Decluttering teaches me some basic wisdom. Going through old things, getting rid of many of them (including some postcards and notes from friends, which is a heart-ripping activity) the old idea downs on me. We spend so much of our life worrying about things and money – but in the end of the day it’s people that matter.
We spend our lives working hard for money, buying stuff, accumulating things – and then we discover that we need to declutter, to get rid of much in order to get a better quality of life. Time flies. We may stress over various aspects, focus on different areas of our life. But at certain times we cast a look over all our possessions and realize that all that hardship and stress was unnecessary. As someone reminded, on their deathbed people don’t ask for their diplomas, trophies or things – they want to be surrounded by the people that matter to them.
Somewhere on the subway I have seen a commercial for the storage services, and it had this tagline: “The more you live, the more space you need”. It referred to different kinds of people, sport enthusiasts, parents, nonconformists, who collect things and need extra space to store them. Something felt wrong with this tagline. And then my man expressed this for me: “This sentence is wrong. The more you live – the less space you should need”. Right!
Some time ago I got inspired by the photos on a site for free photo borrowing (a blogging friend of mine, Life is now, shared some links in her post). Well, what I mean by “inspired” is that I saw them and understood that I stand a long long way from them. But I want to be there too.
Still, I am glad that I have learnt the difference between envy and inspiration. They seem to have the same root – a feeling like “I want that too”. The difference is that envy adds “but I can’t”, while inspiration says “I can. I just have to work on it”. There is a great book which helped me realize this, “The Artist’s Way” by Julia Cameron.
So, been inspired by those photos, I decided to give myself a challenge. One photo a day. That must be easy. Of course, it will start with some days with no photos, and some days with plenty. But somewhere it must start.
And I thought of sharing some. Not to see the progress, but just so. To share. Today, as I was going through the recent images, picking some to share, I saw this pic of a book page with a quote: “The foolish man seeks happiness in the distance; the wise grows it under his own feet”. And I realized that a challenge of collecting images of my immediate world is in the vein with the philosophy of growing happiness under my own feet. Start noticing the simple beauty around you – and there is a feeling of gratitude and happiness in the heart.
Wishing you all a nice spot where you can plant and grow your own happiness! 🙂
It takes only three days to be away – that I come back as a total Oslo patriot. I suddenly discover this: I love this city. I am even surprised. With all the sadness and hardships I had to experience here, with all my negative reports about Oslo – here I am, calling it one of my favorite cities. Well, hello!
Last weekend saw us driving to Bergen. 500 km over the mountain, as they say it here. In any other country 500 km is a fast, boring and anonymous ride on the motorway. Not in Norway. No way in Norway. Here it takes 8 hours. Yes, 8 hours of roads through villages with funny names (and speed limit of 40 km/h). Up on the mountain plateau, Hardangervidda, which is also a national park. Beaten by the rains, down through many tunnels, along the fjords, next to waterfalls, sharp rocks and rocky rivers. Mysterious and breathtaking landscapes.
Here I understand why the notion of humble (ydmyk) is so popular in this culture. Living between these high mountains, dangerous rocks, deep waters and dark rains – how does it feel to be a human? Well, humble. Where would the arrogance come from when you are reminded every day about how tiny you are. This is the Norwegian nature at its best. It is not about bunnies and flowers here. At times it can even feel overwhelming.
You can start throwing your tomatoes at me – but I will go and say this thing: I am happy it is autumn already!
I am not one of those blogger babes who start talking about the cozy knitwear, pleated scarfs and pumpkin spice latte with the first days of September. But living so long in Norway has turned me into a true Scandinavian, I notice :)). And all the Norwegian girls I hear sigh together: “It is getting more autumn like, oh so nice! Ja ja, mm.” Yes, I am one of those who pulls out my favorite sweater and starts wearing it with everything (like a kid). And seeing gloomy skies can mean a sudden dive of the mood (just the hormones, I explain to myself) – but it also means no need to run out, but a chance to open my favorite fashion blog, or just any blog, to find that cardigan and socks, and the cookies hidden somewhere in the kitchen.
I know that in some weeks I will regret this enthusiasm. When the autumn sets in for real, with winds and rains, with gloomy skies and wet shoes – I will pronounce some f-words and wish it were all summer again. But so far, I want to embrace autumn like my sister.
I have returned home from my favorite craziest adventure – Summer salsa festival in lovely Rovinj – and I keep on repeating one phrase. “So good to be back”. Wow. I am surprised.
