MC's Whispers

Whispering Silences

Disconnected

DisconnectedOK, who turned the modem off again?

Did the cat pull the cable or is the bunny munching on it again?

It was a usual day at the Thompsons’ house. Four people were all surfing the web, sending emails, or downloading videos on all kinds of devices – smartphones, tablets, computers, even on the television itself.

Can we call Carla again, mi hijo? I want to ask what happened with Juanita!” Even the grandmother had become accustomed to the wonders of a Skype call and she was really getting used to this technological marvel that brought people closer.

But today, there was a problem. Elliott was the first one to notice it. He couldn’t log on to the App store to download a new game and was beginning to get agitated. He had reached a level that was simply unsurpassable in all his existing games. He needed something new.

Jenna was also upset. She could not see the rest of her favourite reality show as the streaming was too slow and would constantly break up.

Charlie was complaining because he could not finish his work and couldn’t even send an email to warn of the delay.

Sandra was also yelling. She could not find anything else to do and had grown up with the Internet. From what she remembered, she had always lived a life online. How would she now check for social media updates? She felt extremely cut-off, isolated. “WTF!! It’s as if we’re back to the Stone Age!

Will, the father of the family had just got off the phone with the service provider. There was a technical problem and the Internet could not be fixed today. Efforts would be made to solve it as soon as possible, but tomorrow was the earliest that could happen.

Panic ensued in the Thompson house. “How will we ever survive?!” was the main concern of the youngsters, while grandma lamented not being able to see her sister in Columbia today.

Will was aghast. What kind of a world are we living in? We have no Internet and suddenly, life as we know it is gone? Do they even know that people had more of a life before the Internet? People in the Stone Age perhaps lived a more fulfilling life than we do today, he thought.

So he decided to try a different tactic with his digitally-addicted family. He dug out the box of board games that was conveniently stuck in a corner and was gathering dust.

He was shocked to hear that the youngest members of the family had never even heard of the likes of Scrabble, Monopoly, even Jenga. So he set on a mission to rectify this. It required a lot of patience and calming down the constant Internet complaints. He was determined to teach these new dogs, old tricks. He was sure that once they get past the fact that they all involved more than a swipe or touch of the finger, it would be fun.

He was right. They all, including Sandra, soon forgot about the screens they were so attached to and began laughing their hearts out when bricks fell, words were misspelt and money was lost while the players were sent to jail! “This is awesome! How come we never did this before?” wondered Jenna. Charlie looked at his watch. It was three in the morning but nobody seemed to care. “Just one more round of Jenga please?” begged Elliott. And alas, there was life beyond the Internet, and it was enjoyable too!

Saying ‘yes’ to ‘no’

Very busy manIt’s nice to be nice. But how nice is nice? Lost? Everyone wants to be appreciated and thought of kindly. And for this, many choose to act as such too. Often it leads to doing things over and above your limits or endurance. It means going out of your way to please other people, sometimes at the expense of your very self. But sometimes, all you have to do is simply say ‘no’.

It’s not easy, but sometimes it is necessary.

Trying to please everyone and be on top of everything, controlling as much as you can, because of the popular belief that ‘if not done by you, it won’t be done right’, will at one point of other result in more than just a perpetual state of “busyness”. It will lead to burnout. And then, being nice is no longer an option. It simply does not exist.

Like this amazing article explains, “burnout happens when you’ve been experiencing chronic stress for so long that your body and your emotional system have begun to shut down and are operating in survival mode.” It leads you into a state where you are unsure about everything, cannot make decisions, do not want to do anything, and have no desire to snap out of it either. It is close to depression, but with the added exhaustion, both physical and mental.

We tend to live in societies where being available 24/7 is seen as advantage but feels like the exact opposite. We need to feel the constant vibrations of phone calls, or hear the constant bleeps of emails and messages arriving to feel important. That’s why we spend most of our day with our faces stuck in a screen, to the point where we even fall asleep with these still in hand.

Somewhere along the line of technological development, we forgot that we are human beings, and transformed into “human doings”. We are the ones who created this “disease of being busy”. And we now occupy a world in which “we have more and more and more to do, with less time for leisure, less time for reflection, less time for community, less time to just… be?”

