Category Archives: Uncategorized

The Ring

There is one stainless steel ring I keep wearing all the time in this last period. Not because it has any particular material or sentimental value, but simply because I like the design of small flowers it features, flowers that manage to make some difference and let my thoughts drift away from this strange reality that is currently suffocation my mind, body and soul. It has also one pretty good practical advantage – if it gets wet or in contact with disinfectants, it doesn’t darken. Steel is tough and it doesn’t care what you do to it, precious metals do. Precious metals and gems need care, cleaning and pampering – it’s the treatment all special and rare things require in order to shine. But steel almost dare them all, it defies cold, dirt, liquids, it renounces fancy and expensive jewelry stores because they don’t let it sit on their precious shelves. It proudly stands in front of you, almost whispering: I’m not expensive, but I can be just as much beautiful as they are, those I’ll never belong to.

Last Friday I lost it, for the third time. I took my mother to eat ice cream in a shopping mall not so far away from our place. There was one of those usual offers: 2 ice creams for the price of one, so we took advantage of it. We sat and ate our chocolate and strawberry flavored ice creams in the middle of a huge crowd of those who came to eat their small portion of fast food and dwell around fancy stores, usually without buying anything that isn’t on sale. From time to time you would see those with hands full of colorful bags coming out of the hypermarket or cheaper stores, pale, with big dark circles under their eyes, victims to the modern slavery of corporate societies and their own families who expect them to exchange their exhaustion and lack of freedom during the week for material things on weekends, for an instant gratification and small endorphin surge that in many cases vanishes completely by the time they get home and realize that the hard earned money is gone and that they got themselves a ton of not so necessary or good things after all.

I finished my ice cream and left them immersed in their quest for material happiness, heading towards restrooms. I did the usual mistake of taking the ring off before washing my hands, even though water and soap can’t harm it. But it’s one thing when you take it off and forget it in your own bathroom, and something completely different to leave it on a sink of a super crowded shopping mall on a Friday night. It takes us two buses to get home from there and it was only by the time that we reached the bus stop of our second bus that I touched my finger and felt for the ring as I usually do by reflex. It wasn’t there.

I got an immediate flashback of the moment when I took it off and placed it in the corner of the dark sink – the memory of so many dark and metallic shades in that restroom gave me some completely vague hope that it could have gone unnoticed, small, insignificant and totally inexpensive ring hidden in a corner of a big, fancy and ultra modern shopping mall restroom. Yet the hope was vague and almost nonexistent – this is a country in which everybody is lacking something, many people even that totally basic stuff. In such a situation you can definitely expect everybody to collect any single thing that they spot unattended.

I can appear a pessimist or even a coward to many, but I have one quite strange personality trait for somebody with panic disorder – I almost never give up, and it is one of those few rare things in which I don’t resemble my father. He fought to be on the realistic side of things, but he inclined to pessimism. It was impossible to watch tennis matches with him – if you like tennis, you know how the situation can change all the time from one extreme to the other over the entire length of the match. It’s always about the change, but one thing is certain – it is not over until it’s really over. Until you hit the final point, you still stand some chance even though all the odds of the world might be against you. We haven’t witnessed once the situation in which the players crawled back from the bottom of the pit of what seemed long lost match to even the score and even triumph in the end. I believed in my father even when everybody said that he wouldn’t make it, when everybody gave up on him, when he gave up on himself and just begged to die. I believed to the last beat of his heart recorded by ECG brought by the ambulance doctors and even in minutes and hours after it. It just couldn’t seem real that we lost his battle. Maybe this is some kind of foolish idealism, but that’s me and I don’t think it is such a negative trait after all – if we want to live this life, we have to fight, and the only way to just try to win a fight is to believe that you can do it.

I suppose that many people would simply assume with disappointment that the ring was lost forever, go home and eventually stop thinking about it. In my case, things are not over until they’re really over – I had to go back and cast that final look on that sink and assure myself that it was really gone. I don’t know if I truly hoped to find it on my way back to the mall, it was just that my anxious and impatient nature wanted to rush the bus as much as possible to get back there in no time. Just one look, that was all I needed. The bus finally reached the right stop and I jumped out of it and started running fast towards the mall’s entrance – I had no idea that I could even just get back to this huge place at the end of a terribly busy day, let alone run that fast. Two flights of moving staircases, one final run around the corner and there I was, in front of the entrance door of the restroom. I hesitated to enter, as if there could be more than one of two solutions – it was going either to be there or not, it’s not a rocket science. But I stood frozen for God knows how many seconds, almost as if I could materialize it inside if it happened that somebody had taken it away.

