Tying Loose Ends

I don’t know if it’s just me or if everybody gets them, but I have days where I feel like cleaning the bathroom or doing laundry or filing the piles of paper on my desk. I should clarify though, that these are single, very rare occasions among endless days where I find myself too lazy to take a shower or eat breakfast (it’s more the preparing of the breakfast… it involves going to the kitchen).

Today, you guessed it, is one of those days. As I am still staying with my parents, I have not had an outlet for my cleaning energy (my Dad, I’m pretty sure, suffers from an undiagnosed case of OCD and would go batshit crazy if he came home to find that I “messed up everything” – I am not even allowed to hoover) and it has accumulated over the course of the day. Around midday I found a source of relief in my laptop: when was the last time I tidied up my files? How long has it been that I de-fragmented my c-drive?

I went a bit too far, I guess. I accidentally deleted a file that apparently my email program depended on (causing a moment of terror) and my I had to re-install some programs that I had enthusiastically de-installed moments before. Everything is now up to speed, I have run a complete check for viruses and as we speak I am performing my first ever back-up. Hooray!

Somehow having accomplished something (ANYTHING) makes this day a success. And as we all know, success is highly addictive. So I shall give in and dedicate some more attention to this lovely little blog that has been so horribly neglected in the last few weeks. I’ll start now by tying some loose ends: I’ll update my record of books I’ve read, write reviews of the books I’ve been reading as part of my “Around The World Reading Challenge“, maybe a happiness update and finish some drafts that I’ve left unfinished. Well, let’s wait till I’ve done it. Promises are just promises, aren’t they…

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

Birthday Wishes – The Key To Happiness?!

We’re back to me mirroring Gretchen Rubin’s resolutions during her first happiness project. Today’s resolution is surprisingly simple and straight-forward. Like Ms. Rubin, I’d like to remember birthdays. I’d like to send those I love and care about a card or a message to let them know that I care and also to stay in contact.

During the past few years I have done this sporadically, whenever I knew for some reason that it was someone’s birthday and when I had the time to write a card. Messages were’t really necessary because those people I’d write a birthday message, say on Facebook or WhatsApp, I usually saw on their birthday. School had that kind of convenience.

But, this time I have approached the topic systematically: I have printed a birthday calendar (very basic, but so useful, here), found out birthdays of friends and family –  Facebook and my dad’s phone proved invaluable for this task, I have some cards on my desk and all the addresses on a nice document, so that birthdays can now come. I might also set some kind of tracker on Outlook or something so that I actually remember them, but the groundwork is laid. Success!

I know it is a tiny tiny thing to do, but I also know it will make my friends and family, but especially me insanely happy. Such fun!

B x

Do Good, Be Good… ?

Christmas is over now for real. Generally, that means we stop giving presents and focus on our New Year’s resolutions. But sometimes a wee bit of ‘giving’ sneaks in to this list of goals that we abandon before February begins – we want to volunteer or be nicer to others to make ourselves feel better.

Instinctively, we frown upon this ‘selfish altruism’. But isn’t altruism always also selfish? Anyone who had biology at school learned that animals show altruistic because ultimately it benefits them (I’m thinking vampire bats and boobies). And even those who don’t believe in evolution and instead call upon God(s) for answers do good in order that they get away pleasantly after death.

So, as you might have guessed, especially if you have been following my Happiness Project, I have a personal reason for all this philosophy: It will be part of my resolution. ‘Doing good’ is a broad field, though. And we all have a different image of what it means. My definition, I must admit, is a bit cloudy. This will not be an obstacle, I have simply narrowed it down, following the example of Gretchen Rubin.

