What’s an introvert to do?

Two conversations, 14 hours apart, have served as a reminder for me to a) stop overthinking everything, b) get out of my cosy, comfortable, safe shell, and c) drop the labels.

The first exchange was with a woman whom I met on Monday evening. Having lived in several places before settling in NZ, she discreetly snuck in a peace of advice for me to work harder at making friends with the locals, many of whom, in her opinion, are more reserved than North Americans. She must have sensed a whisper-thin trace of loneliness that rested, unspoken, between the lines. Immediately, a sarcastic voice somewhere at the back of my head jeered, “Oh, lovely news for an introvert like me, who has often dreaded the mere idea of having to make the first step toward meeting people.”

On Tuesday morning, as I walked back to my car after taking the Wanderlust Juniors to school, a friendly voice brought me to the present moment, dissipating thoughts of a not-so-distant past. I turned my head and was met with the beautiful smile of a fellow yoga mum who beamed warmly at me as she invited me to attend a class at her studio. More reserved, my foot, I smiled to myself.

I have often hid behind the ‘introvert’ label, using it as a shield from the outside world and as an excuse to stay at home with my books, living vicariously through literary characters and their adventures instead of creating my own. Classifying myself as an introvert is akin to making a sweeping generalisation about the characteristics of a certain group of people. Besides, even extroverts enjoy a cosy evening at home from time to time.

So, what is an introvert to do in a new town, in a new country? She shall be compassionate toward herself and others. She shall ever so gently nudge herself out of her comfy shell, reminding herself of her past triumphs and hiccups that have served as incredible lessons. She shall leave behind any previous labels that have been assigned to her before and which she had assigned to herself, that have served to educate her about herself and the world around her but which, at times, can feel divisive. She shall keep an open mind and an open heart. She shall brush aside traces of doubt before they threaten to disturb her peace. She shall give herself room for introspection, but remind herself that here, in this moment, is where the potential for magic dwells.

I suspect that these reminders might also be timely for others.

Thank you for reading and sharing this blog with a friend.

Stripes2 small

*** Both photographs used in today’s story are courtesy of the incredible Christa Pauwels of Christichka Photography. ***

Favourites from around the web:

10 Literary Romances, Put to the Happily-Ever-After Test — The perfect amount of entertainment to accompany my mid-morning tea.

Making a Marriage Magically Tidy

Integrating Yoga into Daily Life — A great podcast with Canadian yoga teachers Natalie Rousseau and Melanie Phillips

How to Care Deeply without Burning Out

How to parent like a minimalist

To the Hills – Part II, in which we meet an unlikely tour guide

The first time I visited Papamoa Hills, with the Wanderlust Juniors, we walked along the main track to the summit. A week later, when I returned to the hills with Mr. Wanderlust, we climbed over a fence, beckoned by an irresistible view, and chose to take the path less travelled. The choice was easy. We walked toward the sun and the dew-glistened grassy peaks that reminded us of a scene from The Hobbit. The main path provides a great cardio and lower body toning workout, but that’s not what we were after on this day. I have been working to move away from my old tendency to rush through life, to choose to work harder, to move faster, to get more done in a short amount of time. These days, I give myself permission to slow down and enjoy the journey. I’m tired of trying too hard to make something happen. I have been making conscious decisions to keep moving ahead with an attitude of ease and softness.

DSCN8355

These days, I also allow myself, from time to time, to be guided by someone — or something — else. I settle into the backseat and let someone else drive and navigate. Like Alice, I lean into the adventure and allow curiosity to write the story. We wandered along the grassy, gently sloping path, welcoming the warmth of the sun on an otherwise cool morning. As we rounded a corner, we found ourselves almost face-to-face with an unlikely tour guide: a brown cow. She stood still before us, her gaze wandering between us, the visitors, and her fellow grazers on the hillside, behind the low electric fence. Somehow, she had become separated from them.

