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The boundaries of sanity

https://lessonsfromtheendofamarriage.files.wordpress.com/2015/09/tennis-court-443267_1280.jpgIt is a line, mostly a mental one, that marks the limits of a person’s capacity, tolerance, sanity. It’s called setting boundaries.

There are boundaries and maximum (and minimum) limits to just about everything: from fixed prices, to metrics, to country borders, to endurance, even to one’s patience. There is a reason for it. Boundaries keep us sane. They keep things under order, otherwise chaos would ensue and we would all end up psycho wrecks.

Boundaries may be seen as a recognition of personal space. They are normal and necessary. They are part of the process of self-care and maintaining ourselves calm and healthy.

We all often dangle on borders. It’s a natural thing. “Boundaries are to protect life, not to limit pleasures” (Edwin Louis Cole). Certainly: there is a time to play and a time to work. When we are able to distinguish between the two, we will be both mentally healthier and more productive.

You teach people how to treat you by what you allow, what you stop, and what you reinforce” – Tony Gaskins

 

Also part of Daily Prompt: Healthy

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The bold and the audacious

https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/236x/98/ff/73/98ff73fde916d7ecdb795ed80abdd9d0.jpgAnts – yes, those little creatures we so recklessly step on so often – are acutally astounding mechanical systems, in that they can lift up to 5,000 times their own body weight. But it is not only that which makes them admirable, it is their ability to work so effectively in teams – and even if acting alone, do so for the benefit of all – a trait the human race has yet to master.

You see, humans have an intrinsic underlying weakness: selfishness. The main goal it seems for many is how to gain power, to rise up above others, to stand out from the crowd, often in any way possible. They easily become intoxicated with the supremacy of power and get caught up in a vicious circle from which there is no escape.

When you spend an entire weekend watching Frank Underwood crush anyone who interferes with his plans for power, then it is only reasonable that you’ll begin to understand how being so relentless and emotionally unattached to anyone and anything can serve your own ruthlessly selfish ambitions.

It is not only about having power, however, and the means you use to acquire it. It is mainly about knowing how to use it right. That is what makes all the difference. And it is what sets people apart, either in a positive or negative light. It is the road you choose to take that will determine the legacy you leave at your footsteps.

It is the difference between being bold and being audacious.

There is a saying that “the doors will open to those who are bold enough to knock”. It takes courage to do so. Robert Frost had said that “freedom lies in being bold”, because that is how you chase after your ambitions. But that thin line that separates this fearfulness and daring nature from being reckless and uninhibited is reflected in the words of some of the world’s most prominent figures: “fortune favours the audacious”, said Desiderius Erasmus, and Benjamin Disraeli agreed, saying “success is the child of audacity”. Even Winston Churchill prompted, “the first quality that is needed is audacity”.

It seems it’s not the bold who get what they’re after, it’s the audacious ones.

And in the societies we’re growing up in, rife with conflict and controversy, people need to develop another characteristic: the ability to observe the world around them and distinguish between those who are after something for themselves, and those who are there simply to be. Those who stand by others, no matter what, and those who are only after their own interests. Those who empathise and listen when you’re unwell, and those who only selfishly care to have a good time when you’re in the mood too. Those who would do anything to rise above others at present, and those who would work to make things better for those to come.

What matter in the end is the intelligence of knowing how to wield the power the comes with power and the audacity to do it for the right reasons, no matter if you’re a lone ant, risking to be squashed.

 

Also part of Daily Prompt: Fake

The key to all things

http://2.bp.blogspot.com/_Bua9j4ycOFU/SGTp34vMiLI/AAAAAAAAAZc/x4I1WwCDTF8/s400/laughing.gifYou’ve probably heard that it takes far more muscles to frown than to smile, right? But have you ever considered how wonderfully uplifting it is to laugh and transmit a positive feeling rather than a sad one?

When you smile, your eyes shine, your skin glows and you communicate an optimism that is so lacking in the complex lives we lead. In fact, we are the ones who make everything complicated. In essence, all we really need is to fill our hearts with joy through simple things: being with friends, having fun, and feeling loved.

