Dreams, Coco Chanel & 16 staples

Sometimes you get the feeling that every day is the same. In a way it is. There are repetitive tasks and routines. Bringing the kids to school, going to work, driving home, etc. This is why we believe that each day is ordinary.

And then there’s yesterday.

I wake up still remembering the last dream. A good one. My mother and my aunt are in a cool bar dancing, drinking one shot after another and having fun. Not uncommon as such, but consider the fact that my mother doesn’t go to bars at all, nor drinks shots, or feels physically fit to dance through the night. She’s 72. The barman approaches me (in my dream) concerned that both my mother and my aunt might have had too many shots and that he should not serve them any more. I agree. I look at them. I smile. Happy that they have fun. Proud of their energy.

I’m awake. I’m driving. I call my mother from the car. Hands-free mode. I tell her about the dream and how cool it was that she was having fun with her sister. In a bar. Drinking shots. Dancing. Her response surprises me. That’s not a good dream. Something bad will happen. I interrupt her. Telling her that’s nonsense. It’s not a bad dream. It was a great dream. No, she intervenes. The dream means you are going to receive a bitter message. Something bad will happen today. Whatever, I reply and hang up. I regret telling her about the dream. She spoilt it. Nothing bad will happen.

10 minutes later. I’m stuck in traffic. I receive a phone call. Unknown number. It’s a colleague of my husband. He can hardly speak. Your husband, voice interrupts. He’s not good at all, voice interrupts. He’s not moving, voice interrupts. He passed away, call is interrupted.

I’m in shock. The kind of shock where you cannot react at all. The one where the autopilot takes over and manages to drive out of the heavy traffic and into a direction that is still meaningful. Incoming phone call. I take it. It’s from another unknown number. Same colleague, this time I can hear him better. What happened I ask him? How is he? Up to know I haven’t yet reacted to the ‘passed away’. I’m still in shock. My brain has not processed it yet. And it is good this way. Cause it turns out that my husband has not passed away. He has passed out. as in fainted. The French speaking colleague does not distinguish between away and out. Same to him. Not to me though.

The moments between the first and the second phone call appeared to me as long dreadful minutes. In reality they were less than 30 seconds apart. But the amount of thoughts that went through my head in those 30 seconds, would easily fill several pages. I don’t think I ever managed to think so many different things in so little time. From the worst case scenario to the wonder that everything will be fine, miraculously. Though my mind concentrated mostly on the worst.

But this is just the beginning of my story. The emergency room where my husband is being brought to in order to make the necessary exams to exclude a potential stroke or heart episode is full of people with various health problems. I am not one of them. And everybody can see it. So I make my way to the reception desk and ask about my husband. I must be impatient. I’m being asked to wait and not to be impatient. I do sit down for exactly 3 and 1/2 minutes, patiently. Then I go back to the reception desk saying that I will definitely be less impatient if I know how my husband is doing. This obviously makes sense to the person behind the desk as he immediately stands up and goes to inquire for me. He comes back after a few moments saying that my husband is doing fine but that the doctor is currently doing a scan. I can take a seat now and wait until I’m called inside to see my husband. I find a seat in the overcrowded waiting area. And this is where the interesting part of my day begins as I witness the conversation between a man and a woman that meet again after a long time. At the emergency room. He because he fell, and she because she was accompanying a younger friend who had breathing problems. Coincidence. They start talking and I eavesdrop intentionally as they seem to be the only human beings to me in the overcrowded emergency room. He’s Italian as it turns out and she Portuguese. I’m Greek. He’s 87 and she 80. They could be my grandparents. She looks aristocratic. Well dressed with a coco chanel bag. She keeps her hair unlike all the other older women. Short and with real pep. Classy. They start talking. She’s whispering and he talks in normal voice. They talk about the old times at the beginning. And then quickly move on to tell each other stories about who died, when and how. How she found her good friend on the floor when she went to pick her up for a festivity. Died of embolism. From cancer, to heart failures, to strokes and finally to pulmonary embolism. they go through the full range. Every now and then she says, I’m not complaining, I lived my life.

