I was thinking about quitting Instagram at the end of July, but I haven’t. However, I did take a break from it in August (only spending a few minutes a week posting Stories and liking some posts/updates from the people I follow), and apparently, it gave me enough time to read.

If you’re curious about the books I read during my Instagram break:

  1. The Vanishing Half by Britt Bennett
  2. The House in the Cerulean Sea by T.J. Klune
  3. The Secret Life of Church Ladies by Deesha Philyaw
  4. Elevation by Stephen King
  5. Imaginary Friends by Stephen Chbosky
  6. Death in Her Hands by Ottessa Moshfegh
  7. Piranesi by Susanna Clarke
  8. People from My Neighbourhood by Hiromi Kawakami
  9. The Member of the Wedding by Carson McCullers (I love her writing!)

 

I found it impressive (and rewarding!) to have so much time to read when I am not thinking about what to post next on Instagram and trying to fit ‘sharing content’ on my schedule. This might be one of the reasons why I didn’t enjoy the platform that much: that constant pressure from the algorithm to churn more and more content was tiring.

A recent post from my dear Clara Devi, however, made me rethink that sentiment.

About haven’t been updating her blog for quite some time, she wrote:

“Here’s a verdict: nobody expected me to be perfect, apparently (where have I been?). Nobody thinks of giving me pressure (except myself), and zero question is being thrown regarding why I let my blog stay aloof in the passing eight months (now nine). People are just super kind and supportive and chill. It IS the privilege that I should be thankful for.” — Clara Devi | Lucedale.co

She is right. It isn’t about the changing algorithm.

It is more about the pressure I give myself to let the algorithm dictate my relationship with Instagram, with the platform.

It’s something I don’t care too much about when it comes to my blog: I see this blog as my own private space, where I can write about whatever I want without worrying about SEO or page rankings. I feel like I can always type something—anything, so spontaneously and I can take a break or go on a hiatus whenever I feel the need to.

I am happy enough to keep this blog as a cabinet of curiosities where I document my life, a place where I’ll keep on writing and posting entries even when there’s nobody here commenting, liking, or reading it.

And I realized that I want to have this kind of relationship with Instagram or whatever platforms I want to experiment with in the future.

***

So, I’ve been reading a lot during my break, and I’ve been writing a lot as well—revisiting my writing practice—and strengthen my muscle to work on a longer narrative piece. And, oh, a piece of news to share: the poem I wrote last year was published in an Italian poetry journal, the 29th edition of Antologia del Premio Internazionale, Centro Giovani e Poesia Triuggio (Prometheus, 2020).

The poem was originally written in English and titled ‘Language School for Strangers’ (the title of the translated poem is All’inizio—’at the beginning’).

Here’s the English version for you to read:

LANGUAGE SCHOOL FOR STRANGERS

At first,

the racket of separation;

of a life packed across the ocean;

of dreams set into an unexpected motion.

[ porto. documento. punto di controllo. ]

A week,
the silence of cardboard boxes piled on top of one another,
the barely-there hum of a second-hand refrigerator;
the not-so-temporary matter.

[ farmacia. stazione di polizia. scuola. ]

A month,
the resonance of a faraway life;
of roots severed with a knife;
of letters and comfort blankets that never arrived.

[ sono. sei. siamo. ]

Three months,
the rhythm of fears and many failed starts;

of worries and not fitting in for the most parts;

of slurs that lurks and, at times, barks.
[ dove. perché. come. ]

Six months,

the distant whirl of a shy hello;
the shriek of coming in contact with snow;

the way the winter sun casts a neighbor’s house in a soft shadow.

[ fare. avere. stare. ]

A year,
the way Hellen Keller first spelled W-A-T-E-R;
the explosion of meanings, letter upon letter upon letter;
you sew the words, and the sentence rolls with laughter.

[ ascoltare. mangiare. amare. ]

***

I’ve been back to Instagram these days, posting more snippets from the behind-the-scene of my life, spontaneously. I may go on another break or hiatus some of these days, then I may pop back up. A friend of mine told me that I am somewhat ‘elusive’, and maybe she was right. Some weeks I may be around, and some other weeks I may be retreating into my woman’s cave, preparing things to share into the world slowly, gently, without the rush.

Clara is right.

I have the privilege of not having to treat my blog or my social media platforms as a work thing, and I am thankful for that. I just need to remind myself from time to time that it is okay to carve a space and a schedule of my own. That sharing is not supposed to be a burden or a responsibility.

It’s supposed to be fun and exciting; like that feeling when you’re about to reunite with an old friend after some time, full to the brim with the enthusiasm of spilling the stories, giddy to listen to what they’ve been up to.

