.Woman’s Gone Mild.

Even though COVID restrictions are not as “strict” anymore, things feel weird here in Vienna. I don’t quite know how to put it, but something is off. While a bookstore owner around the corner tries to survive, I strangely catch myself buying fewer books. With the demands of this pandemic, no wonder people are looking for alternative ways to live and to save money. We adapt. We change. I changed to an even simpler living. For me, simple living encompasses all the fundamental values that help me live a more wholehearted life. From being connected to the present moment to appreciating the little things, and taking time to enjoy and celebrate this awesome life.

Of course, there are many things that can hinder us on this quest to live more simply, this glorification of being “busy all the time”, consumer culture and materialism, digital and virtual consumption. I mean all those things that we seem to need to evaluate in our lives and then decide whether we want and/or need a lifestyle change.

The other day a friend asked why some people don’t work overtime. Because this way they could make some extra money to buy new things. Honestly, I rather purchase less and have more time for myself and the ones I love. This conversation then took a turn to success and if it is correlated to how busy we all are and how much time we spend at work. What does busy even mean? Explanations why someone never calls are: He is very busy at work. Some wear it like a badge of honor, taking pride in the fact that being busy implies that they are important. But they are not. Nobody is that important. The thing is that we cannot be busy every hour of every day.

Many people share every step they take and give status updates and let people know what they are doing at all times. People also share their positive stuff, their purchases, their achievements, and that they have the best time traveling the world with two motorcycles at the same time. Many just need to leave or share a feeling of a “picture-perfect” portrait of existence which is most likely not the case. I believe what it does is it leaves them with a feeling like their lives don’t quite measure up. Look at me, world! Look what I did/bought!” Please “like” and leave a comment below.

Others think they are more loved if they own “cool” things”. One of the reasons that consumerism has become such a fundamental part of people’s lives is the fact that shopping and buying things gives a sense of identity, and most importantly, a sense of worth comes from the “stuff” we consume. But hasn’t this crazy pandemic shown us what we actually need? That there is nothing lacking? That we have everything we need? Often, this urge to buy new things is because something is lacking from within, and whatever is consumed will fill that void and fix us.

I think that there is a deeper fear that if we stop being “busy” or buying stuff, for just a moment, we would be confronted by silence, and even more terrifying, we would have to face the fact that perhaps what we are “busy” doing isn’t actually that important at all.

But, what does it mean to be successful in life if it is not the things we own? It is important to remember that success doesn’t just have to be defined by the big moments in our lives or by collecting material possessions. There can be great significance in the small, quiet moments and in life’s little details. If we stop and think about it, there are other ways to evaluate how successful we or our lives are. For example, the time we spend with awesome people, the connection we make with others, how much love and happiness we inspire, the impact we have on our surroundings. By learning to relish the small, simple pleasures along the way, we can all find more meaning and joy in our lives.

It is easy to get caught in the loop of working to earn money, to buy material possessions (that fuel the economy), and to improve social status and happiness by working yet more again to buy more things. But material possessions and consuming things doesn’t do this. Experiences and people, not things make us happy.

.Stay Inquisitive.

Inquisitive is a fancy word for curious 🙂

“The meeting of two personalities is like the contact of two chemical substances: If there is any reaction, both are transformed.” – Carl Jung

When I think about romance, I think of two kinds of relationships. The opposite attracts and kindred spirit relationships. The former is the classic and the one we are taught to aspire to as kids. This couple is made up of two opposites, centered around the passion and attraction that causes mystery. We are curious and drawn to other beings because of their dissimilarities to ourselves. It makes sense to be fascinated by our counterparts, and we can learn a lot by hanging out with our polar opposite. Not to mention the biological sense behind falling in love with someone physically different from us to have happy, healthy, genetically mixed babies with if this is your thing. No, there won’t be a second baby for me.

My romance of choice is the latter, though. For the last couple of months, I have been in love with my kindred spirit. I am sure this type of relationship has been around for as long as the opposite attracts version, but it seems to be going through a renaissance. In a society where feminism is becoming mainstream, and where equality is slowly starting to be valued over tradition, a new type of relationship goal is natural.

For those of us who care very little about tradition and gender, and a lot more about self-realization and freedom of societal demands, a romance is less about who opens the door for whom and who picks up the check on a date. Instead, it is more about being heard and seen and encouraged and wanted. In all departments. For who you are. Not for the typical properties of your gender. To be honest, I never want to be treated as The Woman of the relationship. I want to be treated as Daniela – an equal. And when I look at my partner, I don’t see The Man. I see my soulmate. I see a person I am passionately in love with. I couldn’t care less about his masculinity. After years and years of dating and being in relationships and marriages, I wonder what that could possibly have to do with anything at all.

