Present as Future and Past

I don’t know about other places, but in Romania there is a tendency to look back at the past and say ‘It was so much better then’. ‘Then’ being before the revolution of 1989 when the communist party ruled Romania. I feel that this is a reaction that comes from the unhappiness with today’s situation combined with confusion and a constant sense of hopelessness. The way that our country is working today is far from perfect, but I still feel fortunate when I think of how my parents grew up. People are having a difficult time navigating the complexity of the social and economic landscape that developed along with capitalism after ’89. From here you get the urge to go back, fleeing from the unknown towards the familiar and unsurprising. The former is a greater evil that the latter simply because it is new.

I always feel a lot of anger when I see young people leaning towards this way of thinking. I can understand older generations being frustrated and unable to adapt to a changing society and economy, as they grew up preparing for a completely different future than what they got. Younger people should know better.

We don’t have the memories of growing up communist, though the older generations still reminisce about those times. I’ve heard so much about life back then that if we were to go back tomorrow, it would not be that much of a culture shock. It would still be a nightmare. The simplicity of life back then is alluring to some. Depending on where and to what parents you were born, you knew where your place was. A job was supposedly guaranteed for you along with food rations and a roof over your head. For all of this people relinquished their rights to opinions, choice and individuality. Going against social norms or having an original thought was a dangerous aberration.

Why do people forget this price so easily?

Right now there might be too many differing opinions going around. The media is’t helping. Most TV channels are owned by politicians or people affiliated with them. Outside of the obvious media manipulation that is not so obvious to those following more than one news outlet (I follow none because I tried and it makes me want to yell) we also have the global epidemic of western media-propelled ideals of what a happy and successful life should look like. Each instagram picture you see, each movie you watch, facebook posts, tags, makeup tutorials, volgs, celebrity interviews and such, are all designed to illustrate what your life should look like. As much as you try, life never seems to match that narrow sum of specific traits it should.

We’ve been told that we can do anything,  be anything, that our opinions matter and our feelings matter, but everything happening outside of our personal conviction that this is reality, doesn’t match that truth. This is how frustrations are born along with anger and the aforementioned hopelessness. The ones who have the strength push back in whatever way fits them better. Some care more only about being right and validating their own feelings, some are trying to have a discussion or do something and some are too confused to even try anything because everything seems either wrong or futile.

I am part of the last category. I know that going back is not the answer. This is all I’ve come up with. Helpful, right? It’s easy to get overwhelmed by everything you need to know to make an informed decision and there doesn’t seem to be a beginning to all of it. In school we learned history only up to a point- that is when the communist party fell, as if that is all we needed to know. There was no discussion in any of my classes about the political climate today. They left out the conclusion to what they were teaching. That and almost everything else that is relevant to  what a good education should entail, like civic education, emotional awareness, soft skills and hard skills. Fresh out of high-school I received a voter’s card that I was more fit to use in 1848 than today (provided that I was allowed to do so, which isn’t the case, but that’s beside my point).

Informed partially, insufficiency or wrongly, we make our choices while trying to raise our voices so someone can hear them. Even those spending countless nights in the streets seem to be shouting in a void. If it feels like America is divided in two camps, I can only say that seems to be a mirror for the rest of the world, or at least Europe. Division is what we’re engaging in, instead of actively building our own futures. We’re kept distracted with social media and online petitions while behind closed doors decisions are made that will impact us and generations to come.

Information available on the internet from various sources can be a force to be reckoned with. This coupled with Orwell’s idea that hope… lies in the proles, meaning the sheer number of dissatisfied people, might equal change if enough of the population is willing to make the effort. They say that each people has the leaders that it deserves, but change in society logically spreads from leadership and rarely towards it. Can we expect things to get better as long as the people making the choices are the same ones that brought us in this situation or have been molded by them in their own image?

Comfort and safety are at an all time high for humans right now. We’re enjoying a sweet ride, but what will be the consequences that future generations will have to pay for our indifference and submission?

