“Never in a million years” or: ‘shame fics’ seem worse than shame fucks (but they are not!)

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From what I’ve written in some of the blog post before, one may assume I am a sophisticated reader thanks to my academic ventures (*cough*) in the field of comparative literature. Well, sometimes I am. Depending on my mood, my ADHD, the lunar phase, and the position of Jupiter to the last third of my cat’s lowest karma zone, some lucky days I am capable of hiding my nice little face behind the covers of something of worth to the academic and/or intellectual community (mind you, I spared us all the name-dropping of distinguished authors, mainly because I couldn’t think of anyone else besides Susan Sontag right now). But those days are numbered, especially when there’s a lot of stuff going on in my life. So when ADHD is ruling my daily life, I resort to reading rather ‘light’ fiction, as one might describe it. Nice little whodunits, for example, preferably from the franchise of Murder, She Wrote or set in the 1920ies and 1930ies in the UK (probably because this reminds me of P.G. Wodehouse’s works). They call these books  ‘cozy mysteries’, as I found out just recently, and that makes me cringe even more…

You see, the most shocking thing about this is, that I never ever in a million years would have thought that I ever start reading whodunits. We had to read The talented Mr. Ripley and another mystery novel by a local author in high school and I hated it. I read The Judge and his Hangman by Friedrich Dürrenmatt and it bored the hell out of me, even though I like Dürrenmatt. I absolutely and truly hated the stuff, I found it boring, uninspired and a waste of time (especially Tom Ripley). I thought I never again would read any sort of crime or mystery novel. Boy was I wrong.

So, with Jessica (whom a lot of us will remember from TV), Daisy, and however the main protagonist (usually female, of course) is named, it’s always nice, warm and chatty. They make you feel all cozy and comfortable and at the same time solve a murder that is in no way gory or grisly. After all, this is not CSI or Criminal Minds, this is Murder, She Wrote and Miss Marple on the loose. Of course, witnessing a murder or finding a body has its effects on our beloved protagonists, but it’s not like you can’t go on with your life just because you regularly happen to stumble upon corpses. Off they go, head first into the adventure of finding whoever disturbed their tranquil and cozy lives, to bring them down and restore peace and order. And right they are, at least in their setting.  Eventually, everything falls into place and in the end, all is fine and someone nobody cared about is dead. But that’s okay because our heroine found the killer and everyone can feel safe again. Usually written in an entertaining and sometimes slightly humorous voice, I do understand why these books are called ‘cozies’.

I don’t know how I came to like them as much. I watched Murder, She Wrote with my gran when I was a child and I really loved that show, so when I found the books I was understandably thrilled to find some additional material on my favorite amateur sleuth – which may explain this newfound literary love of mine a bit. But how it would go from J.B. Fletcher to Daisy Dalrymple, I can’t really explain (P.G. Wodehouse may have something to do with it, as stated before).

But you need not fear the worst, because I already went through my Sophie-Kinsella-romance-novels-phase nearly a decade ago, after a rather painful break-up. So at least this won’t happen (again and yes, I’m sure about that). Though I like it cozy, neat and nice when reading ‘light fiction,’ that does not include unnecessary and annoying romantic entanglements with no real surprise ( yeah, I know, the concept of ‘surprise’ may be a debatable issue in the cozies as well, but hey, nothing’s perfect). Also, I do not intend to bore you any further with this little ’shame fic’ of mine…but it’s as much part of my life as my struggle to keep my work going and organize myself, so it’s also part of this blog, at least for this one time. And now I’ll go sit in a corner and be ashamed of myself…just a little bit, while reading You bet your Life.

 

New Hope or: the road to hell is paved with good intentions …

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Now this entry sounds way more dramatic than it actually is. Fact is, I didn’t work ‘that much’ on my thesis or academic ventures since returning from London last May. For one thing, wonderguy and I moved in together shortly afterwards and there was a lot to organize and do for weeks afterwards; secondly, I did indeed work a lot for several months, though not on my dissertation.

With the beginning of 2017 I decided to make a fresh start. Right now this means starting slowly by catching up on some reading (not that much, but still necessary) and trying to get an overview of all the material I’ve already gathered. After all, I do have about 200 pages of literary analyses (first draft, but at least this part of the dissertation is somehow finished), so for more than a year now I’m dreading to start with the historical background (more because I have to organize my information the proper way) and especially the theoretical background (because I simply cannot decide which theoretical strings to include while at the same time – OF COURSE – excluding others … which could be just as interesting, but probably not that fruitful in context of my work BUT who knows and do I really want to commit myself to just a few theoretical approaches while there are so many other brilliant and great theories and ideas out there? Won’t I risk making the wrong decision, so it’s better to not reach a decision at all because that way I won’t risk excluding brilliant positions and views?).

