It’s All About The Timing

I have a problem. Maybe not a problem. A love/hate relationship rather. Who’s my frenemy (my self-declared 90ies word of the day!), you ask? Sleep.

Unlike many others who cannnot sleep or don’t sleep well and can seek the help of tiny little pills and whatnot, my issues with sleep are more emotional and conceptual than others’. I have no problems sleeping. I love it, really. Completely and utterly love it. I love everything about it: the cosiness of my bed (any bed, really, also: my sleeping bag, my friend’s lap, those seats at the airport), the comfy clothing, the warmth, the thoughts before falling asleep, how my eyes fall shut slowly. My issues are more related to the timing that comes with the subject of sleep: when and how long.

To begin with, I just sleep too much. And always at the wrong time, it seems. Say I fall asleep at 10 or 11 PM, like a ‘normal’ person would possibly do. We have always been told that we need about eight hours of sleep a night. This surely, varies in people. Maybe I don’t need 8, but only seven or up to 9. Maybe you have also heard about sleep cycles or something, claiming we sleep in installments of 3 hours (or was it 4?). Regardless of all of these things I know, I also know a lot better that if I’d go to bed at 10 or 11 PM, I would not wake up at 6 or 7 AM or even before 10 AM. I’d probably regain consciousness at around 1 PM, at which point my bladder becomes more and more insistent.

After some teenage struggles, I have come to accept that I will never awake at dawn and I will never be cheerful and energetic before noon. That just ain’t gonna happen. I am also aware that, if I had the patience to adjust my sleeping schedule to going to bed at 11 PM each and every night (and quit caffeine), my cylce would adjust over time and I’d probably wake up earlier than 1 PM (although I still severly doubt that I’d get out of bed before nine …). But then there is this other thing. I do my best, most creative and productive and focused work in the hours between midnight and 3.30AM. Going to bed an hour before my personal prime time simply hurts me as a breathing, thinking individual. Sleep at that kind of time seems like a waste. Imagine the ideas I’d have in those 3 ½ hours! The realisations! The epiphanies!

Nonetheless, I will have to change my ways. The incompability of my sleep schedule with my regular schedule (where things tend to take place while it’s light outside) is a constant source of frustration, self-doubt and unhappiness, even. Right now, these are the only consequences it has. Noone cares whether I arrive to my seminar ten minutes late and with bags under my eyes. But the “the glass in half empty” part of my brain can also vividly picture how these sleep timing issues can lead to depression, unemployment, social reclusion and addiction in the near future.

But what do I do when I have identified a problem? I start solving it (sadly, my problem-solving time is also right in the middle of the night) and declare it a project. I start researching the topic, others’ experiences and possible solutions. ‘Project Sleep’, I estimate, will be my biggest project running. Already I have done an unnerving amount of googling (which was probably counter-productive as it stopped me from sleeping), I have been tempted by costly purchases and ‘one-size-fits-all’ approaches to the topic.

What I know for sure now is that I will need absolute dedication and discipline. Therefore I have made the bold choice to postpone the endeavour another two weeks (usually my approach is more: do it right now or you’ll never do it!) until all my exams are over. Although I might then still regret the valuable time wasted on sleep, I will not be able to use “I have to study for my exams RIGHT NOW” as an excuse to quit or cheat the project. Very responsible of me, isn’t it.

This topic is yet another example where, really, research is unnecessary. We know what we have to do. We don’t need books or people on the internet to tell us. Still, my (unnecessary) research has given me the opportunity to approach the issue in a more systematic way and it has also inspired me to (once I have mastered the beginner’s level of sleep and timing) maybe try what this lady has done (in response to recent scholarship that claims that we humans actually slept in two installments, with a break of about an hour in between, before the industrial revolution).

But, for my current project I’m just hoping that my creative/productive /focused hours will simply shift in my day, maybe to 8 PM? That would actually be ideal. Fingers crossed.

B x

Success And Failure And Everything In Between

Over the last month or so I have failed continouously, a little bit every day. No doubt, I have done so every day of my life from my early attempts at legible speech and coherent motion as a small child to what could be considered a ‘normal’ day in 2014. This seems to be one of my inherent faults. I will continue to fail, every single day of my life. This means I will have to be careful not to write every day off as a failure, simply because I failed.

Ultimately, the flaw is in the semantics. I was simply taught it wrong (or I learned it wrong…): The conjunction that joins the words “success” and “failure” is not an “either, or”, it is an “and”. They coexist. They might even live in some sort of symbiotic dependence. Although this might seem like a petty detail, it is not. Don’t we all strive to be successful? Depending on our understanding of “success”, we have two very different goals. One, where “success” implies the absence of failure, is virtually impossible to attain and tends to be temporary. The meaning that I’d prefer still needs some defining. Maybe “successful” could mean that our successes are more frequent or meaningful than our failures. I’d like that very much. It would make a much better life goal.

