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Battle Wounds

There comes a time where you have to sit down to reflect on recent events and you realize that you did not resurface from your life adventures without battle wounds. This post is in honor of a dear friend of mine who lost her mother a few hours ago.

When I was a teen and even late into my 20s and 30s I felt invincible. Things were falling into place, obstacles were removable with the right amount of ambition and willpower, and all my goals somehow appeared within reach. Everything was a different shade of black and white, but never grey. Never really difficult. I married, had kids, landed a job, was promoted, ran a sub-4h marathon without really training hard, and could afford anything I wanted. There was not a lot I truly needed. And my desires were all met.

Then I reached a point where I thought that things are just not as simple and that life can become complex or grey. The first time I had to breathe a little harder was when my grandmother died. Suffering intensively from dementia induced by diabetes. I really felt I needed to turn a corner and change my way of life or better my health not to fall into the same trap every one of my family members seems to fall into — Die of heart attack or diabetes. So I went the low carb route, eliminated most grains and sugars. And have only occasional binge events — Chocolate is just my weakness.

The next time is when I noticed that I outgrew a friend. I just noticed that all her wishes, dreams, and ambitions from her 20s and 30s were all just talk and she did not follow through on any. I just could not support her anymore and be a friend when all our conversations focused on why things right now are bad and how she just needs to engage in this one thing to improve. And then she never puts in the effort required to actually get to her goals. Talking to her became a drain and so I stopped seeing her.

Then the hardest part of my growing up happened. People started disappearing. Role models died, promises were broken, and my support system was not as good as I thought. I needed to rely more on myself, needed to make my own decisions, develop my own thinking, and work on my own strength. I noticed that not everything is as simple as “putting your mind to it” and thus achievable. Sometimes hard work does not pay off. You all know how I feel about feminism and hitting the glass ceiling has become a reality for a lot of us woman. Something that in my 20s I would have not believed. I thought that personal aspiration would be sufficient to overcome any barrier. I thought of the glass ceiling as a fog more so than a true hard stop. I might still be right — the glass ceiling might still be just perception, but instead of fog it is most definitely a honey or mud. Something that requires a lot of work to get through.

Battle wounds occur when you encounter obstacles and a mark is left. When you get to a point and you look at all your scars and all those scrapes and you stop and think “Did I really experience all this?”

Our scars are making us who we are. They shape our perception and our opinion. They determine our next steps and how we want to plan our future. Sometimes they scare us. Not everything is worth reliving.

It took me a while to realize that me and my friends are going through battles with life and are all developing our own experiences and that right in front of us a story is forming that is worth writing a novel about.

As a teen you all are idealistic; an outlook that does not always change too much before you reach 30. And even then you are just simply dealing with progression. It is mostly steps forward. As you get older you occasionally have to step back.

I have friends who deal with unemployment, abuse, divorce, substance abuse, problems with kids, and parents dying. Things that are more than obstacles. Things you do not easily recover from. Things that leave deep marks. What do you do?

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Choices we make become more important. Despite all the marks, scars, battle wounds we received, we will have to emerge with strength and continue to learn and progress. We need to continue setting ambitious goals and to pursue our dreams. Sometimes it is more important later in life to allow ourselves to be challenged and actively work on defining a future than when we are teenagers.

Time slips away too easily. And when we realize that the fix points and constants in life are actually are also only temporary it is too late to turn back to pursue opportunities you did not prioritize before.

Why not sign up for a marathon or learn a new skill? Why not write the book you planned on writing when you were 20 but never found the time for?

Pick a new goal today to honor something you lost! Revive and old dream!

Learn how to fly, there is not need to restrain yourself.

 

1989 And Beyond

When I was 15 my favorite song became Ch… ch… ch… changes. It was not me that discovered David Bowie. It was my friend. But I fell for the song and then the singer and then the writer. I loved David Bowie songs. When I was 18 I remember slowing down my drive home whenever the song “Oh! You pretty things.” came on the cassette I was playing. I sometimes parked in front of the house till that song was finished.

I remembered crying to “Life on Mars”.

Two years ago when I talked about all my role models being gone, that was true. David Bowie was never a real, true role model. I never wanted to be like him. Being shrill and noticed and bright… I did and still do not sparkle. However, his death hit me hard. Showing me my own mortality. I immediately wanted to write and honor him the day he died. And then… I could not find word. No clever saying on Facebook, no blog post… I lost words. Today, I think I found something in me… so here it goes. 

