High on Life

I went to see a stand up the other day, and I found myself laughing from start to finish. Not just because it was good (it was) but because everyone else was. There is something about being in a room full of people feeling feelings; it’s a Mexican wave of emotions, it’s contagious – in the best possible way, and not in the way we’ve been used to. 

            Yes, I was having wine, but I was drunk on more than alcohol; can you be drunk on people? 2021 is not a year to heckle, to be rude or mean. Honestly, the act could have been the worst I had ever seen, I think I would still have laughed. It’s funny how easy it is to go back to old habits, muscle memory. Laughing is the best sort of sport. 

We need pretend, we need to watch other people’s stories and jokes, we need someone else’s life to take centre stage – we are too tired of our own, it’s been too hard, it’s been too tough. For an hour or so we can look out, we spent too much time looking in and there is only so much good that can do. 

            In the end, we clap, because we are thankful, because it was good, because it gave us a break. I want to sit back, wait for the lights to dim, wait for the first act. Because that’s how it feels, like it’s the start of something; I hope I enjoy this piece.  

Crumbs

I don’t know if I know how to live again, I guess, nobody does. We’re out in the world and we learn all the steps, but what happens when we are put back in the womb, do we have to learn everything again? The thing is, we can’t, because the outside has changed and a lot of the things we knew don’t make any sense. 

            I unlearned my routine; I don’t really know what to do with my hours; they have been in a safe for too long, I forgot the code, I don’t know how to access them anymore. I’m following crumbs that I left on the ground eighteen months ago, but the wind has blown some of them away and there are these gaps. You see? You can’t, they are not there. 

I watch so much TV, and I feel guilty about that. I didn’t use to be, because there was nothing else to do, but now there is, and I don’t know what to start with, so I rather binge watch everything.

            And then I read, and I feel slightly better about reading because reading is meant to be good for you, right? Books are above TV – I don’t believe that, but that’s what my inside voice says. Stupid voice. I’ll read a book, well done me. 

I eat well, I cook all my meals, that’s good to I suppose. But there is a lot of thinking involved, a lot of planning and I could just grab my phone and it would be here; but how much oil have they used? 

I run, almost every day. I don’t run very fast, it’s not my thing, it never has been. My mum told me that I learned how to walk very slowly, holding on to things, analysing my next step. But I don’t know what the next step will be; I wasn’t ready for this.   

I cycle, I swim and a lady on the screen says that if I fall, she’ll catch me. That doesn’t seem realistic, she’s not here.  I stretch because that’s what you are meant to do. I don’t want to get hurt. 

And I do all the things that we were told to do, and not do, and do again afterwards because I don’t want to get sick. My nose hurts. 

I didn’t get a manual for this, nobody did; we received many other things, unwanted advice to start with. 

It will come back to me, I tell myself; I’ll just hold on to things and it will all be well. 

Becoming

ing is a suffix used to make one of the inflected forms of English verbs. This verb form is used as a present participle, as a gerund, and sometimes as an independent noun or adjective. The suffix is also found in certain words like morning and ceiling, and in names such as Browning.

Wikipedia

The “ING” is a great asset of the English language, I mean, I’m not sure I can really call it an asset, it’s not like shoes with wheels or a Christmas jumper that plays music. It’s just intrinsically part of the language, right? My mother tongue, Portuguese, has the gerund, but I don’t think it replicates the many meanings that “ING” offers in English. It was incorporated into the modern world like it already belonged there: Googling, Instagramming and other “ings”. And I’m happy for the “ing” in Michelle Obama’s debut novel, because we never seize to become.

I had no idea what to expect from the book, I was hoping for some White House gossip, details on Barack himself and maybe some fashion tips from the former first Lady of the United States. It’s fair to say I got a bit of everything and much more. The White House life is actually one third of the book, as Michele says herself; she did have a life prior to that period of her life. I found myself to be a lot more interested in her house at Euclid Avenue in Chicago than in the 132 room one in Washington.   She talks about her humble upbringing, her down to earth parents, her insecurities and fears. Her first date with Obama reads like a romance, the primaries, like a thriller.

I was (ingenuously) fascinated by Michele’s relationship with her husband. Obviously they have the same problems that most couple have but sometimes I tend to forget the humanity of people who appear on TV or, I don’t know, run a country. Her obsessive planning and organising made me think of my own diary and post it notes. Michele’s father suffered from MS, which I could really relate to at some level, since my own father died of ALS. I related to her in so many ways, regardless of colour, of nationality or age, crazy right? Maybe somebody should teach Trump how to actually read, he might learn a thing or two from books; I’m hoping for empathy but I don’t want to aim too high…(I’m not sure his sausage fingers can reach that far).