Then the door opened and an old lady came out. I held the door with my hand and headed towards the remote corner of that sink. With hope. Hope dies last, but it still dies from time to time. It wasn’t there.

Two young girls were washing their hands and gave me odd looks as I stared at that empty place where I left my ring, flooded with disappointment and betrayed by hope. It was just a small, insignificant ring that I bought for myself four years ago on the street, in the pedestrian zone. The only sentimental value that it could have was the link with those moments in which I had a job with meaning, I was teaching Italian, that language that I studied and that I still love and miss so much these days, as nobody seems to want to study it any more here where I live. I parted ways with English many years ago and it got revenge on me – I have no longer the fluency and vocabulary I used to have, and paradoxically the only two foreign languages that seem useful in Serbia nowadays are English and German. I taught Italian and my father was alive, it was spring of 2013. I had no idea what 2014 had in store for me. I went out of the restroom and as I was moving away, I noticed the cleaning lady leaned over some boxes in the room for the staff. I don’t think that I had some true intention to stop to talk with her, but remember – things are not over until they are really over. I asked her if by some remote crazy insane chance she spotted a ring on the sink, expecting no for an answer. Instead, she smiled and reached for her pocket. She opened her hand in front of me and there it was, back one more time, as if it were cat with nine lives. I kissed this thin, simple woman with dark circles around her eyes who obviously has a really rough life. She said she wanted to give it to the security staff later when she finished her work but that she was happy that I found her – she could have been on either of several levels of the mall, but something brought us together in the same place at that very same moment. I think she thought the ring was a gift from somebody really special, and as it was hard to explain to her that this wasn’t the case and that I was simply overwhelmed with joy because of winning one more battle against all odds and recovering my only companion in my utterly silent days at work. I don’t think she would understand that a piece of steel could be a lot friendlier than people, so I decided to leave out this embarrassing part of my life story. I left my backpack in my mother’s arms who returned home alone, so I had no money to buy something for her and it felt bad. I do hope that I’ll see her again when I manage to return there and brighten up her day somehow, in the same way that she brightened mine with her honesty and friendly attitude.

She’s my hero of the day, the person who managed to prove that kind and dear people with human traits still exist. I will remember her every time I cast a look at my tiny steel ring with floral pattern. Psy, you were right, such people still exist – just don’t look for them among computers, they are hidden in humble masses like rare remnants of some totally different times.

 

 

Missing the old times

Yes, I miss them. A lot. Times when I was writing while lying on my bed with a notebook and pen, creating words on the paper and not by typing and making them appear on a screen. I miss times when you actually had some time to sleep, stop and think twice what to do and how to do it in a better way. When something you managed to create or write lasted for more than several hours or a day before becoming an old and unnecessary string of words. But above all, I miss times when people actually cared about other people. At least I’m fortunate enough to have certain number of years that permit me to remember those days.

I watched an episode of an old Serbian TV series tonight, “The Policeman from Petlovo Brdo”. There is this moment when the police inspector is threatened by his superior that his absences due to the needs of his 5 kids would not be tolerated any more and that if he continued to “behave” that way that he would either loose his job, or had to go back to work on the streets again for much lower salary which wouldn’t permit him to sustain the needs of his large family. He turns to one of his ex-wives, successful manager in a big company to help him find a job and she asks him:
– Well… anyhow what kind of job are you actually able to do? Are you good with computers?
– No, he replies. I’m good with people.
– Well, in that case nothing, there is no need for people like you any more.

This was 24 years ago. In Serbia, country that was by no means as technologically advanced as the rest of the world at that moment.

