Ghost In The Mirror

Ghost in the Mirror

Mirror selfie in the bathroom

It is a lie to say, I always do what is best for my body. There are times when sleep becomes optional or even a luxury, caffeine a worthy substitute and meals a rushed snack. Habits like this leave traces and it was just recently when I saw them for the first time.

It was during a shift in the museum when I went to the bathroom. While washing my hands at the sink I saw the picture in the mirror and was startled. For the first time, I saw a woman in the mirror instead of the usual girl. I could also see that she was very tired. Her skin was pale and blue veins are shining underneath. Her eyes were slightly swollen and lying within dark circles. Her hair (once luscious and thick) had gone dry. The shimmer that reminded of raindrops in the night disappeared and got replaced by thin threads of silver.
Yes, things changed but she wouldn’t say that life had solely taken things away from her, that is not true. With all these years gone by, she might have lost the softness in her features. Her face got slimmer, cheekbones higher and the jawline more defined. She prefers it that way it. She likes then edgy face much better. However, even without the puffy cheeks, she had been failing to see something else than a girl in her reflection before.

While standing here in the fluorescent light of the bathroom she finally saw a new side of herself. A pair of black eyes gave you a cold stare, cold enough to make you feel uneasy. She learned the many ways to speak with her eyes but the kindness did not disappear, no, it was simply used more wisely. “It is important”, she thought, “to make people understand how you feel. Especially when you are upset with them.”

The naive spring glow has vanished from her smile. In fact, she never liked dishonest smiles. They do nothing but pleasing others. Her edges are evidence that she had lived, learned and grew. Heartbreaks, disappointment and betrayal shaped her and some bitterness has definitely found its way into her heart. However, life has also taught her to recognize kindness when it comes across her path. It also taught her what she really wants: certainty and a meaning. When she laughs now it is because she was truly happy, it was not fake. Her smile should be warm. Her shoulders should be strong for all the sorrows that may wait for friends and family. Yes, life has made her strong. It is a strength that is in her, a strength that does not need to be proven.

Still observing my own picture in the mirror, I realized that I simply stopped pretending to be something I am not. Yes, my body became frail and thinner – how the f should it be any different? My bony chest and my hollow face do not look healthy. My body looks as if it is about to fall apart at any moment and this is exactly how I feel inside. I do not feel well and I won’t hide it. Authenticity became more important than keeping up a lie. Being pretty means nothing if it is not sincere.

Displaced Trust: A painful lesson

IMG_4488

Photo: Jenny L.

Only a few things hurt more than a loved person letting you down. Whether it is your significant other, your best friend or even your own family: it hurts, maybe not so much physically but emotionally.

My trust does not come easily and I am skeptical towards most people. A friend who hurts you – even if it’s unintended – feels more gruesome and painful than usual. It is because we were neither prepared nor protected for this fall.
We call people friends and we keep them close for a reason. Ironically, it is exactly why these moments leave us paralyzed.

I always thought I was a good judge of character and can see through lies. It seems that my vision gets clouded when I have invested a certain amount of trust in people. Why so? Calling somebody a friend – especially a close one – comes with many expectations. You tend to be more honest with each other, caring and protective. These are the differences between your friends and brief acquaintances.

Would I call a person I just met last Sunday when I am having a panic attack? Probably not. The idea of presenting myself to a stranger so bare and vulnerable doesn’t make sense. I guess this is also a reason why therapy tends to need some time until it progresses: Opening up to somebody we don’t know (yet) and therefore don’t trust is hard. In other words, the act of building trust in a person is a form of work by overcoming your own distrusting nature.

There is a reason why I don’t burst into tears when the bus driver was rude to me this morning. During the day I am aware that I will need some wall to protect myself from unfairness. On the contrary, I had tears in my eyes when a friend said something equally rude in the heat of a discussion.

Besides the trust and love we feel, we also see an imaginative set of responsibilities for our friend. Or maybe it’s just me. I tend to assume that my friends and I have similar values. Whatever I would do for them I like to believe they would do the same for me. This concept of mirrored devotion does not work. The abilities that I have and the circumstances I’m living in are not the same as the ones my friends face. We are different and I forget about it. This concept is meant to disappoint. When you build up a set of expectations on this theory it can differ from the reality a lot.
I guess I need to look at it from a different point of view: How is the other person supposed to know the extent of my devotion if we never talked about it? Therefore, how is the other person supposed to know what I expect from them?

With that in mind, I try to recover from my current disappointment. Somewhere torn between “This just can’t be true! This is a big misunderstanding!” and “Wow, that person was my friend and did it anyway.” I try to evaluate what happened. For now, I feel that my expectations were too high and my trust not really justified. I feel stupid and I started to doubt my own judgement in the oddest moments now.

