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Personal Development

How I Gave up Hate to Recreate Myself

 

A friend of mine asked me once, ‘Don’t you hate?’ and I said, ‘No.’ I gave up hate. I had to. It was the only reasonable thing for me to do in order to raise my children as decent human beings. The only reasonable thing for me to do in order to be able to raise my children as decent human beings.

I hated. I did, with passion everything that was connected in any sense with the place where the attack happened. The country, its people, its food, mementoes, the memories, I hated it all. Dozens of scarves that I bought there, rugs, books, I gave almost all of them away. I believed that I’d never wear or use them again and I hadn’t, for a long while.

Initially, I was busy with grief, guilt and rage.

The time stopped, my little universe was shattered in thousands of pieces and I was in a complete dark. Dungeon. Pitch-black all over and all I could do was feel my way around searching for something. A light, a twinkle of hope that somehow I was just stuck in a terrible nightmare and that I needed to wake up. Somebody had to wake me up. I WILL wake up! There is no other way!

Then, I went through the surgery. It gave me the initial push to start moving again and reach out of the dungeon. I went through the physical recovery, physiotherapy and I despised it because I had to be among other people, speak to them, answer their questions, pretend that I cared about what they said when I didn’t.

I hated it all and I hated myself.

The time passed. Life started happening again.

 

alt= Biljana Hutchinson Embryo
Farewell gift from a family friend before we moved back to the UK. ‘Embryo’ to me.

 

I travelled, started a relationship and joined my efforts in recovery with my soon to be husband. We were there for each other in every way. Able to understand and support one another, to leave each other in peace and silence when we needed it. I’m the silent type while my husband is a talker. It was a bit of a difficult match at the beginning, especially because I had the notorious passive-aggressive approach to personal relationship matters for most of my life. It took me a terrorist attack to break that cycle too. (Yup, you got it, I learn the hard way).

Anyway, my soon to be husband and I had a lot more going for us, so the differences between silent vs talkative type were not a dealbreaker. Our relationship was the front line against the cycles of misery, rage and hate that both of us created for ourselves respectively.

‘I will permit no man to narrow and degrade my soul by making me hate him.’ – Booker T. Washington

I am not a hater. My parents didn’t raise me that way. Hate is unnatural and uncomfortable feeling for me.  Yet, I felt it and wore it without thinking of it too much. What burst the hate bubble was a week of another emotional earthquake that shook me only eight months after the attack.

We set the date for our wedding and although I hadn’t had a great relationship with my dad, I was still excited to share the news with him. I knew the news would make him happy and it did. Dad started making different plans straight away. Two days later, he called me back but I missed his call. Another two days and we found out I was pregnant with our first child. The following morning my dad passed away. I never returned his call.

Although the relationship I had with my dad was weak and shaky as we rarely saw each other and we didn’t really talk much, certainly it was far from hate. The news I received was sudden, unexpected and devastating and one thing that it did was deepen my feeling of guilt.

All I could think of were good memories I had with my dad growing up. The thick snow on the ground, big beautiful snowflakes quietly falling while my dad is pulling the sledge explaining the nature to me. How we collected conkers together for my school assignment while dad talked about chestnut trees and answered my questions about anything and everything. How we chose books to buy and talked about them after reading them together…

As a contrast, a memory of us sitting on the roof during the attack became a constant. We were sweating, sitting on the tiled floor in the blood puddle, listening to the noise of bullets and RPGs. A helicopter that was sent to extract us had to pull out because the shooting in and around the house intensified. We could only wait as we had in the previous few hours. My husband now sat next to me with tourniquet high up on his arm but still bleeding. We were all quiet when he put his hand on mine,

– We gonna get out of here, you know.

– I know – I said, thinking – No, we won’t…

We went quiet again and just sat there. I felt as if I were detached from my body sitting on top of the water tower, watching us in pain and fear but calm, tired and waiting. The day was bright and hot. Mum… Would I see her again, have coffee with her or laugh with her again? When was the last time I told her I loved her?

Going through all these files of memories when my dad passed away unlocked the door that I shut tight and chained after the attack. Plus, pregnant?! I’m going to have a baby! We’re going to have a baby! It felt as if the missing piece were put in the right place in the puzzle and the whole puzzle illuminated, revived me. I felt ready to get up, brush my teeth and start the day.

‘A baby is not the answer’

Broken relationships cannot be patched-up with babies, we know that, but this was different (how many times have you heard that?). I never thought I’d say this, but the baby was an answer. It patched-up broken relationship between myself and I. At the time, I was nervous, worried, insecure and although I said after the attack that I’d not have children, the knowledge of the new life that we created rekindled me. It was the best surprise ever – there is a new life within me that bears my new self.

