Love on display

Time passed, a lot of things happened, and yet, February has arrived again. And, as in any other February, love statements are being shown off everywhere. I mean, if not during the love month, then…when?

My subjective answer to this question is daily. Because, if you love, if you really love somebody, then you love them daily. And you prove your life to them daily, not only a few days a year. That is anything but love, at least in my book.

I write this piece as V-Day’s approaching. The thing is that now, unlike a normal year, it hits different. Like anything else, love and dating have been tested a lot. And, if anything happened, it was a shift in the way we’re looking at our romantic ties.

We feel the need to be loved, appreciated, and held, now maybe more than ever. We need contact with others, physical affection, and emotional support. We’ve seen couples breaking up after years and years, and couples that have only grown stronger from this.

And we see our single friends doing their best to deal with the lack of romance in their lives. This meant going back on dating apps, talking to other people, thinking about how to merge dating and staying safe, working on themselves, or talking with their friends about it.

This also means that all the public display of perfect relationships affects them more than it would on a normal year. It does so because, unlike other years, they’re now finding themselves to be severely limited. They can’t go to singles parties, they can’t go on random dates with people they’ve chatted with for a week, or so, they can only sit there and watch.

And seeing everyone else posting their perfect, sweet, incredible relationship all over Social Media is harming their mental health more than usual. It brings up old feelings of inadequacy, of being unworthy, of being bad. These are some hard to cope with things, especially after a year of pandemic, constraints, anxiety, uncertainty, loss, grief, and burn-out. Because no one has enough mental energy to deal with all these things at once.

What should you keep in mind for this V-Day if you’re one of the single and struggling friends in your group?

No one has it all

I’ve said it once, I’ll say it again: not everything we see on Social Media is real. Most of the time we see just cut-outs of the reality. The highlights of the day, if you want.

This means that all those pretty flowers and cheesy gifts can be an expression of love, but can be as well an expression of fear and anxiety. Keep in mind that a lot of people have turned to buy stuff online as a distraction from their pandemic anxiety. Maybe you’ve done this yourself. There are always two sides to a story, regardless of what the story’s about.

The perfect relationship doesn’t exist in real life

The only place where relationships are perfect, with cute words, gifts,  and appreciation is the Internet. In real life, a relationship has also ups and downs, bad days, heated arguments, and partners asking themselves What was I thinking when I’ve picked you?

And these are the happy, ordinary cases. I am not going to talk about all the abusive, toxic relationships that are living hell in real life and all sugar and pink sequins online. Keep in mind that the number of partners reporting abuses from their significant others has severely increased during the pandemic, so most probably what you see is not what you get.

But none of these things are worth posting online, are they?

You’re not alone in this

This is not the problem of an individual, but of a big part of the population. And it’s okay, this year has wrecked us all, without any kind of discrimination. Our social interactions are being severely diminished, and we play by different rules. Even like that, it’s temporary, and we have to try our best to be patient and, you know, just hang in there.

You are worth it

Having to say this makes my heart sad, but I will do it anyway. You are worth it. Even if you’re single for a long time, or maybe your significant other and you have just split up, you’re worth it. You deserve kindness, respect, attention, care. You deserve to be supported, feeling understood, loved, important. appreciated. You deserve to have around people careful when it comes to your emotional needs, people who won’t belittle you for having a bad period or feeling low. And no one should ever have enough power to make you think otherwise about yourself.

You can still celebrate

Even if you’re single, you can still celebrate love. I mean, self-love is love, after all. So go ahead and treat yourself.

It doesn’t matter if you choose to put on some make-up and nice clothes, take a loong bubble bath, cook something delicious, watch those cheesy movies you’ve always postponed, have a videogames night, or simply sleep in early. It’s your celebration, and you get to do it your way. What matters is reminding yourself that you can be single and still have a lovely time.

Stand your ground

In times like these it can be really tempting to go back to people we share memories with. Maybe our exes, maybe some close friends that proved themselves to be bad for us.Friendly advice: don’t. The reason is the fact that, usually, the mix between nostalgia and loneliness seems to erase the downsides of those relationships. You don’t need to bring back something harmful to your mental health and overall evolution. You know and deserve better. And you will get what you deserve when you’ll stop trying to open closed doors.

These are just a few things we could do to ease our passing through the month of love. Keep in mind that all the good love stories begin with people that have fallen in love with themselves in the first place, and find their way to it. It can be journaling, psychotherapy, Zoom calls with your best friends, whatever you feel might be helpful for you.

Don’t forget that some of the relationships you see might be actually tainted, despite all the pretty moments those involved choose to share. Or that everybody tries to do their best on days of celebration, like Valentine’s Day. And this implies buying pretty gifts, pretty clothes, setting up fancy dinners, and all the special things no one is making daily.

So take a deep breath, and look around. They are human, just like you are. So take advantage of this day and do more of what makes you happy. That will be more than good enough.

Letter to my teenage self

Hello, darling

I’m writing you this letter because I know how insecure you are, and to let you know that things will sort themselves out just fine. Not in a regular way, but in your own kind of way, and that’s part of what makes your journey awesome.