Today, 24 years later I found some completely undefined job that absolutely requires the use of computers. I have no idea how long I will have this job because jobs in Serbia last much much shorter than people, but I’m not really sure that when it finishes that I’ll regret it. 24 years ago you had to be good with computers, but people’s feelings still counted. Today, you can’t avoid computers any more, but people don’t speak among themselves. They all stare at their own computer, lost in their own world, totally disregarding those around them. When they make a pause to eat, nothing changes. They go to the “dining room” and eat together in silence, staring at their smartphones or tablets. When the time comes to go home, they walk in a crowd in the same direction without speaking to each other. At most you can get one dull, mechanical hello from them during the first and last daily encounter. The worst thing is that they don’t care about themselves either, about tomorrow, about consequences of their actions. The only thing they care about is the paycheck day. And some of them are only 24 years old.

Oh yes, I miss the old days so much.

Doctors of the world please unite

Maybe this is not exactly the best comeback post, but I just felt a need to say something to the world I’m still living in. I know that I haven’t been very active here for a long time and that not many people will see this post so that it can make some difference, but still here it is.

I was on a cremation ceremony today, one of my father’s friends and my neighbor died, killed by prostate cancer. He was one really interesting man, respected, esteemed and loved for his vast knowledge and numerous activities, he could have still done so much and pass on so many things to his grandchildren, but there was no salvation. There is no help or cure if available “treatments” don’t work, nothing to do apart from stuffing people with morphine and making them hallucinate up until their bodies fall completely apart.

I do understand that cancer is hard and complex disease, extremely difficult puzzle to solve and that it takes so many active hours of research to get better treatment solutions, but I want to try to believe that there are also so many intelligent people living on this planet who could make a difference if only they would join their brilliant minds together. It sometimes seems to me that so many lives are lost because numerous great brains on Earth aren’t given a proper chance to express themselves, or because they simply spend time doing tons of essentially insignificant things to secure mere survival. As I walk down this alley of life, crumbling the second half of the life journey I was set on at birth, I realize every day that more and more people are battling with cancer or losing their battle for life. Those people need something more than treatment for pain, they need hope.
People who take care of them need hope, too. They are destroyed and completely drained in those horrific battles for their loved ones, but they would still tire themselves out to complete exhaustion if only that would mean the cure for the patients with metastatic cancer. As I was following this man’s decline, I saw my father’s decline – death by cancer isn’t that much different one from another even though there are hundreds and hundreds of different types and sub-types of this disease. I wanted to be able to give his wife some solution, something different, something new, something that didn’t exist in 2014 when my father was dying. I prayed for remission every night even though I recognized the same dad’s patterns in this man’s decline. I refused to tell her when the end was getting nearer and nearer that from what she says there was about a week left to him on this Planet – how could I when doctors didn’t want to tell her anything and exposed him to the radiation therapy in the last week of his life, taking their money and giving the family false hope by destroying the last bits of energy still stored in his body?!! And exactly on the seventh day, early in the morning, he passed away and the last traces of frail hope died with him.

The worst thing is that the time is still passing and every day more and more people succumb to this terrible disease. I wish I knew more to help, I wish I could change something, but I can’t. I can only send one small cry for help to the big world out there – oncologists and all other doctors of the world please unite your knowledge and minds to help the mankind. Rich people please fund the research for cure for cancer. It truly doesn’t matter if we’ll go to the space or drive the most expensive cars on Earth if we don’t have health. The death penalty was abolished in so many places on the Planet, but many people don’t realize that there isn’t worse death penalty than the one given by the doctor who estimates that you have a certain number of months to live and that you should put your affairs in order. He or she pronounces your death penalty while you don’t understand what you did so terrible to be punished in one of the worst possible ways, sentenced to wait for death in terrible increasing pains.

Those of you who can do something, please don’t waste time.
Those of you who can help doctors work in better conditions, please fund the research. It is SO important.

Don’t act as if cancer is something that happens to somebody else. It is true, it happens to somebody else up until it happens to you. Up until it is too late.

