Frida Fanatic

“I am my own muse. I am the subject I know best. The subject I want to better.”― Frida Kahlo

Over the past couple of months, I have been having an increased obsession with Frida Kahlo.  The Frida exhibit at the Victoria & Albert Museum has fueled a surplus in her images being sold throughout London via clothing, pillowcases, books, and other paraphernalia.  Since the spring, I have purchased two Frida shirts, two books, and a box set of posters. What is it about Frida that is so fascinating?

Making Her Self Up is the title of the exhibit.  We know and love Frida for how she embraced her looks… the eyebrows, moustache, dark hair, culture.  Her art work which usually contained images of herself is recognizable, and I feel she is one of the few women in the art world who was known as an icon.  This was not just for her paintings, but how she presented herself.  Digging a little deeper below the surface, she encompassed so much more.

Frida struggled with physical ailments such as a polio diagnosis in her youth, a horrendous traffic accident that kept her bed ridden for one year, numerous miscarriages, and eventually she had her foot amputated.  Despite the struggles she physically faced in her life, she prevailed.  In fact, her interest in art and creating self-portraits may have been ignited during that year of being bed ridden.  Her mother did not want her to be alone, therefore she propped a mirror above her bed so she could always be aware of the company she had within herself.

Kahlo embraced all parts of her, the wounded and the blessed.  The images in her artwork contains flashbacks to the tragedies that ensued in her life.  The numerous affairs her husband had (which included sleeping with her sister), did not dissipate her sexuality.  She had her share of affairs as well.  But the love of Diego Rivera, her husband, stayed in her mind and thoughts. Initially as a wife to renowned muralist and artist Diego, she accompanied him to his work sites around the world.

Frida brought attention to the fashion her culture offered.  The beautiful traditional clothing of the Mexican world was displayed throughout each city she graced.  She wore long petticoats initially to hide her leg that was impacted by polio, but when she eventually ended up having her leg amputated, even her prosthetics were fashionable.  The medical corsets were beautified.  Frida would dress up at home, even if there were no visitors. She would adorn her body with necklaces, earrings, and flowers in her hair not for anyone else’s enjoyment but herself.

Eventually her art work began getting recognized in addition to the roles of being Diego’s wife and a fashion icon.  The Surrealists wanted to claim her as their own, but she verbalized she wasn’t a surrealist.  “I never painted dreams.  I painted my own reality.”

The reason Frida’s image is embraced by women throughout the world is not solely for her physical beauty.  It is for what she represents: confidence, resilience, courage, and strength.  Frida did not have an alter ego.  She was her alter ego.  It is no surprise the exhibit at Victoria & Albert Museum is a sold out hit.  This is why her image is on numerous purses, tee shirts, pins, and socks.  We admire her fury to be authentic, and live the totality of human existence.  Frida lived it loudly for the world to see and we shout back generations later “yes!”

Although the exhibit at the Victoria & Albert Museum is sold out, you can gain entry by becoming a member.  In addition, the exhibit has also been extended, please check the website for additional dates.  The collection contains photographs, jewelry, artwork, belongings, medical corsets and clothing that were hidden for 50 years.  This is the first time they are on display outside of Mexico City.  If you are Frida fanatic like I am, this is a must.

“Feet, what do I need you for when I have wings to fly?” – Frida Kahlo

 “You deserve the best, the very best, because you are one of the few people in this lousy world who are honest to themselves, and that is the only thing that really counts.” – Frida Kahlo


I like digital cameras, because they enable you to reminisce immediately.-Demetri Martin

I walked around my old neighbourhood in Cambridge, which I have not visited in two years. And it initially made me quite sad.  I had lived here for three years and had so many amazing memories with a variety of friends.  All of them have since relocated to distant locations. This is what happens when you live in a transient town. I am at a crossroads to move back here to minimise my current commute. But do I dare create new memories in a place that is the storehouse of old ones?

How can locations become our hometowns even if we didn’t grow up in them? 

In Cambridge, I stepped into antique shops searching for a gramophone particularly.  I was hoping that finding it would be a sign on where to lead me next on my path. But as I explored the little nooks of these stores, holding old junk repackaged as treasures, I felt as if I was stepping back in time. 

