I've No Time For Drama - Poetry Weekend 21/11/2015

This Saturday's poem (also on PoemHunter):

I’ve No Time for Drama

I’ve no time for drama.
Conflict is so last season
And that fashion
Will never come again.

I’ve no time for drama.
Keep your accusations
I won’t be pushed into a corner of guilt
And made to feel like I need to put up a defense.

I’ve no time for drama
I can’t take things personally
And worry if and when you’ll take things
Way too personally.

I’ve no time for drama
But if you have time
For love
For understanding
And open-mindedness.
Then certainly,
I will have time for you.

Maja Dezulovic

Time to Get Started on Your Dream Life - Poetry Weekend 14/11/2015

Three poems for today (also featured on PoemHunter):

Dream Life

We walked to the beach
Admired the view
Of mountains
The sea
And traces of history
Had sandwiches
Walked back
It was a Monday
And we were young.

Getting Started

The most difficult part
Is always to get going
On your dreams
To forget the negatives
And trudge on
Because if you don’t get going
There’s no way of ever knowing
If you’ll ever get there.

Time Goes On

While you hold your breath
Waiting for the right moment
The right thing to say
And the perfect chance.
Time goes on.

While you hesitate
And talk yourself down.
Time goes on.

While you waste the hours
On social media
Making small talk
And spending way too long on things that don’t really matter
Time goes on.

And if you wake up,
Sit up
Suck it up
And keep going,
Time will go on
And you’ll get somewhere.

Maja Dezulovic

Friday the Thirteenth – What’s Luck Got to Do with It?

‘Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.’ – Seneca

As a child, it was common to say ‘good luck’ to someone for a test or sports game.  If something bad happened, we attributed it to a bad stroke of luck.  However, the older you get the more you realize that ‘luck’ as an uncontrollable set of circumstances does not exist.  You create your own luck.

‘Shallow men believe in luck. Strong men believe in cause and effect.’ – Ralph Waldo Emerson

I believe that that our lives are a product of cause and effect.  Call it karma, divine order, or a broad definition of Newton’s third law of motion; the principle is the same.  Simply put, what you sow, you will reap.  Therefore, the harder you work and the more you learn, the more prepared you will be to make the best of opportunities that come your way.  It is not about hoping for the best, but creating the best version of yourself in order to take on greater challenges, which subsequently result in greater rewards.

I won’t go into this one too deeply as there is a lot of literature that discusses success and luck.  I simply thought it was worth mentioning as today is the famous ‘unlucky’ Friday the thirteenth.  Superstitions aside (unless a great idea for a story is involved), today is whatever we make of it.  Even when things go wrong, it is up to us to choose the way we handle these situations.  So here’s to growing wiser and smarter so that we may create more ‘good luck’ in our lives.

Maja Dezulovic

Love and Marriage in a Modern Context

Three and a half years ago I fell in love.  It wasn’t the first time, but it was the first time that the idea of it working in the long run was a possibility in my mind.  Within five months, I’d moved in with him.  Today, we’re still living together and married.

My parents didn’t get married until I was fifteen, and even then, it was because they needed the paperwork.  For years, family tried to talk them into doing it because it would somehow ‘solemnise’ their union and confirm their commitment to each other.  I never got the feeling that my mother or father would leave while I was growing up.  They were committed to each other and especially to their kids.  Two grown up kids and thirty years later, they’re still together.  Having grown up in that type of environment, seeing so many of my friends’ parents get divorced, I didn’t think getting married in the traditional sense was a big deal.  I realized that two people had to love each other and make a commitment to each other, but I didn’t think that traditional matrimony held much value in the modern world.

Last year, my then boyfriend (now husband) and I accompanied a relative to the divorce court.  Her husband wasn’t even there.  We watched over a dozen people get divorced and most of their partners were also not present.  Some of the proceedings lasted less than ten minutes and after the bang of a hammer, they were granted a decree of divorce.  My respect for the formal institution of marriage died further after seeing how easy it actually is for people to get out of it.

Nevertheless, we ended up getting married.  It wasn’t because we felt we had to.  We had already been together for almost three years and lived with each other for most of that time.  Although our cohabitation had begun as a result of convenience, it had grown to become a commitment to each other (I realize this makes us an exception to the Cohabitation Effect, see the chapter on LOVE in The Defining Decade: Why Our Twenties Matter and How to Make the Most of Them Now by Meg Jay).   We were both conscious of this commitment and did not really need the public to reaffirm our standing and feelings towards each other.  So, why did we get married?  Like my parents, we needed the paperwork.

