Tuesday, 30 June 2015

End of June. Life update

I know, I’ve promised myself to get a grip on my life. Get organized, care more about my health, read and write more. I still want to be a better person to myself and to the world. I’m not giving up. Not yet.

For the last two weeks, I think, I’ve had a couple of my “moments”. It’s a weird combination of bad weather, nothing to do and feeling sorry for myself. In addition my second molar, which was playing hide-and-seek until last year, decided to torment me with excruciating pain every time I stay in the same position for longer than an hour (hello, sleepless nights!). And should I mention, that I’ve got a ridiculously high pain resistance, which is probably a result of my unreasonable fear of overdosing myself on medication, which means, that I tend to ignore the pain and don’t take any painkillers… sometimes for hours at a time. Why am I doing this to myself? I don’t know.

Maybe I still haven’t settled with the thought, that I may feel bad sometimes, and that there are things, that’ll make me feel better. It all comes from my childhood. The way of thinking, that a discomfort will go away on its own, just because I’m young, and young people by definition can’t have any problems. This way of thinking is self-destructive. It also may be that this fear of medication comes from the culture of self-diagnosis and self-treatment. I’ll write a separate post about this, because I’ve got some interesting stories to share.

Either way, I need to remind myself, that I don’t have to feel bad, just because I’m young and “it’ll go away on its own”.

As for reading update, I’ve finally finished Ready Player One! I hate it, when I love a book, but can’t make myself finish it for months! Review coming soon.

I’ve started reading a self-help book The Anxiety and Phobia Workbook by Edmund J. Bourne. Loving it so far!

As for my next fiction read, I’ll pick something from my summer TBR list tonight.

Thank you for reading! Here's a picture of my cat! :3

Thursday, 25 June 2015

Versatile Blogger Award

Yesterday Martha Bowen made my day by nominating me for the Versatile Blogger Award. Thank you so much! I'm really excited! <3

The Rules
  • Thank the person(s) who gave you the nomination.
  • Include a link to their blog.
  • Select 15 bloggers to pass the award on to.
  • Tell the person(s) who nominated you 7 things about yourself.

My Nominees
  1. Carlisa
  2. Bria Lou
  3. Marianne
  4. L.
  5. Erin Lea
  6. Rachel
  7. Jenna
  8. Emily
  9. Skylee
  10. Ari
  11. Kate Louise
  12. Nevermind
  13. Lorenn
  14. Chantal
  15. Harvey

7 things about me
  1. I can't keep a hairstyle for longer than a few months. I either cut my hair short or grow it out (currently growing out).
  2. I don't know how to swim, ride a bike, and whistle (I know, it's sad... but I'm trying to learn).
  3. I take out books from the library, but forget about them till it's three days before they're due.
  4. I can type without looking at the keyboard, and I've been complimented on my skill a few times, which made me ridiculously happy. :)
  5. If I get to know two people, who have similar looks and names, I may and will mix them up.
  6. I feel awkward addressing people by name and often try to avoid it (it feels very personal).
  7. I once tried growing cherry tomatoes and herbs on my windowsill.

Wednesday, 24 June 2015

Book Review | My Japanese Husband Thinks I'm Crazy: The Comic Book by Grace Buchele Mineta

I've been following Grace's blog and youtube channel for a while now, so of course I was very excited to finally read her book My Japanese Husband Thinks I'm Crazy (on Goodreads). Do I have to mention, that I've binge read it in one day?

Grace from the blog Texan in Tokyo is a freelance writer and artist, living and working in Japan. She blogs and draws comics about her daily life and all the cultural differences, that she experiences, while living in a foreign country. And her husband Ryosuke accompanies her along  the way.

What I like about this book is, that Grace gives you an insight on what the daily life in Japan looks like. These are real stories and experiences, that happened to real people. And even though it’s non-fiction, the “spotlights”, which are occasional longer topics and explanations, are written in such a way, that it’s easy and fun to read.  But of course the majority of the pages are comics!

While reading the comics, I noticed that I would remember many of the stories from blog posts or videos. Because of that it was easier to understand some of the jokes. So it might seem like a problem for those, who don’t read the blog, but still want to read the comic book. For me personally it just made the book even more enjoyable. Every time I recognized a story from a comic, I would get really excited.

Some of my favourite comics and spotlights where those about language learning. As you probably know, I’m not a native English speaker. Still I try to be a part of the English-speaking Internet. That's what this blog is for, right? I want to write something, that a native could read and understand without the nagging feeling, that it was google translated. I want to know, how the English-speaking brain works.

