Postmodern

Writing will always feel like a strange paradoxical venture to me because you’re supposed to curate your thoughts and words to establish an image, a style, an angle, a niche, fit into a genre, or take into account an audience, but not so much that you compromise with yourself, just enough.
Doesn’t that make writing inherently inauthentic, deceitful?
Or at least, incomplete? Perhaps dual? Every word, sentence, stanza or paragraph tinged with both presence and absence, permanence and transience, openness and confinement, revealing and concealing?
Writing is about the world inside and the world outside, about an appreciation of them, about the connection between them, about reducing the space between self and other.
It carries a compromise between subjectivity and objectivity, between an understanding and a lack of understanding; because every mind functions somewhat differently, every consciousness having a different set-up due to nature and nurture.
And yet, with increasing (especially spiritual) awareness comes the realisation we are all both different and alike.
Perhaps writers are aware of the limitation and power of language the most, followed by psychologists.
I have an infinite fondness for the postmodernists and the beautifully unhinged nature of their work, their literary and psychological fragmentation
Sometimes I see or feel characters and I incorporate what they represent, I give them a voice, in doing that, I give myself a voice- and vice-versa- by integrating them within my self.
This is sometimes exhausting.
It’s also bewildering, cathartic, empowering, a blessing and a curse.

When I write, I know nothing and I know everything.
How avant-garde.

On social chameleons, self-monitoring, and other thoughts along the lines of connection and the self

Where do we draw the line between adapting ourselves and our personalities to the people around us by making ourselves liked in order to connect with others and blend into social environments, caring about what people think just enough for it to act as a catalyst for fulfilling connections and successful interactions, and holding onto our individuality and sense of self based on inner beliefs? Up to a certain point, adaptability is normal in any interaction because, as social beings, we tend to bond by relating to another person’s experiences, thoughts, views, and so on, and for that we can’t be rigid or left unchanged, we need to be open to invite all this information from someone else’s world into ours; when inevitable differences arise, they should ideally be respected and sometimes accommodated. It’s also normal in the sense that, sometimes involuntarily, your personality and energy tend to be influenced by people you interact with and their own vibes, especially if you’re an empath, so, attuned to the moods and sensibilities of others. There is also a necessity for a certain degree of conscious adaptability and flexibility ingrained in many social interactions, in entering new environments, and facing a variety of people from different backgrounds, ages, and cultures. The social chameleon (I prefer this term rather than ‘people-pleaser’ which sounds pretty sad) is highly skilful in impression management and Self-Monitoring, being self-aware and aware of others; he or she thrives by reading social cues and charmingly acting and adapting accordingly to specific situations and types of people. Since adaptability is one of the main transferable skills you are asked to prove in interviews and job applications, this is a quality that is often valued in society and viewed as being linked to interpersonal and professional success.

When does this become a problem? When you bypass your personal boundaries and needs, such an attitude or way of living can take on a self-sabotaging quality and an unnatural influence over your life, that is ultimately detrimental to your well-being and your individuality. This happens when the focus you place on adapting to different personalities or social groups by making yourself liked and likeable at all costs becomes an impediment to living authentically and to being in touch with your feelings, interests, and desires. It can make you feel alienated from yourself and it can make others feel like they don’t really know you. The first steps you might take down this slippery slope could be silencing or diminishing your voice to accommodate someone else’s ego (particularly relevant to women tiptoeing around the male ego, or even around other women’s egos), switching between social masks and doing things to accommodate people in general, at the expense of corrupting your spirit, practising unnecessary humility, gaslighting yourself and doubting yourself too much when something goes wrong or when someone puts you in a negative light, putting up with (whatever you may see as) adverse or unfriendly treatment and making excuses for it, blaming yourself, and wanting to fix the situation, and so on. There is a fine line there between being empathetic and understanding of other people’s feelings and being unhealthily willing to compromise on your expectations and needs.

