By Iulia Gheorghe
A few years ago, personality tests to find out your learning style were extremely fashionable. This is how I learnt that I was a visual learner and definitely not an auditory one. Listening exercises were, indeed, a pain in the ass. That didn't change in time.
Give me something to read or to watch (but not static youtube videos) and I will gladly summarize or memorize it. Give me something to listen... and after the first minute, my attention will get lost in the fields of daydreams, worries, crazy ideas, notes to self and phantasmagoria. Listening to something turns my mind into a lively jungle. Even songs are triggering hectic scenarios in my head. However, reading something turns my mind into a Swiss factory, a flowgasm state of mind as Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (does his lengthy surname ends in his first name?!) says in his famous book "Flow":
“But anyone who has experienced flow knows that the deep enjoyment it provieds requires an equal degree of disciplined concentration.”
That flowgasm feeling is more difficult to find when I'm listening to something. I have a weird relationship with podcasts: I love them, because I anticipate the fact that they are packed with wisdom and new things to discover, learn and enjoy, but some circumstances have to be reunited to actually start listening to them. A quiet day + a quiet brain + some spare time to spend guiltlessly. Hard to get these circumstances together, right? This is why I listen to podcasts quite rarely.
But when I do it, I lay off multitasking (drinking coffee is permitted AND encouraged, obviously) and I focus on the generous characters who are sharing a slice of their knowledge and feelings with the world. I also give myself a couple of hours to do that, so I would listen to a couple of episodes of different podcasts, like an auditory brunch.
What's on my menu?
Let's start with the frothy cappuccino. This is, for me, Design matters hosted by the wow-artist Debbie Millman. A classic, a goldie. Don't be fooled by the name, it's not a podcast about design, but on creativity in general, "an inquiry into the broader world of creative culture through wide-ranging conversations with designers, writers, artists, curators, musicians, and other luminaries of contemporary thought". You can start with the episode featuring Seth Godin, author, blogger and brand consultant, if you search for someone who is always giving resourceful advice.
My all-time favorite episode is the one with Brainpickings editor, Maria Popova. Maria knows and writes about tons of interesting things in a sensitive, yet very on point and humble way.
Next: some orange juice, freshly pressed, for rejuvenescence. The On Being podcast is more than an award-winning conversation about spirituality and its relationship with science, art and social issues; it's a journey thorough the different elements of what makes us human. Hosted by author Krista Tipett, this podcast is not only thought-provoking, but also shakes you to the core. Some episodes are so powerful, that after listening to them you feel almost shocked and ravaged. I recommend you this episode with doctor and author of "Being Mortal", Atul Gawande, on mortality and what matters most in the end.
After this deep moment, I need something delicious and fun, like eggs. "The Monocycle", hosted by Leandra Medine, mother and queen of Man Repeller and awesome human being. It's a funny, ultra-relatable monologue (quite unique, because most podcasts are conversations) that instantly makes you feel better and ready to go out in the world and kick some ass or jump in bed and have a party with your pillows. Exactly like after eating an omelette. If I had to pick one episode, it would be the one on self-esteem.
In Good Company
At this point, I need a coffee refill or I am going back to sleep. A shot of espresso. In Good Company, hosted by Otegha Uwagba, brand consultant and author of modern career guide Little Black Book, gives you that necessary dose of practical advice to make a step ahead on your professional pathway. Listen to this episode featuring Reni Eddo-Lodge, author of "Why I'm No Longer Talking To White People About Race" about the challenges of freelancing.
The Great Discontent
It's time for some amuse-bouche (also, it's that moment when you pop the Prosecco, because it's not morning anymore!). In 20 episodes, The Great Discontent podcast features 20 makers/artists/risk-takers whose stories give you the goosebumps and encourage you to finally be in charge of your dreams, because it's doable with the right strategies (and a pinch of Universe stardust). These people are so creative, they're making my brain speed on new ideas and concepts like a hamster on a wheel. The Great Discontent also offers an incredible collection of written interviews - check out my dearest one, with artist Elle Luna.
Of course I won't forget the croissants, which are a delicious treat anytime (even at midnight). Magic lessons by writer Elizabeth Gilbert are without any doubt the croissants. There is one episode for everyone, so I would recommend you to read the descriptions of all episodes and choose the ones that speak to your own doubts and unanswered questions. I love this podcast not only for its content, but also for Elizabeth's voice and friendly spirit.
Letters from a Hopeful Creative
The last course should be refreshing and healthy (at least this one!): fruit. I really enjoyed the new podcast hosted by online business owners and bloggers Sarah Tasker and Jen Carrington called Letters from a Hopeful Creative. They are answering letters from creative minds struggling with diverse obstacles like Instagram anxiety, quitting your day job, transforming your creative channel into a business in a condensed conversation, full of factual and valuable advice.
London Review Bookshops podcast
I think this is all, theoretically. Practically, I still have cake after fruit, so that would be the London Review Bookshops podcast - listen to episode 9, with Sheila Heti about her fascinating book "Motherhood".
Now it's your turn, I'm all ears!
By Iulia Gheorghe
Julie walking the golden line in the Far West © Carnetsdetraverse
I’ve never met you and still, I have to say those words that we usually say to a presumable soulmate whom we meet in a bar on a Friday night, and whom we (think we) want to marry, four hours later : I feel like I’ve known you for all my life. This may sound weird, but hey, it’s 1:54 am, almost a full moon and as a bonus, a total lunar eclipse tonight - things are expected to get crazy. Astrologers announce important shifts and movements, shadows to be exposed. Chani Nicholas warns us that « this eclipse is abundant in its ability to rip through the predictability of life and produce a completely new paradigm ». This unpredictability, you knew it very well. But your philosophy was to never doubt the beauty of being alive, even when life was playing us. Life is still playing us, Julie. Life is still beautiful, though.
What I am writing right now was not supposed to be a letter. I wanted to write an article about travelling, in a funny tone; my regular, typical one. I wanted to write about shiny & shitty moments while travelling. I am sure you had some of those, too. I wanted to write about travelling as an introvert and I think you would have understood me. And I particularly wanted to write about travel shaming. Unfortunately, it became part of the current travel culture, to despise the conventional forms of travelling. Tourist-bashing is flourishing, be an adventurer or go home. I cant’ be that kind of traveler. Sometimes, I only want to lie my head on a sand dune and breathe. I think that there is definitely place for all of us and places for everyone to enjoy and fall in love with forever. Why bothering with labels ? We are born travelers : in space, in time, in between loaded hearts and twisted minds. Touristy places can be magical. Your photos of Venice are a perfect example. In one of the captions, you were saying that you were feeling like an explorer discovering a new world. I think you were also exploring your own artistic world, whimsically.
I felt like seawater, and your written words were the breeze that kept carrying me from one shore to another, from one city to another
Beside your exquisite aesthetics in photography, there were your notes. And your notes were the ones who made my gut mend, my eyes produce droplets of salty fluid, my exhale wispy – I felt like seawater, and your written words were the breeze that kept carrying me from one shore to another, from one city to another, from one highway to another, from Tokyo to Ireland, from Jack London to Hemingway. You built a travel cosmos, complete and truly inspiring, without the FOMO and all the crap. Carnetstraverse is one of those social media universes which doesn’t let you quit social media. The eye is genuinely trapped in that moment captured by an image ; in the meantime, all of one’s senses are awoken by your belles lettres – the humbleness of this powerful combo gave me goosebumps and God, I love this feeling.
