The Value of Reliability

Reliability is something I have always taken for granted in anyone around me, no matter what the relationship was. Sure, some people are generally more reliable than others, but the intention to be reliable (and maybe occasionally messing up) seemed to be there and I never thought twice about expecting it.

Now, at the age of 35, I am slowly seeing that not everybody is actually reliable. Unconditional reliability is in fact something very valuable and unfortunately, pretty rare.

I have a colleague for instance, who always acts reliable, but never gets anything done if I ask him for anything, even if he has offered his help. He’s a charming lad, but in reality, absolutely unreliable in the context I know him in.

But these unreliable people are choosing to be unreliable only in certain contexts. They are flexible in how reliable they are, depending on how important the whole thing is, or depending on the context.

For me personally, if I tell you I am going to do a certain thing, you can be sure that I really intend to do it. I may mess up, but if I do, I will take responsibility for messing up and inform the people affected. It doesn’t matter whether you are a colleague, a friend, a best friend or some guy on the street.

If reliability is a flexible concept, this doesn’t work very well. How am I to work out whether to count on your words or not? Experience at work has taught me not to wait for this colleague to do anything I ask him for help with, even if he has the time and I do not, because in most cases, he will simply not do it. There is only one type of task which he will do if I ask him, so I adapt to that.

In a work context it is frustrating, but I can learn to navigate the waters, as the context is very narrow and predefined. In this case, the outcome is predictable and I know what to expect.

In a very personal context, flexible reliability is everything but simple to navigate.

Being unconditionally reliable for somebody means you are inviting them to be able to unconditionally trust you.

For me, it comes natural to trust people. Experience then may teach me otherwise, but first of all, even if things look different, I trust that the person I am dealing with is trying to be the best version of themselves, just like I am, and that includes being reliable and trustworthy.

Flexible reliability massively undermines the primary trust I give. How can I feel comfortable around somebody who’s words are not trustworthy, as I know from painful experience? How can I put myself in a vulnerable position if experience has taught me that I cannot trust a person’s words or future actions? In a personal context, being vulnerable to each other is necessary, but it only works if there is a tremendous amount of trust. Trust is built out of a combination of the primary decision to trust somebody and built up trust based on experiencing the person as being reliable and trustworthy.

I am mixing up the words trust and reliability a lot. Are they in fact linked in such a strong way? Maybe it is just my way of thinking of them. To me, trust needs reliability to grow. The best reliability for me is unconditional reliability – that way, another person’s reliability doesn’t depend on myself or the person’s momentary opinion of myself. It will still be there even if some other threads run thin.

The reliable people in my life at the moment that I choose to trust in a personal context are all women, and there are not many. The only unconditionally reliable man I can think of right now is my immediate boss.

Why is this such a difficult decision to make for people? Personal values are not something you switch on because you might get something in return. You have values that you yourself believe in. They are part of who you are. They would still be part of you if you were alone on a island. So, why is reliability such a hard thing to do? I don’t know of any negative effects it could have, and it really doesn’t take much effort. You can still be crazy and fun while being reliable. You can be the coolest guy on earth – reliability would actually just make you way more cooler. So what is it? Why is being unconditionally reliable so unpopular?



Questions and – finally – Answers

There is always one question you ask me. One of those questions that would require hours to explain. I end up not answering it properly, because the conversation veers off in a different direction. We’ve done this a few times already.

I’ll answer it here. It seems the best option right now, and we can carry on from there, if you like. This way, I can put my answer into words that make sense. When I try to put it into spoken words, I mix the timeline up and forget explanations that are necessary to understand the context.

So – Why did I stay?

It’s a question that I’ve been asking myself for the past 6 years. I think I have an honest answer now.

I will start long before I met Mr Ex, I will start 2 years before that, when I was 17. I was going out with somebody, Mr M. He was quite a boy actually, a little younger than me, an adopted kid and an aspiring musician. In fact, we met properly because we both played in the selected school orchestra. I grew to love him dearly, in a weird kind of way. There was no falling in love with a bang with him, but I was in love. Anyway, his parents were very strict. Apparently, in a discussion with them about me (they didn’t like the fact that he might become distracted from his music career), he told them that he intended to marry me (he didn’t tell me this though!). They went mad and forbade all contact. They even had some of the teachers at school keeping an eye on us.

He tried. He tried to find 5 minutes here, another 5 there. But it was wearing him out, and his situation at home wasn’t helping. His parents were watching his every move and were happy to dole out punishments whenever thought he had stepped out of line and seen me again. And so, in the end, he told me he couldn’t keep it up anymore.

