If I had just 24 hours to live

My friend Alex gave me a free advanced copy of her new book So This is the End: A Love Story. It was engrossing. Funny. Sad. I could not put it down. In it, the protagonist, Norma, is given a second chance to live, but it’s temporary. She only gets 24 hours.

This got me thinking…if I only had 24 hours, what would I do with my time?

Twenty-fours isn’t much for some of the things I wanted to put on my list – like learning Italian fluently. I think I’d panic and waste a few minutes wondering what to to with my remaining precious hours on Earth. But here is what I would do for #MyFinal24:

  • Take my two fur babies – Kobi and Lulu – for a walk with my Hubby and then all cuddle together on the couch.
  • Eat brunch and enjoy the best almond-milk magic at my favourite café. I’ll read – one of my favourite pastimes – while I’m there too.
  • Soak in the Peninsula natural spring spas with my girlfriends – miraculously there will be no one else there!
  • Eat my mum’s chicken curry Indian style – by hand!
  • Stare at the moon – hopefully she’s a full one. But I’d be grateful for any visibility.
  • Write a farewell note on my (this) blog, with special mention of people who are dear to me.
  • Dance to reggaeton music.
  • Last but not least, have an intimate gathering at my house, hanging out and laughing with the people I love – Hubby, Mum, Dad, Jaya, Shourov, Arjun, Keshav, Josh and my two fur babies.

What would you do with your precious last day?

Liane Moriarty and the writing process

Last Friday, making our way to Chilli India in Melbourne’s CBD for dosas, my friend Art asks me about my book idea. We had just seen Toni Jordan interview Liane Moriarty for The Wheeler Centre in a jam-packed Athenaeum Theatre.

Liane, Toni tells us as she introduces the no.1 New York Times bestselling author, is one of Australia’s most famous novelists, having sold over 14 million books worldwide. Her breakthrough book was The Husband’s Secret, and the book that first lifted Liane from the page onto TV was Big Little Lies, with actresses Nicole Kidman and Reese Witherspoon in the lead roles. All seven of the author’s books have now been optioned for the screen.

Humbled by Liane’s gift of storytelling and ability to craft 3D characters with words, I struggle to answer Art. I mumble something about wanting to write a memoir. In reality, my book idea has no backbone. No scaffolding from which I could comfortable perch myself and shape a piece of art. But, at the same time, if I hadn’t just heard Liane speak, I might’ve quashed the idea altogether.

Toni gets into the nitty-gritty almost immediately and asks Liane about her writing process. The author tells us a story: If you had asked my husband this question a few years ago, he’d have told you that I research and plan my book chapter by chapter. This is what he had told other guests at a dinner party that I had not attended. But when he returned home and reported back on his discussion, I quickly corrected him.

But that’s not what I do at all; I’m not a planner.

Maybe you should be, so you’ll become famous – and I can get my Maserati?

Ha!

For each new book Liane’s begins, she buys a notebook. It must be pretty. Hardcover. Beautifully bound. Then she heads to a café to make some notes. But in reality, she acknowledges she needs to head home and just bang the words out on her computer. (I liken this – the notebook, the café – to a ritual. The oiling to get one going.)

While Liane isn’t a planner, it doesn’t mean, she tells us, that she is a ‘vessel through which words flow through her fingertips and onto the computer’. It’s still a struggle. When she gets stuck she goes for a walk – walking helps to unblock the writer’s block. And when she’s not writing, Liane is always thinking about her characters and how their stories will unfold. Usually, two-thirds of the book gets written before she knows how the story will end. (Hearing all this is a relief!)

Now that she’s a full-time author, Liane likes to write in three-hour blocks. Her one rule is to write at least 500 fresh words in that time – otherwise she finds herself chiselling away at what’s already written, and the story doesn’t move forward. (This hits home. Lately, I’ve taken to writing my first draft by hand in a bid to override the editor that takes over when I’m tapping away on laptop.)

