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

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Keeping Up With… Music

And on and on we go on this journey through the cultural highlights of my life. Today’s topic: Music! In particular: How to keep up with contemporary music! Yay! So, here we go:

I love music. Really, really do. My problem: There is just SO MUCH music out there. When and where am I meant to listen to all of that, make up my mind about whether I like it or not AND the listen to it repeatedly (learn all the words, go to the artist’s gigs, become a wholehearted fan,…). It just seems impossible. And this is just music. Music is probably the most low-maintenance of the things I’d like to keep up to date with. I can listen to music WHILE doing other things. This ain’t so easy with things like books or TV that require our more or less undivided attention. Still, I mainly end up listening to music that I know and love.

The solution: Radio! Ay! The easy yet classic answer to my problem.

Now, to pick up the pace a bit: My favourite radio station is called Triple J (you can listen to it here). You will find that it is Australian which renders all kind of things besides music absolutely useless (especially weather forecasts and anything like morning shows, seeing as they are in a completely different time zone) but all the more fun to listen to.

Plus, most importantly, they have a great mix of the newest, hippest music. The highlight: Every year, the listeners vote the ‘Triple J Hottest 100’. This year’s countdown will take place on January 26th.

Are there any other radio stations you listen too that I should know about?

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

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

Smoking, Porn and Resolutions

It feels a bit odd, all this constant self-improvement. A bit like taking spontaneous New Year’s resolutions to the next level.

Anyway, one of the resolutions Rubin made in her book was to give up something. To be honest, I can’t actually remember what she gave up, it’s not really that memorable a book, but the general ideas tend to stick around.

So what could I give up. I love the idea of giving up things. Makes me feel grand, sacrificing, like a martyr. I tend to do it frequently. Sometimes I then revert these later because the fun of abstinence wears off quite quickly and I often lack the conviction to give them up for good. But I guess even giving something up for just a while is a good move. The worst thing that can come of it is that you take up the habit again, you’ll probably appreciate it more and/or will do it (whatever it may be) more decisively. And sometimes you don’t. Sometimes sacrificing something stops being a sacrifice. It becomes natural.

My current giving up concerns those little cylindrical white sticks we tend to call cigarettes. I truly love smoking; smoking itself, but I also love the communal sense it gives and I love pondering over life while standing outside in the cold. And I know I won’t give it up for good (yet), but I’d like to reduce frequency. I know we only ever thing of success as an all or nothing, but why not. Who cares. Improvement is improvement.

This might be a bit of an odd thing to share, and if you’re a bit prude, please stop reading now. A thing I’ve given up and not regretted is porn. I was not a frequent consumer, if that’s what you’d call it, but it was kind of there. When I was about thirteen porn was where I saw my first erect penis. I knew about the technicalities of blow jobs and double penetration before I had even kissed a boy. That is a thought that makes me shiver. I guess the age of the internet is everything but an age of innocence.

This is the video that inspired me to do so, and as the TED motto is “ideas worth sharing”, here it is:

If this post is a bit jointed, I apologise. I was simultaneously watching Love Actually (a Christmas ritual I plan to cultivate more) and writing this.

The Happiness Project

So I’ve had a bit of a low recently. Don’t exactly know why, but I guess I’m in a bit of a weird point in my life right now and I couldn’t really handle it.

Still can’t, to be honest. Right now I should be sitting in a seminar that I enjoy and that I learn a lot from yet I am here, at home in my room typing this. Everything seems to require so much energy. The reason I didn’t go to the seminar is that I didn’t do the homework and the preparation it required, but the reason I didn’t do those? I don’t know, I just couldn’t get myself to do it. This seems to be the case with everything lately. The horrible thing is that I know exactly what I need to do to feel better, but even if it’s just something like boiling the kettle and putting on some music I just can’t get myself to do it. And that is ridiculously annoying. Also because I find myself guilt-ridden for not doing anything all the time.

To be fair, I have been doing some things. They range from actions as small (but essential) as doing laundry and cleaning the bathroom to more grand (okay, that’s probably a bit of an exaggeration) activities like writing (and sending off) Christmas cards to all my friends and family and signing up for driving lessons. And I am writing this.

So, the reason I am writing this is probably something you have all experienced, being human: I want to be happy. Or at least satisfied, inspired, driven and/or encouraged. Who doesn’t. Spending my days wallowing over the things I don’t while I simultaneously neglect the things I should be doing is an awful waste of my time. And it’s not only that these are things I should do, these are things I really want to do. Ugh, it’s annoying.

Anyways, that’s that, I will take action now. It also coincides with yet another important statement: I’d like to out my self as a major fan of self-help books. At the same time I despise them. It is amazing how self-help books only ever tell you thing you already know. Yet, they manage to present these universal truths or lies in such a way that they suddenly seem more clear, more innovative, more inspiring and easier to achieve. Amazing. Become who you want to be in ten easy steps. Easy. 250 pages and voila, there you are. I must admit, I totally fall for that. My latest discovery in this field is a book called “The Happiness Project” by Gretchen Rubin. It’s been around quite a while now, there have been sequels and accompanying merchandise and all that. It is one of those autobiographies re-purposed as a self-help inspiration. Of course, how much you enjoy reading these and to what extend the do or don’t inspire you is entirely up to what kind of person the writer is and what kind of person you are. Well, the writer is an Upper East side wife, writer and mother of two in her thirties and I am not even in my twenties, have some considerable commitment issues and live in a student dorm in Germany. Couldn’t be more different. Especially because she is the kind of person to have every minute of her day planned out with reading groups, gym classes, dinner parties and of course the hobby-dobby-do, an array of leisure activities. Yet, I like that her book comes undisguised and some of what she says and does makes sense to me too.

One thing she does is list and refer to things she learned as an adult. I can do that too:

It is okay to just like parts of a book and not the whole thing. The eating part of “Eat, Pray, Love”, for example, was really entertaining, while I found the rest to be sentimental bullshit. And that’s completely fine.

Clearly, I don’t give any shits about the months she spent working on her marriage and her parenting skills. I couldn’t be less thrilled about those. And I intensely dislike the her tone and general world view, but that lady struck a nerve with me when she mentioned a realization about how we will only ever be us. I will only ever like the things I like. I will only ever take the path that I take. With every decision we kill lots and lots of possibilities (and give birth to lots and lots of new ones, but that’s irrelevant in this context). I’ve been aware of this for quite a while (what did I tell you, self-help books never tell you anything new) and it has been a considerable source of my Weltschmerz (isn’t the German language resourceful).

Apart from this one realization the other thing I like is how this woman does things. Her way of trying to find happiness is not to meditate or find herself or whatever, but she just does things. Little things. And God knows, it is time for me to also do things.

So yeah, I’m going to become an expert on second-language acquisition, I’ll do all the small things that need to be done (eating, sleeping, showering, …) without making a fuss, I’ll finally get a grip on this whole blogging thing and whatever else springs to mind. Get ready to hear from me soon.

B x

P.S. Today I found that I can see cruise ships going up and down the fjord from my window! I was just sitting here and noticed a massive building moving behind the other buildings until I realized it was a cruise ship! How awesome is that!!

Here you can find out everything about Gretchen Rubin, her Happiness Project and the sequels and prequels. Also has some downloads that might or might not be helpful to you.