Creating my happy life on the other side of fear.

Thursday, 28 July 2016

So - what's been going on?


Last year was the year of happy contentment. We had the hottest and driest summer in something like half a century, and Richard and I enjoyed the heck out of it. I yogaed my little heart out, we raised a pet duck together, and went on little adventures like concertspartiesziplining, or roadtrips. Life felt like a never-ending summer's day, and we were happy and carefree.

Then 2016 rolled around. And with it, the mood changed.
I started a new rotation at work, and the adjustment was more difficult than I anticipated. In short succession, two of our dogs died - Sheila, our guardian angel of the sheep, and my beloved Snowy.

Rich struggled to nail down a new contract for his business.
The bills kept coming in.
We were both restless and on edge. I wrote several morose posts that reflect my mood at the time (herehere and here - only read if you want to feel depressed - on second thought, maybe don't read them), always trying hard to find the positive, to see the silver lining.

It was working, but only to a degree. Something just wasn't right. Rich and I both felt it, but didn't know what to do.
Until fate intervened.

Several times over the last few years, we have been thinking of moving. Our neighbourhood is getting busier all the time, and we have always dreamed of living closer to nature. My photos may look like there is plenty of nature around us, but in reality it's a little oasis with a busy road right in front of it, and new developments creeping closer from all sides.

Still, we kept thinking that we couldn't do it. Did we really want to start over somewhere new? Leave the kids, our friends, my work behind? What about money?
There seemed to be a million reasons against it, not least the sheer enormity of moving an entire farm, including horses, llamas, sheep, dogs, rabbits, and about a gazillion birds.
Nope, it didn't seem feasible. So we always abandoned the idea.

The housing market in the Greater Vancouver area is exploding right now. Houses are being put up on the market and sold the next day, often at a higher price than asking price. Wannabe buyers knock on stranger's doors, asking if they are interested in selling.
This has been going on for several months now. However, we kept saying that we wouldn't sell, that we liked where we lived, that we wouldn't get caught in the frenzy.


And then, two things happened.
Two houses down, a 'For sale' sign popped up on a property similar to ours: Same size, older house, a barn and several outbuildings. When we found out how much they ask for, we exchanged a startled look: 1.6 million dollars.
We don't live in a ritzy area. Far from it, it's all little acreages with some livestock. This was bananas. 

Then, the second thing happened. Our friend (and caretaker of the farm when we are away), decided to put his house on the market. His sign was barely in the ground, when the first interested party walked up with an offer: A million dollars. Our friend turned him down.
The next day, the next offer: 1.25 million.
This feels a bit like what I imagine the Klondike gold rush must have been like.
Totally insane. 

Curiosity piqued, we got a real estate agent on the property. She named a price, we couldn't quite believe it, and after several days and sleepless nights, we decided to put our house on the market.

But that was only the beginning. The more important question remained: Where should we go? Our first impulse was to stay close to home. Everybody has their safety bubble, and we were very reluctant to leave ours. However, it quickly became clear that there was a major problem: We couldn't find anything we liked in our price range. Contrary to the classic downsizing approach, we actually want more acreage, not less - we love our farm life and want to take all the animals with us.

For a couple of  days, we felt pretty discouraged. We got snappy with each other, and retreated into separate corners of the house, each wondering if this was all meant to happen.
On the evening of the second day, I decided that we needed some willow tree therapy. We sat down, and instead of going over the whole we-can't-find-anything-maybe-we-should-give-up cycle for the 100th time, we talked about happy memories. The "do you remember when?"-kind, that's so boring to outsiders, but improbably precious to the couple.


We reminisced on one of our favourite trips ever taken: A roadtrip through 14 states, back in 2007. Always having enjoyed dry desert climate, we were both especially taken with Moab, Utah.
On the road there, we passed by a place that was by a river, with high cottonwood trees swaying gently in the breeze, a pretty house in their shade and several horses grazing nearby.
We had both agreed that this spot right there would be the best place in the world to live.

