Slowing down

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JOYFUL GRATITUDE #170

In these strange COVID-19 times, I feel thankful for the fact that some preventive measures have been put into place and it means life is slowing down in an unprecedented way.  I know this crisis is negatively impacting thousands of people, and that many health professionals will be working overtime in extremely difficult conditions.  So I appreciate that this feeling of gratitude comes from a place of privilege (I am not in the most at-risk group; I have a safe place where I can keep my distance and that is also the case for my family; I can easily work from home and keep receiving my salary etc).

Only time will tell how the next weeks and months will turn out.  In order not to get too anxious, I’m trying instead to focus on the upsides of seeing what life is like when dialing back from the frenetic pace we are used to.  For now, I’d like to embrace this slowing down as an opportunity to rest and reflect.  I may use some of that down time at home to simply declutter the apartment, do some writing and work my way through the pile of books waiting to be read on my nightstand…

Spoiling myself after a long day

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Sometimes the perfect way to spend a Tuesday evening after a long day is just to come home and indulge in a take-away TV dinner.  I’m so grateful for a quiet evening in, to savour the delicious caramelised eggplant dish picked up from the restaurant down the road and watching Casa de Papel (otherwise known as ‘practicing my spanish’;)  I think will top it off by going to bed early to read! Saludos!

Yearning for more calm

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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.

Rearranging furniture

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JOYFUL GRATITUDE #143

Another week has flown by and September has arrived, carrying with it memories of the back-to-school season with its deeply ingrained urge for renewal (new clothes, pens, notebooks…).  Instead, Paolo and I did some furntiture re-arranging in our appartment, which turned out to also be the perfect opportunity to give the bookshelves a much-needed scrub and donate some books to the little free library to make some space. The perfect autumn cleaning!

We decided to experiment with a new layout we had in mind, using only furniture we already have to see if the set up works for us.  As I type, my laptop is now placed on a table which receives lovely natural light, and my posture is greatly improved compared to when I sit in my usual writing spot on the sofa, cross-legged with my laptop balancing on a cushion on my knees.

So far I’m really enjoying the fresh perspective and it also feels like our living space is suddenly much bigger.  It’s a pleasure to see how a small change can make such a large impact. Now, I just need to keep my good resolutions of keeping the desk free from clutter:)

Permission to relax

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Last Friday, on my day off, I gave myself a wonderful gift.  It didn’t cost any money and I didn’t even need to leave the house. It was a grey rainy day outside and I knew I had an intensive weekend ahead, so I spent a large part of the day just lying on the sofa, reading.

I let myself be swept into the characters’ lives and was completely absorbed in another world for hours, while totally ignoring my real-life to-do list and not feeling like I needed to stop reading to do something more important.  It was wonderful and it recharged my batteries much more than ticking off items on my to-do list ever would. I plan to do this again soon. Here’s to giving ourselves permission to relax and recharge in whatever way works for us, regardless of what still needs to be done!

Desserts and good laughs

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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…

Beautiful forest details

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Just a five minute drive from the house where I grew up, there is a forest where I love to take walks.  There are several options: you can take the tarmac path straight into the heart of the forest, you can explore muddy side paths or you can walk right at the foot of the trees, your shoes sinking with each step into the deep layers of fallen leaves.

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Today I mostly ignored the paths and spent the morning deep in the humid undergrowth, guided by every splash of colour or unusual shape, looking at the tiniest details to see what I could find. I was welcomed by trees, mushrooms, mosses and lichens of all types, as well as slugs patiently gliding along and snacking on mushrooms.

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On my treasure hunt for beauty, there was just the sound of birds calling to each other. I felt perfectly in the moment, taking in all the beautiful colours and textures.  I experimented with photographing what I came across, until my jeans were dirty and humid from kneeling down to get close to the forest floor.

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Forest bathing is so healing. Looking at myself in the mirror when I got home I was glowing like I’d just had a long nap or a restorative massage, my body kindly reminding me, yet again, that I should surround myself with nature more often:)

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Reaching out

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Last week went to recharge my batteries with my family in France.  It was the perfect occasion to have lots of long chats during sunny walks in the forest and the park. Over cups of tea and home-made cake or under the duvet with my sisters we talked and talked, trying to make sense of the many things tangled in our minds, armed with angel cards to guide us, laughing at our interpretations of the what the words we randomly picked might be trying to tell us.

I love the plant in the photo above, with its hundreds of feather-like arms reaching out confidently in all directions. It is my visual reminder to keep connecting with people even if it takes some effort, particularly at the moment, because by reaching out I’m reminded that we all have our struggles, big and small,  that there actually is no such thing as ‘having life figured out’, and that I am OK.

Though I didn’t come back to Amsterdam with anything like a solution or a plan on how to move forward, it was simply helpful to see that we love each other regardless of what’s going on because there is no right or wrong way to do things, these situations too shall pass once we’ve grappled with them and learned the precious life lessons they carry on their back.

Tiny apples

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JOYFUL GRATITUDE #97

When life gives you tiny little apples from the garden, make apple sauce.

The act of peeling multitudes of these small apples is perfect for being in the moment.  You can’t rush otherwise you peel away half the apple, you need to focus because there are spoiled bits that need to be carefully chopped off, you need to accept that it will take the time it takes…  The result is totally worth it: a delicious and sweet compote de pommes and a quiet mind.

*****

Thanks to my fellow apple-picker and hand model Helena.

Family time

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JOYFUL GRATITUDE #73

I am grateful for having had the luxury of a long weekend at home in France to recharge my batteries.  It was a pleasure to catch up with my family, chatting and laughing while enjoying delicious meals, a fusion of slow cooked French traditional dishes alongside Lebanese delicacies.  Cakes were abundant as always, as well as Easter treats in many forms (including an unexpected chocolate clam!).

Not everything revolved around food though, we also soothed our mind with some lovely spontaneous meditation sessions, lying side by side on our mats, our heads supported by lavender filled cushions as we did our best to focus on the guided body scan. It was particularly fun to debrief afterwards and compare our experiences:)