Need for Reflection


Imagine the world without mirrors…

But what is there to imagine? Such world existed for thousands of years, the world not knowing this perfectly reflecting glass we call mirrors today. But could people live without checking their reflection on the surface of some shiny object? Not at all. People used polished brass plates or quiet lake’s water to look at themselves. The old myth of Narcissus tells a story of a young man spending the whole day on the river bank and staring at his beautiful face troubled only with river’s flow.

People need mirrors. If they don’t have them, they invent them. They look for mirrors even within themselves. Leo Tolstoy called human eyes the mirror of the soul. Modern philosophers like Jiddu Krishnamurti claim persons themselves to be mirrors of each other. Whatever happens to this world, nothing will happen to mirrors as we will find something to replace the broken glass.

Why do we depend on our reflections so much? Why do we need its constant confirmation of our existence?

We are born, and almost immediately we look for appreciation. “Mommy, look at me! Dad, have I done it right? Darling, do I look fat to you?”

The habit to check within the outer world is the oldest one ever. But we can’t trust only someone’s opinion about us, it would keep us unbalanced; we need some support from inside, we want to check ourselves if that what everybody can see is really true, and the mirror is your first friend here, it’s a tool that always says the truth in case you dare to see it as to be honest with yourself is the most difficult task in life.

I don’t want to imagine the world without mirrors; it would be the place where I’d have no choice to have my own opinion, where I’d depend only on someone else’s beliefs. I don’t want this; I want to see everything on my own.


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No Pain, More Gain

“No pain, no gain,” they say. They are wrong. You can gain many things easily and with pleasure, like weight, for example, while having birthday cakes for breakfast, lunch and dinner. What can be hard is losing all that you gained.

I know, I am not supposed to read this saying this way, but I was tempted. A birthday cake’s on my mind.

Speaking seriously, I don’t believe in pain as the major means to achieve your goals. Yes, you have to work towards them, yes, you have to make some efforts, but all these efforts don’t have to be a torture. Unless you are a masochist and torture is a pleasure for you, then yes, go ahead. If you are mentally healthy, well, more or less, your work must be seasoned with love, curiosity and fun.

I like what Jerry Seinfeld said in one of his interviews. “Your blessing in life is when you find the torture you’re comfortable with.” By torture Seinfeld meant the creative struggle he has to deal with when writing new jokes. Being funny is not an easy task, but he sticks to it because he loves it and knows he can do it.

Yes, you will have some difficulties to overcome and some problems to solve on your way, but stick to what brings you joy, and the pain won’t matter and, with time, will probably disappear completely. The power of habit forces the pain out. Anyone’s experience with physical exercises proves it. The more you work out the easier it gets. The most difficult part is always to start, and most of us don’t ever start at all for fear of pain that seems to be unavoidable. But it will go away when you become stronger as a result of everyday practicing.

I picked up a bit of advice from Scott Adams, the Dilbert’s creator, who recommends starting slowly, the way that tomorrow you won’t regret about yesterday’s training your body. I think this simple rule can be applied to any area of human activity. Don’t set gigantic goals right away and don’t expect immediate results. Walk slowly and you will arrive safely and painlessly. Big expectations bring big disappointments, so don’t have them. Make small steps and enjoy each of them. The speed can be increased along the road when you feel you are ready.

My conclusion is simple, “No pain, more gain.”


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Bookworm, Sketching

Creative Dawn Hours

I read an article about biphasic sleep which claimed that humans are genetically predisposed not to sleep all night long, but wake up in the middle of it and start acting right away. The article also promised that the early morning hours are the best time for creative work. The idea is based on the fact that for many thousands of years humans didn’t know electricity and went to bed, or better say to cave, when the darkness fell. Naturally, they got up at sunrise and started a day in the middle of which they had their refreshing siesta and hit the hay for another time.

