.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: 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.

.Hold it Through the Curves.

Yay! Another lockdown is around the corner and I am tired of it. Really tired of it. Even though I see this virus with different eyes now because I caught it three weeks ago but these lockdowns make no sense to me at all anymore. I rocked through all the symtpoms more or less okay and besides being tired and a bit weak everything is fine again. When I hit rock-bottom I came up with this “get-me-sane-through-another-lockdown” list to cheer myself up. It worked.

  • Compliment others.
  • Take a compliment without justifying anything.
  • When a guest says your meat loaf looks like a giant fotball, don’t tell them that their partner is obviously gay.
  • Don’t bite your cuticles. Even when nervous.
  • Invest in quality clothing. Rather less quality items than too much cheap stuff.
  • If your white shirt has sweat stains, throw it away.
  • Take care of yourself. Don’t stink. Take showers. Get medical check-ups.
  • Rest when you are sick.
  • Get your teeth cleaned.
  • Read.
  • Join a book club. Join two.
  • Don’t tell your friends with kids that if they die, you will take care of their kids.
  • If you don’t like something someone says, say: “That’s interesting…..”
  • If you like something someone says, say: “That’s interesting!”
  • Don’t complain about your interior/exterior designers and how they messed up your 45,000 Euro kitchen or your garden design for 140,000 Euro.
  • Give flight attendants your full attention during their in-case-of-emergency take off routines. Show respect.
  • Engage strangers while waiting in line.
  • Don’t reprimand people who call you sweetheart.
  • Accept it: you are too old to drink more than two glasses of wine and sleep comfortably through the night.
  • Enjoy when bouncers still ask you for your ID.
  • When your partner is in the bathroom, don’t knock on or talk to them through the closed bathroom door.
  • When a person doesn’t get your reference, don’t repeat, “Oh, just kiss my ass!” with the hope that they will.
  • Listen to erotic audiobook when you scrub the bathroom floor and gangsta rap while cleaning the windows.
  • Don’t worry about anything too much or too long.
  • Get involved in a holistic, healthy lifestyle and ask me how to get started.
  • Quit smoking.
  • Ask your friend who is a shrink if you should see a shrink.
  • Look at yourself in the mirror. It is you. Smile.
  • Don’t use face-filter apps on social media. Or ever.
  • You are unhappy in your relationship? Change. Stop complaining.
  • Make love to your partner. If this doesn’t sound like a good idea, figure out why not. Then change.
  • Clean your apartment/house like you have never cleaned an apartment/house before.
  • Consider that step of buying a house instead of renting.
  • Learn that life is more fun when you are loose.
  • Take Pilates, hot Yoga, and give yourself a hug.
  • No need to wear Lululemon Yoga pants for 150 Euro.
  • Don’t say “you are busy” or “you are working on something” or “you have poor internet connection” if you just don’t want to talk to someone.
  • Rather buy from an independent bookstore than the big “A”.
  • Make love to your partner when they say, “It is your money. Do whatever you want with it.”
  • Make love to your partner when they say, “I will cook dinner tonight, do the laundry, run you a hot bath while I take the kids to bed. Do you want a glass of wine and some dark chocolate?”
  • Don’t lie. Obviously.
  • Develop a signature look which says: I have good taste. I am clean. I am confident. You can trust me. People will know and feel if you are fake!
  • Don’t get lonely when your partner is not around.
  • There is nothing wrong with having nice things but don’t get in crazy debt.
  • Learn how to fix things in the house.
  • Don’t be lazy. Don’t cut corners. Don’t slack. Don’t infringe. Don’t be a slob.
  • Listen to others. Stay calm.
  • Oh, in case you forgot: Stop complaining.
  • Be part of the solution, not the problem.
  • If someone moves to make room for you, take up more room.
  • If someone sneezes or coughs, run.
  • If you don’t want someone to leave, sit on their suitcase.
  • Even though you can take care of yourself, it is okay to let someone be nice to you.
  • It is fine to take a nap on the laundry.
  • If you stand in the kitchen long enough, someone will feed you.
  • Just because it is gorgeous outside doesn’t mean you have to go outside.
  • Just because you can fit into something tight doesn’t mean you should.
  • If you want to be left alone, say so.
  • If you want to surprise someone, lie in a bathtub and then jerk back the curtains when they sit on the toilet.
  • Eat cheese with the refrigerator door open so it counts as a light snack and not a three-thousand-calories-cry for help.
  • Clean your bedside table from empty mugs and wineglasses, and any ChapStick-rimmed glass of stale water with cat hair floating in it. Wait, you don’t even have a cat.
  • Make a cup of tea that’s a thousand degrees too hot and forget to drink it until it is cold.
  • Say that you are going to go for a walk in the crisp, cold air on a Saturday morning and then it suddenly being nighttime without you even having put on pants.

Sounds good to you? Then we are compatible. Stay happy. Stay healthy.

.Everyday Life as a German in Austria.

