How the pain wasn’t pain, but boredom

Two weeks of this diet are over and I feel uneasy about not knowing what I think about it. Sincerely, I had expected some serious suffering and having to push through difficult moments, and ultimately feeling totally refreshed after the 30 days for having made it. Well, in all honesty, it hasn’t been all that difficult. I haven’t felt a lot of suffering. Mostly, it’s just been really, really boring. Like, I want to treat myself to something, and I won’t. I want to put some honey in my food to make it tastier, but I won’t. I want to drink tea in the evening, but it turns out it has stevia, so I won’t. And so it goes on. It’s just a whole bunch of no’s. At times I really think I will go crazy, and one night I dreamed that I was dying because I couldn’t have sugar but that I couldn’t break the diet. But then I woke up and thought that I could have an apple in the morning, and fell asleep again.

I’m not one to bail though. I’m almost half-way through now, and although this diet hasn’t made any life-changing alterations in my lifestyle and food habits, it has forced me to stop my impulses (like I mentioned before, it’s still an ongoing process) and it has made me come back to what I normally eat like, and it has made me cook more. In fact, it’s not too hard to find stuff to cook that doesn’t require sweetener, and over the last days I have gone through all from lasagna to vegetable pie (first one that failed horribly and then one that turned out amazingly) and asparagus/feta omelette for breakfast.

In general, I think that right before I started this I was really getting used to indulge in desserts and whatnot, and I’m glad to be back on a more balanced level. I still have to stop and think about what I really crave when I want sugar, and since we’re all frying here since a few weeks back, it’s mostly water. A few new favorite “musts” have been introduced, such as freshly pressed orange juice, or coconut water.

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However, I have also noticed that while I tend to be more conscious about my lifestyle in general with this diet condition, leaving out sugar is NOT necessarily the equivalent of eating healthy, and I find myself occasionally craving stuff that I wouldn’t even look at before. Did y’all know that sea salted potato chips do not have any sugar, for instance? Generally, I also tend to eat more to feel satisfied, and to my surprise I think I might even have gained a little weight. But then again, that is secondary to this “study”.

Today I had my first big trial, being a birthday dinner out. I can’t say I am 100% sure I didn’t get a gram of added sugar into my body, but the fish that I ordered (delicious Cuban hoki hoki prepared similarly to the Mexican “a la veracruzana”, for those who know it) at least didn’t taste sweet, and I think I went beyond any lengths when I ordered a SUGAR FREE MOJITO. That’s right: water, lime, mint and rum and NADA. Let’s just say I didn’t look the waiter in the eyes when I ordered.

The best of these last few days has been the dance, however. If there is any way that I can help myself physically AND mentally, this is it. I can’t believe that all this time I’ve had a studio two blocks away from my apartment. It hurts, it’s overwhelming, and I am definitely not 15 years old anymore, but it’s delicious and addictive and I feel like I am finding my way back to me. I might be bored as h-ll with my diet, but although I’m not learning the super hard way, I think it’s safe to say that I’m learning some and that this weird situation that I’ve put myself in has brought me some reflection and behavioral changes that are very welcome.

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Day 6. The happiness, the sadness and the nausea

I’m almost a week into this no sugar thing, and it is actually going surprisingly well. I still crave things all the time, but it’s not unbearable. My regular food habits have changed very little, in fact. Sure, things get a little more boring with no sweetness in them, but it’s not in any way unbearable.

The happiness.

Interestingly enough, my raised food awareness has raised a general interest in taking care of myself. So I subscribed myself to a dance center. I had been longing back to dancing so much it hurt since I got a taste of it last fall, when I joined a jazz class for a month and then had to stop because my body was basically broken and not ready to be used (this may sound dramatic, but it was basically what happened). So when my roomie presented this combined dance studio/gym two blocks away from our apartment, I decided it was the perfect time to try it out. And as turned out, several of the classes were great and so today I signed up for three months of unlimited classes. I really, really, really hope I will use it well. Because even though my body feels something like a million years older now than the last time I danced for real, the whole thing still sucks me in the way it used to, and I genuinely think that dancing is just THAT thing that makes me happy.

Today, class particularly made me crave pasta so I went home to make… well, a pretty f-ing amazing pasta sauce.

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The sadness.

So overall, it’s going well. Which is why I am very surprised that, at the same time, I have felt some sort of continuous sadness and emptiness over the last couple of days. It is a completely abstract feeling, linked to nothing in particular. I realize that eating has been my immediate response to that feeling, probably my whole life, because it is the very first thing that comes into mind when the feeling kicks in a little stronger. I really have to stop and question myself what that ice cream I start craving, would bring to me, what it REALLY would help – and naturally come to the conclusion that it will do absolutely nothing for me – in order to be able to let it go. Interestingly enough, it is actually quite possible to block cravings that way. Somehow, reason has gotten a stronger position since I decided that impulse wasn’t an option. But I’m still puzzled about these feelings, and I can’t help but think about something that two different persons told me at different times (a shaman and an acupuncture therapist): that my two years of back problems are the result of two years of stuffed and suffocated emotions. Without making this sound more terrible than it is, yes, the last couple of years have been rather tough on me with my thesis, family sickness, rootlessness due to constantly moving between places and homes, and all the other ordinary stuff that comes along in life. And it is true that I haven’t allowed myself to feel all that. Because I haven’t been in a position to change anything about it. It has been one of the few periods in my life where I have let rationality suffocate emotion. And these two people, without knowing of each other, or really anything about me, tell me the same thing. Which makes me wonder, if unleashing the bodily pain in my back due to dancing, might also have started to unleash some of that other pain that I worked so hard to set aside. You are most welcome to call me mixed-up and confused, but it kind of makes some sense to me.

Yesterday I made this more creamy and comfort-y dinner: coconut cauliflower rice and fish.

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The nausea.

