A little bird told me…

…that tattoos aren’t cheep.

Sometimes it feels like I’m carrying a bird, ehm, a burden of course – clearly a Freudian slip because as you might have guessed from the title, bird is the word and isn’t the English language so fascinating considering these two words rhyme? #englishpronounciation I take it you already know the famous poem by Geroge Bernhard Shaw, so on with the subject! I wanna introduce you to a very specific bird, outside of biological realms, yet skin deep, (l)inked to me for all eternity. This is its story. And so it goes.

Birds and books

Birds are one of the most fascinating creatures in art and literature. Two literary birds had particularly affected me in some way or the other, and despite the fact I read one of them in the bleak December, Nevermore was not one of them. Fritz Zorn’s Mars has already been mentioned here some time ago – you can read it up here in case you have forgotten or found this blog only recently. Till today, it remains one of the most intense books I’ve ever read. And it’s even more intense if you sit down with some friends, a bottle of red, and read it out loud. Celebrate every sentence in its blank brutality. The darkness of the words and the (fictional) reality they create are a look beyond the abyss of humanity. We live in a world that shares a terrifiying amount of things from dystopian novels. Maybe that’s why I like them so much – it is still lighter reading than the news. And lighter than what’s going on in my heart.

Birds and books are a more intimate relationship than the birds and the bees.
Haruki Murakami: The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle

On an intellectual level. Take Haruki Murakami’s The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle. First of all, love the title. Most definitely better than the German “Mister Aufziehvogel”. That on just doesn’t flow. Or rather, fly, in this case. Because bird, you know? Secondly, the opening sequence is among my favourite literary scenes ever and one with high Identifikationspotenzial, involving yet another bird, a stealing magpie, to be precise. Click here to read some more about what Rossini has to do with Murakami and me (and find an original pasta recipe from a real nonna).

These two very different books have two things in common: a bird on the cover, and the fact that you can open either of them at any random page, and you’re sure to find a memorable quote and/or meaningful sentence (unless you end up with one of Murakami’s really weird description of sex scenes. His birds and the bees are gewöhnungsbedürftig to say the least.)

Anyway, this is the novel that got me hooked on Murakami. The wind-up bird book cover ended up as my office desktop wallpaper when I was still at the theatre – because it was all rewind, function, rewind, function, repeat, repeat, repeat. And it nearly made it onto my skin. Why? The wind-up bird symbolizes the struggle of a free spirit trapped in the fixed schemes of a society where you have to pull yourself together, wind-up the mechanic for functional mode and do it all over again until it breaks. In the end, I decided against that. And I’m glad, in hindsight, because I broke shortly after. And I’ve been malfunctioning ever since. No need of a constant reminder. I got a bird tattoo, though. A different one. And Zorn and Murakami were some of the inspiration behind it. One might call them its founding f(e)athers. The question was of course: Where would the proverbial eagle land? Where would it settle and nestle on my body? And then: What kind of bird in which pose? Without feather ado I proceeded to put my ideas onto paper and started drawing – and discovered: my drawing skills are mediocre at best and I became more and more frustrated with what was in my head and what was on paper.

Some birds are not meant to be caged, that’s all.
Their feathers are too bright, their songs too sweet and wild.
[STEPHEN KING, THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION]

However, with much persistance and determination, I managed some decent motives after all. They were still drafts and I was willing to let Jessi, employee at TCs, refine the chosen one into a finalized design.

She immediately grasped what I had imagined, et voilà, two days later, she had transformed my clumsy attempt of a bird into a skillful and terrific piece of art:

See that tiny speck of blue? And isn’t the whole design simply amazing? So glad I let her do her thing. And then let her do the actual thing. Before the needle started humming, however, bird product placement had to be done: I have this rather prominent beauty patch on my left side and we considered all the options – placing the bird before, behind, above, below it – and all of them were meh at best. So what was the logical thing to do? Working it into the design.And so I was ready for two dreadful hours of pain. The pain is less painful and more tedious. A constant scratching and nagging and rapping and tapping at my chamber door – damn you, Nevermore, get out of here!! – and you get into this sort of carthasis, enduring and almost meditating in the pain until at some point you have die Nase gestrichen voll and you’re jolly well fed up and you start getting really annoyed by the needle’s sound, by the dull persistant pain, and you keep thinking “looks done to me, what the f*** is she still tattooong for?” And of course it is not done yet and you know it. But it feels nice to be mad at someone else and blame them for your inconvenience.

A bird tattoo is not cheep. But worth it.

So yeah, that was my brief feathered tale. Needless to add, you have to tweet this, just for the pun of it.

Everything you (never) wanted to know about The Intellectual Chaos.

For those who don’t have time / wenn’s schnell gehen soll

Julia Thekla Liebermann studied German and English before her Passion for music brought her to the theatre of Freiburg, where she’s been working in the orchestra managing business for several years. Nowadays, she works a solid 50% office job in a less dramatic field and spends her time enjoying the Kaiserstuhl area with her dog Max and as a freelancing writer and blogger. Her topics include basically anything but she’s a keen advocate of mental health, travelling and creative writing.

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Julia Thekla Liebermann studierte Germanistik und Anglistik auf Lehramt bevor ihre Leidenschaft für Oper und Konzert sie ans Theater Freiburg führte, wo sie viele Jahre im Orchesterbüro tätig war. Inzwischen lebt sie mit ihrem Hund Max am Kaiserstuhl und arbeitet halbtags in einem weniger theatralischen Bürojob und nebenbei als freischaffende Autorin, Bloggerin und Projektmanagerin. Dabei widmet sie sich verstärkt den Themen mentale Gesundheit, Reisen und dem Verfassen von Kurzgeschichten.

the long way round / Der weitschweifendere Überblick:

Hello there! This is Julia, the real deal behind The Intellectual Chaos. When this blog went online, it was merely a hobby, a way to practice my English, a way to tell my stories when I didn’t dare to bother anyone with them, and foremost a reason to do what I love: writing. My first blog was on Tumblr (probably still is) and was called “What a Site to Behold” because already back in 2011 I loved all sorts of puns. Some things never change.

Many years of blogging and some life-changing decisions later, here I am, officially a freelancing writer. How exciting! As any freelancing writer, I gotta put my name out there. So if you like what you read, recommend me, spread the word, hire me. I love deep diving into any topic, become a temporary expert and share my enthusiasm – always a bit tongue-in-cheek if wanted. I’m fluent in English and German and I can’t decide which language I prefer because both offer so many rhetorical opportunities. And puns.

I taught myself how to read when I was 5. My kindergarden teachers had to call my parents to inform them that instead of playing with the other kids, I always sat in the corner reading. And I never stopped. When I was eight, I participated in a children’s crime novel competition. I’m still horrified I thought ‘Stella’ to be an adequate name for a provincial German mayor’s daughter but alas, youthful folly, and anyway, I still made first place.

Throughout my officially adult life, I’ve been continually writing inside and outside my little blogger’s world. I’ve been a freelancing journalist for the local newspaper around here (Badische Zeitung), I’ve contributed dramaturgic texts both for various orchestras and my English Drama Group at university. And I never stopped writing short stories, little essays on anything an everything as well as little poems and plays on language.

My latest projects include:

Taro’s World: A suite in three movements for children by Fabrice Bollon to which I created a story to go with it. Out now streaming on all major platforms! Click here for more info!

Writing and doing various concert announcements and presentations.

Silent Film text slides.

“Alix und die fantastische Suche nach Herrn Meisenbär” (working title): a kid’s opera and collaboration with the amazing composer Leonard Küssner to which I wrote the libretto.

“Plötzlich Hochbegabt”, a collection of essays about people who have been diagnosed as “gifted” late in life and how it changed them. I feel very honoured to share my experiences on there. To be published in 3rd quarter 2024.

I have also started tutoring, proof reading and translating and editing in both English and German – it started with helping out friends here and there and has become a welcome occasional (paid) treat for my inner teacher.

Feel free to drop me a line, contact me for inquiries or job offers, and be assured to have someone write passionately and in a unique, refreshing style. Or, to quote one of my avid readers: with wits and depth.

