My last Mind Cleanup blog dates back to October 2018. They used to be a regular thing and I had some fixed categories I could choose from, to help my cleaning session along, which I have included below (mostly to help me write the next one).
Mind Cleanup Categories:
MOVIES / TV
LOOKY HERE (pages, blogs or info you recommend others to check out)
I am also thinking of adding one more category honoring a person, organization or story that “won the month”. This idea is inspired by Fivedotoh.com’s Fandango, who in turn was inspired by MSNBC’s Joy Reid (Who Won the Week).
So, if I were to do a quick mind cleanup of the first half of 2019, it might look a bit like this:
NEWS – people-on-the-streets edition
France in turmoil with yellow vest movement taking to the streets to express anger towards status quo. The 26 minute documentary below, explains what sparked it and what fuels it:
Venezuelan turmoil is so very different from the anger in France. And at the same time, it’s very much the same.
A heart-mending reaction to the sorrow felt after the Christchurch Mosque shooting in New Zealand:
Since it dropped I have been listening to songs from India Arie’s new album, which includes this meaningful gem:
Who won the first half of 2019?
My big bro had a little girl in March. Her name is Jasmina and I suppose you could say she is a winner for landing in a family with my brother and his awesome girlfriend. In all truth I think it is my brother who is actually the true winner in this equation.
This blog is the fifth and final post in my Black Pete Pentalogy.
My plan was to have my Black Pete conclusion-blog done on the fifth of December, which is the final day of the Sinterklaas celebration in the Netherlands. I failed to meet the deadline, but have had this blog on my mind pretty much every day.
Black Pete & Opponents, about the people who want to kick out Black Pete but are probably its only real friends.
The four blog posts I have written over the last few weeks have really helped me untangle some of my personal frustrations. At the same time it help me to (re)connect with thoughts and ideas I had distanced myself from.
Conclusion 1: There aren’t just two sides to this matter
At a first glance it seems there are only two sides in the Black Pete debate: people in favor and people opposed. However, I have come to realize that the motivations of both sides vary greatly and understanding these motivations is crucial.
Let me share some of the different angles with you:
People in favor – thoughts and motives
“I love Black Pete because I have fond memories of him. It hurts me that people call him a bad element in our celebration. I don’t understand why we can’t just go back to the way it was when we all still loved Black Pete and everybody had fun.”
“I love Black Pete because he is part of my culture. It angers me to see my culture being criticized, (in my own country nonetheless)! I want to protect Dutch traditions. People that don’t like what they see, can move on to somewhere where traditions are more of their liking.”
“I love Black Pete because it is dark element in an ancient celebration, dating back to Wodan & Odin. Sinterklaas without Black Pete is yin with no yang. To change Black Pete or remove him completely destroys the balance”
“Every Dutch child loves Black Pete. They look forward to his arrival, sometimes even more than Sinterklaas’. The concept of racism is an adult invention. Removing Pete from the celebration taints the celebration with a hateful sentiment that was never there to begin with.”
Opponents – thoughts and motives
“Black Pete must be removed from the Sinterklaas celebration because his appearance is disrespectful towards present day black people and descendants of slaves.”
“Black Pete must be removed from the Sinterklaas celebration because it is beneath ourselves. We were ignorant in the past and did not realize there was racism at play. Now we do. Holding on to the tradition is unacceptable.”
“Black Pete must change. We have been telling our children that he is black with soot, so there is no reason for him to go full blackface. A couple of black smudges on the face should do it. (Aren’t chimneys much cleaner now then they were in the past anyway?)”
“Black Pete can change. Children’s imaginations are open for wonder. We can introduce a Rainbow Pete and a yellow, green and blue Pete to demonstrate this and push the diversity factor further.”
Starting with the girl in the mirror
As I illustrated with the examples above Black Pete supporters (which not so long ago, was pretty much everyone around me) are not all the same. As a longtime opponent of Black Pete I may, at times, have been quick to label someone as “racist” or “hateful”.
I realize now that some Black Pete supporters are merely melancholic souls. Others are nervous conservatives that don’t really want to deal with change, in any way, shape or form. Me calling them out as racist only made them put up their guard and counterattack, bringing us no where closer to a common ground.
Also, apart from Black Pete supporters and Black Pete opponents, there is a growing group of people that is just fed up with the discussion and doesn’t really care how we resolve the issue, as long as we can just carry on.
Conclusion 2: Admitting you’re wrong is hard.
You know the kind of fight that is way too loud, over-dramatic and full of inaccurate accusations? The type of argument that comes with a lot of finger pointing and sentences that begin with, “Yes, but you ALWAYS…” or end with “Well, that’s just typical!”.
