Turtle Poem

 

01 First steps into the unknown

First steps into the unknown,

 

02 Walk together

walk together,

 

03 Walk alone

walk alone.

 

04 It's a long road and we stray

It’s a long road and we stray,

 

05 And many times we wonder

many times we wonder,

 

06 Which way

which way.

 

07 Crossing hurdles and hills

Crossing hurdles and hills,

 

08 Its daunting

it’s daunting,

 

09 But daunting also thrills

but daunting also thrills.

 

10 So embrace the crazy ride

So we learn to embrace the crazy ride,

 

11 The magnificent unpredictability of life

the magnificent unpredictability of life,

 

12 And surf the tide

and surf its tide.

 

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Who are you? The Power of the Mind

One of the topics frequently being discussed in the “Everyday” Facebook chat between Michaelle, Rachel and I is the power of the mind. As all people, we have good days and we have bad days. We also have worse days. With influences from the likes of Louise Hay, we always try to encourage each other to be aware of the fact that we are very much in charge of our lives, and most importantly, our minds.

It’s so easy to fall into the habit of thinking I am this or I am that. I am shy. I am loud. I am a failure. I am ugly. I am not a happy person. But why are you all of these things? Let me tell you – something happened to you once and your reaction was to think that you were shy. Then something else happened, which reinforced that thought. Then maybe something else. All of a sudden, shy defined you and you knew that you had always been, and probably always would be, shy. “It’s just the way I am.”

Yes and no. If you want to give random external circumstances the power to decide who you are, then yes. But you also have an opportunity here; an opportunity which only reveals itself as soon as you realise that you are not defined by what happens to you, but how you react to it. If you are wearing blue tinted glasses you will see the world in blue, but you can just as easily decide to change to red.

It is a powerful thought: your world is what you make it.  You can actually change the way you think to ultimately change the way you feel. You can choose to see failure or opportunity in everything that happens to you. You can choose to put the red tinted glasses on and they don’t tell you that you’re shy, they never have and they never will.

But how do you do it? Not to be discouraging, but it will probably be the greatest challenge of your life. I saw an excellent TED Talk the other day on how science suggests that we’re more perceptive to negative thoughts than positive ones, and how we tend to get stuck in a spiral of negative thinking. Although pretty basic, it was a revelation to me as I have always felt that negativity comes way too easily.

In fact, ever since Michaelle introduced me to Louise Hay (who’s ideas I take with a kilo of salt – I find it very difficult to believe that thoughts can cure all forms of disease) mid last year, I have been on a mission to reinvent the way I think. With a rather common yet nonetheless dysfunctional belief system about who I was (not “good enough” being the most prominent idea) it seemed impossible at first. You don’t wash away 31 years of beliefs just like that. But after a year, I’m amazed by how much easier it has become. And this TED Talk was another step in the right direction, because the more aware we are of how are brains work (or don’t work), the better capable we will be to manipulate them and improve them to our advantage.

Awareness is the first and most important step. Simply realising that you can change the way you think to change the way you feel has already taken you 50% of the way. That awareness will keep on reminding you, poking you and annoying you until your unwillingness to change is the only thing standing in your way.

Michaelle and Rachel are knights and guardians of my awareness (they’ll love that). Whenever I’m sad or upset about something, they tell me that I should choose to think and feel differently. It always frustrates me because it’s really not what you want to hear when you’re having a bad day – you want some pity, comfort and a truckload of chocolate, not someone telling you it’s actually your own fault you’re feeling this way. Even if it is.

One caveat here, it’s important to be self-aware enough to know when you’re being silly (and as long as you’re aware, why not have a pity party for a few hours, they’re fun!) and when things are serious. Because even if I do believe in the power of changing the way you think, I also believe that you should give your emotional intelligence some credit. If you feel sad, mistreated or unhappy, your feelings are probably trying to tell you that there is something you need to change in life. Ultimately, change in thinking also needs to be combined with action, because at the end of the day, you can’t think your way out of an unstable financial situation, an unhealthy lifestyle or a dysfunctional relationship.

How to sum this up? Use the awareness. Use your self-awareness. Use your emotional intelligence. Figure out what it is you need to change, both physically and mentally, and see it as an opportunity to create a better life for yourself. You don’t have to wear blue tinted glasses if you don’t want to, and the first step – really not as easy as it might sound – is to realise that they’re not attached to your face.

Lanterns on the Lake

I saw Lanterns on the Lake on a small stage in Stockholm and this song was one of their closing acts. It was January this year, I was with my good friend Malin, it was cold, dark, snowy and melancholic as only Stockholm can be in the winter. I remember feeling so privileged to see them. It was majestic, magnificent and powerful.

You learn fear is just a fleeting thing.

You learn love is not a fleeting thing.

 

UN Women and Emma Watson – The Missed Opportunity

I don’t often get very angry, but this morning I almost choked on my coffee when the first thing I saw as I opened up my laptop was this:

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I’m an avid supporter of UN Women: I interned with them in Bangkok in 2010 and was voted in as committee member for the UN Women UK London Branch in 2011. I think UN Women does great things. And Emma Watson for that matter. Her whole “girl next door” look is what makes her so great – we can all see bits of ourselves in her. She’s pretty yes, but not conventionally stunning. A bit awkward looking even and skinny, but not in an “I’m starving myself” way but because she hasn’t necessarily grown into a full-blown woman yet (no criticism here, I still look like a teenager at 30 so I can totally relate).

