Press pause & rewind

I used to believe it was bad to change my mind, to suddenly decide that no, I didn’t want this or that thing I longed for a year or five minutes ago anymore. Then, as I grew older, I realised it’s OK to change direction and that U-turns are allowed, no matter what anyone else says.
It takes courage to go against the flow of things, to change paths sometimes radically, but the end result is oftentimes worthwhile. Whether it’s the dish you order at a restaurant, the movie you want to watch, the person you’re with or the career you chose when you were 17, you’re allowed to decide that your first impulse may not suit you anymore, and that nothing is carved in stone till after we’re buried – unless you’ve already booked your cemetery plot, but that’s another story. They say indecision is bad, it leads to unsure futures and makes one seem fickle, weak or confused. However, if you look at it from another perspective, those same people might actually have the most creative, diverse and open minds of all, their brains constantly exploring new options; nothing is out of the question when it comes to them, the possibilities endless and that is, in my book, a quality. In addition, although at times life can be hard for one whose indecision is a daily dilemma, it can lead to great adventures, the urge to change pushing one to try different ways and journeys.
It isn’t easy figuring out what we want, and even more difficult to know it all from day 1; it takes time, trial and error, questioning and even self-doubt at moments, but it all leads to where we’re meant to arrive. Some know what they want very early on, and they’re lucky in a way, having everything mapped out, linking the dots one after the other, but not everyone is good at planning, many don’t even enjoy it! Certainly, the road may look hazy sometimes, your tires seem too worn-out to make yet another 45 or 180 degree turn, but that doesn’t mean you can’t make it, doesn’t signify others are better or that you’ve ruined your chances at happiness altogether, it just means it’ll take longer to get there, because you WILL get there. And hey, enjoy the view instead of cursing the route, for in the end, life is a roadtrip and the best ones are those you forget to take a map on. Which brings me to this: the key thing to remember is that there’s no such thing as a mistake, no wrong turn, every road we take leads somewhere; we may not reach where we’d hoped when we started, but our story only grows richer with time, with every experience we have, people we meet -or dish we eat for that matter! – and if we don’t like where we end up, there’s always a new fork in the road somewhere, waiting for us to explore it.

Narrate this

We have gotten used to the idea that our society condemns anything that’s different, strange, unusual, that it condones any behaviour ruled by something other than the social impositions of our century. But when did we start accepting the unthinkable, nodding at the discrimination and alienation of people based only on what makes them different?

When we watch a movie and the hero is an autistic man who overcomes his sickness by getting a job, a bullied child with tourette’s who starts a dance squad, a boy with a girly voice who gets to sing at the Superbowl, we feel emotional and happy that good things can happen even to the underdog. Then once everyone’s out of the theater, a guy picks on a woman because of her chin hair, a group of girls start laughing at a lady because all she can afford are hand-me-downs or clothes from Walmart, a man with a stutter isn’t hired because he annoys the staff or someone with osteoporosis gets the nickname Sir limps-a-lot because it’s funny. That “hairy woman” has hormonal problems and would rather feed her children than get expensive laser treatment, that lady is paying for her parents’ medication and hasn’t been on a single vacation for years to make sure all her money goes to caring for her family, that man started stuttering after receiving a shock watching his son get hit by a bus and hasn’t been able to heal since, and that person with osteoporosis used to be a champion runner, but their current illness has them swallowing pills by the dozen hoping the torture would finally end. Maybe it’s the background music carefully selected in films that activate the waterworks, maybe people really feel moved by the stories on screen, however where does all the compassion go when real life comes knocking, when the people who really need support and empathy end up receiving all the blows? Yes that handsome man is dating a fat girl, and he likes it. That boy with all the scars got his puppy out of a fire, that woman was raped and hasn’t been able to smile for the past 4 years, that young girl with the double chin has a nutritionist mother who feeds her very well, but she’s diabetic and her metabolism is too slow and that “geek” who never got a date dreams daily of finding the cure for cancer. This goes beyond stereotypical situations, this happens every day to people struggling to stay positive and get through life as wholly as they can, but they weren’t in a movie, they might not get prince charming or their dream job because in real life, nobody goes “awww”, not enough root for them to succeed but instead bash all their efforts because they don’t fit the carefully drawn molds the media has voluntarily helped shape. Why would they let the “imperfect” ones win when they’ve spent so much time and effort becoming “perfect”? Whose ego would allow to condescend?

They say life imitates art, but isn’t cinema considered the 7th form of art? Then why isn’t everyone cheering for the misfits, the marginals and the unfortunate ones that life didn’t spoil? Why is it our hearts beat faster when we’re in a dark room and nobody knows how deeply we can feel?

