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To love what you do and feel that it matters—how could anything be more fun?
Katherine Graham

To honor 10/10/10, I created my five-year-plan i.e. the Time Capsule. I started writing my Time Capsule by writing my name and the date five years from now in the middle of a blank sheet of paper. I’m totally a mind map kind of person, so the format was a no-brainer. I didn’t really want to focus on practicalities at all, so I started with a basic question – what do I want to fill my days with in five years? The answer consisted of four key verbs that became the nodes of my mind map and a series of four posts.

The first three nodes were the red one and the green one, and the orange one. The fourth and final node became the pink one.

A bit more than a year ago, I first encountered Barbara Sher’s brilliant book, Wishcraft. Towards the beginning of the book, there’s a simple exercise: write down twenty things that you love doing. They don’t have to be grand or lofty – if you’re stuck at nineteen, make the last one be “eating ice cream”.

I completed that exercise right then and there, and among the things I loved were (as far as I remember) “improvising”, “singing”, “knitting”, “doing Shiva Nata”, “having coffee with friends” et cetera. As I read my list, I realized that there was a shortage of those things in my life during the time. However, the realization came and went as fall turned to winter and my todo-list filled up at and outside work.

I came across Wishcraft again a few months ago, after having forgotten the name of the book (I hadn’t downloaded the free copy but rather read it off my screen) and finally managing to find it again. (Note to self: if you do exercises that feel borderline life-changing, make sure you write the exercises in a notebook or a journal, not separate sheets of paper, and for heaven’s sake include the source! 🙂 ) As I read the book, a thought started to emerge within: could it indeed be possible to align my life in such a way that most of the things I love be included?

I’m a realist in the sense that I don’t imagine getting a fat paycheck every month for just sitting in a cafe and chatting with my friends. I also flinch at the mention of the word “monetize”. However, I also flinch at the thought of having a job where every day is a depressing swamp to push through before “real” life begins at the stroke of five. If I’m aware of the things I love spending time on, I can make conscious choices about jobs to apply for and channels through which to contact people for freelance gigs.

Doing what I love for a living is just one part of the equation, though. In five years, I want to have time to spend with people I love, too. If that means forgoing huge paychecks (since, you know, the Arts majors always get the highest salaries 😉 ) that would involve round-the-clock hours, then so be it. For instance, I’m planning to stay home and take care of our daughter for at least another six months as I finish my MA thesis, and possibly after that as well. We could find a day care for her if I really wanted to go and earn a second income, but so far I’m (quite selfishly, in fact) prioritizing the time with her over a few hundred euros extra per month. However, if an opportunity arises for me to take a few teaching gigs or translation jobs while mainly staying at home, all the better.

Spending time with the ones I love includes spending time with myself, too. My brain knows the whole deal about taking care of yourself so you can take care of others, putting on your own oxygen mask and so forth. Still, it’s ever so easy to forget that it’s actually really important. I’ve been journaling almost every night for months now, and I’ve also been trying to reincorporate Shiva Nata into my routines, as well as yoga. In five years, I hope, I will be able to say “I love myself” without the slightest bit of irony, sarcasm or doubt.

After creating the original Time Capsule mind map, I read a fabulous book by a former Special Needs Educator (in Finnish) recounting her experiences of children who were mistreated by the school system one way or another. The further I got in the book, the more I felt that this, too, is something where I want to contribute. There are children in every school who need love, appreciation and acceptance. I want to spend some part of my career providing those things to children, and helping them provide those things to each other. As a drama teacher, I will have an exceptional opportunity to strengthen the students’ skills in empathy, listening, positive feedback, acceptance and general communicative skills. That, to me, is a wonderful way of spreading love in this world.

Reflections on the whole Time Capsule process

Making the Time Capsule was a spur-of-the-moment thing, as was blogging about it. As it turns out, though, a lot of the thoughts required some percolating before they became blog posts. It was interesting how effortlessly the four nodes and their sub-nodes emerged on paper as I first started doodling the Time Capsule. And as I wrote each post, I was surprised how much sense it all made (at least in my head if not in writing), how many levels of connectedness there were between the nodes.

The original, physical mind map is in an envelope in our bookshelf, addressed to me to be opened in five years. However, the process of mapping out my ideal future opened a lot of things in my present, too. For instance, after realizing how much I crave creativity in my life, we brought in my husband’s old keyboard that had been in storage. I don’t play the piano yet, but the simple fact that it’s in our living room reminds me to play every now and again. Realizing how much I want to teach has motivated me to speak up about my Shiva Nata in Finland project to friends who might be interested.