As if I pulled the curtains and opened the window, the light was back in and I took a deep breath of fresh air. I could see my life in a perspective again. The road opened up ahead of me and I could stop going in circles now. It was the time for me to focus my energy on creating and nourishing my new life instead of hating the old one.

The only reasonable thing for me to do was to give up hate. I had no energy or time for it anymore and it was not an option. ‘New’ was the word of the day and we decided to live it. Nothing represents the New better than the change of environment, so we changed countries and distanced ourselves from our triggers.

I gave up hate to recreate myself and build a new life for us.

We closed the first book in a series and opened the second one. The clean sheet before us, quill in hand.

 

Photo: ‘Embryo’ by Bisa Jelisavac. Farewell gift from a family friend before we moved back to the UK.

Articles, Personal Development

What’s All This Cooking Stuff!?

Maybe these recipes seem a bit random, but I came to love cooking, baking and all things kitchen. When combined with my family’s love for eating – it’s a perfect match.

Before I had children, I was not cooking nor baking for more than one reason: I worked long hours and I lived on my own. Also, I wasn’t interested in learning how to cook after a 12-hour day in the field and I mostly ate fast food on the go.

 

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My mum, a wise woman and a fantastic cook, used to tell me every time I’d say that maybe I should learn to cook this or that, ‘Don’t worry about it, when the time comes you’ll learn’ or ‘Don’t worry about it, you’ll learn when you have to’. My menu consisted of eggs in 5 or 6 ways, pasta in 105 or 106 ways and three kinds of soup, two of which were from the packet.

Working in Afghanistan where we had cooks preparing delicious food for us didn’t do me any favours either. Until 2011 when my daughter was born. A few months later the time for me to learn how to cook had come.

Mum was there to help as she did and I started going to a local green market to buy fresh fruits and vegetables. I started finding my own favourite local producers, buying fresh meat from the butcher’s, fresh herbs and preparing food for our little girl and for us.

 

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I already read a lot about food and knew a little bit about healthy eating, dos and donts of nutritionism so this was a chance to apply my knowledge and expand it. And so I did. I read more about healthy eating, I talked to friends that knew about it more than me, I learned and learned and applied as much as I could to our everyday meal rituals creating new and improving our existing eating habits.

I started cooking, baking, brazing, grilling, kneading, you name it. There was a lot of burning of both me and the food at the beginning. But, I did it every day, trying something new, finding recipes and following them to the letter. Sometimes it worked and sometimes it didn’t.

While exploring cooking, I found that it helped tremendously with my healing too. It had pretty much the same effect on me as my therapy – my mind had a new focus in which I could fully engage not only because I was learning new things but because I could be creative in a brand new way.

Two years ago we moved back to the UK and it was then that cooking truly became my new passion in a sense that I started exploring, creating and combining ingredients outside of the recipes I had. I gained enough confidence to test combinations and my knowledge and I am so happy and proud of myself that it’s working! Wooooohooooo!

So here I am – sharing my own recipes! How cool is that! If somebody had told me only two years ago that I’d be doing this, I would have laughed out loud to their silliness and throw them out for daring to ridicule me in my own house in front of my own kids secretly wanting them to be right after slamming the door behind them…

Cooking makes me happy and is one of the things that gives me a feeling of achievement at the end of the day. There will be plenty more food to prepare and enjoy and many more recipes to share…

alt="Biljana Hutchinson sibling love"
Personal Development

The Perfect Time

Ever wonder what is a definition of a perfect time?

It took me a long while to make my own definition and realise when my perfect time is. As usually, I did it by the learning-from-my-mistakes method.

Does it happen to you that, for example, you go through your wardrobe in the morning getting ready for work and you see that dress you bought a few months ago, but have never worn it yet, thinking every time you see it ‘I’ll wear it on a special occasion’? Or, there is that bottle of wine in your cupboard, that you bought in the vineyard last year or during the French wine presentation and haven’t opened yet because it’s not special enough meal? Is there a restaurant that you spotted on your way to the green market and kept thinking of going to but the occasion is not good enough? Or, that new perfume you bought, is too good to wear it for work? Does it happen?

I used to be exactly the same but I had no definition of a ‘special occasion’. I would leave dresses, perfumes, shoes or drinks for a special occasion that I could not define, but I knew that they were not everyday ones (eyebrow up) until I started working in the war zone. Through my work, I met so many people whose lives were interrupted in horrific, unexpected and indescribable ways and many of them regretted little and simple things that we take for granted or we wait special occasions to do.