Now, despite my trailing off into my beloved semantics, there are of course other flaws in my strive for success than just the meaning of words. When joined a new school to complete the last two years of my education before university, my dad used to mock the ‘school spirit’ that senior members of the ‘Sixth Form Management Team’ tried to inflict upon us, desinterested and distracted sixteen-year olds, during endless assemblies. My dad (who received a weekly Sixth Form newsletter) and I who had grown accustomed to the German school system (where the school and its employees seemed similarly desinterested as the students themselves, and such attempts would have been both unthinkable and reidiculous), where baffled by these attempts, however ineffective they might have been.

The reason why we, my dear reader, have strayed yet again to the land of anecdotes is this: What my dad enjoyed mocking most was the schools motto (there was also a mission statement of several pages and what I believe to have been the school’s internal equivalent of the ten commandments). And, yes, I will finally return to my actual topic of success and failure now.

“Every Student The Best They Can Be”

That was it. Pretentious and belitteling at the same time, but in the context of my school the intended meaning becomes clear quite quickly. It was a large school in a rural setting that taught students from age 12 to 19, some of which would go on to read mathematics at Cambridge and others who would become hair dressers or traffic wardens or stay-at-home mums (or dads). I don’t mean to judge any of these life choices, I’m just trying to illustrate my schools broad academic spectrum.

But when you are sitting in an assembly that is boring you to death and you have the time to ponder over the multiple meanings of this motto, you have the time to realise that this is similarly impossible as being “successful” in the conservative way is. I will never be the best version of myself and if I continuously tried to I would fail over and over again. There will always be more things I could to and things I could do better and all of that. But in the end, cursing the things I am not or did not do will make me neither more successful (in all the possible ways) nor happier.

I can warmly recommend doing a happiness project just for the sake of having these tiny realisations, as you put your ticks and crosses on your resolutions chart night after night and celebrate the successes and, depending on your mood at the time, either shrug off or contemplate your failures.

B x

Morbid Envy

As part of my current non-fiction craze I have started reading Marina Keegan’s collection of essays ‘The Opposite of Loneliness’ (come on, you’ve heard about it) last night. For those who are not familiar with the ‘concept’ of the book: Marina Keegan, 22, brilliant, courageous, popular, died in a tragic car crash (I’m making this sound way too trivial…) and friends and family decided to publish her (also brilliant) essays posthumously.

Now, I have just started reading it, meaning I’ve only read the introduction by one of her lecturers at Yale about how brilliant she was and how tragic everything is, the acknowledgements by her parents and the title essay (that I believe to be her graduation speech, but not entirely sure). And already the book troubles me. Well, it’s not the book that troubles me, really (it’s not you, it’s me!), but my emotional reaction to it.

I feel admiration, but strangely, also envy. She was literally living the dream. She was everything I want to be. She had it all: a supportive environment at Yale, a great (and pretty rich as far as I could tell, there was a mention of a summer house on Cape Cod and sailing) family (that could also pay for her tuition at private schools and an ivy league university), a loving boyfriend, great friends, and, last but not least, all the attributes that I wish I had: talent, courage, determination, grit. She had a job at The New Yorker lined up for after college, which I’d say is the definite dream of any liberal arts student pretty much.

But then feeling envy for a dread girl somehow feels wrong. After all, she never got to have that post-grad life we all want too, she had that tragic accident instead. And though she might have risen to world fame through this collection of essays, she cannot experience this moment, the moment where she has finally made it as a writer, the thing everyone told her was impossible which she pursued nevertheless.

It makes me sad, but I don’t think her book would have been such a commercial success had it been published while she was alive. People (including me, probably, sadly) don’t like to read essays by the brilliant girl that has it all and will have even more nearly as much as they like to read essays by the brilliant tragic girl that had it all and could have had so much more.

In a very morbid way, the fact that this remarkable lady is dead is lucky for me. I would not have been able to admire her thoughts and actions to this degree had I been blinded by envy (which would have by far outweighed the admiration). It allows me to fully take in what she has written and reflect upon it for myself, maybe learning from her even, with tons of admiration and only that tiny grain of envy.

Morbidly yours,

B x

Bittersweet Symphony

Oh, sweet, sweet nostalgia. You apply that beautiful sepia filter to all of my memories, the good ones, and the bad. You make believe that everything was so easy back then. You spoil my naive brain to perceive the present as crude and way too bright. You trap me in the past again and again. There is something so irresistibly bittersweet about your lure.

But you deceive me, day after day. It wasn’t actually all that much easier back then. Yesterday yesterday appeared just as crude and way too bright as today seems today. You are like a drug I like too much to ever free myself from you. The trips you take me on make me laugh and cry and wonder. Your veil of betrayal protects me. Protects me from asking that inevitable and dangerous question “What if?”.

