People wake up early every weekday morning and under normal circumstances they immediately think about family members or whether they slept well. Soon after achieving consciousness, often only after introducing caffeine into their system, the working person is naturally going to start thinking of the coming workday. Many people spend a tremendous amount of their waking hours focused on these work issues.
One of the advantages of a long commute for my dad was that he rarely brought his work home with him. If you do the vast majority of your work at home like I do, then your commute might be from the bed to the desk, or even the bed to the couch. How do you keep your work in its proper perspective when you work where you also do your recreation?
More importantly, is our whole relationship to work and a ‘normal’ working life a completely ridiculous construct? Might we be happier, no matter what form our employment takes, if we observe and analyse this construction? If something happens and I lose my position, for whatever reason, have I lost my self worth?
Please, don’t let any of these questions discourage you. Many people have a healthy and constructive relationship with what they do professionally. Our political leaders are aiming for full employment, so if you’ve simply got a job? Then you’re taking care of not only yourself but simultaneously fulfilling your civic duty.
However, if you happen to be dealing with issues of mortality, whether yours or that of someone you love, then you’re naturally going to start having existential questions. Why are we here? What’s the point of all of this anyway?
Hopefully, you didn’t come here looking for answers from me. I’m headed off to work as soon as I finish writing this. No rest for the wicked, as they say.
My wife and I met, while she was living in an Italian mediaeval village, and she assured me it wasn’t the glamorous chic Italy I knew from Venice or Florence.
Liguria along the coast is actually quite sophisticated. You’ve got San Remo and Genoa nearby, with Cinque Terre even further down the coast. It’s not the Côte d’Azur like across the border in France, but it’s somehow equally beautiful without the snobbery.
Which is to say, we were in a beautiful place, but nearly an hour up in the hills and unlike those coastal elites (heh heh), up in our village, it was rustic and wild…not what you see on postcards from people’s Italian holidays.
Somehow, it was the perfect way to fall in love, though. Without Wi-Fi or even decent heating, we kept each other warm. Miriam sang along to songs I was working on for a show that was coming up, and we watched episodes of Faulty Towers and Moonstruck…and other movies, some well-known and some obscure, that she’d previously downloaded onto her laptop.
And even though we barely knew each other, we knew we weren’t the youngest people to make babies, so we got to work making at least one. The result of our endeavours? It’s who I refer to as the progeny here and online – our daughter who we were lucky enough to conceive that first trip to Liguria when we were still newly together.
We can’t make it ‘back home‘ this summer, though, for a myriad of reasons. Instead, we’re headed to a little Hütte (cabin) in the Austrian Alps, and I couldn’t be more excited. Not only is there no online connectivity, but this place has neither electricity nor hot water…and I couldn’t be more excited.
Time with the people I love most, mental space to read and write with no need to ‘share it with all my friends and “followers“‘, and maybe I’ll even get round to working on that book my friend Nick and I have been writing for ages.
Nowadays, people call it a digital detox. I’ve heard of executives back in the US who pay a pretty penny to go to the woods, or some desert, and have their mobile phone taken away, where they can reconnect with nature and themselves.
However, we’re doing it old school. Putting our devices away on our own accord and see what happens. Perhaps going back to civilisation when it’s too much, but even the thought of needing to do such a thing disappoints me.
Here’s what I’m hoping:
We don’t miss it. None of it. The noise, the distractions, the Sturm und Drang of modern life. What if it’s not so bad to just be human, without all the pressure to share our thoughts and whatnot, for a little while?
It might feel weird for a few hours or even half a day, but I’m confident we’ll be more present for each other and the progeny. I’m even rather optimistic the dog will be happier.
No need to share our every thought…or argue with strangers online? Yes, please.
While not getting too specific about who it was who irritated me the other day, while I was doing this roku account on twitter, I’d like talk about criticism and how I’ve chosen to use social media. To be clear, I’m neither a good American nor a well-integrated German visitor. Other expats or immigrants or whatever you want to call those of us who’ve moved to Germany and chosen to make a life here, seem to have accepted things about living here that still make me bristle.
Oh, and I see that one who offers unwarranted criticism, that’s offered as helpful or thoughtful, but is more likely a backwards and passive aggressive attempt at a Besserwisser (know-it-all) feeling better about one’s own situation and/or life, should perhaps look into therapy or grow a thicker skin before logging on.
They’re what the kids, or at least the Millennials, would call ‘haters‘, and I pay them as little mind as I can manage. It’s a good way to deal with criticism online. You’ll certainly face some, or a lot of it, the longer that you work or play in the digital realm.
The most important thing to know about me on this subject of using social media is that I think of myself as two Americans mixed up in one complicated ex-pat. My family moved from West Texas after my birth to Munich, which curiously makes Bavaria my second, or adopted, home.
Then we unfortunately went back to Texas, and this time in the southeast part of the state along the coast of the Gulf of Mexico to the then fifth largest city in the United States. The City of Houston was still a cow town upon our arrival, and the annual Livestock Show and Rodeo was just one reminder that this place wasn’t like Munich or Zürich or even London, which were places I’d seen with my young, impressionable eyes.
