I have inaugurated an online bilingual (English-Spanish) bookclub that will meet monthly on Zoom to discuss the chosen book of the month.
The Wandering Bookclub is born with the purpose of motivating people to read, of bringing together like-minded individuals, and connecting people across the globe through books!
He inaugurado un club de lectura en línea bilingüe (inglés-español) que tendrá reuniones mensuales en Zoom para discutir el libro que se escoja cada mes.
¡El Wandering Bookclub nace con el propósito de motivar a la gente a leer, de juntar a gente afín, y de conectarnos de todo el mundo a través de los libros!
Join us! Únete!
Who can join the bookclub? ¿Quién puede unirse al club de lectura?
Anyone. Everyone is welcome! / Todos y todas! Todos/as son bienvenidas!
How does it work? / ¿Cómo funciona?
Through the blog’s instagram account ( @thewanderingwriterblog ) and the Facebook group of the Facebook page for the blog I will post some options for choosing a book of the month. These books will be subjected to a vote through polls on the FB group and the IG stories. Members can vote on both polls. After 24 hours, the book with the most vote will become the chosen book of the month.
Members of the bookclub will have about 4-5 weeks to finish each book. I will post a Reading Schedule members can follow if they wish to, though everyone can read at their own pace. Members can also read the books in whatever format they like better (ebook or physical book). Members can also read the books in whatever language they prefer.
Members are responsible for acquiring the books.
At the end of the month there we’ll be two one-hour Zoom sessions to discuss the book of the month. One session will be in Spanish and the other in English, both sessions will follow the same dynamic. The conversations will turn out differently, of course, but the guidelines will be the same. Each member can join either one or both. It’s a great way to practice any of these languages!
A few days before each session I will post some questions you can ponder before the meeting which will also help guide the conversation.
A través de la cuenta de Instagram (@thewanderingwriterblog) y el grupo de Facebook de la página de Facebook del blog, yo anunciaré opciones de libros para escoger cada libro del mes. Estos libros estarán sujetos a votaciones que se llevarán a cabo en el grupo de Facebook y en las historias de la cuenta de Instagram. Los miembros pueden votar en ambas encuestas. Después de 24 horas, el libro que tenga más votos será el elegido para leer ese mes.
Los miembros del club de lectura tendrán alrededor de 4-5 semanas para terminar cada libro. Subiré un post con un Calendario de Lectura que los miembros pueden seguir, aunque todos pueden leer a su propio ritmo. Los miembros pueden leer los libros en la forma que se les acomode (en línea o en físico). Los miembros pueden leer los libros en el idioma de su preferencia, también.
Cada miembro es responsable de adquirir los libros.
Al final de cada mes habrá dos reuniones de una hora en Zoom para discutir el libro del mes. Una sesión sera en español y otra en inglés. Ambas sesiones seguirán la misma dinámica. Las conversaciones serán diferentes, claro, pero las premisas serán las mismas. Cada miembro puede unirse a una de las dos o a las dos. Es una gran forma de practicar cualquiera de los dos idiomas.
Unos días antes de las reuniones, subiré un post con algunas preguntas para que las reflexiones y estás preguntas también nos ayudarán a guiar la conversación.
What kind of books will be read? / ¿Qué tipo de libros se leerán?
The books will vary in genre and themes. The book options for each month will have something in common. For example, the books for January 2021 have in common the fact that they are short novels. In November, because in Mexico we celebrate Day of the Dead, the books will be gothic literature, etc. etc.
The genres will be varied: fiction, non-fiction, the classics, memoirs & biographies, children’s literature, YA literature, world literature, women’s literature, black and people of colour literature, queer literature, literature from different literary traditions, genre literature as in science fiction, gothic, romance, crime, etc.
We will read mostly novels but also sometimes collections of short stories, poetry, plays, etc.
Los libros variarán de género y tema. Las opciones de cada mes tendrán algo en común. Por ejemplo, los libros de Enero 2021 tienen en común que son libros cortos. En Noviembre, porque en México celebramos el día de muertos, serán libros de literatura gótica, etc. etc.
Los géneros serán variados: ficción, no ficción, los clásicos, memorias & biografías, literatura infantil, literatura juvenil, literatura universal, literatura escrita por mujeres, literatura escrita por autores negros/as y de color, literatura queer, literatura de diferentes tradiciones literarias, libros de géneros como ciencia ficción, gótico, romance, crimen, etc.
Y leeremos en su mayoría novelas, pero también serán colecciones de cuentos cortos, poesía, obras de teatro, etc.
What happens if we don’t finish a book on time? / ¿Qué pasa si no termino el libro a tiempo?
Nothing! It’s okay! Join the discussion anyway! If you don’t manage to finish you can participate still.
A tip: you can read the summaries, and watch the movies, too! Just in case, you don’t finish 😉
¡Nada! ¡Está bien! ¡Únete a la discusión de todos modos! Si no terminas a tiempo aún así puedes participar.
Un tip: ¡puedes leer el resumen, y ver las películas, también! En caso de que no terminarás el libro a tiempo 😉
How will the book online discussions be? / ¿Cómo serán las discusiones online de los libros?
They will happen via Zoom, I will upload the link here, on the Facebook group and on Instragram a few hours before the session. One session will be all in English and another all in Spanish, anyone can join either or both. They will last for an hour each.
A few days before the discussions, I will upload on the blog, on the Facebook group & on Instagram a post with a few questions that we will use as guides for the online discussions.
The Zoom meetings will go like this: We will start by saying hello (members are encouraged to turn on their cameras throughout the whole session). There will be a brief introduction to the book and whoever wants will be invited to share their first impressions. Then the discussion will be guided by the questions and will take its own path from there. Anyone can participate, anyone can share their views, one at a time. It’s a wonderful opportunity to socialise, connect, and have a good time!
Las discusiones serán por Zoom. Subiré el link a este blog, al grupo de Facebook y a Instagram unas hora antes de la sesión. Una de las sesiones será toda en inglés y la otra toda en español, todos/as pueden unirse a una o a las dos. Cada sesión dudará una hora cada una.
Unos días antes de la discusiones, subiré a este blog, al grupo de Facebook y a Instagram un post con unas cuantas preguntas que usaremos como guía para las discusiones en línea.
Las reuniones en Zoom serán así: Empezaremos por saludarnos (se recomienda que los miembros tengan prendidas sus cámaras durante toda la sesión). Habrá una pequeña introducción al libro y quien guste será bienvenido/a a compartir sus primeras impresiones del libro. Después la discusión será guiada por las preguntas y tomará su propio camino a partir de ahí. Todos/as pueden participar, todos/as pueden compartir sus puntos de vista, uno/a a la vez. ¡Es una oportunidad increíble para socializar, conectar y pasar un buen rato!
Does it have a fee? / ¿Tiene algún costo?
No! For now, it’s free! So make the most of it 😀
¡No! ¡Por ahora es gratis! Así que aprovechen 😀
An example of a past reading / Un ejemplo de una lectura pasada
The book of the month for January 2021 was: Momo (1973) by Michael Ende!
Momo is easy to get. It’s in any good bookshop and of course, Amazon. It’s a wonderful philosophical book and a classic of German children’s literature!
El libro del mes para enero 2021 fue: Momo (1937) de Michael Ende!
Momo es fácil de conseguir. Está en cualquier librería buena, en México está en Gandhi, por ejemplo, y Amazon, etc. ¡Es un gran libro filosófico y un clásico de la literatura infantil alemana!
Here is the Reading Schedule for Momo
Aquí está el Calendario de Lectura for Momo
The online Zoom discussions was on the last weekend of January 2021: Saturday 30th & Sunday 31st.
Las discusiones en Zoom fue en el último fin de semana de enero 2021: sábado 30 & domingo 31.
Here are the questions that we discussed in the Zoom meetings, you can ponder them while you read to add depth to your reading.
Aquí están las preguntas que comentamos en las reuniones de Zoom, puedes ir reflexionando sobre ellas mientras lees para agregarle profundidad a tu lectura.
Today I visited the Tate Britain Museum in London and I stood in front of one of my favourite paintings:
John Everett Millais’ Ophelia (1851-2)
It shows Ophelia, drowned, carried by the current. Her flowers are strewn on the surface of the dark water.
The colours are beautiful – the vibrant green of the riverside, Ophelia’s fiery red hair, and striking blue eyes that still have light in them. She has her hands open as if accepting her fate, letting the water take her. Her mouth is open as if she would speak…
If you’ve read Hamlet, you know this.
Ophelia suffers a lot in this play. She is in love with Hamlet who denies ever having loved her. She is ordered about by everyone, Hamlet, her brother, her father, Polonius, the Queen, and the usurper Claudius. She is used as a pawn against Hamlet. Her needs and desires are disregarded and she is given little room to speak even narratively by Shakespeare himself.
When her father is killed by Hamlet… she goes ‘mad’.
Her speech becomes ‘incoherent’, her songs become ‘inappropriate’. In her madness, Ophelia finds freedom – freedom to speak, freedom to express, and to emote: grief, desire, longing… Because one of the things ‘madness’ does is that it frees your mind from this mad world’s constraints and fears. ‘Madness’ makes you fearless and therefore you can speak.
It is in her ‘madness’ that Ophelia is finally able to speak. She sings songs and gives different flowers to each of the characters:
“There’s rosemary, that’s for remembrance.
Pray you, love, remember.
And there is pansies, that’s for thoughts …
There’s fennel for you, and columbines.
There’s rue for you, and here’s some for me.
We may call it “herb of grace” o’ Sundays.
– Oh, you must wear your rue with a difference.
There’s a daisy. I would give you some violets,
But they withered all when my father died.”
(Hamlet, Act IV, Scene 5)
Her flowers have meaning, they are symbols. Ophelia’s songs and flowers speak for her.
In Millais’ painting, Ophelia’s flowers are still with her, speaking to the viewer in her stead. I wonder what each of us hear…
Ophelia’s death is left ambiguous. It happens off stage and we are only told of it by the Queen who implies that it was an accident – “an envious sliver broke”, and she “fell in the weeping brook”. “Her garments, heavy with their drink, Pulled [her] to muddy death” (Hamlet, Act IV, Scene 7).
Ophelia drowns… her death as passive as she was in life.
This is one of the readings.
However, suicide is also suggested further along in the play.
We may never know what really happened, we may never know if her death was intended or an accident. I wish I knew Shakespeare (and that he was alive, of course) so I could ask him this and a few other million questions.
I thought of all of this as I sat on the almost-empty gallery, looking at Millais’ Ophelia. The fact that today, October 10th, is World Mental Health Day made it twice as significant for me to be there in front of Ophelia.
For the longest time, I paid no mind to my mental health… Until something happened to me that made it impossible not to. Since then, I’ve realised the true importance of caring for our minds as much as for our bodies. Both are precious tools with which we, spiritual beings that we are, manifest in this world. It is our responsibility and privilege to care for them.
Your mind needs love. It needs care and nurturing. Be careful of what you hear, see, watch… all that is the food you give to your mind.
Your mind needs you, it needs your presence and awareness. This world needs that too.
I am sad to realise that there is still a taboo about mental health in most parts of the world. This makes people ashamed to address it, to share their experiences, to seek help.
I am pleased to realise that in the UK, mental health is taken seriously and a lot has been done to raise awareness and to open up the conversation about mental health.
I hope that in my own country, Mexico, we can break the taboo and start doing this too, more and more. I believe we are, slowly but surely.
However, it is not enough to open up the conversation. We have to actively care for it. And it isn’t just about sharing your own experiences or listening to others’ experiences. It’s about taking a look at your own habits, your mind diets, your thoughts…
I’ve realised that most people only really care about their mental health when they start to suffer because of it. Only when they start having anxiety attacks, or when they get triggered, or when depression sets in… It doesn’t have to come to that… it shouldn’t have to. Preventive medicine is the best kind of medicine.
So, share, talk, seek help. Please do. But also, on a daily basis, meditate, exercise, make sure you get enough sleep, find ways to destress, eat healthy food, connect with others… Do everything you do with mindfulness. Care for yourself. No one else will if you don’t. (I am saying this to myself as much as I am saying this to you, I too need to prioritises my health – mental, emotional, physical)
And if something has happened to you, or if something is happening to you right now, I send you lots of light and love with these words. You are a brave soul, your heart is courageous to be braving this world. And you are not alone, even if you think you are. You are not crazy. You are not mad. You are not a bad person. You are not a misfit. You are not sick. You are not weird, or strange, or too different. You are none of these things.
You are a perfect soul. And don’t let anything or anyone convince you to feel otherwise.
And do reach out. Even if you feel ashamed or worried about what others might think… I can assure you, there is someone who understands, there is someone who has been there too, and there is someone who can help. Write it, cry it, say it, feel it. You are not alone. No one really is. Because ultimately, We Are All One.
I feel extra happy that I was able to behold Millais’ painting today. It reminded me of what I have been through, of what I’ve learned, of how much I’ve grown, and of what’s important. It made me happy to be alive. I wish Ophelia was too, but her flowers and songs will forever remind us of what was in her heart.
Thank you, Shakespeare. Thank you, John Everett Millais. Thank you, Ophelia, may your flowers speak forever for you.
Shakespeare, William. Hamlet, edited by Ann Thompson and Neil Taylor, Bloomsbury Arden Shakespeare, 2006.
John Everett Millais. Ophelia. 1851-2. Tate Britain, London.
I recently spent a few days in Dorset, in the south of England. I had never visited it before and I cannot think now why… It is so beautiful and it is definitely underrated. It seems to me that whenever people think of nice beaches or coasts, they all mention places like Spain, France, Italy (if talking about Europe), the Caribbean islands, my own dear Mexico, Hawaii, etc. Nobody really mentions England as a place where beaches and coasts are worth visiting. I too never thought they could be so beautiful.
But now I can say that the Jurassic Coast is definitely worth a visit, several in fact. I would love to visit again sometime and wander through the many towns, beaches, and paths, just admiring the view, feeling the ancientness of the place. As you walk in the Jurassic Coast, especially in places like Durdle Door, you can feel the waves of history that are stored in the memory of the place, in the rocks, in the cliffs, in the very grains of sand, and the seawater.
Durdle Door has now become one of my favourite sites in England. It is simply magical. No other way to describe it.
To visit Dorset, we chose Weymouth as our base, a small town by the seaside (just 3h 45m by bus from London). I am glad of that choice, I found Weymouth to be enchanting. It was quiet and calm, perfect for a brief escape from busy London. The weather was good, it was windy but not too cold. It was only cloudy one of the days but the rest there was gorgeous sunny weather and the occasional fat clouds that look ready to be painted with oil on canvas.
Plus, we stayed in a cute inn called The Tides Inn. I had always wanted to stay in an inn. Something about them makes me feel like I am in a book. Also, having the pub downstairs can be fun, not only for the cider or the Pimm’s but because you get to watch people and weave stories out of them.
