The idea: I said to my son, “Let’s make some chocolate muffins. You know how to do it!” We love to cook and bake things. Something you probably don’t know about me: I am a Certified Holistic Nutritionist (CNP) who can practice in Canada and the U.S. but not (yet) in Europe. I will share an article about it all when appropriate.
The scene & utensils: Kitchen, table, large bowl, and a hand-held mixer (since when do I have a hand-held mixer, mom?)
The ingredients: 2 eggs, flour, baking soda, milk, butter, cacao, chocolate sprinkles, and Agave syrup instead of sugar.
The instructions: Place all the ingredients on the table, measure everything with a “food” scale (again, mom?!), and add to bowl. This is where my son comes in. He is in charge of mixing everything together. Here we go:
Every single surface of the room is sticky and coated with a fine, white powder within two minutes.
I said, “Please don’t touch that! Bag that up right now! Bag! It! Up!” and his name at least a dozen times in the past forty-five minutes. Then I shouted, “Be careful with the mixer!”
My mood and attitude are completely at odds with the loud, cheerful music at this radio station mixed with more horrifying Corona news that serves as the soundtrack for our activities. “Ask Alexa to play Best of Patti Smith!”
The baking partner assigned to me is covered in flour and chocolate and is constantly asking questions.
I think I may be too old for this shit. As a colleague at work said, “Just buy the damn muffins!”
My son’s baking methods would be roundly criticized by any fire marshall with half a brain in his head, but it’s better to ask forgiveness than permission.
The whole apartment is covered in fingerprints.
I have said, “Did you wash your hands? DID YOU? Wash! Your! Hands!” at least a million times in the past forty-five minutes.
I have shed a few tears while I clean up. It’s not like I am made of stone. This Corona-virus-s*** is getting to me hard but I want to make my son feel good. If I don’t let this stuff out once in a while, it’ll turn me into a monster.
He moves things around before I can take photos (to send to my parents). Wait. Is this a Lego figure in the dough and who put it in?
Somehow, I have to mold these doughy elements into a cohesive whole — something I can tuck into a neat and tidy box and tie-up with a bow to give some to my neighbor. Something the outside world will accept.
Is this chocolate, maybe blood, Lego figures, or PlayDoh?
We did it. The muffins look okay. I don’t expect any thanks for what I did and do on a daily basis in this Pandemic. I am also a hairdresser and a teacher now. I can do it all. I can cut my own and my son’s hair. I am also able to teach first-grade mathematics, reading, and writing, art, sports, you name it. Corona made it all possible.
Oh, by the way, no one’s getting through this day without a tummy ache because there were indeed tiny pieces of Lego in it. Just get the Corona vaccine and turn into a giant Lego Zombie.
Imagine me in my 20s. My self-care routine wasn’t so excellent but I was feeling fine and mostly at peace. I had a great job, I had a car, I lived in New York, money, friends, traveled a lot but there was still one tiny area where I couldn’t seem to make any progress at all: relationships and romance. And every relationship I had been in felt eerily similar. I would find a partner who was either great on paper or was a “project” that I had the urge to fix. He would either have an impressive job or would be someone I thought I should like. But usually, there was so much emotional baggage that our dating would end in disaster. Obviously, we all have our own baggage we carry into relationships, but I sometimes went for guys whose life was on fire. There was one guy who told me, on the first date while we were waiting for our drinks, that his dad murdered someone…but “don’t worry, he committed suicide… in jail…I am just not sure I will ever escape the overwhelming despair I feel!” DON’T WORRY???? Our drinks hadn’t even arrived yet. That is a lot for a first date. It seemed like I was seeking out men who were so damaged, so wrapped up inter past traumas, that they did not have the capacity to be kind or emotionally giving toward themselves or me. I would notoriously ignore all the warning signs that they weren’t a good partner and instead doubt myself, endlessly wondering what I could do to fix them. Then I would be upset when the relationship ended. And it always ended.
This was the time when I started journaling. Journaling about what happens in my life, with men and why I am repeating the same dumb mistakes. One of my entries looked something like this:
Mistake 1: Find someone who is good on paper but bad at life.One step up: Find someone who is bad on paper and bad at life. Look for someone who went to a “good” university, someone with a “good” job, someone I think is ambitious and will “succeed”. If he comes from a “good family,” bonus points! Completely ignore that this person is CLEARLY, FUNDAMENTALLY in an emotional crisis of some kind. Decide that I can fix and change him, or, even better, come to the conclusion that something is actually wrong with me!
Example: He is a successful finance executive who owns his house and is established in his career. BUT upfront he explained that he “must be wasted to enjoy sex, and that won’t change and has many women-friends.” Think to myself: That’s not great, but he hasn’t gotten to know me yet.
