Music. Always in my head.

If you ask me, music is one of the purest “medicines” that exist on this planet. But equally to every other “drug” you shouldn’t go and overdose it. At least not all the time, I’d say. Not always. I say this because music can really distract you a lot from the “real” world, the one that’s simultaneously happening around you, the one your family lives in, your friends and lovers. The world where you have plans, where the weather changes and where there is darkness and light, but naturally. Music works like a drug. It carries you away from the physical. It leads you into a world of sound and colors and feeling. It makes you dream.

Sigur Rós. Found on NERDGEIST

But music can also keep you in a state of light or darkness for a very long time. And though I’m sure that darkness was there first (before music), and music often just helps us to sit it through, it can also trap us there.

Just remember the last time you were sad and chose to listen to melancholic music because it mirrored your emotions. And then you naturally went on mirroring the music for the same reason. And deliberately you created and settled in that state of sadness because it felt good and save, because there was understanding in the music, and room for your yearnings and grief. And you kept on doing so, feeling miserable, until you stepped away from that mirror again, until you turned off the music, ended its’ force, rejected the drug.

Joni Mitchell. Found on fanart.tv

That’s why you should never forget to step out of your house and breathe fresh air and have a look at the sky and the sun and to feel the wind in your hair or the rain on your skin. That’s important. Don’t lose your connection to the planet you’re born on. Don’t lose your connection to the world of music, either, but be careful. Because if you’re not, and if you’re still younger, you might one day want to join the 27 club, say hi to Amy, Janis or Jimi. And you don’t want to do that. Chose light over music. If you’re in doubt, chose life over music.

However, we all should listen to music and especially make music on a regular basis. Our lives are constructed by the way we think and feel. And if music has the power to change the way we think and feel, it has the power to change our lives for us, too, to change the world, to make life beautiful.

Cold Mountain (Grächen, Switzerland) – My story about living and working in the Valais Alps

Imagine an aquarium with fish that know nothing about the ocean, a light-flooded marble that’s never been thrown. Think of one of these snow globes and its’ sunken little houses immersed by liquid that’s supposed to look like sky. Imagine its’ snow and how it’s drifting when you shake it, sinking down on this village that’s framed by a dome, sitting in your hands. Imagine you live in one of these houses, knowing of the world around.

super mountain men

1 Where are you from?

“There you go! Welcome to Switzerland! Welcome to the Valais Alps! The outside temperature lies between +1 and -3 degrees, we are at an altitude of 1600 meters above sea level, cigarettes cost 8.30 CHF a package and I hope you brought some warm memories with you as the next months are going to be coooold.”

That’s what someone could’ve said to me when I arrived. I would’ve liked it, the sarcasm. I would’ve had a companion with whom I could’ve shared my thoughts and feelings during the following months. But no one did. From one day to another I was the new waitress of the cold mountain, I was alone and I had to manage myself.

Did you ever notice that people always ask: “Where are you from?”, instead of “Where are you going?”. Why do people always want to know what was, instead of what is going to be?

Are you the new waitress?
Yes, I am.
What’s your name?
Melissa.
Aaah. That’s a nice name. We don’t have that name here. Where are you from?
I’m from Germany, Düsseldorf, I say.
Aah, Düsseldorf!

And then they start singing: “Wärst du doch in Düsseldorf geblieben”, a famous line of an obviously well-known German song saying “You’d better stayed in Düsseldorf!”
Oh, beautiful, I think and I smile politely every time they ask me and every time they sing it. Man, if I had stayed in Düsseldorf I wouldn’t need to listen to this crap every time they ask me, I think. Maybe I should start saying I’m from Cologne…

schweizer flappe

I chose to say I’m from Düsseldorf, because I’m sure that here no one knows the city I was born. I was born in Essen. But I don’t consider myself being from Essen, anyway, because I never really lived there. I only spent my first one and a half years in that place, and you can imagine that I don’t have a lot of “Where are you from”-question-related memories popping up in my head from that time I mostly spent either lying in my baby cot or cruising around on the family carpet, exploring my first 4-room apartment on all fours.
So I say I’m from Düsseldorf, because that was the first place I really felt kind of free and happy living on my own. It was the first city I chose to live after I had finished my studies of German language, literature and education, after breaking up with my first boyfriend, the city where I started to make music.

So that was back then. Eventually life had led me here, to Grächen, a small village with around 1400 inhabitants on top of a mountain and a well-paid job that I decided to “stop by” at on my way to somewhere else.

We’re always on our way to somewhere else, aren’t we? Or most of us are. Looking for progress, inner fulfillment, success. But here no one asks me for my way, or where I’m going. Not even how long I’m planning to stay. So consequently, everyone thinks that I’m staying forever.

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2 The Welcome

After realizing that I’m going to be alone on top of a freezing snow-covered mountain for the next five months, that I chose to live in the middle of nowhere with people who live life from day to day until these days eventually become childhood, youth and adulthood, instead of striving for a life that’s filled with memorable encounters, tasks and moments, in other words for what I call a happy life, I tell myself to calm down, to relax and to breathe. I know that I need to be good to myself now, so, as no one else welcomes me here, I do it myself:

“Melissa! Look at YOU! You MADE it! Welcome to the VALAIS ALPS of SWITZERLAAAAND! You’re here! Haha! Isn’t that great?”

And I answer: “Yes, it is, yes. Wow, thanks! That’s… a lot of snow!”

“I know, I know, it’s going to be cold and stuff, but the first step is done, and that’s always the toughest one! So, CONGRATULATIONS! You thought about saving money in Switzerland since, how long was it? You were still living in Ireland, weren’t you?”

“I was!”

