Part One - The same old thing but with Christmas on it
With each new month comes new hope. The hope that I’ll be able to walk again without the fear of shooting pains travelling from my buttocks to my leg, the hope that I’ll be able to go back to yoga and swimming and partial mental health. The hope that the old tricks will work on new times and that I have something to cling on, something that can help me help myself.
I re-thought my priorities, changed the way I track what I eat and how it makes me feel, made a plan on how my getting back into shape would slowly but surely evolve. Oh, how I tried.
On the first weekend of March, the men of the house were going to Budapest to spend some quality, man on man Hungarian time. I know it sounds like the name of a very specific type of gay porn, but go with it. Imagine what you will. In the meantime, the gals remained at home, to bask in the sudden lack of testosterone. Our first thought was “Ok, what can we do that we can’t do when the guys are here?” First, walk around naked. Easy. Second, celebrate Christmas! Christmas in March, you say?! It’s outrageous, it’s never-heard-of, I looove it!
We didn’t do the whole tree thing, cause my tree died, BUUUUT we had twinkly lights and Christmas carols all day long! “It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas / Everywhere you gooo”
Plus, we watched “A Christmas Carol” with Patrick Stewart and baked heart-shaped frangipane tarts. T’was a grand Christmas, indeed!
As it usually happens to me on Christmas, something comes along to fuck shit up. It’s like alongside Santa Claus, there’s this other Santa - a bitchy, evil lil’ non-fat fucker whose belly does not shake like a bowl full of jelly! He fills my stockings not with candy and joy but with sorrow and sadness and diseases, oh boy!
The first in a series of unfortunate events, the first of the plagues was a mushroom. No, not a portobello or a fancy chanterelle. Nope, it was her majesty, the Queen of Yeast Infections- Candida The Second. In other words (for some reasons, I feel compelled to use more) my lady cave was for a short time -that seemed endless- the host of this irritating little monster. That’s how I discovered that time is relative when your pussy itches.This right here, they should teach lil’ boys and girls in school! Page 15, chapter 2 of the “Undeniable truths of life”.
It’s valuable information, people! Really puts things into perspective. It should be spread around -like a disease- until it becomes common knowledge.
Imagine this: I’m in the future, and so are you! I’m successful, I’m rich, I’m in the best shape of my life (mainly ‘cause I’ve been in a shitty one so far). Women wanna be me, men want to be with me, dogs want to constantly sniff me - life is good! I’m travelling places, pain-free, doing what I love with people I like. One day, while sunbathing in California, I get a phone call. Tim Ferriss is asking me if I’d like to be a guest on his podcast. I’m ecstatic, I’m over the moon! I used to listen to those podcasts and hope and pray that one day I’d be one of those people! I immediately said yes and set up a date. Being there feels surreal. I greet Molly - she’s older now but still wagging her tail and welcoming me into Tim’s studio. He must be all grey-haired now, but how could I tell? He’s bald. Still bald. “It’s a choice” he says. Plus, he really looks like he cheated time with all his crazy body hacks.
We have a cup of some crazy, disgusting tea that’s supposed to do some magical shit to my immune system and then we get down to business. After an hour of talking about morning rituals, strategies, personal struggles and the key to success, we’ve moved to wine instead of tea and shit has been increasingly funny. Then, we get to the last part of the interview ‘cause “he wants to be respectful of my time” and he asks the good ol’ billboard question: “What message would you put on a billboard for millions to see?” There, sitting in that chair, aware that my answer would be reaching thousands of people, I draw a short breath and I say, without a doubt in my mind or a pause in my speech, “Time is relative when your pussy itches”.
Snap back to reality, oh, there goes gravity! - Eminem, helping noob writers segway since 1972.
This particular merry day began with the usual breakfast and tea, this time with a side of itch. I had made a list of simple, yet necessary tasks. First, I had to call my friend Maurice, ‘cause he hasn’t been in touch in forever and I was kinda worried. Second, I had to check the balance on my bank account, online. Third, I had to pick a place for dinner and make a reservation. Let’s see how that went, shall we?
First, Maurice didn’t answer. Ring, ring, itch, itch. Second, my online banking wasn’t responding. Buffering, buffering, itching, itching. Finally, it decided to lock me out of my account. I tried to call them, my phone was not able to make that type of call. I tried calling them from my friend’s phone, they did not answer. I looked for a way to contact them online. I sent them an e-mail. An automatic response let me know that it was Saturday and that they will contact me as soon as possible, starting Monday. Ughhh, ughhh, itch itch! Fine, fuck it! I’ll just start to look for a place. One where we could eat good, decently-priced food, that’s close to the cinema cause we were gonna see La La Land right after. That too, proved to be much harder than expected, or ever imagined. After finally, finding the perfect place that miraculously fulfilled all three of our needs, I picked up the phone feeling like I might actually accomplish something! Ring ring, itch itch! Ring ring RIIIING, itch, itch, IIIIITCH! No one answered. It was too early, they opened at 12 pm. It was 11:30. I waited, I itched, I called again. “Sowy, no tables available. Only before 5 or after 10”. Well, that’s definitely not gonna work! The sound of itching was now all I could hear.
And that, boys and girls is the story of how auntie Gog started drinking at 12 o’clock in the afternoon.
Why? Because at the exact point of my blow-out, auntie Ala was there. Earlier that month she had moved in and she had brought with her from far far away, a magical, life changing object - a cocktail shaker. She said “Don’t worry, babe. Later, you can start drinking.” “Later?” I said. “ What’s wrong with now? I need it now.” “It’s 12 in the afternoon!” she replied with fake outrage and mild disbelief mixed with mischief. I only gave a look. It said “bitch, please”. We truly had a great non-verbal connection, cause she got up and started mixin’ and shakin’. We had our drinks out in the garden with the sun in our faces. I inhaled half of that drink. We then went inside and dozed off on the couch while watching Mike Birbiglia’s Netflix special. Nothing itched, nothing was tense anymore. I was soft like a pillow and oh, so comfy!
Later that day, we went to place called The Yarn Pizza and booze where, you guessed it, we had pizza and booze. I had a lovely roasted strawberry-tarragon-gin cocktail and the Giuseppe pizza. I can’t say that their pizza is my favorite pizza, but it’s good pizza and a nice atmosphere. It’s for those nights when life seems too complicated to handle and you need something “easy like pie” - pizza pie. If you’re having such a day and you happen to be somewhere on Lower Liffey Street, you might look up and see a red, flashing neon sign that spells “Pizza and booze” and suddenly you’ll think to yourself: “Hm, that’s all I need” - and for awhile that will be the truth.
After this truly magical time in my life - of fungi and chronic pain - I got a bit of a break. I could see the light at the end of the shitty tunnel! Now that sciatica wasn’t an everyday companion, I felt that I could live life again. I summoned the wise voice in my head and she advised me to take it easy, make a plan that would slowly but surely allow me to return to swimming, yoga, normal walking and even dancing. I put it all on my board. First week, I would just do my muscle strengthening exercises. Then, in the second I would re-introduce swimming lessons and some light yoga. Week 3 I would maintain this rhythm and finally, on week four I would join a pilates class to further help my core, which would help my back, which will fix my sciatica.
At about this time, when days were going by painlessly, I developed a new fear. The “return of the pain”- fear, closely followed by the “return of the fungus” fear and “return of stomach ache” fear. That, my friends, is a nasty way to live one’s life. Either in the midst of pain, struggling not only the physical agony but also the feelings of helplessness, bitterness and despair that naturally come along with it or in the expectation of it. When it finally decides to release its strong, torturous grip, you can’t escape its shadow constantly hovering over you, ready to settle in at anytime and turn your days into struggles.
After precisely 5 such days, I ventured on long walks and long cooking sessions, after which, I diligently/stubbornly did my exercises. Thus, on a glorious Saturday, the pain re-installed itself - as sadly foreseen. I, once more, stopped doing everything. My plan was now sitting there, staring me in the face - no way that was gonna happen anymore.
I called Dell (my physiotherapist), I obviously needed some of that crazy muscle manipulation that he does.
He didn’t answer and he didn’t call me back as he would usually do. I was growing desperate. I sent a massive cry of help via text message. He was alive but he was in Tallaght. Where do I begin to tell the story of how great a commute can be? Translation? It was far, it was outside-of-Dublin far. I would make it alive but I would lose a lot of myself on the way! It was an epic journey that demanded a brave heart, a taste for adventure and a loyal companion. With Ala as the Sam to my Frodo, we embarked on the long journey. Half-way, after the first part of walking and the train ride, we got off only to get on. On the Luas that is.
Yeah, it was nothing like that. Not that I expected it, but it would have been nice. Instead, I got to play a part in the unknown, irish-geriatric version of a Streetcar named desire. Wanting to make sure that we got on the right tram, I decided to ask the grey gentlemen sitting near us, if this train goes to Tallaght. The conversation went something like this:
Me: Hello! Sorry, do you know if this tram goes to Tallaght?
Me: This tram, does it go to Tallaght? At this point in the story, he gets up and comes closer to me. He slightly leans his ear into my direction, so I get the cue and ask again. Me: Does this go to Tallaght? Him: (as if reading my lips) Steeee-laaaa? Me: (in disbelief): Taaaaaa-laaaaaaaaa. Him:(stronger, as if he got it): Steeelaaa. Me:(amused) No. T -A- L -L -A -G… Him: Ooooooh. Tallaght! Yea, it does, it does.
Me: Thank you. No, really, thank you so much!
The End. Curtain close. (muffled laughter is heard)
In order to get to the present faster I will have to cheat. There is no other way. Plus, to be honest, November was a blur. Between dealing with the pain and... dealing with the pain, it seemed that all I could do was deal with the pain. I struggled, I got frustrated, I over-analyzed, I wanted to break things numerous times and so... life went on. My balanced days were gone. I was swimming in muddy waters once more.
You will get some info in the form of uppers and downers. Like so:
Upper:I went to Romania for a quick lil’ visit. Downer: While traveling from Bucharest to Bacau (to surprise my family), the bus driver of the "bus from hell" almost left without me, leaving me in a gas station in fucking Adjud. You may not know what Adjud is. Look it up. I dare you. I double dare you, motherfucker.
Upper: I got to eat a lot of yummy stuff in a very short period of time. Downer: Got very sick because of that and suffered stabbing pains all through my last day in Bucharest AND on the flight back to Dublin.
Upper: Going back home, to maybe die in my bed. Of stomach ache. And regrets. Downer: Intense turbulence throughout the entire flight. Yeah, add panic and nausea to my already desperate situation. Pain was just not enough, apparently. Upper: Learning to calm my tits all on my own, using the very magic of yoga breath. Downer: Appearing very strange to my fellow passengers. Upper: Not really giving a fuck about that at all.
Ah, here comes December: the month of disappointment. I had planned to bake, bake, bake! I made lists of treats and cravings. I dreamed of flaky pastries and elaborate dinners! Feasts worthy of a queen that suffers not from IBS or other bullshit exaggerations of the gut. Little did I know what the future had in store. Reality is really a bummer sometimes. Instead, I spent my time juggling expectations (my own, of course) and trying to trick pain into letting me cook the 12 treats of Christmas so I could gorge on them while watching “It’s a wonderful life” and enjoy the freakin’ holiday season!
Downer: Having to choose which goods to make and which to throw into the oblivion cave. Upper: Having more time to chill and watch movies while eating basic-bitch chocolates that I haven’t allowed myself to eat in years.
Downer: Shopping in full Holiday season, surrounded by waaay too many people. Getting confused, tired and very fed up with it all.
Upper: The comforting thought that these gifts are going to make my family feel better and somehow distract them from the almost unbearable sadness that my dad’s death left behind.
Downer: Being wrong. No gifts in the world can do that. Except maybe the gift of life - but I am not Jesus.
Upper: Realizing this while drinking hot tea and eating a scrumptious mince pie.
Downer: While alone, in a coffee shop surrounded by shopping bags and regrets.
Special section. The “What triggered it?” section
Well... I was sitting there, wiping delicious crumbs from my face, when I saw this older man standing in line. He ordered his coffee and then went back to his seat. While I was watching him, I realized he had a very specific walk. I do that sometimes, notice people’s walks or general mannerisms. I smiled and I kept watching, my train of thought slowly but surely navigating the rail. I remember noticing some sort of familiarity in that walk. Hmm, who do I know that walks like that? Oh, maybe my grandfather! Mmm, kind of... but his was more elegant... more like a bird... less rocked, more proud. This one was a bit silly and… Oh. The penny dropped and I burst into tears. It was my dad. Weird, I had never thought about his walk before. Not like this, at least. I stood there. Surrounded by shopping bags, chatter and Christmas carols. With bits of mince pie around my mouth and tears pouring down my face mingling with the crumbs on their way down. I didn’t want to wipe any of them off my face anymore. It all felt useless now. And foolish. So unshakably foolish.
Upper: Going home to see my family and friends and maybe snow. Downer: There is always emotional distress ahead in such situations.
Upper: Made edible gifts for everyone. Spiced nuts and chocolate salamis. Downer: Back pain got more vocal. Upper: But hey, I got to make the biggest chocolate salami ever!
Downer: Then I had to re-shape it into many average sized if not tiny chocolate salamies.
Upper: having a house filled with friends that you haven’t seen nearly as much as you wanted to and couldn’t wait to talk to them. Downer: having a laryngitis-type situation that made it really difficult to speak. Sexy at times, but extremely frustrating.
Upper: Playing games and drinking wine. Downer: Having wine spilled on my crotch. Upper: Accidentally. Downer: Accidentally?
Upper: Having great conversation with awesome people. In your pajamas!!! What more can one ask for?! Downer: Eating sunflower seeds and pistachios uncontrollably during these talks. Upper: At least it wasn’t lasagna. Downer: We did have lasagna, though. Upper: It was gooey and cheesy and meaty and hot! It was everything that a boring person ain’t not!
Upper: Ending the year on a high note. Downer: Party’s over, people! Come on, wrap it up and go home: each to their own adopting country.
January was the beginning of a beautiful friendship with a lil’ gal I like to call Illness: the cold-blooded white-walker of our times. It hit hard and it played ball like an iron-willed bitch with an ass that won’t quit.
Downer? Uhm, yeah, definitely! I laid on the couch bathing in my own sweat while popping pills like Judy Garland and trying to breathe using my nostrils, like a normal human being! Or even a manatee! I bet they were breathing better than me at that point - and they’re underwater! Not exactly my idea of a good time. Upper: It started snowing heavily and it kept snowing until Bacau became the new Narnia and it was in everybody’s closet!
Downer: I could not enjoy it because I was too busy saying “farewell” to the world from the comfort of my own couch. Upper: Eat ALL the soup! Downer: Taste none of the soup.
Upper: Finally seeing a doctor to get confirmation that I was really as sick as I felt. Downer: I was, she gave me antibiotics and prescribed that I not breathe the outside air. Upper: I welcomed the pills into my system with abandon and hope. It worked. I was free, free at last!
Upper: I was almost fine. Downer: I was also out of time. Last night with my family before leaving for Bucharest where a plane will be waiting to take us all the way to Dublin. Upper: Spending a bit of time in Bucharest, getting the chance to frolic in the snow and living to tell the story. Downer: Snowy streets+Bucharest traffic+very low temperatures (-17)= frustrating times
Upper: Great chinese food at chinese place with chinese people. Downer: It was cold in there, too! Upper: Time to go back where temperatures never drop as far as -17 degrees. Ireland, here we come!
