... come back to me

Most of the time when I’m on the streets of Osaka and am trying to make my way through the crowds I probably look like an angry emu ready to attack anyone who bumps into me, cuts my way, or walks carelessly and needs boxes on the ears.

I mean, who comes out of a shop onto the road like a Jason Bourne without looking right and left? Who stops right after they get off an escalator and contemplates where to go next? And though I understand how uplifting it is to listen to music while you’re walking, I get furious at people who listen to music with earphones while riding their bicycles as if they were on their way back from a pub on a remote road somewhere in Ireland.

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Fuck it!

Just recently one of my Japanese students, who I had been teaching English on a regularly basis for over a year, quit her lessons with me without explaining anything to me.

I was sad about it because I had really enjoyed our lessons and liked her very much.

About three months ago I had told her about the new part time job in a kitchen I started working at and asked her if there was a chance we could rearrange our lesson time. She seemed very supportive and flexible with the schedule.

Looking back at everything now though this little episode could have been the trigger for her, which snowballed into the "messy" end of our English lessons. 

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Empty words

Perceptions

I really can’t stand it when someone says “Cheer up!” to me. It makes me want to roar into that person’s face like an angry lion. I just find it wrong on so many different levels.

First of all, in that moment I’m obviously not in a good mood for a reason. I might be down about something. I might have the need to vent. I might be pissed about something. It’s not like I’m constantly in this state, and I’m also not taking my mood out on you in any way, so back off and leave me my right to express my shitty mood.

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The reappearance of the cheerful girl

I just said goodbye to my mother at the Osaka airport.

She’s now on her way back to Germany and we haven’t made any plans for when we’ll see each other again.

 

We didn’t cry because there was no time. We quickly hugged each other, gave each other kisses on the cheeks, and after a few goodbye-waves she was out of my sight.

 

I don’t feel empty, I don’t feel too sad. I mostly feel proud of my mother.

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Bye bye Darth Vader

For the last two and a half weeks I have been taking antidepressants.

 

Antidepressants. Yes!

 

It’s a word that raises eyebrows and causes people to feel uncomfortable. If “antidepressant” were a guest at a posh party then it’d be the huge man with an expensive-looking black suit, black shirt, and tattoos crawling up his neck that makes all heads turn around, spreads a cloud of mystery and a sense of alarm in the room.

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Fathers and daughters

My blog is about my thoughts on my life and although my father crosses my mind on a daily basis the thoughts leave an aftertaste of bitterness and regret behind each time that I’ve been reluctant to write about him. I guess it’s because I don’t know where my words and my post would take me or how much of an open wound this whole process would leave behind.

After talking to a friend though about father-daughter-relationships I changed my mind and decided to write this post. 

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Why on earth ...?

I always find it fascinating in a scary way how things in life turn out and turn around like a boomerang, hit you in the face and knock you out.

 

Things that don't make sense to me

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Pigeonholes and drawers

It’s always a pain in the neck to snatch a table at Starbucks in the center of Osaka, especially in the afternoons. I usually hate it to stand around and wait for someone to get up because I don't like making others feel uncomfortable. But when I’m carrying my heavy laptop and my gym bag with me, like I was on that day, I’m especially eager to find a spot, so I can finally sit down to write and use Starbucks’ wifi. Like a scavenger bird that orbits its victim, I started scanning the place for a potential “leaver”, and voila, two minutes later I had a table.   

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Do you have "presence''?

There are actors I immediately have a crush on - like Mike Vogel in Under the Dome  or Sam Heughan in Outlander - especially if I like the type of guy they play; the smart, sincere kind of man, who doesn’t say much but WHEN he does choose to say something people listen and look up to him and respect him. He is decent, he knows what he wants, doesn’t play around, and has a way to look at his woman that makes other women take their seat ... in defeat ... with a sigh.

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THAT I am NOT

Over the last couple of weeks I told this story to a few people and each time - probably because of the reaction I received - I felt different about my story, and each time it took me on a different emotional path. Until yesterday though, when I told my story to an elderly friend, none of those paths had taken me to this very liberating feeling that I would like to talk about today. 

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Happy moments ... and coffee

I can’t tell you how much I enjoy the Zumba class at my gym. I tried working out to online Zumba classes at home but it’s simply not the same without our teacher from the gym. She is a ball of fire, and with her 154 cm and vivid personality she manages to energize the whole room and everyone in her class.

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Ho Ho Ho ... Depression knocks on my door

It’s that time of the year again. No, I’m not talking about Christmas. 

The days are shorter, colder and grayer. “Winter is coming”, as Jon Snow would say. (Although, technically, it’s already here.) Though the Northerners from Game of Thrones refer to something different with that phrase, it IS the season that hits me the hardest and always throws me down the depression slide.  

May I introduce to you? My Depression:

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Trump and the funny ways of the universe

It is not only impossible not to talk about Trump  - since we keep getting reminded of dark episodes in history - I think that it is also irresponsible not to talk about the outcome of the U.S. election. 

On Election Day

That week, on Wednesday Japan time, my husband and I watched the morning news before we left the house to run some errands and then go to Ikea. At that point things were still in the open. During lunch, when I checked my phone, a reporter on BBC Asia was trying to explain why there was a lot of republican red on the U.S. map while assuring that Hillary Clinton still had a fair chance to win.

It was grey and cloudy outside and the hot dog I had just finished felt like a handful of pebbles wrapped in old newspaper resting heavily on my stomach.

By the time we were done at Ikea we found out that Donald Trip was elected President of the United States. 

I was staring at the windshield. "It really happened", I was thinking to myself.  

It had started raining. Drops landed against the window with a whipping sound. The windshield wipers moved in their rhythm as if it was the most important thing to do on earth: wiping away raindrops. 

My husband and I were in shock. Like so many others, not just in the States but everywhere around the world, we couldn’t wrap our heads around how America had let it come so far that this racist and sexist man, who is so unpredictable that he himself probably doesn’t know what’s going to come out of his mouth, was going to be the leader of the most powerful country in this world. 

