Parallel Lives – Sample Fragment 65

Life provides us with certain summers that can be blissfully filled with freedom and peace, open space and open souls, antithetical experiences that mark our memories, in spite of their mundane, insignificant character. Those are the summers we long for and those are the scarce moments of a particularly brief time in one’s life, which cannot be allowed to slip through our fingers unnoticed. Continue reading “Parallel Lives – Sample Fragment 65”

Don’t Forget to Remember

There are times when life is simply too hectic and overwhelming to notice anything that goes on around you; then there are those sunny lazy autumn days, when sensory memory takes over, distant moments flashing through your mind….

“You know, I don’t remember much from back when I was her age… strange…”

The woman in front of me was going on and on about her 14 year old daughter and how she hoped the girl’s adolescence wouldn’t be too wild or troubled.

“Really? I remember everything like it was yesterday,” the words escaped my lips before I knew it. Continue reading “Don’t Forget to Remember”

End of Summer Buh Humbug

Have you ever seen a car with wipers and wing mirrors scotch taped and thought, “It couldn’t have happened to a nicer guy”? Let me be clear, said car didn’t suffer some mishap; someone was trying to make a point, in a rather humorous way.

I’m no advocate of vandalism, but this is what end of summer here will do to a person. In fact, I was so taken with that original non-destructive kind of punishment, that I immediately snapped a pic which I will gladly present if I happen by when someone else contemplates perpetrating a similar kind of offense.

I start my summers full of joie de vivre, optimism and insane thoughts of “It’ll be different this year”. Continue reading “End of Summer Buh Humbug”

Everybody Jump (Part 7)

Sharing With A Friend

Part 1

Part 2 – I Think I Wore This Before

Part 3 – Dance Like No One’s Watching

Part 4 – I Must Be Getting Old, Because I Can Have Fun Sober

Part 5 – Thirty-Something Pockets

Part 6 – Everybody, Scream!

Right… so “I wore this before” and I’ve certainly listened to some of that music before. And the man who’s dancing with me on his shoulders now is none other than my oldest and closest friend, one of those people who have seen me wear this the first time, with whom I’ve listened to this music when it was brand new.

Knowing each other through all the stages of our life means we share a certain kind of complicity and unique connection. It also puts everything in a very special perspective. Continue reading “Everybody Jump (Part 7)”

Everybody Jump (Part 6)

Everybody, Scream!

Part 1

Part 2 – I Think I Wore This Before

Part 3 – Dance Like No One’s Watching

Part 4 – I Must Be Getting Old, Because I can Have Fun Sober

Part 5 – Thirty-Something Pockets

It’s fun, but I can’t help feeling a bit like Pavlov’s dog… one of the many Pavlov’s dogs there. But as far as crowds go, this one in this particular context is pretty harmless. It’s really not the time or the place to go into crowd psychology matters, is it?

Maybe they don’t even think about it, or maybe they have their own reasons… or maybe it all depends on the individual. I know I have my reasons for jumping when told to jump… Continue reading “Everybody Jump (Part 6)”

Everybody Jump (Part 5)

Thirty-Something Pockets

Part 1

Part 2 – I Think I Wore This Before

Part 3 – Dance Like No One’s Watching

Part 4 – I Must Be Getting Old, Because I Can Have Fun Sober

Don’t worry, I’m not about to start rambling about financial stability or anything like that. These are a different kind of pockets…

In case that wasn’t clear, a certain facetious little question did creep into my thoughts more than once: am I too old for this? Am I too old to wear this dress? Am I too old to go to this thing? Am I too old for this sort of fun? What gets to me most is not the question, but the fact that I let a certain kind of social pressure, a judgemental, narrow-minded attitude infiltrate my thoughts. Funny, I never really wondered, “Am I too young for this?”, no matter what age I was.

Continue reading “Everybody Jump (Part 5)”

Everybody Jump (Part 4)

Part 1

Part 2 – I Think I Wore This Before

Part 3 – Dance Like No One’s Watching

I Must Be Getting Old, Because I Can Have Fun Sober

Two words will say it all: designated driver. Let’s put it this way… when it comes to such events, our dear old taxi drivers turn from your everyday vultures into… jackals maybe? I think that’s appropriate enough, although I’m not such a connoisseur of wild life, so if a better comparison comes to mind, feel free to share it. But I can be an argumentative little beast myself. It’s not really about the money, but the principle involved. I live here, I know the town, I know the routes, I also know what the right price should be; and while I always tip the driver and I wouldn’t mind paying a little bit extra on that sort of occasion, I absolutely refuse to pay five times the real fare. I will certainly state my point of view to the driver… and I will inevitably be kicked out of the taxi, rude words will be exchanged, and that’s how one generally ends up having to walk home.

Continue reading “Everybody Jump (Part 4)”

Everybody Jump (Part 3)

Part 1

Part 2 – I Think I Wore This Before

Dance Like No One’s Watching

Yes, I definitely needed this, I realized as soon as I got over that slight annoyance of the security check. I love dancing. I always have, even if as a child my mother repeatedly told me I had no sense of rhythm. But once I overcame that childish insecurity, I simply couldn’t care less. I would never be a professional dancer, certainly no prima ballerina as my mother would have liked, but I reasoned my dancing skills were good enough for an average person. Besides, it was so much fun, empowering even. Now I would also say it’s a great workout, especially for someone like me, who hates working out.

I must have been 10 or 11 the first time I entered a club, and it was with my mother and her friends. Continue reading “Everybody Jump (Part 3)”

Everybody Jump (Part 2)

Part 1

I Think I Wore This Before

Looking around these days, I often feel either terribly nostalgic or ever so slightly exasperated with the repetition. I catch myself rolling my eyes; then I remember, this too shall pass. Yes, it’s a loaded fashion time for me, as I’m sure it is for many ladies of my generation.

Quite a few stores and display windows make me pause and think, I wore this before… or at least something very similar. But so many memories and considerations about the past caught up with me during the last year, so why wouldn’t fashion do the same?…

Continue reading “Everybody Jump (Part 2)”

Everybody Jump (Part 1)

No better time to venture outside one’s comfort zone than summer, I say.

In the spirit of the afore mentioned belief, I occasionally feel like getting out of the house without any makeup on or investing in an ugly pair of hiking boots and going to the mountains… or even like writing something slightly more personal and fun for my blog, to break the recent routine of wordless photography and book related stuff.

Continue reading “Everybody Jump (Part 1)”

Ana Linden: Albatross

Thank you for your wonderful review, Carol! You always have insightful, supportive words for your fellow-writers and you share your own experience so generously. ❤

Carol Balawyder

albatross

In her collection of stories Ana Linden refuses to have her characters see through rose colored glasses or have happily ever after futures.

Don’t expect extraordinary individuals, always able to make the world a better place, when they can hardly save themselves. This world is not one of untainted, selfless, righteous spiritual leaders either, just as it is not one devoid of violence, crime, pain or punishment.
https://analindenblog.wordpress.com/2018/06/15/albatross-the-big-day/

In Albatross, the opening story, Linden gives us an honest perspective of husband and wife regarding the staleness of their marriage.

