Tag Archives: philosophy

Never stop dreaming

never-stop-dreaming

Is everything in life a coincidence or do we attract certain things into our lives with a reason? While I’m certain that I won’t find an exact answer to this question during my existence, I also know that less than 24 hours after my birthday post I found myself staring at this T-shirt in a shop window. I asked for guidance, for a way to fill my days with some meaning that goes further than those simple repetitive actions I perform over and over again. I was getting ready to give up on my dreams and force myself to “grow up”, as it started sounding kinda ridiculous to continue being childish at… 41?! (am I really that much old? 🙂 )

I started getting tired of defying those rules the majority of people follow without many complaints, but someone / something sent this message to me on that date I was born many long years ago. NEVER STOP DREAMING. I entered the store and took a closer look at the shirt. I liked the color and there was something extra special about the mandala pattern that surrounds the significant words, it seemed as if it stood there waiting for me to come by and take it home. On the way back I realized that even if I tried really hard to stick to that boring yet realistic way of living only, I would stay a dreamer all the same — that’s not something you choose in life, that’s the way you’re either born or not.

Even if it’s highly unlikely that I’ll ever get back to Italy again, I’ll still imagine myself sitting in the middle of Piazza Navona with a cup of good old Italian espresso in my hands on a sunny day, without a watch on my hand and without a care in the world, calm and completely composed, ignorant of those big important questions I ask myself every day, ignorant of death, passage of time and universal change.

I’ll still dream of writing a book or two and having people actually like my prose well enough to want to buy their personal copy and read it in their precious free moments.

I’ll still imagine some of my photos on a big billboard downtown, having the power of making somebody’s day or change somebody’s life for the better.

Even though it is highly probable that none of this will ever happen, I will still hope. Maybe it’s crazy, but I’m sure that there are others out there like me, fragile souls who need encouragement in order to believe that they have something valuable to offer to the world. I won’t stop dreaming, that’s impossible.

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Battles are inside

It’s not the first time that I feel this strange distinction between the storm going on in my inner world and the serenity of the reality that surrounds me. Things in life are very plain if you manage to see them for what they really are, objectively, detaching yourself from the emotions you attribute to them. No matter how hard we try to run, fight, push, pull, squeeze, beg, drive ourselves crazy in some desperate attempt to change the course of imminent things,life blankly follows its own rules. And life’s rules are much bigger and stronger than that small dose of electrical energy that’s pulsating in our bodies while we’re still technically alive. Substantially speaking, life is simple. Life doesn’t divide things in good and bad, it doesn’t judge or analyze, it never gets happy or sad over its own actions. There are processes that have to be carried out from the beginning to the end, and life infallibly fulfills that mission. It does the work, but it doesn’t care about it. It’s us people who care, not life. This realization is one of crucial moments in dealing with panic disorder, that split second when you realize that you’re having all sorts of scary thoughts, panicking, drowning in a glass of water… over actually nothing. Nothing is going on that makes you feel that way, it’s just how you feel about something you want to do or situations ahead of you. Plainly put, it’s not life, it’s you. Understanding this can make the difference between suffering a full blown panic attack and halting it when it made only half of the damage. After some hard practice, it can truly work.

When it comes to real life events, it’s a lot harder, even though the principles are almost exactly the same. My dad got sick at some point in time. When exactly and how, we’ll never know. His cells grew and divided for many long years without particular problems. Or if there were problems, his body had ways or means to fix these mistakes. And on he went this way till some day when some big, irreparable mistake happened. Cells continued to grow and divide, healthy ones in their usual way, unhealthy ones in some fast, vicious, mistaken way. This process continued as he was living his life calmly and peacefully, oblivious of what was going on inside. When he got the symptoms, it was already too late. What we witnessed was only the last phase of that for a good reason called malignant process. Bad cells grew right through the most important clusters of good cells and ended my dad’s life, dying instantly in the battle they so triumphantly won. And then there was silence. Simple, bad, dead silence. It happened, it had its course and then it was finished, life did its job. All the rest – all my physical and mental struggle, all the images that still come back in horrific flashbacks day and night, all the tears, all the sorrow, all the questions (why this, why him, why us…), all that denial, anger, bargaining, depression and occasional painful acceptance, those are all just human created extensions of this story. The story ended more than a month ago and I’m still shaken inside and it’s still shaking every thing in my life, I’m still struggling and drowning in that small glass of water… but there is nothing in my reality OF TODAY that’s provoking this. The only difference between this situation and a panic attack situation is that I have a reason for my feelings, while panic has no foundations in reality. There surely is a reason, but it’s already sealed as a past event. I can’t change a thing about that reason. I can’t travel back in time and change things that haunt me as being something that I could have perhaps done differently. I can’t escape to future either to run away from the intensity of this recent loss. The only thing I have is now, this present moment. And as nothing bad is going on right now (at least nothing I’m aware of), it turns out that I shouldn’t be so shaken. People who manage to put this truth into action are on a good road to mastering that Zen’s full embracing of the reality in the present moment. There is nothing bad about holding onto this truth, it can only spare you from all that pain that actually serves no other purpose than to harm the person experiencing it. Yet it’s so hard to make this detachment. Is it guilt, the feeling that you’ll forget the person you loved very much if you no longer experience pain? Or perhaps the failure to put this into action is some sign of emotional immaturity or instability? I don’t know the answer. What I know though is that I’m still very much battling with myself, paradoxically still fighting against a finished illness, worrying constantly, reliving the details and painfully looking for the exact thing that went wrong in the first place. I do the chores of the day, I suffer, I live, I suffer, I sleep, I wake up and I suffer again. And none of this ongoing agony is real now, there is stillness of an autumn night outside, occasionally interrupted by rain and blows of wind against the windows. There are no battles out there, not any more, battles are all inside. But there is a huge step between understanding and implementing this.

