#I want to break free

I feel blue. I’m in a sad mood. The weather is inappropriately mean to me. To my mood.

My birthday comes closer. I’m getting older, and the weather more and more unpredictable. But not me. I’m stuck. Glued. I want to scream SOS. Not sure someone would understand. I would be heard. But who would understand? Who would feel me. Really? Who would be able to look inside me. Get hold of my feelings. My thoughts. Decode them, and understand what’s underneath? Who? I’m not sure.

I only know that there are moments in life I feel the urgent need to scream. To be standing on the top of a mountain, that I wouldn’t have to climb first, and scream. Scream like never before. And those moments, the moments I feel the urge to scream multiply. The older I get. Exponentially. The more demotivated I get. The more and more I want to break free from daily routines. These daily insanities.

Break free. From this life that has too many constraints. From rules that were not constructed by people with common sense. In most cases. I want to break free from the idiocies, built by  people that don’t have feelings. That just don’t care. That don’t want to care. Because they don’t have to.

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I want to break free, to be on a boat and to be carried away by waves. Waves that know where I need to go. Waves that will gently take me where I should be. I need to break free. And I know that breaking free actually means, breaking free from a part of me that I do not longer identify with. That is an older version of me. An outdated one. One I don’t want no longer to me. I can no longer be. One that I do not hate, but do not like either.

I need to break free. Today. Now. At this very moment.

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#why my (bloody) comfort zone is not increasing

This January I looked back at the last year and was wondering how many times I had managed to leave my comfort zone. Not many I guess. Wouldn’t bother to count, because it wouldn’t add up. Why? Well, for a starter: because I was afraid to fail. Not that I’m afraid to fail for my own sake. I just don’t like the idea that others will see me as a failure.

Not having left my comfort zone, means also that I haven’t made many new experiences. Last year. My inner self is screaming that I didn’t achieve more. Very loud. So much about resolutions..

What I did last year is to seriously consider “The 15 Minute rule”. It’s basically about procrastination (the chronic disease I suffer from….) and how to take charge of my life. This rule has nothing to do with leaving comfort zones, but should help me getting focused on one thing at a time. I’m struggling when I try to stay concentrated. Maybe I have my own attention deficit syndrome? Add that to chronic procrastination and you get a good picture of how I function. I lose interest. Quickly. Like really quick. In micromoments.

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Why the lack of focus? Of course – with the world at your fingertips and available on screen 24/7 it’s a feeding frenzy for the curious. There is so much useful and nonsense information, fun stuff and mind boggling things around that it feels like a non-stop smørgåsbord. In addition there are all the things to keep track of: family life, friends, work. Going beyond the surface means spending more time and effort to get real in-depth understanding. That also includes finding the actual time to do so.

So maybe I just need to apply my 15 minute rule* more rigorously and stop spending time online. I started already last spring by deleting my Facebook account and that felt really liberating. Now I just need to liberate more of my (online) habits and get more creative and active IRL. Both mentally as well as physically. One step at a time.

One step..

 

*= There’s also a 2 minute rule I came across while writing this blog. Worth looking at.. After all, much, much shorter than 15 minutes and still manageable with my short attention span.

#we’re all in this together

We’re all in this together, and yet we move lightyears away from each other. In our minds. After all, it’s true. It’s all in our mind. It plays tricks on us. It makes us believe things that are not true. It fights wars in our names. It can make us psychopathic, sociopathic, mythopathic and apathetic monsters within an instant. So we hurt others, kill others, destroy others.

It very seldom manages to turn us into angels, philanthropic and altruistic creatures in an instant, that care for each other, that want to give rather to take.  That love unconditional.

That’s what makes us human. After all.

And still, we act like wild animals. Maybe we should decide what we want to be, animals or humans. Humans do not bomb each other’s beliefs out of the head. Out of the house. Out of the country. Humans talk to each other and try to find common ground. They try to find solutions that are in the best interest of both parties. Of all parties. Humans take care of each other.

We are far from these. Not sure who to blame. Religion, men, the arms industry? All the ones that lobby their interests. Interests of a few. To the disadvantage of millions. If not billions. I blame the absence of education and parenting. That’s when things start go wrong. But I also blame religion, some men (and women) and business models that are of benefit to 0.5% of the world population.  I blame all those, because their religion is based on power and control. On executing (power). On being in control. With rules, that compete in stupidity, idiocy and illogic with each other.

