Let it be your fantasy

I’ve been nothing but a puppets hand
But nothing ever comes
Without a change*

 

I have a new alarm sound.

And a new life.

Meanwhile I am celebrating my first month in my new position as a freelancer.

And guess what: I survived! And much better than my fears would have let me believe in the beginning.

Truth be told, the first weeks were a mess. There was such a lot to do, organize, and, above all, to be learned that, more than once, I felt like just breaking down under the weight of it all and giving up.

There were moments when I seriously questioned the decision I had made and started doubting everything. And yet, there I was, without any safety net. And: absolutely free.

Time for some motivation, I thought.

Which I found in that song by Grouplove.

I have set it as my alarm which now wakes me up every morning. And the effects are amazing. Once my alarm goes off my spirit is being kindled immediately and I can’t but get into a good mood.

Been wondering, I take a chance
That chance is circumstance
Cause nothing ever comes without a change*

The song keeps reminding me of something I had almost forgotten amidst all the stress and pressure: that if I want my life to change, change is what I have to do. And that taking a step without knowing exactly where it will lead might in fact yield wonderful results.

And also that, by means of my thoughts, I am the creator of my own life.

So I might as well create it according to my dreams. And make it my fantasy.

Welcome to your, welcome to your
Welcome to your world, my girl
Let it be your fantasy, oh yeah
Welcome to your life, yeah, yeahA
It could be a fantasy, oh yeah.*

Which life are you choosing to create today?

 


* All quotes are taken from the song “Welcome to your life” by Grouplove

But at least we’ll get hurt trying

The piano is not firewood yet
They try to remember but still they forget
That the heart beats in threes
Just like a waltz
And nothing can stop you from dancing

So I took that step and jumped.

All my ideas, so elaborately planned and scheduled, were turned into action much sooner than expected. And suddenly I am experiencing myself in a completely new and unfamiliar situation, wondering how this all could happen so fast.

All it took was an open door. Not really open even. In fact, a slight possibility being cast through the crack of this door like a faint ray of light was all that was there initially. And without really thinking much I found myself pushing that door wide open and boldly stepping through it. There was this inner urge that made me do it.

I have left my permanent position of eleven years behind to follow my passion and go all in for the job of my dreams. And here I am, starting from scratch again. In the realm where I was truly meant to be. At least that is what I had thought…

After eleven years of routine and security I get to experience once more what it feels like to be an absolute beginner. I cannot remember the last time I have made so many mistakes in a row. And, me still being a hopeless perfectionist, this feels rather devastating. After my first two weeks in the new situation I wasn’t sure anymore if I had made the right decision. I started to seriously question my capacities of doing this job; my capacities to adapt and learn and to finally do it right; my capacities as a human being even. Was this really the place to be for me?

Rise from your cold hospital bed
You’re not dying
Everyone knows you’re going to live
So you might as well start trying

This is where, luckily, Regina Spektor stepped in and reinforced me.

Her song reminded me to take a closer look at things as they actually are, while putting the negative-colored glasses away. And taking a moment to reflect on my current situation I realized this much: it HAD been the right decision. Looking back I found that the old job and everything tied to it had simply vanished from my consciousness completely. Leaving it was the only sensible choice. And I became aware that, mistakes or not, this new thing in fact IS everything I can think of doing at the moment. And which I absolutely want to do.

Everyone knows it’s going to hurt
But at least we’ll get hurt trying

Right now, it is not perfect, I know that much. But then I asked myself: Isn’t this something that is inherent in new beginnings? That you have to adjust and find your way? And is there a way of viewing making mistakes and falling from a different perspective?

I have decided there is. By making all these mistakes I get the chance to learn a lot first-hand. So, rather than thinking that life wants to bring me down, I acknowledge that it may want to show me the way; that life actually presents me with the opportunity to grow, even further than I have grown so far. And to, by making all these mistakes, learn everything I will need in the future, to be right there where I belong and do an amazing job. It might as well be true. And, for now, I will continue pursuing this route and see where it leads me to.

