New work, decisions and breathing

Oh my, again a month has passed without me writing a word. I did make a conscious decision for these past few weeks to just focus all my energy on getting to grips with the new job I’ve started. Frankly, even if I didn’t make that decision I still probably wouldn’t have written anything as I had no spare brain cells left to deal with the the world outside the training and the assessment test, all the new people (so many people!), and navigating the new premises, and pretending like I’m a proper grown-up for hours and hours each day.

It’s all still tough, I’ve another week of training left and then I’m on my own, let loose on the innocent strangers. I have no doubt that it will be a few months yet until I’m more confident about what I’m doing and able to function properly. But I have also made another decision a long time ago, and I am planning on sticking to it – work has never been, nor do I intend it ever to be, the central focus of my life. It’s something I do because inexplicably people don’t want to give me things like food, electricity, clothes and books for free and therefore I concede that I need to work in order to survive. And I need to be productive, and around people even when it tires me, and needed. But it is not my proper life, though I have to spend a solid portion of my days doing it. My life is my partner, my family, my friends, books, owls, my writing, poems and photos, my little and big projects, delightful food experiences, my travels and my imaginary adventures in long-lost civilizations and on the distant planets. And so now I feel is the time to start separating the 8 hours a day I need to spend being the corporate-me, all confident, business-like and acting like I’m totally conversant in stuff I have heard about for the first time only a few weeks ago, from the rest of the time when I get to be the actual-me. It’ll be tough but it is doable and I will do it. Get back to the blog and all other writing undertakings, schedule some small portion of my days to work on a passion translation project I came up with, keep meeting up with important people in my life, just keep living, keep enjoying the small and big pleasures of life.

This sounds like I’m complaining about having to work already. Not at all, I need to be working, the 4 year hiatus from reality has provided me with ample proof of this fact. But you know, you’re always going to bitch a bit about your work, right? Well, I will, a bit, sometimes a bit more if I have a bad day.

Here’s another decision I’ve made though, from now on I shall not write about work. I may mention it in passing, or give an occasional insight into the amazing extent of human foolishness (anyone working in customer care has stories, stories that would make you weep for humankind…). But my writing is my breathing space, and so I intend to figure out a way to leave the work at work and not infect my air with it.

This is not a good or interesting post, I’m aware… But I kind of had to remind myself of these things after a tough week. Now, let the two whole days of freedom and books commence!

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Fight or flight?

What is my dominant trait? Easy – running away from things. Fight or flight? Flight, every time. Or at least that’s the overwhelming desire I have, burning every moment of every day. Run, just run, into books, movies, TV, computer games, my head, another country, a tiny deserted island in the middle of the ocean, another universe entirely. Away from unpleasant realities, responsibilities, work, duties, hardship of any description, expectations, people. Run, run as fast as you can and pray that nothing catches up with you.

 I’m ashamed of it and for as long as I can remember I’ve been aware of it and tried to develop some fighting spirit instead. Because deep down I know, running away isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Yes, there is this wonderful moment, when you feel all free and ecstatic. Just a shiny precious moment of ultimate potential. But then, then comes the guilt, shame, loneliness and fear, and lessening of the mind until there’s so little left you couldn’t fill the matchbox with it. So instead I try to go against that chanting voice in my head, that constant background of “screw it, just run” and try to make a stand instead, an every day warrior, doing the sensible shopping (even when I have to buy toilet roll, detergent or cleaning products – the most hateful purchases), filling the forms, cooking, cleaning, remembering people’s birthdays and anniversaries, working on myself, trying to get better, trying to learn things, understand, be kind.

It’s human, I know, that desire to run away, to hide, or at least defer unpleasantness/responsibility/obligation of any kind. We all have it to a certain degree, the “fuck it” voice in our heads. I allow myself little escapes, in wonderlands and Narnias of this earth, in written pages, and made up histories of my head. These I have to have just to stay sane. Otherwise I try to fight, keep going, get through, and it turns out, as tiring as that is, it’s rewarding beyond anything running away has got to give.

What is my dominant trait? Easy – I persevere.

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Work Worries, also Morning People Are Aliens

I’m up, I’m up, I tell you! Not at all snoozing, see, moving my hand and at least one eye is open, you can go and totally safely leave me in bed without any risk of me falling asleep again!

