Handwritten 

the beauty and nobility, the august mission and destiny, of human handwriting.
George Bernard Shaw

 

Like seeing a photograph of yourself as a child, encountering handwriting that you know was once yours but that now seems only dimly familiar can inspire a confrontation with the mystery of time.
Francine Prose

She may have looked normal on the outside, but once you’d seen her handwriting you knew she was deliciously complicated inside.
Jeffrey Eugenides

Things I learned in the midst of frivolous amusements 

I am a frivolous person and I have often felt guilty about it mainly because I fear that most people would understand that as meaning that I am a shallow person. Most of my time seems to be occupied with aesthetic considerations or concerns of some kind. Most of the space I live in is organized accordingly. Every morning I go out hoping that what I have chosen to wear will contribute to make the day a little more beautiful, a little less real (I suppose that’s where the love of vintage clothes comes from). Every evening I want to come back home to the same kind of fantasy. I watch movies and plays looking for the kind of visual and emotional grandeur that can make one forget that there’s some kind of reality out there. I read books to be seduced by the music in words and I like music because it embodies all the beauty I find in movies and books.
Form always seems to overcome purpose and content.

Except when it comes to people. Their content is what sustains their form. And still, I also tend to understand human relationships as an aesthetic ideal in the sense that they should be a pursuit of pleasure and an avoidance of pain.  I like people. I like watching them, I like talking to them and getting to know their stories and I feel mesmerized by the things they know and the lives they lived.

I am terribly shy so I never start conversations with strangers but I do engage in them often and listen.

There was someone from Belgium sitting next to me on a flight to Lisbon and he told me how he hadn’t spoken to his family in over twenty years because he had taken his dad to court over child support money. There was an  elegant lady in the subway in New York who collected ancient tiles and a kid from Spain who talked for over seven hours during a flight between Johannesburg and Madrid and  street artists in London and drag queens in Porto and soccer fans in Zambia and the regal looking lady in Houston during intermission at the ballet. She was a widow and her son was working for an oil company in Nigeria. Maybe we could go to the ballet together the following week. I would not be in Houston anymore. And the Brazilian girl  that had been left at the altar and was trying to forget that she was hurt and afraid of flying while the plane was getting ready to land.

And, if they asked me, I could go on and almost write a book with all the moments some stranger decided to confide in me. Sometimes I talk and understand how liberating it is to be your vulnerable self with someone you know will not cross paths with you ever again. And you go on for hours sitting across a perfect stranger in some Lower East Side bar after checking some independent production of Hamlet and talk about all your unfulfilled dreams and what your fear and how finding Shakespeare has changed your life.

These are the moments of bliss that truly feel they could be enough for a whole lifetime and shield me when the world just seems to hurtful to endure. I am one of those. Deeply hurt by the trivial, the rudeness and mainly by the pain of others, of strangers, by the injustice, by whatever dehumanizing force seems to be operating on any given day.

“Yet, taught by time, my heart has learned to glow for other’s good, and melt at other’s woe.”

And my heart also got used to marvel at others, to shudder, tremble and thrill with the same pleasure and emotion it felt coming face to face with Hopper’s “New York Movie” or driving to Jarrett’s “Köln Concert”.

Works of art,  Martha Nussbaum says,  “give us insight into how other people live and feel, how they strive for happiness, and how conditions of many types affect them. [And] that is crucial for living any sort of decent life.”


References

Marcel Proust

Dinah Washington

Fyodor Dostoyevsky

Homer

Martha Nussbaum

On fear (an exercise in copy/paste)

I have been absolutely terrified every moment of my life – and I wish I could say that I’ve never let it keep me from doing a single thing I wanted to do. I have. Once you let fear get possession of your soul, it does not readily yield its place to another sentiment. Then you just realize you have to fight yourself and let everything happen to you, Beauty and terror. Just keep going. No feeling is final. I go back to a gin infused advice over “I am sailing” announcing the final round at Peter’s, years ago. Don’t think. And I realize I do appreciate the unknown, the feeling of jumping before looking. I learnt that through facing the fear of traveling alone. I prefer it like that now. No longer fearing freedom. For a few days. I do not fear mistakes. I do fear perfection and the fearlessness will come when I stop waiting for the right day to go up or down in my own way. I fear wasted time. 

References 

Georgia O’Keeffe 

Leo Tolstoi

Rainer Maria Rilke

Jim Morrison 

Pink Floyd

Photo via Pinterest 

The roads not taken

I am a terrible decision maker. I do not like planning or strategizing or even making pro/con lists.

I find decision making excruciatingly tedious and, on top of that, I can’t read maps and even manage to get lost using gps devices. That’s how I often take the roads less traveled. I am also not good at following instructions.

Not many, if any, of these new roads are left to be metaphorically or literally explored. I suppose we all would like to be pioneers and trailblaze our own road but that is lonely and difficult path we’re seldom ready to take.

In some ways, this blog is, for me, the road less traveled, the road of self-examination as a public exercise. And, as Dr. Peck would put it “life is difficult”, being honest with yourself is not an easy task. Being honest with yourself in public can oftentimes be soul crushing as is the realization that you can’t really always get what you want.

At least two people in my life have tried to make me understand (in very obvious ways) that life is seldom what you want it to be and often what it has to be. I haven’t learnt this lesson yet. I go on insisting that there has to be more. As a traveler, I always want to take both or all the roads in front of me and start walking even if sometimes never arriving and other times taking the easy, comfortable road and not getting where I wanted to be.

The roads left are the roads not taken and these might be the ones that would make all the difference.

References:

Robert Frost (1920)

Morgan Scott Speck (1978)

Mick Jagger / Keith Richards (1969)

The Road Less Traveled

Getting to know who you are

What’s in a name

According to the label on it, I’ve had this t-shirt since I was 4. I guess these were quite popular at the time and my brother also had one.


At four, this was just a cute t-shirt with my name on it, now I look at it and see the beginning of my long saga of letting clothes tell me who I am. The fact that it actually has my name on it makes it even more important. I have always identified with the name chosen for me. Both of them. My two given names are Nadine and Stella. One meaning Hope and the other, of course, meaning Star. These meanings have, undoubtedly, shaped my main personality trait, I’m the eternal optimist, the obstinate one “that maintains that everything is best when it is worst.”

Nadine is the name everyone calls me, it’s also the name that has always made sense to call mine. Re-reading my 9 year old diary I realise that it also the name of the character I’ve created for myself. Most of the pages are full of descriptions of this girl called Nadine, an aspirational self, subject to countless experimentations of posture, behaviour, appearance, treated in writing like some amazing heroin in one of the countless books that were my most usual companions at the time.

Growing up in Portugal it was also too different from all the other names at school or the doctor’s office. At a time when you didn’t want to be noticed it was the kind of name that did not allow for any kind of invisibility. I didn’t actually realise how good that was. I do now. It is the kind of name that does not really require a surname. You can just be.

The imaginary or delusional grandeur I came to see in this name made it difficult to live up to it. How not to fall short from the character? I started by dressing it, all it’s moods, quirks, dreams and aspirations as a costume designer of some sorts. That’s how I ended up with a massive closet and no archiving space.

Stella has never been the protagonist. Others have never recognised it as a character and I am only slowly discovering that it might also be a name with it’s own voice.
Say Your Name

References

Voltaire