plain too cold and plain too dark out here now. Just the other day my car froze and refused to move. And when my Mother was driving us around, she managed to back into a snowy ditch so deep that my friend's husband had to get a neighbor with a 4WD vehicle to get the damned car out. And sure, some people claim to have spotted the sun, but I remain sceptical. Today I was out with the Daughter in the afternoon around three, and I saw the moon up there in the sky. Polar night, they call it. Just blasted cold, dark and miserable is what I call it. 

This is pretty much as much light
as there ever is
these days.
At midday.
Except here, the river is 
completely frozen
You can drive your car on it.

If your car is still moving, that is.

Some days, can't remember 
when was the last
time, though,
the sun is

...even if it only barely rises
 over the horizon.

So I keep telling myself that every day brings us closer to spring. Granted, it also brings me closer to something I would rather not think about right now, but sooner or later this ice will melt. The snow will make puddles for the Daughter to jump into. Icicles will drop from the eaves, and then eventually the first patches of green will start sprouting. And in April I will be one year older. One year wiser?  I wouldn't know, but time stops for no-one. Not even for January with all its power to freeze everything to the core. 

A while ago I saw a children's cartoon in which a mouse was wanting to trade places with the most powerful, the strongest thing there was. The thing that nothing and nobody could conquer. It wanted to be a cloud. No, the wind could blow it away. It wanted to be the wind. It wanted to be the sun. The moon. The earth. And it ended up being just itself, the mouse. Because nothing and nobody is invincible. There will always be something that will be stronger, more powerful than you are.  Maybe the mouse should have wanted to become time itself. It does not wait. It does not stop. And you never have as much as you think. It might be more, it might be less, but you can not know.

'' Through the coldest month
I held on to
a dying hope
that flickered in you.'
As the moon to the earth
Find a future 
I can believe.
There is a future
I can believe.''

Summer Fades by The Smoke Fairies

But until then, this is what I wear to go outside.

And this is our 'backyard' river.
Early afternoon.

But this is home. 
And it might not be all
fancy or glamorous,
but it's filled with
warmth and
things and 

And to end tonight with,
The Smoke Fairies,
After The Rain.

Sunday, 2 January 2011

Life Love Infinite Within You Always

Oh wow. It's been a rollercoaster of a christmas time and one seriously strange beginning of the brand new year.   And once again, I have found myself asking the same questions over and over again. Does it make you weak if you still, after having been proven time and again otherwise, refuse to believe that in order to survive, you have to turn your heart and soul into granite? Is it weak to cry over having your trust broken? Would you be a stronger woman, a stronger man, if you just didn't care? Would not caring make things that much more easier? And finally, what does it take to make one stop just giving a damn about love and just settling with 'this-will-do'?

I was going to say that I don't know, but I do know. Having your heart and soul being put through nine levels of hell in a one relatively short life-span, and still surviving with a heart that does more than just beat and a soul that refuses to give up, this is not weakness. And no Virgil here to guide us lesser mortals either. How fitting, though, that Dante made the ninth circle a place of ice, housing those guilty of treachery. Yeah. If you did not guess it already, this is not going to be one of those posts full of joy and pretty things. I'm already talking about Inferno here and I've only just started. Blimey.

William Blake - Dante's Inferno

And not caring? Sorry, can't do that. Call me a bleeding heart liberal if you wish, but can't do that. Not an option. You know, there was a time in my life when I thought that was indeed what I had to do, and by god did I do my best to get to that point of just not caring. And I failed. Miserably. So now I cry, I laugh, I walk into doors out of sheer happy absentmindedness. I love, I get angry, I stomp my foot and shout. I can walk up to pretty much anyone and not be intimidated by their money, their power, their possessions. Because these things do not matter. And don't get me wrong here, poverty is not pretty. There is nothing beautiful, nothing romantic about poverty, but above a certain line, making a living turns into greed, and there's nothing beautiful in that either. And besides, according to Dante, it would land us smack bang in the fourth circle of hell.

Now, I'm all for freedom of choice. We all have the right to choose the life we want to lead. To choose what it is we want to hold precious in our life. Is it kindness, generosity, love and honesty or something altogether more cold, more suited to this icy world of self-promotion and everything-for-sale mentality? It's spend more, right now, buy your way to happiness, that I see everywhere around me...

Yes, I have chosen never to be one of those people. I am aware of that. Simply by choosing moldy old literature as my specialty, by choosing academia instead of more commercial pursuits I have also chosen a way of life that will never give me the possibility of blind commercialism, but this was a one informed choice. This is what I want to do. This is what makes me happy. And I count myself lucky that I get to do what I love to do, for a living. Granted, it's not much of a living moneywise, but it is a living, and it is enough. And I do know what I am talking about. I did take the world of commerce for a spin there and believe you me, we were not a match made in career heaven. Me and books, me and writing, we are. 

Which reminds me, this morning I booked myself a lovely, tiny little loft in Brussels, Belgium, for my oncoming trip there in March. I will be attending a Brontë Society - weekend there, and am going to include some wandering-around-time into it as well. I mean, just look at these...

Pretty as a picture. That's Brugge, also in Belgium, and since I will be going to Belgium anyway, I could not possibly pass on an opportunity to see this beautiful little town. And so being it that besides books, I also love traveling, I really do consider myself lucky that I am able to do that as well. Granted, there are no luxury hotels, no fancy cars and gasp-at-the-bill trendy restaurants, but you know what, I am much happier in a rented little apartment like I managed to find for myself now. I have two feet that work most of the time, and getting 'lost' on foot is in my opinion one of the best ways of finding unexpected joys in any given place, and not that I don't like eating out, but I do believe that price and quality do not always go hand in hand in that respect either.

And being on the topic of traveling, I just now tore myself away from looking at tickets to Dublin. Been meaning to go there for a long time and what better time than now, seeing as I really need to air my brain out and I have an old friend living in there who will undoubtedly show me the 'merry old ireland'. And I get to take a peek at the Book of Kells, which has been tempting my imagination for a loooong time. Oh, and the Daughter has decided she wants to go to  Paris. Yes, my almost-four-years-old wants to go to Paris. With her Mommy, her Auntie and her Grandma. A girlie trip, she says. To museums, she says. To flea-markets. Wow. Can't imagine what next. Mommy I want to go to New York, maybe?

See, books and traveling, and what do you get, me, happy as a clam. I'm even smiling as I write now. From the ninth circle of hell to smiling about Paris, not bad, not bad at all. And the thing is, I do appreciate, I do value it when people do what makes them happy. What makes them content with their own life, whatever that may be. Me, I am what I am. I do what I do. And yes, I do believe in love. I do not believe in settling. I have loved in my life, and still love, and will never stop doing so. It is what makes us what we are. Just a few days ago I was asked on a date. Out of the blue. And I am mildly curiously searching myself for how I might be feeling about it. So far, not much, but who knows. But until then, love might not be all you need, but you know what, it is enough.