It reminded me of Napoleon Bonaparte about whose strange daily routine I read many years ago. He went to bed around eight in the evening, slept till midnight or so, then got up and started planning his wars. As we all know, this schedule of his proved to be very productive.

“Ok,” I thought. “I can give it a try. I will get up at about three in the morning and try to write something to see if this time is really perfect for being creative. If yes, I’ll have a sure trick to tame ever capricious Muse and will write a masterpiece.”

I usually wake up in the middle of the night for my portion of insomnia so I didn’t need any help of the alarm clock, and my husband kept happily snoring when I crawled out of bed to tiptoe to the computer.

“Ok then!” I rubbed my hands in anticipation of the powerful influx of inspiration to hit me in the head. “Let’s see what ya got.”

I stared at the blank page for a while waiting for a brilliant idea to flow into my sleepy brain. Nothing flew in. “I need a cup of tea,” I thought. “Surely, it will help me to brace up.”

I was sipping tea and staring at the blank page. “I want some cookies as well.”

I was sipping tea, chewing cookies and staring at the blank page. Inspiration turned out to be quite a mannerless guest and was late or not coming at all. “Probably I should start without it,” I thought and stared at the blank page again.

I swallowed a cookie, sipped tea and finally decided that yes, there is no point to wait anymore. I started typing. “It’s dark because it’s night. It’s quiet because everybody sleeps. The cookies are nice and crunchy, and tea as well.”

I reread what I’d written. “Yeah…” I yawned. “I never bored myself as significantly as tonight.” I reached for a cookie, but they all were gone. I finished tea and yawned again.

“Maybe I should think of planning a war?” I looked at the ceiling and gave it a thought. No, a military career didn’t seem appealing. ”What a pity, I’m not Napoleon.” I sighed, switched off the computer and came back to bed. I hugged my soft pillow. “I love you, my dear,” I whispered to it. “You are so much better than this stupid computer. The cookies were nice though. Maybe tomorrow I’ll try the biphasic sleep again.”


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I rarely listen to passersby’s talks while walking on the street and not because I am not curious or am extremely polite. On the contrary, I am very nosy and never ashamed of my wish to eavesdrop any snippet of someone’s conversation. But usually I am pretty absorbed in my own thoughts, and I can’t pay attention to anything else but myself.

But recently, while walking along with my husband who was talking to me and distracting me from myself, I heard something that made me stop and look back. It was a word, ‘Benpayapo’, or that’s how I heard it. A man said this to his five-year-old son, and it wasn’t a name as the boy answered something that I couldn’t decipher either. It was Spanish, and I speak a little bit of Spanish, so I should have understood a couple of simple words, but I didn’t. I was sure it was something very basic as what else can you expect from a conversation with a little child? Still, mysterious ‘Benpayapo’ was beyond my understanding.

My husband whose mother tongue is Spanish laughed at my perplexed look and explained, “He said, ‘Ven para allá pues’ which means ‘Come over there, then.’”

I compared two phrases in my head, and they didn’t sound alike, at all. “Are you sure?” I asked.

“I’m sure,” he said.

“So, he just swallowed a half of every word? It’s like ‘Covetheren’ in translation.”

“Well, yes, this is how he pronounced it. But he meant, ‘Come over there, then.’”

“How am I supposed to guess what he meant if he doesn’t pronounce it clearly?” I was really indignant.

“Well, he wasn’t talking to you, and maybe you shouldn’t listen to other people discussing their own business.”

“Benpayapo,” I said, and I’ve kept saying it since whenever I’m angry and need help of a magical undecipherable curse. “Benpayapo!”


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The Stories the Waves Can Tell


I sit on the sand and look at the ocean waves. I like their repetitive patterns. I like their loud breathing and noisy manner to collapse their exhausted bodies that crossed the whole world to arrive from another continent’s shore. If you live next to the ocean the waves’ singing can be your friend and your lullaby as their rhythmic uproar is soothing and reassuring. Everything comes, everything goes, and everything comes again.