I want to be generous. This is something that, in some situations, comes natural to me. I love to give gifts, I love to share music I love with the people I love, and all that. In other respects, it is harder. Especially when I am in a bad mood, I find it hard to give other people their due and ideally a bit more than that. But, fake it till you make it has always been my strategy, which also coincides with on of Rubin’s truths: Act like it till you feel like it (or something like that). Now I am not aiming to just donate some money and make a tick on my resolutions chart, I want it to make me happier and improve my relationships. As a consequence, I will have to learn to let people in the supermarket go first, listen to my friend when all she talks about is her boyfriend (who is lovely and makes her really happy), stop resenting people for changing and moving on and try to think of what I can do to make the lives of the people around me more pleasant.

As you see, trying to be more generous sounds like an excellent exercise for me to be more empathetic, pleasant and kind. When I call it an exercise, it is really an experiment: Will my conscious effort to be more generous have an effect on my unconscious behaviour?

We shall see.

B x

Blogosphere And Wills And Ways

As part of her happiness project Gretchen Rubin launched a blog. This was part of my inspiration to revitalize a blog I had started while without internet (who has an idea like that? Read it here) but not continued regularly – this blog. So now, as part of me mirroring that lady’s resolutions, it is time for me to use this as a pit stop and reflect upon how it is going.

Well, I guess, once you have you blog all set up, all you need to do is write, and, if you’re lucky, there’s people out there reading what you are writing. But, let me tell you, the first steps aren’t that easy when you’re new to the blogosphere (I hope people don’t actually use that as a word in real life), it is pretty confusing. What I have learned: The settings are your friends. Many problems get resolved if you just go through them once from beginning to end.

Apart from that, I am sort of having an odd start into daily blogging, because I started a week before I left uni for Christmas break and I knew I would not have time to write a blog post daily, yet I was not ready to fail my resolution to ‘blog daily’ every single day for over two weeks. So, what did I do? I though of some more or less things I could write about and then I wrote all of the posts in advance, scheduled them and left the blog to itself till I returned to Germany. Well, at least that was the plan. Turns out it’s not that easy to write fifteen blog posts in very little time especially when, like me, you have a tendency to write long elaborate sentences. So I am now halfway into Christmas break and I’ve managed to post daily, although I didn’t really have the time, and am now writing the last few posts so that I can finally lean back and fulfill my responsibilities towards my friends and family.

But, as they say in German ‘Wo ein Wille ist, ist auch ein Weg’ (where there’s a will, there is also a way), and I will manage to keep this one resolution. And I am also extremely blessed to have readers from four different continents (where are you, Africa?!), people who actually read what I write!!!! So, yes, going strong. And I intend to continue this streak.

B x

Christmas, Poetry And A Teary Me

Many of you will be celebrating Christmas today or will at least be enjoying the holiday and the free time that comes with it. And as I really don’t want you guys sitting in front of the screen all day (read! eat! spend time with your family! maybe even sing?), this will be my shortest post to date (well, we’ll see about that…).

It also contains my present to you! A poem! YAY (at least this should be your reaction)! I know that people have very different opinions on poetry, but I think it’s like music: you’ll like some, some not, and it is entirely up to you what kind of role it plays in your life. For example, although I do appreciate it, personally I do not read poetry on a regular basis because it makes me feel melancholy and often it makes me cry. Not in a bad way, but it does include tears rolling down my cheeks. Which is a tiny bit annoying, especially if you’re on the bus or in a cafe. But whenever I feel melancholy anyways and I seek the sensation of drops of salty water crisscrossing my face, I grab a book and read some poems (Spanish poetry especially cracks me up, can’t say why).

I stumbled upon this poem randomly (it was featured as the Guardian poem of the week, you can read more about it here) and I liked it. Also it didn’t make me feel too teary.

Louise Glück

A Work of Fiction

As I turned over the last page, after many nights, a wave of sorrow envel-
oped me. Where had they all gone, these people who had seemed so real?
To distract myself, I walked out into the night; instinctively, I lit a cigarette.
In the dark, the cigarette glowed, like a fire lit by a survivor. But who would
see this light, this small dot among the infinite stars? I stood a while in the
dark, the cigarette glowing and growing small, each breath patiently de-
stroying me. How small it was, how brief. Brief, brief, but inside me now,
which the stars could never be.

