Where is your home?

When somebody asks me where I come from or where my home is, I struggle. I am born in a place where I did not really grow up. I grew up in a place which I do not really identify with. I identify myself with a place where I studied for only two years. Then I found a second home on a different continent where I have a house. But now I study yet somewhere else where one day I intend to settle. So where do I come from? Where is my home? The person who asks usually either gets a simple answer that is a crass simplification. Or they get the long whole story but they have to sit through it for a long while.

Not long ago I read about someone who has spent her life in many more varying places. She has traveled a lot and lived all over the world. For her, too, it is difficult, if not impossible to name that one place that is home. But she said people like her find a home on the internet.

I find that very interesting and scary at the same time. I certainly prefer real life relationships over virtual ones, and even more real life places. However, recently, especially with involving myself in online communities and reaching out more, I realized I have become almost dangerously homey on the internet. I obviously keep in touch with people there. But I also have a storage there and some photos. My entire music collection is there as well as a post box. That sounds very much like a home.

On the other hand, I am too conservative to embrace it fully. I am actually scared and do not trust all these apps and programs that will rule your life and eat your information. Although I totally understand when people find their home on the internet, where they connect with people, upload their lives and create their identities.

Sometimes I long for that place where I spent my childhood and my heart becomes warm when I get back there after being away for long. Like my friend who always gets excited when she sees the top of the huge church while driving into her home town. Only for me, that place does not exist anymore, I do not have any reason to go back where I spent my childhood. My parents live somewhere else now.

So I abide by my friend, an experienced woman who said: It does not have to be a place. Home can also be a table. Or people.

It depends on your concept of home, not where you live or where you come from.

So what is home for you?

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Silence is no crime

Silence is no crime, sings Izzy Gordon.

All the secrets I have to hide

There’s no room for you now

Till I get what I came to find

Silence indeed is no crime. Nobody can accuse you of being silent. When they question your decision, when they sniff about in your past, you are not obliged to answer. In fact, you can keep control in silence. When something is on your mind, you do not have to share it. All the secret pleasures and all the guilty addictions are yours, and yours alone.

Thoughts are free and silence is their gatekeeper and caretaker. You may think what you want. You may imagine things as you please. You may be silent about it.

I even go further and say not only you may. BE silent! Make things your secret by not sharing them. If you keep the sunrise for yourself, or your favourite story, or your marriage, it is not an act of jealous not-sharing, but rather of appreciation and full enjoyment. Keep it in your heart, keep it in your soul, keep it in your mind, keep it in silence. It will fulfill you, the moment and your life. It will be fully yours and no one will be there to judge it or try to acquire it for themselves

Silence makes you fascinating. Mostly it is not the things you talk about, but the things you do not share that make people curious. Silence is captivating because it leaves space for imagination. Attractive silence wants to be shared, not broken. The best people, the friends to stick to, are those you can share long episodes of silence with without feeling awkward. The most resourceful people are those who can remain silent while you feel their self-assurance. They know the truth, but they hold it in silence.

I am not talking about keeping quiet. I am not talking about lying or covering injustice or rejecting support by hushing and not speaking up. You must express solidarity and fight for the right cause and stand up against evil. But even this can be done in silence. Not by looking away and keeping quiet. But by standing firm, by joining the cause for the sake of the cause and not for the sake of having an audience. By spreading the message to support the right thing instead of presenting yourself in the best light possible. By keeping silent about yourself because it is not about you. By keeping silent about the enemy because it is not about the enemy. By being there silently, walking with them silently, singing silently and shouting silently, expressing truth and beauty.

There’s no room for you now

It is only me and my silence. I will hold my peace about myself and what is in my head. I will look around my own silence, indulge in it and walk through its high halls. I will be by myself for a while and go about my business like a lone explorer.

Till I get what I came to find

Drama!

I watch a series that is meant for children but is full of drama. I like to dwell on it like on a pot of honey, knowing that it is just a sentimentality. It is not very elaborate, but it captures me.

After watching some episodes I wonder how it will continue. I remind myself of certain scenes and how the characters acted. I can play these film clips over and over again in my head, indulge in them. They seem to be stuck in my mind even during the day, when I am supposed to live my reality, get things done and be productive. The characters appear again, in the last scenes I watched, and I pity them, or I admire them, or I just marvel at them.