If friendship was a game and my expectations its rules: I was the only one following them. Seeing it that way, it reminded me a lot of the following quote from Peter Pan:

“Not the pain of this but its unfairness was what dazed Peter. It made him quite helpless. He could only stare, horrified. Every child is affected thus the first time he is treated unfairly. […] After you have been unfair to him he will love you again, but he will never afterwards be quite the same boy. No one ever gets over the first unfairness; no one except Peter.” ― J.M. Barrie

Why are you not into me?

I will put it very straight and very short: My crush is not into me and that sucks.

Apart from the regular bitter taste of rejection I can not help but wonder what the fuck is wrong him (it’s a male person in this case). After several failed attempts to meet each other and the overall lack of engagement from his side I had to embrace the fact that my interest and affection is probably one-sided and did the one thing, I could do to avoid more frustration: I accepted it. Again: My crush is not into me.

I accepted his busy schedule, his priorities and plans that didn’t involve me at all. In moments like these, I try to look beyond my hurt ego and force myself to put myself in his situation. How would I like to be treated if I was him? Being rejected might hurt but rejecting people is equally hard- especially if you care for the other person. I thought back on all the friends I have lost because I did not return their feelings and I also remember how much it hurt me to justify it.

Why am I not good enough for you?

The question is lingering in the room and was probably also in my friends’ minds back then. If I would have been more mindful back then I might have found better words and ways to handle it. Instead, I was solely focusing on myself and felt so terribly betrayed by them for not accepting my feelings. I did not understand why or even how I was supposed to explain the lack of romantic feelings. The entire situation was hard for all of us but all we saw was the subjective unfairness in front of us. In our anger and frustration, we hurt each other so badly that we stopped talking and avoid each other since then.

If I could turn back time, what are the things I want to be different? What could we change to avoid more stress and pain?

Acknowledge each other’s feelings

Knowing that somebody has feelings for you might seem very flattering but truly acknowledging it is a bit different. Taking their emotions seriously and acting mindfully is important to treat them with respect. It is already a huge step to confess your feelings to somebody so  it’s the least I can do in response.
The same does go to rejection as well. The lack of feelings is just as valid as a confession of love and should not need to be justified or explained. Affection is nothing you can claim. Not by insulting, not by screaming, not by arguing. It is not there.

In both cases, it is important to mention that both feelings will probably linger for a while. I will probably have that crush for a little while longer, even if they stay unanswered. At the same time, the lack of affection will last as well.

Acknowledging your own needs

Back then I wanted to continue whatever we had as if nothing had happen. I wanted my friends to chill at my place as we used to did and spend the entire night talking about silly stuff while listening to our favourite songs. That was stupid.

No matter how nice and easy that would be: when expectations are differing, everyone should re-adjust to the new situation and take their time to reflect on what they need in order to feel better. Sometimes that means you need some distance in order to find out. Sometimes it also means that you start stalking their new partner and (please don’t) to curse the world and scream. Whatever it is, keep in mind that all this is temporary. Don’t force yourself to continue something that is not making you happy. Don’t pretend you never got rejected and play along this happy friendship game. Don’t pretend you would return the feelings and start a relationship.

Last but not least: Move on.

All this has nothing to do with anyone not being good enough. It is about the different kinds of happiness each and every one of us is looking for and sometimes it won’t work out. I can try and be the best version of myself but that doesn’t mean everyone will love it. To put it very drastically: People have their own taste and you have to accept that some have a poor different one. It sucks, yes but you have no right to change it. Your own taste is subjective and nothing more.

With all that in mind, I swallowed the fact that my pretty face does not save me from rejection. After another failed attempt to meet I told the my crush that I respect his busy schedule, wished him the best of luck in Berlin, hoped that we will bump into each other at some point but apologized that I won’t compete with his timetable anymore.

He was confused by this … finality. After explaining me the full dimension of his busy lifestyle (which was unnecessary because I got it by then) I phrased it very simple:

– I just have the impression that you are not into me as much as I am into you.
– Yeah… that might be true.
– That’s ok. I’m not upset but I hope you respect my decision.
– sure.

Obviously, I was not madly and deeply in love since I never had the chance to properly date him (which was good in the end, I guess), but I was sad after all. The fact that he didn’t even want to find out who I was is really … sobering. He probably didn’t feel the chemistry between us at all and his knees probably didn’t get weak when he saw me. It was just me but that’s no reason to hurt or insult him.

So can I punch him now or …?

The following story is sadly a very common and ordinary one ,probably happening to some of your friends already. I give you three keywords: clubbing, males, drunk.

A tale as old as time I guess: drunk people disrespecting lines and behaving poorly. The reason why I explicitly wrote “males” is that my weekend encounter was with a man. In fact, it made me so angry that I wondered if violence can be a legit method to end conflicts. (Spoiler: the answer is no.)