I recognize that these are hard times. I am falling a lot and it takes a lot of strength and courage to get up and try again. And still, this is what feels like the only sensible thing at the moment.

And isn’t this what I wanted after all? Experience life to the fullest and accept everything it offers me? And to live now and postpone nothing that is important to a later date, when I might not be able to do it anymore…?

At least I get hurt trying.

Because in the end, this is what I will be looking back at.

You’ll want to go back
You’ll wish you were small
Nothing can slow the crying
You’ll take the clock off of your wall
And you’ll wish it was lying

How about you?

 

Plant a seed (mmmbop)

Mmmbop ba duba dop ba
Du bop ba duba dop ba
Du bop ba duba dop ba du
Yeah, yeah

Can you hear it playing in your head already?

If not, here is a little reminder:

Do you remember the radio stations playing this song over and over, so you basically couldn’t but love it?
Well, for me this was the case. This song, to me, always radiated this energy of joy and ease and it never failed to get me in a good mood.

…and they’re gone so fast, oh yeah

And as it is with this ever changing life, gradually, we got used to this song and I hardly noticed when it gradually disappeared from the radio stations’ playlists. Until I forgot about it completely as I moved on with my life.

Until today. Where I felt lost. Once again.

Plant a seed, plant a flower, plant a rose
You can plant any one of those
Keep planting to find out which one grows
It’s a secret no one knows
It’s a secret no one knows
No one knows…

Do you know these days where just nothing feels right?
Today was one of these days. From the moment I had woken up everything, including me, felt out of place. Massive decisions seemed to be looming without my having a clue what I wanted, loved ones felt far away, I had that numb pain in my head…

I have no idea how I finally made it out of bed.

And then, I found this:

Did you know that is has actually been 20 years that the original song was released??

I love seeig what has become of people I had once known as kids, and so I marvelled at these three young men who sat there in the video, still radiating this amazing energy.
And making me smile.

And I started thinking about how much time has passed since I last heard this song, how much has happened in my life since then and what an amazing path I have walked. I wouldn’t even have dreamt of anything I am enjoying now these 20 years ago.

And so I took one decision at least: to keep planting seeds and just trusting in the right ones to grow and bloom in the end. Just as I witnessed the three Hanson boys bloom in the video.

And now I just sit in silence

Sitting in the hospital, waiting, with hunched shoulders, I am finally fully aware of what I feel.
After two of the three scheduled examinations, the doctor in charge was called to an emergency. And so we, the scheduled patients, are waiting.

And in the back of my head, there is this song playing, which, in fact, has been since I got on the train this morning. And is becoming true for me once more.

Watching people in a hospital waiting area – while not being the most pleasant of sights anyway –  doesn’t keep the mind entertained forever, at least if you try to not give yourself over to commiserating thoughts about what particular misery all of the other people waiting are going through here. Eventually the mind doesn’t find anymore sights to distract it. And justgoes blank.

And now I just sit in silence.

I have this emergency program that always kicks in when something in me – my self? – feels threatened by an extremely frightening situation. Whenever this happens I tend to go numb and am completely disconnected from my feelings.
Thinking of it now I get the impression that this is the usual state most of us are in while hustling through our daily grind, being completely unaware of what goes on beyond the surface.

Sitting in silence did the trick today.

All the emotions – fears, pain, memories from past hospital stays – everything just popped up at once and I found myself drowned by a massive surge of it all.

I’m forced to deal with what I feel

And this is a good thing, I think. It may not feel so at first; in fact, it was horrifying. And yet I am thankful. Because I believe that our fears and emotions are trying to tell us something. To impart some knowledge to us that we somehow have forgotten or suppressed. So with this outbreak of emotion I have something at hand I can start with.

As soon as this third exam is over…

Ready to begin

I’ve just returned from a month-long trip through the Southeast of the USA.
And while this in itself has been a dream come true for me, I had the time of my life when finally seeing the Avett Brothers live in Baltimore.
In fact, the whole trip was planned accordingly, as to be able to attend their performance.
And I could hardly believe my luck, when I was standing there, right in the middle of the cheering crowd, and they hit the stage.

