A Letter to Myself Today

Dear Mina,

This is an important year. You are at peace, there’s a warm glow in your heart, and you’re living awake.

You’re strong, resilient, and pliable enough to know now that it’s not about one’s own might.

You’re worthy. And you’re believing in that, one day at a time.

This year you allowed yourself to be known and seen, to be helped and cared for. This is a wealth freely given to you by God. Cherish it.

The last 7 months have been a string of little deaths, the quiet execution of old plans, defenses, and traits. And there is a rumbling in the rubble, an equally quiet emergence of someone you’ll soon to get to know as the hidden you. A Mina that is not the final product, but certainly a first draft of the genuine you. You and I are both the process of writing the draft and living out the draft, one day at a time. We are the daily process.

A lukewarm wind is gliding past your arm. The sun is hot, it’s a calm and unassuming sweat today. It’s just us on this pier. There is some longing in you, for it to have been two. But this moment is enough. And you’re documenting the particular marks of this longing.

The party has come to our street. Let the contentment begin.

A Midnight Gem by the Beach

Sometimes, you just discover gems because you’re willing to be curious.

I went for a midnight walk to Hässelby Strand, a nearby beach. I heard some familiar sounds from a distance, it was coming from the barbeque area.

It turned out to be a Middle Eastern ensemble (“takht“) jamming or rehearsing.

I stopped to listen and record.


Lessons from My Longest Ever Relationship

Cranely, as I adopted him

In October last year, I took home from work an ordinary-looking potted plant. I was actually in the process of moving, so a new plant for my new apartment was an exciting prospect. It was both exciting and daunting. All sense of routine, maintenance, and discipline were matters still difficult for me to integrate into my daily life. And here I was, about to care for a plant.

My therapist said to me, take care of a plant, then get a pet, then you’ll be ready for a relationship with a woman. It seemed the wrong way around to me – you get the plant and pet once you have the woman and you’re living together! The delusion of the Middle Class Dream – the apartment, the woman, the pets, the boat, the villa in the countryside – was still upon me, so anything that questioned that dream-delusion seemed ridiculous. However, I had looked at my life and past relationships. It was just rubble. It wouldn’t hurt to try a new approach.

I gave the plant a name – Cranley.

Cranley, first day at home

So for the month before I moved, I watered Cranley every day, sometimes twice a day. I did no research or asked people how to care for plants. I just went on my own crazy conception of love and care, which was often full-on mania. Soon enough, my sister tempered my enthusiasm with some reality: you don’t need to water Cranley every day. I didn’t want him to die. I was on a journey, dammit! Plant – dog – woman. Nothing would hold me back…

I watered him every day. When I travelled, I made sure my sister or brother-in-law would take care of him. And when they were away, I asked another acquaintance to care for him. I made his watering a part of my daily routines. I sometimes played some music for him – classical, blues, jazz.

Just don’t die, Cranley. You can’t be another casualty of Mina.

He soon occupied an important part on the marble window sill in my kitchen. And I moved my medication next to him, so that there was now a marrying of my health and his health. Half of the glass of water is for me, the other half is for him.

I did this, day in and day out. I looked at him. Sometimes, I stared. I wondered if he would grow. Would he ever grow? I worried when he wilted or he didn’t seem to respond to the water.

I bought fertilizer and a special spray. I read up on about his species and how to care for him. After using them for a while, Cranley seemed to bloom and flourish.

I felt more secure in my part in the relationship. I was showing up and doing my part every day.

It’s been about 7 months now since Cranley came into my care. He hasn’t died. His arms are becoming gangly and there’s this wonderful light-brown tinge to some of his leaves. When I walk into the kitchen, I’m happy to see him. His arms tilt into the window, leaning into the Swedish sun.

Cranley has made no demands in this relationship. But now that he is in my care, I feed him, I make sure his pot is clean and not filled with water, and I prune his stems in order for more leaves to sprout. He gets the best sunshine in the apartment and sometimes, I just sit there and look at him.