"Ohmygod!"
I can't recall who yelled it first - Rich or I? Why don't we just pretend that we did it both at the same time, for the sake of the story.
We looked at each other, eyes wide, and proclaimed in unison (just go with it, 'kay?): "The Okanagan!"

The Okanagan is BC's desert. A desert that grows wine (hell-oo, who loves wine? *raises hand*), has a much drier climate than our rainy coastal one, and tons of sunshine. I looove sunshine.

It's also much quieter than our busy Lower Mainland, and best of all? It has affordable acreages for sale.
So we decided: We'll burst our little safety bubble and go property-hunting in the Okanagan. It's four hours away from our current home, which seems probably laughably close to many of you, but a HUGE step for us. As in waking-up-worrying-ceaselessly-every-night huge.

We don't know anyone there. I don't have a job there. There are hospitals, but if there is anything available for me in the foreseeable future is a complete unknown. Rich's business will retire if - when? - we move.
The future is uncertain, but also extremely exciting. I feel like this entire less-than-stellar year has been leading up to this, a huge change in our lives. An adventure.

Nothing is decided yet, but our place is for sale, we have several places lined up to check out, and who knows? Soon we may be moving like Noah's Arc into a new life!

What's new with you??





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Sunday, 24 July 2016

Scary dreams


What would you do if your love would tell you: "If you say yes, you can take a few years off work to pursue your dreams. Write your book. Do your yoga teacher training. All you have to do is say yes."
WHAT WOULD YOU DO?? 
Because I feel like I answered the question wrong. 
What I did - is freak out. BIG TIME.
Give up a secure job? My retirement plan? My little heaven? The place I feel most comfortable in? I'M NOT READY. I'M SCARED. DON'T MAKE ME.

Hubby and I, we have the option of doing something big. Nothing is decided yet. It may all turn to dust, evaporating to nothing. 
But right now, we are at the brink. At the brink of something HUGE.
We are looking at a ton of possibilities. Adventures. A shitload of work
So he asked me: "If it all works out, are you up for it?"
And I want to. I've been dreaming about it for years.

But I'm almost paralyzed by fear.
Am I all talk, no action?  
Gawd, I hope not. 

I fear I have to leave it at that, for now. I always loathe when other bloggers do this (all the hinting, no clues), but now I get why: If you are in the middle of it, if it all happens as you go, sometimes you have no choice. It's all just too fresh, too raw, too indigested for public consumption. 
But, at the same time, you have the overwhelming need to talk blog about it.
Which leaves you, the unsuspecting readers, with a shitload of vague nonsense. 

I apologize sincerely. 

And I promise you: I will keep you updated on everything. As soon as I know more, you will, too. 
In the meantime, let's remember: Everything is impermanent.
The decision we face, the one we think is oh so important? It isn't. 
At the end of our life, all we will face is our biggest regrets. 
And the one I'm most afraid of facing, is this: 
Not having taken the chance.
   

Dress: ModCloth







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Wednesday, 20 July 2016

We are the lucky ones


It's 4 pm. I'm sitting in the shade of the willow tree, open book in my lap, gazing lazily up into the leafy canopy above me, the sun peeking through and kissing my skin. 
I take a sip of my drink. It's pear cider, because, why not? I already did my day's work, put in 8 hours at my day job. Now it's me time. 
Idly, I make plans for later: Yoga, happy hour with my hubby, some blogging. Either a couple of episodes of my latest Netflix obsession, or a few chapters of the book I'm really into. 

Suddenly, the dogs start barking. Not their usual play-bark, but the one that means serious business. 
I get up to investigate. One of our friends is dropping in, unbeknownst to me, because hubby forgot to mention it. Again.  
I'm annoyed: What about my plans? My workout? My blogging time?

[14 years earlier]
I'm so lonely. I cry myself to sleep every night, unspeakably sad. I have no life. I can't see my future. What will I do? Where will I go? Will anybody ever love me?

