Diary week c/ 15 November 2015

This post was written 3 years ago.
Mon, 16 Nov 2015
I still have not quite learned to jot down my thoughts in a notebook when they come. I have these whole narratives in my head sometimes, I decide to hang on to them and write them down later, but by the time I get to do that they are gone, of course. This one thing I remember though. I've been thinking to devide my entries into two halves. One dealing with what is going on around me - politics (global, national, local), communities, social life. The other one: things that go on in my head. As I can never become a fully factual (let alone, technical) writer, I might just as well embrace my focus on emotions, psychology, philosophy. The desperate attempt to lead a 'good' life in the double sense: To serve others and bring out the best in them as far as one can do that from the outside. And to live well, and this explicitly means experiencing both pleasurable as well as painful emotions - sometimes very painful ones. The whole range, but with a commitment to oneself, acceptance and compassion. I want to write more about that below. But as I decided to start with external events, I will begin with what has been on the news for days, the attacks in Paris.

Darkness and light

I never read up very much about the details. By now I have heard: One attack happened outside the football stadium, the suicide bombers did not manage to get inside, the bloodshed would have been much worse, had they managed. There was a friendly going on between France and Germany. The players heard the explosions outside, but kept focusing on the game. It turned out two of the French players would be affected. One lost a cousin, another one did not know for a while what had happened to his sister, in the end it turned out she managed to escape unscathed. The German team decided to stay in the stadion overnight and the French players out of solidarity stayed with them. I first heard this from my mum, and then again on the radio. It makes you feel so European. The French, our neighbours, not much different from us at all. Standing together, shoulder to shoulder. Even the English anti-French sentiment (as a German you sometimes hear "the ones that we really hate.."; are the French told the same thing I wonder?) will be nullified for now I reckon, when the French and English team play against each other in Wembley tomorrow.

But we need not only think of ourselves as Europeans but citizens of the world. What happened in France happens in other countries on a (almost?) daily basis. Some have pointed out - and I think it's a valid point - that Beirut a few days earlier, after a relatively stable period, saw similar attacks, and no sights around the world were illuminated in the colours of Lebanon. Nobody would expect that, but I can see how the outpouring of grief over French victims can leave a Lebanese person with the question: are our dead less worthy to be mourned? Are we worth less? Which might be exactly at the core of the problem, one of the reasons, why some people become radicalised.

Also, all this does not come out of the blue. We have for years lived very well, in part due to our weapons exports (at least Germany is pretty good at that, as the super exporting nation), benefitting from other countries being at war with each other, or engaged in civil war. We do not want to see our shadow sides anymore, the target is to be productive, and if we have too many negative feelings, we frantically look for a way out, we want to get rid of them, we numb them or medicate them away. I am generalising of course, but I do think there is a tendency to do that. The shadow sides exist elsewhere, in other countries, we project it all out there. We can give those people weapons, they are not us. Or we even fight a war against them, because they are evil and we are the shining light. We are the countries where the enlightenment happened, brighter, more cultural and civilised. Really?

I wish there could be a worldwide commitment to do away with weapons, and to become more aware. To not act on first emotions, not reason by emotion ("because I feel so intensely that things are this way, it must be true"), instead become aware of emotions, go through them and eventually let them go by. This is more difficult of course then just to continue hating somebody, for example. But I feel if we don't collectively learn to do that, all our weaponry will just get deadlier and deadlier and we might in the end very well just destroy ourselves. Our shadow, the monster we've helped to create, is coming back to haunt us already. How to deal with that monster, who knows what the best strategy is. In any case, we can't pretend it has nothing to do with us.

Sugar-coated pills

Somewhat related to the above, but more to the beginning of the post, some random thoughts on psychopharmaca I recently had:

I have often thought that too many people are prescribed antidepressants as a chronic treatment. I used to be a total believer in "you have to take them for at least half a year". Until somebody I know came off them much quicker.

It is a difficult path to walk. If medication can help somebody feel better, be more in charge, more functional and productive, should one deny that medication to them? Maybe not. Perhaps it is more important what choice that person themselves make. Because with milder forms of depression, I believe that it is a perfectly good choice to not take anything against it. And people should not be punished if they make that choice. If they are less successful, less productive, more tearful for a while, would that be so bad? The thing is, a state of relative unhappiness might be telling you something. If you elevate your mood artificially and become really productive, you might be missing a message.

I have not had a major depression for 18 years now. What I do have though is an often 'dysthymic' disposition. Low moods, low confidence, many tears. I feel ocasionally de-pressed, you could perhaps even call it depressive; but this depressive means 'like in a depression' and not actually in a depression. I also find myself tense and stressed quite frequently, and sometimes my body seems to turn into a Cortisol factory. I can feel it. If you believe this book, if I took Prozac or any other SSRI, there's a good chance I'd become much more stable and confident. I could very likely achieve more, be more productive. But I'd not choose to do that.

