THE END OF YEAR RITUAL TO FINISH THE YEAR WITH A BANG

The idea for this end of year ritual came from 

So the idea is to make a list of everything you’re proud of over the last year. EVERYTHING. And Denise was pointing out to keep that list not too short. So we are talking a minimum of 50 or so things. I remember having had a conversation with a dear friend of mine last year about us not bragging enough about our successes. We both said that as women we are just not bragging enough in general. So we challenged ourselves and had to brag about something every day for 21 consecutive days. At the beginning it felt really weird, but after a while, it was a good feeling to remind myself about my success, my achievement, something I am proud of. Why you might ask? Here is the scientific answer (youtube).

TODAY, on the 29th December 2016 at 22:12 I AM PROUD OF … 

  1. travelling through Myanmar with my family during our sabbatical
  2. never feeling worried or afraid of the unknown
  3. writing a newspaper article on our travel in Laos-Cambodia-Myanmar and getting published
  4. travelling through Indonesia with my family during our sabbatical
  5. trying out a new therapy TRE (Trauma Release Exercise) which brought up a panic attack again
  6. diving again
  7. picking up rubbish on the beach of Sulawesi
  8. travelling through Australia with my family during our sabbatical
  9. surviving one if not the most shamful moment in my life
  10. writing a newspaper article on our travels through Indonesia and Australia and getting published
  11. travelling through NZ with my family during our sabbatical
  12. staying calm during not one, not two but three car accidents in NZ
  13. showing charity in Christchurch by leaving unneeded stuff there
  14. holding our family together during our travel
  15. writing a newspaper article on being back and getting published
  16. writing a travel blog for every single day #365familyportraits
  17. co-organizing our kids activity program for the summer from the other side of the world
  18. using all sorts of online tools to stay in touch and connected
  19. applying as a Speaker for the Win Conference in Rome
  20. being a Forum Speaker at the Win Conference in Rome and
  21. telling a very personal story in a professional way
  22. applying to be a TED speaker
  23. making our house our home again after a year of travelling
  24. aiding my girls in their smooth transition back into their “normal” lives
  25. supporting them in their dreams
  26. not braking down after being told that the tumor is back again
  27. after a time of hopelessness getting myself help to feel better
  28. travelling 21/2 hours by car to make a surprise visit to my dad in hospital
  29. getting myself informed about the election in the US
  30. standing up for my interests in a salary negotiation
  31. being honest with my co-workers
  32. trying out new things at work in a large group of 16 demanding participants
  33. challenging myself to take risks instead of staying on the safe and familiar path
  34. having an art exhibition from the end of August until early December
  35. being interviewed about it and opening up to the journalist
  36. letting go of old friends
  37. re-kindling the fire of friendship with some of them when being back
  38. reading kids books
  39. finally letting go of my German company name … 22:31 starting to struggle to find things
  40. redecorating the office entrance with some of my photos
  41. redecorating the guest room in the midst of Christmas preparation
  42. finally getting the message of meaningful presents across to the grandparents
  43. actually being able to do this list in English, which is not my native language
  44. buying today my very first pair of running shoes
  45. my organisational part in my parents Golden Wedding Anniversary
    • organizing the flowers for the taxi
    • duplicating the bridal bouquet from 50 years ago
    • their original wedding photo on display
    • finding a singer
    • balloons
    • the dance
    • sending wishes into the sky when saying good-bye
    • private wishes from their guests for them on their beds weeks later
  46. turning 45 without a midlife crisis
  47. keeping my promise of having a Christmas tree nearly four weeks before the 24th
  48. a conversational rich Christmas with my mum
  49. being a student again and starting a 3 year training program
  50. breathing through the feeling of not being liked
  51. having moved on from a very big disappointment and personal conflict
  52. keeping my gratitude journal for 363 days 22:52 (it took me 40 minutes)

Wow, what a year I had. The key to this exercise is the “What else?” question.

Maybe I could go on, maybe. But one thing is for sure. I did have a great year including all its ups and downs. Thank you to everyone I met. Thank you to every life I got to touch. Thank you for every lesson I learned. Thank you for every emotion I got to feel.

I am wishing all of us a Happy New Year. May it bring health and peace.

A little story about BEFORE and AFTER

Warning: This is not a cheerful piece of reading. For emotional unstable readers I strongly suggest to turn the page and to read something else.

BEFORE and AFTER

A Story about HOPE and whatever is left when there is no HOPE

Everything in our lives has a BEFORE and an AFTER. These two are like two countries bound to be together forever. There can’t be a BEFORE without an AFTER. And there will never be an AFTER if there wasn’t a BEFORE. They are like Siamese twins. They never part and there is just a blink of an eye between them.

