Everyone has read The Happiness Project by Gretchin Rubin by now, right? Did you love it? I loved it. I feel kind of nerdy for loving it, but it was just so accessible and natural and above all, SO easy to relate to and become inspired from (Thanks Gretchin!). I just now pulled it off my “reference/frequently-used books” shelf when I saw that the founder of one of my favorite design blogs, Grace Bonney, of Design Sponge, was interviewed on the Happiness Project webpage. I immediately thought “this woman and I have SO much in common (aside from the fact that she is AMAZINGLY successful, talented, stylish, and creative, and very short)”. When asked about a simple activity that consistently makes her happier, she responded “Sleep. It is the thing in my life that’s most lacking right now, and when I get a decent amount I am a completely different person. I’m happier, more energetic and better able to tackle just about any problem that comes my way. Also, spending time with animals. I’ve always been someone who felt more comfortable around pets than people and spending time with my cats always calms me down and makes me feel at ease. Something about the way they blink slowly instantly relaxes me.” Reading her interview was virtual serendipity for me this morning. Sleep. And animals. (And I learned that Gretchin Rubin is working on another book called Happier at Home coming out in August of 2012. Woohooo!)
(This is Rogelio, my sweet, grey, not-to-be-confused-with-a-mop cat. He is abundantly friendly, vocal and opinionated. He prefers not to use his cat box to go number 2)
What’s a simple activity that consistently makes YOU happier? Do you feel that you are happy most of the time? Take a sec, let your eyes water up, and watch this quick photo video by Gretchin Rubin to remind you about how we really need to appreciate the NOW www.theyearsareshort.com/
(Note: someone needs to start a website/blog about humans that like to give important-sounding human names to their pets, with funny pet pictures)
I’m at one of those points in life when I can feel change coming. Something is rumbling right under my skin. My heart is beating to a new rhythm and a proverbial case of Jimmy Legs has set in. I cannot read or define this new path as of now, but the energy is there.
This change that I refer to makes videos like this bring tears to my eyes…
Here is a fun video about how English sounds to non-English speakers.
Here in Cádiz, the locals have a good time making fun of how the “guiris” (a half-endearing, half-derogatory term for foreign people) sound when they talk. It is not rare to hear “Gwatch E Nay” when a blue-eyed, blond-haired person walks past a group of construction workers, mimicking the sound of “what’s your name” that they have heard over and over. Or to even refer to someone or something foreign as a “Gawtch E Nay”. My husband (who is fluent in English, with a slight British accent, grrr), does an amazing non-English English imitation with lots of -nation, -ization, schwe-, and-then-I-was-like- (influence from his stays with my family in Southern California?), hey-, and shwa-.
Here is another video from the Morancos, two comedian brothers from Sevilla, imitating how American’s speak (and dress, and analyze insects) with their George Evan character and a lice bug, in a skit called Doméstical Geografic: el Piojo.
Honestly, at this point in my life, I would vie for women’s nights over women’s rights. So I wouldn’t be able to vote? So my bodily integrity wouldn’t be that important? So maybe I wouldn’t be able to work (or be paid for it)? So I couldn’t purchase or own property, seek education, enter into legal contracts….
I don’t give a BEEEEP! I just want to sleep. I just read this in the New York Times about women’s sleep and how the z’s we start losing throughout pregnancy are never, ever, ever regained. Pregnancy sleep loss (oh yes, that HUGE belly, that tiny bladder, those extra gallons of liquid cursing through our veins with kidneys on over-drive) leads to infant-caused sleep loss (is the baby okay? the baby is crying. How can my husband not wake up through these endless night tremors? the baby wants to eat again. Should I let her cry? Am I a bad mother?), leads to young child sleep loss (I’m yet to experience this, but I can only imagine) leads to a lifetime pattern of stressing about the minutiae of our day-to-day lives at the darkest hours. Work, children, our partners…our mental health, our aging bodies, our aging parents. The house, feeding the family, professional development. Meetings, events, dinner parties. Making ends meet, getting the dog to the vet for her yearly vaccines a year late, forgetting to take that beer out of the freezer (POP!).
