Over to You

18 Oct

The journey has begun. 2 months ago, I started my Psychotherapy course and have loved every minute of it. Registering for it, and buying a tumble dryer, have been the 2 best decisions in 2013 – hands down. Part of it has to do with what I am learning, the actual subject matter, the people on my course and the lecturers, but it’s also due to the fact that I am simply doing something I enjoy. A lot of people have been (and still are) asking whether I am not overloading myself with work. After all I ‘have to’ go to this course two evenings every single week and one weekend every month. It’s a lot – no doubt – but these evenings have actually been some of the highlights of the past 2 months. Because I enjoy the course so much, it really does not feel like work. It feels like a present I am giving to myself every week.

Over 2 years ago, I wrote a blog post about Treats – the importance of indulgence and being nice to yourself every now and then. As a little treat trip down memory lane, I just re-read that post and am totally bemused that back in 2011 I did a test that told me I should be a Psychologist which at the time I found k-razy. What a difference 2 years make.

So, in a way this course is just another treat. There is of course the potential and the plan of this leading to something much larger than simply ‘enjoying the moment’, but the importance is: I am doing something that makes me happy. Sounds so simple. Yet, so many people I speak to do nothing in their lives that makes them happy outside or inside the ‘stuff you simply do’. Yes, we all have to work and the fun factor at work is not always particularly high. But whether or not work (or anything else) makes us happy is our decision, responsibility and doing. Work does not make us happy. The only instance that can make you happy is yourself. The same goes for stress. Nothing makes you stressed. It’s your reaction to a situation, your perceived imbalance between what is required and what resources you have to deal with that situation that makes you stressed. It is up to you. The bad and the good.

I find that thought motivating. It means I have responsibility and can’t rely on other things and people to make me happy, but it also means that I have freedom. Yes, dear Devil’s Advocate, we can not all run around and do whatever we feel like doing. But the area for movement and choice is much larger than we often think. Love it, change it or leave it. It’s actually that simple. Of course, the process of finding out what makes us happy can be a scary one, especially when we have forgotten what makes us happy. Or we are faced with the reality that a lot of stuff in our life actually does not make us happy and we should maybe change something. Change can be scary. Not to mention leaving something or someone. Change can be tough. But if it is the right thing to do, it’s the right thing to do. And most people (and official surveys) will agree that people usually regret the things they did not do, not the things they did.

But the good news is that while you are ultimately responsible for your decisions, you don’t have to go through the process alone. That’s where other people can be of great help. People who listen, who care, who can give a different perspective, who can ask questions, challenge some ideas, encourage. Coaches are good for that. Or friends. A good friend and a glass of wine and a piece of chocolate cake on a comfortable sofa listening to some good music after you have had a massage and just before you have decided to take tomorrow off.  Could be worse. Over to you.

Confession time

20 Jul

I have just spent 10 days with my family – 10 wonderful, sunny days with people who I share varying degrees of DNA with. Wonderful to see the never-ending curiosity and outbursts of uncontrolled emotions (good and bad) from my 4 year old nephew and very humbling to see my 93 year old great aunt preparing her move into a retirement home in 2015 with an admirable sense of acceptance and matter-of-factness. What an array of human experiences and emotions. And there is me right in the middle of everything, soaking it all up like a sponge. I can not help it: I can not shield myself from emotions that are around me, I can not help but become part of the non-verbal and verbal atmosphere that I am in. But I am extra sensitive to the subject of “The Human” right now as I am literally inhaling books about psychology, psychotherapy and philosophy and I am reconfirming every day my inkling that there is nothing more wonderful than the human being.

In 31 days, I will start my 2 year training as Psychotherapeutic Counsellor, and for my preparation I have been given a number of books by a “Psycho Friend” (he is a Psychological Psychotherapist, not Hannibal Lecter). My brain is working in absolute overdrive mode at the moment. I am so excited about starting this course, about starting the journey where I can dedicate all my energies to helping people deal with themselves and with the world they live in. My body is literally tingling thinking about the practice that I will hopefully have in a few years’ time, where I can offer people a safe haven, a place and space to think and express themselves without the fear of being judged or cut short. Enabling others to be truly honest with themselves, to face their demons, to speak out loud all the words that have built up over the years, to give way to fears, frustrations, hopes and dreams and to give people courage, strength and the ability to love themselves and others – that is what I am hoping to do.

