Friday, August 2, 2013
How I made my mind up
posted by Dimitra Daisy @ 9:46 pm
Being able to stand outside at night time without a coat on felt as such a gift after the kind of never-ending winter we had been having in England. As I stood outside the airport in the dark, with the wind on my face and the smell of the Athenian March night all around something within me yawned, stretched, and started to slowly unfurl.
On a long, meandering walk on a chilly Sunday afternoon I took photos of trees, of rooftops, of churches with their crosses, of skylines, of the way the sunlight fell against it all; I came home sunstruck, grumpy, with my head full of colours and and the phrase ‘reaching for the sky’ on my mind.
For my birthday we travelled a short way south, to the seaside, and found ourselves sitting on a little concrete pier as the sun set, as dusk fell, as the lights of the stars in the sky and the boats in the sea came on; and in that space created between the departing day and the approaching night I could feel myself expanding, waiting, listening for something I could not make out yet.
There came a night when life seemed to be made up mostly of suffering, of little else besides it. I lay in bed unable to sleep, unable to do anything but catalogue the disappointments, the missed connections, the uncrossed distances — and I waited, half-patiently, half-gratefully, for the tidal wave of sadness to recede. When it did, late the next night, it left me suddenly, temporarily so awake to the wonder of this world that I was lost for words, breathless and trembling. It hurt almost as much.
Sometimes you simply fall in love. It is as if love is a puddle waiting patiently for you to come around the corner –skipping with joy, perhaps, or walking fast, intent on your feet and yet absent-minded, or, as was the case for me, unfurling, sunstruck, waiting, breathless, trembling– and step into it. One moment you are dry and unaware and the next you find yourself with wet feet and sparkling eyes, suddenly awake to a new world, and nothing will ever be the same.
Unfurling, sunstruck, waiting; breathless and trembling; wet and sparkling and awake; I think I’m going to stay.
Tuesday, July 30, 2013
You are here
posted by Dimitra Daisy @ 9:43 pm
This is for Georgia, who said she didn’t understand.
1. I stood on one side of the wooden gate; she sat on a bench some way away on the other; our eyes met.
She was four years old at the time, four-and-three-quarters to be precise: a round little face, pink waterproof overalls, her hair in bunches. I was almost twenty-seven: deep in transition, not any longer the person I had been before, not yet the person I would become. She looked at me, and in that moment she was as big as she was little; I looked at her, and in that moment I was as strong-and-brave-and-true as I was lost-and-scared; and as her clear, steady gaze was matched by mine her eyes seemed to say, “oh good, you are here.” As if she had never expected anything less from me but she was happy to see that I was carrying out my part of the plan nonetheless.
She was five and a half when she told everyone I would be her teacher. We didn’t quite believe her, but she knew what she was talking about. She was six-and-a-quarter on the morning she walked down the wooden plank bridge we had build for the start-of-school ceremony. I stood on the other side: twenty-eight, finding my way, ready to catch her.
In the three-and-a-half years that followed, the years in which I was her teacher, I sometime thought back to all of this — always with wonder, often with the sense that I was exactly where I ought to be.
2. Places can do this too: take for example the East Coast of Scotland, or, to be more specific, the hills of Fife as seen for the first time through a train window, on the summer of my first big adventure. It had been grey all day, and raining on and off, but as we left Edinburgh the sun burst through the clouds giving me my first experience of that common but exquisite British summer experience, sun-after-rain, causing my heart to burst into something as well, something like joy-after-having-been-scared. The sky was blue, and high, and ever-present, the hills were greener than green, the sunlight slanting and golden yellow, and it was all so new to my southern self, so delightful in its differentness to everything I’d known — and yet a part of me was resonating with a strange sense of recognition, as if the landscape itself was whispering to me, saying, in its own quiet way: “you are here.”
In time this feeling faded –these days the railway line from Edinburgh to Dundee does not call my name in the way that it once did– but for a summer or two Scotland was the place to be, and Dundee sometimes felt like home.
3. This is what Athens is doing to me at the moment, what it is doing to me again — it has done it once before, which is perhaps why it is so good at it. It seems to be singing to me with a hundred voices, all of them saying the same thing: “you are here.” What am I to do but listen?
Tuesday, October 11, 2011
posted by Dimitra Daisy @ 9:08 pm
We were young, and in love, and we sat high above the city as dusk fell on a freezing Sunday afternoon. Those were the days we were homeless and cold but too happy to notice, which is to say they were the days before we moved in together and started to inadvertently take our love apart. We walked around as if in a dream, that February, barely able to believe our luck for having found one another. We held our breath every time we had to be apart, afraid that any minute we were about to wake up and find we were, after all, alone in our own beds.
They were the days when I hardly knew myself, too: the days before the internet, before I’d heard most of the songs I love, before I met most of my favourite people, when I still thought that I would become what my parents expected me to become — an academic. I went to all my lectures and took copious notes, even in the archaeology ones that bored me half to death, and I had French lessons because French was thought to be the most useful language for a historian to know; and even though I never started revising for exams until it was almost too late I always did well. While I suspected my family was crazy, I had no idea quite how true that was. Unhappiness was normal in that world, and ever present. Other people’s unhappiness, that is; I wanted to be happy. But even so, the dream of a different life was still asleep in my heart, asleep and dreaming.
Except that there he was, the boy Constantin, also known as the first big miracle in the catalogue of my life; and there I was, the one who had carried the wish for this moment in her heart of hearts for months until it finally happened; and there we were, alone together, as the purple, hazy dusk fell onto the city, as the city tumbled into the sea, as the sea stretched into the sky. If you’ve ever been in love in Thessaloniki you’ll know exactly what I mean, you probably know the very spot or one very much like it, and you can picture the odd mix of careless ugliness and majestic, almost transcendental beauty that makes Thessaloniki what it is — the place that inspired us to our wildest dreams and told us they can never come true, all in one breath.
We sat looking at each other, that’s how it always was those days, and I told him about the two girls I’d been friends with at school: how I’d fallen out with both of them (on separate occasions, two years apart); how it broke my heart; and how I didn’t really understand it, which was strange — I’ve always been good at understanding. He listened, and when I finally paused at the end, he looked at it me and said, simply: “it seems to me like you loved the girls more than they loved you.” It was the truth –the most compassionate, tender version of the truth imaginable, the one that cast me in the best possible light– and so I didn’t quite believe it; I wasn’t given to being kind to myself back then. Also, it was easy to dismiss: he only said that because he was in love with me.
Oh, I was a fool. I know. But you see, I’d been told that when you’re in love you lose sight of reality, that what you see in the other person is a projection of your wishes and desires, and I’d gone and believed it. Now I wish I could sit my younger self down and tell her that she didn’t need to be cynical, not even when the whole world around her was, and that she should follow her heart, and do it with courage; and I wonder if our story would have perhaps unfolded differently had I found the strength to hold on to my dreams when things got hard. I’ll never know.
But despite my casual dismissal, and despite everything that came later, his statement stayed with me through the eleven-and-a-half years that followed, and in time it came to be something of a landmark in my life. It points the way: I am seized, intermittently, by the desire to be as tender, understated, and wise as he was in that moment; and I try, always, to be the one who looks for the love lurking in the darkest recesses of your heart, the one who points it out to you when you can’t see it. I don’t always get it right, but I learn a lot in trying, and it would be worth it just for that — and for those times when I do get it right, and I am rewarded with a perfect moment of understanding.
But that’s not the reason why this moment has been on my mind lately. It’s simply that I have come to realise that he was right, even though he was in love with me, or even because he was in love with me: he was right. I loved the girls more than they loved me; and I dare say that in the eleven-and-a-half years that followed I went on to love a significant number of other people more than they loved me. I’ve felt sad about this, and I’ve felt lonely; but mostly, oh, mostly I’ve felt foolish. I tend to fall in love –with people, with ideas, with projects, with songs– and it does inevitably end with me lying in bed, alone, looking at the ceiling and lamenting the fact that I’m so very strange and different.
As if I would ever want to be any other way.
I think it’s time to look back and say ‘thank you’ to the boy Constantin, and to the world: I love you more — and that’s just fine.
