Getting rid of the rooster

According to the Chinese calendar, we are currently wrapping up the year of the rooster.

Chinese zodiac 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…”.

Drowning

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….

brain puzzle

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).

  1. I felt guilty for feeling that nano-sliver of disappointment when he turned up.
  2. I felt guilty for not being able to run to his aid, but not really wanting to either.
  3. I felt guilty for forcing other (extremely sweet and good hearted) people to deal with him.
  4. I felt guilty for keeping it a secret from my parents.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. I felt guilty for implicitly asking my boyfriend to carry the load of my family drama.
  8. 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”.
  9. 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.
  10. 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!

chinese zodiac dog 1

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.
  • My journal,
    • 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.
  • A lot of room for new experiences and lessons.

mindfuldog

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Smug in the now

In these crazy times many people are turning to Buddhism (or its derivatives) to find peace. I have never attended a yoga class or read any Buddhist teachings (unless the dozens of pretty quotes I see daily on social media count…) but I do appreciate the thoughts behind it.

Mindful quote 2For those of us who are not prepared to go all the way and declare ourselves true followers of the Buddha but do like our occasional yoga lesson and chew on superfoods every now and then, there is Mindfulness.

Again, I’m not sure if I ever got to the core of it, but what I have taken from leafing through the bestselling self-help books sold on every corner of any self-respecting town, is that it’s about breathing consciously, loving yourself, living in the now, valuing life and being positive.

I can do that! I like the idea of focusing on the present (and not only because I don’t want to think about that bill that just landed on my doormat). I appreciate the moon and the summer breeze and the song of the birds outside my window. I make sure to be kind to my neighbors and give the cashier an honest smile when I buy my hypothetical almond milk and goji berries, brief as this encounter may be.

However, I have come to the conclusion that I am not a big fan of the rest of the mindful clan. Actually, it is because of them that I have decided I am not mindful at all, just because I don’t want to be part of their little hypocritical, preachy little chanting circle.

harmony boy color

I must admit some of my anti-mindfulness feelings may have a dislike for the attitude of some of my ex-colleagues at its core. I have had this draft sitting on my dashboard for many months and knew I needed to get rid of some of my bitterness towards them before I could publish it. I switched jobs since then, which makes it easier for me to analyze it. I guess sometimes you need to not be in the now to be able to see something clearly. 😉

If I could explain to them now what it is exactly that bothered me, what would I say? Let’s make a list!

1) Privileged by unique knowledge

People that practice mindfulness (or other “live in the moment and love yourself”-ideologies) are told to be very self-aware. They analyze their breathing and how they feel in the presence of a certain energy. They get to know themselves better through meditation and self analysis. In the process of learning more about themselves they learn more about mankind in general, about emotions and reactions and feelings. I’m sure some of this is very valuable information that undoubtedly can reveal subconscious issues blocking someone’s growth.

However, sometimes people lose their mirror along the way and start applying their new found wisdom on those around them instead of themselves. This self righteousness is not only extremely irritating it is sometimes also wrong.

2) The over-analyzing whatever I am about to put in my mouth.

Mindful quote 5I have this idea that as long as you feel good about what you are eating, it can’t be all that bad. Of course, I understand that eating purely deep-fried food is a bad idea. Luckily, that’s not something I would crave for anyhow. What I mean is that if you eat all the best vegan, raw, superduperfoods, nuts and seeds available and do this without actually liking its taste, and are craving for a donut while swallowing your quinoa-salad, eating becomes a punishment. I believe that you might as well eat that donut, firstly because stress is probably the worst thing you can do to your body and secondly because living 10 years longer thanks to your diet without ever again enjoying the ritual of eating seems like a pretty pointless extra decade…

Anyhow, here is a list of the things I have been condemned for eating / drinking:

  • meat
  • tuna
  • soy-milk
  • chocolate
  • vegetables / fruit grown the wrong way
  • a smoothy I bought (ergo, not made by my own hands)
  • unpeeled apples (because the peels contain gluten?!)

Especially when I heard that last comment I almost lost it… Dafack is wrong with you?!?! Where do I even start to explain how moronic you sound? Do me (and the world) a favor and go ahead and eat your apple whatever way you want to and just let me die of a gluten overdose, will you?? (hmm, sorry about that, it seems I haven’t gotten rid of all my bitterness after all…)

3) Quoting exotic luminaries

I wrote this point down a long time ago and I have to admit I can’t remember the exact occasion that triggered it but I can imagine how it went.

Let’s say I blew up in someone’s face after they expressed their concerns about me eating an apple with peel and all. The person I would be directing my words at would look at me, probably nodding but with a blank expression demonstrating their inability to process the information being thrown at them, and would then quote some guru to invalidate whatever I just said.

You know Sarublabla Yogi Nagchampa once said that being angry is a choice… And sometimes you might believe you are doing this consciously, but it’s really just a compulsion. If you practice this often you can learn to stand above your emotions and find inner peace…

… and then they might smile, in true belief they just did me a huge favor… Or perhaps follow it up by telling me my energy was messing with their aura, or something….

4) The eternal search for the deeper meaning for things.

As a sarcastic soul, it is hard for people in general to sometimes get me. But these self-aware spiritual types get their panties in a twist trying to grasp the deeper meaning behind my words. The beauty of sarcasm is that it is often pretty straight forward communication in a “what you see is what you get”-kind of way. There is no deeper meaning and if you feel you are being mocked, it’s because you probably are. It’s not meant to be hateful or mean and I am not being negative, on the contrary. I am actually having a lot of fun, but I must say your slow analysis of what is going on is kind of killing my buzz.

