7 Answers – Interview & Introduction


7 Questions.jpgA few months ago, I was featured in “Seven Questions…” – a popular column of a UK based newspaper for the Polish diaspora. The interview format was quite unusual. I was given a number of one word/two-word questions to choose from and asked to develop answers based on whatever reflections they triggered in my mind.

When the interview came out I promised my English-speaking readers its translation, so here it comes – slightly adapted for this blog but true to the heart of our conversation.

Monika Ribeiro

Writer, Poet. Published two books with inspiring poetry and short stories – “Do Lend Me Your Ears” and “Love, don’t Fear” – currently writing her third book (epic novel). She comes from Poland, completed a master’s degree course in marketing and management at the University of Szczecin. She has lived in London for the past 15 years.

Colour

Black and white, hence brown… like my skin which reflects the fusion of two cultures – Nigerian (my dad’s side) and Polish (my mum’s). My parents met when they were students at the Technical University of Lodz. For the first few months after I was born, subsequently every now and then: I’ve lived there with them – in a student home. Skin colour means nothing because we all belong to one race – human race.

Place

The old town of Barcelona. The beach, sun, museums, beautiful antique buildings, music… One of my visits, about 4 years ago, is especially engraved in my memory. One morning, in the search of peace I discovered Museu Frederic Marés… I spent half of my day there – writing, staring at tourists and artists immersed in high-focus drawing… I lost the sense of time. On the other hand, London is the city where I don’t feel different – where I can get lost in the crowd. Here, I met my husband Miguel, started my adult life and gave birth to three kids.

Life’s Motto

Never Give Up because Nothing is Impossible. This thought subtly but consistently re-appears in my poetry and life choices.

Join me on Insta

Hobby

Writing. It’s my passion, therapy and career choice. It’s great when a reader or listener comes back to tell me how much they appreciate my creations, but the writing process is just as important as the final effect. During the process, I experience an emotional catharsis and feelings stronger than those I get whilst travelling because when you write you’re allowed to create new places instead of merely discovering them. The book I’m working on now is about love, friendship, the pursuit of happiness, finding God and fighting for your dream…

Music

It has to be positive and spirit lifting. Melody, of course, is important but first and foremost, I care about the lyrics and the atmosphere a musical piece creates…

Book

The Bible. 15 years ago, I was in Paris visiting Ayo (who authored the foreword to my book “Love, don’t Fear”). One evening, in preparation for travel, she was packing her suitcase: clothes, jewellery, a storm of colours. What struck me was that, in spite of a relatively small travel-bag, she packed three bibles – English, German and French… Many things have happened since then, but the Scriptures still are my main spiritual food. They helped me get rid of a few-year long depression and they’re the source of daily wisdoms I have not found in any other book.

Film

“Rocky” with Sylvester Stallone. A story about a small-time boxer realising his dreams of becoming the heavy-weight world champion. I watched the series a few times and will probably watch them again. Highlights – literal and metaphorical battle, facing his opponent but mostly himself, love… Main message – fight until the end, don’t lose faith, love and respect others…

 

If you speak Polish, see the first pic above with the original interview. Join me on Instagram too. 

Racism, Politics & the Spirit of Fear


Martin Luther King

Yesterday, I was verbally attacked for not being fully black (my mum’s white)… I couldn’t believe the hatred that came out of the person’s mouth. They directed racist abuse towards me – pointing out my background, my skin being fairer than theirs and my hair being too long to be “black”. Whaaaat?! Are we really going there, again? 

This happens to me every now and then (click here to read), but whenever it does it’s still a shock to my system, especially when it’s done by someone who’s close to my heart.

I won’t say who they were because I’m not here to fight the perpetrator, but I do want to come against the spirit (of fear). That person has been following American politics and got infuriated by president Trump’s racial attacks on 4 democratic women of colour… I understand why he felt angry, but he did to me the exact same thing Trump did to the other women. That’s what fear does – it makes you irrationally hate another… Reverse racism does exist. Since when are all white people responsible for evil actions of one or even a group of “their kind”? By that standard, should all black people be responsible for evil actions of one or a group of “their kind”? Moreover, being mixed-raced, should we be responsible for every crazy utterance of every black and/or white person? This… is… madness! We are individuals responsible for our own actions and nobody else’s. 

