.Rallying to Keep the Game Alive.

Limelight, 1983, Ken Schles

I worked three days last week and it felt so good. This change was exactly what I needed. Things are loosening up here in Austria, however, everything still feels somewhat weird and deserted. While I walked to work, I thought that I never realized how much I took for granted the assumption that new things would always happen to me. That even while going about my normal routine, I would still see or hear or feel or smell something novel purely because I was out in the world, and each day would take shape a little bit differently as a result. That when someone asked me, “What’s up?” I would have an answer worthy of uttering. It is strange for this expectation to suddenly seem like a distant privilege, and stranger still that it’s the precise opposite. Staying mostly inside all these weeks seemingly indefinitely has become one as well. Is this why some call me the sullen girl?

Corona has claimed the most space of anything inside my head. Unavoidable to some extent since it has also marked off territory in every conversation, every email exchange, every radio station, every news headline, every scroll through Twitter and somewhat I even mention it in every article I write. The pandemic is global in more aspects than simply its geographic reach; it has infected the cultural mind-scape on every level. Just as I wonder how long it will be before reaching out to shake a hand becomes second nature again, I also wonder how permanently the indentation of this experience will remain pressed, like a thumbprint, on our psyches.

But then there is work. Work, an area of my life I have never been more grateful for and challenged by is such equal, concentrated doses. I feel fortunate to love my job, and in this period of grave economic uncertainty, I also feel fortunate to simply have an employer. However, at the same time, I have found that it is easier than ever for “work” to become precariously synonymous with “me”. I have never needed a sense of separation more, but I have never fought for one less. Work is the only thing I can rely on right now, and therefore one of the things that keep my brain from withering on the vine.

Time does not change, time reveals. The longer this corona-madness lasts the more aware I become of myself, my own flaws, and the imperfections that live in others. I begin to see them in passing moments and then all at once always in everyone around me. Is this how we are wired to cope with tragedy or romanticize nostalgia or perhaps even become kinder? Is it ever wrong to remember something better than how it was? I am not sure I do know this feeling. When I see possibility, what could be and not what is or was I welcome gratitude into my life. This is the story of human ambition, I guess.

Speaking of human ambition, I don’t know how routinely you are taking yourself to the fridge these days. For me, it has become the Grande Sortie of my day. I get up in the morning, walk to the fridge, and am like, “Good morning fridge-door. What have you for me today? Yes, yes, yes kitchen, give it to me!”

We all have our weird little comforts. To survive this pandemic. Those things we do not trick ourselves into feeling a sense of control. We organize junk drawers or defrost the freezer for the millionth time. We bake banana-bread. We are neurotic to keep our email account at zero and get incredibly soothed by that maintenance. We may set up special boxes, create shortcuts that automatically mark certain things or unsubscribe from things. Everyone has their drug of choice, and we all know the delicious high of EVERYTHING IS FINE. Mine is being in nature, spending a lot of time with myself, with my partner, and with my son. Are these just gateway coping mechanisms? Who cares. It fills me with a sense of calm. I will take that feeling whenever I can get it. We could all use a big hit of Everything is Fine right now.

The fact remains though that it is not, and while lots of us are cooped up struggling to cope with his mess, there are many out there in the thick of it. I think of that each time another ambulance screams past my window, knowing that, relatively speaking, I am more than fine and I will make the best out of this. Things could always be worse.

So, I will bake a cake now. It doesn’t make sense, but it makes me feel better. That’s just what I do in the new, new normal. And when this is done, I will take three slices to the living room with a cup of coffee, and wonder what the next new normal will bring. In the meantime, we enjoy that damn cake. For me, nothing is okay, but everything is okay.

.April, the 78654th.

Honestly, usually, I jump away from children the way most people jump back from a hot stove. I don’t dislike them. As a matter of fact, a lot of them are funny and smart and tuned in to all the cultural shit. Like my son. A lot of them are usually more than willing to very slowly explain things to me as I nod and take notes. The power that young people have is amazing because neither I nor anyone I have ever met has reached the mystical age at which you “stop caring about things”. Here is a tip: it does not exist. Most of us are barely concealing our desperation to understand exactly what the f*** these young people are talking about. Not because I want to participate, but just in case there’s some sort of entrance exam for cool adults.

Sometimes I feel terrified to be at home with my son. I have a lot of basic knowledge and have committed thousands of random facts to memory. I studied. I am working on my P.h.D. but did you know that an individual blood cell takes about sixty seconds to make a complete circuit of the body? Mr. Binocs on YouTube told him that. We have to make geodes out of some weird chemical solution and look at all his rocks through the magnifying glass. Then talk about it all for hours. G-sus he has so many questions, which is okay but c’mon.

