I am grateful.



I am grateful. This thought, more than anything at the moment, occupies my mind.

As many things as there are in this world that drive me batty and leave me constantly questioning our humanity, how we as a species got here and how we may ever hope to advance, I haven’t lost sight of the fact that my life is pretty damn good.

Is it perfect? Hell no. But, it is perfect for me.

I’m insanely fortunate to have married the one person on this planet with whom I don’t mind spending 24 / 7 / 365. Good thing, too, because we do spend an inordinate amount of time together given that we both work from home. As odd as it may sound, I’m looking forward to our holiday so we can spend more quality time together without distractions such as email and the 24-hour news cycle.

I know love, both from my families and from friends literally all over this crazy, big world, even if I don’t see many of the people I love as often as I’d like.

And, I have a job I absolutely love, amongst colleagues who are incredibly talented and in the midst of students who challenge me to do better and work harder, a challenge I gladly accept. It isn’t a particularly high prestige job, it doesn’t involve travel to exotic locations any longer and it doesn’t break the bank, but I am grateful every day to have found this job at this time in my life. There are no ‘bad’ days at the office; but, even the less than perfect days leave me smiling.

More than these things, I know peace and comfort and security, which are merely reflections of where and to whom I was born rather than any sort of accomplishment on my part. These are not small, insignificant things although they are intangible. I see them as extreme privileges many only dream of attaining, and I am grateful.

I also know that I drive many around me nuts, bitching about what’s wrong in and with this world, never mind my persistent moaning about the endless Finnish winter. I may not be able to do much about the weather or climate much to my chagrin, but, as naïve as it may be, I’d like everyone to enjoy the fortunes I’ve been afforded and enjoyed merely as consequence of my nationality if not heritage.

I’d like the poor to know the joy of guilty pleasures without sacrificing food or heat or a place to rest. I’d like those who live in conflict zones to find themselves unable to sleep from the safe silence that envelops them as they lay down at night. I’d like the persecuted to be surrounded in a sea of acceptance and love. And, I’d like those left hopeless to find themselves blinded by possibility and opportunity.

I am grateful. And, I want a better world for all. I don’t see these statements as inherently contradictory. I see them as complimentary and representing possibilities to give something back for all that I have been granted.

‘Please, be kind’.

As with most of the world, Paris has been on my mind. Not merely because of the tragic and senseless loss of life and, along with it, our collective loss of naïvety and innocence (once again). But, mostly because of our indefatigable ability to dichotomise one another.

Us versus them. Black versus white. West versus East. Developed versus undeveloped. Peace versus war. Trust versus suspicion. Right versus  wrong. Christian versus Muslim. Ad nauseum.

What happened in Paris obviously horrified me, just as it did everyone else. But, what I found particularly difficult to process was not the events themselves, but our collective inability to find any sort of empathy or understanding of how our words affect one another. The way in which we talked about terrorism and those who seek to terrorise left me nauseous. The words we chose and to whom we directed them horrified me more in some ways.

I watched as individuals I trusted and respected very quickly spewed the worst sort of hate speech and condemned entire groups of individuals, casting the term ‘them’ cavalierly, thus rendering specific groups entirely unworthy of trust or dignity. Unworthy of a chance. Or unworthy of a better life.

I watched and read how we should divide ourselves further, even if we fundamentally agree with one another. ‘Let’s put larger, stronger fences whilst bombing others into the last millennium.’ Facts and statistics didn’t matter much. Only that there was an ‘us’ and a ‘them’, and these were completely categorical with no shades of grey nor replete with ambiguity.

Many posts and rants left me thinking, ‘the terrorists have won’. This is somehow more troubling than the events themselves. And, it’s this that has left me sleepless on more than one night.

I don’t have any answers regarding how we collectively address terrorism or prevent / foil another 9/11 or Paris or Beirut or how to make those ideological differences less divisive. But, I do know that hating someone simply because they are different from me isn’t going to help me feel safer. It’s certainly not going to do much to make my world safer. Partitioning my world to include only those who are right whilst excluding those who are wrong merely begs the question: who defines who’s right and who’s wrong? If our impulse is to cast doubt on those different to us, or assume that all members of group X are to blame for the actions of a few or are all somehow inferior to group [insert demographic here], we are doomed.

There will be no solutions and there will be no safety nor security. And, there will be many, many more Parises in the years to come. Hating is easy; acceptance and understanding are hard, but necessary.

This past summer, at the conclusion of a five-show run of the surviving members of the Grateful Dead, drummer Mickey Hart implored us all to ‘please, be kind‘. Challenge accepted, Mickey. Those words have played over and over and over in my mind since July, and ever more increasingly in the wake of Paris.