DSCN8356

The cow sauntered before us and we followed at the same unhurried pace, not daring to attempt to pass behind her every time she slowed and then came to stand still. She positioned her body to block our path entirely, then reluctantly turned her head to glare at us, unimpressed. We had intruded upon her as she tried to make sense of her predicament and now waited for her to continue to move forth. We followed her lead, accompanied by the curious surveillance of the other cows whose breakfast we had interrupted. They ogled us while continuing to chew mouthfuls of grass, their scent transporting me to my childhood summers on the farm in Siberia where my mother grew up and where, much to my repugnance, my grandmother had once attempted to teach me to milk a cow.

DSCN8361

After a short meditative walk, our reluctant tour guide reached a fence and a locked gate, and without so much as a quick glance at us, stepped off the path with surprising grace, giving us passage over the fence, and proceeded with her own snacking on a particularly lush mound of long grass. We turned to thank our gentle guide for leading us along the path and saw that, although she remained separate from her herd, she resigned herself to this situation and continued to do what came to her with ease.

DSCN8410

We continued our journey, climbing over fences to sit on a bench overlooking peaceful farmlands, our new neighbourhood, and the vast ocean beyond. I twirled and danced, singing a few lines from The Sound of Music, much to the amusement of my husband, who was thankful for our solitude on that quiet hill. Then, we proceeded with our walk to the summit, relying on the maps upon which we stumbled along the way. As for our tour guide, I suspect she quietly awaited the return of the farmer at the end of the day, then gratefully followed his lead. How’s that for a lesson in acquiescence?

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


 

If you were not able to join my live Facebook video earlier this week, you may watch it at your leisure. In it, I share with you my insights to help you reconnect to mindfulness and joy on a daily basis.


Interested in reading more? Here are a couple of posts from the archives:

A year ago on the blog: A story of commitment, dedication, and love

Two years ago on the blog, and something with which I continue to grapple today: A Story to Tell

To the Hills – Part I

On Tuesday, June 13th at 8 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time / Wednesday, June 14th at 12 p.m. NZ time, I will be LIVE on Facebook, talking about how we can practise mindfulness and rediscover joy every day. I look forward to chatting with you.


DSCN8309 DSCN8315 DSCN8343

The sun’s rays broke briefly through the low moody clouds as we sat on a bench that was missing its third plank. The Wanderlust Juniors ate mandarins and granola bars, then the eldest boy fine-tuned his binoculars, a family antique gifted to him by my dad, to better observe the sheep grazing on the hillside. The gloomy clouds reflected our thoughts and emotions, having said goodbye to Mr. Wanderlust the night before at the airport. On Day 1 of his week-long business trip, we felt his absence.

I gently encouraged the Wanderlust Juniors to continue walking up the track to the summit of Papamoa Hills. Reluctantly, they agreed to my idea with the promise that they would later relax at home with a movie. Given a choice, in a manner not at all resembling their usual enthusiasm for adventure outings, they would have spent that entire day indoors, coming up with ideas that would inevitably lead to some kind of trouble. In the interest of self-care, and in trying to keep a copacetic state in my household, I could not have agreed to such a proposition. We needed to leave our small beach bungalow, with its stuffy misplaced emotions. I needed to clear my head of concern about Mr. Wanderlust as I waited to learn of his safe arrival at his destination after a 16-hour flight. I also needed space to breathe after having stopped too many mischievous incidents within the first hour after the boys’ too-early rising. Shortly after 8 o’clock, having packed a small picnic and my camera, we took a short drive to the hills.

The crystal-clear air beckoned forth as we walked the inclining path. The low silver pillows of clouds hovered menacingly overhead, yet we solemnly continued our trek. One boy would stop after every few steps to play dreamily with stones that he picked up along the way, or to collect a couple of sticks. The other would race ahead, then halt and wait for us to catch up. It would be dishonest of me to say that I did not at times feel a pang of frustration at the snail’s pace of our walk. That feeling would arise every time I noticed that another person who had passed by us not long ago on the way up was already returning down the path toward us. I reminded myself to enjoy the flow, however slow it may feel at times, to stop when they stop, to move when they move, to forget my agenda and give up control. Besides, I shrugged, anything is better than trying to entertain two bored boys inside a small home. Before long, we had reached the summit but did not linger. The triumphant ascend reminded my two excitable boys of their adventurous enthusiasm and they raced each other along the winding track to the parking lot.

