.Would You Rather.

“Would you rather love the more, and suffer the more; or love the less, and suffer the less? That is, I think, finally, the only real question.”– Julian Barnes

You may point out correctly, that it isn’t a real question. Because we don’t have a choice. Who can control how much they love? If you can control it, then it isn’t love. Here are some questions I came up with that give you the choice. Let’s start easy and work our way up.

Would you rather take a bath or take a shower?

Would you rather have skin that changes color based on your emotions or tattoos appear all over your body depicting what you did yesterday?

Would you rather have to fart loudly every time you have a serious conversation or have to burp after every kiss?

Would you rather stay in a relationship with a person who cheated on you or file for divorce?

Would you rather eat a home cooked meal from scratch or heat-up a microwavable meal?

Would you rather be isolating with one child that requires entertaining or multiple children that require you to break up fights over whose turn it is to use a book as a sword?

Would you rather a million butterflies instantly appear from nowhere every time you sneeze or one very angry Canadian black squirrel appear from nowhere every time you cough?

Would you rather be beautiful/handsome but stupid or intelligent but ugly?

Would you rather discover you’ve been walking around naked at your child’s summer camp, or discover you’ve been walking around naked in the background of your partner’s new online conference meeting?

Would you rather be able to see ten minutes into your own future or ten minutes into the future of anyone but yourself?

Would you rather have an easy job working for someone else or work for yourself but work incredibly hard?

Would you rather continue to send your ex emails that he/she don’t respond to or stop altogether?

Would you rather eat the same meal for the rest of your life or never use Instagram and Facebook again?

Would you rather wake up with a different face but same gender or different gender but same face?

Would you rather insist and fight for child support payments until it is paid or give up because he/she has “clearly other priorities” than his/her own child?

Would you rather be stuck in the house with a mother of two children (or more) who has been on lockdown for months, or in a room with a swarm of murder hornets?

Would you rather begin every sentence with “Hey Idiot” or end every sentence with “…Ha Ha, I Was Just Kidding.”

Would you rather make love with the lights off or with the lights on?

Would you rather be trapped in a small elevator with an old lady and her wet dog or one fat man with bad breath?

Would you rather have an Austrian accent and live in Germany or a German accent and live in Austria?

Would you rather bake bread from scratch, or scroll through your Instagram feed muttering about people who have time to bake bread from scratch?

Would you rather teach your child a new craft, or lie on the couch and stare at the unwashed pile of dishes in the sink?

Would you rather give your six-year-old your password to download games on your phone only to find you have paid Euro 1578 in Candy Crush extras, or have to play Lego with him/her 17 hours a day?

Would you rather facilitate a PTA (parent/teacher association) meeting when schools reopen in the fall or do you prefer to fall into a pit of crocodiles?

Would you rather be self-isolating with a child who insists on re-watching the same episode of Teletubbies, or the same episode of Elmo’s World?

Would you rather never have to play The Floor Is Lava again, or have fancy couch cushions that can never be used to build a fort?

Would you rather have a child who is sad because they miss their friends or one that is pretty content with never leaving the house and will argue every single day when school starts back?

Would you rather have your child learn fire juggling or ax throwing?

Would you rather have your Fitbit tell you that 100 steps a day is actually really good, or have it send you an alert to shame you whenever you sit down longer than ten minutes?

Would you rather your hair turn gray in front of your male colleagues, reminding them that mothers over 30 are just hot like that, or color your hair?

Would you rather hear that Count Chocula Cereal is nutritious, or Mary Poppins is real and living with you?

Would you rather have the ability to freeze time, or the ability to unsee things like Instagram posts about how magical someone’s year of homeschooling on the ranch was?

.Things.

Things that annoy me:

  • Corona and my son’s school informing me that one child has flu-like symptoms and will be tested. They also don’t know if the school will be open or closed next week.
  • People who show zero interest in their child(ren) and don’t pay child support.
  • People who misspell the word “you’re” when telling me I am a horrible person (“your *horrible*”)
  • People who stand too close to me while I am in line for something. I like social distancing.
  • Radio commercials. Every single one. Ever.
  • People who say “I eat to live. I don’t live to eat.”
  • Black jelly beans. Also, black licorice.
  • Men who don’t make sure the woman comes.
  • Really drunk people. I am not a hypocrite. I do drink and love it, but I don’t get hammered anymore.
  • “Superfoods”, watercress and Quinoa and the hype around it.
  • People who don’t look me into the eyes when they speak to me. Those who look up or put their glasses down and then look up.
  • People who spread rumors or judge.
  • Drivers who fully speed to a blinking green light and then hit the brake hard at the yellow light.
  • The Big Bang Theory. The TV show, not the theory.
  • People who talk super loud in public. Also, those who scream into the phone. It is a telephone, not a megaphone.
  • People with egos that don’t let them acknowledge the truth.
  • People with egos.
  • Grown women wearing shorts that are small enough to be a diaper. Well, it is okay if you can rock them but maybe don’t wear them to work.
  • People who go to Starbucks to write.
  • People who bring a book to a bar. Don’t try to look mysterious and interesting. You are reading in a bar.
  • People who only eat healthily.
  • Most kids who aren’t my son. Some kids are cute, but most need to tone it right on down.
  • Men who try to flirt with me even though I give clear indicators that I am not interested. JUST STOP!
  • Women who act like prudes. Toughen up a little bit.
  • Hardcore feminists.
  • People cursing loud on the train and I have to explain to my son what a “f***ing c**t” is.
  • Most people on the train.

