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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.

books

Book Review: Mindset – The New Psychology of Success

April 14, 2017
me in a boyfriend shirt :)

„I’m scared, it’s too high!”

Even for my standards, my voice sounds high and panicked. I’m two meters up a climbing wall with no safeguard whatsoever and my whole body is shaking. But I haven’t made it to the top yet. I’m missing about one third of the way and I’m close to tears.

“Then come back down. It’s okay.”, says Pat.

I scramble back, trying to find the grips beneath my feet, and let myself fall back onto the floor mats. I start laughing uncontrollably. A wave of emotions washes over me. Relief – I’m back on the ground and safe. Resentment – this is all Pat’s fault, he dragged me here and he knows perfectly well I’m not athletic, and what on earth is wrong with getting a nice hot coffee. Pride – I pushed myself really hard and went the highest I could possibly go, even when I was really scared. Frustration, as I watch Pat climb up even the more difficult routes with the ease of a baby orangutan – why can’t I do that? Affection, as I watch him look around, analyze the position of the grips and calmly figure out a way – no wonder he is good at this. And an overarching, deep sense of satisfaction.

This is what growth feels like. It doesn’t feel like happiness, at least not momentary happiness. It doesn’t even always feel nice. In fact, I think many times growth feels horrible. It requires you to do things you aren’t good at. But I also think you have to get used to the feeling if you want to achieve anything in life.

I don’t remember how I came across Carol Dweck’s book “Mindset”. I think maybe it was amongst my recommendations on Amazon. I had read about it on Brain Pickings and had wanted to pick it up ever since, and it definitely delivered.

Dweck is a professor of psychology at Stanford University and her research deals with what she calls the fixed vs. growth mindset. These mindsets are essentially just two different ways of thinking about human ability. The fixed mindset posits that we are born with a certain set of abilities, qualities and traits and there is not much we can do to change them. The growth mindset, meanwhile, is a belief that while we are born with different inclinations and talents, everyone can grow and improve given enough time and effort.

The book looks at mindset and how it influences people’s performance in sports, business, their happiness in relationships and their approach to parenting.

In the context of business, when you do not believe you have a fixed set of abilities that you constantly need to prove, you worry less about looking good in front of others and more about being creative, making an effort and putting in work.

In the context of relationships, the growth mindset is helpful: it allows people to believe in and work towards change, it prevents partners from entering into a competition with each other, and you don’t expect things to “just work” so you aren’t disappointed when, like in any relationship, hard work starts to become necessary after the honeymoon phase.

In the context of parenting, Dweck emphasizes that to foster a growth mindset you should never praise children for their achievements but rather for their efforts. Schools currently reinforce the fixed mindset pretty heavily, Dweck explains, and she also points out how bullying becomes much more likely in an environment where people are either “winners” or “losers”, “smart kids” or “slow kids” and where children constantly try to prove themselves rather than improve.

Dweck did not come up with her theory out of the blue. Her book is based on almost four decades of research and she has studied pretty much every aspect of mindset you can think of. From experiments that suggest children’s motivation decreases when their intelligence and “inherent ability” is praised, to demonstrations that people with a growth mindset are less affected by prejudice, Dweck lists dozens of convincing reasons why cultivating a growth mindset ultimately leads to more success.

I was raised to adopt a terribly fixed mindset. I was praised almost exclusively for my intelligence as a child, while being discouraged from even trying athletic or artistic activities. Why bother, after all, they just “weren’t my thing”. I absolutely hate doing things I’m not good at. Effort, to me, was always a sign that people didn’t have what it takes – otherwise why would they need to try? I very strongly define myself through my achievements. Overall, I think if Carol Dweck and I talked for five minutes, I would be the type of person whose face she would probably feel like throwing her book in. Which is probably why I loved it so much.

Of course, books don’t change lives. People who read books change their own lives – or not. But since finishing the book, I actively try to catch myself entering a fixed mindset and apply the growth mindset instead. I try to think “I’d have to learn how to do that” rather than “I don’t know how to do that”. I try to avoid things I’m bad at less. Case in point, I just moved my entire blog from Blogger to WordPress pretty much all by myself. I still don’t feel like I’m tackling the really big issues, but maybe I’ll get there. In any case: I warmly recommend Mindset to anyone who hasn’t read it. If you’d like to buy it, do it via this link here please so I can get, like, five cents off the next book I order & review for you guys 🙂 Otherwise I’m happy to lend it out, too, just get in touch. And if you read it, let me know what you thought in the comments or via my contact form.

To finish off, here are a few of my favorite quotes from the book 🙂

People who believe in fixed traits feel an urgency to succeed, and when they do, they may feel more than pride. They may feel a sense of superiority, since success means that their fixed traits are better than other people’s. However, lurking behind that self-esteem of the fixed mindset is a simple question: If you’re *somebody* when you’re successful, what are you when you’re unsuccessful?

