It all started with my dog Tom. He was afraid of kids, their unpredictable movements and their skates. He barked at them wherever he discovered them. He was not to be distracted; special treats or scolding him wouldn’t help. Until then I hadn’t quite realized that he didn’t dislike kids but was just afraid of their movements and their loud voices. Going for a walk had become a stressful task and trying to avoid kids never really worked. One day I took all my courage and rang at my neighbours’ door. They had two kids, Suzie and Pete, aged 7 and 5 years old. When I asked her if one of her kids would accompany me and Tom on our daily walks she said yes. I didn’t have a good feeling with this “experiment” so I trained Tom to wear a muzzle. It was one where you could still feed him and so I smeared liver sausage inside of it. Instead of trying to get rid of the thing, he tried to lick out its tasty contents. After a week I started to take Suzie on one of my walks. She liked dogs, but was also afraid of them, especially when they were not on a leash. Tom barked at her. This changed, when she I gave her Tom’s treats. He followed her then like a donkey follows a carrot. She would keep her distance to him and every time he took her orders to “sit and stay” she would throw a treat in his direction. We went to the national recreation area. Suddenly 3 Labradors appeared running around and circling Suzie for they smelled her treats. She started to cry while I tried to usher the three animals away which wasn’t quite easy. After this incident Suzie didn’t want to go back the same way in fear of meeting more “wild dogs” again. We tried a different way home, but it was as difficult to avoid dogs running around free as it had been to avoid kids. When I asked Suzie where it was she wanted to go now, she suggested we should go to the park. There dogs had to be on a leash. The park became our sanctuary in the coming weeks. Here we collected leaves, grass and dandelion for my two guinea-pigs. Suzie relaxed when we were chatting and looking for the best dandelions.  I admired her strength to still show up for our walks even though she was frightened by Tom’s sudden movements or by other dogs. It seemed to be a “courage training” for both of them. I could take off Tom’s muzzle but when I let him run free one time, he circled Suzie so we stopped letting him off the leash when she was with us. He craved her treats and in the mornings would whimper, when we passed her house and she wasn’t there. Then, one day, Pete wanted to see my guinea pigs and my dog. After our walk we went to Suzie’s house to fetch him. Suzie, who had already seen and stroked the guineas showed her brother how to hold them, sit down with them and feed them dandelion. I held Tom on his leash, so he couldn’t come too close nearby. I gave him treats for laying down and not trying to smell at the guinea pigs or the kids. Then, when we had put the guinea-pigs back into their cage, Pete sat on the floor opposite Tom. You could tell that he wasn’t afraid of the dog, just curious. I gave him a treat and to my astonishment he held out his hand to give it to Tom. -“It’s easy, just like you feed horses” he said proudly. –“Come on Suzie, you also stroke our neighbours` Jack Russel Terrier…”

But Suzie froze. She felt uneasy, shouted at the guinea pigs in their cage, took a children’s cartoon and hid with it in a corner. She was nearly crying and told me that she also wanted to stroke Tom, but couldn’t. I told her that it didn’t matter if she stroked him or not or if her brother was quicker in doing so. What mattered was that despite her fear she hadn’t given up to come on our walks. And that Tom and me liked her a lot and that he was whimpering in front of her house when she was at school. I told her, that sometimes in life there are things we take longer in doing them than others. And here comes my message for today: To have and show fear is not a lack of courage but quite the opposite. Everyone of us fears something. Most of us try to hide it and are ashamed of it. But this girl, she had had the strength to “walk on the path of fear” just to be with my dog, she was partly afraid of. In the end she thought that her brother would “steal her the show” by touching Tom first. And I bet, we are all a bit like her, comparing us to others all the time where no comparisons are needed. Everyone is unique in his way; we all have our strengths and weaknesses and the trick is to continue our way accepting these weaknesses and seeing our strengths. That’s the “real life story” I wanted to share with you, dear readers. And I wish you a Merry Chrismas and a happy and less demanding year 2021!

