Today, I am grateful…

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For one more day added to the weekend.

For the sunshine, the warmth, and the vibrant colours that remind me of the beauty of change.

For the reminder that this cycle, with its magic and mystery, is as messy as it is delightful.

For the signs that careen suddenly, deliberately moving my way for a nudge: Just be. Here and now.

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For the giggles that roll through my parents’ garden on the cool breeze that carries the sound to an unknown land of silver bells and fairy dust. That’s what I believe that boys are made of. Oh, they’re quite sugary and spicy, certainly, especially after I help them to wipe the decadent Nutella or buckwheat honey off their chins after breakfast. But they are also made of something raw and honest that stops the breath in my chest with a bittersweet jolt. Somewhere within me I suddenly hear a whisper, “Let’s place this moment in a keepsake box. For ever.”

For the mess that surrounds me and, on certain days, seems to attach itself to my shadow and track with me throughout the day. Did you see that? Am I hiding it well enough? Is my smile a good enough disguise? And yet…

For falling asleep happy, contented, at peace with the certain knowledge that tomorrow I can try again. I will try again to work smarter, not harder. I have learned that softness is often the best choice.

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For my loved ones and our differences, reminding me to always choose kindness over attempting to be the one who is right. They are my greatest teachers.

For yoga and its often not-so-subtle kicks in a sore spot that has started to harden. We learn so much about ourselves when we allow ourselves to be humble.

For countryside drives.

For moments of weakness that swirl into surprisingly deep, genuine strength.

For remembering to slow down.

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For giving ourselves permission to speed up sometimes and enjoy the ride.

For hugs, kisses, and soft warm hands that envelope my cold ones.

For pumpkins, pumpkins, and more pumpkins. And for apple pie baked with the help of a diligent six-year-old.

For the rewarding results of proper self-care.

For words.

For those who read these words.

For connection. It’s all about connection.

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To those who are celebrating: Happy Thanksgiving to you and to those you love!

LessonsFromMyGrandmother

I have been thinking about my grandmother after sending a birthday card to her a few weeks ago. She and I are separated by an ocean and several countries on both sides of the body of water. We do sometimes chat briefly on Skype, but my favourite method of communication with my grandmother is via beautiful stationery and pens. Letter-writing is a magical ritual for me, one that I started practising in childhood. The tips of my fingers buzz with excitement when I pick up from my mailbox not a stack of bills or ads that waste paper, but a handwritten letter from someone I love. My eyes light up at the treasure I am so fortunate to have received. Sometimes, in those letters, my grandmother, in the famous health-conscious and orderly Virgo fashion that I admire, includes a clipping from a Russian newspaper: an article that discusses health issues and provides practical tips. Sometimes, she includes notes in the margins. Most often she writes, “Please pass this along to your parents.”

Babushka has always cooked healthy and delicious meals for us from scratch, always using the full ingredient, never generating more waste than absolutely necessary. When making her famous meat pies, she reserves the bones for broth. She has also always been a fitness role model for me, finding any excuse to move, whether going for a jog, cross-country skiing, or simply dancing about the living room while polishing the hardwood floors with a rag under her slippers (oh yes!) She is most awesome.

Rather than following the modern-day version of a healthy lifestyle that revolves around fads such as juicing, fasting, and restricting ourselves in one way or another, I have learned from my grandmother that diet and exercise trends come and go, and instead of adhering strictly to a specific regimen, we must re-evaluate and redefine our own meaning of a healthy lifestyle.

Last weekend, on a rainy, windy afternoon, while nursing an annual cold that somehow sneaks up on me in September, I felt inspired by the autumnal mood to browse my wardrobe of cozy knit sweaters and contemplate a pair of new riding boots to replace a pair that I wore loyally for five years until they no longer looked presentable. That’s not all I contemplated. While considering the clothes that suit me best, based on my current style, I also reflected on the importance of taking inventory of our health priorities. Autumn reminds me to bring the focus back to my non-negotiables, asking myself, “What does being healthy mean to me?”

Here is the current list of my health non-negotiables:

Sleep: I need seven to eight hours of sleep at night. I can sometimes get away with six hours of sleep, but if I miss out for two or more nights in a row, I quickly become irritable and end up unsuccessfully fighting unhealthy food cravings.