Julie, three hours ago I started an article about traveling and I deleted everything, because something was missing and I remembered my favorite travelling account on Instagram and I searched for it, found it and everything was sublime as usual and then, only after a few seconds, I asked myself why are they travelling without her? Somehow, the algorithm didn’t show me the video posted this winter on your feed. Somehow, the algorithm refused the unbelievable.
I am re-reading the last paragraph and I find so many ands. Maybe it’s a word that unfolds something about you. Julie and Renaud. Julie and Renaud and Louise. Renaud and Louise.
I instantly felt like travelling back home
Julie, they are doing such a great job. I can feel the same grace, smoothness and finesse when I swipe through their journeys that I felt when I swiped through yours. Right now, it’s the crispy aura of the Norwegian coast. They are sailing together, Renaud and Louise. In one of their latest posts, he talks about the Norwegian light in summer - alive, glistening, empowering – reminding him about Romania. I instantly felt like travelling back home.
I feel like travelling back to myself. Back to a blank page. Maybe it’s because of that eclipse stuff or maybe it’s because of you. I searched for my own carnets. They are not red, as I understood yours are. They were waiting on a dusty shelf, and it’s the first time when I’ve had the courage to look at them with a clear intention: another kind of journey, which doesn’t involve planes, Google maps and Airbnb. But it does involve good things, or at least I hope so.
There are good things here, Julie, you said.
You wrote it in your travel note « 03 -The Hacienda » in February 2016 :
I see spinning Renaud, bright eyes and smile on the lips,
A silent nod and a camera in his hand.
I know what it means. There are good things here.
First moments in the Hacienda San Jose,
The air is very sweet, I would say 26 or 27 degrees,
An elegant jungle all around us; extraordinary large trees, walls of blue color, ocher, yellow.
Jungle songs, birds of paradise here and there.
Around every building I expect to meet my dear Hemingway, a glass of gin in hand, welcoming us.
I close my eyes and I am standing in that garden of the Hacienda. Your notes are quantum spaceships. Thank you for sparking my « eureka » moment through them. Thank you for your desire to continue your project through your legacy and your family, inspiring others to take a pen or a camera in their hands. Julie, I hope Hemingway welcomed you, a glass of gin in his hand as you wished. I don’t know where, but perhaps another traveler, like Kerouac, might know that better.
There was nowhere to go but everywhere, so just keep rolling under the stars.
By Iulia Gheorghe
It never took me such a long time to write an article as this one. Maybe it’s the anxiety to write about anxiety. I am attempting one more time to finish it and, weirdly enough, I’m currently googling "time on Mercury” and ending up reading about how long a year lasts on the other planets. The thought that a year on Neptune lasts as long as 164 Earth years makes me acknowledge that in the best case scenario, people live for a half of a Neptunian year. I’m not very good at math, but it means that me postponing writing this article took, in fact, a couple of seconds in Neptunian time. So let’s pretend for a second that we all live there, while we can. Buh-bye anxiety. In fact, on Neptune I don’t feel I’m losing time. On Neptune, lifetime is short, but time feels expanded. Exactly like a moment spent in anxious “bigbens”.
During March, I did an Insta poll asking my friends what topics would they like to read about, if they had to choose between anxiety and criticism; most of them chose anxiety. Of course, criticism may be hard to process, but nothing is harder than swirling through the anxiety spiral. Somehow, anxiety is like a guardian angel gone crazy. Our brains are wired to worry, but can we make this guardian angel less wacky?
When shitty things actually do happen, we end up, in most cases, good or at least better than we’ve anxiously imagined in vivid fantasies. However, damage is done, because living in a permanently anxious mode is life-consuming and eventually burning us out. In order to do something effective about it, we have to go to the core of anxiety’s functioning system: sweating palms and breathing into a paper bag are only the tip of the iceberg (and the stereotypes circulating in media and cinema when depicting an anxious person).
This is why I deeply relate to Sarah Wilson’s story about anxiety in her book “First, we make the beast beautiful”. It's almost like an invitation into a lab/library/safe space, where her personal struggles meet philosophy, poetry, psychology, science and oriental wisdom in a frank exploration of a feeling that turns our heads and hearts upside down. There is one main idea that made me understand better the language of anxiety, and helped me create a toolkit ready to use in anxious times. I could see clearly through it, and was reminded about my spiritual self.
The idea was this:
High-functioning anxiety is the bitch.
You can be suffering from anxiety even if you are not blushing, sweating, losing your words or trying to breathe. This is the description of a panic attack and not all anxious people experience it. A lot of us suffer from high-functioning anxiety, committed to doing and being busy and especially being needed and solving everything by planning, sorting, running and moving as fast as we can:
“We are a picture of efficiency and energy, always on the move, always doing. We’re Rabbit from Winnie the Pooh, always flitting about, convinced everyone depends on us to make things happen and to be there when they do. And to generally attend to happenings.”
I have this image in my head of me, maybe three years ago, in my shower: instead of relaxing after a hectic day, I kept ruminating on and on about all the things I didn’t do and should have done and those ridiculous thoughts tangled in a thick mass like a fur ball. Except that I wasn’t as wise as a cat and I didn’t spit it out. I guess nobody could suspect that I was experiencing anxiety in that way. High-functioning anxious persons rarely manifest something beneath the surface. You watch those people going up and smiling and they look perfectly fine, more than fine, they seem productive and successful and always doing something new, never “sleeping on it”.
As Sarah Wilson pinpoints very well, while depressed people are stigmatized, high-functioning anxious people are sanctified, but often their busyness is a way to protect themselves: doing to forget, doing to avoid, doing to feel useful. This behavior leads eventually to more anxiety, as we are always feeling that something is missing and we are less and less connected to our own core:
“We don’t have time to adjust, to work out our priorities, and to reflect on whether what we’re doing when we’re running around madly is actually meaningful to us.”
The ugly truth is that anxiety does not only hit hard, but also, it hits frequently. In this very moment, I feel a wave of anxiety banging my mind. “First, we make the beast beautiful” is a book that simply breathes resourcefulness; thus, should I write a lengthy article about all the problems and solutions tackled or should I just invite the reader to grab it and digest it in his/her own manner? Why am I anxious about all this? Maybe because of the same reason we accept anxiety in our lives, in the very first place: we want to do what’s best and we forget the joy of just experiencing that activity as mindful as we can, without worrying about the future (and trust me, worry is my middle name). Why can’t I be serene and grateful to be able to read an enlightening book and to write something about it on a blog that I’m writing with a friend? Instead of feeling anxious, I would rather feel blessed to have the opportunity to own a bookshelf (better yet, two of them, a classical one and a virtual one), an outlet to express my feelings and my voice, a writing companion, friends that read my scrambled thoughts and a comfy couch to sit and type when I feel in the mood for it. All this is precious stuff for me. It’s abundance.
When I first scribbled some ideas about this article, I wanted to write about the mental health kit of an anxious person. There is one thing in this kit whose presence, in my opinion, is not negotiable: gratefulness. Gratefulness made me understand what really mattered, and as Sarah said “I also emerged knowing this was enough. It was perfect.”
