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About Life

The Hour of the Wolf

My favourite University lecturer in fundamental Physics, a long time ago, a true gentleman with a learned mind, quite old already back then, gentle and wise, reported once about what he called ‘Wolfsstunde’, the hour of the wolf, hours of merciless awakeness in the dead of night. Yet he added back then that those nocturnal periods had turned for him from bouts of melancholy to moments of quiet and peaceful reflection in solitude.

He seemed to have acquired the skill to turn such moments into an art. He would get dressed carefully in his best comfortable clothes, carefully prepare a good cup of something hot to drink and start thinking and reflecting about things for which there was never time during busy days. Those hours of the wolf, so he said back then, had in fact become a pleasant, agreeable and ever so necessary pastime of his life.

For many, such periods of nocturnal times of being unable to sleep are difficult and uncomfortable. Same for me, initially anyway, until I remembered my old Physics lecturer who on that particular day long ago spoke of many insights and wisdoms who weren’t understood at all back then by any of us young students and kept being dormant in my mind for a very long time and which only today seem to start germinating. A little bit anyway.

There are reasons for being awake at night and they seem to demand to be understood. Science tells us of hormonal changes at night, biorhythms, disturbances of all that and unnatural interruptions of our nightly resting period. Still, once accepted for their existence, those nightly hours awake can provide very good experiences, to the point that one looks forward to those moments of peace and calmness with an alert mind and a creative flow of energy. As a musician I have come to appreciate the fact that my best compositions were created at the dead of night, in my head before I even touch the guitar and start singing them later in the morning. No chance for all that during the day, weekends even, too much pressure, telephone calls, work, emails, life’s worries and demands take their toll. However, in the night, once awake and the melancholic darkness shaken off or thoughts like that ‘one’ really ought to be sleeping, then during the minutes and hours of being awake life changing thoughts can emerge at times. Precious, invaluable, profound, lasting.

A book I know has the title ‘Tears at night, smiles at dawn’. That’s how it seems to be for me, at times anyway. The joys, needs, worries and concerns of my loved ones are on top of the pile of things to think about. Then come the regrets over past events I am not proud of and for which I am made to pay daily by those who are unable or unwilling to forgive. Or the grieving over disputes and disagreements which aren’t necessary yet which serve another purpose instead altogether, it seems. We are living in a pandemic, cooped up, the different views, different preferences are simmering over the hot fire of personal resentments and before you know it the sound emerges of irreconcilable arguments where the subject matter doesn’t even seem to matter anymore. All that seems to matter in such moments is to let off steam and to dish out insults and accusations instead of allowing one’s better instincts to guide the moment. A song I wrote a while ago has the title ‘Tired of the fight’. This song too I wrote in the middle of the night. How so very much fed up I am these days of these expressions of irreconcilable differences. We need each other. Now more than ever. Yet we keep on arguing for the sake of it. About nothing really. And nothing good comes out of it except of having been able to let off steam. A strange balance sheet emerges. In exchange for frustration and bad vibes one is rather unhappier than before, feelings of guilt and regret appear, spoiling the satisfaction of having truly voiced aloud an opinion only to get one back, equally poisonously expressed. Pressure was relieved in exchange for everyone being unhappy. How stupid all this is. Perhaps a few hours of the wolf are needed here indeed to calm down, reflect, allow regret and the emergence of reforming resolutions.

Keep your side of the street clean. So it says. But that too some find objectionable. To not participate in an argument carries a great risk to alienate allies and loved ones, those who count on you, even in moments where they’re wrong. Not to take sides in such times inevitably leads to accusations of being a pushover, a coward, a pathetic whimp. Every peacemaker worth his salt knows that trying to calm the waves in the heat of the moment leads to merciless accusations of weakness from some, the pains of which last long until after those who argued have moved on miraculously. Peacemakers always loose for the benefit of those whose fight they were trying to calm down.

Such thoughts too creep into my mind at night. Doing the right thing, including not taking sides in futile arguments, never offers any reward however well earned. But that is ok. What matters is to do and continue to do what is the right thing to do.

