“No, he’s not my friend!” (trigger warning: rape, sexual assault)

I was sixteen. On holidays with my parents in a country I couldn’t understand the language of. My best friend, I’ll call him Eddy, came with us. We got permission to attend a rock festival in the area. Eddy was tall and a bit older, so even though I was a tiny struggling yet innocent teen, I felt quite safe. Today, 36 years later, I still remember what I was wearing that day. Because at some point I had to grab my pants, my shoes and my dignity, so I could run.

In the crowd, a guy grabbed my wrist. He tried to make me drink beer, smoke pot. I didn’t really understand. It felt weird. Slowly, he dragged me away from Eddy. I yelled. The crowd danced to ‘I only want to be with you’ (I still can’t stand that song) and all I could feel was anxiety. Eddy looked at me sternly, like he was blaming me for making out with a stranger and leaving him on his own. My attempts for eye contact were vain, Eddy stood there like a salt pillar in a raincoat.

At the end of the festival, everybody left the stadium to catch the last train. Among a satisfied crowd of postpunk youngsters, there I was, held in an iron grip by a muscular guy, and followed by ice cold Eddy. We caught the train full of sleeping people and sat near the door. And then, right before the doors closed, that guy firmed his grip and pulled me out. I yelled: “Help! Help!” and started to run after the train, hoping Eddy or someone would pull the emergency break. In the dark I ran on the railway tracks until my throat was burning and my knees were shaking. “Can I trust you?!” I yelled pathetically as he grabbed me by the bracelet of my wristwatch. I was convinced me life was over. “Black sex on the beach” was about all the English he knew. Not a soul around. Not a house, not a street, not a car. And no more train. Just desolate dark alleys leading to a cold beach. He tried to drag me to an abandoned fishermen’s cabin. I yelled: “Nooo!” but nobody could hear me. Then he pulled me onto black rocks near the beach. He kept trying to rape me until he could no more. Somehow I found the strength to keep kicking. That was gutsy, because with one move he could have smashed my head against the rocks. All of a sudden, the sun got up and in a far distance I saw real people appear for their morning jogging. As soon as I was able to distinguish their silhouettes, I found enough rage to free myself, grab my navy blue elastic Kickers and put my other leg back in my blue cotton pants. I ran to the shore to get closer to  inoffensive sporty people, dip my hands in the ocean and splash some salty water on my face.

As soon as I got back to the camping place, I hurried to the shower. I needed not only to clean myself, but also to retrieve my body, to own it. Then I locked myself in my little tent and screamed under the burning morning sun.

Sure, it was good to go to the Police and find that guy in the registers of Portugal’s criminals, and to read that indeed he was a notorious paedophile and rapist who also did drugs. It was also fine with me to find that letter from the Justice Department saying they caught him.

And yet, despite my young age and the scandalously violent situation, I never felt supported. Police interrogatories, going through portraits of rapists for hours and police ordered gynaecological check-ups are not what one would call sweet consolation. In my family, one person gave a lot of attention to that guy – catching him was top priority – but never really looked at me. Another person made clear I was the wrong one: I shouldn’t go out at night, it’s normal this (kidnapping, rape) happens. Later, another adult from my childhood suggested it had all just been a lie (why would a kid make this up?) I was the victim being blamed and called a liar, oh, and by the way, being a woman was dangerous and if something goes wrong it’s because you were there… those were but a few of the messages I received, along with the fear that this guy could come find me as soon as he’d be released from jail. How could I even think of healing from my my fear of getting killed, the dirt, the guilt and shame, the abandonment, the broken integrity..?

And you know what? As an adult, what I feel as most painful is that back in those years, no-one simply hugged me for having gone through this. Nobody said it was NOT MY FAULT, and that I was (going to be) fine. Not until today, thirty six years later. Not until a while ago, when a small gesture of  male person suddenly slashed open the wound I had ignored and that had not gotten any better with time. It all poured out on the day that person playfully grabbed my wrist and I found myself yelling: “Don’t you ever do that again, that’s horrible what you just did!” I felt dizzy all over again and I wished nobody would ever touch me again.

Finally today I am getting those hugs, and the words I needed to hear for so long, and more: “You are brave. You have gone through something so tough and yet you managed to become a happy person. You have won a big battle. Many people would not have lived at all! I have a lot of respect for you. I love you.  And if ever I see that guy, I’ll kill him. You are safe now.” And he cried with me. And kept holding me and didn’t let go. And loved me even more. And I am learning everything about love.

It’s true, it is not totally sure that technically there was rape with penetration, ejaculation and all that technical sh*t. Rest assured about this: there was a total of 10-12 hours of sexual intimidation and assault (which, perpetrated on an under-aged, is considered rape), kidnapping, aggression, violence, and absolute power over my person (please understand rape is not about sex but about POWER). And that, dear friends and family, is something NOBODY can do to a sixteen year old girl with baggy trousers, Kickers and a sloppy sweatshirt. Or high heels and a little dress. Or a freaking bikini for goodness sake. 

From Wikipedia on ‘rape culture’:  behaviors commonly associated with rape culture include victim blaming, sexual objectification, trivializing rape, denial of widespread rape, refusing to acknowledge the harm caused by some forms of sexual violence, or some combination of these.[4] The notion of rape culture has been used to describe and explain behavior within social groups, including prison rape, and in conflict areas where war rape is used as psychological warfare. Entire societies have been alleged to be rape cultures.[3][5][6][7][8]Evidence suggests that rape culture is correlated with other social factors and behaviors. Rape myths, victim blaming, and trivialization of rape have been found to be positively correlated with racism, sexism, homophobia, ageism, classism, religious intolerance, and other forms of discrimination.[9][10]


Posted in Emancipation, Feminism, Free consent, grief, Hollaback, Hommes et Femmes, Lady Gaga, Panic attacks, Perversion, Power Abuse, Rape, rape culture, self care, Sex Abuse, Sexism, Sexual Harassment, Triggers | Tagged | Leave a comment

Never, EVER pity a narcissist


Understanding that narcissists are driven by shame caused by abandonment doesn’t mean we should pity them.

