Mind Cleanup 2021

My 2020 plan to bring some structure and continuity in my blogging seems to have backfired on me. Instead of posting one blog a week as I had in mind, I ended up not posting anything for a year. Woopsie!

At first I thought I was just struggling with finding a topic that coincided with the letter G, in accordance with my own personal A-to-Z challenge. But then again, I had set aside my alphabet theme before when more interesting topics came by, just to pick it up again at a later point. So the letter G is off the hook.

For a while I thought it was just the fact that it was winter. My inner couch potato does always seem to be a bit more dominant when temperatures drop and the sun makes itself scarce. Then I thought it had to do with my desk, or my internet, or some deadline at work.

I think it was only recently that I realized I was simply exhausted. Not physically per se, all though my stamina had definitely seen better days. Not even mentally either, I was functioning perfectly fine in every sense. If I would have to describe it I would say I was worn out on a deeply spiritual level, or as a certain hobbit once put it: sort of stretched, like butter scraped over too much bread.

If writing would have been my profession or if someone (other than myself) was actually awaiting my next blogpost, I’m sure I would have been able to produce something. But, as I mention on my blog’s homepage, first and foremost blogging is something I do for myself.

In hindsight I realize that I probably would have benefited from a ‘mind cleanup’ or two along the way. However, the idea of sitting at my desk after a long day at work, just wasn’t appealing to me. So I didn’t. At all.

But what DID I do?

January 2021

My mom’s chemos and immunotherapy, that started in October 2020, continued well into 2021. The treatment weakened her to the brink of her existence. There was very little I could do. I prepared her food that she didn’t want and brought her newspapers and magazines that she couldn’t read.

Also, I worked. My employer was amazingly accommodating and I was given a lot of flexibility to fill in my own time. The more freedom they gave me, the more I felt obligated to put in the hours. I’m weird that way, I guess.

February 2021

In February I started an online course on vegetable gardening and permaculture. It was inspiring and fun and I fully intend to submerse myself in more of that. I do admit that if the pandemic had not forced the course to offer an online version, I would not have had the time or headspace to see it through.

A memorable moment during my mother’s illness, was when her eyes (or rather her eyelids) starting to bleed. Her eyes had been irritated ever since she lost her eyelashes, causing a rash. Of course, the crying didn’t help either. The fact that she looked liked something out of a horror movie is something we can laugh about now… but… no… wasn’t actually funny at the time…

To complicate things further, my father in law was admitted to the hospital (on the other side of the country) a day after my mother was. He had suffered a perforated gut aside from the chronic case of stubbornness. My boyfriend and I did our best to be there for each other and show honest interest in the unique situations our parents were facing. Luckily, our foundations are strong and we don’t always need a lot of words.

March 2021

March was the month in which my mom underwent surgery to remove the tumor from her breast. It went well. Also, the fact that it meant the chemo phase of her treatment was over, was an enormous relief. I have never hated a cure for a disease more. That stuff is horrible.

March was also the month that our country held parlementary elections. As we are speaking, that is nine months later, we still do not have a new government. Don’t ask me why. I guess its complicated.

April 2021

In April one of my best friends was suddenly abandoned by her husband. All though the administrative process surrounding the divorce went relatively smoothly, she was left in absolute shambles emotionally. We spoke about it a lot. We also went for long walks without really speaking much about it at all. She’s not there yet, but she is starting to regain some belief in her ability to survive…

This was also the month that I officially quit my job. That is, I put in my three month notice and announced I would be leaving the company. It made me sad, without ever doubting it was what I needed to do.

May 2021

In May I was vaccinated. Pfizer. Sore arm, but that was it.

June 2021

June was my last month with my employer of six years. It’s the longest I have ever worked for any company. I did my best to document everything I knew and did, even though I knew my method of working was a thing of the past and the company would be moving on quickly after my departure.

July 2021

July was my first month of unemployment.

Also, it was the month that my mother finally got her invitation for the hip replacement surgery she had been craving for for years. Her painful hip was actually the reason she went to the doctor in the first place, more so than the lump she felt in her breast.

August 2021

This summer month felt like a necessary breather. My mother was healing well and I gradually learned to let go as well and let her do things on her own again.

September 2021

The death of a friend’s mother gave September a strange mixture of feelings (gratitude, grief, guilt, joy, love). Her mother was diagnosed with cancer a few months before mine. While my mother was making plans to travel and cook again, her mother was deciding how she wanted her funeral to go.

It was also this month that my father stepped into the spotlight during a week long exhibition of his paintings in a local art gallery. I have never seen him prouder. He sold several paintings and received more compliments than he had imagined he would. He needed that! And for my sweet short haired mother, it was her first time out in public without her wig.

October 2021

In October I started to feel restless. Even though I had not exactly put my heart into the job hunting process (can you ever really?), I really began to miss feeling useful. I did participate in a 5km race and did OK.

My brother let me know that he was ready to seek help for his alcohol addiction. He changed his mind about this at least a hundred times after that, but the wheels had been set in motion…

November 2021

My brother finally went to the rehab clinic in the second week of November and is still there now. I hope to see him in February, after the program is finished. I’m tremendously proud of him!