Movement: I love my daily 5 a.m. wake-up routine that includes hot water with lemon, followed by cardio or weights, then yoga. This regimen allows me to set a positive tone for the day. Some mornings are gentle for me and at times, I spend 30 minutes in restorative poses. From time to time, I sleep in and squeeze in just 10 minutes of yoga later in the day. The key is to follow one’s intuition. On most mornings, my intuition tells me to get up and get moving because it provides me with an energy burst that carries me through the day.

Cuddles: Cuddling with my children is mandatory, particularly when it’s the last thing on my seemingly never-ending ‘to do’ list. I sometimes fall asleep in one of my children’s beds, too exhausted to fight sleep. I find the same ‘to do’ list waiting for me the following morning, when I’m better able to discern the real priorities on that list, allowing certain other items to marinate for the time being.

Nutrition: I know that certain fats, processed sugar, and other substances are not healthy. I avoid certain additives at all costs. Yet, I no longer make a big deal over a bit of processed sugar added to home-baked goods, or the creme brulee I enjoy twice a year. Although I am most certainly an abstainer, I do make exceptions for dessert on special occasions. As I delve deeper into my self-learning process, I have been avoiding snacking because I find that I feel better when I eat three solid, wholesome, nutrient-packed meals on a daily basis. Intuition has become my best buddy.

Smiles and Laughter: When I feel tired, the corners of my mouth refuse to turn up. All the tiny muscles in my face feel cynical, sneering at everyone and everything around me. On those days, I force myself to smile and witness my energy change. Then, I remind myself to get to bed early that night, even if it means falling asleep with my children while rubbing their backs. And truly, that’s one of the sweetest, most calming methods of relaxation and meditation.

That’s my recipe for today, in honour of my Babushka: sleep + nutrition + movement + cuddles + smiles and laughter. The execution of this intricate balancing act is not always simple, but we can always do our best.

What is on your list of health and wellness non-negotiables?

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On the Tuesday after Labour Day, I logged into my Facebook account to post an update on the Dharma Wanderlust page. Although I do not typically browse my newsfeed, I had a few spare moments and decided to scroll down after seeing an adorable photo of a friend’s daughter ready for her first day of the new school year. I clicked ‘like’ and continued to scroll down, clicking ‘like’ on many similar photos of children starting kindergarten or Grade 1. I enjoy seeing updates about friends’ children. Then the realization dawned on me that of all the parents on my Facebook Friends list, Mr. Wanderlust was one of the very few who did not share a picture of our kids donning backpacks and big smiles.

We consciously choose to not share pictures of our children. In fact, if my personal Facebook account were public, to a scrolling stranger who does not know me or anything about my family status, I might look like a woman in a dating relationship. I’m a parent who occasionally blogs about her family, without sharing too much personal detail.

As part of my Mindfulness practice, I think thoroughly about the subject matter of my blog posts. After I write the first draft of a post, before I sit down to edit it, I ask myself:

Why did I write this? Why do I want to share this? Who is my audience and what might they think of this story? How would the publication of this story make me feel? More importantly, how will the publication of this story affect my family?

Social media and blogging have many merits, but they also allow certain aspects of our lives to be opened to a wider audience, inviting various opinions, whether or not we actually care about them. My children do not choose to have photos of them or stories about them shared with the world outside our home, with people they do not know.

Mr. Wanderlust and I connect with many people online via our social network pages. There are many whom we have never actually met, whom we know only through interaction via this blog or through another online community. We are not comfortable with the notion of certain people looking at pictures of our family. We are not comfortable with the idea that a friend of a friend might be reading stories about the silly things our children did when bored on a Saturday afternoon. If and when I do write a story that involves my family, I edit heavily, doing my best to discern the neutrality of the story.

Respect is the core factor. I do not share photos of my family or friends without their permission; my children are currently too young to understand the myriad implications of using social media, so the decision rests with us, their parents. Some might accuse us of being too paranoid. To some, we might look like parents who don’t focus on our children as a priority because we never write about how proud we are of their progress at school, with sports, etc. Nothing could be farther from the truth. We are of the opinion that certain stories are private to us and should stay private, shared only with a select small group of people whom we truly trust and whose judgment matters to us.

