Category Archives: Stories from the crypt of life

Okay, you're right!, Stories from the crypt of life

Let’s dance it out in Austria!

For the past six months I felt lost. My thoughts and feelings took an unexpected turn and it seemed like I put my life on pause. My body was there, experiencing everything, but I wasn’t. Pretending to be fine is one of my strong traits, yet there are a few people who can read me even if I don’t want them to.

Last week I went on a trip to visit Mark in Graz, Austria. For those of you who don’t know, Mark and I are currently working on a book, Okay, you’re right!, a collection of his life stories (click on the link and read about our journey). I arrived in Graz after a nine hour bus ride at 7 am. The first thing that welcomed me was the smell of smoked meat, a smell that took me straight back in time when I was five years old and my grandfather would take me to the local market. I took deep breaths and smiled at my grandfather’s memory.

I spent three days with Mark and Sophie, in their home, somewhere in a small town, in the middle of nature where the buzzing of the city life can’t haunt you. Everyday seemed the same, yet felt very different. Their house, a paradise for any creative soul, felt cozy and warm. Every morning we went to the bar across the street, had our coffee and “second” breakfast at 12 pm, and then walked back home through “Wonderland”, where we were surrounded by trees, flowers and a small stream. I fell into silence for my entire stay there. I watched, analyzed and allowed myself to feel every bit of their life, their home, the surroundings. Somehow while watching them go about their lives, dancing together, having fun and just being, I felt myself not feeling anything. I felt my numbness and indifference towards life and it slapped me in the face.

I embarked on the nine hour bus ride back to Florence contemplating my time there. My journey back was uncomfortable and tiring, much like my state of mind. I arrived home and fell asleep in my bed at 7 pm. The next morning I was prepared to restart my robot like life when something happened…. 

I got to work and turned on Spotify to play my favorite song. The next thing I knew I was standing up and dancing in my office, smiling like an idiot. I must admit, being alone in the office most of the time has its perks. I got home and danced some more, alluring my daughter to dance it out with me and we kept going until bedtime. The next day unfolded the same and for the past five days dancing and smiling like an idiot became my daily routine.

I left Florence lost and confused, arrived in Austria numb and somehow returned home and started dancing my way back to life.

Florence, a city like no other..., Stories from the crypt of life

Just a writer in a square…

shot_1474728191720I woke up this morning with a buzzing in my ears. It was constant, like a baby’s cry that won’t quiet down until you are ready to commit to his needs and understand his plead. So here I am, a few hours later, sitting in a square on a sidewalk, writing. The buzzing stopped. The square is pleased. My fingers start dancing on the keyboard.

What to write about I wonder? About the people hanging out and having lunch while laughing and talking? About the mom who screams at her child and smacks him when he disobeys, only to pick him up and kiss every part of his body when he falls down because she hit him too hard? About the couple who are watching me like an alien probably because I sat down on the sidewalk and smiled at the square as if saluting an old friend? Tough choice right?

What is it about this square though? Piazza Santo Spirito, Florence, Italy. Three years ago I would have never come here to write or watch people. This filled with life and busy square, in the heart of the Oltrarno neighborhood in Florence never winked or allured me before. But then I met a man called Mark and a few months later this place became my office for a year.  I started knowing the people who always hang out here, the bartenders began to understand and make fun of my weird habit to have cappuccinos at any time of day, and soon enough I allowed a creative bubble to surround me every time I stepped onto the rocky pavement. I wrote dozens of articles here, I laughed and shouted out my deepest fears here, I gave up on myself and pulled myself together again here. This place has seen the best and the worst of me for the past three years and now it became my own personal drug, a guilty pleasure that I sometimes have to treat myself with in order to stay sane for the rest of the week. This square is like the forbidden cookie with that extra crunchy layer of chocolate.

The buzzing in my ears started again. It says I am not honest and deep enough. It says I am making up beautiful metaphors to avoid the ugly truth that circles me. The truth is…the truth is this square witnessed the beginning and in some way it predicts the end of a chapter in my life; a chapter that has been like an intense roller coaster ride that you never want to end. Soon enough this square will be left without one of its more beautiful spirits and will feel empty and stripped out of its meaning. Soon enough this square will only feed my sadness. Soon enough this square, this rocky pavement, that water fountain and the tables from the bar will only remind me that I am left alone.