(Maybe I just need a bedroom like this one, with my favorite bed linens from The White Company)
Sleep is FUN-DE-MENT-AL. Without sleep, our bodies feel like sh@t, our minds turn to slush, and our tempers soar to new levels. Patience dives to minus 7. Energy sinks to minus 20. And overall woman craziness bee-lines for the skies. Large quantities of chocolate of any quality are desired, and a glass of red wine becomes not only interesting at 9am but necessary.
Can you tell I had a bad night last night? Baby wake-ups turn into an endless accelerated cycle of thoughts, concerns, anxiety, mental lists and frustration at not sleeping when one needs to be sleeping.
How do you other women handle this? Or maybe you are one of the lucky few who doesn’t experience some kind of insomnia? Do you take (gasp!) drugs to help you sleep? This is where you share your eye-opening/life-changing secret strategy to getting back to those 8-9 hour nights of blissful, uninterrupted sleep. And how does anyone have more than one child after experiencing all of this?
My husband just asked me for a hug. My response: Your hug quota has already been met for the day. Indicative of the current state of affairs. Poor guy.
When I wake up in the morning, and this is what I see from my office window (home office, that is), sometimes I just have to go surfing. Surfing first thing in the morning is the MOST invigorating activity in the world. It’s physically strenuous, it calms the mind, and it somehow cleans the spirit (especially if there are big wipeouts that include large quantities of water in nasal cavities). Like horse-back riding, the act of matching and adapting your movements to those of another force is exhilarating. Afterwards, my shoulders and upper arms are happily tired and my abs and lower back have had a good workout. After a quick shower and a large, healthy breakfast, I am ready to do battle with any and all tasks that the day may bring.
Do you exercise in the morning? Do you have a secret anti-stress/depressant activity like morning surf sessions?
(Note to all you big bad surfers out there: 1) although these waves LOOK small, they are about 1.5 meters tall; and 2) I am what I call a “small wave surfer”. I have a large wave phobia and I’m ok with that. As long as it is well formed and has some power, I prefer those little (insert: safer) waves. I’m 30, I have a baby, and much less strength than I used to.)
As I mentioned in a previous post, I LOVE uniforms. I ran upon this project this morning and had an “ah-ha!” moment. I love it! I love this project as much as I love uniforms, and its all about uniforms (and sustainability and helping others!!)!
“Uniform Project was born in May 2009, when one girl pledged to wear a Little Black Dress for 365 days as an exercise in sustainable fashion. Designed to also be a fundraiser for the education of underprivileged children in India, the project acquired millions of visitors worldwide and raised over $100k for the cause. U.P. then continued into Year 2 with a monthly series of select Pilots taking on the 1-Dress challenge for causes of their choice. Today, women around the world continue to take on the 1 Dress challenge and wear U.P. LBDs as an expression of socially conscious fashion.”
I feel very strongly about reducing our belongings, taking care of what we have, making conscious purchases and supporting sustainable behavior in all aspects of our lives. That said, I find it difficult to follow this in a coherent, constant manner. I purge my closet, but then “things” somehow creep back in from moments of weakness (I’m a sucker for shopping when traveling, for example…). I get distracted by life. I get lazy or seek convenience (it’s easier to buy imported, non-organic fruits and veggies at the local produce vendor than driving out to a nearby farm). I get suckered in to the occasional new beauty product, chemical-filled sweets, using the car when public transport or the bicycle can be used, or purchasing yet another white tee-shirt. I use disposable diapers. And I feel bad about it. Sigh.
Obviously, I’m having a hard time finding my balance regarding these issues, my uniform that works with my life, my capability to commit to sustainability in as many realms as possible in a realistic manner. When I read about projects like the Uniform Project, I am inspired and become newly excited about executing some of the same principles inside my home, in my life. I also get that sick feeling in my stomach when I turn around from my little desk here and see all the clothes I have. All the things. Where is my coherence (I was just peeking through the Anthropologie website as I thought “I NEED those bright green skinny jeans”…busted!)?
