. Can I live Without You? – Yes. Do I Want to? – No.

Let’s be honest. Sex is great. Everybody talks about it. Everywhere. I cannot say that I have seen it all, but there were some classic experiences in my life. I won’t share details but rather have some advice instead. All of this advice is meant for older people (strictly 90+). Kidding! This advice works for anybody, straight, gay, transgender, and couples, and should be common sense. Just in case this is not clear and common sense: All sex, in this instance and every instance should be between consenting adults. Are we clear on that? Thank you in advance. Let’s dive in, shall we?

Dr. Sommer Team

Stop faking it! I know you may be tired/eager/excited/nervous to please or are unsure of how to get there. Allow yourself real pleasure and not worry about how long it takes. If it makes you feel better, talk to your partner. Let him know what you would like to do. Your partner cannot mind-read. Also, women are punished with the gift of being able to fake it.

Stop being too goal-oriented when it comes to sex. You might not make it to the finish line every time. Don’t worry about it. Each part of the journey can be great.

Don’t have sex with people you don’t want to have sex with. Nothing needs to be added.

Don’t get undressed and start pointing out your flaws or apologize for things you think are wrong with your body. Men don’t notice or care. They are about to get laid! They are so happy. Men are very visual, so if you don’t want them to look at your thighs just put heart stickers on your breasts to distract them.

Dirty talk. Act like a bossy lady ordering at a sandwich line at a supermarket. “I want the Proscuitto Crudo on rye and make sure you toast it. Add some arugula!” If your partner is bad at dirty talk tell him to shut up. He might even like that. If you don’t like dirty talk, don’t worry about it. It can be pretty hot if done well but it may not be up your alley. Avoid words like “climax,” “moist,” and “mom.” Don’t speak in a fake French accent.

Don’t let your kids sleep in your bed.

Laugh a lot and try new things with someone you love.

Keep it sexy. Change things up. Surprises.

Don’t watch too much porn. If you depend too heavily on the technical or visual then you may not notice the real flesh-and-blood person in your bed.

Don’t be that person who talks about Tinder successes and that you find “Limette 69” super hot because she has huge breasts. Nobody needs to know this. Keep it to yourself.

Symmetry is pleasing but not as sexy. Steven Hawking is cool but Jackon Pollock knows what I am talking about.

.Forget the Facts and Remember the Feelings.

We may lose and we may win though we will never be here again.” – Eagels, Take it Easy

I am divorced and this is not a secret. I understand why people read so many articles and books on divorce because every second marriage is falling apart. Divorces are so common and nothing really special. When I was going through my divorce, I felt alone even though I had support through family and friends. Nobody felt the specific ways of pain I was in. Imagine spreading everything you care about on a blanket and then tossing the whole thing up in the air. The seemingly never-ending process of divorce is about loading up that blanket, throwing it up, watching it all spin, and worrying that stuff will break when it lands. Of course, it broke. And of course, I wanted to find answers and comfort.

I don’t want to talk about too many details of my divorce because it is too sad and too personal. I also don’t like people to know all my shit but only the bits and pieces I want to share. That being said, divorce really sucks. But, divorce is also good news, because no good marriage has ever ended in divorce.

Any painful experience made me see things and life differently. It also reminded me of the simple truths that I purposely forget every day or else I would never get out of bed. Things such as nothing lasts forever and relationships can end. The best that can happen is that I learned a little more about what I am able to handle and how I can stay soft through the pain. I feel a little wiser and hopefully won’t make the same mistakes again. And, maybe my experience can be of help to others. I thought about something fun. Imaginary books that may have helped me deal with my divorce a bit better. Here are some fun titles and a short summary of some divorce books I may possibly write in the future. Or not. I would rather not.

I F***ING WANT A DIVORCE!!!!!!! LIKE RIGHT NOW!

Summary: If you have a small child you will understand this book. It deals with the fact that most people who divorce with small children still need to see each other every day. Any good parent will try to put their children’s needs first. This book will help teach you how to deal with a hardcore verbal fight and still attend a kid’s birthday party in person and not to just send a sad gift through Amazon. How lame. Are you in your early twenties and recently broke up with someone via WhatsApp? This book is not for you. Have you heard that your ex is re-building a run-down hotel and you rolled your eyes at how stupid this idea is? This book is not for you. This book is for the people who choose to work together and co-parent or at least show some interest.

Possible chapters to include: Fake smiling. How important is it to have the last word? Stop buying so many toys because material things won’t buy real love. Ever!

GET OVER IT! BUT NOT TOO FAST!

Summary: When you are going through the trauma and drama of divorce, you will learn who your real friends are. They guide you and take care of you and save you from your darkest days. This book is here to remind you that even though you are in pain and still in transition, everyone else has moved on and is a little tired of your situation. This book will remind you that unless the juicy fight continues or your ex-spouse actually ends up staying with his new girlfriend, most people don’t want to talk about it anymore. This book will teach you how to move on, but not too fast. Be upset, but please keep it together. Don’t end up in a mental institution just yet.

Possible chapters to included: She doesn’t cry enough. Why is he reporting me to the Immigration Office? He seems like a psycho to me. I am sorry to interrupt, but when do you think you will get over your anger/pride/attitude, take aside what we both went through and show some interest in your child(ren)?