Monday, September 12, 2011
posted by Dimitra Daisy @ 8:57 pm
We sat in my classroom on Friday after everybody had left, and we talked about the verses we say with the children. “I say this verse for myself, too,” I said. “A helper of humankind, a server of holy things,” that’s something I can get behind. And you said that so did you: holy things, yes; god, not so much. And I said, talking to myself almost, with the passion I usually bring to these things: but, but — god is an experience. And you paused to think, and agreed: yes, god is an experience.
It was a good moment.
This afternoon I took a small detour so that my walk home would take me down to the river, and I watched the sunlight and the shadows under the trees dance in the wind. There was no other word for it: they danced. I came home about to burst with gratitude — for the golden sunlight, for the wild winds, for September that brings them together, for having been there to witness it, for being here at all.
After that there was nothing to do but sit and read poetry, half-heartedly and absent-mindedly and distractedly, because after all it was that awkward hour between coming home and having dinner, and my attention span for poetry is as short as my understanding of it can be deep. One thing lead to another, and that, in turn, to this:
You are the deep innerness of all things,
the last word that can never be spoken.
Do read the rest of it. It will only take a minute, and it will help you understand what I mean when I say that it is moments like these — like beads on a necklace, beautiful perhaps in their own right but even more so when strung together — that keep me going.
Monday, August 16, 2010
The Prague Diner Manifesto
posted by Dimitra Daisy @ 12:35 am
On our third day in Prague, inspired by the Happiness Project which I had just finished reading, I set myself the task of coming up with my ‘personal commandments.’ I did it in a restaurant that our guide called a diner, hence the name. I wrote this down on the back of a spare place mat, in the time it took for our dinner to be cooked. I edited it a little on the plane ride home, and I have done a little re-arranging tonight, but the core of it reminds unchanged.
And so, without further ado, I present you with the Prague Diner Manifesto:
- Follow your heart.
- And do it with courage.
- Remember to pray for what you want, and you may just get it.
- Remember all the magic you have come across, and it will beget new magic.
- Act with grace, even, or perhaps especially, when others fail to do so.
- Don’t take the world’s imperfections personally; they are not because of you.
- Practice patience; impatience does not make things happen.
- Spend your attention wisely and well; it is powerful and precious.
- Keep the faith; there is a reason for this madness, although you may never know it.
- Love is the stick you throw.
- Love is the seed you plant.
- Love is its own reward.
Wait, gentle reader. Don’t go just yet. For once, I would like to ask something of you. If you do exist, please, please leave a comment with one of your own commandments. I would really like to know.
Monday, June 14, 2010
All the angels broke my heart
posted by Dimitra Daisy @ 2:52 pm
It might sound like it, but I don’t really regret this turn of events, the end of those young and silly years, at least most of the time I don’t. I wonder –oh, how I wonder– about the magic and where it went, not that I have lost it altogether, far from it, it’s just that it is not as ever-present as it once was; but in a way I am glad to have seen the back of those years. They were magical, yes, but they were dark too. The uncertainty, the not knowing, the doubt, those countless nights when I couldn’t sleep, could hardly breathe with the anxiety of it all: was I losing my way or finding it? What did I have to do leave a sweet mark on the world? Would my life ever amount to anything? Would I? Would I?
They were a triumph of optimism over experience, those years, of magic over darkness — much like my childhood, which is what had come before, and the bang-and-a-crash years that followed. I have always been in love with the world and yet entirely unsure as to whether it deserved it; or rather, whether it was going to break my heart. And it did, it often did. It still does, for that matter. But at least now I know I’m on my way, my life does amount to something and so do I.
Just in case the title reminds you of something but you can’t for the life of you remember what: take a look here.
Sunday, June 13, 2010
Things that ought to be easy
posted by Dimitra Daisy @ 2:59 pm
And then I went quiet again.
I’ve said it before, and it sounds so very weak, but I always think of saying it again, of swearing: I think of writing mostly every day. It is the habit of doing it that I have lost, and my voice along with that. Once upon a time, oh so long ago now, I wrote frequently and, miracle of miracles, fluidly at times too; largely about indiepop, it’s true, but also about being in love with the world, and about growing up. This was, and in fact it still is since I never got round to changing it, this blog’s tagline: growing up, being in love with the world, and indiepop. And the strangest thing is that what started out as something I hastily filled in in the summer of 2005 while setting this blog up ended up being the perfect summary of everything I was to write about.
So there once was a time, oh so long ago now, when I was young and silly and I had a head full of dreams and I opened up my heart to the whole world. The days when trying to capture thoughts and feelings into words seemed like a most worthwhile, almost magical thing to do — when words made things happen. Mostly, they brought me together with people that were more like me than anybody I had met before. For a few years I made friends left right and centre with an ease that was as novel as it turned out to be short lived, and I breathed a huge sigh of relief. It was okay to be me, it was okay to be so very strange and different. But those years ended — with what seemed at the time to be a happily ever after ending but which in retrospect was more of a crash and a bang; people moved on, went their separate ways; indiepop stopped being the number one thing that made my world go round; I lost some of my certainties, gained some new ones; and in the process, I lost the voice that I had found. Or rather, I outgrew it, and never got round to finding a new one.
Hence, the silence.
Thursday, March 18, 2010
I always thought of you as being one of us
posted by Dimitra Daisy @ 8:56 pm
I was going to write about early spring, I really was — about sunshine that arrived on the first of March and stayed for three weeks, about freezing nights and warm afternoons, about pink blossom against brilliant blue skies, about the light that woke me earlier every morning, about the excitement of it all, the contradictions in the weather, the smell of daffodils, the promise in the air. I was going to –I even took a photo— but of course I didn’t get round to it in time and now it is too late because spring proper arrived today.
Not on a warm breeze, not on a sunny morning and not in April like I had expected it to but on the unexpectedly warm and gentle rain of a cloudy afternoon in March. Oh, it won’t last; the best seasons rarely do in England; but I wonder sometimes if that doesn’t make it all the more precious. A few minutes of breathing in that unmistakeable smell of spring while watching my class in a gardening lesson were enough for me to be undone with love and longing, washed over by waves of sadness — the love and longing that run through my life like a thread of meaning, the sadness that is as timeless as it is time-specific, a blessed release after winter’s long inwardness and always, always bittersweet.
All this to remind me of my old maxim, that you can spend a winter (or a lifetime) preparing (or praying) for something and the best things will still come round unexpectedly and catch you by surprise.
Ah, the beauty of the way that we are living.
Sunday, March 29, 2009
Pocketbooks, mirrors and other magical things
posted by Dimitra Daisy @ 10:30 pm
I wrote this in March 2009 and never got round to finishing it. It’s too good to delete and although I sort of remember what it is I’d intended to say, the momentum is long gone now.
The new Pocketbooks album sounds like spring coming. It sounds like a warm summer evening falling soundlessly, lazily over the city. It sounds like those bright, crisp autumn afternoons when the world seems to be at your feet. It sounds like the mist that turns Exmouth into a poem about winter. It sounds like arriving in a strange town on a train, full of anticipation and nerves; like the view from Marianthi’s flat, over south London; like sunshine on your skin in an Athenian winter; like April showers; like a day off entirely devoted to reading a book on the sofa; like an unexpedcted love letter from a long lost penpal; like the perfect cup of coffee; like waking up from a good dream to sunlight pouring through your window.
In short, it sounds like being alive.
I seriously doubt I ever had the ability to talk about music I like with anything approaching subjectivity. But even if I did, I have lost completely in the years since I last attempted to use it. I cannot convince anyone who doesn’t already love Pocketbooks to pieces that they are the most fabulous thing to happen to indiepop since the invention of Pipas, all those years ago. Oh, I can go on about the wonderfully witty, heart-achingly bittersweet, awfully clever yet entirely uncynical lyrics. I can write a book about those, believe me. I can even pretend to talk about the music — the keyboards, the guitars, the occasional harmonies, the all-important urgency and the way it is always balanced, almost restrained, by a certain poetry. But none of this means anything until I tell you that it makes me want to weep with joy, or that it makes me want to turn pirouettes and somersaults, or that it makes my heart sing and sigh. And none of these things are about ‘Flight paths’, they are all about me.
