Monthly Archives

May 2017

books

Book review: I write because it hurts (because it hurts like you)

May 26, 2017
book cover of "Indigo"

Hi lovelies ♥

Lately, I have been heavily indulging my passion for poetry collections. I bought two when I was on holiday in Bucharest, I’ve already reviewed Milk and Honey and I want to share another collection with you now.

The book is called Indigo by Jamie Louise, who writes under the pen name of “f.d.soul” (and who also has a beautiful Instagram feed, by the way).

It has a beautiful cover and the title is written in a nice elaborate font. The cover illustration is a very simple drawing of some blue feathers. I love the simplicity of the design.

girl holding book

On the back, there is a poem that says:

I write because it hurts.
because I need it to hurt.
because it hurts in the
most beautiful way possible.

(because it hurts like you)

The back cover impressed me right away because I thought it was a beautiful reason for writing.

The collection is split into three parts called “Skin of Brick & a Breaking Heart”, “The Mending of Veins”, and “Bare Feet & Universe Breathing”. It does not have any illustrations, though there is the occasional doodle, like a tree branch or a flower. Mostly though, the book contains text only.

Topic-wise, there are no surprises: the pieces deal with love, heartbreak, occasionally feminism, sexual autonomy, parenting and relationships in general, personal development, and there is one poem called For Aleppo that stood out as particularly heart-breaking and beautiful. Personally, I do not find this repetitive because I don’t think poetry needs to be innovative in its choice of topics. There is an infinite number of word combinations that one could use to describe the feeling of love, or loss, or pain. The fun of poetry, to me, isn’t looking for new feelings to describe, it’s looking for new word combinations to describe universal truths. That, I think, is also what makes good poetry timeless.

There are several pieces in the collection that I found particularly beautiful. Of course, with art, different things resonate with different people and this is hugely dependent on personal history. I tend to like poems that are short, succinct, and so to the point that they haunt you for hours and days. Indigo contains those, but it also had several longer pieces that I enjoyed.

This is probably my favorite longer piece in the book. (If you can’t read it from the picture, I’ve typed it up below)

 

Why you are afraid

Show them your scars
when they ask why you are afraid

when you tell them that
perhaps
they will fall hopelessly
out of love with you

and they laugh
“baby, please”
and kiss you on your forehead

the same spot
they use to say
goodbye

show them that
you wear the soft handprints
of a single mother

like the loveliest of scars

tell them that
they are a bull in a china shop

that you fear
marrying into infidelity
could be genetic

and,
dear one,

here’s the worst
most beautiful part of it all:
they will tell you that they love you

and all you can do
is hope to God that they mean it.

 

Here are some of my favorite shorter pieces from the collection.


Indigo is actually also the last word of the last piece in the book, which I thought was a lovely touch.

On a side note, I believe the book is self-published, which to me is hugely inspirational because self-publishing a poetry collection is one of my bigger dreams in life.

I would give the book a solid four stars out of five. It didn’t make me cry quite as often as Milk and Honey, and some of the poems were more lightweight and innocent somehow. There is a little bit less pain and angst, I would say. It’s written in quite a similar style at times and there really are many poems in it that I thought were truly beautiful. I’m glad I own this book and will definitely leaf through it over and over again. If you enjoy poetry at all, it’s a worthy read.

food for thought

This post is about **NAKED WOMEN**!

May 20, 2017

… and about how we as a society unnecessarily sexualize the female body, and how it makes girls and women feel terrible and how it takes a constant toll on the mental health of half the world’s population.

Did I lose you there?

Sorry (but not really though).

Yesterday, I went to see Embrace, a documentary by Taryn Brumfitt. Here’s my review.

Kids, you can play ego shooters, but you can’t see boobs

The first thing I noticed when I walked into the cinema was the age restriction. 16 and above? Really?

God forbid we let fifteen-year-olds see a mothers’ body unretouched and naked. Their poor teenage minds might be corrupted by the sight of breasts that, after nourishing three children, no longer defy gravity. Or the sight of a vulva with actual hair on it.

Give me a break.

When my sister was in eighth grade or so, we got a memo sent home from school saying that smartphones were no longer permitted inside the classroom as boys were using them to watch porn during class. Boys no older than thirteen or fourteen. Maybe we should worry about what that is doing to young people instead.

But I digress.

The perfect body is overrated

Here is the storyline of the film. Taryn Brumfitt is an Australian mother of three. She is never really happy with her body and things get worse after giving birth three times, to the point where she starts considering surgery. She decides against it in order to be a good role model to her daughter. Instead, she starts training for a bodybuilding competition with a personal trainer. She is desperate to know what it feels like to have the “perfect body”, for once in her life.

