Saturday, 31 December 2011

Happy New Year 2012

This is the 5th Christmas gone by, since the start of the IL website, and what five years those have been. The first three years were all about documenting what I did in my sport and what I learned about people, myself and life in general. Then I turned the site into a series of blogs. Incredible Ladies became the Incredible Ladies Project, and the focus turned to the search for something substantial, the search for a sustainable future and a challenge which actually may make me a living. Writing became and still is my big passion. I am however writing memoir rather than novel and however much I like doing it, there have been times during which I had to skip. Some things are just too personal to write about in the present time; they need to slide into the past far enough to see them embedded in a bigger picture, to then be able to depict them honestly and with wit.Those things consume a lot of energy and distract the mind from seeing the awkwardness and the witty sparkle in every day situations, making it hard to write about those as well. I guess that distinguishes a good writer from an average or bad one. The good writer just sits down and labours through it. I need my brain free of distraction to see the inspiration of the moment to be able to write, like during this Christmas break. Hence for the good part of 2011 the blogs had a bit of a time-out.

I instead tried to focus on my second love: Bodybuilding. I decided to become a personal trainer!

Well, for the same reasons as for the writing, this is posing a bit of a challenge, too. Life really is the weirdest of things: For 2011 I had set myself challenges to make it the most remarkable and most memorable year of my life. I did this wonderful trip into the rainforest, I did the bodybuilding competition and I had organised a great party. The year I would become 50 was supposed to be MY year... funnily enough at the end of the year it doesn't feel like that, something else stole my thunder and I don't even know what it is.

I guess the premise was wrong, too: Thinking that achieving something by a certain age would make the achieved even better, bigger, nicer... Well, apparently the pedestal I wanted to be on was not deserved yet, or it was not the right one  anyway.

Now the New Year is upon us and for me it feels like a crunch time year. This might be the year that will ask me: 'either' - 'or'. I have been doing a lot of things which I call challenges and which others might not even consider worth talking about. Those things however, have led me to a point at which to decide what sort of life I want to live in the future. So far I could juggle things both ways: I was not entirely the 'gardening, DIYing, party throwing, house and pets maintaining Me' anymore, but I was not the 'business owning, hard working and focused on the future Me' either.

2011 showed as well, that if I want my dreams come true I cannot balance it all anymore; I am tired before I even properly started - something's gotta give. This however sounds easier than it is. This is not about cooking a bit less often to gain time for a sewing course, this is about doing something very time consuming entirely on my own. This is about giving up a rewarding, good, and safe life, for a potentially equally rewarding, rather exhausting, risky, yet exciting life. 

For me 2012 will have be the year of focus!

Tuesday, 29 March 2011

What friends are for

The other day I received a phone call from a friend who needed a shoulder to cry on. Mine are quite big, so I seemed to be a natural choice. We talked a bit and although she was laughing in the end I was not sure if I was able to give her what she needed, and hence it kept me thinking.

I guess we all know those moments when something happens that engages us emotionally to such a high level, that the brain just shuts off and becomes mushy. Thoughts are manifold and whizzing fast,  and the one thought that we think might bring relief is always only just escaping our grasp and is floating away in the stream of all the others. Usually we cry our eyes out, if we look into the mirror we don't see anything that would make us feel better, we usually take some random action in the hope to make it stop, and more often than not the action we have decided upon taking is something silly and the whole cycle is starting all over again. But worst of all: One is feeling really alone!

Whenever I was in a situation like this I felt utterly convinced that only I have ever done such a stupid, stupid thing, that those things are only happening to me because I am a magnet for that sort of misery, and that I probably deserve it.

This is the time when one is in need of a friend!

See, and this is what kept me thinking. In a moment and a mood like this: Is there a way to find out which friend to call? Is it possible to find this one marble in that mushy brain that is still in working order, to find out which of all the friends would be the most capable of providing help?

When I received this phone call I remembered how often I was frustrated after having spoken with people about my problems. I had one good friend who always said the right thing, but when she was not around I was screwed.

Detlef was sweet, but despite his big shoulders a bit helpless in cases of emotions running high. Blokes do things differently. They buy a gadget to show off to their friend, or they go to the football field and play a bit more aggressively than usual: Their status is restored and they are fine. We girls resolve our issues by talking and only very few men pull that off. Should you know such a specimen: Cherish it! They are worth gold!

And then there were people like my mother in law. Well, she was not necessarily a friend in the girly sense, but a woman, and she had experience... Well, from her I usually got full on advice... which is not working when one is overwhelmed by all sorts of body chemicals causing the brain to melt.

I however realise that I am becoming more and more like her, whereas in the early days I used to be like my best friend. What has happened? Could or should I change back? Or have I just become useless in those things? 

I now think I have figured it out.