(To all my colleagues: For now, I also still want to keep working in a business context and develop my own management & leadership skills. There is still a lot to do. But in the long-term, I can definitely see myself as a consultant working with businesses from the outset, not as part of the operational structure anymore, working with decision makers on making their companies better places.)

I am in this blissful and naive stage where all this is a picture-perfect image in my head. I am aware of some of the common, simple, complex, boring and mundane quarrels of actually working as a Psychotherapist. But every job has its price and I am more than willing to pay it, as it feels much more than just a job. I have never really had a job where I could say I AM this or that… for some reason I always chose to say that I work FOR… or I DO this… but identifying myself with my job title has never really worked, but this time, I really want to BE this person, this guide, this critical but friendly companion that helps others being better at being themselves.

I am also yet to find the direction I will specialise in: Psychoanalysis, Behavioural Therapy… whether I want to work in Group or Individual settings, maybe both. Right now, I am simply fascinated by all the options and I am cherishing every moment of thinking that the world of therapy is still my oyster – as I know there will be a time when reality will bring me back to earth, where I will have to face my own fears and limitations, where I might even think that this was the worst idea I ever had. But I want to push this moment as far into the future as I possibly can.

Maybe I will become an icon in the field of Self-Therapy – I mean, this is what I am doing with this blog, right?! Giving myself an open and (almost completely) honest space to think, reflect and find words for ‘this stuff that’s in my head and heart’. I am my own patient and therapist whenever I log onto my WordPress Account. And I can honestly say that this incredibly indulgent and self-centric exercise does wonders. It calms the inner noise, it helps vent frustrations, it opens up spaces I didn’t even know existed. It’s like my virtual therapy couch. With an audience. How to Fab might one day become a ‘site of general psychological interest’  – Freud had to start somewhere, right?!

Now then, what is this ridiculous reoccurring tendency for narcissism telling us….?

Panta Rhei

4 Jun

Just like my good friend Bjork sang a few years ago: ‘It’s oh so quiet…It’s oh so still’, I am going through a lovely peaceful phase of ‘togetherness’. It feels very soft and has a nice real and clear touch to it. Excuse the expression, but I seem to be much more content and capable of being ‘in the moment’, rather than always feeling drawn to something else, a different place or a different state of mind. I think this is a combination of actually being in the same place (Berlin) more often than I have been in the past, of sleeping like a unicorn every night, of not drinking too much coffee, of having made my peace with running (as in, I do it whenever the f*** I want, which realistically is like once in a blue moon, not more and not less often, thank you very much Runkeeper) and of having re-found other things that re-balance me.

While I love getting lost in the slowness of things, I am fully aware of this state not being one of a standstill. As such is a mere illusion. Things never stand still. Everything flows (or Panta Rhei as my other pal Heraclitus used to say). My work life might feel a lot saner these days, but the madness is still happening. The moment you have finished a budget, things are already different to when you started and you need to reallocate and come up with new budget lines. You come out of a meeting and you have an inbox full of developments. You think you had a quiet few days and then you hear that your niece has started school, lost a tooth and has grown about 10 inches again. You have to constantly keep at it because nothing ever stands still.

Big things in my life are shifting right now – in a tectonic plates kind of way. In a few weeks time, I will start my psychotherapist training and whilst this probably won’t transform my life overnight, I am certain that it will have an impact on Future Fab. I can feel it tingling already  – knowing that there is a new path opening up in front of me, gradually leading me somewhere new. I am not breaking up with my current professional life, I am just adding a second dimension to it, hoping that one day there might be a combination of both and it will all make sense somehow (As if…).

