#life is like a thin porcelain cup

I am tired.  Very tired.  And it’s not just physical fatigue. It’s sort of a depression. First stage maybe.  Either that or simply frustration. Resignation. I’m surrendering to a truth that I don’t want to accept. That there are some things in life that I can’t change. Life. Is. Fragile.

The fragility of life sometimes strikes hard. Most of the time it doesn’t feel like that for us fortunate enough to live healthy, in affluent and peaceful societies. Ignorant to the millions of tragedies playing 24/7 in the lives of others. But no person is protected against the really rough parts on the path of life. Whether rich or poor. Young or old.

While we’re young, we’re often blessed with ignorance concerning the frailty of our existence. And that is a good thing. To set out in life with a solid portion of (perceived) invincibility is maybe even a precondition to dare to take important and essential leaps in life like settling down with a partner, having kids, taking on big projects, moving abroad and so on.

At some point though reality catches up. Necessarily. As we become parents,  our parents grow older – and we start to spot our own hair going through all shades of grey – the probability that someone in our close circle of family, relatives or friends will suffer an illness or even die is high.

2 old women

The realisation that life can break as easy as porcelain can spur a sort of life crisis. Not a so-called midlife-kind-of-crisis that makes you run off and buy a motor-bike or get a lover. That might even be considered a positive move  by some weird TV shrinks.  But something much more profound happens. Witnessing someone you are close to being very sick makes you think and feel a lot. Feeling sorry for the person in pain. Thinking a lot about how to help in the best possible way. Taking in the anxiety that you or your kids can become sick. It is a combination of very abstract and very concrete thoughts.

I play this game often.  What if it would be me.  But with my parents getting older I play another game too.  What will happen,  if shit happens.  How will I cope?  Well the short answer is I won’t. I don’t want to.

I don’t know how I believe.  But I do believe in something.  Can’t get more concrete than that.  All I know is that good and bad energy have an influence. I like to believe in the power of positive thoughts.  And in rare, rational moments I get it. But most of the time I don’t.  And irrational as I am, I keep wondering why? Why do people,  good people,  innocent people,  young people,  brothers,  parents, children have to die from accidents, diseases and own will. Why? Why can’t we cope with the loss?

Unable to provide an answer and fully aware that I can’t change things but have to accept them I go to sleep. My mind once again wandered off the really dark paths.

This summer is not an easy one.

#The sum of all parts

Everything happens for a reason. At least that’s what they say. Sometimes things happen because we let them happen, or because we are responsible for them. This year, many good things happened but equally many bad ones. Does that make it a good, an average, or a bad year?

When you lose someone you haven’t seen in a long time, you suddenly realise that you take far too many things for granted. You take it for granted that loved ones, family, friends, will always be there. Constant(s) in our life. The ‘I love you’, ‘I miss you’, ‘I need you’ you never said, suddenly burn deep inside. To the ones you never said it enough times. And to the ones you never said it before, because you never found the courage or the right moment to do so.

Realising (for real) the non-eternal aspects of life makes you think and feel. This realisation can create a surge, a push or a crossroad showing what you have and what you could have – and provide a basis for some decisions. How do you reach your goals? What are your goals and what do you want to achieve? How to pick the fruits in life when they are ripe?

The end of a year underlines the prospect of new beginnings. Clean sheets, fresh starts, tabula rasa. This is daunting in itself. When adding to that you actually want (need) an alternate route of life manifesting itself shortly – don’t be surprised if a feeling of panic might lure around the corner.

Maintaining aspirations in life is a good thing. However not seeing the woods for the trees is troublesome. Some realism blended into the ambitions might be wise. Equilibrium and happiness is most probably not achieved through ticking off things on a list that you didn’t make. You need to find out what is important in your life. Climbing that mountain top? Getting that executive post? Learning how to sew? How much do these things really matter?  

image

Not much if you haven’t figured out yet what should be important in (your) life. Re-thinking the value system might be a good way to start the new year. Have we attributed right values to everything and everyone in our life? Do we appreciate enough the things that really do matter. For us, our happiness, our life?

Instead of making a things-to-do list, I will make an inventory of what I have achieved. So far. And maybe then, when I will start to add up all the ‘small’ things I have (achieved), I might realise that the sum of all things, all those small parts, is more than I imagined.

#We can fly

Do you have an idol? Not those musical ones. The real ones. If so, who is your idol? As a grown-up you would like to give a good answer – someone worthy of your admiration. Nelson Mandela, Mother Teresa are likely to come up for our generation. Or for a more general idolisation: People giving up their normal pleasant daily life to work in war-ridden zones for Medecins Sans Frontieres or the like.

As mothers we get well acquainted with another type of idols – namely a whole range of superheroes. The strong resonance with really young kids – especially with boys – when it comes to Superman, Spiderman or any of their buddies is fascinating. And for Carnival or dress-up parties it is difficult to avoid the easily available superhero costumes. It is only in the moment when your little son is at the top of the staircase you realise that they completely merge with the part. They become Superman. And they can actually fly. A friend’s son became Robin Hood – carrying an imaginary bow and arrow all the time.