Michele Obama had the opportunity to spread her values to the world; her personal life did take a toll, being attacked by the media, campaigning, struggling to be a present mother. Her life was almost like any woman’s life, but in much bigger proportions and under a magnifying glass. Women are judged by their appearance, when voicing their opinion, they are meant to “have it all” and we don’t even know what “all” means.

I hope to be a human in continuous metamorphosis, learning new things, discovering new things about myself, I hope to “ING” the hell out of life.

Resolutions

It’s the first day of the year and my first film of the year is “You’ve Got Mail”. It’s not the first time I watch it; last time was two years ago. Nora Ephron’s remake of “The Shop Around The Corner” just makes me feel fuzzy inside, like swallowing a bag of hugs. The opening has aged, but so have the actors, so I won’t judge the 3D elements of the New York landscape. I want to live in Meg Ryan’s Manhattan, I want her wardrobe as well, 90s librarian would suit me perfectly.

 

The relationships in this film are adorably unrealistic, Greg Kinnear’s Luddite boyfriend, Parker Posy “makes coffee nervous”, they speak “Ephron” and I can’t think of a better language than that. The dialogue is not microwaved soup, is pastry made from scratch, there is thought in every line. And what other film just makes you want to grab a book?

 

Like in the film, small bookshops are disappearing; I can’t remember the last time I entered one. Unlike the film they do have very competent staff. But I reckon is better to have Fox Books than to have no books. I think people are reading less (I think, because I didn’t do a research) but our attention spam seems to only fit Instagram updates and some stories can’t be told in a picture.

 

When you read a book as a child, it becomes a part of your identity in a way that no other reading in your whole life does.

 

Reading a book from beginning to end demonstrates commitment, commitment to carrying that book, to opening it in the tube, to choosing that instead of the latest Netflix show (don’t get me wrong, I love those). We swipe, we have coffee on the go, we watch cat videos, and the President twits and books are long, even when they are not. Books are also a window to the soul, to our own. Books distract, make you reflect and empathize and I don’t think I’m alone when I say that we need more of that. We need to hear more voices so we can develop our own.

 

So my New Year’s resolution is to keep reading, to encourage others to read, to write and (hopefully) be read. I think it’s a more achievable goal than running a marathon…

Expat

 

I got called an “Expat” the other day, and not any type of expat, a “proper” expat. No, it is not a curse word, a nickname or a venereal disease.

 

An expatriate (often shortened to expat) is a person temporarily or permanently residing in a country other than that of their citizenship. In common usage, the term often refers to professionals or skilled workers sent abroad by their companies.

 

It is a very accurate definition of my present status, but one that I had never fully realised till this conversation in a hostel in Brussels. I’ve always explained my situation as in: “I moved to London to study and then I stayed”; and I kept “staying”. I didn’t see myself as an expat, I saw myself as a “stayer”.

 

stayer; plural noun: stayers

1.       1.

a tenacious person or thing, especially a horse able to hold out to the end of a race.

2.       2.

a person who lives somewhere temporarily as a visitor or guest.

 

After reading the definition, I guess I fit better number 2. But London is not my sofa- bed, I’m not a guest. And now, with Brexit, I feel like I am being evicted, if anything, I am nothing more than currency for world leaders.

This all led to me having a heated discussion in a pub (yes, I am that classy), failing to convince a man of the horrors that Trump represents (in my opinion…) And as I was trying to explain how unfair it was to ban people from Muslim countries to enter the US, I felt like I was defending my own right to be here. I was upset and he made me cry; then he walked away because that’s what a lot of  men (NOT ALL!) do when they see a woman in tears – conversations that have similar effect: menstruation, child birth and waxing. And as my friends consoled me, stating what a primate that man was, all I could think was how I managed to turn my argument into tears.

So I turned into my mum, and I twit political articles and post videos on Facebook that get one like (thanks mum!); I go to marches and I engage in conversations (even if they turn up in tears…) because I might not be a horse, but I am tenacious. I am an expat, and that’s not that bad after all.

 

Building Bridges

My brother came to visit me for a week and I felt like a part of a social experiment. Like when twins are separated at birth and they analyse later on if there are any similarities even though they were brought up in completely different environments: Okay, my brother and I are not twins and we did live together until my early twenties, but, at the time, I felt we belonged to different universes. Well, it turns out that we are not so different after all. Psychologically, we are miles away; as far as I am concerned, emotionally (like physically) we are in different continents. But when it comes to taste and interest, we proved that we are our mother’s children.