Specific

via Daily Prompt: Specific

There is a specific reason why I decided to come back on this specific day – it’s the Orthodox Christmas day and I hope that it can help me stick around this blog much more than I used to in the previous period. Many things happened and nothing in specific, my life has changed by desire or by force, but one thing is certain – it will never be the same. When a significant person is gone from your life for good, you’re faced with one specific emptiness – you’ll meet other people, you’ll do other things, you’ll laugh and cry again, but nobody will ever be able to take that specific missing place. Holidays are specifically hard – too much time to think and analyze, too many memories in your head and only one way to deal with all that mess – accept that life is just a constant, perplexing change and no matter what you do, you’ll never be able to stop the river of life going forward and taking away the world you’ve always known and loved. Its about countless endings and new beginnings – I would like to propose a toast to this specific new beginning of taking care of this blog where I can sincerely share what I think and how I feel, without the fear that I’ll be judged or rejected, because I’m wearing a mask. I’m just one specific person in a multitude of billions of other souls on this Planet and I do have a specific story of my own, but it’s nothing more or less than a page in the universal, non-specific book of life. See you soon everybody – have a great 2017 and may all your specific dreams and wishes come true!!!

Three months

decisions

1. TIME

“Where did this time go?” I asked myself in disbelief when I opened my dashboard again and read that it had been three months since my post “Diabetes” was published. I knew that it had been a while, but the extent of that period of time was obscured by daily events and musts. Many things happened of course, but also nothing particularly big occurred to keep me completely away from blogging. Tracking things back, it all started with the World Pancreatic Cancer Day and a very long translation I had to deliver in some reasonable time frame.

2. TWITTER

The World Pancreatic Cancer Day introduced me to the Twitter community I had evaded for so long, and suddenly I found myself in that vibrant wood of never ending tweets filled with hashtags and links, marked with a true ordeal to express myself in 140 characters. This trial overlapped with that difficult translation I was doing for days in a row, so Twitter was open in the background to keep my sanity in check in the much needed breaks. I don’t know if in the beginning I had some special hopes from this experience, but what I know is that most certainly I ended up quite disappointed. The constant flow of short tweets worsened my inability to focus on things, messed up my concentration, added unnecessary anxieties and left that bittersweet paradoxical impression that I was alone on a social network – nobody was reading my tweets as I was obviously just another anonymous newbie trying to figure out how things work.

3. WRITER’S BLOCK

There was another unusual consequence of formulating short thoughts only – whenever I contemplated on an idea for the blog there was a block, my mind was dominated by that horrible white page writers can stare at for hours with little to no success. It was as if I never liked to write as much as I did, as if I totally lost the ability to write, or as if I had nothing to say. As my translation progressed, this became more and more evident because at first I simply couldn’t wait to finish the translation and go back to blogging, only to end up utterly exhausted and with one desire only – to switch the computer off and deal with my own real world for a change.

4. TRANSLATION

The text I was translating was originally written in Turkish, converted to German and then loaded into some computer translation software (Google translate or similar) to get an English version! Now I was supposed to turn this broken and at times totally incomprehensible English into some decent and normal Serbian, wondering most of the time what on Earth the writer really wanted to say. I think that my head still aches two months later, so you can imagine why I longed to run away from the screen and keyboard and take a break.

5. HOLIDAYS

December slowly progressed towards the New Year’s holidays, which in my heart awoke even those deepest pains associated with the death of my father that managed somehow to subside over time. Holidays are to be celebrated with your family and loved ones, but the chair where my dad used to sit for as long as I’ve known the world around me remained dreadfully empty. This is not the worst, the worst comes with the final realization that his place will stay empty forever, that he’ll never occupy any other chair in this world any more or propose any other toast with that bright smile on his face I’ll never see again. Holidays in this Western civilization are also the time of the year when people buy presents big and small, the time for giving and making others happy. Me and my mom barely covered the basics, presents couldn’t be considered. I remember how warm were dad’s midnight greetings and how happily he looked under the tree to search for his presents and wait to see how we liked his presents. No tree this year, no presents, lots of tears. I began to hate holidays.

6. LESSONS ON HOW TO STOP GRIEVING

I was also given a “lesson” on how to better process my loss and harshly criticized by someone who never arranged a burial or had anybody, let alone a close person or a loved one die on his hands, which cast another shadow on already gloomy holidays.

7. BUS ACCIDENT

Two days before the New Year’s eve I was on a bus that slid off the road and ended up severely inclined to the right. The doors had to be forced open so that we could all be pulled out uphill to the safe ground.