 

A list to clarify my emotions

Shock is a foggy state of mind. You feel mentally or physically frozen. You feel different emotions rising to the surface. You feel them  as physical reactions in your intestines, your skin, your hair long before your brain is able to form them into words and translates them into ideas. I was in shock but I wasn’t quite sure about what exactly. That’s why I sat down and tried to list them up. 

  • I was born and raised in Germany. I majored in History and had taken many seminars about how Germany could let Hitler happen. All I can say is: People do let history repeat itself. All it needs is a good amount of issues in a society and in economics, minorities to blame for everything, a person, who craves for attention and voices immediate complaints, and a bunch of powerful and rich grey men, who are eager to support that person in order to exploit the weak points of a society. Add plenty of fear in it and stir it all well, and voila: Fascism with all its terrors is ready to rule the country or the world. So, I was shocked to see that it really doesn’t take much to use this recipe. 

 

  • On the other hand though, convincing people of existing facts, of possible and horrible consequences, of seeing the whole picture and doing the right thing as a decent human being, takes a ridiculous amount of effort.

 

  • We truly live in a white man’s world and as long as we don’t accept that that’s the case, we will never reach a time in which all of us are colorblind. 

 

  • We also live in a man’s world and as long as we don’t set the right tone in education and in families at home to teach that women and men are equal, that women deserve respect and aren’t sexual objects, then we’ll have fathers, judges, business men and presidents with that sickening mindset ruling our daily lives and countries for the longest time. 

 

  • It’s not just the USA dealing with a Trump phenomena; it’s Europe and other parts of the world being shaken by different versions of Trumps. Let’s not point fingers. There is a lot to clean up, avoid and prevent in our own countries. It’s so annoyingly sad when people shake their heads about Trump in Japan, not noticing that their elected Prime Minister Abe is slowly eliminating the rights of media. Or when you look at Europe, which is letting Turkey's President Erdogan imprison all liberal-minded opponents of his policy and bombing Kurdish towns because rather than dealing with the consequences of Syria it wants Turkey to deal with the immigrants. 

 

  • Media is a bitch and most of us don’t know how to use it in a smart and healthy way. There is no doubt that media is manipulative and does especially well with people, who look for easy solutions and insist on patriotism (e.g. claiming at Southern U.S. borders that America belongs to Americans and that Mexicans need to leave while wearing sombreros and eating tortillas, thinking those are traditional elements of U.S. culture). 

 

  • Trump is convinced that climate change is a hoax but we all know that that's not true. As long as powerful and greedy industries conduct world politics and economics, and as long as money is the compass that countries choose to follow, we will not be able to tackle this problem that faces all humanity. 

 

“Aha!”, I thought. “So, this is the contents of all my shock?”

Though the defeated feeling stays, at least now I know what is going on inside of me. 

 

The next few days

In the days to follow we could read and hear people expressing their disbelief on social media, TV, in newspapers and in public. We saw Clinton and Obama asking the nation to stand united and to give Trump a chance. Not long after that another wave kicked in, in which critics voiced their anger about politicians not standing up against the president-elect. 

Overall, I felt confused, angry, overwhelmed, deeply sad, at the mercy of things, scared, worried, and hopeless! Those were all negative feelings and I wasn’t sure how I would be able to push ALL of them away from my chest in order to breathe normally again. 

I sometimes have that “end of the world”- feeling: It’s like standing in a long line with other dreary looking fellows, and we are all waiting to meeting the great Nostradamus in his tiny room, in which we know we’ll be told our gloomy future. And though you could turn around and leave, somehow your legs feel heavy like lead, and you just stay and wait for your turn. 

 

Dealing with gloomy moods

I have to say that I’m fairly shitty at pulling my head out of the sand and looking at things from a different perspective. On the other hand though I’m proud to say that I’m getting so much better at allowing thoughts and people enter my life that do a wonderful job at showing me other, much more positive options for how to perceive things that happen around me.

I always believe that the universe is always there for us. It’s always busy sending us messages. But it's totally up to us whether we want to see them or choose to ignore them or even keep missing them.

 

A different perspective

Last week after the election, the universe had let me start reading a new book, which I had received from a dear friend only three weeks earlier. In this book called Big Magic there is a section in which Elizabeth Gilbert writes about an episode in her life that is about Perspectives.

She writes about how one of the worst scenarios you can imagine for a writer had happened to her: a friend of hers, another writer, talked to her about her recent work and the storyline turned out to be the exact storyline Elizabeth Gilbert had planned on writing years ago but never came around to do it. In this chapter she explains how many destructive conclusions she COULD have drawn from this shocking news.

  • She could have chosen to hate the other writer believing she had stolen her idea.
  • She could have chosen to blame herself for letting an idea slip out of her hands.
  • Or she could have put the hate on destiny itself.

But she didn’t do any of those slowly life-poisoning paths. Instead she actively chose to think of it as proof for her theory that ideas have a conscious will and visit people they actively pick. And only if the chosen ones welcome and embrace them, they stay. They leave the ones who don’t have time for them or don’t value them enough. In that sense, Elizabeth Gilbert looked at this story, that had the power to haunt her for a long time, as a miracle. For her the idea had found its righteous owner and that was an enchanting thought. 

 

A different perspective leads to a different impact

Had I not read this book at that specific time, I’m not sure if Hillary Clinton’s concession speech would have had the same effect on me. Without Big Magic I might have listened to the speech without giving it much thought. This way though, I believe that the universe was trying to help me get my head out of the sand and look at the events in a different way.