They are very over the top. They have heavy colourful make-up and unusual costumes. They live in a world that does not exist. And they are very dramatic: Dark pasts are haunting them. They have feelings for somebody who does not love them back. Their friends and spouses are lost to somebody else, or to a cause, or to a cruel dictator. They make mistakes, they become guilty, they get caught in intrigues. Then they sit on their beds, head in their hands, with heavy thoughts, and turn their back on the person who comes to help them. They get angry and in their rage lose control. Caught between a rock and a hard place, they do something harmful just to save themselves. They suffer, they mourn, they make things worse.

And if one of those cases is finally solved and one character overcomes his trauma and gets the girl of his dreams, two others are already mired in a net of lies and trouble and messed-up relationships.

Their problem, as it is in most series, is that they do not talk to each other. Instead of spying on the other one from afar, making assumptions and then throwing angry accusations at each other, they should sit down and ask for explanations. But then the series would be pretty boring. Half of the conflicts would never appear and the excitement would shrink by fifty percent respectively.

In real life I cannot afford such drama because it takes a lot of effort to pick up the pieces in the end. I see something suspicious – I talk. I lose a close person – I mourn and then get back to work. No turning my back to someone else. Drama does not earn me a living. When I get caught in a problem, the universe does not stop and wait for me to make a decision. It will keep spinning and probably even provide a solution in one way or the other.

All this accumulated drama is what makes me watch the series, because luckily my drama potential is rather small.

Truth

flower wallpaer covered in silicone, art

Last year I walked through someone’s dream. An artist had set up an installation of rooms he had seen in his dream. I had to remove my shoes to walk through. The rooms were small and bending. All things were covered in silicone: the wallpaper, the floor, the cabbage, the stone and the antelope. Only the roots of a tree simply consisted of silicone, a hollow tube reproducing the pattern of the bark.

In addition, philosophers and authors had written texts with their thoughts on the installation and dreaming in general. I liked some of them so much that I took pictures of them. But up to today I have not re-read them, neither looked for the writers on the internet. Even if I had, what would I have gained from it? More information, more input. More truth?

Unfortunately I keep spending most of my time on the computer, reading and entertaining myself with pixels and reports from the airwaves until I become square-eyed. I felt the same way as a movie character in a certain science fiction series. While everybody was surrounding themselves with fake stuff, paying fake money to get something that is not even tangible in that virtual world, he was craving for something real and true like an apple, like real people.

A friend of mine told me about her journey through South America. There she met a man with a tattoo of a zombie under water, heading towards the surface. We are all under water and we do not know any different, he explained. When we look up, we only see the mirror of the surface and we believe, beyond it there is nothing. But this zombie is on its way up, and if it dares to break through the surface, there will still be the sky.

Sometimes I feel like my own prisoner. Tangled in the net of socially constructed norms and institutions. Entertained by unreal pictures composed of ones and zeroes. Collecting clutter that will add to a meaningless pile. Adding content to a box that is already overflowing. There cannot be anything unique, anything new anymore because everything has already been there before.

Even the idea of escaping all that, finding an exit by going into the forest, into solitude, by traveling, by focusing on nature, is a part of that prison. The concept of the pure and true nature is incorporated into the system. It is like being allowed to go outside to the yard and get some fresh air. Still the idea exists within the prison’s walls and fences.

This makes me urge to create something pure, immaculate, defoliated, skinned. I can try but I know I will fail. Everything springs from something else, everything is already categorized and constructed by humanity itself. And as I keep producing content, I am not closer to the truth at all.

I have no solution for that, so this will remain a rather depressing post. Maybe this year, I can try hard and at least get a little bit closer to truth.

Lessons from January

Do you remember the goals you set five weeks ago, when New Year’s Eve was just over and you were full of motivation? To be honest, I did not exactly. I had to sit down and remind myself. And I had to compare my goals with this month’s outcome. So here are the lessons I learned in January:

Goals must be reviewed.

Just as I said: Looking back is important because we forget all the resolutions we made in the beginning of the year. Then we break them, unaware. Only if we remind ourselves constantly and adjust our actions we can reach our goals, slowly and one by one, but surely. In that way we learn. That is how I came to put down these insights here. By reviewing yesterday every morning, by recapitulating last week every Sunday, and by going over the last weeks in the beginning of a new month. Don’t worry: It takes time, but once you are used to it, you will find it easy to fill those papers and plans and it will go very fast.

Aimlessness pulls you down.

With the new semester just having started, I did not have any assignments. No project to work on, no mission to prepare. And I realised I was just floating, not making use of the days. Of course there is hardly anything nicer than waking up and reading the morning away, in bed, before breakfast. But afterwards I tended to get unnecessarily lost on the internet, with things that did not in any way help me. Therefore I had to look for a task that could fill my days with meaning again.