Then there is the single woman’s paranoia and fears that accompany what it’s like to live alone after being robbed.

And the story about the affair. “The moment we met, we knew the week spent together would be one of those times so essentially shallow, that it can have nothing less than a profound effect on both of us.”

Ana Linden…

View original post 185 more words

Ch-ch-changes

What if it’s too dark? What if it looks wrong? I glanced at the instructions once more, without really reading them. I knew what they said, it was quite obvious how to use it. How stupid! I rolled my eyes at my own undecided reflection in the mirror. Such a fuss over something so small… I ran a comb through my towel dried hair and went for it.

When did I become so boringly cautious about my hair colour? I spread the coloured mousse on my roots with a new brush I got especially for the occasion. I used to be so handy at this sort of stuff, many many moons ago, when I used to colour my hair… when I was a teenager. I even had friends who would ask me to colour their hair too, since I usually did such a good job with mine. By the time I turned twenty I had experienced with so many shades that I almost couldn’t tell what my natural hair colour was. When my mother got married, I showed up with blue, red and black streaks in my blond hair; and they weren’t the clip-on kind. And now I was worried about touching up my roots with some coloured mousse… Damn it! Continue reading “Ch-ch-changes”

The Magic of June

I always loved the beginning of summer. For so many reasons – some deep, others more superficial – June has always been a special time of year for me…

It’s that time of year which makes me feel everything is possible. Years keep passing, yet this sensation is a powerful constant every early summer. Together with my love for fresh cherries and strawberries and that unbelievable fragrance of blooming linden trees, it’s something I hope to always love, a part of me I hope will never change. It has always been a promise of new experiences, unexpected options and lots of fun. With that come the itch to run away and travel, the desire to try something different, and the somewhat self-destructive wish to rock the boat. Continue reading “The Magic of June”

Farewell, WP Photo Challenge

Funny… how little things can suddenly make us feel nostalgic. I’m sure that many of you will miss the Weekly Photo Challenge, just as I will… and just as I did, many of you have dug through your photo archives for some of your all-time favourites.

A quick glance at the photos I’ve posted since I started blogging reminded me that I found a nice, understanding and supportive community in his little corner of the internet. I am obviously no photographer, and I remember that initially I was uncomfortable and shy about posting photos. After all, I was thinking that my blog would be all about writing… But it soon became something else. I quickly realised how much photos can enhance and personalize my blog.

Like I said, I am no photographer, but I love taking pictures, lots and lots of them, of all sorts of things – it’s about capturing a moment, a feeling or a fleeting thought, just like writing. It wasn’t about perfect composition or impeccable images, I got to understand. After all, life is anything but perfect… And life does get in the way, so we don’t always have much time or energy to spare for our blogs. So my “writing” blog now includes many, many posts which contain mainly photos, and I “blame” the weekly photo challenge and occasionally the daily post for it 😉 .

Even when I didn’t feel like writing or didn’t have enough time for it, I could keep in touch with the blogging world and share snippets of life through a few photos. So a warm thank you to the WP team that has provided us with inspiration and to all of you who took part in the challenge and took time to stop by and share your thoughts. Let’s keep in touch! 🙂

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Same Place, Different Angle

I’ve been here before. I walked up and down these streets several times. But something would always come up and I could only see the castle from afar. Like this.

Or like this.

But this time, everything was only up to me… I could finally see the other side of the walls…

… and the view that unfolded.

In response to WP Weekly Photo Challenge – Place in the World.

Awakening

In a way, spring snuck up on me this year… Perhaps it’s because of all that snow and cold weather in March. Perhaps I was simply not paying attention. I don’t know, I’m just doing my best not to overanalyse; instead, I’m trying to enjoy the sun, the pretty flowers, the amazing way in which nature is blossoming once more.

Like I said, I’m trying… But is it just me who feels like just the other day we were celebrating New Year’s, focusing on that particular new beginning?… Sure, I can account for all these months, but it feels like time just flew by too fast.

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In response to WP Weekly Photo Challenge – Awakening.

I’d Rather Be… Leaving

Sometimes it’s Paris or Madrid… sometimes it’s a snowy mountain peak… and sometimes it’s hiding in my car in a supermarket parking. Escape is escape, no matter where it takes you, and there’s a very thin line between exquisite and dreadful.

I’d rather be anywhere but here… Everybody has thought it and felt it at least on a few occasions, I’m sure. But sometimes the need to run becomes a constant, the fuel and reason behind one’s actions, when time gets divided in small, painful increments between escapes. It’s exactly these moments away that keep you sane, that give you the strength to bear that exasperating “everyday” and if escape plans fall apart, despair, depression, anger and frustration bubble up uncontrollably.

There was this large bag the contents of which I occasionally liked to spread all over the living room rug when I was a child, much to my grandmother’s exasperation. Postcards and stationary from countless hotels in what then seemed surreal exotic places were more amazing to me than fairy tales. I never wanted to be a princess and fairy tales weren’t real, even if I enjoyed many of them. But untouchable as they might have seemed, those places were real, and my mother had seen them all. The mere idea of it made her seem untouchable as well. Travelling wasn’t as accessible back then as it is nowadays, so that collection of postcards representing places she had seen was quite an achievement. An exciting, yet frightening achievement… I wanted to grow up and go see such beautiful places as well, I remember; I also remember having no clue as to how I would manage such an extraordinary thing. Grand things are in even greater in a child’s eyes.

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I have a postcard collection of my own now. I travelled because I loved to, I wanted to see all those places. I travelled because at times I felt I had no choice. But I also travelled because for a number of years I felt I had to be anywhere but home in order to be alive. No matter where you are, who you are and what you have, it’s all worthless, I was raised to believe; everything that’s truly valuable is that which you have yet to conquer; once you’ve conquered it, it becomes worthless and you need to move on to something greater, or at least new. Only weak people savour that which they have and they’re happy with their existences, I was taught.

Thinking back, I don’t regret taking any of those trips, not even the horrible ones. But eventually I had to understand the real reasons behind my need to leave, so that I could allow myself to feel accomplished and content with what my life is when I stay. There was a time when “home” had nothing for me and I was right to want to run; that attitude was no longer appropriate after a certain point, wanting to leave everything behind was no longer only a token of ambition. Instead, whether I liked it or not, I had to admit that learning to find joy in my everyday life was not a sign of weakness. And I liked it, even if it wasn’t easy… It was certainly better than constant dissatisfaction.

Some trips weren’t really for me, much as I tried to believe otherwise; they were journeys taken to gain approval I would never really gain. Other trips I haven’t taken in order to comply with somebody’s expectations and image of the person I should be… an image that would never be me. The rest… the rest of them were all about me and where I wanted to be, what I needed, and that’s the kind of travelling that I wish to be doing from now on.