I’m trying to get back into a sane sleeping rhythm. I got a job (yay!), I’m starting on the 5th of February and I’ve decided that I would use the time I have left into getting myself a bit more human, so that it doesn’t come as too much of a shock when all of a sudden it’s expected of me every day… It’s going… ok… Or at the very least I am getting up in the mornings and going to sleep at reasonable o’clock. But I’m not enjoying it. I’m not a morning person. I don’t trust morning people, you know, the ones that are all smiley and chatty two minutes after they joyfully jumped out of bed, and do a 5k run before breakfast. I think they’re aliens (sorry mum). I’m more of a bleary-eyed monster impotently raging in the shower I reluctantly drag myself into using solely my sense of touch because the vision has not rebooted yet. Also, don’t talk to me for at least an hour after I got up, I’m busy locating my brain and figuring out which limbs are responsible for which actions, the sounds you’re directing at me make no sense and I don’t like them.

As much as I’m delighted about having a job (and don’t get me wrong, I am, I’m so relieved and happy), I am also terrified. I had a thoroughly unwanted 4 year break, I’m not used to working anymore, the getting up early, the being places on time, the whole office environment, the co-workers, the customers. I know, I know, a couple of months and I’ll be fine again but meanwhile my brain is feeding me a diet of increased anxiety and catastrophe forecasts. What if I turn out to be so hopeless that I can’t even pass the test after training, and therefore will be asked to leave in a couple of weeks? What if everybody just hates me on sight? What if all my preparing for getting up on time doesn’t work, I sleep through my alarms every day and get fired for being tardy? What if I develop some sort of speech impediment that doesn’t allow me to speak to people politely and instead causes me to shout streams of abuse at the clients on the phone? And so on, and so forth… I’m pretty certain none of it will happen but I don’t seem to be able to stop thinking about it…

This makes me act a bit funny. One moment I’m walking about happily, looking for some office-y looking clothes, planning to get a haircut so I look vaguely presentable when I start, and the next wanting to punch strangers in the face just because a sudden surge of anxiety turns into inexplicable rage, and at least if I’m in prison for assault I won’t have to worry about any of this. I don’t, by the way, punch strangers in the face I mean. You don’t really know me, so I feel it’s best to clarify these things.

I guess I’m just going to try to enjoy my last few days of freedom, read some books, walk some walks, eat some doughnuts etc. And when the work starts I’ll do what I usually do – my best (also drink lots of coffee) – and hope it’s all gonna be fine.

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In my last job. Totally working…

Is it here?

Oh dear.  9th of January 2018 and I’m only now sitting down to write the first post of the new year… This year has started somewhat inauspiciously for me, I spent the first week in bed, with the mother of all flus, – fever, headache, aches and pains all over. Let’s just say that’s my allotted sickness for the year done and over with and now I can move on to other stuff.

A general post-festive blues is where I’m at. Anxiety, pacified for a bit by the fairy lights and Christmas displays, has been rearing its ugly head. I’m reading quite a bit, hoping to bring it to heel, leave it behind in some imaginary worlds. I’m not feeling all that colourful or brilliant, more like I’ve been leeched of all tint, left invisible and gray. Slight heartache and the cold in the soul.

I found this poem, clearly written on some other January day. The question is one that I continue to pose to myself today.

is it there

somewhere in the

smoke

in the morning

in the mist

city moist with

layers of

Dublin sounds

like a drunk acoustic guitar

at this time

of half-hearted january birds

curiosity bites

through

is it here

potent tiny part

asleep

for a long winter

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I like the name “armillary sphere”, don’t you?

In Florence, just a few steps away from the Uffizi Gallery, there sits one of the most wonderful museums I’ve ever been in – Museo Galileo, formerly known as the Museum of the History of Science, housing one of the world’s largest collections of scientific instruments of astonishing beauty. I don’t know about now, but when I visited there, some ridiculous amount of years ago, it was pretty much empty. The crowds of day-tourists bypassed it completely on their set route across Ponte Vecchio, by the Uffizi Gallery, through Piazza della Signoria and then further on towards Duomo. I didn’t know about it either, I just sort of happened across it and, on a whim, decided to go in. Initially there were a few curious souls wandering around but as the hours passed and the closing time drew near, the only people who remained were me, completely engrossed in the exhibits and reluctant to leave, and a couple of the museum’s staff members.