Who am I? Good question, yet funny answer: I’m your ten years older version. And I will drop here some spoilers about what this timeframe will mean for you.

You will discover what makes you happy

Yes, you will be happy. And, of course, there will be some things that will bring you happiness. You will find them early and respect them. You will build little routines around them that will work as small but effective pills for the dark times that will come.

You will like yourself more

Of course, there will still be days when you’ll feel like you’re a total failure, but, as a difference from today, you’ll be able to see your good parts as well. You will like yourself more than you do now, and, obviously, less than you will like yourself when you’ll be 35. You will also stop belittling your accomplishments and will understand that a bad day is not a bad life. And, unbelievable, you will actually get to like yourself. Sounds pretty much like a fictional character, eh? Just give yourself some time, and watch.

You will talk about the things you try to hide now

For now, you try your best to seem as normal as a teenage girl could. But in less than ten years from now on, not only that you will talk about your disease with people without feeling ashamed. You will even write about it, and you’ll see people coming to you and sharing stories of their children having the same diagnosis as you do. And this will empower you, as well as your community.

You will still have friends from your childhood by your side

And they won’t be the ones you’d think. But they will be there for you when you’ll have good news, bad news, and whenever you’ll need to be slapped with that hard to swallow truth pill. They are not that many as you’d hope, but they will be there, and that’s what makes them living wonders.

You’ll make peace with your body

And this will be a game-changer. You’ll get thinner, you’ll learn about what kind of aesthetic you match best with, and will allow yourself to finally be happy in your own body, not in a future, perfect version of it. You will learn to stop postponing goodness for later, and that will help you a lot. Even so, you still won’t be able to see yourself as a beautiful woman, but you will only get to care less about this aspect.

You’re gonna do things your way

Maybe things won’t make that much sense seen from the exterior, but you will remain faithful to your values and your determination of walking on that one path, instead of the easier ones, will often seem like stubbornness at first. But it will also be the one thing that will bring you other people’s respect- the fact that you will never quit on something just because it’s hard.

You will keep your priorities aligned

This means you will put on hold anything that won’t give you the chance to grow, learn, or be yourself. You will keep learning on various domains, will keep writing, and will become a volunteer.

Volunteering will help you learn about how to be useful to others while not emptying your own cup of well-being. You will learn that you can give to others and receive at the same time, and the moments you’ve made those children smile will remain some of your most precious memories.

But this also means that you will cut people out of your life just because they don’t allow you to grow your way. And you won’t be sorry for doing so.

You will become your own kind of woman

It’s not very clear how will that woman be, for now, but I only can tell you that you’d love her if you’d met her. She’s funny, passionate, smart, relaxed, and smart. But I can tell you that she won’t be the kind of woman your family hopes you’ll become. She won’t care this much about how other people see her. She will have learned, by now, to put herself first. Do you know those lists with personality traits from the drawer? She checks them all and adds some more bullet points.

You will learn to say no

And you’re gonna love it! You will reach that point where you will learn that saying no is not an insult, but a proof of self-respect, and you will act like it. You will start to say no to whatever you feel like it doesn’t suit yourself: people, opportunities, everything that feels off.

You might not always know what you want, but you will always have a clear sight of what you don’t want, and that will do just fine in the long run.

You’ll bring magic up to your life

Not only that you will learn how to work with magic, but you will also learn to trust your inner voice, not other’s opinions about how you should be doing this or that. And every time you will listen to that inner voice, you’ll win. But it will be some hard to learn part of the journey, even for you. You will, as time goes by, discover that you are stronger than you’ve thought you could possibly be. And the thing that you can find happiness in the smallest things is one of the traits that root that power of yours.

These are only a small, small part of what your journey will be like. A teaser, if you want to. Because, by the way, you will be a pro at teasing people, too. Even if now it does not really sound like you, it will. Just be patient.

I think this will be any teenage girl that will trust her personal journey more than other people’s opinions about how her life should be, but today is not only about them, it’s especially about you. Because one of the most important lessons that you’ll be learning during this decade is the fact that a woman will only succeed if she will help other women, too. You will be empowered and inspired in your journey by wonderful, astonishing women, and you will find the power to give the same gift back to the young girls.

Because, if it’s anything that you are certain of, by now, is the fact that it needs a whole community to raise a woman who is unapologetically herself, capable to share and put boundaries as well. But, in the end, it is always worth it.

Puternica? Nu eu…

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De niste vreme, ani, cam de cand eram eu adolescenta, se bate moneda pe femeia puternica. Hai ca o stiti, toate site-urile, revistele, blogurile, o propovaduiesc de atata amar de vreme. A ajuns si la TV. E tipa aia care nu plange niciodata. Care e ironica, acida, independenta financiar, stilata, culta, superioara, emancipata, gratioasa, selectiva cu cei din jur…toata povestea aia. Ti se induce ca asa trebuie sa fii, daca vrei sa fii o femeie misto. Sa nu stie nimeni ce te doare, sa fii mereu bine, zambitoare, ca timpul nu sta pe loc fiindca te doare pe tine sufletul.

