On Making Space and What-Ifs
My month in images
I'll be breaking the pattern and I'll keep this newsletter short and sweet (think bitter sweet, like the finest sugar-free dark 🍫).
It's been a hell of a year that made me question whether I lived one year or rather five. Speaking of Costa Rica, many of the roads we experienced there bear resemblance to how I've experienced the tumult of this whole year. Bump after bump, hole after hole, some rivers to cross, and as if that hadn't been enough, the roads were absurdly narrow and packed with trucks. I would often hold my breath, hoping we'll make it alive (past another bump and another truck) and the drives took forever. By the time we reached a destination, I'd be all tense and drained at the same time, just like I've been throughout most of this year. Yet, sometimes, at the seemingly unreachable end of these apocalyptic roads, some sort of paradise awaited, which gave me a boost of energy and aliveness that I'd thought I lost. Yet, instead of burning out that whole energy in a blink of an eye, which I'd usually do (going from one extreme to the other), I took a deeeeep breath (or 20 of the kind) and set the intention to save some for later. Within these lines, I have, somehow, through hard work but mostly through slow work, closeness to nature and various therapies, managed to end the year in a better place, which made me redefine my idea of achievement, an idea which used to be either my ego's, society's or someone else's, but definitely not my own.
I'll make you more acquainted with my journey throughout this year in a future newsletter, where I'll get back to my usual long and bitter sweet writing. Don't say I didn't warn you!
Meanwhile, I will be sifting a few thoughts in the form of 'what-ifs', that I hope you will find solace in, meaning or inspiration. This is not a to-do-list - we've had enough of those - so take whatever sparks something in you.
❄️ What if we envisioned and created TO-FEEL lists and NOT TO-DO lists instead of the insurmountable and perpetually unsatisfying to-do lists? How often do we think about how we’d like to feel and what other answers would come up when we're asking ourselves that question? What would it take for us to put the breaks on the 'doing' machinery? What are we running towards and more importantly, what are we running from? Would our body feel lighter and our breathing more noticeable, if we crossed the to-dos before even giving them a name?
🌱 What if we gave 'happiness' a different, more concrete name? How would real happiness look like for you, and only you, and where would you feel it in your body?What’s important to you?
❄️ What if we made space for more unstructured time, in favour of deadlines and structured time? Life will always find a way to catch us off guard, no matter how much we strive to plan accordingly.
I thought that working with a daily planner - I’d bought a very cool and creative one - amidst a burnout getting bigger and bigger, like a snowball rolling, would help me stay on top of things. Guess what, it only added to the pressure I'd already put on myself. Adapting to my inner rhythm, planning little to none, for a change, allowing for buffers, was what really helped.
🌱 What if we learned to live more in the grey area and be ok with the fact that there's a big chance we will never figure all things out? What if we stopped trying so much to fix everything, ourselves in particular? What if we gave in to the reality that there's nothing fundamentally wrong with us? We are not our fears, our shame, our jobs, our laziness, not even our parents or partners. These are just labels sedimented by a society that wants us to mirror some unrealistic and unnatural standards and pathways.
❄️ What if we let ourselves be and make space for processing both the goods and the bads? It seems I've sucked at doing both most of my life, yet I'm learning to get better at it, while also shaking hands with 'better is good enough'. I believe there's a balance between things that happen to us that have a meaning or opportunity attached to, and those things that do not. It's empowering to find ways to heal and focus on personal growth, yet it's also tiering to relentlessly search for a meaning in everything.
🌱 What if we stopped asking the 'How are you?' question, unless we really mean it and are prepared to take in any answer that comes our way, no matter how uncomfortable it feels to hear it?
Before moving to the UK, I don't remember addressing this question but to very close people, and then I really wanted to start a conversation and listen to what they had to say. Then I moved to the UK and I got swept under the often meaningless 'How are you?', until it started feeling so out of place and touch. Yes, ok, to some people, it might just be a form of greeting or a conversation starter, yet to others, the mere thought of answering this feels awkward and uncomfortable. And why spend the energy on it if there's no point to it? A simple 'hello' will suffice.
❄️ What if we texted our friends more often and relearn to acknowledge their presence in our lives? This year in particular I've experienced an acute feeling of loss, sadness and loneliness, as a consequence of the unavailability of friends. I might not have been the best of friend at times either.
I’ve been initially fooling myself, thinking that the culprit is age and the afferent stacking responsibilities, or these past years that threw everything at us all at once. And yes, it's definitely a little bit of both, along with individual unresolved traumas, yet a bigger issue is, I believe, that we do not prioritise community any-longer, but instead we aimlessly wander in all directions in an attempt to succeed and a fear of missing out, or that we pick up even more fights with ourselves on top of the existing burnout (a fancy term for depression), or that we consume the lives of others and ourselves on social media instead of real life.