To find peace in these quiet moments at night, less melancholy and more reflection. I seem to be able to count on that these days in the hours of the wolf, those invaluable times awake at night.

I will leave it here for today.

Stay healthy, take care and good luck

Categories
About Life

60

Unbelievable. I made it. I remember a time when the prospect of hitting forty was so far off. And now sixty. Without living through a war. Seeing a lot of the world. Good times and troubling ones. Dodging a dangerous virus even. So far anyway.

On my watch many things happened. On the face of it I am grateful for many, family, prosperity, for example. I am bewildered by some others, the seeming decline of good politics, and outright puzzled by fake news and gone crazy political correctness, to name but a few.

Am I taking stock of my life? Am I looking back? Sure I do. It matters. Taking stock, however, doesn’t mean to linger in the past, or to dwell on it endlessly, or get stuck and mull over and over old hurts and angers. It’s about honouring what was and not to avoid the present or the future. If anything, it’s to draw strength from remembering the good and closing the lesser good to obtain strength and perspective to face what is yet to come however much remains of my time. Many memories are hidden within, deeply buried over time, yet ready to be taken up once more, thus setting in motion a flow of energy which can be put to good use in setting out the future.

When you’re young you make plans, if not consciously then unconsciously. When you are a little older you look back and see what happened to all that. You’re amazed over the things you did achieve, in some cases beyond what you could ever have imagined, in other departments you recognise, grief even, that some things you thought you were born for didn’t quite materialise, through lack of opportunities, by deliberate changes of course or by outright failure. Yet again, whilst joy and regret sit side by side, you cannot but notice that there’s a treasure of experiences here, a hoard of lessons learnt. Remembering all of that, going through it all one more time, equips you with a certain strength and resolve to live out what’s next in a much better way. And there’s a lot left I have yet to do, still hunger for, have yet to say to those who matter to me.

So, no glorification here of the past, no dwelling on old wounds and mistakes, but a chance to let go of old griefs, leaving be ancient grudges and by that I really mean leaving be this time. No more holding on to the past, getting stuck yet again in it, but allowing it to say everything that it can say in retrospect – for we can’t wish for a better past – but allow the past to instruct us and encourage us for the future, in terms of outlooks, new plans, conduct and hope.

There’s a treasure here, not just for us, but for those around us too, our loved ones especially. Everyone with a bit of mileage can use that treasure, even those who struggled, maybe those in particular. A reformed addict, for example, or recovering alcoholic can truly tell you how it is, was, spell out warnings, talk about the telling signs, consequences. Many such warnings will probably fall on deaf ears initially but seeds are sown many of which, in their own time, may well grow into insight and positive change. So even the failings carry important messages which can, and should be, passed on.

Or the necessary crisis which occur, particularly during the great transitions in life, when what one once held true and dear all of a sudden no longer holds and new territory awaits with all its hidden treasures and trappings. These crisis too carry messages, insights and acquired wisdom which can be passed on or reflected upon anew to help prepare for the time ahead.

The lived life is like an old tree. Its weathered and hardened stem carries a large crown teaming with life, life we support, provide a home for, a world to live in and prosper. What a waste it would be not to recognise this, not to revisit it, and move ahead with confidence gained through past successes or insights from failure or suffering.

And as I said, time too, to bury old hatchets at last. Rekindle relationships too maybe and finish what had been started in so many departments but left to languish unfinished since long ago.

I have been asked what I would say to my readers now that I have reached this milestone. I reply without hesitation: Create good memories for they make your life and one day affirm back to you that you have lived it well despite setbacks.

And I would also say, that for my mistakes I am truly sorry and ask for forgiveness. And for all the good I received I am truly grateful.

This milestone matters to me more than others. I didn’t know what to expect but now I can feel it. I cannot as yet articulate it in any other way or detail. But the look angle has changed. No doubt about it. On this, the writing was on the wall even if I couldn’t read it yet.

A new journey begins. One I am looking forward to. I shall let you know how I get on.

I would like to close today with the lyrics of a song I wrote in 2016. In a sense, all else I can say today in contained in it.