Renate Weber

For me personally, prudence is the ability to differenciate between the things I have influence on and those I can’t change. The latter are for me my two miscarriages. By now I see them as part of (my) life. I know that up to a certain degree I can influence my pregnancy: By taking folic acid and refraining from alcohol or tobacco. And yet there is something else that is bigger than all I can do. Some may call it “fate”, “god” or “the universe”. Whatever it is for everybody personally –it starts exactly at the point where my influence and endeavour have no effect whatsoever. It has been very difficult for me to accept that behind that “invisible frontier” there is nothing more for me to do. In the weeks following my miscarriages this feeling expressed itself in a great anger that I turned against myself- just until thoughts of committing suicide. Now I know that there and then I tried to “regain my power” over the situation. A very doubtful power. My thoughts about committing suicide frightened me. That’s why I try to accept every day a bit more what is and what has happened instead of rebelling against fate. I don’t know if I can learn “humility” but at least I try to be humble about the things I can’t change in life. I allowed myself to mourn them and maybe that was also the process to become more humble than before. I feel more humble because I am not omnipotent and I had to realize that death is a part of my life that I simply can’t “shut out”. And every now and again there is hope and consolation as I have found it in my service dog. His joy for life and his curiosity about it apparently belong to the small wonders I have witnessed in my life. Also, they made me see it more positively.

These are the thoughts I wanted to share with you, dear readers.

Renate Weber

What is calmness? For me personally  it means to take a deep breath in challenging situations, to gain inner clarity. Also, it means that if I meet aggressive people I stop myself from “sending an instant reply”. It is a fact that impulsive reactions to accusations result from being hurt in our childhood. Also, it is evident that there are many people who try to “get rid” of their inner dissatisfaction by “attacking” others verbally. If I notice such a  “maneuver” I remain silent and observe what is happing inside me. By setting my boundaries in silence I leave the vicious circle of justification and disrespect. Sometimes I achieve this “calmness” and sometimes not. I try not to judge myself for “not succeeding” because I am still practising. However, if I do succeed it feels weird. Just as if I could have convinced the other that I am ok by words and explanations. Now I am conscious that it is even more important that I think of myself as “okay”. Like that I can- similar to self-defense in Tai Chi – put a distance between myself and the aggressor by using my inner power and keeping my energy level high. There is an anecdote from the House of Lords: A lord was insulted strongly by another member of Parliament. He however, remained calm and walked away with a smile on his face. Another representative asked him: -“Why didn’t you defend yourself?” –“It wasn’t necessary.” answered the lord.

This is what I wanted to share with you, dear readers.

Renate Weber

How do I “gain“ inner peace? I strongly believe that inner peace has to do with forgiveness-for myself and for others. It is important not to confuse “forgiving” with “forgetting”. It is not easy for me to admit it, but as far as forgiving my family is concerned I just couldn’t do it with my whole heart. I have tried to forgive my brother, but it was only a rational act. Very soon after having said to him, that I would forgive him the feelings of hurt and bitterness returned. Am I not generous enough? I now know that I wasn’t ready to forgive my brother and my family. I just wanted to “get it over with”. Obviously this is not how forgiveness works. Maybe –if you saw your life as a bottle of experiences- half of this bottle should be good experiences or at least neutral ones. Having a very low credit of good experiences made me envious of others and less generous to forgive those who have hurt me in the past. This may also be because I expect too much of others and myself. I am sorry that this attitude makes it harder for me to be at peace with myself and with others. As I can’t change that at the moment there is however another way to become “more peaceful”: This is to make my peace with all the things that I could have done differently in the past. A wise man once said that we shouldn’t label the things we feel we didn’t do well as mistakes, but simply as experiences on our way here on earth. And even though we are raised to believe that we should avoid mistakes at all cost, learning wouldn’t take place without them. When I look inside of me I realize that I keep beating myself up about all the things I seem to have done poorly in my life. I am sure that everybody wants to live his/her life as best as s/he can. I believe nobody, absolutely nobody, wants to fail his/her life on purpose. And this is where self-forgiveness comes in: What if we did it as best as we could at that specific moment in the past? This is not an excuse to repeat bad behaviour, but maybe the thought that we couldn’t have done it better in the first run gives us the strength to improve our behaviour and-finally be at  peace with ourselves.

