New beginnings

New beginnings

   New beginnings are always so invigorating. There is something magical in that moment you decide to start fresh. There is something magical in the way your mind works and puts together action plans and strategies for achieving and implementing changes. Overcoming blockages takes a lot out of you as well, but when that happens you feel a sense of achievement – yes, it feels as if you have already achieved your goal.

   When facing change, there is a subtle change in attitude and body posture as well – even if you are not aware of it. Some people stand tall and look quite proud and important – those people are the ones that love challenges and welcome change. They are optimists by nature, they look for the positive in any situation and they are aware that for every achievement you need to put in a good fight. Others look quite grey and tarnished – shoulders dropped and worried faces. They are the ones typically see the empty half of the glass. For them, change might come with a lot of turmoil. They fear it the most.

   The sad thing is though that we all tend to lose the taste for new beginnings, for changes and changing as we age. So how can you keep your mind opened and your enthusiasm alive?

   For a while, I have been feeling this resistance, this urge to stop changes before they even have the chance to show me if they are good or bad.

   What is it that makes people cherish the status quo? Why is it that we (most of us anyway and certainly most of us that are not 20 anymore) do not welcome changes?

   Is it because we are assimilating change with growing old? Is it because we see ourselves at this age as “done”, “accomplished” beings that do not need to change in the first place?

   Having an opened mind, having a growth mind-set, rediscovering the taste of learning and developing can abolish these fears for good.

   You just need to acknowledge that you are on a journey, called Life, a journey that is valuable and beautiful, and, yes, hard. You need to give yourself permission to change, even though you are 40 or 50 or even older because you need to realize that a change has the potential of making your journey better. It is true that it also has the potential to make it worse, but this is where you come in: you need to drive change in the direction that you desire so your life becomes better.

   It takes a lot to admit that you need to change. But, if Today is not working for you, it means that you need to put in the work for a better Tomorrow. In other words, you need to change. And if you need to do it, you might as well learn how to like it.

   So brave up and start today: at 40 or 50 or more it is not too late.

  Lots of sunshine to you all!

Near 40 Dana

About writing. And a little more …

About writing. And a little more …

   It all starts with a white piece of paper and a pen. You learn how ink can play magic tricks and how words come to your fingertips. And you write. It is the beginning and it is also the end. It is the beginning of an exciting adventure of words dancing around a theme and it is the end of your own private self, as every time the pen touches that white piece of paper, a piece of you is shared with world.

   It all starts with an idea. A thought that is so frail that you could even ignore it and yet you choose not to. Because writing is not what you do to pass time or to have fun. It is who you are. It is you. And when you sit down with your thoughts, in front of a white piece of paper, holding a pen in your hand, you cannot help but write.

   It all starts with a certain urge to let it all out – that ocean of troubled waters in your soul, the unexplored wilderness of creativeness that makes you who you are.

   It is difficult to explain, but it all starts one day and from that on you cannot stop it. Even if you do for a while, the unwritten words will eat you alive until you come back to the white piece of paper and take the pen in your hand.

   I am not Tolstoy or Shakespeare. This is not about me bragging about my skills – if any. It is about confessing that this defines me as a human being. I am not Tolstoy or Shakespeare but I am a storyteller. I am addicted to “once upon a time”, book covers and the smell of freshly printed-paper as well. I am addicted to diving into my thoughts and extracting small pieces of personal truths, I am addicted to observing the world around and then painting it with words to the best of my ability.

   So what if I am not Tolstoy or Shakespeare? “It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are”, said E. E. Cummings, and another famous writer (Henry Miller) said: “Writing is its own reward”. I am not Cummings or Miller either, I am blogger that began a wonderful journey a number of blogposts ago, and who decided that today is all about this gift or pouring her soul out.

   And, since 2018 has just begun, I take this opportunity to wish all of you an amazing, wonderful new year! I will be here, on this web page, next year as well, living my story and sharing it with you. Therefore, farewell 2017 and welcome 2018, a new year “Full of things that have never been.” (Rainer Maria Rilke).
Lots of sunshine to you all!