On top of these two emotional contradictions, I’ve also gone through something like 3 complete days of never-ending nausea. I realize that you all think by now that I am pregnant.  I might have suspected it, too, if it weren’t for the fact that I just started taking contraceptives again. Which might also be one – very – important reason for both the happiness and the sadness, as you are probably also thinking. In the end, who knows what goes on inside our skin? As a friend of mine, who studies to be a doctor, said: it is actually absurd that we don’t get to learn more about our insides. We think we know ourselves so well and really we don’t know half of what goes on in there. Which is true. And really, really scary. Either way, the last few days have implied some serious physically related changes; hormonally, as regards activities, as well as food-wise. What turns out to be the determining component here, is rather for the future to tell, but what is sure, is that this fake pregnancy has made me both picky and craving stuff. While I have been cooking quite a bit, I have also gotten to enjoy greek yoghurt with mango, oats, flaxseed and cinnamon (aka. cannot be bothered to make real granola at home) and Swedish rye crisp bread, at a few occasions.

Seriously, THANK GOD for crisp bread.

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The end.

DAY 2

13:00
Had a balanced late breakfast at work with scrambled eggs in tomato sauce and beef and some hand-made corn tortillas. It was delicious, and sugar free. I am still not actually craving sugar but I notice that I have to fight my impulses all the time. There is candy *everywhere*. Only in the last three hours that I have been outside of my house I have had to stop myself a hundred times: candy in the Uber, mints with the bill for my breakfast, something I am sure is Chinese dessert at my boss’s table, vanilla powder for my coffee at Starbucks… seriously, even things you cannot eat come with candy! I realize that my biggest enemy these days is not going to be desperation, but impulse. Trying to drink LOTS of water and keep calm.

14:00
Ice cream. I had totally forgotten that this means I can’t have ice cream. Seriously, what have I done?

14:15
And neither my coconut-flavored electrolyte drink. I don’t want to live anymore.

16:30
Thank the Lord for BMW agencies and their unflavored popcorn 🙏🏼

19:30
*Preparing healthy dinner (recipe here) and snacking on cheese and then more cheese, but this time with melon*: “These are totally two different snacks, and I promise I will be healthy as soon as I’m not so goddamn hungry”.

I might have to work on the concept of “no angst eating”.

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20:00
Although today has been rather unbalanced time-wise, and despite my pre-dinner cheating, I can still proudly say that I haven’t touched sugar today, and it hasn’t even been THAT bad. In line with this new feel-good lifestyle I am no also going to try a new salsa class that I found near to my home. In general, I feel like I can totally do this. And it feels really, really good to know that I haven’t stuffed myself with poison today.

The 30-day remedy to everything

I am on my first-ever real diet. This is not a diet to lose weight, however, it´s one to lose addiction. I recently read about Arielle Calderon on Buzzfeed who did a 30-day sugar free diet, and something about it just seemed so refreshing I felt obliged to try it out. Texted the boyfriend to see if he was on board, and to my big surprise and awe, he was. So here we are, Day 1 of the no-sugar diet. And for the first time in quite a while, I felt the urge to blog. Welcome to this edition of my one-month detox.

DAY 1

The background to this decision is rather ironical actually. I´m not big on New Year´s resolutions, but this year I had one that seemed especially important to me – and the reason for that was that it wasn´t based on remorse or deception, neither was it made with a forceful feeling. Due to my feeling so satisfied about having gotten back on track with my health during 2016, I simply promised myself to “keep up the good health work”.

Funny I should have said that, because, you know, then all went to hell.

Ok, I might be exaggerating a bit. But the fact is, I started 2017 feeling addicted to = nothing. No sugar, hardly any coffee, hardly any beer, cooked healthily at home… basically I had achieved a life with no “stimulants”. And it felt great! As the months have gone by, I am still not as crazy as I was, say, a year ago, but I have definitely let myself slip. I have cravings, I overeat, I eat late at night because I´m bored, I drink too much beer, and in general, food is becoming my substitution for not knowing what to do, or to get my nervs down. NOT what I meant by continuing the good health work. So this 30-day thing is more like an extreme situation to get back on track. An intensive detox. A miracle cure against all cravings ever again. That is sort of what I am expecting.

Going shopping I was expecting to be let down by realizing that all that is tasty contains sugar, but instead I was happily surprised to recognize that I still got the hang of the ingredient lists and only a few times did I have to put back products into the shelves. Big win, no doubt. Strolling down the aisles, my head was busy remaking one of the sandwiches that Arielle Calderon had suggested; I was going for apple, ham, cheese and arugula on sugar-free, whole-grain bread. Only to find that the ham department was a total disaster. Seriously. Not one single type of smoked, boiled or however-else treated sandwich ham was free from dextrose or straight-out sugar. However, there´s a silver lining to all desperation, and it turns out that my best sandwich friend for the coming 30 days will be the one and only Mr Parma Ham (I´m pretty sure parma ham is a he). For those of you who are tempted to say that parma has too much salt in it to be healthy, I shall immediately erase you from my life.

So I just came home with 842 pesos worth of fucking everything that is good for you. And here´s the funny thing. I haven´t even started this diet yet, for real.  But there is something about the determination of a fresh start that makes you just want to plunge yourself into the trials and difficulties. Sugar starvation and eternal pain, I embrace you! Just try to beat me down. And so while I unpack all this health godliness I am feeling so good about myself, and so ready, that I totally forget that tonight is not the start of this diet, but it as in fact this morning. And I redeem myself from the fact that within these 12 hours I have already failed epically. The day started well with a fried egg, nopales and two tortillas. The happened Work Lunch, or should I say: exaggerated stuffing with pizza, beer and mezcal. But hey, I´ve always believed in a positive spirit and encouragement for advancement (this is true on an intellectual level, at least). And I´ll stick to the satisfaction of my bags full of greens. I will need to figure out how to tackle work and diet compatibility. I am, actually, sort of, feeling this happening.

Last out, here´s the recipe to my very delicious, health-pretentious dinner sandwich.

Finding space.

So I semi-decided to start writing more frequently here again. Semi, because if there is one thing that I have learned about this blog-writing thing, and also about my life, is that you never know. So before I go about and promise too much, I’ll keep my promise to a “I’ll try”.

