The Time to Move on…

2016 is coming to a close. It has been a strange year in many respects. The world lost so many wonderful artists that I have lost count. We have sunk deeper into fear and unrest. It would be much easier to refuse to see, but there we are… This world is a mess, and in spite of this, we still, on a personal level, break the beautiful things that we have.

As for me…So much has been offered, and so much taken away from me… I started this blog, and my PhD. I have been writing, reading, travelling and painting. I have taught wonderful kids and made some amazing new friends. I am grateful for everything, even for the bad because I hope it will help me grow.

2016 is coming to a close… 2017 is going to open its arms to us and I would like to share my hopes for the future. My first hope is that I find the strength within myself to work hard on my PhD and the classes I am going to teach so as to bring something good to the world. The chance that has been given me is incredible and I do not want to ruin it. My second hope is that all the people I love can be well, healthy, happy and fulfilled. That their troubles, if they have any, are solves and their pains alleviated. I hope that my inner light shines for them to protect them, and shines for me so I can stand on my own two feet and move on. Move on with my life, move away from what and who hurts me, move towards the future with a heart full of kindness and wonder.

But even though I know that it is time for me to move on –  and I will move on – my last and third wish is that my prayers for love are heard and that the promises made once are fulfilled rather than broken. If there is such a thing as fate, please let the odds be favourable. Let what my heart feels to be true indeed be a reality in time. It might take a long time, but I still truly hope that what we told each other was real and will come to be realized. And if it doesn’t, please let there be someone, somewhere out there, that is meant for me or please let me be at peace when I am by myself.

Three things: work and create, health and happiness for the people I love and for myself and hope for a better future full of love, the real kind. It is cheesy and cliché, I know… But these things do make life brighter, don’t they?

And there will be a flame

It is a cloudy Sunday morning – the autumn sky looks like a very light grey shroud devoid of shadow or light, making the world around, that flavourless cityscape I can see through the widow, look anaesthetized. There is no wind; the trees stand very still; the electric cables here and there hang motionless. I can hear no rushing cars, no laughing school kids and no old ladies of many colours argue down the street, near the bakery shop. Somewhere in the house, dad is watching television as he always does – the lulled voices of commercials and various programs are an unescapable background noise in the flat.

It is a day neither good nor bad. It is not a day that calls for an epiphany; the special moment of revelation seems even less likely as steam gradually builds on the windows which take on the wan colour of the clouds. I can no longer see the buildings across the street, or the trees that stand very still and the electric cables here and there hanging motionless from their posts.

I have caught a glimpse of my reflection in the mirror earlier – sleep-deprived, sallow, hollowed cheeks, hunched shoulders and lank, unkempt hair. My pyjamas have stains on them; I can see all around me that the house is not so tidy. I have been sad for too many days.

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And yet, I can feel a new emotion crackling inside. It is not a flame; I could not even call it a spark, but perhaps it needed to begin on such a dull, faded day for if it can catch fire today, when there is no precious light and no vivid colours, perhaps it will endure. It speaks in a really soft, barely audible voice and sings to me: “This is not you in the mirror; remember the promise that you made”. It is true that I made a promise to someone, a vow to keep on drawing, writing, painting, reading, studying and laughing. It is also true that I asked this person to promise me she would endeavour to get better and heal so she could be happy. She promised she would try – I want her to succeed because I know she can, but the only control I have is over my part of the contract. And my part I want to fulfill, because if I do, perhaps the crackling sound inside my heart will catch fire to be a flame. And maybe I can keep it ablaze, one day at a time.

Teaching, Studying and Living Feminism

Part 3: Living Feminism

Some time ago, I started a three part series devoted to feminism. I did not want it to take that long before I actually completed it, but it is never too late!

The first two parts were about teaching feminism and gender equality in high school and about ways to study feminism. Of course, they were just my personal experiences, but they  were both very interesting to write as they enabled me to see how much could be done in the classroom (from experience) to improve gender equality and to realize how much more can be done still.