It is understandable. Being a superhero gives you control. And who wouldn’t like to have that? Admittedly superheroes are not showing the best of behaviours all the time, they sometimes punch people and are not portraying all the nice qualities we would like our kids to develop.

 

But rather than thinking about what unintended consequences of superhero-worshiping could lead to for our sons and daughters – it would maybe be equally interesting to contemplate what a lot of adults miss out on? What importance do role models have for us? And could we be more attentive to heroes as a source of inspiration?

Being normal and abiding to normality takes a lot of strength. Is it possible to stretch beyond? Maybe our energy could become a superpower in the things we do? Define your task – like saving the world – or something else like cooperating with your colleague, prepare a culinary surprise for dinner, multi-task – or learn a new skill – and just do it.

As long as our children are young we are whether we want it or not, their role-models. Most of the times we forget about it. When we remember, after having had a hard day at work and swearing in the car, we realise how bad we perform at times. So how to be your child’s superhero if you can’t be a good role model for them. Maybe it’s time to take a good long breath and a glass of wine. Because life’s ain’t that simple.

But we all need someone to look up to in difficult tough times. Someone that finds the way, a solution others don’t see. Someone that saves our world. So if you don’t have an idol, a hero – maybe it’s time to find one. Perfection is not needed. You don’t have to agree with him or her all the time for them to spur a better you.

#best friend

How many best friends are we allowed to have? Or maybe we should start by asking, can you have one all-time best friend in your life? Some American movies seem to make us believe that’s possible. Some have a best friend for night clubbing, other’s for gossiping, or going shopping. Some even have a best friend for having occasional sex. There seems to be a best friend for every occasion. For tech gadget freaks it’s mostly their smartphone or tablet or even favourite app. And depending on the age, you might end up having a new best friend every week.

Each of us has their own criteria of what a best friend should consist of. Some are high and some low. As in very low. If I were to think who among my friends I could name best friend, I wouldn’t be able to come up with an obvious answer immediately. Is there one single person that was always there for me, come rain or come shine. A person I could confide in my most secret secrets. And someone I know for sure would not judge or hold things against me. Someone who is as crazy as me. Who would push me to the limits and outside my comfort zone. Who would continuously make sure I won’t let myself down. Who would accept me the way I am with all my faults and still manage to see the good things in me. Well, the answer to that question is not the most obvious one. But it’s the only one that makes sense – to me at least. I am my best friend. And it’s good this way. For many reasons. Most importantly that I like myself despite my flaws and faults, and despite all the small things that drive me crazy about myself. I still like being me and I don’t mind my flaws. They might as well be my trademark and also the reason why my friends are my friends.

But sometimes it is not enough to be your own best friend. Or having just the 1, 2 or 3 best friends. Sometimes you need to be open and allow people to enter your inner circle of friends. Into the top ten and maybe turn the list upside down. Sometimes it is just important to allow the thought of someone being able to take over the best friend role for (un)limited period of time. Because every now and then someone comes along that manages to fill a gap that we were unaware it existed. And that friendship is unlike others, which makes it difficult to give tags such as best friend, good friend, soul mate etc. And maybe that’s just fine. They don’t need a tag. They are special to me.

So this blog post is in the end about the people that manage to become good friends, best friends, irreplaceable friends. Simply FRIENDS. The friends that not only come and go, but who stay forever in our hearts, even after they have left, moved away or simply said good-bye.

Image

And while I’m writing this post, a soundtrack is playing in my head: Never let me down (Depeche Mode), My Friends (Red Hot Chilli Peppers), Out of sight (Hooverphonic), My friend (Groove Armada), Best Friend (Foster the People). Each one reminds me of moments shared with a friend. It’s their song. Every time I hear the songs; each time I play them in my head, I think of them. My friends. The ones that stayed. The ones that moved away. The ones that said good-bye and the ones I left behind. And of course all the ones that are still to come.

This blog post is dedicated to someone special. Someone that came and filled a gap. A big one.

#lost in suburbia

Searching, being on the look-out is a common denominator for a lot of the things we do. Mostly searching for the best and most effective ways of getting our daily work done and managing our personal homospheres. And sometimes, searching for a way not to break down while trying to manage ‘everything’.

Doing backpacking in Asia, the big search concerned the best and most unspoilt beaches. As a student it was  all about searching for the most central but still cheapest flat, the most economic way to get as far away as possible in the breaks.  And of course a way of getting through the studies with flying colours and managing to have a lot of fun.

Searching for fun in our (early) forties needs a slightly different planning than back in those days. It’s no longer the cheapest and best, but the best value for money. And organising a girls trip can get complicated. It’s about finding the same free time-spot as well as the right time to let husbands enjoy time alone with kids without feeling guilty leaving them behind.