As a German, life in Austria is not always easy. You want to get to know Austria, especially Vienna, better? Bear with me because there are plenty of wonders in store. Naive as I was, I moved to Vienna expecting to be welcomed with open arms. “I speak the same language and we are neighbors. Germans love Austrians and love to travel to Austria to hike”, I thought. Far from it, as it turned out. After a rather sobering first couple of weeks harsh reality came in the form of a hot, black and bitter drink, known as coffee. Everyone knows what is meant by this. Everyone has the smell in their nose and the picture in their head. Well, except the Viennese. “I would like a coffee, please, “I said to the grumpy looking waiter at Café Ritter (Kaffeehaus) in front of me. “Of course you do”, he replied annoyed. Questioning glances were exchanged between us. “What does ‘Mohr im Hemd’ on the menu even mean”, I wondered. “What kind of coffee would you like?” he eventually asked me, followed by an endless list of coffee variations. Whereupon my face immediately took on the shape of a question mark: “What is happening to me? Well, just a normal black coffee, please.” The waiter rolled his eyes, snorted “Piefke” and shortly afterwards, I had a tiny espresso in front of me and a glass of water. As a German, living the Viennese dream of lingering in coffee houses is a quite difficult task, but with the understanding for Vienna, at some point also came the understanding of coffee. And somehow, since then, it also tastes different!

Some day I was standing in a line in front of a shop; because everything was taking so long, I started a conversation with the others who were waiting. With my accent, the Austrians in front of me noticed right away that I was German. At which another woman in line asked if I could please start a Piefke-insurgency to get things moving.

At the Würstelstand: Don’t ever order like this: “Guten Tag. Ein Würstchen bitte, ein Brötchen, und ein Bier. Haben Sie eine Tüte?” I was banned from the Würstelstand for three months.

Austrians cannot say “No”. I suggested an idea to an Austrian colleague, who says, “Interesting idea. Let’s look at this,” – but what he means is, “I am going to leave it on my desk and do nothing – at least not right away.” But I think I have got a go ahead, will make a to-do-list, and start setting up the files – while the Austrian was far from decisive, but didn’t wan to say “no” directly.

Austrians cannot accept “No”. At the museum: Museum guard tells an Austrian woman to please carry her backpack in front rather than on her back. The woman says, “okay”, puts the backpack in front and as soon as the guard leaves moves it back on her back rolling her eyes calling him an asshole.

Do not speak up anywhere. As a German, you are supposed to watch and see the dynamic and gradually find a place for yourself. And after a while, when you have been “accepted”, only then you can say what you have to say. This definitely takes longer than in Germany. Don’t ever give Austrians the feeling that Germans can get things done better, faster, more efficient, smarter, etc. You get the point.

Me at he bakery: “Two rolls, please.” I then heard the saleswomen ask, “Which two would you like?” I still hear that question sometimes to this day, and I think it is an incredible luxury to be able to choose exactly the two rolls, exactly the piece of bacon, exactly that plucked chicken that you want. Just as you can order 3 or 13 Dekas of salami as a topping for your roll. Or 150 Dekas ham while the saleswoman stares at me with her eyes wide open asking her colleague if there is more ham in the back. Then, the typcial eyeroll.

My first Heurigen (epic outdoor/indoor-wine-garden where you can eat and drink liters of wine) visit: Can you please tell me what all the items on the “Wurstplatte” are in German language. Huge mistake. But ask me where the best Heurigen are and I will let you know.

Austrian words that grind my gears:

  • Ordination = Sprechstunde – visiting hours at a doctor’s office
  • urgiert = dringend – urgent
  • Schuach = Schuhe – shoes
  • neich = neu – new
  • es schneibt = es schneit – it is snowing
  • es flankerlt = es schneit etwas – tiny snowflakes are coming down from the sky

Funny things to say:

  • Eh’ = ??? – ???
  • Na sicher = Sicher – Sure
  • Geh’ bitte! = Echt? – ???
  • Der futile Hawara pudert ois, was eam üban Weg rennt = Dieser Typ ist nur auf Sex aus und nutzt jede Gelegenheit, die sich bietet- This guy f***s everything
  • Du bist a urndlicha Wappla = Du bist ein Idiot – You are an idiot
  • Ur wichtig = Sehr wichtig. – Very important
  • Schauts, die Heh’ is do = Die Polizei ist hier – The police is present
  • A Kieberer is ka Hawara = Der Polizist ist kein Freund – The police officer is not your friend
  • Heast, Gscheader, foa weida, des is a Strossn und ka Ocka! Heit bin i zu den Gscheadn ausse gfoan, Wein kaufen.” = Hören Sie, Landbewohner, fahren Sie weiter, dies it eine Strasse und kein Acker! Heute begab ich mich zu den Bauern, um Wein zu kaufen.” – I drove out of the city to buy some wine from a farmer
  • Wos Sie da sogn, is a aufglegta Schas! = Sie reden gequirlte Scheisse! – You are talking bullshit.
  • Ma, der Trottl geht ma om Zaga. = Der Idiot geth mir so auf den Wecker. – He is getting on my nerves)
  • Vazupf di, owa schnö! = Geh weg, aber schnell. – Get lost immediately

Overall, and how to make your life easier in Austria, just be on time, speak German (at least try), be polite, get a Dirndl/Lederhose, enjoy coffee and cake (not Starbucks, go to a Kaffeehaus), ignore the Viennese attitude (many are very grumpy), listen to Falco, learn to drink white wine like a pro, call tomatoes “Paradeiser“, do not tell Austrians that they are like Germans, and end a conversation with Baba, Servus, but not Tschüss. Then you should be save.

