SOLITARY

You are productive
Beyond measure
For yourself

Writing is thinking, so if I change my narrative, I change my thoughts?

This summer, I tried unraveling the stories that brought me work, friends, play, money and pain over the past decade. De-ca-de. (Umpf.)

The exercise left me six notebooks of mindmaps, drawings, diary excerpts, quotes and questions. Material to come back to, not to put to use. The material works, when I do not work on it actively.

The work is in the not doing.  

(Lines inspired by reader P.)

167ceaa0-f5ea-4165-9627-4d3711287eaa.jpg

COMMUNAL

The answer is always community

At times, I forget to apply the most important lesson I learned in 2017.

The lesson to involve others, to ask others, to reach out to others, to be generous to others, to question others, to invite others and to join others. To join means to commit and share what you thought lived only inside you. To join means lifting up others as much as strengthening your own wings.

My latest commitment is to a co-work space in Rotterdam. Week one just passed.

What did you join of late?

(Lines inspired by reader T.)

foto4.jpg

THE WHOLE

It means we have conversations of what we can do to create the future
Entitlement is a conversation about what others can or need to do to create the future for us


The book you see is written by Zina and Liza. Zina would not be a former Syrian refugee turned culinary entrepreneur and cookbook author if not for Liza. Liza invited Zina and five other Syrian refugees into her home for a New Year's Dinner party, which eventually led Zina to launch a catering business: Zina's Kitchen.

I don't know who asked who: What can we create together? I do know their story offers (me) the chance to see the whole before the fragments.

(Lines by Peter Block)

foto3.jpg

THE FRAGMENT

The opposite of belonging is to feel isolated
and always (all ways) on the margin
an outsider

It was in Egypt, the weeks that marked the change of a millennium. I belonged to a travelling band of family members, strangers and bedouins. The desert-dwellers were our guides in a boundless sea of sand. Boundless, yet their space. They walked their camels with a sense of belonging and accountability. We, trained in isolating ourselves from community, rather than owning it, could temporarily be part of their sense of safety.

What we overcame in Egypt, albeit in the time-bound setting of an organised trip, is fragmentation.

(Lines by Peter Block)

foto1.jpg

The path

A path is a prior interpretation
of the best way to traverse a landscape

to follow a route is to accept an interpretation
it's a form of spatial theater


The feet you see walk in a former swamp. Just a year ago, you could pick your own route and walk paths that were more, or less treaded. Today, your feet plug away through a sandy path that leads to fences and signs. Binary instructions. The grid lets your thoughts focus on the next episode. The end.

If still a swamp, you could not even have entered. A swamp is a view. But at least it's a view in which you can mark your own beginning, middle and end.

(Lines by Rebecca Solnit)

971bc604-9395-4e06-a62e-2bfc8d5febb7.jpg

What to wear off

The women attending hung their coats over the back of the leather couch. Its owner had asked them to do so, there wasn't any designated furniture for coats in her atelier.

Immediately, the coats revealed the season. Three shiny rain coats, two matte woollen overcoats, one light jacket and two puffy ones.

It is October, yet each of these women takes it differently. The optimists leave the house underdressed, the pragmatists bring a raincoat just-in-case and the inner Mediterraneans rehearse for winter.

In fall, I prefer to draw up the balance. Weigh summer's harvest against the need to shed off some layers before entering a new year.

All this, so I can put on my winter coat as naked as possible.

e511ad03-a3eb-477a-8fb3-db671f95a169.jpg

In buona compagnia

"Convivial," he said of the Sicilians, "When Sicilians sit down for a meal, it's uncomplicated. Not too loud, nor weighed down by etiquette. The delight they take in eating together is contagious."

I looked at the bottle of Birra Moretti on the table. The sticker on its bottleneck said: BIRRA MORETTI consumare preferibilmente in buona compagnia. [Please enjoy in good company.]

Back home at the airport, the supermarket's take-away isle is practically sold out. At times, I take pride in the availability  of these affordable, reasonably healthy one-person meals. Today, I exit the isle empty-handed.

Buona compagnia is not for sale.

IMG_1215.JPG

Hang in there

A tall man walked up the stairs, wetsuit on, surfboard leaning against the doorpost. My friend got the message and changed quickly into his gear. It's too cold to swim, but perfect to surf. I watch them tirelessly catching waves, my eyes resting on the thin line between sea and sky.

My body feels stiff, and I do some yoga poses to stretch my shoulders, loosen up my neck and twist my torso. While hanging in dangling pose, my mind creates this blog post. Instead of tapping it onto my phone, or running back to my office for the day, I trust the story won't leave me until my hands touch the keyboard again.

It's proof again that letting go makes space for the solution you need at that exact moment. Instead of rabbit-holing myself into the need for a story, I let my mind and body wander until rain started pouring on me and I strided with sticky hair and sandy feet back to my keyboard.

