Tag Archives: Life

It’s time to pull the zipper down…

There are moments in life that undress you. One moment you stand there fully clothed and the next you’re stark naked.

I always liked when people got naked. Usually it’s when they run into trouble, face their demons and crack open. Their carefully crafted coping mechanisms fail. The ego driven patterns they’re hiding their flaws behind crack. And suddenly they find themselves naked. Usually uncomfortable for them, but nice for the onlookers, who suddenly see their heart.

Maybe they need to wash off some of the crap they’ve landed themselves in, but their heart is right there. And it’s beautiful.

I had one of those moments the other day. Someone asked me something along the lines of: “Wouldn’t your gran like to have had one more experience? Like if you’d asked her before she died, wasn’t there something she wished she’d done?” And my reply was: “No, she’d just have wanted to spend more time with her family.”

When I said it I didn’t think too much about it, but when I came home it made me teary-eyed. One, because that side of the family is gone save from my sister and I. Two, because I’ve been driven by so many other things than my gran was — she was driven by family and she was happy and content, save from when people started passing over. That was her downfall — she couldn’t deal with that and let new people enter her life.

I, on the other hand, have had many incredible experiences all over the world, but it wasn’t until the past five odd years I started feeling remotely happy being me. And it wasn’t until last year I started taking my social life seriously. Because even though I knew more people than most could dream of, I was so scared of rejection I never focused on actually stitching it all together. And while this blog can attest to my many epiphanies surrounding dating over the years, I never truly thought myself capable of finding a man who loved me that I loved. Until possibly earlier this year.

I know I’m a bit of an adrenaline and experience junkie. And I get high on breaking convention. I also get a sense of fulfillment from film and Magique, as well as Little Angels, that I don’t think my gran got from her work. But I also know that as a child I filled my life with stories because I felt lonely — I was bullied and unhappy around my step-mom so I hid in books.

Yesterday I went to the doctor as I’ve caught the latest Cape Town epidemic: a stomach bug. Nothing serious, just an upset tummy, but you know after a week you start feeling a tad drained. The kind doctor put me on a fast — rehydration drinks for 24 hrs followed by bread and potatoes only for 24 hrs.

Now, I’ve done a lot of juice fasts in my day and they’re fascinating, because food is one of those feel good things. Makes you happy when you taste yummy things. Also gives you energy. When you don’t have energy you get cranky and start facing your demons. Same thing if you’re bored and alone without distraction.

Today, I realized, while tired and grumpy, just how addicted I am to food. And get me right: I’m pro a certain level of food addiction. Life should be tasty, if you ask me. But I can also see how a good book and a glass of wine, or a treat and my favorite Netflix, is a substitute for going out there and meeting people. I think good books, food and Netflix are wonderful,  it’s just using one good thing to replace another isn’t a great strategy.

Co-incidentally (if there is such a thing) I’m reading Brand’s Recovery at the moment as I always wanted an excuse to attend an AA meeting so I could learn the darn steps. Now there’s a book for that. Not that I think it can substitute what you get from the group meetings, in fact I believe if you suffer from any kind of addiction AA should be your next stop (take it from one who has known and dated enough former addicts to break the rules of probability), but for us who don’t want to turn into addicts to join AA it’s a great book. At least if you’ve lived in London and are used to foul language.

Anyway, my point, dear readers, is that I realized I have my little addictions. I already knew I had patterns. Run from loneliness by creating loneliness is one of them (sounds counter-intuitive, but hey, constantly moving round the world and being a workaholic you’re too busy to get a stabile social life so you never need feel rejected). Using food and stories to combat loneliness is an addiction though. I always said that books were my drug as a kid. If it hadn’t been for stories I thought I’d ended up committing suicide or taking drugs. I never wanted to do either, but I figured that’s because I had something that gave me hope. People always look at me with incredulity when I say those things these days, because I’m no longer the shy kid hiding in my room, petrified of my step-sisters cool friends, but I still carry that child inside me. The child that couldn’t for the life of her understand why she didn’t have friends. Couldn’t figure out what was wrong with her, but figured she was seriously flawed somehow.