By Iulia Gheorghe
A couple of days ago, I was chatting with a friend about the labyrinthal path to self-confidence, dragging through it and having to deal with its sinuous serpentines, flooded lanes, gloomy caves, soggy mud-holes. Whoa, what a view to boost the stamina of two girls galvanized by the desire to figure it all out and in the same time knowing that it’s undoubtedly impossible. We could have poured some real cocktails on our thoughts to forget about the self-confidence cocktail, but she suggested pushing the investigation further.
So I called, one more time, on my beloved friends, the books. Beware of whoever tells you that you will find the absolute truth in a book (you are allowed to cross the street next time you will meet that person). Anyway, even if they existed, absolute truths would be like sirens: breath-taking in one’s imagination, hideous in reality. This is why, when I face a burdensome issue, I search in books not remedies and recipes, but morsels of wisdom, a different approach to discover other angles, a new and unexpected trail towards an answer.
I got back to some of those I read or skimmed and tried to understand why the process of becoming self-confident was paved with burning rocks which ironically turned us cold feet. All authors agreed that you couldn’t become fundamentally self-confident without self-respect. Amy Alkon (popular columnist also known as the Advice Goddess) writes in her book “Unf*ckology. A field guide to living with guts and confidence”:
“I won’t bullshit you. The road to self-respect is paved with humiliation and setbacks. Most of mine involved my desperate attempts to be loved. We all want love, but I had ulterior motives. In fact, the last thing I cared about was all that lofty crap like shared goals, resonating values, and building a life with another person. I just wanted to be wanted.”
Alkon discusses the self-confidence element in creating and developing romantic relationships, but what she says relates also to our professional relationships and the persona we build up at work. Precarious work markets and prevailing totems as perfectionism and marathons of achievements push us to the edge of wanting to be chosen, credited for and appreciated.
We crave to be wanted and in order to arrive there, we are capable of forgetting about the common sense values like fairness, loyalty or solidarity. This is why a lot of accomplishments don’t make us feel accomplished in the end. Perhaps we’ve lost the main essence of self-respect somewhere on the road. That “wanting to be wanted part” gets us to do things that we labelled as unthinkable in our adolescence, when we were rebel and full of dreams. Things like eating shit. And the most terrible part is that, generally, we eat shit because of assholes - nice people wouldn’t put us through it.
One would be tempted to minimize an assohole’s influence on one’s life, believe that things could get better in time, or worse, that they could help assholes magically change (that happens a lot in movies, but even the Easter bunny has more chances to exist. Don’t get me wrong, change is possible, though is has to come from within the asshole and I know something about it ‘cause I’ve done some assholish things in the past. The only solution is to get the hell out of there as the “Asshole Survivor Guide” outlines:
When you’ve entered a den of assholes, you do everything possible to get out as fast as you can—or, better yet, to figure out how to avoid that lair in the first place.
Thank you, Robert Sutton (author of the guide and professor of management science) for insisting on prevention. Once we find ourselves involved with assholes (in no matter what kind of relationship) it’s pretty difficult to get out fast enough to avoid deep pain and trauma. If you feel stuck, try to focus on step-by-step solutions instead of ruminating on and on about the deep shit you’re in. Schedule time to think about those solutions – your first thought is rarely the best thought - instead of hurrying up to please every soul on this planet. There is a price to pay: maybe you will end up single, with less friends, facing a boss who hates you or not making so much money as you did before, but I guess when we find ourselves in this unwieldy situation, we’ve already experienced that feeling of “nailing it” and still feeling as empty as an abandoned champagne bottle after a New Year’s party.
If we build self-confidence only on the ground of perfectionism or serial achievements, we will probably finish by feeling miserable, because life streams are unpredictable, tumultuous and no matter how well we do, we can still hit rock bottom anytime. In those critical moments, we need something else than ephemeral successfulness to fuel that self-confidence engine.
In the foreword for Pema Chödrön’s (author and Buddhist nun) book, “Fail, Fail Again, Fail Better”, Seth Godin, bestselling author and former dot com business executive, pinpoints that going forward is to give up on “getting all the frogs in the bowl.” Getting all the frogs in a bowl is impossible (if you don’t want to euthanize them), as the frogs jump and you have to start all over again. Instead he suggests dancing while frogs continue to jump. Maybe you are telling yourself: “No, thank you, this would imply doing mistakes and witnessing messy outcomes. I will end up with a shattered self-confidence, that’s for sure”.
Naturally, the fear of failure is a terrifying place for self-confidence (the feeling of failing is goddam bitter), but eating shit is so much worse, a guided missile to ruin in the long run every ounce of self-worthiness.
If we look carefully enough in our multi-layered, multi-dimensional self, we can identify that version of us who can dance while frogs are jumping. That “me” who is confident enough - even when walls are collapsing and tornados are turning everything upside down. We can try to connect to that part of ourselves, by emerging in something that we love and makes sense to us. Life coach Jen Sincero, in her book “You are a Badass”, made it clear that this wasn’t necessarily about making fortune or solving the universe’s problems.
“Your calling could simply be to take care of your family or to grow the perfect tulip. This is about getting mighty clear about what makes you happy and what makes you feel the most alive, and then creating it instead of pretending you can’t have it. Or that you don’t deserve it.”
Going to that place, getting to know that “someone” inside us, already self-confident because he/she is doing something for the sake of it and not for validation or approval from somebody's ego, is essential for the trip to self-discovery. Ok, I agree, maybe it feels more like a bungee-jumping session than a real trip. But good news, that “someone” is ready to help us on how to say no to bullshit and focusing on doing instead of on being perfect. That “someone” is already in you, so give it a try and say hello. Who knows what can happen. Last but not least, take one more wisdom bullet (from writer Kathryn Harrison) for the road to fire it up when you find yourself discouraged and sitting in a puddle of wet Kleenex tissues:
“ We can’t control so much of what happens to us in life. Even our own actions unfold in time in ways we can’t possibly imagine. But there is someone inside who remains untouched by all of that. That person may not really exist in the light, but she is there, waiting, in the dark.”
by Diana Rusu
They say that the age of personal essays is over. Well fuck them.
London is a scary place. It’s like a pair of glasses that you don’t really need, except maybe for reading, but they don’t seem to help anyway. What they do help at is seeing your past as if it were someone else’s. You can rub your eyes all you want, you’re still going to remember the way that Mr. C. from Secondary used to make you jump those old vaulting boxes, climb those weird wall bars or push up those smelly gym mats – and all this whilst he was sending one of the boys to get him a pack of fags from the nearest shop. He used to smoke one in less than a minute. A cigarette, not the whole pack. And I still don’t know if I invented the memory or it was really me on that bench pretending to be sick just to skip the class.
The way we were told that we were normal if we were straight and didn't come from a Romani family. If we were sometimes bullied.
I found myself dreaming about that gym many of times, but the school looked totally different. It was always empty in my dreams, dodgy, always obscure; not in total darkness, but kind of like on a shitty, rainy afternoon. In my dreams, I would rush up the stairs, walk all along the corridors, looking for the one door that would be my classroom. I wouldn't go in, instead I would feel that I'm in someone else’s dream and I was living some place far away. This made me feel happy and safe, knowing I'm actually years and miles away from it. I took so much pride in this imagining I’m someone else, that writing came to me in perfect timing. I was doing pretty good at everything, but after the first few years of school, things started to shake. I was 13.