That whole advice of a plant before an animal before another person is not about following a script, but rather learning how to be self-less, how to adjust your life so that another being occupies place in your mind and heart. In the center of this advice is the relationship with myself, one-half of Team Mina and Cranley. I care enough about myself to drink water and take medication every day. I do fun and spiritually nourishing things every day, like making art, to stay in balance. A healthy, present Mina is a Mina who is able to be present for Cranley.

I’ve had smirks and furrowed brows at having a plant as a pet because that’s how I introduce him – my pet Cranley! He doesn’t lick his balls or purr, but he is alive and he is worthy of love. He doesn’t even ask for it. He just sits there every day, living, breathing, and basking in the sun. And when I don’t feed him, he doesn’t complain. But over time, he dies because he hasn’t eaten.

When I looked at my past and examined what had gone wrong in relationships, I saw how selfish and reckless I was. Most of the relationships were about what I needed and wanted, and rarely involved being there for the other person. When it didn’t work out the way I wanted, I abandoned them. When I felt threatened or afraid, I ran. When I let others influence me, I dropped them from a great height. And all humans are made of porcelain, not stone.

That “all humans” includes me, too. The toll of what I have done is equal to the magnitude of the shame that I had made a part of my being. I’ve done shit and I am shit. Taking care of this silent, beautiful plant changes shame to acceptance and gives me hope for the future.

Happy anniversary, Cranley. You’re rather wonderful.


Wordless Intimacy

Credits: DodgertonSkilllhause

A couple sat in front of me on the underground today. They both took out their phones on settling in. He put his hand though on her thigh and it just stayed there.

Every now and then, they would come up for air from their phones, to leave little feather kisses on each other’s mouthes. It was truly beautiful and sublime to watch.

Every time they did it, it seemed like they would slow down as their lips touched. It wasn’t rushed, like kiss me so I can get back to Facebook, but rather I’ll meet you here in this moment.

Two people on their way to work, average-looking like I am, present and together, even as they’re doing different things, not having to talk or chit-chat to be together, their intimacy woven together with selfless physical contact and light kisses.

I really saw intimacy in action today.

Singing Again

The last time was November 2013, months after I broke up my band The Howlin’ Shibanski. The quiet acoustic gig at an empty bar only deepened my sadness and emptiness, rather than provided the closure or hope that I thirsted for.

I’ll write about the band some other time.

Tonight, I performed three songs at an open-mic event in downtown Stockholm.

It was more of a personal triumph more than a successful performance. I didn’t turn into Douche Mina again. I was scared, nervous, and vulnerable. Nervous, frozen fingers didn’t stop from playing, I smiled and continued.

And when I hit the high or bolted the strong notes, I came alive.

I’ll practice and get back again to play. I don’t need the stage to feel whole or at home, I have that in myself and elsewhere now. But I am alive when I sing and play my music.

[New] Writing Should Be Read Out Loud – Why You’re Not Over Your Ex

Woman and Grief

This is a new idea that I’m exploring.

I’ve been reading a lot of good writing over the past couple of years. Do you ever read it out loud in your mind, as you go along? I’ve been doing that since I was young.

Writing, especially good writing, should be read out loud. Sometimes we can only hear the genius of a turn of phrase or construction when it hits our ears.

So, here’s my first recording of Why You’re Not Over Your Ex by Kris Gage.

Recorded with written permission from the author.

Featured image via x1klima on Flickr (CC BY-ND 2.0)


Looking Back on the Doodle Challenge

30 days of real joy

This past Wednesday was my first submission for the 30-Day Doodle Challenge. I think I actually grew as a person during this challenge!

My fellow Kivran Danning asked me a month ago if I wanted to do the challenge with her. I had hangups about making art or drawing, but I went against them and just said yes. Just like with the Colories project, I’m moved by people’s reception of the posts, the amount of new people I’ve met on Instagram, and the amount of new artists I’ve discovered on the platform.

The Process

The goal was to doodle every day for a month. I started out by drawing on paper with pencil, but I felt frustrated by my lack of technique. I ended up just judging what I was doing.  So, I switched over to digital drawing and I felt liberated by the medium.

I really enjoyed making this series. Even when I couldn’t draw what I felt or saw in my mind’s eye, every piece felt like an achievement for me.