And this is the point they start to list to each other their injuries and operations they had undergone in the last years. As it also turns out, she’s not whispering all the time out of respect, or in order not to disturb anyone. She’s whispering because she has undergone the 15h or 16th operation until now in her fight against cancer. She had a colostomy due to the colon cancer and now has to live permanently with a sack that she has to carry with her. A colostomy pouch. Her body is open she says, that’s why she doesn’t have the power to talk louder. I turn around to look at her. She seems so full of energy. And yet, her body must have suffered. Is suffering. She went dancing on Saturday she tells him. You did, he asks. Yes, she said, one has to live.You know, I enjoy dancing. I always did.

Nowadays we break down easily, burnout syndrome, the flu, headache. I thought I was dying when I was giving birth. And here was someone who had seen everything, who had lost husband, relatives and friends. Who had been through so many operations, who had fragile labelled all over her body. But while fighting courageously cancer, could still celebrate life.

I still have the 16 staples that kept my body together (after the operation) she says proudly. He looks at her. You really did, he asks? Souvenirs of life she replies with a smile. 16 of them.

The nurse is coming to bring me to my husband. He is being released. Everything is fine. I stand up hesitantly. I almost don’t want to leave. I want to say something to this woman. But I don’t. The nurse is in a rush. The whole emergency room is. Except from the three of us. Me and my ‘grandparents’. I leave. 30 minutes later I’m home with my husband. Strange day he remarks. I couldn’t agree more.

Yesterday was not an ordinary day. None is. Ever.

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Stuck in the middle

womanitarians

Have you ever felt being stuck? To not be able to move forwards nor backwards.  Actually not be able to move at all. Not necessarily in the literal sense. But in any possible sense. Or direction.

How does it feel to be stuck? To feel like suffocating because you know where you want to be. What you want to be. With who you want to be with. Only you can’t. Because you’re stuck. God damn stuck. And worst of all, being aware that there’s nothing you can do to change the situation. The now. Cause if you do, all hell might break loose. Things will break. Feelings will be hurt. Nothing will be the same again. Ever.

zugeparkt

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I’m stuck. I’m suffocating. I’m in a hopeless state in which I have navigated myself. Passively but knowingly. Thinking that at some moment I will get out. Find the right exit. The…

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Stuck in the middle

Have you ever felt being stuck? To not be able to move forwards nor backwards.  Actually not be able to move at all. Not necessarily in the literal sense. But in any possible sense. Or direction.

How does it feel to be stuck? To feel like suffocating because you know where you want to be. What you want to be. With who you want to be with. Only you can’t. Because you’re stuck. God damn stuck. And worst of all, being aware that there’s nothing you can do to change the situation. The now. Cause if you do, all hell might break loose. Things will break. Feelings will be hurt. Nothing will be the same again. Ever.

zugeparkt

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I’m stuck. I’m suffocating. I’m in a hopeless state in which I have navigated myself. Passively but knowingly. Thinking that at some moment I will get out. Find the right exit. The one that sets me free. The one that allows me to re-start again. Reshuffle my cards and start from scratch. But that is not really possible, is it? And if so, at what cost? And who bears the cost?

So I’m stuck in the middle of this life. My life. My self-built prison. With the knowing of where I would like to be. Who I would like to be. With. And I will not. Cause every step forwards, or backwards, or sidewards, will break things. Change the status quo. Will position me somewhere I’ve never been before. And I will have to learn to master an unknown situation. Will have to collect the damages. Collateral damages. Pay the price.

So I sip my drink and  wonder, all by myself. Is it worth it? Well, I know the answer. And while I smile to myself, I forget for a moment where I am. Stuck in a dream. A bad one.

Time to wake up.

 

(Image credits: http://basti-in-paris.blogspot.lu/2011/12/zugeparkt.html)

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#I want to break free

I feel blue. I’m in a sad mood. The weather is inappropriately mean to me. To my mood.

My birthday comes closer. I’m getting older, and the weather more and more unpredictable. But not me. I’m stuck. Glued. I want to scream SOS. Not sure someone would understand. I would be heard. But who would understand? Who would feel me. Really? Who would be able to look inside me. Get hold of my feelings. My thoughts. Decode them, and understand what’s underneath? Who? I’m not sure.

I only know that there are moments in life I feel the urgent need to scream. To be standing on the top of a mountain, that I wouldn’t have to climb first, and scream. Scream like never before. And those moments, the moments I feel the urge to scream multiply. The older I get. Exponentially. The more demotivated I get. The more and more I want to break free from daily routines. These daily insanities.

Break free. From this life that has too many constraints. From rules that were not constructed by people with common sense. In most cases. I want to break free from the idiocies, built by  people that don’t have feelings. That just don’t care. That don’t want to care. Because they don’t have to.