Example: He went to Harvard, which must mean he is exceptionally smart. Smart is something I am so attracted to and want in a partner. Forget the fact that someone going to a “smart” school is not the same as them being emotionally intelligent. Shake it off that my “date night” to see a movie turned out to be just a “stop” on his run. When the movie ended, he, dressed in a full work-out ensemble, said, “That was fun; now I have to go back on my run.” WHEN THE MOVIE ENDED, HE SAID, “THAT WAS FUN; NOW I HAVE TO GO BACK ON MY RUN.” Clearly, a winner.
Mistake 2: Get emotionally invested too quickly. Based solely on how good he looks on paper, ignoring the fact that I feel lonely in his company, despite my body screaming, “Noooo, we have been here before!” I give him a chance and convince myself he is someone I want in my life despite all evidence to the contrary. Or maybe I can repair him for further use? Project all of the good qualities I want in a partner onto him. I will make this relationship work, no matter the cost.
Example: After a great date, he asks if I would be interested in going to a Spa the next morning. Could he pick me up at eleven A.M. so I could continue talking about our mutual love of Tokyo? Take this all as a sign that he is open, honest, and not interested in playing games. I mean, a second date, THE VERY NEXT DAY!? Completely ignore the fact that he asked MULTIPLE times to sleep with me, didn’t take no for an answer, and when I finally said, “Listen, I don’t have sex on the first date,” he actually pouted and crossed his arms over his chest like a child who didn’t get the candy he wanted. Pretend that the image of him being angry in his brand-new black BMW didn’t make me vomit in my soul. I can fix this.
Mistake 3:Try to persuade the man to like you. I sincerely hope my sister reads this! Obsess over text messages, trying to decipher “what it all means.” Be whatever person I think he will like best, but DO NOT BE MYSELF! Never consider if I actually like him. I am now a new person, the person I think he wants me to be, which is tricky because it always seems to be changing.
Example: He is jealous of EVERY (male) person in my life. So I lie if my best friend David calls and pretend it was someone else. Cut all male friends out of my circle in order to appease the man I have been dating for a month. What if he is the one? I WILL FIGURE THIS OUT LATER. Maybe I can secretly call David once a month? Maybe from my work phone, so there is no evidence. But even then, best to erase my call history! I picked yet another winner.
Well, it turns out, knowing my pattern is a whole hell of a lot different from breaking it. From years of dating experience, here, my common sense list of dating and staying away from certain type of men:
Be picky. Don’t settle for anyone if you don’t feel it. Don’t date someone “just because he has a nice ass”.
Can you introduce your partner to your parents, friends, and family without being embarrassed?
Is there a connection? Is there a spark? Is there an attraction? If there is not a “yes” to any of these questions it is a waste of time to go any further.
Is this person kind and thoughtful? Did he ask questions about you? Does he show genuine interest in getting to know you? Don’t feel bad if the answer is “no”. But, again, know it is a GIANT FUCKING WASTE OF TIME to go any further.
Does he love your dog more than he loves you?
Can this person take care of themselves? Can they handle their own shit? Or do they constantly talk about what a disaster they are, how hard their life has been, and how they have no clue how to fix any of it, before lighting up a second bowl of weed and explaining that they wouldn’t blame you if you left right now. A partner should take responsibility for their own life. End of story.
What does your gut say? Check in with yourself. Does this partner only want to impress you with materialistic gifts? “But my gut is all fucked-up from years of following a destructive pattern. Can I even trust myself anymore?”, you may ask. Start with self-love, self-care, self-trust, and keep developing the faith that you know what is right for you.
Are there any red flags the person has shown you? Answer honestly. This is not a time to say, “Yes, he mentioned he is completely hung up on how his last girlfriend broke his heart and referred to her as a ‘psychotic bitch,’ but, whatever, let me forget that detail.” Is he broke, has debt? Depressed? Why? Take careful notes. Do not disregard red flags! I did it too many times.
Can they meet you where you are? Is this person in a stage of life that is similar to or compliments your own? Can he be present with me? Can I be present with him?
Does this person break my pattern? This might be a partner who is not super jealous of all the men in your life. Or maybe it is a guy who is not so busy with his career that the only plans he can make with you are in three weeks when his life “calms down”.
The way a person treats me has almost nothing to do with me. It is about them and their limitations. And I can choose whom I want to spend my time with and when it is time to leave.
“But moods, of course, are only points of view.” –Adam Phillips
I relax on the couch and read “The Memory Police” by Yoko Ogawa. (Read this book!) but a friend tries to convince me to write a musical. I don’t write musicals I say. Beside the point he says. He wants it to be about life in my apartment during the pandemic, during the different stages of lockdown, during Christmas time. I picture “code red” going off like a signal in a dark theater, red strobe lights, people running for the exits only to find them locked. My sort of movie that is running in my head. But then I start thinking about it:
We are eating pasta with a very salty sauce ( I cooked) while he pours me a glass of wine. It has been a sad day. My son cried a lot because he had a bad day at school (school is still a thing these days). I was angry he misbehaved at school. Then I cried a lot because of some pretty bad news I received from back home. My movements are sloppy. I am tired. But the kitchen (my favorite place in the apartment) is warm and our cheeks are flushed from the spicy sauce. “Just picture a simple set, a stage with three rooms. You will come up with something. You are creative.” My friend is animated I guess. “Three characters. There would be the scene where your son has a fight with his puzzle, and then you get a phone call with something else crazy.” Okay, I let it go and start writing:
Scene 1: Weather conditions: Cold, damp, foggy, grey, winter, and no sun. We are stuck in the apartment. Again.