I’ve already talked about how great having a daily uniform feels, about the benefits of purchasing less, and appreciating more what we already own, but also, imagine what a great example this would be for my little girl?
I will leave you with this 1989 Brazilian short film, Ilha das Flores, by Jorge Furtado, that has stuck with me over the years following the path of a tomato from the tomato farm to the dump as a social critique on poverty, highlighting the contrasts of those with purchasing power and those without, and the use-and-toss nature of so many. A writer from www.reverseshot.com, an independently published film journal, writes that ”it distills the logic of exchange in contemporary, capital-driven societies to reveal the nearly perverse economic inequality and social discrimination that forms its backbone” (the rest of the description of the film can be found here).
(The English version of the video)
- It sounds cool (this is kinda a joke…but it does, doesn’t it? Hehe)
- You can drink a beer while working at 1 o’clock pm (or am!)
- No boss
- No sassy colleagues
- Animal secretaries and assistants
- Going surfing at 10 o’clock am, when the waves are good, and nobody is out there
- Working in pajamas, or sweats…or naked? Yea! You’re a Freelancer!
- Working (“working”) at cafés…or bars…or on the beach
- Midday workouts, yoga, Pilates, horse-back riding
- Random travel at any time of the year (like taking off for the BlogShop workshop in Paris in October!)
- A smaller carbon footprint
- Not having to commute (reducing risk of injury from self- or other’s road rage)
- Not having to smell other people’s smelly armpits on public transport
- Causing life-style envy
- Taking an afternoon off “just because” and working the hours you want to work (which for me usually means from 5-6 am to 1 pm…)
- Multi-tasking includes going to the other room for baby visits, ladling broth into the risotto, emailing clients, perusing Amazon.com, painting toe nails, translating documents, patting the dog’s head, researching work-related information, making the bed, listening to spotify, writing blog posts, checking out potential PhD programs, doing laundry and sending out invoices.
- Having time to cook extremely yummy and almost-too-healthy meals for my family on a daily basis
- Feet are not sore at the end of the day from fancy heels
- Being as messy or stylish or disastrous as you want with your workspace.
- Baby and critters in your office.
Last weekend I was in Paris for a blogging-photography-photoshop course given by Bri Emery, from Design Love fest, and photographer Angela Kohler (who shot this fun picture). Just fifteen minutes in THAT room, at THAT studio (Studio Vermes near the Bastille), in THAT city would have been more than enough to make my little new bloggy brain swoon. After two whole days in that location with about 20 other amazing, diverse and inspiring women, led tenderly by Bri and Angela (almost holding our hands at times), not only was my new bloggy brain swooning, but it was about to explode! We learned SO much in our two-day program and quotas of inspiration and excitement about new skills, and being with really artistic, stylish, creative and über talented beings (like photographers Elizabeth and Anne, or NGO founder Sarah with Sanejo, or web designer Emily, to name a few) were matched, eye to eye, with high levels of intimidation to keep this little ol’ blog trudging on. Somehow, signing up for and attending a class like this, with people like them, taking time away from my 11-month-old daughter, my husband, and my real job, makes all of this that much more serious…and therefore threatens to hamper my creative process with attacks of perfectionist daggers and zooming bullets of mediocrity. However! HOWEVER! I, Anna Frandsen, pledge to dredge on with my musings while trying to improve my design, my photos and my content. BlogShop Paris was amazing!
I’m here! I made it! I’m all alone in a tiny hotel room on the 7th floor with a neat little terrace with some fun urban landscape views. I’ve wandered, I’ve meandered, I’ve savored and I’ve flavored for several hours this afternoon before nestling into my pi’s and getting to work before my course begins tomorrow. (I even had time to purchase some fun little French clothing for my bebé!). I had an adult “working dinner” at a little café (that means I tick tick ticked away on my computer while having a glass of Chardonnay). These last few weeks have been insane as far as my “real” job goes, and I’m finding that snuggling up with French TV at an early hour is much more attractive than going out on the town, Paris-style, this evening. Maybe tomorrow? (I’m not much of a night owl anyways…). When I planned this little biz-learning trip, I imagined letting my hair down and whipping it around wildly before trotting about the streets, till the wee hours of the night, drinking wine and spirits…the reality has been more like a) I don’t have hair anymore, really; b) I forgot to bring socks and my feet were SO cold in my yellow tenny runners and I just wanted to get back to the hotel for a hot shower (um, Cádiz has yet to get the memo that it’s actually autumn, Paris knows its autumn and seems to already be up-selling to winter. It’s damn cold here for this thin blooded Spanish convert); c) I really, really, REALLY miss my little baby. I know, its just a few days, but every time I hear a baby cry or giggle or stutter, my heart sinks (I also miss el Doctor…a lot, honey, don’t feel left out); and d) I think maybe my going-out/painting-the-town-red years are up? Is 30 old? Is 30 family oriented, short-haired and boring?