Never Ready

Been on this path so long

It’s hard to going back

think of the

Beginnings

Where it all began

What is time and memory

But a jaded faded song

Just the melody

It lingers on

I can’t say back then I was ready

To leave it all behind

Yet in the morning hit the road

Drove to England nice and steady

Through the night alright

Since then the world many times turned upside down

Over all the years

I never thought of giving up hope

In the end

There was always another way

And at times I didn’t think at all

About the wonders of this life

As they happened

Couldn’t find a word to say

Can’t say I was ever ready

To comprehend this life of mine

Yet every morning hit the road

Did what fathers do for life

And brought the bounty home

And all the while the world kept turning upside down

In the twists and turns of life

Sometimes you fall and rise again

There are victories

At other times you might feel blue

there’s no shame in bad times being a broken man

Nothing ever is in vain

You pick up the pieces

And start anew

When it hit me I wasn’t ready

To turn the other way

In a sense I hit the road anew

Rebuilt the castles

Planted seeds, not just a few

But there were bitter tears

As the world kept turning upside down

And all the while the time is passing

And the children find their way

In the mirror I sometimes don’t recognise my face

Ageing eyes that burn from deep

Within that fire of love

Is there joy or sadness

Near the end of the race?

Even now I fear I ain’t ready

To leave it all behind

Yet wanna hit the road again today

Do what men are born to do

To love and care, be kind

While all the while the world keeps turning upside down

Take care and good luck

Categories
About Life

My Rucksacks

For Ali

During a recent emergency in the Brandauer family, the paramedic gave me 15 seconds when I asked him if I could grab a few things before getting into the ambulance. I needed 5 seconds.

As younger couples with a baby on the way know (well, they should know), there needs to be a readily packed bag by the door for when the moment comes. I have had a bag ready ever since our children were born. I won’t tell you what it contains but it is all I need to survive for 48 hours or longer if necessary. It’s one of my trusted rucksacks which helped me on the Camino in Northern Spain, on many an urgent weekend journey, at work, on business trips including a four week stint last November, pre-Covid, somewhere in Southern Egypt. It is always readily packed. I don’t know exactly why I do this.

In fact, I have three rucksacks. Each one packed for different occasions, opportunities and eventualities. I wonder what a depth psychologist would make of it. ‘Carl Brandauer is ready for a quick get away’, he or she may say. ‘He wants to escape in his heart of hearts. There’s a shadow lurking inside that wants to break free’…that sort of thing. Actually, I think it’s none of that. I just hate packing in a hurry and forget things I need if I do. In any case, I was certainly rather grateful it was there two weeks ago when the crisis struck.

Built to order by a lovely lady somewhere in the South West Country (probably surrounded by insanely beautiful countryside ), they are simply beautifully made as well. I have never met the lady who made them for me, yet her bags have helped me everywhere I have been in recent times. Beautiful things make you smile. Useful things help you out. If objects are both, and knowing they weren’t made by an exploited underaged pair of hands in some hot country…I don’t know quite how to spell it out. It feels right. It feels good.

And with such a ‘ready bag’ you also learn to only pack what you really need. I can’t say what that is for you but I know what it is for me. As the song I wrote some time back says:

…the pilgrim sheds what’s not of use

Without excuse

Each thing needs carrying

Each thing has weight

The same with worries

Grief and hate

You shed it as you climb the slopes

And joy emerges

Freedom, hopes

You may find it odd hearing someone talk about rucksacks but here you are, I love those bags.

Take care and good luck

ps. Just to save you asking, you can get a rucksack like that from

https://www.francli.co.uk/

Categories
About Life

Crisis

To loose a loved one, maybe the loved one, or rather just living for a short while with the knowledge of that it happened or might about to be happening, is an experience I wish no one. Yet, I guess, we all will, to some degree anyway, live through something like that one day. Your Carl Brandauer has just been through such an experience. Everything got resolved in the end, surprisingly, ending in baffling fashion, as unexpectedly sudden as it began, yet for a while it was real and the effects of it all really rather linger inside. I’m definitely not over it yet.

