.Growing up – Growing Down.

https://www.instagram.com/fotoautomat.photography/

My son asked me the other day, “Mommy, when will I be a grown-up?” “Very soon, my love because time flies,” I responded. This small conversation made me think. Maybe the issue was that there is a direction. Up. One cannot simply grow, one must grow up. Along with pencil notches on a door frame and candles on a cake, your ferocity, wisdom, and velocity must increase as you age.

Anyone who has reached adulthood knows that growth does not progress like a ticking clock. It usually means horrible missteps and innocence lost, betrayal, disappointment and broken zippers. It moves backward, inwards, sideways, finding new ways to humble us. Doesn’t growth most often feel only good in hindsight? Like running a marathon through the five stages of grief. Sometimes it doubles back on itself many times before it emerges as something remotely useful. Then, of course, we may forget what it taught us and repeat the same mistakes. Move back home, get lost, find ourselves again, get lost again, meet new people, get lost again, but be better for it. Ad infinitum.

We all know this chart and intellectuality it entails, right?

But it is different from knowing it in our bones. And aligning our senses of self to the inalienable truth that progress often means making a huge, disastrous mess first. #storyofmylife. Let’s dive into the complicated pool of human progress a bit: Growing up. Can you grow down? Laterally? Literally? In relationship and partner choices, I know of at least one example for sure. Can you regress and then grow as a direct result of that regression? Or can you grow in a bad way? In the wrong way? Can you grow by learning, and then grow again by unlearning what you learned the first time?

I told my son the other day that I don’t want to sound like a deflated balloon, but adulthood is exhausting. He just looked at me and proudly told me that he washed my new sweater in the little pond so I don’t have to wash it anymore. Now that I am here on this earth for quite some time as a fully formed adult who subscribes to The New Yorker, reads the Süddeutsche Zeitung and moves around to figure out where the best place to live is one might think I have it all figured out.

These days, life is awesome but a couple of weeks ago it was rather tedious and my happiness tended to look a lot more like contentment rather than non-stop joy. It is a constant up and down but this is okay. I could throw caution to the wind and hop on the hedonistic hamster-wheel of chasing perpetual youth, but honestly, that sounds exhausting, kind of expensive and I rather spend my afternoon in a hammock reading a good book to find perpetual inner peace. So in the interest of gratitude and thoughtful living and what have you, I am trying not to take adulthood for granted and will share a handful of things that make me feel blissful, like a full-on adult. These are little moments where life turned out exactly as I once thought it would.

Balancing groceries on my hip as I get my mail out of the mailbox. It is just something about this balancing act that is life just feels so satisfying. Little victories. And never walk twice.

Eating Chinese food straight from the container.

6th October 1927: Director King Vidor (1894 – 1982) and actress Marion Davies (1897 – 1961) tuck into a takeaway meal during the filming of ‘The Patsy’ (aka ‘The Politic Flapper’). (Photo via John Kobal Foundation/Getty Images)

When I lived in New York City, eating Lo Mein out of a paper container felt like the height of working woman sophistication to me. There was this certain grace of giving myself not even a plate feels which felt like an indulgence. There is of course no moral value one way or another on eating Chinese take out, but something about the image of a woman alone on her couch, watching crap TV, eating takeout feels to me like a deep exhalation.

Standing in the aisle of a drug store comparing two toilet cleaners. Nothing says I have my shit together quite like taking my time to form opinions on toilet bowl cleaners.

Making chicken soup (any other soup) from scratch. Or actually cooking anything at home because it tastes so much better.

Unceremoniously stop jogging when I have had enough and to simply walk home. It is totally fine. No judgments. Not even the guy you just passed who challenged himself to squat deeper than he did the week before. He also trains for the Iron Man. I will do my thing. I used to train harder, run faster but in the long-run, all this nonsense did nothing for me but gave me pain.

Safety. If I knew what safety looked like, I would have spent less time falling into arms that were not. I know now. The key: Love yourself first. Unconditionally.

Chill in a hammock for a couple of hours and read. You are your own soulmate. Don’t mistake salt for sugar. If he wants to be with you, he will. It is that simple.