I thought that Clinton's speech came from the bottom of her heart and reflected her true nature - namely being a fighter. She has failed and fallen many times but she always gets up and she never loses her focus. To me her words were empowering. The message I drew from it for myself was that things can look really bad and you feel outraged or devastated or hopeless about an outcome. But a defeat can also mean a better future timing, a chance to make things different, to clean up, to work even harder on something. In the end it’s always about how you choose to look at something that makes or breaks things - in this case: you

Hillary’s speech, Gilbert’s book, hints from the universe … They all helped me take some lead off of my legs and walk away from Nostradamus' door. 

 

 

The origami lady

It was the third time I saw this lady at the McDonald’s that’s close to our house. Just like the last two times, she sat down next to me and faulted the tray liner to an origami litter box after she had finished her meal. 

 

First time she did her crafting trick I watched her from the beginning till the end.  When our eyes met I looked at her with a broad smile like a little child that witnessed a magician pull a rabbit out of his ... her hat. She gave me a friendly but tired look, leaned over to my table and took my tray liner without a word. In less than a minute I had my own origami litter box. 

Shortly after that she left without even really gesturing goodbye. 

Although today was our third encounter within the time span of three weeks and I was sure she remembered my face, I could feel that she was not really interested in socializing, and since I wasn’t really in the mood for small talk myself I welcomed her manner. 

On the outside with her curly wet looking shoulder-length hair, hand knitted top and mismatching pants she looked like she was trapped in the 80s. Apart from that, I thought, if she wore the right uniform she would be perfect for the part of a stone-faced, sincere but deep inside warmhearted housekeeper of a 19th century English household. 

Judging by her looks she was in her late 50s.

There was something mysterious and serious but still heartwarming about this lady. 

I couldn’t help but unleash my imagination about her. My mind went off coloring out imaginative parts of her life. 

It went like this: Something terrible had happened to her when she was a young girl. Something so profoundly frightful that she decided not to open up about it to anyone and to never speak and use her voice again. 

The only thing that gave her real pleasure was doing crafty things – from knitting and sewing to doing origami. Hanging on to ritual-like activities, like coming to McDonald’s, ordering the same food and sitting around the same place each time, made her feel safe. 

She didn’t want anyone to interrupt her in her rituals and with her whole attitude she made sure no one entered her private little world. She was far from unkind, although sometimes people mistook her for being cold as ice. All she wanted was being able to exist in this world without having to be a part of it. 

Once I was done with my speculations based on pure emotions and no facts at all, I was ready to step out of the imagination-bubble, which I had lost myself in for a couple of minutes. 

As I reached for my coffee a tiny giggle escaped me. 

The old lady wasn’t the only one with rituals. 

The only reason I knew about her Monday morning McDonald’s meal time was because I had started coming here on a regular basis myself. "Regular" as in "before a monthly English business class with nine stoic Japanese men.

Teaching English business there always makes me feel so nervous that a couple months ago I decided to calm myself down by doing the same thing each time before having to face that class, namely ordering my pancake-salad-coffee set at McDonald’s and reading a book. Although I created a superstitious dependency to this habit (what if I can’t have my pancake set? Will I fail the class on that day!!?? AHHH!), for now it’s what helps me not to freak out about teaching the nine samurai, as I call them!  

I wonder what funny rituals other people have. Feel free to write them in the comment part, if you have any. I'd love to hear from you.  

 

Zumba class and leopard prints

gym memberships

About seven months ago I started going to the gym. It wasn’t an easy decision for me for many different reasons.

Over the last 15 years I have signed up for a gym membership many times but never - until now -  have I been able to go to the gym on a regular basis for this long.

Here is a long list of why's: 

  • I hated the feeling of pressure I put on myself thinking that I HAD to go since I was paying a good amount of money every month.
  • I never really knew what machines to use and how to use them properly, and I was too self-conscious about my uncoordinated movements in aerobic classes.
  • I’m so incredibly talented in not getting the steps right that I can even make the instructor get out of rhythm.
  • In addition to all that, I've always disliked the attention I thought I got for being a foreign woman in a Japanese gym, especially in the locker room and shower area, where I felt body-screened by a dozen terminators, and judged for my lady garden, which was –compared to their jungles - a burned down forest.

But enough of that!

 

this year though ….

At the beginning of this year I told my husband that I often feel like an old horse when I use stairs at stations, that I’m worried about my weight, and that I didn't want to feel unfit for the rest of my life. I knew that I needed a drastic change – not just for the sake of losing weight but mostly to feel fit and healthy. My husband advised me to join the gym but to make sure to work with a trainer this time in order to achieve my goals. And that’s what I did.

The sport club I go to reminds me of a retirement home – most members are close to 60 or older and have been going there for 20 to 30 years! To a lot of them the place is like their second home, where they spend their mornings and afternoons at, socialize with friends, and make sure their bodies and minds don’t get rusty.

I bow down to their commitment and admire how fit and limber they are. Some of them can throw their legs up in the air as if they are auditioning for A Chorus Line

 

today's topic 

I came from far afield. What I actually wanted to write about today is how I think that in a lot of cases we don’t really have much influence on what people choose to think about us.

Sometimes I wonder whether it is simply a question of circumstances and luck, or bad luck if you will. 

 

fancy lions

Although I didn’t plan on making friends at the gym (all I really want is do my thing and leave the place), I noticed that it would be difficult to warm up with the elderly ladies there. I had the impressions that they had already marked me down as an intruder.

In my first few weeks they made sure I knew where my place was in the gym – there were certain lockers that were not to be used, certain spots in Zumba class not to be taken, and I had to be extra polite in order to not spoil it for me.

Please imagine two dozen very rich elderly ladies in hipster sportswear and full make up and then combine that with an attitude of inmates from Orange is the New Black and you might guess why I was a little anxious about pissing anyone off there.

One could tell even from afar which two women set the tone in that gym.

This went on for a couple of months. During that time I made sure to keep my head down, be polite but reserved.

Then,

one day,

out of the blue,

without any warning,

one of the two dominant ladies started talking to me in Zumba class. In fact, she offered me her glorious spot, so I could enjoy the class more.