A friendly priest once said in a sermon I listened to ‘we will all suffer one day’. Those words have acquired a new meaning for me. That much is certain.

A whole lot of nice things, never said before, are now said, whilst there is still time. Time, oh you illusive beast. We spend it as if we had infinite amounts of it. We haven’t. If you have anything kind to say to those who matter in your life, say them soon. You might not get another chance for surprises are just that, surprises, and they always knock on the door of your life when you don’t expect it. We never do, do we?

Wake up from that denial and let go of your little inconsequential and futile angers with those around you in your life. Forgive too, whilst you still can. Settle what you can settle and settle it well. It sets you free and you won’t have regrets when crisis strikes.

I wrote in earlier reflections about Living In The Present Moment and Letting Go. I am going to read those again this weekend.

I have a lot of thinking to do now. Who knows, maybe some of it will be worth sharing with you all at some stage.

Take care and good luck

Categories
About Life

The Wanderer

‘No man is wise until he lives many winters

In the kingdom of the world.’

So it is written in the ancient Anglo-Saxon poem ‘The Wanderer’. It was one of my daughters who sent me these lines and they struck a chord. And the poet goes on:

‘The wise must be patient,

Never too hasty with feelings nor too hot with words

Nor too weak as a warrior nor too witlessly brash

Nor too fearful nor too ready nor too greedy for reward

Nor even too feverish for boasting until testing his fibre.

A man should wait before he makes a vow

Until, like a true warrior, he eagerly tests

Which way the courage of his heart will course.’

Here is a man who has seen all the victories, the joys of allegiance to tribe, fellowship, surrounded by kindred spirits and led by his trusted and beloved leader and chief, all lost long ago, in battle and ruins, so it seems, leaving the wanderer, the lost and lonesome he has become, grieving, wandering, searching for words to express the wisdom such loss has wrought. Not for a long time have I read such a moving account of human despair yet also utter insight and wisdom concentrated in tears of loss.

What is wisdom anyway? Some young may well scoff at the word as they can’t have it, yet, and some older ones who know they do have it, a bit of it anyway, deep insight, take no joy in it, as they know too well that the wisdom they might call their own was earned through countless painful crisis, every bit of it. That’s the thing with wisdom. It comes at a painful and often bitter price, one we will inevitably pay for in life or we haven’t lived. It wipes the smug grin of one’s face. St Augustine was wise, St John of the Cross and many others. They too had their falls, trials and tribulations, their drunken bouts and questionable encounters with the other sex before reforming themselves and turning into the wise men and teachers we remember them for. As for me, I have done things I am not proud of and what I’ve learned I learned the hard way, made me ask for forgiveness to this day, still makes me try to make amends every day. How about you?

As for the poem, I cannot help but smile yet ponder too over words of old celebrations in mead halls, friendship, the profound sense of belonging. All lost, however, gone, in ruins, in the past.

And yet there is solace too:

‘Often the lonely receives love’, so the poem begins.

And the knowledge of the price of victory and loss is here too. It’s all here in fact and this was written when? A very long time ago. How little we have changed as a race. I can’t help but think there’s a profound message for us here in our time, from old, and not just because the days get shorter and colder and nights longer and darker. You have to go out into the dark to see the stars.

This poem resonates with me and I will ponder for a while longer, I guess, just why that is so. One thing is for certain, the poem has survived to this day for a reason, and is not known by many for other ones. For it takes courage to recognise that we must fall, that even kingdoms must fall at some stage, for there to be something new. It also takes willingness to accept that we should cherish and look after what we have for it will not last. Not for our own sake we should do that but for those we care for, for the world too, which we inherited and have yet to pass on, are in the constant process of passing on. Not to squander lightly what we are blessed with, for as the wanderer reflects

‘The good warrior must understand how ghostly it will be

When all this world of wealth stands wasted

As now in many places about this massive earth

Walls stand battered by the wind,

Covered by frost, the roofs collapsed.

