.Considering the Alternatives.

A conversation between a friend and I:

Friend: “I told him I was looking for a pen, but the truth is I was snooping around.”

Me: “Sometimes it seems necessary to snoop around but usually, nothing good comes of it.”

Friend: “I only understand such decency intellectually and I learned it the hard way today!”

Me: “So what happened?”

Friend: “I was hanging out in the bedroom while he was at work. We were technically (alarm sign!) happy, but he had broken up with me in a dramatic fashion about six months prior, and once we got back together. This, of course, is how looking for a pen in his desk animorphed me into a raccoon sniffing around a dumpster. AND HOLY F*** DID I SCORE SOME TRASH! HE WROTE A PRO/CON LIST ABOUT ME! I decided to ask him about the note when he got back later that day. It was just too absurd to keep it to myself and oddly enough, my concern was not for the totally batshit content of the list but I was just curious as to why the hell it existed in the first place. Was he thinking about ending the relationship again? This man and I sat down and I confessed that I ‘stumbled’ across the note while searching for a pen (great lie but blatant) and was perplexed by it. He assured me it didn’t mean anything and I assured him I was game to change my personality to just stay with him. I was mostly interested in making the whole confrontation an enjoyable experience for him. I am a girlfriend who doesn’t need drama. End of conversation and we kissed. Then, he came home drunk two weeks later.”

Me: …… (eyeroll)

Friend: “You are drunk. Where have you been? I made dinner and waited for you. Didn’t you get my messages?”

Him: “I HATE TOMATOES! I ate at the bar! Actually, we have nothing in common. But Theresa and I have. I love her so much. Oh, yeah, I am seeing someone else!”

So, I wrote him a breakup letter. The only suitable thing to do in this situation for my very good friend.

Hi there, (douchbag, asshole, weirdo, f***er, di**)

just circling back/closing the loop on the conversation we had the other night because you seemed drunk. I also have been giving it a lot of thought and have decided not to move forward with this relationship that leads nowhere. It is not only that the other night’s dinner was a deal-breaker in and of itself, but although your use of “that’s what she (Theresa) said” for comedic relief was unacceptable. I almost blame myself for holding on for so long and I should have known you are an asshole. Theresa (if she is smart) will hopefully discover this rather sooner than later.

My list of a quick analysis of our relationship in the last couple of months which reveals:

  • No love but cold feelings
  • You are glued to your phone at all times
  • Under-delivery on fundamental things such as respectful debate, witty observations, and general praising of my capabilities
  • No sex
  • A drop-off in non-sexual contact (spooning, hand-holding and tenderly brushing the hair off my face like you used to do)
  • We actually had nothing in common except one thing. We both like pizza with broccoli topping

All indicates a gross misalignment in expectations. They say you should always under-promise and over-deliver, but you have both promised the world and exhibited minimal follow-through over the course of our relationship. Actuals haven’t stacked up to projections, not even close. I only have so much emotional bandwidth and there is no viable option beyond folding this venture. I appreciated your interest in the role of my boyfriend. No further actions required on your end, apart from returning my Harvard University Hoodie and Dermalogica exfoliating mask (that shit is expensive).

All the best,

D.

[He got married to Theresa and they have one child. They divorced one year later. The reason: He cheated.]

I have broken up with men and have been broken up with once and the best part about all this is taking mental note of the red flags I missed and keeping them in mind for future relationships. Of all the warning signs I have breezed past, I wrote down in pro/con lists. I wish I had them all still framed in my living room because the contents of it were so telling. What truly tickles me about this pro/con list my friend’s ex wrote is that the best qualities in his eyes (hot) were nowhere close to the ones she valued in herself and would prefer to be loved for her mind, personality, humor, and literally anything else. That mismatch was exactly why they didn’t “work out”. Their values were off-the-charts different. If she just would have paid attention to the signs… So should we all.

.40.