Then he did something that I’ve never been able to understand in anybody. He kept right away. He made a point of keeping his distance, avoiding eye contact, and going completely quiet.

This broke my heart. I began to doubt that he had been sincere. I began to think that perhaps his parents had only been an excuse, and easy reason. As far as I could see, he wasn’t behaving as if he was hurt or unhappy, or as if he cared about me at all. People told me he was going out with that girl, then with this one.

I began seeing other guys – none of them anything serious or for very long. Mr M and I ran into each other sometimes, and exchanged an update, but no more than that. Once though, he called me in the middle of the night, drunk, somewhere outside, and I drove to his town to look for him, because what he had said worried me. I didn’t find him, but we ended up meeting up the next day, and this was the first time we had a chance to talk for a bit. He said that he still felt the same. But then the parents sent his sister out to look for him. He asked me to come with him to see his sister, thinking she would be delighted. She wasn’t. When he got home, she told his parents where he had been and apparently, his father beat him so hard that he passed out. All this is stuff that I never heard about until much later.

After that it was back to no contact, and I again couldn’t understand why. Again I began thinking (after months of trying to get a sensible word out of him) that what he had said did not fit to how he was acting. I didn’t know all the horrible details, all the things he later told me he had going on, and maybe because of that, I couldn’t put the words together with the behaviour I was seeing.

The other context that was happening in my life was that I was gradually failing at singing. I have a different view of it now – but then, I was failing in everybody’s eyes. I was hoping to be an opera singer. This was where I saw myself. I knew I could touch people’s hearts with my voice, and I wasn’t bad at acting. I had (and still have) a natural singing voice that has something special. But however talented I may have been, in the eyes of my singing teacher, I was failing. I was unable to fulfill her expectations. She had taken me on at a reduced rate, and was giving me free extra lessons every week, all because of what she expected of me. Only that never happened, and she became frustrated and stopped believing in me. I mirrored this and became equally frustrated and stopped believing in myself, but I was unable to see that I had to change something in this vicious cycle. I simply tried working harder, practicing more hours every day, I would not accept what I could feel my teacher thinking. Then, I auditioned at the big English music colleges. My dream was to study there – I didn’t think much of the German music colleges, and I didn’t think about going anywhere else at that time. I was going to take the audition, be accepted, and show my teacher just how wrong she was – that I wasn’t going to disappoint her.

Then I failed all three, spectacularly. By the time I was taking the fourth, I had lost my voice. Funnily enough, losing my voice repeated itself in much the same way in a great wave of healing 10 years later… but that isn’t part of this part of history.

The third part of my context was the non-existent family. I broke up with my father at 13 – he was forever jealous, whatever I did, and was either upset with me or very angry. After a year of fighting, threats and discussions, I chose to stop trying and stopped talking to him. This wasn’t too difficult as he was never at home. He moved out when I was 15 when he found out that my mum was with somebody else and had been for a long time. The separation totally threw my mum. She was overwhelmed by having to move house, and having to work and look after her kids. I was the one who looked for a new place to live, and I’d have to check up on her to see whether she had actually called the places and organized visits etc. She made things all the more complicated by refusing to tell me how much income we had as a family, so I was fishing in the dark. She would just sit somewhere and stare into nothing. She went completely gray that year. She picked up a little after that, but she wasn’t ever somebody to be supportive for me, it always stayed the other way around. She made me feel uncomfortable (and still does to an extent) and generally never knew what was going on in my life. If I told her anything, she would be sure to forget anyway. I helped a little looking after my younger brother and sister, taking them to their first days at school and helping with homework and stuff like that. My mum provided for us in a general way – she provided food, payed the rent, did the washing, but she only really had a relationship with my youngest brother, 10 years younger than me. I spent most of the time looking forward to moving out, sometimes I would spend the afternoon at school to practice instead of going home, and once I couldn’t bear it and went off to live with a girlfriend for a few weeks. I’m not sure she even knew where I was.

With all this going on, I finished school and had no idea what I would do. Music seemed impossible, biology maybe. I enjoyed studying for the biology exams. I wanted to leave Germany.

Then Mr Ex marched into my life, one day before my last exam. We met in a train, and although he didn’t say anything, it was very clear that he was attracted to me. But then – in those days, I was used to men being attracted to me. I could induce it, even, and liked to play with that sometimes. In the end, we were talking, and we got along wonderfully. I was falling in love with a bang this time. He was charming, witty, attractive, and eccentric, nicely strange. It felt incredible. He was also 8 years older than I was, and was telling me all about his university experiences and work experience. Apart from seeming educated and funny, he also seemed experienced and in my young 19 year old eyes, very grown up and wise.