And even then, it will be a process – there won’t be the ‘one moment where all things come together’. As much as I am a great believer in setting goals (big and small), so you know what you are heading towards, I am an even greater believer in the process itself. Today you might set a goal that looks just right, then you start walking towards it and on the way you discover something that will make you either move slightly towards the left, you might realise that the initial goal was a mere catalyst for movement and change, but that now the goal has shifted entirely. And that is absolutely fine – in retrospect, we can always connect the dots and add ‘sense’ to it. But by being too focussed on achieving a set goal, we can easily become blind to what might happen on the sidelines – and we can become so fixated that we don’t realise anymore why we are chasing that dream. Of course goals are still valid, as they get us going and they give us a framework. But by putting greater emphasis on the process, we accept that things (and we) might change and we put ourselves in a much better and open position to spot things on the way that are actually better for us. And we can’t use the excuse anymore that we only have to start being good tomorrow – it’s today that counts. Because, who knows what will happen tomorrow.

Pre-birthday thinkage

16 May

Ladies and Gentlemen: I am officially young. More to that in a second.

I don’t know what it is: for 351 days a year I don’t give a toss about my birthday. I don’t even like the idea of it and every year I tell myself that this year, I will ‘just do nothing because I always get depressed when I am expected to be happy’. Then about 14 days before the event, something happens and there simply is no fuzz big enough that can be made around the fact that I am getting one year older. It even goes so far, that for a short moment, I actually expect every single person I have ever met in my life to take a holiday and come and celebrate with me. I am currently 4 days before my birthday and I am getting close to that point. Why there are still free flights to Berlin at this point in time, quite frankly, baffles me. About 5466 people should be on their way. to me. right now.

Anyway, something else: Something I realised the other day (see last blog), is that I am currently lacking confidence. Something I had tons of when I was younger… And I then also realised that when I was younger I always knew what the next step in my life would be. Knowing that gave me confidence and also knowing that it was largely up to me to get to the next level was a soothing thought. a) I knew where to go and b) I had the inner stamina to get there. So I did. From school, the next stage was uni. Then it was ‘getting a job and some experience’. Then it was ‘getting up the job ladder’. And now I am at a point where I am trying to get better at what I do, trying to add some actual quality to my work. And again, there is some confidence. But what comes next? After some thinking, I realised that it was ‘Family’. As in, the one I would actively create myself (husband and baba and home and stuff). And suddenly the confidence barometer dropped to almost below zero.  Because there is no way I can control or even influence that. It might happen or not. Not up to me, this one! Like everything else up until now. Apart from the fact that that is utter bullshit. Because…

a) To get a job and the rest requires a bunch of other people giving you that job in the first place. So, thinking I had a lot to do with my own growth etc. was not wrong in the past, but nothing was ever entirely up to me.

b) Yes, you need 2 people for a relationship (or 3 or 4…high five, Berlin!). But erm…I would actually be one of them. As in 50%. I really can’t get away with saying it has little or nothing to do with me. Odds are a question of perspective anyway and in this case also not necessarily any worse than finding a job or a nice flat. I found my Berlin flat in a second, literally. Because I knew I would. I only found out later that some people go through 84 viewings to find one!!! K-razy! For me there was simply no doubt that I would find a flat. And the other day, when the Skeptical Me wasn’t watching, I suddenly Knew (yep, capital K) that family would happen. Without question. When? No idea. It will be when it’s right. And it will be right. And that feels pretty groovy.

So, what I am saying: From experience (and first grade psychology school yard lessons) one can observe that having confidence helps a huge amount in achieving something. And that does not only go for the work side of life.

As a child I had this belief that grown-up people know stuff. That they have answers. That societies and companies are run by wise, experienced and rounded people, who had no open questions or desires; who had no battles with themselves, doubts or fears. Well, turns out that was not exactly true. And it’s good that way. People should always be construction sites. Whenever I meet a person who has all the answers, who is so set in their ways that you can not find a slither of doubt, curiosity and flexibility in them – well, I don’t really like them. In fact, I think they are utterly repulsive and they make me want to pull my own hair out.

The grown-up in me is starting to meet all people (even really old ones) on an eye-to-eye level. We all have different life stories, but I am beginning to understand human-ness. I appreciate people’s construction-sideness. There are no mysteriously wise people or stages in life anymore that I feel are completely shut off from me – like they were when I was a child. It would be assumptions and arrogant to assume that I know how everything works. But I know how some things work and more things than I had previously thought are the result of people’s conclusions, reactions, feelings, faults and anxieties – not an objective adult truth that we will all encounter one day, no code book with all the answers.

