Family and friends have just left, kisses here and there, hugs, watered eyes, promises we intend to keep. Most of them travelled from other parts of Portugal in order to be present at a family/friend gathering that celebrated, among other precious things, my birthday. Saint Anthony girl!
I´m many cultures. A bit of every country I´ve visited; a huge chunck of Egypt. Nonetheless, the root is here. Faithful to my culture, I sat at a table with family and friends for endless hours of abundant (even voracious) eating, drinking, talking and laughing. No end in sight. We´re Portuguese, there´s no denying: grilled fish with potatoes and salad covered in virgin olive oil; bread and all those fattening, devilish, delicious things we eat with it. Wine (which I never drink), coffee, cakes, you name it. It´s scary, how much Portuguese love to live by the table.
I embraced cousins, uncles and aunts, friends and distant relatives I´d already forgotten. Although I always avoid mentioning my work, there´s no escape: someone always asks about it and I´m obliged to answer. Then comes the guilt factor: I´m usually the absent one, the artist of the family everybody sees on television or internet adds before they can see me in person; I´m also the exotic, weird, elephant in the room, who refuses to “settle down” and is on permanent move, just arrived from distant lands and preparing to leave to even more distant lands in order to teach, perform and live an equally fascinating – and out of this world – dance. I feel like an attraction in a freak show most of the times but that´s ok. There are higher prices to pay and I can deal with this one, thank you very much.
Celebrating my birthday within this warmth – even if being the “exotic element” of the family is sometimes a burden – was a blessing. I rarely have the chance to sit still with the ones I love and be. Normal. As normal as I can be. Play with children. Pass the fish on; pour some olive oil on my salad; have fun with simple, domestic things; smile without a camera pointed at me; sit still – not having to show something, dance something, say something witty and interesting. Being – ah, the luxury!
Today is my birthday so there was a cake – a huge cake covered in sweet, fluffy, smooth snow. Chants were thrown in the air, wishes were made and the inevitable reflection came along: how far I´ve arrived and how far I wish to go.
These last years have been – if I really have to classify them (which I increasingly feel I don´t) – terrible and magnificent, two words that rarely show up together. Life, ladies & gentlemen! It´s life.
Loads of dreams came true; my career in Egypt successfuly expanded throughout the world at an amazing pace; my career has entered an expansion only I could have envisioned. My mind, heart and consciousness have flown higher than I ever dreamt. These have also been years of loss or, I prefer to think, transformation & revelations.
Friends (true or fake – who knows?) I had for many years suddenly decided I belonged to a different planet and have cut me from their lives for no apparent reason. “She´s too full of herlself”; “she´s out of my league now” kind of abandonment. Unfair.Cruel. Childish. Shocking. And kind of understandable. Although I´ve never became an arrogant prick, I know how my growth bothered many of my so called “friends”; I know how my success mirrored their frustrations and lost dreams; I know how I remind them of what they wish to forget. I know. I´ve learnt to understand and, some times, forgive.That´s what growing up (also) probably means.
Ex-lovers tried their triumphant come-back, unaware that I´ve changed, matured, became street wiser and, therefore, not so prone to illusions and jails wrapped with love disguises. I know all too well what I want and what I don´t want, by now, and that can be a problem for old and new men in my life. The number of fans and followers of my work is sided with a fat folder full of envy, dirty back stabbing, gossip and general mediocrity of people who just can´t stand someone who dares living their dreams. People who don´t know me but hate me, anyway.
When I do the math, everything is perfectly right. Just as it is supposed to be. Growing up also means quitting certain fights – like the fight against life´s absurdities. Or life, simply.
The main thing is I remain the same. And not. I mean: professional success doesn´t define me or the way I relate with the ones I love. It certainly increases my sense of self-worth but it´s not who I am. I´m more than my work; more than the acceptance of it; more than appearances. Professional success is a happy circumstance – yet not my essence. I´m deeply grateful for it but I´d never let it blow my ego or turn me into an arrogant asshole – my feet are roots deeply stuck in the floor.
When I blew my birthday cake candles and had a bite on one of them (the other was for my niece, Alice* in Wonderland), my wish was only one. One I will – obviously – not reveal. One thing I can reveal: my wish had nothing to do with my career, at least not directly. Not because I don´t wish to keep growing – I do. But because professional/creative expansion is not possible without the invisible life that fills me with juice and that ever lasting passion that keeps creativity flowing in my veins.
Today is my birthday, as it is everyday. Today I look at myself with brand new eyes and accept what life is – faults, cruelties, unfair corners and all that jazz. Today I celebrate being alive and quit, if even for just a day, labelling good and bad; perfect and imperfect. Those shelves don´t exist except in our heads and today´s my birthday (I´ve said it, didn´t I?) and I rise above my head. Just because I can. Just to annoy them some more. Just to keep myself in a track that makes me feel proud of being who I am. Just because.
One of the comments on my Facebook wall said “happy flights, Joana!”. On a first glance, I thought I´d read “happy fights”. Oh, the force of habit! I read fights, not flights. Then I doubted; I scrubbed my eyes and looked at it again, this time carefully. As I read it, once more, I breathed with relief. “Happy FLIGHTS, Joana.” That´s what the message said.
I´ve known fights – so many, so difficult; more than enough for this life time. I´ve known flights as well. More than fights, I must add. Today I keep the second and throw the first out of the window. It´s my birthday, I repeat, and I can do what I want to.
I honestly don´t know if life will force me to go back to the battle field but I hope it doesn´t. Life doesn´t have to be a constant fight, does it? My parents seem to think so and most of the people I know agree. I´d like to disagree, as usual. I´d prefer to. I choose to. And, maybe, that was the wish I whispered to the wind when I took that bite at my birthday cake candle. I know, for sure, that was my niece´s wish as well. She didn´t have to say it. We just know it 😉
Cheers to the birthday girl!
Grateful for so much this amazing life has given me.
Grateful for the fake friends; the true friends; the ones who have left with or without reasons and the ones who arrive everyday.
Grateful for the bullshit free love I´ve experienced so far and for the FLIGHT ahead. No fights needed – enough of that.
Grateful for the success and even for the price that comes attached to it. All is exactly as it is supposed to be – cheers to the peace that comes from understand it.