JOYFUL GRATITUDE #157
With the air being cold and crisp, as well as night falling around 4.30 pm, my body feels ready to go into full hibernation mode. All I seem to want to do is curl up and rest deeply for a while, with no obligations and nowhere to rush to.
However life has other plans. Instead of winding down, the weeks leading up to xmas feel very full, despite a more simple approach to gift giving and my efforts to prioritise by consciously saying NO. Probably because of the holiday now being so close, I feel like I have no more energy to give.
So I am grateful for the privilege of having some proper time off over the xmas period. While I’m in France, I’m really looking forward to the quiet days at home with my family. I foresee lots of sleeping in, cooking and eating good food all together, watching movies under soft blankets and catching up over steaming mugs of tea.
This weekend I had the pleasure of attending a one-day flash fiction writing workshop, a wonderful experience gift from Paolo for my birthday. It was the perfect way to spend a dark, rainy Saturday, very challenging but also fun and interactive. The great thing about flash fiction is the pieces are so short, so we could read several examples in the class and discuss them. I enjoyed noticing what speaks to me and what doesn’t touch me at all. We also worked with prompts and writing with paper and pencil on very short deadlines that left no space to the inner-critic.
For the final assignment, we had just 30 minutes to write a 325 words piece (in the end we did get an extra 15 minutes;). It was incredibly encouraging to see what you can come up with in such a short time: a raw first draft. I learned a lot from reading the other people’s pieces and from the feedback I received on my piece (my favorite was from a participant who said he creates trailers for video games and my story would have made a great video game trailer! I love how random ideas and sectors can be associated:) Now I want to take that raw draft and move it forward! I’m curious to see what will come of it.
JOYFUL GRATITUDE #110
I am deeply grateful for these quiet days spent with my close family around delicious meals and many wonderful desserts, easy moments of catching up together after months of only talking on the phone, of laughing and being ourselves with our different characters and interests.
This week we also took the time to discover some poetic films that got us thinking, to get warm in the sauna whilst chatting about the world we live in and how we can change it, to exchange (experience) gifts, to go for a mini road-trip to a pittoresque village close by, to share our plans for 2019 and of course to take activist naps and recharge our batteries…
Tired of shopping for presents just before Christmas in overcrowded shops? There’s nothing wrong with presents as such, but I feel like the pressure to buy gifts pushes us towards quick fixes that are not always satisfying. There has to be a better way, right?
As with everything, I believe it is possible to make the whole experience much more energising and sustainable, both for the person giving and the one receiving:) By being more mindful, we end up with intentional gifts and stories that lead to more fun and greater connection.
- Experience gifts: They are the norm among my family and friends for several years already compared to material gifts. It’s a chance to offer someone an experience, based on their interests that they will remember and cherish, rather than just one more object. You can make it as cheap or expensive as you like (a home cooked meal or time spent together are great options).
Over the last years, I’ve given tickets to concerts, escape rooms and plays, offered vouchers for massages, made vouchers to spend creative time with friends and family…
TIP: if it is an activity for several people, plan a date immediately with all participants, so you have something to look forward to!
- Secret Santa: instead of buying gifts for everyone, organise a secret santa so you can focus on getting a quality gift for just one person
TIP: get people to be very specific about that they want so you get them a gift that makes their heart sing (see below on Receiving).
- Support small businesses: If you are buying material gifts (jewelry, clothes, decoration items…), think of this as an opportunity to support small/local businesses that make you enthusiastic and for who your purchase will make a difference, leading to a happy dance.
TIP: Keep a list of the small craft businesses/independent brands you come across all year around at local craft markets, Etsy or social media, so you can recall them when you need a gift.
- Books: Buy from independent bookstores, this is the chance to browse through all those lovely covers and keep local bookstores alive
TIP: Experiment with books that you don’t know but are drawn to, discover new voices or authors from other countries
- Wrapping: no need to spend money on new rolls of wrapping paper, just recycle newspapers or old magazines.
TIP: Try to personalise the wrapping paper for the recipient (it is a very mindful activity for winter nights:)
Actually reducing the number of physical presents received is quite a lengthy process as culturally we feel we should not to come ’empty handed’. In the past, I’ve written emails to family and talked with friends to try and gracefully explain that I value experiences over material gifts. Slowly the idea is making its way and I have the secret conviction that it will inspire them too;) The experiences I received and participated in were super fun and created memories I’ll not forget like going to London for an incredible workshop with my favorite author or exploring the Japanese gardens with friends:)
Another idea is instead of people searching for a gift, to tell them upfront you would prefer to receive some money for you to give to your favorite charity. Alternatively, you can ask the person to use the money they would have spent on your gift on their favorite charity or to support their favorite artist on Patreon. They have more say on where the money goes and it is a win-win for everyone.
I’d love to hear more ideas! How do will you make your Xmas shopping more intentional this year?
JOYFUL GRATITUDE #90
I feel deeply grateful to have celebrated my birthday with my community of lovely friends yesterday. It was a heart-warming evening, full of joy for life and great humour, around delicious hummus and good beers at the amazingly laid-back brewery the Butchers Tears.
I am so appreciative of how my friends respect my aversion for materialistic presents and came up with creative solutions to spoil me regardless, with wonderful experience gifts like delicious food, cards, a drawing, poetry and vouchers for quality time to spend together:) I look forward to many more celebrations together!
JOYFUL GRATITUDE # 9
In the last few years, I’ve been encouraging my family to prefer ‘experience’ gifts over material gifts for Christmas and birthdays. The idea is catching on, and this year almost every gift I gave my family was for an experience of some kind, usually in the form of a card and a voucher. I wanted some original envelopes to present them in, so I gathered some cool pictures from old magazines and with simple washi tape made these colourful recycled envelopes.