Mirror, Mirror

I feel bloody amazing. Heart beating so I know I am alive. Sweat creeping slowly down my back so I know I am working hard. Dull ache in my legs telling me I am on the move, getting stronger.

I am a champion. I see myself striding out confidently, looking every bit the pro. Nothing can beat me. No one can catch me. I was born to run.

Except.

Wait.

Who is that red-faced plodder coming towards me? She has the same shoes as me. And the same glasses. Huh. Weird. She looks tired, as if her legs are made of lead. She looks hot, and not in a good way. Her face isn’t sparkling with dewy moisture; it’s leaking salt. Her skin isn’t glowing with the effort of exercise; it’s burning red with the stress of sport.

She is amateur. Unfit. The Sunday driver of the jogging world.

And she is laughing. Laughing at the sight of me running towards her. She is grinning at the image, the reality headed her way.

And I am laughing too.  I am laughing because I am delighting in the knowledge that I can turn away from this picture and carry on carefree. That ungainly sight melts from my mind as I turn from the shop window and continue my stilted strides. I still feel amazing. I feel great about being out, great about moving, great about remembering that if you feel good, nothing else matters.

Photo on 20-06-2017 at 16.57

 

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Compartments

I love things with pockets. Bags, jackets, even dresses. It makes it so much easier to compartmentalise. Phone, wallet, keys. Lip balm, tissues, pen. 

I also love bags within bags and boxes within boxes. Anything to keep everything in the right place. That way, when you need something, you’re not taking a gamble or a guess. You know where it is. You know where to look. No surprises. No wasted time.

Never works though, does it? You lose your lipbalm no matter how good your intentions, or end up with three in one coat and none in your jeans pocket. Sometimes, your keys make it to the bottom of the bag and your phone ends up in the outside pocket, not the inside zipper.

And life’s really not like that is it, no matter how much you wish it was? 
You bring work home and take your family stresses to the office. You skip an exercise class because mates are meeting. You’re late for dinner with a friend because you went out for that run. Bits of life end up in the wrong pocket even faster than the countless pens you had in your bag disappear down the side of the sofa. 

There’s nothing you can do about it. There’s no changing it. Life’s compartments have soft edges. The bits that make you whole don’t fit into neat boxes. The overlap is inevitable and what makes your life real. The sooner you accept that, the sooner you’ll start looking for your tissues in your other bag. ☺

Life, Overcomplicated (Or The Day The Postman Wouldn’t Give Me My Parcel)

Some things in life are really bloody hard. We turn the television on and every day see things that cause fear, worry, and sadness. We have friends going through hard times. We are faced with challenges all the time that are far from easy: from moving house and relationships to holding down jobs and paying bills.There are plenty of things in life that are tough.

Some things in life, though, are easy. Really easy. Or at least they should be. Let me give you an example: accepting a parcel.

Yesterday, as we set off on a venture to the flea market and then the supermarket – both simple Saturday tasks – the man from DHL appeared. He had a letter with my name on it that required a signature as well as proof of ID. Easy.

Off I popped, back upstairs to fetch my passport. Back down the stairs I trotted, the little red book in hand, so graciously and expensively provided by Her Majesty, and presented the photo page to Mr. DHL.

Easy, right? He has an envelope with my name on it, and I am presenting an official document with my name and photo on it. A simple transaction should be about to take place.

You can see where this is going, right?

Computer says no. My international form of identification was rejected by the machine (you know the ones, they look like mobile phones from the eighties and require you to sign on a screen in such a way that the resulting scrawl is completely indistinguishable from your actual signature). Outcome: a refusal from the delivery guy to give me my parcel.

In my best German (ha!), I pointed out the ridiculousness of this situation. What do you mean you can’t give it to me? I mean, you could. You have it right there in your hand. I can see it. I can see my name, and you can see my name here in this passport with my photo. No, you really can’t? Oh, and now I have to go to the post office with the same piece of ID and collect it in a few days time, do I? Well, isn’t that a treat.