In general, framing my life in terms of these four verbs today will help motivate me to get more done – if I think of my MA thesis as being a creative work that’s aimed at teaching and helping people, not a necessary evil, I’ll be much more driven to put in the hours.

It seems that by looking into my ideal future for the qualities I want to experience right now, I’ve been able to inch my life towards that ideal future. Huh. Imagine that. 🙂

Thank you so much for stopping by again! I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments, so you’re more than welcome to leave one. Have an insightingful holiday season!

Love,

Sari

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All the world is a laboratory to the inquiring mind.
Martin H. Fischer

Being the mother of an infant is fascinating. Thanks to the Finnish parental allowance system, I have the opportunity to stay at home for the major part of her first year of life, and observe how she makes sense of the world. The rate at which she learns things is flabbergasting. And as a future educator (and a student working on my MA thesis) I can’t help but draw generalizations.

Case in point: the pacifier

For a few months now, our daughter has accepted the pacifier for what it was meant to do – soothe and pacify without the element of feeding. Now that she’s slowly getting the hang of using her hands, she’s started to grab her pacifier and investigate the mechanics of the object closer.

For those of you who haven’t handled a pacifier in a while, it’s not a complex object. There’s a rubber (or silicone, in our case) nipple, which is the part that goes into the mouth – traditionally speaking. On the other side, there’s a round button-like “handle” with a picture on it. And on the sides, there is a plastic flat edging in a kind of four-leaf clover shape, so the child won’t slurp in the entire pacifier. In other words, there are five different bumps on the pacifier in addition to the “part that goes in the mouth”.

Guess how many ways there are of putting a pacifier in one’s mouth? Or rather, guess how many ways our daughter has come up with?

See, the “handle” part of the pacifier, directly opposite to the nipple, is perfectly sized so that when her gums are itching from teething, she can gnaw on it. If we try to help (and I use the word in very broad terms) and turn the pacifier the “right” way around when she’s doing that, she’ll take it out and turn it back around. As in, “You guys, don’t come and tell me how I should be enjoying the pacifier!!”. 🙂

That’s creativity for you.

As she was winding down for a nap just a few moments ago, she clearly started to practice putting the pacifier in her mouth the “right” way around. For a nap, she does prefer the pacifier the traditional way around. 🙂 She kept taking the pacifier out, eyeing it very carefully, and then bringing it back to her mouth.

The wrong way around.

The right way around, but letting go too soon.

The right way around, but not grabbing it with her lips before it fell away.

Grabbing my hand as I took the pacifier handle and moving my hand as a crane to aim the pacifier in her mouth.

Over and over again.

My attempts to help went completely unappreciated. 🙂 The circle of trying – failing – getting frustrated – trying again – failing – getting really frustrated kept repeating, until she totally lost her cool and started crying. At that point it was okay for me to give her the pacifier, hold her close and let her fall asleep.

It’ll be interesting to see how long it takes for her to be completely at ease with handling the pacifier and being able to grab it when it falls and put it back in two seconds. When she’s there, I doubt either of us will even remember the learning process. It will just feel like she’s always been able to do it.

But that’s not the case. Every single skill she has is the end result of a relentless process of experimenting, getting feedback (at the moment mainly physical), taking corrective action based on the feedback and experimenting again.

And again.

And again.

Why does it feel like it comes naturally, then? Well, for one reason, all she does all day, every day, is experiment. Every single encounter with the surrounding universe is an opportunity to experiment, get feedback, and adjust accordingly.

The other reason is that we, her parents, go through this exact same process all the time, too. We interact with the baby, get feedback (e.g. giggles = yes!, crying = I’m uncomfortable, and a multitude of other responses), and adjust our behavior accordingly. And we don’t remember the learning process, either.

This is also the reason why it’s pretty exhausting to be home with an infant – whenever she’s awake, we’re both learning, and that takes energy.

I’m so glad you could tune in again! I’d love it if you shared your own experiences or insightings on the topic!

Love,

Sari

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Gratitude

Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it.
William Arthur Ward

It’s easy to get stuck feeling wretched about things you don’t have. It’s even easier to take things you do have for granted. So I’ll try to do a gratitude exercise here, out loud, to get things flowing again.