We have become so wired up, that it actually feels strange when we have nothing to do. As if it is a sin to not run around constantly. Life coaches themselves state that we need to allow ourselves a little break every now and then; to say “yes” to life by saying “no” a little more often. To allow ourselves to wonder at the marvels around us, to enjoy the small pleasures of life, to actually live.

We cannot please everyone. And no matter how hard we try, we never will. So why don’t we all just try to do the best we can, and enjoy the little time we have in this world. It all starts with two letters: “no”. Sometimes it’s all it takes. And if said as nicely as possible, you won’t lose face. You will just be seen as a person who knows and admits to their limits. And that takes more courage than struggling to do everything.

 

No one is too busy in this world. It’s all about priorities”.

A snowy escape

Five-Snow-AngelsNickie was excited. She had spent all week waiting for the weekend because that is when it would take place. A road trip to the mountains! But when Saturday came, she woke up to a cloudy sky with the sun losing at hide and seek. She was despaired, fearing that the trip would be cancelled especially as it suddenly began pouring with rain, accompanied with loud thunder and flashing lightning. She dreaded when the phone rang. She picked it up, while her heartbeats increased to a hundred. “Hey girl, don’t forget to put your boots on and dress warmly! I’ll be there in ten minutes!” That was it! It was still on. Nickie pulled on a warm fuzzy sweater, grabbed her woolen cap and mittens and rushed to the door.

Akira pulled up in ten minutes. Jennie and Edmond were already in the back seat with a huge smile on their face. They were all enthusiastic, despite the rain that was coming down harder now. Akira was a keen driver though and they all felt safe with him behind the wheel.

The town seemed grey and gloomy. There was hardly anyone walking around, not even driving for that matter. People preferred to stay indoors rather than give in to the howling winds outside. It was as if a blanket of depression had fallen over the city, transmitting that very feeling to those underneath it. That is why Nickie was so happy when they were now passing through a forest. The green of the leaves that had not fallen conveyed a sense of freedom. There was tranquility found in the forest, one so different to any other emotion felt anywhere else. It was so peaceful. It almost felt as if this acted as a shield to the hailstorm from which they had just escaped. The rain was significantly less here, and Akira could finally slow down the windscreen wipers, which so far were frantically jumping up and down.

But the magic really began when they reached the mountain. The winding climb up was not Nickie’s favourite. It always made her stomach turn, so every driver she was with knew well to slow down and be particularly careful. The first signs of what awaited for them at the top appeared from the white dots that appeared on the green leaves of the wild plants growing at the side of the road. Slowly the white glimpses overtook the green and the road itself began to be covered by snow. Snow!! Nickie felt the adrenaline rushing through her veins. As soon as the mountain peak appeared and she saw the entire slopes and valley covered with in snow, she placed her cap on, flaps covering her ears. Jennie and Edmond laughed but they too put on their mittens. As soon as Akira parked and said OK, they all ran out, like a herd finally gaining their freedom.

Nickie ran to the middle of a snow-covered plane and fell onto the snow. She loved this feeling, of a fluffy white blanket onto your back, while staring at the cloudy sky above and the snowflakes falling from the trees. She had always seen actors in movies doing this and she finally got to do it too – a snow angel! She felt so liberated, so carefree, so alive!

The four of them spent an entire day up in the mountains playing with snow, to the point where they didn’t want to leave. Akira had a surprise lined up though – they would stay at the mountain cottage tonight a bit further down, so they would have one extra day to play in the snow. Before they left, Nickie and Jennie began building a snowman. Akira and Edmond at first laughed, but soon began filling up the snowman’s belly. He was a cute one. They even placed two big stones for eyes, a twig for a nose and a lien of pebbles for a smile. He even had two larger twigs for hands. It was almost as if he winked and waved as they headed to the car, satisfied at a day away from worries and troubles. As if the snow had lightened up their gloomy moods. “This escape was so necessary”, they all agreed as they made their way to the cabin.