I ended up chatting with one of them, a youngish lad with very good English. He seemed a bit taken with my enthusiastic enquiries, plus I was an 18 year old girl with pretty blue eyes, talking to him about astrolabes and antique globes, he didn’t stand a chance. Long story short, after the closing time, I got to see the museum back rooms, some of the things that didn’t make it to the exhibition rooms and for a few moments I held a stunning 16th century compass in my hands. It was a small ornamented thing, I saw a few ones like it in the museum, but this one I got to touch, got to feel its weight amplified by the centuries it held within itself. It’s easily the most precious thing I’ve ever handled and as I cupped my hands around it, gently, like I was holding a small fragile bird, I was close to tears, not mentioning supremely tempted to just leg it out of the place and keep it (hey, I didn’t ok, you can’t blame me for thinking it though).

You may be wondering “what’s so special about some old scientific instruments, I have no interest in that sort of stuff at all?” Well, neither did I to be honest. As I said, I went in on a whim. But honestly, if you’re ever in Florence, just go. Just look around, spend some time, I promise you, you won’t regret it. It’s a charmed world of gold and brass sextants, astrolabes, globes, strange vials, clocks, armillary spheres, thermometers and strange contraptions, all of them beautiful to just look at, even if you’ve no idea what they were used for, works of art. Feel yourself go back for a moment to a different time, when the world was even more of a mystery, and feel, embodied in the exquisite instruments around you, the hope, the will, the endeavor of the brilliant humans from another era. It’s a hopeful and uplifting sort of a place.

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Photo from the Museo Galileo’s website

 

All I want for Christmas is my sparkle back.

To be honest, my sparkle has been a bit dimmed for the last while. Like, the last couple of years at least, if not longer. I won’t harp on it, it was a bad period. My self-confidence reached an all-time low again, I felt uninspired, unmotivated, depressed, dull. No strut to my step, no shine to my tired smile, no sharpness to my thoughts, no interest to my words. But that’s enough of that. I want my sparkle back. Enough complaining, enough bitter thoughts about the lost time. It happened, now it’s done, survival mode deactivated, I no longer have to get through each day laboriously, like through a desert march. I am allowed to live. I am allowed to hope. I am allowed to be happy and enjoy myself.

The Christmas is coming soon and I am a hopeless enthusiast of all things Christmas, the kitsch, the endless carols and tacky decorations, it is the most sparkly of all times. I know, I get it why so many people don’t care for this holiday, but frankly, I don’t really give a damn. I can’t wait to delightedly drink my eggnog, and hot buttered rum, and eat my gingerbread, wear the most outrageous Christmas jumpers I can find and listen to Christmas songs on a loop while looking at the twinkling fairy lights, and watch all Doctor Who Christmas specials in a row, and put my Christmas Dalek and Owls and Dinosaurs on the tree, and hug my loved ones, and feel gooey, and warm and sparkly inside. There’s nothing religious for me about it, I am not religious, the best way to describe it comes obviously from a Doctor Who Christmas special: “On every world, wherever people are, in the deepest part of the winter, at the exact midpoint, everybody stops, and turns, and hugs, as if to say “Well done. Well done, everyone! We’re halfway out of the dark.”

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On the subject of magic

Sometimes it doesn’t come naturally all the time. Sometimes I playact, I pretend, I go through motions, hoping for my clothes to turn into a magician’s cape full of rabbits, flowers and Queens of Hearts. Sometimes the stick doesn’t want to turn into a sword, a lightsaber or a wand. Pots of stew obstinately refuse to transform into witch’s potions and brews. Sometimes the stars remain beyond reach and distant planets full of alien life go undiscovered. Sometimes animals never want to talk and sentient software doesn’t learn to love. The world doesn’t spontaneously spring to bloom nor burns with colour in the fall. Sometimes angelic hush doesn’t cover the parks in blindingly white snow and summer’s gentle dusk doesn’t rock me to sleep in the hypnotic scent of roses, jasmine and night-scented stock. Sometimes the magic eludes me and the days run into one another, gray, and dark, full of numbers that don’t add up, sharp pointy elbows and burnt milk on the stove.

But then again, sometimes it takes nothing at all, a play of light on a fallen leaf, a music note juicily clear, a snippet of conversation overheard on the bus and there it is, the awakened dream. My eyes fill up with swirling galaxies, I dance and fly above the mountaintops, on rainbow wings, a jet-pack, or a travelling spider web. I play with dragons in the air, threading my way through the sky-scraping columns of some mysterious civilization long gone, like a ribbon. I traipse through the ancient ruins of heroic castles and shake hands with the noble ghosts while we await the mighty battles against the evil hordes. I swap gossip with the halflings over goblets of mead at the roadside inns and grow the first ever tomatoes on Mars. I bring dinosaurs back to life, explore the Antarctic and build a hut on an enchanted glade in the middle of the forest older than the oldest tales. I melt in with a smooth silver beech tree and live a life of majesty and peace, singing a quiet song along with the Universe. Sometimes, the wonder is right there, underneath the eyelashes, spinning with the planet under my feet, beating its rhythm right into my ears, breathing quietly, waiting for me.

