.How to Balance Ambition and Security.

A friend asked me the other day, how she can balance ambition and security. My first reaction was that this must be one of the most fundamental conflicts of human experience and that she might already know the answer. It was right there in her words: She is taking a leap, and now she cannot find her footing. I guess she cannot be airborne and grounded at the same time? It is an apt metaphor because ambition and security share a similar mutual exclusivity. To leap or not to leap? It is not the question, but it is always its own kind of answer. One of the other but never both.

I think it is right for anybody in a situation like that to feel untethered. If you leave something you know for something you don’t it is always strange and weird at first. Why? Because you are suspended in uncertainty, one of the squirmiest, most unpleasant emotions. I have made similar leaps myself that, in hindsight, have changed my life for the better, but I’ll still go to great lengths to avoid the feeling. In previous dark moments, I even hoped for someone or something to decide my fate for me just to save me from it. Which is to say: Learning to maintain your wits right now is good practice for life. You can, of course, try to level your unease with a truism like “everything will be okay” (impossible to prove), but I think you know this is what you have chosen: to lose your footing and float a little. But sometimes, it is the only way to move forward.

I understand this desire to establish a sense of structure though. For me, it is done by laying the foundation of a new world and putting up the proverbial shelves that I will find my way back to the ground. I think this comes naturally. For example, I signed a lease, found work, met new friends and explored a new city to exhaustion. I developed affection for a particular street corner and memorized the peculiarities of my commute. I tried, fucked up, did better the next time. Imbued with the learnings of my previous “life”, these are the new rhythms and habits by which I will live, and they will give me a sense of certainty and security that looks so attractive right now. Of course, these are also the tenets which, when overemphasized, can make me feel stuck. For me, this is the tension inherent to safety versus freedom.

Safety is knowable and certain. It makes me feel secure and protected even though deep inside I know that nothing is for certain. It can also be suffocating, making me yearn for the expansiveness of freedom, openness, and adventure. Freedom says anything is possible when safety says only some things are. Freedom implies a kind of lawlessness while safety favors order. Too much of the former incites fear and insecurity, too much of the latter can inspire an existential kind of dread. I think that these two notions are connected like joy and pain, each emphasizing the other in ways important and cruel. To me, a life well-lived entails a constant negotiation between both.

There have been times in my life where too much of one sent me running toward the other, like when I was 23, arrived in New York and felt so urgently stagnant that, in the span of a week, I started five creative projects and designed to change all the habits I believed were nurturing my complacency. I also believed the Sex and the City lifestyle is real. In instigating a flurry of change, I felt inspired, energetic, and a little afraid but loved the adventure. For a while, this harkened a unique era of fulfillment, but within six months, I was burned out. I had become so tapped into the life I wanted, I had come to resent the life I had. I needed a period of calm reclusion, a return to stability, which then stretched into months until, of course, I felt itchy again.

So, I rode the roller coaster for a long time, never quite sure which one was “correct”. Hustle or relax? There was a time in my life when I studied and worked full-time. Do I want more or be grateful? But the answer was not in committing to one of the other, it was in learning to let these parts of me cooperate rather than fight to the death. This balance looks different for everyone of course, but for me, it means being careful to balance routine with risk, deadlines with creative freedom, long days with time off. It is decorating my comfort zone while also stepping outside of it enough to remember why I have it in the first place. This leap will teach me about myself, about what I want, what makes me feel good, wrong, attentive and fearful.

From experience, I suggest that whatever you do, embrace the inimitable perks of freedom you have unlocked by leaving an established structure: the sense of movement in your body, the breath-taking number of possibilities on the horizon, the unknowability of the next move. They may give you vertigo. It did to me, but what good things don’t come at a cost? And when I eventually spun a new safety net for myself (and my son), that security will feel all the more satisfying for what came before it.

This emotional binary is not reserved for life’s most significant peaks and stalls. We pursue and avoid the trappings of freedom and safety every day. We seek solace in maintaining a habit, and pursue adventure in breaking them. We cling to what we know then resent it, lust for something new then grow sick of it. So, isn’t it that we all just dance a delicate dance between tending to what we know and courting what we don’t? Always dance, but stand steady on your feet.

.Always Creating.

When I first learned how to write, I constantly asked my teacher to show me how to write new words, sentences, whole paragraphs. I always carried a piece of paper, notebook or journal to write things down. I do so to this day. I always love(d) to write letters. By age seven, I was the nerd when it came to spelling (math was never my thing though; my brother would want me to add this). English, German, language, linguistics were the subjects I was really good at and took pride in this fact. The borderline obsession with writing continued through high school. I notoriously wrote in my diary, was involved with the school newspaper and journalism. I simply loved writing because it helped me connect with people around me, but also to myself and to emotions I couldn’t express any other way.

