You should do Death well.

It is always a little strange to credit or quote yourself. To claim something as your own idea or philosophy. I will do it now though. One of my ideas and philosophies in life is “that you should do death well”.

 

vlag westertoren

A colleague took a photo of the Flag on the West Tower

 

Yesterday morning it became clear that the mayor of Amsterdam had passed away. We had known that he’d been sick for months, and he also recently announced he abdicated. The death was no surprise. Yesterday morning I learned the news because a friend posted: ‘An Amsterdammer has passed away’. The rest of the day was quite emotional, even though I didn’t really know a lot about the man, it was touching to see, every hour that I would climb up the tower where I work that more flags where hanging half post, acknowledging the loss. Soon people would come into the tower almost angry demanding to know why we did not have a flag yet. And soon there was someone to indeed put a flag on the tower. What does one do when someone passes away? With public figures like our mayor, loved like our mayor, the memories are recounted. The documentaries shown again, the friends interviewed, and I, who knew little of the men except for his name, and his illness, investigated. It is strange how when celebrities die you all the sudden get to know them more than you did when they are alive. Honestly, since it is such a tradition to show an elaborate documentary on television when someone passes away I once wrongly assumed that a person in a documentary had died.

Going trough the material to be found online about this man it is almost strange to think he has passed. Getting to know the things he did and said, and being so insprired by them, gives more a feeling of making a new friend than saying goodbye. In my personal life, with different losses, I have also experienced this, although different as well. Death for me causes a clear vision on the life of the one who has passed. And, how I loved them. Death, as final as it is has taken another persons life, and at the same time, I feel, I should do death well. There is no better moment than death to say to life: “You know what, let’s just look for a second what you brought us”. The emotional rollercoaster, however unexpected, is something I unapoligatically step into. Life might have a tendency to get in the way, but death breaks open the road, to truly look at what it means to be alive. Doing death well means taking all time for all what’s going on- the love, the despereration, the crying.  the writing. The watching, the looking and the thankfulness for life- the hope that the life and the vitality of this person brings beyond death. The strange solemness of grief.

The being set back and eyes opened and filled with tears, a heart with a crack so the lights comes through. There is not such a thing as no grief- and with grief I mean any emotion inspired by death and loss- there is only post-phoned grief. One of the things i greatly apriciate in life is being emotionally sabotaged, lack of sleep, for instance, sometimes helps me connect to feelings that i could otherwise not reach. Death is the ultimate emotional sabotage- the very essence of life unhinged- you might as well take advantage of it. You might as well do death well.

The being set back and eyes opened and filled with tears, a heart with a crack so the light comes through. There is not such a thing as no grief- and with grief, I mean any emotion inspired by death and loss, there is only postponed grief. One of the things I greatly appreciate in life is being emotionally sabotaged, lack of sleep, for instance, sometimes helps me connect to feelings that I could otherwise not reach. Death is the ultimate emotional sabotage- the very essence of life unhinged- you might as well take advantage of it. You might as well do death well.

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Beyond Imagination.

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Every once in a while, a day is so full of inexplicable wonderous moments, that you have to stand still record it, so you can save it for later.  a little bit of sunshine for a later day. The wondrous moment when you find yourself trying to climb out of your room over strangers stuff and have a dear fictional character lend you the hand to climb into your house that you agreed could be confiscated by strangers for a day. The moment that you stand next to a stranger, both locking your bike, feeling strangely connected though there is no conversation and never will be…

The moment a colleague guesses wildly and guesses right about who was in your house that day-  The moment that you realise that the ultimate safe and scary childhood figure, men with white beard and red dress is looking at you- silently. Seeing and hearing someone you have been listening to for ten years, realising it is all you love (shout out to Newton Faulkner :)). The empowering feeling of going somewhere alone.

Being cut off from wifi which allows you to do in an hour what you haven’t been able to do for more than a week. The moment you are reminiscing and travelling on auto-pilot realising you are somewhere you haven’t been before, not entirely sure how you got there. the moment you find a note on your laptop, realising a guy that you kind of liked went into your bedroom, and wrote his number name and that he will probably be back next week. the moment you write your reality as were it fiction, realising how deliciously creepy some of the statements sound.

Now. Time for bed. Off you go!

Writing something intelligent

I have written about writing a lot on this blog. I’ve been exploring why I write, why I think it matters, and what I write and how what others write helps me. One of the reasons I write is to document some of my feelings. Sometimes these feelings do not last, solely the products of the feelings in the forms of poems or rants on paper. However, when these things re-occur, I can go back to my writing to understand how I felt about something, and perhaps how that changed. Growing up in a strong Christian tradition we quickly learned how people often remember only the good things about a previous situation if something goes bad. The Israelites when in the desert after being freed from Egyptian slavery reacted to a lack of meat with the words: oh but in Egypt at least we had meat, forgetting that they also had masters that knew no mercy. Similarly, I am always critical about my own recollection of events: was it as good as I remember? Or was it a bit more nuanced than that? Was it much better?

