Category Archives: lifestyle

Headspace & sensory overload

And suddenly there was some form of calmness in my head. While the whole world came to a stoodstill, I found a new amount of headspace and motivation. In daily life I always have to find the balance between sensory stimuli and rest. I can be a very bubble extravert person but I do need my alone time at home. Sometimes people don’t seem to understand this very well. I have always thought the desire for stimuli versus the need to have downtime is  the factor in which people’s characters differ the most.

Don’t get me wrong, I miss cuddling my friends, massages, and being literally close to others these weeks, but the lack of pressure from all sides definitely makes me a better and a more focussed worker, so that way this crisis helps me a lot! On a daily basis we usually deal with so many appointments, messages, events, birthdays, holiday planning, expectations, crowds of people we meet or are supposed to meet, that sometimes it can just get too much, and even kind of paralyze me in getting anything done at all.

Probably the reason why living in a cottage in the middle of nowhere worked well for me and still appeals to me so much!

I have thought about it often and my own way is probably a sensitive way to react to stimuli, so wonder who else experiences this period the same? I hope you’re also finding more creativity, headspace and motivation of course! Keep well everyone!

 

Insecurity and gratefulness

After I was in hospital in 2017 for surgery for an ovarian cyst that was initially thought to be malicious, my life turned upside down. I physically made a speedy recovery but mentally I was made aware that existence is not something one can just take for granted. It filled me with insecurity about life and my own body. How could this happen to me while I was healthy all my life, while I was sporty, and lived a healthy lifestyle?

I had to learn to have faith again and trust in myself and circumstances when I planned my agenda. Sometimes my body let me down or sometimes my mind told me: ‘how can we really plan all these things? What if this and this happens?’. Anxiety starts from a place where one doesn’t embrace this insecurity but instead wants to control it. And this will and illusion to control everything has become a big part of how we live daily life in the Western world…

Ironically just when I was positive about all these things again and looking forward to some travels, society was hit by this corona outbreak. And now all of us are confronted with this basic insecurity of existence.

We have it all organised in Western Europe and our medical knowledge is at such a stage there are few things threatening us on a wide scale anymore, compared to the past. We tend to live in a pink coloured glasses world, planning trips and work and fun events and not paying much attention to bad things that could happen.

We sometimes don’t realise too much how special this really is!! Maybe it’s what the Old Greek called ‘hybris’: excessive self pride of men towards the ‘Gods’, us humans feeling immune to the downsides of life. Let’s all be thankful and humble about our existence on a daily base. Life is insecure. There are many things we can’t control. Let’s look forward to upcoming events, but realising every day how special it is that we can!

Social responsibility

“What are your plans for the weekend? Where are you going for your next holidays? How was the last weekend away? What was the festival like? Was the traffic heavy on the way to work?”

All very normal questions people would usually ask at work at the coffee machine. Not in Italy for the next few weeks however or in the other corona affected areas where there are forms of societal lockdown. I don’t want to get into the question here if these measures are justified in this specific scenario, but I’m intrigued by the impact they have and how everyone reacts so differently to the eventuality of a lockdown situation.

Reactions I heard so far vary from easily hermitting in the house to people who wouldn’t obey to any governmental advice because life needs to go on and they’re not worried since they’re young and healthy or ‘because there are enough elderly in the world anyway.’ One thing is for sure: government measures of this type won’t have any effect in free Western countries without some feeling of responsibility. Probably exactly the same for possible climate measures. So that brings me to the question: what is social responsibility?

For most people social responsibility would be doing their work to use their skills to help each other and to make money for their families while doing so. We don’t really need our neighbours to look after us when we’re ill since we have hospitals and home nurses, so health care  wouln’t be one them for the majority of us anyway. But what if it would be necessary? Would we be there for each other? And how bad or close do ‘abstract situations’ need to be in general before we are prepared to change our behaviour? People close to us dying from a virus, climate disasters happening in our own street?

Crisis situations show the cracks in our individualistic societal building. People get angry when they have to cancel their holidays or their events, because of the small chance of some far away 80 year old that might die. We are all so focussed on our individual needs while we fully rely on the government to solely ‘fix major issues’ like a pandemic situation or climate crisis. BUT WE DON’T WANNA CHANGE ANY OF OUR OWN BEHAVIOUR. Isn’t this bizarre? If there is any good I hope from the corona virus, is that it will shed a light on that.

Doing nothing or less of all those activities we feel so entitled to can be an answer aswell! Plus it will help the climate crisis and the planet while we are doing so.

And isn’t that a good enough reason on its own?

Food and the illusion of individualism

While the Corona virus is spreading quickly over Europe now, there is no reason to panic yet, but it’s always good to be prepared.  A friend recommended to stock up on food in case supermarket supplies would be affected. So there I went this morning, for a few walks to the supermarket: enough long life food supplies in the house now to survive for weeks. Asides from the practicality of having so much in stock it was a very valuable shopping trip that got me thinking about what kind of foods to buy in possible disaster situations, but mainly about the bigger question of how we organize our societal food supplies. About the essence of it all.

While we are living in an era where we all focus on our personal development, growth, personal leadership courses, how to find the ideal job, the ideal partner, a bigger home, the ideal holidays, maximizing happiness, individual life coaching, there is still one brutally simple thing that really matters at the end of the day and that is: food on our plates.

We think we have it all sorted as soon as we have a good and steady cashflow of digital numbers on our bank account coming in, and can declare our highest independancy, but is it really like that? The globalized food system seems very fragile. This morning I went to stock up on rice, pasta, nuts, beans, lentils, life long milk, cheese, tinned vegetables, frozen vegetables, but where to get fresh dairy, eggs or vegetables in case such a situation would last longer? I would really miss having a garden where I could keep some animals and my own veg growing patch. Where I would be more self sufficient.

Maybe we are still much more depending on others for our individualistic lifestyles than we would really like to admit. Maybe more than ever in history? Global food supplies seem a very abstract system and thus more fragile. Maybe we should go back to relying on our local neighbourhoods more, if even possible at all? I would like to hear your opinions.

In the meantime I’m off baking my own homemade bread. A very meditative and happy exercise.

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!

 

 

 

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 :)!