I need to remember that feeling.

And I hope you’ll be that friend 🙂

hanny
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*) This post contains a sponsored link that will help me grow this blog and post more often. The rest of the content is made with love by yours truly, as always 🙂

Naturally, I don’t like workouts.

Maybe because there’s the word ‘work’ in it—that makes it feel like another thing I need to tick off from my to-do list; a chore; a responsibility. However, I enjoy movement, and I feel the need to move my body every single day. To me, it’s about ‘celebrating what my body can do’ (I read this somewhere, and it really encapsulates how I feel).

There are some weeks when I am diligently roll out my yoga mat late in the afternoon or following some strength training and boxing workouts on YouTube. There are some weekends when I go into the natural parks and have a 12-kilometre hike. But there are also many days when I just feel too tired, too heavy, or too sad to do such things.

However, I am trying to make movement a part of my daily life, and one way to do so is by incorporating mindfulness practice into it.

Let’s call it mindful movement.

Listening to my body

I know when I need to move because my body tells me so. When I wake up in the morning with a stiff shoulder. When I go about my days feeling lethargic. When I have spent 2 hours in front of the computer.

I think our body communicates with us every time. The urge to stretch your arms or legs after a long working day, for instance. I realised that if I listen to my body more, and do check-ins from time to time throughout the day, I can hear when it needs me to move. It could be to just stand up and do a stretch, to walk around the house picking up dirty laundry or to do some quick jumps in place to increase my heart rate. 

Finding what feels good

When I feel angry or agitated that I wish I could punch something, I will do some boxing exercises and channel my emotions through a 15-minute session of kicking and punching the air. When I feel solemn or cosy, I will go for a qi gong practice. When I feel good and energized, I’ll go for strength training. When I feel tired, I will go for a comforting and calming yin yoga session. When I feel like my head is full, I will go for a walk in the park or go swimming. When I feel sad and blue, I will put my wireless headphone on, turn on some of my favourite dance music, and do a silent disco in my room.

I find it important to find the right movement that corresponds to how I feel, my state of being, and my energy level.

When nothing feels good, I check if I am lacking nutrients. I take supplements sometimes, like B-12 vitamins and magnesium. When needed, you can check how you feel and shop for supplements to fulfil the nutrients you’re lacking.

Doing it my way

I know I’m not the kind of person who would commit to one type of exercise for a long time. I like to change things up a bit. I like to experiment. I know I like to exercise mostly alone or with the people I feel close to. I don’t find it comfortable to exercise surrounded by strangers. I don’t like it when someone shouts at me to ‘lift up my spirit’. I don’t enjoy competitiveness. I don’t like gyms with loud thumping and pumping music.

Knowing what I like or don’t like enables me to find the movement and exercise that works for me. I don’t need to be stressed out by doing exercises I don’t like in an environment that stresses me out.

Being aware of the present

I like to do my mindful movement in silence, without talking to anyone or watching something on Netflix. When I am walking outside, it’s nice to just walk and feel the ground beneath my feet, noticing the plants and wildflowers along the way, the smell of decaying woods, the chirping of the birds. When I am dancing, I just dance, feeling the beat of the music and move accordingly. When I swim, I just swim back and forth, feeling the way my body moves, that magical buoyance, the way the sunlight makes the lapping water sparkle, the faint smell of chlorine…

To me, it’s about being present with my body, with my movement, and my surroundings, to the point that I don’t really know what I’m doing anymore, I don’t think, I don’t command my body to do something… my body just moves, and my mind is still. Maybe it happens for only 2-3 minutes during the exercise—but that is enough time to feel the ‘euphoria’ of what I guess people often referred to as a “runner’s high”: when my mind is completely still and I feel like I am not moving, but I am the movement itself.

How about you? What’s your version of mindful movement?

hanny
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I recently have this fear: I would not have enough time to read all the books I want to read.

Every time I glance at the pile of to-be-read books on my shelf, I feel overwhelmed. Soon, there will be new books: new releases praised by BookTubers or shortlisted by Vulture or Esquire, new translations recommended by indie booksellers like POST or published by Marjin Kiri or Penerbit Haru.

How can I keep up?

And still, every time I go out, I browse the little free libraries around the city (most often the one at the corner, across the canal), hunting for surprises. Amsterdam had gifted me some excellent titles these past few months: Judy Blume’s In The Unlikely Event, Kazuo Ishiguro’s The Unconsoled, Brady Udall’s The Miracle Life of Edgar Mint (which gave me Sherman Alexie’s vibe), and Jane Austen’s Mansfield Park among others.