A New Home

I’m grateful that we have a new, beautiful home. There’s still some arranging left, but we’ve been living here for a bit more than a month, and it’s slowly starting to feel like home.

I’m grateful that we’ve been able to have friends over even though the place is not yet ready. We were able to welcome an overseas friend for three nights at fifteen minutes’ notice. My fiancé has been loving the chance to cook for our guests.

My Friends

I’m so grateful for my friends who threw me a fabulous surprise bachelorette party last weekend. The greatest thing about the party was the fact that they’d thought of what I’d enjoy and then made it happen. I’m also grateful for the chance to tell them how much I enjoyed their company and all their efforts.

I’m grateful that I have so many friends who want to be a part of my life, even though I don’t get to spend as much time with them as I would in a perfect world. I’m grateful that I can be there for them when they need me, and that they appreciate my friendship.

Love

I’m grateful that I’m marrying the man I love in three weeks. I’m grateful that we’ve found each other and that we have a connection unlike anything I’ve ever experienced. I’m grateful that my parents adore him, his parents like me, and our mothers have become good friends.

I’m grateful that we’ll have the chance to throw our loved ones a party to celebrate our marriage. I’m grateful that we’ll get to see our friends and family and share our wedding joy with them. I’m grateful that I’ve had the opportunity to plan a wedding.

You

I’m grateful that you’re reading this. It means you might be resonating with me on some level. I hope my gratitude is contagious, and that you find things in your life to be grateful for. I’m grateful for the fact that here, in this blog space, I don’t have to try to be anything other than who I am.

Thank you.

I’d love it if you shared your own sources of gratitude or other associated ideas in the comments – and until next time, keep catching your insightings!

Love,

Sari

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Never ruin an apology with an excuse.
Kimberly Johnson

Apologies and excuses

A few days back, I and my fiancé had a conversation where I said something abrupt. He was offended, but I felt I had not been out of line, because, you know, something and something else. I forget the exact phrasing, but the bottom line was that I was making excuses. The situation started to escalate, in other words we started to dig deeper into what I said and what he said and what happened and why.

The thing that defused the situation? He asked me why I didn’t say “that sounds like…” instead of the “I thought you…”, and I answered that  I didn’t realize it was that specific thing that bothered me. I managed to dig out an “I’m sorry that I was so abrupt.” His response? “You’re forgiven.” And that was that.

When I think of a similar situation with the roles reversed – i.e. I’m the one who’s offended by my fiancé’s abrupt words – it makes perfect sense that the apology would do the trick. If I’m offended, I don’t want to hear how I’m in the wrong getting offended in the first place.

Instead, I want to hear that the other person did not want to hurt me, that they know what ticked me off, and that they feel bad about making me feel bad. A good way to accomplish that is a sincere apology.

Why was it so difficult, then, to apologise?

One, I didn’t want to admit that I had communicated in a non-constructive way. I was tired and hungry, and we were talking about something very personal where a lot was at stake. I didn’t have it in me to admit that I was wrong.

Two,  from my point of view my argumentation was logical. However, while I was concentrating on my logical argumentation, I failed to listen to my fiancé’s emotions. He was offended, and he had every right to be offended. He had to say it very explicitly before I noticed it. I was focusing on myself, not on the other person.

In other words, I was on my “me me me” -horse and forgot the central rule of impro (that also goes brilliantly with any other communication): help the other person as much as possible. Listen to her, focus on what she’s saying and how, and the rest of the communication takes care of itself. 🙂

Shiva Nata workshop!

Last week, I taught my very first ever Shiva Nata workshop. The crowd was massive – two people and myself. However, we managed to look at spirals, both horizontal and vertical, and go through the logic of level 1 sequences.

We also did a few mirror images and transquarters, so the participants would have an idea of how Shiva Nata eventually links every hand position with every other hand position.

I realized that in a thirty minute session, we would barely manage to scrape the surface, so I prepared a handout. 🙂 True teacher style there. As far as I know, that handout is currently the only existing Finnish material on Shiva Nata. If you want me to email the .jpeg to you, pop me a comment! (You probably don’t want me to publish your email, so I’ll edit it out before I approve your comment…)

The fun part about drawing up the handout was that I really had to think about what’s fundamental. What do I want to convey in the thirty minutes we have? What do I want to include so the participants don’t run screaming at the sight of Frankenstein’s Handout? What do I have to include so the participants can continue on their own after the session?

