.Weird Things German People Do – The Ultimate German Guide.

All countries have their own weird traditions and behaviors and Germans are obviously no exception. I am German myself and a lot of these habits I only realized were completely bonkers after I left Germany and moved to another country. I just thought, this is how people behave; it’s human nature all over the world. But I realized quickly, that this is not the case. It is time to roast my own country people and myself obviously and call them out on their strange and embarrassing habits. Let’s get to the bottom of this and demystify the Germans. Keep in mind that the list below may also save your relationship or marriage if you are involved with a German person.

  • Be very direct. Do not expect British level of small talk. As a matter of fact, cut the small talk, and say it straight. “Pass the pepper” will do nicely and does not come across as impolite for Germans. It may take some time to get used to it but in the end, you will realize that it saves quite a lot of time and is not impolite at all. Wearing an awful shirt? Germans will tell you. Gained a bit of weight? Germans will let you know. The good thing about this is that you always know where you stand. The bad thing is, your soul may be crushed. One may experience a certain type of initial German “coldness” or emotional distance toward other people. There is no fluffing around. Germans take some time to build a solid foundation with others rather than a shallow one.
  • Get used to all the German Fairy Tales and don’t be scared. You may leave your light on at night.
  • Germans love to discipline. If you are on a bus and put your shoes up on the seat, Germans will first look at you suspiciously and then lean over and tell you to put your feet down on the floor
  • As a pedestrian, do not (under any circumstances) cross the street if the traffic light signals red for pedestrian crossing (hell will freeze over!)
  • Germans love to send bureaucratic threatening letters and make everything official. You forgot to pay a part of your electricity bill, your landlord won’t talk to you but rather send a letter of immediate eviction without warning if you do not pay.
  • Germans are very impatient and self-control is very important. If you are in line at a cafeteria, you better choose your food quickly if a German stands behind you. If you take to long, they will freak out.
  • The German accent. It sounds funny, but do not make fun of it too much. They will get angry. Why? Because according to Germans, we learned British English in school and talk normally. “Zis is a dog and ze dog looks angry because ze dog lost it’s bone ja. Zis is not cool.”
  • Meat & Food. Many Germans love meat. Surprise a German with sausages, braten, cold cuts or any other meat-dish and they will love you. Try to prevent any meat-loving German from enjoying their schnitzel and you will be removed from the community or even deported from the country immediately. Germans eat “quark” all the time but cannot explain what it actually is. Half cheese and half cream? Nobody will ever figure this out.
  • Alcohol. Talking about the top-German foods, I have to continue with the beverages. When in Germany, you will find (strong) beer everywhere and everybody drinks it all the time. Beer in the evening, beer in the morning, beer after work with colleagues, beer alone at home and you can buy it everywhere, too. Even at the gas stations.  Fun fact: there is actually a thing called “Fusspils” (Wegbier). Germans drink on the streets quite a lot and some people carry a beer for the way (Wegbier) to the bar. Sounds like we are all a bunch of alcoholics. Also, you better look the other person straight in the eyes while clinking beer glass. Germans are pretty strict about that, too.
  • Germans are highly organized; especially socially. There are visual signs everywhere that direct the public to follow rules and regulations to monitor and protect how to exist in Germany. Signs such as “Do not throw your trash here”, “Do not stand here”, “Do not walk here” etc. make things run smoothly for some reason. There is also no garbage on the ground; not even in the subway. You could eat off the ground.
  • When children have their first day of school which is 1st grade (otherwise it is called kindergarten), every child gets a large cone, almost as big as the child themselves, covered in decorations called “Zuckertüte/Schultüte” (Sugar/school cone). In Germany, it is normal to give your child a five-kilogram cone filled with sweets and treats on their first day of school. Kids hold on to that cone during school and then are allowed to open it at home that day in the evening. #sugarshock

  • Polterabend which is smashing a ton of porcelain before you get married. Couples announce the date of their Polterabend in the local newspaper and then usually friends and family from the town or total strangers show up in an open space outside which is usually on the street in front of your house and bring all sorts of porcelain (sinks, cups, plates whatever they want to donate) that they then smash and the soon to be married couple has to clean up the mess. Of course, beer and appetizers (meat) are served.
  • Nudity. German people love to be naked especially in places like local saunas, beaches, and lakes. People look at you in horror if you wear your bathing suit in a sauna. They might actually ask you to leave.
  • Work ethics: Germans have on the average 6-8 weeks paid vacation per year and are very hardworking. They try to avoid mistakes and also work on an issue until it is sufficiently solved. Things need to be perfect.  All this happens usually without asking for help. They also take “Feierabend” (the time after work) very seriously. Germans go home when the clock ticks beer. Germans are health freaks and  usually have hundreds of health – and life insurances so nobody needs to worry or stress out in case something happens #GermanAngst
  • Punctuality: Germans get nervous when they cannot be at least 10 minutes in advance to get to an appointment
  • Don’t “you” anybody unless you are formally encouraged to refer to them as “you”. You call people Herr (Mr.) X or Frau (Mrs.) X until the older one tells you to use the informal “you”. The german language will just blow your mind.
  • Dinner Parties: You invite someone to dinner at 6 pm, they will expect dinner to be on the table and ready at 6 pm. No small talk before, no waiting, no appetizers or anything unless specifically stated that this is scheduled before the actual dinner
  • Other fun facts: The original Octoberfest actually starts in September. Germans ritually return recyclables and collecting the deposit. Especially plastic bottles, beer, and wine bottles. Germans simply love recycling.