December 2021

And now it is December. I can’t quite summarize this month just yet, but I can tell you that I got a new job that I will be starting in January. Exciting!

I once again have plans and aspirations for my blog for 2022 and am looking forward to getting started on those in the upcoming weeks. I hope all of you in the WP community have a wonderful last few weeks. Whatever you do, stay gentle.

Mind Cleanup oct / nov 2020

Because some days just don’t seem to have enough hours in them, I wasn’t able to complete my October mind cleanup last month, so I decided to fuse it with November. And then November came and went, and suddenly we’re halfway through December.

Still, I think it is OK to share my Mind Cleanup for the past two months now. There is a real chance December and January will get to share a blogpost too.

About care

October was a month that was characterized by a period of intense interaction between my parents and myself. I stayed on their premises for a few weeks and helped put some structure into their days, that were being dominated by ugly things like cancer, corona and quarantines.

They were very grateful. I felt useful and was glad to help.

My parents’ household has never been super tidy or clean (and that’s an understatement), but the different C-words made a stricter regime necessary. I managed (better than I thought I would), but did not enjoy.

That whole episode made me realize the luxury of the life I live: an easy house, a laid back partner, enough financial wiggle room to be able to order take out several times a week (or semi-prepared food with minor work involved).

Taking care of my parents also gave me a small peek into the life of family life. My mother in particular was quite “needy” making me feel the type of responsibility I imagine a child might also have. It is not something I want in my life.

At the same time I realize that if my parents did not have me, they would have had a very hard time getting the help they needed. So… what does that mean for the care I may need when my bones go brittle?

About luxury

While caring for my parents I stayed in their guest accommodation, which is a cabin with a small kitchen, shower and toilet downstairs. Upstairs there is one room with TV and wi-fi, so comfortable enough. Heating comes from a woodstove, which was nice for the first couple of days, but at some point it started to bum me out.

Particularly on days that I was physically exhausted or emotionally drained, the idea of having to fetch wood from outside was quite a hurdle.

I would have been able to deal with it for months if needed, but after almost three weeks I decided to take a break and headed back home for a couple of days of simple urban life. If I hadn’t realized it before, I sure did now; I’m a pampered wuss (but I can deal with shit if needed).

About love

The complicated relationship of my parents is something I will never understand. I was raised by them, so their idiosyncrasy shouldn’t surprise me, but it still catches me off guard sometimes.

How they manage to always rub each other the exact wrong way makes me laugh and cry at the same time. They step into every single trap the other sets up and constantly feed each other with ammunition for the next pointless discussion. And sometimes, one or the other just completely and unreasonably looses their temper… and then… nothing… they just go on with their lives…

After being in their presence for more than a week, I felt myself slipping into their pit of confused structures and engaging in conversational swamps that made me want to pull out my hair (or theirs).

Passionate. That is what I used to call it. “High peaks, deep lows” and the like. It has a romantic feel to it and I may even have believed that was actually the case at one time. I could fill several books with my analyses of what I think they do wrong and how they have gotten to this point (and which lessons can be learned).

It just takes so much patience. So much clarity of mind. So much time. And love.

Love.

Such a slippery concept! If you’re plugged into it, you can move mountains without even causing a tremor. But if its light gets cloaked by a cloud of something poisonous (fear for example) it is a manipulative tool and an absolute energy drainer.

About TV

And right in the middle of my stay with my folks, the US elections happened. I was completely over it before it even began. My dad still insisted on watching the news every hour. If only he knew then, it would take another month and a half (and counting) before there would be any definitive hammer blow on the matter.

And I still can’t decide if I should go for “let’s forget this ever happened” or “let’s analyze the shit out of what happened and talk about it extensively for as long as necessary to get tot the (real) bottom of it”. It affected all of our moods.

An alternative we would switch to every now and then was some episode or other of Anthony Bourdain or any other one of my mother’s favorite TV cooks… but watching that during a time that my mother could hardly bare the sight or smell of food was not particularly fun for anyone.

The British detective series which she claims to watch for the cute cottage scenes and sophisticated clothing gave her nightmares.

So, if you ever read this: sir David Attenborough, thank you for all the series you have made. Thank you for your lullaby of a voice. Thank you (and your crew) for the beautiful scenes you have captured and the lessons you share. Thank you.

About my 36th

It was also my birthday! I turned 36. Sagittarius in the house, woop woop!

Oh and remember that T-shirt I said I needed in my Axolotl-post? Well, somebody was paying attention and bought it for me for my birthday. So happy!

And my mother gave me Obama’s biography (part 1, apparently). I think I read about 100 pages so far (700 to go)… and yes, he really is an awesome person.

All the good things

With just a few weeks of twentytwenty-ness to go, let me tell you one thing. You can do this!

I wish you all the pretty colors, all the soothing sounds, all the warmth and all the cosy feelings.

Stay safe. Be kind.

See you in two-oh-two-one!

Mind Cleanup – Sept 2020

The “back to normal”-vibe that August had, did not set through into September. If I would have to choose a theme for the ninth month of 2020 I think it would be “Dealing with unpleasant facts”.