When I look at my partner, I instead see my teammate and my coach. My manager and best friend, my personal trainer, and my inspiration. I see someone who got my back and makes me feel courageous. I see a capable, beautiful, fascinating human being whom I cannot get enough of, but sometimes get fed up with, too.

This type of relationship might not be for everyone, but it works for us. We might be two people, but we share our life. We get on each other’s nerves, argue, and make up together. And I think this is why I am passionately in love with him. Because of what we have already done together, and the potential of what we will do together in the future.

What works for us:

  • We ask questions: all of them, even the tough ones. And then we listen attentively.
  • Dress up for each other. Go out on dates.
  • We go for long walks, reconnect, look at things together. Sometimes that is all it takes.
  • We surprise each other. Physical things such as flowers, little gifts, or spontaneous trips.
  • We support each other’s evolvement, even if it is sometimes scary.
  • We laugh at each other’s jokes. Even the lame ones. I am a pretty funny Piefke.
  • We start projects together.
  • We read books together. Read to each other. Talk about what we read.
  • We respect the classics: honesty, loyalty, trust, and adoration.
  • We have a kitchen-session. We have a glass of wine and talk. And cook. And eat.
  • We are generous. With time, with money, with matters of the heart.
  • We want to conquer the world together.
  • We don’t fear change.
  • We have the same rhythm.

Life is too short for toxic relationships. It is time to leave when you exhaust yourself to no avail. Or even worse, when the person who claims to love you treats you with outright unkindness and disrespect. It is NOT normal to feel drained, sad, angry, hopeless, or live in fear when being in a relationship. We are also taught to never give up on love, but what about when love gives up on us or if it never was love, to begin with? I want to focus on things that give me energy instead of drain it, things that give me happiness instead of worry, things that give my everyday life beauty and meaning instead of tension and anxiety.

I am by no means a relationship “expert” and I am walking on thin ice here. But I could assure you that I am not suggesting something as drastic as breaking up or letting a toxic relationship fade out if your partner does not meet at least some of the points listed above. But then again, maybe I am. Actually, yes I am.

.The Importance of Family

Of course, the time in Germany flew by in a heartbeat. I always know this before I even get home. I want to meet so many friends, talk to everyone, and spend time with them but it is not possible. Time flies. I just packed my suitcase and soon it is time to unpack all the things I purchased/received as intelligently as possible at home.

I am on the train and cannot even describe the endlessly long number of thoughts that are going through my head right now. I wiped away a tear or two but I always figure out a way to deal with these rotten goodbyes. You know why? Because I have to and things will be okay. And if they won’t, I will rearrange everything and make it work again. There are only solutions.

I felt emotional for two days now and it is strangely always the same painful phenomenon. Saying goodbye to my family is never easy. I just know I am and have been at a very peaceful, loving, good place. My home base, which is a place where I don’t have to worry about anything. Where I can be a child again. Spending time with my family is extra special. Anybody who knows them can relate to what I am talking about. So many really awesome and good conversations. So much quality time. Things are never perfect, but it felt pretty close to it. 

Saying goodbye to my grandmothers does not get easier. They are old, they have health issues. We do talk on the phone or via Skype (82/92 year-olds are using Skype, too!)  every week usually but this is not the same as of course talking in person. I was thankful to have spent some time with them while I was home. I am just continuing to put my positive energy out there by thinking positive thoughts and things. Everything will be okay. I simply have to take out the negativity and sadness of leaving my home-base behind but this easier said than done since I am so close to them.

My life is no way how I ever planned it to be. The only thing I always knew was that I don’t want to be stuck in this small home town of mine forever. I wanted to see the world, explore, experience, travel. All these things did not change but there is a price to pay when moving away. I made all type of plans but life threw curveball at me left and right. Things changed. I adapted. Now I live in Austria and I love and adore it. This is my life. My new life. With no family around but they are a lot closer now than before. I am here now, open,  present, and grateful for what I achieved. Grateful for the relationships in my life, especially the ones that open up my mind to new insights and helping me to embrace ideas and thoughts. As I said, all we can ever do is to adapt to new circumstances.

Even though my heart is aching, I know that I don’t want to change this wild, somewhat uncertain, and crazy life of mine. I beat the German “Angst”, look beyond and take a shot on this crazy life and what it entails. And I will be back at some point. No matter what. Priorities in my life shift. It is not so much exploring the entire world alone anymore but rather having the people I love close by or the certainty that they are just a train ride away.