“And you were working in a call center at the East Coast dreaming of being a teacher in Africa!”

“That’s right!” I need to smile.

She, my inner voice, is a blessing. I got to know her around the time I left Germany and moved to Ireland, around 2 and a half years ago. Well, I didn’t get to know her first then, I knew her before, but it was not a very strong relationship until that point, I’d say. She came and went and I couldn’t be sure of whether she’d show up to help me in trouble full moments or not. I couldn’t rely on her and she seemed to be busy anyhow, being in trouble herself or just being unavailable, traveling around maybe, not bothering with my negativity, letting me learn lifes’ lessons myself.
Today, she is there. In course of the time we developed to be one, a team, and in moments of doubt, loneliness or fear, she’s the one in charge, directing, trusting, and showing the way. She helps me to keep track in life, to love and not to fall from optimism. She knows how to do it because she knows me well. And I trust her, which is a very good feeling. Being here already and waiting for me even before I arrive, she must have traveled faster than me. Always, it seems, she’s one step ahead of me. But that’s beautiful and soothing. I am happy to meet her here. I didn’t expect such a warm welcome.

“And then you went to Barcelona, because you couldn’t find a job in Switzerland before the winter season started, isn’t that true?”

I nod. “That’s true. Barcelona is such a beautiful city”, I say. “I would’ve loved to stay there longer.”

“But you couldn’t because in Spain it’s impossible to save thousands of Euro in a couple of months!”

“Yes, that’s why I came here, obviously.” I twinkle.

“Indeed! But THINK about it!”, she says, “Don’t forget about the successes you’re gathering on the way! You found a job offer online while you were still living in Spain, right? Then they invited you to an interview here and you came and you introduced yourself and they TOOK you. And then you went back to SPAIN and you kept on working THERE and then you QUIT. And now, LOOK at YOU! With every step you’re getting closer to your DREAM!”

I smile. My heart is beating warm. I know she’s right.

“Really! You’re doing a great job! It’s great that you’re here! Everything is exactly the way it should be!”

And I listen to that young woman and she’s so positive and nice and I’m impressed by her impact on me and I say: “Wow, yes, I know. Thank you. You’re very kind! … This place is TINY!”.

And she says: “Melissa, listen! You’re here for a reason, so don’t look at the streets, don’t bother about the snow or the people and if for whatever reason things don’t work out well for you here, don’t panic. It’s gonna be fine.”

“I know that, yes. Thank you!”, I say. “I’m not a panicking type of person, you know that. I’m more a trusting kind of spirit. I trust life and I trust myself. Everything’s going to be fine.”

And she exclaims: “EXACTLY! THAT’S the spirit! Don’t forget that you left your family and friends to earn some money for your biggest dream, WILL you?”

And I answer: “Well, family and friends… It’s not that I have a fixed place on this planet yet, but…”

And she overhears my negativity and she interrupts me by saying: “You know, it’s probably the best decision you’ve ever made!”

And I am very happy to hear that and I can feel my heart beat and my body getting warm and I say: “Thank you very much! I think so, too. I really want to do this. Will it be tough here, though?”

And she answers: “Yes. But I’m here to help you.”

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3 The mission

As it shows, things do not work out well for me here and there are days when I feel like my inner voice has left me in charge to learn how to deal with all that shit, that’s slowly but steadily accumulating around me. Apparently I feel like on a “No-shit-left-behind”-tour, an “Extend-your-limits-by-all-means”-project, an “Eat-that-shit-before-you-quit”-mission. And in a way I really am. I chose to be. That is, I chose to be on that tour by expecting this whole thing to go wrong or to develop in an unpleasant way before I even signed my contract. In fact, I knew that a challenging experience was about to start before I booked my flight, and I predicted that it was going to be a negative one before I went to the airport.

Ever heard of the Law of Attraction? Well, that’s what it teaches. Expect negativity and you’ll attract it. Maybe that’s the reason why I did, but another reason, and for me a more plausible one, is that I not only wanted to save some money, I wanted to learn, so I attracted a lesson I hadn’t learned so far.

hängeast

I always want to keep on learning and to be challenged in all possible ways, because for me gaining experience is achieving wisdom, and I steadily want to grow wiser during my life, for myself, the world and my children. And another thing is, I am so highly curious, that I actually don’t care if things go wrong, because I take these interludes as tasks, homework, lessons. And I love it. I tend to see positive in the worst of shit. Some people laugh about that “spleen” of mine or call me naïve, but let me tell you one thing: Call me any name you’d like to give me, naïve, blind, whatever, in the end I’ll be the one still breathing no matter how deep I’m in that shit. I’ll make my way out of it, take a shower and dance.

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How to wait on Mountain Men (Grächen, Switzerland) – or – Why I’ll never go back and work in the Valais Alps again

People really seem to settle everywhere: in the desert, at the North Pole, here in the Alps.
Here, snow is everywhere. White and clean it rests on the rooftops and trees, on the pathways and streets, aglow from the sun. Like a blanket it’s covering what seems to be the world, but a tiny one, uneventful, regulated and predictable.

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I’ve been living and working in Switzerland for three months now. The restaurant I work in is situated at the “heart” of Grächen, a small village and seasonal tourist destination at an altitude of 1600 meters in the Valais Alps which is, I think I can call it like that, ruled by men. Now, to structure my thoughts and feelings about this experience, I decided to make a list. And as I will quit this job soon and before I’ll write in detail about what is going on here, I dedicate this list to the next waitress of the mountain.

My Top 10 Dos and Don’ts for the new waitress of the mountain:

1. Adapt to your new surroundings.
Before noon, people greet each other good morning, after that, evening starts. So, first thing: Skip the afternoon in your salutation.