The other day, we met a mom and her son (who was ten and read a history book) in the park. After our kids played he came over and asked me (out of nowhere) if I knew who the thirty-third president of the U.S. was. I thought he was playing that game where someone knows the answer to the question they are asking because it is right there int he book he just happened to be reading. So, I say, “No! Who?” as if I knew and was just playing along. And then we just sat there looking at each other until I realized he was waiting for me to come up with the answer and help him pass some sort of “we-are-chilling-in-the sun-exam”. Why are you asking me this? Wouldn’t you rather learn which household cleaners you aren’t supposed to touch or use? Or that it is pretty much impossible to uncork a wine bottle without a bottle opener? Here are some things I can teach a kid:

  • some important history about Germany
  • not to drink wine, then egg nog, then sparkling wine in one sitting
  • how to file taxes
  • the best hangover remedy (Drink more. JK! Drink coconut water)
  • everything about Diana Arbus’s photography
  • the best Instagram accounts to follow
  • which essential oils to use
  • cooking
  • cleaning
  • the benefits of an Epsom salt bath
  • how to play Rommé and win like a pro
  • how to avoid making an unwise tattoo decision (just make it, who cares)
  • where to eat in Vienna (restaurants please open again)
  • how to make French Onion Soup
  • healthy food snacks
  • how to stare into space
  • how to write a book
  • the pleasure of reading for hours
  • how to make fake phone calls to get out of public interactions
  • how to avoid people you hate
  • the lost art of ironing
  • how to build a strong character and moral center
  • how to fake your own death
  • how to order pizza but also add a fresh herb salad and roasted Brussel sprouts and shallots to go with it

For now, I think it is all fine. I don’t want anyone to ever get the upper hand on me, even if its a miniature one that has not yet touched a steering wheel or a beer. I am not going to give him my credit card, but I also won’t give him any poisoned apples. So far, my parenting skills work out. He is fine, healthy, smart, strong, and cute. Maybe he won’t ever appreciate what I have done for him. He does not have to. I am his mother. It is my responsibility. Maybe, when he is older, he will take a page from my book and write about how I sold his voice to a sea witch. Who knows.

You can’t give people the shit you think they need, no matter how badly you want to if you don’t know how to give and receive!—it yourself. I’m learning this, I’ve been learning it but sometimes I forget. I don’t know how or why it happened that at some point really early on when I was learning what “love” is, I got this idea that it’s finite. Sacrificial. That it’s a fixed mass to which you can add, I guess, but mostly from which stuff is subtracted. The bravest among us seem to know that actually, it’s an infinite well.

I wrote all this because I cannot figure out how to get that plaster for his geode hard enough (eyeroll) and to spread it in the geode form. First I used not enough water, then too much. We made the crystals though. They were supposed to go into the geode mode. You wonder what I am talking about? Me too, but the crystals sparkled nicely in the sun while the plaster went into the garbage.

Oh, and it was Harry S. Truman. You are welcome.

.Love & Marriage – A Quiz.

For some, love in the time of Corona is pretty tough. Are you currently dating? I came up with a quiz to determine if you even are in a relationship. With all my experience (cough, cough, #eyeroll) I will help you out. Dating Quiz: Is your thing with *___ (insert any name here) a relationship? You have been hooked up for a few weeks but are too nervous to define the relationship? You need answers? Take this quiz.

  1. On your last date, where did * take you?

A) To a dorm party, at which he played dart and ten rounds of beer pong because he was “on fire”. Then back to his “crib” at 3 a.m.

B) To a baseball game, at which he bought two six-packs of Budweiser, hotdogs, and popcorn.

C) To IKEA, to shop for comfortable couch for his new apartment.

2. How often does he text you?

A) Three to six hours after you send him a message, or maybe more depending on how long it took you to respond to his last text. Or maybe not at all.

B) Frequently, but WHY IS HE NEVER SENDING ME THE RED HEART EMOJI? Why the green one?

C) He responds shortly every time you send him a text. He also sends you e-mails with references to jokes that you don’t always get. He is also interested in helping you with your gas and heat bill to find a cheaper solution.

3. How many of your friends has he met?

A) He has met your dog. Does that count?

B) He has met your shrink. Does that count?

C) Many. Some think he is constantly all over you but you don’t mind. You like it. Also, he won’t formally introduce himself to your friends all the time which you are cool with, too.

4. When you told him that you really like the movie Dirty Dancing, which song did he personally record a cover of and send to you?

A) “Eenie Meenie”, by Justin Bieber

B) “Hallelujah”, by Leonard Cohen

C) “Shine on you Crazy Diamond” by Pink Floyd

5. For your birthday, he gave you _________

A) A text message reading “big horny dick” two days late.

B) Sad flowers from the gas station.

C) Breakfast in bed and La Boheme opera tickets.

6. When he sleeps over over, he wears/brings__________

A) A robe his ex gave him last Christmas. A detail that he mentions constantly.

B) An adorable, cute pyjama. Also, a sleep mask, earplugs, and cream to moisturise hands and feet.

C) Nothing. He prefers body-to-body contact when he cuddles you all night long.

7. Your last fight was about __________

A) You asking him if it is possible to drink less and stop wearing sagging pants.

B) How he shouldn’t have been the one apologizing when the waiter spilled soup on his lap. Ask him if he is Canadian.

C) You are not sure if it was even a fight? You both just stopped talking at dinner and then didn’t say anything for forty minutes and it seemed kind of weird, but also, shouldn’t you be able to enjoy silence together?