.The L-Word.

via Bob Dylan

“Love is a temporary madness. It erupts like an earthquake and then subsides. And when it subsides you have to make a decision. You have to work out whether your roots have become so entwined together that it is inconceivable that you should ever part. Because this is what love is. Love is not breathlessness, it is not excitement, it is not the promulgation of promises of eternal passion. That is just being “in love” which any of us can convince ourselves we are. Love itself is what is left over when being in love has burned away, and this is both an art and a fortunate accident. Those that truly love have roots that grow towards each other underground, and when all the pretty blossoms have fallen from their branches they find that they are one tree and not two.” – Captain Corelli’s Mandolin by Louis de Bernieres

I spoke to a close friend a couple of days ago who has been dating her boyfriend for quite some time now. She told me that her mom asked her recently, “Have you said, “I love you’ yet?” She inquired hopefully, like children waiting for a baby bird to hatch. “No, “she reported, “We have not.”

“Have you said it yet? Still nothing?” friends follow up days later, over coffee. To be clear, she was not concerned about this. But apparently, everyone else was. However and after the upteenth negative update, she started to feel like her relationship was a failure, when, by all other benchmarks, she would classify it as the best she had ever known. Her “friends” didn’t ask if this person showed up for her, or if he had the patience to get to know her partiular quirks. They did not ask if his presence brought her peace or if they made up songs that no one else would find funny. They didn’t ask if she felt safe or comfortable or like the truest version of herself. [For the record, the answer to all those questions is: YES!]

More saliently, nobody asked if she FELT loved. They only asked if she heard I love you yet. Is this one phrase the barometer by which one measures the progress of a relationship? And why, in our contemporary culture, is speaking it (versus actually demonstrating it) so very important?

After my recent divorce, these are many questions I have thought about over the last year. In my experience, it is clear that “love” is a word with too many interpretations. For some, it refers to an emotion, more of an “I adore you, ” or a declaration of infatuation. For others, it is a sign of commitment, weighed heavily and with care. Some think they really are just words, as informal as “I will call you, ” and just as easy to disregard. Or simply something you have to say at the end of a conversation.

I do not watch the Bachelor (or any TV at all for that matter) but I read in some magazine at the doctor’s office that contestants are known to say things like, “I can totally see myself maybe someday falling in love with you.” That is at least three generations removed from an emotion and definitely not a promise of care. Yet, time and again, they foretell that this all-important thing is totally maybe someday coming and lets their lover loose hope.

I know people who say “I love you” as early as a second date. And then it is this awkward silence when your partner does not say it back and you are all nervous about what comes next. There is just something about saying those three little words that marks a transition in the relationship between two people. Are you expected to keep saying I love you after you said it once? The thing is that you usually don’t break up with someone you just started to love, no? In an ideal world, usually saying I love you means you are all in. But what is ideal? Many also fear the me becoming a we. I believe love is more than a feeling and something that needs to be protected. It is a choice that needs to be made consistently. What does this word love actually mean?

Bell Hooks writes, “The word ‘love’ is most often defined as a noun, yet all the more astute theorists agree that we would all love better if we used it as a verb.” Kind of like, love is as love does, not as love says? So, if the real meaning of love is action, why are we so hung up on this damn phrase? What I have learned so far and how I define love in 38 years on this planet is: Hey, you, I love myself unconditionally. I see you, I accept you, and I will do whatever I can to make your life better because I value your presence in mine.

Mostly, love is felt before it is being said anyway and there are so many other ways to communicate one’s feelings. Considering myself being a language-nerd, we all may share common words, but each of us speaks their own unique language. And sometimes, if we are really lucky, we can find someone who understands us.

.Burdens & The Energizer Bunny.

I spent half the day at a local Sauna and Spa. You know why? Because I wanted to. I enjoy life at its fullest these days. You know why? Because I want to and I only have this one shot. I was once told by a friend, “Each of us are living in the midst of a trial, have just emerged from one, or are heading toward another” which is true. This quote leads me to yet another often-quoted truth, “Be kind to everyone you meet. You never know what battle they are fighting.” Just be nice; it is not that difficult. I actually want to approach this essay from a slightly different angle and with a question. Life is not easy and with all the weight and burden that each of us carries, why would we ever choose to intentionally carry more?

Epiphany while floating naked in the outdoor sauna pool

I thought about possible things that weigh down our lives and hearts: loss, illness, divorce, death, financial stuff, worry, politics, religion, grief, guilt, traumatic events, tension in marriage or relationships. These are all things we carry on our shoulders. Many of these burdens are created by ourselves but others are inevitable and entirely outside our realm of control. Regardless of their origin, we carry them – each of us, on a daily basis.