Laura Kelly Photography

Today is my 40th birthday and I am thrilled. Another year is over and a new chapter opens already. When I commence a new decade in my life, on the one hand, I can view it as meaningless because age is just a number. On the other hand, I can view a number as a marker. Uncertainty means that there is always a blank canvas in front of me and this new year will help me to put a frame around it. 

As much as I want to arrange or plan my life year by year, decade by decade, I am shaped by what happens around me, the opportunities I seize, the people I encounter, the places I stay or leave. Moving into my new year, instead of viewing this decade as a chance to start anew, change or improve, I want to see it as a chance to be here.

I know I might not be able to control all events or the outcome of my efforts, but I can put myself in the world and in the center of life and take note of what I learn along the way. 

Other things I learned in the past year are to hold plans lightly but if the time is right to just go for it because it feels right. Buy don’t rent. 🙂 I am not afraid to experiment and change course if it doesn’t feel right. Sometimes, taking action is more important than figuring out the right decision. It is important to stop letting people tell me who I am. I learned to notice when I am caught up with a fantasy. I learned to understand when it is time to say goodbye and how to “celebrate closure” with very good friends. I learned that my head would say, “it was for the best” but my heart would keep me stuck in the past. I don’t want to miss what is here for me now because I am chasing a fantasy. I learned that if I can’t find the job I want, I have to create it and have backup plans always. I don’t wait anymore for someone to hand me an opportunity because I make it myself. I am not ahead and not behind. I am my own measure. 

I learned that I cannot control how people think of me, so I show up as myself without being fake. I learned that people care less about what I do for a living and more about how I make them feel. I see what I have not done yet as a possibility, not a failure. I know now that everything on my list is a possibility and it is exciting to have ideas and things to look forward to. There are always new opportunities. I learned that even if I thought I have no tears left to cry, there are still more. 

I learned that nobody knows what they are doing. I learned that everybody has sleepless nights, dull days, abandoned projects, new projects that seem not to work out and battles with self-doubt. Everybody struggles. Nothing is perfect. I learned to protect my solitude and alone time. My weaknesses are my strength or in Leonard Cohen words, “There is a crack, a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in”. 

With all this in mind, Happy Birthday to me. Off to new adventures.

.Restaurant Visit after Covid.

Hey, you! It has been a while. What a year, huh? Still wearing that damn mask though. Really nice to be able to see people again. Like real people. Sorry, am I talking weird? I am not? Oh good. I am a little self-conscious about that. A year in isolation is bound to throw off the old social skills, right? Haha. Ha. (nervous eye twitch) Can we hug? Are we doing hugs right now? I apologize for asking to hug you and then becoming so embarrassed when you said, “No thanks,” that I just did the “hang loose” sign for one full minute at you. I kind of forget how to act around people. Do we have to wear the mask the entire time? But hey, I am really liking this restaurant we are sitting in with our physical bodies. Say, can we talk about how when we walked in here a minute ago, I straight up screamed? I was just so stunned to be inside of a business. You get it, I am sure. No, I am not vaccinated yet. Are you? You got seven shots just to be on the safe side? Good for you, I guess. You got your green passport, too? Wow, that is so great. Oh, you really think I put others in danger because I do not get the vaccine? Others? Why? You have no clue but you read it somewhere. Ah, okay. Let’s talk about something else okay. And here comes the waitress. I forgot how to order.

Okay, be honest with me. Was it weird when the waitress told me where the bathroom is, I said, “Thanks, I have only gone into two bathrooms for a LOOOOOONG time, so I am not sure where all the other ones are anymore!” Was that a strange sentence? Wow, sorry, I was gone for so long. I must have not been listening when she said where the bathroom is because, haha (nervous eye twitch), get this, I somehow wound up in the bathroom of a completely different restaurant. Is that normal? And men were in the bathroom at the same time. Unisex toilets? Oh, it is pride month. So much new stuff to get used to.