8. What does he say when he climaxes?

A) “YEAH, I f****** nailed it!”

B) “Do you need help filing taxes? We should do it right now!”

C) “I love you.”

9. What did you both dress up for Halloween?

A) He forgot that you wanted to do a couple-costume and showed up in his Borat sling swimsuit. You were a single pea without a pod.

B) He went as Donald Trump. You tried to tell him that it was a bad idea, but he kept insisting, “I know him!” You stayed home.

C) Harry and Sally. He somehow had both of your costumes already.

10. You have been seeing each other for three months. For your anniversary, he takes you to ________

A) McDonalds, his favourite restaurant, across the street from his place, even though this food has already made you sick twice and you told him about it.

B) An upscale restaurant. He hired a band. He proposed at dessert but spells it “desert”.

C) A picnic at a small park in the city, where he carves your initial into his favourite tree.

The Results

Mostly A’s: I hate to break it to you, but you and * aren’t in a relationship. In fact, * is a complete asshole flirting with a group of twenty-one-year-olds by showing them his juggling “skills” and telling them that he owns a hotel in Zanzibar. Honestly, you can do better. And you will.

Mostly B’s: Yeah, so…… * is just a “project” who probably knows you have “greencards” for Canada and the U.S I guess, you already want to change a lot about him. So does he. It is hard to fall in love, but it’s way harder to get a visa. Use caution with this person but I guess it could work out. I have heard stories. And I have seen things, man.

Mostly C’s: Yes, you are dating *! Congratulations! This could be the real deal! Just be careful though. Take a closer look at that tree he showed you. Maybe yours weren’t the only initials he carved next to his.

.Coffee Rabbit With Missing Arms.

My relationship with money was always pretty healthy. I know what I earn, I know what I can spend and I don’t live beyond my means. I did not have a job in 2019 and just started to work in January 2020. I survived with writing gigs, and help from friends and family. There were those times when I bought my son the food he wanted/needed and sometimes I ate nothing for dinner. Same for clothing. I just made sure he had everything he needed. I came second – holding everything together.

Before quarantine time, I would say I did spend quite some money. We needed furniture after the big move to Vienna. And we explored. Museums, bookstores, you name it. Since I have a very minimalistic approach to clothes, this is never an issue. Books are a different story. I used to buy a lot of books but actually read them all.

Since Corona, budgeting has been an act of self-care, as well as an act of will. It has taken me weeks to unlearn that I cannot browse through a bookstore. And the impulse book-free-fall from “add to cart” to “purchase” was never my thing. In some cases, I have stumbled, yet I have learned to flex my willpower like a muscle, propelled by the conversation around sustainability and excess. But, interestingly, it has never felt easier than now. This is my personal experience, so I will make that very clear before I say the following: I have never wanted “stuff” in my life less than I do right now. I cleaned my entire apartment, got rid of clothes (items I haven’t worn in a long time and won’t wear again), and stuff I wanted to sort through for a long time to realize how little I actually need. Maybe this is also because a global disaster has made me realize what is most important to me is not the things in my closet, my books and anything materialistic, but the connections I have with the people I love.

Is this feeling going to last? If I have learned anything about this time period, it is that these sentiments are subject to change. In a few weeks, when the temperature climbs up even more and warm breezes fill my apartment, maybe I will start having the itch to really buy that dress I saw window shopping yesterday, as opposed to thinking, hey, I already have something in my closet that can fit that need. Deep inside, I know myself so well. I will buy a book instead.

Since quarantine has started (Friday, March 13th in Austria), I have bought for my son and I: two puzzles, Lego, a basketball, a scooter, and food. He desperately needs sneakers that I won’t order online because he has to try them on. The puzzles and Lego were a joint decision because we both love it. It brings us joy, madness, and everything in between. It felt strange to be much more excited by these small purchases than I might normally be. We don’t need anything else, really. Which is an awesome feeling!

Everything else feels oddly like play. The “homeschooling”, gathering groceries for the week, rationing out new books while marking time with beverage habits.

Staying home feels like playing house. It is still strange, that in this time, my home suddenly feels full of charades. It might be also that we are slowly losing our minds. My son and I dressed up for dinner a couple of days ago saying we are taking each other out. Oh, he even prepared dinner – a pizza from scratch all by himself. There are half-finished Lego and maze-projects everywhere. My son moves from game to game to game, seemingly less and less interested in the “real world” and more and more in his imagined one. He does not want to go back to school. He loves it at home. He just misses his friends. “Mommy, you can be my teacher”, he said while I sighed and rolled my eyes.