I picture myself as an actor/dancer breaking up a faux fight between my stage son and his puzzle. Stage left: Mother is roused from her stationary position with her book, by the noise of the boy in the other room. A light follows her as she moves towards the commotion. My body would be all elegant and strong, I would position myself between the boy and the puzzle, braving light savers and unpredictable anger, fling my arms out to signal distress, exaggerate my shapes so those in the back of the theater could see. Then I explode and cry. Endless sobbing. Enough is enough. Not another death, I think. Please! I have seen so many people die in my work-career but not privately. Enough! My son says he can calm down, no problem. He will put away his toys. He will behave in school. He hugs me and tells me, “Everything will be okay, mommy. We are together.”
Scene 2: Bodies would move between the rooms. And moods would change and we wouldn’t leave the house. My son is annoying because he keeps asking if he can blow out the candles at the table. I tell him, as usual, that I want to keep them burning. There is sauce on his face. He still wants to blow them out. My friend talks over the bickering boy. In the musical version of this, the voices of my family wouldn’t compete but from a coherent song – discord turning into harmony, an appropriate amount of tension mounting and then breaking. A solo ringing out and dissolving into laughter. Voices would fade in and out. “We need jokes to make this work,” I say. “We have to laugh about the whole thing and not take it too seriously. Look, we are healthy, we are financially okay. It is just another lockdown,” he adds.
“And here the light and here the dark.” – David Bergen
Scene 3: I miss half of what is being said and move the candles to the center of the table. There is pasta on the floor. I am tired of tension. I am at the same time irritated and turned on by this conversation. How absurdly exaggerated, how ridiculous. How fun, this sense of play. It does feel somewhat invigorating to stray from our standard table talk (which, to be honest, is a bit tiring whenever someone mentions new Corona rules and regulations) into “fantasy territory” that is so real in a couple of days. But I have always found it weird to plan jokes in advance. Isn’t humor necessarily spontaneous? Many think about jokes this way: individual, articulate bites of funny. Things that start as an idea and get fleshed out into full form. A liturgy of humor. I guess I am up for the task of authoring them.
I imagine I would enjoy planning the set. I could make the outer landscape mirror the inner. I am thrilled to picture the control I would have. I would add a happy scene: One in which my son reads by himself, legs entangled, curled up in pillows and blankets, there could be a string of lights, my child’s carefree and artful painting taped up behind him. Later, the audience would recognize the painting as the crumpled ball on the floor and the lights would have become askew, indicating a change in mood, mounting sadness, loneliness, fatigue. No school but homeschooling. He misses his friends. I could manifest our moods, project them into the world. Look, here is where we are bored. Here is where we put on socks. Here is where we rage, see the tossed pillow, the mess, the broken toys? Look at the paper planes everywhere in the apartment. Millions. Here is a half-clothed boy gesturing in front of a mirror. Here is the comedy, the strain, the drollery, and impatience for all this mess to be over. In the end, I would scream: Can somebody please fix this?
“When you say yes to others, make sure you are not saying no to yourself.” – Paulo Coelo.
“Mommy, can we make cookies for my friends in class at school,” my son asked.
Something that can get in the way of me finding rest or having time for the things I really want to do is not knowing how to say no. I personally find it especially difficult to say no when my reason to decline is simply that I want some time for rest or space in my schedule. To me, it doesn’t feel justified to decline someone else (especially my son) because I want time to myself, or want to do nothing, or even tinker with a creative project. It is easier to say no to myself than other people. While being quick to say yes can maybe help me avoid disappointing others, it comes at a cost. Because many times I don’t say no, I wind up feeling resentful, overwhelmed, exhausted, and even jealous of others who can say no with ease.
So, as someone who has felt these consequences of not saying no when I really wanted to, I was drawn to a concept writer and critic Kylie Maslen who introduced me to called “spoon theory”. Spoon theory is a way to create boundaries but also be generous with other people’s energy. As Kylie explained:
“The idea is that everyone has a certain number of spoons in their drawer and as you go throughout the day you will use up those spoons in completing activities… so you learn how to pace yourself and use your energy best in order to make the most of those spoons available.” The community will speak with that shortcut of spoons, adds Kylie. “Often we will say things like, ‘Hey, I don’t have the spoons to go into this right now but I will get back to you when I do.’ Or even when we are asking someone something we will say, ‘When you have the spoons….’ and in saying something like that, it says we understand that we are not going to push someone into acting deciding really quickly.”