Sarcasm without the right audience feels like screaming into a black hole. It’s like saying you don’t believe in fairies (you know one dies somewhere on the planet when you say that, right?) and as if the joke was never made. Such a loss…

5) Avoiding life

This point is actually a very interesting one, in my opinion. I have discussions with my father about this quite often, as I believe his loyalty and dutifulness is killing him. He does things purely because he believes he ought to, because it’s what people are counting on or because it’s written on some decades old piece of paper. When I told him I thought he wasn’t doing a very good job at being happy he told me not to worry. He admitted there was a lot of nastiness in his life and that it affected him at times but that it was a load he could carry… Not exactly the response I hoped to hear and all though it’s in no way reassuring, I guess he’s a grown man and knows what he’s doing…

I put quite a high value on my own happiness and make decisions based on the belief that it will be better for me and my state of mind. I believe that when a situation gives you negativity and stress without the prospect of improving any time soon and there is no satisfaction or success for you in it prospect, you should remove yourself from this situation and go into self-protection mode. I am a great promoter of this and apply this to my career as well as my personal life. It works for me.

Now, back to the part that I DON’T like… I believe that there are people that, in the name of mindfulness, run away from challenges without ever giving it an honest try, out of fear for how the bad vibes might affect them. They shut down difficult conversations without ever even having had a discussion about it. They cocoon themselves in an incense scented world of herbal tea, relaxation music and mandalas.

Besides the fact that I don’t buy that fake smile for a minute, it isn’t right. Having a discussion can be healthy and productive, despite the annoyance and grey hairs that come with it. Avoiding confrontation all together just feels so odd to me, as you sometimes need some friction to bring out the beauty.

I also think people that choose this strategy are fooling themselves because avoidance just helps the fear build up inside and I don’t believe all the meditation and yoga in the world can help you get rid of it without confronting it head on.

6) Killing emotions

Last but not least, I want to say that feeling things is wonderful. Strong feelings like anger, fear and sadness are not all bad. If you eliminate them all together, how can you ever appreciate true joy again? I myself love a good fight and we all know the value of a good fright! Sadness, admittedly, is one I am not good at expressing and according to some it is something I should work on, as a good sob is supposedly extremely relieving as well.

So, what would Buddha say about all of this? Something like this:

Mindful quote 4

Musical revelations of 2014

Two more weeks until the end of the year. Time for looking back.

These are the artists I have been listening to a lot this last year. I do realize a lot of these artists may have had their major breakthroughs longer ago, but I’m a bit slow with these things sometimes… So here it goes, my musical reminiscence list!

James Blake

Love the slightly eerie atmosphere he brings and the sweet balance between electronic sounds and chilled out beats. I have to admit I can’t always handle him though. Sometimes the laid backness makes me impatient and I get these urges to kick him up the ass, but most days: Mmmmmm.

First Aid Kit

Ah, these ladies with their pagan songs; so moody and haunting. They’re not of this world, not of this time.

Rachel Sermanni

Aaand, we’re off to Scotland. This following song is similar to the one above, in the sense that it has this fairy tale feel. We’re still in the woods, we’re still in folkytown and it’s still lovely and poetic.

Asgeir

Back in Northern Europe, with Icelandic singer-songwriter Asgeir. I didn’t realize it until now, but there seems to be a pagan, folk-tale kind of theme in my musical preference of late. Vague figures prowling around in the shadows, pretty girls in dresses huddling together, foggy woods and people singing songs by the fire… Or in the words of Asgeir:

Glistening nighttime dew, and she is walking with me.
From the house of red, I hear a child crying.
Foxes heading home, their prey hangs from their jaws.
And the forest knows, but it won’t share the secret.

Fink

A song about self critique, sung by someone with a touch of irony: You don’t wanna hurt yourself, hurt yourself by looking too closely. He’s singing it to himself, me thinks…

The Civil Wars

This duo has been going at it for years, apparently, but I only started listening to them a little over a year ago. I did know Joy Williams, from one of my all time favorite songs, “Speaking a Dead Language“. I was always a bit disappointed there were no other songs in her repertoire like that one song, but luckily I couldn’t have been more wrong. There’s so much melancholy in this couple it fills my heart with agony almost as much as it fills me with delight. The fact they were breaking up while making this last album does explain a lot… and they’re called the Civil Wars, for crying out loud! Listen and weep for Joy (pun intended!).

Kongos

Kind of a brusque transition after the previous soft folk melodies above, but it’s time to rock it out a bit. Simple melodies, real instruments, rocking guitars and encouraging lyrics. Hurray for the Kongos!

Imagine Dragons

These guys just get me every time. They’ve unlocked some sort of sing-a-long key in my brain, because I can’t listen to them without my lips moving along. It’s what I want to scream along to when I’m in the car. I really hope they have more of this for me in years to come!

Chef Special

Time to represent my home country. Yes yes yes, these be Dutchies!

Dotan

Another home grown band with a lot of promise in its sound. Home is definitely the most catchy tune thus far but if you have the time, do check their other songs out too.

And that’s all I’ve got! I mean, no, not true at all. There’s a lot more, but it looks kind of coherent now and I think it’s best if I leave it that way. And I’ve been told a new year is on its way, so that means new opportunities to check out new music around here and make more lists when the mood is right.

Happy-New-Year-2014-Fireworks