8. 2016 – The ILLNESS YEAR

The year 2016 started. On the morning of January 1st I opened my eyes and instantly realized that I couldn’t – swallow. I could, but the pain was terrible. Ok, I caught some virus, that was evident. What I didn’t know was that the flu would turn into pneumonia, that I would break the same tooth twice on 2 separate pieces of bone hidden in meat for holidays, that I would have to have it pulled out while still with fever after very strong prolonged pains due to dentists not working for holidays and that my gums would get inflamed beyond belief… and the worst of all, that my lungs and coughing wouldn’t heal till the middle of February. If I knew all this, I think that I would choose not to wake up until January 1st 2017.

9. JOB

I sent out some job applications, but I didn’t get even just a short automatic courtesy reply that my applications weren’t taken into consideration.

10. LACK OF GOOD LUCK / HOPE

It seems that wherever I turn there are just closed doors around me, and that I keep banging my head against walls that are closing in on me. I do think that I used to have luck in this life, especially in my school years, but I also think that there must be a certain variable amount of good luck in our lives that comes with an expiration date. Mine seems to have expired, several years ago. Good things ended and life got severely restricted when agoraphobia hit me in 2007 like never before. I still think that my life ended right there in the street on one sunny April day, a street that I finally crossed on the 7th or 8th attempt in total panic, feeling as if I would lose my mind once and for all. On many occasions I believed that it would have been much better if I hadn’t survived crossing that street, at least I would have died without ever getting to know the depths of despair in the unjust fight for sanity, peace of mind, and finally even life of the person who was always there for me with true and unconditional love only a devoted parent can have for his / her child. My dad’s fight is over, my fights continue every day and as whatever I do nothing works, it really feels that life has given up on me. It’s as if there are no more tasks for me to perform on this planet, as if I’m no longer needed. If there is a bigger plan we know nothing about and if things should be exactly as they are even though we don’t understand why, then it seems that my mission is over. I have no other explanation for this life without life which consists of memories and painful and empty present days. I try hard to survive them, one after another, but it’s far from easy. It’s not a rant of a spoiled childish person and I don’t long for anything big, my dreams don’t go farther than a honest work for 100 dollars a month. I don’t dream of yachts, houses or exotic islands, I dream of a day in which somebody would come to keep me company and be my friend while we get on a city bus and go to a park without any fear or panic. I would like to buy a pair of jeans and a jacket, I haven’t done so in 10 years. At first I had means but I couldn’t get out of house, now I get out of house with tons of struggles but I don’t have means. It’s an unjust world, on one side you have people who don’t have what to eat and cover many miles to fetch water every day, those who survive on less than 50 dollars per month, those who struggle with illnesses and have no either material or realistic means to cure themselves… and on the other side, you have those who have everything, whose lives consist of constant fulfillment of their wildest dreams. I feel I still have things to offer, in spite of my panic disorder and pretty realistic odds that I’ll end up having cancer as well sooner or later, but somehow what I have to offer or say is not needed. Market dictates differently and it seems that I missed my trains.

11. FIGHTING AGAINST WINDMILLS… OR THE POWER OF POSITIVE THINKING

I’m still going on, in spite of everything, in spite of knowing that there is just tumbling downhill in front of me, that if I stay here long enough I’ll lose my dogs, mom and eventually a house as well if I don’t manage to earn something. I try not to think about it and live one day at a time, that’s what’s defined as “sane”, while sane and logical would be to be scared to death of such life perspective. People just tell you – oh something good will happen, you’ll see. THINK POSITIVELY. If you ask them what exactly to think to make such horrid life scenario positive and what’s the recipe for success, they have no idea, but they still repeat – think positively. Or something like this – keep your goals within objective limits. If you know how to shrink mine further down, speak freely, I’m all ears. Also if you know how to make good things happen just like that on their own, don’t hesitate to write.

Thanks for listening… and let’s “think positively” for the rest of this already pretty hard year. Be well and take care.

