A bird in a cage

“You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, ‘I have lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.’ You must do the thing you think you cannot do.” ~ Eleanor Roosevelt

Several years ago, someone I hardly knew compared me to a little bird who was trapped in a cage. She told me that the door of the cage was no longer closed and that I could fly out. I don’t know what made her tell me this, but I believe it was quite accurate.

Not long after this moment, I chose to give it a try to get out of the cage. It took me all the courage I possessed, but after a while I spread my wings. Although it was clumsy at first and I bumped into some obstacles, I learned that I could fly.

Yesterday I was observing a beautiful yellow bird in a small cage. The door was opened and yet the bird chose to stay inside, as if it had forgotten it was supposed to be free.

I realised that in my present life I sometimes do the same. When I stand in front of important crossroads, I often feel in my heart which path to choose. Unfortunately, this is almost always the path that scares me most. What I catch myself doing then, is climb back in my small cage where I have known it to be uncomfortable, but safe. Luckily I usually come to a point where I realise again which motto I want to live by: ‘Do the things you are most afraid of to do’.

I am not talking about doing things that make you feel angry, sad, jealous or any other unpleasant emotion. Protecting yourself from potentially harmful situations is important and a way of loving yourself. I am also not talking about healthy fear that causes the fight or flight reaction in situations of which you rationally know that they are not good for you.

What I am talking about, is that paralysing fear that guides you away from what you actually want in life. It is one of the best teachers. I have found that when I look my ghosts in the eye, they evaporate in no time, which leaves me with an amazing feeling of victory and wondering why I was ever afraid. So, I tell myself every time, and I am telling you now: ‘Common little birdie, it is time to fly!’

The life of books – When people share

A couple of weeks ago, I paid a visit to an old telephone booth in Berlin. Nice, you could say, but what is special about that? Well, this specific telephone booth was completely filled from bottom till top with all kinds of books. Old, new, fiction, non-fiction, big, small, but one thing they had in common: they were all placed there by a previous owner to be passed on to the next reader.

I love this concept of sharing books for free. You give a book a new home and replace it by a book that you are ready to pass on. Sometimes, if you are really lucky, you can find some real jewels. Maybe that one book you have been hoping to read for a while now or a great classic.

Thanks to a very nice person,  I went home with a German copy of ‘Sophie’s world’ by Jostein Gaarder and a series of books about Commissario Brunetti. I had never heard of the author Donna Leon before, but since the books were in a good state, compact and seemed interesting enough, I decided to take two of them with me on my travels through Indonesia.

That is how I came to read ‘The girl of his dreams’ on the long train ride from Bandung to Yogyakarta with the sound of air conditioning buzzing in my ears. I almost finished it in one session of reading and not just because there wasn’t much to do on the train. I really enjoyed my first encounter with Commissario Brunetti, his family and colleagues. I followed the thrilling storyline with pleasure, but was surprised by more intellectual aspects appearing in the book as well.

On the train from Yogyakarta to Probolinggo and then further to Banyuwangi, I started reading ‘About face’  by Donna Leon. Although it evolves around the same main character and again in the city of Venice, it can interest me enough so far to continue reading and to look forward to reading the rest of the books, waiting for me back in Berlin.

Thinking about life: Ecclesiastes

Spending time in Indonesia has brought up some deeper questions in my mind that I would like to share with you.

To be honest, I feel overwhelmed several times a day and sometimes I feel homesick. To me, the traffic is crazy, the weather so hot and humid, insect bites itchy and not so easy to go to the places I want to visit, unless I cough up a lot of money. I actually had hoped for a lot of beautiful nature closeby so that I could make walks, rewind and come closer to myself again. Instead I am lost in the amount of information of ’22 things you have to do in this or that place’ or ‘most beautiful places in…’. It costs so much to go to these spots and to me, the amount of other tourists and merchandisers around take away most of the charm and serenity. The funny thing is that I read a lot about places to take cool pictures for Instagram or other social media. Well… I am not that kind of person.

This made me wonder what I actually look for, by travelling across countries and even continents. I don’t like it to visit touristic places to take pictures to show how hip I am by being there. I don’t think I like it either to be the backpacker who goes completely back to basic, socializes with everyone and who undertakes great but dangerous adventures in the wild. I am a rather calm, sensitive, dreamy and introvert person. I do like it to do voluntary work and stay with a host family, but I didn’t manage to find an opportunity for that.

So what is travelling all about? Is it about getting away from your normal life that includes work and education? Is it to meet new people and lay connections? Is it to relax? Is it to explore new places and challenge yourself by trying new things? I honestly don’t know. It made me think about the book Ecclesiastes in the Bible, written most likely by King Solomo. He wrote about the purpose of life and that the best way we can spend our lives is to try to enjoy our days, because everything else is meaningless.

This makes me think that it actually shouldn’t matter at all what other, or even most, travellers are looking for. I want to try to find my own way and to grow as a person. Maybe the lesson I need to learn, is to let go of my perfect image of how this trip should be and to let go of the pressure of doing things that others do. Life, bring me your lessons. I want to learn to enjoy.

Child 44 – The story continues

A book that I have read recently is ´Child 44´written by Tom Rob Smith. At this moment I am reading the sequel ´The secret speech´so it seemed only right to me to write something about it. The main theme of the book series is the Soviet Union in the time right before and after Stalin´s death. It is mostly written out of the perspective of former State Security Police (later KGB) officer  Leo Demidov. So far, the story has been perfect and horrible at the same time.

As far as my knowledge goes, the books give a quite historically correct description of how the circumstances where for people living in the Soviet Union after WWII. The author really knows how to grasp your attention and how to make you sympathize with people who have acted in horrifying ways. I believe Tom Rob Smith has a good understanding of human nature. He shows how much love, fear, loyalty and hate can live in a person simultaneously and how drastically people can change. But he also displays how people have to carry the consequences of their deeds in the most painful ways. Deeds cannot be undone.

I recommend this book since I believe it is important to realize what mankind is capable of, both in the positive and negative way. The truth is that today suppression and cruelty still continue all over the world. In some places it happens in more extreme and obvious ways on large scale and the media is on top of it, at least for a while.  But I think that the problem starts on an individual base. So many men and women have self-distructive habits, like telling themselves every day how worthless they are and taking little care of their wellbeing. Not loving yourself makes it so much harder to commit with heart and soul to relationships with others. This has consequences for the whole society: broken families, children hurt, unstable work and political atmospheres and so on.

I truly believe that even one tiny human being can make a difference by striving to be a warm, loving person. For many the hardest goal to achieve is to love oneself, but it is the very beginning of everything. The one person who deserves and yearns for your love most is looking back at you in the mirror.

“To love oneself is the beginning of a lifelong romance.” ~ Oscar Wilde

“Isn’t this how it starts? You have a cause you believe in, a cause worth dying for. Soon, it’s a cause worth killing for. Soon, it’s a cause worth killing innocent people for.”
― Tom Rob Smith, Child 44