In love with…acceptance

Hi lovebirds,

I hope you’ve all had fabulous Christmas holidays? As I am writing this, trees and rooftops are covered in snow, ice crystals are decorating our windows and my morning coffee is most likely to be cold, as I cannot help but stare out the window. My Christmas like that of many others was spent differently this year. My grandmother was sick and my mum didn’t join the ‘festivities’ this year to keep us safe. If it hadn’t been for the Christmas tree and the smell of raclette cheese, it would have been an ordinary day. The circumstances didn’t allow a Christmas as usual and I received loving messages from friends and family. However, many of those messages included phrases like: “May next year be better than this!” or “Thank God, this year will soon be over!” I’ve heard people complain about the distance it has put between people. But was it really all bad? I have to disagree!

2020 may have been a year of unprecedented and unpredictable events, there’s no doubt about that! Many of our plans had to be cancelled, or perhaps postponed and things just didn’t turn out the way we had hoped. I know too well how that feels. But what this year has taught me is to accept things as they are and to be open for change! Acceptance doesn’t always come easy, I know that. Especially when you had made plans that you were excited about. I suppose it’s a normal human reaction to be disappointed and sad; perhaps even angry. However, if you stop resisting change, you might actually be surprised about the positive and beautiful things right in front of you that you hadn’t expected. Things that you might miss out on because you’re so focused on the negative.

I don’t want to repeat myself, I think I’ve made it clear in my previous post that I think it’s a matter of perspective and that I like to see the good in things. I also don’t want to play things down or give you the impression that I haven’t suffered from the restrictions, believe me, I have and I still am. I’m just not the kind of person who wants to let this virus determine how I look back at 2020. I cannot change the fact that this virus is circulating, but what I can change is the way I look at it. I will not allow it to take away my positivity and accomplishments because there is a number of things that I am extremely grateful for and that wouldn’t have happened if it hadn’t been for coronavirus.

For me, this year was about growth. Personal growth and professional growth. I took some much needed time off to think. Think about my goals, my dreams, my values, what I want to do with my life, about who I am and what kind of person I want to be. I took the time to spend a ridiculous amount of time outside doing what I love: picking flowers, looking after plants, connecting with nature and animals, hiking with friends and family, to mention only a few. I was carefree, my batteries recharged; a feeling I hadn’t experienced in a long time and yet there were moments of sadness, frustration, devastation. I don’t want to hide the fact that I was angry with the universe for ruining my plans! Yes, this year was supposed to be different, but yes, this year still turned out nicely for me! At some point, I just accepted the fact that it’s within my own power to make something of this year. Why let this virus determine your happiness? Why give this responsibility to someone else, when you alone are the master of your very own life, your own happiness?

Yes, things might have gone in a different direction, but with a bit of creativity and curiosity, it was and still is possible to go on adventures, to MAKE your OWN adventures! It’s really up to you to decide what you make of the circumstances! You can either sit around, be grumpy and complain about the restrictions, but I don’t think it’s going to change anything. Or you can accept the fact that this is the way things are at the moment and make the best of it! Discover your surroundings, go wild on a new puzzle, start your own DIY project, read that book that has been sitting on your shelve for too long. Your options may be limited but it’s really up to your creativity!

We may have had to stay away from people and I do think this is making us socially awkward at times, but I disagree that this virus and the social restrictions that come with it is only damaging my friendships and family. Again, it’s a matter of perspective! This may sound weird but I have never felt more comfortable and at ease in my skin than I have over those past few months. I spent time with myself, listening to my body, my inner voice and simply got to know myself better. That’s not even all. I reconnected with family and old friends and even made new ones, so I think it’s a little too easy to blame a virus and argue that it’s only torn us apart! I too am sad about the fact that I couldn’t see many of my friends this year, but I think some friendships have grown even stronger over the past few months and I do think this is worth mentioning!

If we stopped concentrating on the negative events that happened this year, but instead started to see the positive sides, our lives would be much happier. At the end of each year, I make a list of things that I have accomplished. It’s something I have done for a while now because it simply makes me feel good about myself and about the past year. This year, I felt the urge to share my list with you, hoping that maybe you too will reconsider the way you think and feel about 2020. Hopefully, this will inspire you to make a list of your own accomplishments or gratitudes. Maybe you’ll see that 2020 wasn’t all that bad after all. I do wish you and your loved ones much joy, happiness, health, success and love for 2021!