What really struck me about spoon theory is that it is not only a helpful way to check in on my own capacity and provide a frame for saying no, but it also encourages generous requests. So before I share a few things I have come across that might help you with saying no, I think generously asking is an important point to consider. How am I asking things of other people? Could it be more generous or flexible? Could I consider their current circumstances? Could there be alternatives? Can I make space for a polite decline? Perhaps by providing the option for others to say no, I can normalize saying no, and maybe unwind from the busyness hamster wheel. Life is continuous learning so here are some approaches I have found helpful to frame saying no.
I listen to my guts. If it feels weird, I say no. A friend sent me a message the other day saying, ” Never beg someone to be in your life. If you text, call, visit and still get ignored, walk away. It is called self-respect”. He is right on.
I practice starting small. I generally find it a lot harder to say no to someone I am close to, so I am practicing with acquaintances or emails from strangers.
I do not say maybe when I want to say no. Sometimes a maybe is a legitimate maybe and that’s fine, but to spot a no masquerading as a maybe I ask myself if I would say yes if it was tomorrow? I also ask myself if I feel I need to say no out of guilt or fear. For the all or nothing types like me, it can be easier to identify what it is that is contributing to that feeling of overwhelm or resentment and create a rule: I am not adding anything new to my to-do list until next year.
Wait. I have a tendency to rush into a yes to people-please, so I am learning to take some time to sit with a request to determine if it is a yes or a no. Saying no is a delicate and ongoing practice, but one I think can help me hear my own yes…. even if that’s just to have space to yes to my afternoon nap or evening read.
This year, I say no to seeing my parents for Christmas. It will be the first Christmas I spend just with my son. I feel sad but there is nothing I can do about it. We simply cannot travel in peace or at all and there are so many rules and regulations to figure out that keep changing on a daily basis. So, we will make the best of it by saying yes to certain things. Saying yes to staying home, meeting friends in Vienna, spending quality time together, and buying a three-meter tall Christmas tree because I have the four-meter ceilings to accommodate this kind of madness. We will decorate it and hope Santa or the Austrian Christkind will bring many presents. I will make the best of this mess and just say yes to some things I usually would not do. I hope you will too because who knows what tomorrow will hold.
So, I made those cookies even though I was tired and wanted to be on the couch with tea and a book. You should have seen the sparkling in his eyes when he proudly took those cookies to school though. Choices.
This is to all toddlers world-wide. I am seven-years-old. It is tough being a toddler. Some days are really hard. Having your every need met does not allow for much downtime. With this in mind, how can you even find space to take care of you? It starts with small things such as cutting nails. Why does my mom cut them once a week and does not give me permission to make sure my nails are sharp enough to draw blood and claw others when I want to be a werewolf or a bat? Grown-ups are strange. She also forgets that I am small and see things from a different angle. The air is different down here. I see the sign with a red, huge bug on it and she just walks by. Why? And, how come I cannot eat chocolate only and survive let’s say on chocolate, soda, and plain baguette? Mom says I need to eat vegetables and fruit because of the vitamins and that if I don’t eat it, my teeth will all get a cavity and I have to go to the dentist who straps me down on a chair and pulls those teeth out. She told me the story of Karius and Baktus! Wow, this is so scary. But chocolate has vitamins, no? I am a busy toddler, and sometimes I have the feeling that my self-care gets pushed in the corner underneath my bunk bed. You may be in the same boat so I want to share a couple of tips on how to survive as a toddler.
Don’t feel bad about saying no. It was one of my first words and all toddlers learn it for a reason I think. Use it wisely though. Become super comfortable with saying no by saying it as loud as possible, over and over again to every question grown-ups ask you. Especially questions such as “Do you need a nap?, “Do you want more zucchini? Do you want to go to bed? Don’t you want to clean up your room?” Oh, one more thing. The next time you want to say yes, just say no. Then cry because you meant yes, and that should have been obvious. My mom does that sometimes. Whenever it comes to food, enjoy a healthy snack. Grown-ups are right. As fresh as possible. Ants on a log is a great option. Or flies from the windowsill. Just indulge in whatever snack you feel nourishes you. Proteins are important, my mom says.
Demand that grown-up reads books to you. Preferably the same books. Over and over. Until you know it by heart. I love detective stories. Also, make sure to bring the book back to grown-up continually to show them something until you see all the light drain from their eyes. When I was younger, I loved the book Doggies by Sandra Boynton and make my mom bark like all ten dogs. She loooooved it. I really think my mom loves to make an abundance of non-human noises. Like all days long.
Bathtime. Obviously, make it as fun as possible. Mom says that her bathtime is her wellness and time-out. What does this even mean? Splash around and make the entire bathroom your ocean. Grown-ups don’t understand how awesome this is. You can also enjoy your nightly Sunday evening bath with a warm cup of bathwater and then get sick. Must be all the soap I guess. If you are thirsty, wrap your mouth around the entire faucet to ingest as much water as possible. If grown-up gave you a washcloth, use it to clean the entire tiles of the bathroom, then wash yourself. If nobody is looking refill bathtub with as much warm water as possible. Take your scuba mask, snorkel, goggles, whatever you can find to dive. Call your Mom and then scare her by playing dead and lay in the bathtub without moving. She will get super scared, I swear.
