READ.BUY.MAKE – #07/16

 

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TO READ

Two pieces written by moi: Urgency is cheap  and Finding clarity on a coastal hike

10 words for emotions 

I hope to never empty out my bookshelves, but thought Alana Massey had an interesting perspective

I love Anne T Donahue’s pieces, especially when she nails it like with this one – saying no to friends with money

Feeling lonely? Here is some excellent advice

Some really great writing going on at Extra Crispy this month especially liked these three:

Respect the muffin!

Breakfasts with men I’ve known 

Soup is the breakfast of kings

Here’s some tips on taking yourself out to dinner and put an end to the fear of being out alone

To date a reader

Personally I’ve always disliked the idea of calling myself or people a brand. But I thought this was refreshing I don’t want a huge personal brand 

Going runnin’? Get a better sports bra, your boobies will thank you.

 

TO BUY

POTPLANT
My happy little pot of Calandiva

I recently became a mum to a healthy, cheery pot plant and it’s made me realise two things – 1. I am now a person who tends to pot plants and it feels SO adult-y for some reason and 2. Pot plants are lovely to have around. Lovely because they’re little bursts of colour, little pops of a living things that make spaces look and feel better to be in, Nature being good for us and all that. If you love flowers but your budget doesn’t allow you to dole out money every week for a new bunch (they are quite costly) I highly recommend a brightly coloured pot plant, it’s cheaper and will last longer. And you will love it to bits. Here’s a link to decorating ideas with pot plants for some inspiration.

 

TO MAKE

affogato
jamieoliver.com

The humble affogato, a classic Italian dessert. I didn’t follow a recipe when I started making mine, because it’s so simple, it’s basically ice cream (traditionally vanilla) drowned in coffee or espresso. I personally didn’t enjoy it with espresso or really strong coffee, I suggest just making a regular (tea cup size) cup of black coffee and then pouring it into a large glass that’s filled with a few scoops of ice cream. It melts into a delicious coffee flavoured ice cream drink that is heaven.  Here’s a link to a video if you’d like to make it fancier, enjoy!

An unwanted visitor

 

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It is midnight when there is a knock at the door. I am about to turn off my lamp and get into bed but slip on my spectacles instead and feeling both alarmed and curious, I go to answer. He greets me with a silvery smile, he is wearing a white tuxedo and carrying a frayed black satchel.

You, I say flatly, my feelings congealing into annoyance. His visits mean nothing but disruption.

I was passing through, he says, thought I’d stop by and say hello.

Oh, hello. Now if you don’t mind… I attempt to close the door but he skips over the threshold, artfully quick as always and proceeds to make himself comfortable in my home. He never cares if it is late or even if the lights are out. He will slither in regardless, he will linger, walk into each room and gaze upon my things while asking for refreshments. Insomnia is tiresome, a menace. A pest in formal attire! This time he walks directly to my bedroom and puts his bag down on my writing table. He picks up my cup of warm tea and takes a sip while I watch him, wary of his every move. He sits on my cherry leather armchair and puts his feet up on my table. He lights a cigarette.

It’s terribly late, I say, pointing to the large clock on the wall.

Is it? He replies, blowing out ropes of grey air. It feels like the night is just beginning for some.

Well it was just ending for me. I have work tomorrow, you know.

A sliver of panic has crept in my voice which he senses immediately and suddenly jumps out the chair and paces the carpeted floor.

Then it’s a good thing I arrived when I did. He says his smokey eyes glowing. So lets get right down to it.
To what? I ask
To thinking, he says.
But I don’t want to think.
Well I am not surprised, you never do think about anything interesting and I would know, he says stopping mid-pace to look at me, I visit you more than any other.
And that’s precisely why I can’t, I am too tired from your bothersome visits!
He continues to pace, unperturbed.