DIVORCE: OR TEN WAYS TO NOT CATCH IT!

Summary: Divorce is contagious! It is like cancer but worse because no one feels really that bad for you. This book will teach you how to discuss your divorce with your currently still married friends. I mean those friends who have the perfect marriage and will never ever get a divorce. This book will help you not to strangle them when they both stand in front of you and talk about how great their relationship continues to be. This book will point to ways you can talk about your divorce without feeling like it is a real, fancy fur coat that people like to try on but then throw back at you in disgust because they would never wear something like that. They prefer only fake fur.

Possible chapters to include: [Illustrations of happy couples looking at you with pity] Divorce is not an option for me, but I am really happy for you. C’mon who hasn’t cheated? I just couldn’t do that to my kid(s)! We choose to stay together because of our kid(s).

HEY, LADY! THANK YOU FOR FUCKING MY HUSBAND! ARE YOU HAPPY WITH YOUR CHOICE? TELL ME IF YOU ARE STILL HAPPY WITH HIM AND HIS CRAZY IDEAS AFTER ONE YEAR! [This could possibly be a New York Times Bestseller]

Summary: Newly divorced and attending a wedding for the first time alone? This is the book for you. Inside you will find ways to deal with the strange stares and drunk accusations that come along with not having a date. You will find a lot of tips on how to gently break it to women that you don’t want to f*** their husbands. You will find more tips to not get involved in other people’s weird relationship shit. You will read about the experiences of other men and women who bravely attended events and came out alive. Check out the special section on what to do and say when your ex shows up at the same event. With or without his new girlfriend. Extra bonus chapter: This book will help you navigate through all the details that people want to know, such as, how you broke up, where he is living now, what exactly happened, and who wanted it more, and what is going on with the kid(s), and how you told the kids, and if it was sad. Also, if he is mad and if you are sad, if everybody else knows, and who we can tell.

Possible chapters to include: No one is as great, wonderful and full of himself as you, Mr. Ex! It is not hard to be at a wedding withouth a Plus-1. I have never looked better. I am so glad he is not in my life anymore.

GUYS (AND PEOPLE) TO AVOID AND THAT YOUR MOTHER WARNED YOU ABOUT!

This book just contains a list of assholes, a picture, a short description, and why you should avoid them.

Maybe this will help you. Maybe it will make you laugh. Maybe it will help you navigate through a shitty time. Someday, happy couples won’t make you feel sad anymore. Someday you may be in a relationship again. Someday you will wake up and feel happy and slowly but surely like yourself again. Forget the facts and remember the feelings. The future is now.

.The Missing Link.

I am a moon junkie. Every time I look at the moon, I feel less alone and less afraid. Of course, the movie Moonstruck with Cher and Nicolas Cage is one of my favorites. I tell my son that moonlight is a magic blanket and the stars above us are campfires set by friendly aliens. I track lunar cycles on my iPhone and sometimes I take my son outside when a moon is new or full or blue. We call this “moon hunting” and we bring tiny flashlights.

During one full moon a couple of years ago, we drove to an open field and climbed into sleeping bags and howled at the night sky. As we drove to my preplanned spot, my son once again reminded me to stay in the moment and stop overthinking. He kept pointing at the huge moon, shouting, “Mama, it is right there. We don’t have to drive to the moon. It came to us!” We pulled over and I abandoned my previous plan. I spread out a blanket and we snuggled together. We both made wishes. I wished that my son would be kind and happy and I would wake up healthy. My son wished that everyone in the world was a robot. And more Lego.

Who is this little guy who follows me for almost seven years?

My son has a dark eye color that I can get lost in. He loves to run around and strongly identifies with Harry Potter these days. He recently told me, “Mama, do you want to know something funny about me? I am afraid of little things and not afraid of big things.” I think he was talking about bugs and elephants, but I understood what he meant in a very deep way. He is delighted when I laugh at him, but he is no ham. He is sensitive and stubborn, and as of now, wants to become a paleontologist or a doctor. Or Iron Man. He asked me the other day, “Are you sad that you don’t have a penis?” I told him that I was happy with the parts that I had. I then reminded him that girls have vaginas and everyone is different and each body is like a snowflake. He nodded in agreement and then looked up at me with a serious face and asked, “But did you once have a penis and break it?” The bond between mother and son is powerful stuff. I firmly believe that every boy needs his mom to love him and every girl her dad to pay attention to her. My son needed to figure out if I had ever owned and operated a penis. I get it. His penis is important to him. Anyway, he starts college next year. Just kidding, he is six. He recently asked if he could marry me and I said yes. I couldn’t help it.

When my son was two or younger, we used to take naps together. We spent part of one summer in Germany with my parents and every afternoon we would snuggle together as the breeze blew in. I was holding my baby and count those naps as some of the happiest times in my life. I imagined a peaceful and quiet life with my son. I pictured kissing his head as he obediently put himself to bed, as in a John Irving novel. I was so stupid. Everything is loud now. He wants to wrestle and bump and yank. He wants to play lion cub, rolling around and destroying the furniture. He jumps off couches and buzzes around with his scooter. He swings sticks and tells people “food goes into your stomach and turns into poop.” He loves dinosaurs and superheroes and thinks that I am Wonder Woman. Everything is physical and visual and some things are expressed by Patrick Swayze’s “roadhouse” kicks.