Earlier in her writing career, Liane looked towards other authors’ methods for ideas. Her favourite novelist is Anne Tyler. And when she discovered that Anne uses index cards to write her books, Liane bought a pack too. But then she didn’t know what to do with them. When her one of her novelist sisters – Liane comes from a family of writers – told her she uses highlighters, Liane added those to her writing kit too. Again, she didn’t know how to use them.

Before Liane had the luxury of writing in three-hour blocks she had a full-time job in marketing and advertising with ‘a corner office’. It was here, all those years ago, that she recalls receiving a phone call from her sister Jaclyn, informing Liane that her first manuscript was just accepted for publication.

Of course, I was happy for my sister, but I was also filled with envy.

It was the proverbial kick that she needed to get started – otherwise, Liane informs us, that she might still be in advertising with no books to her name. To get a jumpstart, Liane enrolled herself into a Masters course, which required a 30,000-word thesis.

But I was a show off and wrote 100,000.

That thesis became her first book, Three Wishes, and she hasn’t looked back.

In any case – no matter how famous you are – the message is universal: just write. It is only through writing you discover your process; that you get anything written; that you improve your craft. Do whatever it takes to get you going.

Sure, come and listen to me talk, but instead of attending writers’ festivals, you should be writing.

The aspiring authors in the audience laugh sheepishly in recognition of this truth. I think I’m laughing the loudest.

The case of Me versus Stuff (excerpt)

In 1982 Fiji, TV did not exist. I played outside. I read Enid Blyton. I didn’t read the newspaper. And I can’t bring to mind any specific billboards of that time, even though I’m sure there were a few in the city, where I did not live.

Today, at forty-four years of age living in the era of affluenza and having a disposable income, advertisers know my attention is priceless. Yet, they get it on the cheap. This is despite my creating an anti-advertising bubble to cushion me: In 2014, I deleted my Facebook account. In 2017, my Twitter account. While I have Instagram, I do not use it. And I rarely watch commercial TV.

The ads for stuff don’t just infiltrate this bubble—they gush in. Into my inbox, even when I didn’t sign up for the next celebrity’s latest self-help book because I am something to be fixed. On my phone, when I receive a text promoting a sale of 15% off TVs all day today (and today only!). On trams, trains, buses, buildings, freeways…

The humble bus shelter does not escape from being turned into a billboard either. When I walk my dogs, I pass one that tells me I can “drive away in a Polo Urban for only $16,990.” (Do I need a new car? After all my current one is nine years old, although it is running smoothly. Hmmm…) The posters on this shelter change weekly. It does not allow me the grace to become immune.

Even if I could construct an impenetrable bubble, it’d be pointless. The Internet and its cookies would see to that.

These cookies know—and remember with unfailing memory—what I desire (printed yoga leggings!). And they flaunt my desires by dangling carrots in front of me, whether I’m reading an online article, watching a video on YouTube, or searching on Google.

And if the Internet tempts with its cookies, then it decidedly seduces with its availability. I can now stare at the blue light on my ever-ready smartphone and make decisions to buy yoga leggings whenever I want.

The perfect time to do just that is before I flop into bed, after a long day’s hard work, cooking dinner, washing dishes, and watching an episode or two of my favourite show on Netflix. I should feel elated when I hit the buy button, but I find myself getting into bed not only with my husband, but also with guilt and a larger credit card debt.


This is an excerpt of an article that was shortlisted for the New Philosopher Writers’ Award XVII – Stuff. An edited version of the full article is published on Tiny Buddha. Read the full article.

Why it’s more than dance

When the yoga teacher kept yammering away about practicing aparigraha (the Sanskrit word for non-attachment) and how to brreeeathe, I knew it was time for a change.

Other than walking the dogs, yoga was my main form of exercise. I needed to mix things up a bit. To balance out the precise movements and life advice served up in yoga with freedom, fun and some badass sass.

This is when I decided to take up Zumba and enrol into the South Indian Street Dance course at Studio J Dance (full disclosure: my vibrant sister Jaya owns and runs this studio).

After six months of dancing, I got the irony. Dancing gave me the space to reveal my true nature – rather than tell me who I should be. It gave my life more meaning without my even trying – except for the commitment to show up to classes each week, of course.

