Tel Aviv favorite, singer and artist Karolina, hollers about love
'I constantly have to calm and restrain the horses galloping inside me,' she says.
Ayelett: Tell me how you’re doing.
Karolina: Great! A period of acceptance; I’m a tempestuous person and suddenly I’m less tempestuous.
What do you mean, tempestuous?
I mean that I’m too sensitive, grandiose, total. I take things to their maximum in order to feel even more strongly. Most of the time I’m in some kind of storm I invent or which really exists.
What storms do you invent?
At the level of a clash with a friend or with the family. It can get me very upset, and then I become tempestuous and tell myself: “I won’t know how to get out of this situation, this is the end. Now I’ll die. I’ll die without killing myself, just from being so upset and sad.” Everything at top volume.
Is the person you are onstage who you really are?
And who are you?
I don’t know.
I don’t do it as a matter of strategy, what passes through me and arrives is real. I’m not looking for some kind of major excitement in order to create within it. I don’t have anything else to offer. It comes from my heart. I simply express my life through music. I use the performances to make a switch.
What does that mean?
I cry a lot about the universe. There’s a kind of existential sadness, and it attacks me occasionally. So if I come to a performance sad and upset, when I go onstage I tell myself that I have an opportunity to change my emotional state. That people have come here to see me, and I can use their love to dissipate the sadness.
Does it work?
Sometimes. And sometimes my emotional situation is too serious for this Acamol [paracetamol] of performances.
My psychologist would say it has to come from within you and you shouldn’t rely on the love of the audience.
True. I’m still learning. I’m practicing. Slowly but surely. I constantly have to calm and restrain the horses galloping inside me. Maybe it’s because in a way I raised myself.
My parents married at the age of 15. My mother gave birth to my older brother when she was 16 and to me when she was 20, and you grow up differently. Because often my mother and I looked at one another and asked, “What do we do now?”
You develop parallel to your parents, instead of receiving guidance from them.
Exactly. The only guidance we received was love. It was very hard for them, they went out to work from morning to night in order to support the family, but there was never any doubt that we were the top priority, so I was lucky. Because I taught myself. I didn’t look much to see if everything was all right, because there was no place to look. Of course there are many sides to that, we don’t have to prettify things. There were periods of anger, on an issue such as: “What, you couldn’t take me to a dentist?” and things like that. But that changed.
It’s very hard to grow up without boundaries.
It really creates a kind of personality disorder. Sometimes I say it’s a shame they didn’t tell me: That’s enough.
And do you know how to tell yourself: That’s enough? For example, how are you when it comes to love?
In other words, you’ve suffered a lot of blows.
Of course. I’m full of scars from the past when it comes to love. It’s from home, too. I learned from my father to love like that. And I don’t know if that’s good. My father was insanely lovesick over my mother. It’s a tough and wonderful story. I lived in an atmosphere of his insane love for her, and my mother was more nonchalant, not to say that it was a burden for her. They divorced at some point. He was still crazy about her. And after they had been divorced for about two years, my mother fell in love with my father after years when that didn’t happen. And on the day she told him that, that she returned his love, he died of heart failure. At the age of 46. Just like that. He comes home, she tells him “I love you,” he can’t digest it, and he simply dies on the spot, with her sitting next to him.
You must miss him very much.
Very much. But we communicate. I invite him to my dreams and he comes, there’s no doubt about it. And there we talk, because he guides me and he’s there for me. I can consult with him.
How do you feel about your age?
I met a girlfriend who’s my age. And I look at her and say to myself: “Oh no, have I also aged so much? Do I already look 40?” And we spoke about that and she told me, “Make no mistake, when I look at my girlfriends I think they look older than me. Much older.”
Now I’m 41. When I turned 39, I, the special one – the one whose life always goes into different, more adventurous directions – went through the typical crisis. I had a feeling that everything was over. That’s it. Life was over. Happiness was over. Inspiration was over. I stood in front of the mirror, a woman of 39, unmarried, childless. This life, how did I end up this way, what did I do wrong? It was all a mistake. What was I thinking? Almost a year passed like that. And I was living my life meanwhile, right? An album came out. And it was lovingly received. I told myself, “Thank God. See how much you have” − but no, nothing helps. And after a year of being like that, suddenly I received a story from a stranger, by e-mail, that simply saved me.
A story about a vulture. When the vulture reaches the age of 40, he’s in a bad state. His nails curl up. His feathers are heavy, his beak is too long. He can’t hunt. So either he starves and dies, or he ascends to a high cliff where there are no predators in order to break his beak and grow a new one. Then he pulls out the superfluous feathers and he can fly and hunt for another 30 years.
Is that a true story? I really don’t think so.
It makes no difference. Really. For me it’s true. I’m sitting in front of that thing, full of tears. And it was amazing. That story, after mulling it over, it simply extricated me from the crisis. It saved me. That’s how I accepted the fact that your body and your physical being return to the earth. It’s actually nice. I was never some kind of model, today I even feel better than the way I felt at the age of 30. Yalla, we’ll live with whatever comes, except for my neck.
Your neck and your decolletage. That’s the most disturbing.
We’ll manage, we’ll wear a turtleneck.
In the summer?!
We’ll expose the wrinkles, we’ll love each and every wrinkle.
All right, I’ll never love every wrinkle. But I’ll live with it. After all, is there a choice? Let’s say there was a time when my eyes were slightly slanted. Today they aren’t.
I’m always afraid of the moment of disaster. The morning when I get up, look in the mirror and start screaming.
