Category Archives: Boundaries

More Sure Than Ever

Whilst on the trail and enjoying each moment as best I can, I still think a lot about what will be. What will the future bring? Will I ever find a job as a stage manager again? So far, I have mostly big show and circus experience. Will circus be reborn? I miss my work backstage. It’s always been so much more than just a job.

As my thoughts run away with me, I tell myself to relax and not dwell on what will be, because we simply don’t know, do we? Best to enjoy the moment and make the most of it, be proactive, use my enforced downtime wisely, and let it lead me to where it leads.

On the trail, I meet so many who inspire me. Like Chriggel the other day, a 14-year old farmer’s boy who goes on hikes even though he has lost his left leg from the knee down and wears a prostheses. He has an awesome sense of humor and told me, “I want one of those new prostheseses they are developing. Those will be sensitive to touch and you can feel when something touches your toe. You can even feel water. Then my dad won’t accidentally run over my foot anymore.” I just looked at him with a big question mark on my face. “Yeah, he backs up the truck to park it, and if I stand too close it happens. And then, I want to walk away but am pinned down, and I need to tell my dad, hey can you back up a little more. You’ve parked on my foot.” We both laughed and he proceeded to tell me, “In a couple years, I want to hike from here all the way to Rotterdam, and then take the ship back on the river Rhine.” Chriggel was full of life and worked hard on the farm, helping his dad. He didn’t seem like he’d ever let anything stop him.

Or then, yesterday, an old man literally ran past us on the trail when it was at its steepest. A little later we caught up with him and got to talking. Fred had hiked over from Lugano in the Italian part of Switzerland which is a couple hundred kilometers away. He was now on his way hiking back home again. He was 72 years old and told us how he used to hike up Mount Everest with his alphorn. And how next year he wants to do the Little Matterhorn and play alphorn at 4000 meters before it is too late. He said, “I am not as fast as I used to be. I used to be able to hike up 2000 meters in 1 hour, now I need 1 1/2.” (At my current pace, I’ll need 4 hours to do that.) After talking with us for 10 minutes, he finished his quick rest and walked away at amazing speed. A minute later, he had already disappeared over the horizon. Oh, and he does his long hikes with only a shopping bag. When I asked him what’s inside he said, “A spare shirt and a bottle of water. It’s all I need.”

Making the impossible possible, stretching the limits, overcoming boundaries… It’s what we do in circus every day, too. And as we do, we bring magic to the world. At the moment, all shows worldwide are closed due to Covid19, but we’ll be back! After meeting Chriggel and Fred, I am more sure than ever.

For now, I’ll try to make a difference for myself by walking and absorbing the many experiences along the way… and I’ll try to make a difference for our circus community by walking for #step4circus. Check out these links if you want to find out more:

Our first trailer on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Msf7rKELYxg

Our website: https://step4circus.com/

Our campaign: https://www.gofundme.com/f/step4circus

Also, on Facebook, search for Step4Circus and you will find our FB group.

Masks

IMG_0506

The German tendency to have everything well-organized and structured has irritated me ever since I can remember. To be fair, amazing things come of this kind of ingrained discipline. German craftsmanship, efficiency, and timeliness, for example are indisputably amazing.

I see my German roots in my own behavior. Always on time. Perfectionist. Disciplined. Hard working. Stubborn. Overexplaining. Straight forward. Many of those things not bad things at all. However, my free spirit bristles when I observe people following everything the authorities decree. Growing up, how often have I heard the sentiment, “Yes, it’s not good and it’s annoying. But the government is keeping us safe and we are so well taken care of. It’s ok. Let’s just go along with it.” Me, personally, I’d rather have a bit of discomfort and less security, but have my life less regulated in turn.

When it comes to apocalypses and pandemics, however, I must admit the German sense of obedience comes in quite handy. For the last few weeks, the local populace in my dad’s county (and the rest of Germany, too, according to the news) followed all new rules to a T. Everything deemed mandatory was dutifully adhered to.

Recommendations, however, were largely ignored. My fellow countrymen and women are precise even then. Words matter. Be careful how you phrase them. Be clear. Because they’ll take you at your word. Which, again, isn’t a bad thing at all.

Masks were one of the recommendations. Because we Germans have a thing about masks. Even politicians. They didn’t want to wear them either. So, they only recommended them as a voluntary precaution. Masks make us feel uncomfortable. We are not used to wearing them. So why should we do so now? Or so the thinking goes. And, anyhow, masks don’t help at all. It’s just a myth. Right?