Computer eats time.

As I said, without something to do it is so easy to get lost on the Internet. From one article you are guided to the next until you find yourself caught in the web, unable to switch off. I walked in the forest, biked somewhere, went to see an exhibition. In that way, I broke the attraction by the internet, at least for a while. And I adjusted my list of habits to take on: One of the coming months will see the re-installment of a screenfree day.

People are important!

They are what really counts. Not clicks on the blog. Not the newest trend on facebook. Not even books, films or music. It is people who make our life better. I realized that on several meetings and gatherings. So whenever the opportunity presents itself to meet people, to interact, to do something with them, I am in.

Plunge in!

My finances are tight. My classes are important. But when the possibility came to volunteer in Umeå during the opening ceremony for the European Capital of Culture 2014, I went and I was in the middle of it and I enjoyed it very much. Simply because I took the chance and jumped in, against all odds. I missed a class and spend a lot on the train tickets. But I had a fantastic weekend, saw astonishing art and met great people. I came home with new inspiration and fire and ideas for my daily life here.

What lessons did you learn last month? Share them in the comments!

Outsourcing Fears

In these days of efficiency, outsourcing appears to be a magic word. Staff management will be outsourced. Advertisement will be outsourced. Administration will be outsourced. The customer service has been outsourced long time ago. Until the actual production is outsourced to some country where it is cheaper. What remains of the business is a white space, a person on a computer, running the company and earning the money.

I learned from watching news that outsourcing is not something good. It cuts jobs and only benefits the business owner, not the workers.

Nowadays you can even outsource your shopping, and not only if you are a celebrity, living in a mansion, not able to go on the streets. Even for an ordinary person, websites offer personal assistants for a fee. You can assign them to administrate your meetings, travels and medical appointments. You can also let them buy the birthday present for your grandmother.

And then, how has that helped you? They say you have more time. For what? Sometimes, when I have a lot of work, going to the supermarket or taking letters to the post office remains the only time of the day when I actually step outside and away from the computer. That is time that I really enjoy.

And while I struggle with all that annoying trivia like registering at some agency, borrowing books from the library, buying train tickets, getting an appointment at the doctor’s, organizing trips and setting up and designing a website, I learn. If I had the funds, I could outsource these tasks and had someone else do them for me.

It could safe me some time probably, but it would safe me a lot of experience, too. Do you also have those tasks that are lining somewhere in the corner of your desk, in the corner of your mind, in the corner of your to-do list and you manage to ignore them until they cannot be avoided anymore? These tasks that make you frown of disgust and discomfort just when you think of them? How you would love somebody else to do them for you. You would save time and unpleasantness and awkwardness. And you would prevent yourself from learning and growing.

We outsource our fears instead of facing them. Outsourcing is the opposite of self-dependency. When that task comes up again, you will depend on the outsourcing agency to do it for you. If we face the fears and the unpleasant tasks, we can learn that it is not that scary at all. We can get to know the process we did not know before and therefore were afraid of. We gain experience and are better prepared for next time.

We may as well fail and see that our fear is legitimate and reasonable, but we made it through anyway and we grew. When we face our fears and unpleasant tasks instead of outsourcing them, they will diminish, even vanish, dissolve, or at least become a more familiar part of ourselves.

Which fear have you outsourced? And how will you face it today?

Sour stories

It is in my teacher’s voice when he talks about his country Egypt. It is in my flat mate’s voice when he explains the situation in his country Mexico. My classmate uses it when speaking about her country Marocco. And it also sneaks into my talks about Kenya.

Cynicism.

It can be entertaining to listen to our stories. They are real-life experiences and they reflect the unadorned situation in the particular country. They appear to be objective or at least not as glossy as the TV and traveling agencies try to sell them. They have these components that surprise the listener, something unexpected which turns out to be the usual practice there. Those stories deliver unusual facts about places we otherwise would misjudge.

Cynicism presents ourselves as experts and even heroes. It shows how strange and illogical the situation is in those countries and that we are used to these circumstances. We can manage the situation and survive even the weirdest incident. It proofs that we are not tourists but inhabitants of these places, that we can cope with difficult situations that seem unbearable to other people. But we have no choice and we are brave enough to live through it, to actually embrace those moments of strangeness and get so used to them, that later on we can even make fun of them.