Happy like a hippo

Hippo Photo 05-11-14 14 31 05They say the river horse, or hippopotamus (aka hippo) is a happy animal. At least that is what Scuba Claude (Hank Azaria) said in Along Came Polly. And he made an interesting point. According to this cool Frenchman in the movie, “Zee heeppopotamoose, he is not born saying, “Cool beans. I am a heeppo.” No way, Joesay. So he try to paint zee stripe on him to be like zee zebra, but he fool no one. Then he try to put zee spot on zee skin to be like the leopard, but everyboody know he is a heeppo. So, at certain point, he look himself in zee mirror and he just say, “Hey. I am a heeppopotamoose and zere is nothing I can do about it.” As soon as he accepts zis, he live life happy. Happy as a heeppo.”

No matter what we paint on ourselves, we will never truly fool anyone, or even our very selves for that matter. Deep down we will know exactly who we are. And in the end that is all that matters. As long as we are content that we are being the best we can be, we can let everything else go. And simply be happy. Happy like a hippo.

 

Also part of Daily Prompt: Ready, Set, Done

To love or pretend to live

Foot popping kissYou watch a movie and almost always it has a happy ending. Especially if it is a romantic comedy (rom-com), or like my brother likes to say, a “chick-flick”. But it does leave you with a fluffy feeling inside. One that brings a smile to your face, for no real reason. However, it makes you think: does this really happen?

How likely is it to find your soul-mate, the person you will spend the rest of your life with, in such a short time and live happily ever after with him/her? How feasible is something like that?

But who doesn’t want to fall in love? To feel the butterflies flutter inside your stomach at just the thought of this one person. To blush simply by their kiss, or their mention of your name in public?

Marcy always dreamed she would fall in love with an amazing guy. One who would sweep her off her feet, and make her foot pop up when he kissed her. She spent hours watching rom-coms, hoping that one day this would happen to her. With all the adventures, humor and romance they all encompassed. And she spent most of her life hoping. Because although she did date, they all, at one time or other, turned out to be jerks, who simply wanted to pass their time, who did not treat her right, or who just left.

But Marcy never lost hope. After all, she had her rom-coms for comfort.

One day, or night rather, she had gone out with her best friend. They decided to visit a new bar in town and have a drink to vent out their problems and concerns with each other. Marcy insisted she would buy the first round. As she turned around from the bar, two drinks in hand, she literally fell onto a person whose eyes seemed to light up the entire room. “I’m so sorry she said,” looking to see if she had spilled anything on what appeared to be an expensive shirt and designer jeans. “Not a problem at all,” he replied as they locked eyes and Marcy remained speechless. “I’m Shane,” he said, extending a hand. Marcy smiled nervously and lifted up the glasses she was holding in each hand. They both laughed. She already knew him. No, really. Shane was an actor. And a renowned one for that matter. He was a bit of a heartthrob and Marcy could now see exactly why. It was not just his looks. He had a certain charm about him. Something mesmerizing. “I have to go,” she said, “my friend is waiting”. He nodded, and as she moved, she heard him calling out “I’ll buy the next round”. She smiled and reached her friend clearly flustered. She recounted the whole story with her friend trying to control her excitement. By the time Marcy finished telling her tale, Shane and a friend of his were already asking if they could join the two girls. To the latter, it was an offer they simply could not refuse.

It did not take long for Shane to win over Marcy, head over heels. She was in love with him and the very idea of being in love. He courted and sought her and that made her feel special. He sent flowers for no apparent reason, showed up in surprise visits and prepared romantic outings. Everything a girl would want, according to Marcy.

But despite the dream she was living, Marcy could not shake off one thing that was spinning in the corner of her mind – he was an actor, how could she be sure he was not acting with her? She always fantasized herself dating one of those handsome young men who held the lead roles in the rom-coms she so loved. But she never actually considered the practicalities of dating one. Because now, how could she really know when he actually stopped acting and was speaking the truth?

One day she told him about her preoccupation. He smiled and told her that the only thing that could reassure her was what she truly felt by what he said and did, and the way he treated her. “The answer is found here,” he said pointing to her heart, “not here” in her head. Marcy immersed herself in Shane’s arms where she felt safe.

But even after years passed and they were still together, she could never shake off that feeling. How can you truly trust a person who pretends for a living? In the end, she thought, she too had learnt to pretend, because it was the only way to survive in a world where nothing appears to be ideal, or even remotely close to that.