🌱 What if we took a Sabbath from social media and make space for reality instead - for pure joys, for nature, for our friends, for ourselves? Social media is, as it currently envelops, a killer for the spirit, creativity, intuition, relationships to selves and others.
❄️ What if we started questioning everything we think we are right now and everything we tend to do, that is in poor alignment with our blueprint and outside our autonomy? What if we chose what we want to feel and follow instead of following the norms?
🌱 What if we looked for answers inside ourselves but also learned to ask for help and rely on others? We can't live separate from our environment or in full detachment from everything around us. To think that we can do it all on our own is bullshit, in my opinion, and, ultimately, alienating.
❄️ What if we counteracted the idea that we never have the time? Time is mostly what we make of it but for this, we need to make space for what matters most.
🌱 What if we didn't focus on becoming more resilient, but on becoming softer? What if we stopped believing in the prefabricated idea that we need to struggle, we need to be tough and work hard, in order for good things to come our way? What if we gave in to our lightness of being, to our natural state of rest? What if we ended this year just by curling up with a warm cup of tea and a heavy blanket? What if we embraced the winter within? What if we indulged with the idea of indulgence?
❄️ What if we shifted our energy towards thriving? Life shouldn’t be about a mere survival.
I'll leave you with a quote from Somatic Experiencing International: “How much of your anxiety stems from a place of not enough? How much of your fatigue stems from trying to keep up with an endless race you never signed up to run? Instead of finishing the year strong why don't we finish the year soft?” To which I’d add: What if we allowed for softness into the new year as well, for as long as needed, instead of getting right back to it? What if we made space for all feelings, but particularly for feeling free?
Sparks of interest
A movie: Marcel the Shell with Shoes On
An animated mockumentary animation about a 1-inch-tall super cute shell, who lives with his grandmother, Connie, as the only residents of their town after their neighbours' sudden, mysterious disappearance. They are discovered by an Airbnb guest who is the actual director of the movie and who decides to make a documentary about Marcel. I was contemplating on what a weird, quirky and insightful mind the director must have, if coming up with such a unique idea. Articulate, profound, fun, beautiful inside and out, the animation is a delight to watch and perfect for an end of a thunderous year, a poignant reflection for kids and adults alike.
A book: Rest Is Resistance: A Manifesto
The book that had the strongest impact on me this year, as I would start questioning and resisting the way I’d function within a toxic and oppressive capitalist society, amidst a mental, physical and spiritual exhaustion. It was a revelation, a wake-up call, a powerful expression of how I had been feeling for a while. There’s so much to say about this book but I’ll leave you to it, as to two of my favourite quotes from the book. And remember, rest is not a privilege, but a right, a natural state of being:
“It is only when people live in an environment in which they are not required to exert supreme effort into just keeping alive that they seem to be able to select ends besides those of mere physical survival.”
“None of us will get free without resisting toxic systems that blind us to the truth of who and what we are. We should be curious about our souls and the ways rest can comfort, heal, and uncover what grind culture has never allowed us to feel.”
A letter to self (article in ‘Breathe’ magazine):
What if, instead of the usual New Year’s resolutions, you would resort to an old school method and wrote a letter to yourself? What if you stamped it and posted it and received it a few days later? What would your reaction be when ‘you got mail!’? How would it feel to read something you wrote that is addressed to you? What if you’d make the letter a pleasure to open, and write it as if you were writing a friend, choosing a beautiful paper, drawing or colouring? Would you open it the soon you received it, or would you put it aside for one year, to act as a time machine? What would your letter be about - dreams and aspirations, a thank you and compassionate note to self, or an attempt at shaking it all off and freeing your mind?
A show: Cinema Therapy
Another fun and insightful way to spend a cosy end of the year, with a therapist and his highly emotional cinematographer friend and patient, while they play on the anatomy of movies.
A product: Lash & Brow growth serum
As you may know, I am not a believer in the magic of beauty products or quick fixes, but rather an advocate of healing from the inside out. However, from time to time, my belief is being restored. My once thick and dark eyebrows suffered greatly in the past 2-3 years. They’d become so sparse and sad, that mourning them seemed like the only thing to do. Then I came across this plant based serum, I used it consistently for about 3 months, and my bushy brows are back! My lashes, too, that had never seen a natural curl, have grown some long and curly brothers and sisters. Happy me!
An article: On rethinking what it means to be creative
A beautiful read on Creativity, a skill that we all innately posses, yet only a few access, mostly out of fear of rejection. Creativity is there, irrespective of age irrespective of background, but it's like a muscle that needs to be consistently trained and revived.