The truth is, I never fully opened up. I tried. Just as I tried liking myself. And it gets better all the time. I no longer want to run into walls because I hate myself so much and the experience in hospice was the latest thing that made me feel like I cracked open. And that comment about gran’s greatest desire brought it home even more — because there are few things more important than the people in our lives. I need to open myself up to those people. Unlike gran it isn’t just about family for me. I think everyone we love is family. And there are a whole bunchload of people I really love. I’d like to be fully present with them. And spend as much time with them as physically possible.

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Final goodbyes…

Friday I got the message I’ve been waiting for: “It’s time to come home to say goodbye to grandma.” I’ve been waiting for that message and yet it took me an hour to book the ticket because it freaked me out so much that once it’s booked that’s it. That’s the final goodbye.

A few months back, Liezl’s sister, Jess, died and I wrote a letter to Jess that I gave to Liezl. I wrote that letter because I wanted to help Liezl and I wanted to say goodbye to Jess in my own way. Below you can see an excerpt.

Liezl always tells me that she knows when I’m hurting, because she can feel it. Well, I know Liezl is hurting now, because I can feel it. So please, let her see life as a puzzle of moments made up of experiences with those we love. We only get so many puzzle pieces with each person. We never know when they will leave for another world. It feels so unfair when they do, especially when they are young, or when we have lost many people we love, but that’s life. We can’t change it. All we can do is treasure the moments we have with those we love. The ones who are here. And carry the wisdom and love of those we have lost in our hearts.

In a few months I may have to write another letter to my extra nieces in Cape Town, as their father, Tony, is dying. And I promised him I’d be there for them when that happened. Liezl and I plan to take them to see the stars — to look at their dad.

About a year ago Tony had one of his bad spells and he took the time then that he was entitled to live in a hospice for a few weeks. That he has survived till now is a miracle, but when he was in hospice I sat with Liezl and another friend of ours in the little chapel they have there. We were talking about grief. About mourning. And I felt so happy that I had those two women next to me. I knew I wasn’t alone.

I think when people die, what we need is something that anchors us to life. We need to feel love. We need to feel the joy of life. We cannot allow ourselves to be bitter about what life is: a limited period of time. Instead we need to cherish what little time we have and make every moment with those we love special. Because it is special. Every single moment you share with the people you love and care about is special.

Yesterday I was speaking with Liezl on the phone and at first I was rambling on about how this just wasn’t happening, because I needed someone to hug at night. My gran couldn’t die, if I didn’t have a man whose heartbeat I could hear through the night. I needed to know I had life next to me. But as I spoke to Liezl we spoke about the kids I raise, about the kids I mentor, about our friends in the township, about Liezl’s family and about all the plans we have for Little Angels and Malaika. And somewhere I started smiling and I didn’t stop.

My phonecall with Liezl anchored me to life; to what I love. The kids I help raise are the most important part of my life and Little Angels is the part that’s brought me the most joy.

When I got that message Friday I was overwhelmed by memories from my childhood. I was petrified of losing the one home that’s always been my safe haven — my grandparents’ flat. It’s where I lived for part of my childhood. It’s where I ran to away from my stepmom. It was my haven. It was where I built the dreams of the future.

My grandparents taught me that love is real and that the reality of it is commitment. In a family you don’t always see eye to eye, you don’t always understand each other, but you are always there for each other. You take care of each other.

My grandparents also taught me to look after what you have. You take pride in your home. In your clothes. In your being. You look after what’s yours.

When my mom died my grandparents on both sides became substitute parents. They were always there. It made me realize that family, really, is just simply the people who show up. When I moved to South Africa and started looking after children I did that because I believed all children should have what I had as a kid — someone who’s there for them. A rock.

I am coming to terms with now having to create my own haven. I need to find my own footing. I need to be my own rock. But the truth is that none of us are a very good rock on our own. We need each other. We need life. We need the sound of the heartbeats that we love.

Cherish those hearts. And commit to look after them, because that’s what family does. I’m a firm believer, as my life is a testament to, that family is the people you care about, not the people whose blood you share. My family is part South African.

I feel like I’m losing a part of myself right now. A part that’s always been there. And I keep bursting into tears. But I also know that there will be many more parts to my life; many more blessings in the shape of human beings; in the shape of beautiful souls. And together we will go on adventures and create moments filled with love and laughter.