It's like a challenge.

And last: you can use the word “Bitte” for many things:

Something to add? Did I forget anything? Does this list save your relationship with a German person?  Feel free to leave a comment below.

.Someone Sets the Tone.

At this very moment, I am here. Sitting on my carpet in the living room typing along. It is dark outside, and very cold. It is just another day and night and I did what I needed to do. I got things done all day long while the day moved forward into this continuous sequence of actions, job applications, emails, and checklists. My brain and mind never stop analyzing. But today, I paused and took a good look at my surroundings. These scenes of my everyday life that came to a blur of an all-too-familiar film and I cannot help but wonder if there is more to it all. For some reason, this country, this city, this neighborhood and this particular street served me well so far but I am stuck. Nothing seems to move forward for a couple of months now. I am sending out job applications every day and I even started to think of all the other places in the world I could be and work at. It didn’t help that it was – 31 degrees Celsius (with windchills) in Ottawa today. Somewhere more exciting, warmer, newer, somewhere that can provide new experiences, challenges, and adventures that are foreign to me. Theoretically, the world is my playground but I have to be responsible for a small human being who depends on me and sort of follows me for five years now. #heisthebestever

Isn’t traveling usually what we look for when we feel the automation of life? This routine of waking up, getting ready for work, eating the same sad lunch in the cafeteria, sitting in boring meetings, going home, eating dinner, relaxing and going to sleep on time to not be too tired so we can do it all over again the next day. “But this pays the bills”, some say who sadly think about the confines of their mundane box they are stuck in all day. This is all considered normal. This is our operating system. This is what feeds and dresses us. This box isn’t always okay but livable. It gives us a certain routine and security. Many are scared of its boundaries and what is on the other side of it all so they get comfortable or simply suck it all up. Someone told me once that if I get a certain degree, I will get a promotion for sure. I was immediately intrigued by this because I love school. I registered at a university and put all the effort necessary into getting that degree. In the end, the promotion is patiently waiting for me, right? This someone has given me a tangible goal to work toward and I gave everything to achieve what needed to be done to get that degree.

Days turned into weeks, weeks into months and months into years and I was done. My hard work paid off. I earned that degree. I got the promotion and I was so excited. “Here is your new cubicle with a window, ” my new boss told me. I was really happy but here is the thing. While this new cubicle and work felt great, I noticed that my excitement about it all wasn’t as high anymore after a couple of weeks. The window was great because I could spy on other people in their cubicles who looked sad at me from across the street; some waved. Then more months passed and it felt exactly like my former work and cubicle but with a view. Replacing one object of desire with any other “thing” will lead to the same pattern that is in the end simply another part of normal life. If moving to a different cubicles does not work, maybe I have to figure out the root of the problem. So, I thought about my life and what I really want it to look at the cubicle itself and came up with the conclusion that I need to rip open that cubicle and throw myself into unfamiliar territory. And I quit that job.

These days and one year later, I am thinking a lot while applying for jobs. What am I passionate about? What are my strengths and weaknesses? When I worked the regular 9-5 for many years I escaped and traveled a lot but I realized quickly that a vacation no matter how awesome only serves as a dopamine hit of cultural experience. Let’s say I had a two-week vacation somewhere and I dove with sharks, went to Iceland, then Morocco, France and to a bunch of other places and came back. All these built-in time constraints did not allow me to truly understand the complexity of a foreign place anyway. I took some pictures and posted them on Facebook to impress my “friends” who do not really care. So, this is also not the answer. I have to look somewhere else. This place is far away – I visited it many years ago and loved and enjoyed it so much. It was a long time ago indeed but this place I visited is me.

My focus shifted and I paid more attention to what I felt, thought and really needed. My body is a great place to visit and a good and exciting environment to grow. Looking even more closely, I found more possibilities and opportunities popped up everywhere. Actually, more opportunities than there are points in a Georges Seurat painting. I arrived in a new environment and the last job interview was promising. I met a new crew of really awesome people who work(ed) for this company. Yesterday, they showed me things I have never seen before, and it’s fantastic. I realized again that who we are inside a venue matters far more than the venue itself and I hope it works out and I can start working for them. But I also have to be prepared that it does not work out and that there are my other job applications still open all over the world. My mind is at ease now and the usual angst and restlessness I felt inevitably disappeared for now but I know it is not a cure for discontentment of the mind yet. I genuinely became more curious about myself, my relationships with others, my life and that I only touched the surface with myself and many people that are important in my life. I learned to embrace where I am in life right now, with all its flaws and joys and everything in between and I keep in mind that no matter where I am right now, there is only one direction. Forward.

.My Canadian Winter Mechanism – A Holistic Approach to Seasonal Affective Disorder.

I moved from New York City to Canada in August 2016 and my inaugural winter was a catastrophe. I did not own a proper winter coat or waterproof boots and did not see the need for it either. Initially, I thought I can get away with a pair of normal winter boots and a jacket that I can combine with something warm and lighter underneath. “That should do the job, ” I thought. It starts getting significantly colder here in Ottawa at around November 1st and I realized quickly, that my winter outfit needs to be improved. My friend tells me I have to toughen up and stop fighting the cold because I cannot change it. He uses the words “embrace the cold” actually. Again, I chose to live here but I take freezing temperatures (anything – 25 Celsius) personally. “Why are you doing this to me, winter?”, I hissed into the ice-cold wind the other day while jogging along the canal. Whenever it is super cold but there is some sunlight during the day, I am fine. It becomes challenging when it is just gloomy for days, more snow accumulates that then turns into ice followed by more snow. “The good times are gone”, I said to my friend who told me that spring is just around the corner. He means well.