To get to Durdle Door from Weymouth, we took the bus (X54) which is £4.50 (single) to Durdle Door. The bus ride (30 min approx) was full of wonderful views of Weymouth Bay and the countryside of Dorset with its bright green fields, its tall trees, horses, cows, and sheep. (I do love a good countryside view).
We got off at Lulworth Cove which is also worth visiting. There are pubs, inns, and stores about to take a break. The water is a breathtaking deep blue I didn’t know existed in English waters. It is wonderful and on sunny days, it is perfect for a swim.
From there to Durdle Door is a short climb/walk that is worth doing because of the views and the good exercise your body gets out of it. While I was walking along that path towards Durdle Door, my mind got quiet (finally). It is almost a meditation to walk on those cliffs. The wind and the ocean overpowered my mind chatter and I could finally rest in all that beauty. The contrast between the green of the countryside, the white cliffs, and the deep blue ocean is beautifully striking. Taking photos almost seems futile because no matter how good the camera or the angle, it feels like no photo will ever do justice to the beauty before your eyes.
I still tried.
But more than pictures to remember the place, I think it is always better when I close my eyes and through memory, I go back to that moment, and I feel the wind, and I see the sun sparkling on the surface of the ocean, and I hear the waves crashing on the cliffs. I can almost breathe it in, all that beauty that makes you happy to be alive.
And then when we finally reached Durdle Door, I smiled in awe and pure joy. Durdle Door is a natural limestone archway that is one of the most iconic landscapes of the Jurassic Coast which (thank God!) is a World Heritage Site and therefore cannot be touched. Durdle Door reminded me of el Arco de Cabo San Lucas in Baja California, Mexico. Though el Arco is just as beautiful as Durdle Door, I started thinking about the difference in names, and how much I love that this particular limestone arch is called a Door.
Names are important, and there is a difference between being an Arch and a Door. A door opens. A door allows you to enter somewhere else, something else, sometime else. The fact that this place in the Jurassic Coast which houses millions of years of geological history is called a door makes it twice as significant. It is then a great place to visit not only when you want to visit a place of historical and cultural importance or to bask in the beauty of it, but it is also the perfect place to go to when you want to go through a door (a metaphorical door in this case) towards something new, something else. That’s what I felt when I was there. I felt like that place was helping me go through the door.
Doors can be scary sometimes, especially if you don’t know what is on the other side. Sometimes we hold on too much to the past, not because it is the best, but because at least it’s known. If the past was good, we hold on to it in a futile attempt to keep what must flow. To let go has been one of the biggest struggles of my life, time and time again. And because of this, I believe doors help. They are ways out and ways in, they are full of possibility, they symbolise freedom, hope, and courage, for it takes courage to go through them.
Sometimes doors can be frustrating though, especially doors that just won’t open no matter how hard or constantly we knock, or pull, or push. Still, I believe we should always knock at least once or twice. Even try to push or pull or turn the doorknob a little bit. If it won’t budge, then you know, it is not your door, it is not your way, and that is fine. It is more than fine, it is good because it means there’s a better door for you. I believe the Universe/God/Goddess/Love/Light/Soul (call it what you will) loves us. It never takes away from us what mustn’t go. Even if we can’t understand it, even if at first we can’t accept it. Though I know that the longer it takes us to accept it, the more it will hurt. Doors and walking through them help in accepting that what is past is past, but that there is always something else coming, something new. And I believe that what C.S. Lewis said was true: “There are far, far better things ahead than any we leave behind”.
Walking through a door shows courage and more than that, it shows trust. Trust in life, trust in you, trust in everything. It shows belief, faith, and strength for it makes you realise that you are willing to move on, to let go, to keep moving forward with life, to step into the unknown, into the new, into the Now.
Durdle Door helped me walked through my door, into the next chapter of my life. I have yet to discover what it is called but I don’t mind the uncertainty so much now, nor the unknown. I embrace it, it excites me, it scares me too but I know I have the strength and the courage as we all do, to face whatever comes next.
If you ever go to Durdle Door, if you feel the place calling for your presence, make it a conscious visit and with willingness and soulful awareness walk through the door.
A few days ago, I woke up thinking “Today I need more Yang”.
I was out of balance. I felt too emotional, too sensitive. I no longer label that as bad, or wrong. I have worked hard to realise and accept that feeling emotional and being sensitive is good, that it is a strength, not a weakness. I know that, I accept that and honour it. But I needed to come back to my centre. As much as I love being emotional and sensitive. I also want to feel strong, centred, resilient, and powerful. Those qualities reside in me also and I’ve had opportunities to show them time and time again. I needed them right then. I needed more Yang to rebalance my Yin.
The Ancient Chinese concept of Yin-Yang shows a Whole made of two opposites that instead of fighting against one another, complement each other. Many people have associated these opposites with moral values of good and bad. However, neither the Yin nor the Yang is inherently good or bad energy. They are just different energies, both are needed for both to exist. Without the Yin, there would be no Yang, and vice-versa. There are so much depth and wisdom to be derived from this Ancient Chinese concept, especially in our current times.
Wherever you look, “opposites” are fighting against each other. Attacking, defending, pushing back, one trying to overpower the other. We forget… without our opposites, we wouldn’t be. We are not here to fight each other, in fact, we all need each other. There must always be Yin in the Yang and Yang in the Yin. If there isn’t, we go out of balance, it becomes too much Yin, or too much Yang. And too much is as unhealthy as too little. The balance of either can only be achieved by raising and working on its opposite.
While the Yin is associated with the internal, with the female energy within ALL of us, with the night, the Moon, the stillness, the cold, the Water, the Earth, the Heart, Spirituality, the Divine, intuition, the Right Brain; The Yang is linked to the external, to the male energy within ALL of us, to the day, the Sun, the Movement & Action, to Fire, the Sky, the Mind, Science, matter, reason, the Left Brain.
Even though yes, the Yin embodies the female energy, and yes, the Yang represents the male energy… Another misconception that has had serious implications is to associate these energies with the construct of gender. This misconception has caused an awful divide between men and women categories, and disregarded everyone outside of these boxes. It also has made it so that, historically, men, have been supposed to be action-focused, externally-based, energetic, analytical, determined, disciplined, authoritarian, dominant, strong, all mind no heart because they were bullied into giving up their intuition, their flexibility, their fluidity, their emotion, their internal world, their stillness, their calm, their creativity, their female energy which is part of EVERYONE and which is also our basic right, the Yin. And without their Yin, men’s Yang went out of balance, and in its unhealthy state, too much Yang becomes aggressiveness, fury, anxiousness, brutality, violence, addiction, restlessness, hate…
Women, on the other hand, were allowed their intuition, their sensitivity, being in touch with their emotions as long as they weren’t unbridled because then it was called hysteria or madness, they were allowed to come from the heart but were disregarded as inferior minds. We were allowed our Yin but not our Yang and it is because of that that our Yin ended up overflowing… our emotions raged inside us, our whole beings begged for balance, for our lost Yang… and what do we all do when we are suppressing or repressing one of these energies within us?
We try to search for it outside of us.
So men… with repressed Yin and overflowing Yang… search for women with overflowing Yin and suppressed Yang. This is an unconscious attempt to find balance. This is the typical “macho man” with the submissive woman. But of course, too much Yang in someone, or too much Yin ends up being unhealthy, toxic, and not-functional. That is why we have toxic masculinity (too much Yang, out of balance, in need of Yin) but we also have a trampled Yin that overflows into depression, over-sensitivity, over-emotionality, drama, and doesn’t find structure and cannot function either. We sometimes try to rebalance ourselves unconsciously finding a partner that seems to embody the energy we need. The problem is that when we are too much of either, the moment we get the other energy, it will also be too much, out balance, and unhealthy.
So people who have too much Yang and are therefore aggressive, controlling, dominant, authoritarian, despondent, condescending, arrogant, when they tap into Yin they switch to Yin’s unhealthy, overflowing state so they become emotionally manipulative, dramatic, depressed, hurtful, clingy, needy, etc… Also, people with too much Yin, when they switch into Yang, they get the Yang in its unbalanced state too and they become aggressive, anxious, vindictive, violent… etc.
Or for example, this is very typical… a man who has a very present Yin, because historically and socially the Yin has been repressed in everyone but especially in men… Men who have a very active Yin are afraid of it and use their Yang to beat their Yin out of themselves, or target people who embody Yin energy more clearly, for example, women. This is the reason behind misogyny, gynophobia, transphobia, homophobia. This is also the reason why some people cheat on their partners, drink, bully, fight… Those people try to get more Yang, but because they do so unconsciously they end up using Yang in its unbalanced and toxic state and with that they try to further repress their Yin, to get rid of it. If they would only embrace their Yin instead and balance it with healthy Yang… the world would be a very different place.
Too much or too little of either is not healthy. We need both. And most importantly we need to understand we ARE both. Sometimes we think we are only one part of the whole, that we are the part that has the Yin with a bit of Yang and that someone else who will complement us or rather “complete us” will be the Yang that has a little bit of Yin, or vice-versa.
This is not true. It is unhelpful, unhealthy, and it keeps us dependent on another external source to become balanced, functional, fulfilled, structured, and whole.
We ARE the Whole, we ARE the Yin AND the Yang. All OF US.
Both of these energies are intrinsic parts of us, and we need both to be centred, balanced, and healthy. We are entitled to both, we deserve both, all of us, regardless of our gender identity, our appearance, our genitalia, our hormones, our bodies… ALL OF US ARE BOTH.
But because we are led to believe that we do not have one of these, or even that we are not entitled to one or deserving of one, or simply not allowed to have one of these… we go through life oscillating between both energies in their unbalanced state, going through toxic and codependent relationships with others, and making unconscious choices that cause us to lose out on a lot of life’s opportunities and happiness. This is also why we say “opposites attract” when we refer to someone who seems to be with another one who is very different from them. That relationship is an attempt to reconnect with that part of you that is lost, that you need, not necessarily with another person but with yourself. And this is why many relationships fail because there is no integration of these parts of the self, but rather co-dependency on others to provide the energies we need in order to become balanced which ultimately never works unless we find both energies in ourselves and embrace them, heal them and restore them to the centre.
I realised that to stop your Yin from overflowing, you have to add Yang. And to stop Yang from overflowing you have to add Yin. But not go to the unhealthy state… do this CONSCIOUSLY so you can use the energy you need in its healthy state to balance the other and restore it to the centre.
So I had been feeling out of balance. My Yin was overflowing, my Yang was nowhere to be found. I needed to help my Yin come back to the centre, I needed to help it heal and I instinctively knew I needed Yang to help my Yin. However, as I realised all this about the Yin and the Yang within me, for the first time, I resisted the impulse to go looking for my Yang outside of myself. Instead I made a little experiment. So a few days ago I decided: Today I am going to be Yang. All day.
I wrote all the characteristics I associate with Yang in its healthy, balanced state and sought to embody them for a whole day. My list went something like this: Strength, determination, assertiveness, action, ambition, spontaneity, adventure, excitement, courage, protection, discipline, confidence, productivity…
That day I engaged in all kinds of activities that would wake up and sustain my dormant Yang energy within me and gave me opportunity to embody these qualities:
I woke up early, took a cold shower, put on working trousers, and shoes (I usually have just been wearing leggings and flip-flops during this lockdown), I tied my hair (I usually love it free and flowing), I power walked to the supermarket, looking straight ahead without ever stopping. I did not say sorry like I usually do when someone allows me to pass first (why do I usually say sorry for that? I wondered afterward), I just nodded and said thanks. I was surprised that my voice even sounded stronger, firmer, lower. I looked at my finances that day, paid all my credit cards, figured out my budget, worked with numbers, I got work done too. When it was time to do exercise instead of doing yoga or pilates like I usually do, I chose something that helped me develop my strength so I did body pump, lifted weights, worked on my core. I went outside to explore the countryside and took new paths that I hadn’t even seen before.
By the end of my day, embodying Yang, I felt so good… so centred, so balanced, so strong. When I relaxed in the evening, I tapped into my Yin consciously again and I no longer felt over-sensitive. I did Yin-like things: I wrote, I took a bath, I did a bit of stretching and looked into my feelings. I felt surprisingly at ease. For days I had been crying, I had been feeling depleted, lonely, and sad. Now I still felt sadness because of recent events in my life but it was not overpowering. I cried, careful not to repress my feelings… but just two tears rolled down my cheeks and I found that I didn’t need more. I felt at peace. My Yang had helped my Yin. And it had been my Yin, my intuition, that had allowed me to find my Yang by telling me all this and creating this experiment, in the first place. It is just so wonderful to see that we have all this power of balance within us. We always did, but now that I know it and I can use it CONSCIOUSLY… I feel so… grateful, so relieved. I feel grateful that I am not only Yin, I am grateful that I can be Yang. And I am grateful to know that everyone is BOTH. If we understood this, truly… everything would change… gender roles and binaries, misogyny, gynophobia, toxic masculinity, homophobia, transphobia… all those fears would transmute into understanding, freedom, compassion, joy, and celebration of the wholeness in difference. I believe that we are moving (slowly) but surely towards that… and may the YIN-YANG within ALL of us help us on our way.
I found this later on the internet. I find it helpful to make my own list but if anyone wants to tap more into their Yin or their Yang, here is a quick useful list.
May you stay WHOLE always and may you use your Yang to heal your Yin and your Yin to rebalance your Yang.
Nowadays, privilege is a word we hear in many contexts. There are so many privileges people can have: the colour of your skin can bring you privilege, your social status, your income, your place of origin, your passport, your visa status, your language, your accent, your facial features, your gender identity, your sexual orientation, your body, your family background, your health, your religion, your education…
I used to get defensive when I heard variations of “Check Your Privilege”. When people have thrown this at me with resentment in their voice, I couldn’t help but feel a bit attacked. I used to get upset by it. After all, I can’t even control or take credit for some of my privileges. Still, I used to try to excuse myself: “I didn’t choose this skin”, “It’s not even my money, it’s my parents’! I had nothing to do with it!”, “Hey! I worked hard for my education!”… All I really wanted to say was: “It’s not my fault!”
It took me a few years to realise that it is not really about “fault” and that denying my privilege wasn’t helping anyone.
As I grew up I learned of the many ways I myself are oppressed… because I am a woman; because how “white” I am depends on where I am in the world; because while in Europe “I am not-so-brown for a Mexican woman but definitely someone of colour”, in my own country I am “a whitexican (White Mexican)” and hence, part of the privileged sector in Mexico; because I speak “good English for a ‘Hispanic’” (whatever that word means); because it is impressive that I can travel to other countries and be so educated for “someone from a Third World country”, and other things people have said to me.
Then I learned the names of the structures and systems in place that shape/shaped our world and which have set the social hierarchy that gives privileges to some at the expense of others: Patriarchy, Colonialism, Imperialism, Neocolonialism, Structural Racism, Heteronormativity, Capitalism… just to name a few.