If it appears that you have people-pleasing tendencies, a lot of people pick up on that vibe and your boundaries may be challenged. There is also a shadowy side to people-pleasing: whilst it might seem like an altruistic act and it can be, it can also be a somewhat manipulative approach to get people to like you so that you maintain control over situations, but this is not inherently bad and not everyone who does this is conscious of it or a control freak or has a conscious ulterior motive. And the most harmful aspect is that people-pleasers associate their worth with the capacity to gain other people’s approval. You can be pleasant to be around- as that is clearly an advantage in most situations- but without being a push-over and without relying on people’s reactions and impressions of you, on their response to your behaviour. For this, you need to have a decently stable self-image- so know yourself- and what your expectations and standards are. And then you need to ideally spend your time with people who match those expectations and standards or otherwise, to communicate that need. Go beyond being pleasant. Be an inspiring, uplifting presence. Learn to truly listen to someone and allow trails of their consciousness to permeate yours, without filtering them through your fixated thought patterns too much. Just as I previously mentioned in an article that the best approach in the process of reading a book is to suspend your interpretative frameworks initially, you can do the same thing when you read another person, so you can invite their world into yours.

I’m glad to have reached a stage in my life journey where, after meeting someone new and chatting for a while, instead of wondering “Does this person like me?” it’s more important to first ask myself “Do I like this person?”. I’m not a passive or self-sacrificing person, I’ve never been, but I haven’t always claimed my social and emotional agency to the point where my likeability becomes irrelevant or less relevant than authenticity and personal satisfaction-so there have been times when my self-presentation has overpowered aspects of my life which should have been more important – though not in a ‘blending in’ type of way. These days, instead of impression management, I ask myself questions such as: Does this person add a positive contribution to my life and well-being? Are they a presence I like being around? How do I feel around them? Shift the focus this way. It’s liberating. What value or qualities do people add to your life? It could be that they’re kind, they make you laugh and are fun to be around, they’re thoughtful, relaxing, considerate, helpful, interesting, they just get you, they have a stimulating mind in addition to similar interests or an openness to discuss your interests- or a combination of such traits that you simply click with. If my assessment is positive, then, I value their response to me on a deeper level. Anyway, people are more than a combination of factors, so I don’t believe in having a rigid checklist of traits for friendships or other connections because our minds often override pre-established ideas when we click or feel drawn towards people we wouldn’t have expected to do so or when we don’t click with people we apparently had so much in common with. I personally only have a clear, uncompromising checklist of what I profoundly dislike or am repelled by in interactions. When there is reciprocal appreciation and things really work out, that ‘pleasing’ part is organic and ingrained in your interactions, there is no need to perform or control as it’s all spontaneous and there is definitely no need to feel like you compromise your self.

If your focus is on people-pleasing, it can be self-effacing or, to sound more dramatic, self-annihilating, as you tend to lose yourself in the process of presenting yourself in the way you think others expect you to. This could mean your fashion sense, your personality, the current version of your identity. Identity is fluid, I’ve always believed this, and some of your personality variables are, in fact, altered by interaction. My life mantra seems relevant here: “I am rooted, but I flow” (Virginia Woolf’s words). You have a core, the part of you that is grounded, rooted, true no matter what happens. This is surrounded by waters in which you flow and with which you can merge, meaning you can be open to new experiences and be shaped and re-shaped by them. But be mindful of where you flow and don’t be scared to swim against the current when you have to. Meet new personalities, be amicable and let the right worlds enter yours, without losing yourself in the other.

The adapted version of The Proust Questionnaire

As a fan of Marcel Proust who loves the way he perceives the world as depicted in À la recherche du temps perdu, I thought I should write down my answers to the most popular version of his iconic questionnaire in my first unequivocally personal blog post, even though my answers may very well change tomorrow:

What is your idea of perfect happiness?
Time travel. Interplanetary travel. As for a slightly more down-to-earth answer, visiting the most beautiful, inspiring- ethereal or eerie- places, absorbing every moment spent there and feeling connected to the place, living in the present, and having a cultivated soul.