.Love in my Thirties.

The older we get, the more baggage we carry. When I dated at twenty-five, I walked into the bar with a very neat, light carry-on. Inside you might find a couple of ex-boyfriends, a mild Oedipal complex or maybe even a slight fear of commitment. When I dated from thirty onwards, it is just natural to meet someone with a 250 kg of backpack absolutely brimming with history and children and houses that half belong to an ex; and dying parents and years of therapy and problems with addiction and jobs that take up all of their time and ex-partners they still have to see once a week because of a custody-battle. It can be daunting, serious, intense, grown-up and not very fun.

The older I get, the more baggage I carry, but the more honest, open and vulnerable I allow myself to be. In 2019, after my divorce, I officially declared it nearly impossible to meet a romantic partner in real life. But I also did not want to. Accepting this is crucial in realising I am not unapproachable or undesirable or doing anything wrong. I can acknowledge my bad patterns of behaviour in relationships. I can analyse how they developed. I can do the work to make sure I never behave like that again. But that is all I will ever be able to control. I cannot predict (or at least not all the time) how another person is going to behave in a relationship. I can risk-assess, I can be cautious, I can make sensible decisions about who I choose to trust and invite into my life and heart. But I cannot manage the unruly variable of another living, breathing being. To choose to love is to take a risk. Always. That’s why it is called falling in love. Head over heels sometimes.

It is so, so hard not to feel betrayal and let be put down by love and turn that into nihilism, scepticism or anger. But cynicism, while funny and self-protecting, is very easy. Finding trust, sustaining hope – that is the real artform. One of the hardest things about getting older and being in love is knowing when something is just reality and when it is too much hard work. Identifying what the quiet, joyful but often challenging sensation of long-time love is and identifying what’s just become a pain in the arse, is where I have to rally sharpen my instincts. After the divorce I promised myself to free up some space in my mind and schedule and see what life is like without being in a relationship. Being single and all the changes I have been through (moving to another country to name just one) made being single feel so peaceful, the thought of returning to the land of the loving started to feel impossible. Later, I realized that only shared interests are one of the most misguided considering factors when choosing a partner. Deciding that someone is a good person, or my soulmate, or made of exactly the same stuff as I simply because my partner and I both love to listen to Bob Dylan is ridiculous. Enjoying reading books and collecting them will not help me to weather the various unexpected storms of life together.

To me, a much underrated and incredibly simple considering factor when it comes to choosing a partner is how much love he can give. Since many of my friends are still with their partners and have at least one child, I have watched how they operate as couples. It became even more apparent the importance on how well we work as a team. I need to be really good friends with my partner to begin with. I am not wise when it comes to relationships but I believe I am never immune to romance. And lust is a silent disco. It allows me to dance and get lost in a song no one else can hear if I choose to. I try not to judge other people’s relationships and the way they conduct them. To each its own. Longterm romantic love is a feat. People should do it in the exact way that works for them, even if it doesn’t make sense to others on the outside.

Love should be about aligning my life with another person, not a place of make-believe. It should be a person I can escape to. Where I always feel good, am the star of the show and unquestioningly adored while giving all this back to my partner.

An old pro/con list of reason to have a partner. I found it in my online diary. Too funny.

Reasons to a have a partner:

  • More likely to get a proper birthday cake
  • Access to Amazon Prime
  • Something to talk about
  • Someone to speak to in the evening
  • Sunday afternoons cuddles on the couch
  • More sympathy when you do something really wrong at work
  • Someone who touches my butt in the queue for anything
  • Holidays together
  • Reading together
  • Sometimes I cannot manage a whole large pizza to myself
  • Might have a car
  • Might own an apartment/house
  • Might have money so when there will be a huge wedding at a castle, all my female friends who will be invited can wear fancy hats
  • Nice to make sandwiches or cook for someone other than myself
  • Nice to think about someone other than yourself
  • Regular sex isn’t that weird
  • Warmer bed and cuddles
  • Everyone else seems to have a partner, too
  • If I have one, people will think I am lovable
  • If I don’t have one, people will think I am shallow and dysfunctional
  • The relief of not having to flirt with people
  • Fear of dying alone, the void etc.
  • Feeling whole with the right partner

Reasons not to have a partner:

  • More laundry
  • Debates/arguments
  • They probably won’t like nightly mask-and nail polish rituals
  • They definitely won’t like Dirty Dancing because they cannot dance like Johnny
  • They might be in love with your dishwasher that you never use
  • They might be cleaning freaks
  • They might turn out as hoarders and collectors of weird stuff
  • They might have crazy ideas like purchasing forty typewriters to then later sell but your apartment will turn into a storage unit
  • They might leave tea bags all over the apartment
  • Being told what you did the night before when you were drunk
  • Having to watch any life or television sports

So, when you are looking for love and it seems like you might not ever find it, remember you probably have access to an abundance of it already, maybe just not the romantic kind. This kind of love might not kiss you in the rain or propose marriage. But it will listen to you, inspire and restore you. It will hold you when you cry, celebrate when you are happy and sing with you when you are drunk. You have so much to gain and learn from this kind of love. You can carry it with you for ever. Keep it as close to you as you can. And whenever your gut tells you, he is the one, hold on to this person and float away together.

