Remembering Zina

A few times per year I remember Zina. A girl that I cannot compare to anyone I have met. I don’t know what exactly triggers these thoughts. Perhaps as a writer and someone with tendency to overthink, I am just experiencing a random manifestation of thoughts swirling in my subconscious mind into my aware mind and they either get attention they need, or they disappear.

As I was thinking about my next post here, I thought I’ll post something about her then as it sounded like a good idea. It will allow others to see her brilliant mind and soul and I would have it saved here as a tribute to her, as she was one of my heroes. Still is actually.

I am not a huge fan of bucket lists and I refuse to make one, but I remember how I wanted to meet her one day. Until I realised, she’s dead. I felt incredibly sad that I’ll never get to ask her something or have a coffee with her.

It started with this video of her talking about her creative compulsive disorder.

I went and checked her blog,, it is still online if you want to check it out – https://normallyoddzina.wordpress.com
I really recommend reading her brilliant essays.

One thing that seems to have disappeared though, is my most favourite piece by her, essay named Contrast and Catalyst. Luckily, I’ve downloaded it at the time and it now lives on my old blog, where you can download it from.

So who exactly was Zina and why I am still enchanted by her being?

Zina, full name Zina Nicole Dembitsky Lahr, was born on 13th February 1990. She died unexpectedly on 20th November 2013, (aged 23), in a tragic accident whilst hiking trail in Ouray, in Colorado mountains. Her sister, Brie, died in a car accident 3 years before that, in December 2010 and there’s a heartfelt post on Zina’s blog dedicated to her sister.

Here is a brief excerpt of it:

Happy Birthday, Brie Michelle. Your body a vessel… Your soul beyond it. Your message true. Like messages in a bottle, we, the vessels who were touched by the story of your life, can carry it with us. The love you gave me, emotional snapshots in my heart, I keep them locked away there… and take them out from time to time to reminisce, but, even more so, in an attempt to share them with others.

Let only praises ring with every shout from my mouth… let me proclaim this life and LIVE. Oh, yes, LIVE like you showed you could. Let me be a mere vessel of the love you have carried to me… and so many others. Happy Birthday, dear sister of mine… I miss you more than ever, but I am comforted that your presence is still ever present.

Your Sister,

Zina

You can read more of her thoughts on the blog I mentioned. I hope you will find her as inspiring and as magical as I did.

She was one of the few people I will always remember as ones that touched my soul in the way that I knew it was a gift from God. I always found her talking about this experience on Earth as a journey where she felt trapped in her body as in a vessel of sorts incredibly similar to my own feeling about it. As if bodies were only a framework around our souls, a mere point of reference so we humans can navigate through the life in physical form. It was this strangely comforting view of hers that made me love her. In the world where physical appearance is becoming more and more glorified, here was someone who didn’t challenge the idea of bodies being something that varies from person to person and shouldn’t be something to be ashamed of, shamed for, or a tool for self loathing, but someone who recognised that in a way, they are just mechanical suits for our timeless souls needed to allow us to experience life on Earth.

Of course the idea of soul being trapped in the body isn’t anything new, but the way she spoke about it, didn’t show any signs of disappointment from that fact. It seemed that she knew that one day she’ll be able to go back home. She believed in God, but she wasn’t overly religious. Yet I can say she made me believe in God more than those who speak about Him more often and with greater zealousy. She was meek in this sense and I guess God spoke through her differently. And I loved the way He spoke through her.

She definitely was a Catalyst.

Mixtape 1

This is not a typical post about things I’ve been trying to put out, but rather an experiment and depending on how well it does, I might try something like this again.

I should mention this post owes it existence to a movie I’ve seen a few years ago, Mixtape.

Mixtape.

It isn’t a movie I would normally choose but I normally read plot before watching anything and it just sounded awesome. And, it actually is an amazing movie!

So I’ve decided to put 16 songs together and kind of link them with some experiences I had and create a musical adventure that is also an invitation into my world.

Song 1 – Placebo – Try Better Next Time

Placebo released the official visualiser for this song a few days after I quit drinking and even though the song is dedicated to humanity as an advice to try better next time we inherit a planet, when I heard it for the first time, I’ve immediately thought of all the times when I hated myself for drinking and not being able to stop. I was a few days clean, I think it was 4 or 5 days and this song became my anthem to forgive myself every time I fall and try better next time.