Things that make me happy:

  • Being at home with my family.
  • Books.
  • My son laughing or doing pretty much anything. School starts in September and I bought him his school supply today. A new chapter – I am as excited as he is.
  • British Scones. And NOT the store-bought ones that come six to a sad plastic container. I am talking real scones. I am talking The Cake Tree in Vienna scones. Also, the store-bought ones.
  • Seeing people I love happy.
  • Reading on my morning commute.
  • Writing. Always.
  • Helping a blind person get out of the subway and subway station. Even if they don’t want help.
  • Receiving gifts.
  • Making people laugh to the point of wiping tears away.
  • Being on a boat or Jet Ski that is going way too fast and screaming my head off.
  • Being with people I love.
  • Cooking but not baking. Unless it’s bread.
  • Waking up next to the person I am in love with and when he pulls me toward him to cuddle and kiss. Bliss. Everything that rhymes is good.
  • That moment when someone in a motorized wheelchair passes, I like holding my hand up to cover the person’s body, so it just looks like a head is flying by.
  • Sitting on the couch or in the kitchen (kitchen sessions) with friends and having long conversations about what is going on with the men in our lives. Yes, with wine. I didn’t think I needed to add that, but here it is.
  • The Beatles.
  • Making a new friend. Having friends. Being with friends.
  • Pasta and Smoked salmon. Yum!
  • Watching a good movie. Imagine this: You’ve had a long day. Say, stressful job, restless kid(s), and a global pandemic and you just want to turn your brain off. For me, it is When Harry Met Sally. The ending makes my heart swell, and suddenly everything feels better.
  • Falling in love and sex. Let’s be honest here. Sex is pretty great.
  • Buying a car and being able to explore.
  • Vienna. This city just makes sense to me in a way no other place ever has.
  • My divorce on July 2nd, 2019.

.Rememberances or Secret Bad Habits.

There was a time in my life when I tried several diets because I wanted to lose weight. I was told by someone somewhere at some point that I should listen to my body. So, if my body wants chocolate, it gets chocolate, right? I do listen.

Eventually, I felt uncomfortable and signed up for the gym and some insane workout. It was one of those programs that put me through some sort of Marine-style guerilla warfare training that is completely over the top and unnecessary unless you are trying to compete in the Hunger Games. But I went. Once or twice a week every time on the verge of death. Sweating and wheezing and walking out shaking and dizzy. Meanwhile, the instructors were all handsome and in great shape. Women in tiny spandex shorts and sports bras, with perfect hair and flawless faces. The guys were also ridiculously in shape and hot.

I don’t know if it was because I was so dizzy or exhausted or because he was actually funny, but he kept me laughing while I was completely out of breath on an elliptical trainer. So, this particular instructor, whom I will call Arnold, looked like a fake Greek sculpture of a man. He was so handsome you couldn’t look at him for too long. He spread his attention evenly in the class and encouraged me with a hand on my lower back how those crunches should be done better. I left the class with a stupid grin hoping to need many corrections with my workouts. I was in my early twenties when all this happened and I thought I am smarter but I was not immune to his “charm”.

I reached out and was all, “Can you help me with my diet and get in shape?” and he was all, “Sure, let’s meet at this healthy vegan-something place,” and I was thinking, “HERE COMES THE BRIDE.” We hung out a couple of fitness-eating-related times and one night I texted him, while a little buzzed, and asked him out on a date. We continued dating. The weird thing was, we always met at my apartment. Always mine. Until one evening. And this is when I found out about his secret bad habit.

I think everybody has bad habits we don’t want people to know. We keep them a secret because we feel like we should. For example watching The Bachelor (which is super trashy and should be illegal), having read 50 Shades of Grey (same as for the Bachelor), eating food in secret and such things. So, one evening we went on a date and his hotness was again in the ridiculous range. I felt like we were in that scene from The Little Mermaid where Ursula sings the song about stealing Ariel’s voice and I was one of those weird souls/weeds on the floor while Arnold was Ariel. Does this metaphor hit you? If not, don’t worry. Here is a little reminder:

We left hand in hand and I said, “Let’s go to your place tonight.” “Okay,” he said, “but it is kind of a mess.” We walked past his nice entrance to the nice elevator and walked down his nice hall and he opened his nice door and there it was.