And I will certainly live on my memory of this truly amazing concert for a long time.

This is not a post about a particular song. It is rather about the music and the vibes that carried me during this precious month and will remind me of this amazing time for the rest of my life.

The concert had just been the start of an almost completely aimless journey through my favorite country. I had „planned“ it like that deliberately, to find out what would happen if I started off with only vague ideas of certain places I wanted to see. I wanted life to take over. And I was handsomely rewarded. It was, without doubt, the time of my life.

Now, being back, my perspective on life seems to have somewhat changed. My focus on certain things has sharpened and I seem to be much clearer regarding certain things I want and need and others I want to bid farewell.
I have the feeling to be on the brink of something new; something new I cannot name yet, but wich is just around the corner nevertheless.
I’m curious.
And I hope that I will be able to stick to this approach which I had adopted for my journey. This approach of trust that whatever happens, and wherever life leads me, is fine and will have me right where I am supposed to be.

I will certainly need it tomorrow. My next heart check is due and the usual fears are lingering in the back of my head.

Of course, I’ll have my music with me. This might be a good song to cheer me on:

Wish me luck.

Sunburn to my eyes

I am a firm believer in consciously going through times of crisis, of embracing your crisis, so to speak, and acknowledging feelings of pain and fear. In fact, I am convinced that at the bottom of each crisis lies the option of growth. Fittingly, Facebook has reminded me of one of my favourite Rumi/Shams Tabrizi qoutes today:

“The chemistry of mind is different from the chemistry of love. The mind is careful, suspicious, he advances little by little. He advices “Be careful, protect yourself” Whereas love says “Let yourself, go!” The mind is strong, never fells down, while love hurts itself, fells into ruins. But isn’t it in ruins that we mostly find the treasures? A broken heart hides so many treasures.”

~ Shams Tabrizi¹

That is also why I particularly liked the song I last shared; because it, too, contaied the notion of facing it. I am not talking of giving in to dark feelings here; but rather of acknowleding them and moving through them, without letting them take control. Painful as it may be, I found this to always help me move forward in the end. And it turned out to work even this time, when, for a moment, I felt so overwhelmed and numbed by fear and forsaken that I was desperate.

So this is what I did: I became my own best friend; I listened to the signals my body sent and did everything that did me good. Which included having a good cry, or, rather, several of them; wrapping myself in music like in a comforting blanket; and: asking for help. Both explicitly and inwardly.

Blinded by your light, sunburn to my eyes
Guided by your noise, heart speak through the night

I am not a religious person, at least not in the conventional sense. I do not follow any of the established religions. But at this very moment, you could say that I experienced life’s grace. It was as if the whole universe worked on my behalf and answered my every need.

I was granted all the love and assistance I could dream of. It was amazing how my friends, or „my tribe“, as I like to call them, got my back during this hard time by just being there, listening and sending their love in terms of encouraging thoughts and ideas. Especially friends I hadn’t even reached out for initially surprised me the most. And I got all this:

When the world seems empty, you will have my shoulder
And always remember you are someone’s daughter
Join me on this journey like a dancing soldier
On the road to freedom coming home to hold ya-ya-ya

The exchange with my friends also resulted in my getting in touch with exactly the right reading material. Apart from being a music person I am a word person. So reading has always enriched my life, and the books I came across thanks to my friends, and the words I found in them, carried me through my dark times like the wave of a kind ocean. I guess several book dealers quite benefited from my crisis, but I did too, because these books have been providing me with the most amazing insights and ideas and will accompany me for another while (for a brief list of recommendations see below).

Lastly, I made an appointment with my trusted life coach. Sometimes it’s good to talk to a professional. She has never failed me and also this time she helped me come to terms and find my way again. And I got better.

It is true that this was a particularly painful period and the dark feelings didn’t disappear just like that. However, going through them, I felt myself being more and more reminded of the love that is there, and has always been, in abundance. As already Björk had pointed out a couple of years ago.