.Considering the Alternatives.

I love you, mom. Happy birthday. You make the best chicken soup on this planet. Hope to see you soon. <3

Advice My Mom Gave Me: Do what you love but finish school and get a degree.

Me: Go to college or university only if you’ll major in science, engineering, or money. It’s a bleak job market, and majoring in English literature or anything with the word “English” in it has been useless unless you want to become an English teacher.

My Mom: Never show up to a party empty-handed.

Me: Never send a text to the host twenty minutes before the party starts to say that you’re “sooooooo sorry” to cancel but you have stomach issues.

My Mom: You want a job? Write resumes and apply.

Me: Apply to jobs via LinkedIn, ZipRecruiter, nepotism, or Vitamin B. Write a cover letter and attach your résumé, then manually enter the same information through the company’s portal, which looks as though it was designed in Microsoft Paint. Do this twenty times a day for two years, and you’re bound to make it to the third round of phone interviews before getting ghosted. They might let you wait for months, let you redo the test and interview, then re-apply for your post, or don’t call you at all.

My Mom: Don’t put photos of yourself on the Internet. You’ll get kidnapped! Or your child. Also, why do you have to share so much other stuff on Facebook or your blog?

Me: Post thousands of carefully curated photos of your life on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn so you can build a following and attract sponsors who reflect your core values.

My Mom: Spend your twenties finding a partner within a two-mile radius of your village. Someone who is “normal”. Then build a house, settle down, keep your job even though it sucks, build a white fence around your house, get a dog and a cat (optional), two (or more) children, and plant a tree. Come over for coffee and cake anytime.

Me: Spend your twenties and thirties moving between the U.S. and Canada, back to Germany, maybe Italy, and finally Vienna to figure out what you want in an ideal partner by dating as much as possible imagining you found real love. Have one child in between.

My Mom: Never date someone who seems weird to you. Listen to your gut.

Me: Don’t listen to your gut because you know better. Listen to your head that tells you, “He might not be the best but he takes the garbage out if you remind him. And he cooks you dinner if you pay for it because he is broke in the middle of the month. Or he smokes a joint to drive more safely because people on the road make him aggressive.” Date someone who rides a unicycle, is a Fruitarian and shares his apartment with seven cats. Date someone who wants to start ten projects at the same time and gets nothing accomplished in the end. Date someone who has an ego as high as Mount Everest. Then get married to those men and listen to your mom who will say, “I told you so! We all did!” Then get a divorce and pay for everything.

My Mom: Invest early. Get life insurance. Safe money. Don’t overspend and never be in debt unless it is for a car (that you really need) or a house. THOSE are good investments.

Me: Spent all your savings on divorces and books.

My Mom: Never wait to do your taxes.

Me: If you wait long enough to do your taxes, there might be a global crisis/pandemic that forces the federal government to extend the deadline. Then you can wait some more and do them right before the new deadline.

My Mom: Don’t talk to strangers (on the Internet). Avoid eye contact on the bus and subway.

Me: Talk to every stranger (on the Internet), because meeting new real friends is really fucking hard. I spoke to the lady who decided it is okay to eat her seafood lasagna next to me at 7:30 am on the train. She never became my friend.

I wrote about this. ————> [Subway Creatures: How not to be an asshole on the train]

My Mom: Find a good job that pays well so you can save for retirement and enjoy life.

Me: Retirement is something you’ll read about in your history books under the rubric “Abstract Ideas.” Who knows if we all even get there. This damn pandemic taught me to live in the here and now, enjoy life, spend money but all within my means. And I actually consider twice if I really need something before purchasing.

My Mom: Health is the most important thing we have. Invest in health.

Me: THIS I fully agree with. <3

I considered the alternatives and failed many times because you were pretty much right on with everything. Love you, Mom.

.To All Moms.

Are you stressed? Worn out? Is this Corona insanity getting the best of you? Are you astonished by the enormous amount of mothers who have dropped out of homeschooling and mothering in the last year since the coronavirus lockdowns began? Do you have the urge to sign yourself into a mental institution? Yes? It sounds like you (and me) could use a restful vacation to cleanse your soul and replenish your (maternal) energy.

But, I don’t have that kind of time/money/negative Corona test, your monkey mind tells you. I have to go to scan my son’s online distance learning worksheets, make sure he isn’t playing Minecraft instead of being “in class”, and collate tomorrow’s math and reading assignment. Well, stress no more because I have news for you. All your troubles will drift away when you sit down in your adjustable, cushioned, hydraulic-motor massage chair at the furniture store XXXL Lutz in Vienna. Let your body recline and sink into the plush upholstery as you gently apply pressure to the electronic foot control, generating a soothing buzz that calms your nerves and drowns out the sound of your child arguing that he wants to sit in this chair.