  • I moved into a brand new apartment, which I finally get to decorate the way I want and makes me feel at home
  • I made new friends and reconnected with old ones
  • I landed my dream job working in international relations & renewable energy, which gives me the opportunity to contribute to the energy transition and makes me feel good about what I do
  • I managed my first projects
  • I worked on my finances
  • I discovered my love for flowers and plants
  • I spent a ridiculous amount of time outside reconnecting with nature and myself
  • I bonded with our turkeys that I took care of over the summer
  • I hiked up mountains & hills
  • I got to spend more time with my family
  • I rediscovered Vienna & its surroundings
  • I tried new recipes and got really good at making bread
  • I improved my yoga skills
  • I volunteered and got out of my comfort zone
  • I got to visit a friend in London and watched ‘Wicked’ for the first time
  • I made my own scrunchies
  • I successfully completed an online course on renewable energy technologies
  • I managed to stay healthy all year
  • I finally went to see a doctor about my pollen allergy and am starting treatment
  • I felt good about myself

Love,
M

In love with…perspectives & positive mindsets

When COVID-19 had finally hit Europe and more specifically Austria, life changed rapidly. Set to move to Australia with a box of my belongings already waiting for me in Queanbeyan, there I was: stuck in my apartment without a rental agreement, a job that was about to end a few weeks later and a plane ticket that was suddenly worthless. How had I gone from the best timing to move away to the worst timing possible? I was angry, frustrated, and sad. Our borders were technically closed, something I – a true believer in the European project – have never experienced in my 28 years of existence. But what if in the end, we all ended up exactly where we were supposed to? What if the universe wasn’t really trying to punish me – as I had told myself many many times – by making it impossible for me to move to Australia in April? What if it turned out to be a blessing, despite all the tears I have shed?

A dear friend of mine (half Austrian-half Australian, obviously we’re destined to be friends) has accompanied me virtually in those – at least for me – difficult times. He has managed to put a smile on my face and drag me out of my days of self-compassion when I needed it most by reminding me to work with what I have and to take it day by day. Now, patience does not run in my blood naturally and as much as I love the fact that I can be very determined (mum calls me stubborn, but I like a more positive attitude), I keep stinging myself in the back like Scorpios stereotypically do. Seriously, why are we always so hard on ourselves? The other day, my friend – let’s call him A – shared a post on LinkedIn with a quote by Alexander Graham Bell and it triggered something in me:

‘When one door closes another door opens (well that’s not new, but it’s the second part that struck me!), but we so often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door, that we do not see the ones which open for us. ‘

When one door closes, another door opens

The past few weeks and months have been characterised by many ‘don’ts’ and ‘can’ts’, they are called restrictions for a reason after all! All of a sudden, our focus shifted to the things we couldn’t do, instead of seeing what there is we CAN do. Perhaps, some of you – like myself – adopted a negative mindset and gave the downwards spiral a free ride, as we’d say in German. But sometimes, we just need to accept things as they are and put them in a different perspective in order to shed light on those doors that have opened for us. This isn’t always easy, but I’d like to give it a try.

A few weeks ago, I moved back to the countryside to stay with my family for a while, at least for as long as I have figured out where I’m going and what I’m going to do. Experts say young people are affected most by the recession, so I hope they are not fed up with me just yet. I am the fittest I have ever been (and I haven’t even set a foot to the gym!), I have had the best sleep in years, I have reconnected with my pal nature as I go for long walks, hikes or runs, I have picked the most beautiful wild flowers, I got to spend more time with my family, particularly with my brother whom I had neglected for a very long time, I have practiced yoga and meditation, which has given me strength and has helped me revive my positive attitude, I have cooked healthy meals, baked delicious cakes and bread, and I have finally worked out what sector I want to work in. Now I know those are not literally doors, but to me, all of the above surely do feel like one hell big of a door.

Obviously, I don’t know what would have happened, if things had worked out let’s say ‘according to plan’, but if I had got on that plane one month earlier as anticipated, I probably would have been on that rescue plane a month later anyways heading back to Austria and I can only imagine how devastated I would have been, if that had been the case. Unemployment has risen significantly in every country, rules for migration are becoming even more difficult and hope for change for the better is high. I’m not saying I’m giving up on Australia just yet, I’m determined, remember? 😉 But I am saying that perhaps it’s not the right time for me to do it just yet and maybe I’m exactly where I should be: back home with my family, surrounded by nature and many possibilities to learn new and old things helping me change my direction, professionally and personally. What about you? Do you think you are right where you should be? Or are you still looking regretfully upon that door that so happens to be closed right now?