Of course, this is my blog and I can talk about myself if I want to. I can tell you about the evening I fell in love with Pocketbooks (documented by last.fm here). I can tell you about the smell of the linden blossom that floated in through the open window; about the darkness that came earlier and earlier each night; about the way I clang to the last remnants of my first English summer. I can tell you I sat in the darkened flat, on my own, playing mindless computer games and listening to ‘Falling leaves’ again and again, trying hard to decipher the lyrics so that I could sing along, because it was imperative to do so, because my heart would explode if I didn’t. I can tell you about playing some Pocketbooks song or other in every futile attempt at a clubnight we ever made, and mumbling incoherently to the half- (or perfect) strangers that almost invariably showed up to ask what that was.
I can tell you about dancing my heart out at their gig at Indietracks, next to people who were dancing their hearts out too. I can tell you that I fell in love with them even more on that day, if that was ever possible; because seeing Andy make faces that match the lines he sings (‘look, I’m making all this up’) is charming beyond words. And I can tell you about hearing ‘Camera angels’ for the first time the next night, played acoustically on the platform, and being so overwhelmed by the perfectness of everything –the moment, the lyrics, the location, the weather– that I fell in love with the world, all over again, hopelessly, passionately, as if I had never done it before, as if I would never do it again. The song concluded exactly the way I thought it would (‘no one needs a storyboard to tell us what we should have known all along — that the camera follows everyone’) and all was right with the world that night.
I can tell you about seeing them again in October, in London, in a half-empty venue, and finding it hard to believe that someone had really written the line ‘and for every fleeting moment there’s a fortnight left to wonder if it happened at all’, that there are people outside my head who feel this way, and that they write perfect pop songs on top of that too. And I can tell you about the moment Pocketbooks launched into ‘Falling leaves’ and I cheered, and a group of strangers cheered, too, and we all joined in and we all knew all the words even though there’s such a lot of them, and I felt like I was in the presence of an anthem. It reminded me of what happens when Jens Lekman plays ‘You are the light’ — and indeed, why not? They’re both about the same kind of thing, too: passionate, loyal, hopeless, inspiring love.
I can tell you about the Saturday that followed which Marianthi and I spent walking through falling leaves and finishing each other’s sentences about the greatness that is Pocketbooks and the way they capture something Belle & Sebastian had for a moment or two in the year 2000, while pining for the new album. And I can tell you that eventually the new album arrived, on a March Monday morning, in the post, and that it was perfect beyond belief, beyond expectations, beyond words. And that it contained a song that began with the words:
‘And the most curious thing,
aside from the way that the sun always shines inappropriately on a crisis,
aside from the strange sense of calm and the way we instinctively sit on the left-hand side of the top deck of the local bus,
is what happens to all the secrets we carelessly shared on those January days on the sofa in the front room of your terraced house?’
I have just used up almost a thousand words to tell you that there is very little that I can tell you about the Pocketbooks. In fact there is only one thing, something that has been both elusive and always present in my writing about indiepop, of which there has been rather a lot. (Proportionately, in any case.) It is something I said once, almost by accident, and then continued trying to put it into words for years to come. It is the answer to the ever-present question — what is it about indiepop that makes it so magical to me? What is it about it that makes me so happy?
Monday, March 31, 2008
Think about it
posted by Dimitra Daisy @ 7:08 pm
Last night, on the train back from London, I finished Jon McGregor’s ‘If nobody speaks of remarkable things’. And, at the risk of sounding like Think Small, I decided to quote something from it:
He waits, and he says this kid, when it’s born, you mustn’t ever let it think it’s anything other than a gift and a blessing, do you hear me?
It is not what the book is really about, and it is not even the thing that struck me the most about it — but it is the the thing that struck me the most, on so many levels.
Tuesday, September 18, 2007
Every one a precious thing
posted by Dimitra Daisy @ 5:24 pm
One thing I found myself saying a lot over the summer is “love is many different things.” I said it so much I started thinking about it. Here’s what I thought.
When I was seventeen and sporting a weird-looking mushroom haircut I walked into a tatty record shop in my home town, and the shop owner liked me so much he took a photo of me when I wasn’t looking. Later on he gathered up his courage and told my best friend’s boyfriend that he liked “his mistress’s friend,” in a short, stumbling, to-the-point statement, entirely characteristic of everything about him. It took me a long time to warm up to him –he was sweet, but he was also old, and strange– but when I did I loved him from the bottom of my seventeen-year-old-heart, with a love that was pure and true and devoted: if he had asked me to marry him I would have, and I would have spent the rest of my life in the company of his wondrous childish innocence and notorious old man grumpiness. He didn’t.
So when I was almost nineteen I pushed open the door of a bar and walked in at the exact moment the DJ, a friend of mine, was telling the boy I had been in love with for a few months that he didn’t need to go some place else for something to happen in his life — perhaps the woman of his dreams would walk right through the door. When I hear the phrase ‘truly, madly, deeply’ I always think of the relationship that followed that night. I never knew that love could be so strong, or so fierce, or that it could make your head spin. That being in the same room as someone could be all you wanted for a while, or that such a small thing could seem so magical. That he could seem so magical, that it would seem to me that the heavens had opened and he had fallen right off. That just being together could make us feel that we could take on half the world. And I could never have imagined that all this wouldn’t be enough to keep us together when we were too young, too sad — and, perhaps, a little too different.
A fair few people followed that made my broken heart beat a little faster. The blue-eyed boy with the stripy hat stands out for his boundless sweetness and his amazing ability to send love in large quantities through text messages. The precious few hours I spent with him were some of the happiest of my life. I felt at home like never before. The world seemed wondrous, the little riverside town the most beautiful place in the world, the sunshine god-given. I cried on the train home, out of the happiness of having found him more than the sadness of leaving him. And when he disappeared from my life a few months later, almost soundlessly, almost painlessly, I almost couldn’t mind.
There was also the cute boy from the airport, the one who inspired me to the phrase ‘instant magic, like soap bubbles’. The a boy I spotted on the gate of a late night, late flight. The boy that looked so perfect –like a pop song– that I couldn’t help but stare and smile and want to watch him all the time. The boy I thought I’d never see again after the baggage reclaim area only to bump into him two days later at a clubnight, which made somebody exclaim “it’s fate!” I got his phone number, but it turned out it wasn’t fate.
And there was also the green-eyed boy who kissed me goodbye on that very same night, a kiss so sweet it stayed with me for hours, a boy I thought I’d never fall in love with but did. He changed my mind, through persistence and the promise of a day out on Brighton beach and I am glad that he did, because the months I spent with him were happy and the love we shared sweet and straightforward. I still have the mixtapes and the records and the lists of the films we watched and the towns we wandered around in and even a recipe for brownies.
And then there was the second blue-eyed boy, the one I had a long-distance pop crush on. And it wasn’t much more than a pop crush, I tell you, but it was a long lasting one, and it must have been pretty bad, too, because later on I discovered I had written in my diary that “just the thought of just being with him makes me feel lucky forever,” like all my sunny dreams have come true in a rainy world, “in a, suddenly, not-so-rainy lifetime.” The force of that feeling surprised me, but it must have been honest. I don’t lie to myself in my diary.
By the time the crush faded away I was twenty-three and my heart had mended which probably has something to do with the fact that I found myself confessing my love to yet another blue-eyed boy at a bus stop in the dark. Later on, as we were falling asleep in different beds, he told me love was “such a big word,” and this made me swear silently to myself –in the name of the weeks of sleepless nights that had come before, of the hopes and the dreams and the joy he put in my heart just by existing– that I would prove I meant what I said. I swore that years go by, and I would still love him. Years went by, and I do.
