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.

In Taros Welt / Taro’s World

UPDATE: The first review is out! Check it out here: Pizzicato

You already know a lot about my world, now it is time to get to know another one: As of today, Taro’s World is streaming worldwide on all standard streaming platforms! Who is this Taro dude, you may ask. Well, he’s a fictional character, an alien, living in the Universe of Sound, and his adventures are told in text and music. Fabrice Bollon, French, conductor, composer and my former boss had written a suite for children. In three movements, we grow older with Taro as he explores the musical wonders of his world and takes us along. After a initial recording just of the music, Fabrice decided something’s missing. And that’s where I enter the stage. He knew my style of writing and quite liked it, so after both our time at that specific theatre had ended, he asked whether I was interested in writing a fairytale to his composition. One that supports the music, that accompanies the music, that adds up to it and completes it. One that helps get the educational message across without being too much of a lecture. And foremost: one that challenges the audiences’ fantasy to be fully engulfed by the music. Simple, really. Lol. Otherwise, I was free to come up with whatever I was inspired to in the music. And so I started writing. And doubted I could come up with anything even remotely acceptable. And in the end, I did. A few composer-lyricist-sessions and one awesome, très, très French 6-course-meal later, our joined opus was done. In February 2022, our combined efforts were brought to life with the Jena Philharmonic Orchestra under the baton of Fabrice Bollon and with opera singer Robero Gionfriddo reading my stories. Children were invited to attend and draw whatever they imagined while listening. Deutschlandfunk Kultur, one of the more important radio stations in Germany, broadcast the whole thing, including interviews and repeatedly saying “Texte von Julia Thekla Liebermann” and I was THRILLED. Some people who more or less accidentally listened in, texted me and congratulated me and I was so immensly proud, I can’t even. So please listen in (royalties, muahaha)! I sure have evolved since then and there are many things I would have done differently. But overall, I am very happy for my first major commission. Hopw you like it!

„Taros wunderbare Welt“ wurde vom Dirigenten-Komponisten Fabrice Bollon und der Autorin Julia Liebermann als charmanter Einstieg in die klassische Musik konzipiert, sowohl für Kinder als auch für Erwachsene, die mit diesem Genre nicht vertraut sind. Taro, ein Kind vom Planeten Trujillo, wird eines Nachts von einer seltsamen kleinen Melodie geweckt. Seine Abenteuer führen durch immer raffiniertere und überraschendere Klangkonstellationen, die beliebte Klassiker auf den Kopf stellen, jede Facette des Orchesters erforschen und eine Vielzahl von Musikstilen auf einzigartig vergnügliche Weise erlebbar machen.

Taro’s Wonderful World was conceived by conductor/composer Fabrice Bollon and author Julia Liebermann as an introduction or initiation into classical music both for children and adults unfamiliar with the genre. Taro, a child from the planet Trujillo, is woken one night by a curious little melody. His adventures take us through increasingly sophisticated and surprising sonic constellations that light-heartedly turn favourite classics upside down and inside out, exploring every facet of the orchestra and combining a wide variety of musical styles in a uniquely enjoyable way.

NAXOS Deutschland – Music & Video Vertriebs-GmbH BOLLON, F.: In Taros Welt (Taro’s Wonderful World).. – 9.70356 | Discover more releases from Naxos

Ave Brutus, Vale Julia Caesar.

Obviously your real name isn’t Brutus. But I am not writing this to point the finger at you. I was able to say some of those things to you in person. But I got the feeling you weren’t capable of grasping any of it, at least not much. So this is for me, addressed to you but not necessarily for you.

You were the one who wanted to move fast and commit to a relationship. You seemed very confident and I admired that. That you can’t recall that you did does not mean it didn’t. Wouldn’t that be convenient? In hindsight, I don’t even know if any of it was true. Which is probably unfair but that’s how you make me feel.