My husband and I had two ‘weddings’.  We had a legal wedding, attended just by us and two friends who served as witnesses.  I didn’t even feel the need to have my parents there.  They knew what to expect and also told me they would be there if I needed them, but in the end I thought it unnecessary to have them travel 70 kilometers to attend a ten minute wedding in a Home Affairs office.  So we got married, then the four of us went out for lunch to celebrate.  Regardless of the informality and quickness of it all, it was special.  My bridesmaid and friend Yakima made sure it was and as a result of her efforts, we have wonderful memories and photographs of both our weddings.  At a time when we might have been a bit indifferent to the proceedings, what was in fact a major life event is captured in photographs and videos that tell the story of our love.  It wasn’t so much about the proceedings but the love between us that shone through.  I remember when the officiator asked my then-fiancĂ© if he would take me to be his wife.  He didn’t answer.  Instead a giant grin appeared on his face.  The officiator remarked: ‘Oh, that’s definitely a yes’, and he nodded.  I remember just the feeling of warmth and love in that moment.  I didn’t need anything else.  The whole process did last less than ten minutes (and that’s only because the officiator had forgotten something and kept us waiting midway).

As for our second wedding, again it was small.  This time it was unintentional.  We had planned for many people to be there but due to financial circumstances, most of our loved ones could not make the trip from South Africa to Croatia.  Even so, it was beautiful.  My bridesmaid, husband, mother-in-law, uncle and I made our way to a rocky, deserted island in the Adriatic, where we recited our vows to each other.  It was beautiful because it simbolised the essence of our union – it was natural, spontaneous, and like in our relationship, we had to balance over a few sharp rocks, but it turned out amazing, and for a few short moments, our loved ones got a sneak peek into our private world.  Afterwards, our closest family in Croatia came over for dinner and we showcased our clumsy dance skills.

‘We all ought to feel confident we are choosing our partners and our partners are choosing us because we want to be with them, not because staying together is convenient or because breaking up is inconvenient.’ – Meg Jay

I sometimes wonder if we hadn’t needed to for administrative reasons (emigrating), if we would have gotten married at all.  The answer is probably not.  The reason is that we had already made a strong commitment to each other long before our official marriage.  Traditional marriage is outdated in that it sometimes forces people to stay in marriages due to financial, religious, and comfort reasons.  I was told a few weeks ago that we chose not to have our ceremony in front of God.  I know God was there not only on both wedding days, but on every day we decided to stick together regardless of anything that may have stood in our way.  That is enough for us and we wouldn't have had it any other way.

At the end of it all, I’m glad we did it.  There’s something grown-up about being husband and wife.  We are best friends and in the time we’ve been together, we’ve gotten to see the worst and the best of each other, accepting and understanding each other regardless.  The result is that we cannot imagine not being together, no matter what (and we’re literally together most of the time).  Our dynamic is different to most relationships.  Although much of the time I am typing on my laptop and he is busy with something outside or downstairs, we’re usually just a few steps or a loud call away from each other.  We also work on most projects together, where I do the admin and financial side, we plan together, and he completes the creation.  We make a good team and that is what marriage is about.

I love you Luke.

‘What counts in making a happy marriage is not so much how compatible you are, but how you deal with incompatibility.’ – Leo Tolstoy

Maja Dezulovic

The Joys and Sorrows of a Ghostwriter

Waking Up From a Sorrowful Existence

Over the past year and a half I’ve written six books (five fiction and one non-fiction) and countless blog posts and articles.  On any ordinary weekday in the last six months, I’d be posting up to ten blog posts, editing (anything including essays, letters and books), and also working on a book project.  It paid well and so I kept going, living what I thought was the ‘writer’s dream’.  Now I realize that besides the money I was paid (and all the things it’s afforded me), I actually have very little to show for the past 18 months of my career.  Sure, there are articles here and there and my name appears on a few books I’ve edited, but my presence in the publishing world is almost non-existent.  Another thing that proves this is my blog.  I’d neglected this blog for over a year, until I decided it was time to get it going again.  Now, at least I will have something to show for my passion, even if I’m a ghost the rest of the time.

Another drawback is that I started to hate writing.  Yes, I began hating something that I was intensely passionate about for most of my life.  The reason was because it became mind-numbing to spend most of my time on projects that I wasn’t directly interested in and would get little or no credit for.  So, lesson learnt – don’t do anything for money alone (taken from 9 Learnings from 9 Years of Brain Pickings).  Doing so results in depression.  I even started to question if I’d ever really enjoyed it at all.  I went through this about a month ago, then decided to restructure my business and career plans.