Learning foreign languages is my passion. My mother tongue is Ukrainian, which comes from a different language family than English. I know, what it’s like to learn both closely related languages (like Russian or Polish) and those, that look more like alien talk (English, German, Japanese). English and Japanese came from completely different language families. These languages differ in sense of grammar and syntax. If a native English speaker wants to learn Japanese, he has to memorize a whole set of new words. He can’t even associate many of these words with Latin roots or morphemes. So when two foreigners try to communicate in either of the two languages, being misunderstood is something to expect.

I think, I got a little carried away with that linguistic analysis. But my point is, that my favourite part of the book was about these little misunderstandings and cultural differences, that come from the language. There was a spotlight about, how it makes no sense to drop hints and argue, because of misused words. And I liked, how Grace said, that in intercultural relationships we expect to have these misunderstandings, but we should do the same even within one country and culture. Even people, who speak the same language, can sometimes fail to communicate and understand each other. So instead of assuming, that they understand, just because the words are the same, why not try to be a little more forgiving and thoughtful of other people. Why not remind ourselves, that words not always correspond to thoughts and feelings. If a person says a hurtful word, it doesn’t mean that he had this intention to hurt you.

There are two more books to read, but I’ve decided to savour them, and finish what’s on my currently-reading list first. Well, okay. I know, that'll never happen, I'm not that disciplined with my reading, but at least I'll try. <3

Friday, 19 June 2015

Book Review & Favourite Quotes | Waiting for Godot

Some time ago I had a phase, when I would write out, underline and highlight every interesting or inspiring line in a book I’d be reading at the moment. So I ended up with quite a collection of quotes and nowhere to put them, until now.

I’ll try to sort everything out and use these amazing quotes in my blog posts. Maybe they’ll be in book reviews, or maybe I’ll just post a random assortment of quotes from all the different books I’ve ever read. I’ll figure it out as I go. And sorry in advance if some of the quotes are not accurate. A lot of the books I read, are in translation, but I’ll try to find the right English versions of the quotes.

So today I’ll share with you some of the precious words, I’ve picked up from an absurdist play Waiting for Godot written by Samuel Beckett (on Goodreads).This is a truly amazing work of literature. It seems like it has been written ages ago. In fact, I’ve tried looking it up on the Gutenberg Project website, not realising that this play wasn’t even in the public domain, as it was written somewhere in the late 1940s (first premiered in 1953). But the wisdom of this play gives the feeling of something I might read in ancient texts.

He who can do more, can do less.

The first quote is actually an English saying, but I’ve first read it in the play Waiting for Godot.

Three or four years ago I saw this play performed at a local youth theatre. It was so bizarre and thought provoking. Most of the time it seemed like nothing was going on, yet the characters would startle you every time they spoke. Each line of this play is a quote of its own. As I’ve read in the synopsis, Waiting for Godot is a play, where nothing happens twice.

Nothing happens, nobody comes, nobody goes, it's awful!

It might sound boring, but the suspense of the play made me hold my breath till the end of the performance. I’ve heard people say, that it’s hard to read plays, because you can’t really follow the story with all the characters. And partly it’s true, because you just read the dialogue, and all the action is supposed to be acted out on stage. But that’s not the case with Waiting for Godot. First of all, because there are only four or five very distinct characters, so it’s impossible to mix them up. And the second reason you might guess yourselves.

In the meantime, nothing happens.

Still the dialogues are so dense with thoughts and ideas. It’s been awhile, since I’ve read it, and watched the play on stage, so I might not remember the exact thoughts that it brought up in me, but I do remember, how it made me feel.

We always find something, eh Didi, to give us the impression we exist?

On Goodreads I’ve found a lot of other interesting quotes, that didn’t catch my eye, while I was reading, so maybe this play is asking for a re-read? I don’t know. It might be.

The whole point of the story is, that there are two men, Vladimir and Estragon, standing at the side of a road and waiting for a guy named Godot. Then two other men appear, Pozzo and Lucky, who seem to be a master and his servant. They talk about seemingly random things, but all their little remarks add some deeper meaning to the conversation, as if they aren’t really talking to each other.

Let us not then speak ill of our generation, it is not any unhappier than its predecessors. (Pause.) Let us not speak well of it either.

There’s a lot of waiting in this play.

Pozzo: I don't seem to be able… (long hesitation) to depart.
Estragon: Such is life.

