Jan 292017
 

After being really motivated and excited to get moving on reaching my goals and changing things up I’ve had a not so good week or two. I can’t even point to a day where it started, I only know that I did not do the things I wanted to, started binge-eating again, and skipped exercise two times in the last week alone.

And I just don’t know why.

There was a moment when it dawned on me that my husband’s „Summer of Love“-project is starting to loom (there will be two performances in May), and maybe that’s when the overwhelm set in. Or maybe it was helping our son with writing a paper about a science project that took several hours over several days, and at the same time I tried to do all my own things on top of it.

And then I finished reading through the revised novel number one, and then I couldn’t quite decide whether I should write a few more scenes for that one, or start reading the rough draft of novel number two.

Of course a decision like that can make you not do anything for a week or two.

And I didn’t sleep well. Again. Woke up in the mornings, way too early, and was tired all day long. So that didn’t help as well.

So I decided to get my act together, and just do the things on my list, and get on with life. But it didn’t quite work, and this afternoon I found myself gazing at the computer screen, procrastinating like crazy, losing yet another day.

And then I felt that familiar thing again. That feeling of being paralyzed and unable to move, or do anything. In the past I have reacted to it by putting myself to bed for a day or two or three, telling people that I’m not feeling well. And I’d sit in bed reading and eating and drinking tea, and not feel better. Until the day when I needed to get up again, or got fed up by my own inertia, and then suddenly I would get moving again.

Only I found that sitting around waiting for the black hole to go away doesn’t really help. And that sometimes that feeling can last months or years.

So I learned to counter the black hole with exercise and with doing things, and with not eating too much chocolate. Taking care of myself by tackling the things I’m scared of and don’t want to do.

This afternoon still feels lost to me. And now that I’ve realized that the black hole has been sucking me in for more than a week I’m not all that confident that it will go away tomorrow.

Seems I have to make myself do things that feel impossible. Like sorting through the papers on my desk, and playing the piano, and writing a blog post even if it’s not a good one.

I have ninety minutes until dinnertime. I bet I can at least do most of the things on my list.

So how are you feeling these days?

 

Jan 112017
 

I could say that getting more done on the projects that matter to me is a New Year's goal but then I've had that goal for ages, and remember that back in October I decided that I really need to spend more time on writing novels because otherwise I'll never get them finished.

Which is why I seriously buckled down in November, and found that even spending an hour a day on writing was seriously hard for me.

Now I should have lots of free time. I only teach about four hours per day, often less, I don't do much on weekends, I don't commute, I don't do a lot of housework, and so there should be a few hours per day free for things that matter like writing, and blogging, and podcasting.

Now I am still exercising quite a bit, about 45 minutes per day on average. That means on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays I don't schedule anything big in the morning because that's when I go walking/running, and on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays I block off between twenty and forty minutes after work to do strength training.

Still, I'm usually done with breakfast by 8, I don't really cook, just help my husband cut a few veggies here and then, and eat lunch at 1. That's five hours of time, and even with housework and building a fire in the woodstove, and talking to my husband for an hour while he has breakfast, there should be an hour somewhere in there to work on something creative.

So I started writing down what I did in chunks of 15 minutes. I did start last week when it was still winter break. Even though I only did it for a few days, and even though I sometimes forgot to write it down that exercise was eye-opening.

After breakfast I'd sit there, knitting and reading, for three hours. Three hours! And then I went to my computer and spent an hour on the internet. And after lunch I went back to knitting and reading and surfing the web, and then I barely managed to do a minimum of piano and singing practice before squeezing the strength training in, then there was dinner, watching some show with my son, and then bed.

The first day that I tracked my time I spent six hours knitting, reading, and surfing the web.

Well, I like doing all these things but six hours is a bit much.

Now I'm teaching again, and of course the numbers have changed a little. Because I'm spending most of the afternoon teaching. As I should.

