Happy New Year and I hope that you are having a kind January so far. On the 1 January we were sitting in our cozy kitchen staying warm around my favourite old pine table I paid homage to on Instagram recently. We had cracked open a bottle of prosecco and were just about to dig into a scrumptious dish Dave had cooked in the dutch oven we gave him for Christmas. As we merrily clinked our glasses before sipping on our drinks, we went around the table stating our wishes and hopes for the year ahead. Dreams about living well in 2022. When it came to my turn I admitted to the kids and Dave that rather than feeling a great sense of optimism and excitement at the fresh brand spanking new year we had just entered, I was instead feeling rather daunted and apprehensive that suddenly there was this 12 month slate of newness ahead of us, and that felt somewhat scary.
The minutes those words left my mouth Jack looked up at me from across the table;
“But Mom, you must just keep doing what you do everyday!?” he stated.
He uttered this as if it was the most obvious thing in the world, and the quizzical look in those big eyes behind his glasses begged the question – how as the grown up can you not just know this?
And isn’t Jack’s reply to my adult concerns so spot on accurate! For however anxious we are all feeling about entering into a new year, we can all just do the best we can do each day – one day at a time. And sometimes it takes your 9 year old child to remind you of this simple but profound fact – Just keep doing what you do everyday!
Living well in 2022 – why my discomfort?
Over the course of that next week I reflected on my feelings around 2022 and why I was feeling that sense of trepidation. I think a lot of us are naturally feeling a general sense of uncertainty with ALL the world has experienced over the last two years of living with the reality of Covid. We are never quite sure anymore what months will bring. Whether plans we make will actually materialize. Caution and skepticism creep in however hopeful we try to remain. We are so aware that at any moment things can so profoundly change. It’s not surprising that thinking of living well in 2022 was making me feel an element of discomfort.
Personally I could identify that some of my anxiety had to do with us being in a brand new country and having a whole year ahead of us of normal everyday life. We landed in America at the beginning of three tremendously celebratory and busy months – Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas. Big pressing tasks on our hands – a house to find, kids to get into school, a new job to start! Then we had the eight week mission of unpacking two containers of things and doing a major sort out of what we wanted to get rid of and what we wanted to keep. Now that the twinkling Christmas lights are down and the boxes are all unpacked and our house has become a lovely home, there is that feeling of ‘okay what now?’ (Don’t worry the Valentines things are already up in the stores and there are hearts and balloons and teddies everywhere!).
But on a serious note we aren’t sure at this point when we will see our families again. It is our 40th birthdays coming up next month and although we now have some great plans with people we love, on New Years Day I wasn’t sure how our February would look. I wondered at the time if all the big changes we had experienced in a condensed busy patch were catching up to me a bit. My wise friend and wellness counsellor Anne once explained to me the concept of a ‘delayed reaction’ where you go through something challenging seemingly well and suddenly when you least expect it all the stress and the changes you’ve gotten through rear their heads, and I think I was experiencing something like this.
By the next day I did start to feel some of the feeling of possibility that a new year brings. The chance to start afresh with things that may be feeling out of kilter. Although I’m not a big fan of new years resolutions I was happy to to start a few new things like committing once again to juicing vegetables daily and signing up for this financial Frugal Challenge we are now more than half way through. After all the set up costs we’ve incurred recently it has been good to feel like we had more control over what we were spending and to embrace what regular months here are like in that regard too.
January is well underway and I am admittedly feeling far less daunted at the prospect of a whole year ahead of us. I am quite enjoying turning the page of my daily calendar and seeing what beautiful painting the day brings with it. I can vividly recall an advent calendar that I made when I was in preschool that had cardboard shapes hanging on strings, and in the month of December I used felt such glee turning the shape over each morning to reveal the picture underneath it. I have this same joy now making coffee in the morning and placing yesterday in the back of the plastic calendar stand and observing the pretty art of the day. When the caption tells me its a painting at a museum in New York City it still seems so surreal to me that I can go and actually see it! We are finding our daily routines with Dave still working from home until the end of the month and the kids having returned to a full day of school after some weeks of half day.
A while ago I wrote about what moving to New Jersey had been like for our family so far. Having lived here for just over four months we have entered a different phase of being in a new country. Just like our Winter boots are feeling more comfortable and worn in, the same can be said for our everyday lives. When I spoke to my friend Johani last week she told me a lovely Afrikaans saying about shaking potatoes and although we are still shaking ourselves into this new space, place and way of being, days are also starting to feel like normal everyday life. As my friend Carm described it the other day, we are exiting that brand new ‘shiny’ phase and entering a more regular pace of life here. But with that comes more challenging emotions that I had anticipated us to experience and I know these are very normal to feel when you move countries – loneliness, finding your way, missing friends and family. Living well in 2022 means embracing the joy of this new life and the accompanying difficult feelings that arise too.