The first time I saw David Bowie was in 2003. I was nearly double the age of when I first noticed his songs. I went to a concert. In Detroit. It was awesome. Like a long lost dream finally caught. And I only remember a few things… the way the people in front of me dressed like Bowie in the 80s. The way I was impressed by stupid stories and simply what I thought was authenticity. Why David Bowie liked standing with his leg stretched to the back… Because he once saw someone doing it with a broken leg and he thought it looked so cool.
That is how I personally built a lot of my habits… I saw someone doing something, it looked cool, so I have been doing it ever since…

How does it feel when your role models or the people that influenced you are gone. It feels very empty — for a neverending short moment that eventually does just that — it ends. I found new people I admire. A slightly different direction: Alice Scharzer, Gloria Steinem, Emma Watson, Elon Musk…  However, it is odd when you settled with a comfortable set of characters to chase and those people all over sudden are no longer sharing the Earth with you.

David Bowie’s death reminded me of me when I was young. How much I liked his music and how much I was different than him. And yet, we are so alike.

Throughout my life I discovered I was different and distinguishable from anybody else. My name is absolutely unique, there is only one with my name on this planet. I can say this with certainty. I am an atheist. I am a German married to a Jew. I studied on three different continents and received a degree from each. I have worked and lived on four different continents. I feel and live in two languages simultaneously. I can love people of each gender. I switched classes from “working poor” to “upper class”. I grew up on welfare and now earn six figures. I grew up in an second generation abusive family and escaped. I am a story.

The truth is out there.

All you need is courage to explore.

And to honor your childhood heroes.

Thanks, David, you do not know me…,but you influenced me and my life. And I turned out positive.

On Becoming a Target

Running is one of my passions. It keeps me active and sane. And I use it both as a means of sport and meditation. Whenever I have a chance to go out to run I do. Sometimes I think I simply sign up for marathons just so I have an excuse to run more often.

My big goal for 2016 was to join a running group. And then to run a marathon.

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I joined a feminist group instead.

Recently, I noticed that my runs no longer required just a time check “Do I have time to run, are the kids ok, will I still be able to support the evening meeting or make dinner?” and if the answer was yes I would be off and away.

While I was still living in the US often a check whether it was too snowy and icy would come in handy — I just did not want to break my feet when it was too slippery out. And sometimes if it was too dark, I could not justify to run either for the fear of stepping on a rock or tree branch and rolling my ankle as it happened 8 years ago. Where I lived there was no street lighting. I have just become careful and put safety over running carelessly. I bought a treadmill instead, so I could enjoy the occasional run even when outside did not look run-worthy.

I hate running on the treadmill. It is a little like canned soup and just a mere means to stay fit, but little enjoyment. This is why I left the treadmill in the US.

Lately, my checks have become a little different. I am checking the dress code: Am I covering my butt, am I modestly dressed, and do I have my phone with me. What time of the day is it, how long will I be away, where will I be running, and … I really should buy that pepper spray.

Since I moved to Germany there is hardly a run where no man makes a stupid comment. I have heard it all: comments on my butt, comments on my boobs, whistling, suggestive gestures, stupid comments on me being too slow or too fast, or the one or other guy trying to run next to me to amuse his friends… Once I had two men blocking the road and urging me to stop. I did not.

I learned that Friday afternoon and night is a “no go” for running. Too many early drunks or people in party mood. I learned to stay away from groups of twenty-somethings. I learned to leave the side walk when a group of men is not making any intent to let me pass even though they have obviously seen me. Or I have pretended to be partners with another male runner who happened to run close by until I passed a perceived danger zone.

I hurts to say it, but Germany in the Rhine region is not a safe place for a woman to be alone. And it does not even matter if it is dark or not, it really only matters who you run into. In the beginning I felt like I was developing a paranoid trait. I was worried I would start adapting racist traits or am becoming conservative at my ripe age. I have pondered every time after each small incident what I could have done better and how I could avoid any potential harmful situation… and I always wonder what happened in the last 15 years that this city that I did not feel unsafe in is now a place where I feel uncomfortable and unprotected when by myself.

I have not found any solution to avoid danger that does not impact my personal freedom negatively. Of course I could buy another treadmill. Of course I can buy pepper spray. Of course I can only run in groups. Of course I can continue to overdress…, but how sustainable is this in the long run?

I joined a feminist group, because it is now time to stand up. It is important to be open and honest about what is going on. It is time to actually state that it is not ok to touch when you are not invited to touch, that it is not ok to comment on my body, that I do not dress in tights to make you drool over my body, that I am absolutely not your toy when I go out by myself… And there is nothing that makes it ok to take my right away. Not your religion, not your education, not your upbringing, not your negative experience with another girlfriend, not the third or fourth bottle of beer that you just had… absolutely nothing!

