31 December 2014


Only this I know

This I must admit: how one becomes two
is something I haven't understood at all.
How anything ever happens or one becomes what one is,
how anything stays in a certain way, what we mean
by words like body, soul, mind: I don't fathom,
but I shall always observe the universe
quietly, without words.

How can I
even for an instant understand the beginning, the end,
the meaning, the theory - of something outside of which
I can never go? Only this I know -
that this thing is beautiful, great, terrifying,
various, unknowable, my mind's ravisher.

This I know, that knowing nothing, unawares,
the current of the cosmos's awareness flows towards you.

~Rabindranath Tagore

30 December 2014


I used to read a lot more. Blame the internet and of course, newspapers and journals don't count.

The 5 best of 2014 were:

the Kent Haruf novels,
the Mary Lawson novels,
The Granta Book of Irish Short Stories,
Wolfgang Herrndorf in German and English (surprise!)
re-reading Marilynne Robinson.

The complete list is here.

29 December 2014

We each need to make peace with our own memories. We have all done things that make us flinch.

Lama Surya Das

22 December 2014


For a long time I thought that 1993 was my bad year, the year the carpet was pulled from under my feet. And in so many ways it was just that, the year of loss and picking up the pieces. That gigantic chaotic mix of juggling too many things, finding my bearings in a country I had never wanted to return to, my child silent and shy, my man working long days, the waves of hatred and xenophobia after the end of the cold war, the year my workplace was attacked, burnt down by racist thugs, cleaning up the smoldering mess and ending up in hospital, nothing too serious but if you want another child, maybe better to go for this surgery. Walking into it like a fool and waking up barren. Sorry, mixed messages, oh shit, you never signed for this one. Checking out, barely able to walk, on christmas eve, while the river burst its banks. Flood of the century, they called it on tv. Devastating, the reports read, massive damage claims expected.

Sometimes, I think it was really nothing compared to so much that has happened since, that it was in fact a lesson that has helped me cope and be grown up about life and all that stuff about getting the wind knocked out of your sails and the crack appearing - for the light to get in.

Memory is a wicked thing. There are days when I play my memory games that I am almost blinded by the golden light of how wonderful we were, the three of us forever walking into warm oceans, glorious sunsets,  magical fortress gates, all the warm kitchens we sat in and laughed and cried and talked and comforted each other as a family, as a couple. Oh, all that love and trust and how we seemingly take it for granted to be there for each other - always.

But looking back over my adult life as a woman, a mother, a wife, there are so many scars and some of them have been itching and oozing for so many years that most of the time now, I barely take notice.

We get knocked about, all of us, and not just by life itself but at times we do it to each other, we lash out, we hurt, we blame and we betray. The things we want from life, the things we feel we deserve, we need, we desire. Sometimes a compromise is just not good enough when we want something, when we think we need something so badly, so urgently. After all, we also know how to forgive. We lick our wounds and anyway, in the end things have always worked out well, eventually, haven't they?

We don't grow up and put away childish things. It is far more complicated. We each read a different instruction manual.

18 December 2014

Once again, I have too many holidays left to continue working. It's absurd, I know. But there are apparently nine working days stacked up that I am entitled to not work before the end of the year and even if I wanted to, the paperwork alone would be bizarre. Being a public service employee is like living on another planet.
And because R is already on holidays, we have plenty of time now to argue about who should cook or do the laundry or should we invite people for dinner and when and who should cook then and so on.
Plus, we sleep in longer and longer every morning and mess around doing nothing most of the day and sometimes talk about all the stuff we could do and before you know it, it's dark and time to argue about who should cook dinner. 

So it was with great effort that I went into town and while I did spend a good two to three hours walking around the xmas markets with all the cute and crafty things and the tourists and the mulled wine and waffles smells, pretending to shop - I bought one tiny box of fancy gingerbread cookies for a friend - and a half hour in a crowded cafe reading the papers, I felt out of place, completely and utterly. There was nothing, nothing, nothing that enticed me one bit. In an effort, I looked through an entire display of fancy bed sheets, pure organic cotton in myriad shapes and colours, and all I could think was, who needs this stuff?  I walked past a stall selling about 45 types of French nougat and almost ran when this nice woman offered me samples. Ok, I don't like nougat but still.
On my way home, I briefly stopped at my favourite bookshop but I never even locked the bicycle. A lost day for consumerism at least as far as I am concerned. 