Individuals with Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) behave as they do as a result of the trauma of abandonment in childhood. But does that mean we should feel sorry for them and brush their shitty behavior aside because “they can’t help it?”

I say, “Absolutely not!” If anything, we should make them more accountable for their behavior and call them out immediately.

As a person who has suffered from the trauma of physical abuse and violence and intense emotional abuse, I hold no one to blame for my bad behavior or poor choices. It took me many, many years to come to terms with what happened to me at 18 at the hands of an abusive boyfriend and several months to deal with the emotional abuse I suffered at 38.

My early refusal to face…

View original post 550 more words

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Vegan in Brussels: the very subjective story of my dinner plate

vegan 1 And my dinner plate is not your controversy either

First, let me get this straight: what you eat is an intimate story between yourself, your body and your conscience. Your stomach is not my controversy. I am not seeking to teach anyone a lesson. I just wish to share something, and I hope you enjoy!

OK. So here’s my coming out. When I was fourteen, I suddenly turned vegan. In fact, I started cooking macrobiotic for my family when one member had become very ill: inspired by the books about health I schlepped home from the library, I was hoping to make everyone fit again. At that young age, I already loved getting creative in la cuisine and sharing my fun with others. I believe a few people did benefit a bit from my health obsession at the time. And, oh, let me thank the bunch of Hare Krishna people (with the most delicious food in the world) that were the first ones to talk to me about vegetarianism in the ’70s (I was 12!) on the Dam in Amsterdam

A few months ago, I sighed loudly: “There is nothing vegan in Brussels! No inspiring places with exciting new food,  always the same old stuff!” when suddenly last month, TWO vegan shops opened, the fabulous ‘Vegasme’ store being only a few houses away from where we speak (and in Liege a great store that even sells vegan boots in organic microfiber…) There does seem to be a certain need for change, even in Belgium!

OK. I have watched a number of people jump ‘on the vegan wagon’ for all kinds of reasons, and jump off it as quickly. Most of vegan 2the time this happens when their ‘reasons’ (justifications) anxiously point in all directions (politics, environment, medicine, science… click here to find 101 good reasons) except to themselves. Yes, we all know about the horror of the meat industry, and how consumption of misery turned into flesh contributes to cardiovascular problems (and depression and aggressiveness), and how the feeding of cattle uses up crops that could feed a hundredfold the number of people fed by a steak. Obviously the human body is not made for devouring a cow: we don’t have the teeth nor do we produce the necessary acidity in our saliva and our stomach. Our intestines are too long, and meat ends up rotting inside of us. Our mouth is too small. And if at this point you start about proteins and muscle growth, have a look at an elephant, or a gorilla. And still, despite all those good reasons, most people maintain their attachment to an old habit, or an ancestral craving of the caloric comfort of salt and fat, culturally translated into bacon. How come?

Well… my point is that for an emotional thing like food, facts and figures are not enough. If you rely only on them, you are following a diet at best, and maybe creating a temporary eating disorder. If you ‘do’ vegan with your mind alone, there barely is any pleasure and you’ll feel like you’re starving all the time. Veg(etari)an cooking means fun, creativity and joy, and not simply replacing meat with a sad lump of tofu! 🙂 

Personally,  I don’t  feel the need to ‘explain’ my choice. (Hey, have I ever questioned a meat eater on their weird choice?) And why not? I guess because my choice of food comes from a deeper place than the regular bar counter (or Facebook) discussion. The more your motivation reaches beyond the mind, and touches a physical, emotional and even a spiritual conscience, the bigger the chances are you will never want to consume flesh again. Also, once you stop meat, it is like with quitting cigarettes: your senses come back to life as your system gets detoxed. After not having had meat for years, I can testify: it tastes sour and smells like rotting death (I once accidentally took a bite of a ham quiche). And the last time I had battery chicken in a Thai restaurant, I could sense its sadness all through the green curry. So it was a natural evolution for me to also stop eating chicken and fish. And recently I quit eggs (male chicks ground to bits while still alive because useless for reproduction, chicken beaks chopped or burnt off) and milk (artificially prolonged lactation, premature confinement of veal) products because they no longer felt right. Veg(etari)an, or whatever you call it: my mind alone will not decide upon the rules that will direct my choice; my heart and my body tell me loud and clear what food makes me happier and lighter. And to me, eating pieces of an animal that suffered an unnatural life and a violent death will not make anybody happy (and look at the state the world is in).

For anyone who struggles with these questions, I have one piece of advice: keep it simple. Listen to your body, try out different ways of feeding yourself (there are plenty of sites with recipes!), and see what really makes you feel good. You’ll find out soon enough that what is good for you, is inextricably good for animals and the environment. Reconnect with other life forms, take your responsibility and your body will thank you. I am deeply convinced that the more people will do so, the sooner the mad destruction of life on our dear planet will stop.


PS: Changing the world, one lunch box at a time: a few years ago, I shared my Indian (vegan) lentil dishes with all kinds of people through a foodies website. One non vegetarian customer kept coming back for more, saying: “This food makes me feel joyful. This is happy food.” His smile made it worthwhile. And that is exactly my point: veg(etari)an food is healthy for body, mind and soul. And almost karma free 😉

(c) photos: I got them from someone who took them from a vegan website 😀

Posted in Animals, Brussels, Emancipation, Environment, Food, health, VEGAN, Vegetarian | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Ma vie, est-elle mauvaise pour mon CV?

Quand l’emploi ne vient pas, il faut créer un vrai travail. Ou la chance immense de la liberté de choix.