I remember how I used to see everything as a potential blog post. Seriously, I think writing is like that. Once you get into it, it consumes you. You observe things and there’s this narrating voice inside your head that tells you how to see it. That voice used to be there at all times, and I would stop at any ridiculous little thing and take notes. And as the days went by, I would connect dots. I would understand what all these little things were representing for me, what the bigger picture was. And suddenly a multitude of details would gain this whole new meaning, and it felt beautiful.

Well, that was a few years back. Basically, that was before I started studying again. I’m really starting to become convinced that studying is not only unhealthy for me because of the constant pressure and irregular schedule that it brings with it. I also think that it is draining me of creativity, and this is what I think I resent the most about it. I mean, I love learning, who doesn’t? But I can’t help but feeling that school learning is shutting out all non-school learning as it takes up all the other space in my life and in my mind. Connecting the dots and exploring how to express them was a whole learning process for me in itself. I felt like I developed and grew for every time that I tried, and I felt like that sort of semi-intelectual/philosophical and exploratory way of learning really inspired me to keep on wanting to learn.

I argued some 15 years back, that learning cannot be done in a vacuum. It’s all nice to take credit for your arguments, but in the end, it is all a product of what you perceive around you, the things and people that inspire you, provoke you, contradict you and ultimately force you to slowly modify your opinions. I ironically felt like I had made the greatest intelectual discovery back then, contradicting basically all contents of the argument itself, but even though I today don’t find that I had come up with anything unconventional or new, I still strongly believe that it is true. And my daily routine of now is becoming my personal case study to prove me right. The last few weeks I have spent horrifically little time outside the apartment, or actually even outside my bedroom. I find that there are so many less distractions if I don’t leave the bed and act like a normal citizen of a social world, so in times of stress I tend to just bake myself into a corner and only leave for bathroom breaks and food. And I’m realizing how terribly little I am thinking, lately. Nothing makes me think about anything but my study and I actually think I am starting to get a little slower. Like it hurts a little to take a stand. I’ve locked myself into a bubble and here the sameness of everything stops provoking inspiration.

I know I’m almost done. So I let myself be bored for necessity. But I am also thinking that even the most locked in person might deserve a breathing space, a little somewhere or something that gets them going. Like this blog-diary-thing is for me.

So I will try to make some room for that. I’m guessing there is no need for miracles and rock science when ultimately the goal is to post my everyday thoughts on this humble blog. Maybe, if I let myself go wild on boring topics and nonsense talk, at some point I will get back to finding the bigger picture. Maybe writing is practice, not to refine yourself, but to become the writing itself, to have it be an integral part of your mind. To let the world surrounding you become the words and images that you decide to assign it. “I’ll try” to figure that out, starting now.

6 months

6 months and I can’t believe how time has flown. I had imagined this first half-year as something endless, I believe, a time where I would manage to do all the things that I had dreamed of doing while in Mexico. I was going to take every cheap flight possible and travel the country. I was going find a Oaxacan grandma and learn how to cook in Juchitán. I was going to find a job in this sea of opportunities that I had imagined. I was going to take salsa lessons and go out dancing every weekend. Drink mezcal in fancy bars.

I was going to finish my thesis.

Looking back on the expectations that I had, not only on my stay here in general, but on what I was expecting myself to do within that short a time, I am realizing that I might have exaggerated just a little. I guess I was so desperate to get out of the tremendous routine situation that I had put myself in with my Master’s, that I just needed to believe that everything would change once changing locations. Because sometimes you need a fresh start to get out of routines. It wasn’t a bad plan, it was just an unrealistic one.

Where am I right now? In my bed, in my PJs, as has become my new routine, waiting for the coffee to kick in so that I can write my thesis. This is becoming one of these movie-like moments where you realize that (to a great extent) it isn’t the circumstances that create your life. It is you. I find myself in one of the biggest cities in the world. No doubt you will have to force yourself to be bored in order not to have fun. Unfortunately, this is exactly what I do when I study, I stay out of the crowd, I stay out of the things that attract me simply because they disturb my attention. This doesn’t mean that I am managing to be all that disciplined, but at least I’m not actively choosing to do something else than studying. This really isn’t as logical as it sounds, it really just makes my procrastination a hell of a lot more boring and monotone.

Well. In all fairness, as I am writing this I am in the midst of the hugest identity conflict in a WHILE. And looking back on the past six months, I really haven’t just been sitting in my bed in my old Wayne’s t-shirt, between writing and panicking over writing, and I am not going to let a few months of monotone work define a whole semester that has included so many rich moments. In fact, as I look back, I might not have managed to get myself that everyday life filled with all the activities that I had been looking forward to, but so many other things have happened since December 28th when I touched ground here. My parents came for seven weeks to travel and I got to see them for the first time in what was 13 months. Two of my best Costa Rican friends came to visit. I HAVE had mezcal. I might not have finished my thesis yet, but I am on my way and I am excited to see how it turns out. I have lost 9 out of the 15 extra uni-kilos that I gained over the past couple of years. I have gotten some pretty valuable lessons during my time in the field, things that I will take with me for the rest of my life. I am cooking on a regular basis again and I have even started to bake. I went to Colombia to visit a friend for life.

And most of all, I have fallen head over heels in love with a man with whom I have had the great fortune to share almost five incredible months now. Who cooks but lets me cook. Who makes me laugh, a lot. With whom I can talk for hours and feel like only 10 minutes passed by. Who shares my impossibly bad sense of life planning because life has too much to offer not to cram it all in there at once. And with whom I am hoping to keep on sharing this chaotic life for a long time to come.

(Psst, that’s him below)

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All in all, I think I have learned from this that you should never expect things to happen in a certain way. I never used to, and I was never disappointed. And it’s simple really, because life might give you even more than you expected but if you’re too stuck with that image in your head, you might not appreciate what you have.