Every wave greets the beach licking it like a newly adopted puppy dog, and the sand greedily sucks in the rests of the ocean’s salty saliva. “We met, and now it’s time to say goodbye, we’re going back. Someone is waiting for us on the other side.”

“Who can be better than me?” the sand seems to ask. “What can be softer than my tender hug? There are rocks on the other side that cut you in half and laugh at your breaking into a thousand tiny tears. Why do you keep returning to someone who you know will hurt you?”

“They don’t laugh, those rocks, they cry. And they need us the same way you do. That’s why we come back to them as we come back to you.”

I sit on the sand with my eyes closed. There are so many stories the waves can tell you if you listen to their wordless tune.


Used To Be Pretty

“You used to be so pretty,” that’s what I recently heard. ”H’m, I mean you still are, of course,” followed an apologizing remark of a man who realized he said something wrong. But too late, the message was sent. I am in the used-to-be category now.

Strangely, I didn’t get upset, only shrugged my shoulders. Maybe it’s not a big news for me as I see myself in the mirror every day and know that time works against me, not for me; maybe it’s not a big deal at all. It reminded me though of some cliché lines from nineteenth century novels where an author would describe a woman of Balzacian age like, “Her face with still remaining traces of bygone beauty…” Yeah, that’s me, I’m in the history as a literary example. I am the one with traces.

That brought me to thinking of what is beauty, after all, for me. Definitely not just regular features or lack of wrinkles. If it were so, I would admire those many plastic surgery clients they show every day on TV. But the perfect skin alone is not a sign of beauty for me. I actually like wrinkles, especially on men who are more handsome and interesting when they leave the age of a boyish ‘prince’ and arrive at the station of a manly ‘king’, like Sean Connery, for example, who was pretty cute as James Bond but became irresistible as King Arthur.

The situation is more complicated for women as we want to freeze at the stage of a princess, and each of us always wants to look at least five years younger. But, alas, there are things in this world you can’t prevent, and aging is one of them.

Coming back to what beauty is for me, I think it’s not what’s on the outside. It’s on the inside. It sounds like another cliche, I know, but it works for me anyway. When a person shines through with joy, kindness, intellect or talent you forget about the face, you can only see this fascinating light and it makes you feel warm and grateful. It makes you feel love. And if you met someone like that you witnessed the real beauty.


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Trick the Bear

It’s a big world out there, and it’s scary. I know, I’m supposed to say it’s a wonderful world, I should probably sing it with a familiar and charming hoarseness, but I’d rather not, at least not today.

Everything big is scary because it looks stronger than you and you know it can crush you, break you or make you disappear. Whatever IT is it can do it, just because it’s bigger.

Being idiotically optimistic from birth, I believe that the world doesn’t really want to hurt me, but still, just in case, I look for escape routes and wonder if there is a dodge one can use when feeling particularly small and weak. An old story from nineteenth century comes to mind. It taught how to deal with a bear if you were unlucky enough to meet one in the forest.

There are two ways to avoid unpleasant results of this awkward acquaintance. First is to lie quietly on the ground trying not to breathe and pretending dead: bears have no appetite for the rotten flesh. You have to be a really good actor for this, I’m afraid, or quite a phlegmatic person for the bear might have a wish to sniff you before leaving for another date.

The other trick sounds a bit funnier but also requires some guts. You need to stand up on your tiptoe and lift your arms as high as possible so the bear thinks you are bigger than him. Bears are just like us; they respect the size and are afraid of anything that is bigger than them. Again, some acting skills would be useful. If you’re an experienced showoff it also might help.

Now, if you think of the world as a very big bear you can use one of those tricks and play dead or play giant to convince it that you are not as small as it seems. Make your choice and use the trick, you will need it. It’s a big world out there, and it’s waiting for ya. I think I’d risk to go for the show-off competition. It seems to be more exciting this way.


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