The month started out with a visit to the hospital for my mom, resulting in a breast cancer diagnosis a week later and the confirmation that it had spread into at least one lymph node one week after that. On the very last day of the month we heard the first good news in weeks, being that the cancer had not spread into her bone marrow.

In hindsight, I felt like it was the best possible way to deliver such news to a pessimistic person like my mother. After she first heard the word ‘cancer’ she was convinced she was going to die. By the time she heard the bone marrow biopsy did not contain any cancer cells, the tumor in her breast sounded like good news and it completely perked her up.

Self-reflection

People around me reacted surprised/confused to my rational and reserved analysis to my mom’s situation. Perhaps it was a way to balance out the irrational and unfounded convictions my parents were slinging into the world.

I don’t think I didn’t take it seriously or that I was untouched by it. I just didn’t see the point in starting to plan my mother’s funeral if the results of the tests weren’t even in yet.

I considered the idea that I was just in shock and that reality would hit me later, but it didn’t. I checked myself a few times to analyze if I was suppressing my feelings and harming myself in the process, but I concluded that really wasn’t the case.

People seem to interpret my lack of tears as indifference, and I assure you that that is not the case. I love my mother. I’ll do everything I can to be by her side when it matters.

I will say though, that my attachment to my mother is “different” than perhaps many other people’s own personal experiences with their mothers. And that’s OK.

I am blessed with amazing friends that care about me and check my state of mind regularly. I can be fully honest with them and trust they will do the same in return.

Also, I am lucky to have an employer that is understanding to this new factor in my life. They have basically given me full freedom to put my parents first and not worry about the rest. That is not something I take for granted.

Underneath the walnut tree

When I was driving home from “up North”, where my parents live, I was listening to the radio and was thrilled to hear my favorite Dutch hip hop artist (not that I have any other Dutch rappers in my playlist), Typhoon, had released a new song after a hiatus of several years. To make it even better, the song was a collaboration with one of the best Dutch vocalists imo, Paskal Jakobsen.

In that moment, it felt like the song was repeating words to me I had spoken to my mother that very day. If you ask me, it’s about overcoming fear, about seizing the day, valuing life and maintaining a sense of wonder for what is in front of you.

I later heard the song is actually a message from Typhoon to his younger self. Makes sense. For me, it will always be a message from me to my mother.

The lyrics

You’re right on time.
Come lie down on the grass.
You are my guest of honor.
And now I have found you.

You cannot reproduce growth or make the same trip twice.
I’m grateful for who I am, both in my good and bad days.
If only we could look over the fence every now and then.
Although I don’t think we would be able to understand it, if we did.

I see you in the mirror; there’s the first gray hair.
Let just say it’s a sign of early wisdom.
I foresee the best years are yet to come, as if it all has yet to begin.
Don’t worry, I’ll take you along.

I hold you dear, I can’t do it without you, and that’s all I know.
Don’t be afraid to be in love, nor afraid to succeed.
Fear does strange things; it leads you to sabotage
Don’t be afraid to stop searching or to find what you already have.
It’s all right to feel melancholy, when I tell you:

You’re right on time, lie down on the grass.
You are my guest of honor
and now that I’ve found you, you are right on time
For everything there was; my heart, my friend, my guest of honor
And now I have found you

Don’t be afraid to be right. Don’t be afraid to serve.
If only you could see what I see when you smile or feel sad.
Don’t punish yourself for your lightness or happiness.
Just feel it: it’s how it’s meant to be.

And so what: what if it doesn’t work? What’s the worst that can happen?
Don’t be afraid to fall. Don’t be afraid of your success.
Don’t be afraid of ‘the nothings’ and ‘the everythings’.
Never forget how we lie under this walnut tree,
how we look without wanting to see, as in a dream…

You’re on time, lie down in the grass
You are my guest of honor and now that I’ve found you,
you are right on time
For everything there was; My heart, my friend, my guest of honor
And now I have found you

And everything is made for us as new
An adventure especially for us
Everything made anew into a melody,
that I hum every morning when you wake up.
When you wake up, yeah

Diamond droplets on the branches
Made anew into a melody
Diamond droplets on the branches
Like pearls on a clothing line
Diamond droplets on the branches
Don’t be afraid of being afraid
Diamond droplets on the branches
You are right on time.

Mind Cleanup: Aug 2020

AAaaaaaand that was it for August, folks!

My blogging flow was definitely less burdensome than it was in July. And I think that applies to most things in my life. The rhythm of what we used to consider to be normal is slowly returning and I am enjoying getting back into the routine.

Cycling

In some respects my routine has even improved.

For example, when I started to go back to the office, I didn’t feel completely comfortable taking the train, so I started cycling the 19kms to work. And now that I’m back in the office three times a week I have kept up this habit.

We’ll see how long I last when autumn makes an entrance, but for now I feel really good about myself.

Permaculture

I don’t even know what triggered it, but somewhere in the last month I have become very interested in permaculture. I have spoken to several people that have experience with these principles and I will definitely sign up for an extensive course in the future.