Article in English here

Je vis à Bruxelles, en Belgique. Ici, il n’y a pas de green smoothies et pas un seul restaurant vegan. Les nouveautés qui peuvent être vieilles ailleurs, mettent souvent des années à trouver une terre chez nous. Bruxelles est une ville fascinante, complexe, et un peu lente. Ce qui la rend drôle. Ah oui, et nous avons un taux de chômage de 20.4%.

La semaine dernière, j’ai lu l’article d’une jeune femme qui se plaignait de ne pas trouver de travail, faute de trop de qualifications. Ne me parlez pas de la réalité du marché: avec trop d’expérience (un euphémisme pour ‘trop vieux’) on n’est plus exploitable. Sans expérience, on est long à former. Avec des diplômes vous coûtez trop cher, et sans, vous êtes un peu rien du tout. Et ne parlons pas des jobs ‘freelance’, payés moins qu’un babysit à l’heure (au net). Et puis il y a ces boîtes qui pressent leurs ressources humaines (matériel humain) pendant un an ou deux, jusqu’au burnout.

Retournons au ‘Deux Masters et Toujours Pas de Boulot’. Quelle est la solution, ou plutôt: quel est le problème? Sur les forums en ligne, mes questions étaient culottées mais sincères: “Tu rêvais de quoi en faisant ces études? Pourquoi ne pas adapter ton CV au job que tu aimerais faire? Retire ce que tu n’aimes pas, souligne tes atouts et aspirations!” Ma logique : il s’agit bien de ta vie à toi, non? Que faire si dans le passé tu as fait des choses que tu n’aimes pas, ou qui ne sont plus d’actualité? Car dans ton curriculum, s’agit-il de ta vie, ou es-tu la propriété de tes diplômes/expériences? 

Les réactions ont revigoré la rebelle en moi. “Non, je ne peux pas changer mon CV, ça ne fait pas bien!” et “Ce serait mentir, et du coup je ne me ferai pas engager!”, “Pas question, car comment expliquer un trou d’un an ou plus à un employeur?” Et une dame m’a expliqué, avec un respect profond pour la force inhibante et reconfortante de certaines autorités, qu’une base de données transmettait à qui veut les données sur les diplômes d’absolument tout le monde. Obtiens un diplôme, et ta vie ne t’appartient plus. Et donc quelque part, ton CV non plus. Quoi donc?

J’ai eu besoin de respirer profondément. Tu pourrais dire que tu as fait une pause? Que tu as tout simplement vécu. Ou voyagé. Tu as décidé de t’occuper de ton enfant. Ou fait le point après un mauvais choix. Le temps d’écrire un livre, ou de faire du bénévolat dans un refuge pour animaux maltraités. Apprendre à se connaître soi, c’est mauvais pour ton CV, ça? Et puis, peut-on vraiment étudier pendant des années sans développer une vision, une passion pour ce que l’on a envie de faire? Alors, à quoi sert ce diplôme? Juste un bout de papier en échange d’un boulot mieux payé, peu importe lequel, tant qu’il offre une illusion de sécurité? Et puis, es-tu vraiment d’accord que pour l’apprentissage et le développement, il n’y ait que les écoles et le travail (payé)?

Personnellement, je pense que cette croyance ne correspond non seulement pas à la réalité – elle ne la sert même pas! La société est en pleine transformation, et elle a besoin aujourd’hui plus que jamais d’ initiative, d’indépendance, d’émancipation et de créativité. Et tout cela ne vient pas sans connaissance de soi. Retournons à la source: qu’est-ce que tu aimais le plus, lorsque tu étais petit.e? Fais revivre ce rêve, laisse-le t’inspirer. Crée une vision, au lieu d’attendre la cage dorée. Travaille cette vision, un peu tous les jours. Trouve-toi un coach. Fais des expériences, participe à des projets. Passionne-toi. Et si ton diplôme ne sert pas ton rêve, fais autre chose. Car ne serait-il pas absurde de laisser 4 ou 5 années de ta vie définir ton présent et tout ton avenir, si c’est contre ton gré?

Il y a quelques années, je donnais cours à des groupes de ‘chômeurs’, et des ateliers de job coaching. Un homme de 30 ans au joli diplôme Master trimballait un CV vide, car on lui refusait à chaque fois le super poste administratif auquel il avait droit. (Dans mes cours, il était pourtant incapable de rester assis pour plus de 7 minutes. Non, 4.) Lorsque je lui ai proposé de me décrire le déroulement d’une journée dans de ce job de rêve, notre jeune loup n’avait pas trop d’idées. Ce genre de choses. Pas étonnant que son état général n’était pas super. Et que notre société soit un peu à plat. Si vous voulez connaître la suite, laissez un message. Je vous promets, c’est une histoire sympa.

Le fait que tant de gens soient d’accord d’organiser leur vie autour d’un curriculum acceptable (même si un peu vide de sens) ne me donne pas beaucoup d’espoir. Ce pays a un taux de suicide des plus élevés d’Europe, et notre capitale a un taux de chômage énorme pour une ville aussi riche! Je pense que nous ne pouvons vraiment plus nous permettre d’encourager les jeunes à construire leur vie autour d’une idée de CV conforme. Un curriculum doit soutenir la personne, et non pas la priver de sa liberté de choix. Notre société n’arrivera jamais à fleurir dans la prospérité si nous sommes d’accord de tuer nos rêves et notre créativité en faveur de quelques bouts de papier. Ce dont nous avons vraiment besoin, c’est de l’inspiration. De grâce, tâchons de vivre une vie vraiment autonomisante. Le CV suivra.

Posted in Emancipation, Emploi, le début du vrai travail | Tagged , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Is my life bad for my Curriculum Vitae ?

Or does my CV make my butt look fat?

Article en français ici

I live in Brussels, Belgium. A city that does not sell green smoothies and has zero vegan restaurants. New stuff that is old somewhere else, somehow doesn’t find ground here. Brussels is fascinating, complex, and a bit slow. Which makes it a little funny. And oh, we have a 20.4% unemployment rate.