Usually, my chest and throat tighten and my tummy plummets when I suddenly find myself in a limelight or in confrontation with a domineering personality. I don’t know how to deal with it, and stumble through the situation awkwardly.

But with dance, I began to notice a shift in my confidence – I was becoming braver at expressing myself, not only on but also off the dance floor. I was backing and trusting myself more. It just happened naturally.

For example, recently I had to lead a meeting with a new client to implement one of our products, since I am the product specialist. To make this go smoothly, our regional sales manager set up a meeting for me to go through the start-up process. She said that while she was going to be in the meeting, to act is if she wasn’t there. Oh dear!

I noticed my nerves as I was being introduced. The feeling was familiar, but something was different about it now. I was connecting the nerves to an uplifting, exciting sensation. One I got from dance.

You see, at the end of each term at Studio J, the class gets videoed performing the routine they have learned. We doll up, and dance with gusto, as if we were performing to a live audience. Well, close enough to it: the video gets posted on the studio’s social media channels. I feel an adrenaline rush – to get it right, to look boldly, cheekily into the camera as it’s rolling. And, importantly, I have a self-belief that I can do it.

I'm furthest to the left, not in screen view when video starts.

I got the same feeling when I led that meeting. I even have the chutzpah to make a joke. The client is telling us about her new offices in the Docklands. Modern. Floor-to-ceiling windows. An indoor bridge connecting two buildings. It all sounds glamorous. And I say, “Well, welcome to our humble abode.” We all laugh, the ice broken.

Normally, I wouldn’t have the gall to make such a comment. But it’s different now.

At the end of the meeting, after the clients leave, satisfied that they’re in good hands, the sales manager beams at me, “You were brilliant. We are so lucky to have you.” I’m sure I’m glowing, and have grown a few inches taller.

Yes, it’s much more than dance.


This article was originally published on Studio J Dance. You can view it here.

Pondering the meaning of life is a luxury

Some philosophers, like Nietzsche, believe that life has no meaning in itself, but that one has to construct it. I generally agree with this. But I feel one has to be in a position of privilege to contemplate the question: How can I create meaning?

I arrived at this point of view after watching a scene from a Spanish film. The movie is called Vivir es fácil con los ojos cerrados (Living Is Easy with Eyes Closed) and is set in the 1960s.

A teacher, who is a Beatles enthusiast, is driving across Spain to a location where John Lennon is supposedly shooting a film. The teacher is desperate to meet his hero. I believe he has quit his job to make the trek. During his travels, on separate pit stops, he meets two adolescents in their late teens; they are hitchhiking their way to another life because their current ones don’t fit.

As these three misfits drive towards their destination, they come across a boy, around the age of 10, who’s begging by the roadside. This boy’s clothes are tattered and he is skin and bones. Suddenly, the teacher has an epiphany. You can see it on his face. It says: I know what this boy needs. He needs a soccer ball, because that’s what all boys want, don’t they? And I bet this boy doesn’t have one because he has no money.

So the teacher gets out of his car, opens his boot and pulls out a soccer ball. He hands it to the boy. The boy takes the ball, looks at it and at once his face droops downwards. What his expression cries out is: Sir, I can’t eat this ball. Can I have some money for food, please? I’m begging you.”

To me, this scene doesn’t merely strike a chord but bangs on a drum, emanating a long-lasting vibration: when one is so poor that all they can think about is where their next meal is coming from, then there is no space to contemplate anything – like playing a game of soccer just for fun – let alone the meaning of life.

Luckily, most of us in the western world are not in this situation. Not only are my basic human needs met – food, shelter, warmth, clean water – but also I have more than I could ever need. This means that my brain is free to contemplate life, since it doesn’t need to concern itself with my primal survival.

But with all this extra space, my mind can easily go down the rabbit hole of wanting more. And more. Of thinking that my life is not enough.

The scene from the Spanish film serves as an important reminder: that to be able to meditate upon my mere existence and whether I’m doing it justice is an indulgence. Because it means I’m doing ok. More than ok. It’s a reminder to move forward from a space of gratitude for all that I have – not what I lack.