Downer: Goodbye, people I like a lot and will miss.
Upper: Sleeping in my own bed again with my fat cat and my bear. Downer: Back pain got back with a vengeance. Louder, bitchier and ready to cause some shit. Upper: Hmm, I can’t seem to find one. Having to deal with chronic pain builds character? Is that what I’m supposed to say?! Cause it does, I’m just not sure anybody enjoys the kind of character it builds. It ain’t a pretty picture.
Upper: Started a detective mission trying to figure out what triggers the pain from hell. Kinda figured out that everything I sit on and the way that I sit on them makes matters worse. I guess the upper is that there’s power in knowledge, right? Downer: Some days I would just wake up, move around for 5 minutes, realize the pain was still there and have a wave of anger wash over me.
Upper: I did not inflict any pain on others. Not that I know of, at least.
Downer: Goodbye yoga! ♫ ♪ Hello binging, my old friend/ I’ve come to eat you up again! ♪ Upper: Inside, a storm was brewin’! I was reading Amanda Palmer’s "Art of Asking", watching Tony Robbins like a maniac and got a creative thirst that no man could satisfy.
Downer: Meditation stopped working. Headspace wasn’t doing it anymore. I found myself unable to go through a session smoothly and I couldn’t even listen to the voice. Upper: Tried Tara Brach’s meditations for a change. Really had a breakthrough with the “emotional forgiveness practice”. It made me realize that I’m holding onto a lot of guilt and that I have trouble forgiving myself most of all. I cried my heart out but it was liberating. I would definitely recommend the experience.
On the edge of January, I decided I was in need of some professional help to crawl out of the pitch-dark hole that I’d been inhabiting oh so dearly. This was also gonna be the month of change. My best friend aka my ol’ partner in crime was moving here on the 15th of February and shit was about to get serious. Serious catching-up, serious strolls through Dublin, serious new projects and hopefully life-changing experiences. In the words of Sam Cooke, a change was gonna come.
Downer: As I said, back pain was still there, so I decided to go to a physiotherapist. Went to one in the past, was disappointed. I mentally prepared myself to have to go through a bunch of them until I would find a good fit. Upper: A friend recommended Dell. Downer:He was a man. Upper: He was a brazilian man. Downer: Still a man, though. Upper: A gay brazilian man. Downer: As I would find out on our last session. Too little, to late!
Downer: I had to take my clothes off. (Remember: at the time, I did not know he was gay and had no interest in my lady parts). Since the only other physiotherapist I’ve been to hardly undressed me or touched me (yes, I am complaining) I didn’t know the amount of wolf-skins I needed to shed. When he said: “I’ll leave you to take your clothes off” I had to ask “How many clothes am I taking off, exactly?”. He said “To your underwear”. Now the only question that remained in my mind was “What do I do with the bra? And what’s worse: to leave my bra on, when I should’ve taken it off or to take my bra off, when I didn’t have to?” We all know the answer to that, I assume. So, I left it on and put my head in the hole.
Upper: He unhooked my bra with minimal/no awkwardness. Now I know. I am not supposed to wear a bra. Downer: Parts of the muscle manipulation hurt so much I thought I was seeing the light and waving goodbye to my alive loved ones and hello to my dead loved ones.
Upper: Other parts of it felt amazing. Also, he explained everything to me and answered all my questions. He gave me a big-ass bag of information, made a long-term plan to improve my back situation and he did it all with a positive attitude, thus giving me hope that one day I will again be able to do what I want to do.
Downer: For now, I was injured. I had to stop swimming, stop dancing and walk as little as possible. Also, improve my posture, sleep better and do the exercises he showed me. Upper: Becoming aware of how bad posture is the main cause of the painstorm. Downer: Sitting properly is exhausting and not walking is impossible, especially when your best friend is new in town and you wanna take her on all the fun rides the city has to offer. Upper: I realized I walk a lot more that I think I do. Downer: I was a bad, bad girl because I couldn’t help myself. That delayed the healing process. Upper: A lot of delicious meals were had, movies that broke us or amused us were seen, plays that shook us to the core were attended, friends were introduced to each other and generally things happened. Fun things. Downer: I was still advised to take it easy and stop fucking around. Upper: It got better. Soon, I would go back to swimming and exercising.
Downer: It all got a bit chaotic. My mind got overwhelmed by it all. Upper: This was a new kind of chaos, the kind caused by a crazy sense of possibility and the feeling that the time has come to build, build, build. We’re putting on our story teller hats and venturing into the world! Hold on, it’s gonna be a bumpy ride!
Downer: Said bye-bye to meditation. Couldn’t breathe, had reactions reminiscent of panic attacks.
Upper: Decided I had to accept that and let go of the things that don’t work for me anymore. They might work again in the future. If it doesn’t serve me anymore, why force myself?
Upper: That’s a wrap, folks. I had the weight of 4 untold months on my chest and now I finally feel free. Downer: For a little while.
Once upon a time there were these two weeks in the month of October when everything was working out. I was calm and collected, organised and energized. Motivation was high like a kite in the sky and everything made sense. I was soaking up Tim Ferris’s podcasts and somehow ended up listening to exactly the ones that “I needed to”. I began taking swimming lessons once a week and set a new every-day activity: walking. Why would I add that to a board and have to check it everyday? Because it’s what the walk represents, people.
I was listening to the “Tara Brach - On meditation and fear of missing out” episode while cleaning. At one point she starts telling the story of our brother bear, Buddha, who was - as you know - sitting under a tree trying to achieve enlightenment. That night before he caught enlightenment by the tail, he fought a great battle with the Demon God Mara. We’ll call her Mara, because demon god is too long and kind of hurtful. Also, it appears that it was a “he” but I feel differently, so in my version of this story, it’s a she. So she, Mara, attacked that night with everything she had in her pouch: fear, doubt, greed, anger, lust, etc - you name it, she used it. The Buddha successfully managed to turn the water into wine - wait, no, that was Jesus, scratch that - he managed to transform the arrows into flower petals and Siddhartha Gautama into The Buddha. Mara failed that night and left all passive aggressive and pissed. That didn’t stop her from showing up every now and again. Buddha’s loyal attendant, Ananda, always on the lookout for any harm that might come to his teacher, would freak out and announce non-subtlely that the “Evil One” had again returned. Then, the Buddha, all chill would calm Ananda - who was borderline hysterical - “Bro, I got this”. Then, instead of ignoring Mara or being a biatch to her, he would simply say “I see you, Mara. Come, let’s have tea”. Aaaand this is the point where I began to weep like a baby.
Because we all have a Mara, Mara is in all of us, she is a part of us and the way we treat her is the way we treat ourselves. In this case it’s with acknowledgement, compassion, patience and at the end of the day, love. So, it moved me and it taught me to approach my Mara emotions differently. This story combined with the fact that this woman apparently wakes up every morning at 5, eats nothing, drinks nothing, grabs her dog and goes for a walk no matter the weather made me want to do something similar. Except the 5 o'clock in the morning extravaganza. My approach has less discipline. It’s based on the fact that I don’t get up and go for a walk whenever I feel like it, either because I’m lazy, either because I’m busy, I postpone or plainly deny myself something that always makes me feel better. After hours of writing at a computer, I often get headaches, backaches, all sort of aches and a walk would be a nice treat/fix. I decided to do it everyday, no matter the weather to bring some resilience up in this biatch (me being the biatch). The point is three-fold:
To have the outside wake me up, breathe some fresh air and pretend that it’s coffee
To get un-stuck and face the world through it all: sunny, stormy, cold as fuck, etc.
To take Mara to tea. If I feel restless, uneasy, have to make a decision, I go for that walk.
As a direct result, I started enjoying time with myself a lot more, expecting less from others, being kinder and holy fuck, was I aware! I mean, I always thought I was being aware but this was a whole other level. It’s like I had superpowers. I was seeing connections everywhere, I was understanding mechanisms and relationships and everything just came naturally, no barriers.
Swimming helped loads! Aside from the fact that I’ve never felt better after a physical activity in my life (!), it was fascinating to understand what you can accomplish if you just relax in the water. We struggle to move our arms and legs to keep afloat for an entire hour and then at the end of it, she goes: “Just relax and glide. Just float”. I thought that was madness and only doable in salty water. All of a sudden, I unclenched, took a deep breath and let the water hold me; and what do you know?! It freaking did! It was eye-opening. It’s the same shit I face everyday. If only I unclenched more often! I’d float more and sink less.
During this floating period I kept hearing about the magic of cold showers and how they improve shit in your life. I was so high on life at this point that I went and tried something downright crazy. Well, crazy for me. I began embracing the cold. If there’s one thing you need know about me to understand how much of a big deal this is, is that I can’t stand the cold. Cold water, especially. I have a mug that reads in big bold letters “I like it a lot when it’s burning hot” and honey, I ain’t lying. I eat my soup scalding hot, if my tea doesn’t burn a little I don’t feel I’m alive. So, you see, it was a big deal. After a mediocre amount of research I decided to dive hard. I would start my shower at normal temperature and then, slowly but surely, reduce the temperature down to the point where my nipples could cut glass and my butt would clench significantly. Easier said than done. I don’t actually remember the first or the second time in detail. All I remember was that I found it challenging to say the least and I was now quite terrified to take a shower. On a marvelous Tuesday, I got back from my swimming lessons feeling quite pleased with myself and life in general. I got into the shower with no intentions of taking anything more than a regular, good ol’ hot quickie, but you know, one thing led to another… Next thing I know, Sia is pouring “don’t give up”s into my ear and my right hand started to move the damn shower knob from nice and cosy all the way down to “holy shit, it’s freezing! How am I doing this?!”. Boys and girls, it felt amazing.
First thing I noticed is that it isn’t the body that gives up, it’s the mind. The body can take a lot more shit than we give it credit. The minute that water went cold, my mind went into “hell no” mode and all I could hear was “make it stop, make it stop!”. Now, if you suck it up and get passed that point, you’re home, you made it, that’s it. Then, it’s all zen meditation - breaaaatheee and for Buddha’s sake, keep scrubbing! It helps.
The second you stop and get out of the shower, your body will start this amazing process of heating itself up from your magical inside and that is the moment you start feeling awesome. Your mind is awake and crisp as a motherfucking winter morning and your body is cranking up the heat and puttin’ some gas in the tank.
That night, for a brief 30 min or so I could do anything! - and 30 min suddenly feels like forever when you’ve gone forever without feeling like you could do anything. I was officially hooked.
Doing something I thought I could never do - and on a daily basis! - made me feel like a winner. I was facing a fear, I was putting myself in a uncomfortable situation and then, after having struggled I would meet myself on the victorious side. If that’s not life, I don’t know what is.
Chapter Two - Snow globes, sex toys and hummus
Right before said life started to crumble like fine french pastry, I had quite a memorable day. Thinking back, I should’ve known the universe was just trying to tell me shit was about to come my way, but sometimes you just resist the signs because you really don’t wanna believe them. I don’t remember how the day started, which means it doesn’t really matter. I had the second part all planned out: first, I would do some shopping on my own, then I’d meet Nuc and go to a sex shop, have a bite to eat and go to our first blues dance class.
There I was, surfing the shops for individual pie dishes in pastel colours (particular, I know) - also, spoiler alert: didn’t happen - but I shouldn’t know this at this point of the story. I am still starry-eyed and hopeful like a naive orphan.
I was roaming the TK Maxx shop, trying very hard not to get distracted by the Halloween merchandise AND the Christmas decorations! No, guys, the 17th of october is not too early, not at all! Hey, I’ll tell ya’ hwhat: bring the freaking Easter bunnies with their colourful eggs in their wicker baskets and fuck common sense, seasons and all that silly stuff! Let’s celebrate them all at the same time and get it over with! BRING ON AAAAALL THE CANDY! We’ll all be fucking dead before those sleigh bells start “jingling, ring-ting-tingling, too” but that’s a different conversation.
They didn’t have pie dishes to suit my needs, so on my way out I was just looking at the Christmas stuff thinking half angry, half nostalgic thoughts when I magically reach the snow globes area. Ah, snow globes, always magical. Even mid-October! Omg, guys, I take it back, I’m so sorry! Now I understand everything!
In the pile of Santa Claus-globes, reindeer and nutcracker-globes, there sat the globe of my existence. It had a simple white base with a metalic little key and inside the globe, sitting on the snow were two bears - transparent, translucent, crystal-like bears. It was like they were made of tears. My tears, the ones I started crying then and there surrounded by snow globes, pumpkins and witches costumes. I lifted it and I turned the key. It started snowing to “Joy to the world” which was the official song that every Christmas lights played in the 90’s. Or maybe it wasn’t, but it sure seemed like that. My childhood flashed before my eyes with images of my dad aka my main bear, on winter time (which this is not, ‘cause it’s OCTOBER and if stores wouldn’t pull this shit I wouldn’t be sitting here, crying real tears that are especially reserved for Christmas time, this close to my freaking birthday! Each tear for its precise time of the year!). I wiped said tears from my face and decided that I have to buy it. Screw individual pie dishes, I’ll just eat my feelings from a regular sized dish. I put my new precious possession in my backpack and left the building like Elvis in the good days!
I was late, so I started moving my legs like fettuccini in a boiling pot - chaotically and not necessarily efficiently. (I would have used “spaghetti” but who am I kidding? Just grateful they’re not cannelloni). Half way there, Nuc said he was still on the bus so I got the weird feeling that I had all the time in the world so I chilled. I chilled so much that my brain went on vacation and I took the wrong way and then got freaking lost and walked around in circles like Moses. The most frustrating part is that it was right there! It could’ve been easy breezy. Instead, I walked double the distance, panting and sweating like a truffle hog. Halfway there I realized I had a gigantic poop on my jacket because some damn seagull wanker decided that he could improve upon my day by completing my outfit with some white and green, leaky shit. I was pissed. I was finally there, late, pissed and covered in poop. I’m ready for the sex shop experience now, honey! It just feels right!
Looking back at all the times that a bird shat on me, it was never on a good day! It always came as the final flourish to a crap sandwich, like a poop cherry standing proudly on top, declaring you a loser in the eyes of the world. Wear that poop, baby! YEAH! You’ve earned it!
Fortunately, my fake leather jacket is relatively easy to clean (if I were wearing suede I would have killed some seagulls that day). We stopped for a cup of whatever so I could get a grip on life for a minute, clean my jacket and drink some water. You need to prepare yourself for the sex shop experience. Can’t just walk in there miserable, feeling like the world is out to get you, you’ll end up hating everything. I assume, I’ve never been to a sex shop before. Naturally, I assumed it’s like going to the theatre: you gotta look your best, be silent and take it all in. Aaah, dirty jokes, how they enrich our lives.
First impression? Yo, there’s a lot of stuff out there. Most of it kitchy. I don’t understand why they can’t be prettier and more tasteful. God dammit, a lil’ class never killed anybody.
I could get graphic on you and share my shopping list but I just made a big deal out of being classy and I don’t want the contrast to confuse you. I’ll just say it like a lady would. Or how I think a lady would, which implies that I am not one. Oh well. I got one “everybody needs one of these in their drawer”, one “uh, that’s sounds naughty” and one “ok, I’ll try anything once”.