And now, while my fingers are still dancing with joy and speak to the world, I am smiling back at all the memories I created here, at the man who is leaving this place behind and at the new chapter that awaits to be written. A writer, a square, and reminiscence….

Stories from the crypt of life

I refuse to belong and yet…

I refuse to belong. I refuse to belong in a world that doesn’t want to belong. I refuse to accept and advocate for any group no matter how good their intentions are. I refuse to separate human beings based on color, religion, culture, or sexual preferences. I refuse to be a part of any of this, and yet I keep waking up and breathing the same air as everyone every single day.

The world didn’t shatter in the last few years; the world is a huge mess since the beginning of time, and it won’t stop from imploding any time soon. This world full of hate, this world torn by pain and distrust among its humans, this world we all take for granted, is also filled with love and thirst for change and knowledge.

When I was a little girl, I believed that our purpose is to destroy so that we can rebuild something even more beautiful. I spent hours in the library, hidden in a corner among the book shelves, reading stories about princes who prevail and dragons that die. The bad guy always had to die; the good guy had to be victorious. I was taught that we must suffer to be happy, to be strong, to find greatness. But, no matter how many stories I read, no matter how much pain the good guy endured on his way to happiness I always wanted to know more about the dragon. What was his story? Why is he a monster? What was the motivation of the author when creating such a horrible being? I never stopped searching for an answer, and probably my quest will never end.

I believe the world is torn apart for a reason and some incredible people dedicate their entire life showing a path for us to follow so that we can heal. Am I sorry for all the tragedies happening around us? Regret, pain, suffering, trauma, atrocity are mere words that can never be enough to express the raw feelings a human goes through when experiencing them. I believe humans can never help to heal the world if they do not start healing themselves first. I believe that beauty and untouched by pain people should not be judged or considered strange. And I believe that this trend of considering what is weird, damaged, and traumatized to be awesome should be stopped and cut from its core.

We should embrace our differences and learn from our uniqueness. We should use our curiosity and thirst for knowledge to unite instead of to divide. We should stop, breathe in and learn how to trust ourselves again. In the light of all the wrong surrounding us I learned a beautiful thing this year: It takes a second to make someone cry; it’s a real struggle to make someone smile.

Stories from the crypt of life

Where are you from?

Where are you from? This is a question that tortures my stomach every time it’s addressed to me. Where am I from? I used to know the answer to that question. At first it was a city, and then it was the last city I lived in, until it became a country and now… now I don’t even know the answer to that anymore.

I don’t know where I’m from. Places have lost meaning somehow and people replaced the meaning of the place. I should probably say I am from my home country, but all my ties have been cut, leaving only a trail of humans whom I care for dearly behind. Or maybe I should say I am from the country where my daughter was born, but again my love for this country, this city, has changed throughout time and again replaced by the humans who are enriching my life. Funny thing is those humans aren’t from here either. So where are we all from? Do we have a country, a city, a street, anything?

Sometimes the question itself feels like an invitation to judge someone by their place of birth, their origins. I know people who are born in China, but spent their whole life in a different country. Does that make them Chinese? Other people, who spent their childhood and adolescence in their home country, suddenly woke up one day and traveled the world for the following twenty years. Can they honestly identify with some place in particular?

I would like to be from anywhere and everywhere. I would like to not be asked that question anymore. I would like to forget for a second that there are borders, politics and different countries. I would like for us to be perceived only by who we are and how we impact others. I would like to just be.

Florence, a city like no other..., Once upon a time when I was living in Bucharest..., Stories from the crypt of life

Once upon a time I gave up on people

Ever since I was a child, I loved observing humans. I loved the way they talked, the way they walked, acted, thought, innovated, struggled, prevailed. Whenever there was a problem that needed solving, I was there to help. Of course, most of the time I made a bigger mess than needed. Thus, over the years, close family and friends discouraged my actions telling me that sooner or later I will be disappointed, that some day I will understand the cruelty of the world we are living in and give up. I knew they were probably right, but….