The mess was bad. The kitchen and bathroom were black with mold, all porcelain surfaces coated in hair, and some slime. There were unwashed dishes and towels covering every inch of the counters. Ants everywhere. Pizza cartons everywhere. Piles everywhere, books, clothes, sneakers, furniture sitting on top of other stuff. There were bottles of things. Protein powder, health-food products, junk mail, CDs, DVDs and so much more. It was a nightmare to look at. There was barely room to walk around. He continued leading me around the apartment through some sort of pathway which felt like being led through a maze. I have seen messes in people’s apartments. I was a cop. I have basically seen it all. But this apartment took mess to a different level. It is not that uncommon for a guy to have a disgusting apartment, especially not if he is single. Arnold’s apartment was more than dirt. Anyway, I instantly sobered up. “I told you it was messy,” he said. “You think it’s bad?” “Noooooo!” I yelled too loud and fast. “It is such a niiiiiiiiice apartment.” He led me to something that seemed like a couch to watch some TV. I pretended to watch TV, unsure of how to leave. I wondered if he knows how bad this is. If he does, he could be planning to kill me. Nobody would ever find me here. I looked at him from the corner of my eye. Did he look angry or crazy? No, he was laughing hard at whatever he saw on TV.

So, what did I do? Of course, I obviously left and thanked him for a lovely evening. No, no, dear reader. This is what a normal person would do. I decided to stay to *kiss* on his dirty mattress. I left his apartment at two a.m. Out to the city street full of steaming, smelling trash where things were actually nicer. I was clearly beginning my walk of deep shame. I came home and showered for ten years.

The next day, Arnold told me that I inspired him to get his place together. I didn’t know what I said or did to make him do that but I thought it would be a pretty good idea. “Oh, cool, you are going to get rid of some stuff?” I asked. “No, I am going to get new furniture.” I couldn’t think of anything to say.

I went back to the guy for one more workout but then decided that I lost enough weight. Arnold and I didn’t stay in touch much longer. Every time I see someone who is so beautiful or handsome that they almost don’t look human, I remember that there might be something totally f***ed about them that will bring them right back down to earth.

. The Art of Doing Nothing.

Photo credit: Judith Lockett

Doing nothing. Sounds great, no? Or does it give you a nervous eye twitch? Here is something I tried: for one day out of each week (usually Saturday or Sunday), I do absolutely nothing. This doesn’t mean I don’t go anywhere, or just sit on my couch and stare at the wall. It simply means that I clear my calendar and make space for what could happen. I remove any social obligations, let projects sit idle, turn off notifications, and take this day to just be.

Since I am back at work full-time, studying, researching, writing part-time, and being a single mom it is salient to do nothing from time to time. With all this going on in my life, I notice that I am more content when I spend one day doing nothing if I can help it. Just without having a million places to be. No agenda, no rushing around, no one else to please. Just me. Doing whatever I feel like doing, or getting into whatever adventure may come my way. Whatever my priorities are. And, if I want to see where someone’s priorities really lie, I have to look at two things: their calendar and their bank statement.

When I am really stressed, I look at my calendar and take an inventory on how much time I spend doing things. How much of it is work-related? How much is spend on/in social engagements? With family? Writing? Friends? Hobbies? Self-improvement?

Everybody is stressed out at some point. I think we have become a culture that is severely uncomfortable with “free-time” and doing nothing. Many don’t like being left alone with themselves, and that is because it is not “fun”. Some are terrified of silence, of nothing on the agenda, of not being important because who are we without these things to hold us? To give us significance? Others pack their schedules full, hoping that will keep them from stopping long enough to notice their inner lives are in great need of attention. The essence of simplifying life is recognizing the intrinsic value we have by simply being.

A while ago, I realized I have to face my true feelings, my negative emotions, my relational drama, and figure out what to do with it all. It is of course much simpler to turn the TV on, constantly check the phone, and continue numbing.

You know why I write about all this? Because I matter, my life matters, and I have worth. Period. I matter without the stuff, without the outside approval and conferred significance, without the career, the projects, the friends, without anything. So do you! Just. You.

I believe that it takes the absence of an agenda to really get to know yourself. Or Covid-19. It takes quiet. It takes room. It takes time. But keep in mind that everything in the world is going to fight you for it.

“Do-nothing” day:

  • I don’t stress about it. I wake up, and simply resist the urge to immediately DO. It took me some time to break this habit, but as soon as I removed all of my go-to distractions, I instantly noticed how often I rely on them.
  • I pay more attention. Depriving myself of my normal comforts for even a short amount of time can go a long way in teaching me what I really need. I am able to notice when I have an urge to check my phone or make a call and get a better feel for my own patterns of behavior and the motivation behind it.
  • I listen to my heart. Is Party X something I would typically just say yes to because I feel obligated? Or is this something that would really breathe life into me? If the answer is no, I won’t go. Easy.
  • I spend time in silence. You know why? My brain is constantly bombarded with information, images, and noise but the mind is not a fortress where stimulation can constantly bounce off.

It’s easy to get over-stimulated in daily life by all of the noise. I absolutely need my quiet time after my son goes to bed. The silence and to do nothing is absolutely essential for me to regain momentum for the next day.

. Control that Chaos.

COVID-19 has made me think a lot. A couple of days ago I woke up at 1:30 in the morning feeling like it is time to wake up, or at least certain that I would not be going back to sleep. So I was in bed, wide awake, and chewed on thoughts that made me feel like I am running an emotional marathon even though when I returned to the present, I remembered that I have not moved an inch. Perhaps an hour or two hours have gone by, and I couldn’t even remember what I was thinking, even though it seemed so urgent while I was thinking it. I am still physically in exactly the same place I was when I woke up all that time ago. Lately, this seems to be a recent theme on the internal hamster wheel. Do you ever feel like you have run an emotional marathon even though technically, nothing specific has happened? Or things you want to change in your life but don’t know how to?

