Bucket list

Time is running fast and August is just around the corner. It’s my favorite month of the year; I long for it, and I also dread its arrival. It means my birthday is coming up – and getting older stopped being funny a few summers ago.

It always makes me think back. What have I done this year? What dreams did I follow, and which did I leave buried in the drawer of never?

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I should’ve written a bucket list years ago. I never really had one, because my dreams changed as I grew up. I’m not done growing, though. I always feel like I’m just winging this whole adult thing (if someone knows how to do adulting in a proper way, please let me know).

So as July enters its final stretch, here is my bucket list for the next year. And the next. And the next.

  1. Visit Canada
  2. Try Kombucha
  3. Learn a fancy vegan recipe
  4. Buy all of The Beatles’ records in vinyl
  5. Go on a road trip across the U.S.
  6. Learn how to roller skate
  7. Bike in Santa Monica
  8. See Pearl Jam in concert
  9. Interview Mark Zuckerberg
  10. Study Italian
  11. Run a 10k
  12. Visit Machu Pichu
  13. Write a book
  14. Take a photography course
  15. Visit Apple’s spaceship campus
  16. Drive a Tesla
  17. Do boxing & self-defense classes
  18. Volunteer at a homeless shelter
  19. Volunteer at an animal shelter
  20. Have a photo shoot (before I look like I’m 150 years old)
  21. Start my own website
  22. Learn how to play a musical instrument
  23. Be hypnotized.

I guess I’ll update it if something else comes along. What’s on YOUR bucket list?

Weight

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I sat curbside, phone in hand, earphones blasting the sounds that would save my soul. People usually speak of a weight on our shoulders, but I had this weight in my chest. Inside of it. Making it hard to breathe and think straight. It was different from pain, you see. Pain is this all-consuming wave that eats your entire body, and while I was suffering I discovered it was possible to just keep falling, never hitting the ground. It’s a nightmare inside a nightmare, an anguish that devours your present and your future.

I was past the pain. It was this weight, this heavy weight, occupying my chest cavity and infiltrating into my stomach. Despair was long gone, but dread and angst made their way into my every bone. I was sitting curbside, looking at the traffic, inhaling the scent of a million flowers. I lifted my eyes up to the sky, as I often do when I’m looking for a sign, begging for help, begging for a way out. “I cannot believe this is my life,” I thought, eyes in the clouds, blaming myself and the universe.

I used to be so grateful. I tried to keep this feeling of gratitude while my life was twisting and turning, but I’ve been blindsided by anger and dismay. All I want to do is let my life implode. Just let it go. That comfort you find in failure, that bitterness is actually quite appealing.

I mean, who else am I failing but me? And don’t I deserve it?

Some days, I am capable of the fiercest recoveries – I dust myself up and I try again. Clean slate, new day, new fight.

But these days, I feel like screaming and kicking, and I don’t have enough middle fingers for all the rage I carry inside.

They say there’s this one day in your life when every piece of the puzzle falls into place, and in the same second you realize why you had to go through so many things, you remember what brought you there, you understand your path and your purpose.

I have recognized this day twice in my life, and I was wrong. I thought I’d found that lever, the one that puts everything in motion, and it all made sense. In both cases, those paths were cut short, but I did not go back. I just created new paths that led me to crazy life choices and situations.

Sometimes you’re stuck in a rut.

Sometimes you desperately want to create a rut, have a structure, lay a foundation that won’t crumble. I’ve always said your life doesn’t have to be defined forever at any given moment.

But I wonder what it’s like to know where you’re going. 

California love

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I landed in Los Angeles three years ago, on my way to a sumptuous house in the Hollywood Hills. I was immediately struck by the million scents that greeted me that night; it smelled like summer, love, and life. By the next day, I knew this was home. I fell in love almost instantaneously, infatuated by the beautiful skies, the natural light, the mountains, the beach, the diverse neighborhoods, the abundance of vegan food, the sense of lust for life that I encountered.

The city of a billion lights had me by my heart. Abandoning my old life back home was the hardest thing I ever did, and what followed wasn’t easy. I worked myself crazy. I made lots of mistakes. It took me a long while to understand how this city works, how California works, how to make this place my own. I got married and divorced in under two years, and believe me when I tell you divorce is one messed up disaster.

But through all of this, Los Angeles had my back. I know this is the city of flaky people, horrible traffic, high taxes, high rent, expensive everything. It’s also the city where dreams come to change, and it’s ok. You can start off thinking you’re pursuing one thing, and then find yourself mutating your desires and changing paths and living another life in between traffic nightmares on the 405.

What kept me together, what pumped blood in my veins, was this strong sense of belonging, this immense love I feel for this city. Looking outside early in the morning and seeing the beautiful colors of the skies, while birds chirp away their joy. Chasing squirrels in the park, taking the metro red line to DTLA and being met by a fusion of cultures and accents that resemble traveling the world without leaving the city.

Being liberal among your own, being liberal among conservatives who are able to see things from your point of view, watching marchers fight for science, dancing to mariachis in the street, driving to Coachella for a surreal fest like no other.

Los Angeles is this beautiful entity that has kept me sane for the most part of my tribulations.

I know home is where the heart is, and the love of my life keeps reminding me that people, not places, make a home. He is right. He is my home. But my love for California is unwavering, and it will always have my heart.

Definição

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O som das teclas da minha antiga máquina de escrever, que os meus pais me deram quando estava na segunda classe, povoava a casa durante horas a fio. Perdia-me a escrever, depois perdia-me a ler, e emergia deste mundo de palavras meio atordoada, como se tivesse ido a outra dimensão.