My first diary was a maths notebook. It had cars on the covers. No, that was my second one, after I’d lost the first one – which I kept away from my sister’s hands, hiding it in different locations all over the house. I’d probably lost its track, but when I started the second one, the year was ’99.
Ace of Base was still banging on the radio with all that she wants is another baby, she's gone tomorrow. And no one told me it's alright to feel that way for all the people I was attracted to.
My diary entries were usually about how I liked this or that boy in school (always more than one, usually two or three) or how I fantasized having a girlfriend after I've had my first boyfriend, what was I going to do that holiday, where did my family go last Sunday. It was great, I was writing pretty much every day. And my sister found it, eventually. Ripped off the first page and ran into the garden with my cousin, reading from it out loud and having a blast.
I have never felt such humiliation before. But of course, I had to let it go, I'd grown used to her/ their abuses. When I finally got it back, I just looked for a new hiding place. Life went on and so did my diaries. After a while, I had so many notebooks that it was useless to hide them anymore. They became poetry practice, fragments, drama exercises, one time I even wanted to write a novel. I was awfully bad at it. Horrendous. So, when I went to college I started my first blog.
During uni, things got out of control. I was writing blog after blog. Writing, editing, deleting, writing, chatting, emailing. There was a thirsty beast inside me that just wasn’t ever content with what she had, it always had to be more, and better.
Back then, I would have given anything to hear people say about me “she lives in Paris and London”, but that was just my way of being a Bovary while ignoring the educational and social system of my country, feeling stuck, unable to do anything about it. The traumas that I had gone through made me shift from Earth to another planet.
Today, I feel like coming down and taking over my body; and my life. I feel like becoming myself, eventually. Like all the pain and crying sessions and panic attacks have fled from my heart and I am blooming, coming down to earth back to my body and back to my roots. I see them now, I see the roots growing inside me, feeding on light. I watch the picture again, like trying to convince myself that I am wrong. I am looking backwards through my retroverted uterus, back into my body. And it's only me in there, my roots all over the place. What have I done?
by Iulia Gheorghe
If feelings had different colours, I would definitely be the Coastal Scents 252 Color Ultimate Eye Shadow Palette. As Feist says, I feel it all. I almost feel pregnant with a pulsatile rainbow that kicks and bounces from the top of my head to my pinkie toes (I don’t really know why, while writing this, I found myself searching pinkie toes on Youtube, but I can’t help it but share with you my discoveries). I don’t really show my feelings a lot, because for a long time I really disliked contrast and contradictions, and it happens that feelings are often contradictory and conflicting. There is, however, one feeling that I didn’t know much about. Sadness. I can be often angry, grieving, hurt, in pain, in denial or nostalgic, desperate or heartbroken, but rarely sad. Though when I feel it, I can almost palpate it, an invisible lump stretching under my forehead.
I felt sadness again a couple of days ago. It was just another Facebook pause, or at least that’s what I thought it was. And then I played this video in which Nigerian writer Chimamanda Ngozie Adichie was asked by a French journalist if there were bookshops in Nigeria. The novelist was invited by France’s foreign ministry to appear as guest of honour at a cultural event. And then this question kicked in.
“When you talk about Nigeria in France, unfortunately there is not much said about Nigeria, when people talk about Nigeria it’s about Boko Haram, it’s about violence, it’s about security,” the journalist added.
Of course that Adichie responded in her wisely, yet irreverent, extremely intelligent way. But there I was, starring at the screen, feeling sad out of the blue.
I felt sad because I felt living in a world where the shit hit the fan. First we had the hate speech. Then the post-truths. And now, hooray, we violently indulge in feeding ourselves with assumptions and stereotypes, sometimes even pretending to lead the good fight against political-correctness (I would be so curious to see how the wise minds who attack political-correctness would survive - with a clean conscience - in a society based on anti-political correct principles). We tend to mirror ourselves in others: when what we see is different from what we expected to see, we become somehow worldblind, even if we are tied to the otherness on every level and layer of our existence.
I felt sad because it’s 2018 and we still divide people from developing countries in two groups: the savage majority and the brilliant exceptions who are actually forced to come up with various narratives in order to prove that “progress has been made” in their home countries. As Chimamanda wrote in Americanah:
“But of course it makes sense because we are Third Worlders and Third Worlders are forward-looking, we like things to be new, because our best is still ahead, while in the West their best is already past and so they have to make a fetish of that past. Remember this is our newly middle-class world. We haven’t completed the first cycle of prosperity, before going back to the beginning again, to drink milk from the cow’s udder.”
I felt sad because we live in an era of being able to access information at anytime, anywhere and there still are journalists (influencing directly the public opinion) who don’t do their job properly and build up interviews and storylines on lazy assumptions. If only the journalist had listened to Chimamanda’s Ted talk The danger of a single story. If only she had understood that “when we reject the single story, when we realize that there is never a single story about any place, we regain a kind of paradise.” If only she had read Americanah, maybe she would have learnt about how not to ask ethnocentric questions.
I felt sad because memories came up the surface, fragments of dialogues that I pushed so hard and so far away in a grotto of unwanted souvenirs. You know, like when something whacko happens and you close your eyes hoping that when you open them, the chaos will be gone.
“Do you have toilets in your country?”
“Why they can’t be all like you, so well integrated?”
“Why so many girls from your country become prostitutes instead of getting a real job?”
As Katie Roiphe pinpoints “such small word choices, you might say. How could they possible matter to any halfway healthy person? But it is in these choices, these casual remarks made while holding a glass of wine, these throwaway comments, these accidental bursts of honesty and flashes of discomfort that we create cultural climate; it’s in the offhand that the judgments persist and reproduce themselves”.
I think those snippets of conversation made me feel as a transplanted organ in a body that can’t decide whether it accepts or not that unknown group of cells that didn’t belonged to it from the very beginning. The journalist’s question to Chimamanda Ngozie Adichie triggered that soreness in myself.
We often talk about our happy places, but I’ve discovered my sad one. It’s haunting, damp and quiet, but I have a masochist pleasure to visit it from time to time.
photo by Diana Rusu
some mornings I wake up to a different time in history
a different place from what I already knew is there, wondering, asking around, mimicking the question Is there another place than here
I imagine myself a man on stage reading out loud with his face and mouth taking the shape of every single word, like dancing - of this poem
reading it to a black room full of nothingness and pain; his insides are colorful, and I'm coming alive on that piece of paper he's holding as I reach the air, the human form of being; I feel caressed, stroked, embraced, kept warm, protected
nina simone playing in the background, dimmed lights, morning after
I wanted it to be summer; to wear a festival outfit, greedy to go out in nature, craving sunsets
chilly summer weather and that you are mine and I am yours reassuring hug
boozing around, dancing when you're not too tired, casting spells at the same nature that
created us, destroyed us and now is asking for redemption
we are her women. we miss having each other, touching each other, being each other
we are clouds travelling beyond the yellow lines
weird little houses, leafy trees, not wearing makeup today, sensing the smell of meat and the noises and everything that existed before today - the background does no longer exist
to warm up the air we need to feel naked without a book and have no shadow
closing the doors; mind the doors
my eyes are doors opening for the sun light, the paint light, the inside light
the sea light
by Diana Rusu
“Once you can tell a story - you can find people with similar stories and you can build a community. I guess writing is a tool for me to find people.”
