Monday, January 14, 2019

Everything But the Sea

Last Sunday as I was ice-skating with a friend, we agreed that Vienna is pretty much the best place to live when it comes to recreational options. Outdoor swimming and other water sports in summer and ice-skating in winter right in the city centre and slopes just an hour away. Brief tangent: I am SO happy about all this snow right now (not that I want people to be snowed in or die in avalanches, of course) as it makes me think nostalgically of the winters of my childhood that I remember as white, mainly. This is most likely a gross exaggeration of my faulty memory, but never mind.
In a lot of other countries, people can only dream about such luxuries that I, personally, really appreciate and would not want to change for the world. I also love that several other European capitals are only a short drive or train ride away, depending which part of Austria you live in. It only occurred to me that this was not in fact the norm when I was on an Erasmus year in Dublin and hardly anyone in my History of Art class raised their hands when the lecturer asked who had ever been to Italy and seen some of the art we were discussing in the original. Admittedly, this was more than 20 years ago, pre-Celtic Tiger and before Ryanair got really big and affordable, but even so, it made me realise that having grown up in a town where driving to Italy for lunch and shopping was a pretty standard Saturday occupation made me stand out like a unicorn from my Irish classmates. It is all a matter of perspective. The Irish of my generation all have (more or less fond) memories of school trips to Bulgaria for skiing, which for Austrians of course is a very odd and eccentric idea what with all those mountains right at our doorstep. Similarly one of my ex-managers at the Firm would tell me about day-trips to Denmark which is not that far away from Hamburg, where he lives. Denmark is about as "exotic" to Austrians as Italy is to the Irish. 
The only thing I wish we (still) had is access to the sea. Other than that: no complaints.

Monday, January 07, 2019

Empties

While, again, I don't have any BIG, worthy New Year's resolutions along the lines of saving the world, inventing the cure for cancer or single-handedly putting a stop to global warming, I do have a mini resolution...also again: using up my HUGE stash of cosmetics and make-up products before I buy new ones. In the jargon of YouTube beauty gurus this means "hitting pan" or achieving "empties". This might sound like a minor feat, but for me, coming across the beckoning aisles of drugstores in countries like France (hyped beauty insider products!), Bulgaria (OMG, so cheap and such great quality!) and Korea (cutting-edge science that will not arrive in Europe anytime soon!) is a hard test to my shopaholic heart. Also, Niche Beauty's bi-annual (at least) "goodie bags" that you get once you purchase over a certain (rather high) threshold are very tempting...as are the vouchers I receive from local brands where I own loyalty cards. So...small step for mankind, big step for yours truly: don't buy any more stuff until you have used up some.