But still before or after every single thing I do, housework, practice, or teaching, I check e-mail, instagram, twitter and blogs. It is a bit embarassing, really.

Now I don't want to stop these things completely. I really like blogs and ravelry and instagram and books and knitting. I still want to do other things as well, like sewing, and weaving, and writing.

So I think I need to change things up a bit. Limit my time online. Not give in to check instagram and twitter quickly before starting something else because quickly is always half an hour or more.

I don't really want to use one of those programs that block your internet access. I've tried that in the past, and I always get around it in some way. It does help that right now I'm sitting in the kitchen (right after breakfast) and the wifi is still turned off but in the long run I will have to find a way to build new habits. Like leaving the studio five minutes after the last student, and not half an hour. Like not spending every single minute between students checking social media.

And most important to actually write and sew and weave and spin when I have thirty minutes here and there.

How are you spending your time? Are you happy with where it's going or do you wish you had more time to do what's important to you as well?

Dec 272016
 

And yes, I know I'm almost too late.

Still I wanted to let the people who are still watching this space know that I'm thinking about them often. It's only that not writing has become such a strong habit that writing this feels weird. Which it shouldn't.

Interestingly this advent has been the least stressful in ages. I'm still thinking about why that is.

November was crazy busy and at times rather stressful because I did NaNoWriMo again, and I also did the sweater knitting thing. I had to knit the sweater twice because the first time it was way too small, and while the writing went well it did not go as smooth as I had hoped. Still I think doing both events was completely worth it.

Then Decenber came around, and I went to see a few people for brunch, and afterwards I just knew that that had been the one thing too much.

And I canceled everything for December. No meetings, no appointments, no concerts to watch, no parties to go to, I even canceled the spinning meeting that I really had looked forward to. And our son decided that he didn't really want a birthday party. And I got all the presents rather early and sent them off pretty early as well.

And then I started decluttering the house. I spent two weekends going through all my clothes and books, and I'm planning to tackle papers next. I'm doing it by the KonMari method, mostly.

And while that did add a bit of stress, and quite a bit of work, it also made me feel like I had more control over my life, and that felt really good. I'm completely fed up with all the piles of things everywhere, and my options are to either get lots and lots of new shelves, build another annex, or get rid of stuff.

I don't want to end up living in something that looks like a warehouse, and there is a lot of stuff around that I neither need nor want, and so I am letting go of it, and it feels glorious.

I actually reduced my clothes yet again, something I wouldn't have thought possible, and there still are a couple of things that will go next year once I have bought new things that actually fit me. And I got rid of about 200 books. All books that love but I am completely sure that I will read none of them ever again. And I don't need the physical book to remind me that I used to love it when I was fourteen.

So apparently the key to having a stressfree advent is to not do anything, and make sure to get enough sleep if possible, and to meditate every day, and to focus on the things that you're able to control.

Now we are right in the middle of Christmas break, and I'm planning to make these days as normal as I possible can. Work on my writing, do the housework on time, go to bed early so that I get enough sleep, and exercise as usual, maybe a little more because there are still all these cookies and chocolates to eat.

And I'm planning to continue the decluttering. We'll see how that goes.

I hope you all have a peaceful and relaxing time as well.

 