Here’s a few pics of my perusal this afternoon (mostly so that you can see the before-after from the mad skillz I’m going to learn tomorrow and Sunday):
Tomorrow I am leaving for Paris for the weekend! Paris, France…not Perris, California…I’ll be attending a REALLY neat course that I will later tell you all about! I will continue to post everyday, in accordance with my post-a-day challenge, from my little mac book air, in my little wifi-enhanced hotel room, with photos if you’re lucky.
I will give you a hint: I have never traveled with so much technology!
Eating a balanced, healthy breakfast is probably one of the easiest ways to feel better on a daily basis and improve your performance or output throughout your busy days (whether at work, with your family or to pursue recreational activities). After sleep, your body needs nourishment, and before expecting our body vessel to behave properly moving swiftly from one task to another over a span of some 16-18 hours, it needs fuel. Eating a quick bowl of sugary cereal with a giant cup of coffee is like adding water to your gasoline and expecting your car not to notice while cruising at 80 miles an hour on the freeways surrounding Los Angeles. Too much sugar, not enough good fats, too much caffeine, not enough slow-burning carbs, not enough protein…these are obvious recipes for feeling blaaaa some 45 minutes after consumption, not to mention the lack of vitamins and minerals. Where are you 45 minutes after breakfast? And what are you expecting from your body at that point?
Before living in Spain, fat at breakfast meant bacon or fried eggs or butter, all of which were off-limits in my “healthy” diet. I ate oatmeal or homemade yogurt shakes with fresh fruit, or my dad’s famous homemade multi-grain bread with peanut butter. Not bad. However, I still felt hungry or sluggish soon after eating. Since I’ve been here, I’ve found that incorporating good fats and less to no sugar (including that from fruit) makes me feel better for longer in the morning. My all-time favorite is a good, freshly baked “heavy” multi-grain bread (with visible seeds and nuts) topped with olive oil and avocado slices with 6-8 walnut halves on the side and a large half-caffeine soy latte (no sugar). When it’s not avocado season, I have tomato slices. The “good” fats from the olive oil, avocado and the walnuts (and the seeds/nuts in the bread) keep me going for hours and the lack of anything sweet helps me to avoid any sugar cravings later in the day. The slow-burning carbs from the multi-grain bread also propel me through my activities without any glucose peaks and valleys. The walnuts, the seeds and the soy milk provide proteins, and the avocado and the seeds provide essential vitamins and minerals.
I used to fear fat in all its forms, but following Spanish traditions, I’ve learned that olive oil dripping from anything is a good thing (extra virgin please).
What do you have for breakfast? Would you try my breakfast? Does your breakfast make you feel full for various hours after eating it? Do you feel light and energetic and ready to face your day? What do you give your children for breakfast?
With temperatures still soaring at mid-August highs, I feel this post is quite appropriate. When I first moved here to Cádiz, in the year 2001, I had the typical exchange-student-local-foreign-boy romance (sorry Cariño, pero lo tengo que contar). He was oh-so-Spanish, his mother ironed his underpants (not that I really know about this from personal first-person experience, but he told me…and I don’t think he would lie). This boy taught me Spanish, in all its bad-barrio versions, and showed me tenderly through so many painful processes of acquiring a new language and adapting to a new culture. He was too handsome, too romantic, and…well, he was a rock star. Really. Seriously.