One thing is sure, I need to get out of this bed-routine or I might grow into the sheets soon. I need to finish my thesis NOW so that I can start taking care and making use of my moments of free time. And I need to stop looking ahead for solutions, and start looking right here and now. At myself, at what I do. You can’t control life completely, but you can’t let life control you either. I need to stop being afraid of failing before I have even tried. I need to get a move on. And it starts: now.

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The answer, my friend, is blowing in the wind.

Four days in Juchitán and as it turns out, my new roomies are not in the need of eating. Which is why, after having lived here for 6 months, they still haven’t felt the need to invest in things like plates, forks, any type of knife, you know, ANYTHING that makes it possible to stay alive. So today I find myself in the local Soriana, shopping for basic kitchen stuff. Again. Yet again. I don´t want to know how much money I have spent over the years on things like whisks and glasses and bowls and corkscrews, and so I am fairly divided between feeling selfishly grateful that there are supermarkets that exploit enough to be able to get me a fairly complete kitchen set for less than 50USD, and disgusted over both the process behind the products, the depressing products themselves that make Ikea feel like the ultimate luxury, and most of all, the impact that the store has had in the area. Just like any other imposed economic activity in this area, beyond all what consent is worth and with no interest in developing THIS place. Open a Wal-Mart in Juchitán, make a gringo rich. Expand the production of clean energy in Juchtián, make a Spaniard rich and give cheap electricity to the people in DF. But for God´s sake, don´t let profit stay in the zone. It´s like it is impossible not to get political over everything here, so I try to cheer myself up by repeatedly thinking “at least it’s not Wal-Mart”, until I almost believe that I am ok with contributing to the existence of this island of exploitation. I think back upon the first time that I bought my own stuff, in Guadalajara. It was such a rush to take my own-earned money and put into something as adult as towels and detergent, and had I felt so content with managing to build a first step to a grownup life with my Mexican minimum salary. I smile nostalgically at the thought, but coming back to reality: nah, this is definitely not my favorite doing anymore. But at least now I will not have to eat my dinners directly off the cutting board. Not that it hasn’t been interesting, but frankly it freaks me out that some of my friends are buying apartments while I brew coffee in a mixing bowl. Well, not doing that anymore. Approaching your 30´s (slowly, but still), there are a few standards that you need in order to feel at home. For me, the kitchen is crucial, it is PER DEFINITION home to me.

I step outside of the store and the wind immediately catches my seven ridiculously thin shopping bags carrying my new kitchen within them. The plastic flaps hard and aggressively as the Northern wind tears and tears. I have loved this wind since I first came here 6 years ago – it just penetrates any and every thought that you may have, literally blows them all away, and it makes any morning effort to look decent seem like mockery. There is something both symbolically and literally refreshing about the craziness of the strength of this wind, it reminds you how much power there is in this world, and while it maybe should make you feel insignificant and weak, for me it has the opposite effect. I never feel so present as when fighting against the Northern wind, or is it with it, I´m not sure yet. Either way it is all very liberating. This time, however, the wind has gotten a broader meaning for me. Because the truth is that without it, I would have no thesis to write. Without this wind there would be not conflict of interest concerning the vast open spaces surrounding this area: traditionally agricultural land, and at the same time the world’s third best site for wind energy. And I am only juuuuust starting to get to know this conflict. I have a feeling I will have changed quite a bit after I am done with my study here. After all, four-five months is a long time, it really is, and you learn best by living.

Juchitan

I’ve moved around so much by now that I have become pretty good at knowing what I need in order to feel comfortable in new places. This is why I, apart from repeatedly buying a considerable amount of cheap kitchen tools, insist on bringing empty vodka bottles, my really expensive (and not insured) loudspeakers, two types of coffee makers, a ceramic potato peeler, a thermometer, lemon olive oil and a huge ikea bag. Wherever I go. It might not make any sense from the outside that I in Costa Rica insisted looking at my thermometer everyday to establish that oh! it’s 23 degrees today, too. But what can I say, man needs to uphold certain routines, and woman too. And so whenever the airport toll people want to take my precious and senseless things away from me, oh they’re in for a good one. No one will take away this Swede´s portable safe spot just because they woke up with a bad hair day and feel like taking out their frustration on someone else.

No matter how many times you move, each time feels unique, and to a certain extent I really believe they are. But the more I move around the less sympathy people have for the excitement – and fear – that I feel facing a new change. And this time I felt rather resentment than sympathy from my friends “Oh but now you will finally get to your BELOVED Mexico”, and so trying to express doubts has not really been an option. And while every time I move, I feel like it´s scary because “this time it’s different”, this time it’s not even all that different. I have already done a thesis study in Mexico, and I have already half-ways settled down in Juchitán. I have already sat on the chair I am sitting on right now, I don’t get lost looking for the supermarket anymore. I still don’t even know 1% of the area or its people but enough to pretend to be at home. No, the unknown is not what scares me this time. Instead, I think for the first time I am facing a true identity complex. People here in Juchitán have LIVED things, and  most of all, many of them have fought for their right to decide over their lives. I gave up that right a long time ago, together with all of us who succumbed under the system we live in, without even knowing that there are options. Maybe for us there are no options. But as I listen to the stories of people here, I can´t help but wondering what I did with my life the last 26 years. What marked me, what made me into ME?  And considering my background, will I ever fully understand the people that have lived realities so vastly different to mine, so as to put their experiences into print in a justified manner?

I mean don’t get me wrong, I am loving how I am living my life, traveling and exploring and getting mad over injustices in the world. I have come to understand that my studies make me seem like an altruist hippie communist plotting a world revolution against the capitalist system (a collection of the things people have told me over the years), which is kind of funny if I think about who I was 10 years ago. I am not saying that this current description is in any way accurate, but I also believe that stereotypes are born out of some level  of truth, although blended with a good portion of misunderstandings and misconceptions. I have never been a revolutionary type, not even ideologically, but the world as it is pisses me off, and I admire those who stand up for their rights – and standing between these positions I am now wondering what fruits I am expecting to see out of my work here. I can´t seem to visualize the goal. All in all I am stuck somewhere between extreme emotion and will to get started with my study, paralyzing fear of failing, and frustration over having to take the first step myself. If someone would just pull me over the starting line, I promise, I will do the rest all by myself!