Taking a break from Berlin I decided to visit a friend in Hamburg and obviously it had lead to some parties. I was in very good company and danced to the beats of decent techno when an obviously drunk guy decided to dance next to me. As a matter of fact, he had to dance really close, so close that he was literally standing on my shoe. (That I had to remove forcefully because that human being had no intention to move anywhere)

I looked around and noticed that there was plenty of space in the club. Standing on my shoes and the overall invasion of my personal space was absolutely unnecessary. My attempt to make the guy notice my discomfort by standing still and intensely stare at him got rewarded with him stepping in front of me and slowly pushing me aside.

“Fine”, I thought, “I hope the eternal flames of hell will get you and slowly burn your intestines.” Not in the mood for mindful engagement I just moved away and danced at a spot that was drunk dude free. It didn’t take him a minute to show up next to me again and repeat the stepping on my shoe and pushing me aside crap.

Me: What is your problem? I don’t want to dance with you.
Him: I don’t fucking care about you. Go away if you don’t like it. I won’t go anywhere.

Sure, I took my stuff, congratulated on the “asshole award” I just gave him and moved to a corner and danced with my friends. Until he showed up again behind me.

That’s it. No more chance. You die.

SERIOUSLY! HOW ON EARTH CAN A SINGLE HUMAN BEING BE THAT DISGUSTING? WHAT DID THE WORLD DO TO HIM? Out of all the things he could possibly do in a club he decided to use his energy to ruin my time. He was not flirting. He was not interested in getting my attention or number. He was simply an extremely rude person very ambitious so spread negative vibes. I couldn’t believe how he is not ashamed of himself.

I turned around and told him to go away. I told him that I do not like him this close. Angry he said I should shut up.

No, I will not let you go that easily. I want you to have nightmares.

Yes, I now that this is not very zen and yes, there would have been ways to solve this with less aggression. I am still learning and this as also a lesson for me. I was taken away by my own anger. It simply pissed me off to see him casually walking around being disrespectful. A club with loud techno music is probably not the best place for a mindful conversation and I also had the impression that this guy in specific is not going to listen anyway.  That is the reason why I decided to yell the shit out of him. My usually calm voice was suddenly competing with the bass from the speakers behind me and I used my hands to make my demand perfectly clear:

GO AWAY!, I yelled, my hands pointing at the farthest corner I could find. GO THE FUCK AWAY!

As expected he did not move away and got even more aggressive and I seriously had a hard time not grab him by the collars of his ugly ass checked shirt and throw him down the stairs. I decided to continue screaming instead, hoping that either security will show up or him making the mistake of grabbing me so I have an excuse for self-defence. (I might have been angry but not stupid.)
What happened, in the end, was better though. A friend of mine stepped between us trying to move him to the side. Two girls who were dancing next to us told him to get lost as well. Another friend was also blocking him from me. Finally, a guy who I just met in the club was gently taking the dude aside and said something to him that made him disappear without causing any more drama.

Everything ended well without anyone getting hurt.

However,

I just wondered if there was a way to solve this situation without depending on the kindness of the people around me. Well, going to the bar and asking for security is obviously a possibility but is there literally no way to solve this situation by myself? Why am I even in need of asking others for help? Am I doomed to rely on others just because my body doesn’t look threatening enough to make people respect me?

Darker Days

#1

The journey of horror started even before she made it to the present. As soon as she gained consciousness again she felt this familiar uneasiness all over her body. “I am awake”, she thought and did not dare to open her eyes. Neither did she want to see the light of the fresh day nor read the time on her clock. An entire day of utter terror is ahead of her so unmerciful and cruel that she wished to fall into ashes.

She cried.

Everything is falling apart – at least this is what she felt right now. The very ground she is standing on, her warm space of comfort and safety, her will and strength. The pillars that have been supporting her for the last days are britteling away. Raw anxiety carved its way deep into her bones, paralyzing the muscles and chain her to the bed. If only her mind would have been paralyzed as well. No, she was awake and this fact scared her the most.

The whispering had made it back into her skull and becomes clearer with every minute she is clear. It rips up her memories she clings on into pieces while she can do nothing but watch. Gone. The world lied in flames in front of her, burning the last shreds that once were her retreat, her safe haven. There is no place left where she could hide from her own existence and the vast horror of her meaningless life became clear in the most brutal way.

She did not beg for mercy because she knew there is none for people like her. Each and every bit of pain she feels in this moment is justified. She deserved it. Her teeth were clenched together and the only sound that made it through her throat was a frail groan. Nobody had to explain to her why she has to endure this right now, she understood very well. While burning tears are running down her cheeks, she caught herself on wishing the old wishes again. A bullet penetrating her skull by force, scattering the layer of bones until it reaches the soft brain. She imagined how the bullet breaks its way out again painting a mural of vibrant red on the sidewalk. Her head would crush on the concrete, dragged down by gravity and her mind would finally be calm.  She seriously honestly did not want to wish for it but this is what happened right now. These ideas and thoughts scare her but there is no escape, no way to avoid the confrontation. She is facing herself and what she sees is frightening her so much.