I admit that due to my pessimistic nature my first reaction was to suspect some kind of trap and it took me a few seconds to accept her friendly gesture.

It would have been a deadly mistake not to take her offer in that moment and I wasn’t a fool to reject it.

From that day on my popularity increased steadily and others felt brave enough to step forward and greet me, ask me where I’m from and test how much Japanese I understood.

Overall though, my new status at the gym makes me feel like I’m a toy for a pack of lions that has just eaten a big meal.

You might think I’m exaggerating but fact is that Osaka obachans (middle-aged women) are known for their sharp tongue and elbows when things are on sale. Obachans are also famous for wearing leopard prints. That's surely no coincidence. 

Group Obachaan

Group Obachaan

Please don't get me wrong! I do enjoy their enthusiastic greetings although they sometimes make me jump when I’m on the treadmill; to get me going I usually listen to nu-metal like music when I’m on the machine and one day I almost tripped and fell when one of them suddenly tapped me on the arm to say goodbye and wish me a nice day.

Again, I DO find them mostly very sweet and caring but since I don’t know what changed their attitude towards me, I take this whole episode with a pinch of salt.

Although their shy approaches make me smile I always wonder in the back of my mind what the change of heart was that these ladies decided to like me.

When and why did they think I was worth talking to and being welcomed into their exclusive group? More importantly, when and why will they decide that it’s time to dislike me?

 

no influence

What’s fascinating in a scary way to me is the thought that I have no influence on what people think about me. To a certain degree it seems to be a number of coincidences colliding with each other that result in decisions whether we like someone or not.

Maybe that lady who talked to me in Zumba class had a fabulous morning on that day, felt like sharing her good mood in that particular moment, and the other important lady had a glimpse of our friendly exchange, was also in a delighted stage in class and took a quick note in her mind that I was accessible and that’s how it all started. If just one part of these steps had gone differently - let’s say the second lady was annoyed by the fact the other lady started bonding with me – my gym life now might be completely different.

I actually thought the same when I watched Tom Hank’s new movie Sully the other day. Although the overall topic of the film is different, halfway through it I thought that just as quickly as he was announced a hero by reporters, the media could have turned things around very quickly again.

 

leaf in the wind … or a strong tree

I believe that this episode in my life shows me that the more I try to please people and want them to like me, the more I’ll be like a leaf in the wind, a house in the eye of a tornado, or a cup in someone’s tea set they drink out of whenever they want to.

There is no guarantee for not being labeled either a hero or a loser or anything in between by people in our society. The only way to protect yourself and is by not caring what others think of you. 

I think that the more true to yourself you are, the more authentic you come across, the more you are like a strong tree with deep roots that can overcome any storm in life.

Isn’t it almost a relieve to know that no matter what you do you will not really have any influence on what people want to think of you? At least then you don’t need to try so hard to get them to like you.

Funny enough, often people seem to like you because you are NOT trying so hard.

Although I'm not saying to be mean back to anyone (on the contrary) I can't help but think of Meg Ryan, alias Kate, in French Kiss when she says in her cute way:

The key to French waiters: If you're nice to them, they treat you like shit. Treat them like shit, they love you.
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What if...

We are always told not to dwell on “what if I had …” situations.

But that’s exactly what I want to dwell on today.

 

Starting with a comparison

I am someone, who has headaches and migraines on a regular basis. In fact, on most days it feels like I have my personal cloud walking with me, right above my head, where it likes to create atmospheric pressure and spread fog around my thoughts, so that it’s hard to fully enjoy myself, my company or focus on whatever I’m busy with.

Someone, who barely has a headache, will have a hard time wrapping his/her mind around what it means to suffer from it.

It’s the same with people who seem to have a fair idea of who they are and what they want to do with their lives, and have more or less always been that way, even if they have faced detours and downs in their lives.

They own (I love that word) what they say and what they do.  

If - within the context - I opened up to someone like that and told him or her, “I don’t really know who I am” they would not quite comprehend what I mean by that. And if I added, “I’m not sure what I want to do in life”, maybe their brain would stumble and fall because they’d have trouble comprehending how that’s possible.

They might even mark me down as someone not worth hanging out with because they might categorize me as someone who doesn’t strive for success but that’s exactly what most people feel drawn to and how we try to impress people!

 

How my background shaped me

I’m 38 and only just recently have I started not only to understand better who I am, but also how to embrace myself, find a way to follow my passions, and find opportunities that allow me to use my skills.

Though I’m an only child, I grew up in a big family. I was always surrounded by my parents, my grandma, and my five aunts, who were like big sisters to me. Despite my age, I was a bit like the father confessor of the family, who listened to everyone’s stories and seemed to be able to give each person, no matter how different their personalities, a mental pad on the shoulder.

Therefore, since I was a child, I was like mercury – adjusting to everyone’s personality, everyone’s shape, until my own shape became a matter of my surrounding. The more adjusting myself to new people and environments became second nature to me, the more I lost the sense for who I was. Obviously this didn’t happen on a conscious level and also not over night.

Looking back at everything I did in my life, I can now see how I always felt I wasn’t good enough at the things I was doing, that I had to be better, that I had to change.

I was a champion in comparing myself to others and only saw things I lacked in.

As you can imagine, that’s not a healthy way to live your life, as it makes you feel small, puts you under a great amount of pressure, and causes stress in you.

Recently though, my mercury-existence has finally started allowing me to recover my own shape.

I owe that to two books I’ve been reading lately.  

 

Currently two important books to me

One is Sally Hogshead’s “How the World Sees You” and her personality test.

I always had a vague idea of how I function but neither could I put my finger on what made me ME and express that clearly, nor did I ever feel like my personality traits were worth embracing.

Now I know that I’m harmony-oriented, sincere, loyal, sensitive, motivated by principles that are based on fairness, and that I’m nurturing-caring. Because I’m an emotional person, a good way for me to avoid drama is to not let my moods get the best of me. Also, I need to mix more facts to my passionate statements in order to make more sense to a wider audience, and I need to learn how to communicate in a clearer and concise way, if I want to feel heard and understood.

