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Wear the fancy lingerie

28 Jul

This article is part of the series “31 blogs in 31 days” during July 2017 on howtofab.com.

A few years ago, I stumbled across an article called “45 Life Lessons written by a 90 year old Woman” – the author apparently is Regina Brett, and apparently she wasn’t 90 but about to turn 45 and had just been diagnosed with breast cancer when she wrote that list. If any of this is true, I have no idea, but I continue to love this list and I do read it at least twice a year and every time different points resonate with me more than others.

Enjoy:

1. Life isn’t fair, but it’s still good.

2. When in doubt, just take the next small step.

3. Life is too short to waste time hating anyone.

4. Don’t take yourself so seriously. No one else does.

5. Pay off your credit cards every month.

6. You don’t have to win every argument. Agree to disagree.

7. Cry with someone. It’s more healing than crying alone.

8. Save for retirement, starting with your first paycheck.

9. When it comes to chocolate, resistance is futile.

10. Make peace with your past so it won’t screw up the present.

11. It’s OK to let your children see you cry.

12. Don’t compare your life to others’. You have no idea what their journey is all about.

13. If a relationship has to be a secret, you shouldn’t be in it.

14. Life is too short for long pity parties. Get busy living, or get busy dying.

15. You can get through anything if you stay put in today.

16. A writer writes. If you want to be a writer, write.

17. It’s never too late to have a happy childhood. But the second one is up to you and no one else.

18. When it comes to going after what you love in life, don’t take no for an answer.

19. Burn the candles; use the nice sheets; wear the fancy lingerie. Don’t save it for a special occasion. Today is special.

20. Overprepare, then go with the flow.

21. Be eccentric now. Don’t wait for old age to wear purple.

22. The most important sex organ is the brain.

23. No one is in charge of your happiness except you.

24. Frame every so-called disaster with these words: “In five years, will this matter?”

25. Forgive everyone and everything.

26. What other people think of you is none of your business.

27. Time heals almost everything. Give time time.

28. However good or bad a situation is, it will change.

29. Your job won’t take care of you when you are sick. Your friends will. Stay in touch.

30. Believe in miracles.

31. Whatever doesn’t kill you really does make you stronger.

32. Growing old beats the alternative — dying young.

33. Your children get only one childhood. Make it memorable.

34. Get outside every day. Miracles are waiting everywhere.

35. If we all threw our problems in a pile and saw everyone else’s, we’d grab ours back.

36. Don’t audit life. Show up and make the most of it now.

37. Get rid of anything that isn’t useful, beautiful or joyful.

38. All that truly matters in the end is that you loved.

39. Envy is a waste of time. You already have all you need.

40. The best is yet to come.

41. No matter how you feel, get up, dress up, and show up.

42. Take a deep breath. It calms the mind.

43. If you don’t ask, you don’t get.

44. Yield.

45. Life isn’t tied with a bow, but it’s still a gift.

Picture: ktphotography via Pixabay / CC0

Continuity – lessons from my 10-year old self

27 Jul

This article is part of the series “31 blogs in 31 days” during July 2017 on howtofab.com.

While I am currently travelling to my hometown to spend a few days with my mum, I keep thinking of a quote that I have known for a while and that has re-visited me at least three time in totally different contexts during the last 10 days. This one was a tweet by Alain de Botton from 24 July:

The most satisfying adult careers have a habit of drawing on enthusiasms and character traits already present in us aged 10.”

I’d say that’s pretty spot on for me. Thinking about myself at that age, I would agree that I have not changed that much. Much of what made me happy back then continues to put a smile and a laugh on my face today, much of what filled me with horror and fear still holds that very same power over me. I was already pretty confident, already a “generalist” with many ok-level talents across a wide range of physical and creative hobbies, I loved talking and making others laugh, in group settings I was often a leader (I was definitely a lot bossier then compared to now) and I got pretty impatient when people weren’t doing as I wanted them to, I loved being on stage, I loved spending time by myself writing and reading and balancing that with spending time with friends and family, I never really broke any rules, I loved coming home after a vacation, I had a very strong interest in languages and words and I could easily remember pages on end by heart, people’s opinions mattered a lot to me, I was not at all fussed about getting bad grades for something I was not interested in, I could be very happy for other people’s successes and the future was exciting.

