Poems in the workplace

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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.

What migraines are teaching me

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JOYFUL GRATITUDE #125

I am grateful for migraines. This may seem like a very strange thing to be grateful for considering the extreme pain they bring, leaving me writhing in my bed, eyes closed against the slightest ray of light, each sound magnified, my brain banging incessantly against my skull. You would probably never hear me saying this while I’m in the throes of an actual migraine, but now safely on the other side of a recent one, I can appreciate how migraines are teaching me to respect my limits. To accept what I cannot control. To reset my overachiever expectations of what I should be able to endure and instead practise (again and again) being kind to myself.

In the (not-so-distant) past, I used to resist the migraine, then wish for it to disappear as soon as possible so I could go straight back out into the world. Recently, I’ve decided that the strategy of walking shaky-legged, weak and raw right back into the day to day grind doesn’t work for me, and I believe this reflex has been exhausting me over time. So I’m experimenting with allowing myself a day to recover after the tsunami of the migraine, to rest at home with no obligations. It gives me time to simply rest, find my footing and my appetite again and gather my strength, so I can go back into the world with more appreciation and vitality.

I realise this is not a possibility for everyone, and that I am very privileged to be in a situation where I can take paid sick leave and take time to recover.  However the reason this is a turning point for me is that for many years I believed that to-dos and other tasks had priority. I feared I may be letting people down by taking the proper time I need to get better.  But it turns out that putting my self-care first hasn’t caused the world to stop turning in any way, and I hope this might inspire others to push themselves a little less hard when possible, in order to be more resilient in the long run.

So many things to be grateful for

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JOYFUL GRATITUDE #124

I am sitting on my sofa, with the sun streaming through the wide-open window, warming my skin and I am wondering what to write about today.  After a few false starts where I type and delete a couple of paragraphs, I decide to consult my angel cards and see if they have any suggestion about what I should focus on. I shuffle the cards carefully and choose one of the 80 glossy cards from the tiny stack spread out in my left palm, I turn it over and… the word on the card is GRATITUDE!  Hahaha, OK, so much for that;) I guess it is a luxury problem not to know what to concentrate my gratitude on.

So here are a few things from the past days that I am particularly grateful for:

  • having time to write Morning Pages at home while drinking coffee (and feeling light anxiety release its grip when I lean into it and write out my thoughts, making the day ahead so much easier)
  • seeing a gripping and original play about 9/11 terrorist attacks (and the subsequent discussions with Paolo about it)
  • gorgeous sunshine (and enjoying a lovely walk with a dear colleague and her son, discovering favorite spots in their neighbourhood)
  • attending an intimate Q&A with author Kristen Roupenian (and learning all about her approach to the craft of writing, extremely inspiring!)
  • keeping up the rhythm of writing two pages per week (and getting precious feedback from Paolo about which parts work and how to move the piece forward)

Wishing you all a great weekend!

The joy of a random day off

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JOYFUL GRATITUDE #123

A few weeks ago I decided to take Monday 1st of April off. There is an event I wanted to attend from 12-13:30 and at first considered cycling there and back on my lunch break from work or taking half a day off, but I didn’t feel like rushing. So I did something unexpected for me: I decided to treat myself and simply take the full day off, just like that;)

It feels so luxurious and wonderful that it makes me question why I don’t do this more often!  I am profoundly grateful for the privilege that I have (the confort of a fixed contract where I get paid leave that I can take without worry). Still, usually there are scarcity voices in my head, warning me that I should use my precious days off to visit family, to travel or that I should save days in case of some potential emergency.

Just anticipating this day off makes my soul feel delighted. Spoiling myself in this very simple way is like a deep breath of fresh spring air and gives me a feeling of prosperity. I’m thinking of making this a tradition for the 1st day of each new quarter:)

Getting my energy back

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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.

Starting a gratitude jar

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JOYFUL GRATITUDE #106

In an interview of Elizabeth Gilbert that I listened to recently, she mentioned that she has a large apothecary jar which she fills with gratitude notes, and how even on the most difficult of days, even in the midst of grieving, she can always something to be grateful for.  I’d been toying with the idea of starting a gratitude jar for a while and if Liz Gilbert was doing it, well I took that as a sure sign that it would work for me too;)

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Since the gratitude jar would sit on my desk, I wanted to make it colourful and engaging.  So I found an old jar and gave it a clean, and then spent a mindful hour selecting pages of all different colours from old issues of Flow magazines and cutting them into small rectangles.