Running in crowded places. Mom and I love to go to museums. I love to take a quick, breezy stroll through a crowded public space. Like, I just run around. Fast. I am super fast. This is best accomplished when grown-up is not looking when they are talking to someone or helping another child. As soon as you get the chance, head toward any visible thing that screams fun: water fountain (anything water), staircases, things to climb up, things to climb down, things to open and close. See how far you can get before your name is yelled, then obviously ignore it because you are having a blast. If grown-up caught you, make sure to scream and thrash about wildly to fully complete the exercise. It is exhilarating.
Sleep. Make sure to sleep as much as possible and get up super early on the weekend to watch cartoons. Saturday/Sunday, let’s say get up between 6.30 am to 7 am. Be cranky when you have to get up during the week at that time though. Make sure to sleep ten minutes in the car/train/subway on the ride home from wherever because just ten minutes will keep you refreshed for the next ten hours. Grown-ups love it.
Rearrange your space. I mean, I have to live here and want to be comfortable. Take all the vases and sponges out from under the sink and rearrange them artfully in the bathroom. Bananas are so yummy. Squeeze them out of the peel and decorate them nicely on the kitchen floor. Eat some of it. I love blueberries. Do you know what is cool? To roll them under the fridge and behind the counter. Like little marbles. The other day I thought I will mix and squeeze some blueberries from the freezer with coconut milk to see what happens and how this tastes. Mom makes awesome smoothies but I was not able to turn on the blender for some reason. Then I dropped the bowl with everything in it. The colors were awesome! Mom had this weird look on her face when she saw the mess. She cleaned everything up, had this weird twitch in her left eye, and hummed the Sesame Street Theme Song. Again, grown-ups are weird. https://www.youtube.com/embed/b2rBhpVDzO8?version=3&rel=1&showsearch=0&showinfo=1&iv_load_policy=1&fs=1&hl=en-US&autohide=2&wmode=transparent
Skin Care. Mom says that using most of the beauty products is bad for the skin. She has all this natural stuff. I don’t want my skin to be bad, so I mixed a bit of the rest of the coconut milk with her cream. I only took a bit because Mom said it was rather expensive because it is naaaatural. Whatever that means. So I squeezed some into the coconut milk. I added some of her perfume. It is called Cloé; like the fat cat from Pets- The movie. The perfume has the same name which is funny. Then I rubbed it all over my body. No wrinkles, ever.
Hug people you love. Grown-ups love that. Tell them you love them. These things can help and save you if you decide to make your own “cream” again or play “mermaid” in the bathtub. Mom always says: Don’t negotiate with (little) terrorists. I don’t know what that means.
Help whenever you can. Grown-ups can always use help. When your mom is tired, this is when you can assist. Remove all the canned goods from the shelf or the pantry. Save energy by unplugging all the cords you can reach. Especially the internet. Remove folded clothes from the laundry basket and put everything in the washing machine. Turn washing machine on. Make sure you provide your service at the right time. This is usually, when grown-up cooks, talks on the phone, cleans, or deals with paperwork. Make sure you get the appreciation you deserve.
Hey, I am not supposed to be on Mom’s computer and she is coming back. So I am signing off. I hope you will put one of my tips into practice soon. Always remember, we need to make sure our own cups are full of apple juice before we can pour the content into the fridge to see what will happen, right? It is a busy world out there. You deserve some time to yourself, happily alone with a black marker and a white wall.
Can you believe it is December already? The months have just flown by. Regardless, I hope everyone is staying healthy and safe as it has been a crazy year so far.
As we crawl through lockdown 2, I have got to admit, it’s been tough to find motivation. Motivation to stay connected with friends, and motivation for writing and studying. It is cold here in Vienna (not Canada-cold) and dark at 4 p.m. so what motivates me is the thought to go home after work, make hot chocolate and curl up on the couch with a good book. No need to go anywhere since everything is closed anyway. Though I am trying to remain optimistic, staying indoors and everything going on in the world is starting to take a toll on my mind. I am learning to find joy in my routines, but some days are just tougher than others. This uncertainty gets me every time even though I know nothing is certain in life.
Luckily, a few things will start to open up next week, but I am grateful for the time we have been able to spend outside in nature. We have discovered some new spots in Austria to keep our weekends interesting. Austria is one of my favorite places to explore and photograph. The mountains make me feel so small.
If there is anything I have learned in 2020, it is that I don’t have a clear idea or vision of what will happen next in this world. With everything that is going on, from the pandemic to the protests, terrorist attacks, the government “allowing us” to celebrate Christmas with family (which will then lead to another lockdown in January 2021), and the politics around the election in the US, we don’t seem to be getting a break, do we? It is easy to look at our current situation in despair, and experience depression, anxiety, grief, and distress.