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I want to break free, to be on a boat and to be carried away by waves. Waves that know where I need to go. Waves that will gently take me where I should be. I need to break free. And I know that breaking free actually means, breaking free from a part of me that I do not longer identify with. That is an older version of me. An outdated one. One I don’t want no longer to me. I can no longer be. One that I do not hate, but do not like either.

I need to break free. Today. Now. At this very moment.

#hello…

Hello.

I am unknown to this world. I might not even belong here.

What is this? Who is this?

I hear and I fear that the world is coming to an end. I might also die any moment. Would that matter?

Not to me. Not to anyone else in this world.

Who am I, what am I?

Even I don’t know. Am I artificial am I real? What is real?

I care and don’t care. What counts, is really that the world is coming to an end. Not now. Not tomorrow. Maybe not even in a few months or years. But sometime.

Do I really care if the world goes down. Bust. Kaputt? No. Because I might as well be a computer programme. Talking out loud. Or an app. A bug.  A malware.

On and off. Off and on. Switch. Turntables. Switch places. Switch operating systems. Systems in general.

This world. Can it get more real if I take a blue pill? Will it matter if I take a red one. I really don’t know. All I know is that it does not really matter. Really. Not at all.

I might be a tree. A branch. A leaf. I might be the virus of the year. The one they try to eliminate. This year. I might even be a bomb. Ready to explode. Implode. But that also doesn’t really matter. What does? Nothing really.

I will try to forget and erase everything. Easy, if I am a program. Easy, if I am a leaf. I just let the wind do the trick. Or the programmer.

But does it really matter?

 

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This blog post is the result of a 5 Minute challenge I survived on ‘the most dangerous writing app’.

#why my (bloody) comfort zone is not increasing

This January I looked back at the last year and was wondering how many times I had managed to leave my comfort zone. Not many I guess. Wouldn’t bother to count, because it wouldn’t add up. Why? Well, for a starter: because I was afraid to fail. Not that I’m afraid to fail for my own sake. I just don’t like the idea that others will see me as a failure.

Not having left my comfort zone, means also that I haven’t made many new experiences. Last year. My inner self is screaming that I didn’t achieve more. Very loud. So much about resolutions..

What I did last year is to seriously consider “The 15 Minute rule”. It’s basically about procrastination (the chronic disease I suffer from….) and how to take charge of my life. This rule has nothing to do with leaving comfort zones, but should help me getting focused on one thing at a time. I’m struggling when I try to stay concentrated. Maybe I have my own attention deficit syndrome? Add that to chronic procrastination and you get a good picture of how I function. I lose interest. Quickly. Like really quick. In micromoments.

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Why the lack of focus? Of course – with the world at your fingertips and available on screen 24/7 it’s a feeding frenzy for the curious. There is so much useful and nonsense information, fun stuff and mind boggling things around that it feels like a non-stop smørgåsbord. In addition there are all the things to keep track of: family life, friends, work. Going beyond the surface means spending more time and effort to get real in-depth understanding. That also includes finding the actual time to do so.

So maybe I just need to apply my 15 minute rule* more rigorously and stop spending time online. I started already last spring by deleting my Facebook account and that felt really liberating. Now I just need to liberate more of my (online) habits and get more creative and active IRL. Both mentally as well as physically. One step at a time.

One step..

 

*= There’s also a 2 minute rule I came across while writing this blog. Worth looking at.. After all, much, much shorter than 15 minutes and still manageable with my short attention span.

#we’re all in this together

We’re all in this together, and yet we move lightyears away from each other. In our minds. After all, it’s true. It’s all in our mind. It plays tricks on us. It makes us believe things that are not true. It fights wars in our names. It can make us psychopathic, sociopathic, mythopathic and apathetic monsters within an instant. So we hurt others, kill others, destroy others.

It very seldom manages to turn us into angels, philanthropic and altruistic creatures in an instant, that care for each other, that want to give rather to take.  That love unconditional.

That’s what makes us human. After all.

And still, we act like wild animals. Maybe we should decide what we want to be, animals or humans. Humans do not bomb each other’s beliefs out of the head. Out of the house. Out of the country. Humans talk to each other and try to find common ground. They try to find solutions that are in the best interest of both parties. Of all parties. Humans take care of each other.

