God doesn’t make junk ~ Holocaust survivor Edith Eva Eger.

“We don’t know where we are going, we don’t know what will happen, but nobody can take away from you what you put in your own mind,” said the mother of Dr. Edith Eva Eger when they were deported to the gates of Auschwitz.

The ballerina of Auschwitz, as Eger was called, was sixteen when she was taken away by the Nazis. In concentration camp Auschwitz she was forced to dance for Josef Mengele, the ‘angel of death’. She did so with her eyes closed. In her mind she wasn’t standing between the cold barracks, but in the Opera House in Budapest, and she was Juliet in the ballet Romeo and Juliet.

When the US Army liberated the camp on 4 May 1945, a soldier saw her hand move when she was left for dead among a number of dead bodies. He quickly called for medical assistance and therefore saved her life. She weighed only 32 kg at the time; her body was broken.

Two years ago I read her memoir The Choice. Sometimes I had to put it aside to catch my breath, only to pick it up again immediately and continue reading. An unforgettable book about the moving life of an extraordinary and powerful woman, who later, as a psychologist, helped veterans and soldiers with PTSD.

Here I would like to share some meaningful quotes from The Choice:

“Anti-Semitism wasn’t a Nazi invention. When I was growing up I developed a feeling of inferiority, and I became convinced that it was safer not to say that I was Jewish.”

“In Auschwitz, in Mauthausen, and during the death march, I survived by drawing on my inner world.”

“I found hope and faith in my inner life, even when surrounded by starvation, torture and death.”

“I did not yet know that nightmares do not adhere to land borders, that guilt and fear are boundless.”

“Maybe moving forward also means going back to the past.”

“We cannot choose to let the darkness disappear, but we can choose to cherish the light.”

“Every moment is a choice. No matter how frustrating, unpleasant, exhausting, painful or oppressive our experience, we can always choose how to respond.”

“You can take everything away from a person except one thing: the last of the human freedoms, which is to be able to choose what attitude to take in all given circumstances, to be able to choose your own path.” ~ Victor Frankl.

“I have nowhere to go to escape my discomfort; I just have to feel it.”

“By running away from the past, from my fear, I could not find freedom.”

“I turned my fear into a prison and locked it by remaining silent.”

“We can choose to be our own prison guards, or we can choose to be free.”

“Running away from the past or fighting against the pain we are experiencing now is equivalent to imprisoning ourselves.”

“Expressing yourself, i.e. self-expression, is the opposite of depression.”

“Mourning rites and rituals can be a hugely important part of grieving. I think that’s why religions and cultures contain distinct mourning rituals. There is a protected space and structure within someone begins to experience the feelings of loss.”

“To be passive is to let others decide for you. To be aggressive is to decide for others. To be assertive is to decide for yourself.”

“No one can make you a victim. Only you can do that.”

“If you can’t go through a door, go through the window.”

“To heal, we must embrace the darkness.”

“To heal means to tend the wound.”

‘Tempora mutantur, et nos mutamur in illis: times change and we change with them.”

“If we start believing that it is impossible for us to be loved if we are authentic, then we run the risk of denying our true nature.”

“Your own thoughts are the biggest prison and the key is in your pocket: the willingness to take total responsibility for your life; the willingness to take risks.”

Con Amor,

Eva

Joan Didion, the stylish writer.

I’m reading her essays, the work of Joan Didion. The well-known American writer, novelist and journalist, who passed away last month. She was 87 years old and suffered from Parkinson. I heard from her before, but never read her essays or books. Why is it that people have to die first to get noticed — by me?

The reason why my interest in this seemingly mystic, gloomy writer has grown, is the documentary The Centre Will Not Hold (2017) which I saw last week on Netflix. I watched an old lady vividly talking with her hands, like a conductor of an orchestra. Joan looked petit and skinny, wearing lipstick and huge sunglasses. Nevertheless, behind that frailty I saw a fierceness, intelligence, but also humbleness. 

Didion narrates that she went to San Francisco in search of work, convinced that writing was not important work. She began writing at age five, when her mother gave her a journal to start writing down her thoughts. The documentary was directed by her nephew and actor, Griffin Dune, who I recognised from an old Madonna movie. He took me on a journey through her life, her marriage, motherhood (she and her husband adopted a daughter, Quintana Roo), about being a writer, the places where she lived (Sacramento, New York, Malibu beach, Los Angeles). She started at Vogue Magazine by winning a writing contest, and later she wrote a variety of societal, political and personal essays for several American magazines and newspapers. On pictures she had a firm, somewhat tormented look, often with a cigarette in her hand. There was a certain coolness around her, a glamorous touch. 