Apparently, we took our sweet ol’ time because there was no way in hell we were gonna make it to the blues dance class. Disappointed? Yes. Hungry? Hell yeah!
I’ve been hearing about this place called Brother Hubbard and been wanting to eat for a while now. Since we didn’t have to rush anywhere anymore, we decided to head on there and see what they have to offer. Long story short? Delicious hummus, great lamb and some decent huge meatballs (not a euphemism, guys). Lovely autumn arrangement and great service. Also, I stole a tiny pumpkin. Thank you, goodnight! I gave him a home, ok?! Stop judging me. Jeez.
With snow globe, sex toys, stolen pumpkin, hummus to-go and cheap baloney and pufuleti (from the romanian shop) in my backpack, we proudly headed home. It had been a full day, that’s fo’ sure.
Chapter Three - Ricky Nelson has a song about you
At around this time I welcomed into my life Mary-Lou. My 76 year old amazing friend, Maurice, gave me his late wife’s bicycle so that I could get to my swimming lessons better and to my cleaning bookings faster. I named this burgundy beauty after his wife Louise, added a Mary ‘cause she seemed like a sassy gal and turned Louise into Lou without knowing, at the time, that Maurice used to call her Lou too. It was all in the name of love. The bike was happy to be ridden again, it made Maurice dip into a pool of lovely memories that he then shared with me and I...I was flying. Just me and this gal cruising. I got a lovely feeling of freedom and independence and a great sense of possibility. After a whole week of bike bliss I got knocked off of my high horse by back pain. Serious, undeniable back pain. After trying to make it go away pill-free, I caved. For the first time ever in my back pain history, I started taking anti-inflammatories. It was not looking good. I was now sitting on the floor, obviously unable to ride my bike. Good news was the pills worked, I was pain free about 4 hours later. Bad news was that I suspected Mary Lou was not good for me. I put a metaphorical pin in that cause my birthday was knocking on the door.
Chapter Four - Life is shitty after the 3rd sentence
I don’t know what it is about birthdays. Could it be the high expectations, the pressure to have it be a special day, the fact that another year has gone by and we inevitably take stock and are inevitably disappointed? I always tend to feel empty as soon as the clock transforms the regular day into the feared birthday.
Because of that, I need the events of the day or the people in my life to fill me up until I feel whole again. If it’s not full enough at the end of the day, I feel disappointed. It’s not fair, I know, but it’s how I feel. It does happen at times, that my cup runneth over and that is truly precious.
I felt the blues sneaking up on me even before the clock hit 12am that night. I caught myself and I thought I’d try to receive it differently this time. It was harder this year, though. It was the first one that my dad wouldn’t say “Happy birthday” to me. Because he can’t. Because he’s dead. And he was a big guy, so he left a lot of room in that cup.
I woke up in the morning and despite all my rationalising I felt… off. I put my clothes on and I went for a walk. It was gloomy - proper gloomy - and very still. I walked and I went through all my thoughts, expectations and fears. I addressed all my emptied corners and tried to fill at least some of them myself. Then I came home, put some scones in the oven and had a lovely breakfast.
Also, my grandma called to cheer me up. You know how it goes:
“Hey, happy birthday! May you be happy and wealthy! Cause if you don’t have money you can’t be happy! Ah, life is so shitty.”
Ladies and gentlemen, my grandma: the professional picker-upper, the life of the party, the light in a pitch-dark room! You should imagine my blank expression at this point. That call went well.
Of course, she later called to apologise because she’d thought it over and feared that she might have upset me. Upset me? Where would you get that idea?! Thank God for my sense of humour!
I turned to yoga and yoga did not disappoint. Adriene had a birthday yoga video in which she celebrated being alive and being herself. Hmm, a celebration of me, of being who I am. What an unfamiliar concept. It sure would be great. It’s not often that I get to celebrate that. I think none of us do. We spend most of our time wanting to be someone else, or be more of this and less of the other, more like July or Jim or my cat (really, who could blame me for that?). How great would it be to just celebrate that you are who you are? We should make it our birthday more often.
After the magical yoga, I was brought a big glass of wine and received specific instructions about entering the kitchen. Meaning that I was to not, under any circumstances, enter the kitchen. Nuc was cooking for lil’ ol’ me. I had wine on the couch and re-watched Ratatouille while sniffing the air in an attempt to guess what’s cookin’, good lookin’?
When I was eventually beckoned in the kitchen, a big plate of spaghetti all’ amatriciana awaited. Awh, you made me food, you do love me! I wiped that baby clean, ‘cause it was delicious! After a bit more wine and a bit more time, we got ready for an evening on the town aka dinner (at my fav japanese restaurant) and a show in the form of stand-up comedy because a girl needs to laugh on her birthday.
Then we went to a house party where I ate lots of Doritos, talked about gay sex way too much and drank Futyulos Palinka (a hungarian treat that gets you wasted). If it’s not clear, it was a good time. A gal laughed a lot on her birthday. Mission accomplished. My cup was full.
Chapter Five- I think she’s broken, Jim!
When pain hit the second time, she was not as willing to go away. Pills took 4 days to make a difference and I was still unable to walk without triggering it. My bike days seemed long gone, so were my cleaning days. I struggled to make the final decision. Partly because I had grown accustomed to the people and I actually felt helpful and partly because I was clinging to the smear of independence. The one thing that made me feel better about not carrying my own heavyweight in the world, the one thing that made my shame bearable.
I’ve been planning an autumn day in the park ever since the leaves started falling to the ground. Nuc was in LA. It was a Sunday. I treated myself to a day in the park. I would make my decision on this walk, I thought. I learned that I could only walk for 20 min at a time without pain, after which I had to sit. I was battling the actual pain and the pain of making a decision when it suddenly dawned on me that I have no decision to make. It has been made for me and all I can do is listen. I called my customers and the company the second day and quit. I also quit riding Mary Lou. She sits there, awaiting the day that she’s gonna get back on the road - and so do I.
Chapter Six - Sieving polenta from the sky
One night, I was lying in bed, left side of my face down on my warm pillow, knees bent and hands gripped around Fernando, my bear. I took a “and now I will sleep” breath and I shut my eyes. Suddenly, from the pitch dark a bubble of light formed itself effortlessly and I was instantly transported to that very familiar picture. It was summer in my backyard. Under our cherry tree, that is now no more, there was my grandpa, that is now no more, there was my dad, that is now no more and there was this little brown eyed girl that is still in here somewhere. I gasped for air like waking up from a shocking dream. There was a feeling of warmth inside my chest and one devastating question on my mind. What if we could go back on a day? Any day - that day. Just for a minute. Just enough to hold my dad’s hand, to graze my grandad’s stubble, to bask in the summer light while sucking on a black cherry that I picked myself. I’ll never forget that light - this yellow, almost glittery fog that moved imperceptibly. Someone must have been sifting golden flour from the sky and it was dissipating and floating around inside this glass ball that appeared to have been my life for a moment. Every time that image comes to mind, I get a sense of warmth and bliss. Then that question emerges and with it, a strong pang in my solar plexus. That is the pain of an impossible desire and it strikes in my core with an initial twinge, followed by the impression that I’m running out of air. It’s not a desperate act, it’s resigned, exhausted and powerless. The light of my bubble begins to dim, slowly fading into the darkness that it came from.
Maybe that’s why the snow globe meant so much to me. Different season, same warmth.
September was a nice and steady climb on the progress ladder. I kept meditating and yoga-bearing, I was sleeping well and generally feeling like a well adjusted individual that could handle shit or even take on more shit. That’s why I added “learning Italian” to my board. Usually, I'm so overwhelmed by all I wanna do that I feel paralyzed and end up doing nothing and freaking out at the same time. Now, oddly and wonderfully - it felt like there was room and there was time.
I spent half of September dreaming about our vacation in Palma de Mallorca. I desperately wanted to lay on a beach, to have the sun warm my skin, my flesh and my bones even!
You know that moment, when you’ve been lying there soaking up all the sun and you start to sweat and you feel like you can’t take it no more? I always stay past that moment, just a bit, to tease myself, to make myself want the water even more. I fantasized about that moment. I played it in my head. I’d imagine my skin get all red, feel all sizzly and impatient, craving for some water to quench the fire that I so willingly created. The water seems so cold against my now feverish skin, that for a second I doubt that I want to move forward, all the while knowing that I can’t go back. The final step is made swiftly - I dip into the water like you’d dip a nacho in cheese sauce - except I stay there. I shiver, I feel alive and relieved. Then comes bliss. Aaaah, the best feeling.
That. I wanted that.
I also wanted to read a book, to eat, eat, eat and to enjoy. Lazy, still, dazed.
When the moment was finally there, I found myself unable to relax because I wanted it so much! Apparently, that’s not how it works. It seemed that my “chill” was constantly interrupted by stupid things like having to pee, getting thirsty, looking for a place to eat. I did not feel the bliss. I wanted too much. I wanted to relax but at the same time, I wanted to see things and do things because time was limited. Five days were just not enough and I began to feel anxious. After a freak out session and a long discussion I decided to take things slowly, try to make the most of it and choose my battles.
The land of deliciously fat avocados, goat cheese and incredibly fragrant mangoes was generous. I could’ve happily gone on a avocado, goat cheese and mango diet. I never knew avocados like this. All they needed was a pinch a salt and a willing mouth. Nothing more. Everytime I eat an avocado now, I only taste disappointment, every time I eat a mango I am reminded that there are far superior mangoes out there and that they’re out of my reach. But let’s go back to the good times.
Since the yoga/meditation combo was so beneficial, I obviously wanted that to be a part of vacation life too, to make it even clearer that I do it because I like it and I choose it not because I have to check it off a list. The first morning I tried to do it in the apartment and it was quite unsuccessful, mainly because the floors were covered in tiles and dirt.
On the second morning, I woke up, made myself a sandwich with smashed avocado, goat cheese and fuet (dried cured meat-sausage), grabbed my backpack and headed to the beach. I looked for a place that my back could lean against, that wasn’t overly populated and that faced the sea. I sat my ass down in the sand, applied sunscreen, put my headphones on and closed my eyes. Meditation by the sea? 10/10. Next, I hid in the back corner of the beach and did some yoga. It was not easy, because the sand kept moving in a very sneaky yet obvious way.
My next yoga attempt came naturally. We were on the beach, the sun started to set, it was getting cold and people started to pack up and leave. I went by the sea shore to check the water temperature and one thing led to another… I ended up having a very peaceful yoga session without caring that I was now front stage and not hidden in a corner. It was liberating. From time to time, the waves got closer, wet my feet, my hands, my knees. I took my dress off, I threw my bra into the air and I allowed my touched-by-gravity boobs to hang wild and free, while slowly entering the sea. Palma was made out of moments and this was one of the best ones.
Our last full day in Palma was a rainy one, so all sorts of plans changed and all sorts of feelings emerged. Here we were, sitting in a pub, eating empanadas and trying to make a plan. Another plan. I gradually got jittery and impatient, started huffing and puffing and generally feeling like a ticking bomb. I told the Nuc that I couldn’t sit there anymore, that I wanted to be somewhere else, I felt like I was wasting precious time! Dramatic, I know. I had a large glass of Sangria, blame it on that. So, I took the laptop and headed towards the chiringuito on the beach, hoping that it would be open on a rainy day so that I can make the picture in my head a reality.
I clearly haven’t gotten to that place of no anxiousness but I am in a place that allows me to trace the sources quite successfully . The voice in charge of what I need (me, me meeeee) is growing stronger and louder. When I go against it I get the feeling of a boiling pot bubbling inside, a sort of clock that tick-tocks in my whole being and makes me jittery and impatient until my pot runneth over. Sitting in that bar, I realized how un-relaxed I was, to put it mildly. You see, I had this image in my head. I was at the chiringuito on the beach, reading or writing, sipping tea and watching the waves hit the shore. Instead, I was spending a lot more time than expected in this pub thing that was fine, just not where I wanted to be or what I wanted to do. It became clear that aligning my needs to someone else’s was no longer an option. It was causing me unhappiness. I realized that most of the unhappiness in my life (that depends on myself) is caused by:
not listening to my gut feeling
fear of missing out
lack of a “core’’ = an inner barometer that knows what my strengths and weaknesses are, independently of what others think or say.
Sometimes, you just feel like a whale - heavy and massive, like your weight is dragging you down, and you believe that it would take something even larger than you to pull you out of it. I'm here to tell you that's not necessarily true. You may just need many tiny birds to rally up and lift you to the sky. My point is: don't wait for something big to come along and change your trajectory! Start gathering tiny things that make tiny changes and eventually you'll have an army of flying ducks on your side ;). That's my new life approach.
Now sitting where I’ve wanted to sit all along, I understand it was calling me, I was late, I needed this.
I ask for a hot tea, I sit and i watch. My tea arrives, I get my book out. It was one of those perfect moments. One of those moments that are nowadays the subject of instagram pics and facebook posts. I felt like I “had to” photograph it, even though I wanted to enjoy it more that I wanted to have a proof that it happened. I caved. I took a picture. I actually took two, because I always take two, just in case one is blurry. The “pics or it didn’t happen” may have started out as a joke but it grew into a very real pissy little monster that seems to show its ugly head more than I like to admit. It’s like we need others to acknowledge our ‘’perfect” moment or it doesn’t feel complete or real. That, my friends, is fucked up. As I said, I took that picture but I am not gonna share it. Instead, I will use the power of words and you shall use the gift of imagination and together we will meet in the middle where we might make beautiful music.
Foreground: My open book on a cream-colored wooden table. A multicolored tea bag was tinting the water a deep burgundy inside a pistachio-green tin mug with a royal-blue rim.
It was a cloudy day in Palma de Mallorca. The clouds were sitting low and still. Some were light blue and some washed-up blue. Both sloppy and careful strokes of a brush made this appear as a crafted image - not at all accidental. The sea was a mild turquoise marbled with grey notes, to keep your senses on their toes. The sand had just the right shade to compliment all those blues. Not white, not yellow, not cream, but something resembling light brown sugar. The city was divided: On one side, the sky and the sea stretching broad, on the other, cliffs, green trees and tiered buildings growing tall.
I was seeing all this from the inside of the chiringuito, framed by a big door that opened on the deck making the line between the outside and the inside small and insignificant. The wooden floor was made out of both light and dark brown sugar, some bits wetter than others, with a dusting of sand thrown here and there. Old/vintage tin chairs painted in the most azul of blues and matching tables stood there empty and well behaved. Pigeons were roaming the sand and sparrows were flying about and sneaking around. The waves hit against the rocks playfully, not violently and then threw themselves at the shore, like one does after a good tickling session.
By now the old clouds made room for new clouds. The sky remained the same foggy, dense-yet-light, inexplicable blue while the clouds had begun travelling freely. It was quite a show, if you dared to stop and stare. Funky chill music occupied the ears.
Like dusting sugar rains on pastry, a drizzle starts to fall.
In the end, it was everything I needed it to be.
The next day, I woke up and headed to the beach for one last swim. I did my usual morning routine, the meditation, the yoga, the reading. All while basking in a beautiful sun. I swam with the fishes and finally felt blissful.