.Work and Play.

Den Schas kann I späda a no weidamacha.

Eight hours or more a day. Five days or more a week. Forty-something weeks a year. Fifty years a life. You do the math. Because I can’t. All I know is that I spend an incredible amount of time at work. Sometimes it seems that I just live for the weekend, for the vacation or national holiday. Then again, life doesn’t only happen on my time off. It is also lived during working hours. The satisfaction of enjoying (or at least not hating) my “work-life” is a luxury I wish on everybody. Especially in these crazy Corona-times. However slow the clock at work may be moving, however long a workday appears when I am enduring it, time is precious. We all don’t have an infinite amount, and wanting it to move quicker seems like a waste of time. Not all hours of life can be thrilling or fulfilling, but a whole career spent wishing we were elsewhere is probably nothing to strive for. A former supervisor of mine once told me: “You don’t like to work here my dear, here is the door. Nobody forces you to be here!” Good point.

When I was a child, I envied everyone who was retired. I wished I could skip the working years completely and go straight to retirement. I pictured how lovely a pensioner’s day must be. Meeting friends, drinking tea, or sipping on wine, going to the museum, reading the newspaper daily from front to back. Spending hours in a favorite armchair, having all the time to read all the books in the world, one country at a time. Going on trips whenever I feel like it. That was my unreasonable romantic expectation of retirement back then, and it kind of still is.

I remember imagining how it would be, going to work every day. Not being in control of my own schedule or activities. Doing something just for money. It didn’t make sense, and I couldn’t picture myself spending years doing it. I figured this wasn’t anything to worry too much about, that I would in time understand the workings of society and come to accept the concept of livelihood. But should we?

There was also a time in my life when I didn’t work. I studied full-time and took leave without pay. It was a great time. Almost no regrets. Then there was a time when I had to go back to work because I am responsible for this little almost seven-year-old son of mine. There is some sort of pride I feel in providing for him and I. That I am capable of it because I am able to work. Priorities and responsibility, my friends. Sometimes, we don’t have a choice. This is my job and one side of my life. And I am glad to be back.

But there is so much more to be found in a job. I am very lucky because I find purpose, passion, fun, and sometimes even pure joy. You don’t feel lucky? But luck or not, you could at least demand meaning. That what you spend your days, weeks, and years doing has importance to yourself or your surrounding, so the weekends aren’t spent dreading the Monday ahead. I find myself pondering ideas, find solutions, or new ways of doing things, eager to have another great day at work or wherever.

I create to-do lists, I write, I read. I do things that make me happy. I enjoy getting up most of the mornings, steaming cup of coffee in hand reading a bit to my son. A fresh start, a fresh morning. You know what? It is a precious gift to be physically (and mentally) able to get out of bed in the morning. And there is a relief of getting back into an everyday routine which calmed the nerves. By the end of the day, my life is back in order, I do things that make me happy, and if this means treating myself and my partner to a home-cooked meal in front of an easygoing, funny crime-show and laughing until we cry so be it. Do what makes you happy. Remember, there is only this one life.

That’s when I know I am there. I have stopped living for the weekends and vacations, and instead start appreciating all of it, all the hours. Well, most of them anyway. And no matter how alluring those retirement days seem, slowly spent reorganising the library or taking those Italian language classes, I am fine having retirement stay in the future for now.

Friday is still epic. By the time this beautiful day rolls in, another favorite weekly moment is here, and I cannot wait to happily hashtag #TGIF. Work is good and play is good. Both essential aspects of a carefully balanced week.

.Would You Rather.

“Would you rather love the more, and suffer the more; or love the less, and suffer the less? That is, I think, finally, the only real question.”– Julian Barnes

You may point out correctly, that it isn’t a real question. Because we don’t have a choice. Who can control how much they love? If you can control it, then it isn’t love. Here are some questions I came up with that give you the choice. Let’s start easy and work our way up.

Would you rather take a bath or take a shower?

Would you rather have skin that changes color based on your emotions or tattoos appear all over your body depicting what you did yesterday?

Would you rather have to fart loudly every time you have a serious conversation or have to burp after every kiss?

Would you rather stay in a relationship with a person who cheated on you or file for divorce?

Would you rather eat a home cooked meal from scratch or heat-up a microwavable meal?

Would you rather be isolating with one child that requires entertaining or multiple children that require you to break up fights over whose turn it is to use a book as a sword?