When a friend who lives in the same city gives birth to a baby, I prefer the first introduction to be when I visit that friend at home, rather than through pictures posted online minutes after the baby’s entrance into this world. I have cringed many times upon reading a status update or seeing a picture that I have deemed to be too private. I have felt like a voyeur intruding on someone’s privacy by inadvertently getting a glance into that part of someone else’s life.

Several years ago, I used to share photos. Perhaps, I might have been called an over-sharer. It was my mother’s question after I posted a picture of myself rocking a pregnant belly that first prompted me to question my online presence. My mom, who spends very little time on social media, asked me why I would want to share a picture of my pregnant self when those who see me every day already know how I currently look, and those who do not see me every day probably do not need to be privy to certain updates. My mom, in her traditional worldview, reminded me of the importance of protecting what is most precious to me and mindfully creating karma. Every action is a catalyst for a reaction that we often cannot predict.

At the time when I received this advice from my mom, I was taken aback, explaining to her that I shared because I enjoyed the connection with the online community. I feel happy for others when they post their pictures and stories, and at the time, I wanted to also share my own joy with the world. My mom didn’t press further, but her words led me to re-evaluate my habits.

Today, my personal Facebook page is fairly bare, devoid of the pictures and status updates I once used to share. I might not appear very exciting, but I feel comfortable with this. These days, this blog is my connection to the online community and by writing a post only once a week, I not only provide myself with an opportunity to discern, to edit each story several times, but also to create more time to focus on what is most precious to me: my family.

What is your take on sharing photos and stories of your children on social media? What guidelines do you follow? Please leave a comment below.

ThisFall

 

This fall I want to colour in my fancy adult colouring book, creating a chaotic yet somehow comforting piece of art that no one else might ever appreciate but one that would speak for itself, leaving no doubt in anyone’s mind that I am the one who created it.

 

I want to let go and make art the way children make art, with complete abandon, and preferably while humming a silly tune to myself. My children will ask what song I’m singing, then likely join in.

 

I want to gather nature’s treasures – acorns, leaves, and twigs – and then glue them, tape them, plaster them all over my tiny writing corner currently covered in journals, colourful pencils, and yarn.

 

I want my fingers to move on their own while I decipher a new-to-me knitting pattern without ever thinking of it as complicated. Instead, I want to open my mind, open my heart, and allow the creativity that resides within me to flow right out of my fingertips, extending through the bamboo needles and weaving, weaving, weaving magic.

 

I want to knit. I want to knit many comfortable pieces that might never be worn but are created from my heart.

 

I want to work with colour. I want to fill my world with colour, never thinking about old favourite hues or seeking to narrow down what does and does not appeal to me or to someone else. One day, I might like blood orange; the next, I will be drawn to ocean blue. Then, I’ll spin them together into a swirl of emerald.

 

I want to give. I want to give more to my children, to my partner, to my parents.

 

I want to tour my favourite museum in the forest, admiring the new works on display, already perfect in their raw, unfinished form.

 

Nature wants, but is never wanting.

 

How about you? What do you want to do this fall? Please leave a comment.

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I woke up at 7 a.m. on Sunday with a faint feeling of heaviness. Inhaling deeply, I turned to look at our two boys asleep in the middle of the bed, a halo of serenity around their faces. As my eyes rested on Mr. Wanderlust, on the opposite edge of the bed, the bitter taste of yesterday settled on my tongue once again.

 

The memories of Saturday floated back all too quickly: the standstill traffic on the highway on our way to the long-awaited dinner and show – a birthday gift for the eldest Wanderlust Junior; closed full parking lots at the location where the show was scheduled to be held, due to the Canadian National Exhibition (read: a giant end-of-summer fair that, apparently, drew ¾ of Toronto’s population to the venue this past weekend); the desperation of a heavy bladder while driving in loops around the venue; the anxiety-ridden harsh words exchanged between the two adults present in the car, in response to which one of Wanderlust Juniors covered both his ears with the palms of his hands; followed by tears that streamed from my eyes in-between forceful deep breaths.

 

After driving for 2.5 hours, having accepted that the show had started without us, we drove to a nearby beach in desperation. Walking hand-in-hand with the youngest Wanderlust Junior along the path that led to the restrooms, I gazed at the happy picnicking families on the grass.