COVID-19 has changed my view on a bunch of things. What began as just an idea to own less stuff has changed the way I view myself and the world around me in significant ways. One of the changes is my reevaluation of how society defines success. Too often, those who make and spend and keep the most resources for themselves are labeled as the successful ones. However, some of the best people I know would not be regarded as successful in worldly terms. Precisely because they have decided to spend and focus their resources on less materialistic things.

These people are far too rare, or at least, they do not get enough recognition. Instead, it seems ingrained to desire and appreciate the praise and the admiration of others. And because of that, many people will compromise greater and more worthwhile pursuit for the facade of temporal, worldly success. To that end, and because of how my view of the world and its people has begun to change, I will offer a short list of things that no longer impress me:

Clothing/Accessories: Quality and manufacturing practices are important. Quality over quantity. I never bought a lot of clothing but now it is even less. I am and was never impressed by clothing, a logo on anything, shoes, a purse, or a watch. Instead, I admire people who are confident in timeless fashion and seek to make an impression by their character. Hey, by the way, while the size of the rock on someone’s finger or the jewelry they are wearing is noticed by some (the weird ones), most are not even looking and they don’t care.

Car: The goal of my vehicle is to safely transport a person from point A to point B. Reliability is important, so is comfort. Especially if I spend lots of time in it. This does not mean it has to be a Q7 or BMW X-whatever. There are other, way cheaper, and good cars out there. Most luxury cars appeal to a different motivation, they are no longer just about transportation. They often appeal to a need to broadcast success or to get noticed. Even if that means impressing strangers for a couple of seconds at a red light.

House: To me, a house is supposed to provide shelter and an opportunity for stability. Over the course of my life, I have moved many times and have experienced the pride that comes from providing and creating a home. But, I intentionally chose to downsize and rent/buy a smaller home. It is a decision I have never regretted. And to this day, when I drive past a large house, the only thing I can think of is how much happier I am in a small one. My dream is to find a small house with a (large) backyard to grow fruit and veggies.

Work: Retirement seems to be the ultimate for most people. Live life to the fullest. Enjoy every day. Work is…. well, it’s work. But, there is a life besides work and work is not everything. These days, I am grateful to still have a job. So, many people have lost everything. But if you are unhappy with your job then stop complaining. There are only solutions: Change. Find a balance. Quit that job that drains your energy. Be creative. Study. Do something. Also, I think it is important to stop impressing others with the things you own. Rather inspire them by the life you live.

To sum this up, one of the best parts of COVID-19 was to see the world through my son’s eyes. The world felt/feels so magical. It is not just a city block with buildings. We are not restricted or quarantined. The world is a giant ant hill or a maze and we need to discover new things. Other COVID-19 highlights that made me control that chaos are:

  • Talking to my parents and brother. Always.
  • Being loved.
  • Spending time with my partner, long conversations, cake, reading (in the reading lounge), laughing together, and taking long walks. Simply, just being together.
  • Getting letters and packages by mail (only the ones with a sender count).
  • When the moon is out during the daytime.
  • When trees are still dripping after the rain. And the awesome smell.
  • Kissing and hugging.
  • Picnics on a blanket.
  • Observing a turtle eating a strawberry. Cute little tongue.

It is always the little things.

.I Don’t Care If You Like It.

via Lukas Weidinger.

A friend told me today that I am a “freak-magnet”. Am I? I love to eat Count Chocula – or Captain Crunch Berry Cereal cereal in bed while watching Kottan ermittelt. Does this attract freaks? But honestly, I see a lot of crazy/weird stuff on a daily basis.

Am I a freak magnet? I think I am. Well, there was this rather weird looking gentleman on the U1-train in the early morning hours who wore a suit that smelled like puma-cage and a bowler hat. Nothing wrong with that you may think. Maybe he forgot to take a shower or get the suit to a dry cleaner. But both of his thumbs were covered in something that looked like cream. I hope it was. He just sat across from my son and I at 7.10 am like a boss. Maybe this is okay. Who knows. What is normal?

Just a random picture of art. Just because I am “weird”. I think those are kinda nice, Evan.

Is it normal to try to find your son who said he will “just walk over the bridge to some other playground” and didn’t show his face for thirty minutes? Hell yes. So I climbed (elegantly like a gazelle) over the tiny, thin, small fence, and got caught because I wore my Birkenstock sandals (real German). So, I am hanging on the fence trying to get down. It hurt. Badly. Eventually, I fell down onto some train tracks. “WTF?! Train tracks in the park? I hope nobody sees this misery, ” I told myself while a bunch of people stared at me while waiting for the train. A rather tiny but long train arrived right then and there while I was on those f***** tracks holding my crotch and foot. “GET OFF THE TRACKS, LADY”, the locomotive driver yelled while the train made the loudest emergency whistling sound. I was able to crawl off it just on time while EVERYBODY looked at me. Missing: Blinking lights and red arrows pointing at me but all this wasn’t necessary because I assure you, EVERBODY looked anyway. Well, my son found ME because of all the commotion on the train tracks. He instantly wanted to go for a ride on that thing but, for some reason, I thought it won’t be a good idea. At least not today. The locomotive driver shook his head “no” and rolled his eyes anyway.