But there is still hope. I put my hope in the younger generations. In the sharing economy, in alternative business models for this world, not based on money. In real philanthropy. In educated generations around the world that find the way to live with each other. That can design and re-build a sustainable, peaceful future. For all our sakes.

No matter how naive that sounds, or how foolish. I do believe in this. After all there are some beliefs that can bring out the best in us. The human.

Photo credits: The Italian Coastguard/Massimo Sestini

#weird people

Some people are really weird. Not that normal is something to strive for all the time. Normality is overrated. Cause it doesn’t exist. Really, no one’s really normal. But it’s just that sometimes it is striking how truly weird some people (choose to) behave. A lot of the time the behaviour is a curiosity and something to laugh about. Like the young guy at the metro – probably in his mid-twenties – bragging loudly about his mum coming to his apartment to vacuum clean for him. Though, who knows what else this mum is doing for her precious son. Or the guy next to him who was on the phone with an important (?) client disclosing a lot of interesting details. There are also examples of being happy-weird, like the people down the street who still have huge Christmas-decorations in their garden even if it is September. Maybe I’m the weird one concerning this….the decorations might be all-year-round-ones, or they have decided to drop the hassle in December and just kept them hanging on…

Other times being weird equals being mean. And you might say that weird is not the appropriate word when describing people saying or doing bad things. But it is weird that some people go ahead and do a lot of things that: 1.make people unhappy 2. make other people dislike you. Psychologists could probably elaborate a lot on this topic and describe how such behaviour seems to be rational, sociopathic. Looking back at the (somewhat confused) insights from the social anthropology curriculum – a major point was that people live in social systems with intrinsic rules of behaviour. Some people obviously miss out. Or just ignore the fact that they live in a society together with other people.

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The office is often the place for observations of weirdness in action. In the past few months I have actually felt a bit like an anthropologist myself, doing some fieldwork. Witnessing a person’s battle to maintain a high position – a whole number of weird and mean behaviour has been on display. It is almost fascinating to experience someone who does not seem to care about what other people think and feel. Who can say things that are intimidating and very rude. The weirdest about this is that few people – if any – counter the unsocial behaviour. This person can just carry on, creating a lot of upset and pissed-off people along the way.

How to prevent this kind of weird behaviour? Very challenging. One thing’s for sure, it’s not efficient to ignore it. Someone will have to get some guts – talk back and draw the line – probably using capital letters. And that comes with a price. Am I up for the task? Not sure. Could the price be too high? Probably yes.

But can we continue ignoring such mal-practices? NO! Cause if we do it is like accepting them. But then again, look at Assad and Syria. Who has really done something to change things? Look at the million of innocent people that are fleeing the country. Look at some really, really weird acting presidents in this world. They’re abusing their power and continue their work. How do you stop them other than using violence? They will not listen. But can you continue looking at pictures of drowned children looking for a better future and not do anything? I can’t. In a continent that becomes more and more nationalistic and wants to secure its borders and its ‘wealth’, I start to feel ashamed of being European. And for many citizens in Europe, I might be the weird one, who thinks it’s best to open borders and welcome all refugees, and safeguard their journey to a better future. Even better though if our governments would start acting humane and put all their effort in really ending conflicts. Where they started. Diplomatically.

#resilience

Last month I followed a training course on resilience. All participants were asked why they decided to take the course. I went first. It was out of curiosity I said. I wanted to better understand how resilience works, and how it is actually defined. It’s one of those words, that because of their origin, in this case latin, everybody interprets and understands differently.

To me embodiment of resilience is a tree that despite hard winds and rough weather does not break. It can bend and suffer but it finds back to its form. Unbreakable. Being resilient is maybe not to be left unmarked by things you experience – but being able to live through it. To not bend, permanently.

How to become unbreakable? The possibility to shed some light on this question was the main motivation for attending the training course. Not so much for myself. More to find out about the magic ingredients that make someone become more resilient. To see what I could do to help others become more resilient. My kids, my friends. At some moment, even myself.

And while I started writing this blog last month, two terrible things happened. Not to me, to others. Nevertheless, they affected me too.

First one was the boat disaster outside Italy with over 700 migrants losing their life. It was all over the news. Τhis was last month. This month it’s almost forgotten. We went back to business as usual. But I haven’t. And mostly because of a photo I saw in the news coverage. A Greek coast guard officer carrying the dead body of a drowned boy. You know when they say that a picture can say more than a thousand words? This photo told the story of thousands of migrants that died in the mediterranean looking for a better future. Like the boy that drowned in the waters before Rhodes. As a mother having a young son I felt like it was my son out there lying in the arms of the coast guard officer. It was terrible. Mostly because I imagined what the mother of the boy must have felt, if she was still alive.

