A little card I made for my mum for mother’s day…
We Resist. We Build. We Rise.
Weighed down by a bit of weekend-loneliness, inability to wrap my head around uni stuff, and the cold fingers of writer’s block strangling me, I was not in a good place today. Together with the news of Trump’s executive order on Arctic drilling… my hope hid itself in my cold, dark fridge. It doesn’t see climate change if it is in there. (I believe that is also what most climate change deniers do.)
Just like the Women’s marches did early this year, the climate march on Washington today gave me my hope back. It crawled from between the kale and the carrots out of the fridge and announced that it would get stuff done now.
These marches show that people care. They show that we have the ability as humans to come together peacefully and protest for a common denominator: The future of our planet. It is beautiful to see people from all over the world supporting each other even if they are so different. Because this unites us all.
“When humans are ranked instead of linked, everyone loses.” Gloria Steinem in “My Life on the Road”
Some argue that climate change divides rich and poor even more. Only to a certain point in time can those, who made their money through oil and coal, build their forts to protect themselves from floods and storms. In the end, nature always wins. We are all on the same page here. And it is not us against Mother Earth. We are rather her ignorant, carefree children who have yet to grow up. We don’t have the time to go through that process. We have to understand right now that it is best for us to work together in peace. That love and understanding are the only ways through which we will be able to survive. Humans took such a long time to evolve. All that time we have lived in connection with our planet, never against it. Let’s find that connection again. To our Earth, and between ourselves.
Did you go protesting in any of the climate marches? If so – Thank you so much! You are awesome! – please tell me your feelings and thoughts about it!
We never thought that it would happen. Now it is official. We have to go on, work on.
The moment Trump took over the social media platforms as a president, the pages on the White House website concerned with Climate Change and the LGBTQ+ community were shut down. Today a lot more things happened that frighten me. This is the world we will live in now.
As a student, as an environmentalist, a feminist, a human being, I fear for the world. But fear is the wrong incentive here. We always have to fight to make something better out of this world, to make it a safer, more equal and loving place for everyone. I still believe in people, I still believe in change.
We live in times where facts are less significant than feelings. You can state something which you deny the next day. We can make instant comments on every subject. This is due to social media and the presence of news all around us. You can offer an opinion seconds after you have read about something. The thought process, the critical analysis is lost. False news lead to international diplomatic conflicts. This has to stop.
Let’s put these points back on our agenda:
These are the grounding principles of interaction between humans. We need to make these the principles of our societies! They need to be the guiding ideas of our every action. We need to consider other people as complex. We need to step back and analyse the situation from a different point of view.
Why did we lose these qualities in our communities when they are so essential in our relationships? Why did we move back from communication to just shouting at each other? Why are we trying to prove others wrong when we are never faultless ourselves?
It’s important to distinguish between feelings and thoughts. Find the source of your feelings and analyse how you drew conclusions. Often we make rash decisions because we are lead by unclear assumptions. Break them down into pieces and identify which of the facts coincide with your personal values and your goals.
We are bombarded by horror news and hateful comments. It’s our choice to change that system. You can either not be part of it or do something against it.
A friend and I talked about the book “How to win friends and influence people” which I really want to read. There are some important messages in there which I liked:
Give people credit for their work.
Be interested in their lives and consider their point of view.
Build a good reputation in your mind for a person to live up to.
Yesterday, I handed the application for my semester abroad in and I came to the office of the tutor with a big smile on my face. I thanked her for all the support she gave us in this process and told her that she does a great job. She asked me what she could improve for the students next year. She told me she has a lot of trouble with some of the universities. She talked about the difficulties she faced and confided in me.
Every time I had gone to her office before, she had been stressed out, busy, annoyed. She didn’t even want to answer my questions. This time, I gave her credit because she had helped me a lot. I was kind and open and genuinely interested in her work. She asked me for advice. She gave something back – trust.
We all have the capacity to improve the relationships with people who are important to us. Even with those we just met. By being kind and open. We must not be divided because in our union lies our power.
Everything feels like it’s falling apart. The world crumbles. We seek places to hide and grieve. What we really need to do is stand up tall. Stronger than ever. Growing with the task before us. We need to lay out a foundation of love and companionship to save this earth. This will help us with all the challenges we are facing. We are all in this together, we are all humans. Love is a verb, go practise it!
Today I finished reading two books: Barack Obama’s “Dreams from My Father” and Paulo Coelho’s “The Alchemist”. On November the 15th I wrote about the concept of comparative reading, which is quite interesting. Normally, you take two books about the same topic or person and read them at the same time. Notice what is left out in one, what is stressed in the other. Focus on how the voices are different telling these stories.
These two books I read are not in any way about the same topic, and yet… They both had a great impact on my thinking. Books always resonate with me for a few days, sometimes months. In rare cases years. They have to be either very good or very bad. However, I have only read two books in the last three years that I really didn’t like. That’s fortunate.