What is he fighting and arguing over? It does not matter, because as your chair reclines even further, a sense of well-being permeates your entire body. Once the head-massage starts, you lose yourself in pleasure and banish whatever thoughts don’t serve you, including the knowledge that there will be another lockdown coming up and you forgot to buy food coloring and fruit and nuts for your child’s entire class. This is just the beginning of your indulgent journey, for soon, the massage chair is asking you a few simple questions about the setting you can choose from. Like the strength of the massage, the length, and the type. You don’t even have to exert the energy to speak, because you don’t need to. A couple of clicks on your massage chair screen and the setting is done.

If your child keeps talking to you just a grunt or a languid hand gesture is all you need to communicate, while the chair does its thing. Are you falling asleep yet? Is that a saliva dribble down your chin? No! Don’t wipe it away. This is your zone to relax, Queen. Just let it all go. This regenerating massage chair combines a unique combination of relaxation, and sensation to draw out toxins and enhance your state of bliss. Once the foot-massage starts, you won’t even notice anybody around you, which also means your child may have snuck either your iPad or iPhone out of your bag. This marks their fifth hour of screen time today. Hey, it is Saturday. Or isn’t it? It is still Jantembuary, the 59th.

Still, not being able to intervene in the massage cycle induces a profound sense of contentment and equanimity. You cannot do one single thing in this massage chair except sit, and enjoy the most relaxing feeling you have had in 365 days. Surrender to the now, for nothing exists inside this furniture store except you, and this 30-minute massage. As you begin to feel at one with the universe, heat, and music lull you into a space of total peace. You inhabit your body fully. You are embraced by stillness and serenity. You cannot even remember the events that seemed so stressful just an hour earlier when you tried to build the IKEA bookshelf “Leksvik” at home alone or when you threw everything out of the window to drive to a new furniture store to buy a better bookshelf. Your body sinks completely into the massage chair, which is doing all the heavy lifting for you, and you sure deserve this, lady. Well done for treating yourself!

Refreshed, renewed, and rejuvenated, you hear your child sobbing next to you but remain motionless that extra 30 seconds before a salesperson approaches you to tell you about all the special features of this particular massage chair and reminds you that it is time to get up and out of it because others want to try it, too.

Recommendation: One treatment, once a week because no appointment or negative Covid-test necessary, and no costs unless you want to purchase this Mercedes among all massage chairs.

Price: 5299 Euro

Chances are pretty high that you will see me in that massage chair at XXXL Lutz on a Saturday afternoon. Bring coffee or white wine to make this an even better experience.

You are welcome.

.ScreenPlay: Just Buy the Shiny SaucePan.

ScreenPlay: Katarina (K) and Christian (C) sit on a bench at the playground. They both constantly gaze into their phones. Their kids play.

K: On my walk home from work I.....
C: Yeah?
K: I heard that...
C: Yeah, I am listening.
K: I heard an intersting podcast.
C: What about?
K: I don't know. It was Esther Perel talking about saving relationships or something. The way people deal with "issues".
C: Esther Perel? No clue who that is.
K: She is a therapist who works with couples to fix their relationshps.
C: Oh....okay. I listened to a documentary today about the Neolithic or Stone Age. They had copper. Like a copper axe.
K: That sounds nice.
C: Yeah. Didn't we want to order this fancy pan that is made of copper?
K: You ordered it?
C: Yeah.
K: I thought we decided not to order it. Or move in together or buy this house.
C: We said if it was reduced; which it was.
K: It is still money. Is this about the house or the pan?
C: You were the one who wanted it. Both. The pan and the house.
K: I know.
C: It was reduced. I was going to surprise you.
K: That's sweet. I am just wondering if we really need a copper pan.
C: Should we get the axe instead?

[They both sip on their coffees and gaze into their phones]

K: [playing some weird "sending-off-planes-to-countries" game] Ha! My God! That's amazing! I got all the coins. But I need passengers!!
C: What is it?
K: Nothing. Where are you sending those planes?
C: What?
K: Nothing.
C: Oh.

