I am a firm believer that the art of life is created by small steps. Small habits, small adjustments. I have never been a fan of resolutions like “From Monday on I start a new life”, but advocated for the small changes one can make – first as an experiment – in order to change one’s quality of life.
I believe in the health and happiness that start from the inside out – from our mind and soul. I have tried to set big goals for myself, like meditating for 20 minutes every day, but I struggled to keep it as a daily routine. However, the small practices seem to stick with me. Today I want to share those that work for me.
Norwegians love to ask the newcomers to their country: “Do you like it in Norway?” (“Trives du I Norge?” which reminds of “do you thrive?”). Which is a difficult question because it doesn’t leave you an option. Well, not really 🙂 Saying no would be rude. And it also would call for a reaction “so why do you stay if you don’t like it?” So, you say yes. I used to say yes with a feeling that I am lying. I could not honestly answer that I like it here, but what could I say? After some years I used to answer “yes” more honestly but still halfheartedly. I would usually say: “Yes, I like it here. After you build your life here, you have more friends and you like it more”.
Norwegians are sweet in this curiosity. In a way they still feel that theirs is a little country up in the North and why would someone come and stay here? It is also a common question if you begin in a new job, they would ask “do you like it?” (trives du?). But it took me many years to accept this question. I felt like I was suffering from the loneliness for quite a long time here and it colored my experience of the country. And even after I got some friends I felt like a lone fighter in this cold landscape, having no one to count on but myself. The struggles were many, and leaving for home was not an option for me.
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.
Today I want to share my last year’s memories from our trip to Drøbak. It is a town where Santa Claus (julenisse) has his official address in Norway. The town has the post office of Santa Claus that takes itself of all letters addressed to him. As the year is closing by, I wish I could send a thank-you note to Santa Claus (with a wish list attached), but right now my energy is just enough to share those images and memories. Trying to keep up my humor in December turned out to be more difficult than I imagined. As we entered the darkest week of the year, I found myself lying flat with the flu and fever, and I can’t remember the last time I felt so bad. Though the previous week was full of positive events, I always find it so difficult to think positive in the time of sickness.
Only 13 days until the sun will turn. I wait for that day more than for Christmas. Here in Norway the winter is called mørketida, which means “the dark time”. And I came to realize that it is not the cold which is the most difficult in winter (now it is not cold at all), but the darkness. I grew up in Ukraine with cold winters – and I never complained about winters. But I grew up with the longer light day. And here what keeps me down is the light day from 9am till 3am. If we can call it light. Some days feel just light nights, or early evenings. November this year has been amazingly full of light. Little rain, a lot of sunshine. And I kept through thinking: “um, this is not so bad, I got used to Norway”. But December hit me with the short dark days and long darker nights, and I feel like a half of myself.
And this is what I like the least. Not the biting cold wind, or icy streets, or late sunrises, or no sunrises. But this version of myself. I feel reduced to 50%, like I am on the season sale already 🙂 I love that bubbly Marina that I know from summer. The one that is possible in sunnier place even in December. But this one, tired, sick, complaining – this version of myself I don’t like. But let us not stop here. Here I have stopped so many times in my life. I have pitched a tent in this place and lived there for a long period. Until I learnt: this doesn’t work. This doesn’t help. And if I don’t want to go down that road again, I have to find something that helps.
Two years ago we went to see an apartment for sale and ended up on the roof terrace with a terrific sunset view. Thank you, Facebook, for reminding about it with this picture. The apartment block used to be an office building before. It had some 14 floors, boring flats, and a roof terrace. We asked for the terrace keys and unexpectedly caught an amazing nature show, in all colors of the dawn.
Today I want to share my thoughts about the ability to find and create small adventures and look at the world with wonder.
“There is no bad weather, only bad clothes”, goes the popular Norwegian saying. That is right – and it is also wrong. I would say, that there is a weather that makes you feel down. While the sunshine makes the body to produce another happy hormone serotonin, the darkness leads to production of melatonin, a hormone that makes us tired and passive, which is necessary at night so we can fall asleep. In autumn there is less light which makes us feel down, sleepy and passive. That’s why it is important to meet the season prepared, with good knowledge of yourself and some strategies.
During those few days I was in Barcelona it was so easy to wake up and feel enthusiasm. Even though it was hard to fall asleep because of the unruly thoughts about the political situation, it was enough to see sun rays through the window and feel the rush of energy. When I was landing in Norway, my eyes were so in love with the colors of autumn, and I joyfully breathed in the cool crispy air. Few rainy days later and I was afraid of S.A.D. (seasonal affective disorder) creeping on me as it used to do in the past years. Luckily, I had made a list of activities that I was looking forward to this autumn. My list of joy. I feel moved to share its ideas here – maybe, you can borrow some for making your autumn better and brighter. I want to keep myself off the beaten path and leave out the things like warm teas under fluffy blankets. These tips seem to be well known, and I am sure, that we all do them in autumn 🙂