And then, of course, as you all know by now, there was the boy Martijn. The boy with whom everything was easy — until he turned into the boy with whom everything was hard, that is. Three months of heaven that gradually dissolved into two years of hell, and if you think I’m exaggerating, well, you should have been there. And yet I stuck with him through it, convinced that there was a way out of it, that I had I had a plan and that the plan would work, undoubtedly guided by a higher power at times and yet doubting myself all the way. And if that’s not love, then I don’t know what is. It’s not as pure or as strong or as sweet, or as instant, as easy, as dreamy, as joyful, as overwhelming as other kinds of love have been, and it never was. But there’s nobody I’d rather build my life with, nobody I’d rather have (and bring up) babies with, nobody that shares my dreams and believes in the same things as I do in quite the same way. And if that’s not love, then I don’t know what is.
But this is not a post about how or how much I love my husband. Mostly it is a post about how, to me, the idea that there is such a thing as the one, true love and that it can somehow be identified by certain characteristics seems like an illusion. It is a post about how in each and every one of those relationships, crushes or affairs –and, for that matter, in a fair few others that did not fit under the ‘in love’ umbrella and therefore are not mentioned here– there was something special, something that meant the world to me, something I never found anywhere else. But it’s not a post about how true love doesn’t exist. It’s just a post about how true love is what you make of it.
PS I hate to quote Dan Treacy, but sometimes you have to. He does have a talent for lines.
Thursday, August 9, 2007
On loss and longing
posted by Dimitra Daisy @ 12:19 pm
This post has been a long time in the making — since I published the previous one, in fact. And it has been in my head since the beginning of July. And, much like the ‘I won’t grow out of indiepop’ piece, it was excruciatingly hard to write. Words resisted me all along the way. I suppose that’s what I get for not writing more: I forget how to do it. But I have resolved to stop beating myself up ‘over little things the way I do’ – because it stops me from seeing that I’m doing remarkably well at the bigger things– and writing on a blog is, really, a little thing. (A much-loved little thing, of course.) And so I have decided to try writing here in a different way, to aim for a long post every week or two instead of ‘normal’ blog-type posting. And if this reminds you of something I’ve done before, it is not a coincidence. I think that some of best writing came about this way.
1. Sometimes I start reading a blog and I don’t know why. Or, rather, it is that sometimes I keep reading a blog and I don’t know why. I read blogs for all different sorts of reasons –most of which boil down to a feeling that my life and the blogger’s, however different, run on oddly parallel lines at times– and yet sometimes I just can’t find any reason. Until, that is, one day, suddenly –or, perhaps, not-so-suddenly, over a period of time– the blogger unfolds another aspect of their lives in front of their readers’ eyes, and it all makes sense.
A while ago, I came across this poem on one such blog. It struck a chord with me. I looked it up on Minstrels –as you do; and went through all the comments. I soon discovered that I disagreed with most of them. Sarcastic? Putting on a brave face? Flippant? What were those people thinking about?
To me it is simply a poem about how you’d better use the little things to practise letting go, because sooner or later you’ll have to leave behind something big. I happen to find this piece of advice excellent, by the way. I have such an awfully hard time letting go of those small things — the lost door keys, the hour badly spent.
2. A few days before that I found myself sitting in my grandparents’ kitchen discussing death with my fourteen-year-old goddaughter. (She is also my first cousin; we share said set of grandparents, half of whom aren’t doing very well, which is what spurred the discussion.) This really made me feel like a godmother, let me tell you. It also made me feel rather uncomfortable, not because I find my own feelings about the topic hard to deal with but because the kid was twelve last time I checked, and I swear I only turned my back for a couple of minutes. I haven’t had the time to develop the skills it takes to talk truthfully yet age-appropriately to a fourteen-year-old who is going on eighteen — or on eight, depending on which way the wind is blowing. I found myself improvising wildly.
At first she didn’t even want to talk about it and acted as if it was bad luck to even mention it. And yet she was teary. And so I explained as gently and firmly as I could that death is nothing terrible, only a passage into another state of being — a little like growing up is. As soon as I had said it it became obvious that this didn’t seem to mean anything to her. At a loss, I asked her a question. What did she think happened to people when they die? She talked of heaven and god and angels — all things she doesn’t really believe in, things that don’t fit in with the worldview her fourteen years on earth have resulted in, but they were better than nothing, so I let them be. This wasn’t the time for a religion lesson.
“You see,” I said, “you think so too. We don’t disappear when we die. We just go someplace else.”
“Yes,” she said. “I know.” And then, referring to our grandmother: “But she won’t be with us. And that makes me sad.”
She’s a smart one, my goddaughter. That much I can say about her. Her ability to cut to the point reminds me of myself at her age, and it is about the only thing about her that does. That I would end up with a godchild so different from me is something would never have imagined when, at the age of twelve, I felt compelled to ask to be her godmother. It is unsettling. She keeps pushing my buttons and taking me by surprise, and I keep finding myself saying things before I had any time to think about them.
“Yes, that’s true. It is all about saying goodbye. But that is something we often have to do in life anyway.” She gave me an incredulous look. I wished she’d stop doing that sort of thing when I was trying so hard to find the right thing to say. “You are still little, but as you grow up you will find that we have to leave a lot of things behind. And people, too. Sometimes we have to move on, and sometimes they do. And sometimes they just won’t come along. I had to leave Constantin [an ex boyfriend of mine she adores], and your sister will have to leave her boyfriend too at some point. That’s just the way life is.” I paused. “In fact it is the living I find it harder to say goodbye to…” I finished. She gave me the sort of look that could be taken to mean ‘thanks, godmother, I feel so much better now,’ which was every bit as ironic as you think it was, and the conversation ended there. She doesn’t really like it when I talk about such things.
And who can blame her. I walked away wondering whether I could have said something slightly more suitable — like, for example, that nothing can really separate people who love each other. True, I hadn’t got my hands on Harry Potter yet, but something along the lines of ‘death is but crossing the world, as friends do the seas’ would have been just right. What is it that makes talking to teenagers (or, in any case, to this teenager) so very difficult? In the end I decided not to beat myself up too much about it. I figured that what she would most likely remember about this conversation when she grew up would be my straightforwardness and honesty, and that has got to be a good thing.
3. In April I wrote about a line of trees that join Exmouth and Exeter (a line of trees that I wanted to draw but would never really get round to drawing) and I drew a parallel between those and all the friends I never made (all the people I have met and fallen for yet nothing ever came out of it), and I wondered if the parallel worked. It sounded a bit odd to me at the time. But it must have done, because over time those trees became mixed up, in my head, with all the photos I have never taken, and those, in turn, with all the friends I never had, so that now I feel that characteristic pang of loss and longing every time I happen to have left my camera at home (or the light is not good enough, or I’m not fast enough, or the bus is not slow enough) and I see something pretty, or touching, or sweet. So many things that seem filled with the intent to be lost . Some days it breaks my heart.
4. It is true. It is the living I find it harder to say goodbye to. Because I believe we die out of some kind of spiritual necessity; we make friends (and lovers) out of choice. And with the living you can never be sure if they meant to leave, or if they just never got round to staying.
Friday, July 20, 2007
An exercise in honesty
posted by Dimitra Daisy @ 12:39 am
I’ve been tagged! And it made me so happy I couldn’t think of anything to say for two weeks. But never mind — better late than never and all that. I think I have to tell you eight things you don’t know about me… or eight weird things… or was it random things? In any case, here are eight plain old things about me.
1) It turns out that, despite what I thought, I am not made out of blogger material. (You have probably figured that one out yourself.) Part of the problem is that when I dreamed this blog up, in the spring of 2004, I literally lived half my life, if not more, in the computer. I worked on it, played on it and talked to my friends on it. By the time I actually got round to making a blog, however –the summer of 2005– my life had changed in a way that meant that I had a lot less energy and computer-time, and the blog fell by the wayside. I do think of it nearly every day, though. Honest.
2) I am still, constantly, ceaselessly amazed by the ways in and the extend to which my family is dysfunctional. (A polite word for fucked up, in this case at least.)
3) I find it very hard to talk about this. Not because I think one shouldn’t talk about such personal things in public –I’d shout it from the rooftops if I could– but because I am worried it will look like I am feeling sorry for myself too much. Oh, and because I wouldn’t know who would want to listen to this stuff.