Near 40 Dana

Life of a child

Life of a child

   Childhood memories – times long gone, but never forgotten.

   It has been a while yet I still remember how it felt to see the world through the eyes of a child. And those were no ordinary times either, as I grew up in a communist country, oblivious to many of the indulgences that western world offered for other kids my age, not understanding my parents quest for freedom, as me, the child, I was feeling free and had no restrictions to my imagination. I was feeling ready to conquer the world. And sometimes even, I was feeling that I already own it!

   Yes, I still remember how small, seemingly insignificant things brought me so much joy!

   We, the children of the communist 80’s, did not have many toys, nor distractions; cartoons were presented once a week, TV set was more an object of furniture since in the few hours of daily broadcast there was only a constant tribute to the “brilliant” head of state and the “wonders” of the communist era. In addition, once a week as well, the State Radio presented a radio show for kids. And that was all.

   But we did have so many games to play, we were outside a lot, jumping the rope or chasing each other, playing hide and seek and so many other games that I could not name as they are just distant, nameless memories of good old fun. And when the weather was bad, a good book provided the much needed entertainment. But if it snowed, well, this was a different story! We built and army of snowmen and each apartment building had its own! We were fighting with snowballs until our chicks were red and our hands were solid frozen.

   We did not have so many options in the stores as candies and chocolate were luxury foods. Food in general was a luxury sometimes – our parents stood in lines for hours to buy eggs, bread, meat; things that you would think about as necessities were scarce. Despite that, I remember vividly the smell of each season: the spring smelled like strawberries, the summer of course brought the sweet smell of peaches and watermelon, the autumn was the time of apples and pears, and winter … well, winter smelled like Christmas.                                                                                  And, if we were lucky, Christmas smelled like oranges and bananas, or like Christmas tree and fresh wrapping paper, like cake and roast and like so many other things that made our mouths water. It was the only season that tasted like candy and sweets. I remember “stilling” the cherished bonbons from the Christmas tree, while admiring the beautiful glass globes that embellished it. They were kept religiously by my mother – God rest her soul – and I still have some of them at home, tucked in tissue paper and placed in their cardboard boxes. So beautiful, so fragile and yet so strong! Exactly like I remember her to be.

   I recall the frosty Christmas nights and me waiting for Santa – and He came each time, though sometimes He did come a little late, but He always brought with him the joy of something new to play with, something new to wear, some goodies to chew on.

   Childhood memories, mine. Times long gone, but never forgotten. This was the life a child in those times.

  Lots of sunshine to you all!

  Near 40 Dana

How not to lose your mind in a crazy day – 6 easy hacks

How not to lose your mind in a crazy day – 6 easy hacks

   Sometimes life is overwhelming: things happen fast, unexpectedly, and you lack time for all the things you have to do. And there are not enough hours in the day and not enough days in a week. It seems that no matter how much you try to adjust and accommodate everything happening in your life drains you of all energy and stamina. And my response to that is … binging usually. On food, on coffee, on chocolate … There is clear connection between comfort and food. And there is a clear connection between comfort and coffee. And I do not smoke anymore. Sometimes I wish I did though now I cannot stand the smell of cigarettes.

   But there are things you can do to lower stress and not lose your mind completely in a busy, crazy week:

  1. Buy yourself some flowers so as your desk looks pretty and colourful; maybe also allow yourself a treat – a good coffee, a piece of chocolate (just one, not the whole bar!);

  2. Give yourself a 5 minute break at least once a couple of hours or so and stretch, walk, go somewhere private and meditate, anything that gets you standing and away from your desk would work;

  3. Take your lunch break even you are really, really tempted to eat in front of your laptop with one hand on the keyboard and your eyes on the inbox; this especially generates more stress in your life; so just stop doing that – it will make a tremendous difference if you do;

  4. Walk at least 30 minutes a day – just walk and think happy thoughts; relieve the tensions; yesterday I stopped and watched a beautiful orange sunset;

  5. Start being mindful, read about it, document yourself; you will find that being mindful really works – you will realize that we are here on this Earth to experience, to live, to grow; it isn’t meant to be stressful;

  6. Daydream at least once a day – yes – daydream! Think about all the things you want to achieve in your life, picture yourself already there; it is a powerful motivator.

