A dear friend and I were texting about holiday gifts this year, and she shared that for 2020 she was giving wabi-sabi. I misread her text and thought she had typed wasabi and was envisioning rows of bottled spicy horseradish paste (with bows on top). But she corrected me. She wanted to give the gift of wabi-sabi, a Japanese philosophy that identifies the beauty found in imperfection.
Her plan was to engage in kintsugi, a technique for repairing broken, yet cherished pottery. This art was believed to have begun around the 15th century:
Rather than rejoin ceramic pieces with a camouflaged adhesive, the Kintsugi technique employs a special tree sap lacquer dusted with powdered gold, silver, or platinum. Once completed, beautiful seams of gold glint in the conspicuous cracks of ceramic wares, giving a one-of-a-kind appearance to each “repaired” piece.
Ceramics, broken yet beautiful, with their “seams of gold”, were what my friend wanted to create and give. How perfect for 2020.
This year has felt incredibly broken. Many of us have experienced cracks in our lives that have grown deeper throughout the recent months. I can’t help but believe that these cracks, often invisible to the naked eye, are well represented by a fragmented vase or serving bowl.
We might have been dealt multiple blows this year, but as kintsugi demonstrates to us, we are not without the power to use these blows to become strong and even more valuable. I’m reminded of Victor E. Frankl who said, “Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.”
I know that Frankl was not talking about kintsugi in his quote. But I find the two incredibly connected. Our stimulus has been the harsh realities of 2020. And now we find ourselves with a space. Similar to kintsugi, Frankl recognizes a metaphorical gold that can fill in and repair the space between fractures and the crushing blows of life: a space where we can (often with help from others) victoriously pull ourselves back together and gain freedom from our pain. But not just the minor pain: the gut-wrenching physical and mental pain.
And like the kintsugi process, or really most processes, it may take some time. And like broken teacups, we can survive and develop with a splendor that surpasses our original being. And like a kintsugi piece of pottery, our breaks can make us golden.
(Article originally created for and published on Nati's Health.)
I’m not sharing a message that hasn’t been shared before: this holiday season, keep up your self-care.
We easily neglect ourselves this time of year.
For me (forgive me for being cliché) it’s the little things that make a difference. So, along with all the holiday hubbub and preparation, I’m still making a point to do important (yet small) actions that bring me relief and help soothe anxiety. I’m striving to:
1.Make my bed each morning.
2.Take a few extra minutes to soak in a nice warm shower.
3.Follow my daily face cleansing routine.
4.Eat one meal a day without looking at my phone.
As you can see, it’s not a long list, but it includes tasks that energize me and honestly, just make me feel better about facing each day. My goals also aren’t anything I find complicated or anything that I dread doing.
What about you? If you built a list of just four daily personal care activities to pursue this December, what would your list include? I hope you will take a moment to create one. Live intentionally with me.
We can’t participate in ALL seasonal fun, no matter how much we want to. We shouldn’t even try. So let’s instead divert some of our energy into self-care. Yes, I believe something will probably have to give. Especially if you decide to create a list that is longer than mine or your tasks are a bit more complex. But it’s okay. I hope you will still join me.
We might have to decline some great opportunities. Maybe we will make less baked treats this December. Maybe we won’t watch a beloved Christmas movie, so we can get needed sleep. Maybe Christmas cards will go out this year without a personal message for each person. But peace of mind and my sanity is worth it. And so is yours.
We celebrate incredible love this time of year. Be sure you give some of that love to yourself.
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.
If you experience anxiety, you may have seen how it has a cruel way of creating a whirlwind of emotions that come and go throughout the day. It can get to the point where you are tired of ALL THE FEELS. You crave peace. Simplicity.
A port in the storm for me has been to boldly take a step toward the emotion I want to have, not the one that just happens to be present. In essence, I’m learning to get ahead of my emotions and dictate to myself how I will feel. I call it “framing the situation." (Note: there is probably a more professional term.) Because I believe we can be storytellers of our own life. We don’t have to be so darn passive. It’s basically self-talk, and it goes something like this:
“Once I clean up after dinner, I will feel so good having a fresh kitchen.”
I find it’s even more effective to take this a step further and voice your narration to someone. Speak positive:
“It will be so relaxing to curl up in bed tonight.”
“The commute from work might be rough, but I’ll be so relieved when I get home.”
Even mundane comments about the weather can work. I had a friend who delighted in walking into work, dripping from the rain. He’d smile at us serenely while saying, “What a lovely day it is.” And he meant it.
Did I agree? Well, to be honest, no, I didn’t. I’m just not that smitten with rainy days where I can’t stay inside with my tea. But just his positive narration lifted the atmosphere in our workplace. It was, at the very least, nice to know someone found the climate enjoyable.