There are three possible responses to emotional turmoil:
Pity - Compassion - An outside view

... and in order to visualise which impact those three have on the distraught soul, please let us imagine that life is like going down a white-water in a raft. There are nice and lovely banks, with calm water, everything is running smoothly and life is good, and then there are rapids. They are good, they are challenges, one will have to learn how to negotiate them. Just from floating along one doesn't learn a thing, one has to get into the white of the water to learn how to manoeuvre the boat of life. Just sometimes it becomes a bit too rough, the boat is starting to twist and sometimes one goes head under. This is the moment when one could do with a bit of help!

Pity is the least thing one wants. Pity you will get from people who become easily emotional, but are not actually interested in you, but their own well being. They feel that you surely are a poor sod, but are more sorry for themselves having to look at you, making them feel all emotional. One will want to avoid those! You don't need them, they don't need you, and nothing but humiliation can come out of this. In a 'mushy brain' situation you need people who actually like you. I find it better not to talk, than talking to one of them! Pity you get from the person who flies above the river,  sees you getting hit by a rock, shouts 'oh so sorry', and moves on. Should one accidentally have chosen one of them to talk to, it is important to remember that feeling worse afterwards is not ones own fault! They are just useless for the task.

Compassion on the other hand is a very, very good thing. The word has the syllable 'com' - 'together' in it. It means 'understanding, and feeling with the other person' in the literal sense. This is what I would get from my best friend. Hours on end we would sit and talk the same stuff over and over again... and the next time we met the exact same thing would be on the agenda. I am pretty sure those sessions saved our both marriages during the early days. How else would one make sense of how men behave? I had a similar relationship with my best friend at school. Whenever one of us had boyfriend trouble we used to sneak out of school and comfort each other over some hot chocolate and cake. And again it was never done in just one session. All the thoughts that whizzed round our heads, needed to be disentangled and discarded one by one.

A compassionate friend is one who is in a similar life situation like you, has similar amounts of time available, similar background and is able to respond to any of your rants with: 'I know! I had exactly the same... how can they?... and is yours like this and that? See! unbelievable...' A compassionate friend is somebody who basically is sitting in the same boat and floating down the same river, encountering the same rapids to then join you in a hurray when reaching a soft bank.

The one thing a compassionate friend cannot give you is an outside view. Sitting in the same boat means that this friend cannot be the one who is standing at the banks, observing the river and knowing where the cliffs are. There might have been a less threatening path, some moves or techniques to tackle a rapid in a safe way, but you could not see them because you were looking from the inside.

It is a point of view of experience which usually comes with age. The ones in the boat might hear the advice but may angrily be shouting back '... you out there, standing safely at the banks... what do you know? I am fighting for my life here!' forgetting that the person standing on safe ground made it through those waters before, has been in the rapids and made it out. The person with the outside view will not be able to join the emotional chorus of the compassionate friend, she is not in the boat after all, but she knows a thing or two and she means well.

It appears that one needs both: When things are tough one needs the compassion, but too much of it might elongate the process of getting out of a situation. The voice of advice sometimes can break a vicious circle of emotional turmoil, but only if the noise of the mind has been calmed by a compassionate friend so that advice can actually be heard. This is calling for two different sets of friends, as nobody can be in the boat and standing at the river bank at the same time, and hence one needs to find that one sane thought which determines which type of friend is called for in a particular situation.

In order to manage a crisis and to avoid disappointment it might be an idea to classify ones friends while the waters are still calm: avoid the pitiful, use the compassionate and once in a while listen to the ones who have been there.

And as for myself?

It appears that for many of my friends I have reached the stage of 'outside view'. I have gone past men trouble, education, and rebelling against parents. I guess the answers to my questions from the beginning are: No! I am not altogether useless in these things. Although I feel sorry that on occasion I might not be the right partner for a compassionate chat, I never feel pity. I feel that I am exactly the right place.

Thursday, 27 January 2011

What else I do!

first published in 2008

I'm not too bad in doing hair stuff. I've cut hubby's hair for years - yes the cut on the wedding picture as well - until he needed glasses for watching the telly. Without telly he wouldn't sit still so he had to see the hairdresser from then on. And I cut, coloured and permed my hair for quite a while. I had times where I went to the hairdressers, even was a model head, but I felt that I could save quite a bit of money doing it myself.

Playing Hair Model
End 80s

But I had short hair then. Now with the long hair I'm seeing Nadia for regular haircuts and colour.


I love power tools. I built all the shelves in our house, and I built the big bird cage for the conservatory.

To be able to do all this gives me a lot of freedom in organising stuff. I get my things stored the way I need it. This way the house is tailored to our needs and still has the style we like.

Home made bathroom shelves and cabinet

Eventually I have a garden. So many years we didn't even have a balcony. When we got the house, first thing I did was to dig a pond.

And I have a wildlife patch and a rockery and a herbal garden. We laid the patio and the walk- and driveways. It's our holiday pastime. The garden DIY we do together, everything with plants is mine, mine and mine alone!

