I Am My Challenges

Half a drawing of Frithjof

Bloganuary 2024 prompt: What are your greatest challenges?

Welcome to Bloganuary 2024. This month I will attempt to write a blog post every day, using a prompt given by the WordPress team.

The series starts out with a big prompt that I will lean on but not fully explore (aren’t you relieved?).

The challenge to loosen up

I sometimes have a hard time “loosening up” but that is not necessarily a weakness. My stoicism, work ethic, stubbornness or whatever you want to call it carries me through a lot of situations every day. It gets me out of bed, happy to go to work. It makes me go to work even if I don’t feel like it. It helps me maintain my calm in most serious or scary situations.

You get the idea.

The negative side of this rigidity is that I sometimes come across as intimidating, rigid or grumpy. It often takes me longer than I want to switch from “German Frithjof” to “Canadian Frithjof”.

My constant challenge is to become more flexible. Ideally, I want to use my rigid side and my more flexible, gentler side to their full advantage.

The Immigrant Experience

I grew up in Germany and immigrated to Canada when I was 26 years old.

There are a lot of stereotypes attached to Germans and looking from today’s perspective, they are understandable if only partly correct.
Fact is though that German society is very focused on rules and expectations. Conventions are accepted and expected. As one comedian once put it:

If you do A in Germany, A happens.

If you do A in Canada, A, B or C might happen.

Unknown Comedian

Germans come across as gruff and impolite sometimes but their behaviour is not intended to be rude. If your expectations are aligned with “A” you receive what is said in exactly the way it was meant. You don’t need to work to detect any innuendo or double meaning.

My upbringing is steeped in this rigid culture and when I came to Canada, two of the most important skills to learn were:

  1. My messages had to be adjusted to my new Canadian audience.
  2. I had to learn how to receive communication with a wider set of interpretations.

Even over 30 years later I am still working on navigating between the stoic side of me and the more flexible one that I want to project.

Deal With It

There is a daily element of training in becoming more flexible. It includes self-reflection and listening to those around me who love me and help me reflect. There are two things that I have discovered in recent years that help me become more flexible without losing myself.

Daily mindfulness exercises help me distance myself from anxieties and pressures. The practice of going back to the present moment over and over again hones a skill that I was surprised to discover. Not every daily meditation session seems successful. But over time the practice helps me break out of rigid thinking and be more present in the moment.

As I practice more drawing and finding my skill I notice how I loosen my expectations of the final product.

loosely sketsched houses
A sketch I drew during a recent drawing course.

From the beginning, I had problems loosening up. My attempts were much too focused on capturing every detail accurately, What about perspective? Colours? Line weight….

If you look at this with the German personality lens I mentioned above, you can see where perfectionism comes from.

The more I practice, the more I notice that my art is not mainly about the object I am drawing but my perception of it. The process becomes more important than the end result. And in the end, I enjoy the final product more and more.

Thank you to all the people in my world helping me become the person I want to be. It is a journey!

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