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We hope you have been enjoying the holidays with your loved ones, in your favourite ways. For that reason, we are keeping this post short. If you do happen to have a few quiet moments and wish to do some quiet reading over a cup of coffee, we invite you to catch up with our posts that you may have missed, or ones that you might wish to re-read. Please also feel free to share this blog with a friend who might enjoy following our stories.

Wishing you a wonderful remainder of 2015 and here’s to more reading, writing, and mindful living (infused with moments of creative daydreaming) in 2016!

The following are the nine most popular posts of 2015, listed in random order, based on page views and the number of shares:

1. Better than yesterday

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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2. The Dharma Wanderlust creative method

Several years ago, we wrote a post to explain the process behind our wooden creations. Since the recent unveiling of our Sea Turtle Collection, we have been pleased to welcome new clients to our website. In addition to our earlier post, we would like to walk you through the process of making each wooden turtle pendant.”

3. Marriage lessons from the past  nine years

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.”

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4. Happy loner

I have always enjoyed my own company. I sometimes wonder whether it’s selfish to admit this fact. The truth is, spending time alone helps to nourish my soul in an honest manner that allows me to take better care of my loved ones.”

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5. Project house detox

This impromptu de-cluttering session led to a change of perspective. For the remainder of that day, whenever I stepped into another room in our house, I asked myself whether we need all the material items we managed to acquire over the past 7.5 years after moving into our current home. Pawel and I have never had a fear of letting go of material objects. Neither are we serious collectors of random tchotchkes. Yet, there seemed to be too much stuff that we do not need. I grew tired of seeing busy kitchen counters. I spoke with Pawel and explained to him that I wanted to edit our home and throw out, sell, or give away various pieces that we do not need to keep and/or do not enjoy. To my relief, he told me he’s on board.”

6. Choosing love over a tidy home

I do my best to keep a balance between working diligently to uphold my highest standards and choosing to ignore a less-than-perfect home from time to time. In fact, the two go hand-in-hand: when I feel calmer and able to overlook the mess of toys strewn around the living room, I am a better mother to my children and partner to Pawel, better able to uphold those high standards. Some days, I feel exhausted after an hour of nagging my children in agitation about tidying up their rooms. Inevitably, 15 minutes after they reluctantly put away their toys, the living room once again looks less than ideal. Interestingly, when I make a choice to be a bit softer in my approach, more willing to overlook the mess until bedtime, I have more energy to be a kind, fun mom.”

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7. Skipping the small talk

Small talk has never been my forte. When bumping into a person I don’t know well, my mind often goes blank after the polite greeting of, “Hello, how are you?” On a good day, I remind myself to ask about my conversation partner’s interests and use one of those as a jumping point into more interesting territory. The problem arises when I meet a person who, like me, keeps his cards close to his chest and doesn’t enjoy divulging any information about himself to someone he just met for the first time. Talk about an introvert’s nightmare!’

8. I don’t watch TV. I don’t miss it.

Not watching TV allows me to make time for mindful activities that I truly enjoy. I do make time for reading, writing, yoga, meditation, crafting, and (yes) sleep.”

9. The capsule wardrobe experiment: Autumn 2015

When I first heard of the idea of the capsule wardrobe, approximately two years ago, my curiosity peaked. I know that there are many great reasons to create a capsule wardrobe – namely, to save money; to eliminate the need to decide what to wear in the morning; and of course, to practise better discernment of what items we enjoy wearing, what we need, and what we no longer need but to which we have been holding on. It’s a great method of redefining our style. After flirting with the idea for many months, I finally took a deep breath and spent some time choosing my favourite pieces for my autumn capsule wardrobe.”

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See you in 2016!

Warmly,

Katia and Pawel (Mr. and Mrs. Wanderlust)

 

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Necklace by Dharma Wanderlust. Click for more unique handmade jewellery by Mr. Wanderlust.

As I sat down at my computer to write this edition, I hesitated. How will this post be perceived? Will those who know me judge me harshly after reading the post? Will people understand? Then, I came across Joshua Rothman’s article Virginia Woolf’s Idea of Privacy in The New Yorker, and felt a jolt of confidence at the reminder that I’m not alone with the status of a loner. It also reminded me of how much I enjoyed reading Mrs. Dalloway in English 101 in the first year of undergrad, inspiring me to pick up the book again, soon.

A week ago, I drove alone to listen to Kate Morton speak and to meet her briefly while she signed my copy of The Lake House. I had invited my mother-in-law to join me, given that we both are devoted fans of Morton’s work. Since my mother-in-law was not available to join me at the event, to attend which she would have had to drive for over an hour, I went alone. Driving along dark rural roads, I listened to the new album by Enya while heeding the directions of the GPS. When I entered the charmingly decorated hall of the golf club, with Christmas lights and poinsettia sparkling festively, I snagged a solitary spot close to the front of the room at a round table full of women who arrived as a group. I learned many years ago that one advantage of attending events alone is that a solitary seat can almost always be found if not in the front row then in the second row of a crowded theatre or hall.

The lady beside whom I sat down asked me bluntly, “Did you come alone?”