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Hallo liebe Leser*innen und Besucher*innen dieser Website. Hier spricht Julia, die Person hinter The Intellectual Chaos. Als ich mit diesem Blog anfing, war es nicht mehr als ein Zeitvertreib und ein Ventil, um meiner Leidenschaft zu frönen: dem Schreiben und (Geschichten) Erzählen. Es begann 2011 mit einem tumblr-blog, What a Site to Behold, denn schon damals war ich Freund der Sprachspielereien. Manche Dinge ändern sich nie.

Viele Jahre und drastische Veränderungen später bin ich nun ganz offiziell freischaffende Autorin. Und wie jede/r freischaffende Autor*in gilt es, mir einen Namen zu machen. Darum: Wenn euch gefällt, was ihr hier findet, empfehlt mich gerne weiter, ruft es von den Dächern, teilt es lauthals mit, oder noch besser: engagiert mich. Ich liebe es, mich in alle möglichen Themen einzuarbeiten und – wenn ich darf – mit einem gewissen Augenzwinkern darüber zu schreiben und andere mit meiner Begeisterung anzustecken. Ich schreibe gleichermaßen gerne auf Englisch und auf Deutsch, und versuche stets, jeder Sprache gerecht zu werden und kleine Kunstwerke und -wörter zu kreieren.

Mit 5 Jahren habe ich mir selbst das Lesen beigebracht. Meine Kindergärtnerin rief besorgt meine Eltern an, dass ich, anstatt mit den anderen Kindern zu spielen, den ganzen Tag in der Ecke saß und las. Daran sollte sich auch in Zukunft nicht viel ändern. Mit 8 Jahren nahm ich an einem Kinderkrimiwettbewerb teil und obwohl ich es damals für eine gute Idee hielt, die Tochter eines ländlichen Dorfbürgermeisters ‘Stella’ zu nennen, bekam ich den ersten Platz.

Seit eh und je schreibe ich also, auch außerhalb dieses Blogs. Viele Jahre war ich freie Mitarbeiterin der Badischen Zeitung. Ich habe sowohl für meine Studentenorchester als auch in unserer English Drama Group Beiträge für die Programmhefte geschrieben, musikwissenschaftlich, dramaturgisch oder popkulturell. Ich schreibe Kurzgeschichten, kleine Gedichte und Stilübungen, für mich, oder auch als besonderes Mitbringsel für andere.

Zu meinen jüngsten Projekten gehören u.a.:

Taros Welt: Eine dreisätzige Suite für Kinder, komponiert von Fabrice Bollon, zu der ich mir eine Geschichte ausdenken durfte. UA im Februar 2022 in Jena, seit Kurzem verfügbar auf allen größeren Streaming-Diensten. Mehr Infos hier!

Stummfilmtexte für eine Live-Konzert-Aufführung.

Konzertansagen und Moderation verschiedenster Konzertformate.

“Alix und die fantastische Suche nach Herrn Meisenbär” (AT): eine Kinderoper, Libretto von meiner Wenigkeit, Musik vom fabelhaften Leonard Küssner, UA geplant für 25/26.

“Plötzlich Hochbegabt”, eine Art Essaysammlung von Erfahrungsberichten von Menschen mit späterkannter Hochbegabung. Ich durfte meinen Senf dazugeben aka ein Kapitel beisteuern. Voraussichtlicher Erscheinungstermin: 3. Quartal 2024.

Neben dem Schreiben liebe ich es, Korrektur zu lesen, Texte zu lektorieren und zu redigieren und zu übersetzen – vor allem, wenn ich dabei auch noch ein paar Sprachlektionen geben kann. Umso besser, wenn ich ab und an dafür entlohnt werde!

Schreibt mir, wenn ihr Fragen, Ideen oder noch besser, Aufträge habt und ich kann euch versichern, ihr werdet es nicht bereuen – vor allem, wenn ihr nach einem erfrischenden anderen, ich wage zu behaupten, recht einzigartigen Stil sucht. Gratuliere, ihr habt ihn gefunden. Oder, wie einer meiner fleißigsten Leser es ausdrückt: mit Witz und Tiefgang.

Schwere depressive Episoden zum Schmunzeln und Verzweifeln

Eine neue Rubrik! Hier werde ich fortan, nach und nach, hin und wieder, ab und an und äußerst unzuverlässig schwere depressive Episoden aus meinem Leben veröffentlichen. In den letzten Monaten habe ich mühsam und schmerzhaft das Häufchen Elend das ich nach einem heftigen Burn Out war wieder zusammengeklaubt zu etwas halbwegs Lebenswertem und Liebenswertem. Auch wenn ich noch lange nicht am Ziel angekommen bin und tagtäglich einen Kampf antrete, gegen den Helms Klamm ein Spaziergang im Park ist, habe ich bereits einen weiten Weg in die richtige Richtung zurückgelegt auf der Suche nach mir und der Sinnhaftigkeit meiner Existenz, auch wenn das jetzt ganz schön dick aufgetragen klingt. In dieser Zeit habe ich viel über mich gelernt, vieles an mir entdeckt, das aus gutem Grund im Untergrund vergraben war und bin stets mit meiner mir angeborenen Neugierde und meinem recht dickköpfigen Willen auf jeden Zug aufgesprungen, der auch nur ansatzweise in die richtige Richtung fuhr. Und wenn ich dabei selbst die Kohle von der Lore in die Lok schaufeln musste und mir Schwielen an den Händen holte.

Von all dem, was mir widerfahren ist, was ich erlebt und durchgemacht habe, welche Erfahrungen ich gemacht und welche Lektionen ich gelernt habe, möchte ich auch andere profitieren lassen. Seien es Leidensgenossen*innen oder Drittparteien oder einfach Menschen, die Anteil nehmen. Worte waren schon immer mein Schwert und wie man mir mehrfach mitteilte, bin ich äußerst weise in meiner Sicht auf die Dinge, auf die immer noch totgeschwiegene Volkskrankheit Depression und in meiner Ausdrucksweise. Ich trage das Wortgewand der Rhetorik und dies ist mein Laufsteg. Ich bin ein lebenslustiger Mensch, selbst oder vielmehr gerade in Momenten tiefster Verzweiflung, und ohne meinen mitunter bitterbösen Humor hätte ich die dunkelsten Stunden nicht durchgestanden. Und sind wir mal ehrlich – so tragisch die Begebenheiten im Leben einer schwer Depressiven sind, so unfreiwillig komisch sind sie auch. Und Grund zu lachen haben wir Betroffenen wahrlich mehr als nötig. Deswegen diese Kategorie. Am Ende soll ein Buch draus werden, mit ebendiesen Episoden, aber auch allerlei anderem. Gab’s ja noch nie, ein Buch in dem die eigene mentale Ungesundheit verarbeitet wird… KLUG UND EINSAM wird es heißen, mit dem Untertitel “Schwere depressive Episoden zum Schmunzeln und Verzweifeln”. Darin zu finden sind, sodann es denn soweit sein sollte, Begebenheiten der komischen Art, hilfreiche Tipps und Tricks und Methoden, Aggressionen gegen beschönigende Sinnsprüche und gegen esoterisches Geschwafel und mit Sicherheit das ein oder andere schlechte Wortspiel. “Klug und Einsam” waren die Worte, mit denen mich meine Ärztin am Ende unserer ersten Therapiesitzung während meines Klinikaufenthaltes zusammenfasste. Und ja, ein bisschen trage ich diesen Stempel mit stolz. Wenn ich schon unter tiefster Einsamkeit leide, darf ich mich bitte wenigstens meines Intellekts rühmen. Mein Künstlername kommt ja nicht von ungefähr.

Es kostet viel Überwindung, so offen über diese sehr persönlichen Themen zu sprechen. Ich habe schon früh beschlossen, nichts totzuschweigen, nicht einmal das Tabuthema Suizid (totschweigen, haha). Und auch wenn ich das nicht vorhandene Schamgefühl meiner Mutter was das Äußere angeht geerbt habe, ist ein Seelenstriptease eine ganz andere Liga als am Baggersee blank zu ziehen. Dennoch glaube ich, es ist wichtig, darüber zu sprechen. Für mich, für Angehörige, für Betroffene, die so vielleicht eher den Mut finden, Hilfe zu suchen, für all diejenigen, die sich alleine gelassen fühlen mit einer Krankmeldung und einer Packung Mirtazapin und einem lapidaren “Viel Erfolg bei der Therapeutensuche” und denen das, was sie hier lesen möglicherweise weiterhelfen mag. Und natürlich für alle, die im Anschluss an die hier erscheinenden Ausschnitte und Snippets mein Buch kaufen werden. Handsigniert.