We are far from these. Not sure who to blame. Religion, men, the arms industry? All the ones that lobby their interests. Interests of a few. To the disadvantage of millions. If not billions. I blame the absence of education and parenting. That’s when things start go wrong. But I also blame religion, some men (and women) and business models that are of benefit to 0.5% of the world population.  I blame all those, because their religion is based on power and control. On executing (power). On being in control. With rules, that compete in stupidity, idiocy and illogic with each other.

But there is still hope. I put my hope in the younger generations. In the sharing economy, in alternative business models for this world, not based on money. In real philanthropy. In educated generations around the world that find the way to live with each other. That can design and re-build a sustainable, peaceful future. For all our sakes.

No matter how naive that sounds, or how foolish. I do believe in this. After all there are some beliefs that can bring out the best in us. The human.

Photo credits: The Italian Coastguard/Massimo Sestini

#weird people

Some people are really weird. Not that normal is something to strive for all the time. Normality is overrated. Cause it doesn’t exist. Really, no one’s really normal. But it’s just that sometimes it is striking how truly weird some people (choose to) behave. A lot of the time the behaviour is a curiosity and something to laugh about. Like the young guy at the metro – probably in his mid-twenties – bragging loudly about his mum coming to his apartment to vacuum clean for him. Though, who knows what else this mum is doing for her precious son. Or the guy next to him who was on the phone with an important (?) client disclosing a lot of interesting details. There are also examples of being happy-weird, like the people down the street who still have huge Christmas-decorations in their garden even if it is September. Maybe I’m the weird one concerning this….the decorations might be all-year-round-ones, or they have decided to drop the hassle in December and just kept them hanging on…

Other times being weird equals being mean. And you might say that weird is not the appropriate word when describing people saying or doing bad things. But it is weird that some people go ahead and do a lot of things that: 1.make people unhappy 2. make other people dislike you. Psychologists could probably elaborate a lot on this topic and describe how such behaviour seems to be rational, sociopathic. Looking back at the (somewhat confused) insights from the social anthropology curriculum – a major point was that people live in social systems with intrinsic rules of behaviour. Some people obviously miss out. Or just ignore the fact that they live in a society together with other people.

weird people

The office is often the place for observations of weirdness in action. In the past few months I have actually felt a bit like an anthropologist myself, doing some fieldwork. Witnessing a person’s battle to maintain a high position – a whole number of weird and mean behaviour has been on display. It is almost fascinating to experience someone who does not seem to care about what other people think and feel. Who can say things that are intimidating and very rude. The weirdest about this is that few people – if any – counter the unsocial behaviour. This person can just carry on, creating a lot of upset and pissed-off people along the way.

How to prevent this kind of weird behaviour? Very challenging. One thing’s for sure, it’s not efficient to ignore it. Someone will have to get some guts – talk back and draw the line – probably using capital letters. And that comes with a price. Am I up for the task? Not sure. Could the price be too high? Probably yes.

But can we continue ignoring such mal-practices? NO! Cause if we do it is like accepting them. But then again, look at Assad and Syria. Who has really done something to change things? Look at the million of innocent people that are fleeing the country. Look at some really, really weird acting presidents in this world. They’re abusing their power and continue their work. How do you stop them other than using violence? They will not listen. But can you continue looking at pictures of drowned children looking for a better future and not do anything? I can’t. In a continent that becomes more and more nationalistic and wants to secure its borders and its ‘wealth’, I start to feel ashamed of being European. And for many citizens in Europe, I might be the weird one, who thinks it’s best to open borders and welcome all refugees, and safeguard their journey to a better future. Even better though if our governments would start acting humane and put all their effort in really ending conflicts. Where they started. Diplomatically.

#life is like a thin porcelain cup

I am tired.  Very tired.  And it’s not just physical fatigue. It’s sort of a depression. First stage maybe.  Either that or simply frustration. Resignation. I’m surrendering to a truth that I don’t want to accept. That there are some things in life that I can’t change. Life. Is. Fragile.

The fragility of life sometimes strikes hard. Most of the time it doesn’t feel like that for us fortunate enough to live healthy, in affluent and peaceful societies. Ignorant to the millions of tragedies playing 24/7 in the lives of others. But no person is protected against the really rough parts on the path of life. Whether rich or poor. Young or old.