“Yes,” I replied with a smile while removing my coat and draping it on the back of the chair.

“You must really like Kate Morton,” she said.

“I do.” Small smile. Simple. No unnecessary explanations or additional small talk.

I have always enjoyed my own company. I sometimes wonder whether it’s selfish to admit this fact. The truth is, spending time alone helps to nourish my soul in an honest manner that allows me to take better care of my loved ones.

At about five or six years of age, I started going to see children’s movies alone at the theatre across the street from the apartment building in which my parents and I lived. Sometimes, at the behest of my mom, I would reluctantly invite along my friend Pavlik, our neighbour from the fourth floor. I felt mildly annoyed every time he would turn to me during the movie to ask me a question or make a comment.

I remember getting puzzled looks from my friends’ parents who would offer me a ride home from school on a rainy day only to hear my answer: “Thanks, but I like walking alone in the rain.”

I enjoy eating alone in restaurants or hiding with a book in the cozy corner of a quaint cafe. I love visiting art galleries and museums alone. I need to be with my thoughts, to process certain experiences by myself and for myself, without feeling the need to speak with the people next to me or worry about whether they are enjoying the experience as much as I am. Of course, these days, I rarely have the opportunity to do the above, given my family and work schedule, but whenever possible, I do steal away a few hours for myself.

As Rothman quotes Woolf in The New Yorker, “There is a dignity in people; a solitude; even between husband and wife a gulf; and that one must respect … for one would not part with it oneself, or take it, against his will, from one’s husband, without losing one’s independence, one’s self-respect—something, after all, priceless.”

I love spending precious time with my family and friends. It’s healing to sit down with a person with whom I connect on an intimate level and have a real, honest, deep conversation that flows easily, devoid of banal gossip. I prefer to spend one-on-one time with my husband and close friends in a quiet environment that allows us to hear one another, rather than in a loud, crowded venue. Sometimes, it can feel great to attend a play together and discuss it at length afterward over a cup of tea. At other times, it feels just as great to attend a play alone.

Society expects us to want to be with others all the time, and when we deviate from that expectation, we are seen as odd. I’m not immune from that judgment. I still sometimes second-guess my confidence. Yet, it’s possible to be a happy loner and I’m convinced that there are many of us out here, quietly lurking in a café, scribbling contentedly in a notebook, relishing the experience of our own company.

Would you openly admit that you are at least a wee bit of a loner? How can we change the stigma that surrounds introverts and private people in today’s society? Please feel free to leave a comment below to add to the discussion.

If you know someone who would enjoy reading this blog, please share it with a friend.

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Interesting Links:

The Power of Empathetic Thought (Goop.com)

“On a more personal level, I think we need to move beyond the emotionally illiterate world of online “like” buttons. If you see, via Facebook or other platforms, that a friend has done something interesting or has gone through something tough, like a family death, don’t just “like” their post or write a one-line comment. Phone them or Skype them and have a real human interaction.”

On personality, emotional labor, and surviving the holidays (Modern Mrs. Darcy)

In the podcast, Cain explains that introverts can be extremely, genuinely social—even for long periods of time—and enjoy being so. But for true introverts, putting on this extroverted front over a period of days or weeks is exhausting.

This phenomenon has a name: it’s called “emotional labor,” and it’s what you experience any time you project (or, to put it not-so-nicely, fake) an emotion or attitude that doesn’t come easily.”

Brene Brown: The Anatomy of Trust (Supersoul.tv)

“Trust is built in the smallest of moments.”

A very powerful talk about cultivating self-love and self-respect in order to build trusting connections with others.

Another quote from the speech that truly struck me: “I don’t trust people who don’t love themselves but say ‘I love you.'” (Maya Angelou)

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My most recent quick knitting project, completed in about an hour yesterday, enjoying a cozy spot on the small Christmas tree decorated by Wanderlust Juniors.

Current Listening Material:

Enya – Dark Sky Island

I have been a big fan of Enya’s music since I first heard The Celts in the early 90s. Enya’s music continues to accompany me through joyful times and difficult situations. Most recently, while saying goodbye to our cat Meeshu, the veterinary clinic played The Celts album in the room where Meeshu and I shared a few final moments together. I am delighted with the new album and glad to find the music consistent with Enya’s previous material.

Enya – And Winter Came

This is a Christmas season staple for me.

Loreena McKennitt is another of my favourite musicians and this is a beautiful collection of older, traditional Christmas songs.
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Currently on My Nightstand:
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Enjoying the beautiful Christmas Market in Toronto last weekend.

DSCN0099This evening, I drove to Uxbridge, a small community northeast of Toronto, to meet and listen to one of my favourite authors, Kate Morton. I was first introduced to Morton’s work several years ago while on maternity leave with the littlest Wanderlust Junior. I asked friends for book recommendations and one of them shared with me a copy of The Forgotten Garden. I devoured the book in under a week, reading during nap times and after the kids had gone to bed for the night. I had stepped into a fairy tale the likes of which I used to step into and become lost for hours. I felt a profound connection with the character of Eliza and allowed myself to wander through the idyllic English countryside.