 

“Mommy, can we have barbecue for dinner tonight?” the question’s blatant innocence pricked a sore spot in my chest as the tears stung my eyes.

 

“I’m sorry, sweetheart,” I squeezed his hand a little tighter in mine. “We were supposed to be having dinner right at this time.”

 

“Can we have a treat after dinner?” He pointed at a small ice cream stand. It’s the least I could do, attempting to make it up to my family.

 

Sitting in traffic again 15 minutes later, our bladders comfortably empty, the children joyfully licked at the chocolate-covered vanilla pre-dinner ice cream while I telephoned our favourite local pizza restaurant to place an order for pick-up.

 

“Yay! Pizza!” they exclaimed unanimously.

 

Then…

 

“But Mommy, why did we not go to Medieval Times?”

 

This time, the question came from the eldest Wanderlust Junior, in whose honour we had purchased the tickets that were now void. I attempted to explain that we left our home early, having considered possible traffic delays and allotting sufficient time for us to arrive at the venue well before the start of the show. The tension between me and Mr. Wanderlust in the driver’s seat was thick. We both tried to accept the situation. I kept repeating the old cliché, “It is what it is. There’s nothing we can do now.” Yet, I felt guilty; guilty for wasting money and time; guilty for not overestimating the time delays; guilty for disappointing my family.

 

“I’m sorry,” I kept repeating, amid tears.

 

Somewhere within, a soft, sweet voice kept whispering, Maybe it wasn’t meant to be. I brushed it away. The voice of Guilt – my own and that of Mr. Wanderlust – was louder. That voice continued to haunt me through the night. It was the first sound I heard again upon waking.

 

Cautiously, awkwardly, feeling shy, Mr. Wanderlust and I met just outside our bedroom door the following morning. The silence was stifling, unbearable, leaving us without many options. I told Guilt to shut up. I took a step forward and wrapped my arms carefully around his waist. He responded in kind, drawing me closer toward him with an audible exhalation. Yesterday no longer matters, its upsets erased, the hurt and guilt replaced by something much more powerful.

 

Disappointments happen sometimes, especially in circumstances beyond our apparent control. We could have. We should have. We would have. Empty words. Hurtful words. Sugar-coating for children only results in stifled anger. We may not have handled the situation with grace or even maturity, but we can always work to be better people today than we were yesterday.

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We vowed to make the most of the day ahead. And we did, with a road trip resulting in plenty of time spent outdoors and a visit to a museum that included a tall ship. We returned back home at well past the children’s bedtime, feeling complete.

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Also at the museum, I just had to  have a photo with a scribe’s instruments, including a charming quill pen.

 

Door

My front door needs to be repainted. Lest you think that I am writing in metaphors, allow me to assure you: I am contented with my appearance these days, after many years of nitpicking; no, I am referring to the wooden front door of our home. I know that the chipped white paint can be simply sanded off, allowing for a blank canvas for me to paint. As my son’s friend’s mom drops off her child at our home for a play date, we briefly discuss home repairs and I bring up the dreaded door project. She waves away the concern, letting me know that the project can be completed quickly, with minimal spending on the tools and paint. It might even be fun. It might be, for some.

I admire people who repair items in their homes on their own, who come up with inexpensive décor solutions. Unless absolutely necessary, I refuse to spend money on home renovations. However, the thought of choosing paint for my front door and setting aside a Saturday for such a renovation makes me shudder. I tried to love DIY home décor. In fact, because I enjoy knitting and admire art, some people assume that hands-on home décor is a natural interest of mine. In as much as it feels rewarding for me to restore something in my home, I have never enjoyed the process of sanding, painting, and using a screw driver to hang up art work. Can I do it? Yes. Do I want to do it? Hell no, and I’m starting to accept this about myself. I am starting to understand that although I have more interests than the average person, I simply cannot be interested in everything that I wish I could enjoy.

In an exercise of developing better self-acceptance, I made a list of what else I am not and might never be.