Sorry, did you just say that your OTHER friend is meeting us here? Wow, uh, I did NOT prepare for that. Do we need to sit apart then? Social distancing? Baby elephant? Does he need a different COVID test when he wants to join us? Not older than 48 hours? But he needs to wear black pants and a red shirt if he wants to join us, right? Didn’t this new rule come out yesterday? About the mutation of the Indian virus? The Kappa, Delta- something? But ASTRA ZENECA is supposed to help with this mutation of the virus. So you can get seven vaccines but only if you have brown hair and a moustache. Or beard, but it needs to be grey. I don’t even think I remember how to meet another person. Do I recite to them the plot of an old movie that was in the movie theatre in February 2020? Do I tell them the plot of a different movie? Could I just say my name twice, clap my hands, and pay?

Just realized that if I say my name twice, they might think I have two names. I wouldn’t want that! That would make me seem like a FUCKING WEIRDO. And I am not a fucking weirdo, right? Hahahhaha! HAHAHAHA! OH GREAT. THEY ARE HERE. HI, I AM DANIELA DANIELA HENRY, AND I HEARD YOU WERE COMING HERE, FROM THIS GUY, WHO IS A FRIEND WITH BOTH OF US, AND NOW YOU AND I ARE ALSO FRIENDS, TOO.

Whew. I think that went well. So, what are everyone’s home addresses and full job titles? We need to fill out this form over here. THE FORM! Do you guys have cars? What are your license plate numbers? They need this information, too. And your blood type. Also, they need to know when the women are ovulating and how many avocados I eat in a week. And lemon. Oranges optional.

Is it weird that I ordered two bowls of the same soup? I didn’t know how big the bowl would be, and I am starving. Why are you guys looking at me like that? Okay, wow, I definitely blacked out for a moment. Oh, it wasn’t a moment? It was 25 minutes? And I was just staring into space? Socializing is hard now. Really takes it out of you. Does anyone else feel the intense need to sleep for several days? Would it be weird if I just closed my eyes right now? NO, OF COURSE, I DON’T WANT TO GO HOME. I AM HAVING SO MUCH FUN OUT IN PUBLIC WITH YOU, MY TWO BEST FRIENDS.

Wow, that was so much fun. Okay, so what do you guys want to do now? Should we walk down the street to go to another restaurant? Oh, you both have to go! Okay, totally! THat’s fine! HAHA! THat’s fine by me, I will allow it. Haha! Not like I am in charge of you. I am not. I am not the queen! This isn’t my court! You are not my little dancing jesters! You are my friends. You are my two great friends. Haha! LOL. Is that a thing? Do people SAY “LOL,” as a word? I cannot remember! Hahahhaha, why can’t I fucking remember?

WAIT, YOU GUYS, before you walk away, does anyone remember where my apartment is? I know, I know, I have been inside of it for a loooooong time, but this whole experience was honestly so stressful that I think it erased everything else that was previously inside of my brain. Which was basically, baking things, cooking, watching things on Netflix. Is that normal? I am not being weird, am I?

Guys……??? Hello….???

.Important Stuff.

Buy, don’t rent.

Always think outside of the box.

Let any person who considers to get pregnant take care of a newborn child for two days (weeks). They may reconsider.

Don’t expect anything from anyone.

Don’t take shit personal.

If people have the need to feel important, just let them be and smile.

Minecraft will be in any parents’ life at some point.

My beauty philosophy: I watch my 7-year-old son and there’s no question of beautiful or not beautiful. He just IS. He is always in his body, at the moment, confident, strong. He is absolutely natural and hasn’t had all the conditions put upon him yet. Beauty is getting back to that natural state, becoming aware of your thoughts, and realizing you are more than your body.

There is no need to get married at all. It is just a piece of paper.

Pornography is the opiate of the masses.

Dry skin? Drink more water.

Too much makeup will ruin your skin eventually. So will Botox.

Everybody lies.

Many pretend.

In Vienna, a small 2-bedroom apartment to buy may cost Eur 1,000,000.