Do you ever wonder, he spins around to face me, whether the stars are hot or cold? Or both, cold at first getting warmer toward morning or vice versa. Anything is possible I suppose, but I like to think of them as diamond drops of ice and I imagine my arms were long enough to reach up and pluck them from the sky whenever I wished, to add to a drink, and let them melt in the liquid and then drink them away. Could there be anything more splendid than to taste a star?
As a matter of fact, I believe resting is quite splendid…

He coughs, interrupting me.

I was at a dinner party this evening, he says.
Ah, that would account for your outfit, but why a tuxedo?
It’s all I have for these things.
Things?
Occasions. He has resumed his seat on the chair. I sit across him on my bed.
So you go to dinner parties? He nods. They hire me.
Who does?
The hosts. Guests falling asleep over dinner is quiet unsightly and you wouldn’t believe how often it occurs.
I would. I say. And that’s why I avoid them, as a rule.

Drowsiness begins to tug at my eyelids, I yawn, blurring the room briefly.
He takes out another cigarette which I know means more talking and thinking to come. I climb into bed and lay supinely, my eyes slowly losing the tug of war with sleep.

Have you ever thought about creating a colour?
Never, we have all the colours we need.
We can never have too many. If I were to invent one, I’d call it prairie. Such a pleasant word, isn’t it?
I don’t reply this time, I am falling further and further into the glorious void of sleep.

He continues to ramble about colours, then shapes then he is back to stars, I hear the names Pavo and Musca somewhere far away. I dozed off for what felt like forever, falling and falling until I was at the cusp of plunging into the deepest, richest, most satisfying sleep of my life and just then at that beautiful, luscious moment, I am jarred awake by a loud snap at my ear and he is standing next to me, his worn bag in his hand.

I’d better be going. He says, his smile has weakened, his silver eyes paling.
Goodbye. I reply.

I turn over and hurry to get back to the sleep that is waiting for me.
Oh I wouldn’t get too comfortable if I were you, you’ll have to be up in half an hour.

My eyes fly open in horror just in time to see him walk out the front door, whistling.

Marion.

 

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The overwhelming need to see Marion came on quite unexpectedly this evening. It was after another bleak end to the string of meaningless relationships I was so fond of getting entangled in, when a wistful longing began to permeate through me for the familiar elliptical shape of her face and wide, whimsical smile. She had been the only one to ever discover the real me by uncovering the murky layers of myself that I had spent a lifetime carefully burying away and exposed the ghosts I allowed to live freely on the land of my past. There were times, plenty of times, when she repulsed me by the tactless way she shoved the cold mirror of reality before me, forcing me with her sharp, cutting words to admit the truths I had spent years running away from.

And yet somehow this evening she was the only one I wanted to be with, the only one who would suffice. I realized now with meaningful clarity that she had been the only security I had ever really known.

But my darling Marion had moved on a long time ago. Her mind had become heavy with the countless troubling secrets I kept that she no longer wanted to be burdened with and I could not blame her. I was enmeshed in a tattered gauze of insecurities born in the violet years of my childhood and the many grudges I held against my estranged, uncaring parents, that I seemed to carry with me wherever I went never having figured out how to dissolve of them never having cared enough to try.

‘’You know, you’re exactly like your father.’’ Those words that I hated would syphon out her red mouth with ease and disdain during the lengthy fights that began to take over our evenings.

‘’I am nothing like my father.’’ My flimsy denial which prompted the frequent disappearances I started imposing on her, gravely aware that it was driving her to some dark portal of mania but this petulant manipulation was the only way I could make sure to keep hold of her, to control her. I knew about her fear of abandonment and I used her weakness, selfishly, to my full advantage. One day upon returning from one of my strategic sabbaticals, I was greeted with an abrupt note in her disheveled handwriting informing me that our affair was over and not to bother looking for her.  But I did. For two weeks I traipsed by her apartment during the day and lingered in the alley at night, sometimes I would sit across the street on the wooden bench shaded by the sleepy branches of a weeping tree, hoping to catch some glimpse of her returning home or letting a friend in but she never appeared. Eventually I was told by her neighbour, who had probably grown sick of seeing me idle by every day staring up at her apartment, that she had gone away to Zurich to stay with a cousin I had never heard of. Effectively beaten, I put all thought of her out my mind and forced myself to move on.

