10.01.2021 | “I’ve Been Lost More Than Found”

Lyrics: “Little Changes” – Frank Turner, 2018

Oh well, the shiny or at least slightly optimistic “it matters where you go” attitude from the beginning of the month evaporated quickly. Has it really been 10 days since that last post? Obviously. A clear sign for up-and-down mood, I guess. Right now I feel like I’m in an annoying cycle of lethargy and procrastination and self-flaggelation for planning to do all kinds of things and than not following through. Projects I start then abandon. I’ve got stacks of new TV shows and books I had started to read. And I still rewatch The West Wing for the umpteenth time and started binging a Regency Romance novel series. The comfort of the familar and easy happy escape entertainment possibly.

I was back at work for three days, two at the office, one at home and there are already so many things I feel a bit overwhelmed by. Probably unecessarily so, but once I’ve fallen in the dark “ugh, that’s too complicated, too scary, too much at the moment’ well of despair, it feels so difficult to climb out even though it’s not really. I know I just need to push myself a bit more and still I lack the drive to do it. Not easy to explain.

I started a Yoga practice and abandoned that after three days, because for someone like me, who never did Yoga before it felt to difficult to keep up and even though I looked into an easier one from the My Peak Challenge program, I still didn’t do that so far either. Selfcare is hard if you’re in a bit of a dark space, let me tell you. At least I’m on a 4 week mediation streak with the Calm App and I usually try to get enough sleep these past few days. That’s a bit of selfcare after all, right?

My guitar practice is stalling a bit at the moment. I try to pick up the guitar every other day, but unfortunately it seems that by starting on a 3rd chord I unlearned bits from what I could do so far. The nagging inner critic likes to whisper “I told you so, you’re no good, just give up”, but luckily I could ignore that voice for a while now. And even though some of what I do with (or to) my guitar seems like steps backwards, others still feel like progress, so I’m determined to stick with it for a while longer. Little changes and all that jazz.

Today I met some friends (one family, so all within the rules) for a walk in their city centre. We haven’t seen each other for ages and even though I felt slightly guilty for meeting with someone not in my direct neighbourhood, I’m glad that I did. We wore masks most of the time (inner city rule) and stayed distanced as good as we could and it was outdoors. Fresh air, the sun, lovely chats with good friends and their girls. I needed that.

I need to get out into the fresh air (and hopefully sun) more often as well. Simple as that.

Dom, Münster

01.01.2021 | “It Doesn’t Matter Where You Come From, It Matters Where You Go…”

Lyrics: “Peggy Sang The Blues” – Frank Turner, 2011

So, that first sort of, but not really psych evaluation from the MindDoc app came in. Stating I’m not in the best mental health and I might want to talk to my GP or a therapist. Go figure. Mmmh! I’m a bit underwhelmed to be honest, because even though the evaluation gives a recap of how positive / negative I’ve answered the various questions in different aspects of my life, it’s still a bit vague. Talk to my GP about what exactly? I had hoped to get a clearer grasp or at least put words to this vague underlying worrying and feeling of inadequacy and all that. I guess I’ll just have to continue to monitor my emotions and reactions and read some more and maybe I’ll get a clearer picture of my state of mind so I might be able to properly talk about it to someone, if ever necessary.

Though previous experience (not my own, but someone I know) showed me how difficult it is to get mental health help here in Germany, even with acute mental health issues. Which mine are not. It’s just this recurring feeling of… ugh. I don’t know. Hence the disappointment about the vague evaluation. So far. Anyway. I feel at least that I’m doing something about it and that’s more than I can say for the past few years when those feelings came up or always have been there anyway.

Let’s get more upbeat at the start of the year and remember the fun moments and good and lovely things that happened in 2020 amidst all the pandemic shit. The mere fact that my family and friends and all the people I know well are still doing fine. Healthy and all. No one I know closely has caught COVID yet, and the only two people I know through works or politics who had it, recovered alright. All in all that’s something I’m incredibly grateful for.