Am I trying to recreate the past?  All these people and memories cannot be replaced, but in moving back to an old town am I simply regressing ?  All have since moved on , shouldn’t I?

Do people linger in these nostalgia stores, hoping to purchase a memory?  Perhaps we believe if we can own it, the moment will always be in our grasp.  But the fact that the only constant is change.  Those moments may not be recreated, but those people luckily are still alive sprinkled throughout this earth. Connections can be made via phone calls, visits, emails, and letters

Sentimentality can serve as a reminder of the values and people we hold dear. It’s a voice that silently nudges us to recall that life isn’t solely about work and achievement, but the friends and family that surround and serve in the ongoing backdrop of our world.

“Remember that the most valuable antiques are dear old friends. “-H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

The Mirrors to Our Lives

This week I have been reflecting on the concept of friendships: old and new.  This was triggered by phone conversations I had with friends from over a decade ago, having visited with a high school friend, and meeting up with newish friends. These friends have been witnesses to my life from my teens, twenties, and beyond.

I have made an intentional effort to take a pause and reach out to old friends.  If you have moved around as much as I have, it takes energy to maintain friendships that span decades.  We accumulate friends, but to nourish, maintain, and care about them is work. We must devote our energy, space, time, presence, and love to caring for or creating new friendships.

My high school friend Meg, who visited London this week, asked me if I had a journal in my rucksack to see if my hand writing matched the style it was when I was 15.  I pulled it out, she peeked at it.  “It is.  You always wrote so small to take advantage of the paper.”  I didn’t remember this, but she did.  I felt I just shifted to writing tiny because my journal is so beautiful I don’t want my time in it to end.  How can my friends remember qualities about me more than I can?

During a phone conversation, a friend from my Los Angeles days made the statement, “when we grew up together, I remember your type of guy was…”  I pondered, for some reason I only believed “growing up” constituted the period of your life up to age 18.  But we are always growing, and at this point I have known her for 17 years.  Friends are there to serve as additional memory banks, mirrors to who we are and were. They are witnesses to our lives.

Another friend offered to visit me if I wasn’t busy in November.  New friends and I connected over drinks and another set of friends we bonded over a hearty cooked meal.  My life was full this week, but I am trying to allow the space for friendships to be kneaded, molded, and sculpted.

As I connect with friends from the distant and recent past, or people who have recently popped in my life, I can’t help but appreciate their diversity.  This does not speak to just to their ethnic or geographic diversity, but also age, socioeconomic status, political party, and their careers.  My friends are helpers of the mind to include psychologists, social workers, and coaches, or of the body physicians, nurses, physical trainers and yoga instructors.  They are witty and intelligent, as writers, pilots, and educators.  They are creative as musicians, tech developers, chefs, photographers, actors, dancers, jewelry designers, public relation consultants, bloggers, or artists.  One is even starting up a pop band as I write this.  The list seems endless.  And I am so collectively proud of them.   I feel grateful to have or have had them in my life in whatever their capacity.  We support each others’ growth, dreams, failures, and shifts in the world.  The beauty of old friendships is you can continue to turn them through the years, and they can remind you of your baseline.  They remember the essence of your soul if you feel off track.  And we hopefully are there to return the favor.

There is a beautiful poem I heard by David Whyte earlier this week, and I am adding it in it’s entirety below. Read it to yourself as a reminder how you can continue to serve as a friend and what constitutes friendships.  He reminds us that friendships encircle family members, partners, unrequited loves, colleagues, and those we grow with. Being in a true friendship takes intentionality, time, and grit.  Share this poem for a friend you cherish.  Continue to serve as witnesses in each other’s lives.

FRIENDSHIP is a mirror to presence and a testament to forgiveness. Friendship not only helps us see ourselves through another’s eyes, but can be sustained over the years only with someone who has repeatedly forgiven us for our trespasses as we must find it in ourselves to forgive them in turn. A friend knows our difficulties and shadows and remains in sight, a companion to our vulnerabilities more than our triumphs, when we are under the strange illusion we do not need them. An undercurrent of real friendship is a blessing exactly because its elemental form is rediscovered again and again through understanding and mercy. All friendships of any length are based on a continued, mutual forgiveness. Without tolerance and mercy all friendships die…

Friendship is the great hidden transmuter of all relationship: it can transform a troubled marriage, make honorable a professional rivalry, make sense of heartbreak and unrequited love and become the newly discovered ground for a mature parent-child relationship.

