Simple truth: COVID has severely limited our ability to go on any relaxing vacations this year. But according to writer Karen Trefzger, we don’t need to completely miss out. In her blog article from No Sidebar, titled "Una Bella Vita," she beautifully illustrates how we can bring a holiday to our own home.
First, Trefzger wants us to identify a dream trip that cannot happen:
Maybe a trip to Tuscany is part of your dream. So wherever you are, you’re longing for Tuscany. Maybe you feel cheated by the fact that you can’t go.
Then she urges us to dissect the dream and learn what it is that we are longing for:
What does Tuscany offer that my hometown doesn’t? Perhaps the appeal is the warm climate, the rural vineyards and olive groves, the slower pace of life, the wine and the food, the language, the colors, the art, or the ancient buildings.
She rightfully points out that even if we took a trip to Tuscany, we would eventually have to leave. So, what can we do? And here’s the gem in her article: we can seek to make our home “the environment we yearn to be in.”
Trefzger continues with the Tuscany example, giving a list of things we can do around our house to, in essence, bring what we crave about Tuscany to our own home. And these are doable activities. Maybe for you it's not Tuscany, but Mexico or the UK or Asia. No matter the area, our ideas do not need to be incredibly elaborate or very costly:
Can we watch a foreign opera or documentary on TV?
Have coffee outside on the deck?
Listen to Irish songs?
Make flour tortillas by hand?
Finally learn to use chopsticks?
Light our own Chinese lanterns?
Just. Slow. Down. (Like we would on a vacation, when we are away from work?)
And, once more, I’m discovering the importance of living life intentionally, and therefore, living life richly. Trefgzer wisely urges us to get to the bare bones of what we desire concerning our dream trips and then to purposefully add these elements into our daily lives. No passport required. This beautiful, encouraging article offers such a positive outlook, and I highly recommend reading it if you have the chance.
I really wanted to be a plant lady. I would see these amazing pictures on Pinterest of lush living rooms and kitchens that have an elegant, jungle feel to them. I even loved the minimalist blogs that show a desk with just that one darling succulent. So, somewhat giddy, I finally dove in one day, and I got myself my own posse of plants.
And I slowly watched them die off.
Because as much as I adored my plants (probably smothered them), I wasn’t the best plant mama. I’d overwater and then subsequently underwater them. I repotted one incorrectly. I accidentally closed a window blind on one of them (heart stopping). My affection for plants, as strong as it is, was not helping them thrive.
After giving some of plants away (I think they breathed a sigh of relief) and getting help for my remaining plant family, I now have five plants that seem to be thriving.
Why am I telling you this? Because all this prompted me to whine and ask myself the age-old question: Why can’t I excel at something I love? Especially as an adult capable of researching, learning, and making sound decisions.
Instead, I needed to ask myself a different question: Since I can’t currently get what I want (a blossoming kitchen with little branches that reach out to me as I make pancakes), what can I do, using the resources I have, to get myself closer to my dream? And I didn’t give up. Instead, I looked at what was doable, and I started with that. In my case, that was five plants.
In a culture that loves microwaves, next-day delivery, and instant beverages, it’s beneficial to remind ourselves that our dreams are much more complex and precious. They involve steps, and that’s a good thing. Think of the quality of a hot drink that takes time to morph in the hands of a careful barista. It’s worth the wait.
I think we should work toward our goals gradually and enjoy the process of reaching them; by doing this, we learn it’s okay to slow down. It’s okay for our dreams, no matter how small, to take years to achieve.
We all want to live “the good life”, no matter our types of dreams, but as Carl Rogers wisely reminds us: “The good life is a process, not a state of being. It is a direction not a destination.” So, I enjoy my five plants that represent my attempt to slow down, my attempt to head toward my dream, and my attempt to not stress so much about completing the process. And I am content.
My phone and all its beloved apps really add to the noise in my mind. So, to better calm myself at night, I’ve started going to bed with it way out of reach. Maybe many of you have been doing this all along, and I’m late to the party.
Here’s where I’m bad: WhatsApp. Especially during the quarantine times this year, WhatsApp has been wonderful. I still feel connected with others via the texts and little pictures and videos. I heart WhatsApp. But at night I say no to it, and I’ve started plugging my phone in the hallway, totally out of my room and away from my sleeping area.
It has been incredible for these three reasons:
I have a calmer mind at night. Throughout the day, WhatsApp keeps me constantly multi-tasking. I’m doing my usual tasks, but a part of my brain is focused on the multiple messages between friends and family; and I enjoy this. But as a result, even when I’m not looking directly at my phone, I’m thinking about those ongoing conversations. And they can make my mind just spin. And this can cause anxiety.
I’ve noticed a sense of freedom. Maybe it’s the JOMO – Joy Of Missing Out – but I have one task at night: to calm my mind and go to sleep. And I think for years, I have taken this for granted with last minute article searches and final texts before falling asleep. Why have I insisted on my phone? Is it always so important that I get those last few chats in? Mindlessly scroll Pinterest? See what the latest is on Instagram? No. It’s not. At least not for me.
Lastly, I’ve noticed a hunger for more peace. That peaceful feeling I’m enjoying at night? I’m starting to want it through the day. And I’ve found that when I’m at home, I like to plug my phone in that same spot in my hall and leave it for a time period. I’ll check the messages later and instead focus on other aspects of life. My phone will be waiting for me, and it’s fun to wonder what the latest message is instead of grabbing my device the exact moment it chimes.
Have I perfected my new routine? No way. One time I was heading to the bathroom in the middle of the night, and I made eye contact with my charging phone (if this is even possible…I feel like it is). And oh, it tugged on my heartstrings. What if my Mom texted that she got the package I mailed? Or my friend sent me new pictures of her baby? I had so many “good” reasons to pick that thing up.
Instead, I mentally told myself no, walked past it, and slipped back into the bedroom and under the covers. It felt good.
I’m not denying myself. I’m discipling myself, and as a result, I’m giving myself more power along with all those other benefits I listed: a calmer mind, a sense of freedom, and more peace. I’m finally saying yes to what is important in life and not just blindly following my habits.
And it’s incredibly worth it.
Creator of Love, Auntie.
About LOVE, AUNTIE
Welcome! My blog is a journal of sorts as I seek what makes "older" worth celebrating in a world that tends to glorify "younger." I hope it's a place you will find encouragement and positive words.