The words that open doors

Photo by Annie Spratt

There are a lot of things going on, as the world as we used to know it fades away and our lives tend to be all over the place. It makes us feel bad about our journey so far, and become self-absorbed, very often in some toxic loops.

In times like these, extremely challenging for our mental well-being, the key to one’s soul is a simple phrase: What do you need right now?

There are six simple words, making a big statement. A common phrase, that doesn’t require you to have years of studying behind you or a specific social status to be successfully used. It requires a simple, yet efficient thing: to have a genuine interest for the other person.

We are forced into change. Changes that were not planned, that were not expected demand to be done. And this means that a lot of people struggle. They struggle with pain, anxiety, high-stress levels, and loss. They lose their jobs, homes, even loved people. It is a generally disturbing time, extended to a global scale. This can’t and won’t be easy to manage, and we can’t expect it to be.

This also means that the struggle can be made easier to go by. It only needs us to be kind. Kind with ourselves and with others around us.  In times of hardship, kindness becomes not a virtue, but a responsibility.

Of course, it takes courage and practice, as we’ve got so, so used to seeing other’s flaws and always have negative inner monologues. But this should change as well, if we want the damage made by a historical challenge to diminish. We can’t help people get back what they’ve lost, we can’t do this for ourselves either, but we can be the ones with kind words.

Today I won’t come and say that this or that should be different, or how to change things about yourselves. Today, instead, I come and tell you to get in the world and be kind.

Kindness has, unfairly and for too long, been mistaken for weakness. It’s not, and has never actually been. It is, somehow, a universal language, the key to any door, regardless of how guarded it would be. Kind people tend, because of their guarded doors, seem as strong too often and for too long. Today, this can do more harm than good, for their own mental health, to begin with.

Do you know those people that help everyone, and seem to have everything together all the time? Those people that walked with you on this path till you got where you are? The people that you keep saying that you’re so grateful to? Talk to them, and ask them that question. Then wait and see. Witness them blush, witness them getting shy, trying to put a reliable façade on, and, eventually, witness them telling you what’s missing from their bigger picture.

Because we all miss something and we all need something, but when you are so used to be the provider, it feels inappropriate to ask for things. Even if you offered support, been there for people when they’ve struggled, you feel like it’s an unnatural thing to do it yourself. Like that’s your job, to support and lift other people. How would you admit that you need, as well, to be lifted and supported? It is, by no means, an easy thing. But it is what one needs to remain able to keep going.

So go out there, and text or call the person that has always been there for you, the one that has already popped in your mind. Ask that person what it feels like it would make her journey easier, better.

The answer will rarely be materialistic. Instead, it will give you the chance to open a new door and see them blooming differently. And this will always be the kind of gift to remember, as our kindness and empathy remain, at the end of the day, signs of our adaptability. So let’s just try to be kinder, so we won’t turn bitter.

Why are you such a feminist?

This week’s latest events have brought up to my mind a question I was put by one of my exes, in an obviously annoyed tone of voice.

The answer he got was just as obvious as his question: because I am. But today, there is needed a much wider answer than just that.

I’ve been a feminist way before I even knew that I was one, or that feminism even existed as a movement. Living mostly with mom and grandma into our village home, I’ve learned a lot about being strong on your own: dad was home too little to actually make a real difference when it came to the household’s chores, and grandma was a widow for too long. This was the first thing I’ve learned in my journey: that a woman can want a man by her side, but she will never really need him. Not for other than emotional comfort and accomplishment.

The women in my family, the close family, and the extended family as well, taught me this really valuable lesson that no matter what a man can do, a woman can do it just as fine. That independence is the shortcut to owning who you are, and that being owned by a man is, by no chance, a goal. Or, how grandma used to put it, If all you have is a man, you have too little.

I am a feminist because I believe in it. I believe in women’s power of being whoever they want to be, without needing to justify their choices. Because I like freedom, and feminism is about freedom. About being free to choose if you want to get a higher education, if you want to marry early or late, or maybe you don’t want it at all if you want to be a mom or you don’t. It’s about all these things, and many others, too.

But I also am a feminist because I’m sick and I got tired. I’m sick of being made to feel less than I am, based on my weight, my height, my age, my relationship, career status, my long term priorities. I’m sick of having to be on a constant guard so that I don’t get unwanted attention. Of not being able to walk out and explore cities at night, by myself. By having to explain whatever life choice I have that is not fitting the socially accepted behavioral box.