I recently drew up a list of things, character traits, values, environments, activities etc. that are important to me, in order to find something new, something that I may have ignored in my current professional re-shuffle – and it struck me just how similar that list was to what I would have penned down (if I had had that perspective) at age 10. I have been pretty consistent with myself. Knowing that I had many of my idiosyncrasies already 26 years ago actually is a calming thought. Certain things really seem to be hardwired into my core and it would be extremely hard, if at all possible, to re-programme them. So why bother? Looking at the quality and the continuity of the overall spectrum of my skills and values, I don’t actually want to change much. Of course I still drive myself and others crazy, but hey, at least I am driving everybody crazy with the same old stuff! Just get used to it!

10 year-old Fabienne wouldn’t have the faintest idea of “management” and “leadership” when dressed up in business lingo (same goes for 20 year old Fabienne actually), but after putting my professional life and development into kids- / Fabienne-friendly language, I think she would give me the thumbs up. She would be happy to see me living such an international lifestyle, being in charge, working with interesting people, making sure things are being done properly, bouncing around on stage every now and then, making people laugh, care and understand…and most definitely, writing this blog. I was 10 when I started writing a diary, poems and plays. Writing has always been a great facilitator of my thinking, it has calmed me down and got me excited. It’s been a constant life companion. My biographers will have a very easy job. And yes, 10-year old Fabienne would be totally cool with fame and fortune.

So was there anything I did or enjoyed at the age of 10 that I have not catered for in a while? I am sure I will have the answer for that when I return to Berlin in 6 days time.

Picture: Pixabay CC0

Upholder, Obliger, Questioner or Rebel – how do you respond to expectations?

19 Jul

This article is part of the series “31 blogs in 31 days” during July 2017 on howtofab.com.

As mentioned before, I am a big fan of Gretchen Rubin – author of all things happiness, habits and human nature.

Her most recent study project is around the question “how do you respond to outer and inner expectations?” and to that effect she has developed a framework and free quiz for anybody to check which category they fall into. The framework only deals with this particular question and while the answer to this question usually has wider implications, it’s not meant to capture somebody’s entire personality. It’s not meant to be as broad as, for example, the Myers-Briggs test. But it can be very helpful in understand yourself, and others, better.

Rubin’s 4 tendencies are:

Four Tendencies Gretchen Rubin

The interesting part starts once you find out which tendency you (or somebody else) have/has and what to do with it. Here are some examples:

For Obligers (the biggest category), who struggle with meeting inner expectations, the aspect of External Accountability is an important one as they respond very well to that. External accountability externalises an inner expectation to the point where it becomes easier to meet. They hate letting people down, and by that, they are putting a lot of pressure onto themselves. They will prioritise other peoples’ needs over their own. It’s more “what do I have to do today” rather than “what do I want to do today”.

With Upholders, who meet both inner and outer expectations (gold star!), it’s important to understand that they can be quite inflexible and impatient with others, especially with those who don’t easily meet deadlines etc. They can be quite risk-averse or too driven to meet a goal. This can cause quite a bit of stress. Although they might not need them as a means for motivation, they love following rules and they will look for rules everywhere. If you want to get something done, ask an Upholder to do it!

To get a Rebel to do something, it’s best to not insist. Once they are told to do something, they resist or they often then want to do the exact opposite. They do what they want to do at all times and are hence motivated by their inner desire in a particular moment. They love disruption and they are usually well in touch with what they want. So it’s best to tap into that and let them find their own motivation to do something – or suggest to them to do the opposite of what you want them to do!

Questioners (my category) need to find an inner motivation, they need to be convinced something makes sense to them, before doing anything. Whether or not other people expect something from them is a lot less important than their own inner drive. If they feel there is a reason behind something, they will consider and do it. Questioners can find it hard letting go of something once it’s become routine. They may ask more questions than other people, but as a way to understand, not as hidden criticism.

