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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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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*) It may not be the cozy-and-comfy self-care journaling prompts you are expecting…

I used to think that self-care means taking the time to do the things that will make you feel good. However, lately, I realized lately that self-care is not only about doing things that will make you feel good; but also about doing things that are good for you; even when initially, they don’t feel good.

Self-care is not always rainbows and marshmallows. At times, taking good care of ourselves can feel uncomfortable, difficult, and challenging. Here are some of my go-to journaling prompts for self-care:

1. WHAT AM I RESENTFUL OF AND HOW CAN I LET IT GO?

Do you feel like you hate something, or hold a grudge against someone? Is there a situation that makes you feel bad, stressed out, or agitated? Is there anything you can do to let it go, even if only a little bit? Maybe by being assertive, communicating your needs, or setting boundaries? Is it something you can or can’t change? Maybe by accepting that you can’t change someone or something?

2. WHICH AREA OF MY LIFE NEEDS A BIT OF TIDYING?

Are there specific areas of your life that feel or look a bit messy? Maybe it feels abandoned, or you haven’t been in touch with it for quite some time. Perhaps one area is too heavy and packed with too many things you have no room to breathe. How can you tidy this area of life a little bit? What can you do for 5-10 minutes a day to do a little clean-up?

3. HOW CAN I TREAT MYSELF AND OTHERS MORE KINDLY?

How have you been treating yourself? How have you been talking to yourself lately? Have you been kind and understanding, or harsh and judgmental? How have you been treating others: colleagues, friends, spouses, family members… are there more ways in which you can treat yourself and others kindly, mindfully, patiently?

4. WHICH BOUNDARIES DO I NEED TO SET? WHAT DO I NEED?

What are the things you wish you could say NO to? Why? Which part of these things you do not like—and how would it impact you in the long run if you do not set boundaries or express your needs clearly? Are there people in your life who always cross your boundaries? What makes them think it’s okay to cross your boundaries? Is there anything you can do to protect yourself, your time, and your energy?

5. WHAT HAVE I BEEN PROCRASTINATING ABOUT? WHAT IS THE ONE THING I CAN DO TODAY TO FREE UP SOME SPACE?

The things that we don’t do (but we know we need to do at some point) take up mental space in our minds. Postponing them is like piling one thing on top of another, and the more things we postpone or delay, the more burden we place onto our minds. It feels like a black cloud that follows us everywhere, hanging low above our heads.

6. DO I FEEL LIKE I AM OWING SOMETHING TO SOMEONE?

This doesn’t always mean owing money.

Maybe we feel like we owe an apology to someone we’ve hurt in the past. Maybe we feel like we owe that quality time of spending a weekend together to our spouse. Maybe we feel like we owe a thank-you to someone who has helped or contributed something meaningful to our lives.

The feeling of ‘owing’ something to someone (also to ourselves!), can weigh us down. It’s something that needs to be expressed but haven’t—and in the long run, it can make us feel guilty or regretful. The act of ‘paying what we owe’ can make us feel lighter.

Maybe you owe yourself a good rest? Nutritious food? That 45-minute exercise? An apology? Or a pat in the back?

7. WHAT WOULD I DO TODAY IF I LOVE AND RESPECT MYSELF?

This is the question I ask myself, again and again, several times a day, to remind me that self-care is not only about ‘loving’ myself but also about ‘respecting’ myself.

It’s not always about doing the things that feel (temporarily) good and easy, but also about doing the RIGHT thing for myself, even if it feels hard.

_______
Photo by Marcos Paulo Prado
hanny
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Several instances (and incidents) in my life have forced me to embrace ‘minimalism.’

When I was little, and my mother and I were still living with my mother’s parents, late at night, in bed, my mother would whisper about her dreams of leaving this house, her parents, our whole family.

“What if we could move somewhere else and start a new life where nobody knows us?” she asked. “We’ll rent a small house. But because the house is tiny, we may only have a kitchen, a bathroom, a table, and a bed. You see, we can’t take everything we have to the new house. If you want to come with me, you can only pack things that you can fit into your school bag. Okay? Think carefully about what you are going to carry with you.”