And this, my friends, is life, life that is already like navigating a several-decade long episode of the Crystal Maze, made unnecessarily and utterly pointlessly complicated.

I did feel bad for getting annoyed at Mr. DHL. (I even said thank you as he left, my parcel in his hand.) It really wasn’t his fault. He’d have gotten into trouble, no doubt, for giving me the parcel, and it’s not fair of me to ask him to risk his boss’s wrath. Of course it’s not. But I do blame a world where simple tasks are turned into a rigmarole because people aren’t trusted to use their initiative, because people are prevented from making simple things simple because of a web of complicated protocols.

I’d rather we were spending our energy simplifying the complicated, not complicating the simple.

It’s not that easy, though, is it?

And that’s a shame.

A complicated, confusing shame.

The irony, of course, is that the parcel contains my ID card for the nearby parcel drop boxes, designed to allow you to pick up packages conveniently without interaction with people…

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The Montage Trick

Rocky’s training sequences might be some of the best, but, whether it’s a heroic run through Philadelphia or Brigit Jones finding her inner strength, montages let us see our beloved characters pass through pain and heartbreak in the two and bit minutes it takes to play the good bits of a classic 80s’ tune. These scenes transport us through pain, effort, up-hill struggles (literally and metaphorically), and sadness with the comforting insider knowledge that, as the song fades out, there will be resolution, life altering change, and a light at the end of the tunnel. Montages, love them or hate them, consider them inspiring or lazy story telling, do a good job of getting past bad stuff quickly.

However, while our heroes and heroines get to live through tough times in the minutes it takes for Survivor to blast out Eye of the Tiger, we, stars only of our own lives, aren’t blessed with a musical fast-forward button.

Whether it’s grieving, working hard to be rewarded, or accepting that sadness and struggle are all part of the human condition, we can’t fast forward time, so we’d be crazy to try. Still, wouldn’t it be nice, just every now and again, to hit play and feel the deepest pain, push physically to the limit, or get a hair-cut, make-over and image change all with Danger Zone blasting over our battle, only to be gloriously done with it all in 180 seconds?

Maybe, yes. But, we don’t have that luxury, so I got to wondering how we do get by when the pace of change is not as fast as we’d like. Some of it must be the awareness that some things are worth waiting for. A fraction must be the knowledge that no feeling is absolute, and even in the worst of times, there is always brightness. And a good part of it must be the acceptance that we can’t change everything. The main driving force, however, is perhaps in the doing what you can and having faith that things will sort themselves out.

That said, I can’t help but wonder, if I had one chance, what my montage song would be and what you’d see happen to me. What awe-inspiring barrier would I overcome? What goal would I work hard at and achieve? And, most importantly, what slightly clichéd but undeniably classic song would see me through the struggle and fade out as I emerge a new, confident and eternally happy woman?

(Maybe it’d be one of these?)

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Best foot forward

Even if it were possible to pick one song and one scene, one huge question would remain: would I really press play? Because I’m not sure that if you come out of the other end of a problem too quickly, or get what you want too easily, you grow as much as you need to. And, on the contrary, often when you look back, your memories behave like a montage anyway, with selected, significant moments, weaving into a past you recall and share. A montage at a slower pace, just lacking the inspiring soundtrack…

Of course, it’s all what ifs and hypothetical reflection; we go forward every day at the same pace, with ups and downs, and highs, lows and lots of middlings. We build our montages, leaving most scenes on the cutting room floor. Our memories are our soundtracks. Similarly, we are our own leading actor, award-winning some days, panned by the critics on other days, coping anyway, no matter how needed the pause, play, rewind or fast-forward button is.


Post-script:

I’ve given it quite a bit of thought, and, well, my montage song has never really changed. It’s this from Sliding Doors. It’s a chick-flick classic, with just enough angst and plenty of uplifting sections to see me out of any struggle. 

Better Brewed Than Stewed

An idea is like a tea bag: they are both full of potential, but require the proper attention to ensure their dormant energy is properly utilised. They can both warm you and refresh you. They can offer you comfort or be a tool for comforting someone else. But a tea bag on its own, like an idea, is not a lot of use.