I let our friend in, greeting him with a big hug, happy to see him despite my earlier jerky knee-jerk reaction. He hugs and kisses me back, proclaiming: "It's so good to see you! How have you been? Tell me!" A warm glow descends upon me. 

[10 years earlier]
I'm lying on the couch, staring up at the ceiling, a tear rolling down my cheek. I feel lonely. I'm hiding away in my house, scared of the world, yet desperately wanting to join it. Wanting to be normal. To have friends come over, visit them; to be spontaneous. To have fun.

The next morning, the alarm goes off at 5 am. I groan in irritation, wishing I wouldn't have to get up to go to work. I'm hitting snooze and pull the pillow over my head.

[7 years earlier]
All I want is a job. A regular income. I'll take anything. ANYTHING. 

How quickly we forget. 

Once upon a time,  we had goals we longed for, dreamed about, would have done anything for.
And then we achieved them.  
We should be over the moon, right? Beyond happy, grateful, and humble. 
Not wanting for anything else ever again

And in the beginning, we are. Happy and appreciative, we thank our lucky stars, post excessively on social media how #blessed we are, and actually mean it. 

But then, some time passes. 
We get used to our good fortune. 
And the discontent sneaks in. 

He never takes the garbage out.

They have told me the same story 10 times already!

I hate getting up early/working late/working at all.

It's so easy to get dragged down. To first get complacent, and then spoiled. 
To buy into the general sense of "I deserve better/I should have MORE". 

Gratitude is the simplest, yet most powerful antidote to that.
Remember where you started.
How far you have come. 

How rich your life is. 

Never forget: We are the lucky ones.    






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Sunday, 17 July 2016

A glimpse into my real yoga practice


Today I want to try something a little bit different. I taped the first part of my practice yesterday, without do-overs, edits, or pretty music overlays. I don't know if it's in any way useful, but I have gotten quite a few questions about my yoga practice, and I thought I would share what a basic practice looks like.

In an ideal world I would practice every day for an hour. In reality, I'm happy when I get 15 or 20 minutes 4-5 times a week. 
I've learnt that if I put too much pressure on myself, I'm setting myself up for failure. Expecting too much will result in doing nothing at all. So in my mind, I only commit to 5 minutes. "I'll do a couple of sun salutations and some stretches", I promise myself. Nothing more. Almost always, I end up being on my mat for longer, because once I get started, I enjoy it too much to stop. But even if I stop after 5 minutes, I chalk it up as success, not failure. I'd rather do a little bit regularly, than one big practice once every two weeks.  

Anyway. Here are 15 minutes of yesterday's practice:


There are a couple interruptions, which is normal and doesn't bother me. Sometimes I practice in the living room when Rich is sitting on the kitchen table in the background, and we're having a conversation. Outside I'm always being love-attacked by the dogs, who feel the overwhelming urge to smother me with kisses. Yoga is part of my life, and my life is pretty messy. And that's okay!

I'm not a yoga teacher (yet - I'm seriously considering taking up yoga teacher training next year), so I don't want to give wrong instructions about the poses. 

If you're new to the practice and look for a slow 20-minute flow, check out Candace's 20 video:


It's a great introduction to vinyasa yoga. Did you try it out?

Before I go, I want to share one of the many inspiration videos I love to watch. Here's my girl Kino, doing what she does best: 



Incredible, isn't she? One day, one day ...

Have a happy Sunday!


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Friday, 15 July 2016

Fate or coincidence?


I don't know if I have mentioned it on here, but my mother-in-law is in town right now. And with right now, I mean it's been twelve days, with eight more to go.*
*Not that I'm counting the days, or anything. 
**I totally am.  

