Prioritising down time

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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.

A yurt all to ourselves

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JOYFUL GRATITUDE #142

Sometimes you just need to conjure up your perfect holiday…  Last weekend I had the pleasure of spending three days with my good friend Eva in Wageningen, where we rented a yurt:)

We had no plans other than to relax and we were very successful. It doesn’t hurt that we had this gorgeous space all to ourselves. The soothing roundness of the space with its wooden beams leading up towards the skylight, a basic kitchen to cook our vegan sausages and other treats, a tap outdoors to do the dishes while the sun warmed my legs, a tree to read and play games under, progressively moving our blanket to remain in the shade, feeling the humidity come up from the earth as the sun set, being able to see the stars in the night sky…

Every evening we chatted whilst looking into the flames of the wood-burning stove, feeling the heat on our bodies, tired in that lovely way that comes from spending all day outside.

It felt like true luxury to have our own garden and be able to eat leisurely meals outside, feet in the lush grass, next to a patch of colourful flowers. Enjoying all this green and fresh air, as well as our chats about creative plans and laughs, recharged my batteries immensely.

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Outdoor theater

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JOYFUL GRATITUDE #137

Last night we went to see the Three Musketeers at the Amsterdamse Bos Theater, a lovely outdoor theater nestled amongst the tall trees of the forest. I love that to reach it you cycle away from the city center where most theaters are and instead head into nature.

As we pedalled along the water we passed a dignified heron who was watching the world go by while standing on one leg.  After a busy week, it felt like a real treat to let myself be carried along by the story, laugh at the jokes and disconnect completely for a few hours as we sat surrounded by trees and clear sky, as night slowly fell over us.

Deep anticipation

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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.

Returning to a familiar place

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Just a few words today, as I ease back into work and the day to day rhythm. We had a great trip in the lovely town of Acireale, where Paolo’s family have an appartment. Returning to a place one has visited several times, is a very particular feeling, like peeling away different layers and going deeper.  Next to our usual favorite spots, some new discoveries for me were the tiny bakery that makes that one type of delicious sesame biscuit and the inconspicuous lupini bean factory at the end of an alley, where the legumes soak for ten days in a big pool of running water before you can enjoy them with lemon juice… I have plenty more to mention, but for now I want to savour mentally processing these latest adventures:)

A Sicilian break

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JOYFUL GRATITUDE #135

When this is posted, I will be in Sicily for holidays:) If it is anything like our last trips there, a lot of time will be spent exploring, chilling and eating delicious food:)  I’m looking forward to proper sunshine and summer weather, jumping off the volcanic rocks into the transparent sea, going to the market to buy kilos of juicy plums and peaches that remind me of what fruit should actually taste like, and walking through the small streets soaking up the atmosphere…

During that time I look forward to being very little connected to internet and very much connected to the beauty of the island, Paolo and his family, and everything I will get to discover. I’ll return after a little break from posting.

Making creative plans

 

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JOYFUL GRATITUDE #130

Some days all you really need is to hang out with a friend, unrushed, just catching up while taking a leisurely walk around the neighbourhood and supporting a small business (and enjoying delicious vegan cakes in the process;).

Then taking a further stroll through the park even if the weather is grey, watching the birds and marveling at the fresh green of spring leaves, while having inspiring talks about upcoming creative plans and ideas for the next months, and plotting how to keep each other accountable…

Medicinal herb garden

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JOYFUL GRATITUDE #127

Recently during a walk with two dear friends, we discovered there is a lovely garden with medicinal plants in the Beatrixpark in Amsterdam Zuid. I am so glad that after nearly 13 years of living in this city, I still keep stumbling upon hidden gems by chance. Surrounded by hedges, it is a peaceful space in the park and there are some benches to just sit and relax, a perfect spot to soak up the quiet atmosphere and listen to the birds.

There’s a wide array of plants and short explanations of what they can be used to heal.  Featured above is lungwort (Pulmonaria officinalis), a plant traditionally used to treat lung problems and chest infections. It was said that the spots on the leaves looked like diseased lungs… to me it just looks like a beautiful pattern:)

Off to Cologne for a few days

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JOYFUL GRATITUDE #126

By the time this is posted, I will be in Cologne spending a few days visiting my sister for the long Easter weekend. I cannot wait to explore the city together, organising our adventures around nice places for drinks and food:) We’ll be catching up over amazing veggie meals, open to discovery and chilling in the park while chatting about everything and nothing!

Pockets of downtime

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JOYFUL GRATITUDE #122

As I type this, it is Friday morning on my blissful day off. It’s quiet and I don’t need to rush to work. I’ve enjoyed a slow breakfast and a chat, looking over a lovely bouquet of flowers towering in an improvised jug-vase on the kitchen table.  Ahead of me I have a peaceful creative afternoon with a dear friend, and afterwards a low-key weekend to process the past week, read, stare out the window perhaps, do a little writing and generally take the time to relax. I am grateful for pockets of downtime, tranquil moments to recharge in between the busy office days.