I love my son so much I fear my heart will explode. I wonder if this love will crack open my chest and split me in half. It is scary, this love. When my son arrived, he broke open everything about me. My mind flooded with oxygen. My heart became a room with wide-open windows. I laughed hard and I cried hard. I thought more about the future and read about global warming. I realized how nice it feels to care about someone else more than myself. And gradually, through this heart-heavy openness and the fresh brown eyes, I started to see the world a little more. I started to care a teeny tiny bit more about what happens to everyone in it. My son needs so much holding. Kisses and hugs and food and clothes and touch. He needs everything. Sometimes the enormity of what he needs is intense but I give it to him unconditionally. Because I love him and I am here for him.

Single parenting is not easy but I am pretty good at it these days. Also because I was lucky to have met someone who gently gestures for me to follow him down a path that allows me to feel a little less stressed out and to see all the advantages I have in life. I am a lucky woman indeed.

When relationships or marriages end, it is hard at first to stay in a setting you used to share. No one wants to be the cat scratching at the door that won’t open. Sometimes, people are very bad. Sometimes they are very good. A little love goes a long way. My partner and I are riding the same wave of awesomeness. He used to make the same mistakes that I made, which is to close the eyes and hope the storm and crashing waves will go away, miss me, or hit something or someone else. Whenever I feel I am drowning, he dives in, headfirst, to get me out. When I look at him I hide nothing.

The other day I read something that stuck with me. It went something like this: There are small promises. Look deeply at joy and sorrow, at laughing and crying, at hoping and fearing, at all that lives and dies. What truly heals is gratitude and tenderness, and love.

I realize how lucky I am and how awesome my life is. Nothing is missing. I lay in bed and thought about time and the past, and how many different people live under the same big, beautiful moon. And if we are really lucky, we are able to meet the One who adds a tiny link to unconditional happiness.

.From A to Be.

Every time I commence a change in my life I receive it as a marker. Something uncertain and new but awesome. Uncertainty means that there is always a blank canvas in front of me, but each new chapter creates a frame. I can arrange life only to a certain extent because it constantly happens around me. Lately, and especially throughout this pandemic, I view this new “normal” as a chance to start anew, change or improve. I also want to see it as a chance to truly take notice of what is happening. A friend of mine usually says, “Today, I will give you some food for thought”.

I might not be able to control events or the outcome of my efforts, but I can put myself in the world and take note of what I learn along the way. I learned to hold plans lightly and to pay attention to what’s on the periphery. The plans for myself can lead me astray because sometimes I don’t really know if I want something until I try it. I am not afraid to experiment with something and change course if it is not for me. Taking action is more important than figuring out what is the right decision. Obviously, it can be helpful to survey the options available but it is when I get caught up in determining which is the “right” decision I can get stuck. Even with hindsight, it is impossible to trace my current life back to one specific choice or opportunity. With this in mind, I rather focus on the process than the outcome of my decisions.

I don’t believe in the parameters people make for me. When I sent out the draft for my first book it got rejected about a million times. But I don’t believe when people tell me I am “not cut out” for or capable of something. Instead of taking their advice or so-called insight at face value, I test the parameters. I went on to write more articles and essays and experimented with my creativity.

I say what I want. I tell people to get to the point. To talk slower or louder. I tell people that they look great and are beautiful. I ask people if they walk the walk instead of talk the talk. I tell them to stop complaining. Also, to stop whining (about anything, really). I tell them to ignore what others think.

I notice when I am caught up with a fantasy. When it comes to failure, be it of a relationship, marriage or a work opportunity, often what stings the most is the loss of a hoped-for future, which can quickly become a lingering obsession or fantasy. My head can say “it was for the best” but my heart can keep me stuck in the past. I learned not to miss what is here for me now. I stopped chasing a ghost a long time ago by focusing on what my current day contains. I am simply neither ahead, nor behind. I am where I am meant to be. And, even more important, the more I do what I want, the less likely I am to compare. I let comparison or envy be a guide for what I most want, and then create that for myself in my own way.

I see what I haven’t done yet as a possibility, but not as a failure. Years ago, I had this inner dialogue that I was incomplete because my to-do list was incomplete. At some point, this just became overwhelming and ridiculous, so now I simply see how everything on my list is a possibility.

There will be ebbs and flows in my days and my career but I have to see the beauty in a plateau. I am very fortunate to have this job, especially in Corona-times. There will be times when I am winning and times I am losing. Simple as that. And I believe nobody really knows what they are doing in this game called life. Everybody has sleepless nights, dull days, abandoned projects, experiences rejections, and battles with self-doubt. Nobody and nothing is perfect. Ever. In the words of Leonard Cohen, “There is a crack, a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.”

There is no such thing as balance, only balancing individual moments. Again, life is movement, not a perfect or stagnant balance. Rather than striving for balance, I work on mastering the art of balancing, which allows for more flux and change in any given moment.