Rain on the way home and I observed a couple who had a fight on the train because she made some jokes. I cannot remember what it was exactly, except it was dirty and loud. The man turned around and said, “Stop that! I don’t like it.” The woman dropped what she was doing, and went black in her eyes for a second. “I don’t fucking care if you like it, ” she said. The man was visibly startled and I observed how, with that exchange, a cosmic shift took place. She made it clear that she wasn’t there to be cute or how he wanted her to be. She wasn’t there to play around and she didn’t care if he liked it or not. She just made a joke. I smiled at her because I thought it was really funny and happy. Weirdly, I remember thinking: I want her to be my friends. She seemed awesome!

My hat goes off to her because it is an impressively arrogant move to conclude that just because you don’t like something, it is empirically not good. I don’t like Chinese food, but I don’t write articles trying to prove it doesn’t exist. So, my unsolicited advice to anyone is: When faced with sexism, ageism, lookism, or whatever else -ism, ask yourself the following question: Is this person in between me and what I want to do? If the answer is no, ignore it and move on. The energy is better used doing the work and outpacing people that way. As far as work goes, I wouldn’t hire the people who were/are jerky or put them in positions they are not suitable for. And I won’t promote people who try to sleep their way up. I would promote those who are simply good at what they are supposed to do at work. Those who do the work and go a little bit beyond. Those who tell the truth. Those who are professional, real teammates, and know what to do when shit hits the fan.

This is borderline.

There is a more difficult road ahead though. I suggest modeling the strategy after the old Sesame Street film piece “Over! Under! Through!” If you are under thirty you might not remember this film. It taught the concepts of “over,” “under,” and “through” by filming toddlers crawling around an abandoned construction site. They don’t show this video anymore because someone has since realized that it is nuts. Which it is.

Talking about nuts: Is there such a thing as an all-jerk workplace? Of course, yes. I would flat-out avoid working with for example Wall Street traders or the women who run the changing rooms at H & M at Mariahilfer Strasse. If you are lucky, your workplace will have a neutral proving ground. But rule number one is: Always treat people nicely who clean, and provide food, water, heat, and cold.

In the end, if you don’t like something (your job), change it. Stop complaining. There is always a door to walk out and look for something better. Don’t waste your energy trying to educate or change opinions. Go “Over! Under! Through!” and opinions will change organically because you are the boss. Or they won’t. Who cares? Do your thing and don’t care if anybody likes it.

.Meanwhile On Another Planet Part 2.

Any expert will tell you, the best thing a mom can do to be a better mom is to carve out a little time for herself. Here are some great “me time” activities that work(ed) for me.

  • Go to the bathroom. A lot. Take your phone.
  • Offer to do the dishes or to empty the dishwasher.
  • Take out the garbage and bring tschicks (cigarettes) and your phone.
  • Take ninety-minute showers. If you only shower every three or four days, it will be easier to get away with it.
  • Say you are going to look for something (e.g. the diapers), then go into your child’s room and just stand there until your partner comes in and asks, “What are you doing?”
  • Stand over the sink and eat the rest of your child’s dinner while he or she pulls at your pant leg asking for it back.
  • Try to establish that you are the only one in your family who is allowed to go to the post office.
  • Sleep whenever your child sleeps. Everyone knows this one, but I suggest WHY stop there? Scream when your baby screams. Walk around pantless when your baby walks around pantless.
  • Read! When your baby is finally down for the night, pick up a good book, for example, Understanding Sleep Disorder: A study on Narcolepsy and Apnea. Taking some time to read each night really taught me how to feign narcolepsy when my son now asks me when we can go to an indoor playground again.
  • Pray that whenever crystal meth is offered, I hope my child will remember me and how I cut his grapes in half and stick with beer or red wine. Or a soda. May he always be protected and may I make it out alive through his puberty.

Just implementing for or five of these little techniques will prove restorative and give you the energy you need to not drink until midnight. I promise.

Wait, I am not done yet. The reason I wrote this is, that a good friend of mine is pregnant and very scared. She should be. Being a parent can be freaking horrible sometimes. Then the conversation came up if I want another child.

Initial silence.

I have one top-notch son with whom I am in love. It is a head-over-heels “first love” kind of thing, because I pay for everything and all we do is hold hands. When he says, “I wish I had a baby brother or sister,” I am stricken with guilt and panic for one second. When he says, “Mom, I want more Lego,” or “I will eat chocolate only from now on!” or “Mom, wipe my butt!” I am less affected.

I thought that raising an only child would be the norm in a big city, but my son is the only child in his class without a sibling. Most kids have at least two. Large families have become a status symbol in Vienna, Austria. For some, four beautiful children named after kings, Greek gods, and pieces of fruit are a way of saying “I can afford a four-bedroom penthouse and pay EU 500,000 in elementary school tuition fees each year. How you living’?”