Friends broke my heart, colleagues took advantage of my willingness to always be there and still it seemed I would never learn, using what others called my favorite excuse: ” I never expect anything back, therefore I can’t be disappointed.” Until one day…

I was in my last year of University, preparing for my dissertation and also had just got admitted to a second University that year. The Universities were 300 kilometers apart, so my life was mostly spent in between 3 hour train rides. It was one of the best and worst years of my life. On that particular day, I had just taken an exam and ran to take another one the next morning. I got on the train and tried to find an empty compartment to study. The train was packed. I was just about to give up on my search and light a cigarette on the train’s hallway, when I saw him. An old men, sleeping in an empty compartment. I grabbed my backpack and went in, filled with hope. He would sleep the whole way, I would be able to study in peace. After an hour I felt confident. The texts weren’t that hard and if I was lucky I could probably even close my eyes for half an hour.

The old man started twisting and turning. I looked at him for five minutes trying to guess what kind of man he was. He looked over 60 years old, his breath reeked of alcohol. Still, there was something in his expression that made me smile. One more twist, one more turn. A bill fell out of his pocket and landed right in front of my shoes. It was the equivalent of 150 euros. I was a student, money were always a luxury. I could have paid ten train rides with that money, eat for a month, buy new books, go out with my friends, eat, eat, eat. I could have… but maybe he could have done the same thing. Maybe that was the only money he had for the entire month. Maybe…

I picked up the bill from the floor and reached for the old man’s arm. At first I shook him gently, but when he didn’t even move an inch I pushed him a little harder. Startled, he jumped up and looked into my eyes confused.

“I’m sorry to wake you up” I said ” but this fell out of your pocket”.

He grabbed the bill, shoved it deep into his pocket and asked: “Are you just giving the money back to me?”

I nodded in approval, smiling. What followed marked me for weeks, months to come.

“Are you stupid? Are you crazy? How can anyone be so retarded? You are 20 something right? From the books in front of you I guess you are a student. You don’t have money! You could spend the next week living like a queen!”

I was shocked, but he continued to shout.

“You, my dear, are the perfect example why humanity doesn’t work! Do you expect a thank you? Do you think that if you did this good deed, life will be more gentle or fair to you? Do you think I am grateful? You are just another hypocritical little bitch who will regret every act of kindness you did in your life. This money is drinking money for me; it would have been survival money for you. Or who knows, you may as well be a drinking bitch too!”

After screaming the last sentence, he turned around, laid back in his seat and closed his eyes to go back to sleep. For him it was over; for me it was just the beginning. Was he right? Was my family right? Were my friends right? Was I stupid? I tried to shake the weight of his words away, but I couldn’t stop feeling disappointed. Maybe I did expect gratitude? Maybe the smile a normal person would have given me for returning their money would have been my reward. Maybe humans weren’t as fascinating as I thought. Suddenly a wave of anger ran through my body. I wasn’t going to help anyone, ever again. It was decided; I was to blend in and believe that people were cruel and sooner or later they will hurt you for no reason at all.

I kept my word for almost three years; three years thinking only about my needs, not caring about others, pretending to be someone else. Until one evening….Walking back from work with a friend, I saw a drunk old man, muttering words, unable to stand up on his feet. I passed him by, but couldn’t help to look back. My friend told me to walk away and stop thinking about that foolish drunk. “What if he has a family that is looking for him? What if he is lost?” I whispered almost to myself.

Pointless to say what I did next but from that moment on I stopped thinking about what other people expected from me. Would I be disappointed? Probably! Am I a fool? I am almost sure of that. What I am certain of is that humans are worth it; that maybe I hurt someone once; that I surely disappointed a lot of people.

Humans are beautiful. They just lack confidence in themselves. Humans are beasts. They need a constant reminder to look into their souls. Who knows, maybe that old man from the train was so angry because someone reminded him that humans can also be kind. And yes, humans will hurt you for no reason at all, but do you expect them to be grateful or just follow your own path?

Florence, a city like no other..., Stories from the crypt of life

Thoughts of solitude

We are our best friend and our worst enemy. We take our first breath alone and we breath in for the last time… alone. Solitude saves us; solitude condemns us; solitude kills us.

When I was five years old I found my best friend looking back at me from behind the mirror, smiling, goofing around while I brushed my teeth, making faces and laughing at my jokes. Soon enough that cute, curly-haired girl became indispensable to me. She taught me how to enunciate words, how to create big speeches for the world to hear, how to laugh when tears where making their way on my cheeks. She told me to never trust anyone but her and she listened to terrifying stories that were never to be spoken again. She spoke to me about true love, humanity, and kindness. She promised me the world, she promised me peace.