I am the same. I really miss my friends and family. Fiction is absorbing me in a way it hasn’t in years. I find myself thinking about the characters the way I think about my friends, imagining their responses to things. I am interested in my appetite for play in the face of this lockdown and the unfolding dread that has caused it. Is this how children feel all the time? Is their capacity for fantasy partly derived from their limited freedom and the giant unknown? Are games a sort of response to fear and absurdity? Is it just simply that imagination is a lifeline or more complicated than that? All I know is that the ridiculousness in this time is fueling me, and I am climbing to it. In my experience, where adults dismay and panic, children often adapt and accept, which leaves room for frivolity. And this frivolity, unlike its adult counterparts, does not attempt to make what is awful into what is good. Children are surprised by neither joy nor pain. There are sad things and there are happy things. They don’t rule each other out or even overcome one another. They both simply exist. In a New York Times article a couple of weeks ago, Alain De Botton wrote about the coronavirus through the lens of Camus’s The Plague. He wrote: “recognize the absurd should lead us not to despair, but to a tragicomic redemption, a softening of the heart, a turning away from judgment and moralizing to joy and gratitude.” I think I am watching my child do precisely this. He is currently playing a game in which he is running from something scary and terrible. He expresses true fear and hides in his cave he built with huge cartons, blankets, and couch cushions. But then, he is laughing. After fear, he knows, comes a certain release.

.Lucidity.

Hey lovely,

Just checking in. We spoke not too long ago. And here we meet again. I have been seeing you from the sidelines on all those long nights you filled with writing, ideas, and reading. The Corona-pandemic is getting to you. I feel it. But you are strong. Remember, I spoke with you whenever you needed it. I know you continue to give yourself whatever it is you are most in need of. Does remembering your fragility help you put things into perspective these days? I hope you hold true to your aspiration of loving deeply. What about your heart? Have you been able to rebuild your home? Nothing can erase the past but time gives you opportunities to make new happy memories over the old painful ones. It may not always make sense but this is how life works. It has taken you your entire life to get to know the real you or at least welcome her home unapologetically. To exclude, include, and see behind the curtain. I know you wouldn’t give up on others so please refuse to give up on yourself and trust this process.

But remember, to be compassionate with yourself too and recognize that not everyone who shakes your hand is a friend. But I am certain you know this. Love and friendship are two-way streets. You cannot go where you need to be with the ghosts of those who chose to harm or weighing you down. There is more love waiting for you. A lot more. This new bridge you are building seems very solid and different from everything else I have seen so far. You are wiser now and this lends strength and not weakness to this bridge. I hope you will continue to do more, invest more, don’t be scared. It will just raise the quality of your life and open up to new experiences. Yes, you can always learn to be better. To be stronger. To feel love.

Hey, life is unfair by design. The world is full of people who lie, cheat, steal, hurt, harm, exploit and even kill others while leading a good life. It should not be like this but it is. I know you wish those who did you wrong were wronged too so they could feel what you felt but life isn’t that obvious or just. There are some humans out there who think they have power, wealth or the ability to control and intervene and materially affect someone else’s life but this effort requires destructive intentionality. Let it be. You have already begun to realize that forgiveness has more to do with yourself than others. It brings you peace and freedom from attachment. All those dreams and hopes that you had pinned on someone else get laid to rest when you forgive them. This is how you must learn to sever yourself from those who do not deserve you. Let them go. Let them live their own life. And I see something better has entered your life because you gave it the opportunity. What did you say? He will understand your heart bit by bit. After all, a home is opened to a stranger but with a slight delay. I love this. I think this was what I needed to hear from you. And it applies as much to ourselves as it does to the strangers we welcome into our lives. You are still making this home. Remember that. It requires tremendous care.

It is joyful to see you learning and stretching yourself with the wisdom of so many people you have already met. They have all moved and challenged you to become kinder and more reflective. You know that words have the ability to outlive us and impact others beyond the conventional limits of space and time. So please do publish your next book. It will probably change your life.

As I see so far, 2020 is a milestone year for you. You will turn 39 this year. You take care of this little soul, your son, with so much love. I remember you had different plans but life rarely works exactly as we want it to but that doesn’t mean the past decade has been any less extraordinary. You have become fully aware of both your gifts and your flaws. Be grateful for the clarity they have brought you and it will serve you well your whole life. Take these lessons and keep pushing forward. You have so many new wonderful experiences to look forward to. During this pandemic, you should know that your attention and emotions are your only currency. Who you choose to spend them with are critically important daily choices so please make them responsibly. On your best days, you are unstoppable, open-minded, loving, wise and kind. Stay this way. Always. But also know that you have some avenues to improve and show up as your best self. Keep asking questions. Being true to yourself and at peace is an everyday choice you are making toward internal happiness. The alternative is to give in to disappointment, anger, and hate. This will only exhaust your limited time and energy. No need for this.

But some things are better the more they stay the same so please keep watching life happen all around you. Your ability to love, live with joy and watch it unravel joyfully is special. You have this gift which is amazing so make sure you use it enough. I cannot wait to see where this new road will lead us.

Breathe. You will be fine. I believe in you.

With love,

Yours.

.What? That’s Crazy.

“And once the storm is over, you won’t remember how you made it through, how you managed to survive. You won’t even be sure, whether the storm is really over. But one thing is certain. When you come out of the storm, you won’t be the same person who walked in. That’s what this storm’s all about.” — Haruki Murakami

Quarantine has, undeniably, turned me into my best and my worst self. Before this pandemic, the future had a somewhat defined shape for me. Now things feel nebulous. At points, I am no longer certain where I would go from here, where the world and the economy go from here, where humanity goes. I don’t think what I valued before will be what I value after. I already have indications that those values have changed. I ask myself why I am suddenly waking up at 6.30 a.m. every day and practicing yoga daily and caring for my body more than ever before. It does not feel like it is just the extra time I have on my hands.