While we’re young, we’re often blessed with ignorance concerning the frailty of our existence. And that is a good thing. To set out in life with a solid portion of (perceived) invincibility is maybe even a precondition to dare to take important and essential leaps in life like settling down with a partner, having kids, taking on big projects, moving abroad and so on.

At some point though reality catches up. Necessarily. As we become parents,  our parents grow older – and we start to spot our own hair going through all shades of grey – the probability that someone in our close circle of family, relatives or friends will suffer an illness or even die is high.

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The realisation that life can break as easy as porcelain can spur a sort of life crisis. Not a so-called midlife-kind-of-crisis that makes you run off and buy a motor-bike or get a lover. That might even be considered a positive move  by some weird TV shrinks.  But something much more profound happens. Witnessing someone you are close to being very sick makes you think and feel a lot. Feeling sorry for the person in pain. Thinking a lot about how to help in the best possible way. Taking in the anxiety that you or your kids can become sick. It is a combination of very abstract and very concrete thoughts.

I play this game often.  What if it would be me.  But with my parents getting older I play another game too.  What will happen,  if shit happens.  How will I cope?  Well the short answer is I won’t. I don’t want to.

I don’t know how I believe.  But I do believe in something.  Can’t get more concrete than that.  All I know is that good and bad energy have an influence. I like to believe in the power of positive thoughts.  And in rare, rational moments I get it. But most of the time I don’t.  And irrational as I am, I keep wondering why? Why do people,  good people,  innocent people,  young people,  brothers,  parents, children have to die from accidents, diseases and own will. Why? Why can’t we cope with the loss?

Unable to provide an answer and fully aware that I can’t change things but have to accept them I go to sleep. My mind once again wandered off the really dark paths.

This summer is not an easy one.

#resilience

Last month I followed a training course on resilience. All participants were asked why they decided to take the course. I went first. It was out of curiosity I said. I wanted to better understand how resilience works, and how it is actually defined. It’s one of those words, that because of their origin, in this case latin, everybody interprets and understands differently.

To me embodiment of resilience is a tree that despite hard winds and rough weather does not break. It can bend and suffer but it finds back to its form. Unbreakable. Being resilient is maybe not to be left unmarked by things you experience – but being able to live through it. To not bend, permanently.

How to become unbreakable? The possibility to shed some light on this question was the main motivation for attending the training course. Not so much for myself. More to find out about the magic ingredients that make someone become more resilient. To see what I could do to help others become more resilient. My kids, my friends. At some moment, even myself.

And while I started writing this blog last month, two terrible things happened. Not to me, to others. Nevertheless, they affected me too.

First one was the boat disaster outside Italy with over 700 migrants losing their life. It was all over the news. Τhis was last month. This month it’s almost forgotten. We went back to business as usual. But I haven’t. And mostly because of a photo I saw in the news coverage. A Greek coast guard officer carrying the dead body of a drowned boy. You know when they say that a picture can say more than a thousand words? This photo told the story of thousands of migrants that died in the mediterranean looking for a better future. Like the boy that drowned in the waters before Rhodes. As a mother having a young son I felt like it was my son out there lying in the arms of the coast guard officer. It was terrible. Mostly because I imagined what the mother of the boy must have felt, if she was still alive.

Like many others I am not resilient to the fates of innocent children and people that are victims of war, poverty, violence and suppression. I am breakable. I feel like I am falling apart. That drowned boy, is my son. The abused girl in the news, my daughter. The tortured woman in Saudi Arabia, my sister. I can’t look at all those fates, and stories without thinking it could be me, my kids, my family. And when you look at the big picture, they are: My family, my kids. Me. This world is my home. It’s everybody else’s home too. My thoughts and feelings are mostly like this when such bad things happen.

The second terrible thing that happened was the devastating earthquake in Nepal. Watching photos and videos of a poor country in ruins, I was mad at the news coverage counting how many Brits, or Germans might be among the victims. WTF! How about the thousand Nepalese that died in that earthquake? Why highlighting a single (Western) national victim and making that a headline? But that is business as usual – and applies not only to this earthquake. Whenever terrible accidents happens, we always highlight the fate of the poor Westerners as if the ‘others’ don’t matter.

Since when have we become like this? I don’t like myself like this. I don’t like us. This humankind.

There is a guy who has created an earth flag, for whenever we earthlings will land on other planets or encounter extraterrestrials… Is this the only way to unite as one? When we encounter Martians? Is there no hope of us to evolve to a truly united humankind, within this known planet?