  • I am fascinated by dedicated runners. I attempted to become a runner twice and although I get excited about putting on a pair of sneakers, grabbing my iPod and enjoying the fresh air, each time I have started to get into the swing of a regular running routine, I have had to stop due to painful knee injuries.
  • To continue along the running topic, I hold in high regard entrepreneurs who appear to have a healthy sense of balance in their lives. I ran a business for two years, during which time I realized how much I dislike cold calling and attempting to sell anything – regardless of how much I may enjoy the product or service. I’m also terrified of accounting, but I’m working to conquer that fear.
  • In as much as I love snow, after 15 minutes of walking outside in the middle of January, my feet freeze inside my thick insulated winter boots and two pairs of woolen socks, and although I keep a (frozen) smile on my face the entire time and enjoy the fresh cold air, I also love returning home to the warmth of the fireplace and a giant mug of tea.
  • I would like to be able to commit to a vegan diet, but it has not been feasible for me. I eat vegan or vegetarian food most of the time, but my family does not, and for the sake of simplicity (read: avoiding spending time cooking two dinners every day), I tend to eat meat.

The acknowledgement of who I am not is helping me to fine-tune who I am, to focus on my true passions, my natural dispositions, and hone the skills that I value. It also helps me to appreciate myself and cultivate gratitude for what I do enjoy practising.

 I may not have an interest in repairing things at home, but I do love experimenting with recipes in the kitchen. 

I may not be able to run without pain, but I love dance, kickboxing and HIIT workouts at home, and I run with Wanderlust Juniors on the grass in the park.

I do not enjoy being at the helm of a venture, but I am a pretty good sidekick, if I do say so myself.

In the winter, I layer warm sweaters to insulate my bones and ignore the discomfort, because even a homebody needs fresh air. 

I do eat plant-based food at least 70-80 per cent of the time. 

We all are working toward finding balance between what comes to us naturally and that toward which we have to cultivate our will power for all it’s worth. So, I believe I may harness my will power and direct it toward the entrance to our home. The result will be rewarding and I will probably take even greater pleasure in returning home at the end of the day.

Is there something you have always wanted to be in spite of different natural interests? How do you cultivate self-acceptance?

July3

One of my favourite months of the year is at its conclusion, making way for my birthday month. I think it’s because I was born under the dynamic, dramatic Leo sign that I still get silly-excited about the approach of my birthday. I don’t usually plan any extravagant celebrations, preferring instead to spend the day with my family. I look upon birthdays as the start of a new personal year, with new possibilities and potential.

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July is another exciting month, with two personal reasons for celebration: our anniversary and our eldest son’s birthday. Over the past month, I have explored my idea of balance at work and at home and revisited my manifesto of personal high standards.

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I nudged myself out of my comfort zone and humbly (and literally) fell before my old foe: Fear. My first indoor skydiving experience reminded me to treat myself with compassion and befriend that shadow self, allowing myself to re-frame my experience and pave a more positive road into future stories.

With the help of my children, I reconnected with my own inner child through colouring books on a rainy day. Rainy days always inspire me, transporting me back into my childhood and bringing with them cozy memories of overcast days that warmed my heart.

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And of course, we took advantage of the beautiful summer sunshine and enjoyed the beach, leading into a serendipitous beach-hopping and treasure-finding journey.

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To celebrate the start of August, we are headed back to the beach.

What are your highlights from the month of July? I hope you’re enjoying a great season, whether you’re soaking in the summer sunshine or cozying up to the cooler winter weather in the southern hemisphere.

You can connect with us on our journey by signing up to our newsletter (on the right-hand side of this page). I would also love for you to follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and tsu in-between blog editions.

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I woke up this morning with Madonna’s ‘Rain’ playing in my head.

 

It’s 32 degrees in Toronto today. With the humidity in the air, it feels more like 38 degrees. Although I don’t want to complain about the long-awaited summer, at this point, I think it’s fair to say that we need a break from the heat. The west coast especially needs some rain after the long draught. I must issue a disclaimer here to say that I am a person who thoroughly enjoys rainy weather. I am inspired by rainy weather as some of my fondest memories are of events that occurred on overcast days. Here are a few of those rainy childhood memories. One of these was written several months ago for a writing class; I wrote the other two earlier today:

 

I am alive in October, ready to record the rise in the wind. It’s because of the leaves and their candy colours, inviting me into the damp days of my childhood, walking under a giant umbrella with my mom, beautiful and elegant in her high-heeled boots and a wool coat. Even amidst the grey wet streets, the leaves seem to sparkle out at me, making me feel cozy inside my dirty pink puffy jacket. The wind and rain of October bring with them a sense of comfort, the comfort of my mom’s warm hand inside her sleek leather glove, holding mine, hidden in a knitted wool mitten. For once, we don’t rush to get me to school in the early morning. Instead, we stroll along the street and we smile. October is the warmest month in my calendar.