Wrapping this all up, keep in mind that you will never get “there”, and that is a wonderful thing. What does “there” even mean? The problem with goals is that it is easy and tempting to keep moving the goalpost. But, I learned that I never arrive in life. Things will always shift beneath my feet. Life will always throw another curveball. Just duck in time when it flies in your direction so you don’t get hit. And if you do, get up and keep moving forward.

Last, but maybe most importantly is love. Love is complicated. It can be fantastic. Obsessional. Love can bring worry, love can bring hurt, love can be challenging, love can be lost, love can be rejected, love can be unrequited. And I know I should love for all those reasons and more. Because love has a lightness. These sweet moments of delight.

All we can do is to learn, learn from our mistakes, from our successes, from others, from what we have kept with us and what we have let go. Figure out what you want. Say it loud. Then shut up, listen, and wait.

If it’s not funny, you don’t have to laugh.

.Running & Time-traveling Up that Hill.

I walked past one of my favorite coffee shops the other day. It just reopened the other day and has been closed since March 14th. I could barely recall what it was like to go there. I used to grab a coffee on my way to work. If I ever missed a morning, the shape of the day was incomplete. And here it’s been two months without it. I tried really hard to remember what it was like going there and then experiencing the simultaneous thrill of being dressed to go to work and the anticipatory buzz of imminent caffeination, and, for some reason, I even recalled this one memory of sitting in the back of the shop, writing and reading.

While thinking about this, I experienced a new sensation where suddenly, life BC (before corona) was not a memory the same way all the other ones were. It was a different entity. Almost like someone else had lived it. There was no through-line, stringing past experiences together with current reality, weaving it into the sweater called Me. Have you felt this way at all? Now that I think about it, I bet this, the finite separation of time: before calamity/after calamity, is the way a lot of people feel after they have encountered a significant bout of isolation and loss of “things”. For me, I am able to recognize who I was before this loss and I am still connected to who I am now. Things have changed but it is all good. #f***thatfacemaskthough

But the reason any of this is noteworthy at all is because I am not grieving or suffering. At least I don’t think I am. Am I? Do I really miss movie theaters? I have known for at least the last four weeks to throw the term “back to” away when discussing the topic of “normal”. There will be no going back. Only toward, forward, to something ….. I guess, New? Different? I am not really sure. Maybe this sudden red-sea-split of time is necessary, I thought while doing my daily Power Yoga Hour at home trying to gaze at my navel in Downward-Facing-Dog. What I am trying to say here is that I liked how a lot of things were in my life; my life before the pandemic. I would not mind going “back to,” instead of “toward.” Not all of it, but some of it. One thing I know for sure though: I won’t stand in line in front of any store to patiently wait to clothes-shop. Because I like to stop and think and sit still and discard the excess that I owned which Corona made me realize again.

But you know what? I have been doing all that while still missing some things in my life. And keeping this in mind, I am good. We are good. I am tired of excavating even though it served me well for a while. At least I am harvesting what is good, thinking less about the things I want to change, the things I look forward to change, and more about the things I had and knew and liked before the lockdown. Like, for example, work: colleagues, friends, the “team” – all of it. This world I get to have that is mine and independent of my “family duties”. It adds dimension and perspective and endurance to the relationships between these walls I call my lovely home. It also adds a bit of a thrill. The extent to which I used to look forward to Friday/Saturday nights to go out for dinner. Damn, we had it good.

No, still have it good. We went to the recently re-opened Zoo in Vienna last weekend. While my son played, I sat on a bench and watched someone’s child collect branches and then rub them against the soil, cleverly turning a stick into a pen to write in the dirt which reminded me of a Kurt Vonnegut quote I find myself coming back to every time simple pleasures trump complicated thoughts: “If this, the stand-alone satisfaction of sitting on the grass with my kids, isn’t nice, what is?

Time is different now. And maybe I am grieving how it was before because I know it won’t be the same. It can’t be. Even if I tried to restore the past, it is not only too far removed from the present, but it is also too foreign a concept. Talking about time, after ten weeks of quarantine, there have been quite some changes in my head. A minute used to be sixty seconds long. My “After-Corona”- brain thinks this could be spiced up a bit. A minute can now either be one hour or two seconds. A day used to be 24 hours. Remember that? Now it seems like the day is over as soon as I first ask myself, “What time is it?” Do you know this feeling when it is still ten in the morning and you are on your phone and suddenly it is eight at night? The weekend is almost over but it actually didn’t exist anymore for the past ten weeks. I might have found myself going to bed on Friday and I would wake up on Monday with a vague memory that I might have watched all seasons and episodes of “Workin’ Moms”.

Lastly, let’s mention a month. Months used to be pretty inconsistent. Some months were 28, 29, 30, or even 31 days. This seems all too confusing, so now every month is four days long. This way we will all get to the end of a month and think: Wow, that felt like it was only four days, which used to be one day of a week, but is now just 1/90th of a week because a week is a year and a month is four days.

Hysterical but life is so weird sometimes. And with this in mind, everything will be alright after all.

.Okay is Eh’ Okay.

What’s grinding your gears these days? Is it that you feel you look like Bruce Vilanch and don’t feel hot anymore? For those of you who don’t know who he is and are too lazy to google it, just picture an owl wearing a blond wig. Is it the lady impressing her fingerprints on every apple at the grocery store? Or the mask that conceals your deeply felt facial reactions?