Coming back

Daises

It’s been a while, I know. Again. It’s not that I was away doing something extra special or particularly nice, on the contrary, and it’s not that I forgot about the blog or blogging. Many things happened for sure, but even when there were breaks from the routine and when I tried to come up with something to say, I was confronted with that big scary blank page I couldn’t overcome. The roller coaster of negative emotions, illnesses and inability to deal with life as it is now for me affected my expression to a great extent. Whoever said that time alone heals, lies. I’ve also been trying hard to find any kind of paid job I could do online from home… the effort is without success, which is pretty discouraging and disappointing as well in a situation where there isn’t enough income. I tried writing a comeback story with highlights of the events from these past months, but I’m not succeeding in cutting a long story short or making it prettier to make it sound less like a rant. It will take me some more time, but I’ll complete it so that I could have a starting point for this comeback journey in which I’ll have to define a course this blog should take if I want to keep it in a more regular fashion. I want at least something to happily grow again in this sad life of mine filled with stagnation of everything I once did. The only thing I always do, every single day, is overthinking. I’m horrible at doing things in the physical world, while I could think and weave thoughts forever as it seems. There should be at least some use of it, at least there should be the joy of sharing them with the world.

Another comeback, just like another spring emerging out there in the fields, symbolized by these very first shy little daises. Hope.

Diabetes

Blood glucose meter
Our blood glucose meter – photo by tamellu 2015

It was World Diabetes Day yesterday, the day of awareness that high blood sugar is absolutely not something we should neglect or take lightly. I’m living in Serbia, a country of somewhat more that 7 million people where 710,000 souls are diagnosed with diabetes, with estimated additional 245,000 others who have diabetes but don’t know it and don’t treat it. Those figures are indeed horrifying, and if we as humanity continue with current nutritional habits future surely won’t look optimistic.

Diabetes is a silent illness and can go for a long time undetected. At the time of diagnose if the patient didn’t check his or her blood work in years, high blood sugar had already made some damage in the patient’s body and shortened the expected length of life. People run away from this diagnose because we all very much fear illnesses that are still considered incurable, but in case of diabetes there is no need for that. There surely isn’t some medication that can fix things and allow you to go on eating whatever you want without a worry in the world, it’s a chronic lifelong illness, but there are treatments that can allow you to live a normal and happy life for many years. My dad was a diabetic for 22 years and as a medical doctor he strictly obeyed the nutritional plan he had to stick to. He couldn’t eat cakes or sweetened things, but he had a perfectly normal life, and what’s much more important his diabetes didn’t progress to provoke some of serious complications such as diabetic polineuropathy, gangrene, loss of eyesight, stroke… to name just a few. Yes, he eventually died of cancer and today we can only debate on the link between the diabetes and his pancreatic cancer, but he died at the age of 78. He was my dad and even he died at 98 it would be painful and I would ask myself if he could go on for maybe a little while longer, but I must admit that he still managed to live a reasonably long life without any serious problem up until virtually one month before he passed away. In the whole 2014 up until the end of July the only symptoms that could indicate cancer were certain weight loss and some changes in bowel habits which were attributed to his new combination of medication for diabetes. At the beginning of August the first dramatic symptom was a rapid, violent onset of blood sugar spinning totally out of control even though he still took his therapy and ate as usual. I was later told that we would never be able to tell if the diabetes had caused cancer or it had been the other way round, the only definite certainty was that it took too long for doctors to establish the type and dosage of insulin shots to stabilize him enough so that he could at least try any true oncology treatment. All in all, dad had 22 wonderful years in spite of diabetes and as he followed all the advice and rules of his treatment, he didn’t even depend on insulin till the last 3 weeks of his life.

I would just like to encourage everybody out there to check their sugar values regularly especially if you’re over 50 because this is a borderline age for a possible onset of type 2 diabetes, particularly if you have genetic predisposition or if you indulged in too much sugary and processed food before in life. Don’t let thing spin out of control and lead you into a situation where you could start drinking massive amounts of water and going very often to the bathroom, which if left untreated can lead to diabetic coma that can have even a fatal outcome. There is absolutely no need for this to happen with an illness that in many cases just requires caution, therapy and discipline. On the other hand, if diabetic with a good therapy that keeps diabetes under control, bear in mind that any sudden and dramatic elevation of blood sugar values especially if associated with stomach pains must be immediately reported to a doctor who has to perform an abdominal ultrasound.

Take care of your health and never let an illness that can be prevented or successfully kept under control influence your life and your happiness. Diabetes takes some kind of tool on human body even when treated and I am aware of that, but I think that you would agree with me that 22 years of normal life is not that short at all. In those 22 years dad was never in the hospital, at the beginning still worked as a doctor, never suffered a heart attack or stroke, he had incredible stamina and strength and in all that time he was in bed 3-4 times for several days with merely a seasonal flu. He traveled, worked strenuously in the garden, enjoyed a full and happy life. I would have nothing against such scenario if I got diagnosed with diabetes.

