The rose with thorns
“I love the abstract, delicate, profound, vague, voluptuously wordless sensation of living ecstatically.”- Anaïs Nin
Anïs Nin, a Cuban essayist and memoirist born in France 21st of February 1903, spent most of her years in the United States, although she allegedly never truly felt at home and at ease there. She described America as "a huge prosaic monster" and proclaimed poets the antithesis of America. She was a bohemian at heart, who throughout her life lived in Paris, Spain, New York and Los Angeles.
Among her published works are the erotic short story collections Delta of Venus and Little Birds, and as with everything sprung from her world, it explores questions about fantasy and identity, taking on different roles and clearly explores the psychology of sexuality, intimacy and objectification, and adultery as a way of self-exploration. They were published after her death. She is probably most notoriously known for her massive amount of journals. She wrote her first journal- a note written as an unsent letter to her father, when she was eleven, and kept up with it til her death in 1977. They were later published in ten volumes, called The diary of Anaïs Nin, each one with a different theme.
Early on in life the world turned out to be a chaotic and violating place for Anaïs, as she was molested and beaten by her father, and it is said he took pictures of her and her siblings as they were forced to pose naked after their nightly bath. She said that was the only time he praised her appearance, the only respite from his otherwise constant mistreatment. Her desperate attempts to avoid the beatings and verbal abuse from her father later turned into a love and she spent her whole life trying to heal the wounds he caused her.
In her real life she was private, timid, graceful and shy and some even described her as an angel and said her only fault was her incapacity for cruelty, which is the opposite of the merciless tantric woman portrayed in her diaries. They served as an escape and a viable world for her, as she often felt utterly alone. In her diaries she could let herself be seen, fully and not fragmented as otherwise. There, she let her demons free and told her truth. But in real life she showed fragments and made a big effort to appear as the epitome of the perfect feminine woman, and thus quenched her huge sexual appetite and worried about intimidating men with her intellect and creativity.
"I must be a mermaid, Rango. I have no fear of depths and a great fear of shallow living." (The four-chambered heart).
To dive into Anaïs inner world through her books, is to be reminded that we have a choice in how we live our lives. We can choose to numb ourselves down, or consciously feel, see, hear and touch. Being present in the moment and seek out our own truth and aliveness. Follow whatever delights our heart and makes us quiver from the core.
To walk this earth with passion and delight. Authenticity and transparence.
Because life is not always easy, so we need to become still and silent first, and ask what brings me joy? What brings me delight? What makes my heart full, bringing me to my knees?
Then follow that unapologetically, without restrictions (as much as we can).
As women, especially, we often don't want to be too much, too loud, too emotional, too small. We restrict and conform and contort. In order to fit in. To not stand out, to be accepted and liked.
But as the books so readily portrays, we live our lives only for ourselves, and to be human is to have the ability to taste and feel it all.
Nietszche once wrote; "There are no beautiful surfaces without a terrible depth". Which, in my opinion, eloquently describes the being and individual Anaïs was. She didn't shy away from any feeling and indulged shamelessly in everything her soul yearned for. She wasn't afraid of neither her dark depths or her bright light. In her own words: "To hell, to hell with balance! I break glasses; I want to burn, even if I break myself. I want to live only for ecstasy. I’m neurotic, perverted, destructive, fiery, dangerous – lama, inflammable, unrestrained."
She made no excuses for her fullness, her neuroticism, her fluctuations or the full spectra of her being.
To read her diaries is to get electrocuted, jolts of emotions, passion and wonder shot straight into your heart. It is to be faced with your own desires and longings, through her written words. To dig deep into the shadow and light. Embracing all that you yourself is, by diving deep into the psyche and labyrinth of thoughts and imagination that is the being Anïs Nin. She can best be described as a thorn- with its beautiful scent and petals delicately wrapped around each other, albeit undoubtedly every rose also has its thorns. Anaïs was in a sense acutely aware of her own self, her shortcomings and her strengths, yet she often fell for romantic notions and succumbed to her feelings. But she was true to herself, and as human beings we are complex, intricate bundles of conscious and unconscious patterns.
During her time in Paris, she lived and worked alongside the author Henry Miller, with whom she had an affair. Their time together contained both luxuries and decadence of staying up til late at night drinking, dancing, tasting life, as well as hibernating and spending days and afternoons together, writing and creating.
She crafted a fantasy to survive the ugly, threatening world out there. Everything she went through and witnessed was turned into poetic lyrical and flowery. Her life was art and art turned into life. Her body, her persona. She. Was art. Nuances and shades.
She was obsessed with beauty, and appraised it higher than learning. Between the pages of her journal she wrote a flowery ecstatic dreamworld as reality. Anaïs' work invites us to see with more colours, to be sprung alive, to taste life´s nectar pure. To come closer to our own hearts. She created, breathed and lived art.
"It is the function of art to renew our perception. What we are familiar with we cease to see. The writer shakes up the familiar scene, and, as if by magic, we see a new meaning in it."
Anais has, above all, invigorated my sense to always be full. To feel with all my senses, to love, to live in ecstasy; fiercely, passionately whoever and whatever I can.
To go through my day with acute awareness of those around me. Conscious about the smallest details such as the curl of a strand on someone's neck, the way their mouth slightly opens as they breathe or how the look in their eyes change as they smile. The way they say a certain word, or their knack for always going for the most subtle thing, or the boldest bravest desires, forgetting to buttn their coat etc. She reminded and taught me to notice, ad not just look, but actually see, the essence of someone else in the smallest of details.
Getting drunk on the cosmic current of life. Energy spiraling upward in a dance. The beautiful orchestra of smaller moments woven into a bigger whole, the golden tapestry of life. Our lives.
It is as if her words have strung new chords through which I'm carried wherever I go. Her diary dripping with raw emotions and fully lived moments.
She was a chameleon, a lover of life. And life's lover. Her diaries are love letters written to the universe. An ode to the sometimes tragic, wild and ecstatically beautiful dance of being human.