On looking back + looking forward

This year has been a roller coaster. With the passing of my birthday this week, I’ve decided to take stock of my present by looking back at what I’ve learned this year and looking forward towards manifesting my ideal future.

Looking back
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| PostSecret |

There is no God.  It was aggravating to realise that I don’t believe in a higher power, as I’ve always felt spiritual. Once I overcame my doubts, it became clear: there is an explanation for everything, whether humanity has discovered it yet or not – but there is no grand design, and definitely no one ruler above all. Letting go of the idea of God is terrifying, as it means that when the shit hits the fan, you have no one to blame but yourself. And when you’re struggling, you don’t have a higher resource to turn to for help. Yet somehow letting go of this concept, I am finding a strange kind of fulfilment.

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Success is personally defined. Work cannot be your everything (and busyness is overrated). I read somewhere once that you are the smartest you are ever going to be at 32.  So I’ve reached my peak intelligence. This is the smartest I am ever going to be. And at this point I’ve learnt to measure my success in a way that is meaningful TO ME, that exhaustion is not a status symbol, and that slow and steady wins the race, especially when you are swimming upstream.

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Art by Duy Huynh | This is colossal

After 30, media gives up on you. There are no lists. No ‘Things to learn by the time you are 30’. No ‘Life experiences you should have (and learn from ) in your 20s – or else’. It’s as though global media is saying: we have taught you. We have given you EVERYTHING. You have all the tools now, so…. you’re on your own. Good luck with that.

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#tooyoungtodie. Despite media attention on the 20-somethings, I’m still young! OK, so I am technically an adult, but when and why did I fucking did I start living like an old woman who has given up on life? There are still good times to be had, and there are still reckless behaviours to be celebrated. More importantly, you are never old if you are young at heart! It’s true at 68 and it’s true at 32.

Looking forward

More creativity.  More writing – I have so many ideas for this. More singing. Loudly. More connecting with art and going to exhibitions. It’s no coincidence that that first exhibition I attended was Waking Up. *On for one more day!!!* If you are in London and looking for something fresh, vibrant, and inspiring, go check out this amazing installation/exhibit by S Psarros at the Old Truman Brewery. You will not regret it.

More movement. If I knew I was going to lose my legs, would I spend my last day with them lying in bed lamenting their impending loss? Or would I spend my last day running and doing scissor kicks in the air? From what I know about death, I know that when I look back over my life, I will see how short it was. I will see that it flew by in a flash, it may as well have been only a day. If time is subjective, I may as well be losing my legs tomorrow, I may as well be losing my life tomorrow. So I will jump and run and move in celebration of this home I have been given on my time here on earth. And when I can’t do that any more, I shall use it for gentler tasks, like planting flowers or knitting or baking. It shouldn’t be so hard to learn to live in our bodies, but for some of us, it is.

More positivity. Influenced not only by Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt but by the many wonderful bloggers I follow and friends who bring joy into my life, I am on a positivity quest this year.  I need to get out of my own way. I’ve given my negative thoughts a bit too much air time and the fuckers are little saboteurs. I need to apply the mindfulness tricks I’ve learned over my trainings and apply as many great ideas as possible.

More bravery. Fear and ambition are inextricably linked. It’s really hard to let go of expectations because of the panic that induces, but that’s what bravery is, and that is where beauty is born – amongst the chaos. The best idea I’ve heard for this is to write down and then burn a fear every morning. As a late teen, I would burn my diaries and my angry letters – it was extremely satisfying, and there is no good reason why I can’t incorporate this practice to my adult life.

More talking. I seem to have forgotten that people exist outside of the realm of ‘me’, apparently. I have lost my curiosity in others and have replaced it with a curiosity of what others think of me, rather than treating them as wonderful beings that exist independently of me. This is exacerbated by the fact that it is hard to make friends as an adult. So in an effort to have better relationships with people, I will make it my purpose to ask others about their lives. I don’t think I’m as bad as I’m making myself out to be to be honest, but there’s nothing wrong with making a bit of extra effort with people you care about.

More sacredness. Despite what I said above, I do not in any way deny the fact that we exist in an interconnected narrative ecosystem.  As a result, I want to build an altar that reminds me to take a moment to connect with my values. I have always considered myself a spiritual person and I am wise enough to know that I alone can’t control everything that happens in life. It’s not explained by God but by lots of smaller often opposing everyday magics. Like daffodils.

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On my mind 09.03.15

The man in ecstasy and the man drowning – both throw up their arms.

| Franz Kafka, The Blue Octavo Notebooks

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 Barfastic (I’m such a proud big sister)| Scribol

+ “There will be no one like us when we are gone, but then there is no one like anyone else, ever.” | Oliver Sacks

+ My hobby is (to?) sonder.

+ “…she got me thinking about how self-awareness, useful as it is, isn’t enough. For self-awareness to become self-improvement, it must be paired with change.” | Positively Present YES. I say this all the time! I also say this all the time. And this.

+ Turning 30 described with graphs, although an equally accurate title would be ‘BEING 30 described with graphs’.

+ Don’t feel bad if you’re struggling to figure out your feelings. Science can’t do it either. There’s no need to force a smile.