You need to add stuff.

You need water, something to invigorate the idea, ensuring it defuses into something useable.

You might need sugar or milk or lemon, something to make the idea more palatable and enjoyable.

Then you need a little patience. Like tea, ideas need time to brew, time to develop and to edge towards perfection.

What they don’t need, however, is to be left to stew.

Leave the bag in too long with too little attention and the tea is spoiled. And ideas, like tea, when worried over or treated hesitantly, when left too long or not stirred enough, become missed opportunities, might-have-beens.

You’re left with an idea topped with a bitter film, hinting at what have could have been if only you’d have intervened sooner.

Brew your ideas fully. Think them over with care. But don’t think for too long. Don’t let thinking become over analysing. You might just wait too long and be disappointed.

Ideas: for best results, add water and allow to brew. Add sugar or milk to taste. Sit back and enjoy.

 

 

It IS The Taking Part That Counts!

Today it was over 30 degrees by 10 am. It was the weather for going to beach, the pool, or lying inside with curtains closed drinking iced drinks. It was absolutely not the weather for running a 10 km race. It was not the weather for walking a 100 m really. But, we’d signed up, husband and I, so, not wanting to waste our 8 Euro investment, we were up at 7 am and en route to the start.

It was pretty horrible. I went out too fast, got around 5 km in under 30 minutes then absolutely and utterly crashed. Crashed, with a capital C. After 6 km, I was walking, had been overtaken by a couple pushing their child in a stroller (ultimate respect!)  and had all but decided to give up. I’m not 100% sure why I didn’t, but, when I went through the last loop, a cup of much needed water in hard, having been showered by a sprinkler and found pace with two other runners, I dug deeper and kept going.

Now, by kept going, there was no sprint finish, no personal best time (I was a good 7 minutes slower than my last 10k) and there was definitely no style. I plodded along, sweating and bright red with one thought in mind: all that matters is finishing this.

And I did. 66 minutes after I started, having been soaked by some kind lady throwing water over flagging participants (a huge part of the reason I kept going, actually), I finished. I wasn’t far off being last, I wasn’t far off giving up, but I still felt feel pretty awesome. I saw for myself the value in taking part and doing something for myself, against myself with no thought to who else did what.

And then I went home, had a long, cold shower and a nap!

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thing in mind

A List of Things: Home & Away

It’s only been a few months since the last time I was in England, but I find myself back again, this time for work. It’s odd, being home without seeing family, staying at a conference suite and seeing English ‘delicacies’, such as black pudding, served up to delegates from different countries. It’s nice to see home through a different lens, though.

On the whole, Germany and the UK aren’t that different from each other. Landscape, weather, food, culture, even to some extent, language. I always think Britain and Germany have more cultural similarities than home does with other European countries like France, Spain, and Italy, for example. That said, there are funny little things that are different, which always amuse me. Things that don’t matter. Things that are fine in both places, but noticeable, observable, and therefore worthy of being put into one of my favourite things. A list. A list of things I sort of, kind of miss about home, but don’t think about most of the time…

1. Bank machines telling you your balance. This is a useful thing. Even when I don’t really need to know.

2. Ordering beers at the bar. Or if you’re in a particularly dive-like or cheap pub, ordering food at the bar.

3. Traffic comes from the other way. People walk on the left along pavements and up stairs. I like not always being the salmon, going against the flow.

4. Being able to turn things off at the plug without having to take the plug out. (Given my anxious nature, I always take the plug out anyway, but it’s nice to have the choice!)

5. Being able to buy headache tablets that cost less than a bottle of water. From a corner shop.

6. Small packets of crisps.

7. Houses that aren’t rendered. I kind of miss bricks. Kind of…

Seven silly, small things. Things I won’t think about for weeks and weeks. Things that have no importance, but make me smile.

This list calls for more lists in the future. There are definitely at least seven things I’d celebrate about life in Germany. But for now, I’ll enjoy home whilst I’m here, expecting the rain, being optimistic that it’ll stay fine, and getting dressed to the hum of BBC breakfast.

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