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It's been three whole months since arriving here in the Netherlands. Three months! It seems to have, both, flown by and feels like it's been approximately thirty years... I'm not sure what that says about how I've spent my time so far...
The question I get asked the most, besides do I miss my family (oh yes), and how am I getting on with the language (hmmm ik probeer), is 'Are you happy?' Is it me, or is this a difficult question to answer? Of course, not every person asks this with the expectation of an actual lengthy, in depth analysis of my inner most thoughts, some people simply make polite small talk. But it really does make me stop and think, wait a minute, am I happy? And then follows, what counts as happiness? How does one measure or judge something so complex and diverse?
I'm not even sure if that is an answerable question really, as no two days are the same. Having a surprise phone call from a loved one makes me so happy; but then what is the feeling when the call ends and you realise how long it's been since you last looked into their eyes? That doesn't make me an unhappy person precisely, but it's certainly a feeling close to loss. Basically, I'm still, very much, coming to terms with not being around my family (not sure if you notice!), and that is the part that sticks out to me, when people ask this.
Perhaps a better way to answer the question, is to look at and focus on the things that really do put a smile on my face. The things that brighten a day and leave me skipping, however mundane or simple some may be! Here are a handful of triggers that have put a spring in my step lately:
* Finding inspiration in the most unsuspecting places; without searching or striving, discovering something that fills you with excitement and purpose, then growing ideas, thoughts and plans.
* Waking to the sound of the neighbours chickens, even if it is before my alarm...
* Starting a new book! Makes the passing blow of finishing a good book, easier.
* Handwritten post. There is nothing like receiving a thoughtful parcel sealed with such love, and even more pleasing sending one. I am eagerly awaiting a reply from my baby cousins (10, 6 & 2!). Sending postcards and notes makes me happy (basically any excuse to buy/ use my stationary!).
* Road trips- car snacks, 'singing' to the radio, blurry window photography, Rich's road rage.
* Figuring out the tricky bits in my knitting pattern feels like an epic win!
* Coffee and cake with the in laws, and maybe a borreltje or two.
* A smile from a stranger, a friendly nod or a hello- this includes local wildlife, as I may have said good morning to a heron the other day...
* Bare feet on sun warmed grass- enough said.
* Skype dates with my family always, always makes my day.
* Laughing; any time, any place.
* Walking by the canal, putting the world to right with Rich, like a couple of oldies.
* Preparing and getting excited for a visit to England- words can't describe how much I'm looking forward to all the hugs and catch ups and food (hihihi).
* Cycling in the early morning sunshine; blows the cobwebs right out and clears my mind. Those few precious moments are worth their weight in gold.
It's best to focus on what we have in our lives, look at what we can be grateful for, rather than things we want. It's easy to miss the good stuff when searching for 'perfection' (whatever that is), we put unrealistic goals ahead of ourselves and wonder ignorantly how we fail. I think it's time to quit pushing for impossibly high expectations and start living life for the heart felt moments in between, those kind gestures and simple happiness. I'm sure if you remind yourself of how lucky you are with what you have, then you'll find a wee smile stretching across your beautiful face.
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Is this something you find yourself thinking about? Am I alone in thinking that it really is a tricky thing to pull apart?