At college, I did really well on anything that required creative writing or presentations. I was the editor of group assignments and my peers often came to me to review their stuff. Why am I telling you all this? Because I am very analytical and can zero in on details. I am also telling you this because I have a lot of evidence that I have always been creative and live(d) a creative life – personally and professionally. When I go too long without creating something I feel completely off, depleted and itchy.

I believe and teach my son that, as humans, we are all creators. We are the creation and the creators. It is our natural state. What we create is specific to the person but we are all meant to be creating new things. A problem I feel a lot is that our modern life caters to consumption. We constantly watch, listen to, read, and are bombarded with new information. Visual or otherwise. Aren’t we almost always in consumption mode? Something needs to balance out.

I practice Yoga for many years and love to connect to my body this way. In Yoga, balance is called prana (life force energy) which connects with the apana (regulates the outward flow of prana). This yogic concept has taught me a lot about the importance of becoming aware of how much we consume. Not just information on a daily basis but also energies. By becoming aware and taking notice of how much I take in throughout the day and how much I clear out, I started to feel more balanced.

These days, I have a lot of time to blog and read but I know (very soon) there will be a time when this will change. However, I know that I won’t fall into the false narrative that I don’t have time to write. To sit and write, not for work and money, just for me is important because it balances me. Sometimes it is easier said than done but when times get rough, I do not forget to tap into the things that provide me with sustained energy and joy. I don’t fall into the trap to believe that we are being sold an idea of where our energy should come from and what it looks like to recharge.

Social media tells us what to do: watch TV, consume more, work more to purchase more and so on. The message is so strong that we tend to forget that we actually don’t get energy from watching TV, from working more or accumulating more stuff. The older I get, the more I learn how my body works and what is good and healthy for me. I get energy from creating. I get it from spending quality time with people and nurturing relationships. I get energy from moving my body. I get energy from learning new things. I get energy from being in nature. Nature is the ultimate creation and it teaches me how to accept our gifts and embrace what I do. Do you think nature questions its creativity? It is the creation.

Our creative capacity as a human species is limitless. Part of me believes if we all put our creative minds together, we could solve many of the world’s problems. We need to release our conditional beliefs that we are limited, that we aren’t creative and shift it to that we are capable of so much more. That we are able to do anything we want.

.Subway Creatures: How not to be an Asshole on the Train.

To get to work and school in the morning my son and I take the subway daily. The subway is a great place to observe but it can get creepy at points, too. Just in case, common sense is not so common to you, here is the Ultimate Subway Etiquette for you. Two months of subway-observation and I am happy to share this list. Enjoy!

  1. Let people get off the train before you get on.
  2. The top of an escalator is not a great place to have a conversation.
  3. When you lean against the pole on the train, nobody else can hold on to it. Just don’t block others from being able to access things.
  4. Don’t seat-hog: Your huge purse or bag does not need its own seat on the train.
  5. I understand you really like that song, but everybody can hear you singing even though you have earbuds in.
  6. The subway platform is not a great place to ride your skateboard or scooter.
  7. Don’t spread your legs extra wide so nobody can sit next to you.
  8. I don’t understand how people sitting on the train get the sudden urge to clip their nails (even toenails, g-sus!), floss their teeth, shave their head, tweeze nose hair (sometimes not even their own), or pop their lover’s pimples. Just don’t do it on the train.
  9. Don’t smoke on the train; also no e-cigarettes.
  10. Don’t watch porn (with or without headphones!) on the train. Reading the book “I love Dick” is okay though.
  11. Be respectful and empathetic.
  12. Wear headphones if you watch a movie, the news or listen to music.
  13. Speak quietly on the phone. It is not a megaphone. Also, nobody cares how much sex you had last night and that it was aaaaaaaaamaaaaaazing. Especially not my son.
  14. Don’t spit on the floor. Don’t spit pumpkin seed shells on the floor. Don’t spit any seeds!
  15. Don’t litter. Take your garbage, newspapers, coffee cups and whatnot with you when you leave the subway.
  16. Eating: This is almost the most hotly debated and controversial subject. Maybe eating a sandwich wouldn’t bother someone (well, it depends what is on it!). Eating a plate of spaghetti on the subway is not okay. Also, no Chinese take-out. Just use your best judgment here. Nobody wants to smell dried fish (wth!?) at 8.30 am on the subway. Or anything fried. There was a woman on the train this morning (she triggered to finally write this post) who was slurping and smacking on a whole stinking Tupperware of reheated seafood lasagna.
  17. Give up your seat when appropriate. Don’t be an asshole about it. Offer your seat to pregnant women, elderly, women with kids or the ones with a broken spirit.
  18. Don’t put on make-up on the train. Unless you want to poke your eyeballs out with your mascara.
  19. Put your huge newspaper down when it is very crowded on the train.
  20. Please take your eyes off your phone/book/newspaper for just a minute as you exit the train. Especially during rush hour! Don’t be a mindless zombie! When you are exiting the station, please wait until you are done climbing the stairs before you start using your cell phone again. When there is a steady stream of people filing up a narrow staircase nobody needs you slowing things down even more while your nose is buried in your cell phone. This is what you do: Put your phone away, look up and walk up the stairs at a normal person’s pace.
  21. Don’t put your feet on the opposite seat. Also not if you take off your shoes or socks. People, I am not making this up.
  22. Don’t be a seat martyr and say things like, “I know you are in more need of this seat but you will have to work/fight for it!”
  23. Cover your mouth when coughing or sneezing. Don’t pick your nose.
  24. Don’t pick scaps on parts of your body and play with the blood.
  25. Don’t transfer into a statue when people try to get by. Look at people; pay attention.
  26. Don’t brush your teeth on the train. I cannot believe I had to actually type this.
  27. Wear deodorant or take a shower before getting on the train. Don’t stink.
  28. Keep control over your kid(s). Don’t let them take over the train.
  29. Don’t push your way into an already crowded train.
  30. Don’t be a PDA (public display of affection) couple. I am not talking about a kiss or holding hands. I just don’t need to see you groping each other while his hand is in her pants. Do whatever you want in your own time but not on the train. I am not the sex police.