It is on these harder days that we sometimes need to dig a little deeper and count our many blessings. We are resilient and adaptable and I am deeply thankful to Ghana for teaching us how to live life well in a country that it not the one you are born into. For me, what translates to Jack’s ‘doing what you do everyday’ and living well in 2022, is living with healthy doses of sameness and spontaneity. I feel this applies to whether you have navigating a changed world in the same place (which is where we all are at with Covid!) or a new world in a different place as we are, and I’m sure it is how most of you live your own lives too.
The Sameness – Tapping into comforts that nourish your soul and bring you joy
We all need things in life that are consistent and predictable. Those things that stay the same and can be relied upon to nourish you. Essential comforts you can turn to when you feel upended or stressed. For the first time in many months I am sewing again. I am making a bright yellow Winter dress that screams warm sunshine and I think it will be my 40th birthday dress! Handling the soft textured fabric while pinning it and feeling hand movements that were so familiar to me really gave me a feeling of home, of me being me. In that moment I considered just how strong that feeling of home within me was and how much we need that grounding especially when the world feels changed as it does when you have moved countries.
In Ghana some of my predicable comforts were: our incredible compound garden with tall gentle trees, a pool that was always warm and wonderful friends living all around us. Trips with the kids to Pinnochio icecream which was reliably delicious. Going to the Green Butterfly weekend market. The delicious taste of Mimi’s bread delivery on Thursdays. A Vidya book store visit. Eating Yam chips on the pavement with my kids. Daily neighbourhood walks noticing so much beauty.
Regardless of where our family is in the world things like reading good books, playing the piano, daily walks in nature, staying in touch with friends and family, dinners around our table, writing, watching an episode of a good series at night like The Marvelous Mrs Maizel feel comfortable to me, like putting on a well worn cozy jersey. And lately as I navigate this new year before us, I know I need these things of ‘sameness’ that always feel safe and reliable.
The Spontaneity – Staying curious and saying yes to new adventures
As someone who also thrives on new experiences and adventures, I am very enthusiastic about living life with regular adventures and spontaneous moments too. Living in Ghana – a country so different from South Africa, I felt that everyday there existed an opportunity to explore. Walking the streets of Osu and observing daily Ghananian life was my favourite pastime. There was always something that grabbed my attention and made me want to capture the moment. I never felt bored on those back roads- even five years on.
Visiting the Nubuke Foundation when a new art exhibition was on, and feeling the abundance of peaceful energy that incredible architecture exudes. Only minutes from the thick of Accra traffic but seemingly miles and miles away.
Although some may see this as an annoyance, I also quite liked the experience of ‘you never know what you are going to find’ when it came to shopping in Ghana. Grocery stores were always a bit of a gamble depending on what container had come to the Ghana port. This kept things interesting. And how grateful and excited we were when something we longed for was suddenly on the shelf available to buy! Walking on Accra’s streets is something I miss very much. I miss wandering into Woodin on Oxford Street and admiring the new range of fabric on offer, chatting with my fruit lady and dare I say I even miss being haggled by the persistent sunglass sellers and men selling fresh fish on the roadsides.
We have been playing it safe lately and staying home due to the high number of Covid cases but are committed to exploring our new State and the train trips we’ve made into New York City so far have been splendid adventures, of which we want more! As much as I’m grateful for the chance to discover new places, I know that spontaneous adventures don’t have to be big things – they can be as simple as taking a different route on a daily walk, cooking a new recipe or giving a new hobby a go. Living in a country with such a different climate has brought with it amazing opportunities for spontaneous walks after snowfalls. As I type this I’m watching snowflakes fall to the ground which is really quite mesmerizing seeing how they float with the wind and it reminds me of sprinkling powdered sugar onto waffles.
David and I love trying new recipes from our cook book collection and it’s the only way we prevent cooking feeling like a chore. Lately we have eaten some vegetables in meals that we’ve never tried before like turnips, parsnips and tomatillos. We enjoy the creativity making new meals brings and it injects some spontaneity into our daily routines.
I’d love to hear what Living well in 2022 means to you. Writing this has been a reminder to myself on what makes me feel alive and I know that we will live the months of this year well by ‘carrying on doing what we do everyday’ 🙂 Thanks again to Jack for his reminder and cheers to 2022! I wish you a good balance of sameness and spontaneity in your lives too!