It’s a fight that’s probably not really about what we are saying it is about. It’s a fight we’re having because we actually care a lot about one another but have forgotten how to show it (and our pride is making it hard to admit it). It’s a fight with no listeners. It is a fight with no winners.
We are now in that awkward phase, right after an argument, when neither side is ready yet to extend a hand to the other, nor is anybody willing to admit that all they really want is a hug.
That silence can go both ways. It can turn into passive aggressive silence, which is actually just a continuation of the conflict, but with no sound. The “silent treatment” keeps wounds open and painful and often leads back to the point where we started: the yelling and the closed hearts.
The second option is that, during that sudden and uncomfortable silence, the words of the other suddenly start sinking in. Words that you had been blocking with your own stream of words start connecting with your own ideas and concepts.
It takes courage to admit you were wrong and even more to admit someone else was right. Sometimes an apology is necessary, which is next level stuff!
So I guess what I’m saying, is that the screaming and the yelling, the threats and the arrests, may have looked bad (and they really were), but there is something in the air that makes me feel optimistic.
Speaking for myself, I must admit I may have been a bit too harsh on my compatriots over the last few years.
I’ve been asking (demanding?) friends to accept a whole new set of truths, to change a tradition that has been passed down for generations and then also apologize for it. I’d rather they got to it yesterday, rather than today, giving them very little room to make it right.
So if some Dutchies start celebrating “new style” Sinterklaas but find it hard to do this without being sarcastic about it, that’s fine. If they say they only do it because PC immigrant-huggers made them do it, I’ll happily take the blame (and give them a free hug in the process).
And I guess this brings me to the third and final conclusion:
Conclusion 3: Black Pete is bad karma
My first Black Pete related blog was in 2013. For years it felt like I was one of the only ones speaking out against this tradition. What bothered me the most was (is?) the denial.
However, defending Black Pete is becoming harder. Social media is letting the world peak through the windows as we celebrate. We are being exposed for what we really are.
We are not quite ready to actually say Black Pete is a racist phenomenon, but we are somewhere close to “no longer denying it is not free of racism”, which is progress!
Black Pete is becoming a burden. A smudge on the global image we have created of ourselves.
Yes, Black Pets is bad karma and we will rid ourselves of it.
In the meantime, please be patient with us (but don’t let us off the hook either).
There is always one “Mind Cleanup” entry sitting in my drafts folder, where I can dump quick words, quotes and links that I might want to write about later.
What usually happens is that days and weeks go by without me having time or mental space to write. That “now is the moment” feeling seems to be more difficult to find than “before”. I haven’t really pinpointed the exact cause of this or when it changed exactly.
Let’s analyze this right here and now, shall we?
What was different “before”?
If I count the amount of blogs I have written over the years I see that 2015 was my most fruitful year, boosted by a Blaugust challenge on the one side and the shock attacks in Paris on the other, followed by the rise of Daesh as a political and cultural phenomenon. It was also the year I started my current job.
2016 was the year I volunteered at the Roskilde Festival for the first time. In November of 2016 my boyfriend and I moved in together. November was also the month the Agent Orange was elected president of the USA.
2017 was a continuation of 2016; dealing with the POTUS situation, finding my feet in my new casa and volunteering at Roskilde Festival again (and writing a ton of stuff about that here).
Wow, that little walk down memory lane actually really cleared things up for me.
The reason 2015 was a very good blog year is because I had just come out of a job that had filled my system with pent up frustration, that I was finally able to vent when I left. I know that anger has always been the best fuel for my writing flow. The Daesh attacks added to the momentum as society around me reacted in all the wrong ways to the traumatic events in Paris and the growing threat in the region.
The US presidential race in 2016 and the resulting election of the Drumpf, was a deflating experience. I think I am still coming to grips with the reality of the situation and haven’t regained my blogging mojo since. It may sound like a sorry excuse, blaming the POTUS for my writer’s block, but it makes total sense to me and I think I’m going to stick with it.
An additional factor is my current living situation. I love my boyfriend and I love the house we have together. The one thing I am NOT happy about in our new house is the placement of my desk. It’s too dark and my desk is a bit too small. This has caused me to spend less time on the web with less chance to get inspired by random stories to spin into blogs.
It’s an easy fix, really. All I have to do is move some furniture around, right? Ah, but you haven’t taken into account the lazy-fart-factor! Also, I don’t think I have really admitted how much the desk situation really bothers me until now…
So, the rest of this blog consists of random words and themes that I once jotted down to maybe address in a future mind-cleanup-blog. All though a lot of it has gotten old or is still way too complicated for my current brainspace I have decided to just share them with you, without any further editing:
Worst part: I think he doesn’t even realize how much harm he can do with casually calling Suriname a “failed state” and ruling out the possibility of different ethnicities ever living together in peace.