[Five minutes later one child arrived to ask for cookies and something to drink. The child left and they gazed at the phones again; C receives a phonecall]

C (talking on the phone and walks away but K can still hear him because he screams in the phone. Maybe K should tell him that this is a telephone and not a megaphone): "Finally I received it. That was my point. The contracts cannot go out until Sabrina looks at them. Where is Sabrina? (Pause). Are you sure? (Pause). That doesn't make sense. She usually goes for a run and then to the bakery and right back to work (Pause). Do you think it is weird that I know this? (Pause). I don't think it is weird that I know this (Pause). I am her damn supervisor. Yeah, both of them. I knew this will happen. Look, I have got to go. Again, yeah, both of them." [He hangs up]
K: What was that all about? Do you need anything? Don't you have clients today?
C: Nothing. Will you do me a favor?
K: Of course.
C: I need to be alone right now.
K: I guess anything is possible.
C: Okay, are you leaving?
K: I will go for a walk now.
C: You always go for walks. Always running away! Are you running away from us?
K: You told me you want to be alone right now! And now, yes, I am running away from you. You suck!
C: Is it even safe to be out there so much? I mean, there is still this virus. The kids may spread it like crazy. This virus is so much bigger than us, you know. Don't forget your FFP2 mask.
K: Okaaaaaaaaay. Are you f***ing kidding me? What is wrong with you? [rolling her eyes and thinks about getting that axe to kill him]
C: You should go. I will stay here with the kids. We need wine. [He looks down at his phone again and received a Zoom call] Hi, Sarah. Hi, Patrick. Hi, Julia. The contracts are on the way I think. Oh, really? So, no contracts? What do you mean no contracts? We will talk later. Not now. I am at the playground. Talk later. [He hangs up and looks annoyed at his wife]
K: Okay, I will go to the store. See you at home. Don't forget to bring the kids.

[Scene: K left. C is again making phonecalls while screaming]
C: Just fire the others!!!! Enough is enough! [hangs up and curses nonstop]

[C calls K]

C: When is dinner? JULIAN AND ELLA, STOP THAT. STOP HITTING OTHER KIDS AND THROWING SAND! What time is it? I will order some food to go. I will pick it up.
K: I can pick it up, too. And I got the wine.
C: I love you. I just realized and I hate to say it but I am grateful. Bad as everything is, we are doing better than most. We have a roof over our head and food. And I am grateful to have you. I mean that. You are a good person, you know!? I will see you at home then. Oh, also, I got laid off just now.
K: WHAT? YOU LOST YOUR JOB?
C: We all did. Sarah, Julia, Patrick, and I.

[They are all together at home and it is evening. Everyone is in the kitchen, the food, the wine, the kids, and the conversation. Then the doorbell rings.]

C: Didn't you hear the doorbell? This package just got delivered.
K: Can I open it? (C openes the package and takes out a copper saucepan). Shiny. I like it. This would look good in the new kitchen in that house we looked at. But let's not rush into anything.
C: I think so, too.
K: I love you. We will get through this. Everything will be okay. We will figure this out. We can figure anyting out. If we want.
C: I agree. Together, forever, my love. Off to the next chapter and challenge. Life is not easy.

.Strawberry Swing.

Are you overwhelmed with stores opening again? With masses of people everywhere? Don’t get me wrong. I love that life gets somewhat back to “normal” but all these people everywhere freak me out a bit. I got used to “quiet” and am looking for alternative ways to live. Is that weird? To me, it is important to encompass all the fundamental values that help my son and I live a more wholehearted life, from being connected to the present moment to appreciate the little things and taking time to enjoy and celebrate life. Of course, life is life, and there are many things that try to hinder me on my quest to live more in the present, including the glorification of being busy, consumer culture and materialism, our digital age, and virtual consumption.

What does society tell us? That there is an association of being “busy” and being successful which is a dangerous equivalence. We cannot be busy every hour of every day, so when do we stop? How do I know when I have reached the limit of my busyness and the peak of my success? And if I am not achieving anything, for example workwise, does that mean I am failing?

For some, there is a deep fear that if they stop being busy, for just a moment, they could be confronted with silence, and even more terrifying, we would have to face the fact that perhaps what we are “busy” doing isn’t actually that important at all. Think about this for a moment.

It is important to remember that success does not just have to be defined by the big moments in my life or by collecting material possessions. There can be great significance in the small, quiet moments and in life’s little details. Just stop to think about it, there are other ways to evaluate how successful our lives are. For example, the connection with others, how much love and happiness I inspire, the impact I have on my surroundings.

How we shop and consume things has changed dramatically over the last years, with shopping and buying material items becoming entangles with our identities and social statuses. We are used to consuming things at a rapid rate, not only in terms of our shopping habits and the products we buy but also in how we consume information. Pretty much anything is available at all hours of the day but if it is no longer cool or relevant it simply goes out of style. Whether or not an item is “in fashion” or “in style” remains the driving force behind consumerism. One of the reasons that consumerism has become such a fundamental part of our society is the fact that shopping and buying things gives us a sense of identity, and most importantly, our sense of worth comes from the “stuff” we consume. Often, this is fueled by the idea that something is lacking from within, and whatever we consume can fill that void and fix us. it is also apparent in the way women and men are marketed and portrayed in magazines. Magazines are good at showing impossibly perfect ideals and with the turn of a page, showing products that will help attain this unrealistic definition of “beauty”, whether it is clothing, beauty products, or home decor. Did I get off on a tangent here? 🙂

It is so easy to get caught in the loop of working to earn money, to buy material possessions, to improve social status and happiness. But, of course, material possessions and consuming things don’t actually do this. I keep repeating this but for me, experiences, not things, make me happy. Buying stuff can be fun (books), but it is important to notice what is motivating me to shop and consume. Whether I am buying something because it is an essential item or whether it is a treat or luxury, providing a boost for my sense of identity and self-worth. It is also important to realize that even essential purchases are still wrapped up with my sense of self. Actually, separating my consumer choices from my sense of identity is difficult, but having an awareness of the industry and how we are marketed gives me the understanding to make more conscious choices.