A poet, playwright and performer whose work has appeared in print at Words Dance, The Delinquent and in other anthologies and publications, as well as on stage at the Vault, Brighton Fringe, Clear Lines and UNHEARD Festivals – Tanaka Mhishi is a busy, creative Londoner doing various writing workshops, collaborations with the BBC and touring an inspiring show for kids, called “Boys don’t”. His current on-going project is called “Icepick” and it is a Literary podcast that brings new works to an audio platform by creating a nice fusion between writers and voice actors. We met up with Tanaka and discussed all about writing!
Diana: Now, you probably know more about the London writing and performing scene than I do, so can you tell us what does this scene look like today? And in today, where are you, with all this content that you create?
Tanaka Mhishi: There’s lots of literary tiny worlds in London; there isn’t one overall scene, but I feel like where I am is really interesting. There’s this movement of spoken word and performance poets into traditional theatre spaces and they are shaking up the form, and that is about what performance poetry is, as well. There are some amazing spoken word shows, poetry publishers who are now publishing scripts of these spoken word shows, so all of that is really fun and I’m really enjoying it. The scenes are converging and I get to introduce poetry friends to theatre friends.
D: When did it all start? I mean, what was the first piece that you have ever written?
T.M.: I always think that’s a really hard question to answer because, if you go back far enough, we’re all just children who played. I feel like at 12, 13, 14 – you start to get serious and then all of the creative stuff emerges, so I think that’s when I thought “Oh, I don’t want to lose that stuff”. But I did write some really bad poetry as a teenager!
D: Me too! I think we all did. It’s just something that you must to go through; you have to start from somewhere.
“I had no idea about confessional poetry or feminism or any of these things, but I was just like “Oh, ok, there is this dead American woman who has put into a poem so much of what I’m feeling and she’s speaking to me from another era, from a completely different life”
T.M.: Yeah, it has to be bad before it gets any better. I do remember that moment, it was in English class, it was Sylvia Plath and like a lot of people I had a moment of rough time with my parents at that time, so I was reading “Daddy”. With no context whatsoever, I was 14 – 15 and I had no idea about confessional poetry or feminism or any of these things, but I was just like “Oh, ok, there is this dead American woman who has put into a poem so much of what I’m feeling and she’s speaking to me from another era, from a completely different life, and she gets me more than people around me – that’s kind of magic! It’s like time travelling! I thought that I could do this as well.
D: A lot of young kids find their inspiration first inside their family, or close community. I know I had peaked at my dad’s journals where he’d written poems in his troubled youth, and so I wanted to copy that. Did you have creative people in your family growing up? Did they support you in the process?
T.M.: Yes and no. Both of my parents were incredibly talented creative people. My mother was a visual artist and my father a musician. But all of this was ancient history by the time I was growing up. They would be creative in very quiet ways and neither of them viewed it as a viable career. I remember thinking that I’m not going out like that: they sacrificed their creativity for me, but I’m definitely not doing that. I want to make this work as hard as I can.
“I think the idea of creativity and art is a gift”
My mom was an incredible artist. I had story books as a child, but she would paint the story books and put me into the stories, and she would make them for me. It was wonderful, but I was the only one who experienced them. I think the idea of creativity and art is a gift and as a contribution it was really there in my family.
D: Research – creative – social issues – body trauma – gender – race. Writing and performing about all of this can be extremely hard, yet I know it offers not only you but also to anyone who will listen, a deeper understanding. What are you writing about at the moment?
T.M.: When I started out it was the performance poetry that led me into theatre, as theatre is more versatile. Now I’m doing a kids’ show called “Boys don’t” which is about masculinity for ages 8+ and it’s teaching boys a little bit more about emotional intelligence. I also have this other end of my work, where I talk about sexual violence in a very adult research context. And then, there are all sorts of stuff in between. I also work with the media every now and again, with the BBC and The Observer.
D: I guess if you want to tell your story no matter through what outlet, you have to use all of them.
T.M.: Yes, and also it keeps me from getting complacent. I know that if I just do one thing over and over again, I’ll stop pushing and I’ll stop learning. And I guess it always comes down to language, that’s the thread that runs through everything. One of the questions you sent me was would I rather be a writer or a performer? And I had a whole identity crisis! I really don’t know! They’re both so entwined. The thing with the writing and performing is that I get a chance to be a hermit and then once I’m prepared, I get to share my work. So, I think the two are really connected. But I wouldn’t perform without writing, I’m not an actor.
“I write a lot for other people”
D: Tell me more about what inspires you to write, from literature to real life.
T.M.: It comes from many places; a lot of it is autobiography. I do have that thing where I’m always watching my experiences and think “oh, this is good material”, which is a weird way to live your life and sometimes it’s not the healthiest. Everything is sort of autobiography in some point.
I write a lot for other people. There’s a show that will be going on in February, which came out after a long conversation that I had with a friend of mine who was saying that she never sees full lives of queer, lesbian or bisexual women represented – you always see cut-ups; you never have the sense of longevity or the sense of a person aging – in terms of the representation that we get. You don’t see relationships that have been there for twenty years. Very often. And I can see how it might be difficult, in the sense that you don’t have a picture of what your life will look like in 40 years from now. But I’m a writer, so this is something that I can do. A lot of the times I’m responding to a lack of stories and weird gaps, or things we don’t talk about. Of course, everything is in one way or another, meant to fill a gap that you have in yourself.
D: Speaking of real life, I think traumas have a big role when it comes to writing.
T.M.: There’s this really interesting theory in trauma studies about language, for example, one definition of trauma is “an event or a series of events that you cannot process through the language senses of your brain”. The actual pain is described such a thing that happened, but you cannot tell a story about it. So, for me, being able to tell a story, being able to put it in words is very important because words are what we use to connect to each other. Once you can tell a story you can find people with similar stories and you can build a community. I guess writing is a tool for me to find people.
D: It takes a huge amount of courage to write about yourself. You can go above and beyond of finding yourself, belonging to yourself and then not belonging to yourself anymore, but to your audience. And that’s scary and beautiful. What is your creative process?
“I helped someone; that was worthwhile. I could do that for the next 60 years of my life and that would be fulfilling for me”
T.M.: I had a moment when all of that crystalized for me. I was 20. I had a really good friend who went through a dark period. I ended up doing a lot of care there, I was happy to do it but I wasn’t the priority, so all of my feelings went into poetry. Later I performed one of those poems and afterwards, this woman came up to me and she said “I’m really glad you did that poem, because I went through almost the same thing as you and hearing it, has helped me.” And I remember I was really glad. I helped someone; that was worthwhile. I could do that for the next 60 years of my life and that would be fulfilling for me. And that’s such a blessing to have. I knew then that this is not just about me.
D: My last question is what is your favourite poem? And if you could have written any poem from anywhere in the world, at anytime in history, what would that be?