Things stayed this way for about two weeks. Then he asked me how many men I had been with, and I answered, honestly (I think it was 7…), and he was absolutely shocked. His main message was “how could I have spoilt myself in such a way for him? What kind of a person must I be to have been able to injure him so?” I tried explaining that I do make a big difference between something serious and simple fun, and that I was absolutely reliable and trustworthy in a relationship. I wasn’t unfaithful at all. I just liked to be adored from time to time, even when there was no boyfriend in sight, and looking back, I think I needed someone around just to help me believe in myself.

He was so disappointed, so jealous, and so cross with me. I should have just gone, then and there, but I couldn’t leave knowing that he thought so awfully of me. I wanted him to understand that I wasn’t that terrible, unreliable, slutty bitch he was painting me to be. I wanted him to understand that in a love relationship, I was completely committed.

That was the point at which he turned it around – he didn’t just leave it at that, he turned it into a count against me. He explained to me that that was why my life was in such a shitty place. He explained that that was why Mr M had left (he had squeezed all the details out of me…), and why I didn’t have any supporting people in my life. It was all my fault. It was because I was such a bad person. He actually said that he wasn’t sure whether he was ready to sink low enough to spend time with me. On the other hand he said I was so attractive and he couldn’t resist, even though he knew better.

To begin with, I was torn between trying to prove that I wasn’t this “awful, slutty bad person” and feeling that I had deserved better.

But he kept finding situations in which in his eyes, I behaved according to the “old” pattern. He reckoned that I bumped into a man on a crowded street because it excited me to feel his body brush against me. He disapproved of me seeing friends from school, as they were part of the “old” pattern. He made a huge scene when I wanted to go to the blade night in Munich because I had stayed with somebody I liked going skating with on a couple of occasions. I tried to explain that I liked skating with him because he was as fast as I was, but all that didn’t count. He got jealous if I went cycling somewhere on my own because somebody might see me. He started making sure that I never went out with clothes that were more revealing than he liked them to be. I wasn’t to mention anything that had happened before I knew him. I wasn’t to wear jeans, sometimes he said this was because he didn’t like jeans, but much later on he said it reminded him of the day we had met (I was wearing jeans then) and he didn’t want to be reminded of that awful day. With him, I learned to bow my head and to become invisible outside the house.

All through the first year I was torn between leaving and wanting to prove that I wasn’t a bad person. I still valued the same things in Mr Ex that I had valued right at the beginning. I wanted him to believe me and to trust me. I supported him with my very first job and paid for an apartment big enough for both of us, and provided everything we needed. He “couldn’t contribute” because he was finishing off his university thesis. He had various girls he would meet up with so that “he could understand what I was coming from” and make up for the feeling of inexperience he said I made him have. I put up with it because how else could I show that I really was faithful?

After about half a year of living together, we had a major row. We had rows all the time, mostly about how bad I was, but this was a big one and it left me hurting. By then, I had nobody to turn to. I tried to ring Mr M, who I had been on friendly terms with when I left school. I needed to talk to somebody who would hopefully be nice to me, although by that time, I didn’t believe that I deserved to be treated kindly anymore. Anyway, I didn’t reach him, but Mr Ex saw that I had tried to call somebody by checking the phone and phoned the number that he didn’t recognize. He did get through while I was at work, and had a chat with Mr M.

Mr Ex confronted me with this when I got home and told me that he (Mr Ex) had been right all along, Mr M had indeed told him that he was pleased to have gotten rid of me and that he agreed about me being a slutty bad person.

Another part of my soul shattered. I believed Mr Ex everything he said, after all, he was reliable and he never lied, or so he said.

Later that year, there was another major-major row. After that, I started looking for apartments to move into alone. He picked me up from the office where I was working then, making a huge scene of crying and telling one of the lawyers there how sorry he was and could he send me out to talk to him. He also made sure that I understood that this was only because of me – if I hadn’t been so inconsiderate of his feelings before I met him, he would be totally different. I didn’t completely give up on the idea of moving out and leaving, but it became less urgent, because he said that he was sorry to have hurt me so much. In the end, it was the last time I tried to leave.

Two months later I was pregnant with the first baby. After that, there was no question of leaving anymore. I now had three goals in life: caring for the child, proving that I was worthy of being loved, and not being a disappointment to Mr R in my education, i.e. being top of the class and managing exams without visiting lectures, as well as not disappointing him as a partner, meaning dinner had to be on the table when he came home and the baby had to be happy too, and sex had to be joyously given at any time he felt like it. And of course it was ok that he refused to ever hold the baby or change a nappy or do anything around the apartment.

