Attack Panic

Growing up has more to do with battles fought on the inside than with the passing of time.

There are events that came with what I thought was ‘growing up’.
With birthday parties, graduation ceremonies, a wedding and a first baby, a lot of life has flown by to make me feel properly ‘grown up’.

Smaller events that mark my road add to this feeling. Getting a driving license, opening a savings account (to, y’know, actually SAVE money from that first salary I got so excited about), buying insurance and using a kettle with a lifetime warranty. [<<How did this happen?!]

The list of roles I play(ed) in the greatest show of my life grows.
To my family, a baby girl to middle kid to rebel child to arrogant youth to girlfriend, fiancée, wife and now to someone new, a mother.
To friends, a sporadic friend.
To my employers, a resource.
To the economy, a consumer, a driver, an asset and a drain.

What am I to myself?
Now there, in defining that, is where the growing up happens. It’s in that honest exploration of my innermost Self that I realise I cannot be me without faith.

Stay with me.
Faith is seeing what is real but invisible.
Faith is trusting.
Faith is pushing past fear and doubt.
Faith is courageous acceptance of something greater than what is staring me in the face.

So, you see, faith for me is an essential part in the process of growing up. Faith helps me to see what I am because it attacks the fear that drives me to be someone I’m not. Growing up is learning to be myself without fear.

Attack panic.

{But HOW?!
If you want to tell me how you attack panic or want to know more of how I attack panic, leave me a comment and let’s talk}

Fall Fashion

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My September Issue involved a bit more fall fashion than I hoped for. Shortly after my last post in 2012, I had a nasty fall (an accident) which altered more than just my wardrobe for my favourite season. My right shoulder got dislocated. One arm a hand longer than the other. No big deal right? Ouch but they can just click it back in and you’re good to go. So I thought. After slotting my bones back in place as best he could, my emergency doctor cheers me with the fact that the majority of shoulder dislocations recur and they get less painful after the 10th time or so. Good news for me though, I could be recommended for surgery because my shoulder dislocated in a particularly gruesome manner. Not exactly the comfort I was expecting. Throughout my ‘recovery’ I was the pet shoulder-trauma case study for the local teaching hospital. Glad to be of service to mankind but I wish it could have been in a less painful way.

I had the mandatory fixed sling wrapped around my body which I rocked under my top for 4 weeks. Autumn was the best season for this as I could layer with flowy fabrics and disguise the lack of an arm. Small, everyday things became mountains to climb and I slowly learnt to accept the overwhelming amount of love, care and support I was shown. My students had no complaints about my left-hand writing, my bosses were kind and my friends cheered me up no end. My husband and I grew a lot closer. He washed my hair, dried and styled it. That in itself deserves a medal. He also helped me bathe, get dressed, hardly slept because he kept propping me up so I could sleep in a seated position, opened doors, cut my food up for me, did all the household chores we normally share, put up with my bouts of depressed sobbing, helped me re-focus when I thought of all the short-term ways my life was being affected and encouraged me to go ahead and start my diploma in management like I wanted. This was definitely a big lesson in marriage and love.

Fast-forward through physiotherapy and winter to the time I stopped working full-time to focus on my diploma. Apparently, the risk of me having another painful dislocation was too high as the things holding my bones in place were mere threads now. I ended up having surgery, and going through 4 weeks of a fixed sling again with new opportunities to accept incredible love and support. I learnt a lot of German, met brilliant people, regained strength and movement in my right arm, learnt how to write again, conquered a lot of fears, passed an exam, enjoyed a brilliant summer of getting healthy and now on Day 43 of Insanity, can do a full push-up.

Things wither and nearly die but with seemingly small amounts of faith, hope and love, they can come back to life.

Little by little, things change.

Pictures clockwise from top left: At a concert 3 days after my fall with my sling disguise. My left-hand handwriting. The first long autumn walk that didn’t hurt too much: a blessed birthday. The diploma underway. Hospital food served by wonderful nurses. My lovely hospital room where I received so much help pre- and post-surgery.

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Colour, Me Happy

Colour makes me happy. I normally walk around serious streets that blend into each other with their neutral shades of stone, cement and brick. Whenever a bright colour pops out at me, I can’t help but smile. I become as happy as a child with a box of crayons except I don’t feel the urge to colour everything in my path with waxy abandon. Learning how to colour within the lines was a challenge for a girl who wanted to spread the happiness off the page, onto the floor and and as high up walls as she could reach. Over time, this childish obsession with vibrant, life-affirming colour seeped into my wardrobe, home and of course, my stationery drawer. Every time I take out my set of 10 Staedtler pens in a class, my (adult) students chuckle but they have now learnt that using colour makes anything more fun. And fun, my friends, makes things easy-to-remember.

