.My Ultimate Lockdown Guide to Keep Sane.

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.

Love. Be happy. Stay sane. Stay healthy.

Who is Afraid of the Paper Tiger?

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.

.Please Don’t disturb my Peace if You are at War with Yourself.

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.

Is It All About The Children?

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.

.Stay happy. Stay sane.

.My Stages of Insomnia.

via The New York Times

I usually sleep pretty well but there are just some of those weird nights. Cannot sleep? Find out what I do when counting sheep just does not cut it.

1. Waiting

2. Pondering

3. Recollection of recent mistakes

4. Neighborhood Watch. Across, there is a teenage music student who is very sweet, a couple who seem to fight about every single thing on this planet, and an elderly couple who watch Sissi movies and have breakfasts half-naked every Saturday and Sunday.

5. Annoyance

6. Realisation that this could last awhile

7. Brainstorming

8. Taking notes

9. Disgust

10. Wait, Is It Lying or Laying?

11. Itching

12. Anticipation of tomorrow’s mistakes and extreme tiredness

13. Pillow and blanket adjustment

14. Inventory of personal faults and mistakes

15. Tossing

16. Turning

17. Anger

18. Evaluation of prior caffeine intake

19. Meme remembrance

20. Controlled deep breathing

21. Turning to find the ultimate sleeping position

22. Another cup of tea

23. Corona-Anxiety (the new normal)

24. Debate with nemesis (Win)

25. Hydration

26. Bargaining

27. Wondering what acquaintances I never, ever think of during the day are up to

28. Masturbation

29. Denial

30. Reading

31. Debate with nemesis (Loss)

32. Toilet

33. Awareness of skull inside face

34. Conception of next major creative work

35. Imagined stardom

36. Writing this article

37. Acceptance while considering chocolate

38. Turn CALM App back on

39. Wait, is this a dream?

40. More anxiety

41. Clock avoidance

42. Considering to buy a white noise machine

43. Acceptance. Again.

44. Sex with nemesis (Tie)

45. Searching for sleep aid (Unsuccessful)

46. Maybe a disease?

47. WebMD Search and Dr. Google

48. Self-Pity

49. Should I just get up?

50. Mild Hallucinations

51. Listening to noises outside

52. Alarm

53. Thinking about last night’s discussion, get up, smile nevertheless and go to work.

.A Chat.

So, should I start by talking about all the at-home Yoga workouts I have been pretending to do, or all the banana bread I have been baking for Instagram? Or, what if I told you that everything we knew about slowly going insane on a desert island was wrong? Or, that all you need is a virus that is so dangerous that you need a test to figure out if you have it?

Or, better let me start this way. My computer is pretty old and refurbished and there will be a need for a new one pretty soon. I got a slight reminder that a trip to a computer store is imminent when my beloved MacBook Air crashed after an update. But, I also love to save money, and whenever I can keep this baby with me, I will do so. I didn’t want to bother my brother who is pretty successful and busy with his IT company MR Studios in Prague to help me fix this mess. This is when I decided to have an online chat with a MacBook Specialist at WordPress.

Hi, my name is Daniela. I am having trouble with my computer.

Hi, my name is Anton. How can I help you? What’s the trouble? [for some reason I hear him breezing heavily and I feel a virtual eyeroll. My brother usually does that as well whenever I ask him computer-or math questions]

My screen freezes whenever I open WordPress and want to access my blog.

Okay, let’s try this. Do you see the “System Preferences”?

No, where is that? Ohhhhh….. wait, I see it.

Yeah, it is in the “toolbar”. Found it?

Yes. [I wish I could be at a bar right now]

Click on the Apple icon and scroll down to System Preferences.

Done.

Do you see something that looks like a pie?

Yeah, actually next to me in the kitchen. I made pumpkin pie yesterday. It is awesome. Fall is a great season because everything pumpkiiiiiin, right?

………………. Here is what I want you to do. Do you see an icon that looks like a grey gear? I want you to update your system.

Okay, I did that. It says, “System is up to date”. What should I do next?

Are you able to lick the screen on your computer?

Are you serious? Just like…. lick?

Yes.

Okay. Done. It tastes citrusy.

Now press very hard on Delete and Shift at the same time. Then stamp your feet three times. Did WordPress and your blog open?

Something opened, yes.