In the land of BEFORE, HOPE walks the streets. HOPE can be seen, heard and felt everywhere. HOPE is there even if there is just no rational reason for it to be there. But HOPE is stubborn and omnipresent. It keeps you warm when you are cold. It feeds you when you are hungry and it gives you something to drink, when you are thirsty. HOPE is your companion, your guide, your protector. When HOPE walks those streets of BEFORE, anything and everything is possible.

And then a fraction of a millisecond later, you crossed over from BEFORE to AFTER and suddenly the landscape looks all different. In fact, there is no landscape to be seen and HOPE doesn’t walk the streets anymore. HOPE doesn’t belong here. Here – here is nothing. There is emptiness, there are no words to be said, no music plays, there are no colour to be seen and there is a smell of wet, moist mouldy nothing. And the feeling, OMG the feeling couldn’t be more different. First there is a huge lump in your throat that makes swallowing nearly impossible. To swallow the words that where spoken in that fraction of a millisecond, they just don’t go down. They hang around in your throat and if I could only spit them out like a chewing gum, that has lost its taste. And when finally that lump disappears into thin air, there is nothing left. Nothing. Complete and absolute emptiness. HOPE is nowhere to be seen or felt.

Why are there always BEFORE and AFTER and where the hell did HOPE go when I went to AFTER? Couldn’t it have come with me? Why the hell did it have to take some time off? Did it go on a short w’end trip to some forsaken place or is it gone for good? Doesn’t she have helpers that could take over her work, when she feels she needs to take a holiday? I mean, I am the last one not to understand, that sometimes things are too tough and we need to get out, just to survive. I know what that feels like. And I support anybody who needs that. But seriously? Really? Did HOPE have to take its sabbatical right at that moment, right when I crossed over from BEFORE to AFTER? Couldn’t it wait at least a little while longer? No? Why? Am I it not worth it? What did I do to piss off HOPE? Did I forget to say “Thank you” and “Please”? Was I a bad girl? Do I need punishment? F… really?

Now the question is what or who takes over, when HOPE isn’t there. Well there is a whole bunch of very unpleasant guys. There is F… YOU ALL. He is a big guy. Hug. When he is out, nothing else has any room. No sun can penetrate AFTER. No other feelings have room. He has an Ego as big as a football field and beyond. And he is there early in the morning, in the middle of the day and late at night. If he could, he would be around the entire time. But there is also ROBOT WOMAN. She is pushing F… YOU ALL a side and takes over on occasions. When she is around, things get done. There are no emotions attached. She is just analytical, structured, organised and keeps her eye on the ball. She is great. And then there is little HELP. Oh, she is so sweet, so tiny, in fact, she is so tiny and so quiet not no one ever hears or sees her. She is invisible to the world. But she is there and the only thing she wants and needs is that someone finally recognises her and gives her the biggest hug ever.

There are many more in the bunch. Too many to introduce them all. But the main question remains, what do I have to do for HOPE to get back? Pray? No, because then I invite FAITH into the house. Beg? Well, I have tried that, it didn’t work. Write a letter of complaint? To whom?

I need HOPE. As long I have no HOPE everything feels pointless. Whatever I do in this land AFTER, has no direction, it has goals but no feelings attached. I am like a robot, who functions but doesn’t feel anything. Well, maybe that is better, because the feelings I am having at times are not pleasant at all: Anger, Frustration, Pain… all is connected to HOPElessNESS. Ok, there we go, HOPElessNESS walks the streets of AFTER and she just brought all her friends along. Great. F… off and go away.

Count your Blessings

Count your blessings

What a beautiful saying. And how often do we actually forget, what we have and just focus on what we are missing or lacking. Since the beginning of this year, I have kept a gratitude journal, in which I wrote every single day, what I was grateful for. Sometimes there were very small things, like a warm bed or running water, and sometimes, they were really important things like a surgery gone well. Taking daily the time to reflect on what I have instead of what I am missing has given me sense of happiness and contentment.

Currently we, my family and I, are taking a sabbatical year. And the first 3 months of this sabbatical have come to an end. They brought us to Scotland/Findhorn. Looking back over the time there, I can think of several things I am very grateful for.

Blessing No 1

I am grateful for everything that fell into place for us to actually come here: the family that rents our home back in Switzerland, my family who supported me in this dream, my partner’s employer who helped with a flexible working arrangement and my daughter’s school, who thought this was a great idea.

Blessing No 2

Dorota, who invited us into her beautiful home, in a calm neighbourhood and with a kind flatmate.