The wine halls crumbled; the warriors lie dead,

Cut off from joy; the great troop all crumpled’

I am grateful to my daughter for giving me this poem. It made me stop in my usual tracks and listen differently for the moment to what is happening these days, realise what may well happen, will happen, appreciate differently what did happen. I give it to you herewith, this beautiful and powerful poem. Spend some time with it, it is well worth it.

https://www.vqronline.org/essay/wanderer-anglo-saxon-poem-translated-jeffrey-hopkins

Take care and good luck.

Categories
About Life

Camino Primitivo

A vista from the Camino Primitivo, the oldest of the Camino Santiago routes in the North of Spain. It is less well known than the more famous route, the Camino Frances, and doesn’t lead across the Pyrenees from France but starts on the Northern coast of Spain. It’s a rocky affair, this route to Santiago di Compostela, across the mountainous region of Asturias at first. Having walked on it three years ago, I look back these days more often to this momentous pilgrimage. You walk with very little in your backpack. You have to carry everything. It sharpens the mind as to what you really need. Every day on 20-30 km long rocky routes full of obstacles, always up and down. I always thought that walking such distances is not really such a big issue. In a way that’s still true but to walk it every day, day after day, that is different. It can’t be explained. You have to do it, felt it, and you know.

A lot of what is wrong in terms of thoughts will be left across the wayside. The mask drops off and the real core comes to light without veil and falsehoods. What’s left is the real self and nothing else. There can be tears flowing when the rain starts and hours of challenging terrain has yet to be crossed, distances braved before the next hostel, without there being shelter along the way, exposed to the forces of nature, alone with yourself on long, difficult paths. To walk across Asturias is not for the faint hearted and you need to have stamina. There’s hardly ever a straight stretch of way. Up and down, as I said, often steep and dangerous, above all when it rains, or, as happened to me, when it snows in April. The weather in the North of Spain can be tricky.

During these uncertain times, with many great worries to carry, for so many and for me too, I can’t help looking back at this trek through Asturias. Existential questions are on the table, about job, livelihood, security, health and more. To live with it all is not easy. And yet I recall this pilgrimage during which I got into serious trouble. That too is part of the Camino, the way. The danger, the accidents, crisis.

How light, or heavy, the load really is we need to carry isn’t always for us to determine as it is on a long walk. And yet you have to let go from bad thoughts, grief and hate, from anything that isn’t really authentically you. In a sense there’s no choice on the matter. No, we can’t always decide how much there is to carry but we can decide very much how to carry it, how fast we go forward, how many breaks we take, we need to take, to carry on. I have to remind myself more often of that these days, even without Coronavirus.

At the end – and there always is an end – a warm stove may be waiting, or the generous heart of a stranger with whom you can share your burdens and he can share his. Or an unexpected change in the weather occurs and the glimmer of hope lifts your spirit when the sun breaks through the clouds, the sudden certainty appears inside that all will turn out ok in the end. I hold on to such thoughts presently as I find them helpful even in the darkest of times. As St Julian of Norwich once said: ”All shall be well, and all shall be well and all manner of thing shall be well.”

Take care and good luck.

Categories
About Life

Fear

‘If you are distressed by anything external, the pain is not due to the thing itself, but to your estimate of it; and this you have the power to revoke at any moment.’ Marcus Aurelius said that. He must have known a thing or two about fear. He was one of the last of the stoics and probably died in a pandemic. I guess, he fully accepted that the pandemic in his time wasn’t under his control at all but the way he behaved in response to it very much was.

I have carried this quote with me for a long time to suddenly hear a different ring to it. Like so many at the moment, I am exposed as well to this new threat we all face: Getting infected by a hideous and very infectious new disease which affects older people more than young, people with existing health conditions more than the healthy. On average anyway. Carl Brandauer’s doctor leaves him in no doubt here. ‘It’s unlikely you survive it’, the doctor said this week.

So, in Marcus Aurelius’s words, my estimate of the thing is pretty serious but in terms of revoking it all, I have means to deal with it so deal with it I do and I must, however hard I find it all.

I try not to sit and fret. Easier said than done. But I have a roof over my head and the room I live in is warm. I have food, a bed and a clear head. I am fortunate really. To remind myself daily first thing in the morning of a few blessings in my life is a practice I adopted a long time ago. It is currently a rather desperate exercise but it too helps.