Forbearance is a form of kindness

A couple of weeks ago, I was on my way home from a writers’ retreat on the big island of Hawaii. In the last leg of my flight, from Sydney to Melbourne, I heard a repetitive chant being played in a foreign language. I turned around to see a middle-aged Asian woman sitting directly behind me. She was leaning against the window with her eyes closed and a tiny portable radio wedged in the crook of her neck, between her temple and her shoulder. The volume was audible, but not loud.

“I hope that doesn’t go on for the whole flight,” I thought to myself. In my body, I began to feel hints of annoyance and panic – at the thought of having to bear this for an hour and 20 minutes. To the lady in my row, sitting in the aisle seat, I whispered, “Can you hear that?” “Yes”, she replied with a sparkle in her eyes and her eyebrows raised.

I was fishing for her opinion, so I said, “I hope it stops soon.” Smiling, she responded nonchalantly, “Oh, don’t worry about it. Just ignore it.” A pause as I thought about this, and took in her easy-going nature. “She’s probably scared of flying,” I offered. “Yeah, true. It’s probably a good thing then – her chants might protect us all,” the lady offered back.

The trait this lovely woman was displaying was forbearance – a good-natured tolerance to minor things like delay, incompetence and ignorance. In the Happiness Project, Gretchen Rubin writes that forbearance is a form of generosity. I would like to posit that it’s a form of kindness, too. Generous because you know their behaviour is not about you and so you can easily forgive a fellow human being. And kind because you really don’t know what’s going on in their lives, so you give them (and yourself) the grace of not losing it.

I could take a few leaves out of my plane buddy’s book. I’m sure many of us could. The thing is we humans are great at banding together to fight against great injustices – such as domestic violence, terrorism, treatment of asylum seekers and marriage inequality – but we can become indignant about the small stuff.

Like when someone accidentally bumps into us and doesn’t say sorry. Or when someone abruptly stops in front of us on the footpath to check their phone, or cuts us off while we are driving. We take it personally. We react impulsively. But if you think about it, this is also ‘ignorant’ behaviour. I’d like to insert a pause in between the trigger and my reaction, so I can choose how I respond.

I know that practicing forbearance can be challenging, especially if we’re tired, busy or in a hurry ourselves. Well, at least for me. But if we cultivated it – what kind of world would we live in? Perhaps there would be fewer injustices to fight against because we were kinder to each other? It’d definitely be a happier, more positive place to live in.

While the Asian woman did turn off her portable radio when we took off, I don’t know how I would’ve fared if she played it the entire flight (hopefully simply put my headphones on and listen to music).

Nevertheless, I will always remember my plane buddy – how calming and kind she was, so much so that she was able to instil the same in me at that moment – as a reminder to be more forbearing towards my fellow human beings. Because I know I would be grateful if they afforded me the same.

Make the habit the goal

I’m constantly jotting down ideas into one of my two notebooks – whichever I can reach first before the idea fades away. But while I capture many of them, they usually remain as ideas – wonderful ideas that hold meaning for me – instead of blossoming into blog posts, articles or even a book, should I dare dream.

I know why this happens: it’s a mixture of perfectionism and impatience. I worry it may not come out perfect from the get go. Or I may start writing a piece, but I’ll constantly tinker, chiselling away each sentence, rather than be in the flow of it. In this way, I take forever to finish it, or I don’t finish at all. I carry the mental weight of “I’m no good” all the time.

I’m aware of this limiting behaviour. It frustrates me. But it’s something I know that I can change, which I am determined to. So I booked myself into a writers’ retreat to hopefully overcome this irritating pattern I have myself webbed into.

I’m on that retreat right now. And in our lesson today, we shared tactics for moving forward with our work rather than getting stumped by perfectionism. I found all ideas offered valuable, but one in particular hit home for me. It was presented as this phrase: The habit is the goal. And it was an epiphany.