My son: “Corona even makes pansies scream, mommy!”

These days, I am taking pictures of trees, magnolias, flowers whose petals are now just beginning to brown at the edges, while feeling grief settles temporarily in my shoulders. Just the way grief does, and from my inability to be inside a store without a face mask. I miss strangers, I miss bodies, I miss festivals, I miss readings and real lectures at my university, I miss the moments of getting no seat on the subway, I miss going to work. I also noticed that I have the weirdest dreams lately. I guess due to my weird sleep cycle. It is universally understood that to talk about your own dreams is entertaining, while listening attentively to someone else talk about their dreams for more than 2 minutes is next to impossible. Having said that, quarantine dreams seem to hold my interest a beat longer than dreams would in average circumstances.

These days, my dreams seem to be brimming with extra weirdness and symbolism. I dreamt for example that I packed my suitcase for a trip to (ha!) Italy while the plane was already taxiing on the tarmac. I also dream a lot about meeting friends. A couple of nights ago I dreamt I gave birth to a cat in a public restroom at the local movie theater. Why? What would Sigmund Freund say about this? Or this rather Kafkaesque dream of me being taken to prison for not wearing my face mask. At the prison, it turned out that it’s not a prison but an insane asylum like in the movie Shutter Island. And I am here because I killed everyone at the local grocery store. Did I just deposit my weird coronavirus-era dreams into a virtual dream catcher?

But these weird dreams may occur because my sleep-cycle is completely off. During the week I used to go to bed at around 11 p.m. and woke up at 6 a.m. Maybe a 30-minute interlude wedged somewhere before of after. I used to sleep deeply without waking up and felt rested when waking up. On weekends I stayed up later and slept in which was fine, too. These days, I tend to sleep in a weird rhythm. Two hours just after 1 a.m., another two between 5 a.m. and 6.30 a.m. I sleep in chapters, in fragments. These days, there is no softness or continuity. Even with this messed up sleep cycle, however, I exist among the living in this new Corona world. In the morning I get dressed, I brush my teeth and get ready without going anywhere in particular. At night, when my son is asleep, I am this other thing, disenfranchised from the swell of standard human behavior. Caught in an expanse of hours that contain writing but no routines and obligations.

I continue to function, more or less, according to the rules of social normalcy. I am okay with the fact that, currently, I am a broken biological clock, a circadian rhythm sans metronome. The world is crazy these days. My sleep rhythm is weird and crazy but this is what it is. In fact, it’s become something of an asset. I have the luxury that this sleeplessness guarantees me something exclusive: a unique, thoroughly intimate relationship with myself. Insomnia and I have become friends, even. We pass the time together and all of it reframes the night until things get back to “normal” again. For now, not sleeping is simply more interesting to my body than attempting to sleep. I savor the extra time to read, to write or to work on my dissertation. Or to prepare elaborate midnight-snacks that I won’t consume alone. Especially if it is something with chocolate.

Looking forward to change and more awesome road trips.

I have gone through worse, but I have never been a better version of myself. Corona seems like a condition of the world we are forced to live in now, and it may last for longer than I am prepared to handle. But I will power through that, too. Maybe you, too can give yourself the space to let your multitudes exist and offer them compassion: the good, the bad, and the turbulence in between. What? That’s crazy.

.Quarantainment.

Maybe, by now, you’ve already been bombarded by articles on how to optimize your days during the time of the Corona pandemic. Perhaps, by now, you’ve already been bombarded by the counter-arguments to ignore all the productivity garbage. Maybe, by now, you are wrestling with the inconsistency of it all. I don’t know how you feel but I do know that there is not one creative process that suits us all. There is no one way to navigate a pandemic. In this time of collective insanity, instead of sharing a prescription, I want to entertain and invite you in so we can all learn from each other.

I woke up around 6 am this morning, which is typical of a weekday morning. Various thoughts of inadequacy trailed through my head in a silhouette, causing me to acknowledge how flimsy and overexposed and trivial I have been feeling. As I moved from quarantine week 4 to 5, survived the weirdest Easter in years, I feel, I don’t know, disassociated from the present state of hunger, deprivation, loss, catastrophe and, in some way, myself. Is this how sociopaths feel? It is the mood fluctuations, I think. At times, I find myself incredibly appreciative of the intimate time of being with my special people. I am also very proud to announce that I know the entire store inventory of the local grocery stores. And how much shit costs. I could start working there. Like now.