Monday, December 31, 2018

2018: The Year I Grew Up

What a year! I'm not really one for ranking people or events and I (thankfully) forget easily that the weather was particularly bad a certain summer that other people refer to as the "worst ever". Rain? So what? Similarly, I would not really label years as "the best" or "worst" of my life since I hope to have many more years ahead of me. 
2018 has definitely been a pivotal year for me, though, as I felt I could finally drag myself out of a spiral of having my happiness and self-assurance determined by people (well, men) in whose priorities I came 2987th, if that. A friend of mine had told me about a decade ago already "you know, it's not that hard to just ignore a ringing phone". While I not only understood what she was trying to tell me, but actually agreed and knew she was right, I had always felt this urge to have the last word. in an argument, to "make sense" of what, deep down, I knew I would never be able to rationalise, to find closure...or to just get some extra airtime to convince somebody that I was awesome and loveable. Turns out you can indeed NOT have the last word, not react to a message and not offer the other cheek when you were already slapped before (metaphorically, not literally) several times. Accepting that some things are just not meant to be and there's little you can do to change the situation does not mean you need to sulk or be bitter, either. You can just let go, think of the good times you had and not dwell on the others. Wow, almost easy.
Acting on my words only took me 46 years, I know. Won't lie: it really made me proud when some people whose opinion I value remarked on how impressed they were by my "transformation" and mature behaviour. I'm still impressed by myself, at times ;-p
This does not mean that I don't get nostalgic and wistful. I do. I think of the lovely ski weekend I had last year, that was exactly like I had always wished for, or holding hands under the table at a fancy restaurant. And quite a few things that don't have their place in a nice, family-safe blog, wink, wink. These are exactly the good times I will remember and while I have not even been looking for someone after the very unexpected and unpleasant end of my "non-relationship" this March, I did not mind being "alone" at all, because I knew I needed the time to focus on what I really wanted and needed. It was quite a novel experience, having so much extra time in my life that was not wasted obsessing over texts or e-mails, not waiting for somebody to call.
Another thing I had been told echoed in my ears: a few years ago, my cousin had replied to my complaints that all I wanted was somebody to "be nice to me" with a wry "Do you really? I am getting exactly the opposite impression." It was true: while I kept telling myself I was so over the drama, I secretly put myself into situations where I knew there would be drama. No more, though. So over drama. Bring on the nice, please! I can handle it now.
The other thing that made me realise I've grown up was an incident at work this autumn. At a meeting with almost 20 colleagues a notoriously choleric team-mate lost his composure and verbally attacked me. He behaved like a stubborn little child, whereas I remained completely calm (which no doubt enraged him all the more). Inwardly, I was boiling as the whole incident was so sudden and unexpected I had not prepared myself for it. People who witnessed the scene were more shocked than I was and some of them congratulated me on keeping my cool afterwards. "I admire you", an elder colleague told. me. "If it had been me, I'd have left and not returned that day." I have to say, I was very proud of myself, knowing that a few years ago, tears would have shot into my eyes and I would have walked out, too.
It's very empowering, not seeing yourself as a victim, but as the person who wrote the script for challenging and bewildering situations you may find yourself in. Here's to an exciting 2019!

Monday, December 24, 2018

Battery Status: 5 %

First of all: Merry Christmas, if you are celebrating!
I am semi-alive again, but the past few days I truly felt awful. I guess I had jinxed it by telling everyone left right and centre that my immune system was pretty much the strongest imaginable and that I had perfected warding off an imminent cold with an army of various remedies over the years. Well...
When I worked at the Firm, my second-to-last (and favourite) manager inevitably got sick with the flu or at least a common cold over Christmas after having flown around half the globe and attended many events the weeks before. I don't know if he still follows that pattern - I hope not, for his sake - but now I can certainly relate more than I did before.
Last Wednesday, the day before our office Christmas party, which I had been looking forward to for moths, I started feeling a bit under the weather but enlisted all my little helpers. In vain, as it turned out. Just as we had scored a great table at the party venue (with literally, thousands of colleagues) and the buffet stations were opened, I felt all energy drained out of me and I did not even feel hungry any more. My throat was sore and I felt frozen to the core. I did not feel like small talk, either, but "thankfully" Bestie Boy, who was sitting next to me, was pretty much in the same situation, dealing with sinusitis, and we ended up pulling a Polish Exit well before 10 p.m. I ran a bath and went to bed, shivering under a layer of 2 duvets. So much about my plans of dancing all night and after-partying...
What's worse, I had spared no time and expense and even dashed to a hairdresser's near the office in my lunch-break on Thursday for a wash and blow dry...with the unexpected and rather painful side effect that my right temple got burnt from a curling brush the metal ends of which had become incredibly hot from the hairdryer. What developed into a lovely, but pretty invisible blister the same night has since become a nice wound that I have been treating with antiseptic cream. Another déjà vu here: at Coma HQ I shared my room with a very eccentric Japanese lady who wanted to get rid of a spot of dark pigmentation on one of her cheeks by means of citric acid and the rough part of a scouring sponge. She ended up producing a gaping hole in her face that had people look away in horror. Mine is not quite as bad, but somehow rather reminiscent. Thankfully, it can be hidden behind hair at least.
As I had Friday off (originally planned to be able to sleep in and recover from wild partying) I seized the day to lick my wounds and take it easy. I truly felt as if I had been run over by a truck, with joint pains and all the usual signs of a beastly cold. After not having been sick all year despite being exposed to extreme climate changes and long-distance flights with people all around me who were coughing and sneezing their guts out, it hit me full force.
While I'm SO not the esoteric kind who likes to search for a psychological cause for every ailment, I do believe that my defences had been down because I had been in denial about different stress factors in my life that had been bugging me for a while. I had also taken down my pent up frustrations on the wrong person with a "showdown" on Thursday afternoon and felt truly horrible about it. Essentially, my batteries were flat and I needed this unpleasant reminder to stop pretending that I am invincible.

