Photo from a page of the beautiful “Lost in Translation” by Ella Frances Sanders
References: C. Northcote Parkinson
I truly wish I could deny it
“Our normal sensation of self is a hoax, or, at best, a temporary role that we are playing, or have been conned into playing,” Alan Watts
When I was about 10 sitting in class the girl sitting behind me pulled me back to tell me some little secret. I remember that the sudden movement made me feel dizzy and for what was probably a few seconds but felt like it would become permanent, I thought I had traveled outside myself and was experiencing whatever was happening in class from above. I think this was the first time my wild imaginative child mind came to the conclusion that I couldn’t actually be sure that reality was real.
This experience, coupled with years of being an extremely shy and introverted little girl who spent hours reading whatever books I could find and talking to all the characters that came out of all those pages, resulted in the conviction that indeed the world must be only a stage and we have our entrances and get to play a character, sometimes even an interesting one, and we have our exits and get to seat in the audience and just watch while others dazzle or scare us or are just unable to make us feel anything with their performance.
Not that I ever read Shakespeare when I was 10. I was never that precocious.
If this was so there was also, I thought at the time, little proof of my existence and this conviction has lead to the creation of all the different characters that have helped hide, protect and accept myself in order to keep going. In doing so, I created a multitude of characters some of which did not even get as far enough as the dress rehearsal. Their wardrobe was ready but it never left the archival depths of countless steam trunks and old leather bags. I will have plenty of time to experiment with all that, I thought. I will just get ready for whatever or whomever it is I might feel like playing . This delusional fantasy has resulted in an “identity superflux“.
It would have probably been easier to settle for “the desirable and permanent order of things”, to follow Polonius advice and be true to my own self, but I never managed to understand how it would be possible to be just one. Facing the plurality of the world how can it be that being singular is enough?
And then you actually Realize that even if most days you still might feel that you are 10, time has passed and there might not be enough of it to stage all the plays you have been rehearsing for. Maybe only a few of us are meant for reality but life doe manage to find all of us.
The book of disquiet
On August 17 1993, a lifetime ago, me and the three people that were the closest to me at the time (one of them is still my best friend), drove to Santiago de Compostela to see “The Artist formerly known as Prince”. I think he had played in Lisbon the day before or was going to the day after but Santiago is closer to Porto and the tickets were considerably cheaper in Spain.
Before the European funded highways and the open borders that made life so much simpler for a while, traffic in Porto was chaotic and someone ended up bumping our car from behind at the still today chaotic “Rotunda dos Produtos Estrela”. I remember we all got out of the car shouting at this poor man that we had to go to Spain and he was going to make us late. He didn’t. The car didn’t even have a dent.
We drove first to Viana do Castelo to pick up the fourth element of our little pilgrimage. We actually managed not to get lost driving in Santiago and had to park the car some 2 km away from the venue. And then we hiked up hill and reached Monte do Gozo all sweaty and scratched and waited around for that magic moment when Prince finally showed himself on stage and the concert started.
Monte do Gozo is known for being the place where Christian pilgrims on the Camino de Santiago get their first views of the three spires of their destination, the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela. At 370 metres (1,210 ft),it is the pilgrims’ last hill and last stop before reaching the cathedral, with about an hour’s walk still to go, and by tradition is where they cry out in rapture at finally seeing the end of their path.
For us, it was also the end of a journey although it felt like the beginning of a new way of living. It was the perfect setting for a perfect experience, we walked down hill back to the car feeling whole in the way that only music you love can make you feel. We drove back singing Purple Rain as loud as we could and in the early hours of the morning waited for the “Pastelaria Fãozense” to open so we could eat some “clarinhas” (traditional squash pastry). The 229th day of 1993 was a perfect day. As far as I can remember, all the days of the summer of 1993, spent between Porto and Viana, lying in the sun and dancing the night away, where perfect.
Today, according to a friend who is counting time post by post on her Facebook timeline, is the 110th day of a year that I feel I don’t want to experience anymore. If the sense of loss of humanity seems to invade our life with every news report of people being washed ashore while others sunbathe, of stranded lifes in filthy refugee camps and of horror stories behind closed doors, today this sense of loss runs deeper. Not because some lifes seem to be more important. Some people’s talent just transform the world into a place where you actually want to be.
In the midst of collective mourning, the loss of someone who composed my “coming of age soundtrack”, after I understood that while I have a somewhat melancholic personality, I am not depressive enough to embrace darker tunes, is also deeply personal. And sometimes you don’t even see it, you’re too busy hurrying so you get somewhere before it’s too late. And you never get anywhere. You have just left the sign of the times mess up with your mind.
In days like today I realize that I locked away a part of what I have lived and that I will not be able to recover it. In days like today I fear that the world is becoming flat again. And square.
Take me to the streets of Portugal
That might be my destiny to see the waterfall
Tears or rain, they’re all the same
The only way to win this game
To let everybody play and share the ball
Sign O’ The Times (1987) and Lavaux (2010)
Photo: Backstage Auditorio do Monte do Gozo, Santiago de Compostela, Spain – August 17th, 1993 via The Prince Army
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