My grandmother and I run down the neighbourhood street, holding hands and giggling, enjoying the cooling rainy shower after a stifling hot day. I am spending the lazy summer days on the balcony of her second-storey apartment, seated in a soft-backed chair with my feet resting on a stool before me, eating peaches so ripe that the sweet nectar runs down my chin, the bright yellow juice stains spreading across the bodice of my new white dress. On the balcony’s ledge, even Babushka’s lavender bell flowers appear sleepy in spite of their effort to stay bright and cheerful. She waters them every morning and evening, caressing them tenderly with her soft, graceful hands that have so much love to give. In the evening, the breeze picks up suddenly while Babushka and I are out for a walk in the neighbourhood, stopping to admire the fragrant, bright flowers that adorn the front yards of street-level apartments of the high-rise apartment buildings. She tells me the air smells like rain. Moments later, a tiny drop lands on the tip of my nose, as if in confirmation and mischievous warning of the inevitable. And then we run, skipping over puddles on our way to the nearest overhang in front of an entrance to an apartment building. The sandals on our feet are soggy, our toes quickly starting to slip. We hold hands to support each other, and through the rolling laughter, I forget that I am running with a woman who is some 50 years older than me. I am running with a pretty fairy, as light as feather, pulling me gently by the hand. I imagine we are floating through the air, our feet pedalling above the cooling asphalt. Breathlessly, she laughs and tells me how much she loves rainy weather. I smile back at her mischievous eyes and we pause for a moment before starting to run again, our laughter echoing through the street.

The school bell rings and I sigh in relief, picking up my backpack and umbrella, quietly slipping out of the classroom and through the school’s front gate, crowded with other children awaiting their rides. I look forward to walking home alone through a park of towering Eucalyptus trees. It’s my usual daily route to walk with several friends on our way to and from school. In the rain, however, I know I will be alone with the sound of wet drops tapping on my umbrella and my rubber boots splashing in puddles. I politely decline my friend’s father’s offer for me to join my friend and her brother in the backseat of the car for a lift home, and without stopping to consider the puzzled expressions on their faces, I turn away to escape into my own experience. I crave solitary soggy walks, followed by changing into a cozy sweater at home, then sitting down by the window with a book and a mug of steaming tea.

How do you feel about rain? Does it inspire you? Does it bring out feelings of melancholy? Does it make you want to put on yellow rubber boots and go dancing through puddles? Leave a comment to share your story with me!

 

Thank you for sharing this edition with other rain-lovers. 

Wedding Collage

Sixteen years ago, on July 17th, we went on our first date. I was 16; he was 19. By our second date, four days later, it was clear to us both that we were quickly falling for each other as we strolled through a west-end neighbourhood. Seven years later, on July 22nd, we exchanged our official vows in a landmark Toronto wedding location just down the street from where we first enjoyed getting to know each other, listening to each other’s stories, fascinated by our differences and wondering about common personality traits. Now, 16 years later, we celebrate nine years of marriage and 16 years of deep connection.

 

The story we share feels older than its 16 years. Our history reaches farther back, in a strange, transcendental way that feels comforting and familiar. Throughout that time, we have faced challenges sprinkled among the highlights, the pivotal moments that allowed us to grow closer together while growing up as individuals. I once wondered whether we have much in common. Now, I know that we grew into our own potential with each other’s help, supporting each other along the way, and never missing an opportunity to embark on adventures.

 

I debated with myself back and forth about whether I should publish the following list. My hesitation was twofold: the list contains personal information; I don’t want to make the impression that I am trying to educate anyone through what might sound like fail-proof success tips. Every person, couple, and marriage is different. Other couples’ circumstances may be very different from ours. This list is simply to highlight what has been working for us, based on our own opinions. I would love for you to share your own tips in the comments below.