So, let’s get to the point. Bathing suits in Spain. When this boy wasn’t too busy rocking out or teaching me Spanish, he had time to meet me one day at the beach, early on in our relationship. I had already been to the beach several times with my fellow exchange students from the University of Washington (think North Face polar fleeces, Asics running shoes as daily footwear, big techy backpacks, granola for snacks, pale skin and healthy, American values). During these previous visits to the amazingly beautiful beaches of Cádiz, my classmates and I had spent good amounts of time strengthening our abdominal muscles as we laughed pretty darn hard about Spanish men in black speedo-like bathing suits. We were not ready for this in our 20-year-old Pacific Northwest minds. We wore baggy garments (even the girls) and bathing suits were large and long for males. The small black underwear-like items were astonishing to us, along with the hair, skin and body type that became visible from lack of coverage.
Today I ran along these same beaches to my routine Tuesday Pilates class at 4 pm and I saw many a man sporting black speedos and I blinked not an eye at said sighting. It doesn’t frighten, surprise or catch me off guard anymore. 8 years is enough to get used to these kinds of foreign nuances. However, as I trotted along the wet sand, I did remember how truly, deeply and darkly frightened I was on that first beach encounter with my rock star Spanish boy…was he going to appear in a black speedo? and what would he look like in it? Would it be small and tight and shiny (albeit ironed, of course!)? Would it have some wild print on it? Leopard skin or the Spanish flag? What would I do? How would I react? How would my classmates react? Would I ever live this down? Would our budding relationship survive such a moment? Would I ever be attracted to him again if he did show up in such clothing? Rock stars, even if Spanish, cannot wear black speedos, right? I felt ridiculous and so shallow, but I was so, so, so scared. It was a make or break moment.
He showed up in trunks. We dated for another year.
I can’t help but include this skit of Will Ferrell from SNL…it’s USA day at the office! Everyone has to wear a small patriotic item! This is similar to what I was fearing…
Tell the truth. Who do you get dressed for in the morning? Your boss? Your partner? The pretty girl (who is always dressed to the nines) at your office? The chance that you might run into an Ex? Your door man? The cute guy at the fish market? What would you wear if you lived in a solitary world where nobody was going to see you except yourself? What would you wear in Spain?
Bear with me here. When you have a baby, whether you like it or not, nursery rhymes and lullabies become a regular part of your daily life. Flies in buttermilk and old women that perhaps might die aside, my task of singing lullabies and nursery rhymes to my daughter has been complicated by adding another language/culture/country to the repertoire. Some of the time I get by with singing songs by Queen or the Red Hot Chili Peppers in funny tones, but sometimes, when the going gets tough, I have to break out the infantile chants of strange fairy tales and long-forgotten customs. And when the going gets really tough (read three pajama changes in one night, leaving the house without a bottle/baby food at feeding time, vaccination-induced fever, etc.), I have to break out the local, Spanish-language tunes…(somehow the Spanish songs have a superior calming effect than the English-language ones…the reason for this is up for grabs? Anyone?)
So I stumble and stutter through them. I’ve done internet searches, I’ve paid close attention to my Suegra (Mother-in-law), my nanny, and the “older” women on the street. I get the tunes, I mix the lyrics, and I throw in some quirky improvisations. And through my research, I am baffled by one song in particular. The CincoLobitos. Five little wolves. Oh yes, five of them. Little, fuzzy wolves with pointy snouts and beady eyes. This song goes with a hand gesture–opening up the five fingers of one hand and moving the wrist as if screwing in a light bulb. The hand gesture is always the same. The lyrics, however, differ greatly from one Spanish person to the next. Here are some of the variations I’ve captured:
Cinco lobitos detras de la loba, cinco lobitos debajo de la cola. (Translation: Five little wolves behind the mama wolf, five little wolves, underneath her tail). Weird. No comment.