For this post, I added some most pressing reader’s questions that popped up in my email account. Imposing my own etiquette framework on any stranger these days is a gamble and not necessarily one I would encourage. My first suggestion is to find a way to maintain a well of patience during this time. A virtue, sure, but I think patience is actually a skill which can (eventually) bear fruit in all compartments of life, and what better time to refine it than now? Wait, do I write an etiquette column or a horoscope?

If you live in a place where interacting with strangers is commonplace, the most polite solutions seem to be reframing this as an educational opportunity. Rather than asking someone to pick up the pace, I can teach them my tricks for selecting ripe produce and those apples from six feet away. Can you assume the role of a kind stranger, even if your motive may be ulterior? Either the slow-shopper will be appreciative of my generosity of spirit, or they will look for the quickest way to exit this social interaction and take those f***ing apples and get out of my way.

Question: When it comes to shaking peoples’ hands and greetings in work environments, what will we be expected to do? – Handshakeaddict

Dear Handshakeaddict,

The handshake has gone into retirement for the foreseeable future, and I cannot envision an elbow bump performed in a professional setting. Is this an unpopular opinion? Hey, I am Team “Firm-Handshake”. It is my opinion that a succinct, friendly wave will have to sub in for the meantime. Instinctively, most people will follow this with a self-conscious shrug that says, “I am sorry I have to wave at you from six feet away or six feet under.”

Question: Can I have my breakfast at Microsoft Teams or Zoom meetings? – Wearingashirtbutnakedotherwise

Dear Wearingashirtbutnakedotherwise,

Sadly, no. Not cool. Coffee, yes! Nothing has proven the truth in the saying “too much of a good thing” like video get-togethers or mandatory online meetings. While face-to-face time is just awesome, there should never be more than four screens allowed in one conversation. Or no screen and mic on mute. Sadly, not everyone abides by this rule I have unofficially set, so here we are. Maybe, just mute your mic just in time before your kids scream in the back or you say out loud to your partner what you really think about this meeting. And put on pants because you just never know.

Question: As a smiler, I am feeling anxious about how to convey politeness (or any emotion actually) through a mask. Especially when interacting with cashiers, I want to know the best way to let them know I am appreciative, without removing my mask. – Annoyed

Dear Annoyed,

my inclination is that we now have to use language and tone of voice to compensate for what is concealed when wearing a mask. This means being more vocal than usual, for some people, and practicing over-communicating until the correction feels like second nature. In the recent instances when I found wearing a mask to be a social roadblock, I found myself articulating things like, “I just smiled, sorry, I forgot you cannot see it, ” when I realized I might be coming off as cold, arrogant or angry. Adjusting your overall posture and body language are certainly valid ways to communicate friendliness, but I find them more difficult to control than speech.

Question: I find I am more extroverted than I ever realised and craving whatever social time I can get, but I worry about putting something extra on friends who aren’t feeling the same way and are finding it difficult to socialize right now. What do I do? – Constantworrier

Dear Constantworrier,

What a conscientious question. In this scenario, I recommend taking cues from a tennis pro, and feeding the ball into your friends’ courts (30-15). You can send them an open-ended invitation to talk for example. I feel pretty confident that they will take you up on that offer, now or in three weeks. If you have enough of these tennis balls thrown up in the air at once, your social calendar will fill up in no time.

Question: How do you maintain relationships with some “special” people you work with? – SpontaneousInteractions

Dear SpontaneousInteractions,

just send this:

Question: How do I last-minute cancel virtual plans when everyone knows I have nowhere to be and nothing to do? – FlakyFranklin

Dear FlakyFranklin,

I think we should avoid last-minute cancellations to the best of our abilities. I feel that I cannot suggest ways to politely cancel fast-approaching plans. Last-minute-cancellation should be reserved for only the most necessary situations like your child is sick, something at home went unexpectedly haywire and you are in tears because the sauce for your pasta did not turn out the way you wanted it. Consider your plans before you set them in stone, judging them against the criteria of how you anticipate you will feel when you hear the ping of the calendar notification 15 minutes before the start time.

Question: I have been baking bread for the last couple of weeks. Do you have a sourdough recipe that is bulletproof? – BreadforPresident

Dear BreadforPresident,

It seems that baking bread is a consistent activity in this Corona-madness. In Vienna, there was no yeast available in stores for days. But who cares? Who needs bread? Who needs to bake bread? Okay, baking bread opens you to a world of opportunities like fancy-ass toasts or sandwiches. But what is this obsession with baking bread? Check out this recipe.

Okay? Because Okay is Eh’ Okay.

.Reminders: Playground Stories or Things That Happen on a Park bench.

It was a sunny, beautiful afternoon. I sat on a bench at a newly discovered playground in my neighborhood, drank coffee, and watched my son play while a family of five occupied a nearby table. Even though I was busy with my thoughts and book, I immediately noticed them. I looked up to find the most adorable seven years old celebrating her birthday. She was covered in pink from head to toe with a big princess-crown to complete her look. And she had a smile so contagious I couldn’t help but smile, too. I am still fascinated by that moment and all the hope and joy it carried. There was a palpable feeling of gratitude in her mother’s eyes and she was trying her best to capture it by taking as many photos as she could. Their light and laughter filled the playground and reminded me that the things that truly matter, often just simply smile at you.