Stress is bad

I read this amazing book a couple of weeks ago. A survey has been mentioned when children were asked, “If you were granted one wish about your parents, what would it be?” The kids’ number one wish was that their parents were less tired and less stressed.

Again, life is not easy. It never has been and never promised to be. In our new society defined by instantaneous social sharing, not only do we carry the weight of our own issues we also carry the weight of others. My best friend’s mother passed away one year ago and through text messages and social media, I was alerted to it almost instantly. A tragedy, and still so unreal, thousands of kilometers away, involving a family not my own even though we are very close. This huge sadness….. a weight…. was felt in my family. One second, one phone call, one wrong move, and our life can change drastically and forever.

Thoughts on Stuff

Since I am close to moving again, I get this feeling that every increased possession adds increased anxiety onto my life. Why would we choose to make life more difficult? Don’t add more stuff to your life. To me, it seems like many of us choose to do that exact thing simply by carrying excess possessions in our homes and lives. I live very simply with little possessions and I love it this way. Why? Because I feel excess possessions take up residence in my home and in my mind. They require maintenance, care, and attention. Every item I own must be handled and at some point, discarded and add obligation, weight, and responsibility.

Thoughts on self-care

Today, at the Spa I was reminded again how important self-love and self-care is. The wellness world loves to spoon-feed us ways to “better” ourselves like a baby curious and willing to explore and try new foods. Do this, don’t do that. Buy this, you need that. Preach, preach, preach. Add more of this, cut out that. It is all hot tips, must-have products that are useless. The wellness industry leans, perhaps, a little pretentious, along with capitalizing off of our insecurities with giant Dollar/Euro [insert any currency] signs in its eyes, to sell as much cheap stuff as possible. Don’t get me wrong; there are some really great products you can find while digging through the supplement and celery juice isles but you don’t really need much. (says the holistic nutritionist). Self-care is so much simpler. Start with this: Stop this tendency to keep going and going much like that pink Energizer bunny in sunglasses that bangs its oversized drum forever. His battery will die eventually, too.

Taking care of myself today worked wonders for my mind, body, and soul, and when practiced on a regular basis, can help me get back to go-go-go-going with a calmer and more centered headspace. For some, self-care may be Zen: walking the Camino, meditation, Reiki, Feng Shui, ideas surrounding identity, self-worth and hard emotions or other spiritual practices. For others, it is very necessary self-indulgence: reading, massages, mani-pedis, acupuncture or a glass of wine (or two) in the evening. Or as simple as treating yourself to ice cream.

With all this being said, how are you feeling? How do you know when it is time to amp it up a little more frequently in the name of sanity? Because remember, with all the weight and burden that each of us already carry in life, why would we ever choose to intentionally carry more? Stop being a Debbie Downer and unburden your life in the areas you can control. In doing so, you will find more freedom and capacity to navigate the problems and burdens that are outside of it. How about putting yourself first for once?

.Progress over Perfection.

Don’t we all know that perfection is a condition experienced by many, exasperated by social media, and just causes frustration, procrastination, low self-esteem? If left untreated, it may lead to sadness, lack of purpose, and constant questioning featuring too many what-ifs?

I’ll do this after I do that. I’ll get to it once this happens. I can’t start this until this is perfect. Many times perfection got in my way of starting or doing something new. I used to think if I cannot do it perfectly or under the perfect circumstances, I simply do not see the point.

Perfection has made me procrastinate the bigger things like for example moving back to Germany, re-designing my blog, writing a business proposal, choosing a daily meditation to practice or the smaller things like planning my day off. Sometimes if I could not decide on the perfect plan for my day off, I would just end up staying at home or running errands instead of doing something awesome.

Everyone defines perfect differently and we all have varying levels of personal standards of perfection. I personally believe and think it is fair to say that perfection is an illusion just as social media is an illusion. It is mostly curated, edited, airbrushed montage of just a tiny facet of someone’s life. So, based on this concept, that perfection is an illusion, perfection does not exist. Sometimes people, and I include myself here, get caught up in living in a non-reality when life usually revolves mainly around the superficial things like status, money, job or to-do lists. Living in reality means connection with others, accepting myself the way I am, and feeling emotions; even the dark ones.

Progress over perfection.

The right moment may never come but sometimes it is important to just do what feels right even though it is not perfect. When I chose to make progress, move forward, and take action, that’s when I achieved my goals. It is simply letting the walls of perfection fall to reveal something so pure and unique to me. It is also about loving and believing in myself enough to trust that whatever I create is not perfect but it is real. And my best self is created from this space of honesty.