The train is not your private place, so don’t act like it. This list is by no means exhaustive. I guess there are even more things you can do or avoid to make the next train ride a good one.

.Body Language 101.

The other day at the supermarket register line I encountered some existential quandaries and saw a German magazine analyzing Meghan Markle and Prince Harry’s body language. An “expert” claimed does she know that Meghan’s hand placed on Harry’s arm means she is enjoying the moment. Or that the position of Harry’s fingers indicates that he is a relaxed parent. When it comes to body language, I can recommend the book by Allen and Barbara Pease, “The Definitive Book of Body Language” that I enjoyed quite a lot. They train lawyers, journalists, salespeople, and other professionals in the art and science of body language. I would like to share some insights of the book that are helpful on a daily basis because reading body language is a superpower.

Sometimes I can see the subtle, nuanced element of human communication so I guess I studied linguistics for something. When talking to each other, people are mostly focused on the words the other person is saying. In the book, it says that our bodies reveal how we feel in ways we may not even realize. If you’re nervous, you might rock slightly, rub your lips with your finger, or play with your hair. I was surprised how many industries use the services of body language experts to read people better and recognize, for example, a customer’s reservations about making a big purchase. I love to learn more about body language because my goal is to understand people better.

What I learned while/after reading the book

The book highlights that there are a lot of factors to take into consideration when reading body language. Culture and context are really important, as are “clusters”. In body language, a cluster is two or more types of gestures a person makes at around the same time. For example, say a person is talking to someone and they crinkle their nose. Crinkling the nose is a micro-expression of disgust. That is a clue on its own, but when paired with other gestures we can extract more information about what a person is really thinking. Crinkling the nose and leaning away from someone would indicate the subject’s dislike of the person they are talking to, or of the topic. If they crinkle their nose while nodding their head, they may be trying to give the impression that they agree when really they do not.

I am not a mind reader. I think, however, that body language is a combination of art and science. To “read someone” is by no means a 100 percent certainty. But think of it this way: not all doctors are going to solve the same medical condition the same way, right? They might try different medications or procedures based on their expertise and experience. It’s important to remember that body language analysis is just my/your interpretation of the situation. Obviously, it is almost impossible to interpret someone’s body language based on a TV appearance or a photo. There is only so much information you can get from a photo or video. No clue what happened before the picture was taken, there is no context at all, but newspapers and crappy magazines do not care. To interpret someone’s body language, I need a lot more context. If it were that easy to tell if someone is lying, we would not have the Innocence Project, we would not have this high false confession rate. You could also spot someone cheating on you a lot earlier because you would have been able to see right through the deception. It is not that easy. I wish it was! It becomes more challenging if the other person sends you mixed messages and signals such as he/she doesn’t look in your eyes much and often looks over your head. But at the same time, touches your arm occasionally when you say something funny. The authors suggest to closely watch the person when they are talking. He/she might feel uncomfortable, lying or hiding something if they look everywhere but in your eyes.

