Why I Like Being “Simple”

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Photo by Khai Sze Ong on Unsplash

It’s been over a month since I’ve last written and I just want to thank you all for giving me that time! My last post went up three days before I started my new job and then it was a whirlwind of travel and learning and bonding and total, absolute exhaustion. But I am happy to report I feel like I am settling in nicely and I am so excited to be challenging myself in new and interesting ways.

A younger version of me would have pushed myself to maintain the blog, the poetry, the novel, the social media presence all at once, even while trying to learn a new job. This time around I said no to overwhelming myself. I said no to setting unrealistic expectations for myself. I said no to torturing myself about “not being enough”. I wrote when I could, I slept when I needed to, and I took a break from obsessing about every little thing. I focused on my new work, I got to know my team instead of hiding away in my room to write (they made that easy) and I am so happy I did.

Maybe it’s because I am older and I’m finally learning a thing or two about life, or maybe I’ve changed for another reason, but I can tell you this: allowing myself to be simple kept me happy, healthy and sane these past six weeks.

I’ve never wanted to be simple. Simple was a sin in my book. If I wasn’t multi-talented, multi-tasking, multi-stressed out, then I was failing. A typical day would have been an intense weight workout, a full day of work, writing all night, responding to piled up texts, walking the dog, cleaning the apartment and then passing out totally exhausted. I got sick a lot. I wasn’t productive. My writing was… well… shitty.

Simple felt wrong, simple felt too easy, simple felt like I wasn’t doing my best.

What I’ve found is that SIMPLE allows me to excel. What I’ve come to realize is that my other talents, my other interests, and loves? They’ll still be there. This blog is still here. My poetry is still waiting for me to edit it and share it with the world. I’ve found other simpler workouts that don’t require me to travel to the gym every day. It’s all there and I will get to it. (When I can!) When I focus my attention to one or two things, I kill it. I sleep. I am not sick all the time. When I am simple I am a better, calmer, version of myself. It took a million and one tries, but I finally saw the pattern.

Now that the travel is done for a bit, now that I am finding my rhythm at work… now is when I can pick up the pen again. Write this blog post for you. Take some new photos for the IG. Make special plans with my friends. And when I do all of these things I will be more engaged because I won’t be tired, or worried, or thinking about the next task. I can simply be present.

I know there will be days when I want to go back to the way I was. When I want to pressure myself and push myself and overwhelm myself. And maybe I’ll need the extra encouragement. But knowing that it’s ok to take a step back and breathe is going to make all the difference. I mean, how often do you let yourself be simple?

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Hygge for New Yorkers – A Guide to Small Comforts for City People

When I first read of Hygge — the Danish art of enjoying small comforts — a couple of months ago, I was thrilled to find a word for the feeling and environment I’ve been creating for most of my life. It turns out that my mother was quite a natural with hygge and I’ve oh-so-thankfully inherited her attention to detail when it comes to creating “a moment.” As this is the first time in my life a trend has come naturally to me, I’ve created this guide to getting your hygge on in a city that isn’t always accepting of staying home and getting comfy.

What is Hygge exactly?

Hygge does not translate to English directly, but is often described as the feeling or mood that comes from making ordinary moments special, of being intimate, and of getting downright comfy. There is a lot of speculation as to why Danes put so much emphasis on making home a perfect escape but it generally boils down to the fact that the weather is often terrible, there is little to do, and going out to eat is rather expensive. To compensate, they heighten the experiences of everyday activities and find joy in even the smallest things. I often think of Mindfulness when reading about hygge, as they are built on similar pillars.

Based on these definitions and speculations, I imagine the reason that my mother and I (and many people that we know) are already hygge-ing because we are not just American, but we are New Englanders. If weather and low funds ultimately created hygge then of course New Englanders are naturals! Why else do you think Yankee Candle is such a big deal to us? We love staying home and being cozy, there’s no doubt about that.

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Cuddling your dog is very hyyge. This is my boy, Ajax.

Why New York?

