Break

When you need to stop to take a breath,

when the world is too much, should I’ve stayed or left?

When you feel stuck and wonder, what the meaning of this is,

should I keep going or should I just exist?

Stop.

Take a deep breath.

Get lost in a book, forget all the rest.

In magical worlds, in fairy tales, with angels and devils.

In Wonderland.

It’s not a great poem, it may not rhyme,

but I truly hope I made you smile ūüôā

Eleni

PS Thank you Solent University for my Waterstones £100 giftcard. The most wonderful gift at a much needed time.

Books

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Falling in love with London again- Birthday brunch at Borough market, shopping and giggles

Monday, 21st of May

I just woke up. I checked my phone, sweet, wonderful messages from friends, family, even people I didn’t expect to hear from. I’ll check them out later. I need to get up.¬†

One of the first ones I read makes me giggle. I’m so lucky to have such awesome friends. Remember that next time you doubt yourself.

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Birthdays, the one day most people remember you. I always found the idea of birthdays a bit… surreal. Why do we celebrate getting older once a year? And why do we care if people remember our birthdays? Why do I care?

Artemis got me a gift. It’s been wrapped up, on the hotel’s tiny, shiny dressing table since Friday, waiting for today to open it.

She is one of my best friends and she knows me very well. So, of course I loved it. A handmade notebook. Gorgeous. Just gorgeous. I can’t wait to start using it.

(Thank you Andrea Illustration for my simply stunning wonderful gift)

My new notebook

After our last breakfast (we are leaving early for the airport tomorrow, no time for food) at the hotel we get ready and off we go. It’s sunny and warm. Perfect day to wear my favourite floral cardigan and rose earrings.¬†

We are heading to my favourite food market in London, Borough market. Freshly made smoothies, gourmet chocolates, delicious doughnuts, heavenly smelling street food, specialty tea, flowers, cheese, a lot of cheese, just some of the goodies you can find there.

My idea of heaven.

I remember the first time I’ve been to Borough Market. A sunny summer day in 2015. Costas loved doughnuts and I scoured the web to find the best ones in London, since we were about to visit. I found an article on ‘The 10 best doughnuts to try in London’ and one of them was the salted caramel and honeycomb doughnut by Bread Ahead Bakery. They had a stall at Borough market, one of the best food markets in London. Decided then. That will be our first stop. I tell Costas. He is not too bothered about it. Why am I even trying?

I went there just for the doughnuts but I left with much more. I was in awe. I loved everything about it. The rest of that day was not as exciting, we had a heated argument which almost ruined the awesome plan I made for the day but I was so proud and happy I discovered this market (and the Hunterian museum, and Brick Lane market, thoroughly recommend!), it didn’t matter much if I was right (I was) or wrong or how his behaviour made me feel. If it were for him we wouldn’t have seen any of this.¬†I wish I realised then how unhappy I was and ended it much sooner. But better late than never right? I wonder how many people are in unhappy relationships but don’t realise…

I’ve been to Borough market a couple of times since, and I loved every single one of them.

After devouring-ish (we couldn’t finish them!) our delicious tomato, pesto and mozzarella sandwiches and grabbing a salted caramel and honeycomb doughnut and cinnamon bun for later,¬† we wandered in Oxford Street going in and out of shops. We must have spent an hour or so laughing whilst trying sunglasses in TK Maxx. We left with a couple of pairs each, just because we look supercool in them.

We used to love shopping in our early 20s. Now we do as little as possible. How people change when they grow up and stop caring too much about clothes and other materialistic needs¬† that don’t matter anymore.

Whilst Artemis was in Primark shopping for her little one, I opted for a cup of coffee and a piece of fruit cake and caught up with my birthday messages.

I accidentally opened a work-related email. I don’t check my emails when I’m off work, how did this happen?

And I find out, Dave, our boss is leaving. Very soon. He is going to the Asian University of Women, in Bangladesh, very soon. How soon is very soon? 

I couldn’t believe it. I message Donna, she confirms. Almost instantly I feel sad. Happy for him, this is once in a lifetime opportunity at an inspirational University, they are so lucky to have him, but so so sad he is leaving.

