23 November 2010


Wenn es anders kommt, als wir es gedacht haben,
dann kann es auch eine Einladung des Lebens sein,
es so zu nehmen, wie es kommt.
Mit Optimismus, einer Prise Humor und mit Gelassenheit.
Jochen Mariss

It was in a small bookshop at the station of Düsseldorf where I was looking for a birthday card and saw a card with a beautiful photo of a growing crop. It was when I read a few lines next to it, that this card touched me. I read it twice and then bought it for myself. Lebenskunst

Yesterday, I was reminded of this card after a much needed catch up with an old colleague. She got married on a beach in summer, and told me about the great party they had and how special that day was to her.
I asked her how she was doing now, and she replied that she was pregnant. A brilliant answer to such a daily question. It wasn’t really planned, and even though she was still trying to get used to the idea of becoming a mother, she’s incredibly happy with it.

I also was very happy for her and said that it was so nice to enjoy some great news. Then she sighted. Simultaneously to being incredibly happy about her pregnancy, she had a lot of worries in her life. Her mother heard two weeks ago that she was seriously ill, and that news made her life into some kind of emotional roller coaster.
One message about creating new life, and another message about a threat to life – it’s the circle of life, but very difficult to deal with simultaneously, and especially, within one family.

It’s Lebenskunst, or the art of living, or savoir vivre. These concepts get a whole different meaning while we’re living, while we’re getting older. “Suddenly, you're old enough" ... We’re adults. When did that happen?” were lines of Meredith in Grey’s Anatomy, when she reflects on the development of her life and worries, from being a kid to now, working as a surgeon.

As a young kid, I had some serious little worries. Did the other school kids like me?  Would I get invitations for birthday parties? In secondary school, the bit bigger worries about grades started, about the future, about wearing the right branded cloths and about being accepted in this cool group of friends. But also, I was confronted with big worries on life, as a girl in my year committed suicide, and my grandmother died of leukaemia.
It was in secondary school when my personal worries grew bigger. I got weird pains, and these pains started to influence or rather became the cause of my worries. 
At university, my worries as a student developed, and started to involve money, and insecurities about living on myself while dealing with these weird pains. My family became smaller after losing my grandparents, yet we were growing increasingly together. 

Now, I am 27. Work, health, insurance, finances, relationships with friends and family and the future, they’re all frequent or less-frequent worries in my so-called life. 
One thing has changed though, the varied ages of people I encounter in daily life. I’m the youngest in my group of friends. Quite a few have settled, are starting families and new lives. Some of them have had merely bright sunny lives; some of them have had to deal with some very heavy stuff in their lives.  At work, I’m the youngest by generation. I hear my colleagues talk about their teenage children with teenage problems, working towards their pensions, and more and more, talking about health problems.  I lost a dear colleague almost two years ago.

I did become an adult and it didn’t happen suddenly. Experiences roughly from my 5th up to my 27th birthday have shaped my character, responsibilities, thoughts, worries, and altogether, my savoir vivre, or the art of living.

Lebenskunst. The art of living. Colours, such as optimism, a bit of humour and serenity, could certainly make the painting of life look more beautiful.
I’ll try to make my own art of living better equipped to changes, and start trying to see an unexpected change as an invitation to take life as it comes.
This post card and the few lines of Jochen Mariss couldn’t explain it any clearer.

19 November 2010

Insomnia - "I can't get no sleep"

It was 1995, I was in high school and dance was played in clubs throughout Europe. One particular song reminds me of that time, although I didn’t even like it that much when I was a high school girl.
I was 12 or 13 years old, and I was always a bit frightened by Faithless’ dance song ‘Insomnia.  I’m not sure if that was because of the intense song, or also because of the music video. I can’t remember what music I particularly loved, but it would probably be anything but ‘happy’ hardcore, trance and this kind of dance music.

This changed when I was a student. I went to big clubs and rediscovered Faithless’ ‘Insomnia’ hit. It was one of those songs, which seemed to keep going on forever, but gave a great excuse for dancing, and losing yourself amid all these people on the dance floor.

Now, it’s about ten years after that time, and quite often, I’m being reminded of that song when I’m lying in bed. While I’m lying awake, wishing to sleep and getting annoyed by watching the clock counting the minutes of sleep to be lacked. “I can’t get no sleep” and "I need to sleep, although I get no sleep", are the sentences of this Faithless song, which gets a totally different meaning when you’re not dancing in a club. Suddenly, it’s not a song that I like for dancing around at 5 am in clubs, keeping my sleep away, but a song reminding me how horrible it is when you wish for sleep.