Song 2 – Amy Macdonald – Run

I have been a huge fan of females in rock ever since I started to listen to music. It started with Dolores from The Cranberries and then came Anneke from The Gathering and since then I have always been keen on getting to know rock bands fronted by females, as well as female solo artists. I was absolutely blown away by Amy’s first album and after watching her few performances on YouTube I became a huge fan of her personality and her Scottish accent. It’s hard to say exactly why I’ve picked this song, but watching her sing this with orchestra, I might have, might not, shed a tear. I love music that can do that to a grown up man. 

Song 3 – The Cranberries – In The End

If I was explaining this choice to my sister, I wouldn’t need to say any words. She would just know. 

I still remember that cold January when I found out about Dolores passing.

When the In The End album came out I couldn’t stop listening to this song. There is a lot of sentiment in it because of it being last by The Cranberries, but I always found the “ain’t it strange how everything you wanted was nothing what you wanted” verse incredibly sad, yet insanely beautiful and somewhat prophetic, as we all make choices for future without actually knowing much and often what we wanted and get, feels different to how we imagined it would feel. 

Song 4 – The Strokes – Chances

I didn’t actually like the song very much originally, I mean, I liked it but it didn’t become special to me until I saw a video of Capital Children’s Choir preforming it. There’s plenty of low key breakup references one can pick up if one fancies some reflection on post breakup sadness. There’s some strange redemption in this song for me. Julian’s voice is bit different to his usual more rock n roll singing.

Song 5 – Manic Street Preachers – Motorcycle Emptiness

Easy choice. One of the most iconic rock anthems, one of the most impactful bands when it comes to my life and growing up. There is no better way to enjoy this song than walking at the night with only neons lighting the streets. That feeling of loneliness and sadness is liberating.

Song 6 – The Gathering – Travel

Of course that The Gathering must be on the list. I have chosen a song dedicated to Mozart. Some people travel to places, with songs like this, I don’t need to travel in the outer world when I can travel inside. My most favourite song of all time. When Anneke sings “I wish you knew” I just swoon. I travel.

Song 7 – Travis – Idlewild

I loved Travis since the album The Man Who. I saw them in theatre in Nottingham where they played the whole album and it was phenomenal! This song isn’t from that album, but it being a duet with amazing Josephine Oniyama made me choose it for this list.

Song 8 – mewithoutYou – In A Sweater Poorly Knit 

Song I dedicate to my brother, as he was the first one to point it out to me. Since then it became an anthem to me. Especially after finding out that You in the band name refers to God. A wonderful metaphor about us trying to catch someone, only to get trapped ourselves.

Song 9 – Moby – The Last Day

I always loved Moby for choosing incredibly fitting voices for his songs. Skylar Grey manages to sing here in a way that makes this song a masterpiece. I read that this song is about a poor man who is looking for his last day, day that will free him from his misery and it is on his last day when he manages to see the sun. The way I feel listening to this song, isn’t far from that moment.

Song 10 – Tokyo Shoegazer – Bright

Shoegaze (originally called shoegazing and sometimes conflated with “dream pop”) is a subgenre of indie and alternative rock characterized by its ethereal mixture of obscured vocals, guitar distortion and effects, feedback, and overwhelming volume. It emerged in Ireland and the United Kingdom in the late 1980s among neo-psychedelic groups who usually stood motionless during live performances in a detached, non-confrontational state. The name comes from the heavy use of effects pedals, as the performers were often looking down at their pedals during concerts.

This song captures the mood of shoegaze magically. If I was a music genre, I will definitely be shoegaze.

Song 11 – A-ha – Cast In Steel

I am a rocker at heart, but I am also a huge fan of A-ha. This song reminds me of everything that once was and isn’t anymore. And is my deepest expression of gratitude for all the darkness that took me a while to accept as a gift too. There’s no greater pop band when it comes to expressing sentiment of life than A-ha. 

Song 12 – Adrian Bouldt – Never Lovers 

I’m giving this song out for the first time as it’s my secret song. It reminds me of someone very special. I kind of promised her not to share this song with anyone else, but I think time has come for me to share it. Since then I’ve met a few more girls with which I didn’t end up being a lover, but a few of them remain my good friends. And who knows if that isn’t for the best. 