The second book that has been shaking my world in a good way is written by the German psychotherapist Stefanie Stahl and is called “Das Kind in dir muss Heimat finden” with the English translation “The Child in You Must Find a Home”.  (Check it out on the section books by clicking here.)

Like most psychologists she talks about how your subconscious has an impact on your behavior. Stefanie Stahl is great at keeping things simple by describing your subconscious as your inner child, and how - through getting in touch with it - you have the chance to transform your awareness, your relationships and your way of living your life.

Thanks to this book and the meditations that come with it I’m learning how my inner child interferes in my daily life and how I need to tell it that the grown-up Seval is not trapped in the world of the inner child anymore. It has to relearn that IS good enough, that is IS being loved, that it doesn’t have to adjust to others in order to create a sense of harmony …

 

Coming back to my dwelling on “What if I had …” point …

Last night I was watching an episode of Criminal Minds – a crime drama in which FBI agents of the Behavioral Analysis Unit chase down serial killers. I’m an intuitive person, and I love psychology.

At some point while I was watching the show, I started wondering “what if I had studied psychology, had a job that makes use of my skills and that feels rewarding because I do something that’s meaningful to me and saves people’s lives?” I’d probably … PROBABLY … know who I am and had more confidence.

Or maybe not! Who knows?!

I guess there is a high chance I’d be depressed due to the negative circumstances of my job. I’d be trapped in the stereotypical life of a psychologist, who understands and helps other people but doesn’t know how to deal with her own issues and her kids who are nutcases.

What I want to say is that it’s understandable that people tell you not to dwell on “What if …”-phrases since we can’t change the past.

But how about we used the phrase for how we approach our future?

Allow me to share my utopian ideas with you.

If Stefanie Stahl’s book / meditation and Sally Hogshead’s personality test – and ALL the mindset that comes with it - were part of our educational system and not only us but our parents were exposed to the material from an early age on, then we might have more people doing what they actually like and what they are good at. There would be less arguments in the world as a lot of people would understand that the only thing they have an impact on is their own mind and actions and only through realizing what’s going on for themselves in that moment they’d be able to change their behavior in order to reach a positive result.

While I’m in a storm of ideas here let me also throw Dalai Lama, Byron Katie, Eckhart Tolle etc. in there and suggest that EVERYONE should occasionally wear a shirt that shows their result of the Sally Hogshead personality test. That way I would have a vague base on how to deal with that person.

I really can’t understand why most countries hold on to their traditional, outdated school education system when there is so much we could change that would reduce issues for the next generations just by taking in all the great contributions of great minds to improve lives.

If more Assads and Kim Jong-uns of this world had a regular talk with their inner child, we’d live a more peaceful life.

 

Different people, different paths

Everyone has a different past, and a different personality and therefore walks a different path in life. I’m far from saying that the books that had an impact on me will have the same impact on you. Even if a book was meant to do something for you, you might be in a stage of your life where your mind will not want to process it yet.

Timing is everything.

I only understood the value of people and books when my mind was open for them. For me they lay the groundwork for finding that inner peace that comes from knowing who you are and feeling good about yourself.

I think that the only thing I can do is 1) think about how I can use valuable knowledge for my future and 2) share it with people around me to spread the word about all the beautiful tools that are out in the world that can bring us closer to ourselves.

The rest is up to you. :-) 

To being fabulous

This morning I woke up to a voice-recording message on WhatsApp from one of my dear friends.

 

It was a 22-minute-7-second- message and I honestly don’t know how she kept her finger that long on the recording button but let me assure you that it is one of the best ways to start a day. 

 

Just hearing my friend’s voice while still being morning-dozy felt like she was there; as if she had stayed over at our place, had made herself some coffee in the morning and had brought me some to my bed to wake me up with it. While listening to her I could almost picture her having made herself comfortable on the armchair next to me using one of the puffy pillows as an armrest.

 

In her message she told me that she had found the time to read through some of my posts. The one about my dark side and the depression seems to have occupied her mind the most. She explained that she could relate to situations in which social media like facebook manages to suck us into the “happy” world of a “friend”, only to spit us out again like a an old gum while leaving us with nothing but the bitter taste of envy.

In moments like that most of us tend to compare ourselves, which (as I wrote in another post) ultimately puts us in a dull, sad, frustrated, or even hopeless mood.

 

The central message of my friends recording though was to evoke all the achievements - small and big ones - in my life, and all personality traits that define me and make me important to her as a friend.

It was an “embrace yourself for who you are and what you have achieved” message to cheer me, and show how much she cared for me.

 

"Duh!"

While my friend was pointing out how she  - the way she put it - admires the way I cherish friendships by little gestures like sending a tiny summer gift out of the blue, some comments of hers suggested how she wished to BE more and maybe live a different life. …

Improperly, the thought made me giggle. What irony! :-) 

It dawned on me that she could see things in others but couldn’t see the same great traits in herself.

Just like me!

Just like most of us!!

 

She can’t see how much fun it is to listen to her. She has a very specific way to use the German language by juggling with idioms, mixing in her dialect, taking a person on a visual tour through her daily life with her vivid explanations … It’s quite a feast of words. (Although she can go off on a tangent and make you wonder when you’ll have a chance to throw in a sentence.)

 

She can’t see how she can turn routinized parts of everday life into something special by making the most of what she has to hand. She definitely knows how to perform magic when decorating the breakfast table when all she is equipped with is a scarce set of cutlery and dishes and a few boring ingredients in the fridge.

 

She always strives for perfection, has an eye for detail, and she doesn’t rest until she has delivered a brilliant job. Sometimes that can push your buttons, especially when you are the “Okay! Done! Let’s go!-type of person, but ultimately you feel blessed to have a friend who complements you and brings details to your attention.

