Friday, March 21, 2014

TWO TO TANGO, BUT KEEPING THE BALANCE

From a message I wrote a couple of a years ago to a family man who thought I was not playful enough because I refused to become his temporary lover:

"In this roller coaster called life the only thing that really matters to me it's my freedom, body and soul.  

I wouldn't sacrifice one minute of it but for someone whom I trust, who doesn't act impulsively and knows exactly what he wants from me: a couple life, with children in perspective. Love at first sight leads to whimsical actions, and I'm well over the period  "live for now, life is short, then we'll see".  I want to have a real home and feel sheltered.  I lived on two different continents and on the Caribbean sea, without counting the months I spent in Portugal, Turkey or Uruguay, I lived fully and had all kinds of experiences, bitter and sweet. I am looking for serenity, stability, the calm of an active, balanced life. No drama, no fools' games and without having anything to hide from anyone.  

I am strong but fragile, and if I don't take care of myself, no one would, this is what is expected from a woman who made it alone and in shape at 39, that she could take all the blows and keep standing."

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

DEEP DOWN TO THE SURFACE (EMOTIONAL SELF KNOWLEDGE AND HEALING)

After 39 years and a few failed relationship tentatives I finally understood the way my emotions work and how do I sabotage myself. I should be actually grateful to the person who triggered this series of revelations, for helping me out in my life journey. Helping me to make one more mistake and finally dig it to the roots.

I am really grateful to several people, one of them being a good friend who gave me this spirituality book, that she never read, where I found my first explanatory paragraphs

"Sometimes when we meet somebody new we start to feel emotion that do not belong to us.We might feel a great desire to please the other, to give yourself beyond measure, spend all your time with that person. This is due to the great need the other has to receive, he/she is asking for it very intensely, but without words.

In these cases appear questions like "Why am I feeling this?". The person may get to imagine that she/he's experiencing a big love, in fact she/he's only receiving all the neurosis of the other person. In these cases we get to channel the anger, the sadness, the desolation or the anxiety of the people we are in contact with. This is more certain when our emotions are not logical or related with the events in our life. [...]

The problem becomes apparent when you start to lose your balance (axis). You start to realise what is happening or to feel uncomfortable emotions. It may feel like a type of acceleration or exhaustion. We have to remember that our physical body always sends us two basic messages: comfortable or uncomfortable. According to its message we can realise if we are involved in a favourable energy exchange or not." (Horacio Valsecia, Argentina, "Los siete principios de la felicidad")

It's not the first time when somebody agitated and passionate crosses my way when I am not looking, when I'm well and at peace with myself and the world, and turns my emotional life upside down. Meaning I start to cry very easily and become kind of neurotic as soon as my chevalier becomes moody and colder. Somehow I guess those men I crossed took me like some kind of trophy, to fill the gap of their insecurities and confirm their virility: if I can have this woman, then I'm an Alpha male kind of thinking, or not even thinking, some kind of gut feeling.  And then things happen without a closer look to the circumstances, my position and my feelings.Probably also because I look cool and confident, and not like a drama queen or whining bitch. Well, sometimes I am a true drama queen, but not at first sight, and mostly avoiding to do it in front of the men in cause, although I have some movies scenes hiding in my past;)

Getting back to my point, after reading that paragraph, I realised that I probably absorbed Mr. X's need of being loved, fears and other negative feelings that were developed meanwhile, due to an excessive workload and his need to control everything. My fault resides in going with his initial flow, the wave of enthusiasm, without keeping up my barriers, just surrendering to the moment. The passion, the nice dates, his courtesy and also practicality. I felt desired and protected, and at the same time he awoke in me passion and tenderness. What turns me on now it's feeling loved and admired, unlike when I was 20 and I went out there to conquer the man I wanted.