Cinco lobitos detras de la loba, cinco lobitos debajo de la alcoba. (Translation: Five little wolves behind the mama wolf, five little wolves under the bedchamber). I consider myself VERY fluent in Spanish. I even know obsolete terms from past colloquial times including economato and manolete. I know the lyrics to the National Anthem (hehe, little private joke with Spanish people – let’s see who catches this), entire Camilo Sexto songs, random engineering terms, surgical instruments, local sayings, all swear words, the names of all the players of the Spanish soccer team and some aeronautical emergency landing gear vocabulary. I am a professional translator, don’t front. I dream in Spanish, and when I stub my toe, I swear in Spanish. When I have road rage, oh yes, its in Spanish. And….I had to look the word alcoba up. Bedchamber. Hm. This doesn’t make sense.
Cinco lobitos detras de la loba, cinco lobitos usando la escoba. (Translation: Five little wolves behind the mama wolf, five little wolves using the broom). Child labor laws? These don’t apply to baby animals? After slavery was abolished, maybe baby wolves were used to complete housework?
Cinco lobitos detras de la loba, cinco lobitos conduciendo un eskoda. (Translation: Five little wolves behind the mama wolf, five little wolves driving a Skoda). Spaniards pronounce any word starting with S as ES, hence Skoda is Eskoda and rhymes with loba. Škoda is actually a Czech car brand…you haven’t heard of them? That answers your questions. Nothing remarkable.
And then there’s Shakira with her she-wolf song (about a she-wolf coming out of a closet and wanting a domesticated he-wolf)….with some very strange choreography and wardrobe action going on…maybe some kind of modern mating call that I don’t understand because I’m already married?
And another version that I think I understand even better about an old woman in a cage:
And finally, sometimes it sounds like:
Cinco globitos detras de la globa, cinco globitos debajo de la alfombra. (Translation: Five little balloons behind the she-balloon, five little balloons underneath the rug).
Note: I will always remember this post as the ink from those five little wolf faces drawn on my fingers has now stained my q, w, a, shift, r and t keys on my keyboard. Collateral damage.
I’ve mentioned my Lady that I have Lunch with at my Ladies Lunches in a previous post, but what I didn’t mention is that she is a yoga instructor (and just happens to be SMOKIN’ hot AND forty AND have the body of an 17-year-old high school cheerleader!). At Ladies Lunch yesterday we talked a lot about health and yoga and creating more awareness in our ever-fattening communities about the importance of movement, proper nourishment (of both stomach and soul) and understanding the connection between our emotions, our environment, our actions, our thoughts and our physical vessels–our bodies. I am new to yoga but I’m finding that many of my thoughts, beliefs, feelings and opinions about health and happiness are those found at the base of yoga. It’s like meeting someone new and feeling like you’ve known them your entire life! Hello yoga! Where have you been all my life? Wanna be best friends?? So, after feeling recharged from my weekly dose of Ladies Lunch yesterday, I woke up this morning, grabbed my tall, awkward, shy greyhound, threw on some flip-flops, and we bee-lined (b-lined? be-lined?) to the beach. The tide was out, the moon was still up and the temperature was perfect. I let Sammy go (“run, Sammy, run!”-I love watching her run, pure energy, happiness and grace), I found a good spot, and I did 10-12 Sun Salutes (confession: its pretty much the only dynamic posture-asana-series that I know how to do so far). Uuuup. Doooown. Hold. Breeeeath. Uuuuup. Streeeeetch. Hold. Breeeeath. Sammy came back to me, propped down with curious eyes to watch me go through this new set of movements. I stopped, I brushed the sand off of my feet, my thighs, and my chest (later, in the elevator mirror, I noticed I had a spot of sand right smack in the middle of my forehead…), and we leashed back up and headed home. This, my cyber friends, is health. This is feeling like I never need coffee again. This is flexibility, peace, strength and concentration and the PERFECT way to start the day. THIS is QoL. And it’s powerful.
And now I’m going to go have my coffee and toast with olive oil and tomato…what’s that you say? Lack of coherence?
Do you do yoga? Do you ever think about how your health is directly linked to your thoughts, your movements and what you eat? I know it sounds simple…but do you? Do you make an effort to put energy into being healthy?
