Stuck in the middle

Have you ever felt being stuck? To not be able to move forwards nor backwards.  Actually not be able to move at all. Not necessarily in the literal sense. But in any possible sense. Or direction.

How does it feel to be stuck? To feel like suffocating because you know where you want to be. What you want to be. With who you want to be with. Only you can’t. Because you’re stuck. God damn stuck. And worst of all, being aware that there’s nothing you can do to change the situation. The now. Cause if you do, all hell might break loose. Things will break. Feelings will be hurt. Nothing will be the same again. Ever.

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I’m stuck. I’m suffocating. I’m in a hopeless state in which I have navigated myself. Passively but knowingly. Thinking that at some moment I will get out. Find the right exit. The one that sets me free. The one that allows me to re-start again. Reshuffle my cards and start from scratch. But that is not really possible, is it? And if so, at what cost? And who bears the cost?

So I’m stuck in the middle of this life. My life. My self-built prison. With the knowing of where I would like to be. Who I would like to be. With. And I will not. Cause every step forwards, or backwards, or sidewards, will break things. Change the status quo. Will position me somewhere I’ve never been before. And I will have to learn to master an unknown situation. Will have to collect the damages. Collateral damages. Pay the price.

So I sip my drink and  wonder, all by myself. Is it worth it? Well, I know the answer. And while I smile to myself, I forget for a moment where I am. Stuck in a dream. A bad one.

Time to wake up.

 

(Image credits: http://basti-in-paris.blogspot.lu/2011/12/zugeparkt.html)

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#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.

#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

#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?

#the end is the beginning is (not) the end

If one door closes they say – another one opens for you. Not sure this is true all the time. Sometimes, the door that opens doesn’t look like one. It needs to become visible to us, it needs our open-mindedness to be seen. But the end of something usually implies the beginning of something else.

In most people’s lives-  friends, colleagues, habits and opportunities come and go. Sometimes it is sad and other times it is actually a relief. One puzzling question is what is the right balance between constants and changes? What is needed to rejuvenate our minds and brains and make us aware that we stood and lied for far too long in our comfort zone?

Do you rearrange your living-room just because you are bored? Do you get a new phone or even car because you would only like to be seen with the latest & greatest? Do you change your clothes constantly because you don’t want to wear the same thing again (and again)? Or do you take up a new hobby to get to learn new things and get new friends? Does change inevitably drain your energy or inspire you?

 

More life transitional changes – for example moving can take its toll on big and small family members.  But even if change can be difficult – it sometimes just needs to take place – and could often also be turned into a positive experience. Saying goodbye to your friends at school is not easy – and slipping comfortably into a new social group is equally challenging. As a parent it is important to let your children air any frustration and being the grown-up; try to highlight the upsides of the situation even if that is not always the most easy thing to do. Old friends can be visited – or come visit you. Improving one’s “getting-new-friends-skills” is also good. Those advices are valid for us adults too.

Changing jobs – especially in your forties – is a situation where it is beneficial that someone points out the upsides. At that age your acquired experience should manifest itself into some great creative task-solving, project leading or whatever ones line of business is. It is time to harvest. It’s time to shine. You have to show yourself – not only as someone with potential to rise to any needed occasion like in your twenties and thirties – but someone one expects to do the job. We both love Clay Christiansen’s hiring milkshakes example about understanding the job-to-be-done. Do we understand  the ‘job’? It is very easy to doubt one self. But change demands you to find the edge. And very often it is worthwhile – and you land on your feet. The process resembles the first time you open the maths book at the start of the semester; you cannot believe that you will understand what all the pages say. But after a few months you will. With ease.

Equilibrium can be truly hard to find. New experiences, new people often provide personal development. At the same time – it is sometimes good to hold on to things that are of value. Could it even be an aim to find comfort in your set ways. Strive to appreciate what you have at the moment and what you have achieved.

Some type of change is inevitable. Embrace it. If possible try to leave the old, the bad and the ugly stuff behind. But make sure to keep the good parts.  Maybe some spare ones too. You never know when you might need them..

#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.

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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.

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*= 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.