I found this chart online but it is not even funny. It is shockingly accurate.

That first winter went on forever and I thought that this will be my last one in Canada. “I cannot do this anymore, ” I said to myself one morning in late March when I found out that another snow storm was around the corner. Then, some sort of miracle change happened and summer was here, just after one short week of spring. I am not exaggerating. This is Canada-weather at its best. During those long, cold months, I need something that cheers me up and makes me less depressed. Being indoors and not able to “play outside” makes me really sad.

According to research I have conducted, 2-3% of Canadians struggle with seasonal affective disorder (SAD) which is a type of depression. This sounds like a small percentage, but the disorder affects nearly a million Canadians (and one German). SAD typically occurs within the long fall and winter months when there is just an average of 2-4 hours of sunlight (if even) per day in comparison to spring or summer when there is an average of 8-10 hours. Without enough sunlight, Vitamin D (the “sunshine Vitamin) levels in the body are very low. Symptoms usually are a feeling of depression, low motivation, energy, and fatigue, anxiousness, change in appetite (weight gain or loss), poor concentration and sleep problems to just name a few.

So, why is sunlight so important? Vitamin D levels in the body are increased through sunlight as it is synthesized through the skin and then triggered by exposure to UVB (Ultraviolet B) radiation. Research that examined the relationship of Vitamin D to SAD has found that just one hour of light therapy or exposure to sunlight can dramatically reduce SAD. According to Haas (2006), Vitamin D regulates bone formation. If Vitamin D is low, blood levels of calcium and phosphorus decrease and the body pulls these minerals from the bones which then may create demineralized and weak bones.

The sunlight (or lack of it) can cause hormonal changes. To make this easily understandable: serotonin levels drop and melatonin (our sleeping hormone) increases. The pineal gland, which is situated just above our cerebellum at the same level as our eyes, is responsible to produce melatonin. So, if there is limited amount of sunlight we find ourselves starting to get more and more tired throughout the day. I supplement with this Vitamin D product (the active form of D is commonly known as D3 or cholecalciferol which is the best!) and it seems to help me get through these super long winters in Canada easier. Make sure to either calculate your optimal individual intake for Vitamin D if you know how to or ask a pharmacist. Of course, I take every opportunity to expose my face to the sun and eating an adequate amount of vitamin D-rich food such as fatty fish (salmon, tuna), eggs, etc.

Serotonin is a chemical produced by our nerve cells and acts as a messenger between cells. Usually, serotonin goes hand in hand with tryptophan (like peanut butter and jam), which is an essential amino acid and needed to produce serotonin. A what? Essential amino acids mean our bodies cannot make it and therefore we should eat/add it. Tryptophan also promotes calmness, sleepiness, and relaxation. Before taking or recommending supplements, I rather choose to get the same effect through eating tryptophan-rich foods such as: pumpkin seeds, lamb, beef, turkey, chicken, oats, eggs or bananas.

Excercise. Other holistic approaches that help me get through this cold season are to exercise and to spend at least 30 minutes outside working out, especially if and when there is sunlight. Working out could just mean to take a faster-paced walk in the park if jogging is not your thing. Simply, just move and breathe in fresh air to reduce mental fatigue.

Essential Oils. I discovered Saje Pure Essential Oils a while ago and fell in love. It is a Canadian company that produces 100% essential oils. A Christmas gift to myself was their little pocket pharmacy with 5 essential oils good for stress release, eater’s digest, pain release, to strengthen the immune system as well as the ultimate peppermint headache oil. In several courses I have taken at The Institute of Holistic Nutrition, essential oils have been mentioned and their benefits explained. I use essential oils first instead of traditional drugs or medications; for example, peppermint oil as a headache remedy and lavender oil to sleep better and relax. I would like to share some essential oils that help me and are beneficial for Seasonal Affective Disorder:

  • Peppermint oil: Benefits: refreshing, anti-inflammatory, mental-stimulating, cooling. Blends well with patchouli, lemon, cedar or rosemary.
  • Lavender oil: Benefits: balancing, calming (mind and skin), mood-lifting, healing, decreases mood swings and insomnia. Blends well with lemon, cinnamon, pine, cedar, peppermint
  • Rosemary oil: Benefits: physical and mental stimulant, revitalizing for skin, grounding. Blends well with cedar, peppermint, grapefruit
  • Eucalyptus oil: Benefits: cooling, anti-inflammatory, antiviral, deodorizing, energizing. Blends well with pine and cedar (very good cold/flu remedy to inhale with, put under the nose to breathe more easily or put in the essential oil diffuser)
  • Lemongrass oil: Benefits: Vitalizing, purifying, regenerating. Blends well with basil, cardamom, spearmint
  • Mandarin oil: Benefits: relaxing, soothing, uplifting. Blends well with peppermint, franincese, cedar, rose, lavender

Be happy. Be healthy.

RESOURCES

Haas, E.M. (2006). Staying healthy with nutrition – The complete guide to diet and nutritional medicine. New York: Random House Inc.

.Breaking Open – Are You Dating A Loser?