What is your greatest fear?
Death. Non-existence. Annihilation. Oblivion. Aging. Bugs.

Which historical figure do you most identify with?
Literary figures: Virginia Woolf & Sylvia Plath.

Which living person do you most admire?
Tilda Swinton. Richard Dawkins. David Lynch. Plus anyone who positively influences the world, who is aware of the whole picture and manages to focus on the good rather than the bad in the world, overall.

What is the trait you most deplore in yourself?
I will mention a few, although I have conflicting feelings about these traits as I don’t always deplore them: cynicism, the low-key need to be in control, fickleness in some respects, ricocheting between emotional frostiness and impulsiveness, scepticism to the point where I start being sceptical of my own scepticism, and taking myself too seriously (but otherwise I probably wouldn’t be able or feel propelled to write!).

What is the trait you most deplore in others?
Duplicity, hypocrisy. Prejudice. Lack of empathy and inability to listen. Arrogance. Wrong life values. Underestimating me.

What is your greatest extravagance?
My luxury perfume collection. Not sleeping at night.

What is your favourite journey?
towards self-awareness and self-development, through self-indulgence and creative fulfilment.

What do you consider the most overrated virtue?
Patience. Sympathy (not empathy). Contentment. Humility and prudence in women’s case. 

On what occasion do you lie?
When the conversation doesn’t matter, or when I’m convinced that telling the truth wouldn’t be beneficial to anyone involved. 

Which living person do you most despise?
anyone who uses their power to negatively influence, harm, ruin, or eradicate the lives of innocent people, either on an individual level, or on an organised level.

Which words or phrases do you most overuse?
aesthetic. surreal. oh my god. yeah. no.

What is your greatest regret?
caring when I shouldn’t have. not caring when I should have.

What or who is the greatest love of your life?
perfume, cinema, music, labyrinthine architecture

When and where were you happiest?
I don’t remember exactly but I’m gonna say it was probably a case of frisson- “aesthetic chills”- that I experienced whilst watching a hypnotic, revealing, or epiphany-inducing film or piece of art.

Which talent would you most like to have?
a mesmerising, emotion-inducing, magical singing voice.

What is your current state of mind?
introspective. conflicted.

If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
I’d give myself an infinite dose of productivity and the capacity to love the world freely and unconditionally. Getting rid of grudges. Being less fickle/wishy-washy in some respects.

What do you consider your greatest achievement?
rising from the flames like a Phoenix.

If you were to die and come back as a person or thing, what do you think it would be?
a fairy or a nymph.

What is your most treasured possession?
my perfume collection, my films collection, my velvet dresses collection,

What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery?
not living the life you want, letting obsessions or demons consume you, feeling trapped.

Where would you like to live?
in a beautiful place adorned with paintings and different styles of decorations on each floor or in each room (Gothic, minimalist, dreamy, airy fantasy style etc). Also in the distant future, maybe on a different, ultra-advanced planet. Either that or in one of the many film fantasy worlds I love.

What is your favourite occupation?
maladaptive daydreaming

What is your most marked characteristic?
being artistically-inclined. being headstrong, perceptive/astute, experiencing derealisation and zoning out (this sounds contradictory to the astuteness, but it’s actually not!); inquisitive, independent-minded, and a freethinker. looking sad or annoyed when I’m actually in a neutral or thoughtful mood.

What is the quality you most like in a man?
Intelligence (including emotional intelligence), genuineness, confidence -not cockiness, self-awareness

What is the quality you most like in a woman?
strength, genuineness, intelligence, confidence, self-awareness

What do you most value in your friends?
kindness, authenticity, having my best interests at heart, trustworthiness, & respecting confidentiality

Who are your favourite writers?
Virginia Woolf, Sylvia Plath, Baudelaire, Oscar Wilde, Vladimir Nabokov, Hermann Hesse

Who is your favourite hero of fiction?
Jessica Jones, Vanessa Ives, Violet Baudelaire, Rogue

What do you dislike most about your appearance?
I like my appearance overall, but there are two or three things I would/will probably change if I can.