This is why I stayed. I believed him, and there was no support network around to help me see otherwise. I was extremely vulnerable in every area that mattered to me at that time, and he provided answers that had some logic to them, even if they were based on lies. He promised me that he would love me – if only he could. If only I could show that I was a good enough person to love.

Later on I stayed for the added reason that he depended on my physically. I needed to take care of him and his ailing health. And you really can’t leave an invalid without showing that you are a very heartless, unfeeling person – the very opposite of what I was trying to prove for 9 years.

He is a broken person himself. More broken that my temporarily broken self ever was. I think that half the time he doesn’t notice what kind of harm he’s doing. I believe he bends the facts just how he needs them, so that he really thinks that he doesn’t lie. If I would have stuck to it one of the many times when breaking up was an attractive option, things would have happened differently. But I didn’t have the strength to do that then, and I have forgiven myself for being as weak as I was back then.

Your next question is “Then why did you go on to have four kids with him?” – I’ll answer that one another time.

Week 2

My 2nd week here in Romania has been quiet, but full of learning from the kids in particular.

More than anything, I have come to recognise how grateful I should be for my own children, and what effect normal upbringing has as opposed to not much upbringing. As I have said before, each of the kids at the village is a sweet person. But I have come to see some common traits in them too, which I know I have worked to channel in my own children without thinking about it most of the time.

One is that most of the kids have so sense of value of things. In their world, things (such as toys, books, pencils etc) appear, and if they trash them, more will appear. It happens by magic. And so, they don’t think twice about destroying things or just flinging them over their shoulder after they have finished with something. It’s paradox that they are actually in quite dire situations and will have to come to terms with starting at 0 once they reach adulthood, but that living in this village supported by the government and donations actually teaches them the opposite of being frugal. The cycle of having to work to gain something just doesn’t exist, so how are they going to realise this? My kids see me working, and they know about our family finances, our income and our normal expenses. In my opinion, this is something that could be improved at the village, maybe by having a store in the village instead of magically replenished supplies, meaning that kids within a family will come to realise that resources are limited and need some care and thought.

There are also issues with aggression – which is to be expected. I have been teaching my kids how to deal with feeling aggressive for ever, and it still comes up sometimes, so how should I expect the kids in the village to be able to deal with it? I am not quite sure what could help in this area. I remember that at school there was a natural system where the older kids regularly brought the younger ones in line. I remember one situation when a guy from my class tried to pick a fight with some other guy in the first year at “the big school”, aged 11. A boy from the upper classes (must have been about 17) stopped him, and the main message was that violence was despised and who and where did he think he was? This one occurrence worked wonders, and it kept on working well as long as I was at the school. So maybe the natural authority of the older kids could be used, which would also help them taking on responsibility. I also think that there has to be a strict set of rules that counts for all kids. No punishments, but simple rules like “move away from somebody if they are being aggressive” – “get an adult to help in an argument instead of it developing into a fight” – ” if you are a threat to other kids and cannot control your violence, the natural consequence is that you will have to stay within the vicinity of an adult who will control you” – “always talk, state what you want, why you want it, and listen to what the other person has to say”. This should be published to anyone involved in the village to help develop a stable understanding and give the kids a system that they can use within the village, at school or anytime later in life.

Another difficult point is the overall organisation of the holiday times. There are some people who give certain lessons regularly, others (like me) who are there for a certain period of time, and the families also have some sort of programme, such as any other natural family would also have. As these 3 sources for activities are not very coordinated, it often ends in chaos. Bearing in mind that these kids come from difficult backgrounds and have problems with consistency, concentration etc, I think they would benefit more from having a fixed programme that they can sign up for and also contribute to. Therefore, they would know in advance that somebody called Anna would be around making papier mache figures from mon-fri 10-12, and after finding out what that is, they could sign up for it (or not). If they sign up for it, the expectation would be that they take part for the whole activity, not just for one day of it. They would also have the option to offer courses themselves. One boy gave me a skateboarding lesson the other day, after being very doubtful whether that would at all work, seeing that I am a girl. You should have seen his happiness when his instructions started showing effect! Kids are talented. They are usually not little Einsteins, but I know one who would be able to give drawing lessons, another who could teach all sorts of gymnastics tricks, some more who could teach clapping games etc.

Some of the kids have appointed me as their personal translator, which I am just a teeny weeny bit proud of. Of course, this only means that they know they have a greater chance of me understanding them than with any of the other volunteers and it doesn’t say much about how well I have mastered the language until now – but it still feels good.