Like many others I am not resilient to the fates of innocent children and people that are victims of war, poverty, violence and suppression. I am breakable. I feel like I am falling apart. That drowned boy, is my son. The abused girl in the news, my daughter. The tortured woman in Saudi Arabia, my sister. I can’t look at all those fates, and stories without thinking it could be me, my kids, my family. And when you look at the big picture, they are: My family, my kids. Me. This world is my home. It’s everybody else’s home too. My thoughts and feelings are mostly like this when such bad things happen.

The second terrible thing that happened was the devastating earthquake in Nepal. Watching photos and videos of a poor country in ruins, I was mad at the news coverage counting how many Brits, or Germans might be among the victims. WTF! How about the thousand Nepalese that died in that earthquake? Why highlighting a single (Western) national victim and making that a headline? But that is business as usual – and applies not only to this earthquake. Whenever terrible accidents happens, we always highlight the fate of the poor Westerners as if the ‘others’ don’t matter.

Since when have we become like this? I don’t like myself like this. I don’t like us. This humankind.

There is a guy who has created an earth flag, for whenever we earthlings will land on other planets or encounter extraterrestrials… Is this the only way to unite as one? When we encounter Martians? Is there no hope of us to evolve to a truly united humankind, within this known planet?

#bored-out

I was recently asked whether I was going through any of the burnout phases. I declined politely, saying I’m far from experiencing any of them. I do though tend to overreact a lot (this I didn’t say), but that is not an odd behavioral change. My overreactions are more of a personality trait, and not necessarily a sign that I’m on the verge of a nervous breakdown.They do however tend to coincide with PMS.

After declining politely the diagnostic suggestion, I added that I usually enjoy stressful situations because I (still) love challenges. They make me feel alive and allow me to push further. I should maybe have revealed that I actually feel the opposite. I’m bored. I don’t feel challenged enough. It feels like I am suffering from viral boredom. And there is actually a word for that. Or rather a syndrome. The Bore-out syndrome. “The lack of work, boredom and consequent lack of satisfaction”. This apparently is common among individuals working in modern organizations, especially in office-based jobs.

So I am not alone. It is rather the absence of meaningful intellectually challenging tasks than the presence of stress, that is my biggest problem. So what now? Usually when you try to explain this at work, you get shuffled with more meaningless, repetitive, dull tasks.

So how to avoid falling into a vicious circle of meaninglessness? How to avoid the b-stings? Neither being burned out nor bored-out? Well, it always comes down to the magic trick. Finding the right balance. Maybe adjusting the expectations to what challenges work can provide, explore if there is intellectual fun to be had elsewhere? Being a bit bored every now and then is probably even good (and there is for sure an online article somewhere about that too).

Everything depends on the equilibrium, on the ‘just right’. I learned today that in Swedish they have a special word for this, ‘lagom’. Well, I guess in nearly all languages you have a special word that describes effortless the right balance you have to strike in life (to be happy). Not too little, not too much. ‘Pan Metron Ariston’ as the Greeks say. Finding the right equilibrium and balance. In life.

After all consideration, just-rightness, lagom-ness and the eternal balancing act, I decided to halt. To push the pause button. I will inhale very deeply and exhale all anger, frustration, and impatience. And then I will try to enjoy the now. Without any thoughts on yesterday or tomorrow. Just now.

Now!

#uncharted waters

How many of us hesitate going into the cold water? Or rather jumping into it? It doesn’t matter whether it is at a wonderful Greek beach, or at the local swimming pool. We hesitate. Because we expect the water to be cold. At least I do. Kids too. Some brave ones however, just jump into the water. Without knowing how cold it might be. They simply skip this first part in their mind and jump directly into the more pleasant one.

That might not be the best metaphor for making decisions in life and going through each painful step to reach a goal, but it’s one I imagine always in front of me whenever I enter uncharted waters. How can I skip the first step.

And this moment, this everlasting moment of hesitation makes me feel permanently stuck in life, unable to shift gears. But what causes this hesitation? When we were around 20 we just jumped at the opportunities offered to us long the way. We were taking risks. Without thinking of the consequences. We kept embracing everything that popped up. At least that is how it seems now, or what we want to believe.