Nurture is not everything; there’s also nature… my nature. And by nature, I am a restless, ambitious person, who often gets bored too easily. I can accept that, the same way that I can accept the fact that early summer, and sometimes early spring as well, make me giddy with that familiar desire… I want to get in my car or on a plane and keep going, not looking back. I love that impulse, it generally makes me feel alive, if it stems mainly in the need to travel, not to run away. That’s not a bad thing; it’s not necessarily a good one either, I remember.

I also remember something else I could no longer deny after a certain point… We desperately need to escape sometimes; what we tend to ignore or forget when we plot our escape is that there are some people who love us and whose desperate need is to be with us, when all we think about is running away…

Wordless Stories

Amazing beauty and incredible depth can be found in some of the wordless stories shared by objects…

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In response to WP Weekly Photo Challenge – Story.

Valentine’s Day…

 

“I want someone to laugh with me, someone to be grave with me, someone to please me and help my discrimination with his or her own remark, and at times, no doubt, to admire my acuteness and penetration.”

Robert Burns

Sometimes, it’s “Swan Lake” and dinner at a nice, romantic restaurant… sometimes, it’s beautiful red roses and phone calls, because everyday life doesn’t take a break for special occasions… and other times, it’s nothing but disappointment and frustration. Like many other socially branded times of celebration, the controversial Valentine’s Day will do that to us. Or… really… let’s be honest… we do that to ourselves.

It may not be my favourite holiday, but I’ve made peace with Valentine’s Day many years ago. Call me jaded, call me old, but I couldn’t have a meltdown because of it, even if I tried. And that’s mostly because I am who I am, I like what I like, and I honestly don’t care if those around me approve of it or not. I no longer try to adjust my expectations in order to fit their needs, nor do I feel guilty when I’m labelled as “spoilt” just because I want to be treated in a certain way. I get to choose who is close to me. We all do. We all should. Part of this choice is being aware that there are persons willing to offer me what I want, people who wish to make me feel special… people for whom I want to do the same.

I’ve said it before and I will say it again many times – celebrating a loved one, a relationship, showing them how important they are, can be so fulfilling. Perhaps some people are able to do that each and every day. Personally, I often drown in everyday nonsense and I generally need those pre-set occasions to shake everything up. I like thinking ahead, I look forward to birthdays, anniversaries and holidays and I have great fun getting and preparing all sorts of things for the ones I love, even months before any of these occasions. I once had two years’ worth of gifts for my mother, that should say it all. That’s also part of who I am, together with my expectations.

Yes, I like flowers – no heart shaped knickknacks, no cutsy teddy bears or other plush toys, no, thank you. It’s not that I need someone to buy them for me; I don’t mind getting them myself, if I need some cheering up. But I want somebody who cares enough to offer me flowers, just to make me smile, just because that’s what I like, and that’s important to them, even when it might not be their favourite activity. It’s about being offered what I want, not what somebody thinks I should want. I’ve learnt that such people exist. I’ve learnt that I’m also willing to compromise and make these people happy. These are the persons I want in my life, not the ones I need to change, not the ones who want to change me. They are the ones I think of when it comes to celebrating love.

Undeniably, I like the romantic side of the holiday. There’s something so adorable about watching a man get all dressed up for a date with me (even after being together for years), struggling to pick the right tie, the same way I struggle with choosing the perfect shoes. It’s fun to see him happy and elegant, impatiently waiting for a compliment, inevitably choosing to wear one of the ties and the cologne I gave him on some previous occasion. I know that at some point, he’s going to move his wrist just to make me notice he’s wearing my favourite watch as well. All these are small, irrelevant matters in the grand scheme of things. Yet it’s small, happy, fun moments together that make up the good part of life, the one that keeps one going through all the murky, unbearable times.

But this scenario is not always an option, and it’s nobody’s fault. It’s also not the end of the world when it doesn’t happen. As I’m listening to Bon Jovi, enjoying the red roses I received earlier and the delicious pralines I offered myself (first and foremost, I love myself), I’m thinking that a nice dose of realism is absolutely necessary on Valentine’s Day. A date on Valentine’s Day doesn’t guarantee love, nor does it reflect a person’s worth. Knowing what we need from others and from ourselves, seeing the value of who we are, celebrating it and those we love (be they a partner, a friend, a relative, the self) might be more important.

Happy Valentine’s Day, everyone! Find a little something that gives you pleasure and treat yourselves to it… or share it with somebody important to you.

Home

I take a left and there it is, vast, deep, seemingly endless, stretching under my eyes – the sea. I love to travel, but I have a small ritual whenever I return. I have to see the sea, as soon as possible. Trite as it may sound, it’s reassuring. It’s calming. It’s home… and there is a certain kind of safety and security in knowing you are tethered to a place, no matter how much of a wonderer you may be.

I wasn’t born here, but this is my place, my home. It adopted me from the moment I decided I would move here… or perhaps I adopted it, with all its beauty and flaws. First I would always say, “I live here… for now.” The idea of committing to a place for more than a few years seemed restricting, stifling, boring… Then I finally accepted what was already my reality – this place had become a part of me, and that was not a bad thing. In fact, it was a relief. I could allow myself to wonder and still have a safe place where I could come back. I could say, “I live here. This is my home.” I also knew that didn’t mean it had to be forever. One can’t really tell what the future holds…

Like me, it’s far from perfect. It doesn’t have the most impressive architecture. It could have more parks, more museums, more theatres… But it does have the sea… and when coming home, it’s always comforting to breathe in the salty air, to hear the seagulls and feel that annoying humid breeze mess up my hair.

Then there’s the atmosphere… This is by far my favourite region of the country. I could see myself living in another country; I could also see myself living here for the rest of my life; but I cannot see myself living in another corner of this country. Kind is not one of the first words that come to mind when describing the people here, not as a society. Neither is empathetic. Real? Yes, definitely. Self-centred, fun loving, often materialistic, certainly more open-minded than in other parts of the country, dark and incredibly bright at the same time, that’s them. But what I like most is that on the whole, they don’t pretend to be a much nicer group than they are; on the contrary, they take pride in their identity. This is why I felt I could fit in from the very first moment. One often needs to be rude, loud and pushy first, only to be able to create a context where one can then be polite, decent and respected. Otherwise there’s a good chance one will be devoured or at least stepped all over from the very beginning.

The question is, will I always feel the same way? Slowing down is rarely an option, there’s a constant sensation that you need to catch up, no matter how hard you’re trying. And it’s not only me or those here coming from other parts of the country. I’ve seen it in everybody; some don’t bother to hide it, others go to extreme lengths to do so. Regardless, there’s a constant drive to keep up with someone or something, no matter who or what you are.

So exactly what you love the most can become exhausting. Infuriating. Frustrating. It’s like that with people, it’s like that with places… That’s when I most need the vastness of the sea, the perspective it provides.