Hang in there, buddy, I'm going to write you down.

Hang in there.jpg

Find your wave

On my radio, I manually tune the frequency. Although the sound in between radio stations is not pleasant, it tells me there's plenty of space left for new waves.

My weekly email letter is nothing like a fully functioning radio station with an audience, weekly schedule, music library, 'toilet tracks' and pool of voices - but I learned it has a frequency.

After sending out my first email letter, a friend from overseas replied: "We need to catch up as we seem to be on the same wave without meeting in the surf." Only because I started making a wave, could others hear it.

Do you mostly tune into radio stations, or can we hear your wave amongst the noise?

Turtles.001.jpeg

Work the words

I told her I'm writing. She asked what my 'content' was? I stuttered and let out some seemingly unrelated string of keywords. They floated between us: people, life, personal growth, nature, trends, contemplation, wellbeing.. creativity?

There are two ways to lift a bunch of keywords from aimlessness to the conscious level of an idea. One of thinking and one of doing.

For me, the thinking way works when it's about something outside of me - that needs to be externally actualised. The doing way works when it's about myself - that needs to be internally actualised.

Since I announced my doing (a newsletter) last week, its 'content' came naturally. And will visit you in a more comprehensible form real soon if you sign up.

Work the words.jpeg

Yes-ness

I just had an insight. For long, I thought it handy to know what I clearly not pursue in life. That would give me a strong filter to cut the wheat from the chaff, and evaluate my decisions. And it did, until now.

I amassed a number of professional opportunities, some on invitation, some on application, but always thinking: I'll never be able to weigh all the options, why not seize the chances that knock on my door? They must be for me. My decisions were guided by an inquisitive, optimistic and curious "why not?"

Today, I learned a new question: "why yes?"

Yes-ness brings focus, boosts my ambition and challenges my intuition. No-ness fosters indecisiveness, dilutes my confidence and awakens my spreadsheetism. Yes-ness is commitment. No-ness is excuses.

Now, yes-ness serves me more than no-ness. And my yes-ness is to start sharing more of how I experience the world. Who I read, what I practice, and where I learn.

 

Yes-ness.jpeg

Why we met

From time to time, people have asked me: who is your idol? Hero? Role model? Instead of answering the question, I find myself questioning the very question itself. What is the difference between idols and heroes? What does it mean to be a fan of someone?

And whilst taking the conversation on a detour, many 'idols' would spring to mind. Friends, practical strangers, whom I only met briefly,  and family members. Rarely did I find a public figure amongst them.

For me, it helps to relate to someone and witness first-hand how they navigate life. It brings awareness to what I look out for in others, and possibly in myself. Could it be limiting - to look for depth in the familiar?

I believe a next step would be to expand that potentiality of self. So that it's easier to seek out the stories and personalities of people still far away and unfamiliar.

I'm up for the challenge to grow the list. Are you?

Rolemodels.jpeg

The Campaigner In Us

Willpower is exhaustive, enthusiasm is not. As long as you're excited about what it is you're after, there shouldn't be a need for willpower (or coffee).

I have campaigned for people and products through relying on - mostly - willpower. Until the campaigner in me, surprisingly, just stopped. After some inspection I realised, my willpower had dried up and there was nothing left to fuel the campaigner in me. Umpf.

So, what can I - or you for that matter - campaign for endlessly, that doesn't rely on willpower? It can help to look at life experiences that were formative and challenging, but not reliant on willpower.

I put a few down from 2008-2018 and suddenly saw what I can campaign for effortlessly: craftsmanship, playing with words, physical activity, mindful use of technology, yoga, food pioneers, going outdoors, talking to strangers, reading, eating plants, nature conservation, life-long learning - and this is just what's top of mind now.

Easy peasy, now it's your turn.

What Career Change Looks Like

What are those moments for, that make you feel like anything is a mountain to move? I had many of those in the past three months.* And to stay put to my intention of 'not pushing, not forcing' is like staying off something you are addicted to.

All I can do is carefully knock on curiosity's door. And boy, she opens up, albeit slowly. I first had to let go of expectations, of steering towards 'career applicability' and of forcing any of my curiosities into a business model. What resonates with her is not me striving for perfect, but me offering the seed of play. So I did lots of drawing, cheffing, acro yoga, laughs, self-help binging and staring contests with babies cos they rock at that. (List not exhaustive, obviously.)

And now, you might wonder? Did anything new come up? Yes. I at least documented the process above, and can imagine others can do with some clarity there, too. See below a slice of what my personal visualisation looks like.

I am very interested in all of you, so if you want a visual expression of your life, career, what you're good at or your darkest demons, reach out. Other reasons also most welcome, course.

*I took a break after some years of back-to back assignments/jobs/projects

Transition001.jpeg