I cannot offer any overnight solutions, but my heart keeps tugging me to share something because I know that this year has been difficult and that I am not alone in feeling despair. The many things that have happened this year continue to reflect how broken this world is: the hate, injustice, sickness, and pain.
Amid the chaos that this year continues to bring, the thing that brings me hope is not this world, but a greater, more perfect world to come. I genuinely believe that it is possible to live in a place with no racism, no climate change, no sorrow, no pain, no suffering, no fear. If we all would work a tiny bit together instead of against each other on a daily basis, a big step in the right direction would be made. To find joy in the little things again, to be grateful and appreciate to be alive. I can find peace in that.
It also shouldn’t take the holiday season to remind us to be thankful as we have much to be grateful for every day. Here are a few things I have noticed just today, that made everything just a little bit better as gratitude can transform common days into thanksgivings, routine jobs into joy, and change ordinary opportunities into blessings. Keep your head up and may this short and simple list make you realize that there is still good all around us.
a helping hand
a loving partner
warm sheets on a cold morning
to be able to get up without any pain, make breakfast, and start the day
a new day which brings a clean slate
a slow morning with time for reading before I wake up my son
the warmth of the sun
signs of growth (yourself, plants, your child(ren)
a cup of water to quench the thirst
the perfect bite of food (especially if someone else cooks for you)
that I have more belongings than I will ever need
a moment of quiet
to see true excitement and happiness in my son’s eyes
So, here we are again. Lockdown Part 2 in Vienna, Austria. As of Tuesday, 17th December, our homes and what we surround ourselves with will be deeply intertwined with this experience again even though, this time, it feels different. I guess we are all used to it. Since I will have quite some time on my hands again, it is essential to invest it closely at my home, my comfortable place. How my home feels, and the space around me, makes an impact on my well-being for sure. And this is what we all need I guess. To get through this without going insane. How I stay sane and what I do during the lockdown?
Besides studying, playing, reading, and writing, I create a slow home by simplifying it. Ideally, I want an environment that is easy to manage, and comfortable. To achieve this in my apartment, I pay attention to the design, the belonging that are in my home, and the habits, routines, and rhythms of the people who live within my home. I have a seven-year-old son who is very creative and likes to play so I need calmness but I also allow life to happen.
But if our things are all over the place and a mess all the time, it makes day-to-day living harder (not even mentioning quarantine). Of course, the fewer belongings I have in the first place, the less “stuff” there is to sort through. Now is the perfect time to clean up so life feels a little lighter and easier to manage.
My Ultimate Lockdown Guide to Keep Sane
I work, play laugh, and love. It is second nature for my son to play, run around, and do crazy things. He instinctively knows how to throw himself into games and use his imagination. This time, I work again daily, even though not full-time which is a nice change, too. But with work-stress, it is easy to forget how to lose myself in play. To play with him allows me to lose myself, along with my sense of time. Go out to play. Just get home before 8 pm.
I clean my home. I don’t try to tackle the whole apartment at once. Chances are, I will feel overwhelmed and never actually begin. I sort by category, not by room.This way I will not repeat the task over and over. It is harder to decide what I can let go of when I haven’t actually collected all the items together.
I utilize storage. It is amazing what good storage can do for a room. Effective storage allows me to have less surface clutter. I make the most of the space I have, by using extra hooks or by storing things properly. I keep the contents of all storage and drawers tidy, too, so things are easy to find. Also, I don’t have a closet but a free hanger to see all the clothes I own. This way, I wear all of them.
I involve my child. I help my son from a young age and show him where things live in our home. By teaching him the importance of putting things away, he will be able to help me keep our home tidy. It also helps him appreciate his toys and belongings, which is an important step in establishing healthy boundaries when I go shopping with him.
I am physically active. I move to slow down my mind. Yoga, jogging, anything will do. Even though it is cold, we take our bicycles and go for a ride. We walk a lot or take our car to drive out of the city and explore and get lost in the woods.
Daydreaming and Boredom. It is important for me to just let my thoughts seamlessly float through a stream of consciousness. I need moments in my day when my mind is relaxed and disengaged from things. And sometimes it is great to just gaze out of the window, and watch the neighbors. With this bombardment of new Covid information, terrorist attacks, and other distractions that keep our brains occupied and engaged, it is important to see the positive things in life. Despite it all.
It will get better and we will all get through this.
The year is slowly coming to an end. It has been a mess for the most part but there was a lot of fun and awesome stuff, too. I guess we all made/make the best of it while patiently waiting for this s***storm to be over. Maybe it is the weather, maybe the pandemic, but my brain comes up with strange things and ideas these days. I just finished Woody Allen’s autobiography, “Apropos of Nothing”, so get ready for some sarcasm between the lines. Today, I want to share things that I think will be mandatory in 2021.
Hangover Vaccine: Highly necessary and the holy grail of vaccines, especially during this pandemic.
It will be mandatory (there will be fines!) that everybody watches the movie Contagion and be scared shitless.
Werewolf Vaccine: Doesn’t prevent you from becoming a werewolf, but does make you more amenable to counseling at work.