As a child of eight or nine years old, it sounded like an adventure.

In my mind, all day long, I packed and unpacked my school bag with all the things I would want to carry with me (mostly my favorite novels, pens, and some stationery items). Around the house, I noticed more and more things I wouldn’t mind leaving behind. Every day, I was preparing myself for the night when my mother would tell me that this was the night when we were going to start a new life.

I have rehearsed the ‘fitting-your-life-into-a-backpack’ scenario my whole life.

Around twenty years later, when my mother passed away while I was abroad, I came home two days later realizing that sorting out ‘sentimental things’ that once belonged to hers wasn’t exactly a problem. Upon hearing about my mother’s death, some of my aunts came over almost immediately and took away most of my mother’s belongings they deemed valuable.

My father managed to save a set of jewelry he gave my mother on their wedding day, a gold ring, and my mother’s recipe books that he handed to me. That was when I realized that I didn’t need a lot of things to remember a loved one.

During a 6-month trip to the remotest places in Indonesia on a work assignment, when I had to be constantly on the road and moving from airplanes to cars to motorbikes to boats, I somehow lost my external hard disk. It contained everything I had backed up for the last five years, from past works and portfolios to travel photos and unfinished novels. I learned to let go and move on.

When there was water leakage in my family house (that we didn’t know until it was too late), around 70% of everything I stored in my wardrobe had been ruined by fungus and moths. A few months went by, and I realized that I didn’t need to replace most of them.

When I got married and needed to divide my time between my family house in Bogor, our house in Amsterdam, our second base in Ubud, and my husband’s hometown in Albiate, I got better at fitting all my life into a suitcase: a combination of stuff that would still allow me to work and have fun doing what I love for the next three or four months, from wherever I am.

These instances (and incidents) taught me that things do perish. They can get lost, ruined, or stolen. I know that I can survive and live a good life without the things I have lost or the things I never have. I have learned not to attach too much value to the things I own (or even the people in my life). I don’t open my heart (or purse) to things or people without first reminding myself that I may lose them at any point in my life.

***

I don’t like calling myself a minimalist (partly because I don’t feel like one, yet, and partly because of what most people may assume when they hear the word), but I’d like to say that I am embracing minimalism and being more mindful with my consumption.

In their blog, ‘The Minimalists’ Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus explained their view on minimalism:

At first glance, people might think the point of minimalism is only to get rid of material possessions: Eliminating. Jettisoning. Extracting. Detaching. Decluttering. Paring down. Letting go. But that’s a mistake. True, removing the excess is an important part of the recipe—but it’s just one ingredient. If we’re concerned solely with the stuff, we’re missing the larger point. Minimalists don’t focus on having less, less, less. We focus on making room for more: more time, more peace, more creativity, more experiences, more contribution, more contentment, more freedom. Clearing the clutter frees up the space. Minimalism is the thing that gets us past the things so we can make room for life’s important things—which aren’t things at all.

The Minimalist

***

This month, Mirha invited me to join in as a guest at The Knitting Club—where we talked about the book Essential: Essays by The Minimalists. I wrote down some of my takeouts and thoughts below:

1. KNOW OUR WHY

It is essential to know why we’d like to be minimalists or to embrace minimalism. Is it because we feel suffocated living in a house that is so full of things? Is it because we spend so much money buying things we do not need? Is it because we want to save more money? Is it because we realize that we have five scissors in the house?

I think, first and foremost, we need to be clear about what doesn’t feel right in our lives:

  • What feels excessive and unnecessary?
  • What feels like a burden (physically, emotionally, financially)?
  • What are some of the problems I am facing?

Then, ask ourselves if minimalism can be the answer—or part of the answer—and how. Because minimalism is not a magic pill. It may not be the answer to our problems, and that is okay, too. We just need to know what we need at a particular time and honor that.