And, and now comes the heavy stuff, I can feel my own mortality. And appreciate it. I probably have another 50 years ahead of me – say the statistics. I now have 32 behind me, so I have a rough inkling of what lies ahead. I have an idea of what 50 years feel like, it has some grip. And that makes me somehow feel very safe. In the past, I gained safety from knowing that I had all the time in the world. Now, I am actually quite glad knowing that I don’t. Because that makes me do stuff. Actually, if I knew that I only had 10 more years in me, I would be much happier than knowing I had another 80 ahead of me. Because my first thought would be, that the last 30 might be pretty lonely. Whereas, if it was 10 – these would be anything but. And A LOT can happen in 10 years.

But how does that make me feel young exactly? All my life, I have always felt older than people my age, and have always come across as somewhat mature(ish). I was always drawn to what lies ahead of me (the next stage), and sometimes really struggled to let go in those careless moments of frivolous youth. And when I got to the next level, I immediately wanted to go further. But right now, that is not the case. I know what I want the next phase to be, but I am happy to wait for it and I am happy where I am right now. I am only turning 32. Suddenly that feels very young. Because I genuinely feel like being at the beginning of a new chapter. And that is exciting. Can’t remember the last time I felt like that.

P.S. Now that is funny: as always, in order to find a picture for a blog, I start by googling the blog title. And in this case, the first link was The Urban Dictionary description of pre birthday depressions….God, I hate birthdays!

Mayday, Mayday

1 May

Well hello there! Fancy seeing you here. I know, it’s been a while. What can I say, I have been sooooo busy, you would not believe it. And then all the things I had to do and all the stuff that needed sorting….Nah, bollocks. There was no particular reason for my writing break. Just happened. And now I am sitting here again, at ze good ol’ Laptop and doing the oh so familiar ‘just gonna type away until sense or narrative emerge’.

Actually what got my blogging mojo going again, was this: How to be German in 20 Easy Steps. Very silly and very funny. And oh ja, very true. After 16 months back in Das Mutterland, I would of course add some other points to the lists – like always having to have the last word. Like adding a few more points to a perfectly fine list about How to be German. *insert laughter*. The informed reader will remember that  I was somewhat terrified about my return to Germany. Turns out, all went easier than expected and I have found a Germany-shaped place in my heart again for all things Apfelschorle and Kartoffelpuffer. My favourite pastime right now is German words. I am rediscovering old ones, like Kartoffelpuffer, and learning new ones. It will come to no surprise – this is also one of the points in the article above – that talking about sex is no biggie (ha!) here and hence discussing gang bangs over breakfast is super natürlich, ja?! However, what had me nearly choke on my Milchkaffee was the German word for it: Rudelbumsen. I am convinced you don’t have to speak German to find that word hilarious. Anyway…

What else: I have decided to train as Psychological Counsellor / Personal Coach, whatever you wanna call it. Starting in August for 20 months. I guess this blog was some sort of indication for the fact that I care about what goes on inside people’s heads – mine included. That and another million reasons have now come together and helped me make that decision. I am currently reading a bible of a book about Psychology and trying to figure out the difference between physiological and biological psychology. I manage about 3 pages a day. Reading about neurones and neurotransmitter is actually really interesting, but my poor little cabbage brain has not had to understand anything like this in about 15 years.

AND, I have FINALLY joined a French class! Conversation et Communication Commerciale! It is a lot of fun and it feels like reactivating a part of my brain that has not been used in a very long time. I am basically the living proof that the guy who wrote the article about the Germans has a point. Yes, we Germans apparently like learning stuff.

I guess all is honkey doodle. I wanted 2013 to be about consolidating and about calming things down. 3 weeks in India obviously helped with that, although the state of relaxation and of not-giving-a-toss did not last for too long, especially as it was directly followed by 6 weeks of more work travel. Zen that is not. But I have now very much cut down on work travel and I am making room for other things in my life. I still don’t feel like I have arrived in Berlin, but decided to stop fretting over that. It will happen one day. Or not. It’s not like I can control that. But what I can bring to the table is the confidence (I actually prefer the German word Zuversicht) and the belief that it will be fine either way and the courage to try new things in the meantime. I realised the other day that I had these qualities (confidence and courage, I mean) by the bucket load when I was younger and that I have run pretty empty on both recently. And especially when I look back at the last few years and across the different areas in my life, that seems like a very common thread. But I am bringing them back. Stay tuned.