Similar, But Not The Same

I picked two moderately overpriced used books and I exchanged a few French words with the bouquiniste by the Seine, pleased I could still remember something from a language I once spoke fluently. I shoved the books in my oversized bag, a warm feeling taking over me as I hurried to explore a little bit more. I was only going to be in Paris for a short time, I had to pick and choose what I could do. There simply was no time for shopping, not even for books. But the book stalls by the Seine… one can surely consider that a cultural, or at least touristic, experience. Plus, they would make for good souvenirs, certainly better than fridge magnets. Continue reading “Similar, But Not The Same”

Growth

I entered my home, dragging my luggage, exhausted and relieved, as one usually feels after a good trip. I dropped everything in the hall and took a quick tour. I have my little “come back home” routine – a quick tour to see if everything is ok, followed by opening all windows to let the fresh air in. Yes, everything was the way I left it – you never know what you’re going to find when you come back home. So I went to open the windows and that’s when I noticed them. Not everything was exactly the same, was it? One of my orchids was blooming; another one had developed beautiful buds. Then, there was another small spectacle going on outside my window – all the spring bulbs were sprouting in their large flower pots, clearly encouraged or perhaps disoriented by the unseasonally warm weather. Life goes on, with or without you… growth happens in an instant, you never know for sure when and what will trigger it, and sometimes you’re not as relevant to the process as you might want to believe. Well, I just hope the weather stays warm enough for my spring flowers to bloom in winter.

Yet Another Year…

I’m not one for resolutions. They may work for some people, but that’s simply not the way I function. I like to plan ahead, but I don’t need a particular date to get me started; nor am I deluded enough in order to believe that I’m more likely to get something done just because I set my mind on it at midnight, just before another year begins…

What I like to do, however, is to look back at the year slipping away and take stock of what’s been… Was I true to myself? Did I make the best of it? Have I done my best, or at least the best I could at a particular moment? Have there been squandered opportunities? Did I learn something about myself, about the world around me? And so on… the list continues, as I’m sure it does for most of us. Continue reading “Yet Another Year…”

Merry Christmas!

merry-christmas

“I will honour Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year. I will live in the Past, the Present, and the Future. The Spirits of all Three shall strive within me. I will not shut out the lessons that they teach.”

(Charles Dickens – A Christmas Carol)

Merry Christmas, everyone! 🙂

December Madness

 

I could see her grimace in the mirror. For a second, her hands stopped moving, brush in mid-air above my head.

“No, not in the afternoon… I can fit her in, no later than 12.”

Yes, they were closed on the 25th, she mentioned just before that.

“On the 24th around 5 or 6 would be more acceptable… mom needs to finish all the preparations before getting her hair done. It’s the day before Christmas, after all.” Continue reading “December Madness”

Happy Birthday and We’ll Always Have Paris!

Some things are rare – so rare in fact, that we can hardly believe them when they happen to us.

We met with no hopes and expectations, knowing it can’t last and it can’t mean anything… and soon after we both understood how wrong we had been. But for two people so used to being right all the time, being wrong turned out to mean unexpected happiness. Continue reading “Happy Birthday and We’ll Always Have Paris!”

My Own, Personal Grinch

Come December, I see her photo pop up on my phone and I know we’re going to have the same conversation over and over again. Sometimes I don’t even answer, because I’m already too irritable to put up with the depressing rant. I’d rather be the one calling her, when I know I can take it and perhaps even help.

The hypocrisy! Those two hate and trash each-other all the time, and today they were hugging in the middle of the town! They were talking about the holidays and inquiring about each other’s families. As though anybody believes that act!

They only give presents to receive more expensive ones. They’re not fooling anyone.

Please… they only decorate their homes to show off and make everybody else feel miserable. Like we don’t know… Continue reading “My Own, Personal Grinch”

Cheeky Gift-Giving

I remember I wanted to crumple the piece of paper and throw it back into the hat. Instead I shoved it into my pocket and whispered something to the girl next to me. Her displeased face matched mine.

Anyone who’s done Secret Santa as a child knows how it can go from great to depressing in a second. Besides, we were too old for that, many of us protested. That might have been acceptable in middle school, but certainly not in high school…But there was no getting out of it, our form master decided it was a great activity that would bring us closer.

For me, all it represented was more salt on the wound, another reminder that my closest friends weren’t going to the same high school, another reminder that my current classmates were boring cowards, whereas my middle school ones were still mentioned in a whispered reverent tone. Thick as thieves we were, clever, with much above average results, and also unstoppable when it came to naughty, crazy pranks. The greatness we could have achieved, had we managed to stay together in high school… Continue reading “Cheeky Gift-Giving”

Three Day Quote Challenge – Day 3

The final day of the challenge is here and the quote I selected is from Neihtn’s Village Teacher. Neihtn is the pen name of a Vietnamese-American writer, Nguyễn Trọng Hiền.

3

“The footprints never overlapped or touched one another, but there was no doubt that they were walking close together and going forward in the same general direction. They turned around once more and resumed their walk.”

Neihtn, Village Teacher

Today’s special nominee is Sue from WordsVisual – if and whenever you feel like sharing a few quotes with us, Sue. Anyone else who wants to participate is also welcome.

In the end, I would like to share a bonus quote – a well-known one, this time.

“Beware that, when fighting monsters, you yourself do not become a monster… for when you gaze long into the abyss, the abyss gazes also into you.”

Friedrich Nietzsche

Three Day Quote Challenge – Day 2

Don’t blush, Yvette. Today is your day!

2

“There’s a different kind of beauty that can be extracted from brokenness. It’s a delicate, vulnerable life phase, but moving through brokenness can wake us up and clear away the dross. Often, it allows us to later appreciate and soak up beauty in a way we might otherwise miss.”

Yvette Prior, Lady by the River

Today’s special nominee is India Blue from A Place for Creative Expression – if and whenever you feel like sharing a few quotes with us, I know you’re going through a difficult time. Anyone else who wants to participate is also welcome.

Moving On…

1

“Oh… sweetie… I’m so sorry! Are you all right?”

She’s sorry?!

We skipped straight to a dish session – our patented way of diffusing dark, heavy conversations about to explode into a fight. The usual, who’s married, who’s dating, who’s getting divorced…. who’s married, and dating, and about to get divorced… But I didn’t really have any juicy gossip, and apparently neither did she, so our conversation was risking to dangerously slip back to the previous pattern.

Then I remembered – guess who got married? Continue reading “Moving On…”

Occasional Glow

There can a special glow in simple things and moments… But sometimes that certain glow hides a rough life, a life full of sacrifice and struggle. It’s all in the eye of the beholder – passing by is one thing, living there, behind the glow, might be entirely different.

Layered Emotions

“I don’t want any apartment plants, they’re just not my thing.”

That was my usual go-to reply whenever somebody wondered why there were no plants in my home. “I’m not good at taking care of them, I have neither the time nor the patience to keep them alive,” I would continue, if they insisted.

That was the easiest way of avoiding a conversation on a topic that was somewhat unclear to me too. I liked decorative plants. Yet I knew I didn’t want them in my home.

