Mar 082017

In the past ten days I have been kvetching to everybody about the fact that I haven’t gotten anything done in all that time. And then the person I was speaking to turned to me and said, „But you have been doing your running during, haven’t you?“ And my first reaction was, „Duh. Of course I’ve been running. That goes without saying.”

And that made me realize how much my definition of „doing nothing“ has changed.

There was a time when I was still living with my parents where I didn’t have a to do-list, I didn’t even use a calendar, everything I needed to do I could just keep in my mind, no problem. And doing nothing at that time did not include any kind of physical activity or housework for sure.

Mind you, when I was a teenager „doing nothing“ meant a lot of reading (we’re talking about ten books a week or so), a bit of playing the piano and the odd walk because even a couch potato as sedentary as me needs to get some movement at times. It also involved a bit of piano playing and singing. And knitting. Some sewing. Very little TV because we’re talking about the time when there were only three channels in Germany, and none of them showed anything during daytime, apart from weekends.

These days when I talk about „doing nothing“ or rather „getting nothing done“ I mean that I am somewhat on top of housework, and grocery shopping, and laundry, and that I have managed to do something like ten minutes of singing warmup and my twenty minutes of piano warmup, and my regular exercise, and such. And of course the knitting.

But the important things, the ones that count, are the creative ones. The writing. And the blog, and the podcast, and all the projects that I want to finish. And so I feel like I did nothing if I didn’t manage to write or revise anything.

And no, that doesn’t mean I’m hard to myself. It means that I am someone who wants to do projects and follow her creative dreams, and finish things. And if I am content with just the everyday things that won’t happen.

I’m still somewhat proud of being able to deal with the everyday things, and that exercise and playing my instruments are a regular part of my daily routine, that is as it should be. It still doesn’t mean that that’s enough for me at this time of my life.

I mean, after those two days of rehearsal the weekend before last when I was completely wrung out, after that I didn’t expect myself to get back to my projects right away. I scheduled a day off. And when I found that I was still really exhausted the day after I took another day off and that was okay.

But not doing anything besides mundane everyday things for a week without anything being seriously wrong? Not okay.

So, what about you? What means „doing nothing“ to you?

Mar 012017

Now time management seems like it's not enough. I find I often have time to do something, like an hour after dinner or so, but I lack the energy to do it. And that is a problem.

I'm not the type of person who strives to be all productive all day with no downtime, and no room for spontaneity or doing nothing but there are quite a few things that I want to get done every day, and I get grumpy if I don't manage that.

I read something on the internet about a guy who schedules three minute meetings, for example, that is not what I want to do with my life. Planning like that means that every thing that you haven't planned for – like being stuck in traffic – means your whole schedule gets thrown off course.

On the contrary, I have learned to plan for buffer time between things. When I stop teaching for the day I could theoretically just turn around, sit down and do something else. But experience tells me that I often need about fifteen minutes to wait for the student to leave, pack away everything I needed for teaching, check my email one more time, and maybe read something on ravelry.

Of course I would be more productive if I didn'tdo that but forcing myself to not do it usually just makes me cranky and after a few days I go on strike and spend all my time surfing the web. If I allow myself that fifteen minutes I'm happy to start practicing afterwards. Or making dinner, or doing strength training, or whatever.

Now I've talked about this at least on the podcast but elsewhere as well but my big revelation in the past few weeks was that time is really not the problem, energy is.

The way my life is structured right now I should have about an hour or two each night where I can do something productive, and I can still eat dinner in peace, do the dishes, read and have quiet time before bed.

I am definitely not a night owl so the things I schedule at that time are usually things like, “watch a video about book marketing”, or sewing, or spinning. Nothing taxing, nothing that I need a lot of concentration or energy for.

So I had scheduled that – very sensibly – and I had even managed to wash the dinner dishes in a timely manner instead of playing iPad games or reading, and then I found I was just way too tired and couldn't do anything anymore.

So I declared defeat and went to bed, read for two hours and turned the lights out too late. And was angry at myself for not getting the things done that I wanted to.

After a few days of that I got really angry, and so I told myself that I absolutely had to sit down, spin and watch a video, even if there was not a morsel of energy left in me anymore.

So I moaned and groaned, and moved my spinning wheel in front of the computer and spun and watched that video for half an hour.

And then the funny thing happened.

I had more energy instead of less.

That was strange.

My very first impulse when I am feeling low on energy is always, always to sit back and do nothing. I mean, that is how you recharge, right? I already know that doing nothing for a long period of time makes me feel completely limp and unable to cope with life, so I force myself to exercise even when I feel like I have no energy at all because I know from experience that exercise makes me feel more energetic in the long run. But not giving in to that evening slump felt completely impossible.

My theory (and not only mine, check out “The Power of Full Engagement” for more on this) is that there are several kinds of energy that I have and need. Physical energy, mental energy, social energy, all kinds. And all of them need replenishing. And sometimes what I need is not to sit and read and do nothing but instead to move something forward that's important to me.

So the past two weeks or so I have forced myself to practice for the upcoming performance. Even though I felt awful and tired and exhausted beforehand. I still didn't feel all that energetic afterwards but I didn't feel more tired and exhausted either.

And the funny thing is that I have had less trouble sleeping. I guess my subconscious is feeling better because I'm taking care of things that are important to me.

Who would have thought that there were so many things to learn yet?


Feb 232017

I used to love having breakfast in bed. It seemed like the epitome of luxury. When I was still in university I would even get up in the morning, throw some clothes on top of my sleeping tee, walk to the bakery, then make breakfast, and take it into bed with me on a tray. Ever single day.

Then I met my husband. My husband doesn’t like to have breakfast in bed. After a while I decided that I’d rather have breakfast with him than in bed so we established a new routine.

Still, every time I was alone I looked forward to going back to bed with my tea and bread or muesli and a book.

Until I found that I didn’t enjoy eating in bed anymore. I’d rather sit at the table, dressed for the day, and not have breadcrumbs in my bed. Weird.

The one thing I am still doing, though, is setting my alarm early so that I can read or write in my journal for half an hour before getting up. I was really loving that stretch of time, that part of the day when I was completely alone in the quiet before I needed to talk to anyone, or do anything.

And then something weird happened. On weekends or on days without school when I don’t need to get up at seven I stopped reading in bed but instead got up immediately.

First because my husband doesn’t like coming to breakfast only to find everybody else is still in bed (he gets up much later than anybody else in the house) but then because if I stayed in bed reading the whole day would have a very unstructured and unproductive feeling to it. And I could read just as well while having breakfast. And then afterwards. And I’d already be wearing real clothes instead of pajamas, and would be ready for everything the day could throw my way.

And then the other day our son asked me to wake him up a little early so that he could look at something for a test in school. I don’t mind because we don’t actually wake up earlier if I do that, it only means I don’t lounge in bed for thirty minutes before getting up.

And lo and behold our morning was much less stressful. And I still got the same amount of reading time, only a bit later. And there was much less yelling of, “You need to hurry, you’re too late!”. Which is a very good thing.

And so I’m actually debating trading those thirty minutes lounging in my nice and warm bed before getting up for a little less stress while having breakfast. I’m really curious how that will go.

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.


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.



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.


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?