Would you rather a million butterflies instantly appear from nowhere every time you sneeze or one very angry Canadian black squirrel appear from nowhere every time you cough?

Would you rather be beautiful/handsome but stupid or intelligent but ugly?

Would you rather discover you’ve been walking around naked at your child’s summer camp, or discover you’ve been walking around naked in the background of your partner’s new online conference meeting?

Would you rather be able to see ten minutes into your own future or ten minutes into the future of anyone but yourself?

Would you rather have an easy job working for someone else or work for yourself but work incredibly hard?

Would you rather continue to send your ex emails that he/she don’t respond to or stop altogether?

Would you rather eat the same meal for the rest of your life or never use Instagram and Facebook again?

Would you rather wake up with a different face but same gender or different gender but same face?

Would you rather insist and fight for child support payments until it is paid or give up because he/she has “clearly other priorities” than his/her own child?

Would you rather be stuck in the house with a mother of two children (or more) who has been on lockdown for months, or in a room with a swarm of murder hornets?

Would you rather begin every sentence with “Hey Idiot” or end every sentence with “…Ha Ha, I Was Just Kidding.”

Would you rather make love with the lights off or with the lights on?

Would you rather be trapped in a small elevator with an old lady and her wet dog or one fat man with bad breath?

Would you rather have an Austrian accent and live in Germany or a German accent and live in Austria?

Would you rather bake bread from scratch, or scroll through your Instagram feed muttering about people who have time to bake bread from scratch?

Would you rather teach your child a new craft, or lie on the couch and stare at the unwashed pile of dishes in the sink?

Would you rather give your six-year-old your password to download games on your phone only to find you have paid Euro 1578 in Candy Crush extras, or have to play Lego with him/her 17 hours a day?

Would you rather facilitate a PTA (parent/teacher association) meeting when schools reopen in the fall or do you prefer to fall into a pit of crocodiles?

Would you rather be self-isolating with a child who insists on re-watching the same episode of Teletubbies, or the same episode of Elmo’s World?

Would you rather never have to play The Floor Is Lava again, or have fancy couch cushions that can never be used to build a fort?

Would you rather have a child who is sad because they miss their friends or one that is pretty content with never leaving the house and will argue every single day when school starts back?

Would you rather have your child learn fire juggling or ax throwing?

Would you rather have your Fitbit tell you that 100 steps a day is actually really good, or have it send you an alert to shame you whenever you sit down longer than ten minutes?

Would you rather your hair turn gray in front of your male colleagues, reminding them that mothers over 30 are just hot like that, or color your hair?

Would you rather hear that Count Chocula Cereal is nutritious, or Mary Poppins is real and living with you?

Would you rather have the ability to freeze time, or the ability to unsee things like Instagram posts about how magical someone’s year of homeschooling on the ranch was?


Things that annoy me:

  • Corona and my son’s school informing me that one child has flu-like symptoms and will be tested. They also don’t know if the school will be open or closed next week.
  • People who show zero interest in their child(ren) and don’t pay child support.
  • People who misspell the word “you’re” when telling me I am a horrible person (“your *horrible*”)
  • People who stand too close to me while I am in line for something. I like social distancing.
  • Radio commercials. Every single one. Ever.
  • People who say “I eat to live. I don’t live to eat.”
  • Black jelly beans. Also, black licorice.
  • Men who don’t make sure the woman comes.
  • Really drunk people. I am not a hypocrite. I do drink and love it, but I don’t get hammered anymore.
  • “Superfoods”, watercress and Quinoa and the hype around it.
  • People who don’t look me into the eyes when they speak to me. Those who look up or put their glasses down and then look up.
  • People who spread rumors or judge.
  • Drivers who fully speed to a blinking green light and then hit the brake hard at the yellow light.
  • The Big Bang Theory. The TV show, not the theory.
  • People who talk super loud in public. Also, those who scream into the phone. It is a telephone, not a megaphone.
  • People with egos that don’t let them acknowledge the truth.
  • People with egos.
  • Grown women wearing shorts that are small enough to be a diaper. Well, it is okay if you can rock them but maybe don’t wear them to work.
  • People who go to Starbucks to write.
  • People who bring a book to a bar. Don’t try to look mysterious and interesting. You are reading in a bar.
  • People who only eat healthily.
  • Most kids who aren’t my son. Some kids are cute, but most need to tone it right on down.
  • Men who try to flirt with me even though I give clear indicators that I am not interested. JUST STOP!
  • Women who act like prudes. Toughen up a little bit.
  • Hardcore feminists.
  • People cursing loud on the train and I have to explain to my son what a “f***ing c**t” is.
  • Most people on the train.