(Live) Music

Not as much real life Frank Turner gigs I had planned or hope for. I’m glad I caught him and the Sleeping Souls supporting the Dropkick Murphys twice at the end of January, early February 2020. With a heavy heart and a few tears I had to cancel my trip to see Frank and Jess on a solo tour in March on short notice. Up until two nights before I was supposed to board the train I was still determined to go. It was supposed to be my show #55. I had sent him a song request already for crying out loud. Then reality set in and I cancelled it. Kind soul that Frank is, he put my friend Emily on the guest list for that show in Aylesbury, as I had bought our tickets (pick up at the venue) and that couldn’t be re-organized on short notice. Weird how memories of a trip I didn’t even go on, still pop up every once in a while.

Frank Turner, Live in February 2020
Frank Turner, Dortmund, February 2020

In the late summer we had a brief window where distanced outdoor gigs were happening and I caught Tim Vantol twice. And it felt so good to sing along in a crowd again. I missed that .

Tim Vantol, Essen, July 2020

Then of course there were the live streams. THANK GOD for live streams. I admit I basically only watched my two favourite artists though – Frank Turner and Felix Hagan – because Frank’s music means so much to me and because Felix covering everything under the sun each Friday night was so much fun to watch. And the regular people on the Facebook chat were are such a delight to hang out with every Friday evening.

Felix Friday - Felix Hagan singing
Felix Friday – my favourite evening of the week

Felix also did a “Any Song You Like Cover” for me. In Swedish. Which was weird and fun and involved some introspection and emotional growth (?) on my part, but that’s all I’m saying about it.

But I can’t wait to see live music on a stage again and I’m vaguely optimistic that it might happen in the 2nd half of 2021. Right now I contemplate buying a Biffy Clyro ticket for October. Indoors. I’ve already got a ticket to see Frank Turner at NOFX Punk in Drublic at an outdoor event in early June. Hoping this will take place after all. We’ll see.

Trips (to the sea)

I went to London in early January to see the amazing musical Operation Mincemeat once twice more and to meet up with friends and to take a few photos of the illuminated river. Good times.

Illuminated River, London January 2020
Illuminated River, London January 2020

I also went to the sea quite a bit, even though it’s always a at least 2 hour drive. First time – shortly before the first shutdown I spent a weekend at the Dutch coast and when things started opening up a bit over here I went up north to the German coast on a daytrip twice. In September – before things got bad again – I had booked a week on a dutch island and it was marvellous. I love the sea. It grounds me and calms me and I can’t wait to got back at some point this year. I hope to be able to get back on British soil as well. I still have Eurostar vouchers I need to use. Let’s see how Post-Brexit will work out for that.

Beach Ameland
Beach on Ameland, Netherlands September 2020
Sunset on Ameland, Netherlands September 2020
Sunset on Ameland, Netherlands September 2020

I also went out for a few hikes / walks / day trips on my own or with a good friend around here as well. Not as much as I should have done probably, working out and keeping active wise. But I did go out there.

At Ippenburg Gardens, Summer 2020

Learning to Play Guitar

I feel like I didn’t properly mention that on the blog so far. 24 years after my first unsuccessful attempt to teach myself how to play the guitar, I had a moment in early November where I thought: Why not try again? And yes, this – once again – has a tiny bit to do with Frank Turner as well. In the sense that I caught myself thinking “I wish I knew how to play the guitar / hadn’t given up on it back then to understand more of what he’s talking about when he does song tutorials”. Followed by that “What not give it another try?” thought.

Being too lethargic in December set my practice back a bit unfortunately, but I’m determined to keep that up after all. I don’t know if I’ll ever be any good, but I think I notice slight progress so far. Bit by tiny bit. And it’s fun and it feels like I’m doing something useful with my time.

LEGO

Another activity to keep me occupied and away from Netflix and to keep my mind from ruminating over stupid stuff: Building LEGO sets. I started with a small London skyline to see if I like the activity as such. What can I say… this is my London LEGO. There also is a small Paris skyline, an old camper van, and the statue of liberty.

This might be something I will keep doing, even when (not if) our lives go back to normal or the new kind of normal. Whenever that will be. It will get better. I want to believe that. And I do. Happy New Year, everyone!