  1. Remembering our roots.

Before we became a couple, we each had our own history. That history shaped me to be the person with whom my husband fell in love. We must never lose ourselves or sacrifice our personalities within a partnership. That’s why it’s important to continue…

  1. Growing individually, exploring personal interests, and taking care of ourselves by spending time alone.

In my teens, I spent my ‘alone’ time working on my fashion design portfolio (sketching and sewing), practising yoga, freelance writing for local newspapers, painting, taking vocal lessons, and reading as much fantasy fiction as I could. Pawel spent his time designing and building robots and reading Greek mythology (he also enjoyed reading robotics manuals, but don’t tell him I said that). We continue to cultivate our personal interests and they have evolved. These days, I continue to read, knit, write, and practise yoga. Pawel continues to work on electronics, create woodworking projects, and experiment with various other creative projects that are currently top-secret. Self-care is important to us and we each have our own way of nourishing ourselves. By doing so, we continue to cultivate our own self-education while becoming more interesting, better partners for each other.

  1. Sharing our passions and ideas with each other.

We respect our personal interests because they allow us to explore our creativity, working in parallel, bouncing ideas off each other. I am in awe of the ideas constantly simmering in Pawel’s brain. Mine are more abstract, philosophical, and we enjoy challenging each other to think spherically.

  1. Making time for each other.

As working parents, we noticed several years ago just how easy it is to allow the regular date night tradition to slide. Since then, we dedicate one night per week to a casual date at home. Usually, it’s nothing extravagant. We have a special dinner with the kids and then either watch a movie, work on a puzzle together, or simply sit and chat over drinks and snacks. Upholding this tradition reminds us that no matter what comes up, as it inevitably will, we both must make an effort.

  1. Celebrating small successes.

Life can be full of crap moments / days / weeks. If we lose sight of what is most important, it’s incredible how quickly we can tumble down a dark hole out of which it’s difficult to get out. So, we must continue to focus on gratitude toward the basics, celebrating the beautiful people and moments that are most important in our lives.

  1. Supporting each other.

Dark times are inevitable. Those are the times when I need my husband to be by my side, listening to me without judgment, simply acknowledging my challenges and holding compassionate space. Sometimes, my challenges seem incomprehensible to my husband. As an INTJ, he is cerebral, logical, and brutally honest. As an INFP, I am idealistic, sensitive and emotional. When it feels like we don’t speak the same language, I sometimes need to be specific about how I want to be treated, in what way I need him to support me. I refuse to be quiet about it. The silent treatment never serves anyone.

  1. Honestly telling each other when we feel that an idea is a bad one.

At other times, I need my logical husband to look at me and tell me honestly that my idea sucks. I have been known to act from an emotional space that sometimes gets me in trouble. At those times, he is my anchor, providing me with a different vantage point, keeping me grounded. There are times when his behaviour is less than ideal and I remind him to tone things down. The important factor here is to hold space for each other and be open to advice that might not naturally appeal to us.

  1. Cutting each other some slack.

… On the other hand, sometimes we need to go easy on ourselves and each other, letting mistakes slide. INFPs are good at living and letting other people live the way they will. Sometimes, we’re too good at it, to the point of ignoring certain faux pas. I don’t like to be the nagging wife. I don’t enjoy constantly reminding someone to do something. There are times when I ignore dirty dishes in the sink, realizing that Pawel may have gotten distracted with a creative project, or is simply feeling tired. Either I will do the dishes myself or they will get done, eventually. Sometimes, the best choice is to take no action.

  1. Remembering that disagreements are inevitable, and keeping an open mind.

There are times when we don’t see eye to eye on a certain subject. We argue about it and either reach a mutual decision, or we agree to disagree without holding grudges. The most important factor here is whether the point about which we disagree is truly crucial to our partnership. If it isn’t, we allow each other space to hold our own opinions with no harm to anyone.

    10.   Remembering that dull times are inevitable.

Some days are mundane. There is no excitement and nothing happens beyond work, laundry, food preparation, cleaning, bedtime routines, morning routines, etc. And that’s okay. Pawel has taught me to be grateful for the ordinary days, for the smooth routines that we have developed, focusing on our health and wellbeing and leaving excitement to another time.

11.  Celebrating the moments/days/weeks that are thrilling, exciting, and passionate.

We must never, ever overlook anything important! Whether it’s our children’s first independent steps, an award that one of us received, or a new blog post published. We do our best, together, to commemorate all those moments, no matter how small. Someday, they will be the memories to which we will return to brighten our days.