2. Don’t trust anyone.
This is a village and in villages people can’t be trusted. Not your boss, not your colleagues, not your guests. Probably most of all you can trust your guests, but really, don’t. They don’t trust you either.

3. Never take a compliment for real.
If you take it, they’ll make a joke out of it, just like they did in fourth grade. Here they look at you and say, for example: “Sie sind wunderschön” which means “You are beautiful”, though “sie” can either be translated with the formal version of “you” or the 3rd person in plural, “they”. So, they say this to you and then they pause and you think they have finished and you’re supposed to feel flattered. Consequently you say “Oh, well, thanks.”, whereas you actually couldn’t care less about the words of that lonesome, unattractive bachelor at the bar. But then he continues with: “die Schweizer Berge”, which means “the Swiss mountains”. That is, not you, but the Swiss Mountains are beautiful. What a hoot! Don’t you think?

So, while you’re trying to be nice accepting their out of nowhere compliment, that you don’t need, but you think, well, fine, at least that’s something you get, superficial appreciation, all they want to do is to get your attention, and they make you feel bad by giving you the impression of being arrogant or stupid or naive or simply out of place for taking them seriously.

Anyway, it won’t take you long to see that here men are different to the ones you’re used to know. Busy like dogs or deer they’re marking their territory, their local pub, their mountain:

“We are men. We are superior. We drink beer. We sniff tobacco. We burp.” But:

4. Don’t let them get you down!
Just imagine that you’re living in an artificial village, playing a role and being paid for that. After all, it’s just one season, isn’t it? Five months. So, it’s not much of a deal, is it? It’s not like you’re going to stay here forever! So, keep that precious information in mind: It’s going to be over soon. You need the money and these dumb idiots will pay you for playing Miss Little Stupid, the Pretty. So, when you’re at the bar, get your shit together and imagine you’re a farmwoman in a shed, busy feeding pigs. That might help as well.

Herz stube

5. Never be late for work.
Others can. Your boss can, your colleagues can. Your boss’ girlfriend can come and go as she pleases, though she is responsible for coordinating the staff. You don’t. You can call your sleeping boss at home, who, wow, you’ll like that one, happens to be the cook as well, and who, 30 minutes after the kitchen opened, is still having his afternoon snooze, to remind him that he’s running a restaurant, that guests have started ordering Valais specialties and that the kitchen porter might not be able to prepare all the meals by himself. Great, eh? You didn’t expect that one, did you?

6. Tell them that they’re wrong!
Female suffrage was introduced in Switzerland on February, the 7th in 1971, which makes Switzerland one of the last European countries allowing women to vote, theoretically. In reality it took until 1990 when the last canton named Appenzell Innerrhoden introduced female suffrage after its male citizens had voted against it at a proposition and women had gone to court to claim their due at federal level. So, taking them all together, the women of Switzerland are allowed to have a political point of view for less than two and a half decades. This explains why also here in the canton of Valais women are generally little political. They hold the opinion that men are better politicians and that women are bad decision makers if it comes to ruling a country. And these mothers, caretakers and housekeepers don’t even feel bad or ashamed at all by saying this aloud! Why do I tell you that? Tell them that they’re wrong!

7. Be kind. And careful with alcohol.
If you’re invited for an after work drink, take it. If you already got one, take another one. If you already got two standing in front of you, agree to a third one. Always click glasses with the newest drink. Or better don’t drink at all.

Trinken

8. Stop joking.
I don’t know if you’re a funny sort of contemporary, but if you are, and if you like telling jokes that could be interpreted in both ways – positive and negative, just know that here people will choose the negative one, so better don’t get started with it at all. Here, they expect insults instead of compliments, so maybe two weeks after a joke from your side you might learn from your colleague is pissed off because she heard from a guest of another pub, that its’ barman has heard you say to a regular, that, and so on and so forth… You get the point. Next one.

Now, this is a good one. You might know it already:

9. Never expect males to smile at you out of kindness.
They either are tourists who want to order (locals generally don’t smile, not really), or they’re locals (or tourists) who want to have sex with you. And age doesn’t count, so don’t be surprised if a man in his 70’s invites you to his house and then offers you to get laid. No, it’s not romantic. And no, it didn’t happen to me, but it could’ve. “I could be your grandfather!” And then you look into his eyes and all you can see is not a volunteering grandfather, but the look of a man and you think “Gross!” and you smile and probably you say nothing because you can’t think of anything not sounding impolite and you’re thankful for the bar that separates you from your customers. But that’s part of the job, isn’t it? As a barmaid you have to cope with that shit, too.

10. Stay focused! Dream!
Of all points, this is the one that should carry your heartbeat. You’re here for a reason, aren’t you? You’re on a mission. So, you know what you have to do:

Save all your money for your dream, whatever it is. Live from your tip. Stay ready to leave anytime.

I’m terrible to have a coffee with (Prague, Czech Republic)

It is a rainy day at the end of January. It is around 2 or 3 o’clock in the afternoon and too early to go out, too early to go anywhere to sit and stare at each other, something that so many people seem to be doing as a hobby today, going out to have a coffee and – that’s it.

I’m on travels in Czech Republic, taking a break from my busy waitressing job and the snow of the Valais Alps in Switzerland. Here, winter hasn’t arrived yet. Maybe this year, it won’t. It is cold and damp, though. The streets lay shiny from the rain under an ally of trees and their shriveled leaves dangle heavy and grey in a wind that reminds me of last autumn. I’m in Prague. I’m here with my boyfriend. We’re going out to have a coffee.