This sums up my own struggles and the struggles of many people I have met so simply and eloquently, I have nothing to add to this quote.

Let’s remember that effort isn’t quite everything and that all effort is not created equal.

Can anyone do anything? I don’t really know. However, I think we can now agree that people can do a lot more than first meets the eye.

So this is what I think makes this book superior to most self-development guides. It doesn’t push this really harmful idea that anyone can do anything, and if you can’t, well then, you’re just not trying hard enough. It recognizes that there is such a thing as privilege based on class, race, gender, sexuality, neurotypicality etc. It recognizes that there are exterior limits. It doesn’t say you’re capable of ANYTHING. It just says you’re capable of a lot more than you probably think.  

Maybe you suddenly felt tired, dizzy, bored, or hungry. Next time this happens, don’t fool yourself. It’s the fixed mindset.

The internet: “Okay, so to install WordPress on your server, you’re going to need to use the console to create a new mySQL database.” Me: “I’m sooooooo tired… and do they serve cake here?”

Just because some people can do something with little or no training, it doesn’t mean that others can’t do it (and sometimes do it even better) with training.

Also something that I personally would do well to keep in mind. Noone is going to ask you at the exam whether you made a study plan and revised methodically for a month or whether you spent two nights cramming. Noone is going to ask you in the meeting whether you spent a week doing research and spent extra evenings designing the presentation or whether you did it in-between tasks or while eating lunch or apartment hunting. All people are going to ask is that you deliver.

When I woke up I felt as though I’d been through the wars. It would be nice if this didn’t happen, but it’s irrelevant. It might be easier to mobilize for action if I felt better, but it doesn’t matter. The plan is the plan.

It doesn’t matter how you feel. Again, noone is going to ask whether you felt like doing the work. Get up, dress up, show up and do your very best. 

The lovely featured picture for this post was taken by Nikolaus.

books

Book Review: Milk And Honey by Rupi Kaur

February 5, 2017

Hi lovelies ♥

 I want to share a poetry collection called “Milk and Honey” by Rupi Kaur with you. She’s a Canadian writer, poet and spoken word artist, she was born in India and she’s my age.

The collection is absolutely beautiful. It took me 30 minutes to finish and I cried so hard the entire time I was reading. Then I sat down and wrote a bunch of stuff of my own (which wasn’t nearly as good), then cried some more. Not just because the poems are beautifully written, which they are, but also because I found them so, so relatable. So many of them were feelings I have felt a million times and maybe even put into words, but nowhere near as perfectly.

If you’re into creative writing or poetry at all, it’s one of those works that you will want to buy rather than borrow. I know I’m going to leaf through this a million times more and wonder why I even bother to write when all the right words have already been put in exactly the right order by someone else.
On the first page, Rupi tells the reader why she wrote the book – and out of all the possible reasons one could have for writing, I think this is one of the best.
The back cover mentions “surviving through poetry”, which accurately describes my own life so far, and also hints at how the collection is split up.
It comprises four parts, or chapters, I guess you could call them.
It deals with femininity, with what it means to be a woman, with societal expectations and toxic beauty ideals.
It deals with sex, sometimes in a very beautiful way, sometimes in a very painful way, always in a relateable way.
This might be my favorite.

 

As you can see, the collection also includes little illustrative sketches that fit the poems, which sometimes add to the meaning quite nicely.
Some of the poems are very short and yet still hit incredibly close to home for me.

 

In fact, the shortest ones were oftentimes those I liked the very best.

And of course, there are poems about love. The worst kind…

… and the best.

Also definitely one of my favorites. I guess Rupi and I agree on what constitutes the perfect date 🙂

The writing isn’t complicated, or verbose, or particularly elaborate. It’s simple, and it’s beautiful, and with every page I turned I felt a little twinge in my chest. The kind that you get when you realize someone has felt what you are feeling and you are not alone, and then you feel less stupid for feeling all of it.

↠ I definitely recommend picking up a copy. ↞
Love,
 
Damita
PS. Did you know I used to hate Sundays? When I was a teenager that was the only day I had to spend at home – Mondays to Fridays were schooldays and then Saturday I would usually have extra classes. But Sundays were the only days I had to be home all day and they were the worst. And ever since I moved back to Vienna from London, they’ve become my favorite day in the world. Noone does Sundays better than Austria. Everything is closed, noone does much, and you have all the time in the world to catch up with work or spend time with people. It’s amazing 🙂
books personal

This Book Helped Me Figure Out My Life Purpose

September 16, 2016
Do you know what you’re alive for?
I don’t think everyone looks for a life purpose. If you were born in poverty, or if you’re ill, you can’t afford to wonder why you get out of bed in the mornings. You get out of bed because if you don’t show up to work, you stand to lose your entire existence, and maybe that of your family too. You get out of bed because you don’t know if you’ll still be alive to do it tomorrow.
So my search for meaning is, to some extent, a luxury problem.  Continue Reading
books