I believe moving through the world is easier when I am more mindful of the body language signals I am giving off and receiving. It is helpful to be in the right mindset when talking to someone because your non-verbal cues will reflect that. The final test: Person A (whom you really like and kinda hung out with for a couple of weeks) takes you to a party. As soon as you arrive, he takes off and completely ignores you the entire evening. He does not talk to you, does not sit next to you and hangs out with his friends only. What does this tell you? (A): He really likes you and loves spending time with you or (B) His focus is clearly not you, he does not care about you.

.Breaking it Down – Divorce & Kids.

The decision to get a divorce is usually an agonizing one. The thought of telling my son about it was initially terrifying. It is disheartening to have to be the bearer of that kind of news, and it was impossible to predict how he will react. I heard from a lot of people that it is never easy to talk to children about this topic. One part was a bit easier: my ex-husband works overseas and was not home a lot, so my son never experienced a “typical father figure” when both parents are home living the daily family life. We separated in January 2018 and my ex has not spoken to or seen his son since May 2018. Time passes. It’s November 2019 and every passing month is more awkward to my son. He doesn’t talk much about his father; almost as he doesn’t know him. Which is sort of true? The other day he asked, “My dad never calls. Why is that?” Here, I will share how I speak to my son about it all; how I explain the divorce and why certain things happened.

  1. I spoke to my son as soon as possible after I have come to a decision. Postponing the talk would haven just given me more time to dread it, and I did not want to lose the trust of my son. Honesty is important. He feels and knows when I am lying. I made some preliminary new living arrangements (but not too much change at once), and explained the situation.
  2. My son understood that mommy and daddy fought a lot and they do not want to fight anymore. This is why mommy and daddy go separate ways rather than staying together. My son knows that the decision was not one-sided and that his father cares about him and loves him. He is just very busy. In reality and behind the scenes: He is the typical cliché: The absent father, who does not pay child support and delays the process by all means. Is it fair that he pays nothing for his son? No. Is it fair that he spends the money on trips to Iceland instead while I struggle and have no income yet? No. Is it fair that I have to pay for my son’s clothes (he grows so quickly!) and his food (he eats so much because he grows so quickly!)? No. Well, guess what? Life is not fair sometimes. Let me be clear: I simply believe it is the ethical obligation of the wealthier spouse to pay child support! Especially when it is settled in the court order. My son does not understand any of this but he wonders why his father never reaches out. I have sole custody and my son never questions why we don’t parent as a team. I guess we never were a team in the first place.
  3. I talked to my son by choosing a time that will not interfere with his normal activities. I made it a place that is familiar and comfortable. This simply shows respect for the things that are important to him and ensures that he will feel comfortable asking questions. I did my part. There are still unanswered questions my son has for his dad, however.
  4. My son is six now and I know that when I spoke to him about the divorce two years ago, he was unlikely to understand what it all means. Now, I explain it in the simplest terms possible. I explained that mommy and daddy will no longer be living together, that we both love him and always will and that he can see his father if he wants to.
  5. I avoid arguing with my ex and I don’t lay blame (anymore). There was a time I did but it has passed. I did a lot of mindful work and evolved. I reached the stage where I actually forgive him. It is okay. I honestly hope he is happy in his life and with his decisions. Instead of feeling angry, I feel relieved.
  6. I have been through a rough time but I avoided expressing anger or bitterness in front of my son. I did express sadness sometimes. This showed my son that it is okay to be sad.
  7. I made it a point to tell my son that the divorce is not his fault. I think when my son was younger, he thought that he is to blame for the divorce, even if he didn’t vocalize it. It is important to reassure him that it has nothing to do with him at all.
  8. I filled him in on everything that has been decided so far. He knows what sole custody means and that I am solely responsible for him. There are challenges of course, too for example how to pick the best school and the best education for him. He is pretty smart. But I am sure I will make the right decision.
  9. I encourage my son to ask questions and I answer them truthfully. I don’t tell him all of the details about why we separated (this will happen when he is older), but it is critically important for me to maintain his trust.
  10. And most importantly, I do not burden him with situations he cannot control. I do not ask him to deal with adult issues that will make him feel helpless.

.The Blessing of a Skinned Knee.

First, I want to say how grateful I am for my family. My family means home base, security, and safety. I want my son to feel the same and give him a similar experience on how I grew up. My parents are the best and, of course the best grand-parents a child could ask for. I love them so much.