Later, at home, following a comforting Skype chat with Mr. Wanderlust, the atmosphere felt significantly lighter. The sky released its own heavy weight as the rain came after lunch, making our afternoon at home with a movie and banana-chocolate chip cake all the more cosy.

A week later, Mr. Wanderlust and I returned to the hills for a morning date. Come back on Friday to read part II of the story, in which I tell you of our outing with an unlikely tour guide.

DSCN8325

Favourites from around the web:

Wisdom from Anne Lamott

In defence of slow fitness This is my approach to exercise.

Networking 101: Make Friends Not Contacts

Five ways to survive entertaining as an introvert This is always a good reminder for me.

Something quirky for the fellow grammar nerd: The Oxford Comma’s Online Dating Profile

Thank you for sharing this blog with a friend.

Start slow: A Monday morning date

Last week, we were feeling miserable, resting in bed with a cold that knocked us off our feet. This week, we are starting to slowly, gently reawaken to greet the sunshine and restore our energy reserves. A morning walk in the sunshine up Mount Maunganui was just what the doctor ordered.

Mount7
The view of Mount Maunganui, referred to as ‘the mount’ by the locals, from the boardwalk of Pilot Bay

We had a busy first month in NZ and now that we are away from our families, couple time is not easy to carve out. Mr. Wanderlust wasn’t due to start work until lunchtime, and after taking the Wanderlust Juniors to school, we decided to make our way toward Mount Maunganui. We had walked up the mount once before with the boys, and although the trek was challenging, it did not feel overly difficult. This time, our experience was not the same as before.

Mount2

Not even 15 minutes into our hike up the mount, we felt short of breath.

“I can’t believe the terrible shape I’m in,” I complained while blowing my nose and tugging at my clogged left ear.

“You are recovering from a bad cold,” Mr. Wanderlust gently reminded me. “You can’t expect to be as strong as you normally are.”

A few days ago, we were feeling too weak to walk around the block, let alone walk up a mountain. Our next thought, as we stopped to catch our breath, was that if we’re feeling weak, at the very least we were in this together. We had to crack a few jokes along the lines of, “If I ever make it up the mount…”

Mount1

We made a few more stops on the incline, each time taking the opportunity to snap a few photos of the spectacular vistas in-between coughing and clearing our noses — okay, it was me blowing my nose while Mr. Wanderlust ensured that I did not have bits of facial tissue left on my face. What started out as a frustrating and humbling trek left me with a reminder to start slowly and be kind to myself, to be patient as I continue to regain my strength. This was our opportunity to go gently, without feeling the need to rush toward a destination. We reminded ourselves that while we were working to catch our breath, we had the perfect excuse to stop to enjoy the sights on the way up.

Mount4

Putting one foot before the other, we made it to the summit sooner than we had expected. Our walk was silent, in the comfortable manner of long-time lovers who have lately had too much on their minds and hearts. Sitting down to recharge before coming down from the mount, I rested my head on my husband’s shoulder and, closing my eyes for a few moments, leaned into the comfort of home.

Mount5

Are you enjoying this blog? You may wish to subscribe to be the first to receive weekly updates directly in your email inbox. 

Mount6
Adorable residents of the mount.

Updates from Instagram:

IG1

Previously on the blog:

Chez Kathleen Kelly and Holly Golightly

Skipping the Small Talk

Wishing you a week of gentle beginnings!

The week in review: May 19th

It appears winter has arrived in NZ, announcing itself by way of rain, wind gusts, and crisp mornings. Inevitably, it’s all very different from winter in Ontario and we are curious about the months to come. I think of plans for July and immediately conjure images of hot and humid days, then remind myself that such weather doesn’t apply to this part of the world at that time of year.