Family is weird. I sometimes look at the mother of my husband, the man I love more than anyone in the world, and wonder. How did he turn out the way he did? They are close, yet have nothing in common. Their views of the world are polar opposites. Their ways of life are on separate ends of the spectrum. He loves life, she worries about it. His most likely answer to any question is "Yes!" - hers is almost always "No".
He is a glass-half-full kinda guy. Hers isn't even half empty - there are only dregs on the bottom of it.
When they look up, he will appreciate the blue sky - she will look at the lone cloud, worrying that more are on their way. 
He is adventurous. She is cautious. 
They are so different, yet they share the same heritage, blood, and culture. 
Like I said, family is weird.


Then there is me. Grown up in a completely different generation, different family, different circumstances.
We met in about the most random place you can imagine: In the middle of nowhere, first time there for both of us. One of us in desperate search of a way out of the trap her life had become - the other on a family vacation. 

We recognized each other. Instantly. We looked into each others eyes, and saw a connection that went deeper than mere physical attraction. Our souls, alone before, found their spiritual twin. 
We just knew. 

Our finding each other was so unlikely, such an incredible coincidence, it makes my head spin. We often marvel how that happened. Was there a higher power at work? Was it fate?
We will never know. 


All I know is: We have a million things in common. Much more than our blood relatives have in common with each of us. We get each other.

I may look at the mother of the love of my life with exasperation at times. I may have taken more deep, desperately-needing-to-calm-down breaths over the last twelve days than I have all year.
But then my sense of humour returns, and I can't help but laugh at the unlikelihood of it all. 
Her and him, being mother and son. It's about as likely as him and me being soulmates.
Yet, both scenarios are true. 

Isn't life awesome? So unpredictable, crazy, and full of magic.


I took these photos a few days ago when we went into Vancouver for a tourist day. We had a delicious seafood lunch at the Marina Grill, went to the Aquarium, and hung out in Stanley Park
My intentions for this post were completely different: I wanted to make it about the day, the city, and my thoughts about it. 
But then my fingers took over, and what you just read happened. 
And it feels right. So I'm keeping it!


TGIF!




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Thursday, 14 July 2016

The men-pleasing skirt

Ladies, listen up. Whatever you may have heard about guys' preferences in women's clothing (i.e. short and tight), is WRONG. 
Apparently, what they are really into is ...

... drum roll ...

MIDI skirts. 

WTF?!?!


I'm as surprised as you are. 
Is anything we ever accused men to be - i.e., superficial, one-dimensional, and only interested in sex - blatantly untrue?

According to my highly unscientific and inaccurate study (conducted over three single outings), men like midi skirts. 
At least the ones I encounter do. 


Whenever I wear the skirt pictured here, I get complimented by men. 
My husband calls it "womanly" (that's a compliment, I checked).
My gay friend calls it "gorgeous" (a much more trustworthy judgement). 
The sort-of-friend at the bar said "My god, you are beautiful!", but since he was several beers in, his judgement doesn't count fully (still flattering for the old ego, though). 
The waitress at the restaurant kept staring at it/my shoes?, which I chose to take as a compliment (I'm a glass-half-full kinda gal). 
It might have also been disapproval at the amount of dog hair and wrinkles displayed on my skirt. Hard to tell with women.

Anyway. 

Whatever it is about this skirt, people respond to it in a positive way. 
Which is fortunate, because I happen to love this skirt so much, I bought it twice
(And I never do that, usually.)

The first time was at least eleven years ago. I saw it at the Gap, in a teal-green and white instead of black and white, and bought it. While Rich instantly loved it (the "womanly" factor, remember?), I had a somewhat harder time. I simply couldn't figure out what to wear with it. Tuck shirts in, or wear them out? What colour? What shape? I never felt 100% comfortable. 
So in the end, after several years and one unflattering picture (I tried to find it guys, but couldn't), I donated it. 

Then, a couple of years ago, I was in a thrift store, and saw the same skirt hanging on a rack, wedged in between a shapeless, sack-like hemp-dress and a corduroy skirt.
I inspected it closer, for nostalgic reasons ("it sort of looks like the skirt I used to own ... hang on a minute ...), when I realized: IT'S THE SAME DAMN SKIRT! In my size, in a much more versatile colour (for me) than teal. 
Since it also happened to be my size, and only cost $8.00, I had to get it. 