Things that make me happy:

  • Being at home with my family.
  • Books.
  • My son laughing or doing pretty much anything. School starts in September and I bought him his school supply today. A new chapter – I am as excited as he is.
  • British Scones. And NOT the store-bought ones that come six to a sad plastic container. I am talking real scones. I am talking The Cake Tree in Vienna scones. Also, the store-bought ones.
  • Seeing people I love happy.
  • Reading on my morning commute.
  • Writing. Always.
  • Helping a blind person get out of the subway and subway station. Even if they don’t want help.
  • Receiving gifts.
  • Making people laugh to the point of wiping tears away.
  • Being on a boat or Jet Ski that is going way too fast and screaming my head off.
  • Being with people I love.
  • Cooking but not baking. Unless it’s bread.
  • Waking up next to the person I am in love with and when he pulls me toward him to cuddle and kiss. Bliss. Everything that rhymes is good.
  • That moment when someone in a motorized wheelchair passes, I like holding my hand up to cover the person’s body, so it just looks like a head is flying by.
  • Sitting on the couch or in the kitchen (kitchen sessions) with friends and having long conversations about what is going on with the men in our lives. Yes, with wine. I didn’t think I needed to add that, but here it is.
  • The Beatles.
  • Making a new friend. Having friends. Being with friends.
  • Pasta and Smoked salmon. Yum!
  • Watching a good movie. Imagine this: You’ve had a long day. Say, stressful job, restless kid(s), and a global pandemic and you just want to turn your brain off. For me, it is When Harry Met Sally. The ending makes my heart swell, and suddenly everything feels better.
  • Falling in love and sex. Let’s be honest here. Sex is pretty great.
  • Buying a car and being able to explore.
  • Vienna. This city just makes sense to me in a way no other place ever has.
  • My divorce on July 2nd, 2019.

.Rememberances or Secret Bad Habits.

There was a time in my life when I tried several diets because I wanted to lose weight. I was told by someone somewhere at some point that I should listen to my body. So, if my body wants chocolate, it gets chocolate, right? I do listen.

Eventually, I felt uncomfortable and signed up for the gym and some insane workout. It was one of those programs that put me through some sort of Marine-style guerilla warfare training that is completely over the top and unnecessary unless you are trying to compete in the Hunger Games. But I went. Once or twice a week every time on the verge of death. Sweating and wheezing and walking out shaking and dizzy. Meanwhile, the instructors were all handsome and in great shape. Women in tiny spandex shorts and sports bras, with perfect hair and flawless faces. The guys were also ridiculously in shape and hot.

I don’t know if it was because I was so dizzy or exhausted or because he was actually funny, but he kept me laughing while I was completely out of breath on an elliptical trainer. So, this particular instructor, whom I will call Arnold, looked like a fake Greek sculpture of a man. He was so handsome you couldn’t look at him for too long. He spread his attention evenly in the class and encouraged me with a hand on my lower back how those crunches should be done better. I left the class with a stupid grin hoping to need many corrections with my workouts. I was in my early twenties when all this happened and I thought I am smarter but I was not immune to his “charm”.

I reached out and was all, “Can you help me with my diet and get in shape?” and he was all, “Sure, let’s meet at this healthy vegan-something place,” and I was thinking, “HERE COMES THE BRIDE.” We hung out a couple of fitness-eating-related times and one night I texted him, while a little buzzed, and asked him out on a date. We continued dating. The weird thing was, we always met at my apartment. Always mine. Until one evening. And this is when I found out about his secret bad habit.

I think everybody has bad habits we don’t want people to know. We keep them a secret because we feel like we should. For example watching The Bachelor (which is super trashy and should be illegal), having read 50 Shades of Grey (same as for the Bachelor), eating food in secret and such things. So, one evening we went on a date and his hotness was again in the ridiculous range. I felt like we were in that scene from The Little Mermaid where Ursula sings the song about stealing Ariel’s voice and I was one of those weird souls/weeds on the floor while Arnold was Ariel. Does this metaphor hit you? If not, don’t worry. Here is a little reminder:

We left hand in hand and I said, “Let’s go to your place tonight.” “Okay,” he said, “but it is kind of a mess.” We walked past his nice entrance to the nice elevator and walked down his nice hall and he opened his nice door and there it was.

