Tuesday, March 17, 2015

SPAIN AGAIN, FOR A CHANGE - MUSING ON TRAVELLING, MADRID CULTURAL MARATHON AND MORE

MOVE - It's one of my strongest peremptory needs, if I sit still for too long I get anxious, and confined spaces drive me nuts. This need became evident when I read "Anatomy of Restlessness" by Bruce Chatwin, back in 2000. I understood then that travelling is like an inner call that natural born nomads have to follow in order to keep being themselves. Johnny Walker, keep walking! Even at work I need space, big windows, light, to see the sky and when possible trees to feel comfortable. I started taking lunch walks back in 2006 in Canada, half an hour is for eating, the other half is for moving, walking dramatically improves my well being.

On the other hand I also need a change of landscape, air, language, from time to time, it's like breaking up habits keeps my brain alive, and gives me a sense of freedom. At the same time big metropolitan centers also make me feel uncomfortable, caught between stone or concrete surfaces. I am less and less attracted by the idea of travelling to a city, may that be as fascinating as Berlin or Paris. Besides, they started being so similar, packed with hordes of tourists, crossed by metro lines, filled with Irish pubs, French bakeries and Italian fake restaurants next to horrible fast food or so called gourmet coffee chains. All big cities have a cathedral, national museums and world famous landmarks. I long for wide horizons, green meadows, thick forests and majestic snow capped mountains, surrounding small historical towns or picturesque villages. All with a bit of quiet and solitude, although it's already been said you can't feel lonelier than in the middle of crowds.

So having to take a week off by the beginning of spring I left aside the hypothesis of Amsterdam, Brussels, Lyon or Florence and decided to go to the closest cheapest flight destination: Madrid. Not only it's a big city, but I'm not even fond of it like I am of New York, Paris, Rome or more recently London. I am fond of its liveliness and mix of cultures though and only during this fifth or sixth visit I started to internalize its structure and subtleties, finding my favourite corners. Some of its best features are being reasonably close to Lisboa and playing host to great temporary exhibitions plus a good cultural alternative scene. Last but not least, quite a few friends call it a home and it's nice to see them after wandering all day by myself. Although being by myself didn't mean that I didn't talk to unknown people in the hostel or on the street. It's nice to enjoy all that time and temptations without having to please anyone else and be able to talk to someone around if you feel like, madrileños are quite social and easy going.




I wonder if during any of my former trips I was ever so conscious about how madly I can run all day covering kilometers, with very few and short stops, even to eat or sit down a bit. Why on Earth do I have so much physical energy to spend? Each evening would find me exhausted with my head busting with impressions and memories of the day. I didn't even count the number of exhibitions I visited and I was even scared of my hunger to see and learn more. On every trip I keep learning also about myself and my way of being in the world. At the same time I knew beyond the shadow of a doubt that it was also a form of escapism, of running away from my life. So putting this now on paper helps me saving something, giving it a sense.

Since the first day a friend took me to La Tabacalera former cigarette factory, now a cultural centre, and inspired me to take more abstract photos. I started looking around in a different way for the whole week. The way that objects are placed in an exhibition and how people deal with it. Putting out of the context certain parts and play with them. Then there were the social photographs at Caixa Forum, quite an amazing contemporary building . Photographs taken around the less charming nowadays Spain, portraits of guerrilleras from San Salvador or Afghan refugees in Greece next to heartbreaking images of refugees all over the world, especially from Africa and Middle East (Syria and Iraq) with their most prized possession since they left home with very little, could be a buzuk (music instrument), bracelets, a cane, a donkey, whatever gave them comfort on the way.

Later I got enchanted by the amazingly bright rainbow like paintings of Raoul Dufy who wanted to render light through colour, followed by the disquiet harmony and subtle anxiety of Paul Delvaux, both provoking the eyes and the mind in diferent ways.













In between exhibitions I managed to fall in love with the Malasaña and Lavapiés colourful and kind of irreverent neighbourhoods, with the alternative shops and eateries of the first and the multicultural flavour of the second, especially the Mercado de San Fernando and the UNED library that used to be a church.

And when my mind was really crying for some green and some peace I walked along the Manzanares river green path and went to discover also Casa de Campo and Campo del Moro parks.






I couldn't resist paying another visit to Bosch, Goya, Ribera, my Museo del Prado favourites and I also discovered the history of Madrid in the city museum, quite interesting as it explored both its architecture and the social fabric of its inhabitants, customs and habits. Walking into yet another free cultural centre: Casa Encendida, I got acquainted to Colombian Suarez Londoño and his masterful sketch books drawings.

Just before taking the plane, and while looking desperately for a mailbox for my postcards, I managed to find time for the insightful Giacometti exhibition dedicated to the look: El hombre que mira, completed by very inspiring quotes on eye perception of the human body. I was very touched by an apparently simple drawing: an eye looking at a tree, that for me became suddenly the symbol of the wonder of spring.