And the rest, as they say is history. 


The men-pleasing skirt re-entered my life, and it's here to stay. 

It pleases me more than anyone, which is the main only reason why I continue to wear it - but the occasional compliment is a nice bonus.  


Top: old (similar)
Skirt: old (similar)
Hat: old (similar)
Jacket: old (similar)
Necklace: SheIn



Tell me: Do you have a piece of clothing you get compliments on?
Or, even more importantly, one that makes you feel like a million bucks?





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Tuesday, 12 July 2016

The voice in my head is an asshole*

*This is the title Dan Harris, a TV-news journalist and author of the book 10% happier, wanted to initially use for said book. In the end he chose "10% happier", because that's what he has become since he started meditating daily.  


I like the first title better. Because we all know that voice he is talking about, don't we?
It's the voice that will ruin a perfectly nice evening by reminding you that tomorrow is Monday, and you have another week of work ahead of you.
It's the voice that keeps you awake at night, listing gleefully everything that's wrong with your life: How you should be more successful, richer, slimmer, happier, taking better care of yourself, taking better care of your family, donate to charities, follow the news, know how the stock market works.

The douchey voice is shouting inside your head that the kids don't love you, that your parents don't approve of you, that you are weird.

It's the voice that will make you worry all.the.damn.time. The voice is hell-bent to ruin everything fun for you:
Should you really go out for dinner? Can you afford it?  
Are you sure you want to eat that? Didn't you gain some weight?
Shouldn't you clean the house/fold laundry/mow the lawn/work instead of reading your book in the middle of the day?
Should you really watch Netflix right now? I thought you want to be a writer? Writers write, don't watch TV mindlessly. 

And on and on it goes.
The voice is cunning. It has a knack for sniffing out your weaknesses, and then getting to work on it mercilessly.
Are you secretly afraid that you are slower in learning new procedures than your coworkers? The voice will have a field day with that. You still haven't gotten it? Are you sure you are cut out to do your job? 

Are you jealous of your friend's dedication to her workout routine? The voice will happily confirm your worst fears: You are lazy. You are undisciplined. You could have that body, too, if only you would show some willpower. 

The voice loves our insecurities. It feasts on it, sucking every drop out of us. Relishing its power.
If we let it, it will ru(i)n our life, making it as miserable as it possibly can.

But here is the good news: We can learn to control our inner bad voice.
Basically, our inner voice is fear talking. And while fear is a great wing man (warning us not to drive too fast on a narrow, winding road, for example), it's a poor leader.*

*(That's not my insight, by the way: I learned this lesson from the incomparable Elizabeth Gilbert, in her mind-blowing book Big Magic.)

What Dan's book has taught me is that our inner narrator focuses overwhelmingly on the past and the future. It continually tries to remind you of past slights, grievances, and beef you had with other people. It's also fond of reminding you how you messed up today, how you shouldn't have had the chocolate bar, how you made the wrong choice five years ago. All things in the past, that you can't change any more.

Worrying about the future is the other speciality of the voice: I, for example, have to fight the urge to worry about my job. There really is no need to worry, because it's one of the safest jobs out there, protected by union laws, the high demand of a growing population, and the improbability that we will be replaced by robots any time soon. Yet, when the voice has nothing else to do, it will focus on job security.
What if they get rid of your line?
What if they take shifts away from you?
What if you get sick?
What if, what if, what if?? 

It's a real buzzkill, that voice. Also, not very original, when you think about it - just harping on about the same stuff over and over.
I'm learning that you don't have to react to it right away. You can acknowledge it - "Hi there anxiety/fear/sadness, it's you again" - but you don't have to react. Observe it for a while. Note that it's there. Take your time deciding how to respond. Are you following it down the rabbit hole? Or will you try to ignore it?

