The title of a rather cheesy song by a Swedish girl called Emilia that was a big hit somewhere in the late nineties. More than ten years down the line it still pops up in my head every now and again. In spite of being a big girl these days, it still is a big, big world too. Which I find hugely fascinating yet intimidating at occassions...



Tuesday, 26 November 2013

A Place To Call Home

For as long I’ve known, I’ve been a bit of a vagabond. Not in the sense of a tramp; I like to have a roof above my head and preferably a nice one if I can help it! Don’t call me spoiled, but I do appreciate some comfort. Like a soft warm bed, a good shower and some personal space. A place like that can be found anywhere, at least that’s what I like to think. In my own home, I have created it for myself. When away it doesn’t seem to take much effort either.

Nevertheless there’s more than meets the eye. A variety of countries I visited gave me a sense of belonging soon after I set foot on their soil. Like I could live there, or I would want to! Or at least that I wanted to return, perhaps time and time again… Egypt was – and perhaps is – such a place. First time I visited I was quite sure it wouldn’t be long till my next visit. That was indeed the case: it took less than 3 months. In fact, I did go back a couple of times within less than a year and ended up moving there by the end of it. Call it Kismet, but casually I had applied for a job in Cairo and before I knew it, it was handed to me on a silver plate..  

Moving to a country that is so fundamentally different to the one where you’re from can’t be easy, yet I had that sense of belonging. It could take me off guard at the strangest moments. One of my favourite was when driving back home from work on that awful Ring Road. We would get stuck in traffic on an almost daily basis, which would allow me with plenty of time to look around and soak in everything I saw. Rural migrants risking their lives trying to cross over as if they were still back home, unfinished buildings by the roadside (because living next to a highway is posh!), bilingual signs with funny spelling ‘mistakes’ in English, a thick layer of dust everywhere and palm trees. Palm trees! It would never fail to hit me with a small, sharp pang. Oh my god, I’m living in a country with palm trees!! It would take me home with a sense of gratitude.


 Yet I left again. Home is more than being contented with the place you are living in.  It is also the people and what it is you do there. Life is what happens while you’re busy making other plans, so after a small detour I found myself back in the country that I had so eagerly left a few years before that. Just to make myself clear: the place I didn’t want to live in anymore. I vowed it would only be for a short while, I was now too much of a cosmopolitan to get stuck there! But once more life played a trick on me and before long I had to acknowledge this was going to be where I was going to spend many years to come. It didn’t take long before I could accept my fate. This was my old home, where I grew up and spent the vast majority of my life. And last but not least: the people that I had loved for such a long time were close to me when I needed them most.


The other day I was struck with that sense of belonging once again. Oddly enough, I was in the region where I was born and raised. At the tender age of eighteen, I had pretty much ran away, out into the world. I have always loved its flatness, its emptiness with only distant rows of trees and scattered farms for variation. Even the greyness of the water and the sky would put my mind at ease, bringing me back to the days where I had just left and still felt the urge to visit on a regular basis.

Last time around something upset me. Driving around with my beloved I enjoyed pointing out all of these places from a more and more distant past. I was entertaining myself with the thought how I had escaped the ugliness of all the cheap modern buildings. A lot of distinct land marks had disappeared over time. That’s when it hit me: the place from my childhood is slowly fading away. This place looks nothing like home anymore..

photos from:
* http://www.ptank.com/blog/tag/cairo/
* http://www.omroepzeeland.nl/nieuws/2013-05-08/430306/bluswater-wetteren-mogelijk-over-dagen-pas-westerschelde#.UpR8bWS1W68

Wednesday, 20 November 2013

Slut Fear

Suddenly she was staring at me from the cover of various magazines in a mischievous kind of way. Sure enough I had heard of the documentary and the book (both only in Dutch language: Sletvrees).  Also, I was immediately curious about the subject. Slut Fear. Double standards are being used for men and women. The phenomenon is something almost every woman has to deal with from time to time. Noticing you’re  being considered a slut, or perhaps even worse: thinking exactly that is going to happen.




As a teenager, I went on a trip without my parents for the first time when I was sixteen: camping with my cousins. Before we took off, my dad had a ‘heart-to-heart’ with me. What he did was to basically warn me about boys. His exact words have disappeared from my memory, but what stuck with me was that I needed to be wary. They might want to use me for their own purpose! Put differently: don’t just go with any boy. Make sure you have safe sex, if you’re going to have it at all. Truth is, I was still a baby at that age. Like lots of girls, incredibly curious about sexuality though. Kind of looking forward to it but not ready at all: snogging was where I drew the line. Anything beyond that was unknown, exciting, yet too scary. It goes without saying that every now and again a boy would try. That made me feel resentful. Who did they think they were and what made them think they could cross that invisible line?? Yet all the while something was stirring inside of me…  Somehow I wanted it. Thinking about kissing a boy, letting a boy touch me and  to see what would happen filled me with excitement.  I was clueless about what that would be precisely. All I knew about sex, I had been taught in sex education and by reading Harlequin novels. A tall dark handsome man that would swipe me off my feet, press his body against mine and kiss me hard… Thinking about that was enough to feel a knot in my stomach. I believe it made me feel sexual. Could it be I connected with my inner slut?


 Then one day when I was eighteen it happened. I met a tall dark  handsome stranger. He was very to the point and I slept with him. Yet it was nothing like a first time was supposed to be! Yes, he did all the things the heroes from my novels did. He even used the right words. But it was all about him and then it was over. He didn’t even realise I was still a virgin. After that, I saw him one more time and the spark was definitely gone. I’d seen all his tricks by then, that’s what it felt like. My next lover – and boyfriend for eight years – was the exact opposite. Also tall, dark and handsome – a recurring theme in my love life – but very gentle, considerate and serious. That made up for a bad start. Yet it didn’t last. To tell you the truth: partly because I lost touch with my inner slut.

