It’s my first time. Half of my motionless body rests inside the white, clinical, cylindrical machine, in my head resembling an intergalactic coffin. I feel an itch, but I have to resist moving. I want to cough, to sneeze, to yawn, ugh, of course, at the most inopportune moments, for no reason I have to, and I have to keep it under control and be still. My legs are too tense, my lower body feels heavy. I am mentally calm. But my body wants permission to move. Since this is just a brain scan, I try to make a slight leg movement, but it feels like trying to lift an anchor. My mind keeps freezing. There is the buzz. It’s getting louder. And stranger. Then the clanking. The whirring. Suddenly thoughts of the few MRI safety incidents and fatalities I’ve read about vaguely infiltrate my mind in a weirdly serene way. I should have double-checked there is definitely no metal anywhere in or around this room. Oh come on, when something like this enters my mind, I think – what are the odds? and what is the point of obsessing over the odds?- and the thought melts away. I can remember basic aspects about my life, but there is something peculiar about this eerily cold, sterile room, this atmosphere; it’s holding back any specific memories, any feelings, any complex thoughts- I can’t really visualise anything about my past or about life outside this tube. I mean, the noise is quite obstructive, so whenever a thought or a mental image starts materialising, it quickly dissolves. I have a rare, evanescent, uncanny feeling that there is a higher presence or force watching over me. This reminds me of my pre-atheist, childhood days when I had an agnostic belief in animism and in magical thinking- the belief that one’s thoughts could influence reality, which was problematic whenever I had dark, “forbidden”, ungodly thoughts resulting in fear of divine punishment and futile attempts at suppression. There is a surreal atemporality about this space, it’s like reality is suspended. If my whole body slid into this alienating horizontal cylinder, it would really feel like I’m inside an eccentric, futuristic coffin. That’s spine-chilling. And yet, despite my claustrophobic tendencies, I wish I had a full body scan so I could be encapsulated and see what it would be like if my consciousness or my spirit found a way to return to my corpse a hundred years from now. I don’t believe in it, but I like fantasising. My ego is temporarily numb and any vivid memories are gone, replaced by brief, fleeting perceptions, and it’s one of the few moments in which I’m not living in the past or in the future. I’m living in the now. I feel alive and calm, oddly calm. An oddly calm combination of cells, lying down in a tube, with an ego on snooze mode. Oh, it’s time to get back out there…
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?
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?
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!
Smell of new and
Life as art for art’s sake.
Neon light flickers as you blink
infected by dizziness.
No longer tone-deaf to the harmonies
of your own soul,
you don’t shrink for someone else to grow.
An invisible corpse in the plastic bag
winks at you from the corner-
madness, it grows
Lifeless but intense:
you don’t pray for another,
you prey for yourself.
She was standing by the window, her face seemingly puzzled by the familiar noise of trains rushing incessantly and birds making harpy-like sounds. It was really taking her back. Back to the days when she made connections between the number of the floor she was living on and the corresponding circle from Inferno, in hopes of attributing some grandiose meaning to her existence. Those were bleak times. It had to be the seventh floor. You were destined to dwell among the violent, submerged in boiling blood. Or the violent against self, being fed to Harpies. Harpies! Eyes shut for a few seconds. Opened again by the distant desperate sound of a cat in heat. I am here now. Rooted in the present, very rarely floating towards the realms of the past and the future.
On the other side, I see your face distorted among plants and fish; you smile and I’m happy because I know you know how I love rivers, lakes, and the sea from afar, and how I used to take swimming lessons when I was little, yet was never eventually able to swim for long distances as I always ran out of breath. You might also remember that I loved facing gigantic waves during storms, letting myself be lifted up and carried by the motion of the sea. Despite this, we probably talked about how I would not want to live by the sea, rather, I always wanted to find out what it would be like to live up in the mountains for a while, with the people I love, a dog, and a cat, surrounded by the warmth of a fireplace, drinking hot chocolate, watching the snowflakes tracing patterns on small windows. Would it be nicer than getting lost in the chaos of a big city?
That memory of snowdrops, fountain pens,
and spring dew
made my world shiver this morning
The universal shift of focus
from being to seeming
permeates our age of confusion.
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?
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.