The Key to Happiness

A bit ambitious title, huh? Well, it was just meant to be a bit of fun. Obviously I am no expert or some guru who has all the answers. But whenever I learn something in life, I feel the need to share and perhaps even inspire others. So that is what I am doing here.

I will give you the answer I have obtained from my life experience right away. The key to happiness is flexibility. Let me explain. I sometimes get a bit frustrated with all the slogans and pep talks telling to you believe in your dreams and if you work hard enough they will come true. It sounds lovely. But we are not living in a perfect world and if we become too rigid in our dreaming we might end up feeling disappointment and let down. I think it is great to dream! I am a dreamer for sure. I think dreams are the way we envision our talents and gifts being fulfilled in the world, and that is what life is about. But we need to remember that the only thing that truly belongs to us is that which is without physical form. Even our bodies are not our own. They are borrowed and will at some point be given back to the earth. What we do take with us is our love, our lessons, our experiences…So let us focus on these instead of that which has only material value.

Say your dream is to live in a lighthouse. Most people might tell you that that is impossible. But is it really? Perhaps owning a lighthouse is impossible (do we really own anything at all?), but living in one certainly isn’t. There are many lighthouses around the world you can rent. Maybe you can only afford a couple of nights, but if you treat that time as the only thing real at the moment, if you truly live in the “now” and do not obsess over things like forever and ownership, then yes, you have fulfilled your dream.

Another example: say your dream is to travel around the world, but you are 80 years old and not physically fit enough to travel. You spent your life taking care of family and missed the opportunity. Well, it is still possible. You can go on a cruise! On a cruise ship you can sit on the little balcony attached to your room and watch the world go by without moving a muscle! A cruise ship has excellent medical care in case you should need it and bus tours at every port it docks in. Ta-da! Problem solved.

If you keep being flexible like this most dreams are possible to fulfill. You dream of being a grandparent but don’t have any grandkids, well there are a lot of kids without grandparents in the world. So join a volunteer “Grandparents wanted” program or start one yourself! If you dream of being a parent, but can’t have kids or don’t have a partner, adopt! There are so many children without parents. Or if you can’t commit to that, join a program that helps single parents, or assists parents with children in need of extra care, or help out in a children’s home or refugee center. If you want to publish a book, write it and publish it yourself! If you want to be a singer, record a song and upload it to a streaming service. If you want to start a vintage shop, but can’t afford to, source clothes from friends and family or your local thrift shop and set up a stall on the local Sunday Market! If you want to work somewhere, but don’t have the skill set, offer to work for free a couple of hours a week! If you want to live on a deserted island, buy a tent and get a local fisherman to take you out to one of the many uninhabited islands on our planet. If you want to have an art exhibition, start painting and find an abandoned boat house and make flyers to hang in the local supermarket announcing your exhibition, or if you are too shy, simply leave your paintings for Sunday walkers to stumble upon. If you dream of living in a castle, there are castles (for example in Ireland) you can rent, even for just a night. Throw a ball and be the belle you read about in story books when you were a kid!

You get the gist of this. If you learn to be flexible, to live for the moments, the experiences, instead of the illusion of ownership, fame, material gain etc, there is absolutely nothing stopping you from fulfilling every dream you have ever had. You just simply get creative and make it happen. All on your own.

Advertisements

Summer Postcards

Have you ever sailed across the shore along the Archipelago of a white and blue summer country, gliding to a non-existent southern breeze while sails flap lazily in chorus with the persistent cry of fishing seagulls? If not, then you are missing out.

There are always houses snuggled against the shoreline. Little cottages made of wood and painted white or farmer’s red, but always with blue doors. To keep away the witches. Sunbathers and little swimmers wave at you from emerald green lawns or little stone-fixed piers. You will get the feeling of cruising along the rich man’s riviera, but no, people are much too friendly for that.

The ocean stays a constant blue in the low sunshine. A seal or perhaps a miniature dolphin will pop its head up and stare at you curiously. But other than that, it is you and the still blue, sparkling together in the warmth of summer.

