Project 52: Home, your heart…and where you are…

In case you all think I have a jet-set lifestyle, may I correct your assumption. A week in New York – for work – followed by a fortnight in South Africa – for family – can seriously mess with your melatonin levels, and your mindset. Jets, notwithstanding.

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Image: © Chiromancer 2018

Both trips were welcome, but having spent exactly one night at home with The Belgian, swapping suitcases and clean underwear to hop on the overnight from Brussels to Cape Town via Dubai was somewhat dislocating. Even the cat was upset!

Which got me thinking. At the ripe old age of 52, being asked where I am from, or where I live is more complex to answer than you might think.  I can legitimately claim ancestry from at least 3 places (hence the triple passports) but I also find myself living somewhere I did not choose, with someone who I most definitely did.

So where is home for me? Heading back to the Mother City was a revelation, and yet I felt apprehensive.  Not to see my family  – I love them and we come together far too infrequently – I felt nervous because I wondered if I still belonged to a place I had left decades ago. Would I fit it? Would I feel comfortable in a city, a country, a continent that had changed so radically? Was it home?  Or just homesickness?

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Image: © Chiromancer 2018

It might have been both. Sometimes your soul itches…Driving through landscape that captures the light as much as it captures your breath, I felt somehow whole. As the desert flowers shared their beauty, my soul stretched. When I saw the ocean…I wanted to cry with the loveliness of it all.  In that moment…I realised that family, fynbos and familiar landscapes all reminded me of who I really am.  And perhaps of where I truly belong. In my heart, in my soul.  Here. My heart.

But here I am instead. Northern Hemisphere. And according to people who know, the most boring country in Europe. Well, it is rather flat. Geographically speaking. Emotionally speaking. Sometimes your soul contracts…

This week’s lesson is about expanding your universe. That only happens if you choose to ignore your emotional geography and go exploring anyway.

 

 

Project 52: Curiosity, Korean face-packs and the right question…

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Image: © Chiromancer 2018

Last week, I travelled to New York on business.  Lately I’ve been there more often thanks to a super client who is based in the centre of Manhattan.  I get to stay local, which means I can walk to their offices. A rare treat given the miles I usually do for work.

You’d think that my good intentions would go out of the window since I was working and living in a hotel, but I decided that my philosophy for week 1 of Project 52 was…to be curious.  Open about trying things differently. A bit zen about which side of the road to cross. Which is why on Tuesday, I found myself in a fabulous Japanese place off 54thStreet.

Now I’m no stranger to Japanese cuisine. The Belgian makes his own sushi at home, and my very favourite restaurant in Bruges is Japanese.   I could tell this was the real deal since I was the only white girl sipping plum wine at the bar!  I soaked up the atmosphere while snacking on sashimi. Delicious, and all because I felt curious enough to take a walk after work.

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Image: © Chiromancer 2018

The Asian theme continued on Wednesday and Thursday.  One of my rare pleasures when travelling on business is putting on my pajamas and watching trash TV.  This is not because I am curious about the lives of Real Cows of Connecticut, but simply because it is a chance to order room service and switch my monkey mind off for an evening.

To add to the ambiance I decided to try a Korean face-pack. That was because I’d read about them in my in-flight magazine and was curious to see if soaking my skin would actually help with the jet-lag. Cue incomprehensible instructions and hilarious Nonglish (English, but not English) translations on the packaging. Which way up is this thing supposed to go? It felt really good, despite the fact that I looked like a serial killer with a serious moisturiser habit.

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Image: © Chiromancer 2018

Friday finished with a familiar cab ride to the airport, but the wrong terminal. Curious to see how I would get home, I asked the assistant for help.  No problem, he said, there is a shuttle bus that goes between the domestic and international terminals. You can drop your bags here as security is much speedier than the main international terminal at JFK. It really is. It took me 10 minutes to get through US Border control instead of the usual 45. Bonus!

Of course, all this has got me thinking. Sometimes being curious is as much about asking the right questions as it is about taking the road less travelled.  Face-packs not included.

What did you discover this week?

Project 52 is my personal journey of discovery. You can find out more here, and if you’d like to join in, please post on the blog.