I felt like I belonged. I enjoyed every bit of sand that I touched, every splash of water that touched me and every ray of sun that was kind enough to feel me up.
I find it so hard to convey how dreamy that all felt. I keep feeling the need to explain and over complicate things when really, it was the simplest, most natural thing: I sat in silence with myself and my surroundings and I loved them both. Peace with lingering effects. As nature intended. It was hard to let go. Every now and again I close my eyes and I imagine myself back in that moment and it fills me up with light.
Yes, oddly enough, it starts with Barry White. Equally odd, it continues with John Cage. After getting the gift of Barry White on his birthday, he feels infused with moxy and 90’s swag; he’s confident and smooth. He decides to go for it and put his newfound moves on Nelle. He calls this “the change”. Nelle, unfortunately does not notice the change, so John ends up knee pit-ing Renee. If none of these things make sense to you, you have 2 options: either watch Ally Mcbeal season 2, episodes 8 and 9 or ignore everything and accept my apologies.
Anyway, the “change” line kept rolling in my head one day, cause I’m partly insane and that’s why I brought stuff from the 90’s into your attention. Dear friends (cause mainly you’re the ones reading this), I have felt the change. One day, after a long period of thinking and adjusting and postponing, I felt it was time to start doing things. Good things. For myself.
First, a list began writing itself in my mind. It was made out of things I wanted/desperately needed to try (meditation), things I wanted to start doing daily instead of once in a blue moon (yoga), then, my current priority that needed support and very conscious effort (writing) and something food related that I wanted to try out. Thus, my very own Life Management Board came to be and slowly but surely, I’ve been watching it grow and I’ve been watching my life improve dramatically.
I decided that this is the year that I lay the foundation for what I want my life to be. I will take care of myself and start doing what I need to do so that I will be able to do what I want to do and be fulfilled. I want to really mean the #noregrets
Seeing my dad die the way he did and how life changes when you grow old made me really see into the future and check my present. I became aware of the fact that my decisions now have a direct impact on how my life is going to be later. Health, attitude, going for the things I want - all took the spotlight. I don’t wanna be a bitter old lady that can hardly move and can’t enjoy anything because she is constantly in pain and her attitude sucks.
Chapter 1 - Meditation/How I stopped pussyfootin’ around and started to meditate.
I’ve been waiting in the meditation station for a while but I just couldn’t bring myself to “find time” (bullshit) or the “right time” (another type of bullshit) to pick a train and just get on it. Until one day, that is, when it became imperative. Not because something happened, but just because it felt like hammer time. I was absolutely sure my chaotic mind needed guided meditation so I downloaded the Headspace app for their 10 days free trial. I decided to start the very next day, in the morning, after brushing my teeth. I got a pillow and a blanket, I opened the window slightly to let some of that frisky Dublin air inside. I sat crossed-legged on the blanket with the pillow supporting my back, facing the blue skies I could see out the window. Then I pushed the magic button and was greeted by a voice and an introductory animation. Firstly, it won me over with the animation (I’m a sucker for that) and secondly, the voice. It’s a warm, calming voice with very soothing tones but it sounds like a “real” person”. It doesn’t get trapped in that monotone, half-asleep, robotic sort of narration. I don’t feel like someone is trying to hypnotise me and trick me into becoming “peaceful”. He simply speaks naturally - you know, like a regular person would. He even softly chuckles at times, and I’m the kind of girl that responds to a chuckle or two.
First, you begin by breathing deeply, which I’ve been historically bad at. You know you don’t have a real grip on life when you’re having trouble with its no. 1 requirement. But hey, I guess for some people everything is a skill they need to work on. So, there I was breathing deeply and feeling unusual. Next step is closing the eyes and breathing normally. Here, in the dark, it’s just you and your thoughts and the attempt to “silence the mind”. If you ever heard anything about meditation you probably heard that phrase. Sorry to burst your hope bubble, but silencing the mind might actually be as impossible as Ryan Gosling ironing your favorite knickers while making banana pancakes and singing that song from “Blue Valentine”. It’s unlikely, that’s all I’m trying to say.
Thoughts are almost always occupying our minds, especially when you’re trying really hard to do the exact opposite! “The point of meditation is to learn to detach yourself from the passing thoughts”. Again, not my strong point. I tend to hold onto things until I milk the life out of them, they dry out and die, and even then, instead of releasing my grip, I clench my teeth and hold onto their corpse forever and always! Now that I’ve put disturbing images of potentially dead cows in your mind, let us move on.
I sat and listened and “went with it” as the kids say these days. I’m not going to describe everything step by step, cause I don’t wanna ruin it for potential new-comers. Not knowing exactly how it would go made me curious and excited, even. So, I wouldn’t wanna take that away. When I opened my eyes I had the weirdest sensation. I felt like I’ve just woken from a dream. As I was trying to put impressions into words, I had the magical realization that what I felt was the sensation of space. Pennies kept dropping in my piggy bank mind. Ding! Space! Ding ding! In my head! Ding ding ding! Headspace?! Omg, that’s the name of the app! Unbelievable, ladies and gentlemen - how it all makes sense! Isn’t life just a bloody miracle?
Hold your horses and don’t jump to conclusions just yet. I haven’t magically transformed into the Disney’s version of Mary Poppins. I am not all of a sudden seeing the world in shades of pink and marshmallow. I don’t think I’ll ever be, nor do I want to; though this post is definitely the equivalent of steamed broccoli and I’m used to filthy chocolate cake slathered with frosting and dripping with caramel sweat while it falls apart in your hand. Hmm, I think I miss cake. What was I talking about? Oh, yes - my life. Back to that.
I was determined to make it till the end of the 10 days free trail and I did. Session by session, day by day I learned something new about myself, a new way I could look at things to make, well - life - lighter. I began to recognise patterns of thinking. I will say this even if it sounds a lot more know-it-all that it actually is: we are more ourselves in meditation that anywhere else. It’s like having a magnifying glass placed over your mind and you get to see what you do and how “do you do, do you do the things you do” as Roxette would say. For example: “bring the mind/attention GENTLY back” - realised I do not know how, or “notice your breath, don’t judge it just notice it”- un-freakin’-able to not be a judgmental biatch to myself, or “ask yourself this and just listen, don’t try to find an immediate answer” - impossible, boo. Next!
As a direct result, I discovered the voices in my head - because they tend to become very obvious when you close your eyes and sit in silence, so I decided to make a list of these voices, separate the good from the bad and deal with the ugly. I also named each and every one of them, cause I’m silly but also because it becomes much easier to deal with them once you know “who” you’re talking to/ who’s whispering sweet bullshit into your ears.
Without further ado, I give you:
Chapter 2 - The many voices in the head of Gog
The one that is never satisfied, nothing I do is good enough/ all I do is wrong - Stephanie
The one that always doubts herself - Mimi
The one that panics and worries frantically - Jenny
The one that believes that if you’re not good at something innately/immediately you’re not talented/meant to do that or will ever be good at it - Gwyneth
The impatient one - Suzie
The one that is always saying “Give up, what’s the point, you’re never gonna be good enough or better than xyz” - Milfred
The plain rude, insulting, cruel one “Fat, stupid, lazy, useless” - Gertrude
The afraid of conflict one, the people pleaser, doesn’t wanna trouble anyone or cause shit - Sally
The guilty one- always finds something to feel guilty about - Carrie
The “victim”, always feels like the one suffering the most, doing the most, feels unappreciated - Neil
The co-dependent one: afraid of doing things on her own cause she thinks she’ll fuck up - Laura
The plain afraid one - Penny
The one that never wins, the loser - Bernie
The overachiever - Gordon
The “ah, that’ll do for today” - Frankie
The “you can’t, you couldn’t, you won’t” - Sandra
The “I know better” voice (judgemental, sees the world through one lens and that’s it) - Gina
The “can’t let go voice” (obsesses over things over and over again, especially negative stuff) - Bob
The over-carer - Mary
The paranoid one - Ally
The “it’s ok, but it could be perfect” aka The “Great Expectations” one - Natalie
The self pity one/ “Oh, poor lil’ ol’ me! What ever shall I do? - Lottie
I know what you’re thinking, those are a lot of voices! Or maybe you’re thinking that I am seriously insane and need professional help. Don’t worry, one of the voices in my head is a psychologist, so I’m covered.
For each and every one of the bad ones above there is a voice encouraging the exact opposite, revolting against what they have to say. Imagine that, it’s never boring up in here, I’ll tell ya’ that.
The “you will not take any form of injustice” voice aka the warrior, the no bulshit, Sasha the fierce, almost insane-at-times voice.
The most important one of them all is by far the “self-love” voice because if you pay attention to her you will treat yourself gently and make the right choices that will eventually lead to a happier you/me/us...
It it not as strong yet, but I’m growing this baby bigger, bolder and fatter everyday!
The good ones mainly come from my loved ones and they are now living in my head, fighting everyday to convince me that I am “unique, talented, funny, worthy, able, loved and magical”. Yes, my friends are awesome.
In conclusion, meditation rocks my world in the best of ways! Because I take 10 min to check myself before I start the day, I am less anxious. Because I take a moment to assess how I feel (physically, mentally, emotionally) I know how to treat myself that day and what to expect. Translation: I’m less of a dick to myself when I’m down. Literally check yo’self before you wreck yo’self. One of Andy’s “tips” said something in the lines of “Imagine you were talking to your best friend the way you talk to yourself”. Most of us wouldn’t have friends anymore! Cause we’d say things like: “Great, you’re back hurts again! Another day to be useless!“ or “You look fat. Not just in that dress, but in jeans and skirts and pajamas. You’re also fat in every room of the house… and on the outside. Have you ever noticed that?”. We all know the list can go on and on and on. Bottom line is: treat yourself kindly. You fucking deserve it! We all do. I’ve learned that amazing things happen when you go gentle on yourself. It’s not easy, but it’s better to work on it than to just give up. Always.
Chapter 3 - Becoming Yogy Bear
I’ve decided to listen to the call of yoga and respond to it every day. No pressure, it didn’t have to be a certain type of yoga, it didn’t have to be a certain amount of time. All that mattered was that I do it daily and mindfully aka do it with meaning and intention, not just to check it off a list.
For a couple of years now, my guide in all things yoga has been Adriene from Yoga with Adriene. One day, I stumbled upon her on youtube and I was hooked. I can’t watch any other yoga videos. She is the best because she is so… herself. Unapologetically. “Find what feels good” she’s been saying for years and only now I truly understood what that means. For me, it meant asking myself what I need instead of what I want. It may sound easy, but it is not. My judgement is always clouded by what I want to do, so much so that it is hard to distinguish which one is a desire and which is a need. Everyday, I wake up, I listen to my body and I ask myself what I need and then I look for the practice that will cater to that. I’ve gone even further and taken this question in all areas of my life and boy, did I flip the pancake! New outlook, hello!
Chapter 4 - The itty bitty food committee
Me and the voices in my head decided that we need rhythm and rituals and that efficiency can be joy. So, I made granola bars and loaded on mangoes and berries to keep breakfast nice and simple. I loved not having to decide what to eat every morning, it made everything much easier. Also, those freaking granola bars are delicious because peanut butter rocks and honey is the key to everything. New mantra was to keep it simple during the week and go ham with tasty projects on the weekend. And I was happy ‘cause “nature loves rhythms” and decision-making is a bitch.
Introduced healthy eating habits without restricting anything else. I did not go on a diet, I did not make a list of “no-nos”. A lot of the food we emotional eaters love is on that list because we associate it with good times, comfort and care. Diets are never associated with good times, allow us to not bullshit each other. If it were healthy we’d eat cake for breakfast everyday and bathe in butter and syrup for the rest of our life. “Diet food” will always bring with it the bitter taste of restrictions and that’s how you end up despising lentils - and that, my friends, it’s just unfair to lentils everywhere.
I’ve always been ok with “exercise, structure and activities” part of trying to get fit. Because it feels like I’m just adding things and that’s ok. When it comes to food, the sentiment is that something precious it’s being taken away from me.That just don’t fly with us, southern belles with lofty hearts and appetites. I needed a change of strategy. The only way to love food is for it to be tasty and for the context to be a pleasant one. Otherwise, I know I won’t get back to it. Quite the opposite, it will end up on my “get the fuck out of my mouth” list. Yes, I know what I just did there.
Chapter 5 - Out of the seven dwarfs, you are my second favorite
My relationship with sleep has been a complicated one. I’m sure it wasn’t always like this. I was too the type of child to fall asleep on chairs at various never-ending parties. I somehow grew up to be a lot more nevrotic, thus I need darkness and silence to be able to fall asleep. Oh, and peace of mind, but that’s harder to achieve. One thing I did manage to change for the best was to fucking listen. Listen and go to sleep when all signs point to the fact that my body is ready and that my mind is willing. I always postponed it and ended up falling asleep in a bad mood because I’d missed my window of sleeportunity. Not anymore. Also, I left my laptop to avoid the screen strain and the distraction. All very good ideas.
As a result, I started going to bed around the same time every night and then waking up, naturally after about 8 hours of sleep. It was a magical time.
For the first time in a long time things were working out! Now my days looked organised and I was starting to feel calm and productive. I’d wake up between 8:30 - 9:30 am, I’d meditate and change out of my pajamas to go downstairs. I’d eat half a mango and a granola bar. Drink tea, open my laptop and plan my day. Then I would do yoga. That’s how my day began pretty much everyday.
Whoah, I think I’m finally getting my shit together! If you think this sounds in any way easy or victorious, I urge you to remember the list of voice above and reassess, cause that's a lotta' crazy.
Now I think I’m gonna have to get a tad cheesy on yo’ ass. This started as a food blog and it has become a girl’s journey to accept herself, love and better herself, to conquer and to overcome everything from basic fears and insecurities, everyday struggles, the loss of a loved one and the constant “trying to be enough” battle. I’m not there yet, but now I know I’m knocking at the right doors.
May y’all be nicer to yourselves and keep on tryin’! You’re gonna have to fall on your face a couple of times - I speak from experience.
It always feels a bit weird being back home after I’ve had a different life in a different place for a while.
I wake up in another bed, I wash my face in another bathroom, my towel is a different towel, the people I got used to seeing everyday are now suddenly “away”; I hear a different “miau”, I use bigger plates and smaller portions. The ceiling is taller, the weather is colder, I even wear different clothes. To some extent, I am different.
Leaving places is always hard for me because I always get attached to… well, everything, really. I missed being home but I also missed being home. No, that’s not a typo. Most of us have two homes: the one that we’ve called home forever and the one that became our home.
I was now home and everything seemed bigger. It felt like the kitchen was huge, the living-room - an open field! Oh and the smell - I couldn’t get over the smell! It was strange and familiar at the same time. You get so used to the smell of your house that you don’t even notice it after a while, but other people do; and so do you, after you’ve been away for a significant period of time.
I woke up in that first morning and I felt strange. It was cold and sort of empty. I got used to smaller spaces filled with people and now I have to deal with quite the opposite. I didn’t get to over analyze things too much, I had laundry to do and food to buy and friends to greet. My friend was coming to visit me and our other friend, Queen B. I mean, sure, since her career skyrocketed we haven’t been that close, but still. We were really hoping for a reunion!