Babies in Spain are F-A-A-A-A-N-C-Y. Girls wear pearls from day one. Boys are dressed in dresses, bows, flowers and ruffles until they’re thirty
years old months old. Clothing is fancy. Strollers are fancy. Crib bedding is fancy. They even wear baby perfume on a daily basis. My baby is half-American (thanks to my XX chromosomes) and she therefore can wear hand-me-down sweats from her American cousin half of the time. And she does. My baby, however, is also half-Spanish (thanks to her father’s XY chromosomes) and she therefore must be fancy at least half of the time (especially when we will be seeing her Spanish grandparents, uncles, aunts, cousins or friends with babies around the neighborhood).
Yesterday she attended the 1st-birthday party of her boyfriend, in her fancy birthday party dress (this dress cost as much as an Alexander Wang T tee-shirt, or an entire adult woman outfit from Zara…good thing it was a gift!). In Spain, (maybe in America, too?) groups of siblings wear the same clothing, or at least clothing from the same line. This may make things easy on the parents (go to one store, buy the same outfit in 3 –enter number of children from same family– sizes), but does it affect the individuality of each child?
If you have kids, how do you dress them? How do you shop for them? Do you think their early fashion has any affect on them later? If you have half-nationality children like me, do you feel obligated to dress them per country-of-residence standards?
Are you happy? You know, in a most-of-the-time kind of way? What is happiness for you? Is it a state created by fleeting moments of laughter or euphoria, or an overall situation of positivity and pleasure? Is your happiness based on your professional achievements? On your children? On finding more time to NOT work? Dolce far niente? Is your happiness about watching a sunset over the ocean in some remote location? Is it about being with those you love? Or simply that those you love are happy and healthy? A little bit of all of the above mentioned? Is it about finding time for a special hobby? Or feeling challenged and existing in an environment of growth?
And what is Quality of Life for you? What is the Quality of your life? Do you live well? Are you taking care of your mental, emotional and physical health on a daily basis? Do you nourish your body and mind with good stuff? Good stuff. That’s a technical term. You know, brussels sprouts and reading Voltaire, stuff we all do.
I left America many years ago to a new situation and a fresh start in a foreign land. Due to the fact that I couldn’t work in anything remotely similar to what I was previously doing (not much opportunity in little Cadiz-40% unemployment rate), and not without strife and sadness and lots and lots of questioning, I took advantage of my new situation to make my professional life fit my personal life in this beautiful area of this amazing country, in a direction that I never would have imagined (it has taken 8 years…). I still work my 8 hours a day, I’m still American and Max Weber would still approve of my protestant work ethic, but I don’t commute (I hardly use a car), I walk everywhere, I work for myself, from my home office, no grumpy boss. I have time for my family, we have lunch together almost everyday (and dinner) and I’m able to cook fresh, healthy meals daily. I feel very, very fortunate. There are definitely negative aspects to my situation: I miss my family and friends so much it hurts, I miss America and American cordiality in random, everyday situations (supermarket, gas station, etc.–Spaniards aren’t known for their customer service), I miss garages connected to houses, and living in houses, for that matter. But my good Quality of Life makes me happy on a daily basis.
One of my star QoL routines here in my little coastal, Spanish life happens every Tuesday and Thursday, from 330pm to 530pm. I toss on my running sneakers, I grab my ancient ipod, I elevate down 7 floors to the boardwalk (yes, we live right across the street from the beach…not bad), and I trot 3 kilometers along the ocean to my Pilates studio (it also overlooks the ocean, not bad and a half) listening to the same three songs from Red Hot Chili Pepper’s Stadium Arcadium album the entire way, every time (creature of habit?). I do my hour of machine-pilates, oxygenating my muscles, loosening and stretching my joints, firming up my core, and then I trot back 3 kilometers to my apartment, jump in the shower and get back to work for a few more hours. It’s alone time, it’s breathing-fresh-air time, it’s time to think, reflect, or to be absent. It’s time to just listen to my breathing and appreciate my body as a vessel that transports me through the tasks that I require of it on a daily basis. That, for me, is a HUGE part of my QoL.
Do you have any similar routines? Do you exercise regularly? Do you do it to release stress, to burn calories or just because you enjoy it?