Age is just a number…

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Illustration © Vladvm – Dreamstime.com

This weekend marked my 52nd year on Planet Earth.  Which probably makes me old school to anyone born in the Snapchat era, but which doesn’t bother me as much as I thought it would. Gravity induced frown lines and fuzzy felt jawline? Now that’s pesky.  The opinions of selfie-obsessed snot-noses? Not so much. One of the perks of maturing is that some things just aren’t worthy of your worry. Which got me thinking…

52 years. 52 weeks in one year.  If age is just a number, then I’d like this to be my lucky one. Instead of waiting till 2019 to craft a New Year’s resolution, I’ve decided to make this birthday a year of revolution. In short, I’m beginning my Autumn by turning over more than a few leaves. 52 to be exact!

I’ve decided that each week from now until September 2019, I’m going to pick something positive that I do consistently for the week, and then blog about it. Some things may stick, others may flop. I won’t know until I try, but I’m curious to see if I’ll be the same person this time next year.  I’ll be sharing my adventures and experiments here under the guise of Project 52.  You can join me if you like…

 

Across the pond…

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Image: Chiromancer 2018

It’s been a while since I packed passport, arranged a visa and hot-footed it somewhere else for work.  This week took me to New York for a new assignment.  In my previous, pre-stepmom life, this would have been an ordinary trip. I travelled a lot. For work. For pleasure.  I used to do a lot of other things…a lot. Now that I’m married to the Belgian – and stepmom to his boys – this trip adopted new significance.

Being alone in NYC as a kick-ass consultant reminded me of my days when I really was kick-ass, no-kids. No husband.  Fun. Me. Just me. Me…alone. This time, being alone in New York also reminded me that I have some boys at home who might be missing me. Turns out they did…even Watson, our cat was happy to see me…But, it also reminded me that I’m good at what I do, that in my professional life, I am respected, valued and rewarded as…me! Sometimes this is hard to know when your role is being a stepmom and wife to boys who are from a different culture.  Sometimes a different planet…

Change – which I do for a living – is not rocket science , but somehow, having to change my life from careerista singleton to married stepmom was harder than I expected. Not so much science as a rocket up my butt!  Ouch! Much harder! Now don’t get me wrong, I love the Belgian and I would not swap my current life for the world, but it’s nice to be myself – just me,myself, I – for a change.  For a change…being a working woman alone in New York meant I could order juice for breakfast, spend hours blowdrying my hair, explore the city after hours and catch up on some much needed sleep.

Sometimes you have to go back, to see how far you have journeyed…

 

 

 

Enough…

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I started my week doing outdoor yoga with a view of a windmill and a canal on one side and the most beautiful medieval city (Bruges) on the other.  So far, so…okay.

‘Okay!’ I hear you yell! ‘Stop bragging, Be grateful woman! ‘ I am. I mean… I am grateful. Nevertheless, no bragging involved as I am the most caterpillar of all the yoga class – between translating from Dutch to English, then having to learn the moves while breathing in or out…or is that out or in.  Buddha knows, because I certainly don’t! I still struggle to tell my downward dog from my derriere and my warrior pose resembles a wobble…

The highlight of this morning was the warm down – everyone lying in a circle, being zen. Except me, because an insect bit me so hard I shouted out loud while everyone else was ohm-ing! The humiliation! ”Eina!’ is not ‘ouch’ in Dutch. Nor is it ohm! There I lay, berating myself for being so ungraceful and on top of it all, just being the outsider. ‘Not good enough! Not…enough!

The ‘not enough’ demon is one who comes to visit fairly frequently – perhaps I’m peri-mental (more on this in another post) or just deranged, but he seems to have taken great delight recently in making me feel somehow smaller, and less than I am. I mean, less than I know what I have been and accomplished. He’s also managed to add a few more kilograms than are necessary!  How can I be less when I weigh so much more! Earghh! He’s there when I examine myself in the mirror, he’s dogging me when I’m on assignment (or looking for work), and today, he showed up in my yoga class.  Really?

The thing is. I got home and read a post from our yoga teacher, where she shared how she felt…’not enough’.  I was puzzled. Here is this fantastic teacher , who runs a great business and on top of it is super bendy and slim…and yet, she felt like me…well, sort of…except, she can do warrior pose in her sleep!. 

