Starting Your Day With Intention

My grandma went for a walk nearly every morning until she was 92. She would leave when the sun came up and stroll around the neighbourhood for an hour or so every morning. She’d say hi to passersby and to neighbours working in their gardens. She’d stop to watch the leaves fall or the flowers blow in the breeze. She’d spend a whole hour enjoying the sounds around her, waking up with the world, watching it rub the sleep from it’s eyes. Then she would come home, hang her jacket on the coat rack, make herself a cup of coffee and sit down to read the paper.

I loved this about her. And I respected the fact that, no matter how much she loved me and enjoyed my company, I was not welcome then. That was her time, no questions asked.

When she was finished with her morning routine, she would go about her day in her characteristically sweet and unflappable fashion – working in the garden, making wool, patiently attending to her overly curious granddaughter. That was the case, at least, on the days when she went for walks. On the rare days she couldn’t, we we all felt the difference. She was easily irritated and cranky. Her sweet demeanor remained, but it was tinged with a hint of passive aggression, leading to snarky remarks and mutual frustration.

It wasn’t until recently that I realised the power of these morning routines in her life – the serenity and perspective they provided her – and the emotional consequences she suffered when she couldn’t start her day the way that suited her. I realised it because my own morning routine was completely obliterated by our move last year and it wasn’t until I lost this part of my day that I saw how essential it had been to my emotional well-being.

As my grandmother’s granddaughter, I too find morning walks the best way to start my day. In London, I would walk most mornings in the cemetery behind our house. I loved watching the fog roll in, I loved playing with my dog friends, and I loved watching the seasons change – seeing the old flowers die off and the new ones take their place. It was as nourishing to me as a full English breakfast, if not more so.

Muscat, however, is not a pedestrian friendly city. Sure, we live near a gorgeous park where I could walk in the morning, but to get there I have to cross some busy roads where I will inevitably be honked at by taxis trying to save me from the drudgery of experiencing the world on foot. That’s neither peaceful nor serene. I could go for a morning swim at the nearby beach, but that involves gear and sun cream and extra showers. It’s a lot of work, which offsets the relaxation element of the whole exercise.

Without the option of my ideal morning routine, I found myself growing grumpy and irritable, just like my dear old gram. I felt a profound difference in my ability to handle the day. Everyone annoyed me. Nothing went right. I felt like I was chasing my days instead of navigating my way through them. I rushed around being busy, trying to justify the loss of that time by being hyper “productive.” I lost my perspective and let little things get to me in a big way.

I realised I had to find a way to get that serenity back in my life. I needed to find a way to start my day in a slow, purposeful, nature-filled way because, without it, I was simply not myself.

It took some time develop a non-walking morning routine, but I have finally settled into something that mostly scratches that itch. Every morning now, I get up with the sun and sprinkle food on our windowsill for the wild parrots. Then I write, do some yoga and meditate while I listen to them eat breakfast and bicker over pecking order. I only spend an hour doing these things, but by the end I feel rejuvenated in mind, body and spirit. I begin the day feeling centred and intentional about what I want to do and why. I’m nicer to everyone, myself included.

Building this routine has made all the difference for me. Just like watching autumn leaves fall in the crisp morning breeze was essential to my grandma’s soul, watching parrots eat on my windowsill while I do yoga is essential to mine.

You Are Here

http://dornob.com/you-are-here-3-real-life-works-of-digital-map-inspired-art/

Apparently some really nerdy (aka awesome) artists do projects based on digital map graphics. Check out more here.

You are here.

For the last few months this has been a kind of mantra for me, something I go back to when I am feeling lost or overwhelmed. It centers me and reminds me of my place in the world, the space I take up in it. It gives me perspective. It gives me freedom. It makes me appreciate what is around me and it makes me feel like I’m part of something that matters. Plus, it’s map nerd-ery – always a bonus in my eyes.

You are here reminds me that I take up space in the world – actual, physical space. That I am part of the world – glued to it by gravity, breathing it in, pooping it out. No matter how much time I spend in my head, the reality is that I am here, physically present in the world, taking part in it and sharing it with everyone else –  even on the days I wish I wasn’t.