For over two years, working as a volunteering coordinator, I have been telling people to step out of their comfort zones and I am proud to say that I haven’t been a hypocrite in this aspect at least. But I sometimes feel like I am taking this advice a little too seriously. There´s this voice in my head, ever louder, saying SETTLE THE F*CK DOWN, WOMAN. But at the same time this lifestyle feels like a calling: explore while you can, learn while you can, widen your views before you rust together and only manage to see whatever is around you. To a great extent I believe that we are a sum of our experiences, but also – and more importantly – how we manage to interpret our experiences, and I think one of my greatest fears is to be ignorant. I mean, we are all ignorant to a certain extent, you can never understand or know everything, but there is so much to this world that is worth learning about, and so much you learn about yourself when you face what you do not yet know.

In my adult life I have only briefly known tranquility, and God knows I wasn’t good at it. But at the same time I am longing, yearning for it. 6 years ago I got to randomly pick a post card with a message on it, it was a late, cold night in Guadalajara, I was sitting on the sidewalk with some friends, and a guy with a zillion post cards who wanted to spread some inspiration to the world, passed by. He stopped to chat, offered us a card in exchange for a story. I wrote down the story of an impossible love that I was struggling with at the moment, and I picked a card. I picked the right card.

Deja que el corazón te elija el mundo. Let your heart choose your world.

Since then this post card has never left my wallet, it goes with me everywhere I go. I have picked it up and read it so many times that I don’t only know the message by heart, I know what every letter looks like. As stupid as it may sound I think I have leaned back on this card written by a stranger, many times in my decisions. I am romantic enough to believe that, yes, the heart should choose your reality because the brain does not feel. And when you stop listening to what you feel, you die. Tiny bits at the time, but you die. I don´t know how many times I have locked myself into situations that seem perfect from the outside and there I have SUFFERED because it didn´t go with who I am. Talking about what you “want” is too superficial because you can want both with your heart and your head, and I believe that it is important to listen to both. But for me, that card let me understand why I at times felt miserable when there was no apparent reason to. Now, this sounds all categorical and nice, but this time – and here it goes – it´s different. I swear, by now I have over-thought my choice of lifestyle so much that I can’t separate what I want from what I should want from my life. I am longing for a stable, shallow life, buying things to decorate an apartment, having been dinner at the “usual place”, spending time at the stove experimenting with new forms and flavors. But at the same time I’m not sure I could pull it off. Maybe I need to drag my vodka bottles and ceramic peelers around for a while longer, and fill my life with stories and experiences that makes my heart want to explode.

I stare out the window and see the mango trees bend for the wind. This wind that has come to define the realities of so many people here, and to which I will dedicate the coming four or five months of their lives and mine. And all of a sudden I realize that I can spare myself some of the worrying for now. I have a task to do here, and a once in a lifetime opportunity to learn from people that I admire even before I have gotten to know them. And so I´ll go out and let the wind blow my hair in all directions and slap my face, I will leave my clothes for washing as you do when you live somewhere, and then I will get this investigation party started. And it will be kick-ass.

On the road again. Goodbyes and hellos and New Years.

This is not a good comeback. I have once again gone through one of those phases where thoughts only blur into incomprehensible sentences and make beautiful imagery into heavy, ugly formulations. It is fascinating how words sometimes seem to be a necessity for survival, and sometimes like complete communication barrier. Well, I promised myself I would get back on my literary feet before I left Costa Rica, but it turned out to be impossible. And no, this is not a good comeback.

For those disappointed that this post is not about the amazing trip that I made with my Austrian parents – fear not! There will be photos, there will be stories. But tonight, I need to get this closure before I dance in a year that I hope will be vastly different from this one. Yes, I am rather done with 2015. Despite all the beauty it has brought to me, it has NOT been my year.

The truth is that I have written this post at least five times before. Erased it and started over again. Erased it once again, and so on and so forth. In fact, I am  pretty goddamn mad at myself for having to be so cliché and write this year summary/ good bye post at all. I mean, I love blogging like few other things, it is just so open and relaxed. I usually write it all in the notepad in my iPhone and THAT’S OK, no one will judge. But goodbyes are better in handwriting, where you can scratch the pen real hard against the paper, let the paper FEEL the frustration, the random tear drops smearing words that anyways don’t really matter because they will not even begin to cover how you actually feel. Well, I haven’t gone that far since I was 15 maybe, but at the same time I bet some 80% of the people I know will not be able to understand the meaning of that I am not saying goodbye to an internship or an exchange or whatever program name you would like to call it. I might have gone to Costa Rica on those terms but I definitely left on others. Over the last months I haven’t even thought about going home. Because I’ve already been home. And now I am moving on. Again.

AGAIN.

So. It is the 31st of December and I haven’t written for ages but I will do a New Years’ summary of my 2015 lessons even though I have no conclusions and my clumsy words will make beautiful imagery ugly and it is not a good comeback. But never mind that, I think I really need to give myself this closure. Trial number – 6? As I wrote this part the first time I established that my Costa Rican life would end in “64 terrifying hours. And counting. Literally.”. Then they were 40. And I refused to keep count. And now here I sit in a Starbucks on Reforma, the noise of people testing the sound system for the concert that will take place here on the Avenue tonight. Pow-pow-pow, uno dos y tres, testing testing. People chatting both near and far. The endless stream of people passing by the fence on the street. The lady who forgot to take out her fringe curler. The seven-days late Santa wobbling down the street in a manner that tells of some historial of spirits. The Mexican hipsters that I have been going on and on and on about. And an entire army of cops (it actually feels more like an army than cops), some heavily armed, and all in full armor, but all smiling and joyfully wishing you a happy new year. Last chance to say goodbye to 2015, and more importantly, to my not-so-long-but-yet-pretty-intense-Costa-Rican-life. Or something. So:

THIS YEAR HAS BEEN ONE BIG STOP AT A CROSSROADS. That’s right, in capital letters, because I can’t emphasize enough how much it has been just that. This year has been all about deciding where to go on to, it has been the last guided and structured time before throwing myself out there and getting myself a life. And in that sense, it has been all about trying to visualize what I want for myself, not only next year, but at a longer term as well. Looking back on this year, I think I half unconsciously started to create two parallel lives, stepped onto both roads simultaneously if you will. As I have been finishing my masters in Costa Rica, I have had to realize that staying on was not an option for now. Partly because I just couldn’t keep on struggling with Immigration any longer, but maybe even more because it was time to move to Mexico. I really cannot describe it better than that. There is not much logic to my moving here, but it had to be done, and I think I knew that pretty early on. And lets face it, in the last two years I have come back here some 7 times, or maybe even more. Flying here has felt about as natural as taking the bus somewhere. And coming here has felt more and more like coming home. But I also know that it hasn’t been a fair comparison. I painfully have to admit that I pretty early knew – somewhere in my subconscious – that these two walks have not been made with the same purpose. Because while one of these paths has been tricky, uphills and God knows that I at times I have struggled v-e-r-y determinately to not give in, I think some of the persistence lay in that I was walking to get to road’s end. The other path at the crossroads I have only just started to step onto, and in way it has rather been like cheating: sneaking down the first yards, picking up things that do not yet belong to you, getting a glimpse of something that might be yours but then again might not. The first touch of the soil to see how it matches your soles, looking, tiptoeing, sniffing, but not yet fully walking. The contrasts have been huge, and also very unfair. Walking is always rougher than tiptoeing.

This year turned out quite differently than the last one, and also from what I had expected. It hasn’t been an easy year, I would lie if I would try to uphold some sort of glorified picture of how my days, weeks and months have passed by. All in all I have had some amazing experiences throughout the year: I have traveled like never before, I have met new and old friends from allover the world. I have positioned myself politically and started to understand better why I have certain beliefs and others not. I have learned to throw myself into spontaneous situations, grow out of some social awkwardness and just be myself with others. You gain nothing from having people like you for someone that’s not really you, it is just exhausting. I truly, truly regret having neglected everything and everyone not directly related to my studies. Life needs a few random moments, and this year I have really only ever allowed myself that break when in Mexico, and I am really sad that I couldn’t give Costa Rica that chance this second half of my life there. But then again, the memories of this year don’t influence how I see the life I had in Costa Rica. You don’t write 7 blog posts about all the different ways a country makes you feel at home, if you don’t really, really mean it. And I really, really meant it. So all in all, I can’t do more than recognize that I made this year into a contradictory one, at times more challenging than necessary, perhaps, and at the same time the beginning of a journey that I somehow think I have prepared myself for mentally, if not subconsciously, for some five years now. Which is why I am completely confused at this stage, and I can’t decide if I am more crushed over having left or overly excited over having come here. People ask me why I chose Mexico and the only thing that I can think of is that it is my place, and when I hear myself say it, I know that nothing is more true. But I also know that I have found a home in Costa Rica, that has let me become more secure within and helped me stop searching frantically for my “true life”. And so I am not afraid of leaving Costa Rica because I know that this is not the last that it will see of me. I am finally starting to understand wholly that living in Latin America doesn’t have to be a fake reality built on teenage dreams of adventure. I have found an actual place here, a role and relationships that are as real as anything else. This is where I live now, right now. It doesn’t mean at all that I am cutting myself off from any other part that has been home to me, or that still is, but everything has its time, and right now this is where I need to be.

But most importantly I have learned that it is not WHAT YOU DO that defines if a year has been good or not, it is how you perceive it. What makes me conclude that 2015 was not my year is only based on that I haven’t been able to fully appreciate what I have done. So tonight I will not wish for a more exciting 2016, I won’t wish for more travels, more adventures. I will wish for better capacity to appreciate the wonderful life that I am leading. For some stability and peace and time to look around me. I’ll wish that I will be less tired and more motivated. Yes, I am definitely done with 2015. So I will go out on Reforma tonight and dance in the New Year and happily know that the sweat of 2015 has brought me here with every possibility open before me. But more importantly, it has brought a better understanding TO me, of what fulfilling dreams means. And so 2016 will not be about the tangible things, it will be about how I will approach them. Happy NEW Year and possibilities of the unknown!

 

Cauliflower, or: I will pursue my dreams.

You don´t know this, but lately I have been writing a lot about setting myself free from my own expectations and stopping to put constraints to the things I want to do. Because the last semester that I went through turned into a living hell. And as close to the literal description as you may come. It wasn’t so much the exhaustion from never ever sleeping or the constant reading-writing dynamics that seemed to never change, never end. It was the fact that I didn’t live. I turned not only my social life, but my will to have a social life on hold, and I disappeared into my couch corner/cave and saw no one and did nothing but study. I got annoyed when people wanted to see me, I got annoyed by people that saw each other, I basically shut everything out of my reality. I had to go to the hospital twice because my body simply said no and when the semester finally ended I just slept and talked to no one for several days in a row. I gained lots of weight and still somehow I looked like a corpse with all the shadows in my face. I got wrinkles and I am not even kidding. No, I don’t ever want to go back to that.

So over the last weeks I dedicated all my time to doing the opposite. I started working out again, I saw friends that I hadn’t seen for months, I had coffee in cafés without reading, I even got drunk a few times. I had a normal life. And then I made a promise to keep on having these things in my life, even as the last semester of my master’s started. 

And now, as the last semester HAS started, I have done fairly well in keeping that promise. Two weeks have passed and I have actually done things from time to time. And I have let myself enjoy them. I wish I could tell you that this was the end of the sunshine story where I managed to get the stress off me, but in fact, this post isn´t even going to be about stress and uni (well, directly anyways). In that case I could have just done a few copy-paste maneuvers from all the crap that I have half-way written but not posted over the last months, and ta-dah! No, the thing is that I had an emotional wakening today, while I was preparing myself mentally to get out of my pjs and get to studying. 