The month of July can be broken down in two parts:
Part 1 - The Fun and Part 2 - The Misery. I don’t usually begin with the fun, but this is how it chronologically happened and I’m sticking with it.
We decided to meet our friend in the city centre where the bus that comes aaaall the way from the airport stops. I know it sounds perfectly dull and logical, but bear with me, I’m going somewhere with this. So, there we were, in the right bus station at the right time - wheeen the bus drove right by with our friend in it. Our 2 perplexed faces saw her perplexed face fading away into the Dublin mist (mid-July, yes) and there was nothing we could do. Apparently the driver, and I quote “must’ve missed it”. He was quite calm and nonchalant about it which leads me to believe this is not the first time he’s done or said that. Thanks to the magic of the interwebs and Whatsapp, mi amiga managed to find her way back to us.
We went to a Japanese restaurant, talked our ears off and stuffed our faces! I had a big fat bowl of udon soup with tempura prawns to help me deal with the 17 degrees of this crazy Irish summer.
The following days we combined more Japanese food with falafels and spicy fries, carrot cake, my first attempt at a clafotis aaaand a vegan dessert (‘cause my friend is into that and I’ll try anything once). The vegan tart had an oatmeal and coconut oil base, topped with peanut butter filling and a chocolate ganache (made with coconut milk). I am the first one to call bullshit on all replacements and all “delicious recipes that taste just as good as the original” bla bla. The beauty about this recipe is it didn’t pretend to be anything else, it didn’t aspire to be anything more than what it was and it was really delicious and decadent. Take a look for yo’ self:
We baked, we ate and we watched some documentaries. It was kind of perfect.
When finally the day of the concert arrived, we gently blasted some “Lemonade”, put on our “hot sauce in my bag” t-shirts, tight jeans and daring lip-sticks. Well, two of us did. The Nuc skipped all of that. Except the tight jeans. His presence at the concert was powered by: confusing circumstances, laziness and the Universe’s sense of humor (read as that voice in trailers, use suspense and unnecessary drama).
We got there late, as in right on time, which in the world of concerts and Golden Circles means “really fucking late”. As a direct result, we were in a mediocre spot, surrounded by both midgets and giants. The midgets (us included) were at a clear disadvantage; the giants were uncomfortable and despised by many. There were, of course the “somewhere in the middle” people too. They’re not tall, they’re not short, they’re just annoying and will poke you in the boob repeatedly. Then, we have the classic “drunk’n’lorrvee” group. They’re boozed up, ratchet and take 5 selfies per minute to show the world how much fun they’re having. They think they’re fabulous and unique. I guess the world is full of special snowflakes.
Then you have the people who spend half their concert time answering e-mails and telling their less fortunate friends how awesome this concert (that they’re currently missing because their eyes are plastered to their screens) IS!
In the middle of all this - some girl’s bag kicking me in the ribs, some guy’s elbow poking me in the boob, gremlin lookin’ girl rubbin’ her butt on my female parts while making eye contact and smiling creepily - Queen B is rocking it! She sounds amazing and if only all these people would put their fucking phones down for a moment, I might actually see her looking amazing too!
That concert made me feel thangs, man. Maybe it was Beyonce’s magical dragon breath that made us all look purty and feeeel purty. Except for the ugly people - they just felt purty. There was a sense of empowerment in the air. Beyonce was sending waves of confidence, sexiness and woman-nes all around and they are spreading like wildfire!
Overall, we left the concert feeling strong and sassy - but also, quite violent. I will never understand why people can’t enjoy an experience without filming it themselves, photographing it themselves, advertising the experience they are not really enjoying, themselves! I get doing it for a short memento but not 50%-90% of the time! It makes me angry and sad. They’re not really present anymore, they’re living their lives to prove shit on Facebook instead of really enjoying a fucking moment fully! They’re growing more and more pathetic. They must staaahp it! They’re giving the rest of us a bad name.
Another thing I’ve learned from this is that I am not a people person. Well, actually, I am not a crowd person. I need my personal space, badly. I wanted to be closer to the stage and all that, but at the end of the day I think I saw less and got annoyed more. It really affects an experience and nobody's doing anything about the “little” people that can’t see shit! You can’t enforce a “height rule” because as it turns out short people make friends and/or mate with tall people and vice versa. The hate is badly oriented, tall people have feelings too. The stage should be taller, the pavement they use to cover the stadion should do some miracle work and add some freakin’ inches. And don’t you dare suggest I wear high heels! You wear high heels!
I’m also afraid I’ll get trampled or worse, have to pee. Cause if I have to pee and I go alone, I am never finding my way back! I’ll get lost and nobody will be able to guide me back cause I’m not capable of following simple instructions in complicated settings. Welcome to my neurosis, the concert edition.
That being said, Beyonce is flawless and the concert was beautiful.
Two days later I was in the front seat of a rented car, blasting “Lemonade” and holding a box of donuts on my lap. It was the beginning of a beautiful friendship.
We were happily heading towards the South of The Emerald Isle. We went from Wicklow & the East Coast to The South Coast - Ring of Kerry and on our way home, Blarney Castle.
Even though this started as a sunny day, the moment we got into the car it started to drizzle and drip. Ah, Irish weather, the ultimate practical joker. We picked up our people, talked strategy and got the show on the road. We waited for a green area with cows to make our first stop and eat our donuts. If you haven’t had donuts while watching cows, you are missing out. It is definitely one of my favorite ways to have donuts. I only wished I had some warm milk to dunk those babies with a splash. Oh, so close and yet so far away!
After lounging with the cows, a journey began. One that involved driving on the “wrong” side of the road for the first time, on extremely narrow and wavy roads, while stopping here and there for some kick-ass views.
Then we made a bigger stop at Glendalough, county Wicklow. Seen some medieval stuff and fell in love with a lake.
After visiting an abandoned old church, appropriately called “The Forgotten Church”, stepping on some graves and pushing our luck, we got back in the car and feasted our eyes on the pretty views the road had to offer. Eventually, we arrived at Courtown Harbour aka a city by the sea! After a moderate amount of frolicking we moved on, reached a town whose name I can’t remember, couldn't get seats at Tripadvisor-approved restaurants and settled for a Texas themed place. Food was OK and cheap, aaand I had me a beer with those chicken goujons and fries. On our way back to the car I stumbled upon a corgi! I have loved corgis for some time now but have never seen one face to nuzzle! I cuddled the shit out of it and declared this day an utter success. The sun was setting, a bed awaited somewhere.
Day one ended in a nice hotel, after a shower, in cosy pajamas, watching Family Guy in a big bed. Not too shabby.
Day two welcomed us with sunny skies, cold wind and decent nutella&banana waffles by the sea.
Goodbye, city whose name I can’t remember! I’d like to say you shall never be forgotten, but I try not make promises that I obviously can’t keep.
Next, we stopped somewhere we could gaze at the world from above.
We sat like cowies in the grass. Some of us fell asleep, some of us started picking flowers, some felt like doing a bit of impromptu yoga in their jeans. We each scratched an itch and it felt good.
Once back in the car we drove forever to get to the city of Cork where good food and rain awaited. We ended up at ORSO Kitchen & Bar and I do not regret a thing. For starters, we shared this pair of samosa lookin’ mofo’s right here called Sfeehas - lebanese mini pies filled with spiced lamb with fennel and thyme cream on pearl cous-cous.
They were delicious, I could’ve had 4 of them on my own if I had to. “Had to” - who am I kidding?! If they would’ve been in front of me and I had to share them with someone I didn’t love, I would’ve slapped the pie out that unfortunate fucker’s hand in no time! Don’t take it personal, it’s just a basic impulse. In my defense, I really love pies and meat and pies with meat! Stepping away from this ugly side of myself now and walking into main course land. I had the Moroccan Spiced Seafood Stew with monkfish served with fennel and honey loaf. Whaaaaaat? Did anybody say honey loaf?! Honey, that was love in a bun. Warm, sweet love, perfect for dipping into a pool of creamy, spicy and hearty sauce. Yum! I mean, dunk me baby one more time-yum!
The Nuc had the Lamb Chops with warm salad of millet, roast fennel, red onion, green sun dried tomatoes and chaat yogurt.
Looking back, I remember how delicious they were but I also realize I had forgotten they were quite pricey. I mean, the stew was 20 euros and the lamb was 23. That feels excessive. That is excessive. At the time, I was blinded by hunger and deliciousness, so I also ordered dessert. Lemongrass and ginger creme brulee with lime and basil shortbread. That was 6,50 - pretty regular price for a dessert. I won’t lie, I can’t lie, I loved it. Those fresh and fragrant notes go wonderfully with the creamy wonder that is creme brulee. I’ve enjoyed every bite of it. The biscuit was a nice touch, I ate it even though I was full. That’s how you know.
From Cork we headed to Tralee (yes, that is a funny name for a town), where we were going to spend the next two nights at Finnegan’s Hostel and B&B accommodation - “Situated in the heart of Tralee, county Kerry, it is the ideal location for anyone visiting the south west of Ireland”. Well, obviously, I am not anyone. Piece of advice? Don’t believe everything you read.
First night? No hot water. Lemme rephrase that: no warm water. I mean, I do have a mug that says “I like it a lot when it’s burning hot” but I would have happily settled for lukewarm that night. Went downstairs to ask why. Just why. Why my shower? Why me?! WHY GOD,WHY?! The woman acted as if this was the first time she’d ever heard this. Unfortunately for her, I can easily distinguish the bad acting from the good acting and this was superficial at best. She went as far as going to our room “to check it out”. She turned the shower on, cold water ran, she said “Yes, it is cold.” Thank you for that insightful observation. Yes, I know! That is why we are all gathered here today in this tiny bathroom, looking like fools! This is not a theme party, it’s real life.
Then she said it must be that the boiler ran out of water because it is the same one that the restaurant downstairs is using. Well, color me baffled and blank-faced. I looked at her with a look of utter confusion and complete lack of understanding. My face was covered in “why”-s and “how come”-s and “are you shittin’ me with this”? The kind of look you’d have on your face if you’d see, say, a deer mating with a squirrel. At first, you wouldn't even know what you’re looking at. Then it would become clear, you would be intrigued and appalled and unable to look away. All the while the question would echo in your head: Why? Why?! Why.
Disturbing analogy over, and long story short, I went to sleep dissatisfied but hopeful that the morning would bring with it a full boiler, or at least a bucket’s worth of warm water.
Rise and shine, ya’ poor hopeful fool! Wake up to disappointment and build up your day from there! As you probably guessed there was still no warm water. I went down to express my feelings. The woman downstairs said I should talk to the owner, because there is nothing she can do and lo and behold, I had just missed her.
At the ground floor of the hostel they have Mary Anne’s Tearooms and I dare say that for me, that was the only good thing. Can you blame me? I happen to believe that warm water in a non-tropical country is not negotiable. Anyway, let’s move away from the darkness and into the light. The Tearooms - they have a mouth-watering display of fresh cakes, good eggs and scrumptious scones. Plus the whole place looks like a combo between Alice in Wonderland and a grandma’s house - a certain type of grandma, that is. The soundtrack was oddly enough (or not?) Italian opera. That made for a confusing atmosphere but it kept me on my toes, so I’ll give them that!
The weather outside was pretty frightful. Your classic grey clouds with a generous side of rain, sprinkled with gloominess and topped with a cold breeze. Worry not, for I have the power of the polka dot! My mighty parka: blue - to match my mood, dotted (with white spots) to highlight my wackiness and of course, waterproof to describe my resistant-to-change personality.
Ain’t no weather baaaad enough to keep me from gettin’ to you, babe! That was my way of sayin’ we got back in the car and on the road once more. As we moved away from Tralee, the roads got narrower and the winds stronger. First stop was Rossbeigh beach, where the sea was grey and the wind was a bitch. I can’t rhyme and I can’t preach but I sure use my freedom of speech. I’m beginning to feel like a leech craving a peach on the beach - aaaaand we’ve gone full circle! Enough of that now.
Then we went up, up to the end of the world and as they say in Ireland “It was grand”.
Time to mix it up and confuse your body with some tropical forest. What? You were cold and now you’re hot? I won’t believe it!
On that day, I also re-learned how to pee in the forest! Different forest, though. Somewhere near the Blackwater Bridge. If you’re ever there, remember I peed somewhere and so did other people. When in the woods, act like a bear. Roar.
Next stop: “Angry Sea and The Worst Wind Ever” Village. I call it that cause it’s true and cause I can’t for the life of me, remember its true name.
Here we stopped for food and Charlie Chaplin memorabilia. Weird combo, I know. Apparently it was The Charlie Chaplin Annual Festival. Why there, in the town whose name I’ve forgotten? Because he used to vacation here and that explains everything. Waterville! The name of the town was Waterville!
After a simple lunch (in Waterville - wink wink) of vegetable soup and cheesy toast we moseyed along.
In chronological order: we met some horses at Looscaunagh Lough (well, one horse and one donkey posing as a horse), climbed on top of some rocks at Ladies' View in Killarney, climbed some more rocks at the Muckross Lake to get a good view of it and then took our time at the Killarney National Park where we saw a waterfall, climbed some more, wooo-ed and aaaaah-ed at some pretty awesome nature work and got a bit hungry, I ain’t gonna lie. What’s even better for working up an appetite, you ask? Visiting an old abandoned abbey (in our case the Muckross Abbey). Everything was so ancient and... well... dead. Really makes one feel happy to be alive, thus hungry.
We ended that day in Killarney. A vibrant town with plenty of food places to choose from. Hard to get a table, but not impossible. I decided to finish the day with steak, mashed potatoes and veggies. Classic comfort, hearty food. As we were going to the car, I heard the call of this ice cream place. It summoned me, so I went. I got the banana and the chocolate&chili.
The banana was good, nothing worth dropping your panties for. The chocolate, on the other hand, was panty-dropping but not in a good way. That thing was spicy! I mean, nasty spicy. It started off as chocolate and then out of nowhere it just punched you in the throat with fire. Could not, would not finish that. Turns out that voice that summoned me was evil. I really gotta learn how to distinguish right from wrong one of these days.
Got back to the hostel to find an empty fucking boiler, AGAIN! I went to my friends room and used their shower. They had slightly warmer water and anything warmer than ice cold is considered good news in such circumstances so that was an offer I couldn’t refuse. I went to sleep that night with wet hair and one or two violent thoughts. Who’s counting, right?
Morning came ringing her bell and honking her horn. Surprise, surprise! We’re covered in red itchy spots all over! Oh, joy! My skin was rather boring-looking! All white and no dots! It’s like Finnegan's Hostel heard my prayers and decided to help. Thank you for your bed bugs, your cold water and your sad room. It was everything I’ve ever imagined it would be.
We wanted to thank the owner personally for the unique experience but of course, she was nowhere to be found. We even went as far as getting her phone number hoping that we could at least whisper sweet little “thank you” notes into her ear. She did not answer and she did not return any of our calls. Classy and professional. #rolemodel
On our way back to Dublin we planned to stop at the Blarney Castle and take our sweet time. We bought sandwiches on the way so we could have lunch al fresco with our ass in the grass and our eyes towards the sky.
We did some things that I was comfortable with: like walking, visiting the garden and reading about Marijuana, talking to some cows, picking raspberries. You know, the usual.