U Voelt Zo Dicht Weg

‘U Voelt Zo Dicht Weg’- ‘You Feel So Close Away’

Reading back helps me understand sometimes, but first, it has to be written. Sometimes, struggling with what to think of feel about a certain event I long to write ‘something intelligent’ about the matter. Hoping that words will help me understand something that feels quite uncertain. In fact, this is also how I pray sometimes. I hope that somehow I could address some meaningful words to God, to connect when I feel disconnected. Sometimes this happens and sometimes it does not. And so to improve my meditation on the words I could address to God, I decided to sew a prayer. I started embroidering with my sewing machine again a few days ago and after some trials, i thought of combining the meditation of sewing and praying. I started to sew: God, U bent hier, maar u voelt zo- (meaning god, you are here but you feel so- ), I  wanted to continue to sew  ‘ver weg’ (meaning ‘Far away’) however, wandering in my mind I started to write Dicht ‘(meaning: close’). To be honest to my first intention I decided to compromise: I finished with ‘weg’. resulting in : ‘U voelt zo dicht weg’- ‘You feel so close away’. It is not correct dutch or English and a word play between far away and close by, yet this felt like something very intelligent to write. It is beautiful and also helped me to understand how I was feeling these past days- not necessarily about God but about some things around me. These things felt ‘away’ but at the same time to close to let go. To remember what I wrote, I restitched the last part of my prayer: ‘U voelt zo dicht weg’. I pinned it to the wall to remember that something letting go of thoughts and accidentally straying can give beautiful insights.

 

how words help

I think it is time to write again, nonfiction, non-poetry. Thoughts. I was stumbling around today and I tried to figure a subject, and I thought of something yet I forgot. I just moved houses and this always entails a process of settling and finding my way around the house, even more so when it is a surprise move, and work and social obligations make it difficult to focus. I think that aside from ‘love’ home is one of the most common theme or word in the songs that I know. Moving house always makes me rethink home. Jon Foreman puts it beautifully ‘Ooh I’m going home but I don’t know if home is a place,  I can still get to by train’. In a way, in this digital age my digital little world, my computer, my facebook, my email and my blog are just as much my ‘home’ as the other stuff I collected throughout the years. At the same time, there are many proverbs about home, for instance ‘home is where the heart is’ referring to the people important in your life. I would say I would like home to be the place where my heart is safe. Whether it is safe because of the fact that the people I live with are kind, or because the walls of the house keep intrusion of strangers at bay. Hanging out with self-proclaimed introverts, I have found my own introversion in the last few years. Perhaps, all who meet me would be sure I am extroverted- I talk a lot, to friends and strangers no different. In fact, I sometimes get my self into trouble for being so outspoken. At the same time, I spend most of my time alone and after a day full of people I need some time to recover. To settle down and hear my own thoughts again.

The title of this post is ‘how words help’ I have found that although it is sometimes difficult to talk to others about how you feel, whether it is because they do not understand or because you don’t have the energy or the space to connect to other people, words of others can help. If only to prove that you are not the only one who thinks this way. In fact that is what I love about the whole ‘social media’ thing, instead of hearing only a few voices, all voices can be heard or found, which in itself to me proves the point every time that everyone’s opinion is valuable, even if half the time wish I would just shut up, or at least hope that everyone forgets I said anything.

verbal

Vermin, mess, and teddy bears

How did I now find me here

In this world of ever growing

People coming to our yard

 

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crash and bike

 

 

Bike rides from my home to work

And back again

And I remember when

I did just start cycling down the street

Holding the handle bars so tightly

Still falling down having the biggest scab I ever had

Right there on my elbow, and the joy of it.

And the joy of it.

The freedom that I found

Let me find it once again.

The desire of an Angel

Last Sunday I saw an angel. My guess was that she was 5 years old, and obviously, she was British. She had long gold curly hear and a dark blue dress partly covered in sequins. And this little angel was eating jello. Now I know she was an angel because I met her in a church, and because of what she said to me. Now here I was, sitting alone, waiting, waiting for a friend I just made to arrive. I was looking at the angel for a while, so beautiful, her legs adorned with blueish stripes, that might be drawn by pencil, or perhaps a sign that she had fairy blood as well. After a while of thinking of the fact, that I, in fact, had never eaten jello (we do not have this in the mundane world that I come from), it appeared that the angel also had been looking at me. She came with a spoon held out. I tried to make some conversation, telling her about that I had never had jello because we did not have it where I was from. And in turn, she told me that “Actually, it is raspberry flavoured”. At first, I was sure she came to give me a bite of the spoon, yet I was unsure how to proceed. So even though I wanted to try, I made awkward conversation, and we looked into each other’s eyes. And then she said it: ‘I’d like to share’.