In that case, before even decluttering our wardrobe or throwing away stuff, always ask ourselves several times: why am I doing this? How will it help me to do more of the things I want to do and be more of the person I want to be?

2. IT’S A PERSONAL JOURNEY

Some people may feel happy, content, and productive by being a maximalist, so who are we to tell them otherwise?

Minimalism is a personal journey, and it can look different for everyone. It’s not about comparing how little we spend, how empty is our wardrobe, and how small is our house. If minimalism solves some of our problems and can help us to live a better life, that’s great. But if someone we know is a maximalist, or doesn’t feel like minimalism can be beneficial for them, let’s also honor that.

Embracing minimalism doesn’t make us better or less than. It’s our personal journey and our personal choice. If people are attracted to how we live and would like to seek some advice or perspective, that’s great. If they don’t, that’s okay, too.

3. ON MINDFUL CONSUMPTION

I believe that it’s not about not consuming at all, but more about consuming with purpose (why do I want/need this), purchasing pre-loved items instead of new ones when possible, or even consuming without regret and with so much gratefulness (I am so happy with this purchase, it’s something I will cherish all my life!).

On another note, although we may feel like we have stopped buying things compulsively, or don’t go on a shopping spree during Black Friday, I think we also need to check if we are consuming less material things to consume more immaterial things (which is something I am still struggling with). Basically, it’s like replacing one addiction with another.

Here’s a question for reflection: What am I still consuming excessively and why?

For instance, I am still consuming a lot of entertainment (movies, social media, books) and education (online courses, workshops, talks, self-help books). Although it can seem harmless (what’s wrong with educating yourself?), I realized that this obsessive tendency to keep on learning and deepening my knowledge on certain topics has to do with my self-esteem. I feel like I am not good enough or I don’t know enough, so I need to learn more before I can do, create, or share anything.

So, even though we have gotten rid of the material things and bought fewer things, we may still ‘hoard’ other things: memories, feelings, skills, knowledge, money, sermons, unrealized plans… as we discussed earlier, well, it’s a journey. A long journey. For me, this month, I start asking myself how much time I spent consuming and how much time I spent creating/sharing—just to see if I can be more mindful with that.

4. THE IMPORTANCE OF UNLEARNING

Which brought me to the next important takeout: unlearning.

Most of us associate learning with self-development, self-improvement, or even life/career progression. We feel like the path of learning is the right path to take on whenever we feel stuck in life. Probably it’s because we’re so used to it. Most of the time, we are judged or evaluated based on what we’ve learned.

As children, we are praised when we learn something new, or master a new skill.

As adults, in a professional setting, we are encouraged to keep learning and improve our knowledge. During our performance evaluation, for instance, our supervisor may ask something like, “What have you learned this year? What have you learned in this role or on this particular project? Have you learned something new about our industry?”

Sure, learning does hold such an important role in our self-development, self-improvement, or life/career progression. However, what if it is not the only path to get there? What if the path of unlearning is underrated? What are things we have been taught and internalized that actually work against us, or no longer serve us? 

That habit of procrastinating.
That perfectionism.
That belief that we’re not good enough.
That saying that money is the root of all evil.
That tendency to judge people, to assume the worst, to be so hard on ourselves.
That conditioning of attaching our self-worth with our career or financial status.

What are the things we need to unlearn to live a better life and become a better person?

5. FINDING THE SWEET SPOT

Initially, we may want to embrace minimalism because we believe that it will make our lives better; that it will make us a better person. I think that is why it’s essential to ask ourselves THE WHY before embracing the journey. 

Why do I want to do this and how will it make my life better? How may it improve my relationship with friends and families? How can it allow me to live a more meaningful life?

The answer, I think, can serve as a compass to help us navigate our minimalism journey and find the sweet spot when we interact with other people in our lives who may have different beliefs or perspectives.

For instance, at this time of the year, with Christmas and New Year approaching, we’re entering the season of gift-giving. It has become such a cherished tradition in most families that it may cause a dramatic stir when we said we don’t want to give or receive gifts due to being minimalists.