This is just s short insight into this fascinating topic. Her book on that subject (“The Four Tendencies”) is coming out soon.

Picture: Stokpic via Pexels / CC0

36 and all is good

19 May

I have always had a weird fascination, obsession and relationship with my birthdays. As a child, I was known to throw Hollywood-like tantrums and turn myself into a total a**hole on my special day (there once even was a bloody nose). As an adult, I have become more and more drawn to reviewing “my life to date”, checking in with my 30, 31, 32… old self. Today is the eve of my 36th birthday and I am again doing the same thing. It really is my actual New Years Eve.

I started 2017 with the ambition to make it my Year of Happiness. And I have to say I am in a very good place right now. Almost every aspect of my life today is different from what it was a year ago – I have made some important changes and so far they have all turned out to be good’uns. Some of them were absolutely overdue, but it obviously took me to turn 35 to realise that some things weren’t quite right.

36, to me, is a fabulous age. Professionally and personally speaking it’s a wonderful time. Still young but not quite old yet. Experienced but still fresh. And very different from what I thought, as a younger person, 36 would be like.

When my mum turned 36, I was about to turn 7 and my brother 13, a teenager! My parents were full-on adults, with a big house, life insurances, grown-up clothes, liqueur, attitudes and behaviour and things pretty much set in their ways. At least that’s what it seemed like to me. Of course there was still a big gap between them and my grand parents, but I knew what adult meant.

Now I am about to turn 36 and my concept of what being an adult means has changed a lot. Some things are a lot easier, more accessible, more possible, more casual, more light-hearted and definitely more fun! I love my independence, I am enormously happy about not having debt hanging over me – not something I would have ever imagined as an indicator of happiness. I have been very fortunate to chose and enjoy a pretty international, versatile and interesting lifestyle and career so far. And if I wanted to, there would be even more party in my life. Friends have become my extended family and that feels awesome.

But then, there are also things that are so much harder, so much more complicated than I would have ever imagined. I am not only speaking for myself here, but also for others. Being an over-30 single, against your will, while everybody else is getting married, can be super tough. Sickening even. Being an over-30 childless person, against your will, while everybody else is having children, can suck the life out of you. Can hurt so much. Can turn you into a monster you never wanted to become. Can even make you hate your dearest friends. While theoretically and statistically both (love and babies) can happen very suddenly, this can be nasty territory. And I would have never ever imagined for it to be like that.

Then there is work and the never-ending quest of your true self. Of the unfolding of all the potential qualities that lie within your heart, soul and your ability to turn them into a meaningful CV. If anybody had told me how unnerving it can be to constantly having to review my professional self, I would have become a butcher. Seriously. As much as I love being a multi-skilled and versatile flamingo-dragon-lion-owl, I sometimes just want to be a mouse. So I know that my enemy looks like a cat and that my friend is a fur ball. No more questions asked.

Then there is family…. Again, as a child, I knew things weren’t always perfect in the parents-grandparents matrix, but I had no idea just how complex this multi-generational game is. Just as we think we are leaving some worries behind and are entering the carefree adult zone, we start actively worrying about our parents. Their health, their happiness and sometimes even their finances. Suddenly there are all these rules, expectations and sometimes even reproaches and the people who once were our rocks and our safety nets become fragile and expect us to suddenly become their rocks and nets. And if we happen to have children of our own, this adds a whole new level of madness. What happened to those sunny afternoons with coffee, lemonade and strawberry cake?

Then there is us with ourselves. I am pretty cool with myself but I am nowhere as “finished” as I thought I would be at this age. That’s probably not a bad thing but it’s a bit surprising. There are definitely some routines and hard-wired quirks that won’t change much anymore but I have to admit that I constantly keep surprising myself. There are things I am suddenly capable of that I was too scared off only last year and things I stop being capable of that were second nature just last week. I think I like this mix of solid & flexible – there are days when I am happy about having a strong foundation and 35 years of experience under my belt that make for a solid framework I can rely on and there are days when I am happy about being flexible enough (yes, also physically speaking, thank you very much and yes I do Yoga regularly!) to keep changing, adapting, improving where I want to and to develop new interests, skills and discover new worlds. And who knows, perhaps one day I will be able to do my hair properly, to be able to walk without getting lost all the time, to put on fake eye-lashes and to save some money. There are still a few years for all that….