I have barely had any patience in my life. HIGHER, QUICKER, FURTHER- these were the goals that I have had for years. Even though I knew that this “life under constant inner pressure” wasn’t good for my health, I simply did not know how to do things more slowly. It was as if I there was a tiny man sitting on my shoulder who kept shouting: “Off you go, you don’t have time, be quick!” or if I had just fulfilled a task: “Hey, don’t relax, there is so much more to do.” Until now this phenomenon gave me the feeling that I couldn’t rest until I had fulfilled all daily chores and written down the new tasks that came to my mind.” This way I never really took my time to enjoy what I had already accomplished. I took this energy to do yet more projects. As there were nearly no pauses in between my “task-accomplishing” days I had the feeling, that tasks were never ending and that against all odds I wasn’t getting anywhere. This however, made me yet become more impatient with myself and with life in general. Until one day-the day when I met Marie-I began to question my attitude. It was a grey and misty November morning when I came to visit my father in the home for elderly people. By my side was Kalle, my service dog. The atmosphere in the home was kind of numb and it felt somehow empty, because there was neither talking nor laughter to be heard from the old people. I was glad when Kalle somewhat changed this stillness, because some grandmas and grandpas talked about him and how he reminded them of dogs they had had in their earlier years. Some wanted to stroke him others just stood there watching him in surprise. This gave me an idea of how secluded these elderly people lived. Still I was impatiently waiting for the lift, to get on with my visit and my tasks. When the doors of the lift opened there was a tiny woman with long white hair. She looked at me and said: “You are a beautiful woman.” I smiled. When another man, obviously a visitor, entered she said: “You are a beautiful man.” I realised that she used this compliment kind of like greeting someone, to get into contact. I asked her what she had in her trolley. “This is a picture of my husband”. I looked at the black-and-white fotograph of a man in his thirties. On the trolley there was a sticker with name and address of the elderly woman. I read that her first name was Marie (name changed). Next to the foto in her trolley there was an album full of fotographs. It looked like it was nearly 100 years old and its pages were torn from the constant use of memories. Other than that there was a mirror and a brush. I looked at Marie who was talking to the visitor about the many years he came here to see his wife. Looking at the trolley it suddenly struck me that in a few years time I could be like Marie. I understood at this moment that there was no real frontier that would save me from getting old and forgetting each day more of who I was and where I was. Even though I chose to believe that I could “enjoy life later” I began to comprehend how fragile life was. And suddenly my inner pressure together with the tiny man on my shoulder grew silent. When I got off the lift I saw Marie walking slowly along the long corridor, carrying her life in the small trolley she kept pushing in front of her. Knocking at my father’s door I felt that Kalle wanted to get away. For him as for me the visits here took a lot of energy. My father was enthusiastic to see me. It was painful for me to see how many of the things he used to do he didn’t know how to do them any more. I tried to talk about the past-the only time he seemed comfortable talking about. We even went for his first walk together which made the atmosphere of the home less misty. My father wanted to go home. He “invited” me for a drink in the nearby pub. When we crossed a big street he speeded up his pace and started shouting at a lorry who wanted to go on driving. At the tavern the owner had already a put a glass of wine on the counter. My father on the other hand didn’t know if 5 Euro were enough for the wine and my coffee. The pub was a sad place to be: There was no real “food” to eat, not even a roll to buy. People just seemed to come in to drink, smoke and feel less lonely. My dog sensed that something was not quite right. He looked at me quizzically and I was relieved when we could finally leave. “I will come back later”, he shouted at the owner who nodded stoically. A part of me wanted to shout: “Dad why do you destroy your life?” but I kept silent. I remembered the better times where my father and I had taken walks in the woods and finally eaten in a restaurant nearby. Those times I understood were ultimately gone. Since that day I try to accept that I can’t change my father’s consume of alcohol. What I can change is to enjoy life when it is peaceful and to be more patient.

Renate Weber

to encounter the horrors of the past with courage: With my healing fairy tales

by Renate weber

5 years ago I was diagnosed with Burnout and sent to a psychosomatic clinic: Here it became clear that it had not only been the overload that had caused my break-down, but various Traumata. Until then I had written down my family’s history and my own childhood. Thereby the sexual abuse I had endured as a little girl “came to the surface”. Since I had started to write About my childhood I was constantly haunted by nightmares. My therapists then advised me to write a healing fairy tale.

I have drawn my inner children in this picture. They are the inner parts that have been hurt by the sexual abuse. Since then they have remained in a state of shock. Now they made the experience to be saved. Thereby they could be integrated into my personality.

Octopus with “penis-tongue” abuses 9-year-old Nati

Nati= my younger self

While my inner parts were transforming I suddenly could give “a face” to the rage I had turned against myself for a very long time. The “anger-devil” was born and he helped me to understand that underneath my anger there lay a deep sadness that nobody had helped me emotionally after I had told my family about the sexual abuse.