She was right. As was Shams Tabrizi.

And maybe I just hadn’t been receiving. So this was the treasure I found at the bottom of my pain: The awareness that I am loved. And the knowledge that I will be helped whenever I need it.

And this is also what I want to remind you of. That this is true for all of us and that you can trust to be loved and supported by life.

And, me being the musicfairy, my breaking of a new dawn was signified by a wave of new music that flowed into my life. Which resulted in a short playlist of happiness.

A word on depression

I am lucky enough to never have experienced depression, but I am aware that depression is a serious condition that can completely paralyze you. Luckily I was reminded today that many people still seem to think that all it takes to deal with depression is pulling oneself together. By suggesting embracing painful feelings it is not my intenton to support this view. I know how important getting the right kind of help can be and believe that talking to a professional is the best you can do in some situations. As I did myself, even without having to deal with depression.

What I am convinced of, however, is this:
Everything is going to be alright in the end. The dawn will break and you will smile again.

And the time will come for this playlist:

 


Books and reading material I find inspiring and uplifting:

 

¹ Source: Rumi

Image: Rays of sunshine by Susanne Nilsson, CC-BY-SA 2.0

Go higher

Everything in life entails its counterpart: every softness implies its edgy counterpart and where there is noise there is also silence. And so I thought why not embrace it all in one post?
And so, this post comes in different colors, featuring a rough and a corny note. Because, isn’t this how life is?

All my no’s just turned to yes

It has been crazy times lately. I cannot believe this all is actually happening, but apparently it is: My life seems to have decided to rearrange itself. I have found myself witnessing basically everything unfold and fall neatly into place. Things I started last year, just because I felt like doing them with no clear plan whatsoever, have suddenly evolved into solid projects; and castles I had built in the air out of – which I then thought – pure escapism appear to be almost within reach and no crazy ideas at all.

Traveling back in time I can still sense that big task that had been haunting me of finding my life’s mission and of defining the ultimate goal to follow for myself. Looking back, the doubt I carried is still palpable, that doubt if it was ok to just do what felt good at that moment.
Life seems to be presenting me with an answer now. And I am watching all these things I had unconsciously started, things in no way connected with each other back then, unfold and unite into a greater whole.
And there it is: a new and exciting road before me that hasn’t been there earlier and that almost feels like a true calling.

This is where it all begins
It’s right in front of me
Down is not where I belong
This aching heart won’t turn to stone
There’s a fire inside these bones
It was meant to be.

And while everything in me is screaming “hell yeah!”, the corny part comes into play.

At the moment I can’t but just stand there in awe and feel blessed. I have no idea what is happening, but it feels amazing. This goes even as far as my reminding myself of the big picture being enough to get through a rough moment or a bad experience. And to focus on this amazing rollercoaster ride that life is.

…and I’m grateful for it all

It has been dawning on me that every step I have taken in the past, everything I experienced, brought me right here. Where I am following a new path that feels as right as nothing has for a long time, surrounded by the most amazing friends and receiving all the support I could ever dream of. Quite similarly, a dear friend of mine recently recalled that whatever he chose to do in his life, however badly he screwed up, he always ended up in the right spot eventually.

And so I am wondering: could it be true that, after all, this idea of personal failure, is an illusion? And that, whichever direction we choose, it will bring us to some place that holds something for us to find? I find this to be a reassuring thought.
And at the moment I can’t but feel blessed and realize how wonderful life is.

And, yes, I am grateful for it all.

I don’t know how long this blissful state will last. And I am aware that, just as life’s sad and heartbreaking moments, this too shall pass.

In fact, I cannot even tell for sure if the path I have taken really leads me to the right place, or a place where I want to be in the end.

I know only time would tell
If all the cards will treat me well
Cause this hand that I been dealt
Keeps me wondering
So now here I turn the page
I’ve learned to silence all my rage
Tell me who can really say
What will tomorrow bring.