I continued to read my book when a couple with child arrived.

“Could we sit next to you?”, he asked me. “Only if you don’t mind, of course,” he added. I looked up and noticed a couple a bit older than I. I didn’t give it a second thought and replied, “Of course. Sure.” After all, when we encounter kindness, the least we can do is embrace it. The man had a kind face with hazel eyes and spoke German with a Russian (?) accent. Besides him, was his wife/girlfriend, who wore a green dress and sandals. She didn’t speak at all but kept looking at me intently.

Spending time next to other humans on a park bench is always a revealing experience for me. It is usually just enough time to give me a glimpse of who they are especially going by how they treat each other and what they communicate. And in this case, all I was left with was warmth and a certain playfulness that took the edge off of life. I noticed this when they argued where they will eat dinner. At the playground or at home. And the second time, she pointed out that he actually never spends time with their daughter (who played with other kids and came over once to take a sip of her water bottle). A little reminder just in case you don’t know or forgot: You don’t need to entertain your child(ren) 24/7; especially if other kids are around! Both times, he was visibly irritated and said something to her in Russian (?) which upset her. She sadly looked him in the eyes and something immediately changed in him. The tone and pitch of his voice grew kinder. He called her my love and I could see her melt.

All that anger, irritation, and fear of whatever gave way to something deeper and more permanent: love. And they both knew they would be fine with each other by their side. I listened and glanced at my book, but asked myself if “their music” will really go on forever? Because I had just seen the dance of love and life. They were in sync and had made it look effortless. But I think what it really meant was that they had already put in the work. This is what you do when you want love that lasts. You ground it with respect and work on it daily.

Shortly after, they got up, kissed, and left while holding hands.

My friend arrived at the playground shortly after. We enjoyed pastries and a bottle of cold white wine that is, in Austria, traditionally mixed with sparkling water (“G’spritzter”). We spoke about relationships and the topic came up that she believes people have a consumerist approach to relationships. I paused. What happens when we chase permanence, not perfection? It hit home. I know what it feels like when someone you loved abandons and cheats on you, but I paused, afraid my words would fail me. I know my truth. Many of us today chase perfection in our partners not because of a need to feel fulfilled but simply out of convenience. I observed that permanence is rare. Perhaps it is our growing intolerance or inability to grapple with each other’s flaws that prevent us from staying the course. And then this thought: why put in the effort at all when we can just start over again with someone new? Register with Tinder and enjoy a new partner every day? Is it worth staying and fix something that is broken, or start something new? You will figure it out for yourself I guess. This is just food for thought.

When my friend and her daughter left, my son and I walked home and I realized more of and about myself and the person I would like to share my journey with. In relationships, I usually broke down my boundaries and slowly expanded my reality to accommodate others. This was wrong. Over the years and with experience, my focus shifted, and a whole new dimension of kindness and beauty unraveled within me. These days, I possibly enjoy the best version of myself and it feels that everything is unattainable without sacrifice. I know myself and how to love and be with someone else.

We were almost home when my son asked if he could make pizza for us tonight. He was so excited and I saw his eyes sparkle. With him, I feel love. This is true love and true for my child, partner, or anybody in my family. Simple. Unadorned. Wholesome. Untiring. And when there is love in my heart there is nothing else to see nor miss. There are no misinterpretations. Only beauty and comfort to enjoy every single day in each other’s company.

So, we made pizza. And it was awesome.

.Happy Mother’s Day, Mom.

Mom,

today, I looked at my son and felt unconditional love and how awesome it is to be his mom. The running joke is always that no one wants to “turn into her mother,” and I remember as a child and even more so as teen thinking, “I will never be like her.” But sure enough with only one toddler in tow, I am already turning into you. And I have to admit, I am pretty thankful for it. Even the things that drove me crazy as a child, like your emphasis on vegetables, that there was hardly ever Coca Cola and junk food at our house, and limiting screen time, are so important to me now as a mom. The daughter you spent all those years convincing to tidy-up is now sure to walk from room to room each night gathering dirty laundry, Lego, toys, and empty glasses and “tucking-in” the house as you always did.

There is something else I learned from you, too. I always used to tell you that I loved you more, and you would reply that it was a sweet sentiment, but I was wrong, and that I wouldn’t understand until I had one child of my own. Well, now that I do have Joel I get it. I am very certain that I do and always will love my son more than he is capable of loving me. I knew it the instant I saw him.

Mom, the days are long and we talk a lot but I don’t always get the chance to put into words how much I really understand it now and how much I love you.

You were the one who listened, organized, planned; the one who did it all. But once I had a child growing inside of me, I suddenly really understood. You nurtured me. You had grown me from scratch. Every time I thought or worried or dreamed about the little life inside of me, I was made aware of how much countless times you had done the same. And I have been around a while. That’s an awful lot of love. And you just knew it all; at least it seemed that way to me. I asked myself how I would know what to do and what to say to my son as he grew? In difficult times, I would close my eyes and think about what you would do. It always helps because you are reasonable and calm.