So, this woman who asked me if I want another child runs a local toy store that sells the kind of beautiful wooden educational toys that kids love. “You want more kids? I have four and it is soooooo awesome!” “Why would I want more kids when I could be here with you having an awkward conversation over a tray of old danishes while my son plays independently with these toys?” “You should have another one. I had my children at thirty-eight, thirty-nine, forty-one, and forty-two. It is fine.” Didn’t she see my son playing with a pack of matches in the back of her store? Where did he get those from? And didn’t she see me starting to uncomfortably walk out of the store while trying to leave my son behind (plus matches)?

Long story short: I am getting bits and pieces of my “old” life back. Pieces such as free time from parenting. Things change constantly and he will go through different stages that he and I have to adapt to. My son will be seven this year. There was never a time when I debated the second-baby issue. Not even when I cannot sleep. To hell with everybody who tries to tell me that one child is “no-child”. One child means a huge amount of work and to better be great at time management. Or, maybe I will just wait until I am fifty and give birth to a volleyball. “Merry Christmas from Daniela, Joel, and Wilson,” the card I send to the helicopter moms will say. “Happy Holidays” on the ones I send to my family.

It is okay. I will see myself out.

.Time Travel or For V.

HomeBase, my Happy Place. But why did I erase the cat underneath the table? Wine, pasta, and that fireplace: awesomeness.

My parents still live in the house we moved into when I was five. Or six? Something like that. It does not matter because every time I come home, I have the instant feeling of comfort. And so many memories of my childhood. Hanging out with friends, playing Polly Pocket (kid of the 80s), building mazes in the field, then running away from the farmer. Life was good. Easy. There were no problems.

Then, there was school. I always loved studying and learning new things. And (plateau) shoes, lunch boxes, and sharp pencils. There were birthday- and Halloween parties, and hours of talks with my friend L. from our bedroom windows across the street. I roller-skated in my driveway and on the street in front of the house that leads to a dead-end. I walked to and back home from the bus stop on my own. No need to lock the back door when we played out front. I thought (and of course still do) my mother was the most beautiful woman in the world and my father is/was a strong man who could build awesome things and always protects me. A dad who could snore on the couch as we all stood around and teased him loudly. I wish this comfortable feeling for every child on earth.

Currently, I am aware of two children who are not afforded that luxury and it hurts me badly to watch this. Many others also had houses filled with chaos and abuse, and they learned to keep their mouths shut and to stay out of trouble. I was dealt with two loving parents who encouraged me to be curious. This safety net combined with the small rebel inside of me meant I did a lot of silly things to try to make life seem exciting. Our little town of Coburg, Bavaria, is quiet and homogenous, with many small communities around, small ranch houses and farms on tree-lined streets littered with pine needles. The only thing we feared was the neighbor’s dog. Coburg is sleepy, and to a restless young girl like me, it often felt like a ghost town. I yearned for adventure and spent a lot of my youth in my own head, creating elaborate fantasies that felt grown-up. Fantasies to move as far away as possible.

Otherwise, the streets and woods around my house were a perfect setting for fake mischief. My friends and I would spend all afternoon pretending we had run away and had to live on our own. We tried to make a fire in the park. L. and I smoked one cigarette someone gave us and swore to never smoke again. We also would sneak out at dusk with a pair of binoculars and search the streets for murderers.

After school, I would do a bit of homework, eat ravenously, and then hop on my bike and coast down the streets. Riding fast and helmetless just because. I would pedal furiously up to the edge of the woods and jump off my bike to hide in the bushes imagining how ridiculous my friends would feel when they realized they had walked right past me. Again, life was good.

On long car trips up to Northern Germany (St. Peter Ording) for our yearly camping trips at the ocean, I would make my siblings pretend they were deaf while we sat in the backseat. The car was our playground while my dad drove for hours with this weird nervous eye-twitch of annoyance. We would communicate in made-up sign language as we sped down the Autobahn, in the hope that a passing car would see us and feel pity for the beautiful family with three deaf children. When you have a comfortable and loving family, sometimes you yearn for a dance on the edge. This can lead to an overactive imagination, but it is also the reason why some kids in Coburg do drugs these days. And probably even way back when but we had no clue what we were looking at.

And then, there was V. We met in kindergarten and our mothers instantly became very close friends, too. In kindergarten, she was usually dressed in a princess dress and cried all day. I was dressed in a homemade sweater (possibly even knitted), corduroys, and short brown hair (“because it is easier to maintain”). Remember, this was still the 80s, which says more about my mother’s wonderful acceptance and creativity and a bit of my weirdness and less about my fashion choices at that time. Actually, not much has changed in all these years, except my hair is long now. So, V. and I hit it off instantly and are super close to this day. We had and have each other’s backs even when other’s were talking behind them. We had the right balance of humor and pathos mixed with a pinch of weird -and craziness.

