… Hello 2017

Originally I had planned to write something about the New Year on January 1st. But then I thought, maybe that is not really fair. Maybe I should give the New Year a couple of days to make itself at home before I start questioning it. I mean, is there anyone out there who feels great on January 1st? Come on, be honest! I bet almost everyone feels either hangover or tired or both. I normally feel very, very tired. Staying up late just it not good for me. But of course I stay up until midnight for the count down and the fireworks, and then, when I would like to go to sleep, I can’t, because this is the Netherlands and everyone keeps on shooting fireworks until at least 2 o’clock. So I never get to sleep until around half past two. And then, thanks to my little ones, the night is over in a wink. And I get up, look at the reflection of myself in the mirror and say “oh yes, you definitely look one year older than yesterday, my dear”. So the whole day I am feeling like I have clouds of tiredness in my head. It usually gets better in the evening, and when it is bed time, I am almost awake again. Then I of course stay up a bit longer to enjoy the lovely feeling of not being tired. Which leads to more tired cloudiness in the morning…

To cut a long rant short, the first days of the New Year are generally not my best. It feels a bit like a jet-lag – maybe that’s what it is: I am jet-lagged from the Old Year and need to get accustomed to the new one. Something like that.

But now the New Year has had a whole week to gently pull me into its own timezone, and I am getting the feeling I have finally arrived in 2017.

So, let’s have a look.

The newspapers thankfully have also recovered from looking back into 2016 and start to center their attention on present times again. Or rather, on the future – elections and other milestones of the coming months. But they do look at the present state of our society too, trying to analyse it from new angles. Maybe that is the best thing about starting a new year: everyone feels they can put aside old habits and ideas and start with a fresh sheet of paper. And although it is quite common to sneer at all the resolutions and plans, and make jokes about how everything will be back to normal again in a few weeks time – I still think we all have the chance to change things this year. Maybe not be completely different, being an “all new person”, but doing a few steps in new directions, hopping out of the comfort zone for a bit. Have a fresh look at old things. Maybe being a bit more open to other people, listen not only to what they say, but also to what they mean.

Maybe, if we all try to get rid of those clouds in our heads – clouds of tiredness, clouds of prejudice, of resentment and the dense fog of distrust, maybe we can keep the feeling of a fresh start for a little longer. And then, at the end of this year, maybe the newspapers won’t be all centred on the bad things – on the other hand, they probably will be anyway, because newspapers live on bad news, but maybe more people will say: “Hey, they got it all wrong, 2017 was a great year, actually.”

I choose to try.

What about you?

🙂

 

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Good Bye 2016 …

It is New Year’s Eve and like the previous years, I am sitting in the living room with my laptop, the Christmas tree in view, the sound of fireworks in my ears (although it is only around 22.30, but that’s the Netherlands for you), thinking and typing away.

2016. What a year. Loads of controversy, debates, violence, without doubt.

And if you believe the newspapers, 2016 was dominated by all these negative things. My newspaper had a special section today that – pages after pages – looked at all the people that have died in 2016. The VIPs of course, not the countless victims of war in Syria and likewise. I leafed through it and thought, guys, can you stop doing this? Are we really going to define this year by the prominent deaths that happened? I mean, don’t get me wrong, I do understand that the deaths of these people feel important for some. But do we have to define a year by them? In 2015 one of my favourite authors, Terry Pratchett, died. I was sad, very sad, but I would not have dreamed of calling 2015 “the year when Pratchett died”. – Who knows what great minds have been born in 2016, we just don’t know it yet, because they are still busy drinking milk and having naps.

So, can we not define this year by death please?

As for the political things that went wrong this year, yes, there are quite a few. As for terror, yes, we cannot deny it is here, in our midst.

But.

But does it really help to make a list of only the bad things? Does it make us feel better? Does it help the victims? Does it un-do the political change that happened? It cannot, of course. So what do we hope to achieve by colouring a whole year black?

