good things that are happening:
- I’m less tired
- I will be sitting in/participating in a youth seminar for three days next week with the possibility of working as a mentor on future seminars, which means a potential source of sporadic employment
- temperatures have risen and it feels like spring outside
- I got tired of walking the same old rounds with the dog, so we took the car and drove somewhere new and it was great – interesting new smells for him and beautiful views for me
- my brother passed his exams and is now (finally!) an architect (on paper, at least)
- I have about ten brilliant ideas of what I want to do with my life every day
bad things that are happening:
… none really, but maybe I should re-phrase…
things I’m not happy about but don’t want to call bad because that would seem like base ingratitude and major whining:
- none of the ideas I have – all of which are fine ideas, practicable, fun, something I’d be good at, something I feel good about – get past the first initial research and I don’t know why not – I loose faith, energy, focus, courage and then the idea just crumples up and goes to die on the graveyard of might-have-beens that is taking up an ever-larger part of my brain
- if I don’t get my act together very soon, I will miss the wedding of one of my best friends, because I won’t be able to afford to fly there and
- I will still be living here when my parents return from their world trip, which is really not something I think I can do
- and I just hate feeling this useless – that although I have years of education, tons of life experience, a good understanding of myself, a supportive family, fabulous friends… I still go to bed every evening and when I ask myself what I’ve done that day, I can’t think of an answer
Sorry. Sorry for being this down. And I’m not even down. I’m furious at myself and disappointed that again, I’ve let a deadline slip past – for a fun project with one of my best friends – without having got the work done in time, even though I really want this project to succeed. WHAT is stopping me? I don’t understand. Any ideas?
Remember that well-used piece of advice to “think outside the box”? It’s practically a cliché by now. I guess most people realize that there is sense in it, but don’t quite know what it’s supposed to mean or how to go about it. I can’t tell you either. I can tell you, however, that I’m starting to learn what it means for me and boy, is it different from what I thought it meant!
During the time I was living in London, about a year ago now, I was looking for work and spending most of my time martyring my brain to hit upon a solution – to my life, to finding work, to earning enough money to be independent… I felt for days at a time that the answer was just on the tip of my tongue and I couldn’t *quite* reach it, but maybe if I thought about it just a little bit harder, wrote some more in my journal, drew up some more plans, I would reach it. I was telling myself and my friends constantly that I just had to find a way to think outside the box, to not look at things in the conventional way. And nothing happened. In the end, I had to pack up my stuff and move back to my parents, with nothing achieved and nothing gained.
I’ve come to the realization that the box I was trying to think outside of, and the box I should have thought outside of, were two different ones. While I was ripping out planks of one box, the other and more important one stood untouched. And I didn’t even know it was there.
The box I was taking apart bit by bit was the one that the society, the place and the time in which I grew up put me in. I was trying to find new approaches to how to find work. I was trying to find new approaches of the kind of work I could do and wanted to do. I tried to think from different perspectives. I tried to use the (necessarily very much) free time that I had to write, but couldn’t concentrate because I was worried about where next month’s rent was going to come from and then tried to look at that problem in a different way. I was really hard on myself and tried to push through to that elusive solution and got nowhere.
Since being back with my family, in the home of my childhood, I’ve been .. well, lazy. Especially the last two months. I’m applying to work, but not excessively. I’m writing, but not very much. I walk the dog, I cook for those family members that are here, I do household chores, I drive my grandma to various doctors or to go shopping. I don’t socialize much, I don’t go out, I live a very retired life. The days go by. A while ago, a very good and wise friend told me that our society didn’t rate lethargy high enough. That being lazy was a necessary germination period. I told her that I had it up to here with lethargy and this germination period of mine had been going on for long enough, that things had to change. I want to apologize now for being slightly flippant about her theory and not accepting her words with an open mind. Because lately, they have started to make sense, and very, very slowly, things are coming together.
The change has been subtle – so very subtle that I couldn’t put my finger on it for days. Yesterday, the right words to name the process blossomed in my head: I am learning to think outside the box. Very surprised, I looked inside me to try and see where that thought was coming from and it led me back to various experiences in the past weeks and months. I suddenly understood that the box that I’m working on now, working on so very gently and fluently, is not the one constructed by society, but the one constructed by myself.
This box has enormous power over me, because most of the time, I’m not even aware of its existence, yet it’s there all the time, in the background, influencing every choice I make. This box – my box – is made up of different things. There are past experiences and there are expectations I have of myself. There are expectations that I imagine others to have of me. There is fear, and insecurity, and that nasty little voice that keeps whispering: ‘You won’t succeed anyway, so why even try?’ Worst of all: There are assumptions I have made about myself my whole life long, and that are so entwined with me that most of the time I don’t know anymore if they are fact or fiction.