 

When you’re with her she wraps you up in a cloud of college-days, back when car rides were fun, smoking an occasional cigarette felt like freedom, and enjoying music meant going to live concerts.

 

She is an awesome mom, with two very adorable kids!

 

When she studies something she does it with all her heart and very thoroughly. I can totally picture her doing her own stylish blog about her sustainable, healthy lifestyle in which she writes about what online shop she uses to buy her kids cute but also ethical clothes, what books she reads and recommends that could change your perspective on how we live our lives, how to keep fit as a working mom, and what her next sewing project is.

 

She thinks she could do better as a friend, if she only did more small gestures like she claims I do, or she used to do.

 

But what better gesture is there than to tell your friend with a simple voice recording that you think she’s great the way she is?

 

It’s so ironic that we can pour our love out on someone we care about but that we have so much trouble and a built-in resistance-mechanism that keeps us from seeing our own beauty, our own greatness and big loving heart.

 

one day though 

There will be that period in all our lives in which every single one of us will be ready to embrace ourselves for EVERYTHING we are.

That moment when we don’t feel like a failure but like someone who has fought and achieved tons of things.

That time where we don’t compare ourselves with others and feed ourselves with disappointment but instead are able to focus on who we are and finally realize our accomplishments in our own lives and our own stories, not someone else’s.

That day when we don’t need a friend to tell us how awesome we are, but when we are our own friend and know deep down - despite how complicated, even difficult at times we can be - how fabulous we are.

 

on the right path 

I’m not there yet. I still got a long way to go. I’m very hard on myself and not my best friend. But I’m definitely on the right path. I can feel it. This blog proves it. One day I’ll embrace all of me - my sensitive, difficult, challenging as well as my caring, loving, and courageous side.

 

In order to get where our heart longs to be – that inner voice you sometimes hear that tells you what’s right for you – it is our job to surround ourselves with positive vibes and with people (family as well as friends) who encourage and support us in being our best selves. We owe that to ourselves.

 

Thanks, my friend, for the voice-message. It made me smile, cry and laugh out loud.

 

In fact, I’d like to say THANK YOU to ALL my friends and family, who have been supportive, encouraging, caring, inspiring, even challenging, throughout the years with their small and big gestures and words. They all mean the world to me. You are all fabulous!!

 

If you think Walk With Me helps inspiring and encouraging people then please add your comments below (I finally changed the setting for that) or even share the blog with loved ones. 

Communication skills, Part II

thoughts 

I don’t think you’ll meet many people who say that they find their own thoughts, on most occasions, annoying as hell.

Well, today is your lucky day. I’m one of those people. :-) 

If I were able to sit across from me while I start overthinking, I would probably first stare at myself in disbelief for the hardcore branching out of my brain, then – unable to bear the incredible noise thoughts create – I’d hold my hands against my ears and scream

“Cut it out!

NOW!

This is … JUST … NUTS!”

And then there would be silence.

That’s really the only way to make my thoughts stop ... for a while; by becoming aware of what's going on in my brain. Only then can I tell the thoughts to get lost and give me a break.

I’m actually very proud of myself to have come this far and being able to catch my thoughts while they have a rock concert and a blast in my mind. As I wrote in my last post My dark side those thoughts can be quite cruel.

 

clashing worlds 

Sometimes I witness someone else how their thoughts "go mean", and I wished I could just shush (in the most caring way) that person. Especially, if the thoughts are not so much against themselves but more against people around them.

Too often we say something that can be upsetting, hurtful, ignorant, or/and aggressive.

All this makes me wonder:

If millions of us walk around with a head on our shoulders filled with A WORLD of unrealistic, senseless, and unhealthy thoughts – regardless of whether they are against ourselves or others – is there even a way how we can at least reduce those clashes of WORLDS between humans in daily life? 

Before going deeper into this question, let me first give you an example for what I mean with "how WORLDS clash" and how we lack in communication skills:

The other day my sister-in-law came over to our house. First, let me point out that I care about her very much and respect her for doing a fabulous job on being a single mother and raising a cute and wonderful boy.

The other day she had bought a present for our mom for Mother’s Day in all our names, and my husband and I told her we’d pay her our share next time we see each other. On that day though both my husband and I didn’t have any cash at home and we apologized to her, saying we’ll have it ready next time.

„Why am I not surprised?“ was how she commented on that.

The words were out and gone as quick as a cat slides on a slippery floor.

My brain still managed to record it though but left the analysis and the headache for later.

Now, you could look at the comment from different perspectives – from funny, sarcastic, to harmless or thoughtless.

In the end though, after our sister left and my husband and I talked about the evening, we discovered that in our minds we both had recorded the same episode of the night and that we both had been taken aback by the comment. We wondered what made her say that, especially with a slightly bitter tone mixed with a smile as if to camouflage some kind of negative emotion.

Coming back to my theory with our WORLDS and carrying our own stories with us when we are with and around people:

My husband heard the comment through his WORLD – meaning, who HE is, what personality HE has, what history HE has with his family and his sister, and on top of that, how his day at work was.

He felt attacked and utimately hurt by her tiny comment as he wondered what his sister was hinting at: As far as he remembered, he had never borrowed a big amount of money from her, small amounts he had always paid back, and when going out together or going on a family trip he tries to cover most of the expenses.

I on the other hand, don’t have a long history with my sister-in-law but I noticed that my WORLD was thinking that I don’t know anyone who takes his small and big debts as serious as my husband, and that I always see him cover most of the expenses when we go on family trips. Ultimately, I noticed how defensive I felt regarding my husband and sad at the same time for sensing a potential family constellation difficulty rising up on the far horizon.

As for my sister-in-law, I can only come up with random guesses about what went on in her and HER world: Maybe my husband DID forget to give her back her money a couple of times when they were younger or in their twenties and that’s what SHE remembers.

She might have had a bad day and just felt like letting it out in some way.