Oct 302016
 
  • This is the first, well, second really day of fall break. As usual I have been looking forward to this for weeks, as usual it is only one week anyway, and will go by very fast.
  • Nonetheless my husband suggested opening a bottle of champagne for lunch to celebrate, and I was happy to join in. Never mind that I don’t usually get anything done on days when I drink at lunchtime.
  • I am about to embark on both NaNoWriMo and NaKniSweMo in November. It is pretty nuts but then I am knitting a sweater that has less than the required 50,000 stitches. I am writing a novel that I have written before, and that was so jumbled and messy that I decided starting over would be less work than revising what I had. We’ll see how that goes.
  • This is actually my ten-year NaNo anniversary. I heard about it for the first time during November 2005 when it was too late to join in, and participated for the first time in 2006. That may have changed my life, and made me meet quite a few very interesting people. Also I finally managed to actually write fiction instead of only wishing I wrote fiction.
  • In the past few weeks I actually started doing piano exercises. Like the ones my teachers had always wanted me to do, the ones I never could be bothered. And it is kind of fun. Who knew.
  • Of course now that I’m so extra busy with the writing, and the spinning of the yarn for the November sweater I have completely failed to do any sewing, embroidery, or weaving. Last Friday I didn’t even clean the house. Bad mother, no cookie.
  • Since I’m talking about cookies, despite not eating any for weeks and weeks (cake doesn’t count, does it?) I managed to gain back a whole kilo instead of losing the last 1.5. It is appaling. But then it seem that the siren call of „yet another beer“ and „just a bit more chocolate“ are really strong at the moment.
  • That might also have been due to the fact that I didn’t manage to get enough sleep for two weeks or so. But for the last few days I did sleep enough so there might still be hope.
  • I am already feeling bad for not having done anything to prepare for Christmas and the November to January birthdays in the family yet. On the other hand there is still time, isn’t there?
  • I have made a pledge to not buy any more books (well, mostly). You can read all about it on my „official writer biog“ that still looks a bit raw over here.
  • I hope you all have a great weekend as well.
Sep 262016
 

So it’s been the first few weeks of the school year and I feel like I’m coming up for air again. And the things I thought about in the last post really helped as well.

I’m pretty much weaned from sugar right now, and on Saturday I found that for the first time in the whole week I started feeling that deeply sad feeing again some time around 11. And then I thought about my habit of eating white bread with almond cream for breakfast on the weekends instead of the müsli I eat during the week. And then I ate müsli for breakfast and Sunday and poof! no more feeling sad.

I’d say eating nice müsi with fresh fruit and Greek yoghurt is not too big a price to pay for not feeling completely bad.

I’m still glancing longingly at the gummy bears in the supermarket but then I remind myself how I feel when I actually eat them, and that I can never stop eating them, and then I’m good.

I am also back to doing most of my self-improvement routines, and I guess that’s another reason for the big grin on my face. I’ve sat down and worked a little on novel revision every day, and even though I don’t actually enjoy doing it I always feel better for having it done. And I’d really like to have a finished story some time.

My days are so full that I’m completely exhausted by dinnertime but then that’s not really a problem. All I do at that point is get ready for bed and read a bit. And then I sleep and the next morning when I wake up I’m full of energy and plans again.

And that makes me happy and productive. Win win.

Sep 182016
 

I am usually pretty much on the side of intuition. Like when making decisions they're usually either so irrelevant that it doesn't really matter or complex enough that you can't consciously look at all the variables and so I usually go with my gut feeling with very good results.

But then I found that some of my feelings are not “real” feelings at all.

It's a bit like waking up at five in the morning with a burning certainty that life is crap and you're a worthless person. That feeling usually vanishes once the sun is up and you're in the middle of your normal life again.

So for the past few weeks (during summer break) I have basically felt very depressed and paralyzed and overwhelmed and helpless. And I knew that that was neither true nor in any way helpful but I couldn't help it. I have learned not to trust these feelings a long time ago – I mean, even if I were a useless loser not good for anything, and my life bad aand hopeless it wouldn't do me any good to dwell on that and not try to make it better – but still it is no fun to feel like doing the dishes is a task that leaves you drained and unable to do anything else for the rest of the day.

I thought it must be hormones again. I also didn't manage to get enough sleep most of the time which was ridiculous when I could go to bed when I wanted and sleep as long as I liked but it seems my body has become unable to sleep past 7.30 in the morning (or 6 on a bad day), and so the only way for me to get enough sleep is to turn the lights out at 9.30 and I don't feel like doing that every night. (I know. Lame excuse.)