We also did some things that made me very uncomfortable, like going up ALL the stairs, going up all the stairs surrounded by people, going up all the stairs in the tower where the space got narrower and darker and I felt stuck and terrified and forever lost. The thought that I was only going higher and higher did not help. Once I got to the bloody top I realized what they meant by “kissing the Blarney stone”. It was a part of the freaking wall, it wasn’t a stone you could just take in your hands and hide in your sleeves like a freakin’ adorable otter! At this point in the story you might be asking yourself “Why the fuck would I wanna kiss a stone that has the imprint of a thousands other lips on it?!” Well, dear reader, because you supposedly gain the gift of eloquence. I know, sounds shady.
In order to kiss it you had to lie on your back with your head hanging into pure nothingness while gripping to a bar for dear life. All of this while a stranger was paid to hold you and pictures were being taken. Needless to say, I found this unnecessary and scary as fuck, so I politely declined and shall remain devoid of eloquence forever and for always. Meah, who needs eloquence when you’ve got charm and curvy hips?! And that right there is one of the world’s biggest problems.
Here’s a link if you wanna know more about this: the ritual of my nightmares.
All in all, visiting a castle really made me realize that I wouldn’t wanna live in a castle - they are seriously not cosy and the lack of windows is disturbing. Yes, yes, I know the reasons, bla bla. I’m more afraid of living in the dark than being invaded. But hey, that’s just me. On the other hand, it must be great to own such land! Your forest, your lake, your big-ass garden, your witch’s lair in a cave under a mangled tree. That being said, we got into our rented car and went back to our rented home that comes with a rented back garden and lived happily ever after. For these are the days of our lives.
This 4-day trip had everything. I think it was the first time ever that I’ve been on such a packed journey. I mean, we went from lake to river, from sea to forest, from mountains to waterfalls, from hot and humid to cold and humid and then to windy and furious, from rain to sun and everything in between - in what seemed like moments!
Standing at the top of a mountain, looking down at the sea, hearing only the sounds of goats from the very remote houses that were around... boy, that was a great feeling. Far away from everything, like being at the end of the world where the wind and the sea are king and queen and you are a mere witness to their glory. It made me feel small, but in a good way. Made everything seem unimportant and passing. One thing I’m gonna try to remember: nature does me good. I’ve never felt better.
After about 3 days, when the damn bed bugs bites were almost fading away I got some red spots on my face, because I can’t catch a break! I traced it back to a cheese I ate for the first time, threw it away, swallowed some pills and played the waiting game. It eventually went away but so did my excitement for everything food. I was all of sudden very aware that everything I ate either made me sick, “because IBS is real and it affects the lives of 55 mil. people, mostly female” (like we don’t have enough bullshit to deal with) or fat or both.
Everything seemed out of control, I felt tired, overwhelmed and lost. I wanted to get back in the game (the wellness game) but I didn’t know where to begin.
After wallowing in some mandatory self pity, I re-started listening to Tim Ferris’s podcasts and they inspired me to get started once more. I took two decisions:
To cook and eat what I like, what I crave in order to bring back the love, but with limits as to not upset my stomach and feel lousy.
To write down everything I eat again with the clear purpose of finding out what makes me sick and in what way.
I then cleaned the house, scrubbed, re-organized, washed and polished. The chaos (in and out) was beginning to see the light of day. I started writing things down and cooking things that I craved. Take a look at the waaay too many pictures I took, to give you a visual.
The hardest thing I had to do in July was write about the month of June. Everytime I take a break, I doubt that I can write again. I keep expecting to “lose it”, to wake up and realize that it was a dream and that I actually can’t put two phrases together. That first post felt like I was in labour, giving birth to every word. Really put me off pregnancy and all that jazz.
This was the July episode - the one after the fall and before the rise. You’ll see what I mean...
The Dutch baby pancake is something that has been on my list for a looong time. All research pointed to the primordial need for a cast iron skillet (that can go in the oven) for this recipe to be successful. After trying it in a normal pan and kinda failing, I let go of that dream because I’m not very good at following through. I buried that dream deep where the light can’t reach! Until today, when I couldn’t resist the impulse and I prepared myself to fail once more. I wanted something that I can whip up in 10 min, drink my decaf latte with Bailey’s while I wait and then eat a delicious, warm, lush dessert that looks monstrous too. It was the perfect choice and this time, by the grace of the Hungry Gods, it did not fail. It kept rising ‘till it reached the sky! The oven “sky” that is.
Here’s the recipe. May it bring you joy.
Things and stuff:
1.A heavy glass baking dish (as in fat-bottomed not one that you necessarily have trouble lifting). Mine was square and 24 cm wide. It made for a very thick pancake, too thick for some people, so these quantities could make two smaller ones or you can use a slightly larger dish.
2. A whisk, a bowl.
For the pancake batter:
2 cups/480 ml milk (at room temperature!)
4 eggs (also at room temperature)
160 gr all purpose flour
1 tsp vanilla extract
1-2 tsp granulated sugar
1 tsp lemon zest
For “pool of butter necessary to make the pancake”
115 gr butter
For “slather on top”
All to your heart’s desire, you decide the amounts of sweetness you need in your life today.
Step 1: Get your eggs and your milk outta the fridge and on your kitchen counter an hour before. They need to be room temperature. Both of them. Otherwise you will get a flat, sad dutch baby. If you forgot (and/or can’t wait) you can put the eggs in some hot water for a minute or so (not boiling!) and you can microwave the milk like 30 second. Make sure to stir it well if you do!
Step 2: Pre-heat your oven at 200 degrees Celsius/Gas mark 6
Step 3: Beat eggs.
Step 4: Add the flour and whisk it and whip it until you get a smooth consistency.
Step 5: Start adding the milk. First a small gulp, then when loose you can go crazy and pour it all in there.
Step 6: Lemon zest, vanilla, sugar.
I should mention I forgot to sugar mine, it was still fine. I am not a fan of overly sweet desserts and this way I got to drown it in maple syrup instead.
Step 7: Put your butter into the dish and get the dish in the oven. The purpose is to get the dish hot and the butter melted. Not brown, not burned, but proper melting and spitting fire.
Step 8: Take the dish out of the oven. Pour the batter mindfully in the middle. It’s gonna start forming a foundation. Don’t be afraid of the noise it will make. You’re adding something relatively cold to something burning hot, it’s normal.
Step 9: Carefully, place it back in the oven until the middle is custardy but set (like a pudding) and the edges are golden brown and puffed up out of control!
Mine was, as I mentioned, a very heavy, giant Dutch baby, so it needed about 40 min in the oven. If you are the mother of a regular sized one, it will need 25-30 min.
Step 10: Get it out, squeeze some lemon juice on it, make it rain with sugar, berries and maple sugar.
! If you get a puddle of butter in the middle of it, as I did (because I did not pour it calmly) do not worry. Just carefully drain it, being careful to hold the pancake a bit by the sides. You don’t want all of it to end up in the sink ;). It's way to purty for that!
! As I mentioned, the "proper" way asks that this pancake be less thick bottomed. I, on the other hand, enjoy fat butts and I cannot be persuaded to lie :D
! It may rise up higher than you expect it to. Mine looked like it was growing another one on top! Worry not (if that sort of thing worries you), it will slowly deflate.
That’s all, folks! I wish you happiness in the mouth (wink wink), the belly and your different-sized hearts. Muah!
That pretty much sums up everything, but I’m a “long story” kind of gal, so I’m gonna elaborate a bit.
There comes a time in one’s life when we start to observe what our mothers and us have in common. Then what our grandmothers, mothers and us have in common. Some are good things. The good skin, the nice hair, the short legs. Well, not all good. Then, behaviour-wise, you start to understand “where you got that from”. It is a frustrating process, I’ll tell ya’ that. It’s like looking in a fucked-up mirror.
I’m battling the exact same things I’m trying to change about myself and there they are, coming at me full blast straight from the source. Call it genetic, call it behaviour pattern, whatever. It’s a glimpse into the future, ‘cause those bad patterns evolve into worse go-to reactions if you let them. Inhale awareness, exhale “let go of that shit”. I wanna fix those things for myself in order to live my life with peace-of-mind and less worry. Seeing the same shit you do on another person, multiplied by a bajillion is a really good spin on the “try and see yourself from the outside” exercise. Wake up and smell the similarities! No, they don’t smell like roses.
I made a list in my mind of what I think causes them unhappiness and worry. Then I made another list with what I find particularly disturbing. Then I put my lists together and there they were, staring me in the face: people-pleaser, indecisive to the point of exhaustion, obsessing over things, not letting go, caring too much about others and not enough about yourself, always feeling the need to justify yourself, anxious, chaotic, worry-er, sufferer/victim of the “I didn't do enough” disease.
You may think it’s bad, I used to think the same thing until I wrote them down. I can work on all of these. I actually felt overwhelmed by gratitude instead of [insert negative feelings here] because my people are good people. Sure, they have their flaws, but who doesn’t? Most of all, I wish they wouldn’t be tormented by their flaws, not for my occasional sake, but for themselves. I wish I could have the patience - and the whatever wise-bone it takes - to help; to really inflict some change. I guess that’s my regret.
Oh, who am I kidding?! I have bags full of regrets hidden in my closet. The thing is I kinda decided to throw them all in the river. When my dad died I made a list of all my regrets regarding him. After it was all laid down it felt like a cold fire was burning in my gut and there was nothing I could do. Nothing I would do would matter. Still, there they were, all written down… I wanted to say that it felt like I notched them on my skin with a blunt blade but that’s a bit overly dramatic and it would mean that it was hard. It wasn’t. It was easy, the easiest thing; and that is a different kind of pain altogether. Regrets poured out of me like water from the sky - a raging summer rain that hit the hot asphalt with a thud. I spit them out in a fury and then… then I was left empty but burdened.
Regret feels like you’ve got slime running through your veins instead of blood, and boy, does it run slow…
I could’ve choked on them and died right then and there or I could let them live in my flesh and poison me bit by bit. Ooor, I could come to terms with it. Because at the end of the day I did what I could do with what I had in that moment in my life. My capacity to accept, to give, to recognise, to face, to admit… Defence mechanisms make us act in silly, unfair ways sometimes because their only purpose is to “defend” us and that’s all they know. No point in blaming myself now, but I still do it either way. Every now and again a regret would a appear like a freckle after sunburn. I acknowledge it and I say to it what I said to you. “You did the best you could have done with what you had in that moment.” Then it goes away. Until the next sunburn. It’s ok, though, I live in Ireland, you don’t see many of those around here.
I always learn a lot about myself while back home. This time was no exception - in fact it was probably the most fruitful trip of them all. The biggest life lesson I’ve uncovered was due to Oscar, our forever flea-ridden, bat-eared cat. From the day he came into that house he had been covered in fleas from ear to claw and it was only getting worse. Because he was so small, we couldn’t apply the magic phial that promises to vanish all fleas from the land. He had to weigh 1 kg and he wasn’t there yet, so until we managed to get him fat we applied the old school disinfestation method. Special shampoo, regular water and you soap and you rinse ‘till you’re blue in the face and the cat hates you. Theeeen you use your hands to kill the ones that are still alive roaming the furry streets of that unfortunate lil’ cat. I did just that. Many, many times. Whenever I thought I was seeing the light at the end of the fleanfestation, the fuckers kept coming back stronger, faster and with extra baggage. They brought their flea cousins and their flea aunts and uncles, their flea friends and their flea pets! As a result, I was losing my mind. It deemed everything useless: my hardship and the poor cat’s suffering! It’s one of the five most frustrating feelings in the world!
This next chapter is called: What I learned about myself while de-fleeing my cat.
Lesson One. When chasing fleas I stumbled upon the “grass is always greener on the other side” syndrome more than once. If that is not clear enough try this: the flea equivalent to “A bird in the hand is worth three in the bush”. Almost every time I had a regular-sized flea in my hands ready to begin operation “off with his heeeeeaaaad!” a Mr. Big of the fleas would casually walk by mocking me! I felt like a fool, like a fool, I tell ya’! Here I am wasting time on this nobody when I could have the Bugsy Malone of Fleas! So I’d abandon the small one and go after the big one. I rarely caught the big one and almost always lost the small one. Don’t go chasin’ after bigger fleas, kids! It ruins your focus and you won’t like what it says about you as a person. Finish the flea you started and then move on. That’s integrity.
Also, there is no such thing as “one flea to rule them all”; it’s a myth. They’re all equal fleas in the eyes of the Lord.
The conclusion is I go through life the same way I de-flea cats. I’m confused, I hate making choices, when rushed I often make stupid ones, I get overwhelmed and I always think it’s not enough. There is also, that rare moment when everything seems to slow down; I’m waltzing through the fleas, I’m popping them like it’s hot, suddenly I’m Snoop Dog, cool and in control.
Lesson Two. Be more like Snoop.
Lesson Three. After a while, the cat got fat, the magic potion was applied by a vet and we got strict instructions to do nothing. All we could do was wait for the fleas to abandon the kitty-ship. It was out of my hands, I could be liberated, right? Wrong.
One night, while I was chilling in bed the cat came to do cat things. I started petting him, he started to purr, I started seeing fleas, he kept on purring, I wanted to ignore the fleas, he continued purring. Then a black fog clouded my judgement and the next thing I know I’m hunched over him, tense and weird, holding him still while I killed, killed, killed once more. My thirst for blood was even bigger than that of the fleas.
I realized I had turned a nice, cosy, very cat-like moment into torture. I looked at Oscar and I felt terrible. He was disappointed and he had every right to be.
The lesson here is to focus on the big picture not on the many tiny black spots that roam all over it. To see the cat beyond the fleas. Otherwise, you tend to completely miss a perfectly good cat because you can’t keep your focus on what’s really important. Fleas come and go, but the cat is always there. The way I looked at him was the way I look at life: I let the fleas ruin the cat. I allow the little things that bug me grow blacker and bigger until I forget there was even a cat in the first place. That was a real wake up call. Thank you, Oscar and thank you fleas.
My love for markets is well known among friends, people that accidentally read this and strangers whom I tell randomly. Luckily, I am not alone in this.
My friend and I have always discussed our mutual fondness but we never truly realized the extent of it. Well, until this one particular moment.
The set: a japanese restaurant in Dublin. The time: afternoon, hammer time, doesn’t matter. We were, as I recall, having a completely normal conversation that somehow led to a “Oh, the market!” (long sigh). We weren’t saying anything special, merely poking at a soft spot. Apparently, that soft spot was much softer than we thought it was because we had tears in our eyes! Our voices were trembling and there were definitely water works! On both fronts! We rapidly went from crying to laughing because it was ridiculous ! We had no idea what caused it, but it just seemed that we had an overflowing amount of love for the farmers market. Months passed and somewhere inside remained the question. Why? Why the excessive tenderness? A month in Bacau and I finally understood.
I was a market child and remain faithful to this day. I remember looking up at the stalls,just like being at the foot of a mountain gazing at the top and feeling very small and very far away. My tiny hand was in my dad’s big, puffy, soft hand. At times it was in granddad's big, puffy-but-not-soft hand. His felt different - it was as if a thin layer of fine sandpaper covered the surface of his skin, and he had deeper valleys and rougher mountain peaks. It gave me a different kind of grip. In my dad’s hand, my hand would get warm and pink and his flesh and my flesh would stick together the way melted cheese sticks to soft bread. With grandpa it was more like cream cheese hanging onto toasted bread.