Learning these names and what they mean gave me insight into how the world perceived me and how my identities intersect and give me a place in the world in the eyes of others.
I understand now why the people who told me to check my privilege sounded so resentful. And I must admit, I was afraid of their resentment. I kept arguing because I wanted them to know that I wasn’t their enemy. That is why I kept making excuses for my privileges and even tried to convince them that life had also been hard/difficult/unfair to me. It came to a point where other people and I even engaged in the Who-Is-Less-Privileged Game as if it were a competition to see who is more wretched than who and therefore deserves more… What? … Praise? Credit? We didn’t even know what we were fighting for.
Now a wonderful word comes to mind: Empathy.
We all need Empathy. Empathy is Key. So are Kindness, Understanding, Open-Mindedness, and Compassion.
I realised that I didn’t want to engage anymore in the Who-Is-Less-Privileged game, its podium wasn’t one I wanted to be on and, moreover, the competition was too great… There is always going to be someone less privileged than I, there is always going to be someone more privileged than I.My complex intersectional identity has made me face both wonderful and difficult situations throughout my life and I thank it for I have grown from these challenges.
I don’t shrink back from “Check Your Privilege” anymore. I have realised that when people point out your privilege they are not saying that you haven’t worked hard or faced difficulties before, it just means that some parts of your identity (maybe your whiteness, maybe your heterosexuality, maybe you being male, maybe your nationality, etc) is not a factor for which you will be oppressed or discriminated. What helps now is to shift our perspectives from feeling guilty for what we have to feeling grateful for our affluence.
The problem with some privileges though is that they often come at the expense of others because when creating the ONE as the norm, the OTHER suffers. If we find ourselves in the position of the ONE, the best thing we can do is not to bring ourselves down but to raise others up, to make it so that they are not THE OTHERs at all, to USE our privilege to bring attention to what needs to change in order to live in an equal world, to listen to other people, to stand with them, to pass them the microphone. Yes, the resentment in some voices may still be there. Just know that feeling guilty won’t help nor will it help to cancel them for their resentment. Reproaching others for their privilege doesn’t help either but making them aware of it will.
Nevertheless, no matter how careful we are sometimes in these talks and debates and exchanges… people can still be offended or feel attacked, walls come up, defensiveness kicks in… Survival mode. Every man for himself. We must strive to change this, we must if we want to live in a better world! If someone says something that moves you, that makes you react first just… Breathe. Rather than engaging in what can become an argument try to listen, hear their perspective. Don’t take it personally, a lot of people talk from their pain. We must strive to put our ego aside and just listen rather than defend.
Know that if someone is reproaching you, insulting you, or verbally attacking you, it’s a sign that they are hurting. And for some reason when humans are hurt… they tend to hurt other humans… as if that would lessen their own hurt… but it doesn’t. We all need to remember that the next time we want to hurt as we have been hurt. When that instinct kicks in just… Breathe into it. Breathe into your pain, it will help lessen its sting.
And if we want to change the world for the better we have to be willing to listen to those whose voices have not been heard before. All the riots… they are screams, pleas to be heard… Maybe if we listened, they wouldn’t have to shout so loud.
And if we truly want to help we must muster all our empathy, all our kindness, all our open-mindedness, all our courage, and bravery to listen to others but also to look inside, to check our privilege, to acknowledge it, to see what behaviors, attitudes, ideas within ourselves do not serve to create a kinder world, and to care enough to change them. More than anything, what could heal us most of all is to realise the Oneness of us all. Oneness doesn’t mean we are the same because, in truth, we are all different, but it just means that spiritually, energetically, soulfully We Are All One, we are all divinity expressed in different individuations. We have all been in each other’s shoes before, we have all been everyone. There are no victims and villains, we are all here just trying to wake each other up and to evolve. We are all mirrors of each other and what we give to others we give to ourselves because there is really only one of us. So let’s give each other Understanding, Empathy, Compassion, Solidarity, Kindness, Help, Love… And watch the world change.
What the COVID-19 virus has helped in making more evident than any other event that we have had in the last centuries is that WE ARE ALL ONE.
This sentence which I have heard from different spiritual leaders, religions, philosophies, literatures, is more evident now than ever.
For the first time, it is clear that we are all indeed one and that what affects one of us, eventually, affects all of us.
The rapidity with which this virus spreads has now made it a global pandemic which now ails all of the globe. The fact that it can cause death for vulnerable people causes concern and those people are whom we stay home for, because we all know somebody who could be seriously affected by the virus: maybe our grandma whom we love so much, maybe our friend with asthma, or maybe our teacher who is a single mother and has to take care of her kid so cannot afford to get sick. We all have someone we care for, someone we are worried about. Then there are those people that worry us not particularly for physical health issues but for their mental health and wellbeing in general. I think of my friends from university, most of them shut up in tiny rooms in student residence halls, with not enough space to even have a good, long stretch. I think of my friends who live alone and do not even have cats or dogs they can hug just so they can feel another body warm and alive. I think about every person, such as myself, who has gone without a hug for more than a month, let alone a hug, not even a high five. I think of all the people who are separated from their families by oceans, borders, and closed airports. And then I think of the ones that I do not want to think about, the people that are sick, self-isolating in their homes and I wonder if they have enough strength to cook a hot, comforting soup for themselves. I try to send them good energy with my thoughts, to tell them to push through, they can do this. And the ones at hospitals… I don’t even want to imagine what they are going through. But worst of all, the unthinkables, are the bereaved ones. The ones who have actually lost someone because of this virus and couldn’t even say goodbye, couldn’t even hold hands, or hug, or kiss for the last time.
It all seems surreal. Part of me wonders if it is all truly happening or if maybe we all jumped down the rabbit hole together. I have gone down the rabbit hole by myself before, but the difference now is that we did it together. Together. All of us.
Consensual reality is now madness. Global pandemic. A collective psychotic episode. I wonder, when will we wake up?
And here is where my broody, glum thoughts stop. And I feel a small shy smile start to form at the corner of my lips. I guess we are… waking up, I mean. This global pandemic, this virus, this shadow is forcing us to become light. It is the setting, the background, the context, the darkness, in which we can become stars instead of planets. Instead of being rocks floating in the universe, we can become suns, sources of light. Do you know how stars are born? They are created when their elements are under enough pressure to undergo fusion. Same way with diamonds, graphite needs to be heated and compressed in order to turn into diamonds.
COVID-19 is definitely a source of pressure, it is our wrench, the darkness against which we can shine. Like every other “bad” thing that ever happened to us, it is a blessing in disguise.
I know, I know, whenever I use this phrase, I always get a few eye-rolls. I would do the same if every “bad” event in my life had not shown me after many dark nights, tears, pain, and fear, that this is in fact true.
The worst things that have ever happened to me, with time and a looooot of growth on my part, have turned out to be the best things in my life. Things from deaths of loved ones, to illnesses, to heartbreaks, to failures, to all of life’s frustrations… all of them have shaped me, made me who I am, and each time one of them comes along, another “bad” event, (I call them alarm clocks, because they wake me up, a little bit more, every time), I become stronger, kinder, wiser, more empathetic, more understanding, and more loving than before.
This virus is no different. The only difference now is that it is an alarm clock for everyone, everywhere.
I remember when it was only in China. We mostly thought, Oh my god, that sounds awful, I hope they will be able to solve it soon, and then we went on with our days. It wasn’t until it affected us, personally, or our loved ones that we started giving it a second thought. We think of ourselves as separate from each other, us and them, always the one against the other and never the twain shall meet. How much damage has that thought done in the world? If you think about it, all human conflicts have stemmed from this exact idea of separateness at an individual level or on a global level. Every war is fought on the basis of separateness. It is truly madness. And yet, it is very hard to think of each other as one because we are used to thinking that to be all one means to be “one and the same” and we are definitely not all the same, we all are wonderfully different from each other, we are all walking worlds that often share common aspects. I believe our differences enrich this world, they should be a cause for celebration, not division, not discrimination, not segregation, not separation.
We are definitely not the same, but that doesn’t mean we are not one. I believe all life is one, we are all part of each other, just in different individuations. I see this clearly when I look at a toddler running around and I feel this flowering feeling in my chest, or when I hear a babbling brook, or see a tree shaking its leaves aided by the wind, I feel this when a stranger is kind to me, when a friend from the other side of the world lets me know I am not alone, I feel this when I with all the neighbors go out to clap into the streets for the many people who are working to save lives in this pandemic, I feel this when I look at the stars at night and I remember who I am. I feel this and I call it love.
That’s what we are, ultimately, at the core of our beings, and I can only hope that that is what we chose to be at every moment, with every thought and word we say. And I believe that this pandemic, this virus, will speed us on our way.
“Behold the darkness, yet curse it not. That the moment of your greatest darkness may yet become your grandest gift.” -Neale Donald Walsch
I’ve just come back from watching Avatar: The Way of the Water (2022), the follow-up to James Cameron’s masterpiece, Avatar (2009). I, as I think most people, have been waiting anxiously for this movie for years. I’ve been wanting to see it since it premiered but I only managed to see it today. The truth is that I had been putting it off, cause I knew it wouldn’t be an easy movie to watch, not for me anyway, and I think (I hope) maybe not for other people as well.
To get ready to watch it, my dad and I watched the first movie last night. I love that movie, it is a wonder. I remember when I watched it for the first time at the movies, my eyes basking in all the wonderful images Cameron’s genius gave us. And yet, even though I loved it, I rarely watch it. It is too painful to watch.
It physically hurts having to watch some images, like when the Tree of Souls and the Hometree of the Na’vi are destroyed. I feel pain, anguish and outrage every time I see that. And a huge wave of grief and helplessness surges within me along with repulsion for my own race, at least in its most primitive form: the human who dehumanizes in order to kill, the human that takes and breaks and cuts and plunders, the human who’s insatiable greed and foolish ignorance blind it to what really matters, to what really has value. I know humans in real life are not so one-dimensional, they’re not all good nor all bad. But I get the message of the story. It is a story as old as time, and all the more painful for that. You can find it in fiction, in mythology, and most painful of all, in history books, all over the world. In primary school in Mexico, the history books we read told us of the Conquest of the Spaniards. As we grew up, we learned about how the Spanish came and conquered and took and raped and stole and oppressed… We all know the story, we’ve all felt the pain, and we all still live under the consequences. It took us three centuries to decolonize our country… and we are still in the process of decolonizing our minds, just like most other countries that once were ruled by a foreign empire. And yet it’s no good to point fingers… cause we’ve all been there, we’ve all been the conquered and the conqueror, we’ve all been the native and the alien. We’ve all been there, done that. And the pain remains, I can feel it. Can you? When you watch this movie or movies like this… can you feel the pain? Or you just bask in the art of its special effects, and the beauty of its music score, and in the thrill of the action… in the entertainment? Do you see it as fiction? Or do you recognize it as truth… that has happened… is happening… and if we do not wake up, if we do not change… will happen again and again, here, there… everywhere. Even on other planets (which I really hope not).
Because of all this… I was afraid to watch this new Avatar movie.
Since I was very young I became a bookworm, an avid reader devouring one book after another. My parents were always in awe of my reactions to books. When I read I have such strong bodily and emotional reactions. I have cried, I have screamed, I have laughed, I have even vomited once… because of the books that have passed through my hands and imprinted their words in my heart. For me reading is witnessing life… all of it. And I do not know another way to read than with an open heart… so I feel… everything: the joy, the pain, the sorrow, the beauty, the love, the hope, the fear, the bliss… I feel it all. For me stories are not just stories, they are truth; they are life… They do not happen to someone else, to someone who does not exist… they happen to us, they are about us. I feel them with all my being and I listen with all my heart. This is why I am careful about what I read and watch… I cannot take in too much at once. That’s why I usually avoid violent movies/books or horror films. I don’t like to put myself through that.
Both Avatar movies are pretty violent and brutal. But it’s a kind of violence that has a purpose. I hate when violence is used for mere entertainment, but even though many will find the violence in the Avatar movies entertaining… the violence is there to cause an effect on the audience. It is not gratuitous. That’s the kind of violence I can bear cause it’s there to shake us, to wake us up, to remind us of what we’ve done, of what we are capable of, of what we can do to avoid repeating the same old stories that cause so much pain and kill our world.
I wasn’t wrong about this new Avatar movie. It shook me. Even more than the first one. It’s also more violent and definitely action-packed. A friend of mine wrote to me a few days ago to tell me that he loved the new Avatar movie, that it was so good! I didn’t doubt he was right. I trusted James Cameron to make yet another masterpiece and because this one was set in the ocean I knew that, at least for me, it would be even more breathtaking than the first one. I love the forest but my heart lies with the sea, with the water, with the ocean. It’s home for me. I couldn’t wait to watch and explore Pandora’s ocean in 3D. And yet, I was right to wait a little to prepare myself… cause despite its visual beauty… this movie definitely wasn’t easy to watch.
Here come the spoilers, so if you haven’t watched the movie, stop reading now and go watch it. It’s worth it.
As expected, the humans or Sky People as the Na’vi call them, return to Pandora intending to colonize it (big sigh of disappointment). Also, the big bad coronel of the first movie comes back in this sequel in an avatar body in search of Jake Sully.
Jake and Neytiri have four children by this time and Jake’s main goal is to protect his family rather than fight the humans. In this movie, Jake is way more vulnerable and scared. He’s got a lot to lose, after all. This time when war comes knocking at his door… he chooses flight rather than fight.
They leave the Omaticaya, the Forest People, and go to the Sea People, the Metkayina, seeking refuge. They are allowed to stay and the Sully family learn their ways. As they do, the audience gets magical and breathtaking views of Pandora’s ocean. I was simply enthralled. The ocean has always felt like heaven to me, so watching those images of that pure clear water full of Pandora’s wonders was such a gift.
I am in awe of what amazing things filmmakers can do nowadays and I am grateful. Those were the parts I enjoyed immensely in this movie. I’m sure many others did too.
And as I watch Kiri (Jake and Neytiri’s adopted daughter whose real mom is Grace and whose father is unknown) connect with nature and Pandora’s deity, Eywa, I realized something. Just like the violence in these movies is not gratuitous neither are all the scenes we get of the Na’vi connecting and communing with nature. It is meant to make us feel that connection, to remember it… I believe we all still feel it deep in our bones.
Watching the Na’vi physically bond with nature has the power to remind us of the same connection that lives in all of us as organic beings. It may be dormant, but it’s there, and I’m sure that as we watched this on the big screen, it wasn’t only me who was remembering how that feels like… to become one with the world around you, to merge with Nature.