I became profoundly unhappy and unable to change anything about it. I tried to get enough sleep (with mixed results), I was exercising almost every day outside in the sun, I was watering and feeding myself adequately but I just felt awful.

I thought I might feel better with the start of the school year and with being back to my routine but instead I felt worse.

On the second or third day of teaching I felt so awful at night that I decided to binge-eat some chocolate to feel better. (I know that's silly. I still do it.)

And it worked. I felt better immediately and it kept helping until some time the next day. Huh.

Now eating chocolate all the time to feel better is not the worst thing one can do for sure but on the other hand I had gained some weight during summer break and I wanted to not gain more. Also when I start eating sugar I have a really hard time stopping to eat sugar which is why I try to limit my sugar consumption.

Now I think I have found out what went wrong. Some time around my birthday I reached my goal weight (almost) and I decided that I could have some sweets and a few more potato chips than before and the occasional extra glass of wine or beer, like, almost every day.

And so during summer break there were many, many days where I would eat loads of gummy bears and licorice and chips and I would drink beer and wine every single day, and funny enough, around the same time I started feeling really depressed again.

Which of course meant that I needed to eat more sugary things and drink more beer because I felt bad and eating and drinking those things makes me feel better.

Right.

Now at the moment I am slowly weaning my body from wanting all.the.sugar. If I don't eat enough I feel horrible but if I eat too much I feel worse. I'm hoping to get myself back to only drinking one beer per day max on weekends and to only eat very small amounts of dark chocolate. Without feeling constant despair.

So. Right now when despair raises its ugly head I eat a small piece of dark chocolate, and then I ignore it as much as I can.

Because in this instant those feelings of mine are not telling me anything about me that is worth listening to, they just tell me my body chemistry is out of whack.

Duh.

 

Sep 112016
 

Yes, I am perfectly aware that I haven’t posted for two – counts on fingers – okay, make that three months now. Interestingly nothing major happened. It was just one small thing after the other, and then, after a few more weeks blogging feels weird and you don’t do it.

Also I seem to have a pattern where when I’m revising a novel (or rather procrastinating about revising a novel which is even slower) I don’t write anything, not even blog posts. Writing seems to generate more writing, and not writing generates even less. Although there can’t be less than nothing, can’t there?

So. My hip hurt and I went to the doctor, and it seems it was from running too much. It seems I am doing something wrong when running which puts strain on my right hip, and then it hurt so much that I had to stop walking for a few weeks as well. Only the problem is not the hip joint but a nice little tendon atached to the hip joint. I got really strong painkillers, and and a few weeks later it was so much better that it didn’t show up on a MRI.

Only the bad thing is that it still hurts.

As long as I don’t run I can exercise all I want, and walk around, and I feel better but when I sit down for more than an hour or so I still hurt. Fun! I thought I was all better and start doing a Couch to 10K again but that was a bad, bad idea.

Then there was summer break, and we had a wonderful guest who came all the way from the US and stayed a week, and then my MIL had a friend stay at her place (which is just upstairs from ours) for the week after that, and then we had another house guest and a couple of rehearsals for the concert my husband is planning for next year, and then our son and I went to a family reunion, and then my husband went to Italy for a week, and then he was home again for a few more days, and then he went to Salzburg for yet more rehearsals, and then was now.

Phew.

Of course I had big plans of sewing all.the.things and finishing that damn revision, and do about a hundred other things but they didn’t really happen.

And I’m a bit sad about that but then I also try to keep in mind the things I did get done, and now I am almost happy for school to begin again on Tuesday. Maybe I’ll get some sewing done in between teaching and exercising, and running errands, and housework.

So. How was your summer?

Mar 272016
 

It just occurred to me that somehow I hadn’t posted here for quite some time. I gues I was meaning to write about my weight loss but then didn’t really want to. For one because I still want to lose more weight, and also because in the past two weeks I have actually been gaining a bit of weight instead of losing it. Which happens.

