wunder

schoen aber selten. very much alive.

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It’s a ride

It was only four months ago, during an all-day breakfast with a bunch of great people, when someone said the word for the first time: burnout. The word came at me like a warm, friendly breeze, in a sentence of nice words about taking time for oneself, and it felt like a hurricane inside me. Burnout. Of course. Why hadn’t I thought about this earlier, why not seen it, realised it, taken care of it?

Later that day, when I was back home working, it was still whirling around in my head. Burnout. Burnout. I tried to let it sink in, whilst fighting the deep need to sleep (these are times when I want to sleep all nights, all days).

A few days later, a tiny feeling of relief began to arise. It grew, and I realised where it came from. It was because finally there was a word for it, finally everything I had felt and experienced throughout the months before made sense, like pieces of a puzzle just falling into places. It wasn’t just a random set of symptoms anymore, it had a word, a tag, a label, it was something I could tackle.

Something I could not tackle. I was way too tired, to exhausted, far beyond my limits to even think about tackling anything.

The last days of work before my holidays in December were a complete disaster. I had releases to coordinate, had to interview people for various jobs, and was constantly in meetings from 9am to 8pm, without any chance for a break, except for the occasional cigarette which I inhaled like there was no time left (mostly because there wasn’t). When I came home, I ate a few bites of pasta, collapsed into bed and couldn’t sleep, because my brain was never quitting work and kept me up all nights.

Then I went to Norway. These ten days were the most relaxed ones I’d had in what felt like ages, and I even looked and felt a little less destroyed afterwards.

Still, as soon as I was back home, it all got back to where it was. All the newly-gained energy vanished, the old stress level came back (and I wasn’t even back to work yet). I reached a state where I was afraid of everything: afraid of going back to work, of all new projects, of commitments I had made, – all tasks and assignments which I had loved some time ago, but which now filled me with nothing but fear. And over all the fear, my stress level rose even more. On top of that, everything that’s going on in tech and its culture have been contributing large parts to my mental and physical condition as well, but that specific topic is worth another post at some point.

All in all, the result was a poorly drawn version of myself. I may have sat in a corner of my flat a lot at the time, just waiting for the night to be over, and hoping for nothing to happen.

That’s when I finally decided to step back and look at the mess from another perspective. I knew that I had only two options: going on with the status quo and collapsing sooner or later, – or stopping some commitments, at least for some time. Since I was lucky to be in a position where this was possible, number two is what I chose. Heavy-heartedly, I wrote an email and spoke with someone, and it was decided that I was taking a break from two projects. One break of three months, one for an indefinite time frame. From all sides, there was a lot of support, which helped me a lot (thanks again, folks).

It was only after getting this out, that I realised how hard this step had been for me. I’ve always been someone who defines herself mostly about her work and work results, and I only say “mostly”, because I still have hope it’s not one hundred percent. Saying “I need a break”, felt like a big, big failure. I knew that, normally, this was not a call I’d make. I don’t pause from stuff. No, no. I’m stubborn, I’ve always found my way through.

But this time, something was a little different. Like before, again I just knew I had no choice. But unlike before, I acted accordingly.

Then I went back to work. I was still pretty stressed, still super tired every evening, and still couldn’t sleep. But at least a little of the total amount of pressure was paused. – Which was even better given that I had a conference talk to prepare, which I had already committed to and which now ate up all evenings after work and my weekends. But at least I started saying no more often – no to more conferences, no to more volunteer work, no to unpaid diversity consulting.

Replacing projects with other projects is by far not what I’d call my ideal way to deal with burnout. When I come home from the office these days, there’s usually still more work waiting for me. And I’m grateful for the people in my life who help me at least sometimes not read my emails (thanks). And while I hope I’ll get better at dealing with burnouts in the future, another part of me hopes that this won’t be necessary anymore – although I still think it’s good for me to be prepared.

The main learning that I’m taking out of this is that I was able to say “I can’t go on like this anymore” – to myself, as well as express my limitations to others. For me, this was a huge step. For the first time in years, and maybe ever, I was able to stop – or at least pause for an instant.

To me, what I did early this year was a good step into the right direction. It was the first step, and I am ready to take the next ones.

It’s a ride.

And then I accidentally

And then I accidentally stumbled upon a memory card with a few more photos I took in Norway.

The photos are from one of our last days there. It was one of these days when you look out of the window in the morning and a ship is passing by.

Norway

One of the days when you’re leaving the cozy cabin for a short walk and suddenly the sky is all cloudy and wonderful.

norway-lake

We stood by the small lake and thought about which house could be ours here.

Norway

It was the day when we walked on top of the big hill without knowing where we were going, but exactly knowing what we were looking for.

