At work, in the past few weeks I’ve read a couple of poems I wrote, out loud, in front of colleagues. If someone had told me a year ago that future me would do that, I would never have believed it. Until February 2019 I had never really written a poem (except maybe in school, but I can’t remember it). But while taking my creative writing course, a poem suddenly became a format that was less daunting, a possible option in my repertoire like an email or a powerpoint presentation.
As I am moving to my new position at work, I’m changing teams and with new beginnings come goodbyes. I felt a calling to write poems, a voice whispering that it would be good to celebrate the precious collaboration with my colleagues before moving on to a new project. I’m not one to make a speech, but reading aloud some silly rhymes, strangely enough didn’t sound like such a bad idea.
Those poems were not deep, but writing them was a way for me to process the experience and express my gratitude for my awesome colleagues. In the midst of burnout, I repeatedly felt that the working environment lacks creativity and surprise, everything so grey and serious with meetings, deadlines and KPIs, so I’ve decided I don’t care what people think, I’ll be the change I want to see in the world.
Because if someone else read out a poem during our team meeting I would appreciate their vulnerability and it would make my heart sing. And I remind myself that in a few months time no one will remember the imperfect rhymes, but I hope that anchored in the moment as I read out those lines, routine was gently shaken and a sliver of creative possibility opened up for everyone listening.
JOYFUL GRATITUDE #130
Some days all you really need is to hang out with a friend, unrushed, just catching up while taking a leisurely walk around the neighbourhood and supporting a small business (and enjoying delicious vegan cakes in the process;).
Then taking a further stroll through the park even if the weather is grey, watching the birds and marveling at the fresh green of spring leaves, while having inspiring talks about upcoming creative plans and ideas for the next months, and plotting how to keep each other accountable…
Just a few words today, because I’ve spent too much time at the computer this weekend, working on my writing assignment in the hope that my genius would turn up and give me a hand (in vain!). So I leave you simply with this photo of a beautiful camellia, of which there are many at the Botanic Garden in Cologne. I love how the silky light green outer petals open for the explosion of the flower, the flurry of pink speckles and dark pink patches on the curves of the petals. Wishing you a good week!
JOYFUL GRATITUDE #129
I am grateful for an intense and satisfying week in my new position at work. It was one of those weeks where you start out feeling very uncertain and clueless and then look back flabbergasted at how much you learned over the course of the last few days (whilst at the same time becoming more aware of how much there still is to figure out!)
This week I consciously tried to shift from that inner-voice that repeats like a broken record “I have no idea how to do this, what if I don’t manage and let them down!!!” to “what is the next small step I could take to move this forward? I’m curious how that will pan out”.
This is a major change for me. It starts with getting really mindful about how I am feeling, especially when anxiety holds me in its grip, making me double guess everything. It takes deep breathing and scraggly morning pages (or should I call them morning rants?) scrawled hurriedly on the tram in my green moleskine notebook. It takes the leap of faith to just show up every day, believing IT WILL WORK… and in the end, it turns out having that approach brings just a little more ease to everything.
And now, some quiet time on the weekend, to process all this info and emotions:)
When I was in Cologne visiting my sister recently, we spent a beautifully warm and sunny afternoon exploring the Botanical Garden. I was particularly excited by the many fern varieties on display, each one more intriguing than the one before.
I’ve mentionned before both how much I love ferns and how they are my photographic nemesis, so it was great to have some practice in trying to capture their beauty.
While I knelt down here and there in this fern paradise, my sister patiently wandered by my side and was a perfect assistant, placing herself in such a way that no direct sunlight fell on the plants if needed and looking up the species’ names on the ‘plant shazam’ app.
I really love the tightly wound extremities, like tentacles, ready to unfold and stretch out into the world, as well as the different textures and colours.
JOYFUL GRATITUDE #128
In the spirit of trying to channel inspiration for my writing, I have been making a conscious effort to be more observant of what goes on around me. I am easily overwhelmed when there are too many stimuli and living in a busy city means that there are constantly a million things vying for my attention, as well as the need to be careful of traffic, so most of the time I feel like I am blocking out a lot of my surroundings.