Listen, anyone can take these tips and use them anywhere, but I just find that the people confined to city lifestyles (read: few trees, very busy) are the ones who are most likely doing very little in the way of hygge and are probably the ones who could benefit most from it. Now on to it…

Take it Easy

Hygge is a feeling and it takes time to cultivate it. Rushing it or forcing it by going out and buying a bunch of stuff isn’t going to make you feel better and it certainly isn’t hygge. The whole notion is to take pleasure in the small things you already have or do and elevate them. Stay mindful. Apply the following tips to your life slowly. Light a candle once a week to start, maybe on Sunday nights, or set aside the first hour of every Saturday morning to reading. Start small and then grow.

Transition Properly

If you don’t have the pleasure of working from home like some, you will have to face the commute home which is more often then not, grueling. You do not want to take bad energy into your safe place. The first thing I do after a long day is take my dog for a brisk walk without my cell phone. The disconnected, fresh-air bonding moment with my dog changes my thinking and eases me into my evening. If you don’t have a pooch, try getting off the train a stop earlier and walking home. Stop for some flowers or a warm tea and unwind your mind. No phone checking!

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Plant life, pictures of friends, and warm lights make your home feel welcoming

Make Home Your Haven

To properly hygge you have to go home and you have to stay there, so what your space feels like to you is an important part of the whole process. It should feel cozy and inviting. If you live with roommates, hygge your bedroom so it becomes your comfy cave of solitude. A good room is one that upon seeing it, you no longer have FOMO or the desire to leave it. You want to remain there for hours, totally blissful. Hygge objects bring you happiness; they give off warmth or are in colors that evoke warmth.

After walking my dog, the first thing I do once home is light the multiple candles around my apartment and turn on the string lights and LED candles I also have strewn about. I never turn on my overheard lights unless I’m in the kitchen (they’re SO harsh) and I switch into my comfiest clothes, including fuzzy socks. I leave blankets out for extra coziness. We all live in small places so there’s no need for you to go overboard with new fuzzy pillows and animal hide purchases. Take what you have and work with it! Here are some items that are easy to have in an apartment to create a hygge environment:

  • Candles… literally everywhere
  • String lights
  • Blankets
  • Clothes that relax you
  • Lavender oil for your sheets and/or blankets
  • Framed photographs of your favorite people
  • Items from your childhood home
  • Favorite books on display
  • Succulent plants or cacti
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Fuzzy carpets and funny artwork keep things light

Enjoy the Moment

Hygge is not just your environment but how you treat yourself and others in that environment. Take time to pause and enjoy even the smallest of moments. Indulge in being alive. Have a special tea or cocoa on hand, pick up a brand new book to read, take a long hot bath, massage your partner’s shoulders, share stories with your friends. Relish these moments as if they are the only time you have to enjoy them. The list of hygge moments is endless, because really it is what makes you happy, but here are some of my personal favorites that work in the city.

  • If someone invites you to dinner, invite them over instead for hot tea and intimate conversation
  • Have a special mug you only use for cocoa
  • Take a walk the moment it starts snowing
  • Spend a Saturday reading in bed
  • Bake a favorite treat that has less than 10 ingredients (or maybe even 5!)
  • Turn off your phone for an hour
  • Turn off your phone for longer than an hour
  • Stay in your own neighborhood for a whole weekend, cook dinner each night
  • Put a crackling log video on your TV
  • Instead of going to a bar, have everyone over for mulled wine and a board game. Make it an BYOFS (Bring Your Own Fuzzy Socks) event
  • Stretch
  • Meditate
  • Pop popcorn the old school way
  • Take a freakin’ nap!
  • Eat comfort food
  • Call your mom and get an old recipe…and then make it
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Simple details remind you stay home and stay warm

Hygge Everyday

Sure, I’d love to hygge everyday, all day. But we have jobs. We have goals. We have lives. I get it. We live in a big bad city with friends all over the place. I am not advising you to stop doing the things that make you tick or make you successful, I am advising you to set time aside in your insane schedule to just be. Remember what it was like when you were a kid and had no way to get anywhere? Couldn’t leave the house? Couldn’t drive? With a lack of options, you found ways to pass the time that made you happy. You read, you colored, you made forts, and played games with your siblings. You made up languages and took naps and dreamed of your future. We still need time for these endeavors! If all that sounds overwhelming for now, at least find one way to hygge during the day. Yes, it’s possible. Here are my favorites:

  • Take a 5-10 minute walk during your work day
  • Look at the people in the coffee shop, not at your phone
  • Sit on your couch for 10 minutes at the end of your day before doing anything else
  • Hold hands with your partner on your commute
  • Flirt with the stranger that held the door open for you
  • Try and memorize a poem while on the subway
  • Lotion your hands at every opportunity
  • Light a candle at your desk (I really do this now)
  • Decorate your cube or space to the most your company allows
  • Take your heels off under your desk (cheeky, right?)
  • Listen to your coworker after you ask them how they are…really, truly listen
  • Have one piece of chocolate and savor it
  • Melt a chocolate in your morning coffee
  • Keep a special tea in your desk drawer

That’s It

I know we aren’t Danish. I know we are busy. But enjoying the smallest moments in your life and really, truly, taking the time to honor them is an important part of being happy. Stop yearning after the yacht, and enjoy the toy boat in your bathtub.

 

 

 

 

 

How to Be Happy (Hint: Not with this blog)

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Self Help by Annie Terrazzo

Wouldn’t it be absolutely brilliant if you could Google search or ask Siri “How to Be Happy” and get a bunch of personalized returns? A link to your soulmate, a link to your dream job, and links to fun new hobbies would all pop up and you could save them and file them and never have to think about why these things make you happy. You’d get special websites dedicated to how to deal with your shortcomings, horrible things from you past, and anxieties you picked up along the way.

Sadly, until an algorithm that can calculate each individual’s happiness is created, we’ll have to keep doing it the old school way and just live. (Sounds so tiring, I know.)

The thing is, the internet already tries to do this but in a sloppy, non-mathematical way. Everyday we are bombarded with articles, blog posts, infographics, cartoons, videos, GIFs, and pictures all claiming that they know what it takes to make us happy. They contradict each other, clog up our pages, become mantras we live by, stories that we share with others going through tough times. We consume them as fast as they are written. And I am no less at fault than anyone else.

According to the internet, Happiness, capital H, is achieved by the following:
-Being Alone AND Finding the Perfect Mate
-Finding Your True Passion AND Being Okay With What You Do Now
-Taking on More Responsibility AND Getting Rid of Responsibility
-Binge Watching Jessica Jones AND Leaving Your House

All of them claim to know the real you, what you really need, how the world really works, and then they wrap up by saying something along the lines of “But of course, only you know what’s best for you because I’m a freelance writer who slams out 15 of these a day to feed myself.” They aren’t necessarily wrong in pointing to things that generally make people happy, and I do think their intentions come from a good place, but really, how are we to find our way if we’re willing to let other people tell us what they think is right?

Let’s go back to the part where I said I am a part of the problem. I love sharing this shit. I share one, two, three, eight hundred articles a day on my Facebook page about living a better life, reasons why we all feel like shit all the time, what it’s like living as a Millennial when everyone hates Millennials–even other Millennials. We gasp and delight in the slightest sign that we are not alone, that there are other people out there just like us. Instagram is LITTERED with “This is so us”, “This is me”, “Too real”, “So true”, comments. I use them. You use them. We love them. They ARE us. But why the hell do we delight in this so much?

We think we’re all different and then sh*t bricks when we realize that we’re all the same. Think about it, someone with opposing political views has definitely commented on the same Instagram post saying the same exact shit as you. Your ex is on there too, thinking they’re the wounded ones, your mom thinks anything Rihanna posts is so her. …It goes on and on.

And the number one way we’re all the same? No one knows what the hell they’re doing and we’re letting endless articles and blog posts and stories and songs tell us how we should behave and how we should feel. Just because someone else has also has a tendency to black out on rum (omg, just like you) does not mean that the way they choose to love is the way you should choose to love.