Last week, I read an article about a young woman who could not find work because she had too many qualifications. Tell me about the reality of our market. With too much experience (often an euphemism for ‘too old’), one is no longer exploitable. Without it, one is too slow to train. With degrees one is too expensive, and without any, one is a bit like nothing. And don’t get me started on qualified freelance jobs being paid less than a babysitter (netto). Or small companies utilizing human resources (material) for a year or two until burnout.

Back to ‘Two Master Degrees and Still No Job’. What is the solution, or rather: what is the problem? On online forums my questions were daring: “Why don’t you adapt your CV (resume) to the job you wish to find? Leave stuff out, highlight your aspirations!” My logic: it is about you, right? What if you have done stuff in the past that you really hate, or that is not relevant now? Leave it out! Take your life in your hands and build your dream! Is it your life, or are you owned by your degrees/experience?

The responses I got, revitalized my healthy sense of rebellion. “No, I can not leave things out, it would make my CV look bad!” or: “I would lie, and not be hired!”, “No way! How do I explain a gap of 2 years to an employer!?” And one lady told me about an official data bank that transmits records of obtained degrees about absolutely everybody. Get a degree, and your life no longer belongs to —. Right. The only person who can live your life. YOU.

Now let me think. You could tell them you took a break? Or that you simply lived. Or traveled. You decided to take care of your child. Or wanted to think after a bad choice, or be creative, write a book, volunteer in an animal shelter. Get to know yourself. Is that bad? Can a person really study for years without forming a vision of what they’d like to do? Is a degree an expensive paper in exchange for a job, no matter what, as long as it offers security? And do you agree schools and (payed) jobs are the only places to learn and progress?

I believe that thinking this way not only doesn’t suit reality, it doesn’t even support it! The job market has changed drastically, and requires initiative, lots of self employment, emancipation and creativity. And this is impossible without a little self knowledge. Time to get back to basics: what did you dream of when you were little? Find that old dream and let it inspire you. Create a vision, instead of waiting for a safe  golden cage. Work on it every day. Get a coach. Do stuff. Get passionate about something. Talk to people. And if your degree does not serve your vision, do something else. Isn’t it absurd to be defined by an activity one may have had for a couple of years?

A few years ago, I was teaching groups of unemployed people, and gave job workshops to those who wanted. One young man with a Master Degree had an empty CV because the world was unwilling to give him the glamorous office job he was entitled to receive. However, in class I could tell he was not able to sit on a chair for more than 7 minutes, and when asked about the content of his so called dream job, our young wolf had no clue. He really didn’t want the job he told everyone he was looking for. No wonder his overall state was pretty bad. (If you wish to know what happened next, leave me a message. I promise, it’s a nice story.)

Seeing so many people live in function of an acceptable curriculum devoid of any sense or vision, does not give me much hope. This country has the highest suicide rate in Europe, and our capital city, one of the highest unemployment rates. I think we can no longer afford to encourage people to build their lives on the construction of a CV. A curriculum needs to empower the person and not drain them. Our society will never bloom and prosper with people who are willing to kill their dreams and creativity in favor of bits of paper. What we need is inspiration. Let us strive to live an empowering life. A good resume will follow.



writing and editing in NL/FR/EN
qualified social interpreter

volunteer social worker 

Posted in Brussels, Chomâge, coaching, Emancipation, work | Tagged , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

On Paris and our own personal Stockholm syndromes

The Stockholm Syndrome.

Today the ‘hostage’ theme is on our collective mind. I remember, moments before the news dripped in about the Paris violence(*), I laughed with a joke: ‘You can’t force anyone to love you, but you can lock them up in the basement and hope they develop the Stockholm syndrome’. 😀 Good one, huh! That syndrome happens when you are taken hostage and, slightly alienated, end up loving the one who has control over your life. Ever since, I can’t stop thinking about how, maybe, we are all the hostage of something, or somebody. Don’t we all suffer from Stockholm as soon as we give up our minds, our freedom, our lives, our love, to an ideology, a religion, a nation or even a family – or any form of control, blackmail, pressure…? And could this spiritual un-freedom be at the root of all violence, xenophobia, gossip and lies, manipulation, exclusion, racism and hatred between people – individuals, groups and nations?

I think 2015 is the perfect time to free ourselves from our own personal Stockholm Syndromes.


(*) on 7 January 2015, an attack took place at the offices of Charlie Hebdo, a Paris based satirical magazine, killing 12 people.

Posted in Discrimination, Emancipation, English, gossip, ideology, jesuischarlie, lies, Religion, Sexism | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Why a burnout is a blessing (adrenal fatigue and stuff)

(illustration: Hyperbole and a Half)

Illustration: Hyperbole and a Half

So let me tell you about MY burnout. I just had my second one. Yes, I have been there before : I was 25 and suddenly found myself on my own, with a child of barely 2 years old, working full-time and virtually no family support. There was no time to grief over my broken couple, as my survivor’s instinct dictated me to fight for my baby. No wonder I broke down! What I remember of the day I crashed, was the adrenaline gushing through my guts and the coffee I’d gulped. A major panic attack landed me in a hospital. They told me I was having a depression. I got antidepressants, sleeping pills and other chemicals. I had no idea. (I did not feel depressed, really.) The 3 (!!) years that followed are a blur, erased from my memory by the pharma industry.

Today, I am about twice that age. And I crashed again. I know this happened because with the death of my father three years ago, I have been going yet again through an impossible grief, aggravated by the fact that while losing my father, I lost whatever was left of my childhood family. It felt like the ground was taken away from under my feet forever. OK, it had always been kind of bumpy, but at least it was my ground. And ground offers possibility. My reaction to this impossible grief was to shut it out, think of something else, and go on. Continue, do what you love, use your power and your brain to do impossible stuff! Ha! Sure, I can do that. I took up studies, and on top of the usual daily stuff, I supported refugees (no ground under their feet, I know!), advocated for oppressed minorities. I gave, and gave, especially to causes that don’t give much in return (my second nature, ARGH). And whenever there was nothing left, I gave some more. Adrenaline, that cheap and rewarding drug. And hey, I was doing what I love, right?