All in all, I can see myself doing this again. I would know what to expect next time, and might be able to coordinate things better upfront. It is definitely doing me good to have this time to grow for myself, without work being a major block in the road and taking up most of my time and causing so much frustration. I am happy here, when at home I would just be missing my kids and worrying about them. As I am in the city, I have time in the evenings to meet up with new and old friends easily and spontaneously


So, here I am, somewhat settled now, after a few days of finding my way around the neighbourhood, getting used to how things work at the children’s village and juggling that with normal work (which is only more or less successful, but that was to be expected).

The kids at the children’s village are lovely kids to be working with. They each have their issues due to their past and present situations, but most of the time they are loving, open-hearted, interested and helpful little people. They can be a bit out of control sometimes and have little self-control in certain situations, but they will also come running to the gate when I arrive, or just come up for a hug for no reason at all, and all sorts of other lovely little gestures.

The day I arrived was a little chaotic. I had a late flight, and arrived in the city at about 10:30pm. My airbnb host had already said that she might be a little late, and had told me on the phone that she would send a friend to meet me at her address where I could stay until she came. She said this would perhaps be half an hour or so, so no problem there. However, when I reached her house, I called her and she told me that she was still in the middle of nowhere and that she had arranged for her neighbour to let me in to his place, where I could also sleep if I wanted to, as she was going to be much later.

Now, this neighbor is a heavy smoker and a single man living in a big mess.

I had no intention of closing my eyes for one second there, and if I could have held my breath for the 3 hours that I spent there, I would have gladly done so. I swear I could feel my lungs shriveling up every passing minute. By the time my host got back I was no longer a happy person.

Anyway, I spent the next day exploring the area, finding breakfast (soya milk for my tea!), buying a few things for my projects at the village and picking up a heavy bunch of newspapers at a hotel that had been saving them for me.

At the village there were about 15 volunteers this past week, and about the same number of kids. It was a little chaotic so I decided I would just keep in the background, get to know some of the kids a bit and take a look at what kind of things the other volunteers were doing.

They are all young students, some studying pedagogics, others not, but none of them have any real experience with children, nor do they speak a word of Romanian. There is only one other girl who does speak a little. They seem to be doing games mostly, which usually kind of disintegrate after a few rounds.

I started my first project the next day. I have three things vaguely planned – animals made from papier mâché using balloons to form the general shape of the body, some “scientific” experiments and kids yoga. I started the papier mâché figures first, which are a huge hit. At first there were only some 5 kids around, and I started them off making pigs and cats. The following day I had kids asking whether they could also make pigs and there were actually too many to deal with on my own. As I mentioned, they have issues, and patience is not one of their strengths (in general). Also, they easily get engrossed with blowing balloons up again and again and don’t seem to readily understand that if they keep doing that (and the balloons subsequently burst in the sun), there won’t be any more balloons left for the animals they wanted to make in the first place. So I’ve started being a little more strict and explain these things to them, trying to show them that the problem is not them personally going through 10 balloons in as many minutes, the problem is everybody doing this. The same as I have done many times with my own kids.

Next week I will start the yoga sessions. There will be fewer volunteers there next week and more kids, so I feel confident that it will be a little less chaotic. I also have a better feel for the kids now and know that I will have to introduce some rules for yoga, such as “no laughing at anybody during or after the session” and things like that. I’m looking forward to doing the first yoga story with them now; a week ago I was dead scared…

Otherwise I’ve been out and about in town, I’ve done yoga with my host, I’ve been running in the park (but I feel I should find somewhere to run where there are natural paths instead of tarmac everywhere), I’ve been meeting up with people and working of course. Some of the people I have met online who live here are such inspiring people – being here and being able to spend time with them for realz is worth so much.

And yet again I feel completely safe and at home here, and more and more confident speaking without falling back on English. My host assumed I had Romanian roots but had grown up somewhere else, she was very surprised when I explained that actually I was English with no Romanian history whatsoever.

Tonight I stayed in as I seem to have caught a bit of a runny nose and didn’t sleep well last night, which is why I am here blogging instead of being out J

Next week will bring D back to town, which makes me glow with anticipation every time I think about it. I am looking forward to simplicity together, to being able to spend time with each other without the pressure of only having a very limited number of days, and to being able to reconnect far away from the internet again.

I’m so glad life has led me to be here right now. I don’t think I could be in a better place. I feel I am doing something sensible with the kids here, I’m growing myself and my belief in myself by doing things that initially seemed quite scary, and I’m strengthening trust in my intuition by following along this trail in the first place.

Thank you, Life!

The Shelf

There is a shelf where are all the broken hopes and dreams are kept, to be taken down from every few years to be looked at, then placed back again with a sigh.

Hopes and dreams are all very well. I have a shelf like that too. Singing professionally is up there, so is painting, and dancing is there too. I have also temporarily shelved some things, such as traveling outside Europe, singing regularly, and living somewhere where I feel comfortable and at home.