So it’s obvious I need some new tools, because the fact that I feel deadlocked regarding my thesis could never have anything to do with my messy, insecure brain. No, of course not.

Long story short, since I also start a new job in April and want to go back to writing more on a regular basis in general, I got completely overwhelmed by my own good intentions and imaginary work steps and bought a new laptop, or rather, notebook. It’s more portable and practical than my old MacBook and I can use Linux (heeeeelloooooo freedom of choice!!), so I can put a ton of excellent writing programs on it for free. Because, as I might have stated before, I intend to use this as my new main WORK laptop, taking it with me pretty much everywhere except the bathroom, so to not find any more excuses to NOT work or write.

You know, it all starts with good intentions, and let’s just hope it doesn’t end there as well…

 

[By the way, the picture has nothing to do with the text. Since I could not take a picture of my new notebook, I decided to try something completely different…birds. Flamingos, more precisely.]

Shame on me: an update on how I blame everything that doesn’t work on my bullet journal…

Long time no see, again – an update on how I blame everything on my bullet journal…

So for months now I regularly thought about what I could probably blog about. I even had a few ideas –  quite a few at times –  usually when I had nothing with me to take some notes (for the tech nerds: talking about analog note taking, like on paper,  as well as digital, like evernote, Google keep and similar stuff). Often this happened shortly before falling asleep, which seems to be a high time for me imagining stories, or rather, little passages of something that could be a story one day. IF I would bother to turn up the light again and write it down. Or at least had my cell phone at hand to take a note… Both of which I don’t do and have, which is actually pretty stupid considering the fact that I haven’t written a creative (or academic, for that matter) thing in weeks – might be even months, if you’re referring to something ‘finished’. I did that note taking at night stuff years ago, many, many years ago when I still believed in it. Also, I was drunk every night back then, so this might be another reason why I did it, because aren’t we all a bit Bukowski if we want to?

I’m trailing off…. What I wanted to say was that I do have a section for “Blog IDEAS” in my bullet journal. I also got a “everyday recipes”, “sewing projects”, “stuff to get”, and similar pages in my bullet journal. Some I even tried to organize, like, using a sticky note (post-it) to make them stand out and easy to find (if I don’t find something of everyday use within the first seconds of looking for it, it may as well be lost in outer space, because I will simply forget about the whole thing). Still, I don’t stick to it. I forget, I don’t act, nothing happens. Even with this oh so glorified bullet journal, I’m not capable of organizing myself.

Of course I’m to blame (even though mini-me finds ways to excuse myself from any responsibility for the things in my life). I chose an A5-sized notebook, which is fairly easy to work with as a sort of homemade calendar and planner, but it obviously does not fit in every single bag I own. And I found out over the last few months that this journal works shit for me if I do not carry it everywhere I go – literally. Only then will I be able to get myself to use it daily,  use it every time I need it.
Sounds so simple, doesn’t it? You will be a better, less chaotic and more stable and organized person when you just switch your fucking diary to a more workable size. Great, isn’t it?

I will try and hope for the best. I do know that it’s not actually a question of size (it never is), but also a quest for discipline. For everything that might be even slightly helpful to get all plans and goals on track again. Getting some structure in your everyday life when handling two to three jobs, freelance stuff and still trying somehow to accomplish a dissertation is exhausting and seems impossible, at least for me. But I will go on, and it will work out somehow, eventually. Because, looking back, it always did. But on this path “t will all work out”,  it never felt as hard as it has for weeks, months, the last one and a half years.

I already own a smaller notebook. Now I only have to convince my inner postwar child (thanks, granny!) to waste a perfectly good, half-used notebook for the sake of trying something slightly different. If you had any clue how strict I am with myself regarding unnecessary escapades, you would know how difficult this will be….

Reading: Miriam Toews “All my puny sorrows”

 

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I finished Toews’ book yesterday and I still have Elf and Yoli with me, somehow. I laughed a lot; I cried several times. This is a story about mental illness, surviving, and letting someone go. This is a story about suicide and survival, about intentionally leaving this world, even though there would be no need to do it just now (i.e. no fatal disease or other physical failings that would make life unbearable). This is a story about death and family and losing the people we love. In short: Elfrieda, Yoli’s older sister, wants to die. Her mother, sister, husband and a lot of other people want her to live. But for some people, being free means being able to leave whenever and however they want to…

Writing about death is always difficult, because it is a tense and emotional topic; even more so when writing about suicide. Most people do not understand why someone wants to die. Many of us experience difficult times, lose people we love and can have a hard time coping with all the shit life throws at us. Still, we move on –or, as Churchill once said “If you’re going through hell, keep going.” But it is not like that for everyone. Some just want to stop going, because they cannot do it any longer…and they have every right to do so, no matter how hard it is to understand for everyone else.