But isn’t even this good? And isn’t this what makes life exciting?

In any case, I have made a promise to myself. I have decided to embrace this feeling of gratefulness and take it with me. Whatever life may bring, I hope that I will be able to stay aware of this beautifully amazing journey it is and every miracle it presents to me.

Corny as this might be, it feels true to me.

The wrestle

I was born with a condition physicians refer to as congenital heart disease. I myself like to call it my unconventional heart. In the course of my life the two of us have become best friends. It’s my heart that reminds me each day that no day is for granted and so in a way I am thankful.

The crumpled ocean is no boat trip

Being reminded like that, however, doesn’t come for free. I know my condition to be tied to a certain risk that I carry in particular, which is, basically, the risk of dying. Or, to put it less dramatically, the risk of my state deteriorating at any minute; and nobody can tell me when this will be. So I just live with the vague certainty that it will happen one day.
Twice a year I go to my trusted heart center to have everything checked, always hoping to receive good news, meaning nothing has changed. Things have been stable for years and these follow-up exams are actually no big deal. But to me they always feel as if the physicians renegotiate my life.

So, as every year, my 2016 started off with the first one of these appointments a week ago. This time I found myself to be especially nervous and the day before the appointment I felt fear building up inside of me and sneaking into every corner of my being. With all my plans and dreams and new projects I have just started, suddenly so much was at stake. Besides, being aware of the fact that by some means or other I will have to face another surgery one day, I suddenly felt my time running out. And who knew? After all, I am approaching the 40, an age nobody had ever expected me to reach when I was born.

So here came the fear…

The clotheless wrestle with the clotheless animal

I’ve known for quite a while that it doesn’t help to suppress feelings. In fact, I have found it to be true that you might succeed in muting them for a while, but you cannot block them out forever. So what I tried was to accept my anxiety and acknowledge it as a part of myself.
And still there are these unpleasant physical sensations that come with being frightened.
The night before the appointment I couldn’t sleep. I felt agitated, my heart beating nervously in my chest, and all kinds of thoughts started to flood my brain, thoughts of bad things that might happen, of existential situations I might have to face and of all sorts of things that might just go wrong. I knew if I followed this train of thoughts it would bring me straight to panic land. So how to deal with this? How to finally calm down and get some rest? I probably don’t have to mention that none of the relaxation techniques I had learned once worked. What they helped me with, instead, was focusing even more on my body and all its creepy sensations.

My enemy, please stay close to me

Finally, when I was already way past the time at which falling asleep would have granted me a good night’s rest before the exam, tired of trying I just gave it up. It was like telling both my body and my mind that, fine, if they wanted to freak out freak out is what they should do. I wouldn’t bother objecting to it anymore. Which was, when, finally, I fell asleep.

It was only a couple of days later that I came across an article that described the handling of fears exactly the way I had done it. Apparently, accepting fear as a part of oneself can be much bigger than I had thought. Maybe it is more about embracing fear as a natural part of life that will always be there. And about surrendering to its presence without bowing down to its logic. In this light it seems only natural to also accept all the negative sensations and thoughts that usually accompany fear; and to, at the same time, take a look at them and recognize them for what they are: a natural consequence of being frightened. And to thus take your fears with you, but without letting them influence your moves.

I received good news at the heart center the next day. Everything appears to be stable and so I can relax for another half year. And oddly enough, one of my nurses told me how deeply and soundly relaxed she found me to be. And so for now I am happy.

I am an anxiety person. I have grown up this way, not least due to my unconventional heart. My fear has been keeping me company for as long as I can think. With every new step I take, at the beginning of each new project or endeavor, it is there, by my side. I take it with me. And yet, I have the feeling that we might get along. And that I will be fine.

Continue reading The wrestle

In myself

Even though I had written about letting go of what others thought about us and despite this eye opening experience in Tel Aviv this feeling of being judged somehow lingered on. I fact, it was as if, once I had recognized it for what it was and seemed to have learned my lesson, the whole thing decided to blow up in my face again, like in a desperate attempt to stay.