Because also good things happened. Try it for yourself: type “good things that happened in 2016” in Google, and see the lists coming up. Some are long, some are shorter, a lot of them are rather silly, others are heartwarming. The important thing is: there are loads of them. My personal favourite is this one:

The 99 best things that happened in 2016, from Ebola’s eradication in West Africa to saving the manatees

It gives you the feeling that not all was lost in 2016. And I think we really need to hold on to that idea. Yes, terrible things happened in 2016. Some of the political decisions seem like a big step backwards, a step in the wrong direction. But some right steps have been taken too. People died, but people also were saved. People were born, people grew a little older, who might change things in a positive way in the future. We should not close our eyes to the bad things, but we should do our best not to let them define us. Because then they have won.

So let us take in that year, with all the good and bad, try to balance it in our mind. Let us think about what we can learn from it. Let us think what good things we can take from it. And then, let us turn around, face 2017. Let us make it a good one. I still believe we can.

Happy New Year.

🙂

Merry Christmas – or whatever that means?

These days there are loads of wishes flying around:

“Season’s Greetings” – “Have a great holiday” – “Happy New Year” (mostly in combination with one of the others) …

And of course: “Merry Christmas”

Although, I have to say, the last one is getting a bit under pressure. Of course, in our global society, one cannot always be sure if wishing “Merry Christmas” is appropriate, as your counterpart could have another religious or cultural background. And of course the last thing you want to do is to offend them – you want to wish them something nice. So … what do you do?

“Season’s Greetings” – I find these a bit wishy-washy (no offence meant). It does not really have any content, apart from the at least well-meant intention of wishing someone well, and specifically in December (although there is really no reason why “Season’s Greetings” could not mean a nice summer holiday…)

“Have a great holiday” – works if you know the other person actually has some extra free days, but is not very specific.

“Happy New Year” – great wish, but really only applicable next week 😉

So in the end I mostly still do say “Merry Christmas”. But what do I really mean with it? For me, “Christmas” does not necessarily mean the specific Christian celebration – although I do call myself a Christian (not a regular church-going though). For me, “Merry Christmas” is the short version of a mixture of feelings I get these days.

I guess, what I really want to say is: “I wish you to be surrounded by love and peace, filled with hope. I wish that you can always see a light in the darkness, that you even can be that light yourself.”

That’s my Christmas spirit. Even, no: especially in times like this. But it is a little bit long to say, so I just stick to “Merry Christmas.”

So, to all of you out there, no matter if you are religious or not (and absolutely no matter what type of religion that might be):

Merry Christmas (substitute with long version, if so desire)

🙂

Changing of the Seasons – Changing of the Mind?

After a long summer, autumn is here now. This summer had had a slow start in the Netherlands, and when the summer holidays ended and school started again end of August (I know, really early – but that is 6 weeks of summer holidays for you…) many people said there had been no summer at all. But as soon as the kids sat in their classrooms, the weather switched to warm. Switched to hot even. We have had the hottest September since they started recording the weather (1901, if you are in for the numbers) – during the second week we even hit the 30 degrees Celsius. And so we had beach afternoons after school – my kids were even swimming in the North Sea, which they had not done the whole season – picnics in the park, water fights in the garden.

But it seems that at one point the weather realised it was behaving strangely. Temperatures have been going down slowly, and one can feel a difference in the air. We will still have 20 degrees today, but the mood has changed. Autumn is here.

So I spent some time in the park last Saturday, sitting on a bench on my own, looking at the trees and the grass and the sky. The leaves start to turn yellow, but I think that is more because of the dry weather we had (I have been watering my garden the last weeks, something I normally don’t have to do in September). The sky was still very blue – enhanced by my sun glasses.

I sat and looked and thought.

It seems that especially the change from summer to autumn touches something inside.  At least inside me. If affects me differently than the other seasons changes do. When winter changes into spring, I am all bouncy and happy, start working in the garden, dream of sitting outside in the sun. When spring changes into summer, I am busy hunting for my summer clothes and the sandals in the cellar, drag the hammock outside and eat salad a lot. During summer I hardly find time for writing blog posts, although I continue reading posts (luckily not everyone is as lazy as me). But when it gets cooler, the air smells of falling leaves and there is that special chill returning to the evening, I start getting philosophical. Suddenly my mind wakes up and starts asking questions. About life as such and my life in particular. About ageing and priorities. About what I am doing with my life.