Shrink to grow

Psychiatrist - shrinkWhen you think about it, cavemen or even people living in the middle ages must have been much happier than we are now. OK, so maybe that is a bit of an exaggeration. But certainly people just a few decades ago were much better off. One piece of evidence for that is that no-one was howling the “financial crisis” jargon over the heads for what feels like forever. Another, is that they didn’t seem to have the urge to run to psychologists, psychiatrists or psychoanalysts to let out their problems.

In fact it seems that as society develops, our problems become all the more complex, intense and stressful. And for that, we need to feel that someone is on our side. Understanding and offering a helping hand, at least in the form of some advice.

Perhaps, this is the reason we often resort to ‘professional help’. Because “they would know better” and offer solutions. But in reality, all they truly offer is a chance for you to release everything that is bothering you, that is tormenting your mind, that is keeping you awake at nights. They allow you to liberate all the emotions, anger and tension that you have been suppressing for so long. And they do that by simply granting you the security that they will not judge. They are there to listen and maybe tell you what they believe will help you in finding the right solution or way forth. So, in essence, they act pretty much like a Buddha would, because the answer almost always lies within you. And in the end, you are the only one who can solve your problems.

You just need to realize what makes you so frustrated, that at times it comes out as passive-aggressive, what makes you depressed, what raises your heart pressure, what is troubling your mind and most of all, why. In this search for inner peace and answers, we all wish there was someone out there who could just provide us with all the information we need to know. But unfortunately, there isn’t. And they can’t. So we still don’t know.

Whoever your psychologist is – be it a Frasier Crane character, or more like a Charlie-type in Anger Management – these people may sit through tens of sessions a day, listening to other people’s problems and in the end they themselves may need someone to vent out on. So we could at least help them in their job and try to solve these inner riddles that are causing us to crawl up in their comfy chair in the first place.

Sometimes, the answers we seek are indeed right in front of us. We just lack the courage, the strength or even the will, to truly acknowledge them.

 

N.B. The term “shrink” is a clipping of “headshrinker”, a US slang term that simply refers to the idea that psychiatrists have the ability to reduce or “shrink” one’s mind into an understandable concept. Thereby (if I may add) helping you grow in the process.

Career Nomads and Freelancers: Striving to Create a Future

Career nomads - freelancersThere is a popular saying that “when things don’t go right, go left”. How many times recently have we all thought of turning to another direction? With the increasing difficulty people of all ages today face in finding a job, a different trend is on the rise – that of career nomads, and freelancers. All hoping for a better future.

Tereza worked for big public relations companies for almost 20 years before she resigned and decided to go freelance three years ago. She regrets nothing. This has today become a growing tendency — people quitting their jobs to go independent and become self-employed. The unfavourable working conditions simply make the decision easier. “It is no longer a choice but an unavoidable outcome of the crisis,” explains Tereza. “Many people have to work freelance as there is not enough full-time (and even part-time) job creation on a global level to sustain a growing job market”.

And it is true. In countries like Greece and Spain, where unemployment has sky-rocketed, people have been forced to rethink their necessities, priorities and habits. It has encouraged more and more people to become freelancers, as they cannot find a job in a company. But this also means that they will probably be uninsured and only get paid if they have a client who will pay them. People no longer think about saving up for the future, but of having enough money for today.

In freelancing, there is no guarantee as to when the next assignment will come up,” says Tereza. “Another important disadvantage is that a freelancer has no medical coverage or other social benefits.” But there are also very important advantages pertaining to this type of employment, she adds. These include flexible working hours, the freedom to choose who to work with and what projects to take, as well as the fact that you do not have to be physically present in an office.

Making the leap

Nick followed a similar path. After a decade working in a private energy company, it was sold. Drowning in bureaucracy with limited chances of career development, he decided to go freelance, making good use of all the contacts he had gathered in the course of time. Now he works on a project-basis but is happier. He gets to determine his own work and time schedule, and most importantly, choose his own clients. “It’s more rewarding to work for yourself,” he says, “but it is also tougher.”

Things are not as easy for someone starting off as a freelancer, though. Tina, a graphic designer and recent graduate, is new to the labour market with only the experience of a few internships. She is striving to find independent projects to work for, but not having the necessary contacts to move ahead, she is still struggling to be given a chance.

Finding fullfillment

Yet, people feel the need to change careers in order to find a job, find a more fulfilling profession and gain enough money to make a decent living.

