Scandi Christmas holidays, drawing snowmen on my kitchen window,

December used to be the craziest month of the year, especially when I was still studying. When school ends, you dive into your books to study and after all the exams there are parties with family and friends, presents to buy, plans for the new year, and much more. It feels like rushing from one place to the other with no time to catch your breath or… really enjoy the holidays.

Since moving to Sweden, that has changed dramatically and I feel almost forced by nature to take it slow and day-by-day. Since this year, I’m taking some extra vitamin D (how could I not have known about this?!), but there is no escaping the darkness that sets at 2.30 pm. For the past few years, I’ve created the time and space to slow down, to enjoy the dark days leading up to Christmas, and to rethink/rewind/…

Scandi Christmas holidays, window with candle and snow outside.

Hygge all day long.
Fluffy socks, warm sweaters, hot chocolate,… I have learned to expand that cozy holiday feeling to the entire month by embracing the beauty of the first snow, baking Lussekatter, taking the time to hang lights everywhere, and crafting some natural decorations.

With only a few hours of light each day, I make sure to never miss a walk or to be outside. Then after sunset, it can feel so calm to just be drawing, reading, or crafting while scented candles burn. Last year I learned to knit, this year we’re trying crochet and I definitely like it more than knitting. Especially granny squares are super hygge 🙂

The dark end of the year, and looking forward to the return of the light emphasizes the rhythm of the earth and encourages us to follow her example. Like trees holding on to future leaves and bulbs and seeds wait for that perfect time to come out again, so are plans and dreams prepared in winter. While you can’t see them yet, they are slowly gathering the strength to bloom when the time is ripe.

In December, I look back to my plans and notes from the previous year. What did I accomplish? Which plans did not work out, and do I want to put them on the list for next year? How did I feel the past year and if there is anything not right, how can I change that?

Scandi Christmas holidays, drawing snowmen on my kitchen window,

Rethinking routines and habits.
January always feels like a reset. A new beginning of some sort. A bit like Mondays but bigger. Looking back at my notes, and seeing what I did not accomplish, I wonder how I can make them a reality. Knowing that results are mostly influenced by small daily habits and routines, I take a good look in the mirror. My biggest struggle when it comes to routines is the impact of the natural light cycle on my life and knowing that I have to adjust my rhythm and work to that every few weeks/months.
The biggest challenge, habit-wise, is my difficulty focusing. I’m either 100% into something or 100% jumping around and my brain then feels like pop sugar.

I want to:
– Create a plan for yoga since my practice has been very inconsistent since the pandemic. I know from experience that a regular and intense yoga practice helps tremendously with focusing.
– Put some projects on the calendar.
– Plan time for (online) courses.
– Test a different routine. I’ve always been a night-owl but since autumn I go to bed early to get up and be ready before the sun rises. I have no idea how people do this in summer, but at the moment it feels really good. Together with the new wake-up hour, I’m drafting a work schedule. It will certainly help when it’s light long enough to move the daily walk with the dogs to the afternoon/evening.
– ‘Automate’ meals even more. Right now Joeri preps lunch in advance, but I think I have to add/prepare snacks too so I never have to use brain space to think about it, but also that I don’t forget it while working.
– Read more books.
– Watch more movies.

The joy of notebooks.
Slowly my plans and thoughts take shape in the 2022 notebook. And oh doesn’t it feel so nice to start a brand new notebook?! It doesn’t look like it’s already going to be the roaring twenties as they forecasted in the media, but there is a change in the air. Writing it all down catches the dexterous fleeting thoughts and sticks them to the paper as spaghetti against a wall.
Except for sketchbooks, I have two different notebooks. One personal/art/… and one for DOGvision as the latter really is a very specific part of my life, even a brand of its own.

Lighting stars in the window, Scandi swedish Christmas holidays,

Unsure about which way it’s all going, the end of the pandemic or the end of humanity (a ‘slight’ exaggeration I might hope lol), I keep my mind open for any situation. I won’t write down mass events or big birthday parties yet and every social event is with a proviso. I am planning some travel, but understanding the uncertainty, I create some other options. And when the time is right to decide, I can just choose the path that works then. We’ve always been last-minute travel types anyway so this isn’t the biggest issue or change. This way I might avoid immense disappointment. At least from the previous Covid-years, I understand the importance of being/feeling prepared. When several possible scenarios are being considered while making plans, it brings some peace of mind.

What ifs are suddenly not so silly anymore but rather useful.
What if the pandemic takes longer than a year?
What if there will be a lockdown?
What if we can’t work for a while (or get fired).
What if we get sick?
What if we won’t have any social contact?
What if we use this time to get things done that otherwise never happen?
What if I’m patient with myself?
What if we miss all the important milestones?
What if we can’t/don’t stay in Sweden?
What if this takes another year- or two- three- four…?

I know that many avoid these questions and rather dream about going back to normal as soon as possible. Or they tell me to be positive. The trick is, of course, to not get caught by any doom scenario but to use the answers to prepare if possible or at least have had the thoughts before anything becomes a reality. Especially writing down the numbers, and doing some calculations upfront, makes the reality of time and money more intelligible.
As long as we manage to stay within the boundaries, these thoughts don’t have to linger in my brain, making more space for creativity and joy.

The word of 2022.
Every year I pick a word that refers to a hope/wish/vision for the year to come. Ironically, my word for 2020 was ‘connection’, that wasn’t the biggest success 🙂 .
I still have some days left, but I’m strongly considering ‘focus’ as my word for 2022. The past year I’ve been patient with myself. Letting my mind wander, often following and exploring curiosity and impulses on the spur of the moment. Besides some chaos (which I need too), it certainly brought new perspectives and skills, making the time ripe for some kind of rebirth into the next year.

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