It is very easy to get caught up in the comparison of what everyone else is doing and then need to feel accepted. But what actually happens is everyone does the same thing and the perfection bug actually causes repetition. Many of my friends had to listen to me talking about moving to a particular city for months now but I wanted it to be perfect. Then I got to the point where I had to just take action and go or I would be waiting forever. This move won’t be that easy but manageable. I don’t think no major move really is but this experience will teach me to live here and now, and to actually do the things I talk about doing someday. Simply because, like perfection, someday does not actually exist. So, I signed the lease to my new apartment. It felt good to finally do it. Once it was all done, the pressure was off and having done it, I now feel inspired to finish it off.

The next time you are about to put off anything because you are scared it won’t be perfect, remember that progress is more important than perfection. It is okay to clean my kitchen just a little bit, let my dad work on my new vintage furniture because he knows what he is doing, apply for that Ph.D. without re-reading the application fifty-thousand times. Oh, and starting my new essay can wait as well as the laundry because I have to catch up with a very good friend who wants to make pizza with arugula, Proscuitto, and cheese. I will get a bottle of wine. I promised, didn’t I? Just be imperfectly you.

.What if This is Enough? My New Book is Out.

Cover painting by Judith Lockett

Ladies and Gentlemen,

can I please have your attention for this public service announcement: MY SECOND BOOK HAS BEEN PUBLISHED. The title: What if This is Enough? Essays. I love the title and the cover because it just works really well together.

What my second book is about: 

Like my first book, I have written essays on my life in general, about simplifying, about being a mother, about creating that like I am passionate about, inspirations, (mental) health and being a better version of myself. More focus is placed on my life before, during and after divorce. With this book I wanted to cover many aspects of (my) life but also share personal tips how to stay sane through a divorce.

What I hope to achieve with my book is that you get comfortable, enjoy a glass of wine, send your kids out with your partners and read my book in silence and peace. I hope my book will transfer you into a relaxed, though-provoking or inspirational mode and make you reflect and most importantly think. Publishing a book for a writer is a dream come true. Being an avid reader, publishing books was on my bucket list for a long time. It is a great feeling to stroll through bookstores and show my son the books I have written on the shelf. #shelfie

I really want to thank my family, friends, blog readers and the support I have gotten to make this happen. I will have a book signing coming up in Germany and Vienna at independent bookstores. Announcements and dates will be shared on this website. Honestly, I am still totally overwhelmed in the best way possible right now. Today,  I just spent the day with my family and friends celebrating in style.

.Liars.

Are you able to be in a relationship with a chronic liar? Short answer: No. Absolutely not. But then again, this sounds so judgemental, closed-minded, or maybe even absolutely right. So I will say: probably not.

I grew up an inherently trusting child and teenager but later on in my life I befriended people with almost every personality disorder there is. The narcissistic, liars, nihilists, psychopaths, schizophrenics, especially paranoid men, etc. all glued to me as if I were free ice cream. I would like to think it was because I was naturally void of judgment. I used to accept others for who they were, regardless of negative tendencies without endorsing change. But ultimately, I know now that it was just naivety and toxicity. Choosing to accept or ignore something negative does not make it void, it just makes me really good at being an accomplice. So in my 20s, I forgave others, and in my 30s, I spent time forgiving myself.

I think over time, it is more than healthy to have self-reflection in any capacity and to simply examine my choices so history does not repeat itself. With that being said, I have given up defending myself a long time ago, mostly because my opinion does not have to suit anyone’s needs but my own.

Now, I would like to note that most people are liars, inherently so. I don’t mean to sound pessimistic, it is just that many don’t realize that some small things they say are actually lies. A culture shock for me was when I first arrived in New York and people asked me how I am. I would tell them how I am in every detail and wondered why nobody is interested. Saying you are fine when your emotions are as emo as a teenager whose parents just told him he cannot go to the latest comic-con, is also a lie. But, these aren’t’ the types of lies that are up for debate here. It is the chronic liars, the toxic ones when you actually question everything they say because of their strong allergy to being truthful. Examples would be when someone tells you they have a 164 IQ or killed 15 people with their bare arms.