You are a bad companion. Whenever I need you most you fail me horribly. If only you were there for me then. But, no. You spoil my present when it is most enjoyable. And, worst of all, you are ambitious. Did you really think I wouldn’t notice it when you tried to creep into my today? Sneaky bitch, you. And it’s not only me, is it? You’ve been quite successful with this particular endeavour, I’ve heard. They call it ‘hipsterhood’ these days, but I know, oh I know – it’s really you.

What can I say though? I’ll never be able to leave you. I love you so very much. This hate/love relationship shall not end so soon, although I will continue flirting with cynicism, that bastard, and you can’t do nothing against that. And you’re not really that bad. After all, you remind me of who I am and, occasionally, of what I have always wanted and really still want. You stopped me from forgetting how much I love books and music and the people I love. I owe you big time.

Love always,

B x

Reading And Sleeping And All That

Finally (FINALLY!) my internet works again. I shift from thinking “the regular internet-free time enforced upon me is an opportunity – no more distraction”, to being like “why, WHY do I have to live in a building where the internet regularly just stops functioning for days or weeks on end???!”. Probably, it has been both.

It stopped working last Saturday, in the morning. In the time from Saturday evening and Wednesday I have read four books. My usual average is a book a week (which I struggle to keep up with). So that is definitely a point for the “we should live without internet”, others supporting this view are the amount of time I wasted on Netflix (none), Facebook (none) or reading up on some obscure things that are of no importance or relevance to me (none).

There are, however, of course also some downsides to being offline. Making something as simple as a bank transfer suddenly becomes a considerable task (using the internet at the library, which is painfully slow, for something as sensitive as online banking always makes me a bit queasy, hackers and all that). Looking up the bus times is impossible (Maybe I should also add that I had already used up my monthly mobile internet allowance before Saturday… oops!), contacting someone ends up being a lot less casual (ugh, I hate talking on the phone!), and it does majorly inhibit the work I have to do for university. For example, I use Duolingo to help me learn my languages, and with it’s complex graphics and sound effects, it was impossible to use it over the library internet.

When it comes to entertainment and information, as well, I really only have books and the internet to rely upon: no TV, no newspaper, no nothing. And the gravest flaw when it comes to reading as entertainment and pastime, for me, is that I so easily fall asleep when doing it. And I don’t just sleep for, you know, 20 minutes or an hour: I wake up after four to six hours, completely disorientated with my contact lenses burning in my eyes. Not very nice.

In this particular case, additionally, the temporary absence of internet connection from my life meant that I was not able to blog (sorry, dear reader!). As an integrated part of our ever-reflecting society (I read Eat Pray Love at the tender age of thirteen), this stimulated my brain – was my life better/worse without me blogging every day? Well, it was certainly different. Not only because the reading and sleeping and all that, but while I did not miss blogging as such, I did notice some changes in my daily life. The days seemed to pass quicker. I was rushing from place to place, and fell into bed exhausted in the evening. And while I ticked off my resolutions chart every night, I did not think about happiness once. Not once. Although I’m meant to be in the midst of a happiness project. Scary.

But I will not dwell. The internet is back (for now) and I will be able to blog every day, reflect the hell out of my tiny insignificant life. Yay!

B x

Saturday DAY Fever

Blogging is all about sharing, right? I’ve shared some rather negative emotions over the last few days, so to make up for it I should also share that today I am having a genuinely great day. What’s the reason for that? I guess it’s an accumulation of different minuscule factors that add up and brighten the day.

  1. It’s Saturday. Saturdays are the bestest days. Of course if you spend the day working an 8-hour shift your opinion might differ, but for a lazy student like me, weekends are off and and Saturdays are amazing. Firstly, they are free from pressure: You’ll always have Sunday to catch up on stuff from uni (or blogging101), and even if you’re completely hung-over, it’s fine. Secondly, shops are open. Here in Germany all shops are closed on Sunday. All shops, all day. So Saturday is the perfect day to take the bus to the city centre (or better: cycle) and get that battery in your watch replaced or buy running shoes or do all those kind of things that you don’t have time for during the week. Perfect. Thirdly, does there have to be a thirdly? No, two’s enough. Next.
  2. I woke up in a good mood. This one is essential. My moods in the morning are completely random, but often it dictates the day I’m about to have. Of course, I can overcome a bad mood, but that is just so much effort, and it’s so much easier just waking up with the right mindset. Like today! Yay!
  3. Already, I have fulfilled some of my resolutions. They might be minor achievements, but they are achievements and not only do they give me the feeling of success, they also give me an extra happiness boost!
  4. I let myself be inspired. One of my resolutions is to watch a TED talk a day, because I get tired of them if I watch more than one at a time (too much idealism and enthusiasm can be tiring), but I love them and the feeling they give me immensely. This was today’s: Watch it yourself and be inspired!
  5. It’s neither raining nor dark. Maybe you guys have similar experience with the effect on weather on your personal mood, so you’ll understand that living in the north of Germany at the moment is a mayor downer: You almost never see the sun (or proper daylight, actually) and odds are that it is pissing down/hailing/snowing/about to do one of the above mentioned. So lucky day today. I’ll be able to leave the house without being assaulted by the season.