The mess was bad. The kitchen and bathroom were black with mold, all porcelain surfaces coated in hair, and some slime. There were unwashed dishes and towels covering every inch of the counters. Ants everywhere. Pizza cartons everywhere. Piles everywhere, books, clothes, sneakers, furniture sitting on top of other stuff. There were bottles of things. Protein powder, health-food products, junk mail, CDs, DVDs and so much more. It was a nightmare to look at. There was barely room to walk around. He continued leading me around the apartment through some sort of pathway which felt like being led through a maze. I have seen messes in people’s apartments. I was a cop. I have basically seen it all. But this apartment took mess to a different level. It is not that uncommon for a guy to have a disgusting apartment, especially not if he is single. Arnold’s apartment was more than dirt. Anyway, I instantly sobered up. “I told you it was messy,” he said. “You think it’s bad?” “Noooooo!” I yelled too loud and fast. “It is such a niiiiiiiiice apartment.” He led me to something that seemed like a couch to watch some TV. I pretended to watch TV, unsure of how to leave. I wondered if he knows how bad this is. If he does, he could be planning to kill me. Nobody would ever find me here. I looked at him from the corner of my eye. Did he look angry or crazy? No, he was laughing hard at whatever he saw on TV.

So, what did I do? Of course, I obviously left and thanked him for a lovely evening. No, no, dear reader. This is what a normal person would do. I decided to stay to *kiss* on his dirty mattress. I left his apartment at two a.m. Out to the city street full of steaming, smelling trash where things were actually nicer. I was clearly beginning my walk of deep shame. I came home and showered for ten years.

The next day, Arnold told me that I inspired him to get his place together. I didn’t know what I said or did to make him do that but I thought it would be a pretty good idea. “Oh, cool, you are going to get rid of some stuff?” I asked. “No, I am going to get new furniture.” I couldn’t think of anything to say.

I went back to the guy for one more workout but then decided that I lost enough weight. Arnold and I didn’t stay in touch much longer. Every time I see someone who is so beautiful or handsome that they almost don’t look human, I remember that there might be something totally f***ed about them that will bring them right back down to earth.

. The Art of Doing Nothing.

Photo credit: Judith Lockett

Doing nothing. Sounds great, no? Or does it give you a nervous eye twitch? Here is something I tried: for one day out of each week (usually Saturday or Sunday), I do absolutely nothing. This doesn’t mean I don’t go anywhere, or just sit on my couch and stare at the wall. It simply means that I clear my calendar and make space for what could happen. I remove any social obligations, let projects sit idle, turn off notifications, and take this day to just be.

Since I am back at work full-time, studying, researching, writing part-time, and being a single mom it is salient to do nothing from time to time. With all this going on in my life, I notice that I am more content when I spend one day doing nothing if I can help it. Just without having a million places to be. No agenda, no rushing around, no one else to please. Just me. Doing whatever I feel like doing, or getting into whatever adventure may come my way. Whatever my priorities are. And, if I want to see where someone’s priorities really lie, I have to look at two things: their calendar and their bank statement.

When I am really stressed, I look at my calendar and take an inventory on how much time I spend doing things. How much of it is work-related? How much is spend on/in social engagements? With family? Writing? Friends? Hobbies? Self-improvement?

Everybody is stressed out at some point. I think we have become a culture that is severely uncomfortable with “free-time” and doing nothing. Many don’t like being left alone with themselves, and that is because it is not “fun”. Some are terrified of silence, of nothing on the agenda, of not being important because who are we without these things to hold us? To give us significance? Others pack their schedules full, hoping that will keep them from stopping long enough to notice their inner lives are in great need of attention. The essence of simplifying life is recognizing the intrinsic value we have by simply being.

A while ago, I realized I have to face my true feelings, my negative emotions, my relational drama, and figure out what to do with it all. It is of course much simpler to turn the TV on, constantly check the phone, and continue numbing.

You know why I write about all this? Because I matter, my life matters, and I have worth. Period. I matter without the stuff, without the outside approval and conferred significance, without the career, the projects, the friends, without anything. So do you! Just. You.

I believe that it takes the absence of an agenda to really get to know yourself. Or Covid-19. It takes quiet. It takes room. It takes time. But keep in mind that everything in the world is going to fight you for it.