Book review: The 6 things you should REALLY do before you’re 30

November 22, 2015
Hello lovelies ♥
After two weeks of ridiculous amounts of work and exam
preparation (it turns out a 40+ hour job, a degree and some semblance of a
social life are not easy to balance at the same time), I am finally posting… drumroll
please … my first book review!
The book is called The
Defining Decade: Why Your Twenties Matter and How to Make the Most of Them Now
,
written by clinical psychologist Meg Jay. It’s a great book and I recommend it warmly,
mostly because it sparked a lot of ideas for me. I’m going to share the six
most important ones with you. 
The main lesson I took away from the book is to be
deliberate, in the way you spend your time and in who you spend it with. More
specifically, the following suggestions seem particularly useful to me:

Career (1): Build up
identity capital
Identity capital is anything that you do long enough or well
enough that it becomes a part of you. That can be a university degree but it
also includes job experience, your appearance to some degree, your accent and
the way you express yourself, soft skills etc. Jay says the twenties is when
you should invest heavily in yourself, which I’ve always aimed to do – it’s
just that I’m not always sure what kind of identity capital I should be
building up. In fact, quite often, you’ll find me sitting at my desk surrounded
by a Romanian-Russian vocabulary notebook, a book on introductory business
studies and codeacademy.com open in my browser, having a small meltdown. Lately
though, what’s been working for me is to look up people who are where I want to
be, find out what got them there and what they were doing at my age, and use
that information to set my own goals and decide what to spend time on.
Career (2): Use your
weak ties
For the longest time I thought networking was bullshit.
Surely if you were good at something you wouldn’t need to know the right
people. You would just get noticed. And how superficial and shallow would
someone have to be to enjoy spending hours at a dinner party making small talk
with “important” people? The more time I spent in the adult world, the more I
realized that networking leads to some great encounters and even friendships,
as long as you go into it with the objective of meeting interesting,
like-minded people rather than sucking up to people you might one day be able
to benefit from. So, spend time with people outside of your immediate social
environment, ask them stuff, learn from them, don’t be afraid to ask for help,
and give help back wherever you can. 
Love: Choose your partner, and choose them right
Every time anyone shows any interest in me beyond just
sexual attraction, I am mostly taken aback and confused. Why would they like
me? Why don’t they like person X when they are OBVIOUSLY
prettier/smarter/better? Why haven’t they texted?! Is it because of that thing
I said about that person that one time when we were talking about the
stuff??  
In my ten years of dating and being neurotic and trying to
get people to like me, I never once truly stopped to ask myself if I even liked
them. The sad, honest truth is that I let people choose me and then hope they
find me interesting enough to stick around. The
Defining Decade
contains a story of a girl who does just that, too, and it
made me realize two things.
Firstly, Jay is right when she writes that a partner is “your
second chance at family” (God knows I need one of those), and that you need to
pick them instead of letting them pick you.
But secondly, pick them for the right reasons. I always
thought the guy I’m looking for is someone tall and good-looking with a certain
level of education and income potential. But the thing is, I won’t be waking up
every day next to a pair of ocean-blue eyeballs (creepy!) or a bank account
with seven figures in it. I’m going to be spending my life and raising children
with a real, human person who has to share my values and who has to have
interesting things to say and who should teach my children to have a good heart
and be a living example of that. I need someone patient, and calm, and
kind-hearted, someone who knows how to make me laugh and who will be okay with
the fact that I need to be told I’m pretty and smart and loved about as often
as most people brush their teeth and that sometimes (well, once every 28 days
roughly) I burst into tears for no good reason at all.
Personality (1):
Rewrite your story
When we are children and adolescents, we hold certain
beliefs about ourselves. That we are hopelessly shy or “simply bad at” sports
or foreign languages or that we are “unpopular” or “uncool” or whatever. Those
beliefs tend to come from a very limited range of negative experiences and are
unlikely to accurately reflect reality. They are not always helpful in getting
us closer to our goals. So, you have to re-evaluate how you see yourself and rewrite
your story. And the way to do that, I think, is to…
Personality (2): Seek
out challenge
As a typical 20-something, my confidence is not exactly what
I would call solid.  In fact I have days
where I just feel like I suck at absolutely everything. If you would say the
same about yourself, you can now stop worrying, because you’re not supposed to
be confident at our age. Confidence isn’t something that you magically have. It
grows from the outside. When you tackle difficult situations successfully, you start
believing in your ability to tackle difficult situations successfully, making
it likelier that you will in the future tackle difficult… you get the point. 
And finally…. Do SOMETHING.
Jay writes that “you can’t think your way through life”. No
matter what you think you like, or you feel like you may like, or be suited
for, you have no way of knowing for sure until you actually try. A lot of
things you try in your twenties may be completely wrong for you, but they’ll
help you find what’s right for you.
So go out, and do things. 
Love,
Damita