From the bridge, I see the shoreline shift, move away upstream. A flow in the strong current plows toward the pillar beneath us. The ice solid, an island glides in the roiling water and strikes. Slush drives up the pillar, the ice sheet cleaves in two, but the dock does not quiver. I look up and catch your eyes – we lean over the railing, faces broken in grins while eyes sparkle. – to the one who wants to go ice-fishing

A good friend of mine asked me the other day why people hide when they are sad. Or why they choose not to tell everyone and scream it out loud. Maybe, so we don’t receive pity? Maybe because we all just pretend or we don’t want to bother others? I have this humbling ability that I sometimes see life one brief moment at a time – and it feels good. I knew I needed a change from my previous relationship and move on. Life could not go on like this. After the breakup, I reminded myself constantly that there is life beyond my bed, that I need to finish my research essay to obtain my Master’s degree, that I need to feed my son and myself (with healthy food) and that life isn’t actually over. This all kept me going. I remember how comforting it was to have a family to talk to and my closest friends around to help me out. I was a disaster for some time.

I journaled and wrote furiously through all of it. About feelings I felt, realizations I had and advice I found particularly helpful or profound. Although none of my previous breakups hit me quite as hard (maybe because this time my son was involved), nothing stings as acutely as believing I had lost the person who promised to always love me and be faithful. What is a promise? I guess the only way through a breakup is to give it time. I let myself feel the pain because I knew I won’t heal otherwise and may forget how to love altogether.

When the bad times outnumber the happy times, it is time to leave. While it may seem like I left everything, it’s my nostalgia talking. As soon as I got my little froggy self out of the metaphorical frying pan, I saw how life does go on, and how much space my marriage filled. That space can now be anything I choose. Also, I am somewhat permanent and everything else is sort of temporary. Just staying with the person because I am afraid of being without him is the wrong reason to be in a relationship.

I moved out and into the right place to find myself and heal. In some way, I was frightened, as if I had found myself on a new path that I had to discover alone. Also, when I moved it initially felt like being attached to the ghost of my previous marriage, unable to live in it or get away from it. I looked at the bright side. There is peace here and calm. I can do whatever I want and this sensation gave me a feeling that my body can somewhat shift tectonically under my brain.

Usually, whenever a relationship hits a breaking point it means something; something was not right for quite a while. Whether or not the reasons are clear, they need to be observed from an emotional distance to be fully understood and eventually communicated. Not via text messages but in person. There were previous relationships that I ended due to a lack of compatibility. We were wonderful and compatible in many ways, but there were certain things I felt were missing from the beginning. These certain things I could not stop myself from wanting no matter how hard I tried. In the end, my desire to find those things overcame the desire to stay with the person. I was looking for something different which is totally okay. It is my life and I  am not a monster. What I did was save myself from a relationship I knew I would continue to find unfulfilling and something that cannot be fixed because trust is gone. I listened to my gut, in spite of my fear and after some time, even the nightmares completely stopped. I started dating myself again, and shooting stars.

The aftermath of a relationship is when I process what happened and contextualize its significance in the overall scheme of life. It is important to note that an ex moving on and enjoying his life with someone else does not have to be aggravating, sad or annoying. Initially, there was this teeny tiny minuscule yet totally insignificant part of me that wanted to know what the ex is up to. Is he with her now? Are they traveling and erasing trips that once meant something to us? These feelings did not last long, however. I am truly fine, neither actively hurting nor overly bummed anymore. Life goes on. Everybody moves on and there is so much more (and better) out there. Where I am and who I am is no mistake. No man will ever determine my self-worth nor who I will become. Initially, after a breakup, it is just going to suck until it does not. 

Have you ever wondered if you are dating a loser? Because you may. Read this article. 🙂

.Twinkle Lights and Tears.

It seems the older I get, the more the holiday season weighs on me. My parents and brother left a couple of days ago and, as usual, it broke my heart. Family means everything to me and I am so grateful that they are all in my life. My brother and I had conversations on my balcony while snowflake die-cuts and strings of tinsel summon somber reflections on all the things that have not worked out as planned in 2018 which in the end, is all okay. My friend brought over twinkly lights to outline my windows and get this special Christmas feeling. More conversations, more love, more light, more everything.

My initial reaction to the lights and decorations was warmth, comfort, and family without linking it to the particularly challenging year I had been through. I am still without a job in December, arguably the worst time of year to be without a steady paycheck and too busy cursing at my pending job applications and LinkedIn inbox to feel anything remotely close to gratitude. The preceding months of 2018 had overflowed with life’s lemons, and I did not want to make more lemonade so I stopped. I actually resolved to obsessively seethe in the darkness over all the things that were going wrong in my life and appreciated the bright twinkle lights that interrupted my plans to feel sorry for myself.

With all the people I love around, I suddenly felt so much gratitude for the life I built for my son and I. We have limited support but we make it work – and even make it comfortable when my family is visiting. My apartment was full of the items we needed and held plenty of the things we love. I am blessed to have my family and friends to lean on, which is most important to me.

“Do we have to take the shiny, beautiful lights down after Christmas, “my son asked the other day. “Well, if they make you happy, let’s keep them up, ” I replied, not questioning the speed with which my skepticism had turned to devotion. My son loves those shiny lights and turning them on became a delightful nightly ritual. For some reason, they also make me feel less agitated and more inspired in these cold, dark, gloomy month of winter in Canada. I have this feeling that they have to keep glowing until I find a job, either in this country or anywhere else distracting me from all the irrational reasons I have in my mind why things take longer than expected. My family reminded me to ruminate less on what is going wrong, but rather on what I can focus more and on all the things I already have to be grateful for since every moment spent in that kind of presence is a moment worth celebrating.