Shame is what I feel. Another win for the racists and bigots.
Zwarte Piet discussion in the Netherlands
exhausting discussion, but I will not back down for my opinion.
I am losing friends over my anti-Black Pete stance (or Facebook friends… not really friends, I guess)
It’s an open wound in our society and it’s starting to fester. I say; chop off the limb and be done with it!
Typical frat boy in a grown up body.
What I hate most about him (and his kind): the aura of entitlement.
Ridiculous TV trial.
Feels like the nail in the coffin of US credibility.
What’s up with this twisted fascination / longing that Latin America has for dictatorial type leaders?
We are nearing the year’s halfway-point, which is a good time to take a few steps back and look at the bigger picture that is coming to life. We are the painters. What are we creating?
Thanks for the coffee, Yemen.
Amsterdam will be hosting the biggest coffee convention,World of Coffee, later this month. According to some accounts, coffee’s origins lie in Yemen. As one of the most troubled (to put it mildly) countries in the world, many western countries (including the Netherlands) provide Yemen with aid in all sorts of ways.
Earlier this week, an article in Dutch newspaper het Parool was brought to my attention that described the troublesome trip that Yemeni coffee farmers had made to the embassy in Jordan, in order to be able to attend the coffee convention. Representing their country and their coffee at such an international event, would not only boost their confidence but perhaps also the production and trade in Yemen. Sadly their visitor’s visa were denied by Dutch authorities. So much for lending a helping hand…
Another article from the same newspaper brought me new insights on intercultural communication and how different people from different cultures react to guilt.
The article describes how a child that breaks something in kindergarten is asked “Did you do this” and if the child answers with yes, it is rewarded by not being punished and receives praise for being honest. When the same child applies the lesson from kindergarten at home, a parent from a different culture may expect a different reaction from their child. When a child looks a parent in the face and says “Yes, I broke the vase”, this may be interpreted as shameless, causing the punishment to be more severe instead of less. The “right way” to admit guilt would then perhaps be to lower your head and say nothing… The article proceeds to explain why these are valuable lessons for law enforcers and social workers. It was an angle I had never thought of.
If you had only the hashtags above to go on, what would you think we would be talking about?
I just realized they would apply to the Miss America competition as much as they do to the G7 summit. Adding the “dumb blonde”-hashtag may even refer more to the Drumpf than to any Miss America contestant…
The news about the exclusion of the swimsuit round from future miss America competitions has surely reached most of you..? I don’t think anyone really understands what the point of this decision was but it sure did cause a commotion.
And to summarize the G7 summit (or the G6 + 1 summit, as some have been calling it), all you really need is the legendary picture below.
My parents stayed at my place for four days, which was plenty… We had all sorts of constructive and enlightening conversations that will need some following up on at a later stage.
An interesting conversation I had with my dad, was about his brother and sister. My dad was telling me he felt he needed to reach out to them, as they had all dealt with their own personal health issues and he wanted to let them know that he cared. He admitted he was a bit hesitant to do so, as my uncle always “claims to know more than his doctors” and “refuses to follow their advice or take the pills he has been prescribed”. The irony of the fact that this is pretty much a summary of himself, was lost on him at first. When laughingly, I told my boyfriend about this conversation, he said “it’s always the traits you recognize in yourself that annoy you the most”.
I’ve been trying to apply that hypothesis on myself the last few days. There are many things, particularly about my parents that drive me completely up the wall. Which traits of my own am I secretly recognizing in them…? I haven’t figured it out yet, to be honest. Perhaps it’ll resurface in a future mind cleanup.
Yesterday, I made a really simple but surprisingly yummy bulgur-based tabouleh salad, with the ingredients below.
1 bell pepper
1 red onion
fresh coriander / cilantro
Gyros pork strips (optional)
You basically just prepare the bulgur, according to instructions on the packet, fry the pork strips (if you choose to include them) and mix all the other ingredients (chopped up, of course) together and voila! A wonderful meal, that I encourage to make “too much” of, as the leftovers make a great take-to-work lunch.
Wow, I just posted a recipe on my blog… Never thought that would happen… LOL.
We had a some real, genuine sunshine that lasted for almost a week, including a weekend. It’s amazing what sunshine does for one’s spirits. Or at least for mine.