All relationships require time and dedication. Especially in the beginning. Nobody expects to change your whole life and centre it around a new relationship. Just acknowledge: there is someone you wanna include in your life. You, however, thought by putting the label “relationship” on it, that was enough commitment and dedication on your part. I wasn’t your girlfriend. I was your occasional plus one. Convenient for social events where you could proudly present me as yours. Because you’re right with one thing – I am fucking awesome. Literally and metaphorically speaking. But to make the tiniest bit of room in your life? Not gonna happen. And if Julia insists, she’s needy. You were a whole lot of empty promises. And annoyed when I claimed them. You said, you didn’t want any of us to have to change for the other. Adjustings is neither changing nor denying your true self. I am the same person when I talk to my boss, to my therapist, to my friends, to my neighbour. Yet each of these conversations would show a completely different Julia. And it’s all me. I would never expect you to change your core being. Your core being is what I fell in love with and what I still appreciate about you.

All relationships are based on mututal respect and trust towards each other. I’m not talking about sharing bank details or Netflix passwords or telling each other everything. I’m talking about that slowly built-up trust. And how do you build it? By being open and honest, and therefore vulnerable to each other. I was. You weren’t. Therefore you got out when you wanted to, and I got hurt. You decided to shoulder everything by yourself and hide it from me. You wanted to solve an equation without including all variables. You thought if you act it like everything is fine, everything IS fine. Surprise, problems don’t magically disappear if you ignore them. Once, you addressed something. You said your piece, I said mine, and within a few calmly exchanged words, we reached an agreement, set our boundaries, and moved on. Problem solved. Wow, I thought, we handle issues like proper adults. We are so comfortable around each other to do his. Until you didn’t anymore. You justified your actions with ex-experiences where addressing things equaled drama. And conveniently overlooked the opposite presenting yourself in front of you. Tell me: How was I supposed to know something was wrong? You made me part of the problem (maybe I was) but you denied me being part of the solution. One incident happened that neither of us handled correctly. A minor nuisance, nothing more. You called it the proverbial straw that broke the camels back. [in German, the drop that made the barrell overflow]. How wouldn’t it? You claimed the camel’s load for yourself and You carried everything we were supposed to carry together. [You rolled in the barrell and filled it and I had no idea there even was a barrell]. And blamed me that it got too heavy. I keep thinking how awful of a partner I must be that you collected so many bad things about me within such a short timespan?? Without showing it. I think you belong in front of the camera, not behind it. You sure have the acting skills. Did I even fall for YOU or simply for the idealized version you pretended to be? I honestly don’t know anymore. I don’t blame you for realizing that our existing differences are not compatible in the long way. That may be the case, or not, who knows? I blame you for keeping me blindsighted about what was going through your heart and mind. I blame you for making that decision all by yourself, of keeping me out of the loop. When I confronted you a second time after our break-up, you changed your story halfway through from “I don’t communicate problems” to “I definitely communicated them through my changed behaviour”. Which is right? I honestly don’t know. Let me say this: if you did, you did a damn bad job and you were subtler than subtle about it. I had no idea what hit me when it did. You said you felt pressured to let me come to your best friend’s wedding. In no way did I pressure you, I even gave you a valid excuse. All you had to do was say “Yes, you’re right, it is quite early in our relationship for bringing the other one to a wedding.” That was a you-problem and you blamed it on me. I have plenty of me-problems. We all do. You know what I did? I told you about them. I told you I am working on them and that I didn’t want to make you responsible for anything that is not your responsibility. And asked you to tell me if that was the case. Our relationship was the victim of your baggage and personal issues, and I was collateral damage. You had a double moral. When I kept nagging you about something, I was disrespecting your boundaries. If you did the same to me, you were just joking around. Hashtag snails, Hashtag bondage. Do you have any idea how it feels when you wanna have sex with your SO and they brush you aside while saying in the same breath (and repeatedly) how nice it would be to take that curly-haired redheaded waitress back home for some fun? Sorry for not taking your reluctance seriously. Sorry I thought you were just teasing me and I was teasing you. Sorry I interpreted it as some sort of cheeky banter. Sorry for not understanding you just didn’t want to have sex with me.