+ A lifetime of learning

+ Fashion-forward indigenous people

“People lead all kinds of interesting and fulfilling lives, but they all end. My task is investigating the deeds, characteristics, occupations, and commitments, all that he or she made of their ‘one wild and precious life,’ as poet Mary Oliver has called it.” | The surprising joys of being an obituary writer (insert death obsession here)

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Cemetery in Chichicastenango, Guatemala. Photo credit | Messy Nessy Chic

+ The next party I throw will have a kaftan and daytime drinking theme on a kaleidoscopic floor.

+ In defense of men.

+ So. You wanna lose weight. Imagine you had a twin that exercised.

+ This story moved me: finding love after a heart transplant. I can’t wait to watch Being Mortal to get a medical perspective.

+ Build your best spring wardrobe.

+ How to be a ‘bad girl’ in India.

All my life, my heart has yearned for a thing I cannot name. | Andre Breton

On effortlessness

Between watching Scrubs in a so-called effort to learn about the medical profession by watching its most accurate portrayal on TV and writing a coursework on dichotic listening, I have been enjoying what feels like longer days and dreaming of summer.

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Bag | Jasmine | Shoes

I have many things to be grateful for today: Long walks along the river. Picture perfect skies. Daffodils. My nephews. The awe I feel every time I use Skype or my phone. Being a woman.

My overall mood has been uplifted since I took steps this week to regain control of certain aspects of my life, and I find that reassuring. It means I enjoy the good things more than I would otherwise. It makes feeling grateful effortless.

On Call Your Girlfriend

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After Serial, I went nuts trying to find an equally scintillating podcast I could listen to on the way home from work. Instead, I found Call Your Girlfriend. What it lacks in suspense, it makes up for with girlie, culturally-specific (read: American) discourse by two whipsmart besties, Ann Friedman and Aminatou Sow (whose blogs I’ve now started following). As someone who doesn’t know how to be a low-key fan, as well as someone who would love to participate in their conversations, I’ve taken to writing down my favorite parts of some of their discussions as I’ve been listening. Here are my thoughts on their first ten episodes. Even if you don’t read this, if you consider yourself a feminist or like hanging out with your best friends or laughing or Broad City or US pop culture, check it out!

Episode 1 – Straight Shame

  • Their voices remind me of the chicks on Broad City. I love their Call your Girlfriend theme song by Robyn, she is so fucking cool.
  • I love how they love the internet. (me too!)

Episode 2 – Wedding Season

  • Finding a work uniform is so important. I’m still working on mine. Labels have nothing to do with it. I wish I could wear jeans to work….
  • I can’t believe there isn’t an emoji for sofas either! It’s on my list of missing emojis, which also includes cowboys and related items, open arms, a facial expression for awe, frappe (aka cold coffee), and the Acropolis/greek temple.
  • If you’re looking for cheap framing, check out Photobox.

Episode 3 – Independant Ladies

Episode 4 – BreakupTime

Episode 5 – Hey, Budtender!

  • I can’t believe serving weed at a wedding is now a thing.
  • Based on the study citing that the only people that like and pursue diversity in the workplace are light-coloured men, I wonder if that is because of ‘queen bee’ syndrome. One woman in the workplace means that she doesn’t have to compete with other women, she can be the ‘queen bee’, i.e., the ONLY woman, and the thing that makes her stand out IS the fact that she is a woman. Likewise for any other ‘diverse’ employees, it doesn’t necessarily apply to women only.
  • SHINE THEORY – philosophy for female friendships everywhere: I don’t shine if you don’t shine. It’s the best thing I’ve ever heard. Why has no one told me this before??? It’s completely revised my attitude to and expectations within friendships.
  • Aminatou is KILLING it with the quotes this episode:
    • I don’t share men. I don’t share dessert. I don’t share credit.
    • I tell people it’s lonely at the top so that they don’t come here.

Episode 6 – You Know White People

  • Beyonce is amazing live, Ann you must see her in concert.
  • I agree that it takes effort to make friends – thank you for addressing this in this episode. Sharing links is part of burgeoning friendships. Being the first to call is great advice for not dying alone.

Episode 7 – Follow Your Arrow

  • No, it’s not just a DC problem, argumentative people are everywhere.
  • I’m unclear about your advice re blog versus work. Do you think it’s ok to blog about work?
  • I like the advice to follow your arrow. It’s true: there’s no power in trying to be what you think other people want you to be.
  • I hate text read receipts. It sounds like something someone powerless would use. I’m laissez-faire about texts. But NOT for emails. I don’t request read receipts, but I expect prompt responses within 24 hours. So there… you’ve witnessed the birth of a double standard.
  • I like your advice on dressing slightly better than the woman on top of you.
    • Dress for success, prep for success. You’re gonna get there.

Episode 8 – Emotional Detox

  • Like Angelenos, Athenians also apologise for rain.
  • Journalists are conduits for other people’s stories.

Episode 9 – Body Talk

  • If you’re unsure/on the fence about having children, you should come to terms with the fact that you probably don’t want to.
  • Women’s studies sound awful. Although it reminds me of my favorite feminist quote of all time: Of course I’m a feminist. Why wouldn’t you be PRO your gender?