Is it because the change to autumn already hints at the next change, the one to winter? Not that I don’t like winter – I think every season has its charms, although if I could, I would probably shorten winter a bit. (Maybe having three months of spring and autumn each, four months of summer and two months of winter?) But autumn and winter, they always remind us that nothing lasts forever. Of course after winter, there will be the next spring… but what if not? Would we still like it, embrace it?

As I said, autumn brings thoughts into my head, they tumble around like the leaves in the wind.

But as I look outside, the sun is edging around the neighbour’s house to greet me. It is a bit chilly this morning, but the sky is still blue, in the afternoon it will be pleasantly warm again. So let’s enjoy the beauty of autumn, while it lasts (I am sure we are in for enough of the grey-misty-cloudy-wet days too).

Summer was good. Now choose autumn. And be.

 

The Sun is Shining!

Yes, the sun is shining today – and it looks like MySestina has nominated me for the Sunshine Award 🙂 Thank you!

It does remind me of those chain letters that where around when I was in high school (yes, written on paper, can anyone still remember them or am I really getting terribly old?)… but it certainly is one of the nice ones. (Not of those that went: if you do not send this on, some terrible accident will happen to you… I always threw does away, and later, when things like that came via email, I deleted them without finishing to read. I do not like being threatened, thank you.)

Anyway, it says that you are supposed to answer some questions from the blogger who nominated you and then in turn nominate some bloggers and think up questions for them to answer.

The “criteria” (which sounds a bit formal) for nominating someone is that the person inspires you and brings sunshine into your live. Ok, here we go, my inspiring sunshine-bringers:

DebWasHere – e.g. On Stars and Bright Lights – for telling great stories full of depth and fun and sometimes sadness.

Filosofa’s Word – e.g. What Have We Become? – for sometimes making me laugh, but always think.

A Holistic Journey – e.g. Lessons From the Dying Brain – for being scientific as well as poetic and really sharp.

Writing for Myself – e.g. growth – for sharing her deep thoughts, for honesty (and beautiful pictures too).

Of course there are more blogs that I could list here… but I guess the whole thing is about choosing some of them, right?

Here are the question I was supposed to answer (plus the answers):

  1. Are you a Hero? – Seriously doubt it. Probably more Miss Caution. But, you never know, depending on the situation, I might choose to become one... 😉
  2. How does writing help? – Writing provides a way out for all those words in my head. Otherwise it gets too crowded and the words get grumpy. Can’t have grumpy words in your head, can you?
  3. How far could you go to be heard, to be recognised? – Not very far, I think. I don’t like to be the centre of attention.
  4. Do you think we are alone in the universe? – Looks like there are a lot of other people around anyway, right? No, seriously, it would seem arrogant to think we are the only ones. But they probably do not want to have anything to do with us.
  5. What is an achievement? – To get one step further than you already were. To widen your horizon. To choose.
  6. Do you read as much you write? – More.
  7. What inspires you? – Different lives, new thoughts.
  8. Do you follow to lead or you lead to follow? – I try to find my own path. Anyone who wants to follow is welcome.
  9. What could you possibly give to the world? – Two great kids, plus my feeble little efforts to be helpful and friendly to anyone around me.
  10. Do you let your failures drive you? – I hope not, but they do tend to linger in my mind.
  11. What’s the one thing that you would you change about this world? – Have everyone feel respect towards everyone else and act accordingly (ok, that is already two… but still)

Now comes the fun part… I am allowed to think of some questions myself… (I guess that is really the reason for those awards: that you can fire your questions into the world!)

  1. Where do you get your best ideas?
  2. What is the most annoying thing that can (and will) happen while you are writing?
  3. How do you handle 2. ?
  4. If you look at your list of priorities, at which number does writing come?
  5. Are you happy with that number?
  6. What situation would justify to sacrifice your computer with all your writings on it?
  7. If you could choose a belated birthday present now – anything! – what would that be?
  8. If you could “beam” one person to your side at this moment, who would that be?
  9. If you could choose one person in the world that would be “beamed” to an inhabited island, who would that be?
  10. If you could recommend one book, which one would that be?
  11. Do you like the person you are now?

Looking forward to the answers you guys come up with! 🙂

Ok, the sun is still shining, it is late in the morning here in Europe, and I choose to go out and mow my grass now! 🙂

Have a lovely sunny day, in spite of all the things that are on the news – which I deliberately have not read yet. That will come later. Now I will enjoy the spring day.