Instagram This Conversation

I don’t support the American president’s racist comments and the dangerous ways in which he carries on in his role. I don’t know much about politics, but my heart sank when he became the head of the state… Still, I don’t appreciate the vulgar way in which one of the women expressed her desire to impeach him. I understand her anger, but there’s a better way (language) to confront evil. We cannot fight fire with fire and we can definitely not fight racism with more racism… Two wrongs don’t make a right. Why do we remember and respect men like dr Martin Luther King or Nelson Mandela? Because, despite injustice and cruelty, they responded with love and reason. They did not debase themselves to the level of those misguided by hatred and othering… 

We live in a fallen world. Bad things happen here. Bad people further their evil agendas… Is it difficult to manoeuvre through the darkness? Yes! The only thing that centres me is knowing that in the midst of it all, God is still in control. And, that there will be a time when all lies will be exposed and the truth will stand. It may not be  for another hundred years, or it might be tomorrow – but that time will come. In the meantime, we have to stay close to Him or our hearts will surely fail out of fear… 

I’d like to conclude with the following verses from the Bible which is what helps me with my own struggles in this area…

Men’s hearts failing them for fear, and for looking after those things which are coming on the earth: for the powers of heaven shall be shaken…” 

Be strong and of a good courage, fear not, nor be afraid of them: for the Lord thy God, he it is that doth go with thee; he will not fail thee, nor forsake thee.”

Made of Many Worlds – Poem


Bushy Hair Woman

I was born, brown-skinned and a black-eyed girl,

Into a blue-eyed spot in this world –

Blessed with black, thick and rather frizzy hair

Where hair tends to be silky, smooth, mostly blond.

.

When I was a girl, maybe twelve years old,

I would lay my head down, on the ironing board

Because a real iron could tame my real hair…

Benefits seemed great… Risks? I didn’t care.

.

Sometimes, I would hurt my neck

While trying to look more like my peers…

My silky, smooth hair would cover the scars,

But couldn’t heal wounds inflicted upon my ears.

.

Finally, my strands lost all strength and shine.

Hurt, brittle and broken, they told me the truth:

Silky and smooth was not to be mine –

What was, however, was a gift… divine.

.

Some say, I cannot relate to the black woman’s plight.

I’m not brown enough – they say, again and again…

And yet, in the white crowd, my skin’s far from light.

No blue sockets in my eyes, no blue blood in my vein.

.

Some say I’m neither, but I share both bloodlines

So, I take the liberty to claim Angelou’s lines

“Out of the hats of history’s shame, I rise”

Up from a past that’s rooted in pain, I rise…”

.

There are decent and wicked people, in every place.

As Shakespeare well said, many years ago,

“There’s no art to tell the mind’s construction in the face”.

This line could apply to the subject of race…

.

There’s more that connects than divides us, you see?

I won’t get offended if you disagree…

But, do look beyond the cover, listen to my words –

We live in a world made of many worlds…

.

I live in a world made of many worlds…

Even more come alive in the depths of my mind

I pray that this world, made of many worlds,

Becomes one in the One who is colour-blind.

.

Besides, I’m the world that lives within me…

Letter by letter and word by word –

HOW I look at things determines what is…

My own world gets recreated, every day, by me.

.

I’m no longer looking for my place in this world…

His sweet spot within me is what I’m striving for.

In the midst of it all, still, I have to believe…

That right now and after… will surpass before.

↓↓↓

.

The Balancing Act Called Life…


At the musem - BarcelonaI believe in hard-work – it’s a good thing. However, too much of a good thing can be bad for you. Life should be a balanced experience – we all need to find (and keep on finding) our equilibrium.

Most people living in London (which is where I live) work super hard. Meeting up for a coffee is a challenge. You want to do it, but often don’t because of work, family responsibilities, school or whatever else. So, you live in the same city but do not get to see the people you’d love to see or do the things you’d love to do for years, sometimes.  Well, I want to be a lot more intentional about how I spend my time on this Earth!

La IglesiaBarcelona happens to be one of my favorite European cities. This week, I was blessed with 2 ‘take it easy’ days in the city. The weather was beautiful and the trip, although not entirely recreational, so refreshing. I’m not sure what you do for fun (what do you do?), but I enjoyed the old town’s beautiful churches, museums, colorful features and narrow streets. I only wish they were a little less crowded, but I guess there’s no perfect place under the Sun. Sometimes, we need alone time to relax. At other times, we need to share it with the people we care for. Laughing, talking, eating and sharing my time with this lady here (plus the music, of course) made the trip super special. 