Who are your heroes in real life?
Inspiring women who are unapologetically fierce and do whatever they feel like (unless they are psychopaths or something equally worrying).

What are your favourite names?
Morgana, Diana, Ariadna, Artemis, Mordred, Crystal.

What is it that you most dislike?
pity, prejudice, labels.

How would you like to die?
Knowing that I will be revived as an immortal goddess, mostly because I want to live forever, but all the other perks would be fun too!

What is your favourite motto?
Do no harm, but take no shit. // C’est la vie. //
Incantation-“You must not ever stop being whimsical. And you must not, ever, give anyone else the responsibility for your life.”
Quotes-“I stopped explaining myself when I realised other people only understand from their level of perception.”
“There are only two tragedies in life: one is not getting what one wants, and the other is getting it.”
“Everything in moderation, including moderation.”
“To love oneself is the beginning of a life-long romance”


Write your own answers to all or some of these below, I’m interested to see!

Dolls and witch balls

York Castle Museum period rooms and Victorian aesthetic:

I. Reconstruction of a Victorian parlour, re-imagining the life of a middle class family residing in the York suburbs of the 19th century.york-castle-museum-dolls-room-vintageyork-castle-museum-blog-doll-headeryork-castle-museum-photography-closeupyork-castle-museum-vintage-pianoyork-castle-museum-vintage-room-photographyyork-castle-museum-vintage-room

II. 19th century Moorland Cottage: the living room of a rural cottage.york-castle-museum-photography-food-vintageyork-castle-museum-art-photography-witchball

III. 1700s Dining room bookyork-museum-1700s-dining-room-blog

IV. Victorian Street, shot from above, with a view of the Victorian hearse.victorian-street-york-museum

V. Dead end alley, with clothes hung for drying from the upper floors, and a paper warning residents about city water diseases. Right next to this, there is an old clothes’ shop.victorian-signs-york-museumvictorian-street-lamp-york-museum-alleyvictorian-clothes-shop-york-museum-blog

Stepping on the grounds of York Castle Museum is an enchanting experience, with its accurately designed period rooms, gloomy Victorian streets, fashion displays, artefacts, people dressed in authentic clothing, galleries, train simulation, projections of actors on dark cell walls telling real stories from the prison records, and so much to think about when you read the inscriptions.

The magic of Edinburgh : veils of serendipity

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On the 13th of June 2015, I concluded, in a diary entry:

Edinburgh is so full of life…and death. I genuinely consider living there at some point, my experience of it was like a step back in time. Tours in the underground vaults, the Dungeons, and around the castle, eerie strolls in the cemetery where J.K. Rowling drew inspiration from for Harry Potter, and where John Gray, an obscure night watchman was buried, with a loyal dog sitting by his grave for many years inspiring George R. R. Martin in his depiction of Jon Snow with his more fierce Ghost, Jekyll and Hyde connections, ghost stories – all these seem to be the norm there. Every corner is imbued with (dark) history and I’d like to go back anyway because I feel I haven’t grasped all its magic yet.

Recently, Edinburgh has suddenly become relevant once again. Whilst I did develop my plans in this fresh year outside academia, there is still space for serendipity.