T.M.: Wild geese by Mary Oliver.
by Iulia Gheorghe
When I write, I do it in a pretty unorthodox way: nesting in the couch, with my notebook as a faithful lapdog, a dozen of pens, a cup of cooled coffee, and a hodgepodge of post-its, magazines, paper clips, plastic flowers, tiny bottles of perfume, a laptop, some chewing gum reigning on the table in front of me and a couple of books on my left and right side. This is not a Bible-inspired scene, but I have this peculiar pleasure of choosing three-four volumes from the bookcase and flipping through them while reflecting and writing. Sometimes I read a fragment, but I often just sit there, smelling the pages, touching them, fixing the cover and charging with some kind of creative energy that I can’t really explain, only genuinely sense. I don’t belong to a bizarre cult of having a physical relationship with books, but I do agree that I consider them resourceful and inspiring companions.
Books are friends that emulate, stimulate and mind their own business (THE thing to do in 2018 according to Issa Rae), such a rare and precious blend for my inner balance. The ones which stand beside me at this very moment are also those which shattered some of my deep-rooted beliefs and deviated the linear perspective I had on diverse topics, which all finally relate to what it means to be a human being in this universe. They shade some light on several murky spots and even if I don’t like to stick to universal truths, they definitely answered my questions from new, invigorating angles.
If you haven’t read them, maybe 2018 is the perfect year to invite them on a date: be ready to succumb to their snappy charm, catchy rhythm and pertinent remarks.
You are wired to worry
I am a natural born worrier who refused to accept the easy way out of the rumination jurisdiction. As a fashionista sets trends, I am a “what could happen-ista” who sets a myriad of possible scenarios to every encountered situation. Thanks to Allan Watts (click here to watch a short inspiring video), stoic philosophy and some eureka moments from my daily existence, I succeeded in slowing down the worry machine. Occasionally, worries are still unmanageable no matter what and they feel like small bones crackling in my chest. I would like to spit those bastards out, but it feels like they are part of my skeleton configuration, like stars (at first sight faraway from each other) are tied in ethereal constellations. Is it possible that worrying is encoded in my genes?
This is where historian Yuval Noah Harari steps in with his “full of shocking and wondrous stories”, as the Sunday Times reviewed his masterpiece Sapiens. A brief history of humankind pinpointing that « From the very advent of agriculture, worries about the future became major players in the theater of the human mind (…) The stress of farming has far-reaching consequences. It was the foundation of large-scale political and social systems.”
I understood better why I felt those extra-bones in my body. I am wired to worry; as our ancestors started to worry from the moment they planted their first harvests. A lot of things could have happened. Droughts, soil erosions, flooding, war. Millennia have passed; nevertheless we are still fretful in front of the harvests of our actions and the jungles of the uncontrollable variables of our lives. A lot of things still can happen. The drought of our bank accounts, the erosion of our relationships, the flooding of our desires, the war among our intentions. When will the rain come has turned into When will that phone ring?
Sure enough, worrying has a lot of things to do with happiness or at least the pursuit of it. Our desires are shaped by an external imagined order. For Harari, follow your heart it’s the blend of the nineteenth century Romantic myths and twentieth-century consumerist myths : « Romanticism, which encourages variety, meshes perfectly with consumerism. Their marriage has given birth to infinite ‘market of experiences’, on which the modern tourism industry is founded. The tourism industry does not sell flight tickets and hotel bedrooms. It sells experiences. Paris is not a city, nor India a country – they are both experiences, the consumption of which is supposed to widen our horizons, fulfill our human potential, and make us happier ».
It’s so fashionable to buy experiences and to search that feeling of being whole again in exotic faraway places or adrenaline pumping experiences, but we all know in the bottom of our clever hearts that kind of satisfaction vanishes pretty quickly when Lady Purposefulness is not a part of the scenario.
Don’t fall in the victim hole
All this searching for happiness/meaning situation makes me think about the plethora of things we can’t control (for instance, we’re born into families, nations and cultures that we didn’t choose), but one important choice that we can make is the one to not act like eternal victims. Not because injustices don’t exist, they are like the horsemen of the Apocalypse, galloping at the speed of light.
Nevertheless, once we start acting as a victim, we feel tempted to adopt that attitude more and more often until we morph into it. As journalist David Brooks explains in The social animal « we have the power to choose narratives in which we absolve ourselves of guilt and blame everything on conspiracies or others. On the other hand, we have the power to choose narratives in which we use even the worst circumstances to achieve spiritual growth ».
Inequalities tear down today’s societies. Horrible things can happen to what we would call genuinely good people. But playing the victim is a perverse game, as it often finishes in attention-seeking, manipulation, gaining pity instead of respect. Every time when I’m caught in shitty situations, I remember Brooks’ s saying. I look around. It can be damn hard and stinky! If I feel like a wretch-looking fountain of tears&curses, I can bitch about it, be sad or angry about it, but I try not to fall in the victim hole, ‘cause I know that my voice will not be truly heard if I’m stuck in that hazy tunnel.
You will die anyway
However, even if we gain in strength and resilience, we still experience painful feelings and aching memories. For a long time, I put them in a folder like a clerk that handles some account statements and tried to ignore it. Bad idea. That was not a regular dossier! It was alive, twisting and hurting. Overlooking this pulsatile collection of anguish, loss and hardship was not assuming a slice of myself.
As the pen fairy Annie Lamott writes in Bird by bird: “Remember that you own what happened to you. If your childhood was less than ideal, you may have been raised thinking that if you told the truth about what really went on in your family, a long bony white finger would emerge from a cloud and point to you, while a chilling voice thundered, "We *told* you not to tell." But that was then. Just put down on paper everything you can remember now about your parents and siblings and relatives and neighbours, and we will deal with libel later on.”
I believe Bird by Bird was the most enchanting encounter that I had with a book in 2017. I felt like sucking up the words of a wise, honest, straightforward, adorable and gifted writer and distilling them in shots of useful guidelines in times of doubt or torment. An example: for more than two decades, I was eaten up by perfectionism. As our society tends to reward perfectionism and it considers it as an impeccable flaw (the one that you can mention at a job interview), more and more people are trapped into its toils. I will be forever grateful to Lamott for explaining so intelligibly the relationship between perfectionism and accepting our mortality :
“I think perfectionism is based on the obsessive belief that if you run carefully enough, hitting each stepping-stone just right, you won't have to die. The truth is that you will die anyway and that a lot of people who aren't even looking at their feet are going to do a whole lot better than you, and have a lot more fun while they're doing it.”
In 2017, after reading Bird by bird and after five years of not writing (perfectionism screwed my willingness to create) I repeated myself: I will die anyway. I will die anyway. I will die anyway. Initially, I was too afraid and superstitious to shout it loudly. But I finally did it. It was my exorcism.
Soon after, I started to write again and guess what? I felt more alive than ever.
by Diana Rusu
Saturn has a storm, photo source
The winter solstice or the rebirth of the Sun has always been celebrated and marked in the wheel of life as the shortest day of a year. Today, the hours of daylight are at their least (think 7 hours and 49 minutes). That leaves us with the longest night for more than 15 hours.
I started my day the exact moment it was light outside; I brewed my coffee. I sat down and turned on the circle of life itself, the Internet, and begun the digging: 13 opened tabs later, I was drowning in astrology websites and blogs, horrified and fascinated by what they have to say about the winter solstice. For example, did you know that in pagan times, this was the moment where people would “replace” the sun with other forms of light? The Romans decorated their houses with evergreen trees; the Yule traditions would include bonfires; the Swedish still keep their beautiful Goddess Lucina, celebrating the return of the light.
