Week In Review: Sleeping Late and Staying in PJs

I am testing my newfound ability to remain positive under all circumstances pretty hardcore this week, shrugging off a whole lot of bullshit while maintaining some calm. I figured, if a dude held hostage for nearly three years by Somali pirates can keep himself calm with some yoga despite the nearby grenade launchers, my life ain’t all bad, is it?

I started the week by picking up a very sick kid from her papa’s house. Although she had gone to his place with a fever and a warning that all her Kita friends had the flu, nothing prepared me for the Diva that I had to carry like a newlywed under the threshold up four flights of stairs. She couldn’t even keep her eyes open on the car ride home because the sun was too bright.

I canceled her birthday party against her father’s wishes (it’s in a gymnastics room, you can just lay her on a mat and she can watch, the twat said, the last I heard from him all week), put her to bed with a fever nearing 40 and waited impatiently all week for it to go down on its own. Yes, she got ibuprofen to deal with the pain but Jayzus, this flu she had was awful and the fever just did not quit. It’s still there, inching back each evening just before bed. 14 of 16 kids at her Kita and a bunch of the parents got it and by the time we finally made it to the doctor on Thursday, it was confirmed to be “just a virus, but a very long-lasting one.” You’re telling me.

I decided to fend off any germs by sleeping 10 to 12 hours a day and cuddling the kid all week, never changing out of my pjs except to put fresh ones on. When was the last time you suckers did that? The first two days it felt good. Now I just feel like an obese sloth but now that the chocolate cake intended for Diva’s birthday party has been polished off and no one brought me chocolates for Valentine’s Day, that may change.

I realized, too, this week, that contrary to what every other expat says about Germans, some of these countrymen are fucking phenomenal. When we ran out of sugar drinks to keep fluids in Diva, I texted 2 neighbors and within minutes, our fridge was restocked. Take that isolationist Americans with your big ass fenced-in yards and tinted car windows that keep you from knowing your neighbors.

While convalescing, I read a number of books… “Daring Greatly” by Brene Brown (which is terribly written but has been one of the more helpful self-help books I’ve read in ages), the trashy “Schwerelos” by Ildiko von Kuerthy, and a couple of pages from Book One of the “My Struggle” series by Karl Ove Knausgaard, who is a superb writer but who is so narcissistic I kept wondering if the urge to vomit I had meant I was getting the flu.

Now here comes the bummer part:

I canceled our planned ski vacation scheduled to coincide with Karneval, also known as get the fuck out of Cologne time, for the second year in a row. Diva is devastated but we’ll just have to go to Switzerland to make up for it soon. Anybody got some gold needs depositing?

I also had to cancel a bunch of engagements that I really wanted in on, including going to Milan, and in doing so, realized that my biggest client is more batshit than I am and that is no small measure. So after a week of doing absolutely as little as possible, I will be all adult next week to see what I can salvage of this mess I call my life.

First up: a trip to the career coach who keeps reminding me that “finding a sugar daddy” is not a legit objective to be putting on my CV.

Whatever, I’m still getting my hair did right afterward, although let’s be honest: $30,000 a year and a Louis Vuitton bag ain’t really worth my time.

What’s your week ahead look like?

And if you haven’t had contact with this killer flu, a word to the wise: quarantine yourselves now. It’s about as fun as Weiberfastnacht at 2 a.m., minus the torn-up costumes.

Why I Run

I started running because I was too poor to afford to go to a gym and yoga courses were even more expensive. I started because I read an article in Self or Shape filled with the platitudes that women told themselves during their runs and they made me feel like an asshole for having a fully functioning body capable of running long distances and only using that capacity when I was late for my train.

“My body has done so many amazing things,” was one of those sayings and so when I started hitting the trail, instead of telling myself how terrible and unfit I was, I told myself that my body was capable of amazing things and that this one single kilometer was nothing in comparison to what it did just to keep me alive every day.

I was still married at the time, to a guy who had never done sports in his life but couldn’t gain weight to save his life, a guy who seems to prefer his women to be on the bigger side. It was never about looking good, for him or other men or for myself, not at first anyway. It wasn’t about weight or thinness, although admittedly, I did think of it as an ounce of prevention from becoming sick from overweight. My BMI has always tottered at the high end, and with an extra 5 pounds, I fall in the overweight category. Running, I knew, would likely tip the scales upward as I strengthened my leg muscles, not the opposite. I have not been proven wrong.

I started running because many of the women in my family were running marathons — aunts, cousins, my sister. I’ve got one cousin doing a 50-mile ultra next week, another who did an ironwoman; the annual family reunion over the last decade has included running the Chicago marathon. Last August, we all did a 5k together, including my uncle with Down’s and my retiree aunt and my cousin’s toddlers. Running has certainly helped my family find common ground.