Taryn makes it to the competition with a very athletic body and very little body fat. She ends up on stage with the other finalists. And in that moment, which she had thought would be one of the happiest of her life, all she can think is one thing.

The effort and the sacrifice and the energy that it took to get to that point simply was not worth it.

She feels no happier.

So, she goes back to her normal, active, healthy life and a normal diet. She gains fat, loses muscle and returns to her natural shape. To document her story, she posts an unconventional before-and-after on her facebook page.

This is the “before and after” Taryn posted on her Facebook page. (source)

The photo goes viral and resonates with an incredible number of people. Taryn starts receiving e-mails from all over the world, from women telling her the story of their own personal struggle. She realizes she has struck a chord and decides to travel the world and meet a number of fascinating women to talk about body image issues.

“Your body is a vehicle, not an ornament”

One of the first people Taryn interviews is an Australian “plus-size” model, who essentially just looks like a normal person. She then goes on to talk to:

  • Mia Freedman, the youngest ever editor of Australian Cosmo, who tells Taryn about how incredibly difficult it is to organize a fashion shoot with women who are not a size 8, and about how plus-size models are viewed as “less than” in the industry.
  • Harnaam Kaur, who, due to polycystic ovaries, has a fully-grown beard. Harnaam went through depression and suicidal thoughts, and has now learned to love herself and rock her beard.

  • Turia Pitt, who, while running a marathon, was caught in a wildfire and survived with severe burns on most of her face and body (“seriously, if I can learn to love myself, anyone can”).

  • Nora Tschirner, a German actress who produced the movie and who takes Taryn to the Romys, a prestigious showbusiness award gala in Vienna, my hometown. This part is mostly intended to highlight the obsessive preoccupation with superficialities prevalent in much of show business and the media. I found this part funny, because I attended the Romys a few weeks ago and one of the first things I noticed was just how much effort people had obviously  put into their appearance.
  • a woman just recovering from anorexia.

There are more women in the movie whose story Taryn tells, but these are the ones that stuck with me most.

Taking all of their stories together, there is one main message in this film, and I can wholeheartedly confirm it.

When you see your body as a vehicle through which you can achieve a number of amazing things, if you keep it healthy and well-functioning, rather than an ornament whose main purpose is to look aesthetically pleasing to a (narrow, heavily brainwashed) group of people, your relationship with yourself, and your life as a whole, improve drastically. 

“If I want to eat the fucking cookie my kid baked, I’m gonna eat the fucking cookie my kid baked.”

There are several scenes in the movie during which I felt like standing up and starting a standing ovation. This quote was definitely one of them. The woman who says this is Amanda de Cadenet, a British actress who shares her body image issues and the pressure she faces from being in the spotlight. She makes the point that when you are constantly thinking about food, and what you can eat, and when you can eat what, and whether you can eat that, and how many calories you have to burn, it takes up so much of your time, and so much of your mental energy. And I can’t tell you how real this is if you’ve never experienced it. I can’t tell you what it’s like to sit through an algebra class after having diet coke for lunch and to take essentially nothing in. I can’t tell you what it’s like to sit at uni and make a food and calorie list in the margin of your notepad instead of listening. I can’t tell you what it’s like to wake up and think “Shit, I have a date later and I need him to think I’m normal, so maybe if I just don’t eat until 6pm I can order a full meal.” and then not perform at work all day. I can’t tell you what it’s like to starve for two days and feel dizzy and groggy and then binge on a family-sized pizza and a tub of ice cream in tears.  There are no words for it, but there is an overwhelming number of girls and women who just know.

And I never, ever, ever want my daughter to know. 

So, how do we embrace?

Let’s be honest, we have known the problem this film exposes for a long time now. But Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar are not going anywhere, and neither is Victoria’s Secret. Magazines are going to keep printing a certain type of image, despite the fact that their sales are dwindling. We can’t tell other people what to print.

What we can do is flood the world with images of women of all shapes and sizes and body types. We can make sure that our daughters and sisters see as many unretouched images of all kinds of women as possible. If we bombard the world with diverse, multifaceted representations of women, we can drown out the superficiality, the sexualization, the pressure and the narrow, outdated, misogynist beauty ideal perpetuated by certain mainstream media outlets.

There are a number of brilliant projects contributing to this, and since I love writing and photography and creating all sorts of things, I am already thinking hard about how I could start my own.

My final thoughts on “Embrace”

The film isn’t perfect.

For one thing, the journey to self-love is made somewhat easier for Brumfitt – she has a loving, caring family to come home to and give her safety and reassurance. That resource is not available to everyone and, emotionally, it is worth a lot. I can imagine that a daughter who loves you and looks up to you would be an incredibly strong motivation to work through body image issues. I can imagine that a partner who supports you and loves you for who you are would make a big difference in feeling beautiful no matter what you look like. Taryn’s journey was certainly easier than it would be for people in different circumstances.