There was no prior deliberation or preparation for the style or themes. Apart from the 2 submissions that were pencil drawings, I used Adobe Illustrator Draw and Autodesk SketchBook.

First Post

Last Post

Favorite Pieces

A friend and former co-worker told me recently, “Don’t scrutinize what you do.” Really priceless advice.

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#doodle 10 #doodlechallenge2018 #doodlechallenge

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The brushes in Sketchbook are just spectacular. The final product really expressed how I was that day – serene and hopeful.

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#doodle 11 #doodlechallenge2018 #doodlechallenge

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This one felt like I doodled on a wall.

This one from day 12 speaks to me because of the thickness and density of the brush strokes.

I kept on thinking of pointillism, as I did this and other similar pieces. I liked the idea of the extreme control in producing dots or points.

Lessons Learned

  1. Pick and run with the simplest tool. I probably would have given up, had I continued with pencil drawings. There is value in just picking the simplest tool and making whatever you can with it.
  2. Artists are just people who make art. I never dared making art before because I thought I needed someone’s acknowledgement or a degree from an art school.
  3. Constraints deepen the process. Just dabbing at the screen was fun, but I learned more and produced more interesting ideas when I enforced some constraint on myself – working with complementary colors, only points, only lines, and so on. It spurred me to be both conscious of technique and push myself further.

What’s Next?

A friend told me that I should look into art school. I’m going to do that! Shout-out to her for the encouragement and vote of confidence.

I’m writing down words and ideas for a longer series about our inner emotional and thought lives.

Finally, I’m sketching or drawing every day on my tablet, without posting it online.

Looking Back on the Colories Series

What started off as a curiosity with what could be done with a rubber duck, became a month-long comics series. I have been really moved by people’s reception of the posts, the amount of new people I’ve met on there, and the range of people I’ve encountered.

Yesterday was the last post on Instagram.

seize the sky.
ep 30, Colories

I wanted to reflect on the process, my favorite posts, lessons learned, and what’s next.

The Process

The goal was to produce a piece within an hour or two every day, for as long as the idea or concept seemed interesting to me. I didn’t want to get bogged down in the production or execution or polish. I just wanted to make art every day.

I really enjoyed making this series. Sometimes, I would get the idea a few minutes before taking the photo. And at other times, an idea would come to me and simmer for a while.

There was no prior deliberation or preparation for the style or themes. I decided all that when I took the shot. This kept me out of my head and ensured that the idea would be simple.

A few times, I ran out of ideas and so I would play with a cultural reference, pun, or simple using a prop.

ep 27, Colories – can you guess the reference?
ep 24, Colories – “turnin’ trix on myself”
ep 20, Colories – “amongst the scraps”

My Favorite Posts

Episode 16

“I’m a shit sandwich”

Episode 8

It was fun making the double exposures in Photoshop.

                          “all over the place”

Episode 1

I found the card in some advertisements in my mail.

“we’re OK and you’re OK”

Episode 7

My first stop-motion animation film. I really became interested in the medium because of this episode. There’s a separate write-up here.

Lessons Learned

  1. Show up every day. I made this a part of my daily morning routine and it paid off. I looked forward to producing something, even on days where I felt low or empty. The process, rather than inspiration, carried me.
  2. Listen to the weirdest idea. This is risky at first because it’s counter-intuitive. I thought that weird had to be planned or part of some greater theme. But just noticing and then following through with a weird idea is satisfying.
  3. Don’t get bogged down in execution. Enforcing the external constraint of time (doing it quickly) helped me stay pragmatic in how I would make the episode.
  4. It doesn’t have to be episodic to be episodic. The whole series is more an exploration of feelings and states, rather than a conventional narrative of a rubber duck. Sometimes, it was about me and sometimes the duck personified an idea or a problem, or just a human struggle. Keeping it loose and going also helped me to stay current and just keep on producing.

What’s Next?

I’m about to finish a 30-day doodle challenge. I will write a similar post about that.

And then… I want to make more art! And learn how to draw. And paint digitally out in the world.

Keep checking back!