Just like in the past, realism (mixed with sadness and depression) took over his enthusiasm when the wordly obligations claimed exclusive attention and effort after the holidays, when I was out at home. Then it was the realm of the uncertain: we'll just be friends for now and we'll see later on. Then communication became scarcer and scarcer, culminating with two weeks of no kind of contact whatsoever. In January I started being the one generating the dates and it all ended up in a big confusion, aka break because I felt emotionally drained and abused. I went through some serious crying quite a few times and felt abandoned and shattered, as sometimes silence is worse than a clear cut response: "Denying emotional responses to another is deeply abusive.  The “silent treatment” is a cruel way of controlling people and situations.  Where there is control there is no love, only fear."  I kept it to myself and my friends so I won't increase his amount of work stress, worsened by the gray and rainy weather. He would seem very touched about me looking for him and showing up, telling me at the same time that he doesn't want to be in a relationship, maybe because he's not over his latest one, that ended up about 9 months ago. We can always find reasons. It's hard to understand when there's attraction, a good feeling about being together, and apparent compatibility. What misses is commitment.

At some point not long ago a good friend gave me this book of Horacio Valsecia that I mentioned above. When reading it I suddenly had a image if myself as an emotional sponge, absorbing other's states of soul and moods. I happened with my mother too, because she tends to whine a lot. Looking up the net I discovered that the expression actually exists, it's also defined as an "empath". So Mr. X's depression, restlessness, suppressed anger, etc. were probably reflected by me. When I was close to him and he wasn't ok I felt very uncomfortable and deeply emotional without knowing why. So after all I decided to walk away, at least as a temporary break, because it seemed like he doesn't know what he wants and I need to focus on other things, myself coming first, and stop bothering him. Because I did bother him, with me becoming also a needy, love and attention hungered person. And he was obviously troubled by it and the incapacity to give me what I needed/wanted/pretended.

Photo by Ilia Alexandrovich Jerebtsov - Nov. 9, 2013
I have to admit that I have strong emotional responses to all kind of situations, and I tend to overreact. At the same time, when somebody is creating expectations, then is withdrawing, but not completely, and gives you contradictory verbal and emotional responses, it takes a lot of nerve to resist it. The bottom line is that I'm taking it with a grain of salt, as a way to self-knowledge and self-acceptance. Now I know how to respond and treat better my emotions, and how to prevent others from damaging me.

These last weeks I felt better and better every day, enjoying the spring sun and fragrances, the blooming trees and three good dancing nights in a row, with Latin dances and tango. I was lucky enough to meet some visiting tangueros from Romania and Italy, who made me feel like I was flying through their embrace, comfortable about myself and my contact with them. It was very sensual, without a sexual connotation, just the type of report I deeply needed. This physical activity combined with my psychology reading really improved my thoughts, feelings and general state. I feel like I overcame the dark  neurotic period, becoming again the person I used to be, even wiser. Free to enjoy the spring and embrace my life.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

PUTTING MY INNER DRAMA QUEEN TO SHAME

What we are looking for in life is peace of mind, although, paradoxically, sometimes we need a lot of adrenaline or duties to accomplish, so we can reach inner peace. Exploring, extreme sports, drugs, workaholism, all kinds of engagements that actually try to appease our longings and anxieties and bring tranquility. But also things that sometimes stop us from looking inside. We have all kind of different physical, intellectual and emotional needs that push us forward, sometimes in a neverending chain of demands. Many problems arise from not being able to tell what our needs actually are, where are they rooted and how can we actually satisfy them. Many problems have one single root: FEAR. Combined with insecurity as a matter of fact. If only we had enough FAITH, and TRUST ourselves and the surrounding energies, we would get rid of fear and be able to receive PEACE.