Teaching the workshop was fun! I had slight difficulties in reading the numbers from right to left. What helped, though, was that I had originally slacked off with reading the numbers out loud, so I wasn’t really used to reading them one way or the other anyway. Neil’s advice about reading the numbers helped, too.

I had to think of a beam of light going from right to left to really visualize the position of my hands and to be able to read them out, but I didn’t screw up as many times as I expected to. In the context of Shiva Nata, I should probably be disappointed with this. 🙂

I’m fairly enthusiastic about teaching another workshop. Even more so since there were several people who told me they really wanted to come to the workshop but had to attend meetings and lectures and such instead.

It’s spring in Helsinki. I wore my spring coat and summer heels today. Life could be worse, all things considered. 🙂

Thank you so much for stopping by, feel free to hang out in the comments and share your own tidbits!

Love,

Sari

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Labels are devices for saving talkative persons the trouble of thinking.
John Morley

On the other day, I was having a conversation, and the other participant was talking about a person they know who is quite short: “I could start calling him big guy. You know, so that someone would.”

I really didn’t like that idea, and I started wondering why that was.

The distorted mirror

On the other hand, I do understand the emotion behind the joke. It links back to the play signals and trust aspect, at least in my mind. Depending on who you’re joking around with, the boundaries of the jokes may be quite flexible, and if all participants trust each other enough, the jokes can get quite harsh and no-one is insulted.

On the other hand, though, that kind of joking – focusing on a distinct physical, social or mental feature – is like putting a distorted mirror in front of the person. In your words, they hear themselves as nothing but that single attribute, and chances are they’re very aware of having that attribute already.

If all you ever show them of themselves is that distorted, one-tracked picture, they’ll pretty soon start thinking you see them as that person. They may even start thinking they are that person.

This is one of the reasons why teachers need to be very careful when labeling their students as smart, lazy, uninterested, stupid, well-behaved, or something else.

When the student, especially a child or an adolescent, hears their teacher tell them they’re stupid or lazy, or smart and hard-working, they might respond by becoming what is expected of them anyway.

On the other hand, even if the teacher never says the label out loud, it affects his or her own thinking. When looking at the “smart” kid, it’s difficult to believe he’d do anything mischievous, since he is so, well, smart. It’s a lot easier to blame the “uninterested” kid, regardless of whether or not they actually did anything.

The teacher might not even see all the mischief the “smart” kid gets up to, because their mental filter more or less blocks out any causal relationship between hassle in class and the “smart” kid.

You mean teachers don’t sleep at school?

In social relationships, labeling has slightly less dramatic consequences, because the difference of authority and power is smaller than in a classroom. Nevertheless, labeling your friends as “the single guy”, “the party girl”, “the arts student”, “the tech student”, “the jock”, “the shorty”, “the fatty”…  Well, it leaves you with a bunch of pretty slim social relationships.

Everyone is a complex, multi-faceted person. Duh, right?

I and my friend, who plays in the same band I do, have been considering writing a satirical song in the vein of so many female artists. You know, the song about how, like, complex and, like, full of contradictions I am as, like, a person. Uhhuh, as opposed to, what, the simple, one-tracked and logical people that the rest of us are? Give me a break.

We tend to think of other people as far less complex than we are, and to me that’s pretty normal. We only see a fraction of what’s going on in their life compared to the entirety of our own life we’re participating in.

However,  it’s pretty naive to assume that just because I only see the teachers at school, they don’t have a personal life. Or that if a friend doesn’t bring a date to a party, they’re desolate and desperate to find a relationship. Or if they’re an arts student they suck at math.

Labeling, mental and spoken, does just that, though.

Another balancing act

It’s really a question of balance, like so many things in communication.

With “the big guy” case mentioned in the beginning, the two people don’t interact daily. They meet once or twice a week, and of that they don’t spend a lot of time communicating. If this person had started calling their friend “big guy” once or twice a week, that would pretty much have been the entirety of their communication.

The bigger part of our communication to that person refers to their label, the smaller part of it is spent actually finding out about the other aspects of their life. And that’s the part that builds trust – which can then be employed, in small measures, to skilfully play around with the stereotype without assuming it’s the whole truth.

Lovely of you to stop by again, keep catching your own insightings!

Love,

Sari

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