In turn, I introduced my mother-in-law to Morton’s words and together we read and discussed The House at Riverton, The Distant Hours and The Secret Keeper. The Secret Keeper is my favourite book of Morton’s yet, though all the reviews I have read swear that The Lake House, the newest brilliant work, is her best yet. I can’t believe I held out this long before getting my hands on my copy, but I’m glad that the copy I have was signed for me.

During the interview, the beautifully charming author candidly and lightheartedly talked about how much she enjoys plotting the story line, scribbling away in her notebooks, as well as the editing process and its multiple layers, through which the story becomes polished to its final presentation. She revealed that the part of actually sitting down to write the story can sometimes be challenging as she seeks the right words to describe certain profound feelings of the characters or works to illustrate on paper a picture she holds in her mind.

DSCN0101“All good writers are observers, whether they are introverts or extroverts.” She spoke about the images that inspire her stories, including the shapes of the sewage drains on the streets of London on which her eyes rest during a daily walk. I speak and write frequently about the importance of maintaining an attitude of curiosity and in fact, I believe that writers need to be both mindful of the environment around them and also able to ask questions that will shape stories about the objects and people they encounter.

During the audience question period, I asked Ms. Morton how she overcomes the challenge of transforming feelings and images onto the page when words refuse to come or sound utterly flat. Her answer: Get the first draft done but don’t give up afterward. Continue reworking it, polishing, editing.

When it was my turn to have my new book signed, she smiled at me warmly.

“Do you write?” she asked.

“I try,” I giggled nervously.

“I think that’s true for everyone,” she assured me.

All I can do is continue trying. The inspiration is always there, the story ready to reveal itself to the curious observer.

Have you read The Lake House or any of Kate Morton’s other books? Please leave a comment to share your insights with me and other readers (no spoilers, please).

Do you know someone who loves Ms. Morton’s stories as much as I do? They might enjoy this blog post, so please feel free to share it via email or social media. 

Not at my desk, not with my quill, and not really writing; while visiting a museum three months ago, I couldn’t resist the opportunity to pretend to write in this cozy spot.

It had been a while since I wrote in my journal. I’m not referring to simply writing about what is new and exciting in my life at the given moment but about delving deeper, digging beneath the layers, stripping away the building blocks. The stream-of-consciousness style of writing taught by Julia Cameron in The Artist’s Way is the type of exercise that can send many running for the hills. Yet, once we start, without weaving any drama around the exercise itself and the potential results, the experience can be surprisingly enjoyable and possibly even transforming.

In Paris Letters, Janice MacLeod shares her own experience with journalling as inspired by The Artist’s Way, leading to a big question and a resulting breakthrough. I’m not one for spoilers; to learn more about the breakthrough, you’ll have to read the book.

And so, without expectations or a specific agenda, I return to stream-of-consciousness journalling. The results surprise me as I read back. Some pages are filled with gratitude notes. On other days, the ramblings are banal and choppy. None of that matters. The practice itself is therapeutic, healing, meditative. More and more, I infuse my daily life with the same energy that accompanies me on the yoga mat at 5:30 in the morning. It comes without surprise to find that my hobbies in and of themselves undulate and weave, allowing me to stay curious while focusing my mind, connecting with my thoughts and watching the stories unfold. Knitting, journalling, lunchtime walks, and reading to Wanderlust Juniors have become to me another form of yoga, reminding me to keep just enough control to stay present, but at the same moment, reminding me to release into the experience, to allow someone else to hold the anchor and steer.

Journalling for analysis used to be my focus. My ego shaped my interpretation of the story. In as much as it can be highly enjoyable to analyze, to investigate the various points of view, and to deduce conclusions, these days, I prefer to experience by witnessing the story unfold. I cherish the reminder to let go of judgment, to allow myself to sit with my feelings, whatever they may be, to soften and keep going with the flow. I hear the voices of my teachers asking me, Where can you let go a bit more? Where can you invite more softness? The stories will continue to unfold, and I permit them to do just that.

What about you? Where can YOU let go a bit more? Where can you invite more softness? Do you have a regular journalling practice? I would love to read about your evolving experience with this exercise.

Are you enjoying this blog? Please share it with a friend. 

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My turn to share! Here are two articles I read and enjoyed last week:

This Column Will Change Your Life: Morning Pages 

‘Perhaps I shouldn’t have been surprised at how powerful Morning Pages proved, from day one, at calming anxieties, producing insights and resolving dilemmas. After all, the psychological benefits of externalising thoughts via journalling are well-established. And that bleary-eyed morning time has been shown to be associated with more creative thinking: with the brain’s inhibitory processes still weak, “A-ha!” moments come more readily.’

How to Get Better at Expressing Emotions

‘Emotional intelligence is a skill, and some people are better at recognizing and communicating emotions than others. Among the Big Five personality traits—openness, extroversion, conscientiousness, agreeableness, and neuroticism—several studies have found that people high in extroversion tend to have higher emotional expressiveness, while people high in neuroticism tend to be less expressive.

Like other skills, the ability to communicate feelings can be strengthened through practice, and a big part of it is first recognizing the emotions you’re having, as well as what’s causing them.’