There are several dimensions of what you might consider life, I suppose. One is that miserable state that I just described to you, where no doubt you are still alive and breathing but not so much more than that. There are no aspirations to drive you forward. Another one might be what I am doing now, where you enjoy doing things with people and you have a fairly balanced routine, and you feel like you belong to the masses again. I don´t mean to complain, but I don´t think I ever saw that as an option for my life, either. And today I remembered that.

You haven´t heard from me in a while. It is not just a cause of lack of time, but a direct consequence of a mental shutdown. There has been nothing that I have wanted to make the effort of putting into words. When you stop formulating things they become mere vague shadows flickering past you, nothing to hold on to, nothing to capture. See, the thing that happens when you abruptly stop writing because you simply cannot keep it up, is that you go through a process of forgetting to miss it. I guess it´s some sort of self-defense. First you become shy. All those thoughts that you used to just put out there without caring, without even reflecting about if people will agree or not, suddenly start feeling controversial, or even senseless or boring. It begins with the longer texts, such as the things I write in this blog. Then it starts getting to your shorter statements, too. You start questioning WHY you need to communicate all these things. Who asked you to, anyways? Who will care, anyways? You type something on Facebook and then you delete it all. Then you type it again because somehow you still want to get it out. Then you delete it again. Don’t be silly. That was only important in your head, for a while. Then you come to the state where it´s not insecurity that blocks you anymore, it´s laziness. I mean, if no one is interested in reading what you have to say, why should you bother to write it? Why should you bother to formulate it so that others more than you will understand your line of thought? Why should you think it?

And so slowly, you kill off the ideas that you had, the passion that you would feel for things, your will to pass things on. And I know that it sounds exaggerated, but somehow this part of you falls asleep. You can feel it, daily, there is something missing. You used to be looking forward to these moments of creativity, you used to spend every free second planning a dinner, or writing down random sentences that sounded good or that captured a thought. It used to be in the back of your head even when you did other things. It fed your spirit and it made your days pass way faster. But because life doesn’t stand still you don´t have time to reflect too much about that hole. And so you keep on doing your things, and you don´t reflect too much about them. It´s not that you´re not enjoying what you do, it´s just that you don’t think so much about it anymore. 

Then there’s a spark. You see something that reminds you of who you were, no, rather, who you could be and who you always thought you would be. All those thoughts and aspirations that you managed to suppress they come to life for a split second. I just saw cauliflower in orange tempura on Pinterest. I mean, it’s not the most mind-blowing thing I have ever heard of, but it caught my attention. And since Pinterest has that effect that makes it impossible to just look at one thing – that secret rule that obliges you to open at least 20 different links before you have to literally throw your cell phone away in order to stop – well, one thing led to another and all of a sudden I was watching all this amazing food and I remembered what it felt like to have an idea for something to cook, and then go home and do it. Just like that. No wondering what it would be like and then decide that it would be too expensive-complicated-circumstantial-messy-unhealthy-time consuming and whatever else lame excuse I can come up with. 

 (Right about here I start to think that no one will want to read this crap about cauliflower, but I will persist and not delete)

And looking at all these different pins I realized two things at the same time: 1) I am way out of my game. My cooking is becoming my dancing and at some point I will not even bother to pick up the pieces because it will feel to far off. There are ingredients that people use as if nothing, THAT I DON’T KNOW ABOUT! And I live in an f-ing tropical country! I used to frown at the limitations of people´s creativity, and now I don’t even know what they are cooking with. 2) I am looking at recipes. For the same reason as the above, I never looked at recipes and felt excited about them. I used to find details in them and then I would change it all. But I would never look at an entire recipe. I know this makes me (my past me) sound like an arrogant piece of (*tralalalah*), but really I was just very good at making weird combinations and presentations taste amazing. Ok, and also I was a little arrogant, or maybe even a lot. But I think you need that in order to throw yourself out there and not care about anything else. This, when failure is not an option – not because it cannot happen, but because you know that it will not. 

The funny thing is that the second I realized these two things, or maybe it was remembering the feeling of experimenting in the kitchen, I felt an urge to write this. And I simply sat down and did it. And while writing in my blog might not be the highest level of creativity, I believe that all channels of creation and recreation are intimately connected and loosing the tightness of the restrictions that you put on yourself in one end will let you open up on other levels, too. 

I don´t think that I will be making food marvels this year. I also don´t think that I will write that novel that I have been sort-of-building up in my head over the last couple of years, either. But I am rather determined to start paying attention to that side of me again, because it makes me feel more alive. No, it makes me aware that I am living, and it makes tiny useless details into triggers of high-flying daydreams, some of which might actually be possible to make true. I think we all need a bit of invincibility to get somewhere. And no one can decide for you what makes you feel that way. If cauliflower makes me want to fly then maybe cauliflower should be in my life. Maybe cauliflower will make sure that I pursue some of my dreams. Those tiny signals might not only be hard to detect, but they might also feel ridiculous. But only we truly know who we are, and if we spend too much time caring about what other people think that we should do and like, then slowly we will lose that spark that drives us forward. Today´s obvious-but-still-true fact: You cannot fake a passion (just like you cannot reeaally fake an orgasm), and you cannot replace it with someone else´s dreams (in the same way that you can definitely not replace your own orgasm with someone else´s). You might not be able to live up to all your dreams, but you can let them help you on your way. 

So I´ll get dressed now so that I can go study. And maybe on my way, I´ll manage to get hold of some cauliflower, orange and rice vinegar, and start heading back on that track that allowed me to believe in my aspirations.

Crispy-Orange-Cauliflower-A-vegetarian-version-of-your-favorite-Chinese-dish.-683x1024

Washing off tomorrow, living the now in the future.

I threw myself in the pool today. 2 am and it felt like liberty. It felt like the first time I allowed myself to breathe in a months time, just let go of reality, of the heavy, thickness of what life really is. Right now at least.