Let’s dive into these two tales and extract some of the things that left me in awe.
I started to read Obama’s biography of his earlier life in an attempt to understand what his story was, what is behind this man who became the president. Where did he summon all this energy from, where did he found his beliefs and values? He is a fantastic writer and the most touching part for me was the one when he described his social work. The challenges he had to face. All the people working against him on his path to try and give people better lives. All the doubts he had, that I suppose everyone after school is facing. I often said aloud to my book: Look, it’s going to be fine. You don’t know it yet but you will be the president. Just keep on working.
Just keep on working. He has such an endurance and strength that I can only admire. Which is essentially the message of “The Alchemist” in the end. Everyone has a personal legend that one has to follow. If one has this desire, this mission, the universe will help with all its power to ensure it comes true.
There is an underlying language in this world which everyone understands. In “The Alchemist” it is love, so says Santiago to the wind and the sun. It’s a reoccurring theme. The Englishman in the book has learned the “world language” Esperanto and yet, he isn’t able to understand the voice of the world. Because it is not in words that these messages are spoken in. The alchemist always tells the boy to look deeper and listen to his heart. “Wherever your heart is, there you will find you treasure.” Isn’t that beautiful? Through listening to his heart, the boy begins a journey that goes along the way of his personal legend. He overcomes many obstacles and in the end… he arrives home again. Maybe that’s the place where we belong after all our journeys.
You can see that in “Dreams from My Father”, too. He always searched for the place he belonged, for the stories of his family. Who his father really was. He thought about traveling to his family all the time when he was working in Chicago. His entire life, really. Just before Harvard, he went to Kenya to meet his family, to finally get to know the stories that he always wanted to know. With this knowledge, he could return home. A more complete man than before, because he had found a different part of himself.
I’m moved by these two books as they tell the stories of dreams and passions, of roads to success and personal happiness. They are positive books, showing that change is possible. That one can find a purpose in life and follow it. Despite the odds which are never too difficult to overcome. It’s sometimes nice to believe that a path has been set out. That we just have to follow it. On the other hand, that can also be limiting. Led by our own curiosity we will, sooner or later, find our personal legend. If we are brave. Coelho pays a lot of attention to his descriptions of courage in the book. They appear in the little things: Santiago leaves his sheep behind to search for a treasure. He has the courage to stand up for his own words, what he has seen in the desert. This leads the alchemist on his path. His courage is valued, only through its power, he is able to go on. Complete his journey.
“To be creative you must have courage. Do not ask for opinions. Just do it.”
That’s a quote from Coelho that I as an artist enjoy particularly. He is so right. How often have I discarded projects simply due to fear? How often have I wondered what others might think? How often ripped sketches in pieces, how often deleted words and pages already written…
If we let ourselves be overcome by fear, we don’t see our paths in front of us anymore. We have all experienced that. Fear turns you blind, it makes you run with your eyes closed. In the completely wrong direction. Fear is not a good leader in life. It drives you forward of course. The fear of failing, of embarrassing yourself, the fear of dying. The fear of being alone. There are many fears we have to face in our lives. But they are not there to lead us but to be overcome on a greater path. We should be driven by our love, by our passions, our curiosity, our courage. Those are the companions you would like to have on your journey. Those are the friends to search for. Fear always comes back to us, we don’t have to search for it. It’s humane to live with fear. It shouldn’t consume us, though. If there is too much fear, we will stand still. Anxious of taking another step. Start moving backwards, retreating. Do you want your life to be a hide-and-seek game with your own brain?
Showing the world love always guides love back to you. Believing in yourself, in your luck will always help you achieve wonderful things. There was a line in “The Alchemist” that struck me: There was a monk who the alchemist gave some gold for his hospitality. The monk said that it is far too much for his services. The alchemist answered: Don’t say it was too much because life might listen. And the next time you will get less.
This is not a demand to be selfish. He is telling us the importance of acknowledging our own value. A friend told me that you let yourself be hurt by others just to that extend in which you harm yourself. If you are very insecure, you don’t stand up to the ones that hurt you. Because you see your own value too low to be able to fight. That realisation hits deep. I’m guilty of lowering myself, having huge insecurities. It’s fear in its most tragic appearance.
What do we take from all this? Find your dream, find you personal legend. Do whatever it takes to identify it and then follow it. With every last bit of courage you can summon. You would not want your life to be dominated by fear. I know it seems unbelievable but there is always a way out. However difficult all the challenges seem you face, there are always people there for you. Who will lead you through the desert to your own treasure. Who will wait for you to come back home. Who will cheer for you on your paths and who will walk together with you for a while.
