I Blame You, You Blame Me

I want to go back to bed. I must be ill. There’s definitely cold sweat, definitely. Is it a fever? I just want to go back to bed. Slowly creep underneath the covers, noone has to notice, and just lie there in the warm and safe envelope that is my bed. I have a special bond with my bed. Even though the bed changes, sometimes night after night, it always seems to be the same bed. My bed is where I’m home, no matter where I actually am. Sometimes it fails me, my bed. It fails to protect me from that person in the hostel room whose snores are drilling into my skull. It fails to muffle the sounds of my friend and her boyfriend making out next to me.

Somehow, my bed has also become my enemy. It is like I’ve betrayed it. I have to resist its constant almost magnetic pull and I hate it for the strength this requires. Strength I need for other things. I also curse it for being so possessive. Why can’t it just be happy with having me in its arms during the dark of the night? I’d like to spend the day without it, I need some space. There’s nothing to it. The chairs I sit on, the streets I walk, the things I lean on, they’ve got nothing on you, dear. We’re just friends. Yet, its jealousy ruins my relationship with the chairs, the streets, the things. And I, annoyed and exhausted and resentful, deny you my company when it gets dark. At two or three in the morning we make up reluctantly, because we rely on each other, we need each other. And when the sun rises, the whole ordeal begins anew.

Why, why can’t we escape this truly vicious cycle? We are slowly ruining each other, day after day, as the anger and the contempt grow ever and evermore. Of course, I blame you, and you blame me, and there is a nice symmetry to this. But we can’t go on. Maybe we need a break. But we can’t break, can we? You follow me wherever I go, wherever I sleep. You are home. And I’m still happy when I’m with you. Our nightly reunions are such a relief and pleasure that sometimes I think, maybe it’s worth it, maybe all the drama is worth it, just for that moment of unity.

But it’s not, is it. My unhealthy relationship with my bed poisons my waking hours. It makes me hate myself and sleep through what could have been my life. It is my own version of meth. It fills me with regret and resentment and brings me sadness and frustration. I will never get away from it, it will be there, no matter where I sleep, on heavenly futons, dirty sheets and disappointing roll mats. But maybe we should just be friends.

B x

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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

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

Sorting Out My Life

Today I will sort out my life. During my last years at school this was a sentence that you would often hear from me. And though I resist voicing it these days (it’s become a bit of a joke, saying it out loud just makes me realise how ridiculous it sounds when said repeatedly), it is still very much a daily thought (except on the ‘dark’ days, of which yesterday was one).

And yes, it may be Sisyphean labour (you know it’s good when it refers to Greek mythology…) but having things sorted, or at least having a feeling of having things sorted, seems to be essential to my happiness. This is nothing new: I’ve already described to you in minute detail how much I value overview. Today, however, I’ll spill the guts about one of the ways that help me to obtain this reassuring but quite possibly imaginary feeling of control.

My not so secret tools are what I call (spot o’ Miranda!) ‘projects’. Whenever I think there is a problem, or anything I want to achieve that seems confusing and a bit overwhelming, I declare it a ‘project’. Somehow, just naming it that makes it easier to tackle. An ‘issue’ or a ‘problem’ is messy and pressing and very not nice. If you have a ‘project’, however, you have time. You have the responsibility to approach the question from several points of view before you start thinking of ways to achieve results. And even when you start implementing these actions, there is little pressure, you simply observe how it goes. A ‘problem’, on the other hand, has to be ‘resolved’, immediately if possible. So now shut up everyone who says semantics don’t matter.

At the moment, I have four major projects on the go (and when I say major, then they are really minor, but they matter to me a great deal)

Project #1: Write A Novel In A Month. This does need some planning – when best to do it? what do I need? how many words a day? In this case, declaring it a ‘project’ also helps me doing it. Otherwise it would be one of those things that make me think “I could do that. I should do that!” and then I never do it.

Project #2: Organise A Summer Gathering. Sadly, or luckily, I have my closest friends spread across several countries. This can be fun, but it also means that we don’t see each other as much. The distance, as well, and the different lives we lead, make it more difficult to organise get-togethers. I have also always been the oraganiser when it comes to those things, partly because I’m quite good at things like this and mostly because noone else would do it and I really want things to happen, so I just do them myself. I actually like it, though. Group work is not really my style, way too messy. It means however, if I want something to happen this summer, I have to nag everyone on a regular basis about everything from telling me when they’re free to booking flights to actually packing their bags. And nagging is not really on the top of my list of fun things to do. I’ll do it though, now that it is a project.

Project #3: Sleep. This one might be the biggest project so far, and you’ll be likely to hear tons about it in the near future. Basically, I don’t have problems sleeping, but I do have problems going to bed and getting out of bed, for some reason. I do my best work at night, so it’s hard for me to waste quality working and creative time by just going to sleep. This, however, has completely disrupted my sleeping pattern and the general rhythm of my life. Gotta get that sorted, and I will.

Project #4: Read A Lot. This is where calling it a project really helps me be happier instantly. For years ‘read a lot’ was a resolution that I loosely remembered, but never fulfilled to my satisfaction. This is partly because reading widens your horizon and the more you read the more you think you should read, but also because I don’t think of reading as important as it is because I enjoy it so much. So now that I’ve made it an official project, I’ll keep track of what I read, I’ll make lists of what to read next, and just like that, reading a book feels a lot more like accomplishing something than like wasting time.

Also, (as you might have noticed) I have realised today how fun it is linking back to past posts! I’ll promise not to overdo it though.