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Approach

There’s always going to be difficult moments to face in life. The way most of us react to those moments is the way of the animal. That is, we instinctively succumb to the path of least resistance and let our emotions flood our consciousness. In short, we flip out. The harder way is usually a lot more productive, but energy consuming. We have the option of meeting hardships gracefully and composed, aware of the feelings they arose but in control.

This is, of course, extremely difficult.

via Daily Prompt: Elegance

Alcohol

Perception is somethiing strange and disputable because each and every person has their own perception of things. Some of us try to explore different perspectives and point oif views. For me books have been a way of living multiple lives and learning about the ppount of view of others. For others, I believe, trying to change their brain chemistry with different substances is what helped them get a new perspective. I need to analise and understand and having strangers in my blood stream does not help me think and form a logical road from a to b. I mean logical in the sense that there’s always a reason wht people do things and even if that erason is stupid, it does not mean that it’s not logical for the person acting upon it.

It is monstly artists who use this alteration of chemistry to change their perspective and get creative. This might be because of the fact that as an artist you get bored of expressing the same ideas and a trip night be a good source of inspiration or just a release from the incessant, constant, unbearable knowledge that people don’t actually get what you are trying to day. Or maybe they get it, but they don’t care and they just keep on going, like what you just revealed to them as the source of their unhappiness is not relevant to their existance. That hurts. Like the bear who cried wolf over and over again and nobody listened to him, even tho he was right each time.

It might be that what I mean to say is that it is baffeling and dumbfounding or some other adjective, that no matter how much people are told and warned about their predicaments, they still won’t listen on do something because that is more comfortable. It is easy to keep on going with your life as you know it than make a change. We are all creatures of habbit and we all have our patters and comforts that we are not willing to give up unless something immediate demands it.

If it feels like these paragraphs have no sense even more than what I usually post, well thay is because I am just about to finish my second cup of wine. Yes, I know I am a lightweight and I don’t care. As usual, my perspective is not improved or changed. Everything just seems further away phiscally and rushed mentally. I have been laughing quite a lot though, as I usually do while consuming alcohol, but we’ll see what future me has to say about that tomorrow

The One(s)

Perfect symmetry. Two hands reaching for one goal, working together in harmony. You feel blessed and secure in a perpetual haze of happiness. There’s no need to explain yourself and everything flows in a soft, unperturbed rhythm as you’ve proven the whole world that they are wrong because you have found the one. You never thought that life will bring you here. This is the highest peak of happiness you’ve ever encountered and no matter what, you are not going back into the ugly world of before.

Reality hits, though. You’re right back where you started and ready to go through it all again. Lather. Rinse. Repeat. If everything in life is a cycle why not relationships as well? Why do your best to actually get to know someone to their core and appreciate them for what they are? You can oscillate between fully blown limerence and desperate loneliness grasping for something new until it’s too late. Until all the good ones have seemingly gotten away and whoever is next in the chain is suddenly the best through the simple fact of their presence. Not that you’d actually get to actually know them. The version in your head is more than enough.

Until it isn’t. But that’s not your fault, is it now?

Mercy

I was watching a documentary about a generation of children in China left behind by their parents going to work in other provinces. As the reporter was pressing a young child to answer uncomfortable questions about his parents, I found myself empathizing with him while remembering teachers who used to press the same buttons, asking me about my mum being away. They did this for the same reason I am tearing up while watching the video. To feel sorry for someone in a difficult situation. That is all.

Actually, that’s not all. When we feel sorry of have mercy for someone the only thing that happens is that we end up feeling so good about ourselves.  Nothing productive ever comes from having mercy on someone- these kinds of feelings are difficult for the human mind to maintain at high levels over a long period of time. They diminish fast, taking our motivation to do good with them. Impact comes from ambition and a strong ethic drive towards equality for all. Mercy is selfishness.

The undeniable truth of daddy issues

I’ve been circling around this for a while now, I believe. A few days ago I was telling a friend to not have the relationship her parents are having and in the past weeks I’ve been pondering the effect that the behavior of the adults I grew up around has had on me. What I’ve come to realize is that no matter how much I try to deny my father’s influence, I can never remove his presence from my childhood and I can never alter the relationship that my subconscious has been using as the normal point of reference.