But if we are honest, we are hurting inside. Our faces become sour. We already know too much about those countries. We intend to express something funny, meanwhile our hearts are cold and we have given up hope.

When my teacher shows the ridiculous headlines of Egyptian newspapers in their attempt to ignore and deny the ongoing protests.

When my flat mate talks about the elaborate Mexican food and the country’s high obesity rate caused by industrially processed groceries.

When my classmate makes fun of some ministers who recently got knocked down by stones while addressing the public.

And when I describe the public transport in Nairobi and the phenomenon of the fancy but dangerously reckless mini busses that cause bad accidents and get robbed regularly.

We make fun, but our hearts are bleeding. We have gotten used to it, but actually we wish it was different and we could tell more pleasant stories. Stories which are truly happy and funny instead of making fun at the cost of others. We might even have some beautiful experiences at hand that we could talk about, but then again they are not as fascinating as the cynical ones. Cynicism might be a solution for ourselves to deal with what we have experienced and still are experiencing. But it does not help anyone else.

Maybe it would be better if I remained quiet next time, instead of telling one of those funny, surprising and cynical stories, if I do not have one that is truly humorous instead.

The snow and us in it

Finally, the snow is here. Little flakes started dancing down to the earth on Monday and have been falling ever since. Sometimes it is merely a certain glittering that fills the air. The atmosphere seems to crackle.

The snow covered the ground quickly and stayed there. It did not melt away. And since the constant snowfall has continued without end, by now it lies ankle-deep.

People here are used to it. Some do not like it very much. Others seem to not even notice it. I adore it. The creaking under my feet, the tickling of the flakes in my face, the sudden silence that comes with it and the reflection of the light. It makes people move in a different way, forces them to slow down. The school children look quaintly different when they are walking on snow. Their silhouettes against the white background is something new. They gather in groups, come together and in the blink of an eye scatter again, vanish, run, and accumulate somewhere else.

Usually you hear the sound of a snowplough roaring somewhere. They are tirelessly driving around, flashing orange light, going back and forth and removing the snow from streets and parking lots. They dash along the roads, scour the tarmac and leave a dark trace behind them. Immediately, as they pass, behind them the snowflakes fall on and on, covering the spot again, and what has been dark and easily drivable for a second is already blurred again by the never ending gentle snowfall and will soon be covered in white as if the snowplough had never passed there.

The rivers slowly freeze, especially where they do not rush. The open water narrows down to a stream in the middle until even that is swallowed by a surface of ice.

The ducks seem not to care. Neither many of the people. They wear snow trousers, put some winter covering on their dogs and pull their children in sleighs behind them. They keep jogging, rushing in the car, even biking. I am one of the bikers, I had no alternative. It took me double of the time to get to where I wanted, though. People use winter tires even for their bikes but I do not have such. And although the snowploughs work throughout, they prioritize on the streets for cars and do the bike tracks only occasionally and far less often. So as a biker you can either get a smooth white track where only braking would be a problem, or a soft, fluffy white track where you cross the virgin snow, or a part where many people have walked down the snow to a hard and bumpy surface, or a track with skidmarks, slightly brown and impassable, because you easily lose control of where your bike goes, or rather lurches.

Generally, the sudden onset of winter made me realise how little we are in control. I have no car, the bus connections are of no big help, and I have a class in the university which is eight kilometers away. I must take the bike. And the snow does not care. It keeps falling. The town workers do their best to keep the tracks free but after two days of constant snowfall it is simply a task too big to accomplish at once. People have no other choice but surrender. We can complain about the weather, we can complain about the town service, we can complain about our unequipped bikes – the snow will even fall on our complains, it will cover our silent rebellion, and there we will be, quiet and paralyzed and spellbound by the dancing flakes, smothered like the frozen rivers, bereft of our motivation, doing what we always should do: keep calm and accept.

Two lessons well learned

Imagine you come into the classroom and the lesson has already started because you are a bit late. Imagine irritated faces and embarrassment. Imagine your classmate telling you: This is hell.

It took me a while until I understood what was going on. Our teacher had handed out scripts for American commercials and made us perform them in front of the class. With different voices. Not that we study drama. We study journalism. Then we watched videos on acting exercises. It was one of those classes you wish you had skipped. But now I was in, however late, I was in and had to sit through the torment and embarrassment and awkwardness.

The next lesson was held by the mentioned teacher’s wife. It was on video production, straight to the point, well organised, clearly arranged and obviously useful. We understood her points and saw the sense in the lecture. One of those lessons you definitely do not want to miss because it had a lot of helpful hints and facts and useful information, and it was actually fun to listen to her.