Second, I am not a helicopter mom by any means. I am “normal” trying to get through this parenting business as easy as somehow possible. Keep all this in mind while you read on.

Today at Joel’s school:

As soon as I walked in the door at Joel’s school I just knew. I can immediately tell if he had a rough day. We are one – it is just insane sometimes. I can read him like an open book. He will walk up, say “Mommy” and slump onto me. His stressed little face breaks my heart, and for years, my first instinct was to try to make it better. You had a problem with a friend? It will be fine tomorrow, I am sure! Tough time on something else? You will figure it out! The teacher gave you a time out? You are still an awesome kid!

But, over time, I have realized what my son really wants: for me just to be there. Nothing else! I recently read a great article in the Washington Post, on how to teach a child do reset after a bad day without fixing their problems for them. Here’s what it said:

“Parents are taking so much responsibility for their children’s mood and spirit that it feels like it’s your job to reset as soon as possible,” says Wendy Mogel, a clinical psychologist and the author of The Blessing of a Skinned Knee: Raising Self-Reliant Children. “It deprives them of the opportunity to be crabby and cross when they finish school or at the end of a day camp.” Part of the reason kids may be upset when they get home is that home is “the soft landing,” Mogel says. It’s the place they feel comfortable enough to get it all out. “They followed all those rules all day. They were polite to all the teachers. It’s exhausting”…

She suggests parents practice “reflective listening.” So, for instance, a child comes home and is frustrated after a tough day at school. The parent then should say, “Wow, it sounds like school was really overwhelming today.” Then the child says something else, and the parent reflects their feelings back to them. “Each time they feel heard, it brings the emotion down and they can see it for what it is,” she says.

Doesn’t that ring true? It works for us. Sometimes. Now, if my son is upset after a long day, I let him vent in a calm space and hide in the bathroom with my phone. And a glass of wine. Or two. I’ll repeat back his emotions and validate his feelings. I’ve been surprised by how well that simple approach has worked. After getting things off his chest, he almost always feels better. Unless he doesn’t. THen I will stay in the bathroom.

Happy parenting. I know it sucks sometimes. A lot.

.Cigarette Cockroach Friendships.

https://www.lukaswww.com (the one and only!)

Moving to Vienna is great for my professional and cultural life but was temporarily nightmarish for my social life. I am doing really well on my own but it is crucial to have some friends to connect with; especially without children, to overcome my social brokenness. It is not easy to start all over in a new city, a new country and leave all my friends behind. In the first couple of weeks, I felt like the human incarnation of this wired cigarette cockroach. Ready to do things but all alone.

Tired: Pizza Rat – Wired: Cigarette Cockroach

First, we walked around to explore and expand my network. I figured out subway and bus lines, cafés, bookstores (obviously). Then we moved on to museums, galleries, and playgrounds. Here, as a mother, it doesn’t just mean facilitating hangouts with basically strangers, it means being honest with myself and others about my desires to grow my connections in Vienna. The second thing I did was even more important than that: I simply let time pass. I learned how important patience is in the process of making friends.

To find new friends is one thing. How about letting go of a friendship? My friend Laura Kelly recorded a great podcast about how she broke up with her BFF. Check it out if you would like: Laura Kelly’s You Might Not Like It Podcast

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I moved many times in my life and it is natural that certain friendships end. Maybe “end” is not the right word. They fade out naturally. But those who have substance will last. When is it time to end a relationship? Also, when a friendship ends, does it alter the value it had? The timing feels eery, as I am grappling with ending a friendship myself. This also meant I wasn’t sure I was equipped to speak on any of it yet. Did it matter that I hadn’t fully metabolized the experience? Or intellectualized the shit out of it until I could explain it away with the right words? “I don’t know why it bothers me so much,” I said, my chest tightening.

As contact with this friend of mine started to wane, the health of our friendship was not always clear to me. Was our drifting organic or evidence of a more serious problem? In hindsight, I should have asked because communication is key. At that time though it felt alarmist, or even self-centered. So, the not so smart thing to do is to keep trying to be normal with the person until it was clear my efforts weren’t being reciprocated. Quietly filling in the blanks through all this probably made things worse. And more pressingly, it gave my fears a lot of mental real estate, especially as they pertained to the new friendship(s) I am trying to build in Vienna.

