Beauty in interrupting your daily routine

April 20th, 2015

Stand near an elementary school’s doors just as class gets out. Don’t stand too close–you’re likely to get trampled! Kids are dashing to the swing set, the waiting school bus, the soccer field, their moms’ cars, or no where in particular. Coats are getting tugged. Backpacks are flung. Shouts. Squeals. Constant chatter. Just the thought of all that chaos makes me feel a little exhausted. You too?

It’s kind of ironic, though, because if I were to step back from my own life, I do believe I’d be seeing the exact same type of whirlwind–running errands, working, washing clothes, cleaning the kitchen, attending appointments … I thought my lifestyle was “simple.” My home in an airplane hangar is very small. Huh. I thought I strove to live in less chaos so that I could embrace everyday beauty. How did I forget that in all this busyness of my routine?

live abroad in germany

Okay, I actually know exactly how I let things get out of control. One thing just lead to another. I kept adapting and adding one more thing to my lives. Sometimes, we forget to subtract what we don’t need. Just like our homes need a good decluttering sometimes, our daily lives can often use one, too.

These are ways I regularly check back in to shed some of the hectic:

1. Go away.

Spending a weekend out of town is a magical formula. So are vacations. (The picture above was from a longer getaway that my husband and I enjoyed before our son was born.) Will you still be working? Probably. But so many of the day-to-day things you normally deal with will be gone. You might actually spent less time working but produced better results. The same goes for personal things. Laundry still has to be done. Dishes still need to be washed. But you won’t have bills, knocks on the door, appointments, commitments, or schedules like you have at home. Now as a parent, even a family weekend just at my parents’ house does wonders. That’s when I start thinking. “Hey, that process doesn’t work as well as it could. What could I do better? What could I eliminate?”

2. Remember passions.

What makes you feel alive? What makes you happy when you pause to do it? Those fun things are the first items we eliminate when life is busier, aren’t they? When’s the last time you crafted, went to a movie, or attended a class?

Pencil them into your week. Not your day. Your week. Trust me. If you want something to happen, you have to tell yourself that you have time for it. The unimportant busy things will find a way to disappear.

3. Celebrate exactly who and where you are.

I’ll tell you a secret. The best way for me to tune into what I really need is to journal. I use a writing prompt journal from Gadanke to really focus on intentional writing and thinking. Blank pages can often lead me into a rabbit hole of lengthy descriptions of what’s wrong in my world. We all need a space to celebrate ourselves, where we’ve come from, and where we’re going. Right now, I’m using this introspective journal.

Life would be very plain if we were all the same. How would we find excitement during the first glimmers of connection with a stranger or soon-to-be love if our hearts were molded identically? Where would we begin to dream? Ultimately, that’s the most important thing. Sometimes, all that chaos is us trying to what we think we’re supposed to do.

The only thing you’re supposed to do is your very best, and that’s however you define it.

Fears of the unknown

April 13th, 2015

fears of the unknown

The first time I moved to Germany, my fears involved things like finding friends, knowing where to get a gallon of milk (there’s no such thing), and learning vocabulary for things like contact lens solution at the drug store. I clung to Martin, my German husband, using him as my crutch. I was afraid of answering the intercom or the telephone in our apartment. (You never realize how much body language matters until you only have spoken words to communicate.) Sometimes if Martin was gone, I wouldn’t even answer. I’d crouch down and get very quiet, nervous that someone would catch me as a fraud, ignoring phone calls and intercom buzzes.

The Unknown. Why do we always make it out to be a dark and scary place?

As Miss Introvert herself, moments abroad made me feel like surely, I must have been the world’s biggest chicken. Of course, the little cricket on my right shoulder was always quick to agree. He whispered in a condescending voice, “You couldn’t answer the telephone? Oh brother.”

I was just hesitant–I didn’t know what people wanted, but I knew it always involved a lot of fast-paced words from strangers, me saying “please speak slower,” and them getting annoyed. Or at least I envisioned them getting annoyed. They probably rarely did. German’s one of those languages that’s so formal and rigid, you’re bound to think you’ve messed it up. But who is that cricket we let sit on our shoulder to tell us our fears are unjustified or petty? Don’t let your beauty be lost in unnecessary guilt. It’s hard enough to row.

Eventually, if we want to live the richest life possible, sometimes we have to face the unknown. It’s usually disguised as the littlest things–saying “I’m sorry,” giving something away, standing up for yourself, or letting go. You have to force yourself to recognize that the unknown exists. Then the next time you’re in that situation, you rip off the bandaid and go for it; it shakes you up. Yet you do it again. You keep facing that obstacle until you don’t panic when it approaches.

I stumbled through a lot of German conversations on that intercom. Sometimes people hung up before I could answer. Once, the person on the other end was so relieved to hear me struggle. He was a man from Romania, striving to speak his best, too. You never know when the person beside you is on the same journey. Sometimes, their unknown is much scarier. He didn’t have fluent English skills to fall back on like I did; he needed that German communication ability to earn money and put food on his table.

Here’s what I’ve been learning about facing seemingly tiny obstacles that actually feel really heavy and overwhelming:

  1. Never measure your fear/anger/pain.
  2. Admit it.
  3. Take teeny steps toward bettering it.

A lot of these thoughts are reflected in Become, the writing prompt journal for finding your direction at Gadanke. Of course, that journal is hardly about being brave enough to answer an intercom. Or is it? Once you face an unknown, you become stronger. You become more confident. You start really, truly knowing that you are capable of becoming whatever you take the steps toward being. That’s the mission behind all the journals at Gadanke. Celebrate you!

The ultimate test came to me one afternoon when the telephone rang. I took a deep breath and answered the phone. “Guten Tag,” I said. The woman asked me (in German, of course) why I had just called her number. “I’m so sorry,” I said in German. “I didn’t call. I’m not sure what you mean.” She was quite positive: I had just called. I was equally sure that I was not touching that phone unless it was to call 911. We hung up, and then I thought about it a moment. Wait a second … that woman was my mother-in-law.

What I’ve learned about joy

April 6th, 2015

what ive learned about joy

Joy doesn’t come from the number of people you’re friends with on Facebook or who attended your wedding. We can spend our entire lives creating metrics and monitoring who and how many.

The greatest joy in life has to begin somewhere else.

I am finding that it all starts with story. Story connects us and empowers us. It helps us learn about ourselves, and when we do that, we can better understand each other. Strangers become friends. Enemies become allies. Little odds and ends become keepsakes. Dishes of food become family tradition. Ordinary days and inanimate objects find a new life … a transformation that I can only define as joy.

Offline, I’ve been writing a lot about joy. I’m taking on a new challenge, as I try to connect the pieces between journal keeping, gratitude, and a richer sense of life. (Remember this gratitude journal?) Some days, I think I have it nailed. But most days, I begin seeing how complex and rich the idea of joy really is.

Tell me your thoughts. What have you learned about joy? Or what brings you joy in this moment?