16 December 2014

Tonight I went to an anti-neonazi rally in my city. I know the numbers are small and luckily, here the joyful crowd of all ages clapping and singing for an open society by far outnumbered the brown thugs, but I find it scary. Not just because I feel that people are being conned, that some clever Pied Piper(s) are playing with a general ignorance and unfounded fears, that nasty mix of xenophobia and manipulation, but also because at the same time, thousand more could only think of Xmas shopping and how the rally was messing up the parking and public transport situation.
There was a time when I could shrug this off, light a candle and trust that we all share a common decency etc. Tonight I just feel low. 

But still:
As we walked back to where we had locked our bicycles, I overheard a policeman explaining what was going on to a confused tourist: If you walk over there, you'll find a crowd of right wing people demonstrating. They are allowed to do this and we must protect their right of expression. If you walk over here, however, you will find people representing the open-minded, multicultural German society. 

12 December 2014

11 December 2014

Sheltering from rain today in a cosy cafe, I read that while there is a noted increase in specific types of depression during the winter months in the northern hemisphere, no significant evidence has been documented - as yet - that this is due to the gray and foggy weather. In fact, it's all due to lack of exercise and too many hours hiding under the covers in a warm bed.

I also read that for the next 16 days, the number of sunshine hours will be almost nil. 

I read that the number of people fleeing war and persecution, hunger and poverty today is higher than what it was after WWII. I also read about how European governments intend to criminalise refugees entering our wealthy countries with the aid of traffickers. To be so desperate as to pay someone to get out of hell will bring you straight into prison here.

Then I start to read some of the links on my news feed in relation to Human Rights Day (yesterday). 

This is difficult, I know what to expect but still. 

There is a president in tears and another former president praising patriotic acts of interrogation. 

Next, I open a link to a huge document, 400+ pages. I try to concentrate on the lingo and I fail. It's a descent into the inner circle of hell, carefully detailing a mix of ruthlessness and incompetence, about what happens when a person is forced to remain standing with his hands tied above him and not allowed to sleep for 59 hrs, how after 17 rounds of waterboarding, another person had to be resuscitated for further rounds as interrogations were as yet incomplete. I begin to feel nauseous when I read that on day five, the agents asked for permission to stop interrogations as it was too upsetting for them to continue. Permission was denied. 

I stop reading and order another cafe au lait. My father always criticised me for reacting with too much emotion and that it would do nobody any good.

05 December 2014

In these bodies we will live, in these bodies we will die
And where you invest your love, you invest your life.

04 December 2014

03 December 2014

embrace it

What a grey day. I drive to work because I am too scared to cycle home in the dark with the threat of icy cycle paths. The car radio catapults me straight back to the big old house, dancing on a Thursday evening to Top of the Pops with a toddler on my hip. Oh, the mushy lyrics of 1980s Brit pop. 

It starts to snow, big wet flakes disintegrating on the wet roads. Awful stuff. Waiting at a traffic light, I count how many weeks to midwinter, to spring equinox. I never liked this season. I never will.
Later, R tells me of his new colleagues from far away places who ran outside dancing and shouting while the locals looked on in disbelief. This is not real snow, folks.

Work is a mess, I try and find some balance, try to calm down a few angry moods, try and sort out a chaotic situation that needs more attention than I can offer. For a moment, I want to walk away, banging my door, cursing. But while I could do (and have done so often enough) this at home, the person I am at work would never do anything like it. The person I am at work runs after the angry intern and listens to her complaints and helps her to think she has found the solution all by herself.

On fb I watch Pema Chödrön talking to a dolled up Oprah (what's with that lip gloss?) about opening our heart. Compassionate abiding. Simple.
And in my inbox I find this Pema quote:

In Tibetan Buddhism there’s a set of teachings for cultivating compassion called mind training, or lojong. One of the lojong teachings is, “Whichever of the two occurs, be patient.” This means if a painful situation occurs, be patient, and if a pleasant situation occurs, be patient. This is an interesting point. Usually, we jump all the time; whether it’s pain or pleasure, we want resolution. So if we’re happy and something is great, we could also be patient then, and not fill up the space, going a million miles an hour—impulse shopping, impulse talking, impulse acting out.