I had to say goodbye to my family at the airport. Did I cry? Sure did but I had my friend with me who is the best support I could ask for. Crying is fitting though, I suppose, since tears have at times felt like glue: tears of laughter, of stress, empathy, love, support, help, sadness and so much more. Everybody has their own routines and rituals but it is good to share emotions. Whatever anybody feels and to enjoy them fully is to traverse the emotional chasm that typically separates human being. With this in mind, it is important to chip away at things that are not important and to focus on stuff that truly matters to me. With my family, I do not have to give the impression that it is all good, even if it is not. They simply have to look at me and know anyway. I knew it was time to escape this morbid loop of lies and mistrust I was stuck in and did not make any real or tangible progress in life. I know that I do not have to jazz my life up for display purposes only because many things cannot be captured in a post for an invisible audience while desperately waiting for “views” or “likes”. It is important to realize that decorating our masks will not improve how we look underneath.

We all have been hurt by someone we care(d) about. The pain of what they did is one thing but this feeling of betrayal is another. Letting down my guard was a mistake but a valuable learning experience and life lesson that I apply for the future. People who hurt us also teach us. I rather focus my energy on people who deserve it. I know I won’t receive an apology at this point because certain individuals may not even think they did something wrong. Apparently, everyone always has the best intentions. It all does not matter anymore. What is important is that I am able to move forward in my life without dragging the past along with me.

With this being said, I wish all my readers a Happy, Healthy New Year. Let’s all start it in style. Thank you for reading my blog and purchasing my book. 

Stay tuned for a bunch of projects and changes on the blog in 2019.

.Romance.

 I will always have a real strong romantic relationship with my coffee and The New York Times. No, but for real…

The other day I overheard a conversation on the playground after I picked up my son from school. There was this eight/nine-year-old girl who spoke to her “boyfriend”. He told her he did not like her anymore because there is a new girl in his class. He added that she used to be the prettiest girl he has ever seen but now she is only the second prettiest, so he wants to “break up”. For some reason, I could tell that his message cut through the girl’s third-grade core and how she stopped believing in romance right there while she ran away and cried. 

All my life I longed for something different. Something out of the norm or challenging. Adventure spoke to me always. These days, I am not unhappy, I am just generally more skeptical of things; especially after hearing what this little boy did to the girl at the playground. I wanted to take her aside and tell her that there will be a lot more breakups and breakups and breakups and that this does not mean the world is coming to an end. It is all a learning experience and I know I was faced with the same type of men in my life until I learned my lesson. I learned that I simply cannot make things work when my gut tells me that this will turn out chaotic but I was just too blind to see and understand while rushing head over heels into something new. 

I gave up on all that and embraced a different kind of romance. To be all on my own. A relationship with friends, creativity, art, meditation, adventures, mindfulness and paying attention to what I really want in life. And yet. 

A little voice tells me that romance besides my New York Times is possible followed by an undeniable romantic type of pull of what is yet to be and to come. And in those moments, not thinking about my previous relationship(s), I could not help but wonder if that other type of romance involving another person may work after all. How can I believe in chakras but not in romance? I mean, all it really needs is two people pulling on the same string most of the time to make it work which does not sound so impossible or difficult. 

My problem was that I developed a clear idea of how I thought love should feel and how I could get this feeling in my life. I am an avid reader and obtained a lot of my relationship-knowledge from articles and books I have read throughout my teens, young adulthood and later on. Then I started to listen to Esther Perel to cope with my divorce.  According to her, a partner should never complete you. You complete you, your partner simply adds to your life because you are whole on your own. 

I clearly remember the point I fell in love. For real. The healthy kind. The good, nice guy. And I was shocked and horrified at the same time to experience a feeling that I thought I lost. I was suddenly feeling “fuller” or “more whole” if this makes any sense. I felt more secure than ever, there were no lies, no bs, no debt, no questionable purchases and fantasies that seemed to be out of a J.R.R. Tolkien novel. I asked myself initially if this feeling of awesomeness is okay because there was a sizable piece of my heart that has been missing, numb or was inaccessible for quite some time. 

I am fine on my own. I love to be by myself but I am also happy in a healthy relationship. Where it gets sticky for me is emotional dependence and trust. I do not want to be dependent on that other person emotionally or financially. The thought of dependency makes me cringe. Being in a long-term, normal and healthy relationship, I think it is okay to need the other person because you are committed to each other. You take the time and speak about problems and find solutions but do not cheat and justify it by making up excuses. 

A couple creates memories and plans a future together. You are covering each other, over and over again. I read this article, that ” intimate partners’ bodies become physiologically entwined and your partners’ soothing presence reduces your stress level and helps you feel more at ease”.  This sounds awesome and I feel it, but I believe to be in a romantic relationship it is important to be independent. I also want a more well-rounded way to describe my partnership in which there are two “me’s” and a “we”. I enjoy that warm, comforting emotion – that feeling where my heart feels so full and content at the same time. I will embrace love’s wholeness without fear. And if things do not work out, there is always The New York Times and coffee. 


.And Then You Die – Opening Up on PTSD.

“Seek the truth for yourself, and I will meet you there” 

[Disclaimer: not an easy read]

I suffer(ed) from PTSD for a while because I have dealt with a lot of difficult things in my careers as a police and security officer. I have seen many people die and there were many traumatic experiences when I pretended everything is fine but deep down, I was not fine at all. I could not “just” fill out that “dead-person-intake form” while I stood next to a person who jumped off the 9th floor of a building with parts of her brain stuck to my uniform and shoes.