Hope you like it too, and Merry Christmas and all that!

B x

Trashy TV and Very Little Time

My plan to write posts in advance has failed miserably. At first, I wrote the posts for the following day, which was not too bad, but now I have about 15 minutes in order not to fail my resolution to “blog daily”, plus my battery is running low. Life is tough (or ‘toff’ as they’d say in Chelsea). But I can do this.

Here we go. Today, I’d like to share my favourite reality TV show. We all watch some horrible TV, or read some horrible fiction or listen to horrible music because we enjoy it, and there’s no reason to feel ashamed about it.

I love reality TV because it gives me the illusion that those characters are real, and therefore judging them and their choices is much more fun. It is also amazing how invested you become in those people’s fortunes. And as it is ‘real’ it feels less pathetic to root for a particular relationship or person. Of course we feel the same way about fiction (please, don’t tell me you didn’t cross your fingers that Lizzie Bennett and Mr Darcy would get together already). But it all feels a lot less definite on reality TV. Such fun.

So, my all-time favourite reality TV show is “Made in Chelsea”. If you haven’t already, please, please watch it.

(I’M RUNNING OUT OF TIME, NEED TO TYPE FASTER)

It is basically about these rich kids in their early twenties in Chelsea (posh bit of Central London), and all they do is hang out in cafes and bars and there’s intrigues and everyone has slept with everything. It is hilarious and so great.

This ad for season 5 is perfect to describe how it all works (in a lovely ironic manner):

So, that’s that for now. Oh, I almost forgot. The close runner up to MIC (yes, acronym for Made in Chelsea) is Take Me Out. I know this is a format that exists in several countries, so please consider that I’m talking about the UK version that is hosted by that horrible and hilarious Paddy (… don’t know the last name and no time to look it up). It is the exact opposite of MIC in terms of poshness, but equally misogynistic and trashy.

B x

Chestnuts Roasting On An Open Fire…

So, here we go: Appropriate to the time of the year and the music currently playing on the radio, I’ve chosen to share with you some festive tunes, that can serve you as an alternative to Mariah Carey’s “All I Want For Christmas” on a loop during the next few days. This is the best Christmas album I have come across so far and it is excellent. You know how you have to be in a certain kind of state to enjoy the Sinatra Christmas classics and the new auto-tuned, dolled up versions they play on the radio get old pretty quickly (plus, they all sound the same!), this album is the answer.

It is such a nice, laid back, but still merry collection of some of the best classic tunes: They do a smashing cover of Madonna’s “Santa Baby”, and have included everything from “Baby It’s Cold Outside” to “Silent Night”. My personal favourite is track number seven, but please, please listen for yourself and make up your own mind.

You can download the whole album here, and another great thing is that there is no set price!! This means you can literally pay what ever you think is appropriate and if you’re too broke (or too stingy, no judgement..), just put “0”. Hint hint: This also makes a great present.

Wild Child – Christmas Mixtape, Volume 1

 

Death by Exercise

Today I did an incredibly stupid thing. I went to the gym to do an aerobics class. That is the worst decision I made since signing that gym membership (which easily classifies as the worst choice of the year 2014).

Let me tell you why: I despise exercise, and aerobics is the worst possible kind. I hate everything about it. I hate the sweating, the way you are on constantly on display and the horrible pump up music. Oh, and why do there have to be mirrors everywhere? Apart from this general dislike, I am also astonishingly bad at it. My coordination is a disaster in itself.  Even with that walking on one spot that they always do in the beginning I get confused, but as soon as I’m meant to do this with my legs in that direction and that with my arms in this direction, I am completely and utterly lost. Sports in general just tend to make me less attractive: I sweat like crazy and my face, neck and chest adopt a colour that can only be described as ‘cholesterol magenta’ (not my word, science’s – okay, I may not have the copyright for both these last phrases). Not to forget, I also feel physically sick as a result of exercising. These delightful side effects, in case you were wondering, aren’t just a brief sensation. They (the sweat, the magenta, the sickness)just remain calmly in place for the next two to three hours after exercising. How is it possible that half an hour of aerobics leaves me in a worse shape than six shots of tequila?? It is literally my personal incarnation of hell (not sure this metaphor holds up in its full religious context) .