They seemed to know everybody and everybody seemed to know them. We’d always stay for a talk and a taste even if we weren’t planning on buying what they were selling. I’d be “downstairs” surrounded by legs: legs in pants, legs in skirts, spaghetti-legs, sausage-legs, legs in motion, slow, fast, wobbly; legs, legs, legs as far as the eye could see! A whiff of freshly baked bread would make its way through the crowded leg parade, tickle my nose, warm the inside of my nostrils, making me impatient. Then I’d get a small bribe in the form of cheese or cherries or anything that could momentarily shut me up. All I could think of was “Mmm, this would go well with that bread I’m smelling!”
When we’d eventually get to the bakery, I’d be overwhelmed by all the choices but then my dad would ask the magic question: “What’s the hottest bread you have?” and just like that, all the others ceased to exist. May the steaming hot bread warm your hands and your guts and your heart.
On our way out of the market area, we’d enter one last place: “Agricola” - the meat place. Mostly known for its chicken but our bread demanded something else: good old-fashioned pork pastrami. All of that became a ritual that withstood the passing of time. It’s like a natural map that’s engraved within us, the ones that once held the same hands and walked the same roads.
You see, my hand grew in my father’s hand (though it never outgrew it), my grandpa’s hand disappeared, my dad stopped going to the market (or anywhere else for that matter). Seems like everything’s changed but the pastrami lady is still there, the bakery keeps baking the same breads, the watermelons are always sold in the stalls in front of the market and we never stopped asking “What’s the hottest bread you have?”
Now I look at the stalls from above: I’m on top of the mountain, baby! Who thought I’d miss the leg parade at the bottom when I can finally look the peaches right in the face?!
Little boys and girls should always take trips to the market, for the market is a magical land with tiny mountains of tomatoes, beans and other types of beans.
Every stall is like a new ride, with new smells and new joys. Lavender, linden flower, peppers, melons - you name it, they probably have it!
Apart from my own personal connection with the market and all the significance I find there, there’s another very simple explanation that came to me while I was talking to a farmer/vendor about the herbs she was selling and I asked about green beans (as one does). She said something about her crop being late this summer because it’s a slightly different type. It hit me then and there! It’s all about connection! This woman plants every carrot, every parsley, every potato! She gets on her hands and knees, she tends, she cares, she reaps what she sows and then she comes to the market with soil underneath her nails and she sells. It’s a labour of love! It’s a chain of care that gets broken in supermarkets where it becomes cold and impersonal. Not to mention the fact that most of the time they taste like nothingness with a hint of perfume. Markets are real jewels and we should treasure them and have them everywhere! It’s one of the things I miss the most from back home.
Plus, think about it: there is something profoundly moving in the whole act. Planting a seed, putting in the work and the patience and watching it grow into something. Isn’t that what we all do or what we strive for? It comes in a milion shapes but it’s ultimately the same thing. We forget that and it’s such a basic human trait. At the end of the day, it’s all love.
That’s that, I’ve now fully clarified my teary reaction. If you still think I’m a weirdo, that’s fine.
All that time spent in the outdoors in times of sizzling heat is enough to drive one into a delirious state. That’s why we went back to our one and only saviour: the mall. Well, that, plus I did have a bad case of “Girl interrupted” meets “Titanic”, if you would please remember; that needed to be re-addressed. One does not simply give up.
This time, I took my sister with me, I grabbed the biggest size H&M can provide in a boobholder and I went to the dressing-room to non-metaphorically try that on for size. It looked hot but I thought a bigger size would fit me better. A bigger size would be wiser, I wouldn’t risk the dreaded strap marks and the discomfort. I convinced myself that it was not a good idea. Sure, it looked good, but was it gonna feel good in the long run? I also thought that I may not be thinking clearly because I was obviously infatuated, I couldn’t distinguish right from wrong anymore. This was a fruity cocktail of high expectations, fear and self doubt topped with a crazy straw. I had to get out of there. I convinced myself that I did the right thing, I’ve grown, I’ve become a smarter shopper. I buy wisely now, I do not get swept away by beauty, I need functionality, dammit! Somewhere, far away you may hear “bullshit” echoing calmly and rolling down the hills all the way into the city.
What better way to take your mind off a crush then by going to a sausage fest? Literally.
Also known as “Hramul Bacaului”, a festival/fair/annual fete that we use as an excuse to stuff our faces with fried, grilled or sweet stuff in the name of Petru (aka Peter) and Pavel (aka...Pavel?). Yes, the apostles, they got this gig years ago and they’ve been our town’s patrons for as long as I can remember. Every summer we throw a party in their name, eat, get shit-faced and listen to traditional music.
We went there in the daytime, before the madness begins and everybody and their mother joins the fun. We went like ladies, ate like pigs. Look for yourself:
We washed that with a cheap beer, took some old-fashioned digestive pills to help with all the grease and the low quality meat. Then, we had this beauty:
Known as chimney cake to the english speaking world, this is a thing of joy.
“Kürtőskalács (Hungarian pronunciation: [kyrtøːʃkɒlaːtʃ]), sometimes transliterated kurtosh kalach) is a spit cake specific to Hungarian-speaking regions in Romania.” Thank you Wikipedia for your dry but useful input. Now let’s talk about what really matters. “What is it made of?” the choir of drooling children asks.
Well, children, it’s made of a sweet, yeast dough that’s left to raise. Then it’s rolled and cut into one big circular strip that is then wrapped around a cone-shaped baking spit. They rock&roll that in granulated sugar and then roast it over charcoal. I hear some defy all the rules of common sense and baste it with melted butter while it’s spinning round and round over the hot ashes! Now, those are the people I’d like to hang out with, because they know how to party!
After it’s achieved that coveted golden brown color and the sugar caramelized into a glossy, crispy crust, chopped walnuts rain all over it until it can bear no more! They also do cinnamon, coconut or plain, but for this gal walnuts hit the spot. You walk and eat, eat and walk and wish you could have access to this 24/7. Everyday would be a feast. As reality crudely wakes me up from my cake fantasy, I realize I’m craving these badly. I have to stop talking about them right now or I’ll die in a pool of my own drool. Not a pretty way to go.
Next on my list of “small town fair” gems are the roasted sunflower and pumpkin seeds. Normally, you see these in stores, packed up and everything. Back when I was a kid, my grandma used to buy them from the market and roast them herself or we’d encounter such “establishments” that catered to our needs:
When I stumbled upon this, I almost lost my marbles ! This is my version of “like a kid in a candy store”! If you’re one of those people who are thinking about hygiene and other such irrelevant things, I can’t help you. This act is clearly performed and enjoyed by romantics only. To have those unknown chubby hands pour me some home-roasted seeds was a thing of joy. I’m a sucker for the simple things, can’t blame a girl for that. You can judge, but you can’t blame!
The one thing that tops this experience is eating the seeds directly from the majestic sunflower. Growing up, I was lucky enough to have sunflowers in my garden, so I’d get them right from the source at times. I ate a lot of unwashed carrots, raw grapes, green prunes and I must admit I ate cabbage with my face more than one time. If you can motorboat something, why wouldn’t you?
Seeds in our pockets, sausage in our bellies and kurtos kalac in our mouths we strolled down Bacau’s city centre and it was quite pleasurable.
The second day I was starting to suffer the consequences of my sausage party actions. Irritable bowel syndrome is like a monster that lays nice and latent in a cave until a bunch of stupid peasants with torches wake the beast and then all hell breaks loose. To top this off, this was shopping day for grandma, with grandma. Another latent monster that wakes up when poked.
Where do I begin, to tell the story of how great a love can be? I know, I’ll begin with the weather. Surprise: it was still as hot as Satan’s dorm-room, so we decided to get an early start, you know, to avoid the “Burnt by the sun” hours. This leads us to our next point. Time of the day: morning. State of mind: relatively grumpy, because it was relatively morning. State of bowels: irritated. Mission: get grandma some presentable, “classy lady” type summer clothes that lack the crazy prints that she’s used to hypnotize us for the last decade. Grandma state of mind: stubborn. Aunt’s state of mind: persistent. Sounds like a recipe for insanity-topped nachos. Mmmm… nachos.
In the course of 15 long minutes grandma has managed to dismiss anything my aunt suggested. I gave it a try, one almost made it but then it got thrown out of the competition at the last moment. We went to the next store that I’ll later remember as the “Who knew I could lose my patience so fast?” store. Other 4 or 5 other stores followed. Nothing could please the woman! It was either too short, too tight, only came in “dead people colours”, too simple, too revealing, too expensive! You name it, she probably used it as an excuse! It was like the geriatric version of Goldilocks and the 3 freakin’ bears!
After a while, (a half an hour or years) we admitted defeat and we let grams lead us to her usual place of business: “Piata Mare” aka The Big Market aka the bazaar. Here, the sun was loose and we had no place to hide! Suddenly “patience” seemed to be the hardest word. You might hope that changing the background of the story may change the course of the story or the main character’s behaviour. It did not. It changed mine, though. Add sun to injury and I’m done. I went looking for a pharmacy ‘cause I needed some outside help. Sometimes inner-power means shit when you’ve had too much cheese and questionable meat. Fortunately, I found the drugstore fairy and she hooked me up! Relaaaax, I had a prescription and everything, no funny business. Now that I had my bag full of goodies, all I had to do was eat, take the pills and repeat until the evil spirits are banished.
I return to the “shopping” area only to find my grandma basically in the same place having the same dilemma she had before I left. It’s like time stood still and I don’t mean that in a good way! We left empty-handed, grandma couldn’t decide. She said “never mind, I’ll come back another day”. That being said, we headed to the fruits and veggies part of the market where I got to be the weird one that stares at the produce and lingers. Then I bought all the honey I could carry and all the cherries I hoped to be able to eat without consequences. The light at the end of my tunnel was this pastry/bakery shop that I’ve always loved. I couldn’t wait to eat some of their stuff and risk some of those dreaded repercussions. Sometimes, a girl just has to give into temptation. After all, she’s leaving town soon and life’s for impulsive decisions and either immediate or long term regrets. I was sweating from the sun and drooling in anticipation! I was reaching the finish line - so close I could smell the cheese pies! - when my grandma stops and says “Maybe I should’ve gotten that skirt, you know, the white and black one. I mean, I do need a skirt…” My heart fell into my pelvis, freaked out and ran back up again! I felt dizzy and dangerous. I definitely shouldn’t be around when complex decisions are being made very slowly and painfully. No, I should be locked up in a place that’s out of the sun, filled with food to distract me and calm my murderous instincts. In this rare moment of lucidity I suggested they go, do what they had to do, I’ll be in the bakery, stuffing my face with pies and pills, my two best friends. I made such a good case for P&P, that they decided to join me for a quick bite and then go back with some new-found joie de vivre aka belly full of hot pockets.
Imma make this long story short and simple: I ate every kind of cheese pies/pillows/hot pockets they had. First the salty one known as The Merdenea.
Second, the sweet cheese pie with the yeasty soft dough, the star, the one and only : Poale-n brau. Branzoiace. If I had to translate it to English - and it appears I have to - I’d call it The Big Cheese, because it is!
Mot à mot it means “hem in waist”. If you would lift the very bottom part of your skirt (long skirt) to your waist line you would get something that resembles the shape of these pies. I like to imagine that country girls carried the pies in the fold of their skirt delivering them hot from the oven to the ones working the field. That way, the pies would stay nice and warm, the women’s thighs wouldn’t get burned and it would totally create a pie-ception. They wouldn’t think of that, though. They’d think the men must be fed. In my mind that sounds at least slightly heroic. Plus, I think it could be kind of hot.
I thought I was done but then they got some brand new beauties straight outta the oven. “Grab us while we’re hot” I heard them whisper, the dusty sugar on their surface jumping off in slow motion. They looked like puffed up pillows of joy and I cannot deny myself joy.
Flaky layered perfection with a sweet cheese core. Mamma, may I?! But I didn’t wait for permission, I followed my nose on this one. That was one cheesy day to remember!
A couple of days passed, my aunt flew back to Italy, my sister went to the seaside and basically “then they were three”. We went back to my grandma’s house, ate some leftovers and watched some hip turkish soap-opera that all moms and grandmas watch. Then one of us fell asleep and ruined the crazy party, so we called it a day.
Next day: what could a mother and daughter do on a “mother-daughter day”? Well, I’ll tell ya’! We ate some ice cream, visited some other grandmas, had some fried chicken and oh yeah! we bought some bras.
Oooh, but I did. We somehow ended up in the H&M because sale season is evil and we are weak of spirit. Once in there, I heard The Call Of The Bra even stronger. Like Frodo, I tried my best to resist it but it was much too powerful. There it was, the last one in my size. I realized in that moment that I’ve never tried so hard to buy something in my life. It feels like I went on dates with this bra, auditioning it for marriage or something. It was clear by this point that floods and logic will not keep us apart. It was meant to be. I tried it on and I finally gave in. It was mine. I can’t explain why it felt right now, and wrong before. Maybe it was just my ever-doubting nature that prevented me from seeing the truth or maybe sometimes it needs to feel wrong for us to recognize when it does feel right.
If it would be socially acceptable, I would wear this bra as a top or at least with a lot of opened buttons so that it can see the world. Unfortunately, I would be considered an attention-seeking slut. The world is simply not ready for a fairly bosomy girl and her bra to walk freely down the street. I’d like to say that it’s fine and I’ll wait patiently, but sadly, life has an expiration date and gravity is a bitch.
The day before the last day we ate at my grandma’s place. I had spoken to her on the phone and told her not worry about dessert because I wanted to get back to that pastry place and get me some goodies. She verbally nodded and we had ourselves a deal.
Later, we found ourselves waiting for her in front of the building ‘cause she hadn’t come home yet and we had no key. Silly grandma got distracted while running errands and forgot that time flies even if you’re not having impressive amounts of fun.
I can’t for the life of me remember what we had for dinner that time! I think we just had ciorba and we agreed that I would buy merdenele (the salty cheese pies) from the same place.
I do remember exactly what we had for dessert, though. Its name: Trigon cu nuca aka Walnut Triangle. Filo pastry, buttered and layered, generously filled with a mystery walnut mixture and then folded in a triangle shape. I’ve never been a fan of geometry but if they would’ve used tastier triangles, I bet I’d be a groupie.
When the time came to get these babies out of the bag, grandma inquired what what is that I got from “Gio” (the name of the bakery). I told, I showed, she laughed, I was intrigued. She gets out of the room and comes back with a bag of her own. She says “Look inside!” half guilty, half mischievous. It was as if I was looking in the same bag, because somehow she managed to replicate this! It was a very “Jesus turn water into wine” moment for me. “How did you do this?” I asked, bewildered. She then proceeds to tell me that she thought I might not make it there and she was in the city so she bought some herself. “I didn’t know what you wanted, but I picked these up and hoped for the best.” Either grandma is a mind reader or the Universe sometime does like me and rewards me with double the amount of walnut pastry treats. Well played, Universe, well played. I accept your offerings and stuff my face with them. Cheers!
On my last day, I packed my bag, then I went to the market and did something I’ve never done before. I bought green beans, cherries and sour cherries, apricots, urda, cas (romanian cheeses), lovage, tarragon.