You are here reminds me that the space I take up is a space that no one else can. I am the only collection of these molecules and these experiences in all of time and space (Maybe. I guess statistically and astrophysically speaking there might be another one of me. I’d really like to meet her). At moments that perspective makes me feel entitled, but more often it makes me feel like part of a much bigger picture. It makes me feel a responsibility to respect the fact that I am here, that I do exist, that I have a presence and that it’s my job to make the most of it. It makes me very grateful.

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You are here reminds me that I have choice. I imagine myself on one of the walks I did in London and remember the excitement and overwhelming sense of curiosity I felt when I came to an intersection full of streets I’d never seen before. You are here means I have the choice. At any given time, in any given part of my life, I am always standing at the intersection of choice. I can dive into whichever option looks the most appealing or exciting to me at that exact moment. That’s insanely liberating.

You are here reminds me not to push myself too hard. I want to be really good at everything and I very regularly compare myself to people who are way ahead of me in the game (based on my completely arbitrary calculation) – much to my emotional detriment. You are here reminds me that everything is a process, that I am where I am at, no more, no less. Sometimes I can settle into that, be comfortable being where I am. Other times it causes ridiculous frustration. But you are here is a fact. It’s a reality check. It doesn’t judge or enable. It just is. You just are. You can’t argue with it, which I find huge relief in.

You are here reminds me that there is no competition in life, there is no final destination to which we are all running, trying to beat each other along the way. There really isn’t. There are billions of us, all with our own goals, prospects and concepts of success and achievement. There is no race, there is no competition, therefore there is no need for comparison. I am where I am at. You are where you are at. We are. We can help each other out or share our story, but we are not going the same places. And that’s a good thing.

It’s a good thing, maybe the most important thing, because you are here reminds me that I am not alone. I am one pin on the map. One person moving around, living my life, trying to improve myself and the lives of the people around me. I take up the space I take up, I am a unique individual with my own set of choices and challenges. But so is everyone else. We are all doing the same thing. We are all finding our way, making our mark on the map. When I zoom out and see it all, when I let myself be one tiny dot in the confetti of beautiful people living perfectly ordinary lives, I get a true sense of what it actually means to be.

o-PHIL-570

Choose Three Things….any three things

Hello again.

It’s me again.

And I need your help.

I’ve been tinkering around a lot with the book I mentioned last time – making lists of people whose work I admire and lists of the people they find inspiring so I can read them all as soon as possible; spending excessive amounts of time perusing graphic novels and making note of which styles appeal to me most; sketching a very rough layout of the key points of my story…I’ve been busy.

As I mentioned previously, I have no real history in illustration. I doodled a lot when I was younger and I sketch here and there when I journal, but I haven’t really tried to publicly express myself in a visual form before.

This is where you come in.

I need practice drawing. And I want it to be a real challenge – something that will push me forward by changing my frame of reference and force me to work with new concepts while I learn this new skill. I don’t want to get boxed in. I want to play with different forms, different styles, different ways of drawing. I want to try lots of things.

So.

I have 24 postcards sitting on my desk. I want to send one to you. All I ask of you is that you tell me three things to draw on the postcard. Any three things (obviously within socially appropriate bounds) for me to ponder on and decide how to stick together on one card.

Two examples so far are:

  • a mermaid, a hula hoop and a glass of wine
  • bunting, One Direction and Marmite.

I’m still working on that last one…

Anyway. I would love to make a card for you and use it as a way to practice this whole drawing thing. So click this link and tell me three things (any three things) I can draw for you. The sky’s the limit.

I look forward to staring at the screen in bemusement and trepidation when I receive your request.

Love,

Signature

 

 

 

PS. For those of you who have requested cards already but haven’t received them, first, my apologies. Secondly, I will use the ideas from the brilliant descriptions of yourselves you gave me to make a special card for you.

Thanks for sharing about yourselves, by the way. Your stories make my day every time!


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Fluffy Sofas and Domestic Bliss (or not)

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A strange thing happened this morning. I woke up giddily excited about the day. The day. Not anything it contains, not anything that will happen in particular. Just the day itself. The fact that it exists. I haven’t felt that way for a very long time and I am pretty excited about it.

There are a few reasons I think this might have happened (and hopefully will continue happening). I’ve been really focusing lately on the way I think about the events in my life and how I chose what things I do (and don’t do). I have learned a few things since moving here (ok, re-learned the same things again, for the millionth time) that have made me approach my life and my attitude differently. It feels good. It feels fresh. It feels like I am walking through a forest, smelling the pine trees and fresh dirt and feeling happy to be alive. It’s really nice.