Song 13 – Anathema – Endless Ways

It was hard to choose a song from Anathema as they have been a godsend for me in many ways, in endless ways. Album Eternity is still in my top 10 and whilst this song isn’t from that album, the lyrics of Endless Ways made me to choose this one. If I ever need a reminder that I’m loved in endless ways, Lee Douglas is a great choice. 

Song 14 – Bruce Springsteen – Long Walk Home

I was trying to pick a song about home. And I managed to get one mentioning walk too. I don’t often meet with overly appreciative reactions from people when I mention Bruce, but it doesn’t change my opinion on him. He is The Boss.

I was considering Outlaw Pete for this list, but I’ve decided to put Long Walk Home as I keep thinking about my parents back home in Slovakia these days and I just wanted a little reminder of the feeling one gets travelling home. Sometimes I even think of walking there one day. That will definitely be a long walk from UK!

Song 15 – Habitants – Runners

When I learned about the project Habitants, I was super excited as I was already loving Anna Van De Hoogen in Rosemary And Garlic. Her voice with the music of the members of The Gathering was promising a magical album and One Self indeed turned out to be just that.

The mood of Runners reflects much of my life that very few songs do and whilst it definitely is a sad song, it works as a medicine whenever I listen to it. 

and I’ll try justifying it
so I can taste it again
believe me
it’s better to erase
my memory
than to live with
my crime

you were not mine

Song 16 – Karintytär – Anna Anteeksi

During first lockdown I came across a project by by Marten Berger, Sounds Like Van Spirit, https://soundslikevanspirit.eu. It really impressed me and I purchased the album. Anna Anteeksi became my most favourite song right away, especially after I read the lyrics in English. I really liked how I originally had no clue what she’s singing in Finnish, but I immediately knew it’s a beautiful song. I also absolutely loved how she was shown in the video. It captured the spirit of the project exactly how I imagined it was meant to be presented, a wonderful collection of songs collected on the European streets.

Don’t Burn The Bridges, Part The Veil

Recently I came into conflict with some articles and other people’s opinion on how to deal with an end of a relationship and the post breakup feelings.

It seems that general post breakup protocol dictates limiting the contact with the other person, some advice went as far as recommending burning all the bridges. I guess it depends on the specific conditions under which the relationship ended and perhaps in some circumstances it is the healthiest way to deal with it. 

I remember  how strongly I felt about a fantasy character of the popular card game, Magic: The Gathering, Narset, a highly enlightened being who is also known as Parter Of Veils. I always imagined that she was able to part any veil that human mind can create and see beyond it. And it is a fairly common knowledge amongst truth seekers that we live in a strange state of having our vision veiled by our own agenda and conditioning, only seeing a portion of the truth and if we don’t try to look beyond the immediately visible, we might never really see anyone as they are, but rather see them just as our own interpretation of them and sure, maybe that’s enough we need to, or want to see in many instances, it doesn’t really satisfy me when it comes to someone I once felt very close to. It’s almost as if we are encouraged to see those who left us as “betrayers” and us as victims of their betrayal, because there are so many quotes saying we need to protect our dignity and self worth from these people as they will use, or abuse us again and it’s only by us cutting them off and drawing some kind of mental border we are able to heal from the harm they’ve done. 

The thing is though, if we get too stuck with the narrative of betrayal and ignore that what we once felt was true, we might end up betraying ourselves. Maybe even they were true at the time, but something has changed and they had to review their investment in being with us and realised that it no longer matches their requirements. And it could actually broke their heart to see that, before they went and broke our heart. But we almost always focus on our side of the story, because that is all we really know.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying that we have to spend an enormous amount of effort to see someone for who they are, if we lost all interest in actually knowing them after there no longer is a destination that we both want to go to. We are not obliged to know everyone the same way. Our time here on Earth is simply too short to even get to know ourselves really well, but I guess we all long for being seen by a few people who we care about and that tends to happen when we actually make some effort to see them and all of this takes time and as we know, time is one of the most expensive commodities.

And by the way, I am not writing this to give anyone any advice on how to find the right way of being, or not being with someone they broke up with, or they broke with them. I myself am only at the beginning of this journey and this post is simply my personal attempt to draw some kind of road map I can refer to should I feel lost where I am in relation to the person I once believed is the one. 