With this being said, and while the honesty-challenged population may be on the outs, I am not so closed-minded to assume lies are all toxic. Delicate liars for example who are so naive as Snow White and best known for singing with animals, eating strangers’ poisoned apples, and trying to spare my feelings at all cost are the most unwitting liars. Then, of course, there are the social liars who buy a big expensive car for example because they think this is a status symbol because only “the rich” can afford it. Those are the same people who spend summers on the moon, winters in Iceland, and hang out in Morocco in between. They are investing in property somewhere while buying a pilot leather jacket and the cool pilot glasses and even think about purchasing a property with a landing strip because one day they will have a fucking small plane to land it on. Those are my favorite liars. Those who think they have bajillion dollars but use ten credit cards instead.

Then there are the occasional liars, who lie from necessity or opportunity to look good for whatever reason. We are all human, I get it. And while lies may originate from boredom, protection, self-hate, self-love, all of the above or none of the above, it just sucks even though it initially may not come from an intentional negative space.

Friendship and lies. Webster dictionary defines, a friend as 1.) a person who has a strong liking for and trust in another person. 2.) a person who is not an enemy friend or foe. The second part of the definition is merely an antonym (thank you Webster), and the first part holds a little more weight. I think that you can have a strong liking for a person, sure, but without trust can it really be a friendship? I know someone who faked being happy in a marriage for months and cheated on his wife while having pretend fights with her and pretend make-ups. He faked love and everything else, too. Well, she faked several pregnancies for the sake of continuity (?) and to keep him. Lies about almost everything.

Some people need lies as a form of escapism or self-esteem. I do not want to call it regret, even though it is doing a fine job masking itself as such. I wish I would have called it out from the beginning and every point than on but I did not. There are just a lot of toxic personalities out there and I like the feeling that some people in my life have not won with their perpetuating, unhealthy, sick behavior.

Ultimately, if a person constantly tells lies they probably have established chronic tendencies naturally. Then I begin to question if they are even lying when they are telling the truth. By definition, this is not a healthy relationship or friendship because you are simply an audience; a spectator at a performance. I feel Nietsche said it best, “I am not upset that you lied to me, I am upset that from now on I can’t believe you.”

.Spend your Life keeping the Garbage Out.

The wonderful Grace Farris

Is it just me or does it feel like advice is given everywhere? We get bombarded with unsolicited, desperate requests from books we read, shows we watch, people we choose to surround ourselves with and the list goes on. One thing is for sure: everyone has some advice to give. But, just because it is there, does not always mean it is good, no? At the end of the day, we like to believe that advice is all about experience and one person sharing their downfalls, big wins or everything in between in hopes of someone else’s situation ending differently. If your heart is in the right place to receive advice it is usually something beneficial and beautiful to be taken away instead of an annoying feeling like shooing away a mosquito. Since everybody does it and this is my blog and creative outlet I would like to share some good advice that I received and is helpful in my life. Maybe there is something for you to take away, too. Also, check out this post.

Someone told me that changing your mind is the cheapest form of therapy.

This someone also told me that: You are too smart to be with certain men.

Here is a random picture for entertainment purposes. Do you like it? Nope? It doesn’t impress me either.

Some guy putting gas in his car.

If you have the feeling that your partner is too arrogant, smokes too much weed, is too full of themselves, and extremely paranoid trust your gut and run away as fast as you can. It doesn’t matter what a person tells you, it’s their actions that prove who they really are. Don’t base your trust and expectations on people’s words. Ever.

I was born empathetic; maybe too empathetic. I always had a shoulder, an ear, a heart for anyone and everyone. I listened and didn’t judge, giving without ever expecting anything in return. This worked for decades, and somehow I was this happy, everlasting altruist. The thing is: when you accept the role to take on negativity, it takes its toll after a while. In moments, when I needed peace, others didn’t put me first because they had been used to me putting myself second. This is when I taught myself to protect my peace. Sounds simple enough, but it’s leading my mission in life now. I have learned the beauty of saying no, of choosing what I let affect me and knowing that it is my responsibility to put me first because I am the only me I will ever have. And, by way of ‘protecting my peace’, I have let go of some friendships, ended relationships, and quit jobs.

You are doing the best you can. Sometimes this little reminder puts things in perspective when I am being too hard on myself of feel like I could be doing more to change a situation. In reality, I am simply doing the best I can in a challenging time. No more, no less.

Keep doing the right things and you will get the results. This one is so important when you try to achieve something challenging and it takes longer than you expected to get to your goal. If I keep doing what works, consistently, eventually I will get the results.

