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.
When little, I wrung out a soppy washcloth in front of my grandma. She looked at me and said with a smile, “Good for you! You did it correctly.” Because wringing a washcloth is different than just squeezing it to get the water out. You know… you hold each end and twist the fabric in opposite directions when wringing. As me and my grandma knew, this releases more water.
Can I just tell you that little me puffed up with such pride? OH. YES. I was incredibly pleased with my grandma’s praise. Since I knew the most effective way to get water out of cloth, I felt both knowledgeable and wise. I also felt great affection between me and my grandma.
Let’s just say that to this day, when I wring out my washcloth, my grandma (who has passed away) will often flit back through my mind. It’s such a sweet little memory.
Can you believe that? Words of praise, years ago, about an insignificant washcloth, still give me all the happy feels. Wow. We humans have such incredible power to give timeless encouragement, just by opening our mouth.
Let’s use compliments like we would our favorite ice-cream topping: generously and lovingly. (Oh yes, I put my ice-cream toppings on lovingly…don’t you?) Think of what an impact we will make in the mental well-being of others, no matter their age! And possibly over and over, for years to come. Just like my Grandma did for me.
I’ve written a few blog posts about taking time to celebrate. I can’t stress enough that I feel we should do more of it. Here’s one thing I (and apparently many others) love to celebrate: Birthday Eves!*
I don’t know how it officially came about, but I personally remember joking with my family about the day before our birthday being our “Birthday Eve.” (Yes, I’m giving it capitalization!) The whole concept made logical sense in my young mind. We had Christmas Eve, and frankly, it could be a lot of fun. Why not have more eves on the calendar?
And now that I’m older, and I hope to pour into the lives of my friends and family, I really enjoy sending them a “Happy Birthday Eve” message the day before their birthday. I’m not talking anything over the top: it can be a cute little picture, a gif, or even a recorded message. The purpose is to reach out.
I’m not sharing this to make myself look like a great friend. In fact, I know some people will think my celebrating is a little out of control, and I won’t be winning any favors. I’m sharing this because I hope you will at least consider joining me in recognizing Birthday Eves. I believe in the simple gestures that make someone feel loved. To me, such actions show others I am thinking of them and not just because Facebook sent me a notice.
Life is tough as it is. And 2020 has been incredibly hard for many of us. I think we could all benefit from feeling special…especially around our birthdays.
I was in Stratford-Upon-Avon with a friend, doing the whole Shakespeare experience. (Don’t you love that England is rich with towns that have more than one name, proudly hyphenated?) Anway, I’ve studied and read my share of Shakespeare, and I was ready to dive into his world. I took a tour around the city that showed me the main areas where his noble feet had trod. He made such an impact on that city – of course expanding out to his entire country and the world. He is timeless, classic, and I was thrilled to learn more about him.
After my day out, I browsed through my photos on my phone, and I noticed something really funny. I had actually taken more pictures of my teacup at lunch than Shakespeare’s birthplace.
In my defense, I’m a tea connoisseur, and not only was this tea delicious, it looked beautiful too. I had taken shots from many angles, trying to capture the essence of the amazing beverage. Apparently, there was no shame in my admiration.
But I have no regrets. Because there is something really fun about taking a step away from doing what you are supposed to do when touring and finding what truly gives you enjoyment. Just as we shouldn’t hold ourselves to society’s expectations of say, our career path or the type of home we have, we shouldn’t in the “smaller” things either.
And as I’ve aged, I’ve found that when I’m proudly true to my own tastes, I’m in good company. I find other like-minded people. I mean, there are clubs and online groups for almost any hobby you can think of. Just like dancing – it’s freeing to just be yourself. And it multiplies the fun to have others join you: laughing, sharing, and treasuring the moments with you, just like you do. Yes, it’s totally worth it to be yourself.
“To thine own self be true.” William Shakespeare (Hamlet)
When I was living in Turkey, I would have custom clothing made. In the city of Ankara, you can visit giant fabric markets and select a piece of cloth, then visit a tailor who will sew it into a clothing piece for you. It was an incredible experience, and I felt like some sort of designer. (Yes, I’m far from it! Haha! I created some awful pieces!)
The whole design process reminded me of my late Grandma, who sewed special dresses for me growing up. I wished above all else I could tell her about my experience…to the point it almost hurt. Do you know what I mean? She would have loved hearing about the bolts of fabric and the talented Turkish men and women sewing and designing and measuring with great precision.
Since I couldn’t tell my Grandma, I did the next best thing I could think to do. I told her daughter, my Mom. I told her how much Grandma would have enjoyed my style adventures. My Mom agreed, and we sighed together, and there was a moment of wistfulness. But love was present. It was like we brought Grandma back to life for just an instant.
And that’s when I realized I was helping myself cope with my grief – even years after my Grandma’s death. I know a therapist or book could have suggested this strategy, but I’m not sure I would have listened. Some things just have to come naturally.
No, I wasn’t actually speaking with my Grandma, which is what I really wanted. But telling my thoughts to someone who knew and appreciated my Grandma helped soothe that desire. And so, I make a point to continue to do so.
I think Maya Angelou was right when she said, “A great soul never dies. It brings us together again and again.” And I believe it’s often in togetherness that we find a bit of healing and comfort; at least this has been the case for me.
So I share my story, with hope that similar actions will soothe your grieving heart, too.
Years ago, I read an autobiography written by a woman who grew up in a cult. It was eye-opening to say the least, but she shared a particular situation that really stood out to me.
She and other cult members were once in an airport waiting on a flight. Based on her clothing and overall demeaner, she said she knew they looked different from the rest of the crowd at the terminal. But she didn’t care. She firmly believed in her heart that she was part of a special, chosen group. In fact, she noted that while she was looking around at others, she felt sorry for them.
That really boggled my mind.
Because I’m in the group of “others” that she felt sympathy for. And if I had been sharing that airport space, I would have in turn felt pity for her. I would have believed she didn’t have a choice and wanted to leave the situation she was in.
Humility check: We cannot assume we know what other people are thinking and experiencing.
This is especially critical during a time when COVID is still at large, and people are responding to this horrible situation in different ways. I find it’s so easy to judge. It’s so easy to get angry. It’s so easy to think we know what is best for others.
When we do, I think we start into a path we don’t want to go down. Because how can we effectively communicate and peacefully live alongside others when we act on assumption? When we hastily determine what someone is thinking? When we have created “truth” about them that isn’t true?
But back to my book: the woman’s story was above all, to me, a vivid reminder that even if we are often correct about people we encounter, it’s always best to slow down. To wait. To let ourselves carefully learn more before we decide to open our mouths and interact* with those around us.
I think by doing so, we show wisdom. We also make ourselves a little more approachable, a little more sympathetic, and a little more relaxed. Something that is much needed in 2020.
*Especially if the interaction is likely to become negative.
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.