Back to the main point of this post – one morning, I was passing through the Las Ramblas boulevard and noticed La Equilibrista (The Balancer). She was petite and super focused which caught my attention. Of course, a yellow head-to-toe coverage and the fact they’re standing on a bike’s seat also helps you notice a person. 😊 I’ve digressed again, but check out her balancing act (the short video here). It may look like a passive activity, however, try this for about 30 minutes and I’m sure you’ll know that it’s not. Such is balancing in real life too – we cannot be passive if we’re going to stay balanced. 

We’re surrounded by people and forces (sometimes intangible) pulling us in so many different directions. For most of us, our culture and surroundings encourage everything but a balanced life. Working hard is good, playing hard (reasonably) is good too and so is praying hard etc. However, we need a little bit of everything to be happy and fulfilled in life.

Barcelona Streets 1My recent trip to Barcelona was a treat indeed, so it was a little hard to say “Adios” in the end. But again, I remembered that balance is key and too much of a good thing can be bad for you…

When it’s time to go it is time to go (ask the Spaniard in the picture – he knows) 🙂 There’s a time for everything. Balancing is not passive, and it is an ongoing activity. So, take charge of your days and be intentional about how you spend or invest your time.

What do you do to stay balanced? I would love to know.

Oh, and take a moment to watch the video from my previous trip to Barcelona  – expect to see La Mercé, Partying and Music, The Giants, Museums and stuff… 🙂

If It’s Broke – Fix It: Poetry & Self-Publishing


Love, don't Fear - Book CoverYou may have noticed that I changed the title and the cover of my latest poetry collection. Ha… the book had only been out for a month… ‘Why did you do that?’ one could ask…

Well, that month was the driest month as far as my book sales, on Amazon, are concerned. Not only was this book not selling, but my first book “Do Lend Me Your Ears” took a significant hit too. While they might have been caused by a range of factors – those events were too time-correlated for me to ignore. So, I pulled the plug on “Poems about Love and Fear” ☹ And when I did – my first book sales spiked yet again. Boom! 😊 That was about 1,5 months ago…

After picking up the scattered pieces of my wounded ‘marketeer ego’ (not really), I’m back with a confession: I rushed the cover design and did not take enough time to consider the title. It was me…

I don’t write about Love and Fear as if they’re equal – they’re not… I write about Love overcoming fear, hence the new more appropriate title: “Love, Don’t Fear”.

About that cover… picturing a random couple kissing in the background of the red, red wine… I mean the red, red cover… One of my friends said that, at first sight, she thought she was looking at an erotic novel.👀 Well, the book’s about affairs of the heart, but there’s no direct sexual content in it. “Love, Don’t Fear” explores emotional battles and relationship lows. And then, the plot leads you to inspiring breakthroughs and solutions. That’s what you’ll find within its dramatic and captivating story-lines…

Change was needed, hence poems about love and fear are no more (though Google may not know that yet). The cover’s still passionately red, but the kissing couple is gone. The title no longer magnifies fear – it puts LOVE in its proper place… 

Food for thought: If there’s a book inside of you – don’t be scared to write it and share it. You are not a failure if you don’t succeed at your first attempt. It just means that your story will gain a backstory… Gather more information, get all the help you need and go do it again! Just do it better, this time around.

I’m super excited to introduce my new (old) book: “Love, Don’t Fear” to You. It is available on Amazon now.

Check it out. Pick it up. Be entertained and inspired to love – not fear…

Retrospection (I am Free finally) – Poem


My past is a story of a tortured soul

Trapped in a jail with invisible doors

No way out and no way in –

Complete unawareness of being within

…In the heart of the greatest lie…

I was the most faithful friend of my greatest enemy

I was the lost coin

Looking for ways to be destroyed

Locked away. Locked in…

Believing religiously that I held the key

Surrounded by darkness from inside of me

I was a vampire, not even a leech –

so convinced I lived, convinced I was free

Chasing after shadows and fighting with winds

I just kept running around, like a chicken – beheaded one

Just running in circles, running in the darkness

Flipping my crippled wings in my utter madness

Admiring the image of my ugliness

Tripping against each stone on my way

In the dirtiest soil I kept washing my face

.

Not knowing why I kept running away –

Away from the world!

Away from myself!

Away from my fate!

Running after freedom, getting more in-caged!