12.   Allowing space for adventure, creating new memories together.

My parents used to take me and my younger sister on adventure outings. We enjoyed driving in a general chosen direction without planning anything specific. Once, we ended up on a beach after dark. The full moon shining on the sun-warmed water of the Mediterranean Sea illuminated the sand and on it, a pile of my parents’ clothing. Before my sister and I realized what was happening, we saw our parents run into the water, wearing only their underwear! We had not planned to go to the beach and did not bring swimsuits with us. As an 11-year-old, I felt mortified to watch my parents run into the water, giggling like teenagers. My four-year-old sister followed suit, deciding that my parents were not allowed to have fun without her. I sat on the sand, shaking my head, looking left and right at the several other lone couples enjoying a romantic evening on the beach, secretly thinking that I, too, would have loved to splash in the warm moonlit sea. Today, this memory of my family is one of my fondest. Times have changed, but I loved seeing the moonlit joy on the faces of my parents and my sister. Now, in our 30s, Pawel and I are the ones creating fun adventures for our kids, some of which do not impress them but just might become fond ones in the future.

13.   Seeing each other through newlyweds’ eyes.

After sixteen years together, it’s easy for a partnership to become too familiar, based on friendship and lacking a spark of romance. In eastern philosophy, there is a lesson about learning to experience our world through the eyes of a newborn / beginner. Applied to marriage, I enjoy practising seeing my husband as though for the very first time, really looking at him, studying his forever smiling eyes and the fine lines around them that show his kindness beneath a hint of childlike mischief. I look at his hardworking hands, adorned with calluses and two rings: his wedding band and the symbolic iron ring worn by engineers in North America. I study him as though seeing him before me for the first time. I listen to his deep, soothing voice, smile at his silly sense of humour, and pretend that we are just now getting to know each other for the first time. The result is incredible as time and time again, I continue to fall in love in a new way.

I’m sure that I am missing entire categories in this list, and without giving away too many personal details, I’ll leave the list at this.

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Every couple is different. Each relationship is different. If there is anything you would like to add about your own important lessons for a successful marriage, please feel free to do so in the comments below.

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In childhood, I did my best to live by the rules, but I have been known to be bored easily and start to push boundaries. I continue to seek challenges, allowing myself to grow, to think outside the box. I’m learning to colour outside the lines, to bend the rules slightly without trying to hide my intentions from anyone but while reconnecting to an old favourite hobby. It’s a hobby that I buried away somewhere on a shelf far away in the library of my childhood.

When I was about five years old, there was a small bookstore on a plaza near our home. I would go into the store just to browse books, to walk between the aisles, look at the shelves and sniff inconspicuously at the scent of freshly printed ink on crisp paper that filled the shop. I lingered near the colouring book section, gingerly reaching for a new book that I had not seen before and flipping through the pages it contained. My fingers itched to return home with the book and sit at a table with my freshly sharpened pencils. The thrill of creating something new was overwhelming. Sometimes, my mom would buy a book for me, providing me with hours of inspiration as I ventured into my imagination with each new page on which I worked diligently. My mom, in turn, received the opportunity to enjoy a few quiet hours while getting some work done at home.

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Colouring books for adults have been trending as of late, with pictures containing finer, more intricate details. It turns out that children are not the only ones who are calmed by the activity. I chose to pick up such a book recently in order to allow myself an opportunity to connect with my children. While they sit at the kitchen table and colour, I do the same. Recently, on a rainy Sunday, my eldest and I sat together, each working on our own colouring page. I chose a beautiful mandala design and intuitively picked at the soft pastel colouring pencils, allowing myself to be guided toward the colours that I was to use. Instead of colouring certain shapes the way I normally would have, some 27 years ago, I chose to draw hearts inside the lines. I’m quietly starting to rebel while staying within the confines of my comfort zone, following the rules I intuitively set for myself.

In fact, simply colouring inside the lines allows us to focus on one task at a time, working with colour harmony. At other times, doing something slightly radical, venturing outside the familiar, is therapeutic. I might choose to continue doing things the traditional way, but I’m slowly giving myself permission to experiment with the limitless possibilities.

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What calming hobbies did you enjoy in childhood? Would you consider returning to them to try them through an adult’s perspective?