But there was something about the amorously dark sky on this night that compelled me to find her again and so I left my apartment unsure, completely unsure but stupidly hopeful that she had returned to her old address. The beginning of a thunderstorm behind me and the somnolent amber street ahead, my legs automated passed the spicy fragrant smoke of the Indian takeaway and the flashing neon green pharmacy. I felt like I was on some type of disorganized high and fished out a cigarette from my trouser pocket to burningly accompany me all the way to Chez Marion.

As if a cliché, I leaned against the cobalt lamppost under the dim teardrop light and stared up at her second floor windows which were yellow with life and as I mused on my next move a tall handsome man appeared behind one of the windows carrying a pudgy golden baby whom I knew at once belonged to Marion – it had absorbed all her beautiful golden looks. In the three years since I received that crisp goodbye note, clumsily limping from one derelict affair to the next, she had been kindling a cosy little family, quietly and arrogantly just four streets away from me.

As I stood there brewing in my own rapacious jealousy, she goldenly appeared as if to confirm everything and gently kissed the baby on its bald head. She moved to close the curtain and when her dark eyes reached mine, the fiery look of contempt that blazed across her face instantly set fire to my tumbleweed of feelings in a brilliant arsenic haze and throwing away the crumpled corpse of my cigarette I walked off into the darkness, my longing for her now more hopeless than ever.

 

All creative content on this blog by Fadila Henry is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

 

The sea

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I stood at the sea shore, the snow white waves tumbling and unfurling at my feet, the sky was red the sun was burning and my skin prickled from the heat and the glare. Ever since I was young, the beach was the place I visited to find myself again, it was where I heard my voice the loudest. Now, whenever life’s grip on me grows tighter and I feel trapped behind the barbed fencing of adulthood and responsibility, I return to the sea more frequently than before. I run toward the spacious salty ocean, and plunge my feet in the wet, gooey sand until it melts into the beige coolness.

The ocean has always been the palliative salve for my soul. I could stare for hours at the indefatigable curling of the waves, big and small, heaving and breathing their way to greet me at the shore.

Some days they are large, scary and austere. The blue fading into grey from its shroud of white froth, billowing like a cape. The force of these waves often knocks me down then pulls me into the sea with it as it recedes. The liquid and foam is far more powerful than me and I feel the terrifying feeling of a momentary loss of control. The sea has gripped me in an unwanted embrace and I cannot escape.

On friendlier days, the smaller waves dance and shimmer their way toward me, harbingers of the low tide they circle and cajole me into their dazzling deep blue depths where the sun shines torrents of yellow on their lilting vastness. The sea has gripped me in a cheerful hug and I don’t ever want to escape.

And then it happens as it always does and slowly, every troubling thought and fear wafts out of me through every pore. They twirl up into the air like ghostly curlicues of smoke and I see the many penumbras of my worries drift up to the sky, quivering in the breeze, when a lone pale bird grabs hold of its gossamer thread and carries it even farther away until they have all disappeared behind the clouds and I am left standing on the quiet shore, just me and the water and the feeling of serenity.

All creative content on this blog by Fadila Henry is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

READ.BUY.MAKE – #06/16

 

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TO READ

”Be young and beautiful by listening to little, young you.” A lovely piece on turning 30.  Bookmark and read it every day.

As a lettuce foe I totally agree with number six in the best cooking advice

When being polite could harm you. I think every single woman can relate to this one. It’s the kind of decision/fear men never have to stress over.

Why do people settle in their twenties?

Another beautiful, honest essay on the perpetual solitude of the writer

No sound, no fury. A marriage without fighting

Stop comparing your creative life and ask yourself these three questions instead

For the coffee addicts like myself, this is a really interesting read. Adrenal fatigue caused by the effects of excessive stimulants.

Friends grow apart an inevitable part of getting older.