In one of her essays she writes about her nervous breakdown in the summer of 1968. She felt detached from her environment, fragmented. Amidst her struggle she was the writer and journalist, loved by many, having parties with stars as Warren Beatty, Roman Polanski, Janis Joplin and lots of other creatives and artists. Juicy detail about Harrison Ford, who worked as a carpenter for Didion and her husband.

Her essay on hippydom ‘Slouching towards Bethlehem’ of the late sixties in America reveals another picture. Not much flower power here, but cultural chaos, sexual abuse, disintegration, parents who were more involved with taking trips on LSD than taking care of their kids. In the reportage she even writes about a mother who gave her baby the popular drug. Joan showed us a world of social breakdown in America. At moments uncomfortable to read. The Summer of Love took place in 1967 in Haight-Ashbury, a neighbourhood in San Francisco. That place was the centre of young people who were opposing the establishment and war in Vietnam. I always had the idea the sixties were more happy and playful, but it was a facade masking forlornness, it was a time of resistance without building something new. That’s what you feel throughout her story.

It seemed Joan Didion’s life was legendary. Especially the images of her and her husband, John Gregory Dunne, who was also a writer and novelist, while they overlooked the ocean from their home. However, meanwhile they had problems in their marriage and living near the beach helped Joan to deal with them. They wrote screenplays together, such as the movie A Star is Born (1976).

But then in 2003 loss and grief entered her life when her husband suddenly died and 16 months later her daughter passed away as well. 

She wrote two autobiographical works on these tragical deaths, The Year of Magical Thinking about the loss of her husband and Blue Nights about the death of her only daughter.

Grief turns out to be a place none of us know until we reach it.”

At the moment I’m reading a collection of her essays translated in Dutch. Her view on the assault and rape of a young white female jogger in Central Park in 1991 and the prosecution of five black young men, reveals a disrupted city where social issues and race have a deadly impact. Within that frail woman, resided a fierceness that found its way out in her sharp observations. 

“Character – the willingness to accept responsibility for one’s own life — is the source from which self-respect springs. To free us from the expectations of others, to give back to ourselves — there lies the great, singular power of self-respect.”

Back to Central America.

You always start to miss something so basic when you don’t have it anymore. You never have problems with it because it’s always there, always working. I’m talking about energy! And then I mean solar energy to do the things which are so basic, such as cooking, washing clothes, charging phone and laptop, that kind of things. 

When these things don’t work well, or not working at all, although there’s plenty of sun, it’s starting to get annoying. It made me grumpy the last week or so. Because I don’t understand why it isn’t working in the midst of summer still. Suddenly you realise how dependent you are of energy. That without, you are also disconnected from the world. I wasn’t online for some days, the batteries were not charging. For some days I had no music, no connection to internet. I told the neighbour though about the problems with the batteries of the solar system. When Dorus will be back tomorrow they can have a look together. Now, I’m charging the devices in a café in the village. I didn’t feel like asking the neighbour, but I know I can and he would be willing to help, but somehow I didn’t…

It’s good to be away for some hours, because since yesterday I’m totally sucked into the book Verloren in de jungle, about two Dutch young women, Kris Kremers and Lisanne Froon, who were lost in the jungle in Panama in 2014. I still remember when I read about it. We were just living a couple of months on Ibiza when I read the news that they never returned from a hike to the jungle.

I could have been these young girls. I also went to Bocas del Toro, the islands just across the border of Costa Rica, I too crossed the bridge from Costa Rica to Panama and showed my passport on this unusual place where borders ended and started. But I haven’t been to Boquete where they got lost. Over the years many wild stories were told about what happened to the two women. So many contradictions. So much unclearness about the timeline. After two months a few body parts of the women were found in the deep jungle and a bag with their phones and camera in it.

Was it a crime or an accident? I’m reading the book now, and it’s so fascinating, but also so incredibly sad. Two journalists tried to fill the gaps and made sense of all the wild and crazy stories about what could have happened to them and so they did profound research, now 6 years later, although they were not able to travel to Boquete due to the pandemic.

Apparently on the internet you can read wild stories and conspiracy theories about this case, for example that they are still alive and are victims of human trafficking, etc. The two Dutch journalists, Marja West and Jurgen Snoeren did a terrific job to reconstruct the events; sometimes repeating the same too much though and their work would be more complete if they could have traveled to Boquete in Panama.

While I’m reading the book, I think of these two friends, who must have been so afraid and desperate. Why did they walk further and further into the jungle? After taking the path they went (which was a clear, not dangerous hike), the area became wild and dangerous, with rivers, big slippery rocks and heights and bridges made of ropes with deep down the strong current of the rivers. They tried to call the emergency number 911 in Panama several times, even the Dutch 112, but no reach.