It was also during this beautiful sunny weekend that I sat in my garden for the first time. I mean, I’ve been living in my “new home” for over a year now, so I’ve definitely sat in my garden before, but that was different. Last weekend I just sat there, not to eat, or light a barbecue or whatever. I just closed my eyes and sat in the sun, with my sleeves rolled up and with my blindingly white legs exposed, like fresh solar panels, to charge my batteries. Such bliss!
In our first year, we just let the garden “be” as it felt kind of impolite to just barge in and start pulling out plants, root and all, without getting to know them first… I know, I’m silly that way. But this year, when the sun came out and plantlife started to explode, I decided to be a bit more assertive. So, I’m growing some stuff inside now that will be move to the garden soon.
Also, a nationwide initiative called “mission Stone Break” is encouraging people to take out a row of bricks / tiles in front of their houses and grow something there. It’s a really fun idea, so that is also something I’ve been doing that has been making me quite happy, as well!
I have half a blogpost sitting in my drafts file, where I explain more about how the day went, which I will try to publish soon. But the short version of the story is: our team raised over €5.000,- and had a wonderful day in a beautiful area. I ran 14 km and felt it in my thighs for three days, but it was totally worth it!
Another cool thing that happened this past month was an encounter I had on a Saturday at work. Contrary to my usual office duties, I had been assigned a shift in “the store”, which was kind of nice but also something you have to do regularly in order to be able to bring your A game.
So, as I had let my colleague do most of the harder stuff that day, when a guy walked in asking for advice on what to buy for his son, I volunteered. We walked around the store and I did the best I could to help him out and we ended up having a fun chat.
When he had collected all the stuff he needed, I walked him to the cash register and asked if he was a member so that I could give him a discount. He wasn’t completely sure, but he thought he might be, so I offered to look him up in the system. I asked him his last name, and to my complete surprise he said MY NAME!
And to people called Jansen or de Jong (two very common names in the Netherlands) that may not come as a surprise but my name is really uncommon. I have never met another person with my last name that wasn’t a family member, so you can imagine I was dumbfounded, when I heard my last name come from the mouth of this comeplete stranger (and pronounced “the right way”, and everything).
And when I looked at him again, suddenly he reminded me of my uncle. So yes, this guy was a distant relative, who just happened to walk into the store on that one day that I was assigned that shift and that one minute that I decided I would step in to play “personal shopper” for a random customer to alleviate the weight on my colleague’s shoulders.
Luckily it was a really nice guy and when he left the store we agreed we should meet again for a cup of coffee.
Cosmos, you be funny!
I’ve been enjoying new music a lot as well, but there is really only one artist that I want to talk about: Janelle Monae.
She is such a force. I can’t even….
I mean, I already loved her “old stuff”, like Tightrope (see below), but the stuff she’s doing now has really carved her name deep into the history books.
According to the Chinese calendar, we are currently wrapping up the year of the rooster.
I think following the Chinese calendar might be just what I need, considering the first few weeks of 2018 have been a little un-fun for me.
The first week was actually pretty OK. 2017 ended on a hopeful note, with my father recovering well from a stroke he had suffered in the late summer and my brother taking back control over his life by deciding to move back to where he grew up, in Ireland.
The idea was that he would re-connect with his younger self and the values he had been instilled with by his mother (we are step-siblings). It sounded like a good idea at the time and I was especially happy he was choosing where he wanted to go himself and going through all the motions (and paperwork) to make the move abroad possible.
Sadly, his addiction got the better of him quite quickly and quite heavily, causing him to be involved in an accident, probably caused by him (all though I’m not sure he sees it that way just yet). Any progress he had made in recent months was destroyed, and more, he has to face all sorts of financial, social and legal consequences. In short: stressful.
My brother called me a week or so after all this happened and confessed most of the story to me. He sounded angry, sad, disappointed and confused. Making excuses and simultaneously admitting and denying the one thing I have been waiting for him to say: I need help.
He asked me to not tell my parents about what had happened, but added “all though they expect me to fuck up anyway…”.
Then, after not having heard from him for several days (and me not reaching out) an uncle of his called me and asked me how much I knew about my brother’s situation. After I told him what I knew, he asked when I had last heard from him, which turned out to be about the last time he had been in contact as well.
The additional info I got from his uncle: My brother had bought a crappy old car and told people around him he was heading back to the Netherlands to get professional help. The fact that he had not told anyone here that he was coming and the fact that nobody had heard from him in several days made all the alarms go off.
For the first time in my life I felt my heart quiver out of control, while sitting motionless on a chair. I sent him a message and went through every possible scenario. For about two hours, I thought my brother was probably dead….
Even when he texted me back, my mind raced on. The reality of his re-existence suddenly felt more complicated than the momentary possibility that he might be gone forever. Needless to say, that realization made me feel horrible…
I felt guilty (which is one of my talents, I must admit).