Sometimes we have expectations on people close to us that they possibly can't live up to, which makes us feel disappointed in them. I still catch myself thinking like that in certain moments and maybe my sister-in-law went through the same thing – having an expectation completely unrelated to the situation simply because you have the urge to release a disappointment that’s been boiling in you for ages.

Who knows?!!?

 

my two reasons

As an overthinker I’ve thought this over (woohoo) and here is my conclusion. WORLDS clash 24/7 for two reasons:

1) Despite the Internet, phones, social media, afternoon teas, let’s not be fooled - humanity is still in the early stages of development when it comes to communication skills. The things named above are just tools and NOT methods for how to communicate in a kind and efficient way with each other and we seem to mix up tools with methods. 2) people like me who are tiringly sensitive need to grow a thicker skin and not take things too personal.

I’m not a politician, or a scientist, nor am I a philosopher. My blog is probably just being read by a handful of loyal and dear friends, and is surely not comparable to a statement on facebook. This post is not a declaration, so, let’s all relax and not feel offended by my naive, utopianlike dreamy proposal for how we could start having a kinder and more understanding sort of communication between human beings.

 

my humble proposal

So, what to do about these WORLD clashes?

1) How about we all get more involved in reading, sharing, and listening to spiritual teachers like Eckhart Tolle, Byron Katie, and Neale Donald Walsch. They teach us how to self-inquire our thoughts that make us suffer and become more aware of them. If more of us started to understand what’s going on in us, and how we can work on ourselves (rather than trying to change others around us) then we could enjoy ourselves and our lives more. We’d not only shake up this world in a positive way but we’d also be passing this way of thinking on to our children and the next generations.

 

2) A lot of us think that we are good listeners, where, in fact, we are still far, far away from what being a good listener means. Often we are not really following what the other person says. Instead we prepare our next sentence we want to contribute to the conversation. Our reactions are not neutral and our comments are focused on our own stories. These two elements unfortunately end up in the other person derailing from what they originally wanted to share with us.

 

3) We should learn how to speak to each other with respect and become more aware of how we use language. There are ways we can learn how to be more understanding, how to choose kinder ways to say somthing and still make sure our message comes across and that we are able to limit set the other person in case we feel our rights or feelings are being stepped on.

 

4) Wouldn’t it be great if all these commiunication methods mentioned above were actually part of every education system all around the world? Just like math is a subject, communication skills should be one too.

 

What a wonderful world that would be.

For now, all I can do is try to do 1), 2), 3) and be kind to myself while trying to learn these things, and simply spread the word.

 

 

My dark side

Darth Vader and the dark side 

Sometimes my thoughts feel like an invasion of Darth Vaders.

They pull me to my dark side and tell me that I’m not good at anything, that I’m worthless and useless.

Yesterday was one of those days when I felt really down again, for the first time in a long time.

 

I was sitting at our dining table in our new place we had just moved to last week.

A sparrow couple was singing on our balcony and the rain was adding the zaa zaa sound in the background.

It was around 10 am and I had just finished my morning coffee.

I should have been happy. I should have enjoyed the fact that the moving was over, that my husband and I had started a new chapter in our lives with a beautiful new home.

Yet, the opposite happened …

 

It was like a “knock, knock” at the door.

The dark thoughts had arrived. 

Like a bunch of mean relatives they walked in through the door, visiting me out of the blue, sitting down on OUR sofa, drinking OUR coffee and bitching about me as if I weren’t there.

 

the trigger 

What triggered the feeling was something very simple.

I had been looking at posts on Instagram.

I clicked on a fashionable photo, which took me to the profile site of that person. I scrolled down through all her posts and saw lots of beautiful pictures of healthy food, her well formed body after a work out, and her with her two little cute girls.

She seemed to be a super-mom promoting on Instagram her successful little online business about how to be a super-mom and how to love life.

Under one post, which was showing her playing with her two kids in their living room, it said something like “feeling grateful to spend some precious time with my two girls before sending them off to school”.

The dark thoughts started raining down on me!

- You would never say that you are grateful to spend time with your two daughters. Instead you’d be grateful to send them to school, so you had time to yourself.

- You’ll never be a good mom. You’d be tired all the time and find everything annoying.

- You are simply not a happy, light type of person, who embraces moments and knows how to enjoy life and you'll never be.

- You keep trying to build an online business but what do you really do to accomplish your goals? If you want to be successful like her, you would need to post pictures like her on a regular basis. Do you do that? No!!

- What are you good at anyways?

- Your husband trusted you with his credit card and you spent too much money at IKEA, putting more financial pressure on him. Will you ever learn how to use money wisely?

- Maybe you need to go back to being a full time English teacher. You might not like that but what else are you good at? Nothing. You are not even 100% good at that.

Pretty mean, ay?

 

tears

I could feel tears rolling down my cheeks.

I didn’t mind them.

It actually felt good to let the pressure out.

At the same time though they reminded me of my miserable situation.

 

On the one hand I was thinking that I had the power to stop the thoughts right here, right now. All I had to do was change my way of thinking. I was so close to being a happy version of me.

But the dark side was and always is like a magnet of overwhelming hopelessness. It would take too much energy and effort to think positively, to feel good about myself, to embrace myself and tell myself that I am beautiful and wonderful just the way I am.

I wouldn’t believe in all the good things anyway.

So, I cried a little bit more.

 

feeling better today

Like I mentioned above, today I feel better today.

It’s because my husband tried at least to understand me and gave me a big hug,

and because I had a friend I could talk to about my feelings and felt understood,

and also because I started writing for my blog again.

 

Lows seem to hit me when I can’t give my life a meaning, when I’m not sure where I’m heading, when I bite off more than I can chew and ,as a consequence, fall behind or start comparing myself to others who do much better than I, and when I don’t see any progress in my own life.

What I do then is to reflect my own shortcomings on my husband, and to put pressure on him by having expectations on him he can’t possibly fulfil, which obviously ends up with adding scars to our relationship.