As we grew up, V. remained my comfort zone even though our ways parted for some time. This is life. Everybody did their own thing for a while, but we were always connected and updated about each other through our moms who hung out quite frequently. And then V’s mother got sick. Suddenly, the world was small and tight. “Our parents never die or get sick”, we used to say. The inevitability of death became a new nightmare. I don’t remember when I first heard of V’s mom getting seriously sick, but it was in that way young children receive news, a watered-down version that is a combination of investigating and straight-up eavesdropping. I remember speaking to V. on the phone several times and she seemed very lost but also very strong. I also remember my incredible paralysis throughout the whole thing. I wanted the whole thing to go away. I wanted us to be kids again sitting in my kitchen and eat cake while V’s mom tells us stories and takes us to the movies after.

I lived in Canada when V.’s mom passed away and I didn’t do a very good job of being there for her. I knew she was not alone and I did that classic thing of thinking I should just leave everyone alone and wait for the sad parties to reach out when they need help. I remember I felt so sad and it unlocked deep feelings and cut through my numbness that our parents will get older and eventually pass away; hopefully just of old age.

But let’s not end on this sad note. Let’s end by pointing out positive ways to feel alive. You can tell someone you are there for them and love them. You can help people who need help with real bad guys. Or you can do one of these Ironman things. Or ask for help. Or write. Because writing is more than content. More than the stories told. It is healing.

.Robots Will Kill Me.

Leg das depperte iPhone weg und hör mir zu.

In 1998 I was in high school, young and knee-deep in free time. A bunch of my friends and I stood in front of the school and one took out his cell phone. It was one of those heavy, flip-phones that looked like an electric shaver. “Nope,” I said. “I don’t need a phone. Cell phones aren’t for me. What am I going to do? Carry it around with me all day? How dumb is that?!”

When I was growing up, the Weiss family was a family that had only a few electronic gadgets. We had an old home phone, a bulky TV and a microwave and that was it. But with this old TV, MTV arrived. I would spend hours watching this incredibly cool and new station. I was maybe twelve years old and received a crash course in adult life. I got to know Michael Jackson and his talent split me in half. I would dance all day listening to BAD. At that time, no one thought he was strange. No one was laughing.

There was one TV in our living room that my family shared. No TVs in the bedroom. Then, there was a computer that my dad brought home at some point: The Commodore 64 which eventually got replaced with a “real computer” and Windows 95.

Boulder Dash Mining Game: I played this forever.

I remember typing letters with an old typewriter. There was no Internet, no e-mail, no texting, no FaceTiming, no GPS-ing (there were road-maps for fuck’s sake and I knew how to read them!), no tweeting, no Facebooking, and no Instagramming. Eventually, I became aware of the existence of e-mail and considered checking “google”, but the film War Games had taught me that the computer could start a nuclear war so I decided to wait and see. In the meantime, I wrote letters (I still do!) and maintained a healthy dose of eye contact.

And now? Now my phone sits in my pocket all the time. I am obsessed and addicted and convinced that my phone is trying to kill me. By the way, when I say “my phone” I mean my iPhone and my iPad and my MacBookAir and all technological devices in general.

I am glad we have electricity and anesthesia, but I think the robots will kill us all. Here’s proof:

My phone does not want me to finish anything or do any work in general. While I typed the first paragraph of this essay, I checked my phone because I received several WhatsApp messages. I paused writing and checked the damn phone. Then I googled how to write “flip-phone”. Then I went to Wikipedia to check when the first phones were produced and clicked on first Nokia Cell Phone which reminded me I needed my hair done, so I texted my hairdresser when appointments are available. She sent me a picture of herself from a trip to Jamaica from last year and I put a filter on it with a funny caption and sent it back. What is this phone doing to me? I have a name. Dignity. It wants to sleep next to me and buzz at just the right intervals so I forget to eat or make deadlines.

My phone tries to make me feel bad about how I look. When I was younger I used to have things called “parties”. Those still exist but differently. Back then, they were fun hangouts where we would get together and talk and dance. During these “parties” I would maybe take pictures with things called “cameras”. Weeks later, I would pick up those pictures from a strange guy who lived in a tiny photography store in the middle of town. By that time, the party had become a distant memory, something that I had experienced in real-time with little regard as to how I looked. I would receive the hard copies of the pictures and throw away the ones I didn’t like. No one would see those pictures but me. No one would be allowed to comment on those pictures until I decided to physically show them. They would be a reminder of a good time but not something that kept me distanced from the experience. Now, things are so different.

My phone wants to show me things I should not see. I once read that the three things that shorten your life are smoking (duh!), artificial sweetener, and violent images. I believe this to be true. Violent images are not new and these days, for example in the U.S., violence is at a different level. I just look at the grotesque images on my phone while I wait in line at the bank. But all this is important as good wine pairing. Most of what my phone shows me is bad for my eyes. My eyes need a rest, spiritually and literally. My eyes hurt when I stare at my phone because, you guessed right, my phone wants to kill me.

My phone wants me to love it more than my child. I taught my son to swim and he was at the edge of a swimming pool. He slipped and went under. I jumped in and pulled him out right away. We were both scared but he was fine. But my phone had been in my back pocket of my shorts. My first thought was of course how awesome it is that I saved my son from drowning. My second thought right after was, “FUCK MY PHONE GOT WET!” I quickly ripped it open and started to dry it with a hairdryer at the pool’s changing area. Someone told me to put rice and the phone in a Ziploc bag which apparently pulls the water out. I spent the day without my phone, even though I had two other gadgets that allowed me to constantly check my e-mails and texts. I paced mourned hoping the rice would soak up the water (It didn’t.) I realized I might have to go out that night without my phone. I put my iPad in my purse just in case. WTF! This is the behavior of a crazy person.