Since I studied English and German literature and you’re a movie buff, here are some similes:

If our relationship was a meal we prepared together, you would have let me salted it more and more, encouraging me even. And then throw it all out because of course it became inedible. If our relationship was a contract, you would have given me nothing but positive feedback for my work, just to hand me my resignation the same day for breach of contract. And since you are so in love with your business: If our relationship was a camera lense, it would have had a crack but you would use it anyway and hope that by using it anyway the crack would magically disappear. And whose fault is it that it didn’t? Mine. How dare I not have seen the crack even though you put the blind on it. One of the major issues you had with me was that I was too energetic. Me, the one who usually went to bed2 hours earlier than you. The conversation went something like this: “You’re so energetic.” – “Did it affect you in a negative way?” – “No.” – “Sooo?” – “You know, Bernhard, for example. He doesn’t talk much in the morning.” – “Was I talking too much in the morning? Did it bother you?” – “No, not at all.” – “So what exactly is the problem?” – “Look, there are different kinds of people. Bernhard for example. Bernhard is …” – “This is about us, not about Bernhard.” – “Yes, but I’m trying to say people are different.” – “Yes they are, what does it have to do with us? How exactly does one of my defining character traits that you vocally admired before have to do with your roommate? Do you want me to be less energetic and more like Bernhard?” – “No, I love your energy.” – “So, what exactly is the problem?” You can see where this is going, dear non-addressee reader.

The breakup

One of the shabbiest, shadiest things anyone has ever done to me. You lured me into your home, you made me feel welcome. “Fancy a glass of wine at my place?” is how you invited me over. We spent the first 20 minutes of the evening hugging and kissing and chatting about our day as ever. “I didn’t initiate any kissing!” you tried to defend yourself afterwards when I asked, how you could do that. You didn’t mind the kissing at all, though. You also didn’t have a problem having sex with me or inviting me to your mum’s and granny’s for lunch while already thinking about breaking up. I had no idea there was any other reason you wanted to see me besides that you wanted to see me until you put your hands on your table and said: “I wanted to have a conversation with you”. Even then I had no idea what the result of that conversation would be. A conversation that in fact wasn’t one. It was a monologue with a set ending and all there was for me to do was comment on it. No editing wanted. What hurts the most though is that you knew what would hurt me the most and yet you went straight for it. You said you handled the breakup as you thought was best. And I believe you. You are not an evil person. Sadistic for sure, probably subconscious. You are simply stuck in your own world, perspective, headspace and weird pseudo-rational logic and you reject anything that could change even the slightest bit about that. You had the best intentions. However, you weren’t willing to look beyond your mindset and consider anything I had told you about me. Anything would have been enough because everything was about this: don’t stab me in the back. Et tu, Brute? There was no empathy, there was only What Would David Do. And why the actual fuck did you mention that your business partner for many years, the one YOU USED TO DATE (which was news to me, too), was the only person you ever wanted to marry and she said no? (well done, girl, well done. Bet you saw through the emptiness of his words.) Are you still into her and is that the reason you’re so in love with your business?? Would explain a lot, actually.

You painted a wonderful picture of us, full of happy little trees, and you chopped them down. Healthy, beautiful trees just starting to blossom. Rotten inside, unbeknownst to me. I don’t mourn the real us. The real you is most likely a bullet I dodged. I mourn the fantasy, the “us” you created. And robbed from me, in an instant. I would have rather been grazed by that bullet, at least I would have seen it coming, than stabbed in the back by someone I thought I could trust. Et tu, Brute, indeed.

Sleep, sheep. Babe is Watching.

DISCLAIMER: I simply wanted to post this late night sketch with a few words and then a few became many. Whoops.

I remember when I watched Babe, one of my all time favourites, for the very first time, on a VHS cassette. Babe, the brave and heroic shepherd pig with a heart of gold – stunning the whole nation when simply trying to make his dog mamma and itsFarmer Hogget proud. If you haven’t seen it, do it now. Your heart will lighten up. It is so wholesome.

Within the movie, we learn that all sheep have some sort of international codex. Say the words, and all sheep will listen to you.

Mäh, ihr Schafe, Mäh, ihr Schafe

Bleibet treu eurem Glauben, eurer Rasse, auch im Schlafe

Auch im Schlafe

Mäh, ihr Schafe

Well, I grew up with three small flocks of fluffy animal clouds. And believe me, I tried it. Many times.

