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.”

Kindness.

Sometimes you just need that feeling of support from those around you and those who believe in you. That what you do, makes sense. That what you do, is appreciated. 

Last Monday I couldn’t travel to France as I felt ill. Headache, raw throat, feeling cold, having my period and feeling incredibly tired. I decided to postpone my journey. As I try to travel sustainably it will take at least 24 hours before I arrive in Perigueux, instead of a couple of hours by plane and train, so better feel healthy on the way, also with this Coronavirus still heavily present everywhere. 

I slept a lot these past days and started to feel better. Luckily it didn’t take long, it’s quite shitty to feel unwell when you’re all by yourself. Yesterday I logged in on Facebook and saw a private message from one of the editors of Elephant Journal that just made my day and somehow I needed these words of support. She wrote me that my Eating Animals article was very close to her heart and that she had shared it widely with others and asked her colleague editors to comment as well. She really pushed my article these last days.

Those who are familiar with writing for Elephant Journal know that you need to have many reads, comments and hearts, before you can earn some cash with it. Although I don’t write with money and scores in my mind, it can be a kind of recognition for my work and ofcourse that is very welcome. I have to say I don’t like it at all to ask friends and family to read my articles and to help me raise the score. I share my articles on social media and always ask for the hearts, comments, shares, if the reader feels inspired, but usually it’s only just a few people who really take the time to do that. The thing is my articles are not about astrology or love, but mainly about uncomfortable things, such as the eating animals article and that certainly isn’t the first thing people like to read.

But when I opened the article again, I received over more than 20 comments – that never happened before. Thanks to this amazing editor, who believes in this piece and that means the world to me (as it is also very close to my heart). Thank you for your kindness and support Sukriti Chopra.  

When was the last time you were surprised by somebody’s kindness and support? Write it in the comments and tell that person! 💚

Con Amor,

Eva

Let’s Go Home. Unbreak Our Broken Relationship with Animals.

If there’s one sentiment, one state of being, one need, that prevents us from learning and growing, it’s comfort. The modern human is addicted to comfort. That makes the fight against climate change and racial injustice so hard. Comfort, it’s the synonym for chicken soup. 

At the moment I’m reading ‘Eating Animals’, a book by Jonathan Safran Foer, published 10 years ago. It’s a compelling and important book. At moments uncomfortable and shocking. Last night I was reading about the life of a modern chicken and turkey, from birth to the moment they go on transport to the slaughterhouses — packed with thousands on a truck — to the process of arriving and machines cutting their throats open and ‘kill-floor’ employers, not seldom underpaid immigrants, prepare the flesh for the consumers market. 

You may be thinking, why I’m doing this to myself? I’m reading about these animal lives, because I want to know. I don’t have to be persuaded to become vegetarian or vegan, I’m home already — home is my compassionate place.

Learning about factory farming is just as uncomfortable as learning about racism and white privilege, ‘hot’ conversations these days. Actually we don’t want to know, we’d rather keep things comfortable, often that’s the way things always have been.  

Factory farming — raising animals for human consumption — also the quilt-soothing animal friendly and organic certificated labels, it’s eating tortured flesh. I remember when I still lived in Amsterdam and I cycled through the city, waiting for a green traffic light, and stickers saying “Animal-friendly meat doesn’t exist” were glued to the stoplights. I remember I found them annoying, because at that time I ate organic meat, cage-free chicken meat, and free-range eggs and believed it were ethical alternatives. I thought I was doing the right thing. The most chance to consume ‘animal-friendly’ meat though, is meat that comes from small family farms which have become a curiosity these days. Most chance to ‘happy cattle-life’ meat is in the hands of small farmers, who see the animals as more than only capital.

The life of a modern sheep, cow, bird or pig, it’s a dark pit to descend to and most people don’t want to go there. They maybe know more than they admit, but mouths only open to taste the flesh and close again. Thoughts wander into obliviousness. It could be too painful. The secret doors, they rather keep them closed to walk away from what happens behind them. The way humans treat animals, it’s one of the blind spots we have. And it’s an ugly one. 

I’m halfway the book now and I don’t feel Foer is preaching. On the contrary, he mentions facts, based on lots of research material, interviews with farmers and owners and employees of slaughterhouses and even some undercover-actions in poultry farms with a female animal activist, as his requests of a farm visit were kept unanswered or denied. Foer wrote the book, a fine mix of arguments, science and storytelling, as he became a father and wanted to write a book on where our food — meat, fish and eggs — comes from. He writes about American factory farming, but it’s very much applicable to the European agricultural industry as well. We know ‘big pharma’. Well, we also know ‘big agriculture’.

As I said, I’m home. Food for me is plant-based, with occasionally an egg from the neighbour’s chickens and some raw honey from the bees of our landlord’s friends in Asturias.

Surprisingly, there are people, even one of my favourite writers, Roxane van Iperen, who claims that eating plant-based is elitist, too expensive for ‘normal people’. I can tell you that’s nonsense. I’m living proof of the contrary.

‘If you eat meat and fish, you should read this book. Even if you don’t, you should. It might bring the beginning of a change of heart about all living things’ ~ Joanna Lumley 

Con Amor,

Eva

Opinion article – spot on – by Jonathan Safran Foer in New York Times. Read this!