Oh, I came up with five whole reasons, not bad. Once I have finished writing this post, tagged it and all that, I’ll be even happier, because it allows me to tick yet another resolution: Blog daily.

May your Saturdays be as (if not more) cheerful!

B x

An Apple A Day Keeps The Doctor Away – If Only!

So, strictly I have already broken my resolution to blog daily, but hey, my day hasn’t ended yet, I’m still awake! Although I could easily go on about myself and my little failures for hours and hours on end, today, we have a specific topic. And, no, I haven’t even looked at today’s Blogging101 assignment, but the again, if I had, there wouldn’t be anything to catch up on during the weekend…

May I introduce today’s topic (*drum roll*): doctors! Not the PhD kind of doctors like in the Big Bang Theory but the ones in the white coats: GPs, dentists, orthopedics, orthodontists, surgeons, radiologists, gynecologists, urologists (while we’re at it),… All of those. The idea came to me (surprise!) while I was in the doctor’s waiting room this morning. I have a lot to say about doctors. Well, less about doctors, but about going to the doctor’s, which I intensely dislike.

Let me start at the beginning. If you want or need to go to see a doctor, you have to make an appointment. Not so many years ago, I used to be terrified of speaking on the phone. Answering the phone was bad, but calling someone or somewhere was way worse. While my social skills have improved drastically since then, calling to make a doctor’s appointment is still one of those few occasions that I am not entirely comfortable with. Firstly, they often let you hold the line for ages and then when you finally get through to them, you speak to some brash assistant nurse. Then you have to coordinate schedules, which is always a bit stressful (I just made a doctor’s appointment three hours before an important exam…, huge mistake! I’ll have to cancel that one and get a new one, another phone call!). And they might suddenly ask you loads of things which you are meant to have on hand, like the name of your insurance and I always get terrified of getting something as easy as my own birthday wrong when put on the spot like that.

Assuming you have your appointment now, the trouble isn’t over, it has just begun. If you want to see a specialist, for example, be prepared to wait three months for that 10-minute appointment. But let’s not dwell on this minor detail, after all, there is a ton of social awkwardness awaiting you when you arrive for that appointment that we haven’t even mentioned yet. You enter the practice and there it is: level one, the counter that you’re meant to register at. Usually, the assistant nurse secretary person is either talking to another patient or talking on the phone or altogether absent. If you’re particularly blessed there will also be a little ‘wait here’ line like at the post office or the airport. If there’s no one there, what do you do? Do you stay awkwardly behind the line? Or do you intrude? If there is someone there and that someone is talking on the phone or to another patient, even if you stay behind the line it will be impossible for you to not listen to their conversation. You know that and they know that and it makes us all so very very uncomfortable.

Of course, making it to the waiting room (level 2) now seems like a major relief and magazines often save you from awkward stares. The absolute silence that is so often characteristic of these situations makes taking your coat off or grabbing a magazine a huge event though and you will be guaranteed some disapproving looks. And is it just me, or is anyone also afraid that they might not hear their name properly when the assistant nurse person calls your name? Longest I have waited at a doctor’s was four hours! But then, in comparison, longest I have waited in a hospital was seven hours, so not too bad then.

Say you do hear your name properly then you make it to level 3, where you are assigned to a consultation room (sometimes there is also an intermediate level where they make you sit in another waiting area before pointing to a consultation room). Here, the wait continues. And you can’t even use the time and concentrate on your reading because chances are a doctor and/or a nurse will pop in and look for something, take something from the room or type something into a computer (again you can’t help to read what they’re writing!). Ideally, when you reach level 4 you have made it: You are talking to a doctor and he/she will help you.

Of course now you might have difficulties describing your concerns, or you might wish you had worn more conservative underwear or whatever, but the long wait and the difficulties that you have mastered on your way here have made you brave and strong and you can deal with these problems now. Congratulations! You’ve made it. Get well soon.

Unlucky of course if you have not made it quite yet and the doctor wants to take a sample, a swab, get an x-ray, a CAT scan or an MRI or whatever else might spring to mind. Then you can prepare to do the whole ordeal again, maybe repeatedly even. Good luck!

Another side effect of these long processes is naturally that whatever the doctor tells you when you made it to level 4 feels like a victory at first, you’re just happy to be able to talk to a goddamn doctor, no matter how serious and shattering the diagnosis might be.

Hallelujah to that!

B x

(Soz to be such a downer today…)