Tag Archives: London

Befriend Yourself

When planning my gap year for grown-ups, I made a conscious decision to put myself in the way of as much beauty as possible. Paris. Florence. London. Edinburgh. Museums + galleries. Epic walks along historic rivers. Plays + play. Live music. Talks by writers. The luxury of time to write and think and create.

The thing I could not have predicted is how very much I’m also putting myself in the way of new challenges. And how much I’m growing.

As I shared in our Sunday Reader a month ago, I’m an anxious sort of bear. Regardless of how together I seem from the outside, it takes a lot of effort and courage for me to travel on my own, to learn new neighbourhoods, to navigate the metro and to fly solo.
Please know that I’m not complaining. I signed up for this and it is mostly glorious… but some of it is not. Actually, that seems like a pretty good description of life. Mostly glorious. Sometimes not.

Yesterday was a bit of a day, travel-wise. I flew from Charles de Gaulle in Paris to London Heathrow (neither of which are famously wonderful transportation hubs) and everywhere there was a line, it was long and filled with really angry travellers. At CDG, the wait at Customs was epic but I knew it would be so I had left myself lots of time. The people around me, however, were furious. The woman directly behind me was in a terrible hurry and, every time we took a step forward, she bumped into me with her suitcase. A man at the front of the line yelled at an airport employee who took a traveller in a wheelchair before him. I felt overwhelmed but there was nothing I could do. As I peeled off my sweater, I realized that I was starting to panic even though I knew I had lots of time to make my flight.

The first thing I did was to breathe. {Sometimes we forget.} I inhaled deeply through my nose and held that breath for about three seconds. Then I exhaled slowly through my mouth and relaxed my neck and shoulders. I breathed deeply, in this way, for a few minutes. Then I found a spot on the floor about ten feet away from me and just rested my gaze there. Gently. I continued to breathe and emptied my mind as much as I could. Of course, random thoughts popped up, and the sounds of Charles de Gaulle intruded from time, but I just let the thoughts and noises come and then go and I went on breathing. I meditated in the best way I could in the middle of the line at Customs.

After ten minutes, I felt calm. I was able to think more kindly about this woman behind me who might be feeling panicked about missing a flight and the man who lost his cool at the front of the line. It’s not like I gave them a hug or anything that dramatic, I just changed the way I was thinking. A few minutes later, I noticed that the woman behind me had stopped bumping into me.

I shit you not. It was magic.

By befriending myself first and then extending that circle of calm, I was able to make a situation that felt tough and jagged a bit better. Softer. Adopting an attitude of love and patience created more space in that line. {I love the word “spaciousness.”} It certainly felt like magic to me.

How could you befriend yourself today to create a little magic for yourself and the people in your life?
How would it feel to speak to yourself a little more gently? The next time you feel tempted to criticize yourself (I’m so stupid! | I never learn | How could I have forgotten this? | I’m so disorganized | This is all my fault), try to breathe and say something kind to yourself.

Try something like: “I know you’re feeling really frustrated right now. You are really doing your best though, aren’t you? And you love your family so much and you always want to do your very best for them. What do you need right now? Shall we sit for a minute? Shall we have a cup of tea?”

Have a cup of tea. Breathe. Befriend yourself. You can call it self compassion or kindness or even magic, if you wish. I promise it will help.
*This post was originally published as a Sunday Reader. To receive my love letters directly in your inbox twice a month, you can subscribe here.

Halfway around the world

It seemed like a good idea at the time.

When planning our trip home this summer (Ottawa for me and Calgary for DP), the cheapest plane tickets we could find got us from Bangkok to New York City via London. So, I was thinking… if we were going to be in London, why not spend a few days there? And if we were going to be in Europe, why not fly to Spain and see our friends in Barcelona? Why not see some shows in London and New York City? After four nights in Manhattan, we’d take Amtrak’s Adirondack route from Manhattan to Montreal and then, the following day, we’d take Via Rail home to Ottawa. We’d rent a car and drive to Toronto and Kingston. What could be easier?

So that’s what we did. We traveled halfway around the world.  (The other half – the half that leads to our new life in Yokohama, Japan – begins in just two weeks!)

We visited ten cities and many small towns in five countries and slept in 11 different beds. In Barcelona, we had our photos taken. We’ve seen many dear friends with whom we shared stories and some extraordinary meals. (Unfortunately, there are some friends we won’t have a chance to see this year. This always makes us feel a whole host of emotions situated along the sadness/guilt spectrum but not seeing everyone is one of the few drawbacks of our mostly-lovely nomadic life. Knowing and loving many people is not always compatible with our strong need for rest, recovery and some time for ourselves at the end of each school year.)

The journey has been:
a) heart-warming
b) exhilarating
c) delicious
d) exhausting
e) all of the above (and still a very good idea!)

Today, exactly one month after our Bangkok departure, I had my first full day in my jammies. In short, I had a vacation from my vacation. To say that I have enjoyed this day without commitments would be an understatement of criminal proportions. I even loved the scary wind storm and ensuing power outage that gave us a reason to light our seldom-used, big red Christmas candles. I felt a bit disappointed when the power came back on and the bright lights ruined the lovely mood. That’s exactly how I used to feel as a kid… like “Why is everyone so excited about the power? It was more romantic with the lights out.”

I have so much to share but after a month on the road, I got stuck and wasn’t sure where to start. So I’m just starting.

Hello! How have you been and what have you been up to?