 

… and still there is hope

If you look at the news these days, it is easy to feel pessimistic. So many things seem to go wrong.

There is war. And terror.

And so many people in need.

There is the everyday stupidity and racism and self-centredness.

Not even mentioning the way we are polluting this planet.

 

And still.

Today many people around the world are celebrating Easter, a day of hope and love and life.

In spite of all the terrible things happening, let us not forget the good things. We need to live our ideals, need to continue to hope and to love.

Let us make this a good day. To show everyone that we are not despairing, that we believe we can make it happen.

Happy Easter!

– And tomorrow, let’s get up and fix this mess! If everyone starts with the little things right in front of them, we can achieve a lot.  🙂

 

 

Judgement

Normally this blog is the home of my random thoughts. I don’t put anything here that you would describe as “fiction”. But yesterday evening something happened, probably triggered by recent events. Words bubbled up in my mind, forming a sort of story I felt needed writing down. They bubbled up in English, so I wrote them down that way.

So, here you go, a strange little piece of I do not know what. Probably just a piece of my mind.

 

Judgement

A flash of lightning.

Darkness.

Greyness. The man whose finger had been on the trigger slowly got up. He looked down on himself. Although he could see his clothes, arms, hands, could recognise them as his, they had a strange shadowy quality. He looked around, at the bodies lying on the floor. Men. Women. Children. A little boy.

The man took a step forward, and the surroundings began to fade, turning into mist. More grey mist. In front of him, the mist solidified into a shape. Dark robes, a hood concealing the wearer’s face. The shape gestured with one arm, while words turned up inside the men’s head. “Come.”

The man hesitated. “Will you lead me to paradise?” he asked. He had imagined this differently.

“Paradise?” The voice in his head was flat, expressionless. “I would not call it that way.” He lead the way, and the man realised he had no choice but to follow.

They walked through the grey mist.

After a while the dark shape stopped  He stretched out one arm. “Go. Your questions will be answered now.” Strangely enough, this did not sound reassuring.

The man took one more step and saw something taking form in the mist. It seemed to be a swirl of movement, a mixture of dark and light. Power radiated from it so strongly that the man did not dare to move any closer.

“Are you…?” he asked timidly.

Again words turned up in his head.

“I am.” The man was not certain if that was the answer to his question or just a statement of facts.

He almost did not dare to speak. “Will you reward me?”

“Reward you?” The voice inside his head sounded almost surprised. “You have destroyed life. Why should I reward you?”

The man started to shake. “But it was only the unbelieving…” he began, but the voice cut him short.

“There are no believing and unbelieving. There are only living and dead. I cherish life in all its forms. It needs to be respected and protected. Not destroyed.”

The man stared at the thing in front of him. It was moving more quickly now, and he thought he could see different shapes, human ones. Male and female, old and young, tall and small, with dark hair and light hair, with white skin and dark skin, and everything possible in between. He tried to concentrate more, give the shape some more distinct definition, but instead of clarifying, it seemed to become even more varied, including shapes of animals and even plants. It had began to pulse in the colour of the rainbow and now the shapes began to fade, leaving only dancing light.

“What will happen to me?” The man was confused and scared.

“I will let you see”, the voice answered. “I will give you a shred of my knowledge, so that you can see what you did. You will see why it was done and what the consequences are, the small ones and the bigger ones. You will see the whole picture and you will also understand your responsibility. This will be – your reward.” A wisp of rainbow-coloured mist trailed around the man now, and were it touched him he faded. After a few moments the rainbow around what had been the man dissolved, leaving a small spinning shape, rapdily changing forms.

A scream pierced the mist.

 

The little boy walking besided the robed figure stood still. “What was that?” he asked. “It sounded scary.” He hesitated. “Is someone being punished?”

The hood bend down a little. “Don’t be afraid.” The voice seemed softer. “That is just the moment of realisation.”

“Realisation?” Still the boy did not move.

“When you suddenly understand everything. Don’t worry. There is nothing for you to fear in this place.”

They walked on.

A little while later the robed figure returned alone. He walked, then stopped, turning his head as if waiting.

Laughter cut through the mist. Pure joy.

The robed figured nodded. Then it walked on.