  Lots of sunshine to you all!

  Near 40 Dana

The storyteller

The storyteller

   In a time when there were no TV’s and when computers did not exist, the most common entertainment was to be found in … words. The Storytellers. Those who brought tears and laughter, sadness and joy. Those who knew that words could make and break. Those who created magic. Those who understood our deepest fears and who explored our inner world of emotions.

   Nobody knows when the art of storytelling began. It is very likely that the origins of this irreplaceable and wonderful habit are very close to the moment language – as a form of human manifestation – was created. Storytelling happened publicly, in an opened space, usually the central market of a town or village – as it was the only place that could accommodate such a large audience. To this day, storytelling addresses the masses and it is accessible to them. Think about the all books and magazines that circulate freely and that are now readily available in all sorts of formats, from hard cover printed ones, to pdf and audio formats. Think about movies and plays. Better yet: think about YouTube, with its content creators from all corners of our Planet, each of them telling his or her own story to the world. Or bloggers. Yes, I am proud to say I am a storyteller. I hope to be a good one: each post I strive to get better in mastering the art of words.

   There is however a significant difference between the ancient storytellers and the modern ones and it resides in latter’s proximity to its audience, in that nearness to the human being that told the story. In ancient times, people gathered around the storyteller and then the magic began. Nowadays, the storyteller might be thousands of miles away. Still, somehow, magic happens.

   The stories are life. Life as it is, as we know it, with ordinary people and ordinary things. Life as it was – with princes, kings and queens, with battles for conquering distant lands, with animals the no longer exist and that, with passing of time, became mythical and began to embody our fears. With heroes that in the end save the day (and the world). They grew larger and stronger than they ever were. Life as it might be, life as an endless roundabout, which could stop at any moment. Life as transformation and life as possibility. Life as chance.

   This need for stories, for information, for things to believe in is not new. It has always existed within us. It defined us and it made us who we are today. This need for information made the medieval man seek troubadours in the market places, and what made the troubadours go from town to town in search of different stories. It is from this need of explaining things, of understanding them, of taming them somehow that we grow. I am a mother and I know how powerful a good story is. Kids know it as well: that is why, given the chance, they will ask for a story each night before bad time. Look at their eyes when you read them. Look at their expressions when they are older and they read stories by their own. It is priceless!

   The storytellers are not extinct and I hope and pray that they will never die. They know the fairies and monsters that lurk inside us. They still play the game. And we still need them to do their job.

   Lots of sunshine to you all!

Near 40 Dana

The story of the three grey stones

The story of the three grey stones

   Once upon a time, there were three grey stones that laid stranded on the beach, surrounded by beautiful shells and gorgeous round white stones. Each day they have listened to the waves, while being kissed by the sun and blessed by the salty air. Quite the same as the white beauties that were all around them. Each day they have been witnessing kids playing with the beautiful shells and round, perfect white stones.

   They have been there for quite some time until one day something extraordinary happened. It was that kind of day that everybody hates when on holiday – it was all gloomy and nasty and cold. Nobody was out on the beach, no parents, no kids. Only the seagulls. And the deep blue sea. It was a stormy summer afternoon. The first grey stone was taken by a big, furious wave and it ended up on the bottom of the sea, never to be heard about again. By now, it must have become sand, scattered on the sea floor.

   Next day the sun decided to shine again and all returned to normal. The two remaining grey stones laid in the sun, quite close to each other, contemplating the horizon, with its beautiful sunrise colors. All of a sudden, one of the stones was taken by a child that was playing with his dog. And got thrown away, until it got stranded on a pile of waste. Later on that day, the pile got taken away to the recycling plant. Nobody knows what has happened with it after that, but we can assume that it got discarded somewhere since the stone is no plastic, metal or paper and cannot be melted to be reused.