When two decades passed since I took my first breath, the little girl abandoned me. Her shadow was still reflected in the mirror, but her spirit had died. She avoided my gaze, my smiles, my tears. She didn’t trust me anymore. I had disappointed her. Every night I searched for her words, every night I called out her name; all was in vain. I searched for her in writings, scribbled pieces of paper, long forgotten notebooks.

As any good friend, I moved on and forgot about her. I replaced her with new faces and bodies. I took on the challenge to trust other human beings. After one, three, ten different new faces, 20 different betrayals and who knows how many disappointments I gave up on humans. I gave up on friendship. I fooled myself that I could live without people. I locked myself in an imaginary world, creating its every corner, its every mountain and blade of grass. Life was beautiful again.

Three decades knocked on my door. I glanced into the mirror and grinned at the gray hairs that betrayed the passing of time. Suddenly, I saw her winking at me. The sparkle in her eyes, the smile on her face, her kind words invaded my whole being like a giant hug. We talked for hours, we laughed, we cried. I woke up the next morning and ran to see her. The person looking back at me had wrinkled skin like a crumpled piece of paper, her hair was now white as snow, her eyes tired and sad. She was dying.

It only takes a second to loose yourself. It takes decades to find yourself in the huddle you’ve created.

PS. Don’t forget to wink at yourself tomorrow morning: “You rock!”

Florence, a city like no other..., Raising Ephia to become my friend, Stories from the crypt of life

Dear diary….

Dear diary I am tired. I spend my mornings sending out hundreds of emails and my evenings racing my fingers on the keyboard while listening to stories in my headphones. Every morning I wake up hoping that today’s sunshine will last longer, that I will find at least one reply to yesterday’s emails, that my stories aren’t boring, that this day will be better, that I will stop frowning at the computer. Hoping works.

Dear diary I burned my laptop the other day. I tried to be romantic and lit up a candle. Obviously romance sucks. Now I have to stare at alien lights on my screen because of the big round shaped burn smiling to me from the screen. My computer is still alive, but my romantic flame faded away.

Dear diary I am happy. Every morning I get unforgettable smiles from Ephia while she sits quietly at the table having breakfast. Every day at 1,30 pm we look for fish in the pond near her school. Sometimes we find them, sometimes they are sleeping. I still get a hug for the effort. Every afternoon we snuggle in bed and watch The little mermaid together. Lucky for me there is also Little mermaid II otherwise I would dream about the lines every night.  Dear diary being a mother is nothing like I thought it would be. Being someone’s mom is a privilege.

Dear diary I am restless. I wish I could have a magic wand to make everyone smile and look around them. People are busy, people are connected, people don’t look into each other’s eyes when they speak. Dear diary I wish everyone would get a hug from someone every single day. I am sure people would smile more. Life feels empty without hugs.

Dear diary I am a small ant that has elephant friends. My stories would be so boring without them in it. Dear diary I miss my friends. I miss having long coffee breaks on Friday afternoons. I miss finishing each other sentences. I miss feeling like an elephant for a couple of hours.

Dear diary tomorrow I will write some more; I will smile some more; I will watch some more cartoons and I will hug my daughter more. Dear diary I salute you.

Love,

Ela

Events, Raising Ephia to become my friend, Stories from the crypt of life

14 years later…

First day of high school. A lot of new faces, a lot of smiles and hand shakes. I sit in front of my classroom door thinking I do not want to step into this new world full of new acquaintances, new dramas, new friendships that will most likely end bad. I take a deep breath, put a fake smile on my face and open the door. Everyone is loud. All the teenagers inside look like displaced ants trying to bring out the best in themselves, to integrate, to not be the dumb one for the next four years. I don’t care. I choose the last bench and watch them struggle to impress. I see him. A dork, making mean jokes, the shortest boy in class, the only one not trying to impress. He is sitting proudly in the first row. For the next year and a half his last name annoyed me and his sight always made me mad.

Third year of high school. I step into a new classroom after a year of absence, making my way towards my desk-mate, a very classy and gallivant young lady. I sit down and notice a new face in front me: a tall, handsome boy with a great smile. My heart melts a little and I ask who is this new guy? The answer? The new guy was the dork from the first year; the mean, insufferable classmate. I start following him for year, learning his schedule, his place in each laboratory, his habits; when finally….