Sometimes I have put people on that shelf too. But people don’t stay on those shelves. They leave a trace, that is true, but when you go back to your shelf every so often, you will find that the people you may have placed there are gone, leaving only a shadow behind. They leave quite suddenly from my shelf – one moment they are there, even if they may be starting to look a bit faded, and the next moment, they are gone. I am sure they make a decision to get off the shelf and creep away before I can place them back. You can’t keep people on the shelf against their will.

I feel placed on such a shelf myself at the moment. I keep trying to get down, not to creep  away, but to be a real person again, not jammed on that shelf with all the other shattered hopes. But every time I get down, I am met with something that feels like “no, no, you are a broken dream, you go back onto the shelf where you belong”. And so, that’s where I am put again. I’m sitting between the happy family and simplicity.

I’m not going to creep out just yet. I have no inclination to do so, and there is no place I wish I was instead, apart from off the shelf and in reality.

I just feel so confused every time I do muster enough courage to get down and join the real life going on. There I am, as real as anything, and ready be to exactly the same person as I was before I was declared broken. I definitely haven’t changed since then! But however I behave, whatever I do or don’t do, say or don’t say, I am unable to gain the right to stay off that shelf.

Maybe I’ll just stay on the shelf for a bit and just concentrate on quietly looking after myself.


The Good And The Bad

Once more, my emotional self is thoroughly lost. I feel I should have an idea of how this life and people thing works by now, but apparently I don’t. Maybe life took me a bit too seriously when I said that I believe in taking chances that might end up in hurt. Maybe I’m being taught a lesson about looking after my heart better, and not letting myself be so vulnerable all the time.

Time will tell I suppose, what all this is about, and what I was supposed to learn.

I really don’t get the obstinate silence after wanting to be in touch more. I don’t get the zero effort to get in touch. I don’t get the unavailability as soon as it is in connection with talking properly.

And I don’t get where my faith is coming from that this is just circumstances and not intended the way it seems to the logical mind.


My car is broken, I had a pretty scary drive home today, because the electrics kept giving up on me. The steering wheel was juttering, with the power steering going inactive every few seconds, the ABS and EPS warning lamps kept flaring up and beeping, the electric handbrake wouldn’t loosen, so I was stuck for a few minutes half in half out of my drive until the electronics came on again for a second. The window will just have to stay open over night, as it wouldn’t close.

Of course I was too late out of the office to take it straight to a garage. So this will be a new adventure for tomorrow. I still haven’t finally decided which garage to take it to. Shortest drive + impossibly long train ride to the office (or 30 km bike ride…) or longer drive + easily cyclable journey to the office?

On another note, I will be starting my volunteering project in a month (!) already. I have quite a few yoga sessions planned out already, though I am definitely lacking some words which I still have to learn, like “icebreaker”, “pidgeon” and “dodo”. Other than that, I have one source of old newspapers for papier mâché. (If anybody in Bucharest would like to collect old newspapers for me for a month or has a good idea of where I could ask, I would be very grateful! So far, I am asking at hotels…) I also have a flight booked, but that’s about it. I guess I should probably be doing some more organising instead of publicly feeling sorry for myself on the internet.

I’m really excited about the whole idea of this volunteering project, in a very good way. I have little idea about what exactly to expect, but I feel sure I will be able to do something useful and fun while learning all the time myself of course. Definitely better than rotting away in the office! Maybe it will even be the start of a new path leading goodness-knows where – wouldn’t that be exciting and liberating!

I wish I knew where things were leading to in general though.

I’m glad I don’t have uncertainties like this when it comes to the kids. At least I know what I’m doing where they are concerned.

I will be planning for IGCSEs for the eldest after summer, who has also mentioned that he would like to try school for a year or so in a few years. And if he goes to school, my guess is that the other two will want to go too – provided he likes it of course.

After my yoga practice, I have made a habit of picking two or more things that I am grateful for each day. The children feature in this exercise of mine nearly every day.

Which is a nice, positive note to finish off such an erratic and confused post.


I’m thoroughly confused, and the confused thoughts and feelings are playing tag in my head. I should really just turn my attention to something else while they sort it out by themselves, or until the question marks become insights. But then – I’m not very good at that.

We were in touch again. Not as close as I like and I know we would be without the distance, but not out of touch like it has been.

But now, there is this chronic unavailability again. But only on the one hand. This did not stop a conversation going towards very specific adult desires, prompted by a simple selfie. Just like a few weeks ago.

But you must understand. I can’t. I can’t go back to that without being in touch emotionally, and without knowing that I am more than mere fun. If this was a fun only arrangement, it would be fine. But it never was and never will be.