I never had a pleasant relationship with my father and ever since I started having romantic relationships, I did my best to avoid the things I despised most about him- alcoholism, religious extremism, violence, hypocrisy, a propensity for emotional manipulation and other damaging kinds of behavior. Despite this I never managed to hold on to a relationship for more than a few months. Some fell apart because of lack of chemistry or life getting in the way, but the most significant presented a mystery I’m only unraveling now, 9 months after the last man I loved disappeared out of my life.

The piece of puzzle that fell into place the other day, while I was sitting at my desk with another 15 people around me going about their day like it was just another Monday, is that no matter how far away from my father I run, the relationship dynamic we had will be something I can never escape. I learned to form relationships from my parents the same way I learned other behaviors like saying hello when I walk into a room, like I learned to talk from them and use a spoon and eat bread with apples. And so my romantic relationships and their sudden ends are now shining in a brighter light that has been a long time coming.

Because I have made a habit of analyzing myself and the people that I surround myself with, I noticed patterns in the relationships I am talking about and I remember asking myself, since I am choosing such different people to get involved with, why did we keep falling into the same patters? Since I was choosing such different people, why was I always the one who ended up giving as much as possible and being as available as possible to understand them and support them, but being afraid to ask for the same in return. I am not even exaggerating here, I am honestly afraid to ask for something when I am romantically involved with someone, because it makes me feel like an unwelcome guest imposing on them and being a burden. It’s not their job to take care of me. I have a hard time receiving gifts from boyfriends, even if it’s something I need, because I feel it would take away from my independence and leave me in debt to them.

I always thought that this is just my neurotic need to be self- sufficient and independent, but get this- when I was young my mother was the one who would take my sister and me shopping and after she had to go work abroad if I asked my father for money for almost anything, I would always get the same answer- I don’t have money for that. He rarely paid attention to me or my sister, and the few happy memories I have of him are from before I started school and they are few and far between. We weren’t even allowed to laugh in the house sometimes because he was working nights and he had trouble sleeping- bare in mind that I was a child who did not understand what it meant to stay up all night working. He was never interested in us as people he could get to know as we were there to fulfill the roles of children in the patterned life he thought he was supposed to have. In return for all this he of course asked for respect, obedience, understanding and forgiveness without apologies (unless I was the one apologizing) whenever his drinking binges ended up in bruises and clumps of hair pulled out of our heads.

This was the norm for us.

For the longest time I’ve been trying to think of it like it’s not such a big deal because so often you hear of things so much worse than this. Child- bride. Orphaned. Sold. I’ve been telling myself that I should look on the bright side because not having a perfect and sheltered childhood has made me into a responsible adult who is self- aware, adaptable, capable and tough, capable of taking care of herself. Of course I never felt comfortable with someone else taking care of me. Of course I am attracted to arrogant and cold men who love the sound of their own voices so much they are not interested to what someone else has to say. I am capable of taking hit after hit, stand up, kick back and take another punch any day of the week. But, as hard as it is for me to admit, I am not capable of letting others take care of me. I will never break down around someone else the way I do when I am on my own because I cannot allow anyone else to be the one picking up the pieces and putting them back together. I need to do things for myself and that is good only up to a point.

That point needs to move.

Now I understand why the men in my life felt it was okay to ask so much of me and give so little. As Alain de Botton puts it so well: we’re out to find partners who will feel familiar and familiar comes from the first experiences we have. I know now why I had such a had time making a point for myself when all the arguments I was making were completely valid, but I was wrong anyway. My default position was in the wrong because I was allowing myself to be put there. I’ve been broken up with through a text and kicked out of an apartment while trying to comfort a certain selfish jerk because I allowed them these kinds of behaviors, after all I can take it because I’m though and independent, right?

But why should I?