I think in such a case, it’s important to find the sweet spot by asking ourselves, “Is this battle worth fighting? Will winning this battle make my life better, happier, and more meaningful? Will winning this battle improve my relationship with the people around me? Is there another option here?”

When our friends or families insist and it feels too harsh to stop gift-giving altogether, we can tell them the things we would appreciate receiving (“Can you donate to this cause under my name?”) and we can also ask them the things they would love to receive in return. We can ask them to create a wish list—to make sure that we are gifting them the things they have always wanted. We can gift an experience we know they’d enjoy—like an hour at the spa, or a half-day wine tasting. We can also bring them some food they have always wanted to try, or a bottle of wine if they love a good one.

During those instances when someone happens to gift me things I don’t need or like, I remind myself that this gift comes with love and good intention—so I thank both the person and the intention, knowing that I can always donate or offer it to people who may want, need, or like it.

***

Here are a few journaling prompts if you’re considering embracing minimalism:

  1. Which part of minimalism looks interesting/attractive to me?
  2. Why do I want to embrace minimalism?
  3. How do I think it will help solve my problems or help me live a better, more meaningful life?
  4. What feels excessive in my life at the moment?
  5. What are some of the things in my possessions that I feel so strongly attached to? Why? What does it represent? What if I lose those things one day?
  6. What are some of the material things I want to have? (you can create a list of things)
  7. How would I feel if I have those things right now?
  8. How would my life be better or more meaningful by having those things? Which problems will those things solve?
  9. How would my daily life look like if I already have those things? What would I do throughout my day?
  10. Can I actually do some of those things right now even without having/possessing those material things?
  11. What are three of the most beautiful memories or meaningful experiences in my life? Why are these moments beautiful or meaningful to me?
  12. What do I want to do less, feel less, hear less, see less, talk about less?
  13. What do I want to do more, feel more, hear more, see more, talk about more?
  14. What are the three adjectives I would choose to describe my ideal life, a life I aspire to live/experience?
  15. If I need to pack my life into a suitcase and I have to live out of that suitcase for one year, what will I carry with me?
 
What’s your take on minimalism? Are you embracing minimalism in your life? What are some of the challenges you’ve been facing? Do you have some lessons about embracing minimalism that you can share?
hanny
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I get this question a lot, in varying degrees. 

Sometimes, it can also come up as:

  • How can I develop journaling as a habit?
  • How can I journal every day?
  • How can I find the time to journal?

To answer these questions, I believe it’s essential for us to know these three things:

1. DEFINING OUR EXPECTATIONS

What do we expect from developing a journaling habit? What kind of changes or improvements would we like to see once we are journaling consistently? How would our journaling practice help or benefit us?

Answering these questions will help us to understand what we need from our journaling practice. 

For example, do we expect journaling to allow us to be more creative? To keep memories or life lessons? To resolve issues? To express or process emotions? To organize our thoughts? 

Knowing what we would like to experience from our journaling practice—and the benefit we may get from it—will help us find the time and motivation to do our journaling practice. 

We will want to be consistent with our journaling practice if we know that it will be rewarding—whatever that ‘reward’ may look or feel like.

2. MAKING IT FEEL GOOD

My favorite yoga teacher, Adriene Mishler, always encourages her students/viewers to find ‘what feels good’ while doing their yoga practice. 

The same goes for journaling. 

Journaling can feel hard when we’re comparing our journaling process, our frequency of journaling, or our journal, with others.

Because someone writes three journal pages every morning, we think we need to do that, too. 

Because someone posts aesthetic journal pages decorated with washi tapes and collages, we think our journal pages also need to look like that. 

Because someone is adopting the bullet journal technique, we think we need to start doing that, too.

To be consistent with our journaling habits, we need to focus on our own expectations and find what feels good—for us. 

Thus, ask ourselves:

  • What feels kind, enjoyable and comforting? 
  • What makes journaling feels light and breezy?
  • What works?

When journaling feels heavy, takes too much time, or gives us too much hassle, it is no wonder if we find it challenging to be consistent with our practice.