Norway

The day I saw somebody disappear somewhere in the trees,

Norway

and found some snow on the path.

Norway

It was the day when we jumped over a big, big puddle and my socks got all wet, but then we saw another lake in the valley.

Norway

We walked on, the ground got all muddy and slippery, the sun had set a long time ago, and then we reached the top of the big hill.

Norway

The whole ground was full of moss and very small plants, and that’s the place where our path ended.

Norway

It was Christmas Eve 2014.

Norway 2014

In the last days of December 2014, we spent a few days in Norway. My last time there had been for a roundtrip 13 years ago, and I still had those memories of impressive, breathtaking landscapes in mind.

We had rented a tiny log cabin located near a small village on an island close to Bergen. It’s a lovely cabin directly above a fjord, so from every window you can see the water, feel the wind when standing on the small terrace and hear the calming sound of the waves while falling asleep at night.

201412_nrwgn_0051

There is a sauna which belongs to the cabin as well. The sauna is in a pyramid, and the best thing about it is that, after the sauna, you can get your body some cold water by jumping into the fjord. Now that is pretty cool.

Norway

We mostly spent the days snuggling into the corners of the couches in the cabin, reading, watching tv series, drinking tea and eating Norwegian cookies (we especially loved those pizza rolls in the picture, but our favourites were the wonderful Kokostopper).

norway-1

Only a few minutes of a walk away, there’s a small bakery who are making incredibly delicious organic breads, rolls, pastries and cakes. Read more

hello, goodbye and paperwork: twenty-fourteen

What a year, what a year.

January: Drowned in paragraphs and paperwork. Enjoyed the sun during the second Hoodie Offsite on Lanzarote.

February: Spent a weekend in Lapland. Read more

Ein Lebensgefühl wie Einparken

Jetzt in diesem Moment ist die Wahrheit, dass du Recht hast mit allem. Aber das hast du dir, glaube ich, schon gedacht.

Dieses Jahr fing an mit einem schwarzen Flügel in einer Hotellobby, auf dem ich nicht spielen durfte. Es ging weiter mit einem schwarzen Flügel in einem Wohnzimmer, auf dem ich ein Lied spielte, zu dem ich gerne singen wollte, aber nicht konnte. Dazwischen habe ich die Holunderblüte verpasst.

Im Weinglas in der Küche schwimmen die Fliegen. Elf Stück sind es, ich zähle sie, als ich den Wein in die Spüle schütte.

Mein Herz schlägt schneller.

Es ist noch immer heiß in der Stadt. Vorsichtig gehe ich durch die Straßen, die Füße auf dem heißen Asphalt im störrischen Gang derer, die in Wahrheit lieber zuhause in einer Ecke liegen und Vorwürfe gegen die Zimmerdecke rufen würden. Nur mehr tastende, langsame Bewegungen, nicht mehr als unbedingt notwendig, und auch diese wenigen mit ausdrücklichem Widerstreben. Als das unbedingt Notwendige getan ist, taste mich an Hauswänden entlang zurück in die Wohnung und sperre den Sommer aus.

Ich ziehe die verschwitzten Sachen aus, dusche kalt und reibe einmal mit dem Handtuch über meine Haare. Der größte, völlig klare und doch vorher kaum fassbare Unterschied nach dem Haareabschneiden war, dass da plötzlich nichts mehr war, das mir ins Gesicht fiel, beim Sex auf anderen Körpern landete, lang und rotblond auf dem Boden liegenblieb und auf den Staubsauger wartete. Nichts derart Offensichtliches mehr zurückzustreichen, wegzuhalten und beim Wohnungsputz wegzuwerfen. Und all das ist so ziemlich das Beste daran, neben der Gewissheit, immer den Wind im Nacken spüren.

Ich höre Musik von neunzehnhundertachtundneunzig und lese das Internet von zweitausendvierzehn. Ich kehre an einen Ort zurück, den ich seit sehr langer Zeit nicht mehr sah; lese alte Zeilen darin, offenbar verfasst von mir. Es kommt mir vor, als läse ich die Texte einer Fremden. Ich vergleiche es mit dem Heute und frage mich erst, was denn jetzt eigentlich wahr ist und dann, ob ich mir nicht allein schon mit dieser Frage etwas vorlüge.

Denn ich weiß, dass alles wahr war und alles wahr ist. Und wahr wird es immer sein, aber selbst im allerbesten Fall immer nur für ganz genau einen Moment. Für einen Moment, der sich nur in den seltensten Fällen wiederholt. Mehr Wahrheit ist nicht drin. Ich finde das sehr gut so.

Wenigstens ein paar Haare ausgerissen letztes Wochenende.