A short while back we decided to take such a trip. Three friends going on a girls’ trip! Setting out to enjoy a couple of days – we were planning to plan carefully so we would not miss anything – while at the same time making sure we would be impulsive and explore the surroundings of (O)Porto. And although we kind of kicked off the impulse-thingy from the start, we didn’t really manage either to plan ahead of the trip. The only thing we managed was to get enough material to make informed choices. We thought.

Obviously when you visit for the first time a place, you’re naturally a tourist: travelling for pleasure, sightseeing and staying in hotels. But what to do if at least one of us is unwilling to be seen as an ordinary tourist?* How to disguise as quasi-locals? So again – searching for something; for worthwhile places, insider tips and coolest bars that ordinary tourists wouldn’t discover even by chance. So our tactic was to ensure somehow that our experience would be real and genuine. Not do exactly the same things as every other tourist would do. We made sure not to stay in a hotel. Instead we booked an apartment in the old part of the City. We avoided typical sightseeing. No way to catch us alive on a double-decker tourist bus while in Porto.

Somewhat paradoxical according to our “travel-value-compass” we ended up the first night and for various reasons including low blood sugar and lack of stamina by some, in one of the most touristic restaurants by the magnificent Douro-river. The duo that was playing very loudly behind our backs well-known songs in their own way (took us at least one minute to realise they were playing/singing every breath you take by the Police) did not help with the mediocre food and the really bad wine that was exclusively reserved for tourists like us. The reason of course we ended up as tourists, was that the best hotspot restaurants were fully booked until late in the evening. First free table might have been available after 23:30. This is where the low blood sugar and the lack of stamina came in.

IMG_5089

After this first experience, we were even more set on our search for the real local thing and tuning our radars towards places locals would go and things they would do.

These ambitions lead us to be literally lost in suburbia. So for those of you who thought this blog would be about the void of living in suburbia or something in the lines of that – think again. Ploughing through dedicated in-magazines and online resources we had found this restaurant outside of the centre, in the suburbs of Porto – recommended for its rice specialties with sea food. Sufficiently off the beaten track for our taste. So after having a very quick & hasty look at the magnificent Casa de Musica we headed off to the metro. Restaurant was supposed to be 10 minute walk from the last stop of the metro line. Easy, we thought. This was supposed to be the real experience. No way a tourist would have done the same. Leaving the great old city with the plethora of sights, to go and see how the real people of Porto live, in suburbia.

Around the last few stops we started to get an iffy feeling. The surroundings outside resembled wilderness more than a concrete suburb. We didn’t really print a map. 10 minute walk we assumed wasn’t going to be a problem. When we got out of the metro we didn’t have a clue which direction to take. This was suburbia.

After asking 3 times for directions we eventually managed to find a bistro instead of the restaurant. Turned out information on the magazine was not very exact. The bistro was the spin-off of the restaurant we were looking for. No exotic rice dishes on the menu, just sandwiches. But real people, real experience and we were visibly the only non-locals.

Have we learned something from this experience. A lot. Sometimes it doesn’t matter whether you manage or not to get things done, visit a place, get a table at that fancy restaurant. At the end of the day, what counts is the experience, and the good friends you shared it with.

IMG_5103

*= don’t ask now why it is so important. The short and psychoanalytical explanation is most probably the need of belonging to the right group namely the locals or cool strangers, but most definitely not the group of ignorant tourists that don’t really care about the local culture and real cuisine.

#talkingmonkeys

Months ago we decided to write a blog together. Long months in which we almost started, but then discovered that we needed a title for our blog. So we went into a journey into ourselves, and then into google, trying to search for all the nice sounding words, even tried out a word-generator. And then, after having read something about humanitarianism, we thought, if there’s one thing that defines us, than that’s being women in their early forties, trying to change the world – our own little spots of the world – for the better. And no, we aren’t about to deliver a ‘Miss World’ speech, as we don’t aim for world peace. We just want peace with our inner selves.

quote449

Coming to a point, where we no longer can rest uncomfortably in our comfort zone, we know that we need to change ourselves in order to change things around us. But how?

So how to get things off our chest? Writing a blog, we thought is a great way to express ourselves and tell the world how we feel about things. Everybody’s blogging. So why shouldn’t we. No, we don’t really hope for our 15 minutes of fame, nor to advertise cosmetics or clothes – not even to show off our philosophical brilliance, which we could. By harvesting our everyday opinions, our countless comments and (usually) interesting conversations, we will try to leave our ‘comfort zone’. Being women, mothers, wives, friends, customers, co-workers and sometimes bitches when the situation calls for it, we have tons of experiences – good and bad that we think are worthwhile sharing.

At the same time our challenges to tidy up in some 21st century complexities; handling everyday-life of full-time work and juggling the home-sphere while being true to ourselves and our values plus ideally manage to develop intellectually at the same time. This takes some effort. Serious amounts of effort. But we want it all to work and we are prepared to muster the energy to do so.

Through this blog we aim to support and encourage each-other in managing to muddle through our challenges and in having a great time while we’re at it. Blogging we hope, will allow us to experiment with and to engage in social interactions.

Bear with us, as we just started..