This is when part 3, living Feminism, comes in. It is one thing to read about feminism and gender equality; teaching the subject is another – in both cases, you are making steps towards equality. Even if both these experiences can be painful, as you may very well be discouraged to discover how sexist the world still is or to hear students tell you that feminism is for angry, ugly women, they are enlightening. There is also something intriguing about searching “feminist” on Pinterest and finding pictures like this one, which rings very true:

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Only to find that one as you scroll down:

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Don’t get me wrong. I love fashion and I am always impressed by the creativity of some pieces, but how do you go from searching “feminist” online to being shown images of fashion, jewelry and makeup? Is that because feminism is about women, and just because it is about women it must lead to what we are all told women like: shoes, dresses, mascara, diamonds (a girl’s best friend for sure ^^) and pearls? And in that context, is it really possible to live feminism?

Some people will tell me: yes, it is. Of course, it is! I do not disagree… But there is still a long way to go. A little anecdote will serve as my example.

I know a girl who studies feminism; she does not study it as I do – it is actually her field of study. She rages and revolts when she hears sexist jokes; she is very independent and she lives her life like a pro. But then… love comes in and everything seems to disappear. We are back on the same old tracks. All of a sudden, it is alright that the guy she likes has sex with her whenever he likes, but will not be there when she is the one who wants some affection. He will go, take what he wants, and refuse to sleep next to her. And she finds excuses for him – and she will say that it is normal that he did not agree to be with her when she wanted to because he was busy and she was being tiresome, as if she had forgotten that she, too, could say no and that her body was not his object. That he should treat her with respect.

Of course, in real life, things are a little more complicated – there are issues of self-love, trust and commitment on both the boy and the girl’s sides. And I am not saying that the boy is an ass, only that my friend sometimes forgets about all the values she defends so fiercely when she is around some men, as if male presence muted her.

The sad part is… it is true of many women who believe in equality. How many times have I seen very outspoken lady friends fall silent when around men? How often have I noticed that in a group composed of both men and women, men usually speak the most? They just direct the conversation. Then again, not always. Not all men. Not all women. But the pattern can be observed everywhere…

Such observations make me wonder if I am quiet because I am girl and not simply because I am quiet. They make me ask myself if I like cooking and a clean house and being a good, nicely dressed hostess because, as I often jokingly say, I was “raised to be a housewife” or just because I actually do enjoy these things and would still like them if I were a boy. They make me wonder where I would be right now if I had been born male.

Because of such observations, every time I see a girl wearing a lot of makeup, clinging to a boy, I wonder if she is happy or if she does everything FOR the boy because that’s what magazines have told her she must do ever since she was a child. If she’s happy and she loves makeup then it’s awesome. But what if she is afraid the boy will not like her anymore if she does not wear it? What if she is actually really self-conscious because other girls are mean to her because of her looks? Then it is a sad situation.

In a weird way, I think maybe that’s what living feminism is: rather than just trying to live by a set of rules, it is questioning the world around you. Always. And questioning yourself, your habits, your thoughts, your prejudices and preconceived ideas, for we all have them, and taking a close look at the way you treat women, but also men.

As as Maya Angelou would say:

“I think a hero is any person really intent on making this world a better place for all people”.

What Sailor Moon taught me

Superheroes…

I spent half of the summer holidays in New Hampshire to help my best friend organize her wedding and to attend the ceremony. Her (now) husband is a fan of comics and writes articles about superheroes; it was expected, then, that the topic should pop in conversation. They said the X-men they identified with the most where Professor Xavier (for him) and Jean Grey (for her), and went on explaining that I probably would be Rogue. I was not entirely sure how I felt about it – I do not know X-Men well enough to say, though I do remember liking her character very much in the films and cartoons.