Episode 10 – Strings Attached

  • The person who allegedly made removing tampons sexy was Christian Grey from 50 Shades, NOT Jack Kerouac. Don’t ask me how I know, I refuse to read that book.
  • Friendship is an exercise in how to love people.
  • Categories in high school don’t exist any more. There are no jocks, goths, nerds, etc. Talking about such categories is the mark of an old person.

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On falling behind sometimes



February was faster than me, and brought March in before I was ready. It flashed by before I could remember that there is sweetness in cold, thrill in anxiety, and life outside work. It ended in tears. Somehow March feels all the fresher for it.

On stress

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What I need right now. | Free People

How do you deal with stress? I am a very neurotic person who internalizes a lot of stuff.

I need a system for everything (no matter how disorganized it might seem to an outsider, it does in fact exist) and my own time table that I can work to. Time. It’s so precious and so fucking important. It’s important to make time for goal strategies, coping mechanisms… things that give me pleasure. It’s important to take time and practice gratitude for my many resources, both internal and external, but also for small pleasures. For the existence of rain and tea and old people who hold hands and waves and dogs who fart. I need to accept myself, my imperfections, and if I can, embrace my vices. I say this as a qualified stress management trainer, but more importantly as a human.

I use many techniques to blow off steam – sometimes I cry (which is a BIG deal for me, as for the first 25 years of my life, real events left me completely sober and devoid of emotion – I could only really cry in movies), sometimes I drink a glass of full-bodied red (I really believe we all need a vice, as long as it doesn’t define us), sometimes I chat to friends, sometimes I meditate… but mostly? I write.

Writing is therapeutic for me. Yet, it also feels meaningless in the absence of an audience. Writing is expression and expression is sharing, so if there is no one to share with… what’s the point? It feels weak and shallow to admit you need an audience, but so the fuck what? I met a brilliant artist years ago who littered his enormous pieces with romantic pastels and bicycles – we went to his studio to see his latest work. My friend was looking to buy so she was playing hard ball, remaining utterly stoic, and I followed her lead. We were there for about an hour ‘hmm’-ing to his paintings, and at the end he turned to us and said: look, I don’t care if you buy or not – do you like them? Do you like my work? I need to know if you do otherwise it’s meaningless and I might as well go live in a cave! I wish I could have afforded a painting, I would have bought one there and then. I understood his sentiment well. I’ve realised that actors, artists, writers… what they are really good at is observing the world. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – we do not exist in a vacuum. They want to know that their observations are accurate of what they have seen, felt, heard, in themselves and others.

And it’s true with us. This is my truth. Do you see it? Does it resonate? If not, is there space for it within you? Do you accept me? To be an artist is to be human, and to be human is to be an artist – I really believe that. The best way I can think of to manage my stress is to let my art live somewhere – here. I am grateful to the others who give it room to breathe, and I am grateful to myself for the ability to write and the ability to convert oxygen into carbon dioxide.

It’s all about little victories.

On tiny changes

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The many faces of Madonna | Lost in Arabia

I’ve been thinking about transformation lately. How easy it is. How difficult it is. And how difficult it is to express. In movies, it is either depicted as some quick seismic shift in a character (I’m thinking about Bridget Jones turning her life around by falling off the gymcycle) OR the change event is so large it is impossible to ignore, and impossible to not explore. The two examples I’m thinking of here are transgenderism where the becoming is fully explored (e.g. Boys Don’t Cry) or death. All of these changes happen outside a person’s volition. Sexual expression and preference is not a choice, death is not a choice, change (as a choice) is not explored. Change as a choice (especially when the stakes are low) seems like a very bizarre thing to do, not least of all because people hate change. When the stakes are low, you sail along. There is no impetus for change. So what about people who don’t want to survive but to thrive? It’s not a high-stakes issue. What is thriving to each person?

For me I think it’s about pursuing my best self and always seeking opportunities for personal growth. I want to pursue my potential ideal self, even though I can make peace with the fact that I will probably always be a little overweight and not dressed to the nines (Coco Chanel’s ‘life is not a dress rehearsal‘ was the war cry of my late teens). But I can sneak a bit closer. I can transform myself in tiny little uneventful steps that will never become a movie, but are significant to me. I wonder how other people experience their own transformations. Are they aware of them? I talk about clothes because they are easily identifiable, and I believe a slight reflection of each person. And I can see my own transformations through my clothes. Just before I started my new job, I was convinced that I would only dress in black or white, because I wanted to be streamlined and efficient and no nonsense. What nonsense. But it reflected my attitude at the time that WORK IS THE MOST IMPORTANT THING. And now, work is going pretty well, so I can relax and think about… butterflies. Reflections of light. New nail polishes, scented candles, relaxed conversations over tea and cherry liquor. And eventually, I’m sure, my closet will reflect this more bohemian attitude.

This isn’t about fashion. This is a gripe about tiny changes not being recognised. You could look at the same person every day, only to realise that they are completely different to who you knew five years ago.

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Butterfly stamps by Rebecca J Coles | Go Modern