There are certain books that just seem to choose me – “All my puny sorrows” is one of those. Every time I read stories of mental illnesses, I get a bit frightened; I can all to well remember how I felt years ago when I myself had to figure out how to “keep going.” Sometimes I’m afraid all this could come back if I read too much about it, think too much about it – I can be overly empathic and emotional, not being able to distance myself from the things around me, and I’m still very much afraid of depression, that kind of depression I experienced back then. I never actively thought about taking my own life, because I believed that it would get better. To me suicide was a sort of last resort in case I would truly lose it – and I can understand when someone passes this stage and ends his or her life.

I love Toews’ language and humor, I think it is so important to not only keep going but also keep laughing, especially with topics like this, death and suicide and losing people you love. When the inevitable happens, you are still shocked and surprised – even though it’s ‘just a book,’ I still hoped. For all those around her and for herself. Because if you are not feeling and living in this very special void, you see hope, even in the darkest days. If you know this void – the multitude of voids –, have been there, seen it, felt it, you may understand that someone does not see any more sense in ‘keep going.’ I love Elfrieda, who is a survivor as long as she can take it. I love Yoli and Lottie, her sister and her mother, who ‘keep going’ after losing a lot, keep laughing because in the midst of a storm, you have to save yourself and those close to you, the ones that can and want to be saved. 

I want to thank Miriam Toews for lightning up my soul and mind. I prefer to block out anything that may remind me of darker days, but Elf and Yoli brought some things up that were not even half as frightening as I thought it would (or could) be. Thanks for making me laugh out loud. Thanks for writing a book about some of the roughest storms of life that feels like a warm and bright summer breeze…

How to organize a chaotic mind

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I’ve been working as a freelancer for years now. I started the first draft of my thesis roughly 2 years ago and there’s still much to do, as pretty much the complete theoretical framework is still missing (it’s there in my mind, at least some parts of it, but not where it should be, written down). Part of the problem is not only that I have to find a balance between work, work, and life, but also because – no, ESPECIALLY because it is very difficult for me to organize myself.

I was diagnosed with ADHD in my mid-twenties. Though I don’t like to hide behind my various issues (panic attacks, anxiety disorder, depression, extremely introverted, anyone?) this did indeed explain a lot. Most of the time I find it hard to focus on one thing; I can lose myself in hours of online research, reading about the least interesting topics ever, but I cannot sit through a two-hour-movie (or even a 50 min TV show) because it bores the shit out of me. I get some impulse for my work, jot it down and forget all about it the next minute, even forgetting WHERE I made or put the notes that could be helpful some other time. I remind myself to write another blog post only to forget it just a minute later because I there is so much going on in my head that I am overwhelmed and just give up. I often thought (and sometimes still think) that this is all about procrastination and being unorganized and chaotic, but –as my therapist liked to say – this is rather about a psychological issue and being a ‘special edition.’ Since I do not take any medication, it’s always just me and my hyperactive, multi-wired brain.

Which leads us back to the initial issue, namely how to organize myself without losing my mind?! I desperately need some planning and structure in my life, for my freelance ‘career’ and especially for my thesis. For years I’ve been looking for some way to organize myself, my tasks, my appointments, my life. I have not yet found a system that works, so I’m still waiting for a miracle…

A possible answer could be: start a bullet journal.

Wonderguy started one and told me to give it a try because it could actually work. So I googled it (of course I googled it and filled my mind with hours of bullet journal porn on Pinterest, Instagram, Tumblr, and other sites) and was taken aback by how much work many people – and especially girls and women – put in the (graphical) creation of a bullet journal. I’ve seen journals I would never actually use because they were too beautiful to just put some common information in it. Those journals were works of art but nothing to work with since my chaotic mind would probably be too distracted with painting another elderflower in the left corner of May 12th on page 30. Also, it seemed so structured and organized (well, what a surprise!), it frightened me. I was afraid of not being able to organize myself with this system. I AM afraid of being too chaotic and unstructured to organize myself with any system. I suppose I’m looking forward to a future filled with post-its, lost notes in the corners of my life, and looking puzzled and surprised half of the time.