You don’t come across people like him often. I’ll write about it when I get the chance. He deserves a whole post.

When we were done with shopping it was time for Artemis to finally try Wagamama for the first time. One of the few chains I like. I tried their udon noodles, because one of the greatest pleasures in life is tasting food you’ve never tasted before. That very first bite, when you don’t know what to expect…and then… the explosion of flavours in your mouth, followed by the almost reflective ‘mmmm’, the universal sign of delicious food…

Wagamama

We spent our last evening packing, chatting, planning our next adventure, a perfect end to my 32nd birthday, I day I’ll always remember.

Tuesday, 22nd of May

We got up very early. We are so sleepy we can barely see. We somehow make it to the airport, after a packed tube and train ride.

I love London and the last three days have been amazing. It always makes me want to move here. But that packed tube and train ride persuades me otherwise. I couldn’t possibly do this every day… or maybe I can, I guess it’s all about getting used to it. We humans are incredible adjusting, adapting…I can get used to it. But what if I don’t? I thought I’d get used to having a flatmate but I still hate it… maybe some things you can’t get used to… or maybe it takes more time. Why am I thinking of this now? I’m not even moving to London!!!

I walk Artemis to the security check gates, give her a big hug  and wave her goodbye.

I’m on my own again. I feel a bit lost. I had a cry. I’m so grateful, blessed to have spent the last three days with one of my favourite humans.

I still don’t know how I feel about turning 32. One moment I’m happy I’m alive, healthy and I’m not stuck in a miserable relationship, I have awesome friends and family who love me, I get to do whatever I want to and I have a job it pays well enough so I can live on my own again, next minute I feel bad I haven’t figured out what I want to do for a living yet, sad that I may never have my own family, since I’m now in my early thirties, but I won’t compromise just for the sake of it, I deserve better, worried that I won’t get to travel as much as I want to, I’ll never have enough money to follow my dreams and the list goes on…

One day at a time dear…

After a quick coffee, I head back to Southampton.

I finally finished reading Love In The Time Of Cholera. I cried again. I’m not sure what to think of Florentino Ariza and his lifetime love for Fermina. It’s sad, it’s so sad, how can someone love another human for 40 years and still chase her in his 70s even though she rejected him so many times? Was it a happy ending? Was it sad? Bittersweet I guess. Like life. A happy melancholy…hah

Namaste

Eleni

A different kind of Monday

Happy Monday!

I started this blog last night but I was really tired I couldn’t finish it. So posting it first thing in the morning for a change.

Today is a different kind of Monday. I’m not dreading it. Much. It’s still Monday….

But tomorrow night I’m heading to the airport. And on Wednesday, early morning I’ll reunite with my best friends, my soulmates, my sisters!

We will spend two days in Florence and four days in Rome. First time in Italy, for all of us. I can’t even describe how excited I am!

To explore a new country, a country I wanted to visit for so long, but the circumstances didn’t allow it, and to do that with my sisters, first time we’ll all be on holiday at a country other than home (Cyprus) or… home (UK) is overwhelmingly amazing.

I spent Saturday doing chores, with a break for coffee and catch the last rays of sunshine with my bestie and to get new books to read from Oxfam as I finished Perfume (review coming soon!).

Yesterday I completely lost concentration, I started worrying whether my sisters will make it to Rome, what if I miss my flight and a wave of other irrational thoughts made their way in and I felt lost. I didn’t know what thing to do first on my long to-do list. But after my Yoga practice (which co-incidentally was about mental focus and concentration, what are the chances!) I focused on the session’s mantra- I got this!- and got on with almost everything I needed to do. Only a couple last minute things to do today after work and I’m all set!

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I recently started meditating and practising mindfulness when I can’t sleep, which happens often and it definitely made a difference! I’ll write about it when I get the chance.

I’ve once read that more than often people crave a holiday and plan everything to the dot and then are disappointed when the time comes as their expectations don’t match reality. Which makes sense.