The first act ends with a boy showing up and telling the men, that Godot is not coming today, but he is sure to come the next day. So they decide to come and wait for him again, but stay motionless as the lights fade.

The next act partly repeats itself, the characters and situation are the same, yet the details are different. And they once again are waiting for Godot.

As I’ve mentioned before, this is an absurdist play, so it doesn’t really have to make any sense. But there are many different interpretations of the meaning, so maybe everyone is free to decide for himself, and Beckett does give you a lot of space for though wandering. So you can think whatever you want to think - it’s all there.

What is my interpretation of this play? I can’t say, what were my initial impressions, I don’t remember anymore. But judging by my favourite quotes, it’s about life and existence. Why are we here? What are we doing? What is the whole meaning of this? It all makes no sense, never did, never will. But this meaningless has its own beauty.

The same way as chaos has its own spontaneous order. But that, I think, is from a completely different play.

Thursday, 11 June 2015

Individual in a Community

photo credit: Marta Rifyak

I was commenting on Lou's post about what we consider normal, as opposed to weird, and thought that this actually deserves a separate blog post.

So what is normal? Why do we pick from all the possible opinions and behavioural patterns just a few limited options and say "Okay now, people. From now on this is what you're supposed to be, look, and act like." Where does this concept of normal even come from?

We are considered to be social creatures. Right? The need to interact actively with other people is what gave us language and civilisation. But at what point does this urge for human communication collide with the inability to accept opinions, that differ from our own? What evolutionary advantage do we get from cherry picking only what we like and agree with, while shunning any alternative point of view, not really caring about looking at the other side's arguments? Where we always like this?

Well, it may be, that I'm looking at this from the other way around. As I've mentioned before in my Persepolis review, the humanity is becoming more and more peaceful. The willingness to accept and support each other helps make the community stronger. People are just tired of destructive behaviour. Ruining someone else's happiness is no longer enough to make ourselves happy. We let go of our imperial ambitions. It's not about "divide and conquer" anymore. The psychology of "create and unite" is what seems to be on top now.

If you put a bunch of crabs in a bucket of water, they all want to get out right away. So they push and pull on each other, drowning one by one. And then there's just one left, but he can't even reach to the top of the bucket, because all of his fellow crabs have sunk to the bottom.

If we by now have managed to notice this correlation in our own actions, and recognised it for what it is, then maybe this world is not doomed after all.

But back to the "weirdness" thing!

Weird is not wrong, nor is it bad. It's just not accepted by default.

We may be wise enough to have stopped building walls and digging ditches around our "castles". But people cannot change overnight. There are so many different opinions, that it's kind of hard to look at them all with an open mind and say no more than "Okay. So this exists."

My personal philosophy is that you can be and do whatever you please, as long as it doesn't hurt anyone else. Well, the understanding of "hurt" may be different for every person, so maybe that's why?

We need to work as a community in order to survive and make this world a better place for us all. At the same time we need to respect and accept every single person in this community as an individual. So yes, there's probably a bit of contradiction here (no, not really), and not everyone is able to understand this concept of Individual in a Community yet. But we're getting there. One step at a time.

I'll stop here, before I've bored you to death with this philosophical babble. And in the next post I'll do something fun, and tell you all about my weirdness! Stay tuned! <3

Monday, 8 June 2015

How to get into the habit of writing every (other) day

On several occasions I've tried to get myself into the habit of writing every day. You now what they say about repeating an action for 21 day to set it as a habit? Well, apparently that doesn't work for me. I've tried different websites, that would send me daily reminders "Hey! This is your writing time! Ready! Set! Go!". I once managed to go, I think, two or three months straight without missing a day, until I did.

"Don't break the chain" is a method that I often see people using in order to build a habit. It's when you take a calendar and cross out every day, when you did your thing. The point is to have every single day crossed out. This method works with the 21-day concept, except that you don't just stop after 21 day. But I'm already familiar with the disappointment of missing one day or a few days in a row. It's stressful! What do you have to do then? Start over or continue your chain, which isn't even a chain anymore? This might work for some people, but I lack the discipline, and I can't deal with this visualisation of my own failure.

Allow yourself to miss a day. If you want to write every day, start with every other day. Work it up.

I did BEDA on my other blog this year, and pretty much nailed it. Some days I posted right after midnight, so technically it didn't count for that day. But then I'd have some days with two posts. I decided to bend one rule in this competition with myself, as long as I still ended up with 30 posts at the end of April.