I’ve been wanting to share a few of these ideas with you (I’ve missed our chats!), but as I started writing about each one they got long enough to be their own post. So I will just start with the one that is on my mind most today: expectations.

Moving to London

When I moved to London, I was SO freaking excited. I could barely contain myself. But in the last couple of months leading up to the move, I also felt some serious fear and frustration because, although I was DYING to get there, I couldn’t picture what my life would look like at all. I had no idea how to envision it. I knew I would be studying and that’s about it. I had no idea where I would live, who I would live with, what friends I might meet, what my classes would be like, what my university would look like, nothing. Absolutely nothing. And looking back, although that really caused me a huge amount of stress in the lead-up to the move, it was the greatest gift I could have been given.

I walked into London with no expectations at all. Not one. It was amazing. I truly made every day my own. Everyone was a new friend waiting to be met. Every street was a little present waiting to be unwrapped. Every walk was an adventure. I watched every day play out however it chose to and not only appreciated that I was there for it but experienced unbridled joy at the thought that I was lucky enough to be in the middle of it all. It was really one of the most incredible experiences I have ever had.

Now, let’s compare that to my most recent change. Continue reading

We're Here!

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We’re finally here!

Ok, we’ve been here for about two and a half weeks now, but we’re officially here in blog world. It’s been plenty of time to learn a few things about the place and to start exploring some of the hidden spots nearby.

Three Things I Have Learned About Living in Oman So Far

  • I will learn patience by being here. I hope.
    • Things happen slowly here. I know, I know, I am meant to be the one who touts the ideals of slowness, but sometimes slow is frustrating. It’s particularly frustrating when there is not a thing you can do to influence the speed in any way. You have to just accept that it will take twice the time you think it might, even if you have already prepared for double the amount of time you think it will take. That’s just the way it is. Have some tea and relax into the phrase insha’Allah. This is good practice for me, but man is it hard sometimes!
  • Winter is a relative term.
    • Someone yesterday asked me if I agreed that it was a little too cold. I did not agree (although I pretended to to be friendly). In the deepest darkest of night last night it was 65F/18C. We slept under light blankets with the window wide open. It is not cold.
  • I really like it here.
    • Despite frustrations about flat hunting, bureaucracy about visas and general disagreement about why some things must happen the way they do, I am really enjoying it so far. The aforementioned frigid temperatures are just right for me. I have met a lot of really lovely, very friendly, totally laid back and enjoyable people. We might have a flat to live in in the next couple of days; a little home of our own after years of temporary living. That might even happen today. Insha’Allah.

Our First Official Hike

One of the things I am most excited about doing in Oman is exploring the natural wonders it has to offer. There are wadis that need hiking, dive sites that need visiting, and sand dunes that need Jeeping. So much to do! My best Christmas present may have been this stack of books and maps about Oman. I am dying to start working through them!

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We have been flat hunting on the weekends, so we haven’t had a lot of time to get out and about yet, but we did manage to sneak in a little hike in the city last week and it was beautiful. We saw incredibly dramatic scenery and stopped to watch lots of little creatures going about their days. Plus, we had the whole place to ourselves. Without anyone else around or any sounds from the city, it felt like we were in the middle of nowhere and yet we were still home in time for lunch. Continue reading

We’re Here!

IMG_5578

We’re finally here!

Ok, we’ve been here for about two and a half weeks now, but we’re officially here in blog world. It’s been plenty of time to learn a few things about the place and to start exploring some of the hidden spots nearby.

Three Things I Have Learned About Living in Oman So Far

  • I will learn patience by being here. I hope.
    • Things happen slowly here. I know, I know, I am meant to be the one who touts the ideals of slowness, but sometimes slow is frustrating. It’s particularly frustrating when there is not a thing you can do to influence the speed in any way. You have to just accept that it will take twice the time you think it might, even if you have already prepared for double the amount of time you think it will take. That’s just the way it is. Have some tea and relax into the phrase insha’Allah. This is good practice for me, but man is it hard sometimes!
  • Winter is a relative term.
    • Someone yesterday asked me if I agreed that it was a little too cold. I did not agree (although I pretended to to be friendly). In the deepest darkest of night last night it was 65F/18C. We slept under light blankets with the window wide open. It is not cold.
  • I really like it here.
    • Despite frustrations about flat hunting, bureaucracy about visas and general disagreement about why some things must happen the way they do, I am really enjoying it so far. The aforementioned frigid temperatures are just right for me. I have met a lot of really lovely, very friendly, totally laid back and enjoyable people. We might have a flat to live in in the next couple of days; a little home of our own after years of temporary living. That might even happen today. Insha’Allah.