Bisou,
M

In love with…the little things

Hi lovebirds,

It’s no big news that I get nerdy from time to time, but this morning I was in the flow of reading a book in my hands on my way to work. I just couldn’t put it down and had to make the best of my ten minute walk from the metro to my office, so I continued reading and was thrilled about the red lights that allowed me to read an extra few lines. While I was standing in front of the zebra crossing, I felt a finger tapping on my shoulder and I looked up immediately. A young man was standing right next to me and he wanted to know where ‘Untere Viaduktgasse’ was and pointed at google maps on his phone. Wondering why he was speaking to me in English and uncertain of what language I should use, I went with English and I told him to come with me and showed him the way.

This obviously happened in pre-Corona times, when our lives were still busy and what we like to refer to as ‘normal’. Last summer, I once again participated in an online course, which is perhaps one of my favourites. It’s called ‘Mindfulness for Wellbeing and Peak Performance’ and can be found for free on futurelearn. One of my Aussie host mums had recommended it to me three years ago, when I was going through a rough time. I don’t think she was aware of what an impact this would have on me when she sent me the invitation.

One lesson I took from this online course is to slow down, enjoy the little things we tend take for granted and to be in the present moment. This is where life happens! It’s changed my perception of my surroundings and my environment, as I began to smile at people, look them in the eye and sometimes even say hello to a stranger, or stop on the way to look at the blossoms on the trees and you know what? It feels damn good!

It’s surely become more difficult to smile at people, when you’re supposed to wear a mask, but if you look closely enough you can still see the friendliness and glitter in people’s eyes, or perhaps it’s just the pollen messing with people’s allergies. No but seriously, we always get so caught up in our thoughts, criticism, anxiety and life that we forget to enjoy the little things in our lives. We began to take everything for granted: our family, our houses, our healthcare system, being able to go to the supermarket. We look at our phones as we walk, we rush by the busy people in the morning without saying anything, yes, sometimes, we don’t really see what’s right in front of us.

So I’m asking you: When was the last time you took a walk and actually looked at the houses or trees around you? When was the last time you sat in a park and watched the ducks chase one another? When was the last time you had a real conversation with your family without discussing dinner, chores or who’s going to pick up the kids from school? When did you last smile at someone and said good morning to a person you don’t know? When was the last time you helped out a stranger? This list is endless and I too have struggled in those past few weeks since the lockdown. My life was turned completely upside down and I too have difficulties with the uncertainties, but that’s a different story. It’s okay for us to mourn, it’s okay to be angry and sad, but there comes a point in life, in which we need to accept that there are some things we just don’t have much power over, but instead as individuals we can, however, control how we see things and react to them.

Ever since I started appreciating the little things, my life has turned around. Consciously looking at my environment has made me realise how many beautiful things and inspiring people I am surrounded by every day. We are currently writing history and you are part of it! Isn’t this exciting news? Traffic in Vienna has decreased by 50% since the lockdown, streets have been blocked and turned into ‘meeting zones’ for pedestrians, residents of Venice are noticing a vast improvement in the quality of their canals. Is this ‘new normality’ really that bad?

Helping out this young man was again a moment of realisation for me. It might seem absolutely meaningless and pathetic to you and that’s okay too, but I’ve come to appreciate those moments more because I know I helped a person or made someone smile that day. Enjoying the little things currently helps me get through this crisis. I’m not saying, I’m doing a great job at it, but I certainly try. Next time you’re on the street, why don’t you try and smile at a stranger? You might be surprised by the friendly reaction! Stay strong lovebirds, we’re all in this together! By the way, it turns out that the book I read was in English.

Bisou, M

In love with…my inner child

Hi lovebirds,

2019 was an emotionally very intense year for me. Despite some of the tears I shed and the struggles I had to go through, I’m convinced that all of it was necessary for me to grow into the strong young woman I am today. A few years ago, on New Year’s Eve, some girlfriends and I started writing our new year’s resolutions on a little piece of paper and kept them in our wallets until the year was over and replaced it with a new one. For 2019, I had kept my list rather short: travel, sports, improve your photography skills (which is really the only thing I didn’t do in 2019), believe in yourself, see the world more mindfully and resolve your daddy issue.