“I can’t get no sleep” turns into kind of a mantra, not a positive one, but rather a pessimistic one.  
A lack of sleep, or not being able to sleep, even though I’m exhausted, means yawning and a lack of concentration throughout the following day. They developed into ongoing irritating habits of me and appeared to have a cause, or actually multiple causes, namely pains.

Pains made me turn around every 5-10 minutes, made me incredibly tired fighting against them, or acknowledging them, and these pains made me worry loads. Most of the time, not very surprisingly, at night.  “I can’t get no sleep”.

And what became my nightly habit when I was lying awake, or actually still is? I turn on the sleep function of the radio in my bedroom, spray a bit of lavender spray on my pillow, and make myself hot milk or just drink a glass of water. Lying in bed listening to ‘Chill FM’, ‘easy listening for the insomniacs’, makes me calm and sends me back to sleep before the 59 minutes are over.

Thankfully, very often this helps, and I don’t need all the stuff Faithless sings about when he “can’t get no sleep”.

13 November 2010

Hula hoop twirling, mud and massage - another day of spa therapy

It’s 8.00 in the morning when I leave the little pension on the hill for another day of spa therapy. Today, water gymnastics, a mudpack and a massage are scheduled for me.

It’s freezing outside with fog hanging over the little village of Bad Brambach. I like these autumn mornings. Even though these temperatures feel like winter instead of autumn. Frozen leaves are covering the path leading down to the spa. I’m very happy with the winter cap and thick gloves I bought a day before. It was so cold when I visited the little village of Bad Elster, that I fled into a cafe for a hot chocolate. Apparently, autumn is a little different in the mountains of Germany from the merely rainy and humid autumn in the Netherlands. I even found snow when I made a long walk around the village of Bad Brambach. 

“Good morning.”
“Good morning.”
A little group of five people is standing in a pool and saying hello to our physiotherapist, who will take us through the exercises in our water gymnastics class today.

She’s handing out big hula hoops. These hula hoops make the exercises more difficult but also more fun. I do have to laugh when I look around me and see an elderly couple and two older gentlemen trying to twirl and dance with these hula hoops in the water. I used to love this hula hoop when I was young, in the 1980s. Now, it’s 2010 and in this pool we’re composing a scene for the daily gymnastics morning show broadcasted on TV for 65 year olds. Nonetheless, the exercises with the hula hoop will make my muscles seriously feel hung over the day after. 

Thankfully, after this half an hour of stretching, twirling, dancing, and thorough exercising, an empty swimming pool is waiting for me to cool down with a few lanes of swimming. Yet, the best follows after: A mudpack and a massage.

While I'm waiting in the “Fangopackung” room, a lady comes in with a big bucket with mud. She puts, or basically throws, loads of thick nice warm mud on my back, hips and knees. It’s called fango and originates from the area. She wraps me in plastic and covers me with a thick blanket. With “Schlaf schön”, she wishes me a relaxing 20 minutes of sleep. I can’t sleep, lying in mud, but do close my eyes and concentrate on the warmth of this mud going into my muscles and warming my joints. It’s very relaxing, although it feels a bit weird, lying in a thick layer of mud. After a red light bulb warns me that time is up, the same lady removes the thickest layer of mud. I move into the shower and see the leftovers disappearing down the drain.

With a very sleepy head, I’m putting my green bathrobe on and wait for two minutes until the physiotherapist invites me for a massage. She’s trying to get all the knots out of my back and she’s punishing my muscles and joints for all the pains they’re normally causing me. My sleepy feeling is quickly transforming into a fully awakened one. It was a great massage, but I’m sure, by the time massage was over, my back looked completely red. She recommends going to the Ruheraum for fifteen minutes of ‘recovering’. Not a problem at all. Five minutes later, I’m lying down in a comfy chair with a heavy red blanket over me.

Certainly, one of the best things of this spa therapy holiday is the time I spent on thinking, reading, watching clouds moving and birds flying or just noticing the silence. And all that was already possible in my daily time in the relax room. It’s now two weeks later and I’m working in a big office with four colleagues around me and are chatting continuously, and I miss my Ruheraum incredibly.