Once I fell in love with the notion of Experimental Life (introduced by Jonathan Fields on my favorite podcast The Good Life Project). It proposes to see our projects not in the terms of succeeding/failing but in terms of an experiment: whatever outcome is, you have collected some data. This gives a kinder perspective on what we use to call “mistakes”. And it also encourages me to test different lifestyle habits without letting it define me. Last year I had an experiment of doing a social media detox and I wrote about it here – later also I went off Instagram for three months. Now I want to share why I did it and what I have learnt from it.
Every year, in the weird season between winter and spring, the same thing happens: the UN Happiness Report is released. Every year here in the Northern edge of Europe we delight ourselves in discussing its outcomes. It looks like the report is released in the month of March especially for our part of the world: while other places start watching spring signs, we still walk the icy streets, covered in winter layers, wondering if the meters of snow will ever melt this year. And our only novelty and a topic for discussion is this: who is the world’s happiest country this year? Because it is us. Or our neighbors.
The first place in the happy ranking was occupied by Denmark for so many years that everyone just had to give up. But last year Norway suddenly squeezed in to be the champion. As we shrugged from the snow and sleet in April and pulled on our last resources of patience, we looked at each other with disbelief and amusement: look, we live in the world’s happiest country, what a surprise! The top five was occupied by our Nordic neighbors: Denmark, Iceland and even Finland, with one non-Nordic country (what was that again?) miraculously making its way into the top. This year Norway was moved to the second place, but by whom? By Finland, ladies and gentlemen! I felt like laughing hysterically. The positions reshuffle but you would find the same countries in the top. It looks like the Nordics are really better than the rest of the world: at least, at answering those surveys 🙂
If we were having coffee again. This kind of writing – partly catching up, partly me rambling about everything – feels very natural to me. Though I consider myself a bit introvert – I prefer to talk more than to listen. And, of course, talk about myself 🙂 Many look really sceptic when I say that I used to define myself as an introvert – and I understand why :))) So this is another post with a hashtag “if we were having coffee” – about everything and nothing special. Just the way I like!
Cactus life. My cactus seems unhealthy to my eye. I bought it last year and was so happy about my first cactus at home! Totally hipster home now 🙂 But now, after only one year, it doesn’t look ok, having lost its nice green color. And tell me, how can you neglect a cactus?! Isn’t it a kind of plant that suits best all those who are disasters at taking care of plants? I watered it once a month like I was told in a shop – not too much. It missed sunlight, standing on my table, so I moved it on the window sill. But how can a window spot help when the winter lasts five months and the sun is so seldom? I guess, the heart of the cactus just couldn’t bear it anymore. And, I tell you what, I have so much empathy with it. Dear cactus, you reflect my attitude very well. Just that my face is a shade greener than yours 🙂
While somewhere they already talk about the spring – look how much snow there is in the forest around Oslo! On Friday night I wrote a post about thriving in Norway – on Saturday I had a chance to practice what I preach 🙂
The past weekend we had visitors from Barcelona: the nephew of Carles and his girlfriend. A young couple of 19 year-olds, eager for the Nordic experience. So we took them to the woods. Or, wait a second, to that very famous Norwegian wood 🙂 We started from the frozen lake Sognsvann where you can walk on in winter and walked up the hill, in the snow, along the ski trails. The skiers of all ages were passing us by, while we were the only ones walking there. Add to this – talking in Spanish and Catalan, video calls from the grandmother in Barcelona, kids stopping all the time to take pictures and selfies – and this is how you get a totally non-Norwegian day in the woods :))
These days it looks like Scandinavian countries know the answer to every question. They design cheap and pretty furniture, wear comfortable and stylish clothes, drive more electric cars and separate their waste. They work for life and don’t live for work. They have the welfare state, generous parental leave, stay-at-home fathers and smaller class differences than other places. They even have discovered a secret to a happy life and crowd the top of the FN reports as the happiest countries in the world. Observing all this from my little corner of Scandinavia makes me wonder if I have come to live in the perfect country. And how come I haven’t noticed it so far?
It is dark outside my huge window, as I sit on the couch, woolen socks and cozy home wear, which makes me look like a picture from an IKEA catalogue. In the windows of the neighbor buildings (as Norwegians don’t use curtains) I see people going on in their cozy clothes making their cozy lifestyles. Watching TV, burning candles, eating dinner with friends. Everyone thinks that we live in a paradise here. Haven’t we lost our sensitivity that we don’t notice that? That we have to be told about it?
In the solitude of the laboratory a researcher raises her head from the microscope, eyes looking for the answer. The solemn voice in the background says: “Since the beginning of the ages we have asked the same question…What are we gonna have for dinner?” This is a Norwegian tv commercial advertising a series of readymade meals in the local food store. Funny but true. In Norway the question we ask ourselves and each other the most is this: what shall we have for dinner? A luxury problem, as they say it in Norwegian. But jokes aside, what is the most important question in our lives?
Since the beginning of ages we have asked ourselves the same question… Let me propose my version. We have asked ourselves about what it means to live a good life. What does it take to be happy? Plato starts his dialogues with the conversation of Socrates about what virtue is. Because, let’s agree, a good life is not only good food and travel, but it has also a moral bit. That old idea that you cannot be happy by being bad. That ethics is in the base of the happiness. In my eyes, the philosophers of Ancient Greece were at the core of the most important question. Talking about what is ethics, aesthetics, what is noble and what is beautiful. Too sad that in ages to come the philosophy became an intellectual game, with so much logics and theories and so little guidance about the most important question in life.
Yesterday I took part in the Norwegian citizenship ceremony. Even though I had received my citizenship half a year ago, this ceremony felt like a watershed to me. I slowly start to realize that I am not a guest here anymore, that this is my home too. And that I can breathe out, be proud of how far I came and start building something. Leaving the stress behind. Leaving the story of “poor me who has to fight for everything” behind.
Maybe, connected to this event or not, recently I am more aware of how Norwegian I have become in all these years. Today I want to share a simple list of the changes that would have seemed peculiar to me 10 years ago. But now they are my second nature, and it took some effort to step back and notice what is different to me now.