Sheep are wonderful beings. Not only are they fluffy (not quite Alpaca but still a solid 7 out of 10 on the fluffometer), they also taste great – yes, we ate them, and I despite us being rather poor, we were certainly spoiled with our meat. It came quite as a shock when I moved out and had to discover how expensive lamb is and that a student’s life and budget didn’t allow for it to be my everyday meat. Even today, I am still lam(b)enting this great culinary loss I had literally taken for granted as a kid. Sheeps are also great weathermenwools. Whenever it’s raining, look at your sheep and check out what they are doing. If its a short shower, they will seek shelter. If its rainy season, wenn sich’s einregnet, as we say in Baden, they won’t bother going under cover. Eventually, they have to get out there anyway. You see? A woolproof weather forecast, every single time. Impressive, eh? No wonder lifestock are called Nutztiere in German, utility animals.

Sheep are much more than that, though. Some of ours had very distinct personalities. Especially the three rams. Aristoteles, Brutus, and Cicero. The eldest, Aristotle, had a deep dark unfathomable face. He was always calm and observing and radiated so much authority, his flock would follow him blindly. Brutus on the other hand was exactly that: brutal. His favourite pastime was running up and ramming his forehead against the stables and he wouldn’t hesitate to do the same to anyone approaching his harem. His forehead was all swollen and rough and red and bulky and he looked like a proper hooligan. A wooligan, hehe. I for my part wouldn’t go near him. I was properly scared and rightly so. Cicero, though young and cocky, was far less aggressive, playfully testing how far he could go before my Dad and Dolly, our German shepherd, would put him back in his place. With growing age, he became more philosophical, just like Aristotle. Telling names, all three of them.

In hindsight, I am eternally grateful my Dad forced me to be a part-time shepherd every other morning before school. I didn’t transform into a natural early riser till my early twenties, so believe me when I say, I loathed it. On the other hand: Mary Julia had a little lamb, Mara, that needed to be fed with a bottle. Whenever Mara heard me coming, there was an excited Baaaaah from the crowd, followed by some shuffling and there she was, running along to greet me, wagging her tail, like a dog. I remember, when I was sick once and couldn’t go see her, I was so upset, my Mum decided to bring her home, into my brother’s and my bedroom. Needless to say, 9-year-old me was delighted. 2-month-old Mara on the other hand was perhaps a little too excited and peed all over my brother’s English workbook he had left lying around on the floor (for further tipps on how to educate your children to tidy up their stuff, follow me). Practical as she was and unaware of any sense of embarrassment, my Mum wrote a letter to his teacher, explaining the rather odd circumstances and asking whether it was possible to order a new book. A year later, when I started secondary school I had the same teacher. As he read out my name, he looked at me, raised his eyebrows and said: „So you’re the little sister. How’s your lamb doing?” Still a better excuse than the dog ate my homework.

When my Dad fell ill, we sadly had to give up our flocks. They now live happily ever after with a nomadic shepherd and it’s comforting to imagine that Mara got to see the whole wide world.

And to end this post on a less melancholical note and come back to our key words “sleep” and “sheep”: As a kid, my favourite place to nap was downstairs in our sort-of-living room, on a sheepskin right in front of the piano. Sometimes I was so comfortably snuggled up, I refused to leave and would stay there all night. It’s one of my few thoroughly happy childhood memories. Bliss. Hope my pencil sheep has peaceful dreams. I count on it.

Social Media Solidarity?

Yesterday, social media became literally a very dark place – black squares all over to show support for the Black Lives Matter movement and raise a voice against racism, to demand justice for the George Floyds in this world and as a sign of a new and sudden high alert and awareness towards white supremacy and oppression of black people, arisen from a terrible event. Almost everyone I follow on instagram has posted a black square with the hashtag blackouttuesday. I didn’t. Just like almost everyone I know changed their facebook profile picture by adding a Je suis Charlie-line or to dye it in the colours of the French flag after the attacks back then in France. I didn’t. The list is endless.

Why didn’t I? First of all, everyone connected to me on social media knows me to some degree. And if you do, you know that I am not indifferent to what is happening. Our world is so wrong in so many ways and the current developments make me so anxious, I had to set boundaries. 15 minutes of news every day, not a second more because it’s too upsetting. And honestly, I’m depressed as it is, and if I wasn’t, the news would make me. Nonetheless I am aware it’s happening and I am in the very comfortable position to watch most of it from afar, from a safe place and take it in in small doses, and I’m still affected. It’s appalling. The world is a mess and compared to it, The Intellectual Chaos is a playground (because a) puns and b) my inner child reigns here, both as king and queen in the land of despair and depression and nonetheless outstanding joy).