This semester has been out of control. It’s not even that it has been thaaaat charged with school work (although, yes it kind of has), it’s just that everything’s happened at once and at some point it got overwhelming and very much so. I’ve been struggling with what has seemed like an impossible task as regards my thesis, while everyone else in my class seems to just have been moving on smoothly. I am now finally getting to a point where I might know what I want to do, but the changes have left me way behind and my tutor’s attitude hasn’t exactly helped me feel like I can pull this off. 

So basically, I had a minor burn-out a few weeks back. A crazy, hysterical attack, and I thought I was going to go crazy. I woke up sick and had to go to the hospital and the doctor gave me sleeping pills since I hadn’t slept well in weeks because of the stress. I took the pills for five days, had two days off (in which I really tried to study the whole day, unsuccessfully, but still, I don’t think these days served their true purpose really), and then slowly I’ve been coming back to normal. Meaning, back to studying at every free hour that I have. Bringing my lunch to the desk (“sad desk lunch” as a colleague of mine said once, still cracks me up because it’s so true) so I can study during my 30 minute lunch break. Going to Starbucks at 8:30 after having inhaled dinner and then staying 2 hours after closing, coming home about 1 am. If I’m lucky I manage to study another hour at home. Waking up 5 hours later, having Red Bull for breakfast on the way to the office (which by the way is the grossest thing you can ever have, do not EVER get to that point) and topping up with coffee so that at least you can get through your working day. 

No, this is no sustainable lifestyle. And I am not good with stress. But most of all I am just so tired, and I am so sick of life just ticking on like this. My days are running away from me because I am no longer aware of what I do. All I think about is time and how much of it that I can save in a day. It has become an obsession, and also a necessity. Money can go screw itself because I measure value in study-time units now. Working out: 5 units, for the effort and then the shower. Making coffee: half a unit (actually one but then the coffee itself is compensation). Having dinner: 2 units if not done while studying and 1 if I study while I eat. Hopefully there’s a tupperware to heat up. Otherwise it’ll have to be out, cause the 5 units for cooking are just out of the question. Emptying my head on Facebook: 1 unit. Looking for job ideas for next year, maybe 2 units, and then another one for the stress that follows. Being sad: one unit and then another for recovery. No matter how pressing it might be. And the sad thing is that it’s not even made up, it has come to a point where it is quite rational to think that way. Every hour that I waste during the day makes the difference between getting to sleep at one, or two in the morning. When people tell me descansa (meaning, have a rest, but people will say that as a way of ”hope you’ll have a good afternoon”) I want to scream. I don’t even remember how that feels anymore. I see people having coffee and I wonder where their computers are and why they are talking to themselves. I see people walking in the streets and I get annoyed by their laziness. I spend my nights in Subways studying while watching drunk people order too much food and I can’t even remember what that feels like. 

And it has made me come to a conclusion. I am not living right now. My body might be functioning but I don’t recognize this as life.These last few days have really been a wake-up call for me. There are just so many things that have happened that I don’t even know where to begin. But all of a sudden I have gotten to live very closely to death at several occasions, people have questioned things about my life that I have simply taken for granted, my house almost burned down and in general my whole surroundings are just withering to pieces and there is no stability in anything around me. And in the middle of that I am having a true crisis. But. All these things, all the turbulence and sorrow and hysteria and I don’t even know what anymore, they have forced me to start questioning myself and my choices. What the hell am I doing this for? Why am I letting myself live like this, why don’t I say no from the beginning, and why don’t I say no when I know that enough is enough and that a while back?

A friend of mine said that I have to live for now, and most of all that I need to be aware of why I live like I do in the now. It seems so easy. It really IS so easy if you think about it. It does not make any sense to do something just because. And yet, at least I, tend to do that a lot in my life, it seems. There are many things that I know why I do here. But I am really reaching a point where I don’t understand my role anymore. I don’t know where I am getting with this. And this is where I am truly starting to doubt its meaning. Because in the end, aren’t we doing what we do because it is our conviction that it will bring us happiness of some sort at some point? Right now I have no idea where this will take me.

I wrote something like a year ago that if I would die now I wouldn’t be too sad because I was living so much. I was traveling, learning Spanish, seeing the world and exploring myself. For once I had found a place where I was calm and where I could just be, and enjoy what I had. I feel high on life and rich in experiences and generally like my life was just a little better than I had ever expected it to be. I don’t feel that way anymore. Right now I feel like I am wasting my time so much on this part of my life that I NEED to get something out of it, I need to feel like it was worthwhile. Don’t get me wrong, I am enjoying learning this, it’s changing me and to the better I think. But no theory is worth not living for if you can’t put it into action afterwards. I still haven’t figured out what my contribution will be. And so until then this time that i have not lived, is just borrowed, not invested. Life is in debt with me for these years and right now all I can think of is how to get through this so that I can claim my share of life back.

It´s Friday, or so they say. Friday doesn´t normally have any meaning to me, it´s just another day in the week. But as I was writing my thesis it beat me, it´s the last Friday before this semester stops. It is in fact my last Friday before any academic holiday, probably in my life, so better make use of that. So I emptied my bottle of mezcal and I threw myself into the pool, let the soft fresh water caress my body and just force those thoughts of defeat out of my head. I will not lose to this semester. But more than that, I will get through these coming days and then I will live. I will figure out why I am at this point, and what I am planning to do with it. Or at least I will come to terms with being where I am. Life is here and now, and although sometimes you have to give up today for tomorrow, you can´t change that. No matter how much you have to do tomorrow every experience sums up to your life and to what you have made out of your life. Now will never be more present and it is only up to us how much we want to use it. Presence is all we really have. It’s ironic how hard to be present in the presence, but I guess that’s just not the modern way of doing things anymore. Either way, this passage in my life is teaching me for real about what I do not want to do anymore. And in a few days I will figure out how. But looking outside the pattern that I have followed in slavery for more than a year now, has really helped me get some perspective. I’m not saying that the red bull and stress will kill me, but sometimes I believe that the stress actually will. Maybe not today or tomorrow, but with this pace there will be no old age. And I am not ready to die until I have started living again and gotten to just simply enjoy life. I feel like I deserve that.