I tried! …To break away from the spell of his darkness!

But was overwhelmed by fear and tangible sadness…

…After I experienced all deaths that were mine

He surrounded me with a silent shout singing:

‘Girl, for you my body has been drained of blood.

How many more times will I pass you by?

How many more crimes will you bring to life?

Recognize me – I am He… Acknowledge me now.’

My past is a story of a tortured soul

Trapped in a jail with invisible doors…

Ayo, Music, Poetry – We Will Overcome!


Ayo & MeToday’s post is a little different, but not entirely. After all, Music is Poetry’s 1st cousin, isn’t it? On this note, I hope you allow me to introduce one of my favorite musicians Joy Ogunmakin.

Ayọ is a fantastic singer/songwriter. Her debut album, released in 2006, reached Double-Platinum status in France, Platinum and Gold in a few other European countries. It was released in America as well. The rest is history… Joy released her fifth record titled “Ayọ” in October this year. Currently, she is touring France with her music. That’s where we met last weekend. It was so much fun! One of the musical highlights of this trip was her concert at Théâtre des Bouffes du Nord, in Paris. It was epic! (as my daughter described it). However, music is more than a job for Joy. Initially, it helped her cope with a rather traumatic childhood caused mainly by her mum’s drug addiction. During the concert, she said: “I had to play music to overcome”.

I didn’t study writing at school. Writing wasn’t something I wanted to explore or even thought I could do, at first. Today, however, it is such an integral part of me that I cannot imagine not writing. Thankfully, I’ve met people who, intentionally or unintentionally, helped me and encouraged me to express myself in this way.  Ayọ is one of those people. We all have something to overcome. I don’t know exactly how far my pen is going to take me, but I also feel like I need to write to overcome so I do.

I have a feeling there’s something you also must do to overcome… What is it, and are you doing it? We may not be trained to do it & the circumstances may not be perfect. We might experience the lack of resources from time to time & 10.000 other reasons to not do what we know we should be doing. We may have 99 great reasons to fail, but we needn’t fail if we do what must be done to overcome. “Don’t be evil” as Google defines their corporate code of conduct, but do it whatever your ‘it’ might be…

If you’re doing what you’re supposed to be doing, the right training, people and resources will find you… Let’s do it, and let’s overcome. 

Enjoy this short excerpt from Ayọ’s concert. Be inspired 😊

 

“Broadbandless.”


Disconnected to get connected.

My hub - it used to be so energetic!
My hub – it used to be so energetic!

The device (on the pic) was once overflowing with life, or rather – electricity. Its set of green lights, flashing rhythmically, kept on convincing me that this box plus the World Wide Web were at my service – always! These lights have been off for some time… 😦

Why is this important? Well, in my house, these lights are evergreen, figuratively speaking. I literally do not remember a time when there’s not one computer (at least) always ready to take me on a journey to “omnipresent” online realities. Is this normal? I wonder…

Anyways, back to my post – we’ve just moved. As a consequence, I’m still waiting for an engineer to fix my internet connection. For the first time, in a long time, I am broadbandless. The internet has become a “basic” need for many. I personally use it for work, shopping, sharing, learning and… the list goes on. As could be expected, this disconnection was a shock to my system, initially – possibly even greater than moving to a new house (maybe not). Yet, I haven’t even been totally abstinent. I still have my phone’s (not unlimited) connection & a relatively easy access to cafés with free Wi-Fi. Broadbandlessness (my own definition) signifies the state of not being able to access or do all things online, at all times. Simply put, it means – having internet access, but not 24/7.

Well, my mind’s adjusting to this new offline reality, and I begin to see it as a blessing in disguise (temporary blessing I hope). Being less connected allows me to connect with people & with offline activities e.g. reading an old-school book with those prehistoric paper pages. You may still remember them, however, here’s a little reminder, in case you don’t. 🙂 They vary in size & texture. You cannot click through pages – you need to make a little effort to turn them. Still, as far as I’m concerned, in the right circumstances, reading the above mentioned offers a certain type of a fuzzy feeling which e-books can’t provide. Bottom line, there’s value in being disconnected sometimes.

Devices aid productivity – no doubt. Yet, we all know that they can get in the way when abused. I am not against technology – I’m a fan! However, I do believe that there is a time for… broadbandlessness, if you will.

There is life offline! These days, it is relatively easy to forget that. After all, what matters the most is to remain connected to what matters the most.