My relationship with Germany wasn’t complicated then, as I was a mere child and all of my frustrations with mid 70s metropolitan Houston were easily written off by my thoughts that, ‘One day I can leave this humid, depressing place and go back to Germany‘, which was a sort of Garden of Eden. That was how I saw Munich or Bavaria in the early 70s, and that option of ‘going back home’ was always, or at least often, part of my fantasy.
What wasn’t to love, by the way? It was a colourful and beautiful city, my parents were casual drug users and drank a lot of beer. As a result, it was easier to live in the liberal, relatively open-minded capital of Bavaria than it had been to live in the dry (alcohol-free), desert-like metropolis of Lubbock. On the high prairie in the part of Texas that you think of if you’ve watched John Wayne movies, or that Rock Hudson/Elizabeth Taylor/James Dean film Giant, my family felt more free outside of the ‘Land of the Free’, which is still my perspective of when I think of West Texas.
I’ve got a complicated relationship with both the word ‘freedom’, as well as the whole concept of ‘The American Dream‘, but this isn’t therapy. I’ll just share this generally, and depending on what feedback I get from this post, I could imagine writing more about those things at some point in the future. If you want to read more about my perspective on either of these things, the proverbial ball’s in your court. You’ve got to get off of your arse and say so in the comments.
To wrap up my point here, though.
My writing always has my clients in mind. While I do it in quite an Anglo-American manner, it’s purposeful that I’ve chosen not to blog or use social media the ‘German Way‘. Again, I’ll go deeper into how different cultures use online platforms and the intercultural differences at a later date.
Interested? You know what to do.
Make a comment below, rather than on LinkedIn or Twitter. I’ve started the conversation and you, my readers, have more influence than you realise.
What about this post or any other interests you?
More importantly what have I written that you want to know more about?
Show me you’re here and reading my scribblings, would you? I see the metrics, so I know you’re lurking.
Do me a favour and help me build an audience by saying what you’d like to see more of.
My high school French has served me well. It hasn’t hurt that I’ve known some amazing French people, and of course I mean women.
Tell me again why I shouldn’t shine as brightly as I can manage? Stories of Keith Moon or Icarus be damned, I’m flying as close to the sun as I desire, thank you.
These post lockdown, pandemicdays are curious. In the weirdest & most apocalyptic connotation of the word.
My generation didn’t go under desks as the little children’s protection against nuclear annihilation. That was our parents’ story, but now?
We were now somehow safe. Somehow.
Until these days, I suppose. Shiva is at work in our lives; nevertheless, our leaders tell us all is safe in their hands.
Liars and thieves the lot of them. We’re in that apocalyptic flick where the main characters have just discovered the president or première minister is of no practical use anymore.
The ones driving our earthly spaceship? They’d rather crash the whole damned thing than admit there’s no-one behind the curtain.
No deux ex machina.
That’d be too easy. Too much of a whitewashed American fairy tale.
We’re living in a Matrix of our own creation, and it’s seemingly a complete and utter failure. There’re no gods, or God even, that seems interested enough to swoop in from somewhere backstage to wrap everything up before the advertisements.
My solution? Help out Shiva and burn it all down in a post structural pyre. World leaders have forgotten the cautionary tale that is our troubled Icarus.
Let’s fly as close to the sun as we can and hope beyond hope that we don’t set the whole ship in flames. Luckily nobody’s listening to the likes of me.
This is sort of a weird situation, because I’d committed myself to start blogging again daily, and missed yesterday. Like running, or even exercise, if I don’t do it regularly, i.e. every single day, then I quickly get out of the habit.
On the one hand, I know no one’s waiting with baited breath for my Missives from Old Europe on a daily basis. Nevertheless, when I write regularly here, it’s easier for me to be creating other content for both paid work and even the extracurricular stuff I write (I realise that’s not the correct use of that word, but it’s like I still refer to weekday evenings as ‘school nights’, I’m sure you know what I mean.
What would I write about if I had no agenda, and I was just splashing my unedited thoughts onto the screen? Well, you’re about to find out. That’s exactly what this post is.
Not researched and just barely cogent, this is my theme for today.
Years ago I read or heard that people with an internal versus external locus of responsibility have happier lives. Blaming your parents or the government or aliens or whatever for your lot in life seems like a recipe for disappointment.
As an important aside, I’ve never been an African-American, so this most definitely isn’t a commentary on the protests or even the looting in the last weeks stateside. Whether you believe it or not, there is systematic racism in the western world, and in the U.S. in particular, and this is most certainly not a ‘pull yourself up by your bootstraps’ screed.
I’m writing about myself and the way I present myself online and particularly how I choose to use social media. Years ago, my friend Nick was still on Feckbook, which he summarily deleted at some other point of maximum online outrage, and his posts were not only well written, but the comments on his posts were generally of a higher quality than those of the average bear.