3. JOURNALING WITH KINDNESS

With everything that is going on in our lives at the moment, how much time can we spare for our journaling practice—that wouldn’t feel like a burden?

One minute per day will do. Three minutes per week will do. Thirty minutes per month will do. Writing in our journal every morning is great. Writing every other day is great. Writing every other week is also great. 

Treat our journal as a kind and friendly companion. Know that our journal is patient and non-judgemental. 

If we break our journaling habit or have a falling-out for a month or two, it’s okay. We can always get back to it: we can always pick up our journal and our favorite pen, and we can always start again where we left off.

Release the guilt from not being able to show up for our journaling practice. 

Instead, celebrate every time we sit down on our desk, on a train, in the waiting room, at a cafe, on a park bench—simply writing our heart out.

***

Why do you journal or keep a journaling practice?

How does your practice look like?

What works for you?

hanny
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I was thinking about quitting Instagram at the end of July, but I haven’t. However, I did take a break from it in August (only spending a few minutes a week posting Stories and liking some posts/updates from the people I follow), and apparently, it gave me enough time to read.

If you’re curious about the books I read during my Instagram break:

  1. The Vanishing Half by Britt Bennett
  2. The House in the Cerulean Sea by T.J. Klune
  3. The Secret Life of Church Ladies by Deesha Philyaw
  4. Elevation by Stephen King
  5. Imaginary Friends by Stephen Chbosky
  6. Death in Her Hands by Ottessa Moshfegh
  7. Piranesi by Susanna Clarke
  8. People from My Neighbourhood by Hiromi Kawakami
  9. The Member of the Wedding by Carson McCullers (I love her writing!)

 

I found it impressive (and rewarding!) to have so much time to read when I am not thinking about what to post next on Instagram and trying to fit ‘sharing content’ on my schedule. This might be one of the reasons why I didn’t enjoy the platform that much: that constant pressure from the algorithm to churn more and more content was tiring.

A recent post from my dear Clara Devi, however, made me rethink that sentiment.

About haven’t been updating her blog for quite some time, she wrote:

"Here's a verdict: nobody expected me to be perfect, apparently (where have I been?). Nobody thinks of giving me pressure (except myself), and zero question is being thrown regarding why I let my blog stay aloof in the passing eight months (now nine). People are just super kind and supportive and chill. It IS the privilege that I should be thankful for."

Clara Devi, Lucedale.co

She is right. It isn’t about the changing algorithm.

It is more about the pressure I give myself to let the algorithm dictate my relationship with Instagram, with the platform.

It’s something I don’t care too much about when it comes to my blog: I see this blog as my own private space, where I can write about whatever I want without worrying about SEO or page rankings. I feel like I can always type something—anything, so spontaneously and I can take a break or go on a hiatus whenever I feel the need to.

I am happy enough to keep this blog as a cabinet of curiosities where I document my life, a place where I’ll keep on writing and posting entries even when there’s nobody here commenting, liking, or reading it.

And I realized that I want to have this kind of relationship with Instagram or whatever platforms I want to experiment with in the future.

***

So, I’ve been reading a lot during my break, and I’ve been writing a lot as well—revisiting my writing practice—and strengthen my muscle to work on a longer narrative piece. And, oh, a piece of news to share: the poem I wrote last year was published in an Italian poetry journal, the 29th edition of Antologia del Premio Internazionale, Centro Giovani e Poesia Triuggio (Prometheus, 2020).

The poem was originally written in English and titled ‘Language School for Strangers’ (the title of the translated poem is All’inizio—’at the beginning’).

Here’s the English version for you to read:

LANGUAGE SCHOOL FOR STRANGERS

At first,

the racket of separation;

of a life packed across the ocean;

of dreams set into an unexpected motion.

[ porto. documento. punto di controllo. ]

A week,
the silence of cardboard boxes piled on top of one another,
the barely-there hum of a second-hand refrigerator;
the not-so-temporary matter.

