Mind Cleanup – August 2019

DEMOCRACY NEWS

On August 30th NY Times’ the Daily podcast discussed the political mayhem in Britain and Italy and pointed out how in both countries there is a power struggle going on. The two opposing sides of both conflicts are accusing the other of being un-democratic.

I thought this was interesting, as Italy and Britain are quite different, politically speaking. The things they have in common, being democracy and populism (and perhaps immigration-related issues) apply to many other countries as well, so it’s interesting to see how this all plays out and what lessons can be learned from it.

The situation in Britain is obviously Brexit related. Boris Johnson’s dropped a bombshell earlier this month when he announced he was going to suspend parliament. Limiting the amount of time to debate Brexit could increase the likelihood of a no-deal Brexit, which for some reason is what Boris Johnson seems to want more than anything….

Michael Barbaro sums the situation in Britain up:

So Johnson is saying, you’re calling it undemocratic for me to block Parliament’s ability to do my job, but I say it’s undemocratic for Parliament to get in the way of me realizing what the people voted directly for, which is Brexit.

In Italy the situation is a little different. Matteo Salvini, a popular and populist politician stepped down as interior minister, collapsing the government he was a part of. Presumably he was gambling on the idea that new elections would result in a larger majority for his party and thus, catapulting him to the very top position of government.

His plan backfired though.

With Salvini out of the way, the remaining political parties struck an unlikely deal to form a new government. With that, they avoided having to go through new elections)

Katrin Bennhold says:

His opponents hope that this will basically reduce his popularity and that, come the next election — which is formally scheduled in three years — he won’t be as powerful and popular as he is now. Of course, there are a lot of wild cards in this, because his narrative, of course, is the establishment is afraid of the people. The establishment is afraid of new elections. The establishment is afraid of democracy. That is what Matteo Salvini would say.
(…)
So Parliament would say they did this to save Italian democracy, but another way of looking at it is that they saved themselves.

Not particularly cheerful news, but I thought it was an interesting comparison…

MUSIC

Rosalia’s newest song is so simple and maybe even on the cheesy side but it has definitely been stuck in my mind for days.

MOVIES / TV

  • I watched the Frankenstein Chronicles and really enjoyed it. I must admit the only reason I clicked play in the first place is because I saw Sean Bean. He is an awesome actor. On the downside: I am getting tired of these unsatisfactory endings to series…
  • I watched Venom and thought it was kind of meh.
  • A movie I have NOT yet watched is the new Lion King movie. I am still wondering if I should… I’ve heard the graphics are awesome, but I am still ultra fan of the original and kind of scared of breaking the magic.

EPICURIOUS – Tea edition

My new favorite tea is the Pukka tea – elderberry echinacea. I love the smell, I love the tangy sweetness and I love the color!

Who won the month?

I have a little sidewalk garden thing going on in front of my house.

Sidewalk gardening – spring edition

Someday I hope to have a long row of large and happy sunflowers in bloom there every summer and all sorts of other smaller plants as well, providing food and shelter for insects, spiders and birds.

Sunflowers in my windowsill, preparing for the outside world

This is my third summer in this house and it’s starting to look pretty good.

That is, everything but my sunflowers… The gushes of wind that suck through my street just snap the sunflowers’ long stems in half. The couple of sunflowers I have left, are true heroes though.

Sunflower buddies

They were blown to the ground but decided this was no reason to give up. They just kept on lifting their heads back up and are now even starting to bloom. The metaphors, life-lessons and hashtags I could take from this are endless. A round of applause for my little sunflowers that could!

This guy was on the ground, face down a couple of weeks ago, but he’s a trooper!

SELF REFLECTION

  1. What are you bad at and how does that influence your life?
    When I’m tired some of my most basic functions stop working, such as words and decisions. I can not word and I can not decision, when tired. It influences my life particularly when at a crossroads I can’t make up my mind and I can’t really explain what is making it hard.
  2. What type of worker are you?
    Forgetful and chaotic, but constantly coming up with new ways to help me tackle that. I am still deciding if having an employer that lets me do that is actually good for me or not.
  3. How much sleep do you need?
    I am very good at sleeping. If at all possible, I will make sure to get a solid eight hours. I do well with seven hours. Six is iffy. If I get any less, I stop doing the words and the decisions.
  4. Are you rich?
    It depends on who you ask.
    My family is pretty much ok financially. Buying a house is within my reach. I can eat out whenever I want.
    What I CAN’T do: have a horse; travel (far) more than once a year; buy a house in the old center of Leiden,
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Mind Cleanup – 2019

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:

  • NEWS
  • MUSIC
  • MOVIES / TV
  • FOOD
  • SELF REFLECTION
  • LOOKY HERE (pages, blogs or info you recommend others to check out)
  • THUMBS UP
  • THUMBS DOWN
  • EPIPHANIES

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:

MUSIC

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.
  • Also, Boris Johnson did some big time winning and is now prime minister of the UK. Boo to that, but do check out John Oliver’s take on his persona.

Self reflection

Let me answer one question from my list of 195 questions:

What is a controversial opinion you have?

I am not a fan of Oprah’s. Actually she kind of annoys me (particularly her hysteric behavior when she enters a room). There, I said it.

Epilogue

  • I intend to pick up the habit once again of doing a mind cleanup blog every month.
  • Join me if you like and ping back to me when you do!