An example: I’ve always assumed that I’m a chaotic person. My desk is usually covered with things – papers, pens, computer cables, letters, bills, documents, books, a used teacup, pretty stones or shells, a calender, … You get the picture. I’m not very neat and tidy. So I must be a chaotic person. Clear, right? But now I’ve begun to doubt that assumption. I’ve remembered that when I feel blue or when I feel ill with a bad cold or a flu, the first thing I do is to straighten up my room. Everything needs to be clean and tidy before I can start feeling better. I’ve also realized that in digital spaces, I’m highly organized. My music collection, my photos, my writing documents – everything is very, very organized and I need to be able to find everything at a moment’s notice. I’ve also noticed that I spend quite a bit of time thinking how to organize, group and/or categorize things, starting from craft material to books, to folders both physical and digital, and so on. So maybe this assumption that I’m a chaotic person is wrong? It almost feels like a betrayal to even think it, let alone write it out, but it’s certainly true that the facts and the fiction are not congruous.
I could give you more examples, but I think you understand already. There are two results of this assumption – I’ve put an unnecessary limit on myself and because of that, I’ve not had the achievements I hoped, waited and wished for. I blocked myself by believing something about myself that is now turning out to not be true!
I’m starting to adjust and experiment with the new bits and pieces of knowledge about myself that are slowly surfacing. The results so far are encouraging. Of course, I’m still in the beginning of this process. It’s slow and not always perceptible. It feels more like a continental drift than like an earthquake.
The really staggering thought, however, is this: What else don’t I know about myself? And who will I be when I fully let go of who I think I am?
Have you experienced this? Did you find it as frightening and liberating as I’m starting to feel? And is a year and a half of germination period really necessary to learn things about yourself?
I’m a miserable failure with the challenges so far. I’ve played with the thought of going out to a café several times, but haven’t done it. I’ve also not been running for longer than a few minutes, with the dog, which is not what I meant. AND I haven’t participated in any official writing challenge. For the second and third, I still have time. The first one, however, I really failed.
Unless you’d allow me to count that I went to our local Christmas market this afternoon with two friends and their little son? And we did end up in our favourite café? And that I’m driving over to a bigger town with my sister tomorrow to do some leisurely Christmas shopping and book browsing? Both of which together in two days is more socializing and getting-out-of-the-house than I’ve done in weeks. Can I chalk that up with the café challenge?
… No? Ah well, alright then. I knew I couldn’t, really. I need to do the running, though, I want to.
Also, unexpected side effect – I’ve been much more productive with my writing in the last week! All in all I have to say that I’m not regretting it so far.
Oh, and I’m also bribing you to not be too harsh on me with the picture of a pretty winter sunrise in the country and that of a very lazy dog (with a very untidy beard).
At least he understands about the running…
Last week was the first time since I’ve been back, the first time since I expected it upon coming back, the first time since I was a teenager, that this senseless, panicked aggression, that sense of suffocating and having to claw and shout and scream at other people came over me. That feeling that if I don’t scream, don’t burst through walls, don’t shock people, don’t hold on to myself while raising my voice above all the white noise, all the muttering, murmuring, mumbling, stumbling, … if I don’t assert my self, I’m going to slip under and just sink into the deep, well-lighted, comfortable depth of routine and stability and expectations and days going by and never come to the surface again where there is wind and laughter and storms and danger and change and waves and dreams and space.
It is said that in everyone’s life comes a point when instead of your parents looking after you, you start looking after your parents.
It hasn’t come quite so far yet, but I’m experiencing a good dose of role reversal at the moment nonetheless. I think I mentioned before that my parents are going off travelling around the world. Well, they are leaving today. After the last weeks being one hectic whirl of preparations and visa applications and flight research and last-minute-medical procedures and all those things, everything has now calmed down. Actually, everything has come to a stop. They are ready to go. The backpacks are packed. Everything from passports to tickets to money to electrical equipment has been double- and triple-checked. They are wearing the clothes they are going to wear on the first journey (with the train to Frankfurt Airport and then a flight to Dubai). It’s ten thirty in the morning, everything is ready, and we’re waiting.
I was much more nervous yesterday, but I’m still not calm today. Nor is my sister. We’re fluttering around them. The dog, although he doesn’t usually like the sight of backpacks, seems to be relaxed – he’s lying stretched out in the warm autumn sun streaming in through the windows and from time to time he heaves a heavy sigh. My parents are calm.
My Mum is doing some last-minute phone calls, saying goodbye to friends. My Dad is walking through the house, tidying up. He’s about to go outside with my sister to change the tires on the car from summer to winter ones. It seems pretty normal under the surface, but on a normal day I would just be sitting here at the desk, probably listening to music while I tried to write or do some research into one of my projects or any other normal thing. I wouldn’t be getting up every two minutes to go outside to check on both of them. My stomach wouldn’t be behaving like it is. I wouldn’t shoot random questions at them in a panicked voice:
“Are you SURE that you have your passport?” – “You WILL remember to buy some water after the security checks on the airport, won’t you? Flying for so long is terribly de-hydrating. And do you remember the exercises I showed you for your feet, so that your blood can circulate?” – “Do you have the reservation number somewhere ready for the rental car?” – “Are you certain that you have the phone number safe that you’ll have to call to report your bank card stolen?” – “Remember to also take photos of the two of you together, alright? You do remember how the photo camera works, right?” – “Remember what we told you about the importance of sitting still and enjoying and about ‘going with the flow’ and everything, don’t you?”