However, I do find opportunities to practice noticing things, like sitting in cafés and people-watching, going for walks in my neighbourhood which is rather quiet or just staring out of the window of the tram. Lately I’ve started jotting down what I see. Nothing fancy, just the date and a few words to remember the details of the scene which can maybe serve as inspiration for my next poem or story.
Here are some recent examples that caught my attention:
- a little boy on a bike wearing a t-shirt, blue shorts and a ski mask, pedalling wildly on the sidewalk
- a gaggle of geese patiently crossing a busy street, head held high and unphased as cars stop to let them pass, and people on the terrasses of cafes watching the spectacle in amusement
- delightful blossoms fallen off a tree onto the pavement, forming a pink carpet in different stages of decomposition
Has any particular scene caught your eye lately? I’d love to hear about it!
Things are not always what they seem at first glance. The leaves on this photo for instance are not autumn foliage, they are actually tiny spring leaves bright and vulnerable.
Lately I’ve been trying to be mindful when I catch myself making assumptions, in particular when thinking this or that person clearly knows exactly what they are doing without seeming to question things, and then going on to compare myself and wonder about my constant doubts.
Some deep conversations recently have reminded me that we are all just human and that we are all simply trying to do the best we can at any given moment, including the people who often seem to have their life perfectly sorted out. With this in mind, I want to show up and try to be more myself, quirks and all. I want to stop hustling so hard for the elusive goal of perfection, a bewitching mirage, shimmering close by but never reachable as it does not exist. I want to use that energy instead to be more open about how I feel, even when my truth is awkward and tough, and hold space to hear others’ tough and awkward stories.
JOYFUL GRATITUDE #127
Recently during a walk with two dear friends, we discovered there is a lovely garden with medicinal plants in the Beatrixpark in Amsterdam Zuid. I am so glad that after nearly 13 years of living in this city, I still keep stumbling upon hidden gems by chance. Surrounded by hedges, it is a peaceful space in the park and there are some benches to just sit and relax, a perfect spot to soak up the quiet atmosphere and listen to the birds.
There’s a wide array of plants and short explanations of what they can be used to heal. Featured above is lungwort (Pulmonaria officinalis), a plant traditionally used to treat lung problems and chest infections. It was said that the spots on the leaves looked like diseased lungs… to me it just looks like a beautiful pattern:)
Last week I took the train from Amsterdam to Cologne, I settled in with a book and lots of good intentions but ended up simply soaking up the warm sun streaming through the window as I looked out at the thousands of yellow flowers on the side of the railroad and people cycling along happily in summer clothes along the green fields bordered by small canals. A couple of hours of quiet, the pure luxury of just being, lost in thought and unwinding from the week…
While chatting with my sister over the weekend about climate change, she told me that now in Swedish a word exists for feeling guilty about taking a flight because you know it’s very bad for the environment. I looked it up, the word is flygskam, literally ‘air shame’ and it’s definitely something I feel more and more often, and from conversations around me I realise I am not the only one. Having a word for it makes it easier to discuss and I don’t thing shame or guilt is really the point here, but rather awareness. I love to travel far away and I take the plane way more than I wish I did meaning I feel flygskam regularly and am keen to look for alternatives to reduce my flights…
Good news is that next to flygskam, I feel something else which is the joy of going somewhere by train. You could call it trainthusiam or exhilarailtion 😉 I enjoy looking for destinations accessible by train and discussing them with friends. There is the pleasure of travelling without needing to be two hours early at the airport with the stress of the security checks with the un-packing of liquids and taking off my shoes, and especially without carrying the inevitable CO2 on my conscience. And also the satisfaction of easy-going adventures, where I can settle for several hours with my journal, a book and snacks from my tupperware, feel the kilometers go by and watch the landscape evolve as I approach my destination… I’m still deciding where I might go this summer and I’ll take travel mode into careful consideration;) Any tips are welcome!
JOYFUL GRATITUDE #126
By the time this is posted, I will be in Cologne spending a few days visiting my sister for the long Easter weekend. I cannot wait to explore the city together, organising our adventures around nice places for drinks and food:) We’ll be catching up over amazing veggie meals, open to discovery and chilling in the park while chatting about everything and nothing!