“Do-nothing” day:

  • I don’t stress about it. I wake up, and simply resist the urge to immediately DO. It took me some time to break this habit, but as soon as I removed all of my go-to distractions, I instantly noticed how often I rely on them.
  • I pay more attention. Depriving myself of my normal comforts for even a short amount of time can go a long way in teaching me what I really need. I am able to notice when I have an urge to check my phone or make a call and get a better feel for my own patterns of behavior and the motivation behind it.
  • I listen to my heart. Is Party X something I would typically just say yes to because I feel obligated? Or is this something that would really breathe life into me? If the answer is no, I won’t go. Easy.
  • I spend time in silence. You know why? My brain is constantly bombarded with information, images, and noise but the mind is not a fortress where stimulation can constantly bounce off.

It’s easy to get over-stimulated in daily life by all of the noise. I absolutely need my quiet time after my son goes to bed. The silence and to do nothing is absolutely essential for me to regain momentum for the next day.

. Control that Chaos.

COVID-19 has made me think a lot. A couple of days ago I woke up at 1:30 in the morning feeling like it is time to wake up, or at least certain that I would not be going back to sleep. So I was in bed, wide awake, and chewed on thoughts that made me feel like I am running an emotional marathon even though when I returned to the present, I remembered that I have not moved an inch. Perhaps an hour or two hours have gone by, and I couldn’t even remember what I was thinking, even though it seemed so urgent while I was thinking it. I am still physically in exactly the same place I was when I woke up all that time ago. Lately, this seems to be a recent theme on the internal hamster wheel. Do you ever feel like you have run an emotional marathon even though technically, nothing specific has happened? Or things you want to change in your life but don’t know how to?

COVID-19 has changed my view on a bunch of things. What began as just an idea to own less stuff has changed the way I view myself and the world around me in significant ways. One of the changes is my reevaluation of how society defines success. Too often, those who make and spend and keep the most resources for themselves are labeled as the successful ones. However, some of the best people I know would not be regarded as successful in worldly terms. Precisely because they have decided to spend and focus their resources on less materialistic things.

These people are far too rare, or at least, they do not get enough recognition. Instead, it seems ingrained to desire and appreciate the praise and the admiration of others. And because of that, many people will compromise greater and more worthwhile pursuit for the facade of temporal, worldly success. To that end, and because of how my view of the world and its people has begun to change, I will offer a short list of things that no longer impress me:

Clothing/Accessories: Quality and manufacturing practices are important. Quality over quantity. I never bought a lot of clothing but now it is even less. I am and was never impressed by clothing, a logo on anything, shoes, a purse, or a watch. Instead, I admire people who are confident in timeless fashion and seek to make an impression by their character. Hey, by the way, while the size of the rock on someone’s finger or the jewelry they are wearing is noticed by some (the weird ones), most are not even looking and they don’t care.

Car: The goal of my vehicle is to safely transport a person from point A to point B. Reliability is important, so is comfort. Especially if I spend lots of time in it. This does not mean it has to be a Q7 or BMW X-whatever. There are other, way cheaper, and good cars out there. Most luxury cars appeal to a different motivation, they are no longer just about transportation. They often appeal to a need to broadcast success or to get noticed. Even if that means impressing strangers for a couple of seconds at a red light.

House: To me, a house is supposed to provide shelter and an opportunity for stability. Over the course of my life, I have moved many times and have experienced the pride that comes from providing and creating a home. But, I intentionally chose to downsize and rent/buy a smaller home. It is a decision I have never regretted. And to this day, when I drive past a large house, the only thing I can think of is how much happier I am in a small one. My dream is to find a small house with a (large) backyard to grow fruit and veggies.

Work: Retirement seems to be the ultimate for most people. Live life to the fullest. Enjoy every day. Work is…. well, it’s work. But, there is a life besides work and work is not everything. These days, I am grateful to still have a job. So, many people have lost everything. But if you are unhappy with your job then stop complaining. There are only solutions: Change. Find a balance. Quit that job that drains your energy. Be creative. Study. Do something. Also, I think it is important to stop impressing others with the things you own. Rather inspire them by the life you live.

To sum this up, one of the best parts of COVID-19 was to see the world through my son’s eyes. The world felt/feels so magical. It is not just a city block with buildings. We are not restricted or quarantined. The world is a giant ant hill or a maze and we need to discover new things. Other COVID-19 highlights that made me control that chaos are:

  • Talking to my parents and brother. Always.
  • Being loved.
  • Spending time with my partner, long conversations, cake, reading (in the reading lounge), laughing together, and taking long walks. Simply, just being together.
  • Getting letters and packages by mail (only the ones with a sender count).
  • When the moon is out during the daytime.
  • When trees are still dripping after the rain. And the awesome smell.
  • Kissing and hugging.
  • Picnics on a blanket.
  • Observing a turtle eating a strawberry. Cute little tongue.