Also I started writing more here when I didn’t work on the current novel in progress but then I decided to revise the second novel before writing the first draft of the third one, and apparently I don’t write anything when I try revising, not even blog posts.

Also I try to stay a bit more offline. And I have more students which translates into less time between students to sit at the computer.

But. Today is Easter Sunday, and there was Hefezopf but I didn’t take a picture, and we had lunch with my mother-in-law, and otherwise we are treating this as just a regular Sunday.

It’s Easter break which seems to result in my usual “slothing around feeling like I should get more done“-mode. So far I’ve put „finish sewing leggings“ on my to do list every single day, and they still aren’t finished. Which is why I didn’t put them on the list today. Because today I’m taking a day off.

Our son has grown too old for the annual Easter egg hunt, or so I declared, so this year we just gave him a chocolate bunny and a new book and called it good. I did take a picture for the grandparent’s calendar, though, only he is standin inside on this one.

My husband will be going to Italy tomorrow with a friend. I am looking forward to a few days alone here with only the boy for company. I really hope, though, that I won’t spend all of those days sitting around waiting for him to come back home.

Yep, I do much better with routine. But then we have all known this for ages now. I still like having time off from teaching, I only don’t always use it wisely. And no, I don’t feel like I should be all productive all the time, it’s only when I sit around doing nothing for too long I get cranky and depressed.

So I am planning to go to Munich on Wednesday to see an exhibition about 30s dresses (the boy didn’t want to come and will spend time with his grandmother), and maybe the two of us will hike from Herrsching to the Andechs monastery. I’m also planning to sew something between two and five dresses, and 1 1/2 pairs of leggings. Right now I’m starting by writing a blog post so that I don’t have to sew or to glue together the pattern pieces for one of the dresses. (Oh, I’m planning that many dresses because I want to make a muslin and an actual dress for two of them, and the third one – the one that I plan on drafting myself – I will just make the dress. I’m sure that will go perfectly well. With no glitches whatsoever. (At least there will be stories to tell for the podcast.))

So I wish you happy Easter, or a happy spring day, whichever you like, and hope to see you soon.

Feb 042016
 

As I told you before the concept of mini-habits has really helped me in the past months. They always seem rather ridiculous and small but they’re easier to stick to. And then I have this neat little app where I track my progress with them, and it’s really nice to see the long chain of uninterrupted habit execution.

So the things I try to teach myself consistently at the moment (apart from the things I’ve been working to do every day for months or weeks now like exercise and going to bed on time) are:

  1. Clear to neutral.
  2. Do the dishes after every meal if possible.
  3. Every day after breakfast I take all the recycling (that is collected in a bin in the hallway) down to the basement, sort it and fetch any beverages we’ll want with lunch or dinner and put those in the fridge.

“Clear to neutral” is something I picked up from the Asian Efficiency Blog via Unclutterer. Every time you do something you only considered it finished when everything is back where it belongs. Like doing the dishes becomes part of the meal routine, like every time I fold laundry I then put it back where it belongs, every time I use the scissors I put them back in the drawer.

I’ve been doing something like this for years now but I started slacking off. And at the moment I pay more attention to it, and also try to not leave the empty hamper in the hallway when I have put the clean laundry away but take the 30 seconds to actually go downstairs into the basement and put it next to the washing machine. This has the added bonus of making me move more.

“Clear to neutral” in my life usually means small steps. Putting the knitting back in the bag even if I think I’ll knit some more in the next hour or two. Putting the spinning wheel back in its bag and into my studio even though I know I will be spinning again the next day. Having everything where it belongs, and having the feeling of a tidy space totally makes up for the few minutes a day I put everything back.

You can see in our son’s room how things change when you do not clear to neutral. There are dozens of used tissues, candy wrappers, and miscellaneous papers on the floor and on his desk. There are piles and piles of books and all kind of things, and when he wants to cut his fingernails he has to borrow my nailclippers because he can’t find his. He did find the pouch for his nail things but not one single tool was in it.