Bill Mollison, one of the founders of the concept, says some things in the video above that captivate me. He says:

When you look at a whole system there are two things that are very undesirable: one is work, and the other one is pollution. Pollution is a product of work. Work is a result of not supplying every component of your system with its needs.
(…)
Another thing which is extraordinarily intriguing is that when you design well nature takes hold of what you’ve done and does it better. But what you gotta do is watch the system and guide its life path.
(…)
[Permaculture is] an attempt to build a good place to live.

How to Summer

August was hot. The Netherlands didn’t know how to cope. We were not made for temperatures above 25 degrees celsius, and definitely not for weeks and weeks on end. And where did all the sky-water go?

The pandemic just added that little extra layer of complications.

Beaches were too full, crammed with every Dutch person that would normally travel abroad during their holiday. On top of that, holiday-goers from other countries made their way to our small sliver of coast as well, given that our corona measures have been relatively lenient.

As you can imagine, everybody and their mother had and opinion about this. It was intense.

And for reasons not completely clear to me, quite a lot of people drowned. Did it have to do with the large amount of people in the water and therefore an inherent larger amount of people running the risk of getting in trouble? Or did the abnormally high temperature perhaps do something to the water(currents)? Or are people just not good swimmers (anymore)?

I don’t know what was up, but it was definitely remarkable.

Star Trek

I’ve been watching the Star Trek – Next Generation series the last few months. I am now somewhere halfway season 5. I watched it sporadically as a kid, but never from a-to-z. This means I never got fully acquainted to the different characters, other than their superficial traits.

Also, I never appreciated the deep philosophical questions that many of the episodes touch. Questions such as “what does it mean to be human?”, “what is love?” and “when does help become an imposition of your way of living on another” come by.

Now that I am going further down the Star Trek rabbit hole, I am even thinking of writing a couple of blogposts about the deeper lessons one could learn from it. The stories are not quite ripe yet, but I am enthusiastic about the idea.

Music service switch

I’ve always used free version of music streaming apps. This means I have to deal with commercials in between music these days. And that’s OK. I get it.

It did start to bug me that Spotify made their commercials extra annoying, probably to coax me towards buying their premium version. I don’t like being manipulated that way. So once I got over my attachment to my Spotify playlists, I made the switch to Deezer.

It’s been an easy process and there is nothing about Spotify that I miss. I highly recommend Deezer. The fact that their commercials are friendly and subtle (and not 50% louder than the music I was listening too either) I am actually considering trying the premium version!

Confusing quote

My interest for permaculture has also caused my filterbubble to start including information from more alternative sources. And that is how this little gem came upon my path:

I was actually quite confused by it.

The premise that plants grow better if you speak kindly to them is already a bit wobbly, if you ask me. I think I am not integrated enough in the treehuggers-community to be able to accept the parallel between plants and people in the way it is presented here. My imagination is clearly lacking…

On to September we go!

Mind Cleanup July 2020

July was not a good month for blogging, apparently. My goal to publish at least three blogs per month was not met. It was my Alphabet challenge that got in the way. The letter D… Ddddamn you, letter D.

C-words

Words that were more prominent in my life were all C-words: Communication, conspiracies, consciousness and, you know that other C-word.

A double C-word that featured in a discussion I had with my boyfriend G was crowd control.

He was telling me about how 5G technology has the power to stun and paralyze people through milimeter wave frequencies. I couldn’t help but roll my eyes, and G couldn’t help but notice.

It turns out that Mona Keijzer, the Dutch State Secretary for Economic Affairs, helped fuel this idea when she mentioned crowd control during a debate on the implementation of 5G in the Netherlands. For Dutch speaking people interested in hearing her exact words, click here (but please close your eyes while you listen, as the imagery in the vid is misleading imo)

My first reaction was that she was referring to the capacity of 5G to be more precise about peoples’ exact locations, making it possible to anticipate where it could become undesirably crowded (and of which individuals that crowd might consist). Cynically enough, I think we’re already past the point that that is shocking or secret, troubling as it may be. This New Yorker article from April 2019 explains my feelings about that quite well.

My boyfriend challenged me to read into it further, as he felt my filter bubble may have been keeping me away from seeing the full picture. So, I did. And I hereby admit that I did find reliable, science based information, backed by governments and mainstream institutions, that affirms that “hypersonic weapons” are a thing and that 5G could play a role in making the application of such weapons easier.

That’s all I’ve got to say about that (for now).

Music

Time for a musical interlude.

Can we all just take a minute to appreciate the talent of this young man?

And can somebody please make him a sandwich?

‘Good’ communication

During the lock down period, when we were all working from home, a lot of communication was conducted in writing, rather than in spoken form.

It has been interesting to see how eloquent people who have no problem explaining something face-to-face can have so much trouble doing the same thing when those words need to be presented in writing. I witnessed a lot of sloppy communication that I knew was meant well, but could be interpreted in so many ways, that it made my brain hurt.

I find the power of language wildly interesting. Learning about meanings behind words and the unintentional damage that can be done with them is something I wish everybody would take a little time to think about.

Luckily, I actually like my co-workers. They are cool peeps with good hearts, making it easy to forgive their verbal clumsiness.

I have been re-listening Marshall Rosenberg’s teachings myself, which have turned out to be excellent running and cycling soundtracks.