So I had been feeling weird and old for a couple of months before I crashed. I saw doctors and told them about my nervous fatigue, pointing at the dark circles under my eyes, but no ringing of bells. Until a week before my breakdown, a dentist (!) told me there might be something wrong with my thyroid and adrenals, and I started to do some research.

Thank goodness for the Internet! I found plenty scientific resources, as well as precious stories from people who have been through an adrenal burnout. All kinds of symptoms pop up: low blood pressure, head aches, dizziness, bad digestion, nervous exhaustion, bad sleep, hormonal imbalance, short term memory problems, bad thyroid function, dehydration, inability to focus… and of course an overall impossibility to cope with stress. When every little thing becomes a chore. Or a reason to burst into tears. I was having them all. So what did I do? First of all, I started taking food supplements and vitamins. And I adapted my diet and sleeping pattern, as well as my free time (clever and witty books! relaxing pretty films!)…

Design by Rosa Pearson @ FlutterFlutter.

Design by Rosa Pearson @ FlutterFlutter.

Adrenals are the little glands above the kidneys that produce stress and other hormones. When they are put under too much strain for too long (months, or years), they get ‘burned’. This burning up (I actually had a sensation of inner burning for months) from too much cortisol and adrenaline causes their burnout: the hormonal stress control is out of order. So this is not the same dynamic as a depression, even though at a certain stage one may feel down, or like me during the pre-crash months:  angry and cynical (I always hated cynicism!) And nervous. And anxious, with the feeling there is something physically wrong with me.

The big crash came, and my body said: “Stop! Take time to cry!” and so I did. No more guilt, no more energy to deal with stress, anger or resentment, not mine, nor anybody else’s. Time to recover from the years of havoc wreaked upon my system, and then later on, to reconsider my dealing with grief and my addiction to… stress. It is that simple. Grief can not be covered up by fun and interesting activities, even if they make us look strong. It needs to be dealt with. And hey, adrenal burnout may take a couple of months to heal. Time for me to think about… ME. Huh?! Yes. Me. Are you shocked yet?

In the meanwhile, if you have any tips for feelgood movies and clever chick books, I am all ears.

Thank you!

PS: having a burnout also means I am a fighter, a survivor, a giver. I give, even when I have nothing left. A friend said that perfectionists and fighters-for-a-better-world are very much prone to having burnouts. See, it’s not a sign of weakness or incompetence. Forget about shame (making matters worse) and don’t take antidepressants, as a time like this can be so rich with self discovery. Go explore your feelings, write a journal, find out what caused you to run away so hard into work (or fun, or in being a do-gooder – ARGH!), and find out what you really love. Get to love your life as it is. At last! (That’s me talking to me!) 🙂

PPS:  My story is mine, and each story is different. And hey, I’m grateful for knowing so much more about it this time. Did I mention how much I look forward to some real ME-time?

Posted in adrenal fatigue, burnout, death of a parent, Emancipation, grief, health, me time, overworked, stress, thyroid | Tagged , , , | 6 Comments

Gaga et sa lutte politique : “Un peu de compassion, bordel!”

Article de 2013, reposté ce soir car à l’instant même Lady Gaga chante avec Tony Bennett à la Grand Place de Bruxelles.

“Breed some m*therf*cking compassion!”

“Cultivez un peu de compassion, bordel!” – Tel est le cri de coeur de Stefani Germanotta, créatrice de A Body Revolution 2013. Coup de gueule contre la presse et autres harceleurs responsables de troubles alimentaires et complexes d’infériorité liés à une image de soi négative.

Stefani Germanotta? Vous la connaissez sans doute sous son nom d’artiste Lady Gaga. Je ne suis pas une grande fan de ses tubes, mais elle a nettement plus de cordes à son arc. Ses chansons acoustiques au piano me donnent la chair de poule. Et elle peut tout faire: du jazz, du rock, même de l’absurde avec Yoko et son Plastic Ono Band. Voici de quoi vous aider à laisser vos derniers préjugés au placard:

Elle a de la gueule, et en plus elle a des choses à dire

Harcelée à l’école car trop bizarre, la petite (1m50) au gros nez a développé vers ses quinze ans des troubles alimentaires (anorexie, boulimie). Lors de ses concerts, elle parle souvent du moment où ses camarades de classe l’ont jetée dans la benne à ordures. Elle avait essayé de sourire et de trouver ça drôle, mais intérieurement elle en pleure encore. Et elle est consciente des suicides de plus en plus nombreux d’adolescents suite aux souffrances souvent silencieuses: à chaque concert elle fait une dédicace à ces victimes, et encourage son public majoritairement jeune à être courageux et fiers d’être tels qu’ils sont.

Born this Way Foundation

Du coup, elle a créé une organisation qui se bat contre le harcèlement et la discrimination. En anglais il y a de bons mots, compréhensibles et prononçables même pour les plus petits: ‘bullying‘. Un ‘bully‘, c’est quelqu’un qui embête un autre enfant pour l’humilier en public. Le slogan: ‘Bullying is for Losers‘. Sa tournée actuelle, le ‘Born This Way Ball’, est dédiée aux personnes qui ont connu, à un moment dans leur vie, la difficulté de simplement être ‘né(e) ainsi’. Et la Fondation ‘Born This Way’ se bat au niveau politique pour une sensibilisation et une législation contre le harcèlement, et revendique plus d’égalité et le droit de célébrer la différence.

