This year, I learned to accept the days when I don’t feel motivated, tired, or a bit grumpy.

I learned to allow myself to sit with this feeling instead of feeling guilty about it and forcing myself to be productive, socialize, or just get things done. I gave myself permission to just rest, take a long nap, stare at the window, or listen to Owl City’s old albums on repeat. I focused on befriending these feelings and being patient with them, like a lover trying to win the hearts of their loved ones. I knew that these feelings would eventually pass if I allowed myself to sit through them, but these feelings would stay longer if I decided to fight them aggressively. I knew that when these feelings passed, I would have that urge to do, to create, to produce… until the urge dissipated. It’s like an ebb and flow. It’s natural.

This year, I learned to better express my feelings and have difficult or uncomfortable but important conversations with the people around me.

I learned to tell people when I feel hurt or disappointed; I learned to say what I want and need instead of being passive-aggressive about it. I learned to ask for what I think I deserve and feel okay with hearing whatever answer I might get. I learned that it’s okay for me to believe that I deserve better, and just because the other party disagrees, that doesn’t mean they are wrong but also doesn’t mean that I deserve less. I learned to let go of the need to help and be available all the time for everyone because this is impossible. I learned that it was okay if I was not the heroine in the story because every character—no matter how minor—has a function to move the story forward. I allowed myself to admit when I do not have the energy, mental space, or resources to help someone and not feel guilty about it.

This year, I learned not to be conditional in my action.

I learned that I can still choose to be kind, to do my best, to contribute, or to trust, even when it seems like others are not putting in the same effort. I learned that I need to give or do something because I want to, because it feels right, not to expect anything in return or to be perceived a certain way. I learned that at the end of the day, it’s not about what others do or don’t do. It’s about what I would do if I love and respect myself—and what I would do if I love and respect others. It’s not only about how I am perceived by others but also (more importantly) about how I perceive myself. Because at the end of the day, that is what really matters. 

What are some of the life lessons you learned in 2022?

hanny
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Setting boundaries and not letting other people completely drain your willpower, attention, hope, and energy: self-care. Communicating what you need or want clearly, in a calm manner, instead of repressing, denying, or being passive-aggressive about it: self-care. Stop making excuses and start making time to work on your dreams: self-care. Seeking (professional) help when it feels like you can’t keep yourself afloat anymore: self-care. Stop caring about what random people think of you and start caring about how you think about yourself: self-care.

Standing up for yourself when necessary: self-care. Closing or quitting a chapter in your life, career, or relationship that does not align with whom you want to be and how you want to live your life—then preparing yourself for a new journey: self-care. Feeling under the weather, not wanting to do anything, and not feeling guilty about it: self-care.

Moving on: also self-care.
Working on your issues: self-care.
Sorting out your finances: self-care.
Taking care of your health: self-care.
Not taking things too personally: self-care.
Forgiving yourself: self-care.

In the end, self-care is not always about doing the things that make us feel good or give us instant gratification. It’s also about doing the RIGHT thing: something that is good for us in the long run—even if it may feel hard at times.

love,

hanny
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Your journal is not messy.
It’s immediate and spontaneous. It captures your thoughts and feelings in the spur of the moment. It’s without hesitation. It’s flowing freely, quickly, and intuitively.

Your journal is not boring.
It’s practical and simple. It’s straightforward and minimal. It is what it is. It works for you and lets you organize your thoughts and feelings in a way that suits you best.

Your journal is not embarrassing.
It’s private, raw, and honest. It’s uncensored. It’s where you are brave enough to be vulnerable with yourself. It’s your safe space to open up, reflect, learn, and grow.

Your journal is not ugly.
It’s freeing and liberating. It’s full of things you need to let out and let in, full of memories you want to forget and memories you want to remember. It’s authentic and genuine.

Let’s not judge our journal harshly.
Know that it doesn’t need to look a certain way.
Stop determining the worth and preciousness of our journal by comparing it with others.
Our journal is worthy and precious because it is the archive of our thoughts and feelings through every stage of our lives—a mirror of how we’ve grown through thick and thin throughout the years.