From an outsider’s perspective, maybe it was obvious we were going in different directions, but from the inside, it felt like a kind of betrayal, the way even necessary change sometimes can. Friendships exist at an unusual emotional intersection in that they feel both deeply important and easy to push aside, mentally, in favor of things like love, family, and work. This incongruence can be startling when a friendship is a source of pain rather than bolstering and additive. Friendship breakups may not happen all at once or even require us to change our lives to weather them, but that doesn’t mean they can’t be just as consciousness-alerting. I think, friendships are primarily driven by mutual understanding or compatibility unlike family, who are not chosen, and unlike romantic relationships, which are charged with something more primal. Moving on from those often means acknowledging a deeper change within, or within the friend. It is a personality problem and I know I cannot move on from a friendship without moving on from a pat of who I once was. I realized that it means to accept that I also cannot control how the other person feels about me.

When I first met my friend, we were going through different but compatible transitions, and this lent our connection a key of alchemy and harmony. However, when our situations changed and the connection fizzled, I was left to question if we ever had anything in common at all. A loss of a friendship can feel disarming like that which brings me to the question I raised earlier: “When a friendship ends, does it alter the value it had?” My insecurity wants me to interpret this breakup as proof the past was somehow false, or my reading of it delusional. It is probably more true that our connection was strong for a reason, even if that reason was somewhat ephemeral. This reminds me of the trope that friends come into your life for a reason, a season, or a lifetime. It is the kind of cliché one forgets until we stumbe upon it ourselves.

Some friendships aren’t forever, but that doesn’t make them any less important. Friendships represent parts of ourselves, and navigating them isn’t so different from figuring out who we are. [Yes, I finished “A New Earth” by Eckhart Toll]. Simply confront the other person. Ask. Talk. Sometimes it may lead to a really difficult conversation but it may primarily save the friendship you have. This then may inspire you to approach some of your other relationships with a similar kind of care. When we downplay how they make us feel, I think we miss an opportunity for a unique form of introspection. Social connection, with all the comfort, and sometimes heartache, inspire. They can be external reflections of our internal worlds. In the end, who we choose to connect and disconnect with tells us a lot about what we want, who we are, and how we have changed.

After a friendship ends, don’t feel like the wired, lonely cigarette cockroach. Go out and play with someone else.

Viktor E. Frankl Museum Vienna – Contemporary Answers.

“Those who have a ‘why’ to live, can bear with almost any ‘how’.” ― Viktor E. Frankl

I had been introduced to Viktor E. Frankl’s famous book “Man’s Search for Meaning” by a good friend about ten years ago and fell in love with some of Frankl’s concepts. A dream came true when I visited the Viktor Frankl Museum in Vienna and actually met his wife who is 94 years-old and lives next to the museum.

Who was Viktor Frankl?

Neurologist and psychiatrist Viktor E. Frankl, born in March 1905, founder of the “Third Viennese School of Psychotherapy”, resided at Mariannengasse 1 until his death in 1997. It was there that he completed his thesis on the human person as a spiritual being, capable of defeating the worst conditions as soon and as long as he finds meaning in life. Today Frankl’s workplace is an inspirational museum, in which I was gradually introduced to the art of psychotherapy. In the course of learning about the development of a genius, I also gained insight into my own opportunities and personal potential.

Viktor Frankl has been awarded 29 honorary doctorate degrees and numerous prizes internationally. With his incomparable blend of scientific precision and faith in a specific human dimension which guarantees human dignity, Frankl’s work is able to reach consensus throughout people’s barriers. His doctrine is applied and further developed in all parts of the world. Frankl developed a theory called Logotherapy. The theory is founded on the belief that human nature is motivated by the search for a life purpose and is the purpose of that meaning for one’s life. Frankl’s theories were heavily inluenced by his personal experience of suffering and loss in Nazi concentration camps.

Some of Viktor Frankl’s work.

My highlights from the visit:

A journalist asked Frankl if he is afraid of death. Frankl: “Not really. I would be scared only of a life not lived. But, if I can say that, for the most part, I have done what I could then there is nothing better than this awareness.”

As a 5 year-old and after someone in his family died, Frankl raises the question: “Since I must die, why do I live?” In countless discussions with his friend, the philosopher Martin Heidegger, he addresses the question of whether transitoriness destroys the meaning of life. As a “thorough and persistent thinker to the end” Frankl cites: “Death is the engine of life.” The meaningfulness in human life lies in its finiteness. Frankl’s concept of meaning points beyond immanence towards transcendence. As a young doctor, Frankl finds in studies that not so much the facts of what one has become are decisive for success or failure but rather the personal attitude we take towards predicaments.

Frankl: “You always decide: Heaven or Hell. You shape heaven or hell for yourself and your environment. It is up to you. Human behaviour is not dictated by conditions one encounters, but by decisions one makes.”

“Fundamental trust is ultimately a faith in meaning, to which we can decide. Among other things, it also means the awareness of our uniqueness and irreplaceability as well as our value for the world” – Frankl.