Monday, December 17, 2018

Courage

The other week, a friend told me about something very brave that he did when he was being bullied as a child, that I am almost certain I would not have had the courage to do myself at that age. I already knew he was a wonderful person before, but this story just reminded me that courage is a character trait I not only admire a lot in people, but to a certain extent also expect of those I love and/or respect. There might be a colleague at work (and I believe we all know such a someone) who likes to think of themselves as a fierce critic and radical, but who puts on a completely different face and tells a different version of their story depending on the circle of people they are with. I really don't have much patience with and respect for this type of person. There might also be a friend who has been telling the same story for decades about a grudge they hold against their parents for not letting them pursue certain studies or be with a certain partner when they were teenagers, forgetting that while they were complaining about it for literally decades, they could have done something about it when they became old enough to not have to ask their parents anymore. I'm not saying I am perfect myself and it is only other people who fail to live up to my very high standards, quite the contrary, but I have really been trying to be courageous whenever due, not always for my own sake. Perhaps it is not coincidence that this song is a staple in my work-playlist.

Monday, December 10, 2018

The World Won't End

As I am writing this, it is the second Advent Sunday and I have not written (let alone made/bought) a single Christmas card. I am also not making any photo calendars this year as I feel I am lacking a good "theme" for them and don't want to hastily patch something together just for the sake of it. Will the world end and my friends commit suicide if they don't get a card from me in the post this year (I could always claim they got lost...ooops, did I just say that out loud?!)
Despite the fact that I baked like a maniac again these past weeks (which is no chore, however, as I seriously enjoy it) I am really determined not to get stressed in the run-up to Christmas. Presents for the 3 people I am gifting something to (my parents and my godchild) are wrapped and the small pressies I am exchanging with a handful of friends are organised as well and I am giving shopping areas and popular Christmas markets a wide berth. Somehow, all my evenings in December got "booked" weeks ago, which ended with me decorating cookies late at night, but I don't mind it. I just don't want to add any unnecessary stress on top of that and deliberately stop to thing if it's worth the hassle. I want to enjoy my nicely decorated flat and have enough time to sit in my comfortable lounge chair with a cup of tea or coffee and not just run around in a frenzy trying to get things done that nobody expects from me, really. 

Monday, December 03, 2018

Been There, Done That

As previously mentioned, I learnt the "hard" way that it's not quite the same renewing your frequent traveller status due to business travel during the week as flying around every other weekend is. NOT reflected in the statistics above are 2 free flights I redeemed with my miles (Bukarest and Sofia respectively), by the way. Let's just say, I certainly did my part in keeping Austrian Airlines up and running...erm...flying this year, this time with my own money Will I do it again in 2019? Nope. Definitely not with this frequency. While I will probably always love travelling and exploring new places for as long as my mind and body allow me, I have realised that I want more down time at home in between, for getting things done, catching up with friends and appreciating beautiful Vienna.  I do already have 5 (!) flights booked for 2019 at this stage and have more plans, but am really trying to avoid flying somewhere 4 weekends in a row as I did this May for example. 
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