De 1993 à 2010, l’armée américaine avait adopté une règle, discriminant les recrues homosexuelles: “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”, obligeant les LGTB (Lesbian, Gay, Trans, Bi) à rester à l’ombre (ou au placard), et de garder secret leur orientation sexuelle. Lady Gaga a manifesté à Portland et pris la parole. Voici la vidéo non censurée de son discours.

Lady Gaga donne en ce moment des concerts en Europe, et les fameux tabloids anglais en ont profité pour publier des photos peu flatteuses de l’artiste, gros bourrelets mal photoshoppés à l’appui. Le scandale: “Lady Gaga aurait gagné du poids!” (c’est vrai quoi: 11 kilos).

A Body Revolution 2013

Et Gaga, qui ne s’arrête jamais, a majestueusement répliqué avec une action: sur son réseau social (littlemonsters.com, mieux foutu que Facebook selon des geeks), elle a publié 4 photos où elle pose, vulnérable car sans maquillage, habillée uniquement d’un simple soutien gorge et slip jaune.

Pourquoi? Parce qu’elle sait que parmi ses 29.000.000 de fans, aussi nommés les Little Monsters, il y a beaucoup de jeunes fragiles, adolescent(e)s qui plus ou moins secrètement luttent contre les souffrances que leur cause un physique imparfait qui ne correspond pas à ce que les médias ‘mainstream’ nous commandent.

La réaction fût bouleversante. Des jeunes et moins jeunes du monde entier ont suivi, et ont posté des photos de leurs points les plus sensibles; certains avouant même ne jamais avoir osé montrer leur corps, leur particularité, jusqu’à ce que leur idole leur inspire le courage de le faire.

Des êtres superbes aux rondeurs, boutons, cicatrices, tumeurs, malformations, amputations, couleurs de peau, yeux qui louchent, joues gonflées, maigreurs, lupus, nez cassés,… osent enfin dire leur douleur afin d’arriver à exister avec fierté. Et les Little Monsters ont spontanément initié un mouvement de soutien et de solidarité, s’offrant mutuellement des mots d’encouragement et des compliments. J’ai passé de longs moments à être à la fois bouche bée, les yeux humides. Il y a également un compte twitter: @abodyrevolution.

Cette petite série de photos ne donne qu’une maigre (!) idée de la beauté de ce mouvement d’émancipation.

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Taylor, le copain de Gaga sur Twitter: “Only @ladygaga + monsters could turn the ‘brain dead’ media criticizing her weight into a way to inspire and help other people.”

Voir également mon article sur le Born this Way Ball à Anvers le 29 septembre 2012 et article de la RTBF

Update du 9 octobre 2012: le 7 octobre 2012, Lady Gaga était à Londres, au Harrods, pour le lancement de son parfum Fame. J’avais secrètement espéré qu’elle rende visite à Julian Assange, le fondateur de WikiLeaks emprisonné depuis plus de 100 jours dans l’Ambassade d’Equateur qui lui offre l’asile politique. Ce matin, j’ai trouvé cette photo de Gaga et Assange. Comme titre elle avait mis ‘No headline’ – pas de légende. A chacun d’en tirer sa conclusion. Selon la presse, ils ont partagé un repas qui a duré 5 heures. J’ai écrit un article sur cet acte de courage sur le site de littlemonsters.com. Rappelons-nous que Kim Dotcom, qui a fait fortune avec son entreprise de piratage, a pu payer de gros avocats pour se faire libérer. Assange n’a pas d’argent.

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I went to a Byron Katie workshop in Amsterdam (is that true?)

WP_20140703_007My vacations are short and intense. Sometimes, they last about a day. But boy, what a day! I got up at 5AM, left the house at 6 and took a bus from Brussels to Amsterdam. There, at the Westerkerk (the church next to Anne Frank’s house), Byron Katie was going to give a workshop. It would cost me 80€, and well hey, if you count almost 8 hours of class, that makes only 10€/hour. And she came all the way from the USA, with a team, I’m sure.

I had heard about her years before, but only worked with the Four Questions once, a few months ago. I was suffering from an impossible relationship, so after watching a few dozens of her videos, I bought the book ‘I need your love. Is that true?‘ One evening I decided to give it a go: I filled out a ‘Judge Your Neighbor’ worksheet and did The Work. And it was over. In one night of  questioning, I ended months of torture. And for once, there was no need to replace love with aversion; I felt a stronger, truer love, free from childish tantrums and projections. Of course I got fascinated by this simple process!

So what is The Work? You can find plenty on the website. Basically, it consists of identifying the stressful thought behind your suffering, and questioning that thought :  1 Is it true? 2 Can you absolutely know that it’s true? 3 How do you react, what happens, when you believe that thought? 4 Who would you be without that thought? And then you turn your affirmations around (either by saying it is ‘not’ the way you thought, or that instead of the other person, it is YOU who does this, or should do that). That’s all ! (well, it is confronting, but the process is simple.)

And off I went to Amsterdam. I was prepared : I had questioned my lingering pains (and not found much, except maybe a slight irritation due to city life and Brussels’ horrid traffic management: sirens, motors, trucks, buses, pollution and even planes). So frankly, I did not at all feel the need nor the desire to do The Work before an audience with Mrs Katie herself.

Our bus was late, so I hopped into a taxi, telling the driver we needed to rush to Westerkerk as I was late for a conference. He wanted to know what the church service was about. “No, no, a lady from the USA is giving a workshop about ending suffering by questioning our thoughts!” So he proposed to start the workshop in the cab (traffic was slow).  He did well: he complained about his mom and his neighbor. He totally got it! It’s always THEIR fault! Then he wanted to know if it was also about God, and grabbed a worn book from underneath the papers on the passenger’s seat: Stephen Hawkins. The clean-cut Dutchman was reading a book by the scientist ‘with only one muscle left that still worked’, and we had our tiny metaphysical discussion. Welcome to Amsterdam.