Charles Bridge, Prague

Café Slavia is probably the best known café of Czech Republic. It is located in central Prague, next to the Vltava River and opposite the National Theatre. It is a place where men such as Vaclav Havel, writers, poets and other intellectual people used to meet. That alone should make me feel relaxed and privileged, but it doesn’t. Instead I feel under pressure. I think I should like and enjoy it here, that I should be thankful and happy, but I’m not. Instead I feel like at a high-class McDonald’s for wealthy Czech and careless tourists. And because I do so, I feel even worse, especially for my boyfriend. However, I don’t say anything. Considering me a writer, poet and intellectual person, I know he wanted to do me a favor coming here. So, I take a deep breath and submit to the challenge. We sit down at one of the last free tables for two close to a window. The chairs are directed to each other. I’m having an espresso with grappa; he goes for a coffee and a coke.

I hate going out for coffee. For me having a coffee with people instead of my notebook always feels like – and I am sorry to say that, like losing time on schedule. And it doesn’t matter if the café I am invited to once was a meeting point for former visionaries. If they didn’t leave at least a trace of freedom and creativity, open mindedness and intellectual non-conformism inside of these halls – I don’t need to be there. I can have a look inside to get myself a picture and a shot at the bar, that’s fine, I can handle that; but other than that, staying there, taking a seat, looking at the boring menu, ordering something unspectacular, waiting for it to arrive and slowly finishing it as if it was my pleasure, kills me. And it kills me, because it makes my life feel empty, aimless and boring.

Cafe Slavia, Prague

I’m taking a sip from my espresso, hoping that the grappa in it will cool me down. Well-dressed couples and small groups of women and men with confidently styled hair and carefully painted faces are narcissistically mirroring each other around me. Having arrived in the grown up-world, they’re obviously allowing themselves a short break, and to take advantage of the opportunities that come with adulthood, they’re carrying their boring lives into public, enjoying sophisticated small talk about nothing, giving themselves a little treat.

Our waiters are busy taking orders, serving dishes, being patient. They don’t smile in their tailcoats. Or maybe they do and I can’t see it. I know that they look down on us, their guests. I know that, because I know the business, and I know about the special relationship between customer and service. Sure they know that their guests are secretly looking down on them, too.

Looking at me from the waitress perspective I am actually pretty easy to handle. I like freshly drawn beer from the tap, wine and short drinks. But having a coffee in a café instead of a beer at a bar in my world pretty much feels like waiting for the bus or a plane to board, but less comfortable.
At the airport you can still escape; you can move, go to the toilet or read. But at a café you are trapped. You are trapped at a small table with a face looking at you as if the next thing it’ll do will be to get some examination papers onto the table and start questioning you about something you either don’t know or don’t want to tell, but that you need to tell in order to be considered an approved citizen of planet earth. These questions don’t need to be spectacular. I know that in the end they’re only rooted in a strange and desperate need for uncomfortable silence killing small talk. But saying this I need to make sure, that I hate small talk even more than uncomfortable silence. It exhausts me physically. And obviously that’s my main psychologically conditioned disability. But that’s okay. Everyone has one or several ones of these disabilities. Some people can’t stand in queues or brush their noses in public, others might be afraid of spiders or elevators or big shopping malls, they might have to wash their hands a million times a day, are disgusted by redheads, mirrors or cinnamon scented candles. I can’t handle small talk. And that’s what’s going on in cafes, isn’t it?
So, every time someone tries to have a coffee with me, I need to concentrate just as if I was entering an examination. All I can do while trying to keep pace with talking about superficial nonsense is to secretly hope that I “pass”, that it will be over soon and that I can go home alone.

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We sit in silence. There may be thoughts and dreams to talk about, definitely there are, but today, now, here in this place – I have no words for them. I’m looking out of the window and onto the river that’s running north where I know that it’ll somewhere merge with the Elbe. The weather is dark and foggy. I try to find something my eyes and mind could rest on, a bridge, a bird, something beautiful, something soothing, but I can’t. And I envy the people around us.

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Of course you can’t say: “Do you mind if I read my book and you watch the other people, or the river, or the waitress?” And even if you could, even if whoever you’re with would be fine with watching the waitress while drinking his coffee and you reading your book, his aura would still be there so very close to yours that it’d keep you from concentrating like a silent but non-continuous and bothering sound that’d let you read the same paragraph over and over again. And you’d do that. You’d read the same paragraph over and over again just because doing so would still be inexpressibly better than making small talk.

Somehow I can’t hide my agitation anymore. I feel the sweat on my chest, my back and my cheeks. I want to get away from this place, this table, this bar. I want to go outside, to move in the cold, to be free.

“What’s wrong?”, my boyfriend asks.

It’s not his fault. He didn’t know. I blush.

“Honey?” he asks, “Are you okay?”

“It’s nothing”, I say. “I just want to leave.”

“What is it?” he asks again and I repeat: “I just want to leave.”

He sends another checking look into my eyes. I feel crazy, guilty and weak.

“Let’s go”, he says, not hesitating any more.

“We still need to pay”, I say, watching him getting up and his jacket on even faster than I do.

“We will”, he says. He pays and we leave.

And he saves me without knowing. He saves me in this moment of extraordinary discomfort from sitting at a table, starring at each other, having a coffee, from something that so many people enjoy, and he might, too, but that I often just can’t handle.

“Now, tell me”, he says, knowing about the world that’s so deeply ruling inside of us, about our unfixable detachment from each other, our individual realities that we can only share if we invite other people in by talking about it. He’s walking next to me, caringly holding my hand. “What happened?”

“I’m sorry”, I say. “I’m terrible to have a coffee with.”

And I tell him that I hate going out for coffee and especially sitting at tables.