After working in communications for over seven years, Dominic decided to take a step in a different direction. He went back to school to study architecture, what he “always wanted to do, what he would enjoy, and what he could do well”, but was discouraged out of fear of not finding a job later on. “What difference does it make now?” he wonders, as unemployment has spread to all sectors of the labour market.

But what really urges someone to make such a radical change? “I was tired — of the hours, the workload, the tight deadlines, lack of time off, the political scene, of nothing ever getting done. And because my health could no longer take this pace,” he explains. “So, I decided it is time for a change. To slow down, do something more creative, something that I wouldn’t have the pressure of a big organisation in, and have greater flexibility and more time to take care of myself and those I care about. Even maybe work for myself instead of a company — no one seems to be hiring anyway.”

Eternal career nomads?

We have become career nomads. Moving along with the changing tides, with the hope of maybe landing a job that may guarantee some sort of pay, no matter how low that may be.

Maybe in the future I will do something entirely different again — I don’t know. But I know that when I stop enjoying something or cannot take it anymore, and have the luxury to change things, I should try,” says Dominic with a smile, as his eyes gleam with the exciting prospect of this change.

People’s main concern today is how to pay the many taxes that have been imposed per capita, how to ensure a daily meal and how to simply get by. Thoughts about pensions are now minimal, at least for youth. Uncertainty is the emotion of this time and there is no feeling of security left. But there certainly is some optimism remaining and the perseverance to keep fighting for something better. “My main concern is to live a life that is fulfilling, satisfying and makes me happy and calm,” says Dominic. But perhaps it is no longer enough simply to change profession. We need to change mentality, too. As individuals, as nationals and as Europeans. Only then, will we be able to change society towards the better and create a future worth aspiring for.

 

This article was first published on Cafébabel.com and translated in French, Spanish, Italian, German and Polish.

Turn away and slam the door

halloween-cupcakes-e1288184827127Melody was a bit of a hippie at times. She had days were she would only listen to country, and then others when she would abruptly switch to rock – it was exactly like that song said. But mood swings are apparently fitting to every woman, so that wasn’t strange. What truly suffocated Melody though, was the fact that some days she did not feel like singing at all.

It was the days when she felt her frustration with the world mounting inside of her, like a volcano ready to erupt. And it was precisely for that reason that she loved Halloween. Because she could really let it all go.

This year she was invited at a friend’s house for a Halloween party. Costumes were mandatory, and the entire house and yard were decorated with scary face-pumpkins with little candles glowing inside, as well as cobwebs, witch brooms, skeletons and the like. People apparently really like to be scared.

So Melody put on her cowgirl shoes and a western-style hat, but added a touch of Halloween to her makeup – she painted a bullet hole on her left cheek, one that left blood dripping onto her shirt. It was something that left many people impressed at how real it looked. One person even offered to find the first aid box for her.

Melody had been fired from her job this week, finding out the truth behind the saying that even if you work perfectly for 364 days a year, the slip-up on that one day is all you will be remembered for. So tonight, Halloween marked a new beginning too. A time to stop being the good girl she had to be, and conceal her feelings. Staying frozen in one place for too long, would just allow others to strike harder, she thought. So tonight it was time to let it go, turn away and slam the door. And that is exactly what she did.

Halloween enabled her to let her hair down, wear exactly what she wanted and ignore everything that was simply not going her way. After all, tonight was about remembering all those that are no longer with us, and they certainly would not want her depressed about something she has no power over. For Melody, Halloween served as a reminder, that we should enjoy life in its fullest, because it really is too short.

So go on, treat yourself to a festive cupcake and let it all go.

Happy Halloween!

 

Also part of Daily Prompt: No Time to Waste

The wolf isn’t always bad

??????????????????????????????????????Once upon a time, there were three little pigs. When they came of age and were ready to move out of the house, their parents told them that they should build strong houses to protect themselves from the big bad wolf who roamed the country and was constantly an imminent danger to them. So, to cut a long story short, the first little piggy built a straw house that was blown down by the wolf in seconds. The second little piggy built a wooden house which was also destroyed instantly by the wolf and they both ran to the third piggy who was smart enough to build a brick house which was almost impenetrable to the wolf.