As a lover of sarcasm and brutal humor though, I have always needed to check myself every now and then. I don’t always get it right but I do try to fix any damage I may have done and do better the next time around..

It did make me realize that, once again, ignorance is bliss.

The fact that I have knowledge of Marshall Rosenberg’s teachings and the implicit idea that there is such a thing as ‘violent communication’ turned out to be a bit of a burden for me.

It made it harder to let things pass, even when I knew what the message was that someone was trying to convey. Words that I have come to identify as ‘aggressive’ make me frown, where I probably wouldn’t have given it a second thought in the past.

These spasms of annoyance also demonstrate that I’m not done learning. I know that the way I receive and process a message is up to me. How I feel can never be somebody else’s responsibility (or their choice of words).

Still… I just wish they would just ‘do it properly’.

the letter D

Deodorant. Doom’s day preppers. Defunding the Police. the Daily Show. Dancing. Drought. Dominance.

As I said, I’m having a hard time finding something to write about that starts with the letter D.

I had an idea about the word Dixie, but I have to admit that would just be a sorrow attempt of me trying to be relevant and probably failing. I know too little about it and simply do not have a strong enough opinion about the matter, which means I lack motivation.

And then there was Democracy. I do have an opinion about that. But I just wish I could come up with something easy for once… A topic that not only makes for easy writing but also easy reading.

I’m sure something will get written in the upcoming weeks, but July 2020 will have to go into the history books as one without an Alphabet-inspired post.

Alright, August Blogust. I’m ready for you.

Mind Cleanup June 2020

June twentytwenty was one for the history books for sure. You’d better hide that book though, because I might tear that page out and burn it later on…

USA.? WTF.!

US politics have always been dominant in the news of the world, at least during my life time. As a non-American-citizen who never lived in the USA but did go to an American school for some years, I felt I belonged to the in-crowd a little bit. I didn’t always agree with what was going on in the White House, but I could follow.

Nowadays, I am just baffled by the political chess game and its bizarre ripple effects. Don’t get it. Not in the slightest. Don’t even really want to…

I must have done something right in previous lives to be allowed to carry a Dutch passport during this one… Being American must be so confusing right now…

And then the murder of George Floyd happened.

I haven’t actually watched the footage of his assassination, but I have read transcripts. I’m speechless. About all of it. The fact that it happened, how it happened, where it happened, why it happened. All of it.

…and then the protests erupted, the anger spilt out, the statue-iconoclasm began, the “church & bible photo op” happened, flags were put up for discussion, the Tulsa Rally flopped by and the golf cart drive by was shared…

Oh and John Bolton just happened to release his hypocrite ‘tell all’ book, as well as some Drumpf niece or cousin or whatever.

And let’s not take our eye off that report regarding Taliban fighters being payed by Russia to kill Western service personnel

Who makes this stuff up?? I mean… yeah… the Russians apparently… but… DAFACK?!

And now elections are coming up. You would think it’s a no-brainer. There’s just no way Americans are THAT foolish… right?

VOTE!

Please fellow earthlings, do the right thing and put an end to this madness. One term is more than enough for #45.

Music

And now, all I want is to put on some music.

Michael Kiwanuka – Light

First, allow me to share a sweet and meaningful song to drive out the darkness of my mood a little bit…

Jorge Drexler – Asilo

This next song is to warm up the heart (and once again admire the beauty of the Spanish language). This song is about two lovers asking for one night of ‘asylum’ in each other’s arms. Just forget the world for a bit.

the Chicks – March March

And after a good night’s sleep and a cuddle, it’s time to hit the streets again. Just follow the Chicks, they know the way…

Tiny Desk Concert: Jon Batiste

Jon Batiste is incredibly talented, but oftentimes a bit too heavy on the jazzy side for my taste. This tiny desk concert is awesome though. If you have to choose, definitely listen to the last two songs (starts around the 07:00 mark), for a taste of that feel good jazz that Jon Batiste does so well.

Tiny Desk Concert: Cimafunk

And this one is to shake off any bitter or sour taste you may have left in your mouth after reading the first part of my blog (for which I do apologize… but it is a mind cleanup, so I couldn’t not…)

Mind Cleanup – May 2020

May 2020 came and went. I worked from home. The weather was sunny.

The first of those two facts is actually the less troubling one, at this point.

This Mediterranean feel is awfully nice if you are looking to get a tan but it is really kind of worrying, considering I live in the Netherlands, which us Dutchies endearingly refer to as our “cold frog country”.

First week of May

The month of May started out with a few events, my brother’s 40th birthday being the most noteworthy.

This year was also the year we celebrated 75 years since the end of WWII. The 4th and 5th of May were supposed to be big commemoration and celebration days, with activities all around the country.

But then, the pandemic happened. It was a very odd way of celebrating liberty, I’ll tell you that! Also, it was quite awkward to see our king perform all sort of ceremonious deeds, with no more than a handful of people present.

Back to Lifetip # 1

The idea that people are generally good and deserve to be trusted has been coming back to me in different shapes and forms this month.

Jason Mraz’ song “Look for the good” is a cute tribute to the optimistic lifestyle that we all could use a bit more of right now.