But then at other times, I am like: ENOUGH WITH THIS S***! WHEN WILL IT BE OVER? If I hear my son scream and yell, or experience his refusal to draw another picture or build another marble maze, I am going to knock myself unconscious just to escape. And then, I am also like: I want to go out. Dress up. I got refunded for the opera tickets that I purchased for my son and I since it is, you guessed it, CANCELLED. I want to feel normal. Dressing up makes me feel normal. Getting ready for work makes me feel normal. And, these days, I have this urge to write at 6.30 am. And then after I published my words, sometimes I am fine. But other times, I am just like, WHO THE HELL DO YOU THINK YOU ARE? And then I stop myself and ask who is asking the question and who the you to which I refer is? And that really confuses me, so I revert back to the question and try to understand why I am having this unsettling reaction to an effort that seemed good and honest and pure just moments earlier.

The best I have come up with is the broad spectrum of feelings that punctuate time always, but especially in quarantine. The immediacy of the disparity of the moods that occur in rapid succession, seemingly for no reason beyond the physical motionlessness of my days. Mostly, I cling to writing and meditation and being calm because I cannot see how indulging the inflammatory anger, irritating frustration, depressive discouragement, desperate sadness, and worry can be channeling toward anything productive without it.

Productivity can mean a lot of things. For the purpose of this article, I guess I am talking about what I need to do to pass the days without feeling like I am floating in space, or getting sucked into a vortex of insignificance. What comprises what you need to do, by the way, is going to vary a shit ton from person to person and we may not always have the same answer. One day I might clean, do laundry, cook (always cooking and having thoughts about buying food), but this is all in order to do the same thing: prove my worthiness. Prove that I have tasks to do. I write a to-do list every day with things such as: do laundry, clean kitchen, Yoga, go for a long walk, read, entertain and educate my son that I strikethrough like a pro once accomplished.

For me, there seem to be two schools of thought on how to pass this quarantine. I can either make the most of it or go easy on myself. But I say those thoughts aren’t binary, I don’t have to pick one. In fact, I cannot pick one. I think we all have to do both to a degree. But before we can, we must first define what making the most of it really means. And we can only do this practically if we go easy on ourselves about it. I think. Do I sound preachy? Have you heard of the concepts of impermanence? It was hard for me, or should I say almost impossible, to understand that so many things that I love and depend on are only temporary. But these days, I realize a deep acceptance of these concepts, there will still be a few things that always seem a bit too temporary. I don’t know if it is absurd that I am somewhat comforted by the notion that everyone is connected by the same, singular dilemma at the same, singular time. We can all learn from each other about how our days are changing, where we might be stuck, and remember we are all figuring it out for the first time. To lighten things up, here are some things that make me happy.

That first cup of coffee.

The honeymoon phase of a new relationship. The honeymoon phase never has to be over by the way. Just always communicate. This is the simplest tool to prevent misunderstandings and future fights.

Taking a bath and my bathwater being at the right temperature.

Kisses & hugs.

Afternoon naps on a rainy day. Listening to the rain.

Being in nature.

Planting things and gardening.

Getting a package or a handwritten letter.

Calling my parents.

Seeing someone’s face light up after giving them a compliment.

Snuggling up and reading in bed.

.Corona-Diary: Week 4.

For the last four weeks, I usually cried on Sundays. At least once. No clue why; maybe because the grocery stores are closed. Last week, I cried so embarrassingly loud that my son heard me from the furthest room of the apartment. He ran over, assuming something catastrophic had occurred, but when he asked me if I was okay, I covered my face and choked out a sobbing laugh. Am I okay? A perfectly reasonable question. Lately, my answer depends on the day, but regardless of whether it is yes or no, there is a heaviness to my emotional state that remains persistent, strangely familiar and unfamiliar at the same time. Familiar because I have been feeling sad on and off in the last couple of weeks, so I know what it is like to see everything faintly slick with gloom for a while. Unfamiliar because it took me a while to realize that this is all really happening, whereas right now I am sharply conscious of the descent. The urge to cry had been hanging over me for days like a shadow. I saw it coming from a distance, the culmination of absorbing so much crushing news about how the virus is impacting the world every morning and egged on by the looming reality, that, yes, I will probably have to postpone anything planned. Am I okay? On the one hand, I am super happy and okay. My son and I are physically healthy, I am only spending time with people I love and am able to quarantine safely for the indefinite future. Things that I certainly don’t take for granted right now. On the other hand, my mental health has suffered. Is suffering. But, of course, I am not losing it, won’t give up or sign myself in at a mental institution.

What does giving up even mean? What am I giving up? Self-maintenance? Who is self-maintenance for if not, uh, the self? Me? I don’t feel like I am giving up. I am actually taking pretty good care of myself. I am working out daily. I am eating pretty healthy food (for the most part) that I am making for myself. I am washing my hands voraciously.

I listened to a podcast this week that rocked me to my core. It was a conversation between Brene Brown and Glennon Doyle, the author of Untamed, which is the name of a book that has caused me to question whether the real power of a woman is to live recklessly if actually, the most audacious desires among us are not reckless at all. While I listened to it, my attention faded in and out. I wondered where my son and I would be eating our meals hadn’t my mom suggested to buy a kitchen table. Carrying all the food in the living room every time? Eating around the coffee table on the floor? Then I zoomed back into the podcast at the call of such lines as, “Maybe imagination is where we go not to escape reality but to discover it.” Hey, this podcast is really good. You should listen to it because I am not doing their conversation the spiritual justice it deserves at this point. Because my son wants to play with Lego for another fifteen hours. While I played with him I thought about making a gigantic salad for lunch with arugula, salmon, avocado, pumpkin seeds and anything else I can find in my fridge. Yum! We will probably eat it for dinner, too. My thoughts are all over the place but I kinda like it.