Which got me thinking…

As women we judge ourselves so harshly.  Not thin…enough! Not perfect…enough! Just not..enough. Too old. Too fat. Therefore not good enough as a parent, lover, wife, sister, stepmom, CEO…Is that really how others see us? When did this happen? And why are we accepting this heretic inner dialogue as the gospel truth?  What a crock! 

The truth is…we are enough. We are women, and we have power. We just need to reclaim it. One breath at a time…

 

 

 

 

Waterloo…

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Image © Miceking | Dreamstime.com

For several months now, the battle of the brush has been raging in our Belgian household. Perhaps it’s my Virgo sensibilities which are not jiving with adolescent male standards for toilet hygiene, or perhaps it’s because I expect cleanliness before godliness. God knows I expect the loo to be flushed! 

Whatever the reason, every second week that we have the kids I find myself waging a campaign of Napoleonic proportions with regard to the downstairs toilet.  One revelation of moving countries and sharing a house with The Belgian and his boys is that I am able to set my watch by their bowel movements. Regular as clockwork. Yeah, I know…possibly a bit too much information!  

Nonetheless, I make this claim as it means I can also predict what will happen should I need to avail myself of the facilities.  Picture this scenario...desperate for a pee, I head to the nearest loo, only to find it resembling a Calcutta hell-hole. Cue a loud shriek from me and lengthy discussions with my husband, who shares my views on clean loos, but seems less bothered by this than I am.  I am extremely bothered by this…

Clearly the second revelation of living in a male-dominated household is that the sexes have opposing views on what is acceptable in terms of keeping things spic and span in the smallest room in the house…

We tried a cordon sanitaire, complete with photographic evidence. No discernible effect!  We tried logic and an appeal to their better selves. No discernible effect!  Were they doing this deliberately?  Was I being unreasonable? I didn’t think so. However, in the absence of an outside portaloo and a mandatory bidet regimen, I was ready to pack my things and move back to a place where the throne room really sparkles…

It all came to a head this week. Yes, I’d really had enough of other peoples crap! Sensing my distress, The Belgian, who is ever resourceful, has now come up with an incentive plan to ensure that brushing happens after flushing. No skid-marks means a bonus on pocket money, but only if both toilets are spanking clean. Where there’s no muck, there is definitely brass. Meanwhile, I have drafted in reinforcements with industrial amounts of toilet cleaner. And if that fails…well, I can always use the boys’ toothbrushes to polish the bowl!

How to be a grown up…

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Image: Copyright Oleg Dudko | Dreamstime.com

A few years ago, I wrote a post called The Year of Living Dangerously – about using the New Year to live fully in the moment, and to dispense with things that no longer served me.  What I did not know at the time was that 2015 would be the year I met The Belgian and began to write my own happy ever after.

Three years later, it’s been a fairy tale with it’s own peculiar array of villains and heroes. We’ve had the best of times, and we’ve had the worst of times, which is why as this New Year begins, I was tempted to call this blog The Year of Living Sensibly

A few days before Christmas, I had a high-speed blow-out in my car, lost control of the vehicle and ended up trapped against the central reservation – in the fast lane!   Clearly not the sort of dangerous living I’d recommend!  Luckily for me the emergency services arrived in time. Luckily for me, no one else was involved and I walked away with minor injuries.  It was a sobering experience.

It’s made me reflect that perhaps the universe isn’t quite finished with me yet…and that if I am to set a New Year’s manifesto for 2018, it has to be about courage and commitment.  Being brave enough to make the life changes I need, and showing up as a fully fledged grown up – and I don’t just mean with my hair brushed and my laces tied!  

The reality is that no matter how magic the fairy tale ending, Cinderella still needs to do the dishes, Snow White has to deal with her wicked stepchildren and Prince Charming steals the duvet and farts in public. Yes, really!  Adult is the only antidote here.

So here are my resolutions for the New Year. In 2018, being grown up will be about striking a balance between acceptance –  not wasting energy on things I cannot change – and ownership, which means taking mindful charge of my goals, setting firm emotional and spiritual boundaries and putting my well-being first.  Dishes or not!

Happy New Year. May 2018 bring you a sprinkling of fairy dust.