By reframing goals into habits, I know I can work towards overcoming my perfectionism and fear of being no good. For example, in my world, the goal would be to create a writing habit – instead of to “win a writers’ award this year” or “get x number followers to my blog” or “get published”. With these latter goals, I am seeking external validation that my writing is good. But these are outcome-based goals, and are never in my control. Only the writing is.

So my new goal could look like writing for 30 minutes first thing in the morning three times a week. That’s it – to simply show up to my practice consistently (habit). With such a habit, I’m likely to write more, and improve and share my work – whether or not I win an award or garner a following. And that is success in itself, and something that is in my power.

Now, how could you redefine a goal so that it’s more in your control and therefore achievable?

For example, if your goal is to lose 10kg over the next six months, you could reframe it to: work my way up to exercising at least four times a week over the next six months, and then maintain it so that it becomes second nature.

Whether you lose 10kg or not (you might lose more!) is not the point. The point is that you create healthy habits so you that have a healthy body – which you will because of the autopilot nature of habits.

Whatever you want to achieve make the behaviours that will help you get there consistent – regardless of the end outcome. The outcome is simply the icing on the cake. You must bake the cake first.

___

If you’re open to it, please share in the comments below a goal that you will reframe into a habit. I would love to hear about it – and I’m sure others would too!

Lesh xx

(Am I) ugly or pretty?

“You’re so pretty”, Sally had said.

I can recall the day like it was yesterday. It was our very first day of moving into the university’s halls of residence. We were both 17. And it was a warm summer’s afternoon in February 1992.

This was the first time I ever met Sally. And that was the first thing she ever said to me.

I blinked at her, stunned. Eventually, I spluttered a thank you, with my gaze held downwards, my cheeks hot.

I remember feeling confused. I had believed myself to be ugly, well, ever since I moved to Australia. You see, in year 9, aged 14, not even a full year after migrating to Melbourne, I was told as such in the girls’ bathroom while washing my hands.

“Gosh, you’re ugly,” a classmate had pronounced out of the blue, as if it were fact. Her name was Deirdre.

I recall my words getting caught in my throat. My body shrinking, as my spine slouched.

Taking Deirdre’s words as gospel, I had believed myself to be grotesque. So when three years later Sally remarked on my beauty, I didn’t know how to respond. I didn’t know whether I should believe her. But a small part of me thought, what if she’s right? And a bold part of me candidly thought, “Can’t people decide whether I was pretty or ugly?

How naïve was I. As if it were someone else’s call to decide. As if someone else gets to decide.

As a society, we’ve placed external beauty on a pedestal. It’s obvious in every type of media. It can be the reason for getting snubbed or being revered. It can be the reason for getting the job, or applying for the next one because you didn’t.

And if someone hasn’t been cruel to us as bluntly as Deirdre was to me, we are cruel to ourselves. With our self-talk. With our seeking validation outside ourselves.

For example, while “Does my bum look big in this?” is the butt of many good-humoured conversations, it still gets posed on a serious note.

Heck, even I sometimes ask my husband before we head out somewhere, “How do I look?”

You know how he answers? Like this: “If you’re happy with how you look and feel, then why does it matter what someone else thinks?”

Smart man. Because what he is saying is that you don’t need my – or anyone else’s – endorsement to feel beautiful.

The thing is, people will always judge our exterior. And if we absorb someone else’s opinions about ourselves as the truth, we give away our power to be who we are.

Skin-deep beauty is fickle. So, you might as well hold on to your power, and love your own unique exquisiteness.

How? With your self-talk, with your behaviour, with how you treat yourself.

No one else gets to decide. Not even Sally.

The importance of noting your little successes

Yesterday I was deep in conversation with a friend. Let’s call him Art.

For the past 10 years, Art had lived and worked overseas, where he had created a name for himself and his indie performances. But a few months ago, he moved back to Australia to help his ailing dad.

Art is in his 40s. He had used up all his savings to invest in his projects, and now this unforeseen return home put him financially in the red.

Because he couldn’t afford outings or accommodation, Art found himself housebound and living with his parents – people who weren’t supportive of his work, and made his life difficult in the past for not conforming to their ideals of success.