I stopped running when I was pregnant. My world fell apart after Diva was born and when I started to finally piece it back together, I started running again. First with a goal of 10 minutes without a walk break. Then intervals to get my endurance up. Then 30 minutes nonstop. Now I’m up to 3 5k runs a week, with a 4th nearly hour-long run when I can. I run with friends or with music, always outside in the cold or the heat, the sun or the rain. I run for fun. For sanity. For my health. It makes me feel both bad and good, never indifferent. And that’s important: it helps prevent my apathy.

I’m not in training for anything — I injure too easily because of a broken bone in my foot — but I pretend I am in training to keep myself on a schedule. Because schedules are everything for me when it comes to running. I have to eat at a certain time to keep my belly happy. I have to schedule my run in to avoid having my run steamrolled by silly clients or bullshit arguments or a sick kid. I fit it in on days when there’s no yoga classes at the gym or at times I know the curl bros will have invaded the free weights section with their sweat and grunts.

I started running because I needed a break for my mental health. If I hadn’t started running, I would likely have spent every day the last three years looking like this:

And that’s in fact what my biggest fear was when we discovered my broken foot last year (and the injury chain that seemed to follow): that I’d stop running and lay down and never want to get up again. Mental health experts say exercise is one of the best ways to beat depression and I have to agree. I work out so much shit during my runs, it’s unbelievable. And those endorphins, man. They are addictive. So much so that I’m actually writing now about how many recovering addicts turn to running after getting sober so they can still get their fix. Because running clears your mind of the nonsense. It helps channel that rage. It gives you a goal with each run and a sense of accomplishment afterward. It may not make your belly flat but damned if you don’t look sexier after a run with that endorphin glow. And you can always talk about how amazing your body was for just doing *that.*

So yeah, Irish Berliner, it does get better. You might actually find yourself enjoying a new addiction soon.

No Year’s Resolution

2013 sucked. I had a list of 36 things I wanted to do last year and crossed four of them off of it. It’d be one thing if I had been doing amazing things to replace those items not crossed off — like how I went to Portugal instead of Greece — but most of the time, that wasn’t the case. So this year, I’m doing something different. I created a vision board.

visionboardThere aren’t many words here — I’m becoming a lot more visual in my old age and I like the non-specificity represented by the images. Instead of saying laugh more, I put up Mohammed Ali, who can also remind me that I want to kick ass most days. Instead of talking about travel, I put up the butterflies, which represent not far away places, but the ability to migrate and still come back home. I‘m going to stop saying sorry so much — fucking Anglo-Saxons and their apologizing for their very existence. And finally, I’m going to be turning shit into gold. It’s the only way I can think of to sum up my career goals for this year.

And that hand-written note at the bottom? A quote from my favorite philosopher, Kierkegaard: “Life is not a problem to be solved, but a reality to be experienced.”

Thanksgiving, or My Gratitude Journal

So my therapist (of course I have a therapist. I’m American.) told me I have to stop thinking so negatively. She said I have to start sitting down with a journal every night and write out five things I’m grateful for that day. A gratitude journal it’s called. It doesn’t have to be much or extraordinary — just a few words to remind me of the things that made me happy that day.

Do you know how fucking hard that is?

Or how absurdly American?

When she said this, I kept thinking the Little Orphan Annie was going to tap dance into the office and start singing about looking on the bright side of life and I was going to have to smile and nod and pretend that I do not want to strangle that silly little bitch. But then I remembered the song’s from Monty Python so my raging inner fires calmed down and I agreed to this nonsense of trying to be more positive.

Thing is, I’d much rather take out my notebook and curse the dude who would not stop hitting on me at the bar the other night even after I pretended to be married (it’s dudes like him that make me limit my bar visits to once in a blue moon). And I would rather write about the racist bitch at the bakery who refused to serve the black Frenchman standing in line behind me so I had to order his daughter’s goddamned sweet roll for him. These, my friends, are the things that occupy my days most of the time — at least when I leave my house — and so my gratitude journal has been almost entirely comprised of childish notes like: “I’m really glad I cooked something that wasn’t noodles tonight” and “My cleaning lady came so now my toilet is spotless” and “I went for a run.”

It’s the little things, I guess. And I guess I need to start focusing on those things, giving them and not the assholes around me all my mental energy if I want to be in a better place (and I don’t mean Copenhagen).

So to keep myself from further morphing into an ornery old cat lady who considers yoga pants the height of high fashion and snaps at every motherfucker I meet on the street, I’m going to try my hand again at a Thanksgiving post and tell you about all the things I’ve been thankful for this year. Because although the things I was thankful for last year still apply, maybe there’s something to this whole idea of being grateful for how fantastic life can be. Maybe having gratitude can make it even better? Someone get me some rose-colored glasses, please.