I haven't figured out yet how to stop the voice. But I have learned to recognize it, which is the first step. The second step is to take a break from it; a mini-vacation from your own buzzing mind, if you will.
My approach is three-fold: Movement, fresh air, and another voice I can focus on.
When I want to silence my mind, I need to go outside. I grab the dog, my old-fashioned portable CD player with a story, and go.
The act of moving my body, the wind in my hair, and the sun (or rain) on my face is balm for my soul. I can literally breathe more freely, and feel myself calm down. Add to that the pleasure of getting lost in another story, and the asshole in my head doesn't stand a chance.

The other tool is yoga. If possible, I'll head outside and roll out my mat.


Focusing on my breath, on my body, and nature, calms my mind down immensely. The voice gets quieter and quieter, until it shuts up. I try to focus my attention inward, on the feeling of my muscles stretching, my spine bending, of finding and keeping the ever-elusive balance, if even for seconds.

Peace washes over me. Often, a dog tongue literally washes me. I feel grateful for my healthy body, healthy(ish) mind, for the love and abundance in my life.

It's a work in progress. I'm far from being done learning how to deal with the asshole in my head, and intensely motivated to add more tools to my belt. 10% happier has inspired me to give meditation a chance, and today I meditated for 5 minutes.
It was boring, hard, and the longest 5 minutes of my life, but apparently that's normal. 

See you again tomorrow, monkey mind!





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Saturday, 9 July 2016

5 lessons I have learned from the ladies of Litchfield


Ever since I finished watching Orange Is the New Black, I have a huge prison uniform-shaped hole in my heart. It reminds me of the time when we had to wait a year in between Harry Potter books; the utter despair upon finishing on a huge cliffhanger (remember when Dumbledore died?), knowing that you wouldn't find out how the story continues for one long, seemingly never-ending year.

In order to prolong my time with the inmates of Litchfield, I took a closer look at their stories. Because the stories are what makes this show so utterly spellbinding! They show that these women aren't inherently bad, or ruthless, or mean-spirited.
They are normal women like you and I, who made a mistake (or many mistakes, as the case may be). Most of them didn't hit the jackpot when they were born: They had single parents with little time for them, or were born into poor neighbourhoods, or had parents who were criminals. Being disadvantaged from the moment you arrive on earth isn't a good start in life.
Add the complications of wanting to be loved, seeking a community to belong to, or simply being young and clueless, and you may very well end up doing something that will land you in prison.

Not only do we learn how many of the women ended up in prison, but we also get to see how some of them find themselves in there and turn their life around.

Case in point: Pennsatucky.

1. Suffering is a choice.

"Do you know the difference between pain and suffering? Pain is always there. But suffering is a choice."

Did you get goosebumps when Pennsatucky said those words? I sure did. Who would have thought that judgmental, crazy-religious former crackhead Pennsatucky would become so wise?
Because that attitude towards life is truly insightful. She says it in response to Big Boo accusing her of not being revengeful enough towards her rapist Coates, one of the guards at Litchfield.
Pennsatucky came to realize that by holding on to her fear and hatred, the only person truly suffering was  her. By letting go of the hatred, she reclaims her life and her happiness.

That way of dealing with pain is truly remarkable. And it's a lesson to all of us:
We can't always control what happens to us. But we can control how we deal with it. 


2. Forgiveness. 

One of the most heart-breaking story lines of season 4 is that of Sophia stuck in the SHU.
She lands there at the end of season 3 "for her own protection" due to being attacked by several inmates, partly due to her being transgender, partly because of her feud with Gloria.
Throughout the season you can see her deteriorate more and more, leading her to first flooding her cell, than setting it on fire, until she tries to commit suicide by slitting her wrists.

When she finally gets out, shell-shocked and a shadow of her former self, Gloria helps her reclaim her old beauty salon, and brushes up her wig to help Sophia reclaim her former sense of self.

Lesson learned: Kindness and forgiveness will always win over hatred. #lovewins 

3. Don't judge a book by its cover. 

"I think her mother was a drug addict, or something, you may as well be an alien."