Ghostwriting Pays in Knowledge and Experience

I will continue ghostwriting as I already have contracts to fulfill and it would be silly not to see them through after putting in a great effort already.  I have just decided to limit my time as a ghostwriter and also focus on advancing my own brand.

The plus side of being a ghostwriter is that I get paid well to improve on my skills and to learn.  Through my various projects, I’ve had the opportunity to learn new information that I otherwise wouldn’t have about sports cars, bespoke motorcycles, design, architecture, fashion, technology, sociology, insurance, education and art.  So, after each project, although I may come out without a byline, my bank balance will be higher and I leave with newly acquired information and skills.
As a result, my first novel will not be the first novel I’ve written, but just the first I publish in my own name.  I will be able to leverage from the experience of all my other projects when I put together my very own work of art so I won't be publishing as a ' rookie'.  The ghostwriting is just a stepping stone to this and I embrace each carefully selected project.  And in order to fit in the works of love, well… I heard something about NaNoWriMo!

Maja Dezulovic

Life's Too Short to Give a Damn - Poetry Weekend 31/10/2015

Three poems for today (also featured on PoemHunter):

Borderline Madness

Borderline madness,
All-inclusive sadness
Coated in plastic joy
And chemical-infused gladness.

No longer do expressions and rants pass as ordinary, okay
Instead you’re shunned,
They turn away.

And what was once borderline
Turns full-blown
But nobody sees,
Nobody knows
Before the descent begins
Into a dark hole infused with specks of light.

But madness remains
So who’s to say you’re mad

We all have it –
An inclination towards insanity
That creeps in
And it is your choice
How much you’d like to tame it,
If at all.

Steel-framed Sadness

Don’t you see?
The photographer shot it.
Happy smiles, matched outfits
And all of that.

Plastic pretenses
Edited into eternity
With a wisp of uncertainty
Hidden in the pixels.

It’s all there
So that one day
We can point
And recollect
Distorted memories
‘Wasn’t it all perfect then?’
‘Wasn’t it all wonderful?’

That will be the definition
Of deliberate insanity
Living for yesterday
Conforming for today
And tomorrow?

Life's Too Short to Give a Damn

‘Excuse me,’ I said.
‘Sorry,’ I cried.
‘I was trying to explain.  I don’t really care,’ I denied.

All they could do was look on and shun me with judgements
Based on misunderstandings.
‘Let’s cherry pick our fights,’ they laughed.
‘Let’s base our arguments on the things we feel.’
They do that instead of listening, understanding,
Trying to experience what’s real.

So I stopped my arms mid-air,
Placed my hands in my pockets,
Shook my head,
And walked away.
Life’s too short to give a damn.

Maja Dezulovic

Modern Self-Employment versus the Antiquated Nine-to-Five: The Difference between Freedom and Boredom

‘I cannot fathom how people accept the dribble of an ordinary life.’ (Another Friday by Zaheera Mayet)

A friend and colleague of mine made that statement in one of her blog posts (check out Zaheera's blog).  It struck me, not because I thought it was anything new, but because once again I was being confronted with a concern that many people have and few have the courage to voice. Yet, we carry on in the rat race, declaring ourselves powerless to the way the system works.

We need to realise that the power is in our hands to change our lives.  You do not have to be miserable five days a week at a job you hate, just so that you can spend the other two days enjoying the things it affords you to buy.  The thing about working 9-5 all your life is that it cultivates a certain type of ignorance.  I’ve seen it when people get laid off and then have no idea what to do with their lives.  Also, when people with comfortable paychecks lack the vision or creativity to see what life could be if they did things a little differently.  These people often also lack strength and adaptability, which are assets in any business.  When you’re self-employed and things don’t go as planned, you make another plan.  You have to write your own paycheck.

‘[T]he cubicle that so many inhabit, ironically sharing the dimensions of a prison cell, acts as the tunnel vision needed to ignore the light at the end of a completely different tunnel.’ (Another Friday by Zaheera Mayet) 

I knew the moment I left high school that I wanted to run a business and take charge of my own life.  The reasons for this began when I was a little girl – I saw that my father, who was self-employed, enjoyed more freedom and generally had more money to spend than other parents.  One day my best friend and her brother came over to our house to play, and my father sat down at the dining room table to count money and sort out coins and bills for his weekly bank deposit (something he often did as a result of running a cash business).  My friends’ eyes grew wide when they saw this and they told me that they had never in their lives seen so much money. I decided then, at about age 10, that when I grew up I wanted to be like my dad and have a business that generates money.
Of course, that was one of the advantages of the kind of life my father lived.  One of the major disadvantages that came with running a small business was the long hours.  When I was a little girl, I’d sometimes lie awake at night, fighting sleep, because I knew that my dad would come give me a kiss goodnight and tuck me in when he came home.  I wanted to be awake for that (although still pretending to be asleep as I’d be in trouble for being awake so late).  I wanted to feel his presence because I knew that by the time I woke up the next morning to get ready for school, he’d already be gone.  It’s sad that only when my father’s business declined and he made less money, only then did we get to spend more time with him.  So, I altered my life plan.  I wanted a business and I wanted money, but I also wanted time.  Enter the internet.