“Couldn’t he get a power drill to break it down?”

“Why? Are you on the side of the wolf? He’s supposed to be the big and bad one. It’s the little piggies that you should root for!”

“Yes, but everyone deserves a fair chance…Maybe he just wanted to talk to them and be friends because he was lonely and his aggression was the only way of outing his suppressed feelings”.

“OK, Jack, let’s move on to the next story. That might put you to sleep.”

So there was a prince that the whole kingdom was proud of. And yes, in that time, such people still existed. When he became of marrying age, his father decided to hold a ball to find him a suitable princess to marry. So invitations were sent far and wide, and all the fair maidens excitedly began to prepare for the biggest night of the year.

“Oh, I know what happened! A wicked witch came the night before the ball and cursed the prince into a wolf. He had to find his princess by midnight or he would forever remain a wolf!”

“OK, that’s an interesting twist. So this Wolf Prince, then…”

“Wait, why not Prince Wolf?”

“Well, because that sounds like barking more than anything else.

So this Wolf Prince started to panic. It was a full moon that night and the King began to fear he would start to howl too. So the Queen placed a cloak over the Prince’s head because terror would ensue if people saw his real (cursed) face.

Maidens stormed into the ballroom and began their frantic attempts to conquer the heart of the Prince. But it was not easy. Especially given the mental and physical state he was now in. But it was only a few minutes before midnight, when the doors of the ballroom opened wide and a bright light came flooding into the room, causing many to cover their eyes. The Prince was mesmerized by the white figure that stood in front of the spotlight. It was a young maiden, dressed in a sparkling white ballroom dress and as she elegantly descended the steps, he saw the crystal glass slippers she was wearing. Her blonde hair, golden as the light that was accompanying her, fell gently around her shoulders. When she looked into his eyes, he knew instantly that she was the one. He had a few minutes left. So he took her hand immediately, stared into her eyes and told her “I’ve been waiting for you”, to which she softly replied “sorry I was late”.

At the sound of midnight, the Prince’s wolf form magically changed back to his charming self, as his cloak dropped while he was dancing with the new Princess of the realm. And from then on, they lived happily ever after.

Now you should go to sleep. I’ve told you two stories tonight.”

“OK, but what happened to the witch?”

“Well, nothing really. She probably went to find the wolf so that neither would be lonely anymore and they could control their evil tendencies”.

“That’s nice”, the little boy said with a smile as he closed his eyes and drifted off to sleep.

Who do you run to now?

Time to say goodbye friendIt’s hard to lose your best friend.

The one who was always there for you. Who you would look into their eyes and just know that everything will be alright. Who would sense that you were not feeling well and come cuddle with you in bed or on the couch simply so you wouldn’t feel alone. Who would sit and watch a movie with you, silent, even if they didn’t care much about what was happening on screen. Who would look out for you, so much that you would wake up finding them sitting right in front of you as they were checking to see if you were still breathing, just to make sure you were ok. Who would be silly just to make you laugh. Who would let you sit with them even if they felt like sleeping. The one who would understand you even if you never said anything.

A friend like that is a friend for life. Because no matter the disputes, the arguments, the scratches that you may cause each other, somehow these are easily forgotten simply by looking into each other’s eyes. You can tell that they don’t hold a grudge, and how could you? The benefits of such a friendship are so much more and so priceless that it doesn’t even matter why you fought before.

It’s to a friend like this that you can run to with every problem you have. Sit beside them after a long and hard day and cry your eyes out because that is the only way to vent out the tiredness, the frustration, the sorrow. And this is where you feel safe. Because you know they will never judge you. Rather, they will be there for you, no matter what. And a hug from them is all you really need to regain that feeling that there is something still going right in this world. All it usually takes is a word. No matter how incomprehensible it may sound, the intonation is always right. And this friend always knows when to say what and how. And soon a smile creeps its way back onto your tear-wet face. It’s hard not to laugh with friends like this. They know just the way to bring you up when you’re down. And that is why losing them causes an unprecedented suffering and a wound that will never heal, and will definitely never be forgotten.

Sometimes all you need is a cat (or a dog). Because that is where I had found my best friend and family.

It’s hard to lose your best friend. It leaves a void in your heart that can never be filled.

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