I have felt that connection many times in my life: when my heartbeat slows down and my mind quiets… when I am hugging a tree, feeling its presence, its strength and solidity that feels so reassuring under my palms and next to my cheek. I have felt it as I am free diving in the ocean and I reach the sand floor, I turn and look up to the surface meters above me… the light of the sun playing through the water, reaching me and beckoning me to the surface. I have felt it as I slightly float to the surface carried by the water, propelled by the air in my lungs that stretches the closer I get to the surface. I have felt that oneness with life, with divinity, when I am floating on the surface of the ocean and I close my eyes and I let go and I trust that it’s there with me, protecting me (It being whatever you want to call it… Life, the Universe, God, Goddess, doesn’t matter). When I’m in the ocean I’m never afraid of what is beneath me in the water nor am I afraid that the ocean would hurt me… I know it can, I respect it but I also trust it. When I am there floating in its immensity I feel cradled, like a baby in the arms of a loving mother. And I sigh in relief cause I feel it there with me and within me that Oneness, that Divine Energy, it’s all around me. I cherish those moments and I always come back to them when I need strength and courage and peace. That’s the kind of moment the Avatar films remind me of when I see the Na’vi communing with Nature, with Eywa. I hope other people feel it too, I am sure they do… cause it’s in all of us, to be alive is to be One with All That Is. So we cannot miss it… those beautiful moments in the Avatar movies are just gentle nudges and reminders of what it is to be Connected and in Oneness. They are there to move us, to touch us… to make us remember that we are not separate from our world, that we are one with the world and that if we hurt it… we are only hurting ourselves. We need reminding of that more often than we should, cause we keep forgetting, hence all the pollution and wars and crimes against Nature. It’s madness. And it’s clear that it’s only hurting ourselves and yet… we still do it.
Just like in this movie, despite the beautiful images and treasured moments of connection… we cannot escape the pain and carnage that the humans wrecked throughout Pandora. Even in the first scene when they appear, when they arrive back to Pandora, they demolish everything around them, setting fire to the forest, killing animals… and that’s just their arrival. As the movie goes on, it gets worse. One of the most painful moments for me and I hope that for other people too was when they hunt down and kill a tulkun, a Cetacean-looking creature that is peaceful and intelligent. The hunting of the tulkun is so brutal that I couldn’t help to close my eyes for most of it while I cried. I cried because the tulkun on the screen might have been a figment of Cameron’s imagination but as it screamed and wailed and hurt and died… I heard all the whales, dolphins, and all sorts of marine creatures screaming and wailing with it. This is no fiction and it’s probably happening even now as I write this in some part of the ocean. I cried cause I felt the pain, the outrage, the helplessness, and the shame of being part of a race that can do such things and worse.
Again, I know that humans are not one-dimensional. We are complex creatures, neither all good nor bad. In both Avatar movies, and especially in this one, most humans are completely dehumanized, they are true villains with no redeeming qualities. They are truly “the bad guys” of the story. And the Na’vi, the aliens, the ones that should look foreign to us as a human audience… are the heroes and we sympathise with them. We are on their side, even though as humans ourselves, throughout the movie we are all rooting for the Na’vi to win. That’s what stories do: through perspective and story they can guide the reader or the viewer to side with one character or another, to choose sides, to empathize, to put ourselves in their shoes… that’s why stories are so powerful and that’s why we need stories like this:postcolonial rewritings that tell the other side of the victor’s story, that are not about epic conquest and mighty wars fought for long-dead kings, but stories that detail the horror, the wreckage, the grief and sorrow that wars leave behind. Stories that put a mirror in front of us and ask us: is this what we are? is this who we want to be still?
The Na’vi stand for all those colonized peoples, my ancestors included. The Sky People stand for the imperialist, colonizers, and conquerors… We all know the stories. And we’ve heard both sides of the argument. “Oh, but we brought good things too”, say my European friends, “we helped those civilizations advance quicker than they would have on their own. They were worse off before we came… fighting amongst each other, doing human sacrifices and whatnot… No, no… we helped more than we hurt.” I’ve heard this a hundred times from different mouths of friends and strangers alike. I do not respond. I do not know how to. If I could balance it all on a great huge scale… the pros and cons of imperialism and colonization for colonized countries… if I could see it all in one great tapestry and somehow weigh it and determine… was it more the good than the bad? Would we have been better off if the Spanish had never come? Where would we be? What would we look like? Would I have even been born? After all, I am a mestiza, a mixed race, of European and Mesoamerican descent. I am a mixture of both worlds, I am both. I wouldn’t be me or look like me if they hadn’t come. Should I be grateful for it then? Cause, after all, my existence is the product of it all. Who knows? I cannot say. I will not say. It doesn’t matter because it’s done. The past is the past, it happened, and we are living with its effects. There are so many consequences to those events that people still live today, beneficial consequences as well as detrimental. I try to focus on the good and not resent the bad so much because I feel I would only be resenting myself, after all, the blood of our conquerors races through my veins too.
Then why… why does it hurt so much to watch these movies? Why did I spend most of the movie crying silently next to my dad whose voice also broke a little when he said: “No, not the kids. You don’t mess with the kids.” But in wars, kids get killed as well.
I sat there hearing the gunshots and the cries and the wailing coming from different speakers, all around me. It was a bit too much for me. I closed my eyes, I could hear my heart pounding and my fists were clenched as I thought to myself “no, I cannot take this anymore, not again.” I opened my eyes at that last remark and I remembered a memory that I try to never bring to the surface of my mind, it’s too painful and too strange for me to hold it as my own. But still, it’s there and it gives me an explanation so as to why I have such strong emotional and bodily reactions to these images and kinds of movies, even though it’s a wild and probably crazy explanation. Yet after I left the cinema I was shaking, I had to stop in the middle of the mall to take some air so as to stop the anxiety raising within me. I wish I could be like other people, who see a movie and feel things and are entertained and then go on with their lives as if nothing had happened. I wish I didn’t feel so much sometimes. Because after I left the cinema, the pain stayed with me for hours, and it’s here even now as I write this… it is exactly why I am writing this. This is my way to let it out.
I am going to be honest: I believe in most things since I was a child. It’s hard for me not to. It’s easier for me to believe than not to believe. So, if you are not a believer, or if you are one of those people who only believe in what they see, well, think of this as fiction then and be entertained. I envy you a little. I think sometimes my life might be easier if I didn’t believe and felt so much… but alas, this is who I am, and who I’ve always been so… here it goes:
I believe in past lives since I was a little kid. I remember once when I was very little I saw a dog being pulled from the leash harshly by her owner. I remember taking my hand to my neck and saying out loud as I winced: “That feels awful!“, “What, sweetie?” my mom asked; I pointed to the dog who was still being pulled by its neck. My father chuckled: “How do you know how it feels?“, “Because I remember,” was all I said. My parents looked at each other quizzically, but then they smiled and shrugged. They always knew I was a strange kid, they never made any mean comments or asked me to be normal (those were my other relative’s jobs haha). My parents always loved me for my weirdness and for who I am. It was such a relief not to have to explain myself, and having their total acceptance and unconditional love has allowed me to be myself always, unapologetically and lovingly. Now, I don’t know for sure if I was a dog in a past life or not, I suspect so, but it doesn’t even matter. I just know how it feels to be pulled by the neck by that, I remember that painful sensation. How? Who knows? It doesn’t really matter to me. I don’t care much about the science or the logistics behind reincarnation. I don’t need explanations to believe… I just do. That’s how I’ve always been.
My sister knows it, too. When we were little I used to tell her that I had been burned as a witch once. She never paid my comments much mind and she never questioned me. Like my parents, she loves me for who I am and doesn’t need me to explain myself. She just lets me be. But she did get a little freaked out when a friend of hers who didn’t know me and stated was a psychic told her that her sister (that being me) had been a witch and burnt as one in a past life. I remember she came into my room that night and told me what her friend had said. I was sleepy and all I managed to say was: I told you so, and went back to sleep. Nevertheless, for me, saying I had been a dog or a witch was like a game, I had feelings and dreams that felt like memories but I didn’t like to dwell too much on them. The truth is that because I believe in a lot of things I am wary of many things too, I don’t like to go too deep into mysticism or things like that… it scares me cause it feels real… so I try to stay clear of that… my only constant doors to other dimensions and realms have been books. The covers of books are the only doorways I am willing to open into other worlds. No psychedelics for me thank you, no drugs of any kind, no mushrooms, no visits to the local chamanas… Only libraries and bookshops and movies for me thank you, that’s enough. And pen and paper. Writing is a doorway I was willing to use as well… until something happened to me a few years ago that thrust me into Wonderland without a warning. Suddenly, all the things that used to be part of books, made of ink and paper, became all too real… and because of that all too scary. That event is so scary that I still don’t dare write about it, maybe one day I will but not today. Suffice it to say that it scared the hell out of me… I ended up in the hospital for weeks, unable to do most things humans should. My recovery took years.
I learned the physical reasons for what happened to me, but there was another dimension to the event that scared me more and that I needed to understand. I decided to search for answers and when science and medicine couldn’t give me those answers… Then I did turn to the shamans and healers for the first time in my life. I had already listened to the doctors and the lab coats, now I needed the other type of healers, the ones that believed. That’s how I ended up befriending an African shaman who to this day remains a dear friend in my heart though he is no longer on this plane. Through our conversations, I learnt so much and he gave me the answers and peace I needed in order to move on with my life. He helped me in many regards and taught me many things… or rather, he helped me remember many things. Among those things was one very painful memory.
We were in his place where he did his readings and rituals, we were talking about healing and how there are some people who’ve come to this world to work as healers. I told him I had always been scared to be a healer, in whatever way. He nodded understandingly. And then he helped me remember a past life I always wished was just a figment of my imagination. But the details were all too real and clear. As I sat there with him, my eyes closed, my palms sweating, I saw a village being set on fire, I saw children and women and men getting killed on the spot, I heard their cries, I felt their pain and their anguish. Then I saw me, or the woman I had been, being tied up, called a “bruja” by the colonizers, though for the people in the village I had been a healer, a medicine woman. I saw that woman, old and wrinkled and proud being tied up and set on fire. I didn’t feel the flames though, my soul left the body before that. I saw all this, heard all this, and felt the pain in my stomach… knowing it had already happened and that I couldn’t change any of it (and no, I hadn’t taken any psychedelics or mushrooms or the like). My friend, the shaman, simply guided me through the memory and comforted me after it was done and I cried. It didn’t matter if it had been real or not, the pain I felt was. It was the same pain I felt as I watched the Avatar movies and it doesn’t matter if that was me in a past life or not… it doesn’t matter if I made it all up in my mind… that pain is a collective pain that has been carried down through generations, it lives in us and it’s in need of healing… even to this day, for the people living in the 21st century. We carry that pain within us, as a collective. We do not need to go to a past life to connect with that pain… it’s still too close. And yet, we repeat it. And if humans found another planet that could hold us… would they not repeat it again? Will this story be a never-ending one, always repeating itself in different settings with different characters in movies and books and real life? I hope not. We better not.
Because we’ve all been there. We’ve all been on all sides of it. In the past life my friend showed me I was the witch that burnt at the stake, I was the woman who couldn’t protect her people and couldn’t fulfil her mission so she had to go back to the same country centuries later to keep healing… that was one life. In another one, I might have been not the witch that burnt but the one who did the burning, not the native whose land is ravished but the conqueror whose greed guides him… I may have yielded the sword and shed the blood… We’ve been both, we’ve been all. We are all because ultimately we are all one, and to hurt each other is to hurt ourselves. There is only one of us in the room, playing different roles. Sometimes we are the villain, sometimes the victim, and sometimes the hero. It would be fun… if not for the pain; because unlike a play where the actors use props or a movie where scenes are shot against a green screen, life feels real and the pain cuts too deep, and the blood is too red, and the grief lasts too long. I don’t want to keep playing this game. I wonder how much longer we will keep it up, how much longer the Matrix will hold… I want us all to wake up together and ascend to a lighter dimension. Hasn’t there been enough pain? I think there has been.More than enough. We could stop it right now if we wanted to hard enough. I hope we do. Soon.
Thank you, James Cameron and everyone involved in making these movies for helping us to remember, for nudging us, for reminding us. I see you.
This year I set my annual goal on Goodreads as usual, however, I must admit that, for the first time in a long time, I spent half of my usual reading time writing instead of reading which has been wonderful. So even though I don’t regret how I’ve spent my time I do have fewer books to review this year than usual.
As always there were a few rereads on my 2022 Read List and many new friends too.
So without further ado, here are my favorite books of 2022 (in no particular order):
Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari
We read this book in the book club I lead “The Wandering Bookclub”, if you would like to join please feel free! We are on Facebook (click here to join the Facebook Group).
I have been wanting to read this for a while and I really enjoyed it. It was quite eye-opening to many facts I didn’t know or didn’t want to know cause they cause me anxiety like when he talks about the meat industry or pollution and global warming. Those chapters made me so anxious I wanted to close the book and leave it on the shelf but one friend once told me that closing my eyes won’t make all the bad things disappear, by closing my eyes I’m just becoming less able to deal with them. He is right. Closing our eyes to our world’s problems is not the solution and to deal with a problem we have to see it first, understand it and face it head-on. So this reading was challenging for me and also immensely enjoyable cause there is so much information about everything! It is a really ambitious project. Harari tried to cover so much that of course he fell short (anyone would have) and there is no great depth to any of the topics he touches on but that’s the only way this book was going to work. A book like this, sold for the general public… It had to stay on the surface level of things or risk losing itself within itself. Nevertheless, at times I wish this book had been a bit more academic and that he would have cited more or given us more references (hey, I am a nerd and a scholar, what did you expect?). But I join the critics who praise this ambitious book and its author. He gave us a glimpse of so many things, enough to pique our interest and he lets us carry on by ourselves. I recommend this book to anyone interested in humankind and our world, which should be really all of us. Enjoy!