And then the game of tag starts. What if… what if he thinks I have turned prude? What if this will support his assumption that I don’t trust him enough? What if this is what he needs to get back into touch again? I could try it out and see what happens. But then I might end up feeling even shittier. Risking being hurt is one thing, something I think is always worth the risk, but risking feeling abused is quite another matter.

I want to share this kind of fun again. I long for it. But I can’t risk feeling used in the end. And I would feel used, if it was only fun on his side, because of my feelings. And because I never want to feel used by him, I can’t go back to having that kind of adult fun without feeling emotionally safe.

Funny how I wouldn’t have these thoughts and worries about the whole thing if it was anybody else. And however easy it would be to get some (real) fun and maybe some (real) friendly cuddles and emotional support from time to time from somebody else, I just don’t want it. I know exactly where I want to be and what I want, and anything else would make me unhappy and I would be running away in no time.

Meanwhile, I so hope that we will see each other in a months time. I fear we wont. I fear he will be unavailable again, or that somebody else will take priority again, like his brother and work did last year. I fear that all the little ideas and enthusiasm have disappeared again over this last period of unavailability. I fear that the negativity has taken over again, and there is nothing I can do about it.


Ways of a narcissist “co-“parent

Mr Ex has the kids with him every other week.

They don’t shower or bathe.

They don’t wash.

He doesn’t make sure that they change their dirty clothes (including underwear).

He does not have clean clothes for them – they have to take whatever they (…I…) think they might need themselves, in a rucksack.

They stay up until after midnight watching youtube crap, only to sleep until midday the next day.

He educates them only in typing and the eldest in his very own idea of philosophy.

The apartment is filthy and messy. They come back with socks encrusted with dirt – many times I am forced to throw them away, they are so dirty.

I can’t involve social services because we live in different countries – though only 30 mins apart. The kids don’t officially live with him, so the social services on his side of the border don’t get involved, and the social services on my side of the border can’t get involved because it is not in their country.

Apart from these obvious short-comings, he uses every situation to try to assert power.

There was this play-event going on that he wanted the kids to go to while they were with me. He sent me a picture of a flyer, nothing else. I told him, face to face, that we could talk about the event, if he was willing to pitch in and take the kids there. This is what I always do if there is anything the kids should attend while they are with him, as he wouldn’t dream of taking them to anything I would like them to be.

After that, I heard nothing until the night before the event.

The night before, I get a message “we will manage it!” and another picture of the leaflet, more scrunched up than the first time.

I have had enough of cryptic messages that mean something only in his head. I have had enough of having to guess which context he is currently thinking of. I am extremely good at guessing the correct context, as I have had lots of practice, but I don’t want to have to think myself into his world every time he says something to me. So I ask him the next day what he is talking about.

Turns out, he does want to pick the kids up. However, he fails to tell me when, or whether he will bring them back again, and when (round about) he will bring them back, but he is already on his way. I insist, and tell him I can’t decide until he has given me all the details. I give his a generic list of questions to answer for every event, as I always end up asking him these basic things because he never includes them. The questions are when? where? who? what?. Simple, and one would think that anyone trying to arrange a date with somebody would actually provide a date and time. But as this is not the case, I asked him to simply always answer these questions, because if he does not, I spend time and energy on getting back to him and asking these basic questions, I get frustrated because he only answers half my questions, and every event turns out to be a huge difficulty, just because of the amount of unnecessary communication that goes into it. In the end, only one of the kids were actually interested in the event, and I ended up explaining to him that the leaflet, which he waved about in front of my face again, does not include whether he will pick them up, when he will pick them up, and whether he will bring them back.

Now, this month there are two concerts my daughter should be playing at while she is at her dads.

So I sent the dates, the times, the locations, the event, and the times that I could pick her up as I guess that he won’t be into bringing her himself, as he has NEVER shown any interest in doing that.

No answer.

So, I remind him.

“Oh well, I can’t say, as you didn’t send me all the information I need. I have told you this a number of times – shall I repeat what I need to know?”

Apparently, so he says, his information requirements for making an appointment are different from mine.

Of course he hasn’t sent his “requirements”. He will have to make them up first. He has never had any questions about past events, I checked – BECAUSE I PUT ALL THE NECESSARY INFORMATION IN.

This is just his game. His way of trying to subdue me into doing as he says. His way of trying to assert power and make sure that I do whatever he tells me to do, and don’t bother him with requesting basic rules to be kept.