From time to time, I visit Scheltema’s web-listing of second-hand books (despite struggling with their website’s not-so-friendly UI/UX), trying to find out if someone has sold some of the books on my wish list.

I am still finding myself coming home to tiny bookshops or climbing the stairs of 5-storey bookstores when I have no idea where else to go. The sight of those shelves comforts me. The words hidden inside rows and rows of closed books promise me another story, another world, another reality.

When I was little, I lived vicariously through the books I read, mostly Enid Blyton’s and Hitchcock’s. When I read a novel, I was a student in a British boarding school; I had a summer picnic and stumbled upon mysteries to solve; I played lacrosse; I had new neighbours with tree houses; I was a girl with five siblings.

I could be anyone I wasn’t.
I could be anyone I’d like to be.

Over ten years ago, a friend of mine said that he wrote like crazy because he was afraid that one day, he couldn’t write anymore. At the moment, I couldn’t understand the sentiment, but as I grow older, I realized that I feel this way when it comes to reading.

The clock is ticking. I only have so much time, while there are still so many books I want to read. I can feel myself getting anxious when I think of how, for sure, I won’t be able to catch up.

I have a book-FOMO.
And I guess I’ll just have to live with it.

hanny
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In Indonesia, kopi hitam (black coffee) is made by pouring boiling water over coffee grounds (and, if you like, sugar). Stir as you need, then leave it for a while, not only to let it cool down a bit—but, most importantly, to let the coffee grounds fall to the bottom of the glass and settle there (yes, it is served in a glass, not a cup). 

Lately, to me, social media feels like watching someone stirring a glass of black coffee. 

It’s hot and loud and chaotic. 

The ridiculous amount of things trying to catch my attention reminds me of drinking a glass of black coffee immediately after stirring it: it burns my tongue, and the floating coffee grounds that entered my mouth makes me cringe and cough. 

For this reason, I have been thinking of leaving social media for a while. I started by deleting Twitter, then Tumblr, then I deactivated Facebook. I feel good about it. I don’t feel like I’m missing out on anything. I think that Instagram will be next, as I am not too keen on the direction they’re going. 

So here I am, waiting for the coffee grounds of social media to settle at the bottom—and once everything is calm, quiet, and unruffled, I am back to my blog. 

I realized that I keep (wanting to) coming back to this blog: a place where I feel like conversing with a close-knitted circle of people who share similar sentiments about life, instead of talking to a bunch of strangers who are in a hurry to board a bus. 

My blog feels like a home where I can invite my closest people to come over, while social media feels like a big party I am invited to. (You know how I, an introvert, feel about going to parties). 

Yes, big parties allow me to meet plenty of people, which can be fun for a while. However, I realized how I crave more for a one-on-one connection and a slow(er) conversation after some time.

Instagram starts to feel like that big party to me, where people only see you for a minute, exchange a few words, and move on to the next topic or say hello to the next person. We scroll so fast (Well, I scroll so fast). 

Faces, messages, and interactions are soon forgotten and buried away, the way our Google Photos becomes a photo graveyard. 

Recently, I read illustrator Rebecca Green’s blog post about her intermission from Instagram and watched Julia Bausenhardt’s video, ‘One Year After I Quit Social Media‘. I feel like they are talking to me. Alexandra Franzen wrote ‘21 Ways to Find Clients and Customers without Using Social Media‘. I nodded to most of her points.

My steps of quitting social media apps are gradual. 

First, I post less. 
Then, I stop posting but still reading, liking, or interacting. 
Then, I stop checking the app altogether.
Then, I deleted the app from my phone. 
Finally, I deleted my account. 
With Instagram, I’m still on my first step—but it feels like I have lifted a weight off of my shoulder. 

Now I see a vast difference between ‘I need to share, so I need to create something‘ and ‘I want to create something, and if I want to, I can share it.’ The latter allows me to slow down. It gives me the time and space I need to focus on what I want to create.

I’ve been enjoying these few weeks facilitating an intimate 3-week online workshop on Found Poetry & Collaging.

We’ve been working on our 12-page zine, featuring our takes on various Found Poetry & Collaging techniques learned during the workshop. This week, we’ll present our zine and share stories about our challenges, creative process, and things we learn about ourselves as writers/poets during the wrapping-up of this project.

I’m excited about it, about the fact that we’re creating a finished project together, challenging our creativity by imposing limitations and boundaries, and having conversations about our creative decisions. 

Interactions like this make me think of sipping a glass of black coffee together with friends in a small warung somewhere, accompanied by fried banana and vegetable fritters. 

We’re not in a hurry. 

We have all the time in the world to wait for our coffee grounds to settle on the bottom of the glass.

hanny
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Maybe you’ve realized that you want to change direction.
Maybe you’ve had enough.
Maybe you won’t tolerate certain things any longer.