Don’t worry. We’ll be cute even when we’re old. The truth is that today is a day when it’s easy for me to say that to you. Often I’m in the same place as you. For example, I swim every day. And I don’t wear a bathing suit around the pool. I decided that I’m leaving my robe in the dressing room. That I’m going out in a bathing suit, that I’m going to ask for a towel from the lifeguard while wearing a bathing suit. That I’ll deal with it. For a whole day I was stubborn. I didn’t cover myself with a towel, I moved naturally in a bathing suit. I got a lot out of that. It was an excellent experience.
In the texts of “Zohar” I heard a great deal of longing.
I’m a longing type.
What do you long for, do you know?
There was the longing for my beloved, for my guy, for that love I saw at home, where my father was so crazy about Mom. And I also wanted a Turkish film, to drink in life that way. Now I long mainly for some kind of acceptance, harmony. And there I’ll rest. I’ll be a mother, some time. I’ll get out of my skin. There’s another longing to let myself be. To stop being preoccupied with myself. To get away from the drama. Enough! Really, I’m always longing for something. That’s the hole in my stomach. Everyone has a hole in their stomach and mine is longing.
How do you live with a longing that never stops?
It’s very, very hard for me to live. Very. To live with myself, to contain myself, life.
You also chose Lea Goldberg’s poem “Lo Haya Beinenu Ela Zohar” (Nothing Between Us But Splendor), a symbol of longing.
Maybe that’s where my connection to her was so meaningful. Through Lea Goldberg I woke up. It wasn’t comfortable for me in the beginning, my connection to her.
Because I’m not a tortured artist, I’m a type who’s alive. I don’t want to experience only longing, I want to experience life. I felt very sorry for her.
Why did you identify with her? What did you see in her?
Let’s say I sang “Yom Bo Yakum”: “One day every small insult that we kept quiet will arise between us like a wall,” and I identified so much. I had just experienced a difficult breakup. I saw myself in places where I don’t know how to place limits, and I took this song, in which she talks about insults and humiliation, her entire experience of disappointed love, and I felt that to some extent she had invented this breakup, and that just like her, there wasn’t really a relationship here. Everything was in my head. I identified with that loneliness, although wherever she went, everyone was charmed by her.
I remember a passage from her diary where she goes to some event, to a literary salon, and all evening she sits on the side and doesn’t say a word.
One can identify with the woman who very much wants to but doesn’t know how, so all that’s left of her is a huge protective shell. I really feel like crying when we talk about it. She also really hated her physical side. And I kept asking myself whether I do too. Am I also like that? She has “You’re a woman of 20, you’re a woman who is not pretty ...”
And how did you answer yourself?
No, no. You’re not like that.
She probably would have preferred to be pretty and dumb.
Yes. I’m okay with myself. I’m okay with this strange hair, with this body.
You’re okay with it, or you like the way you look?
It depends. There are days when I think I’m very sweet. And there are days when I feel disgusted that I turned out like this. But I understand very well that it’s me. And it suits my personality. Everything somehow worked out perfectly there. The energy inside me has a packaging that suits it. If we talk about my dimensions, then I need this width. I have something to contain.
Do you know how to be bitter?
Of course! I wait for my beloved, sit and say, “What happened?” I screamed that on the radio, nobody came for me. And people tell me that I’m glowing and I sit on the balcony and cry like Avi Biter in Turkish. I’m not interested in anyone, and until I am he won’t arrive either, so meanwhile I’ll be nostalgic about the one who left. But there are times when I’m very bitter, full of complaints. I’m not crazy about those times, but that’s what there is.
But now you’re in a good period.
Now I’m on some cloud of being all right. I’m scared to death that I’ll fall from it to the ground.
Suffering from anxiety?
About what mainly?
I’m in a state of anxiety all the time. First of all I’m afraid to sleep alone. For most of the past years I slept alone and was half awake. One eye open at night. I’m afraid of getting lost. I’m afraid of myself. Most of all. I’m most afraid of my sadness, when it comes. I tell myself, “What if it has arrived and it decides to go all the way?” I’m very afraid of my helplessness, of that lump in my throat. Of what should be done now. Maybe I rely on the magic that has happened to me in my life. In states of anxiety I tell myself, “Do you remember the story with the dolphins?”
Tell me about the dolphins.
After the success of “So Far,” I fled to India, to a small beach. Success, instead of lifting me up, had trampled me. I didn’t know whether I was pretty, whether I was worth anything, whether I had anything to offer. In my body, my gut, I felt only anxiety. I couldn’t shake it off, even there. And then, some guy came and suggested that I come with him on his kayak. And then I started going out with the kayak every day. I asked one of the locals if there were dolphins anywhere, and he said: “Only in the middle of the ocean.” And I said to myself, “I’ll call them.” And I decided that every day at a quarter to five, I would be in a certain spot in the bay with the kayak, for an encounter with dolphins. They would come. And that guy says, “What nonsense, they won’t come here.”
I went out. On the first day, right away a dolphin came. And on the second day too. After two weeks I was simply lying on the kayak, and they surrounded me. I felt amazing. And there was a rumor on the beach: “The girl with the curls talks to dolphins.” And we really did talk. We communicated on some level. And people started coming to my hut, asking me to take them on the kayak. And suddenly all the preoccupation with myself − who thinks about success, failure – it’s all nonsense. Here is the magic. On the last day a dolphin came almost up to the hut. I looked at it and I knew. We connected.
You believed in that. Like a child.
Of course. We’re perpetual children. We’re children and we don’t know anything. Anyone who doesn’t accept that has the hardest time.