‘Kill them with kindness’ shall remain my mantra and modus operandi, although I certainly hope no one dies. It costs nothing and may prove invaluable. Rather than engage in hatred or vehement disagreement, I shall choose respect and quiet contemplation. It may not make much difference. But, it beats the alternative. And, in my mind and heart, love will always conquer hatred.



*NB: This post was inspired by a discussion with a close friend who lives far-too-far away. Thanks, Karen! x

Bringing a different perspective into focus

Lately, perhaps because of the darkness that descends upon Helsinki at this time of year or merely a reflection of the state of the world we inhabit and a year filled with equal measures of disappointments and delightful surprises, processing events and putting them into context has proved somewhat difficult. Perpetual whiplash and roller coasters could not be more fitting metaphors for my life — I have loved this past year and found it infuriatingly disappointing for entirely different reasons. Finding and holding on to bits of loveliness and hope remain elusive at best and altogether impossible at moments, yet there is an element of bipolarity given the innumerable moments of unbelievable joy I’ve experienced as well. It’s maddening.

My husband came up with an idea for a photography project, which I not only love but it piqued my interest not simply because of the characters he chose (more on that later). But, his idea got me thinking about ways to highlight the goodness that may remain hidden on the darkest of days. And, how I might find an alternative perspective allowing me to process the craziness and chaos that permeates life, or to at least ignore that craziness and enjoy the chaos just a little a bit.

Yaima the Llama

Yaima the Llama

I give you The Adventures of Yaima the Llama.

I honestly have no idea where this little project will go, or what sort of revelations if any it may provide. To be perfectly frank, the project itself remains a bit nebulous and free form to me still. (I suppose there’s nothing particularly wrong with organic planning, eh?) But, I do hope it allows me a bit of a different, alternative perspective on the world around me.

So, what is this project? Well, Yaima (pronounced ‘Yai-EE-mah’) is now my constant companion (along with a camera), tucked safely in one or another bag. Whenever I see something which intrigues me, delights me or perplexes me, she comes out, a picture is taken, and I’m reminded to stop and reflect.

I suppose I’m thinking of this project as an extension or addition to the idea behind Proekt 365.  I’m hoping that Yaima allows me to shift ever-so-slightly how I observe and interact with the world around me, places which inspire me and the individuals who ground me in one way or another. Ultimately, I’m hoping that I may focus more on what’s right rather than what’s wrong. But, also, I’m really hoping that Yaima serves as a reminder to slow down and take time out to truly enjoy those joyous occasions and be IN them more completely.

This is an incredibly perplexing world, particularly given recent and on-going events. Regardless of those tragedies which play out on the world’s stage, there are an infinite number of seemingly insignificant yet unimaginably lovely moments. So, here’s to focusing on those more. Onward…


I will not be terrorised

From a weekend in Paris in October 2010.

Findings words today seems impossible, if not entirely futile. Attempting to understand the insanity of yesterday’s events is proving less possible.

As my husband and I learned what was happening last night after a carefree evening in good company, we wondered if this was the new world order. Was this the new normal, where daily we go about our business knowing that another terror attack is likely, yet remain clueless as to where, by whom and against whom such attacks would occur? The scale of events in Beirut and Paris doesn’t pale in comparison to 9/11, yet the unpredictability rekindles the terrifying realities we all experienced that day. The seeming randomness once again leaves us wondering, ‘is our safe, peaceful life about to transform forever’?

But, that’s the point, no? To leave us so terrified that we fight through our support of another war in the guise of retaliation and justice against ‘people’ from no country at all, or huddle behind closed doors and barricaded borders fearing encounters with a nameless, faceless but ideologically foreign ‘enemy’.

As much as I do not understand what drives anyone to such lengths to commit acts of terrorism, I also do not and cannot support an equally oppressive and violent reaction to it.

I will no be terrorised. I will not refrain from travel or random encounters with strangers. I will not refrain from sympathising or empathising with those different from me. I will not live in fear of the unknown nor look at strangers as enemies, real or imagined.

At a time when it seems hate and darkness creep ever further across the social and cultural landscapes when we most need to practice compassion and understanding, Dr King’s words from Strength to Love run repeatedly through my mind:

Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that. Hate multiplies hate, violence multiplies violence, and toughness multiplies toughness in a descending spiral of destruction. So when Jesus says “Love your enemies,” he is setting forth a profound and ultimately inescapable admonition. Have we not come to such an impasse in the modern world that we must love our enemies–or else? The chain reaction of evil–hate begetting hate, wars producing wars–must be broken, or we shall be plunged into the dark abyss of annihilation.

I will not be terrorised. I will not hate. And, I will not lose hope that we may all find a peaceful way through the darkness.