Ganz Wien

November 3, 2020. Just another day – another birthday. This one came rushing in, the world colliding in 24 hours, lockdown starting, election happening, emotions running higher as the date got closer. 

And then, this attack in Vienna, the evening before. My home, our home, the home we chose. How close, how madly close. 

But what is the right distance, I wonder. How do we care without diving into the drama headfirst? How do we participate, how do we educate ourselves, without making the tragedy more personal that it is? 

That evening in Vienna, I heard every helicopter, I saw every blue light. Watched and read it all. I couldn’t believe it, and I couldn’t believe the timing of it. 

How to withstand the world’s events, I’m not sure. We could ignore them, move on without thinking about it, and we do, most of the time. Or we could obsess, obsess and burn in anguish. See signs in everything, see the personal in all of the communal.   

Because it’s linked of course, it’s intrinsically linked. Our lives are individual and social, our fates tied to everyone else’s. I used to reject that shared responsibility, I wanted to make it on my own, a separate element moving freely.  

But that evening in Vienna, among all of the pain, I felt a true sense of belonging. And I realised that it’s exactly that shared condition that makes a home. Knowing that your every action contributes to shaping it, knowing it’s forever evolving. Knowing this Vienna I adore is only the sum of us all, slow-paced, grumpy and unwavering. 

Ganz Wien

The only thing I’ve learned in 2020

I think I’m fine but

I tear up when asked how I am

I tear up when asked how work is

I do smile when asked how he is

But I tear up when someone touches my back
My shoulders
My neck

I didn’t think I would have much of a break this year because, 2020

But I did

And I tried not to think about life, work, and the state of the world

Because I spent the year doing that, like all of us

So I focused on drinking wine, eating bread and swimming in the cold sea

But it kept coming back in painful waves

The idea of reality

While existing, and satisfying, it’s so exhausting

And I realised

I need to focus on what matters

Leave the small stuff aside

The unnecessary worries

Leave those with their masks under their noses alone

And keep a smile for those who care

I feel so burned, yet did so little

How can it be?

I need to focus on what matters

It’s the only thing I’ve learned in 2020

That, and the correct hand washing duration (two Happy Birthdays)

Energy is not an endless supply

Neither ours nor the world’s

So while I allow myself a break

I hope I spend it better next

The only thing I’ve learned in 2020

Staying alive

Death has been all the talk lately. Health reports, fatal cases, mortality rates.

It’s been all the talk, and yes, it’s not been massively reinsuring. How do I avoid dying? How do I help others not to die? Can’t we all stay alive?

But we will all die. We will! I just temporarily forgot about it. Maybe not forgotten exactly, but I ignored it. I chose not to think about it. It’s been there, in bursts of pain, in absences felt. But I didn’t truly look at it. I didn’t truly feel that it could all end tomorrow. That it could all end now.

And suddenly, it was all there, on the TV, on the radio, in our daily conversations. In our every move – or rather, in stillness. All of the words, all of the stories spoke of it.

I have been so spoiled, so incredibly spoiled, to be able to ignore it so long. So many of us are born within it, are surrounded by loss, ache, and disaster. But I was oblivious to it. Oblivious, and afraid to spoil it.

Weirdly, having death front and centre of every conversation has only made me fear it less. It has forced me to accept its hard truth – that my last hour will come, and that every second before that counts all the more for it.

Staying alive

Pull-ups

You can spend years thinking certain things aren’t for you. You know yourself, and it’s just not you, to do this, to try that.

And it’s good, in a sense, to know who you are, to know your limits.

But, limits.

I’ve spent 30 years fearing heights. Avoiding them, dreading them. I once cried standing two meters above the floor. I only realised I hadn’t really left the ground when I looked at the photo.

But recently, I found myself in a harness, on a rope, going up. I didn’t lose it – I thought I would. 20 meters above the floor, I looked down and beamed.

That moment in time. 20 meters above the floor, alive, sane, with my skull intact.

I thought I’d die on that wall, and I didn’t. I thought I was done partying, and I’m not; done running, and I’m not. I thought I’d always be clumsy, worried, weary, and a crap cook. And I’m not – or, not as much.

I thought I knew exactly who I was. And I did; I do. But you can notice your first wrinkles, sign a mortgage, enjoy staying in on Friday night and still reinvent yourself.

I guess I needed to find who I was before I could redefine it. A girl who, slowly, awkwardly, keeps pulling herself up a little higher.

Pull-ups

Families

Once or twice a year, we gather. We cook, take walks, open bottles, play games. We celebrate. We grief, sometimes. We argue, often. We catch up, check on each other, hug tightly, and leave again.

It’s exhausting, to be together like that. It’s warming, it’s wonderful – but it’s exhausting, because we constantly try to erase a distance. And bittersweet, because we need that distance to flourish.

How can you love people so much, how can be so much like them, share the same hair, the same heart, yet feel so free from them?

How can you actually be the same flesh, yet all be your own person, your own entity?

There are so many resemblances in a family, in my family, yet so many differences. It strikes me every time. Being together opens a Pandora box, brings up familiar songs, flavours, emotions.

I relish in it every time, until reality hits. Like an arrow through a cotton sheet, it reminds me of a world that’s mine. Of another family, the one I’ve met, the one I’ve made.

Families