After all those years of having a strange relationship (if you can even call it that) with my dad who had moved out after my parents’ divorce when I was 13, I felt the urge to finally work on that relationship and to let go of all those negative feelings and anger that I had built up over the years. Quite frankly, I knew, this wasn’t gonna go away. A problem doesn’t just disappear. So I chose the active way to MAKE IT go away because deep down I knew that this – together with many other reasons – was at times holding me back from being in a healthy relationship with myself and with others. Over the years, I had learned not to let men in my life because I didn’t want anyone to hurt me. I subconsciously wanted to prove a point to myself that I was perfectly capable of living my life without anyone’s help, particularly without a man (Look dad, I know you’ve left, but see how well I am doing without you! Look at all the things I have accomplished without your help!). I didn’t know how to be loved by a man, particularly not by my own father. But how can you, unless you start loving yourself?

My relationship with my dad had had involved so much disappointment and anger, I sometimes wished I didn’t have to see him again. Yet again, things that are uncomfortable don’t just go away. It’s entirely up to you to decide, if you continue to let them drag you down, or if you step out of your comfort zone, work them out and move on as a grown person.

In February, when my grandmother on my father’s side had passed away, we had a big family gathering on the occasion of my grandmother’s funeral. I hardly ever see dad’s side of the family, which is mostly due to my dad’s relationship with his siblings. At the funeral, I finally saw everyone again, including an auntie that I hadn’t seen since I was perhaps 15. That encounter with my auntie opened up my eyes to see something I had never seen before and that changed everything for me: my dad’s childhood. And this is where the story really begins.

A few weeks after the funeral, I went to a book store – I don’t remember what I was looking for – and on my way out, a book by Stefanie Stahl, a psychologist, had caught my eye: ‘Your inner child needs to find home’. It was as if it was talking to me. The book had everything I was going through united in one title. So I decided to buy it. This book has allowed me to reflect my own personality, my needs, my fears and where they come from. As children, we learn to love and to be loved and we get a basic sense of trust. In this book, our inner child is described as ‘the sum of our childish imprints – good and bad, which we have experienced through our parents and other important caregivers. We do not remember most of these experiences on the conscious level. However, they are fixed in the subconscious. The inner child is therefore an essential part of our subconscious. It is the fears, worries and hardships that we have experienced from childhood, as well as all positive influences from our childhood.’

The book includes many exercises, which you can reconstruct your relationship with your dad, your relationship with your mum and the relationship between your parents with. It helps you recreate your negative beliefs, where they come from and how you can transform them into positive ones.

Working my way through the book, has helped me understand not only my own, but also other people’s behaviour a lot better. It has made me realise that in my relationship with my dad, my inner child learned to believe that it wasn’t important (e.g. my dad never showed up to any of my school performances or concerts), that it wasn’t wanted (I was always yelled at when I was woken up by mum and dad fighting at night and I tried to yell back at dad because I knew he had yelled at mum for no reason and I wanted to help her. ‘Go away!’, ‘Stay out of this!’) and that men leave me – hence relationships with men hurt (divorce). But I also learned that dad wasn’t the only one who had left scars on me. Because of the unloving relationship with my dad, my inner child has learned to take responsibility for mum’s happiness. I had learned to be a good girl, to make mum happy, to protect her and to comfort her.

This book has made me realise that it wasn’t just the relationship with my dad I needed to work on, I also had to work out my relationship with mum. All of a sudden, I understood that I needed to figure things out just for ME! This is really difficult for me though because I have trouble taking decisions for myself and doing what I think is best for ME. But when, if not now, am I gonna start taking decisions for myself? I’d spent all my life protecting mum from pain (there were a number of breakups), was considerate of her feelings and made sure she was happy. One of the most important lessons I learned from that book is that I am no longer that little child and that it’s not my duty to make mum happy, I live my own life now and that includes taking decisions for ME ONLY. Perhaps you see where this is going: That was the moment I knew I HAD TO move to Australia, to follow my own dreams, my own desires, even if it might make mum unhappy.