There are also other fascinating discoveries. Two weeks ago, I noticed that the moon phases progress in the opposite direction in the southern hemisphere than in the northern. As someone who follows the moon particularly closely, I was puzzled to see that the moon was waxing from the left to the right side. My delight at this so-called discovery might sound downright ridiculous to others for whom this information is likely common knowledge, but it fills me with inexplicable joy and curiosity. Please do leave a note in the comments below and tell me, did you know about this ‘mirror effect’ of the moon in the northern vs. the southern hemisphere?

A few favourite moments from the past week:

May19b
I was almost knocked off my feet by a wind gust while taking photos near the dunes. I’m at once terrified and fascinated by the ocean on stormy days.
May19c
Beachside treasures that leave me in awe of the wonders of the universe.
May19d
It’s easy to eat the rainbow when delicious vegetables are in abundance at the farmers’ market.
May19e
I adore the whimsical nature gifts that the youngest Wanderlust Junior brings home almost daily. Some of them — ahem, pet bugs — are somewhat questionable, but others are sweet.

Favourites from around the web:

Modern Mrs. Darcy has released her list of 17 books everyone will be talking about this summer. I can’t wait to get my hands on a few of these. Which ones are you looking forward to reading?

A fascinating podcast: Accelerated Learning: Get Good at Anything in 20 hours

Beautiful, honest, and though-provoking. Our Mothers as We Never Saw Them. I have often looked at photos of my mother from her late teens and early 20s and wondered about the woman she was before I changed her world.

We spend plenty of time inside our heads. You Can’t Be Creative without Being in Your Body

Things have been busy on my end. It’s time to return to basics. Today I’ll Press Pause

Excellent advice for the writer. So you want to be a writer? Essential tips for aspiring novelists

Wishing you a beautiful weekend, regardless of the reigning season!

The week in review: May 12th

It’s a rainy and windy day, with a reminder of Autumn. We are spending the evening in hibernation, made more cosy with a few good books, a hearty chickpea stew, and freshly baked brownies for dessert.

A collection of favourite moments from the past week:

DSC_5876 (1)
Delicious kale from a local permaculture garden yielded these perfectly crispy chips.
DSCN7865
More fresh, organic goodies.
May6l_PihaBeachLionsRock
Spectacular Piha Beach.
May7c_interestingtreesatthebeach
Walking along the beach near Devonport, Auckland, I brought my gaze up from the seashell-sprinkled sand toward these beautiful giants.
DSCN7864
The perfect rainy day companions.

Favourites from around the web:

I’m fascinated by neuroplasticity and this article offers interesting insight. Could your thoughts make you age faster?

For the bibliophiles: Reading is Forgetting.

Getting stuff done with the pomodoro technique. Thoughts?

A different take on the Little Free Library. Thoughts?

Wherever your travels might take you this weekend, may it be beautiful in every way!

When opportunity knocks

We had just returned home following a wonderful day of adventure and sightseeing in Rotorua on our eighth day in NZ. On my way to the kitchen to prepare dinner, I sat for a moment at the dining room table and opened my laptop to look up a recipe for salad dressing. Facebook was open in another tab, letting me know of a new private message waiting for me, from a local fellow yoga instructor whom I met on Instagram. Her daughter was feeling unwell and she was desperately looking for a teacher to cover her 5:30 p.m. class at the local gym.

Before I had finished reading the message, a voice somewhere in my head protested, “I’m not ready!” and “I have never led a class at a gym before, let alone in NZ!” It continued with, “What will everyone think of me? I speak with a North American accent and they will immediately think that I’m an outsider who doesn’t belong at the gym. They will surely miss Melissa and might feel annoyed that I came in to take over her class.”