I remember most things that are in colour but if it is text, a strong font and format are helpful too. If everything was colourful, I reckon I would have a hard time singling things out in my memory but colour makes my experiences more memorable. Sometimes, I forget the important details of the experience and only recall the colour in it. My brother’s famous example is my memory of him wearing green socks one particular day in our childhood special for some other reason. Despite the many re-tellings of the real occasion, I cannot remember what actually happened that day. Colour is just one of the ways that I group things  in my life but it is by far, the most attractive solution for the most complex problems I face. That’s right. Colour solves things.

Call me crazy but I recently started a course called ‘An Introduction to Mathematical Thinking’. As someone who had a blinding mental block to mathematics, I never believed that I could enjoy playing with numbers and funky symbols. Having a math-geek for a husband helps but what makes my re-discovery of mathematics infinitely easier are my colourful ‘problems’. It is so much fun to talk myself through proofs of theorems that affect pretty much nothing in my life when I have my colour pens at the ready. Jotting down every single step in my thought process is no longer tedious. I wish I did this at school. Colour makes things accessible because colour makes me happy.

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Double-take

Surprise free afternoons are great. Crossing things off a to-do list earlier than expected, I can wander free and roam wide, going wherever my feet or my stomach take me. I keep discovering new corners of my adopted city, wondering how another gem had escaped me until then. With no guide book in hand, I stumble on some of Vienna’s treasures completely by chance. I sniff out my adventures in a variety of ways. I sometimes hear some music or spot an interesting shopping bag or catch a whiff of something delicious or simply follow the crowd when I get off a tram somewhere completely new.

One such afternoon, I asked a lady who was getting on my tram where she got the unusual flowers she was carrying and realised that it was just around the corner. I promptly jumped off and made straight for the flower shop. What greeted me round the bend was a market I’d been to before but this time I approached it from another side.  Even though I was slightly disappointed it wasn’t a completely new place, I decided to take a second look. Ambling past stalls with fresh produce, I began to notice things I hadn’t the last time I was there. Not only did I find the unusual flower shop, I also observed the demographic around me start to change.

As I tried to find a non-creepy place to watch the life around me, I stumbled into Himmelblau and almost forgot my mission. I got distracted by all the gorgeous Indian-looking prints in the shop and gently picked up and replaced quite a few things before I realised there was a matching cafe through a secret doorway hiding in plain sight. How had I missed this little gem before? Unashamedly feminine and playful in its decor, this cafe was perfect for me sans husband. Munching on yummy salad and sipping fresh carrot juice, I looked out onto the street to witness the slices of society at the market that day.

Friday afternoons are seemingly when the yummy mummies with fashionable buggies meet working friends who aren’t accompanied by little people. Eventually, the partners of the largely female populace start to appear and many greeting kisses are exchanged. The waiters of the cafés scurry around to add chairs to growing tables and start taking several new orders while picking up cutlery that children fling in all directions. Retirees meet young professionals one can only assume are their children who they are clearly proud of. A book club convenes and serious chatter is punctuated with laughter. Many exclamations are made and there is a general air of relaxed friendship and familiarity. This afternoon changed my perception of a notoriously snobbish district of Vienna. I saw something different. I am happy I chose to take a second look.

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Reading in Public

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Does anyone know why we go to cafés to read? Reading is arguably a private affair; one that requires concentration and a fair amount of time. Unless you have a soap-box from which to megaphone your manifesto, reading in public is generally a quiet pastime and some might even say, an anti-social one. In Vienna, a city dedicated to the art of whiling away hours of your life drinking beverages, reading in public is no new trend. In Alt Wiener-style establishments, regulars are brought their coffee and their favourite newspaper bound between two wooden splints. Public private reading is not just accepted in these ornate coffee-houses, it is encouraged. Have a cuppa, sit a while and read in peace.

In many modern cafés you will find that newspapers have been replaced by magazines and tabloids. The truly on-trend café however, not only upgrades you from smut to classic literature but offers you the option of buying the reading material you see. Café Phil is one such trendy hipster locale. You are invited into their exposed concrete space to sit as long as you like, drink ‘homemade’ beverages (100% fairtrade, of course) and gaze at their rows of contemporary and classic tomes every time you look up from your Macbook. You can buy some of the motley artistically random collection of furniture and furnishings just in case you felt the need to reconstruct a perfect reading area. What you can’t recreate at home is the quiet hum of conversation of other ‘organic’ people and background music that isn’t distracting because you don’t know the artists.

This schizophrenic place jumps from café to bar to counselling centre to bookshop to restaurant to chair village to retro-ville in a matter of seconds. I love sipping my way through a good book but I’m not sure I could in such a self-conscious manner. Reading to me, is absorbing another’s words, engrossing yourself in a written world to make you completely unaware of your surroundings. When I entered this carefully curated area I felt an instant urge to resist the indie being stamped on me but I soon found myself thumbing through books that looked cool enough to read in public and even ended up researching retro-bikes on my way home. Reading in public can do that to you.

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