Our First Official Hike

One of the things I am most excited about doing in Oman is exploring the natural wonders it has to offer. There are wadis that need hiking, dive sites that need visiting, and sand dunes that need Jeeping. So much to do! My best Christmas present may have been this stack of books and maps about Oman. I am dying to start working through them!

IMG_8922

We have been flat hunting on the weekends, so we haven’t had a lot of time to get out and about yet, but we did manage to sneak in a little hike in the city last week and it was beautiful. We saw incredibly dramatic scenery and stopped to watch lots of little creatures going about their days. Plus, we had the whole place to ourselves. Without anyone else around or any sounds from the city, it felt like we were in the middle of nowhere and yet we were still home in time for lunch. Continue reading

Live With Your Head in the Clouds

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Today is perhaps not the best day to write about cloud appreciation because I am pretty glad there aren’t any to appreciate. This is the third day in a row of clear blue skies and I am absolutely revelling in it. It’s been cold and rainy and miserable and clouds are responsible for all that suffering, right? They’re the ones to blame, the ones to moan about and wish away. Isn’t that how we tend to think of them? That the days without clouds are the ones we should notice and appreciate?

Even on a gorgeous, clear day like today, as a new, card-carrying member of the Cloud Appreciation Society I have to wholeheartedly disagree.

Clouds are For Kids

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A great photo from http://bit.ly/13jG4h2.

When I was a kid, my favorite event was rain on a hot summer day. As a child, although I lived in a very hot place, as long as the sun was out I was out. Occasionally, the neighbour kids and I would be sitting in the driveway playing a game or eating a pile of candy, when one fluffy little cloud would pass over and tiny drops of rain would start to fall on us. Continue reading

Slowness

I’ve been running away from writing about what I really want to write about here, which is slowness. Partly, I find that I am not really able to explain what I mean by that when people ask about it. So I’ve been putting it off, and feeling awkward about it, and getting annoyed that I’m not writing about what I want to write about, and, well, I’m over it. I sat down today and thought about what it is I really mean by slowness and here’s the definition I decided I’m going with.

Slowness: the experience of allowing yourself not to be in a rush.

In practicing slowness, we can:

  • do our normal things more slowly, with more purpose and awareness
  • do inherently slow things that are not normal for us and might make us feel a little weird but, hey, we’re experimenting so it’s cool
  • do the slow things we really love to do, but that we don’t do because we think we need to be busy all the time doing big, serious, grown-up type things, or because we feel a little weird or judged when people see us doing it

all while being more open and willing to experience life more richly as a result.

That last one there is my own personal challenge – hence three weeks of not writing a post because I wanted to talk more specifically about slowness, but thought you might all think it’s just a little weird, and that I am just a little weird, and, well, that would be the end of that. You might still think it, but I can’t not write about it any more, so I’m going to just roll with it.

Slow = Excitement!

To get you excited about the idea of slowness, and hopefully deter you from the idea that slow=boring, here’s a sneak preview list of some things I will be writing about in the coming posts: Continue reading

Trip to Oman!

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Well I am back in London after two weeks exploring my new hometown and its surrounding area. I really enjoyed Muscat. It was lovely getting a chance to check out the place I am moving to before I land there at the end of the year to settle in. I learned a lot about what to plan for, how to pack and what to buy before I go. More importantly, I experienced my share of hilarious, ridiculous and exciting things while I was there. I’ll attempt to share as many as I can in this post!

Possibly the most surprising thing on the To Do Before I Move list is clothes shopping. I didn’t buy any before I left London because, well, it’s winter and the shops are full of wool coats and scarves, nothing really suitable for 33ºC/91ºF. I was excited to get to Muscat and buy a big pile of new summer clothes, but when I got to the mall the stores were selling this – I kid you not: Continue reading