It’s us, documented.

hanny
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I believe that we can have our own self-care rituals that can be done at home without having to spend a lot of money. Sure, self-care can sometimes be about treating ourselves (getting that manicure, going on that vacation, staying at that nice B&B); but this is not the only way. Self-care doesn’t have to be expensive. We have other options. It’s not only about ‘the treat’—but also about how we treat ourselves. I believe that self-care is not only about having fun. It also takes discipline and patience—just like how you would care for a plant.

So, here is a list of self-care activities you can do starting today:

1.

Take a long shower. While you are showering and lathering your body with soap, bless and thank all your body parts from head to toe.

2.

Eat when you are hungry. Drink when you are thirsty. Rest when you are tired. Cry when you feel the need to. Listen to your body.

3.

Say kind things to yourself throughout the day. Appreciate and compliment yourself.

4.

Massage your neck, shoulder, legs, upper arms, or other body parts that feel stiff with your favorite massage oil. Wish these body parts well while you massage yourself.

5.

Eat from your favorite plate. Drink from your favorite mug. Write with your favorite pen. Surround yourself with the things you love. Enjoy the nice things you have.

6.

Hug yourself in the morning, under the blanket. Smile when you see your reflection in the mirror as if you’re smiling at a good friend.

7.

Remember to breathe deeply and give your body a little stretch throughout your day.

8.

When you catch yourself comparing yourself to others or talking harshly to yourself, stop and do something else. Jump. Stretch. Do a silly dance. Listen to your favorite song. Go make yourself a cup of tea.

9.

Keep the promises you make to yourself. You deserve to be treated with respect by yourself.

10.

When you close your eyes, stop the temptation to replay past hurts or mistakes. Instead, imagine all the wonderful things you would like to experience in the future.

 

Wishing you a beautiful self-care moment,

hanny
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In August, I attended a friend’s ceramic and illustration exhibition and gasped at her beautiful work: a giant dog and smaller ones, tiny turtles, wonky tulips, green grasses and bushes, colorful snakes. Everything was so cheerful, so playful, so summery! Her exhibition started as her graduation project—where one of her teachers questioned her cute and joyful park. “Where are the drug dealers and the homeless?”

“How did you reply to that?” I asked her.
“Well,” she said. “I told them this is how I remember parks. These are the things I see when I walk on a summer day at the park.”
“It’s your park,” I nodded.

***

One afternoon, this conversation came to mind as I sat at my desk at one of Ubud’s co-working spots. We arrived a few weeks before, from the best Amsterdam summer in years: I was walking around with shorts and sleeveless tops all day, drinking cold water from the fridge and dragging our living room carpet to Vondelpark for a nap.

But the rainy season is coming to Ubud. I wake up to rain and inch out of bed only when the coffee has been served on the terrace, wrapped in a jacket and smelled of minyak telon. I don’t mind this kind of weather. It feels like home.

I haven’t been writing a lot these past two years. I haven’t been sharing a lot as well. I didn’t have the mental capacity to do so. Moving to Amsterdam during the pandemic—with lockdowns and curfews, far from friends and families, didn’t sit well with me. I was sad most of the time. Angry, other times. Small things triggered my insecurities. I wrote in my journals almost every day, and usually, I ended up crying or feeling empty.

So I didn’t write a lot, and I didn’t share a lot. Not because I only wanted to share happy things but because I hadn’t processed my sadness. It was still too raw to share, and sharing it felt irresponsible. I wanted to take it slow, to sit with the feeling until it peaks, transforms, or passes—without feeling like I had to hurry the process.

I read a lot.
I made art and learned how to paint with acrylics.
I filled up sketchbooks.
I even started running (thanks to my persistent and supportive husband).

I cooked daily because food is my comfort, medicine, and security blanket. The stove was busy with pans and pots, the four burners occupied. I made chicken porridge, eggplant rendang, stuffed tofu, Kalasan fried chicken, shrimp with salted egg, liver in sweet soy sauce and margarine, and vegetable dumplings. It was my way of bringing home (or the feeling of home) closer: everything that is nostalgic, familiar, and missed.