Perhaps it also depends on where we are on our own journey as not all we meet, as important as meeting them was, are to stay with us, or near us as we wander towards our destiny. We all love company, well, a good company, I’d rather be alone than stuck with a bad company, most of our journey is spent on our own, dealing with our own emotions. Even if we might walk with someone and look like we’re journeying in the same direction, we can have different reasons for going there, or after reaching certain checkpoint we might realise that our journeys must split. So maybe often the honest processing of the hurt we feel from having to say goodbye to those we met is the most important thing we do as sojourners. To say an honest goodbye is as important, if not even more important in some instances, as an honest hello. 

I cannot and don’t want to control  how the other person looks back at meeting me, but I want to be able to recognise that they came to teach me something, show me something, that maybe the darkness I experienced from having to say goodbye to them was also a gift. 

And I am willing to go against the stream a little here. I have met with some strange comments from friends on my decision to remain friends with the girl I was with, but I realise that only opinion that matters here is my own. No one can advise me how to be, where to go from here but me. It is this personal responsibility that plays the major part in not hastily accepting any advice from those who were not really feeling what we felt. As confused as we are, they aren’t really equipped to give us guidance on how to deal with our emotions and I would rather find my own way and get lost a little in the process, than to accept advice from someone who doesn’t know how much someone meant to me. I also believe that we must get lost a little before we actually find ourselves. The losing of who we were with someone and finding who we are without them is an important part of growth, as there will always be more losing as we go and it can teach us important lesson that we’re destined to lose everything in the end and that it’s okay!

I want to end this personal post by a wish to the person I dedicate this to:

Hope that you find it, hope that it’s good
~ Ode To The Mets, The Strokes

And the opening sequence of a poem written by King Olav V of Norway dedicated to all that can still see and feel remnants of moments spent with those they loved and had to say goodbye to.

Quote in the beginning of the video. One of my most favourite songs.

When I look back, I see the landscape that I have walked through. But it is different. 

All the great trees are gone. It seems there are remnants of them, but it is the afterglow inside of you, of all those you met, who meant something in your life. 

~ Olav Rex, August 1977

So why so sad?, or, Welcome to my blog

The idea for the name of this website came from a Magic: The Gathering card, sometimes referred to as “sad robot”.
The two words, solemn and simulacrum always appealed to me and as I can quite relate to being a robot, especially a sad one, I decided to name my page solemnsimulacrum.

There’s actually a story about a sad robot I keep sharing and perhaps this is a place where I can save it for future references.

Here it is:

“No piece of art has ever emotionally affected me the way this robot arm piece has. It’s programmed to try to contain the hydraulic fluid that’s constantly leaking out and required to keep itself running. If too much escapes, it will die so it’s desperately trying to pull it back to continue to fight for another day. Saddest part is they gave the robot the ability to do these ‘happy dances’ to spectators. When the project was first launched it danced around spending most of its time interacting with the crowd since it could quickly pull back the small spillage. Many years later… (as you see it now in the picture) it looks tired and hopeless as there isn’t enough time to dance anymore.
It now only has enough time to try to keep itself alive as the amount of leaked hydraulic fluid became unmanageable as the spill grew over time. Living its last days in a never-ending cycle between sustaining life and simultaneously bleeding out. (Figuratively and literally as its hydraulic fluid was purposefully made to look like it’s actual blood). The robot arm finally ran out of hydraulic fluid in 2019, slowly came to a halt and died – And I am now tearing up over a friggin robot arm that was programmed to live out this fate and no matter what it did or how hard it tried, there was no escaping it. Spectators watched as it slowly bled out until the day that it ceased to move forever. Saying that ‘this resonates’ doesn’t even do it justice imo.