Are you enjoying any element of the quarantine? Maybe if you live in a village, with a garden, in nature. But in the city? I am afraid to ask this. And you might actually never see it because there is a good chance I will delete it. It is a dangerous question because I am not really asking if you like quarantine, I am asking if you have discovered anything transformative. The kind of something you may never have seen, won’t want to forget or have never experienced before.

Currently, I think I am settled into an adjusted state of reality and am pretty impressed by the natural, human inclination to find patterns, attach meaning to them, and create new routines. My weekdays are falling into this new kind of rhythm. My weekends, too. Yesterday I had a thought that I might even like it more than the rhythms of routines past, then I realized that actually, I am just wearing blinders to get to the end of every day in spirits pleasant enough to sit down and write something like this. I haven’t forgotten the superior rhythms of the past and I can imagine the rhythms of the future. Is this what being present is like?

While I wiped away my tears last week I also realized that staying present with my son is great, but 24/7 for weeks and barely another child around to play with him is a challenge. Honestly, I can’t wait for him to go to bed so I can write, read, have time just for myself or spend an aperitivo hour with my friend. This is another new rhythm I have come to look forward to. Him being around. There is this awesome bottle of white wine that we will share. A wine with a rose-like floral aroma. We will enjoy it with crackers and dips in the kitchen. Setting all this up is soothing. So is washing dishes by hand and not using a dishwasher. I totally get it, there is something so reliable about knowing exactly what you are setting out to do and then through the function of your own effort, doing it. It is so simple. I think that makes it satisfying, too. The simple things.

Today, I did not cry. Today, I feel loved.

Happy Easter Sunday and Monday.

.I Made – I Ate.

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A couple of days ago, when we were on what felt like our hundredth walk of the day, I asked my son a question….

“What are your top 5 most favourite restaurant meals?”

I find that asking a child a “Top 5” question will usually get the conversation flowing, quarantine or no quarantine, but this time the exercise prompted an hours-long drive down memory lane and around the world. While we walked around, we spoke about the perfect lobster roll we enjoyed at the beach in Connecticut. Or pasta in Spain. Or fries at the public pool in Germany. Or Schnitzel in Austria. It felt therapeutic talking about the restaurants we miss and the time we spent at my parent’s house last year.

Before quarantine started, I would regularly write weekend to-do lists that in retrospect seem to have encapsulated the most ambitious pursuit of the person I wanted (or thought I wanted) to be. I am really trying here. Among the usual asterisks to populate the to-do list were art projects using natural ingredients such as coconut flour to make Play-Doh and turmeric to dye it. The desire to read (to him) a lot. More tidying exercises be it for the bookshelf, a pantry, his room, and of course, there is always this weird desire to cook or bake something. These days, whenever I set out to cook, a deluge of excuses would interrupt the effort: Don’t waste the chicken soup. You just had lunch. For this recipe, we just need too many ingredients so let’s go to the store. This seems too complicated to bake. Can you relate? I am just so f****** tired of cooking. I used to love cooking. I used to, before Corona.

I am not into fashion at all but what I am realizing now is that cooking is not so different from it in that anyone can do it. From the outside, it seems so damn intimidating, like it is impossible to break in, but eventually, you realize the only barrier to entry is yourself. As far as fashion goes I guess you just have to be proud that you like to wear clothes, and then wear them. To get good at cooking, you just have to try. Then you keep trying and definitely will fuck up, over and over, until you learn the language and boom: a new skill is born.

I didn’t always enjoy cooking but I love healthy food and trying new things. It is way less soul-crushing than I thought it would be. Worst case scenario: Just toss it in the garbage. All I am really doing is chopping shit up, then assembling it and turning on fire. Sometimes, without fire. Just as fresh as it gets. Really, that is it. To be clear, I am usually exclusively making very easy recipes. I love recipes with fewer ingredients that don’t require ten special spices that are not in my pantry. I need something simple, fast, and nutritious. My son and I are dairy-free, eat less meat (and if, just local, organic meat), enjoy more plant-based meals, and local fish once in a while. Which we actually had yesterday. Food always tastes better if someone else cooks it for you. Someone who knows how to enhance the flavor by adding a bit of white wine and a mountain of butter to fry those fishies. Of course, while drinking wine. And talking.

I love vegetables but my son sticks to what he knows. If you have questions regarding food and how to feed your kids veggies, send me an email or leave a comment below and I will help you out. I am a Certified Holistic Nutritionist and have a healthy collection of simple, approachable breakfasts, snacks, lunches, and dinners that they will enjoy and appreciate. Instead of getting frustrated that your child does not get excited about a kale salad, how about you flip the script. What do they like? And how can you add veggies into that? My son loves meals between bread. I would like to share his favorite veggie burger.