Final recap and review: my phone is trying to kill me. It is a battery-charged rectangle of disappointment and possibility. It is a tautological pacifier. It can make me feel connected, happy, sad, loved and unloved, ugly, pretty, important, and unimportant, and vindicated.

I am still the controller of technology. I don’t want to become a slave. I believe in people, not machines. Life is endings and beginnings. It can be hard, this life. Beautiful, too. But, no one can do it alone because we need other people. No matter how great the machines are.

Everything is always backed up on the “cloud” and I can find my phone if I lose it. It is only a matter of time before my phone finds me.

.Age.

My birthday is around the corner. I am approaching 39 which means the big 4-0 is just around the corner, too. This also means, that I am no spring chicken but I am not an old lady either. I can party like a twenty-year-old but it then takes me a couple of days to recover. Sometimes I am a tired mother taking my son to the park, and other times I am a petulant teenager giving the finger to Frank the FedEx guy who didn’t bring me that package I ordered ten weeks ago. I idle right in the middle without knowing when middle age actually starts. According to the dictionary, middle-age is “the period of life between young adulthood and old age, now usually regarded as between about forty-five and sixty.” SIXTY? Nice try, Oxford.

I personally think middle age begins once you start looking forward to eating dinner before 6.30 p.m., or when you call the cops when your next-door neighbor has a party. I know my body feels older even though I feel I am in shape and practice Yoga on a daily basis. Sometimes certain parts hurt that usually didn’t. However, I would never let this social pressure of “staying young forever” get to me.

I can either exhaust myself thrashing against it or turn around and let the pressure of it massage out my kinks. Fighting aging is like the War on Drugs. It’s expensive, does more harm than good, and has proven to never end.

Hopefully, I have another fifty years of healthy living ahead of me before I pass from this earth either in my sleep (preferred) or during a daring rescue caught on tape the paramedics recorded. Ideally, my penultimate day would be spent attending a giant beach party thrown in my honor. Everyone would gather around me at sunset, and the golden light would make everything look awesome as I told hilarious stories and gave away my book collection to my friends. I and all my still-alive friends (which, let’s face it, will mostly be women) would sing and dance late into the night. My son would be strong, grown, handsome, and happy. I would be frail but adorable. Once the party ended, everyone would fall asleep except for me, my son, and my partner. We would spend the rest of the night watching the stars under a nice blanket my granddaughter made.

As the sun began to rise, my partner would wake and put the coffee on. My son would still be asleep. My partner’s last words would be something banal and beautiful. “Are you warm enough, my love? I want to tell you a story.” he would ask and say while handing me another blanket. “Just right, okay, tell me a story,” I would answer while feeling content.

My funeral would be incredibly intimate. I would instruct people to throw firecrackers and play Pink Floyd songs on a loop.

Did I freak you out? It wasn’t until I turned thirty-two and my son was born that I started to feel like my adult life was beginning. This was around the time when I knew how to jump-start my own car battery. I had spent so much of my twenties in a state of delayed adolescence and so much of my teenage years wishing that time would move faster. At thirty, I felt like I had about six or seven years of feeling like a real adult before my brain, and society tried starting to make me worry about being old. There is the built-in baby stuff, plus the added fascination with the new. But here is the thing. Getting older is awesome, and not because I don’t care as much about what people think. It’s awesome because I develop a secret superpower. My son would love to read all about it.

The superpower: Getting older makes me somewhat different or being able to adapt to things more easily. This can be exciting. Now that I am better at observing a situation, I can use my sharpened skills to scan a room and navigate it before anyone even notices that I am there. This can lead to me finding a comfortable couch at a party, or to the realization that I am at a terrible party and need to leave immediately. I can witness young people embarrassing themselves and get a thrill that it is not me. I can watch and listen to them throw around their “alwayses” and “nevers” and “I am the kind of person who would never….” and delight in the fact that I am past that point in my life. Feeling different means I can float.

Getting older also helps me develop an x-ray vision. I am now able to see through people more. I get better at understanding what people mean and how it can be different from what they say. Finally, the phrase “actions speak louder than words” starts to make sense. I can read people’s energies better, and this means I get stuck less talking to idiots. Gone are the days when I take things personally and internalize everyone’s behavior. I get better at knowing what I want and need.

Lastly, because I am a superhero, I am really good at putting together a good team. I can look around the room and notice the other superhero because they are the ones noticing me. Some friends I meet are highly emulsified and full of awesomeness. Now that I have a sense of who I am, I know better what kind of friend(s) or partner(s) I want and need. I am interested in people who swim in the deep end. I want to have conversations about real things with people who have experienced real things. I am tired of talking about movies and gossiping about friends. Life is crunchy and complicated and I am more about all the deliciousness instead.

Hey…. Can you walk and breathe? Yes!? Then stop complaining.