That's how Soso describes her girlfriend Poussey to the Marta Stewart-esque new inmate Judy King. As it turns out, Poussey speaks three languages, was set to go to West Point, and had a mother who had a masters in art history, and a father who is a major in the army. She is more well-read than most of her inmates, highly intelligent, and has a kind and caring nature. 

She is upset about her girlfriend's assumptions, saying that "You spent time with me. Did you even listen when I talk? Like what the fuck about me, besides the colour of my skin, would indicate that I'm some indigent hood rat?" 
What, indeed. Soso apologizes, and in the end they make up.

But it's an important lesson to all of us: 
Don't jump to conclusions. We are ALL guilty of that, because it seems to be human nature. (Or is it conditioning? I'm unclear about that.)
But we shouldn't. Every person is much more than meets the eye, and keeping an open mind and heart is crucial. 

4. Mother-daughter relationships are complicated.

Oh, Aleida. When it comes to mother-of-the-year-awards, she'd hardly be the first one that comes to mind. She has five kids from five different guys, often leaves her oldest daughter Daya in charge of the younger kids, and allows her latest boyfriend to set up a drug lab in her apartment. However, like everything in life, it's complicated. She may be a less-than-perfect-mother, but she still cares about her children. 
The relationship between mother and daughter has many highs and lows, but they do love each other. 

I really love the portrayal of this mother-/daughter-relationship. Much too often in TV-land you see either highly unrealistic relationships à la Gilmore Girls (I love them, but come on), or they have no relationship at all. This one is real, flawed, complicated, and full of moments of "I HATE you". However, they are not giving up, and watching Aleida and Daya trying to make it work is very rewarding for everybody who knows the difficulties of a strained relationship. 

Lesson learned: Families are fucked. You are not alone. 

5. Family comes in many forms.

Having said that, the good news is that we can choose our own family. 
We all crave the stability and security that comes from having family. Knowing that you have someone on your side, even if you mess up, is incredibly comforting.
The families that have formed in Litchfield are tight-knit groups that support each other, share special treats, and look out for each other.
They celebrate the good times, and gather together in the hard ones.

Lesson learned: Family is more than being related by blood. You can love someone unconditionally, and have friends become your family.






All images found here.

*Originally published by Thought Catalog here.*


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Friday, 8 July 2016

Mad for stripes



Pyjama dresses. That's what I call these soft, comfy shift dresses I'm into this year. Because they feel like you are wearing your PJs, they are that cozy. 
Maybe it's because I got so used to yoga pants (I never wore them before I started doing yoga a year ago - I know, strange), but these days I'm all about comfortable, easy-to-wear clothes. 

I've worn this exact outfit to walk the dog, to go grocery shopping, and when puttering around the house. Rich claims I look like a prisoner with the black-and-white stripes. He is not wrong. 



Dress: SheIn
Shoes: Converse
Purse: old (similar)



What is your go-to comfy outfit these days?








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Wednesday, 6 July 2016

How to get your mojo back



It's 7:30 am, half an hour before the beginning of my shift. I know I should get ready, brush my teeth, pack my lunch bag and head out in 10 minutes if I want to make it on time. Yet, I stay rooted to the spot, unable to will myself to get up.

I don't want to go. 
This is the thought keeping me glued to the chair, holding me down with a force that seems much stronger than me.
You may wonder if something terrible happened at work.
Am I getting bullied?
Did I screw up in a big way?
Has work become unbearable?

Rest assured, dear reader, that none of the above is true. The truth is much more trivial and embarrassing than that.
I chose to get sucked into a cycle of negative thinking, complaining, and focusing on the bad. Worse, not only getting sucked in, but actively participating in it. Instead of ignoring the nay-sayers that are in every workplace, I fixated on them. All I could focus on were the things I didn't like:

How much I didn't want to work with someone.
How much I didn't want having to listen to other people's complaints. (Ironic, isn't it? Here I was complaining my little heart out to everyone who would listen. I didn't see the irony. When it comes to ourselves, we can be remarkably obtuse.)
How much I didn't want it to be too busy.
How much I didn't want it to be too slow.
How much I didn't want to be there. 

