I am very grateful for my childhood. Due to circumstances I won’t be getting into, we were raised by my grandparents. They were both medical doctors, and they were very old-fashioned.
My grandfather came from an aristocratic family, one of the richest families at the time in Constanta (the seaside in Romania). He had it all. They had one of the very first cars in the region, knew some of the most influential people at the time, they had philosophers and famous pianists come over for tea and big, fancy dinners. It was a life like you see in the movies. My Grandfather had a great education and became a doctor and surgeon. And then, when Romania became communist, he had everything taken away from him. He was almost arrested and his clinic was taken away from him. All his belongings, his home that he inherited from his family…everything was taken away. He always told us that clothes and material possessions don’t make the man; it is knowledge, kindness and forgiveness that give you power, that give you strength. Those are the things that matter most. It’s about finding beauty in the every day, living like a king no matter what your means are, being grateful for the here and now….being grateful for the people in your life, who have shaped you into who you have become. It is about letting go of grudges. He was a very calm and collected man. The communists may have taken all his material possessions, but his spirit, his joy for life, his kindness, his thirst for knowledge remained intact. People loved him! I remember people stopping him on the street, on the way to the market, to thank him for how he helped someone in their family. He was the first person the neighbours called when they were ill. He was retired, but he always helped and never asked for anything in return.
My Grandma was a doctor as well. Unlike my grandfather, she was very outspoken, very fiery in nature. She was very quick, smart, beautiful, adventurous, and LOVED life. She would take us hiking in the mountains (that is where I got my love of hiking from), while my grandpa would relax at home with a book… We would have have picnics in the forest, get caught in the pouring rain and use gigantic leaves we would find on the trails as umbrellas. We would sing and laugh and climb all day. We would pick raspberries and roll down grassy hills till we got dizzy.
We lived in a condo….definitely not a mansion, but we had everything we needed. We listened to classical music and studied art books from famous painters. We went to museums, we went to the opera, theater and ballet. I actually went to the cinema for the first time when I was 14. We walked to the market every few days to get fresh, local, in season produce. I watched my grandma make the most amazing meals from scratch. She would put on a pretty apron, play some music and dance around the kitchen while she prepared the meals. My grandpa would buy fresh flowers that we would put in beautiful crystals vases all around the house. We would help set the table and we always used beautiful china. We would drink tea in pretty tea cups. My grandpa went to the bakery across the street every single morning to buy freshly baked bread and yogurt that came in pretty glass jars. We always sat together at the beautifully set table to eat.
I know all this may sound very old-fashioned for some, and I know times have changed, and we do have to keep changing as well, and adapt. I know times are different, and technology plays a huge part in our lives nowadays. My message I guess is that there is some beauty in the old ways of living as well…living more mindfully. Making life feel beautiful and indulgent every day, no matter what your income may be.
Here are a few things I think more of us could be doing once in a while to add more beauty and pleasure to our every day:
- Add some elegance and grace in your home, or maybe an activity you may find has some sense of grace and elegance to it? Something that inspires you, that gives you pleasure…maybe a bouquet of fresh flowers on your dinner table or night stand, maybe a candlelit dinner for no special occasion, or a quiet evening walk through your neighborhood, after dinner.
- Live more spontaneously. Invite a friend over for tea, close your laptop and go for a short stroll in the sunshine, move your work station on your balcony or garden if it’s possible once in a while. Pause what you are doing and dance around your livingroom with your children to your favorite song.
- Walk to the local market and buy fresh ingredients whenever possible. Learn new recipes. Share your meals with loved ones.
- Wear things that make you feel beautiful, pamper and treat yourself once in a while with things that bring you joy…a massage, a bubble bath, a nice perfume or even some much needed “me-time” where you can just sink lazily and pleasurably into a great book…or let yourself be carried away by the relaxing sounds of soothing music
- Don’t wait for a special occasion that may never come to use your beautiful china or tea sets. I use mine every single day. Set the table, cover it with beautiful linens and fresh flowers.
- Always be learning. Try new things. Read books. Watch documentaries. Listen to podcasts. Learn new recipes. Learn a new language. (My friend introduced me to Duolingo, which is completely free and has many languages available. It’s very easy to use and I highly recommend it:) ). Go to museums, or the theater or an art gallery…Try a night at the ballet. You never know how much you might love something if you don’t ever even once expose yourself to it.
- Get off the computer and go play some board games or card games with your family or friends. Spend some real time with loved ones. Be fully present. Listen mindfully.
- And last but not least…Assume the best of others instead of the worst. Be kind and forgive…others and yourself!
PS: The image is a screen-capture from the kindle edition of “The Slow Down Diet” by Marc David.