It’s taken me almost 6 years to ask this question and realize- I don’t have to just take it. Just because not having a sheltered childhood made me capable of surviving emotional trauma does not mean that that’s all I should be doing. I am happy I finally got to know this about myself because knowledge is power. I am now giving myself the power to do better, to ask for what’s mine. The next difficult part of this will be giving up the idea that if somebody loves me, they should and will think of me and my needs as much as theirs, because that’s just not how most people work. You sometimes have to remind them that that should be part of their behavior. Another big question mark is if I can be attracted to someone who is balanced, willing to be nurturing and patient enough to hear me out and help me break my pattern.

I am honestly scared of the answer.

You might be reading this and thinking that all that I’m saying is obvious and simple, but to me it really feels like a revelation. I’ve been looking at this from the wrong perspective for a really long time. No matter how much I tried, I could not figure out what was going wrong. After my last break-up something inside me would not let me move on to the next relationship. I’ve been feeling myself being pulled in this direction by my internal monologue that has been unraveling in the past few months. My difficulties in reaching this point is, like so many other things, exquisitely explained in a single quote in Dune– it’s a human trait that when we encounter personal problems, those things most deeply personal are the most difficult to bring out for our logic to scan. This only leaves me to wonder what else is there to face within myself?

Grow up

It took me two days to read Manson’s autobiography. That is Marilyn Manson the singer, not the cult leader. He talks a lot about the machine we call society that brings up generation after generation of children to be impressionable, but when somebody exposes them to ideas different from the ones they were supposed to imprint on, it becomes a problem. The bigger issue is that brainwashed kids turn into spineless adults unable to assume responsibility for their own lives and actions.

I often think back on my childhood and this book took me there again. I focus on this incident during a school trip in 6th or 7th grade which is to this day one of the most humiliating things that happened to me. One of the more popular girls in my class was asking me to go buy her a soda. For some reason she could’t do that herself- the reason being that she needed to validate herself and assert her social standing above others by using me as a stepping stone.

After I refused her a few times, she kept insisting and I walked my defeated ass to the fridge to buy her that damned bottle of soda. As I pulled once, twice and the fridge door won’t open, the third time I was left with the plastic handle in my hand. As I turned around everybody in the rest stop was laughing at me. I remember that moment like it’s a scene from a movie, the whole rest stop slowly rolling in my field of vision, like the camera rolls over a scene, to reveal two grade’s worth of kids laughing at me, standing there with the broken piece of plastic in my had. Now, I kind-of wish I still had it. One of the nicer girls decided to help me out and show me that the fridge had a sliding door. Idiot.

Curiously though, when I think of that moment, more often than not I think of the bitchy girl forcing me to serve her, rather than all the people laughing at me. Maybe I was so traumatized by it that I blocked the memory until it was far away enough to not make me blush anymore. I remember the conversation and her insistence on me doing this thing for her, I remember and hating myself how much of a pushover I was. This wasn’t something that came naturally to me- I’m not much of a leader, but I am definitely not the subservient type. This was something I was taught by the world around me and by the fact that it represented a safe way out of difficult situations- the coward’s way out. I’ve since learned that the hard path is much more interesting, if not always rewarding.

At some point while I was in middle school, one of my sister’s friends was trying to teach me how to fit in and become one of the popular girls- she was one of the popular girls in her school and was about two years older than me so I had information straight from the source. Her advice- lie about who you are, which try as I might, I never really got the hang of. Under her influence I tried quite hard to get into the popular elite of my class, but failed miserably for a while and didn’t really care about it much during the last two years of middle school. My sister and her friend lost touch after a few months. She got married a while ago because she got pregnant (my sister also got pregnant, but on purpose and she’s not married).

These are the things that gave me stomach aches and sweaty palms while I was forcing myself to do them, while I was trying to find a way to pour myself into the mold that so many people around me seemed to fit into so easily. To be honest, their pattern was never going to be enough for me.  At some point in his book, Manson wonders what made him different from the people he grew up around, who were still stuck in the same hellish standard his art was trying to tear down. I don’t really remember asking myself that, I just concluded that I was different from most people and counted myself lucky for it. During high- school I started to accept and embrace my weirdness and found a few people who accepted me the way I was.