For another thing, I take issue with this feel-good message that “everyone is beautiful”. I would rather we started deemphasizing external beauty as a concept altogether and stopped caring all that much about what anyone looks like.

But “Embrace” is still well worth watching. More than recommending it to women, I would recommend it to every man who wants to really understand what it’s like to be a woman in this world.

Taryn Brumfitt is also the founder of the Body Image Movement.
food for thought personal

How To Make Huge Goals Less Overwhelming

May 5, 2017

Hi lovelies ♥

Who are you?

How do you define yourself?

The only immediate answers I would give to that question are “daughter” and “sister”. Those are factual and very hard to deny.

At the beginning of this year I was doing an internship at a TV station. Once or twice during that time, I said the words “I am a reporter at a TV station” to someone, but it always came with a profoundly weird feeling. It was almost as if there was a derisive voice in my head asking: “And what on earth would give you the right to call yourself a reporter? Silly little girl.” When factually, that’s what I was doing. I was researching and editing news segments. I was doing the work of a reporter. And yet, calling myself a reporter seemed absurdly presumptuous.

I would call myself a “psychology graduate” but never a “psychologist”. I currently work in communications but I feel odd calling myself a “spokesperson”. I always say “I work in communications”. I have published a few articles but feel uncomfortable calling myself a “journalist”.

(Interesting side note: there is a condition called “impostor syndrome” that comes with very similar emotions, in which high-achieving, highly qualified people, who objectively fully deserve to be where they are, feel inadequate or do not feel like they belong. It mostly affects women, for obvious reasons.)

Per se, this reluctance to define myself through my work is not too problematic. It becomes a problem when trying to set goals. I would like to be a journalist, and even more so, I would love to be a presenter or TV host. But those feel like such crazy goals that I barely dare write them down, let alone pursue them properly. It takes such an incredible amount of luck and work, especially considering the state the media industry is in, to be a journalist, and it takes even more luck to become a presenter.

So how to set long-term, overarching goals? I’m very good at setting daily, monthly, even yearly goals. But how can one define long-term goals so that they are not too scary (“be a journalist”) or don’t hinge 80% on pure, dumb luck or set one up for disappointment (“become famous”)? “Make X amount of money” didn’t seem meaningful or motivating enough. “Work for company / magazine / publisher Y” seemed way too specific and limiting.

I had my “why”, but I needed to define my “what”.

I had a conversation about this with my good friend, Philip. I don’t know whether Philip reads my blog, but I like him either way because he’s one of the smartest people I know and he listens to my whining (which is very nice of him) and actually offers useful solutions. Philip suggested that if defining goals in terms of “what I want to be” limits me so much, why not define them in terms of what I want to do?

I thought that was a brilliant idea. So I did just that. I made a list of “Things I want to spend my ~85 years on Earth doing”.

 

list of things i wanna do

This is the list.

And there it was. After a suitable amount of brainstorming, I made the list you can see in the picture. If it’s too hard to read, here it is typed out:

  • research and write stories
  • host events, TV shows, present things
  • speak in public
  • have photoshoots
  • make the world a fairer place and fight injustice (I guess I kind of drifted off into my ‘why’ there)
  • meet people and talk about interesting stuff
  • learn about politics, history, policy making, law, international relations
  • create – take photos, make videos, blog
  • write poetry and fiction and share it with others
  • dance
  • kickbox
  • cook
  • cuddle
  • travel
  • read interesting things
  • spend quality time with friends
  • exercise (If I’m entirely honest, I added this mostly out of a sense of duty)

(I did not include “raise children” on the list, on purpose. It seemed too overwhelming – even though I am working towards raising at least one child. More on that in my next post.)

That’s it. It gave me such a renewed sense of clarity to know that if I’m spending most of my time doing things on the list, I’m on track, and if not, I need to change how I spend my time. It also removes any temptation to chase things like wealth or fame, which we are often made to believe are valuable and worth aspiring to, but which I find sort of meaningless and superficial (in and of themselves – I am not denying they can be used as means to some very worthwhile ends). As long as I am spending most of my time doing these things and I have enough money to live comfortably, everything is fine.

I just wanted to share in case making a list like this helps anyone else 🙂

Have a perfect weekend ♥

PS: If you aren’t yet, go follow my instagram @damitablogs. I post every day, and I alternate between photography and poetry/creative writing. So if you like poetry/photography/quotes and/or want to make my day, follow me 🙂 I always appreciate feedback on my writing as well.