I wanted to write more about this, but it is simply getting to late now! Good-bye and good night.


Diary week c/ 02 November 2015

This post was written 3 years ago.
Sat, 07 Nov 2015
A lot going on at the moment. One good thing: After an absolute low-point in the middle of the week, my outlook is a lot more positive now. I have also decided to not be as self-indulgent to mention any potential newly-arrising crises too much anymore, unless I see in them a pattern that might apply to people in general. There's simply no point otherwise. No lamenting!


  • After having convinced myself I should 'resign' from running CodeHub before the end of the year, I think now I want to give it a go a bit longer. I'd like to take the bull by the horns and deal with what I find most difficult. Asking people for help by sponsoring us with a venue and/or food. Or we really go to a fuction room in a pub again. People used to do that all the time.
  • Run a marathon end of May next year
  • Revamp my little advent calendar

Not that much for now, will have to revisit that. I am just so tired!

The thwarted contribution

I mainly put this here, because I had this heading in the draft.. Talking of generally applicable patterns, this is something I was reminded of recently. I had seen it mentioned in Barbara Oakley's book. One of the most hurtful things in life is when you actually want to contribute something, but your contribution is not accepted, is not deemed worthy. OR you set youself some strange barriers, prohibitions, or keep self-sabotaging yourself into not achieving anything of worth to others. The latter often follows the first, I reckon.

Tags: weekly_diary /

Diary week c/ 26 October 2015

This post was written 3 years ago.
Mon, 26 Oct 2015

This is going to be very short this time. Unfortunately, I am also not in the best mood at the moment. I feel failure is imminent. A failure to keep up the good faith in something and thereby make it work.

Although while I am writing this, perhaps, just perhaps, some strength is returning.

And still, there is a continuous undercurrent. Something sapping at my confidence day by day. When I met my husband, that was a time, one of just a few periods in my life, when I actually was confident. Compared to that, what is going on now? Rather, has been going on for years, on and off? Wtf? Wtf? Arggghhhhhhh.

There is something quite liberating about writing like that. Because it is a taboo right? I am writing personal things on my personal blog, and I am admitting that I struggle. In particular, I struggle with my confidence. The thing is, I'd so so much hoped I'd be over this, because I am really fed up with even thinking about this, and then talking to other people about it and so on, and so on.

But what if this is actually not even my problem? What if this is every other woman's problem, and what if it is every other man's problem, too? What if we live in a fucking bonkers time where every half-ways sane person, who happens to be a bit sensitive (I've come to adore those less sensitive, those who can be a rock to others), is struggling to cope? The thing is, I am not that important of course, and I know it. And what is my struggle compared to that of a refugee woman stranded in Lesbos in the wind and rain, with no food and no clothes and shoes for her children? What on earth is going on? And this is happening with the world looking on. There was an article in the HuffPost, all I could think is, is this really true? Can this really be? This is happening? And then beheadings are happening, too, in other parts of the world. What kind of world is this? - Then I read somebody saying the West is paralysed in its guilt. Tony Blair apologised. This must be one of the most pointless apologies ever to have been.

So with all this going on, it would be great if people managed to "pull together" and somehow turn this ship on the brink of chaos around. There are of course many good people helping with the refugees all over Europe, also many good people in Germany. Unfortunately, there are a lot of pretty awful people in Germany, too, and then there are people who become frightened, just because their certanties are being taken away, and they start looking for culprits and are all too willing to direct their hatred against people unfamiliar to them. This is so sad.

And in any case, it is just hard to find a rational, totally adequate reponse to the drama unfolding that everybody can just take part in. So much misinformation, and so many unknowns.

And really, what about the underlying causes. How could the Middle East have become this utter mess it is now. Even as a not very political person, I must come to the conclusion that yes, the West is to blame at least partly. If our political elites create such a mess, how on earth can we ever hope they will get people out of it?

Book Corner - Erica Jong!

Tonight I went to an event to see a woman who could actually act as quite an antidote to my or anybody else's despair. It is always a bit risky to meet your heroes, but I can say in this case my admiration is fully intact, if it has not even grown. What is so special about her? Foremost perhaps the honesty. But then of course, her wit and her convictions. And I really liked what she had to say about feminism as a movement that started in the 18th century and is not just about the liberation of women but is connected with the liberation of any minority group, and also the liberation of men (she said that a little differently I think). Also the very poignant observation that the most repressed group in the population is - children.