“Do the dishes after every meal.” For quite some time now I’ve been trying very hard to do the dishes some time after breakfast so that my husband has a clean kitchen for cooking lunch, and I’ve making it a firm rule never to go to bed without doing the dishes first but I was pretty convinced that it didn’t make much of a difference if I did dishes after lunch, and also I thought I didn’t have the time.

Then some weeks ago I tried to squeeze sewing time out of every day in addition to what I was doing every day anyway, and in order to find 30 to 60 minutes of uninterrupted time in the evening for making a dress I decided to do the lunch dishes right before teaching instead of sitting down surfing the web at that time.

Turns out those dishes only take about ten minutes, and also doing that has the added bonus of getting me to bed on time at night.

Why’s that?

Well, if there was a lot of washing up to do in the evening I’d often sit in the kitchen reading or playing computer games instead of tackling the dirty dishes. Because the task seemed so overwhelming. Because of the strict rule to do the dishes before going to bed I’d sometimes sit there procrastinating for an hour or two before tackling the huge pile of dirty pots.

But if I do the lunch dishes right after lunch the dinner dishes seem much less intimidating. And I am making it a habit to not start reading or playing games after dinner. Instead I get up right away, wash three dishes and a bit of cutlery, and then I’m done for the day. Much better.

This practice also has the added bonus that my husband often helps me and dries everything which means it goes even faster. Sometimes I can even get out son to wield a dishtowel.

The habit of taking all the recycling stuff to the basement once a day, and using that trip to the basement to fetch anything I want nice and cold to drink for lunch is rather self-explanatory. The hallway is the first thing visitors see when they enter our house. Having a very overflowing recycling bin spewing its contents over half the floor and all the shoes is not a nice thing to see.

And as with other things it only takes a minute or two to do it every day, and is way less dreadful than sorting recycling for ten minutes in a row on Friday.

I am always amazed at what difference it makes to change small things but by now I really shouldn’t be. I’ve seen it over and over.

I’m really excited where all this changing things around will lead me. Right now life seems full of possibilities.

 

Feb 012016
 

So I had this asthma attack in 2008, and years later I found out that I had exercise induced asthma. And every since I’ve been using two different inhalers, one with a steroid that I take every single day, and another one that I use before exercising or doing something strenuous.

And the last time I visited my pneumologist he looked at my latest spirometry and told me to try out what would happen if I only took half the dose of the steroid.

And I did, and what happened was – nothing. I felt fine. Which was great, especially since that particular inhaler costs me 47 Euros every time I need a new one which used to be every six weeks but has become every three months now.

Two weeks ago I went back to the pulmonologist for my regularly scheduled spirometry, and this time he said, „You might want to try out how you feel when you stop the steroid. Oh, and you can also try to stop using the other inhaler as well. You’ll have to wait a few days for the effects to show.”

So I stopped using the steroid. And nothing happened. And a few days later still nothing had happened.

And then I stopped using the other inhaler. I was quite nervous when I went jogging that day, and monitoring myself for signs of an impeding asthma attack but what happened was – you guessed it – nothing.

So I am now completely off every kind of asthma medication. And that makes me really, really happy.

And I think that maybe (but I don’t know for sure, of course) this has something to do with me losing a total of 28 kilos. In the book „Fettlogik überwinden“ the author cites a study about asthma and weight loss that came to the conclusion that weight loss reduced asthma symptoms in every single case.

Who would have thought? Not me.

Now I don’t know how the whole thing will feel once allergy season hits my respiratory system but I guess I won’t feel as bad as I did before.

I am still carrying my inhaler everywhere. I’m still not quite convinced. But the possibility of living without the permanent danger of keeling over for lack of breath is exhilarating.

Every morning when I brush my teeth without having to use the inhaler first I grin like a maniac from ear to ear. And when I want to run after a train I can do it. Just like that.