I would like to leave you with three helpful reminders:
I was experiencing a tough day at work, and I imagined going home that night, trudging through all that must happen before finally settling down for some sleep. I was not giving myself a peaceful mental picture of my evening. As a result, I was already feeling negative about the evening and everything ahead of me. Have you done this?
I’ve heard over and over that we have a say in creating our reality. Those "Choose Happy" slogans abound. So for better or for worse, I decided to try it.
I started to imagine going home, tackling a few big things, and focusing on how good it would feel to have them done. I then imagined that despite everything, I would make time to sit down with a cup of tea and a comfy blanket. The images in my mind brought me peace, and just like that, my mindset toward my evening changed.
And that was my “aha” moment. I never realized how much I mentally picture my future, and how easily I put a negative or positive spin on it in my mind.
The bizarre thing is that our thoughts can happen so quickly (in either direction) and even just be an impression. I can see myself being incredibly happy at night with my cup of tea. Or in a flash, I can see myself drinking that same tea, overwhelmed, stomach in knots because I know I will have a lot on my plate for the next day.
Wow. What power we have.
So now, when I’m overwhelmed with a lot of anxiety, and I’m feeling incredibly negative, I make a point to envision my next step, whatever it is, going well. I also like to think of ways to make what I'm not looking forward to just a little bit better. What if I drink my favorite tea during a dreaded meeting? What if I light a candle while reading my countless emails, just to change up the atmosphere and make it a little cozy?
Being more intentional about how I mentally picture the future, even in the little details, has helped make my mindset be more positive. Even just telling myself how good I’ll feel when a difficult event is over has been so helpful.
These are small, intentional steps that have helped me. Again, they are small, but I hope they can help you too, but make that significant difference.
I’ve blogged about this before, and I know we all talk about it: by living longer we see new ideas come to life with technology. BUT, what about the less talked about inventions that aren’t a form of tech? They may not be saving lives, but they can still be pretty incredible.
It happened when I was in Amsterdam with some friends. You’d think what stood out to me most that day was the incredible amount of bicycles, fry vendors, architecture, canals etc. But do you know what I came face to face with that really made me smile from the head to my toes?
Oh yes, in a tiny little coffee shop, I saw the image of a combination croissant and muffin: the marriage of two amazing pastries. As I gazed on it, lovingly, I have a feeling the reflection of its beauty could be seen in my happy eyes. Who was the genius who came up with this?
You may laugh or roll your eyes. But what other less obvious things do you enjoy that make their debut in our lives? You know, other than the latest version of our smart phones?
Think of the innovative chip flavors, new pizza dipping sauces, and fusion restaurants. For those of us with food allergies – what about the gluten free pastries? What about dairy free ice cream (one of my personal favorites)? And that’s just the culinary delights. Think about the hypo-allergenic cats, the tiny house movement, and pajamas that are designed to keep you cool at night.
Our minds typically notice the latest and greatest in technology, but these other innovations are just as noteworthy and incredibly delightful. And I just wanted to give them “a shout out” in my little blog.
So, let’s raise our glasses (I’m not gonna lie, mine is filled with tea) and toast to the lesser celebrated inventions in our lives today!
I see a therapist to help me cope with the anxiety that I face. And in a recent session, he recommended I read a book published by British author, Charlie Mackesy titled The Boy, the Mole, the Fox, and the Horse.
Hmmmmm. It looked like a children’s book, and honestly didn’t catch my eye. I felt I instead needed to spend more time diving into the latest publications by respected psychiatrists and other anxiety gurus. I needed coping strategies and powerful words of wisdom. Not cute kidlet stuff.
But I bought it, because during this quarantine time I’ve had some really hard moments, and I found myself more than willing to try something unusual. So, I sat down and read the book.
And I was HOOKED.
I read it again. Then I read it again. Then I sent a copy of it to my Mom.
I don’t know if it was the combination of the illustrations and simple truths, but that book was food for my soul. It's the little journey of three animals and a boy, and they discuss life. And they share very simple, encouraging truths that I really needed.
I honestly have no idea if this book will do for you what it did for me. Everyone is different. BUT I think the lesson I learned is for anyone. I know I’m not alone when I say I need coping strategies and powerful words of wisdom. And these can be found in unexpected places and in unexpected ways. We can study theories until our eyes are red, but maybe what we really need is to watch an inspirational movie or browse the children’s book section. Maybe a fun cartoon or a novel will speak to us.
As a child, I loved storytime, and as adults, I strongly believe we still need storytime. Because we still very much need stories.
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.