And I do not want to be belittled by others with the arrogant looks “There is so much going on in this world, and you only think about your own issues? Feminism has come so far, let’s give it a rest.” I also do not want my experiences and feeling negated by male colleagues or friends “I do not think it is that bad, you must be imagining things, I never see women being attacked, you must misunderstand their actions and behavior”.

Yes, it is that bad. And denying that our efforts to emancipate and become more equal are going backwards, is not helping. It is time to look up, stand up, and fight for equal rights.

And maybe I will join this running group as a second goal in 2016. After all it can only make me safer if I actually run with other people.

And maybe a pepper spray is not such a bad idea either…

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Picture 1 — I run where I am not alone; luckily there are lots of runners and walkers out.

Picture 2 — My running route is in danger of flooding.

 

Sleeping is Underrated

I get it.

After a long day of work, coming home, making dinner, entertaining the kids and getting them to sleep, all you want to have is another hour or so in front the TV, reading a book, or do whatever else you might want to do.

One of my new year’s objective was to improve my sleeping pattern. And yes, I failed miserably so far. I work in a global company with often late hours and a long drive. Often I am not home before 8pm. And then my evening hours with family start. I have the best husband in the world, considering that he is doing his fair share of having us stay afloat be it cooking, cleaning, or making lunches. However, also he himself is often not home before 7pm. Our evening hours remain a challenge.

This means that frequently we find ourselves in front of the TV after we are done with all chores way past 9 or 10pm. And that is where we stay until we hop into bed, just to be woken up by the alarm 5 to 7h later.

After a few nights staying up past midnight, I can feel the lack of sleep and routine creeping up to my senses, deteriorating my patience, energy, and enthusiasm. This is a dangerous path just spiraling down towards more and more frustration and potentially conflicts with the people around me. A constant self inflicted mood displacement disorder caused by lack of sleep.

I need more sleep!

If not for me than for others. I owe it to the world and everyone’s well being.

So, here it is. I will target a 10:30pm bed time. No matter what.

Maybe not if the house is burning down.

Or if there is a bomb threat.

But otherwise I put myself on a strict bed time prescription. Let’s see how it goes.

 

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Get Out There And Fight!

One clever person once told me “It is not how you act when you are busy that differentiate you from the others. It is how you act when you are bored.” I would like to expand on that and further generalize. It is how you act when things are not going your way.

It is easy to stay on top of things and to work happily when things are exactly how you want them. However, what do you do when you find yourself down in the gutter?

You have essentially three options.

  • Lie there and cry
  • Get yourself up and continue walking
  • Cause a revolution

All three options are valid. None is wrong. I sometimes enjoy a good cry and a good whining session. Most often I just choose to get up and continue walking as this is a good means of not falling behind, ensuring you are making progress, ensuring you remain active, ensuring that you are not considered a loser. However, there are times when you need to not only get up, but when you need to outrun, outdance, or fight whatever led you down into the gutter in the first place.

Sometimes I choose to fight. When I do not have time to re-build from scratch, I just stand up and fight for what is important to me and my goals. Too often I hold back, because I want to be liked. The moment when you need change for yourself is not the time to aim for being liked. Respected yes. Liked not so much.

There are goals that may be personal, where I just want to ensure I am getting the opportunities I need to develop myself. Whether it is a new project and new lead role, anything that is more than a new day to day task. Sometimes it is where I just know that my strategy will drive better results for the company. And I see the errors in other’s thinking.

And you cannot win new territory without fighting. Stay emotionally sound in your arguments, treat others respectfully, use facts, use data, but please, just fight!

No marathon has ever been run without people questioning their mental health or pleading with their shins, calves, and knees to just survive a few more miles as they approach mile 22. Pain is part of the game.

Play it right!

And fight.

The Fear of Becoming Pretentious

This year I will start a new family tradition. I will call it “Un-Black Friday”. Instead of spending money on myself or family by participating in the insanity that is shopping, I will instead do something charitable.

Since I generally like animals. My daughter and I have collected money for an Animal Rescue and bought pet food. We are planning on driving to the shelter on Friday to drop all our donations off and hope to also see some of the animals.

I will not set foot into a store. And I will not spend money on goods I do not necessarily need.

I hate shopping in malls. I hate shopping in grocery stores. And I even more do not like shopping for clothes or electronics.

I like sleeping in. There is no way I will get up early to get a good deal on something. Not my thing. Sleep is too valuable.

For me resisting Black Friday is as easy as it can get. I am not American, so the consumerism is beyond me anyways. And generally, when I need or want something I buy it, independent from what day of the year it actually is.

However, since this year Thanksgiving will be celebrated in our house. The entire set of 12 people that my husband calls family will be staying at our house over the weekend. Naturally, I thought the “Un-Black Friday” idea would be very welcome and something new to do as a family. A new tradition. Each year someone can pick a charity and we do something for their cause.