I’ve since had experiences in doing things I wasn’t comfortable with in relationships where the line between assertive and bitch is blurry as f**k. It’s a lot easier to stand your ground when a classmate you already resent is trying to force you into doing something you are not comfortable with, but having someone you love and respect do it seriously messes with you. The logic (if you can even call it that) here is that if their opinions seem valid most of the time, why not now as well, after all it’s a lot easier for me to assume that I am wrong, rather than someone who’s neurotic internal monologue is not available to me. I am just assuming that everybody has a neurotic internal argument. This always turns out leaving deep scars that are a lot more to handle than any confrontation with a suck- up classmate or coworker.

Slowly, but surely, I’ve been reaching the same conclusion as Manson- f**k if I’ll let anyone make decisions for me anymore. It’s my life to live and to ruin, even if I do end up a crazy cat lady living under the bridge and scaring teenagers by the time I’m thirty.

Its not relevant(?)

Think of that perfect moment on your vacation, looking out as the waves break on the beach. All you can hear is the water following its cycle and the seagulls crying their hunting songs in the sky. That moment goes by and you’ll be soon on the plane back home, back to the work- home- weekend routine.

Think of those summer nights when the weather was warm and the air had that dusty- cold smell from the soft breeze that traveled through the trees around town. You close your eyes to take in the quiet song of crickets and the cars driving by in the distance. Think, that you still have a few days left of summer vacation, of doing nothing much, but feel the changes of the season.

I was looking at the cable of my new headset sticking out of my phone on the way home from work. It had a stock photo aspect as the sun was peaking through the window while setting in the west, piercing the glass and giving everything a crisp aspect.  For no reason, the question popped into my mind- what are we made of? My memory retains these glimpses into my past that I can never reach again. They pile up in the back of my mind and slowly create parts of me. Little memories, like stretching on the carpet of my bedroom after being away for two weeks and feeling like everything was right with the world, then the first train ride to Cluj- Napoca to sign up for university and escaping the place that turned form home to prison. I can still put myself inside both of those experiences to process what led from one to the other.

I keep wondering about this, because we experience something, or even the same thing every day, and if these experiences repeated or unique, can shape who we are, how can we really say that we are the same person two days in a row? How do you keep a sense of self, how do you even know who you are when the person you were yesterday had never tasted sushi before, but who you are today absolutely loves it?

This brings me to two other questions, that I’m not sure if anybody has the answer to- if you can’t be sure of yourself, how can you get to know someone else or do you just have to accept them and figure out if you can deal with them or not?- and the second question, which for me creates more of an issue is, if you can’t really get to know someone else, can you trust them?

Identity is so much part of our culture today, but the more I focus on it, the more it eludes me to the point where I’m starting to wonder if identity isn’t society’s own version of the Emperor’s new clothes and everybody is just pretending to know who they are because everybody else is doing the same and nobody has the guts to say that they are just lost. Then I start thinking of the things that have been constant for such a long time- I love Harry Potter and The Beatles, I don’t like sweets with lemon or cheese, but I also used to hate tea and now I love tea. I look in the mirror sometimes and wonder if I talked to myself from 2 or 3 years ago, what would she think of present me? What will I think of myself in 2, 5, 30 years form now?

Reflex bickering

On a morning of what would become a scorching summer  day, I was walking around the city center, making my way to work. As I had left home early after having drank my morning coffee, I was starting to feel peckish and even a bit dizzy. I decided to buy a hot dog specialty which is a boiled hot dog wrapped in bread dough and baked. It is something you can find all over Cluj-Napoca and most of them are absolutely yummy.

The place I stopped at is a small kiosk chain that you can find all over the city. I had been walking for a while and really wanted that carbs load for the way to work as I had decided I had enough time to walk there and needed the exercise. As I approached the counter I could feel a wave of heat coming from inside the small establishment (keep in mind, it was already over 23 °C outside). There was nobody ahead of me so I looked in expecting to be served immediately, but the lady inside was a little busy with something, though she did ask me what I wanted. She asked the second time for my order and I was already getting crabby, but I answered nicely. The third time she asked if I wanted only one piece, but I thought she wanted my order again because of the noise from the street, the machine that was baking behind her and the earphone in my left ear. I snapped a bit at her trying to relay again what I wanted and she snapped back at me that there’s no need for me to get angry so of course that pissed me off more than the whole situation.