I shouldn’t be doing this. I should be the one to travel. They should be the ones to worry. The world does not make sense at the moment. Is it okay to be jealous and envious of my parents, while at the same time being totally proud of them and afraid for them? Is this part of growing up? Is this NORMAL?!?
Role reversal. I’m turning into my Mum. Someone help me. Even better: someone give me a pill, please. I need to calm down.
Pill, that reminds me! Sorry, have to go, have to make sure they packed the aspirin in the hand luggage…
What is the difference between the light of summer and that of autumn?
There is a difference, I can see it. Where summer is bold, autumn is hazy. Where summer glares, autumn mellows. And where the light of summer picks out silhouettes in blinding brightness, boldly slashing pictures in light and dark, autumn’s light drips gentle gold, letting it sink into the colours and bringing forth the details between the contours.
Maybe the difference is that of extremes crumbled, of experience gained, of subtlety discovered.
I have to warn you: This is not a happy post. Nor a funny one. Nor a helpful one. Nor a pretty one. Proceed at your own discretion. You have been warned.
What I want to say today is the following: Will I ever grow up?
Maybe you are one of those people who believe that growing up is very much overrated and your first reaction right now is to say: ‘Girl, why would you want to? Be glad you’re not grown up!’
Or maybe you are one of those who never had to think about it because your growing up just happened and you’re thinking right now: ‘What are you talking about woman? You’re thirty years old, of course you’re grown up.’ (Okay, maybe you didn’t know my age, but let’s assume you did.)
I used to think that all grown-ups knew what they wanted and had sound reasons for the things that they did. I’m still not fully over the shock of discovering, somewhere in the middle of adolescence, that grown-ups had no clue themselves. They were only figuring things out as they went along themselves, and often they went along blindly. Sometimes I still wish that realization had never happened.
Let’s take a quick look at what being grown up means. Of course, what that really means is that I am looking at what it means to me. And there are two sides to it. There is the emotional, inner side. On that side it means taking responsibility for yourself. Knowing what you want and having a goal. Knowing how to go about achieving it. Knowing yourself. Being secure in your identity. Knowing what are your passions, what are your weaknesses and how to keep each in balance.
Then there is the factual, outer side. On that side it means having a place to live. Paying taxes. Dealing with bureaucracy. Saving money. Taking care of retirement. Having financial stability. Owning furniture, a car, a computer or TV. Having stability. Having a plan.
(I’m leaving out anything relationship-related, like a partner or kids or friends, because that relies on other people as well as yourself.)
I’m afraid of the outer part. I long for the inner part.
Unfortunately, I can’t really get around paying taxes and dealing with bureaucracy, but I can refuse to own furniture or a car or thinking of and planning for retirement – and I do – but I really can’t imagine being without a computer. Half-half, I guess.
As to the inner part… I used to have no idea who I was. I made it up as I went along. I’ve become much better at being honest with myself, listening to my own voice, getting to know myself. Especially the last two years have done wonders for me in that area. I still have problems with knowing what I want, and even more, with knowing how to go about achieving what I want. Or how to be able to stick with it.
Today, more than on any other day recently, I feel like my mind is just a big swarm of flies. Thoughts buzz around, settling again and again on the same spots, only to take flight as soon as I approach. It’s a buzzing, shifting mess and I cannot sort it out. I have new ideas, I have old ideas refusing to die down, and all the while my stomach is fluttering from nerves and the back of my neck is prickling. It feels like I have forgotten something very important. Like I’m about to miss the one and only chance I have. Like I have to step onto the stage and perform and I have no idea what.
I don’t know where I’m going. I don’t know what I’m doing. I’m very busy all day, but when I look at what I’ve done, there is nothing I can show for it.
So my question is: Will I ever grow up?
Or, if you want me to re-phrase it: Will I ever know what I want? Will I ever have a clue? Will I ever wake up and just KNOW?
I survived! The first day of being thirty, and I neither feel particularly older, nor did I spontaneously develop wrinkles over night.
Yes, I did check quite closely in the mirror this morning. Why are you grinning like that?
I dreaded this threshold for a long time, but now I’m past it, it seems that neither wrinkles, nor growing up, happen over night. It’s easy to check for wrinkles, it’s a bit harder to check for signs of growing up, but I’ll be going with these for the moment:
- you don’t get joy out of the fact that you managed to go over the speed limit, as verified by a digital “speed-awareness” sign, on your bike
- you don’t sing along to your music while in the middle of town
- you don’t admit to the insurance guy that you have no idea what he’s asking you about on the phone because you’ve just never had to think about it/never were interested in it/never could be bothered – and even if you do, you feel guilty about it
I think I’m good.
Unless you know any other “you’ve grown up” signs? If you do, please let me know. I need to make sure nothing is sneaking up on me.