Dog owners will look like their dogs eventually.

Eat your dessert with a small spoon. It will last longer.

Home-made chicken soup is awesome and super healthy.

Don’t cover a couch in plastic and pretend it is comfortable for you (or your guests) to sit on.

Don’t buy anything that is 100 percent wool or cashmere even if it seems to be very soft and not particularly itchy when you try it on in the store.

Sometimes you just never know.

Sometimes things make no sense.

The plane is not going to crash.

Everything you think is wrong with your body at the age of twenty-five you will be nostalgic for at the age of forty.

Drinking and eating too much will result in a saggy roll just above your waist even if you are painfully thin.

This saggy roll just above your waist will be especially visible from the back and will force you to reevaluate half the clothes in your closet, especially the white shirts.

Write everything down and keep a journal.

Take more pictures.

You can order more than one dessert once in a while but keep the saggy roll in mind.

You cannot own too many black turtleneck sweaters.

Wear black. It is always chic.

If the shoe doesn’t fit in the shoe store, it is never going to fit.

Back up your files.

Over-insure everything. Especially, if you have kids.

There is a point in making piecrust from scratch. Or noodles. Or pizza.

The reason you are waking up in the middle of the night is the large glass of wine of the second bottle.

The minute you decide to get divorced, go see a lawyer and file the papers.

Buy vintage clothes.

Don’t share too much private information. Ever. There are secrets.

Don’t expect anything.

Back to nature and a big garden is key.

Reading is everything. It makes me feel I have accomplished something, learned something, become smarter, become a better person.

Parenting is not easy. In a nutshell, here is what is involved: You love your child(ren), you hang out with them from time to time, you throw balls, you read stories, you make sure they know which utensil is the salad fork, you teach them to say please and thank you, and you ask if they did their homework. Continue until they are eighteen. Yeah, right. Continue forever.

Expensive lotions and potions for your face and body don’t work. Don’t buy La Mer creme for Eu 1.350,00. WHY is this creme so expensive? Does it contain parts of the angler fish?

Don’t care what people think of you. Do your thing.

.Pet Peeves.

I am generally a pretty understanding person, but there are some things that get under my skin. You know when you are in a “mood” and then something pops out of nowhere and irritates you even further? Those are what I call my pet peeves. They are not cute or cuddly, but rather annoying. Here are just some things that really tick me off. My list of cringe-worthy moments that leave me annoyed and just….. peeved.

