Recently, I was getting a massage and the masseuse was having some trouble getting me to relax my shoulder muscles. She tried placing a warm pouch on them for a while, then she tried using balm to heat them up, but nothing seemed to help. At one point, she told me very simply “Your shoulder muscles are in deep anticipation of what I might do to them, try and let them relax”.
I’d like to be able to report that from that moment onwards I was able to breathe deep and release all the tension, so that the massage could continue satisfyingly, but what really happened is that even when actively trying to relax, my muscles remained tense and only by working her magic could the masseuse slowly reduce the tension a little, by the end of the one hour appointment.
Since then, I’ve had the sentence “deep anticipation” resounding in my head. It was like finally putting words on what has basically become my default way of living life. I am pretty much in “deep anticipation” about everything, good or bad: catching a flight, an upcoming work meeting (even the most trivial ones), going to the theatre, meeting with friends… I wish I was more carefree, but somehow I find myself reflecting beforehand on what it may be like, making sure I have timings right, playing it out in my mind, wondering if I will have enough energy, fearing unexpected hurdles… Perfectionism and control making me feel I need to do things according to high (unrealistic?) standards, instead of just relaxing and trusting I can handle things as they come. I still enjoy things, but I’d like to feel a bit less anxious and it would do me good to keep my “deep anticipation” for the few moments when it can really be of service.
So now when I find my mind going into what I know refer to as “deep-anticipation mode”, I’m trying to breathe and remind myself that “IT WILL WORK” (my words for 2019) and that even if it doesn’t go as planned, no amount of anticipation will ease what will happen. It’s a daily practise, a kind of awareness building leading to kindness to myself, permission not to be “on” all the time trying to be in control of everything. Let’s see how it goes.
JOYFUL GRATITUDE #136
Half of the year has flown by, summer is in full swing and I find myself looking back at what the last 6 months brough with them, delighted by how much of it I had no inkling when the first days of January rolled around.
I followed a 2 day workshop with Julia Cameron and kept a nearly daily Morning Pages practise since (which is a great support in getting my ideas clear:), I applied for a new position at work, got it and am somehow pulling it off for two months already, I followed two 8-week writing courses and had a lot of fun getting inspired and crafting 13 pieces of stories and poems for class, and I sold a whole bunch of (post)cards with my designs to family, friends, colleagues and friends of friends…
Also, I’ve been lucky to spend lovely afternoons in (botanic) gardens taking pictures of plants, I’ve kept up with boxing practise, I’ve travelled to Cologne, Paris and Sicily to spend time with family and friends, catching up, drinking tea, eating cakes and spent good times and seen cool movies with friends in Amsterdam too. For all of these things and all the other mundane and extraordinary moments, I am extremely grateful! I am also looking forward to what the next months will bring with them.
Just a few words today, as I ease back into work and the day to day rhythm. We had a great trip in the lovely town of Acireale, where Paolo’s family have an appartment. Returning to a place one has visited several times, is a very particular feeling, like peeling away different layers and going deeper. Next to our usual favorite spots, some new discoveries for me were the tiny bakery that makes that one type of delicious sesame biscuit and the inconspicuous lupini bean factory at the end of an alley, where the legumes soak for ten days in a big pool of running water before you can enjoy them with lemon juice… I have plenty more to mention, but for now I want to savour mentally processing these latest adventures:)
JOYFUL GRATITUDE #135
When this is posted, I will be in Sicily for holidays:) If it is anything like our last trips there, a lot of time will be spent exploring, chilling and eating delicious food:) I’m looking forward to proper sunshine and summer weather, jumping off the volcanic rocks into the transparent sea, going to the market to buy kilos of juicy plums and peaches that remind me of what fruit should actually taste like, and walking through the small streets soaking up the atmosphere…
During that time I look forward to being very little connected to internet and very much connected to the beauty of the island, Paolo and his family, and everything I will get to discover. I’ll return after a little break from posting.
We spent Pentecost long weekend at my mum’s place. The garden was lush with all the rain that has been falling, the bushes were bright green, the herbs were growing strong and the many rose bushes were and heavy with dozens of buds soon about to burst open with colour.
It was whirlwind weekend of catching up with family, eating tasty home-baked cakes, visiting my sister’s new appartment, reading with my cousin’s kids and taking a lovely walk in their neighbourhood, a tailored just-for-us guided tour of the Musée d’Orsay and attending Roland Garros for the first time. We did so much that a week later, I’m still processing it all:) So grateful to have had the time to enjoy being in the company of my family and having these fun experiences!
JOYFUL GRATITUDE #134
Yesterday as I was cycling leisurely home from my boxing class just before 10pm, it was still daylight and the Vondelpark was bathed in the soft light of the magic hour… and an incredible mist started rising mysteriously over the wide open grass spaces and the water of the lakes. It was a breathtaking sight. So grateful to have been there to witness it:)
I don’t know if this really qualifies as a windowsill, but I love how these branches stretch out from behind this stone wall, curious and unafraid of what is on the other side.
JOYFUL GRATITUDE #133
Poppy season has arrived bringing flimsy stems and light petals, splashes of bright colours around the city. I cycle past a lovely field of bright red amongst other wild flowers on my commute through the Vondelpark, there is a lone poppy poking out from a crack on the sidewalk where I park my bike at the office, resilient to all the people passing it by, and then there are the gorgeous yellow poppies growing at the Botanical garden in Zuid… So grateful for these joyful reminders of fragile beauty!
We are finally enjoying some warm summery weather in Amsterdam and that’s the moment when I most wish I had a garden. A small green space of my own where I could relax in the shade without needing to face all the other Amsterdammers who are out and about also searching for their own few square meters of greem.
Luckily the Botanical garden is just a 7 minute ride away, a lovely place to escape from the masses. On Saturday I took refuge there for a few hours, sitting on a rock amongst the blossoming plants, feeling the light breeze on my skin, listening to bumble bees buzz their little hearts out whilst feasting on pollen:) It was a moment of slowing down, breathing deep, being surrounded by nature, just noticing all the simple beauty of the many varieties of plants that grow side by side. I hope one day to have a garden of my own just like that!
JOYFUL GRATITUDE #132
Last Monday with some friends we did a walking meditation, 20 minutes of very slow walking in a small park in the city, focussing carefully on each step, lifting my foot, moving it forward, the shifting my balance, placing it down, trying to feel every part of the movement.
It had just rained, the air was fresh. After a while it became like a trance, sometimes managing to block out the noise of traffic around. I became more aware of everything around me. The wet grass at my feet, the drops of water on a seesaw, beautiful roses of different colours and the way tiny caterpillars were roaming on their petals. The goal of the exercise was not to focus on the caterpillars but they were very cool, bobbing their little heads up and down.
I felt so calm when we were finished. It reminded me of how often I am caught up in a rush to get from A to B, and how much there is to feel and see when we are in first gear instead of at full speed. I am grateful for these lovely mindfulness sessions and deep connection with a bunch of kind and open friends. It was amazing to share this experience together and get back in touch with my meditation practise.