But according to astrologer Neil Spencer, this year's Solstice is going to be a special one, as for the first time since 1664, the Sun will move into Capricorn just a few hours after Saturn makes the exact same shift. Solstitium in Latin means that the sun is standing still. Well now she will stand still next to her fellow Saturn and its extraordinary beautiful rings. Handsome guy, that one. Lining up, they’ll seem to create a phenomenon which is expected to have uncomfortable consequences!
"This year the solstice arrives on 21 December at 16.27.55 GMT, with the Sun moving into Capricorn a matter of hours after Saturn makes the same shift. Such an occurrence is not without precedent but it is unusual; you have to go back to 1664 to find something comparable."
So.. what do we do about it? Mercury is still retrograde, but will come to its senses after tomorrow, the 22nd of December. Oh, but apparently he’ll leave a shadow over us all for the next week or so, meaning this whole dreadful bleak midwinter is NOT over yet. Astrologers advise us not to make important decisions until January takes over. And it makes sense, as the whole nature hides under the ground, in snow or cold, damp mud, ready to sprout once again with snowdrops as soon as the sun gets her ass out there. We just have to be patient, for a little while, and hibernate these days. If there’s a time to feel honestly miserable and accept it – now’s the time! Allow yourself to cry your eyes out. Cleanse your body and soul. Stay in and watch Netflix (I’ve just finished The crown).
Here’s what today will look like according to Neil’s horoscope. But go check the whole story of this December. Also, highly recommend Susan Miller’s !!!
“Venus is in your skies until Christmas Day, ideal for a charm offensive, attracting people to your side, and spending too much money on a good time.”
“Meanwhile a great deal seems to be happening behind the scenes, either because your plan for world domination is not ready to unveil, or because you are using the pre-Christmas period to rest up (good idea).”
“Aquarians are known for their detached manner, and you may have to adopt a chilly attitude here. It isn’t time for sentimentalities, despite the festive season.”
“There seems to be more work to complete, more arrangements to make, despite imminent holidays. You may be able to push things back to post-Xmas, when Mercury is behaving again and Saturn has moved on”
“Saturn reaching the peak of your ‘scope on December 21 – for the first time in 30 years – opens a more demanding phase in your public life”
“The move of Saturn into Capricorn on the solstice is weighty and significant for Taureans, aligning one earth sign, the Bull, with another, The Goat. If you are in the business of acquisition – which most Taureans are – then Saturn can help over the next two years.”
“At worst Saturn sets tasks at work, brings grumpy partners, physical stress and grey skies. Its departure lightens the mood (…) allows you to despatch a practical matter that’s been bugging you for most of 2017, and/or to find closure to a problematical relationship.”
“The major news of late December is that Saturn moves into opposition at the solstice, (…) it is a challenge, though one you can overcome by staying firmly on the front foot. Drifting along is not part of Saturn’s agenda.”
“Venus, also in the Centaur until Christmas Day, promises sweet company, art galleries and the social whirl – nice work if you can get it (and you can get it if you try).”
“Saturn may have loaded you up with domestic or family anxieties in 2017 but the taskmaster planet moves on come the winter solstice to a far more obliging position in Capricorn, a fellow earth sign.”
“The midwinter solstice has especial importance for Librans this year (…) For those of you born close to the autumn equinox (September 23/24), the effect could be pretty instant, as Saturn hands you a hot potato marked ‘fresh responsibility’”
“The new Moon of December 18 promises to be something of a turning point in the way you handle finances, as Saturn changes sign three days later. A debt may be called in, or a loan not get repaid, or an income stream evaporate. You need to be alert.”
by Diana Rusu
“IS IT WARM ENOUGH FOR YOU, INSIDE ME?”
This time last year I was digging Insecure, one of the most empowering shows I’ve ever seen. I completely and irreversibly fell in love with the story, the characters and the music. And when the show was done, binge-watched, devoured – there was nothing left but the music. I became obsessed with it. And then, one morning, my youtube shuffled to one of SZA’s songs.
OK, I was like, who is this girl and why is everything she saying going straight to my core; I know, I might sound petty and whatever, but who gives a shit? Somehow, when I most needed to heal my wounds, out of nowhere – something hit me. Without any control whatsoever, I stumbled upon The power of now exactly when I was drowning in the past. For a few months now, I can’t listen to anything but this album. Ctrl opened a gate through my left ventricle going with the flow of blood back into the left atrium. It’s called MVP (or mitral valve prolapse, but we’ll talk about it another time). Back to SZA, I haven’t had such a crush since The dark side of the moon.
I don’t see myself
Control is an illusion, but it is also real af. On a scale of 1 to 10, how much of what’s happening in your life can you control? When I did this exercise, I instantly circled 1 and 10. That’s where my emotions took me, controlling my hand and the pen I was holding, circling those numbers.
“I freestyled how I felt”, (SZA talking about the opening song of Ctrl, here). There is so much power when we acknowledge the flow of our own energy and our inner being, that most of the time we end up asking ourselves what was that all about? It’s usually after a little while that we understand the meaning – mentally. The body understands it when it happens, and we (should) have no control over it. Like a diary entry, painfully honest.
“Leave me lonely for prettier women
You know I need too much attention
For shit like that
I could be your supermodel
If you believe
If you see it in me
I don't see myself
Why I can't stay alone just by myself?
Wish I was comfortable just with myself
But I need you” (Supermodel)
How much of what we see can we actually control? On what are insecurities based?
The deconstruction of the sidechick
“The feelin' is wreckless
Of knowin' you're selfish
Knowin' I'm desperate
Gettin' all in your love
Fallin' all over love, like
Do it to last, last” (The weekend)
How did I get from talking about MVPs to sidechicks, I have no idea. There must be a connection, though. The Weekend is one of the most powerful poems I’ve experienced lately. At a first glance, it reminds me of The boy is mine and makes me think a bit more about sharing. Are we sharing now? Have we always shared? Have we always been desperate for love? Yes, we have. At a second glance, it reminds me of my own experience of being a sidechick (been cheated on with a job/passion). It wasn't very easy to accept it. Not having control, being the other. The mistress. We have to deconstruct the concept and see through: there is no such thing. We’re not side dishes, on the contrary. Each of us is a human being looking for the wholeness, we do it to last, last. We do it forever. By accepting it, we take control over all the dark echoes a “you’re like 9 to 5, I’m the weekend” situation might bring in. And that situation can happen anytime, in any form. The sidechick can be no more than a passion, a hobby or a job. I know, it’s a different view from the point The Crunk Feminist Collective has on sidechicks:
“Further, why are side chicks vilified while dudes who have side chicks are celebrated? The fact that men are not held accountable for their culpability in the destruction of their own relationships, and the onus is almost always and exclusively put on “the other woman,” implies that men can’t help it”
Don’t even get me started!