I love the internet.  It has revolutionised the way we live and my life is a product of that revolution.  I can work anywhere in the world, provided that I have a stable connection and my laptop.  I don’t have to commute to and from work every day like my father did, pay high running costs, or try to get as much as possible done by myself.  I can quickly pick the right freelancers and employees to do what I need to get done from a global pool of professionals.  All this makes my life so much simpler and more satisfying than it would have been without the internet.

For years, my family and friends tried to talk me out of this crazy idea of writing and running an online business.  I received dozens of emails with links to job postings that I was thought to be suitable for, and I was criticized for not pursuing these opportunities.  There were times when I just wanted to give up, stay under the covers and accept that I just wasn’t ever going to reach that ‘work from home dream’.  The reason it took so long is because I spent too many years listening to the naysayers and not simply focusing on my passion.  I also lost a few years studying for towards a law degree – knowledge and skills that have come in handy but I will seldom use on a professional level.  Thankfully, I can now proudly say that I’ve learned to listen to my gut and I earn a full time income online.  How did this happen?

‘One day when I’m all successful, I’ll say that I had nothing better to do.’ (Maja Dezulovic, 2009/2010)

This was a self-fulfilling prophesy.  When I wrote it five or six years ago, I was still freelancing on a part-time basis and earning pocket money for it.  Last year, when I started writing full time, I did it because I had nothing better to do.  We needed the money and my husband and I had a goal – to live life on our terms in our own house in Croatia.  We had to push to make that happen, which meant paying the expenses to get and stay there.  So, why did I start taking writing seriously?  It was the only marketable skill I had under the circumstances.  Simply put, I had nothing better to do.

I feel that is the way we need to look at things.  If I find myself counting the hours or constantly thinking of other ('better') things I could be doing, I know that I am not living passionately and I am not free.  Freedom is being able to do what you want without having to worry about what you need.  Freedom is not boredom as a result of necessity.  If this Friday marks the beginning of a two-day 'freedom', you are not free.

Maja Dezulovic

The Joys of Adulthood - Paying Bills

I remember my first perception of bill paying.  My father owned a cash business (restaurant) so once a month, he’d organise stacks of cash and on top of our dining room table.  Each stack would then be placed in an envelope along with the invoice or deposit slip for the bill he was paying - the bond on our house, electricity and water, merchandise orders for his business.  I remember thinking, ‘Wow!  My dad has so much money to pay for all these bills.’ He would proudly go to the bank the next day and pay them.  I don’t remember him ever complaining – paying your dues was simply a part of life.

The downside is that, for a long time, I held a false belief that it was actually easy.  I didn’t see the sweat and toil my dad put into building a business that could pay for itself and support two households.  My dad did that before I was born so I took having money for granted.  It’s no lie that I was a spoilt brat.

When my father approached retirement, the cashflow and his previous investments died out.  I had to stop depending on daddy and stand on my own two feet.  It took years and now that I’ve actually accomplished it (that is, being able to ‘comfortably’ pay my own way through life), and I must say that one of the things I take pleasure in is paying bills.

This morning, the first sms I received was a notification from the bank that money had been paid into my account (thank you to my clients).  I then spent my morning paying bills – telephone, TV, internet, electricity, loans, etc.  I find so much joy in logging onto internet banking and seeing money go out of my account.  The reason for this is that I do not work for the money – I work to have a home with all the modern necessities that make it possible to do what I do and live the way we live.  After paying the bills, my husband and I went shopping and we were able to buy food, toiletries and nurture my husband’s chocolate addiction.  So we spent some of the money I received and we returned happy and satisfied, but not because of the spending part, but because our kitchen is now stocked up with all the items we need.

I see so many people complaining about bills and the rising cost of living, yet they do nothing to progress themselves and increase their earning opportunities.  Yes, the cost of living is rising and we all know that many companies are milking us for everything they can get.  We can fight, but none of us can argue that we do not want the things that make our lives more comfortable – clean running water, electricity, wifi.  And although some of these things should ideally be freely available and we will continue to fight for this, it is both a pleasure and a blessing to be able to afford them.  Instead of complaining, I advocate working harder at building sustainable businesses.  We need to educate more people to make more money in order to meet the rising cost of living.  Companies aren’t doing this as salaries stagnate and let’s not even get started on the government.