And, there are always things to look forward to. They do not need to be big or extraordinary events but can be really simple pleasures such as cooking dinner and having friends over. Also, spring is around the corner. And summer. And beach. And lake. And BBQs. And strawberry-picking. Just a little reminder in case you forgot. Oh, you are welcome.

.Corona with a Grain of Sarcasm.

“So don’t let time and space confuse you. And don’t let name and form abuse you. In the light of the sun you can see how they run.” – Terry Callier, Ordinary Joe

This was the first week back to “normal” school for my son. On day one, I forgot to print the consent form that he can administer the Corona test himself. I figured that it is self-explanatory that he can take this test since I dropped him off in the morning. Wrong! Here in Austria, you need to return the consent form if you want your child to attend class but there is also the option that your kid is not tested. In this case, homeschooling it is. Do not get me wrong. I understand this virus exists and it is dangerous for some. But I do not understand some of the changes, restrains, rules and regulations anymore. Why are the restaurants still closed? Why can I travel on a packed subway every morning (with no social distancing possible) but I need a negative Corona test (which I need to pay for) to get a haircut? Last summer it was fine to just wear a mask or go eat at a restaurant with a mask when entering. Why does my seven-year-old son need to administer the test himself while the teacher cannot do it and I sign for all this? Oooooh, yeah, if something happens with their little noses or when they poke it all the way up their brain for fun to see what happens, it is my fault, I get it. Will the vaccine be mandatory soon? And if we decide not to get it, will we be being able to leave the country, eat at restaurants, or worse, be able to work anymore? Or will the lockdown be extended in Germany until December? But which year?

With this back and forth madness I want to give it all a little sarcastic twist so this knot in my chest loosens up a bit. I hope you are staying well throughout this pandemic! Enjoy this little Corona Quiz and then pick a school for your child.

How would you describe the homeschooling
experience for your family?

1. Streamlined and efficient, just a welcome break!
2. Reminiscent of scenes from Home Alone
3. Reminiscent of scenes from Contagion
4. A madness and I want to hang myself.

What is your favorite:

1. In-person learning, and constant fear
2. Hybrid learning, mixing constant fear with a bit of logistical chaos
3. Remote learning, marrying logistical chaos with devastating isolation
4. Moving to the outskirts and launching your own homeschool.

Pick One School For Your Child

“Normal” School:

If you have ever wondered how to combine pure hopelessness with the ambiance of Alcatraz in its prime, this option might be for you. Rest assured that your child’s teacher will suffer from crippling anxiety while seamlessly policing masked and self-tested children/students, overseeing a rigorous schedule of hand-washing, and ensuring that children remain confined to a two-meter distance at all times. Despite this, they do aim to create a robust learning environment where your child will also absorb the finer elements of sitting in place. They forgot during Lockdown 3298. Note that your child’s temperature will be taken every hour, and students will vacate the building approximately every 20 minutes for a thorough deep-cleaning with new, fast-tracked chemicals. Students must be tested for COVID at the first sign of illness; please return your child to us in six weeks or when results come back, whichever comes first. Stay quarantined with your child(ren). There will be no Karate, Basketball, or anything you initially signed your kid up for. They may go out for a walk a play a bit in the nearby park. FFP2 Masks made in China must be used even in the classroom while the windows are open. Kids may keep their coats, hats, and mittens on if they are cold. Also, don’t wonder why Austria cannot produce their own masks or why they need to order them from China.

Hybrid School:

This model will combine the key elements of in-person school (see above) with remote learning, which we hopefully perfected this spring or the latest in spring 2025. Your child will be divided into a group (A, B, AB, BC, CC, XVY, MCXLVII, and Depeche Mode) based on careful consideration of his or her learning style, social-emotional needs, friendships, and an algorithm our intern designed this summer. You will need a reliable Internet connection, a work schedule that follows no concrete pattern (or no work at all), a forgiving supervisor, independent wealth, or a Xanax prescription. You can contact the school nurse for the latter. But bring a negative Corona test. Not older than 48 hours.

Remote School:

I recognize that many families are naturally uncomfortable sending their child back to school given the virus’s uncertainty. Why this fear? Swine flu, the “normal flu” (that seems not to exist anymore) existed before and nobody ever spoke about it. If you felt sick you stayed home. If you had a fever you stayed home. No big deal. No testing required. And people died of the flu. As such, I have also designed a remote learning option in conjunction with an outside vendor who specializes in emailing non-working links to YouTube videos, as we realize that Google and Teams Classrooms posed technological challenges. Your child should expect to sit in front of a screen for roughly eight to ten hours per day, with allowances for quick movement breaks, meals, and the occasional primal scream.