Created by Sun Yuan & Peng Yu, they named the piece, Can’t Help Myself. What a masterpiece.VWhat a message. “Extended interpretations: the hydraulic fluid in relation to how we kill ourselves both mentally and physically for money just in an attempt to sustain life, how the system is set up for us to fail on purpose to essentially enslave us and to steal the best years of our lives to play the game that the richest people of the world have designed. How this robs us of our happiness, passion and our inner peace. How we are slowly drowning with more responsibilities, with more expected of us, less rewarding pay-offs and less free time to enjoy ourselves with as the years go by. How there’s really no escaping the system and that we were destined at birth to follow a pretty specific path that was already laid out before us. How we can give and give and give and how easily we can be forgotten after we’ve gone. How we are loved and respected when we are valuable, then one day we aren’t any longer and we become a burden. And how our young, free-caring spirit gets stolen from us as we get churned out of the broken system that we are trapped inside of. Can also be seen to represent the human life cycle and the fact that none of us make it out of this world alive. But also can act as a reminder to allow yourself to heal, rest and love with all of your heart. That the endless chase for ‘more’ isn’t necessary in finding your own inner happiness.”
~ James Kricked Parr

Edit: I recently read that the above isn’t entirely true. Apparently the robot simply reached its exhibition end. The piece was actually shown at the 2019 Venice Art Biennale working properly.

It looks kind of sad, right?

There’s still a lot of truth though in the interpretation of the art. All art is subject to beholder’s interpretation isn’t it? If this piece evoked a response different to what authors intended, if they actually intended a specific response, it probably is just a reflection of what public carries in their minds. I mean, who could not connect to art reminding us of finity of our lives, life of us all and resources around us? Sooner or later each one of us has to come to terms with our own mortality and whilst it’s not something one wants to spend time on daily, it is good to be reminded of it, in the carpe diem way, to perhaps re-align with who we are and what we are doing and what we want to be and do.

Welcome to my blog.

On cigarettes and being present

I am waiting for the 6.16 train from Nottingham to Leeds and as I am drinking my Costa coffee, I ponder how did I end up here and what can I learn from it.

I was travelling back to the UK from Slovakia yesterday and I have bought three cartons of Davidoff cigarettes for my friend. I carried them in a plastic bag given at the Bratislava airport and somehow I managed to forget that bag on the Leeds airport link A1. It was a long journey.

I realised this when I sat down at Pret A Manger at the Leeds train station and I kind of threw the towel in, accepting I’m around £125 short repeating “Fuck it.” as a mantra in my head.

Then I told my brother about it and he said – “Why don’t you call them?”
And as much as I can say that it probably should occur to me as a possible action, it never did. I guess I was kind of blinded by my rage and anger and what not, that I simply wanted to “punish myself” for this mistake by “losing the £125” I paid for these cigarettes.

I managed to find the contact for the Flyer and messaged them over WhatsApp. I messaged them at 15.01 and at 15.31 they messaged back saying the cigarettes were found.
My sister’s boyfriend called me a lucky bastard.

And here’s the learning I can see in this story.

It has been recommended in the 12 step recovery to find someone to call or message to should we find ourselves in the state of falling back into the addiction, or should we feel we are close to giving in. Because sometimes the difference between overcoming a temptation and falling into it is just a simple message or phone call.
I dare to say that losing £125 isn’t something that would destroy me, but it also isn’t something I really want to let happen if I can help it.
And I can honestly say that if it wasn’t for my brother, I would have fallen into the negative self talk (you deserved this bullshit) and I would have not messaged the Flyer management and the story would end there.

Though my brother being the brother he is, didn’t forget to add that this probably happened because I wasn’t fucking present.
Of course I wasn’t fucking present, I rarely am lol, like show me someone who is 24/7 present you dumbass.
I’ve recently finished a book by Mark Manson, Everything is fucked and he mentions Quang Duc, the Vietnamese monk that somehow managed to stay present whilst burning alive protesting the persecution of Buddhists by the South Vietnamese government led by Ngô Đình Diệm in 1963. Like if we are talking about that kind of being present then I can say I’ll never achieve that and I’m okay to be present my own chaotic way as it’s kind of fun. It earned me a trip to Leeds on a fine sunny May morning and I can play some more Placebo on the train. In my books that’s a pretty good thing.

But back to the importance of support network.

We all have blind spots in our vision. There is no better way of putting it, then to say I indeed was blinded by my anger in the heat of the moment when I realised what happened. But someone else could see beyond my blind spot of anger. And chances are, in whatever situation we are, there’s always someone who can help us more than we can help ourselves and we shouldn’t be afraid, or ashamed to ask.
Though technically I did not ask my brother for help. I’ve actually been upset and just wanted to vent. Luckily, people who know us, can decipher what we are saying. Can you please help me have many different ways of spelling.