At Westerkerk church, I was welcomed by a team of smiling folk. I was 30 minutes late and paid my 80€. There were 650 people inside! Standing at the counter, I could eye a little woman with a white sweater and white hair who was softly talking to the audience. The church was luminous and the atmosphere light, though later I realized that most people could barely see Byron Katie or the person she would invite on stage (her ‘parlor’). Some people were sitting with their eyes closed, others were writing things down on a work sheet – The Work in progress!

After what appeared to have been a meditative introduction, the rest of the day Byron Katie proceeded as in her videos: she’d ask the audience if anyone had questions, and  a few people would express their desire to do The Work with her. Some were invited into the ‘parlor’, while others could briefly expose their pains standing with a microphone. The first story was powerful, as we witnessed a kind of breakthrough: a woman who suffered because her brother had cut off all contact was guided through her beliefs and feelings towards the brother she had not spoken with for over 13 years. By the end, her face was radiant and open. The simple questions, repeated over and over, made her cry with relief as she let go of her thoughts of resistance and returned to the love she actually felt for her brother.

A dozen people from different countries also shared (or tried to share) their stories: a young woman WP_20140703_025suffering from moral harassment by her mentally ill mother (“We get bipolar mothers so they can show us what we have inside” and “She did not hug you because she would get sexual feelings and so not hugging you was a way of mothering you”), a mother whose young daughter was about to get brain surgery, where Mrs Katie questioned the audience: “Why can’t I absolutely know she will not ever be able to play the guitar and sing again?” and later: “We have to let go of our expectations about our children”. One man down right questioned the questions, asking how Byron Katie knows that it works, and something about intellectual comprehension. There was also the anxious young man, afraid to end up in a mental hospital like his mother and sister… I felt for all of them, and yet I can’t recall the outcomes of these stories. Maybe the 4 Questions are not that fitting for people who are in a deep crisis or suffer from severe PTSD(*)? I know Mrs Katie loves our daily stories (‘My mom’, ‘My boss’, and of course : ‘My neighbor’)  and several times she asked us all to raise our hands to see how universally banal our stressful thoughts are.

Mrs Katie would always ask a person about the subject of their story before inviting them on stage, and sometimes I found the talks slow, a bit unfocussed and hard to follow (also due to the set up and the acoustics of the church). At one point, Mrs Katie gracefully told a young woman she could not help her “as she had a closed mind”, and several times she told people that their stories or questions were not understandable and therefore not treated. It was impossible for me to keep listening for 7 hours. Sometimes, I wished I could have talked with/listened to other people. Simple stuff: “Hello, how are you? Are you having a good time?”  Instead, I went to buy a 2€ cup of coffee twice from the church crew and sipped it by myself, as I felt I could not disturb the nice lady or gentleman next to me who were maybe in the process of doing some big inner work. (if you read me: “Hello!” 🙂 ).

Overall, I liked the moments when Byron Katie talked by herself most. Like when she explained she started The Work   because “I don’t ever want to hurt my children again with my frustrations!” (my favorite, I can relate to and I wish for any child or parent to relate to this). Or this one: “Angry humans are frightened humans, and instead of compassion, we offer them more of the same. If someone has cancer, we give love and support. When someone is fearful, we kick them.”And: “No one can make me angry. It is what I believe about that person and what they say that is the cause of my anger.” Another more original quote: “‘I love you’ is a very stressful thought. You have to spend the rest of your  life proving it! ‘I love’ is free.”

I still don’t know what this day of ‘workshop’ has brought me other than what the videos and books offered me. Have I learned anything new? Maybe the deepest work took place at the mini workshop in the taxi, or was it the work of patience sitting six hours on a bus? There was also my lunch hour in the sun, with a particular hunger for a bite of Amsterdam energy. Another highlight took place upon arrival in Brussels, where I found myself guiding a young Guatemalan man through the nightly South Station (Gare du Midi) in order to get the last tram to Molenbeek. He was surprised by the sight of so many men dressed in djellabahs, as he had never seen people from Morocco or heard of the ‘Ramadan’ in his country. That was quite an eye opener both for him and for me. Culture is not absolute, we are not the center of the world, Amsterdam is still beautiful… and I just spent a day with a lot of stuff happening. Hasta luego!


(*) PTSD: post traumatic stress disorder





Posted in A return to Love, Byron Katie, Emancipation, English | Tagged , , , , | 12 Comments

12 radical self-care tips and more : let your hair hang down !

Hair – that organ we know so little of and treat so thanklessly…

(you can scroll down to the 12 tips and 13 facts  if you are in a hurry – I know our society loves it when people hurry up, so I understand) 🙂

I don’t remember exactly how it all started, but one day I bumped into the videos of this lovely genuine lady, Tina Jones. To her, hair care was the ultimate form of being good to yourself. And I found that she was right. Thank you, Tina!

I started taking Radical Care of my hair almost 8 weeks ago. My point is that there must be more to ‘hair’, its role, its care and its beauty.

My hair history : I have a lot of fine dark chestnut-brown wavy hair. It is easy, not greasy nor dandruffy, and yet, as a child, I was never allowed really long hair. The longest I had was once in my thirties: down to the middle of my back (it was rather pretty!) As a teenage punkette, I dyed it all kinds of colors and treated it horribly: I cut it, poured coca cola (or glue!) on it when I was out of gel, and bleached it till it turned into straw. Punk life was the ultimate expression of self-hatred (we thought we hated ‘others’ or ‘society’), and hair had an important role in making our fury look razor sharp. Later, while I slowly slid out of punk, I started giving my hair henna treatments. It looked warm, healthy and mysterious, and this went on for about 20 years. Just last week,  an Afghan girl told me henna may accelerate greying. I do have a couple of grey hairs, and have been in a love/hate relationship with them for years, like an ongoing struggle between embracing the whitish neon luminosity of wisdom and resisting being seen as ‘old’ while not feeling ‘old’ at all. My hair… my struggle. Dear hair, let’s make peace now.