Yet, there was something unsettling about being compared to Rogue, as her power is to steal people’s memories and abilities, which often results in her unwillingly hurting them, even the ones who she loves dearly. But then again, I did not spend too much time trying to figure out the meaning behind it all – I get why they picked her for me and why they identified with Xavier and Jean, and as much as I enjoyed watching the X-Men cartoons as a young teenager, they are not my superheroes – I did not grow up with them.

My heroes, as a child, young teen and today, usually came from Manga and Anime and the one great heroic inspirations of my life were the Sailor Scouts in the Sailor Moon series, which I watched religiously every week after school, collected images and drew pictures of whenever I had the chance.

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I think I liked the idea that at the end of the day, they were just girls living normal lives (well, as normal as it gets when you transform into a magical girl and fight evil haha) and fighting for ideals that spoke to me: kindness, friendship, love, understanding… They were protecting people’s souls, hearts and dreams from creeping fears and doubts. Of course, there is something quite cheesy about it – I suppose there is naivety too in it, but as a child, watching my favourite character, Chibiusa, turn evil because she thought she was worthless and that no one had ever loved her and then finding the inner strength to go back to her former self affected me deeply. Because I, too, was a little girl, and I, too, doubted my value every day. Because these girls were not only Superheroes when they were dressed as Sailor Scouts fighting villains; they were heroes in that they never gave up on their ideals and their friends.

The lessons that I learnt watching Sailor Moon helped me become who I am, and who I am still working on being today. And sometimes, something happens that validates my belief in the power of forgiveness, friendship, love and understanding. I have had students who struggled with mental illness, or with lack of motivation to go on studying, and even living. There was not much I could do to help them, but I did my best, never stopped believing in them and encouraged them, trusted them and gave them whatever support I could offer without trespassing the limits of a student-teacher relationship.  These same students later sent me notes telling me that I had changed their lives and helped them find the strength to carry on. It makes me happy, not for me – I do not do the things I do to get any sort of social recognition – but for them. And in these rare moments, I, too, feel like I have become a Sailor Scout, and my own humble kind of superhero.

 

WORDS

In The Walls Do Not Fall, poetess Hilda Doolittle wrote:

“remember, O Sword,
you are the younger brother, the latter-born,

your Triumph, however exultant,
must one day be over,

in the beginning
was the Word.

 

     Words… Words stronger than war, fiercer than swords…

     Hilda Doolittle wrote Trilogy during World War II, as she and her lover Bryher witnessed the horrors of the Blitz from their London house. For the poet, writer and woman of letters she was, words must have represented an escape from the brutality of war, but also a weapon to fight it. They were a way to recreate what the war had broken – souls, buildings, lives, hopes… In Trilogy, past and present become united; perspectives on what it is to be a woman are transformed; the book reveals the organic, syncretic nature of creation and the positive power of words.

     I agree. Think only of the worlds that come to life page after full page of writing, the beauty of sounds and letters as you read them, the magic of poetry and prose and the softness, comfort and hope they can bring. But then, there is the other side of words.

Unrequited

    Words… Words that hurt, purposely, unwillingly, strongly, fiercely…
    This is why I am posting a painting rather than a poem today. Not because I have stopped writing or loving words, but because I wanted a break from them, which might seem extremely strange, or perhaps even inconsistent, considering how much I have actually written for this post already (word count: 250 words).
     I wish my words never caused any pain – I wish words never felt like the food people feed the belligerent, manipulative, destructive monsters that live inside us and sometimes – a little too often, maybe – take hold of us. I am dreaming of a world where words are not used to make unalterable doctrines that fill people’s hearts with fear, hatred and blind idolatry. And that’s why I am posting a painting along with words… because I wish sometimes people, including me, could simply just see.

Teenage Love

Hello there!

Today, I would like to share a delightful little anecdote which made me feel happy and warm inside.

This year is my first as a high school English teacher. On my first day last September, I met a young philosophy teacher. It was also his first year, and we have since become really good friends. He is a sweet, clever and quite reserved man, the kind of person you can have very intellectual conversations with while still being able to talk about the silliest things. Quite a treat!