In his book, Obama described his rebel teenage years. Where he didn’t want to go to school, was discouraged and hopeless. Lost. He found his way again. He found his family. He made their stories his own. He followed his path to help people. He worked hard despite fear and people not valuing his work. Then he became the freaking president of the US. That’s a life path!
Be courageous, admire the wonders around. This earth is so beautiful! We only have that single one. Stop for a minute in whatever you doing and say in your head, what you are grateful for in this world. Who has guided you, who has encouraged you to go on. Write them down and look at them every now and then. You are a wonderful human being and you deserve all the love you are given.
If you feel discouraged, listen to Florence and the Machine and let her tell you:
“Hey, look up. You don’t have to be a ghost here amongst the living. You are flesh and blood. And you deserve to be loved and you deserve what you are given. And oh, how much!”
Oh, how much…
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You do not have to suffer from a mental health issue to have bad days. They only appear more often if you do. And sometimes it doesn’t seem as if you could ever escape again. This is a deeply personal topic and I know everyone is different. Some tips might work for you while others don’t. Just know this: It is ok to have a bad day.
Yesterday evening I was in a very bad mindset and couldn’t get myself to write. I received a very lovely message from Dawn this morning: “Have some wine. Enjoy your friends and family without the talk of politics. Talk about silly things. Laugh. Experience JOY! And know it will be okay and then write about it.” (So today, Dawn, I enjoyed my friend’s company, I laughed, I painted, I even got some uni work done and I experienced so much joy in it. Now, I will write about it.)
I wanted to give her a big hug because this was exactly what I needed. I had been reading the news and was filled with anger and especially fear. I feared for the lives of so many people until I realised that I couldn’t do anything. That set me off again. I couldn’t stop crying about the fate of this world. Not filled with my usual hope. I’m sure a lot of you have the same thoughts at the moment and I can’t stress it enough: Talk to people about it, talk to your friends and family. Share your fear and try to find ways to overcome it. To deal with it. To stand up again, taller than ever and more determined than before.
There are a lot of suggestions for Self-Help on the Internet, find whatever makes you happy. You can write yourself a list and pin it to your wall to be able to immediately have some solutions in front of you. Here are some self-help tricks that often work for me:
Still in bed? Already sensing that a bad day is around the corner?
Close your eyes and breathe. Give yourself this moment and try to let the thoughts brush you slightly before flying away. Count your breathing. In 1 2 3 4 Out 1 2 3 4. On and on. It really calms you down until you can open your eyes.
Look out of the window. Look at the clouds passing by. Imagine lying on the grass in summer and try to identify some cloud shapes. Just as we all did as kids. If there are no clouds, look at the rain or the snow, falling down. It lives on, just like you. Give yourself some time and extend this period as long as you wish. You don’t need to get up. Stay comfortable.
Don’t take your phone to bed, though. There are so many people who you have to answer – that might stress you out. Scrolling through instagram and twitter feeds can be too much. Never look at the news in the morning. It’s sad that nowadays it seems like only negative news are visible in the online space. Don’t start your days with them.
If you feel comfortable, sit up, allow yourself to daydream a bit. Also, do not try to suppress the bad thoughts. You will obsess over them. Try to let them go. You could now listen to music, an audiobook, letting the time pass but taking your thoughts off your problems.
Leaving Your Bed
Drink some water. Always stay hydrated. Have a shower. I find that one of the most relieving things when feeling bad. Put clean and nice clothes on. Look at yourself in the mirror. Say aloud at least three things you like about yourself. I know that can be hard at times but it lifts the mood if you do. Smile at yourself. Look kindly at yourself. You are beautiful!
After the shower, make yourself something to eat. My go-to soul food at the moment is warm cinnamon oat meal with apples. It taste very autumny-wintery and it’s both delicious and healthy. Simply mix some oats and milk (I like to use oat or almond milk), heat it up, stir, add some cinnamon, nuts, raisins, apples – just what you like. It’s very nutritious and you’ll be satisfied afterwards. Add a little chocolate as a dessert.
It’s important to eat well, when you are feeling bad. Eat lots of fruits, the sugars will give you a little boost of energy. If you like to cook, prepare a meal. You made something and also did something nice for yourself.
Make a cup of tea. I cannot stress enough the magic of tea. It is a comforting hug in a mug and it will make you a little happier. Light some candles. Look into the flame and see how calm it burns.
Brush your teeth. That helps, too.
If the sun is out, go for a walk. It can be hard to leave the house because you don’t want to see anyone and it can maybe freak you out. Fresh air is always good, though. Focus on the steps you are taking. You are going forward! Listen to the birds around if there are any, listen to the people talking and going about their lives. The world goes on, just as you are. Search for a bench in the sun and sit there for a while. Let the sun rays caress your face and smile.
If it rains outside, open your windows. Listen to the gentle tapping of rain drops on the roof, the trees.