Der Mensch ist ein heiteres und ein untröstliches Tier

[Molière, Der Menschenfeind / Le Misanthrope]

Stuck Home Syndrome

The probably obligatory (and four weeks behind) quarantine commentary you‘ve not been waiting for. But what else are you doing anyway?

Hello from within the Covid-proof walls of my apartment in the middle of Freiburg. It’s March the 653rd or so, I lost count. Anyway, it‘s anno Coroni and like all of you, I’m living the teenage experience and follow Angie’s national curfew. Although, not to brag, but I started self-isolation before it was cool aka before it went viral. A week prior to all of you, in those innocent days at the beginning of March, when the dangers of Corona were belittled and the advisory precautions met with mild amusement and little understanding. Feels like a century ago, doesn’t it? That was one month ago. Anyone seen 28 days later? Yeah, that’s where we are on the timeline. So there I was, on sick leave, and observing how the world followed my footsteps (I’m not an influencer, I’m an influenza). I had a major breakdown before the ERs. I dropped out of society and suddenly, everyone self-isolated, too. I will not tell you about how these past few days and weeks have been for me. That is a topic for another time. Today, I wanna reassure those of you who feel bad, or guilty, or intimidated by all those instaposts, TicTocs videos, all the social media proof of how productive and active everyone is. Learning new languages, trying out recipes, baking loads of loaves of bread, binging the whole Digital Concert Hall, FaceTiming everyone and anyone, renovating homes, working out, and being fabulous human beings. Don’t feel bad if you do nothing of the sorts. I spend a great amount of time just sitting and staring out of the window. I’m not even thinking clever thoughts to justify it. Just blank, mindless, empty staring. And you know what? That’s cool. Yes, of course I still go running. If you know me or you’ve been following this blog, you know that running is my therapy. Now, it has also become my survival mechanism. Anyway, that’s about it regarding my active lifestyle. Energizer bunny has finally stopped. And I hate it. But apart from my personal anti-motivation, we are experiencing an unknown situation. And that is scary. And fear paralyses. Energizer bunny is as frightened as anyone. It’s a wild circus of rumours, false news, and conspiracy theories and hovering above it the big question of how long this will last. Economy and humanity seem to clash, people are polarized, easily offended and feeling very, very insecure. Some struggle with home office in their non-suitable for home office homes, some fear for their job, some have already lost their job, some cannot see their loved ones, some have to endure lockdown in toxic company – however your situation is: it is a pandemic and you gotta cope with it. How you cope is up to you (as long as you don’t harm others, of course, basic moral standards apply). I for myself need to feel at least to a certain degree like I’m in charge of myself and in control of my life. So I came up with a set of everyday tasks I wish to complete. None of them are major but they all improve my overall well-being, physically and psychologically, and create a sense of structure in this wibbly wobbly timey wimey era. What I like about this list is that it is achievable and realistic and very often I end up doing more and if I don’t – well, then at least I did this, right? So if you feel lost, maybe this will help you, too, and that’s why I’m sharing it with you. Here it comes, in no particular order:

Eat one proper meal.

That means cook, or support your local restaurant and order something, or sit down for a decent Brotzeit, or treat yourself with a nice breakfast. Doesn’t matter. But make sure, at least one of your meals is proper. Sometimes, that’s my only source of food per day. Happens. I’m not a big eater, or rather I’m not anymore since I lost my appetite and had lost my taste buds for some weeks. But at least, if that is the case, it’s not some crap I shove in but something nutritious, something healthy, something sustainable, something made with love. No need to pressure yourself to finally try out all those recipes you’ve bookmarked or highlighted. Go with your comfy-zone. The important thing is: Eat. And enjoy it.

Pancakes with wild herbs, later served with asparagus and wild garlic pesto.

One Act of Kindness.

I gave all my Enid Blyton CDs to my neighbours’ kids. I donated blood. I wrote various little letters with tiny little presents and delivered them myself to the recipients’ mailboxes.  I went grocery shopping for others who couldn’t. I’m being extra friendly and polite, especially to supermarket employees. It’s the little things. And it’ll make you feel less worthless.

Read a book.

Not a whole book a day (unless you want to). Even if it’s just 5 minutes, or 2 pages, do it. I’ve gone back to reading right before bedtime, when the phone is already on silent mode and I’m all wrapped up in my warm 2,20x2m duvet, feeling protected from the chilly night air (because my window is always open at night. I feel like suffocating otherwise) or on my French balcony, enjoying the sunshine (I know I am very lucky to have that opportunity) and watching the less busy pedestrian zone below. I have just finished Frankls Man’s Search for Meaning, Haruki Murakamis What I Talk About When I Talk About Running, and J. M. Barrie’s Peter Pan (Tinker Bell is such a little bitch in the book. WTF.). Right now I’m reading one of Arto Paasilina’s books because they’re easy to read and light and quirky, and John Muir’s My First Summer in the Sierra in preparation for the summer. The first few days of being stuck home I could only read cheap thrillers. I simply couldn’t concentrate on any “heavy” literature. Again – whatever works for you is great. Dan Brown is as good as Marcel Proust during quarantine. Just don’t read Twilight. Honestly, that was so bad, I couldn’t finish it and it had already been degraded to a Klobuch (aka the ones that lie in my bathroom, next to the loo, so I have something more interesting than shampoo bottles to read. Although, it is with great shame and regret that since phones have gone smart, Klobücher have become an endangered species). So read anything but Twilight (the same is valid for its equally popular fan fiction).

Reading like a Pro.

Exercise.

I run, as mentioned above and in various other occasions. But I also try and start my day with 15-20 minutes of stretching, planking, Yoga, whatever. The best thing is, I suck so much at Yoga (so much, Rachel Bloom should make an anti-Valencia song with me), it makes me laugh so much at how much I suck and what better way is there to start the day than with laughing about yourself? Not everybody is a morning person like me, and if you’re not – try take that time each day, and give your body some stretches and some healthy exertion. Don’t feel like you gotta come out of lockdown totally ripped. But do if you want to. And even 5 minutes is better than nothing.

Hot‘n‘Sweaty run along the Dreisam. That‘s me trying to smile but I was staring right in the sun so it looks very squinty and tortured lol.

One Mental Health Exercise.

Well, because I need it. And since I can’t get the Therapieplatz I desperately need, that’s the least I gotta do. But even when you generally feel fine in that department, it’s never wrong to take the time and maybe just breathe for 5 minutes, or meditate, or even let the tears of fear and insecurity come and give your anxieties room. Don’t suppress them.

Check up on your family.

Or whoever you consider family. I try to contact my Mum and my brother every other day. Can be a short text, a voice messages, a call. Whatever. But a quick update on everyone’s well-being helps. Especially since my Mum and I have only just started reconnecting and we have a long way to go and I am very insistent on our almost daily updates, as superficial they may be.

Tidy up

or clean something in the apartment. To make sure that chaos doesn’t reign. One tiny task is enough, and usually, once I’ve started, I do a little bit more. No need to go full Marie Kondo.

Plan your JMT.

Which is, agreed, very unpractical advice for you unless you plan on hiking the John-Muir-Trail in summer like I do. Assuming the world is back in working order by then (please be). But even if it is not – we don’t know and we can’t do anything about it (apart from staying at home, keeping our distance, wash our hands, you know the drill) so how about we focus on what we can do? All other questions regarding my future are too overwhelming at the moment (it is very difficult to plan a future when you don’t even know if you’ll make it through the day) but with working on my summer plans every day for a little bit I savour the anticipation, and I control the situation. I’m in charge. And I can be in charge of it from my home-is-my-castle. Whatever your JMT is – hold on to it.

Reading up on Mount Whitney in preparation for the JMT!

Contact at least one person outside your comfort zone.