But one of the main blows for Art was his projects also suffered, since he didn’t have his creative networks within reach to collaborate with, or his trusty fans to perform to.

Art was teetering on a dangerous edge, mentally.

“If I didn’t do anything about it,” he pronounced, “I knew I’d find myself spiralling into a dark, deep depression.”

Looking at At’s smiling face, I asked, “So, how did you turn things around?”

“By focusing on making each day a success and writing down every little triumph I had,” he replied.

Art doesn’t recall how he got the idea, but he says it’s what  made him get out of his funk.

By focusing on and writing down his daily, run-of-the-mill achievements, he felt worthy. Worthy enough to create, live, be who he is.

What did Art’s successes look like? “Writing,” he had recounted. “Sometimes painting, cooking, and taking a walk. The key was jotting it down.”

Art went on to get a casual job in a café – so he can afford life’s little luxuries, like enjoying a cup of coffee and eating out with a friend occasionally. He also creates his art every single day.

Hearing my friend’s story, I realised that anyone – even if their circumstances aren’t that dire – could benefit from writing down their successes daily. They don’t have to be grandiose ones either. Think caring for someone, vacuuming, fitting in some exercise, calling a friend. Heck, some days it could just be getting out of bed and having a shower.

So yesterday, at the end of the day, I took a leaf out of Art’s book and wrote down my small wins of the day:

Doing 25 minutes of yoga at home, using my favourite app.

My three-hour deep-and-meaningful chat with Art, over coffee and a nutritious bowl of goodness, all of which fed my soul.

Taking my dogs to the park, even when I was tired and didn’t feel like it (looking at their happy faces as they ran around aimlessly made me feel glad that I did).

Changing the template of my blog for a fresh start, now that the plan was to write more in 2018.

Cooking the lamb skewers we had for dinner to perfection – not chewy at all!

Reading a few pages of The Happiness Project – I have read it a couple of times, and it makes for a motivating read at the beginning of a new year.

It  was gratifying experience. It’s the little stuff, daily, that matters, that makes a life, I realised. Thank you, Art, for this invaluable life lesson.


Life is full of little victories if you choose to see them. And by writing them down, you get a boost. A pat on the back. Something we all need from time to time to keep on keeping on.

I’ll be writing my daily successes in a journal for the next few weeks to see how it makes me feel. Want to try it, too?

Lesh x

2017: my year in review

What were my goals at the beginning of 2017? To be honest, I can’t recall, as I don’t believe I formally set any. I mostly went with the flow, and felt like I floated all year and didn’t really achieve much.

yearly reflections

Upon reflection, however, I found that this wasn’t true. I had subconsciously focused on movement and deeper connections – my two-word ‘goal’ of 2013. This made me realise that how long it can take – in my case years – to build habits, and that it’s always going to be work in progress.

Movement

In the case of movement, I still walk the dogs at least five days a week for 30-50 minutes, but the number of yoga classes I attended weekly declined from three or four, to one or two. This might seem like a step backwards, but it wasn’t.

After not enjoying the yoga retreat I went to in Greece this year, I lost my yoga mojo. Asking myself why, I put it down to two things – lack of variety and the need to feel feminine. The latter because my life felt ho-hum, flat, rigid. I wanted to feel sexy, fluid again. So, I shook things up, literally.

What replaced yoga was dance. My sister had opened a dance studio at the end of 2016. So, one term saw me do Bhangra Hip Hop, and another two terms saw me do Bolly Zumba. I even ‘starred’ in a promotional video clip for the studio (I’m the one in the white top – in my defence, the other three are professional dancers and I had only learned the routine in 10 minutes!)

I also took the Flow dance course with Dee Street Studios. The course was described as “Celebrating the sassy, the sensual and the cheeky from Afro, hip hop, r&b and dancehall, Flow gives you the space to release, love yourself and feel sexy and grounded.” Booyah!

And right now, my favourite way of moving is Zumba – mostly because I’ve discovered some fun instructors who run sassy classes close to home. Convenience matters for long-term commitment, I have found.