Last year of high school. The insufferable classmate that I now had to have was throwing a party for his birthday on December 6th. My friend and I spent the entire day thinking how to invite ourselves to the party. That was it! He was to be mine to kiss that night. Six hours later, holding a beautifully wrapped gift in my hand I was sitting in my friend’s living room repeating only two sentences over and over again: “Just one kiss. One kiss and then I will get over him.”

14 years later, after that kiss, after that night, the annoying classmate is sitting across me in our living room as my husband. 14 years later we have a three year old daughter that we can’t get enough of. 14 years later we remember how much we hated each other in that first year of high school and we burst into laughter every time.

From hell to heaven, from sorrow to happiness, from depression to tranquility, our 14 year old adventure continues, building new stories. 14 years later it feels like just one more kiss until the next one.

Buletin outside

Florence, a city like no other..., Stories from the crypt of life

Friday thoughts

Sitting in Piazza Santo Spirito watching people. A small market nearby invites people to look at the merchandise while making small talk. I feel like an ant standing still in a constantly moving colony. A beggar approaches and asks for a cigarette. I have none; he walks away. An old couple holding hands smile at me while passing by. Birds are circling my table, the leaves of the trees are singing their own music. Everything is moving, speaking, telling a story. I sit perfectly still with my cappuccino cup in one hand, listening, watching. I wonder if they notice.

After a week of rain and grayish sky, the sun has finally come out to play. Maybe it heard my prayers and decided to indulge my wishes.

People around me are moving faster now. Tourists are taking pictures and rush to another square or monument. The bartender from the bar across the street hurries to wipe away any sign of this morning’s rain. People on bikes speed blindly through the square as if they want no memory of passing through here. Two lovers enjoy their coffee, each with a phone in their hands, typing frantically, avoiding to look into each other’s eyes. Love is weird. The world is weird. Or, maybe…

I am the only one sitting in silence. I enjoy watching them dance without any desire to join in. I am an outsider, a small audience of their life’s movie. But one hour from now, a day from now, I will be a moving ant too, a living, breathing image for someone else to analyze. Are you watching?

Stories from the crypt of life

People change.

People change. It’s not something most of us want to admit or support, but change is unavoidable. No more than five years ago, I was the person who claimed change is not possible in a human being. I would say: “Yes you can adapt or slightly act different according to your age or the situation you are faced with, but you can never change!” If I could go back in time and be around me while saying that, I would slap myself in the face. The passed three years have taught me that all that “I will never change!” statement is full of shit. Here is a simple “baby example” to understand my point.

When people around me started having babies they all bombarded me with their wisdom thoughts. I hated it then as much as I hate it now (Big surprise I don’t like unasked for advice.). They all had this new concept about not going out anymore just because they had a baby. I couldn’t even begin to understand that and as any flawed human I judged them. Ten years later with a baby in my arms I understood that their explanation was wrong but the concept was right. The reason you don’t go out anymore is not because your life ended, or you have nobody to leave the kid with; you just want to stay home and enjoy that tiny human being you created for as long as possible. I often wondered why they never said that and did a little experiment of my own.

Throughout the years I have refused to go out on numerous occasions and blamed my kid for it using two different versions. I would say I don’t have anyone to leave my daughter with and every time the reaction of the person in front of me was the same: a disappointed look and a nod followed by a sighed “I understand.” It was like looking in the mirror ten years ago. The second version I used was the truth: “I want to spend my free time with my daughter today; playing games, reading books, watching cartoons.” The reaction people had was priceless. The disappointed look as well as the nod disappeared and were replaced by a big smile followed by an honest “I understand!”.

What do you know, people react and actually understand you better when you act like a human being. Whether they have children or not all of them understand the warmth, the joy a child can offer. I even have friends who do not want children of their own, but still can understand the importance of that connection, because if you think about it, we were all children at some point. We all craved for those moments with our parents and we can all relate to that inner child that will never leave us.

Why would nobody use the truth instead of the comfortable lie when it comes to their children? Because they have judged their friends who had babies before them too; because they were all told that a baby gets in the way of their adult life and will squeeze the fun out of their past self. So, people do change although people almost never admit that change, because embracing chance is the biggest fear we can ever face. A comfortable lie is better than any truth, but it’s still a lie.