Take a bowl of strawberries
put it into the freezer
wait one hour
take it out
Gently place one strawberry
in your mouth
for three seconds
roll it in sugar
Put it back in your mouth
the luscious moment.
My best friend Katrin Denkwitz and I had a ritual. Every time I would sleep over at hers, we’d patiently wait under our blankets until her parents were asleep, then sneak to the freezer and take out a bag of strawberries.
Katrin taught me the important lesson of how to gently defrost each strawberry in the mouth before coating them in sugar. Then we would look at each other from opposite armchairs and grin lopsidedly through numb mouths.
Later in my twenties and already living in London, I came across a line in Leonard Cohen’s book The Favourite Game, ‘She had a treat for him, frozen strawberries.’ I thought to myself, I know exactly what you mean, and in that moment divergent lines from the past and present connected in consoling ways.
I woke up early again this morning. I look outside but I don’t see anything. Everything is taking place inside myself. Sometimes I wonder if everything has taken place inside of me always. And everything and everyone on the outside was just a projection of my dreams, fears and longings.
After all these years, so little feels real. Or indeed lived. What if I never really lived? What if I was born dead and been living my life as a ghost? A ghost with human flesh and human features. Something which resembles a body, with a functioning brain and heart. With limbs that move but never go anywhere or touch anything.
Even now clasping my hands I don’t feel them. I could touch the lace curtain but I already know what it feels like. There is light. I’ve always loved it, especially the soft light in the afternoons which illuminates but doesn’t expose things I don’t want to see.
It’s better just to sit here and not move. Waiting. But not really waiting. Longing. But not really longing anymore. I often wonder if we are given a fair chance to live a real life or if instead we get mauled and torn and merely limp through our lives, never letting go of our crutches. And only at the very end realising we didn’t need them. That we could have taken a chance.
But then I forget all these silly thoughts and questions that don’t lead anywhere and instead just sit here, not looking at anything.
A soft sunny afternoon in Belleville. Between the stalls and the crowd, somewhat forlorn, sits Antoine surrounded by knick-knacks, female clothes and high heels.
My girlfriend dumped me. Was in such a hurry, didn’t even bother to take her stuff. So as not to have anything remind her of the past, I guess. Just took off with another guy… And that’s exactly where I was living these past two years – in our dumped past. The first year I’ve waited, hoping she would change her mind and come back, maybe get bored of that other guy and realise her huge mistake. The second year I was fuming, wanting to burn her clothes and silly knick-knacks. Is it not enough being the one left behind? But being her rubbish man as well? Actually, coming to think of it, rubbish guy is spot on.
Antoine sits on a stool, his elbows resting on his knees, his face in his hands. Sulking, at odds with the world and the role he was handed to play. Not really interested in selling his wares, he stares at the ground when suddenly a pair of shoes appear, crazy over the top 70ies shoes. But what’s most bizarre about them is that the left shoe is on the right foot and the right one on the left.
Antoine gets confused just by looking, when a matter-of-factly female voice floats through the air, “I was born like this.”
Bewilderment mixes with curiosity and Antoine looks up. What he sees behind a long fringe is pleasant. “I was told that when I meet the right guy I will be normal again,” the matter-of-factly voice behind the long fringe says.
Antoine gets flustered because she clearly means him and flirts openly, “’Do you want to help me?” Antoine stutters, “Ehm…maybe…Though really, I wouldn’t know how.” He opens his arms in a gesture which says, totally not my field of expertise.
However, Mystery Girl is of the persevering kind and not easily put out “I don’t care how, just make it happen.” A smile, which could be called encouraging, plays around her lips.
Antoine feels uncomfortable, put on the spot. He looks nervously around, embarrassed to be trapped in this awkward situation and anxious to get out of it. But there is no escape. He has to man his stall.
He takes another look at Mystery Girl. She calmly gazes back at him with all the time in the world. Slowly synapses connect and thoughts start sinking in. After all she’s sweet and unique (not least because of her feet) and to be honest, he would like to help her out.
Taking another glance at his merchandise, the museum of his life spread at his feet, Antoine’s gaze falls onto a picture showing him and his ex. Annoyed he picks it up and throws it swiftly into the nearby rubbish bin, where it makes a clunk noise when landing.
On hearing this, Antoine breaks into a smile for the first time, the cloud of misery dispersed.
He turns to Mystery Girl but she’s gone. Sun rays dance and sparkle.
Does anybody actually have time to read blogs or anything for that matter?