It is getting late now, so I will stop. As a closing line, perhaps I will just keep thinking of fearful but courageous Erica Jong whenever I feel down. Also because, among the many things that I always find lacking in myself, courage is something I have occasionally had, so I can relate to that as my role model.


Diary week c/ 12 October 2015

This post was written 3 years ago.
Mon, 12 Oct 2015
Instead of concluding the past week with my entry, I am starting the following. Just like I have a habit of arriving everywhere exactly five minutes late (if I can afford it).

Newish job

So it's Monday, and I have been working at Wiredmedia. Starting a job there a month ago has been an entirely positive thing. It was on the cards, I had really wanted to work in a team again. And it makes a huge difference, even more than I would have thought. It's great because the job is something I can do and I enjoy, and at the moment I am mainly getting faster and more efficient. This does not happen much when I work on my own, as I keep doing so many different things that there is not much of a routine being established ever.

A weird conflict

Conflicts in a family where people essentially love each other, strike me as being really weird. What better way to highlight the human condition. We just cannot totally understand one another. In fact, the question is, how far can we ever progress on the path to understanding what another person thinks and feels. I just realised that the thing one can most easily empathise with is probably physical pain, even though we cannot even be sure there, if another person feels it the same way as us. Thoughts and complex emotions? Hmm. Not much of a chance I think!

So, I have this thing going on in my family of origin, a discussion about politics/current affairs that's gone totally acerbic (and I know I have some part in it; but I wonder if I am as guilty as some people make it out to me - at least judging from the attacks that are being launched at me; I am used to these attacks too by now, actually, although I will never get used to them; a person who can't face criticism has no other way of reacting to even the slightest sign of - perceived - criticsm than by lashing out against the 'opponent', it seems)

Taming my horses

I had recently started to fall back into a really bad habit. That of staying up till really late at night. I love it soo much! It's funny, it has more appeal to me than any kind of drug could have. Maybe my brain creates a sort of drug. The stillness; being undisturbed, just drifting along, reading a good book perhaps, or following some links to blog posts. Or coding. Although I don't do the latter as much anymore. I did start some online courses, which is quite a nice way of doing something relating to code, without too much danger of going down the rabbit holes of a project.

By taming my horses I mean that I always want to do too many things at one, and I keep starting new things before having finished the old ones. Sometimes that feels like I am being pulled into a lot of different directions, when I could make much more progress if I aligned my forces to all go in one direction. Still, I find now, if you just accept that you won't finish a lot of things (or won't finish them anytime soon), instead of beating yourself up about it, it can actually be quite an agreeable state to be in. I am never bored, that's for sure. It just shouldn't be too many things, and there should be a continued effort with some.

So, I want to keep a record of some things that I actually want to follow through with. Things where I find it's important not to abandon them. Currently, that's:
  • Writing this blog (ha!)
  • Updating websites relating to CodeHub and applying for sponsoring for the JS workshop
  • Learning JavaScript, on my own, and with the JS101 study group

  • There's probably a lot of other things that I have forgotten about, but will hopefully dig out by and by

Book Corner

I just started reading a very gripping book by Barbara Oakley, whom I actually first came across because she co-hosted an online course on Learning how to learn. The book Coldblooded kindness is about the true story of a woman whith quite an unusual mind, extreme artistic talent and an urge to 'fix' people or at least look as if she was doing so. She killed her third husband with a handgun while he was drugged. There is some scientific background about empathy that I find really interesting. Also 'victimisation' and the 'sancticity of the victim' really interesting concepts. - Food for thought for me who used to see myself as a victim a lot, although I have thankfully almost entirely stopped that now. The book also highlights for me how relatively common gun delicts are in the USA, as there is another gun crime mentioned in the book which happened to a group of people connected with the protagonist.

Tags: weekly_diary / books /

A weekly diary for the rest of the year

This post was written 3 years ago.
Sat, 03 Oct 2015
So, this is a simple challenge. Except, I don't know if it will be simple for me. It could be, or it could be not. The chances are 50/50. Writing is very important to me. But there was a time when it was the scariest thing for me. Writing something that would (perhaps) be read by others. That old fear occasionally resurfaces, and my control over it is limited. Then part of the challenge is maybe to learn to live with that discomfort. In any case, one post per week. That's the deal.

At the moment change is the only constant, and I thought it might be good to keep a record of some of what is going on. This stretches from the world of politics and economy, both on a global and national level, to the local communities that I am part of, my personal life and myself. (The change might not be massive in all cases though, and have more to do with my perception of things)

I'll start with an — incomplete — collection of things that are on my mind these days. Things that I observe with some interest, that cause me headaches or heartaches, or just sit there clamouring for attention and a solution of some kind. I start shifting pieces and numbers around in my mind, and it feels like a real-life three-dimensional Sudoku. What chances are there of ever solving anything? Perhaps the art is to restrict the solution-finding to very little things, and otherwise just try to live a half-decent live, without being on some kind of I-need-to-save-the-world mission. Observing things is a start, paying attention, and asking questions perhaps.