Also in the theme of movement, I bought myself a stand-up desk earlier in the year, since I have a desk-based profession. I usually have Latin dance music playing (influenced by Zumba) as I work, which sees me swaying my hips – thank goodness I mostly work from home!

Deeper connection

Moving on to deeper connection, this year I learned that by not regularly expressing myself in writing, I lost a part of me. I dabbled in a couple watercolour painting classes to reconnect to my core, and while it was fun (and daunting at times, for I was a true beginner), words, I realised, are my medium.

I also focused on making more time for people who make me feel positive and alive. To work out who they are, I observed my thoughts, feelings and behaviour patterns while in the company of people.

To make more time, I took the initiative – rather than waiting for them to get in touch – by messaging, calling, catching up with them (if they are based in Melbourne, too), and consuming their material if they are artists.

Other realisations

As I reflected on 2017, I realised I also did a healthy amount of travel.

It was my husband’s dream to see the Northern Lights, and exactly this time last year, from the 1st to 5th of January 2017, we braced -40°C in Ivalo, Finland, and crossed our fingers in hope that we got to see one of nature’s greatest spectacles.

Luckily, the gods blessed us two nights in a row. The lights danced in the pitch-black sky, and we watched in awe, momentarily forgetting our frozen faces.

northern lights ivalo finland

The lure of the lights wasn’t enough, though. I had brokered a deal with hubby before we booked the trip: If I was going to freeze my butt for his bucket-list item, we had to tag a place on the way home that was considerably warmer – and I chose Morocco. I hadn’t realised that at this time of year north of West Africa is also chilly. But I suppose 9°C is considerably warmer than -40°C.

For me, Morocco didn’t hold a candle to the experience I had in Finland, but it did satisfy my curiosity about a place I’ve always wanted to visit.

In May, the Greek island of Hydra called me for a yoga retreat. As soon as the yoga studio I had been a member at advertised this retreat in 2016, I jumped onto it. The idea of yoga on a Greek island with cobblestone streets, traditional tavernas, brightly coloured doors, a crescent-shaped harbour, and no cars (just donkeys!) held me in such a strong magnetic pull, that I just had to book in.

What I had learned is that I let romanticising get the better of me. Yes, I did want to visit the island, but not while on a yoga retreat (too much yoga for me) with a group of people who weren’t really my people.

While the above trips were pre-planned at least a year in advance, my husband proposed a question to me, out of the blue, in July 2017 – would I like to accompany him to New York in November when he runs the world’s biggest marathon? “Yes”, I sad, without a moment’s hesitation. It has been one of my best holidays yet.

The last significant realisation I had in 2017 is related to work.

In my 20+ years of earning an income, I’ve career-hopped enough times to have learned a few secrets about work. One of the keys ones is that jobs are like relationships. For relationships to have a hope of working, both parties need to be a good fit for each other. And by a good fit, and I don’t mean a person’s experience to the job description, but a person’s nature and working style to that of their boss’s and of the organisation’s. And if the relationship doesn’t work, it’s time to move on. Nothing personal.

I came to this realisation because of two things: years of trying to be myself in cultures that weren’t a good fit (and experiencing anguish and heartache for too long as a result), and finally finding one that did.

In October 2016, I wrote in my journal what I wanted out of a workplace at this point in my life:

Kind, compassionate, encouraging boss who sees my potential. Equally, I’m kind, flexible, encouraging and can appreciate the developmental opportunities my work offers me. The work is in the field of lifestyle health and wellbeing, and preventive health. I am able to work from home and it is fun!

It astounds me that only two months later, in December 2016, I landed a job that, after being in it for all of 2017, I can say wholeheartedly satisfies all the above, and is a close match to my core values.


Putting 2017 into words gave me greater insight about myself, made me realise what a phenomenal year it was for me and gave me clarity for where I’d to go from here.

If you’re feeling that 2017 flew by without your accomplishing much, you may like to, like I have, jot down all the great things you remember about 2017, and what you learned about yourself from the positive and the not-so-great stuff.

~ Lesh x