Couldn’t relax, couldn’t sit back,
and let the sun light in my lap

Ironically, the more I did – even when doing what I used to LIKE doing – the more it felt subject to the judgement of others. Or was it my own judgement? I was so focused on moving on that I felt like having to meet certain criteria all the time. Without even knowing for sure which, or whose, criteria these were.
Of course, this ruined it all for me.

II realized I had to change something. And in my attempt to escape this situation, instead of actually changing something I automatically chose to intensify the whole dilemma. And I ended up striving to get from the outside world which, after all, I could only give to myself.

So lately I got a bit lost in attention seeking.
And yes, I did get plenty of attention. In fact, I got even more than I was prepared to handle and than I had wished for in some regards.
What a compliment. And what a gift to the ego.
But not, unfortunately, to me.
Which I realized when I found myself feeling more and more disconnected. And kind of numb. The joys of life didn’t feel pleasant anymore. What I had liked doing didn’t appeal to me. Those usually close to me felt distant and far away. However, the pressure remained.

I’ve found what I’ve been looking for in myself

It’s funny how, the moment I became aware that all this attention from outside wouldn’t bring me forward, things started to somehow resolve themselves. Which doesn’t imply that it wasn’t, at times, a painful process. Realizing that the attention I had received from outside was not what I had wished to take it for in many cases certainly hurt. But at the same time this realization pointed me back to the source that could give me all I ever needed.

Which was myself.

And there I found it: the connection to myself; and my self-awarenss.
And with it, the awareness that those close to me had been there all the time. Thinking of me and supporting me.

From the concrete to the coast,
I was looking for a holy ghost,
Like the land joining the sea,
Happiness it followed me.

It felt exactly as described in this beautiful song by Marina and the Diamonds.

And finally, again, I have found a way to be happy.

 

Love and mercy

Hey, love and mercy, that’s what we need tonight
So love and mercy to you and your friends tonight
Love and mercy, that’s what you need tonight.

So, obviously, Brian Wilson had a huge effect on me. I am still addicted to the “Smile” album and keep listening to it wherever I go. It just consoles me – even more so with the images from the movie in my head that showed how this music just seemed to pour out of him.

However, the part about letting out the treasure hidden inside of you despite any negativity that might surround you was just half of the story to me. When I did some research after watching the “Love and Mercy” movie to find out about the truth behind it I found something that impressed me even more.

And that was Brian Wilson’s apparent ability and willingness to forgive. And his focus on the positive aspects of even the worst situations or people.

It seems to be a fact that this therapist clearly bullied and abused Brian Wilson over years. The scenes on this in the movie were almost unbearable to watch. And the reality is reported to have been even worse. In an article published by the New York Post, I read that “the largely unknown true story of his overmedication, psychological abuse, financial control and virtual imprisonment of Wilson is even more horrific”.¹

And still, after going through all this horror and pain, upon looking back, Brian Wilson simply states:

“I still feel that there was benefit (…) I try to overlook the bad stuff, and be thankful for what he taught me.”¹

Simple as that.
It took me a while to take this in. And the more I pondered on this the more it left me in awe.

I believe that it is this attitude that actually helped him survive through all the dark times he faced throughout his life.

It is easy to regret and lament about what has gone wrong. Even easier if you have someone you can blame for the bad things that happened to you. And still I think that this kind of attitude Brian Wilson shows is the one that really helps you move on and let go of whatever bad things you encountered.

And I do believe that we could all do with a little more of this attitude. Because it cultivates a focus on what really matters, which I think is love and forgiveness, first of all. This is what I take from Brian Wilson’s words.

So why not start today? Why not finally forgive those who have done you wrong and focus on the good stuff?
And speaking of forgiveness: why not start with yourself?


¹ as cited by Hardeep Phull, New York Post, June 4, 2015.

Image credits:
"Forgive." by Tony Webster
https://goo.gl/57sKBB
is licensed under a Creative Commons license:
https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/