The guy that inspired me to write my first lifetip, Rutger Bregman, recently published an article about a historical figure called Peter Kropotkin. All though this prince turned anarchist definitely needs the story of his life to be molded into a Netflix series, Bregman mostly got me with the following remark:

Theories about human nature – unlike theories about molecules or black holes – can come true simply because we believe in them. (…) What would happen if we turned this around? What if schools, businesses, and governments assumed that most people are doing their best? What if we rallied round our tendency to trust and cooperate – a tendency with every bit as much of an evolutionary basis, over hundreds of millions of years?

The guardian also released an article about the goodness of mankind. The example of kids marooned on an island is an interesting one!

Music

Somehow the Trolls movies made an entrance into my playlists, without me ever haven seen the movies. There are quite a few really cool, groovy, funky, bouncy songs in there!

The song ‘Don’t slack” was one of my favorite songs of the month. Definitely check out the actual song but this lyrics explanation is a fun way to get acquainted.

Netflix

May was also the month that I cancelled my TV subscription. It’s Netflix all the way, from now on (all though I might subscribe to an additional streaming service at some point)

One day, when I was feeling courageous, I watched Netflix’ tribute to Michelle Obama, ‘Becoming’. And before I knew it, I was sobbing. For no reason. Or actually ten million reasons, but most of all the realization that this woman is so awesome (and don’t tell me that is not a good reason to cry for).

She is such a soul force.

And all though she wasn’t voted out of the white house, thinking of what came after her is just too much to handle. I didn’t expect someone as awesome as her to be the next FLOTUS, but my bloody golly Mrs Trump is so not like Mrs Obama that it hurts.

I also finally finished watching the Good Place and to my own surprise I found the ending utterly satisfying! It was a real ending for once. It was clever and thoughtful. Yupp. Big thumbs up to the scriptwriters there!

Now, will you please excuse me, as I have a rain dance to perform.

Mind Cleanup – March/April

Just like my previous mind cleanup this one encompasses two months. While my motivation to fuse January and February was that I felt I hadn’t collected enough mind clutter after the first month of the year had passed, I can not say the same about March and April.

I would have loved to not write about the C-word… but a mind cleanup can’t be a real cleanup if it tiptoes around the elephant in the room…

Early stages

Working at a company that relies mostly on people’s travel plans, the situation has been in my face every day for many weeks now.

I started an overview document on the COVID-19 epidemic somewhere around the end of February. It was meant for internal use only and looked very similar to the briefing I had made a few months before to put the Australian bushfires into perspective. I had previously done the same for Typhoon Ursula/Phanfone in the Philippines and the social unrest in South America.

We were getting some questions from backbackers and digital nomads in Asia but everything seemed under control, as far as our work was concerned.

The first case was confirmed in the Netherlands on the 27th of February. On the 11th of March it was declared a pandemic. The next day was my last day at work before a week long holiday to Ireland.

Pandemic travelplans

I checked up with my oldest brother, T, (who works in the medical sector) if it was OK for me to go on with the trip I had planned long ago; he said it should be fine, if we didn’t mingle with large groups of people and washed our hands often.

I double checked with my second brother, D, if he was still OK with my plans to come visit him in Ireland. He was. My boyfriend and I had already decided to go by ferry which proved to be the best choice for so many reasons:

  • No stressy airport queues and waiting areas.
  • It was just the two of us in the car to the ferry, just the two of us in the ferry cabin, just the two of us from the ferry to my brother’s home. So very little chance of contamination!
  • As we came by car I could take some larger gifts a long, such as a reasonably sized painting my dad had made of my newborn niece.
  • Smaller ecological footprint than air travel (which was the original motivation to choose this means of transportation)

Lock Down

During our stay in Ireland, Saint Patrick’s day celebrations were cancelled, which was probably the first moment the Irish realized the severity of the situation.

A few days later we received word that all non-essential human movement was now prohibited in France. We were assured our trip home would not be a problem. We did decide to cancel our initial plan to follow the “cute windy roads” home and just stuck to the boring (but efficient) toll roads back.

During the week that we had been in Ireland everything had changed. My workplace was now closed and everyone was working form home. The clean cut and standardized information document I had started on a few weeks earlier had exploded into a monstrous behemoth with chapters and themed infobundles and newsflashes and hour-by-hour updates… It was pretty insane.

April

The first moment I realized April had made its entrance was when I started seeing A to Z blog posts appear. At that point, I realized I was too late, too unprepared and too exhausted to catch up. I also decided that I could do the challenge on my own at any moment in the year, if I wanted to. Instead of stressing myself out with the obligation of having to write and post one blog a day I could even spread it out a bit more, if I wanted to.

That way, every month would consist of a mind cleanup (or every other month), one lifetip and an Alphabet inspired post. Being able to publish a minimum of three posts a month sounds like a satisfying idea (and it’s close to one a week, which would be ideal).

Music

A category that I never have trouble writing about, is the music category. Songs that featured in some way in March and April were the following ones:

Flowers is not a new song of Ms Arie’s, but it is new in my life. Her songs always make the world look a little bit more beautiful and this one is no exception.

