On setting boundaries

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JOYFUL GRATITUDE #152

Today want to express gratitude to the Universe for kindly giving me plenty of opportunities lately to practice setting my boundaries.  I often wish it was a one time thing, that you just set your boundaries once and for all, and then they were there, stable and protective forever.

However it is not so, and I keep realising that I have to figure out my boundaries anew.  Which makes sense of course, because I am constantly learning and evolving, what I may once have accepted no longer feels OK or that the ‘should’ that pressured me in the past is clearly not my monkey to take.

Setting boundaries is hard for me as a people pleaser. Speaking up about what doesn’t work for me is a weak set of muscles that need to be trained, over and over again.  I would love to say that with all this practice I’ve got it figured out, but I keep on struggling to hear the truth my intuition whispers to me, amongst the noise of ‘I should’ and ‘might be cool’. Actually, I don’t want ‘cool’ and if I find that I’m trying to convince myself to do something, I realise I’m pushing my boundaries and I am the only person who can respect them for me.

When I set my boundaries it is far from elegant, I find it scary to put my needs out there, not knowing how people will react.  But regardless of the way my message is delivered, it does feel empowering when I identify my boundaries and stick up for myself.  I have to keep reminding myself the short-term effort is worth it for my future self.

Flash fiction workshop

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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.

Changing mindset

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JOYFUL GRATITUDE #129

I am grateful for an intense and satisfying week in my new position at work. It was one of those weeks where you start out feeling very uncertain and clueless and then look back flabbergasted at how much you learned over the course of the last few days (whilst at the same time becoming more aware of how much there still is to figure out!)

This week I consciously tried to shift from that inner-voice that repeats like a broken record “I have no idea how to do this, what if I don’t manage and let them down!!!” to “what is the next small step I could take to move this forward? I’m curious how that will pan out”.

This is a major change for me. It starts with getting really mindful about how I am feeling, especially when anxiety holds me in its grip, making me double guess everything.  It takes deep breathing and scraggly morning pages (or should I call them morning rants?) scrawled hurriedly on the tram in my green moleskine notebook. It takes the leap of faith to just show up every day, believing IT WILL WORK… and in the end, it turns out having that approach brings just a little more ease to everything.

And now, some quiet time on the weekend, to process all this info and emotions:)

Daily morning pages

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JOYFUL GRATITUDE #119

Since the Artist’s Way workshop I attended last month (given by the wonderful Julia Cameron herself!), I’ve been writing Morning Pages daily again.  Last time I did Morning Pages that regularly was in 2011 for several months as I made my way through the chapters of Artist’s Way book. After a while the habit faded and I went back to journalling several times a week, but not in the morning and not so consistently.

Though on the surface it may seem like a tedious task to write three pages by hand first thing every day, noting down whatever is passing through the mind, Julia Cameron describes this as a spiritual practice and I would agree.  Trusting in the process and being open to where it will lead makes it much more enjoyable.

When doing Morning Pages daily, you can’t really avoid the big things that are going on in your life or those voices inside your head that speak up about how you really feel about things. I feel like writing these thoughts on paper gives space to the ugly stuff, things I might be in denial about and just don’t want to see so I bury them under busy-ness.

Julia Cameron explains that Morning Pages push us take action. It’s true that after noting down frustration or discontent on the same topics day after day, you become more aware of what is important to you. You can then make a change to your attitude or take a small step towards altering the situation.

I am grateful for some recent aha-moments delivered through the pages: for example noticing how much happens in one day on all different fronts (at home, at work, with family and friends, creative endeavours…). This highlighted to me how much stimulation, conversations and events there are to process daily and therefore the need to make time for this (I am now attempting to spend less time mindlessly surfing on the internet to have more space to reflect).

I am enjoying cultivating this constructive practice again and am very curious to see where it will lead me:) Have you ever tried Morning Pages? How did you experience them?

Inspiration is everywhere

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JOYFUL GRATITUDE #115

January has come and gone, with its short days and a bit of snow sprinkled here and there.  It turned out to be a month for getting more grounded, with indoor activities like making mood boards, journaling, reading and writing.  It feels like ‘maintenance’ on myself to recharge and set a good basis for the months to come.

A recurring theme has been creativity.  I am grateful for Paolo and my friends’ encouragement as I take steps outside my comfort zone.  I’m glad to be stretching myself and trying new things which I believe will help me to grow in unexpected ways.

Lately I’ve noticed how when I give creativity some more attention, it starts to infuse everything. Taking the tram to the office becomes a chance to observe people and become aware of how the city is changing, rather than just a boring commute. Sitting in meetings at work is like watching improv theater, unscripted human interaction in an ecosystem complete with its unwritten rules and often incongruous behaviours. Cleaning the bathroom becomes a quiet time to search for memories hidden deep in my brain as inspiration for my next writing assignment. I can’t wait to see where these creative paths will lead me…

It will work

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JOYFUL GRATITUDE #114

I’ve finally chosen the words that will guide me for 2019: IT WILL WORK. It’s not quite as poetic as the words most people choose, but after lots of reflection, this is what I’ll go for.