[ farmacia. stazione di polizia. scuola. ]

A month,
the resonance of a faraway life;
of roots severed with a knife;
of letters and comfort blankets that never arrived.

[ sono. sei. siamo. ]

Three months,
the rhythm of fears and many failed starts;

of worries and not fitting in for the most parts;

of slurs that lurks and, at times, barks.
[ dove. perché. come. ]

Six months,

the distant whirl of a shy hello;
the shriek of coming in contact with snow;

the way the winter sun casts a neighbor’s house in a soft shadow.

[ fare. avere. stare. ]

A year,
the way Hellen Keller first spelled W-A-T-E-R;
the explosion of meanings, letter upon letter upon letter;
you sew the words, and the sentence rolls with laughter.

[ ascoltare. mangiare. amare. ]

***

I’ve been back to Instagram these days, posting more snippets from the behind-the-scene of my life, spontaneously. I may go on another break or hiatus some of these days, then I may pop back up. A friend of mine told me that I am somewhat ‘elusive’, and maybe she was right. Some weeks I may be around, and some other weeks I may be retreating into my woman’s cave, preparing things to share into the world slowly, gently, without the rush.

Clara is right.

I have the privilege of not having to treat my blog or my social media platforms as a work thing, and I am thankful for that. I just need to remind myself from time to time that it is okay to carve a space and a schedule of my own. That sharing is not supposed to be a burden or a responsibility.

It’s supposed to be fun and exciting; like that feeling when you’re about to reunite with an old friend after some time, full to the brim with the enthusiasm of spilling the stories, giddy to listen to what they’ve been up to.

I need to remember that feeling.

And I hope you’ll be that friend 🙂

hanny
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From time to time, we may find ourselves asking, “What is my life purpose?”

Some of us may be able to answer that immediately, some of us may not.

There were times when I thought I have found it: the answer to my ultimate life purpose–but then I looked into it closer, questioned it and I wasn’t sure anymore. So I searched again.

It became an infinite loop I could not escape.

I used to think that knowing my life purpose would be the key to deal with those times when my life seemed too calm or too chaotic (never truly satisfied, are we?). As if knowing the answer would give me all the assurance, motivation, inspiration, and permission to march through life, knowing for certain where I’m going and that I’m taking the straightest path to get there…

I almost forgot that in 2014 I learned about how we’d never find “the ultimate answer” because no matter what, we’d always have another question to ask.

That’s why in my January newsletter I told you that I just wanted this year to be the year of play: the year to explore, to reconnect with my curiosity, playfulness, and excitement, to do the things I want to do without worrying too much about what will come out of them.

A few days ago, while washing dishes, my mind went to one afternoon a long time ago, when I was still working full time. We were in one of our weekly team meetings at the office and we were talking about ‘role’. We were asking each other, what role would we choose in the office, if that role had nothing to do with our job titles, tasks, or functions.

Someone said, he’d be the clown, making people laugh with his jokes and funny impressions.
Someone else said, she’d be the decorator, making things look neat, pretty, and artistic.
Someone said, he’d be the problem solver.
Someone said, she’d be the cheerleader.
Someone said, he’d be the dreamer.
Someone said, she’d be the devil’s advocate.

“What role would I be happy to play in life today / this week / this month / this year / at this stage of my life?” 

When I think about it, this question feels lighter and more playful than what-is-your-life-purpose, but it can also give us a hint about where we may wish to go.

What role would you be happy to play in life?

What role would you choose for yourself at work, at home, at school, among friends, that had nothing to do with your assigned function, expectations, duties, or assumed responsibilities?

What role would you not mind filling?

When I asked this question to myself the other day, it was funny that what came to mind immediately, was serving food.

I have always felt a strange pull towards kitchens, cooking, and food, as you can see here and here.

I guess what I love about serving food is that warm and fuzzy feeling of making or preparing something for others and seeing them enjoying the things I make. It’s a lovely feeling to see the immediate impact of ‘serving’ and the experience of sharing: to see someone’s hunger is finally satiated, to get someone’s appetite back, to share stories upon rows and rows of pans and plates and bowls, to come out of of the interaction feeling full, nourished, and satisfied.