Friday night I was reading till it was almost 4 in the night. The clock of the e-reader was the only time I had. I was totally lost in the book. It brought me back to my travels in 2003 to Costa Rica and Panama (Bocas del Toro). I went alone. It must have been horrible for my mum. I was 7 years older than the lost women, but I understand for my mum it must have been difficult, especially because I went alone. It was a very special experience for me, I still can think of Costa Rica sometimes and the islands in Panama, the images blurred though. The green jungle, the banana trees, the tropical birds, the sloths in the trees, the howler monkeys, the racoons on the beach. A paradise!

After more and more time has passed, it has become more of a feeling, how I felt back then when I went on my own to Central America. I felt very excited, but also uncomfortable at times. But back then I was more innocent and I think more of an optimist. Now, for example I understand much more how my mother must have felt when she waved me goodbye at Schiphol Airport; back then I didn’t really think about it. And now with the book Verloren in de jungle a lot of memories of that trip appear to the surface. I wouldn’t have missed my travels to Costa Rica and Panama for the world. I remember that I rented a mountain-bike on Bocas del Toro and that I asked in a shop a nice road to go to. I cycled to some beaches and there were hardly any people. I also met a group of English guys on the boat to Bocas.  They were cool guys and relaxed and I met them again to go on a boat trip together where I witnessed wild dolphins for the first time. The dolphins were swimming next to the boat and jumping out of the water. It was just magical. I felt so happy when I saw these beautiful animals jumping around us. I think I even said to one of the guys that it was the best day of my life or something like that.. On the boat also some American young women were present. We met later that evening for a drink. All the Americans I met during that trip were so self-confident,  extravert, talkative and happy. I hated them for this, because they were so different than I.

Yes, the book also reminds me of the openness you feel when you’re visiting other countries. Open to experiences, to people (even if they are the opposite of you), to your surroundings. Travelling like that is a gift. 

Tomorrow Dorus will come home! After his 8 week bicycle tour of seeing friends and family in the Netherlands and France. I am so happy. The last weeks have been a bit difficult. I am capable to be on my own very well, but life is much better together. Living alone can change you, you worry much more on your own. It’s less fun!

But first I need to turn the compost again (shitty and sweaty).

I’m writing this while I’m charging the laptop and my iPhone in the café. They’re almost fully charged. 

Just like myself.

Being lost in the story of the two women, also made me feel a bit lost the last days, without internet connection, no devices – and no music! Nice on one hand. Suddenly you realise you’re never offline for a couple of days. At most one day, but not a whole weekend or more. But being offline for a weekend makes you feel free and it’s important to give yourself that space. Unplug every now and then – with a good book, chocolate and wine. If you have that choice, it liberates.

Con Amor,

Eva 

Image: Angel Silva/Unsplash

De Kunst van het Achterover Hangen {Dutch}.

“Vanmorgen werd ik kwaad wakker. Nee, nee, de wereld bevalt me niks. De meeste mensen zijn dood zonder het te weten, of ze leven wel en bedotten de boel. En de liefde eist in plaats van te geven. En degene die van je houdt, wil dat je iets bent wat hij nodig heeft. Van liegen krijg je spijt. En niet-liegen is een gave die de wereld niet verdient. En ik kan niet eens doen wat een half verlamd meisje uit wraak deed: een vaas stukgooien. Ik ben niet half verlamd. Hoewel iets in mij zegt dat we allemaal half verlamd zijn. En dienstmeisjes, of laten we maar zeggen meiden, hebben is een belediging aan de mensheid. De plicht om zoals dat heet fatsoenlijk voor de dag te komen, irriteert me. Waarom kan ik niet rondlopen in lompen, net als mannen die ik soms op straat zie, met een baard tot op hun borst en een bijbel in hun hand, die goden die van de waanzin inzicht hebben gemaakt? En waarom denkt men dat ik moet doorgaan met schrijven, omdat ik daar ooit mee ben begonnen? Ik heb mijn kinderen gewaarschuwd dat ik met het verkeerde been uit bed  ben gestapt en dat ze er maar niet op moeten letten. Maar zelf wil ik dat wel. Ik zou iets definitiefs willen doen waardoor de gespannen zenuw die mijn hart beknelt, knapt.”

Gisteravond in bed las ik dit fragment uit het boek De ontdekking van de wereld van Clarice Lispector. Alhoewel het schrijfsel stamt uit de zestiger jaren van de vorige eeuw is het tijdloos en universeel. We stappen allemaal wel eens met het verkeerde been uit bed en niets is dan goed, alles kost moeite, de wereld is uiterst oneerlijk. En dan moet de dag nog beginnen. 