It’s all an adventure that comes with a breathtaking view. – The Greatest Showman

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The fairytale and I…

I was talking to someone yesterday about how some people make life seem like a fairy tale. You know the ones — they go above and beyond to make you feel treasured and make memories that last a lifetime.

Sometimes we get stuck thinking these people are special. When we’re with them we just experience the most magical stuff. Usually because they make sure we do, but at other times just because. As if the Universe conspired to give us those moments when we are with those people. I’m guessing because we are in the mood for magic, so we seek it. We look for adventure and we find it.

The truth is, there are millions of people on this planet and millions of experiences you could be having right this moment. The experience you are having is because of the choices you’ve made. Some choices we make are great, other suck, but we are free to create whatever we like in this moment. We can choose where our focus is.

Last year I decided I wanted to enjoy life, no matter how impossible the visa-kids-work-finances-business situation looked. That hasn’t been an easy journey, because, well there’s still that situation to deal with. But I’m enjoying myself so much more, because I’ve given myself permission to do so. Even in the face of being away from the kids.

It’s also about responsibility. No matter what we fall victim for, no matter what unfairness we experience, we still choose whether we want to feel like victims, or take whatever we can into our own hands.

For the past three days I’ve been bitching about the novel I’m writing. I’m stoked to be writing a novel, but I don’t seem to find inspiration. I don’t feel the flow. I just write because I have to and sometimes I don’t even muster that. Copywriting is much easier — even when you get stuck you can quite easily unstuck yourself. Writing a novel is another matter entirely.

Since yesterday I’ve been thinking about how we can choose to take responsibility for turning our life into a fairy tale. Often when we go through a rough patch, or lose someone we love, we feel like there’s no happiness left inside of us. Not the kind we would have if only the situation we are in would resolve itself, or if we would get that person back in our lives. We feel like we need that thing for happiness. The funny thing is, once we decide that we can find happiness and go off to create it, something happens. Those magical moments start appearing. Life slowly turns round. And while we may not feel as much happiness as we used to and we may still struggle with a situation (I woke up from yet another epic dream about my kids at four am this morning, for example, certain I couldn’t take another moment of this anguish), that doesn’t mean that we can’t take responsibility for making the most of the now.

This is my life. I want to live it. And I wanna write that novel. I can. If I only decide to. Just like you can find inspiration in life, if you only decide to.

As my friend William Whitecloud would say: focus creates reality.

I’m now focusing on writing a book, instead of moping about writing a book. I’m focusing on the characters I love, instead of the fear of missing a deadline. I’m focusing on what I’d love to create, instead of what I fear to create if I don’t find the inspiration.

Most people who make a conscious decision to get what they want, get it. Because they put their focus on it. Sadly, most people focus on getting what they think they need to be happy, instead of deciding to focus on simply creating happiness. Others focus on what they fear will happen, instead of what they would love to create. Yet others focus on the problems (like I did at four am this morning, certain my life would fall to pieces if I couldn’t control the SA government when it comes to visas and adoption rights), instead of what they’d love to create (a visa and an adoption paper).

Still, even if you don’t get exactly what you want all the time, your happiness is not dependent on that.

You can make your life wonderful. You’ve got that power.

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Why wiping someone’s ass should be a dating priority…

I was speaking to my ninety-one year-old gran last night and her body is falling apart. Quite literally. She has breast cancer which came back and now her body, apart from being old and frail, is struggling with coping altogether. It was a harrowing phonecall.

It’s not that my gran is at the ICU at the moment, or in a hospital bed. She was at the ER yesterday though, because her body is filling up with fluid and she has diahorrea. It’s not pretty. In fact, it’s pretty damn horrific.

I was with my gran a year-and-a-half ago when she was first diagnosed with cancer and had surgery. I was raised partially by my grandparents and I’ve seen gran and her body in some of the most compromising positions you could imagine. I’ve also seen her struggle as she got older. Struggle to walk, struggle to get dressed, struggle to stand up… Her body is old.

My other gran, before passing away, became senile. With her I saw the struggle of remembering things, as well as fighting demons from the past. I got phonecalls about old lovers and heard of bitter regrets. I was there to help her use the bathroom. Ever since I’ve said that true love is wiping someone’s ass when they can no longer do it themselves.

My grandparents were my saving grace when I was a child. They were there through mom dying, through the bullies, through evil stepmoms, through teenage depression, they were there through it all. They were the place I ran to. They were my safe haven.

