Where dreams go to die….

That’s the name of Dutch country singer Ilse DeLange’s new single. A haunting track with beautiful pedal steel arrangement. It hit me hard the first time I heard it a few months ago. I immediately got tickets for the theatre concert. And it brought tears to my eyes again when I heard it live last week. Why? Because I know all too well where those dreams go to die….

I am a very blessed positive person. I have had many childhood dreams that I realised. More than I thought I ever would. Coming from a mostly happy healthy family. Travelling big parts of Europe. Graduating in university.  Learning many instruments and seven languages. Giving people legal advice. Living in the beautiful countryside in Ireland. Going on tour with a musician I adored as a teenager. Touching people’s hearts with my own songs. Taking them on little trips in my folky fantasy world during concerts. In fact, when I moved back home to Holland at the end of my twenties I thought I had already realised most things I really wanted and that I was ready to settle for a boring life. Well nothing boring so far!

In 2017 I got unexpectedly ill with a large undefined growth in my belly and I thought I didn’t have long to live with the misdiagnosis ovarian cancer. After surgery and lab research I later got the happier correct diagnosis of endometriosis.

Of course I felt very happy I survived all this and could continue my life.  I found a nice university teaching job right away. I passed my medical followup checkups better than anyone would have predicted and I took pride and joy out of being so successful and speedy at recovering, with my super healthy lifestyle, sports regime and diet. Plus I thought after this shock and hospital adventure I wouldn’t be scared for anything in the world anymore!!

Well it turned out quite the opposite: While my body was getting stronger I got anxiety for almost everything. Because of the shock and mainly losing the reliability of my own body, failing my own appointments again and again. All part of learning to cope with the chronic condition endometriosis and the insecurity around it. Extremely tough for a perfectionist like me! Easier to stop trying so I couldn’t fail.

But here I am, two years later now, and with some help I have proudly managed to get myself back on track. My body and I have become friends instead of doing a contest. And I remind myself now and then that life is not only about health checks, to do lists, succeeding, the pressure of making money and all the other things we are so desperately trying to control and that dominated my life during that period. But also really about fun, living, loving, relaxing, letting go, enjoying each other’s company, embracing loss as part of life, making the world a better place, never settling for anything boring and of course keeping those dreams alive!

I am so happy I am feeling that positivity and faith the past months again. Things will still go wrong at times, but “the only heart lost is the one that won’t try” (read the full lyrics below). Thanks for the song Ilse! By the way, I sing my own version of it, so come and listen 27 November, a little birthday concert!

I’ve been to the lowest places
Down to where the darkness chases
Away every shimmering light
Wishes that were all in vain
Written on paper planes
They never made their way into the endless sky

The only heart lost is the one that won’t try
The bird in the cage is the one that won’t fly
I am here and I testify
That’s where dreams go to die
That’s where dreams go to die

Go up to the highest mountain
Then I’m gonna turn around
And watch the clouds swallow my tears
Casting all my fears away
Burn them in the light of day
Can someone find me here?

The only heart lost is the one that won’t try
The bird in the cage is the one that won’t fly
I am here and I testify

That’s where dreams go to die
That’s where dreams go to die

 

The thinning veil

The season of Halloween is upon us: scary movies, trick ‘n treat, pumpkin carving. And besides that…..the more serious stuff like rituals, awakenings and magic. Traditionally The Celts celebrated the start of a New Year at Samhain. “The veil” or the energetic and psychic barrier between dimensions was said to be thinner around this time. It allowed the living to have increased intuition and psychic abilities.  A time to contact the ones we loved who passed away to the other side, and to reflect on the past year. Rituals still to be found in Christian All Hallows and All Saints feast days.

I was baptised as a Catholic but raised without a particular belief. When I studied in the Southerly city of Maastricht I became more aware of the influence of religion and rituals in many people’s lives. I have always really valued them. The magical atmosphere of beautiful dark old church buildings where people prayed since early medieval times. Also the value of contacting ‘that other world’ in whatever form. In Dutch society religion or spirituality doesn’t have a prominent place. I certainly appreciate it as a counter actor against our overly rational society. There is so much we don’t know! When I was bashing rhododendrons as an environmental summer volunteer in Killarney National Park when I was 17, people told me stories and legends about magic trees, little people, elves, the banshee, a deep connection with nature and magical places. I found it fascinating!