It’s all life

Something crossed my mind tonight as I was washing the black shirt I wear a lot these days. I’ve been wearing only black things since dad passed away, but not really or only because it is the tradition in my country – this is how I feel and this is what the mind naturally chooses to do, it’s somehow that the brain becomes color resistant in grief – at least this is the best I can describe it with words. It totally is not me though to wear only black, so I had to buy some shirts, the one I was washing being one of them. My mind wandered off in this process to the phone conversation I had had earlier in the evening – I wasn’t feeling well at all in the first place when the phone rang, and there was this person calling with lots of shiny and glittering details about going on a luxurious holiday. Not a word about me, my life, my feelings, if and how I’m coping. Just about how great the place is, how much it costs, how special the accommodation will be… I sort of couldn’t grasp why I had to endure listening to all that boasting in this period of my life, with or without the situation with my dad I’m miles away from such a lifestyle and people involved in that story. Then as I was wrenching the shirt, I suddenly realized how firmly black its color is and how different life is for every one of us in any given moment – somebody is embarking on a high style journey, somebody is as we say wrapped up in black, somebody out there is being born at that very instant, somebody is celebrating a birthday or an anniversary. Somebody is getting married or divorced, somebody is sick or dying, somebody is being buried. It has always fascinated me how so many different things could be going on in the exact same fraction of time on this planet. Good, great, bad and horrible things, all together. And it is all life.

Hope

nada3

If you’re living in a Spanish speaking country, or if you simply speak or understand Spanish, don’t misunderstand the word written on this small wooden stick. Even though “NADA” means “NOTHING” in Spanish, in Serbian it means “HOPE”. How can this very same word have two so much different meanings in two different languages is a question that has only recently occurred to me. It’s truly amazing how something that means nothing to some people can still mean even everything to some other people, for hope is sometimes everything that you’re left with when all else fails.

When you speak your own language, you hardly ever think about the origin of words or the structure of sentences, unless you research linguistics. Usually you simply use your language every day to convert your thoughts into communication messages and spread them to the world around you for some reason. Perhaps you want to explain something or you need to be understood; maybe you want to get something, or simply channel your emotions. Basically you want to reach out to the others and you need a tool for that. This is what languages serve for.

When you start learning a foreign language, especially at an older age, you’re much more prone to the analysis of those first awkward words and phrases you’re more or less successfully putting together. Those incomprehensible strings of sounds or letters usually begin to remind you of something that you already know so that you can create associations, or you simply dissect words into smaller pieces in order to memorize them in an easier way. You’re aware that you’re dealing with something both strange and foreign to you (stranger doesn’t have to be strange 🙂 ) and you’re looking for a way to make it sound more natural and familiar. As you make progress on this amazing path, newly acquired familiarity of those previously unknown linguistic terms grows stronger and your job of expressing yourself becomes easier, up until a day comes when you realize that the foreign language lost something incomprehensibly magical about it that used to be there at the beginning, that something that set you on this journey at the first place. You might not consciously know it, but that’s the moment when you instinctively realize that the foreign language has become for you just another tool in the big bag of useful things that help you live this life, simply another way to say that same thing that has been materializing itself in some corner of your mind. This is more or less what happened to me as well with Spanish and all other foreign languages that I speak or understand. When I say or read “NADA” in Spanish, it automatically means “NOTHING”, while on the other hand in each and every context of my native Serbian it has always been and always will be only one thing – HOPE.