 

hazelaar (konijn)

Not an angel, rather a drawing I made years ago, to represent Hazel from Watership down, however, it seems appropriate.

 

Relieved by her confession and eager to fulfil her desire, I told her: “Shall I take a bite?” “Yes,” she said. And so I took a bite from the bright red jello, that I for me always was more the stuff of nightmares instead of dreams, and I found out that it was unlike anything I had before. Indeed it tasted like liquid raspberry. Then, without warning, her mum came to us, half embarrassed that her daughter was bothering me, and the moment ended.

Although this was short and unsophisticated encounter, this angel taught me. Sometimes the best way to go is to just tell others about your desire. And, it is ok to do something, just because you like it. At the same time, it taught me that things that might seem horrible and fake from a distance can still be wonderful and tasty. And lastly, it taught me, that where ever you are, you might just get surprised by an angel, teaching you life.

Stress

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the peace I can see but not feel

oh the boiling lightning in my belly

oh the tiredness in my arms

oh the tightness in my jaws

and the tremor in my eyelids

 

I     am     almost    there

I     am     almost    there

I     am     almost    there

There is life beyond the deadline.

 

All the wrong reasons

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Imran Qureshi- on the rooftop of the Metropolitain Museum in 2013

When I started this blog, it was out of procrastination. I think around that time I also watched all of the Game of Thrones seasons available for the first time. I was making immense progress in doing what I wanted (write) and what others thought I should do (watch game of thrones).  I did all of it for the reason that I found it very hard to focus on the task at hand, undoubtedly some writing or assignment for school. You could say easily, I was doing it for the wrong reasons. A little while ago I was having an honest conversation with someone. For the sake of  ‘What do we loose by being honest’ we both honestly shared what we were feeling. Our doubts. The feeling that we were doing things for the wrong reasons. I met this vulnerability with honesty again, honesty and affirmation. ‘I think indeed you are doing this for the wrong reasons’. Based on this the conclusion the other wanted to draw was that the only right thing to do is to stop doing what they were doing because they were obviously for the wrong reason. I simply said, I do think there is something like doing something for the wrong reason, yet I don’t think it is the worse thing. It is often just a copings mechanism- we become aware of where this coping mechanism has brought us, and we see what it brought us and others. True, sometimes doing things at the wrong time for the wrong reasons can mean great harm. But I refuse to life in a world were everything is supposed to be right or it is doomed. A in a long conversation about the meaning of life a few weeks ago, the person I was talking with was sharing his view of life. ‘The purpose of life is to what is perfect for you, where you can be most effective and happy, mind over matter.’ I was trying to say that efficiency although a great love of mine (nothing as frustrating than things going wrong when some efficiency could have stop them from happening), it did not do justice to human life. Humans, although we have the gift and the ability of reason, are very unreasonable creatures :). We have emotions, we have desires, we have hope, we have faith, we have love. All of that is not very efficient. Connection, is not very efficient. Human connection is made through simple biology- blood, and then blood is family. Being somewhere at the same time provides us with friends, lovers, enemies. With every connection we make we are changed. Our heart is met with that of another, and we change, whether we are open to it or not. Now, this is not some argument for that everything is equal, that the only purpose in life is meeting others and in that way moving on. I think the world is very bleak when we lose a sense of right and wrong, purpose and suffering. However, what I am trying to say, to convey, to celebrate is the complexity of life. That there is no one answer to human behavior, how to improve or to judge it.

This perhaps becomes most clear in the bible. Sure, this book teaches us about God, but it mostly teaches us about ourselves, about our nature, about others. And I don’t mean necessarily the great doctrine, original sin, or men as the great custodian of the world. I mean the stories, the little things. The completely ridiculous things that are so relatable. The struggle with what is right, the struggle to see our own wrongs, the judgment we carry for ourselves and others, the endless discussions we have about the meaning of the things in our lives. How we can walk with God and still not really know if we believe in him, or want to believe in him. The need for salvation. But this need is for salvation is only based on honesty. On honesty and honoring of God. The ‘I am broken, I am not complying to the modern worlds demand of efficiency, but I made something, I wrote something, and it is proof of your grace’. That You make beautiful things out of dust, out of us. A prove that God is so much more loving than we are: ‘You’re much sweeter than me, by far, You’re much stronger than me, You know You are’

‘So far my dramatic writing of the day, have to give credit to some ‘you make beautiful things out of the dust/out of us, comes from Gungor’s song ‘Beautiful things’. Similarly the ‘You’re much sweeter than me by far, you are much stronger than me, you know you are’ is from the wonderful Aaron Sprinkle. Also, I have to give credit to all the wonderful people around me that no matter what they believe teach me about the grace of God. And lastly, my thesis that desperately needs some work. I wouldn’t be living on the edge without you :).