Mystery Vaccine: My son asked to add this one. Not exactly sure what this vaccine does. Requires multiple injections with increasingly larger needles. Oh, and he wants the LEGO Coronavirus Panic set for X-mas.
Pseudo Vaccine: Doesn’t really do much of anything, but comes with a coupon for half off your next vaccine of choice.
Venom Vaccine: It allows you to impress your friends (on for example camping trips) by letting rattlesnakes bite you. Also, you can show up for a date with spiders on your face. Or cockroaches.
Truth Vaccine: No matter what, you tell all children that the Toothfairy and Santa does not exist. You also tell everybody exactly what you think and how you feel about anything. At all times.
Sad Vaccine: Gives you a small dose of anxiety and depression after you took the Truth Vaccine. May also come in handy, when your partner cheats on you. You will wish them well and ask them on their way out if they need some gas money.
Mandatory “Organic” (because this always sells) Hand Soap (Euro 340): Hands will be totally destroyed because of the hand sanitizers so everybody will need to buy this soap.
Organic Disinfecting Bleach (Euro 410): There is a new Corona-law out: After 1 additional household- friend comes over you will need to bleach all your dishes. But bleach can be super harsh. This organic cleaner is a bit pricier but it is made from purified H2O, Juliet Rose Leaves, saffron threads and kills all of the germs that your friend may have brought over. Special: Just add a bit to your morning coffee and you will have a nice blurry vision all day long.
First Responder Tiara for Women (Euro 3900): These days, it is not easy to stand out from the crowd when you are poking your head out of the window to check what is going on with the neighbors across the street. Whenever you poke your head out, this headwear will make you the Queen of the pandemic. This tiara, encrusted with rubies, and diamonds will make you feel feminine and brave.
Clapping Device (Euro 4500): You just received another call from your child’s school that one kid has been in contact with a Corona person without symptoms. Now you have to stay home to homeschool and be quarantined for ten days. This can be stressful and you might not even have time to clap for the first responders while you teach your child how to embroider F***Corona on a wristband. With this clapping device, all this is not a problem anymore. The device is weather-resistant and plays a ton of really awesome clapping-tracks and swears on command while you are calculating with your child how many f***ing apples the farmer has left in his f***ing basket after Max stole five.
Chanel Goat Face Mask (Euro 120,000): The government recommends wearing a mask and keeping two meters (social) distance. But that does not mean you have to stand two years behind the current fashion trends! This non-reusable face mask is made from a goat’s face that has been expertly de-toothed and molded to a natural human face. Nearly three full goat faces go into each mask. Goatskin’s natural oils will help keep your lips perfectly smooth.
Pearl Tear Jar (Euro 500): I mean, this Corona stuff is sad! But cry it all out in style. Collect your daily tears in it and watch the colors shimmer (because of the pearl lid!). Also great for storing earrings.
Wine Bidet (Euro 7000): Toilet paper is still an issue, and everyone is looking for an eco-friendly way to cope. This bidet is using whatever liquid you have at home. Champagne, wine, beer, whiskey, rum, whatever! In no time, your booty will be able to tell the difference between a 2011 and a 2019 Merlot!
SHELL/AGIP Memberships (Euro 50,000 or 950,000): The cost of oil has fallen so low that SHELL and AGIP are actually considering individual memberships. Available for either single membership or dual membership or dual membership for couples you will be able to save hundreds of Euros. Buy one for yourself or give it to your family for X-mas (if that will take place this year). Now that is what I call essential oil, my friends.
COVID-19 VACCINE (Euro 3,000,000): A vaccine already exists for people who can afford it. Included in the cost is a two-week vacation at a Deluxe Suite in the Bahamas of a hotel your choice (most are closed) and the First-Responder-Tiara. Special: Trump will be there crying in fetal position that he is no longer president.
“Any action is often better than no action, especially if you have been stuck in an unhappy situation for a long time. If it is a mistake, at least you learn something, in which case it’s no longer a mistake.”– Eckhard Tolle
How do you find rest in a world that feels so restless right now? We are not only dealing with another lockdown but also with a crazy terrorist attack in Vienna, Austria. The constant sound of police sirens is the “new normal”. Time seems to stand still. People and students are advised to stay home. I wonder what’s next?
Lately, and with all the insanity going on, I have noticed I am indecisive about the smallest things. Like what to cook or when to go shopping, what to have for dinner, or whether or not to go for an afternoon walk. Like, is it safe? Is it okay? Will I get fined for it? Do I have to wear a mask while doing X, Y, and Z? I don’t think I am alone here. When so much is uncertain and I have such little control over the big things in my life, my plans, my job security, the outcome of an election that may affect us all, I often turn my attention to the little things I can control.
Then, I think that I can safely adapt to the new situation and out of nowhere something else crazy happens. So I have to make new choices in my day, working from home, staying home, or homeschool introduces new decisions into my life. Would I be surprised if the Independence Day Spaceship would hover over Vienna in an hour? Nope.
