Gift to Self
A collection of short stories and memory snippets that show how surprisingly easy it is to treat and feel yourSelf.
Gift to Self
On one such occasion of hitting my limit, I asked mySelf how on earth I was supposed to carve out any peace and quiet for me in a place that personified the exact opposite.
And if there was a way, could I do it without learning any complicated meditation techniques, or taking classes or turning my life upside down by moving to a cave in some desert? I was looking for the impossible. An instantly accessible fix. A pill without having to take one. No prior knowledge, practice or affirmations needed. Where could I find this perfect Gift to Self?
As it turned out: Anywhere.
Pascal Mercier, Night Train to Lisbon
Writing a book has been a secret dream of mine for many years. I never thought the dream would ever actually come true.
Many years ago, I lived in London for some time. I still consider it my second home. It is, somehow, where I first started to know mySelf – the good sides and very ugly sides – and where I felt a true part of it. London to me is inspiring, colourful, always new, always different, seemingly re-inventing itself daily and sparking your creativity if you let it. It is also loud, shrill, aggressive, exhausting & challenging.
There’s a habit I developed while living there. It has become a permanent fixture in my life. It’s a habit I always turn and return to. When times are fantastic. And when times are lonely. When I am on top of the world. When I’m indifferent. When I’m tired. When I’m wide awake. When I’m angry. When I’m at peace. I think you get it.
Holding a full-time job, studying part-time, living a relationship and not wanting to miss out on what London had to offer, I often not only reached my limits but quite dramatically ignored them.
On one such occasion of hitting my limit, I asked mySelf how on earth I was supposed to carve out any peace and quiet for me in a place that personified the exact opposite. And if there was a way, could I do it without learning any complicated meditation techniques, or taking classes or turning my life upside down by moving to a cave in some desert? I was looking for the impossible. An instantly accessible fix. A pill without having to take one. No prior knowledge, practice or affirmations needed. Where could I find this perfect Gift to Self?
As it turned out: Anywhere.
I first came across it seemingly by chance. It was sporadic at first, but then I focused my attention and intention and started to consciously create these spaces. These little pockets that consisted of the Gift of Time to MySelf. I started to take mySelf out for a cup of coffee at some cosy café. Maybe one I’ve found mySelf walking past, peeking through the windows and thinking „I might go there sometime. When I’ve got time.“ I started to treat mySelf to my favourite drink at a bar. I started to sit down and ask for a recommendation, describing my current mood and what taste I was after. I was testing the waters. And then I started to really treat mySelf, taking mySelf out for a good meal. To treat mySelf to something that was special just for being my moment that I fully and consciously claimed and shaped according to what I needed. I would often have a book or notepad on me. Sometimes though it’s even better to go and deliberately not hide behind any distraction. To show yourSelf unmasked and unprotected, undiluted. To just enjoy your surroundings. Brief encounters and special moments often grew out of these unmasked moments. Conversations, sometimes just in short snippets.
No matter what happened though and what Gift to Self I chose, these moments never failed to remind me of how unnecessary and in fact unhelpful all the fixed notions and assumptions, all those drawers in our heads are that we carry around with us and that we so generously project onto the world around us.
With time, I refined my “technique” by transferring and extending it to everyday moments. A trip to the supermarket. A walk through my neighbourhood without any particular destination or time pressures. I started to notice things I otherwise would’ve never discovered. A beautifully decorated window in the house next door. Old paintings on facades of buildings that I’d walked past a million times. The nature and intensity of day light at different times throughout the day. I observed things that touched me and often stuck with me, forming a part of my memory, slowly redirecting my focus and reshaping my perception.
I got better and better at muting the noise around me and inside of me. Sometimes I listened in on a conversation taking place at the next table over or the subway seat across from me. Sometimes, all of that was just calming background noise. Often, these little adventures have helped me through difficult and dark times by allowing me to establish a connection when connection was what I needed, and seeing mySelf in the context of the world that surrounded me. As I looked into the faces of those around me, as I listened to them and observed them, I realised that we are after all more alike than we think. We care, we try to look after our loved ones, we struggle, we worry, we dream, we fail, we try again – and always we keep going.
It has become essential and fulfilling to me to spend time with mySelf. Out there in the world. Openly. Showing mySelf. Being mySelf and yet part of everything around me. I fully believe that it is only when you are able to consciously spend and truly enjoy time in your own presence, recognizing and dealing with all that arises in you, that you can be perfect company for others. For you do not need that company to hide behind. Rather, you seek it for the richness and quality it adds to your life. Which you can return out of the fullness of yourSelf.
Sometimes it’s the small things. Holding the door for someone. Making room on a crowded train. Meeting someone’s eyes and holding them for a moment without casting your eyes away.
There’s a lot we can learn about ourSelves. Your self-consciousness in its literal meaning will change and grow without having to do much other than summon up a tiny amount of courage. And you will notice much detail about the world surrounding you which otherwise gets swallowed up in our hectic day to day lives.
It is surprisingly simple and it takes surprisingly little to be good to and feel good about yourSelf.
The following pages represent a small selection of the encounters I have collected over the years. I would be happy if they inspired you to think about your own perfect Gift to Self. And for you to then go and treat yourSelf generously.
Wie erstaunlich leicht es ist und wie wenig es dafür braucht, sich Gutes zu tun und sich gut zu fühlen.
Auf den folgenden Seiten möchte ich ein paar meiner Erlebnisse und auch die dazugehörigen Lokalitäten teilen. Und dich vielleicht dazu inspirieren, ein ähnliches SelbstExperiment zu wagen. Den Koffer zu packen für den Kurzurlaub im Kopf. Wer weiß, vielleicht wird ja eine Weltreise daraus.
A Word or Two
about the Author.
The book you are holding in your hand has been a secret dream of mine for many years. I never thought the dream would ever actually come true. Alas, come true it did, thanks to the contribution of not just the people I met that are at the heart of my stories but also those who have helped me to bring it into physical form. In no small part though, my dream became a reality because what I am sharing with you in this book has, I believe, made me the person that I am.
I think my stories already tell you a lot about me. But in case there’s any hard facts missing, here you go:
I grew up in Munich. I have lived in London and elsewhere. I’m curious. I have a desire to know what’s behind things. Behind the facades that each of us often hide behind throughout our days. Who are we, where do we go? What drives us? What separates us, what unites us? Are there limits? To us? To our striving? To who and what we can be? And if there are, where are they? My preliminary assessment tells me: There aren’t.
I love all things creative and colourful. I love being inspired by something or someone. I love learning from people who know more about something than I do. Which coincidentally is most things so that works out well for me.
I don’t like lychees or raisins (for having a weird texture), stale conversations, cold feet (both the literal and the metaphorical) and feeling stuck in a routine that doesn’t allow me to grow.
There’s really not much more to say.
I feel you know me now.
This book was written in two languages. My mother tongue German. And the language of my heart, English.
The two versions are deliberately not translations of one another. And while many stories can be found in both versions, there are some that I only included in one or the other.
Both languages to me have very different identities, evoke different emotions and cater to different aspects of mySelf. Therefore, I have decided with the help of my publisher to apply the concept to both versions but beyond that to leave room to express these different aspects.