13 Quotes to Stir Up the Wild Woman Within {article on Elephant Journal}.

“If we surrendered to earth’s intelligence, we could rise up rooted, like trees.” ~ Rainer Maria Rilke

Nervous breakdown

Aged 30, Dr. Sharon Blackie, psychologist and mythologist, found herself weeping in the car park of the multinational corporation where she worked, wondering if this was what a nervous breakdown felt like. Somewhere along the line, she realised, she had lost herself and so began her long journey back to authenticity, rootedness in place and belonging, says the description of her book “If women rose rooted.”

It happens every now and then; you’re reading a book and right from the first page it speaks to you. From the beginning to the end and beyond, you and this book are best friends. It’s comforting and it’s impossible to put away.

Deep wisdom

If women rose rooted” by Dr. Sharon Blackie is such a book. It’s a deep mythological book, like the classic “Women who run with the wolves” by Jungian analyst Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estés. I read it last year and I will read it again this year. The wisdom she shares in this book is mind-blowing. Sometimes it reads like poetry; it wants to tell you something, something that lies deep down and we never took the time to listen until now.

Every woman, with or without a corporate job, being a mother or childless, in a relationship, married or single and regardless where she is on her path, this book helps to find back which was lost along the way. It’s about female strength, about heroines in cultures and history who have been forgotten in our Western society and whose stories are lost.

There are times I feel the urge to nourish my soul with profound wisdom, rather than eating cake, crisps, and chocolate, to find peace and consolation. This book gives me both comfort and the courage to look deeply into my life and the state of Mother Earth.

By this book I started to think about my journey, a “Heroine’s Journey,” as Blackie calls it. I started this journey some years ago when I left my legal profession behind and moved to a Mediterranean island with my love, because we wanted to live simply, with the values that were more aligned with whom we were.

On the way, I took some turns to find out I still wasn’t doing the work that truly meant something to me. I started to write, we moved to an ecological tiny home that my partner constructed for us, and I learned about plant-based food—these were the few things that changed my perspectives. I’m still on my way.

Weak moments & baked potatoes

Somehow this book opened my eyes to find more truth and meaning in my life. It’s certainly not the path society carved out for me. There are weak moments I heavily doubt our minimalist lifestyle, which feels uncomfortable at times. (not in the article: This last week I was overwhelmed by doubts and the negative feelings about myself, that I’m not enough and that kind of bullshit. I know I can reach out to some dear and wise friends, my family and my sweet man, but somehow I can’t even explain it to myself, so I rather go through it and find consolation in books and warm hugs and baked potatoes on the woodfire by Dorus (instead of the bag of crisps ;-). I’m lucky that I have so much love around me.

Such blue days are followed by days when I find myself in utter happiness and gratefulness for the choices we’ve made together so far.

Let me share some of Blackie’s wisdom by means of these thought-provoking quotes from her book and let it be of benefit for those women who are looking for authenticity and belonging in their lives.

“To change the world, we women need first to change ourselves — and then we need to change the stories we tell about who we are. The stories we’ve been living by for the past few centuries — the stories of male superiority, of progress and growth and domination — don’t serve women and they certainly don’t serve the planet.”

Would you like to read the rest of the breath-taking quotes? Click here !

Con Amor desde Mallorca,

Eva

Raif Badawi and the Happy Shares on Social Media

Did you ever notice that when you post something on social media that isn’t a holiday picture, a gorgeous sunset, a selfie, your baby or cat, your fitness workout/yoga or you in a cool restaurant/club, your active friends/followers become all of a sudden quiet?

You hardly get any “likes” or comments?

It’s oh so quiet..shh shhh?

Happy stuff

Since I use social media platforms as Facebook and Instagram for several years now this is quite familiar to me.

Yesterday for example I reposted a video about the writer Raif Badawi who’s already 6 years in prison in Saudi Arabia, because he expressed his thoughts about the regime and Islam in Saudi Arabia. It almost cost him his life. Interesting to see that when I post a picture of a beautiful sunny Sunday on Ibiza quite some of my Instagram followers seem to like it whereas the video and words about Raif Badawi hardly has any views. And really this isn’t the first time and I always wonder why.

Do people only want to see happy stuff on social media? Or is it because they don’t know what to do about the injustice, it’s hopeless what they see, and therefore they decide not to pay further attention? Is it because it’s too far from their existence? Or is it because they just don’t care?

I always wonder why. Social media, it’s a fascinating subject. Earlier I wrote a piece about it on this blog. I was fed up with the fakeness on social media. I was disappointed about the way many of us are using social media. The emptiness I saw — and still see. Then quit if you don’t like it, stop whining about it (I hear you)!

Of course, I know I can, but I decided to stay as I — between the hollow words and images — still find inspiration on social media and it can be fun to have some glimpses into the lives of family and friends abroad.

I’m not the type of person who only shares how beautiful Ibiza is or post pictures of places where I’m having my dinner or glass of wine (in my warm home ;). At times I post about issues that are happening in the world and which mean something to me and that isn’t happy stuff: violations of human rights, injustice, people suffering from war, the brutal way animals are treated by humans, the plastic in the oceans. You see, the sad stuff.

Love-hate relationship

I accepted I just have a love-hate relationship with social media and I will stop complaining about it once and for all. Maybe also start accepting the possibility that quite some of us don’t want to see sadness and injustice on their social media pages, or at least don’t feel the need to comment on it, but rather see the sunny side of life in their social news feed.

Everyone should post on social media whatever they find worth sharing. It’s your place so you can do whatever you want. We are still the lucky ones who are free to express ourselves (in whatever way that is).

Raif Badawi wasn’t.

 

Con Amor,

Eva

 

P.S. Any thoughts? Be welcome to share them with me.

 

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