The dynamic of friendship is almost always underestimated as a constant force in human life: a diminishing circle of friends is the first terrible diagnostic of a life in deep trouble: of overwork, of too much emphasis on a professional identity of forgetting who will be there when our armored personalities run into the inevitable natural disasters and vulnerabilities found in even the most average existence…

Friendship transcends disappearance: an enduring friendship goes on after death, the exchange only transmuted by absence, the relationship advancing and maturing in a silent internal conversational way even after one half of the bond has passed on.

But no matter the medicinal virtues of being a true friend or sustaining a long close relationship with another, the ultimate touchstone of friendship is not improvement, neither of the self nor of the other, the ultimate touchstone is witness, the privilege of having been seen by someone and the equal privilege of being granted the sight of the essence of another, to have walked with them and to have believed in them, and sometimes just to have accompanied them for however brief a span, on a journey impossible to accomplish alone.

To listen to David Whyte read several poems at a recent On Being Gathering, check out the podcast link below:

Wandering in a Royal Garden

“If you have a garden and a library, you have everything you need.”-Marcus Tullius Cicero

Yesterday I took a day trip to the Sandrigham Estate and Gardens. It was my first time visiting the holiday grounds of the royal family. It’s been in the family since the 1800s, an area they retreat to at least every Christmas. The museum was full of old cars and golf carts the family have been driven in. The house includes old hunting rifles, gifts given from leaders of various nations, and other bits and bobs artifacts. Nobody was allowed to take photos in the home, or even allowed to have their phone on silent. The contents in the home were so precious that every opportunity to capture it electronically was seized.

I couldn’t help but think it’s great this is immortalized for us to see, but if all this is kept in our family it would be described as junk. We wouldn’t have the space to hold generations worth of stuff. Nor would we really want to? Why are we paying to look at other people’s stuff? Simply because they are royalty?

What was worth the trip was the beauty of the gardens. There were expansive grounds filled with a variety of trees, and people of all ages walking in peace and wonder. There were adults with developmental disabilities being pushed in wheelchairs, encouraged by their parents or caregivers to listen to the trees whistling in the wind or to spot the flowers blossoming as the weather shifts to autumn. Walkways led to a church on the grounds and even a jolly Buddha statue.

We journeyed in a van further down the road, where for a small price you can pick your own apples. Families and couples delighted in grabbing for apples or at the queue bottles of cider. People walked away with more bags of apples than they can eat or cook with in the next few weeks. People got carried away with the joy of picking their own fruit in nature versus a grocery store aisle.

The treasures the estate offer were not in the precious china the royal family eats from each Christmas, or the Rolls Royces that graced their bottoms. It was in the opportunity for all of us to experience the beauty nature has to offer in landscaped garden. Having a safe open space that people of all ages, races, and places can simply be and live in wonder of the moment.

“A garden must combine the poetic and mysterious with a feeling of serenity and joy.”-Luis Barragan

Immersion into Dance

I have slowly advanced to flamenco improvers course, my class and I have collectively moved forward together. The class is longer 1.5 hours per week, more detailed and complex footwork and arm movements. The instructor today even put us on the spot expecting us to perform a small piece of choreographed routine individually so she could dissect our pitfalls. Of course in the middle of it being my turn, i totally lost my count and messed up. Your brain and body has to totally be in the game or else it’s easy to lose track.

A fellow dancer in the class is hoping to attend two additional classes each week, therefore topping out at least of five hours of flamenco per week. Full on immersion. When she told me this, my mouth dropped. She said , “I know I love it, and I want to get better, so this is what I need to do.”

This is extremely admirable to me. I would love to do a full on immersion into flamenco, but my one night commute of an additional two hours (to my regular two hours for work) is my commitment. Also I have fallen in love with so many different types of dance. I plan to do a Bellydance travel trip next month and am involved in another 4 class dance workshop for a completely different style of dance. How can your just choose one style to commit to?

