The Amsterdam Journals - Finding peace In Lessons and Loss

Friday, 25 September 2015


(Max's writing desk at midday, these thoughts written here.)

In life we sometimes win or we sometimes learn.
The truth, in its ardent and dispiriting address, is that we very rarely win.
Understanding this as a meditation ironically became my biggest accomplishment, my most cherished win, but to see it I've had to spend a lot of time flailing and falling and learning.


Learning is often in the mask of loss, in the last few years it has felt like I've lost a lot.
I allowed acts of losing to render me as someone who denominated themselves as an all year loser.
I trudged through the damp and pocketed these clouds of winter wind that felt like they could burst into an aggressive flood that I'd be trapped in forever. 
They've been awful, truly difficult - I allowed the puppet of loss to pull my own strings and lead my hands into temptation, my head into destruction and my heart into self-loathing.

But for the first time in my life, I have allowed myself the opportunity to rip off the mask of loss and see lesson.
It's a difficult structure, this haphazard scaffold you place against the unsure, often feeling ugly and clunky and too high here and lacking width there, but all of the pieces tessellate eventually.
They fit, they mould, they create a utility for leaning and protection. 

It's still mastering in size as I grow, still wobbling even when I see peace, but most importantly I have made the decision to begin the build and know its foundations will remain until I'm ready to advance them further. 
This not a declaration of readiness as a whole, but a wink and salute to welcoming the start line.
Whatever, wherever, whoever - peace is a decision and one you can't make until you've accepted learning and appreciated it just as much as you would winning. 
It's as difficult as it feels profound, in the times I've needed peace I've not felt worth of attaining it, strong enough to hold it.
There have been years and will be more where I don't believe it exists. 
Pain has a comfort that peace cannot see and that's why the latter is brave.

But here in Amsterdam I got to look it in the eyes, study its face and introduce myself as the foreign stranger that I am.
We may not be cosy confidants just yet, merely passers by who lusted for each other, but the joy in knowing that we've been acquainted excites me enough to push out an invitation for us to meet again.
It is here I am letting learning throw me into adventure and in turn discovering teachings that haven't been bred from pain. 

The Amsterdam Journals - Volkshotel

Tuesday, 22 September 2015

So, this is it.
The line of my life where instead of steadily crying into an expensive spinach and lemon juice in Soho, googling how to get those fun concentration meds prescribed and querying why I'm not loved up in Florence writing poetry and supping Prosecco like it's squash - I've booked a flight to Amsterdam alone to curve it around with meditation, running, writing and probably crying into an expensive spinach and lemon flavoured juice along a canal.

My friend Max, who is legitimately the male version of me 
(for all the worst bits, his best bits are nothing like me which is why I adore him and he's not an idiot) has just moved out here for university and I have every intention of using and abusing his hospitality as well as giving him a bloody good cuddle over a large glass of red wine.
His lady was in town the night I arrived, so I booked into Volkshotel for a shelter of safety and to weigh out my first ounce of inspiration.
I have never truly understood the importance of travel or of running away and the notion of 'finding myself' on a distance shore has always induced a strange sort of acid reflux.
Running manically to my gate at Gatwick, sitting still and calm next to a wonderful Dutch lady called Jana on row 23 and smoothing over my bed covers for the night all started to crack open how much I am here to learn.

I settle down beneath a bunker of trinkets, bowling pins and gramophones, typewriters and foreign books in the downstairs bar, swill my wine from clockwise to anti and marvel at how freeing anonymity is but realise how alone I am. 
It's a thought that starts and stops for much shorter than I thought it might.
The staff here are intrusively good looking - their bone structure and milky eyes dancing into my own less milky gaze every ten or so minutes, perfect and clean and cool, checking I'm okay.
I tell them I'd be less okay if they weren't so attentive and sweet.
It's lovely to feel safe, particularly, it's lovely to feel safe here.
The hotel is like an architectural lovechild of a Shoreditch basement bar and a playhouse you'd have dreamt up as a child.
Everything demands to be touched or sniffed at, instagrammed, penned about.
It's these details, the candles at breakfast and the in-house illustrations, the hanging chairs and gaudy signs that spring me up much earlier than usual to find a corner downstairs and scribble my first sightings of clarity into my notebook.

No better introduction could've been wished, a truly perfect first night.
'Volkshotel is a place for dandies and poets, dishwashers, nightbloomers and artists.' it states on their website, I would struggle to find words more fitting.
Good morning Amsterdam, please let you continue to be this wonderful.
 

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