My great escape address:

Squirrels on screen

Because I know they’re often described as furrier tree rats but they are so darn cute, I want one. I want a pet squirrel, a red one, and feed it nuts and watch it all day being cute and waggle its bushy tail and be squirrely. Thank you, Johnny Kääpä.

The question is: If I had posted a black square yesterday – what would I have proven? To show my friends, who already know that I condemn what happened, that I’m as appalled and outraged as anybody else? I understand that it is important to voice your support. But first of all – I don’t have the crowd to see this and be influenced by it. Secondly, it’s quite easy, isn’t it? Quickly posted, hashtagged and you may rest well on a clean consciousness. It is significant that these (no doubt well-meant) actions were often ignorantly hashtagged blacklivesmatter, not even knowing this hashtag is used to be updated, to stay informed, to share more important stuff than white middle-class John Doe sharing a black square and then going back into his bubble and that the black community had to point it out to them. (insert facepalm emoji). As I said – if I was more important and more of the influential type (I did get a free pizza once, from Strombolicchio, after my article about them here, but that was the peak of my influencer career. Still feeling pretty smug about it, though. Grazie mille, btw, and I’m already looking forward to today’s (self-paid) dinner, La vita è bella, which is the name of my pizza and despite everything bad going on in this world, a motto I try to live by) it would have more of an impact. It is important to participate in necessary debates and to raise your voice but I simply don’t see the benefit in this particular action. It is a trend that you’re expected to go along with and was instantly followed by further posts and stories calling out everyone not posting a black square a supporter of racism because they stayed silent. Don’t you think there are better ways to get engaged? How many of these judging black-square-(im)posters go back to their white, privileged life feeling good about themselves? If you don’t – good. If you do, see above. And if you do get engaged and active otherwise and yet didn’t post a black square – at least as good.

Your one-of-many instaposts won’t change the world. Reading up on the topic might. Signing a petition might. Looking where and to what ends you can donate to the cause. Or if you’re not doing too well on the financial side, look around and see how you can make the world a better place in your terms.

An example (generally, not particularly for the black lives matter movement): When the first wave of refugees came to Freiburg a couple of years ago, when I was still living in my Haslach hood, my downstairs neighbour posted something on facebook and later on also said something about being glad the grocery store nearby was using security guards since there was a Flüchtlingswohnheim, a refugee center, next to it, because she felt intimidated and scared walking past there and also felt more scared now walking home alone at night because “you never know with these folks“. So I decided to address the subject because otherwise, she seemed a nice person. And so we talked. About what exactly she was afraid of. And when I told her, that the only time I was sexually harassed walking home at night was way before the first refugee wave and by a white, drunk, and based on his dialect local guy. Hit him in the balls btw, wriggled myself out if his grip and ran away. And then we talked about the people in the overcrowded Flüchtingswohnheim, being in a new country, not speaking the language, separated from their families and how we can only imagine how they must feel. It was a good talk and I got to change her views so far as that she would try to be more aware of the difference between fact, fear, and prejudice.

Did I change the world talking to her? Not to a noticeable degree, no. But I made one person rethink her attitude. If that means she will be less receptive to, for instance, a political party feeding off that exact prejudiced fear and with a horrible agenda behind, and will therefore not vote for them – that’s a win. That’s something of value. It makes a difference and I made it. I don’t make a difference if I post a black square on a platform that is all about self-promotion. It has a Gschmäckle of “look at me, I’m a decent human being“. It feels forced, fake and like a farce. Especially if everybody goes back to posting selfies, food, or else the next day. Black lives matter. Of course they do and if you think otherwise you’re a disgrace to the human race. But they don’t just matter on Tuesdays. This is not the new tbt. I wish people would redirect their attention and put their well-meant but nonetheless aimless activism towards better use. If you do and posted a square that’s great. And I’m not condemning you for just posting a black square. But don’t direct your anger passive agressively at people who prefer to fight the injustices in the world in their own terms – invisible to most.

That needed to be said.

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.

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 ;)]