It doesn’t really take a lot to make someone smile. An elegant humor, a joke well told, an atmosphere that makes you feel comfortable and secure.

Victor Hugo had said that “laughter is the sun that drives winter from the human face”, while Mark Twain added “the human race has one really effective weapon, and that is laughter”. Maybe we should use it more. Because laughter is indeed the best kind of therapy, and at least when the wrinkles set in, you’ll know they’re all in the right place, for the right reasons, having enjoyed every minute of your life to the fullest.

So, smile and laugh and give your soul some fireworks!

New Year thoughts

http://www.shamoozal.com/nerdlog/wp-content/uploads/2010/12/new_years_12.gifWhenever a year ends, you really only wish for one thing: that the new one will be (even) better. That it will find you smiling broadly, laughing wholeheartedly, loving deeply, and enjoying every second.

But before the clock strikes midnight and the current year becomes history, you do look back and reminisce on all that you’ve been through these past 365 days, what you’ve learnt, what you’ve achieved, the experiences you’ve gained, how much fun you had, how much you hurt, but most of all, how you survived. Every year that passes leaves a mark on your person, no matter how much or quickly it may fade. It means you’ve grown, you’ve learnt how to become better, stronger and more confident. It means you have become a bit wiser than before, and can exploit that newfound knowledge to reach even greater heights.

The New Year finds us all aspiring for more, wishing each other the very best – happiness, health, and love – and hoping that this will be the year when we (finally) realise our dreams. It’s good to start the year with such optimism. The difficult part is to maintain it all the year through, and start each of its 366 days (yes, 2016 is a leap year!) with a glowing smile.

There are so many wonderful and inspiring quotes to share on the eve of the New Year. For example, Neil Gaiman expresses the hope “that in this year to come, you make mistakes. Because if you are making mistakes, then you are making new things, trying new things, learning, living, pushing yourself, changing yourself, changing your world. You’re doing things you’ve never done before, and more importantly, you’re Doing Something. So that’s my wish for you, and all of us, and my wish for myself. Make New Mistakes. Make glorious, amazing mistakes. Make mistakes nobody’s ever made before. Don’t freeze, don’t stop, don’t worry that it isn’t good enough, or it isn’t perfect, whatever it is: art, or love, or work or family or life. Whatever it is you’re scared of doing, Do it. Make your mistakes, next year and forever.”

Here’s another bright wish by D.Simone:

May Light always surround you;
Hope kindle and rebound you.
May your Hurts turn to Healing;
Your Heart embrace Feeling.
May Wounds become Wisdom;
Every Kindness a Prism.
May Laughter infect you;
Your Passion resurrect you.
May Goodness inspire
your Deepest Desires.
Through all that you Reach For,
May your arms Never Tire
.”

It is never too late to be what you might have been.” (George Eliot).

So go out there and make this the best year yet, until the next one. Be daring and bold; young at heart; but mature in mind; and never forget that life was given to us to make the most out of it!

Happy New Year!

 

Also part of Daily Prompt: Earworm

Interviewing a person you want to be like

DSC_8267 (2)Every young writer has a longing to meet the authors s/he looks up to, either for advice, or to find traits in their writing process that fit into their own, thus granting them a sense that they are doing something right, and if they keep working hard enough, just maybe they too will become bestselling authors. It’s an amazing sensation to be able to sit down and chat with a writer you admire. Even more so when that person is not just a writer, but also an actor, a radio producer, a dancer and so much more. And he inspires you too, to just “get out there and fight hard for what you want”.

Kostas Krommydas is a well-known Greek actor having participated in many TV series, theatre performances and movies. He is the author of four books (and more to come). For the past two years, he selects music for a three-hour programme on popular Love Radio, while he has also participated in the Greek version of Dancing with the Stars.