Frankl asked questions such as: “Can we do anything we are capable of?”; “What is the meaning of life?”; “What is the ultimate meaning of life?” “What is stronger: My fear or myself?”

Guilty of something? Now what? According to Frankl, you can make it okay again if you 1) Regret sincerely and honestly, your wrong-doing, and you make amends to this person/object on whom/which you betrayed. 2) You regret: sincerely and honestly, your deed and you cannot make amends regarding the same person/object; you make amends regarding another person/object and 3) Even in your final hour there is a possibility to make amends/apologize: Through sincere repentance, you change yourself and become a different person. All this is possible because you are a person with irrevocable dignity.

In any other life situation, it is still possible to make meaningful and best use of resources and to co-create a better situation. Just use time: Money and success cannot be the only measure of a meaningful life, otherwise, there would not be “successful people living in despair” and “unsuccessful people living in fulfillment”. Live in the here and now. This way, death doesn’t make life meaningless.

From Why to What for:

Lastly, and not to give too much of the exhibition away, the want to bring up Frankl’s question: “Why me?” According to Frankl, this is the wrong question. Each tough situation is an appeal to ask and think: “I am going through all this suffering but is this a challenge to open my eyes to something else? As long as you breathe, a person or task is waiting for you.”

The Frankl’s residence next to the museum. His wife is 94 years old and a very nice woman to talk to. 😉

More Information & Things you should know before you visit:

The Viktor Frankl Museum, an infinitive of the Viktor Frankl Zentrum Vienna, is a place for education where one can get aquatinted with Frankl’s original body of thought. Courses, seminars, workshops, lectures, literature, and documentaries convey his image of humans and his unique methods of healing, which help us to face the problems of today’s crises-ridden world in a constructive and groundbreaking way. At the museum are experts available to respond to any questions and share relevant information. The exhibition is in German and English.


Mariannengasse 1, Top 15; 1090 Vienna; email: office@franklzentrum.org; Tel: +43(0)69910961068; website: www.franklzentrum.org.

Opening hours: Monday/Friday/Saturday (1 pm- 6pm); admission fee: Euro 8 (reduced fee for students/seniors: Euro 6)

Follow the museum @ Facebook or Twitter. And TripAdivisor.

The Greatness of life can be measured by the greatness of one single moment” – Frankl.

Pause and open up to the magical moments of life, which are simply right there. As Frankl would say, be amazed about this world.

.Fall Cleaning – My Trash becomes somebody’s​ Gold.

Do you know what a capsule wardrobe is? Several years ago, I was first introduced to this concept with the basic idea to clean out my closet of all the items I neither wear nor love and to pair it down to items that feel nothing less than awesome on me. This way, whenever I open my closet to choose an outfit, it is no longer overwhelming and discouraging but easy and delightful. Cutting down my closet and creating seasonal “uniforms” also began to save me loads of time. I used to rummage through what seemed like an endless pile of clothes I didn’t even feel good in and now, it is easy to find something to wear because 1) my closet is so slimmed down and 2) I love everything in it.

I have always been somewhat of a minimalist. I love to own and live with less. I love things simple because life is challenging enough. I do not hold on to things because I may “eventually need it”. Of course, there is always something that piles up: books but I have gotten a lot better about his one, too. As Mari Kondo would say: Keep everything that sparks joy.

via The New Yorker

My recent move to Vienna helped me to clear out more space in my home and consequently my life. Moving from one country to another does that. You should try it. Whenever I have visitors, they usually compliment the tasteful style and cleanliness of my home, especially since I live with my 6-year-old. My final and most indefatigable challenge to date has been letting go of relationships and commitments that clutter my life. You see, I love(d) pleasing people. I had the opposite belief that the more I said “yes” to every commitment that was offered to me and every person that came into my life, the happier and more lovable I would be. It turned out, that this is not a good thing to do because extreme people-pleasing lead me to burnout, where I wouldn’t have the energy to do anything for myself anymore.

And then…. I had a child.

I was no longer able to sustain my level of commitment to other activities and relationships that were clearly not aligned with my authentic code, meaning, activities and relationships that drained instead of energized me. I took mothering to a different level. I wanted to be perfect. Better than all the helicopter moms. I said yes to all the playdates because doing so, I believed, is a moral imperative. This was so useless and isn’t it true that energy flows where attention goes?

