Tag Archives: Berlin

135Journals Blog Health Corner: What It Feels Like When You Feel Like Crap

11 Jun
Welcome to my Microbiome (altered art journal pages by Alexandra Hanson-Harding )

Welcome to my Microbiome (altered art journal pages by Alexandra Hanson-Harding )

Did you ever wonder what it was like to feel like crap? Probably not. If you’re like most people, i.e., everyone, you’ve probably felt like crap. And if you aren’t feeling like crap, you probably don’t want to remember it. But have I not seen eight million motivational infographics on the importance of living in the moment? Well, friends, if one if going to live in the moment, one is not always going to be doing meditation by the ocean and feeling full of vibrant life energy. Sometimes the moment is being in a sucky meeting where some halfwit is publicly berating you for a typo on a meaningless report. Sometimes the moment is yes, that is YOUR screaming brat on the overstuffed airplane. Sometimes the moment is when you’re desperately searching around on the laptop for an amusing viral video to watch with one hand while you’re holding your syringe filled with methotrexate in the other, getting the nerve up to jam it into your leg. Sometimes the moment is that moment when you actually do jam it into your leg and it actually hurts and you say “OW!” and think DAMN it, and feel mad at yourself because why are you being such a goddamned wimp. It shouldn’t hurt that much. It only hurts that much if I hurt in too many other ways. Right now, some of the vertebrae in my neck are sore and swollen, and my feet hurt, and my tongue is sore, strangely enough, and I’m very tired, and when that many things confuse my senses, I have less resilience against small irritations like a tiny needle.

Today I am feeling like crap because I had two main things I wanted to do: go to a new acupuncturist and go to visit a friend who is very charming and smart and who has terminal cancer. That, and of course, having an inflammatory autoimmune disease. But I digress. This morning I woke up at 4:00 a.m. feeling very sick to my stomach. After 8:30, I fell asleep for an hour in my kitchen reading nook, but had were strange, disturbed dreams. I also had a sore throat and shivers, as I often do these days. And I was still sick to my stomach. I have been lying in my nook looking at the windows that I have decorated with hundreds of strands of woven yarn (compulsive art project), looking at the green trees beyond, and up at the hemlock tree that I can see through the skylight. I see a brass bell I bought at a castle in Germany. I see a vase full of small glass beads that I want to string, and a glass of water that looks too tiring to drink. I see the phone. I want to call my friend but it  feels too tiring to talk to anyone. I would only whine anyway. It took me hours to tell the acupuncturist I couldn’t come. He was nice. He said, “Try drinking coke. If you still feel sick later, you could try chewing Juicy Fruit gum and swallowing it. It’s very binding.” I laughed. “That’s the best Alternative Medical advice I ever heard,” I said. “I’m definitely trying that.” Said it sounded better than a kale smoothie. “You DEFINITELY do not need a kale smoothie right now.”

I feel guilty for not seeing the acupuncturist and my friend. But I don’t want to spread my germs. And I can’t imagine summoning the energy to get into a car and driving it. I’m sweating and shivering. My stomach is a knot of pain. My eyes are half-closed and gravity feels as if it’s crushing me onto the cushion. My neck is throbbing. All around me, grown-ups are doing useful things. I’m just living in the moment. The crappy, but real, moment.

Writing Prompt: Do you ever have times when you feel like crap? Go ahead. WHINE.

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July is Journaling month #16: Eavesdropping

26 Jul

Image

Currywurst–resist at your peril. (Wikimedia commons)

 

Do you ever find yourself sitting next to some very loud person or group of people at a restaurant or café? The kind of people who are so interested in what they have to say that they are oblivious to those around them, and speak in a tone that invites the whole restaurant to listen, since nobody else could have a conversation without shouting? My friends, do not waste these precious moments. I myself had the opportunity to learn everything I ever needed to know about European travel last night while enjoying my Fresco single serve pizza at an outdoor café last night. Thank goodness I had my journal to capture the voice of one very confident and assertive lady and her three companions who occasionally got a word in edgewise.

 

Lady 1: There is such a sense of Catalonian pride. They want to secede. They brought in sand for beaches. You go for tapas, the fish is swimming until ONE minute before you eat it. And there’s all this Jewish history there and this place Girona. We went to the beach. I was in my bathing suit, I felt like I was in my birka. Everybody’s topless! They’re experts at changing in their towels.

 

Man 1: The woman could be 18 to 70. It’s just what they do! Lots of gorgeous people around. AND, they ride bicycles. They’re fit.

Lady 1: Oh. My. God. BERLIN. The sidewalks were so wide, there were bike lanes. Bikers everywhere.

Man 2: Amsterdam, that’s the ultimate bike city.

 

Lady 1: And Berlin had amazing museums. They had this museum alley.

 

Man 2: I had these friends who were artists, and they went to Barcelona to see the Dali Museum, and it was Monday and it was CLOSED.”