I first met him at a book exhibition where I was lucky enough to convince him to sign his book for me, and was won over by a chocolate he was handing out, like a host at a party. He is slender and tall, yet emits a warmth and generosity that is rare in people who have so much of the spotlight turned onto them. Active on social media, he will respond almost instantly, and I was genuinely surprised at how approachable and cheerful he is. As soon as I finished his book – based on a true story, weaving together seemingly independent tales with a fascinating and fast-paced cinematographic script – I contacted him to ask for an interview. It is always wonderful to meet the person behind the pen. You always learn something, even if it is just the fact that they are quick-witted and love to multitask. But they do it all so well, and that is truly encouraging for someone who is also involved in so many things they need to make lists simply to keep up with themselves.

“Ever since I can remember I always wanted to be an actor and had begun searching for how to become one from a very young age,” he recounts. “But I also wrote from a young age. In an organized manner, though, I officially began to write the last six years. I began with a biographical book of how I raised my daughter, then followed three novels”.

20151202_120354Can an actor and a writer be combined? Kostas says “One hundred percent yes. Each helps the other, because of all the skills, experiences, and images gained from the one, you can use for the other, and by combining the two you can create something great”.

Like every writer, Kostas too says he is influenced by many other authors, naming for example, Milan Kundera’s early works, the Ancient Greek Tragedians (Aeschylos, Sophocles, Evripides), as well as Alexandros Papadiamantis, and Herman Hesse, as just a few. As for his favourite book, he chooses Oedipus Rex, which he says “even today, it is as if it was written yesterday. It’s structure is simply astonishing”.

Currently working on another book, Kostas says he would like to write a genuine crime novel. All of his novels, however, contain an element of crime, and the last two in particular are based on true stories. “If you look out there, there are amazing stories that life has written, so you don’t have to imagine them; on its own, life hands you a lot of material to take and develop.” Yet, he recognizes the huge responsibility that lies in this, “in basing your novel on a true story and developing it, making it into a version of what the reality could have been”.

Do his books entail something personal? “One hundred percent, yes. All my books have something mine in them. I really like to include a piece of my life, of the images and feelings I have; I think it makes the text more lively that way”.

And what about where inspiration comes from? “From everything. Music, nature, people around you. A lot of things inspire me. I may see something in the street, I may hear music, and be inspired. I think that generally, if you let yourself go and observe what is going on around you, inspiration will arrive on its own”.

IMG_4301That moment when you see your views converge with that of an acclaimed writer is priceless and fills you with a sense of satisfaction. And then he goes and inspires you even further, because how easy is it really to decide what you want to do and simply go and do it? “It is both easy and difficult at the same time. Sometimes it’s simply about deciding what you want to do. But on the other hand, taking that decision is the hardest thing in the world. It all depends on the person, on where in life s/he is when that decisive moment arrives, and whether you take or not those decisions”.

In his latest book, Kostas beautifully writes, «Grab every minute of all the life that is given to you and add value to it. You live life today, in every second that passes by with no return, and not in future desires that never become actions”.

So what advice would he give today? “To do what I did – to go out and fight hard for what you want; to chase after the things you want to achieve. Success rarely comes and finds you on its own.

His words come out flowing, like a strong current full of knowledge, experience and passion for the life he lives. And this is exactly what he both motivates and encourages others to do. After all, he even writes it in his books: “it is better to do something wrong, than to never live it at all…”.

When everything screams go

standing-out-from-the-crowd-conceptWhen everything screams go, why do you stay?

Why would you persist in something you know might not even work? Why do you insist on devoting your time, energy and soul into something that may not even be worth it in the end if it doesn’t last?

You do it because you secretly hope for something that will change. That will make the fantasy in your head the reality that you live.

Thomas Edison tried and failed many times before he finally invented the electric light bulb. He himself stated, “Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time”. Effort doesn’t have an expiration. All it needs is your perseverance.

Would you consider yourself crazy for staying, when everyone else leaves? Because as everyone rushes to the door, you stay to put out the fire. Greek writer Nikos Kazantzakis believed that “every man has his folly, but the greatest folly of all is not to have one”.

It takes more courage to stay than to simply run away. Because you know what you have to deal with. You know that the situation is not in your favour. But you still choose to deal with it and fight rather than surrender and abandon all hope.

Maybe you are a little crazy for doing so. But remember, “those who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are usually the ones that do”.