And to top all this, I went twice to the theatre, as I managed to get a ticket, unbelievably, for Robert Lepage's "Needles and Opium", he's one of my favourite directors hailing from my former home Québec. Then it was an alternative play loosely based on "Fuenteovejuna" by Lope de Vega, that was actually quite weak, although the actors were making quite an effort.


When did I see my friends then? Well, some for lunch and a walk, some for dinner, for a tea, night drinks or an exhibition, or even host me for a couple of nights. It felt great and refreshing to see them and I guess I'll return to Madrid sooner than two years this time.

Monday, November 17, 2014

LONDON AT FIRST SIGHT

London is...Peter Pan, Mary Poppins, the Beatles, Shakespeare, the Thames, London Bridge, the Queen, the neo-Gothic Parliament, the Tube, Petula Clark singing "London is London". At least it was all this and much more in my mind before I got there. And obviously one week only allowed me to scratch the surface of this multi-layered metropole. Although in the end all big cities are somehow the same: multicultural financial, commercial and artistic hubs, filled with tourist traps and charming corners, packed with museums, immigrants, designer and souvenir shops...and amazing food from all over the world. I had a very weird feeling as many sights reminded me of North America, obviously it's Canada and the US that took after Britain, but it depends what you get to see first.

I could list a whole amount of things I wish I did when in London, like go out more at night, explore the immigrant neighbourhoods and the greener surroundings. On the other hand I did many other things that filled my heart with joy, especially that my partner in crime was my mom, to whom I promised this trip a long time ago.


Trafalgar Square
She studied English at the university, the Beatles are her favourite band, Shakespeare her favourite writer and her thesis dealt with science and pseudo-science in Chaucer's work. It was my dream to fulfill her dream and take this trip together. Turning 40 there felt like it was just the right time, 40 years also after she finished university. Not that she's satisfied now, I found out that Russia and the Red Sea corals and fish are still next on the list.


University mates, friends from Canada, Barcelona, a British ex-employer and a doctor friend from the cruiseships all live in this Babel Mecca now. Two of my Romanian friends there met me in Lisboa while travelling. So it was a great opportunity to see them all, catch up and eventually introducing them to each other, as three are Romanian single moms. Helping people becoming friends is one of my greatest joys. It all started with a college friend offering me accommodation responding to a Facebook announcement; last time we met at night on the street in Padova back in '99.

Saint James Park



Of course museums and luxurious beautiful shops like Fortnum&Mason are great sights, but somehow you can find similar ones in every other historical big city. If I was to make a top of the things I enjoyed most I would say theatre, the parks, the markets.






To me there's no theatre like the English theatre; lately I tend to favour more and more nature over buildings and I found the local markets to be lively and different, especially Camden Lock and Borough Market. I'm pretty sure I would have enjoyed the immigrant East and South areas but time was short and temptations plenty.

Borough Market
Camden Market


Plus, one of our best decisions was to visit Canterbury, host to the most important Anglican cathedral nd to Chaucer's colourful tales.

Whitstable
Whistable is a charming seaside town just half an hour away that was totally worth the detour even considering the sudden rain, that threw an amazing light over the sea. With all those North American reminiscences hitting every now and then, the lobster shack and the beach huts made me think of Cape Cod.

The green landscapes of Kent looked picture perfect, just like the charming XIX-early XX century looking shops, coffee shops and pubs. I felt respect for tradition and a certain way of doing things. People were mostly polite and cheerful, quite accommodating I would say.

English gastronomy may not be famous but I've discovered a whole variety of beers, great dairy products, cheeses like Stilton and Red Leicester and of course amazing oysters and real salmon, that I miss so much in Portugal where we only get some fake farm-raised Norwegian variety.

All together it was oh, so charming indeed! I'd definitely go back there for another round.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

DAILY ROAD TO HAPPINESS

Some years ago I was musing here on happiness and how elusive it is. I think that for the last two years I came closer and closer to its essence, after going through more work and romance related disappointments.  Serenity/inner peace is my main goal, fulfillment rather than comfort zone.  It's not about forcing your brain to think positive no matter what, it's about not judging and labeling positive and negative, understanding that only our perception of facts makes them one or the other thing. There's no good and bad weather, only pleasant and unpleasant, which is pretty subjective, according to our comfort zone.

Tavira Island, Algarve, South of Portugal

I'm trying to take life as it comes, understanding that there's only yin and yang, principles that complete each other, perception and lessons to be learned, ignorant and frightened people that hurt others because they don't love themselves. At work, on the street, during our social interactions, they are everywhere, moved by loneliness and repressed or misinterpreted emotions.