Because now is probably the worst time to have a textophobia. I tend to eliminate my contact to a minimum and give everyone the silent treatment when I’m not well. Since I usually just happen to see people, I am now, like all of us, depending on non-face-to-face communication and in order to make sure I do and at the same time make sure I don’t get overwhelmed by the pressure of doing so, I have decided one person per day is compulsory, more than that is optional and that works surprisingly well I must say. I’m also dedicating specific periods of time for communication and I have noticed that my text messages or voice messages are fewer but much more elaborate and meaningful. If you happen to get one, it means I made time for you, and dedicated this time to you, and show you my appreciation by giving you my time and attention so feel honoured and loved. And don’t be mad if it takes me forever to reply.

So there you go. I hope you find inspiration in this or you felt at least entertained for the 3 minutes it took to read this and whatever you do: Here’s the obligatory reminder and well-wishing:

Stay safe, stay healthy, stay home! Xx

If you’re going through hell, keep going

Said the very brave and rhetorically well-educated Winston Churchill. Or at least it’s widely accepted that he said it. Doesn’t matter if he did, the words remain true and he certainly had the background to know what he was talking about. Ladies and gentlemen –

Welcome to hell.

My personal hell and just so you get an idea of what is happening when someone goes there – maybe you have a partner, a relative, a friend or a colleague going through something similar, too – and what you can do to support them. Maybe. Everyone’s different after all. So, here I am, spiralling down and not in an Alice-in-Wonderland happy trippy fashion but down into the abyss of me where there is nothing but a suppressing darkness, a void, an overwhelming nothingness. Sow Ay knows what I‘m talking about. He has a talent to capture the worst and most distinct aspects of mental illness(es) in cartoons and he brought me over the edge so many times because I could relate to someone with something that is impossible to put into words (and yet here I am, trying, lol).

Where am I? Oh yes, spiralling down. I got a text this morning, saying “if you’re spiraling (spelled with one l only because American and I’ve read somewhere that is because newspaper used to have to pay their journalists by letter so every letter saved was a penny saved. Or rather, cent, saved. Don’t know if that‘s true or merely a myth but it sounds plausible, capitalism and all. Do you think they charged extra for CAPITAL letters? Hehe. And yes, you can be completely and devastatingly depressed and still make stupid jokes. NEVER assume someone’s happy because they laugh a lot and banter around. Never. Not so long ago, my friend’s mum told me she loved my laugh and that it sounded like a laugh that wants to be heard and heard often. And now I sit here and it breaks my heart because yes, it wants to be heard and I love laughing but it gets harder every day and I can’t even fake it anymore and I really really don’t want it to fall silent. Anyway, the text continued it can be stopped“ and I genuinely laughed at that because it is such a sweet attempt to comfort me and nonetheless doomed to fail. The thing is, I experience all of this from two different angles. There’s emotional me, feeling all the feelings. And then there’s brain me, observing my behaviour. Scheler and his philosophical anthropology would be proud of what a prime example of a human being I am. Self-reflected, objective, and observing myself with a contemplative eye and from an almost neutral distance. An ability that makes us special from all other living beings, Scheler says. Another human specialty according to Scheler is that we can say no. We can exit out. Of anything. Of life. And isn’t that, well first of all true, because apart from yeast that kills itself off to produce delicious alcoholic beverages, we are the only ones with the will-power to end our lives on purpose, and isn’t this scary and at the same time very reassuring? To know the way out has genetically or whatever, been planted in our system, just in case? The human ejection seat. Unfortunately, the latter doesn’t get a say in what the former experiences.

When Not to do is the Answer cause To do is out of the question.

The main problem is that little word, that verb, mostly used as an auxiliary but here in its full semantical purpose. To do. German tun. We even named our verbs after it. Tun-Wörter. So here is a lesson: the widespread assumption about depression that you don’t have the strength to do anything and just stay in bed is wrong. Yes, it’s a common symptom. Yes, it has happened to me, too, occasionally. And for many, this is how their depression takes action – by taking the action from them. I, generally speaking, am a very active and energetic person. Energizer Bunny they call me. Squirrel on speed. I do get up. I get ready. I go for a run. And boy, do I need those runs. You have no idea. How often have I woken up way too early, waiting for it to be day enough that it is finally socially acceptable and a decent time to go running? Too often. I‘m always on edge, always ready to go, always stressed and under tension. I do a lot of things. Like, my schedule is packed. So how could it even be a thing that I have problems mobilizing my motivation, my power, my energy, myself when I clearly do A LOT when I’m depressed? Because I re-shift all of the above mentioned attributes. Because I know I need to have an excuse, I need to be busy otherwise to be able to defend myself against myself why I haven’t done this or that yet. Why it’s been two months and I haven’t sent out a single application yet. And everybody keeps asking and asking and asking and telling my how they’re not the least worried and convinced I’ll be doing something amazing and I know they mean well but y’all be very disappointed because I don’t believe it. I can‘t even get started because to get started you need to have a vision and I used to have so many and since some point last week or the week before they’re all gone and there is nothing but this infinite vastness and nothing beyond it. There always were ideas, dreams (unlikely and unrealistic as they may have been). They were there, and now it’s all gone and gone for good it seems. There’s nothing but a big pile of well, nothing.

So this is how it goes:

Anything triggers me these days. This time – you may laugh because it’s ridiculous – it was a WhatsApp group chat about a reality TV dating show. (Quick side note: I’m not good with group chats. They make me very anxious. In my second-to-last panic attack I quit all my groups, was labelled a drama-queen by the same guy who then invited to join his new fancy group chat. And I felt ready and allowed him to proceed. And it went well. Until it didn’t. From one moment to the next every single text intimidated me and sped ud up my heartbeat and not in a good way but in the bad panicky way and for the next couple of days I read every single message sent by the other group members (and we’re talking HUNDREDS here, at least) and I had funny comments to make and thoughts to share, some definitely genius and hilarious, some more of eye-rolling or face-palming quality but mentionable nonetheless and I couldn’t. I just couldn’t and every single new notification felt like someone punched me in the stomach because why couldn’t I?? After months of consulting I couldn’t even handle a stupid WhatsApp group about a trashy Netflix show? And that’s where I realized there is no point. Maybe if I had started earlier. Maybe. But as things are now, I’m nothing but a massive failure and I have 863+ texts to prove it. And it’s too late. It feels like the only reason I quit my job was to make sure they’re making sure someone will be there to take over so I don’t feel like betraying and abandoning Anne, my orchestra, FB. And now I can be assured: once I’m gone they’ll all be okay (even though now they say they’ll miss me). They’ll get on and are probably better off without me anyway. And that’s good. I want them to.

Bojack Horseman once said (and I love this show):

And one day, you’re gonna look around and you’re gonna realize that everybody loves you…but nobody likes you. And that is the loneliest feeling in the world.

And you stand corrected, Bojack. Because one day, you’re gonna look around and you’re gonna realize that everybody likes you… but nobody loves you. And THAT really is the loneliest feeling in the world.

Why am I telling you all of this? I don’t know. I think it is because I am sick of crying all night, and during the day whenever I am alone. I’m sick of not being able to sleep properly. I am not sick of listening to all Mahler symphonies over and over again because I’ll never be sick of Mahler but I don’t think it’s the healthiest music to listen to when being depressed. I think the reason I’m telling you, oh wonderful anonymous internet, is because there are people I really want to tell all this and much more but I can’t and it’s the same stupid I can’t, the anti-do I was talking about, that keeps me from doing. And somehow the safety barrier of a keyboard and a screen gives me the necessary confidence to talk about it. Write about it. All I really wanna do though is call J or call M, have one of them come here and be able to just be weak and sad and lie in their arms and tell them that I am afraid and lonely and cry and I know they offered and meant it and I know so many others offered and meant it, too, and therefore I don’t only feel like a failure but like betraying friendships and letting them down and then I wonder why anybody would even benefit from having me as a friend and I honestly can’t think of a single reason.

So my advice to you is this: don’t be mad if people pull back. Don’t be mad if they retreat into their (emotional) bunker and ghost you. The worse it gets the more difficult it becomes to stay in contact with the people they hold closest and the easier it is to chat with anybody else. Sending out reassuring messages without expecting anything in return helps, though. And makes it worse. Because it evokes guilt. Because of course the pressure is there to reply. But overall these messages help a little. And a little can mean everything when you’re balancing on the gallows.

How to decide

A linguistic deliberation on phrases and their imagery.