A much talked about essay on the unhealthy truth behind wellness and clean eating

Living alone is a luxury

Perceive a more beautiful, kinder world for yourself. Perception is everything

Breaking up with a therapist is tricky 

Continue reading “READ.BUY.MAKE – #06/16”

The sky. A vignette.

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The sky is an ever-changing spectacle of brilliance and colour. While the inhabitants of the world beneath are engrossed in whatever mundane daily activity they partake of, typing away at computers or ordering another coffee in a café somewhere, oblivious to the dramatic and imperceptible changes taking place in the vast and wide sky but secure in the knowledge that the lofty ceiling of the world is there, always and always there. The sky has many moods, take for instance the exaggerated clouds the colour of noxious smoke, bulbous with rain, floating above me right now, looming ominously and angrily, warning of a thunderstorm about to come my way. Or what about the cloudless sky of yesterday? Such a cheerful sky! Youthful in its clarity, free of the all the whispery white whiskers, not a single strand to be seen for miles. What a calming sky that was, tranquil, the sky that made me want to lay outside atop a blanket and stare into its azure abyss for hours while the honeyed sun warms my skin with a smile.

The iridescent canopy of the world such untouchable endlessness.

 The sunset sky is perhaps the most popular sky for its many masterful strokes of beauty usually on full display at the brink of twilight. Suffused with the blushing clouds of pink or muted apricot or a daring vein of violet. I’ve seen the sun on occasion burn so brightly during a sunset illuminating the entire sky above me in pure gold, a radiant burning farewell! Continue reading “The sky. A vignette.”

There’s nothing wrong with being shown our flaws

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One of the great things I found about spending a lot of time on my own is that it has made me extremely introspective. Most of the time I love my own company, I love to ruminate in peace and go over things, fit the puzzle pieces of everything into place, it’s sort of like getting my internal admin sorted out. Filing away memories, noting interesting people I’ve met, conversations that made me laugh and things and moments, throwing away the negative feelings and planning my next few days. It’s highlighted my strengths for sure but being alone has also shown me the things I’m not good at too, my weak points and character flaws. I recently came across a quote by Flannery O’Connor – ”To know oneself is, above all, to know what one lacks. It is to measure oneself against the truth and not the other way around. The first product of self-knowledge is humility.” I love this quote.

Often we hear a person talking about themselves in passing, talking about their life or their choices or a failed relationship and they mention their flaw, their personal character weakness, but then they justify having it or laugh it away. It’s very rare you’ll hear someone openly and humbly admit that they have a fault and that they’re working on it. As adults, we know right from wrong, we know what mistreatment looks like, we know when it’s us who is at fault or someone else but we often don’t take the time to ask ourselves questions like – Why do I do that? Why do I say things like that on purpose? Do I want to create quality relationships or not? What do I need to do to sort myself out in that area?

I’ve heard exes of mine admit to their shortcomings and issues, but while they knew of them, there was always a barrier preventing them from really digging deeper inside themselves and figuring out the why and working on changing it. I guess sometimes in life we get so comfortable being who we are as we are, we just simply say (and I hear variations of this really often) if they don’t like me they can keep walking. Or keep going. Or leave. Or whatever. Which basically means – I know I have bad traits, but if you don’t want to put up with them well goodbye! I choose my bad traits over a possibly fulfilling relationship even though I’m really looking for one, thanks!

How many people with that kind of attitude can really and truly say they are in deeply fulfilling relationships? Because I’ve seen them and I can honestly say they are not. If you never get to the core of who you are and openly see the dark and terrible and downright shitty side of yourself (which we all have) then how can you really know yourself? If we all went through life never fixing or bettering ourselves, who would ever want to love or keep loving us? Or want to stay in our lives and be there through everything while respecting us? But then I realise too, we live in a time where nobody wants to be vulnerable anymore (at least not openly), nobody wants to admit that they suck as a friend or a lover or human. No one wants to reach out and ask for help or admit that sometimes they are the reason that somethings don’t work out, that they are wholly to blame for it. But a person who admits to their failings and the work they need to do is so much more attractive than someone saying ‘’Well if you don’t like me as I am then you can leave.’’ Isn’t it? It’s like saying – I’m great and perfect as is, I don’t need to improve in any area and I won’t deal with anyone who dares point out my flaws.