That doesn’t mean that my grandparents and I have always agreed on things, or understood one another — far from it. But I grew up with them serving me by raising me, so I always wanted to give the same back. Protection and care. And I think that’s the bottom line of any relationship. If that kind of commitment isn’t there, you have nothing.

We inherit the best and the worst from people. My grandparents brought me life, security, artistry, creativity, smarts, asthma, cold sores and vericose veins. I’ve never disliked my body, nor have I ever really understood if someone has loved me, or my body. Because, you know, I have flaws. I couldn’t breathe properly as a child, how’s that for being flawed?

My childhood had my self-confidence obliterated, save from the confidence I had in my skills. It’s taken me a long time to rebuild that other confidence; the part of me that’s OK to just be a human. It was only when I pretty much had nothing going for me in South Africa that I started to realize that I needed to learn to live anyway. You know, really live. Breathe in the moment and have fun.

In my battle for visa and adoption rights I’d pretty much lost everything I had — there was a business in limbo, no money in the bank, no social life, no career successes, no nothing. There was just me and what looked like a hopeless situation fighting for the children. And somewhere I decided to take responsibility for that situation and kick life in its balls.

It worked. Wasn’t pain free, didn’t provide immediate solutions, but it worked. I still have nightmares pretty much every night about the children, business, finances and visas, but I learnt to be happy in the face of it all. It hurts with the kids. It hurts to high heavens and back again, but I let it go and I live. I cry too, but I live. And I keep fighting. I just make sure to live too.

Feeling like you’ve fucked up your entire life can be a really good lesson in learning to live and love. Love yourself.

Now, my point with all this, is that we all have a choice to take responsibility for our lives. We also all have bodies that will one day fall apart. We face events that will, at some point, break us. We make mistakes that we regret with bitter tears. And sometimes we face pain in ways we never thought possible. Like being separated from a child, or losing a husband, or getting arrested for a crime we never committed.

But the only way to conquer that is to learn to live in the face of it. And slowly climb the mountain to overcome it. It doesn’t happen over night, but it is possible. Your wrinkles, your flaws, your current pissy situation, none of that is an excuse to hate yourself, or stop finding moments of happiness. It might feel impossible, but you can and will love yourself and your life, if you just decide to do it. Little by little. So if it’s only finding one moment of belly deep laughter.

No, you probably aren’t perfect. Nor is anyone else. And everyone will annoy the hell out of you at some point, hurt you and make you mad as they come. But if you are committed to loving them and loving yourself, I think you have a fair chance of living a happy life. Even in the midst of all the chaos, unfairness and everything else that is life.

So do it. Go have fun. Because you can. Because you’re not ninety-one years-old and falling apart. Because you haven’t yet reached a point where there is nothing you can do about your regrets and failing memory. So live. Live a little.

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Gran and I. 

Want to see an inspirational woman embracing her body? Watch this! http://video.allure.com/watch/dispelling-beauty-myths-disabilities (Unfortunately WordPress wants me to upgrade my account to be able to share the video with you directly — so hence the link.)

 

 

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Love is a beautiful battle…

A few weeks ago I was having a phone conversation with my best friend. I had flown to Athens to see her and was really looking forward to seeing her, so I was trying to arrange a meeting. She launched into a monologue about what her schedule looked like, that she never came into central Athens during the weekend, or evenings, when I was free, she was so busy and blah, blah, blah.

I had had a shit week, I had PMS and the one thing that kept me going was the idea of alone time, on a beach, or anywhere in nature, with my best friend. As I did have PMS I was struggling with an insane amount of thinking I was unlovable, so by the time I hung up the phone, ready to cry because somehow I had now triggered my best friend into treating me unlovingly as well, I felt like shit.

I knew I had to do two things: I had to tell my best friend she was behaving like a twat and I had to excuse myself for, most likely, trying to provoke her into behaving like a twat. Because if you feel unlovable, you provoke people into doing things to prove you right. And you have to understand, when I have PMS you can tell me I have coffee on my nose and I will think you hate me, or that you are the biggest idiot alive, the world has come to an end and we can all just prepare for doomsday.

So I wrote my best friend a funny message about PMS where I pointed out the above. As it turned out, she had turned around and just yelled at her boyfriend a few hours later and he had calmly picked up the calendar and told her she had PMS.