The more I live, the more I think life is a journey of self-discovery, of fulfilling oneself, finding out what are we best at and strive to do it. And also find out where do we make mistakes, so we can improve. I knew since very early that I have a good memory, a gift for languages, courage, stoicism, sense of humour, ability to network and connect people, etc. But during the last two years I found out many things about myself that belong to the second category: impatience, ego-centrism (tendency to keep talking about myself), impulsiveness, inability to focus, overwhelming energy. And last but not least: a need for strong emotions and their expression. To be brief, I discovered I'm such a drama queen, probably underneath I have a constant fear for my life going the wrong way or to be disapproved/disliked by other people. Fear of not getting enough attention, coming from ego-centrism and dependence on others.
The The  - Bluer than Midnight
It took me 39 years to find this out, not exactly a short journey. And after feeling miserable and crying many times, mostly because of too much imagination aka illusion, lack of connection to reality. My emotions, either connected to pleasure or pain, tend to be overwhelming and extremely open, what's called "à fleur de peau". On top of it, I'm extremely excitable from this point of view, it's easy and quick, and hard to get rid of. After my latest crisis I had to really sit down with myself and see what's wrong, so I stop being so vulnerable and ready to get hurt. Looking inside I found out a big need for deep exalted emotions of all kinds and expressing them. Need for drama, to put it straight, to feel things in a great way. So the the main cause is not the external stimulus that triggered that emotion, but a permanent availability to respond exaggeratedly. Well, I guess this can be solved by finding a different way of expression, like theatre or dance, perform my emotions instead of living them so deeply that I get damaged. On the other hand I have to overcome my dependence on others' affection and appreciation. Trust myself to be able to live without it, or with it, but to a lesser degree. Grow up, although it's so much easier to keep whining.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

LIFE PATHS

After a very unsettled and worrisome 2013 (actually starting on March 25th when I got back to Lisbon from my travels and home visits) now it's time to nurture the relationships I made here so far, create new routines, then look for alternative ways of personal development now that I have a steadier base to start from. Last year was also a time to hold on to myself and my inner balance, in order to face the material uncertainties that have been harassing me.  I was lucky enough to meet people helped starting working on myself and who attracted my attention upon my ego-centrism and self-indulgence. All the encounters we make are opportunities to take a closer look at ourselves and try to grow into a better person.

I'm thinking about creating a new routine to myself, sit down once a week and consider what happened throughout those seven days, how did I behave towards others, my emotional and physical reactions, how did I perform under any kind of pressure, dealt with time and money and so on. Probably what triggered it is the critical thinking training I had to take at work, I thought about ways to use in my personal life.

As for today's musings, they turn around the act of giving and receiving. Generosity is not only about giving physical things to show the love: gifts, a place to crush when needed, lending money, treat people to dinner, smile to strangers  and so on. It's about taking the time to listen and to understand others' emotions, reactions, motivations, especially when we feel irritated or hurt by it. Many times I don't have patience when it comes to other people expressing themselves. And haven't tried hard enough to look for the subtle signs of expression when they are not obvious. Being so dependable on others and so emotionally vulnerable and responsive, I focus too much on what I feel and what I think. And with this new inner peace I found I guess it's time to move on and learn how to be more understanding, less overwhelming and demanding, either it comes to family, friends, co-workers or romantic interests. And BE there 100% when necessary, and not asking to be there when others are unavailable emotionally as well as physically. Learn to be more self-sufficient and open not only on the outside but also deep down inside.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

OPENNESS



One year after being removed under obscure circumstances from my position with the Romanian Cultural Institute, here I am, still in Lisboa, trying to get a life, out of bits and pieces. As always I am surrounded by   multicultural friends, my international life-saving angels, and I just moved into a small flat that I can pay doing a sales admin job for a huge IT company. First time that I live alone since I came back to Europe four years ago. Entertaining the sweet illusion of a possible love story is just the fluffy cream on top, but fluffy creams get spoiled so easily, out of carelessness, lack of attention, heat or cold, so I try to take it with a grain of salt. This is the advantage of getting older and supposedly wiser. 

So now I can look back at this time in my life that was 2013. Oh, boy! What a sysyphic year 2013 was! Although I took two amazing trips, to Israel/Palestinian Territories and Peru, a country I couldn't help but fall in love with. It was doubly rewarding as I went there to attend a wedding of a dear German friend from Canada and meet our Swedish and Brazilian friends, all together for the same celebration in Lima. Only my mom fell horribly sick and got into the hospital the very same day I was hiking in Machu Picchu. The day after I went walking for 24 kilometers looking for a couple of weavers villages, just to calm down, filling my lungs with pure air and invoking the spirits of the Andes to give me strength so I can send it all to her. When she came out I went to Bucharest for ten days to cheer her up, and it looked like I managed. 

