Relationship advice from a bicontinental couple

There are two things I learned from being married for two years. Well, to be honest, there are probably a million things I learned. But most of it is boring, obvious, old couple kind of stuff: communicate the heck out of it, always always always be grateful and say it – and mean it! Don’t try to change the other person, and do your thing independently. See? Boring!

But I recently became aware of how important these following two things are:

  1. Always have something to look forward to.

It’s actually not my own advice. I read it on Jeff Goins’ blog. For our two year jubilee I gave my husband a photo of us looking out of the window of the train going to Mombasa. And I put that sentence in fancy retro letters next to it.

Always having something to look forward to doesn’t necessarily mean holidays, but it generally involves a break. It’s important to break the routine, make life interesting again, trigger new feelings, experiences and some learning. Some excitement.

This serves as a motivation to keep pushing through the daily life, even if it’s hard or boring or almost not bearable.

You need that new thing that you both can work towards and that you both will then enjoy.

When is your next holiday? Or when is a friend of you both coming to visit? Are you going to move? Do you want to paint a wall in your apartment or throw a party? Go to the cinema, the theatre, a concert, a restaurant? Are you going to get a pet or a car, or sell your car, or start gardening?

Make it something big, work both towards it and then enjoy.

  1. Leave with a smile. And then return with a smile.

My husband goes to university almost daily, and I remain home. Recently he told me something he had discovered:

“Whenever I leave here smiling, it is going to be a good day.”

That really struck me. When we say goodbye, both of us might already be entangled in the day’s duties, in the problems and tasks ahead, that we forget to actually treasure the moment and person right in front of us.

If something is lingering in the back of your mind (The dishes are still in the sink unwashed. – He’s wearing yet another pair of shoes. – I wonder whether I will get all the things done today.), it will keep eating on your spirit there (What if she doesn’t wash the dishes until I return? – Where shall we store all these shoes of his? – This is too much meaningless work, I will never finish.) and lead to an explosion upon return (What? She didn’t wash the dishes? The lazy lass! – What? He bought yet another pair? I’m going to throw them out of the window! – Obviously I didn’t tick all the tasks. What a useless day, and tomorrow is going to be worse.).

Two boiling pots, and we are about to witness what happens when we pour them together.

Explosion! Misunderstanding! Hurting!

Yes, everybody carries their baggage, but when we say goodbye for the day, let’s just switch those voices off a bit and truly smile. Because in that way, despite a horrible day, we will know that there is someone who loves us and whom we love back.

Do I already sound like an old married lady? Let me know in the comments please, and be honest!

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When it’s 2015 and you get your first smartphone

or: On changing people and principles and what really defines a person.

I recently took down the sentence “I don’t own a smart phone“ from my About-page. It was true until April 2015.

I am generally not very good with phones. That is not a big problem in Germany, where I relied on the good old landline. But even there I got a lot of complaints because text messages could go unanswered for a week or longer because I just never opened my mobile phone.

Since in Kenya I don’t have a landline, a mobile phone is essential. My mobile phone is yet again unique, because it is so old that it is unable to show 2015 on its calendar. (I put it back to 1998, because the days and dates are the same.) It also doesn’t have ringtones, it only vibrates and sometimes even just blinks blue. You generally have to be a bit lucky if you want to reach me through my phone.

Then I started working on my entrepreneurial venture and figured that I will

  • one: spend more time in traffic jams going to town and back for meetings
  • two: spend more time on social media promoting my organisation

That is why I got my sister’s old smartphone. This gives me the opportunity to do emails and social media on the go, during the long commute to the city centre and back, and also some reading of other blogs and websites. Like that, I have more time at home and answers to emails or messages don’t get delayed.

When I started writing friends emails from my smart phone, it must have indicated it, because I got a lot of surprised replies: Laura, you? With a smartphone? Halleluiah, a miracle!

So a part of my claim to be an old soul, a traditionalist, consciously slow and mindful, unique and independent, not giving in to the “evil rush of technology”, all that went to pieces. It’s almost like a satisfaction for people to point their finger and say: See, you are finally giving in. You are not that strong and unique and standing for yourself as you always pretended!

But I realised that is not the point.

It doesn’t matter whether I have a smartphone or not. The point is to know what I am standing for and continue to live the way I want to live. It also depends on how I use it. I haven’t become less of an old soul, a traditionalist, consciously slow and mindful, unique and independent, just because I now own a smartphone.

People change and so do principles because time changes. Principles should not define people.

I may wear the same hat for years and be known for it, but only because I give it up one day doesn’t mean that I am now less of what I was standing for before. We tend to focus on superficialities, because they give us easy orientation.

But the true character of a person doesn’t lie in their accessories or principles. It lies in how people do their things.

What defines you? What are you standing for? And how to people perceive it? Let me know in the comments.

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How to get work done

when you happen to be in the tropical rainy season

Whether you are around the equator or somewhere else, there are times when being productive is harder than usual due to certain circumstances.

June and July are the coldest months here in Kenya. In Nairobi, that means drizzling grey days and muddy streets. That not only drains the energy, but also has some side effects that call for adjustment in my working day.

But there is cure and it doesn’t matter where you are or how the weather is there – I am sure some of these hints can also help you get back into a productive working routine.

Calculate blackouts

Always have alternatives of what to do when the power goes as this might occur more regular in the rainy season. For me this includes working on my handwritten novel, knowing which veggies need to be cut or which beans need to be sorted for dinner or lunch. Also, letters are perfect to be written during blackout. I make sure to have my laptop fully charged all the time. In that way, I can still work for two more hours into the blackout.

It’s also crucial to back up your work regularly. Consider a smartphone. I am having one for a month now and if there is an emergency that needs internet I might be able to fix it via smartphone that has internet bundles.

Work in sprints

If it is not raining, I consider going out and getting the groceries for the day or some credit or at least some fresh air. I can also hang clothes or do bank stuff. There may be long periods in which I cannot leave the house without getting showered. As I work during these, I am trying to use the slightly dryer breaks to catch some air and get away from the laptop.

Stay positive

Grey skies and muddy paths are not the greatest happiness enforcers and accordingly, my work energy quickly is in danger to drown. So I make sure that I have enough cocoa at hand (the only addiction I allow myself), and maybe some cookies, some comfy clothes to not freeze (thanks Mum for the wrist warmers) and some good music. Photos or other visual stimulation also help, and candles if you like, to create a general positive working environment.

Don’t do it alone

I have invited friends to my place (because mine has wifi) and we will work alongside or on projects together. They keep me company, definitely help the whole stay-positive issue and if they are working, I can’t go on straying through the internet, but better also do some serious work. It’s encouraging to have others around.

This is how I work during rainy season. Where are you working from? And how do you make it happen there? Tell me in the comments below!

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