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I keep the papers in a clip on the top of the jar, ready for use. The fact that I don’t need to go rummaging for a post-it or piece of paper makes it super easy and often in the evenings while waiting for veggies to cook, I’ll reach for a pen, reflect on what I’m grateful for that day and scribble a few notes, fold them and pop them into the jar.

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I love the result! There is something deeply satisfying about this analog ritual with a low threshold.  No pressure, just the joy of seeing the jar steadily filling up with colourful papers, constant reminders of the multitude of things and moments I have to be grateful for everyday.

Joyful gratitude 101

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JOYFUL GRATITUDE #101

Today I am grateful for the fact that as humans we have the capacity to imagine and create a better world.  Since JOYFUL GRATITUDE 101 sounds like the name of an introduction course, I started to imagine over the last few days what the world might look like if practicing gratitude was taught as a class in schools and universities, rather than a topic we gleaned from self-help books later on in life.

Imagine if practicing gratitude was presented to young people as an important activity for mental health, just like doing regular sport is for physical health? What if a fraction of the time spent on advanced math, was dedicated instead to learning how it is beneficial to take time to appreciate everything we have?

Imagine if instead of fixating on what we were lacking, we learnt early on to shift our focus onto what we are blessed with.  Imagine if we learnt from a young age the subversive act of mindfully resisting the feeling of scarcity and FOMO, and trained ourselves to zoom in more systematically to all that we do have going for us.

Maybe it could help turn tough periods into slightly easier times (particularly adolescence and being a young adult, but also later in life) and allow us to more readily reframe the messages we constantly receive from (social) media and advertising about how we are not enough. Maybe it would allow people to bring their precious creative gifts more freely into the world. Maybe it would create space to be aware of and help those who are not as privileged. Probably there are many other side effects I cannot even dream up.

At this stage I don’t have the keys to change the education system, so all I can do is ‘be the change I want to see’ at my own level.  I’m loving writing weekly about the big and small things I am grateful for, and hope maybe it can inspire some readers out there:)  Even so, to be honest I still easily get sucked into feelings of scarcity and comparison if I don’t watch my mind, so I’m trying my best to be mindful over and over again about looking out for the good things.

I’d love to hear your thoughts, how has practising gratitude impacted you?

100 weeks of JOYFUL GRATITUDE!

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JOYFUL GRATITUDE #100

Today marks 100 consecutive weeks of JOYFUL GRATITUDE! I want to celebrate this milestone and I am particularly grateful today to the people who read this blog and share their thoughts and experiences with me. Thanks so much!

Time flies! I created this series nearly 2 years ago to practise bringing my attention more to what brings me joy and what I am grateful for.  It’s been so much fun each week to look back and choose one thing, among the many things I am have to be grateful for, to write about.  It’s now a collection of snapshots of wonderful moments.  Curious? You can find all the posts here.

Last year I wrote about my findings after 12 months of JOYFUL GRATITUDE.  In 1 month’s time I will analyse the results of this past year in the same way to see if any new trends have appeared:-)  In the meantime, Paolo and I will be celebrating 100 weeks of joyful gratitude with some tasty Scottish whisky tonight! Cheers!

Let me know, what are you feeling grateful for today? 🙂

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That post-holiday feeling

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Our trip to Lisbon was great! It was wonderful to have 9 days to explore the city slowly, having the time to head out without a real plan and just discover new places or return to ones we particularly liked, soaking up the atmospheres of different neighbourhoods.

Now that we’re back in Amsterdam, I can feel the benefits of having had some time off, I feel lighter and in a better mood. Also in a way the trip is not entirely over since I now have the joy of quietly letting all the impressions of the past days sink in: the tastes, colours, smells, conversations, laughs… It always takes me some time to process all the experiences from when I travel, to reflect on them in my journal and see what inspiration and ideas come up.

An interesting read

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JOYFUL GRATITUDE #75

Today let me share this article that I really enjoyed reading this week and basically put words on what I often feel. Every time I have a tough time at work or something is bothering me, I have a tendency to daydream about taking a sabbatical and exploring far away lands imagining that that would solve all my problems;) Of course I love traveling and will continue to do so, however on a day-to-day basis I want to make sure I remember the concept of ‘the box of daily experience’ and improving the way I experience it, since this is much more accessible and rewarding than constant travel.

Writing JOYFUL GRATITUDE has definitely helped my box of daily experience feel fluffier, as I regularly pay more attention to the things that are readily available such as