She had had social demands on her, for a week, so when I told her to come into Athens she lost it, because she had PMS.

I didn’t enjoy messaging my friend to sort out whatever weird “actions” (drama school language for mental as well as physical actions we have towards people) and purposes (drama school language for what our psychological gain is for doing something) we had during that conversation, but my relationship with her is a lot more valuable to me than my discomfort is discomforting.

Which brings me to the next point.

Last night I came home after a long day. I had been rockclimbing the day before (amazing!) and spent all of yesterday out with friends. You see, last week, I decided that it was time for me to do what I love in order to build my spirit and regain my strenght, so as to have strenght to work and get back to the kids after visa hick-up number four. I had an incredbile weekend, but I was physically spent. That’s when I received a message from my baby girl in Cape Town.

As some of you know I help raise a pair of ten-year-old twins and their now one-year-old baby brother in the township and I’ve fought visas and adoption rules for about four years; having known them for five. This journey is the hardest journey I’ve ever had and I’ve been on the brink of emotional collapse more than once.

Last night I got all these messages saying she loves me, the baby has taken his first steps, and then she sent me this crying emoji and I asked her why. She’s like “it’s just the baby ❤ ❤ ❤ ” and I said I wish I was there to hold him and she sent the below picture. Cue me bursting into tears. She even found an image with the right skin tones. I don’t know why that made me more emotional, but it did.

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I had just been thinking of how tired I am. I have spent you don’t want to know how much money setting up a business and going round the world on a visa mission to be with these kids and I’ve messed up my career, my social life and my life in general and I’m beyond exhausted. Sometimes I don’t know how to keep going.

At that moment, all I wanted was a hug. Not from a friend, but from a man. It’s all I’ve wanted since I started helping the kids, because I’ve wanted someone to be there for me. Support me. Not do my job for me, just be there. Just hug me. And it’s the kind of intimacy you’ll never get from a friend, because it feels different. Friends help, but a relationship is intimate on a whole other level.

Yet, a few weeks ago when I was talking to my coach and he was giving me “love goals” I was telling him I didn’t understand how to achieve them, because let’s face it: I might know a gazillion things about relationships, and I might get 800 men swiping right on Tinder in a few weeks (true story, ego hallelujah), but falling in love makes me feel so terribly uncomfortable (unlovable and not good enough) that I spend most of my time trying to become perfect (impossible) and end up giving up on the whole thing because it’s too uncomfortable feeling like I’m not perfect.

This is when my coach told me that he’s seen me with the kids for five years and no matter what life threw me, I didn’t stop. Nothing stopped me.

I remember thinking when gran got senile and I was helping her in the bathroom, that love isn’t pretty, but it is beautiful. Love isn’t easy, but it is worth it. And my childhood didn’t make it easy for me to accept love, instead I strove to be perfect feeling I wasn’t good enough. I’ve often felt my adult life has been a long fight of not giving into the demons of my childhood; a long fight of opening myself up to love and joy and letting go of depression and self-hatred.

The question maybe I should ask myself is this: if my kids and best friend are worth me overcoming my demons, my fears and my discomfort, maybe my own happiness (a.k.a being loved by a man I truly have a connection with) would be worth the same? It’s a question of will.

I’m not perfect. My best friend isn’t perfect. My gran wasn’t perfect. My kids aren’t perfect. But we are all perfectly lovable. And it is perfectly possible to create great relationships. You just wade through the discomfort, is all. Because it is worth it.

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The five levels of attraction…

A long time ago someone who had made spirituality the main focus of his life and who had studied a lot of Gurdjieff told me something about relationships. He told me that attraction happens on five levels: spiritual, emotional, intellectual, physical and sexual.

I believe Buddha Bear, as I used to call him, was right. I believe we are attracted to these five different things and for a relationship to work they need to be a match. Not a 100% match, nothing ever is, but high enough.

In the past I used to be scared of ending up with the wrong guy, because, let’s face it: maybe it’s just the physical, sexual and intellectual that’s a match, but if you’re scoring 99% on each of those, you can get a bit blinded. Just a little bit…

Likewise, maybe you have a friend and the spiritual, emotional, intellectual and physical are all pretty high up there, but one day you fall into bed with each other and realize that the sexual is really not a match. You’re already emotionally invested, so then what?