Man’s Search for Meaning / El hombre en busca del sentido by Viktor Frankl
This book was inevitable. It has sat on my bookshelf all my life and it’s been calling to me since I was quite young. I would get close to it, I would open it and start and then shut it in terror and flee. I think I knew that I would find something that would shake me to my core and I wanted to put that off since I know what that feels like all too well. But for some reason, this year I finally had the courage to immerse myself in the beauty, depth, and pain of Viktor Frankl’s masterpiece. I started the book, almost absentmindedly, not really giving it much importance. It was just my morning read for one sunny morning while I drank my coffee before starting teaching and then… I couldn’t put it down. I worked that day with my heart pounding and his words and images swirling in my mind. As soon as I finished work I went back to it and I read it all through to the end in one seating. I just couldn’t put it down. I cried (as expected) my heart out. I cried out of joy, pain, sorrow, helplessness, hope, and gratefulness. Frankl has always been in my heart thanks to my parents who both studied Logotherapy. I knew what this book was about… and I’ve lived by his ideas since I was very young, unknowingly. But reading his words with my own eyes and through my own understanding was… It’s hard to explain. I felt like someone in the world understood. I felt like all my life I had been waiting to read those words. Since I was young and a terrible event in my life woke me up, I’ve been living in a certain way that has allowed me to survive brutal awful things in my life… and even though my whole belief system has served its purpose I still sometimes doubt it. Sometimes I think, what if I am wrong? What if truly one day something will happen, even something more awful than the other things and I realize this whole spiritual dimension I’ve created in my life is not enough to get me through it? Sometimes these thoughts keep me up at night. So Dr. Frankl’s words were like a giant, warm, comforting hug. It was as if someone bigger, older, and wiser than me was giving me the reassurance, comfort, and security I needed. It was a huge “You are not alone” that I felt with all the fibers of my being. And of course, if I put into perspective, all the awful things that have happened to me, compare nothing to what he went through. And I measure my life by these things. There are 4 big events in my life that were simply heart-shattering. They broke me to my very core, they fragmented me, they simply killed me and because of that, they gave me a chance to be reborn. And the worst of these things, my number 1 event, is the yardstick, I measure everything else by it. The other 3 events were terrifying, awful and life-altering… but they still don’t reach that number 1 event. And when something happens I measure it against that first event and I ask: is it worse than that? The answer has always been no. And I hope with all my heart it stays that way. With this answer, I have been able to survive all the other things cause I know that if I survived that one event, I can survive any others that are less… catastrophic. But I’ve always lived in fear that something is going to topple that event, that something will happen and will replace that event and I will be at a loss. And I am kidding myself if I think this is not a possibility. I can think of a number of things that would be worse, way worse than that. So, I know… I’m not safe from any sorrow the human world has to offer. And yet, reading A Man’s Search for Meaning gave me the relief and reassurance my mind, my body and my self needed. I have decided to take Dr. Frankl’s experience to heart and to use himand his experience as my yardstick. I think not many things can compare with the horrors of being in a concentration camp and losing all your family, your livelihood, your identity…. I am so sorry that happened and is happening to anyone… and I cannot thank Dr. Frankl enough for sharing his experience cause as I was reading I was feeling it with all my being and the experience was so strong that I take his findings and reflections to heart too. He has become a beacon of hope and light and strength in my life. Whenever I am faced with a situation that feels too big, I think of yes, all my four events, but I think of Viktor as well (I love him so much now that I’ve decided to call him by his first name, sorry not sorry, in my heart, he is a friend). I think of him and what he went through, of all that he says in the book, things I have experienced myself, that resilience, that willingness of your soul to live, to survive, despite awful conditions, despite being at the brink of death, I’ve experienced that as well. I know my shadow and I know the darkest corners of my mind and I’ve also seen my strength and my courage and my greatness of spirit. I know all these things thanks to those 4 big events that have killed me enough to let me see my soul once the ego, the body, and the mind is crushed. I am grateful now for those events cause I would’ve never known the strength and dimension of my soul and the greatness of my being if those events hadn’t put them to the test, hadn’t coerced them out. I hope I never get a test as big as Viktor’s or even worse situations that are happening now as I write this to someone, somewhere. All I know is that Viktor and his words have become a symbol in my life for that undying, unbending, unbreakable, unyielding strength and courage of one’s soul.I believe it is in all of us and in our darkest times it shines through. I am grateful for finally being brave enough to read this and it has become one of those books I keep on my bedroom shelf instead of my library/home office because I always want it close, I never want to forget, and I know that if I ever need reminding, it will be there to shine some light in the darkest times.
Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro
I’ve been meaning to read this for so long but, as The Wandering Boocklub picked it out for our monthly read, I finally did. I cried, which is surprising cause a fiction novel hadn’t been able to make me cry in a while (I know I cried with Frankl but that’s not fiction, that’s real life, it’s way more cry-worthy).
Ishiguro is a master storyteller. I had read a few of his books before and he has never disappointed me. His prose is beautiful and soul-felt. His characters are so multi-dimensional (the ones that matter) and they are profoundly human (even though they are not quite, sorry, spoiler alert!). As most good science fiction books do, Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go poses important philosophical questions to the reader, among those, are the following: What is a human, what makes us human, what is a soul? Does art reveal one’s soul? What is the ethics behind technology and science? Is love enough?
I don’t want to say much about it cause I am afraid of spoiling it. All I will say is that if you want to dive deep into your own humanity and wonder what’s inside of you, what makes us human… you’re in for a treat!
Find Momo: A Photography Book by Andrew Knapp
This year two of my best friends came to visit me in Mexico City and I was the happiest guide tour on Earth. We spent the whole summer exploring and enjoying Mexico City which became even more beautiful to me as I was able to share it with them and observe it anew through their eager eyes. It’s one of my most treasured moments of this year.
I came across this book one day when I took my friends to yet another bookshop because shocker: we are all bookworms and we eat books like they’re chocolates (one more reason why we are all such good friends). So, there we were browsing for hours, each of us lost in the world of books, and I noticed this cute cover of a dog called Momo. First, the name Momo is an immediate eye-catcher for me cause I am a Michael Ende’s fan. My favorite will always be The Neverending Story but Momo is so close to my heart too. Instantly, I wondered if Momo’s human named him that after her. Turns out he did. So I sat there in the bookshop and I read or actually, looked and searched for Momo all throughout its pages until I had reached the end. This photography book is about a fellow wanderer, Andrew Knapp, who travels with his dog, Momo. The pictures are amazing and in each of them, Momo is hiding somewhere. It was a joy to sit there patiently looking closely for a cute black and white spot somewhere behind some trees or under a bridge or in the window, sometimes just a tail mid-wag next to a yellow cool van. Whenever I found Momo I felt a sense of pride and achievement. I must have looked like an idiot, smiling down at the book in my hands, so close to it that my nose was almost touching it (I had forgotten my glasses and my eyesight is a mess), but I didn’t care. I felt so happy. Looking for Momo felt like a meditation for my mind and body. After I finished, I felt relaxed and carefree. My friends came to help too so I cannot take all the credit. But still, it felt good.
So if you fancy, lovely pictures, a challenge, and a cute animal friend to brighten your day, I definitely recommend checking out this book and following Andrew on his Instagram account. Momo has sadly passed away and Andrew shared such a nice IG post about him that I wanted to share here. He wrote this quote that I felt deeply since my own dog, my first dog, my dear beautiful Tano, died this year too.
Grief is praise, because it is the natrual way love honors what it misses.
You can check the post here. And you can follow Andrew on his adventures here.
The Borrowers by Mary Norton
I loved this book! I read it so fast cause it was just so enjoyable.
I read this book while I was in London for my MA graduation (which got pushed back so many years because of covid) so that added to the joy of reading it. I read it on the underground, on the bus, on the train, in my favorite cafes and bookshops, at the library, on a bench in Hyde Park… in all my favorite spots in London.It was a joy to read such. a cute story in a city so close to my heart. It was my first time back in London since I moved back to Mexico after I lived there. I had missed it with all my heart and now I know that when I open The Borrowers again I will be reminded of London every time. Which is one of the reasons The Borrowers also made it to my bedroom shelf. Another reason is just that it is a good, funny, cool story. You might know it from Studio Ghibli’s movie Arriety which I love too, it’s so beautiful and aesthetic. The book is a bit different and I found it funnier and wittier. It got me thinking a lot as well. And every time I enter a new house or room now or in my own apartment for that matter I wonder (and hope) if there might actually be borrowers in the world. I am a believer. I believe in most things so, why not? All I know is that next time something goes missing in my apartment, I’m blaming them haha 🙂
Delightful reading on the London bus
Ariadne by Jennifer Saint
It took me quite a few months to get through this book though I’ve been wanting to read it for a long time. When I searched for it in London it was sold out in most bookshops which is only a statement of this book’s popularity and I join the hype. I really loved this book. I found the writing simple but beautiful and the characters relatable (too relatable) and multi-dimensional. A word of warning: this, as most Greek myths, is a tragic story, so don’t expect a happy ending. But even with the heartbreaking ending, I found light in this book and comfort in the sorority that permeates it. The reason this book took me so long to read it’s not because of any fault of its own.
The real reason this book took me a few months to read is that it wasn’t easy to listen to the words. It’s never easy as a woman to be reminded of the pain we feel and have felt and probably will still feel as women in a world made by and for men. One of the main themes in this novel is the idea that women throughout history (including in freaking literature, fiction and mythology!) have paid the price for men’s actions. Ariadne’s story is a clear and painful example of just that.
I remember the first time I heard of her story was in high school when our Spanish teacher (one of the most wonderful teachers I’ve ever had by the way) split the class into groups and assigned each of the teams a different Greek myth that we were supposed to make a play out of and enact in front of our classmates. The prospect of acting out a Greek myth in front of the class felt mortifying as well as exciting to my teenage self. My team and I got the Minotaur, Theseus and Ariadne’s story. One of my best friends to this day and since high school who was on my team in that class is called Ariadna (the Spanish version of Ariadne’s name) so naturally, the role of Ariadne fell to her. I actually don’t remember what role I played (haha my character was that important! I may have been the narrator but I’m not sure haha). Nevertheless, there is a clear image seared into my brain, and I will never forget it. It was the scene when Ariadne (played wonderfully by my friend Ari) wakes up alone on Naxos after Theseus has abandoned her after she helped him defeat the Minotaur and he promised to take her to Athens with him and marry her. I remember clearly as if it was happening right now. I remember my friend Ari waking up, looking around for her non-hero, screaming for Theseus and her agony as she slowly realized that he wasn’t there. I remember her falling to the ground in utter devastation. That moment has stayed frozen in my mind, not only because of the awesome work my friends did playing their roles but also because I remember aching as I watched Ariadne… Ari, my friend, in pain. I felt it, too. Even though she was just playing a part back then… I’ve seen that pain before and since then in too many friends and on my own countenance as well. That pain felt all too real even then, before I even knew true heartbreak due to a man. Now I know that pain first-hand and reading Saint’s Ariadne was like watching me relive the heartbreak, the pain, the betrayal, the grief, the devastation… It was too much. I had to take it slowly.
That’s the main reason I was so drawn to this book. I’ve read the Classics in university since I am a Literature major and I love them all but this story has stayed with me since I saw my friend Ari playing the part of Ariadne in high school and I doubt I will ever forget it but I hope that I won’t see it enacted as often in real life in years to come, not by myself or any of my friends.
And if you ask me, of course, I recommend this book! As it sisters (I’m thinking of feminist rewritings) it helps create awareness, muster the courage for making changes, and gives voice and space to characters that should’ve never been silenced. It rewrites the story from a much-needed perspective. It’s a story that comes to us way overdue.We needed this story, her story, in her own words, and it may have taken a few too many centuries to arrive but it’s finally here and I join the praise to Jennifer Saint.Her book also invites us to speak up and change past, present, and future narratives with our own words, our own perspectives, and our actions. It’s inspiring because it showcases brave women with great spirits and it’s motivational because it’s outrageous. I can’t recommend it enough but be warned: it’s not easy to read, because like all its sisters, it’s painful. But pain helps, anger helps… it’s there to tell us that limits and boundaries have been crossed and that something must be done, and that balance must be restored for the good of us all.
And finally, here is a collage of all the beautiful places I read this book in. It includes: The Costwolds, Oxford, London (UK), Brugge (Belgium) and Ixtapa Zihuatanejo (México). That cute cat in the first picture is called Dolly and she is the most loving cat I’ve met. I miss her so much. She is in Bourton-on-the-Water, in a beautiful cottage that functions as an AirBnB, and she is probably lounging by the fire right now too. She loves that as you can see from the picture. She seemed to like Ariadne too. I read it to her out loud a few times and she jumped on my lap and purred, so I think that means she liked it.
A New Earth by Eckhart Tolle
I read this book twice this year and I plan to read it again and again. Every time I do, it blows my mind. It literally sets my mind aside so I can finally breathe and listen with every cell in my body and whole self. Reading Eckhart Tolle is always like a meditation in itself. I read this every time I need quiet and peace of mind, whenever I need reminding of the important things and more than anything, it gives me hope. Hope for humanity, hope for myself, hope that everything will be alright and that indeed a new Earth is emerging and that I have a role, just like every one of us, to play in that birthing of a new world, a kinder world, a more peaceful place.The kind of place we’ve all been dreaming about. I do believe it’s a reality we can move closer to with every decision we make as individuals and as a collective. Eckhart Tolle reminds me of that, reading his words is like touching base, it grounds me in hope, in stillness. When everything feels like chaos around me I read this and I come back to myself, I feel that aliveness within and outside, I feel that infinity. I connect with my soul. If you ever need to reconnect with yours too, Eckhart Tolle’s books are a way into that. I would always recommend reading first The Power of Now and then A New Earth. If you do pick up these books and read them, know that you are awake and that you have an active role to play in this new world that we’re all going to make, hopefully as consciously as possible.Thank you for being here too. If you’re reading this, I’m glad for your presence in this world and knowing that there are other people out there who read these books and feel this way too makes me feel hopeful and not alone. So thank you, dear Soul. And may your spirit stay strong and hopeful and awake. We’re all going to need that.
Other notable works I read this year:
Galatea by Madeline Circe (short and brutal but effective and impactful as always); My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante; Will by Will Smith; I’m Glad My Mom Died by Jennette McCurdy; What Happened to You?: Conversations on Trauma, Resilience, and Healing by Oprah Winfrey and Dr Bruce Perry.
Books I am looking forward to reading next year, in 2023:
The Cat Who Saved Books by Sôsuke Natsukawa
Babel, or the Necessity of Violence by R. F. Kuang
The Midnight Library by Matt Haig
The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller
Psychic Witch: A Metaphysical Guide to Meditation, Magick & Manifestation by Mat Auryn
Finding Me by Viola Davis
Klara and the Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro
Elektra by Jennifer Saint
And so many others… I wish you all many happy readings in the year to come!
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year, dear readers! May 2023 be filled with love, health, abundance, peace, magic and good books for all of us!
I remember fondly many different types of Valentine’s Day.
I remember that when I had my first boyfriend when I was fifteen I was so excited for Valentine’s Day to arrive for the first time in my life. Though there wasn’t much to look forward to since we had a long-distance relationship that was more platonic than anything. He used to live on a sailboat and I was stuck on land so my highlight of that Valentine’s day was talking to him on the phone for hours as he docked somewhere along the west coast of Mexico. It wasn’t anything out of the ordinary, just a phone call but it had me smiling like an idiot for days afterward. I remember another memorable Valentine’s Day with my college boyfriend and when for the first time I got the huge teddy bear (bunny, actually), the flowers, the jewellery and the nice dinner date. It was lovely and I was finally satisfied that I got my “Hollywood Valentine’s Day”, like the typical Valentine’s Day you see in movies.
I also remember the Valentine’s Day I got upset because my boyfriend at the time was going to be out of town on the 14th for a work trip. I had been looking forward so much to that Valentine’s Day cause I was head over heels for that guy and at the time I was convinced that he was “the love of my life”. I remember I felt so disappointed and upset. I had this idea that Valentine’s Day was a day that should be, as a rule, a wonderful day especially when you had a boyfriend or girlfriend. Of course I got that idea from the movies and songs and all the media that tries to convince us of that. But that day Valentine’s Day was just a source of frustration for me and I hated it.