Blessing No 3

Our first month my daughters and I spent volunteering in Cullerne Garden, Findhorn Foundation. From day one we felt welcomed. My girls, Lara and Alina, flourished in this environment, spending most of their time not with me but with other members of the garden team. They fell in love with the place and the people. For many days they were the candles in the circle during tuning in and out. And later when I did a few shifts in Park kitchen, Alina had a great time helping to prepare dinner. I know how difficult it can be to travel with children, so I will forever be grateful to everybody who helped to make this experience a pleasant one.

Blessing No 4

Through my ad in the Rainbow Bridge offering my help while we were here I had the chance to meet amazing people. My special thanks goes to Barbara and Don, who took us in and made us part of their family for the time we were here. I will never forget the times we shared in their garden, the conversations we had, the Peace Pole Planting we witnessed and the baked potatoes that Don invited us to. I also was part of Ray’s Opportunities, a local charity in Forres. There I spend my time in the office doing bookkeeping. I learned a lot, and was part of something bigger. And finally obviously my time in Cullerne Garden. I seeded. I planted. I harvested. I washed vegetables. I hoed. I prepared compost. I looked after the forest and the flower garden. I helped at the Cullerne Harvest Fair, made green smoothies and sold cakes. And on my very last day I even painted a ceiling. I loved being out there under the blue sunny sky and also when it rained and I got soaked. I loved our tea breaks. But most of all I loved the feeling of the soil under my feet.

Blessing No 5

Between July and now my body grounded itself. I have had a few brain surgeries and it has been difficult for me to feel balanced with my eyes closed. After some weeks in Cullerne I realised, I could close my eyes and still feel safe, calm and balanced.

Blessing No 6

Anderson Primary School in Forres and its staff. A lot of people assumed that my daughters were going to the local Steiner school. But I took the conscious decision that they would go to a public school and although the very first day was a bit of a disaster, all others were a bliss. Both my daughters loved their teacher, their classes and even their school uniforms. In those weeks they learned so much English and made new friends. Alina’s class had the privilege of spending every Tuesday morning in the community Sanquhar Woodlands with the Wild Things, a charity, that turns our local woodlands into an outdoor classroom and natural playground. and I joined them. I learned an enormous amount about the woods, the animals, about conservation and John Muir.

Blessing No 7

The nature we saw can just not be described with words: clear starry nights with shooting stars, rainbows over a bay, Orkney beauty, dolphins, the sound of seals and geese, low and high tides on numerous beaches, Applecross Peninsular, Oban, the Black Isle…

Blessing No 8

Not being part of a program at Findhorn but only being a volunteer made it at times difficult for me to feel not lonely. Now after three months I feel at home. I met various people, shared stories, listened to conversations and suddenly I recognize people wherever I go. A feeling of family and belonging.

Blessing No 9

I got to experience a Womb Blessing in the Natural Sanctuary in Findhorn Park. I feel blessed having been part of that group of women. They shared some of their personal stories with us and thereby let me be part of their lives for a short moment.

Blessing No 10

We got to spend two beautiful birthdays here. First it was Lara’s 10th birthday. And we had a really nice little party in Cullerne Garden after her school. And then three days later it was me being suddenly 44 years old and jumping into very cold water.

Blessing No 11

I got to do SoulCollage® on various occasions. I had come to Findhorn and had oped I could maybe offer some SoulCollage® workshop here. And although I didn’t get to do that, I introduced several people to it and every single time I loved it. So I am grateful for being given that chance and I hope that Dorota, Graham, Margret, James, Barbara, Toni, Yvonne and Stéphane will keep their cards close to their hearts. I am confident that what their soul needed to show became visible in those cards. I myself made several cards in those months, some alone, some in company and some with Agne, my dear SoulCollage® friend.

Blessing No 12

Nothing serious went wrong. Our guarding angels must have worked overtime. You might smile about this, but travelling all the way from Switzerland by car, having two free spirited children – this is a blessing. Alina had once temperature, but after a couple of days she was back to her usual self. Nothing broke. Nothing got stolen. No serious injuries.

Blessing No 13

I am leaving with just as many questions as I had when I arrived. I found some answers and with them I found new questions. I still don’t know what my purpose is in life. I still wonder where I belong, what my gift for the world might be, if all will be well in the future or not. But I feel more comfortable about having all those questions. I feel more at ease being in doubt and not sure. And maybe meeting so many others having similar wondering thoughts made me realized that I am not the only one.

So thank you everyone for allowing us to have such a great experience in the past 3 months in and around Findhorn and Forres. Our adventure will continue for the next 271 days and if you want to read about it, you find my blog on my homepage www.anja-foerster.com. And let me just leave you with a poem, I already quoted on the 14th August 2015.

The Guest House by Rumi

This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they’re a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honourably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in.

Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.

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