Thursday, 26 February 2015


I am searching for some long-forgotten senses of self. It's hard to recollect what made me tick back then. I felt that more avenues were open to me. I felt no compulsion to stick to the main roads.
If there is a fountain of light emerging from the top of my head, why do I find it so hard to recall all the compliments I receive? Do I need to deepen this sensation of spiritual transcendence, or reach for another?

Confusion is a self-made thing. It borrows from a manufactured world of mediocre preoccupations.

I push them out, one after the other. Perfectly formed little critters, dazzling in the daylight.

It's time to break the pattern.

What could I be, if I let my thoughts run free? Possibly triumphant as I daren't be. But who is the me demanding attention? Already transformed into something else.

I dared (a bit) today. 

Saturday, 21 February 2015

The end of compulsory smiling for me

If I look at all my Facebook profile images up to a certain point, they all have one thing in common: I am smiling. It was over the last two years that I decided to broaden the range of expressions in my photos, by not deliberately smiling all the time. At first I felt like I was being excessively bold, but I quickly warmed to my new range of neutral expressions. There was freedom in not having to grin from ear to ear at every photo opportunity. After a while, the pressure to 'perform' lifted, and I started smiling only when I wanted to represent genuine happiness.
Women are constantly told to 'smile... you look prettier.' Like there's so many things to smile about: ISIS, the West adding fuel to the fire with every new 'policy', Russia vs Ukraine, Tony Abbott, US Republicans, etc. I'm an engaged citizen, and being engaged means feeling a lot of despair over the way the world is conducting its affairs. Some might have better coping strategies, but that doesn't change how harrowing the world often is for me. A smile doesn't necessarily represent how I feel most of the time. It shouldn't be forced upon me.
I encountered resistance from amongst my Facebook friends: One Peruvian acquaintance left a simple note on my wall with his birthday message: "Smile!" He doesn't know me too well, so I just let it go... but it just goes to show that a smile is part of the package of femininity. "Be kind, be nice, be polite." A smile can show that the woman is going along with men's expectations of her. A smile can signal subservience or passivity. I wanted to make sure that I was being true to myself, not going with the patriarchal flow.
There's something cultural about it as well. Being a "good" European "girl." Being happy with the injustices that have been inflicted on me? No more. I have real pain, and if I want to I will express it. At the very least, I will suppress the urge to smile in my photos out of a duty to seem innocuous and carefree. Ironically, I feel more comfortable with my self-image than ever before. (It could also be an age thing.)

Tuesday, 17 February 2015

The Possibilities

Do you ever feel like you could do so much in your life, that you don't know how to choose? We are spoilt for choice. Sometimes, even though my life has unfolded mainly according to my passion for communication, I wonder if I could go back to university and get a science degree. I feel like this when I encounter extremely interesting scientists, who have a passion for discovery. I normally feel quite content to be typing away in pursuit of some imperfectly beautiful piece of poetic prose, but when I do dream of scientific pursuits, it feels genuine. Like it's the real thing.

It's the same thing with my language learning projects. Anticipating a trip to Spain in the middle of this year, I have changed my target language to Spanish. (I will go back to French, don't worry.) I'm enjoying it, but I do think about the other languages I'd love to learn. It's like having a part of your mind that's constantly nagging - "shouldn't you be doing this instead?"

Life is a kaleidoscope of possibilities, so it's okay to feel like this sometimes. Even though I am "following my heart" by making writing my labour of love, dreaming of other things is a normal consequence of the wide array of options out there. We don't fall neatly into the categories of "writer", "singer" or "electrical engineer". Most of us feel capable of having more than one occupation, and many of us have career changes.

I guess the most important thing is find the thing that you're doing pleasantly engaging. I love writing because, when I put enough effort into it, I can turn up with something really great. I like putting in the effort because I know I'm creating something that I and other people can enjoy. I also believe my writing can have a therapeutic, educational, or uplifting effect on my audience, and I try to compete with myself so that I can do my best each and every time.

And for that, I am willing to let other possibilities fade away, or work them into my writing, as I'm doing now. ;-)

Sunday, 8 February 2015

Angelina's Story

Dark red, tan and white. The room was overwhelmingly decorated in these colours. They reminded her of an Eastern European setting, the cool-tinted warm colours a mixture of vibrant and neutral. She had always felt there was something missing from this palette, perhaps a purple or a green, but her requests for change were repulsed. She was reminded that she was not the head of the house, and when she was, then she could bring changes into effect. Angelina lay on the longest of the tan sofas and began to tell her story. The circumstances weren't perfect, but she couldn't wait for them to consume her. She had to rise above them.

How many more people would be shut off in a crowded facility with little to engage them as they pondered their darkest thoughts? Sedation and dehumanisation. The occasional art supervisor came once a week with crayons and paper, but what good was this pocket of spiritual nourishment when her demons told her it was an inappropriate place to go? There were board games and puzzles stacked up in a little-noticed corner of the compound, but Angelina had more pressing things to do, like walking around incessantly, picking up the messages from the swivel of an arm or the droning of the television. On rare occasions she would take refuge in the massage chair, but it was never long before another loud noise compelled her out of her seat and back to stalking the corridors.

It took a special kind of person to pierce the doom-filled bubble she had been floating in. A person who cared about her psychological well-being, not someone invested in a chemical cure. Someone who valued her emotional experience, at least to some extent. It was astounding how easy it was to break free once such a person had shown up, and terrifying to note the neglect that had kept her silent for so long.

She wanted to make a difference, but felt like she lacked the social capital to do so. She was one of the 'others' now, a being so far gone (outside the mainstream) that there was almost no way of coming back. She savoured much about this state, but it also left her ill-equipped to change the system. She feared she would have to rely on outside momentum. Or would she? Anything was still possible, because Angelina wasn't resigned to her fate, and sometimes what was possible became the driving focus of her efforts for social improvement. If so, the cruelty that lay at the heart of the psychiatric system would have to transform itself into something new. Something more befitting visionaries and secular saints.