Before that particular incident, my colleague and I were laughing in the police car. Everything was okay. We contemplated were to have coffee and a pretzel next. I remember it was a nice afternoon and I looked forward to the Metallica Concert that evening. The radio kept playing Metallica songs all day to promote the concert. The music in the police car droned on, but we stopped listened after the dispatcher told us to drive to the location where, according to neighbors, a woman climbed out of her window and tried to get to the top of the roof of her apartment.

I still did not put two-and-two together while we hurried to the scene. Maybe she wants to escape from someone who threatens her in the apartment? Maybe she tries to get into her apartment from her neighbor’s balcony because she forgot her keys? I was still gnawing on my lunch-sandwich. As a police officer, there are not real times to take a break. “I think something terrible is about to happen,” my colleague said. I did not acknowledge him but chewed ahead. I tried to put two-and-two together but my mind was blank. Blank as a white canvas. The woman took her own life. She jumped off the roof while my colleague and I drove around the corner. I saw her eyes while she jumped and I see them to this day. Wide open, terrified and scared. This is how I felt when I arrived at the scene. In her apartment, I wanted to find out if there were any screams for help. Anything, that could have explained what just happened. I did not find anything. I just saw a glass of red wine (still half full) with lipstick stains on it, a CD playing (Jazzonova) quietly in the living room and the window wide open. On the floor,  her black high heels.

It took me several hours to cry. I did go to the Metallica Concert that night because I purchased the tickets a long time ago. I was on my bicycle riding back home when I felt like screaming, crying. When I arrived home my neighbor asked me, “Why are you crying, what happened? Is everything all right?” And this was the point when everything came out: the complete waterworks. The wails and the screams and the snot. I went into some sort of depression this year and I knew I have to change my job. It was a sadness so deep that it physically hurt. I did not want to deal with suicidal issues and death on a daily basis anymore. I woke up crying sometimes because I thought I could have been able to save one suicidal person. In my reoccurring dreams, the suicidal people always laugh. I remember one particular dream when a person said, “Why do you care if I am dead when you are still so afraid to live your life?” I woke up crying. This all happened many years ago, yet it all seems so fresh.

Death scares us and because of this, we avoid to think and talk about it. Trying to figure out how some of the suicide victims I got to know personally must have felt, I can just say that I always saw and felt an endless and incomprehensible nothingness that they experienced. This made me think and come to the realization that if there really is no reason to do anything, then there I also no reason to NOT do anything; that there is no reason to ever give into one’s fear or embarrassment or shame since it is all a bunch of nothing anyway. By spending my life avoiding what was painful and uncomfortable previously, I had essentially been avoiding being alive at all. This woman’s suicide marked the clearest before/after point in my life. I really knew I had to change or turn my life around. I morphed into a new person while still carrying some of my insecurities, struggles, and baggage.  But this made all the difference and was transformational. Strangely, it was someone else’s death that made me appreciate life so much more.

The other day I went for a run. Running steadily, my leg muscles stretched and ached since I just started to train again. The cold wind screamed across my face but I kept running. I looked up. The sky was bright and beautiful. There was even a bit of sunshine. I was sweating, yet cold. Excited, yet nervous. Can I run away from it all? I stopped for a moment. Who is that at the horizon? I saw his familiar green jacket, his bicycle and I smiled. He smiled back and signaled me to run towards him. What if this is it? What if this is all there is? Then I would be happy. I shuffle on. In his direction. Against my mind. Against my thoughts and fears. One foot forward. Everything is okay. Being alive is so awesome.

.Mindfulness.

[Photo credit: Veronica Van Gogh]

I spent last weekend at the Rosseau Sanctuary as a holistic nutritionist (to be) and provided healthy vegan, lactose and gluten-free food for women who attended the event hosted by Jennifer Polansky.   It was an amazing, challenging new experience for me since I never cooked for so many people in this kind of environment but, in hindsight,  I enjoyed every minute of it.  I mentally grew and this process already started when I drove all the way up to the retreat from Ottawa through Algonquin Park. It took me almost seven hours to get to the sanctuary which was a great opportunity to practice mindfulness, peace, and quiet in the car. I so enjoyed the ride, even though it was not easy. I was tired, saw two wolves on the side of the road, did not encounter another car or human being for at least two hours straight and wondered what would happen if the car breaks down. This is what I basically looked at the entire time I drove to Muskoka:

Traveling is a fantastic tool of self-development simply because it extricates me from the values of my culture and shows that another society can live with entirely different values and still functions. On one of my walks “in the wild” last weekend, I had a great conversation with a local who moved to Muskoka from Toronto, got married, had three kids and lived there ever since.  They seemed happy; chaotic but content – the wife, kids, dogs, and cats running around in the house while I still tried to figure out where the main entrance was. They trusted me instantly, even when I said I would love to see their puppies in the backyard. This then makes me think and re-examine my own life. My brother told me, after he visited Russia,  that the most currency to be found there is trust. And to build trust you have to be honest. Being honest means, when things suck, you say so openly and without apology. I think trust lost its value because appearances became more advantageous forms of expression. This is why people start lying, say polite things even when they don’t feel like it, tell a little white lie and agree with people they don’t actually agree with. Why not just say what is on your mind?

Others pretend to be friends or partners. What I am facing these days is, that I never know anymore if I can trust a person but yet, I open myself up to opportunities and new people because I am always choosing. If I am choosing to make my relationship the most important part of my life, that means I am not engaging in and choosing to go to meth/cocaine parties all night long and come home at 7 a.m. We all worry about something in order to value something, right? And to value something, I must reject what is not that something. The something I don’t want in my life anymore. Nobody wants to be stuck in a relationship, for example, that is not making them happy. Nobody wants to be stuck at a workplace that does not make them happy and that they hate and don’t believe in.