6 years ago, “30 rocks” was definitely right. Today I happily shout: “36 rules”!

Picture credit: Pixabay via pexels.com

Shakespeare, Goethe, Riener

27 Oct

Here I am. Sitting in the lovely Munich flat of a good friend, who has kindly offered me to stay for a few days. I came here for a work trip but decided to extend it by a couple of days to spend Day 1 (today) sight seeing, relaxing and Day 2 (tomorrow) with my family in nearby Nuremberg. I had a feeling I might want to write something, but not really sure.

What I had not foreseen when I was planning this trip was how vital this extra time would be. That I was heading full speed towards a crisis and without some down time and some soul cleansing, I would have soon ended up at the therapist. I might still go there, not sure yet.

A few months ago, see here, I discovered that I am a melancholic. To some that might not sound like something radical in itself, for me that was  profound and liberating and it has given me access to ‘my other half’ again, after more than 10 years. What do I mean with that? One side of me is rather extrovert, I am a stage hag, I like public speaking, karaoke and being the center of attention. But, there is also a much quieter, introvert part of me that likes withdrawal and reflection – and writing. Between the age of 9 and 20, I have found extreme pleasure through the pain of going deep into the underbelly of my emotional make up and dig around in my messy inner closet. Locking myself away and finding words to release them all were some of the most cathartic and spiritual moments I have gone through, and I would usually feel my soul and heart ‘cleansed’ afterwards. As a teenager I regularly took myself away from the huzzle and buzzle of party-life and spent nights on end writing away and crying my soul out. Some of these tears were sad tears but most of them were simply cleansing tears. And they served me very well.

I don’t know when and why it stopped but for the past 10 years, I had not written a single poetic word. Until last night. After a very intense 3 day conference, I decided to go and see Michael Haneke’s ‘Amour’. I knew it would be sad and powerful, but I had no idea with how much force it would rip me open inside and what floods would follow. Why was this suddenly happening? I knew that I had recently become a very frustrated, angry, tense, withdrawn and unhappy person. But I had not really spent any time thinking about why. I had tried to understand what made me feel so overwhelmed, uninspired, sad. Job, Life, take your pick, it was pretty much everything. As with everything in life, there are two sides to every story and I was constantly on the ‘not so shiny’ side of everything. And I knew that. But I had not gone that important next step further to ask why I was feeling that way. And as it occurred to me around 2am last night, there was nothing bad happening in my life at all. I was simply not allowing myself to see things for what they were. Because I was carrying all these mixed, raw, unprocessed and explosive emotions around with me, and everything that happened on top only added to that load and I could not get my head above it anymore.

But last night, the introvert, melancholic side of me decided it was too much. It literally slammed a hammer over my head, forced me to sit down and first of all read. The folder with all my written stuff had been sitting on my computer forever, but I had never looked at it. Then, last night I started reading and I can not express how that made me feel. I had forgotten the vast majority of my ‘early works’, and I was astonished to see that at the age of 15 I was feeling exactly how I was feeling now. Every word was a slap in the face. It was like looking into a very strange mirror. And I also started to remember how I used to feel afterwards. After all the words had been written. Then something very deep inside my belly started to rear and I decided to write again. For hours. All of a sudden, hundreds of words came pouring out of me, and after the first wave was over I sat still and literally went  ‘What the Fuck?!’. And then it occurred to me that I had not done this in 10 years, that I had not looked after and nurtured this huge part of my personality in a very long time.

And boy, do things look different today. I am much calmer, much more relaxed, at ease with myself. And ready to face the day again. And I feel much more like myself. It doesn’t actually matter what I wrote down – I will probably not even read these words again for a long time. It’s purely the process of writing that counts.

Why is this happening now? I am pretty sure that to some extent it is another step in the process of familiarizing myself with Germany and my German self again. After 3 days of hard core German conferencing, I realized that there was a mature German voice becoming louder and louder inside of me. A professional voice that for the past 7 years had only been speaking English. And being a language-kind-of-person, that of course made me wonder and I guess it touched on something deeper.

