JOYFUL GRATITUDE #169
Even if it has been a very mild winter, this week I clearly felt the sparks of joy linked to the first signs of spring. Like realising that I feel a tiny bit more energetic, and how lovely it feels to cycle through the city when it is still daylight on my way home from work, and feeling the sun’s rays a little sharper on my face during my lunch walk…
I am grateful for winter and its quieter days, but I am also glad that spring is on its way. I can’t wait not to have to wear two pairs of socks to keep my feet warm and to bundle myself in layers of clothes and scarves. I’m ready to watch nature waking up and bringing to the world its colourful buds and fresh green leaves, to hear bees buzzing among tiny flowers and watch ducklings by the canals. I look forward to the simple pleasure of sitting in the park to read in the sun.
What is it you most look forward to about spring?
JOYFUL GRATITUDE #168
I am grateful for meeting up early with a friend, on my Friday morning off, to take a walk in the Vondelpark. It was a lovely way to start the day, feeling the wintry air on my face, walking along the paths trying to avoid getting too muddy, watching energetic dogs playing together, as we chatted about how our week had been and all sorts of things… As someone who usually takes a while to get out of the house when I don’t need to go to the office, it felt like a great way to kick-start to the day by moving and connecting with my body. I must remind myself to do it more often, either by myself or with the added bonus of going with a friend:)
JOYFUL GRATITUDE #147
After participating in the climate strike last week, I felt a deep need to rest. Luckily I had guarded my free time in the weekend like a watchdog and had scheduled a full day and a half with no absolutely zero plans, no where to go and no one to meet. I realise how privileged I am to have so much free time, and I am very grateful for that.
I know I write a lot about how much I like quiet time, so if it sounds repetitive feel free to skip this post. However I will continue to write about it because sometimes it’s important to stop and observe. We live in this flurry of a world where everything is a click away and instant notifications increasingly pull at our attention, where we feel we should satisfy everyone who wants a piece of our time and FOMO is just around the corner making it extremely hard to say NO to things. In this context, I want to normalise carving out down time for ourselves. I want to be able to say “I am available that day, but actually I prefer to rest” without feeling like I’m letting people down. Because really, even if I were say YES to everything, there would still be people I let down, and more importantly I would be letting myself down by not getting the down time I need to recharge my batteries.
In that day and a half, I did things that were important to me, like writing, and I did them without being in a rush, with enough time to procrastinate by baking a delicious apple cake, stare mindlessly out the window and write three different drafts of my assignment before choosing the first one after all… On Sunday evening, I realised I was still in my pyjamas and went straight back to bed in them. It was perfect. On Monday morning, I felt completely renewed. Those sleep-ins and taking time to reflect while pyjama-lounging on the sofa set me off to a positive start of the next week and I had more energy to give to those around me.
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 #131
In August last year when I was on the edge or in burnout, everything felt like too much. I wanted to do fun things that interested me, but I just had no mental space for anything except the bare minimum (which was pretty much only work). I realised this week that in the last months I’m starting to find more joy again in extra activities, like boxing, and helping colleagues who are performing the gender scan in our organisation, and of course writing…
I want to stop and appreciate how far I’ve come and how much better I feel, especially since there were moments when I deeply feared I would never feel like I had energy again. It’s not perfect, I still experience nights where I lie awake too long or anxious mornings, but I feel like by being more mindful of self-care, I’ve managed to carve out some space for the things that I enjoy or spark my curiosity. These activities do take some energy, but in return they also give me satisfaction and a feeling of contributing with my input and voice to a slightly lighter and more joyful world.
JOYFUL GRATITUDE #117
This is the season where the hours of daylight get ever so slightly longer after the long Dutch winter. I’m slightly confused and happily surprised to find it’s not dark at 5pm. As the days start to get longer, I’m also noticing my energy levels are gradually getting better after many months of struggling with burnout and a sense of constant exhaustion.
So what has changed? I’ve rested, a lot, taking it very easy over the last months. But also I’m much more aware of what I need, I’m not pushing forward like a robot as much as I used to. In the mornings, I stop to think whether I feel like cycling to work through the hectic city center or whether I feel like choosing the confort of the tram where I can read, look out the window or write my morning pages. I’m trying to spend less energy worrying about how things will go. I’m saying NO to things that I think will take more energy than I feel I have available, and YES to creative things that make my heart sing or open new horizons.
It’s not perfect, I still get the occasional headache if I don’t give myself a break on time or feel totally drained after a long day… But on the whole I’m putting more regular deposits into my energy bank, doing more things that are good for me and less SHOULDS and I can feel the difference. I’m grateful that the steps I am taking towards healing are bearing their fruits.
Sometimes ideas about what to write here come seemingly out of nowhere, and I list them sacredly in my Little Prince moleskine notebook to return to when I’m out of inspiration. Some days, the photos lead me to the content of the text. On others, I’m processing events from day to day life and writing helps to bring clarity on how I feel.
But today I’ve got nothing! Or to be more exact, I’ve been channeling what I have to my weekly assignment for the creative writing course I’m taking. It seems that while toiling on those two double-spaced A4 pages of fiction that need to be ready by tomorrow, I must have emptied the well, pulling up more buckets of ideas and energy than my brain had time to refill.
So today I leave you simply with this picture, taken after a rain-shower during one of my walks in the neighbourhood last Autumn. I hope that many drops of water, gleaned from everyday observations and rest (and a still-to-be-planned Artist Date), will fill my inspiration well again soon:)