And I’ve met that box really early during this lifetime. A young lady doesn’t act like that. Don’t swear, you’re an educated young lady! You’d better pay more attention to the household chores, as a woman, they will be your job! have been heard really often, especially when dad came home from his job, or relatives came to visit.

I never cared, as I have always done things my way. But I know for a fact that for many young girls, sentences like these were axes cutting their wings. Their sense of self-worth. And that, too, is a form of abuse.

Talking about the abuse, that’s another topic that drives the feminist me mad. Because I know at least one woman, one young woman who can tell a story about: how she’s been harassed at her workplace, discriminated based on her aspect, catcalled, threatened, blackmailed, physically, emotionally, financially abused, raped. It happens online, it happens offline, it happens everywhere. Because a woman is not a man. Boys will be boys turn in Whores will be whores when it comes to women.

And injustice has never been something that I would tolerate. Not when I was a kid witnessing the rich kids bullying the poor, and either now, when I witness men telling women how to dress, eat, sleep, work, go out, have sex, have families, have babies, as they would know better.

I’m a feminist because I’ve managed to be the woman that I am now due to the women around me: mom, grandma, my first-grade teacher, my French teacher from the gymnasium, my doctors, every woman that had enough faith in me to recommend me for a project or job, or simply be my friend and listen to my dramas. I have nothing but respect and endless love for them, and for all the other women I’ve not met yet. And we all know that you can’t love women and hate them at the same time.

I’m a feminist because I can’t look at the way women try to tear each other down like they’re in some sort of competition without my heart breaking in million tiny pieces. Being solidary with other women will never take what’s yours. You won’t become ugly if you admit that another girl is prettier, nor will you become dumb if you admit that other girl is smarter than you are. Women, as men, are not supposed to be all the same. We’re only humans, after all, and that makes us different and special, why ruin it trying to be as similar as possible? Teaching girls to be united, to genuinely appreciate and defend each other, will lead them way further than knowing how to wing that eyeliner or walk on heels, as strong women nail all of these.

My feminism might not be radical, as I’m too shy for being a real activist. I believe in a feminism of the small yet kind gestures, as telling a strange girl that she is pretty while you two are waiting for the bus, or stepping up to defend a girl being bullied. It doesn’t matter that much what’s the gesture you’re doing, it will always brighten someone’s day.

I’m a feminist because I’m sick and tired. Because of the socially-agreed scenario, where a successful woman is a wife, mother, great employee, supportive friend, always happy and good looking, has led a lot of women to chronic burnout. And how on earth could a woman that is suffering from burnout be a good mother for her children? Let alone all of the things on that never-ending list.

This is why I am a feminist. Because the alternatives feel like prisons to me, and I still have faith. I have faith that the men of my generation know to appreciate and support the women around them to be whatever they want to be. It is what makes them be men, standing up for women’s and children’s rights and protection, standing up against the injustice manifested upon the vulnerable categories. And, in some of the countries, women still are a vulnerable category.

So, the next time when you will meet a feminist, don’t ask her why she is a feminist. Ask her how could you be genuinely supporting the women and young girls you know, in order to make their lives be better. And you will, I promise, have a conversation to remember for a long time after it’s done.

Despre empatie..cu drag!

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Empatia reprezinta, conform definitiei, “Forma de cunoastere a altuia, in special a eului social sau a ceva, apropiata de intuitie, interpretarea eului altora dupa propriul nostru eu” (DN 1986). O definitie scurta, dar care enunta intr-un mod clar, lipsit de pretiozitati inutile, calitatea definitorie a omului ca fiinta superioara. O calitate ce trebuia cultivata, educata, insusita. Da, trebuia- pentru ca acum, in 2013, a devenit nici mai mult, nici mai putin decat un alt cuvant golit de sens.