What I came to realize over the years is that if it isn’t working on one, or more, of these planes, the attraction fades. You don’t get hurt, your life doesn’t turn into a mess, friendships don’t die, you simply lose interest in more than friendship. The only pain is the void you feel; the void you were hoping to fill with Mister-Who-Didn’t-Turn-Out-Right. It’s a little bit harder to let go of those who were close to being right, because we all have emotional and sexual needs, but that’s about it.

The only time you get hurt is when people don’t communicate, or simply just treat you badly.

When I was younger I did get hurt for other reasons, but that was because I didn’t understand any better and let myself get led astray by one form of attraction or another, thinking that was the real deal, then being horrified when it wasn’t. I also had a tremendous amount of ego thrown into the equation; needing to be liked.

There’s also what I call “false attraction” which is basically being attracted to people who reflect your scars by proving them to be true, as opposed to being attracted to people who reflect your true nture; your heart. It’s part of emotional attraction, but as the story goes you are drawn to those who are where you are at emotionally, so if you haven’t sorted those childhood wounds… In short, being an emotional fit isn’t always a good thing!

Even today I believe the best approach is to take things very slow in the beginning, because I don’t think anyone knows if they’re a fit on all levels when they first meet someone. You don’t need to know. You can just slowly find out. Being a fit doesn’t mean you care for each other, or are emotionally invested in each other, either – that takes time. And there’s more to it than being a fit: you also have to be willing to create a beautiful relationships and build your dreams together. That takes work. Work not everyone’s willing to do and that’s their perrogative – we all have different goals in life.

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Life’s a bitch and then you have an orgasm…

Do you ever complain about life? I do. Life can be a bitch sometimes. Seriously. And there are times when you despair. You’ve banged your head against the same wall for what seems like an eternity. Every door that opened got slammed in your face, or led to a dead end. Your thoughts start circling in a negative downspiral and life starts feeling like it sucks.

This year I decided to pull my head out of the gutter. However, there have been a few slamming doors this year too and after walking head first into a door rather recently I started despairing. I thought I’d be stuck in the same situation forever. And as one thing was tied to another, that was tied to another, that was tied to another, I felt trapped. Like I’d never find a way out. The kids I help raise are in Cape Town, so I need to get back. For that reason I can’t change jobs, can’t do this, can’t do that, am financially strapped…and I have felt very stuck for a very long time.

Have I felt like a victim and pitied myself? Oh you have no idea. Have I gotten angry and wanted to punch a number of government officials? Hell to the yes. Have I panicked and felt like the lousiest extra parent in the world and hated myself for it? Gosh, you have no idea what a terrible person I am and how much I can possibly hate myself. Have I awoken in a state of panic from dreams of the kids, screaming, hyper ventilating, or crying? Way too many times to count. Sometimes I’m scared of sleeping.

Have I wanted to give up? Yes. I’ve felt like there is no strenght left in me. Like I’ll never win this fight. Like there’s no joy left in life. Like there is no way out of this blooming visa-adoption-career nightmare.

This year I decided to choose art. Choose poetry. Choose magical moments. Choose to believe that what I can do for the kids is a blessing, not that what I can’t do is a curse. In general, do what I can to enjoy what I can. When a door closes a window opens. It is all about that window. About the moment. About what you can do.

Some times are harder than others. It’s inevitable…and sometimes we invite it by doing something utterly stupid. We need to forgive ourselves. Give ourselves the gift of allowing ourselves to enjoy the moment. Give that joy to others. And slowly change our life and that of those around us simply by growing flowers in the mud. As the story goes, I prefer satin and Egyptian cotton sheets, but there’s nothing saying you can’t have an orgasm on whatever you picked up at Ikea. And I’m talking about the sheets you pick up there, not the men. Should Ikea come up with an invention for “easy-to-put-together-Scandinavian-men” that included the perfect user manual maybe I’d consider it, but Scandinavian men are generally not my type. I prefer the more exotic version…

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Poem No. 69: Desire of Life. Writing poetry for Magique is one of the things that’s resurrected my spirits this year. Poetry, to me, is like growing flowers in the mud when you focus on the beauty of life. This poem was written today. More poetry can be found here

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