I put them all in my luggage and hoped for the best. I didn’t have enough. Not enough time, not enough cherries and peaches and watermelons, not enough mom time and sister time, not enough friends fun, not enough and yet too much. It was time to go back to my home, my cat, my bed, my other struggles. The things I could cram in my luggage, I did. The others I’ll have to take with me in another way, but boy, how I wish they made luggages for that too.
As I was getting on the plane, the sun was setting. How poetic, how meaningful, how wonderfully freakin’ sad. Goodbye it is.
Landed in Dublin, the nippy air woke me up and brought me back to my senses (whatever that means). I was now really excited, wanted to get home as fast as I could!
The same Universe that made Walnut Triangle happen also made this happen(?)I Got back home after almost an hour cab ride because my driver was so old that he literally forgot where I was going, got confused twice. My phone was acting up, so I couldn’t call anyone and no one could call me and I couldn’t freaking access a map to guide the mole man in these dark,confusing times we were going through! We eventually made it and I guess that’s what really matters. I hope he made it too. As I closed the door and waved goodbye I got to thinking...What if he doesn’t remember where he’s supposed to go next? I’m not entirely sure he knew his own address,poor sweet ol’ muffin of a man! But hey, if he made it to a place he didn’t know, I trust his nose led him back to his molehill.
Me and my bra were doing great! We became inseparable, I couldn’t imagine a time when I thought we wouldn’t be a great fit. Now I had only one regret and that regret was that I only had one bra. See what I did there? With the “only” and the “one” and the “regret”? No? Let’s move on. Why didn’t I buy another one? I need a spare one! Wear and tear is real, people and it affects the lives of bras everywhere!
It turns out my obsession was not yet over, the fire of lunacy burns wild inside this one! What I did was hope with all my boobs and soul that they would have the same collection in Dublin, on stock, my size! After a couple of failed attempts at H&Ms that did not have a lenjerie departament (wtf?) I went to the H&M location that had the most floors, I climbed aaaaall the stairs and voila! There, closer to the skies I found them. Again! What’s that? Half price?!
It’s a regular day miracle! What happened next is most expected. Why buy one backup when you can buy two? If anyone is struggling to do the bra-math, that’s a total of 3. I have 3 bras and no regrets.
Lately I’ve really been craving some Romanian food, which doesn’t happen very often. I am overwhelmed by the desire to make my own zacusca and many other traditional gems. The mother land is caaalling and I must respond ! That train of thought got me to this episode because this one is mostly about the wonder of food and markets and seasonal love! It’s also about bras and silliness, so if you’re my kind of person this should excite you too! Boy, I am loose on the exclamation points today!
Listen, if The Red Bra Odyssey would only be about bras it would still make a decent story. But it’s about what the red bra represents; what I learned from the bra about myself. How I choose, why I choose what I choose and what does it all mean?! It’s all about growth and self-love. It’s about perception and how tricky it can be. It’s about the Universe and its mischievous comedic timing. Or maybe this is all a devious ploy to get you hooked. Who knows? You will, at the very end. In order to end something we must first begin. Here it goes, chronologically:
Bucharest, the second week. Yes, I am perfectly aware I talked about that week here, I still have most of my memory marbles, don’t worry. What I did not share is the classic girl-bra love story. It was love at first sight really, all it took was a glance and then a red, fiery spark lit up in my heart. There it was, this ruby red, lacey, balconette beauty in all her shapeliness. I tried to stay away but I couldn’t. Like a mermaid song it called out to me and bewitched I followed. I looked, I touched, I checked the price. “No, I’m not supposed to! I don’t have money to spend on bras that I like but don’t need! I have other bras! Yes, think of all the other bras waiting for you at home. You can’t do this to them, it’s the ultimate betrayal. Imagine the looks on their cups when they see you bringing home an intruder, a fierce, hot “other” that they won’t be able to compete with! It will destroy them and nothing will ever be the same again!”
So, I listened… to one of the craziest voices in my head so far, and I walked away knowing all the while that I will be haunted by her. Because ladies, bras like that are not easy to forget.
A couple of meals, Uber rides and sleepless nights later, fate pulled a sneaky on me and I ended up in another H&M facing the red menace once again. This time, I caved. I grabbed one and rushed to try it on. The line was so long I thought I had gained a “multiply” ability… My friend looked at me with that disapproving look that states the obvious. You know, that “you must be shitting me” look. How desperate are you? I looked at the bra, I looked at the line. Then I turned to my friend. Then back to the bra. Then a spiteful long gaze to the bloody long line. God dammit! Now I almost understand communism! I rolled my eyes, discarded the bra, got over the heartache and walked out of there. Sometimes, that’s all you can do.
The same day I got back to Bacau my aunt landed from Italy. Since that moment, it appears that what we mostly did was shop and eat then die of heat, resurrect, eat some more aaaand repeat.
I’ll start by sharing with you some of my personal favorites from back home. One of them is this lil’ piece of chocolatey ass right here:
Two regular biscuits dressed in chocolate united by marshmallow gooeyness. If that’s not the definition of love, I don’t know what is! I used to get boxes of this stuff when I was a kid! My drunk uncle used to send them from Turkey, one of the few really good things he ever did! Hey, I can’t speak for the other members of my family, but it was definitely easier for me to forgive and forget. You know, on account of being covered in biscuit-marshmallow treats. So, I’m a mallow whore! Well, I guess it’s never too late to learn something new about yourself.
Next on the list is something I know you’re gonna severely judge me for but I choose to put it out there anyway because I’m stayin’ true to sins, bitches!
Yup, you guessed it right. It’s the the infamous “Pizza de la Inter” which is basically the pizza from a place called Intermeridian. We abbreviate because it’s cool and we’re lazy. I’ve talked about this creature before. It’s probably the worst pizza out there if I were to be objective, but I’m not. I’m a nostalgique being that modifies reality in order to re-live moments that were happy in the past (when young, foolish and carefree).
This is the cheapest and the oldest pizza in town and a lot of us used to go there hence the memories. It has a bready soft dough, the most ordinary ketchup sauce(no real tomatoes were harmed in the process), the cheapest salami on the market and a basic bitch type of cheese. I know, it sounds heavenly and I’m the best sales girl for the job! Nevertheless, every time I’m home I crave, eat and enjoy it. It’s one of the world’s greatest mysteries.
Something else I like to stuff my face with is KFC. Because the KFC in Dublin sucks ass. Not only do they completely lack the precious garlic sauce but the chicken is simply bad and not at all trustworthy.
Now let’s get back to the turks! And by that I mean the Turkish Company that makes the best chocolate filled biscuits out there, the marshmallow treat of my childhood aaand a puff pastry concoction resembling mille-feuille filled with chocolate love! I am of course talking about Ulker. Is it weird that I go to Romania to binge on Turkish treats? Might be but it’s a sweet sweet deal! Look at this baby:
And it really tastes better that it looks, the turks know where it’s at!
One of the greatest loves of my life is salata de vinete aka aubergine spread. It all begins with a lovely black and soft-to-the-touch aubergine. You roast that black baby on a hot grill, open fire or if you have to, in the oven. You twist and turn it until its skin is all burned and nasty lookin’. Don’t you worry, the nastier the outside the sweeter the inside. After they’ve been peeled and spruced you’re gonna let them weep some aubergine tears for their fallen compadres. Then, when they’re all cried out start mincing. You mince and you mince and you mince until creamy and spreadable. Move to a bowl and bring Captain Sunflower Oil into action. Gulp by gulp you’re gonna incorporate and stir and work that in there with sturdy love. You’re done when it’s light in colour, shiny and full of herself. Season with salt and pepper. Chop onion, rub with salt and squeeze. Add it to your bowl of voluptuousness and mix well. You may add mayo. Eat on crusty bread with fresh, summer tomatoes. This is a midsummer’s night dream. Suck it, Shakespeare!
Now, what you see in the back there are merely cheese balls though they do look like an army of well organized golden puffs. See what you wanna see. I’m talking gooey cheese interior with a crispy outside. Need I say more? No, I needn’t.
Last but that least, I give you The Almighty Papanas:
This is basically a giant cheese donut topped with a small cheese donut. Donutception! Cheese on the inside, sour cream and jam of choice on the outside. It’s fluffy, it’s moist, it’s smothered in sweet and sour love that’s hastily dripping everywhere. Borderline cheeky, is what it is!
Time for some of Grandma’s Treats. First, Compot De Visine aka sour cherry compote.
This, my darlings, is the nectar of the gods. Homemade and cold to save your ass in those hot summer days that I’ve been complaining about. This was a tradition ever since I can remember and good traditions stick with you for a reason.
Second, my grandma’s scrambled eggs with loads of onion and dill. I have never had better eggs. Ever. I am of course subjective. Food experiences always are, read A Cook’s Tour and listen to Anthony Bourdain, the man speaks the truth.
When I got back to Dublin, I craved this and I tried to recreate it. It was good, but not as good. It was too “thought out”. The beauty of these eggs is that my grandma doesn’t know that she knows what she’s doing. You know what I mean? It’s a bit of a head scratcher but bear with me. She’s not exceedingly careful to avoid overcooking it or undercooking it or stirring too much or not enough. She does this organically, the only way she knows how and it comes out perfect every time. Me, I over think (as I do in life) and I ruin the spirit of these scrambled eggs. It’s too deliberate, so it just won’t be the same. It can’t be, because I am trying to replicate something that she does organically. I just have to learn to live with it.
Next, we have the humble summer ciorba. The summer version of a ciorba replaces the meat with green stuff. It’s light, nourishing and this one has a hard boiled egg in it! Countryside style, babeh!
After quite a few afternoons spent eating in our bras and undies while sweating away, we decided to search for refuge in one of those man built places that worship the devil called the mall. Oh, boy! Air conditioning AND Kentucky Fried Chicken? What more can a girl with really low expectations ask for?!
After a long day of mostly shopping for other people - because in truth I had no “need” to shop, just a burning desire. My desire was a red-coloured, lacey boob-holder. So, finally, at the end of it all, we headed on over to H&M. After browsing for quite a while, I decided it was high time to try that bad boy. As every good girl that’s about to do something slightly wicked, I had to have my mom with me. I get in, try on a pair of jeans and a top in the idea that I’m saving the best for last. As I finally start putting on the bra an alarm goes off and an agitated voice starts announcing that there is an emergency situation and that the store is closing. I’m thinking “Ok… weird but you know, lemme put this on properly for a second, then take it off, put clothes on and THEN get out”. The voice (as if knowing what my view on the situation was) got back on the horse, more annoyed and with an even more obvious sense of urgency in her nasally voice. I was standing there in my undies, boobs hanging about, desperately trying to either get that bra on or off. You might be thinking “how hard is it to get a bra on? Or off for that matter?”. Hey, no boobs, no opinion! And for those of you with boobs and opinions that still have no sympathy for the naked damsel in distress, I’ll say this: This was no ordinary bra. It had a thicker band, so 5 instead of 3 hooks and eyes to match! Let’s not forget the addition of the stupid security lump! Who designed those bitchy, poke-you-in-the-ribs things anyway? “Oh, I know! Let’s make them in the shape of the world’s smallest boob! That’s cold and perky!” It even has a nipple! Perverts! So there I was, in my undies, with my 3 boobs, some hanging, some poking me viciosly, trapped in a bra!
Cause that’s just exactly what I needed, an extra hump to deal with while a panicked woman screams at me to get out on the soundtrack of an on and off alarm!
My mum kept pulling the curtain open to ask if I needed help, essentially letting the world see my boobs, ass, soft but charming stomach and of course, the last smidgen of my self respect. All in all, a very proud moment for me. Don’t you worry there honey-child, I’ve had worse.
After I’ve managed to put clothes on, we finally did what the bloody voice kept telling us to do: we got out. Ok, where’s the fire? What’s causing this frenzy?
Apparently, while we were obliviously shopping, the skies turned black and the Gods got angry so they sent us that crazy water from the sky that we call rain. They did a very good job, they sent a lot of it in a very short time. Good job, guys! Now the villagers can panic and run around like headless chickens. Everybody got their mops and their buckets out because the mall was kinda’ flooding. We, the villagers that were not employed by the mall, were banned from the mall and condemned to spend eternity outside the mall, desperately hailing for cabs in the pouring rain or waiting for loved ones with vehicles on wheels to come pick us up. We were fortunate enough to be in the second category. My sister and her boyfriend were bravely surfing the waters, by car, to come get us. The time spent under the tarp mall thingie was like being in a bucket of sardines. Too many stranger sardines all huddled up together against their will, stinky, bothered and confused. Some sardines had to smoke, of course. So, all of us ended up smoking. You know, cause we just insisted on breathing and that was the only air available. It felt like being at the circus and at the pound at the same time. You would see cars pulling over and families wagging their tails, happy that they’ve been chosen and they get to prance out of there and have a home again. The rest of us would be sad but hopeful that the next car that pulls over will be our car and we’ll be free at last!
Then the circus came to the mall with classic numbers that we all know and love. The first one was a comedic bit also known as ”How to troll your child in the rain”. This car started to pull over and a mother and her daughter ventured into the rain, eager to get inside the car. Got there, the car moved a little further. They moved forward too. But then, out of the blue, the car moved back again. And then forward again and then back a again. This guy was going for the full-blown-anal parking while his wife and daughter were getting soaking wet. The kid was so frustrated she started crying and I could see murder in the mom’s eyes. I don’t blame her. I would’ve drowned the bastard. See? Classic comedy.
By the time our ride got there the rain had stopped, so we were far less ridiculous than all the other villagers. Typical small town smugness. Worry not, we joined the masses in suffering once we got the boat on the road. Yeah, I know what I said. It was something like this:
It’s a miracle no water got in the car. I wonder if that’s how Noah felt when his ark made it out alright. It wasn’t all that easy. After an hour of going around in circles, we had to stop somewhere cause you know, good luck is bound to run out. The only place we found was a spot that was… how do I say this? Uhm, not devoid of water. The ladies got out in the middle of the street, where no puddles reign, so we managed to stay dry. The driver, unfortunately had to get down and dirty. After contemplating our options, we decided to leave the car there, go eat someplace until the situation calms the fuck down and we can safely return home. Of course leaving the car there was risky. Trees might fall on it (cause, yeah, that happened to some cars), the water could claim it or, at the very least, glue sniffers might steal the license plate for their crazy license plate collection. Let’s just say a plethora of things could go wrong - and let’s say it in that fancy way, cause I’ve always wanted to used that word.
We promised tribute to the Gods of rain and left. We found shelter in an Italian-Chinese restaurant. No, no you didn’t read it wrong though that doesn’t make it right, now does it? - but hey, it was close to the car, it was nice looking and we had low expectations. We ordered from both the Italian menu and the Chinese one and to our surprise, they were actually decent! Well smack my ass and call me Melman! (phrase used to express disbelief, you may replace the name to suit your needs)
After two hours we left the Italian-Chinese hybrid restaurant and we sheepishly headed towards the car. The town was in disarray, stray dogs were roaming the streets (even more than usual), the water uprooted some things, brought along some junk that no one asked for, killed some mice/rats and just left them there, etc. Fortunately, the car was safe and sound and so were we.