Lady 1: That Gaudi architecture was Ay-May-Zing. Oh, and the food . .”

 

Man 1: That Inquisition thing got to a lot of people.”

 

Lady 1: And Franco. He wouldn’t let them speak Catalonian. And they couldn’t meet in groups over three people. And he let Hitler practice bombing on them.

 

Man 2: That Hitler. He practiced a lot.

Lady1: Anyway, we get on the plane and we’re like SARDINES. Luckily, we both had aisle seats. My legs are longer than his, but HE doesn’t believe it.

Man 2: We went to Italy a few years ago and nobody told us that Alitalia goes on strike every other day. They had to fly us from Florence to this place where everybody speaks German.

Lady 1: I mean, they took good care of us on the plane. They gave us water. We saw FIVE EPISODES of House of Cards on the plane. Fabulous.

Lady 2: Here’s my question—we totally didn’t get that Robin Wright business. She’s such a nasty, power hungry . . 
Man 2: She didn’t mind when he had that affair with that little Chippie.

Man 1: You know what I loved? When that teenage girl dies from choking on a peach, the way he manipulated the parents. . . Smooooooooothhhh.

Lady 1: Plus, I saw SOOOO many movies.  I saw Quartet, about three men and a woman who .

Lady 2: Is Dustin Hoffman in it?

Man 1: I saw shoot-em-ups. Like Gangsters.

Lady 1. They told us they were giving us $100 back because his TV didn’t work. Hah.

Man 2: There was this guy, pushing against my seat and I . . . “

Lady 1: We switched, I was hoping to sleep, but forget it.

Man 2: Some people put moves on their Ipads.

Lady 2: That one time we were only going to California . . .

Man 1: When my wife travels, she gets very holistic. She wants to see everything.

Lady 1: We’re gong from 9 in the morning until 11 at night. And, I like to go to the nice restaurants, I mean, not Michelin. I didn’t need that. But what I want to do is get NAMES. Like our tour guide, in Berlin, he told us two restaurants that were fabulous. We had Currywurst. It’s like a fat hot dog. They put ketchup on it.”

Lady 2: Gross.

Lady 1: It’s actually delicious.

Man 2: Those Europeans, they all smoke.

Prompt: At a café, restaurant, or party, capture a conversation. Get the rhythm of how people REALLY talk. Do their personalities come through? What do you learn from what they say?

 

 

Do you ever find yourself sitting next to some very loud person or group of people at a restaurant or café? The kind of people who are so interested in what they have to say that they are oblivious to those around them, and speak in a tone that invites the whole restaurant to listen, since nobody else could have a conversation without shouting? My friends, do not waste these precious moments. I myself had the opportunity to learn everything I ever needed to know about European travel last night while enjoying my Fresco single serve pizza at an outdoor café last night. Thank goodness I had my journal to capture the voice of one very confident and assertive lady and her three companions who occasionally got a word in edgewise.

 

Lady 1: There is such a sense of Catalonian pride. They want to secede. They brought in sand for beaches. You go for tapas, the fish is swimming until ONE minute before you eat it. And there’s all this Jewish history there and this place Girona. We went to the beach. I was in my bathing suit, I felt like I was in my birka. Everybody’s topless! They’re experts at changing in their towels.

Man 1: The woman could be 18 to 70. It’s just what they do! Lots of gorgeous people around. AND, they ride bicycles. They’re fit.

Lady 1: Oh. My. God. BERLIN. The sidewalks were so wide, there were bikelanes. Bikers everywhere.

Man 2: Amsterdam, that’s the ultimate bike city.

Lady 1: And Berlin had amazing museums. They had this museum alley.

 

Man 2: I had these friends who were artists, and they went to Barcelona to see the Dali Museum, and it was Monday and it was CLOSED.”
Lady 1: That Gaudi architecture was Ay-May-Zing. Oh, and the food . .”

Man 1: That Inquisition thing got to a lot of people.”

 

Lady 1: And Franco. He wouldn’t let them speak Catalonian. And they couldn’t meet in groups over three people. And he let Hitler practice bombing on them.

Man 2: That Hitler. He practiced a lot.

Lady1: Anyway, we get on the plane and we’re like SARDINES. Luckily, we both had aisle seats. My legs are longer than his, but HE doesn’t believe it.

Man 2: We went to Italy a few years ago and nobody told us that Alitalia goes on strike every other day. They had to fly us from Florence to this place where everybody speaks German.

Lady 1: I mean, they took good care of us on the plane. They gave us water. We saw FIVE EPISODES of House of Cards on the plane. Fabulous.

 

Lady 2: Here’s my question—we totally didn’t get that Robin Wright business. She’s such a nasty, power hungry . .  “
Man 2: She didn’t mind when he had that affair with that little Chippie.

Man 1: You know what I loved? When that teenage girl dies from choking on a peach, the way he manipulated the parents. . . Smooooooooothhhh.