We hoeven niet altijd zo wakker te worden om te constateren dat de wereld een bedrieglijke plek is, waarin zoveel misstanden bestaan dat het amper bij te houden valt. De zucht naar macht is alom tegenwoordig en bepaalt menselijke verhoudingen en onze verhoudingen tot de niet-menselijke wereld, zoals de dieren, de zeeën en de bossen. Bovendien kent de huidige tijd een geëngageerdheid, dat als je je niet druk maakt om iets (ongelijkheid, religie, racisme, antisemitisme, seksisme, alle ism-en, big Tech, big Ag, de vernietiging van de natuur, dierenleed, de pandemie, you name it) je je eigenlijk kapot zou moeten schamen. Immers, wat doe je dan? Sterker nog, wat voor mens ben je dan?

Iedereen een mening

Tuurlijk, een columnist zonder mening is geen columnist; of hij/zij doet tenminste alsof. En overdrijven is daarbij ook een kunst. Maar daarbuiten vliegen de meningen je zo wat om de oren. Op het internet, social media, op straat. Ik ben geneigd om vrijwel meteen die van mijzelf te uiten over de onderwerpen die belangrijk voor me zijn. Zoals velen dat doen. Er is zoveel lawaai, vooral als je het binnenlaat en geen grenzen stelt. En ook in landelijk Mallorca kan alle (on)zin zomaar binnenwaaien. In het huidige engagement, is het bijna een gave om eerst eens flink achterover te hangen en, als je wilt tenminste, de verschillende meningen eens voorbij te laten komen, voordat je gelijk je mond opentrekt. Eigenlijk, is het vooral je ego dat spreekt, dat van zich wil laten horen, dat wil overtuigen. Ooit wel eens gedacht dat je er volledig naast zit? Nee, dat dacht ik al. Toch goed om daarmee ook eens rekening te houden. Ik ga het vaker proberen in ieder geval.

De reden waarom ik dit schrijf – het is een vreemde kronkel, zeker – is dat het klimaat waarin je leeft, ik bedoel het meteorologische klimaat, je een handje helpt bij het achterover hangen in je stoel, niet veel te hoeven doen, en je opvattingen eens voor je te houden. Ja, zelfs over de varkens in de mega-stallen die omkomen van de warmte en wat daarvan de oorzaak is. Moet je nagaan. Zo belangrijk is je mening en daarmee gepaard gaande verontwaardiging nou ook weer niet. Zon en warmte leggen lam, zo zou je het ook kunnen stellen. Apathisch zelfs. En dat heeft nou net geen al te beste klank. Echter, als de temperaturen oplopen tot 30 graden en daarboven volgt automatisch ontspanning en dat hoeft heus niet altijd over te gaan in apathie. 

La la la land

Integenstelling tot de woorden van Clarice Lispector hierboven, stond ik vanochtend op met zo’n la-la-la gevoel. Weet je wel, zo’n gevoel na een nacht flink dansen en feesten – ik lag gewoon rond middernacht in bed, niks feest of dansen. Mijn normaal -lichtelijk- ochtend humeur was er ineens niet, omdat ik langer had geslapen dan op de dagen ervoor. Ik begon gelijk met een kop koffie met Dorus; thee sloeg ik over. Vandaag komt waarschijnlijk alleen dit stukje uit mijn handen en ik kook wat lekkers – we hebben nu groenten uit de tuin 🙂 Ik hoef verder niks van mezelf. Ik heb geen mening -inclusief die, die in mijn hoofd leven en onuitgesproken zijn. Ik luister alleen en leg de woorden waarschijnlijk naast me neer. 

Op social media las ik eens dat je dan een geprivilegieerd persoon bent. Diegenen die dagelijks gediscrimineerd worden, hebben immers nooit zo’n off day, zo’n dag dat ze er even niet zijn en alles onbekommerd laten. Evenmin de onderdrukten, de dissidenten in de Noord-Koreaanse concentratiekampen, de Palestijnen in Israël, de Oeigoeren in China, vluchtelingen, Iraanse activisten achter slot en grendel, de jongens en meisjes in de textiel-industrie, de koeien die voortdurend melk moeten produceren totdat ze volledig uitgemolken zijn om vervolgens te worden afgemaakt. 

Of ik geprivilegieerd ben? Waarschijnlijk wel. Met verontschuldigen over privileges schiet de mensheid geen moer op. Dat mogen anderen doen, als ze het al überhaupt menen. Want wie wil nou zijn of haar leven ruilen met de hiervoor genoemden?