Yogi7

I had worked for years to silence those old insecurities that once kept me tightly bound, holding me back from everything I wanted to do. When an exciting offer would arise, the timid girl would step back into the shadow, keeping her gaze at her feet, afraid to make eye contact with someone who might see her for what she truly is, yet at once also wishing so desperately to be seen, to be recognized. Let it be clear that I have always enjoyed leading yoga classes and have every intention to continue doing so in NZ. I simply did not expect an offer to arrive so soon following our move.

With a deep breath, before I could change my mind, I agreed to guide the class. Mr. Wanderlust happily treated the Wanderlust Juniors to fish and chips for dinner. During the drive to the gym, in a bubbling emotional cocktail of excitement and nervousness, I smiled in gratitude for an opportunity that found me so soon in my new home.

Yogi13a

One of the benefits of being a yoga instructor is that I am able to remind myself to breathe deeply as I guide the class to do just that. As I invite the group to move with awareness, I speak slower, more calmly. I chose to teach yoga to share its gifts with others, to allow them to enjoy the magical effect born from the synergy of the breath and controlled movement. In paying attention to the physical alignment of the clients in the room, I forgot about any insecurities I might have felt earlier. How silly I was to think about perceptions when it was never about me. Instead, I was there to create an enjoyable and rewarding experience for my clients, as I intend to do each time I step onto my mat to face those who have arrived to dedicate a special hour to themselves.

It might not have been the most successful class I have ever led. Later, I laughed at the memory of having cued the group to shift their right foot a few inches to the right-hand side of their mats in low lunge, or to keep their gaze a couple of feet to the front of their mats in Warrior III. I made a note to myself to use metric measurements next time.

Oh yes, there most certainly was a ‘next time’ the following week. Due to circumstances that benefit both Melissa and me, the Wednesday evening class is now a regular on my schedule. I am glad that I silenced the old doubts and fears and said ‘yes’ when presented with a special opportunity. I am also grateful for an accepting group with a great sense of humour, which I can confidently attribute to all the kiwis I have met here to date.

bio2

When was the last time you said ‘yes’ to life while feeling unsure of yourself? How did you feel in the process? What was the outcome? Please share your story in the comments below. 

Thank you for reading.

April 29th: Family. Adventure. Discipline. Home.

After 11 days of sunshine, today is our first rainy day in NZ. I see this as an invitation to slow down the pace following our week-long sightseeing adventures, to stay close to home and take care of a few mundane but nonetheless important housekeeping duties. After all, adventure must be balanced with everyday discipline.

Here are a few of my favourite moments from the past week:

redwoods
Redwoods giants rising above us.
hobbiton
Hobbit-sized clothes on a line.
apr28t
Fluffy clouds on four legs.
hobbit
A beautiful illustrated edition of a beloved book, and a comforting flat white. These are a couple of my favourite things.
beachboy
This boy and his delight at the sight, smell, sound, and feel of the ocean as it beckons.
McLaren Falls
Autumn colours reflected in the tranquil water.

Favourites from around the internet:

Why we make things

For the fellow traveller: Simple ways to feel at home when you travel.

On a similar note to the above. Finding home wherever you are.

For those in the northern hemisphere, 20 ways to savor springtime.

Compelling. Why you should read books you hate. I’d love to read your opinions on this. Would you like to leave a comment below?

Magic and science mingle yet again. Meet the biologist who says trees have their own songs.

Celebrate who you are right now.

Favourite words:

I loved this advice from Helen Mirren on femininity, strength, and the freedom that comes with ageing.

Wishing you a weekend of adventure and/or focused discipline — you choose what you need, then seize it!

Community

Any time women come together with a collective intention, it’s a powerful thing. Whether it’s sitting down making a quilt, in a kitchen preparing a meal, in a club reading the same book, or around the table playing cards, or planning a birthday party, when women come together with a collective intention, magic happens. – Phylicia Rashad

DSCN6324

I have been making a conscious effort to step outside my comfort zone, to reconnect with friends who are dear to me and to become more open to making the acquaintance of interesting people. It doesn’t take long for me to become used to retreating to my home, to spending my days in complete quiet and isolation. Although these habits help me to stay on track with productivity, sometimes it is good to take a break from the seemingly never-ending ‘to do’ list and consciously make a choice to meet a friend for tea and a chat the need for which we did not recognize before but acknowledge as we walk away after the rendez-vous.