By the time we realise the definition of the special occasion, if we ever do, it is often too late.

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The time is always perfect for a kiss

A few months ago, a good friend of mine was moving abroad and asked me if she could leave some boxes in our attic. Certainly, I said and helped her pack and move the boxes. While packing we came across a beautiful green silk dress and beige silk cardigan that I fell in love with at first site. The conversation between my friend and me went something like this.

‘Aren’t you taking this beautiful cardigan with you, you can certainly wear it there?’.

‘That is a 350 euro cardigan, too expensive’

‘Even better reason to enjoy every opportunity in it’.

‘I will destroy it and what if I die?’

‘Well, if you die you were at least enjoying your cardigan, woman!’

‘No’ my friend said, ‘I want it saved’.

‘Saved for what?’, I asked, but my friend never answered and decided that the gorgeous cardigan is better off in a dark box in our attic than on her in summer eves.

A similar conversation happened tonight while I was posting my pile of to-be-read books on my #Litsy account. One of my followers, commenting on one of the books, said that she was waiting for the ‘perfect time’ to read it, but that she was not sure when that will be…

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Ready for a picnic? Now is the time!

We work long and stressful hours in the offices full of people that we may or, more often, may not like, doing the work that, if fortunate, we love. We hear bad news every single day, we read posts on our social media feeds that have no relevance to our lives, we conform to wishes, plans and rules of our partners, children, family, colleagues, bosses or, if we are lucky, we make compromises.

What is there that we can do to feel better about ourselves?

Indulge ourselves. Make events out of little things that will make a whole lot of a difference in our daily lives. Put on that dress or that favourite expensive shirt and go to work. If there is a particular dress code at work, then wear it when meeting friends for coffee or dinner. Don’t forget to spray that favourite perfume of yours. When you return home, while still in the same glamorous outfit, open that special bottle of wine. Then toss those Prada (or not) shoes off your feet, lift the feet on the table and take a sip. When you’re ready, put on your nighty for special occasions, you know the one (wink, wink), grab a book that you had your eye on for so long and finish that day like a queen or king.

My learning curve to indulge myself had its highs and lows. Lows were really low especially after the trauma I went through. I was not able to keep the momentum during my up times. Then I realised that I need to be proactive. I need to be on top of myself in order to keep the momentum. Also, I needed a plan. So, I made one. It wasn’t a perfect one but I had it. I made an important step in the right direction.

I learnt that every day deserves a celebration. Every time I felt like doing something – I did it or took steps in order to make it happen. Because that was my special occasion and my perfect time. Exactly when I felt like it. I learnt the lesson, although it took me some time and effort. Why wait, what for? I decided not to. Make any time the perfect time because you deserve it. Chin-chin!

Personal Development

The Perfect Times

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Does it happen to you that, for example, you go through your wardrobe in the morning getting ready for work and you see that dress you bought a few months ago, but have never worn it yet, thinking every time you see it ‘I’ll wear it on a special occasion’? Or, there is that bottle of wine in your cupboard, that you bought in the vineyard last year or during the French wine presentation and you haven’t opened it yet, because it’s not special enough meal? Or, that restaurant that you spotted on your way to the green market and kept thinking of going to but the occasion is not good enough? Or, that new perfume you bought, is too good to wear it for work? Does it happen?

I used to be exactly the same but I had no definition of a ‘special occasion’. I would leave dresses, perfumes, shoes or drinks for a special occasion that I could not define, but I knew that they were not everyday ones (eyebrow up) until I started working in the war zone. Through my work I met so many people whose lives were interrupted in horrific, unexpected and indescribable ways and many of them regretted little and simple things that we take for granted or we wait special occasions to do. By the time we realise the definition of special occasion, it is often too late.

A few months ago, a good friend of mine was moving abroad and asked me if she could leave some boxes in our attic. Certainly, I said and helped her pack and move the boxes. While packing we come across a beautiful green silk dress and even more beautiful beige silk cardigan that I fell in love with at first site. The conversation went something like this,

‘Aren’t you taking this beautiful cardigan with you, you can certainly wear it there?’

‘That is a 350 euro cardigan, too expensive’

‘Even better reason to enjoy every opportunity in it’.

‘I will destroy it and what if I die?’

‘Well, if you die you were at least enjoying your cardigan, woman!’

‘No’ my friend said, ‘I want it saved’.

‘Saved for what?’, I asked, but my friend never answered my question and decided that the gorgeous cardigan is better off in a dark box in our attic than on her on summer eves.