What is my topic?

16 Dec

Looking back at 2012, making lists of things that happened, things that went well, things that did not go so well – the process of closing Chapter 2012, of starting to turn the recent past into memories, of archiving, creating new To Do lists – has made me realise one thing: Everything has been very narrow and very tense in 2012. Angry and frustrated even. Although many a good thing and moment have happened, 2012 will not go down as one of my most favourite years. Not because it was actually a bad year, but it was a transitional one. And transition or change hurts. I was in a constant battle with myself. My body, my heart, my mind were fighting with each other all the time but all were constrained by straight jackets. Which meant there was no real fight that would lead to a clear end and result. There was a lot of tension – again in my body, heart and mind equally. And this tension has let to this overwhelming feeling of ‘being stuck’ all the bloody time.

After Christmas 2010 and 2011 had been anything but nice and relaxing, I had made the decision that Christmas 2012 would have to make up for it big time. And not just Christmas, but the whole Christmas time, starting 1 December. So I started baking and I bought a Christmas tree weeks ago and I made the conscious decision to chill the f*ck out in order to gain some distance, perspective and ultimately some peace and quiet. I can say that it has worked. I also used the time to confront myself with, or indulge myself in – whichever way you want to look at it – old letters and diaries. Total Nostalgia Overdose. Amazing. One of the most interesting things that sprung to my mind – apart from the fact that I can count myself a very lucky girl, for having had a very good life until now and should really be more grateful – was that I have always been the way I am now. With all the good and bad that comes with it. What I wanted from life, what my heart was saying / crying / shouting, what I was struggling with on a daily basis and where I saw my own limitations – version 1997 and version 2012 were not very different. Thinking that version 2027 might be along the same lines too is actually quite comforting. Because the one thing that has changed already, and that I am expecting to change even more, is the ability to see things for what they are, to make connections, understand things and to ultimately bring about change myself if there is a problem that I can change or at least influence. I have 15 more years of life experience under my belt now and although I still don’t know many things, I have started to understand. And I have started to look for the questions that are the relevant ones.

And this is where I am hoping 2013 will be different. My horizon this year was very much focussed around my own life and hence very narrow. This blog is the best example for that. It was all about Me, Me, Me. I wanted to understand myself, drill down into my own make-up as if I was lying on a lab table. Be the result as it may, I have lost interest in this process. Thinking about what I would like to happen in 2013, I have had a voice in my head that has shouted numerous times “Relevance”. One of the ways in which I gently forced myself to relax during the past few weeks was through watching interesting documentaries, listening to audio books, reading news paper articles more often – feeding my head with stories and information that was new, exciting and interesting. And I suddenly found myself thinking deeply about subject matters that had nothing to do with Me, Me, Me directly. And how wonderful was that?! Topics from religion through to science, society, humanity, history, philosophy, the world, complexity vs simplicity. And I realised that these topics had become much more important to me than they were 15 years ago. Because I had some first hand experience with them and because I had come to realise and understand how important they are. Much more relevant than my own little life and if anything, they would lead me to a much more insightful way of understanding my little cosmos compared to the study of the cosmos itself. Of course it is impossible to get away from one’s very own spyglass, and most things are simply in a way a reflection of one’s own interpretation of things and hence a study of one’s own way of thinking. But the process is different.

There are so many topics that are so much bigger than myself (pretty much EVERY topic that has ever been!) and I have a real hunger for exploring these further, for nurturing my mind, for learning, for making connections and for possibly understanding some of the underlying principles with some real depth. One question that that same voice has been asking me more often too is ‘What matters in life‘ and I would like to spend some time in 2013 exploring that path further more proactively. By reading, watching, listening, discussing and living more consciously. Also one thing that has been nagging me for ages and might be coming back in 2013 is the idea of writing a book. I love writing, I love learning new stuff and maybe the process of writing a book can help improve and sharpen my reflecting, understanding and reciting skills. At the moment I would not know what my topic would be just yet. And the idea in itself might remain an idea. Also, I would like to start a part time psychology course, not sure what exactly, but I have become more and more drawn to that idea and having run it past a few people, I might be onto something.