Let me retrace the path of last year’s explorations, purely from memory, since I cannot access the photographs anymore, at this time, due to my old laptop having deteriorated. Greyfriars Kirkyard: a girl dressed in black lace rests on a headstone. It is not your typical headstone: it is attached to the ground like a table, and it belongs to a famous doctor…or perhaps to a troubled mathematician. A man is giving a detailed tour of the cemetery to a group of fascinated people. Her tour had just finished at the gate of the cemetery, having encompassed secret corners of the magical old town. She gazes at the group, and from afar, she can hear a few fractured words which capture her attention. She sneaks across the surroundings of the guided group, eavesdropping, lying on the grass, taking photographs. The man points at a school building rising from behind the walls of the cemetery, and claims it might have been a source of inspiration for the mighty Hogwarts. A tomb relishes the attention of many pensive faces glancing at the carved name of Thomas Riddell, a 19th century man who wandered the Earth for 72 years. The guide then points at the café with a clear view of the cemetery, and here we are, a couple of decades back, visualising the blonde, wise, kind-looking woman writing page after page of magic.

This memory is not real, it is a photographic reconstruction. The photograph has disappeared, but I still see it in my mind.

On that note, Herman Hesse helps us combat existential crisis:

“In my brain were stored a thousand pictures:
Giotto’s flock of angels from the blue vaulting of a little church in Padua, and near them walked Hamlet and the garlanded Ophelia, fair similitudes of all sadness and misunderstanding in the world, and there stood Gianozzo, the aeronaut, in his burning balloon and blew a blast on his horn, Attila carrying his new headgear in his hand, and the Borobudur reared its soaring sculpture in the air. And though all these figures lived in a thousand other hearts as well, there were ten thousand more unknown pictures and tunes there which had no dwelling place but in me, no eyes to see, no ears to hear them but mine. The old hospital wall with its grey-green weathering, its cracks and stains in which a thousand frescoes could be fancied, who responded to it, who looked into its soul, who loved it, who found the charm of its colours ever delicately dying away? The old books of the monks, softly illumined with their miniatures, and the books of the German poets of two hundred and a hundred years ago whom their own folk have forgotten, all the thumbed and damp-stained volumes, and the prints and manuscripts of the old composers, the stout and yellowing music sheets with their arrested dreams of singing sound – who heard their spirited, their roguish and yearning voices, who carried through a world estranged from them a heart full of their spirit and spell? Who still remembered that slender cypress on a hill over Gubbio, that, though split and riven by a fall of stone, yet held fast to life and put forth with its last resources a new sparse tuft at top? Who read by night above the Rhine the cloud-script of the drifting mists? And who over the ruins of his life pursued its fleeting, fluttering significance, while he suffered its seeming meaninglessness and lived its seeming madness, and who hoped secretly at the last turn of the labyrinth of Chaos for revelation?” — Hermann Hesse, Steppenwolf

Reflections in puddles

On a rainy day in late July, I went for a stroll in Hyde Park to capture moving images of nature. I was particularly on a quest of finding moments and details that would otherwise perhaps pass without being noticed or fully admired – abstract elements inducing reverie. My favourite bits were the beautiful reflections of the trees, with wind-blown branches, the skies, and the clouds into the puddles disturbed by occasional raindrops.

The scenery was a bit gloomy, yet calm and breathtaking nonetheless. These clips were part of my final project, Requiem for the Awakening.

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Pleasures in life

My happiness is sometimes derived from:

The scents of acacia flowers, honeysuckle and snowdrops; the taste of greengages.

Moments when I feel I love what I am doing: when I get excited while reading research or creative writing – and, consequently, when I feel like I can contribute to the research or I can create stories – either through words or photographs. When I am inspired – to create and to live fully.

Meeting people I truly connect with. Everything is genuine and pure, everything flows, the masks are left aside, and no one questions another’s words or feelings. You just know what is happening, share the same smile, and are able to live, truly live in each other’s company without performing. The feeling of belonging.

Peace of mind, in general, or moments of blissful lightheartedness. When every veil of worry, gloom or heaviness is lifted up and I feel unconditional love and self-love within. This is also when I can appreciate every simple aspect of being. It even feels like my body is lighter, like I float, just as my thoughts do.

Wandering in fantasy worlds reminiscent of my childhood.

Running. Setting goals and accomplishing them.