Now what’s the word hope doing on some silly wooden stick, you’ve surely been asking yourself by now. It’s a result of a phone call I had this evening with my aunt, person I very rarely speak to and person who knows very little about my life, my dreams, problems, interests, goals… She doesn’t truly realize how hard it is even for perfectly sane people to live in the crisis ridden Serbia of today, let alone how even much harder this can be for those suffering from any chronic illness. She thinks that I have some good job and some satisfying salary (this happens when you have to hide PD from your family) and she usually asks if everything’s ok at work. Tonight I replied that nowadays here in Serbia it is much harder than it used to be, to which she replied that I have no right to complain as it’s that way everywhere in the world, no one is immune to crisis. Maybe, but also maybe not, I answered. If everywhere in the world things were exactly the same, people would stand equal chances to accomplish things in life, which means that they would then never move just for the sake of having a better life. If that were true, her son would be living in Serbia today, together with all other talented, educated, special people who left this country for good. She added that even though things were not good here, we must have hope. Because you know how they say, hope dies last. Yes, great saying, I replied, but you know what, if it really dies last, then it means that after everything else dies, hope will eventually have to die as well. It dies last, but still dies, right? Hey, she shouted, how can you say things like that, we must have hope, we simply must have it, because if a man has no hope, man dies. To avoid further unpleasant debate on whether then man equals hope as man dies when hope dies, in which I personally don’t believe :), I simply agreed that we must have hope and I promised to be hopeful, after which our conversation drifted in some direction totally irrelevant for this blog and eventually ended with best wishes for some better future. I hung up and realized that I definitely don’t have any more hope for some better working environment in my country, yet I’m still not dead. How can one have hope in a place that has been artificially kept alive for almost 25 years, years of sanctions, stellar inflation, horrific economic crises, place where homes and lives were destroyed in bombings at the end of 20th century? How can you have hope in a country of people with permanent physical and psychological scars, country whose boundaries have changed so many times in my lifetime and are still changing in this last, seemingly terminal phase of extremely unsuccessful transition? I know that there is always hope in people’s hearts, but even hope gets consumed, it’s not infinite. It also comes with an expiration date, usually the better was the shape you were in when you started hoping, the longer you’ll endure bad things and consequently the longer your hope will last. But at some point if you have unsuccessfully hoped for too much time (and believe me, 25 years is a pretty long time), you’ll have to ask yourself if there is any sense in doing it any longer. It’s a rational, logical conclusion in given circumstances, yet people feel they must consider you crazy if you decide to give up hoping.

While I was contemplating on all this, my hand ended up in my sweater jacket’s pocket and touched the familiar wooden object. It’s not just about any piece of wood, it’s actually a medical spatula used for examining patients’ throats, one of many new, unused spatulas we have at home, which my father brought from work when their sterilization dates expired. They were no longer good for people’s mouths, but they are great for mixing something, or for just about any other domestic purpose you can think of.

Now what was this particular spatula doing in my pocket? I live in an apartment building on the second floor, which in my case means that I need to go up and down 5 entire flights of stairs to get in or out of my living space, so I often use the elevator. It’s been more than two months since the elevator’s outer door can’t close properly to ensure that it can normally move up and down away from my floor. We’ve been calling, asking and literally begging the maintenance service which we pay pretty dearly every month to come and fix it, but nobody seems to care. We warned them that this is also a potentially dangerous situation and that someone might get hurt, but still nobody cares. We’re in the middle of the crisis. There is not enough money for the spare parts. Call only if the elevator doesn’t move AT ALL. If instead it’s still moving “somehow”, it means that it’s still working, so goodbye and have a nice day. So what do I do? I enter the elevator, the outer door closes on its own, I close the inner doors and push the desired button. I hear the familiar “click” sound, but the elevator doesn’t move. I take out the spatula from my pocket, stick it into a narrow space between the inner doors and thus make some pressure from inside on the outer door, slight pressure which is just about enough to move it a bit and create the necessary closing contact which sets the elevator in motion. And this is what I’ve been doing every single day for more than two months, because 5 flights of stairs are not always an easy option for someone in my health condition. The feel of that wooden stick in my pocket set a wave or ironic, nervous, miserable laughter. I laughed out loud like crazy for a minute or two. Then I took out a ball point pen and wrote “NADA” on it. For if it is sane and acceptable to have hope in a country where you have to carry spatulas around to set elevators in motion, then I’m an irreparably delusional human being.

But hey… let’s hope… to begin with, for the return of Hope.