I remember how, when he called to apologise, I was so upset with him. And I remember how, to make up for it, he came to my house a few days earlier before he left on his trip while I was at work, and how he decorated all my room with flowers and bought me this amazing painting kit with everything I needed to start painting as I had told him I wanted to paint.
And I remember that when I entered my room and saw all the roses, chocolates, teddy bears, and the painting materials, it was impossible not to smile and my frustrations melted away. I regretted being upset and I felt bad instantly for having gotten upset at him in the first place. I remember I called him to apologise and to thank him. I felt like such a petty child.
I wish now that I had never had any expectations about Valentine’s Day. I wish I had been able to say to him when he told me about his work trip like “Hey, no worries, Valentine’s Day is just a capitalist trap to turn us into crazy consumers anyway, right? We have love every day and that’s all that matters.” I wish I had been that person then, and I hope I am that person now, at least.
After I got my heart broken, I stopped caring for Valentine’s Day altogether. And I also remember the last memorable Valentine’s Day with the man who helped me regain trust in people again. It was another Hollywood-worthy Valentine’s Day. A ferry ride on the Thames, a fancy dinner date in Canary Wharf, followed by a great weekend exploring London together.
All these Valentine’s Days with amazing guys have stayed in my heart and yet there is another kind of Valentine’s Day I remember with as much fondness and joy. It was actually one of my favorite Valentine’s Day ever and it happened to be at a time when I hadn’t a boyfriend nor even a crush. I was in high school and I had an amazing group of friends that were more like family. I remember most of us were single so we decided to celebrate together cause after all in Spanish Valentine’s Day is called “el día del amor y la amistad”, the day of love and friendship. Friendship is one of my favorite kinds of love, it is vital in my life as I am sure it is in the lives of most of us.
My friends (a group of about 10 people at the time, boys and girls) and I sent each other Valentine’s Day cards during class that day and after classes, we all took the bus to my house where we had an amazing meal my mom had prepared for all of us. She made lasagna, my favorite, and a cake that had red icing that spelled “Forever Alone”. That made us laugh a lot. After we finished eating we played games and I remember laughing so hard that my tummy hurt and tears streaked my cheeks. We went to buy candy and popcorn afterward and we spent the evening watching Disney movies all sprawled on the floor. It was definitely one of the best Valentine’s Day ever.
That Valentine’s Day has warmed my heart every time I remember it and it makes me smile and feel grateful for the friends in my life. It has also helped me at times to remember that love has many forms.
Many times in my life, I’ve heard my friends who are single at the time complaining about how they don’t have a date for Valentine’s day, and when they feel sad about it I wish I could share that one memory with them of that amazing, happy Valentine’s Day I spent with my friends. I am sure it would warm their hearts too. I feel so lucky to have had that.
It is a reminder that love is varied, love is diverse, it comes from different sources and it causes joy no matter where or who it comes from. I have also spent many Valentine’s Days alone with myself and I’ve learned they are also an opportunity to show myself the love I have for myself. I always buy myself flowers, sometimes chocolates or cookies. This year it was muffins. I also remind myself of how lovely it is to be in my company and how I am happy that I get to spend my whole life with myself.
Love, I’ve learned is truly everywhere. It’s an energy, a force, not anchored to any body or thing. It is an energetic force that moves the world. Love for me is like what religious people would God, that kind of energy. It makes everything, it permeates everything. I see it in so many places, in so many things, in so many people, in so many of the things I do.
Although I know that Valentine’s Day is indeed a day created by companies to sell more, it has become a day for me to remind myself that love truly actually is all around and that every day I can choose to do everything with love and we’ll all be better for it.
It is a reminder that love is not what I have or who I am with but who I am. It reminds me that Love is unbounded, unconditional and never-ending, it is in every fiber of my being and if I feel separated at times, or depressed or frustrated… all I really need to do is tune in to that energy of love and it will be there, always.
I am trying to remind myself of these things daily and not only on Valentine’s Day. I hope this post also helps to remind yourself and that no matter how you spent this day, with your partners, your friends or with your wonderful self, I hope you remember that Love is within you cause it is you and therefore you can never be without it and it can never forsake you or abandon you.
Yes, people can leave, they can hurt or betray us. They can die, and so they will. Yet, love is an energy and its presence in our lives is a choice and if you choose to tune in to that frequency, you will never be without.
To prepare for the fourth season of Cobra Kai, I rewatched the whole series again and I have been thinking on the figure of the Sensei in this modern sequel to the 80s Karate Kid films.
The word sensei 先生 (せんせい) has been used to mean teacher. In fact, this word means “born before” so it is meant to refer to someone who was born before and therefore has the experience to impart knowledge and wisdom. Sensei, then, is not only a word reserved for schoolteachers, or karate masters, it’s also for someone who imparts knowledge and wisdom as a result of their experience and years. This is why in one of the most iconic Japanese novels of all time, Kokoro (1914)by Natsume Sōseki, the main character, a young man whom we just know as “I” refers to the older man he befriends and looks up to as “Sensei”.
The word sensei connotes the image of a wise, elderly person who guides younger generations with his or her example and wise teachings and words. A lot of people know this word thanks to films such as Karate Kid since sensei is also used to refer to a martial arts instructor.
In the Karate Kid films and the series Cobra Kai, karate is more than a sport for the children as they take to heart the lessons their senseis teach them. The students of Cobra Kai, Eagle Fang and Miyagi-Do look at the lessons they learn from their senseis as roadmaps for how to live their lives and they look up to their senseis as role models.
This is why the students of Cobra Kai, following the teachings of John Kreese and (in the first two seasons of Cobra Kai) Johnny Lawrence whose motto is Strike First, Strike Hard, No Mercy, become bullies and badly hurt other students.
Whereas Mr Miyagi taught Daniel LaRusso that karate is for self-defense only and Daniel and his students use their karate skills to stand up to bullies.
However, the series Cobra Kai is not as black and white as its precursors since it´s not so easy to tell the good guys from the bad guys as many of the characters are multi-layered and they make good as well as despicable and questionable decisions. Moreover, we get backstories that allow us to understand better why they act they way they do, making it hard to peg them as the bad guys who act like that just for evil’s sake. This is the case even for John Kreese. As we learn more about his past, we understand that as a war veteran from the Vietnam war he has a lot of trauma and struggles with his mental health as does Terry Silver.
The new students of Cobra Kai such as Robby Keene – Johnny Lawrence’s kid – as well as Tory also have personal problems regarding their family life which have created feelings of anger and resentment in them. However, the “good kids” like Miguel Diaz and Daniel’s own kids, Sam and Anthony LaRusso all make bad decisions and hurt other people along the way.
The series of Cobra Kai brilliantly dismantles the idea that there is such a thing as “the good guys” and “the bad guys”. In real life we all live within a grey area and we define ourselves with each new action we make, we play roles, sometimes we play the villain and sometimes the victim, but neither of these roles are who we really are. When thinking about good vs evil I think William Shakespeare (as usual) nailed it.
There is nothing either good or bad but thinking makes it so.
William Shakespeare (Hamlet)
Nothing and no one is inherently good or bad, those are judgements each of us, our institutions or our respective deities, gods, goddesses add to people, events, things, etc. I can only hope that as we become more conscious we learn to shed these judgements for they help no one.
Another thing Cobra Kai does brilliantly is to emphasise the importance and influence a teacher can have on their students’ lives. Regardless of what you teach, whether it’s karate or math or swimming or crocheting or Spanish, a teacher will always be an “authority figure” and they will always have the power to influence their students, hopefully for the better.
I started teaching when I was 20 years old and at that moment I didn’t realise the responsibility I had with my students as a person more than just a teacher. It was really only when students started seeking me out after class to ask for advice, or wrote on the back of a homework that they were thinking about suicide, or asked me what I thought about feminism that I realised that students, no matter their age but especially young students do expect teachers, no matter their age, to have the answers.
I did too of many of my own teachers and sometimes I still do, or at least, I hope they have, if not the answers, some wisdom to give.
I sometimes wish I had my own Mr Miyagi in my life but alas, the only Mr Miyagis that I have found live within the pages of the books I’ve read, the books I turn to whenever I have a problem. Books have always been my teachers, my senseis and that has made me realise that one doesn’t need to be a teacher to teach something. We are always teaching something, consciously or unintentionally, with our example as we move through life we are always teaching our way to do things to others for better or worse.
No matter who you are or what your job is you will at some point or another influence someone in your life, whether you intend to or not. I believe the best teachers are not the ones that teach through words but the ones that teach by example. Your life and the way you live is your greatest teaching to the world, and you may be thinking that nobody is watching but at some point or another someone inevitably will.
In Cobra Kai, the students of Kreese, Silver, Daniel, and Johnny inevitably end up repeating history and thus they open the eyes of their senseis that things have got to change, starting with themselves.
Now in this world where we are all “connected” through social media all the time I think it’s especially important to be careful of what we teach, what we preach, what we say and do. Sometimes people are only looking for something or someone to “follow”, literally and metaphorically speaking. I think the best thing to do is look within at what we have learned, at what we need to unlearn, and to become more conscious of our actions, thoughts and words cause they all have power and that power goes out into the world. The state of the world is nothing but a reflection of our inner worlds, our collective unconsciousness and negativity can be seen in the pollution, chaos and illness that keep creating havoc in our worlds. Now it’s the time to wake up to the power we have to change that just by becoming more conscious, more awake, more aware.
We don’t need to go out there and save the world, it would be enough if each of us in our own homes started living in consciousness and at peace with what is. This is hard enough and yet I believe it’s all that we would need to move towards a better reality.
It’s time that we all become our own senseis and to make sure our teachings and what we leave behind will encourage rather than hinder, will heal rather than hurt, will elevate rather than degrade because our own life is our greatest teaching and our greatest message to the world so let’s make sure it’s a good one.
“Every atom of me and every atom of you.” – Philip Pullman, The Amber Spyglass.
Someone I love hurt me, deeply hurt me.
I thank that someone for he is my mirror. He cut me open and the light got inside.
All this light, it whispered to me. It reminded me of the bargain we stroke a long time ago, In another time, in another state, in another space. A bargain that would make us love, laugh, hurt, and part. A bargain that gave him the role of the villain and me the role of the victim, Roles neither of us wanted but that we were willing to play in order to help us remember who we are, who we were… In order to make us remember there is no such things as villains or victims in this world. Only friendly souls intending to wake each other up.
A bargain done in love, for love, and with love. A bargain that would merge our souls and then tear them apart to help us remember that We Are All One And that unity allows for separation, independence, and individuality. To help us remember that to love is to be free, to love is to let go, to love is to let be. A bargain that returned us to ourselves, a little bit more whole, a little bit more grown, a little bit more loved.
And then, after all the pain, we can finally agree that the bargain wasn’t in vain. It was worth the darkness, for it brought forth our light.
I thank you soul, My Friend, for making that bargain with me, Such a long time ago, For keeping to the script, for playing the villain, a role I know it is even harder to play. I thank you, I love you, I let you go in Peace. Remember. Remember the bargain, remember the love, hold on to the light, let go of your role, be who you are and shine through. Let us forgive and never forget all the light we give and gave, all that was done in love, and all the lessons that the pain has shown. As long as we remember, all the pain has not been in vain.
And so, I will never regret the bargain that we stroke such a long time ago In another time, in another state, in another space. A bargain that would make us love, laugh, hurt, and part. A bargain that returned us to ourselves.
A bargain between friends, a bargain between souls. A bargain done in Love. And that is more than just enough.
Ixtapa Zihuatanejo is my idea of heaven. I have visited this place every year since I was born. It is home to me more than any other place in the world and it forever holds my heart.
It’s a beautiful natural place that is full of breathtaking sights, kind and warm people, and exciting activities. More than that, it is full of peace. It has a wonderful ambiance that makes you feel as if all your troubles are fading away with each wave. It’s truly heaven on Earth.
It also offers many beaches that are each amazing in their own way. Each has its own special beauty, so here is my list of 6 paradise beaches in Ixtapa that you cannot miss!
The main beach in Ixtapa is beach El Palmar. It is my favourite beach in all the world. This is where all the main stays of Ixtapa Zihuatanejo are. You can stay in a hotel or you can choose to stay in one of the many luxurious apartment buildings on this beach. Whenever I go to Ixtapa I always find the perfect place to stay through Hero Host, a wonderful accommodations service in Ixtapa that can help you find the best places to stay according to your needs. I’ve lived in different apartments along El Palmar with Hero Host, and I’ve loved every wonderful stay. I’ve stayed for months at the time and every day feels like a gift when you wake up in such a breathtaking place.
El Palmar is known for its big waves, its excellent atmosphere, and for the rocks that rise above the ocean on the horizon giving it a distinctive look that everyone can recognise. Once you’ve seen it, you can’t forget it.
Here you can relax, sunbathe, meet people from all over the world, bodysurf, play volleyball, parasail, have long romantic walks on the beach, and if you’re lucky you might get to see baby turtles hatching and making their way into the big blue ocean. There’s a baby turtle sanctuary on this beach so if you’re set on meeting baby turtles you can always stop by and say hello.
In the map you can see La Majahua a bit further north from Troncones beach (blue pin).
This small but wonderful beach near Troncones is a hidden paradise. When you visit, make sure to look closely at the sand, it sparkles as if it has specks of gold mixed in with it. The sand is soft and warm. Walking on it I felt like my feet were sighing in relief and joy.
This beach is perfect to relax, bodyboard, or drink something while you look at the waves. There are also a few local restaurants you can eat at.
The beach is very quiet and it’s family-friendly as well as pet-friendly. Kids enjoy playing among the rocks and the waves are not so strong as the ones in El Palmar. There are, however, no palapas (big beach umbrellas made with dried palm tree leaves), nor lounge chairs, so remember to bring towels, or folding chairs with you for more comfort. La Majahua is the kind of beach I go to whenever I want to find some quiet, peace, and beauty.
The main attraction on this beach is…. the surf!Playa Saladita is one of the most famous surfing beaches in all of Mexico. This is a common destination for Americans, Canadians, and Latin Americans that love surfing. On shore you will find a growing, friendly, bilingual (English-Spanish) surfing community who is always ready to offer a tip or two on how to best catch the waves, and in the water you will find wonderful waves that can delight both experienced and beginner surfers.
Truth be told, the sand is not as comfortable as in other beaches in Ixtapa-Zihuatanejo as it has quite a few pebbles and stones, so does the ocean floor. However, the water is the main attraction!If you have always wanted to learn to surf, Saladita is the place to be. There are several schools of surf that offer classes and rent equipment. If you are a surfer but you forgot your board at home, you can also find lots of places around where they rent all kinds of boards.