  • Yell sneezes.
  • Loud gum chewing and talking at the same time.
  • Chewing with mouth open.
  • Anything chewing and loud.
  • Someone cracking their knuckles and then saying, “I am pumped. Let’s do this!”
  • Extremely slow people.
  • Someone who asks for advice and does the exact opposite.
  • People who don’t replace the toilet paper roll.
  • When people read a text with a question and don’t respond.
  • When people are late.
  • When people are chronically late.
  • People who walk into the subway and stand right in front of the door.
  • People who discuss being on a diet while I am in the middle of eating something unhealthy.
  • Kids who say the food I cooked tastes disgusting.
  • People who use thousands of hashtags.
  • People who say “I mean, no offense […]” as if it downplays anything insulting they say to me.
  • People who say “literally” when what they mean is not literal.
  • People who clip their nails in the subway
  • Line cutters.
  • People who say “There are rules” for rules that can be clearly broken and nobody gets harmed.
  • People who don’t know how to get through a security checkpoint efficiently. EVERYONE knows you have to take metals out of your pocket. At the airport EVERYONE knows to take off the goddamn shoes and that liquids are not allowed.
  • When you let a car cut in front of you and the person doesn’t wave to thank you.
  • Misspelling my name when it is right there in the email staring you in the face.
  • When dog owners leave their dog’s shit anywhere but in the little plastic bags.
  • Extremely slow cashiers, a long line in the supermarket and only ONE register open.
  • Saying, “Let’s make plans!” then acting surprised when I follow up and make actual plans.
  • Misleading labels on food. Food that only pretends to be organic.
  • Gluten-free fanatics and vegans who only talk about how healthy this lifestyle is.
  • People who talk over you when you are clearly still in the middle of the sentence.
  • Passive aggressive behaviour. If you have something that bothers you or you want to say, just say or do it.
  • When you are running after the bus, you lock eyes with the bus driver in the rear view mirror, and they still drive straight past you.
  • When you open the door for someone and not only do they not thank you, they also glide straight past you as if people should open doors for them.
  • People who don’t respond when I said “good morning” to them.
  • When people repeatedly hit the elevator button, as if that will make the elevator arrive sooner.
  • People who constantly look at their watch.
  • People who are constantly on the phone.
  • Anyone with an inflated sense of their own importance. “Don’t you know who I am-people”
  • People who seal a ziplock bag without removing the air first.
  • Clapping at the end of a movie in theater.
  • The word “touché”.
  • Receiving emails from a colleague with my boss cc’d.
  • When people say “cool beans”.
  • Sponsored Instagram or Facebook feeds.
  • People who abbreviate things that don’t need to be shortened.
  • People who tell you they ate something really bad yesterday and should really stay home. Just say you are taking a sick day. Nobody needs to hear the details.
  • People who say “eh, you know” when you casually ask them how they are doing. A) I don’t know, and B) I want to know because I asked.
  • People who send emails longer than six paragraphs. Call or explain in person. Who has time to read through all of that?
  • Super fast 2-hour power point Zoom presentations. Nobody can ever focus or pay attention.

What makes you tick?

.Car Issues.

“Do not save what is left after spending, but spend what is left after saving.” —Warren Buffett

On my way home the other day I stopped at the traffic light and saw a car (Audi Q7) that came speeding around the corner before it stopped. The volume of the music broke my inner quietness and was drowned out only by the squeal of his tires when the light changed. The driver (who looked like my ex) wore a leather jacket, sunglasses, and smoked a cigarette that he casually flicked out of the window.

We didn’t exchange any words. I don’t even recall him looking in my direction. I don’t care about the person or how he acquired this car. I am passing no judgment on him because this is a story about me. When I saw him, a surprising thought entered my head. I told myself, “I could drive a car like that if I wanted. I could purchase a car like this anytime. But I choose not to.” There are, I suppose, a few cars on the planet that I could not receive enough credit to purchase. But for the most part, there is nothing stopping me from driving an expensive, flashy car. Except for maybe one thing. I enjoy living within my means. I like knowing I spend less than I make. I mean, I could take expensive vacations, buy this car, purchase expensive clothes, purchase more luxurious furniture but I find a significant amount of pleasure knowing my expenses do not exceed my income. I don’t need to rely on working overtime to afford things and pay off my credit card.

Staying out of debt means I am not being hunted down by creditors. It means I am not carrying a financial burden from my past while also trying to provide for the present. It means I have the freedom to make choices with my excess income. It means I can save if I want, give if I want, or spend if I want. I enjoy a significant level of freedom that others may not experience. This allows me to sleep better, carry less stress, and live a more calm, relaxed life.

Our society works hard to convince us to outspend our means and then provides a thousand ways for us to do it. And from the outside, a life built on credit may appear the life desired. With its bright lights, bold colors, and flashy impressions we are able to make.

But I will choose something different for my life. I will choose calm and peace and the knowledge that I have chosen responsibly. For there is a wonderful joy to be found in it. I know there is a number of uncontrollable circumstances that may make this choice impossible for some. Tragedy, medical emergencies, or unexpected career downsizing as examples. But for those who still have the choice, I don’t think you will ever regret spending less than you make. I love my life with less.

.Afternoon Walk.

Pssssst. Hey you! It is me: Afternoon Walk. As you may have noticed, you are turning to me an awful lot these days. Don’t get me wrong, I love what we have together, but I think we need to face the truth: I can never be everything you want me to be.