Like everyone else’s, my life has its extra challenges right now. How to deal with younger adults coming home from wherever they have been, how to stay save, how to stay healthy, how to keep sane in involuntary isolation? These are formidable matters to deal with but I hold on to Aurelius’s words. I try to consider things. I try to keep things in perspective. It’s really not easy but I try.

This is not about fear of doing something one is fearful of. It’s not about being daring or not. It’s about being sensible, composed and trying to find the courage to move on, step by step and fighting the naggingly persistent question inside ‘what’s the point of it all, I might get it anyway’.

To live with that fear is very difficult and many conversations I had last week with colleagues, readers, friends and family inevitably turned to this subject. What I found so helpful was that everyone admitted their unease and the same deep fear and that made it a shared experience and gave relieve to both sides. We are in this together, for better or worse.

We have the power to revoke this, our estimate, of what causes us this pain, called fear. I am no master of it but thank you all for your kind words in recent days which helped me to get a little better at it.

And I wish you fortitude, courage and strength in keeping calm as well. I have discovered a few good books of late which I am currently reading. It’s my way of distracting myself and let my inner self deal with the fear. It is my sincere hope and wish you find yours.

I also find that remaining idle breeds doubt and fear within me whereas staying active, however difficult that is, gives me a little more confidence and builds courage to carry on. And that courage helps me to muster the power Aurelius speaks of, the power to revoke my estimate of the thing which causes me the pain of fear.

Take care and good luck

Categories
About Life

Limits

For Markus

About a year ago I suffered a stroke. An almighty warning shot across the bow. A lot was in the works and in the making. Many plans had been made, a lot of joyful anticipation for the next adventure was in the air yet the eyes were opened wide. Everything came to a halt.

Its is said that people change in a health crisis. And Carl Brandauer? No, he didn’t really or did he? Certainly what did change was how I looked at things and what I thought I was but really wasn’t, that too vanished and went overboard. What was left was just myself as I really am I think and perhaps should have become a long time ago.

Benign arguments are now something I avoid instinctively and more than before.

Vanities and puffed up blustering, never my thing anyway, have too now lost their appeal altogether. I avoid exposure to such things.

And the desire to confront foolish statements and behaviour, especially from those who should know better, that has been eradicated completely.

It initially became a formidable challenge for me to now muster acceptance of and tolerance for ignorance, particularly from younger and more impatient or even immature colleagues yet it comes as a surprise how easy it turned out to become eventually.

In the same way the capacity for forgiveness and letting go of arguments and irritation has grown immensely. In this new world I am allowed to continue to live in, not every argument about matters seem to be mine anymore to mediate. Not every wrong statement is for me to attack, not every circumstance, however regrettable and wrong, for me to deal with and improve. Not every battle in this war is mine to fight.

All too often it is others, mostly work colleagues driven by questionable ambitions or motives, who make life more difficult than it needs to be and should be. All of this has less meaning for me now, bothers me less, if at all. He who has been floored this way and, as a result, has been so very close to the window towards the beyond, has little or no time anymore for such things. It’s just how it is. If anything, such worldly and human made matters are cause for a little irritation at times and huge deep regret at others. Something has been understood which results in a change of conduct and approach in the time that’s left. Part of that are is the appreciation of limits or boundaries experienced. One adjusts to them more, appreciates them differently, recognises them better and easier, for recognising them one must.

Many Scharlatans encourage us to break boundaries, that they are merely in our mind, woven from our own weakness, that our possibilities know no bounds or that we set them all ourselves. ‘Everything goes’ they tell us and that we are our own worst enemy in not attempting more. I listened intensely to those voices myself once. Today I consider them as dangerous nonsense.

What a lot better it would be if we tried instead to better our understanding of who we really are in every aspect. The better knowing of one’s real inner boundaries would follow and above all, the insight into the difference between what are our own real boundaries within which we are free to move and live, for which and what we were made, and those boundaries which we are offered falsely by the said Scharlatans in commerce and politics which try to tell us for their own benefit only, what is good for us. I am not talking about the latter.