1. I love that I have friends who indulge my desire to get the fuck out of dodge and then don’t strangle me when I spend our weekends away in a crappy mood because the hotel room’s too small and the kids are getting on my every last nerve. You know who you are.

1a. Also extremely grateful for my friends who lead interesting yet stable lives that could be a role model for mine whenever I stop using the word stable as a curse. People who let me into their lives in mad ways that I never would’ve expected — like taking me to both the French Riviera and to the doctor when I most needed it.

2. Speaking of doctors, I’m thankful for my health because even after spending a good deal of time fretting about it over the last year, we have finally come to realize that there really isn’t anything wrong with me that a bit of positive thinking and patience can’t fix and this amazing body of mine and its healing powers is something that needs to be appreciated. Also, I can run again. Bam.

3. The Diva. Never not going to be thankful for that. Even when I have to pick her up around the waist and carry her kicking and screaming through the otherwise quiet yet crowded cafe and she wipes her chocolate-covered face on my new white sweater and tells me she hates me just because I want her to use the toilet so that she doesn’t pee her goddamned pants on the train ride home. Grateful.

3a. Also grateful that during this very trying Princess Phase that Diva is going through, I do not live in the US, where a real-live Barbie can come to your birthday party (my sister did this once, dressing up in an old bridesmaid’s dress for good money) and advertisements promoting toys that turn toddlers into miniature Ms. Worlds are on heavy rotation. We have a crown collection, thank you very much, and no, my four-year-old does not need her own make-up set and high heels.

4. Being in touch with my materialistic side has meant I’ve been splurging on shit like sauna visits and massages and fresh cut flowers and cute bras and knee-high boots and candles and pillows for the couch. I can decorate my apartment in what is otherwise known as “cock block deco” and not give a shit. I am also overwhelmingly thankful that I no longer live with a non-aesthete who thinks it’s okay to repair his bicycle on the white rug in the living room. And thankful for my cleaning lady who can keep said rug white even with a chocolate-loving terror in the house.

5. My therapist. Of course.

Happy Thanksgiving, all you Amis. Drink wine, stuff a bird and curse your family for me.

On Tap This Year

In case you missed it, I updated the list of things to do this year. I gave myself a bit of leeway last year and held out on being disappointed that I didn’t accomplish all 35 things before my birthday in December but then January rolled around and I realized, hey, this life is getting stale. I need some new motivation. So there it is, in black and white for all to see.

The problem is, it’s January. January sucks for motivation. I hurt myself running so I feel a bit like, eh, what’s the point of having a half-marathon as a goal for this year? And I’m nevah evah going to speak German like a Deutscher, so why bother, right? (As a side note: the diva’s teachers at Kita say she’s been correcting their pronunciation of German words so that they speak them with a more American accent. My God, what have I done? It’s English only from here on out with that babe.)

And then I started changing my mind. I think I want to add “watch a Barca game in Barcelona” to the list.  Can I do that? Just change my goals like that? I’ve never been much of a goal setter but I feel like these things are important for my sanity right now. I’m learning how to be alone and how to be a grown-up and goals, I think, are key to that. Otherwise, you just sit around in your sweatpants eating potato chips and lamenting the things you could’ve done with your life and then you realize, shit, I’m 50, where did my life go. Right?

So my goals for this year are to not just sit around. To travel a lot, both alone and with the kid. I even added another tab here, with my goal destinations this year. If I have my way, I’ll be in France, Greece, Denmark, and Switzerland before summer’s even here.

But that means I have to get over my fear of flying. I have a dream of a doctor who prescribed me something the Germans like to call Holy Shit pills to take the edge off. I no longer feel like I’m going to vomit at the thought of getting on a plane. I don’t need to knock myself out with Benadryl and stumble down the aisles of an Airbus 320 every five minutes to look in the bathroom mirror to convince myself that yes, I am 32,000 feet above the earth but everything is a-ok. Now I can actually sleep through a flight. As the Diva explained to everybody who’d listen, Mama can snore through seven different videos being played on the little video screen on the back of the seat (raised mostly tv-less, she is not excited about being an airplane but about Mama not giving a shit when she watches Minnie Mouse Clubhouse).

But I’m no Liza Minnelli; I don’t need pills to get through life. So I’m going to first work on getting over my fear of flying, which is, bizarrely enough, not an actual fear of flight but of loss. Because as anyone who’s an expat knows, getting on that airplane means leaving things behind, even things you hate. And even if for just a short amount of time. So yeah, working on that. But first, I gotta get motivated, which, in the shite white wonderland, is going to take a little while. For now it’s back to potato chips and yoga pants on the couch.