Maybe you have found something better, healthier, or more rewarding.
Maybe you no longer want to stay where you are.
Maybe you don’t care that much about what people would say or think anymore.
Maybe you want to be your own person.
Maybe you’ve tried or worked so hard, and you are on the brink of burnout.

Maybe you want to persevere somewhere else, for something else, with someone else.
Maybe you want to grow.
Maybe you want to expand your horizon.

Maybe you want to risk it.
Maybe you want to know if you can quit.
Maybe you want to see what can happen if you quit.

Because quitting is also an option.

Because quitting can also be a courageous act.
Because quitting can also be an act of self-care and self-respect.
Because quitting can be a great relief.

Just because you quit, it doesn’t mean that you’re weak.
Just because you quit, it doesn’t mean that you can’t get back on track.
Just because you quit, it doesn’t mean that you’re not good enough.

Even if you quit, at least you’ve tried your best.
Even if you quit, you can always start over.
Even if you quit, you are still worthy.

———————

Accompanying #journalingprompts: Do you think ‘quitting’ can be an option? Why? Have you ever quit? Why? Or why not? In which way ‘quitting’ can be good for you? In which circumstances ‘quitting’ can be bad? Why?

hanny
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From time to time, we may find ourselves asking, “What is my life purpose?”

Some of us may be able to answer that immediately, some of us may not.

There were times when I thought I have found it: the answer to my ultimate life purpose–but then I looked into it closer, questioned it and I wasn’t sure anymore. So I searched again.

It became an infinite loop I could not escape.

I used to think that knowing my life purpose would be the key to deal with those times when my life seemed too calm or too chaotic (never truly satisfied, are we?). As if knowing the answer would give me all the assurance, motivation, inspiration, and permission to march through life, knowing for certain where I’m going and that I’m taking the straightest path to get there…

I almost forgot that in 2014 I learned about how we’d never find “the ultimate answer” because no matter what, we’d always have another question to ask.

That’s why in my January newsletter I told you that I just wanted this year to be the year of play: the year to explore, to reconnect with my curiosity, playfulness, and excitement, to do the things I want to do without worrying too much about what will come out of them.

A few days ago, while washing dishes, my mind went to one afternoon a long time ago, when I was still working full time. We were in one of our weekly team meetings at the office and we were talking about ‘role’. We were asking each other, what role would we choose in the office, if that role had nothing to do with our job titles, tasks, or functions.

Someone said, he’d be the clown, making people laugh with his jokes and funny impressions.
Someone else said, she’d be the decorator, making things look neat, pretty, and artistic.
Someone said, he’d be the problem solver.
Someone said, she’d be the cheerleader.
Someone said, he’d be the dreamer.
Someone said, she’d be the devil’s advocate.

“What role would I be happy to play in life today / this week / this month / this year / at this stage of my life?” 

When I think about it, this question feels lighter and more playful than what-is-your-life-purpose, but it can also give us a hint about where we may wish to go.

What role would you be happy to play in life?

What role would you choose for yourself at work, at home, at school, among friends, that had nothing to do with your assigned function, expectations, duties, or assumed responsibilities?

What role would you not mind filling?

When I asked this question to myself the other day, it was funny that what came to mind immediately, was serving food.

I have always felt a strange pull towards kitchens, cooking, and food, as you can see here and here.

I guess what I love about serving food is that warm and fuzzy feeling of making or preparing something for others and seeing them enjoying the things I make. It’s a lovely feeling to see the immediate impact of ‘serving’ and the experience of sharing: to see someone’s hunger is finally satiated, to get someone’s appetite back, to share stories upon rows and rows of pans and plates and bowls, to come out of of the interaction feeling full, nourished, and satisfied.

Funny enough, if I choose to see ‘serving food’ as a metaphor for what I do: writing, drawing, creating content, or just being present in life in general–I can see how the role is still somewhat valid.

So, for the time being, I’ll be playing around with this role.

Let me know what role you’d happy to play this year!

P.S. If you’re a lover of zine and cats and all things handmade with love, you may want to subscribe to Koran Bulan, a digital zine by @hairembulan, or get some lovely handmade stuff she made at @pondokserbaaneka or order her embroidered linen clothes at @SunandMoon.id – while doing this, you can also help her to care for some rescued cats. Read the story about the latest rescued cat, Yin, here.
hanny
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Hanny illustrator
Hi. I'm HANNY
I'm a published writer and a writing/creative workshop facilitator based in Amsterdam, the Netherlands. In Indonesian, 'beradadisini' means being here. So, here I am, documenting life—one word at a time.

hanny

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