Fine Art, Flawed Artists

books1There are times when you come across a book that you cannot put down, not because of its plot or fictional narrative, but because it is so inspiring you want to learn more. When such books are recommended by people who know you well enough to safely bet that it will enrapture you, then you are certain to read through the entire book in less than a couple of days.

Clive James’ Latest Readings is such a book.

Masterfully written it is witty, funny, absorbing, entertaining, inspiring. The flow of language is so effortless that it can be read in a gulp. There is a uniqueness in every line, blooming with such an exquisite narrative, that it makes you feel as if the author is sitting right there conversing with you.

Although an esteemed literary critic, in this specific book, James does more than simply review the books he read. He reviews a lifetime of reading books. Because he artfully combines his opinion of the book’s content, with its background epoca and its context, associating everything with current events – from the rise of ISIS, to the digitization of the written word, to Bill Cosby’s trial, even to recent TV series and movies. And all of this is combined with a telling of his own state (he was diagnosed with terminal leukemia) and the fact that he was melting away, or, like he says, “slipping into time”.

This is an illuminating book in many ways, because, although some books and writers may not be familiar to you, he will awake in you the urge to read more. He will illuminate the dream of having a large room with huge double doors opening into an entire library full of books. One that contains bookcases rising up from the ground to the ceiling, so complete that you need an incorporated sliding ladder to move across them. A library so full, that you would eventually need to smuggle books in and hide them, as he does, being under embargo for bringing in more books. And he encourages you to love books, despite the rapid conversion into the “rational solution” of a digital form, as “being book crazy is an aspect of love, and therefore scarcely rational at all”.

But he will also inspire you to become a better author in order to produce the book you dream to write. He urges you to be open to self-criticism, because “unless you can criticize yourself, you are not a writer”. He even calls out to journalists themselves, a dying craft of our times, stressing that “journalism is the first draft of formal history”.

He explores the background stories of the writers themselves, opening up details into their lives that you never knew. One of the most memorable phrases in the book is that “fine art is usually work of flawed people”, giving you hope that no matter your troubles, you can always produce something great.

His ode to Ernest Hemingway is beautiful, particularly noting that “he was a giant of who dreamed of being a giant” and was an author able to deliver such a convincing narrative, such that “his way of putting things was a transformative illusion”. His closing reference to Florence Nightingale is also both touching and enlightening.

What is most astounding throughout the book is that, despite his illness, James never gives up. He doesn’t abandon his wit and sharp intellect, nor does he stop reading, expanding both his knowledge and his world. And that, is perhaps, the most inspiring aspect of it all. After all, as he so deftly states, “If you don’t know the exact moment when the lights will go out, you might as well read until they do.

The Existential Dilemma

1 Life begins where fear endsWe have all at some point or other stopped, gazed beyond the horizon into the unknown, and simply pondered: what am I doing? Where am I going? Why am I doing anything?

It has happened to the best of us. Trying to find meaning in your life. There have been entire philosophies devoted to this – it is called existentialism and it emphasizes individual existence, freedom and choice. 2 Hope is a waking dream

It is the view that humans define their own meaning in life, and try to make rational decisions despite existing in an irrational universe. It focuses on the question of human existence, and the feeling that there is no purpose or explanation at the core of existence.

But maybe the truth is that we think too much. Perhaps we should embrace our very existence, our being, our life, and live it to the fullest, experiencing emotions to their full depth and enjoying every minute of our so valuable lives.

3 You only live once

4 If you don't make your dreams a reality

5 If you are always trying to be normal

6 Time to create the life you want

7 Homesick for a place that doesn't exist

8 If you're going to try go all the way

Get excited and change things

There are some moments in life when words just won’t do. And what is more, you can never find the right ones to express yourself.

Sometimes we don’t need advice. We just need someone to listen. Or someone to inspire us.

And just sometimes, we find that through the most unexpected sources, like the internet – in image-quotes (memes) that contain everything that needs to be said.

Kind heart in a cruel world

Destination - journey

Still want to smack some people

All those things you've always wanted to do

Life is short

There is more inspiration here.

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.

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