What triggered me to re-listen this next song from the 1995 Disney rendition of Pocahontas, I don’t know. Its effect actually caught me off guard and I couldn’t hold back a tear or two when I took in the words. It was as if I had never really listened to it. Every sentence in it hit home at that moment and it moved me deeply.

Another song that felt quite prophetic, albeit in a completely different category was the new Nothing but Thieves song “Is everybody going crazy”:

When I saw that my favorite Dutch hip hop artist Typhoon had finally released a new song I couldn’t help but smile. The lyrics are in Dutch but the title of the song translates to “Everything is blessed” and I guess that is just something we need to focus on sometimes.

Another song that put a big goofy smile to my face was a song called “Think About Things”. I first heard it on Spotify and wanted to share it with my brother, as the lyrics reminded me of the mental conversation I had with my one year old niece in Ireland a few weeks earlier.

When I looked it up on YouTube I … needed some time to process everything that was going on in the video.

When I read the comments I realized the awesomely, awkwardly tall viking of a man was actually the artist that would have performed at the Eurovision Song Festival as the entree for Iceland, had it not been cancelled.

Seriously… Tell me you watched that video and didn’t crack a smile… It can’t be done. You’re welcome.

Mind cleanup – Jan/Feb 2020

As January passed me by, I realized I had very little mind-rubbish to clean out. So I decided to wait until the end of February to go through my mental cobwebs.

I hope everyone had a wonderful leap day!

Musing: What is pride?

I’m not sure when, where or why it started, but something triggered me to try and decipher the concept of “pride”.

I know the word has somehow gotten entangled with the LGBTQ community, but that is not the aspect of it that has been on my mind.

What I have been gnawing on, is the feeling of pride in general.

How do you describe it? Does it have something to do with love? It usually has to do with an accomplishment, I guess.

You can be proud of yourself, which I kind of get.

But how is it that you can be proud of someone else? What is that and how does it work? If a mother is proud a child, you could say she feels pride for having created a being that is now accomplishing so-and-so. But how can I be proud of a friend? Is it the same as saying “I am happy for you”?

I’m still untangling that one… Insights are welcome!

Films / Series

I started watching ‘The Good Place‘, which I found wildly amusing. Such an interesting storyline!

Questions of morality and defining what makes someone “good” remind me of some of the episodes in Black Mirror. Contrary to Black Mirror though, the Good Place does not emphasize how shitty we are as a species and actually let’s you sleep comfortably at night.

I also watched A Monster Calls, which is a beautifully touching movie about grief. It reminded me of ‘Big Fish’. I definitely cried.

I also re-watched the Avatar (Last Aribender) TV series, which first aired 15 years ago. I have an odd fascination for the series. I admire the simpleness of the individual episodes and the intense complexity of the overall story. I started watching the Korra spinoff years ago but it didn’t quite have the same effect on me.

Music

My wonderful friend Zeef gave me tickets for Avi Kaplan‘s concert in Paradiso, Amsterdam on the 22nd of January. It was awesome. Anyone who has the chance to see him live, should go. His studio songs are good, but live he is breathtaking. My favorite song of the set is a song he hasn’t released yet, but I’m sure he will soon. It’s called Nature Girl. Once it’s available on Spotify or YouTube, I’ll be sure to post it.

If you’re into Avi’s music and also enjoy bands like Coldplay or Keane I’m sure you would also enjoy Dutch band Haevn. I was about to say they just released a new album, but it turns out it’s actually an old album that I’m only now discovering. It’s music that’s comfortable to have on in the background but also interesting enough to listen to on the foreground.

And for the true romantics among us, I recommend John Legend‘s song Conversations in the dark. I know, I should’ve mentioned it before Valentine’s day… But hey, there is always next year,

I just remembered I also recently stumbled upon a Youtube vid in which John Legend explains the lyrics and meaning of his song Penthouse Floor. If you didn’t already love him, you will now:

Other recent discoveries:

  • Shey Baba
  • Sam Brookes
  • Cynthia Erivo (yes, thanks to her Oscar performance)

I realize all of the above musicians are quite… eum… solemn? Apparently that was my mood these last two months.

Tech

At work our laptops run on Linux and I’ve been considering switching over at home as well. The only thing stopping me is that, at work, I can ask my IT-buddies to help me update or change things which makes me feel like I would completely fail with my own PC at home… I’ve watched a few tutorials. It’s a lot of Abracadabra lingo, but the steps seem doable. All I’ve got to do now is find the balls (and time, I guess)…

My list and taskmanager app of choice, Wunderlist, will be discontinued this May, after having been taken over by Microsoft. Booooo!