When this little routine first started (lockdown 1), I thought it was the greatest thing in the world. I was an escape. I was an adventure. I was beloved. But somewhere along the way, I became your EVERYTHING. Now, I am both: your leisure activity and your only form of exercise. I am the last thing tethering you to reality, yet your only way of escaping. I am the singular effort you make to maintain your sanity, and your sole means of experiencing joy, hope, and happiness. It feels as if I am your lover, friend, and therapist all wrapped into one and, frankly, it is making me uncomfortable.

Personally, I think I have held up my end of the deal quite well. I am there every time you need me. I am literally always an option. I don’t know if you know this, but you can even have me at other times of the day. For example, have you tried the morning?

Perhaps, instead of rolling up to your email inbox in a sleepy, hurried rage, you could first project your hopes and dreams onto a morning walk listening to the birds? I hear morning walks are a great way to extend the bliss of forgetfulness you experience in the first few moments of waking up and delay the vague, gnawing sense of impending doom before you go to work.

But let’s get back to the root of the problem here. I am but a simple afternoon walk. You are a human person with complex feelings and emotions like happiness, anger, fear and boredom. And you want us both to believe that I can address these things with magical powers?

I will let you in on a little secret: I have no magical powers. I never have. This isn’t an imposter syndrome thing either, so don’t even start with the, “Oh, come on, everyone knows how magical and talented you are!” I am telling you right now, for real, I have no magical powers.

I have gotta say it feels like even the things I can do for you are not enough anymore. How quickly you seem to have forgotten that I actually am a stress reliever and an energy booster. I shoot endorphins through your brain like a confetti cannon, for crying out loud. Do not even get me started on the way I fight off heart disease. But you never think about that anymore, do you?

Anyway, forget it. I know you don’t want to talk about heart disease because one of your co-worker just had one. I know things are hard right now. Really, I get it. But might I remind you that no one ever said, “You know what could eradicate coronavirus, convince national leaders that everyone deserves a livable wage regardless of the kind of work they are doing, and provide a rush of endorphins? A short afternoon walk.”

So please, for the love of God, I am gonna need you to develop just one or even two other coping mechanisms. Like eating. Then maybe, just maybe, we can actually enjoy each other’s company again on our way to a restaurant where you have to test yourself “in”, sit two meters apart from your friends unless you are sharing the same household, be home at 8 pm, wear a mask but are able to remove it to insert food but put it right back on when you laugh. Oh, I forgot, laughing is not allowed at all because of the tiny droplets. “Can I at least bring my dog,” you may ask. Be aware that two squirrels have been tested positive yesterday.

You are welcome.

.All the Places We Go.

“Instead of wondering when your next vacation is, maybe you should set up a life you don’t need to escape from.” – Seth Godin

I threw out this quote at work a couple of days ago and got mixed feedback. Most appreciated it but some disagreed. They mentioned that they miss the ocean, the beach and that traveling is so much fun. Here, I do not disagree. This pandemic is tough on me, too and I love to travel. But the point of the quote is not whether vacations are fun and traveling is good. It is rather to always enjoy your life, not only while on vacation, holiday, or weekend. On a daily basis, I am striving to make my life the one I want to be living and to enjoy it. Even on Monday mornings (yeah, right!) because life is so short. I don’t see vacation as the occasional opportunity to escape my life but I rather craft a life I don’t need to escape from. You know how?

I make good relationships a priority. Good relationships make me happy and can never be matched by income, title, or career achievements. People matter and are worth the effort. To me, relationships, where I can learn something, am being understood and loved, and where I can give it all back are essential.

“True simplicity begins when you learn to enjoy the amazing abundance of what is already yours.” – Thomas Kinkade

I remove unneeded possessions from my home and life. Physical possessions are a burden to me. They require time, energy, money, and always distract me from the things in life that matter most. More stuff will not make me happy because I already have everything I need.