Deixei a Olympia em Portugal quando vim para os Estados Unidos, munida de um Macintosh, iPad e iPhone. Ainda tenho dezenas de cadernos em papel onde gosto de escrever à mão, apesar de anos e anos a tirar notas em grande velocidade terem arruinado a minha letra. Sou diferente quando escrevo em meios diferentes. O que me persegue, o que assombra, o que alivia, é esse acto de escrever.

Quando estava a tirar o segundo café de hoje, destes cafés americanos de que ninguém gosta e que eu saboreio com um consolo injustificado, assaltou-me uma inquietude que eu achava resolvida há muito. O que é que me define?

“Aquilo que amo”, retorqui mentalmente. Mas é uma resposta falaciosa. Aquilo que me define é o que escolho fazer todos os dias, não um sentimento difuso e abrangente que serve para qualquer momento da vida.

O trabalho. Os livros. As ideias à espera de papel.

As pessoas que estão longe. As que se mantêm por perto.

Os valores, os ideais, o que me ensinaram os pais.

Portugalidade. Bandeira americana. Califórnia.

Liberdade. 

Quem sou eu, se não a miúda que batia jornais à máquina e os vendia a 20 escudos ao pai e à mãe?

Vou ter de escolher entre algumas destas coisas, e não é uma questão daquilo com que ficarei, mas aquilo que suportarei perder. O que me define? Aquilo sem o qual já não sou eu, mas uma versão falsificada, uma tentativa forçada de ser outra.

A mudança é a única constante, e a adaptação é a chave para a sobrevivência. Mas há coisas que não se pode deixar para trás. Não falo de posses materiais, porque nada do que tenho participa na construção de quem sou, e tudo o que se perde é substituível. Falo da essência. Um músico que deixa de tocar, um professor que deixa de ensinar, uma jornalista que deixa de escrever.

É preciso ter dinheiro suficiente para não passar a vida num sufoco, para poder escolher o que se gosta de fazer em vez de sofrer de segunda a sexta. No entanto, sem propósito que faça despertar de manhã, sem a excitação de um projecto, sem o orgulho de uma conquista, não há dinheiro que tape o buraco da alma.

 

 

Sinal

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A magia de alguns livros, séries e filmes é que têm personagens com certezas e capacidades avassaladoras. Uma perspicácia que vê o que os outros ignoram, uma fé nas decisões que desafia as possibilidades e no final se revela certa, uma força interior que lhes permite seguir os instintos quando tudo parece adverso. E vencer. No final, vencer. Sem a capacidade de andar para a frente e descobrir o resultado das minhas decisões, toda eu sou dúvidas e anseios quando o que queria era ter forças e certezas. Como nos filmes.

Todos os dias acordo para a inevitabilidade de mais decisões, e elas estão a moldar a minha vida sem possibilidade de regresso. Agora, vejo-me bifurcada novamente, e ando para trás e para a frente dentro da minha cabeça sem conseguir manter-me em lugar algum. Perante uma escolha impossível, a mente bloqueia.

Pior, qualquer decisão que tome é uma derrota. O único quadro que posso desenhar é o das coisas que vou perder; e a única saída é perceber o que é que vai doer mais.

Não vejo nada à frente, e só precisava de um sinal.

Starvation

But for a moment, there, heart banging violently inside my chest, blood boiling, head spinning, voice failing, I knew who I was. I screamed so loudly in my head I scared my own soul. I would rather starve than eat your bread. Everything I lived through brought me to this day, shaking in my skin, fighting the urge to run away from here. “I don’t want to be where I’m not wanted”, I said ad naseum, thinking of my family and friends back home eagerly awaiting to see me. When a sudden wave of criticism is poured over you, you’ll either retract and compress, or you’ll come back swinging. I’m in neither those states. I knew who I was, as words like spears flew above my head. For some reason, knowing this was enough. I wouldn’t fall to my knees, and I wouldn’t swell to a rage. No one will take my dragons.

One day, when all of this is over, I’ll look at this moment in time and either love or regret my decision. But I must make one.

Don’t drink the water

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There’s a certain beauty in being lost. The urgency of time seems to vanish when you have absolutely no idea of where you’re supposed to go, and there’s no one expecting you anywhere. You’re just wondering around, looking for clues, praying for light, and in the midst of despair, a kind of peace comes along. There’s no place here, what were you expecting? It’s the comfort of failure I’ve so often thought about. Pressure is off once you fail.

But I always tell myself that I cannot lose what I don’t have. Almost getting it doesn’t count. When I sit on my couch, wrapped in a grey blanket that shields me from this mild Californian winter, I always reach the same conclusion: to hell with all of this. To hell with the broken promises, the back-stabbings, the mistakes, the unfulfilled dreams, the roadblocks that diverted me to this unknown road I’m currently in.

To hell with the ingratitude and the disposable nature of my existence. Don’t miss your boat, it’s leaving now. At what point do you reconcile the violence in your heart? At what point do you stop being a giver, tired of never getting anything back?

Never. Giving is what you do without expecting anything back. I’d rather be the giver that is constantly taken for granted than to change my nature and become bitter. I’d rather keep banging my head against the wall and always start and try again than to be a cynic who doesn’t believe in anything.

I’d rather be fooled by the people I love than being suspicious of them.

And so this wondering will continue because the perception of time is vanishing. I might drown with my demons, but I won’t drink the water.