The former are the ones I am thinking of here, however, those boundaries with which we were endowed, which are ours alone as individuals to explore and know at every stage in life, which cost nothing to explore other than personal effort, reason and humility. To get to know them is very difficult at times but without it it is like searching for meaning in a dark forest. To not try to learn about them is a sign of ignorance and will lead for sure to enduring mistakes, suffering and disappointment. I leant about it all the hard way. I nearly didn’t make the cut.

In my youth I felt an urgent need to explore and experience my boundaries, even breaking them where possible, but this has changed into an insight that it’s more important to be reminded of them, anticipate them better rather than reach and feel them, the real ones I mean, not the ones we need to continue to try and break down. Where once a drive for reaching those real boundaries was predominant, it is today more care to not to reach them at all which informs my actions.

It is not surprising that many things and actions are not as easy to deal with as they once were yet very much to my surprise, and often unexpectedly so, some things have become an awful lot easier. Strange this, but sheer force seems unnecessary now yet care and consideration have come to the fore. Where once there was this desire to break head first straight through the middle, everything now goes through the head first instead.

Yet I still can get it wrong at times when it comes to reading the signs of emerging exhaustion or recognising boundaries approaching when I walk through life. Perhaps it’s that bridge too far on a physically demanding mountain hike or the mental stamina required to sit through long business meetings which can often last till late at night. The right judgement of one’s physical and mental state is not always an easy task and things like physical strength and ability to concentrate are not always the same. Every day is different and even seasons and the weather can have a critical impact as does the quality of sleep the night before. The punishment for getting it wrong are longer periods of rest required and general lack of well being. But in time, I hope. I will learn even better to read the warning signs and to appreciate the symptoms of fatigue.

I have stopped lighting the candle on both ends. I burn slower, less bright but more gentle and calmer. I don’t give up easily anymore and I recognise more patience in all things.

Youth isn’t strong on patience. It mustn’t be or it wouldn’t be youth. To hold issues unresolved in one’s mind, the ability to wait patiently, these are not youth’s forte. Why should it be? It’s not been taught in our culture of instant gratification anyway. We are encouraged to want it, to want it all, to want it all now, to want it all now and our way.

Carl Brandauer returned sooner to work after his stroke than he perhaps should have but as someone he could and perhaps should have been earlier. Perhaps the same but with less baggage, ambition and better judgment. Alas, everyone travels on their own Odyssey to overcome obstacles on their way to their true selves. Why that has to be so remains a mystery to me despite every effort to understand it. Yet to learn and feel one’s boundaries sooner rather than later seems to me such a key to a better, simpler and more agreeably journey to the final destination whatever that may be.

Take care and good luck

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About Life

Letting go

‘He is not a fool, who gives away what he cannot keep, to gain what he cannot loose,’ it was Sandy Millar, rector of Holy Trinity Brompton, London, who spoke those words many years ago one Sunday morning. I was young back then, and proud, a small child on each side, holding on to my trousers and a baby on my arm. Those were days where seeds were sown and words spoken which only now I begin to appreciate, for using the word ‘understand’ would mean that I have learnt nothing since.

It is autumn. My acer is turning a beautiful red again. The last stage of this years growth is the most beautiful and the next storm will blow the leaves away. Every single one of them. And then the beauty is gone, until the next season. I watch it every year. We all do in the Brandauer family. It’s especially symbolic to me this year that the end can be so special and spectacular even if it lasts only a short time. The memory of it stays long after the leaves are gone.

I notice how with every year watching this spectacle my appreciation for material ‘things’ has declined, that owning has become less important but witnessing more meaningful. The pursuit of the acquisition of wealth for the sake of it, let’s call it by its ugly name ‘greed’, has all but died down at the same rate. Our last shirt won’t have any pockets, we can’t take anything with us.

The children have began to go their way. Good! I won’t be a parent who plagues them with expectations I could not fulfil myself. I wish them well. All five of them. I have done what I could. I fought the good fight even though I lost many battles along the way through my own failings. Yet they made me what and who I am today. There’s an important difference between giving up and letting go. That insight was part of it all too. And it requires courage to let go as it usually involves letting go of something familiar. But life goes on and as the familiar no longer works as it once did, so we must move on as well.