4) This was supposed to be a blog about ‘growing up, being in love with the world, and indiepop’ after all. Yes, this is its official tagline. No, I didn’t know I had one, either. I filled this in without thinking when I first set wordpress up –in the summer of 2005, in case you’re not paying attention– and then forgot about it until this spring, when I accidentally discovered it again.
5) I was amazed by how accurate this description was, on retrospect. My whole life is about loving the world, growing up, and indiepop.
6) Despite this, and the entry bellow, I remain as ambivalent about indiepop as I have ever been.
7) For example, Horowitz‘s ‘Popkids of the world, unite!’ makes me smile and cringe at the same time. I mean, it is sweet, and catchy as fuck, and –I hope– a reference to Nixon — what is there not to love? Except it has been such a awfully long time since all I wanted was “a happy, happy heart and your cutesy hand in my hand,” and it sounds silly and shallow. And yet, there are moments. There are moments. Like the evening of the Spiral Scratch All-Dayer when we ran away from the Manhattan Love Suicides –too much noise for my liking– only to go stand on the side of the street opposite Electrophonvintage and they looked cuter than anything I had seen in a long long time, and so Swedish that I was instantly transported –with my head spinning and my heart beating fast– to the wondrous summer of 2004. Or those nights like tonight — when the Pines nearly move me to tears — when the way Joe sings ‘somewhere, there were tears that held everything that I wanted to say’ seems to speak of every single ache that has ever resided in my heart.
(The Pines are, in a way, the band that got me into indiepop. It was a gradual process, really, but somewhere in there there is a Pines 7″ that changed my life in ways that it could never had imagined.)
8) Speaking of which: some stranger told me a while ago that the Friends of the Heroes fanzine –which I made, nearly single-handedly, in the summer of 2004– changed his life, in ways that I could never ever had imagined. And to think I have spent the intervening years thinking no one had really cared about the damn thing. And when I think back to it, I feel honoured more than anything else. Humbled, too — that someone opened up their heart to something I made that much. It makes it all worth it. I’d do it all over again in a moment, if I could.
And, as he said, life is very pretty sometimes. Even though –as evident from the list above– mine seems to have stopped sometime in late 2004, early 2005…
PS Oh, yes. I nearly forgot. I fully expect to be ignored, but, well, I tag Martijn, Alistair, Will, Ola, Clismo, and the following blogless people, who are welcome to use my comments box: Marianthi, Georgie and Koen. Just in case they ever read my blog, that is.
PPS Oh and thank you sunbeam for making me feel loved!
Thursday, June 7, 2007
A picture of me
posted by Dimitra Daisy @ 5:48 pm
It is hard to take a photo that defines someone.
But I suppose this one comes pretty darn close.
Taken by Will, on a Bank Holiday Monday, in Budleigh Salterton.
Tuesday, February 13, 2007
I’d like to come out of my shell just for a while
posted by Dimitra Daisy @ 9:53 pm
There are times when I love being me.
Like that moment on Friday night when I finished my set with the Pipettes ‘I love you’ and it sounded perfect, just perfect, and as I handed over the decks to Alistair I wanted to dance and bounce and clap my hands because the elation I felt was unlike anything I have felt in ages. It was like the moment when, after a lot of hard, frustrating work you manage to get your mixtape just right — except with people watching, which made it even better. (That metaphor only makes sense if you are the sort of person who spends ages trying to get their mixtapes just right. Which, as you probably know by now, I most definitely am.)
Or that other moment on Friday when I told our new (and possibly temporary, and utterly adorable) teacher that she seems to be ‘exactly what this course needs at this moment in time’ and we would be very, very sad to see her go; and she hugged me and said ‘thank you for telling me’ — and I felt great for telling her, which made a welcome change from the ‘why ever did it seem like a good idea to say that in the first place?’ feeling I usually end up with.
Or that moment on Saturday morning when Georgie sent me a new song or rather the moment I fell in love with it, the moment I felt it tag at my heartstrings, gently pulling them apart until I was a mess of Athenian memories and pride (because I
used to still mean something to the Occasional Flickers) and the happiness of being someone who can be undone by a song in the space of minutes.
Or that moment today after lunchtime was over, when we all walked from the cafe to ‘our big shed’ in the rain and I felt unreasonably and inexplicably happy, as enchanted as a four-year-old at a funfair, and the raindrops glistened and shone.
But there are also other times: lying in bed, looking back at what my life has been like and not understanding why ever whatever it is that happened happened, struggling and failing to put it into words; being at the verge of tears, upset by something most people would have hardly noticed, unable to explain what is happening to me to anyone and therefore having to put up with all sorts of irrelevant comments; all those moments when, hopelessly misunderstood, I think that for someone who is supposed to be a good writer I am just awful at expressing myself.
There are also times when I hate it.
Disclaimer: The point I am trying to make is not that I sometimes hate myself, even though it probably sounds like it.
Wednesday, February 7, 2007
posted by Dimitra Daisy @ 8:31 pm
“And that it is also the beauty inherent the human state: no matter what comes our way, we always have a choice of what to make of it; and what we make of it will always bear the imprint of our individuality”, I found myself writing last night. And then I got a little sad, because I couldn’t quite write the next thing I wanted to say, not in the essay, anyway.
[Sign you might be getting addicted to your blog #5: you post first thing in the morning, and you fully intend to post last thing before going to bed too even though you have spend most of the time in between trying to write an essay, and it hasn’t been easy. Sign you might have more common sense than you think #1: you don’t post. You just go to bed. It is past midnight after all.]
What I wanted to say is that there are a thousand lines in a thousand songs that make my world go round; that there are hundreds and hundreds of little things that leave me wide-eyed and open-mouthed and make my heart beat faster; that there is a handful of people that can move me to tears just by being themselves; and that all are things that would probably passed unnoticed by the vast majority of people. And I can’t think of a single thing that talks about individuality more that this list of things.
Sunday, February 4, 2007
posted by Dimitra Daisy @ 8:01 pm
(The other day, someplace)
“I just wish I knew there was somewhere, a little crack or something, to stick my fingers in and pull and it would turn everything inside out.”
“And what would happen then?”
“I would see all the good in the world.”
(Thessaloniki, August 2002)
I’ve just come back from one of my month-long trips around Europe, which means that everything around me looks depressing. The boy sitting opposite me looks depressed. The late summer heat makes it hard to breath, but if you look closely you can detect the first hints of autumn in the way the late afternoon light, in the way it changes. If you look more closely still you will see the marks the chair has left on my legs, or how I have been biting my straw. Or how I fidgeted and stared at my glass when, in a sudden bout of inspiration, I told him it all comes down to what we think of the world. What we really think of the world, what we think about it in our hearts. Do we think it is a good place, or a bad place? He doesn’t seem to get the importance of what I am saying — but then, did he ever? I’m not even sure if I can grasp it myself. All I know is my answer, a scary little monster staring back at me cheekily: the world is a magical place, where bad things happen all the time, to everyone I know.
(Exmouth, January 2007)
In fact, it is Friday January 19th, the last day of storytelling, and the whole class has had to go out for a twenty-minute walk and come back with a small story about something they had seen. Having done that we are now discussing which ones would be appropriate for Classes 1 and 2, and why. After listening for a while I can’t stand it anymore so I stick my hand up and ask John if what we are trying to convey is the sense that all’s right with the world. John launches on a long, somewhat disjointed story that is as moving as it is besides the point, or perhaps even more so. He is trying to explain how we can do this –how we stand in front of a class of children and tell them that all is right with the world when so many bad things happen all the time– and why we might want to do it when all I asked was whether that would be a good way of putting what he was trying to say into words. I have no problem telling small children that all is right with the world, no problem at all — in fact not doing so seems more and more cruel every day.
(Athens, March 2006)
I’m writing this:
IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ve been reading this book, and, on page 331, it says (that Steiner said):
Ã¢â‚¬Å“This fundamental mood [being filled with the Ã¢â‚¬Å“devotion that one develops in the spiritual worldÃ¢â‚¬?, which makes the child Ã¢â‚¬Å“give himself up to his enviroment by imitating the people around himÃ¢â‚¬?] is a very beautiful, and it must be fostered in the child. It proceeds from the assumption, from the unconsious assumption, that the whole world is of a moral nature.Ã¢â‚¬?