Vegan Veggie Burgers

(Makes 6 patties)


8 oz. (250g) mushrooms, cleaned and well chopped
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic
1 egg
1 tablespoon tamari or soy sauce
1 cup cooked (brown) rice
2 tablespoons flax seeds
1/4 cup oats
salt, pepper and whatever herbs you desire
(I love to add 1 tsp. chili powder and fresh parsley)
3 medium-size potatoes (just grate those uncooked)
1 cup cooked black beans, drained well


How to:

I use avocado or coconut oil for cooking. In a medium pan, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the chopped mushrooms, onion and garlic, along with a pinch of salt. Sauté for a moment, then leave it all undisturbed for a few minutes, so the mushrooms release their water. Sauté again, until browned in some parts and excess water has evaporated. Set aside to cool completely and add into a large bowl. Add the egg, tamari, rice, flax seeds, oats, 1/2 tsp. salt, chili powder, and herbs and then (with your hand) you mix, mix, mix your Corona anger out. Mix, mix, mix your anger out. Mix, mix, mix your anger out. Add grated sweet potatoes, black beans, and cooled mushrooms for another minute until everything is in tiny pieces.

Set aside mixture. Add some coconut oil into large pan and preheat. Now start forming the mixture into patties. If they are too sticky, add some flour. Pan-fry and turn patties in pan until golden brown on both sides.

To Assemble:

Use any bun or bread you desire. I like whole-wheat sourdough buns or English muffins. Then I add avocado slices, lettuce, cheese slices or a bit of tomato sauce. Leftovers make an awesome lunch in a lettuce wrap with some avocado and tomatoes.

Booooaaawne app-uh-teet!

Stay Sane. Stay Happy. Stay Healthy.

.Love in the Time of Corona.

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Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel García Márquez is one of my favorite books and movies of all time. If you enjoy a beautifully written love story, read this book. Why? Because you have T.I.M.E. Lots of it. And love is great.

How is your love life these days? Is it like in the Movie Ghost and this particular scene with Demi Moore and Patrick Swayze?

This pandemic is remodeling our society like it is clay spinning on the axis of a pottery wheel. I wonder what it is like to be a therapist/couple counselor these days. The divorce rates are probably rising. Will there be a Corona-Baby-Boom in January 2021? Will therapists be more in demand than usual? How have their routines changed? Or, do you want to kill your husband/wife or partner at this point? Does your husband’s cereal chewing so loudly in the next room bother you that you are thinking about this Misery Scene being Kathy Bates?

If one thing is for certain, it is that during this curious and trying time, love is being both challenged and affirmed. While some relationships have taken a step forward, new couples choose to isolate together, some decided to spend quarantine alone, some couples built and some fell deeply in love, while others have taken a different route. Maybe you find yourself in an inflammatory situation. Maybe you are at the edge of a divorce. Since the lockdown was initiated, divorce rates in China have soared. In the Xian Province alone, the number of requests was so high, they maxed out the number of appointments at government offices. I don’t know the numbers in Austria, Vienna but I know of a couple of friends who are struggling in their relationships as well.

As John Lennon famously said, “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.” I had plans! We all had so many plans. Then life happened. And continues to happen, albeit in an unrecognizable way. At this point for me, all this isolation has made for very deep and interesting conversations. Sometimes it feels like if people have moved past small talk and right into real talk. And this is what happened to me, too. Somehow, this has made me connect with people more than I did previously.  There is nothing quite like a crisis to make you feel connected and nothing like invisible cells, transferred from person to person, to prove just how interconnected we truly are.

For me, perhaps the biggest show of love has been all the conversations with my friend. They keep me sane. They keep me happy. He keeps me sane. He keeps me happy. As the world changes rapidly inside and out, this much has become clear: in many ways, large and small, love is all around. And I can feel it.

And for those moments when I am stuck cleaning up dishes from the millionth at-home meal or when I am listening to myself cracking open pistachio after pistachio, or wondering when I will see and hug my parents again, there is always a shift in perspective. Because as the memes say, we aren’t stuck inside, we are safe inside. And that isn’t so bad, after all. In the meantime, I just keep cracking those pistachios. #eyeroll

Corona makes me appreciate and love to be on this planet. The earth is a living, breathing thing and I don’t think we have really respected that. Now the earth seems to say: stop, think about what you’ve done and come back with a new plan of action. How many things do we really have to do in a single day? How much do we really need? I bet we’re all rethinking things which will make us stronger. Which maybe make us appreciate or love each other more? Also, we are debunking the myth that real work happens in an office or at business meetings.

It is amazing how, a couple of weeks ago, I was concerned about things like buying a more comfortable reading chair. This seems both hilariously naïve and also quite prescient considering the amount of time I now spend in this chair. I always enjoyed being home, and am actually oddly suited to this current situation. It is really not so bad. Just some days. I am not alone after all. Otherwise, I have been thinking about health, togetherness, and maintaining stability. And love. With someone who likes Love in the Time of Cholera as much as I do.