“I am that way”, I’m adding, still nervous, still flustered. “I’ve been that way since I can remember.”

We’re crossing the bridge towards Hradčany, the Lesser Town, Vltava River below us. The wind is blowing cold under a foggy sky and through those leaves that have been hanging there since last autumn.

“It’s okay”, he says. “We don’t need to sit at tables.”

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I am not Melissa. And yes, I am. Being a waitress in the Valais Alps (Grächen, Switzerland)

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Life is a journey and an unbelievable one if you’re open and up to it. I am. I have decided to be a student of life. The world is my classroom and I keep on learning also, of course, living in the Valais Alps, being a waitress, serving drinks and food.
Being here somehow separated from most of the things and people that I love, I am not only getting to know myself more, I am also experiencing and becoming a part of a culture I was unfamiliar with so far and I am learning, again, to be patient.

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Frankly spoken I already wanted to quit my job right at the beginning of last December, right after I had moved here at the end of 2013. But because I know that I always feel like quitting after the first two weeks in a new job, I didn’t. Also, I knew there must be something here that I need to learn, as otherwise my life would have taken a different course, so I stayed. And I’m staying.

The first day I came here was for the job interview at the restaurant I am working in now. The sun was shining; the mountains looked overwhelming in their beauty and power, and I, coming from Barcelona and travelling from Milan to the Valais Alps by train, was amazed by the freshness of the cool air that awaited me in 2500 meters altitude. The bad feeling I had after returning to Barcelona from the interview did I try to ignore. I thought that something could await me here that I might have to struggle with. Now that I’ve been working here for more than two months, I know that my intuition was right. I still struggle sometimes, and I do because it is cold up here, and not only because of the temperature, but because of the people.

As emotional and empathetic beings people mirror each other. If someone is in a good mood and laughs or smiles a lot in an open and healthy way, we tend to smile more, too. But if we spend our days with miserable drunkards and tiring people confronting us with boredom, alcoholism, narrow-mindedness and negativity, well, we might smile a little less, too.
That’s why I always enjoy and truly miss to be surrounded by people who love life. And that is because I am deeply in love with life myself. I love mirroring myself in the eyes and lives of these naturally powerful positive people, limitless exchanging thoughts, being passionate about the things and beliefs that matter to them the most. But then, if I can’t share what I am passionate about, because the people I could share my passions with are temporarily not available, if I can’t share what my heart is beating for, what I love, I most likely might get sad and disappointed, moody in a way, even though I have a goal in mind, and even though I know that the people I miss will be back in some months and even though I am aware of the reasons I chose to be separated from them for a while. It might even make me negative for a period of time.

Saying this I want to make sure that love itself can’t be sad, disappointing or negative. It’s our relation to the beloved one or the beloved thing that can make us sad. Expectations that are not met make us think negative about love. But love itself stays love, pure, giant, positive and healthy.

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I have stopped talking about love at the bar, though. Actually talking about love and the beauty of life here feels like telling a 500 pounder how great it feels to run in the morning mist or to favor vegetarian food on a meat market. But I have come to understand that the months I am spending here are part of my personal journey for a reason. It is an episode of time that tests the depth of my character and that will strengthen what I believe in. Trees grow strong by wind and weather, not only because of the sun. It’s the lack of water that lets their roots grow deeper into the ground, it’s the fact, that they once missed something and learned how to cope with it, which makes them stand solidly in autumn storms or winter.
Also, I am learning my lessons here. I might not be able to name them all in total yet, but patience and acceptance and forgiveness are surely some of them.

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I remember how during the first week I lived here I went out with my colleague meeting several unknown people at a bar and how to a question I can’t recall right now I responded: “Love is everything. I am alive because I am in love with life; Love is what makes life beautiful. Love is what makes life worthwhile.” And I remember how everyone looked at me as if I just had arrived from another planet. Their faces were shocked in a way, as if I had assaulted them in a terrible manner.

Old man on his way in Grächen, Switzerland

It was not another planet I arrived from, but being here I am aware of the fact that I am carrying with me a different kind of believe, that I have a different personal religion. Next to love, honesty, music and friendship, I believe in open-mindedness, respect and equality, but it’s hard to tell what these people here believe in. I think most of all they believe in the canton they come from, hard work and money, and God maybe, at least they go to church, some of them. A lot of people ski or rent houses for tourists that I am serving at lunch time or dinner. Most of the men look cold, fragile, sad and unhappy. I am sure they miss someone to talk to – that’s why they meet at the bar, staring at the wall, waiting for something to happen or someone to start a conversation with them so that life gets a little less miserable, less empty and heavy, lighter, easier to carry, maybe even enjoyable for an hour or two. People here lack what I like to call the satisfied smile, a smile that those people carry with themselves who are comfortable with life and the way it is currently or generally proceeding.

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So, at the bar, I am not Melissa, not really. There is not enough space and acceptance or understanding for me as a character and individual woman here. Only in short moments I am. That’s when sometimes out of the blue a customer or colleague says something that strikes me with meaning and for a short while, maybe for 5 minutes or more, the world up here is getting a little bit wider, it opens up as if these mountains were not surrounding and limiting these valleys, as if there was a sea close by and a harbor with ships and a connection to the rest of the world.

In hard times we get to our limits in different ways, sometimes in several ways at the same time, psychologically and physically. But when that happens we are also, without really noticing it, extending our limits, our knowledge, our strength and wisdom. These times are precious and important, because they make us strong as long as we keep our aims in reach and as long as these times will stay short and manageable periods and don’t become a new way of living; and they won’t as long as we hold on tight to our trust that everything happens for a reason and that everything is exactly the way it should be – until it is over and something new will start.