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Moan, whinge, whine, complain, also some music musings.

Damn and blast the crime book series I’m reading (a Polish one, so I won’t bother with the titles as it’s not likely you’re ever going to find it)! Another novel ends on a massive cliff-hanger and so obediently I’m jumping straight into the next installment to find out the hows and whys of the whole thing. Small blessing that at least this particular series is already written and even if it wasn’t, the author is pretty prolific so I wouldn’t have to wait too long anyway. I’m a completionist (which is another word for “sucker”), I’m getting better though, it used to be that if I started a series I simply had to finish reading it, even if I hated everything about it (yes Robert Jordan and Kate Elliott, I’m talking to you). These days I usually manage to disentangle myself by about book two if I’m not enjoying it. Life’s to short for reading books you don’t like.

Anyway, I have nothing better to do, I’m propped in my bed, surrounded by tissues and lozenges, drinking unholy amounts of hot liquids, smelling strongly of Vics VapoRub, downing my doses of cough syrup and other concoctions trying not to get extremely irritated by what I can’t help but perceive as an unlawful imprisonment. I have stuff to do damn it, jobs to find, hot buttered rum to drink in a new swanky pub, walks to walk and friends to meet! I went out for a short walk a couple of days ago though and that resulted only in my getting decidedly worse, so I guess I better do my time and let this bs of a cold/flu/bug/whatever the hell it is go away organically. And in meantime, as my brain is refusing cooperation in any more serious undertaking, I shall read violent murderous fiction. The violence and murder are somehow soothing. I’m not sure what that says about me…

I’m not really certain about writing this post either. Today’s prompt did very little to spark my imagination, so instead I’m treating is as a permission to unleash an unfair one-way stream of discontentment at the world in general, and my present affliction in particular. Can you tell that I really don’t like being sick? I know, I know, nobody really likes being sick. And it’s not like I’m suffering from anything serious, it’ll go away in a couple of days. But I guess that’s kind of the point, that it isn’t anything serious, it’s just a bloody cold (or something along these lines), so how dare it make me feel so miserable and prevent me from operating at full capacity?! Normally I’d probably try to just power through and go about my day but I have been quite a bit run down lately, so it is hitting me a bit harder than it usually would. So bed it is, and hot drinks, and Vicks, and lozenges and crime stories and moaning to the strangers on the internet. :/

Although I had my little chuckle for the day earlier this morning. I woke up, clogged up, heavy-headed, feeling like death on a stick and to try and put myself in some sort of a decent mood I made myself a lemsip, put on headphones with the cheer-me-up playlist I came up with last night and started listening. After a while I realized that I was sort of vaguely rocking in rhythm with the song in the bed, dressed in my warm flannel red pjs, hot lemsip in one hand, a tissue in another, wheezing quietly to myself after Iggy Pop “I’m a real wild child” A wild child indeed… 😀

Speaking of cheer-me-up lists, mine are usually weird. They have the normal stuff – cheery upbeat songs, power-strutting melodies, cheesy but entertaining pop/rock/dance numbers but there are always some things there that make people unaccustomed to my brain’s twist and turns look at me a bit funny. I don’t care, I will go to my grave claiming that for example “Killing in the Name” by Rage Against the Machine is one of the happiest songs on this planet! There is simply no happier thing to do than shouting very loudly “Fuck you, I won’t do what you tell me!” over and over again, whether you’re a teenager or a 35 year old woman. And as to why for instance “Creep” and “Looser” and “Panic” make it to my happy lists? Because fuck you, I won’t do what you tell me, that’s why 😉

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Photo of me from a long time ago but perfectly capturing my mood today 😉

My threads are calling me

Meh. I have a cold, that seems to be spreading to my chest now, I’m on my period (ooooh, oh no she didn’t mention the dreaded p-word!), I’m a sore, clogged up, wheezy, coughing mess and generally not in the best of moods. I was planning on skipping writing today as well, and instead reading another juicy sick and twisted Polish crime novel until sweet dreams of murder and maiming came upon me, but today’s prompt convinced me to type up a quick something.