It is funny how people develop an idea of who you are and what your life should be like. Upon taking my shoes off when entering my house he asked me if he should do the same. Apparently, taking my shoes off is “very me”. I’m still trying to figure out what “me” is like; but I guess me is fond of bare feet and baked courgette.

I think for an older sibling, the younger one will always be the baby (even if the baby is 25). I guess my housemates thought we’d host a toddler for a week, from the way I described him. But he is tall and has a deep voice (which I realized through a WhatsApp voice message; a message that I had to listen to over and over again to stop focusing on his post-pubescent voice and listen to what he was actually saying). You become an adult when you realize your little brother is already one.

Talking to my brother can develop into a migraine quite easily. He is a very smart guy, very rational and even though we speak the same language, it is like we address themes through a different dialect. He inspires me and depresses me at the same time. I become more aware of the world around me and my bubble seems shallow and futile. I feel it is important to have people who challenge you and in the niche world we live in now, it becomes easy to hang around a crowd with similar interests, thought processes and goals. I don’t want parallel disagreement either, I want intelligent interaction.

Maybe I’m missing out by not having him around; but maybe I can value our time together better than I would if I was in his constant company. Even though I reckon we have never burnt our bridges, I believe we have just built one.

A toast to start

So, 2016 is over, right? Let’s face it, it was like Morals & Ideals took a gap year and left Chaos to water the plants. We all felt like we were trapped in an episode of Black Mirror, praying for commercial breaks. “Maybe this is just a 12-month- long SNL sketch”. It wasn’t. I was waiting for the 2016 American Presidential Campaign to be nothing more than, let’s say, “Mission Impossible VI”; Trump would take his mask off and it would be Tom Cruise behind it! If only. 2016 was the fat girl at prom; people wanted to swipe left so badly.

So 2017 will be better right? It has to be, it’s a whole new year! 2017 will be a glorious year, no celebrities will die, no referendums will polarize nations and no bigots will run countries. Yeah, right.

We have been blaming 2016 for quite a lot; as if it had chased David Bowie down the street with a knife. 2016 didn’t explode buildings, or people, 2016 didn’t do anything. So if we want 2017 to be different, we better do something about it. January is nothing more than a month and you won’t get your dream job just because people get a fuzzy feeling after Christmas sales.

I don’t want to sit down and see 2017 go by; there is no remote control available and I can’t change channels. I am part of the change; and I have no idea how to change things, but I guess “the want”, is a way forward.

I hope for a year where people talk, to everyone. I hope we burst our Facebook bubbles wide open and stop un-following people that get on our nerves. Keep them, start a conversation. I don’t want to judge anybody; I love my bubble. My bubble is filled with people with whom I share values, who understand my universe. But the world is bigger than my bubble and even though it scares me, I like to think of it as soap.

I think I’ll start simple, I think I’ll start small, but I’ll start something. That’s a start, right?

The custard club

Some girls from my work decided to organize a book club, we were all meant to read “Swing Time” by Zadie Smith and be ready to debrief on the 13th of December. That would give me roughly two weeks to read the four-hundred-something page novel, if the package arrived on time. It didn’t. We all received the books at different points during the week, which resulted in a meeting filled with spoilers. But let’s face it, it is Christmas time and the last thing we had on our heads was Zadie’s wonderful writing. Instead we focused our energies on baked camembert, a glass of bubbly and commenting on the flat’s wonderful pastel colour patterns.

I feel that this group has two passions: books and food, so when we found ourselves without custard to go without mince pies, somebody proposed we put the books on the shelves to a good use. Analysing different recipes, we came up with our own, based on eggs, cream, vanilla, milk and sugar. Cooking and baking is the closest I get to being a scientist, and I quite enjoy it. Transforming liquid into matter makes me feel like Einstein (though I know he probably didn’t knead dough as much as I do, I also don’t scribble advanced quantum mechanics on a board).

Baking, in a way, is a lot like reading; you access a world and gain insight to a universe through somebody else’s perspective. Who doesn’t feel sexy when making a Nigella recipe or upbeat (and slightly annoying) when throwing together a Jamie Oliver dish? And through Zadie Smith’s words, I dived into a culture that is not my own.