Bile smile

There are billions of souls walking the Earth today; billions smiling, laughing, living. Well I’ve got a sectet for you: it’s all make-believe.

Maybe nobody thought of it, maybe no one wanted to, but if someone created some sort of thermometer that measured how much of us is truly alive, the percentage would astound us. They say our heartbeat determines if we’re still here, enjoying each day as we breathe in life’s elixir, but my biology teachers would’ve probably failed psychology class. We walk, footsteps and pulse in synch, breathing automatically, slowly dying inside, minute after minute, skipping seconds, waiting for it all to end and relieve us. We paint smiles on our faces every morning, fooling the neighbours and our mirrors, lying to get through another day of pretending to be alive and well, a mask for our loved ones, a mask for ourselves. I woke up to this world crying, and I haven’t stopped since. I detest the idea of a place where money, scheming, cheating, killing – and any other horrid concept humans have sickened their souls with – come before love, integrity or self-fulfillment. I abhor watching initially good people slowly become rotten because they found no other way to get through the day. I hate that I cannot hate but only wallow and sigh as rain pours down from a fake sunny sky, and that I am doomed to watch everything happen helpless. I don’t like it here, I never have; I’ve been smiling and laughing and singing life’s beauty while all I’ve seen in my wake and in my dreams, is its putrefaction; the empty satisfaction one gets from a useless career, the shallow joy caused by vacant conversations… there is no depth in our lives, no truth in our lies, no real reason for our smiles; they just got stuck on our faces after patiently, repetitively, hypocritically painting them on one time too many.

You could say this is the most obscure post I’ve ever published, it may even seem too grim compared to the rest, but our hearts sometimes beat more slowly, wishing they didn’t beat at all, and our souls grow much too old to hope for eternity. Let us cry tonight, for tomorrow we smile again.

Wrong side of the world

“Must’ve woken up on the wrong side of the bed”. What if, instead of devising which side of the mattress is more convenient to stand up from, we realized we wake up daily on the wrong side of the planet?

A French friend posted an article on Facebook yesterday talking about how more and more of her compatriots are choosing to leave their country in search of better horizons. I wondered – thinking of how beautiful life in France seemed to me who’s always felt stuck in a country I’ve never deemed comfortable – how differently we each perceive the places that aren’t “ours”. It’s a beautiful thing to witness the traditions and customs of various cultures, and I’ve pondered several times the idea that maybe the multiple immigrated masses are, by making this mixture possible, contributing to the annihilation of separate identities and creating a cosmopolitan world with the qualities intrinsic to each country slowly becoming a vague historical memory. Notwithstanding how sad this makes me feel, thinking of how the idiosyncrasies of the world will someday be obsolescent notions of the past, a part of me knows we aren’t all meant for the soil we took our first steps on, and that however patriotic one wants to be, the impossibility of identifying by force with a culture or population too different from one’s natural inclinations make immigration a much more plausible solution than brainwashing oneself in order to fit into a carcass evidently inadequate. It isn’t easy, leaving, looking back and acknowledging that our past is just that: passed. It is however a healthier alternative in the long run to becoming a disillusioned adult forcedly accepting a future too different from the one we envisioned as hopeful children.

“Your future awaits” they tell the kids, but what awaits us in the future when we accept the things we know are not made for us? What becomes of those who stay when every atom of their being urges them to go?

The fruit of death

I haven’t posted in a week. The reason? Death. No, nobody close to me has died recently, I haven’t been grieving any particular loss, I’ve just been in deep contemplation of the idea of dying, the mourning process, and the aftermath. How does one live after death?

Cher asked “do you believe in life after love?”to which I always answer moodily, depending on when the song starts playing. However, do you believe in life after death? If so, how does one continue, and what scars does parting bestow on those still living? It is unarguably easy to die; once you’re gone you’re free, whether you’ve spent the last ten months in a hospital bed, or fell asleep to never wake up, when the light goes out it’s over, for you and whoever is left. I was five the first time I became aware of someone’s passing. I had been sitting with her a day earlier in her bed. She was attached to machines, yet when she saw me holding a pack of fresh figs, her favourite fruit, she sat up and peeled some for both of us. At 5 years old, you just don’t get it, the tubes and the blood bags…you’re just aware of the lingering smell hospitals are so known for – I hate that smell. The next day, I was in the stairway ready to find her room when they told me I wasn’t to see her anymore. Ever. I remember that staircase so well, the white banister, the hermetically closed window… you don’t forget the places where all of a sudden your life derails from its tranquil course. My grandmother also loved figs, she had a big tree in her garden and when we’d walk by it, she’d pick a few and share her tree’s bearings with me. When she passed, nobody told me; being in the middle of my exams, nobody wanted to distract me with the news I’m still struggling with 8 years later. Figs… we pick strange things to remember, strange things to hold onto, strange things to move on with… Whenever I eat figs I need silence, and until recently, I had never understood why, the reason I so naturally slipped into a meditative state every time I had any. As I watched a small video on death and how people continued after witnessing loved ones depart from their presence, it hit me: I haven’t moved on, I haven’t forgotten, I live with death every day and I smile. Not because they’re gone, but because through the simple act of peeling a fig and sensing its sweetness in silence, I am once again the little 5 year old with the two old ladies that marked my childhood so evidently.