Thank you for waking up multiple times in the night, many nights, or sleeping next to my bed when I wouldn’t fall asleep. And not being completely mean-spirited in the morning. And for preparing dinner and teaching me to help others. Thank you for raising me in a clean, orderly home where I always felt secure (home base), but also for showing me that a functional family is a team effort.

I now understand, too, how much restraint it must have taken for you to be nice to some of the weirdos I brought home over the years. You wanted me to know that you respected me enough to let me choose my own friends and later, romantic partners. Today, I joke about how I will eliminate anyone who hurts my son; male or female.

Looking back, I am almost grateful for the social insanity I went through as a teen, because it taught me so much empathy in the real world. Remember when we both learned and studied geography? Everything about avalanches and whatnot. I did my best but I didn’t get all the terms but I have a feeling that with you as a mom, I would have learned it anyway. I am sure that teaching me to tie my shoes, brush my teeth, and wipe my butt was no easy task. I am sure that you had more exciting things to do than reading Frederick to me for the millionth time.

I now get why you did it. I would also like to thank you for doing something that most people only say. Something I know for sure I will be able to do for my own son, which is to encounter him to go for his dreams. Lots of kids are told that they can grow up and be and do whatever they want, but you actually believed it. You believed in me and my decision when I said I will quit my job at the German Federal Police and join the United Nations in New York. And all other crazy decision I made so far.

You have always fostered my dreams and helped me put together the tools I would need to achieve them. But you have not pressured me, and I am so glad I learned that from you. You were excited about my adventure even though I know you wiped aways teas when I left. But hardly ever in front of me but inside you were wilted, uneasy, and sad. Even if we lived far apart when airplanes were required for visits, you put me first, put us first. Because that’s what moms do.

Mom, life is not an easy road and there is so much more involved than I ever could have anticipated. Life as a mom is a constant, daily battle. Questions, challenges, decisions. In hindsight, you made it all look so easy and many times I am trying to pull it off as you did. I know you struggled at points because you told me years later. But you never let me see it.

Thank you for that, too. For not letting me see that it was hard, but rather that your focus was on enjoying me. For putting down the laundry and reading a book to me when I asked you to, even though you had to stay up later to finish the chores that way. For making me a priority. For showing me that being a mom is a big thing, but it is not the only thing. For helping me remember that now when I call you in tears because motherhood is overwhelming. Thank you for teaching me by showing me how to raise a son in this cruel world. It would not surprise me if you said that was the hardest thing you ever had to challenge and honor of doing. But you won’t tell me even if I ask, because, for me, you are always Mom, and that is the most natural thing there is. And like I said, now, I get it.

Ich hab dich sehr lieb, Mama

Dein Herz

.Quarantine Diary: Wrap-Up.

Yeah, yeah, yeah… there might be a second Corona-wave crashing over us like a Tsunami. But for me, things are somewhat back to the “new normal”. I want to put a mental end to this pandemic and wrap up my Quarantine-Diary. At some point, enough is enough, I think. I have marveled at keeping a digital chronicle of things I have noticed during Corona. Logging what I see and feel is, I think, its own form of meditation. Dare I call it healing or staying sane.

What I Miss

Simply going to work every day and talking to my colleagues in person.

The gorgeously paradoxical quiet of an early morning at Naschmarkt/Vienna and the preparational buzz I can feel vibrating off the sidewalk as it gears up for opening hour.

Chattering strangers and having tea and conversations with my neighbour.

Chance encounters.

Hugging.

Going to a restaurant and having a normal dinner date.

Asking my son how his day was and genuinely not knowing the answer.

Shopping without a face-mask.

Feeling real distance between me and my bed and longing to get in at the end of the day.

Running home to change, then going right back out with friends.

What I Do Not Miss

Whenever my phone buzzes with the tell-tale vibration of an incoming text message, I experience what can only be described as a Pavlovian response–a mixture of thrill, curiosity, and urgency–to pick it up and read what it says immediately.

That some people still run to the other side of the street when I walk somewhere.

This couple who sleeps in that little park in front of my apartment for weeks now.

My son asking them to come upstairs and live with us.

That in Vienna, the social-distance you have to maintain to others is compared to a “baby elephant”. “Define a baby elephant, ” I ask my partner and we would have something to talk about for hours.

The guy dressed only in underwear ringing my doorbell at 9.30 p.m. to ask if he lives here.

Not “having time” for people who matter. I miss my family so much.

Getting caught on the anxiety hamster wheel because it is easier to speed up than to slow down.

Stop looking at people and feeling weird when they sneeze or cough. And vice versa.

The new “Corona-Rules” and to wear face-masks, especially when wearing glasses!

Depending on my phone for human connection.

Charging my phone at least twice a day.

Cooking daily.

Live newsfeeds of coronavirus updates anywhere on social media.

Waking up to uncertainty even though I am doing fine.

Feeling irresponsible every time the constant, nagging reminder of our collective mortality lifts from my mind.

The frequency with which I wonder if I am okay with all this madness.

What I Won’t Forget

How much closer my partner and I became.

How awesome it felt when I took my son for a walk through the neighborhood and a man was power washing a row of umbrellas in front of a café/restaurant. My son shouted, “What are you doing?” And graciously, he replied, “Getting our umbrellas ready for the summer.” I could see a small pathway toward normal. A pathway toward but not back to normal. There is a distinct difference because no matter what happens next, we are changed.