If I don't feel like writing, I won't, unless I force myself to sit down and get the first line out of the way. Once I do that, I start gaining speed and don't stop at least for another 30 minutes. Words rush out of my head one after another. I don't think I've ever managed to write more than a 1000 words in one sitting though, but I think I'm getting there. That won't happen every single time I write. But it's nice to have some of these productive days once in a while.

I did actually write somewhere around 8000 words in a single day once. I wouldn't recommend doing so. It's really physically exhausting, and I couldn't normally function for the next few days. I did it just because I was miserably failing at NaNoWriMo, so hopefully that won't happen again any time soon.

It's okay to pace yourself. Writing is just as much a job as any other.

At the end of the day it's all about the result. You may stress about how you have to write more, or count down your words. But as long as you are not looking at a blank page or a nicely written in calligraphic letters "The", you're gonna be okay. So don't beat yourself up if you don't meat your word quota every time you sit down to write.

Even a hundred words count.

It's not even about the quality. Quality comes after you start editing, at this point you're just teaching yourself to write.

There's just one question you really need to ask yourself.

Do you want to write? Then do it! No "buts". Don't overthink it. Just sit down and write.

Even if at first it'll all look like nonsense. Once you get that gibberish out of your head, thoughts will start falling together into ideas.

It all comes with practise. Train yourself into it.

Do you ever struggle with your writing? What are your habits and tips for fellow writers?

Saturday, 6 June 2015

Book Review [☆☆☆☆☆] Persepolis. Marjane Satrapi

Persepolis (on Goodreads) is one of those stories, that make me awe at how real they are, and how much they resonate with my own thoughts and experiences.

Now let me explain. I’m from Ukraine, and in case you don’t know, there is an ongoing conflict in the east of the country, where it borders with Russia. It’s not as much scary, as confusing. The information I have on the topic is not more than occasional snippets of news, that pop up on my news feed. You see, I don’t understand politics and I don’t want to, at least right now. That little understanding of the situation that I have, I try to keep to myself for various reasons.

So whenever people ask me for my opinion on the matter, which thankfully is very rare, I just ask them if they’ve read Persepolis.

“This! This is pretty much what’s going on and how to perceive it.”

I don’t go into detail, drawing parallels, as I don’t like getting into political arguments, and it all just makes me feel even more sad and panicky.

I do have an opinion, but I lack the means and support to not be afraid to voice it. Not now. Not yet.

Persepolis is an autobiographical graphic novel by Marjane Satrapi, that focuses on events of her childhood during the Islamic revolution in Iran in 1979 in the first part of the book. The second part follows Marjane, as she goes to study abroad and has a lot of personal issues growing up, and how she later comes back to Iran etc.

The novel is showing the historical events in the perspective of 10 year old Marjane, who was from a middle class family, that actively participated in the revolution. At the same time we are introduced to characters with different family backgrounds and hence standing on different “steps” of social ladder, like their neighbours, relatives and friends or just accidental encounters. In that way we can get a pretty much complete picture of the situation, described from all possible points of view.

Wednesday, 3 June 2015

Being better to myself

photo credit: Marta Ryfiak

I let myself get lazy.

Last year I would wake up every morning at 6 a.m. and go on a run.
Last year I would use any spare moment I had to read.
Last year I would stick to my daily routine and make sure that I don’t skip meals.

So why is it so hard for me right now?
Why did I let myself slip back to not taking good care of myself? Not feeling as good as I could feel.
I stay up late, eat irregularly and forget to take an extra sip of water now and then.

Why am I not taking good care of myself?

Sometimes I think that it all goes back to the time when I got sick, and sticking to those routines was my only option. Back then I thought they were bounding me, even though I was feeling better. Not great, just better. I wasn’t healthy even then, but at least I could function.

I was in a trap. I didn’t choose to exercise and eat clean. I had to, because otherwise I would feel too sick to even get up in the mornings.

So I sort of forced myself to the point where I could slip back into not caring about my health. I needed to see, that my life was back to normal, that I could once again choose for myself. The problem was, that my choices were never good for me.

Now, when I’m slipping once again to feeling bad, I feel like that kid, who won’t put on his sweater, when it’s cold, just to prove that he can. He has the choice, but he’s not choosing what’s right for him.

So I’ve been thinking, that this time I want to make another choice. But this time I want to choose to be healthy, strong and happy.

I choose to get enough sleep.
I choose to eat healthy.
I choose to drink lots of water.
I choose to exercise.
I choose to go outside more.

Because this is what's good for me.

And I choose this good for myself.