Yet people choose these things. All the time. This is when I thought I have to become comfortable with saying the word “no”. In this way and rejection, it makes my life so much better. By just saying NO while a red neon blinking “STAY OUT and AWAY” sign is flashing and police are putting up tape that says “DO NOT CROSS” to make extra sure. There are healthy forms of love and unhealthy ones. Unhealthy love is usually when two people try to escape their problems through their emotions for each other or they are using each other as an escape. I think that on the other hand, a healthy relationship is when love is based on two people acknowledging and addressing their own problems with each other’s support. I believe now that in a healthy relationship, there are clear-cut boundaries between the two people and their values, and there will be an open avenue of giving and receiving rejection when necessary. Entitled people for example who take the blame for other people’s emotions and actions do so because they believe that if they “fix” their partner or friend and save him/her they will receive the love and appreciation they have always wanted. The victim and the savior, the person who starts fires because it makes her feel better and the person who puts out the fire because it makes him feel important. These two types of people are drawn strongly to one another. Their model for a “happy relationship” is based on entitlement and poor boundaries. Sadly though, after some time, they both fail in meeting the other’s actual needs. The sex is usually always good in the beginning but there is so much more to it all and to experience and explore together as a couple. In fact, their pattern of over- blaming and over- accepting blame perpetuates the entitlement and shitty self-worth that have been keeping them from getting their emotional needs met in the first place.

Acts of love are valid only if they are performed without conditions or expectations. Partners (or people) cannot solve problems for me. They can help and that makes me happy but I also know that I have to deal with the internal stuff on my own. I do not see myself as a victim.  Usually, the victims create more and more problems to solve; not because real problems exist, but it gets them the attention and affection they crave. The intentions are selfish and conditional and therefore self-sabotaging. Therefore, genuine or true love is rarely experienced and probably never will be.  And in the end,  innocent people lose their passport.

.Getting To The Heart of The Matter.

“Writing a novel is like walking through a dark room, holding a lantern which lights up what is already in the room anyway” – Virginia Wolf

I love coffee but I do not need it to fuel my mornings. Sometimes, when time permits, I write at a coffee store around the corner from where I live. It is such a nice, cozy and welcoming place. I usually go there alone when I work, but there is always someone to chat with or listen to. I am spending a great deal of time working on my second book, which can be exhilarating and exhausting, but always blessing. Despite all the craziness in my life and in the world, I must continue to do my work. Creating takes much of the artists time, and may seem a self-serving prospect. But my directive is, to offer something meaningful, that hopefully provides a transformative experience. May it be through thought, tears, laughter or illumination ignoring the voice in my head that wonders if I really have anything of value to add.

“Look behind you. You are not alone. Don’t permit yourself to be ambushed. Watch out for the snakes. Watch out for the Zeitgeist – it is not always your friend. Keats was not killed by a bad review. Get back on the horse that threw you” – Margaret Atwood

So there I sat, sipped my coffee and typed along while the snow came down quietly. I thought about my job search and the different turns my life may take soon when I saw the barista behind the counter wiping away tears. There is never nothing going on. While I think my problems are so severe, others are struggling as well or even worse. For the sake of keeping the costumers happy and caffeinated, this barista went out of her way but she had to deal with this one rude customer. Apparently, the argument was about a coffee order she got wrong and a tip of this costumer.

I usually leave something in the “Tip Jar” so this made me philosophize. I mean, really think about it – metaphorically, you could ruin someone’s life if you don’t tip them. Let’s say, for example, you did not leave the sixty-five cents change as a tip after ordering your large latte and ham and Gruyère croissant. Diane, the barista, now found herself short on bus fare to get to her second job because she is working to pay off her student loans. Had you tipped Diane more, she wouldn’t have to walk to her ex-husband’s house who read her a shitty poem in French that he had written after they broke up. Now they got back together, and Diane is miserable. Also, if you would have tipped her more, she could have afforded a haircut before her job interview with the government the next day. An interview for a well-paying full-time job. She did not get the job and decided to live with her ex-husband again because it is “convenient”.

The barista looked over, smiled at me and I realized who really deserves a commendation. I chatted with her a bit on her 20-minute break to learn more about her profession and cheered her up a bit. The conversation was unsurprisingly full of insight. Have you ever wondered what a barista deals with on a daily basis? Grab a Cup of Joe for this one.

So what happened earlier? Why did you cry? 

This customer is a “regular”. He comes here every single day and orders the exact same thing without even looking up from his phone. If it takes too long (in his opinion) he starts to argue with me or any barista here in a very mean way. I wonder sometimes how miserable his life must be if he treats me like this. What is going on in his life?  I am just doing my job the best I can. At least look me in the eyes when you order or invest just a few minutes in what is happening around you before you put in your order. Also, do not let your anger out on me because neither do I. It would be so much easier if we are all just nicer to each other.

Does it annoy you to see the same customers every day? 

Most people are very nice. They ask for my name, smile and have a little chat while waiting. For others, ordering coffee is just part of their morning routine and I respect that. What drives me crazy is, when customers come in every day, ask for complicated orders that are not on the menu and don’t want to pay for all the components of that order. It is that type of entitlement that really drives me crazy.

Do you judge patrons based on what they order? 