So what next? It’s no good trying to cling to the past. We cannot have a better one by wishing for it anyway. And it requires effort to holding on to it, effort that may well be better spent by investing it in a brighter future. Letting go of who and what I am, to become what I might be, sounds promising and whilst the raging bitter waters keep flowing, a bridge can be built across it to a better then, another side we haven’t been to yet. It’s our choice when we start building and letting go. Since sooner or later we will have to let go anyway. To do so sooner rather than later, when it has become inevitable, requires too this above mentioned courage but the reward is on offer right now. What is there to loose by letting go? Nothing. But everything to gain.

Take care and good luck

Categories
About Life

Solitude

The Carthusian monks have a saying: ”Solitude is merciless, you can’t escape from it!”

The Carthusians should know, spending most of their time in solitude indeed.

But what about us normal mortals? Especially now, in times of pandemic isolation, locked away in fear of getting sick. I have no time for the conspiracy theorists, even though I pity them. For the normal ticking mind we have to acknowledge that we have a problem at our hands. A viciously infectious virus that kills at random, particularly the frail with health problems.

I can’t say the isolation was a hardship for me. True enough, I couldn’t travel for nine months now and travel is a necessary ingredient to keep my job down but since everyone in my line of work sits pretty much in the same boat, wether they work in Adelaide, Washington DC, Vaduz, Moscow or Amsterdam. We all have to make do with Videoconferencing. There are those who hit the bottle before they even appear on camera. You can’t smell it but it is at times all too obvious that the other side is inebriated, is talking louder than they do when you meet them, and haven’t bothered dealing with that telling stubble, wearing T-Shirts instead of a crisp shirt which such calls really demand. We have a lot to learn yet about etiquette in Videoconferencing.

And then when we put the phone down we are alone again. Another sip on the bottle perhaps to beat the pain of loneliness, cabin fever, or as my colleague in Amsterdam admitted, another joint before the next call. I don’t do that. I want to have a clear head. These days anyway. In the few moments between calls and domestic demands, I walk the dog or contemplate over a flower in my garden.

Being alone successfully requires hard work. Being alone with oneself brings one face to face with one’s reality. For most, used to distract themselves with whatever is available, solitude seems unbearable. You need to like yourself to be able to tolerate your own company. Who does? But if oneself is the only company available and for prolonged periods of time too, the friendship has to be established with oneself, one’s dark side included, called by the experts in such matters ‘our shadow’.

As I never tire to say, tolerating one’s own company and accept oneself as one is, requires long hard work and eating a lot of humble pie. But it is not just worth it, it is unavoidable, especially in these days of pandemic restrictions. For alone with ourselves we will be more often for a little bit longer.

What helps here is to occupy one’s mind with beautiful things, avoid reading the news too much, if at all, and contemplate over what is around us as and where we are. There’s beauty all around us and it helps with self reflection and the inner peace making process.

Learning to be content in the presence of one’s own company requires kindness, patience and forgiveness. We all have a lot to forgive us for. We all need to be patient with ourselves and be kind in the face of our repeated mistakes. We are not perfect and that is how it should be. What’s there left to learn if we were perfect.

And there comes a time, I promise, where solitude grows rare fruits. Insights never to be had if we would not be forced to look inside. Peace of mind over the coming to terms with past mistakes. Moments of joy when the realisation kicks in that certain old habits have well and truly had their day and one actually has moved on.

Don’t fret solitude, embrace it. Look in the mirror and wear your best shirt for the day to celebrate a day out with yourself. Make it special. Make it count. Stay sober and of a clear head. The return may surprise you and may also send you to sleep eventually when you have told yourself everything you wanted to say and have listened to the voices deep inside telling you their side of the story.

You will be a better friend to your acquaintances later on when all these pandemic restrictions are over eventually as you will have found peace of mind. Through imposed actions brought about by solitude and dealt with in a healthy manner.

Take care and good luck.