I have a quiet love for needle crafts. It’s a temperamental and seasonal affliction, it manifests itself usually only in the midst of winter, more so if I also happen to be depressed.  When my mind gets lost among the dark and slippery tunnels, when my concentration abandons me and reading and writing are no longer viable options for spending free time, I look for something to do with my hands. I knit, I crochet, I embroider.

There’s something supremely soothing and comforting about handling soft wool, or colourful threads. There is peace to be found in the process itself, repetitive but still attention requiring motions, pleasure in learning more and more demanding techniques, satisfaction of seeing how with patience something tangible, and with luck, beautiful starts taking shape.

I was never taught any of this, nobody in my family does needle crafts. I learnt it all from the internet, from books, forums and YouTube videos, the resources are out there if you want to learn. I do sometimes question what is it that gives me more pleasure – learning a new skill or technique, or actually completing a project; I seem to be doing a lot of the former and not so much of the latter. But frankly, as I see knitting/crocheting/embroidering as mainly therapeutic activities it doesn’t really matter. Knitting or crocheting is easier in application, one can never have too many colourful scarves, hats, stuffed animals etc. It’s a bit trickier to find practical use for fancy embroidery, which is my most recent, and I think strongest fascination. I mean, yes, I could embroider table linen (although I would first have to spend a small fortune on the really fine linen, which is the only material I can use for some of the techniques I love, not mentioning decent embroidery frames – since a hoop wouldn’t be much use for a project of that size), or something along these lines, but lets face it – I would never dare to use it even if I did complete it, so there doesn’t seem to be much point in that. So instead I just embroider pretty little things, not really thinking about utilizing them for anything. I’m ok with that. It’s the activity that counts, it’s the pleasure in knowing I can do that with my own two hands, and while I’m not an expert, I learnt it all myself.

I may not be up to it just this instance, but as the November is passing, and winter is coming I keep looking at my box of threads and visions of colorful flowers, strange creatures and lace are starting to swim in front of my eyes…

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Not really the nesting type.

What is wrong with me? I see the word “nest” and my brain immediately goes to images of a nest of tarantulas (which I have seen, terrifying, even if you’re not particularly scared of spiders) or a nest of vipers (which I have once very narrowly missed walking into). It’s mainly scary things that come to my mind. None of the pretty birds and cute little chicks for me, it’s all venomous monsters and danger.

Maybe it’s because I’m not a nesting sort of a person. Oh you know what I’m talking about, some people walk into a place and start making it their own within the first few minutes – a nice photo here, a cozy pillow there, some knick-knacks, books, pretty things and all of a sudden an anonymous room is transformed. Well, that’s not me. I can make a big mess the instance I enter a new abode (but I am VERY good at it, it’s quite impressive, I can make a mess out of nothing, give me a pristine hotel room and 5 minutes and you’ll see for yourself), but that’s about that.

It’s not that I don’t like being in a comfortable space, it’s not that I wouldn’t necessarily like to make a room/apartment/house feel my own, I would rather like that. I decorate and furnish my “dream house” in my head quite a bit. It’s just that partially I am afraid to commit to the project (what’s the point of making a space your own, putting time, effort and money to do that, if you’re just going to move shortly?), but mostly I’m just lazy. Because I know that I wouldn’t really need to put a lot of effort, or time, or money, there are a lot of small improvements I could make with barely any cost at all. And a few years of living somewhere is not exactly “short-term”. But I just don’t. Admittedly, moving to different countries a few times has scarred me but mostly I just couldn’t be bothered.

I mean, eventually, over time, if I stay somewhere for a while, the place does start to feel a little bit more like home – especially if I have my books there. Incidentally, my concept of decorating a room consist mainly of putting up bookshelves filled with books. Many, many bookshelves, with many, many books. Organically, my papers, pens and notebooks get strewn around, my craft supplies are at an arms reach, I have all my cooking stuff in order, there’s a great big box of spices and an array of teas, sauces, vinegars and condiments in the kitchen, there are some family photos here and there and my teddy bears and assorted creatures reign supreme. I have my cozy blanket (I have got to have a cozy blanket wherever I live, it’s absolutely essential and it’s one of the first things I always buy in a new place), I have my comfy pjs and my big mugs for drinking tea. I have a teapot or 3, and a bunch of miscellaneous stuff in a big plastic box (you know: cables, chargers to who-knows-what, screws, bits and bobs that just accumulate without you even noticing, all of it could be probably thrown out, but you always think it might come in handy at some point, so you keep it).

I’m not a nesting type. But honestly, I may be reaching the point in my life where I kind of would like to be.

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What did I tell you – mess! And books!