With that being said, I’m going to end up my uncontrollable eating of this brunch today, with my fav quote from Ctrl: “Pretty little bird, pretty little bird
You've hit the window a few times
You still ain't scared of no heights”
And all is good.
photo ©Diana Rusu
by Diana Rusu
“Although the effects of the insanity of the egoic mind are still visible everywhere, something new is emerging.” (Eckhart Tolle)
Of course, to fully understand what E.T. is saying here (and I just noticed how his initials made me think of the famous animated character, and that’s probably not completely wrong) we must dig in his introduction for Practicing the Power of Now. I have to agree that today more than ever the amount of people ready and happy to “break out of collective mind-patterns” is astounding. But it’s also scary AF, since some of those mind-pattern-breakers happen to be some lunatics shooting randomly and killing people, if we look at recent events and try to eckhart-tolle them. What happened in Spain, for example. Or Vegas. Or Texas. No matter how much I try to write about the monstrosities and regardless of my serious google search addiction, I still can’t get a hold of what should come out of my mouth, or rather as an extension of my fingertips on the keyboard. With all the violence and insanity happening, I still cling to E.T.’s words: “A new state of consciousness is emerging. We have suffered enough!” Instead, I can only invite you to read on if you’re feeling the consciousness emerging inside yourself.
What I actually wanted to talk to you about is a scrambled egg of an idea that has been haunting my mind for a while now. It arose when I realized that many of my friends and acquaintances were growing an interest in non-fiction, to be more specific self-care and do-it-yourself therapy reads. This fitted on my hand like a glove, so to speak in Romanian aphorisms, and I started to develop a fascination towards this one video on YouTube, an audiobook called “The power of Now”.
I looked closer at the world surrounding me – London is a good place to start with - and saw that self-help books were experiencing an explosive growth. Which made me doubt their potential, to a certain point of course, as nothing with such a hype is guaranteed a long life or maybe even authenticity. It’s like when veganism was on fire, I just stopped being vegan. Thousands of seminars, books and programs, unleashing the power within, advertising and paying loads to get into the secret clubs, but the market seems to be hungry for all of this. We’re all hungry for self-change, more care for ourselves and more attention to our own mental health. Which is not bad.
I can see a future where traditional therapy is replaced by self-help groups, but what I’m fearing is that we’ll get to a peak so high that it will all become superficial or even worse, it will all be done to feed our ego.
Smashed Ego toast
But then what’s that got to do with it (got to do with it)?
Here comes the hard part, when looking for self-improvement and empowerment. Many of us do it for the sake of our own constructed identities. Or an identity is exactly what the Ego has for breakfast every morning, say. If we feed it, it will fucking grow!
It can even grow an “I’m better than you” belly and if that ever happens, we better be opening our eyes. Look the Ego in its face and smash it. Season it, toast the bread, smash it and serve it with those scrambled thoughts. Get your hands dirty and tame the beast. Because, as Tolle says, “the ego is destined to dissolve, and all its ossified structures, whether they be religious or other institutions, corporations, or governments, will disintegrate from within, no matter how deeply entrenched they appear to be.” (Eckhart Tolle, A new Earth, Penguin Books UK, 2016)
From within, my world is crumbling like an apple pie sometimes, or shaking like soft jelly. What the Ego doesn’t like about it is this not-knowing-for-sure, this tolerance and acceptance of all things as they are. What it does like, though, is the title of this story.
photo © Diana R.
by Iulia Gheorghe
It’s that time of the year again.
Summer is long gone and Christmas not close enough to allow yourself to drown in glitter and coffee-drinking gorilla pattern gift-wrapping paper. I woke up like this: dismayed by the alarm clock. I usually hate that annoying jingle of « hurry up, don’t be late again » sound. However, now I felt something else was floating in the air. I was so confused that I literally didn’t hit snooze. I was astonished with myself as I jumped in SpaceX mode straight from my bed to the mirror. I always check my phone first! My face was almost tan free (so unhappy to loose the natural glow of happy summer days), but also heat bumps free. Finally, the cadaveric whiteness is not so bad after all. I opened the window and there it was: the crisp air of a November greyish morning. I felt shivery, but quite enthusiastic. For me, this month is so bloody ugly that you can focus better on your goals. Basically, it’s the month of second chances. The revival of all the good resolutions. We practiced them for five days in January and then we've thrown them out in the garbage of wishful thinking. They are waiting in the purgatory for salvation. Hooray, you get one more shot to get your shit together before the end of the year (and the clock is f*cking ticking).
If the idea of a new start excites you as much as it excites me, let me introduce to you some soul exercises that you could embrace this November. I can assure you as a conservative Taurus that I am: these activities can spice up your life without leaving yourself bare naked and helpless.
"Can confirm, it will be easier for introverts/couch potatoes/ introspection addicts to sit still"
1. Stillness can be a good idea. I’m sure you love travelling (who doesn’t?), but going nowhere can also open your eyes and your soul towards the world. As Pico Iyer says in The Art of Stillness, “The need for an empty space, a pause, is something we have all felt in our bones; it’s the rest in a piece of music that gives it resonance and shape”. Can confirm, it will be easier for introverts/couch potatoes/ introspection addicts to sit still as hyperactive people will certainly cling themselves to it with despair, but at least, all of us will now have an excuse to just sit on our asses without remorse. And bonus, the 2-Hour Rule: one a week, block two hours just to think.
2. Rage Yoga. The problem with thinking it’s that while you are doing progress about figuring out stuff, you’re inevitably feeding that bitchy monkey mind. You will need meditation, yoga or anything that involves mindfulness to calm it down. If you are not the “sugar and spice, everything nice” type, why not trying rage yoga? The mantra of this type of yoga that involves stretching, foul language, laughter, and even beer-drinking (luckily before or after the session) is “be zen as f***k”. If this class is too heavy mental for you, you can do guided meditation for inner f*cking pece. Choice no. 1 or my fav, the shorter version. Breathe in white light, breathe out bullshit.
3. A crash course on Sarah’s Cooper work. How can you just not love her way to depict everyday struggles and nonsenses of office life? She is a natural in describing those wtf situations we are all experiencing at work. I would consider marrying her on a beach in Honolulu and live happily ever after on fruit smoothies and long talks. Meanwhile, I will keep following her on Medium where you can find her articles. The most accurate diversity in tech report you will ever read is dope.
"1 in 4 people in England will experience a mental health problem"
4. Understand the impact of stigma and discrimination on people with mental illness. According to NHS Digital, 1 in 4 people in England will experience a mental health problem any given year. Basically, this means 1 in 4 people you meet is living a hard time. Maybe you are living a hard time. Nobody should be ashamed about dealing with a mental health issue, you are not the one to blame. You can help by speaking up, as these people do it on their blogs. Or supporting a friend or a stranger in his/her journey through the peace-making process with the nasty monsters who can eventually be tamed and even understood.
5. Give yourself the right to create. I will talk about the right to write, because November is also the National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). Perhaps you’ve already heard about this now famous creative writing challenge initiated by the freelance writer Chris Baty in 1999 with 21 participants. By 2015, more than 400 000 people participated from all over the world. The rules are simple and anyone who reaches the 50 000 word mark is declared a winner. I find this concept awesome, because it pushes you over your boundaries without the pressure of “what the heck should I write”. Just practice and show up. If you want to prepare mentally for NanoWriMo, you can check out some timeless advice on writing – a collection compiled by awesome Maria Popova published on her well of wisdom, Brainpickings. I would love to marry her too, but I’m not sure how she feels about polygamy.
I’m sure you also have some tips to better deal with November and its gloomy behaviour. Feel free to share them below! As far as I’m concerned, even if I’m definitely a spring girl, I start to kinda’ like it – it’s somehow like my period: uncomfortable at first, but quite helpful in the end as I give myself permission to stay home and reflect, do some art and think more seriously about helping others.