   The remaining stone, stayed all alone on the beach, wondering what its fate will be, until one day was picked up by a woman, together with quite a lot of beautiful shells and gorgeous round white stones. The stone ended up in a glass jar, surrounded by shells and white stones. The jar was placed on the table, in that woman’s house, as a daily reminder of a seaside vacation that she will never forget. You see, that woman was able to see the beauty and uniqueness of that grey stone.

   In life sometimes what happens is attributable to chance – but then again there are many times when our chance is determined by what other people see in us. Even if we see ourselves as grey, ordinary stones. The only thing that we, the grey, ordinary stones, have to do is to believe in ourselves. Grey is beautiful – it is the new white!

Lots of sunshine to you all!

Near 40 Dana

“We are all broken … that’s how the light gets in.” (Hemingway)

We are all broken … that’s how the light gets in.” (Hemingway)

   Is anybody around here perfect? Am I perfect? No. By no means, I am not. Should I be? Well, this is another story, one that has been on my mind for many years. What is perfect, after all?

   Remember my last blog post? I said that rather than getting out of the comfort zone, we should aim to enlarge it, to expand it with each experience that we live, with each step that we take. Because seeing it like that makes me want to do more. In my eyes, the equations look like this: getting out = to leave; to expand = to include, to add, to grow. And ultimately what I want for myself is to grow.

   Much the same way, my idea about being perfect is not going to be – probably – the same idea that the majority of people share. But you see, to be perfect is not my goal. One definition of perfect (the first one that popped out in my Google search) is “having all the required or desirable elements, qualities, or characteristics; as good as it is possible to be”, or, in other words, to have no flows. Nobody can have all qualities or characteristics… Who said the you need to be tall and blonde to be perfect? Or that you need an MBA? And having no flows whatsoever does not even seam human to me. Perfection, much as beauty, is “in the eye of the beholder” (Shakespeare).

   So, I‘d rather take Hemingway’s side on this one: each and every one of us is “broken”, none of us are perfect (and no standards apply). We are build broken, imperfect and incomplete – and the only thing that we need to do is to let the light get in. This is perfect enough for me.

   Lots of sunshine to you all!

Near 40 Dana

How to build a lifestyle-part I

How to build a lifestyle

Part I

   Living is not that easy … Years pass by and we grow older, but sometimes it takes ages to discover that we forgot the journey and we are just chasing something, day in, day out, something that we cannot define, nor attain. My frustration grew exponentially when I realized that it happened to me. It seemed like each day was beginning and then ending in the same way – with no joy, other than my family, and with no other goal than to tend to the obvious chores, to go to work, come home – do more chores, eat, sleep and all of that over again.

   It did not occur to me – for many, too many years – that life is a journey and not a destination. It did not occur to me that enjoying the present, loving the journey, is actually the goal! And when I finally woke up, I was already almost 40 and in need of redefining my way of leaving or else ….

   So: how to build a lifestyle that matches your core identity and that gives you the most fulfillment and joy? How to overcome the power of the habit? Because living each day like I was leaving was only due to the habits that I have created and then mentally nourished all those years.

   Well, first of all, do the obvious: do something that breaks the pattern of learned behaviors and that makes you feel alive. Like taking some tae bo classes or starting to attend lectures on your favorite topic of the moment. Alternatively, simply use YouTube as a source of inspiration and find free materials on whatever topic might interest you. Slowly, implement new habits that give you a sense of doing stuff for fun and because you want to, not because you need to. I know it sounds a bit strange: you will not be decluttering your already busy life, you will be starting things to do on top of the usual TO DO list! But trust me on that one: it works! You will find that it is possible to more and you will find that the mental freedom that you gain is priceless. Give up some of the old habits, if you can. This will feel like a victory! But the war is not won. Yet.