I’m not alone in isolating myself. I see other parents at the school, dropping off the children in the morning and collecting them in the afternoon. Sometimes, we stop to exchange a bit of small talk, but rarely do we intentionally carve out time to meet to catch up, to have a real conversation. This comes as no surprise. After all, as parents, our families and careers are our utmost priorities. Yet, in the midst of our dedication, we tend to forget about the world outside our walls, a world caught up in the same routines and similar thoughts and concerns.

Although this might sound obviously true to you, it occurred to me only recently that if I sometimes feel alone and isolated, other mums in the community might also feel that way. Last week, my dearest girlfriend hosted a surprise party for me (more on that later) at which I had the immense pleasure of seeing our beautiful local mum friends looking simply stunning, dressed in beautiful classic outfits and holding flutes of champagne, enjoying the evening in a relaxed and welcoming atmosphere. I was humbled by their presence and the time they took out of their busy schedules to celebrate with me. Together, we expressed immense gratitude to our friend and her generous, caring mother for meticulously planning the evening and flawlessly orchestrating all the details, allowing this incredible community of women to join in one place and share a most unforgettable evening.

My dearest friend is my inspiration for this week to make room for true connection, to trust, to dare, and to get out there to meet a friend for tea, a glass of wine, or a walk in the park. Taking that first step toward making a connection is, I would be prepared to argue, the most challenging part of building a community. Once we make space and step outside our comfort zone, life conspires with us to create its magic. And how inspiring it is to witness!

DSCN6319

Favourite links from around the web:

Audiobooks and the obsession with productivity. I found this fascinating, as I have previously enjoyed listening to audiobooks while out for a walk or painting walls in our house. Reading is a slower, more mindful and intentional manner of enjoying stories, though I am not ready to dismiss audiobooks altogether.

Creative women and success. This subject has been occupying my thoughts as of late.

Book towers. I don’t feel ready to give it a try; however, I enjoyed the well-written essay, and it’s an interesting concept to contemplate.

As always, thank you for reading and sharing this blog with a friend! Wishing you a week of mindful connection!

Renewal

Oh, Spring! I want to go out and feel you and get inspiration. My old things seem dead. I want fresh contacts, more vital searching. – Emily Carr

A few captures from the past week:

knit HP crystalspopcorn (1)

As we welcome Spring in the northern hemisphere, we are invited to reflect on what, in our personal lives, is waiting to be reawakened. What has been dormant throughout a winter of hibernation and a lazy pace?

Last week was the annual spring break for the Wanderlust Juniors, though the weather made it feel more like mid-January with a windy, cold start to the week. We could be found at home, nursing ourselves to good health; I’m still waiting for my voice to return after a bout of laryngitis. In seeking comfort, we turned to the typical old-fashioned — or maybe the currently trendy hygge-esque — wool blankets and mugs of tea with honey, made forts, watched movies while munching popcorn, and crafted. Today, however, I feel ready to return to my routine and renew my intention to create magic.

I am renewing my commitment to sit in meditation for 10-15 minutes in the morning, following my physical practice. Although I love meditation for its soothing quality and as a disciplinary practice, my practice has lately become sporadic. I am ready to reignite the spark of inspiration.

Is there an intention that you are ready to renew? Please tell me about it in the commends below. 

Favourites from around the web:

I am made of equal parts wanderlust and homebody fibres, as is this writer.

Guided meditation from Tara Brach.

Inspiring podcasts.

More on decluttering.

Wisdom from Mary Oliver.

From the archives:

Feeling yoga.

What meditation is really like.

hibernation
“Hibernation.”

Wishing you a week of gentle awakenings and inspiration! Thank you for sharing this blog with a friend.