It is always the little things.

.I Don’t Care If You Like It.

via Lukas Weidinger.

A friend told me today that I am a “freak-magnet”. Am I? I love to eat Count Chocula – or Captain Crunch Berry Cereal cereal in bed while watching Kottan ermittelt. Does this attract freaks? But honestly, I see a lot of crazy/weird stuff on a daily basis.

Am I a freak magnet? I think I am. Well, there was this rather weird looking gentleman on the U1-train in the early morning hours who wore a suit that smelled like puma-cage and a bowler hat. Nothing wrong with that you may think. Maybe he forgot to take a shower or get the suit to a dry cleaner. But both of his thumbs were covered in something that looked like cream. I hope it was. He just sat across from my son and I at 7.10 am like a boss. Maybe this is okay. Who knows. What is normal?

Just a random picture of art. Just because I am “weird”. I think those are kinda nice, Evan.

Is it normal to try to find your son who said he will “just walk over the bridge to some other playground” and didn’t show his face for thirty minutes? Hell yes. So I climbed (elegantly like a gazelle) over the tiny, thin, small fence, and got caught because I wore my Birkenstock sandals (real German). So, I am hanging on the fence trying to get down. It hurt. Badly. Eventually, I fell down onto some train tracks. “WTF?! Train tracks in the park? I hope nobody sees this misery, ” I told myself while a bunch of people stared at me while waiting for the train. A rather tiny but long train arrived right then and there while I was on those f***** tracks holding my crotch and foot. “GET OFF THE TRACKS, LADY”, the locomotive driver yelled while the train made the loudest emergency whistling sound. I was able to crawl off it just on time while EVERYBODY looked at me. Missing: Blinking lights and red arrows pointing at me but all this wasn’t necessary because I assure you, EVERBODY looked anyway. Well, my son found ME because of all the commotion on the train tracks. He instantly wanted to go for a ride on that thing but, for some reason, I thought it won’t be a good idea. At least not today. The locomotive driver shook his head “no” and rolled his eyes anyway.

Rain on the way home and I observed a couple who had a fight on the train because she made some jokes. I cannot remember what it was exactly, except it was dirty and loud. The man turned around and said, “Stop that! I don’t like it.” The woman dropped what she was doing, and went black in her eyes for a second. “I don’t fucking care if you like it, ” she said. The man was visibly startled and I observed how, with that exchange, a cosmic shift took place. She made it clear that she wasn’t there to be cute or how he wanted her to be. She wasn’t there to play around and she didn’t care if he liked it or not. She just made a joke. I smiled at her because I thought it was really funny and happy. Weirdly, I remember thinking: I want her to be my friends. She seemed awesome!

My hat goes off to her because it is an impressively arrogant move to conclude that just because you don’t like something, it is empirically not good. I don’t like Chinese food, but I don’t write articles trying to prove it doesn’t exist. So, my unsolicited advice to anyone is: When faced with sexism, ageism, lookism, or whatever else -ism, ask yourself the following question: Is this person in between me and what I want to do? If the answer is no, ignore it and move on. The energy is better used doing the work and outpacing people that way. As far as work goes, I wouldn’t hire the people who were/are jerky or put them in positions they are not suitable for. And I won’t promote people who try to sleep their way up. I would promote those who are simply good at what they are supposed to do at work. Those who do the work and go a little bit beyond. Those who tell the truth. Those who are professional, real teammates, and know what to do when shit hits the fan.

This is borderline.

There is a more difficult road ahead though. I suggest modeling the strategy after the old Sesame Street film piece “Over! Under! Through!” If you are under thirty you might not remember this film. It taught the concepts of “over,” “under,” and “through” by filming toddlers crawling around an abandoned construction site. They don’t show this video anymore because someone has since realized that it is nuts. Which it is.

Talking about nuts: Is there such a thing as an all-jerk workplace? Of course, yes. I would flat-out avoid working with for example Wall Street traders or the women who run the changing rooms at H & M at Mariahilfer Strasse. If you are lucky, your workplace will have a neutral proving ground. But rule number one is: Always treat people nicely who clean, and provide food, water, heat, and cold.

In the end, if you don’t like something (your job), change it. Stop complaining. There is always a door to walk out and look for something better. Don’t waste your energy trying to educate or change opinions. Go “Over! Under! Through!” and opinions will change organically because you are the boss. Or they won’t. Who cares? Do your thing and don’t care if anybody likes it.