But I love doing the opposite. Exploring and see where it leads rather than meticulous planning is my favourite thing to do and it never failed. That’s what Shebz and I did in Berlin last year and we had the best of times.

And I’m sure Italy won’t let me down!

I know it’s only a short break, (which includes FriendsFest in London after Italy!) and it won’t change my life, or maybe it will, you never know, but it’s exactly what I need right now.

It will be incredible if I meet an Italian hunk and we go sailing in the Mediterranean afterwards rather than come back, as I’ve been joking for the last week, but it’s highly unlikely that will happen. A girl can only dream though!

I still have high hopes for September!

I’ll miss blogging but my next one will be a special one! A travel post (which will of course include local cuisine) on bella Italia.

I will be posting snaps on my Insta if you want to follow my Italian ventures.

Until then…

Namaste

Eleni

Awakenings

It’s Sunday afternoon-ish and I’m sat at Mettricks, a local cafe. On my own. Enjoying a scrummy smoothie.

I sat at a cafe on my own before, but is the first time I’ve done it in a while. And for some reason I felt nervous on my way here. I don’t really know why. But as soon as I sat down I forgot all about it. I spend a lot of time on my own lately, mostly by choice. I can’t believe a year ago I struggled to get used to living on my own and now I can’t imagine my life any other way. We humans are incredible. It always amazes me how we can adapt and change through time.

Anyway, I thought instead of writing my posts at home, I’ll start going to local, independent cafes (not chains, soz fans of Starbucks and Costa’s, they already earn HUGE money, better to support your community instead).

So today, I’m at Mettricks. I like it here. I come here often as is close to work and home. Great food and drinks, probably the best coffee in town, lovely service (just been served my smoothie by this cute waiter who thought I was knitting-I was unravelling the lead of my headphones-, little did he know I have all the knitting equipment- a birthday gift by my lovely colleagues as I always wanted to learn how to make my own hairbands- I just didn’t get around to it, although it would have been hilarious if I brought everything at the cafe and started knitting) and most of the time is not crazy busy. ¬†Although right now there are some loud Greeks sitting opposite me (Greeks and Cypriots are probably the loudest, being a Cypriot myself I can spot them from a distance), which is annoying as I can’t hear my own thoughts, but hey, that’s what headphones are for.

So… back to the theme of this post. Awakenings!

A couple of months ago I went to the Uni’s library to grab some books on CBT. I couldn’t find the ones I wanted but I was drawn to a book with the eye catching title ‘The Man Who Mistook His Wife For a Hat’ by the famous British Neurologist Oliver Sacks. Gutted I haven’t discovered him earlier, I’d have loved to meet him if possible or at least email him, but unfortunately he died two years ago.

In the book Dr Sack describes his weirdest, most unique cases, including autistic twins who could quickly calculate what day any date in the future would be but couldn’t do simple maths, extreme cases of amnesia (the Lost Mariner was one of my favourite), music epilepsy (one lady could hear music in her head ALL the time and it turns out the song she could hear was of a childhood memory she could not remember before) and the one which inspired the title of the book. I won’t go into more detail otherwise the post will only be about this book but I’ll briefly tell you about the story behind the title.

This highly intelligent, music lover, incredible man, who mistook his wife for a hat was suffering from visual agnosia, which meant ¬†although his vision was intact, he couldn’t recognise objects or faces, and at one of his visits at the doctor’s, whilst trying to find his hat he grabbed his wife’s head by accident instead.

It’s fascinating to read and highly recommended. You’ll learn a lot about the brain and how a small brain dysfunction can severely disrupt someone’s life but also how people learn how to cope and come up with ingenious ways to learn to help them live with their illness.

I finished that book in three days and I was so impressed by Dr Sacks I bought, probably his most famous book, Awakenings (which has now adapted to theatre plays, podcasts and the infamous Awakenings movie with Robert De Niro and Robin Williams, more on the movie below).

It took me a while to finish it, as I was on holiday and I finally read the last page a week ago.