At some point I stopped counting my lovers. Not that a lot of men came after that. It was more that most of my curiosity had been answered to.
In the end, there was one time in my life a man called me a slut, by which he meant a cheap girl. It must have been projection. This relationship started and ended with deceit, but not from my part. Luckily, he never managed to make me feel like I was cheap. He mostly confused me: how can you say this about me and still claim you love me and want to be with me? The poor guy must have been terrified: definite case of Slut Fear!
Needless to say I have been most happy with men that made me feel loved as well as sexual.  The word slut has a negative connotation to it, but why not embrace what is behind it The mere word paints a picture of women that is heavily influenced by modern society. But women as well as men need to feel desired from time to time. If we manage to maintain a balance between the sexual and the emotional aspect of love, there’s nothing wrong with exploring our own boundaries. No Slut Fear needed.

Monday, 11 November 2013

November


My favourite part of the year is over. Living in one of the greyest parts of the world I cherish what it is we call summer. By which I mean: some sort of summery weather. If we’re lucky, it starts around May and ends somewhere in October. Sounds good? Well… Foreigners often joke that we don’t have any seasons, that it is just grey and dreary all year around. But having lived here for most of my life I’m able to see the silver lining: there is a difference from one part of the year to the other! That’s why I feel free to take the liberty to label such a long chunk of the year as ‘summery’. Everything is relative.
This year we had a summer that wasn’t bad at all. It didn’t start off too good, spring was rather cold and June was still rather chilly but at least there wasn’t much rain. But then July and August: they were wonderful, marvellous….

Often I found myself walking or cycling around town thinking life should always be this way: to step out of my front door and feel happy, just by feeling warm air on my skin. Not to ever be bothered thinking about bringing a jacket is high on my list of priorities.
Then it starts sneaking in: temperatures drop, days get longer until it gets to the point where I leave the house in the morning in the dark and get back home under the same circumstances. That’s when I start to feel again as if life is just passing me by and there’s nothing I can do about it. Nothing to do but just wait patiently. Bear with it until that day, where I leave my house in the morning and suddenly notice the sun has started to rise earlier. I like to pretend the birds serenade me on my way to work. That is the moment everything feels lighter and easier again. After all, days have been getting longer from late December on without me realising it..

Leaves me with a good six months of the year to struggle through.  But what a waste of precious time, this feeling of being stuck in time! I’ve wondered if it is possible to transfer that summery feeling to another part of the year. To be happy to just walk out of the door? And to feel the crisp air on my skin, or raindrops? So far, no positive outcome: I only feel like rushing home after work and hide away. Not with an entire sense of unhappiness; it’s all just so bland. With a long, dark grey winter ahead of me that I’m pessimistic about I’m unsure what to do. I keep reading about the subject “How to live my life purpose”. Till I have to conclude that I’m spending an awful lot of time reading instead of doing whatever it is I’m supposed to do!

Martin Seligman is one of the founders of Positive Psychology. Dr. Seligman and his co founders thought psychology should not only heal the illness, but also build on strengths that all humans carry within them. He has concluded psychology helps people to feel better about themselves. It seems that 60 % of our chances to be happy is up to genetics, while the remaining 40 %  is in our own hands. Now that’s catching my attention! I’m basically a happy person, how can I be happier?
Three different types of life are being distinguished: 1) A Pleasant Life; Where you have as much fun as you can. 2) A Good Life; Where you have found engagement and inspiration in what you do with your day. 3) A Meaningful Life: Where you know what your strengths are and how to use them.
The outcome shows that the Pleasant Life barely has any influence on positive emotions. Dr. Seligman compares it to the cream and the cherry on top of the cake. First make sure your life is one with meaning and engagement, the rest will follow.



Sources:




Sunday, 10 November 2013

If I Were...


Now this is entirely for fun. Thank you Julochka from Moments of Perfect Clarity at www.julochka.com! She checks back every year to see how much has changed. I’m planning to do the same thing just to see how much I change. My answers are intuitive and without delay. Very cool and entertaining thing to do for anyone who has about ten minutes to spare.


If I were a month I’d be August.

If I were a day I’d be Sunday.

If I were a time of day I’d be sunset.

If I were a font I’d be Cambria.

If I were a sea animal I’d be an eagle ray.

If I were a direction I’d be south.

If I were a piece of furniture I’d be a day bed.

If I were a liquid I’d be spring water.

If I were a gemstone I’d be a rose quartz.

If I were a tree I’d be a willow.

If I were a tool I’d be a screwdriver.

If I were a flower I’d be an iris.

If I were an element of weather I’d be the sun.

If I were a colour I’d be white.

If I were a musical instrument I’d be a violin.

If I were an emotion I’d be happy.

If I were a fruit I’d be raspberry.

If I were a sound I’d be a heartbeat.

If I were a car I’d be a 4WD.

If I were a food I’d be Nasi.

If I were material I’d be silk.

If I were a taste I’d be sweet.

If I were a scent I’d be Un Jardin sur le Nil by Herm├Ęs.

If I were a body part I’d be shoulders.

If I were a song I’d be Long Time Sunshine by Benjahmin.

If I were a bird I’d be a hummingbird.

If I were a gift I’d be flowers.

If I were a city I’d be Cairo.

If I were a door I’d be oak wooden.

If I were a pair of shoes I’d be Mary Janes.

If I were a poem I’d be The Road Not Taken by Robert Frost.


Hopefully I’ll remember to repeat in a year from now….