So, if we all make it past 21 December 2012 (which, after watching a series of documentaries about the end of the world today,  I can say should be possible), that is the plan for 2013. As of right now. And I am of course keeping all rights to change that with immediate effect. If Michael Fassbender or Ryan Gosling do come knocking on my door eventually, I will of course be more than happy to drop all this Thinking Sh*t and go and live happily ever after in an overpriced mansion in West Hollywood with people as void as my fridge right now.

Things I (don’t) miss about England

6 Dec

It’s nearly coming up to a year that my dad came to Newcastle, put me and all my stuff in his car and together we sailed away from glory Engeland, marking the end of a wonderful 6-and something-years journey.

Being a reminiscing kinda gal, I am thinking about that time with some distance now. So here are my TOP THING I MISS (OR NOT) ABOUT ENGLAND AND NEWCASTLE SPECIFICALLY 12 MOTHS AFER MOVING AWAY:

Things I miss 

1) Newcastle: I don’t think I have ever really gotten under the skin of a place as deeply as in Newcastle. I really felt part of a community and I could still walk around there with my eyes closed.

2) Food (most of this is from pre coeliac times): Crumpets, Pret a Manger sandwiches and hot wraps, Indian food, Mince pies, Sushi TakeAway lunch boxes from Yo Sushi, Curly Wurlys, Fish & Chips, Pies, Cheddar, Pigs in Blankets, Yorkshire Puddings, Sticky Toffee Pudding, Pork & Apple sausages.

3) Supermarkets, especially Sainsburys: There is not one place in Germany where you can buy everything like in Snozboz and where you can get £10 off vouchers.

4) Drinks: Cider, Ginger Beer, Rose Lemonade, Sailor Jerry Rum, Grolsch (not really that English, I know).

5) People: Of course, me peeps. Can’t put into words just how much I miss them. (more than points 1-4 for sure)

6) TV: Dubbing is devil’s work, so anything in original language quite frankly. Specifically Eastenders (yes, I know…), Question Time, QI, Peep Show, Shooting Stars…..and all other the good dramas and comedies.

7) Paying with cards: This is a huge pain in Germany. Most places don’t accept cards, you can’t get cashback anywhere and (this is the best), if you withdraw cash from any ATM that is not your bank’s, you pay stupid extra fees. So you end up walking around with either loads of cash or no cash at all. And this is meant to be the economic centre of Europe!

8) Not having to pay ridiculous amounts for Health Insurance. Not so much the NHS as such, but I am missing those extra £300 per month.

9) The Lake District, London, Edinburgh (and the coastal line up to Scotland), Bamburgh, Wales.

10) Eee, alreet pet!?

11) Much cheaper mobile phone contracts.

12) Dried and chopped mint. Can’t find it anywhere in Germany.

Things I don’t really miss that much

1) Snow chaos: I mean that is just sill right?! Why would you drive your tiny Fiat Panda up a hill with summer tyres and when you have never driving successfully in the snow?! And why would you not clean the pavements, dear city councils?

2) The UK government: Bunch of aggravating idiots.

3) Sport: Cricket, Rugby – Life is just too short.

4) Drinks: Guinness, Ales, Pimm’s….loved serving them. Never a fan of drinking them.

5) The UK School system: Never ever got my head around that.

6) Cycling lanes merging with bus lanes.

7) Seeing girls in vest tops and Flip Flops in November.

8) The weather: when it’s good, it’s fine. When it’s bad, it’s suicidal.

9) TV: Embarrassing Bodies, all these casting shows and other ‘real live TV’ crap. All these despicable ‘TV personalities’.

10) That sickening odeur of cheap after shave, WKD, raspberry fog and sick when you walk into a night club.

11) Scouse English. Weird.

12) Carpets in bathrooms.

13) Roundabouts in random places.