Unii, o considera de-a dreptul un defect, un element negativ ce trebuie inlaturat cat mai repede cu putinta. “Auzi la el, empatie! Ce-mi tre’ mie sa fiu empatic cu cersetorul de la colt daca stiu ca iar raman cu burta goala?? Sa stea asa, ca el a vrut-o!” e replica auzita din ce in ce mai des, pe toate tonurile posibile, variind de la indignare la repulsie, la orice colt de strada. Ni se pare ca, daca dam dovada de empatie, dam dovada de slabiciune, iar slabiciunea ajunge sa ne coste traiul bun pe care ni-l dorim cu atata ardoare. Poate-i de vina educatia primita, intr-o lume dominata de paradigma lui “castigatorul ia totul”, sau poate ca, in goana spre mai bine am saracit nu neaparat material, cat sufleteste. Nu mai stim sa dam, sa primim, sa ne bucuram. Nu conteaza neaparat ce anume dai, doar fa-o! Un zambet, o vorba calda, o privire fugara, orice! Dar da din suflet, nu fiindca sistemul, comunitatea sau familia te invata ca “asa e bine”, “asa trebuie”, “asa se cade”, nu. Fa-o din spirit de solidaritate, din umanitate, caci, departe de a fi o buruiana, ceva ce trebuie starpit din natura omului, empatia este esenta si totodata radacina a tot ce-i bun, nobil si frumos in fiecare dintre noi.

    Am ajuns sa fim niste strigoi, perfect intregi anatomic vorbind, dar goi, cu desavarsire goi pe dinauntru, aidoma unui apartament parasit. Si-asa ne ducem, zi de zi, viata. Sau, in orice caz, surogatul anemic cu care-am inlocuit-o, incet dar sigur, pana si pe ea, Irepetabilul din fiecare. Nu, dragul meu cititor, slabiciunea nu sta in ascunderea emotiilor, in reprimarea lor agresiva, nascuta din teama c-ai putea gasi un om care sa nu-nteleaga sau, mai josnic de-atat, sa profite. Exteriorizeaza-te asa cum simti, departe de conventiile si tabuurile unei societati ce trage sa moara- plangi, razi, zambeste, complimenteaza, bucura-te. Fii liber sa fii viu, sa dai celor din jur ceea ce ti-ai fi dorit, poate, sa primesti in alte randuri de la ei, sa fii uman.

Ne lasam tot mai constransi de vremuri, de idei care nici macar nu sunt ale noastre, de mirajul unor experiente inaccesibile, de vieti traite frugal, fara un motiv plauzibil, doar fiindca..trebuie! Suntem caricaturile celor ce-am putea fi, portrete schimonosite de ura sau de absenta oricarui sentiment, niste biete creaturi din care a disparut, fara adresa, tot frumosul atat de cautat.  Avem crize de identitate si frustrari fiindca nu mai putem comunica cu cei ce ne-nconjoara, devenind niste animale carora libertatea de a-si exterioriza trairile ne-a fost nu doar luata, ci furata, nemailasandu-ne vreme nici macar sa observam ca ne lipseste, c-ar trebui sa o avem.

Asa ca plangi pe strada daca simti nevoia, daca stii si vezi ca nu mai poti sa duci. Nu-ti fie jena sa fii sincer cu tine, ca om, nu-ti fie teama sa fii om. Plangi daca vezi lucruri in fata carora nu poti ramane impietrit, razi daca gasesti macar cel mai mic motiv de bucurie si da lumii cu glas tare, increzator, toate gandurile bune pe care le ai.

   Poate c-a venit timpul sa reabilitam notiunile de “empatie”, “nobil”, “demn” sau “sinceritate”, sa intelegem ca demnitatea nu se naste din rigiditate si ca un caracter nobil, un om nobil, este cel care, la curent fiind cu efuziunile-i emotionale si le accepta si elibereaza, fara teama unor eventuale represalii. Hai sa redevenim ce-am fost candva, oameni. Oameni liberi, cu spirit de solidaritate, oameni frumosi, cu suflete vii si colorate. Macar atata mostenire sa lasam, ca amintire, celor ce ne vor urma. Caci ca natie, daca

n-ai un minim de emotie privitor la cei ce te-nconjoara..mori. Ramai blocat in noroi, fara posibilitatea unei iesiri, prada unei capcane careia, nevazandu-i toate fatetele, i-ai cedat. Fii sincer cu tine, cu ceilalti, cu cerul ce te-acopera. Fii liber. Simte, gandeste, imparte. Direct, nemijlocit, necenzurat, neinteresat. Doar fiindca simti atunci sa spui niste vorbe, sa faci o fapta, sa oferi un zambet.

  Asa, poate vom avea curajul sa speram intr-o lume mai buna, o lume din care strigoii ambulanti si lacomi vor disparea sau, macar, vor fi minoritari, izolati, o lume in care, cu toate complicatiile uzuale ale vietii, vei putea zambi sincer tuturor, fara sa te vada ca pe un nebun. Ce zici…incerci?