I felt guilty for feeling that nano-sliver of disappointment when he turned up.
I felt guilty for not being able to run to his aid, but not really wanting to either.
I felt guilty for forcing other (extremely sweet and good hearted) people to deal with him.
I felt guilty for keeping it a secret from my parents.
I felt guilty for telling my mother anyway, forcing her to lie to my dad and adding more things onto her list of things to lie awake over at night.
I felt guilty for not offering up my house to my brother as a landing spot, when he let me know he might be coming back to the Netherlands.
I felt guilty for implicitly asking my boyfriend to carry the load of my family drama.
I felt guilty for hardly having the head space to listen to the answer to my “how was your day?”; especially when the answer was more complicated than “fine”.
I felt guilty for emptying out my brain sewage on the laps of my favorite people in this world; people with so much empathy in their beautiful hearts that it is almost inevitable that my state of mind also affected them negatively.
I felt guilty for losing control and not being able to fake it.
So, forget the Gregorian calendar. Enter Chinese year 4715! And the year of the dog is coming up. I like dogs. Dogs like me. I understand dogs. Dogs are fun. Dogs are goofy and bring out my inner clown (in a non psycho kind of way). This is good!
So, I’m gearing up my backpack for the adventures the year of the dog might throw at me and filling it with:
A compass, that points towards what is good for me.
to be filled with small and frequent brain dumps, as to not fill up the brain buffer and empty out the cache.
to plan my life better and have (the possibility to create) more order in the chaos.
to keep the blog-juices flowing.
Scooby snacks, to keep myself and the dog smiling.
After my recent blog cleanup session, I finally feel there is some room here for a Mind Cleanup post. I moved the posts about Roskilde Festival to a new and separate blog, where they will feel more at home.
This feels so much better. More casual. The Epiphany Blog needs to be a simple place for random thoughts and musings, as intended at its birth.
So, let’s let those thoughts wander and stumble their way into writing.
Besides all Drumpf related news, the one topic that I feel is probably more important than many news outlets are making it seem, is the Qatar boycott. I have been trying to understand what is going on and why, but haven’t come up with something truly satisfying yet. Reporting on it seems foggy; information blurry and inconsistent; fake news? Who are the the good guys (if there are any left at all)?
My thought process might result in a little blog post in the future. Not sure yet…
A close friend had her birthday at the beginning of July, which I kinda remembered two weeks prior but totally forgot about after that and apparently these things really matter to people. The fact that birthdays really totally completely and whole heartedly mean nothing to me, makes it hard to deal with people who do. It’s hard to empathize. I’m trying (and failing (or maybe I’m still not really trying)).
I started a journal, which will hopefully help me put my thoughts in order and live more consciously (and less chaotically?).
What are you bad at but couldn’t care less about (even though others may think you should)?
Birthdays. My own as well as other people’s.
Who are the most important people in your life?
There are several people in my life that I value highly and couldn’t imagine living without, starting with my boyfriend. ❤
Next in line is probably my close friend, Z, who is such an inspiring and wise person, I can’t even begin to express her value. She’s awesome. She’s a hero. She’s my guru.
Then there are the people that are important, even if I wish sometimes they weren’t. Or maybe “important” isn’t the right word but something more like “powerful” or “influencial”. But no, my family is definitely an important factor in my life. Can’t even deny it.
How much sleep do you need?
I wake up early, even when I go to bed late so the latter is something I try to avoid. I function best on 7-8hour rest/sleep. I am blessed with comatose sleep.
Are you rich?
I think so. It’s something that I like to tell myself I don’t care about. But it does matter. I have exactly the right amount of wealth. But when it comes to luck and happiness I am filthy rich. Luckily, those two things I can make myself!
I watched the third season of Fargo > So much darker (and less funny?) than 1 and 2.
Doctor Strange > We want more!
Richard Bona > awesome Jazz bassist and singer from Cameroon, who just ventured out into Afro-Cuban territory with his new album (Heritage). Que yummy!
Natalia Lafourcade > One of my fave Latin American songstresses with a super soothing voice and a super friendly smile. Her newest project (Musas) – an album and making-of documentary – completely stole my heart
Jack Johnson > Spotify just pointed out this new Jack Johnson song. I think we all know who and what he is referring to when he sings:
I don’t care for your paranoid us-against-them walls;
I don’t care for your careless me-first-gimme-gimme appetite at all
I don’t care for them either, Jack. I feel you.
Don’t particularly want to analyze this any further, but I thought this was interesting and amusing and thought I should share.