Nowadays, when you can have your dinner ready in five minutes, cooking can hardly be considered a surviving skill. But it does enable creativity. Ingredients are crayons for adults, and for kids for that matter. (Don’t try colouring with a carrot though).

I’m still plowing through “Swing Time” as my cake batter soaks in the fridge. Like a good book, cooking can be challenging. I’m still perfecting water into wine; I’ll keep you posted on its progress.

Unfollow

Like a lot of women in their late twenties, I was fairly excited about the new season of Gilmore Girls. Lorelai and Rory were a big part of my life in my late teens. During a time of intensified drama and hormonal changes, Stars Hallow offered me a safe place, a bubble filled with quirky characters; I was protected under the gazebo of idiosyncrasies. The fast paced dialogue fuelled by coffee was music to my ears.

I had a bit of Rory in me; I wasn’t cool enough to be Lorelai just yet. I liked that she liked books, I liked books too. I liked that she was awkward and organized, even though I couldn’t eat a whole pizza and not put on a pound (like she did). Part of me felt like I was being represented on screen somehow. Even though Rory is probably one of the most hated characters on TV…

I don’t know why I was naïve enough to think that Gilmore Girls would be the same; I have changed a lot in the past nine years and like a cup of old coffee, the show doesn’t taste quite the same.

I found myself hating the characters, having complete contempt for Rory, Lorelai and Emily Gilmore. Lorelai comes across like a spoilt 50-year-old; Emily is the racist elderly woman (the help is speaking Spanish for Christ’s sake!); and Rory is a privileged woman disguising lack of morals for feminist values. Were they always like that and my 15-year-old self couldn’t see beyond all those pop culture references?

If anything, the world doesn’t need Stars Hallow anymore. The last thing we want at the moment is disconnect from the rest of the world and opt to live in a parallel universe which lacks diversity and a drop (or a jug) of realism. I think there was a time and a place for the show and after “Girls” and “Breaking Bad”, it doesn’t resonate anymore. I like to believe there is space for feel-good “dramedy” which doesn’t require alienation.

I’ve read mixed reviews about the show and I do think former fans are more likely to give positive feedback on Amy Sherman’s project, but I reckon we shouldn’t be blinded by the Gilmore’s sparkly blue eyes. Stars Hallow doesn’t work in the great scheme of things, when inserted in the real world, its rules make no sense. You might as well be opening a door to Narnia. That’s why I think it was downhill from the moment Rory started attending Yale.

I haven’t watched the other three episodes, so I have a bit more homework to do. I’m not getting my hopes up though. It might turn into a guilty pleasure, those that you have to run for forty minutes to compensate for the high calorie intake. For every hour of Gilmore, I might have to watch two hours of news.

The opening song has changed and so have I. Gilmore, I don’t think I can follow you anymore.

Hygge life

Google “Hygge” and you will find 30,100,000 results; from books to definitions, the internet tries to explain the Danish concept of “cosiness”. Everyone on the high street is trying to profit on the “hue-gah” trend, by selling candles, knit wear and hearty meals. Believe you me, fire hazards have never been so fashionable. Given that I have a Danish friend and have recently visited Copenhagen, I feel entitled to address the subject myself. I have experience hygge first-hand (and it smells like freshly baked bread…)

First of all, geographically speaking, Denmark enables hygge to take place. It is bloody cold outside and being home in your pyjamas with the fire on seems like a great idea. Apparently, cycling everywhere is also a must. Of course it is! It’s their main mean of transportation. It’s like saying that to be a true Londoner you have to take the tube or drive everywhere when you’re in California. There is no better way of getting around! Don’t get me started on the knit wear; did I mention how cold it is?

Articles say it is a way of balancing life and work, being one with nature and turning off your phone. It is about spending time with loved ones outside the Christmas period. Crazy, right? It is about cooking and baking and not having frozen lasagne for dinner.

I have to say, I admire the Danes and I confess I have incorporated part of their culture by osmosis…I don’t leave the house without my porridge. But their approach to life is a direct result of their lifestyle, of how their country works and how they act as citizens. I guess it is sort of ingrained in their DNA, it is a reflection of their society.

I can’t think of nothing healthier than enjoying life’s simple pleasures, making time for friends and family, chatting under a blanket while sipping on hot chocolate. But altering the lighting in the room won’t make us more Danish. It feels like we should change something in the core of our society to truly understand why we should make the most out of life. Get your homemade candle and shed some light on your own values. There is an “off” button to your phone, you don’t need a foreign word to learn how to switch it.