Finding a film I am profoundly touched by. If you know me, you know how intensely I can immerse into films. I become the character, I live the films when I watch them. The pleasure consists in the experience itself, in losing and finding yourself in a concept or a story. It can be revealing, too.

Adventures. waterfalls. explorations in nature; admiring its grandeur, but also the grandeur of an old temple or a rich urban or futuristic noir-looking area.

Those rare moments my writing always eventually comes back to; the ones I try to grasp through words, but fail. Those surreal moments.

Living in a place decorated by me, where I can have my own space, a secret garden where my pet would dwell, and arch-shaped windows. The decor would be elegantly dark in some rooms, fantasy-like in others, and there will be at least one room with everything in it white and light (see Valerie’s room from “Valerie and her Week of Wonders”). There would be Gothic art, paintings spanning different cultures, motifs, and ages – with a preference for Pre-Raphaelite depictions of mythological scenes, candlelit rooms at night, and classical and dark atmospheric music filling the hallway. Ideally, I’d have this variety of design styles to suit my whims.

To mention a one-off: Hearing Sharon den Adel’s angelic voice for the first time, and seeing her on stage at Artmania Festival.

What makes you happy?

Hebden Bridge ruins

We arrived at the Hebden Bridge train station: On our side – flowers and yellow bricks, on the other side- a wall of trees. Overall, there was an aura of dreamlike atemporality.
Remember “Life on a train platform” by Octavian Paler. Remember that Ted Hughes and Sylvia Plath graced the valleys of this town with their presence. Sylvia Plath: enrapturing writer, with a devouring lyricism wrapped around her being. I still have to finish her Unabridged Journals, having started reading them at Essex.
They buried her in the small village of Heptonstall, not far away from Hebden Bridge. As expected, Heptonstall is my future destination, together with The Brontës’ moors. Yorkshire nature, with its trails of whispers, is full of literary references, and exploring it is a wonderful experience, bleak at times, but wonderful nonetheless.

Sitting at the Stubbing Wharf, a pub from Hebden Bridge with Plath, Hughes writes his reflections in the eponymous poem from Birthday Letters:

“This gloomy memorial of a valley,
The fallen-in grave of its history,
A gorge of ruined mills and abandoned chapels,
The fouled nest of the Industrial Revolution
That had flown.” – Ted Hughes, Birthday Letters

Plath writes about the Bronte Moors:

“There is no life higher than the grasstops
Or the hearts of sheep, and the wind
Pours by like destiny, bending
Everything in one direction.[…]
The sheep know where they are,
Browsing in their dirty wool-clouds,
Grey as the weather.[…]
I come to wheel ruts, and water
Limpid as the solitudes
That flee through my fingers.
Hollow doorsteps go from grass to grass;
Lintel and sill have unhinged themselves.
Of people the air only
Remembers a few odd syllables.
It rehearses them moaningly:
Black stone, black stone.
The sky leans on me, me, the one upright
Among the horizontals.
The grass is beating its head distractedly.
It is too delicate
For a life in such company;
Darkness terrifies it.
Now, in valleys narrow
And black as purses, the house lights
Gleam like small change.” – Sylvia Plath, Wuthering Heights

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Diary entry: library

The pleasure of feeling beams of light piercing through tired, stained windows and caressing the air impregnated by particles of dust. The pleasure of being inside, away from the unbearable, threatening sunlight. Expressionistic shapes are formed on old grey walls holding Pre-Raphaelite portraits of mythical women. A shuttering of a window, a shuttering of a book, a shuttering of a mouth after a hasty yawn. Steps – some confident, some shy, some confused or determined, intermittently disrupting an enchanting silence. Wings cleaving the warm air surrounding a five storey building populated by anxious or dreamy souls. A crow gazing straight into the eyes of a figure that returns the gaze, seemingly bewildered. The sound of the wind shouting at buildings. The sound of nature against architecture. The sound of destruction, the sound of collapse.