Different people come in to our lives and show us the different sides of who we are. They take us to places and levels we haven’t explored before. Just because we’ve never been told we aren’t good at handling a certain thing, it doesn’t mean it’s not true. Maybe this is the only person who actually had the nerve to point it out. It’s happened to me, where someone has come along and pointed out a flaw of mine and I rejected it completely and used phrases like the ones above, I’ve been that person, but I also know that later on when I was alone, I knew they were right. When I really thought about it, I realized I did do that thing or act that way.

The whole ”you do you” mentality while we sometimes ARE justified in thinking it and using it, mostly it makes us detached, unfeeling and disrespectful. It pumps up our ego and blinds us to the reality of our imperfections. If we’re not willing to accept the flaws in others, well why should they accept ours? You do you is a great attitude to have permanently if you plan on living on an empty island never needing another human being again. We need to be okay with knowing that sometimes there’s nothing wrong with being shown the error of our ways, we need that in order to fully evolve and become the best versions of ourselves.

READ.BUY.MAKE – #05/16

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Look at all that endless blue…

TO READ

How women undermine themselves with words. I noticed that ”just” was one of the major culprits in undermining myself, since reading this article I’ve become so much more aware of how often I use it because I don’t want to sound too assertive or forceful or whatever silly reason I use it to soften whatever I want to say. It really does make a person sound defensive and/or apologetic, so I’ve given it the kibosh!

13 questions to ask before getting married 

There goes the neighbourhood – coffee shops and urban change

Been wondering why you’re so bored?

”Professional criticism isn’t meant to torpedo you or ruin you or make you doubt why you ever thought you could get a job. Instead, feedback in any industry is usually constructive and re-affirms that you work for a person who trusts and respects you enough to try and help you succeed.” Professional criticism isn’t the end of the world

How to be polite is a charming, amusing, highly enjoyable read.

Does domesticity kill creative work?

Neuroscientists explain how running clears the mind

Feel like a short story? A writer’s battle with Microsoft Word

Continue reading “READ.BUY.MAKE – #05/16”

Words.

“Don’t gobblefunk around with words.” ― Roald Dahl

Words are the little yachts that float out in the burnished expanse of our lives. They are filled with passion or peace. At times with distress and fear and sadness. Sometimes we’re lucky enough to be surrounded by sailboats of jollity, humour and animation. They contain within them, these helpful vessels of information, the languages of the world cruising by together, buoyed by the need for communication and storytelling.

“Words are, of course, the most powerful drug used by mankind.” ― Rudyard Kipling

They’re the currency we need to aid our verbal exchanges, to speak, to query and argue, to comfort one another and more importantly, ourselves. In our mind, words are the electric current that brings our brain to life, it switches on the lights in the rooms of the cerebral cortex startling it into action by thinking, by rifling through memories, conjuring imagination and solo conversations. We need words to talk to each other but what is striking is how much we crave words. How much we love them. Words, just for the pleasure of words. Words in diaries, in majestic tomes and novels that ferry us  elsewhere. They help us escape. There’s words on beloved blogs and magazines, by favoured columnists and well-liked writers, words by way of comments on social platforms under picture posts and on walls. The quotes we use to represent ourselves on different days in different moods, to articulate what we sometimes can’t explain.

“Words can be like X-rays if you use them properly — they’ll go through anything. You read and you’re pierced.” ― Aldous Huxley

Words soothe us, they uplift us, they make us soar. They ground us, they clarify our emotions, they give shape, they guide and bring hope. Words are how we reason intelligently and then fool around with silly chitchat. Some people have a way with them, an adroit ease. Others fumble and bumble their way to a point. Our love of words far outweigh our need for them. We feel better having them close, like breadcrumbs in our pockets, ready to scatter to any audience who will pay attention. We are hollow without words and words are empty without us.