It is hard to say, but: if you asked me Ã¢â‚¬Å“what is it like to be you?Ã¢â‚¬? (a question I like asking, though hardly ever out loud; IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢m not that brave) IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢d have to say Ã¢â‚¬Å“well, all my life has been a fight against those who wanted me to believe that it is foolish to think that Ã¢â‚¬Ëœthe whole world is of a moral natureÃ¢â‚¬â„¢. It has been a struggle to be allowed to believe that.Ã¢â‚¬?
If only I could go back to believing that. I think then I would be whole again.
You are sitting in front of your computer, wondering what it is I am trying to say. Well, to put it coarsely, what I am trying to say is that when the part of you that existed before you were born left the place where it was to come here –separating itself from god like a droplet separating from the ocean, as Steiner rather beautifully puts it– it was hoping for a place as beautiful, good and true as the one it left. And that, upon not finding it, it got disappointed. Disgruntled. Disenchanted.
And me? Well — I am looking for the spell that will bring the enchantment back.
Thursday, February 1, 2007
A reason why
posted by Dimitra Daisy @ 5:36 pm
There come moments –like that Monday a while ago when I was designing a website and I got so caught up in it so much even forgot to go to the bathroom– when I wonder to myself: why was it that I wanted to become a teacher, again? And then I worry a little, because there are also moments –a lot of moments– when this being a teacher thing seems very hard. Moments when I feel that I need to stretch and stretch myself and then stretch myself some more, and that all the stretching is almost more than I can bear.
But then there also come mornings like yesterday when something that I has been in my head for a long time suddenly makes sense like it has never before. “Imbue thyself with the power of imagination,” we have been repeating together morning after morning since September, but it wasn’t until yesterday that I realised what that power of imagination may be. That is may be a lot more than the ability to tell stories or introduce the letters of the alphabet in a particular way, which is what I –lazily– associated it with before. That it may be the force by which you reshape yourself, your life, your world. The world.
Or days like today when I realise that while other people are at work, quite probably having an XML overdose (exciting as that may be), I am standing in a big shed surrounded by trees and squirrels and grey light seeping through the windows, singing that winter calls a clear horizon like the sea calls to the port –which is pretty hard to get right but also heartachingly beautiful if you do– and the realisation takes my breath away. I have to stop for a moment and think of how I ever came to be here, and how lucky I am that I did. And all the stretching suddenly seems worth the trouble and the pain.
Wednesday, January 31, 2007
A few words about the spirit
posted by Dimitra Daisy @ 10:42 pm
The spirit is something you think of a lot, if you’re a prospective Steiner Waldorf teacher (especially if it is the end of the January of the first year and you have to write an essay about it, and you have to do it soon). Even so, it is not something I usually talk about a lot with my friends (save for the ones who have to write the same essay, that is). It’s just not the sort of thing that people refer to casually in a conversation, is it? The spirit. When was the last time you thought about it? And what is it, anyway? And while we, collectively, struggle to answer that question I can’t help but come back to something Ian said to me a few months ago — without meaning to, almost. (Ian is the exception to the ‘I don’t talk about the spirit with my friends’ rule.) He said that sometimes it happens, between two people, that everything that could be getting in the way is lifted and it feels like two spirits touching — or something along those lines, anyway. It was a beautiful picture, clear and strong and true, and it brought memories of all the times when I have felt this tumbling down. All those times when the light that made somebody who they are shone through, like the sun cutting through the clouds or a star pointing the way above a forest. Taking me by surprise, every time. Taking my breath away. And giving me a glimpse of who we are and where we’re going.
Wednesday, January 3, 2007
The big things, the little things and happiness
posted by Dimitra Daisy @ 12:09 am
A while ago a girl I know split up with her boyfriend of six years. They did it amicably, deciding to remain best friends and give it another go after he had sorted himself out and become a little happier about things. That lasted a few days: until he got a drunk, that is, and came round in the early hours of a Sunday morning, breaking her door and a neighbour’s window while shouting some less than pretty things about her and her friends, who live in the flats above. I met a few of those people a couple of days after that, and they were, understandably, sad and shaken. They were also really and truly shocked, amazed that such a nice boy could do that sort of thing. Which made me realise something: I was not. Of course I was sad. It is always sad to hear how people can mess up their own lives because they can’t control themselves. I was also angry — the words ‘stupid’ and ‘bastard’ came to mind immediately, as they do in such cases. But I was not shocked.
And how could I be, really. I’m rather used to this thing. Not that anyone has ever broken my door but I’ve seen plenty of emotional outbursts of this sort, in fact I have grown up with them. Not only my childhood but pretty much all my life up to now has been punctuated by this sort of incident. Whose main recipient I often was. First my dad, then my brother, then the boy Constantin (also known as the Previous Significant Boyfriend) and now, of course, Martijn have made sure I wouldn’t forget what verbal violence is. Or how angry a man can be. Or how nasty he can get when angry, and how stupid. By this I mean how many things he doesn’t really mean he can say— and how they can become true after a while if he says them often enough. I have to say that I am all too used to this. By now (I am twenty five, nearly twenty six) it has become something I deal with rather than something that comes upon me like a thunderstorm. Something that, upsetting as it may be, exists outside me not inside me. Something that, in time, will stop, go away. The sun will come out again. But I digress — or, rather, I am jumping ahead of myself here.
That thought hit me hard this summer. I am used to this — and what this is, what it is called these days, is abuse. ‘I’ve been abused’ is a hard thought to accept, even when the reality of it is glaringly obvious, as it has always been. It becomes harder when it hits you at the same time as ‘this is happening to me again, it is still happening, it has always been happening, what is going on here?’ I am still not sure I have the answer to the question. What I am sure about is that I am going to shoot the first person to imply that this is a choice I am making, and that I am making it for a reason. Extra bullets thrown in for anyone who implies I don’t know better (one bullet), I don’t love myself enough (three bullets) or that I must have done something really nasty in a previous life and now I’m paying for it (too many bullets to count). I do believe in reincarnation, by the way. And in the fact that we make choices. And that there is a reason for the things that happen. I just think that sometimes these things are beyond our reach and understanding. And that they’re not as simple or straightforward as some people seem to think. And –finally– that we’re not as much as into punishing ourselves or teaching ourselves lessons the hard way. But I really do digress. I was saying that it is hard to accept that you have been abused. And it is, perhaps, harder still to understand how you can feel both that, and a princess.
It is hard. But it is also comforting, reassuring, and, well, inspiring. Because while anyone can abuse you no one can make you a princess if you aren’t one. And while my fears could have come from outside there are other things that could only have come from inside, from me: my faith in the world, in its inherent goodness, regardless of everything; the fact that I fought back, fought for what I believed in even when I was tiny, refusing to believe my dad when he said that everything and everyone was horrible; my ability to bounce back, and, occasionally, eventually, and truly, be happy. It made me proud of myself to realise all that, and it makes me prouder still to write it down. I was a magical child. I brought these things with me and kept them alive through some really dark times. And now that I’m all grown up I only believe in them more.
But I digress again. This post was supposed to be about happiness. I was going to talk about something that all this bouncing back has taught me, something that watching that girl trying to pull herself back together in the days following the breaking of her door, and that is: there are two kinds of happiness, the inside one and the outside one, and they are both important. (The inside one comes from knowing that all is well in your world; the outside one, from experiencing things that make you feel that all is well in your world.) Just as are there people who have told me “if you are happy with yourself, nothing can put you down” and people who have told me “living in a nice flat is not going to make me less sad” — and, much as I could see where both of them where coming from, I disagreed with them both. Knowing that all is well in your world (or some sort of more realistic approximation thereof) is indeed a very powerful thing, I have discovered that as I slowly approach it. But I have also discovered that it won’t help you if it is 3 am and your husband is shouting all sorts of things he doesn’t mean, and he can’t seem to stop himself for hours. And the only thing that will help you get through the next day when everything seems shattered to pieces is the sunshine, a new book and cooking your favourite dinner. The little things. I am an expert at bouncing back. Two days and one good night’s sleep later I could smile again. Three days and two nights’ sleep later I was bouncing around the flat, singing along to the Fairways. (The Fairways are great, by the way.)