Lady 1: Plus, I saw SOOOO many movies.  I saw Quartet, about three men and a woman who .

Lady 2: Is Dustin Hoffman in it?

Man 1: I saw shoot-em-ups. Like Gangsters.

Lady 1. They told us they were giving us $100 back because his TV didn’t work. Hah.

Man 2: There was this guy, pushing against my seat and I . . . “

 

Lady 1: We switched, I was hoping to sleep, but forget it.

Man 2: Some people put moves on their Ipads.

Lady 2: That one time we were only going to California . . .

Man 1: When my wife travels, she gets very holistic. She wants to see everything.

Lady 1: We’re going from 9 in the morning until 11 at night. And, I like to go to the nice restaurants, I mean, not Michelin. I didn’t need that. But what I want to do is get NAMES. Like our tour guide, in Berlin, he told us two restaurants that were fabulous. We had Currywurst. It’s like a fat hot dog. They put ketchup on it.”

Lady 2: Gross.

Lady 1: It’s actually delicious.

Man 2: Those Europeans, they all smoke.

 

Prompt: At a café, restaurant, or party, capture a conversation. Get the rhythm of how people REALLY talk. Do their personalities come through? What do you learn from what they say?

Is Evil Banal? Part 2

20 Jun

Image

Hitler in 1933. (via Wikimedia commons)

In the movie Hannah Arendt, the 20th century philosopher wrestled with the problem of what to make of the unimpressive Adolf Eichmann, on trial for organizing the exportation of Jews during World War II to concentration camps. But as the movie explored her thoughts, I began thinking, too. I thought about how it is a normal human tendency to want to follow rules , to do meaningful work, and to belong.

Even though Nazism was built on a twisted fairy tale woven by a madman, Germany in the 1930s was a creative but unsettled place. The modernness of art and architecture (such as the Bauhaus movement) was intimidating and strange. Berlin was filled with decadence. Too many people were unemployed. Economic troubles ran deep. Many were bitter about losing the First World War. People needed jobs. They wanted dignity. They wanted to belong. And the Nazis were efficient about providing these normal human needs. Individually, people got jobs scheduling trains or working in munitions factories or making poison gas. But each part of the operation was so fragmented from the other that many people but blinders on and thought only of their small part of the larger picture. They did not ask where the trains were going. They did not ask why the poison gas was made. As Arendt says (in the film) about Eichmann, “He was simply unable to think.” But all of these pieces, the handiwork of all these hardworking laborers, was to create one of the most evil forces the world has ever known.

Another example of this tendency of human beings to just want to do their jobs and follow the law is the behavior of the people of Netherlands during World War II. Perhaps because Anne Frank’s secret Annex is so famous, or because The Netherlands seems like such a hip, open, friendly society, many people are under the impression that the Netherlands was a safe haven for Jews, with noble Dutch farmers hiding Jewish families in their basements and haylofts. Indeed, the Netherlands had been a haven for Jews for centuries. But during the war, 75 percent of the Jews in the Netherlands were taken away and murdered—the highest rate in any Western European country. According to an article, in Holocaust and Genocide Studies,  “The Holocaust in the Netherlands and the Rate of Jewish Survival” by Marnix Croes (http://www.yadvashem.org/yv/en/education/languages/dutch/pdf/article_croes.pdf) “Of the 140,000 people. . . . whom the Nazis considered “full” Jews in 1941, only 27 percent survived the occupation. Yet in Belgium, 60 percent of the approximately 66,000 Jews survived, and in France, 75 percent of the approximately 320,000 Jews escaped death at the hands of the Nazis.”

Not only were they betrayed in great numbers, the Jews were frequently rounded up by Dutch police. As Manfred Gerstenfeld wrote in Wartime and Postwar Dutch Attitudes Toward the Jews: Myth and Truth (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs) (http://www.jcpa.org/jl/vp412.htm) “Since The Netherlands was well-administered and well-documented, it was relatively easy to round up the Jews. Orders were given by the occupiers and executed by the Dutch authorities.”

He adds,” After the flight of the Queen and the government (to England) . . .the Germans could count on the assistance of the greater part of the Dutch administrative infrastructure (to catch Jews). . . .  Dutch policemen rounded up the families. . . Trains of the Dutch railways staffed by Dutch employees transported the Jews to . . . death camps. . . .  Eichmann later said ‘The transports run so smoothly that it is a pleasure to see.’”

Efficiency. Hard work. A job well-done. These are important things. But what Hannah Arendt alludes to is that it is not enough to follow the law. It is not enough to do your job well. It is important to put it into a larger context. You cannot rely on your society alone as a moral compass. You, as an individual, are responsible for your little piece of what your society does.

Writing prompts: Is there some wrong you’d like to right? Do you believe your work is a force for good in the world?

But that’s not all . . . See Part 3 for more