Do you allow space for otherworldly things in your life? Any exciting stories? Do you have cool rituals to open yourself up? I like burning sage and palo santo, some meditation, reading tarot cards, some astrology, be aware of the influence of the moon cycle. And the odd foretelling dream now and then 😉

Happy Halloween Season. Enjoy the magic. And may the Force be with you!

 

 

 

Commitment

I’ve come to find that commitment is a scary word for many people these days. Us 21st century beings are not too fond of fixed jobs, fixed houses or fixed relationships. I’ve always predicted that with temporary work and housing contracts, we’ll also be moving towards a time where we will be signing temporary marriage contracts for 5 years or so….Casual dating is something that I’m quite succesful at, but the phase where stuff is starting to look a bit more definable is where often things halt, as if there is a societal fear of the word relationship or commitment.

I could get annoyed about this, but I have to admit I’m extremely bad at committing myself aswell. The idea of having fixed appointments in my diary gives me pressure, be it from friends, courses, work, or probably the most intense of all: a relationship (waaah!). If I had it all exactly my way I’d probably decide every single day how I felt, what I felt up to and who to spend it with. Obviously my friends wouldn’t be so happy with this. Freedom is my highest value, avoiding and lowering all expectations, like so many of us try to do.

In contrast to all the new age thinking that ‘relationships should be free of expectations’, I think expectations are actually very a normal way of human interaction, for example good expectations, in the sense of looking forward to something, and bad expectations, stress or anxiety. It’s simply impossible to have human interactions without them. I tried this for a while -after going through a time where I had to cancel often with health struggles – not willing to disappoint anyone or fail, and my life came to a complete stood still, avoiding all appointments. So far the Buddhistic new age religion ;). I think expectations also provide structure and freedom!!

Maybe we should get out of our individualistic freedom bubbles for a bit and accept that failing or disappointing other people, or even ourselves is just part of life and not to be prevented by lowering expectations all the time. To me it seems a societal thing, not only an individual thing. I wonder if you recognize this? Let’s all connect a bit more instead! Happy expectations!

Idealism and identity

“Do you remember a moment when you were very focussed and driven working towards your goals?”. When a friend asked me recently I noticed in my case most of these situations had love as a keyword: love for another person or love for an idea I was mad about.

Thankfully last Friday I felt this loving spark again in all its intensity when I took part in the climate protest in The Hague. It was amazing to be there with tens of thousands of people uniting for a higher goal. With a group of 100 professional musicians and singers we played and sang  protest songs from a stage before this immense crowd. There was a very special energy out there, all these people carrying protest banners they had made at home, and a large sense of community, almost like stepping out of our individualistic society for a day!

Well we weren’t there for fun. We were there because the government will need to take drastic measures to prevent further climate crisis and doom day scenario’s, and we will all need to change our lifestyles in a big way. But still we had a lot of fun doing so. And suddenly I became aware of something that had been missing in my life. A feeling of idealism, that had been much stronger in the past but that I neglected a bit doing my daily tasks, and also to be really part of a group of people of a similar “lifestyle conviction”.

We have all this unlimited freedom and money now to buy whatever we want, to go on holidays whereever we want to, to date whoeever we want, to take up any job offer we like, but who is really aware of ethics and morality these days when tackling these questions? Of course there is not just one correct answer but ain’t the main problem that we stopped thinking about moral questions at all? We seem happy enough when we can organise our little lives and pay the bills and mainly have enough fun doing so. But we don’t seem to be able to make decisions on a higher level than our own houses and family’s. Maybe return of some morality and ethics might be good for us planet earth inhabitants, and society as a whole?

Also for all these individuals suffering of anxiety or burnout complaints (of whom there are more than ever before): It might be giving a lot of headspace to think about what’s good for the world instead of complicated individualistic thinking. It helps me anyway. Become an idealist! May ethics be your guideline! I promise you a feeling of joy, drive and strong sense of identity doing so 😉 Oh, and let’s please hope it is contagious. Love is the keyword. I fell in love already!