Funny enough, if I choose to see ‘serving food’ as a metaphor for what I do: writing, drawing, creating content, or just being present in life in general–I can see how the role is still somewhat valid.

So, for the time being, I’ll be playing around with this role.

Let me know what role you’d happy to play this year!

P.S. If you’re a lover of zine and cats and all things handmade with love, you may want to subscribe to Koran Bulan, a digital zine by @hairembulan, or get some lovely handmade stuff she made at @pondokserbaaneka or order her embroidered linen clothes at @SunandMoon.id – while doing this, you can also help her to care for some rescued cats. Read the story about the latest rescued cat, Yin, here.
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There were (and will be) times in life when ‘gratitude’ feels hard. I guess it’s only human.

Despite knowing the benefits of gratitude, we also know that knowing what to do is one thing, while actually DOING IT is another thing. It can be hard to feel grateful when we’re going through rough patches, although this is probably the time when we need the ‘attitude of gratitude the most’.

So, during those times when I sit down to write my gratitude for the day and it feels somehow difficult (or I keep repeating the same things to be grateful about without really feeling it), I do this instead:

I begin by acknowledging the things that (I think) don’t go well in my life at the moment, and then I work with these prompts in my journal (or say these things in my mind):

1. “But at least, at the moment, I don’t have to worry about _______. So, thank you, for _______.”

2. “But, maybe it’s not THAT bad, because at least I _______. So, I’m grateful for _______.”

3. “However, today I can still _______. So, thank you for _______.”

I realize that framing my ‘gratitude’ this way, makes it feel easier. At times, it even feel more genuine, more relevant, and more immediate.

Let’s see one of those prompts in action:

“My flight is delayed for 3 hours, but maybe it’s not THAT bad, because at least I can spend my time working from here. Thank you for I still have work! And that my laptop is fully charged. And I’m grateful for this waiting room, with its free Internet access, with the AC working well, the plugs for recharging, and oh, thank you for those coffee shops nearby; so I can grab a cup of latte when I want. Wow, I’m grateful that I have more than enough money to buy a cup of latte…”

I find these prompts helpful to let me ‘roll’ into the ‘attitude of gratitude’ even if I started out by acknowledging my fears, worries, or difficulties.

As I write/think the next sentence, and the next, and the next, I can feel how each one gives my mood a tiny uplift.

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>>> Click here to download my morning journaling prompt <<<

I have always considered journaling as a private and intimate practice. I have always been writing in my journals since my childhood days, writing my thoughts, feelings, and dreams. It wasn’t until recently that I started to share some pages of my ‘art’ journal online… and I have been lucky enough to find a community of kind people who are interested in journaling as much as I do.

However, I wouldn’t deny that being exposed to many people who journal in many different ways, with different supplies and notebooks and favorite tools is a slippery slope. If we’re not careful, it’s so easy to fall into the comparison trap. Suddenly, we are confused about our ‘journaling style’. We don’t have the right notebook. Or pen. We don’t have those lovely stickers or stamps. Suddenly, we want more, we want to buy more. Journaling practice becomes a burden, a reminder that we’re not good enough, or we don’t have enough.

I am not immune to those feelings, of course. However, I tried to ‘catch’ myself from time to time, by asking some questions that can help me gain clarity about my journaling practice and my personal connection to it. After all, journaling is a personal journey. We need to find something that feels good and kind, something that works for us.

So, I’d like to invite you to join me in this 9-minute journaling practice to ask ourselves some questions about journaling. I hope, this can help you gain more clarity about your connection with your journal and your journaling practice.

As much as I love to share some pages of my daily/art journals on social media, I also have some private journals that I keep strictly for myself. For me, it’s about finding balance in what you can share and what you can’t, and about not having to feel stressed or burdened by your journaling practice.

Journaling should be something relaxing and soothing, don’t you think?

Do you have any similar experiences? I would love to hear from you 🙂

Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash
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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.

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