Rest assured that no matter how you respond, it won’t matter whatsoever. We’ll come up with a completely different plan in consultation with an anonymous team of stakeholders, three renowned local astrologists, a haphazard compendium of tweets, and a seance that will be held over Zoom (please find the login and password on page 576 of the new Covid-19 law). We will also hold a listening session in ten minutes if anyone’s around. Expect a link to be emailed shortly; please check your spam.

Also, don’t question why people wear the mask while being alone in the car or while walking outside ALONE or even with someone. Wear that mask no matter what. It does not matter that nobody understands you anymore or you get dizzy. Stay tuned for unannounced overnight Covid “law” changes at all times. Then adapt. Let’s take this one day at a time and with a grain of sarcasm.

Stay sane. Stay healthy. And happy.

.Control that Chaos.

My son and I went out for our daily walk when we got caught in the middle of a huge “Anti-Corona-Demonstration” in Vienna. Thousands of people screamed, music, whistles, climbing on things, beer, burning trash cans, smoking, and telling the world how fed up they are with this lockdown and the virus while using curse words from A to Z. Oh, this weird lingering uncertain situation since November 2020. Many lost everything. Many will never recover from this. What will happen to the economy and how and when will it be back to “normal”? One man screamed into a megaphone, “I want my control back. I want to be free and make my own decisions again!”

There are times in our lives when we are confronted with the reality that we are not in control of the world around us. As hard as we try, and as much as we would like to think we are in control, the reality is, we are not. We never were, we never will be. And there are seasons and circumstances that remind us of that fact. For example, a government telling us that the lockdown will be extended and certain stores and restaurants will remain closed. Or you are desperately waiting for your appointment to finally get divorced and the judge is sick. A natural disaster, a terminal diagnosis, an unexpected layoff, a store closure, and many more. At this current moment in time, almost everyone in the world, simultaneously, is being confronted with the reality of lost control through the spread of this damn virus. A tiny virus, invisible to the naked eye, has brought the world to a screeching halt, disrupting everything in its path. Our control has been upended. No doubt about it.

We, of course, never had as much control over our lives and the world as we thought we did, but still, it is hard to lose the little that we had. Like simply deciding to go to a restaurant. Remember a “restaurant“? That was a place where we used to go to to eat. We dressed up sometimes. Like make-up and nice clothing. I know, it was a long time ago so here is a little reminder in case you forgot. What is a restaurant you may ask? Words in italics are important for possible future use if these facilities will open again.

A “restaurant” is a place where you were able to sit down with other people at the SAME table. No (FFP2) masks, no hand sanitizing. When you sat down, you could order something from a, wait…. what was the word…. a “menu“. A “waiter” came to your table to take your order. Then the waiter would write your order down and tell the “cook in the kitchen” to prepare it for you. Amazing, right?! And so surreal! Then the “waiter” would bring the food and drinks to your table where you sat and had a great time with your “friends“. Laughing and singing was allowed. You were able to sit in this “restaurant” until 1 a.m. and talk and talk and have a great time. Sometimes, you and your friends went out “dancing” after to a “bar” or “club” where “a band” on occasion played “live music“.

The world, it feels, has spun into chaos, riots, demonstrations, and more uncertainty. So how do we respond when the world is in chaos? How do we begin to move forward? For one, we take back control of what we can control. Even in the smallest of ways. We have been reminded that we are not in ultimate control of the universe. But that does not mean we have lost all ability to maintain control over our lives. Even if our usual day-to-day opportunities have been taken from us by others, there is still much we can control.

We can always love our family and friends and meet them. Even if it is outside sometimes.

We can wait for another appointment for our divorce and have fun in the meantime.

We can choose to be afraid of this virus and the news or not.

We can choose to not wear this damn uncomfortable FFP2 mask when we are outside, or in the car. WHY are people wearing this mask when they are outside or driving a car?

We can control what time we wake up in the morning and are even more fortunate if we still have a workplace to go to.

We can still choose to get ready in the morning for the day ahead. No need to wear sweatpants and let yourself go.

We can eat and live healthy. We can remain physically active and fit.

We can read and be creative.

We can make our bed in the morning, and have a clean and comfortable home.

We can rearrange, donate, and enjoy our stuff and things. I have never sat in my reading chair as much as during this lockdown.

We can enjoy the things we have and haven’t had time to focus on.

We can choose what we watch and listen to, and we can control what time we turn off the news.

We can buy what we want even if online. We can always buy food. And toilet paper.

We can always control our attitude and our response to the people and events around us.

We can choose kind words in conversations and offer help to others who are in need.

We can declutter our apartments and houses.

We can think about all the things we used to do all the time and if they are still meaningful and necessary.

If you are faithful, you can choose to rely upon it during this time. Or meditate. Whatever helps you.

We can still decide to make the most of each day in front of us.

Controlling what you can might not seem like much, but it is something. Actually, it is a lot more than just something. It is an essential strategy for each of us going forward. It is the first step in moving from a reactive life to a proactive one. And it is the first step in making the most of our current circumstances. So, focus your energy there, even if it seems like very little. When the world is in chaos, control what you can.

Stay healthy, stay sane, and stay focused. We will all get through this.