Frustrated and tired, I was walking fast towards the exit of the large store – one of my last hopes of finding the perfect curtain rail. Continue reading “Layered Emotions”

Distracting Windows

There’s something about windows… Whenever I’m in a new place, just wondering about and taking in the sights and architecture, I often get distracted from the big picture. My eyes fixate on windows and I find myself wondering what it would be like to live behind some of them. I lost count of all those times I bumped into people, looking up distracted, ignoring everything and everyone around.

Then there’s the other side of the window…

Do you ever get the feeling that there are certain people meant to inhabit that ground floor flat, the one closest to the entrance, with the best view of everybody entering and leaving the building?… I wonder, have they always been that sort of people and their choice of a home is merely an extension of their personality… or is it always location, location, location, and they morphed into the neighbourhood busybody exactly because of it? They always know who you date, what time you got home, from where and with whom, yet somehow they never notice who dinged your car… It’s all about prioritising, I suppose.

Everywhere I lived, in every building I visited several times, they were there, and they never failed to make themselves noticed. I remember the one living in the building I grew up in… and all the ways I had to invent in order to get in and out at the wrong hours, without being noticed. I tell you, it was not an easy job. Getting home late in the evening generally went unnoticed by my grandmother. But another pair of curious eyes would see and report as soon as possible… and god forbid I made my grandmother look bad in front of the neighbours. So what’s a kid to do? Well, nothing else but come home even later, making sure that said lady was sound asleep by that time.

There was no way of escaping them, I concluded a few years ago, when I was contemplating moving. I eventually found a place that was tempting. A couple of visits with the real-estate agent brought him, the ground floor guy, out of hiding. When looking out the window failed to provide enough information on the newcomer, he went out in the garden, blatantly staring at the windows of that flat. To his great delight, we were on the balcony, so his curiosity was appeased. I remember driving to that building the following day, wanting to take one more look without the agent before making my final decision. Parked in what would have become my parking space, I was analysing everything, weighing the pros and cons. The head eventually stopped peering from behind the curtain… because the neighbour decided to come in front of the building to nosily stare at the car and whoever dared to trespass on his “personal” space. Did I really want to live right above this person?… Well, that wasn’t the deciding factor, but it certainly weighed heavily.

Summer is a busy time for one of my current downstairs neighbours, and the good old window and that pulled aside curtain corner are working overtime… so much so, that she even leaves her door slightly open once in a while. The window is just not enough. She may be the keeper of all neighbourhood gossip, but she isn’t among the most obnoxious ones, so I find it easy to tolerate her whenever I fail to avoid her. Hurrying by the open door, I realise I’ve never been too curious to know what life is like behind it… and that’s because the woman living there never fails to overshare. Furthermore, her endless, indiscrete inquiries make people want to keep their distance. Ironically, what most likely is the consequence of loneliness and a need of human contact, is also what prevents her from getting close to anybody.

Bridge

There are certain bridges we should learn to stop crossing back and forth, as they take us to the worst version of what our lives could be. Then there are those scary, almost hidden ones, the ones we hardly ever notice or take into consideration… Who knows what unchartered territories, what world full of options might await on the other side of those bridges, the ones not yet crossed, not yet deemed as worth burning …

Transient Moments

Every time I go to the mountains I am somehow pulled towards these seemingly insignificant water streams. I could almost say that the sound of undisturbed nature is incomplete without that murmur of rushing waters.

Once in a while, it stares you in the face, the enormous strength and consequences of something apparently so small cannot be denied or ignored. Bit by bit, over what seems an eternity, water droplets have carved their way through impenetrable walls.

There’s nothing else to be done other than admire the force of repetitive transient, apparently insignificant moments.

Fleeting instants and unexpected people walk into our lives and leave it just as fast, like water streams… They occasionally leave indelible marks, the consequences of which we only notice much later. Once we do, we need to accept that nothing can ever be the same.

Local Knowledge

Summer arrived particularly early that year. For us, locals, it felt like a well-deserved, yet unexpected treat. It may not have been my native town, it may not have been that long that I lived there, but I liked to think of myself one of them. Of course, being a student who had to not only survive exams, but actually maintain a certain grade average was something of a drawback… but nothing I couldn’t handle gracefully, I figured.

I’ve never been one to study well in libraries or excessively quiet places, so that early summer weather was a real gift. I could simply go and study on the beach, the sound of the sea drowning all that unwanted noise in my head. It was still too early for tourists to flood the shore, so we had the beaches to ourselves, a few people here and there enjoying the perfect weather, delighting in that sandy peace.

I passed my exams, I managed to get a bit of a tan and the study experience proved to be a lot more enjoyable than I could have ever expected. I certainly had to make a mental note and return to that particular beach the following year, in case the weather was going to be on my side, I decided.

I was quite proud of my little discovery, in fact. Not far enough from home to feel guilty for the time wasted to get there, the place wasn’t completely abandoned. Bur the best part was that the very few people populating it seemed to be single, no screaming children disrupting my study sessions. There were other single young ladies working on their tan and it felt like a stroke of luck to have stumbled upon that place where men seemed to be rather polite and civilized when trying to approach them. I remember being offered drinks a couple of times, but they took my refusal very well and I could just burry myself in my study material again. I didn’t really feel offended that after trying to approach me, one gentleman proceeded to try his luck with another girl – she was gorgeous and I had admired her designer beach bag from the moment she arrived. A while later I lifted my nose from a book and noticed they were both gone.

My friend burst into loud, incontrollable laughter. I really didn’t see why my study experience was such a thigh-slapper.

“I had no idea you were looking for a summer job,” is all he manages to utter between fits of laughter. “So how much did you make,” he wants to know next…

I may not be the blushing kind, but I could feel even my earlobes burn as he imparted his knowledge. Clearly the ladies on that corner of the beach were working, but not only on their tan… on the bright side, I was informed, it was a high-end corner beach. Everything – details I had completely ignored – fell into place. Some strange looks I got while sitting there, in the sun, surrounded by all my study notes started to make sense; some of the guys’ giggles when telling them where I had studied were clearly justified. However, the girls seemed oblivious to it when I later shared my hilarious, yet somewhat embarrassing faux pas. Hmmm…

It may have happened many moons ago, it may look entirely different now, but I still smile when I pass by that place and I remember studying on the beach that early summer. You can know a place… and you can know a place…

The Order of Things

She had a “cat that ate the canary” look on her face, but I chose to ignore it. I was too tired, too hungry, and the only thing I craved more than food was a cup of coffee. If nothing else, you could always count on her to have a fresh pot handy when she was home.

I blindly reached for a cup, but my fingers wrapped around what turned out to be a wine glass. Nothing was where it was supposed to be and I was pointed to the most illogical place for a coffee cup. She had taken upon herself to reorganize my kitchen cabinets, the way she would have liked them to be. The same way her mother used to do to her… the same way her mother-in-law used to do to her, until they took back the spare key they had so gracefully offered her. Who cares that this is my home, not hers? Who cares that she knew what a nuisance this type of behaviour can be?