Some days I wonder if it is good to be like that. Some others I know I wouldn’t have survived –emotionally– had I been any other way. Sometimes I wish I didn’t have to be this way. Others, I think it is a priceless skill which might help me achieve great things one day. But I digress. All I am trying to say is that you should take care of the little things. Do not disregard them, they matter more than people give them credit for. If you can’t have the big things, if the world is –temporarily or otherwise– looking like a menacing, unfriendly place and nothing seems right, keep the faith and focus on the little things. And the big things will come along.
It works. I tell you.
Wednesday, December 6, 2006
It’s a good think I’m pretty sure about these things
posted by Dimitra Daisy @ 8:50 pm
I didn’t mean to be silent. It’s just that the things I have on my mind are rather hard to say. The amount of thought that can go into teaching eight 10-to-12 year olds for an hour is mind-boggling, as is the fact that the way you handle even the simplest of the things that come up with them comes down to philosophy. Not developmental psychology, not pedagogic principles, not accumulated experience, not even blind faith — it comes down to what you think life is all about. Where do we come from? What is the essence of a good life? And why ever did we find ourselves here in the first place, anyway?
Thursday, November 23, 2006
A reason to be thankful
posted by Dimitra Daisy @ 10:55 pm
I thought of using “You should all be murdered” as the title of this post, but I just couldn’t bring myself to it, even though I know they didn’t mean it literally. (I can’t quite imagine Harvey Williams planning to murder people.) Even so, I don’t like the sound of it. I do like the song, though. I love its indiepop-angst-ness and the guitars and the drumbeat and the fact that it was probably recorded in a shed, or something. And I love the lyrics:
The people who were cruel to those that don’t deserve.
The people who talk too much, the people who don’t care.
The people whose lives are going nowhere.
The people who just give in, the people who don’t fight.
The people I don’t like.
There’s something so right about them, in all their wrongness. And here’s mine (even though it doesn’t rhyme):
The people who have no faith.
The people who think that homo homini lupus est.
The people who make it so because they believe it is like that.
The people who think there is no meaning in this life, and nothing beyond it.
The people who find there is little or no joy and no goodness.
The people I can’t stand.
I’m not sure what got me thinking of that, though I do have my suspicions; what I do know is that it is not because I came across one of these people recently. In fact thinking about it made me realise that I am surrounded by people who think there is a reason for this madness — and how great that is!
The people who think that we come from somewhere, and we are on our way to somewhere.
The people who think that what we do in between is immensely important.
The people who think that things such as right and wrong actually exist, and one can actually tell them apart.
The people who think that as is meaning inherent in everything, so is joy in living.
The people who think that there is love even in the smallest of things.
The people I like.
Saturday, November 18, 2006
Meaning vs fate
posted by Dimitra Daisy @ 10:16 pm
I’m not quite done answering Dawn’s question (of sorts).
We held a dinner party last Saturday. It was nice to see our house filled with lovely people. I took the chance to show some photos from our wedding, and answered some questions about how we met (on the indiepop list); which of course was followed by more questions. To most people meeting your husband on the internet still sounds like an outrageous idea. We explained that we had been moving in the same (indiepop) circles, and we had common friends, we’d been to the same festival twice, in fact we’re pretty sure we once stood on either side of the same person (Ally Cook of Dot to Dot fame) who, however, neglected to introduce us to each other. Not wanting to sound like I regretted not having met Martijn earlier (I don’t) I quickly added that it was best this way. Had we met earlier we would, most likely, have become friends and never thought to fall in love with each other.
That made someone comment that “it was meant to be”. Which made me stop for a moment, and think to myself. “Hmmmmm”. (A particularly deep thought, as I am sure you will agree.)
Perhaps I would be fine with saying that (in fact I used to say it myself) had we lived happily ever after the day we met in London, as we thought we would. Except it didn’t work out that way. A couple of months later Martijn came to Athens, stayed for a week, and got absolutely terrified of the future before he left; while I got a flu I never quite got over for a year and a half. Martijn was stressed, unsure of himself, scared and breaking down more and more often while I felt vaguely or not-so-vaguely sick for months on end. There were terrible arguments. The screaming of ugly things. Sleepless night trying to make up (often on the phone). Endless one-sided conversations trying to understand. And more breaking down. The throwing of objects. More breaking down. The shouting of even worse things. And more breaking down. (I am not exaggerating one bit.) Sometimes it seemed as soon as we made up Martijn would start sulking again, closing the world off, pushing me away. The two months following our wedding contained some of the worst moments of my life (and there is considerable competition). It often looked like it was never going to end, and the breaks between the bad spells became shorter and shorter, almost non-existent. And then, miracle of miracles, we moved to England and it suddenly, surprisingly, got a lot better. It hasn’t stopped, and it still needs to get a ]better, but it is decidedly, unarguably, very much better.
But was it meant to be? Was Martijn meant to shout at me that I should go away and die because I deserved it? To throw soy milk all over the kitchen floor? To hit his head with the iron and come to me with blood running down his face? (It was only a tiny scratch, by the way.) Were we destined to a year and a half of intense unhappiness following a short spell of profound happiness? Were our hopes meant to be dashed, our faith in each other and ourselves and the world tried through and through?*
I don’t think so. What I do think is that people confuse “meaningful” with “meant to be”. Meeting Martijn was meaningful in very many ways, and the events that led up to it only made it even more so. The way we met, the way we got closer and closer, what we felt for each other, how it made the world look, the things that it made happen, even the dismal ones I have described above: they are all fraught with meaning. They contain beauty waiting to be seen and lessons waiting to be learned and messages waiting to be carried off into the future. They say a lot about me, him, and the world. Each one of them happened for a reason. But they were not meant to be. Either one of us could have made a different choice somewhere along the way.
*(Most stupid thing I have heard as a reply to a description of this situation: “it keeps you appreciating what you have”. To be fair, it was a well-meaning comment by a nice person who just happened to be having a momentary lapse in brain functioning. There’s no other explanation, is there?)
Friday, November 17, 2006
Archetype, universal, personal interpretation, living, impossible, feeling life
posted by Dimitra Daisy @ 9:43 pm
We have been exploring the concept of an image at school lately. (As you may, or may not, know Steiner education has a lot to do with imagination and teaching through pictures.) Trevor asked us to resist the urge to groan while he unveiled the question he wanted us to think about.
“What are the essential ingredients of a picture?”
It takes a good teacher to know what you will want to do before you want to do it. I was impressed, and I did my best not to groan to honestly it was rather hard. It was made easier from the fact that he was groaning himself. A good sense of humour is also rather essential, don’t you think?
Neither not groaning nor laughing made the question any easier to answer, however. I spent some very frustrating twenty minutes trying to come up with some way of approaching something that looked like an answer. Did I say it wasn’t easy? A picture is such a basic thing you can’t quite define it. Can you define a thought? Can you define a thought without thinking? Can you define a picture without using a picture? Doesn’t that half-defeat the point?
In the end me and the girl I was discussing it with ended up with this: A picture is something you can perceive, something that you can retain in your memory, something that you can pass along, something that appeals to feelings rather than the intellect, and, finally, something that has a life of its own. It was pretty good even if I say so myself. Other people seemed to have approached it from a different perspective so in the end we ended up with a very interesting list of words.
Sometimes lessons make me want to cry, like songs do.
Sunday, November 12, 2006
posted by Dimitra Daisy @ 9:39 pm
Last Sunday Dawn wrote a post on adoption, faith and the concept of something being ‘meant to be’ that made a lot of things fall into place for me. An awful lot of things, which is why I don’t know where to start from. And Dawn always throws the ball back at the reader at the end (a quality I don’t come across often enough in this world) which got me wanting to write about it, even though, obviously, I have not been involved in any adoption whatsoever. I just think that, when you get down to the essence of things, it doesn’t really make a difference whether it is adoption you are talking about or something else. (In this case, of course — not in general.)