Keeping a diary supports my personal development. (Grächen, Switzerland)

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Practicing noting down what I believe in: 60 personal truths and commandments

 

1. If I want something with all my heart, I got the power to get it.

2. Everything is impossible until someone proves it isn’t.

3. Dreams are a form of planning and essential for a fulfilling and happy future. As soon as they become aims, they become reachable.

4. The way the story goes is the only possible way of the story.

5. If you don’t know where you’re going, just keep on going. You will find the way later on.

6. Everyone has his personal journey.

7. You can never lose, you can only give up.

8. Even at times that I don’t know what I want or need, I don’t need people to tell me who I am or how I should live.

9. I am part of nature.

10. Trying to look good limits my life.

11. Soul is more important than body.

12. If you want to heal your body you have to heal your heart first.

13. Alcohol is a drug.

14. Love, forgiveness and acceptance are the key to any truthful, long-lasting and positive relationship.

15. Only because something is said to be done out of love doesn’t make it an act of love.

16. Music heals and connects. It’s that one language that directly enters your heart without asking, settling there, refusing to leave much space for any further impressions at the same time. In a movie it’s not the pictures that move us to tears; it’s the music.

17. Sometimes the one you dislike the most while arriving will stay a friend after leaving.

18. If my home is where my heart is, there is a chance for me to feel home wherever I am, as long as I am home with me.

19. It’s okay not to be happy all the time.

20. Everybody is responsible for everybody else and the future of our planet.

21. Education changes people.

22. People change the planet.

23. Experience is more important than degrees.

24. We are all teachers.

25. Complaining is silly and stressful. Act or forget. See the challenge and take it or settle in the uncomforting state, but stop complaining about it.

26. I have the right to be wrong, and if it leads me into the right direction, wrong can only be right as well.

27. Living in the past is the worst thing you can do. You don’t only make yourself sad by doing so; you also annoy the people around you. Stop it.

28. Lying works against me.

29. I refuse to be friends with liars.

30. Being truthful opens the right doors at the right times.

31. Regret is an awful thing. Don’t.

32. I refuse to hate.

33. Helping other people helps me.

34. Questions are more important than answers. Or as Rilke once put it: If you don’t have an answer, you might not yet be able to live it. Live the questions instead. One day when you’re ready you’ll live into the answer.

35. Drugs feel great at the beginning only.

36. I can recharge my energy in many different ways.

The reason for many sicknesses is that many people don’t know how to recharge their energy correctly. They are tired and would need to sleep but instead they’re eating a 1000-calorie dish. They need a conversation but chose superficial sex. They would benefit from spending some time on their own or with their family but instead they chose to train for a marathon. They miss a hobby that lifts them up, something to learn for inner growth and satisfaction, but instead they chose to get drunk. Listen to what your body truly needs, what your soul needs, your spirit. Hunger doesn’t equal hunger.

37. Keeping a diary supports my personal development.

38. Worrying is paralyzing and solves nothing.

39. Collecting material makes me feel heavy and inflexible.

40. Writing, traveling and singing makes me feel free. Doing these things I am extending the circles I am moving, feeling and breathing in. They help me to get new perspectives on life, my character and what I truly believe in.

41. Money doesn’t make me happy.

42. Spending time on my own contributes to my inner balance.

43. Reading makes me feel understood and widens my view on life.

44. As memories change, the past changes, too.

45. Sometimes we’re the closest to people when we say goodbye. The loss of a person makes us speak and act more freely, because we have nothing to lose anymore. That’s why we often hug people for the first time when we expect to never see them again.

46. To love means to be vulnerable.

47. If you want to fall in love you need to fall first.

48. Love is also a decision.

49. Love heals the wound it makes.

50. Never stop being grateful.

51. Be aware of waving a flag that you don’t support.

52. Tell the people you love, that you love them.

53. Cherish the successes you are gathering on the way.

54. Never underestimate your intuition.

55. Find out what you are passionate about and do what you love and you will find people to love and who will love you in return.

56. Take breaks.

57. Think and plan into the future, but never postpone your life into it.

58. Be happy now. Now’s the time that counts, the one you will remember, the one you always strove for.

59. Never take anything for granted.

60. Never stop being in love with life.

So, where is my home? (Barcelona, Spain)

Always these months at the end of the year when everything is in a mode of change. It seems like in autumn, when life is drawing back and retiring in the roots of the trees, new energy is set free in other spots and places. The cold doesn’t always need to paralyze. It can also have a soothing, calming effect. Maybe in order to stay warm we keep more energy to ourselves. Maybe that’s why we have more power and ideas for the new, new courage, new spirit. What we see outside is changing and therefore also our view on the things around us and our possibilities in relation to them.

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There are two definitions of “home”:

one that defines it to be a place of material condition and another that defines it to be an inner concept without the physical nature.
Referring to a home being a physical location any residence can be considered as a home, any house, any building, tent or shelter under a bridge. This definition of home can also be widened to a geographical area, a mountain, a village, a city or even a country. Another definition tells us, that our home is where our heart is.

That our home is where our heart is, in fact is a nice conceptual idea, one that relates to an emotional condition of shelter, understanding, consolation and love. And it truly is a concept I believe in. But what happens with us in these moments when our heart isn’t really anywhere? When we don’t have that emotional home, not even a concept of it?

In these moments we long for that traditionally fixed place on the map, a house that is full of memories, well known smells and sounds, a place, maybe in the landscape with a garden around it, maybe in the city, but definitely with a room for us to return to whenever we feel like it. A place we can go back to any time simply because it is our home, that unique place on earth where we’re always welcome, a location with that we feel a connection with and that we can travel to, touchable and ideally permanent.