(Money) politics

There are a few recent events that I found striking in that a while ago I would not have thought them possible. Especially these two:
  • The Greeks voting "No" to the conditions imposed on them by the Eurogroup
  • The election of Jeremy Corbyn as the Labour leader with a majority of 60%; somebody who has principles and speaks their mind
In addition to that, it seems to me that there is a turning. Something gathering momentum. More and more people getting fed up with austerity politics and refusing to be sold that to them anymore as "we are all in this together". Honestly, who on earth would ever believe that? I am fully aware that there are still big enough numbers of well-off people who want to cling to the Status quo, so that we will not see the end of the Tories soon. And yet, my hope is that they will be gradually held in check more. Yes, Corbyn will probably not be elected Prime minister, but I think he will be fully capable of providing a strong opposition.

When the Greeks said No, I started following the reporting of Paul Mason, and eventually read his book "Postcapitalism". It made a big impression on me, and I hope to post a review of it at some point. There is something so sane and truthful about it. It is also a book that conviction and a deep interest in the matter has gone into. I am quite sure it is not a book written for the sake of making money, and it is not following some kind of blueprint.

The idea of an unconditional basic income has been floated for a while now, and in Germany the owner of a ubiquitous drugstore chain is passionately pushing it which I hope will help it gain traction — I also just realised that Switzerland will even hold a referendum on it in 2016!. I think when it comes, it will not make things easier for most people. Status anxiety will remain, and the freedom to choose might even add pressure. But it would end poverty and that is absolutely a good enough reason to introduce it.

By coincidence yesterday we watched television, which we do extremely rarely, and there happened to be Brian Eno on, giving a John Peele lecture. I did not even know these lectures existed, and I would not have thought of Brian Eno as somebody who gives lectures. Interestingly, part of it was exactly about the subject of postcapitalism and he did even mention Paul Mason's book. Before that he said something about Art which I found quite beautiful: Art is the "things that we don't have to do". And we will all produce more art, professionally or otherwise, as automation progresses. I also liked how he said that after art college he "went on the dole, because I was desperate to not get a job, because I feared I would not get out of the job anymore" The one thing I felt a bit uncomfortable with was when he said that refugees "wanted a share" of our wealth. The very last sentence of the programme, in a response to a question, was something similar again. Of course a lot of people want to come to Europe for economic reasons, but those would not be called refugees?

The growing power of women

This is somewhat connected to the first point, as I think women will play a big role in political and social change. There is so much untapped potential at the moment. For me, the way in which women have been silenced, and out of convention or habit often remain silent themselves, is one of the biggest challenges in that respect. That silence is something that does not only apply to women, of course, but to any oppressed group. It is unfortunate, because it often means that an intelligent, knowledgeable and well-meaning part of a group does not exert their power, ceding the playing field to the bullies. But once we recognize that the only reason the bullies have power is because of the silence of a big fraction, if we manage to empower that fraction of the group, all is not lost.

For me true feminism is so valuable because I had to come round to it, I had to be converted to it, I did not really know for a long time what it was. I have for so long looked to men to "rescue" me, to teach me, to make me feel good. And somehow not seen just how many brilliant, kind, fantastic women are out there. I still like men, there are as many good men as there are women. But their outlook is different on the whole (by the culture they have been brought up with, they are much more competitive and more status-oriented), and the women — as a group, of course there are exceptions, women can be power-hungry too — can bring something else to the table, something that is much needed. I just heard an interview with Erica Jong, in which she said that native Americans had a "council of grandmothers" who decided whether to go into a fight. While it was the men who did the fighting, it was the grandmothers who decided. They knew what was at stake, the value of life, because they had given birth (those were not her exact words, but it was something along those lines).

Becoming more effective

Then there is my personal progress. I will devote some space to that too. Being a woman and considering the above, I wonder in how far I can have a voice, whether my voice is of value and so on. The thing is, if you can call this blooming at all, I am a late-bloomer of the highest order. I feel I have missed some boats, career-wise and skills-wise, in the sense that I won't become as good at something anymore as my talents would have allowed me to become, had I started earlier (and been less bogged down in self-doubt!). But in some cases, I don't know if that is just a feeling or actually the truth. And then, the truth is such an abstract thing anyway. Better to cultivate a "growth mindset" and just work on the things you like. Whether they live up to some impossibly high standard, is that really an important question? I don't think so. I have a lot more choice than I think. And I want to see if I can utilize my voice in a good way.

There is much more of course, but I will have to leave it to another time!