Now guess what stuck in my head? Not the facts of the latter, not the well outlined lists of things you have to pay attention to and take care of while producing video. Although I downloaded her presentation later and even wrote parts of it in my exercise book. When doing her assignment, I still and again had to look up things. But what got really stuck in my mind were the acting exercises. The importance of them before stepping in front of a camera or microphone. The way to stand and to breath and to focus. And the slight embarrassment you feel when doing them.

We mostly remember the stupid stuff. What sticks most to our mind are random, seemingly useless odd facts and situations. To make something stick in our head, therefore, we have to expose ourselves into odd situations. We have to leave the comfort zone and embarrass ourselves. Like that we might end up with some great memories.

Advice to my Sister: Mindset for a better Life

The big little sister is amazingly inspiring, especially when it comes to her health resolutions. After making some material changes in my own life recently I discovered that a lifestyle that feels more good does not stop with things, but involves and actually affects your mindset, too.

Better Person

The big little sister talked about becoming a better person. She feels the same urge like me. I went through a certain process, looking for inspiration. Becoming better is continuous. Being aware is the first step.

I started with the living better daily scorecard from possibilityoftoday.com. (Scroll down to find the scorecard and instructions.) It is a list of things you want to accomplish, for example to have a good mindset, to be productive, or to be helpful and supportive. In the end of every day you credit yourself with points and see what you have to work on. I quickly developed my own chart and crediting system. I had weekly overviews where I simply marked whether I had accomplished a dairy free day or a good deed. After a while some basic rules developed out of this. Some are very concrete, like “Don’t multitask on the Internet.” or “Avoid plastic.” Others are more metaphysical like “Let go. This shall pass.” or “Gratitude & calmness & trust & quietness.” I hung them on the wall.

Next to the piece of paper that shows how often per week I want to run and write and read and do good. Whenever I’ve done it for one day, I push the paper clip one step ahead. Of course I try to reach the last marker every week.

Magic Habits

What I learned from one of my favourite blogs, zenhabits.net, is the power of habits. The secret is to start very very small but regularly, and then increase. If you want to write a book, write a sentence each day for a while, then increase to a paragraph, then to a page. After some months, writing will be a habit that does not take much effort anymore. It will take long until that book is finished, but it will not be as hard and impossible as it looked like in the beginning.

I will implement my new year’s resolutions one per month. This month I want to start blogging twice instead of once per week and handwrite more. Baby steps, but I hope they will stick. In February I want to start fasting once per week. In March the marathon training starts. And so on. In the end of the year, I hopefully will have developed twelve new habits.

Comfort Zone

To achieve these habits and make them a daily routine, I have to get out of the comfort zone regularly. But that is the only way to develop. That is how I get assignments done for which we have to collect people’s opinion on the street (very uncomfortable!). That is also how I found out that it is not that hard to relinquish cheese and yoghurt (at first a very uncomfortable prospect!). That is how I learned to enjoy the early morning hour of writing instead of dozing.

Life Purpose

For all that it helps to know what you are doing it for. Having a goal or an idea where you want to be and what you want to do after some time can give you lots of motivation. There are these lists and questionnaires you can fill out that promise you a system to find your life purpose. But sitting down and thinking or exploring new things or tavelling or talking and working with people or even dreaming might as well do the job. And I guess, no I am sure that NOT having a life purpose or the one direction is just as fine. Life does funny things at times, anyway.

The Rhythm

Now that I plan my days and weeks and months, tick my deeds and credit my mindset – it happens often enough that I throw all those plans overboard and just do something completely else which does not fit in the schedule and will put me two miles back – but makes me happy. When a friend invited me for lunch: I ate a big egg and cheese pie during my vegan time instead of being picky. When I had planned to be productive and get done with all assignments before uni starts again: I went to a music festival instead of sitting at home. When I wanted to tidy up my room to start afresh the next day: I watched a beautiful movie. When your plans are somewhat picking on you: follow your rhythm. Under my basic rules I wrote after a while: “These rules are made by myself. I can adjust them.” It is good to remind myself of that.

Admit Imperfection

As I do all the above things, I fail daily. I am not able to accept some people in my environment the way they are. I always find myself feeling superior. I still eat a lot of chocolate and dairy products although I am trying to be vegan and healthier. I still do not take as much time as I would need for reading all I want. But I am trying and learning and improving. And I am aware that I am not perfect and never will be. Being aware of that is the first step on the way to improvement.