.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.

. In Love Without a Roadmap.

Yesterday, my son and I spent the day “Corona-sunbathing” in a park. While he played at the playground, he found a letter, written in German. Kids find weird s***. I will give it my best translating skills and share it here because I think it is beautifully written.

It read:

The love I experience with you always takes me back to myself. Entering into union with you brings me into union with my soul. I meet you in my oneness. You look at me from this oneness and reflect this state of purity and oneness back to me. As we trust more in this love, I see aspects of me come out in you that I am still learning to love. I have this amazing opportunity to love you in areas where I am still struggling to love myself. I get to tune in and be formless, as I learn how to love you in the depths of your vulnerability. As I learn to surrender in areas I used to be bull-headed. 

I did not know I could receive a reflection so true. I am so open to receive these reflections on all aspects of myself through you. I trust you, I trust your discernment, I trust how you open up for energy to flow through your heart and express how you are moved by this. I always want to experience how you are moved by life. I am very grateful to be on this journey with you.

You love me when others would give up. You care for me when others would say: care for yourself. You listen when I speak my heart’s truth. You know when I’ve given it my all and I need a warm place to rest my head. You show me love in different ways. You listen, especially when I’m sharing from my eagle-like sight and shift perspectives when what I share rings true. Remember: Love is always enough. I feel you truly see me while seeing more of yourself. The more you can receive your own love, the more you will attract someone who mirrors that.

Oh yes, our connection has been challenging at times, but we don’t give up on ourselves or each other. We also don’t settle for less than the love we know. We upgrade each other and learn deeper compassion and kindness in it all. I wouldn’t trade this for anything.

I simply love you. When I look at you I see someone with such a bright light. And you shine it on me with unconditional generosity. You are a truth seeker. You are determined to recognize the truth of every situation. You inspire me to step into my power, to shine bright, and to look at myself with honest eyes. You shine the mirror to me with compassion and patience.

The more I get to know you, and the more I witness you in his authenticity and vulnerability the more my heart opens. The more I expanded in love with you I become. And the safer I feel to love so fully. A commitment to a spiritual path was the most important quality I desired in a partner. You are unwavering. It’s how you live your life. My love wanders to the next level. One that will accelerate, open, and deepen our being on every level. Your love reflects back at me the most radiant smile. I found my center in you through me. 

I know to throw away all doubt and risk it all over again. Trusting you like my bestest best friend. This trust will make it so, for in you is all the me I’ll ever need to know. Can you hear your heart speaking to you? Sometimes it gets drowned out by outside influence, opinions, society telling us our lives should look a certain way. Ever feel that way? I sure have. It’s become far too easy these days to back out when something gets challenging. The excuses are endless and seemingly legit. The problem is if you don’t figure out how to stay with it, you’ll simply never achieve what you truly want to achieve. I don’t mean following through with something that feels unsafe, misaligned, or out of integrity. Follow through with something that feels awesome.

I simply love you.

.Rallying to Keep the Game Alive.

Limelight, 1983, Ken Schles

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

.April, the 78654th.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

.Love & Marriage – A Quiz.

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

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

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

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

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

2. How often does he text you?

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

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

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

3. How many of your friends has he met?

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

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

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

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

A) “Eenie Meenie”, by Justin Bieber

B) “Hallelujah”, by Leonard Cohen

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

5. For your birthday, he gave you _________

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

B) Sad flowers from the gas station.

C) Breakfast in bed and La Boheme opera tickets.

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

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

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

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

7. Your last fight was about __________

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

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

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

8. What does he say when he climaxes?

A) “YEAH, I f****** nailed it!”

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

C) “I love you.”

9. What did you both dress up for Halloween?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Results

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

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

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