Usually I turn my nose away from the everyday reality (from the need to clean the house, shop my food and cook it myself :)). I post the vacation photos, the feeling of missing it already playing on the strings of my heart. This time, however, I just feel loads of gratitude to the place and the event – but I don’t want to get back into my past emotionally. I enjoy every moment here. And I want to live in my emotional present. To connect with my life which is only happening here and now.
This year – like never before – I am love with my home, my city and the country I live in. I am so used to the feeling of “yuck, this gray and cold place again” – that I even get surprised by my sudden “oh, Scandinavia, how lucky I am to experience this my Norwegian adventure” (adventure? Since when has it become an adventure??? :)) And here are my reasons to love it.
I love traveling with only a hand luggage. That teaches me to practice the art of minimalism.
When I can take a big suitcase, I usually throw in lots of things, hoping that they will work. Often I would end up with some pieces that I would never use on a trip. With the hand luggage and a week-long trip, I cannot thoughtlessly stuff in clothes. I need to choose, make combos and use my brain. When I pack then my carry-on, I end up with things I ultimately love. Just the best clothes, my favorite jewelry and simple solutions. I love simple solutions! And such packing makes me think about how I want to live my life. Read More »
I am a firm believer that the art of life is created by small steps. Small habits, small adjustments. I have never been a fan of resolutions like “From Monday on I start a new life”, but advocated for the small changes one can make – first as an experiment – in order to change one’s quality of life.
I believe in the health and happiness that start from the inside out – from our mind and soul. I have tried to set big goals for myself, like meditating for 20 minutes every day, but I struggled to keep it as a daily routine. However, the small practices seem to stick with me. Today I want to share those that work for me.
Sometimes I like sitting on the bus without headphones and listen to people. Mind you, on the bus in Norway everyone is usually very silent, except the teens and the foreigners. The locals speak to each other in low voices. One morning, however, I was lucky to hear an interesting talk. A guy was telling about his master thesis: a role of play in learning. He told how the first year of school was first meant as a transit from the everyday playing of kindergarten to the school life. And how it changed nowadays with the prevalence of testing and result-oriented study from the earliest years. “I don’t want to call it play, it is a little bit scary to use this word” – he said (and I smiled internally. Norwegians’ choice of words can be funny sometimes. Maybe, I will write about it one day). “I would better say “learning through exploring” instead of playing”, he continued. And I thought: Bingo!
Because my blog’s name is about exploring, that’s why 🙂 No, not just that. Because I also had been thinking about the concept of “play” – applied to our adult life. Sometimes I ask myself: how come we adults become so boring?
Every year, in the weird season between winter and spring, the same thing happens: the UN Happiness Report is released. Every year here in the Northern edge of Europe we delight ourselves in discussing its outcomes. It looks like the report is released in the month of March especially for our part of the world: while other places start watching spring signs, we still walk the icy streets, covered in winter layers, wondering if the meters of snow will ever melt this year. And our only novelty and a topic for discussion is this: who is the world’s happiest country this year? Because it is us. Or our neighbors.
The first place in the happy ranking was occupied by Denmark for so many years that everyone just had to give up. But last year Norway suddenly squeezed in to be the champion. As we shrugged from the snow and sleet in April and pulled on our last resources of patience, we looked at each other with disbelief and amusement: look, we live in the world’s happiest country, what a surprise! The top five was occupied by our Nordic neighbors: Denmark, Iceland and even Finland, with one non-Nordic country (what was that again?) miraculously making its way into the top. This year Norway was moved to the second place, but by whom? By Finland, ladies and gentlemen! I felt like laughing hysterically. The positions reshuffle but you would find the same countries in the top. It looks like the Nordics are really better than the rest of the world: at least, at answering those surveys 🙂
Norwegians love to ask the newcomers to their country: “Do you like it in Norway?” (“Trives du I Norge?” which reminds of “do you thrive?”). Which is a difficult question because it doesn’t leave you an option. Well, not really 🙂 Saying no would be rude. And it also would call for a reaction “so why do you stay if you don’t like it?” So, you say yes. I used to say yes with a feeling that I am lying. I could not honestly answer that I like it here, but what could I say? After some years I used to answer “yes” more honestly but still halfheartedly. I would usually say: “Yes, I like it here. After you build your life here, you have more friends and you like it more”.
Norwegians are sweet in this curiosity. In a way they still feel that theirs is a little country up in the North and why would someone come and stay here? It is also a common question if you begin in a new job, they would ask “do you like it?” (trives du?). But it took me many years to accept this question. I felt like I was suffering from the loneliness for quite a long time here and it colored my experience of the country. And even after I got some friends I felt like a lone fighter in this cold landscape, having no one to count on but myself. The struggles were many, and leaving for home was not an option for me.