30.12.2020 | “Better Times Are Coming, Better Times Ahead…”

Lyrics “Peggy Sang The Blues”, Frank Turner 2011

So much for the plan to write more regular blog posts during the Christmas break. Oh well. After the first two days I realized there isn’t really much worth telling and a recap of my lazy, dawdling days would be boring. So I didn’t post anything here. I rambled on Twitter occassionally. I considered doing a regular Year 2020 recap kind of post, but I’m not sure I want to memorize the crappy crappy year here. We’ve all lived through it, no need to rehash it. Maybe I’ll try to come up with a few good things to remember tomorrow.

Another reason why I didn’t feel like posting much was Lockdown Project #01, which I titled “Be More Present and Focused” last week and which probably would have better named something like “Be More Kind To Yourself and Be More Mindful”. I tried to pay more attention to my emotions and negative thoughts, which seem to be more “all over the place” this year than they used to. I guess part might be due to the overall pandemic – induced anxiousness and uncertainty. Anyway, I tried to be more aware of that and to explore why I think and feel and react the way I do. A lot of introspection not (yet) ready to share with the world. Still a lot of procrastination as well. Which is part of the problem. Or rather a sign for something else? I’m still ‘investigating’.

A few days before I ‘went silent’, I saw an ‘ad’ in my Instagram feed where the FU Berlin was looking for test persons for a study on a mental health online app MindDoc. [Information in German] It seemed legit and I thought why not? It can’t hurt. The answers in my questionare obviously qualified me – as in I have at least some issues which the app might help me with – to get me into the study group which gave me 6 months of free of charge use of all features. The main feature is a 3 times a day mood tracker and also to answer a few questions about my mental and emotional state that day or in that moment. Based on all that the app will then give me an automatic “evaluation” every 14 days. It’s not a real psych evaluation or anything, it’s done by algorithms (I assume), but the questions and prompts to think about so far have been helpful and insighful. And very spot on as well, so the evaluation will have some value. And even though I’m pretty sure what some of my issues will be (lack of self-confidence, too harsh inner critic…), I’m a bit anxious about that first evaluation tomorrow or the day after. Which is stupid, I know. It will be helpful, but I guess it’s one thing to think you know about your mental health issues and another to see them spelled out in black and white on a screen. But I had a few of those moments with the “Mmmh, it seems you’re feeling X or Y at the moment” prompts after the daily questions as well. So the app algorithm seems to work allright 🙂

Here is my mood for the last two weeks. My mood wasn’t too bad all in all. Monday was a crappy day for unexplicable reasons.

Mood Tracker

The other helpful (free of charge for study participants) feature are various lessons to dig a bit deeper into where the problems might stem from. Not too complicated or long, just a few slides with informations and recommendations and prompts to think about. I’m doing the one on the “inner critic” at the moment and it highlights once again all the stuff I’ve read in other selfhelp / selfcare books before. But in a more managable setting or with clearer tasks to handle it. For a start anyway. For the first time I have an idea where my harsh inner critic voice stems from. Things to ponder for a while longer…

Other things going on? I realize I need more routines in my days off. Haven’t mastered that yet though. Another thing to think about 🙂 I’ve already started working on the LEGO Tower Bridge after all and will finish that tomorrow, I think. That was a classic procrastination maneuver. But I won’t get to worked up about that now.

I went for a walk on Monday, when my mood had hit an all time low and my underlying stress level an all time high. I didn’t walk as far as I had planned, because there were too many people around for my taste (not all that many to be fair, but I was in that kind of mood) and the weather seemed to get worse for a moment. It didn’t in the end, but… I also realised I’m rather out of shape, so it’s a good time, My Peak Challenge is open for 2021 registration. I didn’t really follow any workout regime this year. I blame the pandemic lethargy plus my own. Not a good combination, so I intend to do better next year. Anyway, here’s a photo from that short walk:

At one of the many reservoirs around here

The title lyrics by the way? A helpful reminder from the Birthday live stream Frank Turner and the Sleeping Souls did on Monday. I’ve know that line from that song of course and always liked it in it’s optimistic and uplifting spirit. But it really hit home that evening, after the crappy day I had. “Not just saving lives, but saving souls” (another song lyric) as usual.

Wow, so many words just about my mental state. I had actually considered ranting about how the various level of goverment mishandle the COVID pandemic here in Germany at the moment and rant about the thousands of stupid and irresponsible people disregarding advice, if not rules for their own leisure while numbers of cases and deaths rise and rise.

I’ll rant another day. Maybe….

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