***

A few months after I moved to Amsterdam, an editor friend asked me to write a book about living there. When I arrived in Jakarta after two years, she asked me, “What happened with the book?” I said, “I couldn’t do it yet.” I tried many times, but everything I wrote came out angry, sad, and ugly—whereas Amsterdam was depicted as a cold, hostile, and menacing city (it’s NOT!). I was too wrapped up in my sadness that I couldn’t see things objectively, let alone write about it.

Another friend of mine, upon hearing this, told me, “Maybe you can start writing in Ubud. Maybe distance gives you perspective.”

That was when the ‘park’ conversation came to me.

***

Sure, there are many things in the park—and if we’re observant, we’ll see everything during our walks.

Sometimes we need to see things we don’t wish to see and sit with that. To think of what we can do or accept what we aren’t capable of doing (yet). But there are also times when we can choose to capture things that uplift us, things that will make us smile and feel hopeful.

Our mind is a park.
My mind is a park.

grounding at the park,
stepping barefoot on the grass,
look out for dog poo.

—my lousy attempt in haiku.

When my park is dark and stormy, I’d prefer not to have people walk around there. It’s not safe. The trees may fall, the storm may soak you wet, and the wind howls so loud you cannot hear anything. But when my park is lush and sunny, I’ll be happy to have people come over: to smell the flowers, nap under the tree, enjoy a picnic accompanied by the dogs, the ducks, and the birds, or play catch.

And I’ll share the stories about the dark and stormy nights on a warm, sunny day.

hanny
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Jackie Homan wrote an article for @taketinytrips, ‘Rest Is a Right, Not a Reward for Productivity’. I think it’s an excellent article to read, especially if you often find yourself feeling guilty about taking some time to rest or if you’re relaxing after a ‘productive’ day and think ‘aah-I-deserve-this.’

“We all need rest, not because it makes us more productive at our jobs, but because it makes us happier, healthier, more well-rounded people,” wrote Homan.

Naiylah Warren, a staff therapist, said that we could also reflect on our relationship with rest and leisure by asking ourselves:

“What was I taught about leisure and rest?”
“What am I being taught about it now?”

(Those questions could definitely be exciting journaling prompts)

For instance, I remembered being called lazy and useless when I was resting (lying in bed, reading novels, listening to the radio) after school/after studying as a child; of how I was told that if I had enough time to ‘rest’ I should’ve had time to help out with house chores or to continue studying other subjects.

I remembered how it filled me up with so much guilt like I only deserve rest when I no longer have the energy to do anything else.

I realized I internalized these words and thought that I should be (or look) busy, that having spare time was something alerting or… wrong.

At school, when we had a 1-hour exam and I had finished answering and checking all the questions in 20 minutes, I would pretend that I was still thinking or working on it until 5 minutes before the time was up, because, well… what would people say if I handed over my exam in 20 minutes and what should I do in the remaining 40 minutes?

Now I realize that this is ridiculous, but, yes, having ‘spare time’ used to stress me out.

However, as a staff therapist, Naiylah Warren said, “Just as we need food, water, or connection, we also need rest. Rest is not a hobby, it is a biological need, and when we embrace that perspective, it can help us release the guilt or shame we feel when we attempt to engage with it.”

Here are some journaling prompts if you’d like to spend some time writing about it:

  • How was/is my relationship to rest and leisure?
  • Do I feel guilty if I am resting, taking a break, or on vacation? Why?
  • How did my family or community view rest and leisure? What was my experience with rest and leisure back then? How was their approach influence mine?
  • How do rest and leisure contribute to my mood, well-being, and general contentment in life?
  • What kind of feelings and benefits would I like to have from a healthier approach to rest and leisure?
hanny
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Hanny illustrator
Hi. I'm HANNY
I am an Indonesian writer and an artist/illustrator based in Amsterdam, the Netherlands. I love facilitating writing/creative workshops and retreats, especially when they are tied to self-exploration and self-expression. In Indonesian, 'beradadisini' means being here. So, here I am, documenting life—one word at a time.

hanny

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