Last Tuesday, he came to see me in the teachers’ room and, as he sat beside me, he handed me a small piece of paper, carefully folded in a little square and said “Look what I found in my classroom today. I’m confused.” I took the note and read it.

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Here is the translation: “Hello, we don’t know each other, but you’re a philosophy teacher right? I have a question for you: why do men always want to be happy? Thanks a lot. I know we don’t know each other, but we never speak to strangers enough.” Yes, I know… I took a picture of the note. It may seem strange, but it was just so cute. How often do you get to have a secret message sent to you? It was almost otherworldly to me. I loved how fanciful it was – it seemed like we had slipped into a novel. My friend was still confused and I tried to help him see the beauty of the gesture. But he was quite unmoved, unfortunately…

We both wondered, however, who that mysterious girl (for we both knew it must be a girl) could be. I had a strange feeling I had seen the handwriting before, but I could not remember where. Of course, there was no way to find out. There are over 2,000 students in the school where we teach…

But then today, right after class, something utterly funny happened. Three of the kids waited for me and asked me how things were going between the philosophy teacher and me. I told them that we were colleagues and friends. They looked quite disappointed, but one of the girls started blushing. Her reaction spurred my curiosity – there must be something the matter with the philosophy teacher; it was unusual enough that they even knew his name, as Freshmen do not have any philosophy classes. So I simply asked how they knew him and the girl turned bright red. That’s when it occurred to me that she may be my friend’s secret admirer! I gave her a mischievous look and asked: “Melanie, you don’t happen to have written M. Saunier a note, do you?” The poor girl, who was already crimson, was shaken with an uncontrollable fit of laughter. She was the one indeed.

So here is how I discovered the identity of the mysterious note-sending girl. She looked very much smitten with my colleague, which made me feel a little sorry for her, but also happy because I loved her spontaneity and her drive. She was so keen, so enthusiastic! Her whole face sparkled with joy whenever she mentioned his name – it truly was the most touching sight. A snapshot of joy, love and youthful innocence.

The note she gave my friend is also interesting. First, there’s the question she asked: “Why do men always want to find happiness?” You could write whole essays on the subject, but to ask someone you do not know, but could possibly give you an answer and discuss the topic with you sounds to me like a wise gesture. Then, there’s the second part of the message: “I don’t know you, but we don’t speak to strangers enough.” There’s a core of truth in the sentence – we tend to seclude ourselves from others because we do not know them; we are afraid. Too afraid. Most people let themselves be controlled by fear. But she didn’t. She tried to make a connection, to reach out to someone, just for the sake of it. And that, I think, is beautiful.

“Do stuff. be clenched, curious. Not waiting for inspiration’s shove or society’s kiss on your forehead. Pay attention. It’s all about paying attention. attention is vitality. It connects you with others. It makes you eager. stay eager.”
― Susan Sontag

Listing Mania

Listing Mania

What shall I do today?
I’m wasting time away.
• Work and study
One, two, three…
• Follow the list
Four, five, six…
• Don’t let them mix
• Don’t clench your fist
Seven, eight
• It’s getting late
Already nine
• I’m doing… fine?
Counting to ten
I’ve failed again.

This is just a little whimsical poem I wrote as I was in the process of making yet another to-do list. I have always had some sort of obsession with lists. I remember writing them as a child already. What is so compelling about them though?

Most of the time, they calm me down – they help me focus and organise, but at the end of the day, when I check whether I have ticked off every item on the list and realise I have not – I almost never do – I feel down, as if I had turned into some kind of underachieving slug (no offence to slugs!). The sense of failure can be overwhelming even when I objectively know that I have got quite a bit done throughout the day. If I do not do everything I had planned, it usually is because something has come up: I’ve had to unexpectedly take care of my brother, some task took me longer than I thought, I wasted time in public transportation… or I procrastinated a little longer than I wished, but I nearly never do nothing.