Good, here is what you need to do. Walk in. It is narrow. You will have to crawl. Let me know when you are inside the wall.

I am in.

Where are you now? There should be a lever. DO NOT pull the lever.

I already pulled it.

Is there a tiny person with a green jacket on? Don’t ask him to take you to the cyclops or play Song of Storms from the game “Zelda”.

But I love this song. I asked him and he is considering it. I don’t know what that means.

…….. Do you want your computer to work or not? Okay, don’t mind. Just go back to your Apple menu. Are you with me?

Yes.

Are all your updates up to date or is the gnome saying something?

He is asking for a cold coin.

Okay, do you have Apple Pay?

Nope. And this little guy is getting really angry. He wants me to solve a riddle to continue. “What has four suns but only one moon?” What the f**** is going on with my computer? He is now cursing and waving some torch at me.

Let’s try this……. You can answer the gnome by jumping on the Y key with all of your might. Then the cyclops cannot be too far behind you so you can destroy him. There should be a lot of metal and wires and things. Do not be afraid.

I now gave him my watch, which has calmed him down momentarily.

Do you see the damn menu bar?

Uh….. yeah. [Wondering if Anton is getting angry]

CLICK ON THE APPLE ICON! THEN CLICK SYSTEM PREFERENCES AGAIN. CLICK ON SOFTWARE UPDATE. DO NOT DO ANYTHING ELSE.

Okay, okay. Now, the princess is safe and she gave up her throne because she did not believe in social stratification. 🙂 I want to evaporate into pure energy. Now, that my computer works again my corporal body will be gone forever, but my soul will live on.

🙂 You are funny!

Hahaha, thanks. Everything works again. Now that I can watch and open whatever I want, whenever I want, my life has no structure anymore.

Is your screen still frozen?

I AM THE SCREEN.

🙂 I hope this has been helpful. Would you mind taking a short survey to let us know how I was doing?

.CTLR-ALT-DEL… Reset.

“Almost everything will work again if you unplug it for a few minutes, including you.” – Anne Lamott Ye

A couple of days ago, I had a computer problem and could not sign out for some reason. A colleague told me to just, “hit CTLR+ALT+DET and reset because this always works”. Then, a good friend made a fascinating remark which then triggered me to write this article. She and her husband were in the process of selling their house in order to pay off some debt. When I asked her how they came to that decision, she said to me, “We have decided to hit reset on our life. For too long we have overextended ourselves financially, and it is time to take whatever steps are necessary to start fresh. We just put our house on the market and began living within a tighter budget. I don’t know what we were thinking living like that for so long, but it is time to hit reset on our lives.”

I kind of like this phrase: “We have decided to hit reset on our lives.” I hit reset on my life many times.

In speaking with my friend, I was reminded of my own life. In many ways, I hit reset when I discovered a more minimalistic lifestyle. I went back to the beginning, challenging my consumption, and the many unhealthy habits that had become present in my life. Of course, not every life is in need of a full reset. And I am smart enough to know that resetting a life is not the same as restarting a computer. I know I cannot just delete past memories, experiences, injuries, or every unenjoyable responsibility in my life. Resetting the direction requires more than a few minutes of downtime.

Autumn started and we are nearing (or longing?) the end of 2020; the time of year when I naturally assess the trajectory of my life and what direction I am heading. There is truth in the reality that I am in control of my life and I am responsible for the experiences of living. If I do not like the direction I am heading, I alone can choose a new path. Whenever I have become overburdened in my schedule, I alone can hit reset on my life. Even if some of my relationships have turned unhealthy, there is a lot I can do to foster an environment for change. Even this all might be a bit more difficult with this f***ing pandemic. Believe me, I am so tired of it all. Some changes require not just re-establishing a mindset, but also implementing the hard work of making it a reality. Like a divorce. Sometimes these changes require conversations with a partner, an “enemy”, a loved one who may or may not be thinking about the same things. But again, anything is possible.

Things I do these days are: I look hard at my spending. With this Covidiot-uncertainty, rethinking my finances is part of a necessary reset for me. I am rather careful to invest in anything big such as a car, a house, and such. But I will always invest in my health and studies. We just never know and cannot plan anything these days. I also consider my time commitments. My life is pretty stressful and hurried at points. I rush from school-drop-off to work, work 8-hours just to rush back quickly to pick up my son. Then the afternoon-shift and the entertainment programs start. No need to rush from one activity to another, but this is our daily routine. Sometimes, to chill and relax, we go straight home just to read on the couch.