Sometimes my mind goes to strange places. There’s a part of my brain that just refuses to sleep and randomly decides in the middle of the night it’s bored and the one-digit a.m. times are perfect for partying. And so it knocks on the outside of its little brain compartment, making itself noticed, metaphorically pulling away my duvet and nudging me – cat owners and parents of little kids can relate – until I grudgingly give in and wake up, with quintessential questions in my mind such as “orange – was the colour named after the fruit or the other way round?” [SPOILER: the first one] or I suddenly have the perfect comeback back then at that incident a bazillion years ago. Mind you, my comebacks are the best, they just take forever. Treppenwitz, as we call them. I am extremely witty when given enough time. Like the culinary world, I follow the trend from fast-food and quick-wit to slow. Gut Ding will Weile haben. Little literary fun fact: did you know that Shakespeare thought of women being witty as an equivalent to them being sexy? That’s why especially in his comedies all female love interests are always witty as fuck. Yes! Intelligence is sexy and it took our society far too long to make nerds officially more desirable than bodybuilders.

Side note: I sure appreciate a defined body. But in the end and if I had to choose, I prefer long-sentence elaborate conversation over testosterone loaded primitivity. Healthy mind and healthy body is the secret. Mens sana in corpore sano. Now you know. So go workout and read some Proust while doing so.

I mean, there’s a whole instagram account about it!

Another side note: I’m witty and already sexy, so technically that makes me double sexy, so how come I am still single, helloooo?!? (dm if you fit the profile ;))

My most recent nightly brain rave was triggered by the Insta account @the.language.nerds and their story on how to say “to decide” in various languages. Unfortunately, that post is long gone but I remember the French and Italian say – literally translated – to take a decision and I like to think of it as picking up the options, like two pieces of fruit, one in each hand, and carfeully weighing them against each other before taking the one that seems more desirable and tossing the other one away. The English on the other hand don’t take. They make. To make a decision. So proactive. That’s how you build an Empire. And the Germans? Wir treffen eine Entscheidung. Hello, options, so very nice to meet you! One of you will be granted a second date so welcome to the Bachelor of opportunities!

Jede Entscheidung, die man nicht bei einem Bier treffen kann, kommt mir übereilt vor.

Pablo Tusset, Das Beste was einem Croissant passieren kann

The other possible translation for treffen is to hit, as in hit a target. Because obviously you decided well and hit the jackpot. Mitten ins Schwarze. Hitting the bull‘s eye. German efficiency at its best. Adn then I was done thinking. I though. And a few hours later, in the middle of the night, I woke up saying – yes, really saying it out loud – „aber wir sagen doch auch „eine Entscheidung fällen!““ And then I thought about that a lot. If you consider the above mentioned expressions as strong images, think about this one. The only other things we „fällen“ are sentences in court (to rule) or trees (to cut down). Isn’t that sort of gloomy? Deciding is either definite, it’s authorized by an higher authority, it’s binding, and you gotta live with the consequences. Before we take like the French and Italians do, we have the whole court trial, listen to prosecution und defendant and call the witnesses to the stand. Or we take the axe and go Paul Bunyan on our options. Seems quite radical and brutal, doesn’t it? There‘s no way back once the tree’s down and it involves an act of violence and destruction. I think I even sent @the.language.nerds a dm about it. And then I thought some more, especially regarding my recent history of major decisions and that really life-changing (overdue) step a very dear friend of mine had to take, too, and thus needed some moral backing-up and of course I got you, woman, I got you.

Time to Fell a Tree and a Decision.

As a metaphor for my dear friend’s problem, imagine a tree. An old, mighty tree, with thick branches and twiggy twigs, deeply rooted in the ground, solid, strong, deutsche Eiche par excellence, rich crown and full of leaves. It shields you from the sky – yes, it’s protecting you from the rain and is blocking out the hot summer sun, but: it also blocks the view up to the sky and stars, where dreams are born. The tree has grown for many years. It had good years, it had bad years. And it stayed firm. But now it’s rotten inside. It has to go. Even though it still looks fine on the outside. You are you wanna chop it? That’s gonna be a lot of work. And require lots of strength. And dedication. And justifications, to kill such a monument of time. Sounds pretty intimidating, doesn’t it? Well, unfortunately, yes, sometimes that is the case. It’s not gonna be easy. It’s gonna be effing hard. And it’s gonna hurt. But you can do it. Because once you’ve done it, once you’ve made that decision you prolonged but knew you had to “fell”, once you literally got to the roots of your problem, then you will be able to see the sky again. And all those possible alternatives to the same old view you were scared of giving up. Yes, there will be blood, because wo gehobelt wird, da fallen Späne (the German equivalent of “You have to break an egg to make an omelette”, literally “Where there’s planing there’s chipping”) and there will be a very empty spot with a sad tree trunk with resin oozing from its wounds to remind you of the hurt committed. But it’ll heal. And soon you will be looking back at it and it will be covered in moss and grass, with butterflies and birds and other animals nestling there – in my case squirrels, because I love squirrels and I want a pet squirrel please, and until then I have a virtual, and an actual address to go, the Eichhörnchen rescue center of Freiburg YES THERE IS A FREAKING SQUIRREL STATION IN FREIBURG and I am in love but I am also heartbroken because “Bitte haben Sie Verständnis, dass Besuche in der Eichhörnchen-Station  nicht möglich sind, da diese für die Tiere (und mich) Stress bedeuten… ” ??? so I actually don’t have an actual address to go to but I understand your reasons and I still dig your work, Steph, and one of the main reasons I like my Günterstal running track every other day is because I meet so many squirrels on my way and sometimes they even run with me before scurrying up some tree. I’m in love.

https://www.instagram.com/p/B50jHFHgY9L/
Johnny Kääpä’s Instagram

Oh, do you know The Adventures of the Black Hand Gang? THE Englisch Lernkrimi for kids. It’s the best.

Mystery crime story on the left page and a corresponding picture puzzle on the right and despite the fact that I didn’t understand a single word at first and only cared about what to look for in the picture, the most vivid thing I remember next to Ralph (or was it Frank?) and his trumpet was that one of these young investigators, Keith, had W. S. attached to his name, short for “With Squirrel” because he really did have a pet squirrel and dear Hans Jürgen Press (that’s the author), let me tell you: I loved the puzzles, I loved the stories, but “with squirrel” is up to date amongst the most difficult phrases to pronounce. / wɪð skwɝrəl / Th and the squ and the english r-sound. Especially after a standard-vowel-pronunciation ignoring name followed by another th like kɪɪɪɪɪ:ð Why would you make such an adorable animal such a nuisance to pronounce? So frustrating! And I didn’t even have one. I am and have always been Without Squirrel. Nut cool. [In order for my non-German readers to relate, please re-read that whole paragraph out loud but substitute every single squirrel with Eichhörnchen.]

Jumping David Attenborough GIF by BBC Earth - Find & Share on GIPHY
But let‘s jump back to my tree metaphor!
(because I clearly lost my thread again)

Back to chopping down our tree. You will still see what once had been. Wonder if that tree might have been able to heal itself. Even though you know it wouldn’t have. And after enough time, it will become a memory, something that shaped you, that left its traces, but made way for new experiences to grow and flourish in its place. And with that beautiful picture, my mind was finally at ease again and went back to sweet dreams of forest clearings, wise and brave decisions and a flourishing future yet to come.

Super, and naturally abnosome.

I have a stupid cold and so I am in the bath tub with poison ivy green menthol and eucalyptus essence or chained to the bed (or rather couch, since I prefer to sit out my illnesses and diseases there) and furthermore so, I am incredibly bored. I tried being productive and read some of my academic texts, and continue with my philosophy book but I can’t concentrate because my brain is all wibbly wobbly and cotton candy and my throat keeps reminding me of its miserable existence whenever I swallow (not what she said). I couldn’t even continue Marvelous Mrs. Maisel – a show as marvelous as its title – because my mind couldn’t keep up. And despite feeling very fatigued, more than dozing off is not on the menu so entertainment for the bored generation sick, represented by me, was needed. Netflix offered Season 12 of

TBBT.