Thoughts are powerful. You may believe that whatever you think is safely locked away in your mind, invisible to the outside world. But you are wrong. What you think manifests itself in your physical world, and becomes visible by the way you act, the people you surround yourself with, and the mood you are in.
If you focus primarily on is the negative, guess what? All you see and experience will be negative.
My negative thoughts had started to overpower my normal feeling of contentment, contaminating my usually sunny mood.

I sat myself down and asked myself: Do you want to quit? (Well, go somewhere else, because: money.) And I could honestly say: no.
There are too many things I value about my current place of employment: The small community feeling, lots of the people I work with, knowing many of the doctors and nurses, having gotten comfortable with every department in the hospital.
I also appreciate the short commute, my secret lunch spot outside under a huge Cedar tree (nobody ever comes there, it's just me, my book and my food), and the friends I have made there.


With that question out of the way, the task at hand was both easy and challenging: How to get my mojo back?

Here are the steps I have started to apply to give my attitude a much-needed overhaul:

1. Think differently.

That one is huge. I read an article by Brianna Wiest in which she writes:

"The problem is not the problem, it is how you think about the problem."
That really struck a chord with me. My problem wasn't work itself - it was what I had made it in my head. I had created all these worst-case-scenarios in my mind, just waiting for them to become reality.
Well, I was the creator of these fictional problems, I could also be the creator of the solutions, right?


2. Shift your focus.  

Before, I would have this long list of everything I didn't like about work running in my mind on a loop, like a broken record.

Now, I tried something different: Focus on something I was looking forward to that day.
On a rainy day, I would tell myself that it was good I got to work inside, where it's warm and dry. (I worked in a forest during the winter when I was 20 years old. You learn quickly to fear the cold, and to appreciate a warm workplace.)
On a sunny day, I knew I could look forward to eating outside, either alone if I felt like it, or with colleagues.

The biggest one: Instead of thinking of the people I didn't want to see, I would list everybody I was excited to see (of which there are many, because I'm a lucky ducky). So simple, but what a game changer! You are the boss of yourself, which includes how you look at the world.

3. Change your perspective.

We tend to get absorbed into our own lives, and to lose sight of the bigger picture. While I'm fond of saying that "comparison is the thief of joy", it can actually be very helpful to look at other people's lives to put your own problems into perspective. Regina Brett stated it perfectly:

"If we all threw our problems in a pile and saw everyone else's, we'd grab ours back."

In my self-induced gloom, I forgot the many, many things I have always appreciated about my job: Job security, the satisfaction of making someone else's life just a little bit better, the fun we often have, making new friends, having a job that leaves lots of time for hobbies and passions.

Sometimes I think of everyone I know, and what they do for a living, and you know what? I don't want to trade with them.


4. Practice gratitude.

Looking at the world from a place of gratitude instead of dissatisfaction will change your entire life. It's easy to get caught up in the little annoyances of life, and to get irritated by the small stuff. But you know what? The small stuff doesn't matter.

So what, if someone snapped at you for no apparent reason?
So what, if you think you worked more than your colleague?
So what, if you think this wasn't fair?
Will it matter next year? Or even tomorrow? Nope, it won't.

I believe that we have a choice: We can choose to be annoyed, or we can choose to not let it bother us. Nobody can annoy us without our permission.
It takes practice and won't happen overnight - which is why it's called to practice gratitude.
The more we do it, the better we will get.

You know that feeling when you are absolutely, over-the-top happy, and nothing can spoil your good mood? While this may not be a realistic mindset for every day, the happier you are in your life, the less you will be affected by petty little nonsense.

Remember:

"Don't sweat the small stuff ... and it's all small stuff"





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