There is great progress to be made in life when I look deeper than my actions and begin checking the motivation behind them. Usually, when I don’t keep my motivations in check, unhealthy ones begin to emerge such as building my own selfish kingdom. The key for me is to check the internal motivations that may have moved me to my current situation.

I hit reset and evaluate my relationships. People are not things and choosing which relationships to keep and which to remove is not as simple as decluttering clothes in my closet. There are some relationships where both parties benefit and there are some relationships where I benefit. Balance is important I guess. But there also should be some relationships in our lives where we are serving and giving and being the one who loves more. Again, balance is important in this area and I evaluate the current relationship in my life.

I figured resetting my life is going to require more than a one-time decision or evaluation. Many times, it is going to require me to rewire my habits from the ground up. My life and many other lives may be a big mess these days but I always keep in mind that I can hit reset if I need to. So can you.

.Fictional Romantic Comedy in Two Scenes.

Scene 1 (signing up at Tinder):

She entered her twenties and wanted to live a different life with the freedom to travel, no children, sunbathing on the beaches of Tulum, kissing a partner outside of the Moulin Rouge in Paris, and have a career. She wanted to be on her own, jumping from a casual fling to fling. But in truth, she longed for a serious relationship. Someone with whom she could share all this awesomeness but also sad-and weirdness which was happening in her life. Then she got married. And divorced.

A while after her divorce, a friend said, “Just sign up at Tinder”. She did. Two days later, she pressed the lock screen and slammed her phone down on the coffee table. She was two seconds away from wanting to delete the dating app from her phone. The humdrum of swiping right, but more, in her case, left had her feel drained and bored. Why did she do this to herself? This is so useless. Why did she put so much of her want and need to be with someone into an app? It felt as useless as those fortune tellers who lay Tarot cards. It seemed worth it to try, to find out what her life might look like tomorrow or a year from now, but honestly, c’mon. She wanted to know if there was a chance for her. She lived alone, which caused her to spend more time in the evening wallowing in how empty the air felt in her apartment. Sometimes, small moments of laughing out loud at a scene in a show, felt as if her sanity was borderline maniacal.

Fruit spoiled faster, food bought and prepped came and went and were stored to only be trashed because one mouth could not finish it fast enough. After her last heartbreak, she saw herself staying perpetually single but at some point, she wanted to find a partner again. Her anxiety of waking up every morning as the slow days of March loomed peak pandemic made her thankful that she was here, alive, and breathing. She had to be strong for herself, but who was being strong for her? Writing daily gave her days their shape, but they soon became monotonous. She wondered if this was it while she hit the water cooker on, made breakfast, and set up to press a smile on her face in the bathroom mirror.

When she went through this divorce, at some point, the exhaustion got the best of her. When the tears crept in the corner of her eyes as she curled up on her side of the bed at night, the rest of the sheets begging to be touched by anyone but her…. feeling as cold and as distant as she did. She thought about how she felt, not connected to anyone but herself. For some time, she had been okay with being single forever. She stared back at her phone. She pulled it toward herself and bent it slightly so it had her face in view, reflecting back at herself. “I love you,” she said and deleted the dating app.

Scene2 (The new Dating Timeline):

The goal: To meet people.

She went out. Lined her lips with Chanel lipstick. Put on a bit of make-up to go out. She does not like make-up on herself. If overdone, to her, it is a façade and another layer of (face)shield on an already cracked ex-and interior. She is not the person who goes to a bar and finds herself crowded around the male bartender, who flirted his way into her wallet and took a shot with her in order to make her not feel so desperate for attention. But her glass of red wine gently caressed her tongue as it made its way down her throat, adding another layer of calmness, and yet her nerves did not quite dissipate. However, she was in control of the ambiance.

So, she met someone, and this felt weird but also good. Her internal calm-down mechanism took over and she closed her eyes – but not all the way. The mechanism: She feels home. She is safe. If she wants this, then she has to let it happen.