Mind Cleanup – “now” vs “before”

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).

mirror
Let’s reflect

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:

Newsy Stuff

emoji reading newspaper-smiley

  • Bizarre wildfires in Greece, locals blame authorities
    •  Why would you want to find someone to blame for this?
  • Nicaragua riots!
    • Will Ortega allow history to depict him as a brutal dictator, like the one he once fought to replace?
  • Stef Blok – Dutch minister of foreign affairs and royal ass-wipe
    • Made “insensitive remarks” earlier this year and somehow didn’t lose his job
    • 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!
  • Kavanaugh debacle
    • 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.
  • Brazil elections
    • What’s up with this twisted fascination / longing that Latin America has for dictatorial type leaders?

Music

emoji music

Music I’m into right now:

 

Greeting St Peter

People who died over the last few months and have made the world a little less beautiful because of it:

  • Tante Djirah
    • my great-aunt. And great she was. Pure goodness.
    • Love her and miss her!
  • Aretha Franklin
    • RESPECT.
  • Kofi Anan
    • I grew up with him at the head of the UN.
    • He was a symbol of eloquence and thoughtfulness.
    • Seeing and hearing him speak reaffirms my belief that political correctness is a virtue and is never synonymous to dishonesty.

 

Mind Cleanup

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?

emoji reading newspaper-smiley

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…

A similar feeling of disappointment and frustration was shared and described well by fellow blogger Glenn Redus in his post When hopeless people keep fighting.

Society of shame through loyalty

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.

Body language

#worldpeace #bodylanguage #faketan #USA #answeringquestions #smileandwave #dumbblonde

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.

donald-trump-angela-merkel-g7-summit

mirror

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.

170 bulgur

1 bell pepper

1 red onion

fresh mint

fresh coriander / cilantro

Fresh parsley


Lettuce mix

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.

Mind Cleanup: April 2018

April has been a good month.

Sunny weather

emoji sunshine smiley

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!

In the Lyme Light

Lopen voor Lyme logo

Another sunny day earlier this month (the 14th of April), which luckily wasn’t quite as hot as the lovely garden-sit-Saturday a week later, had me tying up my sunning shoes for “Lopen for Lyme”, a walkathon to raise both money and awareness for Lyme’s disease.

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!

Chance encounters

bird-tree-silhouettes

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!

Music

emoji music

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.

Make me Feel, Django Jane, Pynk and I like that are all really different songs but they’re all revolutionary in some way. She reaches back to styles we know well but mixes them up and melts them down to something uniquely hers.

And don’t get me started about her looks. She’s gorgeous, isn’t she?

Yupp, I’m a fan.

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

Times they are a-changin’

These are the first words I write from my new home. I don’t have Internet yet, only on my phone so uploading this may have to wait… Also, writing without having twenty tabs open in my browser should be interesting. Elaborating and fact checking won’t be happening so. Luckily I did find my external harddrive with a treasure of (slightly nostalgic) music that can keep me company.

Not that I am in need of much company as I share this wonderful new home with my cutiepie boyfriend. I am actually having one of my first evenings alone here and the computer finally lured me in, despite its lack of access to interwebz. my computer was one of the first things I unpacked, but it took me another week or so to find the box with my mouse, which somehow got stuffed in a separate box last minute.

Given the circumstances I fear this particular blog won’t entail much, even though my moods have been quite contemplative lately… Because really, people… what is up with the world?? And I’m not even talking about the US elections. In my country alone there is enough worrying rhetoric being thrown around to sink my heart and raise my pulse on a daily basis. It dumbfounds me (quite literally sometimes).

I have been so annoyed with my inability to express my feelings about all of this… There had been the Sylvana Simons saga, combined with the ridiculously heated Black Pete discussion. There has been the trial against Geert Wilders and the divisive language uttered by newly funded opposition party Denk. And outside our borders: the referendum in Italy; the upcoming elections in France; omnipresent populism ; anti-intellectualism; xenophobia. And oh how my heart goes out to the insanity going down in Syria… All sorts of matters that deserve blogs of their own, if only I found the words.

After thinking it over the last couple of weeks I have come to the conclusion that my word-paralysis stems from the fact that the wrong energy is driving these thoughts. My blogs are usually fuelled by amazement, wonder and not uncommonly annoyance or straight out anger. Anger may not always produce the most poetic of sentences but it does keep the words flowing.

The persistent sentiment now is sadness. Maybe even anxiety. These are such passive energies. Also, I keep coming to the uninspiring conclusion that I just understand so little of it. And I keep waiting for someone to say something that will make this global conundrum make sense, but I am starting to realize…….

…see? There it is again… I don’t even know how to finish that sentence… I am starting to realize there is nothing to realize?  I am starting to realize it just “is what it is”?  I am starting to realize there is no deeper meaning to it all? Boo to those conclusions,  Epi!!

With my personal life all going so peachy it it easy to just retreat into my little cocoon of private bliss. I have juse signed my permanent contract with the company I have been working at for the last two years, giving me more security and slightly better pay. I have a house with three bedrooms and a garden. I am in a beautifully harmonious relationship. I have great friends that I can count on and a family that is going through a surprisingly stable and conflict-free phase.

So, who cares about the rest of the world, right..? Well… I care  that’s bloody who!! I want to care more not less! I want to shake up my fellow countrymen and let them know we are heading down the wrong path. I want to scream out and cry for the state of the world. We can do so much better than this. I can do better goddammit!

*sigh*

…Happy Holidays…