Back to basics

Talking about the disastrous effects of our Western lifestyle, our eating, shopping and holiday habits on the planet is never fun. People don’t like to be made felt bad about their choices. I’ve been a vegetarian since I was a student but for same reason I’m certainly not one of those veggies who tells you off about the ‘dead animal on your plate’ in the middle of a restaurant. But by now we’ve reached a point with climate and environmental issues that I’m wondering if maybe we should. Is it really OK when friends announce their fifth mini hols a year by plane? And is it OK to just reply asking if they had a good time and what the weather was like?

I remember earning a lot of money each month as a lawyer and I sometimes I hadn’t got a clue how to spend it. I think many fulltime workers who go clothes shopping on a Saturday often don’t. It seems more of a cultural habit. Sometimes I randomly bought shoes, and then I just threw them in some closet if I didn’t want to wear them, and went to buy a new pair I didn’t really need. It gave me a very empty feeling.

Sometime after quitting this job I left to Ireland with my guitar and ended up on a farm in the wild West. My main concerns were to light the fire in the mornings, to collect drinking water from a well in the mountains (rural area’s often still don’t have access to public water schemes), to do repairs after power cuts and some more very basic life tasks, like baking fresh bread in the morning. Strangely this largely improved my mood and feeling of happiness about life in general.  It felt like for the first time in my life – in my twenties – I lived and worked for what really matters, staying alive, keeping warm and being as self sufficient as possible doing so and spend my little savings on local activities that felt like “really earned”.

Of course I wouldn’t want to project my own experience on society in general. But could I assume that our general Western lifestyle has drifted so far off from a basic self sufficient experience, that knowing ‘what really counts in life’ is just as hard a notion to grasp as knowing ‘what we are doing wrong’ ? Is that why it’s so hard to admit that maybe that 5th mini break away or buying that car to bring the kids to school wasn’t really necessary? Because we really don’t feel anymore what is truly valuable? Because our lives are built around an existence in which we study hard to earn digital abstract credits to buy stuff from, striving for more and more, overlooking if we do really add the same amount of value in return with our work? What is an experience really “earned”? It would be good to leave the notion of money out of this equation now when we judge our own behaviour and what we really deserve….

See you on Friday for the Climate Strike in The Hague!

 

Autumn is coming

I am one of them crazy people who actually loves rain. OK, I had fun going for a quick sea swim on this warm Sunday, but I am glad the season of tourists, busy streets, crowded beaches, a sometimes roasting apartment, closed windows to keep the neighbours’ BBQ smoke out, is coming to an end! Oh and those annoying people everywhere, loud summer people 😉 !!  Instead I thrive on the smell of wet forests, misty mornings, hiding inside from a roaring storm with a warm blanket and all the inspiration that autumn gives. Everything just turns a bit more quiet, and I like things quiet!

Also the social expectations of summer are lessening with the start of the new season. I really LOVE my “me time” and in autumn and winter I somehow feel it’s more OK to just hide inside the house alone without having to give excuses to people. To process everything, to turn inwards, to find inspiration and gather energy for new stuff coming up. To meditate, read books, play music. I must secretly be an introvert….

How do you feel about autumn starting tomorrow? Happy Fall Equinox to all! And don’t forget to join us for the Climate March in The Hague on Friday, to make sure we will have even more cool days coming up in the future!

 

Protest songs

Yesterday I joined forces with flamenco singer Erminia Fernández Córdoba and some more musical folks during a climate demonstration in The Hague. We played a protest song she wrote to call for action. It’s great to see so many people raising awareness for the climate crisis now! We are preparing more musical activities for the upcoming Global Climate Protest 27 September….

I danced flamenco as a teenager and it was great to feel the spirit and passion behind it again in this gathering filled with Spanish music and dance. In some ways Spanish folk is similar to the Irish folk culture that I’ve become so familiar with: making music with simple acoustic instruments, clapping and stamping, and a large communal factor and a feeling of passion and rebellion involved. I loved it! Very powerful stuff!

So what we are doing now with the club of people, apart from writing suitable songs ourselves, is gathering great protest songs. I have a list already that I play during my own performances, varying from Melanie Safka’s “I don’t eat animals”, Neil Young’s “After the Goldrush”, The Kelly Family, “When the last tree has been taken”, Joan Baez’ “We will overcome”….and many more. Do you have any suggestions of good protest songs, especially about nature or climate? Please let me know! And see you 27 September ‘ on the barricades’!

