Thursday, December 29, 2011

Taking a deep breath...

I've now been in Korea for almost a year and in not too many hours we'll be counting down to 2012 - amazing! After the school semester finished, I felt pretty frazzled and ready to collapse and take a looong rest. Now I'm getting excited for the new year. Moving to a different country, starting a new job, looking after children, and throwing my old routine out the window has been tremendously liberating, fun, and adventurous. It was quite a shake up and now I am ready to settle down a bit more and get centered again. This seems like a good time to reflect on the past year and figure out what I want to fit into the new one.

1. Meditating
I used to think meditation was some exotic, unapproachable, mysterious activity that appeared humorous and soundly unnecessary. Then I tried it and felt incredibly good. Taking a few minutes in the morning to clear my head, consciously relax, and slow down my overly busy and cluttered thoughts is one of the healthiest and most energizing things that I can do. If I feel grumpy, stressed, overwhelmed, etc. I know this is what helps me most, but during most of this year I've neglected to take that time. The last few days I've gotten back into it and I feel sooo much better. It's like taking a luxurious bath for my mind haha...ahem, moving on now.

2. Cooking
Before I left Canada, I got pretty comfortable in the kitchen and really enjoyed cooking soups, stews, stir-fries, and dabbling in baking. The last few months have featured very little cooking by me. I have a cute, brand new kitchen and though it is small, there's no reason for it to go unused. It's time for me reclaim the lead role in the kitchen and let the rice cooker step down to an assisting position. I had lots of excuses not to cook much - lack of energy after work, unfamiliarity with the ingredients here, living in an apartment surrounded by lovely and cheap restaurants - but the truth is I love cooking and I miss it a lot. It gives me energy, grounds me, and makes me feel nourished and healthy. It's also just fun!

3. Studying Korean
This is something I must do. I'm no longer a beginner but I'm far from being at a conversational level and I really really want to understand what people are saying all around me. I want to communicate and feel at ease and be more independent. So, my goal is to study every day, even if it's only for a few minutes. One day, I want to have an actual conversation with my boyfriend's parents.

4. Spending time in nature
Living in a big city here is very different from living by the ocean, surrounded by trees and natural beauty. I realize now that I took nature for granted. I could just step outside and breathe fresh air and feel inspired by beautiful ocean views. Parks and gardens and hiking trails were everywhere, so easily accessible. There is plenty of natural beauty in Korea and hiking in the mountains here can be breathtaking. However, it takes more effort to get to the mountains or the countryside. I haven't made enough of an effort this past year and I'm craving nature badly. I live quite close to some beautiful mountains so I will try to actually pay them a visit at least once a month.

5. Exercising
So this is a boring one, but I do feel a lot better when I exercise regularly. During vacation it's not a problem, but it's hard to get motivated after a tiring day at work. So, even if I just hula hoop for ten minutes, do some jumping jacks, or pretend to execute some ballet moves, I will try to fit more conscious movement into each day.

The new year is just around the corner, and I feel excited, energized, and ready to celebrate! Hooray! :-)

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Have a holly jolly cozy Christmas!

Merry Christmas everyone!

In my corner of the world, Christmas was a little strange this year. I kept looking forward to it, yearning and dreaming of magic, perfection, shiny trees, roaring fireplaces, snowflakes, warm hugs, and freshly baked cookies. Then I realized that I was in a different country that doesn't really celebrate Christmas and that my family was on the other side of the world. Then I eventually figured out that half of that sentence mattered but that the first half did not.

Being here has made me think about what Christmas means to me, why I always make it out to be the most important, eagerly anticipated, obsessed over day of the year. A month ago I started looking out for Christmas trees, dreaming of cups of hot chocolate, straining my ears trying to hear Christmas carols everywhere I went. I pointed out decorations whenever I saw them and examined festive looking food at the supermarket. I dreamt of enjoying the perfect, romantic Christmas with my boyfriend. Somehow, none of this felt good or happy or joyful or merry or fun.

So what makes Christmas Christmas? It seems obvious to point out that it's not about the presents, fancy decorations, or department store Santas. It's not the turkey or the mistletoe either, although I do heartily enjoy those things when they are available. It also seems obvious to point out that Christmas is all about being with the people we love - appreciating them, laughing together, eating together, and feeling grateful to have such love and togetherness during the darkest, coldest part of the year.

I couldn't be with my family this year and this made Christmas less Christmas-y. Thank goodness for Skype.

My boyfriend and I are now on vacation and we spent Christmas together, eating donuts and pizza, watching movies, staying warm and cozy, and feeling grateful to have found each other. We didn't have a super exciting, colourful, extraordinary celebration...but I finally realized (and I feel ashamed that this is something I had to realize in the first place) that being able to spend a quiet evening together with the person I love is a gift, and it is all that I want.

Why wait for something extraordinarily perfect to happen when it's already hitting me on the head in this very moment? Why yearn for magic when simply holding someone's hand feels like the loveliest thing in the world? I hope I never take the people I love for granted. I want to appreciate them and enjoy our lives together without ever forgetting how precious and important that is.

Cue hugging time!

Cue the music - All I Want for Christmas is Youuuuuuuu!