Just like with’slacktivism’, people are emotional slackers too. Instead of genuinely being self-aware, we’re letting all the countless articles we consume daily to do it for us. I do this all the time because I am someone who is constantly studying herself, constantly wanting to do better, and constantly hard on myself. The articles make roughing myself up emotionally much easier. I can even be lazy about it sometimes. I’m sure the desire to find true, unabated happiness is less severe for others, but I think that to varying degrees we all want to find the life we think we want and we think we deserve.

I want to have the key to true happiness for each and every one of you. But I don’t. And most people online don’t either, but it is nice that they want to try. I think the most important thing we can do is really try to learn about ourselves through therapy, through journaling, through meditation, through mistakes, through memory–the list goes on. I guess this is what I meant by saying we were going to have to actually “live.”

I’m not suggesting you stop reading the fun “I found true happiness selling manure and you can to” articles. Actually, I am encouraging you to continue, but while being careful not to fall down the rabbit hole. Take breaks, pay attention to what makes you happy and write it down, notice patterns. Maybe you will see a pattern forming that tells you that really do love manure. Then take that manure article and use it to enhance your new life as a bespoke fertilizer designer.

We need to stop the mindless consumption of “This Is Why You Are Sad”, “This Will Make You Happy” articles and make sure that we are consistently looking inside and taking note of what is actually there, not what we wish was there.

But, of course, only you know what’s best for you.

 

So Now I’m Learning How To Be Content…

I finally learned something about being content. The key to being content is, get this, allowing yourself to be content. 

I know, mind blowing, right?

Seriously, for some people this comes easily, but for, I want to say MOST of us, it does not. Especially me. It’s hard for me to be content. I want to constantly strive to be the best version of myself and to always be doing, doing, doing. How can I do more? How much longer can this list be? What classes can I take? How many projects can I start? When will this all pay off?

Going through a breakup forced me to slow down. I had to put multiple projects on hold and prioritize simple things like, eating and fun. It wasn’t by choice–I was knocked off-kilter and had to do everything in my power to stay balanced. It wasn’t easy. And in fact, it really sucked. It felt like everything was in flux. I had to constantly check in with myself and my happiness. I did this more times in 8 weeks than I ever had in my entire life. It was the best kind of focus.

During this time, I felt a newfound love and respect for my job and workplace. It was the only place where nothing changed. It was my only point of stability for weeks. It gave me an excuse to get out of bed, my coworkers were consistently great, and the annoyances of office life never wavered. I have never appreciated my stable, 9-5 job more in my life.

It was after a few weeks of stability at work, really great nights with my friends, and learning to to train my dog that it clicked. I was pretty content with what I had. It was enough to work and play and laugh. It was enough. I could do these things and live a happy life.

Why had it been so hard for me to appreciate what I had? Why was it so hard to just take a step back and say, “This isn’t so bad. Not writing after work was kind of fun. Taking a nap on a Sunday felt great.” I was addicted to the hustle.

I wasn’t addicted to productivity or accomplishment, rather, I was addicted to always trying to do better, to do more, to feel busy, to feel needed. Being addicted to the hustle is the opposite of being productive. I was working to work. Stressing to stress.

I want to say that that’s the old me. That I’ve changed in a couple of weeks. But I can’t, because this journey is still ongoing. I’m still moving, having revelations and breakdowns, and gearing up for more. But what I have accomplished in the past couple of weeks is that I know what it is to feel content, and that is something I want to feel everyday.

Now I find myself delicately dipping my toes back into the waters of all my projects. I am writing again, I am thinking of new clubs and sports to try, I am dreaming to dream. The pressure is off.  I can feel balance coming back, I am excited to work again, I am thrilled to try new things. All because I was forced to take care of myself on a visceral level.

The thing I didn’t realize until now is that I have time. And as long as I am working and dreaming but not exhausting myself to death, then, I’m going to be okay. Because now that I’ve learned to appreciate what I have, I can focus on working towards the next great thing in my life.

I’m a little bit more content. I’m a little bit more patient. Not by a lot, but enough to stay in tonight and watch the clouds turn pink from my balcony and give summer a decent goodbye.