And though I am generally aware of this, I sometimes feel guilt creeping in. For having paid the gym membership without ever going. And for not being one of those people who enjoy movement in general. I would really really like to be someone like that. I’d join a beach volleyball team, I’d go for a run three times a week in fancy running gear, my ponytail swinging from side to side (also, I’d ace games like beer pong and flunky ball*). Anyway, I’m really not that kind of person. I most likely never will be. Also, why should I spend time doing something that makes me feel this miserable? Realizing this gave me the courage to just walk out of there (after dutifully putting back the stepper, the mat, and the various weights and thanking the overly enthusiastic but super lovely instructor, of course). I still feel a tiny bit miserable though. For once, the three hours that my body requires to make my complexions go from the colour of an overripe strawberry to a general face tone aren’t over, and also I know that the desire to be “one of those people” will probably return at least twice annually in the next few years. Who knows, maybe one of those times I’ll realise that Pilates totally is my thing and all this trying will finally be rewarded. Even if not, at least I don’t have to feel guilty about not trying for the time being.

Please, if you have had any related experiences or feelings, do share that in the comments. I could really need some kindred spirits.

B x

*very popular drinking game in Germany, major bonding experience at any festival. Click here to read very amusingly (and accurately) illustrated instructions on how to play it by an American studying in Germany

Good lecturers, bad lecturers…

So, yes, it’s been a while. The internet has been mostly working for the past month, and it seems I am way more compelled to contribute to this blog when forcibly offline.

Anyways, it’s time for an update. Looking back, it seems funny how excited I was for courses to start. I signed up for the whole lot of lectures and seminars and vowed to go to all tutorials as well. For the first two weeks I did it. Attended every event on my self-enforced timetable.

Things are a bit different today. I dropped out of all of my lectures and most of my seminars. And, believe it or not, this is a good thing. Why would I attend a boring lecture if I don’t want to? Clearly, my chances of learning something are inversely proportional to how much I dread getting up in the morning. But there are some seminars left over. Also a very good thing.

My beginners’ Danish course, for example, is a delight. Yes, there are the irregular words, there’s the pronunciation that continues to puzzle me. But it is heaps of fun and very rewarding. As always, this is largely due to my Danish teacher, who is amazing. It is refreshing how personally engaged she is and how proud our progress makes her. And I myself love that after only two months of learning the language I was able to watch a film entirely in Danish (also organised by that lovely teacher, outside of our lessons, in her own free time) and I managed to follow the plot!

The other seminars I still go to include academic writing, an introduction into Spanish Literature (although these are both quite dull, but academic writing might actually prove useful someday and if I dropped out of Spanish Lit, I would have dropped out of Spanish entirely…), an introduction to Scandinavian Medieval Studies and a presentation skills workshop.

That last one is the other delight of my week. It is the only seminar I have in English and it’s very much an interactive course. We are only five participants, which makes it really cozy and personal and the teacher is a lovely lady that provides biscuits and tea and coffee. Yet again, she is probably the cause that I find this workshop as enjoyable as I do. With a background in acting and teaching English she’s just lovely and cares for each and every one of us.

Well, that’s enough from me for now, I have some festive spirit to generate (I find writing cards, buying presents, mulled wine and Frank Sinatra very helpful in getting me in the right Christmas mood) and a risotto to cook (yes, that phase isn’t over yet).

B x