I have been unraveling myself from this false and destructive belief the past few years and especially this past year, trying to figure out where it comes from and why I am so beholden to it. I realized through self-reflection that it was not just a people-pleasing tendency and a desire to be loved. It also derives from the cultural values I was raised with. This guilt would even keep me in romantic relationships/marriage way past their prime. A lot of work was required to overturn and reroute my entrenched beliefs and invite me to a completely alternative way of living which is to receive my life as a gift to experience joy instead of as a test to see if I will pass.

These past months have been momentous for me and a true testament to how far I have come. When I clear space, any kind of space, in my home or in my internal life, I then create space for my authentic self to shine; to finally pursue that which is truly aligned with my desires. And, unless commitment is made, there are only promises and hopes; but no plans. As soon as I let go of those items, people and commitments that are not aligned with my true desires, gifts, and personhood, I not only clear more space for that which I truly do want to come through, my “trash” usually end up becoming somebody else’s gold. I had this feeling that I need to maintain this commitment to please others but the truth is, it is a disservice. Others can sense when your heart isn’t invested. I began living according to my authentic self, instead of settling for so much less than I am worth.

This helped me: 1) Breathe. 2) Follow the impulse. 3)Tell myself the truth of my experience. 4) Stay in the tough conversations. 5)Be willing to stand alone. 6)Shape my world the way I want it to be.

The challenge is to have an intimate and caring relationship with every part of yourself, not just those parts you like. My emotions usually move me in the direction in which I need to go. They direct me toward health and fulfilment or they move me aways from the wrong track. Stress and burnout feeling does not come from outside sources. It is created from my incorrect beliefs and my misinterpretations. Where love dwells, fear cannot.

 If you are not ready to let go of a commitment you know does not serve you or clean out your entire closet, just start small. Clean out your sock drawer. Well, you can do that.

.Warning: Everything is F****d.

Or is it not? Caught your attention though. Once upon a time, I walked into a famous Vienna coffee house (Café Ritter) during lunch hour, headed straight to the lone empty table and was about to sit and write, when the guy to my right grabbed the chair and pulled it closer to himself saying, “This is taken.” “Oh, okay,” I said, looking for another empty seat. I found one easily and ordered a glass of wine while I got comfortable with my book.

He hogged that chair for about one hour waiting for his date I guess, leg shaking, unlocking his phone several times to zero messages and zero buzzing and locking it again while twisting a full 90 degrees every five minutes to check the door. “She will never come,” I wanted to say but I remained silent. However, it made me nervous just sitting next to this man. There was so much commotion and movement that I thought he was going to have a heart attack. Being alone at a café is not the worst thing in the world but waiting for a date is, I guess. I love to write at cafés. There, I am a little more self-aware and self-conscious. I like to be present, to enjoy the solo time I have crafted for myself by choosing to sit and focus without anyone else. The anonymity is nice. Being away from the quiet safety of my routine at home, I can pause and take in my new environment. My brain fires in different ways and the writing comes out fresher, less inhibited. I am more open overall. This openness has never failed me. Many times I literally do nothing at all. I sit, watch people and get inspired.

“The quality of life is a proportion, always, to the capacity for delight the capacity for delight is the gift of paying attention.” – Julia Cameron

The unbearable lightness of being bored.

At this point, the hogging-chair person still waited for his date. Still on the phone. Out of a sudden, a little buzz on his phone followed by his sad face. This made me think about technology. When I grew up, there were no cell phones. Or at least no smartphones (How smart are they really?). These days, it is so easy to just send a short message and your date is sad. Our digital age is so full of distractions. It is not unusual to have two or more screens in front of us when we sit down to relax. The first thing everybody does is to put the cellphone on the table before ordering something. For many people, barely a commute goes by without plugging in headphones to listen to something or cramming in another game of Candy Crush on the train. While constant mental stimulation might be the new norm, research suggests that being alone with our own thoughts has surprising benefits. A recent study found that boredom has the potential to spark enormous productivity and creativity. I usually have my strokes of genius while lingering in the bathtub or shower. I know too well that it is easy to feel defeated in more areas than one when it comes to the daily grind. This especially rings true for me this year and I have constantly been on the prowl to find ways to make my life easier.

One of the most delightful benefits of boredom, however, is the ability to fill that brain-space with a daydream or two. Sometimes, letting your mind wander might seem like a crazy thing to do and you may feel guilty because you need to get the spreadsheets to Angela in Accounts but do it anyway because it is so good because our minds are just as powerful as the devices we distract them with. We should give ourselves time to pay attention and allow us to linger in the moment, accept the moment the way it is and cut the garbage out. Just hit the pause button once in a while throughout the day. It is okay to step away and recharge. Also, sleep. Good sleep is crucial; and awesome. Then nothing is really f****d.