We talk a lot about people charged with negative energy, that drain us out of our own positive charge. The other day I was thinking that there are no positive or negative energies, only flowing and blocked ones, balance and imbalance. And of course that people who don't know how to unblock theirs would run to cheerful persons awkwardly trying to recharge themselves. I also become an energy vampire when I get obsessed with my own troubles, unable to hear the others, talking and talking and talking relentlessly. Brrr, what a drag!

At least I learned that my sources of energy could also be the outdoors, things I can make and do (cooking, swimming, dancing, hiking), tasty healthy food, or simply thinking and surrendering to the moment while being outside, also known as meditation. Observing all little things around us that make life joyful, like the cheerful supermarket cashier and kind drugstore employee that I met tonight, people that we mistake for vending machines a lot of times. Other great sources of joy and inner balance are my lonely walks, my time on the beach and the embrace of the rather cool Atlantic waters; I really don't need much more. 

How good it is to realize that I do live a comfortable life in a pleasant country, with mostly nice weather, beautiful landscapes, good yummy food, kind people, where I managed to make great international friends as usual, that teach me valuable lessons and help me become a better person. Now I just have to move my sexy ass and figure out how to do something valuable for this great place called world.

Friday, March 21, 2014

TWO TO TANGO, BUT KEEPING THE BALANCE

Reminder to myself.


This is part of a message that I wrote a couple of a years ago. I was answering someone that I met in Paris 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 and doesn't act impulsively. 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 37, that she could take all the blows and keep standing."


Why did I forget about it by the end of last year?

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

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

No matter how clearly someone tells and shows us that "you+me = over", we cling to it until we go through our own cycle and filters of understanding. Situations aren't good or bad, they're just pleasant or unpleasant, according to our perception/feelings, it's up to us to play our cards and learn the lessons. We all act according to the film in our mind, inside our own bubble. So when we get in trouble, the fault is mostly ours, as we act based on our "reading".

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.

Several other people helped me out through it. One of my best friends gave me a 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 was not the first time when somebody agitated and passionate crossed my way when I wasn't looking, when I was well and at peace with myself and the world, and turned my emotional life upside down. When it happens I start to cry very easily and become kind of neurotic as soon as my chevalier loses his initial interest, becoming moody and distant. Somehow I guess those men I met took me like some kind of prize, 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. I did enact some soap opera scenes in the past though:)

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.

Just like with other guys in the past, realism (mixed with worry and depression) took over his enthusiasm when the family and worldly 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's missing is the wish to commit.

At some point not long ago this book of Horacio Valsecia that I mentioned above came to me. When reading it I suddenly had a image if myself as an emotional sponge, absorbing other's states of soul and moods. My mother made me feel this 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&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.

LATER EDIT, AUGUST 10, 2014 / Falling into the same mind trap, I tried to see the fellow again after he showed up to a group event I organized, posterior to one month without any contact. But this time with me being totally available and consciously open for a possible relationship, that would imply taking time to know each other better. Total nonsense, there was still attraction, X was still aloof and although I didn't cry anymore I still ended up chasing him and feeling frustrated while trying to play cool.

We had another final explanation after 4 months of playing hide and seek;  he came up with almost identical arguments and firm on "I want to see you from time to time as a friend because I really like your energy, but this is it". To me this didn't sound like a friendship offer, but more like a superficial social contact. Well, sorry, no, I have real friends in my real life that have and make time for me. Friends are not circumstantial social connections, they take and offer help and support when needed. Mr. X looks like he doesn't know how to engage in the giving/receiving exchange. I felt like he's interested in keeping in touch because I look special, "interesting", not because he genuinely cares about me. But a lot of things I saw in X are also part of me: selfishness, ego-centrism, impulsiveness, stubbornness, no real will to change, being a control freak, judgmental, aloof, elusive, oscillating, inflexible, impatient, needy.

The day after we last met I found out accidentally that he was maybe seeing someone else when he started chasing me. And it got all mixed up while I was still on vacation in Romania, coming back on December 31.

I should have walked away from that swamp of confusion as soon as he told me that he's got mixed feelings, he basically almost opened the door for me to leave and I kept standing with one foot in and one foot out, looking at someone who wouldn't even see me. That was just one more story that started with fireworks and ended up going nowhere, and I refused to accept it, thinking that if I try hard enough, THIS TIME I CAN MAKE IT WORK. Well, no, it shouldn't have happened from the very beginning! History repeating is history repeating, it ended as it started.  I guess we have both shown some form of erratic behaviour. For the last seven months I went back and forth through the mourning stages of Denial, (mild) Anger, and Bargaining. I hope that now I finally got to Acceptance and to a better knowledge of myself. Well, closing one door means giving space to open another one.

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.

Search This Blog

Loading...