By the end of March I got back to Lisboa and started trying to build up a life of my own in the Atlantic garden that's Portugal. Nine long months of moving houses and cherishing vain hopes, delaying my departure week after week and month after month. I spent four of them working in a wine shop, a great opportunity to meet tourists from all over the place, make new friends and learn many things about local wines and spirits, especially Porto and Madeira. I can't say it was easy and the schedule was kind of heavy too, but it allowed me to spend the summer here without spending all my savings. I also experienced dating some Portuguese men, all together just a waste of time, although they seemed good on paper, they had high expectations, little patience and consideration, so I just gave up on it.

In October another wedding brought me back to my beloved Barcelona, where I was received with open arms and started seriously thinking to move back there by the beginning of 2014. Back in Lisbon I suddenly started to have job interviews. I moved four houses in one month while waiting for answers, feeling like a gypsy with my boxes, suitcase and various bags, I still wonder how much can I endure before I break. And after about six weeks the miracle happened and I landed a my actual job, found an acceptable flat downtown, overlooking a garden, and met someone who thought I was special and was hoping to become the same for me. But this is an ongoing wobbly story, and I'm quite eager to see the outcome myself. The interesting part is that everything came towards me, without me looking into that specific direction.


And now I cannot say that 2013 lacked charm and the joy of life. Thanks to my relatives, my friends, complete strangers who treated me gently and offered me moments of happiness and trust in the human beings. Thanks to this sunny country and the Atlantic who offered me its cool waters to refresh my burning thoughts. Thanks to the beautiful city of Lisboa, its colourful houses, cobbled streets, old fashioned manners and old looking shops, charming grocery stores and delicious food. It's true that I feel more at ease now, more confident, but I enjoyed being here nevertheless even during those hardships. 

Day after day I learned to enjoy my walks to work, the lunch break reading or listening to music and eating an ice-cream in one of the most spectacular squares I've ever seen: Praça do Comercio.

Be thankful for the flowers, the sun, the people that smiled to me. I realised that the only thing that could make me unhappy is the uncertainty about tomorrow. But I always had food, a roof and warmth around me, plus a little extra for life's little pleasures. I basically didn't miss a thing. I learned to be less dependable on comfort, if I ever was. 

Be OPEN and willing to enjoy anything enjoyable, and things will come to you.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

SERENITY





The last few months (since April actually) have been hectic in terms of house and mood changes, mainly due to the job search, but I want this period to touch to an end before I write about it in detail.

Today I took a long walk by the sea, spending one hour sitting in the sun on some deserted rocks and reading from the Book of Psalms. Around me gathered some tiny birds making funny noises. I had one of my  happiness moments, filled with peace and the sensation that everything is perfect the way it is: the caressing warmth and light of the sun, the blue of the sea and the sound of the waves crashing on the rocks, the cute birds and the words in the book. 

During the last few weeks I was asked in a couple of job interviews what motivates me, what makes me wake up in the morning, and both times I answered it is the light of sun, the fact of being alive, a flower, the smile of a child, anything, really. And today there was a real epiphany, we are so affected by all the continuous CHANGES we go through, and try to cling to people, situations and objects, when the one thing that doesn't change is whatever is called CREATION: nature, people, animals. I would add art to it, art is to me the highest expression of the human aspiration to overcome its mortal condition. Every little beautiful detail we can observe and watch with love and care gives us a feeling of fulfillment, if only we were open and softhearted enough. Celebrate LIFE!

Monday, November 25, 2013

PERU - MINDBLOWING DIVERSITY AND HEARTMELTING HOSPITALITY (II Amazonia)

Between my arrival and the wedding I spent a few days, not enough, by far, in Iquitos and the selva amazonica. Just enough so I can get the taste of it, to miss it afterwards and long to go back. I picked Iquitos because of a Mario Vargas Llosa book I've read when I was a student: "Pantaleón y las visitadoras". Via Couchsurfing I got in touch with several possible hosts, finally one of them confirmed that he can receive me at his place. Another one said he can arrange for a less touristy stay in the selva, I imagined he would be my guide. That's all I had on the books when I got to the  small airport of the hot humid city of Iquitos, after an amazing plane ride, overlooking the most incredible mountainous landscapes, here there were snowy peaks getting through the clouds, there blue lakes among brownish green steep hills and valleys. Then we flew over the neverending Amazonian rainforest, like a sea of green, with rivers winding through it like roads in the fields. Actually the only way to reach Iquitos it's either by boat or by plane, the road won't take you that far, even to a city that's home to over 40,000 people. 