For surfers: this beach is known for having one of the longest lefts in Mexico. You can often catch rides of over a minute. But this means, of course, that the paddling out is quite long, so make sure you’re in good shape to do all that paddling! If you get lucky, you will see a few big sea turtles on your way to catch the waves, as they often swim among the surfers. You will see their heads popping out of the water or their huge shells among the waves.
I assure you, once you’ve surfed here, you’re going to come back for more!
Troncones is one of the most iconic beaches near Ixtapa-Zihuatanejo. The ocean here is as wild as it can be. You can walk for miles and miles in this beautiful, unspoiled paradise and feel at one with nature. Here, you are transported into another world, one where nature was unbound and undisturbed by humans. On this beach, turtles lay their eggs unseen and undisturbed. Here, whales come close to the shore during the winter to mate. Here, all kinds of creatures live quietly in peace.
The community in Troncones lives in harmony with the ocean, making efforts to ensure that Troncones remains as paradisiacal as ever, unperturbed by too much human intervention. If you want to connect with nature and escape for a while from the human world, Troncones is the place to visit!
As its name in Spanish indicates, Playa Larga is a “Long Beach”. It stretches for miles and it turns into Playa Blanca (“White Beach”). Similar to Troncones, these beaches are known for being natural paradises with little human intervention. However, there are many rustic and cozy restaurants in which you can find delicious food, especially fish and shellfish yummy dishes.
One of the main activities you can do here is horse riding.It’s a magical thing to ride at sunset on this wonderful long beach. Your spirit is set free by the wind, the speed, and the view. You can also enjoy a lively conversation with your friends as you ride together through nature.
We booked this amazing horse riding experience with Hero Host as one of their services is to arrange experiences for their guests. Riding the beach on horseback had always been a dream of mine, and I am so happy now it’s come true.
Barra de Potosí is at the end of Playa Blanca and it has access both to the ocean and to the lagoon. This place is known for being a good spot for whale watching! It is also a wonderful place for an adventure since the intersection between the ocean and the lagoon makes it an exciting place where you can find both the soft side and wild side of nature!
Next to the lagoon you will find several restaurants where you can enjoy the view while drinking coconut water or a margarita!
I would recommend Tony Macarrony’s Restaurant. The owner and his family provide very good customer service and their food is great.
A great activity you can do on this beach is to take a tour of the lagoon. You can book a boat tour that will take you deep inside the lagoon where you can photograph and enjoy the local wildlife. If you fancy an adventure, you can also rent a kayak and explore the lagoon on your own. If you’re feeling daring, you can kayak out to sea.
The lagoon is quite shallow in some parts so you can also enjoy relaxing in it as you would in a pool. Families come here to enjoy the day out. It is very safe and it is a place where you can find everything together: relaxation, adventure, good food, drinks, and an amazing view.
For me, Ixtapa will always be my favorite place in the world. And whichever beach you decide to visit, you can never go wrong in Ixtapa. It is an amazing safe haven where people from all over the world can find peace in communion with nature. Ixtapa-Zihuatanejo is developed enough by human intervention to make it a comfortable place and yet it has also remained a natural paradise in which nature is still unbound, wild, and abundant to make it exciting, life-renewing, and magical.
Come visit Ixtapa, once you’ve stayed here, you will keep coming back!
Even before a human is born, society establishes specific roles based on gender that will define the person’s actions and decisions throughout his or her life. These impositions determine how a child will be educated and what actions and responsibilities that person will take in every stage of his or her life.
For us women, life is difficult from the very beginning for multiple reasons. Most fathers do not want baby girls because “they are too delicate” or “they will always need someone to look after them” or (in my opinion) the worst reason of all: “because my last name and legacy will eventually disappear”. Also, we are forced to attach to “femininity standards” from the moment we are born, such as getting our ears pierced, being tucked in a pink blanket, and arriving home to a beautiful pink crib. From that moment on, our life will be based on what others decide for ourselves: what colors should we wear, what toys should we play with, what movies or TV shows should we watch, and so on.
Unfortunately, it does not stop once we leave our childhood behind. When we become teenagers, we experience a lot of changes in our bodies, our minds, and our environment. Things that we used to love as little girls become boring, our parents seem to be our worst enemies while friends become our allies. Our body also changes: we grow, breast development takes place, hair appears in places it did not exist before, and menstruation becomes part of our lives. This transition implies new impositions established by society, for example, how to behave as a young woman, how to keep menstruation as a very, very intimate –and sometimes- forbidden subject, how to dress in order to avoid young men from getting distracted and old men from catcalling at us (as if it was our responsibility to worry about this). We are taught not to be loud, not to curse, and not to speak our minds when we feel the need to do so. We are forced to believe that we are subordinated to men, meaning that we should serve them for the simple reason of being a wife, a daughter, a sister, or any other family member, and we are obliged to believe that every action or decision that we make will be judged or celebrated by men.
We carry a burden on our shoulders for all of our lives. Our parents and our environment teach us that we should grow into accomplished women that are able to balance personal and professional life without hesitation, to make sacrifices in order to keep the members of the family happy, even if it means losing ourselves in the process.
So these questions emerge from deep inside my mind: what are the expectations that society determines for each person based on gender? What is a superwoman or the superwoman syndrome? The answer might be easy, but let us remember that we live in a patriarchal society, and we are often blindfolded and tend to minimize things due to the level of internalization that we have.
I have already mentioned some examples of social impositions to little girls and teenagers (the list is longer, of course, and if you are a woman reading this, I am sure you will find more examples based on your experience), but for now, let us talk about the socially established role that adult women play nowadays, which, by the way, has been played for centuries.
In the American society of the 1970s and 1980s, women’s traditional role shifted from being a housewife to a more professional or business-oriented way of life. This became a remarkable phenomenon because women were pursuing a balance between both traditional female roles and traditional masculine roles. Then, women found themselves struggling with housework, raising children, and marriage while chasing a career in business, politics, law, or any type of industry, for example. This gave origin to the terms “superwoman” and “superwoman syndrome” used in sociology and psychology to refer to a condition or pattern of behavior that causes a woman to believe she can do anything and everything at the same time. This means that society pressures a woman into thinking she has the responsibility to accomplish personal and professional tasks by herself flawlessly every day of her life.
In the culture that we live in (mainly influenced by the United States and Europe), female identity means engaging in multiple activities and excelling in all of them. Whether it is domestic or professional work, women are forced to achieve perfection as mothers, wives, employers, employees, students, caregivers, and leaders.
Once we reach adulthood, rules and norms are established by the patriarchal society exclusively for women. We are told that as adults, we “should” know how to cook, clean, manage a family budget, raise a child, pay the bills and be responsible for a household. We are also told we “should” be competitive workers, leaders, students, and athletes. We are so coerced into merging all of these in order to be successful, that we become slaves of our own lifestyle.
Perhaps we could all say that our mothers suffer from the superwoman syndrome and even ourselves as adult women. I think many of us can picture our mothers as individuals trying their best to master the gigantic duty of taking care of a family, cooking, cleaning, and grocery shopping while at the same time trying to succeed in the professional field as employees, leaders, CEOs, or freelancers. Many of them are full-time homemakers and mothers, which is not an easy job, and they have to balance housework with their own individuality.
But then I wonder: what are men obliged to do by the patriarchy? They are not forced to do any of the housework or family activities and responsibilities I mentioned before. They are educated into believing that their “only” duty is to provide, whatever that implies. They are not forced to raise and educate a child, or to know how to clean a house, not even to know that a house needs to be cleaned every other day!
As children, teenagers, and young adults, men learn that the house tasks are taken care of by the mother, while the father works outside from home. They learn that the mother keeps the house tidy, feeds the whole family, and helps them with their homework while having a big smile on her face and that the father comes home late at night, tired of a hard day at work, waiting for his wife to tell him dinner is ready. They do not learn that what their mother does is also work, and a very difficult one, with no profit and no weekends.
What the patriarchy teaches men is that they do not have the need or responsibility of doing the same activities as women, because “it is not their job” to clean, or do the laundry, or feeding a baby, because they are educated to think those are exclusively female duties.
Women trying to perform and balance professional and domestic chores often suffer from stress, eating disorders, anger, depression, sleeplessness, and other psychological alterations. This is completely unfair, as we already have many things that represent a disadvantage in comparison with men.
Some women try their best to be excellent workers and still suffer the effects of the wage gap; they also try their best to be great mothers, taking most of the responsibility by themselves, while their male partners say they “help” with the raising process.
For me, one of the saddest things in this particular topic is that we always carry a label given by society, whether it is the label of “mother” or “wife” or “daughter”, each with specific characteristics and responsibilities. But where is our individuality left? Why is the bar so high for women and so low for men?
Let us try to answer these questions every day, with the intention of deconstructing our minds and building a new society in which the only superwomen are the ones found in comic books.
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It seemed so simple, didn’t it? You had a dream when you were little and the only plan was to follow it. It was going to come true eventually because in stories… dreams always do. Even for the people who at first didn’t believe they could, in the stories, in the end, they are convinced otherwise. It was simple. Just trust. A little bit of magic and fairy dust and voilà! Happily ever after. Granted by grace, without a lot of effort though with suffering involved for all those characters suffer first before things get better. And the plan was always the same, be a good person, keep believing, follow your dreams, be true to your heart.
Same thing with love. He or she will arrive, someday out of the blue. You’ll get your very own meet-cute. One day, when you’re ready, he’ll bump into you and he’ll spill something on your shirt. He’ll say sorry, you’ll be pissed but your eyes will lock, and then… just like that. You fall in love. Magic. (Hope your meet-cute is a little bit more original than that). And then the story follows, some ups and downs, tears and misunderstandings that cause pain but the ending is always the same… happily ever after. So we were told.
And then you start growing up and realize that life lasts longer than the movie or the story and that the “happily ever after” is, in reality, a “happily just for now“… because in a moment, in the blink of an eye, everything changes. You get fired, or you have to leave things or people behind, the business idea fails, they hurt you, your health declines, he dies, or she leaves you. Or it simply goes slower, downhill until it crashes and burns.
You feel it’s the end. It must be. How much pain can it take to die? Pain doesn’t kill you though. You keep on living, even though at first, it’s hardly living. Then slowly you start to glow again, your first rebirth. Welcome to the world. Now you are more grown-up than before, now you are wiser, and kinder, hopefully, if you’ve not let your first death wilt your heart.
A new start, a new dream. This time you know better. But even so, not everything is under your control. You have to learn to trust… again. You’re scared, so scared that maybe you mess up. Let’s hope is not too bad and that you can fix it. If not, then make sure you don’t let fear stop you next time, because there is always a next time, if you let it.
The next time comes around and you’re not ready. But in life, we hardly are. You learn on the go. And this time you are prepared to trust. A leap of faith. What if you fall and crash? Well, yeah, that’s a possibility. But hey, you’ve fallen and died before… And here you are again! Death, the metaphorical and physical kind, is an illusion anyway, so they say. And it’s coming, it’s certainly coming for you, for them, for this, for that, for everyone. So why not? We are all going there anyway. Why not try to make the road to Death more enjoyable, more daring?
So you decide to trust. Wholeheartedly.
Dear, brave soul, you did well in trusting. It became everything you’d hoped for and more. You’re happy now. Happy again. Happier than ever. And you think, this time, you’ll be happy forever… This time is for good. It has to be.
Then a little voice at the back of your mind is whispering to you: Remember, it’s all just for now. It’s not a threat, it comes with love. It’s a snippet of wisdom from the depths of your soul. You know it’s right. For a second, you feel the pain, the grief, the fear of losing what you’ve got, though it’s still here. But you know, it won’t always be. But then again, neither will you. It’s coming closer every day. So, why not…
You look around at all you hold dear with newfound love because you know it’s not for good. Tomorrow it could all be gone. Tomorrow it could all be different. There is only today, only this moment. And happily ever after was never to be “ever after”. It is only just for now. Tomorrow you might die again as you did before and after that, another rebirth will follow either in this life or the next. It’s a cycle, it’s a wave. It comes and goes. A breath in and a breath out. It all comes and goes.
So you look at them, you look at her, you look at him, you look at it, at the place, at the meal, at the scene, you listen to their voices, to the music, to the laughter… Really look at it all, really listen to it all, really take it in to imprint it in your heart, so at least there, it will live forever. And you give thanks, also to voice in your head because you realize that you’ve only taken this moment to truly love it all because you know it’s not going to last, and that makes it all the more precious.
It’s strange, this life. Maybe all those stories and all those movies were just parts of unfinished stories, like chapters that were never meant to stand for the whole book. Maybe all those stories keep evolving after you’ve reached The End. Maybe all those characters keep on living in their imprint world. Maybe they lose their happiness, maybe they lose each other, maybe their dreams do fail after all. Maybe they die, and then need to be born again, as you’ve done before.
The good news is that you’re not alone. You realize that we are all here doing the same, growing older, growing wiser only because we realize how little we truly understand, and that’s how our mind widens to allow a little bit more light in every time. Life will change again, maybe tomorrow, maybe the next day, but it doesn’t matter. Tomorrow hasn’t come, and you still have now. You love it, embrace it and you give thanks. Because no matter what happens tomorrow, in your heart you will always have now.
The other day I was talking with a friend over coffee. We were both comforting each other after talking about our often traumatic anecdotes of our past relationships with men.
Has it ever happened to you that you meet a man and you think that he shows himself to be different than other men? Maybe he shows attention to detail, or he is kind, or he treats his mom well, or he calls you on the phone instead of just texting you… or any other number of things which for some reason make you feel as if this man is “exceptional” and “rare”, “an extra-ordinary man”. And this, in turn, makes you hold on to him although he may not be really good for you or to you.
After numbering all the reasons why we often think men are “good men” and “good partners”, my friend and I then asked ourselves if these actions or qualities actually make them “good men and partners” or they simply mean they are decent, functional human beings.
After pondering this, we realized the truth. And the truth is that the bar is so low for men that anything they do showing a little bit of attention or kindness or thoughtfulness suddenly becomes like a super amazing wonderful act of love that really shows how much they care about us, and we end up convinced that these men are special, rare, and not to be found easily again (and if that is true then it is even sadder), so we have to hold on to these men because they are “special”.
And this belief actually makes us lower our standards which often leads to us accepting the bare minimum or even taking and excusing abusive or toxic behaviors from them.
Why do we expect so little from our boys and men? Why is the bar so low for them?
Are men not as capable as women? Are men not as capable to be loving, affectionate, thoughtful, caring, and nurturing as women? I believe they are. If they haven’t taught to be so, I believe in their ability to learn. So, the patriarchy is not an excuse anymore for men not to show these qualities. In fact, a man showing these qualities shouldn’t be a rarity, not in their eyes nor in women’s eyes, not in anyone’s eyes.
So here is a list of these “praise-worthy qualities or actions” that men do which make us think they are exceptionally precious when they are simply decent, good, functional human beings.