Then, I also managed to bump into a couple of people recently who 10-and-more years ago used to play a big role in my life, and I am sure that those encounters added to the urge to pull myself back into my old self again.

So there. The things that really got me down until yesterday haven’t changed. But I have cleaned out my internal closet, and made some space again. And that space is helping me getting some perspective and seeing things for what they are and myself for who I am and who I have become. And in a way it’s through the work of the introvert Fab that the extrovert Fab can have the fun that she is so good at having. God that’s cheesy. Give me some wine, anybody!

UNCG – It was getting hot back then…

14 Aug

10 years ago in August 2002, something wonderful happened: UNCG, the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.

Up until that point I had been living a fairly sheltered life in the beautiful old city of Speyer in the heart of Germany’s finest wine region. I was a blonde 21 year old student of English & American Studies and I was about to embark on a 5 months study abroad programme at UNCG in North Carolina. Little did I know that these 5 months would turn into 10 and that their effect on my future life would be so profound. I had been to the US many times before and I had seen enough campus based college comedies in my life to know exactly what to expect. There would be hundreds of hunky Baseball, American Football and Basketball players and me, the sophisticated yet fun-loving European, the ONLY European, who would dazzle them all with her humour, esprit and flat tummy.

What I had not expected was the fact that I was not the only foreign student and that Greensboro did not even have a Baseball pitch, never mind a team. Less than 24 hours after my arrival, I found myself in our local Campus Bar reassuringly called Group Therapy and amongst people from South America, Australia, the UK, France, Italy, Sweden and Canada. Not a single American in sight. And although I had considered my English skills as perfectly fine, I was completely dumbfounded and literally turned speechless by the conversations I was suddenly in the middle of. It was all sex and alcohol, and alcohol and sex. Damn you Shakespeare and Melville I thought. Not much use to me now, are thou?!

And although that night had me speechless, it also had me intrigued. I was right in the middle of  a global gathering of 20 somethings who all turned out to be mighty fine and fun people. I quickly made friends with most of them and what followed from that night were months of careless, frivolous and pretty drunken times. I completely lost myself in the spirit of the moment and I was fully aware of it happening. And I was happy. I knew it back then and even 10 years later I have to say that these months were the happiest of my life. Everything suddenly clicked into place and I would have happily sold what was left of my soul to remain in this state of utter bliss and carefreeness.

What had the biggest impact on me was the feeling of being part of ‘The World’. There was one particular moment during one of many Road Trips, when 5 girls from 4 different continents were singing along to the same song, that had me almost explode with joy. We had all grown up thousands of miles from each other, but we were together in this tiny car sharing said moment in complete unity. Suddenly the world became such a small place with a huge smile on its face and I knew that I would never want to go back to the small life I was living beforehand.

Over those 10 months I also learned a great deal and very much expanded my horizon: From 1000 ways to drink Tequila, to 1000 ways to say ‘I am drunk’ (English really is a wonderful language!); from the concepts of ‘Grinding’ to ‘Snowballing’ and ‘Teabagging’ (don’t look it up….and if you do, rest assured that I was only introduced to those activities in theory. Nobody dared to actually expose me to these things in real life!). I found out that Karaoke would be my new favourite hobby and that mixing and drinking Vodka and Baileys in a 500ml cup is not such a good idea. I had parties in elevators. I found out that I could easily down a pitcher of beer but found it much harder to down a bottle of red wine through a beer bong (what a surprise). I discovered the American Seaside (oh joy!) and the genius concept that is IHOP (International House of Pancakes). I got burnt more severely than ever before and nearly froze to death during Halloween. I also had my heart broken and nearly committed murder that night. I took part in the first memorial service of 9/11. I watched the invasion of Iraq on American TV. I was bullied for being German (for fun and for real). I went to my first (and last) foam party where I also danced in a cage as part of a HipHop music video. I had some of the dodgiest moments of my life in Texas. I discovered country music and bowling. I managed to watch hours of endless Hockey Games without a slither of an idea what it was all about. I went on a fake Valentines Date, including fake proposal and everything. Oh and I did not give a damn / toss / monkey’s ass about studying and still managed to get a GPA that got me onto the Dean’s List!!!