So I guess I should give it a shot. It really can’t get much worse…I think. And I do have a fair number of notebooks, I can spare one to substantiate my hopes in a more organized future…

Never finishing anything at all – 4 (or more) steps to succeed

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I have finished my talk some weeks ago, ready to edit it a bit here and there and in the end having weeks to rehearse it (…something that is reallyreallyreally important for non-native-speakers!!!) – at least that was my plan. Of course, quite the opposite happened. After finishing my first ‘draft,’ my supervisor and wonderguy (who is also my colleague, a fellow comparative literature graduate) both added their two cents, poignantly remarking that this paper will be great for all those who already know what I am working on – everyone else may feel a bit puzzled, asking him/herself what that chick out there is actually talking about. So I was obviously NOT finished. Not at all. It took me two more nights to recreate a sort of “finally finished”-feeling, and I still think it’s more a feeling than a fact. Especially since I’ve started rehearsing, realizing that I’m still changing certain passages to make them more understandable (and easier to read, to be more precise). So again, the final version is not so final after all. But editing can be tricky and a never-ending-story – it has always been very difficult for me to constrain my pedantic inner critic and carefully approach a final version I really ‘like’…

I know a lot of people are only too familiar with this struggle. For the lucky ones who NEVER had the joyous experience of questioning one’s own intellect and sanity over one small passage on page 5 of a) the last chapter of the second novel you wrote at the age of 22/31/40/53 OR b) the 235th paper you wanted to submit to a prestigious journal where you already published three other papers but still, this time they could finally realize just how awful and inapt you actually are … For those lucky ones I may offer some valuable instructions on how to finally stop finalizing stuff:

  1. Decide to work in a foreign language (at least NOT your first language) OR a jargon you are in no way familiar with – no matter how good you get and how hard you study, you will always feel inadequate, insecure, and not sure of even the most basic expressions. Always.
  2. Pursue new opportunities. Find some side aspect of your work you never before thought of investigating further, combine your familiar knowledge with new discoveries and realize that you might have missed some very important stuff which could have been really, really important for your study/thesis/paper at some earlier stage, meaning you should rework pretty much everything. This seems overwhelming, so you decide to go for a beer/coffee/tea/vegansoychailattewithextracinnamon to do some brainstorming, after which you decide to just never ever return.
  3. Purchase the book How to disappear completely and live free. It’s from the 1970ies, providing information totally unsatisfactory nowadays, and no matter what you work on, you will forget everything you ever wanted to find out about that thing you work on, instead imagining to live on some Mexican beach, selling homemade tequila. Then purchase the book How to disappear: Erase your digital footprint, leave false trails, and vanish without a trace.
  4. Realize there was a mix-up at Amazon after receiving How to disappear completely: On Modern Anorexia instead. Or maybe you mixed something up. Anyway, after reading it you decide that disappearing might not be that desirable after all and return to your research/work projects.
  5. Edit your paper/talk/thesis as much as seems necessary, but don‘t overdo it. Then give it to some trusted friends and colleagues, ask for their opinions, fear their opinions, and start editing again until either your deadline arrives or you retire.

If you need additional inspiration, go play catch in a parking lot, because you obviously missed the point of never-ever-finishing-anything at all. And yes I know, this apparently does not make any sense.  Welcome to my world!

Setting some priorities…I guess.

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As some may remember, I’m about to give a talk in a wonderful large European city (like, in 6 weeks, but nevertheless, again, let’s just feel stressed out already). Now, some may wonder how to prepare adequately for an occasion like that – at least I do. But obviously I am not the only one, as I got an impressive amount of results when asking auntie google “How to prepare for a talk,” “how to present at a conference,” and “lol best conference fails ever.”

So, I just finished the first draft of my talk 2 days ago and already I’m totally overwhelmed thinking about editing it – once something is done, I’m over it in some way, and I have to force myself to rework it, especially since I’m often too afraid to find too much stuff that needs editing. I prefer my tasks to be explicit and distinct, step by step, and once finished, they magically disappear and something new will materialize out of nowhere (and yes, or course I’m really looking forward to editing about 200 pages of case studies I wrote for my dissertation as first drafts, so it might get easier for me to develop a strong theoretical framework and some logic in my arguments. I finished the last of 6 case studies in January. I have not looked at one of them yet. Not even at the one I finished in January last year.).Because my mind is always on the go and I got the attention span of a 3-year-old, my life has to happen all around this very obtrusive feature of mine. Of course, this is also the perfect condition for working on a long-time project like a dissertation. But that is another topic. Today it’s about the talk, again. At least as far as I can remember.

So now that I accomplished the basic task – even though it is still too long and I already know some wordings are not appropriate, so I have to work on it at least once more before handing it to my proofreading-fairy – I move on to the next big thing for the big-city-event: what to wear for my big day (like, something comfortable and still suitable, which will be challenging to find in a closet that screams “boho skate chick” since 2003), where to go after the conference, which markets to go to, which sights to see, how to find the hotel and how to afford eating in GB. Also, I’m used to travel light, but I never before traveled for work; so this will be a new sort of ‘travel light’ since I need to bring some basic work stuff with me. Guess who is already freaking out about what she actually has to pack (I’m one of those people who bring half of their bookshelves to presentations, just so “you see what I’m talking about”…), fearing she might forget THE most important paper just so she could ‘keep it light.’

And I still don’t have a new passport.

But did you know that with the last update there are now some new cats in Neko Atsume?