With lots of love for all of you out there, take care!

About American Express and “cross it out” demons

As November 15th was getting closer and closer, I had to get myself ready for paying the share of bills my dad used to cover. If I get the money for the job I occasionally do, this is my obligation. If not, then me and my mom have to come up with some incredible idea how to make the ends meet as her retirement money can’t cover all our bills and at the same time also sustain our food for 30 days. I got some money this month, but in addition to regular bills I also had to cover the last quarter of the annual tax for the apartment we live in, which is over the limit of the budget I receive. As I was making calculations and borrowing the additional necessary sum of money from the limit the bank allows on the only credit card I hold, I suddenly found myself in the middle of some kind of commercial for the American Express credit card the bank clerk was giving her best to make me take. As I was laughing out of misery over her shiny counter while trying to explain to that fancy woman that she was knocking too hard on the wrong door, she went on to elaborate on the wonders of what the travel health insurance that comes with the American Express can do. It virtually provides you with the health insurance that covers the trips all over the world, as opposed to MasterCard’s insurance which is valid for Europe and Turkey only. She continued with praises as to how this is wonderful if I travel a lot, especially if I have a family of my own. Another involuntary stab into my back from her part because obviously she thinks that if she works in a bank for a great salary, has good health and a husband and two kids, that everybody else is like her. Maybe “normal” people are, maybe that’s how things usually work or should work. And as they don’t work that way in my case, maybe that simply means that I’m not “normal”. Whatever.

When she asked if I travel, I replied – No, very rarely at the moment. What I should have said was – No, I don’t travel at all.
A) I have no money.
B) I’m an agoraphobic, I can barely stand an hour drive from home to the cottage house. You don’t need the American Express health insurance for the village at the outskirts of Belgrade.
C) I might as well die without bothering the health services – it’s just my mom who would notice the difference, the world couldn’t care less.

When she asked if I’m married, I said – no, I’m not. She replied – oh that’s not a problem, when you get married, all the members of your family will be insured as well. She said this as if getting married were some sort of undebatable truth, almost an axiom: you’ll get married, period.
What I should have said was – No, I’m not married and I’ll probably never marry.
A) I’m 39 and living in Serbia, people are already married at that age here if they marry at all.
B) I’m 39 and female, it’s getting highly unlikely that I’ll have kids if I ever marry. Serbian men usually run away from women like me.
C) I have panic disorder complicated with episodes of extremely severe agoraphobia. It’s not a flu and it won’t go away. Men in Serbia have many much younger women without mental health issues at their disposal.
D) My father died of cancer and I resemble him so drastically that I can almost bet that what I witnessed will be exactly how the end of my days will look like. Panic disorder runs in families and is inherited in 86% of cases. The type of cancer my dad had is also very often inherited, and I can’t go and have my pancreas and the rest of endocrine glands taken out as a preventive measure to secure myself a long and healthy life. I still need to somehow digest the food that I eat. The ethical question is whether or not should I create another human being and leave it on this planet with extremely high probability of being condemned to this terrible fate… life is hard even on its own.

So, where were we – basically yep, no thank you, I don’t need an American Express card. The commercial was great and the offer tempting, but you picked up a wrong target. Thank you again, but NO thank you. I think that the bank clerk would be amazed what kind of life baggage could be hidden under a credit card commercial carpet.