I know that this is quite a heavy topic for a blog post. But I wanted to share this with you as I think that most people can’t imagine what depression in ist many versions can feel like. Unfortunately, there is a stigma of depression in every society aruond the world and the only way to fight it is to talk more about it and to share our stories.

Having depression doesn't mean that you have a weak mind because you can't snap out of a bad mood. It's not a choice, it's an illness, like diabetes is an illness.

 

the SELF Movement  

I would like to share a video of a friend of mine, in which she talks about the stigma of depression and shares her own story.

Also, please check out her facebook site about the amazing organisation she has founded with a friend. The SELF Movement, helps create „a generation of strong, confident, supportive and kind girls, who strive to build each other up instead of breaking each other down“.

Go Tara!

Let's fight the stigma. For more information of facts on depression you can check this link from HealthLine. 

Thank you, everyone!  

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Kissing on the street

kissing goodbye

A few days ago I asked my husband to drop me off with his bicycle at Nakatsu subway station from where he commutes to work because I was going to meet a friend nearby.

At the station it was time to say goodbye to him and because we are always a bit too aware of our surrounding our goodbye kisses are rather uncoordinated and probably funny to witness.

Therefore, as there were lots of salary men at the station, I told my husband that it was okay if he wanted to skip the kissing part today. The truth was that I would have welcomed a skip myself.

You see, we seem to care so much about what people around us are going to think that we are clumsy to a degree where in the past we almost broke our noses because we couldn’t decide whether to kiss on the cheek or on the lips or give each other a hug like two buddies.

 

the Scot in my husband

To my surprise though my husband might have watched enough Outlander with me the last few nights that in that moment he must have felt the urge to act like a Scottish Highlander in his Kilt who gives his lass a manly kiss.

In the end - BECAUSE he did it in such an exaggerated confident way and because THAT took me by surprise – we probably looked funny as usual.

Still, I appreciated his Scottish act.

 

why oh why?

You might wonder why it is such a big deal for us to be intimate in front of others without minding what people around us think.

 

I’ve been thinking a lot about it myself. Especially after I said goodbye to my husband on that day I knew I wanted to write this thought down.

Though my parents are from Turkey they were not brought up as Muslims. Neither was I.

My husband, is not religious either. I’m not even sure if he is a Shiniest or Buddhist in his heart?

Therefore this whole behavior is not really based on religious grounds.

I suspect it has to do with the oriental / Asian way of life and thinking. Ultimately, I think that it has to do with our cultural background.

 

cultural backgrounds

You might be shocked to hear that I never saw my parents kiss each other on the mouth. On rare occasions I saw them hug in a loving way but I can’t recall more.

 

Although my father was often loving, funny and being goofy with me, I also remember how different he cold he could be when his sisters were around. Even though I was just a child I could feel how he switched to a noninvolved person, like fatherhood was a uniform and he took it off at those times.  

 

Looking back at it now I have to say that I’m amazed at how sensitive I was back then; even though I was just a child on some level I understood that he didn’t want to show his love for me in front of his much younger sisters after they all had lost their father in a car accident. I guess he didn’t want them to feel sad by witnessing a father-daughter-love, which they couldn’t have anymore.

It’s not an aspect of the Turkish culture you would expect to read in a travel guidebook. Not showing your affection publicly is something you grow up with without knowing that it is part of a way of thinking. It’s like an invisible blanket that covers the whole country and all its people everywhere.

Not everyone is affected by it the same way though and luckily the new generation has managed to cut big holes into that blanket.

 

Sadly, though in milder portions, I adopted that way of thinking. I believe that one of the main reasons my first boyfriend broke up with me was due to the fact that I couldn’t show my affection in public. 

 

I was quite taken back when I noticed for the first time that my husband fell into the same cultural background. Despite the fact that I’ve traveled thousands and thousands of miles and have chosen a new home in far Japan, my heart chose a man who is pretty much like my father when it comes to switching personalities as soon as people are around us.

 

It might be hard to grasp this way of thinking but it is not easy for Japanese people to show their love in public.

On the one hand, it’s as if it’s not fair to show your happiness and love in front of others as others might not be as fortunate as you and you would be rubbing into their faces what they don’t have, which would be highly inconsiderate.

On the other hand, since Japanese are a modest nation, your modesty is reflected in your behavior, especially towards the closest people around you.

If you compliment a Japanese on his skills, you’ll probably hear him/her say: “No, no. I’m still a beginner!”

You hear that because they were taught to be modest.

And if someone compliments you on your wife’s beauty (although the husband has nothing to do with her beauty), you might hear the husband say: “Oh! No, no! You should see her in the mornings!”

(Hehe! I’m being horrible here. I’ve never actually heard any Japanese man say that about his wife, but you get what I mean.)

 

I was … what?! … 9,000 km away from home and yet I was close to reliving the life my mother had with my father!! I was not going to have that!

 

a new life for us

The good thing about my husband is that he is open to new or different ways of thinking. When I catch us both falling back on what we were taught, I let him know that I’d appreciate it if he didn’t change his way with me when friends are visiting us, or that it would be great if we both learned how to speak nicely about each other when we are amongst friends and family.

 

I’m not saying that I want to be able to kiss my partner in public as if he was ice cream in the summer.

But I strongly believe that our cultures have to go a long way when it comes to showing our love and affection. I think that being modest and considerate are both good things but not to the degree it affects you in showing your love to your daughter because you think that others might feel offended, or rather than speaking nicely about your husband saying things to degrade him instead so that others don’t think you are selfish in showing how well your marriage goes.

 

The fact that my husband and I can laugh about ourselves when we stand on the street and can’t make up our minds about how to kiss each other goodbye might be sad to some but I am quite grateful to have a husband, who walks the same path with me.

We understand each other’s cultural struggle in that moment and we are both trying to leave this way of thinking behind us as good as we can. In slow steps.