Dress yourself happy!

Since people keep asking me questions about my dresses, why not write a happy blog post about them! Cause no matter how minimalistic I live, I have to admit I love to pick dresses for our performances, oh and for daily life, as I wear them as easily for rainy cycles or hiking up a muddy mountain. I have always thought dresses are more comfortable to move around in since I was a kid. Where do I find them? I don’t know! I suppose I just bump into them by accident, as I don’t like shopping at all! Especially not when you really have to find something…

When I was a little kid we were holidaying in Spain with the family and it was the first time I saw flamenco dancers. That must have been the first time I really wanted a polkadot dress..besides learning to dance flamenco of course. So I did both. And I still have this polkadot dress addiction! In many colours of the rainbow!

Do you have specific clothes or colours to cheer yourself up or to give yourself a confidence boost when you have something important coming up? I would like to know! Enjoy the rest of the summer in your happiest outfits :)!

The illusion of property

There was a time when I was very idealistic. From the age of 17 I worked many summers in a national park as a volunteer to do my share for tree conservation. I graduated on a legal topic hoping to contribute to the preservation of common goods: property of our common heritage. Things that don’t belong to just one person like our bikes or cars, but areas like woods, seas and lakes that belong to us all, that should be kept in a good state….

Western society sadly isn’t based around the preservation of “common heritage”. Most of our lives we spend focussed on our individual property: saving money to buy a car, a house, the nicest of clothes, saving for expensive holidays to far away destinations. We work all of our lives because we committed to pay off a mortgage to finally become the full owner of a tiny plot of land, or an appartment in a big block of houses with other people doing the same. But with which higher goal? Or should I even say: with which entitlement? I have always found it very interesting that humans are not well able to think for the sake of all people.

In the meantime the effects of climate change are really making themselves known now. Wildfires on the North Pole, unbearable heatwaves in the most of Europe, smog alarms: it’s only a small part of what’s to come in the next decades. Why are we still obsessed with expanding our own individual properties, neglecting the effects our lifestyles have on the planet as a whole? Knowing that if we continue like this our own little situations will be affected?

I could imagine a system where people would be rewarded for their footprint, like getting a basic financial incentive when keeping their footprint under a certain amount of points, taking into account how many kids one has, not having a car, eating a plant based diet etcetera. Many people are waiting for the government or companies to come with solutions. What we can do as individuals now is raising awareness about lifestyle changes and voicing out our opinion, like when friends announce their 5th flight to a destination far away or buy a second car.  Even though this might not be nice. And even though it might seem futile: it is all in the little things!

Apart from that in my opinion the State’s public property of common goods should be getting a distinct position as ‘common property not meant for exploitation’, like it used to be in the past and still is the case in some countries. It seems the only way….Do you have any other good ideas to combat climate change?

In the meantime I’m working on songs on the subject. All I can do as a musician….

Eat yourself happy!

I was on a beach yesterday enjoying the heatwave and I was a bit shocked to see the amount of people suffering serious obesity. I would never judge anyone for that as I know there might be causes at work that can’t be influenced easily. I do know however what it feels like to carry extra weight around. I was a bit overweight in the past and it still takes some effort trying to keep my BMI within the normal range. I love food!

I have been researching a lot about nutrition the past years since had to improve my diet and lifestyle to minimize symptoms of endometriosis. I found out this really helps for both the physical symptoms and the anxiety or tiredness that can come with it. No dairy, no alcohol, no sugar, no soy, little cafein, gluten, no processed foods, the right fish oils. It all helps me keeping a healthy body and a healthy mind!

Not sticking to the optimal diet for your own situation has effects that go a lot further than only physical diseases. Lately more and more is scientifically understood about the relation between an unhealthy intestinal microbiome and the mind! Anxiety, depression and many more diseases go hand in hand with problems of the intestines. I find this very interesting as this confirms my holistic view on health.

So basically, we can not only get ourselves in a good shape but also eat ourselves happy! Reducing stress, doing enough sports and getting a normal amount of sleep of course helps a lot for this aswell. Do you have similar experiences? I would like to hear your personal stories. Oh, and by  the way….. do you know the benefits of the foods pictured?

Keep cool with the hot weather!