Seasonal Decorations

When I have the time I make Advent bouquets. I even sold a few. They are the tradition in Germany - actually the wreath is the tradition, the bouquets are the more modern version. We only put up the Christmas tree on the 24th, and the bouquets make a nice Christmas feel during the Advent season. 

And I love Halloween. It only came into fashion after we had left Germany. So for me it was entirely new. Now I have to do at least 3 per year. One for us, one for my friends kids and one for work.

Silk Painting
This is my most challenging hobby. I am such a control freak and it is rather wholesome to do something that is uncontrollable. 

There are techniques to tame the dye, but the parameters are so manifold that it is almost impossible, and one sometimes has to trust the hand to just do the right thing.
When I'm painting the world sinks into the background and it's just me and my piece. Thus it needs time, and hence I'm not doing it very often. Especially since I found my new hobby - Web Sites.

Sunday, 16 January 2011

Rika's Personal Rules

Don't get me wrong. Although my 'University Years' haven't been all too successful I had a great life so far, and somehow I always managed to fall on my feet - probably because I never fell really high. However when I was in these situations it felt all grave and as if nobody else had problems but me. I believe that it doesn't matter how big the problem actually is - it is important how big it feels. And when resolved it is possible to learn from the small ones as much as from the big ones.

These rules are derived from 19 years of searching for my place in the world starting when I left home at the age of 18 and ending when I moved to England .
Do things for the right reasons
I know - easily said! But deep inside you usually know when you are committing to something for the wrong reasons.

My own example is my decision to do homeopathy school. I never had such a tension between my mum an me like at that time. I had no job perspective and only wanted to flee. I still wanted to be a 'good girl' and make my mum happy, but didn't know how. Every idea I had - e.g. becoming a social worker - made things worse. 'Girl, you can pave the streets with social workers, and so many are out there without a job, and if they have one they only earn little money'. Hmm?!

When the offer came to pay this school for me I felt I could have peace again with my parents and that was all I wanted. It sounded interesting and something I might be able to achieve, and I had basic knowledge. So no real reason against it. But something was wrong. It decided for it as a peace treaty and not because I actually wanted to have my own practice and mix potions.

So I did a basically good and reasonable thing for the wrong reason. During any task there will be rough patches, and there will always be a time where the extra mile needs to be tackled. Nothing is sunshine 24/7. If you are in it for the wrong reasons you might not be able to pull this through. This can affect family life, health, everything.

So whenever there is decision time, listen carefully to all the good advice of the others, weigh carefully all the emotions other people load onto your shoulders and decide which ones you can carry and which ones not. And then close the door behind you, make yourself comfy and have a one-to-one with yourself. Be at least honest to yourself!

I didn't contemplate all that. I was young, inexperienced and emotional. I went for the first thing that helped me to make peace - for that it was the right reason. But I didn't explore other options. I might have come to the same decision, but it would have been a conscious and not an emotional one. And who knows, it might even have worked out with homeopathy school. Knowing bears a lot of power and energy. It can bring you half way through the task before you've even started.

I'm not sure what would have happened to me not doing this school, but doing it half-heartedly the outcome was a lot of lost money, becoming very suspicious of healers, and one 'Rule' richer. Well, could have been worse.
Don't delay decisions
There will be no prince riding the white horse and rescuing you.

If there is something painful around the corner we tend to close the eyes hoping that it might go away while we know all along that it is edging closer. So we are having a miserable time waiting for it to go away - of what we know won't happen - and then we are having the pain anyway.

I don't do this anymore. However big or small, I want to get it done and over with. And you know what? It feels brilliant! When you face an issue head on, then you are in control. You might even dictate the rules of the game. And the sense of achievement when it is over is fantastic. I have become a decision junkie.

I sort the facts. I analyse the other people involved. Why are they reacting a certain way? Where are their benefits of the whole thing? Then I create my case: How can I sell my point to them that they think it's their own idea. This way I'm prepared and confident in my decision ... and then I go for it. Sometimes I win, sometimes I lose the game. But I always gain my peace of mind and the freedom to go ahead with my life.
Always win
I found out something really weird: It is impossible to loose!

I figured that in regard to winning there are two things to be considered. Firstly there is the 'situations you are in', which can be good or bad. Secondly there is the 'learning from the situation' which can be noting or a lot.


When you are happy and the situation is good, you are usually not learning a lot from it. What is okay, why should you? Nobody would ask: Oh I'm so happy, why is that?

What basically means that if you would have an absolutely happy life it would be great, but you wouldn't be the least bit prepared if something bad would happen. Only when the situation gets bad you start analysing and learning and the worse it gets the more you can take out of it. So even if you are unhappy right now, you can win the overall game by acknowledging the situation as it is, sort of slipping into the role of an observer, learn the most you can and then use 'Rule 2 - Don't delay decisions' and get out there as quickly as possible.
So you might not have been happy throughout, but the benefit of learning something about yourself and others might surpass the benefits of a constantly happy life. And be honest: Wouldn't it be boring to be happy 24/7?