As I was being given a tour of my own kitchen, I tried not to choke on the cigarette smoke. Who cares that I’m not a smoker?

“Do you like it?”

I hate it.

“It’s fine. It was fine before too…”

I was a student and it was the first time my mother was visiting me, in my own home. Of course I wanted everything to be perfect… as close to perfect as it could be on a student’s budget. Sure, everything was old, but I took pride in how spotless and tidy the place was. I had worked really hard to get it in such a decent shape. But I didn’t feel like arguing after the long day I had had, considering everything I still had to do that evening.

“Did you go out today?”

“No, I was waiting for you to come back. Do you really have to spend this much time at the university, even when I’m here?”

Ok… just let it go… breathe and ignore her… one more sip of coffee… you can do this…

“Well?…” She gestured widely around the kitchen, clearly waiting for some sort of comment.

Well, what?

“Have you nothing to say about all the work I had to do for you today?”

I knew that tone of voice. Just breathe, choose your battles.

“Oh, you mean the cabinets… thanks, it was very kind of you, but you really shouldn’t have bothered.”

“The cabinets? Is that all you have to say? I break my back for you and that’s the thanks I get, you don’t even notice… you and that husband of mine, two peas in a pod, just taking me for granted.”

I looked around carefully, only to notice that aside from a heavy cloud of cigarette smoke and some dirty dishes in the sink, the kitchen was just as I left it. Then she angrily grabs at the old fridge, pulling it aside.

“Can’t you see I cleaned behind the fridge,” the voice is shrill, bordering on hysterical.

Forgive me for not using my X-ray vision… and for being one of those few deranged people who don’t go looking behind the fridge, first thing when they get home. But most of all, sorry for not generally noticing you cleaned a place that had already been scrubbed clean and disinfected only one day earlier. And that was only the second day from a three week visit…

Those who know me, tease me about being a neat freak… but I’m nothing compared to the neat freak my mother used to be. Whenever this tendency of mine seams to take an unhealthy turn, I remember her scrubbing the spaces between the tiles with a tooth brush when I was child. That will never be me.

Many things have changed since that visit of hers. Many things will forever stay the same. She no longer cares about having a spotless home; but she bitterly criticizes everybody else. I no longer care about her approval, but I do tend to go overboard when expecting her for a visit. I do eventually manage to step back, take a deep breath and say to myself, “The hell with it, nothing will ever please her anyway.” Last autumn, just before her impending visit, I had that revelation while polishing the exterior of my entrance door. The following day, she was waiting for me to find my keys in my bag, while noticing my neighbour’s door.

“What’s wrong with these people? Don’t they know the door is the first thing one notices about their home?”

“Don’t you know that’s possibly the last thing anybody cares about?”

I smile and she smiles back, because she chooses to consider such comments part of my strange sense of humour, cynical ways.

Many of us spare no effort in our endeavours to change that often perverted order of things, where we become our parents. Difficult as it may be, it is doable; and it can often be a great self-control mechanism. Yet it can only go so far… Certain things are beyond our control, I realize while staring at a recent photo of my mother. Tired and in a foul mood, with no makeup on, she looks exactly like my grandmother when she was about her age. So I wonder… as the years go by, will I end up hating my reflection in the mirror, simply because I might feel my face belongs to somebody else more than it does to me?… All I can hope for – worst case scenario –is to only ever see that reflection in a mirror, and not when the two of us are face to face.

Carol Balawyder’s “Mourning Has Broken”

Instead of sharing an image of a spectacularly dangerous corner of nature or of anything else around us that might suggest great peril, I’m stepping outside the confines of this week’s challenge. In fact, I’m dropping the “photo” part of the challenge altogether, and I’m focusing on the topic alone. Thus I would like to share a few thoughts on a book I’ve read recently, a book written by somebody you might already know from the blogging world. And yes, there is a connection… As I see it, one of the relevant dangers of being human and of allowing ourselves to experience the greatest joys of our nature is loss. Death is part of it – an unavoidable part of it. So we are all confronted with it and we have no choice but to learn how to deal it.

“Death is messy and often is accompanied with unfinished business. The leaving behind of everything and everyone you could possibly imagine. There is no way out of it.”

Carol BalawyderMourning Has Broken

Putting pain into words is one thing; putting those words in writing is another. But putting that writing out there, for everyone to access and interpret is an act of bravery. After reading Mourning Has Broken, one can only admire Carol Balawyder’s courage to share her experience with grief and loss.

I’ve read other books written by her, but this one touched me the most. Perhaps it’s the disarming honesty with which Carol writes about the pitfalls of dealing with death, loss and grief. Perhaps it’s the fact that everyone who has ever dealt with such issues can relate to the tone of the book and the emotions shared, if not also to some of the exact manifestations. Either way, a sense of gratefulness and respect builds up as one keeps reading – gratefulness for sharing and respect for the woman who has managed not only to work through incredible loss, but to also find hope and meaning in her experiences.

Grief is personal and there is no sure “recipe” for surviving it, and Carol’s book doesn’t try to give advice; but in trying to make sense of pointless, heart-breaking events, she does manage to cleverly insert a sense of hope. Somewhere, underneath all the pain, guilt and regret, there is strength – strength to move on, strength to remember, strength to hurt and fall apart, yet somehow continue living. The dead survive through the memories and feelings of the living, and allowing this connection to manifest itself once in a while is not only natural, but it can also be helpful, we are reminded. Memories of the past find embodiment in the present – a recipe, a book or a clothing item are not only a reminder, but a way to reconnect, to understand, to find peace.

There are numerous kinds of death and they never really find us prepared. What we know may seem useless, so we despair, but we also try and create our tools to help us deal with such situations. If nothing else, Carol’s book is a ray of hope from somebody who has survived and wakes up every day knowing she has to keep working at surviving. This is something that had to be said, Carol Balawyder’s fluent style convinces the reader – the same reader who gets a distinct feeling that the writer not only knows what she’s talking about, but has also thoroughly researched the matter, to facilitate the mourning process. The answers she found, she shares with us… and for that, we can only be thankful.

“Mourning, I realize, must come in small parcels. To realize the immensity of the loss at once would be too overwhelming and unbearable. It must be done in bits and pieces of dreams disappearing one sliver at a time.”

Carol Balawyder – Mourning Has Broken

Wanderlust

The snow covered mountain tops seemed… they seemed familiar. We had been driving up and down through the mountains all day long, we were heading towards yet another landmark, but… there was something about those peaks, like I had seen them up close. All day I kept trying to figure out which mountain was which, as terrible at geography as always. My sight oversaturated with all those wonderful landscapes, I still couldn’t help staring in that particular direction. Then I noticed the signs, as we drove into possibly one of the dullest small towns I had ever seen.

My throat closed with emotion for a moment, as I recognized the memory and remembered the place. The name of the place typed into the GPS, I never even glanced at the route. The destination was the main concern. I turned my head and as our eyes met and we smiled melancholically, I knew my friend was thinking the same thoughts.