Don’t try to read what people think. Simply ask.

Don’t get married. Totally unnecessary.

No iPad Air mini 2 with wifi and SIM card is ever necessary to communicate with someone you love.

Need to make a tough decision? Trust your gut. If you ever find yourself in a place where you cannot hear it then sit in silence and write a list of pros and cons until the answer becomes so obvious that you cannot ignore it. Take time with yourself and make sure that your mind and body are always connected. This is the most important relationship.

The obvious: Never drink alcohol on an empty stomach; wear sun protection every singe day, and never go to bed without taking your makeup off. And, you cannot expect anyone to love you the way you deserve, the way you want to be loved, if you cannot love yourself first. I know how corny and obvious this sounds, but I am amazed how people try to bypass that very simple, yet essential rule of the universe. Self-love isn’t something you can fake with diets, expensive shopping habits, a relationship or a few face masks a week. Whatever blocks and resistances you refuse to face, whatever beliefs you have come to develop about yourself, will without a doubt manifest themselves into your current relationship, for better or worse. Get to know yourself independently of the people in your life. Accept and forgive whatever invisible grudges on yourself you may have accumulated over the years and understand that you are whole, all on your own.

.YOU HAVE TO WATCH THIS.

I was at a friend’s party the other day and the following conversation occurred:

A friend (AF): Have you been watching ….. TV show?

Me: Nope, I don’t watch a lot of series.

AF: Oh, my gosh, you have to. We are so addicted, Wait, you are kidding – you haven’t??? You would love it!!!! Michael, how far in are are you and Julia? Are you all caught up? I am dyyyyyying to hear what you thought of the recent episode when the Secondary Character and the Main Character finally made out!!! Sorry, Daniela, you don’t know what we are talking about but you really would love this show. I, like, kind of want to send you home to watch it. Let’s check out the pilot and trailer now. I would totally watch the entire season again. Chris, can you put it on? Thanks, babe. Here, Daniela, take the best seat. I want you to have a good view and this chair is the best spot. The last time, when Chris started it, he was like, “YOU have to watch this, “but I didn’t get into it at first, even though everyone in the room said they loved it. You really have to stick with it. The first three episodes kind of suck but you have to stick with it. Don’t walk out of the room to get things out of the kitchen or something. Don’t do laundry. YOU HAVE TO SEE THE WHOLE THING. Right Michael? That’s what I was going to say! It picks up around the fourth or fifth episode after they kill off the character everybody thought was going to be the main character in the next season.

Me: Okay. [They turn on Season 1, Episode 1]

AF: [Five minutes into Season 1, Episode 1]. Okay, so, I know that right now it is hard to keep all the characters straight, but they develop so much it is amazing. It is amazing to see that the main character’s sister hooks up with the character who the main character used to date years ago. Then she got pregnant and OHMYGOD. You won’t believe it – they now work together. They have a really cool dynamic that you will feel when you watch the entire season. Then Nick gets introduced to her at the bar. Then things will spice up again. Insane. He is so dumb, too. Not that that matters but I mean it is weird because she is actually in love with Mitch.

Me: Okay. [Sipping on my wine while looking for my phone in my purse]

AF: G-SUS, DANIELA! WHY ARE YOU LOOKING AT YOUR PHONE? Sorry, I didn’t mean to yell but I don’t want you to miss anything. You have to watch eight seasons and 24 episodes each. Isn’t that awesome hahaha? We can watch some tonight!

Me: Thinking if it is possible to fake a sudden blindness #readthebookblindnessbyJoséSaragamo

AF: Wait, Chris, my love, did you see that? When we first saw it you didn’t think of the controversial episode? Yeah when we first saw it, we couldn’t decide either. Like, the entire time I kept asking myself, WHY am I watching this garbage but it is so catching and we are so desensitized to violence, but this is how it was throughout that time I guess. I saw that a lot of the critics were saying it was gratuitous, however, I don’t really agree. I think they actually ask us the really hard questions with this show. Like the questions that go to the bottom of things. Like deep. Daniela? Why are you getting up? You aren’t feeling comfortable? I am not letting you leave until we get through the first episode at least.