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What is different now, 20 years later, is that we have numerous responsibilities. Kids for starters, a mortgage, a shared life project with the husband. Our parents. There are higher stakes and entering uncharted waters feels riskier. So taking chances like applying for that exciting job, leaving a secure job environment for something new, or even starting your own business takes serious courage. And support from family and friends.

It is also about facing the fact that time (eh….life) is moving faster and faster – and the once so endless time to find and get opportunities is not so infinite anymore. It does however not help to put yourself in near-panic and profound fear of missing good, fun, exciting (because new) and mind-bending opportunities.

That is why I chose to make a plan – a step by step plan – setting my goals. Do some solid research on attainable goals. And most importantly finding out what I really want to set out to do. And maybe replace the hopping into the cold water analogy with a better one: Jumping fences. Starting low, not too high ones, but quite a few. It will take some time – but in the end I might not be afraid to aim higher. Because I will have gained the confidence by having started with small steps. And eventually, after several fences, I will have reached my set goals.   

*photo by Elias Carlsson

# a stroll in the park (of life)

Every now and then we get the chance to sneak out of every day routine. To call in sick and enjoy a day at home reading (though we don’t even have time for it any longer). Not going back to a meeting after having been to the ladies’ room. Then there are those rare occasions, like skipping a workshop ‘just’ to have a rare philosophical discussion with interesting and nice people instead. The feeling of taking a chance and not be where you are expected to be is exciting. Altogether choosing an unexpected approach to things – to a home project, destination for a holiday or a new job is refreshing.  It has even been said that it is good for development of the brain to divert from routine.

Life is short and so are the possibilities we’ve been given to do things different. Most people do not set out to live a routine life. Changing plans and going off the path can often give a feeling of being in the driver seat. And many people like that. And if you don’t want to spend your life thinking “what if”, you need to follow your heart. To listen to your gut feeling. To follow another path. If you can’t find one, make up one yourself. If you believe that nothing is predestined, then the future can be influenced by your own ability and guts to divert from the main roads and currents.

So why do we keep driving on the main roads? There are several reasons. The main road is often broad, it is safe, there are a lot of road signs and you know you will get to one of the bigger cities. So taking the main road is basically easier. People ask less questions. You ask yourself fewer questions. Because you know where they lead you. In some parts or periods of life taking the main road is actually the best thing to do. Think back when you decided your education or career. Were you truly aligned with your potential and strengths or did you enter that particular university or line of business just because lots of others were doing the same?  I didn’t. Everybody else was studying economics, law or psychology. I looked up at the ‘menu’ of the home university and stumbled upon a new subject called ‘computational linguistics’. This was so exotic and unknown to me, I had to choose it. I diverted from the main road. I took a different path.

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It is about recognising the chances of doing something fun, difficult, challenging, unorthodox, to sometimes do some things differently – or at least with a twist. That’s the exciting part of life. You never know where it leads you.

I remember learning that my grandfather – growing up in poor family,  was not allowed to continue school even though he got a scholarship – because he had to work to support his family. Throughout life he was careful with money – only towards the end of his life he realised that he should have travelled more and regretting not having done so. Jumping on life’s’ opportunities is not always as simple as it sounds. Some of us are fortunate to have real choices – we owe it to ourselves at least to consider them and know what we discard if we choose to stay on the mainroad throughout life. Sometimes when we’re given a chance we should take it and don’t think further. Don’t wait for any flash lights indicating you “here is your chance”. Look for chances. Take chances. Grab chances, or create them. Don’t wait for any of them to be offered to you on a silver tablet.

We need to keep our eyes and mind open to path changers and those unique moments of opportunities. This is what we should tell our kids (too). And show them that life is beautiful. And mostly like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re going to get. Nor what you’re going to do with it. But every change starts at the individual level. They start with you making a choice. Sit with your kids and watch (again) Life is Beautiful or Forrest Gump and  talk with them about embracing life and every different turn it offers.

#this is forty

Sometimes, more often than before, I have the feeling there’s more in life than this. This, as in what I have right now. There is of course a strong correlation between these type of thoughts and my age. Which by the way is forty (+2).The older I get the more I feel I have still many things to accomplish. Or, that I have to move on. Or rather move out. Out of my comfort zone that is.

And here I am paralysed by the thought to not become the creative person I’d like to be. I could be. And it scares the shit out of me that I have become my worst enemy. Hindering myself, getting in my way. I don’t know where to start, and am too impatient to elaborate my ideas. According to an article I read recently, this should be the perfect time to begin.