I make my work my job. My job is what I do for money to provide shelter, clothing, and food. My work, on the other hand, is what I am passionate about (writing, health, garden, nutrition, my son). Sometimes, pursuing a passion as a career is not always feasible. Or not yet. I know I am required to do the job in front of me for the sake of providing for myself and this little guy who follows me around for seven years. But there is still an opportunity to craft a life I don’t need to escape from by focusing on the good things that this job brings while aligning my passions around it.

I guard my time. Not everything in life deserves my energy. It is important to become more aware of what is truly worth the hours of this one, short, important life. I have not crafted the life that I love by saying “yes” to every opportunity or invitation that comes along. I have done so by guarding my time for the things that matter most and by learning to say “no” to whatever does not work for me.

I take care of myself. What matters at the end of my life is not the house I lived in, the car I drove, or the possessions I have. What will matter in the end is my health and how I treated others. However, an empty cup cannot pour into another. To me, it is important to rest, exercise, and live healthy most of the time to be the best version of myself.

Also, life is never just smooth sailing. Storms come and go. Sometimes as a result of my own poor decisions and sometimes as the result of living in an imperfect world. But, I still look for the good in the midst of it all. And there is always something good. Sometimes all it takes is a change and shift in mindset.

Also, it is Friday. 🙂

.Multitudes.

The other night, I found myself in the most unlikely of places: In the back of a car with my boyfriend whom I dated in high school…..

It was late at night, and as the car wound its way through the streets, his face flickered in the glow of blinking streetlights. When we stopped at a red light, he leaned over to whisper in my ear. “I don’t love you,” he said. “And I never have.” Then I woke up. It was all a dream. But as I went about my day, I remained haunted. Why did my subconscious want to tango with someone I haven’t seen or spoken to in many years?

Joan Didion is one of my favourite writers. She wrote, “We are well advised to keep on nodding terms with the people we used to be, whether we find them attractive company or not.” Even though I agree with Joan, this point has never been my strong suit.

My past selves were sometimes mortifying. They wore strange outfits and said awkward things, then staying up too late worrying about it. They sometimes made errors in judgement that, while necessary for learning, I would rather not relive. But lately, in these months spent largely at home, I have been forced to confront them. My brain replays the old memories like syndicated reruns of a show. For me, this pandemic has resulted in a surge of vivid, bizarre dreams due to changes in stress and activity, sleep patterns, and pretty much every facet of my life. Long-forgotten memories resurfaced. Some nice, some bad. They appear not only when I am asleep, but often in the midst of some innocuous, everday task. Obviously, this pandemic needs to be over.

My former selves have a lot to say, and as it turns out, they have not gone far. For example: While I waited for a cup of coffee in front of my coffee maker I had a flashback to the coffee machine and its similar sound at the police academy’s cafeteria. The flashbacks of the things I did, said, and the things I wish I had said to colleagues. To the boss who could never find the stapler. Another boss who threw things and screamed at me. The job I quit too soon. The job where I stayed too long. There is a lot more where this came from, but I will leave it at that.

These memories are inside me like a matryoshka doll. The more time I spend with my past selves, the more I discover that embarrassment runs in both directions. I not only uncover old disappointments, but also old dreams. Things I wanted but was too afraid to try. My younger selves demand to know what happened, and I have no suitable response. I decided the only way out is to confront them. I began keeping a notebook. If the memories can live on paper, I thought, maybe they won’t feel the need to run around my head. Sometimes, I feel lighter. Other times, I feel like I have immortalized the very thing I wished to forget.

When writing fails me, I look around. Watch. Whenever I get too caught up in my own internal chatter, I talk to others and observe. I imagine what the people behind each mask loves, is stressed about, sad about, looking forward to. I bask in feeling both connected and blissfully, inconsequentially small. Everybody has shit to deal with. And it is interesting to hear and picture all the rooms and places these people have occupied. Where they have been. At twelve. At thirty. At fifty. Sometimes it would be nice to turn back time, albeit with the benefit of experience.