Me: I just wanted to get another glass of wine from the kitchen. [Thinking about how to escape]

AF: Wait, Daniela, don’t get up. Chris,l can open another bottle of wine if we all want some. Yes? Everyone? Michael, let’s do the Merlot. Everybody wants to watch the show now, right? You know, I have read that this is actually what professional acting is all about. There was a thing in The New York Times about how they observed how the actors on the show lived their private life. Hey Chris, babe, can you grab the Nachos while you are in the kitchen? I SAID, CAN YOU GRAB THE – yep, those. Thanks!

Me: ……[thinking: I don’t want to be here anymore]

AF: I just love destroyed female characters with insomnia. How they are depicted in the show is amazing. You guys like the wine and nachos? Arent’s those good? We just found this “wine guy” who occasionally travels to France and brings back the best Merlot. Anyway, we have another case in the basement. Yeah, Chris, no, I know what you are going to say, but the treatment of women characters in the show isn’t as bad as on “that other show”. Chris and I loved that one, too, even though it is kind of our guilty pleasure for a Sunday evening.

Me: I am tired. It was a rough day. I think I will go home.

AF: Really? Don’t you think the humor is really great and smart? Not everyone gets it right away but it is actually, like, laugh-out-loud funny so many times. I read somewhere that the director was really influenced by The Sopranos and I think I can really feel that, too. Chris and I usually get into fights all the times about patriarch characters. Well, not a fight but rather a discussion or argument. We barely fight. Haha. But I hated him when he said that the main character was “not complicated, and was ultimately doing the right thing in the relationship but his girlfriend would never shut up and narrate and just regurgitate garbage that makes no sense and blow things completely out of proportion”. I was like, Chris, it is not that easy. Keep in mind that the main character really wanted to relax about the entire situation if her partner would have been more of a family person. Then she decided to get a divorce because he chose to go on a Safari to Nairobi to relax.

Me: …..sigh

Michael and his girlfriend: I think my girlfriend and I are tired, too and we will leave now.

AF: Nooooooo, you guys all have to stay. The entire show is like that. The writing is so good, the conversations are epic. You just have to go with the flow. Chris, more Nachos and wine, please. Don’t you see the bowls are empty? G-sus, I am telling you guys, sometimes I would love to kill him, too. [laughs] Michael and Julia: Sh…..h………! No talking, guys. This part is so great. Michael, can you actually stuff a handkerchief in Julia’s mouth and add some duct tape? Hahhaha, just kidding. Anybody wants more Merlot?

.Clichés.

Google defines cliché as “a phrase or opinion that is overused and betrays a lack of original thought,” which is why starting this piece with a definition makes me want to fire myself. I have a lot of opinions about clichés in that I believe most are objectively bad, many are annoyingly true, and a few are real diamonds in the rough. In this piece, I want to get into clichéd language. The topic of cliches has been on my mind since I read about the project The Afterglow; a totally charming exploration of still-operational New York institutions, places, and people.

It got me thinking about what I would want to write about if I contributed, and after a couple of days I realized that most of my ideas had a lot to do with, of course, language. As a writer, I love to listen to people and this is why I write at a café or bar because these are places for great observations.

Every place offers its own classic scenario: from local families celebrating birthdays, to financial meetings to a couple slurping spaghetti with meat sauce while the wife stares sadly in the middle distance looking for the exit sign. Maybe these people have constructed an airtight facade to protect themselves from questions or simply to advertise some message about what they would love to talk about if someone would stop and listen. Maybe they are just lonely. But, if you label someone a cliché, it does not mean you are right, or particularly perceptive. It means you have not bothered to do the work of finding out what lies deeper.

“They are not clichés, they are hard-barked people in retreat from the sweetness of their souls” – Amy Hempel

Writing is usually a lonely pursuit, and clichés are the brief moments during which our need to be unique is trumped by our need to be understood. After all, I am not a linguist right, right? – elbow into the side to make sure we are all on the same page here. I am sitting at a restaurant with a glass of Chinati and octopus fusilli, and clichés are exactly what I am into and all around me. Let’s unpack some word clichés that are my favorite while I order my second glass.

“Can’t teach an old dog new tricks.” Yes, you can but what is better than an old dog? Tricks are for show-offs anyway. But in any case, this cliché works well when my nephew tries to teach me how to use Snapchat.

“Don’t go to bed angry.” I think this is a mediocre cliché because as advice, it sucks. Not because it does not contain some valuable advice, but when that advice does not suit the situation, valuable sleep is lost at the hands of something inconsequential. Like when it is 11.30 pm and a male friend tells me that The Notebook is his favourite movie of all times.