They enjoyed dinners and drinks, they talked by phone and spent the summer together. It was special because the restaurants were closed so there were no distractions when they sat across each other at home. There was no waiter to interrupt the initial awkwardness. They had to stare at each other. The forced eye contact left her heart pounding. She can so easily get lost in someone’s stare. It feels good. This has been months ago but they still see each other.

Possible Scene to add (add the restaurant):

“Hello,” she said, smiling when he waited for her at the restaurant. He smiled and his face leaned to the side. He always smiled when he sees her. He gently adjusted his hair, opened the door to the restaurant for her, and said, “Hey, sunshine. I am glad you are here. “

They kissed.

End Scene: (possibly include applause)

.On Friends & Friendships.

Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another, “What! You too? I thought I was the only one.” —C.S. Lewis

Throughout my adult life, I have spent many minutes that have amounted to many hours and maybe even days thinking about friendship – what it means, whether I am good at it, how much of it I have compared to other people, and what I need to do (or not to do) to obtain a certain amount. I have to add that I never really had a huge crew of real friends. Maybe a bit over a hand full. I have many friends from all different areas of phases of my life, each tucked into their own neat little orbit and only colliding on rare occasions. Also, combining friend groups is hard. Making new, genuine friends as an adult is even harder – for me. It takes me a while to really trust someone. I don’t have this anxiety, this need, to go out there and meet new people and make friends. Lately, I started thinking about the future of friendships. A good friend of mine just came back from a mission and I actually had tears in my eyes when I saw her. We don’t spend a lot of time together but when we do, it is awesome. Just the knowledge that she is here is enough for me.

With this pandemic, possible lockdowns, and this slightly buzzing anxiety what will happen next, friendships feel more important to me than ever, but in a completely different way. There is still a sense of pressure, but one that is more internal-facing. One that asks me not what I am doing to make more friends, but instead what I am doing to serve the friends I already have. How can I give more and ask for less? Am I reaching out only when I need something, or when I think they might need something? Maybe “pressure” isn’t the right word, because that tends to have a negative connotation, and there is nothing negative-feeling about this desire. It feels more like a kind of yearning, born from the tender space between missing and wanting to be missed in return. While making new friends will always be a worthy pursuit, re-investing some of that time and energy into the ones I already have and love is often even worthier. I am getting better and constantly learn how to get it right, this friendship thing. Especially after big disappointments when you think you are friends with someone and they rat you out behind your back. I again have distinguished between certain kinds of friends and friendships I have formed. I learned that I have to be careful who I talk to and about what; and who my real friends are.

Since I moved to Vienna, I have made friends in aisles at the local supermarket and in bookstores. Sometimes it is just a few minutes of lively small talk, other times it has a Humphrey Bogart-level of promise. It is comforting, in any degree, to feel seen by another person. Once, on a solo trip to the Albertina Museum in Vienna, I said, “So we meet again!” to a woman who wandered near me into all of the same rooms, and we later ordered snacks at the café. A couple of months ago, on a train ride from Coburg to Vienna, I hit it off with a dentist from Bosnia who told me his life story for four hours straight. And for my gold medal of serendipitous friendships, I met my first friend here in Vienna at the Schönbrunn Labyrinth. We sat on a bench next to each other, both glued to our phones while enjoying the sun in fall. We started talking when my son asked me for the millionth time if he can go to the water park part of the playground. “I won’t get wet, I promise,” he added. My now-friend next to me just told me, “They will always get wet!” I responded, “Does it get easier when they get older?” “Nope, just differently interesting. Many days, I am f***ing exhausted!” The friendship was established then and there and we spoke for three hours straight, walked home together, and exchanged numbers.

One secret to deeper friendship? Doing something random and talk. Whenever I meet with my friends, it is just the simplest things, such as sitting somewhere, having coffee, and we can talk for hours like we have never been apart. I also believe in quality over quantity. With these close friends, there is never weirdness, everything is clear, we are there for each other no matter what. I realize and accept that we are all busy at points so there is no resentment or guilt and I am happy to spend time together whenever we can and there is always love when we connect. This is the secret to friendships for me.

 

.Aim For “Yes”.

My son started prefacing his requests with this phrase: “I know you are probably going to say no….”. One day I was standing in the kitchen, denying his request for more chocolate for the 9 millionth time, when it hit me: I say no to my kid a lot. I don’t think there is anything wrong with “no”. In fact, I kinda love it because it sets boundaries, it hopefully empowers him to use the word himself, and it is a one-syllable answer to his most annoying question. But it started to feel like my son viewed me as the ultimate naysayer, the one thing standing in between him and fun.