My husband feels differently. He does not like to prescribe people what to do. He feels my suggestion is a little bit pretentious. Which might be true. Because I honestly want to set a precedence, purposefully avoiding what I think is insane “spending crazy amounts on money on stuff you do not really need”, And yes, I think if you really have disposable income, you should spend it where it really makes more sense. Since I really like spending money on myself. And I often spend it on stuff I neither need nor truly have a purpose for, my “Un-Black Friday” idea might sound hypocritical. So, I am somewhat pretentious here. And I am ok with that. One day of the year to refuse to participate in a spending frenzy.

Other people do their charity for Christmas. Since I am not religious and I am not really drawn towards most charitable efforts that are targeted towards other regions of the world, I feel I can do something different that is meaningful to me. I love community development, I love spreading and ensuring education and knowledge are available to all people, providing a home and food for people that are less fortunate in your region or city, and I think it is important to “waste less” — All targeted towards making your own home town more friendly, safe, educated, and beautiful. My emphasize might be that I am right now living in one of the less favorable areas of the US. Detroit is just not that popular. And right now it is insanely cold with the 15 degrees Fahrenheit mid November. There is a lot to do to make this region more desirable.

So, I will stick with my Un-Black Friday plans. If my family wants to do something different, they can. I am not prescriptive.

For as long as I can do what is important to me on this day off of mine. This is what I call success outside of work. It took me a long time that to understand that happiness is driven in both areas of life: work and personal life. This recognition must come with age.

Happy Thanks Giving!

Shrinking World

My world is shrinking. On oh so many levels.

Let’s take the fact that online news is micro-targeted.Whatever I klicked on in the past will be determining the future news feeds I will receive. Gone are the days where I searched through newspapers, reading all headlines, and browsing my local bookstore. I do not have time for that. So I think.

Like many others I am relying on online news feeds to provide me with updates. Yes, I have a Facebook account. Yes, I have other blog sites where I am finding my daily reads. Yes, I buy books at Amazon. So, I am confronted often with recommendations based on my previously selected material. Essentially, leading my knowledge building scope limited to what I am already intrigued by or interested in.

Learning something new thus requires me to purposefully get out of my way. It requires me to talk to the people around me. It requires me to actively seek out the unknown. It requires me to actively be aware of my comfort zone and work every day to move out of it just for a little bit to learn something a little different. To broaden my horizon. To avoid getting too comfortable with myself and my opinion.

Because as soon as opinion settles in and you get too comfortable with it, it will become a dogma. Something not easily overcome. If you read just to reconfirm an opinion you already have, you will not learn how to build new knowledge. You will not challenge yourself to rethink situations. You may even repeat mistakes.

My world is shrinking in other means, too. 

When I was young. I was a dedicated gymnast. And I brought gymnastics into every small aspect of my life. I would walk on my hands down the driveway when I got home after school. Or I would walk on my hands down the 3m diving board to do a head jump in. This usually got me a lot of recognition from my peers. I could climb trees reasonably fast, and often was the first one trying new climbing tricks on how to get from one tree to the other.  I was a little daring, a risk taker, and I usually was not too afraid.  

When I turned 17, I noticed that I no longer dared to walk on my hands on the diving board. The fear of what could happen kept me on my feet.

There was this one embarrassing moment when I just had turned 17 and my swim teacher asked: “Who can do a dive from the 3m board?” And of course I raised my hand. Climbed up the ladder… walked to the edge of the board and slowly climbed back down.

Last week I was on vacation.

Skiing.

Mind you I am not an avid skiier. This was just the second time in my life I ever even tried. I grew up poor, did not have any mountains near by, and just never could afford or find the time to ski. So, a few years ago the opportunity came up, and I skied.

Last week, I did not dare to go on the lift by myself, because I could not remember what to do to get off. This was not a particularly easy lift, but nevertheless, for someone who dared to jump from one tree to the other without preparation when she was 12 a small panic attack because of a “ski lift unknown” is pretty embarrassing.

My world and experience level is shrinking because of fear of height and speed. I am overthinking potential issues and accidents and I am holding myself back because of it. People fall victim to their own comfortableness all the time. They get too comfortable with who they are, what they think, what they know and how they do things. They forget to learn something new or to challenge themselves.  They forget to progress.

This made me realize one thing: I for sure do not want to stagnate and get comfortable. I want to be challenged and challenge myself.

From now on I will actively pursue the unknown and dare myself to do something I do not find comfortable or easy. I will challenge myself to something new as often as I can.

I refuse to let the world and opportunities shrink.

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