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Berlin Blues

The transition into 2017 has been rougher than I expected. No, that’s not quite right. It’s more that the transition back into Berlin has been rough. The first few days of the year when we were still in Texas were full of so much sunshine and joy. Yes, we were sleep deprived and tensions ran high with three adults, one toddler, one cat, and one dog sharing a studio apartment, but we made it work and “real life” was temporarily on hold. The food was amazing, the weather was gorgeous, and the days were full. Then suddenly we arrived to a cold, wet, snowy, rainy, grey Berlin, and I must have lost my positive disposition and motivation somewhere over the Atlantic. I am completely exhausted, I am worrying about work, I am lacking in motivation, and I am struggling with each day. I watch the hours slip away each day and worry that I’m not doing enough, though when I reflect back on all I’ve accomplish, it’s not like I haven’t done much. Part of it’s the winter, but part of it is also my tendency to hold myself to high expectations. It’s also been really hard for me to come to terms with how my energy levels have changed since having a child. I wish I could say that I’m overflowing with ideas and creativity, but honestly, many days I feel like I’m scraping the bottom of the barrel. I want that to change, and I am working on curating a routine that allows me to do all the things I want to do without stretching me too thin.

One thing that has helped a lot is cooking again. It’s not always easy to do prep work and what not when I’m wrangling a needy toddler in the afternoons, but it does make the time pass more quickly, and it is a good feeling to try out a new recipe and discover that everyone likes it. M. got me two new cookbooks for Christmas: a vegan ice cream one, and a vegan Indian one. I’ve already made three of the Indian recipes and they were all pretty good and perfect for warming up our insides a bit. We’ve also had a couple soups, which I feel like I could eat every day in the winter (funny coming from someone who didn’t like soup until her mid 20s).

It’s no secret that I am a big reader, and so while it will come as no surprise that I am prioritizing words, I am also trying to expand that a bit this year. I have always identified as a writer and I make my living writing and editing, but I also feel like I’ve lost touch of words outside of the professional sphere. I can’t remember the last time I wrote when it didn’t feel partially like an obligation. At the same time, I realize that I will need to force myself to write more frequently in order to elevate it to an important part of my life again. So since we’ve been back I’ve made an effort to change my habits. I’m reading before bed but also on while I eat my breakfast and lunch. I’m writing in my personal journal again even if I feel like I don’t have anything to say. I’m trying to get back to using this blog as a space to write more too — more thoughts and feelings and reflections and not just recaps of my days or months. I want to pitch more and be published more. I want to write more postcards and letters. I want to start writing poetry again. I still feel like things are disorganized and jumbled but I hope that by forcing myself to do these things I will soon not have to any longer.

There’s more to it than just food and words, but those are my entry points into trying to feel like I’m not just going through the motions. What about you? How do you motivate yourself?

  • I hope you do get really back into writing & I wish you luck! Motivation is such a tricky, finicky thing. It’s been ages since I’ve journaled and I’ve been feeling the need to get back into it again too, especially since I keep hearing about ‘bullet journaling’ and am looking into that…
    Personally I try, in a very gentle way to schedule my day as it comes together.. for example if I notice a block of free time coming up, I try to consciously fill it with a hobby – like, from 13:00-14:30 I will be doing ONLY this thing… even though it is (sometimes) hard at the time, I know (and am right about this) that I definitely do feel better having dedicated that time to that thing later on.

    • I think committing a certain time window to doing only one thing is a really good idea. I used to schedule my day as it came together, but now with a very specific kid-free window, it’s not so easy. I think my biggest struggle is I have a really hard time concentrating if housework needs to be done, even if it’s in another room (and let’s face it, there’s always housework). So I get distracted and my mind wanders. I know some people write their “goals” or whatever and have them physically in front of them. I wonder if that will help.

    • Aha, I can see how that would be distracting! What about dedicating only certain days/times (like, blocking out housework time similarly), and that way you won’t feel guilty that you’re spending the time on writing (or other hobby)?

    • I think I will probably just need to leave the house when I really want to get something specific done. It would be nice to have a desk somewhere but right now I can’t really justify that expense, though it’s the goal (that, or a bigger apartment where I have my own home office).

  • listohan

    I’m sorry to hear your motivation needs some assistance. Having heard the new President’s inauguration litany of promises repeated on the radio throughout the morning, it occurred to me that could be a topic you would like to share an Eastern European perspective with your readers.

    On the question of reading, have you come across The Tunnels by Greg Mitchell The dedication of the tunnelling volunteers given the risks and hardships is inspiring. As one who never experienced it, the concept of the wall was bad enough, but to think Germans were persuaded to shoot at fellow Germans in one’s lifetime based on what they were told by their leaders, while not an unknown experience, is frightening.