It was time for me to let go of that protector role I had learned to be, as well as to let go of that anger towards my dad and to forgive him for his past mistakes. I’ve come to understand that my dad loves me very much, he just doesn’t know how to show me because he is perfectly aware that he’s been a bad father to me. He – like most of us – struggles with the things that have happened in HIS childhood and thanks to the conversation with my auntie I know that there have been quite some traumatic events in his past that he has been trying to deal with ever since. I know that’s not an excuse for his behaviour, but it has allowed me to understand and to simply move past it.

Today, I no longer start shaking when he calls, I no longer look for his approval, I’ve simply made room for him in my life and let him be there, if he choses to. My mum and I? We’re still as close as before, but I do try to give myself the necessary distance to be able to live my life the way I want to, but also for her to live her life the way she wants to. I’ve learned to let her make her own mistakes that I can’t always protect her from. I feel much more at peace with myself, maybe my inner child has finally found home and a place where it’s being heard. For 2020, I have only one resolution: Take better care of myself and do things that make me happy!

It feels so powerful and great to be in charge of your own life and to move forward. When will YOU start taking your own life and happiness in your own hands and take decisions just for yourself?

Bisou, M

P.S.: The book I read is called ‘Das Kind in dir muss Heimat finden’ by Stefanie Stahl, but I’m afraid it is only available in German. I was not sponsored or paid to promote this book. I just wanted to share my personal experience with you, as I know some of you may be going through some similar issues and here’s an idea of how you can overcome them.

In love with…me, myself and Portugal

Self-love is a concept that I thought I was perfectly aware of. I was actually convinced, I was pretty good at it: I love beautiful food, regularly buy myself flowers, take an occasional bath, have a glass of red wine or two, in other words: I was doing nice things for me. But then, last summer, I hit a new low in my self-esteem. I had hit rock bottom.

I’d started reading about self-worth and realised how little I value myself. Think about this: How often do you talk badly about yourself? Little things like: oh I’m so stupid, I forgot the keys. Or: No, I’m not smart enough to do this! It’s the little things I hadn’t noticed. Even the fact that I wasn’t even appreciating my own work. Whenever someone complemented me, I couldn’t accept it, basically rejected it, or tried to find a plausible explanation for it. Not long ago, someone told me I smelled nice, and instead of just saying a simple thank you, I replied saying it was my body lotion, and stretched out my arm for him to smell. I guess I was trying to prove a point that it wasn’t actually me who smelled good, but the product I had applied.

Earlier this year, I wrote my very first evaluation report by myself. It was not my personal choice, but this is how things turned out. Perhaps, I should mention that I had only started working for this firm half a year earlier and during the first three months, I was an intern and yes, that does make a hell of a difference. I wrote a 70 page report and both the project manager and my boss complemented my work. My reaction? Oh that was nothing, everyone else would have done the same. But seriously: would they really have done the same? Not to mention I was writing about a topic that I had absolutely no clue about. So it wasn’t until I had it in black on white in front of my eyes that I realised, I needed to change the way I treat myself. It’s not just about the flowers I buy for myself, but also about the way I talk about myself in front of other people and how I think about myself. So I’ve decided to take better care of myself.

But why is it that I always seem to be doing a better job at taking care of myself when I’m far away from home? Those past few days in Portugal have been so refreshing and I’ve finally found or should I say took some time just for myself. Even though I certainly wasn’t the only one who’d decided that Portugal was a nice place to hang out at, I was still able to do the things I love: brunch, sipping red wine overlooking the river delta, reading a book of my choice while sipping flat whites and the best thing about it? I didn’t even have to worry.

Coming to Portugal has once again showed me how important it is to continue this path that I’m currently taking and it’s really not as awful as one might think to spend time alone. After all, it’s you who you spend 24 hours a day with so why not take a trip by yourself? However, I’ve soon come to realise that for me, traveling solo isn’t much different from my daily life, except that I’m in a different place. I’ve basically been traveling the life journey on my own for the past 28 years. If this trip has proven me anything, it’s once again my ability to make friends easily and that I’m gonna be okay on my own, which does not mean, I never want to travel or hang out with anyone else anymore, hell no.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that I’ve learned to appreciate myself a lot more and have become increasingly aware of my own value and I feel that for many people out there, traveling solo is the best way to get to know themselves. If that’s the case, please do it, or find another way to really connect with yourself. I’ve been wondering why people fear being alone so much. We always concentrate on getting to know other people, but what if we got to know ourselves first? You might actually meet someone great that’s been there all along.

Bisou, M

Brunch at The Mill, an Australian-Portuguese café