In my case there is no such physical home. The home that I had as a child is gone, the family, too, so I have no choice but need to go for that emotional place of home of which my heart decides where it is.

So, if my home is where my heart is, on the one hand, it comes and goes with the people. It is an untouchable place that has no roof over it, covering. It is also unreachable, as it doesn’t have a fixed position on this planet. I can’t book a flight, take a train or a ship and travel to it. I also can’t rely on it, my home, because “where my heart is” changes. And that is because the people I love change where they live, and not only do they change where they live, I also change who I love.

But how could something so fragile ever be a home? If people are responsible for building my home, this home can be nothing but an emotional condition of uncomforting fragility – and I don’t want that. I want something to rely on, something save.

So, what does that mean? “My home is where my heart is”?

If my home truly is where my heart is I carry it with me wherever I go. I carry it with me, just like I carry my heart, this blood pumping muscle inside of my chest, of which we say that it hurts when we are unhappily in love, which gives the beat to our lives and our music and that keeps us going and our body alive. “Heart” means feeling and feeling means love and love is also a decision.

To be able to lead a happy and fulfilling life, of course we need people, too, and we need to experience, to grow and to contribute. But we will never be able to successfully do this, build and feel home with others if we are not home with ourselves in first place.

So, if my home is where my heart is I hereby decide that there is a possibility for me to feel home wherever I am, as long as I am home with me. I can see it now. My heart is that one place on this planet that stays and that I will never lose as long as I live and as long as I keep on taking good care of it.

There will always be people (Barcelona, Spain)

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It is strange somehow that I again and again leave at the point of arriving, at the point of finding a home, when I decide that this is not the home I am truly looking for. I pack my bags and my guitar and I hope that I will find new people, that will dance with me, that will play the guitar to my singing, that will wait for me somewhere, where we’ll say that we meet. And I hope that eventually I will get home, truly home. But I am grateful for everything that is and all that I have and I am patient, because I know this road will lead me there, somehow. It doesn’t matter when. The most important thing is that I am on my way. You can never loose. You can only give up. And why should I or anyone ever give up? I know I am strong and surrounded by beauty, but of course – sometimes that doesn’t help me or anyone feeling less lonesome. At least I can say that. I can admit that. I am not happy all the time. No one is. And I do feel lonely at times.

Of course there will always be people, at all these new places you go. You’ll never stay alone for a long time if you don’t want to, but you can never be too sure about the quality of these encounters, these people. You can never know if they only want a piece of your light and energy, or in contrast, if they want to be part of lighting your light up and fill your life with energy. All you can do is to go ahead and find out yourself.

Everyone around you is able to hurt you, but some won’t. Those who won’t will tell you that you’re beautiful when you’re feeling ugly; they will show you their light in order to make you shine. They will share their drink with you without secretly putting drugs in it; they will share their beds, without touching you, and if they do because you want it, too, they won’t call you a whore afterwards, just because you – like every human being on this planet – long for body, nearness and passion, too, without being in a “real” relationship or getting married first. As long as we don’t cheat on each other, are we not free? They will share their food, without asking you for anything in return. But it takes time to find these people. They are everywhere, but it is hard to see them if you don’t have enough time to take a closer look.

If money didn’t play a role, what would you do?

I post this video because I couldn’t agree more:
Striving for money as an ultimate aim is just the most stupid thing you can do with your life!
Better live a short life enjoying what you do instead of a long miserable one!

Click on the link below, watch the video and get inspired and reassured yourself!

If money didn’t play a role, what would you do with our life?

Between Ireland, Spain and Africa (Castelldefels, Spain)

It is night. I am sitting here at a small and crowded desk in a small room with a single bed and a little window at the Catalonian east coast. I am spending one of my last nights in this town. I am drinking beer, saying goodbye.

Barcelona City

Barcelona City

It is night, but it’s not really dark, not black outside. Are nights ever black? Do they not always carry some light with them, from the stars, the moon? I can see the clouds and I can even hear birds through my window that I opened to let some air in. It is 2 o’clock. And if you want to keep on reading, wherever you are and whatever time it is at the place that you’re living in, grab a coffee, a tea, a wine or a beer, because I want to tell you something about me and my dreams. And you will profit by reading my words, because it is always good to read about the life of someone else, about someone else’s dreams, because it helps you to think about yours. By reading my words you will profit, because they will help you to get your dreams into shape and into focus.

I moved here in September. Astounding what forms and shapes time can assume! Time is such an elastic “material”. Impalpable it is, everlasting and yet non-existent. Everything that was before I came here seems so far away already, all the faces, the tastes, the music, though my change from Ireland to Spain is really not more than two and a half months ago.

I remember how when I came here it felt like somehow the year was starting anew again, or at least the summer. It was warm and sunny all around, the beach and nights were inviting and you didn’t need a blanket in order to fall asleep. Now, two months later, it has grown cold outside. Huge clouds that return from the sea send long strings of driving rain over the coast and fill the streets with rising damp that waits on your bed for you to spend the night with it.

Now that everything is changing again I am remembering. I am thinking about Ireland, the people there. I am thinking about the ones I met and those that stayed with me as long as I was living at the west coast, a coast that I probably didn’t visit often enough, because it was raining or because I preferred to stay inside, making music or dreaming away. Or because I knew that the coast on the east side of Ireland was just so much more beautiful than the one I was living at and because therefore it didn’t really make sense to me to go out and see it while actually missing the other one. Sometimes we have more pictures, more photographs than memories of the places we’ve been to, but I remember Ireland well and I remember its people and its beauty.