“Time flies when you are having fun.” I think this cliché is just plain truth but rude and fails for displeasing me on a personal level.

“He is a bad egg.” A fun and useful cliché indeed. What’s a more visceral metaphor than a single egg cracked in a carton of otherwise perfectly smooth ones? I think this cliché does a lot of work in four words, with the additive charm of comparing people to eggs. I know some bad eggs.

“Sitting around with my thumb up my ass.” Isn’t this a nightmare and truely the worst cliché? Please don’t make me think about your thumb lodged in your rectum. It is also very okay to just say you were simply doing nothing.

“See the forest for the trees.” I use this cliché a lot with my son and every time I say it I trip up on the word “for” because my (German) mouth wants to say “through” which makes no sense. I looked up the etymology and it apparently dates back to the 16th century when some guy named Haywood wrote: “Plentie is nodeintie, ye see not your owne ease. I see, ye can not see the wood for trees.” (Sigh). Per this website, this expression could be read as, “Cannot see the forest because of the trees, “which might be the first time I have acutally understood it.

I am done with my wine and pasta. I want my cake and eat it too but I don’t drink like a fish or go bananas because I am cool like a cucumber. This is why I am going home now because I still have bigger fish to fry. Make sure you take all this with a grain of salt.

.Litte Fires Everywhere.

I love lists. Writing them has something satisfying so I will share one of my latest ones here with you but first something pretty big happened in my life the other day which will push me in a new direction. I have always been a person who embraces life and rolls with its punches but the last year and trip around the sun was a rather difficult one for me to swallow. This summer especially has been an interesting, albeit emotional, yet somewhat beautiful season for my son and I but now it is time to move in a new direction.

When I decided to move back to Germany it was one of the greatest birthday gifts I could have given myself. I spent my days walking, meeting friends, popping into my favorite bookstore and discovering new ones. I spent my time reading and soaking up the sun whenever I got a chance. I had no expectations, nowhere to be, and no commitments in place even though my brain worked, in a seemingly relaxed stage, to figure things out for the future. Does this sound like a dream to you? It truly felt like one. This time away from Canada helped me settle much of my pain, stress, worry-state of mind or whatever that was and pushed me forward to say: bring it on, I am ready! Are you curious what else I did? I am learning a new language and will publish my second book in a week or two. Superwoman with superpowers? You bet!

And here is my latest survival list for you if you would like to read:

  1. Mental clarity: Drink a lot of water. Get sun. Practise Yoga. Be nice to the neighbors. Cook from home as often as possible. Read and buy more books. Take care of your skin and go to bed early.
  2. Work hard. Play hard. Work harder. Play harder. In that exact order.
  3. Do things that scare you and make you step out of your comfort zone because this is how you grow.
  4. Whenever in doubt, throw on jeans, a white t-shirt, and TOMS shoes. Done.
  5. Take your time. Relax.
  6. Always go with your guts!
  7. Choose your friends wisely. Surround yourself with people who make you happy.
  8. Singing and dancing to your favorite song will cure any bad mood.
  9. Do not wear too much make-up. It will dry out your skin.
  10. It is okay to admit that you are wrong.
  11. Educate yourself. Pay attention to what is going on in the world around you and form educated opinions. Help others. Donate your time. Sign up for programs at universities.
  12. A hangover is not really worth it but sometimes the party is just too good.
  13. Don’t compare yourself to others.
  14. Get off your stupid phone, go outside, play and live your life.
  15. Learn how to cook and know at least three delicious recipes by heart.
  16. Wear whatever you damn well please and what makes you happy.
  17. Never rub your eyes after chopping jalapeños.
  18. Call your parents/grandparents and tell them you love them.
  19. Keep in mind that the most interesting thing about you is how you look and stop counting calories. Invest in health and wisdom.
  20. The skeletons from your past made you who you are. Don’t regret.
  21. It does not matter what other people think of you.
  22. Don’t ever piss off people who bring you cold, heat, mail or food.
  23. Every woman should own a vibrator.
  24. Try that thing you are curious about no matter what it may be: a new food, a new style, a new hair color, a new hobby, a new career path.
  25. Always speak to your children the way you would like to be spoken to.
  26. Fall down, get up, move on. Rinse, lather, but don’t necessarily repeat.
  27. Live debt-free. The feeling is amazing.
  28. Find the humor in the situation.
  29. Focus on your values instead of your fears.
  30. Accept the past, but fight for the future.