My body is literally tingling from all these fine memories and whenever I hear certain songs from that time, I still choke up. If I had one wish, I would turn back the time and would go back to the moment when I first set foot to I-House, to live those months again. It sometimes pains me that I can not go back to that moment, the bitter curse of sweet memories. There are some things I would do differently a second time around, of course. And there are still some lose ends, which will probably always stay lose. But I count myself very lucky to have had this time, to have met all these people and to still have some of them in my life now.

I would be a very different person if it had not been for this year at UNCG. With a much healthier liver for sure, but with a much less fun-loving and curious mind.

And for this I am forever grateful.

Happy first blogday to me!

8 May

It’s May. It’s 2012. That means I have been in the blogging business for 1 year. The moment I thought about starting a blog was exactly 1 year ago during a run through Heaton Park on a lovely warm evening. I came back and within 1 hour I was all set up and ready to push PUBLISH (thanks to my lovely flatmate who assured me I probably wouldn’t have to face any legal claims) . I have really enjoyed this year blog-wise and What A Year It Has Been! Live-covering my very own Life Events has not only been great fun, but also absolutely necessary for Mental Health & Safety. There is not a chance in hell I would have been able to predict what 2012 had in store for me and looking back at everything now is actually quite exhausting. Of course there were a number of developments and occurrences that I wasn’t able to report on at the time, and still can’t, but overall it was great to be able to get certain things off my chest, through my finger tips, as it gave me perspective, time and space to think and reflect and every now and then I seem to have said something useful for other people. So, thank you for all the kind words of support throughout this undeniably self-centric process.

Looking back at my first blog actually makes me smile. So much was new then, which now is so old. Sooo 2011! The informed reader will know that the word NEW was lifted to a new level in the past 6 months – oh, how little did I know back then?! – and that I am actually starting to get real sick of ‘new’. Now it’s about ‘Old’. What has left the biggest impression on me recently were encounters with my old self, through simply being in Germany again, through reading old things I used to write, through spending just enough time on my own to go slightly mental (like I have done many, many times before) and through spending time with my family and old friends. I am actually just about, well in a month’s time, to visit Newcastle. ‘Visit’, not as in ‘coming back home’. I am really looking forward to it, but I am also quite scared. There is a good chance I will simply sob for the entire 40 hours I will be there. There is a good chance I w0n’t leave without at least a medium size heart break. I thought 6 months would be a good time, but right now I am feeling quite fragile and knowing Newcastle and its unpredictable temperament, anything is possible.

Fragile? Yes, fragile. As I am settling into the new übercool lifestyle that is Berlin, I am alo realising the stark reality of not having enough friends around me to counter balance a life dominated by work. The problem is not the job, but the lack of balance with other things which is starting to grind on me. I am even contemplating returning from my 12 year old Volleyball retirement. I must be mad. Especially since gravity found me on my 25th birthday and what was an easy jump 12 years ago is now a major physical challenge that will most likely end in tears (for me) and laughter (for everybody else). One thing that has crept up inside my head, and I am sure it’s a result of the amount of traveling I have recently done and a particular strange encounter with an air hostess, is the need for something deeper, more substantial than say, Cocktails or Beyonce lyrics. I am in the middle of reading various books and materials on Philosophy, Ayurveda and Buddhism. And I am thinking about spending my recently acquired flight voucher on a retreat somewhere nice. Possibly a little bit spiritual even.

Where 8 My 2011 was all about the buzz, the unknown, energy & change, 8 May 2012 is about mental and physical grounding, need for stability and substance. I won’t go as far as ‘meaning’ or ‘purpose’ of life – I am seriously not clever enough to understand any of that and I have no desire of building a church around me….Although, Church of Fabbism… and you could all go down in history as the Fabsters. Wouldn’t that be neat? No, it wouldn’t. Shut up and go to work now! Ok…..