Cliffs of Moher

I remember that I left, because I had this goal in mind that I am now about to follow. And I knew that this goal was one I couldn’t pursue, if I didn’t change the place that I was living in, if I didn’t leave the people I was living with and if I didn’t start again. So I decided not to study music but to join a program that’ll train me to do some good work on this planet and that therefore will bring meaning to my life. The money I need in order to start this program will I earn in Switzerland, in the Valais Alps – as a waitress.

For most of us it takes a lot of time to get where we want to go and beneath the people we need to gather around us in order to find new inspiration and the power to grow and to contribute. And it takes time to find out what we really want to do with our lives and in what way we want to be of service. We need to be of service, in one way or the other, I believe. I want to be of service.

Volunteering doesn’t only mean that you won’t be able to earn money during the time you’re doing it. To volunteer means that you need to spend money in order to be able to work for free.
For my money I will be able to do development work, profit from personal growth and study about this planet. I will learn more about that dependent financial relationship between the poor and the rich which controls the atmosphere of our global society and I will even gain some kind of a degree, that I don’t care too much about, but that I will take with me on the way, because we are trained to collect papers and degrees.
If a paper proofs I am able to do something, people will believe me. It doesn’t matter if my CV or the way I live proofs that I am. Authorities always need written stuff in black and white. That’s our language, the language they trust. But truly wise people trust people because of what they can proof by doing, not by a piece of paper. Experience, that’s what it’s about. And experience I am sure I will gather.

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Now you could say: Why is it you have to pay in order to work for free? That’s a rip-off!

Good question. And here my version of an answer:
As a volunteer you offer to help for free. That means you don’t want anything from the people that you are working with in return. Still you need to learn about the environment before you go there and during your studies you are not able to earn money. Finally you need to pay the flights, insurances, the vaccinations and the food. If you truly want to help someone, who is so poor that he doesn’t even have access to unpolluted water, medicine or education, of course you pay the plane ticket that’ll get you where that person in need is, don’t you? If not you, who else should be paying the ticket?
Referring to me the decision to become a volunteer is nourished by my wish and ambition to share what I got for free, especially education. And who should pay me for sharing? Who should take care of this? Who is my employer? Who is responsible for the people in need, anyway? Is it not planet earth? Is it not the people of planet earth? And if so, shouldn’t we all take part and contribute? Shouldn’t we all then share the bills of those people volunteering, the bills of development instructors, doctors without borders, teachers?

It is obvious why I have to pay to work for free: because no one else does. But I probably don’t need to mention that volunteering is not about the money. It’s about helping. It’s about uniting with sisters and brothers who should all have the possibilities in life that I have, that I have been given without asking for it and that they are dreaming of.

***

Please, don’t ever think that I think I can change the planet. But what I think is that I have a role to play in making it better – like everyone of us does. You do, too. And please don’t ever think that I think the bottom billion is “the problem”, the poor people that are everywhere, but mainly living in India, Southern America and Africa, but I have chosen to start there and not in Europe in my original neighborhood, though there would be enough to do and to improve. Poverty is a global challenge. I know that.

Maybe I want to go to Africa because I think it is easier for me to find myself under totally new conditions. Maybe because the world around me has grown too small for me. Maybe because I think that going so far away will be more challenging than staying “at home”, as the culture I will come to know will most likely recycle me from inside out, giving me power I’ve never had before, revealing weaknesses to me, I never knew I had, making me feel more loved than I have ever felt, and more lonely than I have ever been before.
Maybe I want to go there because it’s the furthest I have ever been from home, the place where I come
from, geographically, culturally. Maybe I want to combine going away with a true purpose in life. Maybe I don’t want to be a smart and beautiful blond woman anymore, but a human being who takes the hand of another.
Maybe I need to go away to find home, to meet me, mirrored in the eyes of unknown people that know nothing about my wealth that means nothing in the end, but more about the value of life than I have ever felt or read about before.

*

I don’t know what is going to happen. I can’t predict the future, but I have chosen this way, knowing well that there is an endless amount of work to do in the place where I was born or the one where I lived before. Anywhere are tasks for us. This whole planet is full of problems and suffering and I don’t see myself at all as its savior. But I am one of the many that dream of making this planet a little bit better.

Wouldn’t it truly be motivating if we all dreamt a little bit more about and for each other and if we all did a little bit more for improving the world that surrounds us, the ground, that we’re walking on, that’s nourishing and carrying us and our children? How much better would this place already be? How much could we not do and change if we all dreamt and worked together on this project of respecting equality, sharing resources, spreading education, saving nature, appreciating beauty, preaching love and keeping peace? “It’s all in the hand of global companies and politics”, you might say. “It’s happening on a larger scale, we are only the people.” And I want to remind you that we are indeed the people of this planet and that every one of us has a voice, has hands, has the power to contribute. If the people that are lead refuse to follow the direction of their leader, the direction can only change. A leader without followers is a lonely, powerless man, but it needs the people to tell him that he is. It needs the people to refuse his direction, to say no, to change the direction.

Doesn’t that make sense?

I want to make sense. I want to live a meaningful life. I want to die having done something positive for others and by doing so I also want to learn about this planet. I want to experience, to grow and to contribute. So, this is my dream, the dream of my purpose in life.

And now let me say one last thing:
I don’t know if I will make it to Africa or to the program that starts in Denmark. I don’t even know what is going to happen tomorrow. But I do dream about it and my life is proof that I am planning and aiming into this direction.

You might think my effort will be nothing but a drop in the ocean and I will tell you that the ocean is made out of drops and that my plane to Switzerland is scheduled next week.

Dreams are a form of planning.
What are you dreaming about?