Conclusion:
Pretty much any bad can be turned into good, or we can at least shift our perception of it. It might not always be easy, but it is almost always possible. Sitting on the morning train to Leeds, looking for some final words of wisdom to end my little piece on being present I sense my mood being nicely fuzzy and soft. I am actually happy it happened.

Inktober 2021

Day 1 – Crystal

Mouse is trying to see future in a crystal ball. It seems he is not impressed!

Day 2 – Suit

Mouse went to space! He was really excited to be one the first of his kind to travel in a rocket!

Day 3 – Vessel

One of the best moments in mouse’s life is opening a new jar of premium mature cheddar!

Day 4 – Knot

Mouse is shredding on his favourite guitar, showing everyone he is a big fan of Slipknot!

Day 5 – Raven

Mouse is trying on his handmade Halloween costume based on his favourite trilogy Kin Fables by McKinnon brothers, wearing a replica of one of the raven worshippers mask from Tale 1.

Day 6 – Spirit

Poor mouse saw a spirt, or a ghost, though he isn’t sure about it all now as he might had too much wine.

Day 7 – Fan

Mouse is a big fan of Inktober! Well, it is the time for him to go on adventures and see things that even some humans don’t get to see.

Day 8 – Watch

Mouse used to love watching night sky and his favourite thing to see were falling stars!

Day 9 – Pressure

Mouse is under a lot of pressure here as he ate too much of blue cheese and it seems he might not make it home in time!

Day 10 – Pick

Mouse don’t seem to be able to pick which cheese to get for dinner. I personally would recommend emmental!

Day 11 – Sour

Mouse often starts his day with a bowl of cereals and kefir. Some aren’t keen on its rather sour taste, but mouse actually enjoys it!

Day 12 – Stuck

Mouse loves gaming, but he seems stuck. Soon he might need to find help in the walkthrough.

Day 13 – Roof

Mouse loves driving his convertible with the roof down!

Day 14 – Tick

Mouse finally managed to fix his old clock. Now he can tick it off his to do list.

Day 15 – Helmet

Mouse used to play ice hockey when he was young.

Day 16 – Compass

Apparently, so one of mouse’s favourite bedtime stories says, there is a magical compass that shows the shortest path to cheese. Mouse would really want such thing.

Day 17 – Collide

It seems it wasn’t a good idea to go up to the roof in slippers. Collision with ground is unavoidable.

Day 18 – Moon

Many say that sometimes moon looks like cheese, but only a few look at it as if it really was. Mouse does.

Day 19 – Loop

Sometimes, when mouse gets bored, he loops his tail creating various words or objects.

Day 20 – Sprout

Mouse discovered his block of chees started to sprout with something long and green. He lost his appetite short after.

Day 21 – Fuzzy

Mouse didn’t shave for a while. He looks a bit fuzzy.

Day 22 – Open

Mouse had a bad dream. When he opened his eyes and realised he is in his bed, he was relieved.

Day 23 – Leak

Mouse has a leaking ceiling. He is not looking forward fixing it.

Day 24 – Extinct

Mouse have made another costume for Halloween, a pterodactyl.

Day 25 – Splat

Poor mouse! He dropped his favourite cheescake!

Day 26 – Connect

Mouse bought himself a new hi-fi setup and is excited to connect it all up and listen to his favourite DJ – deadmau5!

Day 27 – Spark

Mouse doesn’t have many bad habits, but occasionally he enjoys a cigarette.

Day 28 – Crispy

Mouse isn’t a big fan of winter, oh no! But even then he can enjoy the crispy mornings.

Day 29 – Patch

Mouse doesn’t only like cheese, he also loves mushrooms! He is so happy to see a first small patch of his home grown oyster mushrooms!

Day 30 – Slither

Mouse truly hates creeping and crawling creatures – especially snakes! – and so he often dreams he is a powerful wizard and can shrink them and show them who is the boss!

Day 31 – Risk

Mouse isn’t exactly know for making accurate cost to benefit analysis in his little head so he often takes unnecessary risk. Well, sometimes you got to…

Inktober 2021 – Done!

You were great. I didn’t finish you on time, but better late then never, right?

Until 2022…