Even at night, while you are docked safely to port, the golden sheen will continue to play upon the gilded currents, rocking you to sleep. And nocturnal seabirds will hunt and sing and dive into those golden ripples all night through.

And when you wake from your short, but deep summer night sleep, dawn has already beaten you to it, and is ready to greet you with a spray painted mural of lavender and rose quartz swirling together in a dizzying whisk of pastel hues. All you have to do then is make yourself a cup of strong coffee and drink it all in.

If you are lucky, an islander might invite you to strawberry and cream and a glass of champagne. They are friendly like that, the locals. You just have to give them a smile and a gentle hello. They never intrude on someone’s privacy.

And as you sit there, sipping collector’s champagne in the late afternoon sun, make sure to take a look around. Even animals go away for the summer here, to enjoy the fresh sweet summer grass and watch rainbows and sun showers and make new friends. Just like you. Sit back, relax, and take your time to just be alive, to be with the natural beauty of this quiet summer world and feel content to be just where you are.

Nordic Summer

It is June and the sun has come out. Finally. After eight months of cold, wet, snow and grey drooping skies. The roads have dried up, tanned into a paleness of taupe and stone marble.

Town gardens have sprung to life. Green climbers are cylindering up white picket fences and garden bluebells and peach blush roses lean towards borders of saturated unclipped grass. Lazy cats sleep on outdoor love seats, stretching their fury limbs in the direction of the sun and yawning sleepily at admiring bypassers.

Townspeople have come out of hibernation to drink cold beer in makeshift sidewalk eateries. The temperature has barely reached into the 60s, but the men have bared their hairy chests and women are strutting their white newly shaved legs to the warming sun. Here, neither animals nor people seek out the cool shade in summer, if they did, it would be considered equal to swearing in church. The sun is a rare, highly treasured guest in this part of the world, and we like to think of ourselves as her favorite host.

The seashore turns into an exhibition strip of pale bodies. Young and old shed most of their clothes and give themselves over to the national favorite summer activity: tanning. The brilliant blue sea shifts from black to lapis lazuli to aquamarine in the never-setting sunlight. And the archipelago becomes a playground for sailers, windsurfers and speedboat races in the daytime, and a treasure trove for young crabbers in the pale greyish dusk of the summer nights.

Many first kisses will be made in these long lawless nights. Hearts will be broken, new friendships forged and memories, to warm and sustain in the sunset years, will be made by unsuspecting youth, happily unaware of the passing of time.

Little red wooden cottages dot the shoreline surrounded by wildflower hills and yellow buttercup meadows. Some of them are boathouses, occupied by old fishing trawlers and temporarily by holiday-stay-at-home teens looking for a nocturnal hideaway. Others are aging holiday homes, sole survivors of a simpler time, when second-home owners were rare, and cabins with proper plumbing and electricity even rarer.

Woofing canines, leash-less and playful, prance around garden-style cafe tables, jumping to catch an occasional piece of prawn-and-mayo sandwich before it is snapped up by greedy whining giant seagulls.

And as bright days turn into a little less brighter evenings the smell of hot barbecue and daylong sun block fills the squares and the baked streets. Cover-ups and sleeved blankets hide the day’s work of skin darkening and some relentless, annoyingly repetitive radio summer hit with an irresistible foot-tapping appeal is boomboxing the awkwardness out of the otherwise quiet townies.

Time slows down during these precious sun-rich months in the cold north. Reserved introverted northerners find themselves dizzily drunk on too much vitamin D and transform into loud, half-naked, fun-seeking southerners, basking in the glow of the metamorphosed landscape, as though they were on a tropical island, carefree and uninhibited.

Nordic Summers are as intense and desperate as young couples in love, unfolding as though time did not exist, yet hurrying to blossom as though there was no tomorrow.

Roots & Feet

In old Norse Sagas there is talk about the need for both roots and feet. Somewhere to belong and somewhere to explore. The Vikings thought these were primal human needs.

To me, nature; trees, ocean, mountains, are my roots, and art; music, poetry, literature, are my feet. I need them both to feel complete and fulfilled.