 

I was a spinster the whole time

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Kate Bolick, the author of Spinster: Making a Life of One’s Own, says in her book, “A book will find you when you need to be found” and this is precisely what happened with this very book and me.

For many years I’d always had this strange (I thought) desire to be alone. Not in a weird or creepy way where I banished people from my life, but just a deep craving to get away and retreat into my own world. My world of one. Like an unseen friend, this feeling has always tagged along beside me, evolving just as I have and the older I grow the greater the feeling has gotten. I thought it might be a side effect of being an only child, only having myself for company causing me to naturally prefer my company first over that of anyone else. Or perhaps it’s a side effect of being a writer, writing being a solitary activity, you need space and quiet in order to explore your mind and create things. So I concluded that this is who I am, a person with a double dose affinity for aloneness and odd as it might be I would just have to accept it. Because in the kind of world we live in, wanting unnatural amounts of time alone, often breaking away from the crowd, being completely self-sufficient in the manner of company and entertainment, it can be misconstrued. A happy loner? Could such a person exist?

Enter this book.

Essentially a memoir of the aforementioned author and her self-awakening through the discovery of her five Awakeners, but also a history. Kate, having always had this need for solitariness even while involved in long term relationships, uncovered five women of the last century – one as far as 1880 – who all shared this very same feeling. This inexplicable desire. In learning about the lives of Edna St Vincent Millay, Edith Wharton, Neith Boyce, Charlotte Perkins Gilman and Maeve Brennan , her five Awakeners, I’ve become a bit fascinated with them myself. They all lived during a time in which women had very few (and in some places none) job opportunities, so getting married was the only way many of them could leave home and be taken care of financially, in fact this was a path that was expected, but these ladies chose to go it alone – not forever- but for as long as they could. We often hear older folks talking about how career oriented women are today, how it wasn’t like this in ‘their day’, and it’s easy to believe that this is a new phenomenon, one exclusive to our generation – yet, it isn’t! This isn’t a new thing, it’s not exclusive to us! There were rebels back then, pioneers, feminists, solitude lovers, long before we came about. And isn’t that fascinating?

Take Neith Boyce, in 1898 she wrote a column for Vogue entitled The Bachelor Girl, that waxed lyrical about the benefits of being single. I loved this line she wrote : “I shall never be an old maid because I have elected to be a Girl Bachelor.” A woman who took ownership of her single status publicly, for 1898, that was brave. I’ve been enamoured with that term Girl Bachelor ever since.

While Kate chose to remain unmarried, the eternal spinster, all her Awakeners eventually did, but they chose to join the “vast majority” on their own terms. They retained their fierce streak of independence and their want for solitude continued and remained. Which reminded me of a chat I had with a woman of our times, very definitely married, who said she liked being alone so much she could spend the rest of her life never seeing another person and she would be fine. A sentiment I understand completely and carry with me. So I wondered if perhaps this yearning is inherent in some of us irrespective of occupation, sibling count or marital status. I knew a girl who told me once that she loved her space so much, if she ever got married she would want her husband to have his own room. It seems there’s a spinster inside many, if not all, of us.

And so it dawned on me, I was a spinster all along and I will gladly continue to be one even when I’m married with kids one day. One doesn’t need to be single with ten cats, frigid and withered away to be a spinster. For some reason that word, originally invented as an honourable title given to unmarried women who spun thread for a living, morphed into meaning something negative, old, ugly and even shameful. Until this utterly interesting book that tells us otherwise.

As the author herself says:
“If you’re single, whether never-married, divorced or widowed, you can carry the word spinster like a talisman, a constant reminder you’re in very good company…If you’re unhappily coupled you can use the word spinster to conjure up a time when you weren’t…and to recall that being alone is often far preferable to being in a bad relationship…For the happily coupled…spinster can be code for remembering to take time out for yourself..”

It’s embracing your solitariness and the spinster within, and making that sacred time alone some of the most fulfilling of your whole life. To the Spinsters!