Even when it seems like the scenery is stagnant, I am subject to constant reinvention, like the annoying upgrades threatening to overtake my computer and phone. My former selves are here to keep me company because I made peace with my past. And most of the time I go about my days (and nights) without the shudder of remembrance.

So, coffee is what I will have. Here in my kitchen. Now.

.There was this Plan.

I learned yesterday the difference between three forms of actions: actions to fix, actions to win, and actions to learn. The former two are kind of the same thing in my opinion — you listen to have ammunition to make a case to be listened to. When you listen to learn I think it means your personal agenda is less relevant. In my opinion, it should be always “listen to learn” and a more humble pursuit. Oh, I deleted my Facebook account. People who want to get in touch will know how to.

All this aside: There was this plan. Then life had other ideas. I never felt comfortable with too much change at once. I cling to my routines, always wanting to be sure of what comes next. I do not resist risk wholeheartedly but I am careful. I guess it is not surprising that my choices fall safely within my comfort zone and my life unfolds as predictable as I can plan it.

But it wasn’t always like that. In fact, there were times in my life when I said yes to everything even though it felt weird and wrong. And surely enough, slowly everything fell apart, seemingly out of nowhere (didn’t pay attention to the signs), and all at once, I found myself with a broken marriage, and no job. It felt like a heavy rock had dropped right on top of my chest and left me gasping for air. I tried to ignore what was happening and pretended that nothing was wrong, but this was impossible. Then I became desperate to figure out how to fix everything, but I didn’t even know where to start. So I wrote, and writing became my coping mechanism. I started to find a sense of self as well as a sense of humor about life; with time, my persistance to change softened. I began to examine my feelings of discomfort, feelings I hadn’t been willing to look at before. In doing so, I discovered that I was able to handle difficult emotions and didn’t need to push them away anymore. Being open, no matter how uncomfortable that might be, has allowed me to grow and made my life richer and more complete.

I used to have a plan. Then this pandemic happened. Now I don’t, not really, anyway. My life may be messier than it used to be, but I have never been clearer and happier about who I am and what I want to create. This article goes out to everyone who feels they have been turned upside down and are trying to find the right way up again. I hope, this offers you comfort. Please remember, this being human business is hard work.

  • Take a break. Breathe and say: hello world, I will be right back.
  • Keep in mind: Everything can change in an instant.
  • Just lie down for a little while. Look at the ceiling and not your phone.
  • Sometimes things have to fall apart so they can fall together.
  • Dear pain, thank you for stopping me dead in my tracks and showing me what is really important. It has been educational, but you can go now. Sincerely, me.
  • The painful times, the ones we think will bury us are often the exact ones that open us up.
  • Some days are harder than others and it is okay that you are not okay.
  • You are allowed to take your time.
  • It is okay to check out for a while, just remember to check back in.
  • Don’t make permanent decisions based on temporary feelings.
  • Like the moon, we go through phases of being full and we go through phases of being hidden.

But how to stay positive when all you want to do is be negative?

  • Start with one small positive thought.
  • Some of our greatest battles are with ourselves.
  • Ask more questions.
  • You don’t have to figure it all out at once.
  • Sometimes just need to sit still and breathe.
  • Know that this too shall pass.
  • The only way out is through. And this is the part where you find out who you are.
  • Start over again. Start over again. Start over again. Keep it up.
  • Surrender. Get out of your own way. Seriously, move.
  • Unpack your feelings. If it comes let it. If it goes let it.
  • Let go to realize there was nothing there to hold on to.
  • Grow through what you go through.
  • On the other side of fear is freedom.
  • Roll with the punches. But don’t forget to fly.
  • Remember, life changes.
  • Respect where you are. It is not all bad.
  • Stay hopeful. Hope helps and eventually, everything connects.

I have no idea where I am going, but I am on my way.

Stay happy. Stay sane.