Awakenings, if you haven’t heard of it or watched the movie, is about a group of Dr Sacks’ patients at a hospital in New York who suffered from the 1920’s encephalitis lethargica epidemic. This horrible disease attacks the brain and leaves most victims speechless, motionless, trapped in their own body, never asleep but never fully awake.

Dr Sacks came across the ‘miracle’ drug L-Dopa that used to treat his patients in the hope they ‘ll come back to life. And something amazing happened. They all ‘woke up’. They could now move, talk, feed themselves. Some went on to live a relatively normal life but for a lot of them it didn’t last long.

Administering chemicals to the brain has unpredictable consequences and the majority of his patients had horrible side effects, some of which never went away.

Every single case he describes is sad, emotional and inspiring all at once.

But I haven’t only learned that any drug that affects the brain cannot be expected to behave as any other drugs. The amount of chemicals in the brain and the complex interactions between the different parts of it will never allow a simple reaction to any drug.

I learnt how amazing human interaction and affection can be and how it can really do miracles. The majority, if not all patients would react better to the drug if they felt loved and if others, their doctors and nurses, their loved ones, cared about them. How magnificent that is. Even when suffering from one of the most debilitating, complicating brain illnesses, other humans can make or break you.

When the hospital was briefly under a different direction, it became more ‘institutionalised’ and less ‘human’. ¬†During that short time, all patients’ side effects became dramatically worse.

Treatment is not just about dealing with the physical symptoms, is not just ‘mechanical’ but should take into consideration the human, emotional, psychological element, the individual, something Dr Sacks was very passionate about, and at the time was not common practice (unfortunately it still happens nowadays, we’ve all came across a doctor who would not pay too much attention to what we are saying and how an illness can affects us and will just prescribe us some drugs and that’s it).

I was impressed on how well or equally bad patients reacted to ‘waking up’. Some could not handle at all how they came back to life 30 years later, they were older and the world as they knew it ceased to exist. Others never felt bitter or regret but were grateful they were given another chance in life.

And finally what shines through the book is Dr Sacks’ love for his patients. For him they were never ‘just patients’. He deeply cared about every single one of them until he died.

As I mentioned earlier, the book has been adapted into films, podcasts and so on but the most famous adaptation was the 1990 Oscar-nominated film ‘Awakenings’.

On one of the last chapters, Dr Sacks talks about all the book adaptations at the time, especially the ones he found closest to reality.

I didn’t watch the film before finishing the book (although I might have watched it years ago but I could remember very little), and I’m glad I didn’t. As vividly described in the book, the whole movie cast ¬†visited the hospital and watched the patients to try and portray their behavior as accurately as possible. Robin Williams (one of my favourite actors of all time) who played Dr Sacks spent hours and days with him, studying his mannerisms, the way he spoke, the way he talked and Dr Sacks himself was impressed on how well he played him in the film.

Most amazingly Robert De Niro not only spent days with patients, he even visited some of Dr Sacks’ patients in the UK. He would stay in role even when they were not filming. At one occasion he would walk as if he was still Leonard (the patient he portrays in the film) with his feet twisted and he wouldn’t even realise.

If you happen to watch the movie, pay attention to all his tics, the scene were he has a major oculogyric crisis, the way he walks and talks. Based on Dr Sacks’ observations, you wouldn’t know that he was acting. That’s how a encephalitis lethargica patient behaved in real life.

Leonard was one of Dr Sacks’ favourite patients. He was extremely intelligent, loved reading (he graduated from Harvard and almost finished his PhD before his illness became too severe) and although he couldn’t speak at all he could spell on his little board. After his miracle awakening, his reaction to L-Dopa was horrendous and he asked to be taken off it. He died years later from infection, just after the drug started working for him again. How sad but what an amazing man he was.

There is a 1973 documentary with the original patients and Dr Sacks himself which I just found online and can’t wait to watch. It wasn’t easy to find. If you are interested let me know and I’ll send you a link.

The film differs to the movie as you’d expect with any film adaptation but is one of the very few if not the only book-to-film adaptation I actually liked. It’s sad, emotional and inspirational all at once, just like the book.

I’ve learned more than I’d expect from Awakenings and that’s why I love reading.