So why did this news make me angry? I think you’ve probably figured it out already (although I was desperately scrolling down among the comments on that post without seeing any similar reactions). Do you recognise the woman in the photo? “Yeah, that’s Emma, right,” you’re thinking. “She looks stunning,” you’re probably also thinking. “But perhaps she doesn’t really look like she normally does?”

Head on the nail.  A qualified guess is that the photo has been retouched. Not just a little bit but a lot (what on earth happened to her mouth?!). This is Emma as we know her, with freckles, dimples, a wonky mouth with a bigger bottom lip:

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You might not think it’s a big deal, retouching is a part of our daily lives. EVERYONE does it. Even you and I when we put that Sierra filter on our photos on Instagram to wash out those drunken red faces. But the whole idea of a UN Women Goodwill Ambassador is to support women around the world by setting a good example. With this photo, they don’t only fail that task miserably, they send the completely wrong message to women:

We have to be beautiful.

We’re not beautiful if we’re not perfect.

We have to be perfect.

How many women don’t struggle with this idea of being perfect? Almost all the women I know do, on a daily basis, whether they voice it or not. It is the number one thing that holds us back.

In this photo, Emma is not the girl next door anymore, she’s not you and me. She’s a famous, stunning, unreachable actress and we can only strive to be as amazing.

Of course, I don’t have any proof to back up my claim that the photo is retouched. None at all. And although my gut tells me that common sense is proof enough, I want to be diplomatic. So let’s say it isn’t, would that change things? Honestly, no. That photo made someone who doesn’t normally get very angry write this post, for a start. Even the fact that one might think the photo is retouched is a problem.  That Emma looks “perfect” is all well and good for her, but when conveying messages to women around the world, UN Women, out of everyone, should carefully consider what is actually being said.

You might want to argue here that a Goodwill Ambassador is always a talented celebrity raising the profile of the organisation and it’s work. Yes, that’s fine. But there are tons of opportunities to use this fact in a positive  way (especially with Emma Watson, I’m stunned by this missed opportunity!) and we must ask ourselves if we are slowly but surely breaking stereotypes down or if we are reinforcing them? Are we celebrating the beauty, perfection and talent of the girl next door or did we just put her on a pedestal and superglued her to it? Are we making women feel beautiful just the way they are or encouraging them to botox their lips and bleach away their freckles (or find a suitable app that does the same)? You tell me, UN Women and Emma Watson.

Glimpses

Being far away from family and friends is hard. Particularly hard is the fact that many can’t relate to the life that you live, despite long emails, phone calls and endless Skype sessions. So I wanted to show them instead, show you, what life is like in this beautiful part of the world.

Very timely, I found this app that pastes together video clips, one second per day (if you remember to take one clip each day that is). Below is the result and glimpses of my life in March and April, until I slowly but surely started to forget taking videos.  You will see some Rwanda, South Africa, Burundi and Uganda, and although that sounds a bit wild for “every day life” during only two months, that’s exactly what those two months offered. Many of the best moments were of course not captured on film, but on the other hand, this app allows you to appreciate the small moments, the ones likely to be forgotten – a drive, a dog, an afternoon by a lake.

I hope you see this and make one of your own – what a fantastic way to share life with those who are far away.

I think I broke something

I think I’ve never encountered such a fitting name for a song before: if you ever broke something that thought you couldn’t live without, I imagine it would feel like this song. Let me take you through the short but intense journey.

First 11 seconds – Denial. “I refuse to believe that this just happened”

12 – 18 seconds – Confusion. “It happened, but I can’t yet grasp what it means”

19 – 35 seconds – Realisation and grief. “I want to pull my heart out”

36 seconds – 1:00 minute – Dwelling and depression. “It hurts so much, I will never heal”

1:01 – 1:29 – Acceptance. “I have to accept that it’s lost”

1:30 – 1:33 – Silence

Grow

I don’t know anything about Ryan Vail. Nothing. When you google him the first few hits are images and the blog of a professional distance runner. Somehow, I don’t think this is the same guy.  There is a website, with nothing on it. There is a Facebook page with 3,188 likes. Clearly, Ryan Vail is up and coming. I would like to think I’m in the know and I’m sharing this insider tip with you right now, but finding this song was a complete accident. Either way, I love it and hope you do to.

Abandoned Places

I always thought there was something so fascinating about abandoned places.  Partly because I love photography and they make for the most extraordinary motifs, but mostly because of their haunting, inherent sadness – they once carried such great potential, they were the objects of expectations, hopes and desires to achieve something unique. Now, they might look like nothing to the bypasser. They might look like dirt and trash, unworthy of our attention. But I would like to argue that there is rare beauty in the sadness they bear, and there is always a concealed story of hope, often unknown to the world around.

There is one such place in Kigali, Rwanda. In the middle of the city, there is a small lake surrounded by an array of green vegetation, and somewhere in there, you can find an abandoned amusement park. The story goes – as recollected from various sources and rumours – that a woman brought over the rides and statues from China approximately 10 years ago, but was then unable to get the park approved and opened. The result is  a wonderfully bizarre and unique abandoned place in the very heart of Kigali. You can literally walk past it on the street, not knowing that what hides behind the greenery a few meters below in the valley.

If you ever come here, I will show you were it is. In the meantime, please do enjoy these photos. I hope you find them weird, ugly, beautiful, sad, mysterious, bizarre, random, terrible, fun, intriguing, unnerving  – anything but nothing.

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