   Realize this: you are building a lifestyle that ultimately leads you to the life of your dreams. So start to plan: set goals, chase them and make them come true. Plan for “off times”, little islands of time for yourself, and design them in such a way that they feel like real rewards for the hard work you will still be doing day in and day out. Plan for the perfect vacation and – when things get tough – visualize yourself already there. I seldom imagine myself on the beach, listening to the waves and admiring a sunset painted in all the right colors!

   Make the right choices for you and for your body and soul. Meditate or do yoga if you can, eat right and think about nutrition rather than calories. Postpone desert until Saturday or Sunday – or any other day you might decide it is “your day off” in what regards food and so you are allowed to eat whatever you like. Drink lots of water, green tea (did you know that it is high in antioxidants that can improve the function of both your body and your brain?).

   Move in a way that makes you feel right – do not lift weights or run because it is trendy! If you love to swim, go swimming! If you just enjoy walking, than do not take bus all the way home: try to walk for at least 30 minutes a day.

   Stop and enjoy: a coffee, a beautiful flower, a painting, a dress, a car! Create the habit of giving yourself 5 minutes each time you find something you like and just enjoy it.

   Building the lifestyle you enjoy makes the journey that much loveable and precious! All that stands between you and loving it all is just a construct of your own mind – “I am too busy” or “I am too tired” or whatever excuse you use can be deleted as they are not you. You can overcome them. You just have to try, and try and try again until you do! Next week we are going to talk about more practical things.

Until then, lots of sunshine to you all!

Near 40 Dana

This is how I choose to be

This is how I choose to be

A story of acceptance

   This is how I choose to be. I choose to be a free soul that has the right to decide what to like and not what to like, what to take with me and what to leave behind. I choose not to carry additional luggage. I choose to travel light. All the bad things, all the negativity, anger, hate, disgust need to stay in the past. I will take with me only things that matter: true love, compassion, dreams, experiences, hope.

   For the first time in my life, I choose to completely accept who I am – who I have become over the years and I am happy with it. Because I choose to be happy.

   I choose to travel through life with confidence. Confidence that I am able to cope with most things, confidence that I am able to do everything that I put my mind to. Confidence that I can grow and that I can shape my future with the aim of having a great experience out of life. Because we only have one life. I mean – all we know now is that we just have one life. We have to, at the very least, enjoy it. Loving it would be ideal.

   So … I choose to love it.

   I choose to live now, today; I choose to do more than staying alive.

   Acceptance is the key for freedom. And it means that you need to accept it all – the good, the bad, the pretty, the ugly, the questions, the answers – even the ones that you do not particularly like – everything that has ever affected you in some way, everything that you are.

   So, this is how I choose to be: I choose to be free.

   It comes after a couple of years of struggles and turmoil. It comes after a long period I just stayed alive but forgot how to live. And it feels good. In fact, it feels like a million bucks!

   Acceptance comes from your ability to forgive: forgive yourself for not being what others decided is the standard, forgive yourself for being different, for being … you. Instead choose – choose to be you, whatever that means. Do it deliberately and embrace the experience. It is the only way out of the black whole.

   So what if you are not perfect? So what if you do not match certain criteria that others have set in order to classify such volatile concepts: beauty, success, achievement…

   All of them depend on the point of view and the point of view cannot be objective. Because it is personal. Each and every one of us has his or her own criteria used in defining the above concepts. What is beautiful to me, is ugly to somebody else. My way of measuring success is different than the way you might describe it. It all depends on the definition!

   So, this is what I choose be: beautiful and successful according to my own standards.

   I come to trust myself and understand myself and rely on my own judgment, as I am whole, I am enough and I matter.

   I am almost 40 and I choose to be star of my own show.

   I choose to be ME.

   Until next week, I leave you with the lyrics of one of my favorite songs in the world, by Gloria Gaynor:

I am what I am
And what I am needs no excuses
I deal my own deck sometimes the aces, sometimes the deuces
It’s one life and there’s no return and no deposit
One life so it’s time to open up your closet
Life’s not worth a damn till you can shout out
I am what I am”

Lots of sunshine to you all!

Near 40 Dana