Outside a car waited for me with Ulises and David, most of the taxis though were moto rickshaws, traffic was crazy and the buses didn't have windows. I didn't understand what was going on until we got to Ulises' agency, Carrusel Tapira. Oops, instead of an independent tour I was to go on an organized one, which disappointed me really, but I didn't have much time to look for something else, and on the other hand they seemed to be really nice and knowledgeable, Ulises being the son of a Peruvian and a Brazilian from the other side of the Amazon, a true river creature. Besides, we were few, just three all together, with a Catalan and his Peruvian girlfriend. David got me a rickshaw to take me to my hosts and we agreed on leaving next morning. My Couchsurfing hosts, Pavel and Joanna, are two young Poles living in Iquitos, both kind, with beautiful smiles and amazing sparkling blue eyes. They have a small studio apartment, with cold water shower, a kitchenette and a half working fridge. After I invited them to a deliciously refreshing ceviche lunch accompanied by cocona fruit juice, they took me out to the Nanay river market, Bellavista. It was probably the most exotic I have ever seen so far, sporting grilled cayman and palm worms (suri), Amazonian chestnuts, unknown fish and fruits, turtle eggs and so on. I tasted the suri, it was somehow sweet, not unpleasant, but not fantastic either. The aguaje palm fruit is usually peeled and eaten with salt, or made into a refreshing juice. I also saw ubos and camu camu, besides the well know papaya and mangoes that smelled like heaven on earth.



We took a boat with a beautiful roof made of braided palm leaves to Padre Cocha, for a cool beer on a floating deck, where local were swimming sometimes fully dressed, I imagine it would keep your clothes cleaner a longer time.   







After a chocolate crepes dinner I left the next morning to my dream destination: la selva del Amazonas. Not on a raft like in Jules Verne's 800 lieues sur l'Amazone, but on a small passenger boat, with Ulises and my fellow travelers, Jordi from Catalunya and his Peruvian mountains lover, Denisse. After a couple of hours we arrived in a tiny place where Ulises went to buy food for our stay and we had to wait for the motorized canoe that was to take us to the lodge. While we were waiting I strolled through the quiet village, bought some aguajes  from a broad smile girl, some kind of corn cakes from a couple of schoolgirls and a few sapotes (a big sweet fruit with an orange pulp) to eat later. Being tall and Caucasian, with a Nikon in my hand and walking by myself, I couldn't do anything not to look exotic, so people looked at me with curiosity. It occurred to me that it would feel probably the same if I were in some remote Romanian village.    

The canoe came after about an hour or so and the seven of  us (Jordi, Denisse, Ulises, our cook, Delicia, her partner and handyman and their child) navigated for a while on the broad light brown Amazonas and then turned right on a smaller river that led us to the path heading to the lodge. We were handed botas de jebe/gum boots and went through mud, crossing some pools over shaking planks, under the amazingly high trees canopy, surrounded by the lush green forest and funny wild life sounds. The entrance to the clearing were stood our bungalows was framed by two majestic trees that I could only compare to a Gothic cathedral. The accommodation was not suited for the faint of heart and comfort lovers, there were two breezy typical huts, built on stilts to keep them above water and snakes, without electricity. Made of tree trunks, palm and banana leaves, a big open one was meant for eating and partying, the other, with full walls, for sleeping, cooking and a rainwater shower.

I spent there four exciting and at the same time quiet days, going to bed early and reading with the help of my pocket lamp, waking up within the first morning hours, trying to tell the different jungle sounds, birds, monkeys and God knows what else. Delicia honoured her name and prepared simple great food every single day, over a wood fire, from Amazonas sardines to sauteed noodles, even her rice was cooked to perfection. We had fresh fruit juices, sometimes from plants around the huts, like sugarcane and cocona.  