Now that I’ve made a start, let’s get two awkward facts out of the way. One, my dad is a bastard who has been emotionally abusing the whole family in general, and me in particular, since he first got the chance to. And two, I have always had some issues with the concept of reincarnation. Not the idea itself, mind you: it seems (feels) reasonable enough, that is to say it makes sense, and I’m pretty sure the fact that a lot of religions point in that direction is not accidental either. All in all I am rather convinced that we do go through multiple incarnations on this planet, as much as I think one can be convinced of such things. (Which is quite a lot, but not entirely, as I will, I hope, make clear.)
Are you with me so far? Okay. Let’s complicate things a little more.
While living in Athens I spent time with the people I called the crazy psychologists, who seemed to believe that there probably is no such thing as reincarnation; or, at least, that believing that you chose the circumstances in which you were born “weakens you”. That is a little hard to explain; let’s just say they consider your strength in life to be directly proportionate to the respect you have for those to whom respect is due. By thinking that you chose your parents you put yourself in a position “above them”, which, according to them, is one of the worst things you can do. (It goes without saying that saying that your father is a bastard wasn’t considered a very good idea, either. Let’s say I didn’t quite agree with everything said there. Too many things to respect, not enough thinking, I thought.)
While living in Exmouth, on the other hand, I spend a lot of time with Steiner people. Who, as you may know, hold the idea of reincarnation pretty close to their hearts, or at least to the centre of the world view. They talk not only of life after death but of life before birth too (an idea often neglected in the rest of the world, it seems); of choosing the people we are born to and the school we go to and the people we meet in later life. (And, somehow, I don’t quite agree with that either. Too much thinking, not enough respect for those things that are beyond and above us.)
While in Cornwall (for the course’s “residential induction”, or whatever staying in a farm in the middle of nowhere with the people you are going to spend three years with was called) the course tutor mentioned reincarnation as linked to the fact that everything is meaningful. I protested. (I protest a lot.) I am more than sure that there is a reason behind most things, if not everything, but I don’t think this has to be linked with reincarnation. He tried to explain, but he only made it worse:
“So if I, as a teacher, am I a pain to you, it may be because you have been a pain to me in a previous life”.
Which is precisely the part I have issues with. I think that if, as a teacher, you are a pain to me, it is because you’re not trying hard enough to be a good teacher. And if you are an abusive father, then, well — then you are a bastard in my book. It may be true that I chose to come to this family (in fact, I think it probably is) but I didn’t chose other people’s actions, and neither did God: they chose them themselves. Also, these choices weren’t all made and set in stone when I was born: they were made day after day after day (those days that make up twenty-five-and-a-half years). They could have been changed at any given point in time.
And the reason why I heart Dawn is because she managed to put all this into place with a handful of words, like this:
[Note: Madison is her daughter, and she is adopted; Jessica is Madison’s birth mother.]
I believe that our soul/energies get a lot of options outside this planet and that one of them is coming around here and trying on different ways of being human. I really feel that Jessica, Madison and I have known each other before and that this is the way we’re part of each other’s lives this time. It’s the only way I can explain the profound love/familiarity I feel when I’m around Jessica.
This doesn’t excuse all the things that made Jessica create an adoption plan – it’s not a shrug-your-shoulders excuse for injustice – it’s just how I feel our family manifested itself. And it doesn’t let me off scott-free either. Like I can’t blithely say, “It was meant to be!” and skip along my merry way ignoring the human consequences of my actions. It’s more complicated than that.
You know Judaism says it kinda doesn’t matter what happens past this life – heaven, hell – it’s not up to us to worry about these things. We have to make our best possible efforts here, now. Our job here is to repair the world.
So there you go, it’s all clear now! We make choices. They are not directly, linearly linked to what happens to us in this life. They do not constitute an excuse, or –dare I say– even a reason for anybody else’s actions. Most importantly: whatever happens before or after this life is better left alone, or, at least, approached with great humbleness. That’s not to say we shouldn’t think of it. It just means I wouldn’t –I don’t– use it as a compass on how to live my life. While we’re here, our task is to concentrate on being here and doing our best at it: being true to ourselves, loving those who touch our hearts, being kind to those who don’t, and trying to make our little corner of the world a better place.
And for everything else, well — there will be a season.
[The soundtrack to this: Vashti Bunyan and, near the end, the Byrds.]
Tuesday, November 7, 2006
A very nice wall indeed
posted by Dimitra Daisy @ 10:07 pm
Oh. And do you know when you know the whole NaBloPoMo thing is worth it?
(Because, let’s face it, it did cross my mind that it was silly, especially when it took me three hours to write a three hundred word entry that three people would read. I know I only have myself to blame for this predicament for starting this blog and never really sticking with it, but still. It made me long for my Friends of the Heroes days when I knew I had an audience. Not that it was all that big, mind you, but at least I didn’t feel like I was scribbling on my own on a wall in a dead-end street that no one uses apart from the people who live there. And I felt that I have driven myself in that corner, too. But never mind — because today I decided it is worth it.)
When you get such a lovely comment from a lovely reader. When you hear that it means something to someone, even if it is only for a moment.
Tuesday, November 7, 2006
Public Service Announcement: Not cheating!
posted by Dimitra Daisy @ 5:37 pm
To K., and anyone else who might be interested: I am not not cheating. I just wouldn’t do that sort of thing. Honest. (Ask Martijn!)
There are two reasons why it might have appeared that I was. One, because the (photo) post I posted on Saturday had been, mistakenly, marked ‘private’ until last night, and therefore didn’t appear until then. And two, because on November 3rd I realised two things: my blog was still on Greek time, two hours ahead of Greenwich, and so the post I had posted at 10:03 the night before appeared to have been posted on (shock, horror!) 00:03 of the next day. So I changed the time settings and edited the time-stamp of all existing entries to make them reflect the actual time of posting.
I hope that
clears any misunderstandings restores my reputation!
Thursday, March 30, 2006
What is it like?
posted by Dimitra Daisy @ 2:02 pm
I’ve been intending to write about what, in these parts, is known as The Cake Story, but it just isn’t happening. Here’s something else, instead. I’ve been reading this book, and, on page 331, it says (that Steiner said):
“This fundamental mood [being filled with the “devotion that one develops in the spiritual world”, which makes the child “give himself up to his enviroment by imitating the people around him”] is a very beautiful, and it must be fostered in the child. It proceeds from the assumption, from the unconsious assumption, that the whole world is of a moral nature.”
It is hard to say, but: if you asked me “what is it like to be you?” (a question I like asking, though hardly ever out loud; I’m not that brave) I’d have to say “well, all my life has been a fight against those who wanted me to believe that it is foolish to think that ‘the whole world is of a moral nature’. It has been a struggle to be allowed to believe that.”
If only I could go back to believing that. I think then I would be whole again.
Friday, November 11, 2005
posted by Dimitra Daisy @ 5:46 pm
It all started in May 2003 when me and my friend Nick decided to start a record label. A few days after the initial decision I got a text message with list of prospective names, which I proceeded to write on the back of a supermarket receipt and promptly lose. Later on, when we had to chose one, I remembered only three: Basement Bar (which was Nick’s favourite but already taken), Pink Lemonade (which I had added myself and thus was my favourite) and Sprinkled Pepper (which was our shared second). That name came from a Fairground Attraction song (you know, this band that sings that “it’s gooot to beeeeeee peeeeerfect”) called ‘A smile in whisper. It says:
“An orchestra of tiny harps / it’s like pepper sprinkled on our hearts”
You can guess what the label got named; and why, when I thought of keeping a diary of the process of setting up a label, it instantly got named ‘the sprinkled pepper diaries’. I never did keep the diary of course, and we never made a label. Life got in the way too much and after a couple of years it didn’t seem like a good idea anymore. But both names lingered on. Today Sprinkled Pepper is what I call “an (almost) Athenian indiepop collective” –meaning me and some friends of mine, organising a few gigs and parties around Athens and occasionally agreeing on what good music is– and the sprinkled pepper diaries are, well, this.
I’m not sure why I kept the name. I was fond of it, and it was catchy, but it’s not only this. I think I like the idea of the things I write sprinkled like pepper on our hearts.