For a week we woke up to see those peaks first thing every morning. An indescribably old, barely functional truck drove us and our rucksacks several kilometres down a terrible, pothole filled road. Not too long a hike and we were finally at what we chose as our camping site. I stare at the mountain and I remember all the drama and adventure of that trip as though it was yesterday. The guys who climbed all the way to the top of those steep rocky cliffs… the guy who abandoned his girlfriend on the mountain, on a storm, in the middle of a passionate fight, and then went after her… that day I decided to hike up the mountain on one of the more accessible trails and how I decided that torrential rain wouldn’t stop me, even if that meant I had to drag my boyfriend after me, even if that meant my best friend felt compelled to come after us, worried something might have gone wrong. I remember how intense love felt back then; I remember how friendship used to be more important than anything else. But above all, I remember those nights around the camp fire… we were just a bunch of teenagers, having little else in common but our wanderlust and our need to escape our lives. Somehow, right there, in the middle of nowhere, having nothing else but a fire, our tents and each other, we felt safe. And we were happy.

We look at each other again.

“Were we… what, fifteen, sixteen?… Sixteen, we must’ve been sixteen… that’s right…”

And we do the math, but avoid actually saying how many years have passed since then; we feel old, and at the same time, we’re giddy like children. We keep driving down today’s road, giving voice to yesterday’s memories.

As the days get warmer and longer, this crazy urge to just pack my bags and go – anywhere, everywhere – takes over me. Sometimes it finds an outlet, and it also finds company. I can’t help appreciating the irony of then versus now… just like I can’t help noticing how many various ways there are to reach the same destination. We keep focusing on the destination and finding value in the journey that takes us there. How about the company we choose? What if that’s the most important part, especially when it comes to the more difficult journeys? I only know this – if wanderlust hits and I want somebody with me, that person is somebody truly special to me.

Surprise

Whether in the loving hands of someone special, in a pot by the window, in the garden or presented by a delivery person, flowers always make for a beautiful surprise.

In response to WP Photo Challenge – Surprise.

 

Purple

Not even the cleverest makeup can conceal certain marks on a woman’s face. I could imagine her sitting in front of her vanity mirror in the morning, sad and lonely, trying to make those ugly shades of purple disappear under layers of foundation, concealer, powder and blush.

Sometimes they were easy to hide. But even then, when you saw her walking down the hallways in her elegant outfits, head rarely held high, you knew something was out of place. She normally wore only a touch of makeup… when there was nothing to hide.

Her husband was a doctor. She was a teacher in my school – a beautiful, intelligent, highly educated woman, with a great sense of humour. Everybody knew. Nobody seemed to care. If anything, they turned up their noses and shook their heads, when her private life was in plain sight, written on her face, scarring her delicate, still youthful features.

Sometimes, she would miss work several days in a row. One some rare occasions, she would disappear for a couple of weeks. Once, her voice wasn’t the same for a while, some broken teeth affected her speech. Then she disappeared again and her teeth were absolutely perfect when she returned. Everything could be fixed, everything could be covered…

Everybody gossiped, nobody interfered… because it wasn’t out of the ordinary. It happened in all walks of life. Cultural and social status may have been a catalyst at times, but it was never a deterrent. I wonder, how many of her female colleagues – the ones who were only too thrilled to spread the word – went home to a similar life? I wonder, how many of her male colleagues went home to dispense the same kind of loving treatment to their wives? Envy was the one thing most of them shared – what was a few bruises, some broken bones and teeth, compared to everything she had? She certainly couldn’t afford all those nice clothes or that home in a nice part of town on a teacher’s salary… And many women put up with much worse… And maybe she deserved it… maybe she even liked it.

She would leave. All her friends and acquaintances had heard her talk about leaving him. She shared her incredible plans for a better future with anyone who would listen. And people listened, because that’s what you do. You sit down and have a cup of coffee with this woman who seems so together, she all of the sudden becomes unhinged, while calmly telling you how she would leave that home of horrors. She doesn’t even feel the need to explain why she would leave, because she knows you know, in spite of all those stories about walking into doors and falling down the stairs. You nod and agree with her, because you have no idea what else to do. But just like everybody else, you don’t believe her, because she’s been talking this way for years. Nobody believes her, not even her husband believes she could ever leave.

Then it becomes clear – that was her plan all along. She wasn’t as unhinged as everybody thought her to be. One morning, she was simply gone. First, nobody paid too much attention to that particular matter, she occasionally spent the night at a friend’s place. Then she failed to show up at work… or at home… or anywhere else.

She was gone.

Gone were all her personal things as well. Her wardrobe was empty. Her jewellery box was empty. Only most of her makeup was still on the table, in front of her vanity mirror. She was nowhere to be found.

Pieces of the puzzle started to fall into place. She had systematically taken her things to a friend’s place over the preceding months. She had everything set up – a new job, a new home, a new life. And once her child was old enough, once she had that child’s future secured, she could finally buy a plane ticket.

Suddenly, everybody believed her. She hadn’t only left him, but she left the country. The saddest part was that most of them considered her happy ending, her new beginning, as nothing more than a pathetic, insane, unacceptable choice.

Here’s to hoping that more and more women in her situation manage to find the strength and resources to make such a choice!

Atop

Sometimes, we need to escape more than we know… Only when we start to travel, only when we put some space between us and our “everyday” do we realize how desperately we needed to do exactly that. I don’t know about you, but the right trip at the right moment makes me feel on top of the world – at least on top of my world 🙂 .

In response to WP Weekly Photo Challenge – Atop.

Wish

Every new, beautiful place I had the good fortune to visit was a wish come true. Here’s to many more. 😉

In response to WP Weekly Photo Challenge – Wish.

On This Day of Ours

She spent all the time admiring herself in the mirror… she went on and on about her perfect body and her toned abs, lifting her shirt to show me. Could she be vainer?

I knew the girl who had been getting on my friend’s last nerve. She was attractive. She was beautiful. But most importantly, she knew it and she loved flaunting it. Personally, I admired her fashion sense – she was one of those women who instinctively know what suits them best and could create astonishing outfits from unremarkable items – and I found her lack of false modesty refreshing.

I also knew what that story was about… Equally beautiful, equally vain, my friend was more subtle about showing off her best physical features. It wasn’t difficult to know when she was truly happy with her body. She’d emerge from dressing rooms half naked or she wouldn’t mind undressing in front of other women. We’d pretend to go to the gym only so we’d have a good excuse for sauna and massages.

On the other hand, whenever she put on some weight or she obsessed over imaginary cellulite, shopping with her was a nightmare. My needing a size smaller than the one she was trying on generally resulted in a variety of mood swings and was often met with a particular grimace – the one she was saving for those special cases when someone’s actions were perceived as purposely directed against her. Our guilty pleasure – a nice meal and sharing a large slice of chocolate cake at our favourite restaurant – would be replaced by a blend salad and a lecture on the dangers of sugar and carbs.