1. He listens
Have you ever said something like… “What I love about him is that he listens to me!”. Well, of course, he should listen to you if you’re dating, it’s not something that makes him extraordinarily wonderful. It just makes him a normal human being who is having an affective and effective human interaction with someone he cares about. If he doesn’t listen to you, what are you doing there?
2. He “helps” with the kids
He is not “helping” with the kids. He is simply taking responsibility for the lives he created too.He is simply being a responsible father.
3. He cooks
As any other functional adult human being should for we all need to feed ourselves. Cooking is a survival skill, not something to praise. If he cooks exceptionally well and has taken the time to improve his cooking skills so that he can make delicious and yummy dishes then, by all means, praise. But if he can only cook like every other adult should then praise him as an adult, not as a man.
4. He cleans, “helps” in the house
Like every adult should. I know many grown men who still don’t know how to do their own laundry (certainly neither of my grandfathers knew how, and I loved them dearly but it’s very clear to me that they wouldn’t have survived without my grandmothers) and yet mothers can’t wait to teach their daughters how to do all the housework. But being a woman makes you no fitter for housework than being a man makes you fit for the workplace. These are all old ideas about gender roles which are artificial, created, constructed by society, and which are often adapting and changing which only exposes their artificiality.
5. He doesn’t cheat
Well, that doesn’t make him an “extraordinary man or an amazing partner” that you have to applaud. A man not cheating shouldn’t be a rarity because if it is, it means we expect men to cheat and the truth is that in many cultures we do, it’s the boys-will-be-boys idea that we need to leave behind for our sakes and theirs’ as well. Not cheating is not something out of the ordinary, it’s a basic condition of a healthy, loving relationship. Not cheating means he is a decent human being with integrity and values who knows that betraying another is also betraying oneself and who is mature and conscious enough not to hurt another human being in this way.
6. He cares about my feelings, opinions, likes, ideas, etc.
So do any of your loved ones, and that is exactly what partners should do. Caring is a must for a relationship to work. He is not being in any way special or particularly praise-worthy, he is just being a caring human being who is interested in having an effective loving relationship.
7. He treats me with respect
Why should this be a surprise? All human beings should treat each other with respect. I know it doesn’t always happen… but the fact that we praise it only makes us realize how we make a basic thing like respect for a woman an “extra-ordinary thing”. This hurts both men and women because for women it makes them believe they have to settle for being treated with minimal respect and for men it sets the bar so low that they can get away with just doing the bare minimum and being applauded for it.
8. He talks about his feelings
As any healthy human being can and should. We have all struggled with feelings and how to express them. We all need to learn how to communicate feelings in an assertive way. This helps us evolve and become better at human relationships. This applies to both men and women, and it shouldn’t be an extraordinary thing for a man to do or to be praised about.
9. He cares about stuff, he is passionate about something
Like any other interesting human being. Having passions, drive, dreams, and ambition doesn’t necessarily mean he is a good partner. Does it make him an interesting and attractive human being? Yes. But not necessarily a good boyfriend. Him being good at his job or having a great hobby or passion doesn’t necessarily mean that he will be a great partner… that remains to be seen with time.
10. He is loving, you know, like he tells me I’m beautiful and tells me he loves me, etc.
Yes, loving men exist and loving men are precious just like loving women are. But being loving should also be a must in a love relationship, not an “extra-ordinary quality of a man”, because what does that say about men? Are they not capable of love and of being loving? Of course, they are! They are also humans capable of loving and showing affection! It is not something to wonder about, it is a human quality to be affectionate. And we should believe that about them and they should believe that about themselves too for all our sakes.
11. He cares about my and his sexual health
As all adults definitely must! Him buying condoms, wearing them, using any other contraceptive measures, or taking action if one of you gets an infection or an STD doesn’t make him a wonderful, super awesome, and special man, it just makes him a functional, sensible, responsible, mature adult.
If he in any way does anything to deter your health or goes against your wishes, or violates consent then that is a major red flag. It’s violence and abuse and please get out of there!
12. He takes care of himself, you know? He has good personal hygiene, he showers, and he smells good, dresses nicely, works out…
Sister, so do you! Men, women, society… expect women to be beautiful all the time. We are expected to smell nice, to be clean, to shave, to style our hair, to be thin, and yet have lots of curves, to use make-up and yet to look natural, to dress nicely, to have perfect skin, etc.
We are slowly learning to do this for our benefit and not for others. But the pressure is there, and it is not so easy to ignore.
I understand men have other expectations and pressures which just goes to show just how the patriarchy affects us all.
But having good personal hygiene is only another feature of being a healthy, functional human being, not something to applaud though it’s definitely something to be desired in a partner regardless of gender.
These are only a few of the things men get applauded for when they should really be just normal, ordinary, basic things all adults should do.
Putting the bar so low for men is detrimental to both men and women because for women it means that they always have to settle for the bare minimum effort, that they have to lower their standards, and accept less than they give or are willing to give.It means that they won’t have ‘equal’ partners, but that they will have to content themselves with the scraps of love, attention, respect, and care they can get and be thankful for it which is not fair,and also not necessary. There are great men out there, we can have faith and believe in their capabilities and abilities to be functional adults and to be loving, caring, and affectionate as well as have a good life of their own.
For men, having the bar so low is also hurtful because when not much is expected from you, you don’t feel inspired to grow, to make an effort, to challenge yourself, you end up becoming less… not more.
One time I was talking with a student who was telling me about a great math teacher he had. Before this teacher, he had never been good at maths nor did he like them. He had almost failed math in previous years so he never thought he would do well on maths, nor had his previous teachers expected him to so he made zero effort to change.
But this new teacher expected him to understand the topics, she expected him to get good grades, to ask questions, and show interest, she expected excellence from him as she did from all of her students. She made a point of letting him know that she wasn’t going to accept any less from him and that it was in him to make a change. She let him know she believed it was within his abilities and capacities to do so.
And what did he do? He leveled up, he made the effort to pay attention in class, did his homework, he even went and got extra hours of tutoring when he didn’t understand well. He made sure to become the student his teacher was sure he could be. And he was grateful for it, he passed maths with excellent grades, and his ideas about himself changed: He was now someone who was good at maths and smart enough to get good grades.
He always remembered this teacher fondly.
He told me “sometimes all you need is someone who believes in you and who is not going to accept your bare minimum but who actually believes you are capable of great things. It makes you want to make a real effort.”
I think about this conversation often and I think it applies to life and to relationships as well.
No one is born to fulfill all our expectations, this is true, it’s not like that.
But it’s great when somebody inspires in us the desire to do better, to be better. And that is exactly what good relationships do, they bring out the best in us, they bring us back to ourselves, and help us to connect again. They help us to strive, to grow, to expand, to evolve… not the other way around. Having standards gives both men and women an opportunity to grow, to reach high and far, to level up.
If we all show standards and we are all willing to work and care for a partner who will meet us at our own level, not accepting less or the bare minimum, then maybe all of our relationships can improve for all of us.
For women especially who have always been taught to accept and expect less, to conform, to decrease their value to fit into boxes made by smaller minds… it’s especially important to remember the value of having standards because those standards reflect the way in which you view your own worth.
It is always important to remember that when a man dates you he is not doing you a favor. If you are a wonderful woman who is willing to care for others and for yourself, who puts in the effort to know someone at a deep level, who is willing to trust and love… then any man who dates you is not doing you a favor by dating you but in fact, he is having the honor to date someone like you. And the reverse is true too. If you are a man who is not only doing the bare minimum, who has integrity and values, who is a decent, functional adult and who also is willing to go the extra mile and to work on yourself and create a deep, multi-layered relationship with someone who is your equal partner you also definitely deserve someone who is willing to do the same and not settle for less.
We say we want equal partners but until we are ready to let go of people who just won’t do the effort, and be brave enough to meet someone at our level and work on ourselves to be better each time and to make a relationship work our words are just empty wishes.
We need to be the kind of people we wish our partners were and then don’t settle for anything less.
To women: be not afraid to show standards, to say no, to establish limits. Stop applauding things that should be a must and start believing in your own worth.
And to men: be not afraid to be all that you can be and that includes being vulnerable, sensitive, nurturing, loving. Be not afraid to let go of anyone who devalues you and please expect more of yourself. Don’t settle for just doing these basic things, strive to be better in your eyes. Level up. Be conscious, be mature, be brave. Evolve.
And to all the men and women who always go the extra mile, who are kind and loving, who work on themselves, who go to therapy, who heal their wounds, who take responsibility and let go of the victim mentality, who want to give rather than take, who are willing to learn and to evolve: thank you for being in this world, your presence is appreciated. And if you do not feel it is sometimes, then appreciate yourselves because love really does start with oneself.
I sit there, my heart pounding, my fingers clutching my clothes without realizing they are, as the sound of guns continues, bone cracks, someone screams.
I hate this. Why the hell are we watching this?! Or better yet, why are we watching hell?
Too many times I’ve suffered through movies that include violence (movies of course, that are not chosen by me but that some person in my life wanted to watch). Violence ranging from guns, and explosions, to torture and rape, and fists and kicks, and blood, and knives, and swords… and emotional abuse and verbal abuse as well.
I know that violence is part of our lives, Even nature, some people have argued can be violent (if we want to label it like so) but there is a difference between nature-violence and human-violence.
We could look at a cheetah hunting and eating an antelope and think “That’s violent”, but is it? The cheetah is just doing what it does, it hunts, it eats, it lives, and survives.
Human violence is a willful act. Human violence is a choice. Human violence can and should be unnecessary, and yet human beings choose to be violent and choose to hurt each other, with the knowledge that they are doing it so. The difference between an animal and humans is our conscience. We know we can avoid violence and yet we choose it. And not only choose it but encourage it, find it fun or even funny, pay to see it, encourage others to see it. It’s madness.
And I understand violence can have a purpose. I understand that all people who have gone to war have thought of themselves as “the good guys” who were defending something, who were fighting for what’s right, or what’s fair, or freedom, etc., etc. We are always the good guys, aren’t we? Does anybody ever really think of themselves as the villain? Not really.
Violence begets violence, and in the end, the fire it creates cannot be quenched. Sure. Wars started. Wars ended. But has the fire been put out? No! Can we truly say we live on a peaceful planet? No, and yet those wars are over, right? But actually, there are wars going on right now. Can you believe it? I really wish I couldn’t.
And okay, let’s say we are lucky enough to live far away from those places where there’s war right now. Let’s say that we live relatively peaceful lives… We still bring violence into our lives. How? Or when? Every day in several ways. In this post, I want to write about violence in movies and series, specifically.
I have never really understood people’s fascination with it. I really want to know because I simply can’t understand. So please… answer me… why? Why do people enjoy watching movies where there are people doing awful things to others?
I have sat there in the cinema, with my hands over my eyes, trying to reach my ears too to shut out the noise as people are being killed, tortured, hurt, stabbed, beheaded, shot down, punched… And all I can think of is why?
I have even heard laughter during violent action films.
I really have a hard time finding films during which I can keep my eyes open the whole time because I still shut my eyes when Rocky and Apollo are going at it. People have called me too soft, too sensitive, too innocent, too weak… I don’t care. I would rather be that than someone who laughs when people are getting killed on screen.
And nowadays, we are so used to violence, so desensitized to it, it’s hard to find anything mainstream where there is no violence.
Lately, even children’s movies are full of violence. And I wonder how my 8-year-old nephew can stand to watch what I can’t.
It makes me think what are we doing, to ourselves, to our youths?
Because people have told me, “Relax! It’s just a movie!” But, is it?
Aren’t movies also a way to not only represent but to create reality? Are we teaching our children that we live in a world where all that violence is normal, or worse, desired? That it is something excited to look at and to participate in? Because children learn from example, they want to see themselves in the characters they watch, they want to emulate them too.
What are they looking at? Is it really just a movie?
I don’t think so. As someone who loves stories, written or on-screen, I know the power they wield. Our world is created through stories, our identity is created through the stories we tell ourselves and of ourselves. Everything is a story. Reality is a story in itself.
Why do we want to include violence in our stories? Why do we find that entertaining?
And I don’t want to be so binary as to see violence in black and white terms. I don’t want to judge it as something good or evil. Violence exists and like I’ve said, it often serves a purpose, sometimes we could say a helpful purpose. For example, the film La Vita e Bella (Life is Beautiful) directed by Roberto Benigni, a wonderful movie that I hate because it’s heartbreaking and real in a heartbreaking way, and love because it’s beautiful as it is awful. There is certainly violence in that movie, but it’s a violence that is meant to make us aware, to shake us awake… to say, “Hey! This happened! Look at it! It can’t happen again! Don’t let it happen again!” That kind of violence serves a purpose and a useful one if you ask me. I do let violence shake me awake.
These are not the kind of movies I am thinking about now.
I am thinking of movies with unnecessary violence, and not only unnecessary but movies where violence is depicted as something exciting.
The truth is…. A looooot of movies and series include violence that is just gratuitous, a violence whose only purpose is to entertain the audience.
And there are many movies that film violence in a “cool light”, where people kill each other and that makes them “cool, tough, the heroes”. Where the more you kill the better/cooler you are. What is wrong with us? There is nothing, NOTHING, heroic about killing others. There never has been, there never will be. Period.
I do ask of the world and of myself…. Why are we entertained by violence? Why is hurting each other entertaining? What is sooo entertaining about people dying at the hands of other human beings? Please, do ask yourselves because I ask myself the same things.
I believe what Neale Donald Walsch says when he says that ‘we can know how evolved a civilization is by what it finds entertaining’. If that is the case, and I do believe it is, looking at today’s entertainment I am sad to say that we are in fact… Not that evolved. At least, not as we sometimes think we are, not as we could be.
I know I can’t erase violence from films. It is increasingly difficult to find movies I can watch without cringing. Lately, I’ve found myself leaving cinema rooms mid-movie because I just can’t stand it. Other times I simply fall asleep with my earphones on. Other times, I simply leave the sitting room where my family is watching a violent movie and as I close the door to shut the screams out I think, ‘Why… why??, if we’ve been so lucky enough to escape violence in our lives, why do we call it into our lives through the movies and series we watch? Why, if we have been untouched by that underworld, why the hell do we let it into our mind? Because sometimes that is really hell right there on the screen.
If we really want to live in a peaceful world, we have to start by looking at what we look at, by questioning our own views, and likes. We need to see ourselves reflected in the movies we watch because what we let into our minds has an effect. What we feed our mind, we are feeding our beings. Do we want to feed us violence? Is that the way to create a peaceful world? It is not.
It’s about time we start de-mythicizing violence as something to aspire to, to clap at, to laugh at, to condone, or worse, to encourage. Because this world is burning, it’s not the time to fuel the fire, it’s the time to quench it, in our screens, in our stories, in our minds, in our hearts, in our lives, and in our souls.