A show that should have stopped after season 4. From there on, it became boring. Ausgelutscht, as we like to say. QED by season 12. It’s not really bad, it’s actually totally watchable but the admittedly original idea has long ago been used up and gone and I noticed I didn’t care the least about where the characters were heading. It lost all drive and pace, the main ingredients for a sitcom. Also, I have a quantum physicist brother, I don’t need to see fictional Sheldons, I have my own, down in Down Under (love you, PJ!). Alas, 24 mediocre episodes later, I was back to square one. Time to check Amazon Prime and oh my, what do I discover in ‘recently added TV shows’?

Buffy, the Vampire Slayer!

The day has been saved! And already head-banging to the opening hard rock riffs, I happily clicked on play, ready to reminisce in my favourite teenage TV show, every Wednesday evening, 20:15 Uhr. Quick excursion to my teenage years and a traumatic story: I was sick with a fever and begged my parents to allow me to watch Buffy because – the younger among my readers may not know this – back in the day we had to wait for a whole week till the next episode was broadcast and binging was a. verb solely reserved for alcoholic excesses or overeating and if you missed an episode, well then, bad luck. The previous episode’s preview promised an exceptionally scary monster and I simply HAD to see it. So after begging and begging, my parents finally agreed and it SCARED THE SHIT OUT OF ME. Fuck. Up to date the scariest monsters in the history of TV monster hunters. Ladies and Gentlemen: The Gentlemen.

https://giphy.com/gifs/scary-buffy-the-vampire-slayer-qBjlPcxhCVfoY
Season 4, Episode 10 “Hush”

Not only did it cause the worst nightmares, I was also alone the next morning and was terrified they might show up, so I carefully scanned my room and emptied one of the cabinets so I could hide in them in case I heard a suspicious noise. Did I mention we lived in an old house? There’s nothing but suspicious noises in old houses.

Back to 2020.

Buffy has been successfully clicked on (and that took a while because my ex and I are very adult and he still gets to use my Netflix whereas I get to use his Amazon Prime but we haven’t spoken in a while so I hadn’t logged in into his account on my iPad because I didn’t want the first words between us to be “what’s your password again?” so I’m watching on my old laptop and I keep forgetting it doesn’t have a touchscreen) and the famous loading wheel is turning aaaaand suddenly I’m greeted with a “Komm her, du Pappnase” and realize, the episode’s in German and there’s no OV available! Come on, Amazon Prime, wtf! Yes, I watched Buffy with German subs back then but that was because I didn’t have a choice or knew better. Synchro is in most cases cringeworthy, especially with that kind of show. Exceptions are: the Disney classics, House of Cards (Kevin Spacey’s Synchronsprecher has the most mesmerizing voice), The Simpsons. Kudos to whoever did those. Well, being sick and thus annoyed per se, that is an absolute No-Go so I went from strong female lead chasing monsters to hot guys chasing monsters instead:

Supernatural.

Ah, the Winchester brothers. Sammy and Dean. Saving people, hunting things, the family business. A guilty pleasure? Maybe. But. Whatever you may think about the quality of that show, it is much more than what it appears to be. The first season is straight up what you expect. Two trained tough hot dudes hunting monsters with an overshadowing story arch affecting both brothers. Absolute and shameless guilty pleasure. Stereotypes get established, cliches fulfilled, and it has all the ingredients a shallow, suitable for mass consumption TV production needs. And then, for unknown reasons, they did the right thing and decided not to take themselves serious. And hilarity ensued. From Season 2 onwards, Supernatural has become a Persiflage of itself, of the genre, of everything it established within the first season. The main structure has remained the same: big Winchester-related story arch, new monster every single episode. But there are running gags:

Jensen Ackles Pizza GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY
Dean eating, for example. And boy, can that guy eat. And yet stay in shape.
Which is also frequently commented on.

Basic gist: Dean is tough, eats and drinks, chick magnet, but really has a soft spot. Sam is more of a sissy, always hides secrets from his brother, his hair gets longer and longer every season, nickname Moose. Both frequently die, are Antichrists or demons or something like that, yet they will always carry on driving in Dean’s Impala and continue hunting down monsters. OSTed by classic rock tunes. The plot becomes more and more absurd but by the time you realize you don’t care because you care so much about these two and the things the writers might put them through this time. You can sometimes read in the actors’ faces how annoyed they are by what their characters have to suffer. It’s sarcasm. And so meta. Hardly any other show plays so much with its levels of narratation. The most meta episodes from Season 1-10 (because I haven’t watched any further yet), in chronological but not personal preference order:

  • Any episode featuring Felicia Day.
  • Season 2, Episode 8 “Hollywood Babylon”. Sam, played by Jared Padalecki, getting visibly uncomfortable as they are passing by the Gilmore Girls studio (editor’s note: JP played Dean on GG, in case you really didn’t know and yes, it it very confusing that Dean is Sam and not Dean). Set in a Hollywood horro film studio, it covers all the cliches.
  • Season 4, Episode 18 “The Monster at the End of this Book”. Where they find out they’re books. That the prophet didn’t know what to do with all the info he got so he published fantasy horror fiction that became true within the Supernatural Universe. Favourite quote: “I’m sitting in a laundromat reading about myself sitting in a laundromat reading about myself,”
  • Season 5, Episode 8 “Changing Channels”. The one where Sam and Dean find themselves in all famous TV formats – Grey’s Anatomy, Full House, Knight Rider, Japanese Game Show for example – having to play by each genre‘s rules. Also featuring the trickster aka Archangel Gabriel aka Richard Speight Jr whom, on a side note, I find weirdly sexually attractive. Hilarious episode, lots of slapstick, and fantastic commentary on TV genres.
  • Season 5, Episode 9 “The Real Ghostbusters”. Fan fiction and LARP. Need I say more? Next!
  • Season 6, Episode 15 “The French Mistake”. Dean and Sam end up in a parallel universe and do not only have to come to terms with the fact, that they’re a TV show but even more one that’s filmed in CANADA! Ready for some real inceptional shit? Jensen Ackles and Jared Padalecki play Dean and Sam Winchester that play fictional Jensen Ackles and fictional Jared Padalecki playing Dean and Sam Winchester. Boom. Mind blown. So freaking good. Including live twitter commentart. Whoa.
  • Season 10, Episode 5 “Fan Fiction”. Supernatural meets High School Musical. With a very freaked out Dean when witnessing fan fictional romance in the family (“You know they’re brothers, right?”) and with Deanstiel. Plus catchy tunes. And yes, goosebumps all over with that cover song:

So yes, anytime Supernatural becomes more and more absurd and ridiculous and you start to get bored, (it really went down after Season 5 and I almost stopped watching. I’m glad I didn’t. Hang in there, it’s worth it, I promise!) it hits you with one of those top notch prime entertainment episodes.

Not to forget this show created and introduced two of the best side characters there have ever been: first, we have the angel Castiel. Thanks to the actor behind him, Misha Collins, the genius behind GISH, formerly know as G.I.S.H.W.H.E.S., I started watching Supernatural in the first place and learned to be my abnosomest self. #deathtonormalcy

Castiel is as socially awkward as I feel most of the time and you gotta love every single scene where he hilariously (hello there Fremdschämen) fails being human and as well as the undeniable hate-love-relationship between him and Dean. Also, Assbutt is without further debate the best insult out there and according to Urban Dictionary “An exclamation used to distract Angels just before you throw a Molotov at them.”

(And now an official GISH mascot.)

Then we have on the other side: Crowley. And has there ever been a show where we didn’t adore Crowley? Doctor, Ten, any opinion on that?

Doctor Who Reaction GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

It’s gotta be a Good Omen if there’s a Crowley on the show. This one’s played by no other than Mark Sheppard and couldn’t you just listen to his accent and voice forever? The mean demon soon becomes a Dean man aka an unwilling sidekick for the Winchesters and even as King of Hell, he remains as platonically involved as Castiel, and we, the audience, get to enjoy a very classy, gentleman villain with style and taste.

And here we are now, almost finished with Season 10, an empty package of Dolodobendan next to me, and the smell of Pinimenthol rubbed all over my chest, and a little less bored me, and a hopefully slightly entertained you.

Goodbye, Stranger. Bless you. Achoo.