“So, what if, instead of thinking about solving your whole life, you just think about adding additional good things. One at a time. Just let your pile of good things grow.”– R. Rowell
Life has always been uncertain, but for better or worse, this year I have seen that uncertainty up close. It is hard to know what I want for any given day when I cannot make decisions about the months or years ahead. So, what do I do? I stay positive while focusing on the good things in my life. I still have a job, plans, and projects. I am healthy, and so is my son. I have no fear and don’t worry. When something is out of my control, the fear is useless because it is no longer up to me: the decisions have been made for us. I can stop worrying about things that I cannot change and rather focus on things that matter while making the best decisions I can and then I recognize that the future will tell its own story. Alternatively, I make peace with getting it wrong sometimes. I make a mess on occasion but I trust my instincts and relax.
Trying to solve my life or to comprehensive the magnitude of circumstances and injustices outside of my control is not worth it because it is too overwhelming. To me, it is comforting to think small, to postpone the big, stifling plan for a moment, and focus on tiny, good things. Like making chicken soup. Or writing. Or reading. Or taking a nap. Or tidying my apartment. Or tweezing my eyebrows. Or applying red nail polish. Or listening to a song (and not the news!). Or calling my family and friends. Or playing a game with my son while being fully present. These are all ordinary things that I often overlook but this is when I connect with myself the most.
I think, in this crazy time, we don’t have to do anything special, we don’t have to do anything extraordinary, and we don’t have to think big. We all should focus on the small, ordinary, good things. When things were still “normal”, I often caught myself wanting more, more, more but then there are these encounters where it all feels like enough: this crazy virus (that is so dangerous you need to be tested to know if you even have it) or a terrorist attack that brings you back to yourself. That’s what I suppose I find extraordinary in my routine: these moments of being extra-alive while being in the center of chaos. All these small, good, ordinary things form a pile, they make me feel safe and create a wall against this bedlam.
Inside of me, the sun is always shining. I don’t try to solve my whole life or take the weight of the world on my shoulders. I let my pile of small things grow until I begin to have something I can stand on again. Something steady. Even if it is just for a minute.
You have to ask children and birds how cherries and strawberries taste. – Goethe
Last weekend, my son turned seven. Despite the Corona-madness, we were able to put together an awesome birthday party with fewer friends, and with my closest family. I have been writing a yearly letter for him since he was born, and one day when he is older, I would like him to read them. I like to tell him (and have a reminder) how he has changed over the previous year(s), what he likes, what music he enjoys listening to, what I love about him, and who he enjoys spending his time with. All these little things which, over the years, I am sure we will forget. I am already excited for the next chapter. He is growing up so quickly -some days I am ready for it, others I am not. I couldn’t help but ask myself how am I a mom to a seven-year-old? How is he even seven? It feels unreal that he is that old. I feel I am still in my 20s – smoking Gauloises, reading Camus, Sartre, Milan Kundera, and wearing all black. Wait, actually, not much has changed in that department. I added some layers of grey into my wardrobe though. And I make my own Chia pudding and take B-Vitamins.
Recently, and usually always just before his birthday, I think a lot about the physicality of motherhood. Before having my son I would have been the perfect Corona-fanatic (Covidiot?) who didn’t touch people that often (or at all) during the day. I mean, who does? Most of the day, at work, on the train, in the grocery store, at a movie, I spent without any physical contact. But these days, people avoid each other like the Plague.
When I had my son something changed. I instantly dove headfirst into a daily routine of touch. Cuddling, smooching, bathing, holding his tiny hand, breastfeeding, napping together, and changing diapers. I suddenly touched another person ALL the time and I got to know him so well. I can tell exactly what every part of Joel feels like. His cheeks, warm neck, teeny toes. I know how he breathes slowly when he is sleeping, and how his tongue is hanging out a tiny bit at the corner of his mouth whenever he is concentrating to build or draw something.
And now, (talking and typing in slow motion): But what about the partner I am in a relationship with?
The other day, I had an awesome conversation with a friend, who listened to a podcast by Esther Perel, the author of Mating in Captivity, a book about sex (within marriage and) after having kids. Perel believes that there is a badge of honor among women to not prioritize yourself or your marriage: It is all about the children. Without realizing it, she said, women can end up getting their emotional intimacy and physical satisfaction from their children, instead of their partners, said Perel. They give their babies tons of wonderful affection and then don’t have anything left over for their spouse. The relationship can become a disaster over time.
After reading the book I learned that, even at the end of a long day, the child should get the full attention of the mother, but so should the partner. In other words, languorous hugs and playful kisses for everyone.
Obviously, kissing my son is one of life’s greatest joys, and to me, my son is still my baby and will be my buddy with his huge, genuine heart. I don’t think that feeling will ever change because he is happy, funny, he makes my heart swell, makes me laugh, and challenges me in every way possible. But, at the same time, I realize that parents need that physical affection from each other, too. Not only to be a better parent but a better person and partner.