Some people might be tempted to label this a mid-life crisis. This is not the case: Honestly, it is not. It is about the urge to live a full life. To be able to squeeze the lemon until last drop of juice – even until there is not any more zest – so that you know for sure that you used all the chances (= juice drops) you were given well. And that you looked for – and found some of the even more hidden opportunities that lie under rocks.

So while trying to figure out what to do to add to the fulfillment of one’s life project frustration builds up. Energy that should have been spent on being innovative rather goes into managing the state of mind, along with the rest of everyday activities. And once frustration gets a hold, it is sometimes like an avalanche attack and a whole arsenal of things in life feels not-up to par. Then it is time to put both feet on the ground. Get some perspective – maybe by first zooming out and ask where are you in this big-big world? In this scheme called life.

Healthy – check. Married – check. Kids –check. Job – check. Roof-over-your-head – check. Ebola, Syria, poverty, water shortage and hurricanes – none of those threats are in your vicinity or imminent for you. So why the hell are you frustrated? Why am I frustrated? Cause I know I could do better. I could do more. Or simply, because I have everything else. Because I take things for granted. Because I have the luxury to think. Something that some several billion in this world don’t have. So, I’m spoiled.

And this is where I take a more close-up look at my everyday-life – the 5-year old stroking my hair and asking if I’m are alright, telling me “I love you mum”. I think of the really nice wine I enjoyed drinking last night, and the metro leaving on time. And here I take a deep breath. One that lets me get rid of stress and anxiety (and frustrations). One that lets me acknowledge the luck I have not to leave in fear, to be free, educated and and not to hunger. I take a deep breath and thank the universe for that.

After that deep breath it’s good to become creative at least in the kitchen. This adds to the psychological feeling of equilibrium.

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There is a recipe for Skillingsboller (‘Schilling’ Buns ) a typical Norwegian treat. Bake these buns. While waiting for the dough to grow you get some time to calm down in a slow way. A glass of red wine adds to that. After the buns are done – share them with someone you care for.

And it is only after getting into some sort of balance again you can start pondering again about how to extend your life project.

#impact assassination

Remember the times when you saw the potential in some projects you participated, or initiatives you saw being started. You imagined their potential impact and were so motivated that it made you feel good. Temporarily. All this, was before you came to realise that all the potential got drowned away by not allocating enough time and resources. By not paying enough attention. By not thinking it through, or worse, simply not going the extra mile.

Making an impact, going beyond the typical efforts, the ones to keep a status quo, is something we’re not used to do. As if we’ve been trained, thanks to a brilliant education system, to just work within our comfort zone. To not be creative. To not think outside boxes. At work for instance, often – or at least from time to time there are good ideas and projects that you know would move things forward. Given the right approach, leadership and effort. And some creative thinking. Very often however the result is mediocre.

But we can always find good aspects of the process – typically that we have learned a lot and became a bit wiser. And here, history repeats itself.. Result-wise it is more of a blur. Rather than moving forward it feels like you are constantly trapped in a circle. A vicious one. If you don’t make an extra effort, don’t go the extra mile, you’ll be stuck there forever.

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In the private sphere and at home there are projects too. And they are often derived from brilliant ideas on how to improve the practical infrastructure and logistics of our daily life. Building that shed in the garden. Re-arranging things, furniture. Changing some deeply rooted habits. Hanging those picture frames. Or, a bit of self-realisation like writing an unpretentious weekly blog post. Not to mention that lifelong project of writing a book..

The problem is – as it often is at work too – to keep a focus, and not get distracted by a whole range of things. The ones that get in our way and the ones we allow to get in our way. Optimism is good. Naivete is not really helpful. Allowing yourself to be naive makes you pay in the currency of disappointment and stress along the way.

So how to avoid the hiccups – while still setting some hairy but still reachable goals and managing to achieve them? How to leave your comfort zone? How do go the extra mile?

No easy answers. No silver bullets lined up. Other than getting your colleagues, boss, husband, kids – parents – friends – or whoever onboard – aligning your goals with the rest of the list of things that have to be done, every day and every week. Or simply getting them to encourage you come rain or come shine in your creative endeavours. All of this, irrespective of whether they, your dreams, projects, ideas are realistic or not.

 
Sometimes you just have to go against the tide. Or you change the direction of the stream. In any case, you have to follow your gut feeling every now and then. And work your ass off while doing so..