I tested a few non-Micorosoft ( I know, I’m childish that way) alternatives and came to the following conclusions:

  • ToDoist
    • It’s too strictly a planner thing.
    • It all revolves around what will I do today & tomorrow
    • It wants me to order everything in projects… So even my groceries are a project now?
    • In Wunderlist I have a lot of useless lists (names I would give a Cat, Places I want to go, Gift ideas for my mother, etc) which I wouldn’t know where to put in todoist.
    • CONCLUSION: Nope.
  • Any.do
    • Looks pretty basic, but turns out having a lot of different pages and views
    • I found it all kind of confusing , especially since you need the premium account for a lot of the options. It annoys me that all the stuff I can’t use are constantly in my face (Todoist did the same btw).
    • CONCLUSION: No
  • Ike
    • A bit rigid in its layout (every category always has to have the four priority blocks).
    • I did some experiments and could definitely work with it…
    • CONCLUSION: OK, but not quite.
  • Meistertask
    • I used it for a few weeks now and kind of of like it.
    • I am annoyed by the limits of the “free version” which makes me not want to switch to the Pro-version (because it makes me feel like I don’t have a choice).
    • CONCLUSION: It’s the one I’m sticking with for now
  • Trello
    • I’ve been recommended this one by several people.
    • CONCLUSION: Haven’t tried it yet.

Today is the 1st of March. It’s my dad’s birthday. Happy 73rd, daddyo!

UPDATE: WordPress tells me this is my 200th post on this blog. Congratulations to me!

Dec 2019 mind cleanup

It’s a crispy cold day today, which is my favorite kind of weather to be sitting in a train as it makes for beautiful skies and landscapes.

The month of December was actually quite a good one for me. I managed to keep my schedule quite empty during the christmas holidays (which in my case was just two days, but still…). I’m so chilled out, I hardly feel I need a mindcleanup at all, but I’ll give it a shot!

Headphone Sessions

After running into some of Amber Run’s collaborations with a choir called London Contemporary Voices I ended up on a YouTube channel called “Headphone Sessions”, which I thought was quite awesome. This in turn brought me to Sam Brookes, who has a very Decembery vibe, imo. Click play below (but also cruise through the songs on the Headphone Sessions YT channel).

the Witcher

I just finished watching Netflix’ series called the Witcher, based on a bookseries, written by Polish author Andrzej Sapkowski. My bf told me he also knew and enjoyed the accompanying videogames.

Without having any of the context (didn’t read the books, didn’t play the games, never heard of the author) I actually very much enjoyed the first season. For a Netflix series the acting was quite good and the special effects were not disappointing or distracting.

I definitely recommend the series to anyone who’s slightly into sci-fi and fantasy and look forward to the next season (which is expected no sooner than 2021).

the Dutch King’s speech

Of course a lot of impeachy things happened this last month but I don’t really feel like reflecting on any of that.

An interesting news moment this last week was the message my nation’s king presented in his annual christmas speech.

Photo by: Arenda Oomen

The first part of his speech was mostly an optimistic enumeration of our country’s qualities. The king reminded us that “freedom” is one of the terms most frequently used to explain what defines us as a nation, but that freedom does not come without a price.

This last year we commemorated the 75th anniversary of the end of WWII, which means we have had three quarters of a century of peace. The people that fought for our freedom are in their nineties and soon there will be no one left to tell us first hand about the price of freedom but also the weight of the lack thereof.

The king pointed out that in order for freedom to thrive, we must put trust in one another and let our personal bubbles overlap a bit. He emphasized the importance of tolerance:

If we start threatening people with different opinions, we undermine exactly what we hold dear. To be free, we must allow contrarious thinking; in ourselves and in others.

King Willem Alexander – 25-12-2019

I loved this part of his speech. It is always valuable to be reminded that other people’s opinions are allowed to differ from ours. Even more valuable is to be reminded that it’s OK to have an opinion that differs from the rest.

Small sidenote: the king used the term “dwarse denken” to refer to the type of thoughts we should be accepting of. Dwars is another one of those wonderful Dutch words with no English equivalent, that can mean all sorts of things. You can say one street runs ‘dwars’ in reference to another street, meaning they intersect. It can also mean diagonal, skew or wayward. When used as a word to describe someone, dwars can mean ‘contrarious’ but also ‘tenacious’ and ‘obstinate’. It’s usually not said as a compliment, even though it’s a trait most Dutch people seem to have…

The king went on to remind us that we are really doing very well as a nation, but that in our ambition, we can sometimes be to hard on ourselves.

This part of his message seemed to be aimed at people who thrive for instagram-perfect lives, but crash and burn in the process. We all know the kind. He described how he often had to remind young people that it is OK to be imperfect. I mostly hope he also tells his daughters this, who seem to get all the troll shit of the world spilled out over their heads every time they appear in public.

The king then ventured onto thin ice, saying that happiness is an elusive thing that can not be obtained by force. Sure. And that’s when the most privileged person of our nation made me cringe; he said happiness comes “suddenly, as a gift from heaven”.

Oooooh, no you didn’t just say that did you, your majesty? I mean… Yes, I also wish life got better for everyone who channeled their inner Elsa and just chilled the fuck out, but you know how life can be… Hold on, no you don’t (and no, I have no clue what kingness is like either). And yeah… about the heaven part… I don’t know why you had to drag that into it, man… Bad idea.

But OK. I forgive him. I know what he was trying to say. Sort of. And the sentiment is nice.

Oh wow. It turns out I did need a mind cleanup after all. HAHA! Who knew?

New year’s wishes

I hope you all had a beautifully imperfect December month. For 2020 I predict the heavens will rain down all their happiness on you and your loved ones!

Peace out.