In addition to one’s job and family life, can we commit fully to an additional love and stay committed? I have heard Elizabeth Gilbert encourage an art teacher who no longer creates art to have an affair with her art. Cheat on being the perfect parent, spouse, and teacher. Let go of some of the expectations you place on yourself to allow space for this action to happen. She described that somehow people who have affairs find the smallest amounts of time to squeeze in a kiss or liaison with their lover. Can we do this with our art, writing, hobby, or of course dance?

But how long would one’s immersion last ? Is it confined to one month or a summer? Can it last a lifetime? We won’t know unless we try.

Is there anything in your life you are willing to immerse yourself in? Any activity or hobby that you are willing to have an affair with? Steal moments for things that really matter.

Letting Shakira Take Over

“And those who were seen dancing were thought to be insane by those who could not hear the music.”
― Friedrich Nietzsche

My friend sent me the following link below of a comedian allowing the influence of Shakira to take over.  He imitates her insane dance moves in public spaces, while others look at him as if he deserves to be locked up.  Although the video is funny, it actually made me want to dance and download some Shakira. The clips of her dance moves are inspirational, who doesn’t want to dance like her?  Throughout the videos, the hilarious moments that stand out are when he is bolting out the lyrics to her various songs.  Nobody knows if he is just screaming, crying, or simply losing it.  The piece ends when people actually recognize what song he is singing and join along.  They could collectively could celebrate the lyrics of Shakira.

I probably look slightly loco as I type this. I am in the Philadelphia airport, with my headphones on jamming to Shakira.  My shoulders are swaying side to side, foot is tapping on the ground, and I have a feeling my fingertips are also moving to the beat.  But it doesn’t matter how other people are viewing me right now.   Can we carry the essence of music within us as we go about our world?

Shakira is multiracial. Her father is Lebanese and mother is Columbian.   Like so many of us today, she has navigated taking the influence of the heritage lineage from both of her parents into her music.   Her music combines music sung in Spanish and English, and I am sure most of is blasted in Zumba classes.  But in her music videos she also incorporates bellydance movements into the mix.  A previous song of her “Ojos Asi” also had some Arabic lyrics, and “Waka Waka (This time for Africa) was created for the previous 2010 Fifa World Cup.  Shakira, like dance, transcends culture.

Can we let the music take us over?  Can we find moments to dance each day?  Can we allow our bodies

to move despite what others may be thinking of us?

Allow the truth to move to the music, remember as Shakira says “hips don’t lie.”

“Dance is the hidden language of the soul”
― Martha Graham

Roast & Toast

“Make it a habit to tell people thank you. To express your appreciation, sincerely and without the expectation of anything in return. Truly appreciate those around you, and you’ll soon find many others around you. Truly appreciate life and you’ll find that you have more of it.”-Ralph Marston

Today at work we threw a surprise 50th birthday party to a colleague. It included balloons, bulgogi, cake, and roasts. We used to have this tiny tradition years ago to monthly roast our coworkers with jest and love. But over time, this practice dissipated. But today it was magically brought back.

Written roasts were read aloud in a hard bound journal with accompanying pictures. My colleague was completely shocked, “gobsmacked” was the word he used repeatedly throughout our lunch. “I feel like this has been my life here the last four years and this is my going away party.” He was right. The vibe actually felt reminiscent of a finite bon voyage party. People expressed their love through joking and teasing. It made me begin to wonder, why do we wait for a big moment to share how we care about someone?

What keeps us from expressing our gratitude and appreciation on a frequent basis with those we care deeply about? Why are we selfish with our emotions, and keep them to ourselves? Is it laziness, fear, or the lack of wondering if it will be reciprocated? Life is too short to keep our emotions towards each other quiet. It needs to be heard.

In this day and age of social media posts, we are becoming wired to search for our friends to “like” or “love” an image or statement we post. The number of likes or comments we receive serves as a quantifier of our popularity. But when we scroll, we are mindless. It’s a time killer or procrastination tool. It doesn’t take much to click “like” on an image. This is why actually take the time to spend having a meal with someone, or writing out a card, or comprising a witty roast seems so valuable. We are putting a pause on our automatic robotic task driven life to show someone we care.

“Life is too sweet and too short to express our affection with just our thumbs. Touch is meant for more than just a keyboard.”-Kristin Armstrong

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