Having traveled extensively through Asia, as well as having lived in Hong Kong and Macau for many years, I try to explain to people that, no, Asians in general are not paranoid. They are not strange for wearing masks. For decades now, they have gotten used to wearing them. It’s not even to protect themselves from someone in the crowd who sniffles and coughs. No. Most times it is quite the opposite. As soon as a person feels ill, they put on a mask. Immediately. To protect others.

I have only the deepest respect for this level of thoughtfulness and politeness. Taking responsibility not only for your own life, but also for the lives of the human beings you meet and, possibly, infect, on a daily basis.

We Germans, well Central Europeans in general, can learn something there.

None of the positive arguments presented by anyone were enough to break through the inherent German stubbornness though. People were religious about the two meters distance as soon as it was so ordered. They gave each other dirty looks if someone came too close. I was surprised to not see them carry measuring tape to make sure the distancing was adhered to as precisely as possible. Astonishingly, in this case, eyeballing it seemed to work well enough for all involved.

But masks, no. Endless discussions on TV argued the pros and cons. I got so exasperated, I wanted to build my own cabin in the woods. On the other hand, it was a mirror, helping me to better understand my own need to repeat myself. Or, rather, I had to admit I was far more German than I’d like to be. This is exacerbated by growing up with parents who always lived so much in their own world that we didn’t have proper conversations. Rather, I grew up listening to monologues. My own thoughts and opinions mostly discredited. It’s a work in progress. Training myself to overcome. To allay my need to be heard. To not regurgitate things over and over. To simply say them once and trust them to be acknowledged in a conversation. Or not. In the end, what I have to say doesn’t always have to reach everyone. Or it will be received by the right people. Trust is key.

But I digress. Thousands of discussions later, masks became mandatory in Germany. A week ago, actually, to be Teutonic and precise. And… lo and behold… everyone is wearing masks now.

For the first time, I am glad to see German obedience in action. Because even though the majority of the population still hates wearing masks, this needs to be done. I don’t like wearing them either. I feel constricted and dangerous somehow when I do. Like I won’t be able to restrain myself from robbing a bank if I just wear the mask long enough. But, if I can protect someone else as well as protect myself in the process just now, it’s well worth wearing it nevertheless.

Freedom and Independence

2002 hat and suit session 2

Freedom and independence have always been important to me.

These past few years, I’ve been increasingly reminded of their importance because – additionally to my own constant quest – someone close to my heart has been struggling with claiming her independence after having been imprisoned by religious and societal standards for most of her life.
I remember many conversations we had during which she felt I can’t possibly understand her massive need to manage her life entirely on her own. Her need to be in control of her own destiny without having to answer to other people or institutions. To understand herself and the world around her and conquer it by her own standards.

The thing is… I understand perfectly, because even though our background is different it is also incredibly similar. Instead of being limited by an institution, I was limited by my own body. I too, had been born into an existence which wasn’t mine.

It was dictated by the shape of my biological body, dictated by my – in the truest sense of the word – surroundings. On top of my body not matching my soul, societal standards which didn’t match my soul either, ruled my life.

And even though those around me meant well, I was never free until I realized: I am who I am, not who they think I am.

It took me until I was thirty to have enough life experience and courage to claim my freedom fully, step by step. To say “no” more often to things I had not dared say “no” to before. And to say “yes” to other things I had never before imagined were possible in my life. This picture was taken then, as I was still growing into my own skin. Ever more comfortable with my own existence. But it took another ten years until the age of forty for me to really understand myself, love myself, and rest within myself. That last part is still a work in progress… but getting better all the time.

Personal freedom. Independence. Integrity.
All so very important.

All of us are growing up with a layer of rules, societal standards, opinions, assumptions, and automatisms. Some of those are great. Others are not. We need to carefully, critically examine all of them. Always.

While growing into the adults we now are, I picture us as living in a coat shop and being surrounded by enthusiastic salesmen and saleswomen. All of them want to sell us what they think is the best coat. After a while we end up wearing dozens or even hundreds of coats. We’re wearing them on top of each other and doing our best to fit into all of them. Then, at some point, we realize, “Damn, this is heavy. I can’t move and I can barely stand up straight.”
We realize somewhere along the way, underneath all those coats, we’ve forgotten who we are. We want to stop and breathe, to find the coats which make us feel at home with ourselves. Which are ours. So, inevitably, we’ll start sorting through the ones which have been given to us. And, if we find the courage, we’ll take off the ones which don’t fit. The ones which make us feel restricted and uncomfortable.

Only then can we get back to the core of who we are… re-build ourselves.
With love compassion, and kindness, for ourselves and others.
With ethical considerations as well as our own well-being and happiness in mind.

It’s all about healthy boundaries, and taking care of our own souls, our own lives.

I understand.