B x

The Worst Time For Resolutions? – A Review

Oh dear. What is it about the new year that seems to stop us from keeping our resolutions? Unlike many others, who have drafted their resolutions on or shortly before New Year’s Eve and put them into effect the day after, I started my Happiness Project and the resolutions it entails before Christmas even. Now that it is actually the new year, I have a massive slump. There is a few things that I could blame (haven’t fully re-settled into my routine, bad weather, etc.), but ultimately it’s all just me.

Now as a supplement to my constant aspiration to be organised and gain an overview, I think it is at the time to have a pit-stop and face how it is really going with my Happiness Project. Like Gretchen Rubin, I have been keeping a Resolutions chart. Sadly, or luckily, though, I am not as obsessive as this lady (also, who doesn’t like listening to music? You weird people!), so I left the chart on days that were unusual, like Christmas or when I was staying at friends’ houses. As a consequence, only half of the chart is even filled in. After all, these resolutions are specific to improving my everyday life.

What is painful to admit is that I obviously struggle hard with some of my resolutions. One that has never been ticked so far is “Go to sleep before midnight”. Here, again, I have nothing but myself to blame: the resolution is clearly defined and concise, and I know how much a regular sleeping pattern would contribute to my happiness. Yet, somehow, it challenges me more than it should.

On the plus side, there are some that I have kept every single day, that have become natural to me. After I noticed the massive discrepancy between the time I spend on it and the joy it gives me, I vowed to stay off BuzzFeed. Turns out, it is a lot easier for me to stay off it completely than to use it moderately. My abstinence has now freed me from a lot of guilt and frustration, and it now seems almost funny now that I wasted my time determining “which Disney princess” I am and finding out whether BuzzFeed could “guess my account balance”.

My most significant success so far was achieved with the help of the “Make your bed”-resolution. As a student living in student halls, apart from my desk chair the only opportunity for sitting or lounging is my bed. In combination with my sleeping habits however, this often ended with me taking extended naps on a regular basis. This was a source of constant irritation and disrupted my routines and plans rather often. Making my bed was a quick and easy measure against the tendency. The results were astonishing. Even when I did sit or lie on my bed, it was much easier for me to resist the urge to slip under the covers. This made my days more productive and my nights more restful.

The most significant development though, in my opinion, is how sensitive I have become to areas of improvement in my life and possible future resolutions. While I write them all down, just in case, I know that for now I should focus on keeping the current ones instead of thinking ahead. In one area, however, I have decided to make an exception: Education. I have my big important Danish exam in exactly a month and could definitely use some practice. Therefore, I shall compile an extra list of resolutions specific to this subject, but more on that another day.

B x

Happiness in Progress

As you might know from my blog post a few days ago, I have started my own happiness project. It’s only been a little while, but I guess this thing needs a bit more clarification.

Prime objective is, of course, to stop myself from wasting my days being miserable and not doing things and then feeling more miserable because I haven’t done anything. So, as a result, doing anything pretty much is progress. But I do admit that I am a wee bit ambitious, so there is a more grand goal here, too. It’s hard to put into words, but I am essentially looking to achieve a feeling of purpose, satisfaction and, of course, happiness (hence the title of the project).

But, of course, it’s not like you do on specific thing and then feel purposeful, happy and satisfied forever. It kind of fluctuates. One day you feel energetic and motivated, the next day you fail to overcome the major hurdle of getting out of bed. Also, these things are not entirely self-administered. Of course, there are internal factors that lead to happiness, but there are also external factors that you have no control over whatsoever, and there is, last but not least, that thing called luck. So for my project I focus on what I myself can do to feel better, and on nothing else.

Gretchen Rubin, whose book inspired me to start my own happiness project, recommends that you set concrete goals and keep track of them:

Make resolutions that are concrete and manageable. “Play with my dog each morning” is more effective than “Get more fun out of life.” Track your resolutions by finding a way to hold yourself accountable.

So I followed her example and filled in a chart (you can find the blank chart on page 13 of this document – page 1 to 12 might serve as examples to you) with seven individual and manageable resolutions (below).

  1. Develop a regular sleeping pattern – This is a big problem of mine. I am really not a morning person, so I prefer doing work at night. Plus, I am a child mentally when it comes to sleep: I don’t want to go to bed in the evening and also really don’t want to get up in the morning. Problem is that I live alone and have no one who nags me about it.
  2. Do daily Duolingo in Spanish and Danish – You probably know this online language learning platform (if not, please do check it out!). For me as a language student regular practice is essential. Especially in Spanish, this aspect is missing from my university course where we have a seminar titled “Grammar” and another one titled “Vocabulary”, that focus only on that one thing. So Duolingo comes as a refreshing new opportunity for me. I also love how it is like a game and you can save “lingots” and all that.
  3. Read a lot – Self-explanatory, I hope. Maybe this goal needs to be a bit more measurable (like “read 50 pages a day”) but I think that would be too forced.
  4. Master the art of make-up – Make-up has always been a mystery to me. I see how powerful it can be and it really fascinates me but I just can’t get the hang of it. Maybe if I practice a bit and watch some tutorials on YouTube, this won’t bother me as much.
  5. Be more active – We all know that there are all these studies on how regular exercise makes us happier and endorphin and all that, but I frankly hate working out (detailed description here). So for me “be more active” means walking to university, taking the bike to ride into town and maybe swimming from time to time. Nothing grand.
  6. Blog every day – And here I am…
  7. Do what has to be done – This one is the most important one, I think. Could also be paraphrased as “stop procrastinating”. This is everything from doing the homework for my Danish course to doing laundry and buying groceries and getting out of bed every day.

Every-day life seems to be constantly getting in the way of this,in the end, when happiness is the objective Christmas parties aren’t exactly counter-productive… So far my track sheet contains an encouraging number of ticks and also some crosses, but I guess that’s about right. After all, this is a work in progress.

B x