All of the sudden, she’d show up wrapped in an oversized towel, the kind she always made fun of when seeing other women wear when taking a sauna. Like I said, I knew what it was about – she had cancelled our sauna and gossip sessions entirely for several weeks, when our acquaintance was showing off her perfect body.

It looks like all that time she spends exercising is paying off… Well, some of us don’t have the time for that, some of us have to work…

The time for feigning acceptance had passed. I could envision their afternoon… after all, I had witnessed such displays so many times. Both of them beautiful, both of them competitive, both of them frustrated in different ways. One would brag about her career and stable future, the other about her looks and her obscenely wealthy boyfriend… one of them relying on her education and her supportive family; the other one relying on nothing else but her beauty and survival instincts, her family offering her nothing but a bedroom in their home… both of them sharing one common goal, in spite of their temporary independence and rebellion – meeting a man they’d marry, the way it was expected of them…

I think of that conversation once in a while… particularly when I notice people shaking their heads and rolling their eyes disapprovingly if I make it clear that I feel good about the way I look… particularly when I notice people sigh with exasperation if I’m displeased with my appearance. So get ready to roll your eyes, because I’m going to say it. We were in our twenties back then and all three of us were beautiful, in conventional and non-conventional ways.

What is so wrong in saying that, anyway? No matter what we look like, we are constantly bombarded with clichés on the importance of self-love… so much so, that it’s really easy to end up hating ourselves for not loving to bits all those perfect imperfections we abhor. Yet the very moment we actually find a way to accept and appreciate our individual beauty, no matter what that might look like, countless brows frown and condemning whispers point out how such deluded vanity is unacceptable. What is the crime in it, that we have to tare each other apart this way? Everything in moderation, one might say. But moderation isn’t always an option… Much like beauty, moderation is subjective, defined by the eye of the beholder. Call me crazy, but I’d rather err on the side of deluded vanity/self-love…

Yes, we are can be wonderfully generous and we can be frightfully mean; we can be insecure and we can be arrogant, even at the same time; we laugh, we cry, we hurt and get hurt. We are only human. We live. So perhaps – once in a while – we can just live and let live… especially on this day of ours. Rather than trying to set new patterns that “need” to be followed, we might consider respecting each other’s choices, even if we may not always agree with them. Rather than trying to define, rule and regulate what a woman “should” be, let’s take a break and appreciate who we actually are.

This is supposed to be our day, so first and foremost, we should celebrate ourselves. Then we might want to think of all those other wonderful women in our lives. Then we might want to take a moment and think of those special people in our lives, the patient and loving ones, the ones who make us feel like ladies each and every day, and thank them. We all know who they are 😉

Happy Women’s Day, ladies!

Solitude

10

“She stands still, looking around, never moving, never changing. People leave. People change. New people always arrive, so they would take their turn leaving sooner or later. And they live and die, they experience a constant transformation. Yet she transcends stages of life without moving, because she cannot undertake the usual, normal human evolutionary road and follow it through the same ditches of failure and disappointment. So she stands still, most of the times alone, breathing steadily and sometimes stopping someone to keep her company, help her forget fear and loneliness and hatred… and just trying to live.’

Parallel Lives – Ana Linden

11

In response to WP Weekly Photo Challenge – Solitude.

Picking Up The Phone And Speaking Out

6

I barely managed to quietly lock the door behind me when the ringing made me jump out of my skin. Whoever was calling, I begrudged them. That phone was so loud, that you could hear it from any corner of the house… especially in the dead of night.

Great! My grandmother was already standing in front of me – the woman could certainly pull a frightening judgemental look, even in her frilly granny nightgown, measuring me from the tip of my high heel boots to my mascara covered lashes. Our make-believe game was working so well… I would pretend I got home early, she would pretend to care enough to stay awake and see when I returned; as long as nothing happened, so she wouldn’t have to be confronted with the truth, as long as none of her friends could prove my disobedience, the system served us both so well.

What time is it? I answered, defiantly looking her in the eye. Why did we need to pretend, anyway? Who was calling at this hour of the night? How was I to know? Perhaps I could find out, if she moved aside, so I could get to the ringing phone… No. That was unacceptable. The phone would not be answered. Calling that late in the night was simply a sign of bad manners. I scowled, as my grandmother stood in front of me, arms crossed, sleep marks on her face, yet stubbornly blocking my path to the phone. Maybe it was an emergency, I ventured a guess. No emergency justifies bad manners! I wasn’t going to win that one, I knew it.

Perhaps getting a mobile phone wasn’t an entirely bad idea, I thought to myself, entering my room once the ringing stopped.

*

The desk by the window remained empty that day. I hoped she would eventually show up.  But she didn’t, and I couldn’t fight that feeling of dread and helplessness taking over me as the hours went by.

*

I had to ring several times before the door eventually opened. Her brother looked sad, but relieved to see me. Something in his voice made me believe that he was constantly feeling the dread and helplessness I had experienced that day, but ten times, a hundred times more intensely. She was fine… well, she was upset, but she was fine… she just didn’t feel like going to school, that was all. Was he trying to convince me or himself? Why didn’t he go to work that day, if he believed it?…

Relax… No pills, no trips to the emergency room, she smiled sadly as I entered her room. No more of that, she did promise, after all… Was she trying to convince me or herself? She was just in a bad mood; everybody can be in a bad mood once in a while, right?

When she didn’t come to school for about ten days several months earlier, nobody could get in touch with her. But nobody worried too much either, she often missed school for days at a time. She was a bright girl, so she always managed to keep up with all the school work… and let’s be honest, we all did our best to skip as many classes as possible.

She loved life and she knew she had made a mistake in a moment of weakness. Last night was just bad, that’s all, she told me. She knew that talking about it would make her feel better, would chase away some of her despair, fear and loneliness. Her brother was out. So she tried calling her closest friends… but it was late, very late in the night, so nobody answered.

Of course they didn’t, manners were more important than emergencies, I thought to myself, not at all sure whether what I was feeling was anger or guilt.

Then she dialled some random numbers, she continued to tell me the previous night’s story. Eventually, somebody answer. A stranger. A kind, patient stranger, somebody completely unfamiliar with certain good manners, answered and listened. A stranger can sometimes be more understanding, helpful and objective than any friend. But most importantly, it can be a lot easier to talk to a stranger, especially when they do answer their phone in the middle of the night. She cried, she talked about things she didn’t even know she needed to share and in her turn, she listened to a stranger’s opinions and personal stories. In the end, the experience had been cathartic, but exhausting as well, because it was morning by the time they hung up. That was why she hadn’t come to school, she needed to sleep. I was relieved; at the same time, I felt awful.

I wanted to make my grandmother feel guilty, I wanted to make her understand how wrong she had been. It didn’t work; some people can never see anything outside that small box which represents their close-minded vision on life. But whether she liked it or not, telephone etiquette was no longer respected.

*

I often ignore phone calls, but to this day I always answer when the phone rings in the middle of the night. You never know when allowing someone to speak out about something completely irrelevant to you might actually be a matter of life of death for them…