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 Still, I can’t go a day without writing a list… Sometimes, I let the words line up on the page wondering how I can be naive enough to think I will be able to accomplish all these tasks. I also have a good memory so it is not even as though I was making a to-do list to keep track of everything I am supposed to get done. I don’t quite forget about anything I have to do.

There lies the paradox of organisation – keeping you calm and poised, yet drowning you in waves of frustration or stress. It often feels like a functional metaphor for the discrepancies between your inner life and the life you live, between dreams and reality, inspiration and result. Sometimes, I can see the most beautiful images inside my head with colours bright and luminescent and paint whirling on the page like the arabesques Indian ink drops form as they dance into water. When I turn to the page, though, the result is never quite as sublime as I had imagined. Imagination never seems to merge with Reality. No matter how much they love each other, they cannot touch, doomed to live their own separate lives, going their several ways, watching each other with yearning passion through a looking glass that will only open for them to kiss for a frustrating second before it closes again. There they stand, each on its side of the mirror with its hand pressed on the glass in an unfelt yet loving embrace, caught between the hope and sorrow their union brings. But when they do meet, when they do kiss, even if only for a split second, the world is all ablaze with moonbeams and sunlight.

“Yes: I am a dreamer. For a dreamer is one who can only find his way by moonlight, and his punishment is that he sees the dawn before the rest of the world.”
― Oscar Wilde, The Critic as Artist

The Thief of Joy

Comparison is the thief of joy
A ghost she hides her deadly ploy
Whispers in your ear while you sleep
Enchants you with memories deep

Do not look behind sweet child
Remember your essence, wild
Luminescent and free
Do not compare, simply be.

 

Since this blog is called The Colour of Poetry, I suppose it was about time I posted a little verse.

     I wrote this poem for someone I love deeply but hurts herself by comparing, always comparing, herself and her past experiences with others. I hoped this would help her… It was not until I met her that I realised how hurtful comparison could be. Reminiscing about former loves, fond memories of a lost one, reading the work of another student, listening to someone play the guitar and sing: everything that could be a source of comfort or evolution becomes so uneasy that it paralyses you. Every remark made to help you improve insidiously turns into another stake planted around you until you realise you are surrounded by a gate-less towering fence. Yet, these pales you cannot seem to climb are unreal – they are but a creation of your mind – the materialisation of your insecurities. Comparison can only be healthy when it acts as an incentive for personal improvement and inspires your curiosity; when it spurs your creativity and your will to do better, not for the love of competition, but for your own sake.  Accepting yourself, what you have and what you lost, your knowledge and your abilities but also your flaws and shortcomings, is an act of self-love without which you cannot fully flourish. Of course, this task is a hard one; it is not, however, hopeless because if you open up your mind and soften your heart, then, you can find your soul.

“I cannot say this too strongly: Do not compare yourselves to others. Be true to who you are, and continue to learn with all your might.”
― Daisaku Ikeda, Discussions on Youth

A Whole New World

Colours of the Wind

I never thought I would start a blog – it’s a whole new world for me; I’m not sure exactly how anything works and why I am doing it, but my best friend told me to give it a try and see as a moment dedicated to myself and to sharing. I like seeing this as a way of sharing, hopefully something good and creative with someone.

The world of blogging always seemed so far and distant to me that I could never quite picture myself sitting behind the screen, but there I am after all, looking forward to the future, feeling the breeze of hope flowing through my hair in the middle of winter and the colours of the wind bringing light even to the greyest of days, just like the characters in the painting.

It has just started snowing… Snow is always a good sign, isn’t it?

I think I’ll end posts on quotations, which I hope can inspire someone ♥

Art is an infinitely precious good, a draught both refreshing and cheering which restores the stomach and the mind to the natural equilibrium of the ideal.

CHARLES BAUDELAIRE, preface, Salon of 1846

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