My heart goes out to people who cannot pay the bills.  I have been there.  My heart goes out to people who lie awake at night with an uncertainty of how they will make ends meet.  I have been there too.  I am grateful that I am able to pay the bills and help support my family.  Until we live in a world where the basic rights of every human being are met, I hope and I pray and I will fight for the opportunity for as many people as possible to be able to enjoy the pleasure of paying their bills.
Maja Dezulovic

Poetry In Motion - 9 New Poems

It's been a long time since I wrote any poety, and then this came out.  These nine poems are on PoemHunter (each of the titles is hyperlinked), so if you like any, please vote for them and comment there.  Thanks for reading.

The Older I Get:

The older I get,
The less I care.
The older I get,
The less I ask why
They curse and choose to stare.

The older I get,
The more I laugh,
The more I cry,
The more I take the time to do things for me,
let go and just let things be.

The older I get,
The more I age
And life becomes predictable,
I’m my very own sage.

The older I get,
The less I want,
The more I get.
And the harder I try.

The older I get,
The faster time flies
And I realize there’s no time for hesitation and fear
We have to do something.
Life’s about a lot more than just getting by.

A Mother’s Touch:

A reminder of gratitude
Against all odds-
Any odds
All the odds!

A mother’s touch,
There when you need it
But do not realize
That you’re tired,
You’re aching
But she knows.

When you cry,
She cries.
And when you laugh,
She rejoices.

And on the day they hurt you,
Dare they try,
She’ll be right behind you,
To support you
Or perhaps even step in front of you
To soften the blow.

And no matter what,
No matter how far
She’ll always be your mum.

Black is the Colour of My Fury:

My eyes are black
My nerves are red
But there is no hatred,
No rage.
Just pain.
And an open wound,
And left to heal,
Leaving a blemish,
A reminder – for one day’s conversation, when we revisit it again.

Burn Out:

When emotions die,
Batteries fail and your heart stops
Crippling your limbs,
The world’s a blur.

Where did passion go?
Whatever happened to motivation,
And fun?

They walked away,
Took the flame with them,
But left you burning,
And crumbling into a dead ash.

But the phoenix shall rise
From burn-out
And fly once more –
One day
Some day
Any day now…

When Worlds Collide:

When worlds collide
And seasons change
All that’s left is you and me
And our very own sweet (in)sanity

You look at me as if to say:
‘You’re all that I need’
And I want to scream
‘You’re mad.’
And when you’re gone, you’re out
Making new friends,
I want to call:
‘Please come back’

And in the mornings
When you’re lying there
Baby faced and in your own peaceful sleep
I fall into pieces
Because I want to hold you, kiss you
Shake you awake so that you can rise to the pain
The pain of living,
The pain of loving
The pain of you and me,
Which is actually not pain at all
But mutual joy, understanding
Never-bending, never-ending
Just you and me.

I gave away all them pills:

I gave away all them drugs
Them pills,
With their numbing effects
Useless efforts
And side-effects, ills.

I gave them away
So I could feel
So that every tingle
Every sharp pang
Could hit me
Like a train headed for a thick stone wall.
And with that pang,
I’ll scream,
I’ll yell:
‘Why the heck did I give away all of them pills?!’

If only my mind were numb:

If only my mind were numb,
If only my intelligence were defined as
Below average

Then I’d laugh,
Step, dance and sing
With no care in the world
No need to search – or yearn for
Intermediate thrills

I’d forget that
People suffer
Children are hungry
Consumerism is a religion
And faces often lie

If only my mind was dumb,
I’d shut up
And just be,
Not realizing that my being
Could not be farther away
From what it really means
To live.

Too bad, so sad:

Too bad, so sad
That’s what they’ll say
When you pour out your heart
When you reach out and cry
‘I need you humankind, I need you’

They’ve been programmed, you see
To look out for themselves and the small circles around them
If you aren’t in that circle
If you don’t stand on common ground –
Too bad, so sad.

And then you cry,
Run down the street searching
For someone’s eyes, anybody’s eyes – alive
Looking, listening and feeling
And maybe those eyes will look at you,
Actually see you
Without dismissively looking away
And chanting
‘Too bad, so sad…’

If Music Died:

If music died,
I’d be a carcass
My ears ripped out
With no use but to decay.

If music died,
I’d have no ambition
To play that riff
Dignify that rhythm and
To sing –
Sing for joy,
Sing for love,
Sing for all those who do not mourn
The death of real music.

(c) Maja Dezulovic