A similar conversation happened tonight while I was posting my pile of to-be-read books on my #Litsy account and one of my followers, commenting on one of the books, said that she was waiting for the ‘perfect time’ to read it, but that she was not sure when that will be…

We work long and stressful hours in the offices full of people that we may or, more often, may not like, doing the work that, if fortunate, we love but may not even like; we hear bad news every single day, we read posts on our social media feeds that have no relevance to our lives, we conform to wishes, plans and rules of our partners, children, family, colleagues, bosses or, if we are lucky, we make compromises. What is there that we can do to feel better about ourselves?

Indulge ourselves. Make events out of little things that will make a whole lot of a difference in our daily lives. Put on that dress or that favourite expensive shirt and go to work. If there is particular dress code at work, then wear it when meeting friends for coffee or dinner, don’t forget to spray that favourite perfume of yours and you are so good to go. When you return home, while still in that same glamorous outfit, open that special bottle of wine, toss those Prada (or not) shoes off your feet, lift the feet on the table and take a sip. When you’re ready, put on your nighty for special occasions, you know the one (wink, wink), grab a book that you had your eye on for so long and finish that day like a queen or king.

Every day is a special day and every time you feel like doing something – do it, because that is your special occasion when you feel like it. Why wait, what for – make any time the perfect time and remember it because you deserve it. Chin-chin!

 

 

alt="Biljana Hutchinson rainbow reading"
Daily Fun, Personal Development

Revisiting New Year’s Resolutions

I was out of reach for a while. When I’m not in a good place, I tend to disappear or hide. It helps me mull over whatever is bothering me and then get back to the world with a smile on my face to resume where I left off in public life. The smile means I won. Even if I didn’t get what I wanted in any sense of the word, the smile is there because I’m over it and I’m moving on.

When I’m ‘off air’, I read. A lot. In my previous life of development worker, in blue times I’d immerse myself in work because I always believed that work is the cure for heartache or a headache. So the recipe for ‘getting over’ things was work and books in whatever ratio worked best.

Now, as a stay-at-home mum, things are different, better in certain ways. That being so, I don’t have my work to hide behind so I am pretty much forced to talk things through and deal with them better and sooner. Sooner being the key word here. Before, I’d let things simmer down to the point where they become insignificant so there is no need to talk them through. For me, that is. Looking back now, I realise that that was quite selfish of me because maybe that other person or persons would still have found them significant. Maybe or I hope that they forgave me because I don’t remember losing many connections over time. I may be overthinking this a bit too… There’s my new NY resolution: don’t overthink.

We are more than half of 2016 down the road and after a short break, I thought that this would be the right time to revisit some of the 2016 resolutions. Well, the four most important ones.

 

alt="Biljana Hutchinson book & wine"

 

The first most important NY resolutions was to talk things through and as I was saying, I have less space now to deal with things so I have to deal with them in a very practical and tangible way, in order to get back to my everyday life as quickly as possible, because a three-year-old and a four-and-a-half-year-old will not wait and I’ll give you a clue: their concept of patience is next to nonexistent and even if there was one they don’t find it as important.

So, when I hit the blues I talked things through and it felt great because it took me way less time to get back on track.

I also read. Books are a constant in dealing with everything and anything and they are there for better or for worse, so whatever the mood there is a book that matches it. However, I still don’t manage to read as many books as I want, which leads me to the second one of my 2016 resolutions – read 50 books. (I know, I know, but I’m a slow reader and not very good at time management). Nevertheless, I am proud to say that I am well on track and I feel great about it mainly because my mental state is way better than before for two reasons. First, I save myself from unnecessary stress over current world affairs, mainly terrorist attacks, immigration and Brexit, but also because I learn more and get inspired. The list of books that I read this year is on the blog page, for those who are interested.

The third most important New Year’s resolution was to reduce the time spent in front of the TV and on social networks and you know what? It works perfectly on many levels; not only do we as a family focus on each other more and spend more time together playing, learning and exploring but I also get more time for myself to read, write, learn new things, start new ventures and (re)connect with some old and new friends.

To be clear, I follow the news as I am news-addict, but I have time slots allocated for that – twice a day, morning and evening for about 20-30 minutes and I am still on my social network profiles, but again within my self-imposed timeslots. It started with the decision that every time I was about to reach for my phone to check what is new on my Facebook feed I would actually reach for a book instead. It wasn’t as easy as it sounds, I had cold sweats, hands were shaking and all that, but I won!

The last most important resolution was to eat less cake. I consistently add the resolution to the list and I consistently fail it and that is the only successful moment about that resolution. Consistency is good, I keep hearing, so maybe it is all about the perspective…

It feels good and also right not only to reclaim the time that I so foolishly gave away for the TV but also to reclaim myself. And cake. Always claim the cake.