Desi unele din atributele de mai sus sunt perfect in regula, pot sa spun ca, in ciuda a orice se vede din exterior, eu nu-s o femeie puternica. Sunt doar mandra, dar mandria nu-mi cenzureaza mereu eficient exprimarea emotiilor. Asa ajung sa plang, rar ce-i drept, in public. Am trait o buna parte din viata dorindu-mi sa fiu puternica cu orice pret. Pentru mine, pentru cei dragi din jur, pentru binele tuturor. Mi-am urat cu disperare fragilitatea, vulnerabilitatea. Am fugit de ele, m-am dat cu capul de pereti ca simt prea mult, prea profund, si ca eu nu mai vreau sa mai simt nimic.

Nu sunt puternica, ma dor prea multe. Inechitati carora le-am fost martora sau victima. Oameni pe care nu i-am putut ajuta asa cum mi-as fi dorit. Nedreptati de care, chiar daca am scapat ca prin urechile acului, umbra lor m-a urmat oriunde, ca un catel. Zilele in care puteam mai bine. Momentele in care, poate, n-am stiut sa ma apar asa cum as fi meritat. Anii in care nici nu mi-a dat prin cap ca ar trebui sa ma apar, sa spun gata! si nu!, ca nu trebuie sa multumesc pe nimeni in afara de mine insami.

Nu sunt puternica. Am zile in care-as putea jura ca sunt stapana lumii, dublate de nopti in care ma simt a nimanui in propria viata, in propria lume interioara. Zile in care plang, in care ma simt nefericita, nedreptatita, invinsa. Zile-n care as da foc lumii intr-un acces de furie oarba, de la prea multele nedreptati la care-am asistat neputincioasa si care inca ma dor. Compensatoriu.

Nu sunt puternica, si nici femeie nu-s inca. Sunt un copil mare, cu accese de intelepciune, efuziuni de euforie, si rabufniri de furie care se amesteca in feluri care mai de care mai de ne-nteles. Am crescut cu o boala rara, iar prezenta constanta a mamei in jur m-a ferit, in copilarie, de rautatile copiilor. Altii, desi sanatosi, dar saraci, n-au avut norocul asta, sa scape de batjocura gratuita.

Nu sunt puternica, si nici macar nu mai incerc sa fiu. Am acceptat, pana la urma, ca-s o fiinta fragila. Ca ma descurc mai bine singura, decat inconjurata de multimi tampe de oameni. Ca sunt un ocean de emotii care se vor bate mereu cap in cap, si ma vor arde pe dinauntru. Ca nu-s deloc a dracu’ daca ma aleg pe mine.

Nu mai vreau sa mint despre cat de puternica sunt. Nu sunt. N-am fost niciodata. Ce am fost in schimb mereu, si o sa raman, e o fiinta mandra. Din mandrie nu m-am dus de cate ori s-ar fi impus la oamenii care m-au ranit, cand m-au ranit, sa le-o spun si sa-i intreb de ce?. Mi se parea o chestie triviala, sub demnitatea mea, un gest de mahalagioaica pusa pe scandal. Azi nu-l mai vad deloc, dar deloc asa. Azi, daca mi-ai facut ceva, o sa afli. Fie ca vrei, fie ca nu, si cu totala nepasare daca ce auzi iti e pe plac sau nu, confortabil sau nu.

Nu sunt puternica, nici nu vreau, nici nu pot, ca sa parafrazez o femeie controversata. Nu vreau, frate, mi s-a luat! Mi s-a luat sa protejez mereu pe toata lumea si sa fiu nevoita sa ma cenzurez si cand vreau, si cand nu. De fapt, daca ma gandesc un pic mai bine, vreau sa mai fiu si eu protejata, intrebata, ingrijita. Macar din cand in cand, pana cand se vor obisnui cu asta regulat. Ca eu raman la fel de fragila pe cat eram si inainte vreme, cand pretindeam ca-s mare amazoana, nu d’alta.

M-am lecuit de la a fi aia pe care nu o mai doare nimic. Ma dor multe, si o sa le spun oricui ma intreaba sau ma provoaca. O sa raman sincera cu ceilalti si cu mine, o sa spun ce vad si ce simt. Mai ales ce simt. O sa respect ce-am invatat cu mult greu: ca timpul meu cu mine, in singuratate, e dar, nu blestem, ca limitele-mi sunt date ca sa mi le invat si respect, ca trebuie sa pun punct inainte ca tot ce traiesc, vad, incerc, simt, sa ma arda pe interior ca lumanarea.

O sa fac multe, tare multe, promit. Dar nu o sa mai tac, pentru ca tacerea e de aur doar in dictaturi, in restul lumii e, cel mai adesea, de plumb. Si sigur nu o sa mai fac din a fi puternica un ideal, un model, sau un motiv de bravura. Asta dat din oficiu de societate, fara sa-l ceara explicit nimeni, e  un model tern, lipsit de nuante, si mi-a ajuns. Nu ma regasesc in el si mi-am pierdut déjà prea mult timp incercand sa-l interiorizez. Cui ii place, sa-l pastreze, dar sa nu mi-l bage pe gat.