Oh Sleep

A complaint due to recent events

I can’t sleep well at night – no news under the sun here. Anybody who has shared a bed with me knows I constantly wake up, move around, do full-body cat yoga (actual footage of me sleeping^^) lie awake, wake up too early. Unless they have the wonderful gift of solid, safe and sound sleep and never notice anything.

When I did get to bed at last I was unspeakably tired; the stretching out, and the relaxing of the long-tense muscles, how luxurious, how delicious! but that was as far as I could get – sleep was out of the question for the present.

Mark Twain, A CONNETICUT YANKEE IN KING ARTHUR’S COURT

Normally, this is how it goes from there:

Energizer bunny gets up, starts her day and keeps on being busy as a beaver until nighttime, usually between midnight and 1am, when she dares to go to bed hoping for Morpheus to embrace her. Lol. As if. I think that ship has sailed for good. But again: I know the drill. I know there is the occasional (maybe like once a month) long night’s sleep where I go to bed at 10pm and sleep till 6 or even 7am. But apart from that my normal sleeping time settles between 5-6 hour, various awake phases included. And don’t you come and suggest something like developping a go-to-bed ritual. Believe me, I tried them all. There are some little helpers, so here are my top three Einschlafhilfen (love that word) aka my audio friends to help me fall asleep:

  • Rain sounds
  • Tom Hiddleston reads (whatever. Really doesn’t matter. He has a very sexy yet soothing voice. Just type it into the YouTube search bar and listen)
  • Gustav Schwab: Sagen des klassischen Altertums. This version. So monotonous, it must be the most boring audiobook there ever was. (Even though the stories per se are pretty juicy)

If I go to sleep to early, I will wake up at 4am. Like now, for example. People at work are then very happy because usually that leads to early morning baking sessions. Hold on. It just hit me. I am a born baker! I am an early morning person and I like baking. I could prepare your croissants right now and have all my buns and German bread variety and Brezels ready for you when you are. (In order to QED my talent, here are some tried and tested recipes). Did I tell you how sometimes, in the morning, there is this irresistible smell of croissants from the bakery downstairs? Ever since that happened on the first morning after I moved and didn‘t have any cash at hand (Germany is a cash country), I put aside an emergency croissant stash. Cafe Schmidt croissants are one of the best and most buttery. Not as good as the French make them, of course. A perfect croissant doesn’t need extra butter. Even though some Spanish novelists disagree:

Das Beste was einem Croissant passieren kann, ist dick mit Butter bestrichen zu werden. // Das Beste, was einem Stück Butter passieren kann, ist, auf ein Croissant gestrichen zu werden.

Pablo Tusset, DAS BESTE WAS EINEM CROISSANT PASSIEREN KANN

Alright, breakfast ordered and crumbled, and back to topic. Now that we established my (ab)normal sleeping pattern, here’s what’s been happening lately. It started on Christmas Eve, after my very professional Instagramm Silesian Christmas Dinner Cooking: (saved under Highlight, CHRISTMAS DINNER – hit the Insta button in the upper corner if you wanna watch it). I honestly did not expect so much positive feedback. Or any feedback at all. But people seem to enjoy it. I‘m a natural talent, who knew?! I should be one of those YouTube Channel girls. Give make up tutorials. Lol. Anyway, it was nice to get reactions, and positive ones, too 🙂

Right after I was done eating, I napped for a solid hour. And solid it was. I almost didn‘t master to get up and head over to M’s. Christmas Day continued to be nap day. As usual, I woke up shortly after 6am and went about my day but had two very long naps during the day. Same on the 26th, although one of those naps started out as a pretend one to escape an uncomfortable social situation and then I just fell asleep for real. Okay, that one could have also been related to the fact I donated blood that morning. But still: pretty unusual for La Loverman. In the evening, I had plans to meet up with Jojo, and when he cancelled, I happily dozed off on my couch with the wonderful knowledge there was no reason to leave it any time soon. Well, you might say, it was Christmas. The famous Neverwhere and Neverwhen zone of the year, where time has its own laws and the Feiertage mess up with your daily routine. It didn’t stop there, however. Ever since, I need my daily nap. I‘ve become the narcoleptic Argentinian in Buz Luhrman‘s Moulin Rouge, but prettier. I am just so overwhelmingly tired all the time. My arms and legs are filled with lead, and don‘t even get me started on my eyelids. I am so, so tired. All the time. Or rather, my body is. My mind still goes Speedy Gonzales and I’m as giddy as ever. But at the same time, I feel an exhaustion I’ve hardly ever felt before. My concentration span went down the drain, which is not ideal when you need to work and study and and write and figure out your future and generally get your shit together and instead, you barely manage to wrap yourself in a blanket and instantly fall asleep on the couch and then struggle to get up again. I know this is a common symptom when dealing with mental health issues and the last weeks have been an extra-emotional rollercoaster but since I’ve ever only had the panic attacks, the restlessness, the overthinking, the being-stabbed-in-the-stomach pain, the malnourishment (in both directions) and the exercise compensation, I’m new to the whole sleep exhaustion. Insomnia I can handle. This? No way, José. Maybe it means I‘m processing stuff? Recovering even, maybe? Oh, how wonderful that would be. Some very pressing issues have been resolved within the last days of the year (yet at the same time, new ones have been created or more precisely, revealed) so I reckon it’s all taking its toll. However, being simultaneously so very tired and so uneasy is a dangerous combination because they contradict each other and I have neither the time nor the energy to give in to both but as things are right now, I don’t have a choice. I must follow the spur of the moment.

My wish for 2020 hereby: lose the overwhelming, heavy tiredness. It weighs me down. Or even better: keep it. But have it come by night so I can finally have a proper, solid good night‘s rest.

Thanks for reading and good night!

We have arrived at an intellectual chaos

Clearly we have, because that what it says up there right before the .com. And on the intro page. Here is a more detailled version of said intro text, one that gives you more background and details. Also, when I wrote the following, I didn’t have that intro page yet so this is future Julia commenting on past Julia’s post.

I’ve started blogging way back in 2010, when I moved to Birmingham, UK. Almost everyone those days went abroad somewhere and they all started sending out semi-personalized newsletters (which I’m simply not a fan of) or they created a blogspot account – blogspot, the StudiVZ of blog pages, way before tumblr and wordpress won over the German market. I wrote in German, for my friends and family back home in order to keep them informed about the weird and wondrous adventures and encounters I had in the industrial town also called “Venice of the North”. I vividly remember how annoyed I was because I didn’t have a proper laptop, just my tiny little netbook that was a pain in the ass to write with, so I spent my freetime at the university’s library and their computers – not being able to figure out how to change the keyboard settings from English to German, which annoyed me even more but I got used to it except for the even more annoying fact, that y and z are the other way round on each language’s keyboard. So annoying. I did write one very passive agressive article about it though and from then on just didn’t care anzmore.

Soon I adjusted to living in Bham, made some British friends i.e. had adorable British accents all around ♥ and decided to let them in on my outsider’s perspective on their country and culture. My blogspot’s name was subsequently changed to a pun – of course – because I had just learned the phrase “what a sight to behold” from my good Gloucester ginger Friend Ellis and since almost everything I saw was worthy to behold, I tried to do exactly that and thus thought it a very fitting title. And ever since my blog was known as “What a Site to Behold” and marked my entry into the English speaking world of puns and, if I may say, I have acquired some pretty decent skills since then. One of the few site-effects of writing in English, you might say. Hehe.

Back in Germany, I kept blogging, now foremost for my UK friends and as a means to keep up my language skills in general and specifically to practice my writing skills because after all, there are yet so many words or phrases that I don’t know or don’t use correctly and I still suck at prepositions (ugh, those tiny two-letter words, in, of, at. I hate you and your random rules) so I saw it as a fun opportunity to improve, to express myself and to impress others. As it is so often in life, my blogging activity slowly subsided and my blogspot (that had meanwhile been transfered to tumblr) became dormant for quite some time until I did a relaunch and for the first time used The Intellectual Chaos (.tumblr.com) as my online identity. Soon after, tumblr just didn’t do it for me anymore. I love the tumblr community and that whole platform is hilarious and a nerd paradise for all fields and topics. But I wanted something for myself. And so I bought this domain right here. And then nothing happened. Because life. Of course. Yeah, I experienced a little with the templates, I chose photos, I wrote About Me-s and whatnot. But it took me a while to actually publish something worthwhile. I’m more self-conscious than I used to be and I am my own worst critic (and enemy). I’m glad you can’t see how many unfinished drafts are in my Posts-folder just because I’m not content with my writing or insecure about whether I should even write about this or that because there are so much people out there who know so much more about whatever I write about and who is interested in what I write anyway! Funnily enough, most of the stuff I publish in the end has been written within an hour or two, when the muse kissed me and the words just pour out of me onto screen. Like this text, for example. It’s 6.22am right now, I’m all snuggled up on my couch in a pompous blue velvet blanket, nicknamed the Pornodecke, with a mug of coffee beside me. The only sound being the clickediclickclack of my fingers running along the keyboard. (And the crying child upstairs. And the city’s cleaning car outside. And the trams passing by. And a feww early birds chirping.)