So, that’s it for today! I hope you enjoyed it.

It’s much easier to concentrate and write a post here rather than home. I think that’s my new thing. I might try Mettricks again maybe when it’s a bit quieter but any recommendations of local cafes in the city will be appreciated ūüôā

Until next time… take care.

Eleni x

 

 

Happy by Derren Brown

‘We do not need to fear the world, or treat it with suspicion. Any monsters that dwell there are our own’

I just finished reading Happy- Why more or less everything is absolutely fine by Derren Brown.

And I could not recommend it highly enough.

I started composing an Instagram post but it was becoming too long so I thought I’d write about it here instead.

Most people know Derren Brown as a magician, showman, painter or even photographer but he is an incredibly intelligent, knowledgeable, modern day philosopher who writes amazingly beautifully.

I’ve read all of his books, but this is definitely my favourite.

Funny, informative, wise, beautifully written (I had to google a lot of words, you might not need to if English is your first language), emotional.

He starts with a brief history of how happiness has been defined through time, from the ancient Greeks, who if you haven’t read any of their work, I’d urge you to (I studied ancient Greek at school (which I didn’t enjoy much) but when you are a 16 year old going through the teenage years, with not many experiences in life, you cannot fully comprehend the value of it), to religion and how it changed the way humans viewed happiness (i.e that is OK to suffer in this life because you will be rewarded and be happy after you die) to today’s sheer optimism and beliefs that if you really want something it will happen- spoiler alert- it won’t.

He follows that with how to apply stoic methods in your life, how to deal with anger, hurt and fame and then with my favourite part of the whole book, ‘happy endings’ in which he discusses about a fear we all have, the fear of death, how to die well and how to live now.

There is too much in the book I can possibly share in a post but what I kept:

  • There are only two things you can control, your thoughts and your actions (which is not easy I know, but it’s under your control). Anything else, and I mean ANYTHING else is completely out of your control. You can set as many life goals as you want but you can only the do the best you can, that doesn’t mean you can reach them because life, fate, luck, other people are out of your control. ¬†The only realistic goal you can set is to do the best of your abilities.

 

  • On that note, you can’t control others’ behavior and actions, but you can control yours. That is SO important to realise, although is hard.

 

  • Do not compare yourself with everyone else. You haven’t had the same upbringing, life experiences, luck.

 

  • We are all scared of dying. But if you think about it, ¬†if we were immortals nothing would really matter. There will be nothing to look forward to because at some point we would have done it all, and we will eventually get bored. And there is nothing to fear about because we have been there. Before we were born, our brain and body didn’t exist, we were ‘dead’ before we came to life. That took me a while to digest!

 

  • After we die, we live ¬†through the memories of our loved ones. Because when they think of us, they think of how we thought and behaved and every time they think of us, a tiny version of us is replicated in their brain, for that moment their brain functions in a similar way our brain did. What a beautiful revelation! We really die when our name has been spoken for the last ever time. So what’s the best we can do? Do good, help others, create amazing memories and share them with your loved ones and the world.

 

  • Debra. Everything about this lovely lady truly touched me. Debra was a fan of Derren who was diagnosed with terminal cancer and kept in contact with Derren until she died. There is something special about terminally ill people who I don’t think I can understand unless it happens to me. They only do what they really want to because the little time they have left is precious and not to be wasted. They enjoy and cherish every moment. They live in the now. They have reached high levels of mindfulness and this clarity of mind that is incredibly hard to achieve.

So what is the best way to live? Although your past has taught you a lot, is in the past. You should learn to recognise how it affected and affects you but leave it in the past. It does not define you. Remember you control your thoughts so you can change the way your past is affecting you.

Find the right balance between living in the moment and the future. A year ago I used to believe that living in the moment and not make any plans for the future or even think about the future was the way forward but a couple of months before I read this book, I realised that living in the moment is still important but without having something to look forward to, without a future, it feels pointless. And after reading this book, it all makes sense.

And finally, ‘good enough’ is good enough. There is nothing wrong with living a ‘good enough’ life.

Love you all x

Eleni