The whole interaction only took a minute or two, but it was enough for me to lose sight of all the experience I had myself with angry customers and being on the receiving end of a snarky reply. The reaction I had was a mere reflex as my instinct took over and my reflexes kicked in. All the work I have been doing on and with myself was displaced by the easier reaction in a moment of discomfort, proving it to still be in an incipient stage or if you will ~Shallow.

Community

I have been reading a book about Gurkha soldiers in Afghanistan. To be honest law enforcement and the army have always been jobs I could see myself doing. Unfortunately, I am short and quite bad at sports. Frankly, I am much more dangerous to others when speaking, rather than when welding a weapon.

These guys are the best of the best, Nepalese soldiers fighting in the British army. It’s been like this for two hundred years. The soldiers come from all over Nepal, including rural areas. The man who wrote the book used to be a hill boy. When he was young he used to live in his grandparent’s house. His grandfather had a lot of brothers who married and also lived there. They were about thirty people, living in six rooms.

When I was a young girl, my mother used to tell me cautionary tales about people who had to share their house with ten people or families of seven who only had one room to live in. This was to make me feel grateful for what we had, because she knew we had so much, though my childish eyes did not see it that way. It seemed horrible. Ten people sharing the same room. It was too much for me to share a room with my sister, let a lone eight more people. Most days I would agree, that would be my perfect description of hell. But the way he talks about it, with the non-complacent tone of an expert soldier, it made me realize that this is what a community of people is.

It might seem to me, to us, young people that living in closed quarters with others is suffocating, but we never think of the benefits. In today’s urban world we are each on our own. Young people leave the home built by their parents in hopes of a brighter future. We end up in big cities, with large populations of isolated individuals. We develop facades, masks we put on when we leave the house because other people don’t care about our growing feelings of uncertainty and fear. They are too busy nursing their own.

People evolved as parts of groups, each person finding their own role and being part of a whole. This is why corporations today have team building exercises and activities for their employees. We work better as a group if we each know where we stand and if we feel good about that position. It makes us productive. The main dilemma of the twenty-first century youth, or millennial as we’ve been named, is that we’ve been taught to be individuals. So many of us want to shine in their own spotlight as the queen bee with a crew of anonymous worker bees around us. Being one part of a whole doesn’t allow that.

We sacrifice the support we are genetically programmed to receive in order to prove to ourselves that we are better than others, that we don’t need help in figuring out life. I am very much guilty of doing this. Only yesterday I refused my mum’s reassurance that if I need money, I can always ask her. I turned the offer down like she was offering me poisoned cookies. I want to be my own person and be independent. Financial independence is as important to me as emotional independence is and there are a lot of times when I struggle with both. I am capable enough to keep down a job that covers my expenses, but I can’t save up much, at least not as much as I would like. Emotionally I am distressed much more often than I let on. I have doubts about my future, I am haunted by the most annoying of questions- what am I doing with my life?

In the past year I have worked quite closely with people in my age group who are more or less in the same situation. The same issues arise in their minds as well. What are we doing with our lives? I was talking the other day with one of the girls about child birth and motherhood. It seems we both struggle with the same doubts- am I fit to be a mother; will I be capable of loving my child unconditionally; will I resent it because I will have to make sacrifices in my career and  life is so much more complicated with the responsibility of bringing up a person? A few weeks ago I was talking with another one of my colleagues about my anxiety at the thought that I feel like I am not doing anything relevant with my time. Turns out, he is thinking the same thing about his own choices.

Growing up I had a small circle of friends and we discussed concerns like these quite rarely. We were teenagers and thinking of these kinds of things did not seem as important then. We still had so much time. To find that other people my age are fighting these demons quiets mine. They are not entirely defeated, but easier to live with. I am gathering courage and making plans to defeat them and enjoy as much as possible out of life.

One more thing, though. I would still like to experience the complete trust that those soldiers have in each other.