What I mean by IT WILL WORK is that for 2019 I want to spend less time assuming that things will go wrong and reduce the energy I tend to waste on ‘what if’ scenarios, trying to anticipate everything that may not work. I commit to showing up and doing my part by being organised and speaking my truth, and next to that I’ll let go and have faith that things will go as they should.

Already in the last couple of weeks I’ve noticed a positive shift, a feeling of ease in little daily things and bigger events that would have caused me some worry not so long ago. I am grateful for the feeling that these things now seemed to have happened seamlessly or at least with a great deal less stress than usual.  I have the feeling I will channel that worrying energy to more useful (creative!) purposes:)

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I wrote about my word(s) from the previous years in the links below:
2018 – GENTLE ALIGNMENT
2017 – GROW

Is this what you call gentle??

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GENTLE ALIGNMENT. Those were the 2 words I chose to guide me for 2018.  Already at the end of 2017 I could feel that I was drained, something needed to shift and I needed to make some changes to be more aligned with my true self. The reality was I had no idea how much I had drifted nor how to get aligned again.

This year turned out to be full of exhaustion, frustration and deep questioning. Many tears were cried, hundreds of pages were filled in my journals to try and process my conflicting emotions, to feel them and get through to the other side of the dark woods.

I was reflecting with a friend recently about my words of the year and I mentioned how I felt like it hadn’t really been GENTLE at all.  To which she rightly pointed out, that if I hadn’t added the word GENTLE it would possibly have been even more brutal.

The flip side of the coin was that being burnt-out meant I had to surrender, to let go, to rest. It was a powerful lesson in giving up my usual ways of reacting. I have to learn a new, more sustainable way of looking out for myself and my boundaries. Maybe the word GENTLE refers more to how I should focus on treating myself in the midst of this confusion as I try to get aligned again:)

Things I have learned the hard way:

  • I need to stop pushing myself. The overachiever in me has helped me get this far but when I push myself out of alignment, too far from my values and deepest desires, it exhausts me and does not serve me in the long run
  • I need to balance the parts inside me that want freedom and that want stability
  • I need to look for what makes my heart sing and brings me joy, as these will give me energy
  • I will practice saying my TRUTH more and experiment with daring to ask for what I need (this is going to be especially vital in the next months as I return to the office, build up my working hours again and figure out where to go from here)

Of course things are not so easy, it’s not like I will never make those mistakes again…. but hopefully I will be reminded of the lessons learnt in this period and slip less easily into misalignment.

Coming up soon, my words of the year for 2019 and why I chose them!

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

Being present

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JOYFUL GRATITUDE #65

I’ve recently started an 8 week mindfulness course and in the last week I have meditated daily.  Hooray! Having the accountability of my course mates really helps to stay on track. While I meditate my thoughts are constantly running off all over the place to what happened during the day, what someone said to me, what I should have done or what I have to do the next day… That being said, I am glad to at least be carving out that quiet time for myself out of my daily schedule to slow down and strengthen the muscle of bringing my attention back to the present moment.  I am showing up with my beginner’s mindset and am very curious to learn and see what all this brings:)

Grow sustainably

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At the start of every year I choose a word to guide me throughout the next 12 months and encourage the universe to send vibes relating to that word my way. Beginning of 2017 the word I chose was GROW. I was imagining the universe sending me gentle nudges to get out of my comfort zone, try new things and become a better version of myself…

Instead, I was reminded to be careful what I wish for… as the universe delivered big time and gave me many opportunities to grow. Amongst others, the task of being the celebrant at the wedding of two dear friends in Thailand, and a challenging new position at work that never seems to ease up. This year I’ve felt stretched way beyond expectations, often exhausted by work and the ‘growing pains’ were sometimes intense. At the same time I appreciate how much I’ve grown my comfort zone, and I’m proud of having done things I could never imagine daring to do.

At our Christmas lunch, I was having a chat with some colleagues about what their word for next year could be. It was beautiful to hear what they were thinking of choosing, a lovely way to get to know them better over a slice of kerstbrood. As a cautionary tale, I told them about what my word for 2017 had been and how I sometimes experienced it as grueling.  One of my colleagues cheerily suggested that I should simply have added the word SUSTAINABLY behind GROW.  (I was flabbergasted! How did I not think of that myself??! It could be that easy. It was a total moment of reframing for me.) He then proceeded to explain how trees in the forest grow very slowly under the canopy and in that way they become strong. If they develop too fast, ever reaching upwards for the light, they are thinner, weaker and less healthy in the long run.

At this year end, I feel like a little sappling who strived to grow no matter what, without growing sustainably. So during these holidays, while I’m taking the time to reflect on the past 12 months and thinking about my word for next year, I’ll keep in mind the power of words and intention. I haven’t chosen my word for 2018 yet, but it may turn out to be 2 or 3 words to be a little more specific on where my focus will be:)