With this peace on my mind, I went to see a holistic hair dresser in Brussels. (If you wish to improve your relationship with your hair, hence with yourself, I can recommend him.) He started the treatment by analyzing my hair;  speaking for 20 minutes about my health as well as my personality. He also explained how every single hair is connected to micro nerves near our brain. While cutting, he turned each hair follicle around with his special technique. At that point, I wept huge hot tears. It was very painful, and I said: “Now I understand why Sikhs never cut their hair. Hair is such an emotional thing!” “Yes, it is”, said Mr Sébastien. It felt as though each hair had a memory, an emotion attached to it. (At that very moment, I secretly decided to never get my hair cut again.) He finalized the ‘do’ with a second cutting technique that gave some emotional relief. I also learned that each zone of hair on our head corresponds with a period in life, going from the past (in the back of the neck) to the future (towards the forehead). And I figured out: hair is like an organ!

Every culture or spiritual tradition has their belief about hair. Some think that after the age of procreation, a woman is no longer entitled to carry long manes, as hair would be a sign of fertility and exposing long hair an invitation to procreate. (Maybe that is why in so many cultures, women cover their hair?) One old friend used to say: “Hair is the algae of our thoughts”, like thoughts made visible. When you think of it, isn’t hair one of the most versatile and poetic things we carry with us? Soft, distinguished and yet like a connection with our instinctual animal memory? Remember the bible story of Samson, and how he lost his power after his hair got cut…

There must be a growing awareness of our capillary values, as not long ago I came across this text about American Indians who joined the army. The soldiers were sleeping in tents when a group of people  attacked the sleepers. The American Indians, who had very long hair, defended themselves the best. They were vigilant even in their sleep. Later in the study, their hair got cut, and they failed the same test – it appeared that with their long hair they had lost a kind of ‘antennae’, a sixth sense that made them such good warriors. (Apparently, these ‘antennae’ are able to come back after three years of growth, if during that time there is no aggressive intervention such as cutting or chemical treatments).

When I consider all this, and I discover how much pleasure true hair care gives me, I wonder why in our society people are encouraged to treat it so badly? We buy paraben filled shampoo, hair dressers use chemicals and boiling hot water, they comb and brush wet hair aggressively, cut it without affection and blow dry while burning and breaking our hair – which forces us to cut it again soon after. Why do we collectively agree with this kind of treatment?

So what have I been doing these last 2 months? First, I massage the ends of my hair with a bit of cold pressed coconut oil once or twice daily. Twice a week I give all of my hair a deep oil treatment, mixing  a tea-spoon of coconut oil with a few drops of neem oil. The deep treatment stays on overnight, and it works wonders ! My hair grows about 2cm per month (the average is 1,25 cm). The morning after a heavy oiling I wash it, and on that day it is at its softest, shiny and lustrous. I also made a natural leave in conditioner of aloe vera gel, which I spray on my wet hair after washing. This prevents tangling (no need for combing!) and gives the curls and waves a nice shape. For washing (every 3 days), I use an organic shampoo. My hair falls out less, and a lot of new hair is growing: there are plenty of ‘baby hairs’ sticking out on the top of my head !

I have tried a few other products such as Hersh Kalpi Tone (a very nice herbal mask, but it makes my hair look greenish due to the remainders of chemical coloring), Ancient Formulae Castor Oil (very softening, but a bit too chemical) and pure castor oil (made my hair like straw again). To me, nothing tops the simple coconut+neem treatments. If you wish to experiment, do try out different oils and products to find what works best for you. There are plenty of video tutorials, especially from Indian and African women.

This radical hair care that respects, nourishes and stimulates the health of my hair, is a form of self-care I have only just discovered, and it leaves me in awe with delight ! It is an enjoyable thing to do as it gives me a moment to connect with myself. I really look forward to these daily ‘spa moments’, massaging my scalp and hair, and feeling my freshly washed hair dancing freely.

My Hair Salon: coconut oil, neem oil and a wooden comb

My Hair Salon: coconut oil, neem oil and a wooden comb

My 12 hair care tips :
– wash your hair 2x/week or every 3 days
– do 2 washings: first time to wash out remainders of oil
– do not comb your hair when wet, as wet hair is more fragile
– instead of brushing to untangle, use a natural conditioner and ‘finger comb’
– do not fold your hair up in a towel to dry as you may break it, let it hang down
– when hair is dry, comb with a non static (wooden) comb

– be careful not to break your hair while attaching it, only use soft materials, no metal pins
– if you wish to grow longer hair, treat ends with coconut oil daily
– give your hair a deep oil treatment twice a week with the oil that suits your hair best
– for heavy oiling, start with massaging scalp for better blood circulation up to 30 minutes
– massage your scalp daily, best before sleep to induce relaxation
– cuddle your hair, it is there for you and needs your attention !

13 other things I learned about hair:
– hair grows faster in summer, thanks to the Vitamin D
– hair plays a major role in metabolizing Vitamin D for our body
– in many spiritual traditions, hair is left long by women and men
– we lose between 20 and 100 hairs daily
– the average the life span of one hair is 2-6 years (can be longer if treated well)
– chemical hair coloring may temporarily stop hair from growing

–  hair attains its perfect length when never cut, and it will not grow longer
– proteins and biotin encourage hair growth
– cutting hair costs extra protein, as the hair will use up more protein to grow back
– hair loss and early greying can be slowed with coconut/neem/castor oil
– Ayurveda offers natural food remedies against greying and hair loss

– combing hair in all directions promotes blood circulation for optimal health
– ‘bangs’ cover forehead, thus preventing the porous bones from being infused with light which may have an influence on brain activity (is that why bangs give this ‘innocent’ look?)


Posted in Abondance, Ayurveda, Emancipation, hair care, Radical Self Care, self care | Tagged , , , , | 4 Comments