While I just wanted to get rid of my November bills, I actually managed to get my self-esteem deflated to zero and below by the time I was pushing that expensive double door to run away to the street and get some bank-free air. I left aside barely enough money to buy a dental floss. It’s my life savior, as without it my dental pockets would require the hideous emergency pocket cleaning and eventually degenerate into paradentosis. More money. More pain. I used to visit my dentist regularly, now I can’t any more. I entered a DM store, heaven for every Belgrade woman in love with makeup and style. High quality German brand in combination with every other world’s best cosmetic brand you can think of, and on the top of everything tasty organic products. Almost perfect, if it didn’t require a lot of money. I grabbed the floss and as I was walking towards the cashier, I spotted a winter scarf. Lovely colors, stripes in all shades of violet from the darkest to the lightest. That’s me, my color, the one I like the best. I didn’t like the price though. Seven dollars. In America, that can probably be defined as cheap by many people. In Africa, that’s a whole world for a poor person whose village is miles away from food and water. In Serbia, it’s somewhere in between if you belong to what used to be defined as middle class. I don’t any more. So I paid for my floss and went out making sure that I arrive home as soon as possible. Not so much because of agoraphobia, more because of the fact that from the terrace of my apartment you can’t see any banks or shiny department store windows. There are just trees, little wood that can never remind me so harshly that I am a failure. Nothing to buy, nothing to sell, no credit cards, insurances or scarves. Just nature. Thank God for that. I just need a constant reminder that I should stay here as much as possible because going out there among all that “normal” people strongly aggravates my depression. Also, I have to remember not to make shopping lists. Instead of writing things down I need some sort of mental pencil to cross out every single item that comes into my mind. I can do without things, as long as I’m not hungry and capable of covering the basic needs. That’s for now. What will happen tomorrow? I simply can’t think about it. I don’t make plans, I have no means for that. It has nothing to do with panic, laziness or depression, I sent out dozens of job applications willing to push over all my limits, but with no success. Qualifications are not a problem, but age is. 39 seems to be way too old for any Serbian employer, plus the country is in quite severe recession. Life in Serbia is very hard, even without my issues.

I’ll leave this post as a reminder that I absolutely must block all shopping desires that come into my head because it still won’t come naturally, I’m doing my best to adjust to this new life I have to live. It’s livable, it surely still is life. And all that stuff we tend to consider important or even essential at any given point of time can be done without. People matter, not things.

One very special apple

As omega blocking allowed us to still enjoy sun and good weather here in Serbia, I took advantage of it to take a couple of shots with my dad’s favorite apple. ๐Ÿ™‚

apple
Apple 1 – photo by tamellu 2015
apple
Apple 2 – photo by tamellu 2015
apples
Apple 3 – photo by tamellu 2015

Omega blocking

Omega block
Just what is an omega block?

I always follow weather forecast on the first channel of our national television, RTS 1. In my opinion they have the most accurate forecast for Belgrade area for the next 3-5 days, with the successful prediction rate of nearly 90 percent, which is among the highest in Europe. Also, one of the reporters called Biljana Vraneลก is a graduated meteorologist and always loves to back up the forecast explanations with interesting scientific facts. Tonight she talked about dry and unusually nice weather and clear sky above Serbia, and how the field of high pressure in our atmosphere is responsible for chasing rainy clouds away and towards East. It would have remained one of fairly ordinary forecasts if she didn’t mention that this phenomenon is known as omega block or omega blocking. That’s where the amusement and laughter started almost instantly, both because I imagined how interesting it was that the shape of Greek letter omega could shield the sky over Serbia and also because I realized how cool this expression was. In Serbian it sounds even more cool, like some super fancy foreign explanation why it’s not simply speaking cold in November as it should be, but even in English it can be hilarious. Remember how we all talk a lot about weather especially when we don’t know what to say in certain situations, or how much we complain of meteoropathy, i.e. how weather makes us feel all sorts of pains and aches, and how much we blame it for irritability, instability, anxiety, depression, aggression, insomnia etc.? Well, now if you find yourself in the middle of good weather when not expected you can tell others – oh I feel bad today, I have omega blocking… or you can excuse yourself if you unexpectedly yell at somebody with one nice – sorry, it wasn’t me, it’s just my omega blocking ๐Ÿ™‚ They might as well think that it’s some weird new alternative diagnose and sympathize with you, oblivious of the truth that it’s actually just the good old weather going on your nerves. It’s the same trick doctors use when they speak Latin, even the simplest of things and treatments get raised to a whole new upper level. In my case, I’ll try to enjoy my omega blocking as long as it lasts, i.e. till this Greek letter decides to move away from my little country and make space for some water in form of rain and snow. We’ll come up with some other fancy expression to justify winter blues by then, that goes without saying. ๐Ÿ™‚

Biljana Vranes
Biljana Vranes – video by RTS / Radio Television of Serbia

Republic Hydro meteorological Service of Serbia