Nostalgia is mourning the death of the past, it is lived through our senses; smells, sounds, textures, sights and tastes all hold our memories, patiently waiting to revive what we thought had left us forever. Maybe in the end we’re only memories, pacing through others’ minds, and when we’re not being remembered, we sleep, unaware of our short-lived existence having ended. I suppose death is not so frightening after all.

Late introductions

I’m usually a very private person; although my activity on social media would beg to differ, my posts never go deep enough to unvail anything truly intimate. I post my sketches on Instagram under a pseudonym, and voice some opinions on Facebook & WordPress, but I stay cloaked. Today, after more than twenty posts, I realized I haven’t formally introduced myself here yet, so who am I?

Am I Brigitte today, or Veronica? Jasper, Clovis or Denise? I suppose for once I am myself, and my name is Maria. I paused before typing it, and I can never figure out why this happens every single time I try to give my birth name. When I was born, my father wanted to call me June, but I was born in August, so my mother laughed saying I’d end up with the nickname July. My aunt, an artist, insisted I should be named Cleo, short for Cleopatra, sensing some future resemblance. Well the black hair and olive skin surely would have made the bearing of such a name amusing to play around with. Growing up, I hence enjoyed imagining my name had been one of those, along with Helena since I was born on that Saint’s day, and I suppose that’s when it all started. I’ve always detested the idea that we’re born to live one life, be one person for years in a row, tirelessly signing our destiny under the same sticky identity. I honestly find it impossible to keep to one story, thus my multiple personalities, all naturally driven by an innate feeling of plurality itching to be expressed. Some may deem my volition to be willingly schizophrenic somewhat bizarre, unusual or even insane, but boredom simply doesn’t coincide with my character. I want to live, fully and unapologetically, and I deep down believe that it is only through the different personages I embody as days go by, and by following each of their characteristic whims, that I’ll truly achieve my mission.

You see, in the end, it is not by shaping one perfect entity, it is about wearing the shoes of different halves, quarts and eighths that the core can be truly complete. It is by being somebody else for a while that helps one be a better himself. Now if that is too complex or philosophical to understand, then maybe Simone, Josephine or Davey could help you figure out the meaning of my words.

Always is never enough

Alan Rickman has just died. Same week as Bowie, same age, both cancer-stricken, both British. Well the Brits always had a peculiar sense of humor…I bet they had made a pact to meet up on the stage beyond, David performing and Alan narrating his new story; two beautiful charismatic beings captured on film and tape, two souls too free to capture and keep alongside us.

I had been feeling under the weather since last weekend, and these two deaths confirmed my mood: this week is simply better forgotten with its morbidly dark content. These two were true artists, they left us with an undeniable musical and cinematic heritage that we will definitely “always” cherish. However, always just doesn’t seem enough; they can no longer reinvent themselves, stuck in every character they’ve ever incarnated, from Ziggy and Major Tom to Snape and Colonel Brandon, and every one in between, never again to experience those they had no time to become. Always is short, even if we as spectators can still rejoice in their presence as we replay their masterpieces, that’s it, it’s over, their chance is gone. That’s the tricky part of life, the one that says once your eyes close, all your potential closes with them, trapped beyond the realm of the living, kept from us here still panting from the last time we experienced their intrepid energy. However, unlike us mere mortals, they live on in the millions of admiring fans they accumulated with every winning performance. Alan Rickman embodied talent and charisma, a sense of humor that helped him even when playing evil or stern characters, as I loved watching his off-screen bloopers, and he always managed to amaze me with his acting skills, skills not so common in today’s world cinema. He worked with his gut, his wits and his heart; the way I believe we all should.

In the end, celebrities are of no bigger importance than anyone else, but when brilliant people become famous like the aforementioned two, there’s no denying the world knows loss once they’re gone. Farewell Mr.Rickman, and every time I’ll watch one of your movies and weep, and around me they’ll ask “after all this time?” I’ll unfailingly answer “always”.