There are of course certain drinks that I think will taste better with less of this and more of that but that does not mean you should not order them. Of course, I will make you that drink because we all have different tastes, likes, and dislikes. The other day I was wondering why a customer wanted to have steamed milk over a brownie but hey, you like what you like. Your money, your order, your drink.

What’s your weirdest/funniest interaction ever with a customer?

Sometimes customers ask strange questions and I think that answering those feels like explaining Valentine’s Day to extraterrestrials. Kind of like, we give each other gifts because we love each other but then there is a mutant flying baby that also shoots people, but just metaphorically.  Sometimes it is also weird when I try something new with the customer such as new coffee blends or new ways of preparing different types of coffee (“Have you tried oat milk yet?”). Also, someone asked me once to put “Dick Rider”, “It’s Over”, “Hail Satan” or “Douchbag” on the cup after I asked him for his name. Also, I will not draw a penis on your cup.

Do you pay attention to who is tipping how much and for what?

I do pay attention to who does and who does not tip but not always. It is usually not how much but whether the customer tips at all. When someone does tip, I see it as a sign that they were happy and satisfied with my service or I feel like I connected with someone and they tip after I helped them in some way. I do understand that paying $5.20 for a latte is kind of expensive, that you probably do not want to tip when I put your croissant in a bag but we have to live, too. Don’t even ask how much I am making in one hour. Just don’t!

Do people still order real milk? 

Some do, but not many. People are really into soy milk these days, even though it is even more expensive. The latest thing, however, is oat milk. It is really growing since we started offering it as a milk alternative. I love the flavor and it is so easy to make at home, too.

Do you ever go overboard on caffeine because it’s free? 

Every. Single. Day.

.Joel Lately.

Did he swallow a bat?  Oma and Opa sent a package from Germany and in it was this amazing jar of Nutella. Do I, as a holistic nutritionist to be, agree with this? YES! It is all about balance and moderation. Like it is with everything in life. Eating Nutella once in a while is not a bad thing because I feed my son many good things and make sure he eats nutrient-dense foods most of the time. He is a very strong, healthy child overall so I think I do something right.

He turned five in October and I have to say, this is the most amazing and stressful time.  Now I experience single parenting at its best. I have help from my friend(s) and my friend’s parents but most of the time, I am sailing this ship alone making sure it does not sink. Joel is a very easy child. Raising and getting to know him while connecting with his soul is awesome.  I can have a normal conversation with him. He understands, he responds, and he is so involved into science, art,  building and creating things. I can take him anywhere I want to go, and I do because I cannot afford a babysitter. I sometimes feel that he knows I am struggling and that this is a very difficult time in my life, so he behaves and helps me most of the time, ha.

The other night, Joel and I visited a friend for supper. We walked to her place and suddenly, Joel turned to me and asked, “Does the universe end? Is there a wall or something?” Ahm… yeah, big question, Joel. We passed a man walking his dog (“cute doggie, I want one”) and I told him about the universe expanding, and the work of astronauts, reminded him about the exhibit we have seen at the Space and Aviation Museum (Life in Orbit) and that time we met his hero Chris Hadfield. When Joel asks questions and then after I explained it to him, asks another follow-up and another one, I have explained the meaning of life to that child in the end.  I love it because it reminds me what is important and to simply listen to him.  For some time now, he is getting really curious about the world around him and wants to know how it all works.  He is at such a sweet age where everything feels enticing and magical.

How awesome are kid’s questions? They just drop them into regular chit-chat. Apparently, children ask an average of 73 questions a day, which sounds about right.

There are a few more that Joel has busted out lately:

Is infintiy a number? Mommy, show me the Pi-number? Well, since I am really good at math, this turned out to be no problem at all…

Does the moon really always follow us? Where is the Northern Star? (show me, show , me show me…… )

How do we make water?

Do we bury bodies or just skeletons? Can I dig one up? Why not? When ghosts show up in my dreams, are those dead people?

Where was I before I was born? (Seriously, 5 years old)

Mommy, do you need to pay the bank to get some money?

Mommy, you always tell me not to eat so much before swimming. WIll I get a cramp if I eat and then swim? What if I swim and THEN eat? Or if I drink and then eat, then swim, then sleep……… [this usually goes on forever]

Mommy, can you believe that living things MAKE living things? Me: Yes, my love. Him: Like, BIRTH living things. Does that hurt? Me: …..

Mommy, why can’t I see my eyes?

Mommy, where do babies come from? Me: Ask Kevin.

Mommy, what does love mean? Me: when someone likes someone a lot. Joel: So, I love you forever. Me: sigh…. (tears)

Here are some more fun things my son is concerned about:

Joel sees how my friend plays the guitar and he wants to play, too. I asked him the other day if he would like to take lessions. Joel shook his head: “I don’t want to play real guitar yet. I like when Kevin shows me how to play but for now, I rather want to play pretend guitar.”

On a snowy, cold day this week: Joel: “What a great day to play basketball or soccer”. Me: I don’t think it is possible. Everything is covered in snow. Joel: “Let’s call Keith. He will go with me to the soccer field and play forever if you don’t want. Then we have ham steak. Don’t worry, Mommy.”

“Mommy, how long until I am older than you?”

Joel: “What does revolution mean?” Me: “Where did you hear that word?” Joel: “A song on the radio.  (long pause) The song went a bit like something, something, something, something, something, revolution, something, something, something, something, something,….”

Joel: “I made two new friends at school today.” Me: “That’s awesome. What are their names?” Joel: “I don’t know their names! I can’t remember everybody’s name!”