That it is possible to listen to the song “Golden Brown” by The Stranglers way too often while dancing through the living room.

That my manuscript for my third book is 99% done and ready to be published.

How much I wrote and read in the last couple of weeks.

That even though I won’t miss not knowing, we never really know (anything anyway).

The police officer on the subway train who told my son and I to put the mask over our nose because otherwise we will be fined. Welcome to Vienna. Here, they take things seriously and to another level but it somehow works.

Grocery store “security-guard-police” everywhere who tell you what to do.

How awesome it is to be able to order food online and how we discovered Honu Tiki Bowls. They are insanely good. If you are in Austria: Check out their website.

How much having a sense of humour helps and to laugh until you cry.

How I managed to stay at home with my son 24/7 and, in hindsight, it was okay.

We all have been put to some sort of test throughout this pandemic. It is these difficult times when people lose their temper and hope. Many either put their head down, fade out the noise and do whatever it takes or they simply raise a flag and break apart. Because we are our harshest critics and think we have figured life out while giving away so much power to doubt and fear. We try to convince ourselves that once we have overcome this immediate obstacle in front of us, our life will get infinitely better. Will it get better? We don’t know what will happen next. We are exposed to an unknown journey called life. There is only the self and the consequences of our choices.

.Single, Unemployed, and Suddenly Myself.

Single, unemployed, and suddenly myself? That was what happened to me in 2017 and created this change in mind, hovering, at the beginning of two tough years ahead. Divorce is not the end of the world. It is painful, it sucks but I got through it. Mainly, things fell into place when I started to love myself and figured out who I am and what I want. I sort of lost myself in all those years previously without even noticing. Self-love is notoriously difficult and I have been terrible at it. But this grief that my divorce caused opened my heart at a different level so I was able to begin this process of becoming more than I am and made self-love a reality in my life. Over the past three years, I have learned a great deal and how I can start to be kinder with myself. I know now what I want and don’t want, how to listen to my gut, communicate what bothers me and simply say “no” if it doesn’t feel right to me.

I stopped sabotaging myself. If you find yourself in a relationship with, for example, a rather dominant, ego-centered partner who conjures convincing arguments against yourself it may be time to get out. Because being with this type of partner is the easiest way to drown your potential and who you really are. In the long-run, this self-limiting behavior is destructive and programmed to prevent yourself from trying or even caring anymore. I had to learn to recognize this state of mind so I could begin to escape it. I also had to acknowledge that I was my own worst enemy for years. I was the greatest threat to my own happiness. And the quicker I recognized this fact, the less time I wasted on preparing myself for external harm. For years, I was perpetually in my own blind spot and hence caused the greatest injuries to my soul.

Another thing I learned is to not give in to doubt or fear. If it doesn’t feel right, it usually is not. There is a clear difference between being self-aware and cautious, and lacking conviction. When I found myself in a difficult situation, I forgot that all I have to do is simply to pause, think, reevaluate the situation, and make the next right move.

I took care of my physical and mental health. Stress is the worst. Stress can kill you. Stay out of arguments and clarify things. If you are not enough for yourself, you will never be enough for someone else. Throughout these crazy two years of getting a divorce, no matter how ambitious or driven I am, I had to remember that my life is a marathon, rather than a sprint. At times I grossly overestimated what I could do in a day or one week and underestimated what I could achieve over a couple of months. I learned to give myself the time I needed to realize my potential by taking care of myself. I approved of myself because my interests matter. This way, my ability to overcome challenges is limitless. I am always free and accept all circumstances, good or bad, as my teachers. I think that every fight or argument I had happened because of missing inner harmony.

Feel less guilty about pleasure, my friend. Whatever that may be and helps you through whatever tough times you are experiencing. You feel guilty about things that bring you joy because you either feel they are undeserved, inappropriate, or that there is still so much to be done? Time on this planet is fleeting, so I realized I have to make peace with this guilt if I must and give myself permission to experience life fully with whatever excites me. I allow myself to feel what I feel because everything I feel is justified and does not need to be explained.

I started to put myself first because this way I reclaimed control over the narrative of my life. This way, I did not longer live in the shadow of others and make compromises that take away from my joy. And unless I am happy, I cannot bring happiness to others. I needed to evolve from this fixed mindset to a growth mindset which was not easy but manageable.

I learned how to reflect deeper and more often. There were parts that I did not like about myself but never felt bad. This is who I am. I conversed with them until I understood to forgive and forsake them. I surrounded myself with people who genuinely care about me. People who valued my company. This way I learned how to appreciate the things that they love about me. They will act as my mirror and reveal the best and worst of me. This way I became and become the best possible version of myself because I am enough.

Slow life down whenever you need to so you can regain your breath. Spend time with people you love. Or alone. Or in the woods. You know best what you need. But choose yourself first. Walk away from toxic situations that make you feel bad. To let go means to be free. Free from the past. Free to believe that destinies may change. You are your own soulmate.

I was (and still am) on this self-discovery journey for quite some time. I won’t say it is easy. But, in the end, you may meet someone again who sings the same tune. Someone who makes time stand still while you are in awe.