All this comes after yesterday. Yesterday it was my daughters birthday, and I visited her at her dad’s (“we always look forward to seeing you” – was his answer to my asking whether I could come. I nearly threw up, it’s so false). His girlfriend invited me in for a cup of tea. This is the first time I have been in his apartment, excluding the time I stormed in to get my ill 3 year old at pick up time, after Mr Ex had tried to tell me that he didn’t want to come to me.

The flat is filthy. They offered me a seat, which was covered in stains. I touched it before sitting down and it was covered in grime which I brushed off before I sat down on the edge of it. The table was covered in crumbs. The floor… There are boxes and junk all over the flat. My daughter showed me her room (finally, she does not have to sleep in the same room as her dad anymore!) which is ok, but it’s empty and naked.

I like his girlfriend. She seems detached enough from Mr Ex, stopping him from taking control of her like he did and still tries with me. We had a long chat in our common foreign language, in which she was complaining about him right under his nose. This is something I don’t join in on, but it’s still amusing.

After the visit, he wrote “it was so nice of you to come. *Daughter* was very happy”. The only reason he writes these things of course it to have a record of “co-parenting”, of proving that ‘he makes an effort, even if I don’t’, and of course to state that I am the outsider and he and the kids are a unit. I.e. He can be nice to me as long as I follow his rules. His rules being, I carry on as everything was during the relationship. I am the servant, he is the lord. Look, world, how unreasonable this bitch is being.

I wish I could see a way out of this. He does this kind of thing to the kids too, I’ve seen it happen. I tried counseling – but after the session, he just turned everything around, maintaining that the counselor had supported him and told me that I might be overdoing it. I am quite sure that this was never said. I’ve tried going to court – he managed to make sure that I wasn’t there at the hearing and made it look as if actually, he was the one who cared and I was just a mad woman trying to take his darling kids away from him, for which he cares in such a loving and thoughtful way. Next up is another trip to court, this time hopefully without mistakes and with at least a social inquiry at his place.

I am grateful of the fact that I find energy to stand up against this bullying every time it occurs, even though sometimes, I truly feel like just giving up.


I feel a need to write today, but I’m not quite sure what it is exactly that needs to be rolled into words and conveyable thoughts. So I’ll just start and see what comes of it.

I feel unsettled today. Unsettled in an emotional way – it’s a feeling of being not enough and failing at being the person I want to be.

I’ve had two weeks with the children. Two weeks of improving things again on the educational side – much to the detriment of the time I have been working. But that is just how it is – at least I now have blocks of time for work instead of being called away every 5 minutes by one of the kids. I am now sitting down with them for a couple of hours every day, in which they get their school stuff done. They all sit with me at the table, and I am available for them without being distracted by my phone, work or other thoughts. In consequence, they get through their stuff quicker, I am able to check what they are doing immediately and they are feeling their progress. They wouldn’t normally have accepted this change, as they have been trained to scoff at anything that seems too “school-like”. Only I went on a full blown rant just after they had got back from their father’s, after a day of reminding them all day long to get their tasks done only to find out late in the day that in fact, next to nothing had been done. Instead, my youngest tried to strike a deal with me, concerning the tasks that need to be done before he can watch mind-numbing youtube videos about mine craft. So random youtube is banned now, too, I was that frustrated. They don’t even miss it… instead, they have been building obstacle courses in the yard, reading, playing with lego, and generally being more active and happy. Sometimes banning stuff has positive effects.

So I suppose being a parent is something I haven’t really been failing at.

So why am I feeling ill at ease, and unsettled?

Maybe because I felt again this morning that I am putting too much weight into what passes – and what doesn’t pass – between myself and D. There have been quite a few positive, fun little (written) conversations lately. These kind leave a smile on my soul. Not the kind of  sparkles and bursting happiness of a year ago, but a cautious kind of deep, rounded happiness.

But then there are the kind in which we seem to be completely missing each other – as if there was a world between, two entirely different, unyielding and separate universes. They leave me aching and wondering whether I am just too stupid or blind to see the obvious.

I think this is what is happening today.

I wish I was really the “tough cookie” I am taken for. I’m not really tough. I only have resilience, and goodness knows where that came from. I am able to come back from set-backs and to act as if I am a courageous person, even if I’m scared to bits. On the other hand, I need a ton of inner healing after each set-back, and nearly anything can be a set-back. I wonder whether I am mentally healthy quite often. Or whether this is what depression is, or whether I am heading for any other kind of mental break-down. I have so little drive some days. So little energy to move myself to do things that make me happy. So much need to know that I am not alone, but no way to prove that to myself.

I need some kind of remedy for days like these. Something as foolproof as listening to Yo-Yo Ma playing the Cello Suites when I have just done something very scary and am waiting for the consequences. I hope I find something.