Attributing it to Nick being a person of above-average intelligence and the company he kept, and I assume still keeps, I realised that if I want my little corner of the Internet (my personal pages on Feckbook and the like) to be a place for respectful and honest dialogue, then I’d have to get a better class of friends.
Just kidding, people. It’s an old joke my friend Patsy told about helping homeless people. She’d go out of her way to help out the disadvantaged, and her kindness would regularly be met with mistreatment. People stealing her stuff or not acting right. She’d joke that she just needed to go out and find a higher class of homeless people.
Hahahahaha…punching down has never been funnier these days, huh?
My friends are just fine, by the way. Some are politically or even socially conservative, and that’s truly okay. I’d rather discuss things online with people I disagree with anyway, so I welcome the disagreements and even struggle with being kind to people I feel are disingenuous or even cruel. I do my best to ignore trolls, but even they make it through my filters sometimes.
My genuine belief is that these huge tech companies benefit from us hating each other, so I just refuse to take part. My rather religious mother would’ve prayed for these yahoos, but I tend to just ignore them. Not pay them any mind, as it were.
That’s where I am today. I need to get to bed early, so I can be up before my small daughter. Early morning’s the only time I get to myself these days, so I’m always in a race to get to sleep even before she does.
There’s a line in a newer Cat Stevens’ song where he makes some weird reference to putting machines behind us. Since Advent, Miriam and I have tried to do a digital detox.
Eventually, we’ll get to where we don’t even look at our little machines (phones, tablets, and computers) on Sundays, but at this point that’s too much.
Instead we do a social media detox, where we don’t post anything for a whole day. I’m sure my loyal readers miss me those endless hours when I’m not available (sarcasm intended), but as Miriam says, ‘Schade.’ (too bad)
Whatever photo I’ve taken of my sandwich is going to have to wait to be posted until Monday, or simply not at all. How are you supposed to know what we had for lunch today?
Well, you could just call and ask me.
That’s why we haven’t yet given up everything on Sundays, but that is eventually the end goal. Nowadays, we still use our devices to call and stay in touch. In the near future, we won’t even do that. We’ll just be gone.
It’ll be fine. You’ll be fine & so will we.
This social media lark is just that. It’s not serious. No matter what you’ve been told. Nothing going on online is more important than the people sitting in front of you.
A photo of Miriam and me showed up in feckbook’s algorithm today. Exactly two years ago today we were back in Liguria, where the progeny was most likely conceived, and we were madly in love.
The memories keep coming — it’s not all smiles & joy, but I suppose that’s the nature of social media. We tend to try putting our best foot forward, or at least I do.
If I air my dirty laundry here, I’m certain to put out far more positive, uplifting stuff to balance out the sadness. This last 2 years has been a roller coaster like no other I’ve experienced.
Regularly, I think back to that scene in the movie Parenthood, where Mary Steenbergen & Steve Martin’s characters are in their kids’ school auditorium and their youngest has gone ‘off script’ & is tearing the scenery down in the process of ruining the school play.
The mom & dad are shown as if they’re on a roller coaster — it’s an astonishingly good metaphor for marriage & life, now that I think about it.
She’s laughing & enjoying the ride, while he’s having what looks like an anxiety attack. He’s terrified of what others think and that his kid needs more therapy and isn’t getting better anyway…he’s essentially sitting in a puddle of his own worries & self consciousness.
This life is no dress rehearsal, I’ve often heard it said. You get one shot, and as much as I’d like to believe in reincarnation, the skeptic in me wins that argument I periodically have with myself.
Miriam recently mentioned that you people out there get the best version of me, but she has to deal with raging asshole. It’s true. My words, not hers by the way.
In a perfect world, I could act nearly as well in my daily life as I pretend to here online. My goal is to show as much of my authentic self as I can manage, while still respecting my family’s and my own privacy.
When I get off this roller coaster one day, I want to be screaming, ‘Let’s do it again! Again, again…let’s do it again!’ Which is my very logical argument why we so desperately want to believe in reincarnation.
Well, we didn’t make it to Mahag by Monday morning, as it’d been planned. I suppose Miriam called them, but at this point in such a ridiculous story? I just don’t know.
Long story short, you’re begging of me? Other than that we didn’t make it to our appointment? You mean: what happened up until that point? And why on God’s green earth would you make such a plan & then not actually show up?
No idea how to answer any of that. Short story but just a bit of backstory? Ok, I can manage that.
Oma (Miriam’s mama) passed on this year, and quite honestly, we weren’t sure how Opa (der Günter) would deal with such an elemental change in his life.
To be fair, he’s managed the whole thing mostly magnificently. For fifty years, he was married to die Margarete, so he’s never had to wash his own clothes or manage normal, mundane household tasks.He’s always had a wife to do all of that.
However, now that she’s been gone several months, der Günter has managed his newfound bachelor life that of an old pro.
Why didn’t we make it to our appointment with Mahag in Trudering? Because we needed to go get Opa, so he wouldn’t be alone for his first Xmas without his lovely bride.