If truth be told, I need several lives. Fortunately, Reincarnation is there for each and everyone of us. At least the Buddhists don’t differentiate between believers/good and non-believers/bad. On a whole, they are far less judgmental and critical than the Catholics with their pre-planned itineraries of: GOOD people this way please and the BAD turn right at the corner and down the escalator which will take you to where we all know where. Continue reading →
I’ve borrowed the title from an unfinished novel by Thomas Mann, who in turn was inspired by the 19th century Romanian con artist Georges Manolescu. The novel is about a charming man unhampered by moral precepts and so skilled in the art of subterfuge that he manages to gain access to the highest reaches of European society. Continue reading →
‘Is the practice of carrying out less urgent tasks in preference to more urgent ones, or doing more pleasurable things in place of less pleasurable ones, and thus putting off impending tasks to a later time.’
Procrastination is good. I could leave it that and everybody would agree but let’s go into the heart of the matter. It’s only when we have procrastinated enough, when we are truly fed up with delaying our life/the essential any longer that we do what really matters.
Only, it’s more complicated than that. Before we can start something new we need to go to the end of whatever came before. That holds true for relationships, for unsatisfying jobs or waiting for the bus until we notice the stop is no longer in use.
Procrastination is the great leveller. It might turn out that, having procrastinated long enough, the urgent thing we’ve been avoiding just doesn’t exist anymore, i.e. the flowers we should have watered died, the all-clearing conversation has become pointless now that the relationship is over, or by the time we are actually ready for a walk it’s raining.
Another bonus of procrastination is that the important thing we’ve been delaying has simply lost its importance. Which totally frees us of guilt, because time did that. It wasn’t us.
So don’t be afraid to go to the very end of your hedging. Try stretching it ad infinitum and you’ll sloth your life away. However, it’s more likely you will get bothered with it eventually. It might take an hour or ten years but there will probably come a time when procrastination just won’t do anymore.
It’s not that your flat couldn’t do with another cleaning, or what about that film you’ve only watched nine times and still offers dialogue subtleties you missed previously, or keeping up with the latest FB updates. You are not really postponing, you just don’t want to miss out on life-changing events.
In my case, whatever it is I don’t want to do the most, or perceive as hardest moves furthest down the list. So if I have something I really don’t fancy doing but deep down know that my life including myself would really benefit from, I find something I feel even less like doing.
Suddenly the thing I didn’t want to do doesn’t look so unattractive anymore simply because it moved upwards on the list of things I’m trying to avoid.
So my trick is just finding that one worse thing. Let’s stick with the homely and homemade. I’m still mending clothes and sometimes customise them. Even though this is satisfying work, also in a good-for-our-planet-screw-you-cheap-clothes-slave-labour-kind-of-way, I will avoid it for as long as possible.
In comes the notion that I should be writing my next blog. And yes, I start mending things that are perfectly alright and customise clothes for no reason other than spending an hour not doing that other thing. Now all I need to find is something less pleasurable than sitting down and piecing my brain cells together for writing.
Zero. That’s how many replies I received for my hustling.
Not even a no-thank-you-no-unsolicited-material-but-thank-you note. Well, it either went straight into the trash or to the wrong person. And they deleted it. Or to the right person. And they deleted it. Or to no person at all but a spam blocker which nervously flashed a red warning light when it saw my email coming and shredded it before it could clutter anyone’s in-box. Or, rather more prosaically, the intern was having a bad day.
However, when I really think about it, zero is way more interesting than having editors clamouring for my work. I’d be faced with a bidding war and, negotiating without an agent, would be promising everything to everybody. Breaking into a cold sweat just thinking about it.
Honestly, zero is preferable to abundance as it could quickly become overwhelming. The silver lining on this particular cloud is that I can learn from it. Grow. Go on a Journey and ponder what it is the universe wants to tell me.
The list of possible messages is long. The favourite and most soothing for my bruised ego naturally comes first.
I’m simply too good and keeping me out means other writers won’t lose their jobs.
My writing sucks but no one wanted to tell me.
My writing is interesting but no one needs it. Especially not in August.
Previous means of making a living weren’t too bad after all.
I have to try again. And again. And.
The unemployed writers’ diet of baked beans was good for me and I should continue.
Get a one-way plane ticket and stay there.
When I’m there learn what I was meant to learn from this experience.
Figuring out that there isn’t such a bad place after all.
Get a job in a hipster café.
Write about life in a hipster café.
In my spare time go fishing and on safari.
Meditate to make it all go away.
Have a good think about life and what it all means. Or doesn’t.
Eventually go to bed, hoping that tomorrow will be filled with orthographic miracles and ice cream.
Once I have learned all these lessons on my Journey there will be nothing left to do but rewind my life and do it all again.