We have arrived at an intellectual chaos.

…are actually not my words but those of one of my favourite authors: Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn. The Russian writer and historian, 1918-2008, is most famously known for his literary contribution – both fictional and non-fictional from first-hand experience – on Soviet labour force camps, thus raising international awareness of Gulags and Stalin’s regime of terror. So far I’ve only read The Gulag Archipelago and One Day in the Life of Denis Ivanovich because Solzhenitsyn is nothing to read on a light summer’s day. It’s intense. Right over there The First Circle is waiting for me and I’m only two books further up on my reading list away from it (sidenote: one of them is a short story by Bulgakov. He, too, is a Soviet literary genius. Just three words: Master(piece) and Margarita). Solzhenitsyn’s views on politics and society in 20th century’s Soviet Union are clinical, cold, and judgmental. Brutally honest and absurdly funny.

Surely one would wonder if it is inappropriate to use an expression that stems from such a gruesome chapter of history. Maybe. But then you see, the quote perfectly sums up the ridiculous atmosphere under Stalin where the intellectual elite was at the mercy of the government’s ever-changing mercy and favour. They were at constant battle with themselves, trying to maintain their artistic aspiration and stay true to themselves while never knowing if what they wrote or painted or composed or in any other way artistically or intellectually produced would be praised and celebrated or despised or deemed “too western” which would have them put under observance, and them and their families in great danger and possibly eventually in Gulags. Or worse.

I have arrived at an intellectual chaos.

Not because I go through the same. But because I know the tiptoeing around what the art wants to and the critic doesn’t want to say. Because I, too, find myself in a constant battle – with myself. About what is going on in my head, what I want to say, all the things I think, all the things I think that want to get out but I’d think too much about the consequences of making them public, what others might think. My mind hardly ever stops. I don’t sleep well, I am constantly restless, my thoughts go from here to there, they jump back and forth, and go on a rollercoaster ride, and if I didn’t have some sort of means to get at this out, it would be literally mind-blowing and not in a good way. I have so many interests and ideas about all and everything. There’s chaos up here in the thought department and it needs channelling. And found it here. It’s one way to cope. Getting the words and thoughts out – and trying to ignore my inner critic when I hit that “publish” button.

I am a living stream of consciousness. I am an intellectual chaos. I am THE Intellectual Chaos.

[The feature image is by Polish artist Alicja Posłuszna: Indoctrination/Indoktrynacja, 2016. Go check out her instagram! And if you feel like buying me an Intellectual Chaos present, I won’t stop you ;)]

Sigmund Freud's couch

We are the best experts on ourselves.

But a little outside input won’t hurt. [it would, though]

In a few days, I will be starting a person-centered counseling – zu deutsch: Gesprächstherapie, which is also the name I prefer because it makes it more about talking and less about counseling or psychoanalysing and whatnot. Definitely makes it sound less intimidating. And me less crazy.

It’s been a long time since I was last seeing someone, as in therapist. It’s been in fact so long that my last therapy sessions were still filed under “home visiting family therapy”. Naturally, I am a bit scared as to what to expect now. I suppose, it can only get better though, right? There’s just been too many things piling up, too much emotional baggage and garbage that I have vigorously ignored. However, in the end, there’s only so much running or bouldering or engaging in other time-body-and-mind-consuming tasks one can do to cope before one realizes more drastic measures are required. I’ve long since gotten to that point and left it far behind, and I’m honestly just glad the bestest roomie was not around when I hit my low-point because that’s something you don’t want anybody to witness. In order to get to grips with all this, I met up with my sister, who always has the answers to all questions I didn’t have the words for. She’s a superstar anyway. Not only did she casually rock her master in psychology, she is also currently enrolled in further training to specialize on above mentioned person-centered counseling. One requirement of her course is that everybody suggests someone in need of therapy who is willing to participate and then in return is willing to become a case study.

In other words, I’m a guinea pig.

Soon I was allocated to Claudia. Soon she contacted me and asked to postpone the beginning of our sessions till June. Which was sadly the opposite of soon and meant I had to wait two long, agonizing months during which merely the prospect of having decent counseling in the foreseeable future kept me going. Sooner became later et voilà, here we are, both ready to begin our journey together.

Gesprächstherapie. For those of you who are not sure what exactly that is and too lazy to look it up, let me explain in a nutshell: established in the 1940s by Carl Rogers, it focuses on the patient, on the patient’s experience and awareness, feelings and thoughts. It is based on empathy and seeks to facilitate the patient so that they might be able to help themselves and find answers, solutions, help within. It’s about knowing and accepting who you are and allowing yourself to be exactly that and thus make change possible in the first place. Six core conditions build the foundation of person-centered therapy: contact, client incongruence, genuineness or therapist congruence, therapist unconditional positive regard, therapist empathetic understanding, client perception. All those fancy words describe a very specific relation between therapist and patient defined by by the therapist’s explicitly and articulated desire and active attempt to relate to the patient and fully understand and acknowledge their perspective. As Carl Rogers describes it:

To be with another in this [empathic] way means that for the time being, you lay aside your own views and values in order to enter another’s world without prejudice. In some sense it means that you lay aside your self; this can only be done by persons who are secure enough in themselves that they know they will not get lost in what may turn out to be the strange or bizarre world of the other, and that they can comfortably return to their own world when they wish. Perhaps this description makes clear that being empathic is a complex, demanding, and strong – yet subtle and gentle – way of being.

Carl Rogers, A Way of Being

In other words: it’s the therapeutic equivalent of Douglas Adams’ Point-of-View Gun, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Psychology, the intergalactic highway into my mind, the big friendly letters on the back reading DON’T PANIC. And yet, I do.

Person-centered therapy allows the patient to address topics and do most of the talking. Once you say out loud your thoughts, fears, feelings, put them into words, you automatically re-assess them. I have experienced this and I bet so have you. Gesprächstherapie sort of enhances that process and facilitates the patient to come up with possible solutions for themselves. Ideally, during this process, the therapist simply listens, without judging and without showing any signs of approval or disapproval. The patient should perceive this as truly being heard. This should (theoretically, haha) enable the patient to find the answer (the ones that aren’t 42) within oneself. It shifts the attention from outer circumstances to the inner self. It’s a guidance to love, embrace, and accept oneself. Super lame and soppy, I know, – insert pathetic inspirational quote. Oh, well, let’s actually insert a pathetic inspirational quote:

I’m not perfect… But I’m enough.

Carl Rogers

One of Rogers’ key slogans. To truly believe that and live by that principle is what person-centered counseling hopes to achieve. So fingers crossed. To be honest, I have very mixed feelings about this. I have high hopes, certainly. But then – and I know, that sounds weird for somebody who hardly ever shuts up – I’m very concerned about the talking itself. Will I be able to open up? To transform the mush in my mind into meaningful units? Will I be able to talk about whatever if I don’t even know what this whatever is and which part of whatever might be relevant to get to the previously mentioned self-insight? Also, I always considered myself being fairly self-assured. Of course, there are situations I feel insecure and of course I have inadequacies T H I S big which others might not even notice. And I’m not sure how all this soppy “love yourself”-mantra is supposed to help me with insomnia, anxiety attacks, or my psychosomatic pain. But I’m open-minded and willing to try and we shall find out this coming Friday. In a brand new episode of Julia flew over the cuckoo’s nest. Until then, we’ll remain curiouser and curiouser. And needless to say: We’re all mad here. Cheshire Cat over and out.