The other day I heard someone say, “Just mostly aim for ‘Yes’ if they [the kids] want anything”. Those words have run through my mind every few days since then. That is approximately 850 times. The idea is that there are certain rules kids need to follow such as “try hard at school”, “be respectful to others”, “go to bed at bedtime”, “eat vegetables and fruit”, and so on, but outside of that, if they want to try something out, just say yes.

Here are some “just-say-yes-moments” that recently happened to me:

  • He wants to jump from the sofa to my reading chair and then to my writing desk
  • He wants to mix milk and water and take a bath in it like Cleopatra but with goggles on
  • He wants to wear pajamas to the grocery store
  • He wants to sleep upside down (feet on a pillow)
  • He wants to build a huge cave in his room with all the bed-sheets available
  • He wants light-up shoes so he can run even faster
  • He wants to see if almond milk tastes better when licked off the floor because cats do that.

My knee-jerk reaction is to say no – I mean just take a normal, quick shower, just drink your almond milk – but then I think: why not? If it is not hurting anyone, and he finds it exciting or enticing for some reason, who cares? He might not love the flavor of his drink, but he will feel free and curious. And that is worth it. It is also fun for me to see all the random stuff he comes up with.

On the opposite, what I say yes to all the time is when it comes to reading or writing. Whenever he asks me to read a book to him, even though I am dead tired, I will do it. I currently read one of my favorite books of all time to my son. Momo, by Michael Ende. If you haven’t read it, read it. It is an amazing story for children (6+). Actually, everybody should read this book. Or watch the movie.

I also came up with a little experiment. Three days of saying “Yes” to everything my son asked for. Of course, I established some ground rules that only I knew existed because I live way too far away from Disneyland, and there was no way in hell I will Corona-fly from Vienna to the U.S.of A. Also, I try to avoid Indoor Playgrounds like the plague.

The Rules:

  • I can say no, if I want, to repeat requests after the third ask. This is to save me and my wallet from going out to dinner three nights in a row, and to prevent him from watching Netflix four three hours a day)
  • No crazy trips to faraway places.
  • No toy purchases over Euro 20 for the week
  • Nothing that will hurt us or other people
  • I reserve the right to override any questionable requests but will do my best to say yes to everything

Day 1- Friday

I started the “Three Days of Yes” raring to go, but quickly realized that my default habit of saying no was deeply ingrained in my brain. He must have sensed something because the second we walked into our home he asked if he could watch Netflix. “Yes,” I said, and I told him I will prepare the pizza for dinner. He loves to make pizza so Netflix was not on his mind anymore and he wanted to help me in the kitchen.

Day 2- Saturday

For breakfast, he asked for a smoothie and my iPad. I made him a frozen banana blueberry smoothie (his favorite) and I let him binge watch Jurassic Park The Series on Netflix. I once again found myself enjoying how nice it is to read in bed and enjoy a nice cup of coffee ( I bought a pretty good coffee machine to enjoy coffee as Viennese people do) while he is in a zombie trance. Win-win for both of us.

Day 3 – Sunday

We have settled into tons of reading, writing, trips, Heurige (awesome wine places here in Austria), and ice cream. Then he asked to go to the beach. Well, we live in Vienna, Austria. No beaches but lakes, so we went to Neusiedler See, which is beach-like. It turned out to be one of the most stress-free three days ever.

The Lesson

It turns out, his wants are not that extreme or extravagant or absurd. He does not need a limousine or asks for tons of candy, and other stuff. He also did not want to order pizza three days in a row but make his own once a week. His asks revealed a desire to help, play, be seen, be independent, and responsible. But I learned that by saying “yes” more often, it allows him to grow, helps me to lighten up and relax as a parent, and also offers up new opportunities for us to connect, play, and bond.

Sure, it is our job as parents to set boundaries, say no, and be the “bad guy.” But saying yes to my kid, and experiencing his exuberance that came along with it, felt really good. So pass the ice cream and crank up The Lego MovieI am saying yes to saying yes in general. Just don’t ask me to go to an Indoor Playground on a Sunday.