Raul took us around the surrounding selva, not too far in, during the say and during the night. It felt like walking in a strange cathedral, as the trees canopies were so high that they looked like massive pillars with huge roots sometimes, all surrounded by bush and entangled lianas. It made us feel small and fragile, exposed and vulnerable, but the guide's self assurance and calm helped us a good deal.




We discovered healing plants like the pichirina, good for the stomach, and monkey ladder (escalera de mono), good for sores and skin infections. We learned about parasite/strangler plants and admired their capacity to climb upon big trees up to the top in the search of light. Then we marveled at the many types of spiders and ants, the families of squirrel monkeys (saimiri type), the size of the snails or the enormous toads.














Probably the most impressive creatures were the tarantulas that didn't look that scary to me, but rather endearing, all fuzzy and rather quiet.



Advancing over water was a whole different story, especially through the flooded forest, four of us in one canoe, with the help of the machete. Quite spectacular and very Indiana Jones like.















And the amazement wouldn't stop here. We saw a beautiful boa strangling its prey, a vulnerable sloth (in Peru they call it pelejo), up in a tree. The sloths move very little and at a very slow pace because their diet made exclusively of leaves does not provide many nutrients, so they are "programmed" to spend very little energy. They are an easy prey for huge snakes then.

Apart from a small toucan we saw beautiful woven nests hanging from trees, belonging to colonies of oropendolas or paucars (yellow-rumped cacique), both sporting black and bright yellow colouring. Raul explained us that another feathered fellow, the cowbird, lays its eggs in the oropendolas nests, their chicks eating a harmful parasite fly and its larvae that would otherwise harm the host's chicks. A beautiful symbiosis example.

On the longest day we got to a hidden pond covered by huge Victoria Regia leaves (a type of waterlily), unfortunately only one of them was in bloom. Raul showed us how to fish by spear, another technique I saw only in Amazonia. On the way back we had to drag the boat through Raul's small village, Centro-America, set up by his grandfather,  to shorten the trip. One night we went searching for caimans and got caught by a tremendous rain (actually it was raining every single day, alternating with sun, and our clothes stayed kind of damp all the time). The night after Raul simply plunged his hands into the water, and after a short struggle he was holding a small caiman, we convinced him to throw it back in, he was thinking about taking it to the river next to the village. That simple. Those people lives look so adventurous to us, to them is just a hard daily routine, Raul had a scar on his face from a caiman's tail strike, the main danger when you try to catch one, he told us.

On the last day we paid a visit to Centro-America, tasted the local homemade alcohol, chuchurrin, and saw how people actually live, many times in houses that looked rather like verandas, with half built walls, cooking and sleeping in open spaces. It was also our only opportunity to see a dead piranha lying on a veranda. There were some small solar panels, rented by a company for an amount that  was ridiculous to us. They were enough to get a few hours of light at night time.  When the water floods the village during rain season, sometimes people have to look for shelter on the roofs. In 2012 the water flooded the living space and in Raul's bedroom they found catfish (doncella), boas and even electric eels. When we went there, beginning of February, there were hardly any ripe fruits, except lemons, and hundred lemons would just pay enough for them to get to Iquitos and back. Mangoes and papayas were not ripe yet. We understood that they actually live on a yucca, rice and fish diet most of the time, and cash is hard to get unless you work with tourists. Teachers at the local school only stay for a very short time before they return to the city.

So these few days were filled with teaching and learning, in many ways, sometimes just by looking around or observing people's attitude towards life. I never heard them complaining for instance, saying this is not the life they deserve. The lessons I learned are in Amazonia are, above all, to keep silent, to be patient and move in slow motion. It applies to observing wild life, but also to our everyday exchanges.

My peak moment was getting to swim in the actual Amazon, just meters away from gray and pink dolphins, they actually came closer as me and Jordi got into the water. It was more than I ever dared to dream. I would go back there any time, and I would chose to stay in the village, go to the natural park Pacaya Samiria or camping, not in a jungle freaking lodge!

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