Do some light exercise. Yoga, for example. I love Yoga with Adrienne, she is always so cheerful and very funny at times, it really helps me to get myself to “hop on the mat” and stretch and relax. Allow yourself to take that time.
Turn on some light music, one that lifts up your heart. The music you listen to if you are happy or that reminds you of your last holidays, your friends etc. If you like, you can do some tidying. A clean room corresponds to and promotes a clear mind. Get rid of things you no longer need. There is an odd satisfaction in throwing stuff away. However, if that adds extra pressure, it’s fine too if you just sit around somewhere.
Spending Time With Yourself
Make something beautiful. Whatever your interests might be, find something that will give you an instant reward, that will give you something pretty. Start knitting something. If you like to garden, plant a flower. Water your plants. Show your trees some love. Hug one. If you like photography, take a photo of the little things you never noticed in your garden. That red stone over there, birds bathing in puddles…
Paint or draw! There is an incredibly healing power in that. Give yourself the permission to not create a masterpiece. Take the expectation away that you have to make something great. Just get the thoughts out of your head and focus on something different. In the end I often find that those doodles are among the best ones I’ve ever made. I also find great pleasure looking at the artwork of others. Browse the Internet for your favourite artists and get absorbed in their paintings.
As Matt Haig suggested in “Reasons to Stay Alive”, a book I can recommend to everyone, it’s brilliant:
“How to stop time: kiss.
How to travel in time: read.
How to escape time: music.
How to feel time: write.
How to release time: breathe.”
That’s so accurate. I believe in the magic of reading. It takes your mind of your own problems, it shows you the stories of other people. It shows you kindness and love and does not expect anything in return. I find special comfort in reading poetry. It’s quite short most of the times and you can close the book if you don’t feel like it anymore. Furthermore, it gives you some distraction for the mind because you can discover the deeper meaning of the verses.
Read the books of your childhood. For me that would be Harry Potter. I have read them so often that I can just open one of the books and be immediately absorbed in the story line. Put some bookmarks in your favourite books marking the scenes you love. Reread them!
Some days, you don’t want to see anyone. Don’t want to talk to anyone. Or you are just a kind of person who likes to be alone. Who derives energy from staying by yourself. That’s fine!
There are moments, though, where you would like to speak to others but fear you will be a burden to them. Remember, if they are your friends, you will never be a burden to them. They want to help you and want you to feel better again. They will have a different view on your problems and might help you solve them. It might be a good idea to speak to them about your bad days. Tell them that you just want to talk and do not expect a solution. Often, it helps more if someone listens instead of talking. Tell them, they will understand.
They can take you out to a cafe, if you want. On Wednesday, I was so crushed and tired and sad that my friend Hannah texted me: Let’s have some cake. It totally saved the day. Have some cake with your friends and I promise it will get better. Talking always helps. Say nice things to other people, smile at them. Distributing kindness will make you feel a lot happier. Have your friends send you pictures and videos of baby animals if you are having a bad day. Looking at the little paws of cats can provide you with a lot of joy.
Alone With Your Thoughts
If you are experiencing dark thought spirals it is often difficult to realise where they come from. Dealing with them, it is important to recognise where they started. Analyse your line of thinking and distinguish the point where you are still reasonable and where you start basing your thoughts on assumptions. This is a vital part to cutting of these spirals.
Don’t freak out about what will be, be in the now. You are living in the present. Considering the past and future does not help, because you cannot change them. You can only change how your life is in the here and now. Don’t fight yourself so hard. Don’t lead a war against yourself.
These mountains that you are carrying, you were only supposed to climb. Naiwa Zebian
When you are at work or facing any difficulty, say to yourself: I can do this. Say it until you believe it yourself. Let that be your mantra for the day. I can do this. In can do this.
Write down what you have accomplished already in your life. Make a list! After every item you found, say “I can do this. Look what I have already done.” Write a letter to yourself!
You have overcome every challenge until this point in your life, climbed over every stone life has thrown on your path – you can do anything! You have fought for so long and this day is just one of those you will be conquering in the end.
Recognise thoughts and ask yourself if you would have them on good days. Would you ever question if xy likes you? Would you ever think about if you are good at whatever you love to do? Even if the answer is yes, that’s ok! We are humans, of course we question ourselves from time to time. Of course we struggle. But struggling doesn’t mean you failed at it.
The most important aspect to realise: It is ok to have bad days. Give yourself the permission to be sad. Give yourself the permission to do nothing at all or to stay in bed. Give yourself the permission to not feel good sometimes. It’s ok! You will always rise after these times. Get yourself some help from friends. They will lift you up. Know that you are loved. Know that you are unique and special. Know that the bad days will pass and the sun will come out again. The world will keep on spinning, the sun on rising, the moon on watching our earth with a gentle eye. It’s gonna be fine.
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