Christmas Ghosts

Winter holidays are probably that time of year when ghosts of our past are most likely to come out and dig their dirty fingernails into wounds closed long ago, hoping to pry them open and make them bleed once more. And if there’s ever a chance for them to succeed…

Well, at least that’s what this time of year is like for me. So here I am, lights twinkling in the tree, Christmas songs playing… and I’m angry dancing in my fuzzy bathrobe and equally fuzzy slippers while brushing my teeth, late at night. Before you say it, no, I can’t blame this on too much mulled wine; that’s simply who I am. Continue reading “Christmas Ghosts”

How Not To Be Happy

Someone was telling me the other day that she wasn’t happy because she couldn’t find at least half an hour each day to reflect on the possibility of being happy – certain people in particular and the world in general were plotting to make her miserable, while she had nothing to do with it. I will refrain from any comment on this person’s choices and lifestyle (sometimes I’m actually able to choose my battles), but I will say this much, it made me think of my own issues with happiness. Continue reading “How Not To Be Happy”

A Splash Of Snow By The Sea

I shouldn’t play favourites, I know, but out of nature’s elements, water is the one I prefer. I may have already mentioned it once or twice. So when Patti from Lens-Artists suggested “Splash” for this week’s challenge, countless stories flooded my mind. I have to agree with her when she says, “water is magical. Its beauty, power and persistence are unsurpassed.” So is its ability to surprise and amaze, I was reminded today, as I was struggling with my feelings towards the first snow of this early winter. Continue reading “A Splash Of Snow By The Sea”

Those Doors…

Be open to new experiences… be open to trying new things and meeting new people… open all the doors you find in your way and something good will always come of it… and if you cannot open the doors yourself, do everything in your power to find some way or someone who can do it for you… have your doors, much like your arms, open to everybody, nothing bad can come of it… How about knowing when to close those metaphorical doors Continue reading “Those Doors…”

November Night, Artistic Light

We rushed into the restaurant just as a cold November drizzle started to dampen the cobblestone. It was warm and inviting, a waiter smiled at us and the plates he was carrying looked promising. I chose a table by the window. I wanted to see the square outside. I also wanted a drink, I thought to myself, taking in the place, as I was warming up, sitting comfortably with a menu in front of me. Not too bad, even if touristy. But how else would it be? After all, it was Montmartre… I just hope the food is good. Continue reading “November Night, Artistic Light”

Parallel Lives – Sample Fragment 71

“I’m so sorry… I know how important she was to you.”

The words and their emptiness reverberated against the white walls. White noise… That’s the best I can do. Because I can’t understand, I can’t feel anything like that. She finally tried to look him in the eyes. My words are false, I know that, but I can at least have enough respect for him and look at him while regurgitating empty words. He hadn’t moved, he was still staring at the written pages. Continue reading “Parallel Lives – Sample Fragment 71”

Blend In And Stand Out

None of the other children are going, so you’re not going either. If everybody else jumped off a bridge, would you join them? Why can’t you be more like everybody else? You need to be better than everyone else. Look at them, they’re not causing any trouble, so why do you have to go about attracting attention? You need to stand up for yourself. You have to let go. You need to get involved. Why do you have to care so much? You have to study and be the best at what you do, that’s the only way you’ll make something of yourself and become an independent woman. Continue reading “Blend In And Stand Out”

Parallel Lives – Sample Fragment 70

Other people’s emotions are often a burden, so one tends to avoid them as much as possible, one chooses to look the other way and to invoke various reasons that might account for an obvious change in their behaviour, since anything is better than acknowledging such situations, assimilating them and forcing oneself to live through such experiences together with another individual. Continue reading “Parallel Lives – Sample Fragment 70”

Fun To Be Had

From dancing on tables to reading a good book, from walking aimlessly on a sunny day to carefully planned journeys, from teaching a child how to write to taking pleasure in others’ misfortune or even causing it, from being high on life to getting high to bear life, there certainly is fun to be had out there. Now, now… let’s not be too judgemental. After all, much like sorrow, “fun” is a terribly subjective concept. What hurts me, might not touch you – but that won’t diminish my pain. What you find extremely entertaining might not appeal to me, or might even be beyond my power of comprehension, yet it doesn’t mean you’re not having fun.

How many of us can honestly say they’ve never had fun in a less than moral, socially acceptable way? Continue reading “Fun To Be Had”

Constant Change… or Throwing Away Thackeray

Promises are made to be broken, they say. Well, this one certainly was. There I was, standing in front of my bookcase once more, trying to make room for my latest purchases.

Sigh… I promised myself not to do this anymore. Living in a small flat, being a person who hates clutter, I am painfully aware that if my shoes don’t kick me out to get more space for themselves, then my books just might. And I hate throwing away books… or shoes…

I’m aware of my limitations, so I know I am beyond redemption when it comes to shoes, Continue reading “Constant Change… or Throwing Away Thackeray”

Open Window

“I wasn’t supposed to open the window, she told me… so I didn’t…”

I see the old lady hasn’t lost the ability to intimidate people, especially her daughter.

“If I absolutely had to have fresh air in my bedroom, she said, I was to open the bathroom window and leave the doors open.”

She was the reigning matriarch and no one was going to contradict any of her nonsense.

“Was the window broken or what? Did it not open?” I ventured curiously, not really understanding what and why was going on.

“I don’t know, I didn’t even try… Continue reading “Open Window”

Parallel Lives – Sample Fragment 66

She could see the fast burning flame about to disintegrate and take both of them down; and she wasn’t naive enough in order not to separate shallow infatuation and sexual ecstasy from real feelings. Robert was allowing himself to be carried away by this new, odd and exciting woman in his life, but Amalia knew better than to leave to chance even the most remote possibility for real feelings to spark. Continue reading “Parallel Lives – Sample Fragment 66”

Last Day of Summer

It’s not the last day of August. I’m not thinking of the autumnal equinox either. There’s this one day every autumn when I get the distinct feeling that’s the end of summer. Sometimes it sneaks up on me; other times it goes by unnoticed and later I regret it. But when I do notice it, I have my little ritual…

It’s often enough to look up from your computer, your desk or the countless other things that clutter your life, and you notice it… you feel it. Of course, checking that weather app on your phone to figure out for how long you can leave some flower pots outside might also prove helpful… That’s what reminded me that I could put off bringing in the plants, but I can’t “postpone” that final hot beautiful summer day of the year. So it was time for one more barefoot walk on the beach. Continue reading “Last Day of Summer”

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.

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“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!

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“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…

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“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.