Con Amor,

Eva 

Photo: Content Pixie/Unsplash

Belonging as a Wild Woman.

I just finished a book called “Belonging” by Toko-pa Turner.

The title of the book spoke to me, as the theme belonging is beautiful, tricky and so universal. As humans, we all want to belong. Belong to a group, culture, a partner, place, a home.

Messy

The title spoke to me, because the past two years I spent in transition time without having a place I could call home. For the first time after two years I feel I have a home again. And apparently this is something very important to me, to have a base, a place where I can be myself and build upon. It’s still messy and a lot of times I’m looking for things I can’t find anymore and don’t know where I put them, but we’re getting there. Moving house means always chaos.

The first thing I noticed when I returned to Mallorca after being with my family in the Netherlands, was how I re-connected with nature. The full moon that seemed huge on the early morning I arrived by ferry; the dark-red earth plowed by the farmers some days before; the stars at night; the bleating of sheep; the fresh air; almond trees that just have started to blossom. They made me feel home. Although my heart ached to leave my family, I knew I was home.

Fit in

Some weeks before I walked through Amsterdam with my sis and niece and it made me realize I never truly abandoned this city. Home just knows several places. After these years living in Spain, I still belong here. Home is a place where we are accepted the way we are, with flaws and all. I was, but of course like so many, I also needed to fit in, job-wise. Trees that grow euros, didn’t exist in our city-garden and never will be. Sometimes I felt a stranger in the work I had to do.

The most valuable “asset” I gained by moving to Ibiza and later to Mallorca, is the connection with the natural world, which I didn’t really see before. I couldn’t see before, because I wasn’t aware of this whole world of miracles around me. And I am a part of it! It was on Ibiza that I finally learned that the phases of the moon correspond to my menstrual cycle. I just never thought of that, and nobody told me that before. Ridiculous, right?! 

Wild Woman

I started to read about the archetype of the wild woman, a book named Women Who Run with the Wolves : Myths and Stories of the Wild Woman Archetype by Jungian analyst, author and poet Clarissa Pinkola Estés. 

A Wild Woman lives authentically, with a sense of creativity in all she does. She has the passion and courage to express her self and her ideas freely, even if it feels vulnerable, because she then lives her truth.

To me a Wild Woman is an intuitive, confident, caring, creative woman who lives in tune with herself and above all with nature, free from societal expectations, fully aware of nature’s power and that power that resides in her. I don’t consider myself a wild woman (yet), but I love the idea of her!

On Ibiza I met a few women who are close to Wild Women, mostly living completely free of what society expects from them, but often, like everything on Ibiza is, it was a lot of show too. Not authentic. I know a Dutch lady though, she is in her sixties, caring, free, and does completely what she desires, loves nature and animals and lives totally off-grid in the hills up north. She is true to herself and to others. To me she is a Wild Woman.

Are you a Wild Woman? To stir up the wild woman within, immerse yourself in these 13 quotes.

A Wild Woman feels, and is connected with, the natural world and the animals around her. She plays with dirt, feeds the plants, dances in the rain, plants trees, eats their fruit and honors her belonging to the earth. She is home. And she knows she’d better take care of it.

The book Belonging by Toko-pa Turner shows that belonging isn’t always a place, but a set of skills that we in modern times have lost or forgotten.

To re-find our ties with nature is a way to find belonging in this world.

Alienated

Toko-pa Turner writes poetry with Belonging. This deep fragment at nearly the end of the book is truly spot on:

“Reflecting on our present-day relationship with nature, you could say that we are collectively and chronically disoriented. I believe a great deal of the lostness we feel as a culture is a result of how alienated from the natural world we’ve become. Not only are we disconnected from nature, but aneasthetized to the enormity of that loss. Many people don’t even realize what is missing because they’ve never known it, but underneath our preoccupations with getting ahead and being accepted, there is a deep well of pain: our unbelonging to the earth herself.

Of course, we can never truly be separated from the natural world because, like every other living being, we are quite literally expressions of the earth. But in the grandness of what we as a species have created and called civilization, we have come to think of ourselves as conquerors of the wild.

Forgetting, in some pandemic amnesia, the true origins that make any of it possible. Our consciousness is so disconnected from the web of life that we have come to think of the earth’s generosities as our own resources to privatize and commodify for profit. We are so enamoured with the construction of our own endless, narrow tunnels of productivity that we have become alienated from the very body that supports and sustains us.” 

Con Amor,

Eva

Photo by Christopher Campbell/Unsplash

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